Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the (redacted)

Those few who've been familiar with Untethered for a while (Hello, Uncle Morty!) know that I have long believed that the Iraq war is ultimately, simply, about oil, despite the WMD/terrorist hysteria, despite the Administration's sophomoric, Gersonian rhetoric asserting the goal of "ending tyranny in our world" by toppling nations that appeared to be arbitrarily assigned to a grand-sounding "axis of evil", despite the tendency of my intellectual betters to deride such dull, Occam-esque logic as unimaginatively provincial, despite even the perversely appealing (to my cynical nature at least) Seinfeldian "war about nothing." It's still a lot more fun to debate nuanced ideology than to recognize simple, coarse interest, especially when that interest traces back to each one of us. Mostly the war's true importance has so far resisted widespread acknowledgement because of its sheer, unremitting ugliness. As for me, I've always had sympathy for the homely, so if I'm wrong there's your culprit.

I had been bleating away at this until exhaustion set in a few months ago (forget about evil only requiring that "good men do nothing"; it also relies heavily on that far greater mass of which I am a part, lazy and indifferent men quickly fatigued or bored) and I lost interest (Sitemeter indicates sometime after you, dear reader). Fortunately, about this time the NAACP and assorted cohorts lobbed the dual absurdities of the heroic Jena Six and the Great Noose Scourge of 2007 over the net, providing welcome fodder to complement my meager output of reworked material and mostly unloved fictional, hallucinatory interludes. Public farces, God bless them, are like buses, if you miss one another will be along shortly.

Today's non-binding declaration of principles between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, should it manage to survive negotiations and debate in Iraqi Parliament (but, apparently, not in our own Congress; maybe I have been hasty in my ridicule of the Iraqi democratization project, which seems to have surpassed our own, perhaps as the two are heading in opposite directions) would establish Iraq as a client state of the United States, laying the legal foundation for a long term military presence in Iraq and favorable status for American investment.

When actors can't be trusted to tell the truth (which might be always regarding international affairs) we must give explanatory primacy to actions, not words. Thus we follow the course of interest that still, as always, drives national behavior, behind which ideology, rhetoric, and opportunistic political posturing trail like a disorganized, cacophonous brass band.

The occupation (anticipated to be much less costly in money, troops, and prestige; in fact envisioned as "paying for itself" financially and paying off handsomely geopolitically) itself and the favorable (to us) lifting of the interwar sanctions (the Iraq war will eventually be recognized as encompassing the first Persian Gulf war, the interwar years, and the present occupation) has always been the point of the invasion. This military presence is needed to maintain our hegemony in the region, a hegemony necessitated by oil (and complicated by Israel). Iraq was chosen to replace the presence in Saudi Arabia we forfeited after 9/11 (a concession to al Qaeda of which I'm sure Rudy Guiliani is blissfully unaware), a presence, again, necessitated by oil.

As the original lie, we had to invade Iraq to protect ourselves, morphs into the more plausible we must stay to head off the dire consequences of failure, the unspeakable truth becomes harder to conceal; total failure in Iraq is unthinkable because of all the oil in the ground, and the prospect that it will fall into the hands of a hostile government, or a collection of dueling warlords.

And still, the consequences that we have a duty to bring about, consequences visited upon those who actively sought to mislead the country into a disastrous war that has claimed countless thousands of innocent lives and may have precipitated irreversible decline in U.S. prestige aren't even hinted at in the mainstream media. Such talk is derided as the ravings of "kooks" such as your humble author.

If you consider my description of Iraq being groomed as a "client state" a bit much, consider that the first article of today's declaration commits us not only to defense of Iraq from outside threats, but also against "internal threats." Notable also is its provision establishing a favored status for American investment. We are further committed to upholding the Iraqi Constitution against, among other things, attempts to "impede" it. Oh the irony.

Conservatives used to be fond of saying that nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program. There is no better example of that old saw's validity than the fraud being perpetuated at this moment in Iraq, by a Republican administration. Recently I wrote that "what we have is less a failing war than a government program experiencing cost overruns"; the declaration of principles, the purpose of which is clearly to mandate an open-ended U.S. military presence regardless of conditions in Iraq, only solidifies this belief.

Nowhere have I yet heard the suggestion that improving conditions on the ground in Iraq should be treated as the opportunity to extricate ourselves; on the contrary, any parameter showing improvement is used to justify continuing an open-ended occupation.

The timing of the negotiations of the declaration of principles, coinciding with the presidential election, presages a more or less concerted effort not only by the Fox News/talk-radio complex, but also by establishment media, such as the Washington Post and New York Times, to pressure the presumptive Democratic nominee to sign on to a long term occupation, if not to simply present her with it as a fait accompli. It will be gruesome entertainment to watch.

Combine this with the newfound tendency of establishment "conservatives" to characterize Hillary Clinton as a "serious" and "responsible" foreign policy thinker because she shows no willingness to significantly question the foreign policy status quo and its attendant erosion of constitutional protections, and her gleeful bludgeoning of the freshman senator from Illinois for his enthusiasm for promiscuous diplomacy, and it's hard not to think that the fix, of a sort, is in, whether the fixers understand it or not.

Forgive the rambling post.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Strange Truth

New! Improved! @ 19:20, 11-19

A good principle, not rightly understood, may prove as hurtful as a bad.
--Milton.

Upon returning from an air break, Democracy Now was playing Billy Holiday's haunting dirge, Strange Fruit, about lynching in the South. This was about three months ago, before the Jena Six story broke nationally. After the Duke rape hoax and the embarrassing, if consequence-free, journalistic scandal following in its wake, the new controversy must have been welcome subliminal reassurance for the faithful adherents of the standard American race narrative. Their faith shows no sign of wavering even now as (it's hard to imagine to anyone's surprise) the Jena tale as initially reported has been revealed as inaccurate, in certain key details and in summary, largely through the omission and biased credulity borne of haste with which salacious tales of white bigotry are typically met in such quarters. You know the drill.

In a court of law such a direct appeal to emotion might be forbidden as an attempt to prejudice the jury. In the court of public opinion there is, thankfully, no similar limiting authority. But in light of the general bias already evidenced in its coverage, Pacifia Radio's dramatics seem no less an attempt to generate the heat of emotion rather than the light of understanding. The overzealous lawyer taking unwarranted license has not abandoned his proper role, even as he tests the institutional framework limiting it. He is advocate, not arbiter. The journalist is expected to be a bit of both, and for the honest journalist, rare is the unambiguous tale of good and evil. And our trouble begins.
The journalist who abandons the service of journalistic integrity for service to a "higher" cause ends up serving neither. As we've seen in many Jena-style hoaxes and manufactured controversies, he often ends up serving charlatans.

The selectively credulous reporting regarding Jena has relied on an implicit assertion: that the "nooses" which set in motion the chain of events (a chain with a few dubious links, it now turns out) leading to the racial assault of the Jena Six (against the lonely Jena One) carry an emotional offense the equivalent of violence. This is the purpose of the "historical perspective" hurried out by Pacifica Radio well before the achievement of an accurate current perspective. It's worth asking how we've arrived at this place.

As actual bigotry fades and the trope of "institutional racism" comes to rely on increasingly fanciful logic that fewer and fewer take seriously, earnest reporters are unmoved by the prospect of merely reporting the ambiguous, distasteful truth--truth that in some cases seems certain to bring the same charges of "racism" that they have been trafficking in so successfully for so long.

The media conflates racism, a broad, confused concept, with bigotry, hatred for a class, race, or creed, and, taking their cues from social theorists, accepts as an article of faith that racism can only originate within a majority community, leaving itself unable to recognize the high levels of bigotry in minority communities as anything other than a response to majority oppression.
Confronted with the casual, open bigotry of blacks for whites (and others, particularly homosexuals) that the media has spent the last generation sanctioning, coupled with violent crime statistics showing that the prospect of a white coming to harm at the hands of blacks is about ten times as likely as the reverse, and that a black person is far more likely to suffer violence at the hands of other blacks (blacks such as, of course, the Six, who will manage a bit more of it as a result of being relieved of the consequences of their most famous act of violence) than from whites, reporters can only refer back to the original article of faith, ascribing it all to white racism, aggravating black bigotry in an endless feedback loop.

Unmoored as all this is in the solid ground of reality, a superstition has been effectively created, ascribing a talismanic power to certain select images, equating this power with physical violence, and thus legitimizing, almost demanding, violent reaction to them. A young man beaten unconscious, and beaten further as he lay unconscious, is no more an offense against the peace or persons than a piece of rope--or, as we've seen, a sketch of one. Civil rights for some has become the establishment of a legal racial double standard regarding bigoted acts of violence.

The latest absurdity has played out like a slow-motion version of the War of the Worlds radio panic, and we've yet to determine its outermost limits, geographical as well as logical. Recently a storefront display in Britain came under fire for featuring headless, dark-colored mannequins suspended by chains. Here unanticipated free-riders showed up as well: relatives of persons who suffered decapitation in accidents took the opportunity to take offense at the headless dummies. The fires of self-indulgent outrage leap a break and the conflagration spreads. Like the Halloween displays that suddenly warranted national news coverage and NAACP hand-wringing, offenses are being created out of the mundane to slake our self-perpetuating thirst for outrage and recrimination.

Like the outer farcical limits that have yet to be determined, more substantive negative results are also still taking shape. When a sketch of a noose turned up on the door of a Columbia professor, the resulting student protests were prompt; an instant outpouring of conspicuous, earnest outrage.
But, seeing as the students and the school are in complete agreement, and there is presumably no pro-noose faction to counter, no racist authority to petition, to whom and for what do the students of Columbia protest? An answer might be found in a quote a student leader gave after yet another close-following copy-cat incident, involving a swastika and a Jewish professor, when he said, "we need to clean house."

Having defined the oppression as ingrained within even our most liberal institutions and seated deeply within every individual breast, today's students must march on "racist" society as a whole, effectively protesting against themselves, demanding diminished freedoms overseen by greater authority. Today's professors and administrators, the young protesters of the Sixties, march alongside, making no distinction between the protests of their youth and these of their maturity; they believe they are on the same long march they began those many years ago. Looking back, we see the line of progression from yesterday's youthful protests against authority to today's youthful protests against the lack of authority is a short, straight line on the political/time continuum.

The parallel to be drawn between this movement toward greater authority and zeal in rooting out impurity and another, falsely opposite, can be illuminating. Borrowing certain assumptions and a great many methods, today's anti-racist crusaders share a great deal with the right-nationalist movement exemplified by Fox News.

For each of these movements, it's enough to expose someone as a skeptic to silence him, hence the personality-driven methods. For both there is virtually no debate on a broad number of assumptions and it is usually enough to discredit an individual by creating a "gaffe", exposing (what are oftentimes private) demonstrations of impurity of thought. The point is not to ascertain the truth, much less test assumptions, but to continually broaden that part of the narrative that is sacrosanct, so that the narrative expands and crowds out its competition like an expanding ink-blot.
Both have been remarkably effective, and each has managed to discredit wide swaths of potential public speech. But reality and human nature remain, hence the mind-jarring divide between the way the American public views American foreign policy and the way the world does, for one instance, and the yawning gulf between acceptable public speech regarding race and widely held private opinion, for another.

For the rightists patriotism is the faith. The slightest skepticism toward American behavior is seen as heretical, mad, pathological. Just as it is that for our egalitarian crusaders any skepticism toward the standard race narrative or the principle of absolute biological racial equality is morally unacceptable, for the crusaders of American exceptionalism the very sentiment "anti-Americanism" is to be fought to the death, not only here at home with calumny and vitriol, but abroad, with bombs and guns. Hence terms like "global war on terror" and "the battle of ideas"; war to be waged not just with that small hard-core of jihadi terrorists, but with anti-American sentiment itself. Entire nations are deemed enemies because polls show widespread popular resentment of America. The remedies,--invasions, occupations, "regime change," proxy wars, propped-up dictators--ensure the disease will metastasize. The largely unexamined, mad notion behind the war on terror is that we must root out every terrorist and win over every heart and mind.

Thus the hyper-patriot movement cites the existence of anti-Americanism anywhere as equivalent to anti-Americanism everywhere, and proof of the necessity of redoubling our efforts. We are not safe until our enemies are none. It is of course a recipe for endless conflict.

Our hyper-eglaitarians are posessed of a similar fervor. Having decided that the presence of "racism" anywhere constitutes its presence everywhere, today's "civil rights" demonstrators have decided they too will attrit the enemy down to the last man, and, like their rightist brethren, their ideology and methods ensure they will never run out of enemies.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Forget MLK; It's ODB Day

(I had resolved to post more regularly, and fell ill over the weekend, only coming around fully today with just some residual head-throbbing that only bothers me if I attempt to move, sneeze, cough, focus my eyes, or speak; therefore, in another cheesy move, and furthermore as I intended to recognize today's anniversary already, today's episode of Untethered is a re-run, with significant alterations)

Hip Hop's Marquis de Sade

My words can't be held against me
I'm not caught up in your law

--Ol' Dirty Bastard, Nigga Please

Today is the third anniversary of the death of Russell Tyrone Jones, more commonly known as Ol' Dirty Bastard. To some unfamiliar with his music or disinclined to appreciate rap, to the extent they know of him he is seen as just another eccentric produced by an art form that seems as much about creating odd characters as it is about making music. But to those who know, ODB, along with the mastermind producer behind the Wu Tang Clan, RZA, was responsible for two of the most idiosyncratic and brilliant (if raggedly uneven) hip hop records of all time. Return to the 36 Chambers, the Dirty Version and Nigga Please are racist, misogynistic, violently debauched (and debauchedly violent), confused and self contradictory collections of lunatic rants which achieve a mad, murderous brilliance.

ODB seemed to have more nicknames than songs: Dirt McGirt, A Son, Osirus, Big Baby Jesus to name a few, seeming to recognize the schizophrenic psychosis which both drove and bedeviled him. His lyrics were a farrago of black militant ideology, superstition, sexual voodoo, and unrepentant celebrations of drug use and violence; childlike, irrational, and stubbornly thick headed--and dangerous. A reading of his lyrics might suggest an intellect stunted by brain damage or excessive drug use, but in hip hop it’s all in the delivery, and when an unbridled, feral ODB gave vent to his madness within the funky but strangely refined musical context provided by the incomparable RZA, the listener was given a one of a kind, deadly honest glimpse into the dark violence of nature freed of the civilizing effects of socialization.

Nigga Please, his 1999 release which featured the hit, Got your Money (produced by the Neptunes), exhibits an obsession with voodoo-like superstition and sexual domination, seeking to mystify pimping as a triumph over female nature through mind control, will, and sexual prowess. Dirty was hip hop’s half-literate Marquis de Sade, appalling and immoral, treating the listener to vivid accounts of his escapades. The seductiveness of the beats drew you in and held you close while an urban Mad Hatter forced you to view the darkest and most secretive desires of human nature.

As any rap fan knows, yet not necessarily admits, nothing will draw favorable reviews or induce sleep quicker than a Roots record. Yet the myth of a unified, trans-global "socially conscious" political movement behind rap persists. In last month's Foreign Policy, the glossy USA Today of the globalist set, an article about this supposed movement appeared like an unintended eulogy for that dream (the author didn't get past paragraph one before using the phrase, "hot beats"). As if the persistent success of Fifty Cent and the playlist at BET isn't evidence enough of the form's lyrical decline from already modest heights. ODB hadn't the critical faculties to analyse, much less understand, the political questions of these more ambitious and critically recognized artists, even as he sometimes drew from the same well of militant reaction, and it served him well. He understood what the form was about: primitive narcissism. Needless to say, its status as a black art form limits the public respectability of such an opinion.

ODB has spawned multitudes who seek to adopt his defiantly feral stance, what Malcom X called the “wild nigger” who both appalls and fascinates the more effectively socialized white masses. They are embarrassing caricatures, minstrels pandering to the naive white suburbanites who seek to hitch a ride on the exhilarating savagery of urban black America. ODB was oddly appealing because he seemed to lack the sophistication to affect the phony stance of a lesser artist. He was sadly unsuited to live in civil society and absolutely committed to a fusion of his art with a subculture of drug use, casual sex, crime and violence that he viewed as his birthright in defiance of the strictures of the greater culture. He was rebelling alright, but unlike most of his peers, he made no pretense of the nature of his rebellion. His motto was summed up decades ago, by Marlon Brando, another mere pretender, in The Wild One, when in reply to the question as to what he was rebelling against, he replied, "whad'ya got?"

Hip hop’s champions will forever be overestimating the importance of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur out of a perverse need to frame idiotic street violence as political struggle (they each died at the hands of assassins believed to be acting on behalf of the other, just months apart), when in fact what defined them was the true most likely nature of their deaths--an ego-intensive power struggle within the community of America's own Little Big Men, minor potentates battling for control and status.

But for me it is this less regarded but more authentic artist who never tried to dress his narcissism up as rebellion who stands out, and the loss of whom I mourn. ODB was unapologetic about his immorality, but neither did he seek to justify it. It simply was; and he, in his half-aware way, sought to plumb the dark depths of human nature, and after one venture too many that’s where he will forever remain.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Bland Inquisitor

INTERIOR, AN UNDISCLOSED LOCATION, TWILIGHT

An anonymous PRISONER is seated on a plain wooden chair facing the VP's desk. He is haggard, gaunt, filthy. A dark puddle of something is at his feet. His wrists are chained to his ankles with unnecessarily heavy chains. He is leaning forward, listing to the side, as if he will fall forward any moment, looking at the VP from under a drooping brow. The VP is speaking.

VP
...loyalty. Principle. Fortitude. I'm talking about ethics. These are the things with which you should have concerned yourself. This business about deferring to the Constitution, the law...

he pauses to check his disgust

...the will of the people. This is not integrity; this is cowardice. It's a dodge. The conceit of the rule of law is a luxury for the effete. For those who couldn't protect an anthill from a kid with a magnifying glass. That is, those among them who actually believe their nonsense. As for the rest, you just watch what becomes of their Constitution once they get a hold of it. No, you've thrown your lot in with cowards and traitors.

You say you've lost your stomach for it; now you want to obey the law. The law is for traffic cops. When you get to this level, no one charged with defending the nation, no one standing on that wall, gets to play the virgin.
The law is a beautiful, comforting--and above all useful--illusion. Always has been. That's not the same as saying it's meaningless. On the contrary. It's precisely because I want to preserve it that I do what I do. I break it where it needs it, to preserve it where I can. I do what I have to do. The people have no idea.
You want out? I thought you knew. No one gets out.

PRISONER
His hoarse voice is barely more than a whisper, his words lisped through swollen lips
I can keef my mouf shut.

the VP silences him with a raised hand

VP
Even if you were telling the truth, I don't care. You're of no use to me. Except as an example. Letting you go now is out of the question, as you know. But your example will help greatly. You can rest knowing that you gave one last invaluable service to your Vice--to your country. But let's have no more talk about the law, about the Constitution.

PRISONER
But if that's what the people want...

VP
Do they? You disappoint me. I thought you understood human nature. The common man? The citizen? The common man is a cowering, superstitious, gluttonous fool who gladly chooses to live in a fantasy world. You think he wants liberty? Freedom? If he ever came upon true freedom and got a look at what it requires of him he would--he does--run to cower in the shelter of power's embrace.

What he really wants is power; knowing he can't wield it, he settles for power working on his behalf, always; always out there crushing someone else, somewhere unseen, some other insignificant fool to whom he has no relation, for whom he has no care; power grinding away out of sight like a factory that continually produces safety and plenty--free of charge. And that's what we do. It's a beautiful thing. It's a tremendous act of kindness.

The common man just wants to be left alone. That's the full extent of his understanding of freedom. We have a deal, an arrangement, the common man and I, and he knows it. He doesn't want to see the tremendous effort and sacrifice I make on his behalf; he doesn't want to know. I--we are like God. We create the world as it exists in the collective mind. It is the most sacred trust there is. You think we could do this constrained by the law?

You see, we haven't any choice in the matter. The law, the Constitution, morality itself; all of this is an illusion. A fantasy. Now you, and your newfound friends, want us to give the illusion a try--because you have fooled yourself into believing it. This is madness. And you wonder at my contempt.

The people want to be left alone to fuck and eat themselves into a stupor. For the love of God man look around you. And I'm here to oblige them. It's only when the common man starts to fear; it's only when he thinks that power will fail that he starts to pay attention, that he starts to bleat away about rights and the law. And, contrary to the fantasy world you have thrown your lot in with, that's when what peace and liberty we have managed are threatened.
Believe me, the last thing any of us want is for the "people" to act. For us to give the Law an honest try. God help us then. This will all look like a paintball game if it comes to that. But it isn't going to come to that.

We dirty our hands on the common man's behalf. We take up the burden he gets to pretend isn't there. We toil in the dark, doing his dirty work. And this is the thanks we get. Don't fucking talk to me about the law. I'll have your ass sent to--well, never mind where. Trust me, you haven't seen anything. Count yourself lucky you haven't any remaining useful information. But the betrayal.

Why not give it a try you say. You forget that as long as there exist out there those who will sacrifice the law for power, and they will always be there because they are every one of us, that subjugating yourself to the law means subjugating yourself to them. People don't know how lucky they are that it's us at the lever; we who are willing to allow them their measure of freedom and the plausible fiction of the "law."

PRISONER
I took an oaf--oath--to defth, to defend--

VP
If you want to keep what's left of your tongue you'll stop moving it. Constitution? Let me tell you about the Constitution. The dirty little secret of the Constitution is that it cannot survive without someone like me contravening it. You want a constitution? Well, you can have part of one, but you can't have all of one. Listen to me. It isn't possible. A complete constitution will not last five minutes in the real world. We won't last five minutes adhering to some bullshit constitution. Fuck the Constitution.

The Constitution is powerless to protect the nation. Hell, the Constitution can't even defend itself. The Constitution is a conceit. You fell for that bullshit. Unfortunate. But if you think I'm going to leave the nation defenseless so that I can preen before it as a defender of the Constitution. I defend lives, not paper. Jesus.

PRISONER
Your time is up. All of this will be rolled back. The next administration...

the VP interrupts him with laughter, a low, thumping caw in the chest, steadily rising in volume

...they'll turn it all back, you'll see; we can't go on like this, we have to try and make it all work like it's supposed to...

the VP, still laughing, reaches inside his collar, grabbing hold of something; as he pulls his hand back out his face contorts, going lifeless. His laugh is muffled as he pulls away a rubbery mask, revealing the face beneath. It is a woman's face; we know it; it is the FRONTRUNNER. The laugh is now her familiar cackle; she stands, pulling away the remnants of the mask, her laughter growing louder.

CLOSE SHOT, PRISONER
He is horrified, trying to speak.

CLOSE SHOT, THE MASK OF THE VP
It is grimacing up at us from the ground through black, hollow eyes.

LOW ANGLE SHOT, THE FRONTRUNNER
She is towering over our view, shadows cast on her face from low angle light intensifying her sinister expression, laughing away like a madwoman.

FADE

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Hollywood Acts

November 4, 2007

Hollywood CA (UNS) -- At a news conference today a group of activist filmmakers unveiled a plan to use cutting-edge technology to eventually rid all Hollywood films of nooses, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow South.

"The campaign of intimidation sweeping the nation involving the use of nooses, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow South, means denial of the racism inherent in our society is no longer an option. We believe Hollywood needs to be in the forefront on this issue. Doing nothing constitutes the violation of the civil rights of each and every African American, as well as other traditional targets of terror and oppression. It is time for the battle against racism, homophobia and sexism to join technology in the Twenty-First Century." Saveermis Andrist, president of the organization behind the effort, Filmmakers Against Racism and Sexism in Entertainment (FARSE), said in a prepared statement. Ms. Andrist is a screenwriter/director/novelist/performance and recording artist.

A video presentation demonstrating some of the possibilities included scenes featuring nooses, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow South, alternately transformed into a wreath of lillies, a thick gold chain, and a Hawaiian lei. The presentation had to be cut short due to technical difficulties.

"Film is all about the suspension of disbelief." Ms. Andrist said in reply to observations that some of the effects were incongruous or unrealistic. "We're merely asking people to suspend their disbelief a little further, for a good cause. In fact audiences will be able to rediscover these films all over again, as striking examples of a potential future, free of hate and intolerance. But more importantly, future generations will not be exposed at all to them."

Ms. Andrist rejected that the project would constitute a violation of freedom of artistic expression.

"We cannot sacrifice tolerance to the myth of artistic freedom. Freedom of artistic expression does not mean freedom of artistic repression. Artists are no more free than common people to terrorize people of color and other oppressed groups. Freedom of speech does not include the right to shout fire in a crowded theatre, and these images constitute shouting fire in our homes, in our places of work, in hand-held devices, wherever they might appear. They continually shout hatred at people of color. They shout fire in our conscience."

She brushed aside skepticism about the legal barriers to altering what is still an untold number of films.
"Intellectual property rights can't be allowed to trump civil rights. The safety and well-being of the oppressed is nobody's property. We feel that existing civil rights and hate crimes laws already constitute a broad mandate to act. All that remains is to consolidate them through either court order or legislation specifically empowering us to use the process wherever these heinous images are found. This is no time for quibbling over legality. If we wait for the current wave of hate to pass, we will have missed a golden opportunity to end it once and for all. This is bigger than individual filmmakers or entities, and we shouldn't allow a right to terrorize and oppress masquerading as freedom of expression to curtail the true right of millions to live without fear."

When asked if this meant the banning or confiscation of original, unedited copies of films in various formats, she said she didn't anticipate it would come to that. "We feel that through entirely voluntary measures attrition will eventually eliminate the majority of these instruments of hate, requiring a minimum of legal enforcement."

She also said she anticipated this project would be the first phase in a broader effort, with the working title Hollywood United for Humanity's Advancement (HUHA), that would eventually rid cinema, television and video games of all symbols of racism, sexism and homophobia.

Asked if any of her own work might eventually be affected, Ms. Andrist explained that she hasn't yet produced any.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Farce Imitates Life, Life Returns Favor

Why bother with satire?
CNN's Rick Sanchez, whose Hispanic surname seems to have made him the network's go-to guy on racial issues despite the fact that he is nearly as WASP-like in appearance and manner as Ted Knight's Judge Smails in Caddyshack (or, for that matter, Knight's affable and clueless anchorman Ted Baxter of The Mary Tyler Moore Show), is valiantly traipsing into the dark heart of America, with his expedition of camera and make-up crew in tow, hunting the now legendary Great Noose Scourge of 2007.

My point here is not to pick on Rick, who evinces the same bemusing persona that Fred Willard periodically reprises in Christopher Guest's faux-documentaries: confident, cocksure and half-cocked--as enthusiastic as he is oblivious. He sees opportunity; he seizes it; he is no exception. But under his guidance the absurdity has moved beyond comic into surreal, and there will be no competing with real life now, my fellow amateur satirists. Soon we may find it difficult to delineate the boundaries between. Game over. It's time to simply shut-up and marvel.

Last night, on Halloween, Sanchez utilized a split-screen format to simultaneously deliver two reports, one from a private residence and one from a bar, each the subject of controversy because their elaborate Halloween displays featured corpses hanging from nooses. As the cameras tightened in on the offending figures to reassure us they weren't black (the report wasn't quite so thorough as to call in forensics to analyze one body, just bare decomposing flesh over a skeleton, which the homeowner assured Sanchez was "Caucasian"), also revealed was a fairly realistic upper torso (safely, reassuringly white), severed at the waist and hanging upside down from a meat-hook, unremarked upon.

I guess you had to be there, but the absurdity of it was riveting, delicious irony: this ghoulish, fetishistic fascination with gore, once a ritualistic, occasional transgression for days such as these, now as widespread and mundane as the dull safety of daily life it mocks, juxtaposed with the bizarre conceit of the segment and its cravenness (acting as a tie-in for CNN's upcoming, opportunistic report, "The Noose, An American Nightmare"), the real-life horrors of the war out of sight and mind; well, all I can say is genius. Pure, unadulterated, unintentional genius.
Bravo, Mr. Sanchez. Bravo, CNN.