Em oi! #427: Media Is Misfortune


I cut this up into panels for easier viewing. Click here to view the original.
A few notes and sources:

  1. Chomsky didn’t develop this theory (properly called the “propaganda model”) alone–he co-wrote the book with Edward Herman. Wikipedia suggests that the theory was more Herman’s than Chomsky’s, but everyone seems to call it Chomsky’s theory. Here is a video that explains it in more depth than one panel of a comic can do. As a (former, I guess) southeast Asianist, I have mixed feelings about Chomsky…he seems to be generally accepted on this point, but he was so, so wrong about a number of things (specifically, the Khmer Rouge)…
  2. Here is the main interview with Zizek that I referenced. I do enjoy the contrast between the well-dressed BBC host and the Ziz, who always looks like he has been awake for about 43 hours and hasn’t done laundry in a week.
  3. Foucault’s stuff about the power structure and revolution was touched on in this earlier comic.
  4. Fitzgerald has a weird face. Sorry, dude. Of all the real people I’ve tried to draw, he is the weirdest. And this is including J-P “Walleye” Sartre.
  5. Chomsky and Foucault didn’t get along either.

Chomsky was, (possibly) surprisingly, on the side of Hillary Clinton during the last election, while Zizek wanted people to vote for Trump–not because he supported Trump; in fact, he views DT as immoral and terrible, in many ways a total disaster. But he believed that by electing DT, the left would see some galvanization and would begin to reconstruct itself, not just to offer opposition but to offer a viable alternative that did not include neoliberalism/late-stage international capitalism/what have you. Interestingly, I think he was right to some extent. I knew a few people involved in local activism while Obama was in office, but I now know many, many more people who are calling their senators and congresspeople regularly, going to rallies, and actively supporting various campaigns to change the country for the better.

As I’m writing this, however, DT has pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord.* What this will actually mean for the world in the long run is difficult to say at this juncture, since it was a largely symbolic voluntary agreement that many (well, Honduras Nicaragua [ed: damn it]) claimed didn’t go far enough. But I do think that without the governmental impetus, the solution to global warming will wind up coming from the business community–that capitalism will eventually have to save us. If the idiotic old men in power can’t see the writing on the wall, the entrepreneurs can, and in this country money speaks a lot louder than treaty obligations. Which is ironic, because I think that the revolution Zizek had in mind was not essentially the renaissance of cultural capitalism in the role of savior, but (of course) socialism (“the good old welfare state,” as he would put it). To paraphrase Oscar Wilde (or, really Ziz quoting Wilde in the video linked just there), it feels like a bad idea to use private industry to lead the mitigation of the environmental disaster caused by private industry, because their motives will always be profit-driven rather than altruistic, and that means that people not living in the first world are going to wind up getting screwed somehow. On the other hand, as someone who is worried about the environment, I guess I’ll take what I can get at this point?

Circling back to the Ziz’s point about the president as the motive for revolution: the problem is that Trump is a good enemy but ultimately inept. The left doesn’t really have to do anything–they (we) just have to stand there and he’ll turn his administration into a dumpster fire. It’s been less than six months and there’s already been talk of impeachment on the floor of the House by Republicans. Thus, while the base is fired up, the democrats in congress don’t seem to be doing much in the way of providing alternative leadership or pivoting to embrace the more liberal Sanders wing or the multicultural Obama wing–they don’t have to.

And this is where the lack of objectivity I mentioned begins to bother me–rather than seeing any individual action the administration takes as the flailing of an inept and failing regime, the leftermost voices seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on interpreting how this is going to lead to fascism/autocracy/A Handmaid’s Tale/insert your particular fear here. I suppose this is the reverse of Obama, or perhaps more accurately the flip side of it. I discussed a few posts back seeing voters in 2008–especially African American voters, since I was in a heavily African American area of Philly–reconstructing Obama in their own image so that he could serve as a vehicle onto which they could project their ideas/hopes/dreams. Now on the other side, we have the left projecting its fears onto DT–perhaps because of a lack of transparency on his part that keeps him feeling like a remote and unknowable figure, or perhaps because this is how people always deal with their leaders–just as we must imagine that we live in a community filled with others who are basically the same as we are in order to become a nation, we must imagine the same thing about the leader who we will likely never meet in person–that he or she is a specific type of person that either is like us (for those leaders we like) or totally foreign to us (for those we hate).

To provide a possible counter-point to my own point here, I’ll add that while I was sketching out this comic, I found this video on Jacques Lacan,** about whom I know very little (he is widely admired by many of the continental philosophers I mention here, especially Zizek, but not widely discussed in the [undergraduate] philosophy curriculum, possibly because he’s largely still seen as a psychologist? Or because undergrad philosophy is kinda naff in a lot of ways). Anyway, the video quotes Lacan as saying, “What you aspire to as revolutionaries is a new master. And you will get one.” Lacan meant that what people want, from the time of infancy, is basically an “ideal parent,” someone who can make everything okay, and we carry this desire into who we vote for. Whereas it is better, following Sartre’s idea of radical freedom, to accept that no leader is going to be able to do these things, and instead to embrace the fact that if we want something to happen, the best way is to make it happen ourselves. Go out and break glass ceilings, clean up the environment, make art–do what you need to in order to be awesome every day.

We’ll file this under P95.82 U6 L86 2017, for Philology. Linguistics–Communication. Mass media–Special aspects–Political aspects. Policy–By region or country, A-Z. This allows it to sit next to the original being referenced, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Media, at least at my alma mater.

Footnotes:
* When I say “pulled out,” it’s not clear how Bloomberg / the individual states and cities saying they’re still going ahead with the Paris Accord requirements plays into this argument. Bloomberg is of course a total centerist neoliberal (and so on and so on).

**  Yes, I watch stuff like that for fun.

Em oi! #422: Useful to Rise Up?

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This comic was begun in December and finished about ten minutes ago. It has taken forever. In real life, it’s 10″ x 16″; it was originally intended for a print publication, so that’s why. The top panel would have looked like this:

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The Foucault essay can be seen here in French and here in English. The translation above is my own. After significant discussion, I decided to translate “les hommes se soulèvent” as “humans rise up” rather than “men rise up,” even though the latter is more accurate. I made this decision for two reasons: one, I think given other things I’ve read that Foucault said I think he recognized that revolutionaries were both male and female–stylistically, it was very typical to assume the masculine when he wrote this, so I’m not convinced it’s an exclusive term; and two, because I initially envisioned this being published in a feminist zine for the upcoming Women’s March on Washington, and I thought that using a more gender-neutral term would go over better. A bit self-serving, I realize. But the whole essay is to some extent Foucault’s last middle finger toward his critics following his controversial coverage (and support of) the Iranian revolution, so perhaps let us not get into what is self-serving to whom. The second-to-last panel Foucault speech is from The History of Sexuality volume 1, p. 95 (Vintage Books edition, published in 1995). What he actually says is this:

Where there is power, there is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power. […] [Power relationships’] existence depends on a multiplicity of points of resistance … [that are] present everywhere in the power network.

(It goes on. The whole section is recommended.) Depending on where you stand, this is either good or bad. Either he’s saying that resistance always exists in a diffuse way, and since the would-be revolutionaries have access to power they can coalesce their resistance in order to affect change, OR he’s saying, as the Who would put it, “Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss.” You can never be outside of the system because everything is a part of the system.

At any rate, I did not come to lecture, just to voice some thoughts I’ve had recently.

This comic was actually pretty entertaining for me, despite the amount of trouble it has caused. Drawing so many historical personages was fun. The hardest to draw was Mao, since thanks to Andy Warhol, his face is pretty well-known (at least until we get Sojourner Truth on the new $10 bill). Also, in case you were wondering, it turns out that Sojourner Truth was 6′ tall, while Karl Marx was only 5′ 9″. Also, I regret that I had to omit so many august personages–the original draft of this comic included, among others, Alexander Hamilton, Sun Yat-Sen, VI Lenin, and Corazon Aquino. Here’s a fun clip of Jeremy Clarkson hating on Cromwell from QI.

We’ll file this under JC491 L86 2017, for Political theory. The state. Theories of the state–Forms of the state–Change of form of the state. Political change–Revolutions.

I’ll leave you with this final quote from Travesties, by Tom Stoppard:

I learned three things in Zurich during the war. I wrote them down. Firstly, you’re either a revolutionary or you’re not, and if you’re not you might as well be an artist as anything else. Secondly, if you can’t be an artist, you might as well be a revolutionary… I forget the third thing.

Em oi!#306: That Foucault Guy

There is some sort of philosopher threesome joke to be made here, but I ain't doin' it.

I drew this comic on Sunday, but it took me until today to actually get it colored and uploaded (I inked it on St. Patrick’s Day, hence the date).  It is probably no surprise that I am busy since we are getting married in approximately 48 hours.

I might have a comic up Saturday morning, and then one more before we head out on our honeymoon next week.  We’ll see.  Right now, I should really go sleep or something.

Oh, about my 5k last Sunday: my goal going in was to finish in 24:00.  Instead, I finished in 22:57 (7:24 per mile pace), good enough for 9th in my age group and 15th among women.  I thought I was pretty hot shit, but then I passed a seven year old in the last two blocks, so clearly not that cool.  You can click here to check out some incredibly hilarious photos of me in the final stretch.  If I look kind of unhappy or like I’m going to throw up, that’s pretty accurate to how I was feeling at the time (didn’t barf, though).  You can see the seven year old in the background.

I guess I’m actually pretty pleased that I finished before he did.  It beats the alternative, anyway.

#304: The Meaning of Wife (book review)

Once I was reading an interview with Daniel Defert about Foucault’s last days, and he said this:

Deux jours après l’enterrement, j’entre dans un café, je croise un journaliste que je connaissais un peu. Il me regarde, absolument sidéré. Comme un objet d’effroi. Je comprends son regard. Je découvre, là, brutalement, que j’étais, à Paris, la seule personne dont on pouvait penser qu’elle avait le sida. Foucault mort du sida, j’avais donc le sida. Je découvre le sida, dans le face-à-face avec quelqu’un. Et c’est là que je comprends que je vais être obligé de faire un test, car autrement je n’arriverai pas à soutenir cette confrontation en permanence.

Two days after the burial [i.e. of Foucault], I went into a cafe, I met a journalist who I knew a bit.  He looked at me, absolutely flabbergasted.  Like an object of terror.  I understood his look.  I discovered, there, brutally, that I was, to Paris, the only person of whom it was possible to think she had AIDS. Foucault died of AIDS, I therefore also had AIDS.  I discovered AIDS, in the face to face encounter with someone.  And this made me understand that I was obligated to take a test, because otherwise I would never reach a place where I could withstand this confrontation permanently.

(My poor, idiomatic translation and bolding. The source is hereLibé, 2004.)

So that was what stuck with me, reading about Defert and Foucault lo these many years later: the terrifying isolation he must have felt and the silent oppressive stares he was met with, walking into a cafe one morning in Paris.  Defert has remained an object of passing interest ever since (as opposed to a footnote to a philosopher whose work I enjoy).

About The Meaning of Wife: A Provocative Look at Women and Marriage in the Twenty-first Century by Anne Kingston: fantastic book, wish it had gone farther into the 21st C (she wrote it before the onset of desperate housewives and the massive multiparenting Duggars/Jon and Kate Plus Eight (or is it Jon minus nine?)/the Octomom phenomena began, which saddens).  Also, not really much about LGBT marriage, sadly, except to say lesbians were cool at the end of the 20th century.  Bleh.  At any rate, perhaps not the book to read three weeks before you get married, since it rather makes one think that success may lie in staying single.  (It’s like a terrible article I read somewhere that pointed out that famous women writers typically had 0-1 child instead of 2+, as if having 2+ kids would prevent success or something?  Even with a room of one’s own?)  At any rate, am still getting married, so I’ll let you know re the success thing.

#303: Playing it Safe

The idea of language being a kind of veil between you and reality is discussed by Nietzsche in “On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense.” Foucault talks about language and reality in most of his books. The one that comes to mind is The Birth of the Clinic, mostly because he talks about doctors trying to create language without ambiguities – that is, when a doctor says of a patient that “he has broken such-and-so bone,” there shouldn’t be room for interpretation.

Derrida had something to say on the subject, but who the hell knows what it is.

If I ever start a new comic it will be called “Angry Philosophers.” Heh.

This comic is for B, because he likes innocuous things that curse. He read this and said, “This isn’t a reaction to last week or anything.”

Emily: “Nope.”

I can laugh at myself a little.