Click here to order: http://www.zero-books.net/books/pantomime-terror
Click here to order: http://www.zero-books.net/books/pantomime-terror
Is it only my dysfunctional take on things that makes me see this as the ‘dream-work’ of the war on terror?
‘do you think that’s really bad?’
‘you’re just having a go at me coz I’m not poor anymore’
Go here to see this in action (on some browsers, not all).
Posted on Friday 23 March 2012
April 25 2012, 6.30pm
at the Royal Garden Hotel,
2-24 High Street Kensington:
nearest tubes High Street Kensington and Knightsbridge.
As “counter-terrorist experts”—many better known as armament companies—gather at the Royal Garden Hotel to guzzle champagne followed by four course dinner. Pausing only to gaze over Kensington Gardens. (At a mere £156 a ticket—guess who isn’t suffering from “austerity”?)
Join Disarm DSEi as we confront exhibitors at the so-called Counter Terror Expo—an event showcasing the latest equipment used by states to spy on, restrict and murder their citizens under the guise of “preventing terrorism”. Let’s help them choke on it! (Remember the DSEi dinner demo at the National Gallery!)
Dinner guests include:
- General Dynamics
- British arm of US-based firm agreed deal to upgrade military equipment for an elite Libyan government security brigade.
- Chemring Defence
- British contractor produced CS gas canisters fired at civilians by Egyptian security forces in Tahir Square.
- L-3 Security & Detection Systems
- A division of $15bn surveillance and communications giant L-3 Communications.
- French aerospace and defence company paid fine of €630m in 2010 over bribes to win contract for 1991 sale of frigates to Taiwan.
- Northrop Grumman
- US global aerospace company, world’s fourth largest defence contractor.
(Check out the full list of exhibitors)
Across North Africa and the Middle East, dictatorships have, and still are using equipment supplied by UK companies to spy on and attack demonstrators, and yet some of these countries will be shopping for more equipment at the Counter Terror Expo, along with other repressive regimes from around the world.
The UK is a major market, where police are widening their surveillance and repression to even the mildest dissidents. As the government relentlessly destroys the welfare state and drags our wages to rock bottom, it continues to subsidise and promote the arms and “security” industries
The event hosts hundreds of exhibitors, not only leading arms companies, who make huge profits from conflict and repression. It is officially supported by a vast range of military, police and private security organisations, and is endorsed by state agencies such as the MoD and NATO.
Surveillance systems will be a major focus, with companies again promoting biometric and data gathering/mining technologies; promoting “freedom” through ever greater control and documentation of our daily lives, not to mention drones (coming to a demo near you shortly!)
The event is organised by Clarion, which also runs DSEi—the world’s largest arms fair. What with governments everywhere looking to increase control of their citizens, and the industry exaggerating threats to increase their profits, Clarion must think they’re onto a winner. Let’s show them they’re not.
A piece written before this week’s release of Bad Girls, coming out soon in Social Identities.
Abstract: The recent work of the Sri-Lankan-British musician and sonic ‘curator’ known as M.I.A. (real name: Mathangi Arulpragasam) is considered as a commentary on atrocity and read alongside the well known essay ‘The Storyteller’ by Walter Benjamin and comments on Auschwitz by Theodor Adorno. The storytelling here is updated for a contemporary context where global war impacts us all, more or less visibly, more, or less, acknowledged. It is argued that the controversy over M.I.A.’s Romain Gavras video Born Free is exemplary of the predicament of art in the face of violence, crisis and terror – with this track, and video, M.I.A.’s work faced a storm of criticism which I want to critique in turn, in an attempt, at least, to learn to make or discern more analytic distinctions amongst concurrent determinations of art A careful reading of Adorno can in the end teach us to see Born Free anew.
Keywords: Benjamin, Adorno, Gavras, M.I.A, music, terror, racism, orientalism.
The new UK Points-Based Immigration scheme is – no surprise – a nasty headache, and the hoops to be jumped through for the privilege of being charged for higher education in the ever more depleted UK HE sector are just mind-boggling. See below for the guidance for students who might have the mad idea that coming to Goldsmiths might be a straightforward matter of applying and being accepted. To think that this points-biased plan originally comes from Australia is painful (and not mitigated by the UK’s overdue acceptance of the Flat White Coffee and decent Colombian beans – at last). Worse, it seems Lib-Dem Clegg (the fifth Beatle) wants to introduce a localized version of this, while his mates Posh Dave and Gordon Godzilla have even more rabid anti-immigration ideas up their trickster sleeves (no-one said anything good on this topic in the first TV ‘debate’ – where was Davina McCall, who could have let us phone them out of the show and have them sacrificed to appease the volcano). Non compliance with the reporting is the way forward for staff, but here are the latest instructions, just to emphasize the absurdity of it all – the immoral maze. My favourite is the promise that all this will change again imminently. For the worse no doubt. Use you vote wisely – screw it up and stuff it in the end of an old bottle, half filled with Volcanic ash, light the end and be ready to throw – self defence is no offence as we know.
Seriously though – the Students Not Suspects campaign site is here. Join the fight.
FAO: All Administrative and Academic Staff
Following implementation of points-based immigration (PBI) international students who require a visa to study in the UK must be sponsored by a licensed institution.
The type of visa a student can apply for is dependent on their age, and both the level and duration of their programme of study – see http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/studyingintheuk/<http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/studyingintheuk/> .
Goldsmiths has been licensed by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to sponsor students in all categories, but most international students at Goldsmiths will need to apply as Tier 4 General Students.
Tier 4 (General) category is for adult students who want to come to or remain in the UK for post-16 education.
Whether applying to enter the UK to commence studies or remain in the UK to continue their studies a students visa application must be supported with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). CAS are issued on behalf of Goldsmiths by the following offices:
. Admissions – applicants to commence a new programme of study at Goldsmiths should contact the Admissions Office, Room 115, Richard Hoggart Building or firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> . Further information is also given at http://www.gold.ac.uk/international/visa/ <http://www.gold.ac.uk/international/visa/> ;
. Enrolments and Records – students extending their student visa to continue or repeat part of their current programme of study should visit Enrolments and Records, Room 122, Richard Hoggart Building or email firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> .
Students should note that we are required to take a photocopy of their current passport, details of which must be included in the CAS together with tuition fees paid, and pre-requisite qualifications if they are a new entrant. They should allow 5-10 working days for their CAS to be assigned, i.e. we must apply and pay for the CAS via the UKBA Sponsor Management System. The CAS is valid for 6 months from point of issue, after which the student must show this office that they have obtained clearance to study or they may not be sponsored and taught by the institution. Students are therefore required to show proof of entry clearance to Enrolments and Records once their visa application has been processed or their access to services may be suspended and their enrolment withdrawn.
It is important to note that although international students are not permitted to enrol on a part-time programme of study, they are permitted to repeat in part-time attendance or in exam-attendance if their participation is required. In such cases we will ask the Academic Department to confirm that the student’s participation is required and that they are able to meet their sponsorship duties, or we may not issue a CAS.
Subsequent to the issue of a CAS, Enrolments and Records will be required to report any change of programme, interruption, withdrawal, or failure to attend/enrol to the UKBA. It’s therefore important that any student indicating a wish to interrupt or withdraw is referred to either the Departmental Administrator or Enrolments and Records who may issue them the appropriate paperwork to be authorised by either their head of department or senior tutor. Students failing to return the authorised paperwork within 2 weeks of the last date of attendance will remain liable for the full tuition fee and will not be eligible for a refund of any fees paid.
Failure to report such changes within a reasonable timeframe may also result in our sponsor licence being withdrawn, we will not be able to issue CAS to any student of Goldsmiths and current students may find that their CAS or visa is cancelled.
Tier 1 category is for skilled workers, but visa applications might be supported by confirmation of award and transcript of results – see http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/tier1/ <http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/tier1/ > <http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/tier1/ >
Whether a Goldsmiths student is applying for Tier 1 (General) or Tier 1 (Post-qualifying) their visa application must be supported by proof of qualifications.
Student Archives is able to provide Goldsmiths alumni or graduates a copy of their transcript or confirmation of award for this purpose. Enquirers should be advised to contact Archives, Room 122, Richard Hoggart Building and complete the order form or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Further details of the services offered by Archives are given athttp://www.gold.ac.uk/student-services/transcripts-archives/ <http://www.gold.ac.uk/student-services/transcripts-archives/> .
This information has been circulated to all international students, but if a student does want further advice on points based immigration, isn’t certain of what visa they require or have been refused entry to the UK they should contact Student Advice, email email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> with brief details of their enquiry. All enquiries are dealt with in confidence.
Further changes to PBI are expected to be announced shortly, including the introduction of Highly Trusted Sponsor status. We will keep staff and students informed of these changes as they happen.
On behalf of Student Services / Marketing and Recruitment
Criminals on our buses. So we better check their tickets cos we want them to pay full fare right! (Far Right – from the lovely people who brought you points based immigration, endless queuing, lost passports, deportations to Iraq, and the generalized cretinization that is the UK Border Agency). Worse than Homeland Security I think.
The sharp-as-a-tack-smart Emma informs me of the Home Office’s boneheaded formulation:
“‘Intelligence has shown that failed asylum seekers and other immigration offenders are using public transport on a regular basis. Previous operations on public transport routes have resulted in identifying and arresting failed asylum seekers and also removing them.’
I am wondering if preservation-talk is confined to certain areas and domains and should be either expanded or done away with. This is not just a two-part provocation, but in between the calculations of intervention and documentation, can we talk of continuities of action, of commitment, of engagement or – conversely – the loss of these – preserve solidarity, preserve the party form, preserve the international… And what is the difference between preserve and re-institute/renew? Corporate preservation and gentrification on the one hand, and Nietzsche saying ‘what is falling down should be pushed’ on the other. Old forms abandoned in some cases, others guarded by right. I would like to describe three different contexts in which these issues seem pertinent: a) the work of internationals in relation to NGOs, activist groups and political struggles that perhaps need an ‘about face’ to escape a drain on scarce resources ‘on the ground'; b) the hijack of community, participation and care by corporate and commercial interests who proudly announce their token initiatives in press release and annual report (what I will call ‘glossy anthropology’); c) and the disjunct of heritage funding and political context, using the London Underground and the security situation in the War on Terror as example.
I will be attending this important bit of theatre:
THIS MUCH IS TRUE
By Paul Unwin and Sarah Beck
On 22 July 2005 Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by the Metropolitan Police at Stockwell tube station. It was a defining moment in London’s history yet too many questions are left unanswered.
Award-winning writer and director Paul Unwin’s (co-creator of Casualty and Holby City) and Sarah Beck’s play is a shocking, electrifying, insight into what really happened before, during and in the years following Jean Charles de Menezes’ death.
Weaving together new and personal testimonies from senior police officers including Andy Hayman (Metropolitan Police former head of counter terrorism), Brian Paddick, Jean’s family, his friends, the legal team (including Michael Mansfield QC), THIS MUCH IS TRUE brings the tragedy to the stage and reveals much that has never been said publicly before.
Cast: Amber Agar, Stefano Braschi, Alice Da Cunha, Gerald Kyd, Beatriz Romilly, Justine Waddell.
Directed by Tim Roseman with a multi award-winning creative team including Paul Wills, Mike Walker, Knifedge, Richard Howell and Daniel Pemberton.
Douglas ‘Buzz’ Coupland’s new novel, ‘Generation A’, takes as its premise the disappearance of bees, much discussed in the press in the wake of hive collapse. The tale is told in an unfolding multi-part personal/police statement/autobiography mode. It works mostly well until the storytelling parts in the second half, which are really OK in themselves, but a great chance for some structuralist play was missed I feel. The links are there, but I am not sure Buzz knows how to join up the sides of his hexagon as well as he might have. A few weeks more work could have been good. Nevertheless, this book is as readable as the other DC highlights (eg ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’, and the magnificent ‘All Families are Psychotic’). The distraction of the cover art gimmick (design your own colours for the jacket – I chose yellow!) and the lame title, dissuades the reader, and perhaps the author, from engagement with the covert security forces aspect of the scenario as written. War on terror meets eco-catastrophe is the topical theme of our times, yet this is not yet the novel that breaches the impasse of mere commentary. Terrible thing to say about literature, but I wanted it to do more – and instead, well, a meditation on celebrity is the danger here: I almost yawned at those parts. Although the boy’s own adventure espionage aspects are well rendered, they do not approach the necessary allegorical harshness required to compete with texts like Paglin and Thompson’s Torture Taxi. We live in dangerous times, and need a dangerous literature to engage. More cross pollination would not have hurt this text, I can’t help but feel there’s something a little flat about the landscape. All those rendition flights, and the stereotyped mad scientists, and the detention regimes, are treated with lightness and humour, and – fuck me with the tourette’s character’s PDA – I’m still not laughing over the war. I’m not over it, sorry. And getting all misty for the bees isn’t enough, no matter how much the Calvino inspired narrative game appeals (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller… echoes strongly here). I like Coupland in a Canadian way, its good, it should be read, but there could be more than a lame colouring-in participatory aspect to the reading.
Do you like the yellow cover I’ve designed? – no creativity there then. We are doomed. Buzz buzz buzz.
And do you remember the opening credits of of the 1985’s Luc Besson film ‘Subway’?
“To do is to be” — Descartes
“To be is to do” — Sartre
“Doo, bee, doo, bee, doo” — Sinatra
That’d be name dropping then, Cristopher Lambert – even if Jean-Hugues Anglade was in it, Lambert was good here. But speaking of Anglade, couldn’t his co-star from ‘Betty Blue’, Beatrice Dalle, play ‘Diana’ in the movie of Coupland’s book? Shahrukh Khan as ‘Harj’ (though not Sri Lankan, still… but drop the ridiculous Apu routine). Kurt Cobain as ‘Zack’ of course… Am I dreaming up an impossible cast? There are five roles. I probably need to get all hexagrammatical here too:
Ever wonder why bees use hexagons to make beehives? Two reasons. First, bees want to enclose the largest possible space with the least amount of wax. With this in mind, a circle would be best. So why don’t they use circular combs? Because hexagons are the shape with the most sides that “tesselate”. In other words, if you put a bunch of hexagons next to each other there will be no spaces between them. No shape with more than six sides will do this.
Arvind Rajagopal 2009 ‘Violence, Publicity, and Sovereignty: Lawlessness in Mumbai’ Social Identities 15(3):411-416
The always interesting Arvind Rajagopal starts his discussion of the terror attacks of Mumbai by evoking the ‘lawless violence’ of the East India Company of old, suggesting that ‘once more we are at a time’ when the territorial incursions of rampant ‘non-state actors’ are denounced by politicians, just as the activities of the East India Company provoked calls for the rule of law in the British parliament, and the company was relieved of its rule, subsequently ceded formally to the Empire.
Rajagopal links the piracy of the East India Company to that of contemporary terror discourse: ‘On 26 November 2008, terrorists arrived by sea and entered near the Gateway [of India], making an entrance not unlike the pirates of yesteryear’ (Rajagopal 2009:411). The trouble with this formulation is that however much the Mumbai attackers can be traced to Karachi, they are not quite the calibre of state sanctioned privateers such as, Drake, Raleigh or the officials of the EIC, nor is Pakistan the likely Colonial power about to impose rule of law upon the subcontinent as part of some global sunset-avoidance regime. Yes, the State of today ‘mimics the behaviour of private parties, justifying violence as revenge and practicing torture as the just deserts of terrorists’ (Rajagopal 2009: 411-412), but I am not sure the Mumbai scenario exactly fits the EIC analogy. Later in the article Rajagopal chides exactly those who would suggest the source of Hindu-Muslim violence joins up all too neatly with some civilizational clash argument, with Hindu’s ‘improbably’ on the side of Christianity (Rajagopal 2009:415). Without agreeing for one moment that the clash of civilizations argument is coherent, to suggest that Hindu-Muslim violence is somehow projected onto this scenario strangely feels like a ritual evocation of the story of Meerut and the rumours that provoked the ‘Mutiny’ – which remains unmentioned by Rajagopal, but is implied, and is of course one of the main catalysts for the revocation of the EIC charter in the late 1850s (see discussion in Hutnyk 2004). I think, however, the piracy of the terrorists and that of the EIC is of a different order, vis a vis justifications of State power.
What I am suggesting is that a framing of the Mumbai attacks in terms of a dated moment of crisis of sovereignty belonging to the 1850s (itself deftly discussed by Marx) is an old thinking that does not adequately characterize the Imperial conjuncture of today. Yes, there are parallels, but the lawlessness of the State is the para-site of Empire – the model is not the EIC and its private army, but the Empire proper, from Viceroys through to Sepoys: a State actor that sanctions its own lawlessness as law. Rajagopal goes back too far, influenced perhaps by the thinking of Hardt and Negri, who also made the EIC a point of comparison for the globalism of today. Why though, not think of Empire at its height? The colonial today is full-blown, the Viceroy strides the earth (and her name is Hillary ). Significantly more interesting is Rajagopal’s appreciation of the changed media circumstances in which this scenario is played out. Here, the recent history (of media) is evoked (though again with reference to rumours that might just be heard to hark back to that Meerut story) and helps us comprehend the present media scene. The points presented in terms of media and its effects are more substantially grounded in transnational commercial flows, and though this is also well-worked ground, it is worth quoting in detail:
‘The attacks of November 2008 were the first terror attacks in India to occur under the full glare of media spotlights, and, after many years of state-controlled media, in an era in which private broadcasters dominate the airwaves. Dozens of 24-hour news channels vie for the Indian audience, many of them subsidiaries of transnational media corporations … In the past, when such violence occurred, the first response by the state controlled media would be a news blackout, followed by terse and occasional news bulletins aimed at the political management of the situation: public safety took second place to the preservation of the ruling party. Citizens had to rely on rumour for information, and of course the source was never certain. Although there was often alarm and panic, any citizen responses were necessarily more diffuse’ (Rajagopal 2009:413)
I do find it difficult to concede that the citizen response to partition in 1947, language riots in the 1950s, Naxalbari and its aftermaths in the 1960s and 1970s, anti-Sikh pogroms in 1984, Babri Masjid in 1992, and so on, were merely ‘diffuse’ [my italics], but the suggestion that a new live news, transnational media, audience competition dominates the public sphere certainly deserves consideration in terms of sovereignty and state control of the instruments of communication. Rajagopal is right to say ‘the media take on increasingly state-like characteristics’ (Rajagopal 20009:414) – what needs to be further examined is how the imbrications of state power and terror proceed apace. What is hinted at in Rajagopal’s title, but not developed, is that sovereignty and violence are intertwined here: of course the work of Georgio Agamben, Jacques Derrida, and most of all that of Walter Benjamin will be crucial, and more careful readers will need to be deployed. It is well and good that Rajagopal indicates the terrain upon which explanations, and useful analogies, may be sought, but what is to be avoided is any suggestion that this new ‘lawless’ moment can be wholly understood as a rerun of the piracy of the EIC. If this analogy is to work at all,, the comparison should be exactly with the consequences of the imposition of formal colonial rule, the removal of the powers of the Company in favour of an organised Governmental force, and thereby the systemic crushing of the anti-colonial threat of the ‘Mutiny’ and its consequences (including its diffuse ‘rumours’ of a possible independence – see Mahasweta Devi’s amazing book The Rani of Jhansi). News media of the like of NDTV x 24 are not much more than the propaganda wing of the State machine, now diversified into business in convoluted but effective ways. And of course there was a terror czar trotted out to be the Giuliani of Mumbai (chief of police interviewed…), but he was not charismatic enough to then run for mayor – not every history repeats as farce. Rajogopal has presented some interesting comparative moves, but maybe not necessarily exactly the ones that are most apposite.
Thanks as ever to Virinder Kalra for discussion that provoked some of the ideas here.
“‘There is no document of civilization that is not simultaneously a document of barbarism‘” (Benjamin p. vii)
A photograph of five young Americans in combat gear beside a ‘Homeland Security’ bus graces the front page of the New York Times on May 13 2009. This image catches my eye on a day when newly discovered atrocity photos from CIA ‘facilities’ in Afghanistan and Iraq should be published, but are not so as to avoid undermining the war effort and the troops at the front. Anxious excuses are conjured for spin and impression management… we get this unbelievable shot of Explorer scouts tooled up for the kill.
The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.
“This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl,” said A. J. Lowenthal, a sheriff’s deputy here in Imperial County, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explorers events he helps run. “It fits right in with the honor and bravery of the Boy Scouts.”
I am taken by the photograph because it appears on the day the Obama administration plays the ‘don’t look’ card on terror (after a word from Pentagon chiefs, Obama backtracked and announced he would fight any release of the new set of detention images – this is reported on the same front page). But I am also curious about a quirky little detail in the bus picture. Look at the line of tooled-up scouts in the shot. The very last one doesn’t seem to think the situation is all that serious. A big grin on his face, forgetting the seriousness of the security role-play, has he tapped his colleague on the shoulder to say he likes his combat trousers? ‘Dude, I got these on special at ‘Old Navy” says his colleague. ‘Awesome’. I wonder if there is perhaps-possibly-maybe a little chink of critique, on the part of the NYTs photographer, in this edge-of-the-image smile? Such good terror-fighting teeth too. I would ‘hope’ we read this scene against the grain. Yes we can.
The article offers a great many other howlers – including strange juxtapositions: one such follows on from the news that neophyte Explorer Cathy is ‘attracted by the guns’ and says: “I like shooting them … I like the sound they make. It gets me excited.” We then get the observation that the police who supervise this ‘training’ have been exploring in their own perversions: “There have been numerous cases over the last three decades in which police officers supervising Explorers have been charged, in civil and criminal cases, with sexually abusing them”.
It seems though we are safe. This is after all only a role-playing game (with Arab dress-ups and other harmless panto fun). We are assured that ‘the training … is not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting’. OK.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the same paper, another photograph of another line of troops catches my eye – a dead soldier is being returned to the US. RIP Michael P Yates, killed by one of his own in the counselling tent (image not online, but article here). The televisual reporting of the return of troop bodies was suppressed by a former President, but the correspondence between the line of Explorer scouts and the solemn line of the troops in the second picture is poignant. (Troops dead so far in Iraq and Afghanistan nearing 5000). This picture too appears a few pages before a full page ad taken out by a right wing group, suitably named the ‘Torture Truth Project’ that condemns those who would embarrass the US internationally by mentioning the ‘only three’ detainees that endured water boarding. The text of which is a special rhetoric all on its own when it tortures the truth by warning that ‘we are losing the goodwill of people across the world’. Welcome to the USA Today, in the NYTimes.
The Scouts, you may recall, are the spawn of Sir Colin Baden-Powell, also famous for having developed the detention camp at Mafeking over a century ago. Be Prepared. I remember this slogan from my own youthful disciplining as a scout (was mostly fun of course, smoking behind the troop hall) and I know my grandfather in the UK and father in Ukraine were also enthusiastic adventurers. Energy and curiosity turned into memoir.
This excellent letter appeared in today’s Guardian. Signed by a range of academics, and pointing out the abuse of power that now extends the border into the classroom. Bad move UK (stupidly following the Australian points based immigration system that worked so well!).
The Guardian, Tuesday 14 April 2009
As academics involved in research on the uses and abuses of state power, it is becoming increasingly apparent that members of staff in universities and colleges are being drawn into a role of policing immigration (Universities weigh up new fraud unit to thwart bogus applications, 11 April). For example, academic and administrative staff are being asked to monitor the attendance of students at lectures and classes (whether compulsory or not), and we are being asked to check the ID of students and colleagues, while external examiners and visiting lecturers are also now being asked to provide passport details.
We strongly oppose the imposition of such changes in the way that academic institutions are run. We believe these practices are discriminatory and distort academic freedoms. The implementation of UK immigration policies is not part of our contractual duties and we will play no part in practices which discriminate against students and staff in this way. We support our administrative colleagues in their refusal to engage in such practices. Thus we pledge to refuse to co-operate with university requests for us to provide details on our students or participate in investigations of those students.
As a first, and highly practical, step, we pledge not to supply any personal details – such as passport or driving licence details – in our role as external examiners, and urge all of our colleagues across higher and further education to join this boycott. We will also forward motions to our respective union branches in support of this position. A boycott would undermine immediately the system of external examining at all levels, which operates almost exclusively on the basis of goodwill, and thus strike a significant blow against both the pernicious drift of government policy, and university managements’ acquiescence to this.
In another fine mess, the University of East London contributes to the escalation of madness that also saw Will Hutton foolishly pontificating against G20 protesters on the BBC two nights ago as part of a series of suits trotted out to do defensive work in anticipation of the coming protest. Lovely of the press to do this kind of warm up stuff when this kind of one-off event comes around. It adds a certain frisson.
People have asked me if I will be protesting against the G20 on April 1st, and I want to stress that I protest against them every day, and against the G50, G100 and any Gee whizz propaganda scam cooked up by the executive committee. I’ll be about of course, though I am also interested in building political outlooks and alternatives for more than a one-day carnival-cum-police training exercise in crowd containment. This 1 in 365 fractional theatre is no doubt striking, you’ve got to love these occasional stage-managed inversions of the bourgeois order, repleat with boarded up shopfronts, bankers wearing trainers, and anthropology professors outrageously suspended for giving puffed up interviews to local tabloids (its clearly mockery, viddy the picture, read the article). That said, the idea that the G20 protest might turn into a velvet revolution is intriguing, so do bring a snack for the lock down. There surely does need to be an alternative to this rotten, corrupt and unequal system – and although its going to take more than a street party on April Fools day, if we thought about it in terms of larger fractions and what is needed to win we might be getting somewhere (a party organization, overturning of class divisions, open borders, anti-racism that is more than wearing a badge, end of the arms trade, free education [hence this post's title - warm it up] and more). G20, G19, G18, G17… – how many days would it take to get all velvety? Arise comrades, another world is necessary.
In the meantime, Chris Knight needs to be re-ininstated, this sort of reaction is just mad. Again, check out the photo from the article that caused the furore – its clearly pantomime. And the ‘Guardian’s’ intrepid reporter seems to have a bit of the Will Hutton’s about him too – if you compare the ‘Evening Standard’ original article on Chris Knight – see comment one below for the text – I think you can clearly see that the process of escalation is carried out here too. Richard Rogers to the rescue. AwaY. With friends like these, who needs enemies…
Professor suspended over claims he incited G20 violence
• Interview creates trouble for anthropology expert
• Protest organiser revels in ‘perfect storm for enemies’
The G20 Meltdown protesters intend to converge on the Bank of England from four directions. Each group will march behind one of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”.
Richard Rogers The Guardian, Friday 27 March 2009
One of the leading organisers of next Wednesday’s Financial Fools’ Day protests was last night suspended from his role as Professor of Anthropology at the University of East London, on full pay.
Chris Knight, who has been a lecturer in anthropology at the university since 1989, and professor since 2000, was informed of his suspension yesterday evening, and was told it was because of an interview he gave to a newspaper this week in which he is quoted as “inciting criminal action, specifically violence against policemen and women and damage to banking institutions”.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, Knight was pictured with a placard bearing the slogan “Eat the bankers”, and quoted as saying: “If they [the police] want violence, they’ll get it”. He is also quoted by the Standard as advising bankers that on April 1 “if you’re thinking of coming in, my advice is don’t”.
Knight, along with fellow UEL anthropologist Elizabeth Power and former Liberal Democrat councillor turned activist Marina Pepper, set up the G-20meltdown.org website and began to host meetings to which they invited other green and anarchist groups.
Knight told the Guardian last night that he was doing everything possible to make sure there was no violence next week. He said he had set up the protest group with theatrical rather than violent aims.
“I’m doing everything possible to make sure that all the anger of the middle classes doesn’t turn into violence. That’s why we do all this play-acting. We’re being nice to the bankers – we’re burning them as effigies. Of course we don’t want violence. If there’s a huge ruck, the press will photograph it, and our vision about a different planet will not get reported.”
He added: “But it’s going to be hard. The message to police is ‘if you press your nuclear button, I’ll press mine’. It sounds like a threat? Well, yeah – don’t do it. If you want violence, you’ll get it.
“I know I’m in my own bubble. But in my bubble I’m predicting we’ll have a velvet revolution in the next week or so …The police, backed up by the army, will try to hold the ExCel centre. While they hold that, they will lose London. Then I think Gordon Brown will go.
“It’s a perfect storm for our enemies,” he added. “I cannot believe my luck. It’s happening 800 yards from my campus … The media are doing all our work for us.”
You can read the verdict and see the press conference by the family campaign on the website at the end of this press release:
Press statement from the family:
Friday, 12 December 2008
Press statement by the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, the campaign and their lawyers Birnberg Peirce following the jury’s verdict
“Today is a very important day for our family and campaign for justice. We have spoken to Jean’s family in Brazil and they like us feel vindicated by the jury’s verdict. The jury’s verdict is a damning indictment of the multiple failures of the police and the lies they told. It is clear from the verdict today that the jury could have gone further had they not been gagged by the Coroner. We maintain that Jean Charles de Menezes was unlawfully killed” – Patricia Armani Da Silva, cousin of Jean Charles on behalf of all of the family.
The family’s legal team argued that evidence heard by the jury provided sufficient grounds for the jury to return unlawful killing (murder) in respect of the two police shooters, C12 and C2 as well unlawful killing (gross negligence manslaughter) in respect of the actions of three of the command team. We also submitted that, in accordance with Article 2 (ECHR) the jury should be permitted to return a meaningful narrative verdict that could identify all the police failings that caused or contributed to the death of Jean Charles de Menezes.
The five legal teams representing supposedly separate interests of the police combined ranks to oppose our submissions, maintain that the evidence only supported a lawful killing or open verdict. The coroner ruled in favour of the police. As a consequence the family sought to challenge the decision, lodging an urgent application at the High Court. Mr Justice Silber considered the challenge in relation to the narrative verdict only but ruled that the coroner had a wide discretion and he would not interfere with his ruling.
The family considered that the coroner had effectively gagged the jury. Any verdict returned by them would have at best limited meaning and would not have the effect of holding the police accountable for any failings. At that stage, having exhausted all legal avenues, the family instructed their legal team to cease participating in the inquest proceedings.
We have lodged grounds to appeal the decision of Mr Justice Silber and our judicial review challenge of the coroner’s decision in respect of unlawful killing remains to be considered.
To date, not one police officer involved has been held personally accountable for failings that led to the death of Jean Charles. In fact the two most senior officers in the command team have been promoted. The law as it stands, effectively provides legal immunity for police officers who shoot innocent people in the cause of protecting the public.
This case raises questions of critical constitutional importance. Should our armed police service be protected from meaningful criticism (let alone criminal sanction) or are the public entitled to go about their day to day business free from the fear that they could be shot dead without warning if mistaken for a suspected terrorist?
For further information and background information visit: inquest.justice4jean.org
Detention without trial, the Internal Security Act raises its very ugly head again in Malaysia.
GERAKAN MANSUHKAN ISA
ISA Updates: 23 September 2008
Raja Petra Kamaruddin, editor of the popular political blog, Malaysia Today, today (23 September 2008) received a two-year detention order under Section 8(1) of the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA). The detention order was signed by Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar. Section 8(1) of the ISA states, “If the Minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary with a view of preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof […], he may make an order directing that a person be detained for any period not exceeding two years.”
According to Raja Petra’s lawyers, he will be sent to the Kamunting Detention Centre in Perak, where he will be detained for a period of two years from today.
Under the ISA, this two-year detention order can be renewed by the Home Minister indefinitely. No clear explanation or details were given the nature of the threat or national security risks. In fact, under the ISA, the Home Minister has no obligation to disclose to the public or the courts the details of the detention or release. This clearly shows that the draconian ISA constitutes gross abuse of power by the authorities.
Raja Petra’s lawyers have also filed a writ of habeas corpus at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, in a bid to release him from his detention.
Raja Petra Kamaruddin was arrested on 12 September 2008, under Section 73(1) of the ISA for allegedly being a threat to security, peace and public order. He is alleged to have posted articles deemed seditious and that also belittle Islam.
Two other individuals – journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and member of Parliament Teresa Kok – were arrested on the same day as Raja Petra’s arrest. The two were subsequently released – Tan on 13 September 2008, while Kok on 19 September 2008.
On 16 September 2008, ISA detainee Raja Petra Kamaruddin, the editor of Malaysia Today, was allowed to see his wife and two children at the Bukit Aman police headquarters.
According to Raja Petra’s wife Marina Abdullah, Raja Petra spoke very softly and looked weak, pale and lost much weight. Raja Petra complained to her that he was suffering from lack of sleep because the night before, he was harassed on an hourly basis by officers who recorded statements from him. He said he was never physically abused, but was mentally abused. Marina said that his blood sugar level had dropped. She also added that her husband suffers from heart artery blockages and is on medication.
Raja Petra’s lawyers filed a habeas corpus application at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on 16 September 2008, seeking his immediate release.
Detention without trial under the ISA a serious human rights violation
The ISA provides for ‘preventive detention’ without trial for an indefinite period. It violates fundamental rights such as the right to trial, the right to legal counsel, the right to defend oneself in open court and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. It goes against the principles of justice and undermines the rule of law.
This certainly is not cricket, but if you can be at the oval … (note the new use they have found for the side screens). Over three years after Jean’s brutal death, we need to remind the state of the extent of public disgust about the conduct of the police and the consistently failures to let Jean’s family finally know the truth.
As you probably know already, the coroner’s inquest into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes will begin on 22nd September. This is an important opportunity for Jean’s family to:
1) discover more of the truth about the actions on the police at Stockwell tube station in July 2005
2) have their legal representatives ask questions directly to the
3) have the secret ‘Shoot to Kill’ policy brought into the public domain
We must ensure that the inquest is conducted in a fair, transparent
and open manner so that the Metropolitan police feel the pressure of
Members of Jean’s family are travelling from Brazil and will attend the inquest.
The inquest will take place at The Oval cricket ground in Kennington and is likely to continue for three months. Proceedings will be held from Monday to Thursday every week, between 9.45am and 4.30pm. Members of the public can attend but space is very limited, which is a real concern. The coroner has arranged for an overflow room with a video link to the inquest, but this means the inquest jury will have no
indication of the public interest in the evidence that is presented.
This is coupled with the coroner’s decision to grant anonymity to 44 police officers, who will give their evidence from behind a screen. It is difficult to understand why they need this high level of protection and seems largely designed to ensure that named individuals evade responsibility for the deliberate killing of an innocent man. Both decisions severely undermine the principle of an open, transparent investigation.
TAKE ACTION – ATTEND THE INQUEST
We urge you to attend the inquest, particularly on:
22nd September – the first day, when the Campaign will be highlighting the lack of space for members of the public and calling for the inquest to be moved to a larger venue. Anyone coming on the first day of the inquest should try and attend a planning meeting on Thursday 18th September at 6:30pm at School of Oriental and African Studies, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square WC1H 0XG – stay in contact for
30th September – when the first police officer will give evidence anonymously and when the Campaign will be highlighting how this is an obstacle to public accountability. There will be another planning meeting on the evening of Thursday 25th September – stay in contact for further details.
STAY IN CONTACT
The Campaign has set up a blog for the duration of the inquest, which you can find at http://inquest.justice4jean.org. Here you can find details on travelling to the inquest, a calendar of forthcoming events, details of Campaign meetings, briefings and latest developments.
If you attend the inquest, please write a short piece about what happened and e-mail it to us. We’ll add it to the blog.
We can be contacted on 07944 069 956 or at email@example.com.
SPREAD THE WORD
Forward this email to as many people as you can and encourage them to attend the inquest or take one or more of the actions planned by the Campaign.
Send a letter to coroner John Sampson or an e-mail via his clerk, John Thompson, raising concerns about the issues of space and the anonymity of police officers:
H M Coroner for London (Inner South)
1 Tennis Street
Send a letter or email to the local and national press – e-mail addresses for the letters pages of national newspapers can be found at http://inquest.justice4jean.org.
Over three years after Jean’s brutal death, we need to remind the state of the extent of public disgust about the conduct of the police and the consistently failures to let Jean’s family finally know the truth. Now more than ever, we need everyone to act.
The Jean Charles de Menezes Family Campaign
Pantomime Terror lecture abstract. Latest version, still to be worked up. I am rethinking all of this, its provisional, its hesitant, its giving me a headache (of course) and it has to be ready soon. Yikes. And this is supposed to be the fun part!….
We are called upon to ‘report any suspicious baggage’ by constant repetition of security announcements at train stations and airports. Rather than provide a robust security service, such announcements seem to generate a new low level and everyday paranoia. The war on terror is generalized and does not happen ‘over there’, but almost absentmindedly occurs to each of us everywhere: the paranoia infiltrates our everyday lives and become normalized. The terrorist is right there beside us – behind us, among us. Watch out! I will argue that these announcements are part of a new kind of popular culture pantomime, with villains and heroes, and absurd storytelling to boot. That this happens alongside new legislation, new legal and administrative powers (detention, DNA, CCTV, MI5 Security ‘notes’); and stop and search security policing focused upon Muslims (and unarmed Brazilians shot on the underground) is the dark underbelly of the performative. Restrictions on civil liberties and ‘limits’ to freedom are proclaimed as necessary and debates about these necessities no longer raise concern – we assume someone is watching out, and we will report the suspicious bags if we see them. It is clear that spaces for critical contest are mortally threatened in contemporary, tolerant, civilized Britain.
Exploring the metaphor of Pantomime might be a way to comprehend the dysfunctional aspect of present times. This discussion reviews critical work by the musician Aki Nawaz from the band Fun-da-Mental in the light of pantomime performance. Nawaz was castigated as a ‘Suicide Rapper’ for his 2006 album ‘All is War’, but those that did so missed the nuances of his critique. Fun-Da-Mental’s earlier work relating to insurgency struggles, anti-colonialism and political freedom in the UK is assessed and contrasted to the farcical present climate where a 23 year old woman can be incarcerated as a ‘lyrical terrorist’, and both a 16 year old boy and a Nottingham University researcher can face charges of terrorism for downloading material from the world wide web. It will be argued that we might best see this as a kind of bizarre storytelling scenography – where repetition and stereotype do ideological work for security services who have no idea who the real enemy is, or if there is any enemy at all. In demonizing those who would raise critical questions, the ban upon ‘thought crime’ has become very real. And it seems as if the only vocal outcry is musical.
In this context, the work of scholars that search for the meaning of ‘suicide bombing’ lines up alongside that of the MI5 Behavioural Sciences Unit in providing inadequate and insufficient understandings of the current conjuncture. If the opposition communicates in culture, and Whitehall’s Research Information and Communications Unit counter with ‘spin’, we are either in a grave predicament, or everyone is treating this as a game. Denouncing the demonization of Aki Nawaz and the like as equal to the creation of pantomime villains, the presentation will argue for a more engaged critique of “culture” and assess a certain distance or gap between emancipatory political expression and the tamed versions of multiculturalism accepted by/acceptable in the British marketplace.
Invite to the lecture here. [The picture is from the Guardian news report on the MI5 behavioural Science Unit Operational Briefing 'note' which informed us that terrorists are ethnically 'diverse', mostly british nationals, not 'mad and bad' and might be either male or female, young or old, and have a range of qualifications from none to degree-level... Guardian 21.08.08]
The Full Report Here, lets you compare Copper’s view of ethnicity with Victim’s declared ethnicity. I include this text with a nod to the Lewisham bus dragnet around the same time, as mentioned previously here.
I have written on this before, here, and now it really is time Malaysia decided to lead the world and abolish their outrageous ISA (holdover from the anti-communist Emergency, and legacy of British colonialism). Seriously guys, get rid of this embarrassment, even if it means getting rid of Badawi as well.
GERAKAN MANSUHKAN ISA
Press Statement: 1st August 2008
48 Years of ISA: We have had enough!
1st August marks 48 years of existence of the draconian and infamous law called the Internal Security Act (ISA). The ISA has its origin in the Emergency Regulations Ordinance 1948, which served its purpose and was subsequently repealed when the Emergency ended on 30th July, 1960. However, the power of detention without trial under Regulation 17 was subsequently transformed into Part II of the ISA.
In 1989, ISA detainees’ recourse to the courts of law was further curtailed when we dutifully followed our southern neighbor in ousting judicial review in matters concerning the minister’s power to detain any person under ISA. With the amendment, detainees can now only challenge the detention on procedural grounds.
Abuse and torture under ISA
Under the ISA, detainees are subject to an initial 60-day detention period in special police holding centers, allegedly for the purpose of investigation. No judicial order is required for such detentions. The locations of these holding centers are kept secret, and detainees are transported to and fro in blindfolds. Visits by family members are purely discretionary and, contrary to Article 5(3) of the Federal Constitution, detainees are denied access to lawyers. As a result, the ISA has morphed into a powerful instrument of fear and suppression.
There have been many reports of abuse and torture perpetrated on ISA detainees during their detention. Among them have been: continuous interrogation by Special Branch officers for long hours without any breaks; threat of indefinite detention if detainees fail to answer questions directed by the officers; detainees kept in a small dark room; being forced to drink their own urine etc. There have also been reports of the Police Special Branch (SB) officers hitting the detainees’ penis and inserting hard objects into their anuses. The physical abuse has often been accompanied by vulgar and obscene words.
In a recent case, Sanjeev Kumar Krishnan (25) is now confined to a wheelchair as he has become partially paralyzed as a result of torture while under ISA detention, having lost the function of his left leg and hand. In another case, when the daughter of a current detainee, Shahrial Sirin, was hospitalized in serious condition, authorities delayed permission for him to visit her; by the time he was finally brought to the hospital his daughter had already died.
The Use of ISA under Abdullah Badawi
Since Abdullah Badawi came to power in 2003, the ISA has continued to be used in the same way in the name of “national security”, on people ranging from persons allegedly spreading rumours through SMS, to political dissidents and alleged “terrorists.” In 2007, the government continued its tactic of creating a climate of fear through the use of the ISA, threatening to invoke it upon bloggers who allegedly wrote inflammatory statements and upon those who participated in street demonstrations. This was stepped up in the run-up to the 2008 general election, and has continued to this date to prop up the ruling party’s weakened hold to the power.
Based on GMI’s monitoring, as of 30th June 2008, there were 64 detainees in the Kamunting Detention Camp. Most of them are alleged members of “religious extremist groups” including the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), while another significant number comprises those allegedly involved in counterfeiting currency or falsifying documents, and also THE 5 Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) activists. To date, none of the detainees has been charged with any offence in an open court. More than half of them are into their second detention order and out of that number, 24 are serving their sixth years detention and seven of them namely Yazid bin Suffat, Suhaimi bin Mokhtar, Shahrial @ Syahrial bin Sirin , Abdullah bin Daud , Abdullah Minyak bin Silam , Mat Sah bin Mohd Satray and Shamsuddin bin Sulaiman are serving their seven year of detention.
We have a vast array of laws which provide an adequate legal frame-work to deal with threats against national security, counterfeiting currency or falsifying documents which do not by contravene universally accepted principles of justice and human rights. Why, therefore, is the ISA still needed?
GMI, in existence for more than seven years, has succeeded, through its many programmes, in raising public awareness about the injustice and cruelty of the ISA. It has also been able to put continuous pressure on the government by campaigning at home and abroad. As part of an intensive programme to campaign against the seventh year of detention of a number of current detainees, GMI has produced several publications and pamphlets which have been distributed throughout the country. A candle-light vigil was held outside the Kamunting detention camp on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the longest-standing detentions, and more recently a large public gathering was held in a stadium in Shah Alam.
Since the March 8 general election, with 82 Members Parliament and five states under its controls, the Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) representatives have shown commitment to free the detainees and repeal the ISA. Several of State Governments concerned have also provided the much needed aid to the detainees’ families. GMI welcomes these commitment and measures taken by the Pakatan Rakyat governments.
GMI is encouraged by the growing public and international support for its campaign and resolves to continue with its work until its aims are achieved. In the following months, GMI will continue to focus on raising public awareness through exhibitions, petition on-line and signature campaigns. Specifically as one of the campaign against 48 years of the draconian ISA, a program open to public, called “Malam Seni ‘Tanpa Bicara'” will be held on the 2nd August 2008 in Bazar Melawati, Taman Melawati, Hulu Kelang, Selangor.
Finally, GMI once more urges the Government of Malaysia:
● To immediately debate SUHAKAM’s reports in Parliament and implement its recommendations to repeal ISA and other restricted laws.
Release all ISA Detainees!
Close down KEMTA!
Terrorists: you ignore them for ages, then a whole bunch come along at once. Or so it seems, as the everyday profiling of Muslims as threatening others reconfigures how we all move about the city. An old fashioned racism based on looks, surface and skin has risen to unquestioned prominence at the very time when discussion of race transmutes into talk of religion, ways of life, and civilizational virtues. We hear over and over in the mainstream press, and from the Government, talk of a clash of values, integration and of the need for community cohesion. This old ‘new’ racism is blatant and its prejudice is clear. Policy by scare-mongering and tabloid popularity poll. There is also a theoretical parallel to this in the work of scholars who write today about ethnicity, identity and culture, and even in the work of those who ostensibly would offer up radical critiques of the way the war of terror has been prosecuted by those in power.
Profiling is designed to fill us with dread. A culture of fear and anxiety provokes shivers and panic, has us tingling with unease. Everywhere I look I see intimations of this story – as I commute to work, railway station announcements warn that my belongings may be destroyed if I leave them; I am told not to hesitate to ask someone if an unattended bag is theirs; a general air of uncertainty pervades the tube; fellow passengers are almost too careful and too polite to each other; I suspect them of moving far away from anyone with even a hint of a beard and a backpack; and we all move away from those with Brazilian good looks (because we remember Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot by police at Stockwell). I avert my eyes and read my newspaper (a free advertising sheet, with minimal – often sensationalist – news); and even at home I am not spared, a constant stream of bombings on screen. Myriad incidents conspire to make us squirm.
This squirm is strangely marked by a transportation theme, and an iconic one, which – as I will suggest – is inflected with an unexamined uncanny aspect. It will be easily accepted that the red double-decker bus is the globally acknowledged symbol of London, you can buy trinket sized models of them in the souvenir stalls. As everyone knows, the bus became even more potently symbolic after the devastating bus and underground attacks on the morning of July 7th 2005. Indeed, we are continually forced to recall the horrific details: on that day three tube carriages and a number 30 Routemaster were destroyed, leaving 52 people dead.
The real face of terror for me is a delinking of cause and effect in relation to this incident and the bombing of this particular bus: it is what I will call a transportation mutation and a blindness of representation. It is my argument that as commentary turns to religion or culture, any critical response to the scene of the ripped open vehicle becomes somehow silenced, and that we become blind to what this image means. I am invoking here the terms used by Susan Buck-Morss and Slavoj Žižek in books that address issues of terror and violence. Along with Alain Badiou, they refer to such atrocities, and to the actions of suicide bombers, as mute, blind, silent and disconnected. This was also the perverse refrain of former British Prime Minister Blair in defending British foreign policy in the wake of the London bombings (‘there was no link between last week’s bombings in London and the Iraq war’ 25 July 2005 BBC).
In his 2008 book Violence, Žižek calls terrorist attacks and suicide bombings a ‘counter violence’ that is a ‘blind passage a l’acte’ and an ‘implicit admission of impotence’ (Žižek p69)? I find this not dissimilar to how Badiou, writing of September 11, 2001, starts his essay on ‘Philosophy and the War on Terror’ by saying ‘It was an enormous murder, lengthily premeditated, and yet silent. No one claimed responsibility’ (PolemicsThinking Past Terror, offers ‘the destruction of September 11 was a mute act. The attackers perished without making demands … They left no note behind … A mute act’ (Buck-Morss 2003 p23). It should be said she qualifies this with a question ‘Or did they?’, but the suggestion of an absent verbal – mute – message is something we should attend to, listen closely, consider again, and not just with our eyes scanning for evidence (hint: on the side of the bus, see inset), but with our ears and minds as well. In a similar tone, we might pass over the curiosity that Žižek chooses the infirmities of blindness and impotence to characterise the terrorist suicide bomber, as if the twin towers of September 11, 2001 in New York indicated a scene of masturbation (too much and you lose your sight) and castration (impotence, symbolic castration of the towers, mummy daddy, the old psychoanalytic staples are invoked, later it will be called a parallax). 2006 p15). Susan Buck-Morss, in her book
The point is that these theorists all agree on an absence of meaning that sets these acts apart. Badiou and Žižek’s claims about suicide bombings recall earlier comments by Buck-Morss on New York, where she suggests that the ‘staging of violence as a global spectacle separates September 11 from previous acts of terror’ and, as we should underscore, all three, dwell upon the absence of message: ‘They left no note behind … Or did they?’ (Buck-Morss 2003:23-4). More uncompromising and perhaps mischievous, Žižek in Welcome to the Desert of the Real, presents the event in his own peculiarly Lacanian perspective:
“The spectacular explosion of the WTC towers was not simply a symbolic act (in the sense of an act whose aim is to ‘deliver a message’): it was primarily an explosion of lethal jouissance, a perverse act of making oneself the instrument of the big Other’s jouissance” (Žižek 2002:141)
I for one am not satisfied with this. The task of a critical commentary is not just to stop and stare. It is also not just a matter of listing ever more details of the symptomatic eventuality that has to be pathologized. We might do more than read surfaces if we look closely at one such revealing detail, that has, curiously, been thus far ignored.
The scene of the July 7th tragedy is captured in widely circulated images of the wrecked bus in Tavistock Square, taken by US based photojournalist Mathew Rosenberg. One of his pictures, appearing in most newspapers the next day, showed the bus from a 45% frontal angle with a disturbingly ironic film advertising placard visible on its side. This was for the film The Descent, due to be released the next day (2005 dir. Neil Marshall). The Descent was a schlock horror-thriller about inhuman monsters in a cave visited by a group of friends who become lost and are subsequently killed off one by one. The cave is the least of the coincidences however, as Londoners read reports and looked at grainy mobile phone video footage from the dark underground. Could we even begin to understand this horror? And were we ready to absorb the irony that the portion of the film placard left on the side of the bus after the explosion clearly displayed a message for us all. Tangled metal and stunned commuters foregrounded by a torn but still legible placard. It says: “Outright Terror, Bold and Brilliant – total film”.
Hasib Mir Hussain was said to be the bus bomber (generally accepted as fact, although questioned by bus passenger and witness Daniel Obachike in his book The Fourth Bomb). Hussain detonated his bomb some 50 minutes after the three tube explosions. Speculation was that, having planned to also blow up a tube carriage, he had lost his nerve and was fleeing the scene, perhaps accidentally setting his bomb off while trying to diffuse it (there were reports of him fiddling with his rucksack). Because the bomber is dead, it is not possible to ascertain whether Hussain had intentionally targeted this particular bus. But some seem ready to decide, for example, my sociologist colleague Victor Seidler says the Tavistock Square bus bombing was ‘unplanned’ (Seidler 2007:10). Whatever the case about the bus – and I tend to think it is a gory coincidence – the thoughts and motives of a suicide bomber are never readily available even where the bombers leave messages and – in the case of Hussain’s co-conspirator, Mohammed Sidique Khan – bequeath us justificatory ‘confessional’ videos to be broadcast after the event. We have however to analyse these with something more than anxious fear. The interpretive work of reading the sign on the bus means refusing the broad brush that paints these bombers as merely mute and blind, even as we put names and faces to them – the very gesture which allows fear to proliferate. To profile and to silence is a double-play that only confirms the ‘bold and beautiful’ success of this terror, this atrocity.
Of course we can only watch those images for so long. Indeed, the image from the side of the bus seems to have been erased. It was not ‘Total Film’, despite the terrible irony, and it looks as if we cannot bear to discuss this much at all. Instead, we have a different mode of commentary, in which – I want to note this as irony too – we see a lot more Muslims on the news than ever before. Bombers Hussain and Khan are off-screen, but the frequent presence of Muslim community leaders as ‘spokesmen’ on British television news talkback is a part of a larger project, in part orchestrated by Government and its agencies (police, media) to manage the postcolonial nation in a context of war. Carefully selected ‘moderate Muslims’ must be identified, shaped and disciplined into a discursive non-fighting force – a class of persons of colour, compliant in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect (pace Macaulay’ minute) – while ‘extremist’, outspoken or otherwise non-compliant figures serve as characters fit for demonization, scaremongering and foreign policy justification. The good cop bad cop scenario is transmuted here into a management of appearances – the good community leader is set against the aggressive, often ridiculed, aberrant complainant. Brown skins are offered on screen in dual roles. Scratch the surface of appearance and what we have is a struggle over national identity, a contested arena of civil freedoms and a lost opportunity for real debate.
That the debate scenario of televisual news is a colour-coded fashion show is counterfactually reinforced by the continued parade of white models, white presenters, white authority – but I am no longer persuaded that the mere fact of having brown faces on television is a step towards equality. Visibility must mean something more – such that while we might now insist the skin tone of the speaker matters not so much as the speakers’ allegiance or not to a set of ideas, the degree that those ideas may more or less conform to a white supremacist agenda is itself reinforced again by skin. Rather than the contours of distraction and anxiety, the theoretical arabesques about jouissance, or of mute and blind violence, a louder and wide-eyed debate must be had now. Much has already been said, but the meaning is obscured and if we refuse to read the signs before our eyes. I think this is a part of a general obfuscation, a general avoidance. There are some that talk about war-on-terror fatigue – we are no longer capable of paying attention to the impact of this war on our day to day lives – but I think it amounts to a strangely deflected reaction to the suspicions that we know are everywhere present. In full face profile, the upfront discussion we need about everyday racism on screen and on the buses might then filter through our convoluted anxieties and point towards better understandings, and a more robust defense of those under attack. It is unacceptable to see brown faces accused and detained, having to deny wrongdoing over and over (as was 23 year old ‘lyrical terrorist’ Samina Malik, as well as so many other ‘suspects’). This war of terror as it plays out in the city means Muslims are subject to stop and search, special investigations, harassment and inconvenience, train stations and airports are an ordeal, suspicious looks are just a step away from violent attack and a rendition flight to Guantanamo. The face of racism renewed is that Muslims today are required to ‘get their house in order’, or they must ‘leave’: a spurious double play that sets a superficial tone for media commentary and excludes deeper perspectives. We cannot remain mute nor turn away blind to a racism that wreaks such pervasive destruction upon us all.
For publication in “Stimulus Respond”, issue four.
Badiou, Alain 2006 Polemics London: Verso.
Buck-Morss, Susan 2003 Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left, London: Verso.
Seidler, Victor Jeleniewski 2007 Urban Fears and Global Terrors, London: Routledge.
Žižek, Slavoj 2008 Violence, London: Profile Books.
Žižek, Slavoj, 2002 Welcome to the Desert of the Real, London: Verso.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/help/3681938.stm [accessed 24 March 2008].
http://daniel77witness.blogspot.com/ [accessed 24 march 2008]
“Ginie Lim Arrested, All Three Detainees Remanded for 3 DaysFollowing the arrest of Tian Chua and Jalaluddin Abdul Manap yesterday, 15 February 2008 after a submission of memorandum to the King calling for a Royal Commission on electoral system reform, another political activist Ginie Lim with the People’s Justice Party was arrested last night at the Brickfields police station during her visit to Tian Chua and Jalaluddin Abdul Manap who was under detention.
In the Brickfields police station, Ginie Lim was arrested when she took picture of the investigating officer, Inspector Hidayak who ordered several police officers using force to carry away Tian Chua who resisted to be sent into police lockup at about 10.00pm. Inspector Hidayak alleged Ginie Lim of obstructing in the duty of police officers.
Tian Chua and Jalauddin Abdul Manap were sent to lock up cells in Pantai police station while Ginie Lim was sent to lock-up cell in Travers police station, Kuala Lumpur last night.
This morning, the three detainess were brought to the Magistrate’s Court by the police for a 4-day remand application. The police argued that the remand orders for Tian Chua and Jalaluddin were needed to conduct further investigation on others who were involved in the alleged illegal assembly. As for Ginie Lim, the police alleged that taking photographs in the police compound is an offence. However, counsel Gurmit Singh that represented the three detainees argued that the remand application for Tian Chua and Jalaluddin were unjustifiable as the police had completed investigation by taking statement from the two detainees. As for the case of Ginie Lim, Gurmit Singh argued if taking photograph in police station is an offence, the police should just charge Ginie Lim and release her on bail. However, it was dissapointing that the Magistrate decided to grant the police a 3-day remand order on the three detainees. The detainees will be held until 18 February 2007.
On 18 February 2008, the police may apply for release the detainees or apply for further remand order and press charges against the detainees.
Clearly, this is an absolute abuse of powers by the police and deprived the detainees of precious personal liberty unneccesarily and unreasonably. We call on all to continue to call and write to the Brickfields police station and the Inspector General of Police to protest against the abuse of powers and demand for the immediate and unconditional release of the three detainees.”
This post from Subtopia is the sort of thing that puts blog-diary-experiment-notes like mine to shame. Even as I feel I need to skip over the authors first paragraph of self-deprecations (sorry) I find this really really useful. Sure, I have a long interest in prisons, see here, but if you want to start to get to grips with this floating carcereal violence (in a way more urgent than Foucault 101) then you gotta read the Subtopia post in full – and by doing so you also get to see the pics. So here is a taster, then click the link.
“…There is of course a long lineage of slave ships that date back probably as far as the birth of ancient civilization, but in more recent histories the prison boat (something different, though a seemingly natural progression) really started to evolve during the colonial era; and, not to our surprise, they served as a solution to the overpopulated modern prison systems that were falling apart, (not that different from today’s prison crisis or the similarly bursting detention facilities that hold scores of intercepted migrants, refugees and other global transients.) With that, it is hardly shocking that the construct of a floating prison continues to develop today”
Read the rest here.
I was asked to provide a response – well paid – to a questionnaire on New Media and Europe’s Muslims by the Ergo Advisers research group out of New York. As the ‘vanguard of a new model of advisory services’, they provide their clients with ‘honest and actionable’ research (this action bit will make the question quoted later seem, well, interesting). Ergo clients include: Fortune 500 firms, hedge funds, corporations, private investors, and NGOs – who will use this research, and feel secure because ‘Ergo stands alone in its ability to deliver the precise knowledge needed to thrive in today’s dynamic information environment’.
Suspicious and paranoid, first of all I thought it was a scam thought up by malicious freak friends who were having some xmas-time fun with the ‘dynamic’ rhetoric of new modes of research – ‘vanguard’ even – but I am assured this stuff is for real.
So, feeling I had no reason not to get further annoyance for free, I had the questionnaire sent to me. Needless to say I have not quite found time to fill it in (as if). (I’ve also a heavy cold, hangover, and a pressing visit to the cinema).
I have just now written back politely:
Can’t do it. With all good intentions, having read the survey questions, I was going to spend some time offering a critique of the underlying assumptions and how problematic I think this sort of ‘research’ is (its not research in any critical sense, its only going to be ‘useful’ to people who want to confirm stereotype and profile – as if European Muslims use new media any differently than anyone else…).
1. How successful have European governments been at counteracting the effects of organizing/mobilizing possibilities of new media tools for European Muslims (especially uses perceived as subversive or revolutionary)?
kind of give the game away. Unless this is a trick question, though its not the only one that reveals deeply prejudiced assumptions in this. I hope you don’t think critical scholars are going to participate. I certainly disagree with the framing, and wonder just what sort of results you will end up with.
For the record, I now am concerned as to why/who put you onto me as my research is not framed in terms even close to those set out here – but anyway, … Sorry I did not have more time to make a thorough critique – its the sort of project I like to skewer. You might consider some of the debates that have been going on here (the comments section, not the actual post).
Professor John Hutnyk. Researcher.
ps. needless to say I’ll forgo – ergo – the offered financial incentives/blood money.
By IRR NEWS TEAM, 11:00am, 28 November 2007 — A guide on what to do in the event of the death of an asylum seeker has been published by the Institute of Race Relations.
What to do in the event of an asylum-seeker death
Here is a taster (links not imported) from Lenin’s Tomb… It really is worth going to visit to follow the linkings:
“From the second Menezes was murdered, the police have pulled every means to protect themselves. They have lied about the circumstances of the shooting, they lied about who knew what and when, they lied about and smeared Menezes, they threatened a whistleblower. They sent the killers on a paid holiday, and then the CPS refused to prosecute. Now, the IPCC has produced/leaked its report, after having been altered due to legal threats from the police. …
The IPCC’s report focuses on the aftermath of the shooting, rather than the shooting itself: it is about the issue of who knew what, and when. Its conclusion gives Sir Ian Destroy The Brain Instantly Utterly Blair a free ride, insisting – quite incredibly in my view – that he was ignorant of what had really happened, despite several of his subordinates knowing exactly what happened. AC Andy Hayman is said to have lied to his boss about whether the victim was known to be among the four suspects, thus withholding information that he would certainly have to provide very soon, and that the Commissioner could certainly get from someone else in the organisation. No serious person could believe this. Hayman appears to have been behind a number of decisions, including the issue of a misleading press release on the day of the shooting, despite the fact that it had become clear before the release was issued that the dead person was Menezes and that he was not a suspect. Undoubtedly there was attempted deceit from top to bottom, but this inquiry has presumably done what it was supposed to: handed the public and the Menezes family a single head, for one part of the crime.
No criminal charges have been brought, there has been no public inquiry, and there is to be no change of policy. And this is important: the whole point behind the police’s outrageous conduct during this affair has been not only to defend the institution, but also to ensure that the policy is not questioned. Every bit of quackery from Ian Blair, every obnoxious intervention from ‘experts’ like Peter Powers, every diversion and red herring, has been pushed with the specific intention of maintaining the police’s range of extraordinary powers. And of course, only months after the shooting, the police were permitted to use shoot-to-kill in domestic and stalking cases. The team that killed Menezes would strike again. And let’s not forget that another victim of police shooting has been calumnied as a terrorist who was actually shot by his own brother, and as an evil paedophile. Anyone can be shot at, slandered, lied about, beaten, tormented – anything to keep that fucking policy in place.
Full post here.
More Menezes here.
From 19th to 24th September 07 we will gather at Gatwick Airport for
the first No Border Camp in the UK. This camp will be a chance to work together to try and stop the building of a new detention centre, and togather ideas for how to build up the fight against the system of migration controls.
Gatwick Aiport – The Border Point
Gatwick is a border in the middle of Britain. People arrive hereeveryday. People are forcibly deported from here everyday. It is a place where people are imprisoned for unlimited lengths of time withouttrial, where people are forced to hide underground and be invisible,where people are treated as criminals for the ‘crime’ of crossing the border.In Britain, the government has recently announced its intention tobuild a new detention centre, near Tinsley House, another detentioncentre at Gatwick airport. This will be another in a long line of barbarous prisons across the world, imprisoning people who migrate.Unless we stop it from being built.Not far from Gatwick there are other border fortifications: theimmigration reporting centre at Croydon, the airline companies who charter deportation flights and the ID Interview centre in Crawley. Anda few miles away are the border posts at Dover and Folkstone, wherefear of detection by the border police forces people to risk theirlives hiding under lorries, or in suffocating containers.
While the physical borders get fortified, governments also tighten upthe internal controls: from international databases to videosurveillance, biometric ID cards to electronic tagging. Just recently,the UK government has announced the introduction of the Sirene System.
This will grant Britain access to the SIS (Schengen InformationSystem), a EU wide police database for refugees and migrants, plannedto be extended to keep protesters from moving around.
A Tactics Laboratory
How does daily life, from the need to work for survival to the welfaresystem, reinforce these borders? How can we fight against the commonacceptance of borders, the idea of an inside and outside? How can we claim freedom of movement as a basic right? How do we assert ourability to decide whether to go or stay, according to our needs anddesires, not the needs of the state or the economy? How can we escapecontrol, and start building a movement powerful enough to challenge the
divisions between people?We need to share knowledge with those who have broken these borders,the hackers who escape control, those who survive without work andmoney, those who fight the detention system , those who question identities, those who have learnt to organise themselves withouthierarchy or divisions.Camp(aign)ing Against BordersThis camp is continuing the tradition of the No Border camps across the world since the late 1990s, and like the camps taking place this yearin the Ukraine in August and on the US/Mexican border in November. Itwill be a space to share information, skills, knowledge andexperiences. A place to plan actions together against the system of borders which divides us.We are aware that the struggles for “no borders” reach far beyond “openborders”. Without borders the idea of states will become obsolete,without states the national economies will be history. In a world without borders, nobody will ask for papers anymore.The camp will also be a laboratory of political and practicalself-organisation. The camp will consist only of people’s contributionsto this. We are aware of the borders which divide ourselves from each other, be it sex, class, race, nationality, or whatever. The bordercamps are experiments in how to overcome these artificial andseparating identities.
No Borders is a network of groups struggling for the freedom of movement for all and an end to all migration controls. We call for aradical movement against the system of control, dividing us intocitizens and non-citizens.We demand the end of the border regime for everyone, including ourselves, to enable us to live another way, without fear, racism andnationalism.
We move, we meet. We talk, we fight. Come camp with us.
And an idea for something to bring to the Camp… Let’s bring a Uni. See here.
Tian Chua is under attack from the Malaysian Government yet again (yawn – the regularity of the Malaysian Police State’s efforts to silence Tian just confirms his name as a sign of integrity that will not disappear). We can add this to a list of ongoing dodgy dealings on the part of the Cabal that rules the penninsula – Tian was previously a high profile internee under the Internal Security Act, which I wrote about here, and is of course not alone. On this new outrage see here, but also here for another Malaysian quibble I have. What are they playing at with these draconian laws and what not? – seems like Malaysian Police are trying their darndest to be as stupid as American, British or Australian ones, but with a twist.
Urgent appeal updates: 5 February 2007
Drop Charges against Four, Declassify Toll Agreements and Repeal the OSA
Tian Chua’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) office in Brickfields had been raided by two policemen at 3.05pm today, 5 February 2007, after questioning at the Bukit Aman police headquarters this morning. Tian Chua, together with three others – Dr. Hatta Ramli, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and Ronnie Liu – had earlier been summoned by the police to report to the police headquarters in Bukit Aman at 10am, 5 January 2007 for investigations after they had disclosed a toll concession agreement in early January 2007.
When asked for a warrant at Tian Chua’s Brickfields office, the police informed that none was needed to search under the Official Secrets Act (OSA). As of 3.57pm, the police had also arrived at Tian Chua’s house in Sentul.
We urge you to write and register your strongest protests to the following (see below) on these demands:
1) Drop all pending charges and state harrasment against the four politicians for revealing the toll documents.
2) Declassify all toll agreements between the government and toll concessionaires.
3) Repeal the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
4) Implement a Freedom of Information Act, and recognise the right to access information in Malaysia, especially in matters of public interest.
Please convey your concerns to:
Prime Minister’s Office
Prime Minister: Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Add: Federal Government Administration Center, Bangunan Perdana Putra, 62502 Putrajaya
Tel: 03 8888 8000; Fax: 03 8888 3444
Ministry of Works
Minister: Dato’ Seri Samy Vellu
Add: Tingkat 4, Blok B, Kompleks Kerja Raya, Jalan Sultan Salahuddin, 50580 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 2711 1100; Fax: 03 2711 6564
National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam)
Chairman: Tan Sri Abu Talib
Add: Tingkat 29, Menara Tun Razak, Jalan Raja Laut, 50350 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 2612 5600; Fax: 03 26125620
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com
Inspector-General of Police
IGP: Tan Sri Musa Hassan
Add: Ibu Pejabat Polis, Bukit Aman, 50560 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 2262 6015; Fax: 03 2272 5613
Attorney-General of Malaysia
Attorney General’s Chambers of Malaysia
Add: Level 1-8 Block C3, Parcel C, Federal Government Administrative Canter, 62512 Putrajaya
Tel: 03 8885 5000; Fax: 03 8888 9362
Worth a look, the day after Sept 11 is this project by Visible Collective.
The Gap in New York is also a bit of a rabbit hole:
“DISAPPEARED is a project by Visible Collective/Naeem Mohaiemen that uses films, installations, & lectures to trace migration impulses, hyphenated identities and post-9/11 security panic. The majority of migrants detained in recent security hysteria were from the invisible underclass of cities like New York– the shadow citizens who drive our taxis, deliver our food, clean our restaurant tables, and sell fruit, coffee, and newspapers. The only time we “see” them is when we glance at the hack license in the taxi partition, or the ID card around the neck of a vendor. When detained and deported, they cease to exist in the American consciousness. This desire to create a sinister outsider with dubious “loyalty” has a long pedigree, witness the World War I incarceration of German-Americans; the 1919 detention of 10,000 immigrants in the Anarchist bomb scare; the 1941 internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans; the trial and execution of the Rosenbergs; the HUAC “red scare” under Senator McCarthy; the harrassment of Deacons For Defense; the COINTELPRO infiltration of Black Panthers; and the continuing rise of the Minutemen militia.
CURRENT INTERVENTIONS Until Dec 1: Above Ground @ Tenement Museum, New York. September: State Of Emergency New York.
Various excerpts from our ongoing projects were presented as installations or lectures in New York (2006 Whitney Biennial; Queens Museum of Art; “Rule of Law” @ Broadway Gallery; Rubin Museum; Location One; Brecht Forum; “Knock @ The Door” South Street Seaport; Cooper Union Art & Censorship panel; “Detained” @ Asian American Arts Center), London (Performance Studies International), Liverpool (FACT Museum), San Francisco (Yerba Buena), Dhaka (Bengal Gallery; Public library), Delhi (Sarai Center/RAQS Media Collective), Houston (“How Does It Feel To Be A Problem?” @ Project Row House), Frankfurt (Staedelschule: “Politics of Image”), Stuttgart, Beirut (Home Works III), Karlskrona Military Museum, Berlin (KunstWerke: lecture by Natasa Petresin as part of e-flux video rental project), Chicago (Artwallah), Amherst (U Mass Amherst), Stockholm (Finnish Embassy), Manchester (Futuresonic), Belgrade, Helsinki (Kiasma Museum; Finlandia Hall) and e-Flux video library (various cities). While our work started in the American context, we have expanded to look at Europe & the Middle East, in recognition that anti-migrant xenophobia, coupled with Islamophobia, is not a new or uniquely American phenomenon. “
Weekly Worker 489 Thursday July 17 2003
From Guantanamo to Kumingting to Campsfield, detention without trial is used to divide and rule. John Hutnyk calls for an international working class response…
The resurgent idea of the concentration camp should worry everyone. No doubt we all have picked up along the way some idea of their horrors. Whether the German camps in World War II, or the gulags of Siberia, or even the strategic hamlets of the US ‘police action’ in Vietnam, camp detention degrades us all.
Such horrors can be seen on TV or at the movies, and increasingly contemporary versions can be read of in the press – from the offshore ‘Pacific solution’ and remote desert prisons for immigrants in Australia, to the US razor-wire Camp X-Ray for the Taliban at Guantanamo in Cuba. We are seeing more and more examples, not less.
This article is inspired by the recent success of the Anti-Internal Security Act Campaign in Malaysia, where Reformasi activists held at Kumingting Camp were released after more than two years in detention. As will be shown, however, this success, while welcome, is only a minor victory in a struggle that must be taken up everywhere – the camps are not unique to Malaysia. They have been, and are, a key component of capitalist imperialism – as the British, Australian and US cases show.
Razor-wire enclosures come in several different, but closely linked, forms, and in all cases their use is wholly political. Whether designed to manage the flow of workers into the advanced capitalist enclaves of Europe, America or Australia (asylum and immigration centres) or more explicitly to house political detainees and vanquished enemies or combat alleged threats of the new ‘war on terror’ (Guantanamo, Terrorism Act, ‘homeland security’), the logic is the same. The razor wire is ostensibly designed to control minds and suppress the people.
In Britain, the ‘asylum and immigration system’ is the formal name given to a regime that legislates for the detention of potential settlers and workers, and, along with forced dispersal, deportation and general intimidation – the demonisation of whole communities – this system is intended to work to control population and as such is a political infringement upon the whole working class. Over 1,500 people, mostly asylum-seekers, are presently locked up in detention camps and prisons within Britain and abroad, and have been detained without trial, without time limit and without automatic recourse to bail or public appeal. The detention centres, prisons and asylums are where the New Labour government locks up those who slip through the net of Fortress Europe – where borders and boundaries are set up by the state to limit movement, while capital and goods can move at will (commodity fetishism again). At the present time there are plans to build new detention centres in the UK with a target capacity of 4,000 and the European Union has approved the development of pilot ‘safe haven’ camps overseas, where refugees will be held within the countries they are trying to escape, or nearby (The Guardian June 21).
The constant escalation of talk about such schemes continues to encourage a public fear of ‘foreigners’, and by targeting refugees as a ‘problem’ and asylum-seekers as likely to ‘abuse the system’, people in need become the handy scapegoats with which to brand all immigrants and settlers as unwelcome.
Against this, it is an article of principle that freedom of movement should be accepted, even encouraged and condoned, and as part of our international context should apply to everyone, not just those subject to persecution in their ‘home’ states. Everybody should have the option of travel so that they might chose to move to, settle and work anywhere they like in the world. If capital is free to move across borders, it stands to reason that people, who, as workers, create the value of capital, should also be free to move. The detention centre system is a blockage to workers’ movement, and as such it is as political as the gulags – the fight against them must be taken up as a political fight of the entire class, internationally.
This applies to the more explicitly ‘political’ forms of detention too. If not targeting and demonising asylum-seekers, then the camp mentality targets ‘terrorists’ – on Guantanamo’s Camp X-Ray and since the opening of the global ‘war against terrorism’ there has been a remodelling of the technology of detention camps and it is in our interests to ensure they cannot be used against anyone – not muslims, not even (alleged) criminals, and certainly not against those fleeing political persecution. We should also beware that one day George Bush and Tony Blair may want to put us in such camps – it has been tried before.
Reinventing the McCarthyism of the cold war for new times, thePatriot Act and ‘homeland security’ in the USA gives the state sweeping powers of arbitrary arrest and detention of non-nationals suspected of being involved in terrorism. In Britain, under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act of 2001, police powers of arrest and detention are triggered by mere suspicion that someone may be involved in ‘terrorism’ – including conduct that in itself does not constitute a criminal offence, such as, perhaps, support for a ‘proscribed’ international organisation. The detention of any “foreign national” for an indefinite period without charge or trial because they may be “reasonably” believed to have “links” with terrorism, or are thought to be “a risk” to national security, is the thin edge of an anti-democratic and racist wedge that threatens us all. These attacks upon democracy makes it a potentially detainable offence to advance a “political, religious or ideological” cause, which would include a good many more people than you or I would like to see sent to the salt mines.
In a typical double play, the ‘war on terror’ opens up the possibility of locking away those who threaten the ‘homeland’ with the prospect of political alternatives and those who protest against the devastation imperialism brings to the other side of the international division of labour. Freedom requires the incarceration of others. Security equals war. Nation equals jail. Humanity equals inhumanity. New Labour has lost no time in reintroducing a full raft of imperialist, even totalitarian, legislative measures that impact primarily upon minority and working class communities. Initially the targets are so called “foreign nationals” who can be detained without trial on minister Blunkett’s “reasonable suspicion”, but as the hypocrisy of this demonisation escalates, the consequence is that everyone in Britain – loyal royal subject or not – is placed in jeopardy. The concentration camps must be defeated.
The image of detention has become a media standard. Few, however, experience the comforts of such a camp and come out to tell the story – Tian Chua of Malaysia is one of the few. On release from Kumingting detention camp in June this year, Chua said he had merely “exchanged one small jail for a larger one”. Political expression is at a premium in Malaysia. Interned for two years and three months without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA), Chua was spuriously accused of plotting an armed uprising; he was beaten, denied food, visitors and communications.
Chapter and verse could be cited about the camps at Buchenwald, Dachau and Auschwitz, but in each case the general point that detention is an ideological weapon as well as a political tool is already explicit. The image of the camps is cultivated in a dubious historical remembrance – selective and sensational, demoralising.
(To those who object to the conflation of the detention centres with concentration camps, the example of the Australian ‘Pacific solution’ should be borne in mind as a ‘final solution’ that abandons people fleeing political and economic austerity to death at sea, rather than by gas chamber. For an Atlantic example: “On June 20, a boat packed with hundreds of African would-be immigrants sank off the city of Sfax on Tunisia’s eastern coast, with only 41 of about 250 on board believed to have survived” (Herald-Sun June 30). Additionally, the modern substitution of the SS with employees of the Wackenhut Corporation does not seem to significantly alter the character of the camps.)
Conveniently the threat of detention silences dissent, engenders despair, occupies activists’ time, dissuades new recruits – its publicity acts in the old Spanish inquisition model of ‘showing the instruments’ – as Giorgio Agamben says, the “display of weapons” characterises the police in all eras: the display of the police power, beyond the law, is made public in the most visible way (G Agamben Means without end: notes on politics, Minneapolis 2000, p105).
Outside the Penang Museum in Malaysia today you can still see an old bullet-ridden Rolls Royce that once was used to ferry viceroys about the Malayan peninsula. The explanation offered for this exhibit, however, is somewhat vague. The bullet holes were earned at the assassination of the high commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney, in October 1951. What is not noted is that this was the highest-level kill achieved by communist insurgents during the so-called Malayan ‘emergency’. What happened in the villages during this ‘emergency’ should be of concern – wholesale detentions that set the model for strategic hamlets in Vietnam.
Malaya was the most profitable part of the empire in the years between World War I and World War II. But with grave shortages of rice and cloth, a malaria epidemic, collapsed plantation and mining infrastructure, this once most lucrative colony became the most difficult to rule. The local Chinese-led communists joined with the Malay community in a mass non-cooperation movement.
Of course international solidarity on the part of mainland Chinese was cast as ‘infiltration’ for propaganda purposes, and when support for the Malay communists came from Britain, this was concealed.
Out of the mass non-cooperation movement there developed popular support for the Communist Party of Malaysia. In reaction to the British declaration of a state of emergency in June 1948, an insurrection began, led by Chin Peng. This insurrection was self-consciously known, on the part of the Chinese and Malays and their international supporters, as a revolutionary war. On the British side it was characterised merely as ‘the emergency’, which was a calculated reference to alibi the declaration of special police powers above and beyond conventional law (non-war, non-Geneva Convention, as now occurs with Guantanamo Bay and the US failure to extend any rights to captured combatants).
Under Colonel WN Gray, appointed direct from Palestine as commissioner of the Malay police, the force expanded to 73,000, plus 17,000 “auxiliaries and Kampong guards” by 1952 (A Stockwell in Anderson, David and Killingray Policing and decolonisation: nationalism, politics and the police 1917-65 Manchester 1992, p110). Gray oversaw the introduction of resettlement and gave the Malay police the major role in defence of ‘new villages’ in order to separate the people from the communists – and food and information.
Stockwell writes: “The emergency regulations gave the police extraordinary powers of search and arrest, control of the movement of persons and traffic, and the authority to impose curfews … in late 1951 it was estimated that some 6,000 persons were being held in detention without trial” (ibid p113, citing O Lyttelton The memoirs of Lord Chandos London 1962, p372).
Detention without trial was the mainstay of the ‘security’ and ‘anti-terrorism’ programme of British rule, even as the insurgency became a war of attrition that effectively drained the colony’s profitability. The combination of communist insurgency and the international climate of anti-colonial pro-independence negotiations meant the British played their old divide-and-rule routine even in the run-up to an inevitable independence.
In July 1955 the Malay leader, Tunku Abdul Rahman, headed a coalition of the UMNO (United Malay National Organisation), MCA (Malay Chinese Association) and MIC (Malay Indian Congress) to victory in the first ‘federal’ election of the Malay colony. As the British debated handing over internal security and policing to the new chief minister, Tunku Rahman suggested an amnesty for the communists and with Chin Peng opened talks (A Stockwell in Anderson, David and Killingray Policing and decolonisation: nationalism, politics and the police 1917-65, Manchester 1992, p120). Chin Peng wisely offered peace as soon as independence, and control over security, was achieved. The British moved to forestall such alliance-making by granting Tunku immediate control of internal security through a ‘guided’ police service commission.
After independence in 1957 a gradual Malaysianisation of the upper echelons of the still predominantly Malay police force was implemented and Stockwell reports that the Malaysia police retained “a paramilitary role, [it] is centrally organised and has extensive powers of arrest of persons and seizure of property … like its predecessor it has been accused of acting as the instrument of repressive government, infringing civil liberties and neglecting ‘normal policing’” (ibid p122). The continuity of colonialist methods is shown in the fact that there have been 4,000 ISA arrests since independence: cases in 1987 numbered 106; in 2001-2002 over 60. These numbers are not as extensive as during the emergency, but the same strategy prevails in the absence of any form of insurgency – the ISA used as a tool of ideological repression. More rule than divide today.
When Tian Chua says he has swapped one prison for another, he refers to this heritage of so-called post-colonial Malaysia, where the ruling clique has adopted the policing strategies of British colonialism. Chua was originally detained with six others as part of a crackdown on Reformasi opposition leaders by Mahathir. Subsequent to September 11 2001, Mahathir has tried to present himself as a moderate muslim, yet curries favour with the US administration, detaining at least 170 alleged muslim ‘terrorists’ under the ISA laws – so similar to those adopted in Britain today. As I write, there are still 99 detainees being held at the Kamunting detention camp without trial.
Mahathir has been working closely with the British and US administration to set up a regional ‘counter-terrorism’ centre in Kuala Lumpur (L Fekete ‘Cynical manoeuvres in the war against terror’CARF 2000: 69, p12). Although the government alleged the present detainees have been involved in terrorist activities, no evidence has been produced to substantiate this allegation. Some of these detainees have been held without trial for almost three years. They languish in Kumingting while Chua tries to mobilise a campaign to demand their release. It cannot be stressed enough that they have not been charged, and they have not been tried. The ISA law under which they are held is a political law of suppression, incompatible with even the most rudimentary forms of democracy – and such laws are being adopted worldwide.
As with those who cross the borders of Fortress Europe or are interned in similar camps or prisons in Burma, Indonesia, Australia, the USA, these laws ensure people who protest are subject to political repression. In this respect detention degrades us all – the struggle must be international against the camps.
Having lost interest in the age-old sport of taunting ‘communists’ (with the House Un-American Activities Committee, witch-hunts and persecutions of the McCarthy period), the technology of detention camps awaited a new crop of recruits – mostly they turn out to be muslims, whether refugees from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, or alleged ‘terrorists’. To release those who have been detained without trial must be a first priority. If the detainees in any of the camps at Guantanamo, Kumingting or Campsfield have committed any kind of ‘crime’, there has been more than enough time to charge and try them – if they have not been charged and tried by now, they must be set free. They should not have been detained in the first place. To continue to ignore the atrocities of these criminal incarcerations makes us guilty of far worse crimes against ourselves than any enemy, real or imagined, could commit.
The new concentration camp detentions are an ideological weapon as well as a political tool. The opportunist uses of detention vary: in the one case we might find it used to deter others from the dissenting views that the detainees are held for, as I think we see in Malaysia. In another case we can see detention given a high profile in order to placate an already placid public, as in Britain where the detention of asylum-seekers and ‘terrorists’ is given much publicity (this spurious link is explicitly made, even though it has no empirical basis in law beyond a few traces of castor oil bean extract at an asylum-seeker’s flat – tanks deployed at Heathrow in response). The numerical incidence of detention here is insignificant in terms of government calculation of some sort of deterrent effect on asylum claims or immigration in general. It is a shameless appeal to the mass voting public, via the tabloid press, that alibis detention.
A third use of detention silences opposition leaders. The British used this tactic in India against the non-cooperation movement, even locking up Gandhi, and this is a part of the rationale behind the so-called anti-terrorist detentions in the US and the UK. As we have seen, detention can also take the form of the strategic hamlet: the village protected from itself. We often see this as capitalism responds to its critics.
Against the detention camps in our minds that excuse the demonisation of people as queue-jumpers, terrorists, communists, asylum-seekers, migrants, the slippage to all of us must be made clear. Against the detention camps in the concrete – at Campsfield; surrounding Fortress Europe; being built by New Labour; and internationally from Kumingting to Guantanamo Bay. The double prisons demand a break-out from the razor-wire security fences everywhere.
The campaign against the camps must be political. The liberal assurance that due process will sort out the true terrorists and illegal immigrants from those who ‘have no reason to worry’ is as naive as it is stupid – the bourgeois legislative process is patently faulty, as numerous examples show, and the definition of ‘illegal’, and indeed ‘terrorist’, is dubious in the extreme (who, and how, can a person be considered ‘illegal’ just through fact of travel?). Of course the government, keen to ensure its everlasting rule, will use all and every means it can to prevent challenges to that rule. The new security legislation in Britain empowers it to act to suppress any ‘political’ or ‘economic’ threat to its dominance.
Capital is necessarily an anti-democratic force, and its use of a farcical version of vote-every-four-years, forget-me-not ‘democracy’ is maintained through spin, degraded education, tamed media and lack of vision, backed up with armed force – in the interests of short-term profit and long-term rule. Of course the government will say, ‘If you have nothing to hide, no need to worry’, but history is replete with examples of whole communities, whole nationalities, being demonised on the basis of ‘terrorism’, without justification.
Sending people to detention centres without trial constitutes a political attack upon us all; that the detention centres contain the political and the economic detainee at the same time should indicate why this is important to communists – the political and the economic are combined, someone once said. The old tactic of the bourgeoisie is one that aims to exploit divisions in the class, encouraging racism against workers who come from ‘elsewhere’ – as if that difference were more significant than shared exploitation by the bosses. Against this, and the new anti-terrorism legislations, here and abroad, a defence of the democratic rights of those sections of the working class who are to be the immediate target of these measures – asylum-seekers, settlers, minority communities – must be seen as part of the struggle for the democratic rights of the entire working class. Without this struggle, the political expression so necessary for any serious mobilisation of the people is under threat.
As a matter of principle, communists should be against all restrictions on migration and political expression, whether that of political refugees or of so-called economic migrants (as if these categories were really borne of different means). Border controls are fundamental to the refusal of capitalism to countenance an integrated labour market. Were workers on either side of the international division of labour not so separated, the polarisation between reserve armies of labour and active workers would tend to be eroded, and with progressive consequences for the class struggle – as Marx noted, when he wrote: “Workers of the world, unite”.
The potential of that slogan becomes clear when we are confronted with immigration law, detention and the camps – a key dimension of our struggle. The abolition of immigration controls, and opposition to any initiatives that support such controls, must be an immediate aim. Detention centres are fundamentally an attack upon all workers as a class – they restrict the freedom of movement and freedom of expression of labour in a world where capital moves and speaks unhindered. This cannot go on.