Categories
why we're fecked

disintegration loops

I’m no longer capable of keeping track of a full news cycle and perhaps that’s a blessing in disguise – I may be regressing and slowly losing the ability to do much of anything but at least I don’t have the energy to read all ye’re mundane Twitter takes about it. Everything seems to move too fast, everything seems extremely bleak, and every time I open Twitter it’s solely to see if I can get a dopamine hit from getting another like for comparing Shannon to a GMOD skybox. I’ve talked in the past in here about my lockdown life being solely defined by inbetween moments – I have these posts to write and reading group sessions to attend but besides that a lot of my week is just spent looking at the calendar and preparing for what’s next (read: the next time I have to awkwardly talk in front of a webcam). My reading has (seemingly) stalled over the past week – I’m around 56% into Philip Gourevitch’s ‘We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families’ and am (somehow) keeping up with the texts that my reading groups are working on but besides that I’m in an odd state of stasis. I’ll pick up my Kindle, get through a few pages, and then get distracted by staring at the ceiling – which doesn’t help considering how many books I want to get around to before I have to consistently leave the house again. This inability to pay attention to minor Twitter controversies or read books I hold an active interest in doesn’t help when it comes to these Thursday posts – it turns out that I’m actually quite boring when not harking on about Klein’s discography and I guess we’re stuck dealing with that fact until I finally return to my senses and not write anything for six months.

The fact that people have the energy to hark on about culture war stuff in the midst of a world pandemic is nearly admirable – I wish I could care about something as much as some random boomer who gets mad about PC culture going wild. This is especially the case when it comes to the removal of ‘Little Britain’ from Netflix, something that we totally would have noticed if a statement wasn’t made. The show was removed as “times had changed”, which is basically just PR speak for “we’re a bit embarrassed about all the blackface in the show” – outraging the British commentariat in the process. Brendan O’Neill penned a piece for The Spectator getting mad about it being slightly harder to watch BBC sitcoms, comparing this injustice to “censoriousness on steroids” and likening the removal of the sitcom to a “chilling assault”. “Who will defend grotesque satire and comedic stupidity against today’s armies of literalist, joyless censors?” he asks, writing for a magazine solely for people who think ‘Spitting Image’ was a bit too subversive. I feel like before I continue to get mad at every British columnist I need to point out the obvious – the removal of ‘Little Britain’ off streaming services is a performative PR move that means nothing to anyone anywhere, its a meaningless corporate maneuver that was probably subjected to God knows how many cost/benefit analyses before being greenlit. Nobody on either side of this argument actually feels that strongly about a mediocre 2000s sitcom and they’re just feigning interest to further some menial culture war in order to distract us from focusing on topics that actually mean something (ie. the literal pandemic we’re in). At most someone will just have to Google “123movies little britain” instead of being able to watch the show in the Netflix app – big deal. This whole “conversation” means nothing, even if I’m wasting my day writing about it.

Something I find really funny about this whole ‘Little Britain’ nontroversy are the attempts to paint the show as this ultimate piece of subversive art. If you’ve been solely paying attention to the most boring people alive you’d assume the show was a Kaufman-Esque exposé on the British proletariat that set the bar for every BBC sitcom to follow – it really isn’t. ‘Little Britain’ is an alright show, a cultural artifact of the Blair era (and its middle-class aspirations) that you can zone out and occasionally laugh to. It doesn’t really stray beyond pandering to the lowest common denominator or say much of anything but that’s not its aim (or why people would want to watch it on Netflix). ‘Little Britain’ is a mildly agreeable show you can lie on the couch to (or lie to your coworkers about enjoying) – you’re not supposed to hold much of an opinion on it and the second you write a blog post like this one you’re missing out on the whole point of the thing. According to Brendan O’Neil “art and comedy must have the space to experiment, to dig down, to shock, to horrify” – when exactly did ‘Little Britain’ do any of the three? Whenever we have these conversations about how racism shapes the way we look back at certain pieces of media those who want everything to be endlessly puerile do a performative song-and-dance about interesting art ripped directly from one of my music posts and I find that fairly funny. ‘Little Britain’ was a show spawned during the cultural wasteland of the Blair era – media had to appeal to the lowest common denominator, pass through constant focus groups, and say nothing of note. ‘Little Britain’ was fundamentally a “safe” show intended for the widest audience possible and because of this seeing it paraded as the peak of experimental art feels oddly ironic. Neoliberal capitalism has gnawed away at any notion of new or interesting art hitting the mainstream to the point where what was once generic filler is suddenly ‘Citizen Kane’. Any safety net that existed for genuine subversives has been gradually eroded and now our cultural peak is defined as a mediocre BBC show that ended fourteen years ago.

In the 1980s the experimental composer William Basinski started building a collection of tape loops derived from easy listening radio stations and then promptly forgot about them. When trawling through his archive in 2001 he tried digitizing the tapes, only to realize that these tapes slowly deteriorated each time they looped – quite literally crumbling each time they passed the tape head. These failed attempts at digitization form the basis of ‘The Disintegration Loops’, a series of four albums dedicated to the victims of the 9/11 attacks first released in 2002. As Lars Gotrich put it in their piece for NPR, “short, melodic loops turn over in your ears as they slowly deteriorate like wood planks on abandoned houses, letting wind and silence slip through the cracks”. “Rhythms appear and disappear” as the track gradually decay, creating a haunting effect that evokes imagery of mortality and collapse. I’d like to argue that it seems as if we’re in a disintegration loop of the 2000s – the end of “the end of history” wasn’t a singular event such as the 2008 collapse, but instead a continuous realization. Perhaps we’re living out the final ten minutes of ‘Disintegration Loop 3’, hearing final vestiges of the 2000s flicker between minutes of silence as the current form of neoliberal capitalism morphs into something more sinister. It sometimes does seem as if we’re living out an even stupider, deteriorated loop of the 2000s – Michael Moore is somehow relevant (but this time it’s cool to hate on him), I just wrote a blog post about Little Britain, the Irish Green Party are about to commit kamikaze in order to enforce another round of austerity, and the British Labour Party managed to find someone even more boring than Tony Blair to send them into focus-group backed oblivion. I have zero ideas as to what’s to come (and considering how I didn’t predict the events in America I won’t even bother guessing), but at least there’ll be a little bit more silence before the next meaningless culture war controversy. Just kidding, by the time this post goes live I’ll probably have gotten worked up over some other minor deflection. But hey, the next post on here is probably going to be about music so I guess that’s something to look forward to.