Monday, September 22, 2014


In the months after The Times of London and Lord Palmerston appeared the topic of The Times and its political function came up regularly in Marx’s journalism. Most often it was no more than a passing mention, but two articles substantially supplement the analysis discussed in part 1. Both articles comment on potential British military intervention in the Americas. In an article about the Trent Affair, a diplomatic confrontation between Britain and the U.S., that was published in the Viennese paper Die Presse in December of 1861, Marx returns explicitly to the question of how to read the London press in light of its political connections. This article extends the analysis of these connections beyond The Times to include ten more London papers.  In the other article, written for the Daily Tribune in November of 1861, Marx discusses at length the press coverage of the British government’s plans for military intervention in Mexico. This article illustrates at length and in detail both Palmerston’s strategic use of the press to prepare public opinion and the editor’s “cooking” of the news.

The Opinion of the Newspapers and the Opinion of the People is the last of the articles in which Marx reported  the Trent Affair for Viennese readers. Earlier articles had discussed the legal intricacies of the case. This final article uses the diplomatic contentions as a springboard to discuss in detail the emoluments and access Palmerston used to exercise control over coverage of foreign affairs. In passing, we should note that the opening sentence “Continental politicians, who imagine that in the London press they possess a thermometer of the temper of the English people, inevitably draw false conclusions at the present moment” addresses another dimension of the political function of the press. Just as foreign affairs reporting in the press creates public opinion as a factor in British politics, these representations of public opinion are aimed at the policy makers of foreign governments. As the product of Palmerston’s covert arrangements the reports purposefully mislead both audiences. 

The remainder of the opening describes how public opinion and editorial positions shifted in opposite directions over the course of the Trent Affair. When the American seizure of the Confederate emissaries first became news, the public called for war. As the full implications of the issues were discussed, public support for war dwindled. The press followed the opposite track. Initially the press urged moderation. After a time it did an about face and enthusiastically supported war. Marx correlates the position of the press with the development of Palmerston’s policy. As long as the government’s lawyers could not find a legal grounds for war, the press remained moderate. When the government finally had developed a legal pretext for war, the press endorsed war.

The rest of the article explains how it was that the press synchronized its positions with the government and why it adopted positions at odds with the views of its readers. The explanation involves no complex theory. Today in fact it feels like a familiar argument, although I suspect it was unprecedented at the time. Marx simply works through a list of ten daily papers and identifies the source of their position. Not surprisingly, he begins with The Times. This time he introduces the editor Bob Lowe by name and points out he holds a “kind of” position in the Cabinet. Although out of place, at this point Marx also mentions the very popular conservative satirical weekly Punch, which was promoted by The Times. In his Cabinet post, Lowe had in turn secured a remunerative post for Punch’s editor. The first two papers were secured for Palmerston through emoluments.

 The next paper, the Morning Post, was partly owned by Palmerston. Marx notes too that the other owners belonged to society. The odd combination of society news and foreign policy reporting underlines the significance of ownership for content. The third daily paper, the Morning Advertiser adopted its pro-war stance after Palmerston began to invite its editor to his social gatherings. In addition, the noble patron of the guild which owned the paper was Palmerston’s son-in-law. The final example of direct control is not connected to Palmerston. Agents of the Confederacy purchased the Morning Chronicle so ownership likewise determined the coverage. The sensationalizing tabloid the Daily Telegraph was noted for its notorious rabble-rousing support of Palmerston, but Marx does not explain the connection.

 The list now moves on to pro-war papers of a different kind.  Three papers received direct subsidies from Cabinet ministries. The Globe supported the war because it was subsidized by the Whigs, the party to which Palmerston belonged.  The Morning Herald and Evening Standard had been subsidized by the Tories who preceded Palmerston in office.  These papers agitated for war out of hostility to the U.S. and in hopes a war will bring down the Cabinet, after which a new government would restore their subsidies. The list closes with a pair of papers which oppose the war as a matter of principle, both being committed to the positions of politicians other than Palmerston.

After discussing the dailies, Marx briefly treats five weekly papers. Two exemplify the war-supporting majority of these papers. One is paid by the ministries, while the other advocates war simply to display “esprit.”  Marx defines this quality more specifically as, “a cynical elevation above ‘humanitarian’ prejudices.” In other words, a provocative attitude is one of the use values sold by the paper. At the last, Marx mentions the three weeklies that oppose the calls for war, but passes over their motives in silence.

This description of the affiliations and motivations of the pro-war coverage in the London press goes beyond the mechanisms of manipulation presented in the first article. It begins with the award of government posts and the provision of social access mentioned there. But the roster of connections expands to include out-right ownership, family relationships and government subsidies. At the same time, the potential motives also include political principles and even what we might today call pure branding.

The Intervention in Mexico, the second article, discusses in extensive and careful detail six weeks of the coverage delivered by two London papers on the plan for joint British, French and Spanish military intervention in the Mexican Republic. The examination of “one of the most monstrous enterprises ever chronicled in the annals of international history” begins with the respective roles of The London Morning Post and The London Times in introducing Palmerston’s plans to the public, as well as the responses of the French and Spanish governments through their own press. The article then contrasts the positions on intervention taken by the Times in September and November.  After these contradictory reasonings have been dissected, the second half of the article addresses the crucial question about the intervention raised by these incoherent inconsistencies, “What, then, is its real aim and purpose?”

The London Morning Post and The London Times practice a division of labor. The analysis of their collaboration deepens the description of Palmerston’s management of the press. As we have just seen, Palmerston was a part owner of the Morning Post and his ownership accounted for its publication of reports on foreign affairs. Accordingly, Marx calls the paper “Palmerston’s private Moniteur,” that is his equivalent of the French government’s official paper. The Morning Post published in detail the first public account of the agreement among Britain, France and Spain to intervene in Mexico. The French government denied this report through its press. The Times then responded with a report that the French had indeed agreed to the intervention. The Spanish government then clarified through its press that it was planning a unilateral intervention. Finally, The Times followed with a report that the U.S. would join the intervention, a claim promptly denied by the American press.

Marx deduces from this sequence of reports and denials that the plan is undoubtedly an English creation, and demonstrates one of his protocols for reading the press in this kind of situation. In the same issue of The Times that publicized the three powers’ final agreement on intervention in early November, a second article appeared that approved of a recent French military intervention in Switzerland. This recognition signals a diplomatic quid pro quo. Palmerston has given France a free hand for intervention on the continent in return for French collaboration in the Mexican adventure. It is not the content of the reports per se but their juxtaposition that conveys this message. Beyond the mere content of foreign policy reports, their placement in the papers has a political function and inferable meaning.

Marx draws an analogous but more complex inference from a comparison of the reports in The Post and The Times. In its first report, The Post maintained that the goal of the expedition was to collect debts owed by the Mexican government. Because the government no longer exercised effective power, it was necessary to take military measures to occupy port cities and claim customs revenues.  The Times in its subsequent first report dismissed the significance of the debt, and instead maintained that the intervention would encourage the Mexican government in its efforts to restore order and end the brigandage that victimized British subjects. Marx notes the contradiction between the respective assumptions that there is no effective government and that there is a government capable of action.

Marx points out that the Times own reasoning contradicts itself as well, “To be sure! The oddest means ever hit upon for the consolidation of a Government consists in the seizure of its territory and the sequestration of its revenue.” In Palmerston’s designs, these initial press voices were subsequently joined by “minor ministerial oracles,” officials, spokesmen and sources, in the task of “systematically belaboring him [that is, the public] in the same contradictory style for four weeks, until public opinion had at last become sufficiently trained to the idea of a joint intervention in Mexico, although kept in deliberate ignorance of the aim and purpose of that intervention.”  The volume of the reports and the contradictions within and among what are known to be well-informed sources deflect discussion from the intervention itself to the spurious discussion of its motives, while at the same time concealing the real considerations behind it. The orchestrated pattern of disagreement and debate executes a calculated tactic.

These four weeks of preparation ended when the official French press announced that an agreement had been reached. The French papers announced that the Mexican ports would be seized, if the Mexican government did not then cooperate troops would move inland and occupy Mexico City, and “a strong government would be imported into the Republic.” We might note that the latter two points had never figured in the initial reports in London. In November after the governments have officially committed themselves to intervention, The Times speaks to the issue again. Marx underlines the absolute incongruity of its response,  

Everybody ignorant of its connection with Palmerston, and the original introduction in its columns of his scheme, would be induced to consider the to-day’s leader of The Times as the most cutting and merciless satire on the whole adventure. It sets out by stating that “the expedition is a very remarkable one” [later on it says a curious one].

Three States are combining to coerce a fourth into good behavior, not so much by way of war as by authoritative interference in behalf of order.”

Authoritative interference in behalf of order! This is literally the Holy Alliance slang, and sounds very remarkable indeed on the part of England, glorying in the non-intervention principle! And why is “the way of war, and of declaration of war, and all other behests of international law,” supplanted by “an authoritative interference in behalf of order?” Because, says The Times, there “exists no Government in Mexico.” And what is the professed aim of the expedition? “To address demands to the constituted authorities at Mexico.”

Absurdly contradictory in its assumptions and ludicrous its euphemisms, the only way to find a coherent intention in this report is to understand it, as Marx supposes a substantial part of the public already does, as an expression of Palmerston’s designs.

Marx singles out a final decisive contradiction. The Times still claims that satisfaction of debts and protection of foreign nationals are the goal of the intervention, but then concedes that the measures to be taken far exceed what is needed to achieve those ends. From this disproportion between the military means and the ostensible goals, Marx concludes that the purported goals “have nothing at all to do with the present joint intervention in Mexico” and this discrepancy compels him to ask what is really going on.

Turning to the seond argument, Marx reiterates that The Times also disavows the significance of the debt for the intervention. Marx rephrases his question in sarcastic distress at the complete lack of sense on the surface of this subterfuge. “What, then, in all the world is its real or pretended aim?” His answer begins by picking apart the second putative goal of the intervention “an authoritative interference in behalf of order."  The Times has expressed only one reservation about the intervention, namely that the European “order-mongers,” as Marx calls them, would not be able to agree on what Mexican faction to install in the government, “The only point on which there may possibly be a difference between ourselves and our allies, regards the government of the Republic. England will be content to see it remain in the hands of the liberal party which is now in power.” Marx examines this reservation carefully and shows that in fact it assumes that there is a functioning government that has begun to restore order. From these assumptions he draws the conclusion obvious to all involved, that the intervention will “instead of extinguishing, restore anarchy to its full bloom.”

Once “ in behalf of Order,’ is substracted from the rationale, there remains only “interference.” The Civil War momentarily prevents the U.S. from actively resisting intervention, and Palmerston hopes to take advantage of this obstacle to American resistance to overturn the Monroe Doctrine and establish the right of the European powers to use force in the pursuit of their interests in the Americas. In conjunction with his pursuit of the right of intervention Palmerston is strategic expanding of his monopoly over the exercise of that right. He has launched his adventure while Parliament is recessed.  Palmerston is again employing the same tactics of false representations and disregard of Parliament’s power that he has used on previous occasions to initiate wars. He aims to reinforce those precedents for his prerogative to order interventions without the approval of Parliament. Marx describes Palmerston’s ultimate goal in sweeping terms, “With the control over foreign wars, Parliament will lose all control over the national exchequer, and Parliamentary government turn to a mere farce.”
Marx’s reading of the London press on the intervention in Mexico assumes that these press accounts cannot be taken at face value. They furnish evidence of foreign policy, but they do not reliably describe the motives or content of policy. Press reporting functions as an instrument in complex political designs. The press reports are intended by the place and sequence of their publication and by their putatively authentic accounts to render the ultimate intervention plausible while concealing its actual motives and goals. A careful reading can retrieve even from deceptive press reports some of the suppositions about the state of affairs that do underlie the unspoken goals. No matter how careful the reading of logic and publication, however, only informed reference to the history of governments and of politicians allows Marx to construe the policy that wields these reports as instruments to attain public assent to “monstrous enterprises.”


When we read what Marx had to say about public opinion and foreign policy, even after a hundred and fifty years his arguments evoke a sense of recognition and familiarity.  This affinity of his analyses with our own experiences with politics and the press easily furnishes reason enough to read and discuss these articles today. Beyond the resonance of these insights, the articles provide a pertinent example for communist analysis and criticism of the media.  They do not provide a theory of public opinion. We cannot even extract a definitive model of communist media analysis from them. History does no allow us that luxury.
At the very least, though, Marx’s analyses do demonstrate three themes essential to our media analyses: how the accumulation of capital and the capitalist organization of the media establish the technical and social basis for the collaboration of state and media; how this collaboration results not just from the social relations and political institutions particular to a historical moment but from particular individuals acting within those relations and institutions; and how editorial management employs specific techniques to manipulate representations of foreign affairs in order to manufacture public opinion.
Because the accumulation of capital has advanced fantastically, because the technologies produced by that accumulation have proliferated, and because the social relations and political institutions in the U.S. today differ greatly from 1860s England, contemporary media criticism on these lines will necessarily look different from Marx’s criticism of The Times. But Marx made fundamental points about these processes that retain their force. The ruling class and their political executives pursue “monstrous enterprises.” When they organize these enterprises, they employ covert and collusive means. Important among their collusions are the combinations of report-producers and  politicians who manage the media and manufacture public opinion.
Today these points have become harder to convey, in no small part because the “opinion-mongers,” in order to protect themselves, have through their opinion-commodities attempted to immunize their audiences against these very arguments. The mere fact that Marx argued in this way does not make these arguments more plausible or persuasive. Marx's analysis and criticism of the London press in his day does demonstrate that these arguments fall solidly within the scope of a materialist critique of the media. Our challenge is to find the audience for them and communicate persuasive arguments in which we connect concretely the opinion-mongers to the order-mongers and their reports to their enterprises.

Monday, September 08, 2014


The recent twitter controversies about the tag #OpPornPixie involved some serious questions about how communist criticism of the media works. As a follow up, I want to bring attention to some articles Marx wrote in 1861 for the New York Daily Tribune. Marx had a long-standing concern with the press and its political role. Marx worked as newspaper editor in Germany twice during the 1840s.  Throughout the 1850s into the mid-1860s he was a foreign correspondent for several papers. As an editor he regularly analyzed and criticized the positions taken in other papers. As a correspondent in 1861 he began writing about British responses to the Civil War for the Tribune’s readers in America. During a period in 1861 when Parliament was not in session, Marx wrote repeatedly about the coverage of the war in the British press. In these articles Marx sketches a brief, clear, and explicit materialist media analysis. The most substantial part of this sketch appears in the article The London Times and Lord Palmerston.

In this article Marx aims to do more than simply inform his American audience about  British attitudes toward the war. Instead of just telling them what people in Britain thought or what the British press said, he instructs politically interested American readers in how to read the British press and to understand the connection of the press to public opinion. These instructions explain the forces in British politics and their operations. The article describes how the British press became one of these forces and how the government integrated the press into its operations. Marx assumes that for politically conscious readers to grasp the practical meaning of newspaper writing, they would need to understand the press as an active element in political relations.

The article also exemplifies the connection between Marx’s theoretical work on political economy and his journalistic criticism of politics and media.  In 1858 Marx had completed the manuscript known today as theGrundrisse. In it he sketched a comprehensive, conceptually integrated critique of political economy. In 1859 he had published A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.  In this short work he discussed two key concepts in his critique, money and the commodity, but did not attempt a systematic exposition of capital. In August of 1861, three months before he wrote this article, Marx had begun work on what is today known as the Economic Manuscript of 1861-1863 [no longer available at the Mars-Engels Internet  Archive!], his next major work in the critique. The Manuscript comprised the first draft of Capital. Thus when he wrote his article on the Times, Marx had already begun to formulate his scientific theory of capitalism as a fundamental process in bourgeois society. In The London Times and Lord Palmerston we see how this conceptual framework shapes Marx’s criticism of contemporary politics.

The first long paragraph makes up 1/3 of the article and contains the political media analysis. It opens with a quote about the influence of the Times “English people participate in the government of their own country by reading The Times newspaper.”  Marx follows the assessment with his own qualification, “This judgment, passed by an eminent English author on what is called British self-government, is only true so far as the foreign policy of the Kingdom is concerned.” This opening gambit establishes that the influence exercised by the Times is an established fact. Marx will examine that influence, but it is not something he discovered himself. Although Marx does not name Robert Lowe, who was the author of the quote, we should note that in 1861 Lowe was the editor of the Times and that he later served for six years as a minister in the Cabinet. This estimation of the unique role and profound influence of the Times came from a man who was a key figure in the collaboration of the press and the government and who spoke with an insider’s knowledge of that connection.

The opening quote also suggests the specific historically and socially unique features of the press at that time.  When we think of “reading,” we think first of the basic process of interpreting  words and sentences by which readers cull information. But in a second more important sense, the quote identifies a particular social quality of that process. Through reading the Times, its readers “participate in the government.” In a time when political parties as we know them now did not exist, the right to vote was highly restricted by property requirements and the means of communication were much more limited, the Times made unique information about the government widely accessible and provided a surrogate means of participation in government affairs. This participation consisted primarily of holding a share in public opinion. Now, before this first paragraph is through, Marx relates these informational and participatory features to the specifically capitalist features of the Times as a business. So to apply that perspective from the start, we can say that information and surrogate participation are what the paper sells. When readers buy the paper for the use-values of political news and participation, they create the relationship that is the basis of the paper’s strategic function for the government.  This relationship is “public opinion.”

Following the quote, Marx qualifies this claim by limiting it to foreign policy. To prove his point, he mentions several recent domestic political reforms. While the Times had opposed all these measures, its readers supported them. To maintain its readership, the paper had to reverse its editorial positions. Marx then contrasts the way this mediation through the market determined the domestic views of the paper to the way the paper determines the foreign policy views of the readers. He makes this first, fundamental point, “In no part of Europe are the mass of the people, and especially of the middle-classes, more utterly ignorant of the foreign policy of their own country than in England… .” When it comes to foreign affairs, the readership, which is constituted as a public by reading the paper, depends on the paper for information and political interpretations.  

Marx breaks the explanation down into finer detail. In its details, the explanation is historical and institutional. The history relates the class divisions of British society and the effects of capitalist development on the middle classes. Thanks to the enduring medieval features of British political institutions, the aristocracy had maintained control over foreign affairs. This social division of labor and the absorption of the middle classes in earning their living results in public ignorance of foreign affairs. The exclusion of the middle classes from this political power means “the aristocracy acted for them … .” The confinement of the ideas of the middle class to earning money means, “the press thought for them … .” Because the aristocrats and the publishers effective monopolize their respective aspects of foreign policy they have a shared goal, “their mutual interest to combine.”  Marx summarizes the outcome of this combination, “since the beginning of this century, the great London papers have constantly played the part of attorneys to the heaven-born managers of English foreign policy.” The particular configuration Marx describes an arrangement of shared power has existed for only sixty years.

Marx then identifies the stages in this collaboration between the governing aristocracy and the opinion creating press over those six decades. As political participation broadened through bourgeois economic and political revolution, the aristocracy that exercised foreign policy power narrowed into an “oligarchy.” The Cabinet came into existence as the formal institutional representation of the oligarchy. Marx characterizes the Cabinet as “a secret conclave.” The Cabinet was a political innovation. It did not belong to the traditional constitutional order and it operated beyond conventional controls over executive action. In recent decades Lord Palmerston had assumed personal control over the cabinet and over foreign policy. With Palmerston’s “usurpation” the political, institutional side of the process is complete. In this very specific political conjuncture of 1861 Marx highlights the ambitions and actions of a single man and describes the formal institution within which he worked in terms of covert collusions. Marx’s close attention to Palmerston in fact extended back for years. In 1853 he had already written a seven-article series about Palmerston’s career  that appeared in both the Tribune and in England in the People’s Paper. These articles were subsequently republished as a pamphlet that sold over 20,000 copies. In this sense, the article on the Times is an addendum to Marx’s earlier reports about Palmerston and his politics.

 Over these same years the developments in the “field of newspaper-mongering” that enable the collaboration of politics and press result from an inherent tendency of capital. Marx attributes the singular potential of the Times to play its role to “the law of concentration” and its rapid operation in the sector of the press.  “Concentration” is a technical term in Marx’s theoretical critique of political economy. In the Grundrisse Marx observes the phenomenon of concentration, but does not derive a definition from his observations. In the Economic Manuscript of 1861-1863 the few references to concentration are now collected in Notebook IV on relative surplus value. Ultimately the concept of relative surplus value will provide the terms for the definition of concentration, but in 1861 Marx still has not formulated this definition. The reference to the “law” of concentration, however, suggests Marx does have a particular systematic process in mind already. So let’s look ahead at the definition of the concentration of capital in Capital. (see section 2 of the linked chapter) ‘Concentration’ labels the distinctive aspect of accumulation in capitalism. It identifies the constantly increasing application of technology as an expression of the inherent need to obtain the greatest possible physical output from a constant amount of labor. The incorporation of technology into production on an ever increasing scale leads to, and at the same time results from, the accelerating growth of individual capitals. As the Times employs more and better presses and reaches a larger and more widely distributed readership, it becomes the new and unique medium of “the national paper.”

This conclusion about the Times illustrates a fundamental conceptual difference between Marx’s writing in his critique of political economy and his political writing for broad reading audiences. In the critiques his inferences about concentration are concerned exclusively with the implications of concentration within the processes of production and accumulation. For example, in the Economic Manuscript of 1861-1863, Marx characterizes concentration as a “material determinant for production on an expanded scale.” In Capital the discussion additionally specifies consequences of concentration for the employment of living labor.
In this article Marx is equally concerned with accumulation in the newspaper industry as the material determinant of a social process. But from the ‘law of concentration’ he here draws an inference about political relationships and processes. Their determination by the ‘law of concentration’ means that these political processes are capitalist in their nature and that their very form results from class relations. Yet these consequences of concentration have nothing to do with the immediate process of production or with questions of exploitation and accumulation.  The quantitative growth in the scale of operations of the press determines a qualitative transformation in the character of the print medium. This transformation in turn determines a new form of political participation and this new form of political participation provides a new instrument for politicians operating in the political institutions of bourgeois society.

Palmerston’s sole power over foreign policy and the Times’ sole access to a national readership thus lead to a very particular combination of the government and the press. Marx observes, “Lord Palmerston, who secretly and from motives unknown to the people at large, to Parliament and even to his own colleagues, managed the Foreign affairs of the British Empire, must have been very stupid if he had not tried to possess himself of the one paper which had usurped the power of passing public judgment in the name of the English people on his own secret doings.”  This observation has several significant implications about the combination of press and politics in 1861. To assert that Palmerston would have been “stupid” not to initiate the collaboration implies that the potential  was self-evident. From the perspective of the law of concentration in the press, it was inevitable, since the Times would have needed “more than Spartan virtue” not to combine with Palmerston. Marx also says that both Palmerston and the Times “usurped” their power. We can imagine Palmerston’s usurpation of political power as the result of intrigue and manipulation. The usurpation of power by the Times results from success in accumulating capital to expand operations.  Success in competition in this particular branch inherently produces an undemocratic outcome. In this one sentence Marx also points out twice that Palmerston’s “motives” and his “doings” are “secret.” The reasons and actions of the government are consciously clandestine. The function of the Times is “judging them for the nation” and “representing the public mind," yet in this public function it maintains that clandestine secrecy.  The Times provides a judgement of Palmerston’s motives and actions that does not describe, explain or interpret them factually. This deliberate discrepancy between Palmerston’s clandestine motives and actions and their representation in the press is a necessary, inherent feature of the creation of public opinion.

In this combination at the initiative of Palmerston, Marx says the Times sought to “ally” itself to the minister but Palmerston treated the paper as his “slave.” Palmerston achieved this one-sided relationship through two principal means. To employees of the Times he gave subordinate jobs in ministries and access to his social circle. Marx sums up the role of the Times once this combination was effected, “the whole business of The Times, so far as the foreign affairs of the British Empire are concerned, is limited to manufacturing a public opinion to conform to Lord Palmerston’s foreign policy. It has to prepare the public mind for what he intends doing, and to make it acquiesce in what he has done.” The strategic political function of the Times is not identical with its business as a whole. The editorial positions and reportorial content of the Times cannot be directly inferred from its business interests or even from the more general class interests of its owners. The content produced in the manufacturing of public opinion is determined by political dictates.

In the remainder of the article, Marx uses two examples to illustrate how the Times edits its reporting on Palmerston’s behalf. He bluntly identifies the mechanics of manipulation and spin. In the first example, three members of Parliament had made speeches about Palmerston’s diplomatic maneuvers and political methods in the preceding thirty years. In two cases the Times simply “suppressed” the most damaging evidence. In the third, procedural parliamentary tricks failed to prevent the speech from being given, and the paper then inadvertently reported the speech in full because the “editor specially charged with the task of mutilating and cooking the parliamentary reports” had taken time off. To cover its lapse, the Times attempted to disqualify the criticisms. It argued that the attempts on the floor of Parliament to prevent the speech were justified because the speaker was a “bore.” Marx calls the work of this type done by the Times “drudgery” because its writers must take the Parliamentary reports and literally overnight “mutilate, alter, [and] falsify” them for publication.

 In the second example Marx discusses how, at the drop of a hat the Times reversed its support of the Confederacy and its opposition to the United States in accord with Palmerston’s policy. Marx specifies significant features of this reversal. The Times can even more easily employ “misstatement and suppression” on foreign news than it did on domestic reports. This spin on the news does not follow from any consideration of the business interests of “the British Cotton Lords” nor of “real or supposed English interest.” Instead, the editorial manipulation of reporting “simply executed the orders of its master.”
In addition, the reversal occurred simultaneously in a number of papers “connected with” Palmerston. Not only did all the papers act at the same time, they reversed their editorial position prior to any public statement by Palmerston himself. As his agents, they were preparing public opinion for the change of direction.  In both examples Marx charges the paper with plain and simple misrepresentation. Facts are omitted, they are changed and they are mendaciously misinterpreted. These manipulations are the mechanical execution of the strategic motive driving the creation of public opinion. “Falsifying” public opinion is the paper’s political function. Like the policies it justifies, the process of justification rests on covert and collusive manipulation.

In this first article, Marx establishes the “subserviency” of the “public-opinion-mongers” to Palmerston. He targets the influence exercised by a powerful official whom he singles out by name. Marx represents the instrumentalization of the press as a process of personal corruption and manipulation through “emoluments and advantages.” Both the policies the press supports and the collusion through which they support them are products of covert collaborations. Neither the policies nor the editorial positions toward them can be deduced directly from economic interests of particular participants or from national interests. The inherent tendencies of capitalist development and the specific levels and forms those developments have reached in England in 1861 set the parameters for the political arrangements between the government and the media. Marx criticizes those arrangements for the benefit of his politically conscious readers so they can better understand the relations that produce that reporting and its immediate political functions.

In the months following this article, Marx’s journalism often returned to the topic of the press. He relies on this model to discuss further examples of politically instrumentalized reporting and adds further detail to the model. In a second post I will follow up on these writings.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Monologue: "Standards and Practices" by Jon Robin Baitz

They say a lot about the “integrity vacancy” in my profession, which is television. Networks…that’s my particular area. Standards and Practices.


You find yourself listening to these people. Decent people, but they don’t have to face the unwashed masses that I do in standards and practices. I mean, we’re lawyers, you know? I’m no artist.


I have no pretensions about it. I have to deal with Colgate-Palmolive and Proctor & Gamble and Nestlé and General Foods, and these are decent types, these are decent guys. Lawyers, okay, you get the picture.


A little dry, maybe, a tendency to look at things as simply as black and white, but after years of having to go through law school, it’s not hard to lose your sense of humor.


But ask yourself this: Who is out there calling the shots? You know? I mean, I really, really despise petty moralizing. I really do.


And a lot of what I’m asked to do is fatuous even to me, and there is no doubt you could laughand me – a Jew - smart, you know, you can look at a guy like me and say “He inherited his liberalism,” because I have not lived through anything.

But I’ll tell you something, and please, anyone who disagrees with this is – gotta be living in another world...

When you reach the age of about twenty-seven to thirty-two, you basically -- you’ve had to make all the moral choices…

There is nothing you don’t have to confront. So listen – I want to ask you this – Who out there is calling the shots? Because met me tell ya’, if ya’ think it’s us guys at standards and practises, I can promise you this: You – are – wrong.

If you think it’s the guys at Proctor & Gamble, you – are – wrong.


Because, basically, what we are, we are men and women who sell certain things. But let me tell you: We get letters, and I mean, they are filled with rage. They are filled with a…a…a passionate anger toward…this coast. This business. What we do. They hate us. So much. Letters from people offended by homosexual acts. AIDS on the Movie of the Week. There are people who are fueled by this.


And I read these letters and I want to take a shower.


People who have this agenda. But they get together, they send these letters to the decent lawyers at Proctor & Gamble, who get scared, and they call me.


We get letters. There is a tide of hatred out there, and you cannot understand it, you cannot fathom the depths. This is a country filled with letter-writers, people who stay up all night, writhing and twisting, people who drive very old cars and have the strangest of habits, and people who have no real control over those habits. This country has a seam of absolute maniacal viciousness, and let me tell you – because you are all really – we’re in the same boat – it’s you and me against the treyf out there - - understand this:

They are stronger than us, they outnumber us, and they are angrier than we are; and they do not care about your – your “environment,” your “freedom of speech,” they want to kill. They want to kill your faggot brother, they want your sister to have that baby, and they – and they – are the people who buy all the shit I sell every night.


I have to make the world smooth for them.


That is my job.

When you hit – you know, age about twenty-eight, you have to make just about every moral decision there is to make.


Like today. Two men kissing?


I had them cut it.


Anything that disturbs the beast out there. No way.


Just think of me as one of the guardians of your safety; I keep the animals happy. Because they will take over the zoo if we let ‘em.

[picks up phone]

Get me Colgate.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


A good piece here defending the activity of making demands, but evading the fact that whether demanding is constructive or destructive, and whose interests it serves, depends on the demand.

"Protect our Christian Legacy", "British Jobs for British Workers" and “Zig Raus!” are all demands, and they've all been expressed with passion recently. Of course the demands which emerge from the Occupy movement include many which stress the illegitimacy of the state: "Stop Killing and Enslaving Us" or fcuk the pigs, burn the banks, "expropriate the expropriators", "Stop Stop and Frisk", "Decolonize Wall Street". The demands the authors of the piece list tend toward this type:

That we liberate New York, or Oakland, or Cleveland from the grips of financiers? That we must have returned what was stolen from us and given to the banks and to the 1%? That we deserve to live a life free of police repression and violence? That we want an end to imperialist projects and wars, and the restoration of social services and education?

These demands may not highlight as well as some others the violence, lawlessness and ruthlessness of the current ruling class and its absolute illegitimacy, but they don't tend to legitimize the state or the status quo of property and power. However, this list and the text in which we find it was probably written with the awareness of the debate into which it must enter, that is, in the knowledge that the concrete presently existing advocates of demands at OWS are rejecting (with contempt) these kinds of oppositional and accusatory demands (nixing for example reference to "the larceny of the 1%" as overly oppositional and likely to alienate someone of importance) and insisting on demands that do legitimize the state and that in fact require other people (not those who make the demands) to build things for the use and enjoyment and aggrandizement of those making the demands (the demand is the state put unemployed to work to secure the property and assert values belonging to those drafting the demands) and in all likelihood for expropriation as private property of the 1%.

Unfortunately around "the question of demands" has arisen a typical co-opting reaction - those whose efforts are principally to silence, mock, belittle, delay or deprioritize the demands of others are annointing themselves 'pro-demands' and denouncing their opponents, whose demands they are trying to gag or discredit, 'anti-demands', much the way those seeking to assert white supremacist patriarchal privileges do so by labelling feminists and anti-racists 'divisive' for objecting to the segregation benefiting the privileged and challenging their efforts to dominate and preserve these hierarchies. Though much is being done to combat it, and a great deal has been achieved in raising people's awareness and recruiting commitment to redress of these persistent injustices, one sees still everywhere the spectacle of all white groups or white individuals presenting themselves as universal and neutral, representatives of the norm and the commonweal, issuing dire warnings against the threat of and displaying eye-rolling impatience with insignificant raced people with selfish, unimportant concerns "muddying" this or that pure scene or analysis with their difference, undermining popular unity by spoiling uniformity, and hampering class struggle by challenging the domination or refusing obedience to the usual privileged petty bourgeois subjects.

It's in the unavoidable context of white supremacy and the US' particularly raced class society that the demands working group has specifically rejected suggestions they include any demands to protect those they recommend be employed providing services and rebuilding territorial US infrastructure (and US only, that is, not Afghanistan, not Iraq, not Haiti) from the repression and terror of the state or ensuring that this workforce who are proposed to be set to work making a better environment for those issuing the demands will be able to benefit from the wealth they create as well.

The demands working group at OWS have rejected the suggestion, most signficantly, of specifying debt amnesty for those to be employed by the public works scheme they demand be established. Without an insistence on debt amnesty, their demand in reality is that 25 million people be employed at their own expense and that of the rest of the public in order to guarantee (once again) the payment to the richest of the interest, fees, and debts to which those 25 million likely to take these jobs are currently obligated. Without debt amnesty, these “good union wages” must still fail to provide any kind of decent living standard, as all of those wages are already earmarked for the 1% via the indebtedness of the workers in question. The reason given for rejecting “debt amnesty” as a feature of this demand – this demand that is supposed to help the movement define the world it wants through the delineation of a policy that is actually practicable and desirable – is that it mars the “simplicity” of the scheme. That's a familiar defense of every kind of trickle down vision, and the proposal fits the pattern of trickle down in highlighting the inevitable consequences of the scheme to those least benefitting (but benefitting nonetheless, a little) and wholly ignoring that the bulk of the benefits of the scheme are monopolised by the ruling class and its courtiers and house servants.

That is, any measures that might ensure the 25 million workers benefit from the scheme are seen as an unnecessary complication - the scheme is a lovely machine one switches on and watches prosperity flow from, as is always appealing to bourgeois economists. This posture which defines all care to protect the interest of the propertyless as needless muddying and disfigurement of the beautiful simplicity of the Keynes/Fabian machine must be understood to confirm that the purpose of the scheme is the same as the purpose of every scheme inspired by this school of thought - to shore up the state’s legitimacy, secure property values, and boost growth to guarantee profits (and superprofits when the concrete products of the labour employed are privatised). The demand thus is objectionable with regard to content (the actual realization of the policy is not desirable, though it contains elements that would be part of many conceivable desirable policies) and as pedagogy (the demand as “impossible demand” tends to obscure rather than clarify present reality) and as political gesture (the demand is divisive and asserts the dominance of those who define themselves in opposition and distinction to “workers, the homeless, unemployed, undocumented” and who treat the expressed concerns of those groups as nuisances, the usual “laundry list” of particularist grievances, and needless “complexities”.)Without debt amnesty, the vision is one of effective enslavement of 25 million people set to work improving the public equity chiefly enjoyed by the richest 10%.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Particular and The Particular

Just can't seem to escape the question of the relationship between the particular and the universal. Or as this snippet of Marx seems to suggest, the relationship between the particular and the particular.

It comes from the Theories of Surplus Value in the discussion of Adam Smith, the subsection The Distinction between Productive and Unproductive Labour, and within that subsection, the subsection 17 on Nassau Senior. Unfortunately this link lands you far from the passage in question.

Man himself is the basis of his material production, as of every other production that he carries on. All circumstances, therefore, which affect man, the subject of production, modify plus ou moins all his functions and activities, and therefore his functions and activities as the creator of material wealth, of commodities too. In this respect it can in fact be demonstrated that all human relations and functions, however and in whatever they may present themselves, influence material production and engage with it determinatively to a greater or lesser degree.

For such a short passage, I have revised the translation at MIA pretty seriously. Specially in the last clause. What I have translated as "engage" appears there as "have decisive influence on." The German eingreifen generally means "intervention," like a military intervention or what authorities do in general. A very literal translation would be "in-grip," stick your hand in and grab hold. So it denotes and connotes a very active and forceful imposition from the outside.

Marx says, the relationships of production, in other words class positions, are actively and forcefully shaped by all the circumstances, like race and gender, that affect humans.

Pace universalism/class reductionism.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Secret of Secrets

In the discussion about Zizek's strategic rhetorical confusion of source, content and attitude, the comment about 'secret connections' reminded me of a passage in The Holy Family in which Marx analyzed an example of the use of 'secret' as a Hegelian construct.

I have transcribed the passage from the MIA with a couple of revisions. The translation linked to there translates Geheimnis as "mystery" but "secret" is a more colloquial equivalent and the word I have used.

What Marx says of Hegel and Mr. Szeliga needs to be understood of the Hegelianism of Zizz and the Zizzniks too. Above all, the characterization of Hegel's method as "masterly sophistry." Then, how Hegel executes this sophistry through the subordination of the particular to the universal. Finally, how Hegel articulates this subordination, "in the speculative world are nothing but semblances." Zizzian sophistry does not need verbal legerdemain to effect this reduction of the material to the seeming. Images from movies and accounts from the media provide him with ready made semblances. As well as the ultimate conclusion, that all the complex mechanisms of the sophistry amounts to nothing more than self-dramatization. Even Zizzian stand up is consistent digital Hegelianism. But enough interpretation, let's get on to Marx.

The Secret of Speculative Construction

The secret of the Critical presentation of the Mysteres de Paris is the secret of speculative, of Hegelian construction. Once Herr Szeliga has proclaimed that 'degeneracy within civilization' and rightlessness in the state are 'secrets', i.e. has dissolved them in the category of 'secret', he lets 'secret' begin its speculative career. A few words will suffice to characterise speculative construction in general. Herr Szeliga's treatment of the Mysteres de Paris will give the application in detail.

If from real apples, pears, strawberries and almonds I form the general idea of "Fruit", if I go further and imagine that my abstract idea of "Fruit", derived from real fruit, is an entity existing outside me, is indeed the true essence of the pear, the apple, the almond, etc., then in the language of speculative philosophy - I am declaring that "Fruit" is the "Substance" of the pear, the apple, the almond, etc. I am saying, therefore, that to be a pear is not essential to the pear, to be an apple is not essential to the apple; that what is essential to these things is not their real existence, perceptible to the senses, but the essence I have abstracted from them and then foisted on them, the essence of my idea - "Fruit". I therefore declare apples, pears, almonds, etc.,to be mere forms of existence, modi, of "Fruit". My finite understanding supported by my senses does of course distinguish an apple from a pear and a pear from an almond, but my speculative reason declares these sensuous differences as inessential and irrelevant. It sees in the apple the same thing as in the pear, and in the pear the same thing as in the almond, namely "Fruit". Particular real fruits are no more than semblances whose true essence in "the substance" - "Fruit".

By this method one attains no particular wealth of definition. The mineralogist whose whole science was limited to the statement that all minerals are really "the Mineral" would be a mineralogist only in his imagination. For every mineral the speculative Mineralogist says, "the Mineral", and his science is reduced to repeating this word as many times as there are real minerals.

Having reduced the different real fruits to the one "fruit" of abstraction - "the Fruit", speculation must, in order to attain some semblance of real content, try somehow to find its way back from "the Fruit", from Substance to the diverse, ordinary real fruits, the pear, the apple, the almond, etc. It is as hard to produce real fruits from the abstract idea "the Fruit" as it is easy to produce the abstract idea from real fruits. Indeed, it is impossible to arrive at the opposite of an abstraction without relinquishing the abstraction.

The speculative philosopher therefore relinquishes the abstraction "the Fruit", but in a speculative, mystical fashion - with the appearance of not reliquishing it. Thus it is really only in appearance that he rises above his abstraction. He argues somewhat as follows:

If apples, pears, almonds and strawberries are really nothing but "the subtance", "the Fruit", the question arises: Why does "the Fruit" manifest itself to me sometimes as an apple, sometimes as a pear, sometimes as an almond? Why this semblance of diversity, which so obviously contradicts my speculative conception of Unity, "the Substance", "the Fruit"?

This, answers the speculative philosopher, is because "the Fruit" is not dead, undifferentiated motionless, but a living, self-differentiating, moving essence. The diversity of the ordinary fruits is significant not only for my sensuous understanding, but also for "the Fruit" itself and for speculative reason. The different ordinary fruits are different manifestations of the life of the "one Fruit"; they are cystallisations of "the Fruit" itself. Thus in the apple "the Fruit" gives itself an apple-like existence, in the pear a pear-like existence. We must therefore no longer say, as one might from the standpoint of the Substance: a pear is "the Fruit", an apple is "the Fruit" an almond is "the Fruit", but rather "the Fruit" presents itself as a pear, "the Fruit" presents itself as an apple, "the Fruit" presents itself as an almond; and the differences which distinguish apples, pears and almonds from one another are the self-differentiations of "the Fruit" and make the particular fruits different members of the life-process of the "the Fruit". Thus "the Fruit" is no longer an empty undifferentiated unity; it is oneness as allness, as "totality" of fruits, which constitute an "organically linked series of members". In every member of that series "the Fruit" gives itself a more developed, more explicit existence, until finally, as the "summary" of all fruits, it is at the same time the living unity which contains all those fruits dissolved in itself just as it produces them from within itself, just as, for instance, all the limbs of the body are constantly dissolved in and constantly produced out of the blood.

We see that if the Christian religion knows only one Incarnation of God, speculative philosophy has an many incarnations as there are things, just as it has here in every fruit an incarnation of the Substance, of the Absolute Fruit. The main interest for the speculative philosopher is therefore to produce the existence of the real ordinary fruits and to say in some mysterious way that there are apples, pears, almonds and raisins. But the apples, pears, almonds and raisins that we rediscover in the speculative world are nothing but semblances of apples, semblances of pears, semblances of almonds and semblances of raisins, for they are moments in the life of "the Fruit", this abstract creation of the mind, and therefore themselves abstract creations of the mind. hence what is delightful in this speculation is to rediscover all the real fruits there, but as fruits which have a higher mystical significance, which have grown out of the ether of your brain and not out of the material earth, which are incarnations of "the Fruit", of the Absolute Subject. When you return from the abstraction, the supernatural creation of the mind, "the Fruit", to real natural fruits, you give on the contrary the natural fruits a supernatural significance and transform them into sheer abstractions. Your main interest is then to point out the unity of "the Fruit" in all the manifestations of its life - the apple, the pear, the almond - that is to show the mystical interconnection between these fruits, how in each one of them "the Fruit" realises itself by degrees and necessarily progresses, for instance, from its existence as a raisin to its existence as an almond. Hence, the value of the ordinary fruits no longer consists in their natural qualities, but in their speculative quality, which gives each of them a definite place in the life-process of "the Absolute Fruit".

The ordinary man does not think he is saying anything extraordinary when he states that there are apples and pears. But when the philosopher expresses their existence in the speculative way he says something extraordinary. He performs a miracle by producing the real natural objects, the apple, the pear, etc. out of the unreal creation of the mind "the Fruit", i.e., by creating those fruits out of his own abstract reason, which he considers as an Absolute Subject outside himself, represented here as "the Fruit". And in regard to every object the existence of which he expresses, he accomplishes an act of creation.

It goes without saying that the speculative philosopher accomplishes this continuous creation only by presenting universally known qualities of the apple, the pear, etc., which exist in reality, as determinng features invented by him, by giving the names of real things to what abstract reason alone can create, to abstract formulas of reason, finally, by declaring his own activity, by which he passes from the idea of an apple to the idea of a pear, to be the self-activity of the Absolute Subject, "the Fruit".

In the speculative way of speaking, this operation is called comprehending Substance as Subject, as an inner process, as an Absolute Person, and this comprehension constitutes the essential character of Hegel's method.

These preliminary remarks were necessary to make Herr Szeliga intelligible. Only now, after dissolving real relations, e.g, law and civilisation, in the category of secret and thereby making "Secret" into Substance, does he rise to the true speculative, Hegelian height and transforms "Secret" into a self-existing Subject incarnating itself in real situations and persons so that the manifestations of its life are countesses, marquises, grisettes, porters, notaries and charlatans, and love intrigues, balls, wooden doors, etc. Having produced the category "Secret" out of the real world, he produces the real world out of this category.

The secrets of speculative construction in Herr Szeliga's presentation will be all the more visibly disclosed as he has an indisputable double advantage over Hegel. On the one hand, Hegel with masterly sophistry is able to present as a process of the imagined creation of the mind itself, of the Absolute Subject, the process by which the philosopher through sensory perception and imagination passes from one subject to another. On the other hand, however, Hegel very often gives a real presentation, embracing the thing itself, within the speculative presentation. This real development within the speculative development misleads the reader into considering the speculative development as real and the real as speculative.

With Herr Szeliga both these difficulties vanish. His dialectics have no hypocrisy or dissimulation. He performs his tricks with the most laudable honesty and the most ingenuous straightforwardness. But then he nowhere develops any real content, so that his speculative construction is free from all disturbing accessories, from all ambiguous disguises, and appeals to the eye in its naked beauty. In Herr Szeliga we also see a brilliant illustration of how speculation on the one hand apparently freely creates its object a priori out of itself and, on the other hand, precisely because it wishes to get rid by sophistry of the rational and natural dependence on the object, falls into the irrational and unnatural bondage to the object, whose most accidental and most individual attributes it is obliged to construe as absolutely necessary and general.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Thank You Naomi Klein Well Said As Usual

Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now
by Naomi Klein
I was honored to be invited to speak at Occupy Wall Street on Thursday night. Since amplification is (disgracefully) banned, and everything I say will have to be repeated by hundreds of people so others can hear (a k a “the human microphone”), what I actually say at Liberty Plaza will have to be very short. With that in mind, here is the longer, uncut version of the speech.

I love you.

And I didn’t just say that so that hundreds of you would shout “I love you” back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human microphone. Say unto others what you would have them say unto you, only way louder.

Yesterday, one of the speakers at the labor rally said: “We found each other.” That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being created here. A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can’t be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world to find each other. We are so grateful.

If there is one thing I know, it is that the 1 percent loves a crisis. When people are panicked and desperate and no one seems to know what to do, that is the ideal time to push through their wish list of pro-corporate policies: privatizing education and social security, slashing public services, getting rid of the last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the economic crisis, this is happening the world over.

And there is only one thing that can block this tactic, and fortunately, it’s a very big thing: the 99 percent. And that 99 percent is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say “No. We will not pay for your crisis.”

That slogan began in Italy in 2008. It ricocheted to Greece and France and Ireland and finally it has made its way to the square mile where the crisis began.

“Why are they protesting?” ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile, the rest of the world asks: “What took you so long?” “We’ve been wondering when you were going to show up.” And most of all: “Welcome.”

Many people have drawn parallels between Occupy Wall Street and the so-called anti-globalization protests that came to world attention in Seattle in 1999. That was the last time a global, youth-led, decentralized movement took direct aim at corporate power. And I am proud to have been part of what we called “the movement of movements.”

But there are important differences too. For instance, we chose summits as our targets: the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the G8. Summits are transient by their nature, they only last a week. That made us transient too. We’d appear, grab world headlines, then disappear. And in the frenzy of hyper patriotism and militarism that followed the 9/11 attacks, it was easy to sweep us away completely, at least in North America.

Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, has chosen a fixed target. And you have put no end date on your presence here. This is wise. Only when you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial. It is a fact of the information age that too many movements spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off. It’s because they don’t have roots. And they don’t have long term plans for how they are going to sustain themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away.

Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful. But these principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead. I have great faith that this will happen.

Something else this movement is doing right: You have committed yourselves to non-violence. You have refused to give the media the images of broken windows and street fights it craves so desperately. And that tremendous discipline has meant that, again and again, the story has been the disgraceful and unprovoked police brutality. Which we saw more of just last night. Meanwhile, support for this movement grows and grows. More wisdom.

But the biggest difference a decade makes is that in 1999, we were taking on capitalism at the peak of a frenzied economic boom. Unemployment was low, stock portfolios were bulging. The media was drunk on easy money. Back then it was all about start-ups, not shutdowns.

We pointed out that the deregulation behind the frenzy came at a price. It was damaging to labor standards. It was damaging to environmental standards. Corporations were becoming more powerful than governments and that was damaging to our democracies. But to be honest with you, while the good times rolled, taking on an economic system based on greed was a tough sell, at least in rich countries.

Ten years later, it seems as if there aren’t any more rich countries. Just a whole lot of rich people. People who got rich looting the public wealth and exhausting natural resources around the world.

The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And it is trashing the natural world as well. We are overfishing our oceans, polluting our water with fracking and deepwater drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet, like the Alberta tar sands. And the atmosphere cannot absorb the amount of carbon we are putting into it, creating dangerous warming. The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological.

These are the facts on the ground. They are so blatant, so obvious, that it is a lot easier to connect with the public than it was in 1999, and to build the movement quickly.

We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is actually finite—fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful—the financial resources to build the kind of society we need.

The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society—while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take.

What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline. This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. And I’m not talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes on the rich, though that’s important.

I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our society. That is hard to fit into a single media-friendly demand, and it’s also hard to figure out how to do it. But it is no less urgent for being difficult.

That is what I see happening in this square. In the way you are feeding each other, keeping each other warm, sharing information freely and proving health care, meditation classes and empowerment training. My favorite sign here says, “I care about you.” In a culture that trains people to avoid each other’s gaze, to say, “Let them die,” that is a deeply radical statement.

A few final thoughts. In this great struggle, here are some things that don’t matter.

§ What we wear.

§ Whether we shake our fists or make peace signs.

§ Whether we can fit our dreams for a better world into a media soundbite.

And here are a few things that do matter.

§ Our courage.

§ Our moral compass.

§ How we treat each other.

We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic and political forces on the planet. That’s frightening. And as this movement grows from strength to strength, it will get more frightening. Always be aware that there will be a temptation to shift to smaller targets—like, say, the person sitting next to you at this meeting. After all, that is a battle that’s easier to win.

Don’t give in to the temptation. I’m not saying don’t call each other on shit. But this time, let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before will demand nothing less.

Let’s treat this beautiful movement as if it is most important thing in the world. Because it is. It really is.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Saturday, October 01, 2011

It's Always Football

So that's what happened. Early October 2010, Angela Merkel attended a match in Germany against the Turkish national team. A large contingent of the fans were supporting Turkey, for which several ethnically Turkish German residents kept their nationality to play. And every time Mesut Özil had the ball, the Turkey supporters whistled - in a German home stadium!

So she basically made a beeline from the stadium to the television to tell the world MULTICULTURALISM HAS FAILED!!!!

It's always football.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Too Starkey

So instead of a consistent critique of anti-Semitism, racism and misogyny, we get from the Zizney crowd a constant stream of anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, heteronormativity, homophobia and misogyny punctuated by isolated, ad hominem, ceremonial public whippings and pillory of individual sinners (often, like Atzmon, some or other sort of troll or provocateur*) whose material it is suggested ought to be suppressed as it taints pure environments like The London Review of Books or ZeroBooks imprint. These ceremonies serve not only to implicitly certify Zizney's own product as racism-free and ideologically fit for consumption, but they protect that product from the perils of proximity to the blueprints or specs that such product, when not wrapped in the Radical Left packaging and its alibis, can resemble. Zizek's "half ape blacks", "orangutan" cousin, or "incredibly painful birth of African-American consciousness" in Sethe's act of "killing what is most dear to her - her progeny", (not to mention all the prime time tv examples of this animalisation) are easier for Zizney fans to pretend are unobjectionable or even insightful and "philosophically important" if not seen beside R W Johnson's baboons and the like. The Zizney pillory obstructs in fact the most effective and well-established pedagogical method deployed against racism in the culture wars, which is the exposure of themes and motifs and patterns across different works and media. A sincere commitement to anti-racism and against anti-Semitism would certainly involve using the occasion of Atzmon's new book to teach about the resurgence of these themes, which would mean showing the themes and motifs and tropes which connect Atzmon, Zizek, Mearsheimer and others. Instead, naturally, Zizney takes action to preempt and disrupt such an enlightening discourse - the kind that achieved in the first place everything against the old supremacist mythology and in favour of genuine truthful and emancipatory historiography that Zizney is trying now to dismantle - by isolating one of the most heuristically useful examples of the Zizney ideology (Atzmon's), which could be a really effective tool in exposing the resurgent discourse across many genres and national media, and insisting on viewing it as the opposite and enemy of the more successful versions of the discourse (Zizek's mainly). This theatre preserves the legitimacy of the anti-Semitic mythology itself against the threat posed by careless or too obvious versions (or versions that aren't designed to serve the main purpose, which is apology for US empire including Zionist colonialism and the usual displacement of public anger onto scapegoats).

The right wing or mainstream version of these things may even often be more subtle and less lurid and baroque than the "radical left" versions, but they tend to be issued from a stable instead of a floated point of view, and this is key to the danger they pose to the new digimedia age postmodern racist ideological products. The newest stuff, that really works and is very popular, floats the point of view (Reckless Tortuga is a vivid example) to give the consumer, who is reluctant to declare himself racist, the means of evading challenge or criticism. The floating, in text product, is accomplished by such tactics as un-assigned quotation marks ("scare quotes" are only one type) or preamble labelling like "the typical liberal counter-proposal is..." or "my first anti-Semitic reaction was...". This is an important innovation; the kinds of product Zizney attacks don't have it - in that product the point of view is stable: R W Johnson is himself observing/asserting/concoting in his own voice an analogy between baboons and Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa, but Zizek offers his "half ape blacks" from an unidentified point of view that is actually several layers thick:

the innermost position of articulation is some imagined revolutionary soldiers in Saint Domingue during the Haitian war of independence. Zizek puts on a "you've-heard-this-all-before" voice which is intended to be the voice of soldiers: they are saying "you see we the primitive half-ape blacks..."

but he embeds this performance of those imagined revolutionaries within a caveat - in fact these imagined revolutionaries didn't say this. So what is he performing? This brings us the next layer of point of view in which the image is encased; there is another set of revolutionary black French soliders who are singing the Marseillaise and (Zizek informs us) "it didn't mean 'you see we the primitive half-ape blacks'". They sing the Marseillaise, like the soliders Zizek perfoms making some odd gesture, but they don't say what he performs them saying.

The speakers he does imitate are performed but disavowed; he shows them to us, he physically demonstrates some gesture of theirs, but denies they existed. What are they here for?

.... so whose point of view is this? Who is imagining soldiers singing the Marseillaise in order to say "you see we the primitive..."? The point of view of this subject, the subject who imagines the figures Zizek performs, is hazy.

...and yet further out from this hazy subject who imagines soldiers singing the Marseillaise to show that they, though primitive half-apes, "can also participate in your...' there is yet another subject, another point of view, making fun of that point of view. And with this other subject making fun of the unidentified subject who imagines soldiers singing the Marseillaise in order to show that they are primitive but still can participate in your [trails off] the "mocking voice" acquires a second layer. The sound of the mockery is doing double service. It is not only the tone indicating the attitude the unidentified misinterpreter of events assigns to the soliders singing the Marseillaise envisioning themselves as "half-ape blacks", it is the mockery directed at that unidentified subject who is mocking, by yet another unidentified point of view.

All this disguises the lack of sense or reason or excuse for the lurid racist imagery and permits the audience to enjoy it, but only if things like R W Johnson's baboons are not also part of this audience's diet of discourse.

The floated enunciating subject is a consistent feature of Zizney and it's key to its marketing to the audience it attracts: it allows that audience who takes pleasure in the symbolic racist violence to shift out of range when challenged and to present the racist discourse as a critique of itself. It evades all responsibility for the articulation by allowing the subject (Zizek and his audience, fashioned by this very complicity into a "we") to slip away into a labyrinth of perspectives built around the statements.

The operation is so convoluted the consumer can almost always avoid having to explain why such a critique of the figments of the critic's own imagination and obsessions would be necessary or what it accomplishes, because discussion gets diverted into chasing the position of the subject who articulates.

With this technique, which involves a heavy use of passive construction and generalisation, the text becomes interactive, malleable and immune to ordinary rebuttal (albeit not to rebuttal, although always the defender can accuse the critic of being "ungenerous", and this must almost always be for an evil, personal, possibly psychotic motive).

The danger then the old fashioned material poses is that the floated-pov articulations can be pinned down, at least to a point, by comparison and situating within the context of the older material and the old fashioned current material. And removing the context for the reassertion of racist and supremacist material that is presenting itself as radical, fresh and insightful is essential. Each sentence must be considered, as Rodney King assailants' defence lawyers understood each blow must be evaluated, in isolation. In isolation from the statement it is rebutting, "it was not the Holocaust which left Ljuljana almost without Jews" becomes an assertion one can (just barely) defend. For example, Richard Seymour defends the statement by removing it from the context in which it actually appears and supplying it a new context - to suggest it is rebutting a statement like "the Holocaust was the first instance of anti-Semitism in Slovenia" -- and also a foil, that which it nobly doesn't say, which is "the Holocaust had no effect at all on Jews." Seymour deploys highly competent Zizney technique, providing this new context for the statement he's defending and suppressing the actual context (the statement is put forward to prove that Kirsch's assertion "Zizek was born and raised in a town the Holocaust had left almost without Jews" is false and that stating it is "despicable".)

This is the same technique Seymour used in his defence of Zizek's proposal to discuss whether exterminating gays would protect "us" from Nazism:

There is a long tradition of the Leftist gay bashing, whose traces are discernible up to Adorno – suffice it to mention Maxim Gorky’s infamous remark from his essay “Proletarian Humanism” (sic! – 1934): “Exterminate (sic!) homosexuals, and Fascism will disappear.”(Quoted from Siegfried Tornow, “Maennliche Homosexualitaet und Politik in Sowjet-Russland,” in Homosexualitaet und Wissenschaft II, Berlin: Verlag Rosa Winkel 1992, p. 281.) All of this cannot be reduced to opportunistically flirting with the traditional patriarchal sexual morality of the working classes, or with the Stalinist reaction against the liberating aspects of the first years after the October Revolution; one should remember that the above-quoted Gorky’s inciting statement, as well as Adorno’s reservations towards homosexuality (his conviction about the libidinal link between homosexuality and the spirit of military male-bonding), are all based on the same historical experience: that of the SA, the “revolutionary” paramilitary Nazi organization of street-fighting thugs, in which homosexuality abounded up to its head (Roehm). The first thing to note here is that it was already Hitler himself who purged the SA in order to make the Nazi regime publicly acceptable by way of cleansing it of its obscene-violent excess, and that he justified the slaughter of the SA leadership precisely by evoking their “sexual depravity”… In order to function as the support of a “totalitarian” community, homosexuality has to remain a publicly disavowed “dirty secret,” shared by those who are “in.” Does this mean that, when gays are persecuted, they deserve only a qualified support, a kind of “Yes, we know we should support you, but nonetheless… (you are partially responsible for the Nazi violence)”? What one should only insist on is that the political overdetermination of homosexuality is far from simple, that the homosexual libidinal economy can be co-opted by different political orientations, and that it is HERE that one should avoid the “essentialist” mistake of dismissing the Rightist “militaristic” homosexuality as the secondary distortion of the “authentic” subversive homosexuality.

To defend this he isolates the statement What one should only insist on is that the political overdetermination of homosexuality is far from simple, and he supplies it a new context, one in which it is a rebuttal to a statement like "is the 'gay libinial economy' inescapably left wing?" and a foil to "all gays are necessarily Nazis."

So the individuals who must be pilloried and ostracised by Zizney interfere with this kind of evasion. They are those who produce the old low-tech type of discourse which do not have the wheels and gears that allow the defence against straightforward challenges - "Jews are plotting" not "this typical liberal position misses the irony that the paradox is that the very same Jews who are plotting once embodied what Kant called the public use of Reason" - the juxtapositon of which with the floated type can expose its effects.**

So the latest is Atzmon who, wishing to be as brutally clear with his "shocking" remarks as possible, instead of saying, as Zizney does, "the paradox is" that the very same "Jewish intellectuals" who demand "all others" give up "their ethnic particularity" are Jewish tribalists (with despotic powers comparable to Stalin's with which they persecute their critics like Mel Gibson, etc), merely states this without the "theoretical analysis" regarding "the paradox" which effectively creates the illusion that the enunciator recedes a slight distance from the fact he is offering as fact, which then allows for the whole apparatus of interactive flexibility to be initiated.

Atzmon delivers many of the assertions that Zizney promotes regarding "the Jews" but without the Lacanian packaging (the psychoanalytic-flavoured "explanation" for example of why anti-Semitic and racist discourses are truths uttered for naughty pleasure, and indeed have "performative efficiency", so at least in the case of those advanced by "whites", must be true). He is to Zizek's anti-Semitism (whom he really likes) as Starkey is to Zizney's white supremacism. Zizney/Zizek is actually more lurid, and the Zizney oeuvre (leader and acolytes) partakes of more of the fantastical and fabulous, while Atzmon's is closer in "realism" of setting to Mearsheimer, but Atzmon's discourse, especially when he evokes Zizek's psychoanalytic "theories" for support, is a danger to the carefully constructed but fragile inner mechanism of the Zizney versions which are intended to persuade not outrage. If you put the two side by side, the former serves to clarify the latter too visibly - like a drawing of an animal's skeleton placed next to the drawing of the great ball of fat and fur it appears from the outside - but also to halt its motion, to lock the gears. Atzmon, like Starkey, shows the bones if the apology for imperialism and the civilising mission of white supremacy of which the Zizney output consists, but he also contributes to a context that is difficult to ignore and therefore impacts the way the Zizney fables of "the Jews" - unique nation, ancient tribe, collective neurotic psyche - appears.

Starkey really offered the clearest fixed-pov example of the Zizney story of the perils of multiculturalism. Zizney tells us frequently of the "universal mingling, multi-culti, racial confusion, liquefaction of all identities, nomadic, plural, shifting subjectivity" allegedly foisted by "the Jews" who are "the original multiculturalists" on Europe even while these same Jews "ironically" or "paradoxically" (for this is "the paradox of Jewish Identity") preserving their own tribal particularity, is easily identified when placed next to a unabashed "right wing" statement:


There's been a profound cultural change...the whites have become black...a particular sort of violent, destructive nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion...and black and white, boy and girl, operate in this language together, this language which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois which has been intruded in England, and this is why so many of us have the sense of literally a foreign country...this is the text sent by the young woman who was the olympic ambassador: "pigs shouldn't of killed dat guy last night innit, den dey wouldn't get blown up."


Alain Badiou replaced by Angela Davis...women, race, what feminism did to communism, the proliferation of radical standpoints,.thinking with worms, alas poor Marx! communism from below, interspecies communism, weak communists, bell hooks: "Ain't I a commiunist?"

The list of Jewish corruption of Europe is all checked off - the White Male became the Black Female, the all white male elite was infiltrated by women and people of colour, and what flows from this is "universal mingling, multiculti, racial confusion, liquefaction of all identities, nomadic, plural, shifting subjectivity" and of course the finale which exhibits this loss with the most sentimental alarm that the true Europeans have become foreigners in their own land and foreign speakers of their own tongue.

We can easily see when these are set beside one another the contours of the trope at work, and from then on we can recognise it everywhere it appears. It is not a static image, but a narrative of corruption and degeneration which, typically, culminates in this performance of the hideously disfigured English, the national essence defiled in the comically inept, contemptible but disturbing mimicky of the sacred tongue.


(I found it amazing at first that anyone would miss the tone of a guy who is suggesting we need to look into whether there is any truth to the blood libel, but then it occurred to me this must be perceived very differently by these hayseed devotees of the Slobbering Slovitzian who have had that thought actually pass through their heads and so are struck with panic and horror when everyone else is laughing.)


Zizek himself puts his propagandistic mechanism through all its paces, showing how to deny what he has said by shfting the position of the articulation.

Adam Kirsch reads this: "To put it succinctly, the only true solution to the 'Jewish question' is the 'final solution' (their annihilation), because Jews ... are the ultimate obstacle to the 'final solution' of History itself, to the overcoming of divisions in all-encompassing unity and flexibility" as representing the position of Alain Badiou (Zizek's sincere straightforward paraphrase of Badiou).

Zizek then claims, in high dudgeon, that it is not a paraphrase of Alain Badiou and does not represent his point of view, but he will not say whose thoughts he is advancing there. Instead he says, "what I do is provide a résumé of how the French Zionist critics perceive contemporary Europe."

What does this mean? The proposal about the 'final solution' (a phrase he does not quote but has introduced himself in quotes, to seem as if quoting, as if the term forced itself on his text from without, and then protests innocence of the suspicion it would be perceived as evocative of anything) cannot be accepted as the point of view of "French Zionists". Is he suggesting that "contemporary Europe" believes "the only true solution to the Jewish question is 'the final solution'..." or that French Zionists believe this is "contemporary Europe's" belief?

Let's look at it marking the point of view as we go:

[There] is an interesting struggle which has been going on recently (not only) among Lacanians (not only) in France.

That's Zizek informing us from his knowledge.

The struggle concerns the status of the "One" as the name of a political subjectivity, a struggle which has led to many broken friendships (say, between Badiou and Jean-Claude Milner).

Still Zizek speaking.

The irony is that this struggle is taking place among ex-Maoists (Badiou, Milner, Lévy, Miller, Regnault, Finkielkraut), and between "Jewish" and "non-Jewish" intellectuals.

Who is being quoted as labelling the intellectuals Jewish or non-Jewish? Or are these scare quotes? What do these words mean?

The question is, is the name of the One the result of a contingent political struggle, or is it somehow rooted in a more substantial particular identity?

This at first glance appears to be Zizek himself characterising a question that some unidentified intellectuals have asked. But it may be that it is Zizek's interpretation of the debate between the "Jewish" and "non-Jewish" intellectuals that some or all would not accept.

The position of Jewish Maoists is that "Jews" is such a name which stands for that which resists today's global trend to overcome all limitations, inclusive of the very finitude of the human condition, in radical capitalist "deterritorialiszation" and "fluidification" (the trend which reaches its apotheosis in the gnostic-digital dream of transforming humans themselves into virtual software that can reload itself from one hardware to another).

Zizek himself is speaking his opinions about what the Jewish Maoists believe about someone else's idea. Who has the idea that "Jews is such a name which..."? It may be the Jewish Maoists own view that "Jews" is such a name, but it may be the Jewish Maoists idea of how other people perceive Jews. Or, it may be Jewish Maoists idea of how other people believe Jews perceive themselves or how other people believe Jews believe other people percieve Jews. That floated position means what follows has no definite point of view assigned but can be assigned as convenient to the defence of the text against challenge. Who is quoted as using "deterritorialization"? Is it that same subject who asserts that the trend of fluidication reaches its apothesosis in the gnostic-digital attitude? Who is the gnostic-digital attitude attributed to? Is it assumed to be correctly attributed? Is it the Jewish Maoist assigning attitudes to a subject with a gnostic-digital perspective? Is the Jewish Maoist reliable on this? Is it even the Jewish Maoist who assets this?

It continues:

The name "Jews" thus stands for the most basic fidelity to what one is.

Who is speaking? Is this the gnostic-digital thinker, according to The Jewish Maoist or to Zizek? Is it the Jewish Maoist's idea of what the name "Jews" stands for? Is it Badiou's idea of what the name "Jews" stands for for the Jewish Maoist? Is it Zizek's idea of what the digiera gnostic thinks the name "Jews" stands for for the Jewish Moaist? Or what Zizek thinks the name "Jews" stands for for the digignostic? Or is it for Zizek himself that the name "Jews" stands for the most basic fidelity to what one is?


Along these lines

What lines? This is the final erasing of the trail, reaching the maximum ambiguity, before a new assignment of pov:

Along these lines, François Regnault claims that the contemporary Left demands of Jews (much more than of other ethnic groups) that they "yield with regard to their name" -- a reference to Lacan's ethical maxim "do not yield with regard to your desire"...[elipsis in original] One should remember here that the same shift from radical emancipatory politics to the fidelity to the Jewish name is already discernible in the fate of the Frankfurt School, especially in Horkheimer's later texts.

A point of view briefly emerges clearly Regnault says the "contemporary left" demands - only to vanish at once in the reference to some previous "shift from radical emancipatory politics to fidelity to the Jewish name". Who is recommending one remember here? We have a purported previous instance (to no specific later instance) of Jews repudiating universalism for Jewish particularism, but who thinks this appropriate to remember "here"? Regnault? Or Zizek? If Regnault, does Zizek agree? Is he suggesting that Regnault is making an insightful case for some intrinsic Jewish particularism? Or is he himself making that case?

Now all the shifting gears are set in motion to unmoor the text entirely with the next statement:

Jews here are the exception: in the liberal culturalist perspective, all groups can assert their identity - except Jews, whose very self-assertion equals Zionist racism...[elipses in original]

Who is saying Jews here are the exception? Is what follows a complaint from Regnault? Or an observation of Zizek's? And where is here? Is this again the Maoist Jews as a group attributing views to the liberal multiculturalists? Is it Zizek attributing views to the liberal multiculturalists? Is the attribution accurate? Is Zizek himself declaring that Jewish self-assertion is Zionist racism or endorsing that view? Is he endorsing the Jewish Maoists perception of the liberal multiculturalists as correct but not the content of the view the former attribute to the latter? Is he identifying a new party who holds the view that liberal multiculturalists insist (only) Jews can't assert their identity because it is Zionist racism? Is he interpreting the (disavowed) implications of the liberal multiculturalists or is he paraphrasing their assertions? Where is Zizek's own point of view here?

In contrast to this approach

What approach? The approach of the Jewish Maoists complaining about the liberal multiculturalists complaining about the Jewish Maoists? Or the approach of the liberal multiculturalists complaining about the Jewish Maoists? Or the approach of the Jewish Maoists to Jewishness and Zionism?

In contrast to this approach, Badiou and others insist on the fidelity to the One which emerges and is constituted through the very political struggle of/for naming and, as such, cannot be grounded in any particular determinate content (such as ethnic of religious roots).

In contrast to liberal multiculturalists who claim that Jewish self-assertion is Zionist racism but everyone else can assert their own identity, someone (Zizek or the Jewish Maoists or someone else) claim Badiou and others insist on something. What does Badiou insist on? Or are we still listening to Zizek's account of what the Jewish Maoists think? (This will all be characterised later as a résumé of French Zionists perceptions of contemporary Europe, recall). Is this statement regarding what Badiou insists on in fact the false accusation of the Jewish Maoists?

Anyway, either Badiou insists on fidelity to the One which emerges in political struggle for naming and has no ethnic or religious roots, or Badiou is accused of this wrongly by someone.

At this point I would say the text leans toward inviting the interpretation that Badiou is being accurately characterised by Zizek and not slandered by the Jewish Maoists, (but in his self-defense against Kirsch he will claim it is clearly the latter, and that this characterisation of what Badiou insists on is spoken from the point of view of Jewish Maoists and articulates their erroneous fantasy of what Badiou insists on.)

From this point of view

That is, from either Badiou's point of view or the point of view Badiou is falsely attributed by the Jewish Maosists, (this is important as we are nearing the Kirsch selection)

From this point of view, fidelity to the name "Jews" is the obverse (the silent recognition) of the defeat of authentic emancipatory struggles.

Someone may think fidelity to the name "Jews" is associated with the defeat of authentic emancipatory struggles. Then again, Zizek may be suggesting that nobody thinks this, that "this point of view" - which is another instance of refusing commitment to content ("this point of view" could say "JM's pov" or "Badiou's pov" or "this approach" could say "the liberal multiculturalist approach" or "my approach" or "Regnault's approach"; "along these lines" could say "the lines of Badiou's reasoning" or "the linbes of Jewish Maosist's contentions"; the ambiguity is deliberate and necessary for the text's equivocations and malleability) -- is the non-existent point of view that the Jewish Maoists wrongly believe is Badiou's.

Whose point of view is it? one is forced to wonder fruitlessly. (In fact, we the readers know from material outside this text that this is the position Badiou has taken and which Zizek has reiterated often in a cruder racialised way that Badiou daintily avoids. So we can assume Zizek knows that's how most of his readers will interpret the sentence. But Zizek will claim that he is not paraphrasing Badiou at the crucial passage, and that this is obvious.).


No wonder that those who demand fidelity to the name "Jews" are also those who warn us against the "totalitarian" dangers of any radical emancipatory movement.

Jeez, who is this now? Now we have a sudden proliferation of layers of subjectivity, as if a prism had been placed on the text. Is this sentence:

a) Zizek informing us the Jewish Maosists falsely claim Badiou says "no wonder that those who demand fidelity to the name "Jews" are also.."? (That is, is Zizek still characterizing "this point of view" and is it Badiou's as seen by the Jewish Maoists? Could one accurately quote it "From this point of view [which Jewish Maoists attribute to Badiou]...[it's] No wonder that those who demand fidelity to the name "Jews" [Badiou's wrong idea of the Jewish Maoists according to the Jewish Maoists' paranoid fantasy] are also those who warn us against the "totalitarian" dangers of any radical emancipatory movement"?)

b) Zizek informing us Badiou says "no wonder that those who demand fidelity to the name "Jews" are also those who warn us against the "totalitarian" dangers of any radical emancipatory movement"? (Is if "from this point of view" that is Badiou's actual point of view as far as Zizek understands it?)

c) Zizek himself saying, given what he has learned from Badiou that it is no wonder to him that those who demand fidelity to the name Jews are also those who warn us etc? (Is it not "from this point of view" at all but a resumed direct statement from Zizek's own point of view after the digression into ventriloquism?)

d) Zizek himself saying that given the way the Jewish Maoists misconstrue Badiou it is no wonder to him that they also warn us against "totalitarian" dangers of any radical emancipatory movement?

All of these possibilities are made available for the convenience of the defender of this anti-Semitic screed.

Their politics consists in accepting the fundamental finitude and limitation of our situation, and the Jewish Law is the ultimate mark of this finitude, which is why, for them, all attempts to overcome Law and tend towards all-embracing Love (from Christianity through the French Jacobins and Stalinism) must end up in totalitarian terror.

Now we are getting very close to Kirsch's excerpt, and where are we? Who is speaking? Zizek will claim to Kirsch that this is not his own voice or assessment, but that it is obvious that Kirsch has maliciously construed it as such, though he cannot say precisely what the quoted passage means and to whom it's contentions are attributed. What Zizek, under challenge for the exterminationist dreams offered by the text, will claim the sentence says:

"I Zizek claim that the Jewish Maoists falsely accuse Alain Badiou of believing falsely that their politics - the politics of the Jewish Maoists - consists in accepting the fundamnetal finitude..."

That is, contrary to what appears to be the dominant reading invited (but not unequivocally - the whole text is equivocal and this is one of the cagier sentences regarding the enunciating position) this stuff about finitude and Christian love and Jewish Maoists and Badiou and the One is all nonsense, is all air, senseless stuff referring to nothing, the bizarre phantasmagoria that is the content of the slanderous paranoiac minds of the Jewish Maoists now Zionists, and it has no relevance to anything but a personal spat between them and Badiou and unnamed other "non Jewish" Maoists, a spat about exactly nothing. That is Zizek's reply to Kirsch - this is a résumé of the meaningless nonsense in the heads of French Zionists who think Alain Badiou said something or other; what he may or may not have said Zizek won't waste time on.

And then, once this is asserted, Kirsch is scolded as despicable for supposing otherwise.

Yet we have seen these topics in Zizek over and over, even offered sometimes unequivocally in his own voice, and celebrated by his fans as brilliant radical Lacanian whatever and important philosophical insights.

But in defence of his loathsome and incoherent propaganda image barrage, Zizek will claim to Kirsch that his claim is that nobody's politics "consists in accepting the fundamental finitude and limitation of our situation, and the Jewish Law is the ultimate mark of this finitude, which is why, for them, all attempts to overcome Law and tend towards all-embracing Love (from Christianity through the French Jacobins and Stalinism) must end up in totalitarian terror." Rather this is the insane vision that Jewish Maoists have of what Alain Badiou and "others" think the Jewish Maoists own beliefs are.

Now comes the passage Kirsch supposedly misreads:

To put it succinctly, the only true solution to the Jewish question is the "final solution" (their annihilation), because Jews qua objet a are the ultimate obstacle to the "final solution of History itself, to the overcoming of division in all-encompassing unity and flexibility.

Who thinks they are putting some succinctly? Is the speaker Zizek and is he putting his own views succinctly? Or Zizek putting the views of the Jewish Maoists succinctly. Or the Jewish Maoists putting their own views succinctly? Or the Jewish Maoists putting Badiou's view succintly?

Kirsch thinks it's Zizek putting Badiou's views succinctly. Why is that less plausible than the other possibilities? It would seem to be the most plausible in fact.

But in defence of his text, Zizek suggests (without stating or claiming clearly) this is a paraphrase of the paranoid fantasy the Jewish Maoists entertain regarding Alain Badiou's beliefs about Jews. It is part of "a résumé of how the French Zionist critics perceive contemporary Europe". But then who is speaking the next sentence?:

But is it not rather the case that, in the history of modern Europe, those who stood for the striving for universality were precisely atheist Jews, from Spinoza to Marx to Freud?

Kirsch is accused of engaging in "a pure manipulation to read my [Zizek's] praise of the “universalist” Jews as an argument for exempting them from annihilation." (Of course the reply has the same ambiguity as the original - to whom is Zizek attributing the belief in "universalist" Jews? If he is suggesting that the "annihilation" of "the Jews" means the the transformation of particularists (Jews) into universalists, what could annihilation have to do with universalists? How is there such a thing as a universalist "Jew"? Why does Zizek refer to Spinoza and Freud as "Jews"? Or to whom does he attribute this description?)

Who then is being quoted without quotation marks as saying "But is it not rather..."? Is this Zizek suddenly answering the Jewish Maosists? Or is he engaging a mock battle with their imaginary Badiou for their entertainment? Or is it still the Jewish Maoists speaking, now pleading with their imaginary Badiou not to exclude all Jews racially from the community of Christian and Stalinist universal love which they wrongly think he believes in and wished to exclude them from on the basis of his false belief in their fidelity to the name "Jews"?

The irony is...

- continues whoever, or interjects someone else -

The irony is that in the History of anti-Semitism Jews stand for both these poles: sometimes they stand for the stubborn attachment to their particular life-form which prevents them from becoming full citizens of the state they live in, sometimes they stand for a "homeless" and rootless universal cosmopolitanism indifferent to all particular ethnic forms.

Who is talking (the Jewish Maoists notice an irony? They attribute the noticing of an irony to Badiou? Badiou notices this irony? Zizek notices the irony?) and about whose perceptions of what "the Jews" "stand for" (who have the anti-Semitism as a point of view? Zizek himself? Badiou? The Jewish Maoist's imaginary Badiou? Someone else? All?) And what has this to do with what came before?

The first thing to recall

-- says the Jewish Maoist, or their paranoid imaginary Badiou, or someone new, or Zizek --

The first thing to recall is that this struggle is also inherent to Jewish identity.

And so this assertion, against his critic, Zizek claims as his own:

all I do in the passage from which Mr. Kirsch has torn out a couple of words ("fidelity to the Messianic impulse,” etc.) is to point out the debt of political and theoretical universalism (of what Kant praised as the “public use of reason”) to the Jewish experience, claiming that the conflict between the defenders of and skeptics about the State of Israel is inherent to the Jewish identity.

Or does he? Who is "claiming" this about Jewish Identity?

And in all this of course what becomes impossible is to challenge all the many assertions, (since first one must figure out if they are asserted or reported, then evaluate whether they are reported accurately, etc) the refreshed anti-Semitic themes, imagery, motifs, the statements of pseudo-fact, etc.

The upshot of all this is Zizek had made no assertions or observations on his own account; he is not responsible for the content of the text. He has merely set up the text like a tent and watched in dismay as it was invaded by unruly chattering hordes of other assertions made by people wearing masks he was unable to penetrate to positively identify who said what. The text was transformed into a record of this cacaphony and he watched this helplessly.

The theme staged was The Jew and the motifs:

  • Jewish tribalism as an obstacle to Christian universal love and communism
  • that Christian universal love and communism require the annihilation of the Jews, which alone is a final solution to the Jewish question
  • the Jewish tribalists manipulate the desire of European others for Christian universal love for the purpose of fostering capitalist alienation while they preserve their ethnic cohesion and collective identity to achieve supremacy
  • the "liberal multicultural left" who fall under the sway of the self-styled "universalist" Jewish intellectuals is anti-Semitic in resenting Jewish tribalism while promoting the tribalism of the inferior races (those whose "very being "is inferior as Heidegger explained)
  • the rootless cosmospolitan "uncanny Jew" continues to operate and live in the "interstices" of nations, and is the object of the anti-Semitism of the National Jew (this Jew and that Jew are then the secret sinister forces behind both the "old" and the "new" anti-Semitism)
  • this Jewish tribalist particularism matched to the fomenting of a pseudo-universalism which renders the gentes vulnerable to capitalist exploitation and prevents Christian love and communism is an historically demonstrable pattern of which the Jew Horkheimer is an example before the Jew Milner

These motifs are paraded back and forth before the reader throughout the text but the author takes no responsibility for them appearing there. When challenged he suggests in fact the Jews are to blame for them - they are the figments of the imagination of Jews which have been forced into his book by mysterious powers.

Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities
"It’s just the simple thing that’s hard, so hard to do" (B. Brecht)
(Updated programme!)
13th/14th/15th March 2009
Logan Hall, Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way London WC1H 0AL
"The intellectual impulses of the 90s will come from women"
Annette Frick. Action with Gaby Kutz in front of Gerhard Richter's 48 Portraits
Ludwig Museum, Cologne, 8.8.1990
Communism in the 2010s: a world where many worlds fit?
In solidarity,
riverside cells
Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities
(Updated programme!)
13th/14th/15th March 2009
Logan Hall, Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way London WC1H 0AL
Friday March 13
Registration opens at 11.30am
Costas Douzinas Welcome to the people
2pm Stuart Hall Opening Remarks
Alain Badiou Introductory remarks
Angela Davis "Women, race and class"
Michael Hardt "The REproduction of the Common"
Lynne Segal "What Feminism did to Communism"
Bruno Bosteels "The Postcolonial Hypothesis: Frightened Communism?"
Nancy Hartsock "The Proliferation of Radical Standpoints"
Peter Hallward "Communism of the Intellect, Communism of the Body"
Jean-Luc Nancy, Christine Delphy and members of migrant and feminist groups will be
present throughout the conference and will intervene in the discussions.
6 pm End
Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities
(Updated programme!)
13th/14th/15th March 2009
Logan Hall, Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way London WC1H 0AL
Saturday March 14
Registration opens at 8.30am
10am Starhawk "Thinking with worms: Reclaiming the communist soil"
Alessandro Russo "Did the Cultural Revolution End Communism?"
Subcomandante Marcos "Intergalactic Decentralized Communism"
Alberto Toscano "Communist Power / Communist Ignorance"
Toni Negri "Communisme: reflexions sur la pratique"
Silvia Federici "Creating Communities of Care"
1pm Lunch
3pm Vandana Shiva "Ecofeminism and the challenge to Western Communism"
Terry Eagleton "Communism: Leontes or Paulina?"
Jacques Ranciere "Communism without Communists?"
Sheila Rowbotham and Huw Beynon "Communists without Communism"
Alain Badiou "Communism: an empty name"
Hilary and Steven Rose "Alas, Poor Marx"
6pm End
Drinks Reception and Street Party – Jeffery Hall and outside
Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities
(Updated programme!)
13th/14th/15th March 2009
Logan Hall, Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way London WC1H 0AL
Sunday March 15
10am Slavoj Zizek "The view from up here: Communism from above is
no communism at all"

Sandra Harding "Communisms from below"
Donna Haraway "On Interspecies Communism"
Gianni Vattimo "Weak Communists"
Judith Balso "Communism: a hypothesis for philosophy, an impossible
name for politics?"
bell hooks "Ain't I a Communist?"
12am Skill sharing workshop: Alter-communisms!
Bring your experiences and visions from local and transversal struggles
Concluding Collective Trance: Channelling Karl Marx
2pm End