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Picking up on symmetries observed

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — after Scaramucci on symmetry ]
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It’s encouraging — heart-heartening — to see Doreen St. Félix at the New Yorker picking up on An Image of Revolutionary Fire at Charlottesville:

Two points about her commentary strike my interest. The first had to do, specifically, with symmetry, an old hobby-horse of mine as you may know:

Steve Helber shot an image of peculiar symmetry, in which a man of fortitude was bearing a different light. Two men extend weapons: one is the Confederate flag, furled, hiding its retrograde design, and the other is an aerosol can, modified to eject fire. The figures stand in a classical configuration, on the diagonal, as if a Dutch master has placed them just so.

The second made reference to theology..

The composition of this photo is fiercely theological. The black man is wielding what the black theologian James Cone, quoting the prophet Jeremiah, might call the “burning fire shut up in my bones,” what James Baldwin would have identified as “the fire next time.” (Cornel West, a student of Cone, has advanced the liberatory concept of “black prophetic fire”; West travelled to the city to march with members of Charlottesville’s faith community on Saturday.) It is a pose that upsets a desire for docility; it’s a rebuke to slogans such as “This is not us” or “Love not hate.” This graceful man has appropriated not only the flames of white-supremacist bigotry but also the debauched, rhetorical fire of Trump, who gloated, earlier this week, that he would respond to a foreign threat with “fire and fury.” The resistance has its fire, too.

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I don’t think I see that image the same way St. Félix does. She sees fire on both sides — the fires of the tiki torches in the hands of the supremacists, though they are absent from this particular pohotograph, and the fire visible in the photo, wielded by the “man of fortitude”. Using an improvised flame-thrower strikes me as, if anything, more menacing than waving a furled flag, to be honest, and even though flame-man is in the lower position, his flame makes him, in my eyes, the dominant figure in the composition — and flag-wielder, correspondingly, even though holding the higher ground, more the underdog,

While my sympathies would naturally lie with those who protest supremacism rather than those who proclaim it, this image at first saddens me with the spectacle of fire-power unilaterally vielded by the guy I’d otherwise cheer for — and it’s only when I read a little deeper —

Long said that the protest had seemed peaceful until “someone pointed a gun at my head. Then the same person pointed it at my foot and shot the ground.”)

— that I began to understand why he, rather than the supremacist, might be the one who has feeling most threatened.

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I feel ambiguous, then, about St Félix’ reading of the photo, but grateful that someone has an eye out for form, art, symmetry, in the photo-reporting of a vile, incendiary event.

Scaramucci on symmetry

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — & compare the symmetry of projection ]
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White House (new) communications director on symmetrical loyalty. At about the 4.25 mark:

Scaramucci on Trump:

He’s a remarkably loyal guy. The loyalty, though, has to be symmetrical. And good loyalty is always symmetrical, you don’t want asymmetrical loyalty.

File that under “on the importance of form”.

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Symmetry as projection:

Matching Scaramucci‘s symmetry of loyalty is James Fallows‘ symmetry of projection. From an ongoing discussion with readers at The Atlantic:

I argue that “projection,” in the psychological sense, is the default explanation for anything Donald Trump says or does.

Projection means deflecting any criticism (or half-conscious awareness) of flaws in yourself by accusing someone else of exactly those flaws. Is Trump’s most immediately obvious trait his narcissistic and completely ungoverned temperament? (Answer: yes.) By the logic of projection, it thus makes perfect sense that he would brag that he has “the greatest temperament” and judgment, and criticize the always-under-control Hillary Clinton for hers.

One of Fallows’ follwers notes the connection between projection as parallelism and projection as self-reference (ie, our old frined the ouroboros):

In simple terms, one might say his [Trump’s] mind is empty of any thoughts that are not self-referential. And so self-projection is simply a consequence of this vacuity.

There’s more in Peter Beinart‘s article, The Projection President, subtitled Months into his tenure, Trump still responds to controversies by lobbing the same charges at his opponents — and see also Katy Waldman‘s piece, We the Victims, subtitled Trump’s Paris accord speech projected his own psychological issues all over the American people..

Monkey see monkey do, or an eye for an eye

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — or, I suppose you could say, symmetry ]
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The Finsbury Park Mosque attacker drove a car into a crowd because he was disgusted by the Westminster Bridge attacker who drove a car into a crowd:

Ah well, bin Laden back in the day had a more sophisticated form of the same practice. As he put it in a speech to America::

And as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children.

Sources:

  • SPLC, What We Know: Finsbury Park Attack
  • Telegraph, Westminster attack: Everything we know so far
  • Zenpundit, Close reading, Synoptic- and Sembl-style
  • Mattis and Kim: mirrors have consequences

    Friday, April 21st, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — the current nuclear standoff, with a coda on silver beech and copper birch ]
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    I spend a fair amount of time suggesting that formal characteristics found in events are frequently worth special note, and mirroring is a good example. Here, in Why Mattis versus Kim Jong-Un Will End Badly for Us All, War on tnhe Rocks indicates the potential (and potent) peril of mirroring in the context of our latest Korean adventure:

    Inadvertent war in Korea is more likely now than at any point in recent history. Whereas a second Korean war has always been possible, clashing U.S. and North Korean “theories of victory” — beliefs about what it takes to successfully coerce and control escalation — now make it plausible, even probable.

    Patterns of bluster and brinkmanship have of course long characterized affairs on the Korean Peninsula. For “Korea watchers,” there’s a perverse comfort in the predictability of a situation that, to the uninitiated, sometimes looks anything but stable.

    So on some level, the rhythm of recent saber-rattling between the Trump administration and North Korea recalls the perverse comfort of typical Korea policy. On a recent visit to South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence cited U.S. attacks in Syria and Afghanistan as indications of U.S. resolve against North Korea. This statement followed numerous officials confirming that the administration is contemplating preventive strikes against the North, and a recent policy review on North Korea yielding one overarching imperative: “maximum pressure.” North Korea’s rhetoric and posturing has been no less confrontational and no less familiar. As Pence departed Alaska for South Korea, North Korea attempted a submarine-launched ballistic missile test that failed. Upon news that a U.S. carrier group was headed to its neighborhood, North Korea responded that “a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment” and that it’s “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.”

    These words and deeds themselves are more heated than usual, but unremarkable in the context of all that’s come before. North Korea routinely threatens war, often summoning images of a future mushroom cloud. The United States routinely dispatches aircraft carriers, bombers, and other strategic military assets in hopes of signaling resolve while actually registering little more than displeasure with North Korean behavior. The notion of “maximum pressure,” moreover, only differs from the approach of past U.S. presidents in the ambiguous adjective “maximum.” Pressure is the historical mean of U.S. policy toward North Korea. My concern is not with these observable dynamics to date, but rather with what lies beneath them, and what may be coming soon as a consequence.

    It’s getting harder to ignore that the Pentagon, under Secretary Jim Mattis, may have a coercive theory of victory that largely mirrors that of North Korea under Kim Jong-Un. The danger is in the fundamental incompatibility of these disturbingly similar sets of strategic beliefs.

    **

    Smoke and the hall of mirrors, a digression:

    An excellent place for final confrontations with heroes, the Hall Of Mirrors wins high marks for ease of use. All you have to do is lure your victim inside by dashing in yourself, and then cackle with glee as they find you reflected back not once but a thousand times… When you have had your fun, seal the exits and fill the cramped space with some kind of liquid. Plain water works as well as anything, but why not add food dye for color. Or, for a touch of whimsy, use a sickeningly sweet fruit punch.

    Neil Zawacki, How to Be a Villain, in TV Tropes: Hall of Mirrors

    **

    Mirroring sets up an echo chamber — consider the myth of Narcissus** — which is also a sort of ping-pong game and a feedback machine —

    and hence a magnifier or an accelerator. It can allm too easily howl out of control, with — in this case — nuclear consequences.

    ** Narcissus sees his reflection, Echo echos his voice back to him, thus the myth encompasses a parallelism between visual and aural self-perceptions in a wonderful act of inter-media symmetry.

    **

    Form is the decorative act of the creative mind, adding to meaning by the use of devices of art in the way the materials of the art are deployed — as when the poet notes (specifically) beech and birch trees in a wood, delighted by the verbal felicity between the two words, or Coppola matches helicopter rotors against the blades of a hotel room fan in the beginning of Apocalypse Now.

    And then the delight triples with the addition of a metallic match:

    But again, I digress..

    **

    I do nothing but think of you..

    Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — beautiful juxtaposition from a film by Nicolas Winding Refn ]
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    My friend @justknecht just tweeted this juxtaposition:

    I don’t know the film, Drive, but the DoubleQuote is superb.

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    Here’s a closer look at the two frames:

    CoPFCm2WgAAPBY9

    CoPFCmzW8AAX8Gl

    **

    Relationship is implicit symmetry?


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