Vol. 34 No. 1 1967 - page 45

break of the Cold War, the vacuity of individuals and the supremacy of
their metier have become the central theme of American culture. Whether
in physics or in oil painting the "responsible" practitioner is the one who
comes closest to resembling the computer. The arts are being "program–
med" and an empty mind has become a credential of both artists and
In politics there has dawned the terrifying era of the comedian. The
President of the United States imprints his monogram on roads, lakes,
forests, cattle, towns in order to provide confirmation of his existence and
a talisman against oblivion. He tries out his style of handshaking in
the Far East, convinced that mankind is a Texan who hasn't yet made it.
The United States today is governed by professional illusionists. Not
only are officials elected through campaigns of image-building based on
fiction and caricature, but once in office their actions are decided not by
anticipating consequences to the nation and/or humanity but by the kind
of image those actions will enable them to present to the public. Washing–
ton acts by putting on an act. The same is true of every state capitol and
hall. With sheriffs behaving like movie actors,
actors aspire to
the highest offices.
Politics increasingly takes on the forms of mass culture, in which the
picture of a thing, or the publicity about it, achieves precedence over the
thing itself, since the latter is seen by very few people. This is saying
nothing less than that the American public is out of its mind, lucid at
moments but subject to fits of apathy and nose-thumbing.
the coun–
doesn't collapse or blow up it is because strings pulled from dif–
ferent angles behind the scene cause a temporary balancing of stresses.
has yet to be proved, however, that this balance can last for any appreci–
able period of time (in spots all over the country it has not lasted), or
that the string pullers themselves are adequately innoculated against the
mirages they release into the atmosphere.
Actually, the public wackiness is most likely an epidemic spread
from the top. The French with their genius for formulas hav€ two terms
that go to the heart of the matter: one is the
«societe anonyme,"
means a corporation, the other is
which means a madman. Our
corporation-controlled society is a society controlled anonymously by men
who in their actions are alienated from themselves and respond to the
ventriloquist voices of the abstract entities which they serve. They per–
sonify their
societes anonymes,
and personifying in real life is a species
of madness. One is dominated by an emblem-e.g., the big yellow Shell–
from which issue incontrovertible commands. In their professional, i.e.,
their active, power-laden lives, the fetishists who decide things for us are
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