p.p1 the people. Reason had begun to trump religion,

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History is full of suppression. Reactionary parties forbidding subversive ideas to have direct access to the public discourse, thus defusing the role of subversive artists and intellectuals. These mechanisms, used to re-frame them as separated from the most topical events, and divert from them the taste for the new that may dangerously appeal to the masses. These tools of suppression, originally used to maintain power in the pre-capitalist world, have now evolved to fit the hand of powerful corporations who will do anything to stoke the fires of hyperconsumerism. I will identify this suppression of subversion and prove its utilisation in the present day.  Beliefs, arts and values, are being trivialised and sterilised, in order to be safely incorporated back within mainstream society, where they can be exploited to add new flavours to old dominant ideas. 

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Religion has always been a distraction from who really holds the power. Faith built God the castle and Monarchs sat at the throne. When the chains between church and state broke, an illusion of freedom was cast over the people. Reason had begun to trump religion, but 

“From the ruins of Heaven, man fell into the ruins of his own world.” 

The Monarchy still ruled, and after the invention of the printing press, many elaborate methods of censorship had to be put into place, fearing the new and efficient diffusion of ideas. 

The press brought forward a rapid growth of newspaper publication. They, and books, began a huge improvement in the speed of delivering information sources across Europe. But it also increased the reactionaries worry that unlimited access to information would be harmful to society and public morals, particularly in times of war. And so the Licensing Act of 1662 was strong enforced in Britain, through censorship, trade restrictions and lack of paper for printing. These subtle means of censorship, even today, effectively hamper the development of the free media in many countries.

Controlled by politicians, intellectuals and clerics, various institutions were set up to deploy mechanisms, one which functioned through exclusion and prohibition, and the other which worked by means of distribution and regulation. This suppression was no longer just a question of public morality or political power. It had become a means of economic control over the print market, by ensuring information only reached people ‘worthy’ of hearing it.

“It is the case that most of the post-publication strategies of censorship were ‘prohibitive’, i.e. based on bans, book burnings and punishments, whereas most pre-publication strategies were ‘regulative’ in the sense that they were based on surveillance  and licensing systems.” 

Colonial Britain, exercised tight control over political publications in their domains. The imperialist government maintained a rule of unequal cultural, economic, and territorial relationships, based on domination and subordination. This suppression of people and territories allowed the extraction of everything of value from the colonised people and territories. 
However as society developed it was no longer politically viable to maintain an empire, wealth and power no longer were defined by territory. 

“The wind of change is blowing through this continent. Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.” 

There was another wind of change. Consumerism was taking a hold of the western world, needs and wants were moving from the every day, to every thing. The social status relationship between the consumer and the goods they purchase had intensified. As had the status anxiety of not belonging to ‘the right social class’. The personal identity the consumer applied to the goods they own, generating a sense of belonging.

“Just as the capitalist system continuously produces and reproduces itself economically on higher levels, the structure of reification progressively sinks more deeply, more fatefully, and more definitively into the consciousness of Man.” 

From this, corporations and the mass media changed the tools of suppression to suit the needs of monetary rather than territorial gain, and with an easily persuaded government they could exploit these factors. Capitalism and consumerism grew, and in doing so society transitioned into what Guy Debourd describes as ‘The Society of the Spectacle’. 

African American history is the best example of this transition. From suppression for territorial gain on the Frontier, to reluctant acceptance and then appropriation for monetary gain. The shift from slave to ‘citizen’ was the beginning. The emancipated African Americans, began to strive for civic participation, political, cultural and economic equality. However the Democratic whites denied African Americans their exercise of civil and political rights by instilling a rule of racial segregation in the South. Life became increasingly difficult and African Americans began to migrate North in great numbers.

Harlem became the destination for these people, seeking work away from the South. Originally built as an exclusive suburb for the white middle and upper middle classes, by the early 1900s Harlem had become an African American neighborhood. And as the First World War continued many more African Americans arrived concentrating these ambitious people where they could encourage each other. As a consequence, great social and cultural change was accelerated. Desperate to break away from racial stereotypes and in a search for equality, the Harlem Renaissance begun.

In 1917, the premiere of Three Plays for a Negro Theatre took place. These plays, featured African American actors conveying complex human emotions and yearnings. This subversion from the stereotypes of blackface and minstrel shows has been described as 

“The most important single event in the entire history of the Negro in the American Theater.” 

Two years later poet Claude Mckay published If We Must Die. Although never alluding to race, African American readers heard its note of defiance in the face of racism and by the end of the First World War, the poetry of Claude McKay was reflecting the reality of living in contemporary America as an African American. 

“What was birthed from the writing of the Harlem Renaissance were hip-hop subgenres that touted consciousness as the ultimate goal, commentary on the politics, socio-economics, and cultural foundation of America.”

However once corporations recognised the earning potential of rap music, the mass recuperation of hip hop began. Record labels to urban radio stations were all bought out. This corporate free for all echoes that of the European conquest of native America. Hip hop became commodified and the more money it made the less diversified rap music became. This subversive voice for the persecuted was again being suppressed.

Through this commodification, the corporatations were able to silence progressive voices, all the while promoting rappers who would embody an image of black people that they felt more comfortable with. The resistant black youth represents a direct threat to white establishment power. Mos Def’s song ‘The Rape Over’ was removed from the album before release. 

“Old white men is running this rap shit. We poke out our asses for a chance to cash in.” 

Ironically the lyrics perfectly summarise the corporate homogenisation and censorship. 

“It is as if the days of the minstrel show have returned. Those rappers who are most willing to step into the corporate supported stereotypical costumes, lyrically and physically, are the ones who will receive the record deals and unfettered airtime.” 

This cookie cutter image of the black rapper has prevailed in corporate hip hop industry, promoting senseless violence, materialism, and misogyny. It is the perfect example of the mechanism of suppression, then appropriation of the subverting oppressed. 

The same mechanisms were again used in the Cold War, except this time the subversion was grown in a lab at the heart of the American government. The CIA fostered and promoted Abstract Expressionism around the world for more than 20 years, as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of America.

Constructivism, trapped inside the world of communist idealology, could not compete. Agitated at the appeal communism still had for many intellectuals and artists in the West, the CIA made the decision to include culture and art in the Cold War arsenal.

“We wanted to unite all the people who were writers, who were musicians, who were artists, to demonstrate that the West and the United States was devoted to freedom of expression and to intellectual achievement, without any rigid barriers as to what you must write, and what you must say, and what you must do, and what you must paint, which was what was going on in the Soviet Union. I think it was the most important division that the agency had, and I think that it played an enormous role in the Cold War.”

In 1958 the touring exhibition “The New American Painting”, including works by Pollock, de Kooning, Motherwell and others, was on show in Paris. The Tate Gallery was keen to have it next, but could not afford to bring it over. 

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