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September 21, 2005


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Wonderful analysis. The horrors there are indeed Real for both sectors of the American populace, in different ways - and that is, 'of course', how one knows one is dealing with the Real.

Patrick J. Mullins

'Yet, in the mainstream media, the stories circulated differently, within a context of white and middle class privilege. Here they became signs not of our, white, failure and brutality but of their, the poor and the black, failure and brutality, the explanation of their suffering.'

I don't think that's true, both are shown to be failed and much of it has been seen and will continue to be seen. Nevertheless, the rest of the post seems fairly balanced, going toward what is needed if there is to be any interest in the substantive,and with some bow to the importance of fact, even if fact often becomes invisible and unsubstantiated (probably the most important point of this particular post). It seems obvious to me that white racism will only grow until black racism is understood as a fact as well. With the new developments in New Orleans, black racism seems once again to be just a sort of an 'understandable reaction' to white racism--fashionable now, as it was not, for example, after O.J. Simpson was found innocent by obvious black racists, more interested that they'd caught a white racist cop on tape using the N-word than that there was a mere mountain of evidence of Simpson's guilt at, yes, cutting throats--even though such a perception is of no practical value whatever.

Anyway, the warring ghetto gangs of New Orleans have names that are not household words nation-wide.

If this had been Los Angeles, there would be much less difficulty due to the Compton Bloods and the Long Beach based Crips being well within the reach of such mainstream instruments as 'Rolling Stone' and 'The Village Voice'--or were as recently as 4 years ago (Snoop Dogg's 'adventures' are virtually forgotten, 'Sleeping-capitalism' celeb-thug Death Row Records' Suge Knight is going to parties again, whether he shot himself remains unsure, etc.); as we know, no one who really knows the truth of these matters thinks the New York Times or the Washington Post or the LATimes prints anything but government propaganda. Of course, there are some hysterics who know how 'unimportant' all internecine violence such as what goes down between the Bloods and the Crips is because none of it can be traced to anything but the oppressive whites, about which Susan Sontag was surely so correct in her 'white race as cancer' assessment. Surely no careerist she. Elizabeth Hardwick wrote that surely there was nothing quite so touching as the fact that Susan could not continue to go to performances now that she was dead. This was strangely uncanny, but to hell with it.

It seems as if the re-pumped-up hallucination of 'patriotism' after 9/11 has been followed with Katrina by a non-stop 'white racism' charge read into everything by leftists that is equally nauseating. It is as if the left was inhabited largely with more Jane Fonda short-attention-spans secretly more interested in bigger tits till they found God again at an Atlanta Baptist church--and then did not neglect to publicize that they got their tits ensmallened. So that such trendy politicking, most of it temporizing, will inevitably bring about more white racism, and I think that is even the goal, because some of these hysterics could not live with anything short of their infinite masochism. The most idiotic mutations focus on 'writing style' and 'tasteless jokes' which are pounced upon to avoid what is substantive in serious thinking that might just happen to be in an informal venue at any given moment.

American white self-hatred is truly unique in the world. Europe is well-stocked with white people, too, by the way, and you hardly ever find such self-hatred there (and never did), and they are plenty guilty of exploitation of blacks too, guilty of imperialism still and just more sophisticated about how they carry it out. What you find among a lot of American whites is Europe envy. In general, there is good reason for this, although the really good reason is not usually conscious: White Americans ought to envy white Europeans their long memory, because long memory is what is so conspicuously absent in some of what I've been hearing a lot of leftists talking about--where previously unpopular stances have had new life breathed into them to make politically fashionable opportunities for themselves.

One more disaster of a different variety (say, we were forced to remember that 'anti-American terrorists' still exist right along with obscene American wars, beside obscene American uncaring of its own citizens), and the temporizing will be re-directed. It is always this way, since that's the nature of temporizing. What next? The left finds God at the Baptist Church? Why not, it happened to Jane after she grew weary of nerves due to out-of-date 'radicalism.'


Enterprising and hard working writers will write the story, but by the time the books are published, my memory will have faded.

Was 1965 a real year in my life? I am beginning to doubt it. That's sad because I am supposed to care and remember.

I read my Thucydides and feel there is no progress of any meaningful kind. All of us, and I do mean all of us, induce these potential or actual disasters--death and brutality on a massive scale. The human mind is the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.

I think of Freud and his pessimistic view of civilization, yet the solution seems so simple. Make hay while the sun is shining. Take care of your brothers and sisters, for we are all one, and almost all of us will be in need sometime.

Other pleasures seduce me though, and so the sad story continues.


Thanks, Pope, Patrick, and Lynn.

Patrick, we may disagee on this one. In my view, the stories of whites provisioning and blacks looting, of the incident at the Gretna bridge, of the jungle of New Orleans were racially inflected in a way that privileged and presupposed a white audience. Yes, there has been some (a bit) self critique on some parts of the left, but not much. Trash media has specifically and vehemently denied that race has placed any role in the Katrina aftermath--even as they emphasized the black looters, even as Bill O'Reilly blamed the New Orleans poor for their own poverty.

One might say that this was a matter of class not race, but why choose? Why not recognize how they operate together in this tragedy?

You say that white racism will only grow as long as black racism isn't recognized. This seems to me to equate too incommensurate phenomena. Unless, I'm confused and you mean black racism against other blacks and people of color, which is a complicated phenomenon and likely intertwined with the racial logics and hierarchies of white racism.

I also don't think this concern with racism is some kind of new phenomenon--though having the mainstream media address class and race is of course new. It's not surprising that they are so terrible at doing this. Recently, there have been concerns around racial profiling, around border, migration, and so-called illegal aliens, around the disenfranchisements of blacks in Florida during the 2000 election--and these are just issues that the mainstream media has introduced.

American white self-hatred? This doesn't seem to be a problem. American white self-satisfaction, with blinders, piety, and righteousness seems a more accurate description.

Patrick J. Mullins

'One might say that this was a matter of class not race, but why choose? Why not recognize how they operate together in this tragedy?'

I see precisely how they operate together in this tragedy. But I also saw a subtle transition from 'class emphasis' to 'race emphasis' as the story grew.

My own laziness has been a refusal to watch what you are now calling 'trash media,' because I was interested in the facts, and am not in this case interested in media studies. There's more to be learned about media by reading the comment threads at Hyperstition and Hyperflow than there is by watching CNN, although I can understand why you and Pope would have good reason to watch. It was 'mainstream media' that I objected to, because some of the stupid leftist comments about the NYTimes in particular would lead anyone in the leftist blogosphere to believe that there is no reason whatever to believe a single thing in reports by the NYTimes. This is total bullshit. And the New York Times has talked about race A GREAT DEAL. They have not couched it for a white audience and they have let a lot of people speak, including important black thinkers.

I tend to be veering toward what you said Paul felt by now--can't they (the administration) be both odious and stupid? Critics of talk of 'administration incompetence' not being a legitimate concept are not as convincing as they were. Bob Herbert is worth looking at today along these lines. Anyway, the Bushies are proving themselves incompetent by not saving their own asses anymore. Of course, it is true that I am biased toward Herbert, Rich, Dowd and Krugman, as these are my kind of people, for lack of a better way of putting it (there has to be, but I'm having to rush now.)

White complacency and self-satisfation in America is definitely the majority more than what I meant by 'white self-hatred.' I was talking about intellectual liberal/leftist white self-hatred, which is clearly a small minority, but that's where we are, isn't it? It has existed since the 60's in a big way. European intellectuals tend to support it quite strongly, agreeing with American intellectuals that America is unjust and stupid in a way they, the Europeans, are not; whereas the U.S. and Europe are have only the vaguest similarites and the only true thing that can be agreed on factually by both the Americans and the Europeans in this case is the indisputable fact of general American stupidity. Europeans clearly think American guilt is a form of stupidity and take advantage of it.

'You say that white racism will only grow as long as black racism isn't recognized. This seems to me to equate too incommensurate phenomena.'

That is what I said, they are usually considered 'incommensurate phenomena,' and they should not be because they are the same thing in different magnitudes and numbers. Black hatred of whites translates into the same thing as white hatred of blacks when it is strong enough to do so. It is like talking about spouse abuse: 95% of it is male against female, but the 5% that is female against male is just as serious at the local level at which it occurs.

Anyway, my example of the huge racial divide that was exposed with the O.J. verdict is sound, if unwelcome. Blacks in New York were celebrating that afternoon as if it was New Year's Day in Times Square, and on MacNeil Lehrer that night, black professors from Columbia were saying that 'whites think the black members of the jury mugged the whites on the jury' and that 'the Goldman and Brown family would be defeating themselves' by pursuing their civil suit (hardly, because they had sense enough to do so and did win--obviously proving everything in every way except a legal technicality.)

And Medea and Sethe were not even so noble as your homicidal and suicidal lady in the Superdome--at least she had the decency to kill herself too. What the hell was Medea, merely a 'hell-hath-no-fury' insane-jealous type full of blood-lust going to do when she got to Corinth, for chrissake? And Sethe even got a second chance when Beloved came back, but even so Beloved was phased out and gradually forgotten. This has nothing to do with racism per se, of course, but neither woman killed ALL of what was 'one's best thing to save it.' Both Hecuba and Antigone are just as ancient as Medea and make her look on the petty side, frankly, as both had legitimate beefs, the former against Odysseus and Agamemnon on whom she took some logical revenge, and the latter for the refusal of respectful burial. Both women make Medea's problems seem paltry, little more serious than those of Lana Turner when she found Stompanato in bed with Cheryl--and then let Cheryl take the rap to save her career.

John S. Ransom

Jodi writes above: "Anyway, the Bushies are proving themselves incompetent by not saving their own asses anymore." A very interesting comment! There's nothing more repulsive, in a way, than a ruling class that doesn't know what to do, or that distinguishes itself by being unable to see what's going on around them. They say Louis XVI was like that, as was his wife, the Queen. Watch out for when the ruling class starts to look silly! We are of course reminded of Marx's comment (or Engels', whoever wrote this part): "And here it becomes evident that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an overriding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society."

I know it doesn't make it to many people's radar screen, but because I happen to be living in Bologna, Italy right now I am very much aware of the political crisis that is overtaking this country. Berlusconi is the leader of a faded and exhausted right-wing coalition -- one that supports President Bush in Iraq. But its legitimacy, its 'right to rule' is under severe attack. I won't bore people with the details. A little bit of info here:

But it's exactly this -- a crisis of legitimacy -- that Bush is facing. Who knows, maybe because he has a second hurricane to deal with he'll get his legitimacy back.



ok--yes, I was using msm to stand in for CNN, FOX, MSNBC, YahooNews...better to call it trash. I wasn't referring to the NYT. I'm a fan of Rich and Krugman (the others, not so much...) Anyway, yes, the NYT covers racial issues sometimes. It also has covered class--with the long series last year. I think that the class series was not particularly good, from what I recall. There was a sense of inevitability about class, rather than a sense that this is a structural matter that can be changed. I can't recall the race discussions in any detail. I thought that the last two Sunday NYT on Katrina was not particularly great--there could have been more depth, rather than a simple timeline. But, overall, I 'm not interested in simply trashing the NYT and that wasn't my intention.

I fully disagree that white racism black racism are or should be made commensurate. I would also reject the point of women's abuse of men v. men's abuse of women. The political point is to recognize the functioning of the system; reversing the terms in these cases doesn't challenge this system; it obfuscates it.

I think that European-allied American intellectual anti-Americanism is not the same as intellectual white race self-hatred. And, when it is discursively made to seem this way, which it may be, then I would reject that as well. The US bashing from American intellectuals with Euro tendencies can proceed quite easily with a sense of racial superiority, a refusal to engage race, or lip-service to it. It can also end up quite racist as it dismisses the specificities of the American experience (for example, I don't think that Agamben's claim that the camp is the quintessential institution of modernity fits without serious revision the constitution of America as a slave state).


John, nice parallel to Italian legitimation crisis. Have to say, though, that the point on the Bushies was Patrick's, not mine.

Patrick J. Mullins

'But it's exactly this -- a crisis of legitimacy -- that Bush is facing. Who knows, maybe because he has a second hurricane to deal with he'll get his legitimacy back.'

We're all probably thinking this right now, but I don't see how it can really work, and never until now--having long had only pessimism about what a majority of Americans will now tolerate--have I begun to agree that this administration is finally beginning to show signs of crumbling (actually there's still a lot more political crumbling I'll have to see before I agree with Herbert). Of course Bush couldn't be more thrilled about this new hurricane, especially were it to hit New Orleans again, so he can be proved the 'able leader' over Nagin's 'shortsightedness'. But even in America that put the imbecile back in, how many people are going to put up with his little Tom Thumb routine if he tries to pull out his plum and says oh what a good boy am I! No way to know though. Some of the refugees after the atrocious Jackson Square speech were so desperate they bought it, so anything could happen. Anyway, all the Katrina victims and refugees have been weakened and cannot think about battling against Bush; it's left to whoever can--and I do think this may be the first time in the Bushies' legend that there's been serious talk of a 'crisis of legitimacy', so maybe we have more than a lovely fantasy here.


In way that's just it, that one cannot predict American reactions. It's a total crapshoot. Speculation; how to speculate on the various forms of speculation?


...maybe the media should apologize:


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