Sunday, October 30, 2011

No Ideology Is an Ideology

In a recent episode of Fresh Air, Ioan Grillo, author of El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency, made the following claim about Mexican drug cartels: "Now, the drug cartels don't have an ideology like al-Qaida or an ideology like communist insurgents or even a nationalist agenda. They're after controlling territory for their criminal business interests. We've seen, now, in the last four-and-a-half years, more than 3,000 police, soldiers and officials killed by these drug cartels."

Let's parse that quote. The drug cartels threaten, murder, and decapitate in defense of their right to make unregulated profits for their "business interests," yet they do not have an ideology. How can that be? Carving out a market through violence and intimidation sounds less like the nihilism of Turgenev's Bazarov than a perverse embodiment of a radically capitalist ideology.

How should we read this exclusion of a clearly Capitalist ideology from the ranks of ideology in light of recent critique that NPR is slowly "drift[ing] to the right"? Is Capitalism-as-no-ideology the "obscene supplement" that allows the totalization of the Capitalist ideology? As Slavoj Zizek writes of the perverse effects of excluded content: "these unintended perverse by-products, far from effectively threatening the system of symbolic domination, are its inherent transgression, its unacknowledged obscene support." In other words, the first rule of fight club: "You do not talk about fight club." Normalizing the Capitalist ideology as the dialectically synthesized end of history prevents critical discussion of the anti-human and anti-ecological effects of laissez-faire economics.

Occupy Wall Street has occupied the parks, the streets, and the bank lobbies. Soon we will occupy board rooms, universities, and stock exchanges. Long-term success, however, requires us also to occupy the discourse. Just as we shut down business as usual, we must also shut down corporate media discourse, commercial and non-commercial alike, that refuses to allow a critique of Capitalism's black magic.

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