Well comrades, it’s that time of year again! Deck your union halls with black and crimson bunting and gather around the tree for the redistribution of wealth! It’s May at last, and revolution is in the air!
Image retrieved via Tumblr, fair use
Or is it?
The seeds that were planted during the Arab Spring are far from dead, but no one can say that they’re flourishing. Europe has seen (as predicted by yours truly) a massive rise in openly Fascist parties, rising to power on a tide of xenophobia and racism. A similarly ugly nationalist movement has catapulted Donald Trump to the forefront of the Republican party- and lest anyone think that he’s an insane outlier, second in the race is Tea-Party darling Ted Cruz, another depraved bigot who’s even been called “Lucifer in the flesh” by high-ranking members of his own party.
Which I will never not find funny
And that’s accompanied by a nationwide assault on the BDS Movement, with universities across the country making a concerted push to ban the organization under flimsy (and utterly false) accusations of antisemitism.
So yeah, things could be better.
“But what about Sanders?”, you ask.
Sanders isn’t a socialist.
“…by which I mean heavy state subsidies of public services and increased regulation, but let’s not go crazy here.” | image retrieved via giphy, fair use
I’ve mentioned on more than a few occasions that Europe is grappling with issues of racism, which is something of a euphemism for “full fledged white supremacy movements.” What with my repeated references and the major role that this obviously plays on a cultural and political field, I figured it’s high time I actually break it down for ya.
You’d think that a nation that’s invaded all but 22 countries, maintained the largest empire of all time, and started multiple wars with underdeveloped nations to force them to buy drugs would be a bit more understanding when the people from those countries tried moving to the UK to build better lives for themselves. Instead, the flow of immigrants into Britain has resulted in a massive backlash from the “native” English (you know- the ones descended from Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Norman immigrants). United under the fear that the empty house next door might be rented out by a family with brown skin and funny accents instead of a family with white skin and funny accents, Britain has seen the rise of bigoted groups in both the forms of political parties, such as the “British Nationalist Party” [BNP], to straight up gangs of violent racist thugs, such as the self-proclaimed “English Defense League” or “EDL”. But hey- we’ve got similar problems across the pond- what’s the big deal (other than, you know, the attempts to turn Britain into a whites-only nation, through violence and intimidation if necessary)? Continue reading →
GORDON: Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, welcome you here to Evan’s Dignity Memorial Art Gallery to view these lovely pictures of houses and flowers and stuff. The artist? Adolf Hitler.
Why, you ask, do we have Hitler’s youthful paintings and sketches? Because tonight we’re going to be talking about separating art from the artist, and whether or not such a thing can be done.
EVAN: To throw out an example, let me refer to the science fiction author Orson Scott Card, a man famous for writing Ender’s Game and for being pretty staunchly opposed to homosexuality in any form.
GORDON: We’re not talking about some latent disapproval of homosexuality people, we’re talking about full blown vitriol on OSC’s part. Here’s a quote from him on the subject:
The dark secret of homosexual society—the one that dares not speak its name—is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally…
Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage
EVAN: Which is straight-up reprehensible, which I hope you’ll agree with regardless of your personal stance towards the very loaded topic of gay marriage, etc.
EVAN: On a similar note, we have Frank Miller, a legend in the comics industry.
The guy penned Batman: The Dark Knight, 300, Sin City, and had a marvelous run on Daredevil that really defined the character. The man’s a legend.
The Occupy Movement doesn’t have the same hot button status gay marriage does, and it’s arguable that people are less certain about it, but that doesn’t make the things Miller said any less ignorant or wrong.
GORDON: Again, this is true. But we’re not here to list off the artists and creative minds who have maintained ignorant or bigoted positions over the years.We’re here to talk about separating them from their art, and I’m going to submit that one some fundamental level, it can’t be done.
EVAN:Alright, let’s hear why.
GORDON: I’m going to cite Miller’s iconic work The Dark Knight Returns, which has just recently been adapted as an animated film.
It’s not hard to see Miller’s borderline fascist views bleeding through in the book, as he takes pot shots at “reform not punishment” imprisonment, youth (portrayed as violent, stupid, barely comprehensible thugs that even Alex DeLarge would be creeped out by), and even the latest Robin’s parents being portrayed was whiny, drug-addled liberals.
While I doubt Miller was using much restraint, I’m going to submit that the artist is almost always too close to his or her art for her views not to bleed through.
EVAN: So members of Oprah’s book club who read The Education of Little Tree, by former member of the KKK Forrest Carter, should have been able to pick up on his racial sentiments?
GORDON: I said “almost.” Obviously there are exceptions to the rule.
And this isn’t to say that the work itself is to be shunned; I really and truly enjoy Miller’s work, even though he has a goose-stepping, paranoid Islamophobe.
Because of this, in particular.
EVAN: So we shouldn’t let the beliefs of creators affect our enjoyment of their work?
GORDON: I’d hope not. That would preclude me from liking anything done by Dali, any music written by Wagner, and so on and so forth. My issue isn’t with enjoying something a despicable person has made, my issue is with hiring someone you know is despicable.
Would I listen to “Flight of the Valkyries”? Yes. if Wagner was alive today, would I hire that anti-Semite? No way.
EVAN: That’s a really good point. For example, anyone who buys the new “Adventures of Superman” comic will actually be indirectly funding various anti-homosexual movements that Card himself supports. In this case paying money for his product actually results in an action you probably aren’t okay with.
That doesn’t mean that you couldn’t read his comic and think, “Huh, that is a great take on the Last Son of Krypton,” which is entirely likely since he really is a great writer. His art isn’t necessarily affected by his beliefs, but your buying his art supports them, in a roundabout way.
It’s a metaphor for rejection
GORDON: Despite the counter-arguments in DC’s favor, the simple truth of the matter is people aren’t going to be boycotting these books simply because they’re angry at Card- they were angry at him before- they’re also angry at DC for not having the basic decency to not go into business with a raging homophobe.
EVAN: No matter how good a writer, or any other kind of artist, is, there will always be another who approaches them in talent who doesn’t espouse the negative views that they do. The fact of the matter is that DC has other options.
But going back to the topic at large, we confirmed earlier, in a way, that knowing about an artist’s beliefs after you’ve already appreciated and enjoyed their work shouldn’t rob you of that. If I see a painting and think it’s quite lovely, then find out Hitler painted it, that doesn’t suddenly cause it to become hideous in my eyes. At least, it shouldn’t.
GORDON: And because of the pressure we the audience can put on companies to ensure that bigots and nutcases aren’t given a platform, we should try to keep the artist and their work tied together.
EVAN: Voting with our wallets, which should really be done in every area of our lives [buying ethically produced products, high quality entertainment, etc.].
GORDON: Kinda thrown off by the fact that some wallets are thicker than others. But such is Capitalism. Overthrow the bourgeois. Down with the system.
EVAN: But that is a topic for another day. One that I may or not be hopping on, simply due to a lack of knowledge on the matter.
And it’s also about time we wrapped things up.
GORDON: I submit that next week we discuss poverty, as more and more of the nation (and world) slips into it.
As you all doubtlessly know, two days ago, a gunman entered a Sikh temple in the little town of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing six and injuring four more before being shot dead by police. The killer, one Wade Michael Page, was connected to a number of vicious white-supremacist groups, most notably the “Hammerskins”, a white-supremacist group that focuses on dispersing racist messages and propaganda through music- Page being the founder of one band and a member in another.
Why is this even being brought up here? As strange as it may seem, there’s an argument to be made for the Oak Creek massacre having its origins in culture. Now many of you might be thinking of the Aurora massacre, and no, this isn’t some discussion about our attitudes towards guns, violence in media, or anything of the kind. There’s certainly a good discussion to be had on that subject as well, but it’s not what I’ll be addressing here.
No, what I’m going to be talking about is this:
It’s coming back.
See, the idea that the culture, traditions, and history of specific people group are superior to those of all others and should be promoted and maintained through brute force didn’t die when Hitler blew his bigoted brains all over an underground bunker in Berlin, or when Communist freedom fighters gunned down Mussolini in a picturesque Italian village. It’s been dormant for a long time, but in recent years, it has again shown its ugly face.
Nope- uglier than that…
While there have been plenty of racially motivated murders over the years since Nazism fell (to say nothing of countless lesser hate crimes), what we’re seeing now is a resurgence in full-fledged Fascist ideology- but before we get into that, just a side note.
For many of you, the term “Fascism” probably conjures up images of generic authoritarianism. Obama’s a Fascist. Rush Limbaugh’s a Fascist. That one really strict teacher is a Fascist.
I’ve struggled for a while to come up with a good, succinct definition for what Fascism is all really about, so I’m going to offer this illustration. To a Fascist, his people (often, race) are inherently great and good, and they are inherently great and good because of their traditions, values, and culture, which are all also inherent to them. The greatness of the nation is lost when evil, conniving undesirables start pushing their own cultures, values, and traditions, which are subversive and degenerative to the nation. Therefore, these degenerates who threaten the nation must be stomped out (often quite literally), and the “original” culture/traditions/values must be restored, enforced, and maintained through an all-powerful government, police force, military, etc.
There’s more to it, of course. I could talk about the concepts of autocracy, corporatism, use of ancient Roman symbolism, and the like, but for now, let this all above be the definition we work with.
Now why do I say it’s coming back? Certainly if we disregard the recent massacre and the occasional race-related attack, there doesn’t seem to be any major Fascist threat in the US. The KKK isn’t roaming with impudence in the South. Gangs of Nazis aren’t attacking Jewish stores and businesses. Self-proclaimed defenders of the nation aren’t roaming the boarders trying to-
Ok, but it’s not like there’s been any major attack on people for having different skin or heritage or religio-
Ok, fine, but it’s not like any of this bigotry has been legislated or-
See, that’s how it works. It’s subtle, discreet. The great Sinclair Lewis perhaps said it best:
Kinda forgetting about the last time a German chancellor declared the failure of multiculturalism…
…And in Britain, holocaust-denier Nick Griffin, leader of the white-supremacist British Nationalist Party (BNP) was elected to the European Parliament. That’s about the equivalent of the Grand Wizard of the KKK getting elected to congress.
I’d show you an actual picture of Nick Griffin but **** that guy…
And this is to say nothing of the escalating attacks on immigrants across Europe. Why? Because many Europeans and Americans are buying into the idea that the values, traditions, culture, and beliefs of other people are a direct threat to them. I recall in college on particularly nasty student who asserted that “All immigrants should go home”. Interesting, considering he had an Italian last name. Does he mean that he too will leave America? Of course not. Does he mean the Canadians who attended that school? Not at all. “Immigrants” was simply code for those “undesirable brown people”. But don’t take the words of one bigoted student as evidence of this ugly trend- just look at Congressman Steve King’s attempt to make English the “Official Language” of the US!
Now why on earth would you try to make English the official language of the US? It’s not like the vast majority doesn’t already speak it. And what if we did speak Spanish? How would it make a difference to anyone what we speak… unless English was somehow viewed as “inherent” to America!
There’s really part of the problem. It’s a perspective on society. Back in College, I had a conservative friend whose opposition to gay marriage was that “the traditional family is the building block of society, and changing the family weakens society”. I’m not saying he’s a fascist- not at all, but this view of society as a solid, unchanging thing is what really serves to create so much of the general bigotry and outright fascism that we see today. When society’s well-being is linked to culture, to maintain society is to maintain culture, and while there’s a certain logic there, all too often it’s taken to mean that every aspect of culture, right down to traditional gender roles, religion, and racial demographics, must be controlled. It’s the reason why you see Muslims, immigrants, homosexuals, or as the past couple days have shown us, Sikhs, targeted. And don’t for a minute imagine that it’s just Aryans who take up this line of thought. I recently had an encounter with an Asian immigrant who cited that his country was once upon a time a “Christian country”, and that he was concerned at Hindus, Buddhists, and the like building places of worship in his community.
Only where does it end? Suppose you argue that non-Christians should be excluded from a country because their cultures threaten the stability of the nation- what the minority groups? I always want to bring this up when I hear someone make the argument that America is a “Christian Country”- does that include the Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses? What about Unitarians? Episcopalians? Catholics? Mennonites?
That’s the crux of the matter. The Fascists- both the self-declared and the self-deluded- would have us believe that we’re all hopelessly divided. That we cannot respectfully disagree with each other. That you can’t speak Mandarin and I can’t speak Arabic and the two of us get along. That multiculturalism is a fantasy. That we can’t have our own practices and perspectives while all agreeing, to some degree, on how to live together. We’re meant to live in constant fear that if we tolerate anyone who doesn’t fit in, there goes our way of life.
So let it go.
This will be harder for some than others…
The title of this blog is the Culture War Reporters, and perhaps what needs to be understood is that the culture war isn’t something that can (or should) be won. There’s always going to be divergence in opinion and in behavior. There’s always going to be new things coming in, and old things struggling to stay on. There’s always going to be good stuff and bad, so at the end of the day, why worry? Don’t buy the idea that culture can be maintained, or that one group has found all the answers. For all the dark content about murders, genocide, and the like, strange a line from Disney’s Ratatouille should fit so appropriately. Defending his lifestyle against the accusation that it’s “against nature”, Remy the rat declares that “Change is nature”.
Earlier today, I came across thisarticle over at Kasama and I felt that the subject material was topical enough for me to put the difficult issue of violence in media (which I had promised to write on earlier this week) on the back burner.
Is Batman a Fascist?
It’s not the first time the question has come up regarding superheros- in fact, it’s the idea has been around for a while, but with the popularity of Nolan’s trilogy, the debate has again found itself in the mainstream- or at least, as mainstream as comics get.
Of course you could approach this whole debate with some skepticism- with every major event, there’s always some stylishly iconoclastic deviation, like the argument that the Civil War wasn’t actually about slavery, or the like. The critique of superheroes as being responsible for supervillains (see the “escalation” conversation at the end of Batman Begins) could be argued to be the latest soapbox for contrarians. That said, it can’t be denied that the arguments against Batman have some really solid points (just look at anything on him over at Cracked.com)
Let me break the argument down to it’s basic points:
Batman is just an out-of-touch, or straight up disturbed, rich kid who uses his wealth to nurse pathological guilt over his parent’s death. Had he been poor, he probably would’ve wound up being the kind of petty criminal Batman typically takes out.
Batman’s very existence creates a cycle of escalation- in response to his extreme vigilantism, extreme criminality is created.
Batman acts outside the law, respecting no privacy, due process, or legal rights of any kind. He uses force to try to create a world compliant with his own personal morality.