PANIC! Or the Post-Reconstruction Era All Over Again

"Perhaps in panic there is even a certain demand for oppression. After all, oppression is rather practical–so long as circumstances are bearable there is no need to take decisions." (132)

  –Antonio Negri. Negri on Negri. Routledge: 2004.

Seems to explain Fox News.

Negri's remark strikes me as being related to something I've noticed about Glenn Beck and the tea baggers: the resemblance between their rhetoric and that of the post-Reconstruction era and the rise of Jim Crow legislation. In that era, reactionaries appealed to a sense that "ordinary" (white) folks had been hoodwinked, deprived of what was rightfully theirs.  And that one of the main symptoms of this was that people who should not be in charge, namely African Americans, were somehow placed above them, occupying social and political positions at odds with what white Southerners viewed as African Americans "proper" subordinate status.

Now what white elites were able to do was to extend their sense of outrage at being displaced from their accustomed perch atop the hierarchy to a sense of outrage on the part of most white folks. The same white folks who had been subordinated to white, wealthy elites, believed their interests had more in common with those elites than with African Americans.

All this is familiar cultural and political ground. What strikes me as strange and new are the ways that these tropes are being remobilized. So maybe former President Carter was right to call today's reactionaries out for appealing to tropes, ideas, even affects that are traditionally the stock in trade of racist projects. Then as now, at least, panic seems like a central component of what is going on, even if that panic is artificially induced.

On another note, Negri on Negri: in conversation with Anne Dufourmantelle is structured just as  "L'Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze" was: a series of discussions organized around concepts in alphabetical order. "A as in Arms, B as in Brigate Rosse, C as in Camp," and so on. Though it's interesting that Deleuze wanted the televised interviews he took part in with Claire Parnet to be aired only posthumously, and not to ever be transcribed or translated. It's telling how hard Deleuze's last years were that he let Parnet air the interviews three years before he took his own life, telling her that, in effect, he was already gone.

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