Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind - George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” from "Shooting the Elephant " (1950)
The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury loving…. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid's interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone's will - Richard Hofstadter, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”
Real Enemies, the big-band production of Vancouver-born composer-bandleader Darcy James Argue, is a prescient title for these, our times. It draws inspiration from the work of historians Kathryn Olmsted, who explores U.S. popular fascination with conspiracy theories in her book "Real Enemies" and Richard Hofstadter, excerpts from whose essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” (Harper's Magazine, November 1964) percolate through “Who Do You Trust” and “You Are Here,” in the commanding voice of actor James Urbaniak (who, perhaps coincidentally, portrayed illustrator-musician R. Crumb in "American Splendor").
Real Enemies mirrors a multimedia project for the 2015 Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a partners-in-paranoia production by Argue, writer-director Isaac Butler, and filmmaker Peter Nigrini. Not for nothing has Real Enemies garnered a 2017 Grammy nomination in the “Best Large Jazz Ensemble” category (Argue's first CD, Infernal Machines, was similarly honored in 2011, and also won Canada's Juno award for “Contemporary Jazz Album”).
Argue, who studied at McGill University and the New England Conservatory, trails awards from the Guggenheim and Doris Duke foundations, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Canada Council for the Arts, Composers Now, the Fromm Music Foundation, the Jazz Gallery, the Jerome Foundation, the Manhattan New Music Project, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He was appointed in 2016 as conductor of the Princeton University Creative Large Ensemble.
Peppered with audio cameos by Cold War and “intelligence community” household names (Ollie North, Senator Blunderbuss, Bush 41's putative New World Order among the many), under Argue's direction, the brassy 18–piece orchestra conveys the ambiguity, obsession, psychosis, nagging dread, and Twilight Zone menace-with-a-moral of contemporary tinfoil-hat sports and their handlers, all Sturm und Drang, Shock and Awe, Donner und Blitzen. Or as Argue's “Casus Belli” intones, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”
Per Hofstadter, “We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well.” So post a check to the ACLU, lock the doors, light a brandy fire, and settle in for that longest of winter's nights. Not a creature is stirring, but over the rooftops, down the chimney or the bit stream (if it's “free,” you are the product), there's a man going 'round taking names.
Decisive popular majority, defensive minority rule (Big League!): Cowardice Is Courage, War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength. Believe the Autocrat, for He Means What He Says. All Hail the Manchurian Weave, Long May It Wave, O, Orange and Fiery Brand for All Seasons: Ivanka for President in 2024, and don't cry for me, Argentina. Fables of Faubus, all projection, mire and murk: Time now to drain and verily, the diviner's swamp, eradicate, uproot the brand where lies feign truth and murder makes respectable, poisoned, festering, the real enemy's wishing well, all so very well and deep within.
- Michael Stone, 12 December 2016
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"The Paranoid Style in American Politics" (Harper's Magazine, November 1964)
"Politics and the English Language" (George Orwell, from "Shooting the Elephant")
Photo ©2016 Ben Anaman
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