Category Archives: Pantomime Terror

Pantomime Terror

This book is about storytelling and music video – well, also politics and terror, performance and television.

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HUTNYK_PANTOMIME TERROR

The book tunes into music in three acts. I have written on these performers before, and so thank them again for the opportunity to return to their stories. The approach is a continuation of a research project and collective political effort that I joined when I first came to Britain in 1994. This iteration rehearses this work for London and in relation to twenty first-century terrors, as well as returning to a long beloved articulation of divergent interpretations of critical theory, especially the work of Theodor Adorno. In the introduction, there is a first rendition of the theme of pantomime, which will resonate throughout, and perhaps perversely, the end of the intro starts in on the end of the video Cookbook DIY, examined more fully in the next chapter. I advance this end because the point of this book is to record how peripheral ‘messages’ are too often ignored. In this sense, the project of ‘pantomime terror’ as distraction will be affirmed. I thank Aki Nawaz and Dave Watts for what is now a long collaboration.

The chapters are:

1. Introduction: London Bus :: Pantomime :: War Diary :: Mediation :: The Orange Jumpsuit :: Alerts.

2. DIY Cookbook: Visiting the Kumars :: A Suicide Rapper :: 1001 Nights :: Cookbook DIY :: Pantomime Video :: The RampArts Interlude (notes from a screening) :: All is War :: Back to the Kumars.

3. Dub at the Movies: Representing La Haine :: Žižek-degree-zero :: Derrida Writes the Way :: The Eiffel Tower :: Ruffians, Rabble, Rogues and Repetition :: Musical Interlude :: Riff-raff :: Reserve Army :: Coda: The Battle of Algiers :: Molotov.

4. Scheherazade‘s Sister, M.I.A.: Cultural Projects :: Storyteller Nights :: M.I.A. :: Born Free :: Sell Out, or Tiocfaidh ár lá :: Witticisms and Wagner :: Despot Culture :: Scheherazade in Guantánamo.

 

Turkey.

Gah. Still. No. Change.

>Subject: Call for solidarity for the academics for peace on trial

Dear colleagues,

Our colleagues in Turkey are facing incredible repression under a populist leader. This is part of a wider, global trend where academic and speech freedoms have increasingly been stifled due to neoliberalism and authoritarianism. I hope you can spread this call below widely and show your solidarity by following and publicizing peace academics’ court hearings that are scheduled to begin soon. Kind regards.
Call for solidarity for the academics for peace on trial

Violations of academic freedom and freedom of speech in Turkey have reached a dire situation.  The intimidations from Turkish government and its affiliates toward academics have escalated to legal action, whereby peace signatory academics face 7.5 years’ imprisonment if convicted for “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.”

In January 2016, 1128 academics signed the Peace Petition, titled ‘We Will Not Be A Party To This Crime’ in order to draw the public’s attention to the brutal acts of violence perpetrated by the state in the Kurdish regions of Turkey.  Immediately after the release of the petition, many signatories were prosecuted, dismissed from their posts, and their citizenship rights were seized. A large number of academics including Nobel Prize laureates and members of major science academies around the world initiated a support campaign nationally and internationally. People from different professions, such as journalists, artists, screen actors and actresses, and writers voiced their support for the persecuted academics. More people signed the petition, yet the suppression on the signatory academics got fiercer; hundreds of more academics were dismissed with statutory decrees, their passports were confiscated, they were banned from public sector employment, and criminal investigations were launched. Many of those academics had to leave the country and are now facing extreme difficulties in resettling their lives and professions. One of the signatory academics –Mehmet Fatih Traş– could not stand this injustice and committed suicide. The declaration of state of emergency in July 2016 after a military coup attempt further blurred the distinction between criminal investigations and political punishment, and opened an arduous and painful avenue for not only the academics but also for journalists, writers, teachers, artists and others who demand freedom of speech in Turkey.

The signatory academics abroad have recently initiated a targeted boycott towards the Turkish higher education system, and its complicit universities. The aim of the academic boycott is to ensure that all dismissals are revoked and the persecution of academics, exacerbated under the state of emergency regime, is ended. To this boycott, and continuous struggle of Academics for Peace, the government recently responded by a harsher strategy: signatory academics are sued on an individual basis based on the accusation of terror propaganda according to the Law on Struggle against Terrorism, Article 7/2. The public prosecutor proposes imprisonment extending to 7.5 years. The number of academics with indictments is increasing day by day, and their trials start on December 5, 2017.

Since the petition, one of the most important acts of support for the academics who demanded peace has been the solidarity from colleagues who are not content with Turkey’s oppressive regime and its fatal actions on freedom of speech. In this new turn, we are well aware that we will need a stronger voice of resistance and call for justice! This solidarity can be through standing by us in the court hearings starting December 5, 2017, sending monitoring teams, observers, and news-makers; spreading the word and raising the awareness for what is happening now in Turkey regarding the academics.

In order to stand in solidarity with the persecuted academics, we, the peace academics from North America, call on you to:

1. Share and spread this call for solidarity; show your solidarity by following the trials,
commenting on them in your blogs, social media and/or writing a news article. For more
info on the latest attacks on academics in Turkey, please visit <https://barisicinakademisyenler.net/English>
https://barisicinakademisyenler.net/<https://barisicinakademisyenler.net/English> or http://mesana.org/pdf/Turkey20171017.pdf
2. Contact bakuluslararasi@gmail.com<mailto:bakuluslararasi@gmail.com> if you want to attend the trials as an observer, or
write to a human rights organization to send a delegate;
3. Sign the petition https://academicboycottofturkey.wordpress.com/petition/ to support the
targeted boycott on complicit universities in Turkey;
4. Inform your professional organizations and university senate to take action against
complicit institutions, such as The Scientific and Technological Research Council of
Turkey (TUBITAK; www.tubitak.gov.tr/en<http://www.tubitak.gov.tr/en>);
5. Support dismissed scholars financially by donating to the education union that supports
them https://www.youcaring.com/academicsforpeaceinturkey-763983

This call can also be accessed via this link for posting on social media: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ktAwJ6tS5xVZa6uKqXu1rH843u7NDj5aj0OwGvPv7bo/edit?usp=sharing

 

 

Security Theatre

This phrase was used on the BBC world service a few times yesterday in reference to the ban on laptops and other devices from some airports on some carriers, for reasons to do with airline competition, deflection of other news stories, or plain incoherence. I did not note who said it, but a quick search shows the phrase pop up a few times in the last 6 months, from for example, Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow at a security think-tank: the Royal United Services Institute. The phrase has some affinity with pantomime terror, but I am more interested in how opportunist news stories can be used to run cover over less savoury announcements. The famous good day to bury a news story Sept 11 incident from Stephen Byers adviser Jo Moore.

This somehow got me to wondering about other ways news which must be gotten out is nevertheless buried in plain sight. I wondered if there were any dissertations written on The Chilcot Inquiry, because when that report finally came, after 7 years, on 6 July, 2016, it was released just one day before the ten year anniversary of the London 7/7  bombing. Was this an attempt that also benefitted from the plain sight effect of their simply being an avalanche of volumes, too expensive for popular reading, too thick for journalists to summarise, and too dull, making it the greatest unread tome since Quixote, so very uninspiring for public commentary, buried in plain sight without any action on the calls to put Blair in front of a war crimes tribunal.

Critics rating: 4 stars.

Saibaba ‘given’ life = court takes life from a nice guy in awful #repressive state anti #maoist trumped up show trial. 

One of Indian Judicial Systems Most Shameful Decisions since 1947 : DU professor GN Saibaba and four others get life sentence for ‘Maoist links’

Democracy and Class Struggle says this must be one of the most shameful legal decisions since the Independence of India in 1947 a wheelchair bound professor given life Imprisonment 
The wheelchair-bound academic was arrested in May 2014. He and five others were convicted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
DU professor GN Saibaba and four others get life sentence for ‘Maoist links’

The District and Sessions Court in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, on Tuesday sentenced Delhi University professor Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba and four others to life in prison under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Besides Saibaba, the five people convicted under the draconian law are journalist and social activist Prashant Rahi, Jawaharlal Nehru University student Hem Mishra and tribals Pandu Pora Narote, Mahesh Kareman Tirki and Vijay Tirki. While five have been sentenced to life term in prison, the court sentenced Vijay Tirki to 10 years in jail, reported ANI.
The wheelchair-bound academic was arrested in May 2014 after the Gadchiroli police claimed that he had links with Maoists and was “likely to indulge in anti-national activities”. Saibaba was granted bail in April, 2016. The Supreme Court had cited his medical condition – he suffers from 90% disability after being struck with polio as a child – and the fact that all material witnesses in the trial had been examined.
On February 22, Saibaba had complained of chest pains and was taken to a local hospital, where he had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. He was said to have a pancreas infection, besides stones in his gall bladder stones. Doctors had recommended he have surgery in three weeks, after recovering from the infection.
Between June 2015 and December 2015, he was out on interim bail for medical treatment.
Saibaba’s family said they had been expecting an acquittal. “It is shocking,” Vasantha Saibaba, his wife, told Scroll.in. “There is barely any evidence against him – the trial proved this. We will definitely challenge the verdict.” She also claimed there was “state pressure” to have him convicted too.
His lawyer Rebecca John said they would appeal against this order. “There is absolutely no evidence against him. If the State trying to enter the mind of a person, into what his ideology is, we get these kind of orders under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.” She added that there was no evidence that he had “any role to play in any violence, or in incitement to violence, or any active participation at all.”
Saibaba had extensively campaigned against the Salwa Judum militia and the human rights violations that accompanied the Operation Green Hunt against Maoists launched under the previous United Progressive Alliance government.
Vasantha Saibaba’s statement to the media is as follows:
Our advocates will move High Court soon. This judgement is shocking. In the history of Maharashtra this is the first case in which all the persons charge sheeted were convicted in all the sections with life imprisonment. Saibaba’s brother attended most of the arguments of our advocates before the hon. judge and found that the judgement has not taken those into consideration. No evidence has been proved by the prosecution, electronic evidence not sealed. It seems the state and Central governments have put a lot of pressure on the judiciary to implement anti people and undemocratic policies at the behest of corporates and MNCs. The governments have selectively chosen to suppress the voice of people to plunder the resources of this country. The BJP govt. wants to push nakedly the agenda of RSS through such people like Saibaba behind the bars.
The government has chosen this case through courts to silence the voice of Dr. Saibaba. By honoring the Court, Saibaba has been attending the Court all these years and today also despite his deteriorated health. As a wife, I will fight in the higher courts to seek justice. The government has been putting relentless pressure on my family for the last four years by raiding my house in Delhi. I appeal to Democrats, people’s organizations, intellectuals, students to condemn such undemocratic character of the government. After the pronouncement, judge has rejected to issue any order on the appeal of our advocate. Advocates asked to issue an order to direct the Jail authorities to give required medicines, help of assistants for Saibaba movement, operation to perform for gall bladder etc. The minimum requirements previous the Court has given when Saibaba was in jail as under trial are also not given. 

Begging Wars: Nottingham Police’s dodgy Prince tribute 


Begging Wars. This ghastly bin-hoarding in Nottingham – truly ideological but with colour palette decisions that are more spurious than the ten levels of prejudice this Police ad entails. 1. Charities also beg. 2. Syringes are medical tools, not shorthand for filthy junkies 3. Junkies aren’t filthy, recall the cocaine wraps found in the Houses of Parliament 4. This associative illogic is on a bin. 5. ‘Alcohol problems’ are also rife in the parliament, and across every other sector of every class 6. Alcohol worse than drugs. 7. Distraction logic: begging should be unnecessary with a living wage for all. 8. Need to hack these shameful shit sheets. 9. Purple haze = dubious Prince reference, someone signed off on this design. Also insults Hendrix. 10. Racist, classist, badly framed. Posters at kid’s level. Nearly missed it but for T.

For this and many more reasons… This is #shameful

[update 1 October 2016 – banned by the advertising standards agency. Took long enough, and only 4 out of 5 of them were banned, dunno what the other one was, but think whoever thought this whole lot up ought to get a free ride to the job centre].

The Syndication of Plagiarism SZ: (For Nicole Pepperell)

Was reading and discussing with a comrade Dinesh Wadiwel about his stuff on animals in Marx, and took up discussion of the bit from Capital 1867 edn , cited by Endnotes 2, on animals as general equivalent (dropped in subsequent editions). This since I am giving a talk on related themes: Marx, Animals, India, a certain rhinoceros, in Senegal this Saturday.

But then I did a search of the phrasing (english trans of 1867 edn from Value Studies by Marx <download here>). There, discovered a bit of suspect website scrubbing.

Let me put it neutrally, and let the people decide <the people know I have nothing against Zizek, except for my polemic in Pantomime Terror, that is: (see here)

OK, this involves two instances of people we know using that quote. Nicole Pepperell’s one from her blog in 2008, and Slavoj Zizek from Less than Nothing in 2012. Of course there is no guarantee Zizek did not already use this phrase previously, because he has hardly ever had a thought that was not published two or three times (see below), but here the use of the exact same words does indicate some level of something more than general equivalence.
 .
What do you all think? See the attached screenshots if you don’t want to follow up, the first exhibit is Nicole from Rough Theory <full post here>, the second is SZ <Pdf here>.
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and
Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 23.29.51
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Romping heterogeneity. Ba bah boom.
.
*********************
.
ahhh, and since SZ does the rerun thing so often, its also in a 2012 volume called God in Pain: Inversions of the Apocalypse, with Boris Gunjević <here>
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***
AND syndicated in Italy and translated as a 2013 bog post: <here>
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and then it circulates unawares, we get “Žižek says” in <this> otherwise fine piece:
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Coincidence Theory – side of the bus yet again – tradecraft

The film “Zero Dark Thirty”, directed by Katherine Bigilow, written by Mark Boal, was careful to doctor any non-sponsored ads from the side of (some of) the buses shown – number 10, not number 30 – in the recreation of the July 7 2005 London bombings.

This first image of the erased cola ad is un-clear enough. You can see its a bottle, but cola did not have the bottle to go through with name association here. We can of course understand why, since 7/7 was a terrible event, and its consequences extend on and on. From the death of the day, to that of Jean Charles de Menezes and literally thousands and thousands in the horrific ongoing aftermath.

cokeaddeddoctored

Even then, when the bus is trundling along London’s streets, to a Londoner I guess, it does look a little strange – the empty red panel like the stain of naked (undercover corporate) terror on our screens:

busnoadd

And it of course gets you to thinking of all the coincidences that are associated with this bus. Having written about the buses in the intro to PANTOMIME TERROR, I am still weirded out by the uncanny aspects, that sure, I get it, are not conspiracies – such as the Peter Power rehearsal of a terror attack at the same time in the same stations sort of thing. Taking all that in, with the effort that has gone into removing ads from these images that are, yes, surely, bad associations, and indeed painful associations, I am still fascinated by media working. What in the film is called tradecraft – the skills of misdirection in media surveillance.

withdate

July 7 is overdetermined. I guess there is reason enough to overspray anything that may reek of ambiguity and mixed messages. You could be forgiven for thinking that effective tradecraft seems to be well honed in Hollywood. And indeed beyond, especially because this front-on shot from the film, which quotes or recreates a shot we all know. Here is the film version, below, but the original seems to not appear all that often anymore – it is no longer the go-to image of the 7/7 atrocity:

front shot no ad

Though we do recognise it. Here again we have no ad on the side of the bus. Maybe its worth going back to look at the actual pics of the day. You can see them with commentary that is an earlier version than that offered in the intro to Pantomime Terror, here: Undercover transportsPDF. Or in shorter form, without the essay, here. Or let’s have it from the newspaper on July 8 2005:

I’ve also written about the cropping of the image in articles that illustrate studies of tradecraft by the state authorities- I think cropping also does a certain duty to edit out critical thinking,as we cannot handle ambiguity. What I cannot handle is being managed, being taken as someone who needs a clear message, full frontal. I think that is the atrocity too – plus the wider bombing campaign justified by this propaganda, this tradecraft. See and example of such cropping here:

So its not at all, not at all new, to say it as there is plenty of reason to rethink the film – Zero Tark Dhirty – is wholly fiction, and as all the Seymour Hersh stuff attests to as well, there is plenty here. But mostly I am wondering if the Cola corporation had originally been on the side of the bus in the film and later pulled out, or what happened? How did the bus used in the film go from cola ad to no ad, and the actual ad – bold and brilliant, total film – has been erased as well, while the film itself worked pretty much as an ad from beginning to end for the CIA.

Funny how the backdrop here of the last scene of the film, as the heroic secret agent flies off in the transport, looks sort of like a (false) flag. Just saying.

CIAflagbackdroponherc

souvenirs of the wars

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 03.15.06dejavu. been here before, sort of… from and article in 2004

‘As the world prepared for yet another Oil crusade, I was reading my daily paper, as you do. On the same page that reports the speech of Colin Powell to the United Nations Security Council in the lead-up to the attack on Iraq – in his talk the General cited a plagiarized British MI6 research paper on Iraqi weapons while standing before a hastily covered-up tapestry of Picasso’s Guernica – there appeared an ad for the aid and relief charity Unicef. In the style of a soap powder commercial, this ad extols the virtues of the organization and what it could do for a girl called Farida. Tragically subject to domestic oppression (see Figure 1), she would be saved if I would just donate a few coins to the charitable cause. The face of someone I have never met, and whom Powell will never meet (with more sinister consquences), is used to demand an intervention. I feel like we have been here before…’

Read there rest here: Souvenirs and Infancy, Jrnl Vis Cult 2004

Cartoon politics

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 22.54.48In Arizona today, as I write, a large motorcyclist rally is being staged outside a mosque where two attackers of an earlier Texas ‘cartoon contest’ to draw the Prophet Mohammed are alleged to have ‘associates’ who need to be ‘warned’. The attackers in Texas were killed (fair warning!), and the justification of the Texas cartoon contest, like Charlie Hebdo in France, has been much debated. Round two however involves a symptomatic escalation: the bikers will display their shotgun weapons in a demonstration where their nifty advance publicity strapline suggests ‘participants should come armed to defend the
first amendment with their second amendment rights’. Free speech protected by threat of arms is the standard muscular militant democratic line. But this looks to me like a latter day cartoon retake of the ‘shoot first talk later’ strategy of all out war. The bikers will remain peaceful, they say, and intend their own cartoon competition – entries for the prize must be displayed outside the mosque, and the prizes awarded [at the after-party at ‘Wild Bills’. Wild Bills closed for the day, as did Denny’s]. That these provocations of cartoon contests to draw the prophet are in direct support of the Charlie Hebdo attack might seem a turn up for those who had decried France’s recalcitrance to be involved in the Iraq War – ‘Freedom Fries’, remember – but few seem to need to question the wholesome motives of a motorcycling rally for freedom here. Sons of Anarchy indeed: to be clear, the event inversely reinforces a simplistic binary logic, and promotes the cause and intent of the head-choppers.

So I was calling on Kurt Sutter to intervene. Ah well. Celebs.

The Arizona episode follows a recent PEN America decision to make an award to Charlie Hebdo in recognition of their continued defiance of terror in the name, as it is articulated in the award, of ‘freedom of speech’ should be considered an instance of caricature stance-taking. In different ways, also the firebombing of mosques in Germany and England in absurd and disproportionate, and misdirected, response to community ‘targets’; the rise of explicitly anti-immigration parties in Holland, the UK and other European states follow the success of the Front National (FN) in France; the shrill commentaries of the press on other ‘similar’ cartoon attacks – in Texas, and the earlier (2005) case with Jyllands-Posten publishing cartoons critical of the prophet in Denmark, with subsequent attacks and counter-attacks; while we can also look at Iran’s own counter cartoon contest called to mock ISIS and the death squads themselves. All these cartoon caricatures make the defense of freedoms of various kinds also something to be examined, since this goes to the heart – if not the head – of much of the discussion and events contingent upon the ‘war on terror’ and its related ‘projects’.

Projects? Yes. Apart from a critique of jokes, and defence of proper bikers, the main argument I want to present is that alongside the terror war and its military drama runs a project of cultural or moral economy. This operates in all theatres, extending across a mediasphere reaching from television news and radio to disembodied voice announcements at railway stations reminding us not to leave our baggage unattended. The cultural project appears in radio, television, cinema, literature, magazines and newspapers operates to make cartoons something much more serious, and to make serious politics seem like a cartoon. The irony of this should not be lost, nor should it obscure the arms trade and security industry dollars peddled beneath.

The projects are clearly not neutral, and provoke attachments and investments that must further be condemned as racist and chauvinist. Jingoism and prejudice of the highest order are encouraged by distraction and provocation. Reporting cycles are now predictable. A ‘terror incident’ is reported, lack of information leads to speculation of the identity of the ‘terrorists’, assumptions lead to accusations, attacks on persons of Muslim appearance, firebombing and desecration of mosques, further cycles of violence – which itself often goes unreported or is unevenly rported, for fear of fanning the flames. Though massively increased figures for incidents do appear in Police statistics, these are often less newsworthy in the aftermath of a ‘national’ crisis. The flames however are fanned.

The military side of this should not minimised by a focus on cartoon culture. Not just gun sales to bikers, I am also painfully aware that the turnover of armaments and supply production, the logistics and geo-political manoeuvers, the investment and jobs in defense contracting, military careers, strategy, electronics, surveillance and security are not simply economic concerns. But alongside the military industrial investment, I want to argue another economic investment supports this ideological programme. It is reliant on the production and mass distribution of incidents, figures, sensation and affect that provides not only a supplement to justify the military budgets and subsidises credit for global investment, but operates productive cycles within the mediasphere by creating villains, pantomime figures and monstrosity in a way that impact upon us all, all the time.

The politics does not start nor end with cartoons. Even so, the Hebdo cartoons are insulting caricatures. To lampoon the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, is not a practice that can be expected to pass without censure in the eyes of a great many people in this world. The insult to the prophet, as Rushdie surely knows, is not the end of it. Going beyond cartooning, there have been efforts by some to make evident the complex sensitivities involved, but this evidentiality has become the fulcrum for a cynical opportunism that intentionally makes political mileage – political incident, political football, cartoon caricature – out of questions of representation and offence. Attacks upon journalists, cartoonists and translators on the one side, competitions to see who can most provoke on the other, and manipulation of news imagery to grab attention – the essence of both terror attack and public declaration of solidarity after all – are parallel examples of a confrontation in which no one in the stand-off seems likely to win. My argument is that these projects and the cartoon character of politics, have other, less visible, motivations and consequences.

An insult can be an invitation and provocation to risk intervention. The calculated manipulation of the media cycle, the staging of outrage, the intentional dramatization of innocent offence. Man Horon Monis’s crazed attack in Sydney in late 2014 was staged in a café directly opposite the studio window of the Chanel 7 live to air television breakfast show. The bikers who have promoted their ride with guns to the Arizona mosque are not without a sharp sense of media impact, on twitter and facebook, with merchandising tie-ins with t-shirts and flags. And guns. There is no doubt that the PEN America award controversy was also anticipated as controversy, even if it seemed to blow up and backfire somewhat. To give an award to knowingly offensive cartooning was intended to stress that freedom of speech was a principle that included defending the right to be offensive. Some were offended that this entailed giving an award for offence. Clapping or not clapping was mooted. Storm in a tea cup and significant because able to command media time, celebrity intervention of authors like Peter Carey, and return fire from Salman Rusdhie. Carey withdrew from the PEN award dinner that would honour Charlie Hebdo with first six but later over a hundred other signatories to a letter expressing concern that insulting cartoons were here not only protected by freedom of speech, but were being further lauded. Behind it is the intentionality and bravado of the American PEN lining up with a jingoistic militarism that, though not articulated so clearly in the letter of protest, was clear enough. Rushdie weighed in with a succinct tweet – ‘six authors in search of a bit of character’ – which is perhaps wasted talent, but given Rushdie’s significance for any discussion of freedom of speech versus terror assured airtime for PEN.

Amitava Kumar succinctly set out a position in response as a signatory, as reported in The Guardian on 29 April 2015:

“a bunch of overdressed writers in a large room getting up to applaud or, for that matter, not applaud an award isn’t going to change much in the world. Not the number of people getting killed by drones, or getting drowned in the Mediterranean, or dying at the hands of the police in the US.

That said, one of the things that folks like Salman Rushdie taught me when I was coming of age as a writer was that you have to take sides. On the Charlie Hebdo question, I wish I had the triumphant certainty of those who are all gung-ho about the award. I mean, fuck the killers who gunned down the cartoonists.

But as I think of the wars unleashed upon whole peoples and the brutal realities of occupation as well as theocratic rule in the Middle East, you have to ask yourself if one shouldn’t instead be championing those who see the greater violence and who rebel against our own cravenness and our complicities” (Kumar 2015)

Kumar added that many artists and writers continue to fight for expression without western fame, and that he hopes that the gesture of the letter is an “appeal for a small pause”.

“Before we begin clapping, let’s ask if we aren’t just clapping for ourselves” (Kumar 2015)

The question of celebrity authorship is entangled here while terrifying attacks on the population of Muslim lands are justified in the name of ‘terror’ and ‘at home’ racist and chauvinistic prejudice means mosques are firebombed, people are assaulted, police powers disproportionately applied in stop and search and mistaken identity assassination – recall the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes killed on Stockwell tube by the security forces because he resembled (not very) a Muslim surveillance target. Rushdie of course is well familiar with surveillance himself, as now documented in his celebrity points-scoring biographical exercise Joseph Anton which narrates his time in hiding after the fatwah levelled at his earlier novel The Satanic Verses

This becomes all the more interesting when we take up the slogan that became prominent after the attack on the cartoonists in Paris in January. As Jeanne Kay points out Je suis Chalie has many antecedents and she traces the phrasing of Je suis Charlie back to various events such as Kennedy in Berlin [though not there as a donut, too often assumed], and in 1968 student leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit being vilified for his German Jewish ancestry by political commentators and the response Nous sommes tous des Juifs-Allemands (‘We are all German-Jews’) gaining prominence. Consider also I am Spartacus. I would add: I am Brian, We are all Zapatistas, We are Everywhere. Kay (2015) makes the case that the unresolved colonial hangovers of the French public sphere meant identification with racist anti-Islamic cartooning – even as Charlie Hebdo could also be offensive to Christians and Jews – was a simplistic binary declaration, here in favor of the Enlightenment over against fundamentalism and the oriental. ‘Through its Mission Civilisatrice, the French Colony had the unambiguous objective to transform its natives subjects into what it called ‘évolués’ – literally, the evolved – through culture, education and moral edification’ (Kay 2015). She also notes the ‘I am Trayvon’ slogan in Ferguson (US) and the ‘Where’s Wally’ (WW2 US slogan, to which we might add ‘Kilroy was here’) as well as Je suis Ahmed, being the name of the French police officer Ahmed Mehrabet killed during the Hebdo office attack and used to indicate a wider identification than that implicated by Je suis Charlie. Kay writes:

‘The problem with ‘Je suis Charlie’, therefore, is more than taking issue at the paper’s editorial stance. It is not simply that one should not identify with a racist, misogynistic and islamophobic publication. In the light of its genealogy, it is clear that to identify with Charlie is much more than a show of solidarity or a badge of condolences. It, too, signifies belonging to an identity group that posits itself as morally righteous in the face of barbarism. And this identity group, in the context of contemporary geopolitics, international islamophobia and race-relations in France, comes fully formed’ (Kay 2015).

To reinforce this point I would simply add that another ‘origin’ of the Je suis Charlie slogan has a deeply concerning conservative, even fascist, reference in that the same phrasing structure was used in World War Two as the name for the extreme anti-Semitic and collaborationist French Nazi newspaper, which was called Je suis Partout (I am everywhere). Under the editorship of Antoine Cousteau, and until the liberation published hateful commentary and pro-Nazi diatribes. To proffer a similarly racist politics and see the same Je suis … slogan structure now proclaimed with approval in contemporary France, should give us reason to be cautious with any such ‘solidarity’. Not far away the simplicities of the 99% ignores the need to ‘decolonise’ the anti-globalisation politics of Occupy Wall Street. Such slogans desiccate politics and understanding in a membership drive that precludes critical thinking and demands mass participations in the national consensus.

Don Miller, writing in Australia and author of a book Called Will to Win (2014), has said there can be no clear winner in the new global guerrilla warfare that makes a ‘game’ of politics where aerial and drone attacks from afar are arrayed against knife-wielding head-choppers and suicide attackers in a ‘battlefield’ that is potentially ‘anywhere’ (Miller 2015). In this all become losers, even the bystanders, and even as Governments take advantage to push through new legislations that seem ineffectual against terrorists who terrorise but undermine their cause, everybody else is left to quiver in media sponsored fear, unsafe in the cheap seats, watching the spectacle of endless war. The cover for repressive legislations, spying and surveillance, legal entrapments and constraints on civil liberty is provided by incidents and media focus can only seem like a concentrated ideological effort to maintain geopolitical control in a situation of uncertainty and lack of control.

The cultural project is itself a military economy. Je suis Partout is the dark war-time antecedent of a less grievous but nevertheless misdirected solidarity of those that would protect freedom of speech without restraint. This opens a field for the right and the racists, and many of those who stand in solidarity with cartoonists would not endorse the cartoon macho antics of the Arizona bikers massed with shotguns outside the mosque that is in preparation today.

notes for a hebdo talk (more links, questions, angles welcome)

  • What is it to give offence? To insult with intent? To use insults as a mode of revenge? Are these only insults or always also weapons of mass destruction?
  • What is humour in a time of war? Humour and culture – from the Keep Calm slogans to the Je Suis Charlie and ‘pardon’ image. The aesthetics and context of cartoons, and what can be said inside a box and not elsewhere.
  • On cartoonists, translators, books, mosques, persons, countries, faith.
  • Irony and contradiction. Freedom fighters opposing freedom of speech, and vice versa. The recoding of events as freedom of speech versus terror (Spivak 2002). Binary thinking that opposes civilisation and barbarism, liberalism and fundamentalism, occident and orient (Kay 2015) or medieval and modern, uneducated or sophisticated, religious and secular (Miller 2015).
  • What is revenge? Militarily and culturally? Can anyone win in this sphere? Or are we dealing with perpetual war? – as distraction for other more fundamentally economic interests? Taking sides (Kumar 2015) and anti-racism, anti-imperialism, justice and the creation of Death Squads as traps for alienated youth (Chandan 2015).

[pic is of the collaborationist newspaper of the French Nazi’s edited for several years ’43-44 by Antoine Cousteau (yep, Jacques’ brother)]

Bad etymologies and other disturbances

I had noticed that the initials of “I Am Charlie” are an anagram of CIA, and yes, you can be a patsie and guilty, and for sure the death squads are tools of wider interests, but this is too hit and miss not to be disturbing. Which bits count as evidence, which speculation? Classified between zionist assets and conspiracy theory, these four items make it into the Pantomime Terror file. Thanks to DE, AW, SC and MB for them drawing my attention.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2015/01/10/392443/CIA-carried-out-Paris-attack-Roberts

http://www.veteranstoday.com/2015/01/08/charlie-hebdo-viral/

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Assange-on-Charlie-Hebdo-A-Conspicuous-Failure-20150110-0016.html

http://youtu.be/c8FNH2OrtUc

Key ring terror distractor trinket

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Tucked in a side street in London Bridge today, a police stand handing out devices which I suspect.

I suspect an effort to distract from this evening’s BBCLondon report that Scotland Yard’s heavily redacted Operation Tiberius investigation covers up the exposure of 42 senior cops (and 19 former cops) for close links with drug crime and contract killings.

It is our duty, we are told: if you suspect it, report it.

J’suspect!

20140611-191647-69407193.jpg

On offer: this little show-bag of stuff from the dodgy non-uniform suits who refused to be photographed. I guess the key ring for terror is handy because I so want to be carrying that number around with me as a permanent anxiety reminder. That it came in what seems to be a used gram bag may only be coincidentally linked with the – let me repeat – exposure today that 42 members of the senior police were well paid crime syndicate stooges – as revealed in documents from Operation Tiberius previously heavily redacted by Scotland Yard but exposed tonight by BBCLondon.

The pen speaks for itself, was it previously used to sign payola cheques perhaps? I suspect it, so I report it.

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And this one just really is the perfect Fathers Day Trinket, no?

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FFS, I say, for fucks sake. Get these people a water cannon as soon as possible. Anyone need a news item to distract from the – did I mention – massive exposure of senior cops linked to crime syndicates?

Trinketization as damage control.

Panto Terror reviewed (sandwich)

Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 16.10.41A brief review from Mark Perryman (Philosophy Football) on Socialist Unity where I am sandwiched between words on Arun Kundnani’s book (which I read and think is really good) and Andrew Hussey’s book (which I’ve not yet read):

“Arun Kundnani’s ‘The Muslims are Coming!’ links together the experience of Islamophobia, the framing of extremism/fundamentalism and the ongoing global impact of the west’s so-called ‘War on Terror’. Here the left is grappling with subjects it is more at ease with understanding, though the depth to which it is transformed via that process remains in question. An insight into what that transformation might look like is provided by John Hutnyk’s ‘Pantomime Terror‘ which imaginatively records how popular culture has been affected by a post 9/11 world and on occasion has offered signs of resisting the reactionary, racist, consequences of that process. The urgent necessity for this kind of engagement is established brilliantly by Andrew Hussey’s new book ‘The French Intifada’.”

I regret the reviewers have not noted the critiques of Zizek, Badiou and Buck-Morss in mine, or the importance of Spivak and Adorno to my argument, or the coda on Wagner, but still very good to have. See here. Thanks Mark.

Plan C: Institute for Precarious Consciousness – ‘we are all very anxious’

I don’t think the state of things is readily reducible to bite-sized explanation-metaphors, nor that whole eras of the capitalist mode of production (this is of course not just a metaphor) should be understood under sweepingly simple code-words, but, unfolding better explanations by deploying such code-words as efforts to get us to think differently and in detail is of great use. And the corresponding tactical 1,2,3-step is also helpful, even if ’tis not the whole struggle – so having Plan C post this is very welcome, even for those times when I am neither miserable, bored, nor anxious (‘he’s behind you’ – the pantomime reflex).

Not anxious, but I am amazed, often variously amazed – even at the idea of posting this:

“Today’s public secret is that everyone is anxious. Anxiety has spread from its previous localised locations (such as sexuality) to the whole of the social field. All forms of intensity, self-expression, emotional connection, immediacy, and enjoyment are now laced with anxiety. It has become the linchpin of subordination.”

This public secret scales up into another Pantomime Terror. It starts with the kids, subjected to such performances, relentlessly – ‘it will be fun, you’ll see’. Then school, and eventually you get asked to love your work. Meanwhile:

‘public space is bureaucratised and privatised, and a widening range of human activity is criminalised on the grounds of risk, security, nuisance, quality of life, or anti-social behaviour’.

As they say on FB: read this, you’ll be amazed what happens next:

http://www.weareplanc.org/we-are-all-very-anxious/#.U0EqzWmDQ0j

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 12.01.57

 

Previously on Plan C: https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/category/plan-c/

Pantomime Terror #music #politics

There’s a whole section on Wagner in this, and some humour. For the record… (you can order by clicking the cover to get to Zero then look for the sales tab lower right):

Screen shot 2013-11-19 at 08.38.55

Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 16.10.41

talk at RMIT Melbourne

Screen shot 2013-11-01 at 10.50.49
John Hutnyk
.
Pantomime Terror: MIA’s lyrical opposition to Capital, Google and the Border Patrols.

 .
Monday 16 December 2013 4:30PM (room tbc)

Within the prevailing ‘keep calm and carry on’ conditions of the UK security regime, those who find safety in repressive complicity are also necessarily disabled from criticism of the war-effect as it appears everywhere. At best this turns anti-war opposition into performance, staged protest and the lyricism of music, song, drum and video. In this talk I examine the culture-inflected, low-intensity war alongside the shooting war. The video provocations of artists like M.I.A. (Mathangi Arulpragasam) can be read as dramatising difficulties that have occupied British South Asian musicians, writers, filmmakers and commentators in the context of a domestic civil liberties crackdown that replicates detention and terror security repression elsewhere.

talk is on the same day as one by Sophie Fuggle…

Flyers with room details:

GRC Seminar John Hutnyk 161213

GRC Seminar Sophie Fuggle 161213

 

cut

More sentences that did not make the cut (from chapter two of Panto Terror):

The insurrection in the suburbs is not directed against the theoretical posturing of the self-regarding masters, but where the street demands something more than theory, bad theory is tolerated only so long as it does not succeed. Unfulfilled as yet, there is a threatening promise here. A lumpen justice storms the stage. Critics superfluous, Adorno applauds.

These might be reflections and critiques of the more or less prejudicial ways codes are filtered and sequenced in the psychological structures of the authoritarian personality today There is always the possibility of extending the study to account for historical differences in the way authoritarianism takes differing forms in different periods. Exactly that missing theory of mediation for which Adorno berated Benjamin’s Arcades assemblage might also displace the tendency to think in terms of vision not sound, and to accept the old methods forever, the old masters, and new – as if the once radical theorists retain critical intensity for all times.

There is a battle for attention and the production of images on all sides is just a part of the workings of an ‘attention economy’ or an ‘attention theory of value’ (Beller 2006:201). I want this value to illustrate and be illustrated in the workings of this writing, the ways writing works…

This is an old story – music and politics back in the day: in the 1970s a band called ‘The Lumpen’ were a cultural offshoot from the Black Panthers: “comrades who liked to harmonize while working Distribution night in San Francisco to ‘help the work go easier’ (another tradition). We had all sung in groups in the past, Calhoun having performed professionally in Las Vegas, and it just came naturally. I don’t remember just how it came about, but Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture, suggested that this could be formed into a musical cadre. Elaine Brown had already recorded an album of revolutionary songs (‘Seize the Time’) in a folk singing style, and this quartet singing in an R&B or ‘Soul’ form could be a useful political tool. Some folks don’t read, but everybody listens to music”

More recent work on Chinese urban street culture continues in a similar manner. Michael Dutton’s great book Streetlife China applauds the organised creativity of lumpen criminal subcultures struggling to survive in the informal and black economy as China advances its new capitalist regime, with deformed Deng-ist characteristics (Dutton 1999).

Back to Paris in 1848 then. In his book on that city, economist geographer David Harvey spends very little time with Marx on the streets, and rarely mentions the Eighteenth Brumaire, perhaps reluctant to draw anything but the most general macro conclusions. Conversely, but similar, his critique of readings of Benjamin cannot relate fragments of the Arcades project to the whole – echoes of Adorno but without the close comradely involvement or ‘Arcades orthodoxy’ (Adorno to Benjamin 10 November 1938, Benjamin/Adorno 1994/1999: 284). Nevertheless, Harvey shows that after the revolutionary disturbances of 1848 came Baron Haussmann and his wider streets project, which has to be understood as the policy response of the ruling class (Harvey 2003:3). Of course this was not simply straightforward – even if the roads, the new boulevards cutting through working class areas, were. In a somewhat hyperbolic mode, Harvey writes of 1848: ‘Before, there was an urban vision that at best could only tinker with the problems of a medieval urban infrastructure; then came Haussmann, who bludgeoned the city into modernity’ (Harvey 2003:3). This for Harvey: ‘Tradition has to be overthrown, violence is necessary, in order to grapple with the present and create the future’ (Harvey 2003:15).

Harvey points to a ‘greater degree of spatial segregation, much of it based on class distinctions’ in the wake of Haussman’s remodelling of the city (Harvey 2003:239).

The point is not to perfect a history of 1848 or 1871, but to explore ways in which the events of that time might help us think differently about our own. I am thinking then of the boulevard as ramparts, and the way this offers a perspective marked by class and militarism. What is it to look along the vista of the new Paris in the 1860s? Just as today the view of New York has been remodelled in significant ways, as Joel McKim argues in his studies of memorial and architectural competition over the Twin Towers site (McKim 2008:83). Indeed, what was it to look up at the planes as they hurtled into the twin towers, or, equally, as they fly far above, the planes that drop what Habermas calls ‘electronically controlled clusters of elegant and versatile missiles’ (in Borradori 2008:28). To get New Yorkers to stop and stare was significant, but it is also a privilege compared to those who do not have the time to do anything but run for cover.

The intellectuals, sociologists and commentators want a more inclusive France. The meaning of the former is secured by the latter – the secret dependence of democratic politics upon nationalist enjoyment takes varied forms, whether it be the novelty of the ‘third way’ politics, the love-thy-neighbour posturing of multicultural tolerance, or ‘radical’ reforms – drop the debt campaigns perhaps – even ‘Struggles for cultural recognition … [are] secretly supported … by compliance in deed, if not in words, with nationalistic rituals’ (Boucher 2004:160). The best these modes of ‘politics’ can claim is to be the human face of the obscene enjoyment generated by the capitalism-nationalism nexus. Žižek points to the need to break from these supplements to destroy the logic of their excessive unconscious attachments – discursive unity is secretly supported by venal enjoyment (Žižek 2004b:164) and he would have done with this kind of ‘rainbow coalition’ against populist fundamentalism in order rather to ‘aggravate’ class difference into class antagonism (Žižek 2004b:186).

In 1972 Eldrige Cleaver wrote:

“The real revolutionary element of our era is the Lumpen, understood in its broader sense. What is lacking is a Lumpen consciousness, consciousness of the basic condition of oppression being the Lumpen condition and not the proletarian condition. In order for the revolutionary movement to progress, the Lumpen must become conscious of themselves as the vast majority, and the false proletarian, working class consciousness must be negated.” (Cleaver 1972)

More Pantomime Terror

More Pantomime Terror – always on the case, protecting the Security of the Homeland near and far, the CIA seem to have found a pair of hot knickers in Yemen. They found no bomber, no plane, no ticket, they have no idea who built the panty-bomb… and there is no threat to the public. So it could be the perfect media story for the one-year-anniversary of the no body-shot snuff-film-watchin’-POTUS re-election bid:

‘The would-be suicide bomber, based in Yemen, had not yet picked a target or bought a plane ticket when the CIA stepped in and seized the bomb, officials said. It’s not immediately clear what happened to the alleged bomber.’
http://www.newsday.com/news/nation/us-cia-thwarts-new-al-qaida-underwear-bomb-plot-1.3704402

US: CIA thwarts new al-Qaida underwear bomb plot

Originally published: May 7, 2012 5:03 PM
Updated: May 7, 2012 6:11 PM
By The Associated Press  ADAM GOLDMAN (Associated Press), MATT APUZZO (Associated Press)

Photo credit: AP | FILE – This undated file photo released Oct. 31, 2010, by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior purports to show Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri. [Dubious link to person in photo redacted by JH, see the above alleged knickers pic instead if you really must have a picture]

The CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, The Associated Press has learned. (AP Photo/Saudi Arabia Ministry of Interior, File)

WASHINGTON – (AP) — The CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, The Associated Press has learned.

The plot involved an upgrade of the underwear bomb that failed to detonate aboard a jetliner over Detroit on Christmas 2009. This new bomb was also designed to be used in a passenger’s underwear, but this time al-Qaida developed a more refined detonation system, U.S. officials said.

The FBI is examining the latest bomb to see whether it could have passed through airport security and brought down an airplane, officials said. They said the device did not contain metal, meaning it probably could have passed through an airport metal detector. But it was not clear whether new body scanners used in many airports would have detected it.

There were no immediate plans to change security procedures at U.S. airports.

The would-be suicide bomber, based in Yemen, had not yet picked a target or bought a plane ticket when the CIA stepped in and seized the bomb, officials said. It’s not immediately clear what happened to the alleged bomber.

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said President Barack Obama learned about the plot in April and was assured the device posed no threat to the public.

“The president thanks all intelligence and counterterrorism professionals involved for their outstanding work and for serving with the extraordinary skill and commitment that their enormous responsibilities demand,” Hayden said.

The operation unfolded even as the White House and Department of Homeland Security assured the American public that they knew of no al-Qaida plots against the U.S. around the anniversary of bin Laden’s death. The operation was carried out over the past few weeks, officials said.

“We have no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the anniversary of bin Laden’s death,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said on April 26.

On May 1, the Department of Homeland Security said, “We have no indication of any specific, credible threats or plots against the U.S. tied to the one-year anniversary of bin Laden’s death.”

The White House did not explain those statements Monday.

The AP learned about the thwarted plot last week but agreed to White House and CIA requests not to publish it immediately because the sensitive intelligence operation was still under way. Once officials said those concerns were allayed, the AP decided to disclose the plot Monday despite requests from the Obama administration to wait for an official announcement Tuesday.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security acknowledged the existence of the bomb late Monday, but there were no immediate plans to adjust security procedures at airports. Other officials, who were briefed on the operation, insisted on anonymity to discuss details of the plot, many of which the U.S. has not officially acknowledged.

“The device never presented a threat to public safety, and the U.S. government is working closely with international partners to address associated concerns with the device,” the FBI said in a statement.

It’s not clear who built the bomb, but, because of its sophistication and its similarity to the Christmas bomb, counterterrorism officials suspected it was the work of master bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri or one of his protégées. Al-Asiri constructed the first underwear bomb and two others that al-Qaida built into printer cartridges and shipped to the U.S. on cargo planes in 2010.

Both of those bombs used a powerful industrial explosive. Both were nearly successful.

The operation is an intelligence victory for the United States and a reminder of al-Qaida’s ambitions, despite the death of bin Laden and other senior leaders. Because of instability in the Yemeni government, the terrorist group’s branch there has gained territory and strength. It has set up terrorist camps and, in some areas, even operates as a de facto government.

But along with the gains there also have been losses. The group has suffered significant setbacks as the CIA and the U.S. military focus more on Yemen. On Sunday, Fahd al-Quso, a senior al-Qaida leader, was hit by a missile as he stepped out of his vehicle along with another operative in the southern Shabwa province of Yemen.

Al-Quso, 37, was on the FBI’s most wanted list, with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture [erm, and assassination?]. He was indicted in the U.S. for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, in which 17 American sailors were killed and 39 injured.

Al-Quso was believed to have replaced Anwar al-Awlaki as the group’s head of external operations. Al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. airstrike last year.

___

Contact the Washington investigative team at DCinvestigations(at)ap.org

Associated Press writers Kimberly Dozier and Eileen Sullivan contributed to this report.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. [though it does need to be rewritten, quite bad journalism always deserves an edit, or ‘contribution tot he report’]