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PRINT January 1984

EXECUTIONER’S SONG

CLICK CLICK. CLICK CLICK. There’s a bloodlessness to the punctuating handclaps on Elvis Costello’s “Pills and Soap” that is almost entirely self-effacing—an odd detail for a song about fascism in Margaret Thatcher’s United Kingdom, after five years still on track as harbinger for Ronald Reagan’s United States. But perhaps not so odd when fascism is denied its image-bound, pornographic dimensions and represented on the level Hannah Arendt brought into view in 1945, with “Organized Guilt and Universal Responsibility”:

The transformation of the family man from a responsible member of society, interested in all public affairs, to a “bourgeois” concerned only with his private existence and knowing no civic virtue, is an international modern phenomenon. . . . Each time society, through unemployment, frustrates the small man in his normal functioning and normal self-respect, it trains him for that

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