Saturday, 27 February 2010

Consuming the Exile

Despite reading this, and regularly visiting The Exiledonline, I am no wiser as to what is actually happening there.

Yet if this is an epitaph it is a very disturbing one.

For those who don’t know, The Exile is a low budget/ semi-professional magazine set up by some highly intelligent and gifted young Americans.It is a fascinating publication which is deeply cynical about politics, both American and Russian as well as highly entertaining.

However, this brush with the MSM just puts a plastic shroud over the most vibrant and energetic of American publications. Hunter S Thompson said that people criticised his journalism for being ‘subjective’ but that you could only subjectively understand people like Nixon. The Exile demonstrates the same thing with post-Soviet Russia. And the subjective realities of life under Yeltsin were never of much interest to neo-liberals.

Ames and Taibbi never hesitated to criticise the faults of Putin’s government (when actually living in Russia). But they also recognised the hypocrisy of the American media’s adoption of Russian dissidents like Anna Politkovskaya.

Yet this Vanity Fair article has no concept of anything but the dumbest clichés, and gleefully describes their publication as ‘Anti-Putin’.

This is one of the worst low brow clichés imaginable. Basically, Putin was someone who stood up to American imperialism without having a strong ideology. Up to a point this gave idiotic neo-liberals a broader canvas: they could compare Putin to Hitler as well as Stalin.

However, when Putin stubbornly refused to open any gulags or concentration camps. The bugger didn’t even embark on radical renationalisations or do much to help the poor. At least that would permit the ‘thin edge of the wedge’/’boiling the frog’ idiotic reasoning so beloved of neo-liberals: the government starts by helping the poor then goes on to torture and imprison.

Of course, to my knowledge the millions of Americans without health insurance didn’t actually stop Americans from tormenting naked Iraqis with Alsatians, but then I’m drifting off the point here. Vladimir Putin’s very flaws (his lack of concern for the poor) actually made him MORE DIFFICULT to attack for neo-liberals in the plastic bubble of neo-liberalism.

And that is precisely the world that James Verini lives in. There is no mention on Mark Ames’s superb attacks on the hypocrisy of neo-liberalism or of their support for Russia during the Georgian conflict.

The Exile is a wonderful publication because it highlights the paradox of modern liberalism. In the early 90s Fukyama declared the 'end of history' meaning that liberal democracy as now universally accepted, though it looks more feeble every year. There are those liberals (like Christopher Hitchens) who think that liberalism should be fought for with other people's blood and those liberals who thinks that political interfering to support liberal values would be useless and counterproductive even if the West had the moral authority and popularity to do so.

It is precisely because The Exile is in the later category that the only contact it has with the MSM leaves a stunted colourless impression of what it actually is.

Friday, 26 February 2010

New Variations on old struggles

I haven’t been blogging as much recently. Partially because I’ve been pretty busy. Also because, well, I frankly think Britain is in dire straits if someone as dumb as I am should be worth listening to.

But sadly our political discourse isn’t dominated by Anatole Lievens and John Grays, but five star thickoes so perhaps I should still try to remain a part of the conversation.

When I started this blog I felt a fairly ill-defined anger at neo-liberalism. I have, however, come to see my ideas in a more articulate way and have also had some ideas of constructive questions to pose/ comments to make. Anyway, the main themes I’ve been thinking of are these:

-Dysmocracy in the UK, or why I might vote for Gordon Brown. This would be a short (given the impending general election) series on why I might vote for a party that has been abysmal in most ways. I have come to think that if New Labour wins the next election then both left and right will call for electoral reform leading to PR (which ironically enough, would probably make Britain a more progressive country).

-Relatedly, the need to change Britain’s role in the future. This will hopefully look at world geography and politics. My own view is that Britain could, though I acknowledge it is a remote possibility, become a progressive power in the world.

This may seem a joke given our shameful role in the weapons industry and the fact that our greatest current claim to international fame is as America’s fawning and stupid attack dog. Yet I think it’s possible this will change. Britain is also a country where the NHS receives vast popular support, the Fairtrade movement is strong, there is strong support for third world aid.

Of course, this last one is rather ambiguous: I certainly support giving aid to the third world now, but see the longterm plan as supporting viable leaders. When someone like Vladimir Putin or Hugo Chavez actually strengthens their country they are compared to Hitler or Stalin. Giving aid to the third world is not a viable long term answer: helping strong transitional leaders is.

-Reviewing books, films music. Even thought of a Blogging the Columbo’s: reviewing each of the 50+ episodes…

-Why I think my generation will face a lot of internal conflict. This will not be between ‘left’ and ‘right’ but between neo-liberalism and the broad coalition that will have to stand up to it. Part of this will consist of arguments about terms such as ‘liberal’, ‘dissident’ and ‘progressive’ and who has most right to them.

-The EU and why, whilst sympathetic to some of its aims re immigration and I am culturally pro-European, I do think that we have to come to terms both with its current failures and the vacuum it may leave in its wake.

Thanks a lot to everyone who’s commented on my previous posts.

Update: David Cameron says it is a 'patriotic duty' to defeat Labour. In another article he says: 'There is a danger that people could wake up Friday March 26 or Friday May 7'. Is American idiom the last refuge of a patriot?

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Falklands II?

This poem by Borges (an Anglophile Argentinian) really captures a lot of my feelings about war. I find the myths that are behind war and politics really dreadful from a purely aesthetic viewpoint.

When it Blows it Stacks

Well, apparently a member of the common-sensical 'tea party' have declared Mr Stacks 'an American hero'.

But on this side of the Atlantic, the silence is deafening. There is a ten year prison sentence for belonging to Islam4uk, due to its 'terrorist connections'. New Labour never told us exactly what these connections were, but the general reasoning was that Islam4uk was obviously a Muslim organisation and Muslims have carried out acts of terrorism. But what happens when a far-right meathead commits an act of terrorism? To my knowledge being a far-right, war-mongering meathead is the best way of being elected Prime Minister. Actually, it's the only way of conceivably being elected Prime Minister.

Friday, 5 February 2010

From a 'Dictatorship'

After searching for acclaimed academic and wonderful speaker Anatole Lieven. The first results were from Russia Today. Unsurprisingly, plagiarist Luke Harding has a somewhat negative view of this channel:

'unrepentant about RT's relentlessly pro-Russian coverage of last year's Georgian war – focusing on the suffering of the South Ossetians but completely ignoring the Russian bombing of Georgian civilians.'

Perish the thought of such bias, which can't happen in the West. Furthermore RT:

'gives an unashamedly pro-Vladimir Putin view of the world, and says it seeks to correct the "biased" western view offered by the BBC and CNN.'

Yes, you put 'Biased' in double quotes, in the same sentence as you refer to 'pro-Vladimir Putin' when Putin isn't even running the country.

Compare Luke Harding's hysterical Graun article from the British 'left' to Anatole Lieven's supposedly fanatically pro-Putinist view (yes, I know that Putin wasn't in charge at this time, but they don't). If Harding plagiarised this one, he chose a very bad model. But it seems to me that in terms of intelligence and educatin, Russia Today's boy is way ahead of Te Graun. Still, RT are foreign so full of mindless propaganda like we don't get here.

A beauty of an interview here

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Psychedelic Dungeons Popping Up on Every Street

I've recently been reading quite a bit about the 60s and 70s. One thing that really seems very odd is how Nixon has become 'a monster' in popular culture, though by today's standards, he doesn't seem that bad.

Whilst there was much that was odious about him, he did nonetheless bring the Viet Nam war to an end and found accommodation with China. The former, incidentally, was actually a fairly popular war, which like Iraq had no 'perfect solution'.

Despite the people in plastic masks protesting Nixon's regime, he was pardoned everything in the end. Could this be because the protests against a popular politician were as fake as the masks? What became of these protestors? Are they the core supporters of neo-Conservatism?

I'm partially reminded of the anti-Nixon protests by the current hoo-ha over the Chilcot Inquiry. The Iraq war was a popular cause in 2003. A lot of Blair's critics are supporters of the illegal state of Kosovo, where Christian Serbs are being ethnically cleansed. Bliar may well be a messianic nutter with a disturbing intensity, but he was only on the top of a pyramid. Beneath Blair there were politicians of all parties supporting war, and beneath them there were the majority of British journalists. He certainly didn't drag Britain kicking and screaming to Iraq.

This very same media-political institution is still deafeningly silent about the bombing of sovereign Serbia. The message of those attacking Blair for Iraq but not Serbia seems to be: by all means invade foreign nations if you think there will be a net gain for life, but not otherwise. 'Anti-war' is a nebulous term.

I'm no fan of The Joker, but I think we Brits have to realise if he is a monster, he's our monster. It's interesting to look back on his history. He was once a member of a rock band. Then he was on the left of the Labour Party, opposing the Falklands Conflict. I'm actually with him on that one, but it does seem pretty weird to oppose a war for Britain whilst supporting deploying British soldiers for American aggression.

Anyway, I'm digressing. It's no feat of the imagination to think that Blair would have been part of the 'impeach Nixon' carnival if he'd been born on the opposite side of the channel.

I myself love a lot about popular culture. I think it was a fairly organic progression of 19th Century culture, and helpfully discarded a lot of its pietistic middle-brow kitsch.

But did it give us a real direction and idealism? Or was there always something phony about hippies? Take it away Frank.

The baby boomer generation was strongly behind the McCain/ Palin circus: calling for war against Iran and Russia, even as Iraq and Afghanistan continue hemorrhaging. (And indeed as the Kosovon Serbs are terrorised). Television gave the world a medium with vast potential for innovation and reaching out to other countries and cultures. Yet it has been effectively used to keep people frightened and ignorant about foreign nations.

As wealth inequalities expand and the US seems set for even more wars, we Brits seem poised to elect neo-con fanatic, David Cameron. Needless to say Cameron voted for the Iraq war,but now claims he was misled by Tony's fibs. If so, then his naivety should disqualify him for running as PM.

Personally, I feel very cynical about the Chilcot Inquiry and arresting Blair. It's like cutting of a hydra's head and seeing others coming out. His ridiculous dossier just demonstrated how stupid and cliquish our politicians and media are and our need for real change. Arresting him wouldn't change anything.

I notice that yahoonews and other 'news sources' keep saying that Ahmedinjad called for Israel to be 'wiped off the map' though this is a debatable translation of something he said in one speech several years ago. I find it likely that there will be war with Iran. We'll get exactly the same cliches we had during Iraq, then ridiculous mea culpas afterwards.

Just look at how idiotically our media acted in supporting Saakashvilli. For some reason writing op eds seems to be magnet for insecure men who feel potent by calling for bombs to be dropped on others. The exceptions usually go on a downhill course.

But, as a sinister gentleman once asked, what is to be done? Whilst a Christian myself, I am not especially 'religious' in a socio-political sense. Maybe we need to go back to the Ancients of Athens for guidance. Or maybe we need a generation of Tlonists. ;-)

Some Good News

A couple of posts back, I mentioned that David Cameron blamed a horrific torture incident on 'Labour's Moral Failure'.

I suppose that in light of this, Cameron will kiss Gordon Brown's feet and praise him for reducing the child murder rate.

Otherwise people will be saying that David Cameron only uses logic when it suits him. Perish the thought, he's ahead in the opinion polls. He must be a good man. Only a sociopath could be so manipulative as to try and squeeze some votes from a torture case.

The story is also interesting for those of us nostalgiac 80s kids who think things must have been better in the dirigisme times. Even the 60s and 70s seemed to have their brutal edges. Though the figures show no real correlation between economy and society:

'Spain and Italy had the lowest violent death rates among children, the United States the highest. Germany was second-highest.'

So free-market America that idolises children (preferably of the more odious, blond variety) and the social-democratic German Republic are the worst offenders?

It's things like this that make me feel distant from 'political' culture. It is tempting to try and make clumsy arguments based on correlation to prove that we are right, but in the end these are all fruitless.