Sunday, April 03, 2011

Oompa Loompas

To expose the game plan of the reactionary culture warriors of this revived "universalism", scourge of "multiculturalism", one can usefully compare Zizek's revision of Haitian history to the Oscar-honored film the Blind Side, (the dignity of which Barbara Walters vociferously defended against the gentlest, most cautious, understated and non-aggressive criticism of Vanessa Williams) described here at Bitch Flicks:

imdb synopsis, as composed by Anonymous:
The Blind Side depicts the story of Michael Oher, a homeless African-American youngster from a broken home, taken in by the Touhys, a well-to-do white family who help him fulfill his potential. At the same time, Oher's presence in the Touhys' lives leads them to some insightful self-discoveries of their own.

Living in his new environment, the teen faces a completely different set of challenges to overcome. As a football player and student, Oher works hard and, with the help of his coaches and adopted family, becomes an All-American offensive left tackle.

The real synopsis, as composed by me:

The Blind Side depicts the story of a white woman who sees a Black man walking down the street in the rain. She tells her husband to stop the car, and he obliges—oh, his wife is just so crazy sometimes!—then, out of the goodness of her white heart, she allows him to spend the night in their offensively enormous home.

Unfortunately, she can’t sleep very well—the Black man might steal some of their very important shit! But the next day, when she sees that he’s folded his blankets and sheets nicely on the couch, she realizes that, hey, maybe all Black men really aren’t thieving thugs.

Then she saves his life.

There’s a way to tell a true story, and there’s a way to completely botch the shit out of a true story. Shit-botching, in this instance, might include basing the entire film around an upper-class white woman’s struggle to essentially reform a young Black man by taking him in, buying him clothes, getting him a tutor, teaching him how to tackle, and threatening to kill a group of young Black men he used to hang out with.

However, a filmmaker might consider, when telling the true story of Michael Oher’s struggles to overcome his amazing obstacles, to actually base the film on the true story of Michael Oher’s struggles to overcome his amazing obstacles.

Instead, we get Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) as the adorable southern heroine. We get the white football coach’s unwillingness to stand by his Black player, until one day, he has a revelation on the field and screams at a referee for making yet another terrible call against Oher. The result? The viewer gets to cheer—not for Oher, mind you—but for the lesson the coach finally learned: racism is bad! Yay white people! We rock!

Zizek's revisionist history of Haiti is remarkably similar. He insists, as does this odious film, that he is telling "a true story", but he modifies the historical record to transform the history of white European expropriation, domination, opppression and exploitation of Haiti and Haitians into a treacly tear-jerker fable of its opposite, white European civilisation, salvation and emancipation of Haiti and Haitians. As in the touching tale of rich white benevolence, in Zizek's pseudo-histories ideology is truly reality on its head, as Zizek switches the places of producer and expropriator of all values as well as of victim and perpetrator of wrongs, erasing imperialist violence and in its place inserting white superiority and benevolence, erasing the biases of Eurocentric and Eurosupremacist history and replacing it with the biased "politically correct" "liberal multiculturalist" cultural-ideological oppression and intimidation of "we white leftists", and erasing European expropriation and appropriation and replacing it with African and African-Caribbean imitation, gratitude, emulation.

The formula to which Zizek resorts to provide the old colonialist framework and imply what still cannot be stated explicitly is quite simple, familiar from countless stories of white fulfillment and self-improvement attained by saving black people from themselves. (This is something even very flawed white people are qualified to do). Zizek's version (unlike say the cagier one here, where McNulty has failed to save D'Angelo from his depraved savage unnatural welfare queen mother) is as pure as the Blind Side's. The fears of Oher that keep the Touhys up at night are matched in Zizek's Speilbergian scenario by white soldiers' fear of "some tribal war chant" coming from "the black army":

The ex-slaves of Haiti took the French revolutionary slogans more literally than did the French themselves: they ignored all the implicit qualifications which abounded in Enlightenment ideology (freedom – but only for rational, “mature” subjects, not for the wild immature barbarians who first had to undergo a long process of education in order to deserve freedom and equality…). This led to sublime “communist” moments, like the one that occurred when French soldiers (sent by Napoleon to suppress the rebellion and restore slavery) approached the black army of (self-)liberated slaves. When they heard an initially indistinct murmur coming from the black crowd, the soldiers at first assumed it must be some kind of tribal war chant; but as they came closer, they realized that the Haitians were singing the “Marseillaise,” and they started to wonder out loud whether they were not fighting on the wrong side. Events such as these enact universality as a political category.

There are no grounds in the historical record for this detail. It is expertly camouflaged as some kind of thoughtlessly ejaculated - and thus insignificant - "excess" and "sloppiness", but it is a precisely calculated to be thus defended against objection (as too small and unpremeditated a point) and to allow for the plausible deniability of the pleasures the fans derive. The fiction is packed with revisionist hints that replace history with throwback colonialist adventure stories for boys. It would be odd for French soldiers to be surprised that French citizens should be singing French songs. But Zizek's fable manages to cloud the (amply documented) reality to suggest instead a 19th century colonial cartoon, and to excuse his invention by implicitly attributing it to some unnamed soldiers from the metropole modelled on characters one would expect to find in such popular propagandistic stories. This imaginary foil expectation ("some tribal war chant" issuing from "primitive blacks" which he intensifies elsewhere as "half-ape blacks") is arranged to situate the Marseillaise, and the white soldiers' epiphany of universalism it triggers, as proof of the efficacy and virtue of the European white supremacist civilising mission. This epiphany is of course defined as white men realising black men can be their equals - or nearly - if put through a sufficiently stern but generous apprenticeship. This packet of hints combine with the previous hint offered by visions of black Haitians, simple as they were, taking white French Ideas too "literally", to produce history as a minstrel show skit. The 19th century stereotype of childlike, imitative "negroes" is evoked to transform the history of African-Caribbean freedom struggle into one of successful and magnanimous, if comical, colonial tutelage, within a fictionalised context governed by the unquestioned assumption that "equality" and "liberty" were actually concepts invented by white French bourgeois men. Contact with this incomparably creative intellectual force, German spirit, white genius, inspired the enslaved to revolt, Zizek insists - and thus to attempt "premature" liberation and self-rule. Failure was inevitable, Zizek assures us, but the attempt is proof of the worthiness and validity of the civilising mission.

The Haitian Revolution truly deserves the title of repetition of the French Revolution: led by Toussaint 'Ouverture, it was clearly "ahead of his time", "premature" and doomed to fail, yet, precisely as such, it was perhaps even more of an event than the French Revolution itself.

It is not, as some defenders of Zizek will insist, that Zizek is evoking some other racist's ideas about the barbarism and immaturity of the Haitians and the precipitant haste of their slave revolt and later war of independence. Rather it is Zizek himself asserting the accuracy of this Hegel-ish take and bringing forward history as proof. Of course, he explains, Haitians could not effectively seize the liberty and self-govenrment of which the French white bourgeoisie taught them to dream, but how touching and remarkable that they even tried to imitate their masters! (This is again a repeat of the same narrateme...Mrs. Touhy fearing theft and violence but elated to see the folded sheets; the French soldiers fearing "the black army" singing "some tribal war chant" but astonished to hear the Marseillaise; "you white leftist men and women" and Zizek not expecting much from "half-ape blacks" and breathlessly impressed with the astonishing attempt to realise French principles! And of course your joy at the sight evidences your white virtue.)

This all is designed to give Zizek's readers the same pleasures the white Blind Side audience derives from the infantilized Oher and the wondrous efficacy of his simple-minded "literal" interpretation of his white guardian's directive to protect his team as he would his white family.

The invention of the averted menace of "some tribal war chant" and the ensuing proof of "universality" (black men can also attain the demigodlike condition of "French-ness") is Zizek's white-entitled Hollywoodizing of events beyond recognition (and anarchronistically infusing his tale with the image vocabulary of a 19th century race theory he is devoted to reviving) using for pretext the well-known passage from Pamphile de Lacroix' memoires of the campaign (cited by CLR James and others). His fictionalising works in precisely the same way as The Blind Side and aims for the same effects, titillating a white audience with a brush with savage black danger and its overmastering by white dominance, encouraging and affirming this audience's white supremacist contempt, while allaying its fear and stroking its vanity.

That "some tribal war chant" which Zizek envisions his white protagonists fearing they hear from, in his words, "half-ape blacks whose grandparents jumped in trees like apes in Africa," evokes a whole scenario from colonial propaganda's imagery of savage blackness which continues to be exploited by Hollywood (for example elaborately in Blood Diamond and Amistad) though usually not with as open a relish and bravado as one finds in Zizek and his fans. (Though these scenes have been provided with a similar alibi: Speilberg's inexcusable opening Amistad sequence was frequently defended, just like Zizek's endless stream of racist imagery, as some other racist's vision offered only to be "subverted" and repudiated by the subsequent joyful revelation of the gentle nature and educability of Cinqué and the other Amistad escapees). Like Mrs. Touhy's elation as her fears are proven unfounded (at least in this instance, and the implication, as with Zizek, is that the relief is exceptional good luck, and a lesson that not all Young Black Men are wilding superpredators or irredeemable), Zizek stages the joyous discovery - the savage "blacks" are civilised after all, they sing French songs!

Unsurprisingly, Zizek further lards his Haitian History fable, freely adapted from "a true story" and ending with a celebration of Haiti's post-Independence liberty and prosperity that was the gift of French colonisation and Enlightenment, with other Hollywood formula scenes, uplifting, "sublime moments" exhibiting white "authenticity", heroism and goodness. Inviting his reader/audience to share in the tearful sentimentality of white self-celebration, Zizek parades the true greatness of "white culture" and its emancipatory Enlightenment while all the inconvenient details of history are washed away in the deluge of emotional fluids provoked. His aim is to confirm his audience's feeling - not to convince but to seduce and massage - that white supremacist empire's violence (which yes yes must be acknowlegded) is merely accidentally factual, not of the essence, while its justice and benevolence are manifestly destined Truth. So very soon Zizek shows us Toussaint Louverture on a victory tour in Paris surrounded by a wildly cheering audience of Jacobins...

Arguably the most sublime moment of the French Revolution occurred when the delegation from Haiti, led by Toussaint l’Ouverture, visited Paris and were enthusiastically received at the Popular Assembly as equals among equals.

...see it, the steadycam whirl about him, the jubilation all around, with this vindicated and triumphant black hero at the centre.

(It didn't happen quite that way, you say? Killjoy, hater?)

And Zizek takes pains, as does the Blind Side, to stress the (special) black object of proper and successful white civilising mission is not to be feared. The carefully chosen primitive pupil can be awed and made loyal, trained to put the interests of "the family first", as Oher lives to "protect the family" and excells as a lineman.

It was the first time that an enslaved population rebelled not as a way of returning to their pre-colonial "roots", but on behalf of universal principles of freedom and equality.

The message and its powerful appeal to white supremacist sentimentality is the same - protecting the quarterback, protecting the European "enlightement project". True superiority will earn respecta and subservience. Not only are actual African, African-Caribbean and indigenous American culture and history erased from the revolutionary history of the late 18th-early 19th centuries, their absence is openly applauded as a civilisational advancement: Zizek applauds the Haitian rebels specifically for purportedly discarding African culture, hopelessly backward and parochial, for supposedly indigenous French/European culture labelled "advanced" and "universal". The "particularism" of the exploited revolting against the exploiters, self-emancipating and unified as a class, is demonised as backward and savage, while history is revised into fictions to offer reassurance that properly mastered by white civilisers (preposterously credited with inventing justice and liberty and democracy), black objects of benevolence (ludicrously portrayed as needing to have their consciousness modernised by a beleaguered slaveowning capitalist bourgeoisie trying unsuccessfully to throw off a decrepit feudal and Absolutist cultural and political superstructure) will be grateful and willingly subordinate. But in order to tame the black savages and teach them their duty to fight for the protection of the "universal Man" that are the white bourgeoisie, the white civilisers have to understand and accept their own superiority, their universality as entitlement to own the universe, their Hegelohistorical mission, and, today as before, the truth of their/our history:

The French colonized Haiti, but the French Revolution also provided the ideological foundation for the rebellion which liberated the slaves and established an independent Haiti; the process of decolonization was set in motion when the colonized nations demanded for themselves the same rights that the West took for itself. In short, one should never forget that the West supplied the very standards by which it (and its critics) measures its own criminal past…

...[Once having grasped that great white intellect liberated the black Haitians], we white Leftist men and women are free to leave behind the politically correct process of endless self-torturing guilt.

Zizek's harrangue is an old one: White guilt and fear, stoked by race traitors and (Jewish) infiltrators into the white elite ("liberal multiculturalists" from "the big cities" who infect the homeland of "local people" with the proximity of "immigrants" etc.) stand in the way of completing the civilising mission. The decline into superstition and bestiality that results from the compromising of white seperatism and supremacy is plain - knowlegde is discarded for a celebtration of ignorance, alas poor Marx!, everything lowly, degraded and weak, is championed over what is noble and high and strong, women and worms are cherished in the place of will and intellect, the very seperation of Man from Ape is blurred, the inferiors demand recognition and inclusion ludicrously: "Ain't I a communist?". This catastrophe is familiar - it is the evil consequence of slave morality. "Whites", the glorious blond beasts, the strong, have been attacked by the banded forces of defectives who artificially support the weaker species ("gays with AIDs, black single mothers") in a "Darwinian" struggle. The "whites" have been deceived into the belief that they must repudiate rather than vindicate and bolster white supremacy and its benevolent world order. They have been convinced they must give up trying to raise up by enslaving and educating, gradually, not "prematurely", the lower races, gradually extinguishing their inferior "cultures" (their "fascinating dances" and "wife beating") and instead sink to their level, tolerate their superstitions and violence, allow them into the most elevated assemblies to mingle with Great Thinkers, to drag down the whole society into absurd rituals, "collective trances" and "channeling", in an attempt to enact a perverted notion of equality. Like the Blind Side, Zizek's pseudo-history of Haiti, selling the white civilising mission as an orgasmically sappy success, offers a flow of white supremacist kitch in sentimental erruptions that a certain audience can never get enough of. The history of European capitalist imperialism is not one of crimes (and justice therefore could not demand reparations, a menace Zizek goes on to attack again and again), but a tale of genuine white moral and intellectual superiority of which "whites" can be proud and for which they/we deserve the gratitude of all those recipients of the gift of our/their superior European culture and white "intellectual tools".

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?

Let us not lose sight of what all this is for. The ruling class is accelerating attacks on the lifestyle of the "first world" majorities, which includes most white folks. And the catastrophe that results in the rich world is to be blamed on the collapse of white supremacy, on the revolt of the inferiors and slaves and white mingling with the lowly. The immiseration of the majority in the rich world is going to be explained, by the ruling class through its mass media, by a formula that a pseudo-left has been as hard at work installing as common sense as the fasho right. The current world system is crumbling, and some kind of new imperial white supremacist neofeudalism or neofascism is what the ruling class are attempting to transition to. (A wild-eyed petty bourgeois pseudo-left, evangelists of abstraction as petty bourgeois radicals always are, has already declared itself content to envision a future "communism" as Plato's Republic, the same left which defends a historiography classing Herrenvolk democracies as egalitarian societies with merely concrete minor defects.)

This project to reinstate and reinvigorate discredited and debunked white supremacist assumptions involves the pervasive iteration, under cover of varying degrees of flexible postmodern irony and disavowal, of the paradigm that Zizek and posse disseminate in their mocking "alternative" nightmare vision of an intellectual culture polluted with "toxic" primitives and which David Simon promotes to the mesmerised ecstatic delight of the same ressentimental white supremacist audience in The Wire.

The ruling class aggression is accelerating. The population has been really "softened up", since the flowering of altermondialist anticapitalist militancy (after decades of culture war successes for de-colonial radical pedgagogy) at the turn of the millenium, by years of "world-altering" ("game-changing") "crises" coming ever more rapidly after one another. In the US, a significant portion of white population will blame "the Black President" for the transformation of the US into a "Third World" country. It may take five years but this is how the history of the completed privatisation and final asset stripping of the US Treasury will be remembered. Obama came in, a cinematic episode (which even those who recognised the ersatz nature of the event dared not entirely repudiate, out of fear of the perpetual state of emergency associated with Bush as much as owing to an awareness of the reality of his supporters' aspirations and energies) popularly viewed as crowning a long period of anti-imperialism and the dismantling of white supremacist patrarchy, and by the time he left office, the country looked more like Latin America than like Scandinavia. (Remember the meme of how devastated New Orleans looked "like Africa"). All the damage of the ruling class offensive now will be attributed to Obama as The Black President, to black rule. Or this, in any case, is the hope of Zizek and Simon and their followers, fans, protégés and spawn, the outcome toward which their ideological labours are directed. The Wire, the new "Leninist Eurocentrism" and "universalism", the barbarisation and de-civilisation of culture and moeurs, and all the popular historical revisionism and "daring" "courageous" new analyses - weren't "the blacks" better off in slavery/colonialism? weren't "women" better off in the 50s supported by "breadwinner" husbands? - have prepared the frameworks. This is the project served by the "failure of multiculturalism" genre of punditry, which David Simon's "decline of the American Empire" enlarges and illustrates as soap opera. The postwar boom and the brief period when the fruits of the victories of social movements, revolutions and anti-colonialist wars of independence were enjoyed, is to be written by the "new universalist" white supremacists as the golden age of white rule. This golden age is to be chronicled as victim of barbarian invasions...the egoist, competitive, masturbating, empty-headed, consumerist feminists, the fetishist particularist violent animal anti-intellectual anti-racists, the exploitative victimologist sentimental goddess-worshipping anti-imperialists.

Bob Roberts was taken to Sundance to get a distributor. The producer recalled how between writing and release, it had become less satire and more topical lampoon. In the writing stage, the spectacle of neocon right wingers blaming economic inequality on welfare and the social programs initiated in the 60s was a stretch, an exaggeratiion; the producers worried it would seem extreme. When the film was being shot this was extreme satire, like Woody Allen's height-of-paranoia "impeach Reagan" button in Annie Hall. But reality was catching up and would overtake satire. A week before Bob Roberts' Sundance screening, this meme (which now seems so ordinary it is difficult to recall how shocking it was when it was thrust into the mainstream) was actually introduced by the Republicans into the political pundit vocabulary. So when it was stated in the film, there was "an audible gasp" from the audience (and afterwards, a bidding war for the rights to distribute.) Still when the film was released it was seen as "over the top". Then a few years later it appeared "prophetic". Now it seems understated; all that was nearly implausible is now routine; the portraits of corruption and ruthlessness seem mild. A young viewer might have a hard time detecting the tone or even getting what its supposed to be about.


  1. Blind Side has its hipster variation: Half Nelson - an inverted remake/rip-off of Karel Reisz' The Gambler. Except in these post-racial days, the fucked-up teacher doesn't corrupt the black kid, but instead comes to the rescue as redemption for his own 'inner city' vices. Ryan Gosling has the obligatory 'lecture the savages' scene. James Caan just got his degenerate ass kicked in 1978.

  2. Half Nelson - another Clinton movie. He's so weakened by mingling he's contracted blackness (coke addcted, ebonics, propensity to rape); the whites have allowed black women to take over the society and so it's a wreck and the white saviour has contaminated himself so much he can't fill his function to rescue. He's still an object of adoration however because black men=savage capitalism.

  3. The biggest Clintonite jerk-off was Crash (The abusive bigot cop put his life on the line for the pretty black girl! The black thief freed the Chinese slaves! The wishy-washy liberal cop is just as scared of black kids as 'we' are! Oh the poetic irony!). A very 00s genre: Skin opera.

  4. i couldn't bring myself to see crash.

  5. two bits of popculture ephemera for you all illustrating these televisual scripts:

  6. very very funny...


    this explained a lot to me; I was really puzzled before by Richard Seymour's neo-victorian contentions (following Nina Power) that working outside the home threatened female modesty; his case is that having access to the wage, competing with men in waged work and the professions outside the home, women are "pressured" to "pre-emptively 'exploit themselves'" - exploit in some sense other than the Marxist or economics discourse sense - with slutty behaviour, "flirtatiousness" and "sexualised" dress. At LT he wrote that women's access to waged work causes:

    the sexualisation of labour, in which women are required to consider their sexuality - not merely their bodies, but their ability to be flirtatious and charming - as part of their job skills

    This is a step further toward the victorian reaction than Levy goes - for Seymour working women are denounced as all immodest, all whores, as Power said using the skills the perky young things used to use to "get a man" now "limitlessly" deployed to "get a job". (unless of course they veil) Levy is moralising and prudish but does not define "raunch culture" and "pornification" - this sluttinessd - as the inevitable consequence of women's participation in the public sphere and market.

    This is all part of the same reactionary explanation for the end of this "golden age"; women outside their proper place, in public, perky young things prostituting themselves, exploiting themselves, viciously competing, destroying sexuality and hobbling male breadwinners (to their own detriment); poc out of their proper place, mismanaging, barbarising....

  8. This position:

    "Men's wages were depressed so that women could enter the workforce. This is a crucial economic fact." (Power at Marxism 2010)

    The theme of the reaction is "affirmative action, political correctness, multiculturalism" declared "Equality as a race to the bottom" (Power, The Guardian).

    The dismantling of white supremacist patriarchy has destroyed everyone's prosperity. Africans were better off under colonial rule; women were better off as unpaid domestic labourers "provided for" by "breadwinners"; African-Americans were better off in slavery... The black freedom struggle and women's liberation movement were all misguided seperatisms that have destroyed enlightenment and civilisation:

    Listen, let’s be frank. I don’t know what to say about the United States. But if we take Western Europe in the last fifty years, let’s be frank. One should give to the devil what belongs to the devil. OK, we can say this was because of economic exploitation of third world, but nonetheless, I don’t think there was, in the entire history of humanity, an era where so many people lived comparatively, in comparative way, such—in such relative welfare and freedom that’s there. One should admit this, honestly, not to engage into the Stalinist statistics proving that they are not doing so well. The problem is, I think, it cannot last. The new divisions are getting visible on and on. if you don’t have a basic patriotic identification—not nationalism, but in the sense of “we are all members of the same nation and so on”—then democracy doesn’t function. You cannot have a living democracy in this pure multiculturalist liberal dream... And so, again, the problem is not—my fear is not that capitalism will not last forever. The struggle is beginning today for what will replace it. There, we will have to make tough decisions.

  9. The feminisation of labour = the sexualisation of labour = "the feminisation of the search for labour":

    the young woman that sells herself, using whatever means she has, is merely behaving rationally in a world where jobs are scarce, where employment is ‘flexible’ to the point of insanity and where another perky young thing is just around the corner to take your position.

    It seems to me not implausible that the techniques that women might have used in a similarly pragmatic vein to ‘get a man’ and thus secure some sort of economic stability are now used, in a rather more limitless way, to ‘get a job’.

    Black workers = "the racialisation of labour" = "the racialisation of the search for labour":

  10. I have just installed iStripper, and now I enjoy having the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.