…by Jonas E. Alexis
Director Todd Phillip’s supervillain Joker has already broken box office records and has garnered great accolades from both critics and fans alike. In fact, even the Hollywood Reporter has declared that Joker “reinvents Batman’s cackling arch-nemesis.”
Fans are saying that the film is essentially grounded in reality, that Arthur Fleck is the epitome of the average man who is trying to live in a deracinated, selfish, and predatory culture. Rex Reed of the Observer has said:
“Prepare to be devastated by Joker. Not so much by the intense madness and blood-spewing violence that is sometimes hard to watch, or the overwhelming central performance by Joaquin Phoenix in the title role, but by the vision and artistry of the film itself. Even if you hate it, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before—like waking up next to a poisonous snake nestled on your blanket, poised and ready to strike. You’re horrified but unable to move.”
Fans and critics sympathize with the Joker, whose real name is Arthur Fleck, largely because he has been rejected by a capitalist society which sucks the economic life out of the average person. So Arthur’s fundamental principle can be reduced to one major theme: his external conflict with the capitalist world which the oligarchs have created, and whose classic and callous representative is none other than Thomas Wayne, the father of Bruce Wayne.
But Arthur’s mental instability, which is largely due to a brain injury, compels him to break into screeching laughter at inconvenient times. Todd Phillips has declared: “Movies are often a reflection of where we are. We could say this movie was set in 1979 or 1981 but we wrote it in 2016 and 2017, so that stuff does come through.”
So where are we? Well, we are in a capitalist society which essentially gives the rich and powerful the license to do just about anything, as long as these people frame the central issues under the umbrella of “democracy” and “freedom.” After all, who wants to be against “democracy” and “freedom”? For example, why is pornography widely available on the internet? Why do people continue to send you unsolicited solicitations for sex online? Why hasn’t the American government done a damn thing about internet pornography?
The answers to these questions are straightforward: the pornography industry has a $97-billion revenue every year. Yet it is common knowledge that pornography destroys lives, and research on the link between pornography and sexual decadence has been growing for over a decade.
Several scientific studies have shown that pornography itself leads to sexually aggressive behavior. Cambridge anthropologist J. D. Unwin noted back in 1934 that out of eighty-six civilizations she had thoroughly examined, one of the elements that led to their eventual collapse was sexual promiscuity, something that Friedrich Nietzsche would have agreed with.
We also know that Jewish organizations have fought for unrestricted pornography. Pornography was even viewed as a drug more harmful than crack cocaine. One particular expert in the branch of medicine, Jeffrey Satinover of Princeton, declared that pornography “does what heroin can’t do.” Research has shown that pornography initially gets people interested in having sex, but in the end it destroys the natural way of making love.
Some neurosurgeons such as Donald L. Hilton of the University of Texas have even gone so far as to say that prolonged exposure to pornography can cause brain damage. So pornography cannot be shut down because the rich and powerful are cashing in on it.
Arthur, of course, is not threatened by pornography. But he is imperiled by the very principle which allows pornography to dominate and eventually destroy the political and social infrastructure, and that principle is known as capitalism.
Arthur understands the oligarchic system, but his mental state and erratic behavior do not allow him to formulate a metaphysically sustainable and defendable response because, as he tells his social worker, “all I have are negative thoughts…For my whole life, I didn’t know if I even existed.”
Arthur, who has been looking for a father figure for almost all his life, is on seven different medications. His social worker tells him the bad news and declares that the oligarchs are going to cut the social service funding, which is essential to Arthur’s mental progress. The social worker moves on to tell Arthur that the big guys “don’t give a shit about people like you. And they really don’t give a shit about people like me either.”
After hearing this, Arthur once again seems to feel that he is cast adrift and abandoned by a system which doesn’t allow him to breathe economically and socially. After all, Arthur is a failed comedian who is desperately trying to put food on the table and support his mentally and physically ill mother. In fact, his mother told him that Thomas Wayne was his father.
Arthur is even more confused because Wayne portrays himself as a friend of the poor and downtrodden. Yet in reality Arthur believes that Wayne doesn’t give a flip about the less fortunate. Wayne, according to Arthur, is only interested in expanding his political power and wealth.
When Arthur finally realized that his mother was lying to him all this time about his identity, when he came to the conviction that the capitalist society simply does not really want to help people like him, Arthur turns to violence in order to inflict vengeance on the very system which largely is the cause of his pain and suffering. “I used to think that my life is a tragedy,” Arthur reasons. “But now I realized that it’s a fucking comedy.”
Joker Meets Social Darwinism
The way in which the capitalist system is portrayed in the movie is not entirely false. In fact, the oligarchs and polite people of this world had little regard for the mentally ill in much of the West, particularly in England and America right after Charles Darwin’s ideology began to be popular. In fact, Darwin unequivocally declared in his 1871 book Descent of Man:
“We build asylums for the imbeciles, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, for whom a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind.
“No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising that a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animal to breed…
“The surgeon may harden whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil.
“Hence we must bear without complaining the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely the weaker and inferior members of society not marrying so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased, though this is more to be hoped for than expected, by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage.”
Historian of science Rob Boddice of Freie Universität, Berlin, has recently argued that Darwin, whether he liked it or not, inevitably provided the ideological mechanism for Social Darwinism. By the 1920s and 30s in America, the Social Darwinists followed Darwin’s principle to its logical conclusion and began to sterilize the weak of society. Social Darwinism spread quickly after it began to be a heated discussion among British intellectuals. Then, the next logical step was practical action, which came into full bloom at the dawn of the twentieth century.
During that time, it was widely argued that involuntary sterilization and even “the segregation of the mentally handicapped were necessary to prevent the inheritance of pathological traits…By 1940, thirty American states had at one time or another passed sterilization laws for the mentally ill.”
Eugenic circles and pernicious movements got established quickly, both in Europe and America and even in Asian countries such as China. According to leading intellectuals of that era, such as H. H. Goddard, the state should do whatever it can to keep so-called imbeciles and idiots “from ever marrying or becoming parents.”
Margaret Sanger believed that “the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective [and that] possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon American society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupid, cruel sentimentalism.”
Julian Huxley, Aldous Huxley’s brother, wrote: “We must be able to pick up the genetically inferior stocks with more certainty, and we must set in motion counter-forces making for faster reproduction of superior stocks.”
How should that be done? Huxley provided a solution: “The lowest strata are reproducing too fast. Therefore… they must not have too easy access to relief or hospital treatment lest the removal of the last check on natural selection should make it too easy for children to be produced or to survive; long unemployment should be a ground for sterilization.”
Likewise, Nobel Prize winner Alexis Carrel declared that lunatics, imbeciles, and criminals “should be humanely and economically disposed of in small euthanasic institutions supplied with proper gases.”
It must be pointed out that those who embraced Social Darwinism were almost exclusively following Enlightenment principles and indeed Charles Darwin himself. Charles Davenport himself wrote, “Man is an organism—an animal—and the laws of the improvement of corn and of race horses hold true for him also.”
If man is simply an animal devoid of morality, then the “strongest” survives and the “weakest” must be eliminated for the good of the species. Let us hear from Charles Darwin again in the Descent of Man:
“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time, the anthropomorphous apes…will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope…the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the Negro or Australian and the gorilla.”
Those ideas, of course, got spread like wildfire. Herbert Spencer was one of the first persons to jump on the bandwagon. Intellectual historian Peter Watson writes:
“[Spencer] quickly saw how Darwinism might be applied to human societies. His views on this were uncompromising. Regarding the poor, for example, he was against all state aid. They were unfit, he said, and should be eliminated: ‘The whole effort of nature is to get rid of such, to clear the world of them, and make room for better.’ He explained his theories in his seminal work The Study of Sociology, which had a notable impact on the rise of sociology as a discipline. Spencer was also most certainly the most widely read social Darwinist, as famous in the United States as in Britain.”
The people who were perpetuating the Social Darwinist gospel all appealed to “science.” Karl Pearson, Francis Galton’s famous disciple, picked up where Galton left off and declared that it would take “scientific knowledge to control our blind social instincts.” Through “academic judgement,” he continued, people like himself could liquidate the weak, the blind, the deaf, and the dumb. The “welfare of humanity,” he postulated, is contingent upon “the destruction of the less fit.”
Since medical science was in the business of taking care of the weak, Pearson categorically rejected that noble enterprise as well. Humanity’s survival will is “the bitter struggle of race with race, the result of man, like all other life, being subject to the stern law of the survival of the fitter.”
Though many modern scientists deny that Darwin’s idea had any connection to eugenics, Galton and many intellectuals of the latter part of the nineteenth century would beg to differ.
Using what one scholar calls “false biology” and tampered statistics, eugenicists forced their ideas upon the public and upon biology in particular. Galton and his disciples had hoped that one day eugenics would become a religion, and it seems that their wish had somewhat come true—at least in many academic circles. Evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne of the University of Chicago has argued that “we euthanize our dogs and cats when to prolong their lives would be torture, so why not extend that to humans?”
So Todd Phillips’ Joker gets it right when it describes the oligarchic system in a predatory way. Yet it is astonishing and even hilarious to observe some reviewers’ inabilities to see the ontological world that Arthur Fleck is resisting. The reviewers risibly refuse to see that Arthur Fleck is essentially a creation of the capitalist system.
And as some indication of the intellectual bankruptcy or lunacy of what passes for film movie reviews these days, Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian quickly labels the Joker as “an anti-capitalist, anti-rich” film “with protesters dressing as clowns”, without seriously addressing why Arthur actually is against the system. Bradshaw ends up demonizing anyone who provides a rigorous assessment of the predatory system which goes by the name of capitalism. As Salon has recently put it, this “gangster capitalism” is “causing great harm around the world.”
Similarly, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle declares that “‘Joker’ is the last thing this country needs right now.” How does one examine the movie? Well, let’s get some clues from LaSalle himself: “Movies are not good or bad because they comport with a critic’s worldview. They’re not good or bad based whether they are socially virtuous or not, and critics, in any case, are not experts on social virtue, even if they think they are.”
So far, so good. But the sad thing is that neither LaSalle nor Bradshaw had the intellectual courage to address the deep psychology that pushes Arthur to commit those acts of violence. In fact, LaSalle did everything he could to avoid the real issue throughout his foray of film reviewing. Listen to him again:
“To be clear, ‘Joker’ is not a celebration of the Joker character popularized in Batman comic books. He is not a hero. He is presented by director Todd Phillips as severely mentally ill and struggling with it. But all the same, ‘Joker’ places at the center of a movie a troubled, misfit loner who finds his apotheosis in violence. And let’s not kid ourselves: A film’s intention is not strong enough to control the identifications it inspires.”
So why did the Joker in the movie embrace violence? Well, LaSalle cannot address this issue because obviously he would have to frame the parameters in moral terms, which is to say, he would have to tell us that capitalism is essentially immoral and destructive to any society that embraces it. LaSalle obviously cannot do that because they probably would fire him from the San Francisco Chronicle.
But if LaSalle had listened closely to what the Joker was saying during his last appearance on television, he would have fairly understood the Joker’s worldview, which would have stopped him from making one preposterous statement after another. “It’s been a rough few weeks, Murray,” Arthur told his TV host, whose full name is Murray Franklin, “ever since I killed those three Wall Street guys.” Then Arthur moves on to insinuate that the oligarchs, the rich, and the powerful decide what’s right or wrong and act on that basis.
In other words, if the powers that be do not like certain ideas or certain social charities, then they decide that those things are wrong and therefore ought to be shut down. Arthur reasons that “moral” terms are simply meaningless when the oligarchs want to accomplish their goals and purpose. When Arthur declares that he took pleasure in killing the “Wall Street guys,” the audience immediately booed him.
Then Arthur moves on to tell his audience the hypocrisy under which they are living. “Oh, why is everybody so upset about those guys,” he said seriously. “If it was me dying on the sidewalk, you’d walk right over me. I passed you every day and you don’t notice me. But these guys? Why? Because Thomas Wayne went crying about them on TV? Nobody thinks what it’s like to be the other guy. You think men like Thomas Wayne ever think what it’s like to be like me?”
Arthur’s message was pretty loud and clear: the oligarchs create an existentially unlivable system, and somebody has to do something to stop them. In fact, Arthur challenges Murray Franklin to leave the studio and go to the streets and see what it’s like out there. Obviously Murray never left the studio and tried to be an average guy on the street.
If you think Arthur’s message is categorically false, then listen to this. Amazon made a profit of 11.2 billion dollars last year. Guess how much federal income tax they paid? Zero!
But you ain’t seen nothing yet. Jeff Bezos, the CEO and president of Amazon, “abruptly cuts health benefits for nearly 2,000 part-time Whole Foods workers.”
Moving to the pharmaceutical industry, listen to this:
“Last July, Turing Pharmaceuticals’ CEO Martin Shkreli became a lightning rod for growing outrage over soaring prescription drug prices after he raised the price of a newly-acquired drug from $13.50 to $750. But Shkreli, who earned the title ‘the most hated man in America,’ is not the only one acquiring drugs currently on the market to raise their price and, in turn, rapidly drive up their stock price.
“J. Michael Pearson, the CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals has enraged the internet after saying in a recent interview with MSNBC that ‘his company’s responsibility is to its shareholders, not the customers who rely on his drugs to live.’
“‘My primary responsibility is to Valeant shareholders. We can do anything we want to do. We will continue to make acquisitions, we will continue to move forward,’ Pearson said. He added: ‘If products are sort of mispriced and there’s an opportunity, we will act appropriately in terms of doing what I assume our shareholders would like us to do.’”
So according to this logic, if a disease can bring oligarchs like Pearson more money, then Pearson will agree that curing the patient is a problem because it will stop the flow of money.
Metaphysics of Capitalism
Now we come to the inevitable conclusion: capitalism is a predatory system that allows the rich and powerful to do whatever they want. As E. Michael Jones historically details in his 1400-page tome Barren Metal: A History of Capitalism as the Conflict Between Labor and Usury, capitalism is state-sponsored usury, a system which essentially gives the rich and powerful a license to cheat the economy at the expense of everyone else.
So if anyone tells you that capitalism is simply economic exchange and “freedom,” then you can be sure that person is either deluded or naïve, or simply a useful idiot. Capitalism is economic exchange for the rich and powerful, and it always brings pain and suffering to the average person who is trying to put food on the table. The United States has used that predatory and pernicious principle to destroy places like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, and even Russia in the 1990s.
As I tried to point out in a previous article, this led to bloody insurrections in Central America. In fact, people “all over Central America were rising up against the dictatorships and the rich.”
One reason again was that “the agrarian capitalism devastated the material basis of indigenous communities and contributed to a widespread rejection of the indigenous ethnic markers…” In the 1920s the peasantry in particular “suffered an agonizing decomposition” because the rich and powerful were cheating the system.
Joker Meets Moore and Crowley
So Arthur Fleck understands that the capitalist society is not allowing him to make a living. According to him, virtually no big guy is concerned about helping the poor and needy, and big guys like Thomas Wayne can give lip service about opening jobs in Gotham, but those guys are really intended to expand their economic and the military industrial complex. As Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy tells us, Bruce Wayne is part of the military industrial complex. As Lucius Fox declares, the Batmobile was built by the same industry that perpetuates wars virtually everywhere in the Middle East.
So Arthur, as an accurate but unprincipled observer, realizes that he is stuck in a capitalist matrix in which there seems to be no exit. He finds solace in uncontrollable laugh, but that is not existentially sustainable. He tries to entertain people, but obviously they don’t find him funny. Arthur then contemplates suicide by playing with a gun, but that idea seems to be too cruel. Arthur attempts to talk to Wayne himself, whom he thought was his father.
But that again didn’t go well. So Arthur creates an exit for himself, and that exit is violence and chaos. If the rich and powerful are living in an immoral universe, Arthur seems to reason, then who are we to say that he cannot live in the same immoral universe? Who are we to say that he cannot take a gun and start shooting people who he thinks are responsible for his economic ill? And this is where Alan Moore and Aleister Crowley come in.
You see, according to Hegel and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, reason, truth, and ultimately Logos will eventually triumph, despite man’s wickedness and complete madness. Moreover, you cannot fight an immoral principle with another immoral principle. According to Hegel and Solzhenitsyn, what all human beings have to do is follow Logos all the way.
Violent reactions can never solve the world’s problem. But if you’re a Satanist or a follower of Aleister Crowley, then you have to preach violence in order to get things done. And this is where we come to the creators of the Joker character.
So if people are upset about the violence in Todd Phillip’s Joker, then they need to pick up any comic books in which the Joker plays a role, and they’ll quickly see that there is always violence and flashes of nihilism precisely because the Joker embodies those ideologies. Even the Atlantic admits that the Joker “functioned first as a gangland spree killer in the 1940s…”
For example, take Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke, which by the way was an inspiration for Todd Phillips’ Joker. The Joker in the book is closely similar to Phillips’ Joker. Moore describes the Joker as a former ordinary man with a pregnant wife. He cannot find a job. He finds solace in drinking, and then he got deceived by a number of men who exploited him. Then, according to him, he had “one bad day,” and that day was when he found madness. Next, he took the logical step: he embraced chaos as the ultimate solution to his problem.
The Joker finally declared in the book: “So when you find yourself locked onto an unpleasant train of thought, heading for the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember there’s always madness. Madness is the emergency exit.”
The million-dollar question is simply this: where did Alan Moore get this madness concept? Simple: Moore is a literal Satanist and a devoted follower of Aleister Crowley, the infamous British black magician who thought that he could harness power though sex magic.
It is no accident that Moore inserted small doses of pornographic images and satanic languages and illusions throughout the Batman: The Killing Joke, choosing to deliberately include these objectionable elements, he says, for specific reasons. Even Nick Owchar of the LA Times warns in a book review for The Killing Joke: “Alan Moore and Brian Bolland imagined a chilling villain whose skeletal grin and appetite for sadism are definitely not for children (nor some adults).”
One scholar writes that “with Lost Girls, Moore sought to bring ‘legitimacy to the genre of pornography, a ‘revolution’…to the one that he brought to the comics industry.” Other scholars agree that with his work on pornography, Moore is actually challenging “the dominant discourse of morality and etiquette.” According to Moore himself, pornography should “take its place once more as a revered and almost sacred totem in society.”
Crowley, as a Freemason and Cabbalist, saw his work in the same way. In fact, he got kicked out of Italy for practicing really weird things. And obviously Moore quickly picked those ideas from “the wickedest man on earth.” Moore admits:
“I’d known about Crowley ever since I was twelve, when I had my spate of reading Dennis Wheatley occult paperbacks and being told that Aleister Crowley was the wickedest man in the world. There are references to Crowley in V for Vendetta…”
We are told that
“Taking up the study of the Qabalah and the writings of the notorious early 20th-century occultist Aleister Crowley, Moore accepted ideas from Crowley’s religion, Thelema, about True Will being connected to the will of the pantheistic universe.
“In some of his earlier magical rituals, he used mind-altering psychedelic drugs but later gave this up, believing that they were unnecessary, and stated, ‘It’s frightening. You call out the names in this strange incomprehensible language, and you’re looking into the glass and there appears to be this little man talking to you. It just works.’”
Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke was essential in the making of Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight. In that movie, the Joker tells district attorney Harvey Dent, who is a heroic figure in Gotham, “Introduce a little chaos. Upset the established order and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos.” Unfortunately, after an accident, Dent follows his advice, introducing “a little chaos” by killing anyone he thinks did not help him during the explosion that injured him.
Moore admitted that his Killing Joke came out of the irrational world. Here’s how Moore described his writings:
“I found that I couldn’t progress any further with writing by strict rationality. If I wanted to go further with my writing, make it more intense, more powerful, make it say what I wanted to say, I had to take a step beyond technique and rational ideas about writing, into something that was trans-rational if you will. This being magic.”
The logic is pretty clear here: magic and “strict rationality” or Logos are incompatible. In order to promote his essentially satanic message, Moore had to drop “rational ideas” and move into “something that was trans-rational.” Moore also states: “I’ve done some bits of artwork purely for my own consumption of some of the things that I’ve seen during magical rituals.” Moore declares elsewhere:
“Very early on I had a brief flirtation with Dennis Wheatley, which I think that, at least in this country, you have to kind of read Dennis Wheatley when you’re eleven; much older than that, and it will be laughable rubbish. But if you’re eleven, it can be quite a heady mixture of Satanism and the supernatural.”
Certainly this involvement in black magic throughout his life gave Moore the ability to know what will hook young, impressionable and naïve fans. Here’s what he has to say about his comic book Watchmen:
“Watchmen was a stream of weird shit and coincidence from beginning to end. Bizarre things kept hitting us [Moore and his co-author Dave Gibbons] in the face and they were perfect for us. Like looking through NASA photos of Mars and finding a smiley face up there.” It seems, therefore, that the graphic novel was already compiled in some way even before its authors put it down on paper.
Moore again describes his satanic baptism this way:
“On the day I was forty, I decided I was going to become a magician…All of a sudden the lightening bolt hit. It all got a bit strange. For a couple of months after that, I was—looking back—probably in some borderline of schizophrenic state. I was spaced out—godstruck, you babble for a while…Babble like an idiot…I must have been unbearable for two or three months. I’ve integrated that now into the rest of my life.”
After his decision to become a magician, Moore began to communicate with disembodied spirits: “I found myself seemingly in conversation with an entity…[a] presence that surrounded my head, moving and speaking lucidly to me.” Moore went on to say that this entity is highly skilled in, among other things, “the visual arts.”
It is natural, therefore, for Moore to fall in line behind Aleister Crowley. We see flashes of Crowley’s maxim—do what thou wilt—throughout Moore’s V for Vendetta, including the idea of signing pacts.
Fans do not understand that Moore himself has deliberately placed pornography in nearly all his works. Moore, according to one scholar, is challenging “the dominant discourse of morality and etiquette.”
Obviously morality is the fundamental issue here. If morality is just a relic of the past, if people are free to do what they want, who are we to say that this or that behavior is wrong? What logical plumb line that allows us to condemn one act from another? What is the point of reference? If Moore is challenging the “dominant discourse of morality,” can he really say that capitalism is morally wrong?
Can Moore condemn the capitalist mafia and their protégés like Frank Miller on moral grounds? Can he really say that Miller’s works such as Sin City and 300 are “unreconstructed misogyny,” which “appeared to be wildly ahistoric, homophobic and just completely misguided”? Does the term “unpleasant sensibility” make any sense without a moral framework? Doesn’t it imply that there is such a thing called “pleasant sensibility”? If so, who is going to determine that this or that work of art is “pleasant” or “unpleasant”?
If “truth” is in the eyes of the beholder, wouldn’t it be arrogant and hubristic of Moore to call Miller’s work unpleasant? You see, Moore has locked himself into an intellectual cage, and it is hard for him to get out of that cage without submitting his thoughts to the moral universe. But again, Moore cannot do that because he had previously embraced an irrational world, out of which Watchmen and V for Vendetta and other graphic novels spring.
Joker and the Cunning of Reason
What we have been observing over the past decades is that people like Moore consciously abandoned reason and embraced irrationality, which can lead to moral corruption and degradation. This is why he embraces madness, despite the fact that there are glimpses of truth in even Batman: The Killing Joke. Moore himself declared that pornography should “take its place once more as a revered and almost sacred totem in society.”
Since society finds pornography disgusting, aberrant and soul-destroying, Moore came up with a propaganda philosophy to con the masses and readers. That philosophy teaches that there is such a thing as “good pornography.”
Lost Girls, according to Moore himself, is a political work which is pornographically “liberating and socially useful.” Moore’s pornographic worldview also seems deeply personal. He writes, “I’d recommend to anybody working on their relationship that they should try embarking on a sixteen-year elaborate pornography together.” This is why we constantly hear in Moore’s V for Vendetta: “Do what thou wilt,” which is a direct quote from black magician Aleister Crowley.
In short, magic took Moore to Aleister Crowley, the notorious black magician in the twentieth century, and eventually to madness and occult manifestations. This madness is the essence of what the Joker actually is. In fact, he intends to drag people into this madness.
But if Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Friedrich Hegel are right, human beings do not have to embrace madness to get things done. Truth will triumph over falsehood in the end. Therefore, there is no good reason to be a pessimist. Granted, the forces of evil have never been so strong, but that is no reason to despair because you cannot fight against Logos and win. Both Solzhenitsyn and Hegel came to the conclusion that reason will work itself out in history.
Hegel in particular called this “the cunning of reason.” The cunning of reason is basically a “term for a hidden dynamic or dialectic which sums the consequences of actions in ways unforeseen by the actors.”
Summarizing Hegel’s point, Robert C. Tucker writes that history “fulfills its ulterior rational designs in an indirect and sly manner. It does so by calling into play the irrational element in human nature, the passions.”
Hegel argues very clearly that this world “is not prey to chance and external, contingent causes, but is governed by providence.” He moves on to say that “the world’s events are controlled by a providence, indeed by divine providence,” and this “divine providence is wisdom, coupled with infinite power, which realizes its ends, i.e., the absolute and rational design of the world…”
So, contrary to what the Joker proposes as the ultimate solution to the economic and social problems, history or the universe or even human beings are not meaningless or purposeless, so metaphysical madness is unnecessary and therefore useless. There is a logos in history which can be apprehended by those who love the truth. If history is meaningless, then there is no ultimate reason to fight for what is right, to pursue the truth and to debunk myths and ideology. Hegel writes,
“That world history is governed by an ultimate design, that it is a rational process—whose rationality is not that of a particular subject, but a divine and absolute reason—this is a proposition whose truth we must assume; its proof lies in the study of world history itself, which is the image and enactment of reason.”
Hegel moves on to say that this world “is not prey to chance and external, contingent causes, but is governed by providence.” He adds that “the world’s events are controlled by a providence, indeed by divine providence,” and this “divine providence is wisdom, coupled with infinite power, which realizes its ends, i.e., the absolute and rational design of the world…”
I think Hegel is right. In The Fellowship of the Ring, R. R. Tolkien has indirectly made reference to this “divine and absolute reason” which governs world affairs and which has a way of working itself out in history and world events. When Frodo realizes that Middle Earth is in an eternal and cosmic war against an enemy who wants to witness the extinction of the human race, he laments: “I wish it need not have happened in my time.”
Gandalf, who is wiser than the lad, responds: “So do I and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Frodo, who was simply an obscure young boy, ended up playing an influential role in defeating Sauron, the enemy of Middle East. Frodo himself didn’t plan on playing a major role. Hegel would have certainly called this the cunning of reason.
We don’t need to follow the Joker’s madness in order criticize capitalism or any system that seeks to destroy the moral and political order. We don’t need to descend into Karl Marx’s diabolical world in order to reject the predatory nature of capitalism and its offshoots. Like the Joker, Marx had to descend into madness—the ultimate madness—and it is the background of his ideological worldview. As he himself put it:
“Ruined! Ruined! My time has clean run out! The clock has stopped, the pygmy house has crumbled. Soon I shall embrace eternity to my breast, and soon I shall howl gigantic curses at mankind…If there is a Something which devours, I’ll leap within it, though I bring the world to ruins—the world which bulks between me and the abyss, I will smash to pieces with my enduring curses.”
Like Sigmund Freud, Marx fantasized about revolutionary heroes in his teens and wrote his first poem “Oulanem”—“which he hoped would be the Faust of his time”—on that theme. That poem, Payne and Paul Johnson tell us, “dealt with satanic possession, homosexuality, seduction, and the ruin of the world.”
A few lines from his poem “The Player” will prove this point.
“The hellish vapors rise and fill the brain,
Till I go mad and my heart is utterly changed.
See this sword—the Prince of Darkness sold it to me.
For me he beats the time and gives the signs.
Ever more boldly I play the dance of death.
I must play darkly, I must play lightly,
Until my heart, and my violin, burst.”
Payne declares that Marx is here celebrating “a satanic mystery, for the player is clearly Lucifer or Mephistopheles, and what he is playing with such frenzy is the music which accompanies the end of the world…The pact with the devil is consecrated by the purchase of the magic blood-dark sword, which kills with unerring aim.”
Marx was never in a political position to practice his violent curses, but once again his ideology was put to work by three of his most noted admirers: Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. In his poems, particularly “Oulanem,” Marx “smiles pleasantly, roars outrageously, consigns the entire human race to damnation, and all the time he is watching himself cynically.”
We cannot follow the Joker or Karl Marx. We need to follow the light of reason; and docility to the truth will triumph over satanic powers or man’s wickedness. In that sense, the Joker’s and Marx’s solution is utterly destructive.
This article was first published in October of 2019.
-  “Joaquin Phoenix boldly reinvents Batman’s cackling archnemesis in Todd Phillips’ dark new vision of the supervillain origin story, also starring Robert De Niro,” Hollywood Reporter, October 4, 2019.
-  Rex Reed, “Brilliant and Unforgettable, ‘Joker’ Borders on Genius,” Observer, October 7, 2019.
-  “Eat the rich: Why movies are tackling income inequality and class warfare,” LA Times, October 7, 2019.
-  Donald L. Hilton and Clark Watts, “Pornography Addiction: A Neuroscience Perspective,” Surgical Neurological International, February 21, 2011.
-  Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Adina Roskies, Teneille Brown and Emily Murphy, “Brain Images as Legal Evidence,” Episteme, Volume 5, Issue 03, October 2008: 359-373; Donald L. Hilton and Clark Watts, “Pornography Addiction: A Neuroscience Perspective,” Surgical Neurological International, February 21, 2011; William M. Struthers, Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009).
-  Neil M. Malamuth, Tamara Addison, and Mary Koss, “Pornography and Sexual Aggression: Are There Reliable Effects and Can We Understand Them?,” Annual Review of Sex Research, Vol. 11, 2000: 26-91; Chun Bun and Darius K. S. Chan, “The Use of Cyberpornography by Young Men in Hong Kong: Some Psychosocial Correlates,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, Volume 36, number 4, 2007: 588-598; Elizabeth M. Morgan, “Associations Between Young Adults’ Use of Sexually Explicit Materials and Their Sexual Preferences, Behaviors, and Satisfaction,” Journal of Sex Research, Volume 48, Issue 6, May 24, 2011; Debra K. Braun-Courville and Mary Rojas, “Exposure to Sexually Explicit Websites and Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors,” Journal of Adolescent Health, Volume 45, Issue 2, August 2009: 156-152.
-  See J. D. Unwin, Sex and Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1934).
-  Josh Lambert, Unclean Lips: Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2013); for similar studies, see Nathan Abrams, The New Jew in Film: Exploring Jewishness and Judaism in Contemporary Cinema (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2013).
-  “Porn Panic Over Eroto-Toxins,” New Scientist, November 27, 2004.
-  Ibid.
-  See Norman Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (New York: Penguin, 2007).
-  Donald L. Hilton, “Slave Master,” Salvo Magazine, Summer 2010
-  Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), 168-169; emphasis added.
-  Rob Boddice, The Science of Sympathy: Morality, Evolution, and Victorian Civilization (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016).
-  Ian Robert Dowbiggin, Keeping America Sane: Psychiatry and Eugenics in the United States and Canada, 1880-1940 (New York: Cornell University Press, 1997), vii-viii.
-  See for example Daniel J. Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998); Mark B. Adams, eds., The Wellborn Science: Eugenics in Germany, France, Brazil and Russia (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990); Gunnar Broberg and Nils Roll-Hansen, eds., Eugenics and the Welfare State: Sterilization Policy in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1996); Frank Dikotter, Imperfect Conceptions: Medical Knowledge, Birth Defects, and Eugenics in China (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).
-  Margaret Sanger, Pivot of Civilization (New York: Humanity Books, 2003), 64.
-  Quoted in Peter Dickens, Social Darwinism (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2000), 3.
-  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Huxley#cite_note-73.
-  Quoted in Robert Whitaker, Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill (New York: Perseus Publishing, 2002), 66.
-  Quoted in Edwin Black, War Against the Weak (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2003), 74.
-  Charles Darwin, Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (London: John Murray, 1871), 201.
-  Watson, The Modern Mind, 41.
-  Boddice, The Science of Sympathy, chapter 6.
-  Quoted in ibid., chapter 6.
-  Quoted in ibid., chapter 6.
-  Peter Bradshaw, “Joker review – the most disappointing film of the year,” Guardian, October 3, 2019.
-  “‘Joker’: A harsh indictment of neoliberalism and gangster capitalism,” Salon, October 9, 2019.
-  Mick LaSalle, “‘Joker’ is the last thing this country needs right now,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 11, 2019.
-  Ibid.
-  “Amazon pays no federal income tax for 2018, despite soaring profits, report says,” USA Today, February 15, 2019; Sissi Cao, “Amazon Paid $0 in Federal Taxes Despite Making $11 Billion in 2018—And No One Knows Why,” Observer, February 20, 2019.
-  Eoin Higgins, “Jeff Bezos abruptly cuts health benefits for nearly 2,000 part-time Whole Foods workers,” Salon, September 14, 2019.
-  For a serious study on this, see E. Michael Jones, Barren Metal: A History of Capitalism as the Conflict Between Labor and Usury (South Bend: Fidelity Press, 2014).
-  See Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Picador, 2007); Orlando Letelier, “Chile: Economic Freedom’s Awful Toll,” The Nation, September 21, 2016.
-  Russell Crandall, The Salvador Option: The United States in El Salvador, 1977-1992 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016); Jeffrey L. Gould and Aldo A. Laurio-Santiago, To Rise in Darkness: Revolution, Repression, and Memory in El Salvador, 1920-1932 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2008), 24-25.
-  Ibid., xv.
-  Ibid., 3.
-  See E. Michael Jones, “Wall Street Rises,” Culture Wars, October 2012.
-  David Sims, “The Comic That Explains Where Joker Went Wrong,” Atlantic, October 7, 2019.
-  Alan Moore, Batman: The Killing Joke (New York: DC Comics, 1988), no page number.
-  Nick Owchar, “‘The Killing Joke’ by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland,” LA Times, April 20, 2008.
-  Todd A. Comer and Joseph Michael Sommers, Sexual Ideology in the Works of Alan Moore: Critical Essays on the Graphic Novels (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2012), 6.
-  Ibid.
-  Quoted in ibid., 26.
-  Tobias Churton, Aleister Crowley: Spiritual Revolutionary, Romantic Explorer, Occult Master and Spy (Oxford: Watkins Publishing, 2011); Richard Kaczynski, Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley (Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Publications, 2002).
-  Matt Brady, “Alan Moore: Practicing Magician,” AnotherUniverse.
-  Barry Kavanagh, “The Alan Moore Interview,” October 17, 2000.
-  Bill Baker, Alan Moore on his Work and Career (New York: Rosen, 2008), 20.
-  “Alan Moore Interview,” JohnCoulthart.com, 1988.
-  Matthew de Abuitua, “Alan Moore Interview,” The Idler, February/March 1998.
-  Thomas Lautwein, “Alan Moore’s Promethea,” Angelfire.com.
-  For scholar studies on this, see Todd A. Comer and Joseph Michael Sommers, Sexual Ideology in the Works of Alan Moore: Critical Essays on the Graphic Novels (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2012).
-  Ibid.
-  Alison Flood, “Alan Moore attacks Frank Miller in comic book war of words,” Guardian, December 6, 2011.
-  Ibid.
-  Lance Parkin, Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore (London: Aurum Press, 2013), 345.
-  Ibid.
-  Ibid.
-  Ibid., 337.
-  For a recent works briefly detailing the link between Crowley and Moore, see Matthew J. A. Green, Alan Moore and the Gothic tradition (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013); Annalisa Di Liddo, Alan Moore: Comics as Performance, Fiction as Scalpel (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009); Eric L. Berlatsky, Alan Moore: Conversations (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012).
-  See Henrik Bogdan and Martin P. Starr, eds., Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); Nevill Drury, Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Hugh B. Urban, Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006).
-  Martin Hollis, The Cunning of Reason (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 5.
-  Robert C. Tucker, “The Cunning of Reason in Hegel and Marx,” The Review of Politics, Vol. 18, NO 3, July 1956: 269-295.
-  Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975 and 1998), 35.
-  Ibid., 28.
-  Ibid., 35.
-  J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1993), 67.
-  Quoted in Robert Payne, Marx (New York; Simon & Schuster, 1968), 59.
-  Ibid., 62.
-  Ibid., 63.
-  Paul Johnson, Intellectuals (New York: Harper & Row, 1987), 71.
-  Payne, Marx, 68.
Jonas E. Alexis has degrees in mathematics and philosophy. He studied education at the graduate level. His main interests include U.S. foreign policy, the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the history of ideas. He is the author of the book, Kevin MacDonald’s Metaphysical Failure: A Philosophical, Historical, and Moral Critique of Evolutionary Psychology, Sociobiology, and Identity Politics. He teaches mathematics in South Korea.