V and the Protesters

Some of the protesters have been using references to V for Vendetta during the demonstrations. Turns out Scott went up and talked to them, and asked whether they knew that V is an anarchist, or that the V sign is an inverted anarchy symbol. They didn’t.

Scott thinks they’re “retards” who are guilty of “ethnocentric cultural misappropriation,” and that “they think that going to a massive anti-government demonstration is cosplay and means nothing serious in the end…” and that I’m being patronizing in excusing this.

I disagree. Wanna know why?

The whole comment thread is here, and I invite you to read it all because I’m boiling down Scott’s argument a lot, but here’s my main comment:

First off, I find it hilarious that one might call the use of costumes in a protest movement “retarded,” consider its long history. For example, “retarded cosplay” figured in none other than protests of the Vietnam war, and after all, the hippies you think so highly of also followed a rather ornate set of costume codes during the Summer of Love; on one level, it could easily be seen as having involved a rather large exhibit of “cosplay.” Does that make the Summer of Love “nothing serious” and “retarded” too?

But there’s a more interesting example in the Luddites. They made extensive use of cross-dressing, somehow not mentioned in Wikipedia at all, though you can see on the image on the main Wikipedia page that the image of Nedd Ludd is of a man in a dress. They did it for a simple reason, which was that violence would be much less likely used on women than on men, as well as to effect a kind of disguise. This kind of thing isn’t even limited to the twentieth century, either: the Luddites and Saboteurs were famous cross-dressers, for the same reasons. And — realistic or not — the fears that were expressed online in discussions of how authorities might respond to the protests, such as for example agents provocateurs starting fights among protesters, were oddly reminiscent of the same fears nineteenth-century Luddites.

And also note: I’m not saying the protesters are the same as the Luddites. The Luddites had a pretty clear goal in mind and seemed to be fighting for a clear agenda… sort of. (Though there’s scholarship that suggests it was a different agenda than we commonly think, thanks to anti-Luddite propaganda, so even there there’s some confusion.) The lack of clarity here is something I’ve criticized myself, in my comment responding to you, and people I talked about it with on Saturday mostly agreed. But masks and disguises and costumes have long been a part of protest movements — including some that you hold in high esteem — so mocking it here as “retarded” and mere “cosplay” seems unfair.

As for intellectual laziness and not reading movie reviews, I understand your exasperation, but you seem to be overlooking the fact that the movie was not the comic book, and that plenty of people — not just lazy ones — don’t read movie reviews or blogs about the films they see — especially the ones they liked or that resonated for them. We can go around denouncing them as ignorant and ethnocentric, or instead, and this is likely to be more useful in figuring out what they did and why, we can ask ourselves why they chose to take up that symbol despite their not being anarchists themselves.

One useful starting point is the fact that anarchism was almost completely excised from the movie: most of the English-language critics who mentioned it were mentioning its absence from the film, and any Korean critic who did otherwise, even in Cine21, was undoubtedly just trying to show off that he or she had read the Wikipedia entry on the book, because dude, seriously; that movie is not about anarchism. In any way, shape, or form. It all but screams for an American-liberal reading.

And by the way, before you dismiss that observation, and before you get too comfortable with the idea I’m patronizing Koreans here, I’d like to point out that the English-speaking internet has largely much missed out on the connection too. If you Google (English-language webpages only, to ensure we catch all the references to anarchy in English) for “V for Vendetta” you’ll find close to 4 million hits. Then add “anarch*” (a wildcard that will include anarchy, anarchist, anarchic, anarchism, etc.) to the search and it drops down to just a bit over a hundred thousand mentions.

When you calculate it all out, it appears that approximately 2.5% of English-language discussions of V for Vendetta make any mention of anarchism or anarchist thought… in other words, the majority of Anglophones discussing the film online — Anglophones who have the leisure of reading book reviews and even of going out and reading the original comic book in their own language — are also guilty of “ethnocentric cultural misappropriation,” or, er… no, that would sound silly, wouldn’t it?

Yes, it would, because after all, as I imagine you know, this is precisely how popular cultures work. Figures morph and transform over time, and their treatments by later derivative artists — especially in film! — change their popularly understood meanings. These days when we think of Superman, we think of him fighting “crime” or taking on an insane military-industrial-science complex (as often personified by Lex Luthor); that is, as an extension of the justice system or the state. Most of us don’t think of old Superman as a raging fighter for the rights of the working poor, though in the early days of the comic, he often fought villains like slumlords, corrupt state orphanage administrators, and crooked bosses. Most people don’t remember that in Korea and America alike.

And perhaps you have missed the discussions of V online in English, but there was actually a lot of disappointment expressed (by those who knew and loved the book) at how little of the original intellectual/anarchist basis remained. This is one of the reasons Alan Moore himself hated the film and distanced himself from it: he noted that is actually recast the original political conflict in the book — fascism versus anarchism — as something else — American neoconservativism versus American liberalism. So, really, even Moore thinks the movie is in itself an American-liberal tirade against American neo-conservativism. How can we fault Koreans for correctly seeing that in the film?

Then we factor in the subtitling — where detail and nuance is always lost — and lack of access to the comic book, and what we get is a liberal fantasy narrative about citizens rising up against a neocon government. In other words, the protesters used the symbols you saw with pretty much direct continuity to their use in the film. Yes, there is a level of utopian fantasy here. That, too, should be familiar from earlier protests movements, including ones you esteem highly.

But basically, it seems to me they were using liberal icons as a protest against conservativism that they perceive as aligned with American neoconservativism.

Which is, I imagine, what they would have told you, had you asked them why they’d taken those symbols up. Perhaps in not so many words, because it would be obvious to them, and puzzling that you would ask about something that seems unrelated to the film. But it seems important to me to know — and I don’t mean to be nasty here, but I think this is a valid question:

Once you discovered that they hadn’t been aware of the anarchist trope in V for Vendetta, and once you established that they didn’t know the V-sign was an inverted anarchy sign…

Did you ask them why on earth they decided to use the symbol and mask? Or did you just decide they’d misunderstood everything and were idiots, and walk away?

I don’t know, what you’ve written seems like a really, really cheap shot, and I think there are much better places to aim those strong uppercuts and jabs of yours.

And I do. Scott’s punches are strong, and I respect you, Scott, but I think you’re flat-out wrong on their use of V, and I’ve been thinking about this angle on things for a while. After all, this isn’t the only thing from SF/fantasy we’ve seen manifest as part of the protest… not by a long shot, and much of it much more open to criticism than this.

As for uses of the V-sign in protests of days past, I have no idea the vector of adoption, so I can’t say much about it. But the V they were using on Saturday is clearly right from the film. Is it too much to imagine it’s a different vector of exposure?

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26 thoughts on “V and the Protesters

  1. I’m probably going to sound like a troll, but really, it’s not my intent when I make this comment. How can demonstrators expect to be taken seriously when they are dressed up in costumes or look like the love child of Chewbacca and Bozo the Clown? Maybe the hippies helped end the Vietnam war, but Ronald Reagan managed to get a lot of political mileage out of them, and those images of the 1968 Democratic Convention probably didn’t hurt Richard Nixon either. Part of the genius of Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock is the fact that they look…normal, and sound, well, measured and sane.

  2. “Did you ask them why on earth they decided to use the symbol and mask? Or did you just decide they’d misunderstood everything and were idiots, and walk away?”

    No, I tried to have a dialogue and they told me to fuck off. That’s really when I decided that they were posers. I took a picture of a girl in a mask (with her consent) and she was the third person I spoke with asking if she was an anarchist and she said no, and then before I could say anything else, the guy next to her, also in a mask, told me to leave because I was “interfering” with their photo opportunities. The other two people I spoke with, including their leader holding the giant inverted anarchy flag in the air that you could see from 100 meters away, were not interested in having a dialogue either.

    Just to be clear, I am not the person who initially wrote about this or brought it up to put the protesters in their place, but it seems you are bending over backwards to justify this, and that is where I draw the line. I have spent a lot of time trying to understand what the protesters mean when they say what they say, so I am not going to just selectively decide that it doesn’t matter what they are trying to say (or mis-say) when it is inconvenient for me to do so, and indeed one key thing that turned me off the protesters in general was their ability to justify anything and everything in the name of their cause, even in the face of the facts and the truth. I mean, are you now going to tell me that it’s cool for Koreans to adopt Nazi and Hitler symbology because they represent andmirable “volk power” (the excuse I often hear here), and what they mean in the West is irrelevant?

    I’ve been in Korea long enough to understand how signs and symbols from other cultures are often misappropriated here, and in most cases it is done because of ethnocentrism, which is really a form of extreme cultural nationalism and which I often find repugnant. If they do it knowingly, that’s cool and I’ve seen spoofs of a number of Western movies at the protests that were hilarious, including many references to Sicko. I have also lived in Japan and I can assure you that you would never see Japanese at a protest making the same mistakes about V for Vendetta. The Japanese also appropriate signs and symbols from the West pellmell, but they are very sophisticated about it in general and that’s what sets them apart. Japlish, for example, is often quite cool and hilarious, but I rarely if ever find Konglish cool or hilarious. It’s usually just gibberish, and often rather embarrassing. “Saladent,” anyone?

    In any case, I have seen photos of the V for Vendetta protesters all over the Internet, including on many expat blogs, and the ironic thing is that if I had not spoken with them myself and gotten the real backstory, the message that would have been taken away by most of the Westerners who saw the photos is that they were anarchists. Which would have been wrong and in a way also self-selectively ethnocentric. So I find it funny that you are so apparently upset about my reaction here when you would have totally misunderstood their message yourself if I had not spoken with them and gotten the scoop.

    BTW, I don’t like hippies at all, because in my experience a lot of them are posers as well!

  3. I hadn’t the foggiest idea about the anarchy bit. I’ve only seen the movie.

    Now I’ve another book to add to the summer reading list.

  4. Wow!

    I’m pretty sure one of them told us/Scott the “V” on the flag was meant to be “V” for victory. . .

    personally, I think the “V for Vendetta” reference/incident kind of encapsulates everything that was distasteful to me about these protests.

    1. pulling in stuff that isn’t actually related (check — are the unions actually going to strike over this mess?)

    2. twisting the actual original source material, whether intentionally (PD Diary) or unintentionally (everyone who took the misinformation at face value), because the source material was misrepresented, and those referencing it didn’t do their homework and double-check, and ignoring the tensions and contradictions it causes (the anti-science steals credibility form legitimate anti-canal protests, etc., just as the unintentional Anarchy reference steals credibility from the “V for Victory” protesters) (check)

    3. bullying people who disagree or offer another view (cyber-terrorists, the guy who told Scott to fuck off because he was “interfering”) (check)

    I think these protests are going to blow over soon, and I for one will be glad to talk about something else.

    It’s been really interesting reading both of your views, but as I said on my page’s comment board, even if they didn’t know “V” was an anarchist, or that their flag was an anarchy symbol:

    “it was kind of hard to miss the whole blowing up of the parliament buildings thing at the end of the movie “V for Vendetta”, as well as the pervasive use of violence to express one’s political view, so I’m not going to let [the “V” protesters] off the hook entirely, either.”

  5. Mark,

    Yeah, well, it’s also what happens when youth culture and “grown-up” political culture collide. I’m just pointing out that there’s a long tradition of costumes and disguises in protests.

    Scott,

    Well, this is another thing we’ll just have to disagree about. I think there are plenty of things worth criticizing, but this isn’t one. But I appreciate you’re not the one who wrote about it, and I shouldn’t have implied you did.

    It’s unfortunate they were unwilling to talk with you, were more interested in photo-ops, and I’m sorry I underestimated your willingness to engage. That is sad, really, and I agree it’s not cool.

    That said, I think I’m not really bending over backwards to “justify” this: if you can show me where there’s a shred of anarchist thought presented as such (and not just as vehement liberalism) in the film, I might change my mind, but I’ve watched it a few times and taught it to a large class and I’m telling you — it’s not present enough for people to get, not even my students who are generally pretty aware of Western culture compared to your average kid their age. But the anarchism theme is relatively absent, especially here in Korea, where for most “normal” people the political spectrum is “democracy” vs. “communist.” I mean, what are you gonna do?

    In fact, when the V-related buzz started — well more than a month ago, because I discussed this with someone about a month ago this Friday — I immediately thought, “Aha, they’re riffing on the protest scene,” which, at least on the Korean 2-disc edition, is right on the front cover. It was a given for me that the anarchist element wasn’t even a consideration here. Maybe that comes from having taught it and knowing how unlikely people were to know that the theme existed in the book (but not the movie).

    So, I think you’ve overestimated how your chat with these people has colored my understanding: I wouldn’t have “totally misunderstood their message” because, frankly, I’d figured out their intended message and their apparent reasoning with the choice of character long before you talked to them, when this trope emerged online back in mid-May, and the discussion focused on the huge citizen uprising that is portrayed in the film, and not on the violence of the titular character or his (original) politics.

    And no, it’s not — ever — cool for Koreans to misappropriate Nazi imagery, any more than it is for us to slap the Japanese empire’s symbol on our stuff… which we still sometimes do. But no, it’s not cool, of course not. But if you don’t see that this is apples and oranges…

    Frankly, lots of Americans took the film as intended that way, too. Cuccu, the poster after you, is an American who hasn’t read the book — and an intelligent one — and she didn’t know that V originally was about anarchism vs. fascism.

    I don’t think scattered mentions of anarchism in blogs and film reviews is going to trump the reading the film itself elicits, which is a fantasy-narrative about how the liberal masses have sat around at home too long and let the conservatives take over, and now it’s time to take the nation back. With no translation of the book, what else do you expect people to take the movie as?

    Maybe Japanese pidgin English is cooler, though I’m not sure how this contributes to the discussion. Maybe Japanese youth are more hip in the way they appropriate Western culture. (Though, I’ll note, that some very popular Japanese SF film (of the live-action sort) is a lot less sophisticated than one might imagine. How they took the superhero trope and got Ultraman — and kept making Ultraman the same way up to now — is beyond me.)

    I find Korean ethnocentrism repugnant too, but I hardly think this is a case of it.

    I do think it’s useful to set aside the postcolonial literary theory lingo and talk about the difference between “misappropriation” and reception.

    Like, for example, how Western critics of Godzilla have routinely argued that it’s all about fears of nuclear power, nuclear weapons, and the like. Only recently, I ran across a paper published not long ago that said, essentially, “Er, guys… there’s a little survivor’s guilt mixed in there too, how could we have missed this?” But this is something that was largely missed by Western viewers, who went on to create movies like Them.

    So things that might be obvious to one set of viewers are not obvious to other ones. When they take up those symbols for their own use, we can expect some disconnect.

    I’d wager when Koreans watched the original TV miniseries V, which was aired during earlier protests a couple of decades ago, I doubt that the whole Nazi-Jew allegory resonated as strongly for them as did the whole “colonized by aliens” thing. I’d like to look into how much people received it as a story about Japanese (or ostensible American) colonization, but I haven’t found any resources on that yet.

    One last thing: I thought the Summer of Love was full of hippies — in October of that year they even held a funeral for the Death of the Hippies, so they referred to it that way themselves. Now I’m less sure I understand your esteem of the Summer of Love, since it essentially mainstreamed the bohemian culture that by the end of that summer was known as hippiedom; and anyway, my point was that cosplay was a part of the Summer of Love.

    Last thing: the anarchism symbol usually has a cross-bar, like an A. The V sign doesn’t, although the graphic designer of the title in Korean cleverly made the ㅂ on the phrase 브이 포 벤데타 look like an inverted A. So while the graphic designer was probably familiar with the symbol — and it would be unfair to claim Koreans don’t know the Anarchy sign, therefore — I do think it’s understandable that someone would read the V sign as the film presents it — V symbolizing all kinds of things (violence, vigilatism, vision, the number 5, as well as Evey), but most prominently Victory. Maybe Korea’s a backwater and the kids don’t read enough English comic books (or well-translated ones) like in Japan. I don’t see how that’s an excuse to start throwing around words like “ethnocentric cultural misappropriation” unless we’re to dilute that word to the point where it means nothing but “misunderstanding” something.

    But it does suck that they were such lamers and not interested in talking with you.

    Cuccu,

    Thanks. I imagine a lot of Americans received the film without any sense of anarchism involved. Not through any fault of their own… that’s how the film was designed.

    Robo,

    Thanks. It’s fine to disagree with me, as Scott does.

    I agree with you on all three of those points — there are a lot of things that are just nuts about this protest, that deserve criticism and should elicit some soul-searching, and I fear that the organizers in the end probably came down with a case of delusions of grandeur.

    I don’t think the V stuff is quite so eaily criticized, though. And while V uses violence, it’s very comic-book — much moreso than in the graphic novel. If it’s any help, I think the protesters in the street probably fancied themselves like the members of the public who showed up in solidarity (and didn’t engage in violence), rather than the one single figure of V.

    Yes, that’s grandiose and fantastical, and we can argue about whether it’s sensible for any long-term, getting-taken seriously leftist movement in Korea — I think it isn’t, long-term — but I think the insistence that we expect Koreans to somehow interpret the rather divergent film adaptation in the light of a comic book that doesn’t exist in Korean translation is a hell of a tall order.

    By the way, the funniest thing at the protest on Saturday was the group of Vs who were wearing just thin printed-out paper V masks. It was the low-budget Vs, I guess, and they won my sympathy. They seem to have been friendlier than the lot with the real masks, though.

  6. Gord, I never read the graphic novel but picked up the anarchism references in the film nonetheless. Consider this quote:

    “David Graeber, an anarchist scholar and professor at Yale, doesn’t consider the movie a travesty of the anarchist reality.

    “‘It didn’t upset me much,” Graeber said. ‘I thought the message of anarchy got out in spite of Hollywood.'”

    From this article:

    http://jscms.jrn.columbia.edu/cns/2006-05-02/launder-anarchistfight

    I was always more partial to the Beats myself, and the hippies were essentially a mainstream manifestation of the Beat ethos. I was mainly interested in the Summer of Love insofar as the energy of eros was utilized in it (and elsewhere) as a broader social force, and then comparing with Korea and seeing how sex has been drained of any revolutionary potential by the market system here.

    I’ve enjoyed the discussion but it’s time for me to move on to other stuff now. This whole mad-cow movement seems to have driven itself into a dead end, and I’ve had enough.

  7. Gord, I never read the graphic novel but picked up on the anarchism references in the film nonetheless. Consider this quote:

    “David Graeber, an anarchist scholar and professor at Yale, doesn’t consider the movie a travesty of the anarchist reality.

    “‘It didn’t upset me much,” Graeber said. ‘I thought the message of anarchy got out in spite of Hollywood.'”

    From this article:

    http://jscms.jrn.columbia.edu/cns/2006-05-02/launder-anarchistfight

    I was always more partial to the Beats myself, and the hippies were essentially a mainstream manifestation of the Beat ethos. I was mainly interested in the Summer of Love insofar as the energy of eros was utilized in it (and elsewhere) as a broader social force, and then comparing with Korea and seeing how sex has been drained of any revolutionary potential by the market system here.

    I’ve enjoyed the discussion but it’s time for me to move on to other stuff now. This whole mad-cow movement seems to have driven itself into a dead end, and I’ve had enough.

  8. Scott,

    Well, I picked up the anarchism having only read a little bit of the graphic novel (I read it in full afterward) but I’m saying that the film was designed so people could watch it and never have an inkling of that theme. Clever that way, very profitable too. But I do think Graeber, despite being an apparently wonderful anthropologist overestimates how much of the anarchist theme is present in the movie, for the average viewer. Moore bangs you over the head with it; you need to know what to look for to catch it in the movie. Probably you (and I) knew enough to catch it when seeing the circle-V sign, but I’m sorry to say I don’t think the majority of most audiences anywhere would really make much of that image’s brief appearance.

    Anyway, I do understand a desire to move on. I’m going to write up my article and move on, too… back to Gin Lane and Korean SF films, methinks.

  9. BTW: Er, did I mention the Coen Brothers somewhere? Ack! I mean the Wachowski Bros, of course. Ack.

    (Though now I kind of wonder what kind of comedy the Coen Bros. would have turned V for Vendetta into…)

    UPDATE: I’m updating the comment here because I don’t want to post another comment. The brief discussion over in the LJ thread for this post touches on cosplay and youth movement garb a bit more, but also reminded me of an ironic fact: the swastika itself was what we could call a “cultural misappropriation” of an older holy symbol.

    I’m sure it’s going too far to say that the Wachowski Brothers retooled V to the extent that the swastika was retooled by the Nazis, or to draw other analogies like that — but it’s just another example of the messiness of symbols when they pass from one culture to another, when someone takes them up and consciously alters their meaning and then people consume it in that retooled form. In pop cultures, it seems to me, all of this is even messier.

    The line between appropriation, misappropriation, and reception of pop culture figures and narratives is fascinating to me, anyway. I’ll be touching on it again in a week or two when I turn to Natural City and how it is — but also emphatically really isn’t — simply a retelling of Blade Runner for Korean audiences. (And for that matter, on reception of The Host among Western audiences.)

  10. Having practically studied The Big Lebowski, I suspect someone like Alan Moore and a TPB like V for Vendetta would give the Coen Brothers a serious case of the giggles, but there would probably be a very good Busby Berkeley inspired dance number a la The Big Lebowski or Oh Brother Where Art Thou?.

    I’m not really a big fan of Moore – I think he is a victim of his own success. His Swamp Thing and Superman stories are really underrated, but I think The Watchmen has had a disasterous effect on the industry, despite the impressive sales it has racked up over the years.

    That said, I can’t wait to see what Zack Snyder does with The Watchmen, which I’ve posted about on my blog. I think it’ll equal or surpass what Favreau and Nolan have done.

  11. On second though, I think I like V better with the Coen Bros. far away. :)

    I already know why you don’t like Moore personally — you made that clear elsewhere, but I am curious as to why do you think Watchmen has been disastrous for the comics industry? I’m not so into comics as you are (or used to be) — Watchmen was maybe the 2nd or 3rd graphic novel I’d ever read — but my impression was he was the first to have superheroes whose lives were, well, more like our lives. Screwed up, troubled… in other words, human. Or do you mean now superheroes are stuck in what seems to be permanently hokey origins-stories, like that TV show Heroes? (Which, though it got better episode by episode in Season 1, never quite became good.)

    I’m curious to see Watchmen too, but not holding my breath in the hopes it’ll be done justice.

  12. To put it simply, licensing is the only reason why comic books are currently being published. The best selling comic book today doesn’t sell as many copies as an average selling comic book in the eighties, and even back then the industry still was a shadow of it’s former self.

    While Moore’s approach was innovative, in the wake of a thousand and one imitators, it’s become less so, and I think the law of diminishing returns kicked in a long time ago. Moore was able to deconstruct superheroes and create dysfunctional anti-heroes, because at one point he did a good job of delivering basic superhero stories. Now everybody is trying to imitate “Moore the glam Stadium Rocker” without having done their “Moore playing dives as they pay their dues” period.

    I think a lot of lousy editorial decisions can be laid at Moore’s feet as well. I don’t know if you’ve ever read The Killing Joke, but crippling and maiming the Batgirl might have goosed sales in the short term, but I think they turned away from trying to reach a general audience to selling books to a narrower and narrower base of fans.

    I’m not culturally conservative, but when I pick up a book with Batman or the Justice League in it, I’m not really looking for adult themes. If I wanted that, I’d read James Ellroy or watch a P.T. Anderson film. If comic books publishers really want to break out of the ghetto, they need to take more risks and publish more books like Y: The Last Man or The Black Kiss, and fewer TPB’s featuring men and tights.

  13. PS: Gord, just a last quick comment. I remember the first review I read of V for Vendetta was in the Village Voice:

    http://www.villagevoice.com/2006-03-07/film/anarchy-in-the-u-k/

    There are multiple references to anarchy in it:

    1. “Anarchy in the U.K.” (title of review)

    2. “You can bet there won’t be many other movies at the multiplex extolling anarchist terror.”

    3. “V’s full-face disguise recalls the ski masks of the Italian Red Brigades; his slashing trademark is a recognizable permutation on the anarchist “A.” ”

    4. “…he paraphrases Emma Goldman on the revolutionary importance of dancing.”

    **************

    Reception theory is all fine and well, but sometimes one must insist on the original meanings of a text. I’ve been looking at the reception of Hollywood movies in Korea myself over the years, and often they are reviewed in the local press in wildly narcissitic and ethnoccentric fashion, to the point of completely missing the point and intent of the filmmakers. If local audiences are missing the key point of a film or text from the West, I consider it my job as a critic to make sure those meanings are known to them when I am making any sort of commentary on them myself. That is not to ignore how they are understood locally, which is often interesting, but in many cases that’s only part of the proverbial story.

  14. Mark,

    Ah, I see. Well, I have to say that I prefer graphic novels to individual comics anyway, but then, I actually kind of prefer ebooks to paper books, now. (Well, or would, if only I could rig a few more function into my Cybook’s firmware.) I’d like to think there’s enough room in the industry for me to get the comics with adult themes, and you to get the more adventurous or, dare I say pulpy sort of stories.

    (And I don’t mean pulp as a pejorative. I have friends who are exuberantly pulp writers. I mean in the Gernsbackian sense.)

  15. Scott,

    Well, it’s fine that the Village Voice reviewer caught the few remaining references — though, you know, reviewers (me included, when I review things) often like to throw stuff in that they know because it makes them seem smart and knowledgeable, since after all, reviewers need to appear knowledgeable. It’s likely most fair to say that there was some small amount of arguably anarchist content included in the film, in such a way that those who know what to look for (or who love the original and want to find it intact) will find it. Maybe Alan Moore overstated how much was removed, but having read the comic and spent time teaching the film, I don’t think he overstated his opinion much. What I mean is, a reading bereft of anarchist ideas is not just possible, but the easiest thing in the world for someone who doesn’t know better.

    I’m more sympathetic with what Colin Patrick Barth had to say, which is that the film contained, if anything, “vaguely libertarian-anarchist” ideas. Since he makes the point more clearly than I’ve apparently done:

    I find it ironic that this movie receives such praise from anarchist and libertarian circles. I attribute this to how few glowing reviewers have read the original, and to their desire to “read into” the movie, if you will, their entire education in freedom philosophy. The fact is that the movie considerably alters and waters down the unapologetic anarchism and individuality in the book. The Wachowskis, too poorly versed in anarchistic theory to handle it in their screenplay or unwilling to preserve it, made V into a circumstantial oppression fighter instead of a universal anarchist. The distinction is important. The book’s V understands that government’s attempts to stabilize and control tend towards fascism and oppression, and promotes the generation of spontaneous order instead. The movie’s V seems to be fighting because a particular party perpetrated a heinous conspiracy, thereby corrupting the nation’s government.

    The screenplay excises the vast majority of references to anarchism besides the “blow things up” definition. The book has pages and pages of delightful, quotable, well-written, thought-provoking dialogue on subjects such as voluntary order versus chaos, the poverty of justice without freedom, society as creative collaboration, prisons of mind as well as body, and most of all, uncompromising self-expression. We don’t often see such a happy union of unadulterated liberating philosophy and persuasive artistic talent. Much of it could have fit rather neatly into a faithful movie version. The filmmakers wouldn’t touch it without a ten-foot pole — a trace here, a hint there — and a great opportunity was lost.

    I’m not trying to demonstrate how clear or unclear the anarchy theme was: I’m saying that different people seem to grasp it with different degrees of clarity. People who were looking for it found it, or walked away disappointed that there wasn’t more of it, like there was in the book. But those who didn’t know enough to catch the references, or hadn’t read the book, were much likelier to walk away from the film with a sense that the story was about a guy leading the citizens in a dystopian nation to rise up in solidarity against a bad, Bush-Admin-like government. And I think it’s arguable that the commercial success of the film hinges on the way it invites itself to be read, by average viewers, in that way.

    It’s at least unarguable that on its release, much of the popular discussion focused on whether it was anarchist at all — that discussion probably accounting for the majority of the mentions in what I mentioned before was the tiny of almost 3.6 million English-language web pages that even bother with that theme at all.

    (By the way, my search today is turning up about 80,000 of those 3.66 million websites, so that’s closer to 2%, but either way, it’s a small fraction of the discussion.)

    Barth notes how far from the original anarchist rebel story the scene is when the citizens of London turn up in a crowd, in V costumes and masks, and march in solidarity. It’s a powerful scene, and obviously the climax of the film — the scene, as I’ve mentioned, appears on the cover of the DVD edition I have. Significantly, it’s precisely that image that people seem to have picked up on, and, not by chance, surely, it’s the very image on the cover of my copy of DVD — the Londoners, en masse, in V’s disguise.

    And that particular image — unique to the decidedly liberal narrative of the film, and absent in the original — is a bigger part of the proverbial story than has been mentioned in this discussion. But it’s pretty clear that the mythology of V began to be transformed into an anti-whatever figure long before anyone in Korea thought of it. I don’t know what the ultimately hip-and-cool kids in Japan have done with it, but the most dramatic example of all is that of Anonymous, the online network who protested the Church of Scientology recently in Guy Fawkes masks of the sort used in the movie. Those protests happened in all over the English-speaking world: in Canada, the US, and Britain (and perhaps elsewhere too), and received a lot of publicity online. (Other, smaller groups have done the same, back as far as late 2006 at least.)

    While people went to great lengths discussing Anonymous — the weirdness of their anti-Scientology “Project Chanology” campaign, the risks involved in protesting Scientology, mocking them as “script kiddies,” arguing whether the Church of Scientology is really worse than any other form of organized religion, I didn’t once see anyone accuse Anonymous of “ethnocentric cultural misappropriation,” … even though they were using the symbol to protest a cult religious organization.

    I don’t think you’d go so far as to accuse Anonymousall just “retards.”

    (Whatever you may think of me at this moment aside, you’d almost certainly have considered me politically a retard if you’d met me at a demonstration at age 22 or 23, too; I might not have donned a mask, but I bet my grasp on V wouldn’t have been much clearer than these kids, and I had no idea about anarchy beyond the circle-A sign that some buddy of mine happened to have on one of his t-shirts. But there are other barriers to “getting it” than just laziness, is what I’m saying, and the film is definitely one. So the insistence on the “original meaning of the text” seems a little misplaced, to me. I frankly don’t feel I’m the one bending over backwards here, especially since nothing I’ve written is actually an endorsement of any of this: I’m just pointing out things ain’t so simple and straightforward as all that.)

    As I said, there are all kinds of things about the protests that exasperated you and me alike, and I think there are tons of places where criticism is warranted and deeply needed. But the kids with the V masks, it seems like a cheap shot to me, and people have been repeating your description of them, which is why I’m addressing this.

  16. Films are team efforts, and as a result, you would be surprised how much thought can go into seemingly “dumb” movie. If you spot a consistent motiff, it’s probably there for a reason. In the first Alien, the android “Bishop”, goes haywire and tries to kill Ripley. Consider for a moment, the fact that he is an android, an almost stereotypical embodiment of male qualities. How does he go about trying to commit murder? He tries to suffocate Ripley with a rolled up pornographic magazine, her head surrounded by pin-ups. Individually, each element doesn’t mean all that much, but thrown together in a scene, the way the shot was blocked, it’s hard not to argue that there is a feminist sub-text at work.

    Just as a quick addendum to to my comments about comic books, I’m not a collector, just a casual reader now. I never buy floppies (single issues) – if I hear of something new and interesting, I’ll wait for the TPB 95% of the time, haven’t followed a regular series or character for years. Black Kiss and Y: The Last Man are in fact, adult themed comic books, sans men in tights, and much better attempts than Moore’s efforts to introduce adult themes into the medium.

  17. Mark,

    Yeah, there’s lots of crossover between pulpy and meaty, I agree. Hell, if you’ve read my story in Asimov’s, you’ll know I’m all for mixing and matching the two, and having the story work on both a “rollicky weirdness” and “subtextual meaning” level.

    As for comics — well, Y: The Last Man has been on my list for a few years, since I ran across a copy in a Korean bookstore. Didn’t buy it as it was a few books in, but it looked interesting. I too wouldn’t buy “floppies.” I just remember you being a collector of Booster’s Gold when we were in middle school. Though I think old Sklar was more of a collector, with the boxes of bagged, mint condition issues in his closet.

    I too am not really all about the Men in Tights. Though you might enjoy the superhero story I’ve got coming out in the Canadian SF anthology Tesseracts this year — again, gleefully (if quirkily) pulp but also literally about Korean salaryman work and allegorically all about Northeast Asian politics.

    Of course, you could utterly hate it, too…

  18. Gord, Gord, Gord. In the movie when the police inspector played by Stephen Rea is talking to his colleague towards the end, he says, “I suddenly realized the plan that he (V) had in store for all of us” and then there is an immediate edit to a guy holding a gun in a store yelling, “Anarchy in the UK!” How hard is it to grasp the message of the movie when it is clobbered over your head like a riot policeman’s truncheon?

    The main character in the movie runs around killing people and blowing up buildings. He is repeatedly called a “terrorist” by the state and on the news. To then conclude that he is some cuddly-wuddly model “democrat” as those demonstrators I met seemed to do is just ludicrous. He is an anarchist. All the controversy surrounding the book and the film involved how faithful or not the movie was to the original’s anarchist message. Thus, it is simply amazing to me that someone basing their movement on the movie and dressing up as the main character at major anti-government demonstrations somehow missed that crucial point — especially when they were basically enacting the final scene of the movie when Parliament is blown up and an army of masked anarchists is standing in formation to witness it, and in front of a huge riot police line, no less!

    I am vaguely aware of the Scientology thing but to me that is irrelevant because in this case two wrongs do not make a right. In any case, if V for Vendetta is somehow being used to attack Scientology in the West, then it is likely that it is done while knowing about the movie’s/novel’s anarchist themes. In that case, it would be knowing misappropriation, rather than unknowing misappropriation. An important distinction, I would argue.

    The ironic thing is that in the movie, the fascist Chanceller (to be clear, he is an English fascist, not an American “neo-con”) uses fear of a deadly virus to take over the country. Gee, sound familiar? Except in the South Korea, this scenario is reversed: It is not the conservative Lee who tried to use fears of a deadly virus to lock down the local citizenry, but rather liberal, so-called “democratic” forces here who used artificial fears of a virus in a cynical power grab. Yet another irony no doubt lost on those protesters I spoke with.

    It is all fine and well to quote Colin Patrick Barth, but that kind of grad-school seminar parsing is not what puts asses in seats at the movie theater. Jean Baudrillard famously said that the Wachowski brothers had gotten his notion of simulation wrong in The Matrix, but at least they used the concept in a way that offered a radical critique of our society for millions of moviegoers. In the same way, their movie version of V for Vendetta may by a Cliff’s Notes version of anarchism, but at least it was trying to get the idea out there for mainstream audiences, and who knows, maybe it even inspired some moviegoers to then go out on their own and look more deeply into the subject.

    Or perhaps it just inspired certain people to be rather clueless “radical chic” posers, or as Baudrillard would no doubt say, “refugees adrift in the 4th stage of simulation.” You seem to be particularly offended by my usage of the word “retards,” but I can assure you that if they can handle calling 2MB a “rat bastard” and countless other nasty epithets, they can certainly handle an offhand “retard” written in English and which they will probably never, ever read anyway.

    And really, I am done with this for now. When we meet in person in the future, we can talk about it as much as you like, but I’ve just got too much work to do.

    Peace and anarchy!

  19. EDIT: I carelesssly referred to BSE as a “virus” above, and given that the exact nature of BSE is still controversial (prion theory vs. virus-like agent theory), let me correct myself here and just say that I should have used the word “disease” instead.

    God, I’m sick of all this mad-cow shit!

  20. King Baeksu,

    I’ll ignore the “Gord, Gord, Gord” since I’d prefer think you’re not talking down to me on my own website. :)

    I’ve been busily writing about all this myself, and got tired of writing here what I was already writing in my article, hence the gap preceding this response. Now I just have 30-odd words to cut, and a little polishing to do. Wordcount limits! They kill me!

    The “Anarchy in the UK!” moment in the film is interesting, but as I remember it, in the movie, that upwelling of radical “freedom” (devoid of self-control, really) is a phase people have to pass through in order to come together in solidarity as protesters. (Something which never happens in the book, by the way.) So, in other words, in the movie, just as in mainstream thinking, anarchism is “just a phase” through which the society passes, before it self-organizes to come up against its government.

    I understand that when you watched the movie, you saw a murderous anarchist killing people and blowing shit up. (And Moore would be happy, as he sees V that way too — the character’s even introduced as a villain in the book.)

    But in the film, I saw what looked much more like a classic romantic avenger who went about punishing evildoers in the government for their crimes. The cartoon-fascist government — yes, fascist, but in a way that evokes the accusations among American leftists at the “fascism” of Bush & co., and undoubtedly for Koreans brings to mind the dictatorships of the past, with whom they obviously link Lee’s party is a government that happens to include a Dick Cheney lookalike, a solid tendency toward Christian fundamentalism, close ties to crooked right-wing media, explicitly homophobic policies (much more than in the book), and a great love of chucking about the word “terrorist.” There are far too many parallels for the literalist reading (ie. that its a British fascist government) to blot out the screamingly obvious subtext. Sutler may not be Bush, but Sutler’s government is very clearly funhouse-mirror image of the American right as seen by the left. The movie is transparently a fantasy about America, and apparently discussions of the script in early stages reveal just how little the project was supposed to represent Britain from the get-go.

    So the climax of the film, by the way, is the image that Koreans (not just the protesters, but the people who’ve been mentioning the film in online discussions of the protests) seem to have seized upon: the moment when the apathetic, numbed citizens finally wake up and go out to protest against their government. It’s important to note that they weren’t engaging in cosplay of V himself, so much as playing the roles of those citizens who went out together into the streets in the film. Citizens who didn’t, in those masks and costumes, commit murder or blow stuff up.

    Like I said, the anti-Bush subtext, the anti-authoritarian/dictator subtext (which links neatly, in many minds, one imagines, with the GNP and its clear genealogical link to the dictatorships) seems to have resonated more for these people, as it did for many American viewers.

    You and I are perhaps more sophisticated film viewers. We can bet that the Village Voice wouldn’t hire someone who failed to mention anarchism in a review of the film. But many, many people saw the film this way, an it resonated for them in that way, and I have to think th Wachowski Brothers constructed the film to have that effect on purpose. Throw in enoguh anarchy for the fans, but not so much that it overwhelms the more mainstream, contemporary, and overt American analogies.

    It’s funny you point out the idea that it was fears of a virus that fueled the protests — trust me, the irony is not lost on me, I’d thought about it since I first heard aout online discussions of the film linked to these protests in late May. (I’m also less dismissive of it; I choose to accentuate the positive.) I think it’s also unfair to suggest that this irony was lost on all the protesters, too, masked or otherwise. I know you were there every night and I wasn’t, and you talked to a lot of people, but plenty of protest-sympathizers I’ve talked to in the last couple of months have agreed with me that the beef hysteria was way overblown, that eventually the protesters as a whole seemed to have no real agenda or achievable goals. Not everyone remained in a beef panic, though definitely some did. Very few were of the people I talked to seemed to believe that impeachment was a possibility, and likely that sentiment was widespread, hence the diminishing turnouts.

    There’s a further irony you didn’t mention (here, anyway), too: in protesting one form of American import, they relied on another form of American import — an American SF movie — to articulate their stance. That’s just odd, and I’d have expected all the Kwangju-references to drown out V completely. But they didn’t.

    Likewise, I think you’re being a little too generous in assuming the “misappriopriation” is knowing among members of Anonymous. Online culture, all the way back to its murky BBS beginnings, has a long tradition of teenagers (especially boys, of course) bandying about anarchist-themed group names and handles, and spouting muddled rhetoric that has way more to do with the Hacker’s Declaration than with Proudhon or Kropotkin. (This book is full of wonderful examples.) Anonymous seems quite aware of that tradition, more than of any authentic anarchist tradition, from what I’ve seen, and I imagine that’s about as far as their sense of “anarchism” entered into their appropriation of the V-masks from the same climactic scene in the film. Which again makes the “ethnocentric” criticism questionable, since anarchism is oft-invoked, and little understood, in Western youth culture too.

    Anyway, I think that when a misappropriation becomes a widely understood symbolic language, it’s more like 1337Z0l2Z: it seems to me it crosses the line into something else, something interesting. Personally, I’m more interested in looking at why and how those symbols get appropriated and put to different uses. I think it’s fascinating, and a much better use of my time and energy that dismissing them or chucking somewhat academic accusations at them. By the way, it’s not the name-calling so much as the casual dismissal of all the masked kids (and, elsewhere, of the whole “movement” in general) on the basis of the actions of a few, that rubs me the wrong way. You live in Korea. You know that once one person says, “Don’t talk to us,” most everyone else is likely to just go along, especially when it’s a white person being talked to. That sucks, it pisses me off to no end too, its a negative in so many ways we could both enumerate, but that is the culture, just as surely as almost nobody will stand up and contradict the businessman ajeoshi in a classroom.

    So to declare everyone involved an ignorant retard, a poseur, strikes me as a wrong note, just like calling a whole movement bankrupt because a minority of those involved — yeah, organizers, but who pretty clearly had more illusions of gradeur than actual control of this thing, by the end anyway — resorted to crappy tactics. Yes, those are crappy tactics. Yes, there was a clear moral panic that makes one think of books like this one. There was an upwelling of human stupidity, nobody denies that — but that’s par for the course with any human group, including those involved in the Summer of Love, as many have pointed out (also here is some interesting commentary). But I have trouble thinking that’s all that happened this summer. Bankruptcy? Yes, but the whole world is bankrupt. If we can see two sides of that summer in 1967, why not two (or more) sides to this summer?

    But I should confess, I havn’t seen everything you’ve written about it. You just seem so very down on the whole thing these days, and I’d like to see some good in this, even if it’s just, you know, that all the moderates out there who didn’t use violence, who were manipulated but finally recognized it, who saw though the urban legendry to issues that concerned them, and re-realized what masses of people can do — like those concessions wrung from Lee — learn from the experience. Maybe you’ve highlighted that somewhere, and I just haven’t seen it. You’re free to disagree with me and see none of that, too, of course. But I see it.

    Right, I think I’m done with this too. I, too, am ready to move on to just about anything else! Georgian England’s moral panics over hard liquor! Local ghost stories of Bucheon. The Taiping Rebellion! How to brew wheat beer in your own home! Korean SF! Reading some of the books in this growing stack of mine!

    Oh, but, by the way, speaking of reading books — I do think you would like the Alan Moore book, if you’re ever curious. It’s a lot more up your alley than I imagine the the film was, even if it is a mite muddled in places. Way better pacing, way more solid argument, a more interesting sense of how an “anarchist consciousness” can be developed, and much more interesting nuance on both sides of the conflict. (V’s a bad guy, the government people are bad, but they are all doing what they believe in, or for a reason.And Evey actually has some, you know, choice about, and power t choose, what path she thinks things should take.) It’s quite an interesting graphic novel. Probably easy to get here, too, since the film came out.

  21. Gord, I was sympathetic to some parts of the movement and was waiting to see if it would evolve into a full-scale social revolution but it didn’t. However, in the end I mainly just got sick of all the hypocrisy and bullshit coming from the protesters’ camp. I actually have very intelligent Korean friends (one a grad-student at SNU, another a producer at SBS) who still try to defend PD Such’op after their lies have been clearly exposed. I say, “They lied, it’s been proven!” and they say, “Well, I just don’t like Lee Myung-bak — he sucks.” When you are no longer on the side of truth, then I have no longer have much sympathy for you.

    I recommend The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad if you want a really dark look at some anarchists in late 19th century London. Good stuff.

    BTW, about 500 people were protesting against 2MB Friday night at Ch’onggye Plaza. Now I just feel sorry for them and think they’re rather pathetic.

  22. Woah! Well, I can’t imagine a full-scale social revolution in Korea at this point. Not soo soon after the so-called IMF crisis, when everyone’s still being ridden hard by the moms to get a job — before they graduate, sometimes even at the start of senior year now! I’d give it a generation or two, depending on how well (or poorly) the economy develops.

    Your pro–PD-Diary friends, yes, that is sad. Lime isn’t the only person I know who admits the media is distorted on all sides. (And after all that crap about it being 70% children on the first nights, I too have grown extremely distrustful of the media here.) But probably the majority of the society hasn’t grasped the idea that BOTH the left and right-wing media are screwed-up; it’s a jarring idea (not to mention demoralizing), and critical thinking of one’s own aargument or “side” just isn’t a skill education here seems to teach or promote, sadly.

    Conrad — oh no, another novel for the pile. I’d heard about it before, but not it intrigues me. Especially since I’m thinking about writing a novel set partly in that time and place. Ah well, I can download it. Yay for public domain!

    500 people… yeah, well. It’s funny, last Saturday I was saying to these people hanging around the City Hall, “Don’t you think most people are tired of this yet? Don’t you think they wanna just… go to a movie? Drink a cold beer at home? Go on a date? Do anything BUT protest again?”

    One guy wandered off, saddened by the idea, and one glassy-eyed ajumma raised her fist in the air, Black Panther-style and said, “No! We will come everyday until 2MB is impeached! Just, *I* want! I hope!” The rest of them, though, they laughed, nodded, agreed aloud or seemed to mull it over. Maybe Impeachment Ajumma turned up the next day, but I bet the rest of them didn’t. They were tired, too.

  23. Hi there.

    I read through all this a little while ago — the two most telling moments of the protests, that stick in my head now, are actually:

    1. Scott Burgeson himself’s reactions — on Brian’s from Jeollanamdo’s page, he took Brian to task on his negative slant on the protests early on, an apologist himself; the fact he went from an apologist to the kind of critic he was with his “commentary” post and the comment conversation here was quite telling — it seemed like I could follow the arc of his disenchantment as he posted more responses and then added his thoughts on his own blog.

    2. meeting a guy, walking around the protests on the candlegirl dance day, bumping into somebody he’s obviously talked with a few times before. Scott said to him, “But LMB DID apologize; he scrapped the canal plan, and the plan to privatize utilities, AND he renegotiated the beef deal. . . you got what you want, so why are you protesting?”
    the gentleman answered, “Because I don’t trust LMB. I think he’s lying.”

    That gave me two things to think about:

    1. it’s a bulletproof objection: if I apologize to you, and you say, “you didn’t mean that” the only thing I can do is get into an “am-not/are-too” argument with you — his reasoning would justify him staying out, like Impeachment ajumma, forever, because NOTHING LMB says could satisfy him. . .

    2. But that’s not a problem with LMB; that’s a choice he made, not to believe a single damn thing LMB says. There’s no pleasing this guy, so why should anybody try? if you’re NEVER going to trust ANYTHING a politician says, never going to take ANYTHING in good faith, even when he’s bending over BACKWARDS to placate you, well, the problem no longer lies in the politician’s hands.

    seeing Scott go from defending to disillusioned by the protests was very telling to me, as were a number of the conversations I overheard him having (with his much better Korean than mine)

    it’s been a fun dialogue to follow.

  24. Robo,

    Yeah, I saw the “arc of disenchantment” and on some level was thankful not to have been there daily, as I might have felt the same way. Demonstrations daily must have been so exhausting. Then again, I think Scott’s in better shape than me!

    I’m a little wary of how people describe things from within the realm of disenchantment, though. Actually, it puts me in mind of our larger discussion that you’ve launched, about how foreigners talk about Korea. If the disenchantment was actually showing through in Scott’s, or your, or my demeanour, then this would also have coloured how protesters we talked to would have reacted — especially because we’re white “Americans” or at least white “foreigners” in many people’s eyes. Is that unfortunate? Yes, but it’s still often the case.

    I’ll be honest, there was a much more mild arc of disenchantment on my side, too. Lime’s arc of disenchantment, I’d even term a “controlled descent.” Even from the first week of protests, she was saying things like, “Oh no! It’s metastasizing!” and, “I don’t think you should be so hopeful about this thing… it’s getting pushed in a weird direction…” even as she was cheering for things like classmates of hers turning up to treat the wounded, and groups on net cafés organizing fundraisers of shocking speed and effectiveness to feed protesters, and to raise cash for treatment of those who were watercannoned by the cops and couldn’t afford the surgery needed for the damage to their tympanic membranes. Which, as usual, no one was bothering bringing up.

    But it was that bigger picture — the reactions of the many online whom Scott and I and you couldn’t talk to — that I was often trying to track, and which Lime donated not a little time to conveying to me, from her subjective — but pretty attentive, pretty smart, pretty engaged, and fairly critical experience.

    And that’s one reason I was more than a little distrustful of terming bus-towing violence. Water cannons were busted out in the end of May, serious injuries followed immediately.

    Serious injuries that were outright denied by authorities at the same time that MDs on the scene were dealing with the the injured were diagnosing and treating those injuries: brain hemorrhage, skull fracture, many with ruptured tympanic membranes, some of whom need surgery to regain their hearing. (Some of whom need to heal because their ears are still too screwed up to even operate on, Lime noted the other day.) Talk about moral bankruptcy, claiming that the cannons couldn’t cause injury — I haven’t seen anything on that scale in terms of that kind of outright savagery on the side of the Gwanghwamun protesters… Fabrications and bullshit? Yes. Outright lies about having caused serious and sometimes life-threatening injuries to human beings? No. (Hell, even the fire-suicide guy in Jeonju only set himself on fire.)

    I understand Scott’s frustration, and share some of it. Lime does too, actually — but there’s a much bigger picture I don’t think was coming across, about the effects this thing had socially, psychologically, on a mass of people. I’m not willing to call it a net loss, just because there wasn’t a “full-scale social revolution.” Hell, I wouldn’t have expected anything like that in Seoul for at least a generation or two or really relaxed prosperity, or a total socioeconomic crash, before something like that happened. And it would probably be so much along unexpected lines — especially given the cryptic “national socialist” and “mystical nationalism” formulae that have been encrypted into the education system here that I’d want to be very, very far from Korea if a “full scale social revolution” happened here. Unless the education system did a 90-degree turn for a generation or two first. That, or unless everyone got into SF manga and tried to make a commercially viable space program or something. That’d be cool. But I suspect any revolutions with the current generation or two would not go in a good direction: Korea has too much postcolonial angst and issues to work out.

    Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth. It’s an eye-opener how well it fits Korean political psychology. (As I briefly, and discomfitedly, mention here and more recently here. Must do up a longer post on that nexus sometime.)

    [UPDATE: Not that I think there is a National Socialist revolt coming in Korea or anything. I really don’t. I just think Korea’s gonna had enough rapid, full-on radical social transformation, and that more right now would not make things more comfortable. The society is already struggling to hold itself together and handle the changes it’s undergone already. And I think that a few remaining bruises will definitely have to heal before Korea is ready for anything like a positive radical social change. Time, I suspect, is what is needed. My next post — going up tonight — deals with that to some degree, too.]

    Last note: I don’t trust Lee either. He’s been caught out lying at least once, possibly twice, since taking office. (One was a rather remarkable, if very tiny — but important to the meaning — mistranslation on the government website about beef regulations; another (the case I term possibly) is the conflict between his claim and the Japanese government’s about whether he had any forewarning about the Dokdo thing.

    And on that note, let’s hope Dokdo doesn’t reignite the protests, or nobody will have the strength to protest whatever asinine policies Lee cooks up for later on in 2008, or 2009, or… oh, the possibilities.

  25. Just for the record: isn’t the Canal Plan back on now? So the guy who you were criticizing, Robo, was right. Lee was, well, in any case, he was claiming that a plan was scrapped, which is now right back out of that imaginary garbage can it landed it. Hmmm.

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