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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Pattern Emerges: Republican Are Authoritarian When in Power and Instantly Insurrectionist When Out of Power

As BooMan points out today, anybody who thought there was something anomalous about the rise of militias and ready-for-violence hate-groups coupled to the descent into paralyzing Impeachment hysteria during the Clinton Administration must now realize with the resurgence of militias and other militant white-racist anti-Choice anti-tax domestic-terrorist organizations and "isolated" incidents of domestic terrorism under the Obama Administration that this is not an anomaly in the least, but the pattern we can expect to continue interminably to play out so long as Republicans in their unfortunate Movement Conservatism epoch continue to mobilize the most extreme right-wing elements in the country as the best way to organize and fund Republican Party aspirations to gain (or game) control of government.

And, yes, I do insist that even when it's a white guy who does the shooting or flies his plane into a government installation while leaving behind his Rushoid or Randroid anti-gu'ment rant on the intrawebs for everybody to see, this is indeed an act of domestic terrorism: It is not properly described as an "isolated" event or as a "merely criminal" rather than "organized" incident when it was enabled in fact by the interpellation of the white right-wingnut in question into that gooey corporate-funded morass of mass-mediated right-wing hate-speech and insurrectionary wink-wink nudge-nudge on talk-radio and Fox News and dog-whistled in floor speeches and press releases by Congressional Republicans.

And however often complicit news organizations and reassuring law enforcement officials refrain from saying so, their selective reticence on this matter actually cannot manage to change the fact of the matter that these are acts of domestic terrorism: These are acts of right wing insurrectionary terror structurally connected to the loss of Republican control of governing institutions, and that is to say in turn that these are instances of the very acts of terror that go on to function as the pretext for Republican authoritarianism when instead they hold the reins of government. The authoritarianism of Republican governance in power and insurrectionary violence and threat of violence at large when Republicans are out of power are complementary and in fact inter-dependent expressions of Movement Republican ideology and aspirations.

By the way, I am far from denying the isn't-that-special provocation to livid right-wing lunacy connected to the fact that Obama is BL-A-A-A-A-A-ACK!! But I do indeed mean to insist that most of the militant anti-governmentality and the usual cries of socialism ascendant and all the rest would have arisen even had Clinton or a non-philandering (let alone the actually philandering) Edwards won the White House instead. Further, I disagree with BooMan's implication that we have only Clinton and Obama as data points from which to discern this pattern of insurrectionary terror/authoritarian governance -- I think it was already conspicuously in evidence in the Carter Administration, arose in fact in the Goldwater capture of the Republican party from its Eisenhower wing, and was definitively consolidated in the Nixonian frowny-face model and Reaganomic smiley-face model of neoconservative corporate-militarist faux-populist Presidencies.

And so, the pattern will always hereafter be, and has long hitherto been, that when Democrats are elected to the White House -- however moderate and mainstream they may be in fact, however bought-and-paid-for by incumbent interests they turn out to be -- the Movement Conservatives will immediately declare the Democratic Administration illegitimate and discern in its most multilateral and pragmatic policy efforts signs of socialist or fascist or Marxist or persecutorial secularist aspirations, whatever that is supposed to mean.

Violent rhetoric, isolated insurrectionary skirmishes, hate crimes, and acts of domestic terror will pimple the landscape while Republicans still in office will immediately embark on irresponsible divisive and obstructionist efforts (which are properly seen as both continuous with and complementary to the scattered right-wing insurrection and domestic terror) to render Democratic governance non-functional, in both the short term through procedural shut-downs and in the long term through anti-tax initiatives to starve civilization of the resources to maintain itself and deregulatory and privatizing schemes to loot civilization and hand it over to their cronies to eat.

By the way, note that all these wingnut attributions of fasci-homo-socialistic-commie-nazi-satan (you can sing it to the tune of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" if you like) to sane sensible serious-minded nerdy Democrats will typically meld into more or less the same amorphous Big Bad somehow… which is to say that manifest in these hysterical and absurd charges themselves will be a dangerous ignorance on the part of those making these attributions as to the actual content of such tyrannical ideologies and governmental formations… which is finally also to say that these charges really usually amount -- on the one hand -- to symptoms of feelings of defensiveness and persecution felt by some straight white guys and many Christian fundamentalists in a secular multicultural society that disagrees that they should call the shots or amount -- on the other hand -- to embarrassingly obvious projections onto enemies of their own willingness and even eagerness to demolish civil liberties and impose tyrannical control themselves in the service of their own parochial moralizing political aspirations.

Meanwhile, just as we can surely expect from now on rather than being serially surprised by the instant crystallization of militant anti-governmentality the moment any Democrat occupies the White House, so too we can expect an equally abrupt vanishing act and quiescence on the part of these extreme right-wing factions the moment a Republican is elected instead -- whatever the trickery and disenfranchisement necessary to render this outcome practical.

None of this will end until the Republican Party re-orients itself onto a new Base mobilized by a different set of aspirations more compatible with the secular multiculture America has become in fact and with the planetary rather than national/international terrain in which the technodevelopmental and ecological problems that beset us are playing out in fact. Embarking on this necessary re-orientation (which certainly need not involve turning Republicans into crypto-Democrats, they can by all means still cling to their ugly authentic pro-incumbent anti-democratizing ethos) will marginalize these violence-prone factions and divert them into disorganized grumps shaking their fists at kids these days or at worst into harmless Third Parties. Failing to do so will instead marginalize the Republican Party into a neo-Confederate rump that can no longer pretend to be a National party. (Though I daresay Republicans would hardly credit this, I for one would consider this marginalization of their party injurious to American politics, because incumbent interests and reactionary temperaments actually do exist and a functioning democracy must find a way to give voice to actually-existing stakeholders I disapprove of as well as the ones I approve of, else it is prone to uncritical hubris, dangerously brittle, and actually unjust.) In the meantime, the longer the Republicans fail to engage in this re-orientation the more they will ensure and be responsible for endless acts of senseless violence together with the undermining and even paralysis of governance at a time when only effective governance can save countless millions of lives from the ravages of neoliberal corporate developmentalism, neoconservative authoritarian arms-proliferating militarism, and catastrophic climate change and resource descent (oil, petrochemicals, water, topsoil, effective medicines, and so on).

13 comments:

George said...

Professor,

Have you read Bob Altemeyer's "The Authoritarians"? If not, I recommend it. His research supports many of your points here about the mindset of the authoritarian followers of incumbent power.

The book is available for free at: http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ And Altemeyer is a very engaging, even funny, writer.

Meanwhile, I'd like to say that I like this blog. I have been enjoying it for several months now, following new posts as well as catching up on earlier ones. Believe it or not, Amor Mundi makes me feel better about things, especially the singulatarian/extropian/posthuman topics. But I'll save that for another day. Anyway, thanks!

Dale Carrico said...

I have read Altemeyer's The Authoritarians and with profit. I even have a hard copy -- smell me! Thanks for the encouraging words, I appreciate them. More futurological discussion is soon forthcoming, stay tuned.

RadicalCoolDude said...

Carrico: anybody who thought there was something anomalous about the rise of militias and ready-for-violence hate-groups coupled to the descent into paralyzing Impeachment hysteria during the Clinton Administration must now realize with the resurgence of militias and other militant white-racist anti-Choice anti-tax domestic-terrorist organizations and "isolated" incidents of domestic terrorism under the Obama Administration that this is not an anomaly in the least, but the pattern we can expect to continue interminably to play out so long as Republicans in their unfortunate Movement Conservatism epoch continue to mobilize the most extreme right-wing elements in the country as the best way to organize and fund Republican Party aspirations to gain (or game) control of government.

Actually, in 1991, when President Bush announced his new foreign policy would help build a New World Order, his phrasing surged through the Christian and secular hard right like an electric shock, since the phrase had been used to represent the dreaded collectivist One World Government for decades. Some Christians saw Bush as signaling the End Times betrayal by a world leader. Secular anticommunists saw a bold attempt to smash US sovereignty and impose a tyrannical collectivist system run by the United Nations.

The militia movement arose in 1993-1994 following controversial standoffs during the Clinton administration. The catalysts came in the form of the FBI's 1992 shootout with Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, and the government's 1993 siege and eventual destruction of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, however, the militia movement went in decline as it tried it had kick out its most radical members because of increased public scrutiny and law enforcement pressure.

I speculate that one reason why the militia movement remained dormant during the Bush administration was because the 9/11 terrorist attacks provided the far-right with a new external enemy to focus in light of the fall of Soviet Union.

Dale Carrico said...

As someone who lived and was politically active through that time I can definitely attest to the truth of most of what you say, "rcd" (whoever you are behind that courageous little mask). I'm a little confused, though, by the "actually" with which you begin here. Do you see your comment as a contradiction to the observation in this post or simply as a supplement?

Also, I presume you have gotten over the histrionics with which you concluded your last spate of posts here? That would be a welcome development indeed, as then would you be also.

Do know, however, that if you start attacking me again as a stealth corporatist or right-wing tool -- despite my actually being an anti-militarist anti-racist anti-sexist vegetarian democratic socialist gender-queer aesthete -- just because I will have no truck with bullshit DNC-RNC equivalency theses, you should not expect me to be as patient with you as I was the last time. I'll just delete your posts unread, rather than wasting even more of my time with a troll who is clearly smart enough and well-intentioned enough to know better. And so, welcome back, and by all means let's let bygones be bygone!

Steph said...

Hey Dale:

You write: "my actually being an anti-militarist anti-racist anti-sexist vegetarian democratic socialist gender-queer aesthete"

Do you mean it, when you say that you're genderqueer? If you do that's fine, but nothing you've said prior to this has suggested that to be the case to me. I bring it up because appropriation of gq identities by cisgender people is actually something of a problem. You're not engaging in busted behavior here, but if you are cisgender I'd appreciate it if you'd find another way of phrasing what you're getting at in the future. If I'm wrong on that count, you can just ignore this comment, I don't want to police your identity or anything.

Dale Carrico said...

I began to use the term genderqueer as a designation in 1992 -- but I was rather late to the party in discovering the term cisgender just two years or so ago.

I always used the term genderqueer as a political/ disciplinary designation indicating my commitment to gender studies over just "women's studies" as a way of affiliating with anti-patriarchal/ queer work in the academy and activism but also in my own selfhood.

If gq has acquired a fixed connotation in intersex/transsex communities and activism and criticism I won't use it anymore, knowing how terms alter in usage over time after all and also knowing how key practices of identification/ dis-identification are to the dignity of queerfolks under compulsory heterosexuality and patriarchy in general -- although I don't think the charge of "appropriation" seems exactly appropriate given the actual chronology involved here!

Given that I disapprove both the sexual and gender binaries as absurdly inadequate taxonomic gestures in the face of the vicissitudes and varieties of gendered and queered morphological/ identificatory/ dis-identificatory practices, and definitely I disapprove any hierarchization of sex-gender or gender-sex (given that either term can assume foundational force in projects of policing the other term into a falsifying stability), I must say that I am a bit anxious about some aspects of this admonition.

When "cisgender" is explained to me as a designation of one who comfortably inhabits a birth-assigned gender I have to say that term "comfort" is awfully freighted in my view. I would not claim to "have" an intersex body and I am not in transition in ways that take up the legal-medical complex, and I strongly agree that it would be wrong to imply otherwise since I don't, but I hesitate to affirm that this is tantamount to "comfort," especially given the life-enabling irony, to say the least, with which I have long inhabited the sex-gender norms in which I am legible, to the extent that I am. Heck, that's why I've been queer rather than gay or whatever since '92.

Is there a worrisome restabilization of sex-gender vocabularies inhering in the very notion of "cisgender" on the usual construal? Given the comfort-in-discomfort and the desired-undoing-of-doing-gendered-desire that I have long regarded as an emancipatory queer-transsex continuity I wonder if "cisgender" risks wrongly assimilating some varieties of queer selfhood to heteronormativity.

The link you offered me is plenty to make me stop using the designation, simply because I do not want to contribute harm to the folks testifying to harm by my use of it -- these things matter to me -- but I must say that there are lots of assumptions about the motives, history of the term and its assumption by some queerfolks and its various freightings that don't exactly ring true in light of my own experiences (very much including decades of affiliation/ interaction with lgbtipqq folks and communities and colleagues), and while I strongly sympathize with the aspiration to "recognition" through a policing of the term -- especially where recognition names specifically the vitally important legal-medical choreographies in the face of profoundly precarious selfhood-practices -- I am also suspicious of the gesture of policing around negotiations of sex-gender systems whenever it becomes too unironic or naturalizing or castigatory.

Steph said...

I wrote a lengthy response, and need to split into two parts.

------

I'm not using 'cisgender' here in the sense of birth assigned gender-comfort, which would make it something like a synonym for cissexual. Rather, cisgender is properly used (in my opinion and in the opinion of some others I am frequently in conversation with) as the opposite pair of genderqueer, which is to say someone who is cisgender is someone to a binary gender description is apt for. This isn't the same as compliance with or comfort with the binary gender as a construct across the whole of society (many people with what can be described as binary genders understand the harmfulness of the gender binary), but rather a matter of personal positioning with regard to the gender binary.

This is separate from transsexuality, with which you've confused the issue slightly. While you are correct in observing that the sex/gender distinction is a slippery and often unhelpful distinction, the key distinction is that transsexuality is marked by a dissonance with the body, and a corresponding dissonance with social aspects of inhabiting a body that society insists on nonconsensually assigning a sex-gender to. Measures can be taken, in this case, to render the proper sex-gender of the individual legible, as long as the transsexual history is not known. If a transsexual history is known, then this becomes grounds for ignoring the actual sex-gender of an individual. This is pretty much the defining oppression of transsexual individuals within the kyriarchy.

On the other hand, genderqueer (in the more modern usage) signifies individuals for whom their true sex-gender can never be made legible, due to the way that the legibility of sex-genders for cisgender individuals is built upon the gender binary: an individual can be legible as one or the other of the binary genders, but if you are neither then your true gender is unknowable within the context of current society.

These are not exclusive categories: there are genderqueer people who are cissexual and there are genderqueer people who are transsexual, which roughly translates into a distinction of whether or not the dissonance that one experiences is rooted in the body or not.

Steph said...

part two
-----

You raise the issue of queered gender expression and it's legibility in society, and there's something there, certainly, but it's of a different nature, which is to say that being a different sort of man renders you illegible in certain ways, registering instead as a man who is doing it wrong, more or less, but you maintain a basic acknowledgement of 'man'. This is different from a situation in which being recognized as 'man' is actually an act of misgendering and activates a dissonance. The issue for genderqueer people is when being recognized as 'woman' is also dissonant.

Which is not a perfect description of how genderqueer people relate to the gender binary (and in fact, my own personal relationship to the gender binary is fairly complicated and doesn't look very much at all like what I've described here, but is similar in that it generates a similar dissonance as I try to position myself within and with respect to the gender binary), but it gives an idea of the distinctions I am making, and of the areas of experience sketched out by these words.

That said, from what you've said your usage here has been not at all appropriative, and I believe you on that. This usage of the word, while I don't know the exact history of it, is certainly much more recent a coinage than 1992. Your worry that by labeling cisgender individuals as cisgender we risk erasing the complexity of the lived experiences being subsumed under that label is misplaced, and is actually a version of an argument that has been mobilized against cisgender/cissexual frequently and from many different quarters, and which results (I would say) from a confusion of categories. Gender is different from gender variance is different from transsexuality is different from genderqueer. Being cisgender says nothing about and individual's positioning with regard to these other categories.

Please be careful in your explorations of cisgender/cissexual as a term in this way. As part of the project of decentering the experience of being cisgender/cissexual they are absolutely vital, and they are subject to frequent attack in a way that comparable de-centering terms (white, heterosexual, etc) are not. (These attacks take several forms: One is the one you've raised here, more commonly given by certain types of radical feminists who argue that women are not allowed to be at ease with their bodies/genders under Patriarchy, and thus cannot be labeled cisgender/sexual. Another very common attack, which I don't think you would ever be in danger of using, is that cissexual/gender is "too academic", despite the fact that it has seen very little uptake in academic writings so far and is in fact a product of the community). I say this to you because I have a certain amount of good will towards you built up over the lengthy period I have been reading your blog. Most people I would shut down much more harshly on this matter.

Dale Carrico said...

Certainly I will be careful about my terminology here -- I have ethical/ political commitments around such care in general, and alerting me to obvious ignorance is enough to change my behavior. I'm happy to be alerted about such mistakes and confusions because I'm eager to learn while at once not invested particularly in declaring myself "learned." To be honest this attitude has always been tied very closely to my own experience and practice of my queer selfhood and desire.

That said, do you really mean to say that "radical feminists who argue that women are not allowed to be at ease with their bodies/genders under Patriarchy, and thus cannot be labeled cisgender/sexual" are necessarily engaging in "attacks" of a kind that may need "harshly" to be "shut down"?

I'll confess I don't grasp how the supplement (if that's what it is, I'm not clear about it) of cissex and cisgender to the categories sex and gender is doing different work from their queering in earlier interventions and in the context of intersex and transsex activism of the last twenty years or so. If it does not try your patience too much I would welcome more clarity about your claim that "gender is different from gender variance is different from transsexuality is different from genderqueer." I find that interestingly provocative but I'm not sure of what the differences consist from category to category in this formulation. I hope that question doesn't induce eye-rolling -- I know being asked to explain something the millionth time to some clueless person can be a trial.

I regard gender as an abyssal performative that is substantiating but never securing. This makes me wonder about your assignments to some negotiations of sex-gender as "apt," "proper," "true." I would be the last to deny the valorization of some normative practices and morphological signatures nor the compensatory costs imposed in the precarity and abjection of so many queer lifeways otherwise.

However, since for me "the body" is always the "socially legible body" and such legibility is always an abyssal performative in regard to that which is posited as its sex and its gender and the regulatory relations obtaining between them I have a politics around refusing to grasp too readily any claims about "experiences... rooted in the body or not" and so I also do not yet adequately understand the political claims being made here in relation to more familiar arguments and positions I have already been deeply invested in that would facilitate non-abject radically democratizing lgbtipqq agencies. Your comments may be the intervention that causes me to junk those commitment in favor of different ones, I just don't know yet.

But when I say "I do not understand" do please hear just that in what I am saying. I think you are raising questions which my usage has indeed signaled I needed to be alerted to. Again, I appreciate that very much. But I hope the clumsy efforts that proceed from the effort to understand will not seem too reactionary nor cause harmful humiliation in conversational partners. I hope you will believe me when I say I certainly have intended no attack on queer allies through such queering interventions or through my terminological usages, and I hope that the moratorium I will immediately issue myself in respect to the "genderqueer" term until I understand much better the current politics of these usages will go some way to reassuring you about that.

I will say, though, that even a cursory glance at the popular and academic usages connected to these terms seems to suggest some of this is in real flux right now and generosity about intentions is probably a good idea until a person reveals themselves upon exploration to be a real asshole around the issue. Thanks for all this, you've given me a lot to think about and you've already changed my tune.

Steph said...

I'll be happy to talk more about this, but I wanted to let you know that I won't be able to come back to this in a substantial way until sometime tomorrow.

Dale Carrico said...

I'm teaching for the next couple of days also -- so we're in something like the same boat. Do notice that I've created a new post under the title "genderqueer" under which to continue this conversation, since I know I have other readers who might contribute usefully but who might not notice this exchange under an anti-Republican title. Thanks again for a great conversation!

RadicalCoolDude said...

Carrico: As someone who lived and was politically active through that time I can definitely attest to the truth of most of what you say, "rcd" (whoever you are behind that courageous little mask). I'm a little confused, though, by the "actually" with which you begin here. Do you see your comment as a contradiction to the observation in this post or simply as a supplement?

Well, it was both a contradiction and a supplement.

My point was that the militantly antigovernment right began to rise under the Republican administration of George Bush in part because of his New World Order speech but mostly as a right-wing reaction to the domestic consequences of the globalization of capitalism.

Had Bush been re-elected in 1993 instead of a Democrat like Bill Clinton, the far-right would have continued to organize until inevitable confrontations with the government would have occured.

Ultimately, the American far-right (as opposed to the right) hate Democrat and Republican administrations equally.

Carrico: Also, I presume you have gotten over the histrionics with which you concluded your last spate of posts here? That would be a welcome development indeed, as then would you be also. Do know, however, that if you start attacking me again as a stealth corporatist or right-wing tool -- despite my actually being an anti-militarist anti-racist anti-sexist vegetarian democratic socialist gender-queer aesthete -- just because I will have no truck with bullshit DNC-RNC equivalency theses, you should not expect me to be as patient with you as I was the last time. I'll just delete your posts unread, rather than wasting even more of my time with a troll who is clearly smart enough and well-intentioned enough to know better. And so, welcome back, and by all means let's let bygones be bygone!

Sure but please know that I don't believe you are a stealth corporatist or right-wing tool. I just said those silly things so that you would understand how I feel when you accuse me of not being a grown up or needing to see a shrink simply because I defend a more radical point of view (hence my username) and criticize your more moderate point of view.

If we can agree to disagree without insulting each other, I am sure we will have very insightful exchanges in the future. :)

Dale Carrico said...

Ultimately, the American far-right (as opposed to the right) hate Democrat and Republican administrations equally.

It's one thing to point out that elements of the extreme right oppose less right-wing Republican administrations, but I don't agree at all that extreme right-wing opposition is equal to Democratic and Republican administrations. I don't agree with that at all. And it is Democratic, not Democrat administrations.

I'm not a stealth corporatist, so it's nice to know that you don't really think otherwise even when you say so anyway. Nevertheless, I will cheerfully insult you (or say things that you feel insulted by whether I mean to be insulting or not) or not insult you as circumstances demand by my lights on my own goddamn blog, thanks.