theatre of the union: logos, pathos & a dog called sputnik

Do we call the Obama speech, his state of the union address, a seizing of the Sputnik moment. We have had Minsky moments, but a Sputnik moment? Or is this just another example of those pointy headed white intellectuals lecturing the unwashed? Obama said that “this was our generation’s Sputnik moment”; the moment when we realize that we’ve fallen behind and redouble our efforts….

In the Greek democratic tradition of the ancients,  the institution of a political community first required the existence of a being whose nature is political: the human being. It is logos – the capacity to reason and to express claims about justice and injustice through speech – that marks the human as such an animal by nature. Logos  for people like Aristotle, was set apart from pathos – the capacity to express pain and pleasure. … “It is here, at the foundation of the Aristotelian political community, that (Jacques) Rancière finds lodged a partition of the sensible, a distinction “between two modes of access to sense experience:” logos, rendering sensible a world of justice and injustice, and pathos, restricting the sensible to the domain of pain and pleasure….” Capacities in not only sensing but expressing what is sensed are the hinge upon which the institution of a political community pivots, simultaneous with a delimitation of who will and will not partake of that community. And in short defines the nature of elitism, which is exclusion of the many to benefit of the few.

…”The new code word used by liberals to explain how sub-human and irrational conservatives are is “dog whistle“. A “dog whistle” is a word or phrase used in a speech or column which has a special meaning to a particular subgroup of the population. The metaphor is of an actual dog whistle which can be heard by dogs, but not by humans. So a number of columnists suggested that the term “blood libel” used by Sarah Palin was a “dog whistle” to Evangelical Christians, signalling them to . . . I don’t know . . . anti-semitically froth at the mouth? Different commentators reach different conclusions.

The term, allegedly originated in Australian politics and is used, almost exclusively to describe conservative, rather than liberal politics. It is a slander in and of itself. It reveals an enormous amount about the broken nature of our culture and our politics. First, it says that people who hold conservative positions aren’t really human. They are dogs. There is a meaning to the metaphors used by any group. A dog whistle is used to signal to dogs. The literal meaning of the metaphor is that humans can’t hear it.” Read More:

Tag Cloud. State of the Union. read more:

Matt Taibbi:  My first response was one of mild revulsion, not just for the speech itself but for all the attendant theater surrounding it, from the hilarious “I know you are, but what am I?” nerf-argument between Ari Fleischer and David Gergen on Anderson Cooper to burgeoning suburban-Hitler Michelle Bachmann’s idiotic “rebuttal” to the speech to the lunatic over-dissections of Obama’s word choices, with the prize there going to jabbering mental incompetent/Washington Examiner columnist Byron York’s ravings over Obama’s use of the term “working class” which is apparently evidence of the president’s “Marxist upbringing.”

…Apparently the fact that Republicans and Democrats mixed up the seating arrangements and sat together throughout the hall was a big step for decency and good taste, and maybe it was. ..Obama, as he seemingly always does, tried to play Solomon, on the one hand offering support for a cut in the corporate tax rate while also promising to close corporate tax loopholes (somehow I doubt the math is going to work out there). He also promised a domestic spending freeze on the one hand (the seemingly overtly symbolic concession to cutting “community action” programs sounded like Obama slapping himself on the face for the benefit of Tea Partiers) while promising on the other hand to exempt education spending from said freeze,… Read More: a

" our generation's 'Sputnik Moment' is now ..." (Note 1). He was referring, of course, to Dwight Eisenhower's response to the national cultural shock caused by the launching of the first artificial satellite by the Soviet Union in 1957 and the subsequent infusion of federal funding geared at improving science education at all levels of the American educational system. One might think that, given my unwavering support of science education in US public schools, I would be one of the first to praise President Obama's position. Unfortunately, upon reading his remarks in the morning newspaper, the first thing that popped into mind was "Dr. Strangelove" and the era of the "Gaps." For those who are unfamiliar with what I mean by "Dr. Strangelove" and/or the "Gaps," I will provide a not-too-brief explanation...." read more:

…Aristotle, like Plato, opposed any notion of justice that would reduce it to a question of profit and loss,- the kind of Jeremy Bentham utilitarianism that hangs on like a bad rash -weighed against one another, such that what is just is only so from the perspective of a single profiting party, and what is unjust is in turn only so from the perspective of a correlative party harmed. This logic might be called mercantile, whereas the equally awkward  logic of justice, in contrast, hinges around relations of domination and dominance, ordered in accordance with each person’s nature.

One is positioned within the community so as to give to it that which is properly theirs to give and, in portion, take from it that which is properly theirs to take. In relations of justice there is no ‘harm’ correlated with profit the inferior party, for example the son, benefits from being ruled over by his father, the older and wiser of the pair. Thus, coextensive with the modality of sense experience characteristic of logos is the sensible emergence of a world composed of proper parts (those with a capacity for logos, rather than simply pathos) as well as, between these parts, proper relations . When a proper part takes a proper place – a place proportional to what that part brings to the community, a relation of justice holds; when either improper parts or improper relations appear on a shared horizon, injustice…. read more:

"Jimm Lasser has created the "Obama Force Ones" as a part of "The Dunk On McCain" exhibition which went on last night at Tyson Square. Both soles have different designs with the left saying, "A black man runs and a nation is behind him" and the right sole shows a portrait of Senator Obama. Yo Jimm, I need these ASAP" read more:

…There is a question, the crucial issue of politics, as to  what extent improper parts and improper relations can register sensibly at all. Those who can be taken account of in the political community are always already those who can be counted, those who make up some recognizable part, the elites.  It is not clear that those, to whom is attributed the capacity for pathos alone, for example, can be ‘heard.’ This is not to say that their voices simply do not register audibly but that they register only in an unrecognizable modality, like background music in the supermarket. Or,their words register much like a buzzing or humming in the air of which no intelligible sense can be made. The same will be true of any claim that does not fall in its proper place. …”For example, Rancière writes that historically the partition of the sensible was such that the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the characteristics of a working day were perceived to have nothing to do with one another, and it was worker’s strikes that forced the community to perceive the relationship between the two differently.” Read More:

---In the same style as the Louboutin Ad campaign, except here it is not fashion, but weapons. The Russian based illustration studio Geliographic decided to mix classic still life paintings, with modern weapons. An interesting mix that grabbed my attention!--- read more:

It is thus that the task of politics becomes one of producing and forcing into everyday experience a distinct organization of the sensible, conditioned by a distinct aesthetics. This task demands reconfiguring the limits of each of our senses, and their relations to one another….


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Paul Joseph Watson: Congressman Paul’s dismissal of the political stunt of enforcing some kind of political borg hive by making members of both parties sit together as a symbolic gesture is, as you would expect, based on completely constitutional foundations.

The founding fathers made it clear that the more checks and balances the merrier – in other words – gridlock is good for freedom. Compromise and bi-partisanship between Democrats and Republicans is almost always bad news for the American people, since both parties are ultimately working towards the same agenda. Read More:

How dare we say that the right-wing fetishizes violence? That's so unfair! read more:

Katharine Wolf: Rancière speaks of a people who have no proper place in Aristotle’s political community. As such, there is no part regarded as theirs by nature to give to or take from a shared world. Politics is the rare event that occurs when these people nonetheless forcibly partake (part-take) in that community. Rancière designates them by the name they were given in Ancient Rome – the proletariat, the class of people regarded as contributing only offspring to the community. The proletariat is thus a group of people rendered without logos. Here, Rancière follows a line of logic that derives from Aristotle’s account of the slave. This account begins with an acknowledgement that slaves, just like their masters, exercise moral virtue and understanding; indeed, they do so just insofar as they obey their masters.

Thus, if slavery is to be upheld as a natural order, there must be something other than moral virtue and understanding that gives to a master his natural claim to rule. It is on the basis of this acknowledgement, then, that Aristotle asks, “How could it be proper for the one to rule and the other to be ruled unconditionally?” That is, how could slavery be proper to the political community? It is proper, according to Aristotle, insofar as a slave is different in kind from his master. The master has a soul with a deliberative capacity, and this gives him the natural right of rule. The slave has no such capacity, and although he can understand the reason of his master (allowing him to obey his master’s orders), has no capacity to reason himself. Thus, following Aristotle, it is only insofar as the slave obeys his master that he partakes of logos, and in turn takes a proper place in the political community a place of subservience. Read More:

For Rancière, the proletariat are slaves who have ceased to be subservient. The proletariat, just like the slaves of Athens, are rendered without any reason of their own, and “doomed to the anonymity of work and reproduction.” However, the proletariat make a claim to freedom. In this, they step wholly outside of the political community’s partitioning of the sensible insofar as they denounce subservience. Yet at the same time they lay claim to that which belongs only to those with a part in the political community. The proletariat’s claim to freedom, then, is a political event. It should be noted that Aristotle, too, contemplated the relation of such people to the political community. Rancière’s proletariat is Aristotle’s ‘ordinary men,’ those people whom are neither wealthy oligarchs nor noble aristocracy. Against Plato, Aristotle argues that the place of these people in the political community is ensured precisely insofar as these people do have freedom, and thus where the oligarchs contribute wealth to the community and the nobles virtue, ordinary men contribute freedom. Read More:

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… The analysis of the supposed “dog whistles” is even more dehumanizing to conservatives than the subtext of the phrase. The discussions resemble dispassionate analyses of the composition of pond scum. Conservative politicians no longer have any say in what they mean when they use certain words, according to these liberal fantasists. Only the fantasists can really know what conservatives mean.

I use the word fantasist deliberately. These people aspire to be, claim to be, try to create the appearance of being, intellectuals. But their analysis is based entirely on what they imagine conservatives think. And, most important, they steadfastly refuse to accept the premise that conservatives know what conservatives think. They refuse to accept that premise because that premise assumes that conservatives are capable of minimally intelligent thought.

Instead, the new liberal art form is creating “dog whistle” fantasys about what conservatives really mean. Now we are a bunch of dogs following masters who communicate with us by use of dog whistles. Read More:

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