Tuesday, March 15, 2011

White Memes And White Dreams


1970s - Empire as Country and City:

1. "Political Correctness Gone Mad"

New Left Project, 2011:

This is why “PC” and “PC gone mad” are virtually identical – a combination of misunderstood hypersensitivity and Newspeak jargon, resulting in apparently euphemised and politically protected identities that politicians can appear paradoxically (and even hypocritically) to prioritise in the name of equality. In this way, PC risks stigmatising differences by placing the possibility of offence as the foremost concern in a pluralistic society, and may prevent an individual distinguishing themselves positively from their negative, implicitly problematic collective identity. Consequently, cultural homogeneity is seen as an attractive oppositional remedy.

Given all this, it is easy to see why PC is such a popular right-wing sounding board. The right has the additional advantage of its legions of shrill crusading evangelists of ‘Widdy-Wisdom’; the resulting contrast with the more cautionary, dovish left compounds the sense of traitorous effacement of ‘national identity’ that many perceive in PC.

Clifford Geertz, 1984:

What the relativists, so called, want us to worry about is provincialism – the danger that our perceptions will be dulled, our intellects constricted, and our sympathies narrowed by the overlearned and overvalued acceptances of our own society. What the anti-relativists, self-declared, want us to worry about, and worry about and worry about, as though our very souls depended upon it, is a kind of spiritual entropy, a heat death of the mind, in which everything is as significant, thus as insignificant, as everything else: anything goes, to each his own, you pays your money and you takes your choice, I know what I like, not in the south, tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner.

As I have already suggested, I myself find provincialism altogether the more real concern so far as what actually goes on in the world. (Though even there, the thing can be overdone: “You might as well fall flat on your face," one of Thurber’s marvellous "morals" goes, “as lean too far over backward.”) The image of vast numbers of anthropology readers running around in so cosmopolitan a frame of mind as to have no views as to what is and isn’t true, or good, or beautiful, seems to me largely a fantasy. There may be some genuine nihilists out there, along Rodeo Drive or around Times Square, but I doubt very many have become such as a result of an excessive sensitivity to the claims of other cultures; and at least most of the people I meet, read, and read about, and indeed I myself, are all too committed to something or other, usually parochial. “‘Tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil”: anti-relativism has largely concocted the anxiety is lives from.

But surely I exaggerate? Surely anti-relativists, secure in the knowledge that rattling gourds cannot cause thunder and that eating people is wrong, cannot be so excitable? Listen, then, to William Gass, novelist, philosopher, précieux, and pop-eyed observer of anthropologists’ ways:

Anthropologists or not, we all used to call them “natives” – those little, distant, jungle and island people – and we came to recognize the unscientific snobbery in that. Even our more respectable journals could show them naked without offense, because their pendulous or pointed breasts were as inhuman to us as the udder of a cow. Shortly we came to our senses and had them dress. We grew to distrust our own point of view, our local certainties, and embraced relativism, although it is one of the scabbier whores; and we went on to endorse a nice equality among cultures, each of which was carrying out its task of coalescing, conversing and structuring some society. A large sense of superiority was one of the white man’s burdens, and that weight, released, was replaced by an equally heavy sense of guilt.

Zizek, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce:

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

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

Zizek, 2009:

To provoke people when I’m asked about racism, I like to do my line I love racism, I can’t imagine my life without racism, there there’s no progressive movement now without racism. I’m not crazy…Now comes the preacher part, the real….what do I mean by this is that there is something false about this respectful multiculturalist tolerance…my God, for me political correctness is still inverted racism…let’s cut the crap, let’s say we want to become friends, there has to be a politically incorrect exchange of obscenity. You know, some dirty joke or whatever, whose meaning is “cut the crap we are now real friends”. And I can tell you this from my wonderful experience here, you want a shocking story you will hear it. How did I become here a friend, a true friend, am not advising anybody to do it because it was a risky gesture, but it worked wonderfully with a -with a -with a black, African-American guy. No? How did I become? We were very friendly, already, but not really, but then I risk and told him, it’s a horrible thing I warn you, is it true that you blacks you know have a big penis, no? but that you can even move it so that if you have on your leg above your knee a fly you can Boff! smash it with your penis. The guy embraced me and told me dying of laughter “now you can call me a nigger.” Like when blacks tell you “you can call me a nigger” means they really accept you no?

Kai Chang, 2006:

As it's commonly used, "PC" is a deliberately imprecise expression (just try finding or writing a terse, precise definition) because its objective isn't to communicate a substantive idea, but simply to sneer and snivel about the linguistic and cultural burdens of treating all people with the respect and sensitivity with which they wish to be treated. Thus, the Herculean effort required to call me "Asian American" rather than "chink" is seen as a concession to "the PC police", an unsettling infringement on the free-wheeling conversation of, I suppose, "non-chinks". Having to refer to black folks as "African Americans" rather than various historically-prevalent epithets surely strikes some red-blooded blue-balled white-men as a form of cultural oppression. Having to refer to "women" rather than "bitches" lays a violent buzzkill on the bar-room banter of men preoccupied with beating on their chests and off other body parts.

Obviously these examples fall on the simplistic side of things, but I think they illustrate the shaky philosophical foundation of today's usage. Underlying every complaint of "PC" is the absurd notion that members of dominant mainstream society have been victimized by an arbitrarily hypersensitive prohibition against linguistic and cultural constructions that are considered historical manifestations of bigotry. It's no coincidence that "PC"-snivelers are for the most part white men who are essentially saying, "Who the hell do these marginalized groups think they are to tell me how I should or shouldn't portray them? I'm not going to say 'mentally challenged' when it's my right to say 'retard', goshdarnit there's only so much abuse I'll take!"

Gary Younge, 2011:

On 18 February 1943, Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda, took to the stage at Berlin's sports palace calling for "total war". "Two thousand years of western civilisation are in danger," he said, before going on to blame his favourite scapegoat. "Things have gone so far in Europe that one cannot call a danger a danger when it is caused by the Jews."

Hari: Can We Talk About Muslim Homophobia Now?

When gay people were cruelly oppressed, we didn't form gangs to beat up other minorities. We organized democratically and appealed to our fellow citizens' sense of decency.

What Hari does with the identities in this piece is very important to observe. He constructs white gays as a category signifying innocence, belonging to which erases individual crimes (for example his own enabling of aggressive war, mass murder, maiming, rape and torture); in contrast he constructs Muslims as a guilty category, belonging to which implicates an individual in all the crimes other members of the category perpetrate (despite the impatient "concessions" that of course not all Muslims...) because the individual Muslims' crimes are explicitly attributed to the environment that is the community. Persisting in being a Muslim, part of a "Muslim community," crucially enables the production of criminal deviant individuals who inevitably emerge from the specific deviant characteristics of this community permeated with Islam. In the three card monty trickery of his prose, Hari establishes that "Muslims" are to (implicitly white male) "Gays" as an individual Muslim guilty of gaybashing is to Harvey Milk, rather than "Muslims" are to "Gays" as say Hanife Karakus is to Roy Cohen, Ernst Rohm, or Pim Fortuyn, or "Muslims" are to "Gays" as one of the Iraqis Hari arranged to have raped and tortured in Abu Ghraib is to Hari who assisted in delivering him or her to the torturers there (torturers Hari naturally gave the benefit of the doubt for kindness and trustworthiness, being of the innocent, civilised types they are, and thus judged perfectly fit to enjoy despotic control over conquered Arabs.)

Establishing "gays" as a group imbued not only with innocence but with civilisation, bearer and corollary of "democracy", "solidarity with fellow citizens" and "decency", immune to the criminality of individual members of the category "gay", Hari employs and revitalises the ideology of white supremacy and individualism to distinguish the members of his group designation from the horde-being of the socially toxic orientals on the subject of whose evil he claims he is being silenced in an outrageous manner that compounds the portrait of their "community" as the opposite of all the lovely things characteristic of "gays", here, evoked as Hari's own tribe, representing a familiar figure often referred to as "the West", European civilisation, white culture. In addition to democracy and decency, Hari and "gays" are associated with liberty and self-expression in contrast to the repressive, silencing, threatening Muslims who menace him and declare their loathing openly, a thing harmless "We Gays" simply would never do.

Hari easily conjures the white supremacist paradigm - which can be activated by very few words - which divides humanity into the raceless and the raced, the self-fashioning and the wool-dyed cultured (who also, however, are responsible for the choice of belonging), to support his insinuations about the degeneration of Western Civilisation brought about by a minority Muslim presence, and strengthen his assertions regarding the connection between homophobic and misogynist violence in the UK and contamination by a foreign culture. He practises what is by now a set of common evasions alongside the deployment of motifs which serve as shorthand for this Heimat/heathen worldview, for example the image of a foreign, murky, infectious invasion establishing regions plagued by an evil miasma, an insalubrious environment around the Muslim nests where homophobia will "incubate". An enlightened journalist like Hari, who must respect facts and data (and avoid making statements too easily debunked), is bound to concede that all Muslims may not individually be homophobes, and all Muslims homophobes may not be violent criminals, but he can nonethless suggest compellingly that if they were not protected and nourished by their flourishing hives, and insulated from the wholesome, democratic, tolerant, nonviolent, decent host society, Muslim individuals would not dare to be violent criminal homophobes. Hari is careful to explain, in few words of inarguable confidence, that the whole community's existence is vital for the criminality to be sustained and defended against criticism. Violent homophobic individuals, whose ghastly acts are vividly presented, sprout from the unhealthy overgrowth of their fellow Muslims, all of whom seep Islam. Therefore in 'tolerating' the community as a whole, in failing to master it, tend and weed it, to civilise and supervise it, Hari and his fellows have allowed the seeds of evil it breeds to effloresce. Each Muslim in these infestations may not be him- or herself a violent reactionary criminal, but all contribute to the population density of their hive which is the condition for the growth of the poison mushrooms:

These [acts of horrific anti-gay violence] are not isolated incidents. East London has seen the highest increase in homophobic attacks anywhere in Britain, and some of the worst in Europe. Everybody knows why, and nobody wants to say it. It is because East London has the highest Muslim population in Britain, and we have allowed a fanatically intolerant attitude towards gay people to incubate there, in the name of 'tolerance'.

Hari would not of course dream of explaining the staggering violence, chemical poisoning, immiseration, terrorism and sadism to which he eagerly submitted the majority Muslim population of a whole country, straight, gay, lesbian and trans, with reference to our lack of vigilance as the white nests expanded. He really, I think, cannot imagine any meaningful connection to be made between the homophobic tortures (unto death in cases) which he considered an acceptable risk to force others to take for his benevolent dream of "a better Iraq" and the density of atheist whites among whom pernicious qualities ferment into imperial intentions, in the community in which he lives and works, and which infected him as part of this white infestation, a toxin and deadly parasite on the global host society, and whose hives incubate - as everyone knows, and few dare to say because of the ridicule, ostracism, career sacrifice, abuse it provokes - sadistic patriarchal white supremacy and myths of white collective innocence to seduce those from lesser rungs of wealth to assist in the adventures spurred by the cupidity of the higher eschelons of the elites. While it is certainly true that not all white gay men are as depraved as Karl Rove or as willing to abet profitable crimes against humanity as Johann Hari, would Hari suggest it is the overgrowth of white hives that produces and emboldens the individual imperial aggressors, their soldiers and propagandists, their courtiers and accessories?

Slavoj Zizek, 2010:

Socially, what is most toxic is the foreign Neighbor—the strange abyss of his pleasures, beliefs and customs. Consequently, the ultimate aim of all rules of interpersonal relations is to quarantine (or at least neutralize and contain) this toxic dimension, and thereby reduce the foreign Neighbor—by removing his otherness—to an unthreatening fellow man. The end result: today’s tolerant liberal multiculturalism is an experience of the Other deprived of its Otherness—the decaffeinated Other who dances fascinating dances and has an ecologically sound holistic approach to reality while features like wife beating remain out of sight.


2. Whitewash

It's instructive to compare the anxiety of racial contamination and the decline of the American Empire (patriarchal white supremacy) of these successful and influential American 80s films, (Back to the Future, Blue Velvet) and how they conceal, provoke and allay it (this is one of those bizarre Zizney style speaking-for/as-to-speak-against Caveman-Reckless Tortuga-toned things but it states the case) to the infantile, fan-focussed, feverishly hardworking fantasies of whiteness that have developed in the new century, from Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain to Red Riding Hood.


Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell:

In this novel, a fanastic "alternative history" of England (and an English Britain) is constructed, equipped with a parallel magic universe, solely to expell the problems of slavery and white supremacy - these features of real history which taint the mythology and prevent the decent contemporary reader's pure pleasure in entertainments steeped in it - to this magic otherworld. The removal of Stephen the black slave to another world, a marvellous underworld constructed solely to accomodate him, cleanses the mythic history - the immensely popular Regency Austen fanastyland - marred by the requirement ("politically correct") to acknowlegde not only his presence but some of the terrible reality to which his figure refers, for renewed guiltless enjoyment (indeed for enjoyment with enhanced self-congratulation). Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell performs an operation on the chauvinist, and childish, fantasy of Regency England much like that which the spectacle has performed on the white race - whiteness is all the sturdier for being digitised, coded for mobility, detached from any crude materialism or biologism, just as the Europe of Derrida's Eurosupremacism is rendered invulnerable to anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism by abstraction, spectralisation, flexibility. In Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, mythical English history and glory is affirmed, as entertainment saved from the soiling of anti-racist, anti-imperialism and anti-colonialist critique, and the wish for goodness and self-approval of white nostalgic English readers (discursively constituted in spectacle like Europe and whiteness) is gratified by the narrative arranging to accord the victims of real English history (represented by a black slave) a seperate kingdom, a dark realm of magic, over which to rule. This other realm, where magic reigns and is produced for use in the "ordinary" world, is presented as the magical forge of glorious English history, at once conceding and concealing the fact of the exploited African labour engine of Englishness and Empire. But it is not a realm of suffering; rather this Faerie - like all such realms an enchanted idea of fecund and unfathomable nature, to which the black slave is appropriately consigned in the white supremacist scheme - is flaunted as the compensation to Stephen (and those he represents) who must be evicted from the vision of history to sustain the chauvistic and childish delight taken in more naïve versions; it is recompense to those who spoil the pristine fantasy of Regency England for their expulsion - again - from the pleasant stories of romance and adventure, and on another plane for the exploitation and expropriation in concrete history as well. It is a compensation designed to set the English reader's mind at ease, free it to take pleasure in the fables of national past and simultaneously to gratify that sentimentality associated with Dickens and seeming to do and delight in providential justice. This delivery of Stephen the black slave out of slavery to a kingdom of his own is offered as a relief from an alternative with which the author has menaced her readers throughout the text - an alternative imaginitive justice which sees a black slave rising to the throne of the alternative Britain and which enthrones servant/slave as hero of novels, dethroning white gentlemen and their gentleladies. That idea - that vision of an African king on a British throne brought about by the whirligig of history - is suggested, or really paraded as a danger with tremendous anxiety, and finally rejected and evaded with the help of "English magic" (associated with a genre of children's literature) which preserves English patriotic myth and an alternative history which alters nothing of the nationalistic fantasy. "English magic" is finally nothing other than the white supremacist imagination.

Stardust, a comic big budget fairytale film, can be compared to its predecessor (as the promotional material had it) The Princess Bride to bring out this same style of pandering to the same kinds of impulses, supplying itself with the alibi of tradition (it's about childhood and wonder, the stories we loved as children seen through the simple Jungian schemes we loved as adolescents) for the sin of reaction and nostalgia, as are catered to by Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain:

From here, the inevitable trajectory for Hollywood would be through Disney rides and children's classics, to infantilised, attenuated, kiddieporny, violent videogame versions of folktales.


  1. Interesting choice of 70s film examples. Perhaps the most important aspect of US film then was the emergence of a more open, and less crudely dismissive, 'ethnicity' - even if distorted or stylized (like Woody Allen comedies for example, The Godfather, or even Ganja and Hess), or even from white directors like Hal Ashby and 'The Landlord' - and of course the various national cinemas that gained prominence outside the US/western Europe. And of then there was the rise of gay cinema, more female directors etc.

    History (Biskind etc) now treats it as period of Hollywood 'bad boy' auteurs with films about tough white guys on rampages (and artful rape scenes), but it was a lot more diverse and pluralistic than that. It's telling how hard it is to see a lot of these films these days. Especially since so many possibilities were slammed shut by the end of the 70s, at least in Holywood.

  2. thanks...ethnicity, yes...

    do you know the book A Certain Tendency in the Hollywood Cinema? Robert B. Ray, a freudo-marxist study of american film which has a lot to say about the seventies. It was written in the early 80s.

    good description and deploment of it here


    i have been looking at the sevenites films on white flight, and early reconquest of the city, gentrification dreams...the landlord, also Desperate Characters from Paula Fox novel, also stuff like the Out of Towners, and Justice for All, Dog Day Afternoon, Taking of Pelham 123, Three Days of the Condor and of course escape from ny...the city's diversity (unlike woody allen's ny) is a topic, its "anything goes" liberties; now there are these disaster films that fantasise a plague that, havng wiped out human species, leaves greenwich village townhouses empty. whoopeee! in between there were the reagan racist revenge and terror films and a lot of horatio alger romcoms.

  3. gentrification dreams of the 80s...after hours, despertaely seeking susan, ny stories,

    then it takes over, eventually becoming psychotic - Unfaithful seems to be all about the scandal of anyone but the superrich living in Manhattan; it sexualises rich people's desire for big manhattan apartments and intolerance of the fact that this boho artist has that great loft he probably paid nothing for, so his brains are beaten out by the rich white patriarch from the burbs with a snow globe of real estate. he's the interloper - the rightful master of this value, now that the area is gentrified, has to reconquer from the riff raff.

  4. I know what you mean about psychotic. I had a bit of a Sidney Lumet fest last year, and it was sad to realise that was just standard 'liberal' then would now be considered unacceptably 'far-left' by Hollywood's standards now (the black suspect might be a human being etc.).

    I don't want to go into The Wire Again, but surely that's just a long-winded (several dozen hours longer) version of Q & A for the videogame generation? Which actually forces the sympathetic hero to confront his racism? One of the last major films where a city actually looks like a city, and not a neoliberal diagram of how it should look.

    And there was the 'yuppie nightmare' sub-genre, which nearly all the top directors had a go at in the 80s (including Blue Velvet). Jonathan Demme was pretty much the only one who didn't treat black characters or single women as predatory devils.

  5. Thanks - I love Q&A, really one of my favourite films.


    There is something in the Wire that could be understood as the reactionary revisionism of the analysis developed here of relations of power in the state that is the purported "critique" of "institutions" in the Wire (the pithy platitudes). Its so dumbed down, so depleted and emptied, it has turned into its opposite though.

    I feel the Wire mainly ripped off less political, more sentimental stuff (sentimental naturalism?) Fresh, which it mixed with details from Greg Donaldson's excellent book about brownsville The Ville and Price's Clockers as adapted by Spike Lee. There are direct rip offs from this stuff, but strangely attenuated and crude. This is an example of the way the Wire typipcally adapts the scenes and motifs its ripping off:




    "Which actually forces the sympathetic hero to confront his racism?"

    yes, and not just posing the questions of the establishment's assumptions didactically (other films might do this and undercut the effect emotionally) - one doesn't just read depiction and recieve the message. One feels - Armand Assante is simply more compelling - that is, the "underworld" rival of the narrative herofunction that has spirited persephone away is actually the hero personality, high up not low down, handsome, smart, sexy, traditionally masculine but not sadistic or relishing violence. It is not just his wealth - Hutton is no rival cinematically.

    Lumet I think manages unlike anyone else to portray the relations of "agency" and "structure" correctly - to recognise and reveal their dialectical unity.

    Demme (when not demonising "sexual deviants" with ghoulish nightmare manipulation like a nazi) was more entitled and appropriating than vicious and fearmongering as were his fellows. But he was puffing reaganite/depoliticised counterculture as avant garde of gentrification (celebration of "quirky", but not for any reason other than "uniqueness" for marketing and fame) promising to lift all boats.

  6. Well Demme worked in quite restricting circumstances, and I reckon he tried his best. From exploitation films like Caged Heat, you can see him working against the 'exploitation' part (he fails of course, because the genre and market wins). Silence of the Lambs, from its stupid source material and plot, you can see him trying to inject some humanity into the material (I remember him stating how he wanted to emphasise the humanity of the victims, make it a film about suffering instead of sadism, but he fails again due to genre, market etc. Lector and FBI efficiency dominating the franchise as it does). Something Wild, a kind of anti-Blue Velvet, has aspects that jar in a way (like black people as indicators of peace and 'normality' - rare for the time, or the femme fatale figure just being bored and lonely). Depoliticised counterculture, maybe; but his Beloved was far less patronising and crude than Colour Purple.

    But Q & A: Along with the terrific Hutton/Assante dynamic, Nolte's human monster is on a par with Mitchum in Night of the Hunter (the terrorised 'children' arguably the transexuals).

  7. "Lumet I think manages unlike anyone else to portray the relations of "agency" and "structure" correctly - to recognise and reveal their dialectical unity."

    Agree with this, which may be why he was so effective applying it to Britain, and get excellent performances from the most narrow of actors (Sean Connery being a major example). He could look outside 'personal' blinkers (far more than Scorcese for example). 'The Group' is quite underrated in this respect.

  8. demme's grotesque anti-aristide anti-lavalas propaganda film was surely a labour of love though.

  9. I forgot he made Beloved: unobjectionable, but mediocre film considering the power of the novel.

    "Nolte's human monster is on a par with Mitchum in Night of the Hunter"

    ah, good point, hadn't made that connection but seems exactly right.

  10. Something Wild, a kind of anti-Blue Velvet, has aspects that jar in a way (like black people as indicators of peace and 'normality' - rare for the time, or the femme fatale figure just being bored and lonely).

    this makes me recall how much harder we were on films then, how much more we expected. no forgiveness for good intentions, no slack for magic negroes all resources of endless giving in the recognition of how much worse films can be. I wrote about this on the old blog, about how hard i was on Milagro Beanfield War when I first saw it, how patronising it seemed, how crudely it used the magic to cover over class struggle, how conciliatory its notion of feminism, and mainly how the rebel is the reluctant individual rebel who only wants his rights as they are already officially recognised, no revolutionary, he wants the system to work as it promises for him, not to change or destroy it, and he is supported by supporters of his individual rights not comrades in collective struggle. ...and then seeing it a few years ago I was like wow what a different world and different liberal intelligensia this film testifies to than we have now in the US! The evocation of armed resistance at the end, though comical and contained by the comedy, would be almost impossible to perform with that tone now; to see sonja braga and julie carmen in that film, braga especially, allowed to be everything 'traditionally feminine' and beautiful without being humiliated or demonised or having to grapple with her femininity and exteriopr as topic...and think what was done to images of women since then, working girl, erin brocovich, milk money...I am at once annoyed with myself for my endless dissatisfaction and at the same time amazed by how much for the worse cocaculture has changed, how few concessions it makes to anything positive, generous, loving, longing for justice and peace and happiness, in audience feeling and desire. I think how "the left" audience was thrown V for Vendetta, this nasty masculist ridiculous comic book, instead of something like Milagro Beanfield War. I don't think my and my friends recognition of its unacceptable politics was wrong, but the very idea that we supposed something with a budget that size could do better, our overlooking all the genuine concessions to human dignity and creativity and courage and solidarity in it (conceded the better to seduce to a solution that preserves the status quo and rules out communism), our failure to anticipate how bad things could and would get...anyway all this came to mind when Rosa Parks died, because the mythic character of Parks is Joe Mondragon exactly and the reality of Rosa Parks the dedicated left activist is the history that msm suppresses in nonfiction product just as it is the possibility suppressed in even the most genuinely reformist and pro-people fictions.

  11. I wasn't aware of Demme's Haiti film - yeesh... yes he did slip into mediocrity. In my mind, I associate him with anti-Republican liberalism that congregated around Clinton and stayed there, rapidly falling into irrelevance as they did (like the celebs present at his inauguration - REM, Maya Angelou etc.).

    But particularly telling is how overlooked John Sayles is - its like Matewan etc. have been sidelined from the 80s/90s 'canon'.

  12. the demme haiti film is exactly that. it's very specific anti-aristide propaganda, to assist US imperialism, but it's not feverishly racist and nutty; it seeks to coopt a more serious left, a bourgeois liberal left, to the crushing of lavalas. its usbtle in the way it uses the colonial muthology. it doesn't really suggest "haitians can't self govern" it sort of says yes imperial "mistakes" have left haiti prey to the worst most corrupt local potentates and we should support the technocrats that are there. a soft case for imperial/colonial tutelage, not saying the bloc of haitians it supports are themselves in need of civilisation and education, just they are in need of military support against the madman Aristide.

    I suspect demme might even have belived this, as evidently diid Zadie Smith. Anglophone culture celebrities were targeted for lots of highly personalised propagandising by Charles Arthur and posse. Angelina Jolie is not a complete idiot but she was there in Haiti giving her support to the blue helmet occupation while it committed mass slaughters in cité soleil; but Danny Glover knows demme, he was in Beloved, and so it is very hard to imagine demme didn't have sources of better information than whoever was working on him.

    I liked Married to the Mob alot, though it was of course sexist and racist in that gentle clintonian way; it was also funny and sweet. and placed among others of its type it was noticeably not fearmongery and demonizy. And Something Wild did have this nice boho feel, but it seems to me, perhaps after the fact, it was part of the coopation of aspects of american individualist counterculture for reaganism. Like being "offbeat" begins as a political position, being against patriarchy and racism, thumbing nose at the uptight order, then it transforms, it is abstracted, it just means odd, finally a cannibal serial killer, libertarian, ayn randian, nietzschean, and the free spirit transformed into the personality, associated with branding. I think Something Wild was the film that ghave rise to the term by which the 60s-70s films about dropping out were recuperated: these films about rejecting bourgeois values and regimented protestant ethic lives became "rites and sprites" films, which were about staging pixie girls, childlike and sexually daring, as objects of male fantasy.

  13. Sayles is great...I was very suprised that Steppling thinks him overrated and sentimental and bougie basically (I understand his aversion to Kushner, whose work I also love, but I get the issues). I loved Matewan and Lone Star especially. Matewan is agitprop surely, a history lesson, very compelling but as simply and straightforwardly told as a "recreation"; Lone Star is really smart I thought, about history and the racial-national imagination, and the use of a very light allegorical plane, kind of just hovering on the realism, was wonderful.

  14. "while City of Hope (1990) is set in a decaying, eastern-urban city and features a complex web of politics and crime that forshadows the HBO series The Wire" - from the biography section of johnsayles.com.

  15. The video above 'Whitewash' is really terrible. You might laugh the first time out of distress or surprise, and then rationalise that it was because it was genuinely a cutting edge attack on upper bourgeois white racism. But it's not - it's because it's a vile misogynistic piece of shit and it's really shocking to see this represented as anti-racism.

  16. its not presented here as antiracism! it's presented as zizekian complaint of political correctness gone mad.

    the reckjless tortuga stuff is like zizek "speaking for to speak against" -t it seems to be satirizing racist behaviours but it is validating them and complaining about black men - playing the race card for affirmative action, beating white women in elevators.

    sorry to confuse you but i didn't think anyone would need to have that explained.

    chuckie - oh yes scity of hope! i forgot about it. And it always bothered me, where was this frank sobotka and ziggy relation from - of course, city of hope. definitely ripped off and put through this zizekian "reckless tortuga" treatment to make the Wire.

  17. >>its not presented here as antiracism! it's presented as zizekian complaint of political correctness gone mad.<<

    I wasn't accusing you of presenting it that way. I was commenting on the way the clip represents its own commentary as a biting satire on racist aggression, when it's just a shitty women-hating revenge fantasy.

  18. i am always underestimating people's capacity to read.

    "The Jewish people will pay dearly for such pacts with the devil," wries Zizek in Defence of Lost Causes. No matter what he's talking about, the sentence is insane anti-Semitism. But its also additionally ambiguous - "such pacts" could refer either to the alliance of Likudniks and tPat Robertson and tbe Christian fundie right in the US, or between the ADL's Abe Foxman and Mel Gibson, or it could, and does suggest that these are one and the same, the Jewish people and the Christian extremists:

    Why lose our precious time on such a vulgar incident? [Gibson's dwi arrest] For an observer of the ideological trends in the US, these events display a nightmarish dimension: the mutually reinforcing hypocrisy of the two sides, the anti-Semitic Christian fundamentalists and the Zionists, is breath-taking. Politically, the reconciliation between Gibson and Foxman signals an obscene pact between anti-Semitic Christian fundamentalists and aggressive Zionists

    What is this reconciliation between Foxman and Gubson? Apparently is consists of Foxman having said "Two years ago, I was told by his publicist that he wants to meet with me and have an understanding. I'm still waiting," and then some platitude about how it's "like therapy", and Gibson has to admit his problem before he can move on.

    "Such pacts" between "the Jewish people", signed by Jew hive wizard Abe Foxman and aggressive Zionists, and the "devil" results, Zizek says, in the Jewish people forcing Mel Gibson into psychiatry for his "criticism" of them/us, his voicing the "politically problematic" view that "Jews cause all the wars in history"; for this politically dissident view someone is having him locked up just as dissidents under Stalin. For whom is this view politically problematic? Who has the power of Stalin here and the disposition to submit Gibson to punitive psychiatry for that "politically problematic" opinion? It's unclear except that Abe Foxman is clearly at the centre of this power and this persecution.

    How Foxman actually had Gibson forced into therapy for this heresy is unclear. But Zizek warns:

    The Jewish people will pay dearly for such pacts with the devil - can one imagine what a boost to anti-Semitism will get from Foxman's offer? "So if I now say something critical about Jews, I will be forced to submit to psychiatric therapy..."

    (Who is he quoting?)

    This story is being told, we are invitged to pretend to believe, because Zizek is worried about the boost to anti-Semitism in Hollywood the Jewish people are bringing on our/themselves by making pacts with the devil and persecuting those who criticise them/us.

    He seems to be criticising anti-Semitism, but clearly he's validating it. "Jews" have somehow had Gibson diagnosed as mentally ill and submitted to punitive psychiatry for his purportedly dissident views:

  19. In the good old Soviet times, the Serbsky Institute in Moscow was the psychiatric flagship for punitive political control; its psychiatrists developed painful drug methods to make detainees talk and extract testimony for use in national security investigations. Underpinning the ability of psychiatrists to incarcerate people was an invented political mental disorder known as vyalotekushchayaâ ("sluggish schizophrenia"). Psychiatrists described the disease as a person appearing quite normal most of the time but who would break out with a severe case of "inflexibility of convictions," or "nervous exhaustion brought on by his or her search for justice," or "a tendency to litigation" or "reformist delusions." The treatment involved intravenous injections of psychotropic drugs that were so painfully administered patients became unconscious. The overriding belief was that a person had to be insane to be against Communism.Is this psychiatric approach to politically problematic positions a thing of the past? Unfortunately, no: not only is the Serbsky Institute today happily thriving in Putin's Russia, but, as the recent incident with Mel Gibson indicates, it will soon open a branch in Malibu!

    If you can follow how this works then you should easily be able to follow the reckless tortuge psuedo-anti-racist skits and the less obvious but similar video I linked with the diner kids criticising Back to the Future, where a legitimate critique of its racism is undercut by being shown as film buff geekery, empty chatter for white kids in diners, and by extension in spaces like this etc.

  20. >>i am always underestimating people's capacity to read.<<

    Yeah, sorry to have confused you. ;)

  21. " I was commenting on the way the clip represents its own commentary as a biting satire on racist aggression, when it's just a shitty women-hating revenge fantasy."

    Well I think what you are missing is that it is

    a) sexist - there is pleasure offered the viewer in the portrait of the diumb bitch and it her punishment


    b) racist - there is pleasure offered the viewer in confirmation, in fact, of the violent and aggressive misogynist brute hiding beneath the mild-mannered exterior of every black guy.

    Both. And you have discovered that its floating pov and flloating irony offers the viewers choices...

    you can see it as sexist but not racist if you choose, you can read in it some widsom like "anti-racism is really sexism (because black men really are misogynists)"; you derive this antagonism from it, the idea that it was made by real antiracsts, real partisans of the "black guy in elevator", who are just vicious sexists. The racist stereotype it deploys could be a vehicle of viewer fantasyle - the violent black guy is the viewer's proxy, his animalistic slave carrying out his sadistic wish and also providing an alibi, but you have to see also that this is telling you about the figuyre that is the proxy for viewer satisfaction in violence against the woman in the elevator.

  22. "you"="one"

    not personal, mean to discuss the relation to the supposed viewer of these vids, reader of zizz

  23. doesn't city of hope have aspects of five corners, too, as well as cast members.

  24. but it has a disturbing relation to the central park jogger case, where innocent kids were convicted and a whole mythology of "wilding" and "black rage" spurred, the whole debate was about rival exaplanations for their savagery, a debate so intense it simply ruled out any possibility of questioning whether they were guilty at all, just fitting into the old colonial kind of question - why are these people savage and inferior? can we civilise them? how?

    and sayles seems to write his story to illustrate the moynihanist perspective, "police brutality and racism creates sadistic black male predators" (who are also consumerist, sexist and ignorant).

  25. (sorry if i took you for someone else)