Professor Ernesto Laclau during a presentation in Ecuador, 16 May 2012. (Credit: Cancillería Ecuador)
Ernesto Laclau’s conception of populist reason, as I mentioned in a recent post, is an account of the people being constituted in discourse. It complicates the distinction between speaking by and speaking for the people. A “people” exists in and through the practice of representation. The representative reflects in some degree the identity of those represented but also adds something to the mix (such as an informed judgment on a matter in dispute), which contributes to their identity. Representation “is a two-way process,” moving back and forth between represented and representative, with the identity of a “people” subject to reconstruction rather than frozen in time.[i]
Laclau insisted “the construction of a ‘people’ would be impossible without the operation of mechanisms of representation.” Those mechanisms include the articulation of an empty signifier with which people can identify because it represents (names, incarnates, invests) a chain of equivalences among a heterogeneity of unmet demands.[ii] This process is integral to the operation of democracy. (more…)
Fireworks in New York, 2002. (Credit: Jon Sullivan / PDPhoto.org)
Hunt the Devil will take a brief break for the holiday season. We will return on January 5, 2016.
Oscar and I are grateful for our readers. We wish you a happy holiday.
Over the last twenty-two months, we have written nearly 180 posts based on our book, Hunt the Devil (published in 2015 by the University of Alabama Press) and building toward a sequel to Hunt the Devil, the working title of which is After Empire.
So far, three articles for academic journals on the After-Empire project have emerged from the blog. Two already are in print: (more…)
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin Meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Credit: President of the Russian Federation / http://www.kremlin.ru)
Brian Amsden, who teaches at Clayton State University, produces podcasts about once a month answering—one story at a time—the question of how we humans come to believe the impossible things we believe. His show is called Rhetorical Questions.
The most recent episode, Episode 7, is Brian interviewing me about Hunt the Devil: A Demonology of US War Culture. Brian asks great questions and makes excellent observations throughout the interview. (more…)
“The Hell,” mosaic by Coppo di Marcovaldo, circa 1301. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In times of trouble, I do not consult the Bible. I visit the astonishing and still very relevant Devil’s Dictionary by the bewildering Ambrose Bierce. Its word definitions—compiled during the last half of the nineteenth century—are cleansing, illuminating, and especially joyful during times when our minds are full of signs (indeed the certainty) that the prophesied and long-awaited Apocalypse is upon us.
Observe, for example, its sober definition of ABSURDITY = A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion. Take heed, all those who labor in “new” universities and houses of learning, of the dictionary’s stern proclamation of the decadence of such institutions: ACADEMY = A modern school where football is taught.(more…)
“Four Horsemen of Apocalypse,” by Viktor Vasnetsov. Painted in 1887. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Like Gabriel sounding the trumpet for the Final Judgment, or like an unwanted guest who names the rope in the hanged man’s house, Francis I stood before our Clown Congress and spoke the names of four American warrior saints. If our legislators would know them, or come to know more about them, they would realize that the Pope was urging upon us the consequences—in the course of time—of following the words of these Four Riders of the Apocalypse. (more…)
Hunt the Devil: A Demonology of US War Culture is now available for purchase, and our publisher — University of Alabama Press — has provided us the opportunity to offer our book to our readers at a 30% discount through October 31, 2015!
Simply order the Hunt the Devil: A Demonology of US War Culture directly from University of Alabama Press using a special discount code, and you can get this “timely and illuminating exploration of demonic imagery in US war culture” for just $35.00 USD.
“The Great Satan” by Brazilian cartoonist Latuff, 1 October 2003. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Does US Representative Seth Moulton slip or trip war culture’s demonization trap when he endorses the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran?
As mentioned in the preceding post, the congressman allows that the deal does not require the US to trust Iran and concedes that Iran is a determined enemy of the US and Israel that supports international terrorism and violates human rights. The basic premise of the case for rejecting the nuclear accord and its underlying Manichean mythos of good versus evil remains unremarked and unchallenged.
War culture remains rhetorically intact, whether one decides to support the nuclear accord on the congressman’s terms or reject it. The perseverance of war culture on this matter is reflected in the expression of public opinion. (more…)
Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, 10 April 2008. (Credit: Seyedkhan / Wikimedia Commons)
Opposition to the nuclear accord with Iran is yet another occasion for putting US war culture on display. And what we see—if we choose to look—is a rationale for militarism grounded in an unrecognized and unremarked metaphor. We see a culturally compelling, naturalized image of the devil with whom we should never make a deal. The logic of opposing a nuclear deal rests on (and rhetorically derives from) this demonological image as if it is terra firma. Remarking critically on the image is taboo.
This self-justifying image appears in a video of a wounded soldier released in August by a group called Veterans Against the Deal. “Rather than refute the administration’s talking points or rehearsing specific objections to the deal, this [moving and powerful] spot speaks to the very nature of the Iranian regime,“ writes Guy Benson, who is Townhall.com’s political editor. (more…)
Saddam Hussein and Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi during the Algiers agreement, 1975. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Obama administration’s nuclear accord with Iran is drawing rhetorical fire. That’s not surprising. Conjuring the devil is a ritual that sustains the war state. It rehearses the narrative of good versus evil. Without the threat of evildoers, the country’s motivation to fight degrades over time.
Congressional war hawks and their neoconservative allies, observes James Carden, warn against being snookered by a despicable Iranian regime. Alluding to the Holocaust, Presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee insists that the deal would march the Israelis “to the door of the oven.” Senator Lindsey Graham adds that the religious views of Iran’s Supreme Leader compel him to destroy Israel and attack the US. Iran is the devil incarnate, Hitler de novo.
Senator Dan Coats summarizes much of the critique that follows from the basic premise that they are evil and we are good. In a guest column published by various Indiana newspapers, the Senator says the more he reads through the text of the Iran deal, the more his concern grows. Why? Because “the deal will not permanently stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions” and “the negotiators conceded [far too much] in order to reach an agreement with a regime that calls America its enemy, brazenly violates U.N resolutions, sponsors terrorism, threatens Israel’s existence and is responsible for more than 1,000 American military deaths since Sept. 11, 2001.” (more…)