The worst Guardian CiF article I’ve read (today)

The art of writing an effective CiF article seems to be cramming the minimum amount of point in as much horrendous writing as possible. By this measure, Angela Davis’ recent article, with the suitably meaningless title “The 99%: a community of resistance”, is a very effective article indeed. Here’s why:

1. Clumsy Stupid Rhetoric.

“When the Occupy Wall Street movement erupted on 17 September 2011…”

Nakedly partisan. Massively overblown. Possibly inaccurate. Mildly sexual? Good start.

“well-established and similar encampments had emerged in hundreds of communities around the country…”

Communities is one of my least favourite examples of unspeak. In this context, at least, I think she means ‘cities’ – ‘the encampments emerged in hundreds of cities around the country’.

“which would mean working on behalf of those who have suffered most from the tyranny of the 1%.”

The meaning of tyranny risks being neutered through misuse. Does Angela Davis honestly look at oppressed people protesting in genuinely tyrannical regimes and think, ‘oh, do they have to pay for their university education too?’

“we have had to engage in difficult coalition-building processes, negotiating the recognition for which communities and issues inevitably strive.”

I don’t know what coalition-building processes are, nor what makes them difficult (or what doesn’t, for that matter). Must you ‘engage’ in them? And she’s talking about communities again – though this time I think she’s using it to mean ‘peoples’. Can issues ‘strive’ for something?

“I don’t know whether any of us could not have predicted that on the second day of the conference, the plenary audience of more than 1,000 would be so riveted by this historical conjuncture that almost all of us spontaneously joined a night march…”

If this conference was anything like I suspect it was, I think I could’ve predicted you would ‘spontaneously’ do that. I think I could’ve predicted it very easily. Unless the double negative isn’t a typo and that’s your point…

“Indeed, it can be persuasively argued that the 99% should move to ameliorate the conditions of those who constitute the bottom tiers of this potential community of resistance”

Sure, it can be persuasively argued, but why bother when it’s easier to just assert that this is the case? And she’s using fucking community again! Only this time, it seems to be referring to, well, everyone minus the 1%. So we’ve got a community of communities occupying communities. Crystal.

“They call upon the majority to stand up against the minority. The old minorities, in effect, are the new majority.”

This strikes me as being the first part of the article to be written. “The old minorities are the new majority”. That’s the sort of ethereal guff certain people go nuts over. It doesn’t actually make any sense of course, whether in effect or in actuality.

“And if we identify with the 99%, we will also have to learn how to imagine a new world, one where peace is not simply the absence of war, but rather, a creative refashioning of global social relations.”

Why if we identify with the 99% do we have to do that? I honestly have no idea what the writer is getting at here.

2. Clumsy Stupid Language

I am probably being really unfair, but parts of the article made my brain vomit inside my own skull. Offending words and phrases in bold…

I happened to be reflecting on my remarks for the upcoming International Herbert Marcuse Society conference.”

“…we were struck by the serendipitous affinity of the theme with the emergent Occupy movement…”

[Aside: can something that’s previously erupted be considered emergent?]

“…we repeatedly expressed our enthusiasm about the confluence of the Wall Street and Philadelphia occupations and the conference theme, which seemed to us to emphatically enact the 21st-century relevance of Herbert Marcuse’s work.”

“…which wended its way through the streets of Philadelphia toward the tents outside city hall.”

“At the site, I reflected aloud – with the assistance of the human microphone…”

“Thus, the most pressing question facing the Occupy activists is how to craft a unity that respects and celebrates the immense differences among the 99%.”

As you can imagine, after reading the article I reflected upon an emergent need to craft a unity between the computer screen and my fist.

3. Clumsy Stupid 53-Word Long Paragraph

At what point in the paragraph quoted below do you a) find yourself merely scanning instead of reading, b) forget how the sentence began and what the point is, and c) lose the will to live.

“The organising theme of the conference – “Critical Refusals” – was originally designed to encourage us to reflect on the various ways Marcuse’s philosophical theories push us in the direction of a critical political practice located outside the proper realm of philosophy, but nevertheless as anchored in philosophy as it is in a will to transform society.”

For me, the answers to a), b) and c) are all at ‘PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE MAKE THE PAIN STOP’. At least, that’s what flashes before my eyes before I black out for a few hours.

4. Clumsy Stupid Crowbarring of a Point

Although hazy on the specifics, I think it’s kinda been established that OWS (and company) are pro- social equality and anti- capitalist greed. Watch how Angela Davis tacks on her own particular beef with all the grace and subtlety of a wild elk suffering from dystonia attempting to re-tile your bathroom floor.

“In the past, most movements have appealed to specific communities – workers, students, black people, Latinas/Latinos, women, LGBT communities, indigenous people – or they have crystallised around specific issues like war, the environment, food, water, Palestine, the prison industrial complex.”

“It seems to me that an issue such as the prison industrial complex is already implicitly embraced by this congregation of the 99%.”

“We are learning also to say no to global capitalism and to the prison industrial complex.”

“Decarceration and the eventual abolition of imprisonment as the primary mode of punishment can help us begin to revitalise our communities and to support education, healthcare, housing, hope, justice, creativity and freedom.”

“There is a direct connection between the pauperising effect of global capitalism and the soaring rates of incarceration in the US.”

5. Clumsy Stupid Complete and Utter Absence of an Argument



2 thoughts on “The worst Guardian CiF article I’ve read (today)

  1. That has to be rated as a truly outsttanding example of 2nd-year sociology-speak by the terminally self-important.

    I’m afraid I’m speaking about the CiF extracts quoted – and as a former sociology student. And probably terminally self-important, too, but I think I’ve mellowed a bit and can spot empty, circular, self-regarding and exclusive nonsense when I see it.

    What a great, great shame. I have admired Angela Davis for decades but I now fear for her coherence and ability to communicate, at the very least.

    1. Ha ha! As I was reading it I was squirming in embarrassment as it reminded me of the turgid shite I used to squeez out through my hole to meet undergrad essay deadlines and up the word count.

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