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kottke.org posts about Aleksandar Hemon

Fascism is Not an Idea to Be Debated, It’s a Set of Actions to Fight

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 08, 2018

Writing for Literary Hub, author Aleksandar Hemon writes about his friend Zoka — who he grew up with in Sarajevo before Hemon moved away and Zoka became a Serbian nationalist — in the context of the media trying to figure out if debating with racists & fascists is a good idea.

The public discussion prompted by the (dis)invitation [of Steve Bannon from the New Yorker Festival] confirmed to me that only those safe from fascism and its practices are likely to think that there might be a benefit in exchanging ideas with fascists. What for such a privileged group is a matter of a potentially productive difference in opinion is, for many of us, a matter of basic survival. The essential quality of fascism (and its attendant racism) is that it kills people and destroys their lives-and it does so because it openly aims so.

Witness Stephen Miller and Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance for illegal immigration” policy. Fascism’s central idea, appearing in a small repertoire of familiar guises, is that there are classes of human beings who deserve diminishment and destruction because they’re for some reason (genetic, cultural, whatever) inherently inferior to “us.” Every fucking fascist, Bannon included, strives to enact that idea, even if he (and it is usually a he-fascism is a masculine ideology, and therefore inherently misogynist) bittercoats it in a discourse of victimization and national self-defense. You know: they are contaminating our nation/race; they are destroying our culture; we must do something about them or perish. At the end of such an ideological trajectory is always genocide, as it was the case in Bosnia.

The effects and consequences of fascism, however, are not equally distributed along that trajectory. Its ideas are enacted first and foremost upon the bodies and lives of the people whose presence within “our” national domain is prohibitive. In Bannon/Trump’s case, that domain is nativist and white. Presently, their ideas are inflicted upon people of color and immigrants, who do not experience them as ideas but as violence. The practice of fascism supersedes its ideas, which is why people affected and diminished by it are not all that interested in a marketplace of ideas in which fascists have prime purchasing power.

Profile of the Cloud Atlasing Wachowskis

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 04, 2012

Aleksandar Hemon scored a rare chance to profile the publicity-averse Wachowskis as they prepare to unleash Cloud Atlas onto the world.

I first met the Wachowskis in December, 2009, when they were in the midst of their struggle to find financing for “Cloud Atlas.” Uncomfortable with being idle while they waited, they were also developing “Cobalt Neural 9,” a project that had grown out of their frustration with the Bush Presidency and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Curious about how the early aughts would be perceived in the future, the Wachowskis imagined a documentary film made eight decades from now, looking back at the country’s plunge into imperial self-delusion. In order to write a script for “Cobalt Neural 9,” the Wachowskis were filming interviews with people, from Arianna Huffington to Cornel West, who they thought might be able to help them elucidate their concerns. I was invited to participate and was costumed to look as if I were speaking in 2090. Dressed like a Bosnian Isaac Hayes (with sparkling lights attached to my skull, a psychedelic shirt, and a New Age pendant), I ranted about the malignant idiocy of the Bush regime. Lana sat next to the camera, asking most of the questions, while Andy was somewhere beyond the lights, his voice occasionally booming from the void.

Usually, I experience an erosion of confidence around famous people-an inescapable conviction that they know more than I do, because the world is somehow more available to them. But I got along splendidly with the Wachowskis. Seemingly untouched by Hollywood, they did not project the jadedness that is a common symptom of stardom. Lana was one of the best-read people I’d ever met; Andy had a wry sense of humor; they were both devout Bulls fans. We also shared a militant belief in the art of narration and a passionate love for Chicago.

Eventually, I asked them to consider letting me write about the making of “Cloud Atlas.” They talked it over and decided to do it. By then, they’d sent the script to every major studio, after Warner Bros. had declined to exercise its option. Everyone passed. “Cloud Atlas” seemed too challenging, too complex. The Wachowskis reminded Warner Bros. that “The Matrix” had also been deemed too demanding, and that it had taken them nearly three years to get the green light on it. But the best the studio could do for “Cloud Atlas” was to keep open the possibility of buying the North American distribution rights, payment for which would cover a portion of the projected budget.

I read the book while on vacation and after rewatching the trailer, I am beyond excited for this movie. Still don’t understand how it’s not 14 hours long, but hey.