Sunday, November 29, 2009


Therefore, comrade, you will hold as enemies – loftily, lucidly, consistently – not only sadistic governors and greedy bankers, not only prefects who torture and colonists who flog, not only corrupt, check-licking politicians and subservient judges, but likewise and for the same reason, venomous journalists, goitrous academics, wreathed in dollars and stupidity, ethnographers who go in for metaphysics, presumptuous Belgian theologians, chattering intellectuals born stinking out of the thigh of Nietzsche, the paternalists, the embracers, the corrupters, the back-slappers, the lovers of exoticism, the dividers, the agrarian sociologists, the hoodwinkers, the hoaxers, the hot-air artists, the humbugs, and in general, all those who, performing their functions in the sordid division of labor for the defense of Western bourgeois society, try in diverse ways and by infamous diversions to split up the forces of Progress – even if it means denying the very possibility of Progress – all of them tools of capitalism, all of them, openly or secretly, supporters of plundering colonialism, all of them responsible, all hateful, all slave-traders, all henceforth answerable for the violence of revolutionary action.

And sweep out all the obscurers, all the inventors of subterfuges, the charlatans and tricksters, the dealers in gobbledygook. And do not seek to know whether personally these gentlemen are in good or bad faith, whether personally they have good or bad intentions. Whether personally – that is, in the private conscience of Peter or Paul – they are or are not colonialists, because the essential thing is that their highly problematical subjective good faith is entirely irrelevant to the objective social implications of the evil work they perform as watchdogs of colonialism.
Discourse on Colonialism, Aimé Césaire


The Anti-Capitalism of Fools

Here’s another segment of the HBO/David Simon chronicles from a “dark corner of the American experiment”.

Consider the phrase Simon has chosen to describe his sim city. The connotations of “dark corner” are obvious enough, even without Bush’s memorable promise to venture into every dark corner of the planet and bring the light of liberty and democracy: here we have a little bit of the dark continent tucked away in the American city, as you can see by the predominance of black faces. But what of the “American experiment”? What is experimental in “America” and what has the “dark corner” in it to say about the results?

If we understand the “American experiment” to be, for a patriotic libertarian like Simon, more or less the “experiment” in universal suffrage and civil liberties, then the latest phase in “the dark corner” of it is dramatised a few scenes into the segment above. Simon gives us the figure of democracy as the dynamic, scrappy, competent white candidate wasting his breath in a nursing home. Played as comedy, the scene conveys to the audience the absurdity of a situation in which one of the “smart guys” – born to manage and rule, obviously of the superior caste - should be obliged, by what seems to be no more than an irrational sentimental prejudice in favour of democratic process, to ask the electorate’s permission to govern them. The electorate to which the white man’s vital agency is absurdly and destructively subjected is imaged by Simon for his audience in the extreme of its impotence, as the inmates in a warehouse of the dying, dependents on the state or some other benevolent institution, senile and apathetic, vulnerable and without vitality, in obvious need of care and incapable of recognising or selecting proper caretakers. The comedic topsy-turvy state of the current condition of the “American experiment” in it’s “dark corner” is emphasised (fans would call it ornamented with a “grace note”) by what Simon deems an amusing irony – that an elderly black woman treats Carchetti, one of the smart guys fit to rule, as a waiter when she should be his maid. This reversal of the proper order of things is not reassuring and is associated with the wretched condition of the city and by extension of “civilisation”. As is typical of the series, its “sociology” manifests in the mere display of established stereotypes, their connotations exploited, unquestioned, and simultaneously reinforced (the show’s vision can not even entertain the possibility that an elderly black woman could be smarter, more knowledgeable and more politically astute than an educated petty bourgeois white man). The “comic” beat wherein the elderly black woman makes her inquiry inappropriately of the aspiring “leader” is another variation on the principle Carchetti theme and storyline, which concerns his efforts to overcome the race prejudice and hostility of the electorate which unfairly discriminates against him because he “happens to be” white. The downtrodden victims of injustice and a malfunctioning web of resources to which white men are reduced, and the decline of civilisation their fall from despotic power entails, is one of the series’ most emphatic themes presented in multiple versions and dramatised in endless permutations. As we are to understand there is a near perfect fit between McNulty’s personal ambition as a cop and the good of the whole society (perceived as excluding, and menaced by, a narcotrafficking “tribe”), we are made to understand that Carcetti’s self-interested quest to be elected is also in the best interests of the electorate, who do not know what is good for them, and who favour black candidates solely out of pernicious racist tribalism. Without such racist tribal loyalties on the part of the black electorate, there would be, Simon’s show suggests, no black politicians in prominent positions, because there can be no reason, other than this outrageous black privilege, for the electorate to choose them over white candidates, who are as a rule more competent, fit, and though of course not perfect angels of selflessness and superheroism, morally and intellectually superior to their black competition. Simon’s southern wisdom is not obscure: Good “Negros” know their place; it goes without saying that any Negro aspiring above it must be wicked and corrupt. In the “data” Simon provides himself – the authenticity, the “realism”, of the programmes depictions of daily life - that hypothesis is validated.

The sequence of “explanation” for the regrettable state of “the dark corner” of “America” repeats frequently in the programme. The foundation is always a display of the failed attempt at civilising the (black) brutes, which can be dominantly comical (Stringer’s product meeting) or only subordinately comical and dominantly designed to infuriate the audience into lust for vengeance and then satisfy it (Chiquan’s delicate sensibilities offended by Dukie’s body odor, avenged by Laetitia’s outburst) or sinister and wholly enraging, though simultaneously acidly contemptuously comical (black politicians Clarence Royce and Clay Davis, or the corrupt minister who launders money in Prop Joe’s comical “civilising this muthafucka” Marlo). In the sequence in the clip at the top of the post here, the associations are dealt out like cards:

a) farcical democracy, a social political dysfunction thwarting natural white rule
b) slick black hustler in power
c) Grand Guignol horror, the unwatchable barbaric murder

(Difficult as it is to endure for any but the most sadistic viewer, even (c) is laced with a whiff of Simon’s hackneyed and malicious wiseass ‘comedy’, so worthless is black life in this programme’s sensibility.)

The montage and sequence offers a flexible but legible logic of connections which allows for multiple significations regarding the Baltimore and Reality that is the supposed referent of the mimesis. B, following A, is understood as its consequence (slick black hustlers come to power because of the absurdity of universal suffrage in the dark corners and the decline of white male potency that results) but also its motivation and the ground of its “socio-political significance” as well as its narrative energy (Carchetti must persevere, and strive to restore white male potent authority, in order to overthrow the slick black hustler regime and save the city); C, following B, is an even more important elaboration, as its horror and terror serve as equally consequence of B (in a city ruled by the slick black hustler, such horrifying barbarism is common), gloss on the socio-political meaning of B (this horror is, by the always emphasised association of “race” “blackness” that unites diverse characters and behaviours, revealed as the true nature of the slick black hustler, the “underside” of his “race” and “community” and “culture”, whose outward appearance of civilisation and refinement is thus exposed as a fraud, a mere travesty, concealing this unspeakable savagery) and a comment on the morals and psychology of Royce as individual character and representative type of the black bourgeoisie in politics (his selfishness and depravity is exhibited in the juxtaposition which shows that he lives high on the hog while “his own people” dwell in the squalid barbarism of “the dark corner” of the “experiment” which he manipulates and from which aggrandises himself.) This last ubiquitous motif of the black bourgeoisie's opportunistic cynicism and willingness to exploit the suffering of "their own people" - a principle operation of the anticapitalism of fools - permits at once the seeming recognition of exploitation in social relations and its disavowal, the expulsion of it from the essence of the social order to assign it to the black surrogates of all social evil. Condemnable features of capitalist relations are thus, in the anticapitalism of fools, designated exceptional and regrettable for the "general society" but meaningfully defining characteristics of its constructed Other, deployed as at once opposite/antagonist, parodic exaggeration, and "metaphoric" "dark side".

Of course, the alibi of verisimiltude (like the equally frequent alibi of art's liberty and impenetrable mystery, only evoked to defend instances of reactionary advocacy) can be dragged out as always to justify a sequence of scenes such as this (a judgement the commenter to the post below seeks to insist applies to the scene of the interrogation of the merchant crew and which for him or her constitutes a complete interpretation of the scene as well). It is “real” – this is how things really are inside nursing homes and at the scenes of drug gang executions. People really beg for their lives futilely, and gangsters really find some of their unpleasant butchery boring. Old ladies really are like that, concerned about what is for lunch; voters are dazed and indifferent, and electoral politics really are a farce. (If Simon does not reveal how things really are in holding cells, or prison, or in the vicinity of racist white cops, that is chalked up to the other demands of "art" and drama unrelated to and when convenient trumping verisimilitude. It's after all "only a tv show" even though "it's not tv" at all but HBO.)

Nonetheless the presentation of these images, convincingly realistic as they appear to some viewers, to figure the electorate on the one hand (a mass of isolated helpless individuals in their dotage) and the individualised representative of the white managerial and political class on the other, is not neutral or meaningless, especially in a fiction which is with some success insisting on being taken for a kind of portraiture of a social order. The vision of Carcetti before the electorate - the sad sketch of democracy in the dark corner - serves as false front to allow for and justify the concealment of the real electorate, which includes activists and concerned citizens of course – Baltimoreans who are not represented by characters, typed or otherwise, in The Wire, people for example like these:

Lenin’s Tomb:

“The thread that ties anticommunism and racism at a conceptual level, I think, is the issue of "self-government", ie democracy. In American racial thinking, self-government is a cultural state attained by Anglo-Saxons and Teutons, a condition in which people are able - on account of god-chosenness, race experience, and fine blood lines - to control their primitive urges toward sin.”

Regarding primitive urges and self-government, marcb identified the familiar myth in the sequence below succinctly elsewhere:

the 'box cutter' episode. brilliantly written and cast. the whole doomed evolutionary trajectory of the American negro compressed into four minutes. the brooding, black ape of the dark continent inevitably bursting into conflct with the 'white' black girl, who, having squandered the gift of Western culture and infusion of caucasian blood, gets her due. we really have done everything we can for these people.

Laetitia and Dukie start in chairs and end up crouched on the floor, communicating with mute gestures. Both their cruel and gentle acts are depicted as uncontrolled and "atavistic". But there is more here than the simple defamation by characterisation; the way in which Laetitia is used as the agent of the audience's own vengeful desires and also the alibi for their gratification is crucial for the ideology promoted. The deployment of characters in narrative and image sequences, not simply the qualities attributed to each isolated figure as types, produces meaning and ideology. And the function of Laetitia in this sequence has to be seen clearly if one hopes to understand how audiences are engaged, titillated, provoked and pleased, and seduced and inveigled into irrational attachments to these kinds of culture commodities.

Laetitia functions as the virtual slave of the audience's hatred of Chiquan, a hatred provoked to set up a sadistic pleasure. (Both "characters" will vanish conveniently, like the kid Prez maimed and blinded earlier, when Simon is through titillating the audience with their spectacle; the programme has no use for or interest in them except as fauna in the urban jungle where Simon leads the Viewer on his James Fenimore Cooper by J. Peterman adventure, teaching him all the delicious little exotic details which give him a sense of mastery and expertise and which he can cherish afterwards like souvenirs of his journey.) But Simon knows his most avid audience (those who share his views and sensibility) well enough to know they want to feel moral and benevolent even as they enjoy the slashing of the face of a young girl, that it is the combination of self-righteousness and sadism that is truly irresistable for them. This sequence, along with many others in the series, offers not only a sadism without guilt or shame, but a sadism that presents itself as moral indignation and generous solidarity. Simon shares with his audience a story of his own and their activity that invites the consumers to feel they have made sacrifices for the commonweal watching all this simulated violence and suffering. It is his deftness in delivering this combination of moralistic self-congratulation and individualist consumer supremacism dressed up as aestheticism that probably accounts for the intensity of Simon's fans' delight and gratitude, and the strangely passionate desire so many feel to discuss the programme in seemingly dry social-scientific or abstract ways, implausibly attributing great depths and richness of meaning to every post-modern fragmentary reference, which ceremonial exegeses avoid not only such usually-deemed-necessary aspects as the mise en scène and montage, but avoid and even deny the question of their own pleasure. That the programme is "realistic" or vaguely described as "well written" or "funny" is usually taken to suffice as an explanation for the passionate fans' attachment and irrepressible desire to express and affirm it.

The audience's desire to see the uppity Chiquan mutilated - her punishment the most misogynist imaginable - is provoked by Simon, but it is produced already equipped with an alibi allowing the audience to congratulate itself on the benevolent paternalism expressed by those very violent desires. The viewer is invited to tell himself that it is only to avenge Dukie's humiliation, only out of concern for Dukie, the Dickensian waif, not out of its own loathing of the uppity black beauty, that the audience desires Chiquan's suffering and degradation. These sadistic wishes of which Chiquan is presented to the audience as appropriate object, "asking for" what the audience wants to watch done to her, are then satisfied by Simon who is however careful to provide an additional alibi for the audience's joy: the audience can enjoy Laetitia's extreme violence and deplore Laetita for it, denying that Laetitia's violence is its own wish fulfillment, that she is only an image and they are the genuine human beings delighting in this violent spectacle and fantasy of violent reality. And again the opportunity to revel in the audience and Simon's shared benevolence is offered, as the viewer is invited to lament Laetitia's savagery but nobly extend understanding and forgiveness to her, a creature "of the system". This is the elusive, protean and indestructible emotional pseudo-logic of white supremacism.

Joy. This is the word bourgeois white fans in the culture industry (journalism, academia) use frequently to describe their experience of consuming this entertainment product. Many are at a loss to capture their feelings of elation, of inexpressible delight, in words. Obsessive attachment is plentifully in evidence, with many viewers experiencing a compulsion to reaffirm their devotion and acquire signs of their love to wear and carry. The institution of the fan club - where those needing to express their love for something which is impervious to their affection, indifferent to them, which not only cannot reciprocate their intensity but cannot take account of their existence or make any answering commitment, find consolation – has even been adapted by academic fans of the Wire, re-appearing fused with the academic conference and culture studies course. While other tv series have been the object of academic cults (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Twin Peaks, The Sopranos, , Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Babylon Five among them), fanatics of the Wire are unusual for displaying a kind of Pauline urgency in the task of promoting the show as a revelation of long denied truth. These white fans, whether identifying as "right wing" or "left wing" or centrist like The New Republic, express their gratitude for what they perceive as the unvarnished truth at long last. After an age of lies and error, darkness is penetrated by The Light. No more "liberal" “politically correct” dogma preaching that “everyone is the same”. No more black Rhodes scholar spies, Presidents and doctors, lacking Authenticity. No more pandering to racist black audiences who want to blame a non-existent “white racism” for “black dysfunction”. One ("conservative") Wire fan arguing with another of different political commitments notes: “I did not get the liberal message from the Wire at all. Themes I saw: people in slums work hard at living so badly. If there's any Hope of Change, it has to come from blacks. There is nothing at all whites, even well-meaning whites can do. They don't seem able to adopt white culture, and are hostile when our mores are imposed on them.”

This conception of politically incorrect truth in crime dramedy soap operas harmonises perfectly with the resurgence, in "political theory" and "political philosophy", of race as an imputed affiliation entailing group credit and blame, achievement and crime, advancement and backwardness, and of the confident imperialist white supremacist beliefs (the pseudo-universalism of European bourgeois parochialism) it serves and is indispensible to. After a period, not of disappearance, but of downgrade, the hoary old routines are resurgent and present themselves as if they are perfectably respectable and intelligible. Again the mainstream media discourse and in fact that of academics includes the assertions a) that “the West” brought civilisation to savages, b) that the descendents of those savages, incompletely educated, manipulate the West and its white legatees into feeling guilty for the savage's own failure to be fully Westernised and Civilised and Modernised, c) that racism is produced exclusively by people of colour, and especially by black Americans, as an instrument of reparations scams and a tool to manipulate and persecute white folks who are the creators and bearers of civilisation these race scam artists cannot themselves master and which they must then denigrate out of sour grapes and seek to destroy.

Naturally we find Zizek at the forefront of this fashion, recuperating all the nonsensical, vacuous puppets and the imbecile fables ("the West" and its backward Other, "Third World terrorist violence", "European self-flagellation"), on the self-identified “radical left” of the political spectrum [1]:

…[W]e white Leftist men and women are free to leave behind the politically correct process of endless self-torturing guilt. Although Pascal Bruckner's critique of contemporary Left often approaches the absurd, this does not prevent him from occasionally generating pertinent insights--one cannot but agree with him when he detects in European politically correct self-flagellation an inverted form of clinging to one's superiority. Whenever the West is attacked, its first reaction is not aggressive defence but self-probing: what did we do to deserve it? We are ultimately to be blamed for the evils of the world; Third World catastrophes and terrorist violence are merely reactions to our crimes. The positive form of the White Man's Burden (his responsibility for civilizing the colonized barbarians) is thus merely replaced by its negative form (the burden of the white man's guilt): if we can no longer be the benevolent masters of the Third World, we can at least be the privileged source of evil, patronizingly depriving others of responsibility for their fate (when a Third World country engages in terrible crimes, it is never fully its own responsibility, but always an after-effect of colonization: they are merely imitating what their colonial masters used to do, and so on):

We need our miserabilist clichés about Africa, Asia, Latin America, in order to confirm the cliché of a predatory, deadly West. Our noisy stigmatizations only serve to mask the wounded self-love: we no longer make the law. Other cultures know it, and they continue to culpabilize us only to escape our judgments on them.

Perhaps the joy so many white intellectuals who also are attracted to screeds like this experience is mainly due to the way David Simon’s programme delivers “our judgements” on “them” without the least uncertainty regarding who is who (indeed, the point of referring to these teams as assumed is to fashion that white solidarity and strengthen the international white population's loyalty to the white ruling class) or the least hesitation on Simon’s part in assuming the position of guiltless, bourgeois capitalist Authority. Simon and Zizek both propose to their white fan bases the pleasure of a "ruthless critique" of them (Muslims, poor black Americans, etc.) seemingly justified by this figment of the preceding ruthless autocritique for which (Simon and Zizek insist) "the West" is so well deservedly famous and which therefore every white guy (as defined by the context - as Simon and Zizek would almost certainly each consider himself, but decidedly not one another, entirely white and of the Western We) is entitled to consider himself to have personally and individually accomplished.

Zizek goes on making explicit what he has only been hinting equivocally for decades, and as with Simon, the feature grounding his “analysis” of the status quo’s ills, and his suggestions for a cure, is the valorisation of some vaunted intellectual and cultural superiority possessed by “Europe” and “Europeans”, “The West” and the white people who participate by birthrght as well as loyalty in the creativity of these collective subjects – producing an elite of “smart guys” who are especially fit for governing - in opposition to the passive, imitative black folks who can only attain a partial participation in the spiritual achievements of Aryan civilisation if lucky enough to be enslaved and tutored by white Herrenvolk:

The West is thus caught in the typical superego predicament best rendered by Dostoyevsky's famous phrase from The Brothers Karamazov: 'Each of us is guilty before everyone for everyone, and I more than the others.' So the more the West confesses its crimes, the more it is made to feel culpable. This insight allows us also to detect a symmetric duplicity in the way certain Third World countries criticize the West:"

(These "certain Third World countries" are the equivalent of the Wire's "race hustlers".)

"if the West's continuous self-excoriation functions as a desperate attempt to re-assert our superiority, the true reason why some in the Third World hate and reject the West lies not with the colonizing past and its continuing effects but with the self-critical spirit which the West has displayed in renouncing this past, with its implicit call to others to practise the same self-critical approach: 'The West is not detested for its real faults, but for its attempt to amend them, because it was one of the first to try to tear itself out of its own bestiality, inviting the rest of the world to follow it.' The Western legacy is effectively not just that of (post)colonial imperialist domination, but also that of the self-critical examination of the violence and exploitation of the West itself brought to the Third World. The French colonized Haiti, but the French Revolution also provided the ideological foundation for the rebellion which liberated the slaves and established an independent Haiti; the process of decolonization was set in motion when the colonized nations demanded for themselves the same rights that the West took for itself. In short, one should never forget that the West supplied the very standards by which it (and its critics) measures its own critical past. We are dealing here with the dialectic of form and content: when colonial countries demand independence and enact a 'return to roots,' the very form of this return (that of an independent nation-state) is Western. In its very defeat (losing the colonies), the West thus wins, by imposing its social form on the other.

It is easy to see how The Wire can become so popular in a milieu dominated by this kind of hackneyed old malicious imbecility tricked out as radical contrarian daring political incorrectness and insight. The programme could be a graphic companion to Zizekian accounts of contemporary social relations and politics, dramatising the justification of this newly invigorated Hegelian white supremacist imperial apology, offering itself as data and analysis fused, a fictional narrative and image sequence that insists on being taken as proof – as evidence, as a simulacrum of reality so perfect it can take its place as object of journalism, science, sociology - of the very propagandistic themes and bogus propositions that same image sequence and narrative constitute and express. Of course, much of the orgasmic praise of The Wire programme from journalists is hype for the advertisers, but a devoted white audience does seem to be transported into ecstasies by Simon’s simulation of the “truth”, as if finally released from what Zizek and Sarkozy have condemned as their neurotic self-hatred. The viewers are released not only into the braincandy shop of Simon's sociology-by-stereotype and cliché, but unleashed into the wonderland of Zizekian historical illiteracy; these two love the simplest, stupidest, most unabashedly self-flattering myths, those that work best in the loud, hustling, pushy, cretinous genres of entertainment they favour. The ecstasy of this long-forbidden Truth, this anticapitalism of fools, consists in the usual manoeuvres of pseudo-critique, depicting the (unfortunate! lamented) “decline of the American empire" as a reversion to barbarism manifesting principally as black savagery, white decadence due to mingling and inappropriate challenge from the only partially and imperfectly (and bow-tie wearin’, grandma-escorting-ta meetin’ buffoonishly) civilised, and Oriental menace. A paper at the recent Leeds U Wireconference suggested that the Wire is beloved of the participants at the conference not for its actual sociological insight but because it is "a beguiling projection of sociological desire" offering fantasies of simplified historical reality populated by ideal figures (Omar, the liberal progressive fantasy of a stick up man). The ersatz Baltimore of The Wire may be adored for offering a substitute simulation reality which is devised to validate the simplistic psychological formulas and infantile idealist "theories" enjoying current academic fashion. But the intensity of some attachments suggests it is the even less wholesome sadistic sensational affirmations of white bourgeois male domination and the accompanying confirmations of the depravity and unfitness for self government of those who suffer most under the current arrangements that really sells.

[1] The incoherence here is so extreme one can easily miss it, though it is in Zizek's routine pattern of the feint. To an unprepared reader, anticipating rational argument striving for clarity, Zizek first appears to be praising Bruckner for his denunciation of the "Western" left for seeking to puff up the West's waning confidence in its own superiority with self-flagellation - that is, Bruckner accuses the left of being "the real racists" when they denounce imperialism because he claims they (whom Bruckner does not identify any more specifically than Zizek does, just "the left" with caricatured traits attributed) deny the periphery any agency and responsibility for their own misfortunes and situation. But then - Zizek's prose is like a perpetual garden path sentence - the reader is made to return to the beginning and re-parse the support for Bruckner's position because with the very same sentences with which SZ initially seemed to be seconding Bruckner's accusation Zizek is also, in a secondary strain of signification, affirming that this purported "self-flagellation" of the West, carried out by "the left", is in fact after all proof of the West's genuine and enduring superiority, and not evidence, as Bruckner sees it, of the left's (racist and inaccurate) fantasies of superiority. This is an excellent example of the Zizekian style, the baroque prevarication and indirection, the shiftiness, sleazy evasions. The "Western" left is presented, upfront, as contemptible. This judgement will stick no matter what changes the reason for this judgement goes through. It is contemptible, we are told, because of its guilt-ridden displays, contemptible and hypocritical for these shows of public penance (no need to be specific, just trust him, they happen) which conceal the left's racist confidence in its superiority. That is the left's dirty secret which it hides behind its superficial (condescending, patronising) solidarity and anti-imperialism - that it is just as certain of the white man's monopoly on creative power as the imperialists, if not moreso.

But in fact, it turns out, as the paraghraph develops, that in Zizek's view this racist confidence is fully justified, because the West really is superior, and does have that monopoly on creativity and invention, and the only despicable feature of the left's behaviour is revealed to be that they conceal their knowledge of this guiltily, as if it were something to be ashamed of, rather than flaunting it. The "self-flagellation", which is to be repudiated, is, once mocked, transformed retroactively into virtuous European autocritique and self-improvement. What is so despicable in the West's loathesome left (only) is proof of the genuine superiority of the Western ruling class which created the very culture and civilisation of such refinement, and with such an engine of progressive perfectibility within, in which such wrong headedness on the part of the hypocritical and patronising left can flourish and be transformed (pseudo-dialectically) from leftist vice to reactionary ruling class virtue.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mental Reservation

From the report on child sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin[PDFs available here]:
Cardinal Connell explained the concept of mental reservation to the commission in the following way:
"Well, the general teaching about mental reservation is that you are not permitted to tell a lie. On the other hand, you may be put in a position where you have to answer, and there may be circumstances in which you can use an ambiguous expression realising that the person who you are talking to will accept an untrue version of whatever it may be – permitting that to happen, not willing that it happened, that would be lying. It really is a matter of trying to deal with extraordinarily difficult matters that may arise in social relations where people may ask questions that you simply cannot answer. Everybody knows that this kind of thing is liable to happen. So, mental reservation is, in a sense, a way of answering without lying."

Both Marie Collins and Andrew Madden independently furnished the Commission with examples of how this concept was deployed by the Archdiocese in dealing with their complaints. In 2003, Mr Madden was invited to meet Cardinal Connell. In the course of an informal chat Cardinal Connell did apologise for the whole handling of the Fr Ivan Payne case. He was however at pains to point out to Mr Madden that he did not lie about the use of diocesan funds in meeting Fr Payne‟s settlement with Mr Madden. He explained that when he was asked by journalists about the use of diocesan funds for the compensation of complainants of child sexual abuse, he had responded that diocesan funds are not used for such a purpose; that he had not said that diocesan funds were not used for such a purpose. By using the present tense, he had not excluded the possibility that diocesan funds had been used for such purpose in the past. According to Mr Madden, Cardinal Connell considered that there was an enormous difference between the two.

After the conviction of Fr Edmondus [alias] for the child sexual abuse of Mrs Collins and others in the criminal courts, in 1997, the Dublin Archdiocese issued a press statement claiming that they had co-operated with the Gardaí in relation to Mrs Collins‟s complaint. Mrs Collins was upset by that statement as she had good reason to believe that the Archdiocese's level of co-operation was, to say the least, questionable. Her support priest, Fr James Norman, subsequently told the Gardaí that he asked the Archdiocese about that statement and that the explanation he received was that “we never said we cooperated 'fully', placing emphasis on the word 'fully'.

His eminence, with no apparent irony, said today: "The abuse of children is an unspeakable crime."
Here we have one of the most consequential political events of the last decade at least -- a lethal biological terrorist attack aimed at key U.S. Senators and media figures, which even the FBI claims originated from a U.S. military lab. The then-British Ambassador to the U.S. is now testifying what has long been clear: that this episode played a huge role in enabling the attack on Iraq. Even our leading mainstream, establishment-serving media outlets -- and countless bio-weapons experts -- believe that we do not have real answers about who perpetrated this attack and how. And there is little apparent interest in investigating in order to find out. Evidently, this is just another one of those things that we'll relegate to "the irrelevant past," and therefore deem it unworthy of attention from our future-gazing, always-distracted minds.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Total War tm

The military intelligence source said that the Blackwater/JSOC Karachi operation is referred to as "Qatar cubed," in reference to the US forward operating base in Qatar that served as the hub for the planning and implementation of the US invasion of Iraq. "This is supposed to be the brave new world," he says. "This is the Jamestown of the new millennium and it's meant to be a lily pad. You can jump off to Uzbekistan, you can jump back over the border, you can jump sideways, you can jump northwest. It's strategically located so that they can get their people wherever they have to without having to wrangle with the military chain of command in Afghanistan, which is convoluted. They don't have to deal with that because they're operating under a classified mandate."

There's that shock doctrine for you...

I hate to get sucked into the vampire squid line of thinking about Goldman, but the only explanation i can think of for why AIG got rescued and the monolines did not is because Goldman had significant exposure to AIG and did not have exposure to the monolines.

When it became clear that AIG could face bankruptcy, Goldman’s plan to profit by shorting ABS CDOs was threatened. While they had the collateral posted, thanks to the downgrades, this collateral could be tied up or lost if AIG went bankrupt. This was a real crisis for Goldman – they thought they had outsmarted the subprime market with their ABS CDOs and outsmarted all of the other banks by getting collateral posting from AIG when they got downgraded. But if AIG went away, this strategy would have blown up and cost Goldman billions.

All of this is essentially factual and based, for the most part, on public information.

As a matter of speculation, i believe that Goldman and their helpers deliberately pumped up the media with the threats that the subprime market posed in order to hasten the collapse of the subprime market. this allowed them to realize their gains sooner from shorting ABS CDOs – they had become impatient waiting for it to blow up.

In addition, I believe that Goldman and their helpers – including their many connections with the White House and the Fed – pumped up concerns about the systemic risk that the market was facing from a Lehman and AIG failure, so that they could force the government to step in and bail out AIG. This would also explain why Lehman was not bailed out. Lehman didn’t really matter to Goldman. But the fear created by Lehman’s failure served as a good excuse for why they should rescue AIG.

It's really the perfect cover story, the perfect cinematic adaptation. Now, suitably simplistic for the infantilised intellectuals who are expected to fall in love with the story, as they fall in love with superheros and magicians, Goldman Sachs appears in steampunk cloak, top hat, goatee and bottle green specs, the shadowy player, the sole culprit, plotting the world’s undoing. The story posits an innocent world, with institutions essentially neutral, that is unguarded and vulnerable, and GS as that energy which arrives to upset the dull but harmless routine - a flamboyant, nefarious intruder, with its man placed inside the government who is not of the government but a saboteur, inimical to the government's true nature and mission. The attraction of a story starring GS as infiltrator (a familiar story which has featured the Saudis, the Israel Lobby, and recently Obama as agent of reparations-hungry Black America), cunningly duping the innocent American Congress and executive, surreptitiously pulling the strings of the US government and US finance, is that it offers its audience a little thrill of dissent, eliciting a sensation of self-satisfied savvy, the vanity-flattering opportunity to feel, and to be acknowledged as, too wise to be gulled, and offering this precisely in order to gull again, to successfully conclude the latest episode of a now endless spectacular con game, confirming all the hoary old assumptions and beliefs that count, the undisturbed believability-status of which will ensure the success of the next episode.

In the official version of now ancient events, GS is portrayed as the sole conscious actor in the entire global financial and political realm, and the glamour of such a figure, with all the density and attraction of an allegory and an avatar combined, allows for the implicit absolution of all to which it is proposed as contrast and competitor. It is the sole self-interested self-motivated agent possessed of knowledge and the capability of praxis. And it is observed, like the villain in a caper movie, narrowly, indeed obsessively and uninterruptedly, focussed on bringing one project to completion. Its every move is part of an effort to bring one simple bet good, and all resources are devoted to achieving this one goal by means of one linear narrative plot.

Everyone else, including the White House, the Fed, Lehman, Bank of America, Citi and JP Morgan, and the central banks of the other rich nations and their major financial institutions, are passive and ignorant, simply holders of bets sitting in the VIP boxes to watch and wait out the financial weather to see how rich they end up at the break.

The facts we know arrange themselves easily and compellingly as another, bigger, longer story than that of GS’ big short caper imperilled and saved, a story of a much less cinematic sort of conspiracy, conspiracy not "conspiracy", that is the conspiracy indispensible to routine strategy and policy. The facts available now allow one to see several arcs of this long planned strategy as it is executed - constantly carefully managed - with more than one line of "plot” (there is more than one caper, more than one protagonist making one big short in real history). That strategy includes the whole eight year Bush regime episode and all its ooopsies and whoopies and apparently ad hoc and disconnected outrages and 'errors', and all its achievements for the ruling class, for US imperial interests, for the US leading finance bloc and for its own personnel. It also includes the Obama phenom, the last act of that miniseries and the first of its spin-off, featuring the cleansing of the executive, the refreshing of Brand America, and the restoration of formal democracy and democrats (‘the ones who spend"), etc, but this “vampire squid” single firm, single scam story gives an alternative account for most of the facts and affirms the paradigms threatened by the fact that populations still experience a reality of which a mass produced hyperreality is only a part.

Mass culture in the imperial core, and the core within the periphery, (the global mass culture of the prosperous minority) is in such a state now that the fact that what will be the official narrative of the financial crisis and bailout, offered as closure for the marks once we have resigned ourselves to having been taken, as the consolation of a completed narrative, perfectly fits a cinematic formula - that it can be told as a film treatment exactly to the Syd Field pattern, with three acts, and a sine curve shape, plot points that ring out and alter the direction of the tale, and all the usual motifs – does not render it suspicious but indeed makes it more believable for the official opiners whose task it is to (voluntarily) accept the explanation and repeat it until it is simply common knowledge, beyond challenge, the kind of thing only a paranoid schizophrenic would doubt. And this would not be possible were it not for a massive shift, over the past twenty five years or so, in popular attitudes toward commodities, especially entertainment and infotainment, a massive blossoming of credulity, a widespread infantilisation and the provocation of intense, irrational attachments achieved by advances in advertising and marketing. That crappy genre entertainment now enjoys the status of ethnographic, sociological and political analysis, with hundred million dollar thrillers treated as documents simply exposing how human affairs really work, allows for the successful selling of the most absurd and implausible pseudo-explanations of unfolding history, the manipulation of populations by them, and even the recruiting of masses of volunteers to police the minority of dissidents among them.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Zombie Football (It doesn't just smell bad; it's dead.)

First FIFA change the rules at short notice to introduce seeding in the play-offs. Then this:

Sport is a great builder of character, and it teaches us lessons for life; for example, that there are players and then there are losers. We also learn at a suitably impressionable age that the referee must be respected and obeyed as Absolute Authority (headmaster, policeman, boss, judge, jury, executioner and treasurer):

When contacted by the Guardian, a Fifa spokesman flatly denied the chance of a rematch, refering to Law 5 in the official rules of the game which states that the referee has "full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game in connection with the match to which he has been appointed", and that "the decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play are final".

Votre avis is literally of no account. In the world's most popular and lucrative sport, as everywhere else, The Money just has to win.

Evolution of a Gag

The meritocratic feminist society which allows Keaton's character to rise to her proper place in the corporate workplace has left the traditional woman's work of childcare to defectives. Social progress toward equality has evidently eliminated Mammy as well, while Bubbie belongs to an alternative New York. Baby Boom did not invent but greatly popularised this gimmick of the parade of caricatures presented to the audience positioned in the point of view of the protagonist. Spike Lee's first film She's Gotta Have It made famous use of this with a parade of "dawgs". Below, a later example which developed, in a critical way, the implications of the "series" as form in which a crowd, community, or population is presented.

Usually, however, as in Baby Boom, the gag is reactionary:

The Wire- "Kunta Kinte, yabba dabba dabba do"
envoyé par Ridwan_Osman. - Regardez plus de vidéos comiques.

The writer/director aiming at pleasing a white middle class audience who thinks of itself as enlightened and cosmopolitan cannot in his own voice pour contempt on people just because they don't speak English. In his own voice, directly, he cannot just find Chinese and Indian speech ridiculous. But The Wire finds a way to deliver that forbidden pleasure to the audience (and to teach a new generation the imperialist, white supremacist codes and topoi) complete with a license. The white anglophone audience's shameful desires which the white writer/director seeks to stimulate are systematically gratified by this programme with the same alibi: the white writer/director and audience are merely innocent witnesses to the truth of black behaviour (violence, criminality, vulgarity, homophobia, corruption, misogyny, and of course above all, racism).

In this scene above, as is typical of the series, the white writer/director and the audience do not seem to be responsible for the idiotic parochialism, contemptuousness and sneering of which the scene is wholly composed. The frustration of Americans (and British) with inferiors who do not speak their language is a familiar comic routine whose ideology has been exposed for some time now, but this favourite old exchange between white author and the white audience specifically addressed appears to be imposed on both by some reality beyond their control. The ridiculous Orientals themselves are responsible for this familiar scene and the recognisable types of ridiculous Orientals they are, pretending not to speak English, inventing themselves as ridiculous Orientals but as a ruse to further the genuinely nefarious global Oriental purposes of their truly fiendishly wicked and ruthless Oriental masters which include the importation of the harem of "white slaves" who arrive by sea draculesquely as corpses in a container, to dramatically announce the landing in Baltimore of the Swarthy Oriental Conspiracy of Villainy that is Simon's vision of "raw unencumbered" (uncivilised) global capital.

As the depiction or revelation of the nature of Oriental childish buffonishness, murderous patriarchal misogyny, and snarling evil is attributed to the Orientals themselves rather than to the white author who provides these visions for a white audience directly addressed as white, the contemptuous enjoyment of the ridiculous comical Oriental servants of the mysterious, sinister Oriental villains is also displaced. Surrogates for the white creator and consumer of this thousandth (and most vacuous and simpleminded) replay of an ancient gag are provided in the racist black cops whose point of view on the ridiculous incomprehensible Orientals is adopted. These Orientals are not ridiculous because David Simon wishes them to be in the assumption his principally anglophone white audience enjoys seeing such figures demeaned and debased, the scene suggests, but because the clownish black cops enjoy demeaning and debasing them. And the black cops appear as ridiculous foul-mouthed xenophobe hicks, the audience is to understand, because David Simon is constrained to tell the truth (morally, professionally and aesthetically obliged to verisimilitude) even in the face of political correctness terrorists.

The black cops act as blinds behind which the writer/director and audience may conceal themselves, but - comical, typed and raced themselves - they are simultaneously offered to the audience as additional objects of the white creatives' and the white audience's contempt and scorn (it is their mugging reaction to the sound of Chinese and Arabic, not the sound of Chinese and Arabic directly, at which the audience is invited to laugh or to believe it is laughing) even while the effects of their contemptible and unenlightened minstrel-act conduct toward the incomprehensible and risible Orientals are enjoyed with impunity. The black cops take responsibility for the old racist joke the white writer director is telling his anglophone white audience and which they may desire and enjoy. But the black cops are not only the ideological factotums for the writer/director and audience's disavowed supremacist pleasure, staring and cussing in David Simon-and-fans' other-loathing, other-ridiculing stead; their taking on this role gives the white audience the additional thrill of a sense of superiority to the black proxies of their contempt, (see who are the real racists!* still racists, incorrigibly backward, not caught up with the advanced tolerant white folks) and the yet further delight of unchallenged mastery, of seeing the black cops used with such authorial entitlement as representations and figures of Simon's own (and his targeted audience's own) 'dark side' and unenlightened barbarism even while these black characters are deployed as spectral slaves carrying out the sadistic wishes of audience and creator.

The form is a kind of narrative false flag operation. Again and again, black cops and black criminals - about whom he is obliged as an artist for HBO to be brutally truthful and pull no punches however it hurts him -are the disguise the white writer director adopts to gratify his own and his audience's fantasies of humiliating, torturing, maiming, terrorising and murdering black people, while the genuine agency behind this spectacle - creators and consumers - comfortably adopt the pose of bystanders and concerned witnesses who are present out of a sense of duty. The pleasure of being able to blame the black cops for the imbecile Orientalism of the scene rather than having to be grateful to them for their carrying out of the writer/director and audience's abusive impulses is the most refined enjoyment of cultural and ideological white supremacy. The writer/director's infantile cliché racism, which can produce nothing more clever than the rehashing of a decades old gag scene the content of which is confined to "discovering" the supposedly hilarious sound of Asian and African languages and the modern "dialect" minstrelism "English muthafucka!" (as elsewhere "be civilised muthafucka!" and "mind yo language muthafucka!"), is displaced onto black surrogates whom the audience is invited to scorn even while enjoying the spectacle of their racist abuse which confirms the abjection of others.

As throughout the series, the feel of the scene is less of a television drama than a videogame simulation. The actors seem less to be playing characters who might say these lines or behave this way than avatars through whom the game player Simon and the imaginary game player proxy for the audience, are saying and doing, re-creating and repeating familiar scenes and stock moments.

In their apparently side-splittingly "ironic" display of scorn for those who cannot speak a civilised language, the black cop avatars are made to perform for the audience another familiar, favorite cliché: black men's absurd attempts to behave properly in roles more appropriate for white men - to wield authority and embody mature adulthood. Filling these roles with dignity and competence is so beyond the black cops' capacities, they can produce only a risible inarticulate parody even of the racism of their character-ancestor figures and types. "Kunta Kinte yabba dabba dabba do", spoken hesitantly (clearly Wendell Pierce did not like this scene), is a pitiable imitation of the creative verbality of a long line of racist cops and other characters of that class in cinema and television. It is noticeably a Buffy-style snip of dialogue, a television character's mechanical quotation of other television shows he is presumed to have seen (though he has probably not seen earlier episodes of The Wire) passing for "realistic" human speech. There is no convincing illusion that "Bunk" is a "character" in the standard mimetic sense who might say such a thing to another character, a Swahili-speaking African merchant seaman (the celebrated verisimilitude of the show is left behind often for these formula comic intermezzi); rather "Bunk" appears barely disguised as a game avatar through whom Simon delivers this line indirectly to the audience, confidentially, (the sailor to whom the remark is directed is presumed not to get the references to Roots, Coming to America and The Flintstones, the audience does) as d'Angelo is an avatar through whom Simon delivers remarks about chess which evidently the speaker's on-screen companions do not understand while the audience is presumed to comprehened and to enjoy the "secret" communication, the simply coded communion with the white author speaking from behind the black thug mask, from behind the blackface, a code incredibly simple but still too complicated for the black thugs to catch on to, out in the open. "Kunta Kinte, yabba dabba dabba do"... The white writer even displaces his own talent-less-ness, his lack of wit, his crassness and unoriginality, onto his black surrogate(s).

*In another scene in the series, Bunk, the Wendell Pierce character, makes a prejudiced remark disparaging Greeks. His white partner, enlightened cosmopolitan, scolds him: "Lay off the Greeks, they invented civilisation," to which he, black parochial xenophobe and homophobe, replies " - and ass fucking."

Rona Barrett's show, 1981:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Easier to imagine the end of the world…

…than the end of capitalism.

This remark is often attributed to Fredric Jameson. The attribution is not entirely without reason as it is in Jameson’s oeuvre that the suggestion first* appears. In "Future City" in the New Left Review in 2003, the mot does not appear as an observation of Jameson’s own, however, but as the disavowed reported insight of "someone" whose identity has slipped Jameson's mind:

But cyberpunk is not really apocalyptic, and I think the better coordinate is Ballard, the Ballard of the multiple ‘end-of-the-worlds’, minus the Byronic melancholy and the rich orchestral pessimism and Weltschmerz.

For it is the end of the world that is in question here; and that could be exhilarating if apocalypse were the only way of imagining that world’s disappearance (whether we have to do here with the bang or the whimper is not the interesting question). It is the old world that deserves the bile and the satire, this new one is merely its own self-effacement, and its slippage into what Dick called kipple or gubble, what LeGuin once described as the buildings ‘melting. They were getting soggy and shaky, like jello left out in the sun. The corners had already run down the sides, leaving great creamy smears.’ Someone once said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. We can now revise that and witness the attempt to imagine capitalism by way of imagining the end of the world.

Irony and false modesty aside,  is Jameson evading credit for a reason (other than a dig at Zizek)? Did someone in fact once say this? Not exactly. What Jameson imperfectly recalls here – a faint memory perhaps stirred up by the topic of J. G. Ballard and apocalypse – is almost certainly the Marxist militant and literary critic H. Bruce Franklin’s 1979 essay “What Are We To Make Of Ballard’s Apocalypse?” In it Franklin never suggests that "it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism" but observes that because of his condition within imperialism, white supremacism and capitalism – his position as white petty bourgeois intellectual in the core of a challenged and crumbling empire – J. G. Ballard is predisposed to "mistaking the end of capitalism for the end of the world". The type of thinking and ideological indoctrination which would characterize someone for whom it is "easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism" is fairly simply described:

Underlying the elaborate verbal structure of the late fiction are some fairly simple, in fact simple-minded, ideas about social reality. Indeed, the formal pyrotechnics disguise as much as they reveal of the ideational content. Clad in an elegant costume is the tired old idea that human nature is basically brutish and stupid, that people are inherently perverse, cruel, and self destructive, and that's why the modern world is going to hell. High-Rise, his latest novel, is virtually a parody of this notion. Such a vision, I believe, is merely a projection of Ballard's own class point of view, a myopia as misleading as the national and racial point of view in the earlier novels and intimately related to that narrow outlook.

The essay, much discussed at the time of its publication, concludes with a potent question that one must assume engraved it into Jameson's memory, though not so deep that a couple of decades couldn't obscure it:

Ballard's imagined world is reduced to the dimensions of that island created by intertwined expressways on which individuals in their cellular commodities hurtle to their destruction or that apartment complex in which the wealthy and professional classes degenerate into anarchic tribal warfare among themselves. And hence Ballard accurately, indeed magnificently, projects the doomed social structure in which he exists. What could Ballard create if he were able to envision the end of capitalism as not the end, but the beginning, of a human world?

One immediately notices how the revision accomplished by Jameson performs the same depoliticisation and idealisation of critical product that more deliberate misreadings and misrepresentations in the 80s and onward undertook in a more systematic way as a central part of the successful effort to eradicate Marxist practise and replace Marxism as a method of interpretation with the new post-structuralist flavours of liberalism/neo-liberalism. The transformation of H. Bruce Franklin’s Marxist analysis of the ideology of Ballard and his genre into Jameson’s vague quip in Hegelese regarding the disposition of some amorphous and unspecified Geist of the Zeit perfectly exemplifies the relentless, Orwellian cultural strategy which characterized the Reagan era’s political reaction in culture.

It’s not very surprising that this maximally vague observation that no one ever made, with its infantile solipsism resembling that of Ballard’s protagonists (while watching Independence Day , I of the imperial core petty bourgeoisie feel it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism, therefore it is easier for everyone) and its occlusions (of class, of property relations, of the non-homogeneity of the material situation of all humanity) which match that of his novels, should become so popular an adage, at the same time that it becomes common for self-described radical critics of mass and pop culture to cease to regard the objects of their study as concrete products produced in definite historical conditions and encrusted with meanings accessible to interpretation and attribute to them instead the status of miraculous messengers of encrypted eternal, universal truths.

*The origin of the quip seems to be as Zizek's misquotation, in the early 90s, of Jameson's '89 text.

Jameson wrote:

Even after the ‘end of history’ there has seemed to persist some historical curiosity of a generally systemic – rather than merely anecdotal – kind: not merely to know what will happen next, but as a more general anxiety about the larger fate or destiny of our system or mode of production. On this, individual experience (of a postmodern kind) tells us that it must be eternal, while our intelligence suggests this feeling to be most improbable indeed, without coming up with plausible scenarios as to its disintegration or replacement. It seems easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism; and perhaps that is due to some weakness in our imaginations.

I have come to think the word 'postmodern' ought to be reserved for thoughts of this kind.

The portrait of cultural and ideological 'postmodernity' is elaborated further on:

What we now begin to feel, therefore – and what begins to emerge as some deeper and more fundamental constitution of postmodernity itself, at least in its temporal dimension – is henceforth, where everything now submits to the perpetual change of fashion and media image, that nothing can change any longer. This is the sense of the revival of that ‘end of history’ Alexandre Kojève thought he could find in Hegel and Marx, and which he took to mean some ultimate achievement of democratic equality (and the value equivalence of individual economic and juridical subjects) in both American capitalism and Soviet communism, only later identifying a significant variant of it in what he called Japanese 'snobisme', but that we can today identify as postmodernity itself (the free play of masks and roles without content or substance). In another sense, of course, this is simply the old ‘end of ideology’ with a vengeance, and cynically plays on the waning of collective hope in a particularly conservative market climate. But the end of history is also the final form of the temporal paradoxes we have tried to dramatize here; namely that a rhetoric of absolute change (or ‘permanent revolution’ in some trendy and meretricious new sense) is, for the postmodern, no more satisfactory (but not less so) than the language of absolute identity and unchanging standardization cooked up by the great corporations, whose concept of innovation is best illustrated by the neologism and the logo and their equivalents in the real of built space, ‘lifestyle’ corporate culture and psychic programming.

The Antinonmies of Postmodernity (1989) republished in The Seeds of Time (1994)

Zizek (perhaps while drunk) took this to be nothing but "the old 'end of ideology'" rehashed (and endorsed the sentiment): Fredric Jameson perspicaciously remarked, nobody seriously considers possible alternatives to capitalism any longer, whereas popular imagination is persecuted by the visions of the forthcoming ‘breakdown of nature’, of the stoppage of all life on earth – it seems easier to imagine the ‘end of the world’ than a far more modest change in the mode of production, as if liberal capitalism is the ‘real’ that will somehow survive even under conditions of a global ecological catastrophe.

The Spectre of Ideology (1995)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Shame and Fear Benefit Banks

Underwater and Not Walking Away: Shame, Fear and the Social Management of the Housing Crisis (PDF)

Did the UK annex Slovenia?

Don't you suspect a little bit that there's something of this in today's typical radical liberal - in today's anti-immigrant campaign for instance? The standard idea is to say, like my friend Alain Badiou in France, "those who are here are from here". That is to say, no check for roots, open to all of them.

Lunching With Noam

Or take Chomsky. There are two problematic features in his work — though it goes without saying that I admire him very much. One is his anti-theorism. A friend who had lunch with him recently told me that Chomsky announced that he'd concluded that social theory and economic theory are of no use — that things are simply evident, like American state terror, and that all we need to know are the facts. I disagree with this.

I met a guy who recently had lunch with Chomsky and he told me that Chomsky said something very sad: Chomsky said that today we don't need theory.


So, to review. When Pakistani citizens watch their friends and neighbors blown up by missile strikes, it is the position of this administration that they should not view it as terrorism. On the other hand, when we receive a letter without a stamp, we shut down a portion of the most powerful government in the world out of a general hysteria over terrorism.


There is no “average” consumer in Plutonomies. There is only the rich “and everyone else.” The rich account for a disproportionate chunk of the economy, while the non-rich account for “surprisingly small bites of the national pie.” Kapur estimates that in 2005, the richest 20% may have been responsible for 60% of total spending.