October 23, 2005

The Subject Supposed to Loot and Rape

Lenin brilliant on Zizek's new piece on the extraordinary outbreak of racist hysteria in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

ITN was certainly guilty of propagating the delirium. The most shameful moment came when they led their bulletins with a 'story' in which a couple of gap-year idiots gave their 'insights' into the 'horror' of the Superdome. The story exemplified the media tendency to equivocate between the phobic phantasms of white tourists and actual empirical events. The 'shocking footage' of the Superdome that ITN promised actually amounted to fuzzy video shot by the tourists, which showed precisely nothing to substantiate any of the claims about Hobbesian outbreaks of orgiastic violence - appropriately, it was a 'blank slate' to be filled in by the (racist) imagination of the viewers. Needless to say, the British tourists' brief sojourn in the underclass Hell that many of the New Orleans black poor will spend all of their life in was quickly over, their attempts to have a cheap holiday in other people's misery frustrated; they were given preferential treatment (a possible source of the hostility of which they claimed to be a victim) and soon escaped the city.

Zizek's point is that, even if some rapes happened, that wouldn't have stopped the coverage being racist. It's a point he's made before, in relation to the Nazi treatment of Jews: to undertake an empirical survey to determine if there was any factual basis for the Nazis' claims about Jewish conspiracies would be grotesque, because 'even if rich Jews in early 1930s Germany “really” had exploited German workers, seduced their daughters and dominated the popular press, the Nazis ’ anti-Semitism would still have been an emphatically “untrue,” pathological ideological condition. Why? Because the causes of all social antagonisms were projected onto the “Jew”—an object of perverted love-hatred, a spectral figure of mixed fascination and disgust.'

Lenin is right to say that the same process is happening with the Pro-Bombing camp's demonization of Muslims. Actual criminal acts by particular Muslims become the empirical justification for racist meta-narratives about 'bad men in turbans'. As Lenin observes (in the comments box) in relation to the Pro-Bombing 'Left', 'It isn't that they deep in their hearts are dirty racists, although performatively that is what they have become: it is that they have internalised the priorities of power, and therefore have come to believe that the US and Israel are unfairly maligned while a cluster of radicalised Muslims are being whitewashed by the liberal media. They have no idea how far to the right they are in that respect, of course.'

Posted by mark at October 23, 2005 02:04 AM | TrackBack