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Monday, October 23, 2006

tricks as primitive as are the spectators before whom they are performed

They put a little light in his head – Metric

Robert-Houdin, like Berlioz and Georges Sand, led his life as though it were a sold out engagement for a 19th century French audience – so it was natural that he would gravitate towards the memoir.

In 1856, acceding to the demands of Colonel Neveu of the Political office, Houdin went to tour Algeria. The tour was not simply about showing French magic in the colonies to a bunch of poilus – it was about using that magic for political ends. Specifically, Houdin was the point man for the battle of white magic against black.

“It is known that the majority of revolts which have to be suppressed in Algeria are excited by intriguers, who say they are inspired by the Prophet, and are regarded by the Arabs as envoys of God on earth to deliver them from the oppression of the Roumi (Christians).

These false prophets and holy Marabouts, who are no more sorcerers than I am, and indeed even less so, still contrive to influence the fanaticism of their co-religionists by tricks as primitive as are the spectators before whom they are performed.”

The government sent Houdin around both to de-mystify and to mystify – although Houdin would, of course, dispute the latter description of what his mission was about:

“The governments was, therefore, anxious to destroy their pernicious influence, and reckoned on me to do so. They hoped, with reason, by the aid of my experiments, to prove to the Arabs that the tricks of their Marabouts were mere child’s play, and owing to their simplicity could not be done by an envoy from Heaven, which also led us very naturally to show them that we are their superiors in everything, and, as for sorcerers, there are none like the French.”

And you thought LI was joking about white magic.

Speeddialing one hundred fifty years, the newest, meanest sorcerers, the Americans, seem to have tricked themselves, to their own satisfaction, in Afghanistan, from which we are cutting and running, leaving an angry house to a new crewe of white magicians from Nato. In 2001, LI thought – and still thinks – that the U.S. had a perfect right and need to attack, having been attacked. In other words, we thought that the U.S., like a normal nation, should act like a normal nation. But the U.S. isn’t a normal nation. Subordinate to the magic of war, the U.S. can’t actually fight wars – normally. To do that would be to uncover the illusion necessary to getting a population to spend a trillion dollars per annum on war. And of course, on the personal side, there was the matter of the junta of cardsharps, popinjays and senile D.C. fixtures that were the leaders of our brave mission. The fiasco that has resulted is as laughable as any random pile of bodies left bleeding on a battlefield. In the NYT Magazine article about Afghanistan by Elizabeth Rubin, Rubin begins by describing her interviews, in Pakistan, with some of the second line Taliban commanders, and gives us this perfect paragraph – perfect, that is, in how American superiority in white magic combines with the audience it tricks – the Americans, of course:

“And though Mullah Sadiq said they had lost many commanders in battles around Kandahar, he and Abdul Baqi appeared to be in good spirits, laughing and chatting loudly on a cellphone to Taliban friends in Pakistan and Afghanistan. After all, they never imagined that the Taliban would be back so soon or in such force or that they would be giving such trouble to the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai and some 40,000 NATO and U.S. troops in the country. For the first time since the fall of 2001, when the Taliban were overthrown, they were beginning to taste the possibility of victory.”

Yesterday, LI assembled a series of the general idiocies of the Conventional Wisdom in 2002 – remember how the liberal/lefties, remembering the Soviets, worried about losing the quick and easy war? Sure you do. Dumb liberal fucks, doubting our white magician.

Of course, the same purveyors of CW have moved on, paying no attention to the fact that the main goal and only justification of the war, attacking the ones who attacked the U.S., sank beneath the waves of Bush incompetency and Rove’s Porky Pig Machiavellianism.

But our little crow heart couldn’t stand contemplating that much irreality.

We’re going to return to Houdin’s tour of Algeria in some later post.

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