Gucci For Government

You have to marvel at the thick headedness of the writers, editors and commentators at The New York Times. Even now, in the midst of a deepening economic crisis, growing economic, social and political inequality, raging racist social and political realities, a deepening crisis of the state, an all out attack against the last bastions of social welfare protections for citizens, the near complete corporatisation of most every facet of public life and concern, they still find the time to vomit out garbage.

This is a New York Times ‘fashion critic’ – what the fuck is that? trying her hand at politics. I suppose in a day and age when Ivanka Trump can attend meetings at the G20, why not, you would say. Indeed, you would have a good point. After all, even Chelsea Clinton – this most vacuous and privileged of individuals, made a few million dollars as a pundit on national television. 

Regardless, it is amusing to read what I am sure will soon be revealed to be a parody piece perhaps accidentally published a few months too late after April Fools day.

“Clearly a political party is not a fashion company. And the stakes, for all of us, are much higher in the voting booth than in the fitting room. But before everyone takes umbrage at the idea of ever connecting the two or conflating what is often stereotyped as superficial with what is considered substantive, it’s worth remembering what caused the epiphany on both the high street and the haute street: the advent of the educated consumer.

Isn’t that what we want for the electorate, too?”

Clearly…a political party is not a fashion company. Or, should we remind Ms. Friedman, that a political party is also not a profit making corporate enterprise beholden to shareholder value, but ideally a representative of will of the people who participate in it to serve and provide for their interests and their protections. A political party is also not a marketing gimmick, judged merely by its ‘messaging’ or PR campaigns, or brand, but by its ability to represent the citizenry from the smallest town to the largest urban centre. A political party is not a product company, offering a range of colors and styles, or price points and service levels, to meet the needs of various ‘consumers’, but a social organisation that operates as the core of a public democracy, and that represents and negotiates the interests of a vast and diverse set of citizens to whom the party, and the state itself, are beholden and in the service of.

Of course, Ms Friedman’s distorted and ignorant writings are unsurprising given the way she opens her account which quotes one Professor of Economics, and then goes on to suggest that Corbyn, Macron and Trump are merely different brands, and not in fact, the complex reflection of long socio-political histories of three very different and distinct national and political trajectories. No, they are merely 3 options ‘chosen’ by the ‘free consumer’. Or, as she says:

“In all the explanations of voter behaviour that have been floated over the past few months, the one that I can’t quite get out of my mind is a recent comment from Tony Travers, a professor of government at the London School of Economics, who told The New York Times that “people are switching loyalties, not tribally, but like consumers.”

He was talking about the British election last month and the defection of so many presumed Conservative voters to the rumpled promise of Jeremy Corbyn, but he could just as easily have been talking about the French election and rise of that shiny new brand otherwise known as Emmanuel Macron. Or even the 2016 election in the United States. After all, on each occasion, voters shopped around before committing — or deciding to stay home.”

Erased are the decades of social humiliation and suffering of the vast majority of British citizens under Conservative and New Labour governments. Gone is the unemployment line, the crumbling healthcare, the abandonment of welfare programs for single mothers, the elderly, the sick, the homeless etc, gone is the rising inequality, and the gloating of the bankers over the hungry bodies of the miners, gone are the specific policies and priorities of governments beholden to capital and capitalist, and indifferent to citizens. No, the people ‘merely’ bought a product when they voted, not voices a protest or express and demand for social and economic change. For the likes of Ms. Friedman, Corbyn is merely product ‘at the point of delivery’, when in fact, everything he talked about fundamentally would mean a dismantling of Gucci, and the parceling out of its rubbish products to the many over the few! People chose a politics and infact, refused the branding. The French – not so much. But that is a different issue. Macron is a Gucci ‘manager’ if there ever was one!

The inanity and emptiness of a sentence like ‘…voters shopped around before committing – or deciding to stay home’ is barely worthy of a mention. But I will make one point – the suggestion that citizens are today nothing more than consumers, is the ultimate neoliberal fantasy and false claim. It is little more than the final cul-de-sac into which our new, elite, liberal class has found itself trapped. Stuart Hall captured the mindset and world view of this barbaric class in a series of essays he wrote about New Labour and the rise of neoliberal ‘managerial’ government in the UK, which involves…

”’…the marketisation of the state’s governing and administrative practices, the transformation of public service individuals into ‘entrepreneurial subjects’ and the adaptation of the machinery of the state to the ‘mission’ of ‘entrepreneurial governance’. Central to this reconstruction of governance and the state is the enthusiastic adoption of a ‘Public Choice’ approach to the public sector. This ‘shift[s] the balance of incentives from input to delivery and…in the 1980s led to the contracting out of services, the spread of internal markets and outright privatisation. It is the main source of the drive to reconstitute citizens as consumers” (‘New Labours Double Shuffle’, Stuart Hall)

…and furthermore, as far as the citizen is concerned, our liberal neoliberal ideology…

“…inculcate in the population at large a new habitus; making into a new kind of common sense habits and practices which the new ‘free market’ consumer focused conception of ‘governance’ requires. This approach is effective well outside the machinery of the state. Slowly but surely, everybody – even if kicking and screaming to the end – becomes his/her own kind of ‘manager’. The market and market criteria becomes entrenched as the modus operandi of ‘governance’ and institutional life. Media commentators (Ms Friedman, take note!) and the press know no other language with which to address public issues….the role of the State is not to support the less fortunate or powerful in a society which ‘naturally’ produces huge inequalities of wealth, power and opportunity, but to hep individuals themselves to provide for all their social needs – health, education, environmental, travel, housing, parenting, security in unemployment, pensions in old age etc….” (‘New Labours Double Shuffle’, Stuart Hall)

Only if the entire idea of a republic, of a democracy is now finally dead, that we can actually read such pieces by such ill-equipped and ill-informed and ignorant individuals, and not gasp in horror. It is fundamentally shocking to see how quickly a slight degree of bourgeois comfort has allowed most to jettison their commitment to a public democracy, and public interest. It is surprising to read such entirely wrong essays in our newspaper of note – perhaps not. But it is a stark reminder that the crass and naked capitalism and neoliberal assault on most all our public services that we are currently witnessing, isn’t just an anomaly because of Trump, but at the core of the ideology espoused by the most influential and widely read newspaper in the country. That is, it is mainstream thought.

I bet most people who read this tripe never thought twice about what they were being told. I bet they did in fact think that selecting politicians today is merely an exercise in branding, and not one in politics. I think that Ms Friedman is yet another example of how disconnected, isolated and disdainful our media has become of the citizenry, and of our democracy. Choking on their millions, rent stupid by their mindless consumption and self-righteousness, these commentators have lost all sense of the reality of our lived struggles. Is it any surprise that they never saw the apocalypse coming?

What can’t Gucci teach the democrats? Quite simply: a commitment to public service – to education, to health, to our environment, to consumer protections, to welfare programs to protect the single mothers, the elderly, the homeless, to return to a politics where the state acts as a balance between the few who will always gain under a capitalist system, and the many who will lose, and ensure the resources and wealth is managed to offer the most with more, and create opportunities for those who have much to overcome and yet have much to give. that is, to act in the interest of the people, of the public, and not merely in the interest of profit and rate of return. Ms Friedman needs to shut the hell up, or perhaps, step out of her 5th Avenue Brownstone, and pay attention to the details of how her beautiful Gucci-ridden life is actually enabled.

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Sudhir Patwardhan

Sudhir Patwardhan.

Can you discover ‘an influence’ after the fact?

What do you call someone who seems to embody your eye, your sensibility, and yet you had never seen his / her work, and yet, when you now see it, you see the ‘influence’…the similarities?

Is he confronting the same questions? Is he seeing this incredibly complex and multi-layered world with the same desire to depict it as close to that complexity as possible?

I was taken aback. The aesthetic pursuit is so familiar. It is as if he is a step ahead of me. He is a step ahead of me.

I am going through these images–gorgeous, striking, unique, and no, I refuse to give you some ‘European’ reference to understand them in any way. They are Patwardhan’s and his alone. But I want to make them as photographs.

They are the photographs I would make if in Mumbai. It is beautiful stuff. It makes me want to go and make photographs.

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Make It Right For Palestine, November 4, 2017

Be there. Hyde Park. Speaker’s Corner. London. 12:00 noon. 4th November, 2017.

The Polis Project…Is Up And Running

If you can’t join them, then just do it on your own.

We launched a new collective focused on research, reportage and resistance. The specific goals and objectives are being developed as we speak, but the idea is a simple one: to collect under one banner a group of individuals from different fields – artists, writers, academics, photographers, intellectuals, poets and others, who are consistently working against the grain. In this time of collective conformity, and a media sycophancy to power and extremism, some of us felt the need to create a small space where people are still determined to refuse the agendas of political power, debilitating capitalism, nationalist extremism and neoliberal idiocy, and remain fools in their hearts, and idealists in their souls.

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Short Doc: “As If A Nightmare”;The Story Of Former Bagram Prisoner Abdul Haleem Saifullah

 

We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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Short Doc: “Prisoner 1432” – The Story of Former Bagram Prisoner Amanatullah Ali

 

We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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10 Things To Consider…

I recommend that photographers, photojournalists, documentary photographers remember these wise words by Tania Canas, RISE Arts Director / Member – I am copying and pasting it here. As brown and black bodies are stripped of their clothing, as brown and black children are dehumanised to mere misery, as brown and black women are reduced to simply victims, as ghettos and brothels and refugee camps and slums become the ‘paint by number’ formula for White photographer’s career and publishing success, it becomes increasingly important that those of us on the receiving end of White ‘largesse’ begin to build obstacles, speak back, and refuse / reject these ‘representations’ and their reductive, violent and brutal narrative frames. We have lost too much, and are in danger of whatever little we have left as humans and as histories, if we permit this process to continue.

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Photographs Are No Longer Enough

So, here is a Masterclass in photojournalism, particularly for European photojournalists producing works on immigration, refugees and Africa. It is a Masterclass in how not to work as a photographer / photojournalist working on stories of immigration, refugees and the European fear of 'the Other'.

This article – written by some hack writer and with an epistemology embedded deep inside the brain trust of NGO-think – is perhaps the single finest learning tool I have come across in a very long time. And I am not just saying that.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/05/saving-senegal-sons-vanishing-european-seas-170530065009710.html

This is an article about immigrants, about Africa and her poverty, about 'women's empowerment', about European assistance to help African women 'develop' and become 'empowered', about populist ideas of 'humanity' and what not. It is a cliche-ridden piece around which one could construct an entire Graduate School seminar.

And here is why this is a Masterclass.

Point One: The perspective, and POV of the piece of 'the human'. Specifically, it is the individual. This is typical of how typical photojournalists want to work – you focus on an empathetic subject, you find a 'good victim', and you place yourself as the mediator / medium through which their stories will be bought to the White European world. Mind you, this latter point is critical – so many 'concerned' photographers are entirely beholden to the view that the core audience, the critical agency of action and ideas, lies in the European markets. Of course, they are inadvertently acknowledging that their idea of 'agency' happens to be the paying pages of an European publication. They have no interest in the agency of the very people they are documenting. They are 'giving voice to the voiceless', and hence silencing the local communities and erasing their agency. These photojournalists come to serve what Allan Sekula has called 'liberal ideology's false humanism, while denying the fact that information too has been mobilised.' (Steichen At War, by Allan Sekula). The individual as the starting point permits a downgrading of the structural, and also absolves the photojournalist from broader inquiry, and from making critical connections between economics, and politics, and how these create realities within which people operate and surive and thrive. Or die.

Two: An European NGO is highlighted as entering the fray, and helping 'the women'. Its always the women. The White man's generosity and concern, his love of 'the women' move to have him act to help these hapless mothers. So the NGO – we are told that "Yayi has just returned from Morocco, where she received an award from a Swiss NGO, Crans-Montana Forum, for her work in the community." But what is this organisation that we are talking about? That is not looked at. But a simple search of their website reveals it to be a forum and 'action group' comprised of the views and perspectives of some the most rigid, fanatical, fascist, imperialist and neoliberal European political leaders of the last 40 yeas! The Crans-Montana Forum boasts that it is “Committed to a more Humane and Impartial World” and encourages international cooperation and overall growth." i.e. embedded in this faux humanist language is that fascist word 'growth'. The forum boasts participation and 'encouragement' from such 'luminaries' as Peres, Holbrook, Chernomyrdin, Rabin, A. Juppe, and many many more – a veritable list of powerful, elite, political and establishment figures who. This forum apparently gave a few 'dimes' to Yahi. But here is the catch…

Three: Right there, all over the article, is simple and direct evidence of how the causes of the loss of Senegal's sons lie firmly in the trade policies that the EU has 'won' from collaborative Senegalese governments. That is, the reason why millions are leaving Senegal and heading to European shores – shores that are now highly militarised and brutal, is because of Europe's desperate hunger for fish, and the trade arrangements that have destroyed the livelihoods of millions. These unjust, unequal and insane trade agreements, ones that the EU can impose onto weaker nations, are the single largest driver of immigrants heading towards the very militarised borders where they eventually are imprisoned, tortured, brutalised or killed. Its right there in the article e.g.

"According to the World Bank, only one in five people work full time in Senegal and 20 percent of the country's five million labour force is jobless.

"There is no work for young people any more. You can imagine how they see things. They say: our sea has been sold," says Yayi referring to overfishing practised by industrial trawlers from Europe, China and Japan.

Although President Macky Sall criticised these practices when he came to power in 2012 and briefly put a stop to it, new fishing agreements have been signed between the Senegalese government and the EU for the 2014-2019 period.

It enables the EU to fish for 14,000 tonnes of fish a year in Senegalese waters in exchange for 15 million euros ($16.75 million) in compensation."

These criminally unjust and exploitative trade deals are destroying local economies and undermining local governance. And if you think this is a 'sovereign' arrangement between a Senegalese government and the EU, then you are again wrong. Deeply indebted states like Senegal are beholden to International Financial Institutions and unable to make critical social and political policy decisions without prioritising the interests of the lenders. This is a simple fact that has been documented repeated by the likes of Wendy Brown, Saskia Sassen, Joseph Steiglitz and even Jeffery Sachs who has come around to seeing the connections after many decades faltering around in racist 'development model' theories.

So,

Four: The very NGOs that give tiny handouts to selected 'good Senegalese' individuals, are also the forum made up of the power elite that maintain and sustain global capitalism, global trade arrangements, global economic ideologies and the movement of global profits and raw resources (fish, in this case), entirely towards Europe. Anyone claiming that 'colonialism' is dead ignores the fact that colonialism wasn't just about military of administrative control. It was also very much about economic networks, social control, ideologies and power arrangements. Much of those arrangements have survived the test of 'independence', as documented well by the likes of Laura Ann Stolar and others.

It is now the height of irresponsibility and frankly racist disregard that photojournalists can continue to produce 'human' stories about immigrants and refugees, but never be moved to speak out against the policies of their own countries – whether it is war, or trade or other, that are creating these massive waves of people fleeing death and starvation. It is the height of cowardice that photojournalists are unable to connect the dots, desperate as they are to sell their shoddy wares to shoddy publications – publications that are a core part of the nationalist and corporate capitalist infrastructure and have an interest in hiding these connections, while standing on podiums speaking lyrically about 'human suffering' and 'justice'. It is inexplicable that these vividly obvious inter-connections are not the focus of more projects, more writings and more photographs by photojournalists, who still seem to insist on waiting on the 'death side' of the story to make their banal pictures.

Institutions like World Press Photo, and other European 'journalism' groups, seem to encourage these simplistic and limited narratives by awarded these simplistic and limited narratives. Not just that, but publications like the New York Times, and major photo agencies like Magnum, collaborate in the obfuscation of these issues by producing 'fabulous' multi-media pieces that use a language and framing that hides these connections, that refuse to face our agency in this suffering, and worse, refuse to hold our political leaders accountable for our continued role in the suffering of the millions. We seem to think that they are 'starving' and 'fleeing' from 'there' because we are all so beautiful and everyone wants to come live in our pretty garden cities. And yet we fail to see that the garden is grown over the blood of the very people we are not imprisoning, torturing and killing.

This is a Masterclass in photojournalism. No, it isn't about how your images should look more like those of Alex Majoli or Steve McCurry. It is about how you need to learn to think, and to make connections. It is about how you need to reject these narratives that create 'empathy' and work through 'pathos'. It is about producing works that do not fit the pages of a mainstream publications, that do not succumb to the false seductions of photo awards. Today, we are no longer absolved from our responsibility as citizens and as responsible individuals. These connections, these deprivations, our role in global suffering and as the main cause of human suffering, is right there for all to see. It is shocking to me that European photojournalists continue to work as if they are apart, in a bubble, unrelated to very horrors they head out to document.

This little, useless article, is a brilliant study on how we are encouraged to frame suffering, and how are told to make invisible the causes. The same people who are the beneficiaries of unjust trade and repressive economic arrangements, are the ones giving out crumbs to suffering 'African's while garlanding themselves as 'humanitarian' and 'concerned' labels.

The trillions in profits and wealth that flow to Europe, and the hundreds of millions of deaths and displacements that are imposed on Africa and other regions, are intimately connected. To pretend not to speak about this, to pretend that it does not exist, to practice a concerned craft in ignorance, to encourage that ignorance for the sake of a photo essay publication, or a chance to 'dance' with a photo editor, is shameful and frankly, beneath contempt.

These are not new revelations. In 2005 Le Monde Diplomatique wrote the following about European trade agreements and so-called 'climate refugees' in Bangladesh:

"THE hamlet of Baro Ari in the Khulna region of southwest Bangladesh is lost in the reaches of the Ganges. It is difficult to find, and yet globalisation has already arrived there, along with its unique market opportunity, shrimps and prawns. Local bigwigs opened the dykes of polders in 2000, flooding with salt water land that belonged to poor farmers. With the connivance of a corrupt police force, they then transformed the drowned land into lucrative crustacean farms."

(http://kit.mondediplo.com/spip.php?article4228)

Our work isn't just photographs. Our work speaks to truths that cost people lives. Our work isn't just a career. It has consequences for the living because our work creates the narratives that can justify war, collude in death, or resist it. Too many young photojournalists and most all 'famous' photojournalists seem not to understand how they and their works can be easily 'weaponised', and gleefully gloat and brag about their images despite the political and military exploitation of theses images to serve death and destruction.

This article is a Masterclass. Read it again. See how it is done. See how we must, at all costs, start to do it differently.

I Am Not A Racist, Though I Am In Agreement With Them


This may be how our new racists speak – veiling their bigoted, essentialist xenophobia behind a carefully crafted language that displaces their racism onto unnamed others, while subtly agreeing with then. As in this terrifyingly national and ‘clash of civilisation’ qualifying paragraphs:
“Today’s Western nationalists argue, also plausibly, that many European distinctives are unlikely to survive if nation-states are weak, mass immigration constant, Christianity and Judaism replaced by indifferentism and Islam, and young elites educated as global citizens without knowing their own home.

This nationalist argument comes in racist forms, but it need not be the white nationalism that Trump’s liberal critics read into his speech. It can just be a species of conservatism, which prefers to conduct cultural exchange carefully and forge new societies slowly, lest stability suffer, memory fail and important things be lost.”

…”conduct cultural exchange carefully”… indeed, one wishes the europeans had thought of that when they raped and pillaged their way across the world to becoming slave traders, colonisers and genocidiares!

or when they pillaged their way across afghanistan, iraq, libya, somalia, vietnam, to name just a few.

strangely, a few darkies at our doors from nations we rape provoke these insipid op-eds, while the millions of darkies we slaughter and murder, whose homes and lives we rent asunder, seem not to pique our concern. 

careful cultural exchange is a lovely concern. 

this modern day racism is now smack in the pages of The New York Times. we should not be surprised given this paper’s long history of Islamophobic bigotry and anti-Black equality positions over the decades. It isn’t an overt racism, which is what makes it complex to see – it is, like this Op/Ed, veiled behind sweeping essentialism and caricatures that deny the hybridity of our actual lives, that utilises Orientalist and racist presumptions and generalisations voiced in polite and ‘managerial’ language of ‘progress’ and ‘tolerance’ and ‘balance’ and ‘moderation’.

Read this piece again, but shred the moderation embodied in it. It is a crassly nationalist, xenophobic scream that uses the worst of cultural essentialism, birth rate bigotry and anti-immigrant hate but does it with supreme politeness.

The New York Times – its editors continue to demonstrate their moral emptiness, their intellectual shallowness and their ethical indifference. From hiring racist, climate-change deniers, to retaining war monger pundits, to shilling their pages to Christian fundamentalist White Supremacist, this is not a paper of record, but increasingly a rag of ridiculousness!

Radical Reductionists And Rabid Revisionists 


There are people out there who think that Islamophobia is limited to the likes of rednecks and lunatics. And yet, what they ignore is that fundamentally obvious way in which publications like The New York Times are front and center in the manufacturing, prioritising and highlighting of narratives, and narrative frames, that feed the Islamphobia of Americans. 

This is the mainstream, read by most, national newspaper of record. This is their idea of a ‘radicalisation’ that matters: not the nationalist, imperialist radicalisation that mobilises tens of millions of American citizens to support in the order of trillions of dollars the wars that kills and ruin millions around the world. No, that isn’t ‘radicalisation’.

But, taking pages right out of the brochures of the worst Islamphobes, and from the discredit theorising of racist military and intelligence community hacks, the publications finds enough space in its ‘treasured’ pages to allow this sort of rubbish to appear. Could someone making millions of the CVE programs in the USA have written a better copy:

“In Rasheed’s case, there was his altered appearance and his decision to attend a different mosque. With hindsight, I should have questioned more his distancing of himself from his usual social group — and, possibly, the watchful eye of his father. Naïvely, perhaps, I had passed off the changes in Rasheed as his exploring and forming an identity away from his parents. It was the biggest mistake and regret of my life. But ask any parent of teenagers: Would you have done better?”

This paragraph is straight out of the PowerPoint presentations many Islamophobes have been making at FBI, CIA, NYPD and other training programs, and for which they have come under severe criticism for their sloppy constructions, racist presumptions and entire made-up and unverifiable claims. And yet, here they are again. In the New York Times – that publication of the liberal class apparently.

I pity this woman. Her son’s tragedy – a very British tragedy mind you, has not allowed her to question her government’s vile policies of war and mayhem. She is unable to face the crass and disgusting campaigns of mass murder, slaughter and rape that the UK gleefully participates in and then gloats about. She, concerned about her children and other children who sit and watch rivers of bloods streaming out the borders of nations we destroy, cannot put two bits of clues together to ask and understand who really killed her son and drove him to go fight for those dying under British bombs.

Perhaps she has chosen cowardice over courage to cope with her loss. For it is cowardice to remain silent at the crimes of your government, and at the crimes against humanity it has supported and performed in the last 15-20 years. And it is cowardice (or fear) that is the essential characteristic of newspapers like The New York Times, who have peddled in racist depictions and discussions about all things Islam / Muslims for decades, while casting themselves as ‘liberal’. Trump and his White Supremacist goons can’t even hope to achieve the level of racist idiocy this newspaper manages to print every week!

Gucci For Government

You have to marvel at the thick headedness of the writers, editors and commentators at The New York Times. Even now, in the midst of a deepening economic crisis, growing economic, social and political inequality, raging racist social and political realities, a deepening crisis of the state, an all out attack against the last bastions of social welfare protections for citizens, the near complete corporatisation of most every facet of public life and concern, they still find the time to vomit out garbage.

This is a New York Times ‘fashion critic’ – what the fuck is that? trying her hand at politics. I suppose in a day and age when Ivanka Trump can attend meetings at the G20, why not, you would say. Indeed, you would have a good point. After all, even Chelsea Clinton – this most vacuous and privileged of individuals, made a few million dollars as a pundit on national television. 

Regardless, it is amusing to read what I am sure will soon be revealed to be a parody piece perhaps accidentally published a few months too late after April Fools day.

“Clearly a political party is not a fashion company. And the stakes, for all of us, are much higher in the voting booth than in the fitting room. But before everyone takes umbrage at the idea of ever connecting the two or conflating what is often stereotyped as superficial with what is considered substantive, it’s worth remembering what caused the epiphany on both the high street and the haute street: the advent of the educated consumer.

Isn’t that what we want for the electorate, too?”

Clearly…a political party is not a fashion company. Or, should we remind Ms. Friedman, that a political party is also not a profit making corporate enterprise beholden to shareholder value, but ideally a representative of will of the people who participate in it to serve and provide for their interests and their protections. A political party is also not a marketing gimmick, judged merely by its ‘messaging’ or PR campaigns, or brand, but by its ability to represent the citizenry from the smallest town to the largest urban centre. A political party is not a product company, offering a range of colors and styles, or price points and service levels, to meet the needs of various ‘consumers’, but a social organisation that operates as the core of a public democracy, and that represents and negotiates the interests of a vast and diverse set of citizens to whom the party, and the state itself, are beholden and in the service of.

Of course, Ms Friedman’s distorted and ignorant writings are unsurprising given the way she opens her account which quotes one Professor of Economics, and then goes on to suggest that Corbyn, Macron and Trump are merely different brands, and not in fact, the complex reflection of long socio-political histories of three very different and distinct national and political trajectories. No, they are merely 3 options ‘chosen’ by the ‘free consumer’. Or, as she says:

“In all the explanations of voter behaviour that have been floated over the past few months, the one that I can’t quite get out of my mind is a recent comment from Tony Travers, a professor of government at the London School of Economics, who told The New York Times that “people are switching loyalties, not tribally, but like consumers.”

He was talking about the British election last month and the defection of so many presumed Conservative voters to the rumpled promise of Jeremy Corbyn, but he could just as easily have been talking about the French election and rise of that shiny new brand otherwise known as Emmanuel Macron. Or even the 2016 election in the United States. After all, on each occasion, voters shopped around before committing — or deciding to stay home.”

Erased are the decades of social humiliation and suffering of the vast majority of British citizens under Conservative and New Labour governments. Gone is the unemployment line, the crumbling healthcare, the abandonment of welfare programs for single mothers, the elderly, the sick, the homeless etc, gone is the rising inequality, and the gloating of the bankers over the hungry bodies of the miners, gone are the specific policies and priorities of governments beholden to capital and capitalist, and indifferent to citizens. No, the people ‘merely’ bought a product when they voted, not voices a protest or express and demand for social and economic change. For the likes of Ms. Friedman, Corbyn is merely product ‘at the point of delivery’, when in fact, everything he talked about fundamentally would mean a dismantling of Gucci, and the parceling out of its rubbish products to the many over the few! People chose a politics and infact, refused the branding. The French – not so much. But that is a different issue. Macron is a Gucci ‘manager’ if there ever was one!

The inanity and emptiness of a sentence like ‘…voters shopped around before committing – or deciding to stay home’ is barely worthy of a mention. But I will make one point – the suggestion that citizens are today nothing more than consumers, is the ultimate neoliberal fantasy and false claim. It is little more than the final cul-de-sac into which our new, elite, liberal class has found itself trapped. Stuart Hall captured the mindset and world view of this barbaric class in a series of essays he wrote about New Labour and the rise of neoliberal ‘managerial’ government in the UK, which involves…

”’…the marketisation of the state’s governing and administrative practices, the transformation of public service individuals into ‘entrepreneurial subjects’ and the adaptation of the machinery of the state to the ‘mission’ of ‘entrepreneurial governance’. Central to this reconstruction of governance and the state is the enthusiastic adoption of a ‘Public Choice’ approach to the public sector. This ‘shift[s] the balance of incentives from input to delivery and…in the 1980s led to the contracting out of services, the spread of internal markets and outright privatisation. It is the main source of the drive to reconstitute citizens as consumers” (‘New Labours Double Shuffle’, Stuart Hall)

…and furthermore, as far as the citizen is concerned, our liberal neoliberal ideology…

“…inculcate in the population at large a new habitus; making into a new kind of common sense habits and practices which the new ‘free market’ consumer focused conception of ‘governance’ requires. This approach is effective well outside the machinery of the state. Slowly but surely, everybody – even if kicking and screaming to the end – becomes his/her own kind of ‘manager’. The market and market criteria becomes entrenched as the modus operandi of ‘governance’ and institutional life. Media commentators (Ms Friedman, take note!) and the press know no other language with which to address public issues….the role of the State is not to support the less fortunate or powerful in a society which ‘naturally’ produces huge inequalities of wealth, power and opportunity, but to hep individuals themselves to provide for all their social needs – health, education, environmental, travel, housing, parenting, security in unemployment, pensions in old age etc….” (‘New Labours Double Shuffle’, Stuart Hall)

Only if the entire idea of a republic, of a democracy is now finally dead, that we can actually read such pieces by such ill-equipped and ill-informed and ignorant individuals, and not gasp in horror. It is fundamentally shocking to see how quickly a slight degree of bourgeois comfort has allowed most to jettison their commitment to a public democracy, and public interest. It is surprising to read such entirely wrong essays in our newspaper of note – perhaps not. But it is a stark reminder that the crass and naked capitalism and neoliberal assault on most all our public services that we are currently witnessing, isn’t just an anomaly because of Trump, but at the core of the ideology espoused by the most influential and widely read newspaper in the country. That is, it is mainstream thought.

I bet most people who read this tripe never thought twice about what they were being told. I bet they did in fact think that selecting politicians today is merely an exercise in branding, and not one in politics. I think that Ms Friedman is yet another example of how disconnected, isolated and disdainful our media has become of the citizenry, and of our democracy. Choking on their millions, rent stupid by their mindless consumption and self-righteousness, these commentators have lost all sense of the reality of our lived struggles. Is it any surprise that they never saw the apocalypse coming?

What can’t Gucci teach the democrats? Quite simply: a commitment to public service – to education, to health, to our environment, to consumer protections, to welfare programs to protect the single mothers, the elderly, the homeless, to return to a politics where the state acts as a balance between the few who will always gain under a capitalist system, and the many who will lose, and ensure the resources and wealth is managed to offer the most with more, and create opportunities for those who have much to overcome and yet have much to give. that is, to act in the interest of the people, of the public, and not merely in the interest of profit and rate of return. Ms Friedman needs to shut the hell up, or perhaps, step out of her 5th Avenue Brownstone, and pay attention to the details of how her beautiful Gucci-ridden life is actually enabled.

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