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the new poll tax

Category : Uncategorized · by Nov 3rd, 2008

It’s rare to see the mainstream media’s pundits really demystify the hidden political motives behind “neutral,” technical, state decisions. Six-hour long voting queues in south Florida, which evoke images of a developing nation’s democracy, are not failures of preparation. They are class- and race-conscious attempts at disenfranchisement. Rachel Maddow, MSNBC’s new post-Matthews counterpart to Kieth Olbermann, correctly identified these motives on her show last night:

This is an example of responsible journalism about an issue that can easily be supplied with an alibi. Here, Maddow reinscribes voting rights within the broader social context, reading the ideology behind these “technical choices.” Critiquing the alleged “objectivity” of the humble social servants at election boards nationwide is the only way to defend against the next Katherine Harris.

In his life-long project to read ideology, Althusser’s most powerful rhetorical moments are his exposures of ideology in the common features of our rythmes de vie. In Marx In His Limits, Althusser actively demystifies the motivations behind supposedly “technical decisions”:

Those who assist the ministers and government in coming to a decision that is ultimately taken by all the political personnel of the state make no bones about the fact that several different ‘technical solutions’ exist, but that a political choice always comes into play, so that only one solution wins out. It is then justified by bogus ‘technical’ arguments, notwithstanding its profoundly political nature…. Class struggle does not take place in the sky. It begins with exploitation… in matter. The matter of factory buildings, machines, energy, raw materials, the ‘working day’ the assembly line, work rhythms, and so on.

Assigning a specific (too-low) number of voting machines in a Florida library is neither a necessary nor a neutral decision. It should never be treated as one.

Yes We Can (stand in line)!


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