Saturday, April 02, 2016

rifts and fractures left and right

Being in Seattle has been unavoidably instructive on how there are fractures within the "left".  There's the mainstream Democratic apparatus and then there's fans of Sanders.  While it's been newsworthy how Trump has ascended as a popular symbol in spite of a lack of institutional ties to the GOP mainstream Sanders is in many respects the mirror to that.  They could both be described as populist agitators in Jacques Ellul's general lexicon (Trump, obviously, far more readily).  What fans of Sanders and Trump may be forced to discover is the political machinery of the two party system may ensure that neither a Sanders nor a Trump ends up being the candidate on the ballot. 

Over at Slate there's been a parade of authors willing to remark that Sanders' fans resort to misogynistic remarks or that Sanders has no realistic way to pay for all the stuff he promises.

Clinton has been praised for not having Imposter Syndrome, which is why she offends so many people:

Bernie Sanders is successful this election cycle because he's not a woman

Although ... it remains to be seen what "success" looks like should Sanders not ultimately secure the nomination.  If Clinton could lose a nomination to Obama in 2008 Sanders could fail to secure the nomination this year.  Brand recognition is not the same as viability within the two party machines.

In one of the more memorable cases of a film critic transforming a truly cosmetic detail about a recent blockbuster into an occasion for political commentary, The New Yorker's Richard Brody has built quite a discourse on how Superman's eyes glow red and Batman's eyes glow blue and how this is emblematic of the Republican and Democratic parties.


Snyder parses the difference between the two superheroes with an inspired pair of special effects. Both Superman and Batman have eyes that glow with supernatural powers; Superman’s are red, Batman’s are blue. In effect, Superman is the Republican superhero, Batman the Democratic one. The classic distinction between the right and the left is that the right represents the uninhibited force of natural power, while the left represents a check on natural power in the name of an idea. Batman embodies that check—and, because he himself isn’t up to a mano a mano with Superman, he needs allies.
The movie’s one great line comes in the final showdown, when Superman tells Batman, “If I wanted it, you’d be dead already.” (It’s a “Godfather” riff.) The line announces the rules of the game: Superman is stronger than Batman, but his one great vulnerability renders him more tragically destructible than Batman’s multivariable modalities of death. It also explains, in one phrase, the entire plot and its implications: Superman may be able to kill Batman at will, but Batman, in order to combat Superman effectively, has to have help. He has to make an alliance, even an unwitting one, with other forces, which, in the event, turn out to be the forces of evil, at the command of Lex Luthor.
It’s a salacious political charge to suggest that the Democratic left is inclined to dubious and unwitting alliances with evildoers in order to oppose unwarranted authority at home. The notion has no relationship to contemporary politics (despite some Republicans’ claims of that sort). It’s a powerful metaphor, though, all the more so because Snyder realizes it in hectic images. Even at his most pedestrian or bombastic, Snyder makes a far more engaging film than Christopher Nolan (an executive producer of “Batman v Superman”) ever did—because Nolan presumes to know and to show, whereas Snyder wants to see. Even his slender philosophical world seems like he’s discovering it, not delivering it.
“Batman v Superman,” especially in an election year, foresees woe to those who want superheroes at all. The movie suggests that there’d be much less of an urge to find a superhero—or to magnify demagogues who pretend to be one—if politicians merely did their jobs competently and sensitively. (The movie presents the long-dithering antics of politicians mainly through the actions of Senator June Finch, played by Holly Hunter, whose awakening comes too late.)
That's quite a feat of just running along on an assumption that red glow/blue glow can be taken to mean red state/blue state.  If mainstream film critics are held in contempt by comics fans for "not getting it", Richard Brody may have provided a useful case study.  Richard Brody insisted last year that Michael Bay has and gives more fun than George Miller ... although precisely how Richard Brody had more fun watching Transformers: Age of Extinction than Mad Max: Fury Road isn't something I'm interested in trying to understand.  It's sort of like how I'm not sure I can get why he denounced the "propaganda" of Inside Out and then turned around and praised Spike Lee's Chirac.  Well, I've got a theory, and the theory is that a critic can choose to regard something as "art" to the extent to which it's just enough of a blank slate that he or she can impose his/her own ideological/political/moral/intellectual concerns onto the observed film.  If this isn't possible then it's "propaganda". If this is the case then there's a potential category of film critics whose love or hatred of different sorts of films has to do with whether or not they can read themselves on to the films.  But ...
well, in a way that could connect to the fractures within the left and right that are evident in this election cycle.  Whether it's a Clinton/Sanders fracture or a insert name here/Trump fracture the ideologically committed progressives and reactionaries can't read themselves within the confines of the mainstream political machinery.  Recently at Slate there was a commentary on Susan Sarandon's opinions ... for those who already read about them:

The problems with Sarandon’s position go beyond its tolerance for human sacrifice. There’s also the gormless unreality of her idea of revolution. Does she mean a political revolution, like the one Sanders has proposed? Because the major barrier to such a revolution is not a populace that needs to suffer more in order to reach Sarandon’s superlative level of wokeness. It is the structural obstacles to democracy systematically erected by Republicans and Republican-appointed judges: the widespread erosion of voting rights, the unlimited flood of money into politics unleashed by the Supreme Court, and the epic gerrymandering following the 2010 census that makes it nearly impossible for Democrats to win back the House, even if they win a majority of votes. These things will get worse, not better, in any Republican administration, making the possibility of a peaceful electoral revolution all the more remote.

But maybe that’s not the sort of revolution Sarandon has in mind? Maybe she actually longs for the kind where things “really explode”? If so, one wonders who she thinks is going to fight this revolution. It’s certainly possible that a Trump presidency could lead to violent political conflict. If it comes to that, however, my money is on the side with all the gun fetishists, not subscribers to Jacobin.
It's not too difficult to see that Slate authors tend  to land on the side of Clinton in a contest between Clinton and Sanders these days.  I'm reaching a point where, given the role of the United States as a more or less uncontested political, economic and military power that that fits the description of Babylon in Revelation 17-18. If you ever wonder who the Antichrist may be the answer is this--who are YOU voting for?  That's your answer.  We've exported enough of  our industrial base and shifted the nature of our agricultural base that those jobs aren't exactly coming back.  Insisting on free college seems pointless. 
Even if we didn't have generations of grade inflation, ignoring the problem that institutional educational paradigms have come under criticism for stacking the deck against non-whites hasn't been addressed.  Even if college were free stop and think about what that could practically entail inside of a couple generations, it will basically mean we're doubling the length of high school and anyone who stops at high school will be like today's high school drop out.  There's no compelling reason that free college won't disproportionally and unfairly favor whites from socio-economic strata who probably least need it.   If we're concerned about the plight of the working class let's talk about ways to revitalize the unskilled labor market. 

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