The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'populism'
The president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, agricultural scientist Nina Fedoroff, has spoken out about a rising anti-scientific mood, largely triggered by corporate-funded populist attacks against science:
As Fedoroff pointed out, university and government researchers are hounded for arguing that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are changing the climate. Their emails are hacked while Facebook campaigns call for their dismissal from their posts, calls that are often backed by rightwing politicians. At the last Republican party debate in Florida, Rick Santorum insisted he should be the presidential nominee simply because he had cottoned on earlier than his rivals Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney to the "hoax" of global warming.
"Those of us who grew up in the sixties, when we put men on the Moon, now have to watch as every Republican candidate for this year's presidential election denies the science behind climate change and evolution. That is a staggering state of affairs and it is very worrying," said Professor Naomi Oreskes, of the University of California, San Diego.This phenomenon is not confined to the United States; Canada's stridently right-wing government has prohibited its scientists from speaking to the public without explicit government vetting. Similar things happened in Australia under the Howard government, and chances are that political censorship of research will return with a vengeance when newly elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott moves to repay his debts to the mining industry.
Meanwhile, back in the US, the Tea Party and similar right-wing populists are organising against environmental programmes, which they see as parts of a United Nations and/or Communist plot against the American way of life. You see, building bike lanes and high-speed railways is just a plot to coerce the free American people into giving up their SUVs, McMansions and God-given freedom and submitting to collectivisation like the wretched inhabitants of hellholes like Sweden and Switzerland. And as for smart electric meters, they're part of a plot to bring in a Communist dictatorship, just like water fluoridation, the invisible bar codes on road signs which will guide the Chinese UN troops massing south of the Mexican borders as they herd Christian patriots to the reeducation camps, and the Computer God Frankenstein Controls:
In Maine, the Tea Party-backed Republican governor canceled a project to ease congestion along the Route 1 corridor after protesters complained it was part of the United Nations plot. Similar opposition helped doom a high-speed train line in Florida. And more than a dozen cities, towns and counties, under new pressure, have cut off financing for a program that offers expertise on how to measure and cut carbon emissions. “It sounds a little on the weird side, but we’ve found we ignore it at our own peril,” said George Homewood, a vice president of the American Planning Association’s chapter in Virginia.
In June, after President Obama signed an executive order creating a White House Rural Council to “enhance federal engagement with rural communities,” Fox programs linked the order to Agenda 21. A Fox commentator, Eric Bolling, said the council sounded “eerily similar to a U.N. plan called Agenda 21, where a centralized planning agency would be responsible for oversight into all areas of our lives. A one world order.”
The Guardian's art critic Jonathan Jones has a thought-provoking critique of Banksy:
One of Banksy's most irritating attributes is his conservatism, as an artist who seems proud of the fact that he "draws", rather than just making "concepts". He appeals to people who hate the Turner prize. It's art for people who think that artists are charlatans. This is what most people think, so Banksy is truly a popular creation: a great British commonsense antidote to all that snobby pretentious art that real people can't understand. Yet to put your painting in a public place and make this demand on attention while putting so little thought into it reveals a laziness in the roots of your being.
Perhaps the rise of Banksy is the fall of Art - that is, the waning of art as the force it has been in recent culture. A decade ago, the art of the Damien Hirst generation pushed itself into anyone's view of what was happening in Britain. Probably the rise of Banksy means that moment is coming to an end; people care more about other things. He is a background artist, as in background music: like all graffiti, his is essentially an accompaniment to other activities. Chunky sprayed-letter graffiti is a background to skateboarding. Banksy is a background to hating New Labour. The reason to admire Damien Hirst is that he makes art as if art mattered. In Banksy, the philistines are getting their revenge.
This evening, I tuned into BBC News 24. The intro ran, and on came the newsreaders, informing the audience of the big story: the English football team was beaten by Portugal, and was out of the World Cup.
The report played a clip of the goal that ended it all, and the Portuguese player's triumphant expression. Then they crossed to England supporters outside the stadium in Germany, with the reporter asking them how they felt. Not surprisingly, they were disappointed.
Then the report crossed to Lisbon, where fans were partying. The reporter asked a few how they felt; they were elated. This just in: Portuguese football fans celebrate when their team wins.
This went on for 20 minutes, discussing the mechanics of the game, the hopes and dreams of various fans, and so on, after which they briefly crossed to the rest of the day's news. And in other news: 60 people were killed in a bomb blast in Iraq, as sectarian violence threatens to escalate further. Presumably things are also happening in other parts of the world (such as, say, the Gaza Strip and Somalia, to name two recently newsworthy locations), though one can't be sure because there wasn't time to mention them.
Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this?
According to NME, that Daily Star of Indie™, Oasis' "Definitely Maybe" is The Greatest Album Of All Time™. It is followed by lesser luminaries such as The Beatles (at #2. #3, #13 and #14; not bad for an earlier, imperfect form of what Oasis would become), The Clash ("London Calling" is at #12), David Bowie (#18) and The Smiths (#9). Elsewhere on the chart is a lineup of NME darlings from years past, including The Stone Roses (#7), The Strokes (#20) and glamorous-nihilists-with-really-good-stylists The Libertines (#15). That really says it all about NME.
Last night, Murdoch cable channel Sky One aired a programme titled Chavs, a documentary of sorts, written and presented by Julie Burchill, on chav culture. I tuned in to see if it was going to be interesting or insightful, shedding any light on this phenomenon. It turned out to be more an op-ed piece, with Burchill, ever the contrarian, proudly hoisting the Burberry flag, declaring herself to be a chav and accusing those who have a problem with chav to be classist snobs.
Burchill's arguments hinged on one assumption: that chav and working-class culture were synonymous. (A piece of background: Burchill is the most self-announcedly "working class" public figure since Damon Albarn.) By her reasoning, all cultural figures of note from Mozart to the Mods were chavs, and the anti-chav camp only had horsy aristocrats and the likes of Prince Harry among them. Oh, and wearing in-your-face quantities of gold jewellery bought on QVC, drinking cheap lager and smoking like a chimney are just wholesome working-class ways of enjoying life, and those who would begrudge them that are hateful snobs and/or resentful of those who made it without middle-class privilege.
The fatal flaw in Burchill's argument is in the definitions; she plays fast-and-loose with what she means by "chav", switching between it meaning any happily working-class person at any time in history and the loutish subculture it commonly denotes. She also whitewashes the meaning to fit her argument, not mentioning the pseudo-criminal posturing (i.e., the combination of baseball caps and hooded tops, initially worn by muggers to avoid identification by CCTV cameras, now part of inner-city youth uniform) that's part of chav (or, indeed, the recent finding that 1 in 4 teenage boys is a serious or habitual offender), and sweeping things like drunken violence and football hooliganism under the carpet. It's not surprising that chav can start to look defensible and even pluckily admirable when you airbrush out all the negative parts of it.
Chavs was more of a snappily-edited tabloid opinion piece than anything else, and was also light on analysis, preferring to stick to simple assertions and soundbites. For example, while it asserted that the Mods of the 1960s were chavs (that is, if one ignores the difference between sharply-tailored suits and tracksuit pants), it failed to point out the one deeper connection between the two movements, i.e., that both appropriated (images of) black American culture (the Mods with soul and the "White Negro" ideal, and the chavs with their adoption of bling-bling and thug posturing from commercial gangsta rap).
It was also interesting to note that The Sun now has a "Chav and Proud" logo on its pages. It looks like the anti-anti-chav-backlash-backlash is beginning.
Angle Grinder Man, a "vigilante cum subversive superhero philanthropist entertainer type personage", who goes around in a superhero costume and mask freeing motorists from wheel clamps all over Kent, in the name of some vaguely anarchist/right-wing-populist philosophy. (What is it about Kent and nutters in superhero costumes anyway? First they had that chap in Tunbridge Wells and now this guy. Did the creators of Superman know something we didn't when they gave him his surname?)
It's heartening to know that Diana is no longer at #1 at the BBC's Great Britons poll. At the same time, it is somewhat dispiriting that the former clotheshorse and magazine-cover celebrity is ahead of the likes of Darwin, Shakespeare and Newton. There's still time to vote, though; well, a few hours perhaps.
First Melody Maker went tits-up, then NME turned into Smash Hits and now Rolling Stone's 50 Best Album Covers of All Time features modern-day classics by artists of the calibre of N'Sync and Blink-182, essentials in every well-rounded record collection. Mind you, that's just the provocative side; then there are the safe choices (old Beatles and Elvis covers, and the token '70s soul, punk and gangsta rap to show that the owner of the collection is hip and with-it; basically respectable MOR predictability that doesn't go out on a limb). (via if.then.else)