Richard Attenborough: RIP

August 24, 2014 at 10:17 pm (cinema, film, posted by JD, RIP, Uncategorized)

Despite his later reputation as a ‘luvvie’, Attenborough could do menacing, as in his role as Pinkie in John Boulting’s noirish/expressionist film adaption of Graham Green’s ‘Brighton Rock’ (1947):

Note also the presence of William Hartnell, who went on to become the first Doctor Who.

AT HIS PEAK
Attenborough established his first production company, Beaver Films, with friend and writer Bryan Forbes. Their first film, ‘The Angry Silence’ (1959), gets to the heart of Attenborough’s contradictions as a man. A long time socialist and union supporter, Attenborough not only made a sympathetic film about a man crossing a picket line, he made it by bypassing film union regulations with a system of deferred payments and profit sharing. For Attenborough there were no contradictions. He was a champion of the individual against oppression and exploitation, whether by socialists or anyone else, and the film reflects this. On the money front, ‘The Angry Silence’ went on to be a hit for the company and all involved. Beaver was wound up in 1964 but not before the company had produced the classic ‘Whistle Down The Wind’ (1961). Attenborough worked tirelessly for the muscular dystrophy campaign and many other charities.

The Guardian reports, here 

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Fisk on ISIS: mind your language!

August 23, 2014 at 1:24 pm (apologists and collaborators, fascism, genocide, grovelling, Human rights, iraq, islamism, jerk, Jim D, kurdistan, language, Syria, terror, Uncategorized, United States)

Robert Fisk, Christchurch, 2008.jpg

Above: Fisk says ‘apocalyptic’ talk is “childish”

An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 Yazidis driven onto Mount Sinjar to escape genocide; 130,000 other Yazadis fleeing to Kurdistan or Irbil; 100,000 Assyrian Christians in flight for their lives; 20,000 Shia Turkmen residents of Amerli besieged for two months and at risk of massacre and/or starvation; countless women and girls kidnapped, raped and sold into slavery; massacres, beheadings, crucifictions, forced conversions …

… I’d say that was a pretty apocalyptic picture, warranting strong action by those of us who care about human rights and democracy.

But for The Independent‘s Robert Fisk, not only is strong action unwarranted: even strong language is to be deplored.

Yesterday, Fisk’s characteristic combination of sneering and preaching was directed at Obama’s use of language:

‘Foley’s murder [has been turned] into a further reason to go on bombing the Isis “caliphate” . And what else did they provoke from us – or at least from America’s vacationing President/ A battle on strictly religious terms … Yes Barak Obama … informed the world that “No just God would stand for what they [Isis] did yesterday and for what they do every single day.” So there you have it: Obama turned the “caliphate’s” savagery into an inter-religious battle of rival Gods, “ours” [ie the West’s] against “theirs” [the Muslim God, of course]. This was the nearest Obama has yet come in rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 in which he said that “we” are going to go on a “Crusade”.’

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that any serious commentator on Isis would have more important things to fulminate about than Obama’s use of language? Never mind the fact that Fisk’s interpretation of what Obama said and the comparison with Bush’s use of the word “crusade” is plainly nonsense, and even Fisk himself goes on to admit as much in his next paragraph. So what point, exactly, is this so-called “expert” on Middle Eastern affairs trying to make? Who knows, except that it’s all “our” (ie the West’s, the US’s, Britians’s, Europe’s, etc, etc) fault, perhapd because of “our” use of language. But cutting through Fisk’s verbose waffle is a difficult task, and I for one actually prefer the straightforward ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ western self-hatred of, say,  Seumas Milne, and the Stop The War Coalition’s simple formula that everything’s the fault of the ‘West’.

And Fisk’s linguistic concerns continue: in today’s Indepenedent he once again deplores the Yanks’ use of strong language when describing Isis/Islamic State:

‘”Apocalyptic.” “End-of-days strategic vision.” “Beyond anything we have ever seen.” “An imminent threat to every interest we have.” “Beyond just a terrorist group.” “We must prepare for everything.”

‘So are they Martians? Alien invaders from Planet X? Destroyer spacecraft from the movie Independence Day?

‘The word movie is the clue. Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. It only needed Tom Cruise at their press conference to utter the words “Mission impossible”. Who writes this God-awful script? Can’t the US Defence Secretary and his joint chiefs chairman do better than this?

It would be interesting to witness this educated, cultured Brit Arabist and Middle East “expert” explain to the Yazidis, the Assyrian Christians, the Shias of Amerli and the many other victims of Isis/Islamic State, just why the “apocalyptic” language used by Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey, is so inappropriate. And why it’s the main issue that should concern us when discussing a fascist movement.

Iraq map

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Norman Lamont and the Heaven Sent

August 10, 2014 at 10:21 am (Uncategorized)

Norman Lamont is a distinct and quirky singer song-writer. His lyrics are clever and moving stories in song.

He is performing at the Acoustic Music Centre with his band the Heaven Sent tonight and tomorrow.

I heard them last night and thought they were excellent – really touching and charming. As well as his own songs he did a version of Yeats’ The Song of Wandering Aengus.

Details

Venue: The Back Room, The Acoustic Music Centre, 10 Orwell Terrace, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH11 2DZ
Date: Sat 9th, Sun 10th, Mon 11th Aug
Show time: 19:00
(Duration: 60mins)
Tickets: £7.00
(Concessions: £5.00)

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The conflict in Gaza; some thoughts about tropes

August 6, 2014 at 12:38 pm (anti-semitism, israel, Uncategorized, zionism)

Guest post from Pink Prosecco

A few days ago a participant in one of the countless online debates about Gaza made a reference to the phenomenon of “trope inflation”.  His particular point was that the term “blood libel” is used too vaguely and too freely.  The blood libel is a motif, or trope, within antsemitic discourse, and refers to the belief that the blood of gentile children is used in Jewish rituals. 

It seems reasonable to use the term “blood libel” of any image or text which directly references eating children – this cartoon for example, where the visual echo of the blood in the wine adds to the effect of bloodthirstiness.

The many rumours about Israel’s use of body parts may also, I think, be seen as a kind of modern version of the blood libel. And I can understand why the repeated references to “child murderers” in Mark Steel’s recent rant made many invoke the blood libel trope in their angry responses.

But criticisms of Israel’s actions in Gaza, even ones which seem unfair, shouldn’t be characterized as “blood libel” without good reason, or the usefulness of the trope is devalued.  Here’s a clear example of an unearned usage – the author never demonstrates why the phrase “blood libel” should appear in the title.

I’d like to emphasise that there seems nothing dishonest or manipulative in the author’s odd choice of title, a charge often leveled by zealous anti-zionists against supporters of Israel. In fact the article documents a very serious instance of antisemitism, drawing on more than one other significant trope but blood libel isn’t one of them.

Water is a cause of conflict in the Middle East, and it is often asserted that Israel deprives Palestinians of their fair share.  Within such discussions the waters are sometimes muddied, as it were, by another antisemitic trope, the old belief that Jews poison wells.   The Wikipedia entry on well-poisoning includes a sustained account of this Medieval trope and concludes references to alleged contemporary incidents of Israeli settlers contaminating the water supply.  It’s hard to know quite how to respond to this convergence, as of course just because something is a trope doesn’t mean it is necessarily always false.  I’ve seen examples of such stories being souped up in a lurid way, but also times where “trope inflation” has led to a reasonably dispassionate commenter being accused of antisemitism.

Another antisemitic trope is the conflation of Zionism with Nazism.  The possibilities are endless – and almost always best avoided. But some Zionists do stress-test this rule of thumb.  Moshe Feiglin’s plan for Gaza made the Mail declare that “Israeli official calls for concentration camps in Gaza”.  Technically, this may be accurate. But because the phrase “concentration camp” is now so associated with Nazism and seen pretty much as a synonym for “death camp”, I wouldn’t have used that expression myself.  But his proposals are certainly outrageous. 

To sum up – whether you are attacking antisemitism or Israel’s policies (or both) it’s best to use precise and proportionate terms.  If you feel strongly about the topic then you should be all the more confident about relying on facts and analysis Ð and seek to avoid giving your opponents a means of deflection.

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Flippant Nihilist

August 4, 2014 at 8:40 pm (anti-semitism, fascism, Orwell, Rosie B, Uncategorized)

I only know Alexander Cockburn as an editor of the creepy Counterpunch, and his airy dismissals  of anyone who thought Israel Shamir a dodgy piece of work. 

There’s a fascinating account of him by Paul Berman.

Cockburn is reminiscent of Christopher Hitchens – the English journalist who lives in America and writes stylishly about American and international affairs. The political framework may be leftwards, the cultural references English literature, quoted with ease to point the moral and adorn the tale.

Berman does explain why Cockburn was so indifferent about Israel Shamir’s vile antisemitism:-

How systematically the man had gone after Israel, and how reluctant he was to say a word of criticism about the Soviet Union or the Islamic Republic of Iran or the terrorism of the anti-Zionists. Newfield took note of Cockburn’s hostility to Natan Sharansky, who in those days was a persecuted Jewish dissident in the Soviet Union. 

… In his column he took to sniping in my direction, not always wittily, which other people in the Voice newsroom attributed to his distaste for the Jewish concerns that sometimes cropped up in my writings. He accused me of “pandering” to the Jews by writing about Holocaust denial and Noam Chomsky (a rich theme)

Cockburn shared the Israel (or “Zionism”) obsession of the anti-imperialist Left:-

he does attribute 9/11 to “recent Israeli rampages in the Occupied Territories”

Alexander Cockburn woshipped his father, Claud Cockburn, who had lived an adventurous life where history was happening and who in the Spanish Civil War had the mouths of high-ranking Soviet officials in his ear.

Claud Cockburn was, in spite of appearances, a fine man who would never have turned over names to the Soviet police in Spain. But then, proud of his father, Alexander includes within the Wreck a brief memoir by Claud of his Spanish experiences, which leaves the impression that, in regard to the Soviet police activities, Claud was not a reluctant participant. About his friend Guy Burgess and the other Cambridge spies, Claud remarks that idealistic motives were at work, and these were “sensitive and informed” young men. Claud cites his own “experience in the field of espionage, or rather, counter-espionage.” He was “a section leader of the counter-espionage department of the Spanish Republican government dealing with Anglo-Saxon personalities,” which does sound like a job dedicated to informing the police. “

Berman believes that Claud Cockburn was a dark inspiration for George Orwell:-

I have always supposed that, when Orwell laid out the principles of totalitarianism in Nineteen Eighty-Four, one of his inspirations was Claud Cockburn, British correspondent: a cheerful example of a man willing to say everything and its opposite in the interest of a totalitarian state, committed to the renunciation of truth, to the hatred of free-thinkers, to the cause of persecution, and to the cult of obedience.

In Orwell’s portrait, the totalitarian mentality was never a matter of ideology gone awry, nor a matter of lower-class resentments. The mentality was a contempt for everyday morality and human considerations. It was a flippant nihilism, attached to no cause or principle at all, apart from love of tyranny. And, to be sure, no sooner did the Spanish anti-fascists go down to defeat than Claud Cockburn turned on a dime and set about composing justifications for Stalin’s pact with Hitler.

You could think this was a total damning of Alexander Cockburn. But Berman pays due attention to his elegant style and his love of anecdote, which at the end made me think I’d enjoy at least flicking through words of the co-editor of Counterpunch – though his constant jeering (in which he sounds like Hunter S Thompson), would get tedious after a while.

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Tatchell: oppose ALL fascism

June 1, 2013 at 12:59 am (anti-fascism, Harry's Place, Human rights, islamism, Jim D, Peter Tatchell, Racism, solidarity, terror, thuggery, Uncategorized)

This statement from Peter Tatchell  first appeared at Harry’s Place, a site we don’t usually have much in common with. But in this case, it’s impossible to disagree:

The BNP & EDL claim to oppose Islamist extremist bigotry but in reality they generalise and abuse all Muslims. Many of their protests are menacing, even violent.

Islam is not the main problem. Islamist fundamentalism and violent jihad are what we should focus on opposing. It is important to make a clear distinction between Muslims and Islamist extremists. Don’t confuse the two. Unite to isolate the main threats: the Islamist far right and its BNP and EDL equivalents.

I support today’s Unite Against Fascism (UAF) counter-protest against the BNP. But UAF is not consistent. UAF commendably opposes the BNP and EDL but it is silent about Islamist fascists who promote anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism and sectarian attacks on non-extremist Muslims.

This silence and inaction by the UAF is a shocking betrayal of Muslim people – abandoning them to the Islamist far right.

Islamist fascists want to overthrow democracy, establish a clerical dictatorship, suppress human rights and kill Muslims who don’t conform to their hard-line interpretation of Islam.

It is time the UAF campaigned against the Islamist far right, as well as against the EDL and BNP far right.

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Guardian Goggles

April 1, 2013 at 11:36 am (Guardian, Rosie B, Uncategorized)

Because life’s too short to think for yourself.

The Guardian will do your thinking while you do your living.

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Vieux Farka Touré and the music of Mali: “spreading the news of what has happened to us and what is still happening”

February 22, 2013 at 8:08 pm (africa, anti-fascism, culture, Human rights, humanism, islamism, liberation, music, national liberation, song, terror, The blues, Uncategorized)

From Chicago magazine:

By Kevin McKeough

Since the late, legendary Ali Farka Touré first brought the music of Mali to widespread attention in the mid-1980s, the western African nation’s musicians have beguiled listeners worldwide with their trance-inducing guitar patterns and Arabic flavored keening. Tragically, Mali has received more attention lately for the violent conflict in the country’s northern region, which encompasses part of the vast Sahara Desert. After Islamist extremists recently seized control of a large part of the area, including the storied city of Timbuktu, and committed numerous human rights violations, in January France sent soldiers into its former colony to drive out the militants. While the French military has retaken most of the area, the situation remains unstable both in northern Mali and in the south, where the country’s military has deposed two successive governments and reportedly is engaging in harsh repression.

Vieux Farka Touré, Ali Farka Touré’s son and a world music star in his own right, was performing Friday, Feb. 22, at the Old Town School of Folk Music. C Notes contacted Touré, who lives in the Malian capital, Bamako, to gain his perspective of the travails afflicting his country and how he and other Malian musicians are responding.

What are your thoughts about the Islamists’ invasion of northern Mali and France’s efforts to drive them out of the country? My thoughts are the same as everyone in Mali. The invasion of the Islamists was hell on earth. It was a nightmare unlike anything we have ever experienced. We are very grateful to President Hollande and the French for their intervention. For the moment at least they have saved our country.

How have these disruptions affected you personally? I am safe and my family is safe. But there is great uncertainty in Mali today. Nobody knows what we can expect in the next years, months or even days. So it is very bad for the spirit to be living in this kind of situation.

What’s your reaction to the Islamist invaders banning music in the areas they controlled? I was furious. It broke my heart like it did for everyone else. It was as though life itself was taken from us.

You were part of an all-star group of Malian musicians who recently recorded the song “Mali-ko” in response to the conflict. Please talk about the project and why you participated in it. Musicians in Mali play a very important role in society. We are like journalists, telling people what is happening. We are also responsible for speaking out when there are problems, and we are responsible for lifting the spirit of the nation. So that is why we made “Mali-ko.” Fatoumata [Diawara] organized everyone and we all spent some time hanging out in the studio and doing our little parts. It was a very nice project. I’m happy with the result and I’m happy that it got a lot of attention in the United States and in Europe.

Aside from the song, what role do you think musicians can play in responding to the situation in Mali? We can do what we are already doing—we are going everywhere we can around the world and spreading the news of what has happened to us and what is still happening. Equally, we must continue to entertain our people and keep them proud to be from Mali. For Malians, music is the greatest source of pride so we must work very hard to keep that pride alive. Right now it is not easy for people to be proud and have faith.

What do you think needs to be done in Mali? First and most importantly, we need to continue to drive out all the militants from our country. There is no future for Mali with terrorists living amongst us. Period. Also we must move quickly to engage in free and open elections to restore the faith and the legitimacy of our country in the eyes of the world and its people. These two things are the most critical at this time.

Your music resembles your father’s but has its own distinct quality. Can you talk about what you’re trying to do in the music, how and why you combine traditional and contemporary styles? With my music I try not to think very much about what I am doing. I just let myself be open to inspiration and it will take me where I need to go. So I am not thinking “for my next album I must do a song with reggae, or I must do an acoustic album because this will be good for my career” or anything like that. I think all artists are like lightning rods for inspiration and you must be open to it or it will not strike you. If you try to do something artistic it will not be as good as if you just let inspiration decide what you are doing. So my style is just based on what influences me and what inspires me.

For a country with a small population, Mali has produced a large number of internationally recognized musicians. Why do you think the country has so many excellent musicians? This is the mystery that everyone wants to understand. I do not know for sure why there are so many big international stars from Mali. But I know this: We take our music very, very seriously. It is at the core of our culture and it is the definition of Mali as a people. There is no Mali without Malian music. So I think this inspires many young people to try to become musicians. Maybe everywhere in the world has this kind of talent but there is not as strong a push for everyone to develop their talents in music. But honestly, I don’t know. We are lucky for this great richness of talent. That is for sure.

Kevin McKeough is a contributing music critic for Chicago magazine

See also ‘The Hendrix of the Sahara’

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Wikileaks a CIA operation (part 2)

July 15, 2012 at 11:53 am (conspiracy theories, Iran, media, Rosie B, Uncategorized)

Wikileaks a CIA operation (part 2)

Further to the revelations that Wikileaks is a CIA operation, another reliable source confirms the story:-

“As the NATO alliance inches closer to a military attack on Syria, a new front in the destabilization of the Damascus government has been opened by the intelligence agencies of the Western powers. The vehicle chosen by the CIA and its allies for this new assault is once again the shadowy limited hangout operation calling itself Wikileaks, and its chief spokesman, the Australian Julian Assange,” author and historian Dr. Webster Griffin Tarpley wrote in the article published on Friday.

Tarpley said that Assange and his staffers released “some 2.43 million e-mails by Syrian government officials, politicians, and companies doing business” with Damascus to “discredit the Syrian government, and even more to harass companies in the NATO sphere who are working as contractors for Damascus.”

. . .

He went on to say that the website is “complicit in the violent overthrow of the Syrian government by the NATO-backed death squads.”

“Assange has now taken refuge in the Ecuador Embassy in London. By contrast, US soldier Bradley Manning, who is accused of providing the raw material for Cablegate, has been brutalized by the US government ever since his arrest. The radically different treatment given these two has been a cause for comment,” the American author wrote.

Commenters to this article have a more nuanced take:-

The fact that Wiki always chooses to “reveal” certain info against specific countries and at specific times is a clear indication of its political complicity. And, more significantly, its Zio-friendly stance reveals its allegiance to CIA-Mossad.

It was obvious that he was a tool in the hands of the Zionist disinformation machine.But I`m not sure if he managed to contribute with his secrets disclosure in anything than mere gossip.

like Al-Qaida Wikileak too is ffiliated to CIA and was created by US Regime. No nation in the world can match US in Treachery. US, Al-Qaida, Wikileak, Arab League, all on the same side and same train in Syria.

I have to sit here and laugh anyone would believe Assange. If the US government wanted him – they would have had him by now. He’s CIA/Mossad! [That theory is especially comprehensive.)

Assange – antisemite and tool of Zionism, crazed hater of the USA and CIA plant, hounded by corrupt judiciaries and protected by them. No wonder his hair has gone white.

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Beatrix Campbell and the “invisible” women of Wigan Pier

July 14, 2012 at 6:30 am (Guardian, Jim D, literature, Orwell, poverty, stalinism, Uncategorized, women)

Here is the single most famous image in Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier:

“At the back of one of the houses a young woman was kneeling on the stones, poking a stick up the leaden waste-pipe which ran from the sink inside and which I suppose was blocked. I had time to see everything about her  —  her sacking apron, her clumsy clogs, her arms reddened by the cold. She looked up as the train passed, and I was almost near enough to watch her eye. She had a pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who is twenty five and looks forty, thanks to miscarriages and drudgery; and it wore, for the second in which I saw it, the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever seen. It struck me then that we are mistaken when say that ‘it isn’t the same for them as it would be for us’, and that people bred in the slums can imagine nothing but the slums. For what I saw in her face was not the ignorant suffering of an animal. She knew well enough what was happening to her  —  understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold, on the slimy stones of a slum backyard, poking a stick up a foul drain-pipe.”

Here is Beatrix Campbell in Thursday’s Guardian:

“George Orwell’s elegiac Road to Wigan Pier celebrated the heroic, martyred men who dug our coal. He chided the middle class for not noticing these heroes who brought heat into their homes. Orwell’s chauvinism rendered invisible the women who were still working at the pits around Wigan, and who lay and lit the fires that warmed not only the homes of the middle classes but also the miners themselves.”

Of course, Campbell learned to hate Orwell while in the “old” British Communist Party. The CP had form when it came to spreading lies about him.

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