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Re: <nettime> Arnold at the gates [3x]
Kermit Snelson on Tue, 14 Oct 2003 11:43:54 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Arnold at the gates [3x]


The following article is the most convincing analysis I've seen yet on the
USA's most recent (and probably decisive) victory of its celebrity-
industrial complex.

Mike Davis's report comes to us directly from the belly of the beast:
California's San Diego County, where the recall started.  A place that has
long been home to Tom Metzger's White Aryan Resistance and is now, as
Davis points out, "awash with Pentagon dollars."

>From this vantage, Davis sees clearly what all the world's media, despite
their saturation coverage of this story, never noticed:  that
Schwarzenegger's triumph was a result of 1930s-style fascism.  Pure,
white, old-fashioned, reptilian cortex racial hate, fanned into flame by
low-fidelity AM radio.

Kermit
======

ZNet | Third Party

The Day of the Locust
by Mike Davis

TomDispatch
October 09, 2003
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=33&ItemID=4326

The mobs howled again in California, rattling windows on the Potomac. Are
the barbarians marching eastward, as they did after the famous tax revolt
of the late 1970s, or is this just another West Coast full-moon episode
with little national consequence?

The larger meaning of Schwarzenegger's triumph of the will, of course,
depends on how you interpret the grievances that provided the recall's
extraordinary emotional fuel. But I must warn you that analyzing this
election is an adventure in a realm of stupefying paradox and
contradiction. All the same, it may tell us a great deal about the
emerging landscape of American politics.

The hardcore ideologues of zero government and McKinley-era capitalism are
trumpeting the recall as a new populist revolution in the spirit of Howard
Jarvis's Proposition 13 in 1978. They echo local Republican claims that a
venal Democratic governor, in league with big unions and the welfare
classes, was turning off the lights of free enterprise and driving the
hardworking middle classes to Arizona with huge, unfair tax increases.
Gray Davis, in a word, was the anti-Christ, wrecking California's golden
dream on behalf of his selfish constituencies of school teachers, illegal
immigrants, and rich Indians. The Terminator, they assure us, has
literally saved California from the yawning abyss of "tax, tax, tax;
spend, spend, spend."

>From the outside, this seems rather ridiculous. Davis, to begin with, is
an autistic centrist in the Democratic Leadership Council mode who has
governed California for the last five years as a good Republican. In
fiscal policy, as well as in prisons, education, and the lubrication of
corporate interests, there has been no significant departure from the
paradigm of his predecessor Republican Pete Wilson. Indeed, Davis has been
such a raving executioner and prison-builder that crime-and- punishment
has disappeared as a right-wing wedge issue.

Moreover, if California's middle classes have any cause to feel raped and
pillaged in recent years, clearly the culprits are Arnold's eminence
grise, Pete Wilson, who deregulated the utilities to begin with, and the
Bushite power cartels like Enron which looted California's consumers
during the phony energy crisis of 2000-01. And it is the Bush
administration that has told bankrupt state and municipal governments
everywhere to "drop dead" while it shovels billions into the black hole it
has created in Iraq. Fiscal crisis should be an issue owned by the
Democrats.

Strange, then, that almost two-thirds of the voters in the mega-state that
supposedly belongs lock, stock, and barrel to the Democrats either
endorsed the stealth return of Pete Wilson -- the mind whirring within
Arnie's brawn -- or voted for a right-wing quack, Tom McClintock. These
are the kinds of election returns you expect to see from GOP bedrock
states like Idaho or Wyoming, not from the vaunted Left Coast.

When you peer at the dynamics of recall rage up close, the whole
phenomenon becomes stranger still. Here in San Diego, where I live and the
recall originated, the Schwarzenegger blitzkrieg seemed to suck anger out
of the clear blue sky. This, after all, isn't Youngstown or even Stockton
or San Bernardino. Republican voters, as far as I know, are not being
evicted en masse from their homes or forced to steal milk for their
starving babies.

Far from it, the value of the median family home soared almost $100,000
last year and the area is once again awash with Pentagon dollars. The
freeways are clogged with Hummers and other mega-SUVs, while those with
luxury lifestyles, carefully tended by armies of brown-skinned laborers,
bask in the afterglow of Bush's tax cuts.

Enlistment in Arnie's army of "hell no, we're not going to take it
anymore" tax protestors visibly bore little relationship to actual
economic pain. Yet, for weeks, suburban San Diego has been contorted into
visceral, self-righteous rage over the supposedly satanic regime in
Sacramento. Indeed exit polls show that, in San Diego as well as
statewide, support for Schwarzenegger increased with income and topped out
at the country-club and gated-community level.

So are California's fat cats merely impersonating populist anger? With so
little correlation between actual economic hardship (greatest, of course,
in pro-Bustamante Latino and Black inner-city neighborhoods and rural
valleys), what explains this astonishing mobilization of voter emotion,
particularly in affluent white suburbs?

In my microcosm, San Diego, part of the answer could be found at the lower
end of the AM dial. At KOGO 600, "San Diego's Radio Mayor," Roger
Hedgecock, presides over what, even before the official campaign began),
was boastfully labeling itself "Recall Radio." A defrocked former mayor
accused of conspiracy and perjury in the 1970s, Hedgecock, who
occasionally fills in for Rush Limbaugh on national hate radio, takes
credit for the "heavy lifting" that put Arnold Schwarzenegger in the
governor's mansion in Sacramento. Republicans acknowledge that he has been
the recall's most influential voice in Southern California.

>From 3 to 6 PM, "Roger," as he is universally called by his more than
300,000 regular listeners, rules over afternoon freeway gridlock in a vast
radio market that extends as far north as Santa Barbara. Southern
California, of course, has the worst traffic congestion in the country and
the ever lengthening commutes are a continuous, grinding source of
free-floating anger. Hedgecock deftly plays off this afternoon, stuck-
in-traffic frustration. He is the angry tribune of white guys in their 4X4
Dodge pickups and Ford Expeditions.

For almost two decades, his major rage has been the Brown Peril, the
supposed "Mexican invasion" of California. He was a key instigator of
anti-immigrant Proposition 187 in 1994 as well as local semi-vigilante
protests against border-crossers. On the eve of the recall, he continually
warned his listeners that the Mexican threat was now of apocalyptic
proportions, given Gray Davis's signing of a bill to allow undocumented
immigrants to obtain drivers' licenses.

"This is the end of American democracy, the end of fair elections," he
fulminated. "Vast numbers of operatives," he warned, were enlisting
newly-ID'd immigrants to cast hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots to
keep Davis in power. San Diego, moreover, was facing an "invasion" of
trade-unionists from alien Los Angeles who would "tear down pro-recall
signs" and generally terrorize neighborhoods. Roger urged locals to defend
their homes and resist the hoards of illegals and LA unionists "in the
spirit of 1776."

In several weeks of listening to Roger's screeds, punctuated by
hallelujahs and amen's from the choir on their cellular phones, the only
issue that came remotely close to the same decibel level as illegal
immigrants (and "the so-called Chicano community") was a hike in the
registration tax on cars. Hedgecock ignored the fact that the automatic
escalation of the car tax (2% of its value) had originated in Wilson-era
legislation. Instead, he directly connected it to illegal immigrants
"whose cost to the state of California is almost exactly the budget
deficit." "That's how bad things are, ladies and gentlemen," he intoned
constantly. Car taxes and wetbacks were his incessant themes.

The mainstream media has done a poor job of documenting the organization
of the recall at the grassroots level where AM voices like Roger's, or his
counterpart Eric Hogue's in Sacramento, rouse thousands of mini-
Terminators. As a result, there has been an overly respectful legitimation
of economic populism in the recall dynamic and only a faint registration
of the central role of traditional racist demagoguery and the revival of
the Brown Peril rhetoric that made Pete Wilson the most hated figure in
the state's Latino neighborhoods. To adapt a rap phrase, "It's all about
fear of a brown planet."

Yet, I don't want to suggest that this is a simple repeat of anti-
immigrant Proposition 187 in the context of a recession and a nationwide
crisis of state financing. Arnold Schwarzenegger does add something
genuinely novel to the mix. He is not just another actor in politics but
an extraordinary lightning rod, both in his movie persona and in real
life, for dark, sexualized fantasies about omnipotence.

Pleasure in the humiliation of others -- Schwarzenegger's lifelong
compulsion -- is the textbook definition of sadism. It is also the daily
ration of right-wing hate radio. As governor he becomes the summation of
all smaller sadisms, like those of Roger Hedgecock that in turn manipulate
the "reptile within" of millions of outwardly affluent but inwardly
tormented commuter-consumers. In their majesty, the predominantly white
voters of California's inland empires and gated suburbs have anointed a
clinically Hitlerite personality as their personal savior.

The last word about all this should, of course, belong to Nathanael West.
In his classic novel The Day of the Locust (1939), he clearly foresaw that
fandom was an incipient version of fascism. On the edge of Hollywood's
neon plains, he envisioned the unassuageable hungers of California's petty
bourgeoisie.

"They were savage and bitter, especially the middle-aged and the old ...
Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize they've been
tricked and burn with resentment... Nothing can ever be violent enough to
make taut their slack minds and bodies."

Copyright  2003 Mike Davis

Mike Davis is the author of City of Quartz, Ecology of Fear, and most
recently, Dead Cities: and Other Tales.

[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com , a weblog of the Nation
Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and
opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing and author of
The End of Victory Culture and The Last Days of Publishing.]




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