First and foremost — We Do Not Need Apologies from CounterPunch Journalists.
How pathetic the Socialist Worker is now trying to extract a pound of mea culpa from a seasoned writer, a working class writer, a woman writer, and a writer with enough ovaries and estrogen to shunt any of the proto-faux-feminism of our current Michele Bachmann-Obama-Arianna-Hillary-Oprah Epoch.
The tempest in a tequila bottle is about Angelina Jolie, breast cancer, high-tech-bio-tech for-quadruple profit health care giant, and the surgery she opted for and the wimpy New York Times op-ed she penned. Thanks to Gaia that Brad Pitt didn’t sign the piece, too!
But, what’s good about DV is that we have perspectives. And we have people reading our work, and sometimes sending in as cogent and clear perspectives as the stable of writers DV hosts; and some not coming from the gaggle of usual suspects of arm-chair academics or the self-anointed intelligentsia.
Leftist Sexists? I am not sure!
Thank Gaia for agency, the right to write, and the willingness to critique this empty force of privilege like those in Holy-Wood Who Make Money Doing What? Those people who are in a constant hedge fund roulette making more and more terrible wastes of creative possibilities.
I’m not here to attack the attackers, but I am using the DV short plea-protest-admonition signed by 35 faculty as a stepping off point really to some serious thinking about how colonized the tenure track and professoriate are in this society.
Signed letters to get CounterPunch magazine to cease and desist? A Change.org petition soon? To have Counterpunch and Ruth Fowler come to their knees and lick the jack-boots of those cops of revolutionary and creative non-fiction to get them in line?
Did I miss something? CounterPunch, like DV, puts out creative forces of thinking, and much of the work is consistently looking at privilege, the hubris of this American exceptionalism, and a deeper and I would hope cutting take on the faux leftists, Obama-loving, elitists, and others who have been co-opted by careerist manipulators who are the corporate Titans, who, yes, especially permeate Higher Un-education.
What Ruth Fowler writes TWICE is so-so much true, shining light on the great One Percent Scam — perpetuated and teased from the flowing hemolymph trapped in the stone hearts of the editors and owners and writers of the NY Times, flowing from Zionist Hollywood’s bent-over smile, flowing from the sewage waste of the non-creative masters of PT Barnum muck who are the new titans of tech. All the crap we eat like Twinkies smothered in Hershey’s — we so lovingly pay $150 a month in cable fees and another $200 for dumb-smart phones, all to push us closer and closer from the complete transformation of Consumopithecus Anthropocene to the next evolutionary stage of Retailopithecus Envirogee.
Thirty five signatories to this attack on Fowler’s absolute astute and full-of-free-will analyses and opining whereby she shows us the true colors of the vanguard, those folk like Jolie and Pitt and the other scammers in a field that is so putrefied with the message, the vacuous sentimental thinking, and grandstanding.
The cult of personality. The cult of celebrity. The cult of the felonious and unethical political. We’ve heard it all before, and most of the folk in mainstream Hollywood are indeed warped in many ways, broken witnesses and videographers of us – sometimes – the 80 percent. In fact, most of the mush made by the mavens of movies is tied to their One Percent ennui, their poly amorous sensibility, and their continual chain of self importance and self-replicating nepotism and, dare I say, intellectual incest.
So, here is the thrust of the letter signed by 35 folk with college/university credentials, and I must say, while it might be off-topic, but many of those great dens represented by the signatories’ alma maters of higher un-education are where the true exploitation of people takes place. They are the vital seats where the axiom and methodology of death by a thousand labor exploitation cuts take hold and are carried out. The vaunted administration class and vaunted superstar faculty making hay over Fowler’s cutting, prescient words against a One Percenter like Jolie while groundskeepers, janitors, food workers on campuses far and wide labor at poverty wages as they cross paths with the other class of worker, migrant roads scholars – we contingent, part-time, lowly paid, PhD’s on food stamps kinda gals and guys. Who, in the end, fall through unemployment benefit safety net, health coverage safety net, long-term middle class savings safety net.
We are exploited, used, abused, and the academic worker majority in this society – you’ve read it here in my DV columns, and, yes, you can go to the bulwarks of capitalism in the form of NYT or WSJ or CBS or NPR/PBS and find stories on Contingent Faculty, here, at the state school, land grant big research institution, non-profit religious college, and, alas, at the for-profit morphed un-education palaces. What the mainlining media write about us is flaccid, and albeit watered down and disastrously full of false balance, manufactured middle and equivocation, as well as purely classist, ageist, sexists and racist.
So, Rutgers has major problems, and so does Princeton … as I am sure all the others do when it comes to poverty and faculty – the new majority. Oh, yeah, that school-to-graduate school-to-food stamps-to-debtors prison Pipeline. How about one of those group letters to the NYT?
Now that would be a hell of a letter to send out and frame in the mush mainstream media.
But attacking Fowler?
Give me a break. Thus, too, that break-hold against this political correctness language surveillance also appeared in an email to me this morning — as just one of several DV editors. I will include the letter and a follow up. Because, heck, that’s what E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N is all about – going beyond the frames of two writers with varying POVs.
But first, from Deepa Kumar, an associate professor of Media Studies and Middle East Studies at Rutgers University, and the other 34 academics.
First and foremost, all medical patients diagnosed with potentially fatal illnesses deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Jolie deserves respect as someone who spoke out bravely about the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy rather than risk getting breast cancer. Fowler fails to acknowledge this and uses Jolie’s celebrity to try to strip her of her fundamental humanity. The title of her first article, “Angelia Jolie: On Privilege, Tits, and Being Dumb,” reduces Jolie to a pair of “tits” in a move not that different from the sensationalist media that routinely objectifies women.
To be sure, Angelina Jolie is not a revolutionary. Nor is she, quite probably, what we could agree is a feminist. What we wish to defend in this statement is less Jolie and her politics, but rather her boldness in coming forward and the opening that has created to discuss this painful issue.
We are disappointed that Counterpunch has run three articles on this question but has refused to spend a second being self-reflexive about the sexism in these articles and their headlines, much less provide a space for those who wish to articulate a different and non-sexist position.
CounterPunch made the wrong argument.
Then, one response to the Socialist Worker‘s insipid attack on Ruth Fowler.
IN RESPONSE to “Why CounterPunch owes women an apology” –:
First of all, thanks for this analysis.
As for the point about non-elite women’s access to the kind of care Jolie received, the report on this story on Austrian TV news included an interview with a top Austrian physician dealing with cancer treatment. She was asked if ordinary Austrian women have access to the tests and treatment that Jolie had, and the answer was yes–and all of it is covered under Austria’s medical social insurance plans.
The pseudo-radicals at Counterpunch should have been making this point, rather than ridiculing Jolie for alleged narcissism and class privilege.
Stan Nadel, Salzburg, Austria
Some of us tried to get a cogent, respectful response to Sharon Smith’s Socialist Worker web site attack on CounterPunch published, and, most importantly, I personally wanted to parse Smith’s skew and skewering of Ruth Fowler, in the Socialist Worker, but, alas, there is newspeak and scrubbing there, to the max.
Again, faux socialists and bleeding heart liberals just limp along in their flailing hay-makers at their own shadows which unfortunately are as detached from their “selves” as their willingness to refrain from getting treated for obsessive celebrity disorder.
Sharon Smith argues that Angelina Jolie deserves better than derisive and sexist “humor” for making public a health decision that all women dread being faced with.
BREAST CANCER is no laughing matter–certainly not for the roughly 232,340 U.S. women who will be diagnosed with it this year, or the 39,620 women expected to die from it.
Yet the editors over at the CounterPunch website were apparently guffawing over Angelina Jolie’s recent decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy. Their e-mail promo for an article posted on the site on May 14 reads: “Ruth Fowler unsnaps Angelina Jolie’s bra and exposes privilege, health care and tits.” Presto! A double mastectomy morphs into locker room fodder.
Fowler’s article never actually mentions the word “tits.” But like smirking adolescents, the editors insert it yet again in their contemptuous title: “Angelina Jolie Under the Knife: Of Privilege, Health Care and Tits.” One can almost hear them howling with laughter at their own perceived cleverness. Presumably they also laughed their way through Seth McFarlane’s sophomoric “We saw your boobs” spoof at the Academy Awards , while millions of women cringed.
You can read the rest on the reddish/pinkish Socialist Worker site. Have at it. But, the real hero of the day!
Ruth Fowler, excerpts:
I entitled my article “Angelina Jolie: On Privilege, Tits and Being Dumb,” which I believe comprises the main essence of Angelina’s Op-Ed. If the word “tits” makes you squeamish, that’s your problem, not mine. If you’re a woman, you have tits. If you’re a man, you may have them too, in which case a trip to the gym might be in order. Privilege is certainly something which Angelina Jolie reeked of in this article – unconscious privilege, phrases such as “my doctors” and “my choice” and “empowering other women” indicating to me that Angelina simply had no idea that what she was writing about was not some huge act of self sacrifice to inspire lesser women in her wake, but was, simply a sensible decision – as well as being an extremely privileged, elite medical procedure which is unavailable to the vast majority of women in the United States, and in the world. Unless you are from one of the few countries in this world which have a decent healthcare system, you may never, ever have the option to access the kinds of procedures Angelina seems to think are not being sufficiently utilized because of general ignorance. And this is why I called Angelina ‘dumb’. A woman who has built a reputation on charity work and humanitarian missions does not get a free pass to waste an article published in an internationally read newspaper with a self-serving account of her own health problems without adequately comprehending their place in the wider world. A woman who has built a reputation on charity work and humanitarian missions and has the power to demand a NYT Op-Ed in lieu of a press release has an absolute, undeniable responsibility to use that space as best as possible to acknowledge both her own privilege, and the flaws in the US healthcare system, including the ability of corporations to patent human genes.
A woman who was not “dumb,” a woman who acknowledged both her own privilege and the flaws in the US healthcare system, would have made an important impact on the public consciousness – an impact which was greater than the sycophantic ‘Wow, isn’t she brave’. A woman who was not “dumb” might even have done a little more research and found out, for example, that the genetic screening test she enthusiastically credits with saving her life and suggests other women utilize, is hugely expensive and hence, available only to the economic elite, because a company called Myriad Genetics has patented the mutated BRAC1 and 2 gene which are responsible for causing one type of breast and ovarian cancer. Last year the company earned $500 million, with about 85% of their revenue coming from breast cancer screening tests. This company is being challenged by the ACLU for their deliberate use of this patent to drive up costs for screening tests, and render the mutated gene unavailable to cancer researchers, doctors and scientists searching for a cure.
Myriad Genetic’s patent makes them responsible for the deaths of millions of women worldwide. No, this is not Angelina’s fault, but I am angry both with Angelina for her blithe ignorance of this despite being allowed a major international news outlet to use as a platform, and I am angry with the media for allowing her this platform without sufficient preparation, and then feeding into the inane cult of celebrity for applauding Angelina for doing absolutely nothing brave except prolong her own life for as long as possible. That’s not bravery. That is simply good sense. Both you and I would do exactly the same thing. Bravery is putting one’s life at risk to save someone else. Bravery is speaking truth to power. Bravery is many things, but it is not, to my mind, opting for immediate discomfort with a painful operation performed by an expensive expert, over a protracted and painful death. That is called pragmatism. Whether one submits to the path of immediate discomfort with anger, with despair, with stoicism, or with quiet acceptance, none of these emotions are more or less “brave” than the other, and should not be lauded as such.
Let me be absolutely clear: if I was in Angelina’s position, I would probably have made the same decision. At the age of 34 and a freelancer, I am finally in a financial position to purchase health insurance for the first time in my seven years in America. I would be one of the few women in the US who is privileged enough to have healthcare should I have cancer (though I would not, I believe, be eligible to have Myriad’s genetic screening tests on my insurance). I believe Angelina, given all the information available to her, made the wisest decision. However, I do not respect and admire women who get regular pap smear tests, breast examinations and mammograms, or submit to expensive screening tests. There is nothing ‘admirable’ about this. It is simply sensible behavior. I grieve for those women who do not take preventive care of their health because they are denied access to education and healthcare. I certainly don’t ‘admire’ those of us who are in the privileged position of finding preventive care easy and accessible.
There are many, many women across the world campaigning for breast cancer awareness and advocating for more funds to be channeled into research for prevention and cures. The difference between them and Angelina, is that Angelina chose to write about her condition in the New York Times for the specific (ostensible) purpose of “raising awareness”. The act of “raising awareness” in itself is disturbing. It means nothing. It’s a vacuous phrase which replaces action and intent. “I’m not doing anything, but I’m talking about something, and that’s ‘raising awareness’.” No, I’m afraid that’s bullshit.
I’ve been around for a while, and I’m pretty used to the amount of “outrage” I provoke from furious people who are personally affronted that a woman can not only have an opinion, a forceful, sometimes profane and blunt way of expressing that opinion, but can do so without apology. Despite various “demands” from furious Angelina fans (or “sad starfuckers” as I prefer to call them) and paternalistic idiots like Sharon whatsit in The Socialist Worker who demands that CounterPunch apologize “to all women” for my views (hello? You’re asking MALE EDITORS to apologize to “all women” for the views of a FEMALE WRITER? Am I not a woman? Does my use of the word “tits” really offend you so much that you need to resort to paternalism?). Despite all these demands for apologies, despite reams of hate mail on my website and twitter informing me that I’m a disgraceful human being that deserves to die, despite all this – I’m not going to apologize. I’m not going to betray all the people who agree with me that Angelina Jolie had no right to waste the space allotted her in an international newspaper to “raise awareness” of the issues surrounding screening tests, genetic patenting, preventive treatments and breast cancer, only to talk about herself.
The only awareness I’ve raised is that Angelina Jolie is not particularly bright, and not particularly concerned with anyone or anything that doesn’t feed into the myth of St. Jolie. And that while women continue to die, she and other people consider a personal story about her tits and her suffering more important than the brutal reality of healthcare and economics.
Emails from a playwright and thinker and philosopher
Okay, thanks for reading Dissident Voice, and, thanks for the critical and revolutionary thinking. We Don’t Need No More Stinking Spin.
Dear DV — Allow me to say, firstly, Ruth Fowler’s piece on Angelina Jolie’s Op Ed in the NY Times was the best critique of celebrity shilling for corporate medicine I’ve read and I re-posted it everywhere.
Second, Kumar’s sanctimonious drivel is risible, except that you guys chose to run it.
Let me point out a couple things. Jolie gets to publish her op ed in the NY Times for Christ’s sake. Let’s think about that. My cancer didn’t seem to warrant an op ed in the flagship newspaper of the U.S. (I’m fine, thanks). Second, there is nothing particularly brave or courageous about telling people you are having an operation. This is just how degraded language has become. Third, Jolie…for the sake of a context….shut down an entire African nation so she could give birth. Her and her celebrity husband actually had the nation of Namibia shut down air space to keep from being disturbed. Fourth, Jolie routinely fronts for the worst NGOs of the western world, the paternalistic great white mother has had more photo ops with smiling black kids than I have had parking tickets.
Here is a quote from the Kumar piece…
Second, Fowler ruthlessly attacks Jolie’s apparent ignorance about the sexist machinations of the medical industry without noting that a lack of information under capitalism is fairly common. Information about pharmaceutical companies and the role they play in shaping our health care ‘choices’ are neither easily accessible nor discussed openly in mainstream media. While Jolie surely could have done more ‘homework’ on the health care system before writing her piece, we should acknowledge that Myriad Genetics, and the health care industry, is what denies women access to good health care, not Jolie.
Since Jolie’s editorial there has been widespread media coverage of breast cancer as well as preventative measures open to women. Surely, as feminists we should welcome this development. Additionally, the ACLU has taken Myriad to court about their patent monopoly creating an opening to critique the for-profit health care system.
Ok, firstly Fowler was right. That ignorance is common place is no excuse FOR ignorance. Jolie is responsible for what she writes. Myriad Genetics and the health care industry (well, Capitalism) prevents the poor from decent health care, but Jolie is writing in the NYTimes, again, because of her celebrity (her looks mostly)and it is incumbent upon her to learn of that which she writes. And Jesus God, now Jolie is somehow to be credited for activating the ACLU???? Seriously?
So, no, Fowler wasn’t being mean spirited — she was being accurate. And frankly, Jolie’s extreme wealth *is* an issue. Since when is class not an issue for the left? Oh, lets just pretend she is doing good, little miss 2 million dollars a film, a icon in the violence and sex block buster business of Hollywood. Laura Croft Feminist crusader? This is the rise of the petite bourgeois feminism of apologetics.
I wrote Fowler to congratulate her on a splendid analysis.
The violence perpetrated against women, against the poor, and the grotesque inequality of access to medical treatment in the US is simply given cover by the sentimentalizing bathos of Jolie’s (no doubt corporate ghost written) editorial — which in the end was about Jolie’s narcissism, and little more. Can women today get these tests more easily? No. Nor are they likely to. The final point here is that a lot of the science behind this remains open to some discussion if not doubt. That is also something rather lost in the this whole non affair. But Fowler isn’t sexist…you know what is sexist? Most of Jolie’s films, from which she has garnered a vast fortune, additionally collecting several foster children while slumming with UNICEF.
Real resistance to the oppression of the state, of capitalism, and any liberation from the inequality women endure, is NOT going to be found in the works of a crap sex bomb Hollywood starlet. Someone getting sick is not politics. To confuse this with the real work done on behalf of women’s rights is the real disservice here.
:end of quote!
Okay, so, we also, some of us, at least, do not fear responders, which John Steppling certainly is more than a respondent.
Dear John — Just give me a bit more of your thesis, John, and, then, I can wrap something around that and the email you sent DV. You’ve got a lot of great perspectives.
1. Why has America become such a careerist society?
2. Americans have no idea about the theater of the oppressed, and their lust for drama/entertainment is like a coke addict’s need for more serotonin. What can we do to bring back some sense of working class and proletarian values to the movie profession?
3. What the biggest change you have seen in the collective consciousness of Americans in the past oh 30 years?
4. Now disaffected and disenchanted and disenfranchised youth are rebelling in Sweden. What’s your take?
Thanks for the interplay, the time off to respond to me, John.
Paul — OK.
There is a large problem in the US, and the west in general, having to do with the enclosing of discourse within the framework of the culture industry …..the vast corporate entertainment complex, which is in fact closely aligned with the Pentagon and US State Dept.
The insecurity of work, in this nation of guest workers now, creates new permutations of careerism.
And there is a deterritorializing of labor. That’s a big topic, but we have entered the attention economy, or the performative labor economy. And more and more is extracted from the worker, and there is a slight of hand going on where workers voluntarily give this work, free. Its an extension of social media in one sense.
But….as for changes …..I think what you see now, in the last ten years at least, is a new desperation in the white male population…where they fear a loss of their privilege…..and we see a return of open white supremacism — from Niall Ferguson to Bill Maher to David Brooks.. to crypto fascists like Zizek,..the Islamaphobia, the bigoted intolerance one finds is barely hidden anymore. and its linked to liberalism now. What Ed Herman famously called the cruise missile left. Samantha Power, or Suzanne Nossell, or Jodi Dean. And this links also to this question about Sweden. Because you see the war on the poor is now almost openly provoking the poor, and students, who are crippled with this obscene debt, to react. And then these reactions are going to be used as a pretext for further assaults on civil liberties.
But to go back for a second to this cult of celebrity. The Angelina Jolie thing is the perfect example. And this enclosing of all discourse….you almost cannot speak of anything, foreign policy or economics, anything, without recourse to metaphors from pop culture. Oh, that was like Breaking Bad….that was a Walter White moment. And we all suffer this. The problem with labor….really, is the distance from the final product….where there even is a product. Nobody feels connected to what they do in a way that allows for the formation of community. I wrote recently of the earlier forms of labor allowing for at the least, or generating, a certain mythology. Paul Bunyon or John Henry…..but those are obvious examples.
Today ,this is little room for the development of allegory in narrative…..not in the mass media , in Hollywood, anyway. You have these odes to totalitarian values in a Spielberg, or in Chris Nolan, or the more open authoritarian bigotry of a Zach Snyder. We live within this constant manufactured violence. This orgy of simulated mayhem. People live daily with the sound of televised car crashes, automatic gunfire, and explosions. And the normalizing of torture. The normalizing of this collective sadism. And language is just further and further degraded….where Jolie, a multi millionaire, is called heroic and courageous. For what? Did she build some hundred free clinics for poor women? No, she thought she MIGHT get cancer. Cancer in her already augmented breasts. This fetishized, objectified sex symbology — a star of the most prurient crap, the violent and titillating kitsch of Hollywood blockbusters. This is her fame, and so she had an operation and being royalty, deemed it important to tell us all about it. It’s an absurdity. Ruth Fowler should be commended for a sober clear sighted analysis of this theater of cultist worship of personality.
From John’s blog, and I’ve corresponded with John, and he does in fact live now in Norway, after hoofing it out of LA, out of the desert of Joshua Tree land.
Steppling is a great American playwright, period. He is also a great teacher. He has protean interests – political, personal, epochal, mystical and dreamlike all at once. Saul Bellow said that a writer is a reader moved to emulation. Any serious playwright would gain far more by emulating Steppling and participating in his workshop than by surrendering to any American MFA program. He is utterly without a scintilla of bullshit.
— Jon Robin Baitz
John’s latest blog post – excerpts:
The U.S. culture of violence cuts across both gender and class, although both are mediating factors and significant ones if one is attempting to trace certain specific branches of violence and their origins. There is infrequent discussion of Capitalism’s inherent violence. The logic of Capital is to WIN… and that means beating the competition. There is an almost embarrassed silence on this subject; for it’s easier to discuss gun control, or video games, or even war, rather than examine the fact that capitalism is now reaching its optimal incarnation as pure consolidated structural violence, a distilled tightened ratio of inequality and punishment. It is a mental critical mass, and the ruthless ethos of capital, especially in its Wall Street hedge fund practitioners, permeates consciousness, and it can be seen clearly in Hollywood film, as well as in daily life, in the routines at the water cooler (except many offices did away with water coolers) or in lunch rooms, or back alleys during cigarette breaks.
It is like watching some awful confession from people you know slightly, but don’t want to know about deeply. It is the stripping away of the hyper masculine to reveal the terminal dissatisfaction and depression at the heart of so many adult men and their idea of the pursuit of happiness. It is the portrait of a stunted American dream.
That despair, that panic, of course must be shot through a socially acceptable prism, or filter, in most mainstream film or theater. For the 21st century, that prism is usually science, progress, technology. The virility so compromised in daily life, its lack felt so acutely by studio execs, is blown out of proportion in creations such as Iron Man, or Super Man, or the Dark Knight. Or it is couched in a faux history of romanticized violence, Boardwalk Empire, or any of another twenty Mafia and gangster franchises.
In Auto Focus, the shriveling potency felt by white male America is reflected in a compulsive womanizing second tier TV actor. I can think of few films, actually, as disturbing as Auto Focus.