Monday, January 31, 2011

Speed, Democracy, Revolution: Tunisia, Egypt, and Beyond

Waleed Hazbun 
Assistant professor of international relations at American University of Beirut.

Watching Al Jazeera English in the living room of my Beirut apartment on the evening of January 14, 2011, I was mesmerized by the thrilling pace of change in Tunisia. Since December I had been aware of ongoing protests, but as I followed minute by minute the unfolding of events in cinematic fashion, on a parallel track in my mind I was remembering the words of my friend and former colleague Bill Connolly. In the last chapter of his book Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed Connolly offers a corrective to Paul Virilio who argues that speed short-circuits democratic deliberations and diminishes our capacity to think with concepts in relation to images. Connolly argues “Virilio remains transfixed by a model of politics insufficiently attuned to the positive role of speed in transtate democracy and cross-state cosmopolitanism.”
As I watched the growing numbers of Tunisian protestors surround the dreaded Ministry of Interior on the main tree-lined boulevard of Tunis, I sensed that the rush of events, accelerating from an initial protest in a poor rural village, was culminating in a near spontaneous manifestation of mass courage. With little time for deliberation, the uprising became a broad-based challenge to the authority of the regime.
One of the many tipping points that drove the cascade of momentous political change was the refusal of the military chief of staff to open fire on the demonstrators. Did he deliberate on how he would be sacked (only to be reinstated after the fall of the regime)? When I heard the news that Tunisia’s long reining President Ben Ali had fled the country, I, like many, could hardly believe it. 
I have to admit I took some emotional satisfaction in the fall of the regime as— along with many other scholars who have conducted research in the country—I had been frustrated by its tight control of the media and repression of any independent thought, let alone political dissent. While conducting my first round of research in Tunisia for what would later become the book Beaches, Ruins, Resorts: The Politics of Tourism in the Arab World, I found fieldwork challenging. I was told I must inform the authorities of the names of everyone I spoke to (I refused) and I was sure I was being followed during my first weeks in the country. This experience contrasted sharply with Tunisia’s reputation as a relatively liberal, progressive Arab country. When Ben Ali came to power in 1987 he vowed to return Tunisia to the path of political pluralism and democracy, but by the mid 1990s he had established what The Economist would call one of the most repressive police states on the Mediterranean. I later converted this experience into a major theme of the book, arguing that tourism development was a means to promote what I called “paradoxical globalization.” 
As one element of its strategy for promoting economic globalization, tourism development provided countries like Tunisia with not only income and foreign investment, but a tool the regime used to project an external image of stability and openness. This façade masked increasingly repressive state control over the economy, society, and public space. The seeming economic success of the “Tunisia Model” and the regime’s suppression of Islamist movements were celebrated by friendly western governments and many journalists (such as Christopher Hitchens). Meanwhile, the harshness of the regime and shallowness of its openness were barely recognized in the United States. That image, however, seemed to crumble quickly in the face of massive popular protests directed at economic inequality, corruption, and oppressive rule. Thinking in images can help sustain a façade, but it can also fire the imagination and topple those long reproduced images.
In the wake of the events in Tunisia, many scholars and journalists pondered if its example could spark other revolts. Most were skeptical. Many carefully reasoned op-eds and blog posts outlined why, until they were all proved wrong by the unprecedented massive protests in downtown Cairo on January 25. 
Three days later, demonstrators from all walks of life took to the streets and challenged the authority of President Husni Mubarak’s regime, sending the massive police forces into retreat. By the next day, army tanks stood guard on city streets scrawled with graffiti exclaiming “down with Mubarak.” Social media networks clearly played a role in rapid mobilization and organization of protests in Tunisia and Egypt, but protests continued even after the Egyptian regime had ordered the shutdown of mobile phone networks and pulled the country off the Internet. By the time Mubarak addressed his people, his limited concessions were several weeks, if not thirty years, too late. One journalist remarked, “Egypt's embattled President Hosni Mubarak wheels and turns like a dinosaur - too big in brute power, yet too small in the brain to comprehend that he confronts extinction.” Meanwhile, the awkward, hesitant statements of US officials highlight the impossible task of reformulating policy in the midst of what could turn out to be a massive, rapid transformation of the geopolitics of the Middle East. 
The example of Tunisia rapidly fired the imaginations of protestors across the region. But as Connolly also recognizes along with Virilio, speed can also be dangerous. The challenge to state authority in Tunisia and Egypt has ushered in much chaos and uncertainty. In the rush of events, few contemplated these darker sides of political transformation. Moreover, protests and potentially violent contestations for power remain. In Tunisia, while the media has been liberated (with pressrooms spontaneously ousting their regime-imposed editors), developing a new constitutional system that ensures political pluralism and democracy may be a long, fraught process. In Egypt, there are calls for a “mega-protest” on Tuesday to oust Mubarak. The consequences are uncertain. The regime is attempting to slow the process and collapse the momentum for change. At any moment, the army could turn on the people and violence could escalate. What we can say, in any case, is that a sudden spark has unleashed new possibilities, new imaginations, and new challenges. The Arab world will never be the same.
*This essay originally appeared on the University of Minnesota Press Blog at:
http://www.uminnpressblog.com/2011/01/widespread-protests-in-tunisia-egypt.html
The author thanks Michelle Woodward for comments and editing.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Geopolitics of Motherhood

Alex Barder
Johns Hopkins University

Amy Chua, professor of law at Yale University, recently published a controversial essay in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” This essay is essentially an excerpt of larger book entitled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother recently published by Penguin Press. The object of her essay is to provide an explanation for why Chinese students are “stereotypically successful.” Chua argues that the Chinese mother child relationship is one defined by an overwhelmingly strict regime of rules and expectations coupled with ample forms of humiliating criticism when those rules are broken or when expectations are not met.
Pretty much everything that kids today take for granted, from watching TV to playing computer games and even (interestingly enough) acting in a school play, is verboten under this regime. Instead, classical music, math and science are, unsurprisingly, privileged. Chua ultimately argues that this form of parenting works best to induce a measure of self-respect through excellence. Indeed, throughout the article, Chua makes no effort to disguise her own disdain for “Western” concerns with the child’s psyche and self-esteem which leads to indolence and weakness. Her argument has naturally provoked a wide variety of responses, from horror at what is perceived as abusive child-rearing to outright approval. Others have righty criticized Chua’s untenable binaries between Western and Chinese mothers and their values, or whether all or even most of Chinese mothers raise their children as she does.
Whether or not the so-called ‘Chinese/Chua mother’ approach is the necessary one to raise successful children is obviously open to question; and I have my own serious doubts about its assumptions and arguments. But what makes this article particularly interesting is that it comes at a time when there is a rising fear of decline in the US imperial position in the world, especially with respect to China. Chua’s article on pedagogy resonates between familial insecurity about the future, the shattering of the American dream for the vast majority of Americans in the aftermath of the great recession and ultimately about the endurance of American’s political and economic global hegemony. Only, as far I have read, has Judith Warner in a New York Times review inchoately made this point in addressing Chua’s book.
To be sure, the relationship between imperial governance and pedagogy is by no means farfetched. One can go back to Tacitus’ Germania for a critique of decadent and effeminate Roman values and moral education compared with the ‘vigorous’ Germanic youths: of course, this at a time when the Roman Imperium was in its ascendancy in the year 96. But, more recently at least, pedagogy and parenting was of the utmost concern among imperial administrators in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Ann Stoler, for example, has done most to show that “The management of sexuality, parenting, and morality was at the heart of the late imperial project” such that “In the nineteenth century Indies cultivation of a European was affirmed in proliferating discourses on pedagogy, parenting, and servants - microsites in which bourgeois identity was rooted in notions of European civility, in which designations of racial membership were subject to gendered appraisals, and in which ‘character,’ ‘good breeding,’ dispassionate reason, and proper rearing were part of the changing cultural and epistemic index of race” (Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power, 110, 144). Fear of miscegenation and the influence of local servants on children raised in the colonies were fundamental topics of concerns for colonial administrators who believed that only through a restrictive moral, educational and psychological pedagogy can European self-identity and its imperial project be maintained.
Of course the issue today differs from an overt 19th century imperial concern with race to one of renewed concern with the geopolitical and economic competitiveness of American Empire. It is not by chance that Chua’s article comes on the heels of proliferating news stories about China’s greater than expected military capabilities. A few months ago, for example, James Krask published an essay entitled “How the United States Lost the Naval War in 2015” in which he posits a scenario where the US navy no longer has supremacy of the East China Sea. Recent information on a new Chinese stealth fighter highlights China’s technological military prowess that potentially rivals the US air supremacy. 
On top of military hardware advances is the widespread perception of China’s economic and productive might, its accumulation of enormous dollar reserves and its ability to use its economic position to push its own agenda in various international fora. Whereas China has become the manufacturing giant of the global economy, the US is left with a bloated financial sector whose benefit is largely overstated.
More to the point, much of this concern with American decline is then refracted through a growing idea over the past few years that American public education is in crisis, especially in its failure to adequately train students in science and math. For example, the Programme for International Student Assessment ranks countries on the basis of math and science testing. Its 2009 result reveals that the top five countries for math and science are lead by China, followed by Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, respectively. The United States ranks 30th in math and 23rd in science. Thus in recent years there has been a growing call to privatize US education in the form of either vouchers for private schools or charter schools as a means of reinvigorating education by dismantling public sector teacher unions.
But Chua’s article it seems to me goes one step further in its explicit argument that culture remains a central aspect for addressing questions of education. Her essay is indeed firmly positioned in the culture war discourse (thus seamlessly appearing in the Wall Street Journal) by emphasizing a rigidly hierarchical family nucleus as the means for reasserting individual control at a time when American families feel a growing social and economic insecurity at home. This return to a concern with parenting, nonetheless, diverts us from the need to attend to the deleterious effects a neoliberal political economy has produced for over thirty years, with its generation of crises, neglect of the infrastructure of consumption, reckless disregard for the environment, production of extreme inequality, disregard for public education and commitment to authoritarianism within organizational life.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Corruption and Class Struggle: What It’s Like to Live in Arizona Right Now

Joel Olson
Joel Olson has lived in Arizona for over 25 years. He is a member of the Flagstaff Repeal Coalition.
With the passage of the notorious anti-immigrant bill SB 1070 last spring, the outlawing of ethnic studies as of January 1, the gutting of the school and university systems, the collapsed housing market, the high unemployment rates, and now the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, you might be wondering what it’s like to live in Arizona right about now. 
It ain’t easy. 

But it helps to put Giffords’s shooting in historical perspective, which is defined by two things in Arizona: corruption and class struggle. And ironically, this perspective gives me hope about the radically democratic future of my home state. 
Arizona’s economy was founded on the “Five C’s:” copper, cotton, cattle, citrus, and climate (tourism). These C’s were controlled by big mining and agricultural interests and real estate developers. Corruption was commonplace as they manipulated the political system for their benefit. A group of these capitalists, called the Phoenix 40, controlled state politics until the 1970s, when the political establishment opened up some. But even after their rule, the state capitol has always been a place to lie, bribe, and scam your way to what you want. If the names Don Bowles, Evan Mecham, AZ scam, Fife Symington, or the Keating 5 (which included Senator John McCain) mean anything to you, then you know that corruption is as plentiful as the parking here. And I haven’t even mentioned Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio or State Senator Russell Pearce, the tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum of racist nativism.* 
SB 1070 and Giffords’s shooting, in other words, are but the latest of a storied history of corrupt cowboy capitalism. 
Such tomfoolery is part of the class struggle in the Grand Canyon State. Three classes matter in Arizona: elites, the white middle class, and the working class. The elites come mainly from the agriculture/mining, tourism, and construction/real estate sectors (with an emerging tech sector). They are the masters of the corruption I described. But in a system of majority rule, elites need a junior partner to dominate. This is where the white middle class steps in. 
The white middle class is the engine of suburban development here. The new housing developments, strip malls, and big box stores that pop up almost daily (until the recession, at least) are built for and fueled by this class. Many in this class run small businesses related to the main sectors of the economy, such as ranching, construction, landscaping, and pool maintenance. Many are retirees who used to manage businesses in other states. This small business atmosphere contributes to the libertarian, Barry Goldwater-style political culture of the state. 
For years, this relationship has been mutually beneficial. While legal segregation never took deep root in this state (most of Arizona’s explosive growth took place after Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954), unofficial practices have kept many neighborhoods and schools comfortably white for decades, and the best jobs have been traditionally denied to Chicanos and Natives. (With a Black population of just three percent, the racially “out” groups in this state have historically been Chicanos, Mexicans, and indigenous peoples.) Politicians have successfully tied these practices to the laissez-faire economic policies of the elites, giving whites the sense that their success is due strictly to their own work ethic rather than being facilitated by white privilege. As a result, many white middle and working class Arizonans identify with the success—and conservative politics—of the elites. 
This collusion has created an anything-goes capitalism mixed with a suburban consciousness. Call my state the Wild West or suburban hell—they’re both accurate to a large degree. 
But the partnership has been fraying in the last two decades. Pressures to diversify corporations, universities, and governments have led elites to support various multicultural initiatives, which middle class whites resent. (Arizona voters in November voted to outlaw affirmative action by a wide margin.) The state’s Latino population has outpaced white growth, and the state is now nearly one-third Latino. Areas that were once comfortably white now have Spanish-language business signs. More and more schoolchildren have brown faces—even in the “good” schools. Cars roll down formerly white streets bumping music whose percussion comes from a tuba. 
Further, middle class whites increasingly see elites in collusion with the Brown working classes rather than them. They have reasons for believing this. Agriculture, construction, and tourism all depend on a highly exploitable, low-paid working class, which makes migrant labor desirable. Undocumented labor makes up 27% of all construction workers, 60% of agricultural workers, 25% of restaurants workers, and 51% of all landscaping workers in Arizona. This sets small business interests—who usually can’t take advantage of such labor—into a tizzy. It sets off many other middle and working class whites as well, who feel that “they” are stealing “our” jobs. This is the political power behind SB 1070—a law that Arizona’s elites largely oppose. 
The frayed alliance between these two classes has created the political mess this state is in today. It is the story behind SB 1070, HB2281 (the anti-ethnic studies law), the elimination of affirmative action, the attack on the public education system, the attack on public workers for enjoying “Cadillac” pension plans, and Giffords’s shooting. The alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is not only of the white middle/working class, his addled mind is a gross exaggeration of its contradictions and confusions. Of course Loughner is probably crazy, but his mental health—and even his ideology—are not the point. What matters is that the conflict over this frayed class alliance—and all the political vitriol it has generated by Tea Partiers and others—pointed his illness toward Gabrielle Giffords. 
In the face of this mess, it is the working class—largely Brown, largely poor, largely poorly educated, largely ignored—that represents the best hope to build a new Arizona within the corrupted shell of the old. Exploited by the elite, despised by many whites, and largely shut out of the political system, this class has had to make its own way through the state’s crazy political landscape. 
With a weak Democratic Party, a labor movement crippled by “right to work” laws, a small civil rights contingent, few political nonprofits, and almost no organized left, Arizona’s working class is turning to grassroots democracy, operating outside the “official” political channels and fearlessly making political demands that challenge the pillars of laissez-faire capitalism itself. This path they are carving is quite possibly a model for working class struggles throughout the nation. 
Take the grassroots fight against SB 1070, for example. The Tierra y Libertad Organization in Tucson has been a leader in opposing SB 1070. But it is also creating a new model of democracy. Declining to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, they raise funds through the community, which they use support their struggle for the self-determination of its base communities. In Phoenix, Puente has organized the major immigrant rights demonstrations in Arizona, but they are also organizing neighborhood meetings throughout the Valley of the Sun. In Phoenix and Flagstaff, the Repeal Coalition (I’m a member of this group) demands that all persons in a global economy be free to live, love, and work wherever they please, and they demand that ordinary people have a full say in those affairs that affect their daily lives. The undocumented workers, moms, and college students who make up the group don’t seem to worry that these demands are deeply radical and disrupt the very functioning of Arizona politics as it currently operates. These groups work with others, such as Border Action Network, No More Deaths, and Arizona Interfaith, that are organized in a traditional nonprofit format but nevertheless encourage face-to-face democracy and are courageously fighting 1070 and myriad other evils. 
These working-class struggles suggest a new Arizona. They suggest a world in which working people decide the fate of the community, not the rich. They suggest a world in which democracy rather than white privilege decides how to allocate resources. They suggest a world in which borders are tools of the bosses rather than walls that “defend sovereignty” or “prevent terrorism.”
This class will not win for a while. The elites and the white middle classes are yet too powerful. This coming year, Arizona politicians will gut the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship, defund public education until it barely operates, and do many more stupid things. But as elites and the white middle class continue to bicker, the Arizona working class continues to learn lessons, develop leadership, practice grassroots democracy, and make demands that seem “unreasonable” today but might tomorrow become as obvious as the multiplication table. 
Corruption, elite domination, and white favoritism are the most important factors in understanding Arizona’s strange political history, including this latest episode. But class struggle against it is key to understanding why the nation’s strangest state may soon be in the vanguard of struggles for real freedom. Those involved in such struggles stand like saguaros in this beautiful state, even as the snakes and scorpions scurry about us. 


* For the uninitiated or un-Arizonan: Don Bowles was an Arizona Republic reporter who was murdered by a car bomb in 1976 while investigating connections between Arizona elites and the Mafia. Evan Mecham was a racist governor (he was a John Birch Society supporter) from 1987-1988 who was impeached for obstruction of justice and misuse of government funds. The Keating 5 were five U.S. Senators, including Arizona Senators John McCain and Dennis DeConcini, who were accused of corruption in 1989 for illegally intervening on behalf of Charles Keating, whose Lincoln Savings and Loan bank collapsed, causing thousands to lose their life savings. “AZ scam” was a bribery and money laundering scandal that several state legislators were convicted of in 1991. Fife Symington, the governor of Arizona from 1991-1996, was impeached and indicted for 23 counts of fraud and extortion.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Radical Right, The Extreme Right and The Republican Party


William E. Connolly
Johns Hopkins University


We have heard a lot lately, on the moderate media, about how it is time for leaders of the Republican Party to step forward, to exhibit enough courage to repudiate the extremism of the Tea Party, the language of violence peddled by Sarah Palin, Michel Bachmann, Sharron Angle and others, and the charges of Fascism and Socialism made against Barack Obama by Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh. 
The Republican leaders, they say, need to marshall “the courage” to call the extremists out. It is time to stop being “intimidated.” This language has emerged once again in the wake of the Arizona killings, and it is typically joined to ridiculous statements that both the Left and Right need to “tone down their rhetoric.” But there is a significant difference between radical rhetoric on the left or right and the extreme rhetoric of violence on the Right. This distinction is too often lost on those moderates who do not themselves speak out clearly enough against the language of violence. 
My concern today, however, is not with moderates (See Militant Pluralism and Exclusionary Extremism). It is with Republican Party leaders who refuse to oppose firmly the violent rhetoric of the extreme Right. Is it because, as moderates say, they lack courage? Or because, at some level, they identify and are protected by these same extremists? Sure, a few Republican leaders may lack courage, but it seems that a lot more are silent because their own radical fantasies of market purism, a small state, the absolute freedom to bear arms, and the reduction of “entitlement” programs is protected and buffered by the extreme Right. The extreme Right, in looking for a final battle to defeat the left and the middle, allows them to sound moderate. The extreme Right also provides the mobilization machine the radical Right solicits and needs.
The real situation is thus more disturbing and dangerous than moderates admit. A majority of Republican activists and leaders, joined by a large section of Republican Party followers, is attracted to the extreme ethos of the Tea Party, Limbaugh, Palin, Beck, Bachmann and the gang. Only they are too cautious to admit it directly because they fear that straight out admission would weaken them with Independents. That is a better explanation of the selective statements and silences in and around the Party since the election of Barack Obama. 
That is why the leaders are either silent when a political killing occurs, or explain away any connection between that killing and the violent rhetoric of the extreme right, or introduce a crude equivalence between the dissident left and the extreme right, even without identifying cases in which the first group deploys the language of violence or is involved in violence. 


For Examples of the Right's Violent Demonization of Liberals
These Videos Were Circulated Before the 2010 Midterms Under the Title
"America Rising" 
That is why they equate Sean Hannity with Keith Olbermann. That is why most celebrate an ever loosening of gun control laws; that is why they act as if “entitlement” programs are socialistic; that is why they campaign militantly against financial and corporate regulation in the name of a pure market that has never existed anywhere; that is why they speak in the name of a single, bellicose God for all Americans rather than a society of deep pluralism; that is why they resist unemployment insurance for the lower middle class; and that is why they push the filibuster envelope to the most extreme degree in the history of the country. 
Did you check out that recent Republican gathering when the leaders competed with each other to demonstrate who owns the most guns? What Republican leaders, today, call for gun control, even while they are happy to locate total responsibility for violence on a deranged individual who had ready access to a weapon with multiple clips capable of firing thirty shots at a clip?
So, we must distinguish between the radical Right and the extreme Right, while keeping alert to subterranean links between them. When the radical Right celebrates “the individual,” it also celebrates a predatory, unregulated market that places the lower and middle classes in a squeeze, promotes even more inequality, and periodically places the country and the world at the risk of collapse. 
At least four members of the Supreme Court are members of this radical Republican gang, too. They love to think of economic corporations as “persons,” while reducing the rights and protections available to regular people. They call themselves constitutional “originalists”–-only committed to following what the founders “intended”--while creatively reading the second and fourteenth amendments to support a world with more guns and more corporate power. 
They are “against judicial activism,” but ever so active in supporting the agenda of the radical Right and giving the extreme Right the armaments they seek. Several will vote against the mandatory provision in the recent health care legislation, but not because the constitution makes it necessary to do so. They will do so because they already support a radical version (or fantasy) of a minimally regulated market, without ever coming to terms with how minimally regulated markets generates crises over and over. 
The extreme right provides ideological cover for the radical, corporate, pure market, assault weapon supporting Right. with its eager embrace of state-corporate entanglements whenever it produces dividends for the rich. The radical right does not want to be touched by the dirty hands of the extreme right. But they don’t want to restrain or civilize it either. This is not because of a lack of courage. But because of a lack of integrity and care for the health and safety of a vast majority of the population.
It is time to stop talking about the need to generate courage among moderate Republicans. It is time, rather, for the moderate media to find the courage to define things as they are, even as the truth will bring down the wrath of the radical and extreme Right together. What is that truth? The radical Right of the Republican Party has fallen into an illicit love affair with the extreme Right attached to the same Party. Otherwise they would support significant gun control instead of handing weapons to the very same people they call “deranged individuals” once a killing occurs. They would also support effective programs for mental health in America, instead of leaving that issue “to the market.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In the Crosshairs

Thomas Dumm
Amherst College

John Protevi goes a long way toward explaining the absurdity of the demand for billiard ball causality while tracing the influence of rhetoric and propaganda in creating an atmosphere conducive to violence, and how that may have had something to do with the assassination attempt against Congresswoman Giffords. I want to supplement his post by exploring another dimension of the mediated responses to this horror, namely, the Fox News response to the accusation of influence. 
Over the weekend Fox News repeatedly defended Sarah Palin’s cross-hairs imagery, her use of the phrase, “Don’t retreat, re-load,”as aspects of the metaphor used by all participants in American politics. You know, targeting opponents. 
A seemingly chastened Roger Ailes issued a memo to his stable of stars over the weekend, cautioning, “You know, they’re using this thing...apparently there was a map from one of Palin’s things that had her (Congresswoman Giffords) district targeted. So, we looked at the internet and the first thing we found in 2007, the Democrat Party had a targeted map with targets on it for the Palin district. These maps have been used for for years that I know of. I have two pictures of myself with a bull's-eye on my head. This is just bullshit. This goes on... both sides are wrong, but they both do it. I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don’t have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that.” 

Ailes seemed worried that bombast in the face of such a tragic event might backfire. Not so for his troops. 
As his way of “toning things down,” on his Monday edition of The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly suggested the following: “The New York Times, MSNBC, Paul Krugman and others, are furious that their far-left vision is falling apart, so they are using a terrible tragedy to attack their perceived political enemies. That is what this is all about, the failure of the far left agenda.” He suggested that President Obama not only call for unity, as he did, earning O’Reilly’s praise, sort of grudgingly, but urged him to go further, and “call out the left-wing thugs.” 
On his January 10th eponymously named program, Glenn Beck dug up a comment that had appeared some time earlier on the Daily Cos – “She is dead to me now,” a reader’s response to Giffords’s refusal to vote for Nancy Polosi for minority leader in the recent House vote – that was scrubbed from the website, attributing it to guilty conscience on the part of its editor. Of course he failed to note that Sarah Palin had done the same thing with her map. He also failed to note that a reader responding to an article by using a common phrase of shunning is not the equivalent of a former Vice-presidential candidate using the images she used as a front page to her website. Beck actually resurrected the map, and mockingly asked “if this map is responsible,” exemplifying Protevi’s billiard ball logic carried to its absurdist conclusion. But he failed to note that Congresswoman Giffords publicly worried about the use of that imagery immediately upon its appearance, and that that hadn’t made Sarah Palin give pause, not one bit. 
But in the main, Beck used his January 10th program to tell a larger tale, trying to reframe the story of the assassination attempt media coverage. He claimed that Loughner couldn’t be pinned down politically. In almost the next breath he noted that Loughner owned copies of both The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf (but of course didn’t note that he also had copies of some of Ayn Rand’s work). Beck fitted the entire event into his ongoing narrative about Frances Fox Piven, Van Jones, communists/fascists coming to power by scapegoating conservatives, exploiting existing tragedies to stir chaos and fear, while claiming that none of this narrative is a conspiracy theory, and what is going on in the mainstream media is an attempt to silence or discredit opposition to Obama. “My agenda is the truth,” he said. Fox, he claimed, unlike the rest of the media, did not engage in wild speculation, and a good thing, because Loughner is not a right-wing nut-job, nor a left-wing nut job, but simply a “nut-job.” He suggested that the left always refers to terrorists as individuals, acting on their own, but when it comes to the Right, there must always be the accusation of conspiracy. 
Both Beck and O’Reilly mentioned that they had security details to protect them, because of threats they receive all the time. 
Is there a pattern here? They complain about threats made to them when a Congresswoman who has previously had her offices vandalized, who as recently as the day before her assassin attacked was urging that rhetoric be toned down, when she is laying in a coma, when there are many others dead and wounded. By complaining about being threatened and scapegoated, they remake the story. It no longer is primarily about the killing and wounding, but about themselves as victims, just like Congresswoman Giffords. It is the ultimate in rhetorical jujitsu. Or perhaps it is chutzpah, as in the story of the man who murders his parents and then begs the judge for mercy, noting that he is an orphan. 
My initial response to this attempt to reframe the narrative is that it seems at best to be working at the implausible limits of extreme plausible deniability. But perhaps this move, seemingly an act of desperation, an act transparent to anyone not already among the converted to the Fox narrative of contemporary American political life, can be viewed as an experiment. “How far can we go?” may be the question they are asking themselves. 
 Or, perhaps they are so far down the narrative rabbit hole they have constructed that they believe their storyline, that as Beck put it, “My agenda is the truth.” It is just that the truth is that Frances Fox Piven is responsible, now and always, and Van Jones, and, though he didn’t mention it on this particular program, Woodrow Wilson as well, the evil Democrat founder of progressivism. 
The Terrifying Face of Liberal Fascism 
Frances Fox Piven
Or, perhaps most troubling of all, they know that the power they have at their disposal, an entire network that will endlessly repeat their story line, can turn this lemon into lemonade in the end. If that is so, then we need to think again about new ways to jam the gears of the Fox resonance machine. As Beck says, “My agenda is the truth,” though perhaps he means that in a way slightly different than he explicitly intends. In other words, he has the truth right where he wants it, in the crosshairs, only metaphorically speaking of course.