Monday, November 29, 2010
Never would I have imagined that one day I would write the following: The Walking Dead television series on AMC is too positive and bright--that it problematically keeps hope alive in a way that the original source material never suggested possible.
Like most ghetto nerds, I was excited that The Walking Dead comic book series was going to be adapted for television. I was even more excited that it would be on the esteemed AMC network and helmed by Frank Darabont of Shawshank Redemption fame. But alas, be careful what you wish for, as it may indeed come true. While some are gushing over The Walking Dead television series I have reserved judgment. By nature, I am not a curmudgeon. I also reject the worst tendencies of those residents of snarky nerdville to reject all that the "mainstream" has discovered about our secret loves, rites, and rituals as the bandwagon saddles up, eager to take on any and all passengers.
In practice, I see a broader audience as a pragmatic good that can bring more attention to a given creative property. That caveat now having been noted: The Walking Dead television show is adequate. It is not great. At this very early point, in its surrender to the conventions of television (and perhaps even to the Twilight series soap opera demographic) The Walking Dead has to this point lost so much personality that the show is nothing more than a mere echo of its source material.
For some not so devoted members of the mainstream, the newbies with virgin eyes to the series, that reality is fine...perhaps even preferable. For devotees such as myself, The Walking Dead television series is a lost, great, missed opportunity.
The challenge of divergent forms overshadows The Walking Dead as its approaches next Sunday's season finale. The original material is a comic book. Print media, the graphic novel in particular, allows a reader to digest material at a pace he or she sees fit. As visual story telling with text, comic books are a unique union of words and action. As legends of the graphic arts Scott McCloud and Will Eisner so thoroughly detail, comic books engage the reader by allowing our imaginations to fill in the gaps between panels, provide voices and details to the transitions between scenes, and create meaning where there is only empty space.
In addition, the graphic novel is not limited by the inconveniences of budget or scale: if you can dream it, you can draw it. And most important to our meditations on the questions surrounding what is lost in transition from the page to the screen, comic books are wonderful at communicating action (just consider all that can transpire in a few panels of a comic book's page) and limited by the efficiency of words (how few can generally be written on the page). As different storytelling mediums, television and film do not share these relative limitations.
Frank Darabont and Robert Kirkman have been honest regarding these artistic and practical comprises. To point: Fans of the original medium should allow a broad leeway as the writers and producers of The Walking Dead negotiate the difficult process of translating page to screen. Moreover, fans of the comic should not expect a literal translation as the page is merely inspiration for the AMC series. Nevertheless, The Walking Dead has a beating heart, a set of relationships between the characters, a set of guiding principles, and dare I suggest a personality, that as of Sunday's episode "Wildfire" the series is now woefully lacking.
Thematically, The Walking Dead is about many things. Hope and loss; the pain of a new normal; hopelessness and survival; how real people--you and me--deal with the heretofore unimaginable. Perhaps most importantly, The Walking Dead is about "the walking dead," that (as I and others have written here) in keeping with the conventions of zombie literature the survivors are now the Other, and in Robert Kirkman's award winning comic series, that the survivors are the real and true "walking dead."
Ironically, in the new AMC series where conventions of profitable episodic television melodrama override adherence to the source material, The Walking Dead perhaps ought to more rightly be called "The Walking Living"--two different shows; two different artistic and thematic sensibilities; and the latter not in keeping with the best of what The Walking Dead as a television series could in fact be.
Per our tradition, some thoughts, Easter eggs, and questions. Beware, there are spoilers ahead:
1. Okay. So Merle is going to be The Governor? I like the nice signal to the comic book offered by the amputation of his hand. This is good stuff that mirrors Rick's eventual suffering...and Michonne's revenge. But, the early introduction of Merle as The Governor seems unnecessary as it is a clear telegraph to a substantial future plot development.
2. There is some nice symbolism at work. The American flag, now simultaneously both a symbol of hope and lost dreams is featured prominently in the background of The Walking Dead. In "Wildfire," Jim is dying in the Winnebago--another symbol of the open road, Route 66, and long gone Americana--the flag is a fitting accompaniment to his delusional and dying moments.
3. The Walking Dead comic book has established some pretty good common sense rubrics for survival. The characters maintain a constant watch, are strict with noise discipline, and are mindful of swarms and "herds" of zombies. Where are these common sense rules in the television series? Dale was always perched on top of the RV. Now, that chair it too often vacant. Moreover, the show went to great pains to establish that the blood is toxic. Why then be so careless this week? Hitting bodies in the head with a pickaxe, fluids flying about, and no fear of contamination?
4. The zombie infection is 100 percent fatal. It is also 100 percent communicable. Would you really not immediately kill a person who was bitten? And would you leave said person tied up against a tree, just to reanimate and become a threat? Sorry. Don't buy it.
5. Second melodramatic television concession unnecessarily soap operaesque moment--Andrea holding her dead sister until she reanimates. Foolish. Unbelievable. Insert finger into mouth in order to induce vomiting.
6. Why have a large group of people just to whittle them down to a few key characters? Why the Red Shirt effect in The Walking Dead? Let's cut to the chase and skip the teasing.
7. Gas. Supplies. Food. Clean water. Basics. These folks drive too much and worry too little.
8. Second point. Is this bring your kids to zombie Atlanta day? What is the logic here? No one guards the vehicles, all folks exit, and they could be easily surrounded as they try to gain access to the CDC. As zombie lore (and common sense point out) cities are death traps. Avoid them. And if need be, send a small group, not the entirety of your group to what could be a fubar zombie brain eating buffet. This is poor writing that damages the believability of the characters involved...especially Rick and Shane.
9. Two thematic points. First, the device of character gets bitten and we all go to Atlanta to find a cure suggests an adventure of the week model. The writers create a problem, the protagonists go on a quest to reaffirm their humanity to the viewers (and each other) and a problem is overcome...or a new one encountered. I always found this to be tedious, piss poor writing that only exhausts a keen and sharp viewer. Darabont needs to avoid this pitfall. He is better than that.
10. Second point. The Walking Dead comic book is about hopelessness and the unforgiving nature of the real. If there were a cataclysm tomorrow, a pandemic of the type shown in The Walking Dead, you/me/no one is likely to get the big reveal/satisfying answer. Kirkman expertly teased this in the comic book, by having a "scientist," likely the basis of the CDC researcher in tonight's episode suggest a "cure" that turned out to be a lie. Folks, there is no cure. We don't know the disease vector of the zombie plague. There will be no epidemiologist present to conduct a seminar on the zombie apocalypse. Our prime directive is survival. Ultimately, as long time readers of The Walking Dead know, there will be no deus ex machina moment in which all questions are answered.
This sad truth is the beating heart of the comic book series. While I cannot divine the future, if the first season of AMC's version of The Walking Dead ends with a grand reveal of what should remain a MacGuffin, the series will have truly jumped the proverbial shark into mediocrity. In that instance, The Walking Dead will become something quite different from its award winning source material. That my friends, would be a horrible shame.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Happy birthday Brother Bruce Lee.
"You want to learn the way to win, but never to accept the way to lose." What wise words to live by.
There are some heroes that we can not imagine growing older as their flame would diminish tragically for they are meant to burn brightly and in youth. Michael Jackson, a Peter Pan figure, would fit this mold. By contrast, Brother Bruce Lee had much more to teach and the intensity of his flame would have only gained more focus had he not been taken from us so soon.
In which directions would Bruce Lee have grown? What mountains would he have climbed? We can only guess, but as with all of our legends, their early passing provides an opportunity for dreaming and contemplation that only magnifies the greatness present.
Once more, a nod of acknowledgment to the elder gods.
Hope your turkey day was good. I also hope you didn't go out and act the fool for some cheap, made in China garbage from Walmart or boutique Target.
Ali's famous speech before the KKK is just a little weekend thinking project for those so inclined.
As I have often shared, Muhammad Ali is one of my few heroes. I love him because of his complexity, not despite it. While Ali is one of the elder gods who I do so admire, I do not lionize him. And yes, there is a difference.
For those who lived through the tumultuous moments of Ali's career as a living, breathing, figure of no small controversy, what are you thoughts about his canonization in the 21st century? For others--and especially for those that watched the Thriller in Manila documentary from which the above clip is taken--how would you respond to those who portray Ali as a bit of an anti-hero--a man whose motives and intent are secular and not divine, a real person, who is capable of both good and bad?
Ultimately, was the greatest really "The Greatest?" Or was he a man who made choices because of his handlers' whims, a consummate pragmatist and performer, a hero who is far less than we imagine him to be?
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
I am and have been transparent in my disdain towards Sarah Palin. She took stupid all the way to the bank; is a succubus of, and lightning rod for, the worst sort of Right-wing populist know-nothing nonsense; and is an expert performer of a particularly noxious type of rural blackface. Apparently, Palin follows through on the New Right's due diligence in her new "book" and includes an obligatory attack on Michelle Obama's patriotism and the then soon to be First Lady of the United States' honest comment that, "for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback"
Michelle Obama was pilloried by the Right for daring to suggest that America had long erred in its treatment of non-whites, and that as an American of color she could now be fully proud because the country seemed to finally be living up to its radically inclusive and democratic potential.
As has been repeatedly demonstrated, the myopia of whiteness knows few limits. The myopic whiteness of Conservativism knows even fewer. As the 2008 presidential campaign reinforced, the White Conservative Soul is wedded to the idea that there is just one American story, one American experience, and one approved nostalgia laden narrative. The realities of white supremacy as foundational to a country where supposedly democratic citizenship was bounded by race (and gender, as well as class) is simply too much to bear.
In short, conservatives need the good lie. It is a tale of a perfect America allows them to sleep easily at night. Unfortunately, not many Americans are afforded that luxury.
It is Sarah Palin who brings back these memories. In her new book, she reportedly takes Michelle Obama to task for her supposedly infamous remark from the 2008 campaign: "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback." Instantly, Republicans pounced. Among the first to do so was Cindy McCain, who said, "I have and always will be proud of my country." It was a cheap shot, but her husband's selection of Palin for the ticket and plenty of cheap shots from Palin ("death panels," etc.) were yet to come.
Michelle Obama quickly explained herself. She was proud of the turnout in the primaries - so many young people, etc. Evan Thomas, writing perceptively in Newsweek, thought - as I did - that she was saying something else. He dug into her senior thesis at Princeton - "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community" - to find a young woman who felt, or was made to feel, "more aware of my 'blackness' than ever before." This was not a statement of racism. This was a statement of fact.
It's appalling that Palin and too many others fail to understand that fact - indeed so many facts of American history. They don't offer the slightest hint that they can appreciate the history of the Obama family and that in Michelle's case, her ancestors were slaves - Jim Robinson of South Carolina, her paternal great-great grandfather, being one. Even after they were freed they were consigned to peonage, second-class citizens, forbidden to vote in much of the South, dissuaded from doing so in some of the North, relegated to separate schools, restaurants, churches, hotels, waiting rooms of train stations, the back of the bus, the other side of the tracks, the mortuary, the cemetery and, if whites could manage it, heaven itself.
It was the government that oppressed blacks, enforcing the laws that imprisoned them and hanged them for crimes grave and trivial, whipped them if they bolted for freedom and, in the Civil War, massacred them if they were captured fighting for the North. And yet if African Americans hesitate in embracing the mythical wonderfulness of America, they are accused of racism - of having the gall to know more about their own experience and history than Palin and others think they should.
Why do politicians such as Palin and commentators such as Glenn Beck insist that African Americans go blank on their own history - as blank as apparently Palin and Beck are themselves? Why must they insist that blacks join them in embracing a repellent history that once caused America to go to war with itself? Besides Princeton, Michelle Obama is a graduate of Harvard Law School. It's hardly possible that she is not knowledgeable about the history of African Americans - no Ellis Island for them, immigrants in their colorful native dress waving at the camera. Should she forget it all simply because she went to Ivy League schools - be thankful for what she had gotten and the hell with the rest? Why should she be more grateful than Cindy McCain?
Sarah Palin teases that she might run for president. But she is unqualified - not just in the (let me count the) usual ways, but because she does not know the country. She could not be the president of black America nor of Hispanic America. She knows more about grizzlies than she does about African Americans - and she clearly has more interest in the former than the latter. Did she once just pick up the phone and ask Michelle Obama what she meant by her remark? Did she ask about her background? What it was like at Princeton? What it was like for her parents or her grandparents? I can offer a hint. If they were driving to Washington, they slowed down and stopped where the sign said "colored" - and the irritated Palins of the time angrily hit the horn and went on their way.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Rest in Peace Chalmers Johnson, Freddy Krueger Bogeyman of Failed American Imperial Dreaming, You Will be Missed
When I was a senior at Hamden High School I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Paul Kennedy, distinguished historian at Yale University, and author of The Rise and Fall of Great Powers. Then aged 17, I understood the import of what Dr. Kennedy was sharing. But I was overwhelmed, for in the closing moments of the Cold War I simply could not accept that America, the country of my Top Gun, Red Storm Rising, Red Dawn, Desert Storm first round knockout dreams, would one day not be top dog. Impossible I thought. And most certainly an event that would not occur in my lifetime.
Chalmers Johnson, one of the great teachers and students of global politics, has left us at age 79. Like so few who saw the wicked temptations of American Empire, and how it would one day be undone by virtue of its grand successes, Johnson stated the painfully obvious: Imperial hubris would bring the temple down upon us all.
I do so wish that Chalmers Johnson would have lived a few more years to write the epithet of American empire. To clarify, I do not want to see America's empire collapse for while the little guy did not benefit grandly from the escapades of financiers, global markets, and the military industrial complex (an intentionally provocative point of debate and tete-a-tete for those willing to take the bait), like many, I too remain a bit drunk on our myths of exceptionalism and national triumph where we Americans (with only the most noble of intentions) saved the world for democracy.
Rather, I think we Americans would be well served by the wisdom of the elder gods in this, our moment of seemingly inevitable decline. Chalmers Johnson could hold the collective hand as we Americans walked down our new path together. I do hope the patient has been pronounced prematurely slouching towards her end, that our ingenuity, drive, and spirit will overcome the weight of our ledger. But as a realist, I remain open to any and all possibilities...even the most dire.
Travel well Mr. Johnson. You will be missed.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
They Are So Old School: Hiram Maxim, the Echoes of History and the Bigotry of the New Right in the Age of Obama
As I said during the 2008 presidential campaign, I prefer my racism straight with no chaser. For this reason, I have often flirted with writing an Op-Ed simply called, "Why Limbaugh, Beck, Gingrich, Palin and the New Right Should Just Call Barack Obama a Nigger and Get It Over With." And yes, I stung myself by writing that dread word for I banned it from the vocabulary some time ago. Ah, the burdens of trying to speak truth to power.
If the New Right Tea Party G.O.P. were honest in their bigotry it would save us all so much time.
In keeping with my love of the old school, there is much to be said for the lack of obfuscation that typified the racism of years past. Black and Brown folk knew the ground upon which their foes stood. By extension, they/we could be prepared for the overhand right and then hit back with a good body blow. In the contemporary, post civil rights, Age of Obama--a world where there is racism without racists--black and brown folk are fighting metaphorical ghosts. Now, the opposition is winning even while shadow boxing.
Trust, those phantom punches can really hurt.
As I did here, I love to share pithy bits of wisdom when (and from wherever) I may find them. Today, I was reading the great book The Gun by C.J. Chivers. This efficient history of modern firearms as told through the lens of the AK-47's development as an indispensable tool of war has a wonderful chapter on the history of machine guns and their role in the coming of age of European and American Imperial power. Of note therein: the following passage on the racism of legendary gun innovator Hiram Maxim which reads as follows.
His views on race were equally severe. "A black man," he declared, "has no rights that a white man is bound to respect." Late in life, he described belittling blacks in the United States in the service of his early business interests. Before taking a trip to Atlanta in the early 1870s to oversee the installation of one of his automatic gas machines at the grand Kimball House hotel, he bought a photograph of "a New Guinea nigger; it was the niggerest-looking nigger I had ever seen." Maxim thought the picture might charm his Southern hosts. At the time, Pinckney Pinchback, the son of a slave and the slave's master, was serving as governor of Louisiana, to many a white Southerner's dismay. Maxim wrote the words "Governor Pinchback" on the photograph and carried it in his pocket. At moments he deemed convenient, he produced his photograph for his white clients. It was a Maxim calling card, "Whenever we were discussing niggers and politics I used to take out this photograph and hand it to them," he said. What are we coming to, some the men would exclaim. Next we will have a gorilla...
Damn, once more, the echoes of history in the Age of Obama both loom and resonate large.
I remain unmoved by arguments against the self-evident truth that much of the opposition against President Obama is rooted in simple, plain, old fashioned, white racism and white victimology. Frankly, some white folks cannot accept the disruption to their cognitive framework caused by having a Black man in The White House. Moreover, it is sadly ironic that the honest words of old school white supremacists such as Maxim would ring true even into the 21st century.
True, a Black man can be elected President in America--an accomplishment of no small note and a momentous beachhead in the long Black Freedom Struggle. But sadly, President Obama is also in many ways bound by the sad and tired remnants of Jim Crow that exist in the hearts and minds of the "traditional, yearning for Leave it Beaver good old days, take back my America" crowd. These knuckledraggers are likely a minority. Perhaps in some crowds, the New Right, Tea Party bigots are a plurality. Yet, there influence on American politics in the aggregate remains out-sized. And the voices willing to stand against them are increasingly mute.
In the immortal words of Bill Cosby: come on people, can't we do better? Or is the United States forever bound by the particular circumstances of its birth, and the powerful influence of an almost guaranteed and de facto White political, social, and economic superiority on the house that race built?
Thursday, November 18, 2010
For example, the Irish deeply understood that their transition to full whiteness would be expedited by service in the Union Army during The Civil War. Likewise, Black Americans did not separate "freedom at home" from "freedom abroad." Returning from the killing fields of World War One and World War Two, African American soldiers paid a bloody tax on their full citizenship dues towards a check that was stamped insufficient funds. These deposits into the account of freedom would eventually be cashed, in no small part because of the honorable duty of those brave men and women.
I have long thought that the real stakes at hand in the opposition by Conservatives to our gay brothers and sisters serving openly in the armed forces is prefaced on an understanding that military service is often a pathway to full and equal citizenship in the polity. While these debates are couched in the language of "military readiness" and "unit cohesion," they are ultimately about belonging and citizenship. Some Americans simply do not believe that gay folks ought to be part of our political community. Most certainly, they ought not to be treated equally. In this imaginary, if "those people" openly die in the trenches and battlefields (as they have for centuries), then God forbid those same folk may actually both demand and deserve their full rights as citizens.
I have grown a bit in my thoughts on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. At first, I tolerated the policy and thought it an imperfect solution to a practical dilemma. I bristled at comparisons of Jim Crow segregation in the military to that of the discriminatory practices faced by gay and lesbian soldiers. In my mind, race is not a predilection or orientation that innately predicts anything about human behavior. By contrast, sexuality because of its very nature--a preference for and attraction to some types of bodies--is quintessentially about behavior.
However, over time I came to realize that the logic of segregation in the military was a near mirror for the logic of segregation against gay and lesbian soldiers. Black people were imagined not as individuals where race works as a social fiction made real by law, habit, and tradition. No, in the logic of the Jim Crow, black folk behave differently, are inferior and alien in their life practices, precisely because they are not white. Insert "gay" in place of "black," "straight" in place of "white," and the logic possesses an eerie parallelism.
Here, history is once more the greatest of teachers. In 1945 the Navy Department published a pamphlet entitled, "The Guide to Command of Negro Naval Personnel." Some of its suggestions:
Racial Theories Waste Manpower
Be Skeptical About Ready Generalizations
Symbols That Irritate
High or low morale has been said to result from a lot of little things. Among the little things of great importance to Negroes are words, jokes and characterizations which white people use on occasion unthinkingly. They can be such sources of irritation that leadership becomes difficult, and continued use of them has on several occasions invoked serious incidents.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a similar embarrassment.
A segregated U.S. military was thrown into the dustbin of history and the United States is long better off because of it. Ultimately, Don't Ask, Don't Tell is long overdue to join the Guide to Command of Negro Naval Personnel as a historical artifact and curio, one best suited for a museum or archive.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
My favorite emcee of many years. My favorite interviewer. Together. Priceless. How did we get so old?
Monday, November 15, 2010
Brother X-Squared, Black Radical Genius, on President Obama's Trip to India, the 2010 Tea Party GOP Midterms, and the Movie "Unstoppable"
As long time followers of WARNNN already know, Brother X-Squared is a potent activist, black futurist, and visionary thinker. His observations and opinions have had explosive power as they draw attention from points far and wide, and all directions on the political compass.
It has been several months since our last conversation with Brother X-Squared. He now returns from his self-imposed exile to offer his opinions on such wide ranging topics as President Barack Obama, the 2011 midterm elections, and the current state of popular culture, arts, and letters.
WARNNN: Hello Brother X-Squared. It has been such a long time since we last spoke. What have you been up to? Where have you been? So much has transpired in these last few months. Our readers have been repeatedly asking as to your whereabouts, and are hungry for your insights.
Brother X-Squared: I see that you are gracious and humble before me. I appreciate that. Oftentimes, you are a bit obstinate and willful Brother Chauncey. Perhaps now you are hungry for my wisdom. Although, because of my absence, I will have to begin slowly and speak like a genius to a child as your mental mind state has become flaccid and your brain incapable of handling my melanin infused genius. I have been off getting ready for the inevitable fall of this wicked country. As I predicted, all of the forces of capitalist witchcraft racist exploitation are finally bringing down this house that race built. The foundation is rotten. A hurricane is coming to cleanse Amerikkka from the Earth! It will be glorious to behold!
WARNNN: Are you that cynical? Is the U.S. really at its end? When will this happen? The date, the year? Please share.
Brother X-Squared: Sorry Brother Chauncey. Knowledge is reserved for those who have earned it. The captive black man in America deserves his fate. Once he comes into full knowledge, the so-called Black American neo-slave will come to Brother X-Squared and the renewed Black Panthers. This is Nubian Darwinism in action. Only the strong survive. I am ready: I have soybeans, hemp, peanuts, mineral water, shea butter, and many volumes of books for when the time is right. What a joke your Obamazombies are! So happy to have a halfrican prince in "charge" as "President." They done pulled the nigger wool over your sleepy eyes. What a beautiful irony. You weak captive negroes cheered "yes, we can!" just as history will remember Obama as the last President of the American Empire. He is your Nero! Lapdog fools.
WARNNN: Are you happy about this?
Brother X-Squared: How does a black coon dog who has just treed a white opossum on the evening before Juneteenth in the middle of a rainstorm feel?
WARNNN: Huh? What are you talking about? Coon dogs? Juneteenth?
Brother X-Squared: Once more, you have no knowledge of your own history, the Africanisms that live in all true Nubians. Pathetic. The answer is yes! Oh yes, I am happy. The 2010 Tea Bagger election is one more nail in the coffin of this racist country. The chickens are coming home to roost and they are going to smother the white devils and their colored supplicants who run this country.
WARNNN: Since you introduced the topic. Please give us more thoughts on the tea party election? What do you think caused it? How does Fox News, and Sarah Palin with her "mamma grizzlies" fit into this puzzle? What could Obama have done to help the Democrats?
Brother X-Squared: So much to explain. This is so simple. The White House is a white house. It was built with slave labor. There is no way for a black man to have justice in this society. Even though Obama is a spiritual zero because his white momma's energy canceled out his hot in the pants African daddy's melanin force, Obama is still a half-negro. He can't escape the force of history! Impossible!
WARNNN: Be careful now, isn't that a bit close to the nonsense on genes, blood, and mystical forces that D'Souza and Gingrich were peddling about Obama and his father?
Brother X-Squared: Caution is for weak negroes such as yourself. D'Souza and Gingrich--two sick and twisted white devils, the former being a coconut who would take that insult as a complement--have no idea about the powers of the Zombi! What we true Africans know to be rooted in Haiti home of the Black radical freedom fighter visionary Toussaint L'Ouverture! Oh yes, a great man who drove out the white devils from his country. The weak white man was afraid of the mystical forces embodied by human black gold they brought to their so-called "new world." Our obeah powers, our Voodoo, our Candomble put a psychic scar on white people. To this day most ofays tremble with fear of the night. So it is natural that when they see a halfrican mulatto--even though his negritude melanin forces are very diluted--like Obama that white folks would be terrified. Thus, their use of atom bombs and fighter planes and machine guns to conquer the world for the white man doesn't have the virility or strength to engage true Nubians and our colored allies in physical, psychic, or intellectual battle!
Ultimately, the leadership of this country is rotten down to its core. The funny thing is, the white devils who run things really only care about green and gold! Money. They get those dumb hillbilly angry white people to put on costumes and run around acting stupid. A diversion from the big plan. Moreover, as some smart white race warriors such as Joe Feagin have pointed out, the white people in this country are delusional, sick with this thing called "the white racial frame." Their minds can't even process or accept that a so-called black man is President. They are losing their damn minds. Imagine if a real Nubian warrior such as Brother X-Squared were in charge. The sex-freak tea bagger crowd would have certainly committed hara-kiri! Mass suicide!
WARNNN: What of Fox News and Sarah Palin?
Brother X-Squared: I love Fox News!
WARNNN: Huh? Are you serious?
Brother X-Squared: Again, you are playing the white man's two dimensional checkers while I am playing that Star Trek 3d chess mixed up with that Star Wars holographic effect. You and the other captive Africans in America will never be free because you don't understand the white man's tricknology. He hides things in plain sight. Right out in the open just like the Russians during the Cold War and those devilish slave traders the British during World War Two. Fox News, Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck are telling you everything they are going to do their enemies. Everyday they give marching orders to their armies. You fools sit around trying to reveal some deeper meaning behind the words of those devils. There is none. That cabal of Caucasian evil believes in eliminationism. They are going to wipe you black and brown fools out and leave some around to be slaves. Watch. You will see.
WARNNN: That is so much hyperbole.
Brother X-Squared: Prove to me that I am wrong. You have a bunch of drug addicted likely pedophiles in Beck and Limbaugh leading a whole revolution of similarly deranged white people and their black and brown overseers. If you can't see what is as plain as that big negro nose on your face, I can't help open your eyes. On that Palin witch. Now, she is dangerous. If you knew your history you would know that most of those fascists like Hitler and the KKK for example, knew how to use the "so called" sacred idea of white women's nobility and purity to motivate white people into killing black and brown people. Think of how many Nubians were hung from trees because some white trash Southern woman cried rape. As though a proud Black man would lay with such a thing, especially given that from slavery on, the white woman would come to the Nubian god for an infusion of melanin life force that her weak-willed husband could not give her. Why take what you can get for free! Oh yes! Riddle me that!
But, there is something truly devious going on with Sarah Palin. Do you see it Brother Chauncey?
WARNNN: Hmmmm, her false populism? Palin's ability to mine white racial resentment around a narrative of "real America?"
Brother X-Squared: You think too much. "Mamma grizzlies" is a perversion! Another signal to the sex deviancy practiced by the tea baggers. These white sick sex perverts have a political movement based on putting one's testicles in the faces of people. They are capable of anything. That mama grizzly mess is a signal to bestiality! Oh yes! These tea bagger white people are sick! It is doubly disgusting because as our indigenous Brown and Red brothers--all high respect do to our allies in the struggle--have taught us the bear is a powerful creature of sacred power! A truly noble creature from Mother Gaia is now debased by the craven likes of Sarah Palin. Palin so hates you black people, even that Uncle Tom Pastor Manning can see it, that she has photos taken with a slave catching net! Oh the evil is so transparent!
WARNNN: Did I tell you how much we missed you? Never, ever, would I have put those pieces together in such a way...
Brother X-Squared: You are a child at the knees of Brother X-Squared, a padawan. I on the other hand am Master Yoda. Next question.
WARNNN: What are your thoughts on Barack Obama and his trip to India?
Brother X-Squared: More greatness. The truth is like an onion, layered, hidden, burning to the eyes of those whose mental nictitating protective membranes are not prepared. Obama is a middle man, he is sent to grovel to the brown peoples of the Earth for money. Uncle Sam, who in reality was a meat salesman before his visage was used to get dumb Americans to go die by the thousands in Europe during World War One, is dead broke. Now he goes around with a begging bowl. So ironic given that brothers like DuBois and those at the Bandung Conference were predicting that the darker races would rule the Earth! Now that moment is finally here. So wondrous to see history unfurl before our very eyes.
Did you know that Obama is likely practicing some type of witchcraft and mysticism while in India?
WARNNN: What are you talking about? Again, that sounds preposterous. He is there to negotiate a trade agreement and to make sure that the U.S. can try to balance China's growth and influence as she rises to superpower status.
Brother X-Squared: It is often the most ignorant who are the most assured in their beliefs. And that is most certainly you and not me in this case...
The Indians are tricky. In fact, they are Aryans--white people! They, like Obama, have a veneer of color on them. But in reality, they, like the captive black man in America, worship whiteness and the British culture! Even in this country the Indians were declared white for purposes of immigration and to be exempt from Jim Crow! How absurd, many of those so-called Indians are darker than most natural born Nubians, but somehow they get called White! Sick.
Thus, Indians can marshal all sorts of wicked powers. Hitler's spiritual guide was an Aryan Indian wannabe. I bet you simple minded black Americans did not know that! You see Chauncey, in Indian there are these people called Death Eaters who are cannibals. They hang around the Ganges and the funeral pyres. Like zombies, they eat the flesh of the dead! That is why Obama is going. He is trying to get some insight and magical powers to help a dying regime and a dead presidency! The truth is there for those who want to see it! Obama is a just a Waka Flocka halfrican walking around dancing for money like a common minstrel or ghetto hoodlum. That is how the world sees him because it is true! No real Nubian warrior would ever be so humiliated.
WARNNN: You are a keen observer of popular culture. I know that in our pre-interview, you were quite upset by the recent Denzel Washington movie Unstoppable.
Brother X-Squared: That movie is foul and hellish. It approaches Transformer 2 levels of white supremacy and evil. I left Unstoppable feeling so dirtied that I had to wash with Shea butter and reapply my sandalwood ointment.
WARNNN: Please share.
Brother X-Squared. The idea of a train out of control is a slap in the face to the natural black man. The Nubian Warrior is the only real train in America! Possessed of such power we drove this country's economy as slaves and now we possess the potential energy that will blow this place off of its foundations! As I said in an earlier interview, Brother X-Squared is the only unstoppable locomotive crushing white people's proverbial cars on the railroad tracks.
What does the white man do with his tricknology? He makes a movie where Denzel Washington, who played Malcolm X, is a slave to some young white boy. The black man drives the train for a racist white engineer--how prophetic, as the white man is a natural engineer of death and destruction--in that Chris Pine who played Captain Kirk, the legendary race mixer in that hellish Star Trek movie. Then Denzel's character risks his life to save a city full of white people! How absurd! Consider the symbolism, Malcolm X dying for white people! How sick.
You saw the movie did you not? Did you like it?
WARNNN: I am afraid to answer. I would admit that it was a fun diversion and...
Brother X-Squared: Shut up. Of course you would like Unstoppable. I do most certainly need to come around more often to right your thinking. The movie has subliminal wickedness as well. The train's number is 777. What should be a lucky number in the Arabic system is made an evil number by white tricknology! The numbers are even colored red, red as in blood and death! That sick Unstoppable near pornographic movie even assaults our beautiful Nubian women. The two queens in the movie are neo-sex slaves who work at Hooters! Showing off their intimate parts while serving fried chicken to obese, greasy, white men as though they were common harlots in massa's bedchamber.
The movie even has a sick, sick image, one so deep that you and those other common negroes must have missed it. Denzel is risking life and limb to save a town full of white people when he should have let that train blow up and kill them all. Such a noble black slave, a magical negro who serves white people in the ways they imagined good slaves to. Who shows up just in time to save the day? A white racist hillbilly driving a red F-150 pickup truck! This is the vehicle white racists drive. They use it to drag black people by ropes until they die! Sick. White supremacy works in such subtle and obvious ways. It truly is the greatest invention of all time.
WARNNN: I have to admit that you ruined a movie I thoroughly enjoyed. Your wisdom is overwhelming at times. Along with your enthusiastic thumbs down for Unstoppable, you also had a movie recommendation to share?
Brother X-Squared: Yes. I loved the comedy Winter's Bone:
WARNNN: I saw that movie. Yes, it is a great film, but it is more of a tragic, noir flavored drama, almost Coen brothersesque in its sensibilities.
Brother X-Squared. Not to me. That movie about those white trash Appalachia hill people was so wondrous. White cave dwellers, the natural state of "the Caucasian" on full display as they kill each other, eat squirrels, and live in utter poverty was a great thing to see. Like that devil klansman Woodrow Wilson said, this movie was like "writing history with lightening." I just purchased Winter's Bone on DVD and will be screening it everyday for my family and children. Oh yes! The white man's natural ways revealed for us all.
WARNNN: As always I am shocked and amazed. Will you please bless us again in the much more near future with your wisdom Brother X-Squared? It really has been too long.
Brother X-Squared: I am the Alpha and the Omega. I am here and everywhere. I will return soon to provide your intellectually drapetomaniac lost negroes more guidance and knowledge of self.
The trailer for Battle: Los Angeles is an ideal-typical example of the politics of popular culture in the aftermath of the 2010 elections, the rise of the Tea Party New Right, and the failures of the Age of Obama. Consider the following concept for a moment:
Zeitgeist (German pronunciation: [ˈtsaɪtɡaɪst] is "the spirit of the times" or "the spirit of the age."  Zeitgeist is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual, and/or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambience, morals, sociocultural direction or mood of an era.
Now consider the bullet points from the trailer and what they portend for the future (and near present):
There are warnings that cannot be ignored.
In 2011 nothing can prepare you for what's next.
Talk about a pithy summary of the political toilet and metaphorical public urinal now overflowing without disinfectant that brought the United States--us and we--the 2010 Tea Party GOP victory...
Being provocative: So my friends, is Joe Q. Public ready for the hellspawn that many of their brethren's choice in the 2010 Elections will bring upon the polity at this, the nadir of the American empire?
Friday, November 12, 2010
Indulge me as I paint a picture with fluttering electrons and steadfast pixels...
I was sitting in my reading chair and working through the second chapter of Daniel Walker Howe's magisterial book "What Hath God Wrought." As I sit, engrossed in the chapter on the rise of King Cotton in the decades prior to the Civil War, my computer chimes as I receive an email. The topic of said communication? Apparently, an African American basketball coach is spending his days beating the behinds of man-children, teenage, likely ign't ball dribblers with a weight belt. Of course, in our age of virtual celebrity this shameful episode is recorded and featured on CNN.
Talk about a coincidence in timing: I am envisioning overseers, Frederick Douglass fighting off Covey, and this black
In fact, The Great Mississippi Basketball Gluteus Maximus Beating Debacle is so tragically funny that I give my white brothers and sisters permission to laugh. You don't have to hide behind a veneer of being good, tolerant, liberal minded folk that are afraid to judge others. Nope, these fools deserve to be laughed at, mocked, and run out of the public square on a rail.
But, this begs the question: Who is the bigger fool? The fool who beats his ballers with a belt? Or the knuckleheads (and their parents) who would submit to such a beating in order for a chance to play basketball?
Watch the video and count the pathologies. I see at least three or four--from a sick obsession with ball dribbling to compliant parents. How many do you count?
I would suggest aloud that perhaps Mr. Black Woodcock has stumbled upon a new approach to the successful mentoring of young black men.
If the youthocracy that has run amok in many an underclass community is in part encouraged by a "spare the rod, spoil the child" approach to parenting, in which "little men" are made the stand-in man of the house at age 8 in a sick dance of forced maturity and simultaneous infantilization by their often too young, unwedded, single mothers, where models of real manhood are on the street corner and not in the home, Coach Dorsey's intervention could actually be worthy of a MacArthur genius grant.
And yes, I did just say that.
Coach Dorsey's mantra deserves our full measure and meditation:
What if these words were emblazoned on every billboard? Made a motto in the home? Is it so sick and twisted that I dare dream of a world in which people of conscience mobilize and lobby in order to secure Coach Dorsey a position as President Obama's Czar of Ign't Affairs?
I smile as I think of the possibilities. How great a world that would be. Would it not?
Thursday, November 11, 2010
The black pathology porn parade continues.
According to these recent studies Black America is in a piss poor state of being. Question: can we even talk of one "Black America" any more? Did it ever exist outside of our dreams of Black Wall Streets and Black Metropolises?
In 70 words--I couldn't bring myself to write more--here are the findings (if any of you intrepid copy editing souls can cut the word count even more, please do so. I will then post a suitably amended version):
12 percent of black boys are proficient in math. In English? The percentage is the same.
White kids do twice as well in both disciplines. In fact, poor white boys do better in math and English than black boys not in poverty.
Only five percent of college students are black men.
How sad. What are the causes?
Individuals? Structures? Socialization?
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Treason to Whiteness is Loyalty to Humanity: Tim Wise and the "Open Letter to the White Right" Controversy
Tim Wise, a white brother who is "down like John Brown," has stepped once more into the cross-hairs of the New Right and the tea bagger GOP crowd. Like a ronin, he has decided to run headlong into the horde--all the while effortlessly taking heads like a zatoichi or samurai executioner.
For the uninitiated, Tim Wise (noted anti-racist activist and speaker) penned a sharp rebuttal to the politics of white racial resentment and the red tide that was the 2010 elections. His piece, "An Open Letter to the White Right," was damning and sharp. As it spread across these Internets, Tim's piece was predictably greeted with shouts of "dirty pool" and the perennially lazy charge of anti-white bigotry.
We often talk about the Black Freedom Struggle and the role of fellow travelers and white allies in that long journey. In those remembrances, it sometimes goes uncommented upon that alliances are reciprocal relationships. Not here.
I stand united in our small part of the universe with Tim Wise: his analysis of the White Soul, the politics of white racial grievance, and the reactionary nativism that is the Tea Party Republican Party's drug of choice is spot on. No qualifiers ought (or need) to be offered.
The long-term impact of the Tea Party populist infused GOP remains to be seen. Was last week's rout of the Democrats a realigning election or just a deviation? Is America moving even more to the right or does she remain center-left as signaled to by Obama's (now exhausted) electoral mandate? At present, answers to these questions remain unclear.
However, one fact is clear. The election of Barack Obama has unleashed a torrent of white rage and anger. As Tim Wise signaled to in his essay, the Tea Party GOP is up against a generational wall: their base is older, whiter, and more conservative than America as a whole. With changing demographics, this cohort with its repellent, dated, reactionary conservative ideology is on the wrong side of history.
While some analysts term this "the challenge of generational replacement," I choose to be more blunt: their base is dying. The leadership of the New Right can either mine this bitterness and yearning for a return to "real America" in exchange for short-term electoral gains--a hit of that white racial resentment crack rock--or they can look to the future.
Ultimately, the election of Barack Obama was truly groundbreaking for how it shattered one more semi-permanent glass ceiling in this country. His election was also cathartic and purifying as it further exposed the always bubbling beneath the surface white victimology and temper tantrum politics of the New Right, the Tea Party GOP, and contemporary Conservatism.
But here is my question: Why do some White folks want to kill the messenger? Is there a special amount of rage reserved for whites who dare to tell the truth about Whiteness? Who expose that the emperor has no clothes?
To some--the sickest, those most in denial about their addiction to Whiteness--Tim Wise is a "race traitor". Ironically, in many circles to be a race traitor--here being a a traitor to Whiteness--is an act of loyalty to humanity.
As fuel for the struggle against Whiteness, once more the wise words of historian Noel Ignatiev provide comfort, solace, and wisdom.
Various commentators have stated that their aim is to identify and preserve a positive white identity. Abolitionists deny the existence of a positive white identity. We at Race Traitor, the journal with which I am associated, have asked some of those who think whiteness contains positive elements to indicate what they are. We are still waiting for an answer. Until we get one, we will take our stand with David Roediger, who has insisted that whiteness is not merely oppressive and false, it is nothing but oppressive and false. As James Baldwin said, "So long as you think you are white, there is no hope for you."
Whiteness is not a culture. There is Irish culture and Italian culture and American culture - the latter, as Albert Murray pointed out, a mixture of the Yankee, the Indian, and the Negro (with a pinch of ethnic salt); there is youth culture and drug culture and queer culture; but there is no such thing as white culture. Whiteness has nothing to do with culture and everything to do with social position. It is nothing but a reflection of privilege, and exists for no reason other than to defend it. Without the privileges attached to it, the white race would not exist, and the white skin would have no more social significance than big feet.
Before the advocates of positive whiteness remind us of the oppression of the white poor, let me say that we have never denied it. The United States, like every capitalist society, is composed of masters and slaves. The problem is that many of the slaves think they are part of the master class because they partake of the privileges of the white skin. We cannot say it too often: whiteness does not exempt people from exploitation, it reconciles them to it. It is for those who have nothing else...
What would the determined minority have to do? They would have to break the laws of whiteness so flagrantly as to destroy the myth of white unanimity. What would it mean to break the rules of whiteness? It would mean responding to every manifestation of white supremacy as if it were directed against them. On the individual level, it would mean, for instance, responding to an anti-black remark by asking, What makes you think I'm white? On the collective level, it would mean confronting the institutions that reproduce race...
A traitor to the white race is someone who is nominally classified as white but who defies white rules so strenuously as to jeopardize his or her ability to draw upon the privileges of whiteness. The abolitionists recognize that no "white" can individually escape from the privileges of whiteness. The white club does not like to surrender a single member, so that even those who step out of it in one situation can hardly avoid stepping back in later, if for no other reason than the assumptions of others - unless, like John Brown, they have the good fortune to be hanged before that can happen.
But they also understand that when there comes into being a critical mass of people who look white but do not act white - people who might be called "reverse oreos" - the white race will undergo fission, and former whites, born again, will be able to take part, together with others, in building a new human community.
Are the end times upon us?
I love how Brother Manning plays the martyr-prophet game. But damn, I never saw this play coming. Palin, Beck, and the Tea Parties are all satanic bigots in the eyes of Pastor Manning. In the immortal words of Darmok from Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Sokath, his eyes uncovered!"
I must ask--because there is no conning a con artist, and game recognizes game so to speak--what is David Manning's deeper game here? Why betray his former allies?
Monday, November 8, 2010
In the post-Civil Rights era, racism exists without racists. The bigots have been exiled from the public square and exist only as phantom menaces or rude outliers--the Mel Gibsons and Laura Schlessingers of the world--to be periodically and ritually expunged from the body politic. Ironically, racism is so out of fashion that even when white identity politics are front and center (as with the New Right tea bagger movement with its anti-Obama derangement syndrome and complementary addictions to "birtherism" and nativism) many Americans lack even the most basic language to describe what should be painfully obvious. Doubly so then, that most do not possess a lens sensitive enough to detect the covert bigotry that is day-to-day white supremacy and the white racial frame.
Colorblind racism is often most painful when it is wrapped in the soft, velvety glove of praise and good intentions. This was the case with Russell Contreras' recent Associated Press syndicated article on legendary scholar and activist W.E.B. DuBois.
Brother DuBois needs no introduction. While we may praise Brother Malcolm and Brother Martin as visionaries, DuBois was in many ways The Black Freedom Struggle's master philosopher and scribe (how many respectable negroes--and others--can tell you exactly when they first read The Souls of Black Folk? Most, all? And for travelers on this journey, how many times do we still return to that seminal text? Was he anything if not our Merlin?)
While there is always the temptation to write a hagiography of W.E.B. DuBois, the AP's story on his relationship with Great Barrington, Massachusetts (DuBois' place of birth) was well-considered--at least until this passage:
Why select that example from a body of scholarship that straddled two centuries?
W.E.B. DuBois was one of America's greatest political thinkers. He was a historian and philosopher. He wrote speculative pieces such as Dark Princess and Dark Water. DuBois also authored such foundational books as The Suppression of The African Slave Trade to America; The Philadelphia Negro; and Black Reconstruction in America. W.E.B. DuBois was also an engaged scholar who struggled for the liberation of black and brown people around the world. While his fleeting allusion to the idea of "double consciousness" is ironically what he is best known for, there are few thinkers who wrote about such a range of topics with DuBois' depth and genius. From an overflowing bounty and cornucopia of grand ideas, any one would have been a far more suitable signal to DuBois' prescient wisdom.
I ascribe no overt ill-intent to Russell Contreras. Rather, what I can most politely describe as a "racial hiccup," speaks to a powerful framing where in the American popular imagination black folk are forever linked to crime and criminality. Even when our best and brightest are praised, this is the reference point for an entire people's trajectory.
In post-Civil Rights America, white supremacy is enacted covertly. It steps silently, even while it remains omnipresent, inseparably built into the nation's collective imagination and political unconscious. Ultimately, if the white racism which colors the majority of America's history has been overt and macro-level, the racism of the Age of Obama is one of micro-aggressions.
They are pin pricks, a psychic assault and death of a thousand cuts. Micro-aggressions are also a salve and boost for the psychic wages of whiteness, for even as the Other is praised, the in-group is reminded of their own superiority and normality. Thus, the more things change, the more they almost always remain the same.
Monday Randomness: Hallelujah in the Time of the Great Recession? Which Version Do You Prefer? Leonard Cohen? Bob Dylan? Neil Diamond?
Some random breaking of blogging kayfabe after a New England Patriots loss as a source for some solace and peace because the boundaries of blackness know no limits.
Is there a meaning within a meaning to my question about the song Hallelujah? Is this writing simply a well-timed coincidence to my earlier post on brother Bruce Lee? Or is it simple self-indulgence? Is this just a well-timed sentence that is an entry point into some more Oscar Wilde Merovingian wordplay of the sort that I love to indulge on We Are Respectable Negroes?
Like so many, NPR plays on in the background while I work. This week they had a great twofer--Buika, the most liberated woman in the world, and Neil Diamond, discussing his new album, Dreams. I will be purchasing the former as an addition to my taking the ladies to space mountain soundtrack for the bedroom. Quite frankly, I don't know what the hell Buika is saying when her crooning is not in the King's English, but it sounds might sexy and encouraging to the gonads. Especially when the Lingam is swollen.
The latter has some punch. It really does. But, I don't know if I will be able to keep my respectable negro bonafides if I use my Border's bucks and a coupon to buy a Neil Diamond album in person. Just being real.
Lot's to come this week. But in this time of The Great Recession and following an ugly election last Tuesday, what, if anything, are you singing hallelujah for? And whose version of that classic song do you prefer? Dylan's? Cohen's? Or Diamond's?
Friday, November 5, 2010
Just because you are paranoid, does not mean that you are crazy.
A thorough knowledge of conspiracy theories is a rite of passage for ghetto nerds. For we ghetto nerds who happen to be Black in America, this compulsion is doubly reinforced because of the historical circumstances of our people.
Imagine if you would: Over three centuries, tens of millions of people are transported across the world in the hellish bowels of ships, in the process create a new culture that combines the African and the European, and then are treated as "anti-citizens" in what is ostensibly the greatest democracy on Earth. Talk about a plot worthy of a science fiction movie that would be consigned to fantasy if not so fantastical and true.
Ultimately, Black Americans know that the absurd can more often than not be true, because the ancestors' entry into the magical horrible beasts--how Olaudah Equiano described the foul killing slave ships and their barbarous crews--and our emergence thousands of miles later and worlds apart in the Americas is a lesson in the unbelievable. Thus, our sensitivity to the conspiratorial imagination. And what are conspiracies if not ways of our making sense of a seemingly crazy world?
On one hand, this is a competitive advantage as black folks and the ghetto nerd legions often have a preternatural sense and wisdom where little surprises us (9/11? saw it coming; the collapse of the dollar. Your point is?; the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments here and in Guatemala? Duh!) .
Yet on the other hand, this priming to believe in conspiracy theories has often confused many a young traveler as they are seduced by the nonsense talk of Brother Africa X at the local bookstore as he weaves fictions about Black Cleopatra and space traveling Egyptians.
So in the interest of sharing knowledge amongst friends, here is a provocative conspiracy theory that arrived in my email this morning. So why in fact is President Barack Obama going overseas with a flotilla of ships? What of the timing of his foreign trip and the Federal Reserve's reckless monetary policies? How did the United States lose contact with 50 nuclear missiles? Is the shadow government on the move? Is this weekend THE weekend when IT goes down?
Enquiring (and conspiratorial) minds want to know...
What about the loss of communication with the 50 nukes. Was it a test, dry run? How was it that it was exactly 50, and not 49 or any other number? Could it be one for every capital of every state?
What better way to get the North American Union, new monetary system, new constitution, NWO, etc…than to just take out all the state capitals. I would not put anything passed the Illuminati.
There are other stories out there including rumors of Bank holidays as early as 11/11, but I cannot confirm. To me all of this suggests the possibility of a serious situation coming this weekend and the close beyond. Would it be a good idea to stay away from major cities, and major state capitals? How about some emergency supplies and resources? I think so, but you have to make up your own mind. Being wise and prepared can’t hurt, but playing lite could potentially kill you.
It is true that all this could be nothing more than acclimation, sort of like “the frog in the boiling pot”. But since we do not know, all we can do is back in to things as best we can, though this means that we’ll get things wrong more often than not. It could also help change the mind of the evil masters and help avert /delay the disaster.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Election 2010 Post-Mortem: What Exactly is so "Historic" About the Republican Victory Over the Democrats?
I am really tired of the banal observation that this election is "historic." Every event is historic--from getting up in the morning, to using the toilet, to ordering a burrito at Chipotle. I want some precision, a dose of poetry in motion if you would have it, in the analysis of current affairs. Stated in more high foreheaded fashion, I want some specific historiography in the claims and observations offered by the pundit classes on yesterday's Tea Party Republican rout of the Democrats.
To the rescue? Our resident historian and fellow traveler Werner Herzog's Bear of the great blog I Used to Be Disgusted, Now I Try to Be Amused.
This election cycle I pretty much stopped watching political coverage on TV, and even turned off NPR, because the punditocracy has become unlistenable. I am told by reliable sources that they are calling last night’s election “historic.” I think it is, but not in the grandiose way that they think. I contend that it was historic as all elections are--an outgrowth of larger historical structures, events, and trends.
First off, we need to be clear on something. When the economy is cruddy, the incumbent party gets beat at the polls. That, my friends, is a historically established trend. I really don’t think a majority of Americans intended to vote to allow tax cuts for the wealthy or for insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, no matter how many Right wingers want to see this election as a verdict on “big government.”
In fact, considering the situation, the Republicans should have done better! We keep hearing over and over again about the strength of the Tea Party movement, but some of its most prominent candidates, many of whom beat establishment Republicans in the primaries, were total embarrassments. Opportunities to gain Senate seats in New York, Delaware, and Nevada were lost, and the likes of Paladino, O’Donnell, and Angle became national laughing-stocks. Tea Party fave Joe Miller will probably lose in Alaska, and Rand Paul made the Kentucky race a lot less of a sure thing than it should have been. Here’s a reality that they don’t talk about on television: the Tea Party stuff plays well in states like Arizona and Texas, where the voters are already heavily represented by knuckle-dragging troglodytes, but not in the Northeast, the West Coast, or much of the Midwest.
This election has actually confirmed three already established historical trends: the increased role of big money, the importance of the base rather than the middle (especially in midterm elections), and the power of the Right-wing noise machine. Corporate money and the lies that it can finance via “independent” advertising has been crucial in turning the tide in recent elections, just recall the infamous Willie Horton negative campaign ad and the "Swift Boating" of John Kerry. The Citizens United decision has merely reinforced and helped to cloak an already extant culture of underhanded corporate propagandizing. This doesn’t even touch on the fact that the Church and King mob that is the Tea Party was seeded by wealthy wingnuts.
In terms of the elevation of the base rather than the center, Karl Rove had already engineered a victory in 2004 by throwing out red meat to the diehards. People forget that much the same tactic had been used in 2002 to great success. After president Obama’s election, the GOP faced a choice: work responsibly as the loyal opposition to craft legislation to deal with the nation’s worst economic crisis in decades, or demonize Democrats, obstruct, and inflame the fringe. They chose the latter, and it has paid off yet again. The president needs to wake up and realize that although a large number of Americans are tired of the endless bickering in Washington, they are not the people who go out to vote, especially in off-year elections. By doing everything he could to be bipartisan while spurning his supporters, he has helped get himself into this mess.
Last and perhaps most crucial, this past election has shown the great advantage that talk radio and Fox News give to Republicans. They basically have a mass media propaganda arm that acts like a private sector version of Pravda, filling the heads of their viewers and listeners with all kinds of agitprop drivel. Coming from and living in Red State America, I can tell you that Fox News infects the public sphere like nothing else in these parts. I have to endure it in my favorite burger joint, have been visually assaulted by it at the bank, and have even heard stories of it blaring at the local courthouse. In some parts of the country it is the only national news outlet that people have any exposure to. Fox and other media organs share a lot of the blame for the large numbers of Americans who believe that President Obama is a Muslim, that he (not Bush) started the TARP initiative, and that their taxes have gone up, not down, in the last two years. As HL Mencken once said, no one ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
My advice to President Obama and the Democrats? Stop bringing a knife to a gun fight. Start shaping your own narratives, start calling out the lies, and start standing up for the things you are supposed to believe in. Running away from health care basically delegitimized it in the minds of many Americans. To paraphrase the wisdom of The Staples Singers: if you don’t respect yourself, how the hell do you expect anyone to respect you?