The Turkish authorities claimed that their film "Blonde Bride - The True Face of the Armenian Question" wasn't meant to be shown to schoolchildren. The film, distributed to schools as an "educational resource", shows piles of corpses and other graphic images purporting to be Turks massacred by the rampaging Armenian hordes back in 1915. Now we have this:
A father is suing the Turkish Education Ministry for forcing his 11-year-old daughter to watch a “racist” and “disturbing” film countering claims that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians in 1915 with graphic allegations of Armenian atrocities against Turks.
The landmark case takes on what human rights activists have called the State's militarist policy of brainwashing Turkey's schoolchildren to the point of racist paranoia, aiming to preserve a nationalist status quo criticised by the European Union, which Turkey is keen to join.
“My daughter was very disturbed and frightened by the documentary and kept asking me if the Armenians had cut us up,” said Serdar Kaya, an ethnic Turkish doctor, who is suing the ministry and the child's school for inciting racial hatred.
“There are many mass graves, bones and skulls in the DVD. They have interviewed old grandads who inspire confidence and compassion. When they say things like 'They cut off his head' and 'They used it instead of firewood', that is bound to stay with the children,” Serdar Degirmencioglu, a psychologist, told the Armenian newspaper Agos when news first broke that the documentary was being shown to primary school children - including ethnic Armenian Turks.
The Education Ministry says that it has stopped the distribution of the documentary, Sari Gelin (Blonde Bride), named after an Armenian folk song. But it has apparently not recalled it and critics say that it remains part of the curriculum. [...]
“You go and kill more than a million Armenians, wipe the traces of Armenians from Anatolia, grab their property, and then show children videos about 'What the Armenians did to us' ... We are cutting these children off from the rest of the world,” said Ahmet Altan, editor of the independent newspaper Taraf.
I have described Seven Jewish Children as an antisemitic work. This is not an accusation I routinely level. It is a joke among Jews that we find antisemitism anywhere – think Woody Allen in Annie Hall, "D'you eat?" as "D'Jew eat?" So I make a practice of finding it in as few places as possible, and of not minding it too much when I do. A person can hate Jews if he or she pleases. Many Jews hate Jews: we can't keep everything to ourselves. And as for works of art, they march to a different tune, the marvellous thing about art being that whatever its intention, it usually subverts it. That's drama, for you.
The problem with Seven Jewish Children is that it isn't drama. Jacqueline Rose praises it for being "precised and focused in its criticisms of Israeli policy". I agree. And that's what makes it not art. Art would be imprecise and free-flowing, open to the corrections of what will not stay still, attentive to voices that unsettle certainty. The difference between art and propaganda is that the latter closes its mind to the appeals and surprises of otherness. Seven Jewish Children is imaginatively starved; no orchestration of voices vexes or otherwise complicates its depiction of a Jewish people fulfilling the logic of its own intolerant theology, boastful and separatist, deaf to reason and humanity, knee-high in blood and revelling in it. A theatrical as well as a racial crudity, which any number of critics, by no means all Jewish, have remarked on.
Jacqueline Rose omits to mention in her defence of this indefensible work that she is in some way – actual or spiritual – affiliated to it. The castlist expresses gratitude to her, though it is not clear whether that's for mothering the play intellectually, or for acting as Caryl Churchill's Jewish midwife in its delivery – advising her in such arcane Jewish matters, say, as the pleasure we take in the murder of non-Jewish babies.
But the play owes her a debt all right, particular in its unquestioning espousal of her theory that the Holocaust traumatised the Jews into visiting back upon the Palestinians what the Nazis had visited on them – a theory of dazzling psychological simplicity that turns Zionism (and never mind that Zionism long predates the Holocaust) into a nervous breakdown, and all subsequent events into the playing out of the Jews' psychic instability. By this reasoning, neither the Palestinians nor the Arab countries who have helped or hindered them are relevant. Jacqueline Rose spirits them away from the scene of the crime. They are redundant to the working of her theory, of no significance (whatever they have done), since the narrative of the Middle East is nothing but the narrative of the Jewish mind disintegrating.
What Jacqueline Rose seems not to have noticed is that this theory is a perfect illustration of the very Jewish arrogance she decries, assuming to itself responsibility for every deed.
Just don't read the comments.
Well maybe not, but it was certainly mild enough.
Dredging the Lea:
Another load into that barge may not be such a good idea...
Down to Hackney Wick: a courtyard at the back of an old warehouse.
A few workmen around the place - one smashing some windows while another one swept up underneath - together with the general mess, made me think the squatters may not be there much longer:
Just around the corner, life goes on:
Back via the east side of Hackney Marshes:
The best version of this early 80s African classic is the one by Kenyan band Orchestre Super Mazembe. It's on YouTube but it's nine minutes long and the video consists of the name of the band and song title against a backdrop of changing bright colours which would tax even the most devoted admirer. Headphones on and stare out of the window?....
Here's Afrisa International - Zairean legends Tabu Ley (or Rochereau as he was known before President Mobutu's Africanisation drive) and Mbilia Bel. Not their greatest moment perhaps, but nice:
I'd always thought the Orchestre Super Mazembe version was the original, but apparently not:
Shauri Yako (Its Your Problem/Matter/Affair) is the title of a massive hit of the early eighties in Central and East Africa. The original version was recorded by Nguashi N'Timbo and L'Orchestre Festival du Zaire. Nguashi moved to Nairobi following a number of other Zairian bands looking for work due to an abundance of bands (and a lack of work) in Zaire. These bands, Orchestra Super Mazembe, Orchestra Makassy, Orchestra Super Matimila, Orchestra Marquis Original and many others, adapted to the club scenes in Nairobi, Kampala and dar Es Salaam and picked up a large following. The music of these bands took a new direction and picked up currents from Benga guitarists, Taraab vocalists and other local styles. Shauri Yako was also covered by Orchestra Super Mazembe and Mbilia Bel.
Read on for a translation of the lyrics.
In retrospect, a golden age of African music....
Michael J Totten has the details of Christopher Hitchens' personal encounter with the thugs of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.
Did you know that atheists feel more pain when given electric shocks while looking at a picture of the Virgin Mary than do devout Catholics? This is the kind of cutting-edge psychological research being done nowadays. The subjects are, needless to say, wired up to a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, without which no psych laboratory is complete. Whether the reverse is true, and devout Catholics feel more pain when the picture is of Richard Dawkins, the article doesn't state. Nor whether this means that these Catholics would prefer to have their teeth extracted while gazing at images of the baby Jesus rather than under a local anaesthetic.
Anyway it's all very exciting, apparently:
A dynamic new school of thought is emerging that wants to kick down the walls of recent philosophy and place experimentation back at its centre. It has a name to delight an advertising executive: x-phi. It has blogs and books devoted to it, and boasts an expanding body of researchers in elite universities. It even has an icon: an armchair in flames. If philosophy ever can be, x-phi is trendy. But, increasingly, it is also attracting hostility.
Philosophers have always been informed by scientific research, history and psychology. Indeed, most of the giants of pre-20th century philosophy combined empirical and conceptual studies. Some drew on the research of others, while René Descartes and John Locke performed their own experiments; this was a time when science had not entirely split from philosophy. David Hume mixed reason with experience, including psychological and historical observations alongside more abstract reasoning—A Treatise of Human Nature was subtitled “Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Methods of Reasoning into Moral Subjects.”
But for many philosophers today the idea of experimental philosophy still grates. Conceptual analysis has been a dominant strain of Anglo-American philosophy in the past 100 years. Philosophy of this kind considers not so much how things are, but rather how we think about them: the way we carve up the world, the frontiers of meaning, of what makes sense. But for the x-phi fan, empirical research is not a mere prop to philosophy, it is philosophy.
Out go fuddy-duddy men sitting in armchairs pondering, in come bright-eyed researchers in white coats. One of the pioneers here, apparently, is Joshua Knobe (don't forget that last e):
His work on intention soon attracted attention. Take one of his cases. A company chairman is told a new project will increase profits but harm the environment. He says, “I don’t care about harming the environment. Let’s start the new project. I just want to make as much profit as possible.” Meanwhile another company chairman is faced with a similar choice, except this time it will help the environment. He says, “I don’t care about helping the environment. Let’s start the project. I want to make as much profit as possible.” When asked whether the chairman intentionally harmed the environment in the first scenario, most people say “yes.” But did the chairman intentionally help the environment in the second scenario? Most people think not. This is weird. It led Knobe to conclude that people’s moral judgements play a role in their concept of intentional action.
Well no. There are two goods here: making a profit, and helping the environment. The first is a private, selfish, good; the second is a public good. In the first case they conflict, and we therefore condemn the chairman who puts his selfish good over the public good. In the second case the two goods coincide rather than conflict, so no decision needs to be made about which should take priority. The chairman in this case has no decision to make. It's therefore entirely reasonable for people to think that the chairman intentionally harmed the environment in the first scenario, but didn't intentionally help it in the second.
Which is nicely appropriate: the intuitive judgement of "most people" is perfectly sensible, while the clever explanation given by these x-phiers misses the point. And if they can't think clearly about this fairly straightforward moral problem, then perhaps the whole project isn't worth that much. It's a beautiful demonstration of precisely why we need philosophical reasoning. No amount of experimentation with MRI scanners is going to help them if they can't think straight.
Fortunately Raymond Tallis is allowed further on in the article to pour some cold water:
Using state-of-the-art gadgetry to cast light on philosophical mysteries sounds like a breakthrough, and grand claims are being made on the basis of neuroscientific observations. But Raymond Tallis, a philosopher and medical scientist who used MRI machines for years to study strokes and epilepsy, is not so sure. He thinks that the accuracy and relevance of brain scanning has been overestimated. MRI technology is excellent for investigating physical damage to the brain, Tallis explains, but when it comes to more complex matters, such as localising particular thought processes, it is too crude. The data from these scans, for example, reflects average activity. When a section of a brain is illuminated this is because it is operating at a heavier load than usual compared with other areas. Changes happening over the whole brain are not picked up. And even sophisticated neural imaging cannot distinguish between physical pain and social rejection—they “light up” the same areas.
There’s a more fundamental problem still, says Tallis. The magnetic tube can never replicate the real world—so answers given inside it are of limited value in predicting decisions that would be taken outside. The hypothetical scenarios presented to volunteers are ingenious but implausible. Even when suspending disbelief, subjects are not gripped by the same panic, indecision, fear and anguish that genuine moral dilemmas produce. Real decisions depend on the particular situation; ethical choices are not like T-junctions, where there are only two choices.
Some philosophers quietly dismiss the movement as a cynical step by researchers to appear cutting edge and to tap into scientists’ funding. Interdisciplinary research can be a shrewd career move: it can, as Tallis notes, allow you to “rise between two stools.” David Papineau, professor of the philosophy of science at King’s College London, says that philosophers who want to know about the real nature of categories like mind, free will, moral value and knowledge should on occasion abandon their armchairs and pay attention to relevant findings. But that doesn’t mean that they should be in the street handing passersby questionnaires: “I don’t see that they’ll learn anything worthwhile from asking ordinary people what they think about these things.”
A philosophical problem is not an empirical problem, a fact is not an interpretation, an “is” is not an “ought,” a description of how we actually behave and think is not a rationale for how we should behave and think.
See also here.
We await the x-phier bold enough to have subjects scanned while they read Kant's Critique of Practical Reason. If they're going to replace philosophy with experimentation, they might as well do it properly.
A depressing report in Der Spiegel on the spread of Saudi-style Wahhabist teachings in the traditionally tolerant Muslim culture of Bosnia:
The obliteration of Israel is heralded in a torrent of words. "Zionist terrorists," the imam thunders from the glass-enclosed pulpit at the end of the mosque. "Animals in human form" have transformed the Gaza Strip into a "concentration camp," and this marks "the beginning of the end" for the Jewish pseudo-state.
Over 4,000 faithful are listening to the religious service in the King Fahd Mosque, named after the late Saudi Arabian monarch King Fahd Bin Abd al-Asis Al Saud. The women sit separately, screened off in the left wing of the building. It is the day of the Khutbah, the great Friday sermon, and the city where the imam has predicted Israel's demise lies some 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) northwest of Gaza.
It is a city in the heart of Europe: Sarajevo....
Many Bosnians have despised "the West" since 1992, when the United Nations arms embargo seriously impeded the military resistance of the Muslims in their war against the Serb aggressors. It wasn't until four years later, and after 100,000 people had died, that the international community -- at the urging and under the leadership of the US -- finally put an end to the slaughter. Over 80 percent of the dead civilians in the Bosnian War were Muslims.
This traumatic experience left a deep mark on the traditionally cosmopolitan Muslim Bosnians -- and opened the door to the Islamists. Years later, the religious fundamentalists have declared the attacks by Christian Serbs and Croats a "crusade" by infidels -- and painted themselves as the steadfast protectors of Muslim Bosnians. [...]
The older generation of Muslims in Sarajevo's mosques now has to listen to lectures from bearded missionaries on what is "halal" and "haram" -- lawful and forbidden -- as if they and their ancestors had been living according to a misconception for over half a millennium. To protest this, the imam of the time-honored Emperor's Mosque has temporarily locked the doors of his house of worship -- for the first time in its nearly 450-year history.
This clash of civilizations also takes place in less prominent places, like the Internet forums of the Bosnian Web site Studio Din. Here the heirs of the officially godless, socialist Yugoslavia can learn about the Salafi doctrine. They ask questions that have to do with everyday life -- listening to music, smoking, earning money -- but also questions dealing with clothing and moral rules.
The answers from the preachers on the Web are unequivocal: "Music is forbidden in Islam, listening to instruments is a sin." "Smoking is forbidden in Islam." "Whoever works as a cleaning lady at a bank that charges its customers interest is an accessory to a sin. It's no different than having cleaning ladies in bars and brothels." [...]
The Islamists are slowly but surely permeating the firm ground upon which Sarajevo's society stands. They are influencing men like the quiet, bearded cab driver who waits for customers day after day at the bridge where the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in June, 1914. On the evening of Sept. 24, 2008, the cabbie suddenly appeared at the front of a protest, right in the midst of those who shouted "Allahu akbar!" at the police line in front the Art Academy of Fine Arts and attacked visitors to Bosnia's first gay and lesbian festival.
Wahhabites scuffled alongside common hooligans. Eight people were injured and all subsequent events were canceled. Srdjan Dizdarevic, chairman of the Bosnian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights -- an independent, nonprofit organization for the protection, promotion and monitoring of human rights in Bosnia-Herzegovina -- spoke afterwards of a defeat for civil society, of "fascist rhetoric" leading up to the incident, and called it reminiscent of the "pogroms that happened in the times of Adolf Hitler."
Accompanying photo gallery here.
Edward Rothstein in the NYT visits a new exhibition at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda":
As the show, organized by Steven Luckert, winds its way from the beginnings of Nazism in the aftershocks of the First World War to the Allied attempt to eradicate Nazi propaganda after the Second, the effect is overwhelming. Conceptually everything is familiar: the foundering Weimar Republic, the celebrations of Aryan virility, the Jew as embodiment of evil, the mass rallies, the death camps, the defeat. But the effect is not in the facts but in the images and artifacts, many of which have been lent by institutions in Europe for this show.
And if this is how powerfully these images affect an early-21st-century viewer who would have been a prospective victim, imagine the power they had on believers, flattering their highest vision of themselves while reminding them that endangering this imminent utopia was the conniving Jew, known from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In one 1943 poster a giant hand points accusingly at a corpulent caricature wearing a yellow star, “Jude”: “He is to blame for the war!” This, of course, while Jews were being carried off on trains heading east to feed the crematoriums.
The impact of these images is prerational or antirational; they short-circuit argument. To suggest that perhaps this caricatured figure was not to blame for the war would be like insisting on an alternate universe. The accusation could be rejected only if everything were rejected. Exorcism and murder were not a policy; they were a responsibility. They all flowed out of these posters and their associated beliefs. [...]
The museum is developing a curriculum based on the show that will probe the notion of propaganda and examine contemporary implications. But here the slope becomes slippery. How much does the Nazi manipulation of media reveal about propaganda’s misuse in democratic societies? Does the extreme example shed light on the commonplace, without the dangers of the extreme being lessened, the dangers of the commonplace amplified?
Such analogies risk slighting what was so powerful about Nazi propaganda: It didn’t just distort reality to make an argument; it reshaped it. It tapped into mythic beliefs about Jews being genocidal and inhuman, thus spurring retaliation. Is anything rhetorically comparable today?
Perhaps. The exhibition points out that the Nazis financed anti-Semitic broadcasts by Haj Amin al-Husseini, “an Arab nationalist and prominent Muslim religious leader.” Now no sponsorship seems needed. Major Middle East media outlets have asserted that Jews use children’s blood to bake matzos. In recent weeks we have heard that Jews are following the nefarious plot outlined in the Protocols to exterminate all gentiles, this from the poet and former member of the Lebanese Parliament Ghassan Matar. An Egyptian cleric, Safwat Higazi, has described Jews being “as smooth as a viper”: “Dispatch those son of apes and pigs to the Hellfire.”
And an Egyptian cleric with strong ties to the West, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, has described Jews as “a profligate, cunning arrogant band of people”: “Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.”
The extent of these visions (chronicled by the Middle East Media Research Institute), the historical distortions they codify and the readiness with which they are taught to children and are secularized into political action suggest that the strongest contemporary analogy to Nazi propaganda may be one the exhibition leaves unmentioned.
And, right on cue as it were, here's the latest item from MEMRI TV: Egyptian cleric Ahmad Abd Al-Salam on the Islamic Al-Nas TV channel, clarifying a point which may have been troubling some of his audience.
The Jews "will not fail to corrupt" the believers. What does it mean? The Jews are never remiss – they invest their utmost efforts, day and night, in conspiring how to corrupt the Islamic nation, the nation led by the Prophet Muhammad. I want you, Muslim viewers, to imagine the Jews sitting around a table, conspiring how to corrupt the Muslims, and how to destroy their worldly and religious affairs. The Jews "will not fail to corrupt you," and this is why we hate them. The Jews conspire day and night to destroy the Muslims' worldly and religious affairs. The Jews conspire to destroy the economy of the Muslims. The Jews conspire to infect the food of the Muslims with cancer. It is the Jews who infect food with cancer and ship it to Muslim countries.
We hate the Jews because they spare no effort in stripping Muslim girls of their clothes. It is the Jews who conspire to have Muslim girls, and even married Muslim women, wear clothes that are tight, short, or see-through, or clothes that are open from the front, or the back, from the right or the left. The Jews "will not fail to corrupt you," and this is why we hate them. The Jews conspire to destroy Muslims. The Jews conspire to bring Muslim youth down to the pit of sexual temptation. The sexual temptations, which are prevalent worldwide, were conspired by the Jews.
At SkyscraperCity - "Some old pictures of London I found on the internet" - many from the British Library collection (via). This is the Oxford Arms, Warwick Lane, 1875, with St Paul's in the background:
Interesting to see Temple Bar (about one third down the page, or here at the British Library gallery) in its original City location just a couple of years before it was taken down and carted off to Theobalds Park, before its recent restoration and re-siting in Paternoster Square.
I don't know the technicalities, but it would be wonderful if the BL would set up a website showing these old photographs digitalised and generally smartened up, in the same way that Shorpy operates in the US with the Library of Congress archive.