"all I have heard from the US is a strange elation and this from people who normally don’t lean toward optimism. " – steppling at Lenin’s Tomb
That strange elation. Yes. An inexplicable euphoria. Sadrugestrane was right wasn’t she? It became evident on election night. I know those were all real tears, Keith Olberman’s and Jesse Jackson’s. And mine. And my friend’s with whom I stayed up late, on the phone watching MSNBC on the web. And saying of some missed old folks how sorry we were they’d not lived to see it – as over the past years we sometimes said when feeling sad one consolation was they had not lived to see so many things. My friend voted for McKinney that afternoon – NYState was safe enough. On election night we were so moved it was strange, really really nervous and then really really elated, strangely, like the feelings were being shot into you like a drug, my friend said she felt like her emotions were attached to strings being yanked... it was so eerie.
-what's this feeling?
-what is it, I know this feeling!
-lemme think shhh! Shhh!
- uh-hunno. No. Shhh!
-like a familiar scent that just…
-Spielberg! It’s Spielberg euphoria!
- yes! exactly! ET! Schindler's List!
And then all those flags in the park in Chicago, so scary suddenly. I thought about sadrugestrane’s comments which I had just read a little before and started telling my friend. Those flags and the ebullient youth, American rebirth, and the old men veterans of the civil rights movement saying "I never thought I'd live to see the day...." , renewal, rebirth (rebranding) and everyone in tears, and then there’s Obama.
“If he says…if he says that I’m going to freak out.”
He said it, though. Immediately. The immediate assertion that if anyone is worried about the United States’ ruling class’ power, about its lawlessness and ruthlessness, about power concentration in the US, anyone worried about civil liberties and the vestiges of democracy, about crimes against humanity, the closing possibility of progressive politics, the loss of influence of the US citizenry over their so powerful state, the global hegemon, just put that thought aside....America is a beacon....America is the world leader because of its inherent virtue…America is unique….uniquely Good….the way he worked in I Have A Dream to mark then versus now (we have judged him by the content of his character)....the way he said "opportunity" instead of "equality"....that ultra frightening creepy sea of stars and stripes, t shirts and baseball caps, and close-ups.
The whole thing was suddenly obviously completely ersatz, completely managed, a completely commodified grass roots movement like MobLogic.Tv is CBS Interactive’s pseudo indymedia. That ice rink at Rockerfeller Plaza, the tension and the release, very much a spectacle, a pageant, the rebranding of the American empire, even the beginnings of the creation of an American master race, a new kind of race, Herrenvolk 3.0, the antiracist master race, the antifascist fascism. MSNBC takes you to his father's little hometown in Kenya, roots, "we are the world", we own the world. The US has always used blackness this way, culturally imperialistically, to disguise imperialist capitalist power in popular black culture etc.. Then of course my friend and I are thinking we're so cynical, and paranoid, but those American flags, and that dreadful speech, and all this self-congratulation by the citizens of a country in the course of escalating crimes against humanity, somehow brought to cheer the belligerence and the bullshit they are actually mobilised to oppose, to buy the cause as the cure, and it all so easily distracts from the massive concentration of power and capital going on, it's all so reassuring – see? Our election special shows it’s still possible to have a clean election, it’s still possible to have crowds in the street who aren't getting teargassed, young people opposing the current regime vocally not handcuffed and arrested as terrorists etc etc.. If you just accept the patronage and leadership of the elite, you can vent in the streets all you like.
Something so incredibly creepy ersatz spectacle imageverse descended over the Historical Moment as we watched it (on the web, talking on the phone). Even though of course it is really real, people's feelings are real, the support is real but all absorbed by what is unreal, by image, by not even convincing image. It's good enough, this flimsy image, because there is no competition. (Yes yes, but Bullshit does matter! Bullshit is all that matters! It's all there is after all!) And it happens before your eyes, the substance evaporating into image. The opposition to the occupations is real but taken under the direction of the beneficiary and protagonist of those occupations; the desire for the redistribution of wealth is real but simply harnessed and transformed into support for the plutocrats, just the way real desires for real goods and real satisfactions are channelled into purchases of iPhones and sneakers. The whole movement is real, real discontent and real desires but seized, given form, organised by a massively costly, centrally planned marketing operation by the oligarchy around a main character cast by Wall Street to be the protagonist and hero of all this, not chosen by people or rising through a movement, chosen by Wall Street and given the resources to organise dispersed grievances around him into an ersatz movement given value by real movement content, enclosing real public fury and willingness to be active that lacks any left organisation to organise it, enclosing that and arranging it around this appointed leader, laying claim then to all the appearance of legitimacy that expropriated reality of political activism, clustered around him and the democratic party wall street machine, grants. And so he deftly ornaments it in these phrases of MLKJr and these images and gestures to the past, spectral spectacle of a real movement, but this is the commodified “movement”. It’s made out of real popular politics just the way commodities are made out of real labour and talents and efforts and lives; there’s a use value there but it's transformed into the property of the plutocratic oligarchy who will use it, have used it, for their own ends. Amazing enclosure and exploitation. Real popular politics are enclosed to be turned to the profit of empire.
But for several weeks before the election "Steal Back Your Vote" was among the top Google searches. One is tempted to believe the plutocrats have done us all a favour without knowing it, sort of the way Marx saw capitalism creating conditions for socialism. "Steal back your politics."