Idiot Joy Showland

This is why I hate intellectuals

Tag: international politics

Newt Gingrich is an invented person

Newt Gingrich is an invented person. How could he not be? His name sounds like something inbetween Charles Dickens and Dr Seuss, he appears to have been drawn by a failed caricaturist or an elephant holding a paintbrush in its trunk, he has, to my knowledge, never once done anything to suggest that he’s an actual living human being with the kind of moral and psychological complexities that only storybook villains seem able to go without. But for some unfathomable reason people allow this fictional character to hold political office, and to appear on TV so he can engorge his throat sac at the viewing public. And on Friday, Newt was happily croaking away on the Jewish Channel when his gular burps arranged themselves into a series of incredibly stupid words:

INTERVIEWER: Now on Israel, do you consider yourself a Zionist?

NEWT: Well, I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state, and I believe that the commitments that were made at a time- remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places. And for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and I think it’s tragic.

I want to briefly address this idea, because besides being jaw-droppingly moronic, it’s also fairly commonly espoused by Zionists (who are, to be fair, always big fans of long-discredited ideas – I remember being constantly fed the old canard about Arab radio broadcasts rather than Jewish ethnic cleansing causing the mass depopulation of Palestinian villages during the 1948 war, and this at a relatively liberal peacenik-y synagogue; and Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial is still cited as a source by Zionist commentators such as Alan Dershowitz despite its patent nonsense about a ‘country without a people’ being extensively debunked).

I don’t know what kind of definition of ‘people’ our bloated newty friend is using, but it’s a pretty weird one. Of course the notion of a Palestinian people is an invented one. So is that of an Israeli people, an American people, an English people, whatever. I thought it was common knowledge to everyone who hasn’t just stepped out of a time machine from the 19th Century that all ethnic identities are social constructs (although if Newt had just arrived in our time from the days of scientific racism that would certainly explain his economic policies). Unless you’re the kind of swivel-eyed lunatic that goes around measuring people’s cranial sizes it should be pretty obvious that ethnicity doesn’t have any real objective basis. It’s a matter of self-identification, and if a group considers itself to be a distinct people, then that’s exactly what it is. End of.

More to the point, though, even if there wasn’t a distinct Palestinian identity before 1948, so what? Is it then alright to ethnically cleanse them, occupy their ancestral lands, deny them self-determination, bomb them at sporadic intervals, tear down their houses and villages, shoot their peaceful demonstrators in the face with tear gas canisters, import and protect a population of settlers that burns their fields and abuses them on the street, subject them to an extensive system of apartheid, enact blockades that turn their meagre scraps of territory into the world’s biggest prison camp – all because their national identity doesn’t have the same long pedigree as yours does?

If the Incredible Newt is allowed to declare by fiat that the Palestinians are not a people, then I can do the same to him. Newt Gingrich is not a person. He’s a delusion, a collective hallucination. And, of course, invented beings can hardly claim human rights. They certainly shouldn’t be allowed to run for President.

Morgendämmerung des Technokraten

Mario Monti should be constitutionally obligated to wear BDSM fetish gear for every public appearance.

Seriously, who the fuck is this guy? Mario Monti is a personality void, a lurching zombie, a big ol’ sack o’ jowls and rheumy eyes. Nobody with such a bouncily alliterative name should be allowed to be so boring. Gordon Brown, you can tell, likes the odd pint of bitter. Jimmy Carter had his weird thing with peanuts. Whatever, it’s a hobby. What does Mario Monti do for fun? Did Mario Monti ever have a childhood, or did he just cough himself into existence when the dust left accumulating in a forgotten corner of some business school gained sentience? Does Mario Monti have anything under the white Y-fronts he presumably wears, or is he just leathery and smooth like an Action Man? Is Mario Monti a human being, or just a clockwork automaton built in some secret lab out in a mountain bunker? If you prick him, does he actually bleed? There’s a process of thesis and antithesis here, but the dread gravity of Monti is almost enough to make me yearn for Berlusconi’s exuberant silliness. Almost.

Usually I’m all in favour of politicians being humourless weirdos. They’re not like us, they shouldn’t be like us. That’s why I had a lot of sympathy for Gordon Brown, against all my political instincts. Politicians should be real people, ugly people, not yippy grinning idiot replicants like Blair or the Milibands or Clegg or Cameron or Clinton or Obama or Palin or Cain or… the list goes on. But Monti is a very different type of animal (or mineral, as the case may well be) altogether. His dourness isn’t that of a serious and committed politician, it’s that of an obsessive ideological pervert. The technocrats have not been installed to save their countries. They’ve been brought in unelected because, for whatever reason, democratic politicians (even joke ones like Berlusconi) were unable or unwilling to push through the kind of debilitating austerity measures demanded by the markets. Their supposed ideological neutrality is nothing of the sort. It’s only neutral in the topsy-turvy world that has contorted itself into immanence after the end of history, where the primacy of capital, and finance capital in particular, is axiomatic. They are pursuing a specific ideological agenda, and it’s not a very pretty one.

Austerity, pain, savage cuts: this is the language of a leather-clad dominatrix. The people must suffer, they must be punished for their profligacy, they must be made to wince, they must bleed. It’s not their fault, not really, they just got caught up in a spending bubble promoted by the banks, but if they’re not sacrificed to the markets, the Furies of capitalism will tear them into grisly chunks. Or even worse, the financial institutions themselves might have to bear the brunt of their own fuckup. They need a lashing, and government has been marshalled into holding the whip. The fact that austerity economics doesn’t work is almost irrelevant here – what’s important is that it’s deeply immoral. The dawn of the technocrats marks a very strange turn in the supposed function of government – or, more accurately, a falling away of the abstractions that once surrounded it. The State is no longer a king on a throne, ruling and protecting its people. It’s an instrument; its purpose is to suck out as much from the nation as is possible, and deliver it on a platter to the international ruling class. It’s no longer people and their welfare that’s paramount, but the Economy, an ephemeral other dimension floating somewhere up in the sky, a capricious godly realm from which regular demands for new blood sacrifices emanate. And in such a situation, doesn’t it make sense for the State, relegated to a priesthood of the economy, to be controlled by professional vampires like Monti, rather than clunky old ideologues who may well misplace their priorities?

Who is Mario Monti? Well, for a start, he’s prominent in the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission. These names crop up a lot in the writings of conspiracy theorists, but this doesn’t mean that they’re not dangerous. They may not secretly run the world, they might not be hiding the truth about UFOs or poisoning us all with water flouridation, but they are institutions dedicated to the preservation of capitalism. The Bilderberg Group, where Monti sits on the ‘steering committee,’ runs a series of annual clandestine conferences where politicians and business interests can make arrangements to their mutual benefit. Its agendas are, needless to say, not made avaliable to the public. The Trilateral Commission, where Monti is European Commissioner, is a group aiming to increase co-operation between the elites of America, Europe, and Japan. What both groups have in common is an admirable sense of bipartisanship; both are composed of self-confessed liberals and conservatives, finding common ground in the preservation of the current mode of production. Ultimately, what they are achieving is the creation of a political consensus that supersedes any ideological distinctions, and right now, that consensus is called Austerity.

I haven’t even got to the good shit yet. Up until he was called to assume political power, Monti was an international advisor for Goldman Sachs. Y’know, Goldman Sachs, the bank that all but caused the current economic recession and that is now taking over Europe like a fungal infection. Details of what exactly his role at the bank consisted of are hard to find, but it’s pretty safe to assume he wasn’t urging them to accept government regulation or channel their obscene profits into combating inequality. Monti isn’t a heroically disinterested expert brought in to solve a tricky economic problem, he’s part of an apparatus of capitalist power. It’s his job to act in the interests of the financial elite, and it’s a job he’s carrying out with humourlessly sadistic gusto. Democratically elected politicians are (supposedly, at least) answerable to the people. Technocrats aren’t.

Let’s not beat around the bush here: let’s call this new technocracy exactly what it is: fascism. And let’s call the installation of these new unity governments in Greece and Italy exactly what it is: a coup. Fascism should not be allowed to hide under the cloak of dour pragmatism. Sadism should not be allowed to masquerade as realism. The old fascists of Italy were for the most part political imbeciles, but at least you could tell what they were from a single glance. That’s why the new Prime Minister of Italy should have to wear a gimp suit. Or at least crack a whip every time he says the word ‘austerità.’ Or, at the very least, pose menacingly with a glass of red wine and lowered eyebrows while an ugly cat purrs in his lap.

In Disagreement, the philosopher Jacques Rancière draws an important distinction between la politique (politics) and le politique (the political). Le politique, or la police, is, as Douzinas puts it, ‘the process of argumentation and negotiation among the various parts of the social whole’ that ‘aims at (re)distributing benefits, rewards and positions without challenging the overall balance.’ Against the political stands politics proper, the politics of the masses: while Rancière is suspicious of the idea of a ‘pure’ politics, nonetheless politics is a disruptive force, a political subjectivity with the potential to overturn the social order. The dawn of the technocrats is the political stripped of any vestiges of politics. With the ascendancy of unelected technocrats like Monti and Papandreou, liberal democracy itself is consigned to the graveyard of ideologies. The parameters have already been set by diktat: austerity is the only solution and the order of the political has no need for politicians. In this, the new technocracy is curiously similar to Lenin’s vision of the post-revolutionary state as being involved in little more than accountancy and book-keeping, as outlined in State and Revolution. The difference is that Lenin retains politics through the armed mass of the people, which is to be the real medium of social change. Technocracy maintains no such balance. If the mechanism of government has been depoliticised, then it’s time for politics proper to make itself known.

Acropolis Now

Capital is dead labour, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks – Karl Marx

Successive attempts to rescue the Greek economy fail to have any effect. European leaders explain to Papandreou in no uncertain terms that the birthplace of democracy is no place in which to implement it. Forbes magazine hilariously calls for a military coup. The legions of the undead begin to stir… Now the EU casts aside its humanitarian mask to reveal itself for the monster of imperialism it has always been, its neck ringed with the skulls of defeated institutions, its fangs dripping with viscous liquidity. The spectral sallow-cheeked armies of finance capital make circles around the Peloponnese, howling with savage hunger at the juicy public sector, gesturing menacingly with the grim weapons of austerity, their eyes gleaming with blood-lust. A hundred gold coins marked with the stamp of a skull and bearing an ancient curse fall from the bloated fist of Jin Liqun. On the streets of Athens, anarchists fight hand-to-hand with the fire-wraiths of the Elliniki Astynomia. Gibbering poltergeists brandishing court orders pour through cracks in the masonry of family homes and drive out their inhabitants. In a vaulted chamber miles below Strasbourg, decorated with sacred carvings in which Merkel and Sarkozy are depicted in a variety of grotesque sexual positions, the secret haunt of withered seers who divine the will of the Market through the flows of the telluric currents, a thousand hooded forms look on approvingly as Papademos signs their infernal contract in the blood of his people. His hand hesitates over the parchment!… Uproar ensues, dark curses are flung, lightning cracks in the dank air. There is no other option left. Twenty thousand grim-faced German soldiers march in lock-step formation as planes ready their engines for the final assault on Greece: ein Union, ein Währung, ein Zentralbank! Peace and democracy are fine things, but investments are at stake.

Tragedy Khadafi

In the Middle Ages, criminals were hung, drawn and quartered, and a scrap of grisly flesh would be displayed over the gates of every major city. We’re much better than that now, of course.

We did it guys! We did it! We dragged an old man from a sewer and beat him to death while he pleaded for his life, and then left his body in a shopping centre for people to gawp at! Victory for human dignity and human rights! Gaddafi’s a gaddaver! The Colonel’s a corpse! Muammar’s going mouldy! A human being died, and isn’t it fucking brilliant!

We know it’s fucking brilliant because Gaddafi was a Scary Bad Man, and we know he was a Scary Bad Ban because that’s the narrative the media has shat into our eagerly cupped hands. How could he not be? He was a dictator who mistreated his own people and brutally massacred them when they tried to protest. Except he wasn’t, not exactly. Back in the early days of the revolution, before it broke out into full-scale civil war, every day brought another shocking revelation: the death toll from the crackdown was running into the tens of gazillions, Gaddafi was using anti-aircraft guns against peaceful demonstrators, he was sending fighter planes to attack protest camps, he was issuing his soldiers with Viagra to keep them raping into the small hours, he bit the head off a newborn infant and sucked out its spinal fluid like it was a Capri-Sun, every night he snuggled up under a quilt made from the scalps of bright-eyed young democracy activists, he wore sunglasses and had a strange beard and slept in a bedouin tent, the utter bastard. But then in June, by which time NATO jets were already pounding Tripoli and attacking anything flying the green flag, Amnesty International released a report demonstrating that there was no evidence rape had been used as a weapon by loyalist forces, no evidence that anti-aircraft guns had been turned on protesters, no evidence for anything like the level of atrocity claimed. And meanwhile, it emerged that the saintly rebels had been deliberately feeding false stories to foreign news organisations, that their uprising had been violent from the start (not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with violence, but it doesn’t sit easily with the peaceful protester/psychotic dictator dichotomy we were presented with) and that they were systematically lynching and detaining sub-Saharan Africans on the grounds that they were all Gaddafi mercenaries.

We were brought into a war under false pretences. We got duped again. And in contrast to 2003, most of the Left bought into it. I did too. As the tanks rolled towards Benghazi I was hoping for a UN resolution authorising intervention; I was even prepared to support NATO provided no civilians were killed. I didn’t expect the humanitarian intervention to metamorphose into an all-out campaign to unseat Gaddafi by any means necessary. Really, I should have known better. The words were never used, but it was a pre-emptive strike as dubious as that which overthrew Saddam Hussein. We intervened based on what the Libyan army might do if it recaptured Benghazi. We were told that if the city were taken, it would be the site of a mass extermination. As Richard Seymour points out, its previous conduct doesn’t necessarily support this unquestioned assumption. And it’s something of a stretch to imagine that a canny operator like Gaddafi would have carried out such an atrocity with the world’s media swarming the city’s streets. Not that it’s OK to indulge in just a little massacre every now and then, but a potential massacre of indeterminate size is far from a reasonable casus belli. Needless to say, the West didn’t really care all that much about Benghazi – they just seized any excuse to finally get rid of Gaddafi, that perennial thorn in their sides, even after Libya’s supposed reintegration into the international community. We acted with the kind of capriciousness and unpredictability that would have seen a smaller nation branded a rogue state.

What the fuck is this cartoon it doesn’t even mean anything

The rebels didn’t win the war. NATO did. The interminable stalemate was just a matter of the rebels hanging skittishly along the front line, ducking in for the odd offensive and being pushed back while British, French and American air power neatly sliced up Gaddafi’s supply lines and battered any troop concentrations. And yet the war still dragged on for months, without any significant gains by the rebels before the big sudden push that took them to Tripoli. How come? Why didn’t the Libyan masses see that their dictator was fighting a losing battle and rise up to overthrow him? That thought police security apparatus must have been pretty scary, huh? Or, maybe, a lot of Libyans – in the west of the country, at least – actually still supported Gaddafi.

How could they? It’s rarely mentioned, but Gaddafi actually did a lot of good for Libya. He forced concessions from foreign oil companies, demanding a $113m fee for each contract – some of which, admittedly, went into his private investments, but much of which was reinvested in the country. He extracted reparations for colonialism from the Italian government – the only time any European state has been made to make remittances to a former colony. He presided over the creation of the Great Man-Made River, the largest irrigation project in the world, built without the help of foreign nations or world banks. Before the war, Libya had the highest Human Development Index in Africa, and the 53rd highest in the world, better than European nations like Bulgaria or Serbia. On average, Libyans live longer than Hungarians or Lithuanians. The revolution was not the mass outburst of a long-oppressed nation, but a manifestation of the east-west rivalry that has always been a factor in Libyan politics. Of course, Gaddafi was far from perfect. He was murderous and nepotistic, he inflamed tribal divisions, he promoted a frankly weird personality cult. But he wasn’t a cartoon villain either.

The rebels, meanwhile, are much more likely to follow the kind of economic policy the West prefers, to the detriment of the people. During the messy infancy of the revolution, when it was still fighting for its existence, the rebels nonetheless had the time to set up a new central bank, ensuring that there could be no question as to their allegiance to the forces of capital. In an unambiguous statement of solidarity with imperial interests, NTC chairman Omar al-Mukhtar has defended Italian colonialism in Libya – the same fascist colonial regime that murdered up to one third of the population of Cyrenacia in concentration camps.

What will happen now? It’s unlikely that we’ll see an Afghanistan-style Islamic Emirate emerge, despite the hysteria of the Right wing. While the various armed militia are already starting to squabble over positions in the new government, the core leadership of the NTC is probably strong enough to prevent Iraq-style social disintegration. Even so, it doesn’t look good. I hope I’m wrong, but for a lot of Libyans life is probably about to get a lot worse. They were shielded from the worst of neocolonialism by Gaddafi’s welfare state and his readiness to extract hard concessions from the West. Now our puppets are in control, and they know exactly who they’re beholden to. Sure, we might see a couple more five-star hotels sprouting up in Tripoli. There’ll be more luxury cars on the roads, more glossy malls, more channels on the televisions. But at the same time there’s every chance that shanty towns will start to spring up around the major cities, that food and education and healthcare will suddenly become cripplingly expensive, that working-class neighbourhoods will continue to echo with gunfire long after the supposed cessation of hostilities. I could be wrong. When a government is overthrown there’s always a power vacuum, an open space which can be expanded into something genuinely new. If they are to have a chance, the Libyan people should stay on the streets and be on guard against any attempt to impose a merely procedural democracy. They must make sure the NTC doesn’t sell them out to to Western interests. The excesses of the Gaddafi era are in the past now, but the future is likely to hold just as much danger.

The plot against Adel al-Jubeir

Given that the official narrative of the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States is rapidly taking on the dimensions of a Hollywood potboiler thriller, it only makes sense that the real story would fall into a similar paradigm. As numerous experts have pointed out, it’s highly unlikely that the Iranian government, whose rhetorical ferocity is balanced by an extreme cautiousness in carrying out its foreign policy, would have made so audacious a move; and less likely still that the notoriously disciplined Iranian intelligence agencies would have entrusted such an important operation to an ex-pat opponent of the regime and a Mexican drug cartel riddled with informants. What actually happened, and where will it lead us? These are some possibilities:

– George Clooney and Jennifer Garner are two local FBI agents assigned to investigate supposed contact between Iranian intelligence and Mexican drug cartels. They begin to suspect foul play is at hand, and when it is discovered that the contact is in fact being arranged by US intelligence agencies, they find themselves on the run from the CIA. After a grisly torture scene, it is revealed that the conspiracy to kill the Saudi ambassador is being managed by a cabal of senators, generals and corporate lobbyists desperate to provoke war with Iran. Eventually, having exposed the corrupt generals and overcome both their shadowy assailants and the intensifying air of sexual tension, the two agents walk hand in hand along a pristine beach as triumphant music signals the indefinite continuation of the status quo.

– Jason Statham is a former assassin and Iranian expatriate with a moustache and an unconvincing accent. He is forced to carry out a hit on the Saudi ambassador when nefarious Quds Force agents implant a microchip in his wife’s brain that will, like, explode in twenty-four hours, or something. Once in Washington he decides to turn against his blackmailers and ends up having to fight literally everyone, including VEVAK, the CIA, MI6, the GIB, the Mexicans, random people on the street, his emotional detachment from his estranged daughter, a pervasive sense of existential ennui, etc. Includes a scene where Statham backflips over an exploding oil tanker while firing twin machine guns. Shot entirely in shades of orange and teal.

– Danny Trejo is a conflicted member of the Zetas drug gang. When he is commissioned by Iranian intelligence to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States he thinks he’ll be able to tell the US government what he knows and seek political asylum. However, it becomes apparent that the government is aware of the plot and anxious for it to go ahead. After bedding a series of sympathetic DEA agents and consulting a wizened yet serene curandero, Trejo learns that all world powers are controlled by a heretical Zoroastrian sect calling themselves the Sons of Angra Mainyu, who believe that by sowing war and terror they are providing a necessary antithesis to the natural goodness of humanity. Culminates with 20,000 Mexicans in pick-up trucks invading Tehran.

– In a comedy of errors, bungling Iranian second-hand car salesman Adam Sandler tries to enlist the help of Mexican gangs in assassinating the Saudi ambassador. Features an excruciating scene in which Sandler, dressed in low-cut jeans and a bandana, attempts to rap in Farsi under the stage name El Taco de Teherán.

– The ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States, depressed and guilt-ridden following a long period of alcoholism and a string of sexual infidelities, orders his own assassination under a series of false identities in the hope of taking the whole world out with him.

– What if the Iranians were actually being set up by the Russians? And what if the Russians have been infiltrated by a cabal of reptilian aliens trying to provoke global war to ensure there’s no resistance when they invade Earth? And what if reality is a prison and we’re all already dead?

– A frustrated mid-level US intelligence worker infuriated by the monotony of his job decides to inject some excitement into his life by fabricating an absurd conspiracy involving Iranian intelligence, Mexican drug cartels and the Saudi ambassador. To his alarm, this prank turns into a major diplomatic incident, and everyone he loves dies in the hellish blaze of a nuclear attack.

Of course, nobody would ever suggest the possibility of any Israeli involvement. That’s just absurd.

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