I've been thinking a lot about the hullabaloo created
on tv over the last few days about an emotionally
demonstrative speech Howard
Dean gave to some of his supporters after coming
out third in the Iowa primary that has been extensively
interpreted as "over the top." Dean himself acknowledged
its "nuttiness" (I don't think so) but appropriately refused
to apologize. Apologize to whom for what?
The passage below is from my
chapbook *The Boundary of Theory*
published by Cuneiform Press
early in 2001. The text was talk given at SUNY/Buffalo
on September 27, 2000. Kyle Schlesinger published
the chapbook and interviewed me shortly thereafter
and included the interview in the chapbook.
"One theory I noted for the (suggested) successes of
Bush during the televised debates was his lack of
surface anger. Aside from the familiar McLuhanistic
theories of the "coolness" of the television medium,
perhaps a more basic explanation for the apparently
pervasive lack of emotion is the manipulative power
of remaining "cool." Coolness, in our culture, implies
self-control, conviction and confidence. Perhaps one
of the most familiar images for indoctrination during
the Second War were those clips of Hitler and Mussolini's
frigteningly rageful speeches. I think indoctrination in our
time has more to do with talk that is so lacking in
listening, introspection and respect for the speaker that
the give and take of discussion is reduced to the effect
of canned dialog, complete with laugh and applause tracks.
This is where narrative structure comes in, for me.
I associate narrative structure with predictable outcomes,
even when the outcomes are predictably unpredictable. The
more predictable outcomes become for the practiced viewer
(and we are all now incredibly practiced viewers) the more
outrageous the endings have to become, in their soon to
be predictable ways. I'm thinking at the moment of the
"surprise" ending(s) of the (relatively) recent *Reindeer Games*.
I feel that Bush, the cooler his is, the more frightening the
implied violence becomes. Thus his popularity with U.S. males.
So perhaps what is being repressed, better yet, disguised,
is the relationship between emotional reaction and violence,
thus the heightened effect of ruthlessness. Only a truly
ruthless person can be trusted to be predictably violent.
What appeals to me about disrupting narrative structure
is the transgression of automaticity. The "automatic"
and the machine gun are apt contemporary images for
the internally terrifying sensation of violence exactly
because "reaction time" has been effectively eliminated.
No time for pity or sympathy. Just plug 'em. Simply stated:
narrative structure=violence. Or, as I put it in *The Boundary
of Blur*: 'The cutting edge of narrative often turns to blood
and is fascinated by monsters.'"
Has it reached a point that manipulation
is the only reality, and heartfelt openness
is considered...what...crazy? Why? As I
suggest above, it appears now that unless a politician
is sufficiently cool, they will not appear to be sufficiently
manipulative (=powerful) to lead a nation
more and more run by people mainly concerned to
appear more covert and manipulatively shrewd than
the next representative. This is enhanced by the covert
insistence that all citizens follow orders
and control any desire to think and feel for themselves
which includes the unstated expetation that one dare not
spontaneously expose one's feelings whatever they might be.
It is no surprise that Howard Dean found a home
among the blogs. Clearly there are fewer and fewer places
left to openly state a dissident point of view
where numerous others might have a chance to listen and respond
if you are not a member of the "vast right wing conspiracy"
that Hllary Clinton once spoke about so passionately. She's
quieter now. I guess she has to be.
Big Brother of the Patriot Act is watching.