Sunday, October 01, 2006

Now, -this- is serious critique

Zuky takes on the Lieberman blackface flap of several weeks ago, addressing it on the terms by which the creator(s) wanted it to be addressed. And still finds that it fails. It is an artistic critique as much as a serious political one. This is the level of engagement that people should be doing a lot more of. ("Radicals" and other "examiners," I'm talking to you).

Go there to read the whole thing. I just want to highlight a bit that I particularly like, here:

In fairness to the PC-haters and other erstwhile champions of controversial imagery, I should note that on one level they're right: cultural expression should not be policed in any way. I don't mean to suggest that offensive imagery should be censored. As far as I'm concerned, you should say and publish any damn thing you choose. And then I'll say and publish any damn thing I choose about what you said. Don't blame me if your own foolishness sticks to you. Free speech means freedom to speak like an idiot, I suppose. Free speech isn't at issue in this discussion; the substantive meaning and value of a specific image is.

I also like this, from a follow-up post:

I'm not saying that anyone should remain silent in the face of swift-boat attacks. I'm just saying, come correct, with proper perspective and proportional angst — and an understanding of the points you claim to be addressing rather than stereotype-laden cliches. I'm saying, part of what makes us progressive is an open mind and a good heart. Lashing out with gleeful vitriol against every critic is ridiculous. Wielding the pixel-packet volume of FDL's megaphone for the sole purpose of trying to humiliate and heap derision on an African-American woman whose causes you self-righteously claim to defend is beyond ridiculous. And it's a step backward on the difficult path to the America that many of us hope to live in.

And while obviously I agree with Kai wrt the specific issue of FDL and Liza, you can remove that sentence and have that passage apply to just a lot of similar issues that keep cropping up in various contexts as I have observed it, at least; again and again and again.

I'm saying, part of what makes us progressive is an open mind and a good heart.

Yes. Thank you. And it is possible to cultivate these things and not become, as I suspect is the fear of many such folks on the newly re-energized left, wussy sellouts, ready to cave to The Enemy at the slightest breeze, terrified of genuine, legitimate anger, unable or unwilling to do what it takes to WIN, dammit. Lord knows there's plenty of that about as well; I sympathize with the fire-breathers to a great extent. Obviously.

And yet, and yet. It isn't enough. Claiming your anger is necessary but not sufficient. For one thing, the hardcore right does the "ruthless people" act better and always will; for another, more important, after a certain point it starts to undercut everything you supposedly stand for. As a progressive, liberal, humanist, "decent person," what you will. Finally: sooner or later you're gonna flame out. If you need to stoke that much fire in the belly just to get to your goal, well, you might get your goal; but chances are good that before you do--maybe, if you're "lucky," after--you'll burn up from the inside out. Maybe including politically. Maybe not. But what does it profit a persyn to gain the whole world if sie loseth hir only soul? More pragmatically: ulcers and heart attacks: Not Good. Making more enemies than friends: doubleplus ungood. And neither is the profound mistrust of humanity it takes to maintain that position of defensiveness all the time. When that happens, you really start to see where, indeed, the personal is political: that cynical, misanthropic attitude tends to reflect itself in one's ideology and, even more so, in one's policies.

In which case: and we're supporting/voting for you, why, again?

There are different routes to strength and power. I think what zuky is saying here is that there is a better one than the one FDL (for example) seems to be grasping for. Anyway, that's what I'm saying.

On edit: Another relevant passage from Gloria Anzaldua, via Slant Truth:

But it is not enough to stand on the opposite river bank, shouting questions, challenging patriarchal, white conventions. A counterstance locks one into a duel of oppressor and oppressed; locked in mortal combat, like the cop and the criminal, both are reduced to a common denominator of violence. The counterstance refutes the dominant culture’s views and beliefs, and, for this, it is proudly defiant. All reaction is limited by, and dependent on, what it is reacting against. Because the counterstance stems from a problem with authority–outer as well as inner–it’s a step towards liberation from cultural domination. But it is not a way of life. At some point, on our way to a new consciousness, we will have to leave the opposite bank, the split between the two mortal combatants somehow healed so that we are on both shores at once and, at once, see through serpent and eagle eyes. or perhaps we will decide to disengage from the dominant culture, write it off altogether as a lost cause, and cross the border into a wholly new and seperate territory. Or we might go another route. The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.


Rootietoot said...

I've always believed the most elegant form of censorship is to ignore. For example, I don't like Howard Stern, so I don't listen to him, therefore he has no effect on me. If I disagree with a politician, I don't contribute to his campaign. If I am offended by something(say, pornography) I don't look at it. If I DO agree with a politician, I go to work for him. If I DO approve of a a particular body of work, I buy it and read it and talk it up to others.

Because I'm not the flag-waving/burning type, doncha know.

belledame222 said...

I guess I'm not totally sure what you're referring to in the context of this post.

I agree wrt media, for the most part. In terms of a politician, though, "just ignore" doesn't actually work all that well, I find, if the politician is actively putting forth damaging untruths in the service of say passing a bill that will directly harm me or others.

Elayne said...

You know what would be really, really wrong? If someone were to take the Clinton-and-bloggers picture that FDL folks attended and blackface their faces and sarcastically caption, "see, there were black folks at this luncheon after all!" Of course, as I said, this would be really, really wrong, and I haven't the Photoshop skills anyway.

belledame222 said...


I bet it wouldn't be that hard.

But I don't actually want to pick on the actual bloggers anyway; well, certainly some of them who've already been more than singled out enough.

maybe stick Hamsher and her footpad in a photoshop'd white hood, in front of a burning cross; then rationalize that we were not in fact really comparing them to the KKK, how crude; but were rather making a point about how they are blinded by the monolithic whiteness as represented by the pillowcase hood. Oh, and the cross? Uhh, we were talking about their burning zealotry, which we are comparing to religious fervor. See? They missed the subtle part. But, *sigh*, we're real sorry if they were, like, offended (whiny little cretins).

Rootietoot said...

my mind's scattered like so many leaves...I think I was thinking about 20 things when I wrote that comment

belledame222 said...

no prob. i figured maybe it was more related to the Caligula post at your place, or something, and you just cross-posted.

Kai said...


Thanks so much for your post and kind words. I really appreciate the way you've gone after this story. And I also like your clarification on the matter of "having an open mind and a good heart" as opposed to being a wuss. It's funny, in my Buddhist tradition, having an open mind and having compassion are signs of strength; whereas being closed-minded and aggressive are signs of weakness. But I'm glad you put things in the context that you did. Much respect. :-D

And Elayne: Now that's inflammatory. Wow. Even reading your words got me worried. Not that it's any more inflammatory than the material that started this whole conversation, but still. Wow.

Peace All,

Alon Levy said...

You know what would be really, really wrong? If someone were to take the Clinton-and-bloggers picture that FDL folks attended and blackface their faces and sarcastically caption, "see, there were black folks at this luncheon after all!"

It would be incredibly funny... much more than a Klan hood, I should add. But if I had the photoshop skills, I'd do it.

belledame222 said...

yeh, I...think maybe enough with the blackface, although admittedly this one would be a lot more straightforward. it'd backfire, though, i'm afraid.

I think maybe we should just mock them mercilessly and then tell 'em to stop whining if and when they get around to bitching about it. Hey, seems to work for them...

sunrunner said...

Great post Belle!

Mocking an opponents ideas is a time honored tradition, but in order for it to effective, it must be done well.

And as many a comedian will tell you, it isn't always so easy.