March 20, 2007


IT SEEMS TO ME the Britney Spears antics by which a certain ostensibly "anti-war" cult disrupted the recent Valerie Plame Congressional hearing provide an especially instructive example of how the self-proclaimed “Left” in the United States is not only hopelessly paralyzed by faddism but -- precisely because of the savage anti-intellectuality that is faddism’s essential core -- is unable to achieve even the slightest degree of responsiveness to anyone outside the cult’s exclusive and infinitely conformist ranks. Thus the cult itself (and a cult is precisely what it is, whether exemplified by the prom-queen histrionics of Code Pink or the Mater Dolorosa persona of Cindy Sheehan) fails to address any of the broader socioeconomic grievances afflicting the American public -- much less the underlying socioeconomic causes of the war. Worse, like some spoiled child screaming "look at me" in the middle of a crowded mall or subway station, the cult notoriously favors hopelessly petulant media spectacle over reasoned opposition, thereby conveying the impression all such protest is of no more substance than a pampered two-year-old's obnoxiously disruptive tantrum.

Moreover -- precisely because its patently self-indulgent conduct alienates far more people than it radicalizes or mobilizes -- the cult provides a seemingly natural barrier against the evolution of any broader (and therefore genuine) resistance movement: no doubt the very reason its existence is tolerated by a regime that in every other possible way grows ever more brazenly tyrannical by the minute. The utter shallowness of the post-Valerie-Plame-disruption tactical debate carried on via at least one Democratic Party website -- ultimately nothing more than a sorority-house conflict over fashion (with therefore even less substance than the medieval schoolmen’s arguments over how many angels might dance on the head of a pin) -- is merely another example of the behavior that defines the cult itself.

But is it accurate to label the Code Pink/Mater Dolorosa clique a cult?

Webster (10th Collegiate) describes cult initially in religious or medicine-show terms but then defines cult as “a great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as in a film or book), especially such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad; a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion.” Encarta further defines cult as “a self-identified group of people who share a narrowly defined interest or perspective.”

That these definitions apply to the Code Pink/Mater Dolorosa faction of the opposition to the Iraq War is obvious in the fact the women who became Code Pink reflexively protested not only against the Iraq War, but against the entire so-called War on Terror even before the relevant issues were accorded any significant public debate. The protestors utterly disdained the vast distinctions between Iraq and Afghanistan, thereby demonstrating their sneering contempt for the nation’s post-9/11 anguish, and thus from the very beginning they alienated huge segments of the public. In addition, many people recognized in Code Pink the same aggressive pacifism (and indeed the same membership) that characterizes another cult: the fanatical hysterics who advocate forcible civilian disarmament, compulsory pacifism and mandatory victimhood. More than a few of us -- myself among them -- were thus driven to prematurely support the Iraq War (that is, to accept the Bush Regime’s lies) merely because we had already encountered the infinite hatefulness of these pre-9/11 expressions of what became the Code Pink ideology.

When Cindy Sheehan added the Mater Dolorosa element following the death of her son, it seemed to me not an expression of ethics or ideology but instead nothing more than a public act of private vengeance -- another aspect of the same vapid hypocrisy that had been the faction’s unifying characteristic from the beginning: objection to war not as (yet another) expression of capitalism’s Inner Tyrannosaur, but merely because -- though the cult members obviously thrive on capitalism's trinket materialism -- war offends Code Pink’s sense of stylistic correctness (“guns are ugly and frightening”) and also took away Cindy Sheehan’s only son.

Indeed, I maintain that the snide theatrics of Code Pink, Cindy Sheehan and all their apolitical, anti-intellectual ilk bear substantial responsibility for the public’s initial acceptance of the Iraq War. As I already noted, theirs is protest built on the most narrow (and therefore most exclusive) foundation possible: that the Code Pink/Mater Dolorosa cult is the only faction of the war’s opponents given significant publicity by the corporate media is thus surely no accident. By contrast, observe how corporate media totally ignores organized labor’s massive opposition to the Iraq War -- an opposition far more powerful (and more potentially revolutionary) than anything Code Pink or Cindy Sheehan could ever muster.

In this context it is significant that the sophomoronic prom-queen hissy by which Code Pink disrupted the Congressional hearing and mocked the entire legislative process is -- at least in the eyes of the vast U.S. majority -- tantamount to burning the national flag or spitting in the faces of military veterans: a huge and alienating gesture of disrespect. It surely recruited no allies to the ranks of Iraq War opponents -- or any other cause even remotely associated with socioeconomic transformation. In fact, precisely because corporate media so emphatically endorses its claim to represent “the Left,” the calculated offensiveness of the Code Pink/Mater Dolorosa cult discredits the entire cause of economic democracy. Therefore is it no exaggeration at all to say that the cult’s bottomless disrespectfulness serves the cause of class warfare -- and therefore the purposes of the ruling class itself -- every bit as effectively as any propaganda machine or secret police apparatus.

By the way, my avoidance of the term “anti-war movement” is not an accident. While there is undoubtedly huge opposition to the Iraq War -- 70 percent of the electorate by the most recent polls -- it is hardly united enough to be called a “movement.” The potentially irresolvable class division already evident in the schism between the avowedly pro-capitalist bourgeoisie represented by the Code Pink/Mater Dolorosa cult and anti-war labor (which is increasingly anti-capitalist) suggests that no genuine “movement” -- at least no sustainable movement -- will ever emerge from the present anti-war ferment. The very failure of the anti-war protest to focus on unifying socioeconomic principles is probably the precise reason the ruling class continues to tolerate it -- all the more so since the Britney Spears tactics employed by the Code Pink/Mater Dolorosa cult reliably alienate anyone who might see beyond the war itself to its origins in the tyrannosauric rampage of post-Soviet capitalism.

As for myself, I long ago repudiated my initial support for the invasion of Iraq. Like so many others, I was conned to complicity by the Bush Regime’s expert use of the Josef Goebbels tactic of the Big Lie. Nevertheless I also recognize the Iraq War as nothing exceptional -- just another one of the innumerable ways we working folk are tyrannized as capitalism marches toward its inevitable fulfillment in fascism. And knowing history as I do, I recognize the absolute reality of the Jihadist threat -- never mind how the Bush Regime has manipulated it into a latter-day Reichstag Fire. But I regard stopping the genocidal denial of life-saving prescription drugs -- denial that was deliberately imposed on the most vulnerable of the nation’s elderly and disabled peoples by the DemoPublican Part D Medicare Prescription Drug Lord Benefit -- as far more important than withdrawal from Iraq. Which of course makes me anathema not just to the Code Pink/Mater Dolorosa cult but to the entire self-proclaimed, media-anointed “Left,” whose singular focus on the war is underscored by emphatic and often antagonistic exclusion of any and all issues of broader relevance. Britney would no doubt belch in anti-intellectual agreement with my detractors.

Posted by Loren at March 20, 2007 04:37 PM | TrackBack