account of the dispute), Jacob Bard-Rosenberg wrote this letter to Ed Baxter. His reason? “For those who don't know, Late Lunch With Out To Lunch is the only Adornian radio show in the world, and while the music isn't always to my taste, it's a very important thing. I encourage all of you, particularly those I know who are involved in Resonance (Aaron Peters, J de Molay, Nina Power) to protest this decision, and for everyone to write protests to firstname.lastname@example.org (letters need not be as elaborate or ridiculous as mine) …”
Dear Ed Baxter,
In 1843, Marx wrote in a letter to Ruge of the necessity of the ruthless critique of everything existing. That has become something of a mantra to many of us, and today the object of my critique will be you and your organisation. I state this at the outset because I fear, not knowing you, that a predictable insensitive response to the contents of this letter will be to dismiss it as mere panegyric to someone else, instead of understanding its critical intention towards you and Resonance FM.
It is difficult to express my outrage at hearing that 'Late Lunch With Out To Lunch' will be taken off the air, pending a discussion in April. The starkness of these days can barely go unnoticed: as spirit leads us deeper into crisis upon crisis upon crisis, as it violently embeds itself deeper and deeper within us, it becomes at the same time harder to grasp. The moments whereby we might differentiate ourselves from its course, those moments which are often nothing less than the most personal expressions of rage, anger, upset, those moments at which we are in our hardness most tender, are becoming fewer. I don’t particularly expect you to understand this sentiment, but maybe stating it explicitly will allow you to understand something of the problem with your decision.
Indeed I suspect, although I can’t be sure, that you do not understand in the slightest what Late Lunch is about, or why it might be important to your listeners. So as a regular listener (and that’s not just as a regular listener to Late Lunch but also to Resonance more generally, particularly since you have started running 'Novara' and 'The Hour of Power'), I will try to explain: The point – both the aim and the impetus – of Late Lunch is humanity, to think it, act it, produce it, accept it, to LIVE it under the conditions of its brutal suppression. Its claim is not to represent some Schillerian universal humanity, but instead something intimate offered to us each week. It isn’t a defence of a grand canon of historic humanity, but anyone who listens will get to know OTL’s own canon of Zappa, Finnegans Wake, the historic development of American Jazz, Trotskyism, free improv, the experience of childhood, and Romanian spectralism. The main difference being that each of these is carefully refracted through a real life, through real experience, through ongoing struggle. They are preserved through their electrified disintegration into our present.
This reminds me of something that Walter Benjamin wrote back in 1931 in a column in the feuilleton pages of the Frankfurter Zeitung: “The destructive character stands in the front line of traditionalists. Some people pass things down to posterity by making them untouchable and thus conserving them; others pass on situations by making them practicable and thus liquidating them. The latter are called destructive.” It’s a difficult statement, because in the phrase “the front line of traditionalists” the antagonism between ‘tradition’ and ‘the new’ is made both palpable and uncomfortable. That is a stark contrast with the cultural productions of institutions like The Wire, chock full of 'crits' who trundle along the some grey beach collecting bits of cultural driftwood, only then to overfill each page of 'criticism'-cum-self-approbation smothered with surplus adjectives without ever being able to say how what they are describing came to be, or why it might be important. OTL is correct in complaining that the heavy asseverative prose refuses to be undercut, and to fill out the argument, it refuses to be undercut because it fears that what lies beneath it, the truth of artworks, would reveal how trivial the writing was to start with.
I am trying to get at an expansion of something that Adorno wrote in Minima Moralia: “In psychoanalysis only the exaggeration is true.” The German pun on the word for exaggeration – Übertreibung, which brings to mind something overlaying the drive – is lost in translation. That is, in exaggeration, in the move to the greatest distance, only then might we be able to talk about what is most proximate, most intimate. Today this task leads out far beyond the couch, as alienation from one’s somatic drives is orchestrated by ever more complex social mediations, as the expression of anything human is forced through these paths to the point of becoming completely inorganic. This is the hard task that remains important to many of your listeners, and one which Late Lunch seems, at least to me, to always be attempting to accomplish. That is the point of its polemic. But this polemic risks, too, at every moment the fate that you and your organisation have imposed on it: administrated silencing. Perhaps we both recognise the tenderness of that risk, it is here that we diverge: You see its weakness as its disadvantage (or rather your advantage over it); for us, the listeners, it is precisely this weakness that we have come to know we must preserve.
To return briefly to that Benjamin article, he begins by writing: “It could happen to someone looking back over his life that he realised that almost all of the deeper obligations he had endured in its course originated in people who everyone agreed had the traits of a ‘destructive character’. He would stumble on this fact one day, perhaps by chance, and the heavier the shock dealt to him, the better his chances of representing the destructive character.” It is the misfortune of many that they are so mired in cultural stasis, that they are so unconsciously incarcerated by the spirit they want to describe, that they are never afforded the opportunity to stumble. The task that has come to us is to give them a push.
I don’t expect any answer to this letter; but hope it can contribute to shoving you back into action.
Yours in rage,