It’s not nearly the most enormous or important outrage, but the way these Pepe the Frog pigs and Russian trolls have used nihilism to advance their racist and autocratic agenda is maddening. Nihilism isn’t good as an operating system, but it can be a bug that disrupts the machine, making us realize that we’re actually not entirely inside of it, that other options are possible. It’s a philosophical doctrine that’s very effective in combating a society that’s become as numb and monotonous as the face of a clock, especially one that’s been given over almost entirely to consumerism. From Jules Feiffer’s 1967 play, Little Murders:
So I began to do a lot of catalogue work. Pictures of medical instruments, things like that. There was—well, the best way to describe it—a seductiveness I was able to draw out of inanimate things that other photographers didn’t seem to be able to get. I suppose the real break came with the I.B.M. show. They had me shoot thirty of their new models. They hired a gallery and had a computer show. One hundred and twenty color pictures of computers. It got some very strange notices, the upshot of which was that the advertising business went “thing” crazy, and I became commercial again.
You must be extremely talented.
I got sick of it! Where the hell are the standards? That’s what I kept asking myself. Those people will take anything! Hell, if I gave them a picture of shit they’d give me an award for it!
Language, young man!
Mm? So that’s what I do now.
Take pictures of shit.
Language! Language! This is my table!
I don’t mean to offend you, Mrs. Newquist. I’ve been shooting shit for a year now, and I’ve already won a half-dozen awards.
And Harper’s Bazaar wants me to do its spring issue.
That’s a very respectable publication. It all sounds very impressive.•