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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12 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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And this programmer suggested a way to avoid user input all together:

Eventually, programmers on Reddit started making fully-functioning, interactive versions of the awful forms, like this and this and this. Someone even created one out of the classic game Snake. The meme hasn’t stopped for weeks now, and iterations of it seem to be growing more detailed and elaborate.

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Trump actually congratulated Erdogan on the outcome. Trump apparently thought it was a good thing that, despite all the flaws in the process, a bare majority of Turkey’s citizens voted to strengthen their populist leader. I don’t think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated a democratic ally that held a flawed referendum leading to a less democratic outcome. This is not that far off from Trump congratulating Putin on a successful referendum result in Crimea if that event had been held in 2017 rather than 2014.

Public disquiet and behind-the-scenes pressure on key illiberal allies is an imperfect policy position. It is still a heck of a lot more consistent with America’s core interests than congratulating allies on moving in an illiberal direction. In congratulating Erdogan, Trump did the latter.

For all the talk about Trump’s moderation, for all the talk about an Axis of Adults, it’s time that American foreign policy-watchers craving normality acknowledge three brute facts:

  1. Donald Trump is the president of the United States;
  2. Trump has little comprehension of how foreign policy actually works;
  3. The few instincts that Trump applies to foreign policy are antithetical to American values.
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He sensed that the public wanted relief from the burdens of global leadership without losing the thrill of nationalist self-assertion. America could cut back its investment in world order with no whiff of retreat. It would still boss others around, even bend them to its will...

There was, to be sure, one other candidate in the 2016 field who also tried to have it both ways—more activism and more retrenchment at the same time. This was, oddly enough, Hillary Clinton... Yet merely to recall Clinton’s hybrid foreign-policy platform is to see how pallid it was next to Trump’s. While she quibbled about the TPP (which few seemed to believe she was really against), her opponent ferociously denounced all trade agreements—those still being negotiated, like the TPP, and those, like NAFTA and China’s WTO membership, that had long been on the books. “Disasters” one and all, he said. For anyone genuinely angry about globalization, it was hard to see Clinton as a stronger champion than Trump. She was at a similar disadvantage trying to compete with Trump on toughness. His anti-terrorism policy—keep Muslims out of the country and bomb isis back to the Stone Age—was wild talk, barely thought through. But for anyone who really cared about hurting America’s enemies, it gave Trump more credibility than Clinton’s vague, muddled talk of “safe zones” ever gave her.

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State of the Discussion

bob
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Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ Wade, your last paragraph is crucial to your argument. Certainly it expresses economically the source of the weight of a country's foreign policy, and [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
CK MacLeod
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Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ Not sure where you got the idea that I ever wrote “[President Trump] doesn’t know what he’s doing!!!!!!" - bob's idea for a possible rallying [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
Wade McKenzie
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Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ The conversation that you and Bob were having at the time that I wrote my comment had everything to do with the recent missile strike [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic

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