seduction in propaganda and art

exploring the psychosexual background of cultural pseudo-courting.

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a while ago, when i was thinking about the antagonist of a certain book - i won't name it, because it would be a spoiler - "seducing" the protagonist into fake opposition against the system with granting him special privileges and tastes of idealised pre-dystopia life, feeding him promises of mass rebellion and akin, it made me think about "intellectual seduction" in general. the kind that has to do with capturing someone into an ideology or a religion, and also the kind that has to do with capturing them into fascination with a person and admiration, parasocial relation et cetera. i noticed three things: one being that these processes have a lot in common, another being that it's no coincidence "seduction" was the word that came to my mind first, and the third being that it runs deeper than the shallow association that caused me to use the word "seduction".

i should perhaps just own up to the stereotype of the freudist who only thinks about "one thing", and allow myself to develop the kind of philosophy which is affirming and celebrating eroticism; after all, i want to "say yes to life", and saying yes to life is for me, fundamentlaly, saying yes to sexuality, as the source of the innermost, primal instincts that pushed humanity forwards and penetrated (no pun intended) the fundaments of the human culture, religion, and morality. in my earlier essays i've supported theories that draw the sources of most currents of culture from eroticism; this tendency of mine doesn't only come from having read too much freud, but also from my knowledge of sociobiology and evolutionary biology, where i tend to subscribe to the hypothesis that abstract intellect and aesthetics, including art, evolved in sexual selection more than survival based, and in this case they all have roots that can be traced back to sexuality and libido. my arguments for that hypothesis i have introduced here; it's the leading motif of miller's "mating mind". freud, for one, believed all societal connections were libidinal; that he traced back to the idea of eros as the connecting force; libido, understood as sexual energy and tension rather than attraction to a specific person necessarily, can be "pulled back" into the ego, intellectualised and elevated into the abstract, and attached to other people in that desexualised form, as platonic connection or need for community - in short.

i've seen this funny old, historic relation the other time - back from freud's times - where a woman stated that she "didn't like freudists, because they think about sex all the time and assume so does everyone else". it's one of my favourite quotes; i have to say she had a point.

i also have to say, however, that this is all easy to misunderstand, especially with bad faith - so i have to clarify a few things; first of all, i don't think intelligence, sense of aesthetics and all that evolved solely, exclusively to have sex. i'm saying sexual selection, and that means more than finding and seducing partners, though it also means that; it also means achieving a high status within a community, since it allowed greater choice in partners, so necessarily diplomacy; it also means anything that could be done to impress the potential mate as well as the other members of the community, so whatever ability or creation that would spark awe and envy, something complex no one else could do, even if it was entirely pointless in terms of survival. humans don't need things such as art to survive; many animals survive very well for thousands of years on end without this dubiously useful ability. it's needed to impress other humans, surpass them, show off complex and efficient functioning of the brain which, given brains in humans most likely are genetic fitness indicators the same way peacock tails are - as they engage a great, disproportional amount of genes and thus easily show if the individual carries a lot of mutations, has proven being a good candidate for a partner. consequently, human brains - in humans both sexes are the "choosing" one - were also evolving to appreciate these achievements and grow more demanding in this regard.

thus when i talk about the deep running kinship between anything intellectual and anything sexual, i do not mean intelligence originated solely from having to make up pick up lines. i do indicate there was a shared history in evolution of these two elements because of the relevance of intellect to courting. with time, these things transcended beyond that context and started to exist for themselves, although still abiding to the mechanism of their source - provoking emotions; i'll progress to what i want to say about it. when i talk about "seducion" on the intellectual and artistic ground, i also do not mean literally wanting to have sex with political supporters or fans; i mean utilising the same mechanisms that work in regards to finding partners and satisfying some of the emotional needs related to romantic and sexual partnership. this is different. i think about one thing, but i do have a brain and know these mechanisms are normally unconscious and indirect, they work on the level of exploiting some of the primal responses for the modern goals.

sublimation is a concept in psychology considered to be introduced by freud, but actually invented by schopenhauer; hence why it's also referenced by nietzsche, who - like freud - read schopenhauer and was a fan of his. the sublimation hypothesis states that there's a transfer of sexual energy/tension into intellectual and artistic creation, a more appropriate way to channel the primal instincts; they become intellectualised and the emotional tension and drive behind them is attached to a different challenging task, and acted out that way, finding certain release in effort and the subsequent satisfaction, thus replacing the successful sexual pursuit for the brain on some level; socialisation allows the ego to subject the id and its urges to itself, and channel them as "desires of self" towards whatever goals and values the ego has set.

ultimately, i haven't gotten to reich's psychoanalysis of fascism yet, and when i do i may have much more to say in regards to this theory, so expect a development; this is just me crafting the basis of it, it's basically a draft, but i want to introduce certain ideas i'm going to probably develop from. now that i've emphasised the connection between intellect and sexuality, and the libidinal character of social relations, including parasocial relations and political support, i'm finally getting where i wanted to be in this essay, approaching the two cases or topics i would like to analyse here: propaganda and art.

there's a thin line between admiration in the way of looking up to and idolising and sexual desire - i notice people often mistake fascinations with musicians and other creators with a crush; at the peak of nazi germany, german women sexually desired hitler en masse, and acted towards him like hormonal boomer teenagers towards the beatles. it's also been suggested that there's a homoerotic element in cult of the individual, and perhaps freudian father figure elements involved also - i will know more about it after reading reich, i imagine, but my personal concept has always been that fascism originates from unresolved daddy issues in straight men, both in that it idealises the male form, male physique and male intimate connection - "brotherhood in arms" and so on - as the peak of human closeness similar way it was done in ancient greece, and in that the "leader" figure is the strong man supposed to look after the man, give him discipline and motivation to put his life in order. there's some sort of a subversion of unresolved feelings towards one's father onto the leader figure, perhaps guilt from the castration complex - still unsure to what level the castration complex can be taken as literal, but i do believe it exists and prevents mental autonomy.

i do also believe that politics is an extended, intellectualised form of morality, and political principles have the same source as moral ones, as they come from the same roots - values; values are the things that the individual finds impressive, appealing and desirable based on their personality, for some the leading values are safety and order, for some freedom, and then for some constructiveness and progress; for some it's empathy or love, and for some community and loyalty. depends. regardless, if freud is right and morality in its old, primitive form comes from some primal guilt about rebellion against one's parents, then political principles are also affected by the feelings related to childhood connections and disconnections.

i am digressing, though: my point is that political relationships resemble these between parents and children and, by proxy, the individual and their future partners, and respond to some of the same needs. to work, really good propaganda has to be seductive. by which i mean not only has it to be logically convincing, but also to have "something more" to it, some sort of an ideological promise that will charm the audience and make them want, desire and identify with it, and a lot of the time that "something more" is appealing to the viewer's personal needs like desire for safety (to which propaganda based on threats only the state can allegedly defend you from appeals - and it's super effective), desire to be protected, heard and cared for, to belong, be important and be a part of something - similar needs one appeals to when trying to seduce a potential sexual partner.

in the book that inspired me to write this (honestly, the book and being high inspired me, but let's not talk about that), the party supports asexuality movement because it wants people to put that energy towards devotion to the party and state, as well as its personalised, anthropomorphised representation, substitute partner. i believe there's facebook groups like "wanting trump to penetrate you isn't a personality" for a reason; there's a clear libidinal element to political dedication, and clear pseudo-courting character to propaganda, on the deeper, emotional layer, beyond the purely logical content of it; as i said, propaganda works because it speaks to the emotions, it's meant to speak to the recipent's needs for safety, comfort and acknowledgement, give them what they want from partners and friends, and establish a para-relationship. it's not for no reason hitler remained unmarried almost until the end; it's the same element with all the dictators "married to their nation" - they're substitute partners; it's not that the average german counted on actual, physical intercourse with hitler - hopefully - it's moreso that hitler occupied in their hearts the position reserved for lovers, even in a desexualised way, he was the cathexis (object of attachment) of part of their libido. he seduced them, on the emotional level, and for that reason many of them would probably feel betrayed or disappointed seeing a partner by his side; they had a parasocial relation, in women often overtly sexual, in men sublimated into fanatic dedication and loyalty. it's probably a part of why all authoritarisms seem to encourage sexual repression and police the sex lives of their citizens - a repressed citizen is more prone to be seduced by propaganda, and to fall for the charismatic leader, as part of his libido has nowhere better to go.

there's probably also a similar - in fact, very close in nature - libidinal character to religion, especially centralised religion with charismatic leaders and any kinds of cults, given the medieval monasteries where the male monks would develop a weird, thinly veiled sexual adoration of virgin mary while the female nuns would write insane texts about wanting to lick jesus' wounds - but religion is a bit more complex in this regard, and can't be simplified to the libidnal aspect. nevertheless, i believe that aspect exists there, and celibate worshipers who would develop quasi-sexual and sublimated-sexual fixations on their religious figures are good proof of that. religion, too, feeds on and is fueled by sexual repression and the "non-occupied" libido that it can become the object of.

now to my second point: there's a clear element of it in art too - attempts to connect with the viewer on a personal level, capture their attention, "possess" them temporarily wholly, provoke admiration in them. art is meant to speak to the emotional, intimate core of the audience and even connect with the deepest, most hiden parts of them, and to serve as a vessel to project their intimate emotions onto; there's sort of an indirect intimate contact between the artist and the audience. it is, of course, nowhere near having sex with them, but it has to do with entering their intimate emotional zone much deeper than a stranger does on average, and moving vulnerable, personal strings in them.

this makes more sense when remembering that art is the first context in which sublimation was described, and the model one - as well as the element of the human psyche most useless for survival purposes and most likely originating near fully from sexual selection; there was always a sexual nature and context to art; of course, art doesn't always have to directly be about sex and can function very far from sex, sexual sphere and erotic art; but even the most grotesque art is pursuit of beauty for itself and the form for the sake of it, which is something humans evolved probably for the purpose of courting. schopenhauer believed art was always a result of sublimation - creation of art is "meant" to make one put their sexual frustration towards courtship to seduce the object or someone else instead as substitute, since art likely evolved as a form of courtship and sexual advertisement. the artist who is trying to or who ultimately cannot seduce the desired object or find the right object to put their instincts towards, channels them into a personal, aesthetic manifesto instead, and seduces the audiences, who experience intimate, perosnal epiphanies provoked by equally personal act of creation. artists want the audience to understand and connect with them intimately, they want to "possess" and capture them for a while - it's only thinly veiled, barely sublimated seduction; one can find that fans, if their sexuality is compatible with their idol's, often also sexually desire them; they have been seduced in an intellectualised way, and respond to it as if it was a normal seduction on some level, especially the young ones. it often provokes desexualised cousins to sexual desire, such as adoration, fascination and akin. this seduction is more overt and obvious than the seduction in propaganda and politics; similarly, it rests on the same needs and mechanisms that evolved for finding partners and maintaining relationships.

the motif of seducation in propaganda and art is something i definitely will seek to improve and write more on, including exploring similarities of these two in terms of these para-relations. i care specifically about propaganda and art in this context because these are active seduction; i care less about the passive side who can be doing weird sublimation for their any personal reasons, i care about the pseudo-courting process, which i find fascinating. anyways, i'll be reading psychoanalysis of fascism soon and may have new valuable observations about that. stay tuned!

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