Platypus Review 33 | March 2011 [PDF] On February 19, 2011, Chris Mansour of Platypus interviewed Robert Hullot-Kentor, noted Adorno translator and author of Things Beyond Resemblance: Collected Essays on Theodor W. Adorno. What follows is an edited transcript of the interview.
Will Potter, the self-styled alternative journalist and author of the blog Green is the New Red, has recently taken issue with the presentation of environmental activist criminals alongside neo-Nazis and anti-abortion activists. The blog, whose content usually amounts to little more than accusations of hypocrisy and appeals to common sense, suggests that the reason for this invidious association is corporate interests “polluting” the spirit of democracy through lobbying groups operating in Washington. READ THE REST.
Andrew Coates: A radical critique of Slavoj Zizek. Extracts:
Slavoj Žižek is notoriously hard to pin down. This article, from the Weekly Worker, is a critique of his efforts to develop a modern idea of Communism.[…] Žižek’s ‘political economy’ is, to put it politely, half-digested. He cites the ‘anti-German’ theorist Moishe Postene, and his critique of the ‘metaphysics of labour’, the idealisation of it as a source of all wealth (see also Anti-German translation Here). Postone makes the hardly original point that one can find in Marx a better concept of labour as “a socially mediating activity in capitalism”. From there (amongst other sources) Žižek developed his own appropriation of the theory of ‘immaterial labour’. Alberto Toscano and Carlo Vercellone in Historical Materialism Vol 15 Issue 1 have discussed this in detail.
Terry Glavin: From Libya to Palestine: Why Is ‘The West’ So Surprised? Extracts:
As I write this, the totalitarian Hamas regime is resorting to the same brutal tactics against Palestinians in its Gaza police-statelet that its Khomeinist sponsors have been deploying against Iranian democrats in Tehran. On Monday, Hamas thugs broke up a demonstration in Gaza City, arrested a protest organizer, and confiscated footage from a German TV crew. The embryonic Gazan uprising has had its activists tossed into prisons and its telephones and computers seized. In the Gaza Strip, Ahmad Arrar, one of the main organisers, said he had been arrested by Hamas security forces for 12 hours on Tuesday in an failed attempt to stop the protests: “The revolution in Egypt and Tunisia gave us hope that if the people need to change something, they can.”
Among their jumble of grievances, the youth activists complain of oppression. Abu Helal notes that the youths who had used Facebook to call for protests in solidarity with the Arab revolutions are summoned for questioning; his organization had been treated harshly by the security forces in Gaza, where it is currently banned, as well as in the West Bank.
Our friend Khaled Abu Toameh, the eminently reliable Palestinian journalist, reports that over the past 48 hours, Hamas goons have broken up several demonstrations. One of the key demands of the young Palestinians’ self-described “Facebook Revolution” calls for a reunification of Palestine, which has been severed by the internicene warfare between the Islamist Hamas in Gaza and the authoritarian Fatah bosses in the West Bank. Some among the emerging Palestinian leadership want all the politicians to resign. Some want them to reconcile so Palestine might at least be united again. Others want to protest Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, which is the kind of demonstration the faction bosses will at least allow.
As for the young dissidents’ bottom line, 22-year-old activist Hasan Farahat describes it this way: “Everybody is sick of the situation. We want work, we want the right to speak freely. We want freedom.” If you don’t hear “regime change” in that demand, then you are deaf. Most noticably, the “Honour Revolution” wants Hamas the hell and gone from Gaza. “It is the revolution of the mosques, the churches, the factories, the universities, the schools, the unemployed and the internet cafes.” I didn’t hear any “Death to the Jews” wailing in that, did you?
The main reason we have we been so deaf to these voices is that we haven’t been able to hear them. It’s not just because pro-democracy Arab and Iranian voices are denied the advantages of a free press. It’s the din and cacophony that has had us all obediently transfixed by the transgressions of Israel, which is one small country with roughly 80 human rights organizations and 7.4 million Jewish, Arab, Baha’i, Christian and atheist citizens. Israelis live a besieged and troubled but democratic life of equal rights and the rule of law in an open society. Its sins are subjected to the weirdest microscopic inspections and magnifed all over the world, constantly. All along, 350 million people have been detained inside the prison-farm nightmare that surrounds Israel, but if you dare draw attention to their sufferings you will be sneered at for your suspicious bias in favour of Israel, or more likely, you’ll be dismissed as a Zionist neoconservative warmonger.
For years, the voices of the real Arab revolutionaries – the actually-existing Arabs who are at last rattling the padlocks off the doors of one autocratic prison after another – have been drowned out by the brass section at the dictator-dominated, Israel-bashing UN Human Rights Council. They’ve been silenced by the percussion section in the halls of the Middle East wing of Human Rights Watch. The noise that drowns them out is unrelenting, and it will resound across Canadian university campuses all next week in the same mind-numbing gibberish from the same dreary old cranks for yet another annual Israel Apartheid Week: “Interrogating Apartheid: Campus as a Site of Resistance.”
Here’s what Khaled Abu Toameh told me about all that when we got together last spring in Jerusalem: “Instead of organizing Israel Apartheid Week, they should be helping with human rights under Hamas, women’s rights under Hamas.” But in Canada, “resistance” has come to mean slavishly carrying on with the conventional narrative. Now, from Gaza to Oman, a real resistance valiantly faces machine guns and truncheons in defiance of the conventional narrative. “Yes, I still get threatened,” Toameh told me. “I would be much more afraid to show my face in Ramallah if I was lying, but most of the threats I get these days are from North American campuses. Americans, Canadians, some self-hating Jews, university professors. This is what you get for refusing to go along with the narrative.”
So what has the brave Canadian “resistance” been up to in aid of the Arabs and Lebanese and Iranians who suffer under Hamas, Hezbollah, the secret police of the Arab League states, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards? It has been raising money for a Hamas public-relations gambit in the form of a sea-cruise, scrounging money from student unions and bullying doubters.
What was the so-called Canadian resistance up to last year while the Iranian resistance organizers were risking imprisonment, torture and execution as they prepared for anti-regime demonstrations? It was organizing a Canadian speaking tour for the Khomeinist regime’s greasiest English-speaking propagandist, George Galloway, celebrity presenter for the Tehran regime’s Press TV propaganda arm. What is Galloway’s Press TV now force-feeding the Iranian people in the form of “coverage” of the Libyan uprising? Israel is suppling Gaddafi with guns, money and 50,000 mercenaries so far, at $2,000 a day per mercenary. The lie has gone viral in western “anti-war” circles, as you would expect.
A couple of weeks ago in Tel Aviv, Khaled Abu Toameh was awarded the 2011 Abramowitz Prize for Media Criticism by Israel Media Watch. In his acceptance speech, Toameh called on the international community and western donors to pressure the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to allow a free press and to stop harassing journalists. “A growing number of my Arab colleagues no longer see themselves as foot soldiers serving the revolution or presidents or kings or governments,” he said. “I’m happy to see that the Arabs who have taken to the streets of Cairo, Tunis, and other Arab capitals are not only demanding regime change, many are also demanding a free media, one that does not serve as a mouthpiece for dictators and ruling parties.”
If you’d rather be a chump, hurry along obediently to your nearest Israeli Apartheid Week event. Don’t forget your kaffiyeh, you’ll catch a cold. There’s a good little narcissist. The apologists for Arab tyranny will provide lunch, and there might even be a movie.
Jonathan Freedland: Antisemitism: the hatred that refuses to go away. Extract:
In this talk of Jewish plots, the Tehran regime has an unlikely ally in Fox News – or at least in its early-evening host, Glenn Beck. The ultra-right motormouth’s most recent musings on the Jewish people compared the US’s usually liberal Reform rabbis to “radicalised Islam”, but of more relevance was his extended disquisition on the financier and philanthropist George Soros. Using an image with long-established service in the cause of antisemitism, Beck branded Soros “The Puppet Master” – using an actual marionette to show how Soros pulls the strings of those figures Americans might naively imagine to be in charge. To Beck, Soros is the “king” while Barack Obama is a mere “pawn”. In another broadcast, the Fox pundit described the financier as “the head of the snake”. Puppets, snakes, masters of the global chessboard – it’s a palette of imagery any Nazi propagandist would instantly recognise.[…]
Similarly, Jews are unnerved when they read learned essays by foreign policy experts alleging the domination of US affairs by the “Zionist lobby” – seeing in such arguments a veiled, upmarket form of the perennial conspiracy theory. They feel similarly alarmed by claims that the hidden hand behind all world events is really Israel – that it was Israel that pushed George W Bush to invade Iraq (when, in fact, Israeli policymakers were warning that Iran posed the greater threat, or that Israel is the reason why Britain has long backed despots in the Arab world, when Britain has plenty of self-interested reasons of its own for its policy in the region. Viewed like this, Assange’s remarks don’t look so distant from Oliver Stone’s assertion last year that there is “Jewish domination of the media“, to say nothing of Richard Dawkins’s breezy statement that “the Jewish lobby . . . more or less monopolise American foreign policy”.
David Baddiel: How antisemitism entered the zeitgeist. Extract:
Despite so many key Lefties being Jewish – Marx, Trotsky, y’know: that level of Leftie – many of them, some less consciously than others, harbour a sense that Jews don’t quite fit into that key Venn Diagram marked Oppressed/Worth Fighting For. Yes, there was the Holocaust, yes there was 2,000 years of persecution and pogroms and massacres, but a) quite a lot of them have got a fair wodge of cash, and b) Israel.
Because Israel has become, in recent years, an icon for the Left of everything that is bad – American imperialism, oil wars, suppression of human rights – and since Jews, even Jews who do not support the state or its policies, are (at least in the minds of, say, Hamas) associated with it, knocking Jews may just be a blow for the oppressed, rather than to them.
As a result, people talking the anti-Jew talk can do it not as racists, but, paradoxically, as if they are somehow sticking up for other races. Underneath one of the various web films of John Galliano looking weirdly cold and lonely at that café that I watched the other day, there were a slew of comments, an awful lot of them supportive of the designer. One of them, johntron67, began: “What is it with the Jews! They’re the only group you just can’t say anything negative about…” What’s amazing about that – the same poster went on, later, to say, sinisterly, that “the cauldron will boil over though, one day soon, and guess who’s gonna get scalded…” – is not so much that johntron67 thinks that saying generally-OK and not-to-be-remarked-upon things about the Jews would include the comment “I love Hitler – your forefathers would’ve been gassed”; but that he really thinks that other ethnic minorities are, in comparison, fair game. Two words: Michael Richards. Charlie, Mel, probably even Galliano – they’ll work again: Mel Gibson is, even as we speak, in a big Hollywood movie, The Beaver. Since his n-word-fuelled outburst onstage in 2006, Kramer is toast.
Louis Proyect: Glen Ford/MRZine on racism in Libya. More on “anti-imperialist” MRZine’s pro-Gaddafy lies.
Walter Russell Mead: Gaddafi’s toads. Extracts:
Gaddafi Toad Number Three: Hugo Chavez
The Loon of Venezuela has long had a soft spot in his heart for his Libyan soul-mate and may yet end up offering asylum to his longtime political ally. In a way, you have to admire the guy. Unlike so many Gaddafi toads, who groveled and flattered until the money ran out, Chavez is as supportive in humiliation and ignominy as he was in the good old days. “A campaign of lies is being spun together regarding Libya. I’m not going to condemn him,” said Chavez as the blood rolled through Libya’s streets. “I’d be a coward to condemn someone who has been my friend.”
Chavez has apparently offered to “mediate” the political situation in Libya, and the Great Loon has accepted. It’s the greatest thug bromance since Hitler met Mussolini.
I do have a couple of questions: how do ardent Chavez apologists like Sean Penn defend this latest (but utterly characteristic) example of Hugo Chavez’ deep love of democracy and human rights? And when Gaddafi finally goes to the Great Loonery in the Sky, will the Libyans rename the soccer stadium Gaddafi had named for his Venezuelan admirer?
Gaddafi Toad Number Six: Louis Farrakhan
Like the ever-faithful Hugo Chavez, Louis Farrakhan is a Gaddafi loyalist who loves true and loves long. Bitterly disappointed when the Clinton administration blocked the transfer of $1 billion of money looted from the hapless Libyan populace to the Nation of Islam back in 1996 (and, worse, blocked the $250,000 honorarium promised to Minister Farrakhan), Farrakhan is still calling Gaddafi a friend, and predicting that America is on the verge of a Libya style uprising. Sure, Gaddafi has his critics, says Farrakhan, but what leader can count on 100% support?
Eight: Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro is one of the few world leaders with a longer record of service than Muammar Gaddafi; he characteristically rushed to the defense of his fellow democracy-activist and peace builder. In solidarity with the deeply democratic government of Nicaragua, Castro denounced what he said was Washington’s plan to use NATO to seize Libya’s oil — and cautioned the world not to be too quick to believe stories about violence and death in democratic Libya.
Ten: Delusional American College Professors
There has been no tyrant so bloody, no dictator so unscrupulous in the last 100 dismal years of world history that he hasn’t found a plethora of American intellectuals to serve as unpaid flacks. Walter Duranty and the New York Times got a Pulitzer Prize for whitewashing Stalin’s crimes; plenty of American journalists and professors have praised despots ranging from Mussolini to Franco to Mao.
Gaddafi too has found his clueless American defenders. Inviting a series of American intellectuals and scholars to Libya as part of a typical PR offensive, the kind of tactic they teach in the Techniques of Tyranny 101 intro course, Gaddafi gave them the kind of snow job that Hitler and Stalin used to give visiting foreigners — and too many of them fell for it. Read this column in the Washington Post from Benjamin Barber and weep: “Written off not long ago as an implacable despot, Gaddafi is a complex and adaptive thinker as well as an efficient, if laid-back, autocrat. Unlike almost any other Arab ruler, he has exhibited an extraordinary capacity to rethink his country’s role in a changed and changing world.“
And there is this chatty travelogue from Steve Walt, the self-styled “realist” who claims to have penetrated the dark and evil secrets of the Israel lobby. Walt was struck by how open and friendly everybody in Libya seemed during his stay. Well informed, charming, no problems with the regime — the Libyans Walt met had no problems with Gaddafi, and this seems to have convinced him that Gaddafi was not exactly a Boy Scout but not an unusually bad type as these perplexing foreign types go. No deranged loons here, folks, just a bunch of evolving new allies. Walt cheerily ends the account of his visit by hoping for more political change in Libya, and “more dramatic” political change in the US as well.
These men were not alone, and they never went totally off the deep end; there were a lot of Americans whose ties to reality were so loose that they assumed that anybody Ronald Reagan wanted to bomb (and Fidel Castro liked) must be a freedom fighter. But it’s a sad reflection on the state of American politics that such a bad man operating such a destructive regime could have fooled some of our most eminent thinkers with such hackneyed and unoriginal methods.
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Tags: David Baddiel, Gaza, George Soros, Glenn Beck, Hamas, Jonathan Freedland, Khaled Abu Toameh, Moishe Postone, Platypus, Robert Hullot-Kentor, Slavoj Zizek, Terry Glavin, Will Potter