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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Good form

[I]s it not that, in the “post-modern” global empire, what was hitherto the “Jewish exception” is increasingly becoming the stardard rule: a particular ethnic group which participates fully in the global economy while simultaneously maintaining its identity at the level of Milner’s Fourfold, that is to say, through its founding cultural myths and rituals, which are transmitted from generation to generation? Milner misses this key point insofar as he fails to grasp the actual functioning of the emerging global pastout empire: in it, all particular identities are not simply “liquefied,” rendered fluid, but maintained – Empire thrives on the multiplicity of the particular (ethnic, religious, sexual, lifestyle…) identities which form the structural obverse of the unified field of Capital.

This is the deepest irony that escapes Milner: he fails to notice the radical ambiguity about his thesis of the Jewish exception as resisting modern universality. When Milner posits the Jews as insisting on the Quadruple of the familiar tradition, against the dissolution of this tradition in the non-All of modernity, he thereby repeats [that is, he embodies] the standard anti-Semitic cliché according to which the Jews themselves [Milner himself being the representative Jew in this case] are always in the first ranks of the struggle for universal mingling, multi-culti, racial confusion, liquefaction of all identities, nomadic, plural, shifting subjectivity – with the exception of their own ethnic identity. The passionate appeal of Jewish intellectuals to universalist ideologies is tied to the implicit understanding that Jewish particularism will be exempt, as if the Jewish identity cannot survive when Jews live side by side with other people who also insist on their ethnic identity – as if, in some kind of parallax shift, the contours of their identity can become clear only when the identity of others is blurred. The alliance of the USA and the State of Israel is thus a strange cohabitation of two opposed principles; if Israel qua ethnic state par excellence stands for the (Quadruple) tradition, the USA – much more than Europe – stands for the non-All of society, the dissolution of all fixed traditional links. The State of Israel thus, in effect, functions as the small a of the US big A, the ex-timate core of tradition that serves as the mythic point of reference of the chaotic non-All of the USA.

...Does not the idea of the Jews forming a nation-state imply the end of Judaism – no wonder the Nazis supported the plan! The Jews stood for the “Fourfold” precisely in order to maintain their identity without a Nation-State. The only consistent position (theoretically and ethically) is to reject such alternatives, and recognise both dangers: “The critique of anti-Semitism or the critique of Zionist politics? Yes, please!” – far from being exclusive opposites, the two are connected by a secret link. There really is anti-Semitism in much of the contempotaty Left, for instance, in the direct equating of what the State of Israel is doing in the occupied territories with the Nazi Holocaust, with the implied reasoning: “The Jews are now doing to others what was doing to them, so they no longer have any right to complain about the Holocaust!” And there actually is a paradox in that the very Jews who preach universal “melting-pot” are all the more insistent on their own ethnic identity.

- Zizek, the Parallax View

So the Atzmon theatre reveals conclusively that in fact the Zizney members do understand after all that this is anti-Semitic propaganda and have understood this perfectly all along; they are entirely familiar with the themes and can recognise them even when they are packed in various distracting ornaments and paired with declarations of benevolence and left commitments.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

For Those Who Scoff at Heels and Sneaks

Nazim Hikmet in 1931


If there are those
who'd call
"an enemy
of a clean shirt,"
they should see a picture of my great teacher,
The master of masters, Marx, pawned
his jacket,
and he ate maybe one meal every four days;
his awesome beard
down a spotless
starched shirt ...
And since when did pressed pants get the death sentence?
Wise guys
should read our history here, too:
"In 1848, as bullets parted his hair,
he'd wear
pants of genuine English wool
in true English style,
creased and waxed
à l'anglaise -
the greatest of men, Engels ...
When Valdimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin stood
like a fire-breathing giant on the barricades,
he wore a collar
and a tie as well ..."
As for me
who's just another proletarian poet
--Marxist-Leninst consciousness, thirty kilos of bones,
seven liters of blood,
a couple kilometers
of blood vessels,
muscles, flesh, skin and nerves,
the cloth cap on my head
doesn't tell
what's in it
any more than my only felt hat
makes me a tool
of the past that's passing ...
if I wear a cloth cap
six days a week
it's so that once a week
when I'm out with my girl
I can wear
my only felt hat ...
why don't I have two felt hats?
What do you say, master?
Am I lazy?
To bind pages twelve hours a day,
to stand on my feet
till I drop,
is hard work ...
Am I totally stupid?
For instance,
I could hardly be
as backward
as Mr. So-and-So ...
Am I a fool?
completely ...
Maybe a bit careless ...
But all the time
the real reason is that
I'm a proletarian,
a proletarian!
And I'll own two felt hats
- two million -
only when,
like every proletarian,
I own - we own-
the textile mills of Barcelona-Habik-Mosan-Manchester!
And if n-o-o-o-o-o-t,

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reading Z in 1936

This year New Directions reissued Louis Zukofsky's massive poem "A." I can't speak to the whole, but the first hundred pages deliver complex and, for Qlipothim, congenial compositions on revolutionary art and politics. Several times I have thought I should post passages here. But extracts from such a long and complex poem lose meaning in isolation.

But today I was reading those comments on the rebellions in England by the renowned Zzk. And thinking about how vacuous the self-packaging of the image-commodity celebrity leftist'is. Particularly it's self-celebration of the psychoanalytic complexities of its own relationship to corporate image-commodities, to misogynist movies and racist jokes, and its disappointment in the vulgar desires for tangible commodities evident in the rebellion.

Then I read Zukofsky, who has this to say in 1936:

Untiring action, but free
From the lie that it can take the place
of mass action.
We are not Xerxes who had the sea
scourged with chains.
But to determine the facts does not
mean to give up the struggle.
Learn, learn, learn!
Act, act act!
Be prepare, well and completely prepared
To make use, with all our forces,
Of the next revolutionary wave.
That is our job.

Good day,
The 'left' really
Thinks the International is a faithful Penelope.
Well, our International does not weave
during the day
To undo its work during the night. -
Thanks for such Marxism
Which immediately attributes all society
To its economic basis.

And I mistrust the sexual theories of the articles,
dissertations, pamphlets ..
In short that .. literature which
Flourishes in the dirty soil of society,
I mistrust those who are always contemplating
The several questions, like the Indian saint his
Arbitrary hypotheses .. personal need
To justify personal abnormality .. before
Middle class moralitym and to entreat its patience.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sheer criminality

A Fine Lung on the current outburst of free private enterpr Thatcherism deregulated shopping shocking, inexplicable selfishness in England:

You start with a society in which material wealth is the only way to get ahead. You follow with a culture in which fame and money dominate. You bombard people with images of luxury goods that you tell them they must have. You create a society in which the wealthiest 1% own 20% of the country’s wealth whilst the least wealthy 50% own just 7%. You make that gap wider. You tantalise and take away.

You remove educational allowances from the young. You put a higher percentage of them out of work than at any time in the last century. You tell them that they must sustain £30,000 of debt to go to college to get a degree that isn’t even likely to get them a job. You spend ten billion on a sports event a few miles down the road that they cannot afford to even attend. You talk of Olympic Dreams (TM) as you close their sports facilities. You cut local services and their parents’ jobs to pay for the debts and disasters of your banks. You condemn their lives through your economic ideology as you sit in your cabinet of millionaires. You criminalise them for socialising in groups that you say are ‘anti-social’. You stop and search them over and over and over again and when they react you punish them. You turn one against another. You individualise and marginalise and alienate them from their neighbours. You talk of community but make it an illusion. You give no hope.

You do all this.

And when they come out of the estates to which you confine them, to take the goods they cannot afford, from the shops that won’t let them in, on streets denied to them by the police who harass them, in defiance of the politicians who condemn them, organised on social networks and media from which you have made millions, filmed by your cameras for your corrupt media companies for our consumption; when they do all this, all you can say is: ‘This is sheer criminality’.

You bet it is.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday, May 06, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Some Old Familiar Poxyclips


David Redles, Hitler's millennial Reich: Apocalyptic Belief and the Search for Salvation

Chapter 2 "The Turning Point: Racial Apocalypse or Racial Salvation"

The total chaos of the Weimar period, particularly in the early years, elicited a profound sense of collapse for many Germans, outwardly and inwardly. Perched on the edge of an abyss, the Nazis in particular came to believe that Germany, and indeed Aryan humanity in general, had reached a historic turning point. The old order had collapsed, requiring the appearance of a New Order (a new perception of reality, what the Nazis termed Weltanschauung, or would view). In true apocalyptic fashion, Hitler explained to a journalist,

The day is not far off when we shall be living in great times once more. What we now need is that intelligent writers should make clear to the citizens of Germany the historic turning point at which Germany stands today. We are on the threshold of a unique new epoch in our history. We have reached the turning point when the bourgeoisie must decide whether it will choose Bolshevik chaos in Germany and therefore in Europe, or a National-Socialist Germany and a new order on our continent.

Alfred Rosenberg likened this turning point to those that ushered in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment: “today is again a turning point in the history of the world. At the beginning of the sixteenth century one began in Europe; at the end of the eighteenth century another set in, at the beginning of the twentieth century is again decline and rebirth.” According to Rosenberg, it was a rebirth into a “new synthesis of life,” not simply a new form of government but an inner spiritual transformation: “today we are inwardly experiencing a collapse, and we have a deep longing for a new form of life.”

The testimonials of the Old Guard clearly reflect a sense of living at a time that would bring either apocalypse or salvation. Jakob Hoffmann states that “I always believed a union of the best forces of Germany must bring about a turning point in order to save Germany from chaos.” Wilhelm Scherer remarked that he was happy to have been “able to contribute” to what he termed “a world-historical epoch.” Describing this epoch, he explained,

A presentiment arose in me that only revolution must follow, like one that the glorious history of Germany had not yet experienced. Yes, like one world history had not yet, until now, produced. Germany put into effect a world turning point, brought about by our Führer, his movement, and many of our best who had sacrificed their sacred blood.

Heinrich Maxeiner exclaimed that “I, however, rejoiced that a benevolent fate had placed me in this great destiny and turning point of our Volk – to have allowed me to experience the striving and struggling for it.” Similarly, another minor Nazi states that “we are thankful to our Creator to be able to live in this age,” while yet another proclaimed that “the greatest fortune that could befall me was the circumstances that I was born into a time like no other.” Finally, Arno Belger, a local propaganda leader from Halle, described this “world turning point” in a language reflective of his role within the movement:

An over-strained, spiritually hollow age drew to its close, as antiquated and decaying liberalistic social orders and forms collapsed into themselves. Europe breathed with difficulty under the stifling nightmare of that Uncertain yet Inescapable which was summoned by the shot at Sarajevo as a purifying bath of steel closed upon the civilized world, and so produced the pre-condition for the evolution of the new man of community.

This turning point marked the death of one age and a rebirth into a new age. Rosenberg’s notion that out of the collapse of civilization there is rebirth is a significant and recurrent element of Nazi millennialism. For many Nazis, the death of their world necessitated the birth of a new world. According to Hitler, it was the Nazis’ mission to help finish off the dying old world so that the new one could be born. As he explained to Otto Wagener,

That is precisely the most profound secret of the entire revolution we are living through and whose leadership it is our mission to seize: that there has to be overthrow, demolition, destruction by force! The destruction must be meaningful not senseless, as under Bolshevism. And it can only become meaningful is we have understood the goal, the purpose, the necessity.

Hitler told Hermann Rauchning similarly, “They regard me as an uneducated barbarian. Yes, we are barbarians! It is an honourable title. We shall rejuvenate the world! This world is near its end. It is our mission to cause unrest.” While Rauschning and many later historians took such statements as proof of Hitler’s essential nihilism, he and they missed the central point that Hitler, like his beloved Richard Wagner, saw destruction as potentially regenerative, hastening the birth of the millennial Third Reich.

Rebirth symbolizes the psychological transformation that occurs when a new construction of reality replaces one that has collapsed, a function of the postconversion mentality that I discuss in the next chapter. Nazi rhetoric and propaganda reflected this psychological process in its presentation of contemporary times. A Völkischer Beobachter headline on February 26, 1930 stated plainly, “While the Volk Decays, A New Volk Arises Out of It.” Goebbels explained that “distress is the path to happiness. Disintegration and dissolution do not mean perishing but, rather, ascension and opening. Behind the noise of the day the strong powers of a new creation work in stillness.” Gregor Strasser noted that “in disaster the seed of the coming redemption is contained, and in death the seed of the coming life.” Rosenberg stated that “a new synthesis of state is arising from the collapse and chaos.” Ernst Röhm exclaimed that “the time in which we live, in which a world has collapsed in a roar and a young world struggles for life and light, will be designated by later generations as the birth of a New Age.” The Old Guard Nazi Karl Hepp described the Weimar period in a similar manner;

A world was forever submerged, and there was something new in the Becoming. A spiritual unrest had seized the world and especially the German people, and permitted men to experience the labor pains of a New Age. I also was strongly possessed by the inner unrest of the New Age.