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Friday, February 27, 2009


I guess I'll go in reverse order of importance when analyzing the following passage from the Alan Moore : political analysis first, then literary analysis.

"Moore: During the 7/7 bombings over here, it was announced a couple days later that as soon as the first two trains had gone up, all of the American forces that were in London were recalled to safe distance outside the M24 orbital motorway. After a few days, when they realized that it was safe to go back into London, they realized also that it looked kind of bad, sort of rushing out of the capital at the first sign of any trouble when the main reason for the bombing was England's support of America in the Iraq war.
It does seem to me that massive tactical superiority might be a key to the superhero phenomenon. That, if it's a military situation, then you've got carpet bombing from altitude, which is kind of the equivalent of having come from Krypton as a baby and to have gained unusual strength and the ability to fly because of Earth's lesser gravity. I don't know, that may be a simplistic interpretation, but that's the way I tend to see superheroes today."

This statement shows a rhetorical tendency shared by all political persuasions, though one that makes more sense for those labelled "conservatives" than for those who can be fairly called "liberals." (And yes, I think that label applies to self-described "anarchists" like Alan Moore.) The rhetorical tendency is that of scapegoating, of which I've written in more depth here.

Now, scapegoating has an indispensible function in both literature and religion. The notion that one can dispense with evil (be it moral evil or mere physical calamity) by dispensing with a representative of evil is well-suited to both of these forms (to use the Cassirer term).

Scapegoating isn't quite as suited to politics. It's true that every political system advances itself by excoriating (whether directly or by implication) an opponent who represents a contrary belief. It's also true that this excoriation can sometimes lend to a process of scapegoating. But political systems inherently require compromise between rival factions. Even Machiavelli, who as Cassirer noted was the first to speak openly of the *realpolitik* that took place in Renaissance versions of the smoke-filled back room, admitted the necessity for compromise between rival powers.

A scapegoat, then, is not the same as an opponent. You may compromise or come to terms with the latter, but the former exists to be sacrificed.

Now, Moore's interview only touches on the background of the Iraq War that informs the incident of the 7/7 bombings, which in turn he uses as a means of both (a) expatiating on the American national character, and (b) scapegoating superheroes. However, given other statements by Moore about his feelings toward conservative political systems, I think it's pretty much a given that Moore opposes both American and British involvement in Iraq.

I have no problem with Moore's opposition to said involvement, or to his pointing out the hypocrisy of the 7/7 incident, in which certain *particular* detachments of American forces in Britain may have made an overly-hasty retreat from a site of conflict. I am, like most liberals, continually appalled that in the past two elections my countrymen voted in substantial numbers for the representatives of a radical-Right psuedo-theocracy that made the fictional regime of Lewis' IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE look like a season at Scout Camp.

My political problem with Moore's statement is that here his expatiation on the American national character is predicated on an incident too limited to be exemplary of anything. Yes, it could be argued those British-based American detachments showed poor judgment in letting themselves look like they were running away from danger.

But how in the world does such a piddling incident demonstrate anything about the American national character?

If Moore wanted to attack America for its fascist tendencies, he should go after us for the whole damned Iraq War, not just for a transitory and trivial matter that irked Moore when he read about it over his morning coffee in Northampton (or wherever the heck he lives these days).

In comic-bookspeak Moore's statement is the equivalent of saying that Professor Moriarty was a bad guy not because he killed or enslaved people, but because he made a rude comment about Mina Harker.

In addition, you could probably find far better examples of American's supposed desire to shoot for "massive tactical superiority" less than a century ago, starting with a little thing called "the A-bomb." But I think a more judicious view would be that most (if not all) human cultures strive to get the upper hand and to keep it. Does the American pursuit of "tactical superiority" really tell us anything distinctive about the American character, or is it simply a development from earlier manifestations of making war, like English history's version of carpet bombing?

Not to mention them durn vanishin' Neanderthals.

Though in UNMOORED PART 3 I'll hold forth more thoroughly on Moore's use of superheroes as a scapegoat to attack the evils of radical-Right politics, here I'm moved to wonder why he would make such an equivalence. Does Moore think Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld formed their notions of *realpolitik* through some childhood exposure to Superman comics? Cheney and Rumsfeld certainly represent the rhetorical tendency I mentioned before, to transmute rival powers into scapegoats; e.g., the famed "Axis of Evil." But I submit that they could have conceivably come up with such a phrase without ever having read a funnybook or even seeing a CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS cartoon.

(And of course it's the guy who's got to clean up their mess who's made his comics-reading public. But I digress.)

I don't think Moore is being a good liberal by resorting to the political rhetoric of the scapegoat. I believe that it's entirely right to downgrade your political opponents, but you have to go after them for real and substantial abuses, not for picayune crap. I would think the conservatives of recent decades have done so much similar crap ("Kerrey threw away his medals! The horror! The horror!") that any good liberal ought to be ashamed to resort to the same superficial strategies.

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