Posted by: quiscus | November 2, 2010

November 2, 2010

1.  “Don’t turn a failed bomb plot into an al-Qaida victory

Jack Straw has given the game away. In the Observer on Sunday, he let slip the secret of the war on terror. “Never, ever, downplay the possible consequences.” Ghouls under the bed, germs in the kitchen and al-Qaida’s out to get us all: this is alarmist, and the coalition shouldn’t fall for it. The telling word in Straw’s statement is “possible”. It’s the sleight of hand that moves us from what does happen to what might, the trick that transforms a non-exploding printer cartridge packed in a box alongside a copy of the The Mill on the Floss into words from the mouths of presidents and prime ministers.


“There is no early evidence [the explosion] was designed to take place over British soil but of course we cannot rule that out,” David Cameron said at the weekend. He’s right, of course. You can rarely rule things out. You can’t – for instance – rule out the possibility that a drunk Russian general might launch a nuclear attack on the west this afternoon, or that a Trident sub might crash into its French equivalent (as one did) and explode (as thankfully it didn’t), or that a jet bound for London City airport might crash in Canary Wharf on a foggy November day. But prime ministers tend not to make statements about such dangers, though they too are real.


There is another danger we need to be aware of too: the symmetry of self-interest between the would-be bombers and the security services assembled to stop them. Both have a tendency to magnify serious but isolated incidents into one great interconnected global battle. The American military likes to describe the arc of terror that supposedly runs from Afghanistan through Pakistan into Yemen and down through Somalia. The British security services warn us, as Sir John Sawers did in a generally wise speech last week, about “the plotting of terrorists who are bent on maiming and murdering people in this country”.”

2.  “The irony deepens.  My acquaintances regard Obama as a Marxist and a Muslim. It does not occur to my acquaintances that the military/security complex and Wall Street would not put a Marxist in the White House, or that AIPAC would not put a Muslim in the White House, or that a Muslim would not have chosen a dual Israeli citizen as his chief of staff and staffed up his government with Jews friendly to Israel, or that a Muslim would not have renewed the war in Afghanistan and started new ones in Pakistan and Yeman, or that, if a Muslim, Obama would be averse to slaughtering Muslims in behalf of the neocons’ world hegemony agenda.

Chris Hedges writes in Truthdig:

“The American left is a phantom. It is conjured up by the right wing to tag Barack Obama as a socialist and used by the liberal class to justify its complacency and lethargy. It diverts attention from corporate power. It perpetuates the myth of a democratic system that is influenced by the votes of citizens, political platforms and the work of legislators. It keeps the world neatly divided into a left and a right. The phantom left functions as a convenient scapegoat. The right wing blames it for moral degeneration and fiscal chaos. The liberal class uses it to call for ‘moderation.’

The corporations that control mass communications conjure up the phantom of a left. They blame the phantom for our debacle. And they get us to speak in absurdities.”
But that’s America.  The people simply cannot put two and two together.  Thinking is not an activity of the American public.

Indeed, Americans are incapable of thought on any subject. ”

3.  ”

Politics in America has become spectacle. It is another form of show business. The crowd in Washington, well trained by television, was conditioned to play its role before the cameras. The signs —“The Rant is Too Damn High,” “Real Patriots Can Handle a Difference of Opinion” or “I Masturbate and I Vote”—reflected the hollowness of current political discourse and television’s perverse epistemology. The rally spoke exclusively in the impoverished iconography and language of television. It was filled with meaningless political pieties, music and jokes. It was like any television variety program. Personalities were being sold, not political platforms. And this is what the society of spectacle is about.


The modern spectacle, as the theorist Guy Debord pointed out, is a potent tool for pacification and depoliticization. It is a “permanent opium war” which stupefies its viewers and disconnects them from the forces that control their lives. The spectacle diverts anger toward phantoms and away from the perpetrators of exploitation and injustice. It manufactures feelings of euphoria. It allows participants to confuse the spectacle itself with political action.


The celebrities from Comedy Central and the trash talk show hosts on Fox are in the same business. They are entertainers. They provide the empty, emotionally laden material that propels endless chatter back and forth on supposed left- and right-wing television programs. It is a national Punch and Judy show. But don’t be fooled. It is not politics. It is entertainment. It is spectacle. All national debate on the airwaves is driven by the same empty gossip, the same absurd trivia, the same celebrity meltdowns and the same ridiculous posturing. It is presented with a different spin. But none of it is about ideas or truth. None of it is about being informed. It caters to emotions. It makes us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge. And in the end, for those who serve up this drivel, the game is about money in the form of ratings and advertising. Beck, Colbert and Stewart all serve the same masters. And it is not us.”

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