North Korea Is Not a Threat – Unveiling Hegemonic Discourses

That security is socially constructed does not mean that there are not to be found real, material conditions that help to create particular interpretations of threats, or that such conditions are irrelevant to either the creation or undermining of the assumptions underlying security policy. Enemies, in part, “create” each other, via the projections of their worst fears onto the other; in this respect, their relationship is intersubjective. To the extent that they act on these projections, threats to each other acquire a material character.
-Ronnie Lipschutz, UCSC

Kim Jong-Il wants attention. And now he has it. He won’t go in our ‘Morons of the Week’ column and certainly scores points for knowing how to misuse national resources to get international attention.

Our problem with MSM coverage of the North Korea ‘missile threat’ is with the purported hegemonic discourse. Hegemonic discourse does not pertain to just speech; it refers to whole narratives, with a hero and a villain, and us and them that we must defeat and overcome. The point of hegemonic discourse–in this case the discourse of the United States on demonizing North Korea and drawing attention to its nuclear activities—is to subjugate and oppress the counter-discourses of a race-war, nuclearism and anti-capitalism.

(1) Race war discourse

While this is not a clash of civilizations, it is certainly a race war in that the entire discourse revolves around preventing certain kinds of people from acquiring and using nuclear weapons.  Would the United States use the same tactics in France? Or even India? No, in fact it looked the other way on outrageous French nuclear testing in the Pacific and supports India’s nuclear program despite the fact that it is not a signatory of the NPT!

Ronnie Lipschutz has some fine lines for us in On Security:

To be sure, the United States and Russia do not launch missiles against each other because both know the result would be annihilation. But the same is true for France and Britain, or China and Israel. It was the existence of the Other that gave deterrence its power; it is the disappearance of the Other that has vanquished that power. Where Russia is now concerned, we are, paradoxically, not secure, because we see no need to be secured. In other words, as Ole Waever might put it, where there is no constructed threat, there is no security problem. France is fully capable of doing great damage to the United States, but that capability has no meaning in terms of U.S. security.

On the other hand, see the Iran nuclear ‘crisis’ as an example. The United States has demonized Ahmadinejad at every opportunity and conjured him up as an Islamic fundamentalist and nationalist who will defy non-proliferation at all costs. On the other hand, Ahmadinejad cheekily asked the United States to join the rest of civilization in worshipping God. That is the discourse of race war but it is concealed by juridical discourse—the hegemonic discourse.

To borrow from Michael Foucault, the United States is using the juridical schema of nuclear non-proliferation to conceal the war-repression schema. North Korea is the historical Other, the terrorist, the threat against whom the world must be protected in the juridical schema. Yet, under the war-repression schema, North Korea is a sovereign nation with the right to develop nuclear and communications technology. And this latest action is really nothing more than a plea for economic help.

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Threat Construction Triumphs – Paranoia is the Fear of the 21st century


The bogeyman of this century is the ‘Other’ be it an unknown ‘Muslim terrorist,’ an ‘illegal alien’ or even our neighbor across the fence. It is the ‘not-yet-discovered’ or articulated security threat. And finally, a leading psychiatrist has pegged the paranoia stemming from a multitude of factors, as our greatest ‘fear.’

Yes, a leading psychiatrist at King’s College London has carried out the decade-long research and found that one in four people suffer irrational fears of either being threatened or in danger on a regular basis. In fact, according to Dr Daniel Freeman, paranoia is far more common than had been suspected and is on the rise, as a result of growing inequity, social isolation and a far more competitive society.


US research showed populations with the widest income inequalities also had the lowest levels of trust, and highest death rates. Mistrust was associated with greater numbers of deaths from cancer, heart disease and strokes. Dr Freeman also criticised the media for hyping up threats and adopting an “if it bleeds, it leads” attitude to coverage. He added that the news coverage given to crime outweighs coverage of ‘real killers’ such as heart disease, cancer and road accidents, which fosters a culture of paranoia.

The point is to remember that fear and actual risk or threat do not necessarily correlate but rather that the material conditions of life, especially the mainstream media and state elites, incite fear to achieve their hegemonic ends. George W. Bush and the war against Iraq is a perfect case in point that need not be reiterated here. The nativist overbloating of ‘illegal alien’ criminality and costs to the U.S. economy is another.

Freeman’s findings are published in Paranoia: The 21st Century Fear available now.

This book sounds like ‘fodder’ for the Critical Security Studies school of thought. I wrote a paper on this a while ago that is available in here. I hope the author touches on ideology and discourse while discussing media exaggerations of threats.

I’ll provide more resources and research on this if anyone is interested.

DNC Day 3 – Democracy is Melting


Most people believe in change only when they can see it, measure it, maybe even evaluate or experience it.


Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese (Ligorano/Reese), in conjunction with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, presented The State of Things, an ice sculpture of the word “Democracy.” According to Nora and Reese:

“The sculpture is emblematic of our times – our democracy is in danger of wasting away at an imperceptible rate. What stands out – is that for the amount of time most people view art – 1 minute or less – the sculpture won’t seem to change, yet by day’s end, it will be gone – disappeared, like so much of what is happening to the values and institutions that make America a great country… This piece focuses on the impact of the War on Terror… and how it has transformed American society.”

You can watch an accelerated video of the ‘melt-down’ here:

In the following video, Angela Davis talks about experiences from her own life and how she can discern that change has occured

How Does Change Occur? When ordinary people can see themselves as agents of social change, form a collective consciousness, and recognize that they have the power to change the social realities.

Day 2 – The REAL democratic National Convention vs. the Police State

One after another, the women leaders of the Democrat National Party took center-stage on Day 2. The roster included Governor K. Selebius, Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator Claire McCaskill, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Maria Cantwell, Governor Napolitano, and finally Hillary Clinton rounded up the day. The subliminal message was clear–women stand to gain more from a Barack Obama Presidency than a McCain one.

Yet, none of the women senators pointed out the gross injustice and violation of human and constitutional rights happening against women just outside their closed tent of the DNC–Code Pink (a women for peace group) supporters were among the many protesters holding a non-violent demonstration that were beaten and pepper-sprayed by cops. They were delegates that were unseated and unheard at the convention. Quite democratic, no?

DNC Rules Protest by andycarvin.

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The Perpetual War on Immigrant Students

It seems that we have built quite an appetite for war at home and abroad. Our foreign policy mirrors our domestic one and vice-versa–Overseas, we are destroying families, communities, killing innocent children, deferring their dreams permanently through a ‘war against terrorism’ and at home we are killing the spirit and dreams of our undocumented immigrant youth by deporting them while destroying families and local economies in ICE raids. Even the beneficiaries of both wars are a similar prototype: CORPORATIONS. While big oil and security companies stand to gain most from the new spaces of neo-liberal globalization created by waging war against sovereign peoples, corrections and security companies also make big moolah with the creation of new spaces of detention. It is such a fascinating observation. Really, I wonder why we divide it up into a foreign/domestic dichotomy when they are connected, one and the same. It is United States policy.

This morning, no sooner had I come down from the good news about the private bill for Arthur Mkoyan, there was yet another case of deportation coming out of the shadows–Camila Hornung and family are currently in a detention facility facing deportation back to Peru in less than 2 weeks.  Reprieve is next to impossible and it is unlikely to create the hue and cry that Arthur Mkoyan did. And even Arthur’s immigration troubles are far from over–his private bill simply delays deportation proceedings till the bill is defeated.

Sarjina Emy, Tope Awe, Meynardo Garcia, Mario Munoz, Lino Nakwa, Anya Gorlova, Arthur Mkoyan, Camila Hornung are names that we do not want to lose to history. They are victims of a unique system which punishes children for the civil violations of their parents. Thousands of undocumented students find themselves caught in the cross-fire of a battle that they never volunteered to fight — the swords were drawn on each side of the border, with these children and young adults cast in-between, in-limbo, simply yearning to live and breath productive lives.
Does anyone ever stop to think where we are headed with this perpetual war against students?

But for every one of these students whom we have ironically, documented, there are countless others that are undocumented, faceless and nameless–their existence erased from even the margins of history.

Accused of using taxpayer dollars (nevermind the fact that their parents are also taxpayers), accused of criminality (nevermind that ‘illegal presence’ is a mere civic violation), accused of taking the college seats of U.S. citizen children (nevermind that those seats are earned through hard-work and merit, and the percentage of college seats filled by undocumented students is less than one percent-not noteworthy), these students are the latest victims of displaced anger and misguided immigration policies.

Can you prove that your healthcare premium is high due to a DREAM Act student? Can you accuse undocumented students for high gasoline prices and the rate of inflation–a major source of your frustration no doubt? Can you accuse these students for taking away your jobs in agriculture, hotel, retail, construction? Can you show me statistics that say deporting a high-school educated DREAMer saves us money, balances the budget and helps the economy? Can you give me names of students that could not afford school or did not gain admissions in colleges due to undocumented students being more qualified?  Can you even craft a jurido-legal opinion that justifies deporting these students? Probably no to all counts. No, I don’t want to hear that “Illegal is Illegal” — that has already been refuted countless times here, here and here.

Enough with the war on immigrant students. Perpetual war for perpetual peace is an empty promise. I can guarantee you that deporting young immigrant students and their families would not make your life any better. It would probably make your immediate life worse with rocket-high prices of primary products and your retirement worse when the United States needs workers to fund social security for the baby boomers.