“Ah, mon cher, for anyone who is alone, without God and without a master, the weight of days is dreadful. Hence one must choose a master, God being out of style.”—Albert Camus, The Fall
To be fascinated by another person who holds or symbolizes power is very common. It is often accompanied by a frisson of sexual excitement, whether repressed or acknowledged, explicitly or implicitly projected. Masters need slaves and slaves need their masters. The chief, the big man, the fascinating woman, the glamorous celebrity, the rich mogul, the powerful politician, while all standard vintage people without their accoutrements of prestigious (magical) power, magnetically attract many people wishing to surrender passively to the perceived superior power of what Carl Jung called the “mana-personality.” However, such supernatural power or aura is in the eyes of the beholder, who wishes to be hypnotized and to fulfill his secret wish to be will-less. As Dostoevsky has written, “Man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that great gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creature is born.” A smile, a song, or the projection of unconflicted authority—often that is all it takes for the spell to be cast.
Think of weasels. They are very vicious and can be found all around the world. Their cute faces belie their treacherous nature. They have the ability to fascinate their victims—fascinate means to cast a spell upon or hypnotize (from the Latin, fascinare, to bewitch). They do this by a stupefying song and dance, a facility that paralyzes those they prey upon before they pounce upon them.
Most people have never seen weasels in the wild, for they are secretive creatures who go about their killing clandestinely. Whether they kill softly, I can’t say. I’ve never heard their song, or the screaming of their victims.
Nevertheless, many people have been seduced by human weasels, who also court with a song and dance. These weasels come in all shapes and sizes. Their faces are almost never as cute as their small fury cousins’ are, but their facial masks conceal similar tendencies and abilities: the talent to immobilize their victims through powerful seductive techniques.
It’s nothing new, of course. It’s still the same old story, a gory story of the fight to dominate and control that is coterminous with human history or longer. It is an ancient myth that we still live by. As in days of old, the siren song is often sexual in nature, not sexual in the passionately loving sense, not an encounter between two unknowns seeking to discover each other, but an instrumental sexual enticement wrapped in power, prestige, money, false charm and fake bravado whose purpose is domination.
There is a reason why the news is constantly filled with stories of a sexual nature: R. Kelly, Donald Trump, Jeffrey Epstein, Robert Kraft, the “me too movement,” Catholic priests, and so many others without end. Obviously, sex sells, and the corporate mass media are in the business of selling sexual titillation and political propaganda—two products that are not unconnected.
But there are many real victims here, people who have been used and abused by predators who traffic in human degradation for their sick pleasures. Some of their victims have been fascinated, while others have been physically or mentally coerced. Power corrupts, yes, but it also thrives on humiliating and using others, shaming them and destroying their innocence.
Living in a society of screens and spectacles, many people have lost a physical connection to other people. This is the paradox of a sexually saturated, sadomasochistic mass media society. Our bodies have become instruments in a spectral show of instrumental rationality and our relationships metamorphosed into shadows on the walls of our electronic devices. Social life has become mass hallucination. Everything and everyone has become a means to be used. It is a society of mutual masturbators afraid to meet the unknown other in sexual intimacy. Kate Julian chronicles aspects of this sexual recession in The Atlantic magazine, “Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex.” And it is not just young people.
While the United States has long been a hotbed for sexual scandals and media, FBI, and CIA exposure of the sexual lives of those they wish to destroy, today, when sex is a staple of the media where it is presented and discussed openly as if one were discussing another consumer product, the use of sexual blackmail and sexual muddling as a political tool of the “deep-state” propaganda apparatus is unmentionable, even as its significance is enhanced by electronic spying and the loss of privacy. Jonathan Marshall puts it this way in “Sex Scandals and Sexual Blackmail in America’s Deep Politics”:
One outstanding consequence has been to elevate the importance of sexual blackmail and public exposure as tactics of covert political intrigues, just as they have been in espionage. If information is power, the information about adultery, homosexuality, and other private sexual indiscretions by officials is power of a high order indeed. Individuals and organizations that are adept at collecting and controlling such information – such as law enforcement, spies, private eyes, journalists and lawyers – thus play a key role in the hidden campaigns of the deep state. One perverse measure of the importance of sex in America’s ‘deep politics’ is the paucity of systematic attention paid to it by political scientists.
Yet sexual blackmail is central to “deep-state” operations and political espionage, even as sexual trafficking and scandals mix with the omnipresent sexual intoxication of popular culture. Like the term “deep-state” that is now a staple of the corporate mass media as the secret governing forces go deeper while seemingly becoming more exposed and shallow, the use of sex and sexual identity to confuse and confabulate is presented by the media as transparency. It’s an old trick in new clothes.
Think of Julian Assange, an innocent man in a living hell in Room 101 of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for seven years. Think sexual blackmail for telling the truth. Read John Pilger.
There are all kinds of weasels, and the spells they cast appeal to the very human desire to be fascinated. Yet it’s a fool’s game. Our society of the electronic spectacle of disembodied images and speculative “news” is meant to immobilize those who remain spectators. It is black magic of the highest order.
So feel your pulse and take a walk in the woods. If you encounter a weasel there, at least you’ll know it’s doing what comes naturally. It’s the human weasels, those D. H. Lawrence called the “living dead,” who are out to get us.
As Lawrence warned, “Don’t let the living dead eat you up.”
Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely. He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is edwardcurtin.com.