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Media Armageddon and the Death of Liberal Biopolitics


Economic-rhetorical analysis of The Road, The Book of Eli, and 9. The video clips can be googled as they are official trailers. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Media Armageddon and the Death of Liberal Biopolitics

Media Armageddon and the Death of Biopolitics
  • Majia Holmer Nadesan

My Research
  • Interpretive Research Interprets communications
    produced by societyincluding objective
    science, news reports, social science,
    entertainment, etc.
  • Identifies hegemonic frames or narratives
    circulating within and across communications that
    define what is real, what is happening, what is
    just, what is possible, and what matters.
  • Societal communications reflect and produce
    societal realities

The Cinematic Imagination
  • Cinematic stories reflect and shape societal
    anxieties and desires
  • Meaning operates at latent levels within stories
  • Signs, such as a cannibal, can have meanings
    beyond their surface significance
  • Signs can function as sites of condensed, and
    repressed anxiety or desire

3 Films Examined
  • The Road Directed by John Hillcoat is based on a
    2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy, adapted by writer,
    Joe Penhall. Director Hillcoat
  • The Book of Eli Directed by Albert and Allen
    Hughes, with Gary Whitta as screenwriter,
  • 9 An animated production by Burton, Bekmambetov,
    and Lemley (2009), directed by director Shane
    Acker, with the screenplay written by Pamela

The Book of Eli
Films Depict Collapse of Civilization
  • Survivors in The Book of Eli and The Road have
    lost organizing principles of social existence
    other than brute power.
  • Population is not a source of fecund energies
    rather, population is the basis for ruthless
  • No social contract exists sociality is reduced
    to allegiances of fealty to predatory powers.
  • Remainders and Reminders
  • The father-son relationship dramatized in The
    Road reminds audiences of all that has been lost
  • In The Book of Eli, master signifiers such as the
    Bible oscillate between meanings, at times iconic
    of unleashed fascist power, while at other times
    iconic of law and order.
  • 9 alone dramatizes friendships, but does so in
    the context of internal intrigue and despotism
    born of desperation.

Its What Happens Afterwards
  • As John Jurgensen and Jamin Brophy-Warren (2009)
    write in their Wall Street Journal review, The
    new wave of disaster movies and TV shows isnt
    about staving off the apocalypse. Its what
    happens afterwards that counts.

Cinematic Themes/Historical Trajectories
  • The ambiguity of collapse
  • Abandoned landscapes
  • Blasted collapsed landscapes
  • Desperate consumption
  • Petty fascists undecidable signifiers
  • Cannibalism
  • Surplus populations
  • Collapse of Western Industrial Capitalism and the
    Keynesian State

The Ambiguity of Collapse
  • All 3 films stress ambiguity of the causes of
    collapse, mirroring the ambiguity experienced by
    the public in relation to their understanding of
    the financial collapse

The Ambiguity of Causes of Financial Collapse
  • Collateralized Debt Obligations, Credit Default
    Swaps, Mortgage backed securities, etc.
    frustrates populationthe economy has collapsed
    but the indicators of collapse are mostly
    abstract and virtual and the explanatory
    framework vague

Ambiguity of Collapse
  • Films offer viewers concrete representations of
    collapse, providing an emotionally re-assuring
    set of iconic indicators that allow the
  • viewer to project and displace the
  • experience of collapse
  • onto cinematic
  • collapsed landscapes.
  • Allows cathartic dis-
  • placement of emotions

Cinematic Abandoned Landscapes
Real Abandoned Landscapes
Foreclosed Homes and the Anxiety of Forced
  • Heres a statistic for you 300,000. Thats the
    number of foreclosure filings every month for the
    past 17 months. This year, 1.9 million homes will
    be lost, down from 2 million last year. Is that
    progress? In July alone, 92, 858 homes were
  • Schechter, D. (2010, August 22)

Cinematic Blasted Landscapes
Cinematic Blasted Landscapes
American Public is Used to Seeing Blasted
But not in America
  • a country that once amazed
    the world with its visionary
    investments in
    from the Erie Canal to the
    Interstate Highway System,
    is now in the
    process of
    unpaving itself in a number
    of states, local
    are breaking up roads they
    can no longer
    afford to maintain,
    and returning them to gravel

Collapsed Infrastructures
Real Blasted/Collapsed Landscapes
  • Americas infrastructure is aging and has not
    been adequately invested in for years.
  • Wealthy publics are retreating into gated
    communities to separate themselves from the
    blasted urban-scapes so many of the population
    must inhabit.
  • Moreover, all that remains of most U.S.
    manufacturing is abandoned factories

Katrina as Collapsed Infrastructure
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The Fear of Fiscal CollapseFailed States
  • States face a cumulative budget gap of 127.4
    billion as 46 prepare for the start of their
    fiscal year on July 1, according to a report this
    month by the National Governors Association and
    the National Association of State Budget
    Officers (Miller Feld, 2010).
  • Any recovery in state finances (CA,NY) stems
    from higher taxes (Dougherty, 2010)
  • U.S. Government Support for Financial System Now
    totaling approximately 3.7 Trillion

Cinematic Imagination Desperate Consumption
  • There is no production in the 3 films, only
    desperate consumption.

Real Desperate Consumption
  • De-Industrialization, Globalization, Automation,
    Out-Sourcing, etc. produced a low paid service
    economy for most workers
  • The Wealth of Nations turned on its head as
    national wealth stems from consumption rather
    than production
  • 15 of U.S. GDP produced by manufacturing
  • FIRE economy consumption driven
  • 7 Trillion in Wealth Believed to have Evaporated
  • Americans not paying off debt but defaulting and
    drawing down savings

Desperate Consumption Drawing Down
Desperate Consumption and Real Unemployment at 22
  • Unemployment and Under-employment are emerging as
    the new normals
  • Defining Prosperity Downby Paul Krugman August
    1, 2010
  • Im starting to have a sick feeling about
    prospects for American workers but not, or not
    entirely, for the reasons you might think.
  • Yes, growth is slowing, and the odds are that
    unemployment will rise, not fall, in the months
    ahead. Thats bad. But whats worse is the
    growing evidence that our governing elite just
    doesnt care that a once-unthinkable level of
    economic distress is in the process of becoming
    the new normal.

Food Insecurity Homelessness
  • Early in 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau reported
    that 14.3 of the population, or 47 million
    people -- one in six Americans -- were living
    below the official poverty threshold, currently
    set at 22,400 annually for a family of four.
    Some 19 million people are living in what is
    called extreme poverty, which means that their
    household income falls in the bottom half of
    those considered to be below the poverty line. 
    More than a third of those extremely poor people
    are children.  Indeed, more than half of all
    children younger than six living with a single
    mother are poor.  Extrapolating from this data,
    Emily Monea and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings
    Institution estimate that further sharp increases
    in both poverty and child poverty rates lie in
    our American future (direct quote Frances Fox
    Piven, 2011, http//

Cinematic ImaginationPetty Fascists
Undecidable Signifiers
Real Signifiers Failed American Leadership and
Debased Icons
  • The role cannibalistic violence plays in these
    films is important. Cannibalism dominates in The
    Road. Predatory violence by machine against
    machine dominates 9. Cannibalism, fascist power
    and cruelty are found in The Book of Eli.

Cinematic Imagination Cannibalism
Cannibalized Economy Plundering and Profiteering
Ate the Economy
  • Craig Roberts, summarizes the idea there exists
    little market infrastructure left in the U.S.
    capable of fostering recovery
  • There is no economy left to recover. The U.S.
    manufacturing economy was lost to offshoring and
    free-trade ideology. It was replaced by a
    mythical "New Economy." The "New Economy" was
    based on services. Its artificial life was fed by
    the Federal Reserve's artificially low interest
    rates, which produced a real-estate bubble, and
    by "free market" financial deregulation, which
    unleashed financial gangsters to new heights of
    debt leverage and fraudulent financial products.
    The real economy was traded away for a
    make-believe economy. When the make-believe
    economy collapsed, Americans' wealth in their
    real estate, pensions and savings collapsed
    dramatically while their jobs disappeared. (Paul
    Craig Roberts)

Cannibalistic Economy
  • We have a financial system that, as Michael
    Hudson claims, "destroys the host economy's
    ability to pay" wherein "The economy is turned
    into a Ponzi scheme by recycling debt service to
    make new loans to inflate property prices by
    enough to justify yet new lending." This system
    allows banks to earn never ending interest
    streams Hudson describes the goal of the FIRE
    sector as aiming to create a "perpetual motion
    machine, sustaining an exponential debt growth by
    creating enough new credit to inflate real
    estate, stock and bond prices at a rate that (at
    least for awhile) enables debtors to cover the
    interest falling due financial collapse is
    staved off by the indebted economy trying to
    'borrow its way out of debt'" This is an
    "asset-stripping dynamic. When the bubble
    produced by the perpetual motion machine pops,
    the financial sector demands government aka
    public bailouts to rescue it.

FIRE as Parasitic
A Cannibalized Population
  • Pew Research Center reports Americans on average
  • Americans on average lost 20 of household wealth
    from 2007 to 2009
  • 55 of Americans wages were affected in the
    forms of job layoffs, wage and hour cut backs,
    and unpaid furloughs.
  • 32 of Americans reported unemployment during the

Corporate Profits Cannibalizing Labor
  • http//

Profiting without Labor
Wealth Gaps
  • Forbes magazines list of the worlds
    billionaires (40 percent of them Americans) show
    them with an average net worth of 3.5 billion --
    and an average increase of 500 million in the
    last 12 months. Americas median hourly wage,
    meanwhile, dropped last year, and it continues to
    drop. Thats not even counting the 15 million
    Americans still out of work (Reich, 2010,

Wall Street Executives White Shoe Cannibals
  • Wall Street bonuses soared 17 in 2009 while
    compensation at three leading firmsGoldman Sachs
    Group, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase and
    Corose 31 from 2008 (Popper, 2010).
  • Johnson and Kwak (2010) report that in Q1 of 2009
    Bank of Americas assets were 16.4 of GDP, J.P.
    Morgans were 14.7 and Citigroups asserts were
    at 12.9 of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

Real Cannibalism The Rich Cannibalize Everyone
Cannibalism Expropriation of Value from the
Cannibalistic States The Predatory State
  • In 2008, James Galbraith defined a predator
    state as
  • a coalition of relentless opponents of the
    regulatory framework on which public purpose
    depends, with enterprises whose major lines of
    business compete with or encroach on the
    principal public functions of the enduring New
    Deal. It is a coalition . . . that seeks to
    control the state partly in order to prevent the
    assertion of public purpose and partly to poach
    on the lines of activity that past public purpose
    established. They are firms that have no
    intrinsic loyalty to any country. They operate as
    a rule on a transnational basis, and naturally
    come to view the goals and objectives of each
    society . . . as just another set of business
    conditions, more or less inimical to the free
    pursuit of profit. . . . (p. 131)

The Death of Western Industrial Capitalism and
the Keynesian State
A Sin and a Shame Bob Herbert 7/30/2010 The
treatment of workers by American corporations has
been worse far more treacherous than most of
the population realizes. There was no need for so
many men and women to be forced out of their jobs
in the downturn known as the great recession.
The New World Order Transactional Capitalism
  • Beginning in 1970s, fulcrum of power and profit
    began to shift from the production of commodities
    to the circulation of capital (LiPuma Lee,
    2004, p. 67).
  • An economy dominated by finance As of the
    beginning of 2010, six banks held assets in
    excess of 63 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic
    Product (Moyers, 2010).
  • By 2007, total of all debt-backed securities held
    by financial sector totaled over 36 trillion
    (Johnson Kwak, 2010).

The NWO Emerging Plutonomy
  • Citigroups October 16, 2005 document, Equity
    Strategy Plutonomy Buying Luxury, Explaining
    Global Imbalances, describes a world dividing
    into two blocsthe plutonomies, where economic
    growth is powered by and largely consumed by the
    wealthy few, and the rest (p. 1).
  • The U.S. is a key plutonomy characterized by
    disruptive technology-driven productivity gains,
    creative financial innovation, capitalist-friendly
    cooperative governments, an international
    dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests
    invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law,
    and patenting inventions. (pp. 1-2)

Goldman Sachs Griffiths Says Inequality Helps All
  • Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- A Goldman Sachs
    International adviser defended compensation in
    the finance industry as his company plans a
    near-record year for pay, saying the spending
    will help boost the economy.
  • We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to
    achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for
    all, Brian Griffiths, who was a special adviser
    to former British Prime Minister Margaret
    Thatcher, said yesterday at a panel discussion at
    St. Pauls Cathedral in London. The panels
    discussion topic was, What is the place of
    morality in the marketplace?

The Death of Biopolitics
  • Biopolitics born in the 18th century with liberal
    capitalism. The wealth of nations is the
    population i.e., its productive capacities
  • Biopolitics are a politics of life that act upon
    populations to increase and govern their
  • Biopolitics closely tied to labor theory of value
  • Two sides to biopolitics
  • Eugenic
  • Proto-eugenic (health and social-welfare)

Biopolitics in Post-WWII Environment
  • U.S. world stature tied to military might and
    untouched industrial infrastructure
  • Health and vitality of the populace necessary for
  • Keynesian economic model of demand linked
    aggregate consumption capacity of the populace to
    the wealth of the nation

Death of Biopolitics
  • Neoliberalism defines wealth of nation in
    relation to GDP and this measure has been
    dis-connected from productive and consumptive
    capacities of the population
  • Financialization of the economy and
    transactional capitalism displaced role of
    production in creation of value
  • The biovitalities of the populace are largely
    irrelevant, superfluous to wealth creation

Disposable Populations Tent Cities, Food Banks,
and Disappearing Unemployed
  • 1 in 7 Americans Using Food Stamps
  • Working Population is
    1985 levels (Evans, 2010)
  • Foreclosures Bankruptcies Unabated

Disposable Populations
BP and the Death of Biopolitics
Dis-Investments in Populace Disposable
New Orleans refugees bitter after Katrina
ordeal The Superdome situation, said Lewis, was
"extremely chaotic and disorganized. It was a
total breakdown. "Basically there was nothing.
They had to get people out." Keith Brooks left
the Superdome two days after he arrived. "It
wasn't fit for a dog in there," he said. The
food was "slop." Officials threw bottles of water
for people to catch, he said. He recalled sick,
elderly people being ignored and said he saw a
14-year-old girl being raped. 02 Sep 2005
104855 GMT Source Reuters
(No Transcript)
What is Real?
Chalmers A Sagging Empire or A Re-invented
  • Thirty-five years from now, America's official
    century of being top dog (1945-2045) will have
    come to an end its time may, in fact, be running
    out right now. We are likely to begin to look
    ever more like a giant version of England at the
    end of its imperial run, as we come face-to-face
    with, if not necessarily to terms with, our aging
    infrastructure, declining international clout,
    and sagging economy. It may, for all we know,
    still be Hollywood's century decades from now,
    and so we may still make waves on the cultural
    scene, just as Britain did in the 1960s with the
    Beatles and Twiggy. Tourists will undoubtedly
    still visit some of our natural wonders and
    perhaps a few of our less scruffy cities, partly
    because the dollar-exchange rate is likely to be
    in their favor

Chalmers Johnson cont.
  • If, however, we were to dismantle our empire of
    military bases and redirect our economy toward
    productive, instead of destructive, industries
    if we maintained our volunteer armed forces
    primarily to defend our own shores (and perhaps
    to be used at the behest of the United Nations)
    if we began to invest in our infrastructure,
    education, health care, and savings, then we
    might have a chance to reinvent ourselves as a
    productive, normal nation

  • Binham, C. (2009, October 21). Goldman Sachss
    Griffiths Says Inequality Helps All.
  • Cooper, M. (2010). Governments going to extremes
    as the downturn wears on. The New York Times
  • Dougherty, C. (2010, July 14). Higher taxes boost
    state revenue. The Wall Street Journal.
  • Evans, K. (2010, Aug 10). Sluggish productivity
    flashes warning. The Wall Street Journal, C1.
  • Feudal image http//
  • Herbert, B. http//
  • Johnson, Chalmers (2010). A sagging empire.
    Tomgram http//
  • Krugman, Paul. (2010, August 8). America goes
    dark. The New York Times. http//
  • Miller, R., Feld, A. (2010, June 13). Economy
    in U.S. slows as states lose federal stimulus
    funds. Bloomberg. http//
  • Pew Research Center. (2010, June 30). The great
    recession at 30 months. http//
  • Bloomberg Caroline Binham http//
  • (Reich, 2010, http//

  • Weak pivate hiring shows recovery on the ropes
  • The Long Term Jobless Left Behind
  • Wary US employers keep hiring plans on hold
  • The grimness of US unemployment (FT Alphaville).
  • The Biggest Lie About US Companies (Yahoo).
  • Michael P. Fleischer Why Iím Not Hiring (WSJ).
  • The crisis of middle-class America (Financial
  • Frances Fox Piven (2011) TheWar on the Homefront

(No Transcript)