FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Negative Space

Negative space was a topic of discussion around the household of my youth. My parents are both artists; my mother was a late bloomer (she didn’t start painting until she was 340) but my father hasn’t held a legitimate job since the Johnson Administration. He’s been a working artist as long as I can remember (last Wednesday). Negative space is the space around a viewed object. The idea of negative space turns out to be especially important right now: it’s the only way to understand what’s happening in the news.

The perfect negative space is a hole: the material around the hole defines it. Without the dirt around the hole (it’s a hole in the ground, or possibly an especially foul Axminster carpet) you have no hole at all, probably a level lot. But the dirt defines the hole.

That dirt if the negative space. There is negative space around everything you see, from a grand piano to a lard sculpture of Yngwie Malmsteen. It’s the sky between the branches of a tree. It’s the good news coming from Washington. If you sit down with charcoal and foolscap you can sketch the negative space around anything. This is what the news media have been doing with the Iraq war with regards to the luckiest president in history and his whackjob myrmidions.

A television pundit, for example, recently referred to the “now famous Downing Street Memo”, the peculiar part being that prior to the moment he mentioned it, the network for which this pundit shills hadn’t mentioned the memo once. This was in fact the first time this document was mentioned on any of the networks.

Famous? For those benighted souls that get their news from news outlets, I’d better explain that the memo (called ‘the Downing Street Memo’ because Tony Blair, the British PM, opened a brothel in the street of the same name) is the first of a raft of absolutely damning documents that prove without any possible doubt that the Bush Bunch was being less than candid– disassembling, in fact– about its designs upon Iraq. They lied us into war. Pretty big story, back in the day. But not these days. The now famous Downing Street Memo got famous through sheer word of mouth, not reportage.

And then, finally, the major media deigned to acknowledge it. Almost. What the pundit did, and what the entire panoply of commercial news outlets is still doing to this day, was to trace the margins of the ‘Memogate’ story but never venture into an actual description of its features. Negative space in action. This bizarre mode of coverage was commonplace in the Soviet Union whenever there was bad news for the ginks running the show that just couldn’t be denied. When the Chernobyl nukular plant in the Soviet Union blew up, spewing 100 tons of radioactive fuel into the upper atmosphere, the official Soviet newspaper Izvestia remarked that doctors were as busy dispelling irrational fear as they were treating the effects of radiation. Maybe I’m just a know-nothing rube from the sticks, but if doctors are treating the effects of radiation, is the fear irrational?

The trick to negative space is you can define anything you want that surrounds the subject, but you can’t venture inside the subject, no matter what. Talk about the potential unpropitious economic impacts of Mad Cow disease (named after Barbara Bush) but don’t talk about the advance of the disease within US borders. Iraq: a quagmire? Fair question for the news media, because you’re not talking about the war, you’re talking about a derivation from ‘Quabbe’ (M.E., marsh or bog), and whether it is an appropriate metaphor to describe the situation in Iraq when after all waaaay more soldiers died in Vietnam, our definitive quagmire, besides which they had jungles there and only date palms in Iraq. Whether or not the war was founded on a lethal compote of hubris, lies, and innuendo is not to be addressed; John Keats’ ‘Negative Capability’ (the ability to be “in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason”) meets negative space.

Subscribe today and get half off the newsstand price.

The only good news about negative space is most reasonably alert people, or in other words one in a thousand, can eventually figure out what’s missing in a picture just by looking at the outline. As the media daubs away around the edges of the story, a telling shape begins to emerge: it is the negative space around the truth.

BEN TRIPP is an independent filmmaker and all-around swine.
His book, Square In The Nuts, may be purchased here, with other outlets to follow: http://www.lulu.com/Squareinthenuts . Swag is available as always from http://www.cafeshops/tarantulabros. Mr. Tripp may be reached at credel@earthlink.net.

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Yves Engler
Ottawa, Yemen and Guardian
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Tracey L. Rogers
Dear White Women, There May be Hope for You After All
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail