Monday, December 03, 2007
Bear Bottom posted by Richard Seymour
So, is anyone else tired of hearing about that goddam teddy bear? You know the one I mean. If there's one thing the media loves more than trivial bullshit, it's trivial bullshit that's somehow 'about' Islam. As soon as the word 'Islam' enters a headline, the editor feels a stiffy in the breeze and pushes it to top of page one. They love nothing better than to howl at that crescent moon. And what a din! This unfortunate woman gets banged up for fifteen days and suddenly the scum British press thinks that's too long to be locked up on a bullshit charge, forgetting that they want people to be locked up for as much as ninety days on no charge. Usually when someone gets unfairly locked up in this country, the press are the ones demanding the restoration of the death penalty - asphyxiation on the end of a rope being their recommended procedure. Now they're all bleeding heart, card-carrying humanitarians. Not only the death penalty but prison has lost its charm for them. Sour grapes if you ask me.
Some people who don't want to get dragged along with the Islamophobia end up being coopted by the spectacle, dragged into iffy, Ciffy 'debates' about exactly what the protocols are for looking after Muslim children in a school in Sudan. As if there would be some uniformity or consensus on this question. As if the religious didn't come in all shapes and sizes (well, Catholic priests do). But why bother? There is nothing about this case that isn't immediately obvious. Obviously, no one has to go to prison for doing anything in particular to a teddy bear, since prisons are at the best of times unbearable and inhumane places where people are put through more or less subtle forms of torture. This is what prison is about. Equally obvious is that this particular imprisonment is important to the media only because of the Islamaturgy involved. So, instead of being lured into a sterile argument about how offensive the word 'Muhammad' can be, it's probably much more sensible to either ignore this horseshit entirely or diagnose the media obsession itself. But then there are other people, probably some of them sniffing around this blog, who want to do exactly what the news says, follow orders and belch out feckless denunciations every five seconds. I know some people imagine that they're seriously, unproblematically outraged at someone being locked up for something this ridiculous. Well, fine, but I don't believe you. I think you only care about this because the television said so, so you can take your fake 'concern' about this case and go fuck yourself with it. Here's a reminder: for every minute you've spent emoting about this case, you've ignored another dead Iraqi (approximately one a minute is the going rate). Not that this is the only thing worth focusing on, but let's not pretend that your apparent outrage is anything other than a disgusting display of narcissism.
Back to the media, for whom you can invent your own collective insults. The anecdotal is obviously a way to deter aggregate, structural analysis. It focuses you on the petty details of a petty case. Sure, we know the ins and outs of each ridiculous saga, enough to sustain a boring pub conversation about it. However, we also know that 91% of news stories about Muslims are negative, probably in most cases precisely because of an obsession with decontextualised fragments of news such as this one. The big picture is hinted at - as in the ridiculous efforts of Channel 4 News to connect this with the issue of Darfur. That big picture is when, where and how Western armies should be sent in to start killing more of these people. Cumulatively, the stories work to provide a superficial veneer of consistency for a set of stories about the 'war on terror' that are otherwise totally implausible and so dumb even a Kilroy fan would be hard-pressed to believe them. It's classic imperial projection: we want to kill them, but we have to pretend that they are the ones who are coming to kill us. And so we take a few measly instances like this preposterous bear story and convert them into struggles about 'values' or some cognate term. Not because the next time they invade Sudan they expect you'll still be stewing over that bear story. Not even because this sensationalist twaddle sells a few papers or supplies the meat for a reasonably market-sustaining drama. I suppose partly, it's because the evidence for their clash-of-civilizations is so thin on the ground that they will resourcefully appropriate any old detritus and turn it into a modern day allegory. The main reason, though, is that Islam now produces a sort of Pavlovian auto-response for news editors and the commentariat. They are simply that well trained.
Labels: teddy bear