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Miss Direction

George Santos and the end-times

Among the more dazzling flexes of Janet Malcolm’s career is her 1994 dismemberment of the work of David Salle. “Forty-one False Starts” is just that: a series of abandoned beginnings to a critical assessment of the most self-consciously postmodern of eighties art stars, where each angle of inquiry or attack falters in the face of an oeuvre in which “nothing is ever resolved . . . nothing adds up, nothing goes anywhere.” The genius of Malcolm’s strategy lies in its stamina. Not six, not twenty, but forty-one feints, failures, and dead ends marshaled in prosodic and often deliberately prosaic pastiche of Salle’s faux collages. The resulting document reads like an act of ekphrasis by pantomime, one that draws from the same welter of appropriation and allusion its subject relies on, to similarly unsettling, and similarly sterile, effect. By turns garish and aloof, self-conscious and naive, the sorties gesture broadly toward what semioticians portentously call “the plane of content” (more on that later), only to be discarded or superseded before they can add up to anything. Think de Kooning, erased by Rauschenberg, captioned by Johns, canonized by the Wadsworth Atheneum and SFMOMA . . . and it’s still just an empty frame.

Stripped of its role as mirror or commentary, “the universe of art” becomes “an alternative to the universe of life.” Yet despite the coziness with the vocabularies of aesthetics and ontology, the transposition feels too easy. Too neat. Tragedy, at least in “the universe of art,” results from a failure to forge a proper relationship to the unattainable noumenon—viz., the oracle’s admonition to “know thyself,” whose repeated appearances in Aeschylus, Xenophon, and Plato are as good an indication as any of the difficulty of the task. Salle’s lack of interest in the real, however, is tantamount to a denial of its existence. This is “only the shallow know themselves” territory. Comedy, in other words, but comedy of a Hegelian rather than Wildean stripe: not “enigmatic, allusive, aggressive,” as Malcolm offers, but “lightweight . . . glib and superficial.”

When reality is reduced to perception—or, rather, the expression of a perception, one more step removed from materiality and consequence—the only things or people who qualify as “real” are those who can convince others of their reality. Malcolm doesn’t challenge this notion head-on, but, as she did so deftly in In the Freud Archives and The Journalist and the Murderer, locates a dubious proposition in the mouth of its advocate, in this case a forty-year-old artist whose meteoric career is already on its downward arc, and who doesn’t seem to know who he is if he’s not the object of other people’s praise. “Real life hasn’t begun yet,” she quotes Salle saying, but it will: “You know—soon. Soon . . .” “Sometimes it almost seems as if he were provoking the interviewer to put him on the spot,” Malcolm remarks, but after forty failed attempts to develop her subject’s ideas into something more than “the appearance of originality,” she finally lands on the only appropriate response to all his empty gestures and hollow rhetoric: silence.

The Wool-Swaddled Glob

I’ve been thinking a lot about “Forty-one False Starts” as I contemplate the person-shaped palimpsest otherwise known as George Anthony Devolder Santos, not least because every time I’ve started this essay I’ve run out of steam after one or two paragraphs, one or two sentences. With the exception of “guilty on all counts,” everything that needs to be said about Santos seems to have been said already—many times. From Grace Ashford and Michael Gold’s December 19, 2022, New York Times article, “Who Is Rep.-Elect George Santos? His Résumé May Be Largely Fiction”; to The Fabulist, Mark Chiusano’s doggedly researched dead-tree biography, which landed in bookstores before Santos’s expulsion from Congress last December; to Ziwe’s December 2023 YouTube interview, “George Santos Answers Hard-Hitting Questions,” Santos’s garbage patch of lies has been documented ad nauseam, and if there’s a more complex moral to be extracted beyond “Bad, George, bad!” it has so far failed to present itself. I don’t mean to diminish the necessity of this kind of investigative reporting, which grows daily more necessary in an age of religious revival and deepfakes, but I also don’t feel the need to bite someone else’s material to boost my own Google returns. As the meme goes, what’s interesting about George Santos is that genocide is happening in Gaza, and American tax dollars are paying for it.

One is tempted to speculate that Santos’s longest con was to trust that he could continue to stay out of prison until Trump won re-election and then leverage his loyalty for clemency.

Because with all due respect to Ashford, Gold, Chiusano, Ziwe, and the editors of Santos’s Wikipedia page, whose thirty thousand words include more than three hundred footnotes—not to mention the federal prosecutors who by June 2023 had amassed more than eighty thousand pages of incriminating material about Santos’s activities for the previous three years alone—the object of their investigations is not, per countless journalists’ and pundits’ circumlocutions, a real-life Tom Ripley, a gay Anna Sorokin, a “messy bitch that lives for drama,” or any other iteration of pathologized/romanticized dishonesty and criminality. George Santos is a liar and a thief, plain and simple, a greedy egotist whose only moral compass is his desire for money and clicks. The scams of which he stands accused—misappropriated GoFundMes, credit-card fraud, identity theft, and the like—are despicable, but by and large so petty that it’s hard to imagine “Gold Bar Bob” Menendez firing up his VPN for them, let alone selling a vote.

The misused campaign contributions would seem to run to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I’m not sure brazen is the word for Santos’s decision to leave a mountain of evidence for anyone bothering to check up on him. Blatant (the word used by the House Committee on Ethics Investigative Subcommittee) is OK, but stupid comes closer to the mark. Or dumbass. Bush league if you want something less pedestrian (although the Bushes were more adept at managing their pork), but even that’s a stretch. Seriously, people: this guy documented his crimes more assiduously than most politicians record their legitimate, ahem, expenditures. But if we can dish homo-à-homo for a minute? You don’t have to look any further than the ripples of cashmere and Merino wool at Santos’s waistline, inexorably expanding despite diets (allegedly), exercise (allegedly), Ozempic (allegedly), and at least one bout of Botox paid for with political donations (dutifully receipted), to realize that the man just can’t control himself.

And yet. The difficulty I had in writing about Santos seemed to involve more than just his dull life, dimwitted personality, and the whole general pointlessness of him. There was some way in which the silence didn’t seem to emanate from me as much as it did from Santos himself. That probably sounds weird, since one of the few through lines of Santos’s biography is his compulsion to speak into any void, regardless of the truth of what he’s saying or if he has any idea what he’s talking about. Consider his stone-faced bluster to the prompt “Marsha P. Johnson” during the Ziwe interview: “[A] very respectful honorable person . . . on all the stances and all the work . . . Yeah, I do [know who she is] . . . I do!” The definition of pathological lying is deceiving people for no apparent reason or benefit, but it takes a special kind of idiot to lie when they don’t actually know what the truth is, on camera, with nothing to gain from it.

So no, the problem wasn’t Santos’s silence, or even that he silences criticism. The problem was that George Santos, a wool-swaddled glob at the center of a cluster of contradictory propositions, makes words feel irrelevant, not merely by denying the existence of the real-world antecedents that give language its utility, but by denying the continuity of his own existence, until all that’s left is a walking, talking meme through which meaningless statements slide into the national DMs: copy-paste-caption-click! In barely three years, a rent-dodging, check-kiting, credit card-skimming, Amish dog-stealing chimera became a fully vested member of Congress, cosponsoring bills to make the AR-15 the “national gun” of the United States and to declare the Chinese Communist Party “the greatest threat to freedom and to the free world,” while voting yea on a motion “reaffirming the State of Israel’s right to exist” and nay on “the expulsion of Representative George Santos from the United States House of Representatives.” Seen through this lens, the plane of content has receded to a speck in the distance, if it’s not just a dead bug on the windshield.

Was this the lesson of Malcolm’s essay? That whatever he is as a person (and I’m pretty sure the technical term is piece of shit), George Santos the public figure is, like a David Salle painting, a series of juxtaposed pastiches that hints at history and emotion and depth, but in the end turns out to be a tediously Nabokovian game of word golf? That doesn’t mean there’s nothing there. It just means that what’s there is contingent, not on function or meaning or even context, but on an audience. Santos’s competing biographies—his name, his family, his ethnicity, his education, his employer, his address, his marital status and weight, the crimes he’s been a victim of and the diseases he suffers from, whether and how often (and how well) he did drag, his accomplishments and possessions and income and possibly even his sexual orientation (he’s provided no proof that he’s married to the man he calls his husband, but his previous marriage to a woman seems pretty certain)—change with almost every telling, presumably based on some seat-of-the-pants calculus of past exposure and the expectations of whoever happens to be in front of him. They’re not flattering or aspirational—Santos doesn’t want to be Ukrainian or Angolan or Jewish (or “Jew-ish”), doesn’t want to have a brain tumor or acute chronic bronchitis or to have lost four employees at Pulse or for his niece to have been kidnapped by agents of the Chinese Communist Party. They’re not about or even for him: they exist solely for the people whose money and attention he covets.

You might counter that, qua painting, a Salle canvas is static: there’s something there, and it’s always the same thing, no matter how much its meaning shifts with critical debate or the opinion of the viewer. This is true, of course, and the same can be said of Santos. I don’t mean his body (even allowing for the fluctuations of Botox, fillers, bronzers, dyes, diets, etc.) but a political profile that’s endured through every iteration of Anthony Devolder/George Devolder/George Santos. Call it fashy (fasc-ish?) metaconservatism: a late-capitalist pseudopolitical performance that melds the fears and prejudices of the working class and the greed and prejudices of the superrich into a reactionary and deeply irrational civic posture. The content of this performance, though couched in entrenched modes of racism, misogyny, homophobia, nationalism, and religious paranoia, is functional rather than inherent. For its purveyors, its only “meaning” is power, the kind measured in swag, perks, and paid media appearances in lieu of elected office, while its audience’s only concern is sticking it to something it facetiously and fallaciously calls “the left,” and which in the end often turns out to be itself. Salle’s “universe of art” has become a universe of artifice, but to the same end: as “an alternative to the universe of life,” it erodes the modern right’s already tenuous grasp on reality, until the millions dead from Covid or the “invasions of undocumented immigrants” at the border or each individual murdered or suicidal trans person becomes an abstraction, no more real than Santos’s tenure at Horace Mann or his volleyball prowess at Baruch.

In all these things, as has been pointed out by innumerable commentators, the lacuna at the center of is emblematic of the debased state of contemporary American politics, but to declare him nonpareil seems a bit premature, given the stiff competition. I’m looking at you, Bob Menendez, or Mike Johnson, or Kevin McCarthy, or Mitch McConnell, or Ted Cruz, or Marjorie Taylor Greene-Gaetz-Boebert-Jordan-Stefanik, or any other member of the repulsive Free Dumb Caucus. Or hey, how about Tom Suozzi, the delusional party pooper who chose not to stand for re-election in New York’s third congressional district in 2022 so that he could mount a pointless primary challenge against an incumbent Democratic governor, thus paving the way for Santos’s election to Congress, only to slink back into the House after Santos was removed, where his first act was to chastise his once-and-future colleagues for allowing themselves to be “bullied by our base”—i.e., voters, the people whose needs and wants they’re supposedly in office to represent.

I’m not sure brazen is the word for Santos’s decision to leave a mountain of evidence for anyone bothering to check up on him. Stupid comes closer to the mark. Or dumbass.

“The nature of the violations are fundamental ethical failings that go to the core of the legitimacy of the electoral process,” wrote the House Committee on Ethics Investigative Subcommittee in its report, “In the Matter of Allegations Relating to Representative George Santos”: “Based on the unique and unprecedented circumstances in this case, the ISC unanimously determined that the Committee’s duty to safeguard the integrity of the House and the interests of justice warranted the immediate disclosure of its findings.” Laudable reasoning, surely, yet the truth seems somewhat more complicated. “Having concluded that allowing Mr. Santos to seek re-election would cost Republicans a competitive congressional seat—and hurt their chances of holding the majority,” the Times reported within hours of Santos’s expulsion, “Mr. McCarthy urged on a House Ethics Committee investigation into his conduct that was more aggressive and public than is traditionally the case.” It wasn’t Santos’s actions, then, that prompted the “aggressive” nature of the investigation or the revelation of its findings, but their implications for Republican control of the House, a point the Times felt the need to make twice in the same article.

In fact, the only thing Santos is an apt symbol for, or stand-in really, is another humanoid figure whose political stances, like his biography, are so contradictory, so self-serving, and so patently at odds with the beliefs and best interests of his supporters that criticism of him only makes him more popular, or at least more rich. Santos, as Chiusano points out, “has long modeled himself” on Donald Trump. George is the gay neuter to Donald’s heterosexual predator, a corrupt congressman removed from office in accordance with legal norms instead of a two-time finalist on Survivor: Impeachment Island and viable contender for a second presidential term. (I define the gay neuter via this devastatingly bitchy line from Bill Sherwood’s 1986 masterpiece, Parting Glances: “I may have committed the gay cardinal sin of being a bit overweight, but it was my so-called unattractiveness that spared me from the plague.”) Indeed, one is tempted to speculate that Santos’s longest con was to trust that he could continue to stay out of prison until Trump won re-election and then leverage his loyalty for clemency (assuming Trump didn’t simply set aside the laws regulating the crimes with which Santos has been charged in pursuit of his own graft).

That certainly looks like the game Rudy Giuliani’s playing; and in fact there’s little you can say about George Santos that doesn’t also apply—and hasn’t already been said—about Trump and his co-conspirators inner circle. The difference is that, in Santos’s case, the truth seems to have won out, at least where public discourse is concerned, although Santos’s playground-pedophile giggles during the Ziwe interview suggest he’s still under the delusion that people like him. (Well, that plus the fact that he’s running for office again, this time in New York’s First Congressional District, in what is either one last cash grab or proof that his theory of mind is less developed than the average three-year-old’s.) The message here would seem to be that words do matter, that truth can be unraveled from falsehood. Santos won’t be the iceberg that sinks our foundering democracy, merely the orchestra that plays us out as the ship goes down. Not Trump redux but Trump lite: embarrassing, abhorrent even, but ultimately sterile, which also makes him pretty much the only object on which tens of millions of Americans can vent the frustrations and fears of the last eight or ten years, because it seems as if he’ll actually be brought to justice for his crimes. (I mean, rock on, E. Jean Carroll and Letitia James, but I won’t believe Trump’s gonna pay up ’til the checks clear.)

To treat Santos as a unique threat to democratic institutions, then, when his former peers, emboldened by Donald Trump, have been paving the way for his lies and self-justifications since at least the Clinton administration, feels like another of Malcolm’s false starts. The pervasiveness of Santos’s lies makes him a curiosity to be sure, but to select such an obvious buffoon as the scapegoat for what’s wrong with American politics is to allow the antics of an actual member of Congress to displace the role of satire proffered by the fourth estate and other lay critics of political malfeasance. To try to goad Santos into saying icon into his camera (“I con,” get it?), as Ziwe did during their interview, is to transform abuse of power into political entertainment, a “Say goodnight, Gracie” routine that could just as easily be played with Santos’s 434 colleagues in the House and 100 colleagues in the Senate and whatever old white man occupies the White House.

What I’m trying to say is that the danger of George Santos isn’t merely his lies or crimes, but the ways in which liberals and conservatives alike capitulate to—become part of—the performance. When someone makes it clear that they’re incapable of telling the truth, parlaying with them can accomplish nothing beyond transforming your own words into falsehoods as well. And when that person is an elected politician, then political discourse is further reduced to a game of charades, where the answers just happen to be people’s lives. To put it bluntly: Santos’s lies have become our lies. “Deplatform!” Bowen Yang said to CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen on New Year’s Eve, and though I’m sure Yang meant what he said, I found it impossible to believe him, when Yang’s Santos parodies were one of the highlights of SNL’s previous season. Or again when Ziwe asked Santos: “What could we do to get you to go away?” Whatever his blind spots, Santos knew he’d won merely by being asked on Ziwe’s show, and he cemented his victory when he answered, “Stop inviting me to your gigs . . . But you can’t, ’cause people want the content.” Ziwe had no reply to that, but her Birkin bag stuffed with dollar bills said everything she couldn’t.

So was this the real lesson of “Forty-one False Starts”? Not the alienating emptiness of postmodern expression or the horrific prospect that that emptiness could supplant a flesh-and-blood human being, but the Wittgensteinian nature of Malcolm’s final bow-out? Sometimes criticism, even justified criticism—even necessary criticism—is misplaced, and silence is the only meaningful response.

Manifesting Destinies

Oh, but she was a sneaky bitch, that Janet Malcolm. Her view of human nature was extraordinarily deterministic, but the forces she saw at work in the psyche were so chaotic and buried as to be all but unparseable, save for in fleeting epiphanies bestowed by analysis or art. When she wasn’t bludgeoning her subject to death, she was arguing both sides so convincingly that the reader often had no idea what her real position was. To wit: I’m not sure that “Forty-one False Starts” isn’t actually a paean to David Salle’s genius. “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent,” the Tractatus admonishes us. But can we read Malcolm’s evasive stance on Salle’s work as a kind of screened silence instantiating the existential emptiness that is postmodernism’s forfeiture of the real? In which case, might we think of Salle’s work not as empty but filled with feeling: loss, fear, frustration, longing?

Among the many ways in which we misread Freud today, the most dangerous is probably the delusion that the revelations of psychoanalysis, and psychology more generally, can be incorporated into our lives on an experiential basis.

Certainly any reader of Janet Malcolm is well-advised to remember that she was a committed defender of Freudianism, and often subjected herself as well as her subjects to spontaneous psychoanalytic interventions, as when she brings some collages to Salle’s studio and cajoles him into evaluating them. “Looking back on the incident, I see that Salle had also seen what any first-year student of psychology would have seen—that, for all my protests to the contrary, I had brought my art to him to be praised. Every amateur harbors the fantasy that his work is only waiting to be discovered and acclaimed; a second fantasy—that the established contemporary artists must (also) be frauds—is a necessary corollary.” This corollary is so far from “necessary,” however, that the reader is forced to ask why Malcolm would bring it up. Is it possible that the artist to whom she has devoted months of her time and thousands of her words is in fact a fraud? Or is it meant to expose Malcolm herself, to render her commentary on Salle that much more equivocal, elusive? Is it possible Malcolm worries that she’s the fraud?

Malcolm’s Freudianism was steeped in a belief in the power, if not the primacy, of the unconscious, the unseen, the unsaid. Her method was to root out the latent psychological content of her subject, and in particular her relationship to her subject, which is both what seems to have stymied her in her approach to Salle’s work and what may also have allowed her to reveal its true nature: not empty symbol but very real symptom of the late twentieth-century’s disconnect from history and consequence, otherwise known as postmodernity, which in hindsight looks like so much first-world hand-wringing. Malcolm described In the Freud Archives as “a cautionary tale whose moral is so obvious that there may be another, more subtle one hidden behind it.” The aperçu could apply to a swath of her writing, and it was pretty much exactly the feeling I had when I was finally able to start writing about Santos. Everything I said felt like preamble or postscript, beside the point if not missing it completely. But if Salle’s work is in fact not empty, but emptiness made concrete, a manifestation of deracinated consciousness rather than one more self-mirroring signifier, then what might George Santos be a manifestation of—and who’s manifesting it? What, in other words, replaced postmodernity when its secondary gains were no longer sufficient to maintain Western culture’s belief in/need for it?

Among the many ways in which we misread Freud today, the most dangerous is probably the delusion that the revelations of psychoanalysis, and psychology more generally, can be incorporated into our lives on an experiential basis. We suppose that by becoming aware of the existence of the unconscious and the mechanisms of denial, repression, projection, parapraxis, etc., we provide ourselves the tools to examine our motives on a daily, even moment-by-moment basis, in the same way that an educated person brings a knowledge of art history to each painting, sculpture, or installation they view. And though this idea would seem implicit in Freudianism, it is to the best of my knowledge nowhere contained in Freud’s writing or those of his adherents. “The unexamined life may not be worth living,” as Malcolm tells us in In the Freud Archives, “but the examined life is impossible to live for more than a few moments.” Though therapy might uncover the ancient causes behind one pattern, one behavior, the unconscious is ever evasive—indeed, seems almost to exist solely to evade, or, rather, to be chased, to distract us from the mundane visible with things whose invisibility, however maddening, is also potentially unlimited.

As important as the theory of the unconscious is, I suspect that future generations will remember Freud less for his ideas about individual psyches than for the way he was able to use those ideas to make grand statements about the cultural ethos. In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud recasts Hobbes’s social contract in psychological terms, essentially describing human collectivity as an agreement between egos who choose to suppress the darker urges of the id for the sake of cooperative endeavor. However complex and varied its forms, this pact—civilization, in the broadest sense of the term—has a single goal, which is to keep the species alive. It’s good old-fashioned herd mentality but with states and farms and corporations and art thrown in, and, like herd-survival strategies, it has no concern for individuals. Unlike deer or herring, however, human beings unconsciously recognize and chafe at their superfluity to the species as a whole. That plus the neurotic bubbling up of all those suppressed sexual and violent urges make human society a fraught and at times extraordinarily destructive enterprise, but its success is nevertheless evident in the billions of human beings who roam the planet—two billion when Freud wrote Civilization and Its Discontents in 1930, four times that today.

A decade earlier, in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud had issued his famous dictum that “the aim of all life is death.” Later readers focused on the psychological aspects of the death drive, but Freud devotes the first half of his essay to the biological origin of his thesis before extrapolating any psychological content from it. “The conservative organic drives have assimilated every one of these externally imposed modifications of the organism’s life-cycle and duly preserve them in order to repeat them, and therefore inevitably give the misleading impression of being forces bent on change and progress, whereas they merely seek to achieve an old goal by new means.” (My italics.) In the simplest life forms this “old goal” (i.e., death) comes about by straightforward processes, but billions of years of evolution have forced “still-surviving matter [that’d be you and me] to take ever greater diversions from its original course of life and ever more complex . . . detours on the path to death.” As a turn of phrase, “detours on the path to death” reminds us what a good ad man Freud was, but perhaps he’s just using artful language to conceal that what is really indicated by “detours” is all of human culture. Because if the aim of civilization is to keep us alive, and if the aim of all life is death, then it’s hard to shake the idea that after it finishes its various “diversions”—religion and jurisprudence, sericulture and the Taj Mahal, gunpowder and the stirrup and solar panels and situation comedies—the relentless engine of civilization will continue to produce more human bodies who will continue to use up more resources and produce more waste until it ends up being the cause of our destruction.

What I mean is: eschatological neurosis is real, folks. The end is nigh, and it’s driving us crazy. Climate change. Pandemic. Malthusian crisis. Strongmen and cults of personality. Dirty bombs or nuclear annihilation. The singularity. Supervolcanic eruption. Deep Impact. Or hey, maybe Jesus really is coming back, and all the shellfish eaters and mixers of linen and wool are in for a rude awakening. The fact that some of these scenarios are, shall we say, farfetched and others are unfolding before our eyes is ontologically inconsequential when we’re talking about the unconscious. The fear of genuine threats gets attached to shadowy menaces, amplifying a general sense of insecurity, even as the purely phantasmatic nature of many of these stimuli serves to undermine the sense of alarm we feel when confronted by concrete dangers. The result is anxiety, paranoia, paralysis, displacement. Apocalypse doesn’t actually have to be upon us, but it makes it that much worse if it is. Because how do you wrap your head around the fact that your way of life is in peril of imminent destruction and the source of the threat is that very way of life? To protect the institutions we hold dear we have to abandon them or destroy them, which is abandonment made permanent. And if destruction’s not just inevitable but necessary, then maybe we should let the game play out? Maybe even speed it up a little? Maybe that’s what the MAGAts are trying to do, in their brutal, selfish, utterly delusional way?

George Santos, in other words, isn’t the only person whose life is built on lies, and when all’s said and done, our obsession with Santos’s lies will have done little besides distract us from our own. Indeed, we might think of “George Santos” as our civilizational Freudian slip. We say “George Santos,” but we mean: Donald Trump. We say “George Santos,” but we mean: all politicians are corrupt. We say “George Santos,” but we mean: How come he gets Ferragamos but I don’t? We say “George Santos,” but we mean: we’re so angry we want to watch a public lashing. We say “George Santos,” but we mean: the root of climate change isn’t fossil fuels or heavy industry or the intestinal gases of factory-farmed livestock, it’s our insatiable hunger. We say “George Santos,” but we mean: we hate ourselves. We say “George Santos,” but we mean: we’re all going to die.

And yet I keep coming back to Malcolm’s sublimations. To the idea of screens and latent content and the mutually modifying relationship between observer and observed. To the eloquence of her words and the eloquence of her silence and the space she managed to make between them for something that can’t be said, but must be said. Saying by not-saying. Doing by not-doing. Movement by stasis. “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block before I start my work,” Michelangelo said. (Or is said to have said: Does it make a difference?) “I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.” (Yes, it makes a difference, though probably not to Michelangelo.) But if everyone saw the stone like Michelangelo did, would he still need to cut? Would he still be Michelangelo?