Still Speaking For The Others, But At Least Doing It Honestly

Ben Ehrenreich wrote perhaps one of the best pieces about the Palestinian resistance struggle in the town of Bilin in the West Bank against Israel’s hideous and inhumane apartheid wall. He was also the guy I quoted in a piece I wrote on Western photojournalism’s obsessive Eurocentrism when it comes to reporting on Brown and Black societies.

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Amnesia As A Choice

This is one of the most beautifully produced pieces of Western propaganda I have seen in a long time. There is no doubt that MSNBC spent a lot of time, money and design effort, in collaboration with the ‘great’ Magnum Photo agency, to put this together. But there is also no doubt, that this entire body of work, with all its fancy graphics, its large-scale photographic presentations, its sophisticated digital presentation structure, is entirely meant to help us forget.

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The Fall Of Adonis

This was a shockingly bizarre set of responses from a man considered to be one of the great Arab intellectuals of our time. I have read Adonis extensively, and I am frankly really surprised to see him argue that:

“If we do not distinguish between what is religious and what is political, cultural, and social, nothing will change and the decline of the Arabs will worsen. Religion is not the answer to problems anymore. Religion is the cause of problems. That is why it needs to be separated. Every free human believes in what he wants, and we should respect that. But for religion to be the foundation of society? No.”

Oh dear. I never imagined a day would come when I would realise that Adonis, considered one of the greatest living Arab poets, would reveal that he is poorly read, and even worse, intellectually dead. 

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War As A Product

The two individuals, introduced to us as ‘reporters’ for The New York Times, Helene Cooper and Adam Ferguson, and who are “…aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf.” are apparently conducting journalism. But it is near impossible to see how they could be doing anything other than producing propaganda pieces for the US war machine. Embedded with US military forces on an aircraft carrier battle group in the middle of the Persian Gulf, where access can only be achieved through careful negotiations and agreements between the highest levels of military command and the highest levels of The New York Time’s corporate command, I can’t see either one being able to produce anything else. But of course, the New York Times would have you believe otherwise. 

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The Panama Deception

It’s remarkable that after all these years, and all the revelations to the media lies and propaganda that fed the build up and prosecution of this unjust, and unnecessary invasion of Panama, that a photojournalist like Ron Haviv can still brag about this work, and discuss it as if it ‘made a difference’. It is odd that he doesn’t realise that the US media, with its unquestioning repetition of government propaganda, instigated an invasion that cost the lives of many innocents! What surprises and dismays me about his statements – so entirely ahistorical, is his refusal to understand that his photo was used by the state, by the government propaganda machine, to serve a purpose that the state had already developed. His picture became a weapon of pre-emptive and planned war!

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When All Else Fails, Give Them Our Games…

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They tried invasions, occupations, complete imperial rule. They tried bunker-busting bombs, Uranium tipped missiles. They have tried drones, and night raids, and torture and indefinite detention. They have tried the full weight of a rhetoric of love of man and human rights. And now they will try the….skate board. Details »

The Silence Of The Lambs

A big congratulations to the New York Times Lens blog for yet another obfuscatory, confusing, and overtly misleading piece about Libya, ISIS and the chaos that reigns there. Oh, but you will argue, this is not about that, but about the suffering of the families of the Christians who were killed by ISIS. Its an emotional story. A human interest story. Indeed. It is anything but that. It is in fact very much about the fact that the deaths of the these men occurred at the hands of a militancy that only exists because of the near decade long series of idiotic, immoral, criminal and illegitimate military actions we have been gleefully conducting in the region. That is, there is a history, and it is one that we as Americans have written with mendacity, illegality, brutality and simple stupidity. But of course, in the finest traditions of propaganda journalism, all this is simply jettisoned. Details »

The Self-Flagellating Native Intellectual And The Quest For The Pleasures Of Empire

There is a remarkably succinct and clear moment in Gauri Viswanathan’s brilliant work Masks of Conquest: Literary Study And British Rule In India when she points out that colonizer’s self-representation:

…to native Indians through the products of his mental labor removes him from the place of ongoing colonialist activity-of commercial operations, military expansion, and administration of territories-and deactualizes and diffuses his material reality in the process…His material reality as subjugator and alien ruler is dissolved in his mental output; the blurring of the man and his works effectively removes him from history.

The colonized is unable to see the colonizer for his reality, but becomes hypnotized and bamboozled by the self-representation, so much so that the colonized become the vehicle for the perpetuation of the colonizers original self-representation. In the process, the colonized forgets the history, politics, economics and ideology that in fact inform and move the project of empire. Instead, the colonized – the subservient, the intellectually usurped native, looks back into himself and find himself lacking. In himself he sees the lesser actuality and the sordid materiality of his pathetic existence. In the colonizer he sees the ideal, the principled, the inspiring and aspired towards. And in the gap between the colonized self-image of being in a fallen state, and the colonizers exalted state, lies void into which the colonized casts his moral, and intellectual stones in the hope of building a bridge, however rickety, to traverse the distance.

Where The Wild Things Are!

The Pashtun of Waziristan, Pakistan has today become an avatar for violence, terrorism, rebellion, guerrilla warfare and other things deviant and vile. There is however a long heritage of depicting these people of the tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan as genetically prone to violence and culturally prone to resistance to ‘civilised’ politics. This prejudice informs any and all writing about them, their history and the wars being waged in their backyards. From British colonial ear shenanigans – given the pretty-cute euphemism of ‘The Great Game’ to veil the fact that the White man’s ‘games’ are the brown man’s death sentence, genocide, pillage, massacre, mass murder, refugee crisis etc. to current American imperial wars in the region, the people of this region have been seen as nothing more than ‘barbaric’,and  ‘fundamentalist’ and continue to be spoken about with the worst of Orientalist and colonialist simplicities one can imagine – tribal, unconquerable, rebellious, and lawless. Where the British colonialist left off, their ancestors in the American political and academic establishment and the Pakistani post-colonialist structure have continued.

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Can non-Europeans think, and if so, can the non-European be allowed to speak?

Hamid Dabashi makes an argument that should have been made much earlier. So indeed, why are all the incredible voices emerging from South Asia, China, Africa and elsewhere always and consistently missing from any discussion about philosophy and society? 

Can non-Europeans think? – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

As Dabashi argues:

Why is European philosophy “philosophy”, but African philosophy ethnophilosophy, the way Indian music is ethnomusic – an ethnographic logic that is based on the very same reasoning that if you were to go to the New York Museum of Natural History (popularised in Shawn Levy’s Night at the Museum [2006]), you only see animals and non-white peoples and their cultures featured inside glass cages, but no cage is in sight for white people and their cultures – they just get to stroll through the isles and enjoy the power and ability of looking at taxidermic Yaks, cave dwellers, elephants, Eskimos, buffalo, Native Americans, etc, all in a single winding row…..

The question of Eurocentricism is now entirely blase. Of course Europeans are Eurocentric and see the world from their vantage point, and why should they not? They are the inheritors of multiple (now defunct) empires and they still carry within them the phantom hubris of those empires and they think their particular philosophy is “philosophy” and their particular thinking is “thinking”, and everything else is – as the great European philosopher Immanuel Levinas was wont of saying – “dancing”.

Anyone who has read a modicum of writers from Asia and Africa will remain stunned at the ignorance of European thought. It is an ignorance that also colors and taints so much of journalist and photojournalistic works where entire generations of thinkers – philosophers, historians, intellectuals, writers, poets, activists and what have you, are completely missing. Its as if these regions and those people simply do not think, write, argue, debate, challenge, inform, and illuminate. It is as if we here have nothing to learn from them there. Or dare I say, as if we here may only be able to get it right by listening to those others there. Details »