Category Archives: detention

Free Lex Wotton – Australian Injustice (International Actions)

Free Lex Wotton: Aboriginal Political Prisoner
International Day of Solidarity
London Rally
12 noon Thursday November 6th
Australia House, Strand, WC2B 4LA

On October 24th an all white jury found Lex Wotton, an Aboriginal man from Palm Island, guilty of ‘rioting with destruction’ for his involvement in the 2004 Palm Island uprising. On November 26th 2004 the people of Palm Island set fire to the local police station, court house and police barracks after a pathologist’s report claimed that the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee, a 36 year Aboriginal man in police custody a week earlier was an ‘accident’. Mulrunji died in a police cell, one hour after he had been arrested for being drunk. He suffered massive internal injuries, including a ruptured spleen, four broken ribs and a ‘liver that had been ‘almost cleaved in two’ from a huge compressive force.’ Following Mulrunji’s killing, Queensland’s then Premier, Peter Beattie declared a state of emergency. Balaclava clad Paramilitary style police, armed with semi automatic weapons, roamed the streets arbitrarily arresting Aboriginal people. Police unnecessarily tasered several people, including Lex Wotton. Houses were stormed and children were forced facedown onto the ground with guns pointed at their heads.
The officer who arrested Mulrunji, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, claimed that Mulrunji had fallen on stairs. A coroner’s inquest found that Hurley was responsible for Mulrunji’s death, as the injuries were consistent with a fierce beating. However, Hurley was found not guilty for manslaughter (by an all white jury) and has since been promoted to the position of police inspector on Australia’s Gold Coast.
In comparison Lex Wotton is now facing a possible life sentence in prison. He is being held in custody until his next court appearance in the Townsville District Court on November 7. Aboriginal Australians are still over 10 times more likely than non-Aboroginal Australians to spend time in prison, and are significantly more likely to die in prison than non-Aboriginal prisoners.  The over-policing and criminalisation of Aboriginal Australians is a clear continuation of the colonial policies that have been violently enforced on them since the white invasion.
Following Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd’s apology for past injustices to Aborigines earlier this year many people in Australia and around the World assume indigenous Australians are no longer treated as second class citizens. The continuing unjust imprisonment and persecution of Lex Wotton shows that Aboriginal Australians are still treated with racist contempt.

November 6th is a global day of action to free Lex Wotton. Lex’s friends and family are calling out for people around the world to picket Australian High Commissions and Consulates. Please send any details of demonstrations, solidarity messages and pictures of protest action to freelexwotton@gmail.com. They will all be passed on to Lex inside of prison.

Stand up in solidarity with the people of Palm Island against racism and police brutality!

Raja Petra Kamaruddin given two-year ISA detention order

Detention without trial, the Internal Security Act raises its very ugly head again in Malaysia. 

GERAKAN MANSUHKAN ISA

ISA Updates: 23 September 2008

Raja Petra Kamaruddin, editor of the popular political blog, Malaysia Today, today (23 September 2008) received a two-year detention order under Section 8(1) of the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA). The detention order was signed by Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar. Section 8(1) of the ISA states, “If the Minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary with a view of preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof […], he may make an order directing that a person be detained for any period not exceeding two years.”

According to Raja Petra’s lawyers, he will be sent to the Kamunting Detention Centre in Perak, where he will be detained for a period of two years from today.

Under the ISA, this two-year detention order can be renewed by the Home Minister indefinitely. No clear explanation or details were given the nature of the threat or national security risks. In fact, under the ISA, the Home Minister has no obligation to disclose to the public or the courts the details of the detention or release. This clearly shows that the draconian ISA constitutes gross abuse of power by the authorities.

Raja Petra’s lawyers have also filed a writ of habeas corpus at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, in a bid to release him from his detention.

Background

Raja Petra Kamaruddin was arrested on 12 September 2008, under Section 73(1) of the ISA for allegedly being a threat to security, peace and public order. He is alleged to have posted articles deemed seditious and that also belittle Islam.

Two other individuals – journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and member of Parliament Teresa Kok – were arrested on the same day as Raja Petra’s arrest. The two were subsequently released – Tan on 13 September 2008, while Kok on 19 September 2008.

On 16 September 2008, ISA detainee Raja Petra Kamaruddin, the editor of Malaysia Today, was allowed to see his wife and two children at the Bukit Aman police headquarters.

According to Raja Petra’s wife Marina Abdullah, Raja Petra spoke very softly and looked weak, pale and lost much weight. Raja Petra complained to her that he was suffering from lack of sleep because the night before, he was harassed on an hourly basis by officers who recorded statements from him. He said he was never physically abused, but was mentally abused. Marina said that his blood sugar level had dropped. She also added that her husband suffers from heart artery blockages and is on medication.

Raja Petra’s lawyers filed a habeas corpus application at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on 16 September 2008, seeking his immediate release.

Detention without trial under the ISA a serious human rights violation

The ISA provides for ‘preventive detention’ without trial for an indefinite period. It violates fundamental rights such as the right to trial, the right to legal counsel, the right to defend oneself in open court and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. It goes against the principles of justice and undermines the rule of law.

Police Detention facilities in Southwark, Walworth Rd and Peckham

Our good friends at the Institute of Race Relations provided a link to this report recently released by the HM Inspectorate on Police Detention facilities in Southwark, Walworth Rd and Peckham. It condemns the condition of the holding cells (used for detaining a range of people on suspicion of offences or immigration irregularities, with Southwark almost wholly dedicated to immigration detainees) . The conditions as reported are disgusting. Yet the report reads bizarrely, mixing stunningly bland statements with atrocities – but overall the character of these human sinkholes cannot be hidden. Even the selected quotations from the survey at the end would suggest to anyone who has read Michael Otterman’s expose American Torture (Pluto Press) that there is also an English war crimes indictment to be written. The full report is available here.

There is lots of horrific stuff on conditions and procedures to read, but below I have excerpted only the quotes. The last one I guess is the (state of) exceptional good news!

Report on an inspection visit to police custody suites in Southwark Basic Command Unit
21 – 22 April 2008
by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary

Q38 Do you have any other comments about your time in police custody?
Example comments included:
“They called my solicitor to come, but got told to wait a few hours.” (Unknown)
“[I had to wait for a solicitor] god knows how long, over a day.” (Peckham)
“The police were intimidating and not professional and lacked any skills when dealing with
human beings.” (Walworth Road)
“Asked for clean clothes which were brought in, but not given. I had the same clothes on for
almost 48 hours.” (Walworth Road)
“There have been other times when ‘Lights were left on’. The officer in charge seemed to have
a personal conflict against me, saying he would get me ’25 Rothams’ then not and getting me to
sign a notebook with ‘No comment’ on it.” (Walworth Road)
“…the officer made a point of telling me how badly he wanted to keep me in the station and not
give me bail.” (Walworth Road)
“The pillow and blanket smelt of piss.” (Walworth Road)
“…they need to raise their hygiene standards.” (Peckham)
“I was surprised that everything was to the book, I’m used to getting a bashing.” (Walworth
Road)

Abolish Malaysian Detentions/Internal Security Act

I have written on this before, here, and now it really is time Malaysia decided to lead the world and abolish their outrageous ISA (holdover from the anti-communist Emergency, and legacy of British colonialism). Seriously guys, get rid of this embarrassment, even if it means getting rid of Badawi as well.

GERAKAN MANSUHKAN ISA

Press Statement: 1st August 2008

48 Years of ISA: We have had enough!

1st August marks 48 years of existence of the draconian and infamous law called the Internal Security Act (ISA). The ISA has its origin in the Emergency Regulations Ordinance 1948, which served its purpose and was subsequently repealed when the Emergency ended on 30th July, 1960. However, the power of detention without trial under Regulation 17 was subsequently transformed into Part II of the ISA.

In 1989, ISA detainees’ recourse to the courts of law was further curtailed when we dutifully followed our southern neighbor in ousting judicial review in matters concerning the minister’s power to detain any person under ISA. With the amendment, detainees can now only challenge the detention on procedural grounds.

Abuse and torture under ISA

Under the ISA, detainees are subject to an initial 60-day detention period in special police holding centers, allegedly for the purpose of investigation. No judicial order is required for such detentions. The locations of these holding centers are kept secret, and detainees are transported to and fro in blindfolds. Visits by family members are purely discretionary and, contrary to Article 5(3) of the Federal Constitution, detainees are denied access to lawyers. As a result, the ISA has morphed into a powerful instrument of fear and suppression.

There have been many reports of abuse and torture perpetrated on ISA detainees during their detention. Among them have been: continuous interrogation by Special Branch officers for long hours without any breaks; threat of indefinite detention if detainees fail to answer questions directed by the officers; detainees kept in a small dark room; being forced to drink their own urine etc. There have also been reports of the Police Special Branch (SB) officers hitting the detainees’ penis and inserting hard objects into their anuses. The physical abuse has often been accompanied by vulgar and obscene words.

In a recent case, Sanjeev Kumar Krishnan (25) is now confined to a wheelchair as he has become partially paralyzed as a result of torture while under ISA detention, having lost the function of his left leg and hand. In another case, when the daughter of a current detainee, Shahrial Sirin, was hospitalized in serious condition, authorities delayed permission for him to visit her; by the time he was finally brought to the hospital his daughter had already died.

The Use of ISA under Abdullah Badawi

Since Abdullah Badawi came to power in 2003, the ISA has continued to be used in the same way in the name of “national security”, on people ranging from persons allegedly spreading rumours through SMS, to political dissidents and alleged “terrorists.” In 2007, the government continued its tactic of creating a climate of fear through the use of the ISA, threatening to invoke it upon bloggers who allegedly wrote inflammatory statements and upon those who participated in street demonstrations. This was stepped up in the run-up to the 2008 general election, and has continued to this date to prop up the ruling party’s weakened hold to the power.

Based on GMI’s monitoring, as of 30th June 2008, there were 64 detainees in the Kamunting Detention Camp. Most of them are alleged members of “religious extremist groups” including the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), while another significant number comprises those allegedly involved in counterfeiting currency or falsifying documents, and also THE 5 Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF)  activists. To date, none of the detainees has been charged with any offence in an open court. More than half of them are into their second detention order and out of that number, 24 are serving their sixth years detention and seven of them namely Yazid bin Suffat, Suhaimi bin Mokhtar, Shahrial @ Syahrial bin Sirin , Abdullah bin Daud , Abdullah Minyak bin Silam , Mat Sah bin Mohd Satray and Shamsuddin bin Sulaiman  are serving their seven year of detention.

We have a vast array of laws which provide an adequate legal frame-work to deal with threats against national security, counterfeiting currency or falsifying documents which do not by contravene universally accepted principles of justice and human rights. Why, therefore, is the ISA still needed?

GMI, in existence for more than seven years, has succeeded, through its many programmes, in raising public awareness about the injustice and cruelty of the ISA. It has also been able to put continuous pressure on the government by campaigning at home and abroad. As part of an intensive programme to campaign against the seventh year of detention of a number of current detainees, GMI has produced several publications and pamphlets which have been distributed throughout the country. A candle-light vigil was held outside the Kamunting detention camp on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the longest-standing detentions, and more recently a large public gathering was held in a stadium in Shah Alam.

Since the March 8 general election, with 82 Members Parliament and five states under its controls, the Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) representatives have shown commitment to free the detainees and repeal the ISA. Several of State Governments concerned have also provided the much needed aid to the detainees’ families. GMI welcomes these commitment and measures taken by the Pakatan Rakyat governments.

GMI is encouraged by the growing public and international support for its campaign and resolves to continue with its work until its aims are achieved. In the following months, GMI will continue to focus on raising public awareness through exhibitions, petition on-line and signature campaigns. Specifically as one of the campaign against 48 years of the draconian ISA, a program open to public, called “Malam Seni ‘Tanpa Bicara'” will be held on the 2nd August 2008 in Bazar Melawati, Taman Melawati, Hulu Kelang, Selangor.

Finally, GMI once more urges the Government of Malaysia:

  • To immediately and unconditionally release all persons presently detained without trial, or prosecute them in a public and fair trial.
  • To immediately repeal all laws which allow for detention without trial, such as the ISA, Emergency Ordinance (EO) and Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA).
  • To immediately close all detention camps where detainees are held without trial.
  • To apologize to all detainees – past and present – held without trial, and provide compensation for their suffering, anguish and the injustice perpetrated upon them.
  • To investigate all complaints and cases of victimization, torture, cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment, tyranny and abuse of power in relation to past and present ISA detentions, and to prosecute the perpetrators by establishing a Royal Commission of Inquiry for the said purpose.

● To immediately debate SUHAKAM’s reports in Parliament and implement its recommendations to repeal ISA and other restricted laws.

  • To commit to a monthly dialogue session on human rights issues with representatives of SUHAKAM, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, non-governmental organizations, human rights groups and the Bar Council.
  • To recognize, respect and restore the inherent powers of the Judiciary as an independent check on the powers of the Executive and police, including repealing laws which have ousted the judicial review of Executive actions or decisions.

Abolish ISA!

Release all ISA Detainees!

Close down KEMTA!

Torture Taxi

I like the fact that Trever Paglen and A.C.Thompson write in such a clear forthright style in their book “Torture Taxi: On the trail of the CIA’s rendition flights” (2006 Melville House New Jersey). Classified as ‘current affairs/military history’, I think this is compulsory reading for so many reasons. Not least of all the way a much maligned nerdy pastime – planespotting, noting registration numbers of aircraft at airports – is itself rendered a powerful research strategy and builds a dossier (another loaded word, as indeed is ‘loaded’) on CIA flights, crimes and deceit. The tone throughout is carefully modulated, and all the more effective for that. It is the best book I have read in a while, and not only for gems like this, where our authors talk of:

“dozens of cases in which the CIA had kidnapped the ‘wrong’ person, or had kidnapped someone under distressingly low standards of evidence: One of those ‘erroneous renditions’ turned out to be a college professor who had given an Al-Qaeda member a bad grade (the professor’s name was presumably given to the CIA by the disgruntled former student [fn ref to Chicago Tribune of July 31, 2006]). About a dozen of these men have ended up in Guantanamo Bay” (Paglen/Thompson 2006:169)

Though the standards of evidence for the above are equally thin – how do we check if this student was an Al-Qaeda ‘member’ (as opposed to say, a member of Facebook or some other dodgy spectral org?), how do we know the grading was not indeed biased, what happened to both student and Prof? – the anecdote is nonetheless not unbelievable given our own local security errors(!) in regard of cases like the ‘Lyrical Terrorist’, Forest Gate and Stockwell tube.

There is much good info in the book: on Air America, other covert CIA ops worldwide, and the banality of evil that are front companies, homeland security and international surveillance/kidnapping/assassination. As an example of people’s inquiry, the book is impressive, and all the more necessary in the face of approved fascism. To not engage such investigation and intervention is complicity. Who’d have thought this could be a revolutionary slogan: ‘Planespotters of the world Unite!”

Up up and away… and now a word from our sponsors:

“According to The Washington Post, ‘extraordinary rendition’, or the US’s practice of kidnapping suspects, flying them to an undisclosed location in a third-world country, and torturing them to force a confession about their role in terrorism, is ‘the largest CIA covert action program since the height of the Cold War.’ In a daring first-person investigation, AC Thompson and Trevor Paglen expose the torture apparatus of the CIA, revealing both the workings of its top-secret-and officially-denied extraordinary rendition transport system and the clandestine ‘black sites’ where terror suspects are held. It is a story that takes them around the country and around the world: by following CIA planes from the Nevada desert to Ireland, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and by using FAA data, corporate records, and Army aircraft documents, they uncover an international program involving corrupt domestic politicos, civilian aircraft operators, and the highest levels of government. Torture Taxi is the first in-depth look into a startling and disturbing new truth about the role of torture in the ‘war on terror’.”

Migrating University Goldsmiths to Gatwick

No Detention, No Deportation;
No Borders in Education:
Freedom of Movement for All

Migrating University, at Goldsmiths,
September 14-15th 2007;
From Goldsmiths to Gatwick.

General enthusiasm for this event is very high. A feeling of frustration, and therefore energy for exploring activist options, is strong on campus. This is the joint result of the ongoing managerialism that afflicts the ‘teaching factory’ at all levels, alongside the wider malaise of neo-liberal war-mongering imperialism/Border-ism evident in the current conjuncture, everywhere. The role of the university in relation to borders between people and knowledge, between different knowledges, between peoples, between students, between students who pay ‘overseas’ fees and those who pay too much (‘training’ for industrial gain, paid for by the student??) and the ever extended morale crush that afflicts staff… linked to the obsolescence of older ideas of ‘education’ in favour of opportunism and productivity… Exclusions and …racism, murder-death-kill… there is much good reason to explore these concerns in our workshop.

At the last meeting we had taken decisions on the date, timetable and format, five panels plus Battle of Lewisham Walk (met with them and agreed mutual co-ordination); prepared a preliminary blurb (now on CCS website [currently goldsmiths sites are down]), arranged to make a banner, booked a room, still in discussion with College over the marquee; organised with Joan Kelly to visit; linked with No Borders London and No Borders general.

Confirmed speakers so far include: Ken Fero (Injustice), David Graeber (activist anthrop), Ava Caradonna (sex worker education group), Susan Cueva (union), Sanjay Sharma (author of Multicultural Encounters), Hari Kunzru (novelist), Mao Mollona (anthropologist), Harmit Athwal (Inst Race Relations), Katherine Mann (musician), Paul Hendrich (Pirate dad) and Joan Kelly (artist).

Panels and format as it stands now [this draft is not yet confirmed]:

Migrating University – Goldsmiths 14-15 September 2007

Friday 14th September – venue room 150 and 137a Richard Hoggart Building

Room 150 RHB From 10am Tea/Coffee – welcome – stalls for No Borders Camp etc

Room 137a RHB
10.30
John Hutnyk (Goldsmiths) Introduction to the day
Camille Barbagallo (Goldsmiths) this meeting is to encourage attendance at No Borders Camp at Gatwick.

10.50 -12.55 – Panel #1 – The Teaching Factory (Chair: Leila)

Does a university education offer a passport to a world of opportunity?
Are the old exclusions of race, class, gender and ability fully redeemed by our policy initiatives and “inclusive” programs? Or is the new hierarchy a filtering mechanism promising precarious labour for some, security and success for others? While some may never question their right to access, do some have to fight to move at all and others struggle daily simply to pass or fail?
This panel asks if education is really a social good, a pass to freedom; or if it is rather a ticket to a new set of subjugations?

Speakers:
Ash Sharma (University of East London)
Massimo de Angelis (university of East london)
Paul Hendrich (Goldsmiths)

12.55-2.30pm – Picnic on Back Field/in tent or inside if rain. With Bolivian group (Emma)

2.30-4.00 – Panel #2 – Critical Pedagogy (Chair: Francisco)

Critical pedagogy (CP) questions the relationship between education and politics, between socio-political relations and pedagogical practices, in short: the correspondence between power hierarchies in the social world and the hierarchies that mark and define educational institutions at large. Moreover it challenges the ubiquitous desire of policy makers for a non-politicized, neutral educational context, free of all social and cultural conflict.

Speakers:
Sanjay Sharma (Brunel University) – author of (2007) “Multicultural Encounters”.
Glenn Rikowski (University of Northampton) – author of “The Battle in Seattle” (2001)
Tom Woodin (Institute of Education, University of London)
Patrick Ainley (University of Greenwich)

4.15-6.00 – Panel #3 – Organising in the Margins (Chair: Olivia)

Migration means traversing boundaries: between nations, between legality and illegality. This panel is about organising those in the seams and the struggles for justice for those who suffer or die in such gaps.

Ava Caradonna (Sex Workers’ Union)
What does it mean to organise the unorganisable? What does union organising mean to people who are not considered workers, or who don’t necessarily consider what they do ‘work’, ‘illegal’ or worthy of stigma? How do unions take seriously the need to organise migrants workers? How can unionism be done differently in this context? Ava Caradonna will discuss such questions and campaigns relating to them.

Susan Cueva (UNISON)
Is a life-long union activist in the Philippines and UK with experience of organising the invisible, from seafarers to street cleaners. Today’s talk includes information about UNISON campaigns seeking fair terms for migrant workers affected by swings in Home Office policy on work permits.

Ken Fero (Injustice)
A short, Youtube, version of Injustice – a film about the struggles for justice by the families of people who have died in police custody – and accompanying talk by the film’s maker.

6.15 – meeting upstairs in Goldsmiths Tavern about collective attendance at Gatwick.

7.00-9.00 Joan Marie Kelly (Singapore) for workshop upstairs in Tavern (drinks).

Topic: Foreign workers in Singapore and the use of art as contact and transformation

Saturday 15th September – Venue: Cinema Richard Hoggart Building.

From 10am Tea/Coffee – welcome – point to stalls for No Borders Camp etc

10.30-12.30. Panel #4 – Critical Practice Inside and Out (Chair: John)

It is believed there was once a time when the University was a place where there thrived a rampant intelligence that was preoccupied with something more than just cramming.

Hari Kunzru (Novelist – author of “My Revolutions” (2007)
David Graeber (Goldsmiths)
Mao Mollona (Goldsmiths)
Sukant Chandan (freelance journalist and political analyst)

1.00-2.30 Panel #5 – Local Checkpoints (Chair: Camille)

Harmit Athwal (Institute of Race Relations)
Katherine Mann (Musician)
Almir Koldzic (Refugee Week)

2.30 Quick lunch

3pm-6pm: “Battle of Lewisham commemorative walk”

- a walk along the route of the march/counter-protest against the NF in 1977, including people involved at the time. At present this will start from Clifton Rise, New Cross at 3. (info/liaison with Paul).

19-24 September O7 – No Borders Camp at Gatwick

From 19th to 24th September 07 we will gather at Gatwick Airport for the first
No Border Camp in the UK. This camp will be a chance to work together to try
and stop the building of a new detention centre, and to gather ideas for how to
build up the fight against the system of migration controls.

Wednesday 19th
Arriving at Camp Site.
Thursday 20th
Workshops, Welcome-Event in Crawley.
Friday 21st
Workshops, Gathering at Lunar House, Croydon
Saturday 22nd
Workshops, Demonstration from Crawley town centre to Tinsley House Detention
Centre, next to the building site of Brook House (Background Info).
International day of Action.
Afternoon: International Forum.
Sunday 23rd
Workshops and Forum.
Monday 24th
End of the No Border Camp.

http://noborders.org.uk


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Murder-death-kill on the TV news

In order to feed Goldsmiths people and enthusiasm into the No Borders Camp at Gatwick (19-24 Sept), we want to organise a workshop at Goldsmiths the weekend before, called Migrating University (14-15th Sept). It will include a session which will be a walk along the route of the Battle of Lewisham 1977 30th anniversary of the NF march in our area (see pic), but also other topics, debates, themes of relevance… (watch this space).

But in the meantime, I am somewhat stuck on this task of writing a general blurb for the workshops. Stuck I guess until we have sentences on each of the proposed panels. Lazy of mind, I’ve been haphazardly thinking about a statement on what this could be all about. To what degree can we feed Goldsmiths people and enthusiasm into the No Borders camp at Gatwick anyway? And to what degree might Migrating University become a wider educational project in itself – something that happens in other locations later…?

Themes for Goldsmiths: Problems and issues to be addressed include asylum support, campaigns against detention, civil rights and surveillance, knowledge and the state; anti-racism, media racisms, xenophobia; militarism, patriotism; technology and activism; economic migration and coercion, immaterial and precarious labour; institutional support, the teaching factory; questions of Access (fees, credentialism, openness); idea of multicultural education (really multicultural education would imply students write in their own languages, or that ‘home’ students write in other languages [idealist]); open source and digital commons; transformation of the university from old collegiate model, through mass ed to corporate agenda; radicalism and dissent, public/community engagement with citadels of knowledge; critical curriculum, pedagogy; trades union, organisations, non-academic staff, local governance, NGOs, community involvement, outreach[?]; idea of critique (Kant) versus radical criticism of everything that exists (Marx)…

Since this is based in a university, even if we are looking towards the No Borders Camp proper, can we nevertheless bring the internationalism of left movements into the disciplinary formations of the academy? – in order to wake up to relevance and engagement rather than the old ivory indulgence of credentialism or the new commercial opportunism of the teaching factory?

Murder-death-kill on the TV news every night, detentions and the eclipse of civil liberty here, and bombing campaigns for democracy abroad. Quietism is not an option.

Updated plans HERE

Join the discussion:
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Comedy Terrors

Working out a new angle for a paper for Germany. Feeling like I need to do something with a few laughs. Hence, this opening…

A new figure of fun in British media has an ominous underside, and yet on reflection I think does more politically than the mischief of the usual court jesters. The television comedy of ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ and the efforts of Sanjeev Bhaskar on ‘The Kumars at Number 42’ were welcome insofar as they promoted manifestations of ‘multicultural comedy’ as part of a tolerant and inclusive tradition. But this is not the whole story, and I think the popularity of such shows now reveal some disturbing new anxieties. The question of who comes to visit the Kumars at Number 42 is a matter of mirth on television, as various celebrities sat with an ‘average’ – actually quite wacky – family to talk about their latest cultural product: a film, a play, their new book and so on. As a light entertainment early evening format it was a great success. But such questioning of the neighbours and the to-ings and fro-ings of their associates is a much sharper confrontation elsewhere in Britain, especially in the years after the London bombs of 2005. The figure of the terrorist in Asian garb is the new manifestation of the scapegoat; the Asian next door becomes a stereotype and scare-mongering figure. Alongside the Kumars we now also witness special squad investigations and high profile closures of streets; the police cordoning off areas of middle English suburbia; the nightly news interviewing people living on the same streets insisting that ‘he kept to himself’ or ‘they seemed like normal people’; and scenes of the suspects being driven off to interrogation and detention under the anti-terror legislation. I see this as a sinister kind of theatre in Britain today, and I think it can be linked to other seemingly innocent comic aspects of British performance culture. This paper attempts to unpack the scripts… 

So, I will try to link this back to music and politics (as usual) as it follows upon my interest in alternative modes of story-telling. Reconnecting with my earlier playing round with Pantomime terror, (at recent talks in Melbourne and Auckland) and delving further into the stories of the Thousand and One Nights. Where our narrator is no longer subject to singular despotic terror, for which her tales achieve an improbable reprieve, but rather I have:

 

“A speculative dream version of the story of Scheherazade herself; whom I imagine has this time been detained, rendered and interned in Guantanamo. Kept on her own in a cell except for a daily interrogation when she is brought before her captors who demand a story. She obliges them with the production of a narrative that provokes ever more draconian civil liberties crackdowns and higher and higher terror alert ratings in the metropolises, but the production of this narrative can never set her free and she will never become queen (the despotic kings are otherwise engaged: Tony Blair and G.W. Bush are already hitched to each other and a legacy in Iraq, and perhaps hitched to history in the same way Nixon was to Watergate and defeat in Vietnam). Of course it’s the case that my dreaming of Sheherezade is only a conceit – even as I cannot imagine what so many years in detention can do to anyone. A thousand and one terrors assail us all”. 

The task now is to find stories for the Kumars. Or find ways to stop laughing at the welcome departure of Tony Blair to the land of television chat shows… the blood dripping onto the sofa… I’m glad he’s not moving in next door to me (though his old next door neighbour is moving to Number 10)… cue that Grundy theme music…

 

The Politics of Cats.

Cat, n. Small mammal with an attitude problem.

I imagine that cats are aphorists, composing dialectical koans and licking their whiskers at the elegance of their arabesques. Though I recognise that Adorno himself noted that aphorisms were not admissible in dialectical thought, which should always abhor isolation and separateness (1951/1974:16), I concede that cats are separate and aloof. Since they are never owned by their humans, they stand apart, domesticated only by choice, self-grooming, dreaming of mice (rather than hubcaps – go figure), ignoring us in ways that transcend normal social, political and geophysical categories. We know these routines already, and recognise their outsider status with a mix of awe and disregard.

Projection. The anthropomorphic charge is more difficult to lay upon our conception of cats, yet it does apply. To think of them as yoga-masters, or as independent outsider spirits, is still to malign them as merely human. I am sometimes paranoid in thinking that my cat is mechanical. A twisted automaton designed especially to distort my brain. Uncle Bill Burroughs said that paranoia was being in possession of all of the facts. So let us consider the evidence: cats purr – this could be very cute, or is it rather the calculated industrial production if cuteness?; cats wash themselves with their tongues – and if they were electric they would short-circuit (though consider how coffing up a hairball might just be that); cats growl and hiss when interrogated – clearly they could be detained as non-combatants if only we had the will, and a strong leader. Cats have whiskers… More examples would only trap us in a dialectical game of catch and release, and so cats will have once again won. They always do, toying with us; ask the mice.

So I think we need to learn to learn from these philosophers of composure. First of all I imagine Uncle Bill, stoned in the Bunker, communing in some feline comprehension with his cat Fletch: ‘wouldn’t you?’. But why is it that Lévi-Strauss exchanges a look of understanding with that cat at the very end of his book Tristes Tropiques? Why a look; a visual metaphor for knowledge? Well, not so much a look of knowing, but a ‘brief glance, heavy with patience, serenity and mutual forgiveness’ (1955/1973: 544). Do cats forgive? Are they theorists of hospitality? That look bothers me some. If I were to elaborate on the metaphors of vision for knowledge I would ramble on about the way our disciplines are divided up into fields; how one strives to see the point of an argument; how instead of seeing your point, I hold a different view – so many ways in which the assertions of knowledge are visual. But with cats you do not know – the enigmatic Cheshire smile prevails.

Kurt Vonnegut died recently, having once written a great book called Cats Cradle (1963) which was later accepted by the University of Chicago anthropology department as a Masters thesis. In that book, the narrator, Jonah (referencing Moby Dick) investigates the life of the now deceased Felix Hoenikker, developer of the atomic bomb. Of course we all know Felix is a quintessential cat’s name (my first cat), and this Felix is appropriately enigmatic also, concerned only with higher science, the pursuit of knowledge as calculation, and absent-minded outsider. Though I suspect a certain identification on Vonnegut’s part, only this narrator, as Jonah, could hunt him down, tempt him with the fish perhaps… It’s not just the bomb, Felix invents a substance that threatens the planet – Ice-9, and his children take it and… To tell more would ruin the story for those who have yet to read it – as far as thesis goes, its anyone’s guess how Chicago Anthropology managed to assess this as a scholarly work. Credit due.

Burroughs also pursued anthropology. This at Harvard as part of the G.I. Bill, where returned WW2 service personnel were offered places in university. Uncle Bill reports that he found the department grim: ‘I had done some graduate work in anthropology. I got a glimpse of academic life and I didn’t like it at all. It looked like there was too much faculty intrigue, faculty lies, cultivating the head of department, so on and so forth’ (Burroughs 2001: 76). It makes me wonder how any of those cats ever get their act together and sit for their degrees. Concentration seems awry; consistency suspended. And a mischievous outsider’s critical countenance continues to leave them disturbingly set apart.

Burroughs in London in 1970 was strangely prophetic when he described America as vulnerable: ‘extremely vulnerable to chaos, to breakdown in communications, particularly to a breakdown in the food supply [a typical cat concern]. Bombs concentrated on communications, random bombs on trains, boats, planes, buses could lead to paralysis. But you must consider the available counters. We spoke about the ultimate repression that would be used. Once large-scale bombings started you could expect the most violent reactions. They’d declare a national emergency and arrest anyone. They don’t have to know who did it. They’ll just arrest everyone who might have done it’ (Burroughs 2001:156).

There are suggestions that all cats be detained in Guantanamo. We are close to such a repression. Just presenting the look of being an outsider is a dangerous thing. Cats threaten the western way of life in this time of ‘war on terror’, and do so because we cannot ever tell if they are with us or against us. And they are not afraid of sacrifice – they believe they have nine lives! They adhere to ancient cult traditions (from Egypt no less, training camps in the desert we suspect). They are long past masters of undercover operations (consider CatWoman’s wily ways of entrapping the hero of Gotham). Just read the old eastern book of war tactics, I am a Cat by Soseki Natsume (1905/2002) to see how internecine and dialectical warfare offers tactical advantage to these furry miscreants. Danger, hiss, pttfft, grrrr.

The thing about cats, aberrant and inscrutable, is that they are the antithesis of the rat-race, and for this reason alone it is worth changing their kitty-litter. Meow!

John Hutnyk (for Daisy Cumberland)

Refs:
Theodor Adorno 1951/1974 Minima Moralia New York: NLB.
William Burroughs 1971 Burroughs Live: Interviews New York: Semiotext(e).
Claude Lévi-Strauss 1955/1976 Tristes Tropiques, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Soseki Natsume 1905/2002 I am a Cat Berkeley: Tuttle Publishing.
Kurt Vonnegut 1963 Cats Cradle New York: Dell Publishing.

cats stretch
[& cat pic from Dr Who]

Our Frankfurt School!

Some people noticed my radio silence at least! Thankx. The explanation is a mix of essay marking, dissertation chapters to read, preparation for a `conversation´in Manchester with Marie Louise Pratt (on 20th Feb), and a week in Germany – in particular a joint PhD colloquium between CCS Goldsmiths and Ethnology Frankfurt students. All praise Alexander Schwinghammer and Susan Schuppli for organising it, and a visit to ZKM in Karlsruhe to check out endless new media installations (by the end of it I was happy to find my pacman skills still adequate – and to thrill to the BSG game).

The colloquium was a great event – discussion will be detailed later by James and Joel, but if I can telegraph an obscure version in concrete poetry format: time-space compresion in the sensorium, issues of encoding, enframing, and affirmative delusions, what seems to me like a fetishism that projects representations as actuality where congealed social relations/exchanges appear, deflecting revolutionary struggles in spectacularly hyped, precarious actuality, itself in need of hermeneutical deprogramming that – in the end I do not really believe – can be reduced to some sort of god-complex, but at least think we should discuss it. So, then onto some very fine bars and the joys of Frankfurt nightlife.

Oh, and the announcement of the pending release of the Red Army Faction´s Brigitte Mohnhaupt (after 24 years, RAF members have been political prisoners far longer than Albert Speer or any of that lot ever spent in jail. Three more RAF members remain banged up. See here for an old herstory of the organisation and “Deutsch Herbst”).

The Guevara Convention

The old code of conduct for the horror that is war is not much mentioned in these days of the terror-spectacle, but the spirit of the Geneva Convention, whatever its shortcomings (ie., that wars of greed go on at all), is what Bush flouts every day in Bhagram and Guantanamo – and which is transgressed each day in every US prison, (i.e against Mumia, and where all those prisoners of other ‘social wars’ languish); in UK prisons and police stations (see the film “Injustice“); under the ISA in Malaysia; and with Afzal Guru in India (the protest outside the Indian Consulate in London against hanging, and which was held on Republic Day of India – almost in snow! – was joined by some Khalistani brothers who brought hot very sweet tea – see my post on Guru here)…

Anyway, the full title of the convention is the “Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War”,

What I want to draw attention to is a quite different initiative: a “Guevara Convention”. This is not just to acknowledge the 40th death anniversary of a great revolutionary leader, and it is also noting that Guerilla Warfare must proceed differently today. But a Guevara Convention would certainly be relevant to the treatment of the prisoners of the War of Terror – beside the ‘enemy combatants’ in direct incarceration, Bush and Blair are making prisoners of us all, wherever we are – border controls, surveillance, terror threat codes, detentions without trial, bio-metrics etc – Our response must be to organise the people…

The text of the Geneva Convention is here:
http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/91.htm

Clause three – the one that mentions detention and says such persons “shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria” also talks about the following, which are ALL clearly being contravened as we speak…

“(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples”

I can’t even begin to think about this without wanting to tell EVERYONE to march on Geneva carrying pictures of the man with the cigar.

Red Cigar!
(And of course to Dave Watts, who provoked this – and comments below)

The Hanging Channel

On friday we have a protest meeting about the Afzal Guru lynching planned in India. Many are disturbed by the trial in which a Kashmiri man, picked up after an attack by some ‘miscreants’ on parliament, was allegedly tortured into confession, which was then telecast, and the courts decided Guru was to be hung.

Afzal Guru was not actually a part of the Dec 13, 2001 attack on the Parliament in Delhi by five men – who were all killed in the action – but he was picked up with three others the next day under the ‘Prevention of Terrorism’ act.

A stay on execution was gained by campaign groups when the hanging had been scheduled for October 30th 2006, but the television station NDTV screened the confession, and questioned whether it was extracted under torture (as the court itself had been forced to admit). The bizarre thing is that the television station then held a text message vote on whether he should be hung. Did that really happen – a television SMS text-in vote to promote a hanging? Alongside the Shilpa Shetty – Jade Goody et al racism row on Celebrity Big Brother here in London (with international diplomatic impact and commentary by Prime Ministers and more), we can only conclude that today, increasingly, television is terror-vision, as entertainment and as news. Both are worse, as Lenin would say. The televised hanging of Saddam of course also comes to mind, such that I now think a Hanging Channel on satellite cannot be that far away. Especially as it is also reported today that Britain’s prisons are ‘full’. I can imagine Rupert Murdoch will happily fund such a channel for SKY, with OJ Simpson as guest compere perhaps.

I’ve written on the displacement that the racism row on Big Brother achieves elsewhere (Jade was racist, but bombing Afghanistan and Iraq and sending still more troops is more … here) and I’ve written on Saddam’s Swing (here), but I am afraid that writing, and even filming – remember Injustice – seems somehow inadequate in these terror-vision days. Last night I went to a benefit screening of the Peter O’Toole vehicle “Venus” organised by English Pen for the Writers in Prison programme. O’Toole being nominated for an Oscar the day before, seems like something. But writing against death, torture, detention, war… all I can do I guess is turn up and, like PEN, however meagre my rants in comparison to their campaigning, to keep on saying such stuff to whoever few may listen, if they have open ears, to whisper, to suggest, to promote the rumour of another potential…

Scenario:
Writing as a way to open ears,
a pen as a spike to the brain…

The details for the friday protest and case background are:

“TORTURE, LIES AND A FABRICATED CONFESSION:
NO DEATH PENALTY FOR AFZAL GURU!

PICKET OF THE INDIAN HIGH COMMISSION,
Friday, 26 January 1.30pm-4.30pm
India House, The Aldwych, London WC2
(nearest tube: Holborn)

On December 13, 2001 the Indian parliament was attacked by five men. They were killed by the security forces but even today their identity remains a mystery. Three other men, who according to the police masterminded the attack, have also not been found.

However, on 14 and 15 December, 2001 the investigating agencies together with the Special Cell of the Delhi Police picked up four persons, all Kashmiris, and charged them with the offence of conspiring to attack the parliament under India’s notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

After a nationwide campaign for a fair trial, two of them, Syed Abdul Rahman Geelani and Navjot Sandhu who was jailed along with her newborn baby, have been acquitted of all charges, a third, the husband of Navjot Sandhu, has had his death sentence converted to ten years in prison. But the fourth Afzal Guru was due to be hanged on October 20, 2006. A stay on his execution has been obtained by the Save Afzal Campaign through a Mercy Petition, and he is now being held in Tihar jail inDelhi. But he is still facing a death sentence.

Who is Afzal Guru?

AfzalGuru was involved with the JKLF for only three months in 1990 when large numbers of Kashmiri youth were attracted to the movement. During these three months he neither received any training nor took part in any activities. For details see his wife Tabassum’s letter:http://justiceforafzalguru.org/background/tabassum.html

After he surrendered he was constantly picked up by security forces, asked to spy on people and also routinely tortured. He eventually decided to move toDelhihoping to be left alone but even here the notorious Special Task Force caught up with him and continued to harass him.

Afzal’strial

His trial was a mockery of justice since he was denied an opportunity to defend himself – he did not even have a lawyer.Afzal was not involved in the actual attack on the Indian parliament and he did not kill or injure anybody and the Indian Supreme Court has ruled that there was no direct evidence against him, only circumstantial. However the court has sentenced him to death because in their words the“the collective conscience of the society will be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender… The appellant, who is a surrendered militant …is a menace to society and should become extinct.”

Abu Ghraib style torture and media collusion

In the Special Cell of the Delhi police Afzal was kept naked for two days and beaten mercilessly – once by a man who later appeared as a prosecution witness; police officers urinated in his mouth saying ‘This is the way you can break your Roza(fast)’. After he was tortured he was handcuffed and made to sit on a chair and forced to ‘confess’ at a media conference. But television broadcasts did not show the handcuffs and did not show the men who tortured and humiliated him. On the 15 and 16 of December 2006, New Delhi Television (NDTV) re-ran the ‘confession’ several times although they had been informed that by now that the Supreme Court of India had rejected it and the High Court had reprimanded the police for it. The programme was accompanied by remarks such as‘See how natural, how truthful, how fluent his statement appears’ and ‘Who can believe that such a statement can be given under torture’. They then invited viewers to act as a virtual lynch mob by soliciting SMS messages from them asking whether Afzal should be hanged in light of the tape telecast by them.

Right-wing Hindu chauvinist forces of the Sangh Parivar have continually harassed members of Afzal’s campaign while calling for Afzal to be hanged.

Afzal Gurufaces a death penalty although:

  • There is no direct evidence against him and he is known not to have injured or harmed anyone
  • The Courts have found that the investigating agencies deliberately fabricated evidence and forged documents against him and others accused.

Currently Afzal is waiting for the results of a Mercy Petition but the decision of the courts is extremely uncertain. Even after enormous efforts by his campaign he is being denied basic rights in prison – he is not allowed to go out of doors for even half an hour of sunlight and the Red Cross who have access to Kashmiri prisoners have not been allowed to visit him.

SAVE AFZAL GURU!

See you there.

The Guantanamo Cages

Gaston Bachelard suggests fire is the metaphor of metaphor (1938/1987:111 Psychoanalysis of Fire).

I have been watching harrowing reports from Guantanamo detention camp on the late night news. They shine lights in the eyes of those unjustly interned there – the camp has been open for five years – they play loud music at all hours (see Eroica), they interrogate and interrogate, forcing narrative (this is not just storytelling, though I glossed it as such for effect) and force-feeding those who protest their rights; and we now hear more and more and cannot avoid recognizing that the guards do much worse, much worse… beatings, broken ribs, degrading and sadistic tortures, deaths…and we have known this for too long…

While the inmates in their cages in the camp might be in danger of slipping from our memory, yet they are the brutal truth of our world today. Television has to do more than this to wake us up – I see it as the real Big Brother house, this is the Palace of Dreams, this is the Home of the Brave. This is where we really live, but do not see.

The way in which we manage to accept and excuse continued detention without charge or trial, deaths in custody, atrocity and crime, makes me think we need to rewrite our books and change our thinking. How to do this? Perhaps a shot of philosophy – what if we were to think of the scene on screen as a possible contemporary parable which is displacing or radicalizing the old cave scenario in Plato. Guantanamo might be our new founding myth – an indictment of the way we think, and a guide to how we might rework our ways so that it is not truth and the sun we seek, but justice and redress.

I hope then that it is not too strange to take up the metaphor of the fire-screen in Plato’s cave and rework it as a spark for Guantanamo. There could be many associations with the screen and the flame and this seems as good as any a place to start. In an overdetermined and well known passage, Plato presents us with a primordial cave in which we are offered the image of shadows flickering on a wall. Those watching the shadows – which flicker because they are caused by a fire in the cave – are incredulous when an early release tells them of a greater light, of the sun shining outside the cave, which reveals greater truths. As the story goes, the proto-television shadow wall retains its viewers, who after all are chained to the scene and cannot look away.

That this Plato-routine is mere storytelling is well known – and so it is with a great number of other scenes of media screen and fire. Television hardly moves us. Yet fire, as we know, is both creative and destructive. It is endlessly fascinating (more than television) – ‘hard to light, it is difficult to put out’ – a malevolent spirit (Bachelard 1938/1987:64). A symptomatic examination of flames on the screen might remind us that this is a political place – think of grainy images of the Reichstag fire, of the Hindenburg zeppelin crash, of the burning monk during the Vietnam war, and of late night reruns of Cinema Paradiso. Nevertheless, Plato’s cave establishes the precedent with those shadows on the wall – television, fire and political narrative are inexorably linked from the start – and so I also want to invoke a mythic register as perhaps more than as metaphor, or as heuristic device. I have in mind myth as it might have been narrated in a ‘reverie’ of those gathered around a camp-fire not unlike the one in the cave or as told to the interrogators. There are any number of televisual and cinematic moments that might provide a kind of archive to enable this – I invite readers to come up with their own greatest moments in flames, but let us always remember the storytellers of Guantanamo that we barely hear. The long questionings, the beatings, the torture, the loss of life – though not yet all dead, the dying…

To cite television news reportage as a burning issue under a register of fire is a kind of contrivance no doubt, but a necessary one, and it allows us to rethink storytelling as politics, and so television as ideological social origin myth. The only trouble is that this extravagant metaphorics could lead almost anywhere, and if we free associate television with fire, light, luminosity and insight we might merely meditate upon knowledge and vision, the daylight (let there be light…), the lantern (Zarathustra…) and the lamp (Aladdin…). Stories are not enough here. As if enlightenment were an unproblematic advance (as an alternative to detention camps and god-bothering leaderships on crusade, it surely is… but), fire is also a weapon (literally as fire-power, and also as firewater). So burn your TV. And burn down the camps. Though it destroys, fire may also cleanse. It is divine avenging spirit and productive furnace of hell, with Lucifer it is both the fall and purgatory. May Day though is the celebration of both Beltane and workers’ power; fire produces both steam and ash; energy and residue. It is made by friction or a spark; a smouldering beginning or a sudden crash of lightning; the image of god, spirit, cherubim; yet also hocus pocus, and obscurantist smoke and fug; fiery, inflamed, incandescent, excited; related both to flagrant and flamboyant. Why then is it that so often television does not at all encourage that ‘reverie’ that Bachelard identified in fire (this is also discussed in Moore 2000:130 Savage Theory). Late night TV is especially evocative of the narcoleptic camp-fire – flickering shadows the only light lulling us towards unconsciousness. The embers of the late late show shine with a soporific glow and contemplation need not be profound. We need that torture light smack in the eyes.

I hope old Plato will turn in his cave (and perhaps see the sun). The inmates of Guantanamo do not have sets in their cages, but they are the screen on which our social conscience is shown, and it is found wanting.

For all those in detention everywhere, and for Kadhr, Bisher, Hicks, El Hadj Boudella, the Bosnian Six, Abbasi, Sharif, Shah and all the others.

Spectres of Marx – A Christmas Carol?

Cadavers, lifeless bodies, the return of the dead. Over the holiday period the quiet streets of London have been bothering me a little. Alarmed as I am with Christmas carols and hangings on the news – a veritable hauntology has me walking about as if in a dream. Yet people keep on bringing me ghosts. Three times this week, and all through the first term course on Capital, and with two PhD students working the theme (if slowly) into new areas… frightening me to reach for my familiar references – Ghost of Chance by William Burroughs was my first suggestion: it’s a pirate story about Captain Mission (drug fiend, utopianist) and his pet lemur called ‘Ghost’, battling the Christ-Sickness and other plagues destined for the Museum of Lost Species. The Captain himself becomes a ghost on death – stranger than anything Johnny Depp saw Keith Richards do… Of course much more worthy reading on this theme would pursue spirits in Hegel, Marx, the spectral…

So scholars may be worried by spooky stories. But what, I wonder, is all this anxiety about really? Haunting and ghosts are interesting as metaphor or trope certainly. But incorporeality and disembodied form just doesn’t do much – it seems intangible, somewhat vacuous. These ghosts on their own are a bit whispy, shady and faint. I need to find bodies that matter – and I want to know just what point of connection all the current death-talk might have to the socio-political world. It seems a bit abstract at present. So I have two sets of questions:

A. Should not all this talk of ghosts first of all be connected to the forgotten inmates of Guantanamo? To the spectral dead of the twin towers? To the thousands killed by imperialism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia? These ghastly scenes should surely scare us. Somebody needs to organise more than a séance to set the creaking of the system into context – this entire planet is haunted, the walking dead are legion. Vampires suck our flesh.

B. The theme of ghosts might also be questioned as a focus for social theory – I mean, why have these apparitions returned with a vengeance just now? Perhaps the abundance of ghost writings that have appeared since Derrida wrote Spectres of Marx indicates the powerful return of Christianity and/or Christmas pasts: Scrooge and/or the Holy Ghost struts the world stage in a way not seen since temperance. Is this secularism in retreat before the new manifestations of fundamentalism(s)? Or was secularism always underpinned with a faulty reading of Marx’s opiate routine? The first cry of the oppressed masses is a commune with the dead…

Is this the fetish character of capital turned into demons and ghouls? The residue of the dead body. In many stories ghosts can travel through walls and now they seem to have infiltrated everything everywhere. I have been disturbed the past few days by a story Mick Taussig tells in his great new book Walter Benjamin’s Grave, where our intrepid anthropologist-hero is asked by a Putumayo farmer if he knows how to smuggle cocaine past the police and army guards. He did not. “Well, you get a dead baby and open up the abdomen, remove the intestines, pack cocaine paste in, sew up the abdomen and, with the baby at the breast the good mother cuddles her precious cargo through the roadblocks and, who knows, perhaps to Miami and New York as well” (in Taussig 2006:86).

The residue is now also in the body. We certainly welcomed the New Year in high spirits. I find all this as shocking as the grainy images of Saddam on his string. No longer pantomime.

Pantomime Terrors – DIY Cookbook


After friday’s absolutely great Dis-Orient X event which went off so well – thanks to ALL concerned… now I’m on the way to Magdeburg to talk about the new Fun-Da-Mental video, so, a few more notes (actually these were nutted out on the way to Stockholm last week – added to the ever growing file)…

A discussion of new work by diasporic world music stalwarts Fun-da-mental and the drum and bass outfit Asian Dub Foundation, relating to insurgency struggles, anti-colonialism and political freedom in the UK. The presentation will argue for an engaged critique of “culture” and assess a certain distance or gap between political expression and the tamed versions of multiculturalism accepted by/acceptable in the British marketplace. Examples from the music industry reception of ‘difficult’ music and creative engagement are evaluated in the context of the global terror wars.

I increasingly find it problematic to write analytically about “diaspora and music” at a time of war. It seems inconsequential; the culture industry is not much more than a distraction; a fairy tale diversion to make us forget a more sinister amnesia behind the stories we tell. This paper nonetheless takes up debates about cultural expression in the field of diasporic musics in Britain. It examines instances of creative engagement with, and destabilisation of, music genres by Fun^da^mental and Asian Dub Foundation, and it takes a broadly culture critique perspective on diasporic creativity as a guide to thinking about the politics of hip-hop in a time of war.
….
Pantomime Terroisms:

Thinking about pantomime terror deserves a little historical play. The popular christmas and summer holiday entertainment form has roots in vaudville and melodrama and might also be traced back through French mime, Italian Commedia dell’arte, or even to Roman mythology and the flutes of the god Pan.[1] A more detailed history of course would have to contend with the relation of the Pied Piper of Hammelin to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, with issues of role reversal, double entendre, drag, slapstick, superstitions (left side of the stage for demons, right side for fairy princesses), and theatre ghosts if not more. The trajectory within the pantomime archive that I find most relevant here would start with Scheherezade and the stories of A Thousand And One Nights, the first ‘proper book’ I owned as a child – illustrated with lavish pictures of Sinbad the Sailor, various alluring princesses on flying horses or magic carpets, Alladin and his lamp, and of course Ali Baba and the forty thieves. That Sherezade had to tell devious stories to evade death at the handsof the despotic King Shahrya is only the first of the points at which Edward Said-style critiques of Orientalism would need to be deployed. Wicked and conniving traders outfoxed by fantastically beautiful maidens told as fairy tales to children but barely disguising the violence at the heart of the stories themeselves did certain ideological duty. My problem with Said however has always been that these effects are not just literary and historical, even as a wealth of historical research was released in the wake of Said’s texts. Today however pantomime seems to play an even more sinister role.

The ghost that is ‘behind you’ in today’s panto is the sleeper cell living and working amongst us, travelling on the tube, preparing to wreak havoc and destruction unannounced. Ali Baba is the despot holding the west ransom to the price of a barrel of oil; Sinbad is Osama, with a secret cave to which only he knows the secret opening code words: ‘open sesame’. The fears that are promulgated here are of course childish terrors and stereotype, but the problem with sterotype is their maddening ability to transcend reason and keep on poping back up to scare us. This is not a place for thinking, its theatre. We might consider the repetition of the historical as seen in Marx’s study of Louis Bonepart in the Eighteenth Brumaire: the second time history repeats it returns as high farce.[2] The need for someone to write the brumaire of Blair is pressing. It suggests to me a speculative dream version of sheherezade; who has been detained, rendered and interned in Guantanamo. Kept on her own in a cell except for a daily interrogation when she is brought before her captors who demand a story. She obliges them with the production of a narrative that provokes ever more draconian civil liberties crackdowns and higher and higher terror alert ratings in the metropolises, but the production of this narrative can never set her free and she will never become queen (Blair and Bush are already hitched to each other, and perhaps to history in the same way Nixon was to Watergate and defeat in Vietnam). Although, my dreaming of Sheherezade is only a conceit – yet a thousand and one terrors assail us all.

….

In the video for DIY Cookbook, pantomime characters make the argument. There are three verses. The first entails a cross-of-St-George-wearing youth constructing a strap-on bomb from a recipe downloaded from the internet. He is dressed as a rabbit and as a lizard in parts of the verse, playing on childlike toys and fears; the second verse references the Muslim scholar and the figure of the armed guerrilla as the character relates a more cynical employment as a mercenary making a ‘dirty bomb’ with fission materials bought on the black market in Chechnya or some such; the third pantomime figure is the respectable scientist discussed in RamParts by Dave, here the scientist in a lab coat morphs into a member of the Klu Klux Klan and then a suited business man, building a neutron bomb that destroys people ‘but leaves the buildings intact’. Pantomime allows Aki to point out the hypocrisy of an Empire with no clothes. The terrors we are offered every night on the news are pantomime terrors as well, a performance melodrama, operatically grandiose. The scale they require – weapons of mass destruction; Saddam’s show trial – is exaggerated in a way that welcomes oblique internalization. These figures are patently absurd, yet all the more effective as incitements.

See the video here: http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xb0hcy
Fun-da-Mental – Cookbook D.I.Y by bbpradi0

[1] James L. Miller 1978 ‘Review of Roman Pantomime: Practice and Politics by Frank W. D. Reis in Dance Research Journal, Vol. 11, No. 1/2 (1978-1979), pp. 52-54
[2] Marx’s Eigtheenth Brumaire is by far the most eloquent articulation of class and ideological politics available – the classic phrases are well known ‘they cannot represent themselves, they must be represented’, ‘potatoes in a sack’, let the dead bury the dead’ and so on. See the translation by James Martin for Pluto Press 2002.

Public Private Knowledge: The Last Communist


This image that I take to be a plastic diarama efigy of a Malaya Communist Party cadre from the 1940s is from a film I have been reading about with interest as a controversy rages over its banning in Malaysia. The film is Lelaki Komunis Terakhir aka The Last Communist.

It deals with Chin Peng, who’s autobiography a few years ago (My Side of History 2003 Media Masters) was pretty informative, and now this film could add more to a tale that is strangely present but not present in Malaysia. I have long been interested in the reds, whom the director of TLC recalls as those that were considerd ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ during his youth. This routine of demonisation is prevalent, as documented in earlier offerings such as Malaya: the Undeclared War, which examines anti-communist ‘emergency’ of the 1940s-early 50s, back to the early writings of Anthony Burgess (see below), who was a colonial era teacher…

What I mean by the comment that the communist struggle is present but not present in Malaysia is illustrated in the ongoing fools attempt to censor and silence on the part of the UMNO government, but also in curious public presence-absences. For example, I’ve always been amused by one of the exhibits at the Museum in Georgetown.

[This from a piece written in 2002]: Outside the Penang Museum in Malaysia today you can still see an old bullet ridden Rolls Royce that once was used to ferry Viceroys about the Malayan Peninsula. The explanation offered for this exhibit, however, is somewhat vague. The bullet holes were earned at the assassination of the High Commissioner Sir Henry Gurney in October 1951. What is not noted is that this was the highest level kill achieved by Communist insurgents during the so-called Malayan Emergency – curiously enough, a dramatised version of this event can be found in the 1956 novel of a certain Anthony Burgess of Clockwork Orange fame, see his Time for a Tiger, part of his Malaya Trilogy, The Long Day Wanes (Burgess 1964). Burgess was appointed to a post as colonial teacher at the Malay College in Perak, quite near to the reputed Communist headquarters in the village of Sungai Siput (Lewis 2002:203). It is what happened to villages during the ‘Emergency’ that should be of concern – wholesale detentions that set the model for strategic Hamlets in Vietnam…

Malaya was the most profitable part of the Empire in the years between the first and second Imperialist World Wars. According to the Commonwealth historian Anthony Stockwell, British colonial administrators distinguished between Malays and Chinese in terms of how they ran the colony, with the Malays entrusted with ‘junior partner’ status and the bulk of positions in the police and Civil Service while the Chinese were infiltrated by the ‘menace’ of communist and Kuomingtang elements and were thought to be in need of strict discipline (Stockwell 1992:105-7).

It was this need for discipline that led to a Police force numbering 10,000 before 1940, mostly Malays and Sikhs, only 250 British Officers learnt to speak Malay, but only a handful knew any Chinese. Postwar, with grave shortages of rice and cloth, malaria epidemic, collapsed plantation and mining infrastructure, the once most lucrative colony became the most difficult to rule – the Chinese led communists joined with the Malay community in a mass non-cooperation movement. The straggling and war weary British (with disgruntled soldiers who wanted demobalisation rather than a new colonial adventure) considered putting down this movement with the use of Indian soldiers but found this difficult because of the legacy of Nataji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (see Bose 1982, for discussion of the formation, and subsequent defeat, of Bose’s army in Malaya and Burma – largely due to a miscalculated and unsupportive alliance with Imperial Japan).

Out of the mass non-cooperation movement developed support for the Malaysian Communist Party (MCP) and in reaction, according to Stockwell, to the British declaration of a state of emergency in June of 1948, an insurrection began, under Chin Peng known as a revolutionary war but on the government side characterised as ‘the emergency’ which is clearly a calculated reference (non-War, non Geneva Convention, cf Guantamo Bay and the US failure to extend any rights to captured combatants) and alibis the declaration of special Police powers above and beyond conventional law.

Under Colonel W.N. Gray, direct from Palestine and appointed as Commissioner of the Malay Police, the force expanded to 73,000, plus 17,000 ‘Auxiliaries and Kampong guards’ by 1952 (Stockwell 1992:110). Gray oversaw the introduction of resettlement and gave the Malay Police the major role in defence of ‘New Villages’ in order to separate the people from the communists, and food and information.

Stockwell writes:
‘the Emergency regulations gave the police extraordinary powers of search and arrest, control of the movement of persons and traffic, and the authority to impose curfews … in late 1951 it was estimated that some 6,000 persons were being held in detention without trial’ (Stockwell 1992:113, citing Oliver Lyttelton’s memoirs of 1962:372).

The insurgency was a war of attrition which effectively drained the colony’s profitability. The combination of communist insurgency and the international climate of anti-colonial pro-Independence negotiations meant the British played their old divide and rule routine even in the run up to an inevitable independence.

In July 1955 the Malay leader Tunku Abdul Rahman headed a coalition of Umno, Mca and MIC to victory in the first ‘federal’ election of the Malay colony. As the British debated handing over internal security and policing to the new Chief Minister, Tunku Rahman suggested an amnesty for the communists and with Chin Peng opened talks (Stockwell 1992:120). Chin Peng wisely offered peace as soon as independence, and control over security, was achieved. The British moved to forestall such alliance making by granting Tunku immediate control of internal security through a ‘guided’ Police Service Commission….

[That lot above is extracted from: http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/489/detention.html ]

…its a matter of record that Malaysia did not adopt its promising Red Domino option. Instead, years of neo-colonial plunder, and the continued repression of dissidents and opposition under the detention law called the Internal Security Act, now universally applied across the world, with Chin Peng exiled (still) in Thailand. The Rolls outside the museum – count the bullet holes – is testiment to an unspoken but quite visible presence. The banning just maintains this transparent puppetry-ventriloquy and since the story should be told out loud, let’s see the film. Red Salute.
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NO SHOOT TO KILL CAMPAIGN


NO SHOOT TO KILL CAMPAIGN

PLEASE READ AND SUPPORT THE STATEMENT BELOW


Jean Charles de Menezes was killed by armed police inside Stockwell Tube station on 22 July. His execution brought world-wide attention to a shoot to kill policy that the Prime Minster and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner say is here to stay. We say ‘NO SHOOT TO KILL’ and demand an end to this brutal policy. Jean Charles was not the first victim of police shootings – Derek Bennett, Azelle Rodney, Harry Stanley and James Ashley are just some of the other people that have been shot dead on the streets of Britain. Their families continue to fight for justice. If you want to support these families. If you want to see those responsible for these killings prosecuted. If you want to defend human rights in the UK then support this campaign.

The so called ‘War on Terror’ is being used as an excuse for increasing militarisation of the police and increased powers that are already leading to miscarriages of justice. If we do not take a stand on this issue now then others will suffer. Support and join the ‘NO SHOOT TO KILL’ campaign before it is too late.”

Our demands are:

NO SHOOT TO KILL.
PROSECUTE OFFICERS RESPONSIBLE.
NO IMMUNITY FROM PROSECUTON.

The NO SHOOT TO KILL campaign is led by the United Families & Friends Campaign (the national coalition of death in custody family campaigns including those above) and supported by Migrant Media, The 1990 Trust, CAMPACC, CEART, Stop Political Terror, Churches Commission for Racial Justice, Islamic Human Rights Commission, Pat Finucane Centre, African Peoples Liberation Organisation, INQUEST, Newham Monitoring Project, FAST and Mother Against Gun Crime, Black Londoners Forum, Jean Lambert (London’s Green MEP).

If you want to support the campaign then sign up to this statement by emailing: info@injusticefilm.co.uk

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DEATHS IN CUSTODY

UNITED FAMILES & FRIENDS CAMAPIGN

DEATHS IN CUSTODY FAMILIES TO MARCH ON DOWNING STREET
London Saturday 29th October 2005.
Assemble 1pm at Trafalgar Square for a march and demonstration to Downing Street

The United Families & Friends Campaign – the national coalition of death in custody family campaigns – today announced its seventh annual remembrance procession. The event will see hundreds of family members of those that have died in state custody gather to remember their loved one. This years march will also demand an end to the current ‘shoot to kill ‘ policy. A letter to this effect will be handed in to the Prime Minister.In a statement the campaign has said: “Jean Charles de Menezes was killed by armed police inside Stockwell Tube station on 22 July. His execution brought world-wide attention to a shoot to kill policy that the Prime Minster and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner say is here to stay. We say ‘NO SHOOT TO KILL’ and demand an end to this brutal policy.

Jean Charles was not the first victim of police shootings – Derek Bennett, Azelle Rodney, Harry Stanley and James Ashley are just some of the other people that have been shot dead on the streets of Britain. Their families continue to fight for justice. If you want to support these families. If you want to see those responsible for these killings prosecuted. If you want to defend human rights in the UK then support this procession.”Brenda Weinberg, Chair of UFFC says: “We are gathering for those we have lost at the hands of those designated to protect and serve. The continual denial of justice is another form of human rights abuse practised by this government.”

notes:
1. The United Families and Friends Campaign is a coalition of families and friends of those that have died in the custody of police and prison officers as well as those who are killed in secure psychiatric hospitals. It includes the families of Roger Sylvester, Leon Patterson, Rocky Bennett, Alton Manning, Christopher Alder, Brian Douglas, Joy Gardner, Aseta Simms, Paul Jemmott, Harry Stanley Mikey Powell, Paul Coker and Glenn Howard, to name but a few. Together we are building a network for collective action to end deaths in custody.

2. Aims of UFFC are:
no Deaths in police custody must be investigated by a body that is genuinely independent of the police.
no Prison deaths must be subject to a system of properly funded investigation that is completely independent of the Prison Service.
no Officers involved in custody deaths be suspended until investigations are completed.
no Prosecutions should automatically follow \’unlawful killing\’ verdicts at inquests.
no Police forces are made accountable to the communities that they serve.
no Legal Aid and full disclosure of information be made to the relatives of the victims.
no Officers responsible for deaths should face criminal charges, even if retired.

Press Contact details:n07770 432 439 n07956 629 889 n0845 330 7927

"Shoot to Kill" London Police – October 11 Goldsmiths

“Shoot to Kill” seminar

Discussion with Tariq Mehmood (novelist, filmmaker), Ziauddin Sardar (academic, tv presenter), Arun Kundnani (Institute of Race Relations) and others about race, war and policing in London post July 7.

Starts: 18:00 – 11 October 2005 Ends: 20:00 – 11 October 2005
Location: Small Hall/Cinema, Main Building Goldsmiths College London
Cost: nil
For further details, please email me.
Centre for Postcolonial Studies and Centre for Cultural Studies are sponsors.

Razor-wire Imperialism

Weekly Worker 489 Thursday July 17 2003
Razor-wire Imperialism
From Guantanamo to Kumingting to Campsfield, detention without trial is used to divide and rule. John Hutnyk calls for an international working class response…

 

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