Has “hope” ever been creepier than as the last word of dialogue in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, uttered by Carrie Fisher or something like her or some unlikely likeness of some former incarnation of her, before us in double death-in-life? The movie’s fish-eyed space admirals were more believable than Fisher’s sex dollish image clone.
We are beyond the realm of “spoilers” here, so will note without hesitation that the scene in which it, not she, is cinematically discovered, standing still, presumably having been waiting all along, terminates a crescendo of death. Prior to that moment, the narrative is of the accelerating annihilation by heroic self-sacrifice, one by one and all-inclusively, of the typically motley crew of cartoonish types. Princess Leia promises new life for the hapless rebellion, and yet her or not-her’s appearance is the first and only moment in the film that qualifies as macabre.
Among the most dramatic results of last Monday’s hearing on President of the United States Donald J Trump’s Twitter habits and related matters was the appearance in the virtual pages of Lawfareblog – among the majorest of major minor blogs of this post-blog epoch – of the Phantom Non-Breaking Space Bug.
Chrome Inspection reveals a major minor infestation in Lawfareland:
Writing recently in Foreign Policy, Brookings Fellow Shadi Hamid, author of several books, numerous articles, and thousands of tweets on Islam and democracy, managed to apply some difficult political-philosophical thoughts – on the nature of liberal democracy as a mixed system, or on liberal-democratic politics in the philosophy of world history – to current events and specifically to the presidency of Donald J Trump. That Hamid helps to explain Trumpism as a phenomenon, a force, and a set of ideas without rancor or aggressive defensiveness – and even while at one point implicitly comparing the typical ground level Trumpist to an Islamist taxi-driver on hashish – further recommends the piece.
In a more informal effort in The Atlantic focused on the question of unelected, nominally non-partisan officials mounting a successful resistance or “soft coup” against the President, Hamid again puts himself in the Trumpist’s place:
If I was a Trump voter, I can imagine being frustrated at this sort-of-deep state working to block or undermine Trump’s agenda. I’d say: Well, I voted for that agenda, and not necessarily some vapid, unthreatening version of it. Presumably, if Bernie Sanders, or someone like him, had won the presidency and decided to radically re-orient U.S. foreign policy, there would be elements within the military and intelligence services that would attempt to “block” him. For these state institutions, it wouldn’t only be a matter of democratic legitimacy but also of something as fundamental as national security. Does that mean that presidents, regardless of what a plurality of voters might want, simply cannot act radically when it comes to foreign affairs or national identity? To what extent are Americans comfortable with that—and are we willing to apply whatever standard we come up with consistently?
Needless to say, not everyone discussing this issue has the benefit of Hamid’s long experience dealing with reactionaries – his specialty having been Middle Eastern religious reactionaries, including the above-referenced cabbie. When, for instance, I recently sought to explain how an intelligence operative might view the illicit exposure of damaging information about a mad or criminal or mad and criminal president as the very soul of duty, a longtime internet friend called my statements “disgusting.”
The Tweet-storm, in the new era of President Tweet, remains a nostalgia-inducing afterimage of the blog and of the era of President Blog, but it may also portend a return or attempted return to coherent, accountable, and consequential civic discussion in a mass society, back from the Great Flood of clicks.
Whatever Twitter offers to discourse or its preliminaries, information does not want only to be free to move on, or free to displace, then be displaced. It also wants to be free to stay, to be appreciated, to be invested with and to be attached to content, for a virtual community even if only a community of two or for a “community within” – the community of mind known to neuroscientists and philosophers, and, if they are right, to each and every one (or more) of us. Information does not want just to negate. It also wants to posit. Information wants to be free to be ephemeral, to be forgotten, to live for an intimate moment and vanish, but it also wants to be free to endure, to be recalled, to survive, to stand and fight as well as to snipe and flee.
The tension turns up in a social media phenomenon I noted a couple of weeks ago in, of course, a Tweet:
The tweetstorm's popularity, despite the form's unwieldiness, suggests a demand for some new medium between blogging and tweeting
First envisioned years ago, since that time implemented in various ways via some custom functions and hackage, I’m proud to announce the uploading of Nested Comments Unbound to the WordPress Plug-In Repo. Fingers crossed that it goes well, that I didn’t make some ridiculous mistake or fall victim to some glaring oversight, and that the first reviewers are kind!
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.
So, this morning, frustrated by yet another Twitter convo that couldn’t be carried forward effectively on Twitter, and that anyway deserved to be preserved for the eternal archives, I decided to automate the process.
If a resuscitation and revival, a last ditch effort at salvation, or a transfiguration of social democracy is not on today's political agenda, that may be all the more reason to pass this book on, following Tony Judt's last requests, to a young person looking forward. It may even be the conservative thing to do.
That it goes back to the sources of monotheism is important not because the sources automatically validate it, or even less because the recognition might boost Jewish pride (almost a contradiction in terms given the status of humility in Judaism), or American patriotism (whose proper object is an idea, not a land or a dead history), but because the prophetic sources of Judaism and Americanism are also the prophetic sources of Christianity and Islam, and make the same logic available, as it is grasped, to all Jews, all Christians, all Muslims, and to all those who, like the first recipients of the prophecy, come into contact with it from non-monotheistic orientations.
The comforting exaggerations and ideological short-cuts, historical curse words, the imputation of the the worst imaginable intentions to all political adversaries, reflect an unreformed, self-defeating desperation. Maybe, as Goldberg writes in the last paragraph of Liberal Fascism, when protesting the other side's insulting tactics, it's past time to cry, "Enough!"
The Star of Redemption (Modern Jewish Philosophy and Religion: Translations and Critical Studies): Franz Rosenzweig, Barbara E. Galli, Elliot R. Wolfson, Michael Oppenheim: 9780299207243: Amazon.com: Books
Would a truly "exceptional" destiny need to proclaim its independence from fate, or would it leave that task to others? Can such exceptionalism forever exclude or contain the terminal exception of exceptions to its infinite autonomy?
The Tweet-storm, in the new era of President Tweet, remains a nostalgia-inducing afterimage of the blog and of the era of President Blog, but it may also portend a return or attempted return to coherent, accountable, and consequential civic discussion in a mass society, back from the Great Flood of clicks.[...]
There are progressive and liberal ideologies or ideological constructs, but the desirability of progress and its attainment via rational and open ("liberal") inquiry remain pre-conditions of any authentic (authentically "discursive") discussion.[...]
Commenter Ignore Button (CIB) lets a user to put one or more commenters "on ignore." To have such an option enabled is a frequent request at blogs and other sites where comment threads are plagued by trolls or other problematic commenters, but where site operators prefer to err on the side of open discussion - or don't want to get involved unless they really have to. Once users become generally aware of the option, people just seeking attention may either be more polite or move somewhere else, while regular commenters - and lurkers - may become more willing to engage.[...]
If you're not able to perfect your theme yourself, or not willing to hire a designer, then being a perfectionist is unrealistic. Yet just getting good enough on first glance results when adding CIB to customized comment templates, even before fine-tuning, may require some more complicated work. For those intimidated by the prospect, here is an example of curing the output on one typically atypical theme.[...]
We would be compelled to conclude that something must have been (and very likely remains) profoundly wrong with a political culture or political media - of which Matthew Yglesias and Vox are, of course, typical parts - that could be dominated by an issue to be judged intrinsically trivial, and dominated to the point of determining eventual collective decisions of undoubted significance.[...]
If members of the present younger generation in particular seem unable to articulate or comprehend the basis of a still operative policy consensus, they can hardly be faulted if their elders, even those running for the highest office in the land, can no longer do so either. We seem to be preparing and in effect demanding - perhaps cannot help but to require - a repetition, or at least a reinforcement, of the very old lesson.[...]