Mark Fisher, author of the mordantly funny and sharply insightful Capitalist Realism, has just put up a very nice blog post on the London Olympics. It's not just a by-the-numbers jeremiad against the Games -- so don't let the somewhat pedestrian opening riff on the played-out "Hunger Games" angle fool you -- but also includes quite a number of very good Autonomia-style analyses of culture, capital, and affect. For instance:
Cynicism is just about the only rational response to the doublethink of the McDonalds and Coca Cola sponsorship.... As Paolo Virno argues, cynicism is now an attitude that is simply a requirement for late capitalist subjectivity, a way of navigating a world governed by rules that are groundless and arbitrary. But as Virno also argues, "It is no accident ... that the most brazen cynicism is accompanied by unrestrained sentimentalism." Once the Games started, cynicism could be replaced by a managed sentimentality....
Affective exploitation is crucial to late capitalism.
The BBC's own Caesar Flickerman (the interviewer who extracts maximum sentimental affect from the Hunger Games contestants before they face their deaths in the arena) is the creepily tactile trackside interviewer Phil Jones. Jones's "interviews" with exhausted athletes, are surely as ritualised as any Chinese state broadcast. Emote. Emote again. Emote differently. Praise the crowd.
It is via emotion that advertising can make the spurious connection between brands and the sport, but, as [Mike] Marqusee points out, PR boosterism cannot tolerate the very thing which makes sport so fascinating - its unpredictability, the fact that high drama is not guaranteed.
I like this point: the extraction and circulation of affect from the athletes by the camera is doubled by the verbal performance in the post-contest interviews. The athletes have to be seen to affirm their willing participation in the affect machine. The machine sometimes implodes though.
[UPDATE: 9 August, 9:00 am CDT: The Mike Marqusee post linked by Fisher is very good. Here, for instance, in this demonstration of what positive liberty is all about:
The government, LOCOG and much of the media, having failed to allay public discontent over the expenditure and the legacy, have resorted to a Victorian claim for the morale boosting effects of elite sport, as a source of inspiration and emulation, which will “save” children from poverty or crime.
The big Olympic message is that individuals can overcome their environment or disadvantages through determination and self-will. This is entirely in keeping with the neo-liberal ethic, the cult of individual success in a competitive market....
The neo-liberal message will be re-echoed in the coming Paralympics, where individual triumph over circumstances will be feted – even as the government subjects the disabled to punitive discipline, denying them the support needed for independence.