Category Archives: war

Crisis what “crisis”

cocoaineCrisis Theory: From Capitalism and Back Again.

On examination of the current distribution of forces and potentials, it is clear that capitalism will not and cannot change. In the present ‘crisis’, there is little chance of it becoming a “more human” version of itself. It remains ‘the same’ – exploitation and class inequality are its fundamentals, and these ‘fundamentals’ remain sound.

But, keen observers of political struggles might ask, might not the left somehow profit from the crisis? Historically, from a radical wing perspective it has been in times of crisis that revolutionary change seemed possible. The first world war was, of course in complicated ways, the catalyst for the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. The second world war precipitated revolutionary success in China, and – although Nehruvian socialism did not have such a significant leftist character – independence for India. Note also, through the 1950s and 1960s, a cascading series of anti-colonial victories in Africa and Asia were achieved, in a century of revolutions, precisely on the back of the weakening of the colonial powers.

It would not do, however, to present an ambulance-chasing theory of political change. It is not only after crises that the Left can come to power, but there are no guarantees that the collapse in the fortunes of certain banks, real estate and car manufacturers means we can anticipate a more ‘humane’ less exploitative capitalism. As Marx showed (if one reads as far as volume three of Das Kapital) there are always profiteers ready to take the place of those who fail in deals that go awry: opportunism is an analytical variable that cannot be denied. This is true even if the present political predicament may or may not be usefully compared to the depression™ which more or less paved the way for fascism (in my view a limited rendering of the equation, often held by left groups, but misguided since the hostility of the European bourgeoisie to the first wave of communist uprisings – Germany, Hungary – also played its part in the rise of Hitler et al). Today, however, the conditions are patently not as ripe for a significant fascist upsurge, notwithstanding gains across Europe for the likes of the BNP or the misnamed Danish People’s Party. No, the factor of significance today is the absence of organised progressive groups able to take advantage of the conjunctural moment. There is an astonishing openness to change alive in the media and the public – nicer capitalism is on the cards, climate change aware, fair trade, less corrupt bankers and ministers… but where is the militancy that would push this sentiment forward past a mere business-as-usual capitalist restoration (capitalism with pretty window decorations)? The militant left presently seems particularly unable to organise its way out of the proverbial paper sack; the parliamentary experiment is constrained so much by tabloid and opinion poll politics that it dare not risk an idea; and the anarchist-cum-environmentalist left are torn between a corporate lobbying and an alternate lifestyle model that on both sides seems unable to forget what the 1970s did to sixties idealism.

The crisis as opportunity to change everything will therefore be a misfire. There are, of course, discussions in the highbrow press, of ethical constraint, new democracy, hope, and ‘yes we can’. This however is branding. Worse, it is the triumph of B-team bourgeois reserve politics. The brutality of armaments, automobiles and mining as the core profit stream of capital will be supplemented in the interregnum by new media, culture and service. Neither mode of production is incompatible with wage slavery. Where is the seize-the-time crew today if not already compromised with business plans and flow-chart projections? Without a Leninist organization ready to bludgeon through the idea that real change – radical root and branch uprooting of the four alls – all class relations that are the bedrock of exploitation, all relations of production that enable the owners of capital to profit from those who do the work, all social relations that rise upon these relations of production and all the ideas that justify them – without all this, there is no crisis; only a “crisis”. Stage managed and good for news entertainment. Watch carefully, CNN is going to make a documentary, with a slick, well-groomed presenter. Business-as-usual (hence the pic). Red Salute.

Struggle for Justice is necessary. Free Gaza by whatever means. This time by donation.


[Readers will know I do not endorse charity giving - see Rumour - but note the distinction between buying a boat for the Free Gaza movement and other good causes. This one must float. Lets buy a boat, ahoy].


Monday, 04 May 2009 15:47 Last Updated on Monday, 04 May 2009 19:20 Written by Free Gaza Movement

“From the groundbreaking work of Gandhi and King to the ongoing example of the Free Gaza Movement, we can discern the transforming power of nonviolence at a crossroads in our history.”
-H.E. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the UN General Assembly

Dear Friends,

we desperately need your help. It’s with heavy hearts that we have to inform you that the Free Gaza ship, the DIGNITY, has been lost outside Larnaca port in Cyprus. Fortunately, no one was injured in the accident.

On 30 December 2008 the DIGNITY was rammed by the Israeli navy while on a mission of mercy to deliver critically needed medical supplies and doctors to the war-ravaged Gaza Strip. Thanks to the heroic efforts of its captain and crew, the DIGNITY was able to find safe harbor in Lebanon, later making its way to Cyprus for repairs. Early this morning we received a call from the Harbor Master in Larnaca, informing us that the ship was taking on water. While attempting to tow her to safety, the ship went down. An inquiry has begun into the circumstances surrounding her demise, possibly due to storm damage suffered during the night.

All of us in Free Gaza are deeply saddened by the loss of the DIGNITY. Since the Free Gaza Movement was founded in 2006 we have worked hard to overcome the siege of Gaza. Israeli policies of racism, ethnic cleansing and the brutal military occupation of Palestine demand our determined & direct resistance. When our governments fail to act, we – the citizens of the world – must stand up and make our voices heard.

To date, the Free Gaza Movement has organized seven voyages to Palestine, successfully arriving in Gaza Port five times. We have brought dozens of human rights workers, journalists, parliamentarians, and others to Gaza, as well as tons of desperately needed medical and humanitarian supplies. Free Gaza boats are the first international ships to sail to the Gaza Strip since 1967.

None of this would have been possible without you, our friends. Your emotional, political, and financial support is the foundation of all our successes.

We’re turning to you today, because we need your help now more than ever. Please visit our donate page for more information on how you can help ensure our continuing missions to Palestine. Please give generously.

Despite our loss today, we will not be deterred. In one month we will return to Gaza with the HOPE FLEET, a flotilla of cargo and passengers ships carrying significant amounts of humanitarian and reconstruction aid. Thanks to your support, we will go to Gaza again and again, until this siege is forever ended and the Palestinian people have free access to the rest of the world.

This is our solemn promise.

Sincerely Yours,
Huwaida Arraf
Greta Berlin
Eliza Ernshire
Derek Graham
Fathi Jaouadi
Ramzi Kysia
Vaggelis Pissias
The interim Board of Directors for the Free Gaza Movement

PS: We’re suggesting a donation of €50, but please give what you can. Your contributions will go directly toward the purchase and overhaul of new ship that can break through the siege of Gaza and help connect Palestine with the rest of the world.

Letter in today’s Guardian

The massacres in Gaza are the latest phase of a war that Israel has been waging against the people of Palestine for more than 60 years. The goal of this war has never changed: to use overwhelming military power to eradicate the Palestinians as a political force, one capable of resisting Israel’s ongoing appropriation of their land and resources. Israel’s war against the Palestinians has turned Gaza and the West Bank into a pair of gigantic political prisons. There is nothing symmetrical about this war in terms of principles, tactics or consequences. Israel is responsible for launching and intensifying it, and for ending the most recent lull in hostilities.

Israel must lose. It is not enough to call for another ceasefire, or more humanitarian assistance. It is not enough to urge the renewal of dialogue and to acknowledge the concerns and suffering of both sides. If we believe in the principle of democratic self-determination, if we affirm the right to resist military aggression and colonial occupation, then we are obliged to take sides… against Israel, and with the people of Gaza and the West Bank.

We must do what we can to stop Israel from winning its war. Israel must accept that its security depends on justice and peaceful coexistence with its neighbours, and not upon the criminal use of force.

We believe Israel should immediately and unconditionally end its assault on Gaza, end the occupation of the West Bank, and abandon all claims to possess or control territory beyond its 1967 borders. We call on the British government and the British people to take all feasible steps to oblige Israel to comply with these demands, starting with a programme of boycott, divestment and sanctions.


Professor Gilbert Achcar, Development Studies, SOAS
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, Politics and International Studies, SOAS
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Professor Eric Alliez, Philosophy, Middlesex University
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akifdmliv1For Kiwi and Alexander’s book, I’ve started (very late, overdue) to reconstruct my talk from the Berlin Chameleons conference in Feb last year. Its a draft as yet. Here is the first stab at an intro….

I have that sinking feeling again: I don’t trust the chameleon. I don’t like the guise. The chameleon is embedded, goes undercover, incognito, prefers covert operations, stealth, intrigues, performs with a secret agency, organizes an underground resistance, clandestine ops, a conspirator of deception. The associative range of ‘camouflage’ and ‘immersion’, when thought of as something that might pass as a strategy for understanding work in the arts, humanities or social sciences, immediately invokes a range of military and official connotations that do not bode well for a progressive politics of knowledge. Journalists as well as academics have been exposed in various local dress, false stories have been planted in the press, dossier’s collected that masquerade as truth, propaganda lies. There are a great many examples of dishonesty, feint and deceit that pass as truth amongst the casualty machine that is war. Increasingly war is fought in the media theatre as well as in blood – with murderous weapons on the ground, and equally brutal machines of war on screen.

The military have always liked to dress up, often in burlesque manner, and it was only with modern warfare that flamboyance was not always a dress code. All those red tunics of Empire of yore… Contemporary wars now sport desert patters or jungle greens, and contemporary war reporters increasingly opt for battle field chic in their to-camera reports. Television news and documentary series thrive on the new aesthetic of the embedded, combat boot wearing, hot spot on the spot presenter, mimicking military campaigns to stream live from Baghdad, Kabul, or the border of Gaza (as I write few journalists can enter Gaza as Israel relentlessly shells a trapped population of millions). The theatre of war has its own costume department.

This is, of course, also true of the opposition. In this chapter I will have something to say of the Palestinian scarf, the Kufiya, in relation to solidarity and resistance, and fashion, just as I think its important to acknowledge the symbolism of media use on both sides. In news and commentary, there are critics of war who stage their interventions with a certain style just as much as do the public relations and publicity-conscious Generals. I think not only of the Japanese news presenter that wore such a Kufiya every night as he reported the attacks on Baghdad in 2003, but also the role of such a scarf in the iconography of Aki Nawaz from Fun^da^mental, a long-time severe critique of anti-Muslim aggression. This chapter wishes to chart a politics of representation and fashion, recognising perhaps that all camouflage is war; that all fashion shoots are hostile; that all journalism happens by way of conflict. Today, whether safe at home before the screen, or on the streets of <insert battle-zone name here>. all our reports are war stories.

The chapter will go on to discuss Aki Nawaz’s recent adventures in media and on the Free Gaza boat, Ted Swedenburg’s excellent Hawgblawg, and research strategies under conditions of total war….


millie-yoot1The Observer of course slants the story the wrong way, always appearing to be news when it manages always to voice the ‘news’ of the ‘authorities’ (cops good; and its women and children over against ‘masked youth’ [see pic]). The saturday demonstration in London was about much more than trashing Starbucks or fashion stores, even if people did have to dress up for the occasion [see pic]. There is much to be read between the lines of this Observer puff. Violence did not ‘erupt’ – it started in Gaza. The panic did not ‘ripple’ through the crowd – it was anger at the atrocities and at the introduction of riot cops and mounted police. They say 20k, we say 100k. The relevant number is not in London: how many dead in Gaza today? Still, let’s read the report:

Violence erupts at embassy protest

Violent clashes broke out near the Israeli embassy in London yesterday as tens of thousands marched in protest against the military action in Gaza. Shop windows were smashed and police pelted with missiles by masked youths near the embassy during the largest demonstration in Britain against the Israeli offensive.

Last night, broken glass and debris littered the scene of the disturbances on Kensington High Street, where ranks of riot police waited behind locked gates near the embassy entrance.

Earlier in the evening, a number of demonstrators attacked a branch of Starbucks, smashing its front windows and ransacking it before shattering the facade of a clothes shop.

It continues here. [and must continue elsewhere: see pic]


snc00146My fingers are falling off for cold, typing with gloves on. This with a heater under my desk – its sub-zero in London, so that should explain my silence so far this year, though I still maintain nothing explains Obama’s silence on the Israeli military’s crimes in Gaza (he finally said something vaguely related today).

2009 has started out bleak huh. The temperature appropriate to the mood.

I guess the inevitable news cycle shift will occur in about ten days, by which time the too many dead will be off screen. Second Wave posted a link to Nahida’s comparative bombings post on Palestinian Mothers. A certain ironic even-handedness. The pics are still grim, but the ones elsewhere on her page of the blog show yet worse atrocities, if you can look, you must look. All photos are war photos – even happy snaps are tainted by war.

Gaza as Distraction

obamaWe cannot cannot cannot excuse them. But looking for distractions after several days of Gaza watching might be inevitable … Look what they done to the Dignity boat (from Al Jazeera). Was that meant to distract us from the atocities? … Richard Falk come back, why have you gone off air after calling it this morning on the world service ['a shocking series of atrocities by using modern weaponry against a defenceless population - attacking a population that has been enduring a severe blockade for many months' <here>]. Maybe we can have maths as a diversion = Do we now have an equation – submit the numbers of dead to calculus – 345 Palestinians, 4 Israeli’s = 1::85 ? This is horrible. And in the meantime, as has been pointed out elsewhere, the US President Elect is trying to channel George Bush’s dad (remember how he also confused Golf with Gulf?). Oh “Yes we can” – shhhh.

So, distractions are clearly needed since we have been here before… If you do not fancy golf, you could profitably spend a moment looking at Ted Swedenburg’s hillarious post on Condi’s trinkets (anthropologists never really get over that Gift/Kula/Malinowski/Mauss/Hau theme huh). See it here. Thanks Ted. It is the bling that makes it obscene.

Jean Charles de Menezes

target_small1You 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:

Malaysia ISA and Terror

ISA itself has served as an instrument of terror of the State

The Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI)/ Abolish ISA Movement (AIM) finds the statement from the deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak that “ISA has protected country from terrorism” (NST 2nd December 2008) and that “the main reason why there have been no serious acts of terrorism in this country is because we have in place the ISA” is baseless and unconvincing.

Now the question is how an Act like the Internal Security Act (ISA) which allows detention without trial can be used as a tool to protect the nation from terrorism? Today, most of the detainees in Kamunting are those who are linked to the JI (Jemaah Islamiyaah) and DI (Darul Islam) movement. Currently there are five alleged JI (Jemaah Islamiyyah) detainees who have been held under the ISA for seven years. They are Suhaimi bin Mokhtar, Abdullah bin Daud, Mat Sah bin Mohd Satray , Shamsuddin bin Sulaiman and Abdul Murad bin Sudin. Many more are being held there for more than 2 to 6 years. Although the government claimed that they have sufficient evidence to show that these detainees are linked to terrorism activities, but until today none of them have been charged in an open court. How then the government can ascertain that these ISA detainees are terrorists without a court trial? Without the scrutiny of the court, how the public can be assured that there is no misuse of powers to detain innocent people?

Is Najib implying that blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Selangor State Exco and Member of Parliament Teresa Kok, Sin Chew Daily’s reporter Tan Hoon Cheng and many more political and civil society activists are all terrorists?

In reality, the ISA itself has served as an instrument of terror of the State and used consistently against dissidents who have defended the democratic and human rights of the Malaysian people. The ISA has been kept in use all this time mainly because it is a very convenient tool at the disposal of the ruling coalition.

Practicing arbitrary arrest and detention without trial by hanging on to an anachronistic law, which was formulated to tackle the emergency situation many decades ago, only disgraces Malaysia in the eyes of the world. The Malaysian government which is also a member of the Human Rights Council should be ashamed for using the barbarian law like ISA, which runs counter to the Federal Constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

ISA detainees must be given recourse to a fair trial in conformity with international standards of due process and access to full legal representation and family members. If no evidence is found against a detainee, he/she should be released without delay, as holding them indefinitely merely on the basis of suspicion is a blatant violation of due process. This principle should not be compromised in any circumstances. If the Malaysian government objected to the detention of alleged terrorists without trial by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, why then detain alleged terrorists at the Kamunting detention camp in the same way as the United States does?

We strongly urge the government stop the double standards, abolish the ISA and release or charge all the ISA detainees who have been detained without trial under the ISA immediately. The people will continue to struggle until the ISA is repealed completely.

Released By,


Secretariat GMI

Guest Image by Shiva Sulla Quinseina

“this is a photo montage I made and that I would like to put on your blog (it is in tune with your paper I realize)” – Shiva Sulla Quinseina

First Human Terrain Team casualty

As anyone who might have looked at my writing in ‘Jungle Studies’ (here) or ‘Clifford’s Ethnographica’ (in Critique of Anthropology and reprinted in Bad Marxism) knows, I am not much of a fan of the close embrace that anthropology has with imperialism. Having argued that the old ‘Anthro as Handmaiden of Colonialism’ argument needs to be updated to ‘Anthro as Globalization’s Filthy Pimp’, I am also not a fan of the mealy-mouthing of ‘pledges’ and worthy declarations (Catherine Lutz art CASCA was ok but too mild). I think a more active resistance to the disciplinary apparatus of war – knowledge in the service of death – is required. So, while no doubt upsetting for his family and friends, the death of Michael Bhatia cannot be taken just a marker of why this stuff is wrong, but why opposition to military anthro has to be a part of the opposition to the war in general. From Bill Stamets article from In These Times

“In 2007, his 4th Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division was the first to use a Human Terrain Team. It was also the first to have an HTT fatality. On May 7, 2008, a roadside bomb in the Afghan province of Khowst killed Michael Bhatia, an Oxford doctoral candidate and the brigade’s field social scientist. After his year-long contract, Bhatia had planned to finish his dissertation titled “The Mujahideen: A Study of Combatant Motives in Afghanistan, 1978-2005.”

A year long contract – another reason why lack of adequate funding for research and why forced temporary and short term employment contract research ain’t a good way to run a University. Thanks Kee, who pointed out the piece, which links up nicely with this.

Pic is of Major Robert Holbert, Anthropologist!

HQ Terrors and Uncertainties

Apropos research agendas and what the HQ might be up to. This (renewed) call is just out from ESRC/AHRC. It follows some debate already mentioned here, here and here. But I think now the conjoining of environmentalism, poverty and terror research ads a new, still more spurious fold.

“From: “ESRC
Date: 18 June 2008 12:22:43 BST
Fellowships under the RCUK Global Uncertainties Programme

Please could you bring to the notice of your membership the following
forthcoming opportunity for fellowships under the RCUK Global Uncertainties

RCUK Global Uncertainties Programme: Security for All in a Changing World
ESRC/AHRC Fellowships on Ideas and Beliefs

Call Launch: 30th June 2008

At the end of June there will be a joint ESRC/AHRC call for proposals for
Research Fellowships addressing key elements of the cross-Council programme
on Global Uncertainties: Security for All in a Changing World.

The cross-Council programme aims to understand the nature and interactions
of five global phenomena: conflict, crime, environmental degradation,
poverty and terrorism. Within this cross-Council framework, this Fellowship
call will focus specifically on ideas and beliefs. The call specification
is currently under development but headline issues will likely include:
• How ideas and beliefs evolve that underpin risks and threats evolve,
and why and when do these develop into violent or criminal activities
• Role of access to knowledge and information
• Communication and representation of risks and threats including the
use of language, images and symbolism
• Relationship between national security and civil liberties debates
• Role of different security institutions

We will be running workshops in different parts of the UK to explain the
call to potential applicants. Current thinking is for workshops in
Birmingham, Edinburgh, London and Southampton.

Please see the ESRC web page for further information and updates on
workshop details:

Any queries should be directed to:

This email has been scanned by the MessageLabs Email Security System.
For more information please visit

Public reading of ‘radical material’ that led to ‘terror arrests.

Demonstration against the deportation of Hicham Yezza and for academic freedom

Nottingham academics to give public reading from Al-Qaeda training manual.

The document had been downloaded from an official US government website, for academic research into political extremism.

Photo Opportunity: Outside the Hallward Library, University Park Campus, 2:00pm, 28/05/08. The reading will be followed by a silent protest to the Trent Building, the administrative building. There will be hundreds of students present many of whom will be symbolically gagged. There will be sales and a collection in aid of Hichams’ legal fees.

The demonstration was originally called to voice outrage and concern over the threat to academic freedom, illustrated by the recent arrest of two innocent people on campus. The focus has now widened to include support and solidarity for one of the arrested, Hicham Yezza, who is now facing imminent deportation.

Hicham Yezza, know to his many friends as ‘Hich’, has lived, worked and studied in Nottingham for the past 13 years. He won a scholarship to study for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, and was later employed by the University of Nottingham. He is highly skilled and has made incredible contributions to the University and local community.

Hich’s MP, Alan Simpson, has written to Liam Byrne Minister of State for Borders and Immigration to express his concerns at what he described as an “arbitrary deportation with no right to a proper hearing.” Nick Palmer, MP for Broxtowe said, “I hope that Mr Yezza will have his case fully and fairly considered without any rush to deport him before all the facts are clear.”

Petitions are currently being signed by hundreds of students and academics worldwide, asking the University of Nottingham to lobby for Hicham’s release and to guarantee academic freedom on campus for all staff and students regardless of their ethnic background or political views.


Contact the Campaign:

Phone: 07948590262 or 07505863957



Frankenstein in Iraq

me-lie.jpg“wretch … it is well that you come here to whine over the desolation you have made. You throw a torch onto a pile of buildings, and when they are consumed, you sit among the ruins and lament the fall” (Shelley Frankenstein 1818/1992 228)

I was sent some systems static by a close friend from America, who feels it more than most (but just as much as we all should feel). Not without a certain justifiable anti-patriotism, she offered a lot of questions about the plight of the boy soldier returned from Iraq, and these questions were more than I can ask or extend here – and are by and by engaging. But there are so many angles that for the first time I think that to ask questions is not even part one of the story. More like: when and why did we stop asking questions with an angry passion? Why did we start mouthing the words of critique? rather than finding better ways of putting critique to use? Naive eh, sometimes I just don’t get it. I don’t get it when what seems clear turns into convoluted mud, and I don’t get it when the committed and the dedicated also stall.

I certainly don’t get it when those that were not on ‘our’ side, turn themselves over to ‘our’ side, and yet still seem to have missed the point.

I am stuck in a convoluted never never land where it is ok, and even normal, to ask what is a confession? More, what is a confession of remorse when the atrocity is a crime against us all?

What can we do with such terrible stories from the wastelands of hypocrisy?

“…next image. This man right here was my third confirmed killed. As you can see, he was riding his bicycle. Later on in the day, we went ahead, and we had CBS’s Lara Logan with us, but she was with the other squad, and so she wasn’t with us. So, myself and two other people went ahead and took out some individuals, because we were excited about the firefight we had just gotten into, and we didn’t have a cameraman or woman with us. With that being said, any time we did have embedded reporters with us, our actions would change drastically. We never acted the same. We were always on key with everything, did everything by the books. The man on the bicycle, he was left in the street for about ten minutes until we realized that we needed to leave where we were. And his body was dragged about ten feet to the right of him, where his body was thrown behind a rock wall and his bicycle was thrown on top of him”

So, although I was sent this confession of the winter soldier on ‘Democracy Now’, I do not know what or how it confesses. Harrowing, and yet all stuff what we already knew.

Its My Lai again, but in the desert 40 years on (the My Lai massacre was May 16, 1968 – about 500 dead by ‘unofficial’ body count). Can the confessing soldier be redeemed. Ulysses took several months beforehand, and the players will never say cafe or leave a trip… too bourgeois…. ([added later - I was so tired end of term that I have no idea what this sentence was meant to really say - Odysseus must have been coming back from war with some sort of bloodfeast on his hands, but it took him ten years to muster up the courage to go back to his son Telemachus and wife Penelope. The players saying cafe and tripping - leaving a tip for a coffee - refers to who knows what... its the end of term, I was nodding off on the keyboard])

Frankenstein’s monster is full of remorse at the end, and prepares a funeral pyre. The horrific winter soldier’s tales are less honourable and have something self serving in them.

Frankenstein himself is addled with laudanum, unable to sustain his bourgeois genius:

“Ever since my recovery from the fever I had been in the custom of taking every night a small quantity of laudanum; for it was by means of this drug only that I was enabled to gain the rest necessary for the preservation of life. Oppressed by the recollection of my various misfortunes, I now swallowed double my usual quantity… (Shelley 1818/1992:189).


Several cascading families, social turmoil, ecological catastrophe … and no return … just say maybe to drugs. The soldier will need medication to get through those stories, and with not much of a public health support infrastructure in the States, his future as a Rambo-type crazy lost in the American badlands seems guaranteed. The monster has not burned on the pyre so much as turned into a self sustaining culture industry.


Writing Diary

The diary, a memoir, notebooks, letters from the field – the ephemeral residue of the research process of anthropology has increasingly attracted attention, become raw data for cultivation, sifting the soil. This text offers an elaboration and personal appropriation of the flux of comprehension across the unusual long-time visitation of a peculiar mode of culture vulture inscription practiced by some of those we call ‘ethnographers’. Ethnographer – the one who writes culture, but in the examples I want to consider here, does so over a long dureé, returning, in person and in purpose, not always both, to the site of a certain fieldwork. I am interested less in the fly-by-night consultancy that seems to gain in popularity as anthropology as an academic discipline wanes, nor do I mean that first year ‘training’ visit of the apprentice doctoral student that most anthropologists once were (they sometimes stay, they often return, I am not dismissing these visits, but looking to the recidivists). I am interested in the dynamics of a certain commitment, and its lacunae. Consider for example the anthropologist that returns each year for twenty or thirty years to the same village, town or urban area, watches families grow and places change, gets to know the locals and becomes part – if a somewhat irregular part – of local lives. Such a person – at first a stranger, more and more a familiar stranger – accumulates friends and debts, histories and enemies, may forget as much as recall, possibly learns to not jump to conclusions, explanations, understanding, and so understands all the better, and less. Over twenty years it is common that youthful enthusiasms are tempered by the realization that one ever knows less and less as knowledge grows. I am interested in this, and have diaries, notebooks and letters to help me make something of the scene.

Indeed, I have been worrying about this little corner of my office for a while – a pile of books and notes, some of them my own diaries, those of my grandfather, those of friends accumulate. Also, there are a good many great texts to be considered. For the moment I am leaving aside some of the best – Claude Lévi-Strauss and his “Tristes Tropiques” (he is 100 years old quite soon), Jean Genet in love in Palestine, Michel Leiris’ examining his Manhood, even the more conventional anthropology of Victor Turner and Sandombu or M.N.Srinivas and “The Remembered Village”. I will not forgoe some of the worst, or rather some of the most heavily cultivated, already over-farmed, franchised and perhaps turned into show-garden displays suited only for exercises in flower arrangement. I will write again about Malinowski’s diary, of which ‘everything has already been said’ (Rapport 19 XX). And I will dig about in my own soil a little too, at risk, great risk, of indulgence.

“My works are only waste matter, once they leave my body they cannot stand up by themselves” – Artaud.

I also want to talk about war. Wars and knowledge. Writing and its ephemera as a record of war. To think of the diary as analogous with warfare is one of Michael Taussig’s conceits in “Law in a Lawless Land”, his Colombia diary, published 2003. In that text, after some thirty years visiting a town in the Cauca Valley, the ethnographer published an elaborated diary (diary entry reworked at home – in New York and in London) documenting the rise of the Paramilitary in Colombia, who kill, assassinate and ‘cleanse’ towns and villages in response to/death-embrace with the left-wing FARC Guerrilla . To think of writing a diary as cathartic engagement, also a cleansing, means to think of writing as tactic and strategy of a war machine analogous with the Frieikorps of Germany and the henchmen of Hitler’s SA (Taussig 2003:11). Not a fashionable association by any means, suggesting an indictment of writing. Editing is glossed as tactics and strategy and the cut-ups of William Burroughs are a weapon. I suddenly remember that Malinowski’s diary is a war diary too.

In 1914, at the outset of World War One, Malinowski found himself in Australia…

[…here I would put a bunch of stuff about Malinowski as a war exile, right up to his comments on anthropology as a way of dealing with ‘the problem of Black Bolshevism’]

What I mean to say is that all diaries are war diaries, at least in the anthropology I read, whether it be the traditional far far away reports on the Third World and other brutal fictions, or the slight narratives inadequately rendered as ‘anthropology at home’ which persist in finding a patronising tribalism in the activities of locals that are merely not anthropologists: called migrants, marginals, deviants, exotics – diasporics, subcultures, women, the working class. This paternalism structures writing even when attempts are made at ‘study up’ or at ‘multi-site’ fieldwork: simulation tribal subjects are still made to conform to the ethnographer’s authority and expertise under the professional credo of a social science that says, ‘see these strange people, look closer and I will show you they are not so strange at all’. We do not have many diary format studies for the metropolis or for corporate sociology, and there are reasons for a lag in the uncertainty and doubt in the author-writing-structure where the powerful are concerned. Which is itself revealing, I guess.

But Taussig looks back over his ‘notes scribbled down at the time’ and ponders ‘over the frankness, the naiveté, and the imprecision’ (Taussig 2003:47). I am struck that such scribblings do not often appear in the texts of the urban anthropologists, and know the doubts of reflexivity, and the consequences of a political reassessment, have not (yet) transformed certitudes and authorities ‘at home’. This does not mean I am easily convinced, or that I even want to be easily convinced, by the enactment of uncertainty and doubt in the text of the Colombia diary. Easy queasy. There is still a very big problem of the subaltern and proprietary rights and writing at several levels. A longer quotation on the gang and guns-infested squatter settlement at the end of town might illustrate the tos and fros:

“Variously known as ‘the barrio’ … I keep wondering if the people who tell me about [it] in such vivid detail have ever been there. And what does it mean if all this imagery comes second- or third- hand? The logic is cruel. Because the barrio is so dangerous, nobody goes there, so people feed their fears through telling on another these stories. But can it be entirely fantasy? There must be some crucial connection with reality. But maybe that’s the inferiority complex of the ethnographer, not to mention the friend, who defers to the native’s point of view? What I mean is that you always submit to the authority of the trusted confidante, that because she lives here all her life, and sees so many people from different walks of life each day, she must get a true picture. But maybe that’s wrong? For surely a collective fantasy resists truth and makes its own reality? I go round in circles, which only gets more confusing when she tells me that either the police or the guerrilla supply the barrio with arms” (Taussig 2003: 61)

So many of the sentences in this paragraph begin with ‘but’ in a way that belongs only to the diary form, even if added to the scribbles later. It is important to remember that the published diary is always edited, for Malinowski in several ways, and this is true even where Eric Michael’s sad and tragic “Unbecoming” unravels the conceit of the locked journal with a vivid terminal urgency. Taussig’s diary elaborates in a way that stages diary-writing but has a greater purpose. It is the form of the diary at the service of ethnography, and may be the best way to tell the personal stories or terrible violence he collects from the people he knows in the town. Brothers, uncles, neighbours are killed, retributions, revenge, stalled legal proceedings and threats, fear and silences: ‘the more violence and horror, the more my work seems worthwhile’, writes our diarist (Taussig 2003:28) – but I suspect this was not written in the real-time diary itself, it must surely, necessarily be post-hoc, mustn’t it? This is ok. The diary form facilitates a writing that is not not ethnography, and includes phrasings like ‘in my opinion’ at he end of controversial sentences (Taussig 2003:31). To find a form of writing that best conveys what is so hard to convey is itself a great ethnographic skill, in my opinion.

Longer rhythms of fieldwork – sometimes – offer from anthropology a longer contextualisation of economic and political history. Usually a tragic story, these can be narratives of encroachment, invasion, ‘development’ and transformation, at best a heroic tale of resistance, more likely the notebooks tell of corporate appropriation and capitalist transition (not without romantic and pastoral nostalgia). Taussig laments the lost beauty of the ‘three-dimensional farming’ of the integrated forest and mixed economy (Taussig 2003:20) now replaced by sugar cane.

Transition is the context of so much ethnography, and for a long time has been impossible to ignore – already noted my Bronislaw, but made manifest in the work of the Manchester School and Gluckman et al

The war is always a part of a bigger war, and that is what we need to also understand. The encounter and the specificity are suspended in vicious webs of signification, or concentric circles, or venn diagrams that accumulate and overlay each other until the forest blocks out the trees. Yet this is the task of the little stories we will tell. That an encounter in a village in the tropics off the coast of Papua New Guinea is a part of a wider struggle between capital and those not yet pacified for commerce is a long bow. It can be drawn, and I only sometimes think this is a task only for Oddyseus, who has travelled twenty years from island to island.

Anthropologists today have learned to take an interest in ‘state declared tax-free zones called “industrial parks”’ (Taussig 2003:21)

What is the contribution that a diary can make that other forms of writing cannot? Is it a gentler form of persuasion, is it a more nuanced way of getting into the personal complexity and out and out messiness of lived experience, even amidst war, is it to remind our readers, and moreso ourselves, that the everyday has a greater impact than clinically calculated sentences do not capture? Does the diary form capture? Kidnap? Detain? Render (as in rendition)? Execute? Does it do all this all the more viciously for its mufti disguise? Camouflage is a uniform too, and khaki is not by accident the base colour of choice for the military since the 1840s.

More to come on: Rachel Corrie diaries, and War diaries from the Mass Observation project; my Grandfather’s war… more on jottings and idle talk…

Srebrenica by Ted/FDM

The ever insightful Ted Swedenburg does it well here:

“One of the many fine songs on Fun’Da’Mental’s powerful 2006 release, All Is War: The Benefits of G-had, is “Srebrenica Massacre,” featuring vocals in Bosnian (a variety of Serbo-Croation, according to some) by Alma Ferovic. Since April I’ve given several talks about Fun’Da’Mental, which have included analyses of several songs from All Is War, but I’ve not had much to say about “Srebrenica Massacre….”

Read more.

Travels in the war

One of the things I have been doing on and off for a while is writing about my Grandfather’s adventures in the second imperialist world war, and following him to places he visited – Malta, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon… Somehow the idea is that I’d do a travel diary during the ‘war on terror’ to match the text I made with him years ago about his WW2 war stories, which were themselves written out versions of what he used to tell when I was a homeless 14 year old camped out in his back shed…

Anyway, grabbing stuff to take home from my office for the xmas research break, I just found an old faded photo of grandfather and some of his mates in sailor uniform. Typically, holding bottles of beer. On the back in grandfather’s handwriting it says:

“This snap was taken in the mountains at Beruit in Jan 1943. I managed to save it. The lad behind me belongs to Sunderland and was the only other survivor”

Sunderland being sort of just across the way from Grandfather’s home town of South Shields, and where my Great Aunt Aggie was from – it was she who got me my first aussie rules football, for xmas circa 1973, saying she found it in Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra (a likely story).

In the pic Thomas Mouat Tate is the one on the front left. I did promise, a year ago, that I would come back to this stuff.

A Battalion of Druggies

Apropos the picture in the previous post on Kendra of star fleet, imperial stormtrooper, colonial marine – whatever kind of junkie – I am shocked to hear that UK soldiers are succumbing to the evils of drug use as well. In particular cocaine is the battle-friendly powder-of-choice. We are told today by a UK military spokesperson on Radio Four that because this drug apparently allows soldiers to stay up all night, they like to take it at parties when they are on leave (the spokesperson does not make this an actual recommendation). The numbers we are talking about here are significant: this year the equivalent of an entire battalion (679) have been discharged because the testing regime for drugs was changed to the day after a soldier returns from leave. Isn’t that clever? A first instance of applied military intelligence. Although it seems we are not sure how these soldiers are getting all this cocaine, since clearly connections with Afghanistan would surely make other substances more convenient – recall that one of the ‘reasons’ we went to war against the (now resurgent) Taliban was to destroy the poppy trade (itself now resurgent).

So, are the battalions self-medicating because their return from the killing fields of Helmand turns out to be a bit tough – arriving back in the homeland/airstrip one where most folks barely know where the war is, let alone that it escalates. I suspect our insurgents in Sangin and Naway might find it in their interests to send a care package to any grunts that look like they are due a break.

Drugs and war is such a huge theme that suggesting any further reading would be an absurdly long task of documentation. I’d start with McCoy ‘The Politics of Heroin’, which the CIA loved so well, but I hope there is someone who could offer a more up to date biblio shortcut here. I’ve mentioned Taussig’s ‘My Cocaine Museum’ book often, but there is much else as well. We all know the tales of LSD experimentation – cool-aid acid test – and can cite lines from Vietnam movies or protest songs which celebrate military weed and more (thanks Country Joe and the Fish) but today’s drug war in the east (chant war on drugs, war on drugs – Pynchon) does not really get the ethnographers it deserves. Hunter Thompson should be deployed (rocket ready) but maybe Dave Boothroyd would do.

Terrorvisionaries (part two)

A talk at Nottingham University Politics department last night gave me a chance to elaborate my worries over new media anthropology in South Asia, pantomime terror and the hanging channel – following on from the talks I’ve given about the Mohammed Afzal case and the DIY Cookbook video from Fund^da^mental. The notes below presume you have read the earlier posts which are linked at the relevant points (sorry, a bit clumsy and it presumes a lot eh – still, these are notes to myself really – just a little more public than usual – but then all our data seems to be very very public these days, thanks to the chancellor and the lost personal details from the Child Support Agency – ha).

Televisonaries (part one) here should be read first, then come back here to read this post, but half way through slot in the DIY Cokbook and Bus posts as indicated after about four paragraphs…

‘Terrorvisionaries (part two)':

The second example of cross platform public media storytelling is a diasporic one that involves my British-Pakistani mate Aki Nawaz. I have detailed the Aki story elsewhere, so merely refer you again to the links here.

In “Echographies of Television” (Derrida and Steigler) Derrida notes that televisual recording both captures immediacy more and can be more readily edited and manipulated, such that there will need to be a change in the legal axiomatics of the courts (p97 and 93). There is much that Derrida has to say of interest on television, the archive and justice, but sometimes Gayatri Spivak is much better on Derridean themes than Derrida himself. She apparently was working on the text of the Mahabharata – let us hope she will take it up again, and perhaps share views on elder brother Karna. Though he is not exactly subaltern, his position on the side of the Kauravas is at least interesting and the archival exclusion is operative, gridded over by a counter-female patriarchy and, as national and global reworkings of the narratives insert stories onto developmental teleology, neoliberal hype as well. The archive in Spivak is difficult, requires more effort than we usually can manage (‘more’ – persistent, language learning, privilege-unlearning, patient, painstaking scholarship) but her work on terror, suicide bombings and planetary justice is inspirational.

On the telematic, Spivak is more epistemological than Derrida – for her media would be something like knowledge, reason, responsibility, and so something to be conjured with, interrupted in a persistent effort of the teacher through critique to rearrange ordained and pre-coded desires. Not just to fill up on knowledge but to further transnational literacy and an ethics of the other. On terror: the ethical interrupts the epistemological. There is a point at which the construction of the other as object of knowledge must be challenged: ‘the ethical interrupts [law, reason] imperfectly, to listen to the other as if it were a self’ (Spivak 2004:83 “Boundary 2″, summer 80-111).

The task suggested here that seems most difficult to get our heads around is to accept complicity in a way that makes possible an identification, ‘alive to visible injustice’ (Spivak 2004:89) as well as ‘not to endorse suicide bombing but to be on the way to its end’ (Spivak 2004:93). Is there a message we can hear without an automatic move towards punishment or acquittal? Here the ethical and archival task of knowledge is to learn to learn what is in the mind, and what is the desire (or motivation?) of the suicide bomber. DIY Cookbook does something like this in a different way.

7/7 – buses, camera phones – Aki in the Guardian, backpacks, Charles De Menezes, DIY Video. As already riffed in the earlier posts on the Buses and on DIY Cookbook, here and here

Then return to the current post to continue:

The point is that here again an anthropology of media can be said to have made important moves to acknowledge cross platform significance in the media – saturated India – but also we might note that the acknowledgement that music tracks are a crucial make or break component of Bollywood film marketing only barely begins to get at the range of issues to be discussed in this field today.

The war on terror has achieved something that was previously only hinted at, partial, or only aspirational with regard to the place of South Asia in the world. Blown forcefully into the frontal lobe attention of all political actors, the obscurity of the previous Afghan wars, the regional nuclear detente, the peasant insurgencies or rural and hill tribals, these are no longer ignored. Front and centre, Islam on display, Pakistan a strategic player, India on alert. What multiculturalism and Bollywood could do only in a marginal and somewhat exotic way is exploded by a new visibility. But this is not just a media scare. Visibility maters where something is done with it – it is the first opportunity for a politics of redress that would build upon this (global) attention.

Call centres, news media, satellite, language, popular culture, tourism, humour, obscenity, gender, sex, digitization (of tradition), software and diaspora (India 2.0) all this suggests that media studies in this area are taking a broader scope and have advanced beyond the ‘coming of age’ stories that greeted Ramayana and Mahabharata, live cricket, and Bollywood on cable. This is to be welcomed.

Yet all is not rosy in storytelling land.

For all the publicity Sarai has garnered, it remains a small operation run out of CSDS. What it stands for however is more important – a still somewhat neglected area of academic and creative interest, deeply marked by a version of a technological cringe – the idea that new media is somehow new to India – and that the old politics are not also played out in the new news formats.

The exotic story of the new media arrival is the same orthodox binary obscurantism that ensures that stories of India abroad are either about rustic romance and tradition, morality, and colourful clothing, or else they are the dark side of communal violence, suicide bombing and disaster – the mismanaged nation post departure of the British, or blamed on Islam/Pakistan/Moguls/or Maoists. More nuanced positions are lost in favour of ‘the invisible or the hypervisible (stereotype)’ (Gopinath 2005:42). The ideological message here is that an India untainted by the ravages of imperial plunder might be preferred, and the NDTV ideal would have the Mahatma reading the news, but unfortunately the crisis is upon us, and in a flap chaos prevails. Anthropologists join the military effort (New York Times October 2007).

If we were to understand this material not only in juridical terms, or as requiring a transformation of the protocols of legal evidence and admissibility (no doubt this is necessary, as Derrida says), but also recognising that comprehension of media storytelling perhaps requires an appreciation of a wider sweep of mythological knowledge or epistemological reference (as Spivak might suggest), then to read the stories of Aki Nawaz as pantomime, or Mohammed Afzal as melodrama is somehow also warranted. This is not to disavow or diminish the urgent politics around the immediacy of these events – to challenge the demonization of Muslims in Britain, to oppose the death penalty and torture, to defend an individual from trial by media. But it is also to recognise something that shifts at a more general media level, where journalism gives way to SMS poll popularity, court procedures mimic docu-drama, tabloid sensations become the tactics of security services and similar.

To develop this is to recognise how patterns of melodrama and performance are played out in the way these events come to our attention. The pantomime season at Christmas is now matched with a sinister twin in July that commemorates the bus bombings with an equally ideological storytelling round – teaching kids fear and hate just as much as Christmas teaches them commoditization. The idea that pantomime is educational, rather than Orientalist – Sinbad, Ali Baba, Aladdin – is just as much training in stereotype and profiling as are the melodramatic terror alerts each July (and September). These are constructed ‘panics’, each no doubt grounded in real evidence, solid intelligence, and careful analysis by Special Branch and MI5 – as Charles de Menezes and Mohammed Afzal both surely can attest. Aki Nawaz as ‘suicide rapper’ might almost be funny if it were not symptomatic of a wider malaise and complicity in our media reportage – a failure to examine critically and contextually what is offered up to us as unmediated ‘news’. What did it say on the side of the bus if not ‘Total Film’?

One way perhaps to disrupt the walled enclave or ‘green zone’ that is civil society, polite discussion and public commons also known as the privileged space of television news might be to hark back to older storytelling forms.

Its 30 years since Edward Said delivered Orientalism and though I might have some quibbles with what has happened in the wake of that text (too many historical studies, not enough now) I do believe it alerts us to something important and not yet nearly resolved. I can’t help but think looking to old texts might help us rethink new ones – hence the Mahabharata and the Arabian Nights as away to refocus television…

The Mahabharata rehearses a fratricidal drama that tears everyone apart. Pakistan and India are not referenced there, but the tale of brothers split and fighting is a well worn trope, such that I think its time to move to other stories as a break. For me, its not so easy, inducted into the Arabian nights as a child, I feel betrayed because…

Instead, I imagine Roshan Sethi as a new kind of despotic Shahjah, entertaining Scheherezade only by email or SMS – because she was caught, detained and then by ‘special rendition’ she was interred in Guantanamo Bay, she texts out intermittently to Roshan. Forlorn drunken fool, her anguished reports reveal her having been interrogated all day yet again to the Gitmo Military Intelligence. This version of the 1001 nights is particularly obscene, but because Omar’s father is drunk in bed, watching Bollywood reruns, or Stephen Frears’ later fluff, the story just cannot get out. This is politics, its good to think something might more might be done today.

The character played by Roshan Seth might rant against the kind of journalism that enables this new cretinized media propaganda, but more than sozzled rants are required.

[image is the Nation logo - it should be spinning but blogger can't cope]


Poppies seem to spring up on people’s lapels earlier each year, and on younger lapels than ever before. Walking through London Bridge tube station last night I saw them on teenagers, and then later that evening caught a few minutes of an inane interview of Girls Aloud (a pop band apparently) on the BBC and several of them were sporting the little red blossom.

Of course I know all the multiple and multiplying associations that could unfold from the petals of this little bit or remembrance (it is a sort of trinket, the issues are certainly trinketized). Poppy-war, Heroin & war, Fashion, Charity, Symbolism, Hypocrisy. Out of respect for the dead, we should start with the carnage adn waste of so many lives in Çanakkale Savaşları, aka Gallipoli, where thousands of soldiers were sent to the fields of eternal sleep – not the pretty sleep of the Dorothy in a field on the way to Oz kind, but a more wicked wizardry of military strategy in a stupid imperial war, run by kings and generals, endured by regulars and innocents on both sides.

Dorothy’s dream inside a tornado is relevant today. She is about to be released again in a remake, but for pc reasons the remake will not include the munchkins. My version of Dorothy re-imagined would immediately transport us not to Oz or Gallipoli, but to the killing fields of Afghanistan. Under the tarpaulin, huddled in the dust, afraid and under-equipped, young recruits on their third tour of duty, a tin man, a scardy-cat lion, a fellow made of straw – Toto, come back Toto… somewhere over the rainbow… And it has been a long long nightmare for the Afghan people – the humanitarian aid packages are now forgotten, the humanitarian bombing goes on (with an anthropologist helping write ‘counter-insurgency guidelines’ and advising on the battle to win/destroy hearts and minds). That the battle is brought to the imperialists by the resurgent Talaban is not reason to still sustain a long duration battle plan. Among the reasons given by Bliar for attacking Afghanistan in the first place was to eradicate heroin poppy production. That this has failed spectacularly, and his soothing words about restoring the education of women, and the bollocks about the capture of Sheik Osama – the other two objectives – these reamin, how shall we say, ‘incomplete’. This is surely not just circumstantial evidence in a far longer war crimes charge sheet. Whatever happened to the three strikes and you’re out metaphor? And to think Bliar can intervene in the Middle East to good effect – they are havin’ a laugh.

I guess we mostly remember poppy not as echo of the static death embrace of armies in Flanders, but through versionings of death as heroism in the cinema. All Quiet on the The Western Front (1930), Paths of Glory (1957, Kubrick dir. with Kirk Douglas) the trenches and beaches of the Dardanelles – near the site of Troy, and this comes as metaphor because of films that support the nation – the Australian Film Commission funds a jingoism which thrives on cinematic recollection (blame Gallipoli 1981, Peter Weir, dir. with Mel Gibson), and though we like to mock the stiff upper lisp inanity if the military that sent so many troops to pointless charge of the light brigade type death, there is also much to mock in some of the ANZAC tradition marches. With style and humour, Fiona Nicoll has an excellent book that relates Returned Service League, RSL, marches and the Aussie ideal of ‘mateship’ to the carnivalesque of Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney – From Diggers to Drag Queens, Pluto Press. But even that old routine – the One Day of the Year – has worn a bit thin – as we watch our rugby players before the recent world cup, just like the cricket team before them, draw (insufficient) sporting inspiration from a visit to the trenches. Sport is also heck, buy a poppy for Team Oz.

World War 1 is long gone, but that lost generation fodder for the insane destructive wars of Capital must be revived, renovated and renewed over and over. The remembrance date (Nov 11 – but also 25 April for ANZACS) is rehearsed for new wars, and we must acknowledge the charge that brings out a special strain of charity: poppy pins for veterans’ aid collection, emotive posters (on the tube again, posters of an old guy on a park bench with his missing ‘mate’ outlined in floating red flowers), and the Queen and other piggy pollies waddling over to the Cenotaph to lay wreaths for the fallen. Live on television, this comes with almost no debate. In England debate would be unseemly – all the while as more and more are slaughtered in the global war that these very same crocs (Labour Party, ruling class, military brass) perpetrate. Tears for the dead they can spare. Yet their hypocrisy wears thin these days, and at even the most modest or small c conservative levels there are questions being asked about troop welfare, troop support, and adequate compensation for their own maimed fodder. But a debate that would pin responsibility on any decision maker is not likely. Only remembrance – a tamed and contained memory, a blank memorial façade, an anaesthetized festival of hypocrisy and cynicism.

‘We support the troops when they turn on their officers’ was a slogan seen on a photo I posted here recently, but this has not grabbed hold of anyone by the scruff of the coat, even as the old fashioned war veterans associations and the like are ‘up in arms’ about establishment contempt for their dead and wounded. Of course we have not attended, and can barely conceive of a way to attend, to the civilian casualties, the people of Afghanistan, of Iraq, and all those subject to the everyday terror of our contemporary total war capitalism on the streets here (Charles de Menezes) or on the streets there (how many killed today?). Buy a poppy because we are the numb, we are living war, we wear it as fashion, Girls Aloud teach it to their teen fan base. Patriots all Dorothy. Worse than the drug. Tin-Zombies. Lions of Halloween. Straw-man Fiends.

armed struggle

Reading Hari Kunzru’s novel ‘My Revolutions’ and hearing him at Migrating University at Goldsmiths this weekend, tempts me to try and work out how I want to talk about struggles today (its not the 60s anymore). This is with the aim to offer a critique of how armed struggle in various theatres of the world is currently represented in the media, in the press, in books (like Hari’s, but assessing other novelistic imaginings as well) and in academic discussion, which so often seems to lose its way. Some first steps here might open up something, but I am not sure. More when I get back from the Maoism in India soiree in Preston no doubt.

Or maybe I shouldn’t even try. I see clearly that the trouble with academic discussions about revolutionary politics (aside from promoting the Open Book project insufficiently well) is not so much that any comment can only be part of a discussion, a talking shop, a glorified coffee chat, but rather that there is a necessary level of abstraction to anything that might be said by anyone at all. Involvement would suggest a certain reticence to discuss, discussion would suggest a requisite lack of involvement, or a recklessness from which everyone should steer well clear.

The first step of this is not some twisted version of William James’ problems of getting at the idea of a mystical state, but it is close to that where he says: ‘One must have musical ears to know the value of a symphony; one must have been in love one’s self to understand a lover’s state of mind. Lacking the heart or ear, we cannot interpret the musician or the lover justly’ (‘Varieties of Rel Exp’ Vol 16). I remember Marx swapping bibles for brandy (the word of the spirit for the spirit of life) such that I think its not too mischievous to think of the Angry Brigade type of provocation in these terms – a mystical violence which is strangely silent. Caught in a propaganda war of spin and censorship. If you can’t do, you can chit chat away to no avail. If you do, then I do not know you. This is the abstraction bound and gagged.

But I think there is another way to open up the question of armed struggle and that is in terms of adequacy, since without being able to discuss the practical requirements of violence we cannot comprehend the struggles in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, or even Ireland in any relevant way. Sure, there are so many cautions and prevarications to be routinised first. Yes, its terrible, or no its not. Its all good, its all bad – positions that Mao already demolished in ‘”It’s Terrible!” or “It’s Fine”‘ (Selected Works Vol 1 p 26). But I want to find a way to restart a discussion in terms of adequacy of opposition to state power (tanks, helicopter gunships, cluster bombs, nuclear arsenals) and the question of what would be required to defeat an organised violence that might mean enacting a counter violence that is anathema to many – anathema to those caught in exactly that comfort zone that allows, even requires, complicity with state violence unleashed elsewhere and denied.

OK, that’s a tangle already, and so far I’ve said nothing – but I have just seen the section on ‘Riff Raff’ in Selected Works and so have decided I better reread all that first. Thus yet again the televised bit is delayed…


There is nothing good to be said for where we are. All is destruction. Death and disaster. From the petty opportunism of rip offs and cheats, to the tragic death of the innocents and naïve. Teens killed on the city streets, random bombing of those far off, with ‘civilian casualties’ every day. I am sure this perpetual disaster is not pre-ordained, not prescribed, not always already anticipated in Kali-Yug, or the annals of nations (this has happened before, it will happen again). But the pigeons come home to roost in friendly fire, in the farcical rerun of Vietnam in Iraq, in the endless unwinnable wars of Afghanistan; as the criminal class lords it above, as Rome itself burns again. The horror of death that recurs throughout every imperial, colonial, commercial crime turns itself now into the annual bonus, the stock market gain, the dow/nasdaq/city index. The register of despair ignored and excused renders optimism obscene. I’ve run hours in the morning through empty streets thinking there’s no point, there’s no good reason, there’s no chance the flab will be shed, the years melt away, the prospects clear, the weather look fine, the war be over, the peace break out. I can’t tell you be patient, be strong, the good will prevail. They won’t, they’re dead. Killed in a stupid sacrificial suicidal frenzy. Thank fuck they’ve gone, now we can get on with stuff.

Ubiquitous Media

The conference theme (TCS 25th anniversary meet at Todai U Tokyo) has set loose a plague whose epidemiology can only be described as the onset of a ‘digital Adorno’ virus (I adapt this from Anthony King – I see Adorno referenced but not read, glossed via secondary readings, named but ignored, as ever it always has been…) and, worse, the conference alibis what looks like isolated individualism positing a corresponding technological determinism, such that new gadgets directly relate – without other mediation – to ‘subjects’ independent of corporate, commercial, or co-ordinating engagements (King again). The avoidance of politics seems to sum up what was wrong when it went wrong (plus the painful moment[s] when Hansen went on and on in a narcoleptic tone), but on the whole the conference was very very good. Despite typhoons and earthquakes, there was hardly a session that was not full of good papers; it was well organised, and the local food fabulous (okinawa bar – thanks Shinji). I’m pleased to know more about Bernard Steigler (from Ben and Jeremy) and to have met Dave, Mia, Tania, plus Shaun, Sean and Tomoko again. Toshiya’s argument that Transformers transformations are linked to the transformation problem of former leftists who went into cultural work was quite brilliant, and of course the best bits happened in between sessions and late at night in obscure bars.

My presentation had to do with ubiquitous paranoia, on the anniversary of the London 7/7 bombings, the fear/scapegoat manufacture of sleeper cells and tube bombers in England excuses an annual ‘event’ related to the efficient production of paranoia. ‘He’s behind you’ is the panto-demonization response, but the court cases and car bombs that coincided this year (2007), and the ‘suicide rapper’ routine of last year (2006), deserve a more detailed response. I have pursued this using the idea of ubiquitous narrative, ubiquitous critique, and retelling the story of that very mild mannered suicide rapper (aka Aki Nawaz) and the bed-time tales of Scheherezade – now captured, renditioned, detained and forced to tell stories to interrogators at Guantanamo for the rest of her days – one thousand and one nights is overdetermined, akin to infinity plus one…

My case is that the incomplete character of Scheherezade’s stories is what saves her. So when it comes to Fun^da^mental’s presentation of a recipe for bombs (readily available on the internet, but somehow also ‘secret’), there is a curious coincidence of interest in secrets on ‘both sides’. The ambiguous space of politics lies here – really lies – the gaps, the appearance and disappearance, the unknowns – this is what we might look at. The lie and deception are structured into story (they call this ‘spin’) and this seems to be an increasingly potent site of struggle.

So the fact that the conference had a great deal to say about repositories of secrets: about archives, about the empire of signs, investigations of code, attention to all kinds of message – this makes me want to ask questions. For example: is it mere coincidence that the proliferation of scholarly interest in code and archive – and of course the desire of google to document EVERYTHING – seems to be symbiotically related to the demands of the security forces that there be no secrets at all, that all information be admissible in court, that every bag be searched at the airport… No-one should have anything to hide – certainly not any Middle Eastern looking Brazilians on the tube….

These parallel information obsessions (archive/security; interpretation/interrogation) amount to what I’ll call the hermeneutics of anxiety. Isn’t it the case that worrying about the known unknowns has reinvigorated scholarship and vibrant debates about non-representation, cognitive systems, archives and code? And is this, not insignificantly, aligned to the homeland security demand to know the whole story, as most clearly and viciously enacted in the endless banality of the interrogation cells at Guantanamo.

The trouble with combating stereotypes is that they continue to bounce back up at you the more you knock them down. The suicide rapper (Aki Aki Aki, ) is not enough to counter the ideological hegemony of the spinsters; but what is? What is adequate to win, where the stereotype and the demon are known knowns, deployed knowingly as objects of paranoia, as necessary targets of a fear that binds the nation (I mean here Eurasia, Oceania, etc., those blocs Orwell had described in the nightmare of 84).

Ubiquitous digispeak. Ubik. Tokyo July 16.

[Photo by Naoko Sakurai]

And it was still raining…

No Borders Gatwick in Sept.

An Invitation To The Gatwick No Border Camp 2007

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
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.

The algebra of need

What madness of actors is it that only approaches the horror of war and yet still rends minds? In the midst of the jungle that is Apocalypse Now, both the brooding Brando (reading The Golden Bough in his temple) and a more unhinged Martin Sheen (the future best President the Empire never had) break their backs upon the fire of insanity. And even in a related way there is madness in the directors Francis Coppola, and earlier Orson Welles (who started but did not execute a projected film of Heart of Darkness). This of course is mad enough, but not close to the indigestible indescribable photo-real blood-and-bone mulch of our daily news reports. War films require a celluloid mode of madness. From Aguirre, Wrath of God, through to the marines singing for Annette Funicello at the end of Full Metal Jacket – there is also a kind of celebrity chaos on the brain that is carefully staged to stand in for the horror, the horror. A depth of affect that still cannot quite reach inside the photograph, cannot animate the film footage, and certainly cannot assuage the desperate need of the piggy pollies to keep themselves clean amidst the shit they have stirred up.

As they stumble towards a tortured damp squib end, I have to ask again: why have the Blair years, which were the years of souped-up Thatcherism with a better frock, why have they not produced the same kind of hostility, dismay and exile that Maggie’s viscous militarist rule had done? We have been ruled by warmongering maniacs in ways contrary to universal good since time immemorial, and too many of us have learnt to ignore this with a vengeance. We are a virus upon the planet. Uncle Bill as freedom fighter, clom friday, for a mainline Napalm shot.

Photo: Horst Fass, near Bao Tra1, 1966

Black Hole

It is 250 years since the Battle of Plassey. Why this atrocity? One among many… And what did it leave us historically? Clive, then rampant, was later to top himself, devastated and doddering, back in England. But not before the manufacture of that story about Calcutta that many know and mention, even if thy omit/forget/forge the details. The details are, at least by some accounts, seriously suspect.

Plassey was retaliation by the English for the Black Hole of Calcutta ‘incident’. Since the story of this Black Hole must be told, it can be in a critical version: Marx calls the incident a ‘sham scandal’ (Marx 1947:81). In an extensive collection of notes made on Indian history, Marx comments that on the evening of June 21, 1756, after the Governor of Calcutta had ignored the order of Subadar Suraj-ud-duala to ‘raze all British fortifications’ in the city:

“Suraj came down on Calcutta in force … fort stormed, garrison taken prisoners, Suraj gave orders that all the captives should be kept in safety till the morning; but the 146 men (accidentally, it seems) were crushed into a room 20 feet square and with but one small window; next morning (as Holwell himself tells the story), only 23 were still alive; they were allowed to sail down the Hooghly. It was ‘the Black Hole of Calcutta’, over which the English hypocrites have been making so much sham scandal to this day. Suraj-ud-duala returned to Murshidabad; Bengal now completely and effectually cleared of the English intruders” (Marx 1947:81) 

Marx also reports on the subsequent retaliation against and defeat of Suraj-ud-duala by Lord Clive (‘that Great Robber’ as he calls him elsewhere Marx 1853/1978:86), and Clive’s 1774 suicide after his ‘cruel persecution’ by the directors of the East India Company (Marx 1947:88). There seem to be very good reasons to conclude that the black hole incident is counterfeit. The single report from a ‘survivor’ some months after Clive’s savage response to Suraj-ud-duala’s occupation of Calcutta – the massacre which was the Battle of Plassey – reads very much like a justification forged to deflect criticisms of brutality on the part of the British forces.

There is a confernce about Plassey on 24th June, 2007, in Whitechapel. Organized by the Brick Lane Circle. For details contact 07903 671787

For more on this black hole fakery, see Macfarlane, Iris 1975 The Black Hole, or the Makings of Legend, Allen and Unwin, London.

Marx, Karl 1947, Notes on Indian History, Foreign Language Publishing House, Moscow.
Marx, Karl 1853/1978 On Colonialism, Progress Press, Moscow.

Fear & Loathing In Teheran – by Sarah Gillespie

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fear & Loathing In Teheran – by Sarah Gillespie

‘The blood drained from her face and Faye whispered, ‘there’s going to be a rape involved in this’ Operator Maintainer Arthur Batchelor Daily Mirror 9th April 2007

Faye Turney, the ‘she-man’ Seaman captured in Shatt al-Arab last month, claims her captivity in Teheran was marred by fear of rape, torture and a lifetime of incarceration. Despite having been released unharmed, a bizarre scene is emerging from the dark recesses of Turney’s imagination in which the saintly mother of little Molly (3) was subjected to floundering indefinitely in a dingy jail wearing nothing but pair of knickers and a floral headscarf. According to Faye’s ‘worst fears’ her ‘evil captors’ spied on her through her cell door slat, cracked jokes about her imminent martyrdom and most bizarrely of all, felt compelled to fit her out with her very own hand-crafted, bespoke coffin. Here is our first hint that we are dealing with the humiliation fantasies of a serious narcissist; while the Islamic Revolutionary Guard indeed have affiliations with the Moral Police responsible for public executions, I doubt very much that they throw a made-to-measure coffin service into the deal.

Nothing here adds up. But it doesn’t have to because the press have finally dispensed with the pursuit of truth altogether. Faye Turney’s fears are being treated by the media as if they were facts. Do a Google search on ‘Faye Turney rape’ and over 80,000 results appear. Remarkable really, given the woman has not been raped at all and is even claiming that she was not. Such is the ravenous appetite in Britain for titillating tales of defenceless damsels and wicked Arabs, the Sun-reading British electorate doesn’t care anymore if the narrative is absolute fantasy or not, so long as the victim is a westerner and the aggressor is a Muslim.

Thus, it doesn’t matter that Turney & Co were well-fed, clothed, even supplied with Marlborough Lights and Presidential ‘goodie bags’. It doesn’t matter that none of the 15 were exposed to torture, sexual abuse or humiliation. It doesn’t matter either that the worst trauma they endured was having their I Pods confiscated and forced to wear outfits that looked a bit ‘last year’. Arthur Batchelor, one of the Seaman, who we can assume has received at least some Military training for coping with stress during captivity, said: ‘Those suits were an insult. Not only did mine not fit, but it was cheap and tacky and the Hugo Boss shirt was a fake.’ What? So this is the ‘mental torment’ he insists on peddling for cash? The message is clear, the Seamen were treated well. Another message is also clear; the news-consuming public refuses to internalise this. Fay’s abuse was in her disturbed mind and what is even more disturbing is the fact that our minds are deviant enough to consume her sickening fantasies. Without delving too deeply into the collective perversion of an entire nation, it is crucial to note that the British, who built their pseudo-egalitarian, post-industrial, mega-economy on the backs of two centuries of colonized labour, just love to feel like they are the victim. Check out the streets of Soho if you need proof.

What is more alarming, is that British media are quick to mobilise this penchant for humiliation in order to spoon feed us fictional narratives that reinforce the binary underpinning Anglo-American-Israeli foreign policy: Muslim=terrorist/Westerner=liberator. Since Turney traded in her phantasmic trauma for a substantial wad of Rupert Murdoch’s cash we are inundated with stories about her not being raped. Without the popular fear of Islam bestowing a veneer of feasibility into this narrative, Turney’s confessional would be exposed for the absurd non-event that it is. Try to imagine an equivalent news flash without the anti-Muslim agenda: ‘Man Thought He Was Being Followed Home by Rabid Gunmen, But Then He Realized It Was His Mum & He Was Just Being Paranoid.’ Or ‘Footsie Share Index Plummets to Record Lows Thought City Worker When He Accidentally Leant on His Apple Mac Keyboard Earlier Today.’

The rape, the torture, the execution didn’t happen but still it is reported over and over again simply on the proviso that it was temporarily imagined to be true in the mind of one woman. Truth is elusive, murky territory, impossible to fix or locate, impervious to the tyranny of technological mapping devices that offer objective comprehendible absolutes. Truth is relative, deceptive, it is in process, it never arrives at its destination and yet, we all insist on chasing it into oblivion. What has happened in the case of Faye Turney is that we seem to have given up the quest altogether, we have willingly surrendered to the absolutist reassurance of fear, at the expense of truth. Not only are we cut adrift from facts, we are not even pretending to look for them anymore, we are heading for a terrain were facts no longer matter.

On 9th April 2007 Blair, a man who, among his many sins, incarcerates Muslims for months on end without charge, dubbed Iran a ‘cruel and callous’ nation. So complicit are we in the demonisation of an entire civilization, we knowingly consume this fantasy of cruelty rather than consider the real possibility of humanity. We are invited to believe that Turney, the giant Viking of the Gulf Sea, is the ultimate victim, while Ahmadinejad, who hopes, albeit naively, one day to defend his country from foreign invaders, is the ultimate evil. The tragedy is we are no longer concerned as to whether this is true or not.
# posted by thecutter @ 17:12

Terror as a State action. Contextualized ESRC Reprise/Response from an Unusually Quiet City

On that Terror Research Initiative from the ESRC. I just wrote in support of those Goldsmiths anthros that are preparing a critical response from across the college. I thought I would share my text since its a way to update on what I am doing here/preoccupied with just now. Earlier news and views about the research call, and some comments from other folks, is here.

Why do this? I think it is important to make ESRC recognise that their version of research and how people [they are only interested in Muslims] get ‘radicalized’ is so viciously simplistic that its dangerous, mercenary, and wholly ignorant of just how complicated events can be ‘in the round’ [not that I found much round here yet, still]. So, here is my letter to the College movers and shakers, followed by some contextual notes on current ‘research’ environs:

Hi from Kolkata

I certainly support a response from Goldsmiths that censures the ESRC et al for making research difficult in this way – its not just about risk, but reputation and political affiliation. In this part of the world, and in my research in Kolkata, the status of the researcher, their associations, affiliations etc, are a matter of intense scrutiny. Reputation and credibility are crucial.

And its already come up – as I work in an environment that is, to understate it, very tense at the minute. A total strike today, since the CPM State Govt set the police upon villagers who did not agree it was a good idea to raze their huts to make way for a Special Economic Zone. At least 14, but maybe 50, dead on wednesday, unknown number yesterday… In a symmetry response it seems, ‘Naxals’ killed 55 security personnel in Chhattisgarh. In this environment, moving anywhere near this action means being called to account. As a researcher from a University in England I can pass where, were I a journalist, things might not go so smoothly. This would change I expect when researchers are rebranded by the ESRC as security operatives in the war on terror…


I guess some further explanation might be in order. Not sure I can make things all that clear – still seeking. Though, I should point out that I am not trying to get to Chhattisgarh - that was just a piece in the news today that ran alongside the CPM firings – but I did look to travel to check out Nandigram – but no chance. Some background will suggest anyway that staying in Kolkata is sensible: here the CPM (Communist Party of India Marxist) is the ruling state power and has been – since elected – the ruling partner in the Left Front Government of Bengal for about 30 years. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is the present Chief Minister – I once handed out how to vote flyers for him (for about 20 minutes – that was 92 I think, a little left tourist-exotica-mongering really. I did not get to meet him, but his Party cadre were enthusiastic). Now, in search of foreign investment, CPM want to set up a special economic zone in Nandigram,where an Indonesian group called Salim PLC will develop the zone, It is said to impact upon many thousands of local people who lived, until now, in this agricultural region (its across the harbour from Haldia – a place I visited in 1988 – pretty ‘underdeveloped’ I’d say, rice fields, ponds, fisheries). Over the past two days CPM have been ‘reclaiming’ the villages where ‘Maoists’ were arming the peasantry. Seems strange that a ‘communist’ government called in the police on a Maoist opposition. Chaos… The fluctuation in the numbers of dead has been strange too, no-one can agree on a figure and it seems surreal. The dead and injured were mostly female peasantry defending their villages from ‘development’. Yaay Government, yaay Capital!. In the city, Mamanta Banerjee, a kind of opportunist from the Triminool Congress, inflamed the situation somewhat, trying to score points, joining the Maoists in the call for the Bandh… perhaps threatening another hunger strike… Setting off to Nandigram, she was blocked by CPM activists. BJP making noises. The BJP, Triminool and Maoists v CPM seems like an unholy array of forces. Police insisting the Maoists fired on them first. Some say 50 dead. It is hard to get a clear idea of what is really going on, and the city is shut down.

terror researchers needed – Muslims need not apply

Just got this letter alerting me to the latest research funding opportunity in the land of heavy handed stupidity. I’ve included some of the info on what its about below – follow the link to see how mad it is in detail…

Hi John.

This astonishing new research plan by the ESRC which aims to, among many things, have researchers enter the ideological battle to prevent terrorism (but not prevent bureaucratic stupidity – see spelling mistakes such as ‘the prevent strand is concerned with tackling the radicalisation of individuals’) and to ‘help Muslims’ to ‘dispute these ideas’ (one presumes they mean ideas of terrorism, not the idea that researchers should work directly for the FCO to ‘counter’ terror). The target for these ‘short term’ research projects is exclusively the Muslim diaspora. This new call for research proposals is said to have been revised after the earlier version produced lively debate – but the profiling of Muslims as the singular source of terror indicates that the alleged lively debate was pretty ineffectual. Applications on a postcard please to – ESRC, AHRC, FCO and the usual suspects

- Kayser Soze

See the call for proposals here

I’ve excerpted the main bits here – but as I was going through it more and more of the detail seemed worthy of reproduction just for the sheer audacity of this call. If anyone applies we will know which side of the ‘you are either with us or against us’ routine they have chosen – the side of really really dumb and dangerous research agendas. See especially the sections 3.2 and 9.

“New Security Challenges:’Radicalisation’ and Violence – A Critical Reassessment

Specification. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) invite research proposals for this £2.5 million initiative.

1. Introduction. Since the events of 11th September 2001, it has become common-place to argue that the world currently faces a new and qualitatively different kind of security challenge, and frequently this challenge is described in terms of processes of ‘radicalisation.’ Where previous examples of political violence by non-state actors tended to be geographically contained within one or two contiguous states, and focused on relatively clear political goals, the new networks of violence operate on a more global scale and their goals are often said to be more diffuse. Separatist groups like ETA and the IRA would be obvious examples of the earlier pattern; the attacks of ‘9/11’ in the US, the Bali bombings of 2002, the Istanbul bombings of 2003, those in Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005 are all examples of the new pattern. While, historically, ‘radicalisation’ leading to violence against the state has been associated with marginal but indigenous political groups such as Baader/Meinhof and the Red Brigade, the new pattern associates it with communities which are defined ethnically and racially as much as politically and socially.Policy discourses in many Western countries frequently describe the new problems of transnational political violence at least in part in terms of processes of ‘radicalisation’ among Muslim groups in different parts of the world. ‘Radicalisation’ has become an important frame in the coverage of extremism and terrorism in many countries, in print and broadcast media, in mainstream and more specialised outlets. This initiative will focus on the real and pressing questions that the term is employed to address, while also interrogating these uses of the term ‘radicalisation’. ‘Radicalisation’ is usually taken to signify a process taking place, at different rates and with different effects, within particular Muslim communities. Beneath the media generalisations, however, lie much more complex stories of local religious, political and social circumstances. Yet one part of the appeal of ‘radicalisation’ would seem to be the ability to invoke the idea of a community which could cut across the particularities of local traditions and local political allegiances in the Muslim world, while at the same time drawing on reactions to the suffering of Muslims in the context of ostensibly very different conflicts – Chechnya, Bosnia, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kashmir – and employing new, transnational modes of communication like the internet. Transnational migration patterns have also created substantial diaspora populations, with their own internal demographic and political dynamics, and often complex ties to earlier countries of origin. The key research challenge is to find a way to combine both local and global perspectives on the new transnational violence. Although ‘radicalisation’ and violence purportedly in the name of Islam are the core interest of this initiative, other typesof violence, such as that deriving from sectarian or separatist movements, may also be examined in order to provide a broader context (see further in section 4.1.2).This initiative seeks to generate new knowledge in a short time-frame. … [snip]

2. Aims/ObjectivesThis initiative seeks to:1. Produce an informed and critical assessment of the diverse causes of ‘radicalisation’ and transnational political violence which combines local and global perspectives;2. Critically engage with the public and media use of the term ‘radicalisation’;… [snip]3.2 Foreign and Commonwealth OfficeThe FCO wants outstanding research to inform the policy making process. The FCO’s interest in this initiative stems from the recognition that independent, high-quality research on radicalisation issues can inform UK Counter Terrorism policy overseas. As part of the Prevent strand of that policy in particular, the FCO seeks to use research to increase its knowledge and understanding of the factors associated with radicalisation in those countries and regions identified as high priority.The Prevent strand is concerned with tackling the radicalisation of individuals, both in the UK and elsewhere, which sustains the international terrorist threat.

The Government seek [sic] to do this by: • tackling disadvantage and supporting reform by addressing structural problems in the UK and overseas that may contribute to radicalisation, such as inequalities and discrimination • deterring those who facilitate terrorism and those who encourage others to become terrorists by changing the environment in which the extremists and those radicalising others can operate • engaging in the battle of ideas by challenging the ideologies that extremists believe can justify the use of violence, primarily by helping Muslims who wish to dispute these ideas to do soIn order to obtain policy-relevant research, the FCO requires research to examine issues which impact upon and cause radicalisation, including political, social, economic, cultural, and ethnic considerations, in the countries and across regions it has specified. The most policy relevant research should aim to understand trends in radicalisation, be they historical, temporal or geographical…. [snip]

The primary focus of this initiative is outside the UK. Thus, while applications which include the UK as part of a regional or comparative study will be considered, applications which feature the UK as the only country of study will not be eligible for consideration…. [snip] • Central Asia;• East/Horn of Africa;• Europe (including France, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Netherlands and Turkey); • Gulf and wider Middle East (including Israel/Palestine and Jordan); • North Africa; • South Asia; • Southeast Asia; • West Africa.The Commissioning Panel does not seek homogeneous coverage of all the areas listed, but will seek to fund those applications which make the best scientific case for studying a particular area. Proposals with a country or regional focus should address questions arising out of a critical engagement with the conventional wisdom and scholarship on topics of relevance to the initiative. These include:

• Key political, social, cultural and demographic factors that impact upon Muslim populations in the area of study • The social profile of those who may support or be attracted to violence, in terms of gender, age, class and ethnicity• Diverse forms of avowedly Islamist mobilisation, both political and non-political, violent and non-violent • The diversity of Islamic schools, organisations, political parties and social movements and the divisions between such bodies, movements and sects • Patterns of migration, identity formation, and mobilisation among Muslim diasporic communities and their impact on ‘radicalisation’ • Role of representations of Islam and representations of ‘the West’ in the media and in popular culture in encouraging ‘radicalisation’ • The theological, discursive, social, and political context of violence committed in the name of Islam • The impact of US, UK and regional government policies more broadly since 9/11 • The impact of globalisation, democratisation, and migration on Muslim societies and on the diverse beliefs, practices, identities, and institutions associated with the faithIndividual studies will not be expected to cover all these themes…. [snip]

4.2. International FellowshipsTo facilitate the working of the research projects, the call allows for the possibility of one to three month fellowships, designed to bring to the United Kingdom both researchers of international standing and new researchers of promise. It may be expected that most Fellows would be researchers from the regions of research, although in exceptional cases it may be that expertise from other regions and countries is deemed to be useful. The fellowships would be attached to the research projects, and should be sought as part of the project application. The normal expectation would be that fellows would come to the UK in the first year of the initiative. However, later visits are not precluded.4.3. Collaborative WorkshopsA number of workshops will be delivered (see section 8 ‘Reporting’ below). There will be one in the summer of 2008 and one in the summer of 2009 at which those funded will be expected to attend and present their research findings to other researchers in the initiative and stakeholders…. [snip]

6. FundingThere is a maximum of £2.5 million available for this initiative. … [snip]

9. Methodology, Risk and EthicsThe Research Councils expect all applications for funding to be prepared in accordance with the ESRC Research Ethics Framework. The topics to be investigated within this programme may pose special methodological, political and ethical challenges and the Commissioning Panel will expect proposals to address these challenges explicitly. In particular it will be looking for candid assessments of possible harm or risk, and imaginative methodological responses to these assessments. Risks need to be assessed for a wide range of potential stakeholders – research subjects, researchers themselves, other governmental and non-governmental agencies, and other social researchers working in the region. There are particular risks associated with research access in certain parts of the world, and research which might threaten the long-term viability of other researchers’ work in particular settings will not be funded…. [snip]

An earlier initiative in this area provoked a lively debate within the research community, and was withdrawn to allow the Research Councils time to reflect on the serious intellectual, methodological and political issues that had been raised. This new call is a product of that process of reflection. We thank all colleagues who contributed to that debate and reiterate the view that the Research Councils see it as part of their role to encourage academic researchers to enter into dialogue with policy makers, while acknowledging that, for this dialogue to be useful and productive for all concerned, it must be based in genuinely independent and, where appropriate, critical scholarship.”


So there it is – the latest in a series. And doesn’t this last section say it all about what that old Habermaniac called ‘knowledge and human interets’ – an admission that clearly indicates there was no discussion taken on board from the responses to the earlier version – see here - And this version seems worse, especially its ludicrous formulations under ethics and risk… Stop and admire.

Guevara Convention Sound Out

Dave Watts from Fun^Da^Mental had a great idea a few months ago that is now seriously taking shape. It links up with stuff I am into re Che, but takes it to another level, as they say. Dave has a blogspot site now at Earconditioning – which you will agree is another in a long line of great FDM semantic reworkings (remember the phrase ‘Global Sweatbox’?). Dave writes:

“…The past week also brought communication with John Hutnyk.He´s a professor at Goldsmith´s University, and participated in one of the talks at the Clandestino Festival in Gothenborg where Aki (yes, the notorious terrorist-apologist Aki Nawaz) and I dropped a Fun´da´Mental DJ set a few years ago. John has twice invited me to talk with his students about the politics and presentation of Fun-da-mental videos. Coming back to last week, John and I were discussing this idea of a compilation that has been sitting in my brain for the last couple years. This year is the 40th anniversary of the death of Ernesto ´Che´ Guevara, and I wanted to compile an album of contemporary artists who have felt touched by revolutionary spirit, thought, actions, etc. The idea is not for all the music to focus on ´Che´ himself, but for expression of whatever the contributing artists feel regarding being subject to living on their knees for the sake of ´The Man´or ´System´. John has came up with a phrase which I immediately responded, “That should be the title!” So, we are going with “The Guevara Convention”.

Emails have been sent out to collegues, friends, associates etc. and so far the response has been good…we have Dj/Rupture, Filestine, Coldcut, Fermin Murguza, Fun-da-mental, Las Ratas, DJ Klandestino, Dr. Das, Shaheen (former Prophets of da City producer and vocalist) and IR, saying ´yeah´ musically. Cecilia Parsberg put me in touch with a woman from Uruguay who was 14 years old when Che was killed. She became active in the Marxist Tupac Amaru group in Uruguay. She has said she´ll provide some words for the text, really looking forward to reading what she has to say.

fyi: The following link is for the animation that Cecilia and co-conspiritors put together about the Israeli occupation and for which they asked me to provide a soundtrack.

Javi Jiminez, a teacher and music writer here in Tenerife has also come on board, so we are moving. All we need now, are a few more artists and a label, distributor. The potential for this is huge. Oh, I must say, inspiration for this album also came about through an album that Fun-da-Mental soundman Bernard Maiquez lent me several years ago, El Che Vive!, (Last Call Records) which was released to coincide with the 30th anniversary of ´Che´´s death. I ended my first DJ stint in Tenerife (an AntiWar night at the original Cafeoteca de Arte in Puerto de la Cruz/2003) with the classic ´Hasta Siempre´ by Carlos Puebla y sus Tradicionales, from the aforementioned album, and the place erupted….everybody sang along! My girlfiend´s mum knows the song, kids know the song….so a chord was struck! If you got something for this project, please bring it. More as it happens….”

So I would say without doubt this is the best form the Guevara Convention could take. As discussed here, there is a lot at stake in these days to the terror-spectacle. Hope it comes together – look out for it in September.

The Guevara Convention

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

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

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

The text of the Geneva Convention is here:

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

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

(b) Taking of hostages;

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

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

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

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

War Mongering Minds – Hearts & Wallets.

Ben moved his site yet again, so catch up on his latest here.

He has posted on war and research most recently. University warmongering is rife wherever anyone cares to look. I’ve commented before on such University-Military Complex links – here – in an incident that might entertain as much as it appals. Buckets of money for terror research. Glory glory. Bastards. The program was pulled after criticisms, but I did hear the other day that its resurfaced in more benign looking forms – details when someone digs out the documents. Meanwhile…

There were a couple of good books on Camelot and other war-research by anthros recently. Check out David Price’s War and Anthro page here. His ‘weaponizing Anthropology’ is a pretty sweet title, but sometimes he advocates an ‘undamaged’ scholarship, and frankly I wonder if that old trick could ever have worked.

Ben Writes:

Given the ever-developing forms of subsumption of universities into capital, militarization cannot really be discussed separate from processes of commodification and commercialization in institutions of education and research. Nor can such militarization be understood divorced from the newer forms of integration of military, policing and intelligence activities, as part of ambitious projects of expansion and reorientation of systems of surveillance and control manifest in the War on Terror and the ‘revolution in military affairs’. The goal centres on massive and high tech expansion of intelligence and surveillance integrated with equally high-tech reorganization of communications, intended to make possible new practices of warfare and social control – reconstituting if not collapsing any distinction between them. Such, at least, is the more-or-less declared intent to which enormous energies and capital are being devoted.

The relation of Australian universities to this set of interrelated projects is not widely understood, and it is this which I intend to document. Theory of the offensive.

War Crimes of Tony Blair Redux

I hate to have to say so, but I am disappointed it has become mere entertainment, and yet this was probably all that would ever have happened. – ‘So much murder death kill on my TV’ I wrote back in September, and tonight I am watching a tele-novella style sit-com called ‘The Trial of Tony Blair’. It is so badly acted, but in a way amazing that Channel 4 have got away with so much (its on E4 satellite right now, on terrestrial later in the week). The best line so far has been Blair berating the guy who was going to publish his memoirs with the line about how leftists and the chattering classes were the ones who hated him. Well, this TV show is definitely chatter TV. It’s such a shame it washes over us with minimal effect. Blair is in jail now, about to be extradited to the Hague, probably gonna get out of it through becoming a catholic or having a seizure. So I figure I should retrieve, if only for some sort of twisted version of what passes for the record, my post from last September. Now the fantasy has come true I want fiction to be even more real [and Josiah Bartlet to run for Prez again]. Here below I repost and run shrieking into the wild…


People’s Tribunal on the Many and Varied War Crimes Trial of Tony Blair

I was invited to a small workshop at Tate Modern last friday (with folks like Chantal Mouffe, Mike Shapiro, John Armitage, Naeem Mohaiemen and many others – the ‘overly romantic’ Bernadette Buckley was enthusiastic) to discuss the possibilities for an ‘Art’ event next year at Tate. One of their big events, well funded, they were looking for suggestions and dominant thinking was along the lines of having a conference on Art and War and maybe commissioning an artist to do a ‘piece’. My humble contribution, based on frustration and fury at so much murder death kill on my TV, was to denounce the idea of yet another coffee chat and champers soiree for the elite about artists and contemporary conceptual arabesques that are worthy but do little but pat us on the back for being alienated angry and helpless art lovers. The issue for me is what would be adequate to win the war against the terrorists and criminals that run our lives and ruin so many others (cf Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran…). So, lets instead have an event in the turbine hall that does something that at least suggests the direction in which adequacy might be found – the People’s Tribunal War Crimes Trial of Tony Blair. Gore Vidal as the prosecutor, I guess Chris Hitchens as the defence. Who to get as judge to do the thumbs up or down at the end still open? And some other logistical matters to be decided… The thing to do afterwards will of course require more than touching faith in legal process, but a successful people’s tribunal at the most successful gallery in the world could also then help legitimise the people’s march on Westminster to ….

The point was made that it does not matter if this degenerates into farce or parody of ‘the law’ or ‘the courts’ – when the law suggests there might be a non-criminal way to bomb Afghanistan/Iraq etc, then anything that gets masses of people fired up enough to do more than march past Westminster to Hyde Park is better. Thus instead to rather march into the halls of power and turf out the jokers that sit on those plush chairs (boards of directors, lords and lairds) means something that seems more like justice (not legal justice, but people’s justice) might be on the cards.

Idealistic? Overly romantic? Perhaps. But always possible, and necessary now more than ever.


posted by John Hutnyk at 9:04 AM 18.9.06

The Guantanamo Cages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


This great post and meme by Ted Swedenburg deserves your attention. I used to play this game but never thought to collect – this is trinketization as well after all. One of my favourites was the news reporter on Japanese television when I worked in Nagoya, who presented all his Baghdad reports during 2003 wearing a Kufiya. Some people have mistaken Jade Goody’s pirate scarf on Big Brother as one as well, but I think we can let that pass – great as Jade is, her support for Pirates will do. Aki Nawaz of course is a prominent UK wearer, among millions in the UK, but though my own is now a bit tatty as its one of my oldest items of clothing, it does come out often. I got it from Palestine Solidarity in Melbourne in 1986 – we ran ads for their campaign group in the journal I edited, Criticism, Heresy and Interpretation. Anyway, this is Ted’s latest addition, gently mocking ‘Urban Outfitters’, but it’s worth pursuing the other posts as this one is number 12 in his series.

Kufiyaspotting #12: Urban Outfitters Markets Kufiya as “Anti-War Woven Scarf

Urban Outfitters’ “early spring” catalogue is now online, and the featured item in Men’s Accessories is the (Palestinian) kufiya, marketed as an “anti-war woven scarf” (thanks, Hisham).

If you click on the photo of the male model, you will find the kufiya (only $20), in the classic mode, checkered black-and-white, but also available in red, turqoise (my fave), and brown.

It’s remarkable that “anti-war” is now so mainstream that Urban Outfitters feels comfortable using it as a marketing tool. By contrast, back in the late ’80s, the Banana Republic catalogue carried an item called the “Israeli Paratroopers Bag.” It’s also remarkable that despite even though the Palestinians, since the onset of the al-Aqsa Intifada, have been indelibly re-associated with terrorism and suicide bombings, the Palestinian kufiya remains so deeply rooted in hipster clothing style and the outfits of oppositional movements that it remains hip/commercial/”resistive” symbol. Something on the order of Che Guevara t-shirts, full of contradictions, capable of making money, yet still giving off the whiff of danger. Probably it’s the hint of danger and the exoticism that, combined, (still) makes the kufiya marketable.

I’d hate, of course, to see wearing the “anti-war scarf” as accessory substitute for actual activism against the war/occupation. (And my friend Joel Gordon reminds me: the kufiya “originally” symbolizes resistance, and in fact, armed resistance (the Palestinian revolt of 1936-39, the fedayeen of the sixties and seventies), not “anti-war.”

No doubt this is also related to the “hipness” of things Islamic today; an article by Jill Hamburg Caplan will soon appear in New York magazine, and I’ll comment on it when it comes out.

I wrote an article on the kufiya as style back in 1992, in an article in Michigan Quarterly Revies, and I discuss its uses, in Palestine and the US, in my book, Memories of Revolt. I’ve also been attempting to document various “sitings” of the kufiya in this blog”.

Great stuff as ever Ted – hence reposted in full (of awe).

Saddam Hussain Superstar, who do you, what do you…

Saddam Hussain has been remade into a modern myth, reminiscent of him 2 millennia ago who was nailed on the cross by those god-botherers who thereafter suffered with the Christ-sickness and deified a carpenter. Saddam was no carpenter, but was the CIA-installed puppet of cold war skulduggery in the middle east – and now, having offended his gun-toting buddy Rumsfeld at some point perhaps, this martyr for a new millennium is set up with a founding narrative that repeats, as farce, a history with which we have already much conjured.

Think of Saddam’s palaces – the pay-off for his earlier compliance before he went rogue – they were often seen on news reports in the early flush of the arrival of US troops in Iraq. Beautiful palaces with ponds and the like. I have observed such scenes on screen somewhere before have I not – yes – at Herod’s place. In the Superstar version of Christ, there was talk of ‘walking across swimming pools’ and ‘turning water into wine’. JC Superstar was more all-singing, all-dancing cinematic than Saddam’s rope trick ending, but PM Blair’s reluctant, forced and late condemnation of the way it was done was very much like a rerun of Pilate washing his hands of dereliction and delegating the case elsewhere. And Bush is guilty too – whether we want to call those that hung Saddam US patsies, or if we recognise a certain modicum of vicious revenge, it is, as Slavoj Zizek has said, strange that there was no talk of dragging Saddam to the Hague tribunal. Instead we got a show trial and a show-business hanging, on prime time TV over the New Year when we were all at home with the family to watch.

Zizek has also compared the US to Rome, and found them lacking: “recall the common perception of the United States as a new Roman Empire. The problem with today’s America is not that it is a new global empire, but that it is not one. That is, while pretending to be an empire, it continues to act like a nation-state, ruthlessly pursuing its interests” (NYT 5.1.2007). The trouble seems to me that, rather, the timing is all too convenient, such that the troubles of Rome 2000 years ago do resonate with the troubles of US as faulty empire today. It took a good while for the Christians to extricate themselves from the lions and topple Caesar and all that, and of course there was the nasty middle ages and inquisitions and all sorts to get through… But what has been achieved with the televisual hanging of Saddam is perhaps a glorious sequel. An epic story of struggle and the next greatest story ever told – but instead of Max von Sydow (Christ in the 1965 version) or Cecil B. DeMille directing, we are likely to get Mel Gibson, as director and hopefully star (Mel as Saddam doing his own stunts – you’d have to laugh). Opening soon at a cineplex near you.

Lets remind ourselves of some of the lyrics:

Herod’s song:So, you are the Christ, you’re the great Jesus Christ.
Prove to me that you’re divine; change my water into wine.
That’s all you need do, then I’ll know it’s all true.
Come on, King of the Jews.
Jesus, you just won’t believe the hit you’ve made around here.
You are all we talk about, the wonder of the year.
Oh what a pity if it’s all a lie.
Still, I’m sure that you can rock the cynics if you tried.
So, you are the Christ, you’re the great Jesus Christ.
Prove to me that you’re no fool; walk across my swimming pool.
If you do that for me, then I’ll let you go free.
Come on, King of the Jews.


Pilate’s refrain (slower):

Don’t let me stop your great self-destruction.
Die if you want to, you misguided martyr.
I wash my hands of your demolition.
Die if you want to you innocent puppet!



Every time I look at you I don’t understand
Why you let the things you did get so out of hand.
You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned.
Why’d you choose such a backward time in such a strange land?
If you’d come today you could have reached a whole nation.
Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.
Don’t you get me wrong.
I only want to know.

Now we do have mass communication, but it seems we also need long memories. And, I’ll wager, ear-plugs.

[pic - from the audition: Much hand-washing needed, Rumsfeld leads the way, but Bush, Blair, Brown and Prescott also need a scrub. 'What's the buzz, tell me what's happenin, what's the buzz...'.
Disclaimer: Please note that I do not endorse any carpenters in any form, not even Richard and Karen; nor musicals, unless they star Barbara Stanwyck ("Lady of Burlesque", "Roustabout" - with Elvis Presley, and "US Canteen" to name a few)]

Pantomime Terrors – DIY Cookbook

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

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

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

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

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


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

See the video here:
Fun-da-Mental – Cookbook D.I.Y by bbpradi0

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

‘Combating Terrorism by Countering Radicalisation’


For information purposes (or should that be dis-informations proposals) … Regarding meetings in British Universities to discuss new gov.terror research programs. Our very own Camelot, yet again.

Meanwhile, today even the Generals are talking mutinous talk it seems, perhaps….


> Dear all,
> This is the information relating to the third item on the agenda that
> I have just circulated. Some of you know about this already, but now
> that the scheme is coming to fruition and projects are to be funded, I
> think that it is essential that we discuss and reflect on the implications
> of these developments. The matter has been raised with me most recently by
> Martha Mundy, David Seddon and Glen Bowman, and
> Martha and David have already taken up the issues with the UK Middle
> Eastern Studies Association. I have copied in a circular letter that
> Martha has drafted on the problems that the scheme and its mode of
> implementation pose. David attended one of the by invitation meetings to
> which Martha refers yesterday. It was sparsely attended and pertinent
> questions from david and other participants did not produce satisfactory
> responses or assurances from the Programme Director or ESRC officials. If
> you read Martha’s letter and then examine the attached ESRC call for
> proposals and supporting country/region documents, then I think the scale
> of the problems this poses (from conception to execution) will become all
> too painfully apparent.
> I would like to promote as wide awareness and discussion as possible
> of this and other manifestations of the “war against terror’s” increasing
> influence on academic life (such as the presence of security personnel at
> academic events), so you might want to distribute this to other members of
> staff and maybe discuss it formally before the 28th. I will be happy to
> write to ESRC and AHRC expressing our collective views, perhaps on the
> lines that Martha has already laid out, but assuming that the scheme goes
> ahead as planned that is not likely to be the end of the matter and we
> really do need to consider the deeper and longer term implications
> All the best
> John
> Martha’s letter:
> Dear Colleague,
> You will find below and in attachment information received by email
> concerning an FCO-AHRC-ESRC research programme entitled ‘Combating
> Terrorism by Countering Radicalisation’. For three major reasons this
> initiative promises to be very damaging to the reputation of British
> academic research: because of the design of the programme itself, because
> of the risk to researchers working overseas it entails, and because of the
> lack of transparency in the sponsorship and selection process. I am
> therefore asking you, after reading the appended material, either to write
> yourself to the funding councils or to indicate back to me that you share
> the concerns outlined below and would like to pursue a collective
> response.
> Let me briefly summarize the three sets of problems raised by the
> initiative.
> 1) The programme entails a series of extremely specific
> intelligence-driven questions that start from the premise of a link between
> Islam, radicalisation (nowhere defined!) and terrorism. It is
> the role of academic research to provide good basic knowledge of the
> various regions; this requires relatively free funding for research, on
> which, of course, intelligence reports will in turn draw. But this
> programme puts the cart before the horse, even on its own terms, and will
> result in poor scientific knowledge about the regions, countries and
> phenomena that the programme identifies as central. Scholars need to
> enjoy a degree of intellectual independence and self-guidance that this
> programme does not allow.
> 2) In many of the countries and regions specified in the programme, a
> researcher who attempted on the ground – not from an office-chair in the
> United Kingdom – to conduct research into the questions posed by the
> programme could be placed in physical danger either from local religious or
> nationalist actors or from the relevant state governments themselves. In a
> context where the international reputation of the United Kingdom
> (following recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon) is poor,
> funding British researchers to pursue an overtly security-research agenda
> abroad is likely to endanger perhaps not just their reputation but also
> their physical well-being. As Doctoral Programme Director in the
> Anthropology Department of the LSE I regularly countersign the
> ethics and risk-assessment statements of our doctoral researchers. Should
> they propose research of the kind required by this programme in a country
> such as Nigeria or Sudan (two of the selected countries), it would be
> contrary to my professional ethics to ignore the possible risk the
> doctoral candidate would face. Presumably the programme was written by
> security studies experts who have little or no experience of field
> research in the areas Dear of South-East, Central and South Asia, The Arab
> World, and relevant African countries concerned by the
> initiative. In relation to both the current world-class status of British
> research and the personal security of researchers in the field, this
> initiative is problematic as potentially threatening both.
> 3) Inquiries to the ESRC by Professor David Seddon reveal that this
> programme has not been openly advertised but was designed by an invited
> group of academics meeting July 10th ; on October 12th/13th meetings are
> to be held in London and Edinburgh to which certain academics are invited
> (I myself happen to be on the list presumably because I was
> major panel member for the Arabic Language funding initiative of the two
> councils last year). Closing date for proposals will be November 8th and
> decision will be forthcoming in January, a ‘Commissioning Panel of
> academic and user experts to be convened’ [see attached Call for
> Proposals.doc]. The programme is not to be openly advertised; rather,
> selected applicants are to be invited to proceed with final applications
> for the funding. Apparently the funding derives largely from the Foreign
> Office and the AHRC. Given this fact, it would be appropriate
> that Foreign Office (as the US State Department has done in offering
> research grants) take over the direct administration of the programme.
> Such a programme should be neither funded by, nor administered through,
> the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social
> Research Council, as it violates the principles of open advertisement
> and transparent competition which guarantee the excellence and independence
> of British council-funded research. If the Foreign Office believes that
> programme is in its interest, then it should administer the grants itself,
> and academics choosing to participate can do so under that body. But the
> rest of British university research overseas and the good practices of the
> funding councils must be safeguarded against direct association with
> intelligence-gathering exercises.
> Martha Mundy
> Reader in Anthropology
> London School of Economics>
[note: I have not yet seen the 'attached call for proposals.doc, funnily enough -J]

People’s Tribunal on the Many and Varied War Crimes Trial of Tony Blair

I was invited to a small workshop at Tate Modern last friday (with folks like Chantal Mouffe, Mike Shapiro, John Armitage, Naeem Mohaiemen and many others – the ‘overly romantic’ Bernadette Buckley was enthusiastic) to discuss the possibilities for an ‘Art’ event next year at Tate. One of their big events, well funded, they were looking for suggestions and dominant thinking was along the lines of having a conference on Art and War and maybe commissioning an artist to do a ‘piece’. My humble contribution, based on frustration and fury at so much murder death kill on my TV, was to denounce the idea of yet another coffee chat and champers soiree for the elite about artists and contemporary conceptual arabesques that are worthy but do little but pat us on the back for being alienated angry and helpless art lovers. The issue for me is what would be adequate to win the war against the terrorists and criminals that run our lives and ruin so many others (cf Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran…). So, lets instead have an event in the turbine hall that does something that at least suggests the direction in which adequacy might be found – the People’s Tribunal War Crimes Trial of Tony Blair. Gore Vidal as the prosecutor, I guess Chris Hitchens as the defence. Who to get as judge to do the thumbs up or down at the end still open? And some other logistical matters to be decided… The thing to do afterwards will of course require more than touching faith in legal process, but a successful people’s tribunal at the most successful gallery in the world could also then help legitimise the people’s march on Westminster to ….

The point was made that it does not matter if this degenerates into farce or parody of ‘the law’ or ‘the courts’ – when the law suggests there might be a non-criminal way to bomb Afghanistan/Iraq etc, then anything that gets masses of people fired up enough to do more than march past Westminster to Hyde Park is better. Thus instead to rather march into the halls of power and turf out the jokers that sit on those plush chairs (boards of directors, lords and lairds) means something that seems more like justice (not legal justice, but people’s justice) might be on the cards.

Idealistic? Overly romantic? Perhaps. But always possible, and necessary now more than ever.

Disappeared In America

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 In America:

“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. “

17-8. RampArt and Sly – secret omnipresence of resistance.

I insist I’m a legitimate scientist
paid by the government with your finances

- Cookbook DIY

Last night I caught the tube to Shadwell and walked to the corner of Rampart and Sly Streets (hmmm, significant street names – Ramparts was a 60s magazine of some importance, Sly – well, that’s clear enough – a the end of the street there’s a great sweet shop…). So, I arrived at the corner to find Aki Nawaz slumped in a broken office chair beside a dumpster and a pile of crushed cardboard boxes. ‘Welcome to my office’, he greets me. We sit and chat about the mad media responses to his new album “All is War”; we run through recent events in the horror that is Lebanon; approve the resistance of Hezbollah; and consider the possibility that bruiser John Reid is going gung-ho in his new home secretary job because, like an earlier blind incumbent, he is jockeying for position as a possible future leader of the Labour Party, so acting tough is what he thinks will get him noticed in the tabloids. We talk about how the tabloids make public opinion nowadays and its mainly a way of scaring people into silence, apathy and into nothing but the joys of shopping. Then a Green Party representative comes over and asks Aki what instrument he plays in the band (I only wish Aki had replied, ‘Hi, my name’s Pink’).

Home Secretary Reid, believe it or not, is a former CPGBer (old version) and perhaps best noticed for calling Jeremy Paxman a West London Wanker (henceforth W-L-W) – well, Reid has his chances I guess, so why not be gung-ho at a time when the Deputy PM John Presscaught is invisible and war criminal Bliar is off hiding out in some Caribbean terror training camp after paving the way for the IDF to make pavement out of Southern Beirut. A airport carry on luggage scare and the arrest of a bunch of teenagers is a great service to the no-hoper piggy pollies that need the cover (but gung ho is a funny expression; a mix of Bruce Lee and Ho Chi Minh springs to mind, so I best stop using it, because Reid has long ago left the Left behind, and I am told, anyway, that gung-ho was taken up by the US Marines but was originally the abbreviation for a Chinese Communist organisation, so using it to refer to the Labour Party is far too uncanny… I digress, see here and also contrast the film, and laugh out loud).

Anyway, politics by tabloid. Aki has himself been noticed in the tabloids quite a bit of late – The Sun called him a ‘suicide rapper’ and the Guardian had a go – as I have mentioned already. The event at Ramparts – a social centre in Shadwell – is to discuss the controversy, and to host the premiere screening of the video for ‘Cookbook DIY’ (lyrics here; download track here). The evening kicks off in somewhat desultory manner with a half hour video on the history of Fun-da-mental that presses various key buttons – ‘Tribal Revolution’, ‘Dog Tribe’, ‘GoDevil’ clips and plenty of send-up footage of a lame Australian TV interviewer who pretty much can’t cope with Aki asking if Australian Aboriginals had rights and land back yet – ‘what are you doing about it?’ ‘Nothing.’. Point.

Slowly the RampArts social centre fills up, and people take their seats to find a gift FDM cd – its not about the sales – and Ken Fero, co-director of Injustice – kicks off proceedings by introducing Aki, John Pandit and the guy from the GP, noting that two other guest speakers were still on their way. Aki starts speaking about how democracy is a weapon that kills, that there is a silencing that is as much blame, that the leader in Downing St needs to be put on a donkey and paraded through the city, and that he can’t understand why there is nobody doing anything. He is really angry. The youth in Britain are angry, There are people being killed in thousands and everyone seems to be going on and on as if there was nothing they could do. They tried to protest against the gulf war, but were ignored and since then, nothing. Why, he says, aren’t people out there burning down town halls and the like? (This last comment almost an aside, but it will become more and more the hot topic of the night). The Green Party representative speaks next, about free speech – frankly, the usual routines– thank-you Shahrar Ali, invited by the organisers Red Pepper. Then Natasha Atlas arrives – her music is also released under Aki’s Nation Records imprint – and she talks of her Syrian partner, the troubles musicians have getting visas in Europe, her anger and frustration at the war, and she apologises for being emotional. In fact it’s the most passionate thing I’ve heard her say ever, and not at all prima donne-esque. Great. Then the final late speaker walks in, Louise Christian, human rights lawyer(and she reminds us the event is organised by Rod Popper…). She speaks in favour of free speech and against the new additions to the terror laws, that will criminalise anyone who speaks in favour of – glorifies, encourages – acts of terror. The intent of criminality is to be assumed even if they did not inspire anyone to act, even if they were vague about whether they really intended people to go out and – Louise looks over to Aki – say people should go and blow up buildings. She says she does not think these laws will ever be tested, that they are like clause 28 – crime of encouraging homosexuality – or the incitement to racial hatred law – a kind of public relations gesture. She says we should not get paranoid, that at least in this country we can have debates like this – there has been no debate as yet, but restlessness in the audience suggests one might start soon – and debate is something we have to cherish, because – here’s the clincher – they don’t have it in Turkey, Burma or North Korea (double take – wha??? axis of evil redux).

Cmde John Pandit from ADF speaks next. Quietly pointing out the need to organise and to do so on new creative ways, to make a new set of alliances. To do the work required to build a movement that is not just protest marches that go from A to B (this will also become a refrain, the issue of how the Stop the War coalition does all it can to minimize confrontations and have us all hide out in Hyde Park provokes considerable agitation). And its important, he emphasizes, not to fall for the self-censorship that means that so many musicians who do have media visibility say nothing.

The first question is from the reporter from the Daily Star, Neil Chandler – he told me his column appears in the Sunday edition. I might even buy it as his question was ok, and in a short exchange with the reporter from the Morning Star (and representative of the STW coalition) Neil seemed by far the more credible. But it is the Daily Star, so no high hopes eh. In any case, in response to questions the point was made forcefully by Aki that the issue was British foreign policy. A simple persuasive argument he offers runs: we put up with years and years of racism and it did not mean any young people felt the need to strap on bomb belts and jackets and blow the trains; we endured years and years unemployment and it did not mean anyone went out to bomb buildings [well, Baader Meinhof excluded, but …]; but now the nightly news footage of innocents killed one after the other in their hundreds and no-one wants to discuss it, no-one listens, no debate, no significant movement to defend Muslims; no defence of mosques from attack; no way the STW coalition was going to deliver on its promise that ‘if Blair goes to war we will stop the whole country’, despite 2 million marching in February 2002…the problem is foreign policy. Change that and its over.

Some audience members were keen to point out that there were ongoing efforts to defeat Blair. Protests against airports and weapons manufacture, dealers, delivery, sabotage, various campaigns. There was some discussion of how music is important as a way of airing issues, that musicians are more than the soundtrack of a movement; that since the 60s Vietnam protests music could be something more than entertainment. But so often its not. I am of course reminded of Adorno saying that the debate was not yet over about art, and perhaps art still carried the ‘secret omnipresence of resistance’ in its hidden core. But this is not enough in a world of shopping. All this is admirable but it does not get to the question of just what kind of organisation is needed to defeat the imperialist foreign policy. The questions I ask have to do with this: the need for debate and action on all these points; on what sort of organisation is needed; on what sort of action is needed (someone heckles ‘but not blowing up buildings’); and on what sort of analysis is needed to support both organisation adequate to succeed, and the actions necessary. This does not get taken up; instead the chair notes there is always resistance, there will always be resistance. Another speaker asks a question about violence, naming Gandhi and the struggle against British colonialism. Aki makes the point that Gandhi was not alone, there was always a range of others involved, from Uddam Singh and Subhas Bose. Gandhi, it is insisted, wanted peace, not blowing up buildings – this is becoming the defining phrase, spiralling into architectural defence. Aki exasperated says ‘you lot care more about buildings than people’ – hands thrown up in the air. Everyone wants a say, a filmmaker is shouting from the back, the guy with the roving mike has gone outside to answer a phone call, with the mike still turned on. Chaos. So the movement shall be organised like this…

Dave Watts from FDM stands up. The discussion has dragged on and his frustration as clear as many. He starts by saying he understands why people want to be suicide bombers, he understands the frustration that would make someone want to go out and do it. You can imagine how this rubs up against the Gandhians. Dave says there has to be some understanding of where those who have tried to discuss have now ended up – ready to do violence and blow up buildings . But then he says he is a man of peace, a lover of peace, but he is angry and we have to fight for peace. The video clip we are about to see is called ‘Cookbook DIY’ and Dave explains its in three parts, that the person who in frustration because the is no other avenue for discussion, expression, action, has made a home bomb for 50 quid, is a small version of the guy who makes a dirty bomb, with materials bought on the black market, but neither are as obscene as the scientist who kisses his wife in the morning – Dave mimes a smooch, playing to the audience – who then goes off to work in a pentagon lab or some such to make a neutron bomb that kills all the people but leaves the buildings intact. Have a look at the video people … at which point, the screening:

And that is exactly what Cookbook DIY does. Just as it says on the tin. Do not mistake this for advocacy – its an analysis. This ‘suicide rap’ exposes the suicide scientist making the neutron bomb, the daisy-cutter, the cluster bombs and all those other armaments that the Lords of War – Blair, Reid, etc etc – threaten us with, under their terror laws, their terror regimes, the bombing runs and their surveillance systems. Their free speech that is no speech, their diplomacy and their democracy. Under the veneer of democracy, the bloodied hands of the piggy pollies; under the musical refrains, the resistance; under the cover of the Daily and the Morning Stars, another secret possibility. The global resistance, Zindabad!

Cookbook DIY lyrics:

I’m packed up ingredients stacked up my Laptop
Downloaded the military cookbook PDF
Elements everyday chemicals at my reach
Household bleach to extract the potassium
Chlorate Boiling on a hotplate with hate
recipe for disaster plastic bomb blaster
I mix up 5 parts wax to Vaseline
slowly … dissolve in gasoline
add to potassium in a large metal bowl
knead like dough so they bleed real slow
Gasoline evaporates… cool dry place
I’m strapped up cross my chest bomb belt attached
deeply satisfied with the plan I hatched
electrodes connected to a gas cooker lighter
switch in my hand the situation demands
self sacrifice hitting back at vice with a £50 price

I’m 31.. numb …but the hurt is gone
Gonna build a dirty bomb
us this privilege and education
My PHD will free me
Paid of the Ruskies for weapons grade Uranium
Taught myself skills from Pakistan Iran
upgraded its stage two of the plan
Rage… a thermo nuclear density gauge
stolen by the Chechens from a Base in Georgia
I get some cobalt 60 from a food irradiator
so easy to send the infidels to their creator
its takes a dirty mind to build a dirty bomb
The simplicity is numbing genius is dumbing
down the situation to a manageable level
to make the world impossible to live for these devils
a suitcase of semtex a mobile phone trigger
Blow them all to hell for a million dollar figure

I insist I’m a legitimate scientist
paid by the government with your finances
I got a private room in the Whitehouse suite
So I can develop according to presidential Brief
The megaton don Gulf war veteran
The foremost proponent of the neutron bomb
at the centre atomic surrounded on all sides
wrapped in layers of lithium deutaride
the bomb detonates causing lithium to fission into helium
tritium neutrons into Fission
The blast causes shockwaves that melt body fat
uniquely though it leaves the buildings intact
I made the 25 megaton daisy cutter
a great blast radius with very little clutter
There’s less radiation so you get a cleaner bomb
its your money people it cost a billion

- Nawaz/Watts.

Also – from “All is War” – check out ‘Bark Like a Dog’ – a Pistol-whip of a track that deserves to roar up the charts…

nothing to read

The airlines have gone insane, banning cabin luggage: – mobile phones and cameras to be crushed in the hold; ban on all liquids (though you can take on personal medications – see pic); baby food to be tasted by mothers before being carried on board (better check their nappies too eh – for baby bombs!); spectacles to be taken out of cases (why – if they are high powered could they be used to focus the sun’s rays onto detonator touch paper?); and no newspapers or books (just in case you were planning on making a text bomb, or an origami gun?). This last restriction means I am island marooned – shipwrecked even – as the thought of crossing the atlantic without a book to read means the ‘terrorists’ have already won. So far 24 of these alleged plotters have been arrested by the OB, infiltrated (hmmm, not entrapped?) by the heroic paranoids that also brought us the shootings at Stockwell and Forest Gate – cos we all know they must be guilty and only a conspiricy theorist (101) would ask if its not just another cover for that other news story that was interrupting Blair’s Caribbean holiday. [note, not mediterranean holiday - he was warned off going there, cos someone else had some plans for scorching the region]…

Among other interesting responses in the last 24 hours, both Aki Nawaz from fun^da^mental and the dodgy archbish of cant have denounced Bush jr’s use of the phrase ‘islamic fascists’. Quite a strange conjunction – but there are fascists everywhere that should already have been exposed often enough (look in a mirror George). Should we not be a bit more circumspect and not rush too quickly to use the fash term – reserving it for special foes, like those who dispossess people of their land, homes and lives in a kind of programmed extermination… as has been infliced on people in, say, Lebenon… OK – Bataille, Adorno and Spivak on fascism and terror are gonna be the topics of my PhD seminar classes for next term (that’s so sure to be a help, eh!). At least Aki gets his point across – BBC news last night, and:

on the new album, which at last is available (download tracks 99p each)

Fun Da Mental
“All Is War” album

Exclusively and only from
Click below
I am guessing though that you can’t take your Ipod on international flights either, since
music is a weapon of mass destruction. Right. We are living in heaven. New options needed.

Fun^Da^Mental’s ‘All Is War’

hawgblawg: “Positive review of Fun^Da^Mental’s ‘All Is War’
At last, a critic able to actually engage with Fun^Da^Mental’s forthcoming release (due out at the end of the month) All Is War–a review by Chris Campion, writing in The Observer. Some choice bits:

Strip away the outrage, then, and what’s left is an album pieced together with great consideration. To provoke not just a reaction but thought and debate…Musically, too, it’s audacious and, at times, exhilarating…it is underpinned by a militant faith: a faith in humanity to lance the boil afflicting society and reveal the poison swelling up within. Fear, intolerance, ignorance and self-interest are the hallmarks of Blair’s Britain underneath its thin veneer of civility and morality.
posted by Ted Swedenburg @ 8:57 PM “

Aki here and FDM here.

double-think Australian mining PNG mining Indonesian (alleged) terror mining Riotinto and Tim Spicer in Iraq just loving it. (and Israeli Blitzkrieg)

OK, here is a convoluted double-think. News just in. The Papua New Guinea army commander that ousted that mercenary pom and stiff-lipped bastard Tim Spicer and Sandline International from PNG when they came to intervene in the Bougainville war in 1997, must now be jealous that the same bastard Lord of War (Spicer) is suddenly resurgent and making mega millions selling arms in Iraq. So he – PNG commander (actually now retired Major General) Singirok – is complaining that the Australia Government’s cutting of the PNG military budget is making it more likely that (alleged) Indonesian terrorists from Jemaah Islamiah will enter PNG and threaten Australian mining interests, making the miners a target. This is truly choice. Remembering that the reason Singarok was able to get rid of the mercenaries of Sandline was because his own PNGDF troops rebelled at not being paid for months and months while being on the back foot in the Bougainville war (despite considerable covert and overt Australian military support), made worse by the fact that the then PNG PM purchased outside mercenary help, which in turn drove the demoralised and unpaid rebellious soldiers to near mutiny. Spicer and his mercenary cronies didn’t even have time to pack their bags, leaving all sorts of weaponry on the Port Moresby tarmac. On the back of this, ten years later the Australian effort is to reduce the PNGDF via payouts to halve the size of the force – that in itself quite twisted double think – pay your enemies to have less troops (in another zone, you can’t help but think the Israeli Blitzkrieg in Lebanon might go easier if they did the same eh, evil nasties). All of this convolution in terms of ‘defence support’ and mining interests is, I guess unsurprisingly, a consequence of tactical deployment of funds to bolster international econonmic interests (Australian, British and US mining) via the flexing of Australian military aspiration/asdventurism in the area, becoming regional cop and invading Solomons, East Timor etc… So Singirok’s delightful double-think threat is that because of the (alleged) targetting of Australian miners in PNG (awww, diddums) from (alleged) Indonesian terrorists, his own defence force (PNGDF) should be re-tooled so as to have capacity to protect said Australian miners. Lost track yet? – the mining operations are the biggest cash cow for international mining companies yet imagined, perhaps with the exception of arms sales. An audit of contemporary colonialism will clearly require more than average accountants. Rio tinto corporate executives must be licking their filthy chops.

You can read the article about Singirok in today’s Australian newspaper here.

Mind The Gap

I am always suspicious of travellers’ tales, especially those I’ve heard (or told) before. They get refined and streamlined, they come to resemble one’s own version of the Lonely Planet guidebook.

Jacques Derrida knew this, commenting on travel narrative – he identifies two ‘risks’ of travelogues in the possible meanings of the terms we use: ‘The first is that of selectivity’ and he describes a ‘recit raisonne’ as a ‘narrative that, more than others, filters or sifts out the supposedly significant features – and thus begins to censor’ (Derrida 1993:197-8); and the second, from the first; ‘raisonner also signifies, in this case, to rationalise … active overinterpretation’ (Derrida 1993:198). These two themes of perspective and ordering selection are the themes for a necessary work which will take up the call (this is not the only call) for a Marxist analysis of trinkets, and of the coin the buys them, so as to open up a ‘systematic reflection on the relations between tourism and political analysis’ at a time when tourism has become highly ‘organised’. Derrida writes that such an analysis ‘would have to allow a particular place to the intellectual tourist (writer or academic) who thinks he or she can, in order to make them public, translate his or her ‘travel impressions’ into a political diagnostic’ (Derrida 1993:215).

So, here is another little travel story. From the London Tube. And about a trinket called Dum Dum – double stupidity.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission report on the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes was revealed today – six long months after it was given to the Crown Prosecution Service, way back in January, and only now they are about, perhaps, to act on it .The report has been said to recommend that the 2 Police who shot Jean Charles, and the chief cop running the action (Cressida Dick), should be prosecuted for manslaughter. (Why not murder?). We have been here before, and everyone knows from the film Injustice that talk of even a manslaughter charge doesn’t mean there is much hope of a conviction of cops who kill (too many other examples go against that forlorn hope for legal justice). The resonances in this case are too strange for me not to think something very weird is going to happen every time I mind the gap.

For starters, the strange peripheral bit that grabs me is that the police shooters operating under Kratos shoot to kill ‘rules’ of engagement used Dum Dum bullets and these little beauties were said to be less dangerous for the general public. Of course this is madness – what are the BBC thinking in saying this? Is that what it said in the advertising brochure when the MET went to the arms fair to buy them, from the Lord of War himself AKA Nicolas Cage?.

It also seems patently wrong that there is a body set up to decide in advance that cops who kill should face watered down charges. Even though the Independent Police Complaints Authority does say the 2 cops and Commander Dick should be charged, they mean charged only with manslaughter – and this comes after the operation report of the action was ‘corrected’ or amended. Surely the courts themselves (if not the people’s court) should get to decide the significance of this? What is to say there are not other tamperings and fiddlings with the facts? And in singling out Dick and the trigger happy killers, have they not let Commissioner Ian Blair (head MET cop) off the hook as well – all these people are involved in a murder; I mean, they had him held down, pinned, motionless… this was a death in custody, wasn’t it? Another one.

I hate to say it, but this just presses all of my buttons. Dum Dum is in Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal, where you can find the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose airport, itself built on the site where British Raj era soldiers invented the bullet also known as ‘dum dum’ - an onomatopoeic name from the sound of the bullet leaving the gun, then exploding inside the target – a doubled report, a nasty little piece of weaponry, brutal in its effects. Used to kill Afridi tribesmen in the North West Frontier. Which charmingly links the police of the Stockwell killing directly to the colonialism of many years ago, but no-one will really be surprised. And of course this kind of Police protection (protection of us, they are there using Dum Dum bullets to protect us – I believe it!) is clearly linked to the themes of the film Injustice and deaths in custody – Jean Charles was in custody when he was killed, they have a duty of care. This is something I have written about elsewhere, both in terms of the concerns of the film, and in general with detention issues in the wake of the War of Terror. But now I am interested in how operation Kratos is an updated version of those old manuals of procedure that James Bond must have memorised, that offer up the blow by blow (literally) guide book of how to deal with protesters, miscreants, threats to the state and other average citizens. What did that Nick Cage type goon say at the arms fair anyway: ‘Hey, pssst, over here … these bullets are great, they explode inside the victims head'; ‘Yeah, wow, gimme a couple of dozen boxes, we can use them on public transport'; ‘Safety first, dib dib dib’.

Finally, it drives me nuts to endure the stupidity of BBC news reports that continue to repeat the fudge that implies Jean Charles was somehow not just a member of the public – a public, qivvering before its screens, that is now going to be so much safer because the Kratos shoot to kill policy is mitigated by these Dum Dum bullets… Such is the danger to our tube travellers and other denizens of the city that by the middle of last year this Kratos policy had been called upon 250 times, and almost used 7 times – and, obviously, really was used the once. Dum really Dum.

I am reassured once again that only in Nepal has there been any repeal of new terror laws – the rest of us are protected, so we can travel safe. As I keep saying over and over (refine and streamline, diagnose, repeat). Tubes run on time thank Ken, and they are safer now, thank Bliar. Aren’t we living in the best of all worlds?

> The travel text is from Derrida, Jacques 1993, ‘Politics and Friendship: An Interview’, in Kaplan, E. Ann & Sprinkler, Michael 1993, The Althusserian Legacy, Verso, New York, pp. 183-232.

> The picture is honour of Jean Charles de Menezes, tube traveller. In need of proper justice.

On the Bus – I mean, on the side of the bus. 7/7 attack anniversary.

A year ago tomorrow the July 7 tube and bus bombings took place. Terrible. Blowback. Sublime. Whatever your evaluation, opinion, fear, craziness – its the case that the whole thing has become a political football and some folks this week are playing for penalties with flippers and snorkel in a way that can only remind me of Grosso and Henri. Blair trying to play the blame card, moderate Muslim ‘leaders’ trying to suck up, everyone managing to avoid discussion of the reasons and the ongoing open wounds that are Afghanistan, Iraq…

Even some highly respected theorists seem incapable of a open eyed examination of the issues, the grievances, the consequences of global imperial war (on terror): both Buck-Morrs and Zizek have noted that those who attacked the New York Trade towers on September 11, 2001, left no ‘message’ and ‘no list of demands’ – suggesting this absence of explicit message offers a new fold in the practice of dissent. Is it that they want to suggest/agree with the popular understanding that these ‘terrorists’ are only crazed fanatics raged against us, and nothing more? This is poor analysis if so – the ‘reading’ of intent and the characterisation of ‘terrorists’ as fanatics strikes me as something that needs a more careful examination. Not conspiracy theory, but discussion of the ways we talk ourselves into compliance with Blair, accepting the profiles, conceding to the demonisation of Muslims etc etc (shooting on the train, armed police with kill orders – operation Kratos) and other militarisations of everyday life.

Was there really no message? – the portrayal of the fourth bomber on July 7, 2005 as the younger of the lads who had, somehow, chickened out and failed to set off his bomb on the tube, then gets on a bus and ‘accidentally’ the bomb goes off … this should also be reconsidered. Check the bus, check the choice of bus – not that it was on the way to Hackney Wick, but check the image on the side of the bus. Apologies to those who would like to think this was not an organised act of resistance, but there does seem to be a message here. War of terror indeed. Not a matter of profiling, but of examining the ways the event of July 7 (and Sept 11) is managed as an alibi for continuing global violence, bombings, occupations and absolute failure to think through the outcomes achieved on the back of 500 years of global capitalist wealth extraction.

Of course the press misrepresent, but then so does all critique that does not always worry at this question of the co-constitution of outlook and action, prejudice and project.

I think its fairly boring for intellectuals to comment (Zizek, Buck-Morrs) that today protests (the Sept 11 bombers) have ‘no list of demands’. Its not quite so clear cut, but when Zizek, for example, points out that there were no demands, and no ideological program, beyond some claim – as far as he knows – for recognition, and a wish to make an impact, we should take a moment to look. We live in a universe which celebrates the absence of ideology, the dangerous reflexive society (of Giddens) gives rise to the gesture of fascism but not fascism that restores order and dignity (to those of the homeland) but rather now a fascism which would attribute meaning as only a gesture, and achieves this as a totalitarian control. So we comply with fascism when we accept those commentators who would have us avoid thinking, so as to spin the images on our screens. But we do know its not like that, we can actually see the signs on the bus.

Che and Beret…part one

I can’t get that annoying little ditti by Kylie out of my head today – na na na, na na nana na… And I have to go give a talk later at Aga Khan University about music. This does not bode well. In the afternoon I might swing by the Victoria & Albert Museum for the exhibition that has just opened, that Peter Conrad wrote so annoyingly about in the Observer this weekend. He did mention some of the images I planned to use, but won’t now. I was going to do a riff on berets. Starting with the ones PC mentioned – Cher (just ad an r – heh heh Pete, what smarm-charm you have) I guess he means the one where she is on the Sleaze Nation cover. Then the Madonna Life one – Madge, whom bell hooks described as like a kind of plantation mistress for her tidying up of dance music etc – note she also managed to bring so-called ‘Asian’ music into the big house too, back when she did that album Ray of Light, wailing seemingly about Heidegger (‘your eyes only see what your eyes want to see’) in the Tundra of the song Frozen… (Virinder and I rant on her career redeeming [?] South Asian turn here)…

Then there is Che himself with camera, which shows a certain charm. And its not something the left was not fully cognizant off, long before the V&A retrospective… as can be seen from my pic from an ESF stall year before last… It seemed the stalls witht he most Che t-shirts were from our italian comrades, and I guess with the cost of life in London, we hope they made some sales….

The funny bit is of course that Che has a beard, but Gerry Adams appearence was considered inappropriate for the opening of this exhibition (well, I guess his mates did bomb a few of Old Vicky’s relatives on the way to forcing them to the negotiations table…)

….continued… in pt 2 (cos blogger cannot seem to cope with more than a couple of pics at a time)…

recomposition of a communist politics

Institute for Conjunctural Research

“The narcissism of renegades?The spectres of recuperation, repetition and imitation have always haunted the various ideologies of resistance, at least those not all too happy to celebrate the joys of ambivalence and the hybrid, those for which resistance is not just the name of a minimal inflection – a torsion, a distance, perhaps even a perversion – in the densely articulated space of hierarchies, partitions and dominations. In order to make a contribution to specifying what resistance may mean today, whether the term is even applicable or operative, what its minimal lineaments may be, I would like to turn to a relatively minor, if, as I hope to argue, symptomatic, episode in the vicissitudes of this concept: the intellectual trajectory that led some figures emerging from the current of French Maoism, first, to formulate an ideology of pure revolt, or absolute resistance, countering the complicities of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary politics vis-à-vis the perennial mechanisms of power and oppression; second, to revise the latter theory of ‘angelic’ or non-dialectical revolt into a tragic theory of morality, separating the resistance exemplified by moral protest and the defence of human rights from any notion of revolt, now considered ‘barbaric’ – thus adopting, despite all protestations to the contrary, the key thesis of the nouvelle philosophie, as instigated and ‘produced’ by Bernard-Henri Lévy, to wit, that there is a bloody thread running straight from Das Kapital to the Gulags, and that it is philosophy’s collusion with mastery and the state that lies behind the ‘totalitarian’ disasters of the 20th century. The aforementioned trajectory is encapsulated in two works arising from the collaboration of Christian Jambet and Guy Lardreau, philosophers schooled at the École Normale at the time of the May events, and militants in the Gauche Prolétarienne, the most visible of the post-68 Maoist organisations, famously supported by Foucault and Sartre against the censorship of its newspaper, La cause du peuple. The GP disbanded in 1974 after its increasingly patent inefficacy on the shop-floor and its last-minute retreat from the option of armed struggle. It would be easy, and perhaps even useful, to reduce the two works in question, L’Ange and Le Monde, to mere effects of an exquisitely Parisian sequence, which led a few children of the elites, ‘the little princes of the University’, as Lacan sardonically noted, into a spectacular but ineffectual, and misinformed, embrace of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, through a period of inevitable disappointment, into an equally overblown and narcissistic exploitation of their personal failures for media effect, and, finally, to the collaboration with the increasingly hegemonic ideology of human rights and humanitarian interventions, still with us today ….”.

hawgblawg: "Bring ‘Em Home Now!" Concert for Peace on March 20 in NYC

hawgblawg: “Bring ‘Em Home Now!” Concert for Peace on March 20 in NYC: “‘Bring ‘Em Home Now!’ Concert for Peace on March 20 in NYC

This is an amazing lineup: Michael Stipe, Rufus Wainwright, Bright Eyes, Fischerspooner, Peaches, Devendra Banhart, & Steve Earle, with special guests ‘Peace Mom’ Cindy Sheehan & Chuck D.

At the Hammerstein Ballroom to commemorate the Third Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq”…(see for more)

So, this is a link to an event in far off USA, but posted from even more far out Arkansas, a place I have visitited just the once – for Carrie and Matt’s wedding in downtown El Dorado. Also hung out at the fab cowboy shop in Magnolia and visited with the Clantons. Hayh y’all.

Ted, if I had known you were not that far away I would have visited you too for sure – and the locals coulda made even more fun of MY accent. (go figure).

People should check out the Swedenburg archive – worth the time.

Leon Khun

Check out the political cartoons of Leon Khun. He also has a book on detourning statues (not that this should give anyone ideas).

Thanks aki.


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