The Monster Within…. By John Steppling

Sent to me by Jason Miller from Thomas Paine’s Corner. Thanks, Jason.

By John Steppling

I start with the above links. And they really need to be read.

Now, this isn’t about who to vote for so much as it’s about the deteriorating of the American psyche, and the colonizing of consciousness that goes with it.

The absurdity of a Melanie Phillips, and her naked racism should, I would think, be obvious to any sentient being. She cites loony Daniel Pipes, a perfect reflection of her ideology.

The FOX news piece is funny because the implications are that to read something that others find unacceptable is tantamount to a crime.

And so we come to the attacks on Obama as a Muslim. I’ve said before that this election has made race a pivotal idea again in the national ongoing narrative. But it’s not just that Obama is black; it’s that his name is sort of, uh, funny. And this has allowed the Muslim hatred to surface in a new form.

Gary Leupp, always worth reading, makes points about Bill Ayers. These are obvious in a sense, but not to Middle America. The hatred is palpable out there. And the lack of education is stunning……as George Monbiot recently cited. It’s a nation of deeply compromised thinkers. The average American has no curiosity, has no historical perspective, and seems addicted to the most reductive and jingoistic formulaic thought. The contradictions are so extreme that it’s hard to keep up with them. Muslim is now short hand for evil.

But this presidential race — by virtue of Obama’s race — has become about memory. The memory of Indonesian genocide and about the black power movement and about civil rights and about Viet Nam. And it’s, as Monbiot points out, about education. Intellect is seen as weakness. The prototypical American myth is about the man of action. A man of few words and an emotionally dead man. But never mind, as long as he can shoot and hunt and get things done. The point is not to ask what those things are, for that would be weakness. This is a myth created for a young country. The frontiersman, the gunfighter; Daniel Boone and Billy the Kid. And the marketing has intensified this myth over the last forty years. Couple this with the destruction of public education and the growing Pentecostal movement, and it’s a perfect storm of mass ignorance and resentment.

Now there is certainly a backlash against this marketed reality, but it strikes me as a pretty mediated backlash. The suspicion of intellect is deeply rooted in US consciousness. If one examines popular culture, Hollywood for example, one sees villains are often intellectuals. The hero or protagonist is usually a man of action, and hence a man to be trusted. Even in academic circles one gets a feeling of this mythology at work.

Corporate America sells lifestyles. Branding. It’s easier to reinforce the stupid then it is to sell intelligence. Beer commercials are always about how it’s just fine to be half in the bag and dumb. Homer Simpson. It’s the frat boy paradigm, which in the UK is lad culture. Marketing would be self defeating if it demanded you achieve something, demanded rigor in thought and asked for an informed political culture. So it doesn’t. It sells products by virtue of branding, and that means identification. It sells *reaction*.

This brings us back to the political theatre of the US presidential elections. The Christian Right is rallying around Palin and finding a justification for its deep seated resentments and fears. It is a form of McCarthyism. And McCain is a perfect poster boy in many ways for the militaristic hero trope — only his senility and general lack of attractiveness get in the way. There seem to be splits within splits now in the US. Obama is both black and someone who reads. An empire that is clutching at the final few straws of denial cannot tolerate, in addition to a perceived intellect, the fact that he is black. AND that he has that funny international history. For most Americans Indonesia couldn’t be found on a map. Sarah Palin couldn’t find it; I guarantee you. And I wonder if McCain could. Kenya? The same.

To remember civil rights now brings up white America’s sense of being put upon. The destruction of unions and the general loss of jobs and security must seem too much. The marketed promises haven’t been kept. Reagan was wrong, and all this claptrap about the fall of Communism, and a shining light on a hill, or whateverthefuckever that phrase was, has turned out to be the sub-prime crisis and a jillion dollar national debt and maybe a black president. That wasn’t the how the script was supposed to go.

Now this is all being rather simplistic I know. But then the national discourse has become simplistic. When people like Pipes and John Bolton, or Rush Limbaugh or David Brooks are creating the world view, then real analysis and historical awareness won’t happen. Bill Kristol now writes for the biggest paper in the US. BILL KRISTOL? Think about that. A man of such limited intellect and such a jingoistic racism that in a normal universe he would be safely kept out of sight by his family.

For the last fifty years US foreign policy has supported the worst dictators in the world. The US has fought a constant war against the forces of humanity and tolerance. If it wasn’t good for corporate business, then it was to be destroyed. The millions of dead in Viet Nam, in Indonesia, in Africa and the Middle East …. in Central America and South America are simply not mentioned. For an increasingly insular and defensive population the idea that the US installed a monster like Pinochet is impossible to accept. The Shah? Somoza? Rioss Mont? Duvalier? The marketed reality is a Manichean one. Good vs. Bad, and *we* are good. Period. And fuck off if you don’t agree.

Genuine class consciousness still seems a long way off. My ongoing beef with Trotskyist leftists is this fantasy world they promote. Hand out newspapers and explain why you won’t vote for Obama, and etc. The death of the American Empire is at hand, no question about it. It can’t be sustained. Here in Europe there is a general unease coupled to an acceptance that international finance will be changing and those vacations on far flung beaches may now be spent a few hundred kilometers away at a local park.

Change must start with a change in consciousness. The culture must change. The corporate media must be ignored and people must slowly, gradually, look to their community. World revolution isn’t going to happen. Obama is better, on all levels, than McCain. Sure, he’s a Democrat and Biden is scum, but he might be smart enough to stop the collective denial of Empire and because he once listened to guys like Khalidi, he might understand the madness a tiny bit better.

The system is still the system, and it’s predicated on exploitation, and that won’t change tomorrow. But on an environmental precipice stands mankind. McCain and Palin and Bush and Cheney and all the rest will never act at all in response, for they cannot. They are too psychically disfigured and have been too long cut off from reality. Obama might be able to react. A small bit anyway, and maybe later more. I don’t know. The attacks on him as a far left Muslim Marxist are absurd, but maybe such demonic fantasies suggest a truth. Maybe under that corporate DNC veneer is something hibernating, a horrible Marxist monster after all. We can only hope.

Senior Editor of Arts and Culture with Cyrano’s Journal Online, playwright, director, screenwriter and teacher, John Steppling was an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival and has had his plays produced in London, LA, New York, Paris, San Francisco, and Poland. Steppling lives in Lodz with Norwegian director Gunnhild Skrodal, and teaches at the Polish National Film School. He co-edits with Guy Zimmerman Cyrano’s celebrated VOXPOP blog on theater, cinema & politics.

Author’s Postscript:

This link suggests another aspect:

And Richard Seymour brings this:

Perhaps Obama has created something of an awakening in the working class. It may be small, as I said above, and heavily mediated by a number of factors, but it’s fascinating to see the possibilities. I would again raise the issue of race. If class consciousness is starting to appear, it’s starting to appear through the lens of race.


McCain and Israel’s Bombing of the U.S.S. Liberty

The Daily Show: Goin’ Rogue

This Is The Lowest McCain Has Sunk Yet By Juan Cole + video

Dr. J.’s Short Takes: Negative Advertising v. Negative Advertising, On to ACORN, Kristol v. Kristol

Jane Mayer on “The Insiders: How John McCain Came to Pick Sarah Palin”

Don’t tell my mother I work at the White House. She thinks I play the piano in a whore house. by William Blum

Presidential elections: planning for the worst By Roland Michel Tremblay




Jesus Freak Fascism By John Steppling

Dandelion Salad

Sent to me by Jason Miller from Thomas Paine’s Corner. Thanks, Jason.

By John Steppling

Watch all eight episodes of this interview. Continue reading

Let’s see – what’s the prevailing master narrative for these shows? By John Steppling

Dandelion Salad

Sent to me by Jason Miller from Thomas Paine’s Corner. Thanks, Jason.

By John Steppling

The theatrical circus of electoral politics has reached the home stretch — meaning the TV phase of the candidate popularity contest.

In an age when people more or less watch TV 24 hours a day, although often (if not almost always) in a highly passive manner, the corporate media has reacted to this fact by adjusting its product to become a constant stream of advertising, with sound bite dramatic or comedy narratives interspersed.

The excellence of a show like The Wire notwithstanding, the basic network and cable format is to just run this stream of PR, non-news and seriously dumbed-down infomercials on a 24/7 basis. Given this, the current Presidential race is approached with more cogency from the meta-narrative level.

Since the debates require zero information actually be communicated regarding the alleged topics of interest, the actual horse race is won in the realm of surface perceptions and *feelings*. This brings me to Sarah Palin, way before I get to Barry and John. Sarah Palin’s three interviews have been so mind numbingly disastrous, that one almost feels sorry for the fundamentalist beauty pageant runner up. This is a woman better suited to ok your checks at Tesco, or greet you as you enter a four star hotel on some resort island and hand you a comp ticket to the evening’s buffet dinner. She is painfully and visibly stupid. She is also an unpleasant person. Reagan always struck me as senile, as far back as 20 Mule Team Borax ads and certainly as governor of California. But he was affable. To most people, anyway. This was always a surprise to me, for such affability has always, in my experience, cloaked a mean-spirited pettiness. Beware the affable! Anyway, by the time we get to Clinton we see a deeply disingenuous narcissist, but with Bush Sr. we enter the realm of east coast mandarins………those nasty pinched WASP souls that inhabit the rich enclaves of places like Kennebunkport. I always tried to imagine the dinner table scenes of the Bush family, half drunk, nasty, and without any warmth from the turkey-necked monster of a mother for dumb George Jr.

But Clinton seemed affable, and Bush Sr. seemed, well, not Dukakis I guess. Perceptions are curious in an age of media marketed reality. The PR firms go out and create a persona. The point is that such personas bear little connection to reality. It’s what is projected through the medium of television. People have been trained now for several decades to interpret television via a marketed perspective — and the constant stream of talking head commentary is there to reinforce an established national narrative. When one looks at who talks the most on major media outlets, one sees very conservative people, if not outright reactionary and racist nut cases. One does not ever see the left. When an Al Franken or that goof who sits opposite Hannity are marketed as *the left,* there is an obvious distortion. But provide enough chatter from Bill Kristol or David Broder or whomever, and keep airing the far right in the person of Ann Coulter or Krauthammer or whomever, and you provide legitimacy for racism and crypto fascism. Meet the Press, or the McLaughlin group. Let’s see— what’s the prevailing master narrative for these shows?

Now most people don’t even watch news, or if they do they grab ten minutes while eating dinner or while seated at the sports bar. “Someone turn the god damn channel! We want ESPN not CNN!”

So the short hand is really hyper short hand. This is why the attack dog campaigns work so well. Swift Boating Kerry and now Obama is a Muslim or a Marxist. These distortions gain traction because they are very easy to digest. McCain is a war hero…….easy. Palin is a hockey mom, spunky and kinda hot too…..easy.

The fact is that this debate was about exactly nothing. Or rather, it was about telegenic perceptions and impressions. Mostly impressions that are carried below the individual’s conscious radar. And on that note, McCain is not doing well. What most people took away, even supporters I suspect, was an old grumpy man with a nasty yellow toothed smirk and a strangely wandering left eye. Obama coasts along on a pleasant baritone voice. And Obama seems sane, one has to say, and that can’t be said for John and Sarah.

This brings me back to a television culture in general. The corporate media is distinctly right wing. When the best news is Jon Stewart, a comedy show, you know things have become quite strange. A debate that did NOT include any questions about Africa and nothing about the sheer violence of American Imperialism (the occupation of Iraq is assumed as a given–something that will not be and cannot be questioned) is indeed a totally managed reality. Imperialists will usually move to a neighboring country when the occupied one resists too much. Hence, Pakistan seems next, and likely Iran. But nothing of real substance was asked about any of this. The Wall Street debacle wasn’t examined — the Service Employees International Union has suggested a plan that would invest massively in public services and health care and include reforms preventing foreclosures that would demand banks deal a bit with their bad loans. Or you could just give the $700 billion to those homeowners….or better, use the $700 billion on health services.

But by virtue of the fact that the media controls most people’s thought processes these sorts of questions are never asked, and if they were floated out there most people would react to them as if they were insane scenarios. Now, it is true that a majority of Americans think the bailout plan is bad, but these very rational feelings are quickly neutralized by the media onslaught. Same with troop withdrawal. I mean this is easy; central command issues an order and everyone comes home. To try and obscure the absolute clarity and simplicity of this with hand wringing (the Euston manifesto liberals come to mind) about a blood bath, etc, is another conditioned reflex created by the media. People may instinctively think the occupation is wrong, but again such feelings are *officially* discounted by the mainstream media narrative.

Does the average US citizen ever hear a reasoned discussion of Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez? Or of Lukashenko and Belarus, let alone Putin? Do they hear about Rwanda and Kagame, or about Musaveni? Do talking heads reflect back on Pinochet or the death squads in Central America– trained by the CIA? Does the Capital Gang talk about CIA covert ops that put the loathsome Shah in power in Iran? Do American TV viewers ever hear about Iranian history? For that matter, do they hear about the Stern gang and King David Hotel bombing? Do they hear about Suharto and the coup in Indonesia? The answer is of course, *no*. The prevailing discourse is about American exceptionalism, and even the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are deemed acts of patriotism that ***saved*** lives. There are plenty of people who distrust these official media storylines, but this distrust is usually couched in a simple cynicism, and such cynicism is an easily co-opted idea. As Adorno said, cynicism is just another mode of conformity. The mainstream corporate media allow token opposition, so long as it does not stray outside the bourgeois parameters of this prevailing narrative. So millions tune into these debates expecting nothing more than a chance to get a look at Barry and John and see how *Presidential* they seem. Nothing more, because there is nothing more on display.

Do TV pundits ever talk of US deals with Hitler? Never a word, or of Stalin and the USSR’s courageous fight against fascism in WW2…..nothing. So we have this season’s debates and the talking head pundits blathering away. The most cogent analysis of Sarah Palin is that performed by Tiny Fey. The best news coverage is Stewarts.

Obama is human, but he is also a Democrat and saddled with that machine. One certainly hopes he wins, because there is a glimmer of promise in his humanity and in the symbolism of his race, but the real change cannot occur until a populace awakes from the bad dream of corporate newspeak. The frames within frames have established a fixed set of coordinates about our existence. From the myths of 9/11 to bullshit about spreading democracy and the demonizing of Muslims, the media machine chews up opposition as it chews up history and reality. Token leftists like Bill Maher or Keith Olbermann will still, in knee jerk stupidity, refer to Chavez as a thug and Venezuela as a rogue state. I forgive Obama a bit, because he is simply being a realistic Presidential candidate in this era of mass delusion. But can a population survive when it is so deeply brainwashed and so incapable of independent thought? I don’t know.

But hell, the vice presidential debates this week should provide, at the very least, the same strange and perverse pleasure one gets from watching a train wreck or a building being blown apart.

Senior Editor of Arts and Culture with Cyrano’s Journal Online, playwright, director, screenwriter and teacher, John Steppling was an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival and has had his plays produced in London, LA, New York, Paris, San Francisco, and Poland. Steppling lives in Lodz with Norwegian director Gunnhild Skrodal, and teaches at the Polish National Film School. He co-edits with Guy Zimmerman Cyrano’s celebrated VOXPOP blog on theater, cinema & politics.


Dr. J.’s Commentary: Bill Kristol’s McCain Rx (but is it covered by Medicare?)

Joe Biden & Sarah Palin Vice Presidential Debate

No Debate: Secret Control of Presidential Debates + The Ifill Truth: ALL the Debates are Biased!

Barack Obama and John McCain Presidential Debate 09.26.08




Pitbulls And Colonialist Ghosts By John Steppling

Dandelion Salad

Sent to me by Jason Miller from Thomas Paine’s Corner. Thanks, Jason.

photos at the original source

By John Steppling

Simulposted with The Greanville Journal

From Sartre’s beautiful introduction to Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth:

“Europeans, you must open this book and enter into it. After a few steps in the darkness you will see strangers gathered around a fire; come close, and listen, for they are talking of the destiny they will mete out to your trading-centres and to the hired soldiers who defend them. They will see you, perhaps, but they will go on talking among themselves, without even lowering their voices. This indifference strikes home: their fathers, shadowy creatures, your creatures, were but dead souls; you it was who allowed them glimpses of light, to you only did they dare speak, and you did not bother to reply to such zombies. Their sons ignore you; a fire warms them and sheds light around them, and you have not lit it. Now, at a respectful distance, it is you who will feel furtive, nightbound and perished with cold. Turn and turn about; in these shadows from whence a new dawn will break, it is you who are the zombies.”

Now, I quote this because I’ve been pondering my own reactions to the Republican National Convention.

And my growing awareness of the symbolic importance of Barack Obama’s black face.

And white little John McCain and Sarah Palin — the zombies.

Now, I have no illusions, trust me, about what Obama can achieve, but after sitting through chunks of the RNC, I found myself pondering exactly how lost and putrid US society has become. From Reagan to Clinton to Bush to ….McCain? Speeches from the likes of Rudy Guliani, Fred Thompson, and Joe Lieberman — the scum found under rocks. The zombie nation. The white colonial tradition, joined at the hip in our *post colonial* world to rabid Christian fundamentalists and an Israeli murder state. King Leopold is long gone, but Kagame and Musaveni live on, and not so long ago Mobutu and all the rest of the sub-contracted killers for Empire.

Now, again, Obama’s foreign policy seems hardly different, and the choice of Joe Biden is particularly telling in this respect, but when the alternative is pure concentrate of insanity, a pure ignoble force of destruction, then one must pause. Obama is not Colin Powell, nor is he Condi Rice, for they don’t count. They are not black. [As George Carlin reminded us, “They are white people who happen to be black..”] I was made aware of this during the Rev. Wright pseudo scandal when so many white American men I know complained about Obama and his attendance in Wright’s black church. Never a word about Hagee, or even now about the whackjob backwater church of hate that Pitbull Palin attends — no, it was a constant litany of complaint about tenuous linkage to Farrakhan and to Wright’s *anti Americanism*. But see, that isn’t what was really going on, because what was really going on was the terror of having to look in the mirror — to look at white America and its deadness. Black America is still alive…..despite the forces of co-option, and while the likes of George Jackson and James Carr and Huey Newton and MLK are gone, done away with like Lumumba or Malcolm, or other dark skinned movements….from the Sandinistas to such seemingly benign personages as Allende or Mossadegh, there is still a heartbeat of life that you can’t find in McCain’s household or in Palin’s.

Fanon said Europe had had it…was doomed. Well, yes, in the sense he meant, but certainly by any measurement the doom can be seen to have spread and intensified today in the US. Black churches are awash in music and life. And that includes Wright’s. Obama likes The Wire, which is almost enough reason to vote for him. He is dancing along as a puppet, it’s true, and Biden is the gatekeeper for liberal white America in this respect. But still…

Still, the slight, though legitimate connection Obama has to black culture is vitally important. Sarah Palin is the distillation of all that is wrong with America. A mean-spirited half-educated former beauty queen runner up — a snarky loathsome force of reaction, a mendacious bigot and lover of death… running alongside the semi-retarded (and semi senile) son of an Admiral. McCain is perhaps even more stupid than Bush, although such classifications are meaningless when IQ drops below the Mendoza line. Together they form such a vortex of bad faith and anger that nothing I’ve ever seen comes close.

Kenin Malik observed, after 9-11, that the real question is not “why do they hate us, but rather why do we hate ourselves?”

Yes, well, we can start with the genocide of Native Americans, and move on to slavery, and to colonialism and Hiroshima and the endless anti-communist hysteria of the last fifty years that cost millions of lives across the planet. America cannot heal its deep psychic wounds by pretending McCain/Palin is at all in any way different from King Leopold or Lord Kitchener. Will Obama as President begin something of a process of healing? No, I think that’s too much to ask. Look at his advisors, and you see a lot of the same faces of Empire….and his political vision seems as truncated as that of Clinton, and yet, still…..

Malik again…

“The Western tradition is not Western in any essential sense, but only through an accident of geography and history. Indeed, Islamic learning provided an important resource for both the Renaissance and the development of science. The ideas we call ‘Western’ are in fact universal, laying the basis for greater human flourishing. That is why for much of the past century radicals, especially third world radicals, recognised that the problem of imperialism was not that it was a Western ideology, but that it was an obstacle to the pursuit of the progressive ideals that arose out of the Enlightenment.”

The demonizing of Muslims, Serbs, Russians, and domestically of inner city Latino and black teens is all of a piece. Obama might at least stop two of these, and one would hope more. In the end Barry Obama isn’t going to change shit, but at least I won’t have to look at McCain and his brain-dead beer heiress wife, and I won’t have to listen to Sarah Palin at all ….. and maybe just having a black face sitting behind that big ass desk in the oval office will make me feel better. Maybe it has some residual good karma, I don’t know. I do know that in the end my vote is more for myself. I don’t think the great follies of electoral theatre amount to much, and Obama has been as war hungry as anyone ….. but maybe it’s for me. It’s just this bad dream I can’t awake from, the flesh-crawling feelings of unease I get when I see a photo of Sarah Palin, or I have to hear the Republican base mouth what amount to naked racist rhetoric in the guise of virtuous Imperialism. Or see John McCain staring with that empty numb glare of those with terminal emotional disfigurement, loss of affect, sociopaths, those without souls …. the walking dead, the zombies. The US is already largely a nation of zombies …. but maybe having the face of those who had in the not too distant past toiled in plantation fields, or shined shoes, or who were hung from trees…having that face hang in every office building in the country, in every court house and in every embassy around the world….maybe that is enough reason to vote for Obama.

Senior Editor John Steppling currently resides in Lodz, Poland, where he teaches at the Polish Film Institute. The main archive of his articles may be found at VOXPOP, Cyrano’s blog area devoted to theater, cinema and politics, which he co-edited with Guy Zimmerman.


No Wolf Whistles for Sarah Palin’s Compassion by Walter Brasch

From “Dominion” to Domination: The Duplicity and Complicity of Matthew Scully

God Does Love the Republicans By Steven Jonas + Bible Thumper

The Daily Show: Sarah Palin Gender Card

Palin, a bold move or reckless choice? + Palin blackens Russia’s name

John McCain Speaking at the RNC

Sarah Palin’s Speech at the RNC

The Great Circus By John Steppling

Dandelion Salad

Sent to me by Jason Miller from Thomas Paine’s Corner. Thanks, Jason.

By John Steppling

A few thoughts on the electoral theatre that is upon us.

First, the most obvious and glaring reality of US politics is that only the very, very rich participate. This single fact really should give one pause, should give everyone who actually works for a living pause. As one old Wobbly put it, there are two kinds of people in the world, those who work and those who don’t.

Now, John McCain, like Kerry, got most of his money via his second wife …. after dumping his first one. Cyndi is a beer heiress, and if McCain were to be elected, and I think he will be, he will the first US president to have signed a pre-nuptial agreement. Anyway, the McCains spend, for household employees, $273,000 (in 2007), according to John McCain’s tax returns. The butler and maid budget for a single year exceeds a decade’s income for most Americans.

McCain is the son of an admiral, and finished near bottom of his graduating class at Annapolis. I’m just stringing together a few details here. And now Obama has chosen among the creepiest and most vile men in American government as his running mate: Joe Biden. Both Biden and Obama are millionaires by the by, albeit minor league—so far. Anyway, Biden is a longtime foreign policy hawk. A big supporter of the Clintonian bombing of Belgrade, and the guy who tossed off the idea of creating three small statelets in Iraq — partioning the country along ethnic and religious lines. He was also guilty of plagiarism a while back, and if you want a better look at Joe, watch the fine documentary on Waco, and see his craven apology for ATF actions that resulted in the burning to death of children and women. The man is a ghoul. Also, check out Cockburn’s piece on Biden here:

What strikes one about this carnival is the degree to which this narrative has become entrenched — the political follies, the circus of conventions and empty speeches. Now, let’s also note the increasingly draconian policing of these conventions ( So we have a theatre of abstract rhetoric and managed perceptions, of jillionaires who pretend there is a real difference between what they say.

Now, if you asked me do I think Obama would be less harmful than McCain, I would answer yes. In the sense that liver biopsy is better than root canal. And I do grant that at the least, and this about all I will grant, his black face is the first genuine or authentic black face in US politics (well, maybe Marian Berry). Yes, I do. But again, why do people accept an elite class telling them what to do? Why is there a nostalgia for the Romanovs, or for a Kiplingesque colonial landscape? Why? One sees countless reflections of this in popular culture, certainly. The nostalgia for colonial empire is reflected in every Harry Potter spinoff one can find, and certainly in films like Sex & the City or even Dark Knight. The rich are deserving of our attention, and the rich are what *we* wish we could be. A list of top political figures, Rudy Giuliani, Dick Cheney, the Bushes, Kerry, Romney, Biden, Clinton, Gore, McCain; what do they share? They share extreme wealth.

In film today Bruce Wayne is exactly one of these men, except he gets tricked out in tights and mask at night to practice vigilantism, to take the law into his own hands…..well, sort of like Cheney and Bush, actually. I return again and again to the simplistic narrative at work. For a film like Dark Knight it’s almost (as Le Colonel Chabert put it on her blog) a high school drama with the rich jock and the outcast nerd (the Joker). One might additionally see The Joker as something of a collective unconsious projection of self loathing. This comic book level narration is carried on regards Russia/Georgia and even Iraq and Iran. It’s the total failure of class consciousness. It’s the result, now, of the absolute destruction of public education (not that US education, or even western education, was ever much more than a control mechanism) and of the satisfying of *needs* by advanced capital — or in part, the illusion thereof. The relations under monopoly capital are increasingly relations of the market, and not really work.

Here is Marcuse, circa 1972:

“The Western world has reached a new stage of development: now, the defense of the capitalist system requires the organization of counterrevolution at home and abroad. In its extreme manifestations, it practices the horrors of the Nazi regime. Wholesale massacres in Indonesia, the Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Sudan are unleashed against everything which is called *communist* or which is in revolt against governments subservient to the imperialist countries. Cruel persecution prevails in the Latin American countries under fascist and military dictatorships. Torture has become a normal instrument of interrogation around the world. The agony of religious wars revives at the height of Western civilization and a constant flow of arms from the rich to the poor countries helps to perpetuate the oppression of national and social liberation.”

Remember, this was written over thirty years ago. Was also written the year Joe Biden began his career in US government.

So, in light of Joe Biden’s VP appearance, in light of crazy John McCain and whatever rich prick he chooses to run with, we have, essentially, more of the same. Even if an Obama actually wanted to change something, he couldn’t.

The populace internalizes the accepted comic book narrative; the rich are rich because they are virtuous, and the poor are poor because they are stupid. Oh, some of the poor might one day *make it*, one out of a million, and this narrative will also be held up and included in the managed reality of today’s western world. The master discourse says we all have a chance to become Sam Walton, we could all become President, if we only had an Admiral for a father or married an heiress, or were telegenic enough and compliant enough to do the bidding of the military industrial complex.

Monopoly capitalism defuses change via the narrative it continues, ever more hysterically, to thrust upon the public. I often ask myself why anyone actually fights in Iraq? Do people actually believe they are spreading democracy? Whateverthefuckever that is. Or do they think they are protecting the United States from an evil Islamic scourge, a future caliphate? Is that possible? I suppose it is, since people also believe every other narrative at work in this giant spectacle of counterrevolution that is modern American culture. Gaither Stewart’s fine piece here at TGJ on Stalin is a worthy attempt to counter these received *truths*. If Ronald Reagan can be enshrined as a great man — a hack actor, a reactionary and prematurely senile sock puppet, can actually find traction as a *great man* then anything is possible. Churchill was an elitist colonial racist pig — but how many people have bothered to read some of Winnie’s speeches to Parliament from his early years. He advocated the gassing of natives, as a perfectly reasonable policy. Saddam is a monster because he *gassed* the Kurds (assuming he did) but Churchill is considered one of the great leaders of the 20th century. The western appeasement of Hitler is totally forgotten, and the new re-write of history has Stalin and those horrid Soviets as the evil Empire. Mao is a monster who didn’t bathe enough, and Castro is dictator, much like Chavez. Dropping nuclear bombs on civilian cities in Japan actually *saved* lives, so the narrative goes. Anything can be marketed, apparently. Saakashvilli as courageous democrat, the Mau Mau as crazed barbarians treated with firmness but fairness by the British, and Israel as an outpost of tolerance and progress and democracy in a sea of Muslim backwardness. Just color in the accepted storyline.

Today the individual in advanced capital is totally fragmented yet integrated (if we look at the broader perspective). He serves the system during both work (if he has it) and during leisure. Putting aside the growing and severly punished underclass, the modern individual is provided with (as Marcuse put it) “steered satisfaction of material needs*. The administered reality, the master discourse, serves to create a populace that produces and reproduces the values of the ruling class, of the system of domination. So, today we have the political party conventions, the illusion of real choice, and a further continuance of near complete servitude. The problem is that growing underclass. Advanced capital is finding it harder and harder to know what to do with them. In Kigali, or Lagos, in Jakarta or Mexico City, in Calcutta or Sao Paulo, the vast barrios and ghettos grow and grow again. In the US itself major cities find a spike in homelessness, and in the rural wasteland where agribusiness has destroyed all community farming and culture, there is an equivalent surplus populace with little to do but cook meth and strike out in random violence … hence a prison population that exceeds any in the world. But then, prison construction (and privatizing) is a rare growth industry.

It is time to stop accepting the *accepted* narrative. Political conventions are pure dog-and-pony shows. Protesters will be shuttled into holding tanks and cages, and corporate media will spin these orgies of meaningless abstraction as providing evidence of US democratic ideals and our shining exceptionalism.

Look at what is before you:

John McCain is insane. Literally and by any standard one could find. Barry Obama has revealed his lack of genuine or meaningful integrity by choosing bag man Joe Biden. Look at the speakers lined up for these circuses: Mark Warner, Rudy Guiliani, Al Gore and Dick Cheney. Look at these men. Check their bank accounts, and how they made that money. Look back at the Bush family, look all the way back to Prescott Bush.

Colonialism never ended. Fascism is alive. NATO is an organ of Imperialism, and the defense budget is over two billion a day. So when we get up in the morning to go to a job we don’t like, and to get paid a wage that barely, if it all, can support our family, and when ghouls like Cheney or Biden or Bush or Gordon Brown, or Sarko, or Angie Merkle are held up as anything other than what they are, empty cardboard cut outs created to mouth the platitudes of the prevailing class interests, try to look for the places where real change might take place. The police are there to protect property, not to protect you. Same with the military, which is there to further the economic hegemony of the imperial class. Trust none of it.

Senior Editor John Steppling currently resides in Lodz, Poland, where he teaches at the Polish Film Institute. The main archive of his articles may be found at VOXPOP, Cyrano’s blog area devoted to theater, cinema and politics, which he co-edited with Guy Zimmerman.


The Future That Never Comes; The Past That Never Was; The Present Inscrutable

Joe Biden: On the Issues by Lo

Andrew Bacevich: The end of American Exceptionalism

If I Were A Democrat Again, this is What I’d Tell Obama

Stalin, The Poet and Life’s Choices by Gaither Stewart

Inventing Your Own History As It Happens By John Steppling

Dandelion Salad

Sent to me by Jason Miller from Thomas Paine’s Corner. Thanks, Jason.

By John Steppling
Thomas Paine’s Corner

Simulposted with the Greanville Journal

THE NEW CONFLICT ALONG THE RUSSIAN BORDER suggests direct US support and perhaps even planning. But who knows to what extent. What is significant is the narrative being imposed on this event by western corporate media. Continue reading