After having my curiosity piqued by the controversy over Adbusters' Neo-Con Jewish Cabal article (Thanks to Ralph Luker for pointing me to it), I read through the Mar/Apr issue (No. 52) with great interest, wondering if there was a larger argument (Adbuster issues often feature a cluster of articles/images developing a theme, a sustained argument from a variety of perspectives) or at least some redeeming value elsewhere in the magazine.
Not really."The (New) Age of Terror," an extended discussion of the lack of distinction between terrorism and the use of"deterrent" terror by states, usually in the form of public penal systems (sorry, not on the website) is nicely done, though not particularly new. But, the issue as a whole is decidedly weak, with some highly ironic unintentional errors, a fixation on the Adbusters' programmatic answers to neo-fascist capitalism, and an anti-Semitic strain that is surprisingly at odds with the general thrust of their arguments about self-identity and self-determination.
The"barely there" article about Jewish neo-conservatives is actually the middle of a three-article series on subversive world Jewry. The first is a profile of French public intellectual Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim who argues for assimilation of European liberalism by Muslims and assimilation of Muslims into European liberal democracies; the issue is Ramadan's attack on Jewish French intellectuals who support Israel and/or criticize Islam, the counterattacks against him and the way in which those counterattacks supposedly jeopardize the creation of a moderate Islamic middle-ground. I addressed the neo-conservative enemies list already. The last is a tortured profile of billionaire and activist George Soros, a sworn enemy of neo-conservatives here and abroad, which can't quite decide whether to claim him as a potential savior of democracy and Democrats or condemn him as an amoral plutocrat, finally coming down on the wildly unlikely side of taking his money but using the power it buys to reduce the power of money in politics.
The common thread in these articles is the assumption that being Jewish is an essential quality, which allows others to categorize and classify the behavior of Jews (even if it's contradictory, as the contrast between Soros and the neo-conservatives suggests) as Jewish behavior, and to dismiss the ideas of Jews as being too tied to their essential Jewishness to be worthy of consideration (unless you agree with them, of course). This flies in the face of the oft-stated Adbusters position on identities as being created, individual and mutable; the worst thing you can do, in Adbusters' world, is force someone else to live by your rules. The refusal to take someone seriously because of their ethnicity, whether or not that person draws on that ethnicity in their identity, is just racist, and when it ties into such obvious tropes as Jewish capitalist/Zionist conspiracy (ignoring obvious diversities and tensions), then yes, it's anti-Semitic.
I'm trying to take a tolerant view, because they apparently had serious trouble getting payments through Visa over the last few months. It must have been terribly distracting, because I saw silly little errors in other places that I honestly don't think usually would have slipped through.
A piece promoting a Global Internet Voting System said it would
"give the six billion people in the world a collective voice, an alterative nexus of power. Think about it. If a billion people say 'yes,' then who can say 'no?'"
and vice versa. The obvious answer? Two billion people, of course. As things stand now, the roughly billion citizen-consumers of the industrialized democracies pretty well do determine the destiny of the world, and that's what Adbusters is against.
And, my favorite, in a spread touting the success of last year's Buy Nothing Day (the day after US Thanksgiving, of course) there was a mocked-up store receipt, showing the purchase of"nothing" for no money, the message"participate by not participating" at the bottom and with the"0.00" under"amount tendered" circled in red, in case we missed the point. What they didn't circle, though was the line near the bottom that read"Change: 0.00." Sloppy.
I'm not quite ready to give up on the magazine yet. I'm paid up for a year and a half more, so I may as well give them an issue or two to redeem themselves before pulling the plug. If this is, as I hope, a temporary slippage, then perhaps the outpouring of outrage will get them refocused. Some kind of apology/amends would be nice, too. Soon.
p.s. I just got back from the Association of Asian Studies meeting last weekend. I'll talk more about that later this week.