Saturday, 26 December 2015

Value proposition .. from a fiction in progress

"What's the value proposition?" he demanded, and kept reiterating this phrase throughout the conversation. Of course, I couldn't hear what the interlocutor was saying but suspect it didn't matter. The cretin's mind had been taken over by business jargon and so-called 'business concepts' which are laughably removed from anything that might with dignity be called a concept. Afterwards I looked up this term, 'value proposition,' but found only more vacuous jargon. Each jargon term is glossed only by other jargon terms until we return to the first, a kind of lexical 'circle jerk', as they say. In the popular imagination, jargon is associated with academics, who are thought of as deliberate obscurantists. Well, each tribe, each profession has its terms of art, but as far as jargon goes, the world of business, or so-called business, is the worst offender. And of course business jargon is now colonising academia too, with it's 'end users' and 'learning outcomes', both of which are idiotic misnomers. Jargon is almost always an attempt to dress up some highly partisan or alternatively completely banal behaviour in the appurtenance of science and technology, where these are seen as both neutral and inevitable. Both science are technology are seen as beyond refutation and so too is the world of business, whereas the world of business is shit and its terms are shit also. I will demonstrate this later in less emotive language, so-called. But for now it's suffice to say that business jargon is shit, and the business men who trade and converse in this jargon are also shit, shitheads like this specimen here in the cafe. I'm not talking about industrialists, people who produce things, although I have no especial affinity for them either.. No, these others who convene meets and invent 'concepts' which are nothing of the sort. Such a one was this cretin in the cafe. His life was divided into business and travel, two apparently different worlds which were in fact complementary components of the same system. As I will explain later. For now, only to say that this cretin's mind had been colonised by business jargon to such an extent that he was now an ontological businessman, as I call it. What does it mean, to say that someone is ontologically a businessman? It means that in all spheres, not just the world of business, they see things in business terms and employ business categories, that they see life as a business and 'business' is the virus infecting their whole experience. This cretin, for example, I hear him on the phone. He's arranging a get together for someone's birthday. "I'll reach out to Scott," he intones, "see if he's got a window". Well he can reach out to Scott all he wants, it won't prevent him being kicked in the head.

Pure Ideas .. From a fiction in progress

People think that Ideas are abstract and intellectual, but in fact we knock against Ideas all the time in our day to day experience.  When I walk through Soho early in the morning, the summer sun making its first appearance, angling down alleys, slanting through the side windows, gently warming wooden floors; when vendors are assembling their stalls with iron poles and wooden boards in Berwick street, and shop owners disinfect their steps with steaming hot water, then I touch Beginning, the Idea of Begining in its immediate flesh, just as I sense the same Idea, but in a different key,  in early January, when the fresh snow is laid out like a blank page across the field. These moments are the naked and uncorrupted form of the concept of beginning, the actual and non-verbal adumbration of the idea of Beginning, which has no other reality than these various and several moments and things; and the Idea of beginning is constantly enlarged and revised not by lexicographers or linguists or even philosophers, but by the January snow or the Soho vendors, by the morning sun, or, differently, by the ground zero of a catastrophe. This is where we touch the Idea: in faces, gestures, things and constellations of things, which communicate directly with our senses and nerves before the catch up game of words begins, so that language is for most of us only the belated realisation, the faltering translation,of what, in our bodies and in the heart of matter is already known. 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Press Narcissm and 'Public Opinion'

Narcissus didn't simply fall in love with himself, but mistook himself for another. Similarly the press apparently misrecognises its own chatter as the rumblings of the 'Public', of the multitude, or of the Zeitgeist itself:

"It's too late for Jeremy Corbyn, the public's already decided what it thinks of him" (Telegraph 12/11)

"British public backs David Cameron over Jeremy Corbyn 'terrorist-sympathiser' attack." (International Business Times October 2nd)

"Jeremy Corbyn seems to be opening up to public opinion - after being seen out and about with The Sun under his arm". [The Sun]
We the demos, the people, are offered an image of what 'The Public' are thinking. The public is 'furious' or 'outraged'.. but this is always merely a supposed public, presented for our silent consumption. 
'Public opinion' assumes there is a subject called the British Public who speaks, in the same way as an individual speaks. But the demographic designated by 'The British Public' is split  and fractured according to class, ethnicity, gender and other factors, but the spectre of "The British Public"  suggests that there is a national - British - interest that supersedes any class or factional interests. (And, conversely, polls that look at opinion by class, gender, ethnicity etc are largely ignored.) There is no univocal 'British Public', but as a phrase it's rhetorically useful in identifying enemies or cynically passing off journalistic opinion as something else. 

Public opinion polls are not an exception to this but a prime example.   Polls are not seismographs registering the tremors of debate and dissent across society. They do not drill down into the commotion of the multitude. They entail not questions that the public are debating,  picked up belatedly by the media. Rather they are the media's questions, fired at members of 'the public'.
 HuffPost UK Poll Exclusive: One-Third Of People Think Jeremy Corbyn Is 'Britain-Hating' And 'Terrorist-Sympathising' After David Cameron's Attack"
Or, more accurately: 1034 people respond to leading questions couched in David Cameron's language.The numbers themselves are relegated to the small print and there is almost no info as to how the demographic was sourced - as usual consumption triumphs over production. This 'poll' serves only to perpetuate and add legitmacy to Cameron's puerile rhetoric, a rhetoric resting on misrepresentations and flawed assumptions. 

The terms in which polls are couched serve to bolster and legitimise the orthodoxies and loaded rhetoric of the largely Conservative press. Opinion polls are flash plebiscites whereby a few hundred randoms are enlisted to serve as the voice of millions and ratify taken-for-granted assumptions or prefabricated outrages.   In an age when there are now so many other means of gauging what large numbers of people are preoccupied with and discussing, a sounding of a 1000 or so people as to pre-determined questions is an anachronism 

There are many forums for the free-associations of citizens, offline and on, but the media is not really one of them.  Increasingly the public, or rather the multitudes, groups and factions which this term disguises, are speaking to each other, and have no need to be informed of what Public Opinion is because they are too busy forming it. 

Friday, 23 October 2015

On Democracy. Thoughts post-Corbyn.. (1)

The concept of democracy has shrunk and withered to mean little more than parliamentary elections every 5 years, But in terms of its history, origins and hopefully future, Democracy exceeds this meagre ration. One essential element is that ordinary citizens can accede to power. In other words, you are not entitled to rule because of money (plutocracy), hereditary (monarchy) or even expertise (technocracy). The only condition of eligibility is that you are a citizen. The corollary of this is that those who rule are not a class apart, but only citizens granted the temporary grace of office. Privileged access to power because of wealth (Murdoch) or hereditary (Prince Charles) are profoundly undemocratic and should alarm those genuinely concerned with the idea of democracy. Needless to say swearing fealty to an hereditary monarch has nothing to do with democracy, it is in fact directly opposed to it. This is not a polemical point. It's internal to the concept of democracy itself. The existence of the monarch is a vestige of a pre-democratic system, albeit now co-opted and metabolised by modern celebrity culture.

Secondly, democracy is ongoing. It doesn't strike up for a couple of months every half decade and then obediently stop. This seemed to be the false assumption behind the clucks of outrage when  'the left' continued to rally and protest following the general election result in May. 'Democracy has spoken, how dare they contradict', intoned the reproachful pundits. They had misunderstood: democracy is not pronounced through a megaphone once every five years, it's not like a puff of smoke from the Pope's chapel announcing a new dispensation, it's an ongoing and multitudinous commotion. The democratic proposition is pronounced each and every day. 

Thirdly democracy empowers because it's to do with people intervening directly, not through delegates. This is part of the DNA of democracy: the demos speaking rather than being spoken for. Picking up placards and banners, strategic slogans and mobilising chants, and making those in power - always transients - aware of this greater presence, aware that democratic power resides not in the proxies but ultimately with the body politic, the People. And yet protest and rallies and 'taking to the streets' is typically reported only according to the sole metric of violence and volatility. Was it peaceful or were there clashes is the repetitive question asked by the depressingly unanimous press. 

In the ceaseless commotion - of the multitude or of the parties - necessarily there is dissent. And this is not a negative. Dissent is what hones and sharpens, defines and focuses. And yet, in our media democracy, dissent is never represented as this vital and necessary force. Never do we hear of this but only 'civil war' and 'strife', 'split's and 'divisions'. The media have been using these same moulds to cook their stories for decades.  

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Press narcissism..

The press report as widespread what exists only in and through the press. Was the 'fury' over Jeremy Corbyn not singing God Save the Queen an event which occured significantly outside the press claques and various rent-a-quote politicians? Was the Fiscal Charter debate 'overshadowed' by the Labour 'u-turn' any place other than in the reporting of it? Now the press tells us that Seumus Milne has taken a battering, except that he's only been 'battered' by the press.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Corbyn and the Re-definition of Politics

In response to the death of Denis Healey, David Cameron tweeted: "[He] told his party hard truths about Britain having to live within her means." Not an innocent remark, obviously, but (even here) a party political bullet fired at the current Labour party, recycling the general drift of Tory election rhetoric of Labour profligacy and tightening the purse strings. And yet of course, debt has significantly increased under the Conservatives, with Osborne famously borrowing more in 3 years that Labour did in 13, and a list of economists as long as your arm have refuted the charge that Labour overspending was responsible for the deficit or that Austerity (a politically loaded misnomer)  was an effective response to it. The whole rhetorical edifice on which the Conservatives built their campaign was in this sense, and as one leading ex-Tory peer put it, a lie or a 'delusion' which Labour had neither the courage nor the guile to counter. But what matters, evidently, is the manipulation of 'perceptions', and much of the election was fought out as a theatre or game of such 'perceptions', more or less divorced from economic reality.

Elsewhere Cameron tweets that "A 7-day NHS is vital for working people". Odd, as one would the think the NHS is for everyone who's ill. What about pensioners and children, the unemployed? But of course, the best way to understand the statement is not in terms of  meaning but in terms of rhetorical effect, whereby the phrase "working people" conjures the spectre of the "shirkers" who deserve nothing. This binary - of the hard working people and the shirkers who accept hand outs - was, again, a staple of Tory rhetoric, despite figures indicating the huge numbers of working families also relying on welfare payments due to low pay and absence of affordable housing, or other findings that the majority of poor children were from families also in work. Again, "Hard working people"  is one counter in a rhetorical game, a game - once more - of 'perception', unchecked by verifiable fact.

At a previous party conference, Cameron said he wanted "privilege for all" - a claim that was trivially nonsensical, since exclusion is inherent in the concept of privilege, and 'universalising' privilege is an oxymoron. And yet the commentariat ran with this (non-) idea  as if it had intellectual content, as if it were a meaningful proposition. What was going in was something like this: The Conservative party is seen as the party of privilege so strategists try and re-invest 'privilege' with different meanings in order to redress the perception. It's a politics purely of the signifier, of the appearance.

Last week, (8th October) The Guardian reported that Cameron's "War on Poverty" is 'belied by the figures', just as other figures from the IFS showed that the "living wage" was offset by decreases in Tax Credits. But the Guardian is too generous in assuming that the "war on poverty" or the claim that the Tories are the "party of labour" relate to actual intentions or actual or prospective policy. Rather, this is a rhetorical raid on terms that have traditionally belonged to Labour, and Tory strategists see an opportunity to appropriate these signifiers for their own party. Similarly, Cameron reports that he is staking out the centre ground, a claim dutifully repeated by the BBC and the newspapers. In fact, he is only staking out a claim to the rhetoric of the centre ground, to a more or less empty set of terms. Let's take the example of "austerity". Corbyn is routinely referred to as 'hard-left" and even "extremist" for his opposition to austerity. In fact, among economists, this position is uncontroversial, even  fairly mainstream. Cameron, on the other hand is never referred to as 'hard-right', or even 'right wing'. To the press, only the left is visible, and a version of the political spectrum that places Cameron in the 'centre' is certainly a fiction and a victory in the game of 'perceptions'.

Whether it be "politics" "democracy" or "patriotism", the terms in which political and economic reality are couched and talked about are so degraded, so often merely false, as to prevent real thinking and debate, and to constitute, in effect, a diversionary spectacle. Take "democracy": The TTIP trade deal is a real, even existential threat to British democracy and 'british values'. But there is little sustained analysis or outrage about this. Instead we get a pantomime version of the "threat to British values" in the form or Jeremy Corbyn's silence through God Save the queen. When Corbyn's silence was referred to as politically disastrous, this was an implicit admission that the meaning of 'politics' has now dwindled to mean something like PR Strategy and the manipulation of 'perceptions'*. From this point of view principles and beliefs can only be interpreted as 'gaffes' or 'blunders'. Politics proper has disappeared. 

Instead, politics has become a game played with counters such as 'British Values', "Hard working people" "sound economy" "patriotism" "democracy" etc, which are little more that bundles of effects and connotations over which the parties fight with Lilliputian sound and fury, counters which touch only occasionally and tangentially on real economic and political forces. It should come as no surprise that this politics of 'perception' and empty signifiers should also favour a right wing agenda.

If the name Corbyn refers to the flesh and blood individual, in his 'mismatched clothing' and open necked shirt, who has been subject to a campaign of orchestrated vilification and mendacity from press and Conservative party alike, it also names, or named, the desire for a different politics, or rather, for a return to politics proper. The media's fixation on Corbyn himself, on his clothing, his bike, and the other marginalia, is itself symptomatic of what the "desire named Corbyn" would contest and go beyond. 

*Yet 'perception' is a bit of a misnomer too, since whereas a 'perception' of, say, a tree means a real tree seen from a particilar angle, the perceptions engineered by spin and rhetoric are free-floating and create a substitute reality for public consumption.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Perennial Tropes of Anti-Left Rhetoric

The tropes of anti-Left rhetoric have scarcely changed in decades, and certainly very little since the 1980's when I started taking an interest in politics. There are a number of invariant motifs, some of which I've outlined below:

* The pretence that there is left wing dominance in the fields of opinion and education. Thus, the use of terms like ‘the left (or liberal) establishment’, ‘the left-liberal consensus’ etc. Correspondingly, the dramatisation of yourself as a beleaguered iconoclastic minority fighting an entrenched consensus. The most trite Daily Telegraph common sense passes itself off as courageous dissent

* The attribution to the left of a fixed and fanatical mindset. The enemy is in thrall to ideology, uses abstractions to measure reality, sees things in terms of a pre-conceived template etc.Corbyn as 'Ideologue.'

* The left is simulataneouly merely ‘fashionable’, or trendy, and a "throwback" to the 1970's/ 19th Century etc. 

* The left is equated with immaturity - "sixth form debating societies" "undergraduates" (Varoufakis as "Kevin the teenager") .

* Supporters of any left-winger figure are to be seen as 'cult' like, irrationally attached to their Leader. From Chomsky to Corbyn

*The left is always represented as ‘middle class’, imagined as isolated from the real world, dangerously naïve, treacherously permissive and implicitly unpatriotic (they are working against what the country stands for etc). In producing this spectre of the 'middle class' leftist, the Right simultaneously lays claim to a fake populism.

(n.b., Whereas you might think The Mail and The Times are middle class papers reflecting middle-class preoccupations, for The Right, 'the middle-class' are exclusively Guardian readers and the Guardian is the quintessentially middle class paper.)

* Any left wing person not also in poverty is necessarily a 'hypocrite', a champagne socialist etc Only conservatism is compatible with any degree of material wealth.

* discrediting the vocabulary of the left. The use of this vocabulary only ironically or contemptuously. For example, capitalism is never spoken of directly, but phrases like “They [the left] blame all this on the evils of capitalism” or “I suppose you think this is all about nasty American imperialism”. The insinuation that this vocabulary is only a set of empty phrases and slogans.

It can be seen that each of these motifs is both a portrait of an enemy (who threatens) and an implicit self-dramatisation. Thus: The attack on the spectral middle-class is also the declaration of a no-nonsense populism; opining about left-wing dominance in the media entails a corresponding stance of valiant dissent; the charges of fanatical rigidity and trendyness lay claim to a normal commonsense viewpoint; accusations of left-wing ‘jargon’ and ‘sloganeering’ are also about legitimising one’s own ‘natural’ and transparent language.

In every age the self-appointed commentariat try to pass off these rusty old ideological tools as the free products of their own brains.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Corbyn and the Press

On Friday, I went to hear a still impassioned 89 year old John Berger at the British library, talking about painting and politics. I remembered a quote from him that I’d copied into a notebook: “Today the discredit of words is very great. Most of the time the media transmit lies,” a quote that might form a fitting coda to a week of Jeremy Corbyn coverage.  

Let's start with the New Statesman. Their political editor describes Corbyn stepping up to PMQ with the "confidence of an ideologue", except it's difficult to see how this ‘ideologue confidence’ differs from the confidence of a long-standing member of parliament, or someone with an emphatic party majority. Similarly, The Times refers to Corbyn's ‘Chairmen Mao Style bicycle’, except it's difficult to see any empirical difference between this and, well, a bicycle. The Sun devote a full page to claiming that Corbyn is accepting a Privy Council invite in order to 'grab' the 6.5 million Short money available to opposition parties, except the short money isn’t related to membership of the privy council at all, and Corbyn states that he hadn’t been invited to join at that point in any case .The Metro says that Corbyn has done a 'u-turn' in appointing women to the cabinet, except he'd always promised a cabinet that was 50% women, and delivered just that. In fact this is the highest percentage of women ever in a shadow cabinet. Nonetheless, the “Does Corbyn have a women problem” is a headline replicated across the BBC, Telegraph and New Statesman. The meme was planted before the leadership result with the “women only carriages” farce.  A Guardian pundit ridiculed Corbyn's foray into “policymaking, ” and others condemned this ‘policy proposal’, except it never was, in any shape or form, a policy proposal, as a cursory moment’s googling would reveal.  Then of course a “fury” over Corbyn not singing “God save the Queen”, and how this was disrespectful and unpatriotic, except: 1. It’s difficult to see where this ‘fury’ existed outside the press and MP clucking company; 2. that singing a song promising to serve a hereditary monarch has nothing to do with democracy or the defence of it, nor with the RAF or Army 3. That in a modern democracy that supports freedom of belief, conscience and expression, this non-singing should also be a non-event.  Later on Channel 4 Corbyn is asked by Jon Snow if he loves his country, except this question rests on the non–sequitur that love of a modern democratic country and love of the hereditary monarch is the same thing, and C4 clearly lacks the courage to depart from the script. 

All of the stories above, a random spillage from the back of a lorryload, if put before a court of law or a court of reason, would fall apart and be thrown on the dung heap. Over and again, we are dealing with falsifications, misrepresentations, non-sequiturs, supposition, speculation, and irregular facts forced into pre-existent holes. We are also dealing with the press as a chorus to a spectacle engineered largely by themselves. 

The situation is now pre-emptive of parody. The latest headline concerns Corbyn’s ‘snub’ to the national rugby team – not attending yesterday’s match due to pre-existing constituency commitments. Again, the assumption is that carrying out his democratic mandate – the very stuff of our national political system- is less important, less ‘nationally’ important, than an empty symbolic ritual. Had Corbyn gone to the match, as several tweeters pointed out, headlines would have doubtless been something like “Corbyn gets a free ride to Rugby match, neglecting constituents”. There is something like a headline generator algorithm here, guaranteeing that two different Corbyn behaviours will always add up to the same negative result. So, the unprecedented 50% gender parity obstacle is sidestepped by insisting that only the 3 “top jobs” as designated by historical convention actually matter, thereby producing ‘sexism’ as the reigning meme. Where opposites always add up to the same negative spin we can only be dealing with a pre-existing intention to destroy. We are dealing, in actual fact, with propaganda. 

Various pundits urge Corbyn to employ a PR man. (Again, the headlines can be predicted: “Honest”Corbyn brings in Spin doctor.”) Not singing the national anthem, they opine, was “bad politics”, where “politics” has collapsed into spinnability and media take-up. Undone top buttons and mismatched clothes, or sleeping with someone in the 70’s are likewise, it seems “bad politics”, Except they’re not “politics” at all. Politics proper takes place elsewhere, in the immiseration of the poor, the selling of national assets, the distribution of wealth and power and their concentration in non-elected hands. 

How politics proper will be rediscovered is open to debate. Perhaps it’s foolishly optimistic to think that the dominion of the mainstream press is shrinking, as people talk to their fellow citizens online as never before, and disseminate, at speed, fact-checks and counter arguments; foolishly optimistic to observe just how quickly the anti-Corbyn nonsense and directives have been countermanded and corrected, to hear the clamour and range of opposition beyond the media spectacle, and to sense that a growing community is out there that wil  not be drowned by the deluge of crap. 

Monday, 13 July 2015

Rain drops - from a fiction in progress

It began a few years ago now. There were two signals which I took, and which I still take, to be premonitory of death. One is the sensation of little spots of rain on my face and hands, even when I'm indoors, or outside in the warm sun. Now and then, little cool needle points of rain. The other, the other signal, consists of racing shadows in the corner of my vision, a small shadow like a bird darting for cover, like a scuttling insect. I try to trap it with a stare and its gone.

I remember when my father stopped having weetabix for breakfast and developed a taste for grapefruit. Not longer after that he died. There was a funny taste in his weetabix , and even though he tried a different packet it was still there, it had been infected with a new taste that he found unpalatable. It made him switch to grapefruit, which he'd never eaten before. Suddenly he liked grapefruit and found weetabix infected with a weird taste. An odd, unaccountable change. This is how death reveals itself, in tiny insidious changes, little holes in the ordinary fabric until suddenly one day the whole thing disintegrates. The software has been corrupted with a bug. Errors and anomolies develop. Then one day the whole thing shuts down. Irrevocably.

The last time I saw my father I addressed him as "mate". We were at the train station in Shipley. We'd arrived with moments to spare, so there was no time to say goodbye on the platform. We had to say goodbye in the car - before I made a dash for it. And for some reason, when my father said "goodbye son", I replied with "goodbye mate". For a long time it irked me that I said this, for no reason, having never called him "mate", and that this inexplicable farewell was the last memory of interacting with my father. But it strikes me now that this was perhaps one of those anomalies, those glitches, like the funny taste in his weetabix.

In dreams there is often something similar. Everything seems normal but a tiny detail is wrong. Your wife is drinking coffee but a long flame rises from her hair. The newspaper on the table has your sleeping face on the cover. These details are the cracks through which death will enter, through which death is entering now. And mine will enter through raindrops and shadows.


Sunday, 24 May 2015

John Berger on Deleuze

Berger lent me a wonderful handmade maquette of Bento's Sketchbook, his only copy, prior to its publication. So Bento's Sketchbook became a fascinating glimpse of Berger's Sketchbook, of his annotated prose, of his crossings-out, of his finger-smudged drawings. If Berger was trying to access Spinoza's workshop, as well as the mind behind those propositions and demonstrations, now I could enter Berger's own workshop, see the private gleam of his unpolished diamonds [..] In one of a series of lengthy telephone conversations, Berger told me that his reading of Spinoza had been greatly influenced by Deleuze's, whom Berger "admires enormously". He even gives his friends the double CD a haute voix of Deleuze's Spinoza: immortalitie et eternite, recordings of the famed Spinoza class the late philosopher gave at the University of Paris VIII. "What a teacher!" Berger said of Deleuze.
Andy Merrifield, John Berger.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Samuel Beckett's House, Roussillon

 Here are some pictures of the house near Roussillon where Beckett lived in the Second World War, having fled Paris. I visited it last week (it's currently for sale). It's a 5 minute walk from the centre of Roussillon.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Assemblages of Desire

In his L'Abécédaire interview, Deleuze is asked about his concept of desire. He says that desire is never for a single object. I desire an assemblage. Not just the coffee, but the cafe facing the street, the notebook on the table, the clink of cups, the steam from the machine, the image of myself sat in the cafe writing, and these constellated doubtless with other images  - of other writers, sat in cafes; a way of life, bohemia. Desire is creative, in constructing these assemblages, in moving from object to object, spinning its web, weaving its world, blossoming and expanding. To say I desire a coffee is a metonym: it is to desire all of these things, and it's to desire a certain self, a certain world. Things, self and word are always triangulated.

I thought of this as I was reading the paper this morning, and saw an advert for haagen dazs ice cream. Black and white, a couple (of course) snuggled in a duvet eating the product. And the tag line: "Your heart knows when it's real, so do your taste buds". Then in smaller letters at the bottom of the page: "Nothing is better than real". Advertisers are in agreement with Deleuze in that they present us with assemblages: we are invited to desire not just the ice-cream, but the lazy Sunday morning, the ubiquitous ideal of The Couple - the measure of all things in much popular culture, the post-coital haze, indulgence (the indulgence of staying in bed and the 'indulgence' of a pot of ice cream are referred through one another), the elegance and sophistication vaguely connoted by black and white photography, and so on...  Our gaze is immediately deflected through the ice cream onto all these other things, so that the ice cream is only a sign and promise of these other things. In turn, this series of things only makes sense within the bigger language of advertsing, to which any individual advert must plug in, and which individual adverts perpetuate and legitimise. 

What advertising does is to confiscate for itself the creativity of desire, and to offer it back to us as a ready-made, as manufactured assemblage which it then invites us to consume. This locking down of desire into ready-made significances is, in fact, the opposite of desire.