Do We Still Have Enemies, Part III

III. Material Conditions of the Media

So, if “we” still have an enemy it is not those who challenge our cultures, for only in opposition to them do our groups have any meaning. Instead one must come to recognise that it is only through the group’s positive attributes, namely material conditions, that one can finds the true definition of who “we” are and therefore who our enemies are.

Thus, what truly endangers a group is not cultural outsiders, but those who deny the reality of material conditions as defining the group and see to hide it from us through a media-based ideology.

It was Marx who wrote in German Ideology “in all ideology men and their relations appear upside down, as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life process as the reversal of objects on the retina does from their directly physical life process” It can still be true to say that media is the domain of dispute even if the target of the cultural weapons that the media produces are not the true enemies of the exclusive “we”.

If as Marx suggested, the “superstructures” of every person’s life are defined by the “infrastructure” to which they are exposed then one starts to realise then the true division which exists in our society is not the one defined by cultures, for that is a symbiotic division, instead it is a division which runs along the lines of media infrastructure.

Effectively there are two tactics which can be adopted by the media in the liberal order to distract the exclusive “we” from realising who the true enemy is.

The first is to distract us from the truth by creating an illusionary enemy. The media/culture industry does this through a variety of means but draws strongly always on the idea of the cultural enemy to distract us. Social media in particular endlessly presents the Muslim, the black man, the person of another political orientation as being the enemy.

What has become popularly described as fake news, feeds people disinformation which says that a group with some different culture is the fundamental enemy of the group, without needing to say it explicitly. Although as has already been demonstrated they are needed for other cultural groups to have meaning.

But then the second, perhaps far more insidious method, is that in admitting that the enemy on the screen is an illusion to promote the idea that there is no struggle at all, that there are no enemies to fight against. To tell those people who try to fight against an enemy then they are ill, just as Nietzsche predicted of the last men.

But quickly, one realises that there is a whole industry of media production which supports every step of the process and who are interested in making people believe that they are one of millions, if not billions of universally alike consumers without an enemy, so as to keep providing you with the illusion of catharsis in the false enemy.

Marx identified religion as the central ideology of his time which was both false and a weapon of the oppressors to the proletariat in their place. It does not seem unreasonable to propose that it is now the media which is the new ideology designed to make all believe that they are consumers when in fact they still face the same class struggle, defined by the material conditions of their lives as they always did.

Thus, what one comes to realise is that the true enemy is not someone facing the same struggle within a different culture. What one comes to realise is that in our age it is not a person, but a system of things populated by certain people. No longer does one exist in a proletariat-bourgeoisie or serf-master dichotomy, but rather one exists against a system of thing.

As Marcuse wrote “the society which … undertakes the technological transformation of nature alters the base of domination by gradually replacing personal dependence … with dependence on the objective order of things”

Every time one clicks on a YouTube clip, or uses Facebook, or Twitter, or Netflix “we” are giving ourselves over to an economic enemy which is exploiting us by stealth, by dominating our leisure time and creating a false sense of dependency on a media system. The enemy therefore is not an individual or group of individuals, but it is the system as a whole which has created at ideology which fundamentally undermines the value of truth by telling us that there are no enemies.

However, there are some who profit by that system and others who are exploited by it and therefore we are not all universal consumers. It is still the case that some of us are exploited and other exploiters (even if only unconsciously) and therefore “we” are not everyone.

When all is considered in tandem it becomes evident that we still have enemies although they may now appear in a different light and in a different domain. It is now media, which as the principal weapon of the system of economic oppression and which now forms the central locus for the struggle. It may for the moment appear to many that media forms some neutral space, but even now the veil is beginning to fall off from that false ideology.

As Carl Schmitt said “the newly won neutral domain has become immediately another arena of struggle” To respond a little more directly to the research question posed at the start of this essay, the fact of this ideological lie of universalism which emanates from the media industry and the exploitation committed by the media industry means that there is not an identifiable “neutral domain” at this time, that “we” are not everyone and that therefore we still have enemies.


The photo shows a detail from “The fin de siècle newspaper proprietor,” an illustration by Frederick Burr Opper, printed March 7, 1894. Notice the term, “fake news.”

Do We Still Have Enemies? Part II

If one accepts that the culture industry which Theodore Adorno describes is for everyone, then it cannot be neutral. This goes back to an earlier argument made by Carl Schmitt when he wrote “Technology is always only an instrument or a weapon; precisely because it serves all, it is not neutral”.

The mass media, in which one might have seen the hopes of creating a “neutral domain” ultimately, as Schmitt originally predicted, descends back into being an arena of controversy and a weapon to be used against one’s enemies.

This is because, even if the advent of media has subsumed the existence of art, the makers of media craft with a particular end in mind, even if that end is not moral. Increasingly, the creation of media content is something which is opened up to the public and which different groups can utilize to different ends.

It is open to everyone and not only is its production open to everyone but also its distribution with the naissance of the internet. It is true, that perfectible beauty is not the end of this media content, but there are other ends to be pursued. Then, precisely because those ends can be different “we” are still not universal.

In understanding this argument, one can go back to Schmitt who wrote “The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friends and enemies … The political enemy need not appear as morally evil or aesthetically ugly … he is nevertheless, the other, the stranger”.

Thus, one can strip away from human creation all notion of beauty or values, yet still be left with a tool to be used by the exclusive “we” and a weapon to be used against the exclusive them. But it is important to understand how such a weapon is used.

The media is not such a clear cut form of technology as Schmitt dealt with originally, it cannot be turned on someone to kill them as can a gun. Media is by definition a cultural weapon aimed at cultural enemies and not against individuals.

It does not kill you physically but kills your cultural identity and brings you into the still exclusive “we”. It is this media as a cultural weapon which makes a student from Iran listen to rap and protest for democracy, but which equally inspires children in the west to go to Syria to fight for Daesh. The export of media makes you a stranger to your own culture and a friend to another.

Under this comprehension, the enemy is not as Schmitt would have identified it, because Schmitt was very explicit that under his understanding the only enemies that existed were the ones that a political community had agreed were enemies and that it is this ability to agree on who is an enemy which defines whether or not a group of people are a political group.

For Schmitt, that had to include a willingness to turn even to violence and within his own context he situates his comments in the framework of the state.

The idea of cultural enemies is something quite distinct, because one cannot sit down and agree or disagree on certain groups being cultural enemies, as one could have done under Schmitt’s conception. They simply are enemies. Although different cultures may not be constantly fighting, they are always seeking to defend and expand their own way of life.

What’s unique about the liberal regime is that no longer is there any requirement to give a theoretical, moral or economic reason for conflict, one merely uses media as a weapon against one’s enemies because the neutral state require that everyone be neutral, because if a universal tolerance for everyone isn’t tolerated by everyone else, then neutrality cannot function at all.

Therefore, there is an imperative drive within the liberal regime to fight its cultural enemies to convert them to their own neutral status. The way to then get over the obvious paradox, that one cannot be truly neutral if one is willing to use unprovoked acts of aggression to enforce one’s own neutrality, is that media doesn’t require the political community to declare another group an enemy, it is merely the unconscious creation, production and execution of a cultural attack against others.

But one might question if these unconscious enemies are really enemies if all “we” are willing to do is to unconsciously attack them with weapons of the media. In a sense one can still regard them as enemies, one can still regard them as very much real and not illusary.

However, as long as one’s conception of who “we” are is defined by our cultural enmity with another group, then that other group does not correspond to be being the kind of enemy that was spoken of in the introduction of this essay because “we” need them to exist. The whole idea of having cultural enemies falls down in that “we” can’t destroy them without destroying ourselves because then “we” wouldn’t be a group anymore with meaningful cultural distinctions.


The photo shows, “Love and the Pilgrim,” by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, painted 1896-1897.

Do We Still Have Enemies? Part I

The Last Men and the Death of Beauty:

In order to even pose this question one first has to understand who “we” are. If we can have enemies, “we” cannot be everybody. Coupled with this, there must have been a time when, according to the internal logic of the question, we can all agree that we had enemies. Herein lies the paradox because to ask this question implicitly accepts the possibility of a universal human community and yet implies that at one time the human community definitely wasn’t universal.

So, in a sense what this question seeks to truly explore is whether there has been a substantive change in the human community such that “we” are now everyone. In saying that the human community is now universal one makes a claim that the universal “we” must be living in the final stage of history, that there are now no more fundamental arguments to be had which would challenge the basis of the existing political and social order and thus as there are no more fundamental challenges, there are no more enemies.

Concretely, that would mean that in spite of the claims made by Carl Schmitt, that a “neutral domain” of discourse has been created, through which the “we” in question has become entirely universal. This “neutral domain”, if it is to fulfil the purpose outlined above, must be absolute in that it must direct all political discourse in such a way that nothing can challenge the premises of a social organisation built along the lines of neutrality, for the enemy is that person or group which challenges our existence as a group and the premises on which the group stands.

It would be to say that there is no difference between the Islamic fundamentalist and the liberal because both are subsumed under the same “neutral domain”. Therefore, the question to now answer is;

To what extent is it true to say that “we” have become everyone through the construction of a “neutral domain”?

In understanding whether “we” are everyone, what is crucial to comprehend is that the project of the modern liberal regime has been to take away from the human community all objective signifiers of right and wrong, of beauty and ugliness. Those who believe that “we” are now universal see no need to fight over the creations of man because there are no more signifiers of whether these creations have any value to them.

Under this understanding “we” have become like Nietzsche’s last men in that there is “No Shepard and one heard! Each wants the same, each is the same, and whoever feels differently goes voluntarily into the insane asylum”. One can argue, that the liberal order has taken away the need for values and because there are no values “we” can no longer disagree over what the values of society ought to be. Individual pleasures and displeasures remain but these are not the signifiers of right and wrong.

The Islamic terrorist or the socialist revolutionary is no longer an enemy of society, he is a sick individual. He does not represent a threat to the social order because he seeks to fight a valueless society with values. He is merely a problem to be solved within the universal “we”.

One can understand this position fully once one understands the fundamental changes which have taken place in the creative production of mankind. Media, like art, is a product of human creation, but art would be a question of “interpreting the intellect”, of realising moral perfection through human creation (something which requires the application of values and therefore inevitable disputes between groups). What dominates today is merely media, a domain which is free of values but imposes on humanity a social order that binds us in a universal knot.

As Adorno and Horkheimer wrote “The sociological theory that the loss of the support of objectively established religion … have led to cultural chaos is disproved every day; for culture now impresses the same stamp on everything.” Media is not only film or radio, it is an entire entertainment infrastructure which includes social media, on demand online services in addition to traditional forms of entertainment like film.

One can make the argument that the domain of media has become a “neutral domain” through which the liberal order has overcome values and yet has provided nothing to replace them. The fundamental tension in the domain of media is not being informed and uninformed, because media is merely entertaining not informational. The fundamental tension is instead between being connected and unconnected.

One does not interpret the contents with one’s intellect, but rather one seeks to be connected to everything regardless of its content. The media is simply a product to be consumed, it is no longer a moral statement. Thus, a social order is imposed through a media system which takes away all distinctions of good and evil, or ugly and beautiful and leaves one only with the imagined fear, the imagined danger of an enemy behind another screen.

In the social order, built on the domain of the media with this tension between being connected and disconnected, essentially everyone wants to be connected even if they disagree with what everyone else is doing. Even if you are a radical conservative who stands against the developments of modernity, you will favour connectivity in the media industry in order to spread your ideology.

No one sides with being disconnected, so even if there exist some substantive issues on which different groups disagree, no one actually dispute which side of the media industry they want to be on. Regardless of your beliefs, you will use Facebook, twitter and YouTube to spread your message and to be connected. Thus, everyone can be seen to now be united as a universal consumer of the media industry.


The photo shows, “Spring,” by William McTaggart, painted in 1864.

Friedrich Hayek On The Individual and Social Controls

Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom is an attempt to justify the counterintuitive assertion that it’s preferable, in the name of democracy and individual freedom, to live in a society with unconscious rather than conscious social controls.

But one starts to question the logical consistency of this thesis when Hayek writes that while “competition…dispenses with the need for ‘conscious social controls’…it admits of others which sometimes may be very considerable.”

It seems paradoxical, therefore, that Hayek believed one kind of control generates greater individual freedom than another; or, that individualism is more democratic than collectivism. Critically for Hayek, individualism and collectivism are two mutually opposing philosophies, the former based on market competition to decide ends, and the latter using planning.

When Hayek speaks of individual freedom he intends it only in the negative sense, and “democracy” merely as “a utilitarian device,” through which “individual freedom” can be achieved. Thus, one may ask: To what extent can the ideas of individual freedom and democracy be reconciled with necessary unconscious controls in a competitive and individualist social order?

Perhaps the primary justification for why individual freedom and democracy require an individualist system is that, for Hayek, freedom comes from the ability to realise moral ends. But in a collectivist system, the realisation of moral ends ceases to be possible and all that remains is the pursuit of power.

Hayek claims that to believe that freedom can be achieved by a collectivist system is “the confusion of freedom with power carried to the extreme.”

This confusion is generated from the way in which collectivist systems are “destructive of all morals because they undermine … the sense of and the respect for truth.” Consequently, the planners, instead of liberating everyone, in fact, work to destroy all possibility of freedom by destroying truth through their monopoly on power.

Hayek uses the “racial doctrine of the NAZIs” almost as a parable to demonstrate this point, that within the collectivist system the lack of consistency demonstrates the absence of an absolute truth in the moral hierarchy imposed by the collective.

Moreover, the consequence of conscious social controls, is violence, against both the individual and the democratic community. The duality of this violence becomes clear through the allegory of the “rather plain girl” and the “weakly boy.” Hayek uses these two archetypal figures to demonstrate that discrimination and ultimately violence are the inevitable results of social planning in a collectivist system of morality.

These figures who, in an individualist social order could make economic sacrifices to achieve their ambitions, no longer have that option in a society built on conscious social controls. Instead the state assigns them roles based on social needs.

But should they dissent from the decision of the planners, then there is no longer any economic mechanism to discourage them – only force and violence remain. What becomes established, then, is a precedent that no one can defy the social aims of society, which means that they cannot even be challenged. So, within the structure of such logic only the unconscious social controls of the market can be compatible with individual freedom and democracy.

But such arguments only demonstrate the incompatibility between Hayek’s principles and conscious social control. Importantly, what remains unaddressed is the conflict between Hayek’s assertion that the individual should be “the ultimate judge of his own ends” and that “in no state that could be rationally defended would the state just do nothing.”

Superficially, this is an insurmountable paradox, whereby planning is both rational and self-destructively irrational. But perhaps the solution lies not in the rational but in “the spontaneous forces of our society.” For Hayek, the ends of society cannot be determined by “frustrated specialists,” using purely rational means; or, as he says, “the happiness of million cannot be measured on a single scale of less and more.”

Only by letting individuals pursue their ambitions, within “appropriate legal systems,” can individual freedom be achieved. This is not because “man is egoistic,” but rather because “the limits of our … imagination” mean that no planner, however learned, can have a complete understanding of people’s needs. Thus, only through an individual and spontaneous process is it possible to achieve freedom.

But despite Hayek’s arguments that spontaneity can provide the key, there remains an admission that “the great majority are rarely capable of thinking independently…and they will be equally content if born…into one set of beliefs or another.”

If the social order makes no difference to the freedom to think, and therefore the ability to act independently and spontaneously, then it would seem unimportant whether the control is conscious or unconscious.

If most people will just conform, then the whole idea of beneficial spontaneity is thrown into disrepute. Hayek makes the argument that this is inconsequential because it doesn’t give a minority the right to absolute power.

However if one accepts that the majority don’t have free thought, then in reality they will inevitably be controlled, not by government, but by private entities, via propaganda, or advertising. The difference is that the market system provides “competing agencies,” who prevent a monopoly on moral authority, and which would inevitably destroy truth which underpins freedom.

Ultimately one realises that Hayek isn’t the caricature he is sometimes painted as being. His argument is not that individuals should be free at the expense of everything else, at the expense of all planning, at the mercy of the market system.

Instead what one realises is that the resolution to the apparent conflict between individual freedom, democracy and unconscious social controls is through the understanding that an individualist and competitive social order both offer the opportunity, but not the guarantee, of independently and freely realising moral ends. Such ends are achieved by aspiring to a spontaneous process and by defending the supreme value of truth.


The photo shows, “Storks,” by Józef Chełmoński, painted in 1900.