I don't usually have much to say about movies. I''m not a particularly astute reader of films, probably because I am immediately over-absorbed, over-identifying with at least one of the characters etc. But, I am having a terrible time with the paper for next week on 'another politics' (it's looking too much like a mechanical application of Zizek) and I don't have much to say--except about this movie Paul and I watched on Saturday evening--the fabulous Shaun of the Dead. So, if you are bored by movie talk, now might be a good time to look at some interesting and serious theory at Alphonse van Worden.
Shaun of the Dead is hilarious--British store clerk who spends every evening in the pub and won't kick out his unemployed computer-game playing, fat, farting, roommate, ends up having to fight off flesh eating zombies. In the first part of the movie, his girlfriend breaks up with him for having no ambition--she doesn't want to spend the next 30 years sitting around and going every night to the pub. She wants to see theater, to travel. But, Shaun does his best to save her from the zombies and they both survive to end up sitting on the couch going every evening to the pub.
Now the movie is great--but it's message is frightening: we are all already zombies, undead labor trapped between the two deaths (real and symbolic) in of capitalist entertainment culture. Really. This is the message.
Sometimes a good example is better than all the theory in the world.
Who would have expected that a blog set up by academics to try to bridge the left-right divide would become a pulpit for conservative bullies intent on ridding the academy of leftist heresies. Yet, that's precisely what is going on at Left2Right these days. If you can bear it, read comments on quite reasonable posts by Don Herzog. The primary meme: the left hates America, is out of step with the mainstream, and needs to be controlled. The 'discussion' over free speech was shocking--I has expected this to be an easy point of agreement for conservatives, who usually position themselves as libertarian and pro-rights. But, these people are book burners. More recently, they've been screaming about Ward Churchhill and the thousands of Churchills in the academy, especially in women's and ethnic studies departments. The sexism and racism of these comments is clear. What makes them interesting is the way they persist in trashing any even moderate remark in the name of America, freedom, and democracy, positioning the most moderate disagreement (say, in the name of racial equality, women's sexual freedom, or social solidarity) is traitorous, a crazed threat to American democratic values.
If what they are practicising is democratic debate, they can have it. If they see shock and awe as bringing freedom, they can have it. The space on the other side of what these brownshirts are calling freedom and democracy, the lunatic, communist, space that the brownshirts also link to terrorism, looks much better to me.
Not convinced that democracy isn't working and that it's prospects are exceedingly grim? Read the comment threads at Left2Right .
Over at Charlotte Street Mark Kaplan links to a new paranoid site from David Horowitz and company that attempts to set out the vast leftwing conspiracy. What I'm thinking is that given the disorganization and failure of the left to network, this site could be helpful in actually producing the network it claims to describe--especially because there all sorts of neat features where you can add in to the database new individuals and associations to be tracked or located in the network. We are being hailed as part of a vast conspiracy. So, let's answer the call, let's be interpellated. Let's make the network our own--let's become what they think we are.
One of the worst books I've ever read is Why Deliberative Democracy? by Amy Gutmann (President of the University of Pennsylvania) and Dennis Thompson (a professor of political philosophy at Harvard). What makes the book so awful is not simply the way that it chews up, banalizes, and regurgitates more interesting and rigorous work by Jurgen Habermas and John Rawls. No, what makes it unforgivably obscene is its collapsing of the normative and the descriptive: Gutmann and Thompson use the Bush administration's preamble to the invasion of Iraq as an example of deliberative democracy. They are taken by the way that Bush and his administration recognized a need to justify the decision for preventive war, finding that even though the process wasn't ideal, the fact that administration persisted in making a case for war 'laid the foundation for a more sustained and informative debate after the US military victory."
The obscenity of such a position does not rest in its failure to acknowledge that repeating memes is not the same as giving reasons, that the 'evidence' offered was a lie, that there was no link between Iraq and 9/11 except in the administration's malignant propaganda, that administration neo-cons had published articles for years arguing for war against Iraq, that congress abdicated its constitutional responsibilities and failed to carry out an actual debate (the chambers were empty when, say, Robert Byrd gave his speech against war), that the administration was positioning troops and materiel even as the 'debate' proceeded, that the media acted as a fear generator, pushing the inevitability of war, etc... No, that Gutmann and Thompson ignore all this is not why their description of the march to war as an exercise in deliberative democracy is so horrifying.
What makes it really horrifying is the fact that they acknowledge the likelihood 'that no amount of deliberation would have prevented the war.' So, what's the point? Does democracy actually decide anything? Even if it sets the context for a new debate, so what? Not only have hundreds of thousands already died, but we already know that deliberation is separate from the decision, from the outcome. Is democratic deliberation simply a debate after the fact? a morning after session? a retroactive justification? Why bother with discussion? As theorized by the most established political theorists in the US, deliberative democracy is a ruse, a sham, a discussion that makes no difference--except perhaps on the discussion that will follow, where, presumably, the powers that be can find new memes to repeat, new reasons to give, the media can find new fears to exploit even as the reject critics with inanities such 'hindsight's always 20/20," and the whole pathetic wheel can go around again.
Come to think of it, maybe people should read this book and realize that this is not a system worth defending. If this is what democracy looks like, then we need something more than democracy.
Link: Under The Same Sun. The full post includes two photos. One photo as a smiling American soldier with Manadel al-Jamadi's corpse. The other has Manadel al-Jamadi's wife and son holding the photo of the soldier smiling with a thumbs up over the corpse.
The CIA is disappearing people and torturing them to death. This is an acknowledged, widely reported upon fact. And all that does is "raise new questions." What needs to happen before we can move beyond perpetually "raising new questions?"
Together with previously disclosed flight plans of a smaller Gulfstream V jet, the Boeing 737's travels are further evidence that a global "ghost" prison system, where terror suspects are secretly interrogated, is being operated by the CIA. Several of the Gulfstream flights allegedly correlate with other "renditions," the controversial practice of secretly spiriting suspects to other countries without due process.