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July 24, 2008

Savage Mules Review

I wish I could find a harsh review of Dennis Perrin's new book Savage Mules so I could refer to it as "Mules, Savaged." I would seem clever!

But here's an excellent review in Crooked Timber, followed by a ton of good comments. And it's back on the Amazon political bestseller list, currently at #12.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at July 24, 2008 02:36 PM

Yeah, great comments. Let's hear it one more time for the Faurisson affair!

Posted by: Save the Oocytes at July 24, 2008 07:29 PM

Yeah, it did go downhill in that direction, and I played a role there, though I only jumped in when someone else brought that subject up. I never understood why Chomsky has to be either the man without sin, or the man who does nothing but sin.

There was the possibility that someone would describe to me what "false consciousness" is exactly, and why it's so condescending to say that people don't vote their own true interests when they vote for imperialists and war criminals. But it turned into the usual slugfest. From my pov, it's not condescending, it's charitable to say that people who vote for torturers and murderers don't realize what they're doing. Personally, I think at least some people who vote for torturers and war criminals probably know exactly what they're doing. Hopefully it's a small percentage.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at July 24, 2008 11:24 PM

If that posting is typical, I think the comments here are way better.

Posted by: StO at July 25, 2008 12:24 AM

Donald, I don't think it's either condescending or charitable; it's not a moral term, it's not a judgment, it's simply a scientific term. Think of the word 'schizophrenia' for example: yes, sometimes colloquially it's used as an insult, but everyone understands that the word, in fact, identifies a medical condition that can be objectively (more or less) diagnosed. Similarly, in the marxist branch of social science 'false-consciousness' identifies a social condition. It's not a good term, I agree - too loaded, sounds more like rhetoric - but that's probably because the guys who introduced it were polemicizing all the time.

Posted by: abb1 at July 25, 2008 03:41 AM

False consciousness is needlessly complicated as a term. It is the term "interests" that need to be unpacked. I remember a grad school class where we watched, on hidden camera, a white shoe store owner do his best to refuse service to a customer. The prof. asserted that this was against his "best interests" -- thus assuming that interests = economic interests alone. But what of the psychological benefit of feeling superior? Don't people pay a premium to be complete assholes in other contexts? Oh, yes, they most certainly do.

I have met a disproportionate number of unpleasant people on the right as opposed to the "left" -- it's not balanced. (Hell, even "left" doesn't make sense -- the far right represents such a narrow ideological sliver that people that disagree wholly find themselves on the left. How the fuck can a political alignment contain libertarians, anarchists, socialists, redistributive capitalists, militant-but-anti-imperialist social liberals, and so on, and still be a single political faction? It is because the opposing faction is, frankly, a narrow, self-serving absolutist agiprop scheme run by organized crime. It pretty much puts every other human being on the planet on the other side. It's like having an organization called Citizens Against Murderous Raping Psychopaths -- it isn't made up of strange bedfellows, but everyone in the area.)

So not all right-wingers are the same, but some most certainly are nice people who are an unfortunate combination of stupid and ignorant*, some are malicious enough to vote repug because it keeps the darkies down (even if it shoots them in the foot), some have some small stake in the establishment -- I met a woman who voted for Bush against Kerry, even though she thought Bush was slime, _just_because_ she was a pharm rep. Then there are the rich.

I can't even begin to _list_ the reasons people vote Democratic. And that's really part of the point: many of us are voting against Republicans, not for Dems. It's like saying all Protestants are the same because they all agree Catholics are wrong about something or other.

*"Stupid" is relative and arbitrary. If there are 100 people in a room and only 1 knows that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the Sept. 11th attacks, maybe that one is smart and the others are average. Whatever works.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at July 25, 2008 10:51 AM