Final Phallus

Photograph Source: Senate Democrats – CC BY 2.0


“Great state I’m in

In all states I’m in

I might final form

In my melanin”

— Sampa the Great, Final Form

We are coming to our final form. Ultimate enjoyment without ideology to speak of. But this is not without an obligation to the mythic past.

I want to compare two events here: the making of the movie Bombshell and the spat between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Both deal with the question of the phallus: who has it, who can qualify for it, and how we all lack it. Now let’s start by talking about Warren vs. Sanders broadly. I do buy that it’s just classic CNN, which is enough of a tabloid to be run by the Murdochs.

CNN does operate differently though. The Murdochs started off with tabloids and then later made a PR effort to be labeled as “fair and balanced” with the insertion of Fox News, which is a tabloid that talks about politics. CNN sort of did this in reverse. For Fox you start with the initial credibility of gossip and fill the gap with a political thrust. For CNN you start with the initial credibility of politics and fill the gap with a gossip thrust.

The psychological difference between the liberal and conservative is revealing here as far as enjoyment is concerned. The conservative suppresses political enjoyment, the liberal suppresses gossip enjoyment.

There are a series of repressions going on here. Bombshell and the Bernie story both in theory deal with the same structure of the phallus. Warren claims Bernie said a woman could never be President. Bombshell reveals that women had to endure sexual harassment or worse by Bill O’Reilly and Rodger Ailes in order to get jobs at Fox. The Fox story has the same appeal as the Catholic Church story did for liberals. Their wager is that if you suppress sexuality, it will come out sideways and therefore we should all be sexually liberated, or something horrible like that.

Yet I would argue the problem is the opposite one. It’s actually because Ailes felt absolutely no shame about his sexuality that he was able to use it in such a violent way. He did tell Megyn Kelly in the movie that men do bad things and don’t feel bad about them. No, contrary to the liberal belief I would say Ailes was not at all sexually repressed but completely sexually free in the neoliberal capitalist democratic way. The women were not free but that was exactly because Ailes was free.

Todd McGowen and Ryan Engly are so instrumental here when talking about enjoyment. I don’t think we should lie. Ailes was enjoying himself. But this was the problem. It’s not like you can just say “oh how natural, I’m going to be nice, love everyone, etc.” No, this requires work. Communist work.

Now this is where the liberal class actually fails. Trump is about enjoyment. He’s fun. You go to his rally, it’s a party. It’s not a good party, per se. For one, it’s tense, traumatic, dangerous. Moreover it also relies on negative energy. Trump can only bond with others by taking people down. To me this is not maximizing enjoyment. The target is continually shrinking as we exit ideology.

Note the highly dangerous liberal fantasy of post-racial America where the white class breeds the minority population until there are ‘no wolves, only dogs’. Ok, so we see the eugenics movement here which is certainly related to the anti-blackness campaign to curb African reproduction but I think reducing this thing to a color spectrum of course also completely misses the mark. Yet one has to see what is going on here: Trump’s party of exclusivity naturally shrinks as we exit ideology. All-white party shrinks not because there are less whites but because there are less people who believe they are white. To go to an all-white party one would have to believe they were white—which is the brilliance of the Clayton Bigsby bit.

The liberals of course opportunistically respond to this shrinking particular with an insertion of a growing universal that negates ideology. “We are all…” And I don’t think this is the same as Sanders’ claim to all of working class. First of all because of his ecological and imperialist limitations along with his relative gender, sexuality and racial bias along with his preference for middle class over poor, and even working class over poor. But on the other hand Sanders does get closer to the universal because he does assert it with the assumption of universal coverage, rather than the goal of it. So if he fails to be universal it is because he can only see so far, not because he sees too far, which is the problem for the liberal.

Now, to me this is where CNN remains conservative, not as conservative as Fox. Fox does accept that equality is itself an inequality. That inequality is where things begin so it is natural. There will be attempts by liberals to end inequality, so Fox must respond by reasserting it and widening it, if only to protect the original. Fox has gotten more ambitious here. I don’t think they have a limit to the wreckage.

Although take CNN now. In CNN’s scoop of Warren vs. Bernie one finds the phallus to be in a very particular place. Now it lies with Bernie for them. However I think what their hit job on Bernie was trying to prove was that Bernie really doesn’t have the phallus and that is why he is disqualified for this President job. Likewise, Hillary was their candidate because she was a man, but better. She was the person who was naturally inferior to them, but she could compensate by having all she had plus the phallus, and because she never really possessed it, she could be more militant in keeping it.

Here we do have just a downright confounding reversal. Bernie must be seen to have the phallus precisely because he lacks the proper phallus to keep the phallus in power. But CNN cannot do this reversal without reverting to old school, Biden-like beliefs of the phallus. Because Warren lacks it, she can be victim. Because Bernie has it, he can be oppressor.

Here the logic of the phallus itself is inserted. We have firstly a purely physical difference that is willfully ideological against material function outside of theoretical physical confrontation. Secondly there is something characteristically self-castrating here going on. Which is to say that that the phallus must be given power but only when it is severed. The phallus can only rule when it is cut off of Bernie. When the rest of Bernie (his human body) is operating with the phallus in hand, the phallus has no power. It must be disavowed from Bernie in order for it to gain independence in capital.

It goes without saying that the phallus has been complicated these days. The conservative physical distinction by both Fox and CNN no longer applies to the series of radical self-interest in the post-ideological world. What we have instead is a destruction of the phallus as it is passed between subjects. It is worn down, misunderstood, tattered and torn. By the end of this game of hot potato we have a defeated and exposed phallus.

What CNN is attempting to do is to divide this non-phallus unity by throwing phalluses into the mix and pointing to whoever catches the bouquet. It has created a backlash that appears to have only hurt CNN but I’m not so sure. In this confusion about who has it, and the desperation to assert who doesn’t, we find people inevitably taking it up to bring each other down. Warren’s gamble is that a little phallus is better than no phallus (Bernie) and that a big phallus is too cumbersome (Trump).

For Fox, the distinction remains an opportunistic one. Tucker Carlson, it seems only as a joke, labeled Warren as the phallus on Wall St., while throwing his phallus in the trash declaring himself an ally of the working class. Fox is interesting here. The sensitivity to actual women is so strong that the assertion of the physical phallus only for a time replaces the symbolic one, and doesn’t seem to hurt either.

In Bombshell we see Roger Ailes saying women can’t be anchors because they don’t have the killer instinct, that they aren’t mean enough. Which was quite a confession in the middle of a career of pitting women against each other. Sanders makes an equally sexist assumption if he assumes Warren would be incapable of ever holding the phallus. What he is right about is that we all should want no part of the phallus.

Still, it’s not good enough. We must assert that we all lack the phallus and that is because of this we must not want it. Anyone could be a billionaire. These guys aren’t smart. They’re dumber than most. But unless ideology reigns supreme, no one wants to be. I think this is where we find that we can only bond through the lack because all human bonding and struggle is asserted through lack, as it is the only thing that can be sustained.

So why would CNN want to bring down both Ailes and Sanders? Is it just about the penis they both possess? Unlikely. It is not even clear that Ailes was supposed to be toppled. His sexual pride is exactly what liberals wish they had. He is held up as a person who keeps order by asserting his particular interest with a clear rewards system. Sanders walks around without a phallus and for this he must get one strapped on. If someone saw this scandalous man they may give up their ideological phallus and begin again to follow their god.

Some on the left may have seen Warren’s reversal to be predictable, which is true. But it should not be discouraging or divisive. Finding common ground is always from positivity. Therefore adopting a Trump-like stance to Warren is something we can all be above. We should instead appreciate where she lacks the phallus, and hopes she chooses to whittle the rest away. Bernie only became clearer in his lack as he looked just plain silly with the phallus on. However we must persist in resisting any concrete lack here. When we walk in darkness, we can only trust a leader who is blind.

Such ideological cleanliness must be resisted. What all the political elites miss when they pretend to suppress their own enjoyment is that the enjoyment of all—especially working class women that Warren claims to stand for—are in grave peril because of freedom. We must become conservative again and claim that no person should be allowed to have the phallus. As Trump cuts food stamps, safety regulations and taxes for the rich, we must give a radical no to his politics of enjoyment.

I think the reason Sanders is thrown the phallus while men like Ailes were taken decades to ever even be chipped away at is that we really are getting more correct about what the phallus actually means. To be a man is not to be evil, as Fox and CNN both want you to think. Fox want you to enjoy being evil and if you do horrible things to women, they applaud you. For Fox, the oppression of women must be grassroots. CNN wants you to not enjoy being evil, but be evil enough so you still keep the woman down for her universal lack of phallus is dangerous. For CNN, men must hate women first, and themselves for liking them.

No, there is no such thing as evil, power, whatever. No one wants to be powerful or evil or even rich. Ailes even said he didn’t care about money in Bombshell. What we want is to enjoy, to have fun. Trump says we are having fun, he plays to the rules of the fun game we are supposedly denied but at the end of the day all his supporters go home and cry, they cry a lot. They enjoy, they enjoy, they enjoy. But the phallus for them carries no weight beyond its ideological ending point, which is enjoyment itself. Once enjoyment stops, the subject is empty for it can define itself only by the hole it fills at the time.

We can only find long-term happiness by spreading around MLK’s vision of love, as when we die, we live on only through these acts of love that inspired other actors. It is here that the world is no longer ideological but desperate in its quest for material relevance. In these wild times, the phallus isn’t good enough. Ailes can lose it, Bernie can deny it. But until this becomes a universal communist political assertion we remain just as vulnerable to the phallus. Not because it rules our minds, but because it rules our political realities.

Action then must replace belief and any time wasted on the ideological insistence that Warren or Bernie must be evil or good or honest or whatever is a waste of time. What we may like or dislike is the material consequences of the elite’s games of enjoyment. Here we are not represented by any candidate, but by our own collective will. In this sense, we must stop listening to the corporate media and instead iron out the real differences between Warren and Sanders, gain love for the base of the other, acknowledge the superiority of our selected choice, and then disavow both completely as solutions to the class warfare without discriminating between various strategies the working class chooses while still pushing the one that is most upsetting to the lack of the downtrodden.

With that being said, when will any of the above figures address the hunger or homelessness crisis here in the dead of winter? 45 million people rely on SNAP, especially single mothers, and a horrifying 20 million children. Trump is cutting this and which candidate could get as riled up about it as they could for a personal spat in this bottomless posturing for authenticity?

Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com 

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