The Long Arms Of Islamohysteria™

The [New York Times] article attempts to provide insight into how modern-day racists negotiate the contemporary racial terrain. But this is hard to do, given that the Times along with other establishment media outlets are a crucial part of that terrain.

Take the article’s observations about America’s shifting racial scapegoats. Confessore writes:

“While open racism against blacks remains among the most powerful taboos in American politics, Americans feel more free expressing worries about illegal immigrants and dislike of Islam, survey research shows.”

But why is it that white Americans feel more free to express Islamophobia and xenophobia than anti-black bigotry? Surely this has much to do with the fact that in recent years powerful media outlets have done much to legitimize the former biases.

FAIR Blog, “NYT Looks at the Political Exploitation of White Supremacism–but Not Too Hard”, July 14, 2016

To say that the New York Times these days is into Islamohysteria™ would not be an under-statement. Islamohysteria™ is a little known area of academic study, but one that has a long pedigree and reams of evidence. It is the habit of taking a handful of statements by officials, intelligence operatives, neo-conservative pundits and government provided ‘defectors’ and ‘informers’, and producing articles that use words like ‘global’, ‘nuclear’, ‘mushroom cloud’ and more. The New York Times has offered a masterclass in manufacturing Islamohysteria™, relentlessly publishing poorly investigated, anonymous and state / intelligence sourced articles that pretend to be journalism, but are really little more than stenography.

And where  once the likes of Judith Miller would run around the globe interviewing officials, defectors and intelligence operatives, and simply regurgitate their claims and statements as facts, and then construct wild and fantastic fantasies of global domination and nuclear annihilation by our enemies, we seem to have found a new set of recruits that are experts at the same game. There was Carlotta Gall of course, and David Sanger of the infamous ‘nuclear triggers for Osama Bin Ladin’ lie, Mark Mazzetti with his insider notes sent directly to the CIA to reveal what his colleague was about to file, or the shameless way New York Times Michael Gordon met with the State Department to ask for their help to ‘vet’ the Iraq Logs or completely bury them that were about to be published. There is a long, long history of sordid collusion with powerful state and intelligence actors here to 1) spread lies, 2) concoct evidence, 3) spread fear ad hysteria, and 4) manufacture enemies particularly ‘Islamic’ one.

Screen Shot 2016

In a recent article Callimachi seems to be anxious to fill these questionable and sorry boots. And does a ‘fine’ job at it too. It would be one thing to speak to an officially provided witness to ISIS / ISIL, and interview him in a closely monitored and watched setup inside a federal prison, and then to repeatedly and exclusively report the quotes and ‘evidence’ offered by state officials, intelligence insiders, and other such functionaries, but it is an entirely different thing to take all this verbatim, without even a modicum of skepticism or questioning, and weave an article out of it.

What I find shocking in fact is precisely this absolute lack of fundamental journalistic practice: doubt, questioning, skepticism, challenging, demanding evidence, and independent investigation that isn’t linked to being taken on a ‘tour’. This article is a different form of ’embedded’ journalism, complete with appropriately selected voices, a carefully selected set of official statements, a very narrow understanding of the issues she is covering and a complete lack of interest in details and specifics. In fact, the writing is filled with sweeping and general statements that beg to be investigated further, but Callimachi is too good a professional or too much of a careerist to actually both.

Let keep in mind: the one and only thing Sarfo saw and knows from direct evidence and fact is that 1) training can be brutal, and 2) that there are a lot of lies and propaganda in ISIS / ISIL videos and recruiting videos. This is what he saw, and this is what led him to realise his mistake and leave. However, all else is mere heresay. And in fact, given that Sarfo knows and has evidence about how wide a gulf there is between propaganda statements and bombast, and the reality of ISIS / ISIL, I find it surprising that the journalist would not wonder whether these statements about ‘hundreds of people in Europe’ are also just lies and bombast!

This does not even occur to Callimachi who cherry picks what she wants to see as ‘truths’ and what she does not want to see. She takes Sarfo’s many statements at face value, as is he was some deep throat voice when in fact he was there for just a few weeks, most of which he spent trying to get away. Here is a witness with absolutely no access or knowledge to the operations of ISIS / ISIL, the command or planning structure, and in fact, never really met anyone or saw anything that could confirm or back up his claims. He may be right, he may be guessing, he may be creating this evidence to appease his captors and find a way to plea bargain his way out of his predicament in Germany by ‘promising’ them ‘important’ details and intelligence – this would not be the first time someone has done this, and then fed all sorts of lies. But none of this occurs to this ‘reporter covering terrorism’, as she describes herself. This is a serious breach of journalistic practice!

As you read closely, you see the wide gaps in thought. Here is an intelligence assessment that cannot find any link between various attacks in Europe, other than self-claimed ‘allegiance’. But the absence of evidence is seen as evidence of a secret connection.

“With European officials stretched by a string of assaults by seemingly unconnected attackers who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, Mr. Sarfo suggested that there may be more of a link than the authorities yet know.”

Then follow unsubstantiated and frankly impossible to prove of disprove statements such as this, which are quoted by giving the official ‘anonymity’.

“The group has sent “hundreds of operatives” back to the European Union, with “hundreds more in Turkey alone,” according to a senior United States intelligence official and a senior American defense official, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.”

This is a seriously poor journalistic practice – offering anonymity to people who have an interest in spreading lies even as they offer useless and polemical statements, not even genuine facts or reports. Anonymity was originally meant to protect those who were leaking dangerous information about the state or powerful actors, and if offered them protection from being targeted. It was a ‘whistle-blowers’ last resort of safety, not a first resort of propagandist. That Callimachi and so many other New York Times journalists increasingly offer this to people in the business of manufacturing propaganda is shocking to say the least. These ‘public officials’ ought to be held accountable for their statements because these are the statements that are pushing our nation to war. And of course, The New York Times will not do that, but just repeated their statements without challenging or questioning them.

And then the kicker:

“While some details of Mr. Sarfo’s account cannot be verified, his statements track with what other recruits related in their interrogations. And both prison officials and the German intelligence agents who debriefed Mr. Sarfo after his arrest said they found him credible.”

Which aspects of his account cannot be verified? What aspects track with those of the recruits? Could it be that the ‘global network’ claim does not track? Or that only their training experience tracks? Which one was it? How can you write a headline that claims a global horror show, and then drop this statement in without telling us where things are unclear or where there are no facts. If his statements cannot be verified, why did you spend tens of thousands of dollars, and plenty of man hours, to say nothing about the production values involved, to pen this piece?

But clearly, such strict standards are of little interest to the journalist, or to the editors. That is, when it comes to reporting on Islam, Muslims or the Arab world, it is hysteria and sensationalism, fear-mongering and Hollywood-style reporting, that matters. Truth, facts, skepticism and doubt are put in the back seat, if not the ejection seat. Such credibility, such gullibility, such unquestioning obsequiousness to sources a journalist is taken to by intelligence and government officials, is remarkable to witness. The hysterical reporting continues, once again, entirely based on ‘intelligence’ officials.

“Records from French, Austrian and Belgian intelligence agencies show that at least 28 operatives recruited by the Emni succeeded in deploying to countries outside of the Islamic State’s core territory, mounting both successful attacks and plots that were foiled. Officials say that dozens of other operatives have slipped through and formed sleeper cells.”

There is so much that can be torn apart in the above statement – what is ‘core territories’ and why does this mean ‘global’ given that ISIS / ISIL does not have a fixed territory. And where have we heard about ‘sleeper cells’ and people ‘slipping’ through? Some years ago Ahmed Rashid claimed there were hundreds of Al-Qaeda training facilities all over Europe. This hysteria, these fantasmagasm are incredibly repetitive. Here was Ahmed Rashid talking about Al-Qaeda and its focus on Europe from 2008 (see:…/descent_into_chaos_ahmed_rash…):

“And now you have huge efforts by al-Qaeda to train European Muslims, to train white European converts to Islam. They’ve set up training camps now with language facilities. That means if you’re a German Muslim, you don’t speak Arabic, you don’t speak any of the local languages, and you arrive at one of these camps, you’ll get a German trainer, you’ll get a French trainer, in order to train you how to do — how to build explosives, how to carry out suicide bombings. Now, that means that al-Qaeda has really developed a much greater capacity since 9/11, when a lot of it was destroyed. It has rebuilt itself.”

That no such camps, or international terror networks, or sleeper cells, or the repeated promises of hundreds of Al-Qaeda operatives has emerged is not something journalists can be bothered to investigate. These sensationalist claims, have no factual basis, and are based on fear and speculation, hearsay and the easy willingness of Western media and certain political types to be open and receptive to them. By the way, another ‘informant’ that Callimachi quotes, and who was handed to her by officials, has the creditial and experience of having run a restaurant where he apparently served food to some ISIS operatives. Seriously? Yes, seriously. Here is the paragraph from Callimachi’s article:

“Mr. Moreau explained that he had run a restaurant in Raqqa, Syria, the de facto capital of the group’s territory, where he had served meals to key members of the Emni — including Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the on-the-ground commander of the Paris attacks, who was killed in a standoff with the police days later.”

How, in any way, would this be a relevant informant? Back in 1996, while working in Los Angeles, I used to often eat lunch at the same restaurant that Mel Gibson frequented. Now, whereas that is cute bar chat, how is it a basis for any insights into Mel Gibson? Does this journalist wonder why senior operatives of ISIS / ISIL, if they are so insidiously evil and violent, and so secretive, discuss anything over a shwarma in the midst of a restaurant?

This is not journalism. That the New York Times, after all the facts and evidence we have about the ways in which careerists like Judith Miller became the foils for its institutional allegiance to power, and its fundamental commitment to spreading lies and propaganda for the American war state, can still continue to produce exactly the same sort of rubbish as it was back in 2001 / 2003, is incredible. That they can still find gullible and career-obsessed operatives like Callimachi is perhaps less so. But they do. And these pieces work to spread fear and create an atmosphere of paranoia and cowardice in the citizenry. That is what they are meant for. The newspaper does not shy away from journalistic malpractice, and shameless shilling for intelligence and state department interests. Callimachi is only the latest idiot to join this parade of clowns and its shocking to continue to have to read this trash and to have to even explain it to people.

But if the New York Times persists, so shall we on calling out its lies and its sordid practices.

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From “Headmen” To “Hitmen”–A People Brutalised Yet Again

Another photographer turns up at another manufactured ‘traditional’ geography, and produces another set of racist, reductive and entirely fake set of images. I don’t mean ‘fake’ in the way that most photographer’s get all concerned about. I mean ‘fake’ in a much more serious way, one that reduces people to social, political and historical caricatures and makes them into concocted objects for class titillation and voyeurism. And this American magazine–mired deep in the heart of American imperialism, its violence and its brutality–publishes the images and accompanies them with what can only be described as one of the most incredibly ahistorical, obfuscatory and infantile articles I have read outside of stuff frequently published by Time Magazine and/or The New York Times.

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Thomas Sankara’s Restless Children

The project is now complete. Although, we may never really complete the telling of this remarkable story. You can see the project by clicking on this link here, or on the image below.

Eyes Of Aliyah–Deport, Deprive, Extradite Initiative By Nisha Kapoor

I have publicly and on this forum very explicitly argued against the strange ‘disappearance’ of black/brown bodies that are the actual targets and victims of our ‘liberal’ state policies of surveillance, entrapment, drone assassinations, renditions and indefinite detention. I recently argued:

“Western visual journalism, and visual artists, have erased the actual victims of the criminal policies of the imperial state. Instead, most all have chosen to produce a large array of projects examining drone attacks, surveillance, detentions and other practices, through the use of digital abstractions, analogous environments, still life work or just simply the fascinating and enticing safety of datagrams and charts. Even a quick look at recent exhibitions focusing on the ‘war on terror’ or wars in general, have invited works that use digital representations of war, or focus on the technologies of war. An extreme case of this deflection are recent projects on drone warfare that not only avoid the actual brown/black bodies that are the targets of deadly drone attacks, but are not even produced anywhere near the geographies and social ecologies where drone attacks continue to happen! Yet, these works have found tremendous popularity, though i remain confused what kinds of conversations or debates they provoke given that the voices of the families of those who have been killed, are not only entirely missing, but people who can raised the difficult questions about the lies and propaganda that are used to justify the killings, are also entirely missing.”

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Public Release of “The Sinner”

This is my first feature length documentary film and we–Justice Project Pakistan, with the guiding support of Sarah BelalRimmel Mohydin and others at Justice Project Pakistan, are finally releasing it.

And we are doing it first in Pakistan.

The film takes us into the world of capital punishment in Pakistan through the life of one man; Jan Masi. Jan Masi worked as an execution for nearly 30 years, and claims to have executed over 1800 people. He started his work in the enthusiastic pursuit of revenge for the execution of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

This isn’t a typical documentary film. No talking heads. No linear story-telling. No polemics or moral grand standing. No righteous exclamations against capital punishment. Instead, Jan Masi, his life, his scars, his fears and despair, act as metaphors for the meaning of capital punishment in Pakistan, and the consequences it has on the broader Pakistani society.

Sudhir Patwardhan

Sudhir Patwardhan.

Can you discover ‘an influence’ after the fact?

What do you call someone who seems to embody your eye, your sensibility, and yet you had never seen his / her work, and yet, when you now see it, you see the ‘influence’…the similarities?

Is he confronting the same questions? Is he seeing this incredibly complex and multi-layered world with the same desire to depict it as close to that complexity as possible?

I was taken aback. The aesthetic pursuit is so familiar. It is as if he is a step ahead of me. He is a step ahead of me.

I am going through these images–gorgeous, striking, unique, and no, I refuse to give you some ‘European’ reference to understand them in any way. They are Patwardhan’s and his alone. But I want to make them as photographs.

They are the photographs I would make if in Mumbai. It is beautiful stuff. It makes me want to go and make photographs.

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Make It Right For Palestine, November 4, 2017

Be there. Hyde Park. Speaker’s Corner. London. 12:00 noon. 4th November, 2017.

The Polis Project…Is Up And Running

If you can’t join them, then just do it on your own.

We launched a new collective focused on research, reportage and resistance. The specific goals and objectives are being developed as we speak, but the idea is a simple one: to collect under one banner a group of individuals from different fields – artists, writers, academics, photographers, intellectuals, poets and others, who are consistently working against the grain. In this time of collective conformity, and a media sycophancy to power and extremism, some of us felt the need to create a small space where people are still determined to refuse the agendas of political power, debilitating capitalism, nationalist extremism and neoliberal idiocy, and remain fools in their hearts, and idealists in their souls.

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Short Doc: “As If A Nightmare”;The Story Of Former Bagram Prisoner Abdul Haleem Saifullah


We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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Short Doc: “Prisoner 1432” – The Story of Former Bagram Prisoner Amanatullah Ali


We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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10 Things To Consider…

I recommend that photographers, photojournalists, documentary photographers remember these wise words by Tania Canas, RISE Arts Director / Member – I am copying and pasting it here. As brown and black bodies are stripped of their clothing, as brown and black children are dehumanised to mere misery, as brown and black women are reduced to simply victims, as ghettos and brothels and refugee camps and slums become the ‘paint by number’ formula for White photographer’s career and publishing success, it becomes increasingly important that those of us on the receiving end of White ‘largesse’ begin to build obstacles, speak back, and refuse / reject these ‘representations’ and their reductive, violent and brutal narrative frames. We have lost too much, and are in danger of whatever little we have left as humans and as histories, if we permit this process to continue.

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