The Null Device
Momus weighs in on the Michael Jackson trial, painting it as a tragic triumph of warlike Spartan puritanism over a future of limitless, polymorphous opportunity:
One of the reasons the Michael Jackson trial is so unfortunate is that the world of Either-Or will pass judgment on a creature of Yet-Also. The world of clear, unambiguous categories will pass judgment on someone who flies Peter-Pan-like over the binaries that confine and define the rest of us.
Jackson is what all humans will become if we develop further in the direction of postmodernism and self-mediation. He is what we'll become if we get both more Wildean and more Nietzschean. He's what we'll become only if we're lucky and avoid a new brutality based on overpopulation and competition for dwindling resources. By attacking Jackson and what he stands for -- the effete, the artificial, the ambiguous -- we make a certain kind of relatively benign future mapped out for ourselves into a Neverland, something forbidden, discredited, derided. When we should be deriding what passes for our normalcy -- war, waste, and the things we do en masse are the things that threaten us -- we end up deriding dandyism and deviance.
Mind you, from what I heard, the court case is not about Jackson's deviant refusal to fit into binary categories or to obey the stern laws of the joyless, unimaginative "Never-Fly", but about whether or not he buggered some children. And surely if he represents a viable future of humanity and is convicted or otherwise put out of action, some alternative, non-child-buggering manifestation of Homo Sapiens 2.0 will come along and carry on the Great Work. Surely Mankind's salvation from a soul-crushing dystopia of war, sexual puritanism and manufactured mass entertainment doesn't literally rest with one man.
Meanwhile, in the LiveJournal comments for this entry, there is an interesting tangent, quoting a New Scientist article on Michael Crichton's latest book (a thriller which paints the scientific basis of environmentalism as fraud and environmentalists as fanatical terrorists):
When I visited America during my time working for Greenpeace International in the 1990s, time and again people would say to me "we really don't approve of the way your organisation blew up that French ship", or words to that effect. It happened once at the end of a meeting with a lawyer in Philadelphia. He was defending Lloyds of London against a suit filed by Exxon after the Valdez oil spill. He wanted to thank me kindly for all the excellent free technical information I had furnished him with in support of his defence, but he really hadn't enjoyed having to talk to me because my people had murdered somebody in New Zealand.
How could it be, I used to wonder, that Americans got the French secret service's sinking of the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior the wrong way round so consistently? I encountered the phenomenon in no other country. I never knew why for sure and still don't. Whatever the explanation, it happened so many times to me and my colleagues that I had to conclude it was something cultural.
Which sounds like cognitive dissonance in action. Perhaps, to many people in the U.S., the claims that the French government blew up a Greenpeace ship jar so much with their beliefs about the nature of environmentalism (according to this New York Times article, 41% of Americans consider environmental activists to be "extremists") that they have to mentally correct the "error" in the reported facts, turning them around to make more sense.
France's National Library has photoshopped a cigarette out of a photograph of Jean-Paul Sartre used in a poster to promote the centenary of his birth. The action was apparently taken to comply with a law prohibiting tobacco advertising, and follows the editing out of cigarettes from other likenesses of role models. Perhaps they should edit all those removed cigarettes into images of historical villains like Hitler (or, even better, images of people considered passé and unhip though not enough to be in danger of becoming Ironically Cool). (via bOING bOING)