Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Valerie Solanas: "I'm Going To Shoot Andy Warhol..."

Forty-one years later, Margo Feiden finally opened a folder containing a manuscript that had sat on her bookshelf since the day Andy Warhol was shot.

She put it there after spending three hours with Valerie Solanas, who was on the fringes of Warhol’s circle. Ms. Solanas had written a play with an unprintable title and had shown up, uninvited, at Ms. Feiden’s apartment, unkempt and irrational, hoping to talk her into producing it.

Ms. Feiden, who later became an art dealer and the agent for the caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, said in a recent interview that she told Ms. Solanas she would not stage it. Solanas countered, “Oh, yes you will, because I’m going to shoot Andy Warhol.”

A few hours later, around 4 p.m. on June 3, 1968, she did.

Ms. Feiden said that Ms. Solanas had handed her the folder around noon. She said, " Ms. Solanas pulled out a gun as she left her apartment and repeated that she intended to shoot Mr. Warhol. “I told her, ‘You don’t want to do that; don’t go kill him."

As Ms. Solanas was gone, Feiden said, she made any number of telephone calls to people who could have warned Warhol. She did not know how to reach him directly but called a cousin, who knew Warhol. She said she also dialed her local police precinct house; Police Headquarters in Manhattan; and the City Hall office of the mayor at the time, John V. Lindsay. No one called back. She put the folder on her bookshelf and kept quiet out of concern for the safety of her daughter, then 18 months old. Her concern deepened with testimony at Ms. Solanas’s trial that suggested Ms. Solanas’s motivation for the shooting was that Warhol had misplaced or lost a copy of the play. (In 1980, Warhol wrote that he had “looked through it briefly, and it was so dirty” that he suspected Ms. Solanas was working for the police on “some kind of entrapment.”)

Ms. Feiden decided to set the record straight after watching a public television documentary that said Ms. Solanas had been at the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan on the morning of the shooting. “That’s not the way it was, she was with me all that morning. She left my living room with a gun with the stated purpose of shooting Andy Warhol.”

Ms. Feiden remembered the folder, which she put on the shelf that afternoon. Inside were about 30 mimeographed pages — 30 pages that John McWhinney, a Manhattan manuscript dealer, said were not in two other copies of Ms. Solanas’s play that he has sold. “It’s either a continuation or it’s something that Valerie was working on, a script that was yet to be titled,” he said.

Stuart Pivar, who founded the New York Academy of Art with Warhol and became a close friend of his, said Ms. Feiden’s account “seems to ring true in every single thing that she says.” He also said that he hoped the play, with the extra 30 pages, would be produced. Feiden is stuck between the answer she gave Ms. Solanas — no way — and yes. “But then she’d be getting exactly what she wanted by shooting him, so I’m on a seesaw."

She still hasn't read those 30 pages.

-James Barron ("A Manuscript, a Confrontation, a Shooting," New York Times, City Blog, 6.23.09. Image:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Way Of The Cult: Viral Memetic Infection...


"There was a burning question though that would not leave me. And that was, "How did this happen to me?" And in fact, what did happen to my brain? Because something did.

And toward the end of writing that book there was a documentary that came out. It was on Jonestown. And it had a chilling effect on me. These are the dead in Jonestown. About 900 people died that day. Most of them taking their own lives. Women gave poison to their babies, and watched foam come from their mouths as they died.

I understand how someone's brain, how someone's mind can come to the place where it makes sense, in fact it would be wrong, when your brain is working like that, not to try to save the world through genocide.
And so what is this? How does this work? And how I've come to view what happened to me is a viral memetic infection. For those of you who aren't familiar with memetics, a meme has been defined as an idea that replicates in the human brian and moves from brain to brain like a virus, much like a virus. The way a virus works is -- it can infect and do the most damage to someone who has a compromised immune system.

In 1974, I was young, I was naive, and I was pretty lost in my world. I was really idealistic. These easy ideas to complex questions are very appealing when you are emotionally vulnerable. What happens is that circular logic takes over. "Moon is one with God. God is going to fix all the problems in the world. All I have to do is humbly follow. Because God is going to stop war and hunger -- all these things I wanted to do. All I have to do is humbly follow. Because after all, God is the messiah. He's going to fix all this." It becomes impenetrable. And the most dangerous part of this is that is creates "us" and "them," "right" and "wrong," "good" and "evil." And it makes anything possible. Makes anything rationalizable.

And the thing is, though, if you looked at my brain during those years in the Moonies -- Neuroscience is expanding exponentially, as Ray Kurzweil said yesterday. Science is expanding. We're beginning to look inside the brain. And so if you looked at my brain, or any brain that's infected with a viral memetic infection like this, and compared it to anyone in this room, or anyone who uses critical thinking on a regular basis, I am convinced it would look very, very different.

And that, strange as it may sound, gives me hope. And the reason that gives me hope is that the first thing is to admit that we have a problem. But it's a human problem. It's a scientific problem, if you will. It happens in the human brain. There is no evil force out there to get us. And so this is something that, through research and education, I believe that we can solve. And so the first step is to realize that we can do this together, and that there is no "us" and "them."


-Diane Benscoter (Excerpt: "How Cults Re-wire The Brain, TED Talk, 6.2009. Image: -GardenofBadThings, ( "Jim Jones-Welcome To Jonestown," Deviant Art, 11. 2006).

At 17, Diane Benscoter joined The Unification Church -- the religious cult whose members are commonly known as “Moonies.” After five long years, her distressed family arranged to have her deprogrammed. Benscoter then left The Unification Church, and was so affected by her experience that she became a deprogrammer herself. She devoted her time to extracting others from cults, until she was arrested for kidnapping. The shock of her arrest caused her to abandon her efforts for almost 20 years. Now, after decades of research and study, Diane has begun to speak about her experiences. She recently completed a memoir describing her years as a member of The Unification Church and as a deprogrammer. Furthermore, she has embarked on a new project to define “extremist viral memetic infections”. She believes that defining extremism as a memetic infection, from a cognitive neurological perspective, might allow us to develop better memes that would inoculate against the memes of extremist thought. These inoculating memes could prevent the spread of extremist viral memetic infections and their inherent dangers.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Can You Feel The Hate?

"I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense,
once hate is gone...they will be forced to deal with pain." -
James Baldwin

Click on image to enlarge:
-Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Center, Hate Map,( 2008)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Power Elite: Permanent War & Corporations = Mythical Peace...

"Non est potestas Super Terram quae Comparetur ei" (There is no power on earth to be compared to him), - Verse: Book of Job, Holy Bible.

How can we empower "the people" if "the people" have so little power...to empower themselves?
-VioletPlanet (2009)

"The power elite is composed of men whose positions enable them to transcend the ordinary environments of ordinary men and women; they are in positions to make decisions having major consequences. Whether they do or do not make such decisions is less important than the fact that they do occupy such pivotal positions: their failure to act, their failure to make decisions, is itself an act that is often of greater consequence than the decisions they do make. For they are in command of the major hierarchies and organizations of modern society. They rule the big corporations. They run the machinery of the state and claim its prerogatives. They direct the military establishment. They occupy the strategic command posts of the social structure, in which are now centered the effective means of the power and the wealth and the celebrity which they enjoy.

The power elite are not solitary rulers. Advisers and consultants, spokesmen and opinion-makers are often the captains of their higher thought and decision. Immediately below the elite are the professional politicians of the middle levels of power, in the Congress and in the pressure groups, as well as among the new and old upper classes of town and city and region. Mingling with them, in curious ways which we shall explore, are those professional celebrities who live by being continually displayed but are never, so long as they remain celebrities, displayed enough. If such celebrities are not at the head of any dominating hierarchy, they do often have the power to distract the attention of the public or afford sensations to the masses, or, more directly, to gain the ear of those who do occupy positions of direct power. More or less unattached, as critics of morality and technicians of power, as spokesmen of God and creators of mass sensibility, such celebrities and consultants are part of the immediate scene in which the drama of the elite is enacted. But that drama itself is centered in the command posts of the major institutional hierarchies."

"In so far as the structural clue to the power elite today lies in the economic order, that clue is the fact that the economy is at once a permanent-war economy and a private-corporation economy. American capitalism is now in considerable part a military capitalism, and the most important relation of the big corporation to the state rests on the coincidence of interests between military and corporate needs, as defined by warlords and corporate rich. Within the elite as a whole, this coincidence of interest between the high military and the corporate chieftains strengthens both of them and further subordinates the role of the merely political men. Not politicians, but corporate executives, sit with the military and plan the organization of war effort.

The shape and meaning of the power elite today can be understood only when these three sets of structural trends are seen at their point of coincidence: the military capitalism of private corporations exists in a weakened and formal democratic system containing a military order already quite political in outlook and demeanor. Accordingly, at the top of this structure, the power elite has been shaped by the coincidence of interest between those who control the major means of production and those who control the newly enlarged means of violence; from the decline of the professional politician and the rise to explicit political command of the corporate chieftains and the professional warlords; from the absence of any genuine civil service of skill and integrity, independent of vested interests.

The power elite is composed of political, economic, and military men, but this instituted elite is frequently in some tension: it comes together only on certain coinciding points and only on certain occasions of CRISIS. In the long peace of the nineteenth century, the military were not in the high councils of state, not of the political directorate, and neither were the economic men — they made raids upon the state but they did not join its directorate. During the ‘thirties, the political man was ascendant. Now the military and the corporate men are in top positions.

Of the three types of circle that compose the power elite today, it is the military that has benefited the most in its enhanced power, although the corporate circles have also become more explicitly entrenched in the more public decision-making circles. It is the professional politician that has lost the most, so much that in examining the events and decisions, one is tempted to speak of a political vacuum in which the corporate rich and the high warlord, in their coinciding interests, rule.

Which of the three types seems to lead depends upon ‘the tasks of the period’ as they, the elite, define them. Just now, these tasks center upon ‘defense’ and international affairs. Accordingly, as we have seen, the military are ascendant in two senses: as personnel and as justifying ideology. That is why, just now, we can most easily specify the unity and the shape of the power elite in terms of the military ascendancy.

In so far as the power elite has come to wide public attention, it has done so in terms of the military clique. The power elite does, in fact, take its current shape from the decisive entrance into it of the military. Their presence and their ideology are its major legitimations, whenever the power elite feels the need to provide any. But what is called the Washington military clique is not composed merely of military men, and it does not prevail merely in Washington. Its members exist all over the country, and it is a coalition of generals in the roles of corporation executives, of politicians masquerading as admirals, of corporation executives acting like politicians, of civil servants who become majors, of vice-admirals who are also the assistants to a cabinet officer, who is himself, by the way, really a member of the managerial elite.

Neither the idea of a ruling class nor of a simple monolithic rise of bureaucratic politicians nor of a military clique is adequate. The power elite today involves the often uneasy coincidence of economic, military, and political power.

- C. Wright Mills, Exerpt: The Power Elite, 1956. Image: -Abraham Bosse, Frontispiece of the book "Leviathan," by Thomas Hobbes, 1651).

Footnote: A main inspiration for the book was Franz Leopold Neumanns book Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism in 1942, a study of how Nazism came in position of power in a democratic state as Germany. Behemoth had a major impact on Mills and he claimed that Behemoth had given him the "tools to grasp and analyse the entire total structure and as a warning of what could happen in a modern capitalist democracy". (C.Wright Mills:Power, Politics and People.New york .1963, p.174).