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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A Rainbow Prohibition

Anastasia Taylor-Lind wants more diversity in the photojournalism industry. and has penned an argument that is conventional, unimaginative and banal. She continues the long practice of confusing a lack of diversity in mainstream Western / European photojournalism as only about ethnic, nationalist, or gender. That is, about ‘mixing it up’ and creating the right optics of diversity, much like we see in college posters, or television ads with their token ‘people of colour’ thrown in. What is completely left out is politics.

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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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What’s Water?

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

David Foster Wallace, Whats’ Water?

We love the myth of the individual crusader. And we love it even more when the crusaders convinces us, or his/her arguments are presented as if, there is no one else but the individual. National Geographic stories are very explicitly neoliberal in this regard: there is no government, there are no policies, there is no corporation, no labor, no collectivity and hence, there is no accountability for political and corporate power and interests. The selling of the myth that only individuals exist, and the re-painting of the social and economic collapse of a city as something that has nothing to do with policy choices (of government, of corporations and the two in collusion) is ideological. All this is washed away by feel good stories of resilience because demanding accountability from your elected officials, and struggling for social and economic support goes against our current neoliberal fantasy world of individuals as personal value agents alone.

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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 Easy Beauty Of The Unpolitical, The Effective Seduction Of The Obfuscatory

There are a number of ways in which the Israelis, desperate to speak dishonestly and evasive, about their immoral, inhumane, anachronistic and hilariously anti-Enlightenment (the Enlightenment whose false claims to universalism the Israelis love to grab hold of when it suits them), speak and represent their country and its military and illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The latter they prefer to evade with references to complex history, nuance, subtlety, a feigned presumption of complexity and sheer blatant obfuscation. When it comes to their own brutality, land-grab, genocidal erasure of another people’s lives, histories and hopes, they are all about being ‘careful’, ‘measured’ and yes, ‘artistic’. The much celebrated project, THIS PLACE – one that has been celebrated and continues to be talked about, is a classic case of a cultural propaganda effort that has now revealed it true intents, and the ahistorical, obfuscatory and frankly, hypocritical ideology that underpins it. 

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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.

Uncomfortable Realities, Disappointing Complexities And The Comforts Of Suburban Bourgeois Therapy

But geopolitical reality was much messier than he’d assumed. It ignited a bleak cynicism in his worldview…In addition to learning about the difficult prospects for weak, independent states, he also discovered how such countries are populated: It often included ethnic cleansing and forced deportations…While Mr. Mahon is glad to be getting his work recognized, which was his original motivation, his perspective on these issues has shifted significantly. In a world of increased globalization, and the potential marginalization of the idea of the nation-state, he came to believe that the war, poverty and isolation experienced in these countries was not worth the trouble.

Not worth the trouble. And with those four words Mr. Mahon, a photojournalist wearing the respectability of a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting grant, dismisses the political, economic, and social histories and struggles of the people that he apparently spent nearly 8 years trying to document and represent.

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