Zero Squared #122: Lacan’s Television

Vakhtang Gomelauri is a therapist and self-proclaimed psychoanalyst working in NYC who is influenced by the ideas of the Jacques Lacan and this week he’s stopped by to discuss the book Television by Jacques Lacan, and the televised broadcast that the book is based on.

If you’re looking for a book to help you understand psychology and its crisis you should pick up a copy of The Off Modern by Ron Roberts. Other Zero Books titles worth having would be Anselm Jappe’s The Writing on the Wall which is a collection that brings an understanding of Marx’s Value Theory to bear on political questions, and, of course, Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies which is turning out to be a great conversation piece. It’s guaranteed to transform any leftist get together into a struggle session.

If you enjoy this podcast consider joining the Zero Books Club. Zero Books Club members receive access to a Saturday podcast entitled Inside Zero Books which sometimes features the second half of conversations with Zero Squared guests and sometimes features conversations with Zero Books readers about the state of the left. Zero Books Club members are also invited to participate in youtube workshops with Zero Books authors and others.

Diet Soap Podcast #204: Breaking Bad All the Way

The guest this week is Mark Fisher. Fisher is the author of the book Capitalist Realism and Ghosts of My Life (writings on depression, hauntology and lost futures). Fisher is also the author of an essay on the hit television show Breaking Bad for the New Humanist magazine and it’s this essay which will be the subject of this week’s podcast.

I want to thank my subscribers Jacob L and Andy M for their recurring donations and remind you that if you’d like to support the podcast you can find the paypal buttons at dietsoap.podomatic.com.

To set up this interview I thought I’d paste in an excerpt from Mark Fisher’s essay:

Who needs religion when you have television? On soap operas, unlike in life, villainous characters almost always face their comeuppance. TV cops may now be required to have “complicated” private lives and dubious personal ethics, but we’re seldom in any serious doubt about the difference between good and evil, and on which side of the line the maverick cop ultimately falls. The persistence of the fantasy that justice is guaranteed – a religious fantasy – wouldn’t have surprised the great thinkers of modernity. Theorists such as Spinoza, Kant, Nietzsche and Marx argued that atheism was extremely difficult to practise. It’s all very well professing a lack of belief in God, but it’s much harder to give up the habits of thought which assume providence, divine justice and a secure distinction between good and evil.

Rough Draft of Star Trek Book Intro

tumblr_m7sxeftAd21rbj6m8o1_400Most of the people who dislike Capitalism don’t like Star Trek either, or at least they pretend not to like it. They don’t like Star Trek because they don’t like being entertained.

Theodore Adorno, for example, didn’t like Capitalism even a little and he also disliked Jazz music, television, magazines, suburban bungalows, and women’s bare breasts. In fact, Adorno was so shocked when three German hippies bared their breasts and scattered flower petals over his head in protest of his boring lecture on Dialectics he went and died of a heart attack that same summer. But, you can bet that one thing these topless protesters and Adorno could’ve agreed on was Star Trek, and it’s certain neither of them had bothered to watch “Turnabout Intruder” that summer. Neither Adorno nor his sexy detractors ever found out how Kirk handled having his mind transplanted into the body of his ex-girlfriend.

Of course, they were in Frankfurt, Germany and couldn’t have watched the show if they’d wanted to, but I think they would have avoided it even if it had been broadcast on the ARD. The common view was that television was, just like religion, a kind of opiate for the unwashed masses. These technicolor spectacles depicting scantily clad green skinned women in go-go boots and tinfoil, these futuristic wonders with rubber faced lizard men wearing orange and red metallic kilts, only aimed to make the viewer want to buy things. Or, as Adorno put it:

“[The viewer] should be shown all his needs as capable of-fulfilment, but those needs should be so predetermined that he feels himself to be the eternal consumer.”

It’s undeniable that the real reason Star Trek existed was to sell Camel Cigarettes, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dodge Chargers, and Cheer laundry detergent, but it’s also true that Star Trek presented Roddenberry’s vision of an egalitarian future to an America where members of McCarthy’s House of UnAmerican Activities committee were still subpoenaing guys like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.

Adorno should have taken the time to watch and enjoy Star Trek precisely because the show embodied the kind of dialectical contradictions that he was always talking about. The contradiction between the utopian future on the show and the advertisements for Cheer detergent or Coca-Cola that came along with it is the same kind of contradiction that Marx was getting at when he pointed out how alienating it is to work in a world where the aim of life isn’t to do or make anything useful but rather is just to make heaps of cash.

There are all kinds of strange loops and contradictions in the show itself, too. There is the one about God, for instance. The appearance of all these super-intelligent energy beings, or Blinking Light Aliens, pop up in order to cover up the strange contradiction between the super scientific rationality on the show and the empty nihilism that always threatened a crew that consisted of red shirts who didn’t even have the idea of a personal god to console them. There is the one about progress and exploration. Kirk and his crew came from a world where machines made every meal, where nobody starved and nobody was poor, but they kept landing on planets where people still lived like savages. It’s as though they couldn’t escape the contradiction that existed between the classes that existed in the 20th century just by fantasizing about some big space ship, and so these problems kept coming back as plot lines involving Orion Slave girls or dilithium miners.

[more to come]