Pathos as a resource

Many Flickr accounts, mine included, are currently accumulating Likes from girls with lower-case composite names (“faithgoodman,” “kaylaromero”) and identically formatted Flickr pages: every one brand new and displaying nothing but four or five unrevealing pictures of the girl (or “girl”) herself (or “herself”). Moused over to become revealing, each picture obligingly displays a text invitation on the short affective gamut from coy (“I like to wear tight underwear”) to wistful (“Will you be my sex friend?”). And the pages link to sites in, no surprise, Russia.

It’s an extractive industry — an industry whose raw material is pathos.

Several pictures of flowers on my Tumblr page have recently been Liked by somebody with a pseudonym, an egg avatar, and a small collection of pictures of adults wearing diapers.

His raw pathetic nature is open to extraction. The industry will process him, then equip him in his processed state with a hat, a gun, and an identity: Trump voter.

 

In 1910, she dreams

of 1910, which is less a time than a world which fully contains her life, giving it a body and clothes to shape and color it.

Source: E. S. Yates, lithograph “Twentieth Century Transportation,” 1910. Popular Graphic Arts Collection, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/97514565/. Photoshopped.

Aethereal

Les ondes courtes sont ainsi. On les capte là, mais ici on demeure sourd. Puis, sans raison, tout change. Cet équipage, dont la position est inconnue, se manifeste déjà aux vivants, hors de l’espace, hors du temps.

– St.-Exupéry, Vol de nuit, XX

Usage note: the phrasal verb “get through to”

1. Get through to denotes communication, but its originating metaphor connotes forcing, piercing, penetrating. To get through to is one way of communicating; to be gotten through to is another. The difference is a bloody matter of the difference between prey and predator.

2. The communication channel of getting through to is fear. In fear of being gotten through to, some people calm their pounding hearts by remembering that they believe in their gun and their Bible. Others choose to mask their susceptibility to communication behind deflecting layers of irony. The warehouse full of Basquiats, check; the Russian passport, check.

3. Getting through to can also be thought of as a speech act like voting or naming: a way of doing things with words. Under the control of speech-act technologists like Frank Luntz and Roger Ailes, language is a symbol system used by the people with the Basquiats to get through to people whose symbols are at pre-ironic stages of development.

R. H. Beck, "Preparing for the trail," Galapagos Islands, 1903. Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/99472325/. Photoshopped.
R. H. Beck, “Preparing for the trail,” Galapagos Islands, 1903. Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/99472325/. Photoshopped.