All the News that’s Fit to Kill (OAG #8)

The Post appears to be promising to narrate the death of democracy – or, if unconsciously, to be revealing an intention to embody it.

Democracy Dies in Darkness

They may be right…

Others have been making fun of the WaPo’s well-intended new motto “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” but we can skip a Buzzfeedy recounting of the predictably snarky first responses, and just acknowledge that the cynics may have a point this time. “Democracy Dies in Darkness” will strike readers as pretentious, since it implicitly casts the newspaper itself as “giver of light,” like Jehovah at the birth of the universe, while the alliteration, which may have been meant to elevate by poetry, qualifies instead as twee. We might find nothing wrong and much right with the aspiration meant to be conveyed, but the statement itself is not aspirational, certainly not in the same way that the most famous motto in American journalism – “All the News that’s Fit to Print” – is aspirational. The WaPo’s motto has the form of a prophetic assertion, more suggestive of “Winter is Coming,” or, as Vikram Bath noted to me on Twitter, “The End is Near”: It asks to be taken as all-importantly true, but we can wonder if it really is true, and whether, even if we want to sympathize, taking it to be true really is better for us: Without pausing to define “democracy” or explain what it is exactly we might mean by its “death” or our “darkness,” and instead simply pretending we all understand the metaphors in the same way, we can ask whether democracy really does die in darkness, or is in fact stronger than darkness, or, for a democrat, is better seen as itself the immortal bringer of light, or potential bringer of light, even in otherwise all-consuming darkness. To fend off these and other questions, the assertion depends on the credulity and even the cooperation of the reader, including an in fact unlikely suspension of the same critical faculties that the motto is in another sense clearly seeking to celebrate. In short, the Post or its publisher and editors are depending on us to give their new proposition a friendly reading, rather than the ironical one which will immediately and intuitively occur to one and all in this ironic age, and especially to those not already inclined to expect prophecy or heroism from the particular enterprise or the larger journalistic enterprise. The enemies and adversaries of the WaPo or of whatever it represents to them will accept the unintended invitation to read the motto in the same way we read that other motto just noted, as a gloss on the content forthcoming: For them and perhaps for many of the rest of us as well, the Post appears to be promising to narrate the death of democracy – or, if unconsciously, to be revealing an intention to embody it, all the news that’s fit to kill.


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13 comments on “All the News that’s Fit to Kill (OAG #8)

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    • Don’t know nothing about no Nick Land, but I see that his site has a tab devoted to NeoReaction, so I’ll presume that his orientation is anti-democratic or possibly even “dark enlightenment.” His statement would seems to belong in the unsympathetic-ironical group.

      • A while ago OT had an extended discussion about the Alt Right that went into some detail about its ideas and origins. At the time I wondered about the absence of discussion about Land, who has I believed been called the “Dark Prince” of the whole thing. I find his writing some combination of impenetrable and puerile, but a lot of people take him seriously, and because of that I suppose we should too. For example here’s a primer by Ray Brassier.

        My interpretation of “Magnificent Prophecy” as Landian assessment, was that the categories of irony and sympathy don’t apply one way or the other. Instead, it represents a kind of “I wish I said that in the course of my own writing.” Any comment on WaPo or journalism in general would be, in this interpretation,incidental, mere contingent vehicle for a truly “magnificent prophecy”. But I could be wrong.

        • His take would be ironical and unsympathetic since he’s saying “yeah, it’s a magnificent thing, isn’t it?” – the opposite of the reaction that WaPo obviously wants and expects, but has invited. You’re supposed to want more light and not to want democracy to die, and so support the WaPo for those reasons, not because you may think that it is advancing the dark and lethal cause unwittingly, or because you think that the WaPo is hopelessly helpless to do more than observe and record the ongoing demise.

          • You could be right.

            OTOH, your remark presupposes a sense of agency that my sense is, Land rejects, that the “machinc” agency he understands to be the case would be located in the larger assemblage that intends to advance his program.

            Following this interpretation, what you take t be irony would be just part of the machinic feedback loop seeking to maximize chaotic efficiency.

            I do have to admit, all of this did have a glancing influence on my Cyborg posts. And seeking to eliminate irony has an ironic appeal for me. But I think Land sees this as epiphenomenon.

            Your remarks seek a fully synthetic perspective. Land seems to me to locate his remark not just a step broader in perspective, but from the perspective that there is no perspective.

            OTOH you may be right.

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Noted & Quoted

This is a Waterloo moment for Trump, the tea party and their alliance.  They have been stopped in their tracks not only by Democratic opposition but because of a mutiny within their own ranks. Although never particularly liked or respected, it is now clear that they are no longer feared. The bankruptcy of their ideas and their incompetence have been exposed. Their momentum has been dissipated. Their rejection of political norms has itself been scorned. Our long national nightmare may finally be coming to an end.

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One seasoned Democrat told me that among the reasons Trump won in 2016 was that a long year of Crooked Hillary talk, about emails and Goldman Sachs and the like, had steadily demoralised and demobilised the liberal base. If sustaining fury at Trump helps keep those same voters energised, so they eventually turn out to defeat him, it’ll be worth it, he says.

But it can’t just be in the form of world-weary, if witty, tweets. What’s needed is a coherent argument, one that explains why Trump’s repulsive behaviour matters. For Americans, that will surely centre on the state of their society. The civic realm is being degraded by Trump’s lies, vanities and insults. The national conversation is being coarsened. The basic democratic assumption, that disagreements can be resolved through discussion rather than coercion and violence, is being eroded from the very top. Note the language of Scaramucci’s outburst: “I want to fucking kill all the leakers.”

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[C]limate scientists have a strange kind of faith: We will find a way to forestall radical warming, they say, because we must.

It is not easy to know how much to be reassured by that bleak certainty, and how much to wonder whether it is another form of delusion; for global warming to work as parable, of course, someone needs to survive to tell the story. The scientists know that to even meet the Paris goals, by 2050, carbon emissions from energy and industry, which are still rising, will have to fall by half each decade; emissions from land use (deforestation, cow farts, etc.) will have to zero out; and we will need to have invented technologies to extract, annually, twice as much carbon from the atmosphere as the entire planet’s plants now do. Nevertheless, by and large, the scientists have an enormous confidence in the ingenuity of humans — a confidence perhaps bolstered by their appreciation for climate change, which is, after all, a human invention, too. They point to the Apollo project, the hole in the ozone we patched in the 1980s, the passing of the fear of mutually assured destruction. Now we’ve found a way to engineer our own doomsday, and surely we will find a way to engineer our way out of it, one way or another. The planet is not used to being provoked like this, and climate systems designed to give feedback over centuries or millennia prevent us — even those who may be watching closely — from fully imagining the damage done already to the planet. But when we do truly see the world we’ve made, they say, we will also find a way to make it livable. For them, the alternative is simply unimaginable.

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CK MacLeod
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+ BTW, I recently upgraded some this and that on the back end of the blog, and it does seem to make comments post much faster [. . .]
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For WordPress self-hosted people, there is already a "restore legacy editor" plugin, even though Gutenberg hasn't been installed yet as the default.

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+ I thought you were on WordPress.com, not self-hosted WordPress. I can't find any info on WordPress.com and Gutenberg or Gutenbergerish editing, so I don't know [. . .]
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