Monday, January 26, 2015

What Can Philip K. Dick Teach Us About Republicans in the Age of Neoliberalism and Cruelty?

"The Word ‘Android’ is a Metaphor for People Who are Physiologically Human But Psychologically Behaving in a Non-human Way"




Are you good folks in the northeastern United States ready for Snowmageddon? Are you hunkered down? Have you purchased the victuals you will need for the upcoming days of ice and hell, i.e. did you buy enough beer and other liquor to tide you over?

During these times of weather tumult my mom feigns a lack of work with a flippant "it's all media hype designed to make money..."

Because of my mother's addiction to driving her car everyday and in all environments--however perilous--for mobility is a symbol of her vitality and not being "an old senile lady", I had to give her the obligatory "stay inside and be careful because I am not fixing your car if you wreck it" lecture. 

I will be watching some online weather video camera feeds of Snowmaggeddon 2015 to satisfy my envy of those folks who will have all that snowy goodness to enjoy.

And please, if you are in the crosshairs of this supposed to be epic weather event do be careful, make sure that pets are brought inside, call the cops on those people who neglect their animal friends in such weather, and do try to make sure that our homeless brothers and sisters have supplies.

In keeping with the previous "ghetto nerd" themed post, I would like to share this gem of an interview by Paul M. Samson with the legendary science fiction writer and philosopher Philip K. Dick from 1981.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Semi-Open Sunday Thread: Predicting WWE's Royal Rumble While Bill Belichick Deflates My Balls and U.F.O.'s Attack


As is our habit and tradition, do consider this a semi-open thread to share information and matters of public and private concern that you find interesting and important.

I have not done a "ghetto nerd" related post in some time. I would like to correct that oversight.

[The podcast has touched on that fun theme several times, most notably our conversation with Jason Colavito about ancient aliens and other matters, as well as an upcoming installment with Dr. Adilfu Nama, where will be talking about race, science fiction, comic books, and other related matters.

If you have not listened to my conversation with Slate.com's Jack Hamilton about hip hop, popular music and the colorline, please do so. I think you will enjoy it.]

Tonight is the WWE's Royal Rumble pay-per-view event, airing from Philadelphia (the crowd should be really hot tonight, Philly is a great wrestling city).

The Rumble is always great fun. This year's card promises lots of excitement and surprises as Daniel Bryan has returned, Randy Orton is rumored to be an entrant, the Rock has been sighted in Philadelphia, and the legendary Sting will advance his feud with HHH before their inevitable match at Wrestlemania.

Of course, the three way match between Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, and John Cena will be epic--if booked correctly.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chris Kyle, American Sniper, and Christian Fascism


The popularity of American Sniper, the new biopic about Chris Kyle's life as one of the most deadly men in the history of the United States military, is disturbing. As I wrote here, American Sniper is war porn propaganda, and a type of public masturbation with Right-wing ejaculate composed of militarism, cruelty, history and current events bereft of context, and embracing worshipfulness towards a sociopathic killer.

The popularity of American Sniper is also an indictment of America's conscience and ethics. 

9-11 caused a type of derangement for the American people en masse. 

The movie American Sniper and the mass public's complicity and support for the vile deeds done in the name of the American people as detailed by the recently released C.I.A. "torture report" are wanton wickedness in stereo. The banality of evil was and is a condition not exclusive to the German-Nazi regime: it is very much at home in the United States.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Conversation With Slate Magazine's Jack Hamilton About the Notorious B.I.G., Hip Hop, and Popular Music's Relationship to the Colorline

I hope that you had a good New Year's and first few weeks of 2015.

The Chauncey DeVega Show continues in 2015 after a several week hiatus. We have some wonderful guests for the new year, the conversations already recorded, and quite a few planned for the future. 

Excelsior!

To begin 2015, The Chauncey DeVega Show will feature two shows focusing on hip hop music. 

Our first guest for 2015 is Jack Hamilton. He is a contributing writer at Slate magazine, and also an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Media Studies at the University of Virginia.

I am a member of the hip hop generation. My own work focuses on race, hip hop, and the politics of popular culture. It is always wonderful to chat with a fellow traveler such as Jack Hamilton.

In this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Jack and I talk about the life and legacy of the late, great, MC known as The Notorious B.I.G., the current state of hip hop music, the occasion of how many seminal hip hop albums are now 20-years-old, teaching popular music in the classroom, writing about music for Slate, the colorline and black music, and how/if the conversion from analog to digital has changed--in a negative way--publics' relationships with popular music, as well as the complicated role of the white critic in black music.

In this podcast episode, I also share my thoughts on the Charlie Hebdo Paris terror attacks and free speech, and offer some sharing about my recent guest appearance on the RT network. Of course, I couldn't resist talking about Chris Rock's movie Top Five...and my impulse to share a personal "top 5 MCs of all time" list, while looking for the fainting couch, as I am struck dumb by Rosario Dawson's beauty.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is a virtual bar and salon where interesting and smart folks doing interesting and smart things sit down for a conversation. 

It was a joy talking with Dr. Jack Hamilton.

This episode of the podcast known as The Chauncey Devega Show can be listened to below or "watched" on the official Youtube channel for Chaunceydevega.com.



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More Thoughts on the Very Problematic 'American Sniper': Is David Grossman's Theory of 'Killology' and 'Wolves, Sheep, and Sheepdogs' Racist?


I have mentioned and shared Dr. and Lt. Col (ret.) David Grossman's work on the psychology and science of killing several times here on WARN.

His theories about "killology" are fascinating and compelling. Grossman's use of examples and empirical data about war fighting and aggression are--to a semi-layperson with a more than passing interest in military history--very persuasive.

Dr. Grossman is also on the wishlist of future guests for The Chauncey DeVega Show.

Alas, hobbyist level knowledge is not the same as expert knowledge and direct lived experience on and with a given topic or subject.

To point. I was surprised to see David Grossman's work waylaid in a piece on Slate.com about the mediocre war porn movie American Sniper and the valorization of the lying and psychopathic Chris Kyle.

[I must now add the qualifiers and cautions about Grossman's theories to the two conversations on WARN's podcast series where the guest(s) were guarded about some of his findings, as well the chats I have had with an active duty Navy SEAL, and a Ukrainian sniper, both of whom saw extensive combat in Iraq, and were similarly less than effusive about the merits and explanatory power of "killology". They also cautioned me to be weary of the difference between "tabbed" and "scrolled" Rangers and the former's claims of military exploits.]

Michael Cummings' and Eric Cummings' criticism(s) of Grossman are centered on his recounting of an anecdote that has now become gospel in many Right-wing circles:

"I Have No More Campaigns to Run...I Know 'Cos I Won Both of 'Em": President Barack Obama is an Uppity Rude Rapscallion Negro Who Does Not Know His Place!


I am having some fun over at the Daily Kos. Liberal racists are such an easy crowd.

Near future plans: there will be a new podcast episode this Thursday. I also have a longer essay to share on Friday.

For the immediate present...

President Barack Obama successfully trolled the White Right in his seventh State of the Union Address before the United States Congress on Tuesday evening.

In my schadenfreude vision and hope, a member of the White Right shot at the cockroaches on the wall of his home with a pellet gun, while yelling at the TV about the evil Black President who "steals the white man's air" in their rage-filled response to Obama's witty quip.

Right-wing bloviators and their racially resentful and overtly bigoted public will howl--and will do so for the next few days--about the "disrespectful" and "rude" Black President (who to their eyes, introduced "petty politics", and "his arrogance", into a "sacred" American ritual).

As is their habit, for white conservatives and their allies, Barack Obama, who in reality is a very centrist Rockefeller Republican neoliberal operating under the guise of a Democrat, is a black rapscallion uppity negro who does not know his place.

And people of conscience and intelligence must never forget that the word "uppity" is an excuse for violence and murder when historically used by whites against African-Americans:
Although rape is often cited as a rationale, statistics now show that only about one-fourth of lynchings from 1880 to 1930 were prompted by an accusation of rape. In fact, most victims of lynching were political activists, labor organizers or black men and women who violated white expectations of black deference, and were deemed "uppity" or "insolent." Though most victims were black men, women were by no means exempt.
The plutocrat oligarchs laugh the whole time at the Vaudeville post-modern politics spectacle.

I know this to be true; I still allow myself, being the wrestling smart mark that I am, to enjoy the whole damned show, all the while I wonder what gems of truth and honesty about the Tea Party GOP and the White Right, more generally, that Obama will share some years from now in his autobiography and chronicle of his years as President of the United States of America.

What were your thoughts about Obama's State of the Union Address? Any insights, reactions, humor, disappointment, or the like to share and reflect upon?

Of course, what did you think of Obama's beautiful smile and damn sharp wink?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Never Forget that Martin Luther King Jr. was Hated by White America

Selma will likely replace the TV miniseries Roots or the documentary Eyes on the Prize in the obligatory Martin Luther King Jr. viewing rotation. 

Selma is a fine movie. It is also a product of the culture industry and racial capitalism.

While Dr. King is praised as American royalty in post civil rights era America, he has been robbed of all of his radicalism, truth-telling, and criticism of white supremacy and white privilege, the latter constituting a deep existential and philosophical rot in the heart of the American political and civic project.

The best way to kill a revolutionary or a radical is to give him or her a monument and a public holiday. James Earl Ray murdered Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. The milquetoast version of his radical politics as processed through the white racial frame and the American myth-making machine have murdered him a second time.

Ultimately, it is far easier to love a dead man. 

We cannot forget that Dr. King was hated by most of White America while he was alive.

Once more and again, racism is not an opinion. 

To wit.

Public opinion polling data from the 1960s highlights the high levels of white animus towards Dr. King, and the basic claims on human rights and citizenship made by African-Americans in the long Black Freedom Struggle and the civil rights movement.

Political scientist Sheldon Appleton offered this analysis and summary of Gallup polling data from King's era in an article published in 1995:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What Would J. Edgar Hoover Think of the Movie 'Selma?': Semi-Open Weekend Thread. The FBI and COINTELPRO as Art and Literature Critic of the Black Freedom Struggle


I hope that you are having a restful and nice weekend. The weather is unseasonably warm here in Chicago. I will be taking my afternoon constitutional and feeding the animals who live near the lake some bread and popcorn later in the day.

My main task for this Sunday is to will the New England Patriots to victory against the Indianapolis Colts. The Seahawks will destroy Green Bay: the outcome is a given, one almost pre-ordained.

The question remains, if the Patriots overcome the Colts, will Belichick and Brady have enough tricks in the bag to take down the indomitable Seahawks Greenbay.

Who knows at this point?
the Seahawks.

Tomorrow is Dr. King's birthday and national holiday.

On that day, the American public will celebrate the empty and obligatory popularized version of a man whose work has been reduced to punchlines that all can embrace across the colorline, robbed of its radicalism and truth-telling through the intellectual and political pasteurization necessary for a person to become an American icon, and where the obligatory I Have a Dream Speech is flattened to make mainstream white America happy--King boldly held white America accountable for its sins, advocated reparations and affirmative action, and spoke clearly and directly about white supremacy and white privilege.

If film is like "writing history with lightning", mass culture has taken Brother Dr. King's radicalism, diluted it, and then spat it out through the tip of an eye dropper across American popular memory and consciousness.

Never forget: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an enemy of the state.

King's work and sacrifice are part of the long Black Freedom Struggle. As such, its cultural workers, activists, and leaders were the target of systematic harassment and violence by the United States government under the decades-long Counter Intelligence Program.

While it may seem absurd and comical in its excesses, the FBI and other domestic intelligence organizations operating under COINTELPRO monitored African-American art and literature for "subversive" messages, and also as a barometer for black protect activist and public opinion.

William Maxwell's new book F.B. Eyes: How J.Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature offers insights and details on those practices that (in addition to monitoring King's speeches and letters) included close readings of work by such seminal figures as Claude McKay, Sonya Sanchez, Richard Wright, and others.

[The visual of FBI officials reading Claude McKay's poems and then performing them at home is a beautiful one. The image of Hoover, a gay man who was likely black and passing for white, all the while he harassed African-Americans and the gay community is priceless...in the worst and most pathetic way possible.]

Maxwell's findings are not surprising. The United States, British, and French used sophisticated propaganda techniques to manipulate publics during World War One. World War 2 saw a refining of the monitoring and control of mass publics through the mass media. The Cold War evolved those practices forward.

In the digital social media era, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, cell phones, email, and other technologies are observed and manipulated by the surveillance society. The difference? The masters of the universe and the security state have incentivized publics to share all of their most private thoughts and beliefs online. COINTELPRO and like operations once hid in the shadows; now, their heirs operate in plain sight with the help of a complicit, eager, and oftentimes indifferent public.

As is our habit and tradition, do you have any discoveries or thoughts to share about issues of public or private concern? Have any of you ever gotten your FBI file? Any activists with stories of FBI or NSA monitoring to share?

A provocative question: Are Hollywood movies like Selma the ultimate example of how the State and culture industry can transform political radicalism into acts of art as commerce that undermine the radical nature of people's resistance movements such as the Black Freedom Struggle and Civil Rights Movement?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Bradley Cooper is Excellent in the Movie 'American Sniper'; Chris Kyle is Still a Psychopathic Killer

All "Anti-War" Movies are Actually "Pro-War" Despite Their Intent


I attended a Thursday night viewing of the new movie American Sniper about the life and military exploits of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history.

Some quick thoughts.

Kyle is embodied by actor Bradley Cooper. He is Chris Kyle. He is not a cheap pantomime or parlor trick biographical actor: Cooper has earned his 2014 Oscar nomination for best actor.

While I admire Bradley Cooper's performance, American Sniper is a functional film that in many ways is fundamentally dishonest about politics, war, Kyle's life, and the Iraq misadventure that ruined the bodies and souls of thousands of American soldiers, and many millions of innocent Iraqis. 

The movie American Sniper reinforces my thoughts from 2 years ago about Chris Kyle, his book, and feting by Bill O'Reilly and Fox News:
Chris Kyle was feted by Bill O'Reilly last week: his deeds were recounted, and killing admired by the Fox News faithful. There is an odd homoeroticism (or is it homosocial worship?) in this interview, where O'Reilly as an archconservative is channeling a deep fascination with the "how" of death, and a type of hyper-masculinity that is the bleeding heart of Right-wing authoritarianism. Here, O'Reilly reminds the viewer of why straight men enjoy watching the freakishly large penises that dominate much of American pornography. Hero worship, with no small amount of projection, is, and remains, the thing--it is the means for a visceral thrill...
This is not a claim that elite soldiers such as the Navy Seals, the unit which Chris Kyle was a member of, are "crazy," sociopaths, or are especially prone to violence outside of a combat situation. It is however, an acknowledgement that there are bad and dangerous men who are born that way. The training sharpens the edge. 
The son of a Sunday-school teacher and a church deacon, Kyle credits a higher authority for his longest kill. 
From 2,100 yards away from a village just outside of Sadr City in 2008, he spied a man aiming a rocket launcher at an Army convoy and squeezed off one shot from his .338 Lapua Magnum rifle. Dead. From more than a mile away.
“God blew that bullet and hit him,” he said. 
For Kyle, the enemy is a “savage” — there’s no room for gray, only black or white. 
America is a militiarized society. Warfare and martial culture are at the heart of the country's economy and entertainment. Militarism is also central to America's political culture as well. For example, onservatives such as Gingrich, Romney, Bush, Santorum, Perry, and others play the tough guy as chicken hawks who swagger in a phallocentric game and performance which titillates their populist base, even as the irony that all either avoided military service (or exaggerated their responsibilities) remains uncommented upon.
Film theorists have incisively argued that there is no such thing as an "anti-war" movie because all movies about armed conflict are channels for a mediated reality. As such, they distort the horrors of battle, and the basic fact that war-fighting is a life and death matter, one that cannot be accurately communicated by the visual and aural codes or symbols and grammar of film. Consequently, even "anti-war" films like Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, and Full Metal Jacket are actually endorsements of the violence and human ruin they purport to condemn.

The ideology of the film American Sniper is presented through a narrative that lacks a substantive critical engagement with the causal forces that sent Chris Kyle to war--and where his skills as a sniper were refined and honored by the military.

History is flat--the teleology of the Iraq War is presented through the myopic lens of American Exceptionalism and the epistemically closed Right-wing media--in American Sniper. And of course, the Iraqis in the movie are cartoon villains and victims.

For American Sniper, the Iraq War began because of Iraq's (non) involvement with the terrorist attacks on September 11th. The lie of the premise is never engaged or exposed except in fleeting scenes of soldiers, they who are now tired from war, dead, limbs amputated, their eyes weary as they write regretful letters that are read at funerals, or when Kyle's brother hints at how he is a broken man, one who is unable to equal his brother's martial prowess, and sentenced to existential malaise and unavoidable doom by service as an anonymous grunt.

In those scenes "war is hell". However, there is no further move to put that truism in context: the Iraq War(s) is in fact a type of hell, one based on an evil set of lies knowingly sold to the American people by the second Bush Administration.

Ultimately, the movie American Sniper is a hagiography that pretends to be an anti-hagiography. My muddied language is an intentional choice that signals to the clumsy slight of hand of an ideologically duplicitous film-making exercise. 

Chris Kyle is made a hero in a quasi anti-war film by virtue of his confusion and vulnerability, need to reconnect with his family, and the healing he offered to his fellow veterans stateside. The audience is cheated of the moral and human consequences of war in the film's conclusion, where even the best of efforts for broken warriors to heal one another can result in death.

Kyle's murder by a fellow veteran, one more broken than he, is only alluded to by an epilogue. We do not see Kyle's death. Instead, nationalism and the "sacrifice" of America's "selfless" warriors is reified by the tired civil religion routine that is waving American flags, cops and firefighters, and a funeral montage featuring obligatory military regalia and Kyle's brother SEALs.

A "great warrior" laid out in a random killing on a gun range is too much truth about the futility of war for American Sniper--a major Hollywood film that seeks to resuscitate the memory of the Iraq War and its soldiers--to entertain an audience that is comprised of those folks who desire Bradley Cooper the heart throb, and the others who want to see a lethal killer ply his craft on human Arab Iraqi targets in a movie that is a 2 hour plus advertisement for the Navy SEALS and the U.S. military.

Chris Kyle did not need to be a twenty-first century Agamemnon in the movie American Sniper. But the Christian fundamentalist Crusader-sniper who borrowed the insignia of the Marvel comic book anti-hero The Punisher as his own, had no regrets about all of his killing, exaggerated and lied about his exploits, and exhibited signs of psychopathy, is a much more compelling subject for a movie than the person artfully depicted by Bradly Cooper. 

If cinema is a lie, American Sniper is one of the most recent and greatest examples of said reality.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Authoritarianism and Police Brutality Against People of Color


Police are supposed to serve the public. In a democracy, police are controlled and commanded by elected officials who ostensibly serve the public interest.

Recent events in New York City (and elsewhere) undermine those basic norms.

In the aftermath of the killing of two New York police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, by a mentally ill gunman, police union leader Patrick Lynch is leading a veritable police rebellion against Mayor Bill de Blasio.

New York City’s police have refused to do their jobs by engaging in an coordinated work slowdown and strike.

New York police have publicly booed and heckled Mayor de Blasio—even going so far as to turn their backs to him—as a sign of their anger and disrespect towards him.

In online forums such as Thee Rant, a site frequented by retired and active duty New York police officers, Mayor de Blasio, his family, and administration have been the targets of vicious racial slurs and threats.

New York City’s police and their spokespeople are rebelling against civilian authority for a variety of reasons.

Primarily, Mayor de Blasio’s basic observation that police brutality and racism against non-whites is a problem that must be solved, and when coupled with the nationwide protests against police thuggery in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, threatens an American police culture that views itself as an omnipotent force, one that is above the law.

New York’s police and union leaders such as Patrick Lynch are also mining the cultural mythologies that protect the police in order to create a narrative of police victimhood and vulnerability. While contrary to the empirical data which demonstrates that police work is actually a relatively safe profession (for example, police deaths are near a 50 year low) a tale of police victimhood can be combined with white racial resentment to weaken Mayor De Blasio, a Democrat, for the purpose of gaining leverage in the New York police union’s pay and contract negotiations.

In authoritarian and fascist societies, police and the military exist outside of civilian control.