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One of the reasons Mad Max: Fury Road is so good (umm spoilers if you’ve been chained to a bed in a Misery-type scenario and haven’t been able to see it) is that it dramatizes ideological constraints.
No-one can see past their prejudices.
Not the chalky henchmen, not the escaping women, not the old crones in the desert, not Bad Teeth Joe who crashes his empire for no reason.
One of the defining characteristics of centrism is ignoring and denying the structural factors that constrain individual action.
Unemployed? Move to where the jobs are! Or get more education and skillz!
Face sexual discrimination at work? Lean-in and do what the boys do!
Oprah is a consummate centrist entertainer, emphasis on the first syllable. Featuring self-help gurus, spiritualists, vision boards, and other self-improvement claptrap by the truckload, she rigorously advances individual responses to social problems.
Nicole Aschoff, in a compelling excerpt printed in the Guardian from her recent book New Prophets of Capital, documents a number of these ridiculous piece of advice, including becoming an “out-of-the-box thinker” to lessen back-pain at work and reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles to lessen stress when you can’t pay your rent.
Obviously, an obsessive focus on individual-level solutions to broad structural factors prevents people from organizing to change those factors. Macroeconomic policies that depress wages and boost unemployment while siphoning resources to the rich are not in peril from people learning to become out-of-the-box thinkers, or reading Murakami.
But Aschoff goes deeper: the kind of relentless individualistic remedy Oprah promotes is centered on a specific idea of what a person is.
It’s simple. Anyone can become anything. There’s no distinction between the quality and productivity of different people’s social and cultural capital. We’re all building our skills. We’re all networking [. . .]
The way Oprah tells us to get through it all and realize our dreams is always to adapt ourselves to the changing world, not to change the world we live in. We demand little or nothing from the system, from the collective apparatus of powerful people and institutions. We only make demands of ourselves.
A necessary part of Oprah’s vision being a specific kind of person. Attributes of this person, besides being willing to buy homeopathic remedies because a Turk is wiling to wear scrubs on TV:
- She is not too poor to acquire new skills
- She has a social circle she can leverage
- She is not too physically isolated, due to geography or illness or personality
But more generally, and more importantly, she is the type of person that doesn’t look for collaborative, communal organizational activity to solve broad social problems. She has to be psychologically comfortable with not changing the situation she finds herself in through collective action. She has to be willing to cope without rocking the boat.
The centrist tropes Oprah relies on are a narrative that creates this type of person.
Success in life means that you earned it; failure means you did something wrong.
Finding fulfillment is finding the right self to fit your environment, not in finding fulfillment in the struggle to change your environment.
Saul Bellow once wrote: “That’s the struggle of humanity, to recruit others to your version of what’s real.” The tragedy of this centrist story is that it tries to turn this quote on its head: the struggle is recruiting versions of your self to fit what others define as real.
That’s partly why I’m making an effort to write this shitty blog again. Too many of my friends, family and co-workers are falling prey to this centrist narrative. I want to get it to stop.
And if it ever does? Oh what a day. WHAT A LOVELY DAY.
The perfect image of the modern Republican party: an old white man smugly confronting an imaginary black man.
High Convention Rambler.
“That 82-year-old American cinema icon doesn’t deserve to be made fun of.” “Deserve’s got nothin to do with it.”
This whole thing happened because, ironically, no-one in the Romney campaign was brave enough to stand up to Clint Eastwood. That’s like will.i.am bombing at the DNC convention because no-one in the Obama campaign was willing to blast horrible music at him that he couldn’t escape.
Every Which Way But Lucid.
The IMDB message boards are going to be pretty nuts after this, I expect.
Maybe this is Eastwood’s way of getting to be called “chair-man of the bored”.
Update: Oh thank Christ I finally found someone who did it I was getting worried
Update II: In Eastwood’s new movie Baseball Family Drama #32, American treasure Amy Adams says to Eastwood, very loudly and in a brash All-American Girl way that can’t possibly be doubted, “You’re crazy!!!”
Then Eastwood claims he’s not a pole-dancer.
It’s like he made a movie of a character he created for a one-man show that he performed, once, at the 2012 Republican convention.
What takes it from kinda-meh to sublime is that other trailers make it clear that the above trailer cuts together two different scenes. Amy Adams doesn’t actually call Eastwood a senile old coot in the movie. (She’s platonically flirting with Chaste Sex Symbol Justin Timberlake.) So it’s like the universe is conspiring, in the form of myopic consultants who mess up their convention order and harried trailer assemblers, to make Eastwood look crazy.
Whatever Unforgiven is fucking great Eastwood coulda murdered puppies up there and I’d probably half-heartedly defend him.
The best, of course, is Fox News’ reaction:
Twitter was instantly ablaze with reaction.
Minutes after Eastwood began his speech, someone created the @InvisibleObama account on Twitter. It already has 17,000 followers and counting.
“Clint Eastwood is now backstage arguing with a vending machine,” joked Canadian comedian Daryn Jones.
Film critic Roger Ebert didn’t give the speech two thumbs up.
“Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic,” tweeted Ebert. “He didn’t need to do this to himself. It’s unworthy of him.”
Comedian Roseanne Barr put it simply: “clint eastwood is CRAY” — a slang reference to being crazy.
Not everyone agreed.
“Clint Eastwood made my day,” tweeted Southern rocker Charlie Daniels. The Hollywood trades gave it positive marks, perhaps a reflection of the movie world’s appreciation for genuineness.
Eastwood, a fiscal conservative who leans left on social issues, has confounded the political world. He starred in Chrysler’s “It’s Halftime in America” Super Bowl ad earlier this year even though he opposes government bailouts. The commercial angered conservatives.
Dixon remembers the Tale Emerson lov’d to tell, of Galileo before the Cardinals, creaking to his feet after being forc’d to recant, muttering, “Nonetheless, it moves.” Watch, patiently as before the Minute-Hand of a Clock, become still enough, and ‘twould all begin to move. . . . This, Dixon understands, is what Galileo was risking so much for, – this majestick Dawn Heresy. ” ‘Twas seeing not only our Creator about his Work,” he tells Mason later, “but Newton and Kepler, too, confirm’d in theirs. The Arrival, perfectly as calculated, the three bodies sliding into a single Line. . . . Eeh, it put me in a Daze for fair.” Whatever the cause, the times he records are two to four seconds ahead of Mason’s.
– Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon
Stay thirsty, my friends. Although,
This, or odd behavior like it, is going on all over the World all day long that fifth and sixth of June, in Latin, in Chinese, in Polish, in Silence,- upon Roof-Tops and Mountain Peaks, out of Bed-chamber windows, close together in the naked sunlight whilst the Wife minds the Beats of the Clock,- thro’ Gregorians and Newtonians, achromatick and rainbow-smear’d, brand-new Reflectors made for the occasion, and ancient Refractors of presposterous French focal lengths,- Observers lie, they sit, they kneel,- and witness something in the Sky. Among those attending Snouts Earth-wide, the moment of first contact produces a collective brain-pang, as if for something lost and already unclaimable,- after Years of preparation, the long and at best queasy voyaging, the Station arriv’d at, the Lattitude and Longitude well-secur’d, – the Week of the Transit,- the Day,- the Hour,- the Minute,- and at last ’tis, “Eh? where am I?”
– Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon, previous page
Try not to let the force of rational knowledge riptide you away from the other kinds. Nearly impossible. But not quite.
So here are some limpdick phrases from politicians for Memorial Day. “We give thanks for those who sacrificed everything so that we could be free. And we commit ourselves to upholding the ideals for which so many patriots have fought and died.””It is their sacrifice that has kept America strong.” “No tribute to these sacrifices is more enduring than a grateful nation determined to live out the promise of liberty.” The identity or party of the speaker doesn’t matter, because all politicians say essentially the same thing about this holiday: the troops in the abstract are the best people ever, and deserve our support and respect, and we should live our lives in accordance with the ideals they fight for. If you want more you can find it at the Huffle Puff.
Well, most politicians stick to that script, anyway. Joe Biden, Rhetorical Anarchist, does not. But sometimes that produces some absolutely fascinating political rhetoric and almost sublime moments of human empathy. Go ahead and watch all twenty minutes if you have the time, it’s that good, from beginning to end.
Yeah it meanders towards the end, but damn. That’s perhaps the most powerful expression of the commonly understood purpose of Memorial Day that I can imagine.
And yet . . . read this quick paragraph about an alternate proposal for Memorial Day celebrations centering around the civilian fighters of slavery and injustice from philosopher Mark Lance at New APPS. Read this open letter written by someone from and about (ewwww) <em>Montreal</em>:
Here is what I have not seen you [the official media] publish yet: stories about joy; about togetherness; about collaboration; about solidarity. You write about our anger, and yes, we are angry. We are angry at our government, at our police and at you. But none of you are succeeding in conveying what it feels like when you walk down the streets of Montreal right now, which is, for me at least, an overwhelming sense of joy and togetherness . . . [some anecdotes about people cooperating spontaneously to fight what they’re calling injustice] . . . This is what Quebec looks like right now. Every night is teargas and riot cops, but it is also joy, laughter, kindness, togetherness, and beautiful music. Our hearts are bursting. We are so proud of each other; of the spirit of Quebec and its people; of our ability to resist, and our ability to collaborate.
Why aren’t you writing about this? Does joy not sell as well as violence? Does collaboration not sell as well as confrontation? You can have your cynicism; our revolution is sincere.
This quick scene accompanies the letter and shows the environment the author is talking about.
Imma wax magniloquent, and you need to know you’re in for that before you read any more. So, as the hermaphrodite in the komono said, you now know what to expect if you look below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »
Norm Ornstein has been a curious media figure. He’s been ensconced at the heart of darkness, the American Enterprise Institute, for some time, and has been a regular fixture on the TV pundit circuit for as long as there’s been a TV pundit circuit. But for all that, he is usually fairy honest and straightforward. Fer instance, he’s been very plain and outspoken in the fact that the reason he’s on TV is that he can offer a pithy eight second soundbite on the issue of the day in a way that doesn’t challenge the story the media is trying to push.
Something got into his Special K because for the last year he’s been doing something different.
Last July he wrote in article in Foreign Policy called “Worst. Congress. Ever.” continuing the work he had published since 2006 documenting the institutional failures of the legislative branch. But in that article he named names. Unprecedented use of the filibuster, unfaithful negotiation, “Our first priority is defeating Barack Obama”, all that shit. The Republicans were to blame.
A month or two ago he and his writing/research partner, Thomas Mann, released a book about the institutional failures of Congress as they had twice in the past six years. Except this time it contained passages like “The Republican party is . . . an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition”.
Of course, whereas their earlier work got them toasted across the spectrum on Sundays, now they’ve gone on one NPR show and one PBS show to promote their book.
And now, via Balloon Juice, comes this article (in of all things, the Washington Post) in which various solutions to Republican intransigence are discarded and some advocated. Everything they say makes sense, and is intellectually honest, and what the fuck is it doing in Fred Hiatt’s house of lies is my question.
But. Norm Ornstein. You are trying to wipe off the shit you had been rolling around in for the majority of your career, and the stench and the stain of it will likely take the rest of your life to undo. Because I can not recommend this Doghouse Riley post enough.
When Reagan was fucking shit up beyond all recognition, the fuck were you? When you were a nationally-recognized pundit in the fucking Carter Administration, where was your documentation about the worming of the Nixonian dark arts into the length and breadth of the Republican party? When the President of the United States was attacked with the most powerful legal mechanism possible for the most bullshit reasons possible, why weren’t you writing about how extreme and dismissive the Republican party was?
It’s great that you’ve had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity, that you’re giving up the life of a say-nothing suit occupying a studio chair, and that in all likelihood you will now have to walk the earth like Kung Fu because the media-corporate complex isn’t going to be forthcoming with the pundit teat.
But you’ve got sins to atone for. And I wish you luck.
Imma list the institutions Ian Bremmer is a part of. He is founder and president of the Eurasia Group, a risk management and consulting firm with New York, DC and London offices as well as consulting and research contracts on every continent. Their role is to asses the risk of instability due to capital flows, domestic and international governmental policies, energy markets, etc. and provide a strategy for firms hoping to operate and thrive in an unstable environment.
He created an index to judge that type of risk as part of a joint venture w/ Citigroup in 2001.
Bremmer serves on the Board the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, was named as a ‘Young Global Leader’ of the World Economic Forum, and in 2010 was appointed Chair of the Forum’s Global Agenda Council for Geopolitical Risk. He fills similar roles in think tanks that work with private firms and public departments to identify market opportunities, and are called the EastWest Institute, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the World Policy Institute. Oh he’s also a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, because of course he is.
Bremmer is listed as an adjunct professor at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs on multiple bios at Amazon and his various firms and organizations, but he isn’t listed as a faculty member anywhere at Columbia itself, because he doesn’t teach classes or conduct research. But that’s more like a little tidbit complementing the main course above.
Now. If you were to create the absolute best economic environment for the personal economic and professional career interests of Ian Bremmer, I don’t think I’m telling tales out of school when I say it would be covered by dozens if not hundreds of overlapping bilateral trade agreements, feature large and unstable coalitions of public, private, and quasi-public institutions operating from regional to global levels, and operate within complex resource constraints whose legal titles are not only unsettled but are easily able to be unsettled if resolved.
Now. Bremmer has written a slew of books under the aegis of academic objectivity while brandishing his Stanford PhD. Just sober conclusions following from the established facts. What’s his new book about? Read the rest of this entry »
So actual big-deal news happened late-ish yesterday. An Obama-appointed district federal judge issued an injunction blocking at least some and maybe all of a specific provision of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA. (The year is important because there are several different bills which were passed called the NDAA.)
The specific provision this stone-cold pimp judge blocked is about the rules surrounding detention: civilians, access to courts, indefinite length, all that shit. The injunction stops implementation of the provision because, the judge ruled, the practices violate aspects of the first and fifth amendment. So this stone-cold pimp judge just busted a nut on one of the lynchpins of the legal apparatus of the War on Terror, and one that is most likely to be extended and abused in the future. Who knows how it’ll turn out (nb this means it’ll turn out poorly) but it’s encouraging at least that district judges appointed by Obama are willing to do this.
I’m not even going to try to summarize the legal ins and outs this soon after the story broke (it’s not even on CNN yet, not even on the ticker-or-whatever-fuck thing, keep fucking that chicken CNN) but I’ve got a couple of links that should give a good base for understanding analysis in the near future.
Glenn Greenwald doesn’t preen as much as usual, which is nice aesthetically
Lawfare Blog has a few posts up and with more to come exploring the overall issues and the specific legal mechanisms the Judge invoked which make thinking through both the implications and the actual ruling itself a bit of a titch.
A good resource in general for quick-but-reasoned legal analysis is to search the Law Professor Blogs for what you’re interested in. The blog aggregator doesn’t have stuff on this yet, but it will.
If you want to check out a conservative legal take on the issue which won’t be just eye-meltingly stupid, the Volokh Conspiracy will probably have a couple posts which meet at least one of those criteria soon.
But, of course, what I really wanted to talk about was what the Centrist Response is likely to be.