GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

November 8, 2008

Subtle and Irreversible

Filed under: GA — adam @ 9:40 am

Wouldn’t the criterion for actions taken by a new Adminstration, bolstered by a solid Congressional majority, which wants to effect fundamental transformation of the American order without tarnishing the transcendence which has been its real program, be that such changes be as subtle and irreversible as possible?  Perhaps (to refer back to my previous posts) large scale scapegoating operations can be suspended, and used for more targeted ends when needed–first of all, you would want to sustain the good feelings (treating opponents more with pity than anger) and make the most minimal changes with the most maximal effects. 

Now that the adminstrative, regulatory and welfare state has become large enough, and judicial understandings of the Constitution malleable enough, it is possible to make substantial changes simply through staffing decisions.  If the “Fairness Doctrine” is resurrected, a couple of appointments to the FCC determine what counts as “fair”; a couple of years of judicial appointments and “gay marriage” will be the law of the land; add to such appointments new “hate speech” laws and anyone who criticizes “gay marriage” (or puts quotation marks around it?) will be criminalized; appointments to the Federal Exchange Commission and of Federal Attorneys can ensure that, probably without even changing the law (as Eliot Spitzer showed, there is already plenty on the books with which to bully and bamkrupt less compliant corporations), corporations on board with the new regime will get along splendidly and those who aren’t–not.  The same goes for the Food and Drug Adminstration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor Department and so on–a government that scruples not to blow with the “righteous wind” at its back can make very thoroughgoing “change” without anyone really noticing until it is much too late–and, then, when resistance is mounted, you scapegoat that resistance as opposed to the implementation of the law, opposed to solid legal precedent, in favor of dirty air and water, in favor of unsafe working conditions, etc., etc.  This is how a smart and determined transnational progressive regime would proceed and Obama, much more so than the Pelosi-Reid clown Congress, seems to be smart and determined–and well-liked as well.

I haven’t spoken about the Palin phenomenon, but would like to now, because it is linked to a broader point:  the absolute need, if we are to extricate ourselves from what seems to me to be a death spiral (the success of the 9/11 attacks), to demolish the Washington “establishment”:  there is almost nothing actually existing in Washington, with the exception of Constitutionally mandated institutions, that I wouldn’t include in this imperative.  The CIA should be abolished and replaced by human intelligence gathering groups directly accountable to the President; the State Department should be eviscerated; we should bring back the “spoils system,” so that a new Adminstration can be genuinely responsible for the actions it undertakes–I would like to set the major political parties on the road to extinction, first of all by removing any legal forms which elevate them above any other private association; the same for the big media.  And that’s just for starters.  All this is in the realm of fantasy (and, perhaps, liberating thought experiments) at this point, of course–I raise the issue here not because I necessarily think Sarah Palin would do any of these things, but because there is no doubt that official Washington and its media praetorian guard saw her as a deadly threat to business as usual.  The frame-up of Palin revolved around her unfamiliarity with Washingtonese and media-speak–I would agree that she probably doesn’t know much about some foreign policy issues, but neither did Clinton or Bush before being elected, neither does Obama, and Biden knows a lot more that isn’t true than is.  They have no more brains than she does:  the difference, to paraphrase the Wizard of Oz’s speech to the strawman at the end of the movie, is that they have been “certified” by the establishment and she hasn’t.  The most remarkable and prescient events of the campaign might turn out to be those disastrous interviews:  what a careful and sympathetic viewer saw in Palin’s encounters with the “mainstream” media was someone torn between her lack of familiarity with the terms of a very hostile environment, her loyalty to her running mate which led, in turn, to her exaggerated deference to the standardized “official” discourse with which the campaign advisors tried to inculcate her, and her own, rather precise but largely unwelcome convictions and political instincts.  Torn to the point of incoherence:  when, in that cring-producing moment, Katie Couric asked her which newspapers and magazines she reads, and Palin answered “all of them,” as a writing instructor I saw the terror of the student desperate not to be “wrong” and rummaging through her store of commonplaces for a serviceable answer that won’t draw upon itself the dreaded red ink (“what is this essay about?”–“He is making a point about universal human nature”…)–I imagine that, running through her mind at that moment was something like “Oh my God, they didn’t tell me which newspapers and magazines I read!”

It was very good for us to see it and, I hope, in the long run, for Palin to have experienced it–because it is only those who are untutored in Washington’s ways, but skeptical enough to burst the bubbles of conventional wisdom (and there Palin certainly has some work to do) who can save us at this point.  Margins of the political system must be sought where “unregulated” associations and agendas can be formed–there’s no need to ignore the pseudo-center, but no serious political activity at this point can allow itself to be dependent upon it either.  My own favorite is a movement organized around constitutional amendments:  let’s sit down a formulate the language knocking the media, the judiciary, the universities, and the political parties off of the pedestal they have erected for themselves; let’s see if we can revise the terms of accountability of elected officials for the programs they establish by forcing Congress, not unelected bureaucrats, to set the rules according to which laws will be implemented–I am confident that language in all of these cases, and many more, can be found that would gain the support of the 2/3-3/4 of Americans needed to pass new amendments, and such a campaign would be an unprecedented experience in trans-partisan political self-education.   We could then hold politicians accountable to their stand on the amendments.  Let’s see if we can be subtle and irreversible ourselves:  all ideas conforming to our constitutional order should be welcomed into the discussion.

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