Monday, October 22, 2007

Mel Philips perhaps feels she's angering swathes of Muslim opinion for all the right reasons, but its her clear double standards that would frustrate anyone on the more rational and objective plane, regardless of religious partisanship. Its true 'Mad Mel' spends significant time promulgating a state of 'war on our society' being waged by 'radical islamists' in her column and indeed in the sensationalist 'Londonistan', but her writing wades through quite a number of 'controversial' topics thanks to out oppressively PC society.

Incidentally she's spot on about a 'prejudice against telling the truth', and the way certain 'attitudes' are attacked, and others are ignored or encouraged. Unfortunately she provides a quintessential example in her own column of "misrepresenting" ostensibly contentious comments as being completely unfounded bigotry.

She cites the rapid denunciation of Martin Amis after he said he felt 'morally superior' to Muslims who were 'anti-Semites', 'misogynists and homophobes', and disagrees with him being smeared as a 'racist' and 'bigoted'. But then mentions the academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walts' thesis on the 'Israel Lobby' and its effect on US foreign policy. The doublethink is triggered into effect as she completely 'misrepresents' this study as a 'pernicious' polemic that argues 'Jews run the world and put it at risk to advance their own interests'. The same way she feels Martin Amis was 'misrepresented' (by the 'other side' presumably).

Mearsheimer and Walts' 'Israel Lobby' deals with serious issues, cites sources, and deals with facts. The same type of facts she encourages us to debate and engage with when assessing Dr Watson's study on race and intelligence. Its OK to argue the superior intelligence of Caucasians over Africans, but we can't deal soberly with a study on Israeli influence on US foreign policy, without shouting racism/anti-Semites.

About the Dr Watson study she states 'its a debate to be had', and 'very different from a prejudice which has no basis in fact at all'. Quite so, and if this ostensible attempt to squeeze prejudice out of our society is making it more and more difficult to tell the truth" then one should encourage debate about all issues, including the ones you're sensitive about.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Most Arab countries aren't exactly known as hotbeds of rock 'n' roll fervor, so, sadly, few Western bands have actually played the Middle East. But wouldn't a concert tee look cool if they had? That's the concept behind 26-year-old graphic artist Brendan Donnelly's newly unveiled collection of shirts, which sport the logos of cult bands like Joy Division, the Velvet Underground, and the Ramones (left), all translated into Arabic. Obviously intended for audiences with a well-developed sense of irony, the tees subvert the familiarly perceived screen between Western-style consumerism and Middle Eastern social culture, gently deriding both!

Donnelly reflected the difficulties on translation in his dillemma at the non-existence of the word Blizzard in Arabic. "I had a friend help me with the Arabic, but some of the words might be off. For instance, Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz: There's no Arabic word for 'blizzard.' So it reads 'Wizard of Oz.' It's got that homemade bootleg quality, which I love."

Bootleg, homemade—and definitely not officially band-approved! "I guess I'm going to keep going until I get a cease-and-desist order," Donnelly says.

Monday, October 08, 2007

"Political Islam is on the march", says William Dalrymle - and it owes its rise to the ballot box rather than the bomb. Since the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, Islamist parties have reaped electoral dividends everywhere, from Lebanon, Iraq, Iraq and Palestine to Egypt and Turkey. It's obviously not what the Bush administration had in mind in 2004 when it proclaimed its mission to promote democracy in the Middle East. We now know, and perhaps should have known, that the US cares little for democracy when it doesn't suit their desired outcomes. An entirely pragmatic approach, but which needlessly contrasts with the fanciful rhetoric of the last few years of the "war on terror".

Dalrymple states in the Guardian that while Middle Eastern countries are moving towards election, instead of voting for "liberal secular parties, as the neocons assumed", Muslims have rallied towards the parties most clearly seen to stand up against Western interference. Religious parties, in other words, have come to power "for reasons largely unconnected to religion".

The US response has been to ignore poll victors such as Hamas, but this makes the problem worse. Hamas has arisen from occupation by an expansionist and quite ruthless settler state, namely Israel, which has some formal democratic institutions, and modernised economy facilitated by tremendous US investment (mainly military), but has absolutely no concept at an institutional level, of human rights in the occupied territories, and even within its own, regarding Arabs and diaspora Jews. This is only one example of why context is important when assessing the rise of political Islam. Islam will always remain a powerful transnational force, whether it remains peaceful or violent in its respective communities is a question of external cultural and political pressures.

Peter Rogers of the Oxford Research Group has candidly put what should have been addressed before 2001, “If the Al Qaeda movement is to be countered, then the roots of its support must be understood and systematically undercut.”

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Our dear leader has been likened to Kim Il Sung. Peter Hitchens brandishes his typical sword of animosity against the "political class" and the Politically Correct.

It was "entirely familiar to the benighted people of that one-party, power-worshipping state, especially the fake, undeserved applause". Party conferences do have a distinct air of Big Brother totalitarianism, which is why only journalists and politicians get worked up about them. Rory Bremner referred to the repeated evocation of "election fever", being "whipped up" around Westminster and several party conference locations. He added however, the fever doesn't seem to spread between species outside of political correspondents and politicians. No-one is really bothered about whether Gordan Brown will call a snap election, one of the main reasons he isn't is because it coincides with the X factor semi final, and he is therefore (rightly) "worried about turn-out".

The indications of a dysgenic Big Brother society are ever more worrying. Surely the level of surveillance, proposals for ID cards, and the straight centre consensus in government are not the dynamics of a democratic society. There are problems today but unfortunately neither Brown or Cameron seriously address them. And New Labour's luxury of having never really faced "any serious opposition" because, with a few minor quibbles, the Conservative Party broadly agrees with New Labour, doesn't serve the population particularly well.

If Cameron's promise to help "have-a-go heroes" and scrap ID cards and "focus" on a region he's never visited and I doubt knows much about, namely Afghanistan, in the "War on Terror" are what he's running on, aside from peripheral issues like inheritance tax, he may edge the affections of the electorate.

What I feel would really shake things up is if Cameron took a serious stance on foreign policy, and echoed his domestic concerns about civil liberties to citizens of other nations who clearly want rid of our forces. Its all well and good promulgating "small government" and less state interference, whilst at the same time remaining virtually silent on what exactly he believes our troops are doing thousands of miles away in hostile conditions. If only these 'principles' of his were telescopic. We wait with trepidation for the next bout of election fever to hit the streets of Westminster, luckily the antidote merely consists of 'getting a life'.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Lets all feel sorry for the "Prince" and the "Princess".. A story has just broken on Sky raising concerns about the level of attention Prince William and Kate Middleton have received recently, culminating in a minor motorbike chase which obviously raised the ineluctable spectre of his mother's plight in Paris. The ever compassionate Max Clifford even voiced his incredulity and concern at the timing of this episode, surely the paparazzi have "learned their lessons", he laments.

Well of course a third of the population believe the paparazzi had very little to do with Diana's death, but aside from that, surely this 'celebrity industry' which Clifford is very much a part of, is to blame. We know being born into unprecedented privilege and fame comes at a price, and we know part of that price is intrusion. Small price if you ask me.

Apparently however, by invoking the 'Human Rights Act' which stipulates the right to a private life, of which Royals can avail themselves, they can have their cake and eat it. Great, can the rest of us use this new legislation to spare us the huge amount of time waisted on their sporadic intimacies and banal excursions.

Why on earth do we have a monarchy in the 21st Century? Surely this is the more profound question, perhaps William ponders it too, in the back of the limousine transfer from KoKo's, or is he more relieved he doesn't suffer from any form of epilepsy. Still I'm sure he and Kate won't find it too difficult to look on the bright side of things on the way back to the palatial surroundings of Narnia.

Trouble spots seem to be becoming an opportunity for politicians and journalists to prove their moral stature. For now Zimbabwe has slipped off the radar, but mainstream coverage of troubled Burma has been no less propagandised and establishment centred. Talk of boycotting the Beijing Olympics as if China is a fascist state, and demanding China display "its relationship with the world" by showing it be a "responsible" and "respected member of the global community"!

I struggle to remember when, if ever, these standards have been applied closer to home. I would try not to be carried in the maelstrom of condemnation, corporate media is very rarely consistent in its indignation and I don't believe this wave of outrage, on aggregate is anything more than a cynical western ploy. Differential treatment occurs on a large scale, the media, intellectuals and the public are able to remain largely unconscious of the fact, and are able to maintain a high moral and self-righteous tone.

Looking closely, the scrutiny applied in this case is quite typically inconsisent. Articles and news coverage/discussions vehemently searching for responsibility at higher levels of the Chinese administration, by these standards surely the US should be condemned for its long "association with tyranny and oppression" in Gaza and the West Bank. But those events are treated as isolated to the region, in contrast the media have been at pains to stress the almost direct responsibility of China for the oppression in Burma. Here, public are led to condemn China whilst at the same time being subject to imagery of US and British virtue in their sudden concern for the region.

The crisis in Burma is a serious one, but the way its being used, in effect to demonise China is quite typical of Western media who see themselves as championing freedom and civilisation, while at the same time supporting imperial adventures which cost millions of lives. The devotion of our leaders and media to this narrow set of victims merely raises public self-esteem and patriotism, and demonstrates the disparate focus on "worthy" and "unworthy" victims. Just recently a report published by the Opinion Research Business (ORB) found that up to 1.2 Million Iraqi's have now been killed as a result of the US/UK invasion. This study has been almost entirely blanked by the US-UK media.

I'm sure you don't have to cogitate this simple hypothesis but imagine the western media's reaction if China had invaded Iraq? Or indeed Afghanistan? For the same reasons stipulated by the US.

Carefully analysing media performance in international affairs is nothing new, Medialens perform a meticulous and necessary task in deconstructing mainstream British sources, and there have been numerous studies on corporate media throughout the years. The issue is not one of paranoia or unproductive pessimism, but serious reflections about the lazy assumptions which lie behind reportage of other countries, cultures, and institutions, which do not conform to establishment consensus. The media are indeed part of the establishment and should be treated as so. The proliferation of online journalism has exposed so much mainstream fabrication, erroneous judgements and outright propaganda, that the notion of an reliable and independent media is becoming less and less believable. The importance of the media nowadays cannot be understated and therefore analysis and criticism has never been more necessary.