Saturday, April 22, 2006

Hitting the Refresh Button

Things are wound very tight this week. High tension allows certain energies to be set loose, spun through, and reset. Quickly, equilibrium reasserts itself. Most of the vibrations are part of a historical feedback loop, with elements of “deep structure”, lines of causality that one could take the time to parse. But there are events, media fixations, and blatant provocations that seem clearly intended to actively increase these systemic instabilities with a purpose in mind, but perhaps not completely conscious. In my paranoid but hopeful universe, the buildup to a conflict in Iran, the financial strangling of Hamas, and a Homeland Security spokesman accused of soliciting sex from what he thought was a 14 year old girl, while generally unrelated, seem to be connected to the underlying trend of acceleration towards a singular event of absolute magnitude. (Abstraction is an easy way to make grand statements and avoid facts. I love it)

I struggle not to belabor an emphasis on the circulatory speed and disintegration of oppositional energies, but it appears to be so fundamental, and increasingly so. Any serious, objective analysis of the media in recent weeks would mention the extremely rapid circulation of critical currents. It is a truism but one that goes unmentioned in the mainstream public sphere, that this process is highly functional, resetting the limits of criticism, and leaving opportunities for real change far behind, quickly forgotten, consigned to the oblivion of our televised reality principle. It is almost as if critical currents are purposely designed, generated, and implemented with this in mind. This reduces the possibility of real public opposition, in an environment where the media sets the boundaries, providing the illusion of debate. As serious corruption is constantly uncovered and debated in the mainstream, the more such revelations of corruption become banalized.

It is easily recognized that the widely publicized White House “shakeup” this past week will leave normal administration functioning and policy entirely intact. The resignation of Scott McLellan is inconsequential in any real sense. A new media spokesman in his place lends a sense of novelty to the proceedings, and the cultural system will waste time analyzing the character of this new public persona. (“no wonder your president has to be an actor, he’s gotta look good on television”) Most media outlets seem intent on portraying the diminished role of Karl Rove as a major change. The NY times on April 20th revealed the position of the spinster himself :

“In a telephone interview Wednesday night, Mr. Rove brushed aside suggestions that the change was a diminishment of his role. ‘It is something different,’ he said. ‘I've got a new boss,’ he continued, a boss ‘who says I want you to do more of this and less of that.’ Mr. Rove will retain his title as a deputy chief of staff, as well as his catch-all designation as Mr. Bush's senior adviser. He said he would continue to oversee broad policy issues. ‘The president and the new chief of staff said they wanted me focused on the big strategic issues facing the administration,’ he said. Joel D. Kaplan, now the deputy White House budget director, will assume Mr. Rove's duties as the manager of policy development at the White House and will take the title deputy chief of staff for policy. The change in Mr. Rove's responsibilities was at a minimum a signal that the White House was serious about reorganizing itself to get Mr. Bush's presidency back on track, and was widely interpreted in Washington as a step down in stature for Mr. Rove and an acknowledgment of policy failures in the last year. Mr. Rove had taken the lead on what was supposed to be the main domestic policy initiative of the second Bush term, the president's proposal to remake the Social Security system. The effort to sell the plan to a skeptical Congress and voters flopped. Similarly, Mr. Rove had trouble driving forward another of Mr. Bush's priorities, an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws. He also came under criticism for the White House's slow response to Hurricane Katrina.At the same time, Republicans on Capitol Hill have grown increasingly unhappy about Mr. Rove's dual political and policy roles. Mr. Rove was seen as spread far too thin, and was also distracted by the investigation into his role in the C.I.A. leak case. The investigation has lingered far longer than White House officials expected, and Mr. Rove has not been cleared of wrongdoing, although his lawyer has said he is confident that he will be. “

Put simply, the administration will largely retain its current configuration, with the same group of Reagan era planners shaping policy development. Donald Rumsfeld was widely quoted in the national press on Monday saying, “This too, will pass”. He was referring to the recent barrage of calls for his resignation as Secretary of Defense by retired military generals, who charge him with mismanagement of the war in Iraq.

“The effort to counter global terrorism is ‘a test of wills,’ Mr. Rumsfeld said, and cautioned that ‘if you started chasing, running around chasing public opinion polls or a handful of people who are critics of this or critics on that, you wouldn't get anywhere in this world.’ “ – NY Times, 4-18

I will leave the insulting quality of this gangster’s words for what they are. Rumsfeld clearly states his understanding of the role public opinion plays in the formation of policy. He is also well aware of the principle of banalization. The story will circulate, prompt a simulated “shakeup”, and “will pass” into nothingness, having served the useful function mentioned above. The desires of the majority of the population are not a real factor, when they can be channeled in this fashion. People will discuss the matter in their office break-rooms, and forget that afternoon, while they sit in traffic listening to liberal radio such as Air America rail against the “conservatives” in the White House.


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