A considerable part of the leading German intelligentsia, including Adorno, have taken up residence in the “Grand Hotel Abyss” which I described in connection with my critique of Schopenhauer as “a beautiful hotel, equipped with every comfort, on the edge of an abyss, of nothingness, of absurdity. And the daily contemplation of the abyss between excellent meals or artistic entertainments, can only heighten the enjoyment of the subtle comforts offered.”
The Culture Industry creates mythological figures through its electronic factory of celebrity, so Casey Anthony may take her place among the filicides Agamemnon and Medea. The jury determined that Anthony was “not guilty” rather than “innocent” (the latter a verdict which was not available to them, and which saved Anthony; it is a distinction that Beckett himself might have relished). If Anthony killed her child, it was not for the approval of the gods or out of a spirit of revenge, but the very contemporary virtue of the indulgence of the narcissistic self: of convenience and the embrace of the values of suburban-American Dionysianism. She seems, in most part, quite sane, and the madness of a Moosbrugger or a Levi Aron doesn’t apply to her. So what now? She is likely to disappear — and perhaps under a new name, in a new place, she will have her Facebook page and Twitter account, and as a “hot-bodied” very contemporary American girl she will have many many Facebook friends. And even, one day, another child — an ironic fillip that wouldn’t be out of place in an early Howard Barker play.
There have been and will be other Casey Anthonys; the culture almost demands it. The use of the ugly will to reign over nature and compassion, to impress itself violently upon the innocent and the world itself, is chronicled day after day in newspapers. In our arts it is exhibited through noise and arrogant spectacle, but rarely criticized or abjured. That repudiation is absent from the theatre and the other arts, which narcissistically posits the phenomenal self as the all-rationalizing motivation — even its false sympathy and pity seeks the audience’s approval of the self which pretends to them. Not necessarily an American phenomenon, but within America’s own electronic mythology, most present here.