Idiot Joy Showland

This is why I hate intellectuals

Month: March, 2012

Go Go Gingrich!

I’ve not really been all that kind to Newt Gingrich in this space. I’ve made extensive fun of his ridiculous name, I’ve suggested that his primary bid should be ruled void on the grounds that he’s quite clearly a fictional character, I’ve accused him of wanting to feed ordinary Americans into a massive meat grinder and of being in league with Satanic forces. I still stand by all of that; it’s all true. But since then I’ve become convinced that Gingrich really is the best candidate for the Republican nomination and the Presidency.

Why? Just take a look at the opposition. First of all there’s Viscount Willard Mitt de Pfeffel Smittley-Hortelswick Mulchflaps Romney III (that is, as far as I can tell, his actual name), who is eventually going to win the primary despite the fact that not a single person in America seems to actually like him. That a plutocrat – someone who’s transcended being merely obscenely rich and has now entered the arena of the downright pornographic – should have a hard time appealing to the Republican base seems implausible: these people are ideologically conditioned to see parasites like him as living embodiments of the American dream. I have a theory. Republican voters, like dogs, can detect ill intent through some olfactory sixth sense; they can’t quite explain why, but they know something isn’t right with him. And they’re right. Mitt Romney isn’t human. He’s a space alien, who has decided to take part in one of our Earth elections for some nefarious reason – as a sociological experiment, a test before our induction into the Galactic Confederation of Light, for an interplanetary TV comedy, as respite from the boredom of a thousand years drifting between the stars; these are all equally plausible explanations. It’s the only way to account for the rubbery latex quality of his skin, his blindingly false grin, his hastily suppressed look of fear and panic whenever he’s brought into contact with a member of the general public, his tendency to sing several verses of America the Beautiful a capella at every fucking campaign stop. His candidacy looks exactly like an extraterrestrial’s attempt to imitate a political campaign. He’s an alien. Where’s the birth certificate, Romney? On what planet did you spawn?

Then there’s the feisty young contender, Rick Santorum, who may not be physically wearing Mormon underwear but does seem to have elasticated cotton wrapped firmly around his cerebral cortex, whose family of Italian communists can’t stand him, who oozes like he just waddled out of an oil slick, who wears sweater vests in campaign commercials, who dresses his daughters like Victorian child prostitutes, who has the disjointed little grin of a Mark Heap character, whose virulent homophoia isn’t fooling anyone, who seems to honestly think he can somehow reintroduce heavy industry to the United States, who looks like he’s been faceshrunk by God, who has a name like Rick Santorum. Is this really what we’ve come to, as a species? Rick Santorum? Really?

Nobody seems to ever pay much attention to Ron Paul, so I won’t either. He’d make a decent lovably racist grandfather, I guess, but that’s about all he’s got going for him. He might make some good points about maybe not using the invasion of foreign countries as a substitute for there being anything good on TV, but his appeal loses some of its lustre when you realise that he wants to let states reinstitute segregation and proposed sending mercenaries to take potshots at Somalian pirates (or fishermen – they’re all in boats, right?). His voice isn’t even rich and warm like David Attenborough’s, as it ought to be; it’s a hideous nasal whine. Plus, the Internet seems to love him, which makes me instantly distrustful.

Finally, there’s Prince Gloom himself, Barack Obama… as lightning flashes around the White House of Solitude, the grey-haired Prince Gloom sits on his throne of skulls in the Oval Tower, his dry lips flapping as he surveys the wreckage of his realm. A mumbled sentence escapes his parched throat. Grand Vizier Biden leans in, but cannot understand him. The doleful prince repeats himself, over and over again, his eyes whirling, his bony arms flailing about, until his words fly forth in a parched roar: I never wanted it like this. Collapsing into howls of anguish, the Prince gazes upon his portrait on the wall: the young¬† man who smiles from it now seems a terrifying and sinister stranger. He is being mocked. Joe, he hisses.¬†Joe. Order a drone strike on that man. Maybe once Candidate Obama is reduced to a few grisly splatterings of blood and flesh, Prince Gloom will be able to find some peace…

If there’s one thing the Obama presidency has demonstrated, it’s that whatever their good intentions (and, to be honest, I’m pretty sceptical about Obama’s – his whole hope ‘n’ change shtick has the ring of some greasy PR company), elected officials can’t really get that much important stuff done. There are so many extrademocratic institutions put in place by the oligarchs operating the machinery behind the electoral spectacular that actually changing anything is all but impossible – and Obama didn’t even really try. And yet despite this millions of previously disillusioned lefty types are gearing up to vote for Obama again, not because he actually did anything, but because look how crazy the other guys are. It doesn’t matter. Just like how no Democrat is actually going to dismantle the military-industrial complex or create a single-payer healthcare system or start reacting seriously to climate change, no Republican is going to overturn Roe vs Wade or hunt down every undocumented migrant or institute capital punishment for adultery. It’s an elaborate spectacle, made to keep people voting, because if they keep voting, then power can maintain its pretences to legitimacy. That’s why I’ve not really paid much attention here to the actual policies of the various candidates: they don’t matter.

And that’s why I’m officially endorsing Newt Gingrich for President. Obama, in the days before he became Prince Gloom, fooled us all for a while with his grinning platitudes, but it could never last. Newt Gingrich is avaricious, venal, petty, grotesquely fat, repulsively libidinous, and gloriously vile. He has none of the glossy sheen of Romney or Santorum or Obama. He is unencumbered by bullshit. He divorces his wives while they receive treatment in hospital, he leers like a creepy uncle, he says monstrous things to hooting applause. Newt Gingrich turns ugliness into high art. He has perfected the aesthetics of the grotesque. Like it or not, he is the real face of America.

In an election full of simpering clones, Newt Gingrich is the only real human being. He won’t win, of course, because nobody really likes looking at themselves in the mirror. But as long as he stays in the race, he’ll remain an unpleasant reminder of what we all really are. God bless Newt Gingrich.

Kony 2012: what Africa really needs is More White People

Invisible Children. Pictured, left to right: a young Christopher Hitchens, Rambo’s weedy nephew, and Count von Count.

I’m sorry, but everything about this campaign is straight-up dumb.

Better blogs than this one have pointed out that Invisible Children, the charity behind the Kony 2012 campaign, only allocates 32% of its funds to charitable work, and have commented on the nature of its connections with the less than savoury government of Uganda and with war profiteers in the finance-capital establishment. It’s also true that the campaign maintains an undue focus on one (admittedly despicable) individual, excluding the broader social and geopolitical causes, and comes at a time when a peace process is already underway. The image used of the Republican elephant and Democratic donkey combining to form a white dove is frankly nauseating. I won’t waste too much space saying what’s already been said.

The thing is, I’m not too sure if anything in the campaign is really all that worthwhile. One of its main stated aims is ‘raising awareness.’ People should indeed be aware of the awful and tragic things happening outside the walls of their safe first-world homes. It’s important that we are forced to confront the fact that the coltan in our our jabscreens is mined by slave labourers in Congo, that the recycling we get so much self-satisfaction out of is being sorted by children in China, that our tax money is funding torture and apartheid abroad. But does spending vast sums of money on ‘raising awareness’ about the LRA really help? Does the fact that trendy bourgeois types are now tangentially aware that there is a place called Uganda and bad things are happening there as they sip their lattes actually constitute any kind of meaningful achievement? There’s a strange kind of self-absorption at work here: if there’s a problem in the third world, what we need to do is raise awareness in the first.

And this is, of course, because we Westerners have agency, and Africans don’t. This is one of the central underlying assumptions of all these movements, and it’s something that’s incredibly damaging. African populations are essentially denied any kind of self-determination or capacity for mass action, they’re reduced to pitiful, suffering objects. Things happen to them, they can never do anything themselves. They are turned into voids, with pleading, abyssal eyes. And into that void we as Westerners must project our sympathy, our duty, our humanity. We must act, because they cannot. We must intervene.

This is where we really need to think twice. All this really constitutes is a white man’s burden for the 21st Century. It’s dehumanising, paternalistic, and – however well-meaning – racist. If you dig back deep enough into the history of any problem faced by Africa today, you’ll find a bunch of white people, in the jungle, posing with guns, just like the berks above. Invisible Children are unapologetic in their advocacy for intervention. They want US military involvement in Uganda. They want American funding and arms for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. They want the people of the West to use their agency to call for humanitarian imperialism. In other words, they’re using the new-found clout they’ve gained from the emotional response generated by a genuine human tragedy to propose the absolute dumbest solution possible.

Of course, it’s easy for me to sit on my throne of cynicism and disparage people who are trying to make some positive change. What, after all, have I ever done for Africa? Fuck-all nothing, that’s what. But the idea that I have some capacity to make change that African people don’t needs to be interrogated. The myth of the sufferer without agency powers only imperialist intervention, and such intervention tends to be disastrous. As Thomas Sankara (perhaps the greatest leader of 20th Century Africa) showed, liberated Africans are capable of solving their problems. The one thing Africa does not need is more interference from more white people.

EDIT: I initially (erroneously) wrote that IC spends 31% of its funds on charitable work in Africa. This has been amended.

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