Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I promise this post will be more interesting than the last one

I just read that the Badgers won the cross country championship (men's). I wish people would make a bigger deal out of this. I remember when they won the soccer national championship (men's) in 1996 and no one cared. Hey, when the Packers are 2-8, you've gotta latch onto something.

Today I got my December "Blender" magazine in the mail. I subscribe to three magazines: Blender, Spin, and Sports Weekly. I don't have time to read any of them in depth, but try to skim through them. Blender, which is Maxim's music offshoot, is the easiest to skim because of its lowest common denominator layout and prose style. An interesting article was the top 50 most extravagant rock purchases. Here are the Top 10 with my comments:

10. Kanye West $350,000 on a complete re-creation of Michaelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel. He calls himself a "ghetto pope." Perhaps he could have put some of that money toward helping black people displaced by Katrina.

9. Nelly $385,000 on not just a Rolls-Royce, but one with an interior lined with mink fur. I'd like to see PETA criticize Nelly, and for him to respond with an anti-PETA screed, then for PETA to enlist Paul McCartney to write a rap to dis Nelly, then for Nelly to sample any Ted Nugent song

8. The KLF in 1994 set $1.7 million on fire as a publicity stunt. The fact that no one today has heard of the KLF makes one wonder if they would have been better served, I don't know, saving the money for their kids college education or retirement or something.

7. Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood $66,000 to set up a pub in the Stone's recording studio. For some reason this strikes me as a little high on the list. I don't see what the big deal is. I feel like Keith Richards probably bought enough booze for Wood to turn a profit. Maybe that's why he wasn't allowed full-fledged status in the band for the first 20 years he was in it.

6. Rod Stewart $100,000 for his own soccer field. My college had to play their soccer games at the football stadium. Then the league complained and they had to play in the library's back yard and had when it would rain they would be playing in puddles.

5. Elton John $419,000 on flowers in a one year span. Hope they cheered him up. He always seems kind of down.

4. Mick Fleetwood $8 million on cocaine in his lifetime. He should have done like Ozzy and taken to snorting up ants. I'm sure after ingesting a certain level of cocaine you can hardly tell the difference anymore.

3. The Beatles $510,000 to Magic Alex. This is a story that really needs to be told more often. This guy named Alex (who called himself Magic Alex) conned John Lennon into thinking he (Alex) was an electronic genius who could invent force fields and electronic paint and stuff like that. All he needed was money. The Beatles had just started their own company (called Apple, but not the computer company) and hired Alex and gave him funding. Needless to say, Apple went bankrupt.

2. Michael Jackson $1 million to Marlon Brando just to appear at Jacko's 30th anniversary show in 2001. Brando sat on a recliner on stage, introduced himself as an "old fat fart" and joked about children getting hacked to death by machetes. Anyone who has seen "The Making of Apocalypse Now" can't help but hate Brando, but he was pretty cool in the Superman movie, and they are using old footage of him in the new Superman film next year. Alas, no appearance by Michael Jackson.

1. Elvis $3387.28 for a sandwhich. Kind of a long story, but the King got hungry for a kind of sandwhich made only in Denver, and made a trip on his private jet just for the sandwhich. If I were as rich as Elvis, I might do the same thing. There's nothing like a good sandwhich.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A Post Nobody Will Read

Andrew Ross: An Annotated Bibliography

Ross, Andrew. “The Sokal Hoax: Response by Social Text.” Online posting. 26 May 1996. 17 November 2005. .

In this publication of a listserv post, Ross, speaking as an editor of the now-defunct journal Social Text, defends that journal’s publication of an essay by physicist Alan Sokol. After the essay was published, Sokol went public with the revelation that the article was a parody, or hoax, in which he intended to expose the world of postmodern studies for its lack of intellectual rigor.
In this defense, Ross first lays out an explanation of what went into the decision to include Sokol’s article, then launches a counterattack in which he accuses the physicist of being out of touch with the actual discourse of postmodernism and cultural studies. He then raises larger questions about the stakes of the argument, calling attention to what in his mind is a much larger problem than a single physicist attempting to de-legitimize the study of humanities.
Ross’s explanations for the article’s publication are believable. He makes a compelling case that the editors were wise to the essay’s shortcomings, but agreed to publish it because they considered it noteworthy that someone from outside the field was attempting to engage with their project, and apply it to his own field of study. It is likely that the standards for an interdisciplinary writer would be lower than a humanities scholar. Whether that should be the case or not is an issue that Ross chooses not to defend in this posting. Ross makes the further argument that the journal was non-refereed. In light of this, one must question Sokol’s ethics in targeting it for the object of his experiment.
In a testament to Ross’s rhetorical skills, he moves deftly from a defensive position to one of offense, and does not limit his argument to the incident at hand. He makes the compelling case that scientists need to not only question their own methodologies, but also to allow non-scientists to question their methodologies. In making the case that cultural scholars should have an interest in science, he helps to show why he had such a charitable openness to a scientist’s seeming willingness to engage in the study of culture.
One would assume that Ross would or even should be indignant at being subjected by Sokol to mockery and ridicule within the academy. This posting for the most part masks any apparent hostility he feels toward Sokol, with one notable exception, in which he refers to Sokol’s “boy stunt” (para 6). Ross implies that this incident has widened the gap between science and the humanities, but his pessimism could be re-considered in light of the opportunity that arises from the “boy stunt” for increased dialogue between fields that historically avoid one another.

Ross, Andrew. Interview with Corey K. Creekmur. Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies 1 (Spring 2002): 21 pars. 17 November 2005. .

In this wide ranging interview with University of Iowa English professor Corey K. Creekmur, Ross discusses the past and present status of Cultural Studies in general, and American Studies in particular. In response to a question about how cultural studies situates itself in relation to its roots—to the work of Williams, Thompson, and Hall, Ross discusses the need to historicize the project at every moment, to always be aware that cultural studies is being “acted on” just as much as it has “acted as a cultural force” (para 6).
Ross is hesitant to make sweeping statements about the status of the field within the academy today, noting that it is afforded different levels of privilege depending on individual institutions. He laments that some of the work undergraduates conduct at his school, New York University, is not respected by the deans. He says the goal of his department is to encourage intellectual activism instead of a career in academics (para 10), and this is at odds with the goals of the institution in general.
Ross also discusses his recent work and his current interest in ethnography, and briefly addresses the limited potential for cultural studies scholars to find an audience beyond academia.
Despite the widespread use of the term “cultural studies,” the meaning of the term seems very much up for grabs, and Ross’s interview doesn’t necessarily help a novice come to a better understanding about what a cultural scholar does. Although he notes that some “battles” are “no longer relevant” (para 5), he doesn’t tell us which battles are relevant, short of the actual work he is engaging in, which one would presume he finds relevant. However, in attempting to answer the question about what is relevant, we can glean two germane points from the interview.
First, in using the term “battle,” (and using similar rhetoric throughout the interview) Ross is clearly situating his scholarship as political, and having real world applications. He attempts to enact positive social change through his work. The second point is that most recently in his scholarship, he has focused on doing ethnographies. By connecting these two strands, we can conclude that Ross believes that positive social change can be effected by cultural scholars through the practice of conducting ethnographic studies. In this forum, he does not go into detail about how this is accomplished. Presumably, the main function of his work is to disseminate information about unjust power structures. Strangely, though, he laments that there is an overall lack of interest in mainstream publishing for books that deal with ideas and lack a strong narrative. If this is true, how does he reconcile the desire for real change with the knowledge that his audience is limited? He does not address this question in the interview.
Lately, Ross is most interested in studying labor and economic exploitation (specifically Chinese sweatshops) and he desires that the field in general would undergo a “turn to labor” (para 18). This desire for relevancy, along with the ability to dictate political change, is notable because it is an opposite pull from another in the field—Steven Connor and his “cultural phenomenology.” Connor questions the efficacy of political work in the academic realm. Unfortunately, Ross for the most part does not address those questions in this interview. The closest he comes may be in his discussion of his pedagogy. Although he spends the majority of the time talking about his scholarship, his brief glimpse into the challenges he gives his students may provide some insight into how social change can be effected at the grass roots level.

Ross, Andrew. “Riot Boys and Girls.” Rev. of Student Reistance: A History of an Unruly Subject by Mark Edelman Boren. The Village Voice. 8-14 Aug. 2001. 17 November 2005. .

In this article, Ross reviews Student Resistance: A History of an Unruly Subject by Mark Edelman Boren. The book is an exhaustive (Ross says an almost too exhaustive) history of student-led rebellions and protests (in all corners of the globe). According to Ross, the thesis of the book is that student rebellion is “a response to aggression and repression visited upon students, whether by the state or by institutional authorities” (para 3). However, Ross complains that Boren doesn’t pay enough attention to his own argument, and is more interested in documenting case histories to the exclusion of analysis.
Ross does find a workable model within the book for how student rebellions have historically played out. On numerous occasions students provoke violence and force. They succumb to this violence, but the resultant P.R. hit inspires the students’ cause, which leads to actual upheaval of the state. However, the students are ill-prepared to organize an actual leadership, and another repressive regime takes the place of the previous one.
Ross thinks it is noteworthy that two incidents defied this model—in Argentina and Czechoslovakia. However, he does not articulate what happened that made these rebellions more effective than the numerous failed rebellions.
Ross is quick to point out that Boren doesn’t adequately address the difference in student protestors between those that actually stand to benefit from change and those that are actually complicit in oppression by virtue of their identification with ruling classes. This raises an entirely different research question than the one Boren was pursuing, but it is potentially more interesting—why do students sometimes rise up to fight injustice, and why do they sometimes accept the status quo? Ross’s thesis is that it is almost entirely related to class, and there is certainly merit in such an answer, but could the situation be more nuanced? Have there been times when idealistic students set aside personal interests in the pursuit of a more common good? If the answer has ever been “yes,” it is a question worth pursuing how they got to that point. If it is a question worth pursuing, perhaps it is possible to answer the question, through, ironically enough, cultural studies. While Ross here gives the pat Marxist response, one wishes he would delve into his broad knowledge of cultural transmissions to further interrogate the problem.
However, one area in which Ross does bring his expertise to the table is in his attempt to apply Boren’s history lessons to the contemporary student anti-globalization movement (as of the article’s publication in 2001). Although he has limited space in which to explore these ideas, he wonders aloud whether the students will become “leaders” or remain “foot soldiers” (para 7). He notes that he would be content if they were to simply remain foot soldiers. Given what has occurred in the passage of time since this review was published, one wonders if even the latter designation applies to students today.

Ross, Andrew. “Ballots, Bullets, or Batmen: Can Cultural Studies do the Right Thing?” Screen 31.1 (1990): 26-44.

In this article, Ross expands a close reading of two movies to make a larger argument about the role of cultural studies in exploring the way that discreet cultures within a multi-cultural framework engage in (or avoid) dialogue with one another.
He discusses how the movie Batman, existing at the cultural center, seeks to avoid any overt racial component to its story, but simultaneously can not avoid racial subtexts. Ross reads the bat symbol as an archetype of Eastern European aristocracy, and the Batman’s project as cultural purification through white vigilante justice. The aristocratic Bruce Wayne dons his Klan-like hood in order to go on his nighttime excursions against the Joker, who represents black minstrelsy.
In contrast, Do the Right Thing, speaking from the cultural margins, makes no erasure of racial struggles, casting a multi-ethnic neighborhood in which members are forced to interact with members of other cultures.
Ross argues that Allen Bloom and E.D. Hirsch’s scholarship has contributed to a desire in the political mainstream to, like Batman, elide cultural differences in favor of creating a cultural hegemony. However, Ross argues that such a movement is insensitive at best and provokes violence at worst. He sees cultural studies as the mode by which cultural contact zones, instead of being silenced, are encouraged to speak.
Since the publication of this article, Ross’s vision to some extent has been realized. Cultural studies has splintered and pursued multiple cultural contact zones, while often giving attention to the marginalized. Melting pot and assimilationist rhetoric has diminished, and words like “diversity” and “multiculturalism” have increased cultural currency.
However, the other side of Ross’s vision is even harder to attain: a desire to perhaps fit a square peg in a round hole, to force films like Batman and Do the Right Thing into a direct dialogue. This has certainly been accomplished within academia as well, as disparate “texts” are merged and analyzed with regularity (somewhat following the model that Ross lays out in this article, which also sees him do an inter-textual reading of the Bat Symbol vs. the logo of the rap group Public Enemy). However, in a world in which most epistemological choices are informed by a scientific method, it is difficult to force someone from outside the field to see the value of conducting “experiments” with wildly different “variables.” Ross may very well point out the hegemonic nature of such epistemology—how it serves to eliminate certain discourses before they can begin, and consequently to uphold existing power structures.
To pun Ross’s title, it seems that cultural studies has within it’s arsenal a certain bullet which could be deployed in such an arena. Because cultural studies speaks about culture, it should be able to speak to culture. This is a rare advantage that other disciplines within the academy lack. While physics might only speaks to physicists, cultural studies can speak to anyone invested in culture, which is to say, everyone. In using Batman and Spike Lee to make his argument, Ross increases the potential that he will have an audience. Now, more than 15 years after the publication of this article, it still remains in cultural studies’ power to broaden its ability to do the right thing.

Ross, Andrew. “The Waste Land and Fantasies of Interpretation.” Representations 8 (Fall 1984): 134-158.

In this early article, Ross first uses psychoanalytic theory to speculate on the composition of Eliot’s The Waste Land, then expands his argument to make the claim that flawed criticism of the poem is a result of Modernism’s inability to conceive of history as a coherent unity.
Ross first sets out to explore relevant biographical elements of Eliot’s life, exploring how his job in monetary exchange prepared him for the idea of a Lacanian symbolic exchange, in which in exchange for subjectivity, a person accepts castration. Ross explores how within this and other poems, Eliot continually uses tropes of castration.
Ross cites I.A. Richards as saying Eliot had a “persistent concern with sex” (148), but Ross argues that Eliot’s portrayal of sexual dysfunction is actually metaphoric for an inability of history to cohere. According to Ross, then, a critic should accept that interpretation of the text is actually impossible, or as he calls it, a fantasy.
Just as a critic has difficulty with making The Waste Land cohere, a reader would have difficulty figuring out how this essay coheres with Ross’s later work. Here, he shows a market talent for applying psychoanalytic theory to the close reading of texts, most impressively with an exploration of how Eliot plays with language to signify castration. For an argument which ultimately ends with a disavowal of interpretation, Ross makes a serious of convincing interpretative moves.
Just as Ross toys with a psychoanalysis of Eliot, one is tempted to use this text as speculation for Ross’s later turn to cultural studies and away from literary analysis. What would have been the disadvantage of staying in literary studies? Perhaps the need to constantly re-articulate the thesis of the “fantasy of interpretation,” would have been wearying—such a thesis is a dead end after the first time it is asserted. However, by turning his attention to culture, he is able to bring his powers of analysis to bear on a subject that, even if resistant to interpretation, offers a larger space for interpretative moves.
Ross asserts in this article that the Modernists already recognized what the post-modernists would come to champion, that history is fractured and can not be fully articulated. By seeking to particularize, one can find safer ground for making claims. Perhaps Ross’s move from the realm of the literary to the cultural is an attempt to locate a space in which interpretation, no matter how fragmented, is at least a possible reality.

Ross, Andrew. “Uses of Camp.” No Respect: Intellectuals & Popular Culture. New York: Routledge, 1989. 135-170.

In this book chapter, Ross explores the rise of the aesthetic of “camp” in the 1960s. His thesis is that camp grew out of an economization of the aesthetic of “pop.” In Ross’s view, “pop” was an egalitarian movement that sought to claim all experience and expression as naturally valid, but the movement ignored cultural differences of class, gender, race, and sexuality. The resulting tension led to an emergence as camp as a way both for intellectuals to not only retain cultural capital and re-introduce an element of “taste” to aesthetic consumption, but also for entreuponears (most notably Warhol) to create an economic capital out of the pop movement. Central to Ross’s argument is the notion that camp is constructed through a re-figuring of the past, through a nostalgic “re-creation of surplus value from forgotten forms of labor” (151). Whereas pop is by nature disposable, camp resists disposability by promising a form of immortality. As evidence, Ross cites the nostalgia for the Hollywood studio system, and the way it was re-formulated by Warhol’s studio system. Ross also explores the subculture of gay camp in the ‘60s, showing how it was both a repudiation and an acceptance of oppression.
Despite the historical focus of this chapter, Ross raises larger questions appropriate to cultural criticism, most notably in his forays into determining how the concept of “taste” arises. Ross assumes that taste is entirely a cultural construct (and it is indeed difficult to argue with this), but also assumes that taste can not exist without class differences. This is a scary thought, particularly for the liberal intellectual who prides herself on her aesthetic taste. To boil the question down: can high culture exist without low culture? In this chapter, camp is implicated as a return of the high culture repressed in a time in which low culture (in the form of the “pop” movement) threatened its overthrow.
Ross devotes most of his attention in this chapter to the production of camp, rather than its consumption. He makes a compelling case that camp arises from a capitalistic supply and demand model, but one wants to know more about the way the supply addresses the demand. To what degree was camp successful in meeting the needs of its audience?
Ross makes valid observations about the problems that arose in the ‘60s from the attempts of counterculture leaders to blur the boundaries between class and social groups. He uses the disaster of Altamont as evidence, illustrating the foolishness of the belief that the Hell’s Angels would co-exist within the same ideological framework as the other social classes that existed at that concert. One wishes that Ross would take these observations a little further, and explore the different ways in which camp entertainment was consumed by different groups. In his discussions of drag queens, for example, how did the consumption of drag queens by homophobic heterosexuals undermine the ideology that went into their production? Also, when Ross does focus on consumption of camp, he is always speaking about the discerning audience who knows that they are demanding camp. What of the people who consume it with a greater naiveté, who make no distinctions between a pleasure and a guilty pleasure? How are such people acted upon by the existence of camp?

Ross, Andrew. “The Popularity of Pornography.” No Respect: Intellectuals & Popular Culture. New York: Routledge, 1989. 171-208.

In this chapter, Ross critiques intellectual’s criticisms of the Porn industry. He focuses most of his attention on what he calls the “anti-porn clique,” comprised of Feminists. Ross locates the anti-porn group in the same space inhabited by the anti-communists of the Cold War area. He argues that the anti-porn clique has a “monolithic, undifferentiated analysis of popular culture…[and] advocates collusion with censorial State power” (188). He also argues that the essentializing tendency of this group has prevented them from recognizing the diversity of practices of pornography consumers (which increasingly includes women). Furthermore, he argues that a discourse of sexuality should not be subsumed by the discourse of gender. Ross extends his argument to the political realm by suggesting that Trilling’s concept of the “liberal imagination” needs to be re-thought in terms of a “liberatory imagination”—the ability to grant rights that have not traditionally been thought necessary to political enfranchisement, but nonetheless allow for maximum individual liberty.
Ross’s strength as an analyst in this chapter is in his application of post-modernism to the topic. He does not allow for any single theory or model to be applied to the study of pornography and culture. There are too many vectors, too much diversity in both production and consumption to allow him to align with any the sweeping statements that he sees as dominating the discourse surrounding pornography. He makes suggestions for actual research in the field (and one wishes he would consider carrying them out himself), especially urging the type of ethnographic research with men’s pornography consumption that Radway conducted with women’s use of romance novels.
Along with challenging the intellectual to take a less monolithic view of this issue, Ross also challenges him to take a hard look at his potential desire to effect consciousness raising in others. He cites a “safe sex” porn video as an example of didacticism, or possibly even as an elitist mentality. Ross is sensitive in general to the tendency of the intellectual to believe that they know what’s best for the underclass. While cultural sensitivity is always a good thing, a desire to avoid elitism can be a damning exercise in elitism itself (serving to uphold the cultural status quo). Also, Ross himself would likely agree that when a moral or ethical issue is at stake, there is a larger obligation to set about changing cultural mores. Ross would likely define such an ethical issue as the oppressive exercise of power of one group over another. Although he doesn’t directly address whether pornography entails this oppression, he succeeds in this essay in putting the burden of proof on the anti-porn group to show that it does.

Ross, Andrew. Introduction. The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life. New York: Verso, 1994. 1-20.

“Ideas that draw upon the authority of nature nearly always have their origin in ideas about society. If this book’s arguments had to be summed up in one sentence, that would be it” (15). Here, Ross gives us the thesis for his book The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life. In the introduction, he makes a case for the timeliness and importance of this thesis. He maintains that although there is no unified voice of the Green movement, ecological discourse has been fully integrated into public consciousness. He is quick to point out that there are still daunting ecological challenges facing our culture, but he argues that capitalism has to some extent embraced ecological values, and that it has certainly embraced ecological rhetoric.
This concerns Ross, as he sees a parallel between ecological values of scarcity and capitalism’s drive to create scarcity. He also argues that the traditional Judeo-Christian values of “voluntary poverty and asceticism” (16) are now being mapped onto the discourse of the equally evangelical Gaians who argue for the necessity of human sacrifice. Ross also sees danger in appealing to nature as an arbiter, because, as states in his summary sentence, our conceptions of nature don’t come from nature itself but from culture. He fears the potential for “ventriloquists” to speak for nature and exercise repression in the name of natural law (14).
In this book, Ross incites the activist to take a hard look at his rhetoric. Basic assumptions of the Green movement are called into question, and one is forced to consider the potential for violence and oppression that could arise from the mass acceptance of such assumptions. Ross is most brilliant in showing how interests traditionally un-aligned with the ecological movement can adapt the mantras of the movement, not out of the same desire for environmental reform, but as a way to further their own agendas (specifically trans-national corporations).
This is a pre-9/11 book in a couple different ways. One of his chapters deals with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, a subject unlikely to be discussed today. (In the interview with Creekmur cited above, Ross discusses the ecological fallout from the subsequent collapse of the towers, and laments the misinformation about air quality given to residents in order to entice them to return and hence allow for an economic rebound). The other way in which book loses some currency is in the diminishment of ecological discourse ten years after its publication. In the Post-Cold War era, attention may have been turned to environmental issues, but the “War on Terrorism” has forced such rhetoric further back from public consciousness.
That is not to say Ross’s arguments can’t regain that currency. With natural disasters, rising fuel costs, concerns about scarcity of oil, bird viruses, and international discontent with U.S. environmental policy, we seem to have enough fermenting for an explosion of ecological discourse back into public consciousness. Furthermore, Ross argues that our system of consumer capitalism is shifting its message from encouraging us to consume surplus needs to encouraging us to be content with less than what we need. The rhetoric of scarcity could come on even stronger in coming years with an ever-growing national debt and the difficulties facing Medicare and Social Security. If and when this occurs, it would be favorable for other scholars to pick up Ross’s threads and help to demonstrate that we are not being subjected to natural laws, but to laws of our own making.

Ross, Andrew. “A Hip-Hop Haven.” No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and its Hidden Costs. New York: Perseus, 2003. 161-196.

This chapter could be classified as an informal ethnography. Ross spent months interacting with and observing the staff of the Internet start-up 360hiphop.com. This was part of a larger project in which Ross studied the world of Internet start ups, with the hope that a “no-collar” class of workers could be possible, in which people could achieve personal fulfillment in egalitarian workplaces where their labor is not exploited.
The culture of 360hiphop appealed to Ross because of its diversity and its investment in political ideals. He described employees’ alternate versions of their vision for their work: “re-energizing hip-hop’s social and political batteries…changing industry journalism for the better…harnessing new media to tap the political potential of the hip-hop generation…making odd on the economic power of the urban market to do the same…[or] sustaining a progressive workplace in a black-owned company with multiethnic staff” (194).
Ross praised many aspects of the workplace culture, noting the radical differences between 360’s environment and mainstream office culture’s, most notably in the informality of the office, and the autonomy enjoyed by employees. However, a lack of profitability led to a merger with BET, which was subsequently bought out by Viacom. The “360” element was taken out of the company, and only employees who dealt with music (as opposed to culture or politics) were retained. Ross interpreted the lay-offs as the end of the vision for a more politically and socially conscious workplace.
Ross avoids making sweeping observations in this chapter, instead choosing to take a journalistic approach. (Although he deviates from this model at times and indulges in some cultural analysis, most interestingly when he speculates on the differences in white and black bohemia and their contrasting attitudes toward material wealth). The prose style of this chapter is in sharp contrast to his other academic work reviewed above. He eschews academic discourse (except for one incident of letting slip the word “hybrid”), which works well to advance his narrative. As a fully tenured professor with an impeccable reputation, he is now allowed the luxury of both taking lots of time to research his subjects, as well as relate his findings in accessible language, which benefits both the academic community and potentially others as well.
Whether in his academic prose or in the journalistic style of this chapter, Ross tries to be subtle about his activism and present as neutral of a tone as possible. It’s a balancing act, since he usually has a strain of provocative or challenging rhetoric underneath his air of casualness. In this chapter, he practices immersion journalism without any “gonzo” element; very rarely does he remind his readers that he is in continual contact with his subjects. When he quotes people, the context is more interview than re-counting of casual conversations. One is curious to know how his presence affected (or didn’t affect) the environment he reports on.
Ross ends the chapter with an exploration of whether new media can live up to the lofty ideals espoused by 360’s employees, some of whom Ross tells us left previous “dream jobs” and moved families across the country to work for the company. He allows the employees to speak for them, and he is a bit surprised that many of them feel that although their situation didn’t come to fruition the way they hoped, they are not cynical about the potential that the “New Media” can one day achieve what 360 didn’t.
In even asking this question, Ross makes a potentially overlooked contribution to English scholarship. The disciplinary dividing lines between English and other departments is fuzzier today than it has been in the past, and one wonders if the divide between English and Communications is one that needs to stay in place. Media studies, especially of emergent media, seems to be in the realm of communications departments, but could easily be subject to English. This book also encroaches on the field of economics. Perhaps it can be the role of English (or cultural studies) to serve as a nexus for integrating fields of enquiry. Of course, such work would have to be liberated from the jargon specific to a particular field. With this chapter, Ross provides a bit of a model for how this could be accomplished.

Ross, Andrew. “The Domestic Front” Anti-Americanism. Ed. Andrew Ross and Kristin Ross. New York: New York UP, 2004. 281-300.

In this book chapter, Ross attempts to give a historical context to the practice of labeling (domestic) American dissenters as anti-American. He compares the post-9/11 political climate to the McCarthy era. Most troublesome to Ross is the left’s practice of policing itself and shunning those who refuse to pledge allegiance to the United States. The usual rationale from the Left, according to Ross, is that by allowing such sentiments to be aired in the court of public opinion, the populace is alienated and consequently unwilling to consider any arguments from progressives. Ross also notes that the Right makes use of the charge of anti-Americanism to “ensure that political debate is contained within the borders of civic nationalism” (292).
The upshot for Ross is that such rhetoric from both sides ignores the reality that the nation-state does not wield absolute power in today’s global marketplace. To him, accusations of anti-Americanism are irrelevant, and progressives should not go out of their way to avoid such a label. His proscription is for “progressive globalists…to think and act beyond the nation-state” (296).
Ross argues that if domestic dissenters need not fear offending the “idea of America” they are freer to say or do what is necessary. His challenge then is to get others to accept that the United States has less global relevancy as a political body than commonly thought. He attempts to do this by invoking the rise of the transnational corporation, and by documenting the decline in American cultural imperialism. His most daunting task, though, is to account for American military intervention overseas. Here he attempts to show how out of step the Bush administration is with the times, and how ineffectual its efforts will prove to be.
Ross grounds his arguments with extensive research and documentation, and he adds quite a bit of historical context relating to American imperial history. One wishes, however, that he would provide more concrete examples of those who have been labeled anti-American, yet are or were still successful in getting their message heard. The lack of his ability to do so may point to the possibility that his argument may be more valid in some future time. The trends he points to for support of his assertions of American diminishment may be just that—trends that have yet to fully materialize.
In fact, Ross’s essay hints at some form of teleology. He doesn’t go so far as to suggest that the nation state will cease to exist, but in making the case for the future irrelevance of national boundaries, it is an implication. Whether political boundaries will exist, Ross does seem to think it inevitable that national ideologies will no longer matter in the future. Perhaps this explains his seemingly gratuitous exploration of American policy toward Haiti in the 18th Century—his efforts to expose the past contradictions in American ideology seek to inform his readership that there never actually was a consistent American ideology, and by extension we are no longer bound to documents such as the Constitution as we attempt to negotiate a worldwide discourse that guarantees liberty and justice for all.