Fascism vs. Artistic Expression

by Alexander Quaresma | @TheRedFlagg

PART 1 of 4 | THE LEVIATHAN AWAKENS

image color.jpg

We live in an age that very few of us saw coming. Basic unifying technologies emerging at the close of the twentieth century that have been allowed to progress headlong into the twenty-first have changed the playing field in multiple societal arenas. Some of the results have yielded the fall of nations, the evolution of business models, increased surveillance, and the erosion of personal privacy. But above all, in the post-social media age, these unifying technologies have gone on to provide voices to masses of people who had been in the past voiceless. While we owe a debt of gratitude to people like Edward Snowden, who has shown us how these technologies can be used against us from the top on down, we are also beginning to understand how there is a distant, but ever-growing threat involved with these emergent technologies from the bottom on up as well. We can see this threat in action in more than one area of our increasingly globalized community, but it is in the domain of the arts where we can really see a dark foreshadowing of what could be in store for us if such developments continue to gain momentum.

The term ‘political correctness’ has always appalled me, reminding me of Orwell’s ‘Thought Police’ and fascist regimes.
— Helmut Newton; fashion photographer

Art in the new social order

Due in large part to a unifying technology such as the Internet itself and its accompanying social media platforms like reddit, facebook, tumblr, twitter, instagram, etc., the arts, all forms, new and old, have been quietly experiencing a post-modern renaissance of sorts. People everywhere, young and old, affluent and poor; they're all creating art.

I would be hard-pressed to compare a lot of what we're finding on reddit or tumblr to work produced by renaissance masters such as Leonardo or Michelangelo- nevertheless, what we're seeing is that the approximately two to three billion people in the world with Internet access are creating art at one level or another; and some of it is quite stunning.

With these new "art delivery systems" which are increasingly becoming integral fibers in the very fabric of the Internet itself, mediums such as music, painting, mechanical engineering, writing, poetry, photography, filmmaking, and everything above, below, and in-between, are being explored in ways nobody had ever seen before. The design of the Internet itself is merely another expression of an artistic medium (coding) having taken shape to produce magic no alchemist or sorcerer of old could ever  have dreamed of. The very structure of Internet could be seen as just as remarkable an artistic achievement as a twelfth-century stone cathedral.

The potential a free and open Internet now affords a collective humanity includes the internal infrastructure which allows for created works of art to be passed along, seen, admired, and yes, even criticized; but perhaps most excitingly, an ability to earn supplemental and primary incomes. So while the art being produced is perhaps commercialized and consumed in ways that the revered mystical masters of the Renaissance never had need to worry about, it is also certain that had you explained the Internet and its potential for the imagination and various artistic crafts to these same masters they'd think you were a wizard. And unlike their berobed and perfumed Catholic patrons, they'd most likely welcome such a conversation.

The pre-Enlightenment Church in western history was a fascist order which sought to repress and control human expression in every possible way. Anyone producing works which were presented in such a way that they were in opposition to Church dogma would be roundly and severely punished for it. Most of us living in the western world in the twenty-first century are fortunate enough to not have to deal with the Leviathan of an oppressive religious order patrolling the waters of the imagination any longer. While there are still political systems in place which today mirror the royal aristocratic monarchies of old in place to keep us in check when it comes to our civic existence there has not been much (up until relatively recently) that's come in a form designed to police our imaginations.

Awakening the dragon

Pre-the Internet there was the idea of "political correctness" that had been debated, experimented with, and in some small instances even appropriately applied. However, it was just a relatively small idea on how one would best behave in common everyday society. 

Because of developments that have taken place over the past first twenty+ years of the Internet people everywhere now are able to put out their ridiculous opinions on anything and everything from their shopping experiences to adding their thoughts on particular political debates they wish to engage in. Opinions on this seem to vary, but I am of the belief that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Speaking generally it's not a problem that so many people now have the ability to have their voice heard; or at least it shouldn't have to be. It's simply a factor that we have to learn to do deal with as we proceed headlong into the future.

Websites such as reddit and social media sites such as facebook and twitter ensures that those who have operated unseen and unchecked in the past can no longer rely on secrecy. Behavior that never would have seen the light of day in the past and bygone era before the Internet often finds itself exposed. A lot of us are still trying to comprehend the corruption that we're all seeing which for the longest time was otherwise simply considered business as usual. Much of this is still a work in progress, but it is my belief that social media and the Internet will continue to be a benefit to a slowly globalizing world community. But with all the good that the Internet provides, it does come with some baggage. What we have been seeing is a disturbing trend where the idea of "political correctness" has mutated, for a lack of a better term, and finds itself taking root in certain segments of our society. We're seeing it occur in two places in particular.

The first are colleges and universities. With institutions of higher learning look to turn more and more profit they've turned to business models to help achieve that goal. This has given rise to the academic experience being turned into a "customer experience," as Jane McGonigal noted in an interview with comic Joe Rogan while discussing this subject. Segments of the student body on college campuses walk around looking to attack anyone they deem has offended them by not using their preferred set of acceptable language. They do so no different than if they were having a disagreement over a sales purchase at a Walmart. It's a trend that continues to grow.

Meanwhile, colleges and universities had always been destinations for road comics to get booked to do live performances. Yet you hear more and more how comedians are no longer willing to take bookings at these places because of the hassle that now comes with having to deal with these kids who refuse to accept that there are people who act, speak, behave, and have a general outlook on social diversity matters that differ, and perhaps even challenge their own.

The second area is the Internet and social media itself. Twitter is one of the great innovations to come about as a result of the Internet, but as is so often the case, with the good comes with it some of the bad. With its ability to unite like-minded people as well as providing an opportunity to have someone's thoughts be seen by thousands, potentially even millions, in a matter of hours, Twitter has become a favorite stomping ground of a particular type of individual. It is the growing throng of people who have turned ideas contrary to their own into a reason to consider themselves victimized. They turn to name-calling, character bashing, calls to have the offenders removed from whatever venue it is they were found to be committing the offensive offense, and generate petitions via hashtag movements.

While some of the hashtag movements that have come about on twitter are perfectly legitimate, much of the thunder behind the concept of hashtag movements has been diminished as a result of PC brigadiers co-opting them for contrived, petty, faux-causes which find their origins in the desire to have everyone and everything conform to their standards of political correctness and cultural homogenization.

Suffer the artists ...

This move for PC standardization by such groups and sub-groups comes at the expense of the freedom to express one's self. It is a new form of tyranny, as cultural critics such as post-modern Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek, comic Joe Rogan, and film and culture analyst Rob Ager, three individuals whom I don't always find myself in agreement with, have all fairly and accurately written or spoken about. In terms of what's happening at colleges and universities the casualties include intellectualism itself. As far as what we're seeing on the Internet and social media often the victims are a very specific group of people: the artists.

Performance artists such as comics will often take a beating over their talent to isolate, discern, and call out inauthenticity by verbalizing it in an amusing thought-provoking manner. Often it might come in the form of a tweet they send out or it will make it into their act as part of a bit. If their observation does not conform to PC standards, or their use of language does not conform, that comic will suffer a torrential shit storm of angry PC twitter barnstormers. But there are other forms of performance art and performance artists who've also been taken to task by the whims of PC-centric social media users.

Web cam models on pornographic websites are not generally thought of as performance artists, and I would agree that the vast majority are not. Some models, however, have taken advantage of the web cam business model platform that's been provided, thanks to the Internet, and sought to turn what it is that they do on those websites into nothing short of performance art themselves.

In parts two and three I shall examine two instances in 2015 where two web cam model performance artists felt the brunt and the wrath of a scary and seemingly growing hyper-PC sensitive culture that's becoming more and more common on the Internet and social media.