Know This: July summoned, hacker-artists, possible futures, Rush, Russian toy protests, shadow wars
Who's saying what
Elsewhere in Wired, we learn of the “shadow war” being undertaken by the US military in East Africa. How did they decide to put themselves there? Global satellite maps from NASA show this to be the darkest part of the world at night—suggesting it is impoverished and under developed. And hence ripe for terrorism: al-Shabab is moving in, the US fears, radicalising the poor. In other geopolitical matters, Robert Fisk in the Independent this week tries to “turn around” the newsroom clichés about Iran. In particular, he wants to disabuse us of the certainty that Iran has or will soon have nuclear weapons—a piece of misinformation regularly trotted out by Israel and its secret service. “The Israeli President warns us now that Iran is on the cusp of producing a nuclear weapon. Heaven preserve us. Yet we reporters do not mention that Shimon Peres, as Israeli Prime Minister, said exactly the same thing in 1996. That was 16 years ago. And we do not recall that the current Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, said in 1992 that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999. That would be 13 years ago. Same old story.... [Iran’s] Ahmadinejad – here again, I quote Netanyahu – is more dangerous than Hitler. Israel's own nuclear warheads – all too real and now numbering almost 300 – disappear from the story.”
George Monbiot makes the case for a national maximum wage. Why? Well, not only the normal moralising about fatcat capitalists, as if they were doing something shameful rather than embodying the system of finance capital itself. But also because their apparent “success” is nothing more than blind luck—despite illusions of skill and, hence, meritocracy. Functioning always in the middle of these poles of success and failure, the bosses somehow enjoy job security thirteen times greater than the lowest paid workers in their company. Then there are the alienating effects of inequality, in which motivation of “lower” workers is reduced by witnessing the remuneration packages of the “higher” workers.
Miranda July has been summoned to US Congress to explain herself: “Congress convened a special investigative committee this week in an attempt to put to rest questions that have puzzled the nation for much of the past decade, namely what public figure Miranda July's whole thing is, exactly.” Not a moment too soon.
Until recently, it was said that it was easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. No longer. The Occupy movement, along with the Arab Spring, has already made a dent in this idea. In Jacobin, Peter Frase conjures four possible futures for us. “The question, then, is what will come next. Rosa Luxemburg, reacting to the beginnings of World War I, cited a line from Engels: ‘Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.’ In that spirit I offer a thought experiment, an attempt to make sense of our possible futures. These are a few of the socialisms we may reach if a resurgent Left is successful, and the barbarisms we may be consigned to if we fail.” For him, the question comes down to two sets of oppositions: “There are therefore four logical combinations of the two oppositions, resource abundance vs. scarcity and egalitarianism vs. hierarchy.”
Mexican muralist and painter Diego Rivera is being honoured with a show at MoMA in New York for the second time in that museum’s history. Rivera was the second artist ever featured there and his murals adorn its walls. But how did this avowed Communist come to work in the belly of the imperialist beast, patroned by the Rockefellers? Hal Foster looks at Rivera’s MoMA work and tries to understand that question.
Meanwhile, back in Russia... Opposition to the Kremlin is increasingly vocal. This dissent is finding ever new forms. Since the 1970s, as mainstream culture in the Soviet Union ossified, strange forms of protest and art practice begun on the edges of society. Some academics have been studying this recently, wondering if it bears some similarities to the forms of humour in the United States these days. Whatever they ultimately say about that comparison, it would be interesting to read their take on this toy protest. (Gallery here too.) Russia has been in the spotlight recently, as the country—or perhaps just the elite—readies itself for the March elections. These elections will be presaged by a large opposition rally, one month before them, on February 4th. The democracy-fearing Kremlin, of course, will strike back. Their movements are already clear—opposition challenges to recent elections thrown out of court, for example, and murmurings of an assassination attempt, just to make Putin look stronger. Meanwhile, the BBC is running a documentary about Putin and Russia. It’s produced by Brian Lapping and produced by Norma Percy, both filmmakers who do a good line in historical and contemporary political documentary-making. In particular, they have a record of getting technocrats and politicians to say much more than they should. It can be seen on YouTube—although the BBC will probably not let it last long.
Rush. A band name that won’t set many hearts aflame. But maybe we’re all missing something in this consultancy rock? “Like the devotees of other cult bands (Phish, Dave Matthews Band, etc.), Rush fans seem to believe that ostentatious musicianship excuses indistinguishable songs — that tracks from, say, Rush’s 1993 grunge disc Counterparts are somehow over the heads of ordinary music fans rather than simply being inaccessibly boring. But maybe the Rush cult is right.” How so? “The appeal of Rush... is that being a Rush fan seems to exempt one from constraints and anxieties, from feeling required to validate tastes by advertising them. No matter how counterintuitive or ironic things become, throwing on a Grace Under Pressure tour shirt or air-drumming to ‘YYZ’ isn’t likely to impress anyone.” Are you impressed:
- Ben Gook
Join the conversation below