Category Archives: gripes

Riotinto really are the worst kind of scum

Check this detailed report out:


Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 20.56.47

Pantomime Terror trinket of the day.


‘leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write’



 - Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge. 1969.

Anti-Monarchy Playlist (hat-tip/crown tip Morgan)

click the screenshot to be taken to spotify

Screen shot 2013-07-22 at 11.48.34

See also these promises, duck, coutts, speeches, FTJ and Radio Fascism

Filthy bastard mining corp Riotinto slips the (legal) noose once again (the law is an ass)

Rio Tinto wins end to human rights abuse lawsuit in U.S.

Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:47pm EDT
* Bougainville residents sued over activity linked to mine
* 9th Circuit rules after top U.S. court narrows law’s reach
By Jonathan Stempel
June 28 (Reuters) – Benefiting from a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Rio Tinto Plc has won the dismissal of a nearly 13-year-old U.S. lawsuit accusing the Anglo-Australian mining company of complicity in human rights abuses on the South Pacific island of Bougainville.
Friday’s ruling by a majority of an 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ends litigation begun in 2000.
Roughly 10,000 current and former Bougainville residents had sought to hold Rio Tinto responsible for human rights violations and thousands of deaths linked to polluting a copper and gold mine it once ran.
The ruling follows the Supreme Court’s April 17 decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, where the justices limited the sweep of a 1789 U.S. law that lawyers had used for roughly three decades to fight human rights abuses worldwide.
Five justices said the Alien Tort Statute was meant to cover international law violations occurring in the United States, and that violations elsewhere must “touch and concern” U.S. territory “with sufficient force” to displace that presumption.
The Bougainville residents alleged that after workers in 1988 began to sabotage the Rio Tinto mine, the company goaded Papua New Guinea’s government to exact retribution and conspired to impose a blockade, leading to thousands of civilian deaths.
On April 22, the Supreme Court threw out an earlier 9th Circuit ruling that let the lawsuit proceed, and asked it to revisit the matter in light of Kiobel.
Steve Berman, a lawyer for the Bougainville plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
He had asked the 9th Circuit to send the case back to the Los Angeles district court so that his clients could try to proceed with other claims, “sans invocation of the ATS.”
Kiobel was also cited this week by a Virginia federal judge who dismissed a lawsuit accusing defense contractor CACI International Inc of conspiring to torture detainees a decade ago at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The judge in that case said that because the alleged abuse occurred outside the United States, he lacked jurisdiction to consider claims by four former detainees. They plan to appeal.
The case is Sarei et al v. Rio Tinto Plc et al, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 02-56256.

The Hanging Channel spin offs

A new satellite service from the people who brought you ‘Captive Camera (Gitmo)’, ‘America’s Funniest NSA Surveillance Videos’, the YouTube viral sensation ‘LiveScream direct from the heart of Bhagram’ prison, and ‘The Hanging Channel™’ (the one with the ‘real’ – accept no substitutes – Saddam Hussein billion dollar drop – hosted by Devilish McCall).

Must see screen moments on this new service include (live links to be provided later):

- George Bush snr golfing

- George W reading stories to children when the TT were hit

- Obama watching the snuff film from Abbottabad with Hilary

- Hilary saying ‘wow’ to her blackberry when Gaddafi was killed

and other gems. Do not miss this. Parental misguidance recommended.


(essay on the Hanging channel see here)




wikiredAnnouncing the immanent launch of a new free Osscyclopedia, written from the other end – no longer referring to the DDR as Former East without remembering the BRD is the Former West; no longer lauding Captain Cook as anything other than a daft chook-chasing pom; no longer reading the history of plunder and ursprüngliche Akkumulation as adventure; no longer thinking the middle passage was some sort of migration/travel narrative, rather than murder-death-kill genocide; no terra nullis, no thinking that Calcutta was only the second city of Empire; no thinking that Marco Polo and Vasco de Gama were heroes; no axis of evil; no deaths in custody; no mockery of cynicism (which after-all is a valid response to the fucked up way the mainstream media describes this vale of tears … you get the drift – so get Osscyclopedia [still in pre-beta testing]

state execution by neglect?

This from Tom Henri. It looks to me to be an attempted State premeditated murder, aka Capital Punishment, for a minor offense. There is also an open letter to the Ministry of Justice, signed by various luminaries.

Scrubbed to death

Daniel Roque Hall suffers from Friedreich’s ataxia, this debilitating and fatal illness means he requires around the clock care.  In 2011 Daniel pleaded guilty to smuggling cocaine into the UK.  The judge sentenced Daniel to three years in prison, on the proviso that a prison place could be found which would meet his health care needs.  The Governor of Wormwood Scrubs (widely regarded as the London prison with the worst health facilities) stated that his prison could meet Daniel’s needs.  After three weeks of neglectful treatment in the Scrubs, Daniel was rushed to hospital and placed on a life support machine.  Without exaggeration, the care (or lack of) that Daniel received in prison nearly killed him.  His man has a fatal degenerate disease, he requires full-time care, he is no harm to anyone else and he need to be with his family – NOT in Wormwood Scrubs.  Earlier this week, Daniel and his family won a seven day reprieve on Daniel’s return to jail.

You can read more about Daniel’s story at

#madconference number 137

Somehow I have been targeted by pranksters who keep making up neoliberal sounding fictive conferences that could not possibly exist even in this benighted corporatized world. This one is a spoof on the UfSO, no? The fee is £395, with a whopping £70 off if you are gullible enough to even consider going to this bore-a-thon. ‘opportunities to network’ – wow.


Gah – Look out – Boy Scouts in the area

‘Scouts sent into riot hotspots by ministers: Hundreds of teams to help the disadvantaged’ Jill Sherman The Times August 25 2012 (sorry, no electronic version I can easily find)
‘The traditionally middle-class, white youth clubs often found in leafy suburbs and shire counties but not in inner cities’ will be deployed in 400 new sites to ‘provide 10,000 more places for disadvantaged youths, including offenders, disruptive schoolchildren, children in care and the unemployed .. the cash for “uniformed” groups suggest ministers prefer more disciplined associations over less-established local services’
That’d be a great Big Society paedo-initiative, statues to be erected for the scourge of Mafeking, inventor of the concentration camp, Lord Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden Powell of Gillwell!


no ADF, no Stones, not even Donovan – could any of them even face performing at that Nuremberg rally? on that stage that was a cross between a police kettle and a technicolor swastika? With Boris, Harry and Cameron pretending to dance, to George Michael singing ‘freedom’ for the peoples of Helmand Province? I don’t think so.

Yeah, so I am realizing I did not really get into the spirit of the closing ceremony, as much as I liked the running, the bikes and the canoes. It just pisses me off no end that criminals like Rio Tinto can parade as sponsors (providing the nickel behind the plate covered medals. Especially during the closing ceremony when I thought maybe some sort of musical contribution, the UK has made some, might get noted. Here for the archive is part of the messy record of the tweets of despair: @sputnyk


Twilight of the bureaucrats

More Olympiss Action


Press Release June 27 2012

Orbits of Responsibility for a War Crime from a Bosnian mine to London’s Olympic Park

[PDF] 2 July 2012 Event Press Release

[PDF] Opinion Piece by Susan Schuppli

Download Images of Omarska

On July 2 2012 London’s Olympic tower — the ArcelorMittal Orbit — will be reclaimed as A Memorial in Exile by survivors of the Bosnian concentration camp at Omarska, now a fully-functional mine operated by ArcelorMittal. Iron ore and profits extracted from Omarksa have been used to manufacture London’s newest landmark.


Keep reading here -




That free-thinking even-handed paper of record

Even handed as always, the Guardian media ads pages today carries two ‘provocative’ ads for Torturer and Abuser. Ironic ‘sick joke’ ads that eventually ask us to log on to the website for the rehabilitation NGO Freedom from Torture. So far so transparent, a senior human rights abuser is needed for ‘A militia group in Central Africa’ and a senior torturer is needed by the ‘Government of a Middle East state’. Oh the wit. I guess the Guardian copy editor thought these would be ok, and not grotesque renderings of undifferentiated Middle East and Africa as land of despots, because the next page, or tomorrow, or all next week, there would be exposés of USA tortures in Guantanamo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, etc and British abuses via deportations, immigration raids, complicity with the US and all that. But, undermining such even-handedness, today’s edition clearly ran out of space for anything acknowledging Western abuses. Only in the darker nations, where presumably irony is not lost, and prejudice excused, does Freedom from Torture want to operate its humour. When the international criminal court indicts Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy, and has already locked up the Bush boys, Gunshot Cheney and Tony Bliar, for good, will we look back and say, well done vigilant Guardian editors, your objectivity is sound, and the name of your paper not a cipher for panto.



Update: the freedom from torture website helpfully completes the geo-imperial slur framing with its third ad, for a kidnapper in South Asia. Excellent – a return to growth.











Update 2: And if you do click on the link, look for their video with its seeds metaphors and its water torture feature in their reception room. ‘Torture is bad’ – they campaign to tell people that. I can only agree.

Austerity, what austerity?

I am trying to keep my disapproval of this polite. Did Goldsmiths win the Grand Prix? There is no other excuse for the G-brand magnums these good ol boys are pumping.

[the photo is the publicity shot to announce a partnership agreement with Lasalle in Singapore:]



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Cut Flesh from the Bone – big publishing profits

This article is one in an issue becoming quite the popular. Having published a commissioned (unpaid) article with Elsevier – it was called ‘Jungle Studies’, and after proofreading they replaced the phrase ‘For fuck’s sake’ with ‘For God’s sake’ – I know, there are several levels of gah! – I am keen to point out that many publishers are not scum and open access is making some headway, but…

Good material for our forthcoming workshop on publishing and alternative formats for ‘Early Career Researchers’, and I’ve something else coming out on the topic soon.

Read the comments on this piece too – here.

In an article that many of you will now have seen, Heather Morrison demonstrated the enormous profits of STM (Scientific, Technical and Medical) scholarly publishers.  The figures are taken from her in-progress dissertation which in turn cites an article in The Economist.  It all checks out.  I emphasise this because I found the figures so hard to believe.  Here they are again: profits as a percentage of revenue for commercial STM publishers in 2010 or early 2011:

  • Elsevier: £724m on revenue of £2b — 36%
  • Springer‘s Science+Business Media: £294m on revenue of £866m — 33.9%
  • John Wiley & Sons: $106m on revenue of $253m — 42%
  • Academic division of Informa plc: £47m on revenue of £145m — 32.4%

So it’s evident that profits on the order of 35% are pretty typical for commercial STM publishers, and that Elsevier’s figures are not an aberration.  Not only that, but all four of these companies’ profits as a proportion of revenue are still increasing — by 2.4%, 4%, 13% and 3.3% respectively.  The U.K. Office of Fair Trading noted back in 2002 that “the overall profitability of commercial STM publishing is high, not only by comparison to ‘non-profit’ journals (which is not surprising), but also by comparison to other commercial journal publishing”.

I wanted to be sure that I was assessing this fairly, so I looked through Elsevier’s annual reports for the last nine years — happily, they make them available, if not particularly easy to find.  What I found is that they have been consistently bringing in profits in the region of 33% throughout the last decade.  Specifically:

  • 2002: £429m profit on £1295m revenue – 33.18%
  • 2003: £467m profit on £1381m revenue – 33.82%
  • 2004: £460m profit on £1363m revenue – 33.75%
  • 2005: £449m profit on £1436m revenue – 31.25%
  • 2006: £465m profit on £1521m revenue – 30.57%
  • 2007: £477m profit on £1507m revenue – 31.65%
  • 2008: £568m profit on £1700m revenue – 33.41%
  • 2009: £693m profit on £1985m revenue – 34.91%
  • 2010: £724m profit on £2026m revenue – 35.74%

(I have not been through the same exercise for Springer, Wiley or Informa, but there is no reason to expect that the results would be any different.)

What does it all mean?

Yes, publishers have a right to make a living.  Not only that, but they have a right to make as big a profit as the market can bear (though of course when they form a cartel that distorts the market monopolistically, that changes things).

But here’s what it means to scientists that Elsevier’s profit is 35.74% of revenue:

You just have to ask yourself whether that’s where you want your money going.

And though this workshop is open only to Goldsmiths Berlin FU and Copenhagen Doctoral School PhDs (its a training workshop) we’d not be adverse to hearing from interested persons. So here is the cfp:

The piece-rate Worker

Turning our lives into sausage factory grunt work and mere value extraction. This is all too common. Before electronic rights became a standard in publishing contracts I used to scratch out that part (eg for my Calcutta book, and for ‘Dis-Orienting Rhythms’ – only the latter is online for free – see sidebar to download – since scanning the typeset pages of ‘Rumour of Calcutta’ is so far beyond me. Later books other people have made available, and I point to them where I can – also sidebar). Increasingly the clumsy copyright assignment thing seems an issue to fight since there is something truly obscene about making people who work for free for large journals, where those journals are owned and run as sausage factory style conglomerates. Having to sign away ‘rights’ – as if that really was the key concern (not all journals are like this and open access is a real boon) is something tenured profs can take or leave, but anyone else in need of a publication for validation and employment prospects, ever diminishing, has to swallow it whole. Or do they? Sometimes I’ve just forgotten on purpose to send in the rights form – but then some poorly paid staffer, or even unpaid intern, has to chase it up. So I am watching this little episode, described by Steve Shaviro below, since it is a further fold on the sorry tale. Follow the post to the original at the Pinocchio Theory site and watch the comments to see if there is a resolution. Good luck Steve.

Work for Hire?

Here we go again. I was asked to sign a contract for an essay I have written, which is scheduled to appear in an edited collection. Let’s leave aside the fact that I wrote the essay — it was solicited for this collection — in summer 2010, and yet it will not appear in print until 2013. I think that the glacial pace of academic publishing is a real problem. But that is not what is bothering me at the moment. The contract that I was asked to sign, so that my essay could appear in an edited volume published by Oxford University Press, contained the following clause:

WORK-FOR-HIRE. The Contributor acknowledges that the Publisher has commissioned the Contribution as a work-for-hire, that the Publisher will be deemed the author of the Contributior as employer-for-hire, and that the copyright in the Contribution will belong to the Publisher during the initial and any renewal or extended period(s) of copyright. To the extent, for any reason, that the Contribution or any portion thereof does not qualify or otherwise fails to be a work-for-hire, theContributor hereby assigns to the Publisher whatever right, title and interest the Contributor would otherwise have in the Contribution throughout the world.

I found this entirely unbelievable, and unacceptable. Since when has original academic writing been classified as “work-for-hire”? It is possible, I suppose, that things like writing encyclopedia essays might be so categorized; but I have never, in my 30 years in academa, encountered a case in which primary scholarship or criticism was so classified. Is this something widespread, but which I simply haven’t heard about? I’d welcome information on this score from people who know more about the academic publishing situation than I do. But it seems to me, at first glance, that the Press is upping the ante in terms of trying to monopolize “intellectual property,” by setting up an arrangement that both cuts off the public from access and denies any rights to the henceforth-proletarianized “knowledge worker” or producer. I am unwilling to countenance such an abridgement of my ability to make the words that I have written more freely available.
In any case, I wrote back to the Press as follows:

I am unwilling to sign the Contributor’s Agreement for my submission to the Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics as it is currently worded. In particular, I find section 2, defining my contribution as work-for-hire, completely objectionable. I entirely reject the notion that original academic work of this sort can be defined as work-for-hire. I think that this is demeaning to academic scholarship and disrespectful of intellectual labor.

Section 2 of the contract further stipulates that even if “the Contribution or any portion thereof does not qualify or otherwise fails to be a work-for-hire, the Contributor hereby assigns to the Publisher whatever right, title and interest the Contributor would otherwise have in the Contribution throughout the world.” I find this objectionable as well. Even if my contribution to the volume is exempted from being considered work-for-hire, I am unwilling to sign over my own rights to the publisher in this unlimited way. In particular, I insist upon retaining, among other rights, the right to make my contribution available for download on my own website and the right to include this contribution at some later date as part of a self-authored publication.

I guess we will see what happens. I hope the Press backs down and offers more reasonable terms. If that doesn’t happen, I will simply have to withdraw my contribution from the edited volume. At some point, the essay will appear on my website for free download — whether because the publisher backs down and permits me to do this, or whether I give up on print publication.
Not getting the essay into print will mean that I won’t get the credit (or a line in my Vita) for the publication of an article that I am, in fact, rather proud of. This kind of credit matters in academia — salaries, among other things, are based on it. But as a full Professor with tenure I am in a rather privileged position: I can afford to lose the credit. The same is not the case for academics in more precarious positions — who might well be forced to sign away their rights in cases like this, because their jobs heavily depend upon their publication record, and one additional line on their Vita might make a major difference.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012 at 11:37 am and is filed underPersonalPolitics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Arts Against Cuts: ica x-mas presents

Erm, last post of the year is not a happy one, rather fucking outrageous – I used to like the little ICA bookshop…

December 23, 2011 //

With x-mas just around the corner and all the gifts wrapped under that perfectly decorated pine tree. As the anticipation builds, interrupting the final two nights sleep before His day. Whilst distant family satellite in ready for an unhealthy dose of nostalgia and brandy. One little present is leaving the front of house ICA staff wishing they’d been given coal.

Over the past week, some of the lowest paid staff members (the ones which guard your coat at the cloak room, check your tickets at the cinema, invigilate and discuss the dull artwork in the poorly curated Bloomberg New Contemporaries show) have received an ultimatum;take an approximate 10% cut from your wages or lose your job. What amounts to nothing other than passive-aggressive bullying by managers, a new contract has been drafted that would see paid breaks removed under the new working conditions and if this contract is not signed, the staff have no job in the new year.

“Paid breaks, that’s a bit of a luxury! They’re not even working then.” I hear the more conservative of the readers cry. Well let’s do a little simple maths, using conservative figures of course, to establish what this actually amounts to. On a £7.25 hourly wage (as advertised on their website) working a generous 30 hours per week, expecting at a minimum 3 hours for lunch over this period, the staff would currently earn a gross of £217.50 a week. Working, again generous considering times between shows, 50 weeks a year comes to a meagre annual gross pay of £10, 875 (obviously before tax an NI deductions). Under the contracts proposed to kick in at the beginning of 2012 (a year likely to see increased foot flow and revenue to the ICA, especially as events are set to take place opposite) this would see this hypothetical weekly wage reduced by £21.75 a week and £1,087.50 a year. For those that this is their sole income, that is extremely substantial not a luxury.

So, as the sun sets for the final few days before the ICA closes until the new year. Their staff have the wonderful gift of choice, either to work at a greatly reduced daily rate or start the new year in the dole queue. I know which one I’d rather choose #solidaritywithunemployedworkers

Have a great x-mas!


p.s. The ICA telephone number is 020 7930 0493 and twitter @ICALondon

Voodoo Lounge Tour (Volkswagen sponsorship poster)

I needed to refer to this for a footnote reference…


Increasingly David Speaks, but he still does not say anything.

That both Beckham and kate Moss remain mute icons of British glamour, automatons - impossibly beautiful, sublime skills etc., – is the culture industry standard now, where voice, or personality, is inimical to brand. The X-factor, dancing, talk show compare (not J.Ross) celebrity must not have intellect – must be a free slate upon which focus groups and under-assistant promotions reps mould media persona. No surprise that we are more and more interested in the personalities – known, lost or recently discovered – of the past (see Ursula Bogner for one of the better finds). Bring back the old Big Brother and the real Russel Brand, not the bland Hollywood Brand Brand he has so – now silently – become (has he been kidnapped by a wild Xenu-influenced offshoot of scientology or what?).

The TV show Pan-Am is the dying apotheosis of this tendency – fake emote on cue – the very criteria of successful robotics, but a robot made in the 1960s version of the future [as Fuggletronic says], not the dull dystopia of commercial time now.

(note for Kiwi).

#Facebook #Gmail adblockers and the new FB status ticker removal

Reposted all this here cos who knows how long the post will stay onb my FB page (if they even bother to set the algorithm to watch):


We should not cave into PREVENT

A very disturbing email this morning – latest in a series of ever longer shrill missives on data protection that come in, and add to our workload. Not that I do not take them seriously, but it is not welcome news in between dealing with crap from UKBA (today, a note from a prospective visiting student funded from China for two years who, after ten or twelve letters back and forth between us, is finally refused entry because Home Office only issues visas for 12 months to visiting students, so now she can’t come at all! – Chinese Govt more flexible, will amend their funding to a year, and of course more work for us to try and fix this, basically by inviting her for two lots of 12 months. Cretinization!).

The point is, UKBA and terror programmes like the racist PREVENT must be exposed and resisted. It is distressing that we are even discussing this in relation to the PREVENT agenda, or rather, it is distressing that our esteemed retentional data manager is forced to discuss this and not just spit back an angry ‘no’. Still, the inference is that written data is all that matters here (the alternative – rumours that we are a part of the moral collapse/broken society/criminal decline and so on, are not subject to this ‘policy’ and cannot be passed on unless written down – though I guess now I’ve written it down it is obviously possible – HA!).

Enjoy. Weep. Despair.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: {snip}
Date: Fri, Sep 2, 2011 at 8:33 AM
Subject: [HoDAcademic] Third party disclosures of personal data

Dear All -

Further to reports in the press of a new initiative within the government’s “PREVENT” strategy concerning the covert surveillance of Muslim students - on what appears to be potentially rather scant evidence ( it seems timely to ask you to remind staff of the procedures for disclosures of personal data to third parties:

The individuals within the College who are authorised to make disclosures of personal data to the police (or in fact anyone who wishes the disclosure to be made without data subject consent) are the Director of Student Services, the Data Protection Officer and the Registrar and Secretary. (The Director of HR is added to this list – in practice only for staff data - although of course there is currently a vacancy.) Disclosures to the vpolice are in the vast majority of cases not compulsory but at the discretion of the College, and the College must accept legal liability for any challenge to its decision from the data subject (should he or she discover later that the disclosure has been made). Recently police tactics of investigation have tended to become more intrusive and one hears of more instances of refusals by universities to cooperate than a few years ago. This is not confined to the anti-terrorism agenda but is more general. Approaches adopted by the policy are inconsistent and do not always go through the institution’s obvious channels for personal data disclosure.

The procedures for disclosure of personal data in the Goldsmiths Data Protection Policy strictly only apply where there is written (or otherwise recorded) information involved at some point in the process (as there often is). However it would be helpful if I could be kept informed of any approaches made by the police to obtain information from you or your staff under their current initiative, as this contributes to a general overview of the risk environment in terms of potential invasion of privacy. Over the next two weeks I shall however be away, {snip}

More on that UfSO #riotcleanup or #riotwhitewash spike

Sofia Himmelblau responds to her critics

AUGUST 12, 2011
by flashbank

Postscript – A Response to Comments
Dr. Sofia Himmelblau
(This was written as a response to various comments made regarding my previous post and has also been reposted there)

My previous post appears to have sparked a huge amount of controversy….

Keep reading Dr Himmelblau’s response here.

Yesterday’s spike in stats:

Title Views
#riotcleanup or #riotwhitewash? More stats 11,479
Home page More stats 900
About More stats 390
An actual first-hand account More stats 203
Inaugural Lecture More stats 172
Conference: On Violence More stats 142
A riot is the language of the unread More stats 118
Contact More stats 97
Second Lecture More stats 94
“This is criminality, pure and simple…” More stats 50

✪ 11 more notes on ‘the disturbances™ in London’

The first 11 notes were here.

12. It is too easy to complain that the ‘rioting’ youth are merely obsessed with trainers and plasma TV. To say this misses the point, but it is more difficult for journalists to parse the process by which circulation, valorization, exchange, value extraction, surplus labour, alienation, and the fetishism that disguises social relations as relations between things operates. The ‘reporter-campaigner’ press is no longer on the job.

13. The insurrectionary youth seem to understand better than most what these goods are – theirs. They grasp the fetish character of commodities and the theft of property as time. In a radical way, the youth grasp, and break, the distinction between use value and exchange value. Fat cat neoliberals have thrived off expropriation, but now as the roosting pigeon heads homeward, with them having mortgaged the future to short-term gain, they seem perversely ignorant of causes. The sorry spectacle has them flapping about trying to fix the leaks where they see their interests and profits must be defended, as ever with a bolstered repressive apparatus, and having ransomed everyone else for their sorry survival.

14. In this context, jokes about ‘aggressive forms of late night shopping’ (ex cop on TV) are hypocritical ventriloquy of ruling class ideas, in that nearly every ‘older’ person I’ve heard talking about this first wishes the youth had a ‘cause’ (like they do!) but then wants to know where to buy one of these cheap hot plasmas, though without having to go to Tottenham for the pick up. Distorted and alienated interests are interests nonetheless – they are not the interests of Capital. Cut through this phantasmal comedy and it’s illusions of civic responsibility, morality and myths of political representation – contemporary Capital is nothing less than theft and plunder and should be hounded into the annals of history.

15. Lack of role models! The role models aren’t Kate Middleton and knowing what she wore, nor Beckham and his grooming products – the parade of privilege and property has them only as a window-dressing facade. The weapons trade, the mining industry, the micro-processing and conductor sweatshops, the off-shore processing zones, the anti-union, tax-free, labour intensive low-wage hell camps… These are the role models, also critiqued by the broken windows – the targets are tangential, but the sentiment is shared. Some are making the connections, and they are not just crusty old Marxists.

16. The youth hate the cops with good cause. Deaths in custody is a trigger, but stop and search, surly attitudes, bus dragnets, corruption, payola and more are not endearing plod to anyone. Defending prime property while letting lesser capital burn is an outrage, but expected given where we are just now in the volatile process of cyclical accumulation. The valorisation/conversion of expropriated surplus value through circulation within a stag-flationary recession that favours write-offs and fire-sales (primark, tkmaxx, budget airlines, and now many so-called ma-and-pa shops) means petit bourgeois traders suffer while big capital strives to recoup what minimal profit can be scarpered away before the fire sale season ends. The super rich survive, only slightly singed by scandals (dear Rupert), to then pounce to buy up the scorched earth as a bloody trophy upon which a new phase of accumulation is inaugurated. Class and location maps onto race and privilege to differentiate the cartography of valorised capital under this restructuring, so-called ‘crisis’ we are all in together. Some zones of manufacture and circulation entail very small margins with very large numbers – ahh, plastic goods – and if this mode of production, and a sharp end understanding of it, isn’t political, then what is?

17. The technique is refined in war. Invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and gleeful opportunism after the Arab spring (Cameron visits an arms fair) follows the model of army and camp followers. The cowboy corporations rush to provide security services, building contracts, democracy-capacity-building workshops…

18. We do not necessarily need commodity chain analysis or a critique of colonial history to understand that here and there, local and global are co-constituted in an embrace of death. Seems like only the politicians have a vested interest in saying this is not political – and they criminalise all youth, and all revolutionary zeal, with the same golden Bullingdon toilet brush (I am still reeling at Boris Johnson’s image of Britain as ‘a broken washing machine with black fluid leaking out the back’ – even disavowing this version he reveals his gutter mind).

19. The looting is not political because the youth pick up on a general discontent, it is not political because police tactics are repressive and biased and will be extended on the back of this, it is not political because parenting and family values have been lost back in some nostalgic fantasy of the good war, it is not political because the cuts to services mean there’s nothing else for the youth to do. It is political because all of the above make it an insurrection. Our very own intefada part one.

20. It is not a blind passages a l’acte, comrade Žižek. In his book on violence, Žižek says (after the deaths of Bouna Toure and Zyed Benna on October 27, 2005 and the thousands of cars set alight): ‘the fact that there was no programme behind the burning Paris suburbs is thus itself a fact to be interpreted’ (Žižek 2008:64). That this might be described as a ‘blind acting out’ seems itself ironic and myopic, even when SZ is correct to mock the sociological ‘search for deeper meaning or messages hidden in these outbursts’ (Žižek 2008:65), especially if these searches are undertaken from the comfort of the television viewing room. Žižek himself spends two further pages explaining that the youth wanted to be recognized as French, and yet locates this events in a particular and peculiar way. I expand the parameters of the quotation already used earlier:

“The Paris riots need to be situated in a series they form with another type of violence that the liberal majority perceives as a threat to our way of life: direct terrorist attacks and suicide bombings. In both instances, violence and counter-violence are caught up in a deadly vicious cycle, each generating the very forces it tries to combat. In both cases we are dealing with blind passages a l’acte, where violence is an implicit admission of impotence. The difference is that, in contrast to the Paris outbursts which were a zero-level protest, a violent outburst which wanted nothing, terrorist attacks are carried out on behalf of that absolute meaning provided by religion” (Žižek 2008:69).

We cannot be sure Žižek has understood Paris here, nor should we be detained by his assertion that religion is the absolute designation of terrorism, but the ascription of ‘nothing’ as the meaning of the Paris riots certainly suggests some problems with commentary.

21 Media reportage as the official line, paving the way for more cops, more repression, less commentary, less critique – we have long known the idea of the independent campaigning journalist reporter has been swallowed up by embedded, churnalistic, press release and sub-tabloid eaves-dropper automatons. Recycled heavy rotation police reports and edits (let me see more of Mayor Johnson being hounded out of Clapham by rightly angry shopkeepers). That this 24 hr news cycle stresses recycle of items is just yet another cut in the stagflationary moment.

22. The ‘Lumpen R Us’. Well, not quite, but it does not hurt to have an aspiration. In his early text ‘A Report from Hunan’ Mao praises the ‘Movement of the Riff Raff’ (Mao Selected Works Vol 1 p29). The ‘riff raff’ are the ‘utterly destitute’ lumpen peasantry who we find in China as:

“completely dispossessed … People who have neither land nor money, are without any means of livelihood, and are forced to leave home and become mercenaries or hired labourers or wandering beggars” (Mao Vol. I P 32)

Mao then provides a detailed report on the achievements of these peasants as revolutionaries able to transform an uprising into Red self governance. Mao’s ‘Report from Hunan’ is a great example of engaged reportage and it provides a more balanced evaluation of lumpen elements. His amusingly titled section ‘“Its Terrible” or “Its Fine”’ is equally judicious. Mao is praising the ways the peasants had banded together to dominate the landed gentry in Hunan, how their organisation established the basic conditions for a defence of the gains, and the template for the pattern of protracted guerrilla war. His unconditional approval for the ‘Movement of the Riff Raff’ is unstinting in its praise for the violent suppression of counter-revolutionaries. He does not ever want to say they ‘go too far’ when they defend the revolution (Selected Works Vol. I).

Thus – build the revolution…

11 more points soon

The first 11 notes were here.

The best 11 you should know by heart – the point is to change it.

✪ 11 notes on ‘the disturbances™ in London’

1. Punitive and class biased courts and police which condemn and kill the public while bonus-fat-cat bankers, expense-account scheming piggy-pollies and eavesdropping shop-your-mother-for-a-story journalists get away with it.

2. Massive jumpity-jump in hyper-profits and wealth of the super-rich while we get cuts to services, community support and local facilities, which means DIY street entertainment as last resort.

3. Economic factors paramount, racism the default position to defend white supremacist social structure of privilege. BBC report at 10.

4. Police looking at major cuts after years of corrupt payola-granola, selling the drugs they confiscate, taking bribes and kickbacks, farming out actual work to subcontracted half-beats and leaning on the completely bogus yellow union Police Federation to present them as human. Fail.

5. Have you noticed that at every demo the MET has offered up a sacrificial vehicle left as bait in the path of the march – stupidity or provocation?

6. Senior management responsible for horrendous blunders of course promoted. Chief Terror Dick etc., others suspended on full pay later reinstated. We need a new ‘Independent Complaints ABOUT the Police Commission,’ not a ‘POLICE complaints commission’ stacked out with coppers on secondment.

7. WE Need a juridical review, no more, the abolishment of the courts, replace with people’s tribunals, recallable delegates. Meetings to set up this Mondays.

8. End incarcerations, detention, bogus unequal persecutions, secret trials, detentions, control orders, exploding prison numbers, explode the prisons minister. Also, put bars on the windows of the banks and keep the criminal suits in there. Charge entrance fees for viewing rights, with peanuts available to throw at them to watch ‘em feed. Cuties.

9. Useless political non-opposition (are they on holiday?). Need a new type of Communist Party. Abolish the others sects/wafers – enough with faffing over whatever happened in the Krondstadt (and yes, I do know, but so what).

10. Sick of media denouncing people for shopping for trainers, its perverse not comic to focus on this without critique, and totally misses the serious point about commodity culture behind it all. Be organized people, be safe, cover up, don’t burn down homes, do walk tall.

11. ‘Everything under heaven is in chaos. The situation is promising.’ – we should try to get the quote right Z – 天下大亂,形勢大好 gives us ‘big good’, there is a difference between excellent and promising, so the future tense probably matters and promising is better.


second 11 here.

Belle D’Opium

Some might think this bad taste. I think its a hoot, and bad taste. A commercial sell-out I’d missed – Nitin Sawhney, Romain Gavras (who also did the MIA vid I am writing about) Mélanie Thierry working together on a Yves Saint Laurent advert with dodgy choreography by Akram Khan. My thanks to Dr Royona Mitra for pointing me at this in her excellent thesis on Akram’s performances. Finding the vein was my addition though - Thierry/voiceover says in the film ‘I am your addiction’ - even as getting this screen shot was a bit time consuming. Everyone should all know you can’t mainline opium of course, duffer trickster exoticists. The whole film is here:

Chalk and Cheese

The University is the last uneasy comfortable place that is not yet in 100% total denial of the white supremacist neo-imperialist war-mongering social privilege and violence that is, frankly, the condition of the whole of Western capital, the ruling class State, and its many comprador clients, including, of course, the University itself (approx 2% of 100 makes the total pretty thin). The circular sentence and bad math does not mean anything is ok. Everywhere else there is also denial, but perhaps the ongoing complicity of the critic is the most jarring. That said, I don’t think giving up the possibility of teaching jar-heads a critique of everything is the best next move. A ruthless critique of everything that exists, said Marx, in his famous Letter to the Rube. Where else will those one day a year adventurers (two days this year already, stop and admire) get their fill or fillip and citation to carry to the afterparty?

I am waiting to hear more of the anti-war movement. The raids on Libya continue unabated. The French are arming the Rebels, from whom we hear less and less. Britain’s Apache attack helicopters raid the city. Saudi Police snipers are UK-trained with a ‘it will save lives’ rationale. A vast war apparatus at home services the military effort – a cultural industry itself – worse than Mother Courage in Brecht’s old play, selling her kids to service the troops – ‘war will find a way’, and for 30 years the battle for the Holy Roman Empire rages. The present war effort for Empire stalls in Afghanistan, and Iraq is a twisted failed and abandoned building site. Yet more and more money is ploughed into the profit making venture of arms sales and the reckless escalations are bantered palab katakata style by William Hague in the Parliament, while the so-called opposition leadership of Millibrand can only gurn and insult. The burning issue (ouch!) that will only be glossed as an inconvenience to parents when the teachers defend their pensions is as far from an adequate politics that can win as chalk is to cheese-sticks.


Having watched a couple of snuff films, two wanna be frat boys send a message to the East – look out, we’re a team. High Five!

Uncle Bill would have shopped in Kalkadoon

Press Repress

A senior United Nations representative on torture, Juan Mendez, issued a rare reprimand to the US government on Monday for failing to allow him to meet in private Bradley Manning, the American soldier held in a military prison accused of being the WikiLeaks source. It is the kind of censure that the UN normally reserves for authoritarian regimes around the world. Guardian 11.4.2011

About time we heard something on this, as the UN continues to follow its usual daft tandem policy of total war and humanitarian bleating, and on the day that the BBC is reminding us that David-Desert Rat-Cameron took a degree at Oxford and, oh, now he wants to come across all mr-man-with-an-issue in a caring social mobility tone. Crikey, Mr numbnuts, you imagine yourself as some sort of advocate (patronizing git) and the dark lord of cuts. Plus it turns out you can’t even count, and so any chance the ‘story’ you told us could do nothing more than make you seem foolish is confirmed. What I want to propose is a direct exchange, a prisoner swap so to speak. Dave C, as a more than prominent figure, you get a ticker tape parade to welcome you to New York, but then you have to take Bradley Manning’s place in the stalag and serve out your time in solitary. You deserve it, lizard loser.


postscript 4am: I was nearly asleep when I wrote the above stub, hence the lack of reference which I should document, but also the strange lizard references and general rantiness, which I should remove but will leave as symtom of exhaustion. Hmmm, still nearly asleep – please forgive my improper grammar. For the record, Cameron was on the news having been to Oxford to butter up to those who gave him his degree, but along the way he made the stunning observation that Oxford is a bastion of white supremacy. Well, that’s not the phrase <em>he</em> used, but he has direct personal experience of it. Trouble is he got the numbers wrong with a mad exaggeration and error born of some probable trauma in his elite hi-jinx Bilgewater Club life with Boris. As media-worthy event it becomes another instance of a stir-up-trouble foot-in-mouth-as-policy strategy on the part of Government. They can’t be this clever eh, an attack on the poshest University means the rest of the University sector has to defend Oxford, and the consequent radicalization of Oxbridge students draws the wrong type of well-dressed radical into the student campaign (if this is the thinking, good grief – but all radicals will be welcomed, just some will need re-education camp). Along the way Cameron’s number fiasco undermines legitimate analysis of racism by making it sound like some twisted version of grade inflation. Doesn’t matter if its just 1 or 27, the evidence is plain to see – disproportionate enrollment is white supremacy no matter how you look at it. And its hypocrisy, because other organizations are demonized, funding withdrawn, and closed down for far less serious versions of being ‘not fit for purpose’.

The prisoner swap thing – we give you Cameron, you give us Manning – well, of course we need to be in a strong position to do a deal like that, which we are not, yet. And if the UN needs to sometimes be seen to criticize the US, well and good – though note how rare that is. It is no surprise that different parts of the colonial machine can be dysfunctional and snipe at each other, and yet both parts are still deadly. Stop bombing Libya and free Bradley Manning!

Scanning the jobs section for the possibility of an admin-idioten free life, the following research post seemed like the honey pot of honey pots – a cultural history of the secret handshake??

Dodgy Dodgy Dodgy: ‘many thousands of young men have been introduced to Freemasonry through these two Lodges [Oxford and Cambridge], and they provided the inspiration for the Universities Scheme’. As blokey as Wee Willie Willets and his heinous kind.

Recent Correspondence

Pop Quiz: my inclination is not to bother with a reply, even though I see this as an endorsement (received yesterday):

Dear Professor Hutnyk,
Your letter in a recent edition of the Guardian, praising (“magnificent”) the disgraceful “student” riot, criminal damage and attempted murder of a police officer, drew my attention to your web site, and I wonder how you can justify your position and cost to the tax payer? So far I have been unable to find any useful activities amongst any of the 290 “academics” who signed that letter, no teachers of science, engineering, medicine or any other useful discipline, just the usual damaging nonsense of Marxist Critical Theory, Trade Union activism, Feminism and Lesbian studies, Anti racism and other Commie bullshit which has degenerated our benighted country this last 40 or so years.
I hope that your letter and the list of signatories will be used in the not too distant future to cull you and your colleagues with £millions saved in public expenditure.
Yours etc
Dr Stuart H Russell

So, if I were in fact to reply to comrade Russell I’d have to agree with him on one point, even though on all the rest I’d like to make some minor qualifications of the critique. Basically, on each item there is something more to add: for example, I reject the idea that I am an advocate of Marxist Critical Theory, that is, unless it comes with a commitment to praxis and change through mass mobilization and a sustained and informed Party organization committed to justice, equality and ending exploitation. Anyone who reads carefully knows I am not a huge fan of Trade Union Activism unless it comes with a critique of TU tops and yellow Unionism (Marx said the call should not just be for higher wages but to abolish the wage system). Also, its clear to me – read Nina Power – that Feminism comes in a great many varieties, so you would need to specify whether this is socialist-feminism or some other version. Similarly, I am often a critic of mere ‘anti-racism’, which I think must be extended and pushed to be anti-imperiasm and actual redress (its not enough to shout ‘Nazis Out’ at a middle class rally in town while in the suburbs racists thrive and overseas bombs fall). I also have it on good authority that I am a disgraceful lesbian. But Stuart H does have me on the Communist Bullshit thing – guilty as charged: Marx himself was never done with his ‘economic shit’, he kept piling it on, showing how the economics of empire and nation were a threat to the working class, as is the British State (where to start? Sending troops to fight elitist, racist wars? The Royal Wedding? The Queen’s mining industry investments? I dunno). But all in all, its a fair cop Stu, even if I really can’t see how a note from the former National Press Officer of the BNP has much to do with what I say on my blog or the huge amount of teaching I do for the taxpayers of this fair and pleasant colonial empire. It is nice to be appreciated.

The original letter signed by so many should of course also be read carefully – no-one praised the attempted murder of a police officer, which anyway is a pretty wild escalation of rhetoric. On the police and violence – and there have been a lot of truncheons out – I myself have been calling for an arranged Student v Police Snowball Fight on Whitehall. Proceeds to your favourite charitable alibi (The Secret Policeman’s Ball or Red Wedge or similar). All in good cheer. Over and Out.

Standard Evenings offer some smiles

So, after Humanities Unpluged (great event in Berlin) I made it back to London. I get to Paddington and my Oyster Card is in the red (it often is) but this time I know it should have 4 quid on it. I go to the counter and get the past-usage checked and earn a credit for a false charge of 6 quid on the way through on thursday. Then to top up my oyster and flip open my wallet. The London Underground ticket staffer sees my Goldsmiths card and says ‘Oh, I want to do an MA there now – The lecturers seem good’. She never thought about Goldsmiths before this week’s press, so I figure a case has been made.

No to witch hunts, no to the Widdicombe/Clegg/Cameron dalliance, no to clamp downs on debate. Yes to the exchange of angry words about the state of higher education, who funds it, why and how. Enough of thinking everyone should be polite, that the University is a place of agreement, that there is a ‘Goldsmiths view’ that anyone can state as if they were appointed mouthpiece of all.

For a University that is a place of rampant intelligence that does more than cramming, and monitoring, and other despicable acts of vandalism (Aaron and Sally, I do mean this as a little dig at you – time to up your game). Well done all the comrades (thanks Nina for the scan).

AND – as my conversation with the London Underground staffer continued – let us inscribe Defend the tube staff from the cuts on our banners as well. The closure of ticket offices will be an automation disaster and the little bit of human contact described above (malfunctioning Oyster) would not happen in a Paddington without ticketing staff. Machines do not want to do degrees at radical colleges they read about in the Evening Standard. We are in it for people like that staffer. Not for Oyster machines and automated frakking toasters – by the time the machine replacements get sentient and decide they do want to get degrees, the arts and humanities will be defunded out of all recognition, rebranded as Greystone Industries, by your command.

And at the same time, this pantomime terror emerges – thanks Jo:

As police face continued criticism for failing to control the march, the Observer has learned that defence firms are working closely with UK armed forces and contemplating a “militarisation” strategy to counter the threat of civil disorder.

The trade group representing the military and security industry says firms are in negotiation with senior officers over possible orders for armoured vehicles, body scanners and better surveillance equipment.

The move coincides with government-backed attempts to introduce the use of unmanned spy drones throughout UK airspace, facilitating an expansion of covert surveillance that could provide intelligence on future demonstrations.

Derek Marshall, of the trade body Aerospace, Defence and Security (ADS), said that such drones could eventually replace police helicopters.

He added that military manufacturers had discussed police procurement policies with the government, as forces look to counter an identified threat of civil disobedience from political extremists.

Meanwhile police sources say they have detected an increase in the criminal intentions of political extremists and are monitoring “extreme leftwing activity” in light of last week’s student protest.

Dragnets of London

Dragnets of London (for Raul).

John Hutnyk

I was on my way home on the number 436 to Lewisham recently when a woman did something I thought was both impressive and unusual – she spoke out against the delay caused by the 20 police who had boarded our bus. She scolded them for wasting her time and for picking on certain passengers that, she said, should be left in peace to get on with their travel.

We have become accustomed to these all-too frequent Metropolitan Police (MET) dragnet style interruptions. Such hold-ups are now quite common in my part of London, a predominantly black suburb, where ticket checks are used as a cover for an immigration shakedown – itself justified as part of anti-terror vigilance. I watched the police officers explain to the woman, in escalating aggressive tones, that her demand to know why the bus was being delayed was misplaced because officers were ‘assaulted every day by people without tickets’. This seems a strange and disproportionate response to a legitimate query from a member of the public. Travelling in a uniformed strength-in-numbers group of (more than) 20, some of whom were armed, suggests an excess enthusiasm of the transport police for ‘ticket inspection’.

We might be concerned that such policing will soon again result in further deaths like that which was visited upon Brazilian commuter Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station in 2005 (shot seven times in the head by officers, no-one charged). There have been other unexamined incidents of deaths in police custody and the UK has an appalling record in terms of prosecution of official crime (see the 1999 film Injustice directed by Ken Fero and Tariq Mehmood). Another tragedy is primed to happen especially where commanders readily deploy disproportionate aggression if challenged by an impatient commuter. She was young, white, articulate, and had the sense to back down when the Officer in charge raised his voice and muscled up to her. No need to guess that any other appellant might not have got off the bus so freely. We other passengers, a few anyway, applauded her courage, but somewhat meekly. It does seem that a new anxiety pervades the streetscapes of the metropolis – a consequence of dubious foreign wars and suspect geo-politics, conjoined with institutional racism and a creeping resignation. Not many complain, but at least in this instance, someone did.

I was glad to have met her. We exchanged a few words:

Me: ‘That was great, well done.’

Her: ‘How can they do this, its intolerable.’

Me: ‘What is your name?’

Her: ‘Scheherazade’

This response is hilarious and smart – she identifies herself, sensibly choosing an alias, as the fabled storyteller who tames a despot with patient narrative over many many nights. Speaking truth to power, in coded repetition, Scheherazade offers a moral discourse through fantasy tales, Sinbad the Sailor and so on. Eventually the despotic ruler relents his power. The trouble is, I never saw Scheherazade again. But I remember her lesson – you do have to speak up.

Several months after the above incident, the MET have assigned dedicated public relations personnel to their inspection teams. Whenever I have seen the dragnet I have made a point of following that woman’s earlier tactic, and each time experienced the full force of MET customer relations, extending to a total bureaucratic run-around when trying to get a complaint about this heard. This is documented below in brief conversations where, while asking the most obvious questions, I find something very provocative – the ways speaking out can be channelled and contained are also to be examined.

In this first exchange, the ‘team’ were wrapping their operation up when I came by, so there was a sense of mild irritation with my questions, a kind of ‘shows over, on your way sir’ tone – which of course I took as an invitation to linger.

Me: [polite, ironic] ‘What’s all this then?’

Cop A: ‘We are looking for people without tickets, you’d be surprised how many we can arrest in a day.’

Me: [politely] ‘Hmmm, why do you need so many police, isn’t this over policing?’

Cop A: ‘Most people around here welcome this.’

Me: [politely] ‘No, no, no, we all think its outrageous. You don’t need to do this, you should go catch some real crooks, you know, corporate types, politicians, the Speaker of the House of Representatives….’ [the controversy over MP’s expenses was current news]

Later, to a different officer:

Me: ‘Why do you need so many police to check tickets on one bus?’

Cop A: ‘This is a message to people, we are being noticed. You noticed.’

Me: ‘Even when just one ticket inspector gets on the bus we notice.’

Stand around a bit, watch the slow process of a lad get a caution for riding his bicycle on the footpath:

Cop B: ‘Why are you riding on the footpath, its against the law.’

Bike-boy: ‘Its getting dark and my light is broken.’

… [some meaningless blather, bike-boy rides off]

Cop C to Cop B: ‘They’ll make up anything round here.’

I asked another cop who was in charge:

Me: [formal] ‘Who is the ranking officer?’

Cop D: ‘Why, do you need something?’

Me: ‘I want to make a complaint?’

Cop D: ‘Why?’

Me: ‘I think this is over policing.’

Cop D: ‘People think this is the free bus.’ (the 436 aka the free bus).

Next to him, a female cop:

Cop E: ‘You could talk to the sergeant.’

Me: ‘Him there?’

Cop E: ‘Yes, but he is busy now.’

[time passes]

Me: ‘He’s not that busy now?’

Cope E: ‘Just tap him on the shoulder.’

Me: ‘Surely that’s more your style than mine.’

I meet the ranking officer:

Me: [polite formal] ‘This is over policing, how do I make a complaint?’

Cop F: ‘Where do you live?’

Me: [taken aback] ‘Why do you want to know?’

Cop F: ‘You can complain to the duty officer at your local station.’

Me: [insistent] ‘Don’t you think this is over policing?’

Cop F: ‘Most people don’t think so.’

Me: ‘I disagree. Most people here probably don’t think this is a good thing.’

Cop F: ‘You are entitled to disagree.’

Me: [exasperated] ‘Not for long it seems.’ [gesturing to the 25 uniformed cops hovering around the bus]

And so yet another micro moment of the creeping fascism of contemporary Englan’ passes at 6.05PM on a monday night on Lewisham Way.

Another day, another routine: Stopping to quiz yet another bus dragnet gang with a colleague, this time we are referred immediately to the public relations London Transport operative ‘Daniel’. This sort of discussion, reproduced below, has become a perverse kind of sport. I know it does little, and now I know the cops see public complaints as a kind of sport as well. Nevertheless, as they say in the Homeland – ‘If you see something, say something’.

A conversation between ‘Police Liaison Operative Daniel’ and two unidentified subjects of the realm, designated as ‘US’:

US: ‘[polite] Why are you stopping this bus here today?’

Daniel: ‘We are arresting people without tickets, booking them for crimes.’

US: ‘Is it an arrestable crime to go without a ticket?’

Daniel: ‘Most people without tickets commit other crimes.’

US: ‘So this is a kind of entrapment? You could just hand out fines.’

Daniel: ‘We are keeping the buses safe.’

US: ‘They are not unsafe because people don’t have tickets. Why are these officers armed? Are those guys immigration officers?’

Daniel: ‘Look, we could be out catching terrorists in the ethnic suburbs.’

US: [incredulous] ‘Sorry, which suburbs, how could you tell? Do they teach you about profiling?’

Daniel: ‘Oh, I know the profile very well thank you. Is there anything more I can help you with?’

US: [exasperated] ‘How can we make a complaint about over policing?’

Daniel: ‘You can complain to me.’

US: ‘sigh’

There is no question that the border and border policing has moved from the airport and ferry terminal to the centre of the city and the micro-moments of everyday life. The border is right there on the street, caught between mild-mannered individuals and institutional authority, uniforms on the bus, exclusions and deportations before your eyes. A million minute forms of repression that amount to a generalized war economy. Always under suspicion, ready to have you tickets checked, your bags examined (announcements remind you to never leave them unattended), security fear becomes everyday and the power of the authorities to detain anyone that ‘looks the part’ becomes routine. A border has been crossed, a border has been crossed… we run willingly into battle.

Save Goldsmiths Nursery

Reposted from:

Closure makes no sense

Below are the reasons for closure put forward by Goldsmiths’ Senior Management Team.  As we have challenged each one, they have simply produced another, showing the irrationality of their decision.  We demand that the nursery provision at Goldsmiths continues to run until the time when a bigger, better and fully sustainable nursery can be built.

1/ The nursery must be subsidised by 70K per annum – WRONG
A working party set up by SMT identified 50K of savings, reducing this to 20K per year.  The nursery management staff were excluded from taking part in the working party, and no domain experts took part.  The only external member was a visitor from Greenwich college, who advised Goldsmiths to keep the nursery open and supported the working party’s findings.  It is clear that an expert consultant working in the nursery could identify other savings, perhaps reducing the subsidy to zero.

2/ There was not space in the nursery for the working party’s recommendations – WRONG
The working party’s recommendations included extending provision by three community places.  Measurements conducted by Estates clearly show that there is space for these extra places in the room under consideration.  SMT however misinterpreted these figures by including other rooms.  This misinterpretation was wilful, as the error was pointed out by a working party member prior to the announcement of closure, but disregarded.  Further, the figures were never sent to OFSTED for consideration as was promised.

3/ The nursery only supports a tiny fraction of parents through 23 places; users are a ‘privileged few’ – WRONG
The nursery actually supports around 30 children, due to the flexible part time provision.  Of these several children have two parents who are staff/students at goldsmiths.  The exact figures are unknown by SMT who have not investigated the number of student and staff parents at Goldsmiths.  However the nursery is estimated to support 15-20% of all student and staff parents with children at nursery age.  This could be improved but is a highly significant and highly valued provision.

4/ The subsidy could be better spent elsewhere – WRONG
Parents need on-site provision so that they can breast feed, arrive at work and lectures in a timely manner and reach their child quickly in emergencies.  Students in general do not need money for childcare — of the current users 75% have their nursery fees paid for by the state.  It is impossible to imagine what kind of provision the college could provide apart from an on-site nursery — a creche would be next to useless for staff and most students, who need more than an hour or two here and there. A campus nursery is also best placed to meet the needs of students and staff as it is able to cater for sessional use. By contrast private nurseries charge (often at full cost) for holiday periods and occasional daily use.

5/ Building a new, larger nursery is untenable – WRONG
Recent investigations by SMT have found that a new, much larger nursery could be built and supported by economy of scale.  This makes it clear that the earlier attempt at a build in 2006 was naive, as SMT have themselves admitted.  The chosen site was unsuitable, a result of not consulting properly with anyone with experience in either construction or of nursery provision.

6/ The nursery has been subject to long, detailed review – WRONG
The construction attempt in 2006 was hopelessly naive.  This was followed by an outsourcing attempt that was doomed to failure, giving providers only a couple of months to find places for 30 children — showing complete lack of knowledge of the market, where quality care is already oversubscribed.  The later working party was greatly lacking in domain expertise, but nonetheless came up with highly constructive recommendations which were disregarded by SMT without proper investigation.  Domain experts in Goldsmiths, including John Wadsworth with extensive experience as nursery teacher and OFSTED nursery inspector, have not been consulted throughout the process, and see no justification for closing the nursery.

7/ The unions and users will not consider any alternative until the nursery is closed – WRONG
No alternative has yet been proposed and so cannot be considered.  The parent users have however been open to suggestions, including a business plan for cost neutrality put forward by nursery management staff.

8/ The impact on equality has been assessed – WRONG
The equality assessment produced by SMT is profoundly lacking, not considering the full impact on current users, and not considering the impact on staff or future users at all.  Building a new, larger nursery, subsidised by College would benefit equal opportunities, but closing down current provision and providing no continuity with the new project goes against all equality of opportunity.  It exposes SMT’s review process since 2006 and raises the question of real motive.

9/ The nursery must close due to lack of DDA compliance – WRONG
This was an early claim by SMT, but if it were true, much of the University would have to close tomorrow.  This is an issue for the college as a whole, but is not by any stretch a reason for closure of the nursery.  The current nursery building is not ideal, although OFSTED found no issue with it in their highly positive reporting of the nursery.

10/ ‘It’s not about money’ (Warden Pat Loughrey, 18 June 2010)
What is it about?  If all the evidence points to an on-site nursery as the best childcare provision the College can offer, if the subsidy can be brought down towards zero, if interested parties and domain experts are willing to be involved in making current provision more viable and more available, if we agree that the nursery is crucial to promoting equal opportunities, if the Campaign to keep it open keeps growing in numbers and strength, what is it all about?

11/  The campaign to save the nursery is motivated by a small group of parents wanting to keep their privilege – WRONG
Some of the most active people in this campaign won’t have their children in Goldsmiths nursery next year any way -either for various personal reasons or because their children will be too old for nursery. The commitment of present parents to save the nursery comes from their experience of the service provided and their awareness of its importance for past and future generations of students and staff. Furthermore the campaign has full support from the Students Union, UCU and UNISON, who together represent the interests of all students and staff in the college and not only those with kids in the nursery.

12/ The current nursery users have found alternative provision – WRONG

Many parent nursery users are now faced with leaving their jobs, curtailing their studies, giving up studentships and postdocs and associated research council funding.  Some have found alternative nursery provision though making major life changes at short notice and risking unsettling their child’s development.  Student services promised parents a list of places in local nurseries some weeks ago but this has not been forthcoming — probably because the places do not exist.  Desperate parents have been promised phonecalls by student services only to find they have gone on holiday without fulfilling their promise.  Further, as far as we know, those on the Goldsmiths nursery waiting list who hoped to start their child at nursery in September have not been offered help.

See for more.

Still More Dragnets

Stopping to quiz yet another bus dragnet gang with a colleague, this time we are  referred immediately to the public relations London Transport operative ‘Dan’. This sort of discussion, reproduced below, has become a perverse kind of sport. I know it does little, and now I know the cops see public complaints as a kind of sport as well. Nevertheless, as they say in the Homeland – ‘If you see something, say something’.

A conversation between ‘Police Liaison Operative Dan’ and two unidentified subjects of the realm, designated as ‘US’:

US: ‘Why are you stopping this bus here today?’

PLOD: ‘We are arresting people without tickets, booking them for crimes’

US: ‘Is it really an arrestable crime to go without a ticket?’

PLOD: ‘Most people without tickets commit other crimes’

US: ‘So this is a kind of entrapment? You could just hand out fines’

PLOD: ‘We are keeping the buses safe.’

US: ‘They are not unsafe because people don’t have tickets. Why are these officers armed? Are those guys immigration officers?’

PLOD: ‘Look, we could be out catching terrorists in the ethnic suburbs’

US: ‘Sorry, which suburbs, how could you tell? Do they teach you about profiling?’

PLOD: ‘Oh, I know the profile very well thank you. Is there anything more I can help you with?’

US: ‘How can we make a complaint about over policing and inappropriate profiling?’

PLOD: ‘You can complain to me, Sir’

US: ‘:)’

See also here, here and here.

Time Wasting = Money??

I went to a training session that was supposed to train me up on research grant account management this afternoon, advertised as compulsory for PIs (principal investigators). It was a crock.

The system is hysterically named ‘Aggresso’.

[there are little gnome-like accountants in a room somewhere laughing at the havoc they have wreaked].

I am furious.

1. that I did not get an email from anyone who was at the morning session warning not to go!

2. what they told us was sub-basic. How to log in, how to find an IP address (ask an IT specialist!!!)

3. all the problems of the old system are to be compounded with new dumbness.

4. its beta – even the instructor seems unsure of what he is doing (poor chap, nice tie, waste of space job).

5. I am probably going to be fired for what I wrote on the session feedback form. Ah well.

6. it had the merit of being shorter than advertised. I would have died if it took 3 hours.

And the sun is shining outside. I may have to return to my earlier career as a picture framer, butcher or newspaper boy.

pzzfftt*zt$ggh! I am going for lunch.

Borg USA

The winner of the design for the headquarters of “compelling all nations to adopt the bourgeois mode of production” is a thief. KieranTimberlake seems to have copied the idea for the building to house the London US Embassy directly from the lovable integrators of Star Trek fame – its a Borg Cube! Where is Captain Janeaway when we need her? (no, not that crazed Mentat. We are doomed). In all other respects the building is a great idea – yup, lets build a postmodern castle with a moat, just to emphasize how unlovable US bureaucracy can be.

Amazon Ironies

Gffzzzzttttzzgg!, I bought Harvey’s Marx Prompter online (I know, I should’ve ordered it from a real bookshop, but I was in a hurry) and now I get some sort of unanticipated refund, just as I was rereading the section on Credit. And my ‘dividend’? – 50 pence. Wow – you bet I have some ‘questions about their refund policy’ (basically, I’ve lent them 50 p for a week – it all adds to the nectar they leach out of us – see pic):

From Amazon:

We are writing to confirm that we have processed your refund in the amount of £0.50 for your Order 202-483690-478037.

This refund is for the following item(s):

Item: A Companion to Marx’s Capital
Quantity: 1
ASIN: 1844673596
Reason for refund: Pre-order price protection

The following is the breakdown of your refund for this item:

Item Refund: £0.50

Your refund is being credited as follows:

MasterCardDebit Credit Card [ending with 6055]: £0.50

These amounts will be returned to your payment instruments within 10 business days.

Have questions about our refund policy? Contact

Eleven theses on art and politics, #10 & #11 (not the last)

IMG_527610. Repetitions as farce from the Brumaire. 20 years ago Rushdie was the part catalyst for an insurgent Muslim political articulation in Britain. Among the reasons why the threat to Rushdie was picked up so prominently – as a case of freedom of expression – was that the demonization of Islam and the Ayatollah greatly suited a West that had recently lost its favourite cold war era demon. 20 years ago this year also the Berlin Wall fell down, heralding the end of sausage-and-three-veg socialism. Recently we organised a conference in Berlin on the theme of Borders and the anniversary of this event was a topic of conversation after a presentation by the Goethe Institute on their plans for a commemoration ceremony (here accessed 6 June 2009).

The wall was famously a site for artistic expression in critique, and sometimes denial, of its repressive function. Famously graffiti marked the wall, appearing for example in films like Christiane F and Himmel Uber Berlin – during which the artist ThierryNoir appears himself, chattingtoBruno Ganz. Each act of resistance becomes a contribution to the economy of film. In 2009, the commemoration involves recreations of some of the art work – controversially – and the Goethe Maurriese project which also, not without problems, focus only upon artistic elements and wholly ignore, for various politically sensitive reasons, questions about the political wall, the place of the former DDR in contemporary Germany, the changes since unification, and the ways this symbol of division has become a marketing tool for a new (hygienic) Berlin. Instead, neat project this may seem, with cheesy website, foam sections of the wall have been made and shipped to Goethe Institutes worldwide. These are to be decorated by children at the various global Goethe offices, and returned to Berlin where they will, in November, be lined up in the manner of dominos along part of the path of the former wall, to be ceremoniously toppled on the anniversary. Without irony this is presented as the Goethe Institute’s effort to do work within ‘all’ Germany and to change its perception as primarily a West German international agency.

The fall of the wall marked the end of the Cold War and ushered in a new demonization, of Islam, that culminates in the 1990s and early 21st century Iraq wars, not to mention ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and Palestine. But it should be noted, that just as the fall of communism has been cleansed, the art burned but resurrected in film and in commemorations (though there will need to be two new walls to protect the reconstructed domino wall), there is a readiness to move on in Berlin that moves past the old wall and border. The wall was degenerate, not the art.

11. Might things also be moving on elsewhere? Is it plausible to see another event of 20 years ago as significant? This month in June the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen is commemorated. The build up to Tiananmen had been a protest by students, then joined increasingly by workers, against the corruption of the Dengist capitalist road clique. A media event as much on television as in China, the protest was aggressively crushed, a famous image of a man in front of a tank becoming the iconic, and ironically inverse, image of Beijing controlled by tanks and the 4th Army. Deng Xiaoping’s control affirmed, in some ways this event can be seen as the confirmation of China’s economically driven capitalist restoration today, with Tiananmen erased – no press or TV commemoration in China – in favour of a new nationalism, ‘to be rich is glorious’, the celebrate the Olympics, to take a place on the security council, China ascendant, significant growth rates… Only outside China is Tiananmen recalled in books, and even in a Tank Man ballet, a favourite on you tube (with instructions on how to perform the tank man dance). Here art contains a critique that is inverted in the real. That the elevation and erasure of the tanks coincides today with the credit crisis and global anxiety about the environment. Three Gorges Dam, plastic manufacture, six billion car owners and other news about economic growth is calculated in terms of climate change and corruption, so that China-anxiety has a certain significance not unrelated to the triple crisis of the automobile industry, financial regulation and environment. Would it not be a surprise to see China emerge soon as the new scapegoated demon for a war that is neither cold nor hot, but played out as an art of manoeuvre, with orientalist backdrop, over which an inter-imperialist rivalry of a new type is engaged between the West – Obama/Clinton – and the East – Deng/Hu Jintao group. Art – the tank man – here becomes hygienic yet again in the face of a struggle over productive power – the struggle for productive dominance, mediated via the financial markets, the steel industry and climate (read oil). It may seem a strange thing to say, but the culture industry could be set a task now, if we were cynical enough: never more than ever was there a need for Chinese Rushdie. What shall we burn?

Of course that would not be serious. But the exposure of Art as always being caught up with politics, at both its moment of explicit politicization and at the times when it claims conceptual or abstract separation, are in a certain way equivalent. The role of bees is to busy themselves with flowers, but this does not set them apart from the biosphere nor disconnect them from architecture, or institutions, or commerce or geopolitics. The secret omnipotence of production shoots through the most obscure corners of the culture industry and only the bee that turns to drawing has a chance to make this apparent – there is where attention can be focussed, there is a contribution towards changing the world – the point is not just to paint it.

Previous posts in this list:





Theses 8 and 9 (its getting ropey now)

There may be more than 11 of course.


IMG_2796Tate Modern is an immensely successful souvenir shop with a gallery attached. The refreshments come in Tate-monogrammed cups, the books with a special discount for ‘members’. I do enjoy shopping there for things I do not have time to read, then I wander, in step with others – families, lovers, drifters of appreciation – through the large empty rooms, with vibrant pictures on the walls – drained of everything but their colour (curators celebrate the co-option of political histories, we merely acknowledge decorative composition). Andy Warhol got game, Takashi Murakami is the human Maneki-Neko, and Jeff Koons offers the asshole as vortex, but we are not absorbed. Nice one Jeff. Now, let’s grab a coffee.

The pic is of the wine list place-mat from the ground floor museaurant.


1976Any similarity of this pic to persons living or dead, or having been in a band variously called “Stomp Stomp Wild Dance Crazy Turkey”; “The Thirteenth Battalion of Mind Raiders”; “Uncle Salty” or “Hoax” – or having a son named Emile – are purely co-incidental it seems. There are several things I hate, one of them being how slow I can be with the prefect rejoinder to a stupid comment (I usually get the right come-back three minutes later).  The other thing I hate is that if anyone thinks this sort of long hair was a bit out of date for 1976, they have to be reminded that the sixties happened later in outer suburban Melbourne. But we were still saved by punk. Our band name Uncle Salty, I should note, was ripped from a 1975 Aerosmith b-side track – the reverse of “Walk This Way” – itself later redone, as everyone must know, with Run DMC (and from there hip hop crossed over to a million Caucasoid ears). The effort to learn the ‘Walk’ and the ‘Salty’ riffs was worth it back then (no longer the done thing, as another gripester tells it): (file this under deep dark confessional & gripes):

Lyrics: S. Tyler, T. Hamilton

Uncle Salty told me stories of a lonely
baby with a lonely kind of life to lead
my mammy was lusted, Daddy he was busted
they left her to be trusted till the orphan bleeds
but when she cried at night, no one came
and when she cried at night, went insane

Uncle Salty told me when she was just a baby
that she’d get by and maybe someday she’d see
but soon she found her mother’s love for all the others
the pushers and the shovers was the life to lead
but when she cried at night, no one came
and when she cried at night, went insane

oooh, it’s a sunny day outside my window
oooh, it’s a sunny day outside my window
oooh, oh yeah
oooh, oh yeah, yeah yeah

now she’s doin any for money and a penny
a sailor with a penny or two or three
hers is the cunning for men who come a-runnin’
they all come for fun and it seems to me
that when she cried at night, no one came
and when she cried at night, went insane

oooh, it’s a sunny day outside my window

listen & watch here.

“funny how the ‘trickle-down’ is so much more effective when it’s the redistribution of loss” -IT

img_7678Eating hot soup in my Taipei room at 5am, aircon and airlines contrived to make this visit feel like a crash landing, but the paper went well – I think, and I’m told – even if Andrew Strathern’s response spun off into the anthropological-inevitable, ritual, Victor Turner, Rene Girard, Gregory Bateson and other similarly bongo bongo themes (I was talking about machines, war and education, but it was at an anthropology conference – I will post a link to the paper soon). Yet there was a good discussion – Andrew’s small aside chastising me for saying indexicality was finally broken by CGI (= Computer Generated Imaging for orthodox anthros who should get out more) was perhaps the most interesting part of the response and generated some hostile comments from the floor. He’d missed the point that I reported this as someone else’s view – but it was fun to argue that indexicality was always broken, always subject to question for its partiality, metaphoricity (see Miller – The Reason of Politics) and that I’d like him (Andrew) to explain to me why translation wasn’t a more relevant word here. Yes, we got that obscure. But I was talking about education, sort of like here, but also something like what is well done by IT here. Examining the cost of fluctuations of the economic cycle upon our practices in the teaching factory/sausage factory is perhaps a good way to find resonant and relevant explanations of what is going on. We can say this to students in ways that might have more ‘purchase’ than abstract News-reporter chatter about bail-outs, bank rates and house-prices. Trickle, Crash and Crisis are in the end quite empty – not indexical – metaphors for the economic ‘downturn’ and the inevitable squeeze on those not resource-able enough to resist the vampire sucking, body-stealing, asset stripping zombie stomp of capital eating its young in order to survive. See the crisis bite next time you are asked by the vice-chancellor to tighten your belt – Ho Chi Minh was told something similar by Mao when he had asked for help from China during the war. Tighten your belts, Mao said. Send us belts, Uncle Ho replied.

The pic is from the WLA – a prize for working out what that has to do with the index.

neighbours are there for each other

march1308-006.jpgGotta say that so far moving to the new house has been a joy. And my neighbours made it all the more wonderful when last night, before I could even get a free evening (because of Tara’s party – happy birthday Tara), there was a street aesthetics rectification action. What I mean to say is that the horrible Lewisham Council funded “We are Living in Fear” posters that have appeared on every second lamppost on my street were summarily torn down overnight, and well before I got a chance to go out and do them myself. Well done. They lasted less than 48 hours – good neighbours.

I’m not really that bothered by the posters so much as the stupidity of whoever thought the idea of saturation plastering on every street might have been any sort of smart act. Dumb dumb dumb – though everyone agrees both the design and the message of the posters really are grotesque. There are two kinds march1308-008.jpgI’ve seen, both utterly obscene – and having the second one placed outside Lewisham College is particularly offensive. Who are the ‘they’ that ‘want our pods’ (the parody of hip language deployed just does not work). And why these particular silhouettes? Oooooh, its all so scary. Clearly many locals see this as just another moment in the creeping shuffle towards a pathetic unthinking half-baked police state. I am proud to see that Lewisham residents won’t stand for it. And I hope elsewhere ‘they’ will be ripping the rest down as well. Short easy work. Clean up Lewisham now.

Celebrity Hijack

If you are gonna play the outrage game, play it all the way – a comment on the take-no-prisoners turn in televisual terror.

The ever admirable Phil over at ‘a very public sociologist’ has a fine post about the new format of Big Brother ‘Celebrity Hijack’. Offering a blow by blow account of the ‘toe-curling’ first episode last night, Phil reminds us of BB’s racist priors (Jade), justifiably ranting at how crap its looking this time round, and warns of the ‘celebrities to come – Brian Sewell, Kelly Osborne, Joan Rivers and Andrew Loog Oldham [this last I've added as a wish item from my previous].

Well, I suppose I was prepared to be sympathetic to a new panto season version of the anthropology-made-simple that is Big Brother, but nope – they have not redeemed themselves at all. Read Phil’s critique HERE.

Myself, I think the problems are even more obvious and this obviousness finally absolves even the most perverted of us from ever watching the show again [yes, finally I give it up, sad day] – I mean, just look at the NAME of this new format. Celebrity Hijack - ahhhg, Winston would turn in his grave.

[In the end I did go watch on replay - slo mo car crash it was - but I repeat my comment here from Phil's page for those who can't be bothered to follow the links or for those who refuse to endure the show even as 'sociological interest' - that evergreen standard alibi for tv slumming... Thus:]

Phil, do you think we can go so low as to play into Endemol’s sensationalist bad taste game and get outraged that this is the wrong time to try to rehabilitate the idea of hijacking as such, even if in the hands of the lovely wastrel Kelly herself. I guess its a long time since ‘that’ september so its ok, but I don’t suppose they will be inviting any Muslim celebrities to sit in the chair eh?

Could there be some mileage in this as mock outrage for a week or two – then perhaps this cynical sensation-hunting could morph into a recognition of how hijackings have been used in the past to make political points of some significance. Agree with the intensity of the actions or not, the Palestinians offered something more serious than Endemol, and with more cause.

Whatever… Really, I am just amazed that ‘hijacking’ can become pop culture sloganeering like this without comment – I guess its because we never get TV transmissions on those in-flight seat back screens.

I think Aki Nawaz should be invited to do a stint in the BBCJ chair, but even as that’s impossible, I know he’d have had fun.

All that said, Scott McQuire’s article on Endemol and other matters is worth a read: McQuire, Scott. ‘From Glass Architecture to Big Brother: Scenes from a Cultural History of Transparency’, Cultural Studies Review, 9.1, May (2003), 103-123.

Queen to abdicate at Christmas??

Last night on Radio Five Live Andrew Bacon show, Aki Nawaz was a guest, along with some pro-royalist toff whose name I refuse to remember, talking about the Honours System in the UK – Knights, Barons, Orders of the British Empire (OBE) and MBE etc. Aki tried to argue for a more creative alternative, but hardly got his point in before Bacon was shamelessly begging to be gonged (we would oblige if we had a big enough hammer mate). All this was in anticipation of a report out today on reforming the Honours System.

Reform. Rubbish – get rid of it.

The first reason to abolish these honours is that its a leftover outdated plug for Empire (yaay Benjamin Z) – if we first of all accept that there is something to the idea of Nation (and I am not sure we can) we should be able to recognise that the idea of honours is bound up with an outdated aristocratic system, which cannot be reformed. It must be abolished, not tinkered with to be made to look human.

A first step to fixing the mess, is to recognise that we need a Republic – where a republic is a state in which “the supreme power resides in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly by them”. This choice should be neither by a paid lackey like the PM, nor by the Queen who seems to think handing out baubles [trinkets] is her most important duty. Pah, it is a hold over from the aristocracy and its got to go – replace it with a public vote along the lines of X-Factor!. While we might want to ensure that democracy can really be democratic – as there is no guarantee of that via phone votes as yet (thanks Ant and Dec), at least getting rid of the monarchy would be a start. Keeping them on just for tourism, and because the queen can gift out knighthoods to rich donors to the dominant parties, is no reason to abandon a say in how we live.

The second issue is about why some people are ‘rewarded’ for services and some are not. There are a great great many people that do selfless work no doubt – but we are all worthy. To single out some as more worthwhile than others is to mock the contribution of us all. Those that do good works – I guess there are some/many who do so selflessly without any conscious thought of gain, but I am sceptical as there is no such thing as a gift (pace Derrida) – surely do not do good works for the reward, for the honour. No, the honour system is sort of like a reality TV show, where honours are handed out to entertainers, where the path of fame glory and celebrity status is the marker of true worth. The Honours Show is a circus and should be treated in a fitting manner, and thus televised (on ITV4).

And thirdly, even if the system were not chucked out right now, there is no-one who really doubts that the honours system is through and through corrupt, it does not even do what it used to say it did. You can buy your honour if you donate enough – and no-one ever thinks the investigations into corruption are going to expose the dirty little secrets that lie underneath. And this is not just about money: Bill Burroughs already skewered it as a rich-list parasite thriving on a manufactured slave mentality:

‘I would love to see… in England “they must” get rid of the idea of this bloody Queen. That bitch. Sitting there soaking up the energy of forty million people. People say “The Queen isn’t important. She’s just a figurehead.” A Figurehead of subservience. A figurehead of kissing her ass. Worthless wench. She should be sweeping floors’ (Burroughs in 1968 in Lotringer 2001: 102).

OK, maybe you will think that’s a mite harsh on a grandma trapped in corgi land – but the infection has to be removed – get a flea collar, call the exterminator, douse the whole thing in bug powder and ship em out to a flat in Blackpool.

But finally and seriously, what really disturbs me most is that the State gives out awards to people in the midst of a global war. Most of us are ignoring this war and its impact on those bombed abroad, and those who suffer here (all our lives are distorted by this war – civil liberties restricted, attacks on muslims, insecurity and fear on the tube/airports/high street, detentions etc). The awards game is an obscene morale boosterism that flies in the face of complicity with death. To give out awards is a way of saying everything is fine. But everything is not fine. It is not ok. It is not OK at all.

Aki managed to get one quip in sideways: “do you think they might give a knighthood to John Lydon?”. God Saves.

[Pic: Lydon site and interview].

Australian Imperialism in Asia Pacific

Closet Cleaner – notes for a talk delivered at the European Social Forum 2004. Some small updates of minimal significance inserted to acknowledge that everything is totally changed now that Australia has a new PM. For sure[2007].

Australian Imperialism in Asia Pacific

Three or four major scenarios rather than a full listing of the national biography of a wannabee regional super power:

“In spite of being a small to medium power, Australian troops have been regularly deployed overseas. This has continued recently in support of U.S./Alliance activities, or in UN operations (in the 1990s, Australian troops were involved in UN operations in Cambodia, Cyprus, Egypt, Middle East, Rwanda and East Timor). In past, of course, Australia fought most of its wars overseas (the Boer War, World War I, most of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War). Now Australia is regularly involved with joint operations and training exercises with Southeast Asian neighbours, though often these are hosted in Australia (see Ball & Kerr 1996). Likewise, Australia is engaged in fairly wide ranging air patrols of sections the Indian and Pacific Oceans, using P-3C Orion aircraft, some still operating out of Butterworth airforce base in Malaysia (Ball & Kerr 1996).” R. James Ferguson 2000 here

- Malaysia – after fighting in the war, many captured at the fall of Saigon, and bloody battles along the Burmese trail, Australian military participation in the Emergency in Malaya post WW11 was an unglamourous anti communist pursuit. Malaya: The Undeclared War, directed by Robert Lemkin in 1998 tells the story of the origins of the Internal Security Act, the original strategic hamlets idea. Now operating globally through the Detentions facility near you. From the richest between the wars colony, Malaysia becomes latterly still the base for economic extraction coupled with Australian military presence – Butterworth (a staging post for Vietnam activity on the part of the last Iroquois helicopter squadron of the RAAF, and with the close alliance with the US “nuclear weapons were also deployed at the Royal Australian Air Force base in Butterworth, Malaysia”, and a training facility for deep jungle warfare techniques, joint operations and ‘manouvres’).
((On nukes: UK based academic Richard Moore, reported in Malaysiakini 03 Jan 2001 – see the report which is lodged here.
On Vietnam and the RAAF, ‘The third and last RAAF operational squadron to serve in Vietnam was No.2 Squadron. It returned to Australia in Jun 71, 13 years after having left Australia from Darwin en route to Butterworth, Malaysia’.Documentation, in somwhat unusual format, is conveniently here.;
The ‘manoeuvres’ comment is a personal observation from spending time drinking with Australian service personnel in the bars of the Penang tourist strip)).
There is much to be said about our imperial dealings with Malaysia, and lets recall its ‘recalcitrant’ previous PM Mahathir, who enjoyed a critical client relationship with Australia, but perhaps the detentions issue will do for a souvenir – today[written 2004], the so-called ‘Pacific’ solution of John Howard (inexplicably elected again in Oct 2004 [postscript – replaced by Rudd 2007, um, hooray]) has Australia’s ever more draconian immigration laws tightening the screws on all those ‘queue jumpers’ and maintaining detention issues on Manus, basically Australia is outsourcing its Detention facilities to client states.

- Something learnt in Malaysia and put to good effect in Vietnam – another major anti communist counter revolutionary action, this time all the way with LBJ, if anyone remembers the ideological support for these actions – not just M*A*S*H (about Korea, but not really, very popular in Australia) just recall the TV show The Sullivans, glorifying the pluck of those Sullivan boys in WW2 covert-ops behind enemy lines (Apocalypse Now but with OZ accents, ostensibly WW2, but also seemingly aimed at the Vietnam conflict. I keep mentioning films because there is also a media imperialism element to all this, not just owned by Murdoch with Star TV, but also ABC Asian Pacific, but also less easily placed documentarists like Denis O’Rourke who made The Good Woman of Bangkok and no doubt all manner of ‘I’ve been to Bali too’ home videos). Whatever the case, in Vietnam the apocalypse meant 3 million dead for the crime of opposing colonialism and wanting to have a say in the running of their own lives. Of course the US rewriting of Vietnamese War history forgets all the more effectively that the North Vietnamese won, and Rambo did not. See the Bradbury film footage of the Nth Viet tank breaking down the gates of the Saigon Imperial Palace, leading victory celebrations.

- Indonesia 1965, more anti-communist pogroms, see Brian Brown in The Year of Living Dangerously, Suharto first recognised by Australian Govt (See FN timetable at the end), and then in 1978 acceptance of E.Timor invasion by conservative Frazer Govt – continued accommodationism up to East Timor independence in 2000. We can now identify a massively increased NGOs role, especially post Bali bombing in 2002, plus a host of legal and security functions in the wake of the same. East Timor a growth area for initiatives of all sorts, from the military to the ACTU, the issue of oil bubbling away in the Timor Gap, out of reach of actual Timorese, but of significant international concern.

- In terms of Security issues… The Solomons is only the latest in a range of Police operations that stretch bag to the earliest and gloriest of Australia’s colonial adventures, the total colony that is PNG. From blackbirding (a mode of slavery where Kanaks were kidnapped for the sugar plantations of Queensland) through the early takeover in WW1 from the Germans (the Patrol Officer as heroic colonial figure, and the Kokoda track as the high point of Australian PNG cooperation where Australian soldiers were assisted along their stumble through the mud to battle the Japanese – see The Thin Red Line by Terrance Malik for a flavour of this stuff), and on to the mining industry, from the Leahy brothers adventures (First Contact, Connoly and Anderson) to Ok Tedi, the economic imperative of colonialism maintained by all manner of adjunct services such as – today – the Attorney General’s department and the Treasury having special offices dealing with Pacific and PNG affairs, and a host of NGO workers from the usual HIV industry to funded NGO bureaucrats, administrative staff and police training liaison officers.

- All of which is best highlighted by a review of the Bougainville War, with its ongoing ramifications right up to today. Those Iroquois helicopters from Vietnam and Malaysia turn up again, sold on to the PNGDF – but only as so-called de-militarised vehicles, the Gun mounts sawn off, in Bougainville. Pics of guns tied back on with rope would be handy here. PNG history a particularly happy affair for get-rich-quick mates from due South. There are a number of films relevant here, perhaps the Coconut Revolution best known, by Dom Roscoe, with funding from the body Shop, doing the routine of the intrepid reporter and condensing the peoples struggle into the routines of a few photogenic individuals and a new age awe at the ingenuity of guerrilla survivalism (discovery: the coconuts are useful). CRA prospecting 1960s – PNG independence 1975 sells out Bougainville as the CRA money spinner –Independence movement of women – prostitution for mineworkers – profits from the mine for CRA/RTZ continue even after the traditional land owners sabotage the polluting – retreat of RTZ, finally selling up in 2002 – Australian Govt declaration of war – blockage – phosphorous bombs – radio free bougainville – success of BRA – Sandline intervention backfires under PM Julius Chan – NZ negotiated cessation of fighting in 1998 – slow reconciliation process – police deployment by Australia this year – UN Kofi Anan saying last week (Oct 2004) that Bougainville was not ready for elections… [more on Bougainville here]

So what. Well perhaps I’d like to suggest these stories offer a kind of coming of age tale for a sub-imperial superpower. Our very own ‘highest stage’ [see pic]. The anti-communism of the immediate post-war years – against the threat of domino conversions, I wish, gives way to a service industry sponsored support for the never relinquished economic imperatives of imperialism, from the Malay plantation economy, through the Timor oil reserves to the police-training–immigration export economy of anti-terrorist peace keeping. Australia now administrates a fully fledged and articulated colonial sphere of influence. A regional sheriff in the comical guise of John Howard [replacement Rudd, 2007]. I believe it is time to start the Revolutionary Australian Government in Exile, here now, today, in this room. Founded upon … any takers? [Meetings of the Aust Govt in Exile continue as usual at South London Pacific, Kennington, 2007]

FN: Pre 1788: Visits of Buginese fishermen to north Australian coasts to collect sea cucumber or trepang.
1941-42: Australia and allies regard Netherlands East Indies as a vital part of its defence line.
1942: Japanese forces secure control of most of Indonesia
1942-1945: Netherlands East Indies administration located in Brisbane
1945: Australian troops as part of allied forces aid return of Dutch control of Netherlands East Indies
1947-1949: Australia one of the first nations to recognise the Republic of Indonesia. Australia asked to represent Australia’s interests in the UN during negotiations with the Dutch (these policies were largely established under the leadership of Dr. H.V. Evatt, then Minister of External Affairs. At this time, Australian trade unions also embargoed Dutch cargoes and personnel.
1950: Australia co-sponsored Indonesia’s entry to the UN (also supported by India)
1950: First Australian ambassador presents credentials to President Sukarno
1963-1966: Australia supports Malaysia against Indonesia in ‘Konfrontasi’, with some Australian forces used in Sarawak (Borneo).
1975: Indonesia invades East Timor which becomes it 27th province in 1976. Five Australian journalists die during invasion.
1978: De facto recognition of Indonesian control of East Timor by Australia’s Foreign Minister, Andrew Peacock.
1979: Australia gives de jure (formal, legal) recognition of Indonesian control of East Timor
December 1989-February 1991 Timor Gap Treaty between Australia and Indonesia established (establishes boundary of sea resource usage, i.e. oil reserves that Portugal claims should belong to an independent East Timor. This has led to disputes before the International Court of Justice)
November 1991: Dili massacre in East Timor by Indonesian military forces. Australia issues mild protests.
1992: Trade between two countries reaches $A3 billion (Indonesia 10th larges export market for Australia)
1992-1994: Prime Minister Paul Keating visits Indonesia three times
September 1999: INTERFET military mission to East Timor to be led by Australia
… Through 2000-2001, though Australia has reduced its military involvement in East Timor, it is clear that the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) will need to extend its mandate into next year to stabilise the island. Furthermore, Australia will remain one of the main suppliers of aid for years to come as East Timor slowly builds a viable economy. From Ferguson see here

Horror Movie Patriot

Today’s top five reasons for being a patriotic Aussie in London:

- Bushwackers need a new poodle. Prime Minister Howard stands by George W(surge) Bush and declares now is not the time to pull Australian troops out of Iraq. Stop and stare. Bow wow. The Blair-pup had to be put down, so our Johhny tries out for the role as lap-dog-in-chief. Even Paris Hilton had a more robust pooch.

- Intervention. I still don’t know what is behind the Police-troop deployment into Aboriginal homelands, but it does seem that Howard has discovered Al Kaeida training camps operating not far outside of Darwin, or something (see here).

- International Culture. The pub chain ‘Walkabout’, so charmingly named after Nicolas Roeg’s film where the white guy shoots himself dead in the desert, leaving his 2 blond kids to be saved by David Gulpilil, is so my favourite. And now sporting, in its Covent Garden London branch, a full wall mural of an Aboriginal man (generic), carrying his kid off into one of those love-a-sunburnt-country sunsets. Aside the fact that walkabout is also a derogatory white folks reference to the laziness of black employees (and at least Roeg had some sense of irony in his use, it was the white dad that went troppo), the charm of Walkabout pubs, Kangaroo steak sandwich aside, cannot be denied as expats and tourists compete to be the first to hurl on their neighbours.

- Speaking of which. Neighbours. Please forgive me for this, and all things Melbournesque, but I used to share a house with the fashion consultant on this long-running TV-soap, so I know a thing or two. Set in Nunawading, but totally unaffected by the ethnic demographic of that fair suburb. When I arrived here the first pub I went into was screening a four hour daily ‘omnibus’ edition of the show. Thankfully now pubs are turning into fruit machine venues, gastro-bars or ‘walkabouts’ – which is, sad to say, an improvement on Kylie and Jason regurgitations.

- Cultural Cringe. That old favourite of expats. TNT Magazine asking me about how outdated I thought the British view of Australia was; as I said elsewhere already, I think the TNT ‘journalist’ wanted me to trash the old routines of cork hats and bbqs in favour of the new sophistication on show at, the then upcoming, Australian Film Festival in London. Happy to oblige. Yes, the British view of ‘Oz’ is outdated, since people have not yet got into the habit of referring to the place as the new apartheid, there are not organised protests outside the High Commission, there are no sanctions and boycotts, the rugby tour of France is going ahead without incident, the troubles (civil war by any other name) are barely reported, Shane Warne is a hero in Hampshire, Clive James book is on the shelf at LRB shop. I’m starting to miss Germaine Greer (oops, no I’m not, she is still everywhere over here).

I think I could do five more here, but really, why? Better we just acknowledge that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be and get out that old guitar…

Pilgrims, let us all sing together:

Our Andy’s – gone – with cattle now –
across the Queens-land – border,
he’s left us – in dejec-tion now –
our hearts – are out – of – order…..

ack, I can’t even do that properly, warbling along like Slim Dusty, and what on earth is the next line?

I suddenly have this vision of a boxing transvestite on a Harley Davidson:

“Where the bloody hell are you”, Aunty Jack.

A Radical Education.

Education is not a model good.

I went to hear a pretty interesting discussion from Irit Rogoff, Florian Schneider and Kodwo Eshun as part of the build up to their Berlin Education Summit. There’s been quite a bit of chatter about this on various lists, which is fine, but this was the first time in a while I’d really tuned in (battling a debilitating sense of we’ve been here before and before and before [for sanity's sake I've disabled the previous three links]). Irit kicked off with comments on two tendencies in thinking about education in Europe, the Bologna Process aiming at some sort of compatibility conversion coherence across degree offerings in the EU countries. The second tendency a proliferation of self-organising Arts School formations, or what Florian called ‘non-aligned initiatives converging around “education”‘. Education here is becoming a ‘model’ for various initiatives, where the key terms are, it seems to me, ‘new methods’, new initiatives, new models, ‘radical pedagogy’, ‘collaborative work’ and proposals ‘to change the terms of the debate away from a purely bureaucratic engagement with quantitative and administrative demands and from the ongoing tendency to privatize knowledge as so-called “intellectual property”‘. So far so good. I guess. The Summit is the coming weekend.

I did not take accurate enough notes at the talks, but I was a little uneasy even where I welcome these ideas and where I have a lot of ground on which to agree. The problem is that when we think of Education as a model, I want to retch for my gum. What is it to promote education as a model in the new economy – creative economy, culture industry – context of the abstracted immaterial multitudinous spaces of net-activism et al? I am not convinced.

Here, for example, a key sentence I would like to discuss:

‘The model of education has become central to a range of creative artistic practices and to a renewed interest in radical pedagogy. As a mode of thinking an alternative to the immense dominance of art as commodity and display as spectacle, education as a creative practice that involves process, experimentation, fallibility and potentiality by definition, offers a non-conflictual model for a rethinking of the cultural field’

Seems to me there are several things going on here. Not all of them thought through as radically as might be. Forget the ‘non-conflictual model’ since this is relegated to the cultural field and we know that class conflicts are not operating there, correct? The ‘thinking as alternative’ to art really does grab me. An alternative to commodified art, though, would be what? Fabulous possibilities distract me – Popular votes on which pictures hang on the walls. The Tate Modern emptied out. No more National Gallery souvenir postcards. Free access, and free coffee, to all museums? No, that is not what is meant – what we have is a renewal of experimentation, creative practices, process and potential. Although interestingly the word ‘fallibility’ cuts diagonally across these invigorating, but you have to admit, fairly standard educationalist terms, I am not concerned too much with the threat this model will pose to commodification. Confined to the cultural field or not, this is, surely, just what the smartest employers want – new thinking, new opportunities.

Rather, it seems, the model of education needs to be rethought, since this kind of modelling is perhaps one of the main ways in which the promotion of education is a promotion of some pretty old modes of thinking. This thinking is smuggled in at the very moment that it claims to be new. A radical pedagogy in a context where education is seen as a good model, is still education that has not thought through the ways this very model operates to train operatives for hierarchy within the cultural economy and hierarchical society at large. Education as a model has not yet thought through the ways education is not simply or unproblematically a social good.

There is another view; someone might be forgiven for insisting that education is more often about affirmations and consolidation of eurocentric, patriarchal, hierarchical class-based, systems of Fortress exclusion. The playground as learning curve, leaning towards the tuck shop, the in-group, the out-group, the fashion parade, the Cinderella School for Creative Types, the finishing School for corporate dining, the Endomol drill surveillance routines, the preparatory sessions for international diplomacy, the wanker complex, the God complex, military formation, alpha drones, beta drones, innovation and incubation centres, career prospects CV padding, cultural studies clubs and Diners’ Club, life skills, open day – these and many more ‘lessons’.

I totally agree that the old collegiate model of Education should not be protected, worn and frayed as it is. But to renovate that model with a ‘radical pedagogy’ without questioning the projected model as model is also suspect. For conflict then. For delinking from Capital, since breaking the divisions between those inside and outside the old model can also prepare the ground for even greater commodification, commercialization. What if we saw education as a Trojan Horse for exactly that old enemy, and then looked for ways to tow the thing out to Margate and burn it down.

“They have something of which they are very proud. They call it education. It distinquishes them from the goatherds” – Nietzsche, I think from the fifth section of part one of Zarathustra.

Kodwo of course then started his talk with anecdotes and humour, and thereby twisted all this around in several other directions. I am not so sure his trip to Mumbai, testing (another great educational game) Mike Davis’s formulas about slums by making a film, will work to displace the deeply entrenched prejudices that slum-talk now carries in theory-circles (see here), but his notion of education as creative sabotage is as appealing as his insistence on talking about Scritti Politi and Luciana Parisi from CCS. Futurism, delinking from capital, creative sabotage, fallibility, the pre-emptive unalignement from models and – did I hear a feint echo – the ruthless criticism of everything that exists (Marx to Ruge) were bouncing around even as the model was reinforced. If this is the way the Summit goes, it will be an engaging weekend at school indeed. All summits need a good saboteur.


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