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Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

The Afghan War Now On The Menu Or What Happens If You Stick Your Head Really Far Up Your A**

In Essays On Embedded Photojournalism, Journalism, Musings On Confusions, Our Wars on June 19, 2011 at 5:24 pm

MREs — Meals Ready to Eat — photos of everything on the menu for soliders from many different cultures who are all fighting in Afghanistan © Ashley Gilbertson / VII Network via Lens Culture

The embedded photojournalist is now so bored that he is photographing food. You can see the entire piece by clicking on the image above.

And this at a moment when civilians continue to die in an unjust war, an illegal war, and an absolutely unnecessary one. Things are so bad that our erstwhile puppet, a one Mr. Hamid Karzai, is complaining about it and doing it loudly. But of course, as Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, such expression of ‘freedom’ are not for the people we are apparently there to ‘free’.

No, it is best that we continue to use our media to repaint this bloody, shoddy and shameless military frat-party as some noble, casual, innocent, benign dinner party. I hate to say this, but someone has to call such rubbish work precisely what it is: rubbish.

Our cameras, and hence our society’s eyes, are turned to the banal and seriously ludicrous. Perhaps I will say nothing more than to counter-point this fine, artistic presentation of food with this also very fine, journalistic presentation of the consequences of once the food has been digested – the waste that we do not want to look at.

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In a fine piece called The Magic Realism Of Body CountsMohammad Idress Ahmad pointed out:

At the end of 2009, the Pakistani daily Dawn calculated that, of the 708 people killed in 44 drone attacks that year, only 5 were known militants. Earlier that year, The News, Pakistan’s other major English-language daily, had calculated that between January 14, 2006, and April 8, 2009, 60 drone attacks killed 701 people – of whom only 14 were known militants.

This is only the tip of the ice-berg. We don’t want to think about what is happening inside Afghanistan itself where no journalists or other institutions have bothered to keep count. To say nothing about the criminality, corruption, and sheer waste that are the lives of the people of Afghanistan under our ‘gourmet’ occupation has been completely erased from our view. That Afghanistan remains, after over 10 years of an American presence and an American controlled, and mind you, illegitimate, puppet government, on the most dangerous country for the very Afghan women we apparently went to liberate and stay there to protect, is simply shameful.

Trust Law Graphic

This is under our benign watch. This is after eleven years of an American style Mc-democracy and its only getting worse. And yet none of the daily socio-economic pathologies of Afghanistan makes it to us out here in the ‘civilized’ world. It is simply erased from our eyes because we are too busy cozying up to our ‘boys and girls’ and studying the menu!

In the face of atrocities, killings, maiming, torture, indefinite incarcerations and a general atmosphere of repression and military occupation, it is shocking that individuals, publications and institutions think that works such as this is worthy of production, publication and promotion. As a citizen of a country involved in multiple illegal and brutals wars, and where we avoid a serious discussion about the consequences of these wars for the people we are waging them for and against, and the legality them, this kind of work only comes as yet another slap in the face leaving me feeling mocked and humiliated.

I mean, we aren’t even trying to be seriously anymore. There are photographer’s producing stories about the joys of post-war Iraq, in complete denial of the psychotic reality of the ‘client’ state that we have created there. This is sheer and simple obfuscation if not blatant propaganda. These are serious war, with massive human and social consequences, to say nothing about devastation and death, and we just don’t give a damn! Why even go! Why not just do a different story, but one at least that is real, and has meaning, and reflects a genuine intellect and critical engagement. Why bother to do this?

This is not even serious anymore.

Silent No Longer Or Photojournalists Take On Poverty In America

In Journalism, Photography, The Daily Discussion on June 12, 2011 at 7:21 am

In a post titled The Strange Silence Of The Conscience that I wrote over a year ago I lamented that:

As I look across the recent photojournalism awards, and scan for works in newspaper websites, I see a dearth of serious and committed interest in the hollowing out of America. There are a few stories here and there, a large number based on news reports about the health care debate and the foreclosure crisis. Matt Black has been working away with his usual tenacity and dedication. But this is far, far more than about a news blip, or a protest march, or the foreclosure of a home or two. It is about a fundamental surrender of government and national responsibility towards the very citizens both are supposed to serve. It’s about finding ourselves in this strange, irresponsible, unconscionable and immoral place in history where we can approve billions for foreign wars – illegal, unjust and paranoid as they are, and yet fight tooth and nail to stop even pennies for the care of our own.

Pointing to a series of social and economic statistics,I argued that the silence of the photographers was confusing and disappointing. There just did not seem to be as many people looking back at ourselves, at what was happening at home, while so many were running into the coddling embrace of our military to help depict illegal wars and war crimes as campaigns of liberation and freedom. We seem to have an infinite pool of financial and legislative resources to throw at wars, the security state, the handful of financial goons on Wall Street and its cohorts.

So it is with some pleasure and surprise that I learned about the collective work of the photographers Danny Wilcox Frazier, Jon Lowenstein, Brenda Ann Kenneally, Eli Reed, Andrew Lichtenstein, Richard Sennott, Steve Liss and Stephen Shames have come together to produce the project AmericanPoverty.org. And I can’t be happier to be proven wrong.

The shamelessness of an elected administration, one under the leadership of a man we pinned so many hopes on, that continues to pursue fantasies of global domination, regime change and Sisyphean attempts to eliminate various proper nouns while our citizens face dire choices and futures is simply staggering. These duffers (I have to thank the Pakistani writer/journalist Mohammed Hanif for reminding me of this fine word) are not only irresponsible, immoral and reprehensible, but reflect the stupidity of public politics and government that has become our modern reality.

It is simply unconscionable to allow such disparity, inequality and injustice to exist within our borders. It is unconscionable that this social and economic deprivation is not the only issue our politicians and power mavens are talking about. But it is clear that there is a direct correlation between the increasing resort to a rhetoric of fear and paranoia, and the abnegation of responsibility towards our citizenry that most all politicians now demonstrate. It isn’t a lack of ideas  – even a cursory look at the recent writings of Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz or even the more conservative Robert Reich will reveal, but a lack of interest. I say lack of interest rather than lack of will because it is clear that money, greed, narcissism and careerism are the main determinants of our political landscape today.

This is a brave effort on the part of this photographers collective. It is an important effort. And I think that is what I most like about the work. It is important. It is important in that it is attempting to create a dialogue that does not exist in our mainstream ideas of our selves. It is important because too often we are told that poverty is penance, and not a manufactured social consequence of policies and priorities. Since the years of the hideous Bill Clinton – a man who most still fail to realize was the most Republican President we ever had, we have been brow beaten into accepting that the poor are the cause of their own deprivation, thus allowing our policy makers off the hook for supporting social, economic, corporate and political institutions that manufacture and sustain poverty amongst certain segments of our society.

Poverty is manufactured. It is a construction of society. It is made. I know this from my work in Pakistan, Haiti, India and other nations where we have come to expect poverty. So it is wonderful to see a group of talented and clearly passionate photographers, with deep connections within the communities they are documenting, attempting to raise these realities and present them to us. And possibly help us realize that there are connections that have to be made between our policies in Washington D.C. and our poverty in Washington D.C. and elsewhere. Look at these stories and tell me that it is acceptable that we continue to fund wars (note, we are escalating Libya and Yemen as I write this!), bail-out criminal and irresponsible corporations, cut crucial educational funds and yet turn to our own citizens and say ‘Hey, its your fault and if we help you we will set a bad precedence of dependency!’ Our social welfare programs for corporate interests retain their trillions of dollars, while our social welfare programs for our citizens continue to be cut each week.

This cannot continue.

The Most Beautiful Girl They’ve Seen Or The Embedded Photojournalist Gets Picked Up!

In Essays On Embedded Photojournalism, Journalism, Musings On Confusions, Our Wars, Photography on May 24, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Creative Common Copyright Fab34

I have argued this again and again, and have been reviled and criticized for it again and again. And yet, nothing produced by any of the many number of reporters and photojournalists who have chosen to embed with the US military in Iraq or Afghanistan has convinced me to change my mind that embedded journalism is many things but never journalism.

It has been with nothing but great dismay that I have watched photojournalism’s highest awards and recognitions go to work that was produced in conditions and restrictions that we would have denigrated and mocked had they been imposed by one our ‘flavor of the year’ enemy states. I doubt that any reportage done from an embed with the Soviet Army that invade Afghanistan in 1979 would have been considered a crucial and appropriate documentation of the war in Afghanistan. And yet, we are ourselves happily convincing ourselves that ‘our’ boys are in fact producing crucial and appropriate documentation of our wars.

I was reminded of all this as I read a fascinating and funny piece by Peter Van Buren in Le Monde Diplomatique called ‘The War Lovers’ where he begins by asking the most relevant question we often avoid:

What is it about the military that turns normally thoughtful journalists into war pornographers? A reporter who would otherwise make it through the day sober spends a little time with some unit of the U.S. military and promptly loses himself in ever more dramatic language about bravery and sacrifice, stolen in equal parts from Thucydides, Henry V, and Sergeant Rock comics.

I have made my own arguments about the embed approach in a number of pieces, including The Transformation Of Pathology Into Pathos Or The Military Does What It Does And It Does It Well, and Wrapping Photographers Into The Packaging Of War, and a partial tongue-in-cheek piece called How We Refused To Embed With Brittany Spears, and Fighting Ghosts And Selling The Good War Or Why Are The Toy Soldiers On The Front Lines!, and others of course.

But there is a fascinating insight in Van Buren’s piece that is worth thinking about. He points out that in fact the embedded reporter has tremendous access within the military, to its soldiers, and even to classified details coming across over the wire. They also have more liberty to report what they saw than we may imagine. And yet, few do. Van Buren’s argument for why the military can allow this to happen and not worry is striking, pointing out that

…the military wasn’t worried..[b]ecause its officials knew perfectly well that for reporters the process was — not to mince words — seductive…[E]embedding with the military felt like being invited in — no, welcomed — for the first time by the cool kids.

And the camaraderie and companionships that develop ensure the appropriate voice and the appropriate check on serious reporting. As Van Buren continues:

You go out with the soldiers and suddenly you’re riding in some kind of armored, motorized monster truck. You’re the only one without a weapon and so they have to protect you. Instead of making fun of you and looking at you as if you were dressed as a Naughty Schoolgirl, they’re cool with it. Bored at only having one another to talk to, fellow soldiers who eat the exact same food, watch the exact same TV, and sleep, pee and work together every day for a year, the troops see you as quite interesting. You can’t believe it, but they really do want to know what you know, where you’ve been, and what you’ve seen — and you want to tell them.

For women, it works similarly, but with the added bonus that, no matter what you look like, you’re treated as the most beautiful female they’ve seen in the last six months — and it’s probably true.

Of course, we reporters and photojournalists never talk about this. As always, there is such little self-reflection within the practitioners of the craft that it is staggering to think that they are being asked to go out and document the world for us. In fact, in a world drowning in images, they may be producing the permanent and definitive images of a world. And it is an image where the ‘other’ is increasingly and consistently seen through the sights of a gun. Or, as Van Buren points out, through …wet dreams passed on to the public.

Your Brain Of Mud Or President Obama’s Magic Show In Cairo

In Israel/Palestine, Journalism, Our Wars on May 19, 2011 at 8:26 am
(Originally written in response to Obama’s first condescending speech to the A-rabs back in 2009. Reposted to reflect that nothing really has changed.)
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“It is well”, I said carelessly “…beware! Play us no tricks, make us no snares, for before your brains of mud have thought of them, we shall know them and avenge them. The light from the transparent eye of him with the bare legs and half haired face [the white man with his magnifying glass] shall destroy you and go through your land: his vanishing teeth shall fix themselves fast on to you and eat you up, you and your wives and children; the magic tubes shall talk with you loudly, and make you as sieves. Beware!”

Qautermain confronts the African Kukuana tribe, from the book King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard

Ruth Mayer, in her work Artificial Africas, points us to Mary Pratt’s book  Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing & Transculturation, in which Ms Pratt:

…differentiates two main stances in colonial self-stylizations, an imperial ‘rhetoric of conquest’ suffusing the absolutist era and an ensuing rhetoric of ‘anti-conquest’ demarcating the split consciousness of Western travelers in the 18th and 19th centuries, their paradoxical desire ‘to secure their innocence’ in the same moment as they assert European hegemony

she further points out that:

To contain an imperialist system within a rhetoric of anti-conquest calls for confusion … and indeed a highly contradictory symbolic system resulted from the efforts to reconcile the irreconcilable. What I call ‘trick translation’ is perhaps one of the most persistent troupes for casting colonial contact in terms of mutual understanding without abandoning the idea of a clear-cut hierarchy of communication and an European [today American] monopoly of meaning production.

It was an act of ‘trick translation’ that Barack Obama had actually come to perform on June 4th 2009 in Cairo, Egypt.  To offer a language of ‘anti-conquest’, and should we add ‘anti-involvement’, in a region with the most deeply entrenched American political, economic, and military involvement since WW II.

On June 4th 2009, President Barack Obama (a man I voted for!) took the stage on the soil of one of the region’s most despotic and repressive regimes. But more than that, he was standing in the center of the geography of American imperial projections that has been the Middle East since the British, Germans, French and other smaller European nations were forced to leave it in the 1940s.

The Middle East is home to some of America’s most important client states – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, The United Arab Emirates and of course, the unbreakable, Israel. It is also the site of some of her largest military bases and home to tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of American military and undercover operations personnel. It is the site of her most extensive energy resources and investments. It is the site where she has repeatedly engaged in covert and overt political and military operations to ensure access and control to these energy resources. It is the region where her operatives, military, covert and political, keep a close hand on political and economic developments and work to ensure that the nations of the region remain in the realm of American influence.

But, we are here to weave a rhetoric of ‘anti-conquest’, and I focus on those specific areas of his speech that I felt were particularly obfuscatory and Huxlian (Aldous Huxley being one of the original genius’ to describe a modernity where language becomes the most powerful weapon of war and conquest).

Like a great white hunter confronting a group of cannibals about the eat his friend alive, President Obama arrived with a few rhetorical tricks up his sleeves meant to appease the torridly infantile minds of his audience and hosts by offering them trinkets and hoping to dazzle them with his erudition and ‘respect’ for their histories.

We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate

The determination to see something called ‘the Muslim world’ as one large homogeneous entity is the hallmark of a classic Orientalist mind who fails or refuses to recognize that the polity of ‘Islam’ covers a remarkable diversity of people, cultures, ethnicity’s, and most importantly histories and heritages. To say nothing about the horribly embarrassing fact that the largest number of Muslims in fact live outside of the Middle East (Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India contain the largest number of officially defined Muslims), and where many practice regional varieties of Islam that many in the Middle East consider blasphemous!

More importantly, it is an act of the most egregious arrogance and even ignorance to suggest that if there are ‘tensions’ between a people who may be Muslim, and a nation that is in fact imperialistic and colonizing in the lands inhabited by Muslims than it is because of ‘historical forces’ and not because of  immediate military, political and economic realities.

Perhaps I am being naive in believing that it is less the crusades that concern the Palestinians, or their slaughter by Richard the Lionheart, and more the ongoing and brutal military occupation of their lands being carried out by one of America’s favorite client states, Israel!

The hubris of a statement the attempts to erase the entire post-WWII history and engagement of the United States of America in the region of the Middle East, and replaces it with imagined ‘historical forces’ that point to events and imagined acts from hundreds if not thousands of years in the past is staggering! Perhaps President Obama, this self-claimed student of history, needs to return to his college library and pick up a few books on the American entanglements in the region. He could not do badly by starting with Robert Fisk’s  The Great War For Civilization, or Michael B Oren’s Power, Faith & Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 – Present . I could suggest many others.

And to say nothing about the fact that the issues that cripple the Middle East are the least likely to be understood if seen as emerging from the region’s ‘Islamic’ character. They would in fact be better acknowledged if seen, as we see most every other region of the globe, with a careful and rigorous examination of the local and regional political, economic, social and strategic issues that infect the region. The crisis in Lebanon and the crisis in Kuwait have separate, if only tangentially related if that, issues and require a local focus.

It is this refusal to engage the region in its specificity that allows a number of American intellectual, commentators, politicians, journalists and other opinion makers to repeatedly conflate entities like Hamas with others like Hezbollah, the Islamic Brotherhood with Al -Qaeda. In a tribute to the most obscurantist and simplistic ideas perpetuated by classical Orientalists, the American administration and her providers of thought (think tanks, hired intellectuals, lobby and media organizations) continue to aggregate largely diverse and political complex matters that should in fact be examined within their local and regional social, political and regional contexts.


Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Perhaps the only thing more embarrassing than this statement – a classic Orientalist construction that cleverly claims modernity for ‘the white man’ while falsely praising the natives for their ‘traditions’  (read: backward, anti-modern, unchanging, out-dated, medieval), was that probably none of the luminaries in the audience, representing the worst and most illiterate of their nations, understood what had just been said to them!

And ironically, it was a statement that would have appealed to the most obscurantist and fundamentalists of reactionaries in the audience; the people who in fact work day and night through state control of media, culture, society and speech to ensure that their people remain in the shackles of ‘traditions’ and avoid such modern day comforts such as full and enforceable rights as citizens of a functioning democracy with the rule of law and equality for all. In that room full of hereditary leaders or despots, there could not have been a mind not nodding in quiet agreement at the American presidents endorsement of Islam’s ‘traditional’ values and the threat it faces from the ‘foreigner’s’ modernity, for after all, these same people use this very argument, with the help of their obscurantist mullahs and TV celebrity preachers, to demand that their citizens not ask for such modern innovations such as equal justice under the law, juridical accountability for elected representatives, legal and social ad human rights,  and a representative polity.

But the presence of this orientalist canard was certainly a surprise. Recent works by the historian Jack Good (The Theft of History) and Marcel Detienne (The Greeks And Us have challenged Europe’s belief in her modernity and certainly her assumptions that she was uniquely equipped to facilitate it. As John B Hobson states in his work Eastern Origins of Western Civilization:

“Eurocentrism errs by asking wrong questions at the outset. All Eurocentric scholars (either explicitly or implicitly) begin by asking two interrelated questions: ‘What was it about the West that enabled its breakthrough to capitalist modernity?’ and ‘What was it about the East that prevented it from making the breakthrough?’” But these questions assume that western dominance was inevitable, and lead historians to scour the past for the factors that explain it. “The rise of the West is understood through a logic of immanence: that it can only be accounted for by factors that are strictly endogenous to Europe.”


His words were frequently met with applause. President Obama threw them some crumbs, and they gobbled them up like hungry natives. Condescension were accepted as genuine respect and appreciation by people so devoid of dignity and honor that they will accept false pearls to disguise their being real swine. (I hope people get the colonial reference here!)

They applauded when he spoke to them in the only Arabic phrase he could be bothered to remember; the greeting of Assalaamu alaykum. How touching. Taking a note right out of an off-the-shelf travel guide to sites remote and exotic, Mr Obama did not forget that even ‘attempting’ the local lingo will result in smiles and graciousness!

They applauded when he appeared to respect something called ‘Islam’s’ contributions to European civilization.

Perhaps most had failed to realize that he was referring to contributions that were some 500 years or more old while retaining, subtly of course, the right to all other innovations since then for the more civilized and ‘modern’ Europe. Or the fact that, once again, it was not ‘Islam’ that made these contributions but individuals of questionable Muslim, Jewish, and other uncertain origins who were given deeply to issues of intellectual inquiry and study and open to influences all the way from China and India, who just happened to be living under a Muslim dynasty made these contributions.

Algebra is not a religious achievement – it is a human achievement, produced by men for man and with the effort of man. Religion has had no influence on the creation of this, or the arch or the compass or the other items Mr. Obama seemed to think ‘Islam’ contributed to. To attribute the discover of vaccine to a spiritual, religious, and some would argue, mythical philosphy is ignorant and anti-intellectual. It would be the equivalent of suggesting that Penicillin was a Christian discover, or the splitting of the atom a Jewish one! But apparently such inanities go down well in the Middle East!

(Rather than applaud, they should have hung their heads in shame; there is not a library of note, nor a university of even mediocre repute in all the lands across all the sands in all of the oil drenched nations in this region! That Arabs (and Obama was speaking to Arabs, not Muslims or even a nebulous ‘Islam’) continue to contribute to modernity, science, culture, arts, literature and the future, but must often flee their homelands and do so elsewhere!)

They applauded again when he spoke about Islam’s traditions of tolerance and racial equality. It was bizarre to say the least to offer this conventional sop to a room filled with representatives of intolerant and at times rascist regimes, applauding a philosophical concept alien to the very societies they have created and rule. They applauded when told that Thomas Jefferson kept a copy of the Koran in his personal library – did they imagine that he consulted it for his political and personal affairs, or was influenced by it?

They applauded when Mr. Obama claimed that the 7 million American Muslims enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average. What that says about the deprivations of the average American, particularly the African-American community I am not so sure about. Who are these extremely successful and wealthy Muslims we do not quite know. But to make a claim to suggest that in fact in America the Muslims even do better than the Americans is sheer nonsense!

Their success or failure, as that of any immigrant in the USA is independent of their status as ‘Muslims. The Asian American, the West Indian and most recently the South Asian Indian community are highly successful immigrant communities and there is no way to claim that their religious choices are a determinant or a measure of their success. Furthermore, given that America allows only the ‘best and the brightest’  or the very wealthy from ‘other’ nations to come to the country, particularly when they are from Asia and/or the Middle East, it should not surprise us that these immigrant communities in fact do rather well.

But this obfuscation was essential to hide America’s ridiculous and immoral detainment, harassment, incarceration, deportation, and torture of hundreds of ‘Muslims’ either living in America or abroad. It was necessary to say to hide the rendition programs targeting of Muslims, the ‘black’ sites and their exclusively Muslim inhabitants, and the air and environment of overtly racist anti-Muslim sentiment that pervades American print, radio and television, particularly if you are of the conservative kind. And I will not even mention what the Evangelical fanatics and retards have been saying and encouraging amongst their congregations! By the way, I doubt that the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis festering in hovels in Jamaica Plains, scrambling from apartment to apartment to avoid the prying and ‘black’ eyes of the Homeland Security Department, quite fit into this fabulous President Obama statistic.

They applauded when Mr. Obama claimed that
the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it. Which left me perplexed because I was sure that I was told that we had invaded Afghanistan to liberate that nation’s women from ‘oppression’ symbolized by the burqa! And yet as devastation and horror now marks that country, with the arguments for the liberation of their women center stage, I wonder if it is not time to bring the daisy-cutters and pilot-less drones back to the USA where apparently women are being given constitution protection for a practice that elsewhere is considered by the Americans to be a sign of their backwardness and oppression!

And is this the same government that did not go to court to protect the rights of men and women being held at Guantanamo? As men continue to die in American ‘black’ site custody, I find it shocking that legal and judicial resources are available for women’s right to cover themselves where as they have been argued away for men we are torturing, murdering and discarding at unknown locations around the world!

And the inanities continued.


President Obama called the war in Iraq – this most brutal, hideous, illegal and greed based invasion of a nation in recent memory, as a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Quite the soft way to describe an event that was and is in fact nothing less than an illegal, unprovoked, premeditated invasion of a sovereign nation (to say nothing about the genocidal 12 year sanctions regime instituted against the civilian population of a de-armed state!)  led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands, the deaths of nearly a million, the torturing of thousands (pictures of which President Obama recently decided to censor to protect our delicate sensibilities – we are so civilized) and frankly remains a hell hole for those outside the centrally air-conditioned ‘green zone’ and should in fact be a crime prosecutable in the International Court of Justice.

Oh but wait, as President quickly added,  he believes that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.

Ah, then its ok. For now at least we have a ‘democracy’ that requires private/corporate armed militia to protect politicians, businessmen, journalists and anyone not sanctioned by the many crooks and criminal organizations that now actually control the country while  masquerading behind banners of religions and sects. And for added measure the under cover assassination teams/death squads, massive torture centers, prisons, 24×7 hour private security, walls/dividers, daily 24×7 military patrols, towns like Falujah that remain under marshal law, kidnappings, criminality, a dysfunctional social and civil service, and the entire government under the guidance of our American generals and politicians necessary just to keep this duct-tape kleptocracy together for a little while longer.

Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals.

What then are the consequences, Mr. Obama, of the fear and trauma of the Iraqis and the Afghanis who are in fact at this very moment confronted as they are by American tanks and pilot-less drones trying to understand how they will act contrary to their traditions and ideals? Or perhaps we will just blame their actions on ‘Islam’.


Speaking of America’s intolerance of extremism and violence, Mr Obama went out of his way to celebrate Israel. Walking in the footsteps of his predecessor, he proclaimed with great stress America’s ‘unbreakable’ relationship with the country. He even manufactured completely fictitious ‘cultural and historical’ ties. I can’t imagine what ties a group of European religious fanatics determined to create an ethnically exclusive state by intentionally and violently colonizing and driving out its original inhabitants would have with the United States of America? Oh yes, I forgot, it would be the penchant for violent European colonization of native lands, institutionalized and military cleansing of them from these lands, and the celebration of the now completed fact as liberty, modernity, progress and civility, with a neat set of ‘reservations’ for the unfortunately who survived. How silly of me!

It is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.

No Mr President, they have not suffered in the pursuit of a homeland. They have suffered in the dispossession of it.

They are waiting not for gifts from America, but for their rights, rights for which we have gone to war for other nations (Bosnia, Kuwait and now would love to for Chad) but remain silent on their behalf.

And in what can only be described as the most contorted reading of history, Mr Obama laid claim to the entire process of decolonization as one of a long heritage of non-violent resistance

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed…from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.

I wonder if Mr Obama is reading the same books of history.. I also wonder as President Obama escalates the now senselessly immoral and unjust conflict in Afghanistan if he listening to himself!

The history of colonial Africa, Middle East, South and South East Asia is marked by repeated and consistent armed insurrections and resistance to the colonial enterprise. The colonialists often painted this resistance as ‘minor’ or ‘marginal’ but none of the occupied people, even the Africans who were so savagely raped and enslaved, did not ‘go quietly into the night’. To say nothing about the intellectual, artistic, cultural and political resistance to occupying and colonizing regimes across the globe. Edward Said’s Culture And Imperialism would be a decent place for him to begin to start to understand regimes of resistance to colonial oppression that existed from the very moment the colonialists arrived on the shores of Africa, Asia and elsewhere. Or if Said is too politically sensitive for him, then perhaps he would like to read a fellow African; C.L.R. James’ masterful The Black Jacobins will remind our President of the power of violent resistance in breaking the back of a rapacious and brutal colonizer and usurper.

And if these nations and peoples of the far South and Africa are too complex for him to understand, then perhaps he would do well to remember if nothing else then the American Revolution and the great American war of independence, celebrated every year with great fanfare on July 4th. I believe that General George Washington would take umbrage to the suggestion that violence is a dead end. Or perhaps he would remember the American Civil War, a war that liberated the ancestors of his black citizens and moved America towards the path of modernity. Perhaps if they had followed a non-violent approach…… But then again, the oppressors and users of violence always love to lecture the oppressed about their ‘barbaric’ violent resistance and their need to demonstrate ‘civility’ by adopting a softer and more nuanced tone to the occupiers continued and increasingly military and violent responses!

Notice how the occupier is never told to adopt a non-violent occupation!

And the sheer arrogance to lecture to an unarmed and hopelessly repressed and dehumanized people, while their lands are under brutal military occupation from the only nation in the region that has in fact repeatedly attacked, occupied, summarily killed and displaced lands and peoples across the entire region is sheer mind boggling. The Palestinians are being asked to renounce violence, while the Israelis are being funded with more arms, more jets, more tanks, more training, more excuses for their illegal nuclear weapons program, and more aid packages – all of which continue to go towards and fund the creation of more settlements and more dispossessions and more brutality and more killings and more strangulations.

Continuing what has now become an almost too-boring-to-repeat cliche’s, President Obama placed all the blame for the violence, the intransigence of the conflict in Palestine on the Palestinians. There, in the world he was weaving on that stage in Cairo, where there is no Iraq and no Afghanistan, and no oil and interests, and business connections and shady deals and under handed greed, there was also no nuclear-armed, American funded, religiously fundamentalist, military controlled, ethnically discriminatory pseudo-democracy only for Jews with its American funded M16s and jackboots across the throats of a helpless and desperate people.

Yes, we are told that it is not the military bases, the settlements, the Wall, the check points, the gates, the farm lands, the murdering settlers, the curfews, the summary arrests, the targeted assassinations, the random detentions, the expropriations, the home demolitions, the expulsions, the incarcerations, the discrimination, the humiliations, the bombings, the phosphorous, the slow and daily grinding away at human dignity that are all part and parcel of a highly sophisticated military, architectural, social, political and economic settlement regime. Its the Palestinians with their handful of AK-47s and their donkey carts!

Calling the democratically elected Hamas Government as having ‘some support’ amongst the Palestinians, while calling upon the corrupt and discredited Palestinian Authority to develop a capacity to govern President Obama continued the insistent, anti-democratic approach of supporting the very people the citizenry rejected, while rejecting the very people the citizenry selected.

The only democratically elected official government in the very Middle East Mr. Obama claims to be talking to, and it is just not the one that we want.

Israel is in illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It has permanently constructed roads, settlements, military camps and emplacements, check points and gates, a massive Wall, security fences and cameras, farms and industrial estates all across the West Bank and done so with the absolute and complete support of the United States of America who funds these activities through a myriad and complex set of private, corporate and governmental institutions.

It is not there because the Palestinians are ‘violent’ or have ‘rockets’. It has been there because it wants these lands. It has done everything in its power to destroy the prospects of an independent Palestinian state, and only the beltway in Washington D.C. are a handful of people who think otherwise.

Israel’s obligations are not just what President Obama claimed: to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society but in fact to withdraw completely from the West Bank and Gaza to the 1967 green lines, to compensate financially the victims of the 1948 displacements, and to offer restitution both verbal, financial, legal and other to the millions who now suffer thanks to its intransigence, occupations, wars and religiously sanctioned hysteria and radicalism. The settlements don’t just need to be stopped, they need to be destroyed, dismantled, reversed, erased, and along with it the entire occupation machinery of men, tanks, gates, check points, walls, soldiers, settlers, goons, fanatics, businessmen and of course Palestinian collaborators.


And far from distancing himself from the pathologies of religious mysticism and mumbo-jumbo, President Obama sadly chose to pander to it further. Continuing yet another grand orientalist tradition of speaking to ‘the natives’ through the use of what the orientalist imagines is their particular world formulations – they are too stupid to understand our modernity, so we must use our ‘trick translation’ and speak to them about reality in their barbaric tongue – Mr. Obama like a modern day Quatermain decided to end his speech in a ‘one for the road’ chorus of quotations from the 3 religious texts and this shocking and rather insulting statement:

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.

President Obama may have pulled off the greatest Evangelical mind tricks in history when he may have convinced a room full of ‘Muslim’ despots and criminal national leaders to join him in the support of a vision fantastically and naively created on the basis of a religious text that has been variously used to different degrees to also justified the inquisition, the crusades, the holocaust and possibly even the recent slaughter of the people of Iraq by an Evangelical, fanatic and religiously drunk American administration.

America engages the Middle East through conquest, investments, manipulations, espionage, education, extraction of resources, training of the military, politics and geo-political entanglements. For some odd reason President Obama can’t see that it can also be communicated with in simple, worldly, adult language without resorting to false and frankly cynical and hypocritical exploitation of religious texts and quotes, like a high school kid desperate to decorate a poor term paper that lacks content but may sound interesting if a few ‘notable’ quotes are thrown in!

As President Obama walked off that Cairo stage to go and bask in the glow of the glory that was being orchestrated for him by his obsequious hosts and minders, a General McChrystal was being appointed to head the operations in Obama’s favorite war in Afghanistan. As Tom Engelhart explained in a recent post on the fabulous Tom’s Dispatch blog site:

General McChrystal comes from a world where killing by any means is the norm and a blanket of secrecy provides the necessary protection. For five years he commanded the Pentagon’s super-secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)…McChrystal gained a certain renown when President Bush outed him as the man responsible for tracking down and eliminating al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The secret force of “manhunters” he commanded had its own secret detention and interrogation center near Baghdad, Camp Nama, where bad things happened regularly, and the unit there, Task Force 6-26, had its own slogan: “If you don’t make them bleed, they can’t prosecute for it.” Since some of the task force’s men were, in the end, prosecuted, the bleeding evidently wasn’t avoided.

Tomorrow we will explain the war in Afghanistan as that between the liberal values of the United States of America and obscurantist, mysoginist and barbaric values of ‘radical Islam’. General McChrystal, with his legacy of broken souls and bodies, his torture centers and assassination teams, his professionally executed operations of terror and mayhem, will be left to the sidelines and forgotten. Some old orientalists, or obfuscators (perhaps a newer version of a Ahmed Rashid!) will be trotted out to explain why ‘they hate us’.

President Obama stood in Cairo and wove a fantasy. A fantasy that claimed that there is something called ‘Islam’ that he could speak to as if he was speaking to a homogeneous entity. A fantasy that claimed that America does not in fact have interests and protects interests with military and other means in the Middle East. A fantasy that denies the roots of the violence that does in fact plague that region and emanates from within regimes whose despotic and irrational leaders are amongst America’s closest allies. A fantasy where the tiresome, outdated, discredited and artificial construct of ‘the clash of civilizations’ is trotted out to obfuscate the hard political and economic factors that in fact create alliances and foster the conflicts.

The speech on June 4th 2009 will sadly not go down in history as a great moment in diplomacy. There is an air of desperation about the writings that are trying to claim it so. Much like the photo-op in the White House Lawn the day the Oslo Accords were signed, we will drown our fears under misguided hopes and self-imposed delusions while the relentless machinery of imperial power and politics will continue to cut its merciless path through a region cursed with oil and men of supreme venality.

A few hours after this speech President Obama headed to Buchenwald where he said:

I have no patience for people who would deny history

Indeed Mr. President.

Indeed.

ADDENDUM: I was reminded by a friend that in fact there could be religious motivations for the explorations of algebra e.g. man’s need to measure time more precisely, or to work out the geometries and structures of complex domes, mosques or even the decorative patterns that decorated it. A similar argument has in fact been made by Kim Plofker in his new book Mathematics in India – that Indian innovations in mathematics may have been driven by a need for temple designs or astrology. Regardless, as has already been argued, these remain worldly requirements to serve worldly needs and for universal relevance and application must apply consistently across man’s known world. Their measure of innovation comes from their universality, their non-specificity to any one set of beliefs of religious values.


Jean-Bertrande Aristide Returns

In Journalism, Our Wars, Photography on March 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm

It remains one of the most difficult stories I have attempted to do. In 2005 writer Malcolm Garcia and I traveled to Port Au Prince to document the targeting of pro-Aristide activists and Lavalas supporters in the weeks after Jean Bertrande-Aristide was forcibly removed from power. The collaboration of the French and American governments in the illegal and violent removal of a sitting, democratically elected President of a sovereign nation was blatant and well documented.

mesnal delarge's sister reacts after seeing the body of her brother who was shot and killed while marching in a pro-aristide rally in port au prince. the haitian national police has frequently fired upon peaceful demonstrators, often right in front of MINUSTAH troops copyright asimrafiqui 2006

The work was exhibit at Visa Pour L’image in 2006 and I remain grateful to Jean-Francois Leroy for giving me a platform to speak about the human rights violations and outright assassinations that our governments (French and American) were actively collaborating in. It was a platform denied to the work by all the major newspapers and newsmagazine in the USA that I had approached.

Jean-Bertrande Aristide has today, after nearly seven years in exile, returned to Haiti. Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow! (who else!) has been with him to document this historic moment.

In my original introduction to my project I wrote that:

In early 2005 I traveled to Haiti and found a reality that did not reflect what I had been led to believe. I witnessed an ongoing campaign of violence and repression by Haiti’s current leaders, installed by the USA and France, to eliminate the still vastly popular Lavalas (pro-Aristide) movement and its supporters. Hundreds of Lavalas activists lie without charge in jail while hundreds of others have been killed while protesting in the streets or during Haitian National Police (HNP) raids into strongly pro-Aristide neighborhoods. Entire communities suspected of pro-Aristide leanings have been surrounded by UN (MINUSTAH) and HNP checkpoints and the residents denied services like water and electricity.

And yet both the USA and France have stood firmly behind the ‘interim’ government. Recently the USA decided to restart economic and military aid to this government. This is in sharp contrast to its attitude towards the democratically elected President Aristide whom it placed under economic sanctions in 1995 and then worked tirelessly to topple by funding and courting his opponents. The sanctions withheld nearly $500 million from one of the poorest nations of in the Western Hemisphere and caused severe social and economic devastation in the country. At the same time the US government provided financial and political support to Aristide’s opponents and even arranged conferences in neighboring Dominican Republic for Aristide’s opponents to meet those from Washington who shared similar political views. As Amy Wilentz, a journalist with extensive experience in Haiti, wrote “In a country…where the military has been disbanded for nearly a decade, soldiers don’t simply emerge… they have to be reorganized, retrained and resupplied… and someone has to organize [them].

I admit that there was a strong element of dissent and protest in chosing to produce this work. Malcolm and I travelled to Haiti with no backing of any publication and worked there completely independently of any agency or institutional support. It was risky, and we did some pretty stupid things. Perhaps because we just did not realize what precarious situations we were getting ourselves into. Or perhaps because we were just stupid. Either way, I do remember this as one of the best collaborative experiences I have ever had with a writer. You can read about it in Malcolm’s piece called Descent Into Haiti which was published in April 2005 by The Virginia Quarterly Review. (Sadly the only time I am referred to in the piece, I come across as quite the moron! Malcolm and I are still friends!) Nevertheless, this project as perhaps one of the most demanding, difficult I have done. And one that I, despite its complete publication and distribution failure, remain very proud of.

Jean-Bertrande Aristide has returned to Haiti. And I have to admit, there is a triumphant smile on my face.

The Dissenting Photographer Or How American Photographers Turn To Intelligence In Times Of Intransigence

In Journalism, Musings On Confusions, Photography, The Daily Discussion on March 4, 2011 at 6:44 am

The image showed little, and yet said so much that it made me laugh. The first time I saw it I did not know who the photographer was, but some quick research revealed it to be no other than Tim Davis. The image, called Nixon Monument was sheer genius:

'Nixon Monument' from the series My Life In Politics by Tim Davis

And that is perhaps what defines Tim Davis’ work: a quiet, but rigorous intelligence that compels the viewer to read his images for deeper insight and critical commentary. The entire series called My Life In Politics (the title alone is so lovely!) is a searing look at the caricature of democracy that is the American political machinery. It captures brilliantly the public spectacle and the hollowing out of the intent and meaning of a democratic enterprise, and its reduction to theatre, and facade.

'One Nation...' from the series My Life In Politics by Tim Davis

An European photo editor I met at Visa Pour L’image some years ago pointed out that there was very little in the way of dissident and critical photography in America. Recently the same question came up in a conversation with students at a social science institute in India. I think that this is too simplistic an argument. American photographers have been speaking out and offering resistance to the mainstream radicalization and militarization of the American public and political space. Tim Davis’ work of course is an example of a photographer confronting the dimensions of America as he sees it, and pointing out the dangers of its slide towards extremist consumerism, war and comic book political dialogue.

We are living in times where dissent is understood to be treason, a conflation that of course serves the interests of the powerful. And America – despite its self-proclaimed image as a land of free speech and individual liberty, has a long history of confusing dissent with anti-Americanism, and proclaiming allegiance to the political agenda and programs  a sitting government, and its apparatchiks, rather than to the institutions and values of the republic. In particular, the American media has repeatedly chosen to adopt the prejudices and rhetoric of populism rather than fight to maintain a determined adherence to the values of free press that challenges power, protects public interests and maintains a near-fanatical independence from the influence of the powerful. Instead, we have a media today that is absolutely beholden to power, so much so that its practitioners actually prefer to ‘represent’ the perspectives of power and ‘protect’ their idea of American values over all else. And so in this space American photographers concerned about the infantilism and militarism that continues to plague our nation have had to adopt subtle, tangential means of dissent which can create some wonderfully clever and complicated works. They can’t scream, but whisper ominously.

Mitch Epstein has offered his dissent in his new work American Power. Epstein is another favorite of mine – smart, individual and focused and his new work offers a critical look at American life, lifestyle and presumptions of consumption that underpin its dependence on oil, coal and other extractive, environmentally destructive and politically distorting energy resources.

From Mitch Epstein's series 'American Power'

Mitch Epstein and writer Susan Bell have even gone so far as to create a website dedicated to asking the question What Is American Power? and as they state:

…heighten awareness of the toll that energy and consumption and production take on our economy, security, health and natural resources.

Anthony Suau’s Fear This remains one of the few works that attempted to speak out against America’s build up to the invasion of Iraq. I remember first seeing this work in a second-hand bookstore in New York and wondering if anyone would ever notice it. This was back in 2006 and those were dangerous times when even the fact that we knew our leaders were lying could not stop us from standing alongside them. Those who spoke out were marginalized as cranks, called anti-American, and simply ignored. To produce a work that showed us our ugliness, and the ease with which we were hypnotized towards violence by our politicians, military leaders and our mainstream media, took some courage. Given the crass jingoism and near-violent patriotism that has gripped the nation since the 9/11 attacks – an event that has become the justification for so many domestic and international injustices and criminal actions that it simply defies the mind, one can understand the need for prudence. However, the very meaning of dissent, the very necessity of loud criticism, is most clear when it is most dangerous.

From Anthony Suau's work Fear This

I also think of Paul Fusco’s quiet, but angry project called Bitter Fruit. I had the pleasure of speaking to Paul Fusco about this work when I met him for lunch in Perpignan in 2006. I remember him carefully explaining the anger that drove him out onto the streets of USA and towards family funerals in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and where else he could find information about them. I remember him telling me that it was the military who always prevented him from speaking to the families of the killed, though it seemed to him that the families in fact wanted to speak to him.

From the series Bitter Fruit by Paul Fusco

Nina Berman’s recent work Homeland on the militarization of the American public space, is another example of a photographer attempting to offer criticism and dissent, but doing it in her own quiet way, and turning out eyes towards things we ought to be concerned about.

From the series Homeland by Nina Berman

American photographers have to deal with a very American public and media environment which is largely conservative and non-confrontational. There are no mainstream dissident publications and certainly none that would offer the American public a critical viewpoint on issues that touch our very ideas of our selves and our patriotism. American photographers producing works that question the American way of life – the very way in the defence of which we justified the illegal invasions of other nations and the mass slaughter of other peoples, have to do so carefully. After all, much like those who confront religious fundamentalists, these photographers are questioning ideas and individuals who are equally unquestioning and intolerant of debate – the American patriot.

In the end it is producing some very intelligent and very interesting work. It is the work of thinking individuals, produced by creatively re-working the conventional ideas about how to cover our conflicts (no embedding here!), our politics and our demise as a nation that adheres to values that are universalist and human.

Sadly our most well-known photojournalists have completely failed to offer such perspective, preferring instead to offer simplistic, misleading and ultimately propagandist productions from behind embedded positions with the US military. Some are even busy as we speak documenting Middle East dictators, recasting them as ‘modern’ and ‘liberal’, at a moment when millions across the regions are reaching out to topple regimes of repression and violence. For most it has just been too easy to adopt this stance, to go along with the flow, to stop thinking and then veil the inherent laziness and intellectual cowardice of this approach under a language of ‘bearing witness’ or some other such inanity. It reminds me of what Mark Slouka said in a piece called  Democracy & Deference

What kind of culture defines “maturity” as the time when young men and women sacrifice principle to prudence, when they pledge allegiance to the boss in the name of self-promotion and “realism”? What kind of culture defines adulthood as the moment when the self goes underground? One answer might be a military one. The problem is that while unthinking loyalty to one’s commanding officer may be necessary in war, it is disastrous outside of it. Why? Because loyalty, by definition, qualifies individualism, discouraging the expression of individual opinion, recasting honesty as a type of betrayal. Because loyalty to power, rather than to what one believes to be true or right, is fatally undemocratic, and can lead to the most horrendous abuses.

As some of these ‘greats’ now celebrate their achievements on the platforms of world press awards or even at gala cinema events in Los Angeles, we citizens would do well to remember the other photographers who have chosen a more difficult, and more courageous path and are reminding us, in creative and intelligent ways, what in fact it means to be a citizen of a people’s republic.

I Must Have Died And Gone To Heaven Or They Are Discussing Books And Interviewing Writers On TV!

In Book Responses, Journalism, Readings, Writers on February 25, 2011 at 9:38 am

Stepping Out Into Their Dreams Or How Two Young Photographers Inspire

In Journalism, Just Fun Stuff, Photography, The Daily Discussion on February 11, 2011 at 7:20 am

She was a sales representative when I first met. Nadia Shira Cohen was introduced to me as the woman who would introduce me to editors in New York and help pass my work off as something worthy of being published. She actually managed to do this, and convince editors to give me work. But it was apparent from the moment we first met that simply helping SIPA Press sell images was not what she really wanted to do. Over the years we developed a friendship, trust and a shared conviction that where she had to be was out in the world, behind the camera, telling stories.

And today she is.

Nadia Shira Cohen is a young woman becoming a photographer and doing it in her own, individual way. On a recent visit to Rome, where she lives, it was so inspiring to listen to her talk about her projects and the stories she wanted to tell. Nadia has an amazing ability to find some fascinating stories, a fact borne out by the fact that she has managed to convince editors from Harpers, Vanity Fair and The New York Times to assign her to stories that she pitched to them. This is the first sign of a good photographer – an instinct for the story, the curiosity to explore it and the talent to sell it.

From the series 'Exodus' by Nadia Shira Cohen

Nadia is currently in Cairo, documenting the situation there for The Virginia Quarterly Review, providing images for The New Yorker amongst other magazines in the USA and in Europe. She has recently received a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting grant that will see her working in Europe just as soon as she helps topple the regime in Cairo. Not bad for someone who just a couple of years ago was still pawning around the works of others while dreaming of getting out there on her own.

Ω

Elliott Woods is a journalist. When I first met him two years ago he was young, passionate and determined to make a career as a writer. He and I were working together on a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting grant covering the consequences of Israel’s assault on Gaza, the operation known as Cast Lead. But just being the writer was not going to be enough for Elliott. He had his note pads, he did his journalist with determination and seriousness, but every day he would also go out with his cameras. As we worked in Gaza together Elliott continued to keep his pen and his shutter finger working. Very often the people we met thought that he was in fact the photographer, his digital gear representing his professionalism, while my little film cameras suggesting the intents of a tourist. The confusions aside, Elliott was serious about the photographs he was making, and it was obvious that this young journalists was determined to push his camera eye, and find a place for himself as a photojournalist as well.

He has managed to do just that. An extensive tour in Afghanistan has seen Elliott produce a wide range of work from the country, and to reveal himself to be a photographer and a story teller.

Afghanistan's Burned Brides By Elliott Woods

Elliott was selected for The Eddie Adams workshops in 2010. He is now also in Cairo, providing written and photographic reportage for The Virginia Quarterly Review. His recent work from Afghanistan has been published in a number of journals, including this essay in Mother Jones Magazine on burned brides which reflects Elliott’s growing photographic maturity and his passion for getting to stories.

Ω

I can’t say enough how inspiring it is to watch these two young photographers and their careers as they develop. I could not have been more than two years ago that they were stepping out into the field, both chasing individual dreams and working hard – professionally and personally, to achieve their goals in what can only be described as difficult industry conditions. Today here they are out there, traveling, exploring, pitching work and finding ways to live the lives that define them. I wish them more success, and more possibilities.

Elliott was generous enough to write to me from Cairo to tell me that he has appreciated my support for his work over the years. Nadia too has always been generous in suggesting that I have in some fashion given her support during this period. But frankly I want to remind both Nadia and Elliott that watching them out there, working, producing, chasing, growing and doing so with passion and joy remains an important inspiration for me. It is the conversations that I have with young photographers like them that keep me going as well, the help me cut past the cynicism and exhaustion and find again the joy of this act called photography. As I land here in India, my cameras once again in my hands, I am strengthened by the knowledge that I am part of a community of individuals who are serious and inspired. Thank you.

Watching Crowley Crawl Or How Incisive Questions Can Reveal The Hypocrisies Of An Imperial Apparatchik

In Israel/Palestine, Journalism, Musings On Confusions, Our Wars on January 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm

This was nothing if not embarrassing – the hypocrisy of State Department representative P.J. Crowley, and the administration and imperial system that he so mindlessly represents, may as well be tattooed across this forehead. The news anchor tears through Crowley like a hot knife through butter, leaving him grasping for more lies and even deeper obfuscations. The anchor’s laugh at the end of the interview pretty much says it all, and pretty much reveals what the common man in these ‘allied’ nations with their billion dollar US military aid programs knows and understands. Worth watching.

My favorite part was this snippet – when asked whether the US Government was talking directly to President Mubarak to express its concerns, Crowley returns with this gem:

Crowley: We want to make sure that Egypt does not interfere with the use of social media, that is a fundamental right as clear as walking into a town square. We are making these points clearly to Egypt publically and privately

Anchor: Beyond social media though, rubber coated steel bullets are being fired, hundreds are being detained in notorious prisons, perhaps we should be emphasizing that more than the Twitter or Facebook issue?

Snap!

There is hope yet!

I Find Myself Short Of Breath, Gasping For Air Or Fazal Sheikh Redesigns His Website!

In Journalism, Photography on January 20, 2011 at 7:21 pm

From Moksha by Fazal Sheikh

What has always impressed me about Fazal Sheikh is his intelligence and willingness to engage in the complete complexity of the human conditions he documents. There is no attempt to avoid the difficult, or to elide the embarassing. His eye is precise and spectacularly beautiful. His voice is balanced and calm, refusing to use hysteria or sensationalism to distract us. The issues are clearly offered, in their social, economic and historical difficulties, and with no interest in making them ‘entertaining’ or simple. This is absolutely stunning photojournalistic work and certainly some of the finest that is being produced today. Fazal’s eye is unique, his intelligence unencumbered by the need to appease or reduce. Fazal supports his photographs with text, testimonies and personal statements – a trait I love and respect. Fazal Sheikh’s three projects on India – Moksha, Ladli and The Circle, are absolutely remarkable productions, and worthy of having on the bookshelf. The book versions are stunning – beautifully printed, intelligently organized and exquisitely produced.