Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Baseball Fury

"Industry honours Upton Sinclair, Nixon Trust heaps praise on Woodward and Bernstein and Baseball says 'Yes to Unions'"

Friday, 9 October 2009

The Reason Being

I would like to pose an argument.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban are not the same.

In response, you may want to know the reasons why they are not the same.

As a reply, I could offer any number of relatively informed arguments. I could say that the two are outcomes of the interplay of altogether different endogenous and exogenous historical forces. I could also locate the difference in their political programmes, either in the competing ultimate outcomes they wish to achieve or in the appropriate means through which these goals can be justifiably met. I could make an argument on the level of cultural difference – ethnic, religious, linguistic – that would ultimately impede any enduring collaboration between the two.

As a reasonable person, you may agree with the initial statement, but disagree with the reasons posed and instead offer a plethora of counter-reasons. Eventually, our dialogue would end with the two of us more or less agreeing that the two are not the same, albeit for different reasons.

Socrates would applaud us. But no one would be satisfied.

Of course, if we were discussing this in the stark whiteness of the transcendental void, we may take pleasure in our faculties of abstraction and our ability to comply with the universal injunctions of pure reason. We would most certainly revel in our access to the objective truth of logic.

Yet as human beings inserted unwittingly in the empirical realm, satisfaction is impossible unless we take into account the hypothetical situation from which the argument sprung and the reason behind making the claim in the first place.

If on the first of the month I am invited to a neighbour’s house and upon being served the last portion of spaghetti (food) for the entire month, I choose not to eat based on my deduction down from the claim that spaghetti and linguine are not the same and therefore I should be consuming linguine, I would be acting rationally. And although I would technically be making the correct decision, I would most likely be accused of being a sociopath.

This is the bizarre starting point of political reasoning. When confronted with the problematic of war in Afghanistan, the argument is made post facto. Instead of leaving the rational diagnostic open regarding the a priori circumstances behind an act (in this case invasion), rationality is only employed procedurally. In this case, the argument takes on a sociopathic air: the current American administration poses the argument Al Qaeda and the Taliban are not the same. Though this at first seems to undermine the afore given justifications of prosecuting a war in Afghanistan, on second glance, it is the mark of a cadre of rational sociopaths.

Spaghetti and linguingi are not the same. Instead of eating the Taliban, we should be devouring Al Qaeda. Who's hungry?

War vs Terror?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

War Journal Day 2805

His spectre still so obviously surrounds her, emitting such unknowable thrusts of force that only those held by the South can feel, the shrill dog call of hundreds of years of inscrutable obligation. A code even in its apparent disuse that creates the most Spartan, steadfast, longsuffering moral subjects. It is only a matter of time until we all abandon practical reason and obey the ritual acquiescence of peace. For trauma is the oppressors greatest friend. So obfuscating that lived through yet alien space, so obliterating the possibility of saccharine-sweet and righteous justice, opening the way for the ultimate destruction of the loving creator by her prostrate offspring. Mere peace, mere betrayal.

Monday, 7 September 2009

A Critique of P(ure) R(idicule)

It is difficult to know where to begin with this inadvertent admission of latent capitalist historicity. It could be my own subjective optical illusion acting up again but can someone explain to me how this vestige from last weekend's CityBoy Stag Do quiz made it past those idiot savant editors of The Economist?

Question 1: Is Africa a continent, a country or a ruddy red indentation on the surface of Mars? The genius illustrator charged with such an imaginative task could have at least depicted what the blank continent may look like after capital works its magic – palm trees, countryside villas, dare we say, borders. Ten points to the banker who can find Rhodesia.

The advertisers responsible for such a farcical disavowal of hundreds of years of African history must tell us which bit of the world they’d like to bring to Africa. Is it the parasitic religion of the Jesuits? How about the politics of King Leopold? The original meaning of Human Resources?

Other famous taglines they may have aped:

The Royal African Company: literally bringing Africa to the world.

The Boston Manufacturing Company: bringing warmth to Natives and workers the world over.

In his book, The Long Twentieth Century, Giovanni Arrighi argues that Africa has never been the dark, disconnected continent of Punch and Disney lore. Instead of being left out of the global economy, the variegated peoples of Africa have been subject to centuries of market integration, primitive accumulation, and resource extraction.

Also, isn't it a bit early to hail the return of banks. If anyone is going to re-build Africa for the 700th time it should be the responsible governments of Western Europe. The financial crisis never crises never happen...the financial crisis never happened…

Friday, 4 September 2009

Cameron and Khamenei (and Obama and Jong Il)

Knowledge is normally so convenient. In its modern form, knowledge - at once appearing objective and empirical - is the tool, like a great telescope, that allows us to focus on and comprehend more and more of the seemingly distant and obscure objects before us. And as the universe of objects expands, it both widens and particularizes our view. In this sense, it allows us to simultaneously glimpse the entire universe and focus on the individual components within. In this sense too, it is ever progressing - expanding until that point in time where everyone can see everything.

Through what Georg Lukács describes as reification, throughout his History and Class Consciousness, 'the' world then becomes 'our' world and vice versa. In this way, a particular (ie scientific, national) understanding of knowledge shifts to encompass the general realm of experience. Strangely, it is this idea of subjective objectivity, what Lukács deems false consciousness, that is ever gaining strength alongside the supposed return of fundamentalisms. Yet at second glance this phenomenon is not so odd.

Take the recent case of British and French Conservatives attempting to restrict the accumulation of knowledge to hard sciences. Juxtapose that next to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s rejection of social sciences and more appropriately, liberal arts, as contributing to the ‘loss of belief in godly and Islamic knowledge.’ On the surface, both lay claim to objectivity, though they couch them in seemingly diametrically opposed terms. According to the British Conservatives, knowledge is becoming less convenient. That is, at least, if we, as tolerant liberals, continue to define knowlege in more and more of its manifestations, from liberal arts and media studies to vocations like bricklaying and vehicle repair. For the Tories, knowledge should be restricted to the capito-objective triumvirate of business, technology, innovation. For Khamenei, the liberal understanding of knowledge is equally inconvenient. Instead though, he identifies “godly and Islamic knowledge” as the only just and proper objectivity.

What the two camps share is the fear of a loss of belief in the Lacanian Real(s) of these clashing civilisations. For the Tories, this horizon or foundation, against which all other forms of knowledge are mere opinions, is Capitalism. For Khamenei, this horizon is Islam. Both Real(s) are the absolute truths, telescopes through which everything else can be understood.

Where they diverge though is in their definition of the liberal arts. For Britain, and the ‘developed’ world in general, liberal arts – political science, media studies, language – are not inconvenient at all. They are in fact supplements to the capito-objective worldview. The study of political science obscures the fact that both capitalism is axiomatic and political science is a particularist lens through which all other (non-democratic) politics are judged. The media too, most evident in its world news segments, under the guise of expansion and progression of knowledge, uses the madness of the universal world to reinforce the particularist position of the objective Real. Liberal arts in Iran act as subversion and in this, even liberal capitalism is perceived as a threat.

In the end, the two share a disdain for critique. For both, the subjective arts, as a proxy of subversion, are means through which politicisation occurs. Politics, in turn, are bad for productivity – GDP for one, the perpetuation of the hierarchical religious state for the other. And thus knowledge is more than inconvenient; it must be purged.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Excerpts from a Like Mind

Walter Benn Michaels in the London Review of Books

'a diversified elite is not made any the less elite by its diversity and, as a response to the demand for equality, far from being left-wing politics, it is right-wing politics.'

'The recent furore over the arrest for ‘disorderly conduct’ of Henry Louis Gates helps make this clear. Gates, as one of his Harvard colleagues said, is ‘a famous, wealthy and important black man’, a point Gates himself tried to make to the arresting officer – the way he put it was: ‘You don’t know who you’re messing with.’ But, despite the helpful hint, the cop failed to recognise an essential truth about neoliberal America: it’s no longer enough to kowtow to rich white people; now you have to kowtow to rich black people too. The problem, as a sympathetic writer in the Guardian put it, is that ‘Gates’s race snuffed out his class status,’ or as Gates said to the New York Times, ‘I can’t wear my Harvard gown everywhere.’ In the bad old days this situation almost never came up – cops could confidently treat all black people, indeed, all people of colour, the way they traditionally treated poor white people. But now that we’ve made some real progress towards integrating our elites, you need to step back and take the time to figure out ‘who you’re messing with’. You need to make sure that nobody’s class status is snuffed out by his race.'

'Race, on the other hand, has been a more successful technology of mystification. In the US, one of the great uses of racism was (and is) to induce poor white people to feel a crucial and entirely specious fellowship with rich white people; one of the great uses of anti-racism is to make poor black people feel a crucial and equally specious fellowship with rich black people.'

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Unavoidable Fallacies

Science dictates that two examples do not make a trend. So to corroborate my suspicions, I will need to use white people performing covers of hitherto uncool mainstream r&b songs as my proxy in Google Trends.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

War Journal, Day 2776

It is the hottest day of the year today. It has been some time since my blood has been warmed so thoroughly. Central London seemed lazier than usual this morning: its eyelids heavy from another sleepless night. I can taste the indifference in the air. The holes in my shoes have almost sutured the soles from my foot. I am not sure if I have enough milk in the refrigerator to cover my cereal. I’ll have to eat it dry.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Never Bring a President to a Gun Fight

Where is Clint Eastwood when we need him? While tools of menace have historically been preferred to dogs as the politically-motivated person's best friend - Teddy Roosevelt and pistols, Robespierre and guillotines, Truman and atomic bombs, Mao and well, really, any murderous device, surely in a land of criminals bringing an assault weapon to a public space is in breech of some local bylaw. Especially when said public space is hosting the leader of the so-called free world. Replace the characters with TI and George Bush and somebody would have left all Ichabod Crane-like - headless, drawn, and quartered. I wonder what would have occurred if Mr. Henry Louis Gates brandished an AK while attempting to force the door of his own home or if Ice T packed a gat while singing 'Cop Killer' in public or if SNCC sat in at a lunch counter with a few hot rifles. I know Lee was probably armed at Appamattox while surrendering to Grant but I would imagine it was well concealed or at the very least sheathed.

If the words Lacan and Real mean nothing to you, then at the very least this is a personification of the very menace and intimidation that sustains the 'freedom' of American life. (Zizek,Violence) Behind every defence of the Bill of Rights, behind every pledge of allegiance, every detention centre, there is a middle-class white man with an MP5. Of course, any real displays of threat or violence will be met with the full force of the law. It is only those that embody the entire structural history of domination and force that will be left unpunished. And not just unpunished, but legitimized with the full force of the US Media. (Witness below the serene image of the zealot, compared to the crazed, cursing figure of the 'liberal' mediaman)

If there was ever a time for the Democratic party to abandon its history as the weakest opposition party since the advent of the One-Party State, it is now. I’m talking full armaments, tanks, bombers - rolling through town blaring By the Time I Get to Arizona.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Obama DIY

Heads of state are not normally informed by the avant garde. When charged with the task of maintaining whatever seemingly exists, the oppositional bent of subversive art is not quite conducive to survival. Creativity in politics can only ultimately lead to one of two dire endpoints – trace your line too far right and you’re left atop Ichigaya Camp imploring the masses to loosen their Runaway Horses into the beautiful void of ritual suicide, trace your line too far left, a la Mao, and the enemy of your murdered friend becomes your murdered friend.

So why with all this historical knowledge at his disposal, does President Obama insist on employing the language of America’s last musical avant garde?

Most people hate the 80s. Like the Dude’s distaste for the ‘fucking Eagles,’ the 80s represent the destruction of all that was made sacred before; the inordinate amount of possibilities that the 60s seemingly opened up. With post-modernist conservatives manning the helms of the not-so free world, seeking ‘peace through strength’ and art and music becoming an empty shell of signification and commodification, many read only hopelessness in that dreaded decade. Yet out of the figurative and literal apocalypse of dialectical suburban and urban life, came forth something briefly hopeful. Narrators Greil Marcus, Michael Azerrad and Jeff Chang tell the best tall tales of this period.

The world had been laid to waste. The division of labour and the division of any vestige of community had manufactured a hopeless individualism. In an inverse of the narratives of the oppressive GDR, the residents of the free world had no future. Freedom wasn’t free. And what was worse, there was Nothing to do. And nothing anyone could do. Of course, where there’s youth, there’s profligacy. Seeking an end to their impotence, the youth decided to move. Do it Yourself! was the imperative. With boundless energy, discipline and hard work, young people ‘became what they were’ constructing transcontinental communities around the do-it-yourself art and tenets of ‘we, togetherness.’ (The Century) Kevin Seconds said it best,

We Live In Constant War
Destroy All That Tradition
And Live Before You Die
Lets Rock Together From Now On
And Never Be Denied

It was all very Nietzsche.

But like every moment of becoming, the event was crushed like a Hungarian spring. MTV and Margaret Thatcher were perfect symbols of the structural impediments of reactionary government and capital. The wall tumbled down.

On the African continent, this same DIY ethic sent ruptures through the oppressive sameness of colonialism. Woodrow Wilson called it self-determination. But do it yourself was the imperative. Some scholars tended to see the movements as copycat nationalism, enveloped in a childish jealousy for sameness. Despite choosing to make themselves within the boundaries of the colonial state, there seemed to be a vast diversity of creativity. Of course, destroying ‘all that tradition’ was not without it’s share of Sartrean violence. It was all very hard work. Though something went terribly wrong. Counterrevolution and Structural Adjustment embodied the same closure as MTV and Margaret Thatcher. RENAMO was the symbol of this return.

Yet there our gentle President stood on a fine summer’s day in Accra urging Africans to Do it Yourself! “We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans.”

“For just as it is important to emerge from the control of another nation, it is even more important to build one’s own.”

Moving calmly and sympathetically over the history of the continent, the next words signaled a subtle shift in meaning.

“This progress may lack the drama of the 20th century’s liberation struggles, but make no mistake: it will ultimately be more significant.”

It seemed his DIY was very different.

The Hegelian twin of our DIY was the mantra of enormo-home improvement corporation, Home Depot. Housing endless building supplies, bored consumers could channel their creativity, empowering themselves, within established bounds. This was grown-up DIY. Obama’s DIY.

And so for the duration of his speech he sat Africa on his fatherly knee, employing the rhetoric of good governance and entrepreneurship, urging Africa to temper its past creativity and move forward with his plan. Like Home Depot, liberal democracy is the state ordained method of political creativity. It is all there. You have no one to blame but yourself.

Do it yourself is also a great source of freedom. Africans are still subject to the tyrannical outcomes of their previous childish choices. “No country is going to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top…that is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now it is time to end.”

Shifting again, Obama continued,

“The people of Africa are ready to claim that future. In my country, African-Americans – including so many recent immigrants – have thrived in every sector of society. We have done so despite our difficult past”

“Freedom is your inheritance. Now, it is your responsibility to build upon freedom’s foundation.”

Feeling creative? Visit Home Depot.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Thersites' Interjection

It is always Act I, Scene I. The hero, his uniform draped over his hulking frame, clumsily yet effectively pressing down upon the two hundred plus years of blue and green warrior rags hidden underneath, strolls solemnly across centre stage. His voice even in tone yet stern and masculine recalls the story of his Father’s life, injecting an unequivocal moral certitude in every enunciated syllable. Though pensive and fair, he slays his foes with terrible accuracy and furtive hatred. Wave after wave of tribulation besets him in this ritual re-staging of his biblical forebears’ epic footsteps. His most vicious appendage, wearing a cold hue of rusted grey, imbues the blood of each enemy, once impure with foreign bodies, with this same story. The mothers and sons of the fallen, expected to lash out in revenge at the loss of their Father, instead cast their arms up in glorious acquiescence. The hero happily accepts their surrender, adopting each as his own under the condition that they never recast the story of this bloody scene. Unsettled by this magnanimity and benevolence, they swear against their former tyrants and slowly melt into the Hero’s body.

The miscegenation is complete.

Appearing gradually in the background the chorus speaks, composed not of the typical unrecognisable mass, but of individuals with a voice each their own. They bear witness to the countless massacres, slowly over time growing evermore oblivious to the violence before them. As the scene reaches its conclusion, the once erupting fountain of blood ceases, leaving only the Hero and his tale. While the audience in its ignorant wisdom remains privy to the shrieks and gasps of the dead and dying, the chorus grows deaf, only recalling the narrative earlier uttered.

Here our Thersites begins to speak. Aware of the contradictions before him, he moves in and out of the scene as a madman - provoking disdain from the characters within, proving wise to the audience without. He and the audience, growing ever impatient at the amassing of transparent myth before them, attempt to interject. But their actions fall in flat folly in the thick forest of semblance.


The Impossibility of Race

We are told it is the era of the post-Race; an era evincing the tying off of another antagonistic thread; a time, moreover, for the Nation to reclaim its ethical destiny, casting the blight of the Bush regime into the same grand burial plot of Richard Nixon and other exceptional imposters of national spirit; an era finally of the return of importance, of the central issues of economic stability and personal wealth, to John Stuart Mill and Horatio Alger, of happiness maximization and the adage that hard work makes us free.

Though convincing as this narrative may seem, the Thersites in many of us is hampered by the slightest sense of intuitive unease. Despite the repetition of Act 1, Scene 1, Race is exploding.

It is exploding Everywhere for some, Nowhere for others.

For the believers of Everywhere, racism is not simply felt. It is a suffocatingly ubiquitous assault on all our senses. For our memory, the countless Obama caricatures, Freudian images recalling the outrageously hateful spirit of 19th Century Punch. For our sense of history, Obama, the NAACP, and a segregated Philadelphia swimming pool. For our entertainment, the endless creation of black criminals on the evening news. For our sense of geography, the mad races of the Sudan and Afghanistan killing each other over abstractions or the chance to rule completely.

For the asserters of Nowhere, there is no sense. The persistence of such things is simply a vestige of a dead past, the death rattle of a historic time made null by the repetition of our very first Act. For them, the real problem lies in the remonstrations of every little Thersites, every agitator, every agonistic madman finding pleasure in archaeology, in the digging up of the dead past, in the disturbance of our suburban tranquility.

It is here where we must return to our scene above. Race, in this sense antagonism, is only found in two places - one, in the direct scenes of violence where our Hero viciously smites his prey and two, in the recurrent shrieks and gasps of the dead and dying.

The direct violence – the slavery and brutality, the transformation of trees with human limbs and strange fruit, sharecropping and the feudal face of early Southern capitalism, economic discrimination - has come and gone from the American stage. For the asserters of Nowhere, this going was reached through agreement like democracy itself. While signed in blood on the floor of some Appomattox replica, the settlement was seemingly an equal agreement between two former foes. For them it is America who is the wisest. During the Civil War, He fought for his soul and the soul of those He devoured. In the middle half of the 20th century, his courts of justice and his president’s acts made the move for desegregation. Now in his final move, his citizens have voted in droves for a man of mixed blood.

But this score has not been settled simply from above. The vanquished too have agreed, choosing America as their adopted Father and heeding his belief in the value of work. For the Nowheremen, there is no need to revisit this scene

It is the Everywheremen that keep persisting. To them, the indirect violence, the shrieks and gasps of the dead and dying still lay un dealt with, like the heart ever pumping in Poe’s rotten walls. It is the chorus who is crazy, deaf, dumb, and blind. At this the believers in Everywhere grow increasingly frustrated. But the more they flail about, the more insane to the chorus they appear. It is they who are treated as the problem, not the problem itself.

It is through this process that Race becomes impossible.

Saturday, 18 July 2009


To survive, the first step is to transform this peace-loving wolf into a bloodthirsty lamb.

The Belly of the Flock

Monday, 13 July 2009

The Chicken's Egg

Which came first? The caricature or the ad?

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

My name is Josef K or Reading Badiou on the Way to Work

Britain is a frightening place.

I say this not as a student of those great British thinkers ever fearful of the erosion of beautiful British tradition by the continual explosion and proliferation of terroristic modern violence. I can no more be Lord Acton wary of the despotic tendency of democracy than Martin Amis disgusted at the victory of Islamism over Islam - as if the two independently exist independently.

Nor do I express my fear as a global North American - no, the irony of delusional Islanders posing as global citizens is not at all lost in that statement - appalled at the otherness posing as pure similarity that We (the people) find in most European social democracies. I cite here, as an empiricist, a recent Facebook posting of one of my high school friends giddy at the thought of tackling a British visitor and forcing them to imbibe American sand. Freedom through consumption, how novel!

I speak neither as the Big Other - the opaque émigré hulking malevolently in crates, boxes, and other plague infested vestibules perpetually kneeling to the guards of tolerance who gleefully round them up into virtual Palestines around the globe.

And finally I do not twist my lips in painstaking mimicry of British liberals, independent guardians of rights - namely women’s rights in totalitarian nowheres. I am incapable here of deploring the destruction of the idyllic Tolkeinian countryside – having recently escaped to that last bastion with the aid of Kirstie Allsopp – while simultaneously and masochistically accepting the inevitability of the friendliest of enemies, David Cameron.

I do however speak as someone. Someone endowed with the dual dead values of Enlightenment modernity, impossibility and base ethics. Someone fairly universal in my rote civility, my conception of wider consequence, and my understanding of ends as ends without end.

I speak therefore as a criminal.

Stricken, as I am, with an insidious fear that courses through my veins when the Boss, in whatever form the Boss may take, appears unexpected.

Compelled, as I am, to act without knowledge of the root of my compulsion or the form of my action.

Plagued, as I am, by the absurdity of assimilating into a social order that is neither social nor orderly.

Fearful, as I am, at the growing suspicion that this State that makes its most innocuous residents criminals, is the prototype for the impending state of things.

We have made Britain, we must now make criminals.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

A-Town Down

Why do Brits love the most random Americans? I mean, prior to their fortuitous meeting with NME, Kings of Leon were regarded as little more than a cringe-worthy Creed cover band. Plus how many of you remember the Hiss? I only do because they went from playing abandoned shows in suburban America to touring with Oasis. Everytime I see Hockey on Jools Holland or Seasick Steve at the FA cup, it gives big in Japan a whole new Atlantic bent. There is one band worthy of such lottery-winning circumstance. Plucked from relative obscurity out of dregsy Atlanta haunt Lennys, the band most likely to pull an R Kelly and piss in your beer, the Black Lips, return to London to serve up a free DJ set at Rough Trade East. Bring a copy of Black Swan and learn the real value of randomness.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Falling Up

Unlike Will-i-am, Mos Def is actually falling up.

Most rappers who disappear into the cold, dark chasm of wackness - Common twice, Large Professor, Q Tip, PE, Snoop, Kweli - only seem capable of falling further. Surprisingly, the man who most lost his way has returned from the hacked-up corpse of fame to produce an album of inspiration.

It doesn't hurt that he and I are into the same shit - Malcolm X's post-Nation internationalism, Baris Manco's Turkish psychedelia, Fela, Potencorvo's Battle of Algiers. It also doesn't hurt that he's rapping again.

Your turn Goodie MOB.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Tech in Afghanistan

To many, Immortal Technique is the most dangerous type of rapper. Neither a Bill Cosby poster child for American middle class responsibility nor a dripping ice sculpture of disorganised crime and capital accumulation, Tech is a menacing, cosmopolitan humanist. In a world full of either/ors, Immortal Technique is a complex emergency waiting to happen. Imagine the scandal in both middle America and institutionalised rap if the burgeoning slum classes hung images of Tech in Afghanistan outside their windows instead of the rote Biggie / 2Pac-ino banners.

Immortal Technique

Thursday, 21 May 2009


Akron/Family Instore

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? While not quite Wesley Willis’ Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonalds or Hare Krishna man’s mobile meals, Thursday’s Rough Trade midday in-store featuring drug-smoking freak folkers Akron/Family is as free as Arthur Lee. If you, like me, need clichés to get you through the day, then think of this as the perfect mixture of work and pleasure. Known for their musical polygamy, Akron/Family have something to offer everyone – from Linda in accounting’s secret Pentangle obsession to Steve in shipping’s unknown Thomas Mapfumo fetish. Bring your boss and just maybe the gig will – like UTFO hosting the office Christmas do – bring the freak out in everyone. / Ryan Mahan

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Chucky D's First DJ

Dr Hurum also found Predator X

Monday, 18 May 2009

Marketing Genius

If you like baseball, then you'll love ink cartridges.

Let's hope neither Rekall or the Union of African Totalitarians get wind of this.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Who's Voice Shall I Use Today?

The problem with Slavoj Zizek is that despite, or more properly because of, his schizophrenia - his demonstration of a mind perpetually outrunning itself - he is completely inspiring. Ordinarily, I would spend the last hours of my day with some Freudian grand-father figure such as Robert McNamara, David Attenborough, Carl Sagan, or Gandalf, lulling me away from repetition with fantastical tales of the order of all things. Last night, though, I found myself wading through Uncle Slavoj’s untamed lands, transformed into a child inspired by the possibility of such overwhelming novelty.

Normally too, I would assume some abandonment of fidelity in the staging of Tunnel 228, the Kevin Spacey approved art installation tucked behind Waterloo station wherein an agglomeration of inauthentic hacks and hipsters have gathered to stage another empty, hype-ridden simulation.

Yet today in all my giddy nakedness, I see a clever staging of the game of cat and mouse - the organisers setting the parameters in a way that by the time the predators – the media, the guidebookteers, the Time Outs - arrive, the party has moved on.

Though with the passing of the day into the next, I will surely return to my fatalistic experience, a parasite to someone else’s ideological styles.

Authenticity today, lame performance art tomorrow.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Robespierre in America

"had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends, either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment."

John Brown

Dirty Rats

"Hipsters are the infiltrators who spoil the resistance—the coolhunting collaborators and spies - the embodiment of postmodernism as a spent force, revealing what happens when pastiche and irony exhaust themselves as aesthetic."

"The problem with hipsters seems to me the way in which they reduce the particularity of anything you might be curious about or invested in into the same dreary common denominator of how “cool” it is perceived to be. Everything becomes just another signifier of personal identity. Thus hipsterism forces on us a sense of the burden of identity, of constantly having to curate it if only to avoid seeming like a hipster."

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Monday, 27 April 2009

Let Them Eat Humans

Just when those menacing Africanised bees seemed content to return to their tribal lands, we're now faced with another Third World disease. No, it's not from the Orient my friend, this plague speaks Spanish. While trawling through the local papers, overcome with fear at the thought of my next plate of biscuits and gravy - yes Travolta, bacon is good too - possibly being my last, I may have already found a solution.

In their Who? What? Where? and never Why? expose on the dreaded Swine Flu, England's Independent foresees this devasting neverending night having an "impact greater than any terrorist attack, nuclear attack, or environmental disaster." Yet despite its threat there seems to be a real option.

With my biggest concern being my ability to continue to consume anything and everything, I seem to have found the answer in their penetrating question, "is it safe to eat pork?"

"Yes," they say, "Cooking destroys the virus."

Why don't we then, following Jonathan Swift, prepare a giant barbecue upon which we can place all the sufferers of this Globally Southern mentality. I can imagine our Southern friends tasting quite nice on a bed of turnips with a dash of Brown Sauce. We could even cook feasts according the soon to be lost peoples' own holidays. While some may be looking forward to Eid or the month-long African safari buffet, I can't wait for Thanksgiving.

So long brothers, welcome back swine.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Ideolotik, Part One

Happiness and Frankin-sense

There are so many reasons to be contented in this world.

For one, common sense has made an illustrious return. Where once there stood madness in the evil Cobra Commander figures of George W. Bush, CEOS, and NeoConservatives, now stands Barack Obama, Small Business, and John Maynard Keynes. So what if we are now lacking a scapegoat, a cathartic totem behind which we can hide our own historico-liberal ideologies. It simply does not matter. The benevolent nation-state is making its triumphant return.

It is also a new era of cooperation. Harkening back to Woodrow’s League or farther back to Westphalia, the G20 descended upon London last week to film a special episode of Robin Hood, robbing from all of us and giving to that most impecunious of fellows, the IMF. Who cares that the 1 trillion plus dollar injection of capital may not actually stimulate, it’s the simulation that counts. Plus what really matters is that we know they care. That is why we need more adverts - quirky little Wes Anderson shorts, accompanied by delicate, Feistian indie pop, depicting mild-mannered cosmopolitan bankers as common sense superheroes. After all, as Angela Merkel said, "this is a historic opportunity afforded us to give capitalism a conscience, because capitalism has lost its conscience and we have to seize this opportunity"

While we are busy indulging in this newfound pleasure, we must not let our felicity be shattered by a discontented few. After all, protest is nothing more than contrarianism, like sarcasm to wit, the lowest form of fitting in. Just look at the liberal bourgeoisie with their couture multiculturalism and hollow humanitarianism. Their supposed morality is a listless, anti-common sense, cool. Plus, masks are the new Hansel. First it was headbands, then it was moustaches, now it’s masks, black balaclavas concealing misinformed minds weaned on Naomi Kline and M.I.A. Hopefully, this political artefact of dressing up and registering disgust through the most pre-modern of means is only an anomaly to be consigned to its proper place in the history of fancy dress, posited right between wigged Girondins and fatigued Black Panthers. For modern man, there shall be none of this reckless idealism, only real pragmatism and our most precious common language of civility, the vote.

And so too just as the vote has levelled greedy authoritarians and absurd passions, we must follow the John Grays and Michael Manns, and allow democracy to destroy the myths of utopianism, not in one swift humane act, but slowly, tortuously, like Che Guevara’s hopeless slog through the wilds of Bolivia. Only then can we truly revel in the small steps and crawls through which change comes forth. We must not let vague spectres of race and class, of unjust wars and doleful discrimination, mar the victory of Barack Obama and his new version of American Exceptionalism. Myths too, of immoral national acts and the confining element of context, must be banished and replaced by new myths. There is no time for Mandela-style truth and reconciliation committees or tribunals on the overlooked interplay of race and class, only a narrative of great figures working together, slowly and efficiently, toward their common national, first, then international destinies. We must incant only the first words of “I Have a Dream” loud enough to silence Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence” - ignoring his hope for a “radical revolution of values” in which “we must rapidly begin a shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society coming “to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

No Permit, No House...Literally

Israel demolishes two Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem

Repeat after Kevin Costner. If you build it, they will come. Though if you are a tenant in the newly minted Arab City of Culture, the big bad authorities may come and huff and puff and blow your house down. Just imagine the horror, or sadistic delight, worn on all our faces if Camden Council started driving Boris Johnson-sized wrecking balls through squatter sites and Traveller communities.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Zizek's So Hot Right Now

And the award for best book cover / state terror promo goes to Slavoj Zizek...

Monday, 16 March 2009

Now Vines Upon the House's Frame

The absurdity subsides, a stranger now, momentarily freed from the Kafka-esque absurdity of perpetual misfortune. Without such calamity, such excuse, the narcissist is laid bare.

The South emerges upon his sallow frame, suddenly, torn cloth wrapped as wisteria vines. A year ago, tuberculosis brought health, buttressing his dreams as dreams, destroying the advance of the previous year. Now, in mimicry he speaks. Without referent he returns to that place in Cumberland Estates, filled with the sobriety of a millenarian whose schools remain temples.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Love Rap

Do we need a Zizekian orientalist account of the entire history and cultural significance of rap music? Surely Ghostface is incomprehensible enough.

If you have read Jeff Chang's platitudinal revisionist Can't Stop Won't Stop then the answer is yes.

If you haven't and find El-P a bit difficult, you may want to avoid Naked Punch's Hip Hop Dossier like art does a Bono lyric.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Pure Salt

Strewn about the ground of Yeasayer's musical mountain retreat lays not snow but the pure salt of every failed musician.

Hopefully the spirit of Beorn will rouse the carnivorous appetite that made All Hour Cymbals such a great record. Though may the salt consume them like a homeless snail if they follow the short path of time to 80s bombast. Follow their perilous journey here

Thursday, 12 February 2009

The Bees Made Honey in Carl Schmitt's Skull

A recent AP report has confirmed today the deepest, darkest fears of many Utah residents with the news that Africanized bees have finally infiltrated the hives of Washington and Kane Counties. The invidious beasts, according to professor Kirk Visscher of the University of California at Riverside, 'get irritated faster, respond with more firepower and stay mad longer than other bees.' They are also said to exhibit higher irrationality and are thought to act on intuition rooted in 'gut feelings' rather than the calculated rationality of native bees. One local resident expressed disquiet at the bees' seeming communal spirit and blind, wholesale approval of a single, charismatic leader, "they ain't got no respect for a man's right to privacy, dancing about in great ritualistic swarms to the god-forsaken percussive racket of their collective wings."

State leaders are said to be ruing the day the National Basketball Association forced the Utah Jazz upon the residents of Salt Lake City. Governor Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. though responded with the hope and optimism of anyone faced with such dire circumstances, "let this be just another test to the great people of the State of Utah, a test of their solidarity and of the sturdiness of their bomb shelters, a preparation for the next stage of the rapture.”

Friday, 6 February 2009


The liberal critique spins a mighty tale of imperfect regimes within a perfect system. From conservative nationalism to liberal nationalism, our Janus turns its head.

George W. Bush should host a revised version of the TV reality show The Biggest Loser, on which corporate executives compete weekly for the most colossal management debacle. The winner gets a $200 million severance package and a presidential pardon.
 --Kristen Wack

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Clash of Civilisations

“I don’t know Sam, I’m unsure.”

“I swear I have seen this exact film before.”

“Of course you have dear sir, its historicity is most accurate, a terrifying amalgamation of the past and future days. The public has a real fetish for this kind of thing.”

“Yes, but there is no imagination, no soul, just iteration. I see no justification for it. It’s too disjointed. Yes, the story told is linear. But the images contradictory. “

‘Trust me. Keep reading.’

“Now John Ford, Tolkien gave us narrative, a foundation, transcendence, glorious and justified. The perpetual goodness of the protagonists. But all I see here are institutions and even those codes are bloody.’

“There is something here. A correlation, language, belief. But surely there are innocents.”

“All complicit my dear friend.”

“The transgression does seem disproportionate. Plus I do feel as if I’m watching the news. What about the New York Times? Surely they’ll have something to say about it.”

“All complicit my dear friend.”


“Extraneous to the market sir.”

“Is Segal available? “

“He says he’s just a cook.”

Thursday, 22 January 2009


Since I am obviously incapable of personally engaging with the concept of realism in international relations, I defer sanity on the question of Afghanistan and the idea of terror to those more comfortable with the game of charades.


How Obama Can End the War On Terror

By Mark Juergensmeyer
January 15, 2009

First of all, the phrase "war on terror" needs to be retired. As a war, it is largely imagined, and as an idea it is ill-conceived. The effect of thinking in terms of global war is to make enemies out of millions of Muslims who would otherwise have been our friends.

The first step in ending the War on Terror is to stop calling it "the war on terror."

Ever since 9/11, the Bush administration—supported by the news media—has endorsed the radical jihadi idea that the world is engaged in a great ideological struggle between two competing foes. But this has never been the case. The United States was attacked on 9/11, as it had been many times before and since, by a small band of extremists who cloaked their disdain for America's global power in the language of religion and the images of cosmic war. They needed to be isolated and brought to justice for their misdeeds, not glorified as America's global enemy.

The effect of thinking in terms of global war was to make enemies out of millions of Muslims who otherwise would have been our friends—or at least not our cosmic foes. Perhaps the greatest paradox is that the war rhetoric also made George W. Bush into a satanic figure in many parts of the Muslim world.

Shortly before the previous presidential election, I interviewed a Muslim activist in Iraq who supported the jihadi insurgency against the US occupation. I asked him who he wanted to win the US presidential race, and to my surprise, he supported the reelection of President George W. Bush.

"But you hate Bush," I said in astonishment. "Why would you want him to win the election?"

"We want to defeat him," he told me, saying that he didn't want Bush to go quietly.

"We want to win the war and humiliate him," he said, "the way he has tried to humiliate us."

Now, over four years later, Bush is out. Whatever symbolic significance he has had as an enemy of radical Islam is leaving the global political stage. The Obama administration has a golden opportunity to rethink the War on Terror.

It seems to me that there is a strategy for victory that does not require armed conquest. My suggestion is that the new administration can "win" the War on Terror in part by rethinking the nature of the conflict. Let me suggest five steps that the U.S. could take in a post-Bush era to bring the War on Terror to an end:

1. Recognize that we are not confronting war but a war mindset.

The radical Muslim war against the secular West has been a powerful idea, erupting from time to time in destructive acts of terrorism, but it is largely an idea. It has no organized army nor is it poised to take political control over any country, especially not the United States. It is an imagined war between what are thought to be the forces of good against the forces of evil—incarnate in the likes of George Bush and his colleagues.

To some extent the Bush administration's "war on terror" is an imagined war as well. It has placed Osama bin Laden and his cadre on a symbolic pedestal in what has been characterized as a struggle between good and evil. President Bush's exhortation to be either "with us or against us" might well have compelled a good number of people who were otherwise on the fence to take sides against America. The young Muslims who were involved in the bombings in London's subway said that they chose to take a stand, and thought of themselves as soldiers in a great moral war. If that image of war disappeared, young men like them would not be enticed into imaginary roles as soldiers for truth.

Obama's pledge to hunt down bin Laden and exterminate him might have sounded good in tough campaign rhetoric, but it is not a platform for building a foreign policy in South Asia and the Middle East. Anti-Americanism is at an all-time high in Pakistan, and Obama has a fresh opportunity to rebuild the terms and image of US military presence in the region. The Muslim world is waiting for a US president who can stop treating them like enemies to be invaded but as potential friends.

2. Accept that America is the enemy because of what it does, not what it is.

America and other Western powers are thought to be evil because of their actions, such as supporting the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The United States is imagined to be an evil enemy by jihadi activists not because of its freedom or anything else that is inherent in American society, but because of its policies and actions, particularly in the Middle East. Specifically, the U.S. is regarded as the enemy of Islam because of its support of undemocratic dictators like Egypt's Mubarak and the Saud family monarchy in Saudi Arabia, its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and for its one-sided support for Israel without equal concern for the rights of Palestine.

When I interviewed one of the Muslim activists involved in bombing the World Trade Center in 1993, he told me that he liked America. It was easy for him to be a Muslim in the United States, he said, and he respected our freedom of religion. Though he and other Muslim activists, such as Sayyid Qutb, disliked what they regarded as America's lax moral standards, they were angered only when they thought that we were trying to force our way of living onto them, or to control or exploit Muslim countries. They did not hate America's freedom—they hated what they regarded as America's attempts to control others and deprive them of what they regarded as their freedom from the West.

In the same way, most Americans do not despise Muslim activists because of who they are—Muslims—but because of what they do. Bin Laden and his forces are thought to be evil because of their horrible acts of terrorism, not because we think that there is anything inherently evil about Islam. This means that the differences between the two positions are not insurmountable, and the imagined war will end when each side stops doing things that the other side regards as acts of evil.

This means that the Obama administration should not waste its energy in trying to shore up America's public relations image. That will improve instantly once US military forces are out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. has brokered an enduring peace between Israel and Palestine.

3. Stop acting like an enemy.

The great terror war would come shuddering to a halt if the United States was no longer perceived as doing evil things in the eyes of its Muslim activist opponents. Many of these allegedly "evil things" involve the US military. The jihadi recruiting videos that are posted on the internet always begin in the same way—showing American military actions that kill and oppress Muslims. An end to those military actions will immediately undercut the support for the anti-American jihadi ideology.

One proof of the effectiveness of a non-military response is the Awakening movement in al Anbar province of Iraq, a movement that arose in 2005 and then became associated with the so-called "surge" strategy of General David Petraeus. As Obama correctly pointed out in the 2008 campaign debates, the success of Petraeus' strategy was only partially related to a surge in troop strength. In fact the strategy actually involved a reduction of troops in the Sunni territory of al Anbar province. Though these troops were re-deployed to Baghdad—where they joined a surge of new American forces dispatched to patrol neighborhoods and make them more secure—they were not replaced in the al Anbar countryside.

With no US military around to hate—and with American financial support for their new security operations—local militias turned their attention away from America and toward another enemy, the al Qaeda forces that had infiltrated the resistance movement. In this case the US military quickly changed from an enemy to an ally.

When the United States withdraws from Iraq, a major symbol of America's imagined evil will disappear. During the campaign, Obama consistently supported a pull-out of US troops, and Iraqis will be watching to see how completely this promise is kept. If the withdrawal is slow, if large numbers of combat forces remain in a new name, such as "military advisors," if the huge US military bases that have been constructed in the Iraqi desert are allowed to remain under US control, Obama's words about withdrawal from Iraq might be seen as an empty promise.

Of even more concern is Obama's stance on Afghanistan. During the campaign, he has called for an increase of a hundred thousand troops, which would double the number presently there. Yet it will still be half of the numbers of Russian troops that the former Soviet Union had deployed in Afghanistan—and it lost the war, dragging much of the Soviet economy down with it.

A similarly dismal prognosis is in store for America's continuing presence in Afghanistan. Moreover, the persistence of US troops in the region will continue to provide an irritant that will bolster anti-American forces not only in Afghanistan but in neighboring Pakistan. There, this presence is a major catalyst, supporting the kind of radical jihadi ideology that has led to acts of terrorism both within Pakistan and in adjacent India, including the recent attacks in Mumbai. For this reason, a strategy for withdrawal from Afghanistan, and from Iraq, should be a high on the list of objectives for the Obama administration.

4. Become a problem solver not a problem maker.

Aside from what is regarded as its military meddling, the other thing that makes the United States appear as an enemy to many Muslim activists is its influence on Middle Eastern politics. As I mentioned, this includes US financial and political support for regimes that are regarded as dictatorial, and its seemingly uncritical stance toward Israel.

Though the U.S. will not retreat from its political support for Israel—for it has moral and historical reasons for assuring Israel's security—this stance need not appear completely one-sided. It is important that America be seen as championing the just cause of Palestinian freedom. The Baker-Hamilton Commission report correctly concluded that peace between Israelis and Palestinians would affect the way that the U.S. is perceived in the Middle East, and that a positive outcome to the peace process would undermine the militant anti-American jihadi cause.

The perception that the U.S. is tied to Israel affects everything else that the U.S. does in the Middle East. In Iraq, for example, when citizens in Fallujah demonstrated against the killing of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin by an Israeli military strike in 2004, the protesters linked the Israeli actions toward Palestine with the US military occupation in Iraq. The mob then turned on American contract workers who happened to be driving down Fallujah's main street (which had just been renamed "Sheik Yassin Street" in honor of the fallen Palestinian leader), killing them and stringing up their charred corpses from the girders of a bridge. It was an image that hardened the resolve of US officials to punish and control Fallujah, which led to the invasion and decimation of the city later that year—actions that in turn increased the level of anti-Americanism among Iraqi insurgents.

So the support for Israel has had a direct effect in increasing the anti-American sentiment in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. Conversely, American support for Palestinian autonomy and a renewed effort by the U.S. to become engaged in the peace process would be seen as an attempt by America to be a problem solver rather than a problem maker in the region. It is disconcerting that during the recent Israeli attacks on Hamas in Gaza there has not been a more vocal expression of concern from the Obama camp. Though his administration will not be in a position to affect US policy until after the inauguration, they should appear poised to enter into the negotiations in a positive and fair-minded way, concerned not only about Israel's security—which it should be—but about the security and autonomy of the Palestinian people as well.

5. Take the moral high road and adhere to international standards of justice.

Perhaps the most enduring position the new administration can take to end the War on Terror is to elevate the discourse of international politics. This means in large part restoring America's image as a protector of human rights and international law. Both have been tarnished in the zealous antiterrorism tactics of the neo-con years of Bush foreign policy, and this has deeply damaged America's image throughout the world.

Soon after the revelations of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib, a well-educated woman who taught at Baghdad University asked me, "How can the U.S. expect Iraq to adhere to human rights when it doesn't do so itself?" Though she had hated Saddam, she told me, she was disheartened to see the U.S. stoop to some of his standards.

The Iraqi woman had a good point, and illustrated the fact that by relaxing our standards of justice and human rights we helped to make enemies out of those who might otherwise have been our friends. Rather than diminishing the threat of terror, it was one of the factors that promoted anti-Americanism and made terrorism possible. Practices of torture and imprisonment without trial have helped to enlarge the image of America as an evil enemy.

The Obama administration would be well counseled to restore the standards of international justice and human rights that were reduced in the name of the War on Terror. For one thing the most pernicious aspects of the anti-terrorism legislation should be repealed. Torture in any form should never be acceptable, and the incarceration facilities at Guantanamo Bay should be closed. Persons accused of abetting in terrorist acts need to be held accountable for their actions, of course, but in the same way that any person involved in a criminal act is held accountable and brought to justice.

These five courses of action will help to diminish the spiral of violence associated with the War on Terror. They will not obliterate all acts of terrorism, however, since there will always be lone acts of extremists who will try to goad us into responses that will magnify their importance and spread their view of the world. Terrorism has become a tool of those disaffected with authority, and it would be as difficult to eradicate all forms of terrorism as to do away with all forms of handguns.

It would be prudent not to overreact to incidents of terrorism when they occur in the future, however. Following the Good Friday Agreement that ended the troubles in Northern Ireland, a rogue band of IRA extremists who were unhappy with what they thought was a sell-out by their own leader instigated a bloody act of terror in the town of Omagh. To the credit of the British and Northern Irish authorities, however, they did not let this incident affect the agreement that they had signed, and they treated the incident as a criminal act undertaken by a few extremists rather than the expression of a mass movement.

The War on Terror will come to a close when America takes the high road in international affairs, and does not exaggerate its response to the provocation of a few. Some aspects of the strategy to end the War on Terror will be difficult. Removing US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan will take time and effort, and engaging in the peace process between Israel and Palestine will involve a great deal of diplomatic maneuvering.

Other aspects of the end to the War on Terror will be more easy to accomplish, and can be done as soon as the new Obama administration is installed. Among them will be an end to the phrase "war on terror," words that indicate a long-term engagement with ideological positions that are not easily changed. That's the kind of stagnant thinking that Obama has pledged to overcome. It is time to stop thinking and acting as if the world was at war.

Mark Juergensmeyer is director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, and Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State.