18 July 2011

The News Corporation Scandal and "the West" in our Time

The News Corporation scandal that is now afflicting the British state provides an opportunity to take stock of "the West" in our time.

Both in the mass media and in academic social science, the West has, for some time, been depicted as the site of governments that are stable and sober, not to mention representative.  One trope in this regard is about how the societies of the West (unlike those elsewhere) are the beneficiaries of a long democratic tradition; and as an antithesis, there is the figure of  the "banana republic."

But let's turn from these imaginaries to the evidence. 

It turns out (I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on at Rick's) that the British government has, for many years, been in thrall to a gang of thugs minimally disguised as journalists.  And then there's Italy, where a home-grown media-moghul has been running the state like a subsidiary of his corporate -- and sexual -- empire.  Back here in the United States, President Obama is both intelligent and ethically serious.  Nonetheless, in most areas he has been unable to pursue serious and responsible policies -- in no small part because of an opposition party that (a) treats Democratic presidents as, by definition, illegitimate and (b) has both an electoral base and a corps of elected officials that believe in a whole array of delusional, know-nothing fantasies (some examples: climate change is not real; the government has enough incoming revenues to pay its bills without borrowing; Obama may well not have been born in the United States; and the Constitution of 1789 was infallible [and please do not read any passages in that document that pertain to the enslavement of human beings]).

Given this evidence of the baleful character of these Western states now,  just why is it that we think that "banana republics" are elsewhere?

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