Prof. Tony Kashani: « Either we will change and build solidarity for a better and just world or become extinct »
Professor Tony Kashani. DR.
Mohsen Abdelmoumen: If Hillary Clinton becomes president, will the United States have elected a president or a war leader? At the death of Gaddafi, Hillary Clinton said “We came, we saw, he died”. Doesn’t this reference to the sentence of Jules César summarize the personality of Hillary Clinton as a war leader of the empire?
Prof. Tony Kashani: What is most disturbing about that line, which she delivered to a CBS reporter on national TV is that she did it with laughter and demeanor of a conqueror. Let’s bear in mind that this happened literally moments after she learned that the deposed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi had been killed. Of course, we know what a disaster that military intervention was, and the aftermath is even worse, costing American and Libyan lives, leaving Libya a failed state with no hope for stability anytime soon. Hillary Clinton has demonstrated time and again that she has no regard for lives of others being destroyed, as they are means to an end for Clinton’s neoliberal/neocon objectives. She has also said publicly, “People can judge me for what I’ve done.”
She has publicly defended her role in the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. And we know that many innocent lives were lost then and continue to be lost now. Presently, Honduras is one of the most violent places on the planet. She has supported regime change policies for Syria, and her record on Afghanistan, Iraq, and Ukraine speaks for itself. People like Henry Kissinger (Clinton’s advisor) see destabilization of Syria and sectarian strife as a good thing for Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as the US positioning itself geopolitically against Russia. Meanwhile, the bloodshed continues. So, we can easily judge her as a war mongering foreign interventionist (ala Henry Kissinger) secretary of state. Don’t be surprised if she brings to her cabinet a gang of neoconservatives to map out plans for increased and new interventionist policies and missions. She can be judged as a war leader who wants to be in charge of the empire.
Does not the Clinton’s coming augur a military intervention in Libya?
Yes. Hillary Clinton was promised a presidency by the coalition of the DNC machine and neoconservative Republicans, taking orders from the episteme created between Wall Street and the Military-Industrial-education complex. One could argue that the military intervention in Libya (advocated and engineered by her) was a test she had to take to prove her merit for such position. Some critics may argue that she failed the test, given the disaster Libya has become. And Barack Obama was reluctant to agree and now is certainly not happy he went along with the plan. But I argue the real test was whether she was capable of bullying Obama into accepting the mission and carrying through the military action, which she did willingly and without hesitation.
Why the United States feels the need to have an enemy? If it’s not anymore the USSR of formerly, is it Russia of Putin or China. Does the US need an enemy to live?
Let me become a Hegelian for a moment. History has proven that every empire needs an enemy for a dialectical interaction in order to perpetuate its imperial policies and continue the pursuit for world domination. Demonization of Russia and China has to be done carefully, given the interdependence of all nation states via globalized market economy. But a terrorist organization like ISIS run by criminal sociopaths who have no regard for lives of others can serve as the perfect enemy. The operatives at ISIS are indeed quite dangerous and technologically sophisticated. Add the secret funding by powerful rich agents that do business with these murderers, buying their illegal oil, for instance, you have a potent enemy for many years into the future.
Hillary Clinton maintained that USA created Al-Qaeda and that herself supported the dispatch of weapons in Syria, weapons which failed in the hands of Daesh (ISIS). How can she run for US elections?
How did George W. Bush become a two-time president after the Iraq debacle? To begin with, it is wrong to assume that the United States is a functioning democracy. For those who have studied Foucault, read and listened to Noam Chomsky, and have read Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” the answer comes easily and with Aristotelian logic. Let me explain.
There is a web of power that determines US politics and the so-called two party system is a manageable entity for the rulers of US society—many call them the 0.1 of the 1%. With the triumph of neoliberalism, we can now call the US political system a single party system. Let’s call it “the business party.” With almost total control over the economy and the culture industry by the overlords of the business party, neoliberal corporatism becomes the religion many citizens subscribe to voluntarily. A systemic anti-intellectualism, which has also permeated the halls of academia under the conduit of “professionalism,” feeds our citizens a daily dose of half-truths about domestic and world news, an overwhelming amount of so-called reality TV (let us not forget that Donald Trump is a Frankenstein monster of such programs) that makes the trivial vital, a so-called justice system that is actually a machine of punishment for those who fall out of discipline, and general fear and insecurity.
Every four years the system produces a sophisticated spectacle known as the presidential election. The actors are usually well established and carefully selected. The corporate media engineers and manages the production meticulously and with solid discipline. Given the freedom of speech/press, citizen journalism, and open discourses on social media, the corporate media’s job is becoming increasingly more challenging. But they have the financial and political muscle to suppress and marginalize independent truth-tellers. Ask the average American citizen about Amy Goodman, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Julian Assange and he or she might have a vague recollection of something pejorative mentioned about these figures, and that is all.
The system’s main objective is to produce what Foucault called “docile citizens.” Once socialized and “educated” (i.e., indoctrinated), these citizens are transformed into law abiding consumers and wealth producing functionaries.
This time around, candidate Hillary Clinton to become the first woman president of the United States was a tough sell at first, given her horrible record as a senator and secretary of state and her lack of captivating personality. She does not have the charm of Ronald Reagan, the slickness of her husband Bill Clinton, or the charisma and rhetorical skills of Barack Obama. The last time around, choosing Obama over Hillary was a gamble that paid off handsomely for the 1 percenters. The young voters’ romance with Obamas, the historical mandate (by the people) for electing the first black president, and Obama’s willingness to manage the free market system made the choice easy for the rulers. But they needed a full proof plan for Hillary. A plan that even the progressives had to go along with. There were massive challenges to overcome. The Millennials were mistakenly dismissed as naive and duped by anti-intellectualism. But they were underestimated. Their energy and enthusiasm for a better future gave rise to ascendency of Bernie Sanders. Sanders was speaking truth to power and gaining popularity. The corporate media had to give Sanders coverage. But in the end, corporatism overcame the Sanders challenge.
Initially, the Republicans wanted a man of their own representing the business party so they allowed Donald Trump to bully the established candidates. And now he is their candidate, and a neo-fascist disaster at best. His bizarre behavior and xenophobic racist rhetoric is scaring many liberal and conservative Americans. Therefore, selling Hillary is suddenly so much easier. Any reasonable person will choose Clinton over Trump. She is officially the lesser of the two evils, and that is a narrative that has sold quite spectacularly. Many people could turn a blind eye to her capitulations to the oppressive regime in Israel, her disastrous foreign policy, her obvious role as a tool for Wall Street, and her advocacy for TPP and Fracking, and her past record of corruption and lying. And for those who are quite aware of these things and very angry about it all, the good old fashioned voter extortion works every time. Who do you want a war monger or a fascist who hates minorities and women? Innocent North African and Middle Easterners killed via military interventionist policies may be the price you have to pay. But your way of life will be protected if Hillary becomes president. It is almost a sure bet. Trump is easy to hate. In comparison Hillary seems reasonable, civil, and of course, she is “experienced.” System is preserved, once again. We have seen this movie before.
If Trump continues to drop in polls, there is an excellent chance that we will have the lowest voter turnout in history of US presidential elections while at once having the largest percentage of votes going to the Green candidate Jill Stein and the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
With this structural crisis which lives the capitalism, what remains of the American Dream, reflected especially in American cinema?
Capitalism, especially in its latest manifestation, is reaching a point of implosion. That is a given. When will the global economy decide to, or rather be forced to, convert to a market system that is predicated on democratic principles and sustainability? I don’t have an oracle to tell you, but I don’t see capitalism reforming itself, as is predicated on exploitation of resources—including human labor—to benefit the capitalists. History has proven that the proverbial neoclassic invisible hand does not exist. Maybe that’s why it is invisible! But we have excellent examples of other ways of producing economies that are sustainable and fair. Mondragon corporation of Spain comes to mind. Mondragon is a business collective comprised of autonomous and independent cooperatives (employee owned and operated businesses) with production subsidiaries and corporate offices in 41 countries and sales in more than 150, including the United States, Mexico, and Canada. They are not in the business of selling millionaire making dreams.
American cinema (Hollywood) has had a direct hand at preserving the myth of the American dream with its genre and star systems. But one cursory examination of Hollywood proves that even American cinema, with the exception of Romantic Comedies, is turning cynical toward the Horatio Alger myth of rags to riches. In melodrama after melodrama characters who backstab and betray others to get ahead get away with their crimes. They are selling a perverted version of the American Dream, one could argue. The thriller genre is especially designed this way. The good guy doesn’t always win and the rich and powerful do get away with murder. One good news is that we are seeing movies like “Big Short” and “Spotlight” get more attention by the viewing public than the so-called blockbusters that tend to have good guys winning.
The indoctrination and brainwashing via the mass media in the countries of the capitalist center have they been successful, namely a population with, on top, the rich being richer and then the poor who live a precarious existence but don’t accept the change? Is not the issue of consumerism central if we want a change of any kind?
When it comes to mass media, we are literally living in the age of convergence. This is mostly true in the Western hemisphere. Although, according to new data, more than two-thirds of the population lives within an area covered by a mobile broadband network and ICT services continue to become more affordable, more than half of humanity is not yet using the Internet. What is more, in poor countries access to wide broadband and fast internet is limited. In some ways, one could say the poor in developing nations are not brain washed—not yet. But they are also kept ignorant of what happens in the world.
In any event, we are seeing much technological convergence along with economic convergence where ownership consolidation off global media is creating a central culture industry. What is also certain is that we are seeing much cultural convergence around the globe. The idea is that if the Oligarchs in charge of giving people the worldview, via the media, produce enough anti-intellectual and consumerist programs and control the news agenda with narratives that support global capitalism, then they can keep people in the Platonic cave of ignorance. Therefore, they can continue exploiting labor and resources, keep people insecure and desperate, give them only freedom to choose consumer goods and not democratic rights, and amuse them to death so they are conditioned to want to vegetate when they have free time. Working people are too tired to be activists so they just watch reality TV and keep busy with snapchat. That’s the idea. But the independent reality of poverty and sickness, global warming, and financial crisis of different sorts, war and terrorism, and international refugee crisis will eventually trump the fake reality produced by oligarchical corporate mass media. Either we will change and build solidarity for a better and just world or become extinct. It really has become a binary situation. The possibility of justice is in our hands, but so is the possibility of self-destruction.
With the emergence of private security companies like Blackwater (now Academi) and others that are in all conflict zones, serving the military industrial complex, don’t you think that the State itself is privatized?
Yes. I do. The very ideology of neoliberalism aims for privatization of everything. This includes the education system, health care, the judicial system, prison system, police force, and of course the military too. I mean, think about it. Any moral philosopher would agree that “for profit” healthcare should be considered a crime against humanity and its practitioners ought to be held accountable and punished accordingly. But the state calls it a choice for free citizens.
Neoliberalism wants a so-called “minimal state” but at the same time accepts the central bank with money issue monopoly and government bailouts of big private banks when necessary. In other words, socialism for the rich and extreme capitalism for the poor when the rich want to preserve their dominance. The existence of entities like Blackwater proves that we have arrived at an age of legalized corruption and naked state-sponsored militarism only to protect the interest of the superrich. I am of course including what learned people in developing world call the Washington Consensus where US Treasury, IMF, and the World Bank (all located in Washington) support policies of privatization of everything. And this sometimes requires private military muscle to augment the national military.
In front of media mainstream, are the alternative media today vital in the fight against the capitalism and the imperialism?
Yes. And alternative media come in different shapes and forms. There are the publicly funded radio networks such as “Democracy Now,” “Pacifica Radio Network” in the US and independent Internet based newsgroups like “The Real News Network” in Canada, and the Millennials favorite in the US, “The Young Turks.” And so many thousands of independent journalistic blogs that are doing transformative work, as they are not bound to professional corporate funding and control. Collectively, this is a serious competition to Oligarchical corporate media.
Then there is the delivery platform to consider. We now have a fast maturing free social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube that a critically media literate global citizen can utilize to start local and global discourses, news and information sharing, organizing, and general citizen journalism. The social media have produced an interesting phenomenon. These are private entities that provide platforms for folks to connect and interconnect in the cyberspace, mostly to sell more consumer goods to the users. But many people turn the tables on that agenda and use the social media sites for local and global activism. The virtual world and the physical world tend to overlap in many cases. But philosophically and historically speaking, digital humanities are still in its toddler age. The next ten years are quite promising years for alternative media with social media as the polyvalent platform of delivery.
Additionally, we must also remember that cinema continues to be a transformative medium of communication on a global scale. Independent filmmakers continue to elevate and transform the consciousness of the individual and masses. For example, the Dardenne brothers of Belgium and Michael Moore of the US have had enormous success with their activist filmmaking. I discuss the role of cinema in this realm in my most recent book,Movies Change Lives (2016).
In your book Hollywood’s Exploited, the eminent intellectual Henry Giroux is a reference. Doesn’t Henry Giroux represent for you a major key in various themes including film, art, education, etc?
Henry Giroux has been a mentor and a friend to me. Indeed, his work, under the general umbrella of critical theory, not only in critical pedagogy, but also in media criticism has influenced my own contributions to the field of interdisciplinary studies and specifically media/culture studies. In my opinion, Giroux is one of the top ten most courageous and insightful public intellectuals in North America and certainly one of the top twenty in the world today. I have had the good fortune and the privilege of collaborating with him in book projects and receiving his generous endorsement of some of my books. His original and fluid theories taught me to understand cinema as a teaching machine. And his relentless pursuit of social justice through intellectual activism has always inspired me to get better at my craft and always remain hopeful for social change.
One of the topic-headlight of Giroux is violence. Through the blockbusters which spread violence in the world, didn’t Hollywood become a component of the matrix of violence?
Giroux is correct by pointing out that Hollywood is one of the most potent sites of pedagogy for Americans—and by extension global audiences. And he has argued that violence is one of the foundational elements of Hollywood cinema. Almost every genre employs plots that are predicated on violent themes. In the name of entertainment Hollywood cinema teaches its audiences to be comfortable with violence as a means to an end and consider violence a performance art. Obviously I agree with his argument.
Hollywood has always used violence to tell (show) its stories. What is more, Hollywood teaches Americans their history. That is to say, history according to Hollywood. For example, through Western genre the extermination of Native Americans is seen as an inevitable battle for survival in a social Darwinist manner that is widely accepted by many audiences. With the exception of a few films like “Soldier Blue” and “Little Big Man,” in the 60’s and 70’s we never see a Western that portrays the genocide of Native Americans at the hands of the White Settlers. In fact, the use of the word “genocide” is met with fervent resistance in most dominant circles in the US. Cinematic stories of “genocide” would implicate accountability for a systematic annihilation of a people, a people who prior to arrival of the European conquerors (starting with Columbus in 1492) lived here harmoniously with nature, without ever needing to have “private property.” The Western genre with its portrayal of Indians has played a role in shaping historical sensibilities of a nation known as the United States of America. Within the dichotomy of “wilderness and civilization” the role of the Indian has been the stereotypical savage without personality, inherently evil, and motivated in killing the white people for no reason. And the good guys (the white settlers) have no choice but to use violence to solve the Native American problem. It is defense in cinematic fashion. The same logic is applied to other genres. Thanks to the War movies, to this day the majority of Americans believe that dropping the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a necessary act of violence to save millions of innocent lives. The two most popular genres are “Action Adventure,” which is code for sex and violence, and the “Horror movie,” which is predicated entirely on mindless violence by “the evil other” that requires extreme violence by the good guys. How is that for teaching xenophobia?
Isn’t Fascism structural in Hollywood?
When a cinema structurally uses stereotypes of the “other” (e.g., Germans as evil bad guys, Arabs and Russians as communist or Islamic terrorists, Black men as thugs and rapists, Asians as meek nerds, and black women as lazy and promiscuous) to construct narratives of implicit white supremacy, one is compelled to call it a Fascist storytelling machine. The demonizing of the “other” is indeed a Fascist approach.
What evokes for you the presence of Bob Dylan in Super Bowl?
The commodification of Bob Dylan as an American icon is possible in the Neoliberal Age. And Dylan willingly participating and financially benefiting from selling his status as a “rebel” to sell consumerism is a tragedy. But again, it is not a recent tragedy, as my essay (published on truthout.org) explained.
What is left of Dylan’s protest songs and of Blowin in the wind?
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is the Professor Tony Kashani?
Tony Kashani is professor of liberal arts at Brandman University. He is a trilingual interdisciplinary thinker English, Farsi/Persian and Turkish/Azerbaijani. He works as a college professor, an author, and a cultural critic. Tony is a practicing black belt in Karate (Shotokan), always looking to achieve a mind-body-spirit balance. He lives with his family in San Francisco. Tony’s scholarly work is anchored in critical theory and his pedagogy is founded upon dialogic critical teaching philosophy and methods.
Tony Kashani holds his Ph.D. in Humanities with concentration in Transformative Learning and Change at the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco. His research and teaching interests are : Humanities, Interdisciplinary Studies, Visual Culture, Media Studies, Ethics, Digital Filmmaking/Photography, Global Cultural Studies, Pedagogy, Philosophy & Psychology of Art, East-West Philosophy/Psychology, Postcolonial Theory, Political Philosophy, Cosmopolitanism, Planetary Complexity, Film History, Electronic Media and Social Justice, Curriculum Design, Digital Communication Theory, Mass Communications, Qualitative Research Methods, Critical Pedagogy, Cyber Journalism.
Dr Kashani is Co-Director of Modern Media Dialogue Project at Hutchins School of Liberal Arts, Sonoma State University, and Scholar Member of Global Studies Association (North America), and Scholar Member of Radical Philosophy Association.
He is the author of several books, including two editions of Deconstructing the Mystique: An Interdisciplinary Introduction to Cinema(2005, 2009, Kendall/Hunt Press); he is contributing coeditor of Hollywood’s Exploited: Public Pedagogy, Corporate Movies, and Cultural Studies (2010, Palgrave/MacMillan Press); Lost in the Media: Ethics of Everyday Life (2013, Peter Lang Publishing); Dr. Kashani’s latest book is Movies Change Lives: A Pedagogy of Constructive Humanistic Transformation Through Cinema (2016, Peter Lang Publishing). He wrote also many papers in journals and chapters in books like: Bob Dylan and the Ethics of Market Fascism http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/21853-bob-dylan-and-the-ethics-of-market-fascism; Ethics of Uprising in the Age of New Media (World Futures Journal of General Evolution. Under review); From Plato’s Cave: Giroux and Critical Pedagogy (Policy Futures in Education, Forthcoming, Spring 2012 issue); Hollywood and Nonhuman Animals: Problematic Ethics of Corporate Cinema (Chapter in Hollywood’s Exploited: Corporate Movies, Public Pedagogy and Cultural Crisis, 2010, Palgrave MacMillan Press); Hollywood’s Cinema of Ableism: A Disability Studies Perspective on the Hollywood (Chapter in Hollywood’s Exploited: Corporate Movies, Public Pedagogy and Cultural Crisis,2010, Palgrave MacMillan Press); Dissident Cinema: Defying the Logic of globalization (Chapter in Global Studies Association 2007 Annual Book, 2008, Changemaker Press); 300: Proto-fascism and Manufacturing of Complicity(2007, Under review at Film Quarterly, Dissident Voice); Complex Cinema: Becoming Dissident Cinema (2007, Dissident Voice); The Truman Show: Cinema of Active Imagination. A Jungian Analysis. (2005, CG Jung Center), and other. Dr. Kashani is also guest speaker and lecturer in many conferences.
His website is www.tonykashani.com.
Published in American Herald Tribune, August 30, 2016:http://ahtribune.com/politics/1174-tony-kashani-solidarity.html
In French in Palestine Solidarité:http://www.palestine-solidarite.org/analyses.mohsen_abdelmoumen.010916.htm