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Weaponizing Absurdity

Raunchy Russian Cadets Set Off Wave of Political Solidarity

It was absurd that 50,000 people assembling to lobby the government wasn't news, but an upcoming football game and its aftermath was promoted everywhere. News as cheerleader with pom-poms. In a damning essay in The Baffler titled “Downward Spiral: A Fan’s Notes on the Decline of the NFL”, David J. Roth shows how the NFL -- which he calls “the biggest, richest and most luridly batshit sports league the world has ever seen” -- operates totally in the owners’ interests for profits that aren't affected much by winning or losing. Apparently, it's the emotional agitprop element of hypermasculine head-bashing and strutting around that keep fans bonded to their team. Owners, then, feel free to blackball talented players like Colin Kaepernick for political expression. Since the NFL is such a powerful mirror of militarized America, there’s great potential for satire and subversive laughter in the quote Roth cites from Dallas Cowboys President Tex Schramm to NFL Players Association head Gene Upshaw: “You guys are cattle, and we’re the ranchers.” Hand this idea over to a satirist like the Italian Nobel-winning street theater artist Dario Fo (he died last year) and one could have rollicking good fun mounting mini-plays in the parking lot as the fans arrived. Imagine plutocrat ranchers herding their cattle among the tailgate parties. Of course, one would have to deal with the horse-punching thuggery of NFL fans. But in the unfolding Trump America, that may become the price of self-expression. A deft protest artist like Fo would figure out how to incorporate the thuggery into the real-time theater.

The Gessen story on Russian protest tomfoolery made me wonder what sort of cultural imagery, narrative or theatrical phenomenon could outrage and offend our gated billionaire class and the devotees of the runaway National Security State -- as at the same time it helped coalesce a truly diverse resistance? Of course, this is hardly new and has been going on for decades among very creative and subversive elements. In this weird and troubled moment in history, though, what sort of culturally subversive production might go viral and work to unite in solidarity the vast and diverse swarms and schools that make up "working families" in America? What gets through to them? What moves them? What makes them want to cooperate and join a movement? How to focus on what working families need, versus their fears and shortcomings -- ie. bigotry? What we have now is bread & circus manifested through i-phone networks -- on phones made by Apple, the company that just sold its soul to China for billions of dollars. Meanwhile, our version of Nero fiddles with an i-phone while eating burgers in his White House bedroom.

story | by Dr. Radut