Worrying about what is televised is not yet the revolution.

Worrying about what is televised is not yet the revolution. (apologies to Gil Scott Heron)

Photographs. The pictures we see of the wounded and dead from Lebanon deserve close brave attention (never looking away) not only because they still have affective purchase and really do provoke outrage and anger but also because they produce so much frustration and despair. To use these pictures to call for petition signatures or to gather people to a demo is not their best purpose, even when for some, or most, they are so specifically deployed. These pictures also undermine any lingering attachments to or illuions in (if there still were any) figures like Condoleeza Rice, Bush, Bliar, and to democracy, civilization, justice, sanity, safety. All very necessary to note, but hardly all that new. So maybe what is still needed – in the face of cold hard staring, shock, tears, rage, is the persistent articulation of a project to build a political alternative which can work here – and not the false alternative scorched-earth war-crimes adventures of Israel, Rice and Blair, but the alternative of a communist future radically different from the death from the sky we see on television and internet every day now. This is why Lenin is relevant, why State and Revolution should be reread and why despair in the face of these horrific pictures is only the first stumble that must be followed by further quick steps that – we can still hope – will someday gain us some balance. Worrying about what is televised is not yet the revolution.

Get to the demonstration at 5pm today at Downing Street:

[END THE ATTACKS ON LEBANON & GAZA •END BLAIR’S SUPPORT FOR BUSH’S WARS London Protest Friday 28 July 5pm to 7pm Downing Street, Whitehall, SW1].

The trouble with the affective call of the photograph or video report of the scene of horror is that to sign petitions, attend a demo or give to charity is still a step in-line. None of these ethically-applauded gestures are sufficiently disruptive of capital to avoid seamless editing back into the commercial programming that is televisual War. What I am more interested in are those organizations that have managed painstakingly to recruit and educate a constituency that sustains such a disruptive critique of capital in and though struggle. The programme of education and the ethical charge of such groups deserves our support and our participation, and if must needs be, long hours of study at the very least. I am interested to know how, despite seemingly over whelming attacks, have the Maoists in Nepal, the Naxalites in India or the New Peoples Army in the Philippines organized for success.

What is it that Leftist education has that is not there in other alternatives – I am thinking of the rote learning, recitation and other dullities that, at least usually, ideally, are not part of the critical countenance of the Marxist cadre (clearly I am excluding a kind of clichéd Trotskyite fanatic here, who reads off simplified political diagnostic from the condescending pages of the Socialist Worker). That a critical education is part of the Leninist or Maoist party is not always guaranteed is probably true – there are many possible examples – but there are some – even within the SWP for sure – that sustain and cherish this kind of education work, and it is sustained over vast stretches of time and against all sorts of odds. Especially so I think in some places more than others, in my experience, which is confined to a few small groups of ‘former’ Naxalites in Kolkata, a few meetings with members of the NPA, and connections with Malaysian comrades that still inspire, even when sometimes enamoured with other kinds of (art, literature, law) projects. I learnt much from such education and leave it to others to learn themselves alongside if that is possible – indeed, it continues to structure even my vane attempt to turn interests in culture in London towards a global politics rather than a culture industry cash-in (though often at Goldsmiths the latter looks more likely – and that Saatchi, Murdoch or Unilever will employ the best minds – the managing director of Unilever once told me ‘john, teach them the most critical Marx you can, we do not want to employ yes men, we want thinkers’… eeek. So the task is to teach critical thinking and to learn alongside, but also to organise an employment other than for Unilever, Murdoch or Saatchi. Ideally maybe also other than Goldsmiths inc).

Sorry. But I just can’t do that straight routine academic serious role-play anymore today. Course I do not have a better option and I do not want to be president of the world of the party, but there seems no justification for passively watching my flat screen tv, even with ‘informed’ critical liberal concern, while Lebanon, Iraq are soon Iran are refashioned into Greater Texas. And I don’t want to write a research application about it.

Texas. Sure, Greater Texas has been in trouble for a while, ‘darnit, we jus’ can’t get them Iraqis to lay down dead’ either. And though going to the demos over years and years has not dinted a single cell in the barren stalk that is Bush’s war-mongering brain, and his Bliar glove puppet (not puppy – enough poodle jokes, that just makes the killer look cute) still clings on to his sub-commander post in worse shape than ever, its still the case that we have not managed to stand up yet. I still believe we should and can, even in London, by-passed withered heart of the old Empire… My day is unravelling at the thought of what might happen if the United Nations were instead United Communists and the anti-war demo was not just a long walk to the park… Someone said tonight maybe more than a stumble is needed

Can you believe Janis Joplin was also from Texas. How is that plausible?
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…”


9 thoughts on “Worrying about what is televised is not yet the revolution.

  1. John, I know you’ve said all wars have deaths like these, but that picture is horrible and I wonder if its the new media that brings them to us more than before? Mike.


  2. I was thinking that we could have some discussions regarding the nature of protest and what might be effective in creating a challenge to capital…
    I was going to do this with the Pirate Society in the new term – I though we would start with ‘Breaking the Spell’about the anarchists in Eugene and the Seattle protests about the WTO. Then we could look at the SDS and the Weathermen Underground…
    Any more suggestions?


  3. Aye, questioning the all too often liberal politics of protest remains relevant: even in a ‘post-Seattle, post-Geneva’ landscape, it seems too frequently that we think it is all we are left with – hence the absolute necessity of looking at other possibilities, fucking radical possibillities for once. Not enough talk about real options – it is always the castrated UN, or some sort of different way of voting for the lame-and-always-the-same. There must still be a possibility for a radical politics, ‘even’ here (and maybe even ‘there’). [link is to one direction to go, probably not the one i agree with anymore, but may be an intersting starting point for discussion, paul]

    And yes, maybe a bit linked to the teaching of future ‘culture-industry-producers’ – media, media, media, and I don’t just say this because of affinity with Canadian-McLuhan, but because of too many urges to smash my fist through the TV lately. And some crazy moments in front of the computer.


  4. and that Saatchi, Murdoch or Unilever will employ the best minds – the managing director of Unilever once told me ‘john, teach them the most critical Marx you can, we do not want to employ yes men, we want thinkers’… eeek.

    So the task is to teach critical thinking and to learn alongside, but also to organise an employment other than for Unilever, Murdoch or Saatchi. Ideally maybe also other than Goldsmiths inc).

    If this all is true, that they want critical thinkers who have read Marx, why am I still unemployed for a whooping three years in a row?

    And why was I forced by the Job Placement Agency case-manager to delete my academic education as well as any political activities (i.e. activism) from my resume, so that I’d “appear more attractive” to such employers? (I took out the activism but not the academic education)

    Sorry for going on and on about this again, but do you understand that, for some students, working at Saatchi or Unilever might be a coerced “choice” enforced by the Social Services? (Or, self-imposed in order to avoid interaction with the Kafka-esque Social Services, who will eventually force you down the path you do not want to drag yourself?)

    Your quote actually reminds me a lot of another quote I have by one of my other “teachers”, Stephen Duncombe of the NYU (also of Reclaim the Streets NYC). He once said:

    One of the reasons I became a teacher was to change the world. But I am also an activist. I am not sure my teaching does change the world and that is why I remain an activist.

    I always worry about my students because they come to these liberal institutions like New York University. They can quote Foucault and Marx and so on, then we throw them out into the world where there are no political structures to act through, so they become disenchanted.

    So they begin working for Saatchi & Saatchi being clever advertisers and sort of cloaking it with irony.


    Also, check out the part later in the same discussion, where someone else says:

    [T]he one time I saw students very actively engaged in material that was theoretical was a graduate class on Michel Foucault, which some MBA students took. They were very surprised by what Foucault had to say and very interested.

    Their final project, amongst other things, was new office designs to enact even better panopticons.

    These MBA are the “critical thinkers” that Mr Unilever has in mind, and certainly not people such as your truly.

    As for Dr. Duncombe’s comment, my applications have nothing to do with being disenchanted. If I refuse to apply for or accept the Saatchi & Saatchi job, I will be forced off the dole (= the threat of State-enforced destitution and homelessness, though it is never termed as such). It’s that simple. What would you do if you were threatened with homelessness by the same State Institution that’s supposed to feed you and keep you alive (for work)? Some of these interactions really are State-enforced interactions.

    I once wrote an online piece about almost being tricked into volunteerism for Saatchi:

    Saatchi, IDFA and volunteerism in commercial trailers

    I think I even applied to Unilever once while unemployed, it was an enforced application by the Social Services and I didn’t even receive a reply from Unilever, because it was at the time of the Ahold financial scandal.

    Same with the enforced application for a “security” position at Schiphol Airport. In other words: becoming a node in the panopticon of the Military Industrial Aviation Prison Complex. For someone like me who has read Foucault this kind of an application IS a cruel insult. But, lo behold, because of a (false) terrorism threat popping up out of nowhere, all new applications for jobs at Schiphol were cancelled. That’s about the only positive thing from the terrorism threat: enforced applications get canned along with all others!

    As for TV, I no longer have one (oh the irony of having done Media & Culture Studies while no longer having access to the media I was studying!). Since 2004 I am so poor I can’t afford even the most basic cable subscription (170 euros a year in Amsterdam), I don’t have a Personal Computer for the supposedly chea(p/t)er digital TV, and the Dutch prime-minister has decreed that the analogue/antennae-based system (that pumped the 3 state channels at piss-poor quality) be switched off because “it’s outdated and hardly anyone uses it”. Thank Gawd he hasn’t switched off the AM radio system, yet.



  5. Much of the problem is that so many muslims, christians, jews and others are taught to hate and despise ones who are different!! I am surprised that the Left rarely talk about this.

    Qur’an and ahadith quotes http://www.prophetofdoom.net/quotes.aspx?g=405&i=4514

    Online Qu’ran http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/

    Website by muslim apostate http://www.news.faithfreedom.org/

    Website by ex-christians http://www.exchristian.net/

    Bible quotes http://www.evilbible.com/

    Online Bible http://www.biblegateway.com/

    Talmud quotes http://www.rense.com/general21/tal.htm

    Online Talmud http://www.come-and-hear.com/talmud/index.html

    – ex muslim

    Hadith of Sahih Bukhari volume 9, number 64

    ‘During the last days there will appear some young foolish people, who will say the best words, but their faith will not go beyond their throats (i.e. they will have no faith) and will go out from (leave) their religion as an arrow goes out of the game. So, wherever you find them, kill them, for whoever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection.’


  6. Hey John,

    You should put up a link to the Berkeley-area KPFA Flashpoints ( radio show ) on your blog. It has great daily reports from Lebanon by Bilal El-Amine, the founder editor of U.S.-based ( Left Turn magazine ) – tag line: Notes from the Global Intifada – (which is great and run by friends of Jess). Bilal returned to Lebanon recently with the dream of opening a left wing bookstore and cafe on July 18th. With the war his shop is now a shelter for victims.

    He just spoke today about possible evidence that Israel is using some sort of banned chemical weapon on Lebanese civilians.

    Hope you’re OK.



  7. Barack Obama is being given ominous advice from leaders on both sides of the Atlantic to brace himself for an early assault from terrorists. General Michael Hayden, director of the CIA, this week acknowledged that there were dangers during


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