What It Looks Like When You Leave The Embed Or Thank Goodness Some Remember The Basics

Jeremy Scahill has written a fascinating piece for The Nation called Killing Reconciliation. He and film maker Rick Rowley (of Big Noise Films – see a recent one called The Return Of The Warlords on Afghanistan) traveled in Afghanistan outside the predictability and suffocating inanity of the ’embedded’ war and bring back some fascinating insights into the situation. Details »

All Muslims Are Terrorists And We All Know It’s True Because The TV Says So

Nikolas D. Kristof is upset. The New York Times columnist is dismayed at ‘… how venomous and debased the discourse about Islam has become…’ More recently he even went so far as to offer a ‘collective’ apology on behalf of ‘us’ i.e. Americans to the ‘Islamic’ collective, saying that

I’m sickened when I hear such gentle souls lumped in with Qaeda terrorists, and when I hear the faith they hold sacred excoriated and mocked. To them and to others smeared, I apologize.

As always, Mr. Kristof has no sense of irony. Had he any he would have realized he is a columnist for a publication that has been consistently responsible for a shallow, narrow, derogatory, clichéd, sensationalist, reductive, and yes racist representation of Muslims and the broader Muslim world. Details »

In These Days Of Confusion And Obfuscation, A Voice That Still Clarifies, Illuminates and Reveals

Why waste time writing, when Eqbal Ahmed can simply clarify with greater clarity and insight. An intellectual, revolutionary, activist, academic and a MacArthur Fellow, Eqbal Ahmed saw and spoke with a clarity and insight that few have been able to match. Edward Said dedicated his book ‘Culture & Imperialism’ to him (the credit says simply: For EA).

This is an important talk, a reminder of where we have come from, and why today’s ‘good war’ is a mess of our own making.

Eqbal asks the questions we here in America remain consistently afraid to ask. He offers answer that we consistently refuse to hear.

Too many today , particularly in our newspapers of note who tell us that they only print ‘the news that is fit to print’, work hard to hide and erase from our memories the continuities of policy and prejudices that have bought us to where we  are. They work hard to convince us that ‘the barbarism’ there has no connection to ‘the civilization’ here.  But Walter Benjamin would remind us that ‘There is no document of civilization that is not simultaneously a document of barbarism’.

A fascinating film which can now be seen on youtube is called ‘An Unholy Alliance’ which takes us back to our ‘jihad‘ against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and the close relationship of the CIA and the drug trade. The roots of our ‘involvement’, or should i say ‘addiction’ to Afghanistan can be seen here (below is the 1st of 6 parts of this video):

We would do well to remember history, its inter-connections, and our deep, enmeshed and messy involvement and influence in a region we now stare at in confusion

Hey Buddy, Hold That Execution While My Memory Card Reformats Or What Does It Take Before Something Can Be Called A Story

Photographer Marco Vernaschi has gotten himself into quicksand, and taken the otherwise respectable Pulitzer Center On Crisis Reporting with him. And all I can think about are the forces, commercial and personal, that compel individuals to transgress boundaries of common decency, and institutions that celebrate these by publishing them.

Marco Vernaschi recently published a piece on the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s Untold Stories site about child sacrifice rituals in Uganda. When I first saw the piece I was left unmoved and frankly uninterested. The writing itself was uninteresting, and the photography – black and white pictures stylized, manipulated and otherwise manufactured to suggest ‘menace’, ‘evil darkness’, and ‘nightmares’, seemed only to be the latest in a long heritage of photographers trawling Africa for their piece of the continent’s apparently rich buffet table of the ‘demonic’, ‘diabolical’, ‘devilish’, ‘maniacal’ and otherwise deranged and deviant.

What in fact did surprise me about the work was that the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting was supporting and funding it. The work, and the photographer, just seemed a bit too over-the-top, too sensationalist and titillating and hence incongruent with so much of the rest of what the Pulitzer Center typically sponsored and supported. But I just dismissed my response as uninformed and moved on. Details »

The Strange Silence Of The Conscience

The New York Review of Books recently published an excerpt from Tony Judts new bookk Ill Fares The Land. Judt has been perhaps the most articulate voice speaking out against the poverty of imagination that has paralyzed our nation and left so many American’s in social, health, educational and economic deprivation. A state of affairs that would have been the scandal of any civilized, modern, just nation, but that in our American today barely seems to find mention in the corridors of power or the glitzy pages of our iPad-ready news publications.

In a version of the essay published on PULSE the excerpt includes some fascinating visual representation of our state of affairs. I reprint them here for your convenience.

His conclusions were heart breaking:

There has been a collapse in inter-generational mobility: in contrast to their parents and grandparents, children today in the UK as in the US have very little expectation of improving upon the condition into which they were born. The poor stay poor. Economic disadvantage for the overwhelming majority translates into ill health, missed educational opportunity, and—increasingly—the familiar symptoms of depression: alcoholism, obesity, gambling, and minor criminality. The unemployed or underemployed lose such skills as they have acquired and become chronically superfluous to the economy. Anxiety and stress, not to mention illness and early death, frequently follow.

Pointing out with his characteristic clarity that:

Inequality is corrosive. It rots societies from within. The impact of material differences takes a while to show up: but in due course competition for status and goods increases; people feel a growing sense of superiority (or inferiority) based on their possessions; prejudice toward those on the lower rungs of the social ladder hardens; crime spikes and the pathologies of social disadvantage become ever more marked. The legacy of unregulated wealth creation is bitter indeed.

As I scanned these statistic, and read Tony Judt’s words, moved as I was by their sense of urgency and sheer call to common humanity, I was struck by the fact that most all of this is completely absent from the works being produced by the best and the brightest of our photojournalists and photo agencies. I guess what I mean is; why isn’t this the most important photojournalism story of the last few years?

As I look across the recent photojournalism awards, and scan for works in newspaper websites, I see a dearth of serious and committed interest in the hollowing out of America. There are a few stories here and there, a large number based on news reports about the health care debate and the foreclosure crisis. Matt Black has been working away with his usual tenacity and dedication. But this is far, far more than about a news blip, or a protest march, or the foreclosure of a home or two. It is about a fundamental surrender of government and national responsibility towards the very citizens both are supposed to serve. It’s about finding ourselves in this strange, irresponsible, unconscionable and immoral place in history where we can approve billions for foreign wars – illegal, unjust and paranoid as they are, and yet fight tooth and nail to stop even pennies for the care of our own.

I see the statistics above, and I see the silence all around. And I ask why?

UPDATE: Anthony Suau. Why does that not surprise me. It turns out that Anthony Suau has been working on different aspects of this story and you can see some of that work on his archive site US Economy 2008 2009. I have written about Anthony in an earlier piece called Anthony Suau: Quiet, Serious, Profilic, Focused

The Subtlest Cuts Are The Deepest Or Why Silence About History Continues To Deprive The Haitians Their Suffering

Its difficult to know how to react to this rather strange piece of writing that appeared in a recent issue of Time magazine. Written by the photojournalist James Nacthwey, and titled Haiti: Out of the Ruins, it appears to dance uncomfortably and rather desperately, between a poem and prose. I could not quite tell what it was, and I struggled to work through it. However, not being much of a writer myself, I acknowledge my inability to appreciate its complete poetic possibilities.

But what I could appreciate is what was left unsaid. I found the piece confusing because of a very simple, obvious and glaring omission; the role and influence of the United States of America in the creation of the very history this piece claims the Haitians continue to endure. Or more precisely:

They continue to endure their history — a crescendo of privation and hardship, matched by strength, pride and dignity. Their nation was born in the conquest of slavery; it has been shaped by poverty, struggle and faith.

Not quite. Details »

To Hear Or See An Haitian Once The Party Has Died Down

There is something terribly indecent about it and we have to be honest and acknowledge it.

The hoards of photographers and wanna-be photographers, most eyeing each other and copying each other so that they may not get ‘left behind’, that have descended on Haiti since the devastating earthquake there remind me why I have felt so alienated and disconnected from this entire craft. The specious justifications of ‘bearing witness’ or that ‘…news pictures help drive a response of aid’, just no longer ring true.

Rarely have so many people used so many clichés so repetitively to justify an act (the news photograph) so lacking in engagement for so long. Decades since photographers started using the language of ‘concerned photographer’, a new generation continues to parrot the same language, and continues to hide its real motivations – determined more by careerism, a pursuit of awards, or just plain bravado, behind a veil of moral, and messianic language of ‘bearing witness’, and ‘in the hope that it will change things’. I am hearing it all over again in Haiti and its driving me nuts! Details »

A Bit Of Word Play Fit For A King Or Regent Street

Speaking Howard Zinn

I have so much to say about him, but can’t find the right words. But I could not leave this blog without mentioning a man whose ideas and values has had a tremendous influence on my own. I mentioned to a friend that a great generation of American dissidents is passing and I fear that there isn’t a new generation to replace them. Chomsky, Vidal, Cockburn, Barsamian come to mind and each have been at their task for decades. I hope that I am wrong. But, while I wait to discover and read a new generation, here is Viggo Mortensen reading Zinn, thanks to PULSE. Details »

Interestingly A War Crime In Any Language Remains A War Crime & The Dead In Any Language Remain Dead

From PULSE media.