Kabuki update

Continuing from the first installment.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo gives us this confused example:

One interesting dimension of this Kabuki theater exercise is that it’s not even completely clear which part of the Republican caucus open defections could come from.

Josh, if you have no idea how it’s going to turn out, why are you calling it Kabuki?
John G Scherb, of PeaceJournalism.com, slips his reference into an essay on the Taiwan arms deal question.

And no one, save for a few
wizened China experts, really cares about it because nothing really
changes. It’s a Kabuki dance, an elaborate ritual that benefits a few,
ups the world tensions a notch or two, and then is quickly forgotten.

The web site claims to be based in Nepal, whose citizens, being far closer to China than the typical clueless Westerner would seem to be in a position to know enough about Chinese culture to realize that a: Kabuki is from Japan and not China, and b: that Kabuki, while highly scripted, is not what I would call a ‘ritual,’ and is a rather awful metaphor for what he’s discussing. After all, if it were ‘quickly forgotten,’ why is it the metaphor of choice for creatively braindead political columnists?

I don’t want to knock PeaceJournalism.com too much though-after all they do have this pretty awesome proposal for THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL CONTACT ACT, to be enacted by the US Congress.

The last entry for today is courtesy of Wayne Madsen at Global Research.ca, writing about the Plame/Rove/Darth Sidius scandal that’s gripped the imagination of the most boring people in America. Madsen actually describes two different situations as Kabuki.

Not surprisingly, the White House spin Kabuki dancers, fully expecting a Friday announcement from Fitzgerald, altered course and announced that Bush would not name a replacement for O’Connor until some time next week.

While Mr. Madsen is guilty of yet another horrifically bad Kabuki metaphor, at least he gives us this rather amusing photo collage to illustrate his lack of a point.
kabuki dance
The White House Kabuki dance with Patrick Fitzgerald

What is the alternative? How can reporters possibly describe politics without the richness of inappropriate metaphors?

Take this photo, which was plastered all over the front page of every newspaper in Taiwan yesterday. The typical American political reporter or pundit would probably describe this as the result of a Kabuki dance, or possibly, if they considered themselves more of an elitist prick (i.e. a George Will, or Christopher Hitchens) perhaps even a Noh play. A more accurate description, however, would be to say that Chang Sho-wen got the shit beat out of him, and that Taiwanese legislators routinely beat the shit out of each other.

Of course, not all mention of Kabuki in the press is inherently gratuitous. For example, take this brief news item from The Japan Times.

Mitsukoshi Ltd. and Shochiku Co. said Tuesday they will form a business alliance to develop kabuki-related products.

The department store chain and Japan’s major movie distributing firm will jointly set up a project team to share their strategies on the kabuki business, including developing souvenirs, planning play-watching trips and selling play tickets to customers of each company.

Shochiku has positioned the traditional performing art as its core business since its foundation in 1920, while Mitsukoshi has been organizing various kabuki events with the film distributor’s support since 1946.

2 thoughts on “Kabuki update”

  1. Your article was beautiful and easily forgotten like a Kabuki play.

    My articles tend to be like a sumo match… they take forever to get going and then when they do the action’s over in seconds. Oh and people are always throwing zabuton at me.

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