That America is not able at present to accomplish meaningful tasks is we submit beyond question. Even the WaPo raises the matter; it is now that obvious.
The Warlord’s regime deserves much if not all the credit for this current atrophy. For the reasons we have set forth here at length re fixation on hyper-real narrative control, “working towards the Leader” ethos in the cadres, etc. But the Warlord simply built upon the already pregnant possibilities. In that way, he, Cheney, Cher Condi, Karen Hughes, A.G.A.G. et. al. — they are just another symptom, too.
A hyper-real society may forget how to build satellites that work, levees that function, or the fundamentals of bridge engineering dating back to Roman times. Our military in Iraq even subcontracts intelligence to private companies (currently British). But such a twitching, psychologically fractured society does function and in its own way, produce things. Consider William Gibson’s new novel:
In Spook Country, Gibson’s latest, a woman named Hollis Henry has just arrived in Los Angeles on assignment for a magazine called Node to investigate “locative art,” an underground movement of tech-savvy artists into the mapping, annotation, and holographic reshaping of virtual space. Cayce and Hollis are in similar circumstances for the exact same reason.
Spook Country is a sequel of sorts to Pattern Recognition, an extension of its territory and themes. Masterminding the narrative of both is the sinister and seductive Hubertus Bigend, founder of the avant-garde advertising firm Blue Ant. In Pattern Recognition, he’s described as “a nominal Belgian who looks like Tom Cruise on a diet of virgin’s blood and truffled chocolates.” His Wikipedia entry in Spook Country describes him as the child of a wealthy industrialist and a sculptress with links to the Situationist International.Bigend is Gibson’s image of hyper-capitalist consciousness evolved to such sophistication that it becomes indistinguishable from art, philosophy, even magic. Advertising for Bigend isn’t a means to make money, but a method for tapping into the ancient reptile mind at the base of consciousness and culture.
In Pattern Recognition, he engages Cayce to locate the author of “the footage,” a sequence of enigmatic film clips randomly posted on the Internet that spawn a global cult of enthusiasts and explicators. When Spook Country reveals the utterly banal use that Bigend makes of this knowledge, the effect is chilling. More disturbing is the sense that he may be the only character in these stories who’s discovered a way to embrace and diffuse the accelerated terrors and inchoate anxieties of the post-9/11 world.
After 9/11, Woolsey and a bunch of Booz Allen know-nothings ran around town talking about America’s unique vulnerabilities as a ‘networked society’ as if this blinding glimpse of the obvious was divine revelation. (Well, actually it was to the smokestackers in the Administration).But a nation adrift, lost to the song of the hyper-real is far more fragile than even Woolsey can imagine. A people can forget how to shape their future, how to build and how to assert themselves (beyond spastic episodes of eruptive violence). How far into the dream have we gone?
P.S. We are enjoying Alfred Molina and “The Company” on TNT so far more than the narcissistically self-conscious and self-congratulatory “The Good Shepherd.” It not only is more relaxed in its approach, but the aesthetics of Ridley and Tony Scott are evident, making it less ponderous than DeNiro’s bloated effort. Alexandra Maria Lara from Downfall proves a great casting choice, and Michael Keaton is an interesting Angleton — far more nuanced (if not accurate) than Damon’s bland cipher.