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Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's Still the 1% Versus the 99%, Don't Muddy It With the So-Called "47%"

The phrase "47%" is ramifying like mad in the aftermath of comments caught on "the secret tape" from a Romney fundraiser. It's not yet a big deal, it might not really ever be, but if I may put on my rhetorician's hat for a moment I do think there might be more afoot here than initially meets the ear.

Notice that the unreflective avalanche, the robo-automatic proliferation of this phrase "the 47%" online and in the press is now hard at it, producing a "thing" -- "the 47% -- a thing we think we now "know" about and hence are talking "about." In this, "the 47%" risks consolidating and then lodging in our discourse, rather like comparable non-things that once became "things" people came to "know" and incessantly "talk" about, and very much at the cost of talking about other actually important things: things like "Sam's Club Republicans" rather than plutocrats, things like "Soccer Moms" rather than middle-age white male anti-abortion zealots in Congress.

Again, I do not claim a permanent diversion of attention or lasting damage has taken place, but there is no question that "the 47%" has at any rate momentarily eclipsed the far more threatening and powerful and promising accomplishment of Occupy in bringing the confrontation of "the 1% versus the 99%" into general parlance, which put a generations-unsayable American reality on everybody's lips.

For a couple of days "the 47%" has muddied "the 1% versus the 99%." I should point out that Republicans have sought several times to accomplish precisely this muddying in the year since Occupy began, but in the present context when "the 47%" phrase is circulating in a way that seems injurious to the more conspicuously plutocratic candidacy of Mitt Romney, people are less attentive to the ways in which it muddies the more forceful and indispensable formulation of Occupy, and so many who would otherwise resist its circulation are abetting it instead. Whatever its piquancy at the moment, "the 47%" ultimately plays into tired "evenly divided America" frames that then justify "both sides do it" false equivalency narratives that then retroactively and erroneously explain away gridlock caused in fact by mostly Republican plutocratic corruption yielding a general and unreflective "I wash my hands of all of you" anti-governmentality that actually always benefits the worst actors at the expense of the better ones. That's bad.

One need only grasp how phrases like "Mitt Romney has dismissed half the country as beneath his concern," "Mitt Romney has declared that half the population of the nation he seeks to represent are irresponsible parasites," are easily more evocative than references to the so-called "47%" to realize that the present ubiquity of the latter phrase is doing a different sort of discursive work than simple reportage.

It is also very interesting to note that in this fundraising dinner Mitt Romney was in fact a "1%-er" speaking the cruel and callous language of the "1%" to a room full of other "1%-ers." The attitudes Romney expressed and the policies he advocated (to the extent that Romney ever reveals any of the devastating details of his secretive policy plans) would be deeply injurious not only to 47% of the American people but to nearly everyone who was not a part of the 1%. That is to say, by associating the "secret Romney tape" (that phrase, by the way, was a good call, reeking of the sort of conspiracy to ensure a wide and avid circulation) with the freshly minted phrase "the 47%," already a situation ripe for framing as yet another instance of "the 1% versus the 99%" was cast in different terms, terms that muted the plutocratic substance playing out in that ugly scene.

I think it would be a very good idea for folks to push back a bit, and re-frame the politics of "the secret Romney tape" explicitly in terms of "the 1% versus the 99%" not only to keep that indispensable frame in force, but also as a way of pumping that cruel, corrupt, racist document into center stage in a slightly different light for another news cycle or few.

And, oh yeah, Mitt Romney is also a robot.

1 comment:

Barkeron said...

Wasn't that same tactic used in the Occupy bashing episode of Shitpark?

Not surprising Romney's enamored with Liberetardian thought.