Category Archives: Terror

Pantomime Terror

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

Screenshot 2018-12-21 at 20.42.16

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

 

 

Red Tape – Local/Global Culture Visual

Video of a talk with Chris Pinney, Rian Hughes and others

http://redtape.rca.ac.uk/2012_02.html

Local/Global: The role of culture in the creation and reception of visual communication

Performing Art Lab, Stevens Building Kensington Gore 15.02.2012

In the tensions between local and global, (very often local ignores global and global ignores local), which is the way forward? It is only by appreciating a culture that is profoundly different from our own, that we can realize the extent to which our own beliefs and activities are culture-bound, rather than natural or universal. Melville J. Herskovits reminds us, ‘Judgements are based on experience, and experience is interpreted by each individual in terms of his own enculturation’. As visual communicators, how do we become aware of the unconscious bonds and perceptions of our own culture to develop a more self-conscious position for practice? With this awareness what can our audiences gain?

Christine Guth (Chair Person)
Christopher Pinney
John Hutnyk
Rian Hughes

Video of the event: http://redtape.rca.ac.uk/2012_02.html

reader Download
deshna.mehta@network.rca.ac.uk

This is what a revolution looks like – ahem, slash and burn editing – killing your darlings with the delete button

A dump post for bits cut from a manuscript. So yes, I will not be talking about Bababababadiouuuuu. But leave it here in case I need to retrieve it from the hungry mouse:

that atrocities here and there and the perpetual state of war cannot be swallowed whole means we need not agree with the philosopher Alain Badiou when he claims ‘being indignant’ about a state murder is insufficient because ‘a negative emotion cannot replace the affirmative idea and its organization, any more than a nihilistic riot can claim to be politics’ (Badiou 2011/2012). Badiou’s claim is contradicted by the evidence of consistent and sustained mobilisation against the violence of such encounters, and the question of deciding, far too quickly in Badiou’s case, where the violence begins and ends, and what is a riot and what is organisation. Useful insights can be realised through faulty representations but more generally, there is rage and organisation that goes together in opposition to the dominant. The point is to not join with the dominant so as to merely, even critically, help engross its surplus.

I guess it is easy to see why this needs to be cut, even if there is a point in there somewhere.

More seriously though, I also cannot use this now:

While in the USA this sort of policing occurs with armed officers more frequently, the extraordinary number of cases of, unprosecuted, police killing in the UK confirms that police ‘encounter’ is not a problem specific to any particular nation state. Flagrant examples piled up as I wrote these sentences from notes, white supremacy with a uniform, and a litany of the names of the dead makes for difficult ‘research’. Which is only to say – and saying it is never enough – that police violence is institutional, a part of state ‘counter-terror’ everywhere. In 1999 the Macpherson Report identified ‘institutional racism’ within the British police forces, in relation to the Stephen Lawrence investigation but with wider, limited, implications. Some years later, the ‘institutional’ narrative was brought out again with the disappearance of CCTV video of the police murder of Jean Charles de Menezes on Stockwell tube in 2005. Lists of the dead are abject, no wonder documentation of racist attacks sometimes appears in fictionaliased forms, in films like Sammie and Rosie Get Laid, in pop video such as Dog-tribe by Fun-da-Mental, but at the point of delivery the violence is real. Public sentiment is naturally to resist such violence. The reaction to the killing of Mark Duggan in Tottenham in 2011 suggested more in terms of popular sentiment – that police killings are resented, that the civil compact is fragile, that revolt could transform polite complacency in a matter of days – just as much as the force and violence of political suppression needs a massive tabloid buttress for legitimacy, and carnival sponsorship, or photo-opportunism with a broom in Clapham, cannot resolve the tension.

 

Just as no police officer has been jailed for a death in custody in the UK and the full weight of the law was mobilised to halt the uprising on the third night when the ‘rioters’ in 2011 turned their attention to well-to-do Ealing, rather than Tottenham or Lewisham, people see the operation of hypocrisy and can locate who to blame readily enough. Police duty of care is flouted and ignored, and free rein was offered in Ealing as was evident to anyone who cared to look. It is also not without significance to me that the following August in 2012, the police operation to ‘protect’ the public at the Olympics were lauded, in the press after the fact, as having helped heal the wounds of a scarred city. I do not want to minimise the losses suffered and livelihoods ruined by the events of August 2011, but it seems to me that some new angles on the uprising are required in order to see it as it was – a stage managed media ‘riot’ graphed over the top of legitimate youth frustration built up over months of repressive austerity, cuts to services, the education maintenance allowance (EMA), and the student protests of 2010-early 2011.

There was of course a gap between the predominantly black youth organising and protesting the removal of the EMA that had supported so many disadvantaged families in keeping teens in education and the white, often middle-class, students who somewhat selflessly were protesting education fees they themselves would probably avoid by finishing their degrees before the introduction of the fees. The administration-led privatisation of education, and the political debate about this, was always about much more than issue of course fees, a message even the mainstream news media at the time occasionally comprehended. Yet, since vernacular conviviality is to be subsumed into the regulatory, the evident gap between two kinds of organising, and indeed at the protests, between those who were standing around waiting to be ‘kettled’ and those up for dancing and or a bit of barney with the police – and often it was South Asian youth in the latter contingent – was clearly a part of a struggle that would set coming directions. More creative modes of protest and articulation of dissent within the police kettles and refusal of the A to B march orthodoxy of the usual student protests should also be mentioned, even if they did not in the end prevail. The lessons of horizontal and cell based organising taken from observations of the ‘Arab Spring’, to the extent that it was possible to know via media, and before it was sabotaged by the reaction, did complicate the picture in the student demonstrations, and perhaps even set some of the scene for the following August. Thinking of protest as carnivalesque, as an alternative to predictable routes, and A to B protest marches, opened the possibility of going beyond the political conventions. This itself was perhaps part of the reason for the Police crackdown on student protesters, including significant jail time for a surprisingly large number, which in turn fuelled a degree of militancy that had been building to confirm the congealing roles. The gap, however, also still prevailed in august, with two kinds of ‘protest’ occurring would only be ‘theorised’ at a distance by largely the same groups that had contrasted ‘spikey’ versus ‘fluffy’ in the Criminal Justice Act protests of the med 1990s. Without even going so far as the reprehensibly fluffy ‘clean up’ broom movement photo op in Clapham, the site of white activists marching in a relatively orderly formation through Lewisham chanting ‘This is what a revolution looks like’ was a symptomatic incongruity and pointer that the lessons are still to be learnt.

 

It is no surprise that the variety of film reference consumes space that might have been given over to a shared theoretical effort. With the production of one thousand films a year – estimates vary, but hover around the Scheherazade number. All before anyone can cast about for angle or perspective. Especially if from these thousand and one films, only a very small number of these are discussed by experts in film studies.

 

And this brilliant but orphan squib from SV:

“Film analysis too often

  1. ‘restages the obvious as a major discovery’ (Srinivas 2012:79)

  2. talks itself into wanting to ‘pass’ in all contexts, then complains when this succeeds all too well, and hence benefits are withdrawn

  3. ‘Sometimes, you can’t understand what’s happening textually unless you are aware of the economic forces at work’ (Srinivas 2012:78)”

Srinivas, S.V. 2012 ‘Teaching India/Asian Cinema’, Journal of the Moving Image, 11:78-84

Srinivas raises key areas of problems for film studies: the different levels of attention, first of all to film and its excessive enjoyment; the pleasures of going to the cinema hall to sit in the dark awash with colour; to sit with others, on couches or in cinema halls or virtually, the problem of distribution; the grand claims of those who sit in the dark and proclaim themselves radical, subversive, pirates, revolutionaries, as if watching Jackie Chan in itself were progressive (see Srinivas 2012:79); that piracy can be reread and celebrated as theft and free content misunderstands both piracy and freedom (Srinivas 2012:81).

 

Moinak Biswas in a talk on ‘Ismat Chughtai and her Films’ (Biswas 2016) stresses the importance of Urdu writers in the development of Indian leftist culture and the movement of artists, writers and theatre workers and more from the Progressive Writers Association and IPTA into the film industry in Bombay.

 

Gehlawat would break with ‘adherence to a devotional paradigm’ (Gehlawat 2010:26)

 

‘On 26 June 1975, Indira Gandhi declared a State of Emergency, allegedly to prevent a conspiracy from undermining the progressive measures being undertaken by her. A national railway workers’ strike and broad-based popular campaigns in one of the more urbanized and developed states, Gujarat, and in one of the most backward, Bihar (campaigns which were both escalating into nationwide opposition movements) formed the background to the decision. Individual rights were revoked, including the right to move courts and the right to trial; over 100,000 arrests of political leaders and dissidents were made during the eighteen month period before elections were called side by side with political repression were measures to promote economic growth and equity, such as the Twenty Point Program, heralded as a ‘‘direct assault on poverty.’’ It gave priority to implementing laws on land ceilings, housing for landless labor, abolition of bonded labor and of rural indebtedness, and providing higher minimum wages for agricultural workers. Special teams were instituted in the large cities, to undertake house-to-house searches for undisclosed or undervalued property. Widely publicized campaigns against tax evasion and smuggling were launched, and within twelve months over 2,100 alleged smugglers were jailed and property worth over ten million rupees seized. Labor ‘‘peace’’ was achieved, with a dramatic decrease in strikes and lockouts of about 75 percent. The government’s aim appeared to be to stop at source all conceivable political opposition. Elections were suspended and press censorship instituted’ (Rajagopal 2009:47)

 

In Chandidas (1932, dir Deboki Kumar Basu) the burning of Rami’s home, and the fire taking the bird cage a poignant moment in the most poignant of films. Against the prohibitions of the bigoted temple priests, Chandidas chooses Rami and they leave for a new house

The game show format imparted, like cricket, to India is not offensive, nor should it surprise us that the abuse of legal process first devised by the British lingers. What we see played out on the hanging channel are the global effects of the terror psychosis that spread fear as revenge for national insult. 9-11 and 6/7 meant a bureaucratic anxiety was imposed as control. Internal Security, Homeland Defence, Prevent, Radicalisation and Human Terrain network Analysis are all variants of a prime-time police operation reliant upon fear of ideas and the burning of books. The pantomime factor is huge in the effort to make people in the west forget that they are far far more likely to die in a car crash than the proxy war of terror weapons sales push that occupies strategic imperatives in so-called ‘diplomatic’ planning.

 

‘The Indian films which pertained most to Third Cinema grew out of the New Indian Cinema of the 1970s and 1980s, and it is this movement to which I devote some attention here for two reasons: it is not treated elsewhere in these pages while remaining one of the important cinemas neglected (for a variety of reasons) by Western criticism – this even though the films produced by these radical filmmakers outnumber those of the Nouvelle Vague and the New German Cinema combined; the New Indian Cinema also constitutes a superb illustration all the difficulties and contradictions that filmmakers and film critics encountered and continue to encounter wherever Third Cinema has come into being. India’s “Parallel Cinema,” as it has come to be known in some quarters, remains unparalleled in its richness as a case study’ (Guneratne and Dassanayake 2003: 20)

‘The vanguard of the New Indian Cinema that began to emerge in the 1970s either studied under committed leftist filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak at Pune or abroad either at such centers of filmmaking as Moscow’ (Guneratne and Dassanayake 2003: 21)

 

Understanding then Pather Panchali or Baishey Shravana in this code brings only sadness and despair to the nation. Poverty, not independence would be a more adequate context, especially in a filmmaker like Sen who will track the communist left and Maoist political lineage in Bengal.

 

No romance of the beleaguered ethnic community. Austerity accounts for all associations other than big business and what community there is that can be applauded is a community of struggle. Struggle is not yet success, but the aspiration remains. Even where beset by inner city problems – code for drugs, gangs, crime, violence, hip hop – there is organisation. In the face of a collapsing left, even a crack house might in some conditions be shelter.

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.

Begum Jaan – trailer (remake of Rajkahini, রাজকাহিনী)

For those in need of an alternative to Gurinder Chadha’s Viceroy’s House, in April 2017 we will get the Hindi film Begum Jaan, I hope soon also for a UK release. It is a remake of Rajkahini by the same director, Srijit Mukherji.

Impressed that the fire stuntsperson managed a fair impersonation of the map of india in this scene from the trailer.

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 11.54.55

Watch the trailer here.

Since Begum Jaan ‘is the Hindi adapted version of Bengali movie Rajkahini’, the promoters have taken the remake principle to heart as a marketing strategy by staging a debate as to who is the better Begum, Vidya Balan or Rituparna Sengupta?? See here for the way to beat this up into a smart promotional angle with a series of other character match-ups.

The trailer for Rajkahini (2015) is here, of course with Tagore song…:

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 12.12.49

 

and if you are into mapmaking its a tragic feast…

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 12.28.56

 

 

 

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. 

Zombiiiiieeees Aiiiiiiiiii

Another volume on the horror that keeps giving (accounts of capital and how bad it is – figure people gonna wake up and do owt? Not holding my breath given the fun kids were having knocking on the door for sugar yesterday. Still). Haymarket seems to have a decent list now that’d not all trotting out the same old. This is on my list:

 

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-00-55-48There is also an extract:

In Capital Marx writes that, like zombies, living labour under capitalism becomes ‘subservient to and led by an alien will and an alien intelligence’. In tandem, the mass of machinery to which workers are subordinated in production assumes the form of an ‘animated monster’, a monstrosity endowed with a soul and intelligence of its own. Factories, machines, assembly-lines, computerised production systems all take on a life of their own, directing the movements of labour, controlling workers as if they were merely inorganic parts of a giant apparatus. As capital assumes the form of ‘a mechanical monster whose body fills whole factories’, workers become ‘conscious organs of the automaton’. This reference to workers as organs of capital, which we also find in other Marxian texts, returns us to the theme of corporeal fragmentation. Labouring for capital, protests Marx, workers become mere appendages of this ‘animated monster’, dismembered body-parts activated by the motions of the grotesque corpus of capital.

Read more of it here.

Afzal Guru Protest: JNU under Police Action, NDTV Reports (which is ironic since they are in part to blame for the travesty under protest here).

NDTV have a record on this topic which is, erm, unenviable. For example, they had run a phone in poll to see if their audience wanted Afzal Mohammed Guru hanged, held before the court gave its verdict, on what was a frame-up according to many, and the ‘torturer for the nation’ proudly proclaiming his role in getting Afzal’s confession… So it is deeply troubling that even now Police action cracks down on legitimate dissent. Cultural event! Maybe there is more to it, but it looks dubious to me – what threat was this demonstration to the nation? Kanhiya Kumar  zindabad.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 11.29.01

Full story here.

Postcards from inside #24. White Terror

Reposted from Limit Experience.

Jing-Mei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park, Taipei, December 2015

Co-written with John Hutnyk

Although this will no doubt change in years to come, Jing-Mei currently seems to occupy a tricky position as both memorial site, prison museum and cultural park. It is missing from the current edition of the Taiwan Lonely Planet whose maps of Taipei narrowly crop it off. Both the 2-28 Memorial Park and Museum and the Chiayi Prison museum are given decent attention.

Visiting Jing-Mai on New Year’s Eve (31 December 2015), it was almost completely deserted bar a woman exercising her border collie. Although it was a damp, grey afternoon which over-emphasized the new brutalism of some of the sites architecture, it was still difficult to imagine the appeal of the space as a cultural park in better weather given the proliferation of creative and cultural parks throughout Taipei and Taiwan. The logic of defining the space in relation to other restoration and repurposing also seems problematic given many of these parks such as Huashan 1914 Creative Park (a former winery turned into a series of design-concept stores, cafes, galleries and an arthouse cinema) celebrate culture as consumerism first and foremost.

So who exactly is Jing-Mei aimed at?

The history of the site is documented in the park brochure. Its military education, military prison and military court uses are the stuff of the exhibitions, but especially the ongoing court functions (until 2007) also fold into the emerging story the museum. As with the first displays at Abashiri prison museum in Hokkaido, a portion of the work of the brochure is to document the efforts made to preserve artefacts and buildings for the prison museum – a narrative about itself, which is revealing in its frankly told tale of political manoeuvres. In 2001 the vice president of Taiwan, Annette Lu Hsui-Lin visited and learning that the Ministry of Defence proposed to reconstruct the site, she recommended preservation, and in July 2002 the Human Rights Advisory Panel under the Office of the President tasked the Council of Cultural Affairs to preserve the site as a park. Relocating the Ministry of Defence court functions was largely completed by 2007, and this very valuable and large urban area was renamed, from the ‘Memorial Park of Court Martial During the Communist rebellion’ to, on Human Rights Day, 10th December 2007, as ‘Taiwan Human Rights Jing-mei Park’. Change of Government in Taiwan in 2008 meant another change of name ‘after much deliberation’, with ‘opposition from various human rights groups’ and a public hearing in April 2009 so that in 2010 the park and the facility at Green Island in the south were made a part of the newly announced ‘Taiwan Human Rights Museum’. The brochure ends with a flourish: ‘The objectives of the museum were to preserve the two historic sites and to promote human rights education by fully utilizing the four major functions of museum: to preform studies and research, to handle collections and preservation work, to organise exhibitions and publications, and to educate the public and promote knowledge’ (Brochure of preparatory Office of the National Human Rights Museum, middle pages).

Having visited Jing-Mei a few days after Chiayi prison museum, it was difficult not to draw direct comparisons between the two sites and to reflect on the ways in which different forms of prison museum underpinned by apparently very different ideologies and political objectives re: audience and narrative might nevertheless be complicit in reproducing dominant discourses on incarceration. The Chiayi inmates were absent but in Jing-Mei they are very much present as dissidents, readers, mistaken identities, unjustly jailed or otherwise put upon victims. They are referred to throughout as ‘victims’ by the English language audio-guide. The narrative of their everyday experience structures the layout of the displays in the buildings, from courtroom and lawyer consultation room (though lawyers are de-emphasized as court appointed) through health and shopping, living quarters (bugs), eating, reading, washing and relaxing. Guards are absent in this case.

There is a strange tension at work where the careful reconstruction of the various living spaces of the prison facilities ‘humanizes’ the experience of those detained there and, as such, does more perhaps to affirm a well-regulated carceral state which includes a prison library, provisions store and visitor room than spaces (such as Chiayi prison museum) now devoid of such markers or in which such referents have been repositioned within glass cabinets.

There is an attempt to ‘reconstruct’ objects within the space in which they were used, arrangements on a doctor’s desk, packets and tins on shelves which despite being ‘under glass’ are focused less on the authenticity of the objects (many are replicas or ‘imagined’ as representative of the time and space) and more on creating scenes of snapshots of how life was for those incarcerated under the White Terror than a celebration of relics and fragments taken out of context.

The yard outside the cellblocks which it is possible to walk around was where the inmates were allowed to exercise for 15 minutes, 3 times a week. Although the yard is compact in line with the small size of the prison itself, it is difficult not to draw comparison with the cages where those kept in solitary confinement in today’s U.S. supermaxes (but elsewhere too) get their exercise. In this respect, the role of memorials such as Jing-Mei but also places like Robben Island and Camp des Milles should not simply be about collective memory of human rights violations associated with now defunct political regimes. Calling to mind the notion of ‘human rights’ in this way seems to echo Slavoj Žižek’s now dated but no less relevant ‘Against Human Rights’ paper in New Left Review. In it he claims that human rights are evoked to designate those who have lost all possibility of their ‘humanity’, stripped of personal, national, religious and cultural identity. Human rights only come into play when there is nothing left of what makes us more than biologically human. Might not the same be true of human rights memorials if they only work to ‘remember’. If once again ‘human rights’ only come into play after a moment is past? Instead, we might look at how such spaces permit a questioning of the ongoing techniques of exclusion, punishment (torture) and surveillance which rely on extra-judicial acts regardless of whether those subject to such techniques have been sentences via judicial or non-judicial procedures and, in turn, consider the ways in which the domestic criminal ‘other’ is constructed and framed within contemporary sites of detention according to the same or comparable discourses of fear associated with notions of global terror.

Coming out into the yard from the cells was itself something like a role-play. It was, I think, inevitable to look up and imagine what life within the courtyard, with only a rectangle of sky, despite being in the middle of a large city, would be like. Immediately sound became more important, and the sight was of either walls and security towers, or the distant but small sky. Isolation cell – an experience often depicted in cinema and literature, but here for the first time in my experience enacted thought the sequence of leaving the oppressive close cells and moving into the yard. And these cells were nowhere near as small or as claustrophobia inducing as the ones at Chiayi.

This too was perhaps set up through the earlier role-play with the telephone. We have long been aware that the issue of prisoner or detainee presence in the narrative is an important marker, perhaps something taught by the critique of older histories by the subalterns school and other modes of counter-privilege discourse, that of course then fetishise and celebrate resistance narratives in a kind of mirror exoticism way, but in this case the prisoner experience foregrounding the narrative is seductive. It sets up experiences of albeit remote but empathetic connection. The phone connects the ‘victims’ to the visitors. But the central place for victim narratives just also be considered with its filters. No prisoner, convict or detainee narrative is not recorded under duress. Even where such records are admitted as interrogation transcripts, the intervening screen of perspex and perspective sits between the visitor and the inmates. Role-play with the telephone does not invoke this dilemma, but rather pretends towards accessing unmediated experience – what is it like to talk with my son on an old black telephone through a mediating glass, with security camera by the ceiling corner looking down at us recording? The screen does not convey the duress that was always, to some degree is always, the undertone of prisoner testimony.

Do such sites via both role-playing and their status as ‘exceptional’ sites allow a persistent ‘bracketing’ out which encourages complicity and passivity on the part of those who visit and attempt to engage at whatever level, from whatever background? Or do they demonstrate the difficulty of calling into question the carceral within contemporary society?

SF/JH

*

Afterword.

As an aside, I also wanted to include a reference within this post to a slightly bizarre  collection of laminated posters stuck to the toilet doors in the female restrooms. The stock images of famous, primarily European monuments with short maxims printed below in English and Mandarin seem both at odds with the site’s curated narratives and exhibits but also lacking in an obvious objective as either affirmation or critique of the official curation. I have no idea who posted these here, why or how long they had been there for. Nevertheless, there was clearly some intentionality behind them even if this was simply to provide some amusement to those based at the site.

Without trying to read anything into their existence or the choice of images (celebrated monuments from elsewhere), they did make me think about the potential to disrupt or subvert curated historical narratives evoking in some sense (despite the intentionality) Barthes’ idea of the punctum. Although the punctum is, precisely, not something we can actively seek out, it does strike me that there will always be something, an object, a reaction, an act, occurring within the space of the prison museum that doesn’t fit the intended narrative, curation or guided visit. In future I’m going to pay more attention to these. SF

New York actions. STOP Police Terror Which Side Are You On?

3 Days of Mass Resistance
Oct 22-24 NYC: 
STOP Police Terror
Which Side Are You On?
Thurs, October 22, No More Stolen Lives, Say Their Names
Fri, October 23 “Shut Down Rikers!
Sat, October 24: National March to STOP Police Terror: Which Side are You On?

Initiated by Carl Dix and Cornel West, #RiseUpOctober will bring together 100 families who’ve lost loved ones to police violence, prominent voices of conscience, students, clergy, artists, and more. These 3 days, and the massive Saturday Oct 24 march, will launch a more defiant, more determined resistance aimed at nothing less than stopping

the epidemic of illegitimate police terror and murder targeting Black and Brown people. This is a resistance that refuses to turn a blind eye to the thousands of lives stolen and families shattered, that will not be cowed by media and government vilification or pacified by empty promises of change, but insists Stop Police Terror! Which Side Are You On?
The 3 Days:
No More Stolen Lives, Say Their Names
A Public Reading and Remembrance: A Demand for Justice.

Over 40 families of people killed by police will gather to tell their stories, accompanied by prominent voices of conscience reading the names of just some of the 1000s of lives stolen.

Details here.

2:00 pm, Borough Hall, Brooklyn: National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Murder, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
Friday, October 23 9:00 am
“Shut Down Rikers!”
A mass, nonviolent direct action. People of conscience are putting their bodies on the line to call for this torture chamber to be shut down. Details here.
Saturday, October 24
National March to STOP Police Terror: Which Side are You On?
11:00am – Washington Square Park, NYC 11 am DETAILS HERE 
1:00pm – March
4:00pm – Closing Rally at Bryant Park
Students, religious congregations, contingents from housing projects, and people from all across the country – we will gather in the thousands and tens of thousands with the demand: Terror and Murder By Police Must STOP.
RiseUpOctober.org   646-709-1961

#RiseUpOctober Advisory Board:
Carl Dix, Cornel West, Gina Belafonte, Eve Ensler, Jamal Joseph,
Arturo O’Farrill, Rev. Stephen Phelps
 
Many prominent voices of conscience have endorsed the Call for #RiseUpOctober including:
Ed Asner; educator Bill Ayers; Harry Belafonte; actor Ty Burrell; actor Mark Ruffalo; Noam Chomsky; theologian James Cone; actor Peter Coyote; lawyer Martin Garbus; Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Bernard Lown; activist Cindy Sheehan; Green Party candidate Jill Stein; David Strathairn; Quentin Tarantino; artist Hank Willis Thomas; singer Dan Zanes, and many others.
Artists and writers: Ken Burns, Shepard Fairey, Alice Walker, Cornel West, and Gilbert Young have donated their work to the $100,000 Indiegogo campaign to bring 100 families from across the country to NYC.
Many dozens of faith leaders from across the country are organizing with hundreds of students, grassroots activists and organizations.
____________________________________________________________________________
Statement from physicians: challenge to donate to Rise Up October:
Confronting the cancer of racism, silence is intolerable if we wish to remain human. Since the founding of our nation, this malignancy has been eating away at our pretensions of democracy. The reason for its persistence is not merely a cultural and social legacy of slavery. It relates to a system of governance that appropriates wealth to a few while ignoring the dire needs of the many who produce the wealth. As Dr. Martin Luther King, in his memorable speech at the Riverside Church in New York City nearly 40 years ago stated, “The time comes when silence is betrayal.”
                            Bernard Lown, M.D.  (winner 1985 Nobel Prize for Peace)

We are physicians who join with Dr. Lown in this match challenge. With love and solidarity with these Stolen Lives families who have suffered so much and are so courageous. Rise Up October!

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

Palestine Solidarity London Friday 10th July, 2015, 5.30-7.30pm,

Palestine Solidarity CampaignJoinDonate
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign works for peace & justice for Palestinians, in support of human rights & against all racism
Gaza: one year on
Friday 10th July, 5.30-7.30pm,
Richmond Terrace, opposite Downing Street, London
Gaza September, 2014. Credit Agencia de Noticias ANDES – shared under Creative Commons licence
We are approaching the first anniversary of Israel’s devastating assault on Gaza last summer, which terrorised the Palestinian population of 1.8 million for 51 days, killing more than 2,000 Palestinians and reducing much of Gaza to rubble. Now is the time toshow Palestinians and the world that we remember their losses, and are with them in their struggle for peace, freedom and justice.
On Friday 10th July we are holding a vigil in London to remember those who were killed and those who grieve for them. We will be asking people to share the names of those Palestinians who died during Israel’s attacks. If you can, please bring along flowers and the name of a person or family you want to remember. We will collect all the photos of those who come to remember. More information>
Gaza vigilA message left at a vigil after Israel’s deadly attacks
By signing our petition and attending our vigil (or an event near you)  we can send a global message to government: Israel’s attacks must end, Israel’s blockade must end, the occupation must end. Send the message to government – support peace and justice for Palestinians. 
If you are able to help before or at the event please contact info@palestinecampaign.org
UK Complicity in Israel’s war crimes continues
Arming Apartheid report
The latest official government figures, collated by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Campaign Against Arms Trade, and War on Want, reveal that the UK approved £4 million worth of arms sales to Israel in the four months that followed last year’s bombardment of Gaza (read the Independent’s report on the report)
The revelations are included in Arming Apartheid: UK Complicity in Israel’s Crimes Against the Palestinian People  a new report which focuses on the extent and nature of the arms trade between the UK and Israel.
Email your MP to demand an immediate end to the two way arms trade with Israel

the mortality of paraphrase – book scraps left on the cutting room floor.

It has often been noted that war is hell, or ‘heck’ in the old 1970s ‘M*A*S*H’ anti-war comedy version, but the cold war too has its unwelcome replays as austerity today, this time as grotesque rerun of terror and economic malaise.

For many in the West, a first look at ‘Asia’ came with Altman’s 1970 film M*A*S*H following the adventures of a front line medical unit in the Korean war, but the Vietnam War was the allegorical context. The long-running television series featured Alan Alda as Hawkeye and his bumbling foil Major Frank Burns, an incompetent officer and surgeon played by Larry Lindville, who offered the mortal paraphrase – ‘war is heck’. An occasional character, the paranoid Colonel Flag, played by Edward Winter, should also be remembered for his surrealist reinforcement of the absolute winning incoherence of the phrase ‘military intelligence’.

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)]

Sai Baba hunger strike

Often spoken as our guest in London. It was always difficult to get him a visa, and/or permission from his college to visit, and their shabby treatment of him in relation to accommodation… Now this… [he is in prison for having links with Maoists allegedly, and for being a member of a proscribed terrorist organisation – see link http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Delhi-University-professor-GN-Saibaba-arrested-for-alleged-Maoist-links/articleshow/34887926.cms to mainstream press. More as I get it]




POLITICAL PRISONER, G NAGA SAIBABA ON HUNGER STRIKE FROM SATURDAY, 11TH APRIL, 2015

Dr, G N Saibaba, Delhi University Professor, who has been in incarceration since 9th May, 2014 has commenced an indefinite hunger strike from 11-04-2015 demanding proper medical treatment and food, both of which are being denied to him by the authorities of the Nagpur Central Prison.

 Dr. Saibaba, who is presently lodged in the notorious Anda Barrack of the Nagpur Prison has been denied bail twice by the Sessions Court, Gadchiroli and once by the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court. 

In the last order by the Sessions Court dated 4th March, 2015 the Sessions Judge referred to the reports of the Superintendent and the Chief Medical Officer of the Nagpur Central Prison which, while admitting the delicate medical condition of Saibaba, stated that he was being treated at the Government Medical College Hospital as well as the Super Speciality Hospital in Nagpur and that they were providing food supplements as per his medical requirements. 

It was on the basis of such reports that bail on medical grounds was denied to Saibaba.

However, despite such claims by the prison authorities made before the court, the prison administration has not only continued to deny him proper medical treatment and food supplements, but also now even stopped certain items that were earlier allowed to him.

Faced with a situation of a steady deterioration in his health condition, Saibaba has decided to protest and has completely stopped taking food from Saturday.

His lawyers, who met him on Monday, 13th April, 2015, immediately submitted a memorandum to the DIG (Prisons) East Region, the prison authority under whose jurisdiction the Nagpur Prison falls. 

The official however merely received the memorandum and refused to respond to the issues raised by Saibaba. He did not even indicate any willingness to allow the essentials that the prison report to the court has stated that they were providing.

Immediate action is called for to protect the life of Dr. G N Saibaba and obtain his release.

 
 

 

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!

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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.

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):

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talk at RMIT Melbourne

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John Hutnyk
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Pantomime Terror: MIA’s lyrical opposition to Capital, Google and the Border Patrols.

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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

 

Guardian keeping up appearances of a war on terror – 3 item count in today’s edition:

It seems like that fatigue has set in with the regular news item slot that supports the war on terror, so now new angles need to be found – mothers/geeks, aspergers/Loughborough, Mao/tourism – to bolster this bogus paranoia-inducing low-level constant anxiety under which we ‘live’.

NasateenaspterrorTiannenmen

(all from the Guardian, today 30.10.2013 –

what bets there will be Halloween-themed ones tomorrow?)