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« Elsewhere (51) | Main | Incongruities »

November 23, 2011

Comments

ojo

But remember, the Guardian tells us that mobs in shops are “a perfectly justifiable form of protest.”

I wonder how they'd feel about flashmobs 'occupying' the offices of the Guardian?

Stuck-Record

Oho, I've asked that question on dozens of Occupod supporting forums and to loads of leftists since this all started and not received a single answer. I don't mean they answer incoherently or in platitudes, I mean they don't answer at all. Because they know that to speak the answer out loud will damn their cause.

Might is right - but only when it is us using it.

Anna

It’s about antagonising people and slapping them around a little bit and waking them up to reality.

Wow. Just... wow.
He's seriously into himself. But aren't they all?

David

“He’s seriously into himself. But aren’t they all?”

It does seem to be a recurring motif. But that’s what the notion of “false consciousness” does - it flatters the proponent. Which is what matters, obviously.

Horace Dunn

I've moaned about this before, here, but there is the tendency to let the “Occupy” crew get away with the claim that they are “opening up spaces for dialogue” and “changing perceptions”. The Vancouver Sun piece under discussion here also does its bit to boost the Occupy ego by quoting from the Adbusters website and leaving its assertions uncontested. Adbusters claims:

"Occupy gave the world a new way of thinking about the fat cats and financial pirates on Wall Street."

Why doesn’t someone insist that they substantiate this claim? Could they please indicate what new ways of thinking about the financial sector were prompted by their activities? That is to say, can they point to opinions, ideas, theories, concepts that were not already being discussed half-to-death in the mainstream media, let alone in the blogosphere?

Surely to let them get away with these grandiose statements is just condescending to them and feeding their already bloated sense of self-importance. What good can come of rewarding sloppy thinking and vanity?

JuliaM

If he and his minions get between the average Christmas shopper and a bargain, may God have mercy on his soul. Especially in Marks and Spencers....

Trimegistus

Envy and class hatred are hardly a new way of thinking. They've been around since the Athenian Republic if not before.

R. Sherman

Fascinating that "protesting" always seems to involve theft and vandalism of private property for these types. Truly, a brave new world.

David

In other news…

Vladimir, a former Soviet citizen with some first-hand insight into the realities of the collectivist ideal, attempts to engage a number of OccupodPeople on the subject of egalitarian utopias. Needless to say, the OccopodPeople are sure they know best:

“Communism is a good idea… it’s just never been tried. Communism’s never been given a fair chance.”

Note the female activist (and former educator), Erin, who says, “I’ve never met anyone who went into medicine to make money… When people are doing jobs they really enjoy, they don’t need a financial incentive.” Shortly afterwards, Vladimir asks Erin whether she’s ever used a medicine researched and developed in Cuba, Russia or North Korea. A third protestor, an avowed communist, insists that he and his peers would develop “a new kind of [communist] system… something to be collectively decided on” – a system that presumably doesn’t entail mass immiseration, man-made famines and mountains of human horror. At which point, Erin realises that “the term communism is something that makes people uncomfortable,” while continuing to air precisely the kind of assumptions that produced the horrors in question. A fourth PodPerson tells us that bailouts for corporations are bad, yet the state should “run” the market. “Socialism,” he says, “failed because it was run by piss-poor bureaucrats,” and yet he believes the market should be “run” by bureaucrats.

Truly, a kingdom of pinheads.

Anna

and former educator

Naturally.

That's what's so hilarious (and scary). These pinheads have degrees.

David

In other, other news…

Cost to cities for Occupiers exceeds $13 million.

I know we’ve had some fun laughing at these pinheads, but was it worth $13 million?

simplius

Kalle Lasn... someone who escaped his native Estonia when Soviet troops went back to stay for good 45 years.

sk60

It’s about antagonising people and slapping them around a little bit

It's funny how when they're actually honest they sound a lot like fascists...

David

“It’s funny how when they’re actually honest they sound a lot like fascists...”

For some, totalitarian posturing is all the rage. The left’s latest media protégé Laurie Penny has just announced her “respect” for the pretentious morons at Occupy Cambridge. Because closing down a lecture and shouting down everyone with whom you disagree before they can even speak is caring, fair and progressive. And so much quicker and less risky than actually engaging with their arguments.

And again, note how this tactic is increasingly popular among the supposedly educated.

dr cromarty


[Christmas] has been an empty, soulless kind of ritual that very, very few people enjoy.

The miserable bastard can speak for himself. I'm planning a great holiday.

The phrase is quite telling in that it illustrates the fact that the left is merely a secularised form of Puritanism/Calvinism. Needless to say Calvinists have never been desperately keen on Christmas. Jacobins, Roundheads, Occupiers and the like all hark back to some pre-lapsarian utopia of which they are the Elect representatives. The rest of us all need a good cleansing or maybe just a slap.

H.L. Mencken nails them:
Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

Lasn's view of Christmas (and capitalism) in a nutshell.

dr cromarty

The Occupy Cambridge stuff with Willetts. I was at BristolUni in the mid-80s when they gave the same treatment to Prof John Vincent and pretty much destroyed him as an academic.

Of course, it will be different this time. No-one will get hurt.So long as you do what we say.

Goodbye Lenin

Slapping people for their own good may be okay when they are of the same race, as far as lefties are concerned. But as many of the occupiers are avowedly anti-racist what would be made of a slap delivered to a person of a minority ethnic group? Would it be a simple hate crime, merely common assault or purely for their own good?

I envisage lawyers being busy sorting that one out.

Spiny Norman

"Because closing down a lecture and shouting down everyone with whom you disagree before they can even speak is caring, fair and progressive."

David, have you read the comments at that New Statesman link? A kingdom of pinheads, indeed.

AC1

> Because closing down a lecture and shouting down everyone with whom you disagree before they can even speak is caring, fair and progressive.

However being moved on after trespassing for two weeks is police oppression.

Stan

Because closing down a lecture and shouting down everyone with whom you disagree before they can even speak is caring, fair and progressive.

Leftism requires the reversal of meaning.
The mob is the victim.
Envy and greed is 'altruism'.
They won't even admit they're the conservative ones.

David

Spiny,

“A kingdom of pinheads, indeed.”

It says quite a lot about the New Statesman’s leftwing student / teacher readership, and it illustrates the routine inversion of meaning noted by Stan. One commenter says, “We no longer need to listen.” Nor will they permit others to listen, apparently. Another commenter insists, rather fancifully, that Willetts is “threaten[ing] the capacity of universities to maintain the institutions of free speech and critical thought” and therefore he must be silenced. The idea that universities are the last stronghold of “free speech and critical thought” is actually quite funny, practically hilarious; but note the key point: No debate must happen, no new information must be permitted. Others denounce the article – which is basically a defence of free speech and the public testing of ideas – as “conservative rubbish.” The same commenter sneers at the very idea that such a debate should be “allowed” on campus. And these are the intellectuals of tomorrow.


Stan,

“They won’t even admit they’re the conservative ones.”

Heh. Exactly. Hardly the fearless lions of their own imaginings. As Nelson Jones says in the NS piece:

Here was a minister willing to take part in a live, unpredictable and well-informed public meeting. Even if you disagree with his policies, this is surely something to be welcomed. Instead we were subjected to a tedious monologue by a bunch of self-satisfied protesters unwilling to listen to any point of view other than their own.

Again, for all the bluster about “dialogue” and “creating space for dialogue,” what we typically get is monologue. The matter has been decided within the tribe and dissent is not welcome, indeed won’t be tolerated. Students who wish to hear a contrary point of view will be spared its corrupting influence by those who shout loudest. And so debate is extinguished in the name of virtue.

A supporter of the protest, Lawrence Dunn, said afterwards that because the government had ignored previous protests “it was therefore time to ignore what Willetts had to say.” He is of course at liberty to ignore Willetts. But the people who were ignored last night were the majority of the audience who had come to listen to -- and challenge -- the minister. Their views and wishes were swept aside by the actions of an immature and intolerant minority. No doubt they genuinely care about education. But they appear to have no understanding of or interest in the process of democratic debate.”

Unlike Jones, I’m not at all convinced the censorious protestors care about education and the testing of ideas. They do, though, care a great deal about themselves, and not in a remotely realistic way. It’s self-absorption with no self-examination - just what you hope for in an educated person. Note that the people disrupting the lecture claimed they were the victims: “You can try to intimidate us; you can threaten to shoot us with rubber bullets… you can criminalise our dissent…” and so on. The usual rote, grandiose victimhood. Utterly self-flattering, utterly self-involved. And all this while making sure any alternative to their own view was silenced.

See also the casual redefinition of violence. And if educators do this, and do it so shamelessly, is it any surprise that quite a few students try it too?

Col. Milquetoast

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/8901348/Hay-Kerala-Greer-warns-I-think-we-are-all-in-grave-danger.html
Germaine Greer said "I am struggling to understand a world in which the only anti-capitalist organisation is Islam and it seems the only way we can have Islam is with Sharia law,"

I keep reading that and I wonder if she either doesn't get out much or if she means "the only anti-capitalist organisation [who is willing to forego civility and enforce its will] is Islam."

AC1

Hurrah,
Greer has worked out that the only alternative to economic freedom is totalitarianism...
That is what she worked out?

JuliaM

"That's what's so hilarious (and scary). These pinheads have degrees. "

Well, yes. But we shouldn't assume that we'll take just anyone at university these days...

newbie

Julia,

How the hell...?

And none of them thought to fetch some tools.

David

Julia,

Blimey. That’s the worst case of, er, that I’ve ever seen.

carbon based lifeform

Yes, they will save us from Christmas. With sit-ins and mobs in shops.

If they keep this up we're going to see some idiots getting punched by shoppers.

http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2011/11/ows-goons-target-macys-midnight-opening-chant-shame-shame-shame-at-holiday-shoppers-audio/

I can live with that.

David

“If they keep this up we’re going to see some idiots getting punched by shoppers.”

I suspect it’ll get increasingly stupid and ugly, just as the shanty town “occupations” did. A movement based in colossal vanity and unrealism isn’t likely to respond to realistic counter arguments, or appeals to civility or statements of mere fact. What kind of imbecile believes that mobbing shops - and staff and customers - will somehow sway the public and end well? And what kind of person doesn’t mind if it results in shoppers and staff being harassed and assaulted – being slapped about - for no particular reason?

But what else should we expect from socialists and “anarchists” who believe the law (and basic reciprocity) doesn’t apply to them? And who believe, or pretend to believe, that the right to protest equals a right to physical intimidation and a right to “seize” and “occupy” what doesn’t belong to them?

Horace Dunn

David

Here's someone in the Guardian getting most upset about the coarseness of modern culture.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/nov/24/frank-miller-hollywood-fascism?

The article includes some effortless Guardianista snobbery:

"[300 is] a barely watchable film, but what from Hollywood these days is not similarly unwatchable, when so many high-profile releases are based on a medium, the comic book, made expressly to engage the attentions of pre- and just post-pubescent boys. At least comic books themselves are so politically dim-witted, so pie-in-the-sky idealistic as to be hard to take seriously."

I assume that the amusingly-named Rick Moody is that novellist that people used to talk about. Anyone here ever read any of his books?

Tom Foster

Horace,

The whole piece is just staggeringly awful, isn't it? It reads like those earnest attempts by undergraduates to insert some politics into their reviews of the latest punk record in the NME in the 70s. There are so many funny bits it's hard to know what to pick out, but I particularly liked…

"Before Under Siege, I had a tendency to think action films were funny. I had a sort of Brechtian relationship to their awfulness."

…and…

"But in the films of this era, the Marvel and DC era of Hollywood, even when the work is not self-evidently shilling for large corporations (with product placement) or militating for a libertarian and oligarchical political status quo (which makes a fine environment for large, multinational corporations), the work is doing nothing at all to oppose these things. Paying your $12.50, these days, is not unlike doing a few lines of cocaine and pretending you don't know about the headless bodies in Juarez."

No, I've never read any of his books. And I'm certainly not about to.

David

I’m still pondering the claim that the film Gladiator is actually “an allegory about George W Bush’s candidacy for president.”

Horace Dunn

Tom Foster

The second priceless excerpt you cite ... am I misunderstanding something? Moody is complaining that even when films are not *promoting* ideas, notions or ideologies of which he disapproves, they are still failing to *oppose* such ideas. So, a film is not acceptable unless it specifically challenges ideas unfavoured by Moody and his Guardian chums? And paying to see these ideologically impure films, therefore, is akin to condoning murder and mutilation.

Maybe I am missing something here, but that is pretty demented reasoning.

David

Ah, but when Moody asks “Is it possible to think of a film such as Gladiator outside of its political subtext?”, I think we know the answer, don’t we?

sackcloth and ashes

'I’m still pondering the claim that the film Gladiator is actually “an allegory about George W Bush’s candidacy for president".'

Which is amazingly prescient for Mr Moody, because the film was released in May 2000, and the first draft of the script appeared two years earlier. But hey, why bother substantiating your claims with something as tiresome as evidence?

But then this does come from someone slated as 'the worst writer of his generation':

http://www.powells.com/review/2002_07_04.html

David

Horace,

“…that is pretty demented reasoning.”

So far as I can make it out, the gist seems to be that some popular cultural products offend Mr Moody and shouldn’t be enjoyed by anyone, or even made, because they excuse capitalism, individualism and, er, ruggedness. And people who do enjoy these products are merely being “distracted,” which apparently makes them enablers of fascism, or something. And so, obviously, all cultural products should reflect the ideological preferences of Rick Moody and his peers. Because they know best.

I suppose Mr Moody is letting us know that he’s to the left of – and therefore superior to - people who enjoy watching the occasional action blockbuster, in which someone does physically daring things while something or other explodes. Explosions and physical daring are corrupting influences and Mr Moody disapproves, albeit for reasons that are fanciful and baffling. Even flowers can affront his socialist sensibilities:

“Are Ridley Scott’s falling petals… anything more than a way to gussy up the triumph of oligarchy, corporate capital and globalisation?”

It’s a car crash of a mind. Best to set it on fire and be done with it.

Horace Dunn


“Are Ridley Scott’s falling petals… anything more than a way to gussy up the triumph of oligarchy, corporate capital and globalisation?”

Yes, and isn't the shot of the boy descending the cobbled street in the same director's Hovis ad -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFLBvLxLJMI

merely his gleeful prediction of the coming Thatcher era that would see the remorseless descent of the working class, driven ever lower along the cobbles by the pitiless weight of corporate dough-based comestibles?


David

Horace,

The thing is, Moody’s article is only slightly more unhinged than much of what passes for academic critique of popular culture. You aren’t expected to substantiate anything much or even be particularly coherent, provided you make the right kind of political noises. And so the film historian Sumiko Higashi “analysed” the zombie film Night of the Living Dead and decided it was all about the Vietnam War: “[Although] there are no Vietnamese in Night of the Living Dead... they constitute an absent presence whose significance can be understood if narrative is construed.” While Robin Wood claimed that the zombies’ cannibalistic tendency “represents the ultimate in possessiveness, hence the logical end of human relations under capitalism.”

I’m pretty sure George Romero has said more than once that his film wasn’t about Vietnam or a Marxist critique of bourgeois consumerism, but was basically just a riff on Richard Matheson’s novel, I Am Legend. But hey, that wouldn’t pad out a dissertation.

AC1

He's just annoyed because unlike in Marxist countries we have to goto the movies to see apocalyptic wastelands, mass death and destruction.

dr cromarty

so politically dim-witted, so pie-in-the-sky idealistic as to be hard to take seriously

Pretty much sums up Rick Moody.

Ted S., Catskills, NY
"Are Ridley Scott's falling petals… anything more than a way to gussy up the triumph of oligarchy, corporate capital and globalisation?"

One wonders what he would think of Zuzu's petals.

More seriously, a good decade or so ago I heard a Sunday morning program on the CBC discussing Christmas movies, and one of the women on the panel talked about how she hated It's a Wonderful Life because the whole story line was about stroking George Bailey's ego with Clarence telling him how important he is.

Kinda misses the point of the movie, if you ask me, which argues that the world around us would be a much lesser place if we gave in to our selfish wishes.

But the woman went on, and complained about how horrible it was that the Lionel Barrymore character isn't seen getting his at the end of the movie. (We all know it's going to happen; it doesn't have to be shown.) I seem to recall her making comments about capitalism too, but this was a good 10 years or more in the past and it's not as though I've got a recording of the show. But it was one of those things that solidified the idea that there are some nasty people who think things can't be art unless those things have the correct political viewpoint. And the corollary that politics trumps beauty when it comes to art, something that's even more frightening.

Ted S., Catskills, NY
The thing is, Moody’s article is only slightly more unhinged than much of what passes for academic critique of popular culture.

I know I've argued it before, David, and I think you even agreed with me (with links and all!) the last time I argued it, but the further problem is that these are the sort of people the monopolist media treat as the Serious People Who Should Be Listened To.

As are the Occupy People, because even though their ideas are inchoately incoherent at best, they say they want to use the power of Big Government to punish businesses, and that's somehow virtuous enough to trump all the other crap that's going on in the Occupy camps.

David

Ted,

“Kinda misses the point of the movie, if you ask me…”

But missing the point is the point, as it were. In a review of Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society, Theodore Dalrymple touches on an important phenomenon:

“Intellectuals, like everyone else, live and work in a marketplace. In order to get noticed they must say things which have not been said before, or at least say them in a different manner. No one is likely to obtain many plaudits for the rather obvious, indeed self-evident, thought that a street robber cannot commit street robberies while he is in prison. But an intellectual who first demonstrates that the cause of an increase in street robbery is the increase in the amount of property that law-abiding pedestrians have on them as they walk in the streets is likely to be hailed, at least until the next idea comes along. Thus, while there are no penalties for being foolish, there are severe penalties (at least in career terms) for being obvious.”

I’d quibble with the word “demonstrates,” as most material of this kind doesn’t so much demonstrate as assert, based on bugger all. But it’s why we get Sandra Harding telling us that it’s both “illuminating and honest” to refer to Newton’s Principia as a “rape manual.” And it’s why we get so many literary “theorists” saying zombie films are scary because of their alleged anti-capitalist subtexts (rather than, say, the flesh-eating, contagion, fear of death, etc.) And it’s presumably why Moody claims that Gladiator is actually “an allegory about George W Bush’s candidacy for president.”

It’s not a mistake – that would at least be honest. It’s a contrivance.

Tom Foster

David,

'Sandra Harding telling us that it’s both “illuminating and honest” to refer to Newton’s Principia as a “rape manual.”'

Wow, that's a good one. I'd love to read more. Have you got a link?

David

Tom,

It appears in Harding’s laughable The Science Question in Feminism. For a taste of the book’s contents and disregard for logic, see this.

Horace Dunn

"You aren’t expected to substantiate anything much or even be particularly coherent, provided you make the right kind of political noises."

As an antidote to this sort of thing one can turn, as so often, to the late Sir Kingsley Amis. Way back in the days that all the oh-so-smart critics were trying to find a meaningful subtext to the file "Jaws", Amis decided that the most likely explanation to the film's appeal was that "it's about being bloody frightened of being eaten by a bloody great shark". But as you point out here so often, and as Dalrymple has explained, being sensible isn't enough. Being obvious butters no parsnips in academe (or at the Guardian). Jumping the shark is more desirable than seeing it for what it is.

David

Here we go. Occupy San Diego “occupies” Wal-Mart, annoys customers, hands out insulting flyers, then leaves enormous mess for staff to clear away.

Again, symbolism.

Henry

Ironically, the main problem with this "slapping them around a little bit and waking them up to reality." is when his original precepts were wrong in the first place.

Supposing he and his followers aren't quite as spot-on as they think about what reality is - or how to fix it? They then become another small and extreme political group trying to bully people into agreeing to their rules for how we should all be governed.

But of course they couldn't be wrong. They apply very little critical thought to their grand scheme. It may be unfashionable to say it, but big groups of political fanatics - most certainly the Occupy crowd - behave as a group just like a fanatical religious sect trying to convert, silence, or even kill people with other points of view.

Only some of this lot try and be all Zen and clever by not having a 'point of view'.

Along with the ("religion is the opiate of the masses") Marxism that permeates the Occupy protests, this helps you see their antagonism to religion. Much amusement and bemusement all round, then, when our slightly dotty Anglican church tried to jump on the bandwagon in London, expressing sympathy for the 'protesters'

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