1. White terrorists are called “gunmen.” What does that even mean? A person with a gun? Wouldn’t that be, like, everyone in the US? Other terrorists are called, like, “terrorists.”
2. White terrorists are “troubled loners.” Other terrorists are always suspected of being part of a global plot, even when they are obviously troubled loners.
3. Doing a study on the danger of white terrorists at the Department of Homeland Security will get you sidelined by angry white Congressmen. Doing studies on other kinds of terrorists is a guaranteed promotion.
4. The family of a white terrorist is interviewed, weeping as they wonder where he went wrong. The families of other terrorists are almost never interviewed.
5. White terrorists are part of a “fringe.” Other terrorists are apparently mainstream.
6. White terrorists are random events, like tornadoes. Other terrorists are long-running conspiracies.
7. White terrorists are never called “white.” But other terrorists are given ethnic affiliations.
8. Nobody thinks white terrorists are typical of white people. But other terrorists are considered paragons of their societies.
9. White terrorists are alcoholics, addicts or mentally ill. Other terrorists are apparently clean-living and perfectly sane.
10. There is nothing you can do about white terrorists. Gun control won’t stop them. No policy you could make, no government program, could possibly have an impact on them. But hundreds of billions of dollars must be spent on police and on the Department of Defense, and on TSA, which must virtually strip search 60 million people a year, to deal with other terrorists.
Juan Cole actually wrote this 4 days after a white terrorist, yes, terrorist, murdered 6 and injured 4 people at a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin. The terrorist who committed said crime spoke of an impending “racial holy war” beforehand and was a member of white supremacist/neo-Nazi hate groups.
Tayloristic ideas have permeated society to the degree that even as leftist a source as Slavoj Zizek have said that we need authoritarian figures to simplify a complex decision to the point of decision. The idea that there can ever be an easy decision if only we had a sufficiently authoritarian figure making it is, in fact, a devolution. We have gone backwards from arguing for an authoritarian figure in the workplace (the Manager) because it is more efficient to arguing for an authoritarian figure in general (the Master) because authoritarian figures have the mystical ability to make complicated situations easy. What we see in Zizek’s argument is that these two arguments were never separate—that the abilities that the manager supposedly have were never that different from the inborn abilities that aristocrats supposedly had.
I think this is a misleading oversimplification of Žižek. For instance, Žižek himself is incredibly suspicious of the neo-liberal tendency towards technocratic management of the economy. He opposes himself to Badiou, who conceives of the economy as a ‘non-evental site,’ or a politically neutral regime which is incapable of producing a ‘truth’ event (except for crisis, which will only ever reveal that capitalism is bad). In this paradigm the economy should be ‘scientifically’ managed, which makes Badiou, a hardcore Maoist, no better than a Eurocrat. This notion of the ‘depoliticized economy’ is symptomatically suspect to not only Taylorist delusions but short circuits the possibility of a revolutionary praxis that creates separate organs of economic activity/organization as a mode of resistance (let alone forecloses on the strategy of the political seizure of the economy itself). So much for that. If anything, Žižek’s ‘infatuation’ with the figure of the authoritarian leader or master, at least, is not grounded in his latent nostalgic Bolshevism or symptomatic Taylorism but Lacanian psychoanalysis.
The leader acts as the ‘cause of desire,’ the ‘Thing’ that is able to spur or provoke desire because the subject did not know what he/she desired. Desire only manifests positively when it has an object that can be articulated in language and acted towards; otherwise it is experienced as sort of nebulous negative identity that manifests as anxiety or impotence. So it is not that leaders are efficient decision makers and Žižek is infatuated with the authoritarian solution of complex problems via decisive action from a place of unquestionable power. Rather it is that the figure of the leader becomes highly problematized.
First, in its liberal-democratic form: “the leader presupposes as minimum of alienation: those who exert power can only be held responsible to the people if there is a minimal distance of re-presentation between them and the people” (DLC 378). Second, in its ‘totalitarian’ form: “In ‘totalitarianism,’ this distance is cancelled. The Leader is supposed to directly present the will of the people – and the result is, of course, that the (empirical) people are even more radically alienated in their Leader: he directly is what they ‘really are,’ their true identity, their true wishes and interests, as opposed to their confused ‘empirical’ wishes and interests” (DLC 378). Žižek reveals that there is an overlap in democratic parliamentary representation and totalitarianism via this issue of alienation: by degrees, the leader who ‘represents’ the people does so with a degree of formal or ideological adequacy to the task of representation. This manifests as the ‘flavor’ of alienation the citizen subject experiences: you have the decisive autocrat who understands the people better than they understand themselves or a representative of a constituency whose attitudes and desires he divines from democratic procedures (actual voting on issues) and the dissemination of information (polls, news, surveys, studies from think tanks, etc.).
Here is the underlying Hegelian lesson: “Hegel had already pointed out how political representation does not mean that people already know in advance what they want and then charge their representatives with advocating their interests – they only know them ‘in themselves’; it is their representative who formulates their interests and goals for them, making them ‘for-themselves.’ The ‘totalitarian; logic thus makes explicit, posits ‘as such,’ a split which always-already cuts from within the represented ‘people’” (DLC 378). Totalitarianism is thus the political presentation that reveals this underlying split between the ‘people’ and their politicians that is shared in all forms of government. Now for the smoking gun; since this problematic of representation occurs in every instance of government we should therefore suspend our suspicion of charismatic leader figures. Why? If “democracy as a rule cannot reach beyond pragmatic utilitarian inertia, it cannot suspend the logic of the ‘servicing of goods (‘service des biens’); consequently, in the same way that there is no self-analysis, since the analytic change can only occur through the transferential relationship onto the external figure of the analyst, a leader is necessary to trigger the enthusiasm for a Cause. To bring about the radical change in the subjective position of his followers to ‘transubstantiate’ their identity” (DLC 378). Žižek wants the Left to overcome their suspicion of charismatic leader figures, because through their ability to approximate and act on behalf of our desire we might actually learn our desire. This is obviously counterpoised to the Deleuzian wisdom, promulgated by Hardt and Negri, that hierarchized structures necessarily lead to ‘cults of personality’ and therefore totalitarian abuses and that horizontal democratic ‘schizoid’ organizations are the only authentic mode of resistance because they resist the centralization of power and so forth. Žižek elaborates in his recent lecture in Sao Paolo that the failure of the Left in Mai 68 can be attributed to this romantic notion of resistance. Rather than the drunken excesses of revolution we should focus on the hangover ‘the day after’: how the revolution changed the structure of daily life, how it created new organs of power that challenge the existing class relationships, how it materially disrupted the consistency of our social reality from that day onward…
Thus this changes the so-called ‘ultimate question of power’ from “‘is it democratically legitimate or not?’” to “what is the specific character (‘the social content’) of the ‘totalitarian excess’ that pertains to sovereign power as such, independently of its democratic or non-democratic character?” (DLC 378-9). In Defense of Lost Causes and the above mentioned lecture in Sao Paolo, Žižek praised Hugo Chavez for—despite his glaring inadequacies—instituting a true ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in the Venezuelan democracy through his privileged relationship to the poor (they are the source of his legitimate power and in turn he looks out for their interests). Even though Chavez could never ‘adequately’ represent them, they (the poor favela dwelling working class), through Chavez, bent the field of political representation in their favor such that they would—for now on—have to be appealed to for power to be legitimate in Venezuela.
For Žižek, leaders, whether democratic or totalitarian, are always sort of inept crooks: ambiguous and morally ambiguous tragi-comic ‘Napoleonic’ characters that, despite their shortcomings, made a mark on history (recent figures like Obama, Nelson Mandela, and Margaret Thatcher come to mind). They are not imbued with mystical decision making powers but rather the ability to shift the field of political representation towards the desires of a group or class. Thus they change the ‘social content.’ We can ask, “who (which social class) is afraid of the government? are people overworked? how many people are living meaningful productive lives? are people educated? well fed? are people afraid of the future? do people like their government? are people happy with the distribution of wealth? is the government looking out for our interests?” and so on. These naïve questions, I think, strike at the heart of what a ‘well represented’ truly democratic society looks like – whether or not they formally a democratic or authoritarian government.
Žižek’s reference is Rosa Luxemborg, who notes that “’dictatorship consists not in the way in which democracy is used and not its abolition,’ her point was not that democracy is an empty framework that can be used by different political agents (Hitler also came to power through – more or less – free democratic elections), but that there is a ‘class bias’ inscribed into this very empty procedural frame” (DLC 379). This is why, he notes, that when the radical-left gains power they immediately begin electoral reform to “change the rules” and solidify the hegemony of their base. What appears to us liberals as a betrayal of the ‘good’ democratic system is actually an attempt a genuine attempt to rid it of its class bias and to change the logic of the political space. Even if one disagrees with these practices, we should still be suspicious of people who uphold the sanctity of the liberal parliamentary form since it will necessarily reveal aristocratic pretentions, a suspicion of the majority, and the need to defend the interests of a ‘minority’ (which, in free-market capitalism can only ever be the wealthy).
What this means is that we should share the conclusion that Marx originally made: that meaningful political participation, power, and control requires control of the means of production. This Marxist ‘attitude’ manifests as skepticism towards parliamentary and democratic discourse along with the espousal of ‘formal’ political freedoms (rights and so forth), and a drive towards a revolutionary praxis of ‘democratizing’ the work place: ousting managers, allowing laborers to self-mediate the production process, and so forth.
Surprisingly, Islam is now condemned for not giving women their rights, but in the past it was blamed for a totally opposite reason. Riffat Hassan (2007, p. 162) argues that “propaganda against Islam and Muslims is nothing new in the West. It is as old as the first chapter of Islamic history, when the new faith began to move into territories largely occupied by Christians.” Europeans always constructed Islam as a civilizational adversary and the religion, an antithesis of European values. Accordingly, during the medieval period, when women in Europe were denied many basic human rights which Muslim women had enjoyed since the seventh century, Islam was denigrated for being gender egalitarian. Previously in the West, women did not have property, inheritance and many other basic rights. In places such as Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi in the US, women’s property rights were restricted up until the 1960s and 1970s. Interestingly, the first American states “to grant women inheritance rights were Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico, all of which were once under Spanish control,” for which Fernea (2000) credits the Islamic influences on Spain. Parliament in Malta passed divorce laws only on 25 July 2011 (“MPs in Catholic Malta”). In other words, until recently, Maltese men and women have been barred from seeking divorce in the Catholic country. In Britain, women did not have the right of equal pay to equal work until the enactment of the Equal Pay Act of 1970 (enforced in 1975 and amended in 1984). The elite club of Britain’s Conservative Party, the Carlton Club, was established in 1832 and barred women from becoming full members and from attending or voting at general meetings until May 2008, although in 1975 it granted “honorary” membership to Margaret Thatcher (“Carlton Club,” 2008). Conversely, to be fair to the religion, Islam has granted women rights to inheritance, ownership, equal pay, engagement in public life and to initiating divorce since the seventh century. The Qur’ān declares: “Men shall have the benefit of what they earn and women shall have the benefit of what they earn” (4:32) and “From what is left by parents and by those nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women” (4:7). Furthermore, the very reason of women’s economic empowerment in Islam caused
the Christian medieval world to wonder: “What kind of religion would allow women to inherit?” (Fernea, 2000). This amazement is identical to what the Arabs had exclaimed following the Qur’ānic revelation regarding women’s right to inheritance. Some of them rushed to the Prophet and asked: “O Messenger of God! Are women really entitled to half of the property though they can neither ride horses nor defend themselves?” (Rahman, 2008, p. 32).
Md. Mahmudul Hasan, “Feminism as Islamophobia: A review of misogyny charges against Islam”
The capitalist machine does not run the risk of becoming mad, it is mad from one end to the other and from the beginning, and this is the source of its rationality. Marx’s black humor…is his fascination with such a machine: how it came to be assembled, on what foundation of decoding and deterritorialization; how it works, always more decoded, always more deterritorialized…; how it produces the terrible single class of gray gentlemen who keep up the machine; how it does not run the risk of dying all alone, but rather of making us die, by provoking investments of desire that do not even go by way of a deceptive and subjective ideology, and that lead us to cry out to the very end, Long live capital in all its reality, in all its objective dissimulation! Except in ideology, there has never been a humane, liberal, paternal, etc., capitalism. Capitalism is defined by…cruelty….Wage increases and improvements in the standard of living are realities, but realities that derive from a given supplementary axiom that capitalism is always capable of adding to its axiomatic in terms of an enlargement of its limits: let’s create the New Deal; let’s cultivate and recognize strong unions; let’s promote participation, the single class; let’s take a step toward Russia, which is taking so many toward us; etc. But within the enlarged reality that conditions these islands, exploitation grows constantly harsher, lack is arranged in the most scientific of ways, final solutions of the ‘Jewish problem’ variety are prepared down to the last detail, and the Third World is organized as an integral part of capitalism.
Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
It is worth noting in this respect that the original proletariat was not the blue-collar male working class. It was lower-class women in ancient society. The word “proletariat” comes to us from the Latin word for “offspring”, meaning those who were too poor to serve the state with anything but their wombs. Too deprived to contribute to economic life in any other way, these women produced labour power in the form of children. They had nothing to yield up but the fruit of their bodies. What society demanded from them was not production but reproduction.
For each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society, that is, expressed in ideal form: it has to give its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones.
Western Marxists therefore placed far greater emphasis on the importance of what Marx called superstructure—culture, institutions, language—in the political process, so much so that consideration of the economic base sometimes disappeared altogether. Unable to change the world, they concentrated on interpreting it through what became known as ‘cultural studies’—which established its own hegemony on many university campuses in the final decades of the twentieth century, transforming the study of history, geography, sociology, anthropology and literature…
That realm [of the superstructure] was defined far more broadly than Marx ever imagined. It encompassed any and every sort of cultural commodity—a pair of winklepicker shoes, a newspaper photograph, a pop record and a packet of breakfast cereal were all ‘texts’ that could be ‘read’. The critique of mass culture from early theorists influenced by the Frankfurt school was gradually supplanted by a study of the different ways in which people receive and interpret these everyday texts. As cultural studies took a ‘linguistic turn’—evolving through structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction and then postmodernism—it often seemed a way of evading politics altogether, even though many of its practitioners continued to call themselves Marxists. The logic of their playful insistence that there were no certainties or realities led ultimately to a free-floating, value-free relativism which could celebrate both American pop cultural and medieval superstition without a qualm. Despite their scorn for grand historical narratives and general laws of nature, many seemed to accept the enduring success of capitalism as an immutable fact of life. Their subversive impulses sought refuge in marginal spaces where the victors’ dominance seemed less secure: hence their enthusiasm for the exotic and unincorporable, from UFO conspiracy theories to sado-masochistic fetishes. A fascination with the pleasures of consumption (TV soap operas, shopping malls, mass-market kitsch) displaced the traditional Marxist focus on the conditions of material production…. No systematic critique of monopoly capitalism could be achieved since capitalism was itself a fiction, like truth, justice, law and all other ‘linguistic constructs’.