Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Politics As Spectacle

The spectacle surely matters, but there’s more to it than the spectacle.

Beyonce made a spectacle of herself at the Super Bowl by mixing a paean to the Black Lives Matter movement with gestures extolling the Black Panthers. The Panthers were a criminal gang disguised as a political movement.

Within days of the Beyonce performance a decorated Vietnam veteran was eating at a McDonalds in Washington, D. C. when a group of black youths came up to him and asked whether black lives matter? Upon not receiving the answer they wanted to hear, they beat him unconscious.

The Daily Mail reports:

An Iraq war veteran whose bravery inspired two statues says he was beaten by a group of teens in Washington, DC on Friday night after they approached and asked him whether 'black lives matter'.

Chris Marquez, 30, a decorated US marine, was eating in a McDonald's when the youths walked up and started questioning him, WJLA reported yesterday.  'I felt threatened and thought they were trying to intimidate me, so I figured I'm just going to keep to my food, eat my food and hopefully they'll leave me alone,' Marquez told the station. 

The youths started calling him a racist, he said, but it was when he tried to leave the restaurant that things went badly for him. 
The soldier, who had survived ambushes in Fallujah at the height of the Iraq War, was taken unaware again — and this time he was unarmed and without backup.

One of the teens hit him in the head him from behind, knocking him to the floor, where the gang beat him savagely before robbing him. Marquez told police that one youth hit him in the head with a handgun.

'As soon as I walked out of the McDonald’s I got hit in the back of the head, or the side of the head,' he told WJLA. 'I just dropped to the ground, and [the McDonald's manager] says I looked unconscious.'

This incident recalls what was happening in Germany at the inception of the Third Reich. Brown shirted thugs from Ernst Rohm’s Storm Troopers were patrolling the streets of Germany, beating up anyone who looked Jewish and anyone who refused to say Heil Hitler quickly enough. One recalls that the founding father of deconstruction, Martin Heidegger, a committed Nazi himself, found the spectacles invigorating.

As you know, Hitler liquidated the group during what is now called the Night of the Long Knives.

In today’s America we are suffering through the politics of spectacle, but these are anything but innocent spectacles. The Black Lives Matter movement is about bullying, threatening and intimidation. It is about guilt tripping and terrorizing white America, the better to extort reparations. It absolves all black people, beginning with the current president, of responsibility for their behavior, be it criminal or political.

Mark Judge suggests that spectacle has a very short half-life. He argues:

Entertainment and politics have both become about spectacle, and spectacle separated from truth doesn’t have a lasting impact.

One might say that it comes and goes, like the Brown Shirts or the Red Guards. And yet, current conditions on America’s campuses suggest that the love of spectacle is alive and well and growing. Beyonce’s performance has passed into memory, but the movement it belongs to has not. Besides, we have already had a few charismatic presidents. The damage they have done has not gone away.

Judge refers to an idea offered by Christopher Lasch in his seminal work, The Culture of Narcissism:

In the last fifty years our politics have been transformed from a means of trying to maintain order to one of spectacle, political correctness, and crisis management.

As I suggested, the anti-war movement borrowed the politics of spectacle from other sources. But, it is true that no one much cares about maintaining public order any more. No one is running around saying that we need social harmony. Everyone thinks we need radical transformation.

So, politicians have an interest in looking as though they are dealing with one crisis after another. They all posture about their ability to solve these crises, but they are playing it for the drama. Politics has become theatre, with politicians being the stars. The captivating spectacle works well on the evening news.

Lasch was chagrined when the radical left brought these tactics to America in the 1960s. He wrote:

…the attempt to dramatize official repression, however, imprisoned the left in a politics of theater, of dramatic gestures, of style without substance – a mirror-image of the police of unreality which it should have been the purpose of the left to unmask.

Whether the politics of spectacle come from the radical left or the radical right, they are inherently fascistic. Those who promoted them have no answers and no solutions to any of the problems they are dramatizing. They want a revolution. Most of the time they do not even know what that means.

Those who are indulging these politics have a hidden, personal agenda. They are doing it, Lasch suggested, for the therapeutic value. One cannot help but agree.

In his words:

People today hunger not for personal salvation, let alone for the restoration of an earlier golden age, but for the feeling—even if it is only a momentary illusion—of personal well-being, health, and psychic security. Even the radicalism of the sixties served, for many of those who embraced it for personal rather than political meaning, not as a substitute for religion but as a form of therapy. Radical politics filled empty lives, provided a sense of meaning and purpose.

It’s all about the feeling, the emotion generated by these public spectacles, even the emotional catharsis produced for the participants when they see themselves on the news. And yet, there is more to it than the meaning. Those who participate also feel like they belong to a new group, a group that coheres around its own rituals and its own dogmatic beliefs.


Anonymous said...

The last paragraph is similar to Eric Hoffer's "the True Believer" analysis, which I believe is very insightful. The truly oppressed cannot revolt, they are too busy trying to survive. It is either when totalitarian regimes let up a little or when people are doing a little better that they revolt. The political philosophy of Obama does contribute to these victim movements that are a way for those who feel frustrated or spoiled or believe they have a meaningless existence to be important by losing their identity to a group with lofty ideas. Hoffer points to the French Revolution as an example of the myth of the oppressed as the one who revolts.

David Foster said...

In his important memoir of growing up in Germany between the wars, Sebastian Haffner describes the brief period (during the Stresemann chancellorship) when political & economic stability was sufficient to allow people to return to their private concerns:

“The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. The Day of Judgment was remote again, and there was no demand for saviors or revolutionaries…There was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness.”

BUT, this return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

“A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.”

“To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis."

In America today, we have a very significant number of people…SJWs and the like…who are used to having “the entire content of their lives delivered gratis by the public sphere.” Such people are most unlikely to place a premium on individual liberty; they are too busy either circle-dancing or trying to find a circle in which to dance.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Golly, I wonder of any of those punks who beat the veteran up at McDonald's will ever face Federal hate crime charges. Pretty cut and dry case... that's probably why it won't happen in the Obama/Holder/Lynch era.

Ares Olympus said...

I don't suppose black lives are allowed to matters if every BLM leader denounces violence?

But since all innocent blacks judge all innocent police officers by the worst police officers, it's fair that all us innocent folks judge all innocent blacks by the worst of the blacks.

That sounds about right for human nature.

Of course blacks are dead at the hands of police, and most police officers aren't even indicted, much less on trial for murder.

Justice Scalia learned about human nature from his children, saying:
“Parents know that children will accept quite readily all sorts of arbitrary substantive dispositions — no television in the afternoon, or no television in the evening, or even no television at all,” he said at a Harvard lecture in 1989. “But try to let one brother or sister watch television when the others do not, and you will feel the fury of the fundamental sense of justice unleashed.”

If not being able to watch television is injustice, we might try to imagine what it feels like to know police can shoot you dead, and there will be no justice. You might imagine such fears will piss people off.

But as long as blacks keep killing blacks, we shouldn't expect anything better from our law enforcement officers, because Police Lives Matter, and that means they can shoot to kill anyone who might be reaching for an imaginary gun.

Maybe the world would be safer if we just accepted only white people can be trusted with guns, and then police would know blacks don't have guns, and wouldn't have to shoot first, and use their eyes second?

Sam L. said...

Ares, do you know Zachary at ?