I have been thinking lately about the concept of the discredited. It is shocking to note that what should be and has been discredited somehow remains acceptable by people and the press that ought to serve them (but doesn't). The examples of this are so obvious, and the discredited so utterly discredited, that it hardly seems necessary to repeat what is already reverberating in cyberspace, in print and television news, and in places where people still talk to each other about things that matter.
Still, to make sure we're on the same page...
I am thinking of the major news stories of this past month, of people like George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, Tony Blair. These people have been so thoroughly discredited, you would think they'd simply disappear to save their hides. Volumes have been written about their lies (and the mass-homicidal results), yet these guys continue to run the world. Nothing sticks to them, and (as I've mentioned) they tend to promote each other instead.
I am thinking of Uzbekistan, where Islam Karimov's regime has long been known to deal in human rights abuses, and yet the world was shocked (for about twelve seconds) to hear about a bit of force used by the army to quell some sort of rebellion. I call that type of use of force "massacre". Uzbekistan, partner of the US in its "war on terror". Ha.
I am thinking of how the US and French presidents (and the German chancellor) stood shoulder to shoulder with ex-KGB man Vladimir Putin at a massive Soviet-style military parade commemorating the Soviet sacrifice during the second world war. I want the rich and powerful men in the dark suits to attend a silent parade of those of us horrified by the fact that the Soviet sacrifice included stopping on the banks of the Vistula River and watching as the Nazi Army leveled Warsaw.
And I am thinking of the anti-Bush rally my girlfriend and I attended in Amsterdam earlier this month. The rally, organized by a long list of left-wing political parties and other institutions ostensibly to protest the invitation Prime Minister Balkenende's center-right government extended to George W. Bush to commemorate the end of the second world war, was shocking to behold. Let me be clear--if I haven't been--that an opportunity to make public my opposition to Mr. Bush and his criminally insane adventures on this planet is heartily welcomed. We thought that supporting a local effort to demonstrate opposition to Bush's visit to The Netherlands was worthwhile. But when we arrived we were greeted by a small crowd waving large red flags with depictions of Mao, Lenin, Che Guevara, and the hammer and cickle.
[I am no expert on the subject, but I believe there is a great difference between the activities of Che and of those represented by the other symbols that greeted us. To my knowledge, Che Guevara has not been discredited (though the McDonaldization of his image has been unfortunate and certainly ironic) as Lenin, Mao, and the Soviet political system have.]
How these organizations could hope to attract people to what would otherwise be a relatively popular cause ("keep that sociopathic rich kid cowboy war criminal out of our country") with thoroughly discredited iconology is beyond me. My girlfriend grew up in a Soviet satellite, and could easily estimate that none of the flag-wavers had spent much time on the wrong end of a queue for highly rationed and sub-standard food. Furthermore, shouting slogans about Bush being a murderer while waving a flag with Mao's face smiling down would be hilarious (would it?) if we weren't dealing with the deaths of very many real people.
In Poland a few years ago I saw a billboard for Media Markt (a major European electronics retail chain) that utilized Lenin's image and Soviet-era iconology to encourage people to buy shit that plugs in. I was struck by how the billboard wasn't torn down within seconds of its being placed on a busy street corner. Ten years ago, no one would have imagined that Lenin could successfully be resurrected in a former Soviet satellite to hawk electronic gadgetry, those darlings of late-term capitalism. Will Stalin peek out from banner ads in a few years to sell me life insurance?
Perhaps, and a few months ago my brother spotted some sort of investment bank in New York called "Superfund". Once upon a time, Superfund was a project of the US Environmental Protection Agency to clean up areas completely destroyed by industrial pollution, and no one who wanted to attract clients would give their capitalist endeavor such a name. A superfund site was the embarassing shit-house of an irresponsible industrial culture that thought it would last forever. Now it's an investment bank. Seriously.
Times change. People forget.
Here are some articles I collected this month that I highly recommend:
Mike Whitney: Free Speech in the Crosshairs
Paul Street: King George, Prince Abdullah, Global Warming, and the Torture of Thomas Jefferson
William Rivers Pitt: Criminals Belong in Prison
Mickey Z.: The Good War Myth: 60 Years is Enough
Dahr Jamail: Sketchy Details
John Halloway: Can We Change the World Without Taking Power