Wednesday, January 28, 2009

photographic punk

Here's an interesting 9-minute video about Glen E. Friedman, an early photographer of punk, skateboarding and hip-hop. If you're into any of those three things, you've no doubt seen his photos. From BoingBoing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Post-Bush, day 1

Quick thought:

Recently Christopher Hitchens threw a party, where he said an interesting thing:

Hitchens opined on whether the Obama administration should answers calls from the left to prosecute Bush administration officials for illegal interrogation of prisoners [...] Hitchens then claimed that the Bush administration's commitment to harsh interrogation techniques, which he considers torture, derived from a desire among Americans for a more “ruthless” government. “It has to be admitted by every American that in the majority after the 9/11 Commission, people wanted an administration that was much more ruthless than the one they'd had on September the 10th,” he said. “I know something for a sure thing,” Hitchens continued. “The demand for torture and other methods I would describe as illegal, the demand to go outside the Geneva conventions — all this came from below. What everyone wants to say is this came from a small clique around the vice-president. It's not educational. It doesn't enlighten anyone to behave as if that were true. This is our society wanting and demanding harsh measures.”
I have to admit that when I read this it struck me as correct. I think that Hitchens is a smart guy, and for as much as I sometimes dislike him, I think he is very good at calling out people for acting righteous when they aren't. After all, isn't the call for prosecution of Bush and Rumsfeld done in bad faith--at least a little? I think many Americans did want something like torture, and I think that members of Congress were perfectly happy to allow the law to be blurred for that reason. In this sense, the call for prosecutions is really done in bad faith; a prosecution of Bush/Rumsfeld is nothing other than our desire to prosecute ourselves for fucking it up--a way for us to feel good by projecting evil onto a finite group of people who is not us. Great.

And even as I say that, I have to think that Hitchens is still wrong. Mandates do come from below, yes, but if we know anything about the psychology of authority--if we've learned anything from the Holocaust, the Stanford Prison experiment or the Migram experiment--it is that the people below will do what they are told to do and to think what they are told to think. So where does blame lay--with the American public or with the leadership?

I suppose this begs the question of what we think leadership is. If we think the job of the leader is to enact those things that the populace wants, then we are guilty. But if we think leadership means the ability to lead, then prosecute away. So what was Bush, then? A terrible non-leader? Or a criminal? Those might be the two options.