Storm in the Texas Panhandle:
Storm in the Texas Panhandle:
Given its widespread appeal and the fact that it elicits little disapproval among Egypt’s intellectuals and politicians, let alone its ordinary citizens, observers are not entirely at fault in assuming deep historical roots for the phenomena. Such assumptions, however, are misguided. Not so long ago, Egyptian intellectuals and politicians were not only, not anti-Semites; many of them were philo-Semites and even exhibited pro Zionist sentiments. In the 1920s it was not uncommon for a leading Egyptian intellectual to proclaim “the victory of the Zionist ideal is also the victory of my ideal.”
How has Egypt reached such a universal consensus on the existence of a Jewish conspiracy, with the only disagreement being on the question of who are its pawns? Why is Egyptian culture so drenched in anti-Semitism? And what are the ramifications of such an all-pervading belief on the country’s foreign relations and its future trajectory? [...]
To understand the roots of anti-Semitism in the Arab world in general and Egypt in particular, we must look much deeper. We must explore both the crisis of modernity in the Arab world and the importation of European ideologies and ideas.
The crisis of modernity in the Arab world began with the sudden realization of the West’s advancement and the miserable state of Arabs and Muslims by comparison. Isolated for centuries from developments in Europe, Egyptians—first their rulers and intellectuals but later on the general population as well—were shocked to discover that the Frenchmen led by Napoleon who had landed on their shores were not the same Franks they had defeated during the Crusades. The shock of the discovery of Western technological, material, and military superiority shattered the existing political order and demanded a response. [...]
The Nazi efforts had a lasting impact on Egypt. Nasser and his fellow officers belonged to those organizations and movements from the Muslim Brotherhood to Young Egypt that had collaborated with the Nazis and were greatly influenced by them during their formative years. Following the military coup in 1952, anti-Semitism moved from the state of appealing ideology to State-sponsored ideology. While some scholarly attention has been given to the role of German scientists in building the Egyptian rockets program, less attention has been given to the role of Nazi ideologues in shaping educational and propaganda efforts in Egypt. “In 1956, Nasser hired Johann von Leers, one of the Nazi regime’s leading anti-Semitic propagandists, to assist the Egyptian Ministry of Information in fashioning its own anti-Semitic and anti Zionist campaigns” (Herf, Nazi Propaganda). [...]
Those hopeful that the Arab Spring would introduce a breath of fresh air in the region, and especially on the question of anti-Semitism, were soon mugged by reality. Instead of becoming less appealing, anti-Semitism has become the lingua franca of politics in Egypt. Faced with tremendous political, social, and economic upheaval, the Egyptian political class and the general population have found an answer in the Jewish conspiracy. [...]
When confronted with anti-Semitism in their country, Egyptians typically dismiss the charge out of hand. “We cannot be anti-Semites, for we are Semites ourselves,” is the favorite line. Western observers, incapable of echoing such nonsense, have tended to dismiss concern with the widespread appeal of anti-Semitism in Egypt and beyond. “It’s just a stupid knee-jerk reaction to the Arab-Israeli conflict”, is a sentiment held by many. Egyptians are not really anti-Semites, not like the Europeans anyway; they are just anti Israeli and cannot make the differentiation between Israel and the Jews. Given that, after the persecution by Nasser, there are very few Jews in the country anyway, this bigotry has no practical ramifications and should not concern us. Egypt will uphold its peace treaty with Israel, and the country’s decision-makers, while sometimes using anti-Semitism as a tool, are too sane to fall for such nonsense.
Such attitudes are not only wrong; they are dangerous. As I’ve shown, decision-makers in Egypt are not themselves immune to anti-Semitism but in fact are among its most committed believers. In the top ranks of the Egyptian army, in its intelligence community, and in the ranks of state servants, the nearly universal belief of the existence of a Jewish conspiracy against the homeland is dangerous and affects perception of reality and hence policy. To be unable to see the world as it is, to be incapable of understanding the causes of events, is a dangerous condition, and one that can lead to disastrous consequences.
Anti-Semitism in Egypt is not merely a form of bigotry. It forms the basis on which its adherents interpret and understand the world. As such, at the forefront of those concerned by its widespread adaptation by the country’s leaders and intellectuals should be Egyptians themselves—at least those who care enough about the country’s future and wish it well.
I've just excerpted, but really, read it all.
Simply trying to find a middle ground to express ourselves without using extreme means of music or women dancing in public.
No no, we mustn't laugh...
North Korean defectors often find it hard to put their experience into words. This girl, Yeonmi Park, does a pretty good job:
I had to be careful of my thoughts because I believed Kim Jong-il could read my mind. Every couple of days someone would disappear. A classmate's mother was punished in a public execution that I was made to attend. I had no choice – there were spies in the neighbourhood.
Then, the escape to the South:
I realised that everything I thought was a lie. I had not been a real person – I was created for the regime to work for them. If they ordered us to die, I would've died for them. I wasn't a human – I was something else. I certainly wasn't treated like one. I knew nothing of freedom. It took about three years to fully get over the brainwashing.
My mother took longer than me. When Kim Jong-il died she couldn't believe it. We were in South Korea by then and she said, "he can't die because he's not a human, he's a god!" It was very hard for us to comprehend that he was just a human, but I helped my mother see the truth.
I'm now studying at university, learning about international relations and I feel like a different person. When I was in North Korea, no one asked me "what do you think?" "What do you want to be in future?" "What do you dream?" I now have free will.
The four competitors for the Deutsche Börse Prize are now in exhibition at the Photographer's Gallery. It's an interesting show, in the sense that it sheds an informative light on the kind of photography that gets selected for these prestigious awards nowadays.
For me there's only one possible winner. Spanish photographer Alberto Garcia-Alix has been taking pictures of himself and his world since the Seventies, when the overthrow of Franco unleashed a new freedom, and the young Garcia-Alix gave up on the career path mapped out for him, and embraced photography, motorbikes, drugs and hedonism.
He has a wonderful unflinching eye. Especially when looking at himself, as here, with "My Feminine Side" from 2002:
An accompanying film has him talking philosophically over his photos. "When we photograph people we are just photographing future corpses" - or words to that effect. Amusingly morbid. And, as I say, with a very fine eye.
Elsewhere, well, it's all downhill. Instead of photography of the world - of life - we get photographers being clever about photography. Meta-photography. Which of course is what curators of these kind of events really like. Instead of standing on their own as works of power and beauty, these meta-photographic efforts need to be explained.
Richard Mosse had the conceit of taking photographs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo using discontinued military surveillance film, which renders greenery a kind of purple colour. The results are fairly striking, but the claim that this enterprise has some deeper significance really don't bear scrutiny:
At the project’s heart are the points of failure of documentary photography, and its inability to adequately communicate this complex and horrific cycle of violence.
And portraying it in different colours somehow overcomes these problems?
I kept wondering if perhaps there was an assumption that showing a landscape in deep red was meant to convey the idea of a "blood-soaked" war zone, but such an idea had to be left unspoken as, if articulated, it would immediately be perceived as embarrassingly literal and simple-minded. But who knows?
Adrian Searle's analysis of Richard Mosse's project is flawed by taking an aesthetic and Kantian (purely visual) consumption of the work.
Look at the material production of the film: it is shot on a now defunct and obsolete Kodak film that was designed specifically for Military use, its purpose being to reveal soldiers wearing camouflage uniforms in the natural landscape.
That is why the vegetation is rendered in pink hues. This foregrounds the materials used to construct the film as a representation that is now relative to its instrumentality. This is one current concern of contemporary art - the creation of of work that is relative as well as subject to relativism.
This is important in an age of neoliberal aesthetics where work is assessed on its relations of Identity and Affect in a postmodern methodology that foregrounds minority status without really knowing, and wins acceptance (of the art critic here - Searle) despite its formal poverty. How do we redefine formal poverty? From Aesthetics to poetics.
The other two contenders present just the kind of work that's really only of interest to curators of photography exhibitions. Lorna Simpson found some old Fifties photos of a woman in a variety of fairly tasteful but cheesy glamour-type shots. She then took similar photos of herself, and - shades of Cindy Sherman - mixed them all up with the originals, so it's difficult to distinguish the originals from the new versions. And that's it. Or, as the blurb has it:
Simpson’s work links photography, text, video installations, most recently archival material and found objects. Emphasizing a conceptual and performative approach, she explores themes of gender, identity, culture, memory and body. Simpson works within the charged duality of past and present, word and image but also plays with the interplay between still and moving images.
Finally Jochen Lempert eschews frames, just sticking poorly-produced images direct to the wall, thus - oh I don't know - questioning our preconceptions of what might be worth looking at or something, and referencing the early days of photography in a deeply uninteresting way. As an example, one wall has three pictures of four swans on the water, taken a few seconds apart. It takes a second glance to realise that the white blobs are swans, because the shots are out of focus. These are, one gathers, meant to evoke school science projects and the like - amateurish efforts just stuck on the wall. Utterly pointless.
Garcia-Alix is so obviously the oustanding candidate here - so I doubt he'll win.
Whistle-blower Edward Snowden explains to the Guardian faithful just how brave he'd been to "lift a taboo on discussion of state surveillance" by daring to question Putin himself on the subject:
On Thursday, I questioned Russia's involvement in mass surveillance on live television. I asked Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, a question that cannot credibly be answered in the negative by any leader who runs a modern, intrusive surveillance program: "Does [your country] intercept, analyse or store millions of individuals' communications?"
I went on to challenge whether, even if such a mass surveillance program were effective and technically legal, it could ever be morally justified....
In his response, Putin denied the first part of the question and dodged on the latter. There are serious inconsistencies in his denial – and we'll get to them soon – but it was not the president's suspiciously narrow answer that was criticised by many pundits. It was that I had chosen to ask a question at all.
Snowden's Guardian fan-base were certainly impressed, to judge from the comments. David Frum at the Atlantic, less so:
Edward Snowden disappointed even his admirers on Thursday by participating in the annual propaganda ritual of Russia’s phony “ask Putin” call-in show. On Friday, Snowden tried to recoup by publishing an op-ed in The Guardian justifying himself. The self-justification, however, only makes things worse.
The show featured softball questions and deceptive answers, and the exchange between Snowden and Vladimir Putin followed this pattern. Snowden, the world’s most famous (Well, what shall we call him? Whistleblower? Defector? Putin humorously addressed Snowden as a fellow “secret agent,” and that term may have more double meaning in Snowden’s case than in most) lobbed this: Does Russia engage in mass surveillance of its population?
The Russian president answered: “We don’t have a mass system for such interception and according to our law it cannot exist.”
That bold lie was instantly punctured by Eli Lake of The Daily Beast:
The [Russian security agency] FSB has far more power to eavesdrop on Russian and foreign citizens than the FBI or the NSA…. [T]he FSB has a back door into every server belonging to Russia’s telecom companies and Internet service provider.… [I]n Russia, there is no special court or even a parliamentary committee to check the FSB’s work.
Lake reports that during the Sochi Olympic games, Russia pioneered an even more intrusive system. A Russia expert told him that Russian authorities “required telecom providers to store all phone conversations, text messages, everything for 24 hours.”
In The Guardian today, Snowden congratulates himself for having elicited an “evasive” and “suspiciously narrow” answer from the Russian president—and promises that this answer “would provide opportunities for serious journalists and civil society to push the discussion further.”
Speaking of suspiciously narrow answers, let’s consider Snowden’s. Putin’s approach to propaganda has been to tightly control television—which, in most of Russia, is the only media there is—while granting wider latitude to the remote and unpopular elites who communicate in print and online. Snowden is now taking part in this process. He played the dutiful courtier on TV, where he was seen by tens of millions of Russians; he expressed his tentative and circuitous criticisms in an English-language foreign newspaper.
Yet even in print and in English, Snowden is participating in and lending his support to a massive lie. Russian journalists will not “revisit” (as he puts it) the truthfulness of Putin’s answers. Russian journalists who do that end up dead, in at least 56 cases since 1992. Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist who pressed Putin hardest, was shot dead in her own apartment building in 2006, after years of repeated arrests, threats, and in one case, attempted poisoning.
As for “civil society”: Snowden is writing at a time when Russian forces have invaded and conquered Crimea. Russian-backed forces have attacked and abducted journalists on the peninsula and shut down independent news outlets. People who have resisted the annexation have disappeared, then reappeared dead, bearing signs of torture. To write about Russia as a normal state, in which normal methods exist for discovering and discussing truth, is to share culpability for a lie—and a lie that, at this very moment, is shattering the peace and security of all of Europe....
On Thursday, Snowden did what Putin needed for Putin’s domestic purposes. Friday’s follow-up excursion should be seen not as a deviation from the propaganda work of yesterday but as a continuation of it. Yesterday, Snowden aided Putin in deceiving the Russian people about state surveillance of their communications. Today, he undertook the secondary task of deceiving his supporters in the West about his own stance toward the Russian state. On past performance, that second task will likely be the easier one.
New York, 1905:
Built 1875, demolished 1924.
Early Temptations here, from 1965:
Strange camerawork, with lead singer David Ruffin hardly featuring. Not photogenic enough?
There's a much better quality video here, which does focus in on a very cool Ruffin, with Buddy Holly specs and all - but it's surely too good to be contemporary. There was a later TV series, with actors, and legal battles and stuff. I can't decide. If it is a reconstruction, it's very well done.
A few years before Papa Was a Rolling Stone, and those glorious pink suits.
Off for a few days - back Friday (the 18th).
The cancelling of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's honorary degree at Brandeis isn't the only recent triumph that CAIR - the Council on American Islamic Relations - can celebrate. They've also had some success in preventing the showing of "Honor Diaries", a film in which nine Muslim women speak about their experiences with honour practices such as forced marriage at a young age, denial of education and female genital mutilation. Scheduled screenings at some US universities were cancelled after a CAIR campaign which, inevitably, called the film "islamophobic".
Where, wonders Jeff Jacoby, is the feminist anger?
‘Honor Diaries” might not be coming to a theater near you, at least not if CAIR gets its way. The award-winning documentary about “honor” violence against girls and women in much of the Muslim world was released last month in honor of International Women’s Day, and it didn’t take long for the Council on American Islamic Relations to slap its all-purpose “Islamophobic” label on it. The film has been shown in dozens of venues, but CAIR has raised enough of a stink to get screenings cancelled on several college campuses, including the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois.
CAIR — a front group for Islamist extremism that masquerades as a civil rights organization (its first executive director, Nihad Awad, was an open supporter of Hamas) — is good at raising stinks. Last week Brandeis University caved in to demands that it rescind its offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a heroic defender of women’s rights in the Islamic world. With a life story that reads like a screenplay, Ali has personally experienced many of the evils she fights, including genital mutilation, forced marriage, and savage “honor” crimes. Her remarkable accomplishments should easily merit the honor of any university that upholds reason and intellectual diversity. But Brandeis apparently has different priorities now, like giving CAIR and the Islamophobia-phobes a veto over honorary degrees.
Ali was involved in making “Honor Diaries,” which goes out of its way to convey respect for moderate Islam. It spotlights nine eloquent women with roots in the Islamic world, several of whom are devout Muslims — “Islam is my spiritual journey,” says one — and all of whom are passionate about exposing the terrible abuses women and girls in many Muslim cultures suffer in the name of family honor. None thinks such horrors should be excused or neglected out of a misplaced cultural sensitivity or political correctness....
Efforts by CAIR and its ilk to squelch honest discussion of such grave human-rights issues — and to demonize as “haters” and “Islamophobes” those who do — encapsulate the very perversity “Honor Diaries” seeks to expose: valuing the honor of a community more than a woman’s life or voice. But does CAIR’s shrill protest reflect what average citizens in Muslim countries think of such a documentary? Or does the “Honor Diaries” Arabic Facebook page, with 95,000 “likes” — and climbing?
Why aren’t more progressives passionate about these issues?
Because they don't want to be labelled Islamophobes, or be seen as racist?
Because they hold non-whites to different moral standards - the bigotry of low expectations - in the name of cultural difference?
Remember Germaine Greer, for whom the battle against FGM was an "attack on cultural identity". Or Naomi Wolf, who gloried in the attitude to Muslim women that enabled them to walk round in black sacks, unexposed to the male gaze, and who suggested in all seriousness that "the Taliban were demonised for denying cosmetics and hair colour to women".
In some cases it may simply be because they see the enemy as "the West", so any oppposition to the West, no matter how reactionary, must be supported.
I put that question to Nazie Eftekhari, an immigrant from Iran and another of the women “Honor Diaries” focuses on. A successful Minnesota health care entrepreneur, Eftekhari unhesitatingly describes herself as a “bleeding-heart liberal” and a longtime Democratic Party voter, loyalist, and fund-raiser. She is as mystified as I am.
“The biggest human-rights crisis of our generation is the treatment of women in Muslim-majority countries, and we’ve applied a gag order to ourselves,” she replies with unmistakable distress. “We won’t talk about it. Where are my fellow liberals? Where are the feminists?”