Hollywood And War Or How The Silver Screen Is Also An Obfuscating Veil

The program does not go far enough, to be honest, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a news channel taking on the question

This of course is a subject well covered in some interesting books. The few come immediately to mind and that I consider interesting because they examination of the close collaboration between the United States arms of warfare and the United States arms of entertainment to sell a specific angle and perspective on the conflict the nation may be engaged in. Details »

The European Twist To An American Dance Or European Collaboration In American Crimes

So, my brothers, how is it that we do not understand that we have better things to do than to follow that same Europe? That same Europe where they were never done talking of Man, and where they never stopped proclaiming that they were only anxious for the welfare of Man: today we know with what sufferings humanity has paid for every one of their triumphs of the mind…When I search for Man in the technique and the style of Europe, I see only a succession of negations of man, and an avalanche of murders.

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched Of The Earth Chapter Six Details »

The Transformation Of Pathology Into Pathos Or The Military Does What It Does And It Does It Well

But the question remains: how, against the best efforts of so many, did a war once perceived as a nearly genocidal slaughter to perpetuate American neo-colonialism come to be viewed as an American tragedy? And to what extent have cultural and in particular literary representations of the war helped in that transformation? It could be argued that Vietnam War novels and memoirs have contributed significantly to this process, since they reach an important readership – the editors, publishers, writers, pundits, and professors who make up America’s intellectual class. By promoting a literature that favors individual lives over historical contingency, and textual sophistication over social analysis, this class has helped reproduce, not merely in the small audience of serious fiction writers but in the general public as well, a simple and ideologically unthreatening view of the war

Jim Nielson, Warring Fictions: Cultural Politics and The Vietnam War Narrative

From Ammiel Alcalay’s Scrapmetal

Today many novels and memoirs, and I will add, certain photojournalism projects continue this practice i.e. of transforming a near genocidal act of war into stories of individual suffering. Details »

Photographing The Unseen Or What Conventional Photojournalism Is Not Telling Us About Ourselves


Unmarked 737 at "Gold Coast" Terminal Las Vegas, NV Distance ~ 1 mile 10:44 p.m.

Trevor Paglen is a man on a mission and it is one that reminds us that what makes any work of photography relevant, interesting, important or even significant, are the ideas and intentions that inform it. Anything else is merely gazing at pretty pictures. Details »

Cutting Past The Bravado And Recognizing Reality

The tremendous development of photojournalism has contributed practically nothing to the revelation of the truth about conditions in this world. On the contrary photography, in the hands of the bourgeoisie, has become a terrible weapon against the truth. The vast amount of pictured material that is being disgorged daily by the press and that seems to have the character of truth serves in reality only to obscure the facts. The camera is just as capable of lying as the typewriter” – Bertolt Brecht,1931, in Kahn, Heartfield: Art & Mass Media

You can see George Gittoes disturbing film called Soundtrack To War here (both the quote above and the movie is thanks to James Pomerantz interesting blog site A Photo Student):

Details »

Sleepless In Lucknow Or How The Jaipur Literary Festival Became A Nightmare I Want To Wake Up From

Lets begin by celebrating overt and rabid racism – Ayaan Hirsi Ali was at the Jaipur Literary Festival and I was left bereft with incredulity at the idiocy of the event organizers. Rather than create a genuinely interesting and intellectually serious environment around writers, thinkers, activists and intellectuals, the festival seems to prefer polemicist, celebrities, second class ‘European’ award winners, starlets, and of course, a lovely collection of Islamophobes and reductive racists. Details »

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 »

Welcome To The Islamic Republic Of Switzerland – Do You Want Your Burqa In Black Or Blue?

Update: 30th November 2009

The vote to ban the minaret was passed. Switzerland, long pretending to be a liberal, democratic nation that respected the rights to the free practice of all faiths, has revealed its ugly underbelly. Details »

Not In Our Name: Hamburg Artists Speak Out Against A Segregated City

A group of artists, intellectuals and concerned citizens have issued a ‘Not In Our Name’ statement to the city development authorities demanding that the ‘planned’ city and its extensive ‘gentrification’ be immediately stopped and that it not be used to create socially and class segregated ‘ghettos’ that privilege the few over the culture, social space and life of the city and it many diverse communities.

The original statement in Germany can be read here Not In Our Name, Marke Hamburg and an English translation is available here Not In Our Name. Details »

Arundhati Roy On The Meaning And Idea Of Resistance

It has become fashionable to simply accept, to acquiese to power, to be obsequieous, to kiss-ass, to bend over to be taken from behind, to be grateful that your mortage can still be paid, to look for hand outs, to simply repeat the rhetoric and language of the powerful…to simply exlain the status quo and consider it insight.

Arundhati Roy continues, quietly and incisely, to remind us that dissent, all dissent, is the fundamental platform of democracy and of liberty.

One of my favorite commentators, Mark Slouka, recently penned a piece called Democracy & Deference where he ask, first the Americans, but then the world in general:

Turn on the TV to almost any program with an office in it, and you’ll find a depressingly accurate representation of the “boss culture,” a culture based on an a priori notion of—a devout belief in—inequality. The boss will scowl or humiliate you…because he can, because he’s the boss. And you’ll keep your mouth shut and look contrite, even if you’ve done nothing wrong . . . because, well, because he’s the boss. Because he’s above you. Because he makes more money than you. Because—admit it—he’s more than you.

This is the paradigm—the relational model that shapes so much of our public life. Its primary components are intimidation and fear. It is essentially authoritarian. If not principally about the abuse of power, it rests, nonetheless, on a generally accepted notion of power’s privileges. Of its inherent rights. The Rights of Man? Please. The average man has the right to get rich so that he too can sit behind a desk wearing an absurd haircut, yelling, “You’re fired!” or refuse to take any more questions; so that he too—when the great day comes—can pour boiling oil on the plebes at the base of the castle wall, each and every one of whom accepts his right to do so, and aspires to the honor.

And then leads us to the crucial question on which our democracy may hinge:

What kind of culture defines “maturity” as the time when young men and women sacrifice principle to prudence, when they pledge allegiance to the boss in the name of self-promotion and “realism”? What kind of culture defines adulthood as the moment when the self goes underground? One answer might be a military one. The problem is that while unthinking loyalty to one’s commanding officer may be necessary in war, it is disastrous outside of it. Why? Because loyalty, by definition, qualifies individualism, discouraging the expression of individual opinion, recasting honesty as a type of betrayal. Because loyalty to power, rather than to what one believes to be true or right, is fatally undemocratic, and can lead to the most horrendous abuses.

Indeed, what kind of culture is that? We would do well to consider answers.