Two quotes on censorship and ideology

The first from Abigail Levin’s (2010) ‘The Cost of Free Speech – Pornography, Hate Speech and their Challenge to Liberalism‘, p.150:

…censorship does not, and indeed cannot, operate in anything like the way that classical Millian liberal accounts suppose – that is, contrary to Mill’s account, subjects are not potentially censored by the state after speaking or after forming an intention to speak. They are ‘censored,’ if the term even makes any sense, well before they start to speak, and they are censored by repressive discourse itself, much of which is state driven. On the classical liberal conception of censorship, ‘censorship is an act of external interference with the internally generated communicative, expressive, artistic, or informational preferences of some agent’ (Schauer 1998: 150). This view takes for granted the traditional liberal account of subjectivity, where a subject is uncontroversially endowed, or deemed to be endowed, with the privacy and autonomy to formulate her own preferences, thoughts, and feelings. This picture takes the distinction between the internal – the realm of the agent – and the external – the realm of the other, usually the state – for granted. On the other hand, a Foucauldian account, including Butler’s, would problematize this distinction: if subjects are a production of power that is to some degree external to them, it would follow that there is no sharp distinction between the private, autonomous subject and the external world, composed of forces that act upon such subjects.

And Althusser’s (1969-70) ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’:

…an ideology always exists in an apparatus, and its practice, or practices. This existence is material.

Of course, the material existence of the ideology in an apparatus and its practices does not have the same modality as the material existence of a paving-stone or a rifle.

An individual believes in God, or Duty, or Justice, etc.  …The individual in question behaves in such and such a way, adopts such and such a practical attitude, and, what is more, participates in certain regular practices which are those of the ideological apparatus on which ‘depend’ the ideas which he has in all consciousness freely chosen as a subject. If he believes in God, he goes to Church to attend Mass, kneels, prays, confesses, does penance (once it was material in the ordinary sense of the term) and naturally repents and so on. If he believes in Duty, he will have the corresponding attitudes, inscribed in ritual practices ‘according to the correct principles’. If he believes in Justice, he will submit unconditionally to the rules of the Law, and may even protest when they are violated, sign petitions, take part in a demonstration, etc.

Throughout this schema we observe that the ideological representation of ideology is itself forced to recognize that every ‘subject’ endowed with a ‘consciousness’ and believing in the ‘ideas’ that his ‘consciousness’ inspires in him and freely accepts, must ‘act according to his ideas’, must therefore inscribe his own ideas as a free subject in the actions of his material practice. If he does not do so, ‘that is wicked’.

Indeed, if he does not do what he ought to do as a function of what he believes, it is because he does something else, which, still as a function of the same idealist scheme, implies that he has other ideas in his head as well as those he proclaims, and that he acts according to these other ideas, as a man who is either ‘inconsistent’ (‘no one is willingly evil’) or cynical, or perverse.

Watch the K Foundation burn a million quid

Watching this video makes me giddy. The world seems to peel back and the ground folds away beneath you, and if you concentrate on it in just the right way, you can step through the portal, temporarily, into a zone or region completely unlike anyplace you’ve ever been or ever will.

Chapter 5 – conclusions.


I got chills watching these real, true heroes of the anti-war movement discuss the reasons for their break in to an FBI field office in order to expose the truly horrible actions of the FBI. For some reason, the details of the COINTELPRO campaign the FBI waged against the anti-war left wasn’t something I was privvy to. Like so much successful (and unsuccessful) historical left activism, the history of these movements and individual actions is not taught in schools, hardly anyone mentions it, and to our great detriment.

Two curious quotes from Margaret Thatcher

Both quotes come from the infamous “there is no society” interview which she gave to a magazine in 1987. Here’s the first:

I think that children, young people, today are longing for some standards by which to live. You have got to have rules by which to live. If you live totally isolated and alone like Diogenes in the tub, maybe it does not mind (sic) but the moment you live in a community, you have got to have some rules by which to live. You have got to say: “These are the rules and we have to live by them!” Of course they will be broken from time to time, but that is quite different from there not being any rules. I mean, you could not begin to play any of the games—this is how I want mostly to explain this to children —how could you play a game unless there were certain rules to it?

And then the famous quote itself is the second one:

I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand “I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!” or “I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!” “I am homeless, the Government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation…

What a strange thing to say, only a few minutes after talking about communities and social rules and norms! I mean it’s almost a Freudian slip – a revealing little mistake about how she would like things to be – like she begins walking it back almost as soon as she’s said it, digressing into a discussion of obligations which is more in fitting with her earlier comments about community (community as rational holder of conservative norms??? community as conservative impulse even?).

Between the first and the second quote Thatcher is actually asked a bit about whether the first situation (the dissolution of strong community ties, which she blames on TV) was actually caused by greed. The interviewer says to her, “We seem to have more violence, we have the yuppies of the City sort of violent with money. We have competition and free enterprise and it seems somehow to go together with greed.” To which she responds in disagreement that it isn’t greed causing the problems, on the contrary, she says, “That is the great driving engine, the driving force of life. There is nothing wrong with having a lot more money.” Which is I think just question begging, because it assumes a very different definition of greed from the question asker (who is actually, on the whole, very sympathetic to Thatcher). He doesn’t really pick her up on it.

Anyway, the difference in the treatment of community and society by Thatcher speaks to the point I was trying to make in my previous post.