Thursday, 13 February 2014

You know you're a "redneck" when...

I'm re-reading a book that I quoted from in my last entry called, Umberto Eco and Football, by Peter Pericles Trifonas (2001). It's a great little book for a fan of Eco's more academic writings on semiotics, and much kudos to Trifonas for his expert exegesis.


I've always been struck by the staying power of Harper - and Rob Ford for that matter - despite their own or their cronies' outrageous theatrics (wouldn't stoop to calling it "politics"). It clearly is not politics in the traditional sense of the word; it is something more visceral and sinister. And Trifonas' book gives us a better insight by way of Eco's writings as a social critic and semiotician par excellence.


There is an interview with Eco that I came across recently where he also mentions Berlusconi along the same lines as the phenomenon we are now witness to in Canada with Harper and Ford: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/nov/27/umberto-eco-people-tired-simple-things


The thing is that the more outrageous the acts of Harper's CPC and Ford (as we've seen through much of last year and this year), the better it seems for their diehard supporters. This is because it really is not about politics anymore but quasi sports-team branding (of political parties) and loyalty to that brand.


Given that this is the case, the recent moves to gut Canada Elections Act of any semblance of founding democratic values and checks and balances where the CPC wants to unleash the fund-raising machine to be able to raise unlimited amounts of money for a political party, the CPC is clearly less a political party than a marketing scheme on steroids. And it has broken the keys to sector analysis and use of focus groups and, thereby, completely bypassing what are called trial balloons in traditional politics.


What makes this such a scary prospect is that I don't think even the marketing experts in the CPC are completely intellectually aware of the power they've tapped into by deliberately marketing a political brand rather than a traditional party that is at least beholden to a base of supporters who may at election time vote in or vote out that party.


In the following quotes of Trifonas' book let us, for the present purposes, insert "politics" and/or "political" in place of "sports" and see the full force of deliberately fanaticized power base of right-wing extremism (hooligans, they're called in Europe).


A 'continuous phatic discourse that deceitfully passes itself off as talk of the City and its Ends' is Eco's definition of [political] chatter. In it, he identifies the self-directed and autotelic nature of the terms of expression. [Political] chatter is a discourse that refers to itself and the internal circumstances of its production. Its ideological purpose to display emotion becomes a motivating end in itself, like venting to show displeasure. The passion of [political] chatter is the zenith of solipsism, Eco argues, given that the situational premises of the discourse are self-serving and thus critically vapid...(Trifonas, Umberto Eco and Football, p. 54)


Extreme right-wing political rationalization and justification is never about political discourse based on historical facts and because the more outrageous and viscerally evocative the claims the better it is, right-wing extremism is naturally anti-intellectual and utterly distrustful of conventional wisdom which it passes off as "elitist" and "sissified" - though when one merely scratches the surface of its political class it seems the ruling class is most apt and liable to mewl like a kitty in heat at the mere suggestion of a challenge to it maintaining power or perceived unfairness (in the system) to their cause, and once in power it tends to attempt consolidation of its power base by use of wedge issues and manipulation of long-standing power structures (which, for all that time, were always the root causes of their base supporters being hard-done by).


The commodification of [politics] could not happen without the fanaticism of the talk revolving around its signifying practices. (ibid, p. 54-55)


In the interview by The Guardian (which I just referenced above), Eco says:


"There are many small conspiracies, and most of them are exposed. [...] But the paranoia of the universal conspiracy is more powerful because it is everlasting. You can never discover it because you don't know who is there. It is a psychological temptation of our species. Karl Popper wrote a beautiful essay on that, in which he said it started with Homer. Everything that happens in Troy was plotted the day before on the top of Olympus by the gods. It's a way not to feel responsible for something. That's why dictatorships use the notion of universal conspiracy as a weapon. For the first 10 years of my life I was educated by fascists at school, and they used a universal conspiracy – that you, the Englishman, the Jews and the capitalists were plotting against the poor Italian people. For Hitler it was the same. And Berlusconi has spent all his electoral campaigns speaking of the double conspiracy of the judges and the communists. There are no more communists around, even if you look for them with a lamp, but for Berlusconi they were there trying to take over."


For Harper in Canada, it is a well-known fact that he blames the Liberal Party and the Eastern establishment in the guise of (or confusing) the manufacturing industry of the so-called rust belt which (at least in their eyes) is dominated by evil unions for the perpetual lack of progress and advancement of Alberta's oil-sands.


Trifonas continues:


The hallucination is shared because it is produced en masse and perpetuated on the [right-wing] talk shows, where the discourse is catalysed not essentially by [politics] itself, but by the talk of [politics] and by the reporting of it within the media. (ibid, p. 55 - Trifonas' own emphasis)


It has become increasingly that the reportage of what is perceived to be left-wing media on the internet is not itself immune to jabs and verbal attacks by right-wing nutbars whose viciousness is sometimes stunning. Mostly these posted comments are just passive-aggressive and unimaginatively contrarian (even when the report is favorable to the right-wing agenda), though many of them boldly challenge the "lefties" media outlet to post their high-strung and utterly vacuous rambles (themselves fine examples of "a discourse on the discourse about watching others' [politics] as discourse").


Now, about that title of this entry: You know you're a "redneck" when...you mistake political discourse for sports-team loyalty. And pox on you if you can't see your fellow Canadians as being on and having every right to be "on the same team".


Jay

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