Monday, January 10, 2011
"Debatable" posted by Richard SeymourGary Younge nails it:
Fights outside town hall meetings, guns outside rallies, Facebook pages calling for assassinations, discussions about the most propitious moment for armed insurrection. In late October I asked a man in the quaint town of Salida, Colorado, if President Barack Obama had done anything worthwhile. "Well he's increased the guns and ammunitions industry exponentially," he said. "My friends are stockpiling."
To dismiss these as the voices and actions of the marginal was to miss the point and misunderstand the trend. America is more polarised under Obama than it has been in four decades: the week he was elected gun sales leapt 50% year on year.
Where the right is concerned the marginal and the mainstream have rapidly become blurred. Neither the Tea Party nor Obama created these divisions. But over the past two years they have intensified to an alarming degree. Polls last year revealed that a majority of Republicans believe Obama is a Muslim and a socialist who "wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a one-world government" while two-thirds of Republicans either believe or are not sure that the president is "a racist who hates white people", and more than half believe or are not sure that "he was not born in the US" and that he "wants the terrorists to win".In this alternative reality armed response becomes, if not logical, then at least debatable.
I think it's a logical corollary of a particularly vicious phase of capital accumulation. As more and more wealth has been transferred to the rich and welfare programmes curtailed, the state has dealt with the breakdown of working class communities by criminalising their condition in various ways. In addition to manning the iron gates of private property, the state has sought other ways to sweep up and jail the social refuse: penalising drug-users and the homeless, for example. The necessary supplement has been the pornographic spectacle of punishment, of sadistic denigration, of fearful othering, such that no punishment is enough.
This deliberate, calculated brutalisation of political language has been taking place for years, and the accompanying trend has been for a lunatic petit bourgeoisie to become more and more deranged. The 'Tea Party', yes, represents a minority which US law enforcement could contain if it wanted to. But it is acting as an accomplice of the ruling class as that same class wages a bitter war to prevent even moderately social democratic forces from emerging from this recession, to stop even the mildest gain for the working class. It is doing so partly because the petit bourgoisie would rather lose all its wealth in another all-consuming crisis than share it with the dirt who, after all, caused this crisis with their feckless borrowing.
So, in light of that, who cares if Jared Lee Loughner looked on Sarah Palin's website, or heard a speech Sharron Angle made? It was enough for him to exist in a particular context of American life, in this era. It was enough to live in Arizona, where the murders took place, and which has been nominated by a local County Sheriff as "the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry". That would have been more than sufficient to drive a vulnerable man out of his mind. And it isn't as if the idea of political assassination had to be suggested to him by osmosis or innuendo. Palin is often quite explicit when she wants an enemy of the 'real America', the pristine white America of lore, to be assassinated. So is Pat Robertson, you may recall. Assassination is as American as the hackneyed patriotic schtick that often seems to motivate it. This isn't about the gallows humour of the Republican right which consists precisely of knowing, wink-wink in-jokes (gun-sight imagery, 'Reload', and so on) about the barbarism that already exists, and which they have done so much to cultivate. It's about what the jokes advert to. The problem is not whether and how to domesticate political language, as some have wrongly assumed, but how to fight back against the political forces that are fomenting this bilious filth. The first step here, I think, would be to prevent the Republicans from shutting down discussion of the political dimensions of this crime.