"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Apr 12, 2010

Summing up a trend...

...Al Schumman (of SMBIVA) recently commented that "Democrats are savvy consumers. When they're warming up for turning the state loose on a bunch of yahoos, they insist on the very best rationales. Robinson's arguments are wordier than the Beck Baggers', but they're no different in kind. She wants them hurt, and she wants someone else to do it."

This Sara Robinson, who has recently upped the ante in the promotion of her "sedition" thesis, one which has  drawn appropriate fire from Chris Floyd, Charles Davis and Al in the past - for her liberal version of the conservative homage to the monopoly on violence.

A very short introduction to Sara Robinson's argument: government does good stuff, therefore people yelling about government abuses threaten the government's ability to do good stuff, and should either shut up or someone will shut them up.

Better minds than I have already tackled the inanity of  her argument, but I'll leave it to Charles and Kevin Carson to sum it up again. Kevin writes,

"...I think the term Robinson’s actually looking for is “seditious libel”:  language that tends to defame, discredit, criticize, impugn, embarrass, challenge, or question the government, its policies, or its officials.  And that’s clearly the kind of language, coming from the Right, that Robinson treats as seditious in spirit.  In this, she puts herself in good company with previous enemies of sedition:  blue-nose, powdered-wig conservatives like John Adams, and the know-nothing Legionnaires and Red Squads who rounded up Wobblies and Socialists during the War Hysteria under Woodrow Wilson.  In both cases, they were guilty of calling into question the legitimacy of the state, using language that called it into disrepute, undermining the moral authority needed to carry out its policies, and in some cases directly impeding the execution of those policies.

In the pink-ass, “Why Mommy is a Democrat,” suburban world of most mainstream liberals, apparently, the bounds of permissible non-seditious discourse are pretty limited.  It doesn’t take much of a deviation from plain vanilla-flavored, managerial-professional centrism to qualify one as an extremist–at least when liberals are in power."

"...Perhaps they shouldn't just be ignored, but until Glenn Beck's followers kill two dozen people in a remote village, I'm going to spend most of my time focusing on those with control over the tanks and nuclear weapons. And rather than seeking to bolster the state and reinforce the idea of some mythical, mystical social contract, I just might seek to undermine this government, so far as I can, for as long as it continues enriching a politically connected corporate elite while imprisoning and enlisting the rest of its population, no matter how "duly elected" our politicians might be as a result of the sham two-party electoral system. When political leaders are engaged in senseless war and widespread human rights abuses -- and the occupation of Afghanistan and the U.S. prison system at home and abroad qualify -- the person of conscience's duty is not to the state but to justice, which usually means opposing the state and questioning its presumed legitimacy."

Which brings us around to a remarkable piece written by Ethan, from 6th or 7th. Whilst the essay does not directly touch upon the subject at hand (Mrs Robinson's crusade to stifle dissent under the aegis of preventing racist uprising), it does address one of the foundational aspects of our modern world,

"Human beings, moving around in their predictable/unpredictable ways, interacting and forming societies, inevitably create all kinds of ideas and cultural norms and aphorisms and expectations. These are often the specific creation of individuals that end up being popular, and also are often the result of mixing and matching all kind of pieces originating from different groups of people; either way, the rise to relevance is largely random.

But there are selective pressures. And in a capitalist, rigidly class-stratified culture like the one we've got, the overwhelmingly strongest of these pressures come from the interests of power. The big money system sees all these ideas percolating around. It sees some of them getting more popular. And it evaluates them for usefulness. Those that are useful--those that are immediately profitable, those which will perpetuate the system--get shitloads of money thrown at them. Those that are not do not or, worse, get money thrown at their opposites. In this way, the ideas that are useful to power survive and reproduce and spawn new ideas in new heads that are also useful to power, while those that are either useless or against power tend to die off before having much of an impact."

The whole essay is brilliant on its own terms, and I don't wish to detract from the original subject matter, which bears its own relevance and import.

Still, I think the insight grants its users a wide applicability.

Mrs. Robinson's thesis is tailor suited to that demographic introduced by Al Schumman above, to Democrats vested in the consumption of a "world space" that (natch, of course) places them at the apex of modern history - saviors of the social order and the economy, then of the planet, and lately (or, I should write, yet again) of a number brown people, using the humanitarian agency of bombs and bullets.

Those aforementioned selective pressures reveal themselves in her attitude towards challenges to the legitimacy of power, power which enforces first and foremost the property arrangements which just happen to benefit Mrs. Robinson's class, as well as those sorts who belong to its so-called liberal branch.

Mrs. Robinson may never have the opportunity to challenge her own premises,or face the sort of crisis which brings her contradictions into relief, for her. She may never have that moment of reflection, and clarity, which allows her to see the consequences of her argument - that it violates the liberal tenets she allegedly holds dear.

Nonetheless, she has done us a great service, a demonstration in a "play, with one act."

She illustrates precisely that which Al introduces, and Ethan so aptly describes - that these selective pressures shape and colonize the minds of those who wish to rule, however nobly they conceive of themselves.

And Sara Robinson most definitely wants to rule:

"...But I'm very concerned that the appeal to civility appears, at the moment, to be the only tactic coming from our side. And, frankly, the only way it's going to be respected is if conservatives believed that failure to cooperate comes at some material cost to them. Talking softly is so much more likely to work when you're holding a nice big stick.

My point is that focusing on civility seems to have blinded us to the fact that more and more, what we're dealing with is incipient (and increasingly, actual) criminality. We can be civil, and still call sedition out for what it is. Those laws exist, and they may be a useful big stick."


Richard said...

if forced to choose between abstract values of civil liberty and the concrete ones of global neoliberal capitalism, liberals will, with a few exceptions, choose the latter every time, as Ethan suggests

as for his evaluation of women in a consumer society, Maria Mies said somethingsimilar back in the mid-1980s

Jack Crow said...


I'm loathe to suggest a 1:1 correlation between a biochemical model and a map of the complexities of exosomatic culture, but couldn't it be useful to anyone studying social hierarchies to apply "selection" to the development of cultural identifiers?

It seems more likely to produce honest results than the flattened cliches generated by applying an outdated left-right lens.

[Sigh. Re-reading this, I guess I'm just asking for confirmation of my own guess that E's model is better for understanding class than purely political signifiers. Alas, vanity...]

JM said...

Actually, I think y'all are kinda right here. I still think Tea partiers are assholes,but those pilots are rotten bastards: they're both right wing extremists,but one's far more brutal.

JM said...

Actually, I think y'all are kinda right here. I still think Tea partiers are assholes,but those pilots are rotten bastards: they're both right wing extremists,but one's far more brutal.

Ethan said...

Jack, you are way too kind.

My original thought in composing my post was to explore how "conventional wisdom" evolves to be as harmful as it is, but the same model is useful in examining all kinds of things that grow out of the needs of power, I think. As with any metaphor it can be dangerous to stretch it too thin, but when using it as one of many tools to evaluate what surrounds us I think it can be helpful.

One thing I like about it is that when you apply it to someone like Sara Robinson, it can explain both her actions and her prominence.