Zizek on Romney and Big Bird

Slavoj Žižek: Romney, Big Bird, and the prospect of avian apocalypse

Irresistible Zizek:

The bourgeois media and the Democratic party machine were confounded by Mitt Romney’s invocation of Big Bird during the first US presidential debate, a sentiment that soon gave way to cynical amusement and playground mockery. But Romney had inadvertently revealed a deep truth about the Capitalist canon’s troubled relationship with oversized birds. Birds at once represent freedom, a visual cliché widely used by Liberal parties around the world depicting a bird in flight, never in repose, and the possibility of being devoured by the feathered creatures that have learned to negotiate gravity far better than un-mechanised humans could ever do. Romney’s Big Bird metaphor deserves more analysis than it was given by the mainstream media arm of the post-wage capitalist complex.

It gets more improbable:

Coincidentally, a few days after Romney made his declaration of war against Big Bird, Israeli jets intercepted and shot down an unidentified flying object. Unidentified Flying object. ‘Unidentified’ is of course a reference to Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘unknown unknowns’, the possibility that there is a man with knife hiding behind the shower curtain, but also other possibilities that we haven’t even conceived of. But more interesting is the reference to a flying object. Object is a distraction, it denies our flying friend agency to pretend it’s a machine, in fact it is a flying subject, no other than our winged nemesis, which Romney had just declared war against. Accidental? Given Israel’s desperation to reinvent its cold-war role as a regional spearhead of US hegemony, that is highly unlikely.

Coincidentally, a few days after Romney made his declaration of war against Big Bird, Israeli jets intercepted and shot down an unidentified flying object. Unidentified Flying object. ‘Unidentified’ is of course a reference to Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘unknown unknowns’, the possibility that there is a man with knife hiding behind the shower curtain, but also other possibilities that we haven’t even conceived of. But more interesting is the reference to a flying object. Object is a distraction, it denies our flying friend agency to pretend it’s a machine, in fact it is a flying subject, no other than our winged nemesis, which Romney had just declared war against. Accidental? Given Israel’s desperation to reinvent its cold-war role as a regional spearhead of US hegemony, that is highly unlikely.

Links for 11.19.09 to 11.24.09

Middle East Report 253: Beyond Compare by Julie Peteet | On the similarities of the Israeli occupation to Apartheid, its differences, and a call for a new advocacy strategy. ✪ Newsweek Reporter's Ordeal in Iran | Newsweek International | Newsweek.com | Maziar Bahari's story. ✪ The sixth war - The National Newspaper | Greg Johnsen on the Huthi-Saudi-Yemeni war(s), and their socio-political underpinnings. ✪ Daily News Egypt - Shalit Release Imminent, Claim Egyptian And Israeli Press | Heard that before - who will be the spoiler for prisoner exchanges now? ✪ Morocco: Endangered 'Model'? | Human Rights Watch | HRW's Eric Goldstein on Morocco's slide to more and more rights abuses. ✪ MEI - Middle East International | Another new issue. ✪ Saudi Arabia goes to war | Mai Yamani | On Riyadh's attack on Huthis marks the first solo military venture for the Saudi army. ✪ Hey, preacher – leave those kids alone | Ariane Sherine | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | I'm a rabid atheist and even I think this goes too far. People can choose sooner or later anyway, parents have rights over their kids. But of course religious schools should get no state funding. ✪ Syria's crusade for tourism | Travel | The Guardian | Damascus wants to double the number of tourists that visit it. Quick, get there before the country is ruined... ✪ Homeland Security Today - preparedness and security news - Obama Dilutes Power of Top Intel Officer; Elevates DCI | Interesting piece on failed attempts to restructure US intelligence community, caused by fight between CIA and DNI. ✪ International Journal of Žižek Studies | It would be funny if this was satire, but it's not. ✪ Interview / Reporter Helen Thomas criticizes Obama's Mideast peace efforts - Haaretz | "I don't think they are working very hard for peace." ✪ Will Turkey benefit from Ergenekon? - Le Monde diplomatique | Remnants of Turkey's deep state and Cold War networks. ✪ Le Figaro - La lutte des princes saoudiens pour succéder au roi Abdallah | As Sarkozy visits, creepy old geezer princes fight for kingdom. ✪ Little behind Obama's tough Mideast talk: analysts - Yahoo! News | In foreign as in domestic policy, Obama has no balls.
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Links for 08.19.09 to 08.20.09

Saad Eddin Ibrahim: President Obama Maintains Status Quo with Egypt - WSJ.com | Saad Eddin Ibrahim on Obama. ✪ Quiet slicing of the West Bank makes abstract prayers for peace obscene | Slavoj Zizek | Comment is free | The Guardian | A good piece on Israel/Palestine by Zizek unfortunately ends weakly by talking about terrorism. As if the crimes of terrorists were comparable to the erasing of Palestine over 60 years. ✪ Hosni In The House Hosni In The House | Project on Middle East Democracy | Good collection of links on Mubarak's trip to Washington and the Egyptian predicament. ✪ FT.com / Comment / Analysis - Confusion over Cairo | Good long piece on Egypt on a range of issues. ✪ FT.com / Comment / Editorial - Mubarak’s return to Washington | What I like about the FT is that, unlike most, it's not afraid to call a spade a spade: "The national security regime, with its backbone in the army and its nervous system in the intelligence services, is incapable of adapting politically. Sincere attempts by successive governments to liberalise keep on hitting this wall of vested interests, reinforced by layers of businessmen operating under state patronage. Respectable economic growth has opened up huge wealth disparities, with food rioters and conspicuous consumers sitting cheek by scowling jowl in Egypt’s teeming cities. Behind it all lies the debris of ideological bankruptcy." ✪ Arabic explained (for Arabic speakers) - The National Newspaper | On mo3jam.com, the Arabic vernacular translator. ✪ Democracy In Egypt: Necessary Ingredient in a U.S.-Egyptian Partnership - Brookings Institution | Michele Dunne and Tamara Coffman-Wittes urge the Obama administration to make democracy an important issue in the Egypt-US relationship. Note that Coffman-Wittes was recently mentioned as a possible DAS for Middle Eastern democracy. ✪ Obama huddles with Egypt's Mubarak | The briefing Obama and Mubarak gave at the White House. Mubarak says reform issues were discussed and that he still had two years to implement his 2005 reformist program, and that on the peace process move should be straight to final status. Obama praises Mubarak in several respects, welcomes Israel's pseudo-freeze of settlements, says Arabs must now give something. Otherwise nothing interesting.
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Zizek on Iran

I am sometimes skeptical, not to say dismissive, of Slavoj Zizek (although I always enjoy reading some of his criticism), but I liked this passage on Iran:
The events in Iran can also be read as a comment on the platitudes of Obama’s Cairo speech, which focused on the dialogue between religions: no, we don’t need a dialogue between religions (or civilisations), we need a bond of political solidarity between those who struggle for justice in Muslim countries and those who participate in the same struggle elsewhere. Two crucial observations follow. First, Ahmadinejad is not the hero of the Islamist poor, but a corrupt Islamofascist populist, a kind of Iranian Berlusconi whose mixture of clownish posturing and ruthless power politics is causing unease even among the ayatollahs. His demagogic distribution of crumbs to the poor shouldn’t deceive us: he has the backing not only of the organs of police repression and a very Westernised PR apparatus. He is also supported by a powerful new class of Iranians who have become rich thanks to the regime’s corruption – the Revolutionary Guard is not a working-class militia, but a mega-corporation, the most powerful centre of wealth in the country. Second, we have to draw a clear distinction between the two main candidates opposed to Ahmadinejad, Mehdi Karroubi and Mousavi. Karroubi is, effectively, a reformist, a proponent of an Iranian version of identity politics, promising favours to particular groups of every kind. Mousavi is something entirely different: he stands for the resuscitation of the popular dream that sustained the Khomeini revolution. It was a utopian dream, but one can’t deny the genuinely utopian aspect of what was so much more than a hardline Islamist takeover. Now is the time to remember the effervescence that followed the revolution, the explosion of political and social creativity, organisational experiments and debates among students and ordinary people. That this explosion had to be stifled demonstrates that the revolution was an authentic political event, an opening that unleashed altogether new forces of social transformation: a moment in which ‘everything seemed possible.’ What followed was a gradual closing-down of possibilities as the Islamic establishment took political control. To put it in Freudian terms, today’s protest movement is the ‘return of the repressed’ of the Khomeini revolution. What all this means is that there is a genuinely liberatory potential in Islam: we don’t have to go back to the tenth century to find a ‘good’ Islam, we have it right here, in front of us. The future is uncertain – the popular explosion has been contained, and the regime will regain ground. However, it will no longer be seen the same way: it will be just one more corrupt authoritarian government. Ayatollah Khamenei will lose whatever remained of his status as a principled spiritual leader elevated above the fray and appear as what he is – one opportunistic politician among many. But whatever the outcome, it is vital to keep in mind that we have witnessed a great emancipatory event which doesn’t fit within the frame of a struggle between pro-Western liberals and anti-Western fundamentalists. If we don’t see this, if as a consequence of our cynical pragmatism, we have lost the capacity to recognise the promise of emancipation, we in the West will have entered a post-democratic era, ready for our own Ahmadinejads. Italians already know his name: Berlusconi. Others are waiting in line.
Or maybe do I really just hate Berlusconi?
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