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(en) Britain, Direct Action #35 - Books and pamphlets • How mumbo jumbo conquered the world – Francis Wheen; If ordinary people behaved like… – Polyp

Date Tue, 30 Aug 2005 13:56:17 +0300

‘How mumbo-jumbo conquered the world’
Francis Wheen - Harper Perennial ISBN 0-00-714095-5
A consistent and clever writer Wheen takes to task a whole array of
people who have irked him in their sloppy language, deliberate
obfuscation, sophistry and general buggering about with words to
hide meaning or lack of meaning in what they say. A journalist at
heart he is at his best when on the attack whether it’s the right
of the US administration, New Labour nonsense talk, new age
mystics or the now open season target of the
post-structuralist/post-modernists. What this book doesn’t do is
set out anything in opposition to these examples of double speak and
sloppy thinking except perhaps not to speak in double speak and try
to avoid sloppy thinking.

As a book it is worth a read through, its useful to be reminded that
its important that if you have principles then its important to be
consistent with those principles. Its important to try and be clear in
what is being said, tobe consistent in ideas and try to weed out
hypocrisy whether intentional or accidental. Thus anarchist can and
should oppose war, but not just because its wage by our current
bogey state, but because war and the state are inseparable, because
war is part of the nature of the state and it is the working class, the
poor the powerless of all countries who fight and die in these wars.
In opposing war especially by a big bully of a state against a smaller
bully of a state it is an important and consistent part of anarchism
that by opposing the bigger bullies war anarchists do not transpose
their support to the smaller bully. A consistent line based on
collective self empowerment, self organisation mutual aid and
solidarity is at the heart of anarchist politics.

Wheen doesn’t engage much with the anarchist/libertarian left
in any real sense, a few pot shots at Chomsky are about it. Though
given Chomsky’s huge output its probably easy to pick out a few
things to snipe at. In fact the feeling in some places that edifices are
being built on tiny examples is one of the flaws of the book. It may
be that Wheen has tried to stick too much in and these little pots
shots are not isolated events but representative examples, but its not

There are other flaws in the book’s own inherent logic, as an
attack on double talk and sloppy thinking. The section on attempts
by those post-structuralists who sought to engage with science is
fascinating and informative, well argued and clear, but it’s a bit
of a shame to blame post-structuralists for modern political double
speak. Politicians have, lied, twisted, shimmied and dissembled for
centuries – they didn’t need a few French philosophers and
those who have followed floundering for a grasp of reality in their
wake to give them the language to do it.

Polyp - ‘The Complete...If Ordinary People Behaved Like...’
Ethical Consumer 2004 (www.ethicalconsumer.org)

As it says on the cover this is a collection of the ‘If ordinary
people behaved like…’ strip cartoons where the actions and
attitudes of corporations, government bodies and the like are viewed
through the prism of how their actions would be seen if they were
transferred to everyday scenarios.

The targets are obvious, because their behaviour is well known for
their complete immorality, sheer lack of shame and twisted
justifications for their actions; what Polyp does with the skewed view
point of the cartoons is bring all this to neat, precise and very funny
slices of razor-sharp satire.

This slim volume contains cartoons that have not only appeared in
Ethical Consumer but also in previous DAs and no doubt many
other places. In fact Polyp is the modern Steve Bell, whose strips
used to appear everywhere during the Thatcher years. It’s not a
huge tome by any means, but it’s well worth a flick through and
to leave lying around for others to have a quick look too.
Journal of the anarchist Solidarity Federation

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