American Atrocity: The Stylization of Violence

Southern Nights

I think the twentieth century reaches just about its highest expression on the highway. Everything is there, the speed and violence of our age, its love of stylization, fashion, the organizational side of things – what I call the elaborately signalled landscape.

—J.G Ballard, Extreme Metaphors 

Is there not something suspicious, indeed symptomatic, about this focus on subjective violence-that violence which is enacted by social agents, evil individuals, disciplined repressive apparatuses, fanatical crowds? Doesn’t it desperately try to distract our attention from the true locus of trouble, by obliterating from view other forms of violence and thus actively participating in them?

—Slavoj Zizek, Violence 

Of late I’ve been rereading William T. Vollman’s Rising Up and Rising Down – Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom and Urgent Means, a work he spent thirteen years writing and which when first published came out in seven volumes. I’m reading the one volume edition which…

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