Over at Corrente, Stirling Newberry has a mind-blowing post detailing how the torture porn genre (as represented by the Saw franchise) and its potential ending reflects what Newberry calls tortureconomy, the nasty version of the shock doctrine:
“The basic text of the torture porn genre is meant to be read several ways. The broadest audience is not for the film itself, but for the existence of the film. It is a message to others that the content is acceptable social context itself. The social context is that of the creation of complex instruments that inflict dismemberment, for imagined or created transgressions against an extra-legal moral code. In Saw 3D, the people who made a best-seller which lied about surviving Jigsaw.
It is not difficult to see how this same shape — the creation of needlessly complex instruments where by the viscera of the victims is drawn out for the benefit of the planned profit of a tormentor — is the shape of the American economy and polity over the last more than decade. Consider, for example, the housing bubble: complex loan vehicles where created, with the express purpose of sucking the life out of people who could no longer declare bankruptcy, and who were not, in fact, qualified to borrow money, but could be kept hooked, their fleshed attached to the house itself. This while others cheer about how deadbeats are ruining the economy.
It is also the means attempted to impose colonial order on both Iraq and Afghanistan, even as the ghoulish nature of Sharia is used as an excuse to impose our order, the documentation from within the Department of Defense, is that torture was a pervasive part of attempting to break politically recalcitrant or inconvenient individuals.
The aesthetic arc of the torture porn film, from the torturers side, is a search for the kind of people who will, with a full moral outrage, happily waterboard people, or restructure loans which are designed merely to drag out their pain. From the victims, it is the attempt to survive with progressive losses of what would once have been seen as vital parts: hands and intestines become symbols for parts of the developed world dream to work, and then have an end of life of some security and leisure. This meta-narrative, where by complex devices and means are used to impose a morality of pain on victims who have some transgressive feature that not merely permits, but requires, that the tortures act, less the basis of society be destabilized, is presented in a Baroque mode: the complexity itself is essential to the process to deprive the undeserving of their status, in favor of the deserving, that is to say the torturing class.
The cresting of the torture porn wave in popular culture is underlined by the rise of torture porn politics, exemplified by the tea party, but echoing across the political spectrum. The viciousness of cuts in social programs in the United Kingdom, and across Europe, compounded with a Franco-German backed initiative to clamp down on social spending even more, are torture porn economics. The reason for demanding repayment now, is not because that repayment is economically productive, but because those demanding repayment now hope that bankruptcy or insolvency is the result, which give’s them the lector’s license to slowly pull the intestines out of the victim. Say Ireland, Iceland, or Greece.
The last act of the movie saga of the Jigsaw cult, signals, clearly, to those who are listening, that both the patience of the ordinary population is exhausted, and the energy of the torturing class is also exhausted. Generation mutilate, has collapsed in a heap.
This does not mean that the rule by torture is going to come to an end any time soon, precisely because it takes more than overturn it. However, it does mean that the compliance of the courts, and of more and more members of the political class, is coming to an end. No order can long endure without its functionaries, and the underlying support of the Jigsaw cult, is how members of law enforcement and the professional world, including physicians, survive by joining it. This is framed so approvingly as to make it clear that the right wing frame of the morality is directed by an uber-law, one which mere police and other functionaries, the traditional bastions of the conservative, are insufficient. This is played out in politics by Miller’s blackshirt handcuffing of a reporter by military personnel, and by brownshirt footstomping by a Rand Paul supporter.
It is often the case that a political movement makes its most aggressive stab for power as it is ebbing: because its members, sensitive to the growth of their own echo system, realize that they must break through their growth as a social movement, and gain access to the power of fiat: the power of legal cloak for what they desire to do.”
In the case of US nasty social movements, the other problem they face is the unpopularity of their cultural stance: racist, white supremacists, homophobic and xenophobic. That is quite unattractive to younger people. Which is why such a movement cannot rely on its own members, for left on their own devices, they engage in cruel behavior in public. When Glenn Beck had his big rally, they were told to not bring signs.
Which is why such a movement ultimately has to be controlled by wealthy older white men who remain the shadows, hiding behind a few media figures who are the face of the movement. Such a movement can never be popular because only so many people like brownshirts and reactionary politics.
Which is why this movement, as Newberry notes, cannot gain power on its own. It needs both shadowy funding and bullying behavior and a culture that relishes the suffering of people it dehumanizes and whose brutalization it does not mind.