Blinded Palestinian Journalist Exposes Israel’s Increasing Violence Against Media

Muath Amarneh Feature photo

Blinded Palestinian Journalist Exposes Israel’s Increasing Violence Against Media

On November 15, Palestinian photojournalist Muath Amarneh covered a demonstration in Surif, a West Bank city where residents were protesting against the theft of their land by Israeli settlers. Wearing a press jacket and helmet, Amarneh was shot in the head by an Israeli bullet while taking pictures on a nearby hill — about 330 feet from the soldiers.

“Everything just changed. I felt the whole world was circling around me. And I felt my whole life flash before me. I felt like I was dying,” Amarneh said, describing his reaction when hit.

With blood dripping from his eye, Amarneh was taken to a hospital in Hebron, West Bank. He was eventually transported to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem where his left eye was removed. He remains there awaiting further operations to have the bullet removed from his head. 

Videos and photos capturing Amarneh after the bullet pierced his eye went viral online. Using the hashtags #MuathEye#EyeofTruth and #MuathAmarneh, “journalists across the world posted images of themselves with an eyepatch or one hand over their eye as a way to stand in solidarity with Amarneh.

Increasing Israeli violations against Palestinian press

After being shot, Israeli soldiers rushed to Amarneh claiming he wasn’t hit by one of their bullets but rather with stones thrown by protesters, but Amarneh was behind a line of demonstrators hurling stones.

“The army told me that, “This is not from us. This is from the people who are protesting and throwing stones. It’s the Palestinian who threw stones at you. It’s not a bullet from us,” Amarneh said.

Israeli police said they used “non-lethal means” to “disperse the rioters.” “The use of the non-lethal means was not directed at all at the photographer, and his injury could have been caused by the violent rioters,” Micky Rosenfeld, the Israeli police’s foreign press spokesperson, said.

Palestinian journalists take cover from tear gas shot by Israeli police during a solidarity protest on November 17, 2019 in Bethlehem. Photo | Musa Al-Shaer

However, Amarneh believes he was directly attacked by Israeli forces.

Four days before Amarneh lost his eye, Omar al-Badawi was fatally shot by Israeli soldiers during clashes near Hebron. Video captured al-Badawi as he was shot in the chest by Israeli forces. Soldiers claimed they assumed al-Badawi was carrying a molotov cocktail, but he was merely holding a towel to extinguish a fire engulfing a tree near his home. Amarneh was one of the journalists who documented al-Badawi’s murder.

“After what happened, the Israeli army really doesn’t want journalists to show the world what’s going on,” Amarneh said. He feels that since al-Badawi’s killing was broadcast globally, the Israeli army is intensifying its crackdown on Palestinian journalists. He mentioned how an area in Bethlehem designated for journalists for years by the Israeli military is now an unwelcome location.

“This Thursday, they started telling journalists that if you stay in this place, we will arrest you,” Amarneh said, describing how the soldiers pushed the journalists and seized their cameras.

The following Sunday after Amarneh was shot, Palestinian journalists held a sit-in in Bethlehem to express their support. Israel Police dispersed the crowd using tear gas, with dozens of demonstrators suffocating from tear gas inhalation and seven individuals lightly wounded.

Israeli polcie grab a member of The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate during a solidarity protest on November 17, 2019, in Bethlehem. Photo | Musa Al-Shaer

On Wednesday, the Israeli army closed the office of Palestine Television in Jerusalem for six months after storming Al-ArzMedia Services Company which provides services to Palestine TV.

Mousa Rimawi, Director General of the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), believes the Israeli army targeted Amarneh.

“I think they are targeting him. Witnesses say that. He said that. This is not the first time they are targeting journalists,” Rimawai said.

We saw it in Gaza, especially last year. When the Israeli army was targeting journalists, killing two of them and injuring tens of journalists by snipers.”

In 2018, Palestinian journalists Yasser Murtaja and Ahmad Hassan Abu Hussein were killed by Israeli snipers just one week apart from each other while covering the Great March of Return protests at the Gaza border.

According to The Palestinian Center Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), 455 Israeli violations and 129 Palestinian violations occurred against Palestinian journalists in 2018  — a more than 52 percent increase in the last two years. During the first half of 2019, 330 violations were documented against Palestinian media  — a 19 percent increase from the same period last year. The majority of these violations comprise physical abuse, arrests or detentions, questioning, preventing coverage and shutting down websites and social media accounts.

Palestinian journalists

Palestinian journalists help a colleague injured during a solidarity protest on November 17, 2019 in Bethlehem. Photo | Musa Al-Shaer

“They want to silence this media who is covering the events relating to the Israeli occupation and to cover their crimes and daily practices in Palestine,” Rimawi said.

The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) places the number of violations in 2019 higher, at more than 630, with 90 percent of reported attacks executed by Israel. Musa Al-Shaer, a board member of PJS, said MADA’s calculation is lower because they adjust the statistics in order to receive financial aid from the international community.

 

Facebook’s censorship of Palestinian media

Of the 330 documented violations by MADA, 65 of them were committed by Facebook. In 2016, the Israeli government and Facebook announced they were working together to combat incitement on social media. The driving force behind this partnership was Israel’s accusation that Palestinian violence is fueled by incitement online.

“After that announcement, Facebook began to block Palestinian sites for journalists and media outlets,” Rimawi said. He explained that Facebook has adopted Israel’s definition of incitement when deciding what content to censor. But going by Israel’s standards poses a problem for Palestinians.

“If someone posts a picture of a martyr, that’s incitement for Israelis, but for Palestinians that is normal. You could be posting a picture of your cousin who is a martyr,” Rimawi said.

Palestinians call those who died resisting the Israeli occupation “martyrs”, while Israelis refer to them as terrorists. He mentioned that words like Hamas (which literally translates to excitement in Arabic) and Qassam, the name of the military wing of Hamas, are consistently flagged. In some instances, a person named Qassam might end up with a deactivated Facebook account.

Facebook censorship of Palestinian media is increasing, and Israel appears to be the one steering the wheel. In 2017, 85 percent of Israeli government requests to “remove content deemed harmful or dangerous” was approved.

“We know Israel is pressuring other social media sites like Instagram and Twitter, but there are no agreements between them and Israel,” Rimawi said. “But with Facebook there is.”

 

Paving the way for Palestinian freedom of press

Amid a sharp rise in violations against Palestinian journalists, MADA is working with other civil society organizations to build a coalition to defend freedom of expression and digital freedom in Palestine. The coalition plans to tackle legislation, government policies, monitoring press freedom, Israeli violations and Facebook restrictions.

“It’s a good thing when people will not be silent, when countries will not be silent when there’s killing of journalists. But it must be linked with policies,” Rimawi said.

Muath Amarneh

Palestinian photojournalist Muath Amarneh lies injured in his hospital bed in Jerusalem. Photo | Delilah Boxstein

Amarneh has frequently experienced Israeli abuse in his ten years of working as a journalist. He was previously shot multiple times by rubber bullets on the lower parts of his body and fired at by water cannons. But this recent attack was the most severe.

Amarneh is currently focused on his recovery but asserts he will seek legal action when he is healed. Despite the trauma of losing his eye, he still plans to continue reporting.

“I won’t stop being a journalist but now I feel unsafe,” Amarneh said. “They could attack my other eye. It will be harder for me to continue what I am doing.”

Feature photo | Palestinian photojournalist Mu’ath Amarneh, seated on the left, moments after being shot in the left eye by an Israeli soldier in Surif, West Bank on November 15, 2019. Photo | Palestinian Information Center

Why France’s 20- and 30-somethings hate the Yellow Vests

Why France’s 20- and 30-somethings hate the Yellow Vests

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

It’s a question which needs be asked, but we can’t wait for the French media to answer it because they have almost totally stopped reporting on the anti-government movement for several months.

The first poll on the Yellow Vests since late March (“!”, and then “?”) finally came out two weeks ago. It was so eagerly gobbled up by a French media hungry for objective knowledge on the Yellow Vests that as many as two media talked about it. I missed it because I have already wasted a minimum of 3 hours of my life doing fruitless Google news searches for “Yellow Vest poll”.

The headline of Ouest-France newspaper, by far the most read Francophone paper in the world, was typically “negative-no-matter-what”: “A majority of France have had enough of the Yellow Vests”.

That’s a pretty bold statement considering that this majority is just 52%, which must be within the poll’s margin of error.

The headline could have fairly been: “A majority of France still supports the Yellow Vests despite all the state repression and media negativity”. Considering what a historic anti-government movement this is – the French have just avoided a 9th consecutive austerity budget expressly because of the Yellow Vests – objective journalism would have prioritised the “support” angle and not the “oppose” angle.

More poll tidbits to munch on for those who care about public opinion (which means you are obviously not a Western politician):

Vesters are now openly opposed by retirees (63%), executives/management (61%) and technicians/professionals (58%). However, they are openly supported by workers (52%), rural citizens (47%), the National Front party (64%) and the (true, not far-) leftist Unsubmissive France party (80%). Per the pollers: “The Yellow Vests remain popular with those segments of the population which were at the origin of the movement.

One final poll petit-four: 93% of those who support Macron’s party are against the Yellow Vests, while another recent poll showed that 98% of Macronistas think he is doing a good job. What this reminds us is that there is a hard-core Macronista base for whom he can absolutely do no wrong. I assumed such adoration was limited to 60+ year old single women dreaming of a winter-spring romance (an incredibly winter-spring romance), but it is a solid quarter of the population. This rate of genuine support is actually unchanged since the election in 2017: a quarter of France just adores this guy, no matter what, and apparently no amount of violence can change that.

Let’s get to the point of this column

One segment of society which does not support the Yellow Vests is the 20- and 30-something crowd.

This is based on my regular attendance at Yellow Vest demonstrations, and also many months of informally talking with this age group (of which I am quite nearly a part of). I’d like to pass on what I think are the reasons for their opposition:

  • We must remember that the Yellow Vests are primarily a middle-aged phenomenon – the average of those marching is probably 50 years old. This age group is the one which is most motivated because they are nearing retirement and they see just how bad austerity will make things for them. This generation will not do anywhere as well as their parents, and they are rightfully upset – they really had no chance to “succeed”: they found jobs (or can’t find any job) which will provide the personal nest egg which is required in the Anglo-Saxon system, which is the system that neoliberal austerity seeks to disruptively impose on France. The main problem is that French wages have always been far lower, and taxes quite higher, than their Western counterparts because the deal was that they’d have low wages but a much better social safety net. This deal has been terminated during the Age of Austerity, and Macron’s absurd, inhuman “one-size-fits-all” pension reform is the coup de grâce. Therefore, this segment of society – not professional, working class, low savings, not university educated, not thrilled with their job but still as vital to the functioning of society as you or me – is leading the revolt because they know that if they don’t… they will be working their low-paying job until they are 64 or their knees give out (whichever comes first), and then have a pittance of a pension to boot.
  • What about the young adult Parisians? Firstly, this is an old persons’ town – you have to have money to live within its highway walls. But are you talking about those who were raised in Paris? I guess you mainly referring to those who grew up in the rich Western areas – that place I go and look at like a tourist (seems nice over there), with all their fancy little kids and quiet and trees. People who grow up in these areas are rich – these are the very Macronista urbanites who are young, terrifying and want to eat their elders. They view Macron as their leader, God and role model. So young adult Parisians manning the barricades? Fuggetaboutit. This holds true for all of France’s cities.
  • What about the working class adult urbanites? Like in my area? Do you mean the Chinese, the Hasidic or the Arabs? All of these worker bees crammed into small, noisy apartments were likely turned off by the immediate and totally false smear that the Yellow Vests were racist. Also, the working class is often quite busy working.
  • What about the poor city suburbs, surely they are sympathetic? Indeed, the poor Muslim, Arab and Black areas are all totally sympathetic to the Vesters. However, they are not stupid – they know that if they go to the Vester demonstrations in any city the cops will absolutely, undoubtedly wage police brutality on them first. This truth is so very, very, very self-evident to Muslims and people of Color that we cannot even imagine that many of you cannot accept this, and we just turn and walk away when we start getting blamed for not leading the Yellow Vest charge. People from these areas have been totally marginalised… but when you need cannon fodder, then we get an engraved invitation? LOL, thanks, but no thanks. Nobody cares about the opinion of these areas/groups anyway, but I can report that the Vesters do indeed have their sincere moral support. Finally, Muslims and Blacks probably compose around 5-8% of France – if they did join en masse only 1 out of every 20 Vesters or so would be a non-White, anyway.

And here is the main reason why French Whites – who are the majority among the 20- and 30-somethings in France – do not support the Vesters.

  • I was surprised at the immediate antipathy for the Yellow Vests among the young White French adults I talked with in Paris, but who are the young White French adults in Paris? These are the primarily the people from small towns who are creative types and who move to the urban areas in order to flee the small-town culture, people, mores and activities they found so very stifling. The Yellow Vests are a primarily rural movement, and – as I have described their primary social-class makeup – France’s young urbanites seem to view the Vesters as the older classmates/bullies who made fun of them for being arty and weird and urbanite-aping back in their small town – many 30-somethings in Paris moved expressly to get away from these types! Therefore, it is unthinkable for them to side with the Yellow Vests, and after only the very first couple of demonstrations Parisian young adults seemingly all turned against the Yellow Vests, in my experience. These Parisian young adults see a faded, generic, poorly drawn forearm tattoo on many a Vester, and then they look at their own fancy tattoo (a Chinese character, a magic symbol, or some emblem of personal motivation or social defiance) and they think: “To hell with those White Trash – I never got invited to their parties and I want to lead a different lifestyle.”

So there you have it in a nutshell. Many French people actually made the move to the big city from the small town because they fundamentally resent the people who primarily compose the Yellow Vests.

There are other reasons:

  • Paris attracts young adults from all over the world – where are they? The Western expatriates living in France feel similarly or even more hostile than their French counterparts, in my experience. Many absurdly view Yellow Vests as outright reactionaries, mainly because they have absolutely no idea what the hell they are talking about when it comes to “French culture + class struggle”. These Western White expats simplistically view Vesters as extensions of their own “Brexiteers”, “basket of deplorable American rednecks”, etc., and do not feel the need to dig any deeper than such a superficial comparison – many of these immigrants would have a hard time understanding even if they tried, such is their unfamiliarity with a class lens. Bottom line: they are not about to stop the “Western expat party” and get tear gassed for any Yellow Vest, that is certain.
  • France, contrary to Anglophone media claims, is not a socialist country: aristocratic snobbery permeates and runs amok in the culture here as only it can on the Old Continent. It’s worse in Paris, but “I reject you first” is the initial war a French person declares upon meeting someone. The young adult urbanites in France have not at all been inculcated with class warfare and class solidarity, but identity politics: they identify with their fellow “bobos” (bourgeois bohemians), hipsters, artists and pretty young people. Have a shoulder tattoo I can’t see and not a wrist tattoo? Not cool enough. Next please. Swipe left. Je m’en fous.
  • France was an individualist country even before the rise of neoliberalism, I imagine, but rapacious neoliberalism surely leads to a fundamental lack of sympathy: Young urbanites here simply cannot imagine – nor do they try to – the grim future which 50-year old Yellow Vesters know to be a rapidly encroaching fact.
  • Furthermore, young people are dumb, (If you were paying me for this I’d look it up and provide the link but you’ll have to just take my word for it): I read a recent poll which said that something like 10% of young French people think Macron’s radical reforms will not actually reduce their own pensions, LOL! Sure… you’ll be the one who is special. Vesters are old enough to know better to get involved with this movement.

Given all these facts, we must realise that these urbanites want revenge on the class which primarily composes the Vesters – they don’t want to see them win, and they have repeatedly told me they don’t want them marching anymore in their hipster paradise areas of Paris.

I use the strong word “revenge” because I have found this to be a hugely important motivator in Western capitalist society. These young (smug, stupid, classist, fake-leftist/rabid neoliberal) anti-Yellow Vesters want not only a huge chunk of the pie, but they also to show all the people they left behind what a big shot they lost.

This is not hyperbole – this is what “competition” truly is. Western society (being anti-socialist and rabidly individualist) is fundamentally predicted on competition, and thus these types of feelings can be found plastered on billboards as a form of encouragement.

Finally, it is not “cool” to be a Vester in the French mainstream, and 20- and 30-somethings in the West prize “cool” above all. If you think famous actors, musicians, artists, thinkers, ballplayers, etc. are showing up/have ever showed up to Yellow Vest demonstrations… you must think these people don’t fear losing their social status more than anything – then they would have to get a real job.

“But Ramin,” you object, “how can cool people not be at the Yellow Vest demonstrations when YOU are there?”

Thank you. It seems paradoxical, indeed, but there’s an easy explanation: I turn 42 next week.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of “I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China”.

On the liberty to teach, pursue, and discuss knowledge without restriction

 

ac freedom.jpg

by Gilad Atzmon

It didn’t  take long for the American Administration to crudely interfere with an open society’s most sacred ethos, that of academic freedom.  We learned this weekend that the US Department of Education has ordered Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to remake their joint Middle East studies program after concluding that they were offering students “a biased curriculum that, among other complaints, did not present enough “positive” imagery of Judaism and Christianity in the region.”

Academic freedom is a relatively simple principle. It refers to the ”liberty to teach, pursue, and discuss knowledge without restriction or interference, as by school or public officials.”

This principle seems to be under attack in America.  The American administration has openly interfered with the liberty to freely teach, pursue and discuss knowledge.

The New York Times writes:  “in a rare instance of federal intervention in college course content, the department asserted that the universities’ Middle East program violated the standards of a federal program that awards funding to international studies and foreign language programs.”

According to the NYT the focus on ‘anti Israeli bias’ “appears to reflect the views of an agency leadership that includes a civil rights chief, Kenneth L. Marcus, who has made a career of pro-Israel advocacy and has waged a years long campaign to delegitimize and defund Middle East studies programs that he has criticized as rife with anti-Israel bias.”

One may wonder why America is willing to sacrifice its liberal ethos on the pro Israel altar?  Miriam Elman provides a possible answer. Elman is an associate professor at Syracuse University and executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, which opposes BDS. Elman told the NYT that this “should be a wake-up call… what they’re (the Federal government presumably) saying is, ‘If you want to be biased and show an unbalanced view of the Middle East, you can do that, but you’re not going to get federal and taxpayer money.”

In Elman’s view academic freedom has stayed intact, it is just the dollars  that will be  withheld unless a university adheres to pro Israel politics.

Those who follow the history of Zionism, Israeli politics and Jewish nationalism find this latest development unsurprising. Zionism, once dedicated to the concept of a “promised land,” morphed decades ago into an aspiration toward a ‘promised planet.’  Zionism is a global project operating in most, if not all, Western states. Jewish pressure groups, Zionist think tanks and Pro Israel lobbies work intensively to suppress elementary freedoms and reshape the public, political and cultural discourse all to achieve Zionism’s ambitious goal. After all, Jewish power, as I define it, is the power to suppress criticism of Jewish power.

This authoritarian symptom is not at all new. It is apparently a wandering phenomenon. It has popped out in different forms at different times.  What happened in the USSR  provides a perfect illustration of this  symptom. In the early days of Soviet Russia, anti-Semitism was met with the death penalty as stated by Joseph Stalin  in answer to an inquiry made by the Jewish News Agency: “In the U.S.S.R. anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet system. Under U.S.S.R. law active anti-semites are liable to the death penalty.”

Germany saw the formation of Jewish anti defamation leagues attempted to suppress the rise in anti Jewish sentiments.* There’s no need to elaborate on the dramatic failure of these efforts in Germany. And despite Stalin’s early pro-Jewish stance, the Soviet leader turned against the so- called rootless cosmopolitans.” This campaign led to the 1950s Doctors’ plot, in which a group of doctors (mostly Jewish) were subjected to a show trial for supposedly having plotted to assassinate the Soviet leader.

In Britain and other Western nations we have seen fierce pro Israel campaigns waged to suppress criticism of Israel and Jewish politics. Different lobbies have been  utilizing different means amongst them the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism by governments and institutions. In Britain, France, Germany and other European countries, intellectuals, artists, politicians, party members and ordinary citizens are constantly harassed by a few powerful Jewish pressure groups. In dark Orwellian Britain 2019, critics of Israel have yet to face the death sentence, but they are subjected to severe reprisals ranging  from personal intimidation to police actions and criminal prosecution. People have lost their jobs for supporting Palestine, others have been expelled from Corbyn’s compromised Labour Party for making truthful statements. Some have even been jailed for satirical  content. And as you might guess, none of this has made Israel, its supporters or its stooges popular. Quite the opposite.  

I learned from the NYT that the administration “ordered” the universities’ consortium to submit a revised schedule of events it planned to support, a full list of the courses it offers and the professors working in its Middle East studies program.  I wonder who in the administration possesses the scholarly credentials to assess the academic level of university courses or professors? Professor Trump himself, or maybe Kushner & Ivanka or Kushner’s coffee boy Avi Berkovitch, or maybe recently retired ‘peace maker’ Jason Greenblatt?

 It takes years to build academic institutions, departments, libraries and research facilities. Apparently, it takes one determined lobby to ruin the future of American scholarship.

*In his book Final Solution David Cesarani brings the story of the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith) that operated in Germany since the late 19th century “suing rabble rousers for defamation, funding candidates pledging to contest antisemitism…” You can read about the association and its activity here


My battle for truth and freedom involves some expensive legal and security services. I hope that you will consider committing to a monthly donation in whatever amount you can give. Regular contributions will enable me to avoid being pushed against a wall and to stay on top of the endless harassment by Zionist operators attempting to silence me and others.

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“Global Coalition of the Willing,” Ordinary Iranians’ Style: Resistance multiplied by Ethics plus Justice minus Oppression divided by Aggression

August 02, 2019

“Global Coalition of the Willing,” Ordinary Iranians’ Style: Resistance multiplied by Ethics plusJustice minus Oppression divided by Aggression

by Mansoureh Tajik for The Saker Blog

“Global Coalition of the Willing,” Ordinary Iranians’ Style: Resistance multiplied by Ethics plus Justice minus Oppression divided by Aggression

For a brief moment in human history, or what feels like only a fraction of a second now, the United States of America experienced a mirage of a position, dubbed a “superpower,” self-appointed1. Those who lacked ethical and moral imagination went along with that coronation2. Or, perhaps they were just humoring it until a better replacement came along3.

Internally and externally, the United States maintained its illusion of superpower status through the application of diverse tools, some hard and harsh, some soft, and some gray in nature. On the economic front, it mass produced an industrial-scale fiat currency4 as a trading tool and adopted games of chance, fundamentals of speculation5 and gambling as its “genius” economic principles. It manufactured large bubbles of debt6, mimicking a toddler’s birthday party, then divided and sold the airs within as investment bonds. The illusion of trust in an untrustworthy entity was the collateral. No worries though. Whenever the time got ripe and the bubbles burst, sophisticated air-capturing devices and adjustment tools were customized, nicely packaged, and were readied for retail. The hamster on the wheel of finance kept on running but never arriving; alas, the chicanery of economic progress was kept alive.

On the military front, the United States dropped two atomic bombs killing and genetically maiming hundreds of thousands of people for generations to come. In the Eyewitness Account of Hiroshima, August 6th, 1945, Father John A. Siemes, then a professor of modern philosophy at Tokyo’s Catholic University, concluded his remarks by saying:

“We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb. Some consider it in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civil population. Others were of the view that in total war, as carried on in Japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldiers, and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus to avoid total destruction. It seems logical to me that he who supports total war in principle cannot complain of war against civilians. The crux of the matter is whether total war in its present form is justifiable, even when it serves a just purpose. Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good that might result? When will our moralists give us a clear answer to this question?”7

While the “moralists” on whom Father Siemes pinned his hopes seventy four years ago were too busy theorizing about their own slumber, the United States of America stockpiled thousands of ready-to-be-deployed nuclear bombs, as fear-inducing threat tools. It deviated enormous amounts of world’s precious resources into the development of military hardware and software gadgets, using “defense” and “American interest” as its rationale8. It then created chaos and mayhem all over the planet9 as its pressure lever to sell death toys to teeny-weeny boys10—expensive batteries not included and costly -900- numbers for instructions on operations and maintenance11.

On the public relations and propaganda front, it used industrial-scale colorful media forms12 as its tool to lie, to cheat, and to fool. It is useful to remember that the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, freely burnt alive and made melted charcoals13 of tens of its own defenseless and unarmed mothers, fathers, and children in Mt. Carmel, Waco, Texas14. It bravely broadcasted, live, the entire event on several television networks for days to nip it in the bud for its own agitated population exactly how low it is capable of sinking to maintain its clutch and subdue dissent. For sure, that trick alone silenced many for a few years, Timothy McVeigh15 and his disloyal company excluded, while it worked on another script for another terror-inducing spectacular performance. Too many tricks to remember and too many tools to recount in this short essay; but at last, the jig is up.

Internally, the house has fallen on moral, ethical, justice, and economic grounds, but has forgotten to collapse. Those who cannot see this need corrective lenses or the right standards to evaluate and measure things. Externally, and more relevant to our topic here, the structure of the world’s power relations and alignments are changing rapidly in a tangible and measureable way away from the United States’16 autocratic clutch. While the self-absorbed and the infatuated speak of dangers of a power vacuum, others are quite busy realigning themselves. Let us remind ourselves of Saxon White Kissinger’s poem about delusions of indispensability,

“Sometime when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how they humble your soul;

Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining
Is a measure of how you’ll be missed.”17

Coalitions, partnerships, and algebraically aligned groups of countries around the globe, some with hybrid letter-number titles of “this plus that minus the other,” are emerging left, right, and center. Even multi-billioners, themselves cheerleaders and enablers of the Empire of Illusions, are busy, like rats, circling the globe door to door to release their poisonous capital in the hope of infesting another Titanic, another morality-free sinking ship into making. There is a buzz that George Soros is trying to establish his own anti-war ‘Code Pink’ group (should name it Code Navy Blue, perhaps). No doubt, the irony would not have been lost to George Orwell had he lived to see it.

Enough eulogizing. What do all these mean, or should mean, to ordinary people and local community groups around the world? That is, for what, where, when, why, and how should the very people who often shoulder the brunt of all the dregs that roll downhill prepare themselves? For the rest of us, too, no matter what positions we hold and what relationships we have with the rest of the world, the same questions apply. I and the local community groups with and within which I work are grappling with these questions on a daily basis. We are doing what we can to ensure that our short and borrowed lives on this earth is worth the breaths we take. Many of us find ourselves feeling increasingly fortunate to live in Iran where doing so many things in so many ways is possible. More fortunately for us, the general frameworks within which we ask questions, analyze situations, design solutions, and implement them are all intertwined and enmeshed in our culture and belief system: Quran, Our Prophet’s and Imams’ teachings, and an important element called “Al-Hekmah” or the Wisdom. So, how do we evaluate the current transformations in the world around us and how do we try to choose the correct position and make a difference? Here, I present a brief and simple snapshot of our local-universal eye-view.

Firstly, Quran’s ethical teachings, as exemplified through the words and deeds of our Prophet, Imams, and pious scholars, tell us that there is no separation of religion and politics in Islam. As Allammeh Seyyed Hassan Modarres (1249 – 1316 HS, parallel in date with 1870-1937 AD), a religious sage and one of the champions of Iranian Constitutional movement, said in one of his most famous speeches, and Imam Khomeini, the Founder of the Revolution, quoted, “Siasat-e ma eyn_e dianat_e ma, va Dianat_e ma eyn_e Sia’sat_e mast.” (“Our politics is exactly our religion and our religion is exactly our politics.”) The paragraph from which the line is borrowed reads,

“The source of our politics is our religion. We are on friendly terms with the entire world so long as they have not aggressed against us. But, if anyone aggresses against us, we will respond. Our politics is exactly our religion and our religion is exactly our politics.”18

Notwithstanding a particular religious belief and appealing simply to human logic, how would it even be possible for someone to have an authentic personal and private ethical and religious belief about, for instance, “thou shall not kill the innocent,” and live, work, and play within the rules and regulations of countries and political systems that kill innocent people to generate revenues and to maintain their national economic lifestyles of choice? Or, appealing to a more rudimentary level of human thought, how could we possibly afford not to be political, when the concentration of the very oxygen in the air we breathe, the amount of poisons with which our waters and foods are laced, the diseases we suffer, the so-called cures we are allowed to access, our fertility, our sexuality, our freedom to move from point A to point B are all determined by politics? Are we living with our heads buried in the sand?

Given these realities, for our people and local community groups here, being political is not a matter of choice but a religious obligation, a human necessity, and a critical survival instinct. Since we cannot avoid this, we do our utmost and take great deal of care to be well informed in order to be able to choose the right (as in correct) politics. People here take the trouble of going that extra kilometer so that, God forbids, they do not end up assuming they are on the right side and the followers of Imam Ali (the first Imam of Shi’a belief) and Imam Hussein (the third Imam of Shi’a belief) but, in fact, do things that are tantamount to carrying water for the turbines of Mo’avieh and Yazeed (Father and Son corrupt tyrants in Ummayyad dynasty against whose policies the Shi’a imams stood, resisted, and eventually got martyred).

Secondly, our religion and our pious religious scholars teach us that we should neither oppress others nor submit to oppression by others. So, our resistance has at least three dimensions: one, we must resist our own urges to oppress others, while at the same time, resist being sucked into siding with oppressors. Two, we must resist oppression against ourselves by anyone. Three, whenever and wherever we hear the cry for help of the oppressed people (Muslim and/or non-Muslim), we are obligated to respond and help, within our means and capacity to do so, and in a sound and appropriate way. Standing silently on the sideline and keeping quiet out of fear or greed is not an option for us. People here commemorate Imam Ali as the epitome of excellence in justice and in “qist” (particular form of justice). They commemorate Imam Hussein as the epitome of resistance against oppression and injustice. When you hear the chants of “Kullu Yau’men Ashura, Kullu Arzen Karbala” -Every day is Ashura, Every place is Karbala, it is useful to remember that today’s Karbala extends from Afghanistan to Yemen to Syria to Palestine to Nigeria to Sudan to Caracas and to any other place on the globe that people are fighting injustice, resisting oppression, and asking for help.

This stance is not just an isolated religious belief of some uninformed local community groups. It is written clearly into our constitution, the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran19. In Article 2, Section 6.c, and in Article 3, Section 5,6,15, and 16, it reads:

2:6.c – the negation of all kinds of oppression, authoritarianism, or the acceptance of domination, which secures justice, political and economic, social, and cultural independence and national unity.

3:5 – the complete rejection of colonialism and the prevention of foreign influence.

3:6 – the eradication of all kinds of tyranny, autocracy, and monopolization of power.

3:15 – the cultivation and strengthening of Islamic brotherhood and general cooperation among the people.

3:16 – the organization of the nation’s foreign policy based on Islamic criteria, fraternal commitment to all Muslims, and unrestrained support for the impoverished people of the world.

Any of our elected and/or appointed officials who would tell you otherwise, is either ignorant of the very law he must uphold (in which case, shame on him) or he has gotten to his position by lying, cheating, and swearing to uphold the very laws he is deliberately breaking (in which case, he is a hypocrite and double shame on him). On a bright note though, the ordinary people in the trenches feel extremely blessed that the most senior person in their land, the Leader, is also the most steadfast champion and the flag bearer of the constitution. To put him on a sanction list means to put the Iranian constitution and millions of ordinary people in local communities on a sanction list. Of course, had the US done differently, we would have questioned our own authenticity.

More generally though, as the current situation in the world unfolds, it is useful to remember some basic facts. No imperialist, no arrogant power, no superpower wannabe operates in a vacuum. There are always cheerleaders, enablers, junior and senior accomplices, profiteers, and conspirators. Regardless of what their mouth says, their action speaks louder. Let’s consider a simple example. The Unites States was able to spend trillions in military adventures killing millions of innocent people around the world and expropriating their resources in two fundamental ways: 1) It shortchanged its own tax-paying population, the young, the retired, and even the unborn in all sorts of social and public rights and amenities. 2) It kept on issuing treasury bonds on its accumulated debt, currently about 22.5 trillion dollars20, with People’s Bank of China, Central Bank of Japan, and naïve citizens21 as its most devoted purchasers.

To speak inside a parenthesis and to be totally candid, the ordinary people here find Japan’s “I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up!” attitude which has lasted nearly 74 years quite puzzling. Once upon a time, they lost a war. Who doesn’t at one point or another? Now that it happened, shouldn’t they stand up, dust off, and shake off this subdued and subservient house servant role and assume an independent position with dignity and self-respect? I am told. As Imam Hussein said, “If you do not have any religion and are not fearful of the Day of Judgment, at least be protective of your liberty and autonomy in your life in this world.22 People hope and pray to God that hardworking and noble people of Japan will rise up and will one day free themselves of the US occupation. Again, regular, ordinary people here are genuinely willing to provide support, if the Japanese themselves are willing to fight for their independence.

We will assume being under occupation by the US is Japan’s excuse. But, what has been China’s excuse? China has been buying the US debt as an export-led strategy to ensure its economic growth23. Therefore, to the extent that China, out of self-interest, has acted as an enabler of the United States aggressions and wars, it, too, is responsible. Its development, too, is contaminated with the crime and injustice against, and the blood of innocent people proportionate to the amount of advantage it had gained through its indirect support of those acts. We will not even address its voting record, until just a couple of years ago, as the UN’s Security Council permanent member. Now that it, too, is a target, its change in behavior is not trustworthy enough because it does not appear to be based on ethical and moral principles. It would not be illogical to assume that the moment the direction of winds changes, it is likely that China’s current stance would change, too.

Therefore, for ordinary people in local communities here, that is, the very same people who are active, and who willingly volunteer their own lives and their children and spouses to go and fight alongside those who resist oppressions and hegemony by the US and the West, these and other critical points and lessons will not go unchallenged and unlearned. Only those who have a proven record of being honest and trustworthy, of acting on principles, and steadfast in their resolve fighting against oppression are worthy of trust and long-term partnership, regardless of their race, nationality, and religious affiliation. Others must work much harder, regardless of what they profess to be.

As the entire world is moving on, and as partnerships and coalitions are constantly dissolving and forming, and as the nuclear strike buzzes & hypes are being heard again, I would like link back to the beginning of the essay and re-insert, again, the quoted parts of Father Siemes’ remark, but this time, I complement the segment with a new twist in interpretation and prediction. He recounted,

“We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb. Some consider it in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civil population. Others were of the view that in total war, as carried on in Japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldiers, and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus to avoid total destruction. It seems logical to me that he who supports total war in principle cannot complain of war against civilians. The crux of the matter is whether total war in its present form is justifiable, even when it serves a just purpose. Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good that might result? When will our moralists give us a clear answer to this question?”7

I can guarantee anyone who reads these lines that ordinary people in local communities here in Iran are fully aware that what is currently going on is, in fact, a total war against their very existence. They also know there is no difference between civilians, soldiers, and [they add] our Commander in Chief (Seyyed Ali Khamenei). Should one, two, or more nuclear bombs be added to the United States’ repertoire of its pressure levers in its ongoing total war against Iran, unlike the Japanese, the ordinary devout Shi’as in Iran (who are quite significant in number), from all levels of the society, are not going to be sitting around philosophizing, musing, and theorizing about whether or not the total war against them was justified, where all the moralists have gone, or play the role of an obedient house servant. Furthermore, they are not going to enter into a shock & awe state, not knowing what to do. Bihawl’lallah wa Quwwatah (By God’s Power and Might), they will, however, make sure that will not end the bloodshed; rather, it will begin a very effective and exact bloodshed. From my reading of the population here, I can bet my life on that. Can the US, holding tight and fast to its nuclear Trump card, be equally sure of its own bet? If yes, Bismillah.

Mansoureh Tajik lives in Alborz Province in Iran. She has a background in teaching and research in the areas of community and environmental health, environmental justice, and media literacy. She collaborates with various local community members, groups, and organizations to provide support in addressing health and environmental problems, sustainable agriculture, and in design, implementation, and evaluation of relevant improvement projects.

References

1. Thomas Donnelly, Donald Kagan, and Gary Schmitt (2000). “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New American Century,” A Report of The Project for the New American Century, September 2000. Accessed on 7/9/2019; Available online at: https://archive.org/details/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.

2. Fotios Moustakis & Rudra Chaudhuri (2006). “Counting the Cost of an American Unilateralist Policy: a Superpower at Risk?” Published By: Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, Conflict Studies Research Centre, Special Series, 06/43. ISBN 1-905058-88-8, August 2006, UK.

3. Jan Nijman (1992). “The Limits of Superpower: The United States and the Soviet Union since World War II.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 82, No. 4 (Dec., 1992), Pages 681-695. Published by Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Association of American Geographers.

4. Steven Russell (1991). “The US Currency System: A Historical Perspective.” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, September/October 1991. Accessed on 7/9/2019; Available Online at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c909/a844511a78720c5d2800170c06109d797fde.pdf

5. Ricardo J. Caballero, Emmanuel Farhi, and Mohamad L. Hammour (2006). “Speculative Growth: Hints from the U.S. Economy.” The American Economic Review,” Vol. 96, No. 4, Pages 1159-1192.

6. Nathan Perry (2014). Debt and Deficits: Economic and Political Issues. A GDAE Teaching Module on Social and Environmental Issues in Economics. Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University, Medford, MA.

7. The Manhattan Engineer District Report (1946). The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Manhattan Engineer District of the United States Army under the direction of Major General Leslie R. Groves on June 29, 1946. Accessed on 7/25/2019; Available Online at: https://www.abomb1.org/hiroshim/hiro_med.pdf

8. Office of Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) Chief Financial Officer (Feb. 2018). Defense Budget Overview, Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request. Generated on 2018Feb02. Ref. ID: A-6E677F4. Accessed on 7/25/2019; Available Online at: https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/FY2019-Budget-Request-Overview-Book.pdf

9. Sarah N Pedigo (2016). “United States Interventions: Power Vacuums and the Rise of Extremist Groups.” Master of Arts (MA) Thesis, Sociology/Criminal Justice, Old Dominion University, DOI: 10.25777/86pc-ex82 Available Online at: https://digitalcommons.odu.edu/sociology_criminaljustice_etds/6

10. Zahra Aghamohammadi1 and Ali Omidi (2018). The Prospect of the United States and Saudi Arabia’s Relations In Light of the Khashoggi Murder. Journal of World Sociopolitical Studies, Vol. 2, No. 4, October 2018, Pages 605-632.

11. Congressional Research Service (2019). “The U.S. Export Control System and the Export Control Reform Initiative,” Updated April 5, 2019. R41916· VERSION 49.

12. Sebastian Kaempf (2019). “A relationship of mutual exploitation’: the evolving ties between the Pentagon, Hollywood, and the commercial gaming sector.” Journal of Social Identities, Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, 25:4, 542-558, DOI: 10.1080/13504630.2018.1514151.

13. Official Death Reports, Autopsies and Other Reports of the Davidian Dead. Accessed on 7/26/2019; Available Online at: http://www.holocausts.org/waco/death/reports/county-list.html

14. Timoty Lynch (2001). “No Confidence: An Unofficial Account of the Waco Incident”. Policy Analysis, No. 395, April 9, 2001, Pages 1-18.

15. Linder, Douglas (2007). The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Trial of Timothy McVeigh, University of Missouri at Kansas City – School of Law, Posted on Nov. 17, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1030565 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1030565.

16. Robbert Kappel (2015). “Global Power Shifts and Challenges for the Global Order.” German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, Policy Paper 2/2015.

17. Saxon White Kessinger (1959). “Indispensable Man.” Available Online at: http://www.appleseeds.org/indispen-man_saxon.htm.

18. Hossein Razmjoo (1366 H.S.). “Modarres and His Principle Non-Equilibrium in Politics.” Meshkaat, The Center for Computerized Research in Islamic Sciences, Dr. Shariati College of Literature and Humanities. Original in Farsi, Translated by the author.

19. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (English Version). Available Online at: https://www.wipo.int/edocs/lexdocs/laws/en/ir/ir001en.pdf

20. US Debt Clock. Accessed on 7/26/2019; Available Online at: https://www.usdebtclock.org/

21. Kimberly Amadeo (2019). “Who Owns the US National Debt? The Biggest Owner is You!” The Balance. Accessed 7/26/2019; Available Online at: https://www.thebalance.com/who-owns-the-u-s-national-debt-3306124

22. Muhammad Baqer Majlisi (1403 HQ). Translation, by the author, of a portion of Narration (Hadith):

ان لَم یَکُن لَکُم دینٌ و کُنتُم لاتَخافونَ المَعادَ فَکونوا اَحراراً فِی دُنیاکُم

from Bihar ul-Anwar, 2nd Edition, Vol. 45, Page 51.

23. Ingvild Borgen Gjerde, DNB Markets (2019). “Why China will not sell its US Treasuries.” The Note, Market Matters, 15.05.2019. DNB Markets, a division of DNB Bank ASA. DNB Bank ASA is a part of the DNB Group.

Yellow Vests: The undercover cop scandal that the Macron regime tries to cover up

Via The Saker

July 07, 2019

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During the near 8 months (at the time of writing) that the French Yellow Vests (Gilets Jaunes) have been demonstrating nationwide I have written two articles (part 1 is here, part 2 is here) based on my own primary research that aimed to offer an insight into what is actually going on, since the mainstream, neoliberal media is either deliberately boycotting the topic or mentions it very briefly and in a heavily biased (pro-Macron) way. Part 3 in this series is on the way – I will publish it after July 14th (Bastille Day), but in this article I want to talk about a serious incident that happened during Act 34 (July 6th) in Paris – an incident that, of course, the French government and Brussels will try to hush up as much as possible.

Let’s start the timeline at 18:00 in the evening. The Yellow Vests have just completed their 9km – from Place de la République to Place de Catalogne -sanctioned demonstration (my videos and photos can be found here). They then travel by metro back to Place de la République (hereon in – PdlR) for a sanctioned evening gathering. At this time some feminist protest is already ongoing, and CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité) start to become nervous that the arriving Yellow Vests, being the “terrorists” that the mainstream media portrays them to be, might disrupt proceedings.

There is another reason why CRS are nervous: it should be noted that the few yellow vests that can be seen in the video above have nothing to do with the actual Yellow Vests movement. They, in fact, are the groupies of a Macron collaborator named Sophie Tissier, who deliberately registers a “Gilets Jaunes” protest with the police prefecture for every Saturday for the purpose of dividing the movement and preventing the formation of one large column. She espouses liberal values (as can be seen in the video above; she is the shaven-headed woman holding a sign saying “Anti-patriarchy”) and as a result is booed and jeered by the actual Yellow Vests every time she’s spotted. Thankfully, her joke gatherings now only attract 20 naïve individuals at most. However, that is 20 unhappy citizens who could, and should, be a part of the main Yellow Vests column, so in this sense Tissier can still declare a victory. Also present at this event is Muriel Robin – an ultra-liberal pro-Macron French personality. Inevitably, she enters into a verbal skirmish with an actual Yellow Vest (take note of the presence of men wearing baseballs caps and sunglasses):

After around 10 minutes, the feminist event starts to come to an end, but amongst the Yellow Vests a shout of “medic” can be heard. Two “street medics” (Yellow Vests who have some first aid skills) respond to the call and start to head towards the northern corner of the square. The earliest footage of the scene (the videos below this paragraph) shows this same Yellow Vest (named Wesson) – enraged and with a bleeding mouth – explaining to the independent journalist Amar Taoualit that a police officer wearing civilian clothes, possibly from the Brigade anti-criminalité, without any identification insignia, has just punched him without any motive. At this moment all the Yellow Vests start to head towards the crime scene, which is surrounded by gendarmes, and learn very quickly that a cop has committed another unprovoked act of aggression against a Yellow Vest. A barrage of insults is launched towards a circle of gendarmes who are stood on the corner of the square seemingly protecting someone.

Here are screenshots from the first of the two videos above showing the person who the gendarmes are protecting, even going as far as trying to obstruct the view of the camera:

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After 5 or so minutes these same gendarmes start to head southward down the square, but in a very agitated way. The Yellow Vests follow them:

In the video above we can see on the left-hand side the same circle of gendarmes walking with the same mysterious person in civilian clothes. Here is a better angle:

After reaching the Southern end of the square, the gendarmes form a line, and the Yellow Vests hurl insults at them. Wesson, the Yellow Vest who was assaulted, talks to other Yellow Vests and explains what happened to a crowd (3:24 onwards in the video below). Suddenly there is a shout “it’s them!” – attention is focused on three persons dressed in civilian clothes. The Yellow Vests start to pursue them, and the latter flee towards the police column on the Eastern side of the square, where an unmarked police car awaits them. One of the men enters the unmarked car, but not without Wesson giving him some abuse before he flees, and the other two hide behind gendarmes. The Yellow Vests try to approach the two other mysterious men but are prevented by the gendarmes. About 4 CRS vans arrive to the Northern part of the square and gendarmes push the Yellow Vests backwards, away from the two men. In the ensuing chaos Wesson suddenly goes to the floor. “Street medics” attend to him whilst the anger starts to mount. Prominent Yellow Vest Faouzi Lellouche explains (at 35:09 onwards) that inside the unmarked police car he saw that there were already other cops wearing balaclavas inside. The following video shows everything I described in this paragraph (the pursuit begins at 6:24):

After around 15 minutes, Wesson is taken to the accident & emergency department of the local hospital, and the gendarmes re-enter their vans and disappear – they obviously understood that hanging around any longer wasn’t a good idea and would inevitably result in clashes. And that’s how things ended, with the Parisian Yellow Vests quite shocked at what happened.

At around 9pm Wesson starts a Facebook live broadcast from outside the hospital, where he waiting for his turn to be treated. His mouth is visibly inflated and he says that he is sore, and that he doesn’t know if any of his teeth are broken but they hurt nevertheless. However, one hour later Wesson will delete his Facebook video due to a desire to make another one the following day that is much more precise vis-à-vis what happened on July 6th, since wild speculation had started to spread on social networks.

Here is a summary of his testimony video:

  • In the presence of Muriel Robin, Wesson asked a journalist why they don’t report about police violence against female Yellow Vests. After a brief discussion (which can be seen in the video towards the top of this article), Wesson left;
  • Wesson then departed towards the “Franprix” shop to buy a drink. A guy in civilian clothes squared up to him and offered to have a fight. A surprised Wesson accepted, after which he was punched in the face by the reinforced-glove-wearing man in civilian clothes.
  • He doesn’t know for sure if the guy in civilian clothes was a police officer or whether he is some bodyguard. Wesson says that the aggressor presented some kind of ID card to the cops who arrived at the scene and was thus recognised as being a friendly. An unmarked police car with balaclava-wearing men inside came to collect the civilian-clothes-wearing men in any case.
  • He fell to the floor because he had an epileptic episode.
  • A complaint will be filed with the police on July 8th.
  • He says that other Yellow Vests who witnessed the incident have given the same testimony on camera (I myself listened to two people who were present during the attack explain what happened, and they both affirmed the same thing – Wesson was attacked by the guy in the navy blue “NY” hat).

Conclusion

Those who are familiar with the scandals surrounding Emmanuel Macron will be familiar with the Benalla affair – when a police officer that is very close to Macron violated the law and beat up a May Day protestor – and may draw parallels with the incident described in this article.

In truth, I would argue that the attack on Wesson is worse since it was not in the framework of anything even resembling a police operation. However, there are still open questions, such as: why are the same guys in civilian clothes who the gendarmes protect after the attack also seen in the Muriel Robin video, seemingly acting as her security?

Example A-1 (look at the guy on the left in the blue hat)

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Example A-2 (look at the guy on the left in the blue hat)

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Example B-1 (look at the guy in the middle in plainclothes)

Ollie's MacBook:Users:O-RICH:Downloads:Screenshots:Screenshot 2019-07-07 at 18.20.57.pngExample B-2 (look at the guy on the right in the baseball cap, with his back turned to the camera)

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It’s a categorical fact that the two plainclothes guys seen in these photos are the same ones who were fulfilling some kind of security role for Muriel Robin and who were exfiltrated from PldR by the gendarmes. In the Muriel Robin video she is seen speaking to the guy in the darker blue baseball cap and pointing to Wesson. Some have claimed that over a good speaker system she can be heard saying “Virer le gilet jaune” (sort out the yellow vest), but I cannot confirm this since at the time of writing I don’t have access to such technology. In any case, it all looks very suspicious: Wesson was attacked within 10 minutes of his verbal spar with Muriel Robin.

However, it’s difficult to prove that Muriel Robin is responsible for the attack. What’s most important is that someone who looks and behaves like a plainclothes police or high-security officer (and recognised as such by overt gendarmes) attacked a civilian and is given an escort by gendarmes, and even evacuated by an unmarked police car with men wearing balaclavas inside.

Naturally, there is absolutely nothing about this incident in the French press. I stress: absolutely nothing. In fact, if one just relies on the usual mainstream propagandists for “information”, then apparently the Yellow Vests don’t even exist anymore. I remember very well how they were howling about Christophe Dettinger – who defended a woman (according to her own testimony) against police aggression – and presented him as a terrorist.

Of course, they deliberately omitted to highlight what happened before he repelled the cops – the police gassed Dettinger in the face and recklessly threw grenades into the crowd.

Concerning the Benalla case, he is still a free man and has incurred zero punishment. There is a fake “investigation” that Macron will probably drag out for as long as is needed, but nobody with any experience living under a neoliberal regime expects there to be any kind of justice.

Christophe Dettinger? He was given a 1-year jail sentence within the same month he was detained, the online fundraiser launched in his name was halted and the funds frozen, and the regime launched a police fundraiser as a weapon of psychological warfare against the Yellow Vests. Not to mention the fates of the hundreds of Yellow Vests who have been arbitrarily jailed just for the fact that they dared to resist against Macron’s socio-economic genocide, and the dozens of Yellow Vests who protested peacefully but were mutilated by the police and denied of any livelihood. No, there is no justice for them, because as we should know by now: there is one rule for us, and another for them. You didn’t pay your tax? Go to jail! Meanwhile, the regime’s offshore accounts continue to fatten up at he expense of the already impoverished poor.

July 6th 2019 – the day a plainclothes law enforcement employee – not wearing any identification number, or any insignia at all in fact, which is a violation of the law – assaulted a Yellow Vest, and uniformed law enforcement – also not wearing any identification numbers, which is also a violation of the law – protected the assailant. I think even the Milice Française would blush at such a level of impunity.

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Freedom and Other Illusions: American culture as illusory myth

October 08, 2018

by David A. Powell for The Saker Blog

Part 1 of 3 parts

As I began writing this essay, my first thoughts went something like this: I could attempt to write something on the illusion of freedom; on the reasons that this illusion is far worse than an actual absence of freedom. But who would understand me? Who knows today the state which is furthest away from an absence of freedom? … the one Alexander Solzhenitsyn describes in the following terms:

“It is a good thing to think in prison, but it is not bad in camp either. Because, and this is the main thing, there are no meetings. For ten years you are free from all kinds of meetings! Is that not mountain air? While they openly claim your labor and your body, to the point of exhaustion and even death, the camp keepers do not encroach at all on your thoughts. They do not try to screw down your brains and to fasten them in place. And this results in a sensation of freedom of much greater magnitude than the freedom of one’s feet to run along on the level.

No one tries to persuade you to apply for Party membership. No one comes around to squeeze membership dues out of you in voluntary societies. There is no trade union – the same kind of protector of your interests as an official lawyer before a tribunal. And there are no ‘production meetings.’ You cannot be elected to any position. You cannot be appointed some kind of delegate. And the really important thing is … that they cannot compel you to be a propagandist.”

(From: The Gulag Archipelago (Vol. II); Part IV: “The Soul and Barbed Wire”; Chapter 1, “The Ascent”.)

I’d venture to say that few presently know this kind of freedom – that is, outside of those finding themselves still living under one or another of the now antiquated forms of outward repression resembling the one which sent Solzhenitsyn to the Gulag.

For those who live in relative comfort outside of an actual prison in their “Free Country / Free World” there are few immediate reasons to be concerned about an outer “absence of freedom” of the kind experienced by Solzhenitsyn in the Gulag; but even less reason to be seriously concerned about the direct opposite of an outer “absence of freedom” – Solzhenitsyn’s sensation of a freedom “of [a] much greater magnitude than the freedom of one’s feet to run along on the level.”

There are far too many things to be built; mouths to be given birth to and fed; appointments to be kept; deadlines to be met; causes to be served; wrongs to be made right; Evil Empires to be established / dismantled by The Forces of Good; and last but not least, worlds to be bettered. All of these things can only be accomplished by running like crazy with one’s feet “on the level” as opposed to what Solzhenitsyn describes as an “ascent”; the direct antithesis of a slogan such as, “The result is what counts!” (a slogan later introduced and explored at some length in Solzhenitsyn’s chapter).

Nevertheless, what Solzhenitsyn pinpoints as thinking (and it might be added: along with education = learning to think) … thinking only gets in the way of what must be ACTED UPON (Period). And everyone living under the spell of our “Free Country / Free World” concept unmistakably understands this – and only this.

This is American culture in the proverbial nutshell: a practical, utilitarian, materialist culture to the core from beginning to end; a culture foremost of action, ambition and initiative; an ever-dynamic wonder of “progress” as little inclined to look forward as it could ever imagine looking backward; a one-way fast lane to the paramount goal of success (and now that the moral dimension has disappeared from the map, often a notion of success at any and all costs).

Success (preeminently of the material kind) – along with an almost exclusive reliance upon what only action-in-the-world-as-it-is can give us – are two of the primary notions which have informed and defined American culture since its beginnings. Notions such as these – almost the moment they go unchallenged – become cultural myths amounting to what might as well be described as articles of religious belief; when they remain invisible; become unthinking reflexes; are taken as natural, unchanging “facts” like the sky above and the ground beneath us; when they are seen as “just the way things are.”

Americans have never really existed outside of what amounts to an invisible, all-inclusive, all-encompassing prison without walls – the outlines of which I have attempted sketch above; what American culture adamately calls “freedom” – but one remaining, in any event, a concept which can be just as well described as an “illusion of freedom.”

… yes, in spite of people like Henry David Thoreau or Herman Melville, author of The Confidence Man – one of the most universally famous, widely read novels in all of literature (excuse my irony) … Thoreau? Melville? … do these names still ring any bells? … I honestly no longer know because during my high school days in the mid-1960’s, I remember reading Thoreau as an extracurricular project (and, yes, I still have the Modern Library edition of Thoreau’s work which I read in my late ‘teens … and I continue to read from it to this day every time I need a barrel of arctic water poured over my brain; a great way to get snapped back into the Real World whenever one begins to have the feeling that one is losing touch with it).

Or Lincoln, the great contemporary of Thoreau and Melville: “We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” (From: Abraham Lincoln, “Annual Message to Congress – Concluding Remarks”; December 1, 1862.) http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/congress.htm

enthrall (1) : To hold in or reduce to slavery (2) : To hold spellbound : charm.

disenthrall : To free from a controlling force or influence.

No writer that I know of has laid out the role of myth within a culture with more clarity and concision than former philosophy professor John Kozy:

“Those who use Internet media to rightly point out the lies and misdeeds of both the government and the propaganda press are indefatigable in their efforts, having, it seems, adopted the maxim that says the truth will set us free. But it won’t! It never has! It never will! The claim is a legendary lie. Too few people care enough about truth for it to matter. Common people are too busy fulfilling instinctive tasks such as acquiring sustenance, shelter, and reproducing to trouble themselves with esoteric questions. So, as any social critic knows, critical efforts fall on deaf ears and blind eyes. The truth, when brought to light, is merely ignored.

In fact, no culture was ever created to discover and disseminate truth. None exists for that purpose today. A culture exists to promote a group’s existence. Cultures are instruments of preservation. Cultures are defined by myths. Unless a culture’s myths are known, its nature cannot be understood.

The myths, although obviously false, are often considered as historical truths, and a culture’s institutions are used to inculcate them. Once inculcated in the minds of people, the myths are almost impossible to expunge. Ears are deafened and eyes are blinded. The social critic is neither heard nor seen. The culture uses its ability to ignore the social critic as a defensive tactic. Ignorance defends the culture, and the culture’s educational institutions promote the ignorance. The institution cannot be divorced form its culture. In any culture, truth is something to be avoided and kept hidden.”

(From: “What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men” http://www.globalresearch.ca/what-evil-lurks-in-the-hearts-of-men/5418308 / http://www.jkozy.com

http://www.jkozy.com/JOHN%20KOZY%20(2017)%20-%20COLLECTED%20WORKS.pdf

There exists – at least, for this writer – far more “truth” in what Kozy writes above than in what all the well-meaning people now endlessly preach to the “already-converted.” As it always was, to “tell the truth” is now synonymous with being ignored; being seen as non-existent. It would appear to be a far more logical strategy to attempt a revolution in thinking which removes the foundations from the cultural myths which do nothing but enslave us; a thought revolutionin the direction of learning to think – that is, in contrast to the usual indoctrination into whatever happens to be momentarily conceived as “correct” thinking and conduct from either the “progressive” or “regressive” viewpoint – it matters not which one.

Genuine education, when understood as “learning to think,” is never something which exclusively depends on better school funding; or, remains only threatened by excessive educational costs. To an equal degree, genuine education also does not necessarily depend upon actually attending a school, or getting an official certification that one is “educated” from a school (a “truth” which Mark Twain was rather fond of pointing out). Independent thinking (thoughtitself) is closely related to what Albert Camus described in his 1957 address “Create Dangerously” as the aim of art: “The aim of art … is not to legislate or to reign supreme, but rather to understand first of all.” It’s a “free agent” with few commitments to anything outside of getting to the bottom of and ultimately understanding unconditionallywhatever it is occupied with quite independent of how one arrives at this understanding; a position which is potentially dangerous for every social / political / economic position in our world of the present; the sole reason Camus used the word “dangerously” in the title of his address to begin with.

Whether “regressive”, “progressive” – or whatever falls in between – practically every viewpoint of the present is primarily interested in “education” only to the extent that it can be made to fit whatever ideological agenda is to be served – while avoiding to lead anyone along the path of the desperately feared “utopian folly” of independent thought (or, “What if those insane pie-in-the-sky ideas actually work? … then, we’re in really big trouble…”).

In light of the above, therefore, most of what goes on in what’s left of public life concerning “education” might accurately be described in these terms: (1) cost cutting and raising for institutional “education” (2) the shedding of crocodile tears over the obvious fact that “no one is ‘educated’ any more because the power elite planned it that way” (for all of which, naturally, there exists more than enough evidence); and typified by the progressive mantra of guarding against losing our so-called “freedoms” and saving “independent media,” etc. (… an unceasing, hypnotic back and forth motion ending with the trance-like, totally paralyzing “increased awareness of what’s happening around us” to which we’re subjected over and over and over with no end in sight).

Essentially, we live in a world where “evil” is fighting “evil” – an image, to the contrary, which our present world would tend to prefer imagining as either existing within some historically removed “Biblical Land of Theology and Superstition”; or, conversely, within the usual futuristic Star Wars scenario “somewhere out there in outer space”; but one simply meaning (in the mundane, everyday reality back on the earth of our present) that the progressive and regressive amount to little outside the reverse sides of the same materialist coin. Add all of this to the fact that the majority mainly wants something which makes its life better and – above all else – easier and more convenient (not to mention cooler) in an almost exclusively material sense. Truly independent thinking, though, very rarely does any of the above; and in most cases accomplishes just the opposite in terms of socially-sanctified “results that count”.

Independent thinking, in the final analysis, might possibly be “good” for a least one thing: being able to live with oneself. Otherwise, it’s a damned bad idea if one wants to live in the same company of those around one in the present world we inhabit. If one makes too many waves in our world of the present (i.e., doesn’t think the “right” socially-culturally prescribed thoughts belonging to everyone else but especially the person standing right next to you), one can quickly end up in a situation where one basically no longer exists in the eyes of others – unless, of course, one has built up around oneself a group of like-minded Others or has joined an already existing group. But if groups are not one’s thing, one had better have at least one true friend or a sympathetic family member or two because otherwise – especially if one finds it impossible to engage in anything outside of independent thought – one is more or less on one’s own.

At this point it has occurred to me that it might be a good idea to pause and excuse myself for repeatedly using expressions such as “our world of the present” (i.e., any formulation where the word “present” is employed). This is due to the fact that throughout my writing here, I’ve found it impossible to get Søren Kierkegaard’s 1846 essay “The Present Age” – something I’ve known and loved for my entire adult life – for a single moment out of my mind. Written long before many of our specifically “local” concerns of the present (there it is again!) were imagined by the mainstream, Kierkegaard painted a portrait of our present revolutionary age – as opposed to a passionate age of revolt – with devastating accuracy:

“A passionate, tumultuous age will overthrow everything, pull everything down; but a revolutionary age, that is at the same time reflective and passionless, transforms that expression of strength into a feat of dialectics: it leaves everything standing but cunningly empties it of significance. Instead of culminating in a rebellion it reduces the inward reality of all relationships to a reflective tension which makes the whole of life ambiguous: so that everything continues to exist factually whilst by a dialectical deceit, privatissime, it supplies a secret interpretation  that it does not exist.

(From: Søren Kierkegaard, “The Present Age”, translated by Alexander Dru.)

Certainly, the practice of official (or, in our time, clandestine) censorship of books, etc. is not a great thing. But compared with what transpires on a minute-by-minute basis within the so-called private spheres of a thoroughly conformist world such as ours, the now relatively outworn practice of the censorship of objects such as books almost pales to insignicance.

In light of the above, then, I can’t avoid the conclusion that it might be more productive to concern ourselves with something which decisively defines, in the end, our current state: the rigidly self maintained stranglehold of never leaving the invisible, closed circle endlessly rotating around the single point defined by our very own special, exclusive brand of materialist belief. We never get beyond the age-old straightjacket of “freely choosing” to exist within a worldview which elevates socially mandated, group-approved and group-controlled material “results that count” to what amounts to an inviolable Natural Law … those material results which always have to exist before we can think about anything which does not originate in and translate back into literally the same terms; namely, exclusively political / economic terms – the only terms which appear to be operative in our present reality; the ultimate reason why an illusory freedom is far worse than an absence of “the freedom of one’s feet to run along on the level”.

What might ligitimately be called non-illusory freedom just might amount, therefore, to finally going in a direction never gone in up to the present point in time – one directly contrary to the “human nature” which we have always, as a species, unquestionably obeyed above all other authorities. I’d like to think that this is what Lincoln meant when he said that we must disenthrall ourselves … not in the first instance from some evil dictator or system … but from ourselves in order to finally save ourselves along with our very best notions of what freedom, in reality, amounts to. Within the entirely new space which would be established by this kind disenthrallment, evil dictators and systems would cease to have a home – even before they had the chance to appear in the first place.

The artist and philosopher Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935) had what still stands as an (art) historically unprecedented view of non-illusory freedom; one which perfectly mirrors in certain ways Lincoln’s notion of disenthrallment (including, in addition, some of what I’ve already written about above). Quite predictably, however, the “new space of freedom” Malevich has revealed, has made him into the most consistently misunderstood and neglected indispensable thinker and artist in his own time as well as ours – entirely independent, naturally, of the fact that “Malevich” is now a famous “brand-name” in art (along with Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Picasso, and all the rest).

To express the matter in the most direct manner possible: Malevich has now been reduced to an artist and philosopher “understood” and interpreted in a specious and often outright mistaken sense; one which attempts to force the thought and art of Malevich into the mould of a characteristically American notion of “abstract art” lying in the opposite direction relative to Malevich’s actual thought (but none of this “Americanization” is at all new since it dates at least back to year 1945 – when America ‘won’ the war, dropped The Bomb, and took over everything which couldn’t be smuggled into some kind of secret hiding place unknown to the CIA).

I’m writing this about what essentially amounts to the suppression and censorship of Malevich’s profoundly anti-materialist thought and art because it should be kept in mind when one reads parts of the following sections of this essay in which I touch upon Malevich’s thoughts along with a number of related themes which expand upon what I have written above.

What follows are three thought-examples from different Malevich texts which go in the opposite direction away from the currently prevailing “mainstream ‘art’ and ‘world culture’ narratives”:

“What is the ideology of Art, my point of view on Art is that Art has no ideology, no idea, not even an image and if anyone finds ideologies in Art, he is first of all finding elements of an ideology that is imposed on Art and the Artist.”

(From: Kazimir Malevich in what is now called “Autograph Manuscript 2”, dating from Malevich’s 1927 stay in Berlin and published for the first time in: Kazimir Malevich, The World as Objectlessness; Kunstmuseum Basil, 2014).

https://www.abebooks.com/9783775737319/Kazimir-Malevich-World-Objectlessness-Simon-3775737316/plp

“The influence of economic, political, religious, and utilitarian phenomena on art is the disease of art.”

“Throughout the world the dictatorship of speculators in pursuit of profit has disfigured life, thus destroying art. Artistic culture has been replaced by speculation; but the new art, architecture, and painting of today is an indication that we are on the threshold of a great new classical age in art. Our contemporaries must understand that life will not be the content of art, but rather that art must become the content of life, since only thus can life be beautiful.”

(From: Kazimir Malevich, “Painting and the Problem of Architecture”, 1928; trans. Xenia Glowacki-Prus; from: K. S. Malevich, Essays on art – 1915-1933, ed. Troels Andersen; Copenhagen, 1968.)

“The shell on sensations grew and hid the creature that neither comprehension nor imagination can picture. Therefore, it seems to me that Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian and others are that beautiful shell, the body, behind which the public cannot see the essence of the sensations of Art. If these sensations were to be taken out of the frames of the body, the public would not recognize them. Therefore the public accepts the depiction for the image of the essence hidden within it, which has no resemblence to the depiction. The face of the hidden essence of sensations can be completely contradictory to the depiction, if of course it is completely faceless, objectless.”

(From Kazimir Malevich: “Suprematism”; from: The World as Objectlessness, 1927; Kunstmuseum Basil; Hatje Kantz, 2014, p. 189.)

Malevich is writing in this last quote about the shell-like “surface” of illusion-based, “realistic” visual art … but which in the meantime is now embodied, as well, by “realism”-saturated digital photos, “realism”-saturated digital films and videos (commercial and / or otherwise) along with all the other “realism”-saturated digital stuff which now practically defines the Web – since it all amounts to one big happy “realism”-saturated communal world-wide family which everyone and their pet canary takes entirely for granted due to illusionistic images of hollow “life masks” (even when pure cartoon fantasy) having become – virtually in every sense of the word – the only means by which we now orient ourselves to and within what we imagine as our FREELY CHOSEN outer and “inner” worlds; the “realism”-saturated digital depiction of our entire universe having now more or less taken over as the primary survival / sense-making tool we possess as a species.

In Malevich’s terms, these illusory projections of material “reality” – these illusionistic “shells” which only obscure instead of revealing what actually sustains us as humans; these shell-like surfaces hide the objectless, faceless face of art; i.e., “the sensations of Art”. Therefore, we can only begin to talk about what Malevich really meant in the above passage when we finally confront art as opposed to our illusory culture – one which may be seen as a “mask” concealing a great many things, ideas and objects in our culture – but nevertheless a culture in which Malevich’s objectless, faceless face of art will never be found in the cultural mainstream.

Or … does anyone ever wonder why it’s the case in Malevich’s late paintings (if one is acquainted with them) that Malevich’s human figures often totally lack faces? (OK … I’ve just given out – entirely free of charge – a significant hint in the direction of addressing this question).

Stated differently: one can print Malevich’s iconic “Black Quadrat” on a T-shirt – and one can even comfortably wear it. But within the frame of the world which has produced our culture of Material-Reality-As-It-Is-And-Nothing-Beyond – it’s virtually impossible to do what the principles of Malevich’s faceless face of Art demand of us in completely unambiguous terms: the total reversal of the object-worship embodied by the obsessive invention of narcissistic cultural fairy-tales – one which, for quite some time now, has progressively cut off the life-blood of the world we inhabit.

Ask nearly anyone randomly encountered in a public place and one will very likely learn what art in our culture now amounts to: above all else, “art” designates the popularly conceived greater-than-average manual skill for rendering – almost exclusively – the surface appearances of our world (i.e., in order to take the viewer / consumer on an effortless vacation / entertainment trip to a place the viewer / consumer already knows and just loves more than anything else to revisit time and time again) … and if one falls into the category of what is commonly considered to comprise “being a ‘good’ artist”, one can render surface appearances in a proficient manner; but if one can’t render surface appearances in a proficienct manner … well, one is judged to be “not such a ‘good’ artist” … End of Story … or, “Yes, yes … your ‘abstract’ pictures are really – well … REALLY NICE … but tell me if you don’t mind … did you – you know – ever learn how todraw?

On the one hand, therefore, “art” has been reduced to (1) nothing other than the elevation of learned craft; the strictly technically oriented over what Malevich has called the hidden essence of art – “the depiction [of] the image … which has no resemblence to the depiction”… in other words, what has been raised to the level of an cultural orthodoxy amounting to a total capitulation to the world of Material-Reality-As-It-Is-And-Nothing-Beyond; an enslavement to the (professionally well-made) illusionistic surface appearances of this world. (2) On the other hand, “serious art” has undergone the fatal reduction to “culture”; what composer Morton Feldman meant when he stated in 1976:

The big problem is that we have to differentiate too between culture and art. Art is done just by a few people. Culture is the manifestation. Publishers, students, teachers is culture. I’m a volunteer of culture, not art. And one of the things about culture, and I feel the young people are more aligned to culture, which again is society, than they are to the other things. Because in culture one has to have the illusion that one understands. You see? […]

That is not communication. Communication is what I have in my music, with myself. Do you know what communication is for me? Communication is when people don’t understand each other. That’s what communication is. Because then there is a consciousness level that is being brought out of you, where an effort is made.

[…] you’re not supposed to understand art. You are supposed to understand culture … and culture is just a department store which allows you to go and take what you want, if you can afford it.”

(From: “Conversation Between Morton Feldman and Walter Zimmermann” http://www.cnvill.net/mfzimmr.htm)

——-
About the author: David A. Powell is an American artist living in Germany since 1990. In addition to having a lifelong, ongoing involvement and fascination with the most radically unpopular ideas and concepts capable of being imagined by anyone, he has a degree in art history and literature and – along a number of other occupations and activities throughout his life – has also exhibited his paintings (in Germany, at least).

David A. Powell – Untitled (1969-2018) / Pastel on paper / 45×60 cm

Freedom and Other Illusions: Further excursions into what used to be called “high versus low culture”

Freedom and Other Illusions: Further excursions into what used to be called “high versus low culture”

October 19, 2018

Freedom and Other Illusions – Further excursions into what used to be called “high versus low culture”
(or, further illusions concerning American art & the Medium / et cetera) 
With a concluding Postscript

by David A. Powell for The Saker Blog

Part 3 of 3 parts

” ‘Genius is only seen in those who are successful…’ an anonymous author announced in the [American art publication] Art Amateur (1896). This criterion conditioned the self-concept of the modern artist in the USA to the same extent that it did for the artist’s contemporaries in the economic branches. This motto, which understands success as the legitimation and ultimate proof of quality, and which advanced to a maxim for action for the artist during this time, lends Andy Warhol’s device ‘Success is a job in New York’ an art historical echo and relates to the methods of self-marketing of American art protagonists of the present like an overture. This attitude indicated that the pronounced market orientation of the American art scene, whose consume-oriented standards in the late 19th century also now dominate the European cultural situation, have ideological roots which reach considerably further back historically than the postwar period after 1945, where the art historical beginnings of the Americanization of the art world are usually located.” (my translation)

(From: Ursula Frohne, Maler und Millionäre – Erfolg als Inszenierung: Der amerikanische Künstler seit dem ausgehenden 19. Jahrhundert; Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 2000. (Painters and Millionaires – Success as Stage Production: The American Artist Since the Last Half of the 19th Century) *

The above proclamation, “Genius is only seen in those who are successful” could also have come – in fact, did come – albeit in the most authoritarian formulations, tones and dictatorial rants imaginable … all delivered within as well as outside his classroom lectures … straight from the mouth of my university painting professor:

(spoken in raised, oratorial tones) “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A ‘NEGLECTED’ OR UNKNOWN GENIUS PASSED OVER BY HISTORY; IT IS ALL A ROMANTIC FICTION. IF YOU ARE DOING ANYTHING IMPORTANT AS AN ARTIST, YOU WILL BE KNOWN; CONVERSELY, IF YOU ARE NOT DOING ANYTHING IMPORTANT, YOU WILL NOT BE KNOWN OR RECOGNIZED. IF YOU REMAIN UNRECOGNIZED, THIS WILL TELL YOU THAT YOU ARE DOING NOTHING IMPORTANT!

(… which is very close to being a direct quote from one of my professor’s lectures because one can never forget such ignorant assaults on the spirit.)

Concerning my former professor’s painting (which – after 47 years – I have a somewhat more comprehensive idea over than before), I can say little beyond the following: my professor’s painting lies approximately within what was known as “Pattern Painting”; otherwise, it can in the best terms be described as being not much beyond the decorative. In addition to being academic, it’s the work of a painter with a middle-of-the-road talent; but one who had the luck to live in a culture which is ready to overlook almost anything (including the lack of any special talent) as long as one devotes oneself wholeheartedly to advancing that culture’s most cherished myths about itself.

Nevertheless, all of the above remains unsettling for me to think about even after all these years (especially in light of what I’ve chosen to omit here); but which, at the same time, is full of unmistakable non-accidents which inevitably bring to my mind that Adolf Hitler was a shallow, meagerly talented painter – meticulously academic but completely mediocre – before he devoted himself to the career possibilities eventually making him “successful” far beyond anything he could have achieved with a brush. But this didn’t mean that Hitler entirely gave up “aesthetic matters” just because he couldn’t make it as a painter. No, beyond any doubt, Hitler eventually came to terms with what probably amounted to his “true creative calling” – and leading to what might be called (in an entirely neutral sense) his “artistic accomplishments” in the field of architectural planning … but only after he’d established himself as Leader and Chancellor of The German People and the German State.

In the beginning, though, Hitler didn’t have the kind of luck to be gained from living in the kind of culture which my former professor was born into – especially in 1907 and 1908 when he was rejected by the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna where there were actually competent judges doing the judging. “The institute considered that [Hitler] had more talent in architecture than in painting. One of the instructors, sympathetic to his situation and believing he had some talent, suggested that he apply to the academy’s School of Architecture. However, that would have required returning to secondary school from which he had dropped out and which he was unwilling to do.”

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paintings_by_Adolf_Hitler

Hitler’s project known as the “House of German Art” (Haus der deutschen Kunst) is considered to be one of the “leading examples” of National Socialist architecture. This museum still stands today (and very nicely restored) as the “House of Art” (Haus der Kunst) in Munich … an architectural monument communicating nothing beyond Absolute Power as conceived by National Socialism (as with the bulk of National Socialistic architecture as a whole) and bequeathed to the world by one of the greatest mass-murderers in history … a mammoth edifice of shame now magically reincarnated as a “post-modern / post-historical” cultural center for the arts (or, at least the “arts” which our world recognizes as being “arts in the service of the unchanging reality defined by our world”). Swords into Plowshares? Not quite. In a different world, Hitler’s art museum would perhaps now house something like a commemoration of every soul who perished as a result of the First and Second World Wars (and even perhaps, for good measure, one commemorating, at the same time, every irreplacable material as well as non-material thingwhich was destroyed due to these conflicts). But we don’t have such a world – and at our present rate of “progress” it promises to be a very long time before we do have one.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haus_der_Kunst

In what I’ve written about my former professor, though, I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. But bottom line is this: my former professor’s worldview – which he forcefully and tirelessly propagated – existed squarely within the time-honored tradition of promoting and advancing the American illusion of freedom I’ve attempted to describe above; that is, during the time that I knew him. My professor might possibly have changed his tune in certain ways at a later point after I knew him for all I know. But I’m far from being alone with my actual experiences of the man spanning well over 10 years (along with what I continued to learn afterward); especially through a chance encounter with another former art student at my university over 35 years after the fact; one who, a couple of years before I arrived at my school, simply dropped all of his studies and literally fled my former professor’s classes … to Germany, where he could pursue his painting studies (tuition-free) at a major art school in something far closer to “freedom” than what he’d experienced up to that point. And certainly, there were other painting students who fled my professor’s oppressive regime, as I already knew during my time in school … while for my own part, I switched my university degree from painting to art history, which I loved to a much greater degree than the officially-mandated “painting” existing within my so-called “painting school.”

Yes, it was (as it still remains) an entirely “free country”, a country living under the perennial car-bumper slogan: “America – Love It or Leave It”; or, what was told to my face on a number of occasions: “Well! … WE like it … so, what’s wrong with you?”

While practically the entire European Romantic movement in art (especially during its earlier phase) revolted against the devastating effects of rising industrial capitalism, American artists of the latter half of the 19th century took the opposite course. The strategies for success developed by the 19th century American artist, needless to say, continue to be employed down to the present; except that they have now, in the meantime, been successfully exported across the globe.

To paraphrase a recent statement from a prominent, well-known political writer: “Oh, where have all the artists of earlier times gone now that we so desperately need them to speak truth to power? Why, they have all apparently either completely lost courage or sold themselves out to the system.” Yet, what has actually happened in historical terms and led to the “loss” bemoaned by the above writer lies in an altogether different direction than our writer appears to suspect.

I’m writing about a direction which has been casually tossed into the dead-letter department of effete “anachronisms” we can’t personally “dig” let alone socially identify with and therefore prefer to remain ignorant over; all the better to remain safely insulated and divorced from; a direction which the majority – but especially journalists – seem totally incapable of ever even beginning to get their oh-so-adult-and-worldly heads around … of course, unless it exclusively has to do with something like the “news-worthy” record amount shelled out for some “priceless art object” from a big-name brush-pusher out of our dead past who no one ever thinks about or has even heard of outside how much their priceless objects go for; the only burial space apparently left for the direction meant here; the one belonging to “Art ‘per se’” and best described by Kazimir Malevich, an attitude which:

“… dares to think that Art, until now at the service of formatting religious and state ideas, will be able to build a new world of sensations and format its production in the relations that will flow from this attitude toward the world.”

(my italics; From: Kazimir Malevich, The World as Objectlessness; Kunstmuseum Basil, 2014, p. 188.)

Beyond Malevich’s simple, direct statement above, the overwhelming difference in the present moment is that everything which now transpires does so within an all-embracing, all-encompassing, all-inclusive, all-dominating totalitarian form of mass (popular) culture – yes, one which includes whatever gets classified within the wholly illusory notion of an “alternative which will set us free”; our exceedingly “innovative” yet artificial and lifeless, thoroughlymanufactured, pre-digested culture based exclusively upon and informed by the latest “cutting edge” technology; one which absolutely no Thing or Person is able to completely escape (let alone, nearly get enough of); that which directly opposes and undermines “Art ‘per se’”; one existing in the opposite universe relative to the origin of the following observation:

“Is it not astonishing that with brush bristles and chisel the artist can create great things, create what the technical sophistication of utilitarian mechanics cannot.”

(From: Kazimir Malevich, The World as Objectlessness; Kunstmuseum Basil, 2014, p. 193.)

But is NOT, as the above political writer apparently wants to imagine, only a matter of “corporate / government control and propaganda” (as amply revealed in countless examples of this political writer’s essays and verbal statements) … a writer who to all appearances still lives in a bygone age where old-fashioned tyrants such as Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini – along with latter-day descendants such as Saddam Hussein – were the last words when it came to “personified dictators.”

But how does one defeat a “dictator” who produces and supplies us with everything we know, love and draw non-material sustenance from; who we cannot put our hands on or do any sort of harm to; or challenge in any way without ripping out our own hearts at the same time; one who defines in the most basic terms our Life and Everything in it … in order that we can begin to understand our life along with “who we are” … a dictator who enslaves … only the spirit.

(“Spirit? Give me a break! Are you saying that you still believe in things like ‘the spirit’…?”

Yes, along with Karl Kraus:

The real end of the world is the destruction of the spirit; the other kind depends on the insignificant attempt to see whether after such a destruction the world can go on.“)

A further reality our above political writer seems oblivious over is virtual medial repression, one which (literally as well as in terms of “virtual reality”) calls all the shots in our world by impacting, in profoundly destructive yet unseen ways, nearly Everyone and Everything. And further still, (as if this was not enough), this destruction is even less a matter of the hoplessly old-fashioned methods employed by “propaganda” (political or otherwise). Virtual medial repression is the door to inner self-repression – the “elephant in the room” to be addressed below.

Virtual medial repression may be visualized as the primary effect our mass (popular) culture has upon us by virtue of being and remaining what amounts to “the only show in town.” It proceeds by being in the exclusive position to introduce and institutionalize (with no opposition; in fact, with universal support and approval from all quarters) the use and consumption of technology-based media in which we freely choose to overlook the fact that BY THE VERY ACT OF USING THESE MEDIA, we are radically exploited, disembodied, crippled, limited, damaged, and deformed; become fundamentally changed as humans in ways we rarely waste a single thought over.

… or, one might as well cut off one’s own legs so that one can “walk better” in the direction of the Other (the Other, who has done the same).

Inner self-repression is related to virtual medial repression in that it comes later – if only a split-second later, so to speak. Inner self-repression, the second “phase” of repression, occurs when we succumb to mass cultural repression in a personal sense by absorbing mass (popular) culture inwardly. Or, to express it in the following terms: inner self-repression begins the exact moment we begin to personally identify with and share (in a social sense) … what we otherwise have no earthly choice over; what is going to to be handed to us in any event; namely, our mass (popular) culture … whether we “like it” or not; at the expense of our inner being … and amounting to one of the most potent social sedatives (requiring no trip to one’s doctor, let alone a prescription) ever to be consumed by our species whether it was ever intended as such or not.

But perhaps it’s time to STOP … or slow down; or changes gears. I have but little doubt that what I’ve written above about being “radically exploited, disembodied, crippled, limited, damaged, and deformed; being fundamentally changed as humans” might sound a bit exaggerated to some. After all, probably a lot of us use our New Media without feeling to any special degree “disembodied, crippled, limited, damaged, and deformed.” So, what am I finally getting at?

I mean that our wonderful new digital world of the screen is based on ONE THING AND ONE THING ONLYTHE VISUAL IMAGE; the exclusively representational image which is finally as bloodlessly abstract as how it is produced in the first place.

The representational visual image (in whatever medium) is only conceivable as total abstraction in two dimensions, distilled from the appearances, forms and phenomena perceived in the world of objects and acheived through abstract means. Lines, planes, points and forms – abstractions borrowed from mathematics – are not to be found in nature. These geometrical concepts also demonstrate what should be understood as “the abstract” in terms of the visual image: a line is a series of points which define the meeting of two planes; a form is only the idea of what an object only appears on the surface to possess.

Every representational image comes about through a series of decisions over which appearance is to be included, rejected, diminished or heightened – what every visual artist knows as self-evident (including every photographer, film, and video maker). Further, this process of decision-making is thoroughly logical in nature (even when it is not fully conscious). BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of what I’m describing here is the following: what results from this process of decision-making on the part of the producer is nothing beyond an abstraction which always preserves and conveys to the viewer a direct, instinctive relation to whatever object is being represented – whether the resulting image is illusionistic, abstract-minimalistic or something in between.

OK – what in the world does my obscure-sounding phrase, “a direct, instinctive relation to the object” really mean? It means that A DIRECT CONNECTION / RELATION WITH THE OBJECT IS ALWAYS MAINTAINED whenever we act according to the instinctual, primal, automatic, (survival-based) assumption that all ABSTRACT / OBJECTLESS IMAGES must always contain systems of Hidden Meaning (private or otherwise); that they must always contain Concealed Purpose(s), and / or Intent existing somewhere in the image producer’s mind – yet removed from the normal, everyday exercise of our naked vision.

In other words, it all has to do with Things which are instinctively “felt” to be Hidden, Unfamiliar, Foreign, and Potentially Harmful, etc. – and are for these reasons alone in dire need of being uncovered, decoded and “understood” as “information” in order that we can get a handle on – and bring under safe control – the elusive image. Thus, we habitually endeavor to uncover the not-so-apparent “message” contained in whatever “Abstract Representation” we are confronted with (which might as well be something coiled-up and deadly poisonous hiding under an innocent-looking picture surface dressed up as a rock for all we know).

Or, in the opposite direction, it’s what we do when we project our own, personal and personally-favored, subjective “information” into the image in the identical way that we “see representations” in cloud formations (i.e., objects such as cows, ducks, or race cars which God obviously throws in the sky for our occasional entertainment) – and all in perfect keeping with the pseudo-democratic “freedom of the viewer” (… a “freedom” which tragically defines the end of anything resembling a living relation to a thing such as liberated art – as well as the fate of liberated art itself – within a society where freedom itself is based on wholly illusory notions of freedom).

Therefore, this process of advancing human dominance over a natural world transformed into objects may be called Abstract Representation. Since man should be seen as part of the natural world, this transformation process also amounts to the domination of Abstract Representation over human thought and sense perception, thus over the human itself.

Abstract Representation liquidates – together with the awareness of reality and the ability to perceive it free from the fundamentally illusory nature of abstract-representational images – the sheer capacity to imagine anything which would escape Abstract Representation as a whole. Finally, (to borrow a sentence from T. W. Adorno) “The process is fed by the fact that men owe their life to what is being done to them.”

Ultimately, as already mentioned, Abstract Representation (the abstract) exists as the antagonistic opposite of Malevich’s World of Objectlessness. The first is only concerned with dominating a world composed of exploitable objects; the second is a world which is set free from objects; a world liberated, in this way, from the concept of dominance (repression) itself.**

And here I have to quote John Berger (1926-2017), because he has illuminated the basis of what goes on when we turn on our screens in a way that I cannot compete with even if I had the desire to:

“Today images abound everywhere. Never has so much been depicted and watched. We have glimpses at any moment of what things look like on the other side of the planet, or the other side of the moon. Appearances registered, and transmitted with lightning speed.

Yet with this something has innocently changed. They used to be called physical appearances because they belonged to solid bodies. Now appearances are volatile. Technological innovation has made it easy to separate the apparent from the existant. And this is precisely what the present system’s mythology continually needs to exploit. It turns appearances into refractions, like mirages: refractions not of light but of appetite, in fact a single appetite, the appetite for more.

Consequently and oddly, considering the physical implications of the notion of appetite – the existant, the body, disappears. We live within a spectacle of empty clothes and unworn masks. Consider any news-reader on any television channel in any country. These speakers are the mechanical epitome of the disembodied. It took the system many years to invent them and to teach them to talk as they do.

No bodies and no Necessity – for Necessity is the condition of the existant. It is what makes reality real. And the system’s mythology requires only the not-yet-real, the virtual, the next purchase. This produces in the spectator, not, as claimed, a sense of freedom (the so-called freedom of choice) but a profound isolation.

Until recently, history, all the accounts people gave of their lives, all proverbs, fables, parables, confronted the same thing: the everlasting, fearsome, and occasionally beautiful, struggle of living with Necessity, which is the enigma of existence – that which followed from the Creation, and which subsequently has always continued to sharpen the human spirit. Necessity produces both tragedy and comedy. It is what you kiss or bang your head against.

Today, in the system’s spectacle, it exists no more. Consequently no experience is communicated. All that is left to share is the spectacle, the game that nobody plays and everybody can watch. As has never happened before, people have to try to place their own existence and their own pains single-handedly in the vast area of time and the universe.”

(From: John Berger, “Steps Toward A Small Theory of the Visible”, 2001.)

John Berger’s 1972 TV series Ways of Seeing should be seen by everyone who has not done so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnfB-pUm3eI&list=PL84995631BA422993

The book made from Ways of Seeing – and which should be on every bookshelf – is here:

https://www.abebooks.com/book-search/title/ways-of-seeing/author/john-berger/

… but in the final analysis, what Berger has written above (as well as explored in Ways of Seeing) is only the beginning of what must be considered outside of how “cool” our New Media only appear on their utililitarian and expedient surfaces.

“The Medium is the Message” – the legendary phrase coined in 1964 by Marshall McLuhan – is now universally thought to say all one needs to know when it comes to our myth of cutting edge technology … particularly embracing the area in which we’d like to think that we’re the most proficient, i.e., “communication.”

But in reality, “The Medium is the Message” is beyond all doubt one of the most misread and misused verbal phrases of the last half-century. The almost universally favored interpretation is that the Medium its own self-justification / self-advertisement; and in the end, “where all the action is”, etc. … but one actually revolving around (in the realm of wishful-thinking, at least) nothing other than the incessant mythification of the technical / technological. The Medium (The Web, digital technology, etc.; all of which McLuhan diagnosed and predicted with absolute accuracy) is imagined as possessing the magical potential to “save us” owing to the fact that it gives us such “wonderful, new possibilities we never had before.”

In any event, according to McLuhan, the belief in what the magical properties attributed to the Medium are supposed give us is not quite the case and fails to take into account how “any and all media” function (that is, if one reads what McLuhan wrote). McLuhan indeed viewed all media as “extensions of man” – but always acquired at the price of an amputation of a part of man’s being. The Medium gives while simultaneously taking away. To use McLuhan’s term, we become “intoxicated” by the sense of newly-acquired power and control the (new) Medium appears to give us. Myth, in turn, protects us from ever having to confront the realization that we’ve had anything taken away from us – least of all something which previously defined us in a human sense.

“I’ll give you everything in the world you ever wanted – and then some. All you have to do is sign this little ‘pact’ I’ve got here – but it’s nothing you need to trouble yourself over since I know that you know that you and I are the best of friends. Maybe some time we can talk about what you owe me … but in the meantime, just enjoy yourself!” (and wefall for it every time).

“In accepting an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame a few years ago, General David Sarnoff made this statement: ‘We are too prone to make technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value.’ That is the voice of the current somnambulism. Suppose we were to say, ‘Apple pie is in itself neither good nor bad; it is the way it is used that determines its value.’ Or, ‘The smallpox virus is in itself neither good nor bad; it is the way it is used that determines its value.’ Again, firearms are in themselves neither good nor bad; it is the way in which they are used that determines their value.’ That is, if the slugs reach the right people, firearms are good.’ If the TV tube fires the right ammunition at the right people, it is good.’ I am not being perverse. There is simply nothing in the Sarnoff statement that bears scrutiny, for it ignores the nature of the medium, of any and all media in the true Narcissus style of one hypnotized by the amputation and extension of his own being in a new technical form. General Sarnoff went on to explain his attitude to the technology of print, saying that it was true that print caused much trash to circulate, but it had also disseminated the Bible and the thoughts of seers and philosophers. It has never occurred to General Sarnoff that any technology could do anything but add itself on to what we already are.”

(From: Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), Chapter 1, “The Medium is the Message”, p. 11.)

Quite naturally, the old-fashioned methods of propaganda, along with sending dissidents to prison (if they’re not murdered outright), continue to exist and be used. But inner self-repression is something that we cannot ever detect on our customary screens (along with the NSA or CIA) since it was never a conscious, deliberate “method” to begin with as we usually conceive of “tools of repression.” Our present form of repression, to the contrary, has been from its beginnings the logically-consistent outcome of a new social / political / cultural reality – along with the consistent practice of never questioning our most cherished myths.

Inner self-repression, then, is the result of being immersed in a social / political / cultural system which is entirely newin historical terms – one which a “Free Country / Free World” possesses of its own nature as no other “system” has ever done … and outlined by Alexis de Tocqueville 177 years ago in an analysis which has predictably fallen on deaf ears:

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy In America (Part I, 1831); Chapter XV: Unlimited Power Of The Majority, And Its Consequences – Part I

https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/de-tocqueville/democracy-america/ch15.htm

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy In America (Part II, 1841); Book Four – Chapters VI, VII Chapter VI: What Sort Of Despotism Democratic Nations Have To Fear https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/de-tocqueville/democracy-america/ch43.htm

And anyway … why would anyone in their right mind even want to escape what’s consumed by every last friend and / or social / political group one possesses and / or belongs to? … or indeed ever hopes to possess and / or belong to? … revealing yet another (illusion-based) sleight-of-hand trick our (alterrnative) culture just loves to play on us by allowing us to indulge ourselves with the myth that we are all free because it’s … OK, because it’s completely provenby the fact that in our “Free Country / Free World” the majority enjoys “the freedom of one’s feet to run along on the level” (yes, at least this much can be said …).

Then, to make the sleight-of-hand trick even more believable, our (alternative) culture announces that we must become even more free by learning “The Secret Truth About Our Masters” … while the real secret revolves around the fact that it is actually we who are the Masters doing the primary enslaving by never thinking outside the Group(s) we belong to and / or exist within … or ever once questioning the ways in which we only imagine that we see.

… well, because it’s damned scarey outside the Group – plus highly unsafe and outright dangerous in every sense imaginable; extremely difficult to the point of impossibility; inconvenient in whatever way one wants to look at it; fundamentally unexploitable and materially inexpedient … and above everything else, very, very lonely.

… altogether a pretty convincing sleight-of-hand trick, if you ask me … one very skillfully achieved through diverting our attention away from truly independent thought by holding us over a snake pit containing at its bottom everything we fear the most in this life.

In the final analysis (and in spite of how sacrilegious it might sound), our real enemy does not amount to “The Feds” or something like Monsanto. Our real enemy is nothing less than our beloved, permissive-parental, terminally Popular-and-Positive-Purpose(ful), apple-pie, technological culture – one of the most profoundly spiritually-repressive systems in the history of our species; one in which we are being sold down the river by the very bedrock of our culture: Universal Materialism along with all of its well-meaning Leaders, Patriot-Teachers and Prophets.

Postscript on the Other

(or, the thought of Byung-Chul Han)

Both sides in the present ideological struggle (when not pursuing their respective “winning results that count”) seem to be largely – when not completely – preoccupied with two things: (1) doing away with their enemies (2) converting non-believers; the Other(s) still living outside The Light of Truth. In keeping with any war-time scenario, there remain too few within such a situation to address with a “foreign” (e.g., non-utilitarian, anti-materialist) idea and even fewer who are willing – or able – to listen to one. This naturally includes, as well, those who just don’t have enough time for anything outside of what is already on the “to do” list – precisely the same social curse Thoreau addressed in his 1863 essay, “Life Without Principle”. At any rate, if one has never heard of this essay, one can safely – for this reason – bet a nickle that it’s something worth reading (… providing, of course, that one doesn’t become uncomfortable from the sight of sacred cows being killed right in front of one’s eyes).

Something I’ve noticed during the last 15 years or so (endless repetition impairs one’s memory, so this time span might not be entirely accurate) is that whatever transpires amounts to basically the same; whatever image or face encountered looks oddly just like the previous one; every new message communicated merely passes on more or less the same content as the last. And then someone shed some additional light on what I’d been observing – together with confirming my long-standing conviction that I’ve been witnessing a slow-motion process of complete social self-destruction for longer than I care to remember.

In The Expulsion of the Other (2018), philosopher Byung-Chul Han writes:

“The time in which there was such a thing as the Other is over. The Other as a secret, the Other as a temptation, the Other as eros, the Other as desire, the Other as hell and the Other as pain disappear. The negativity of the Other now gives way to the positivity of the Same. The proliferation of the Same constitutes the pathological changes that afflict the social body. It is made sick not by denial and prohibition, but by over-communication and over-consumption; not by suppression and negation, but by permissivness and affirmation. …

Total interconnection and total communication by digital means does not facilitate encounters with Others. Rather, it serves to pass over those who are unfamiliar and other, and instead find those who are the same or like-minded, ensuring that our horizon becomes ever narrower. It draws us into an ‘autopropaganda, indoctrinating us with our own ideas’.

“… not only the violence of the Other is destructive; the expulsion of the Other sets in motion an entirely different process of destruction, namely that of self-destruction. In general, the dialectic of violence applies: a system that rejects the negativity of the Other develops self-destructive traits.

https://www.amazon.de/Expulsion-Other-Society-Perception-Communication/dp/1509523057

In a 2012 German-language article on Byung-Chul Han, the author relates an incident at the end of one of Han’s lectures at the University of the Arts in Berlin (where Han holds a professorship in philosophy and cultural studies):

“Han’s provocations do not fire properly on this late afternoon. When he finishes his speech after a breathless hour, a listener answers. She does not think that she could find a way out of the situation Han has just described. That’s it. But Han is not disappointed. ‘Artists often give me very surprising feedback,’ he says. ‘They try to use my theoretical thinking creatively, as well as for their own work.’ The following week he wants to talk about love.”

https://www.zitty.de/autor-mit-empfang-der-philosoph-byung-chul-han/

Notes

* See: Ursula Frohne, Painters and Millionaires – Success as Stage Production: The American Artist Since the Last Half of the 19th Century; Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 2000. 490 pages with extensive pictorial documentation.

https://www.amazon.de/Maler-Million%C3%A4re-Ursula-Frohne/dp/9057050692/ref=sr_1_2%20?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1457484411&sr=1-2&keywords=ursula+frohne

Note: This highly important study by Ursula Frohne (which was extensively researched in America) is only available in the German language. To offset this fact (however slightly), I made a handful of translations from Painters and Millionaires in 2005. Some years later I got in touch with Ursula Frohne and shared with her my view that her remarkable study was badly in need of a wider audience; and that an English translation would be just the thing to do the job. She answered (I paraphrase) that a numer of others had also suggested the same to her – but who could be convinced to translate and publish it? … a daunting task by any means. I also shared with Dr. Frohne the passages I had translated from her book which – since I’m no professional translator – were made after considerable time and effort. Dr. Frohne appeared to be favorably impressed with these passages, perhaps mistaking me for a “pro” until I gave her the background for how these translations came about.

Unfortunately, I came away from my correspondence with Dr. Frohne with the impression that she had more pressing concerns than trying to produce and sell an English version of a book which deftly unmasks the materialist-capitalist ideology of the American art scene – indeed, the entire concept of art specific only to America which took root and evolved in the US together with its ongoing influence on the global art scene as well as the global understanding of art itself.

In addition to the one already quoted above, below are two further passages from Painters and Millionaires (also with the hope that they are some day read by someone who is able to facilitate, in whatever way, this valuable book’s eventual translation):

“In order not to be absorbed by the nameless population mass living on the edge of poverty in New York, the artists strove to conquer an ‘autonomous space’ for themselves, in which structures of style and life conduct were comparable to those in the spheres of the ruling class. Through the acquisition of visible status symbols, exclusivity, prestige and economic or cultural capital, the artists produced the proof of their own ‘excellence’. At the same time the artist’s fear over social exclusion rose in light of a growing population of immigrants, who numbered over 80% in New York at the end of the 19th century. H.H. Boysen, at the time a respected professor at Columbia University, complained about the possible dangers of this development in his 1888 article ‘The Problems of Civilization’, where he suggested that the immigrants as a group were mostly recruited from the lower levels of society. In addition, he argued that newcomers belonged to the least respected nationalities. ‘The Italians have more than tripled in number and the Bohemians, Poles and Hungarians have become stronger and form themselves into a daily growing army of dissatisfaction and unrest.’ Such xenophobic warnings reinforced the artists, who cut themselves off from the shady-appearing life conditions of the socially underprivileged and culturally disqualified immigrant population. By means of the visible acquisition of the socially appropriate anglo-American code, the artists signaled to the segment of potential buyers their social allegiance and cultural competence. That this legitimation was not only through stylistic conformity in painting, but also accomplished because of certain strategies of public self-display, had been clearly shown by the filling [with tenants] of the Studio Buildings and the founding of the [art] clubs in New York. In their exclusive atmosphere, as well as their close proximity to residences of the better circles, these separate spheres of artistic life decisively realized a felt and longed-for detachment from the ‘vulgar’ level of existence of the urban collection of ordinary people from numerous cultural backgrounds. The artist no longer entered the traditional role of a mediator of social utopias, since the growth of the city had long manifested itself in his consciousness as a proof of the destruction of utopia. The retreat into the interior of the studio building and the protected ambience of the art club atmosphere was the consequence of this feeling of loss, and perpetuated itself through a compensation by means of the values of tradition. In anticipation of the social privileges of his contemporaries, the artist increasingly took over the role of a professional agent for the taste of the culturally ambitious elite. He now fulfilled at the same time the functions of a cosmopolitan culture-mediator, a copyist of the admired aesthetic accomplishments, a monopolist of ideal-typical superiority. Finally, however, he also operated as a requisiteur, who lent a noble glaze to the depressive sides of the American reality.” (my translation)

” ‘The Gospel of Wealth’ or Of the Blessings of Riches

Down to the present day, wealth and social prestige have exercised a great fascination over Americans, before all else while both values under the ruling social conditions in the United States always succumbed to strong variations: paradoxically, on the one side, wealth and elevated status equally confirmed and denied the idea of social mobility; and on the other side, posited both individual ambition and egalitarian democracy as fundamentally in prospect for everyone. Regardless of profession or political persuasion, the implication of the democratic dogma was that everyone could grasp the opportunity to acquire meaning and to make out of it for themselves something which was in every respect profitable. That the American myth was based upon the country attaining its greatness and independence out of its own strength obligated everyone to this ethos of a self-made, success-rewarded existence. Virtue, diligence and integrity of character qualified for every American as the only potentially redeemable preconditions for improving oneself as a ‘self-made man’. Braudy summarized the ideological emblematic of this social myth: ‘America, an entire nation built on the assumption that God helps those who help themselves, made this attitude into a national credo, which was essentially unquestioned until after the Second World War.’

Since the end of the 18th century, the general notion connected with the word ‘fortune’ [destiny, skill, happiness / wealth, riches] increasingly shifted its semantic meaning in the direction of material success. While the beginnings of the American colonization were still directed by the understanding of a higher valuation of the individual ‘fortune’, in the sense of a fatal destiny, the immense economic growth during the 19th century opened unimagined possibilities to build up a ‘good fortune’, out of one’s own strength and business-strategic skill. ‘Fortune’ now showed itself in a more profane definition than that of the earned reward of work. The accumulation of property and money took over the role of the material realization of the immaterial and spiritual concept of democracy, as it was previously advanced by the first American presidents. The expansive striving, which the conquering of the American continent had already been based upon, thus found its continuation in a no less bold, enterprising self-confidence which defended competition, the rational exploitation of advantages, and especially the basic characteristics of the American nation – without the justification of Darwin’s theory of evolution as a vital founding principle of human nature. The resulting concept of the ‘self-made man’ made it possible to recognize economic ambition and material wealth as an appeal to the nearly spiritual meaning of these fundamental national values. At the same time, the standard of the ‘self-made man’ posited the antithesis to the privileges which appeared in Europe to be guaranteed through aristocratic descent and family connections. With clear emphasis on the ‘self’ in the designation ‘self-made’ and the semantic content of production in the word ‘made’ in the second place, the individual accomplishment experienced an almost spiritual elevation in terms of value. The wealth created out of one’s own drive and strength became the central concept of the American notion of genius. The ingeniousness of such accomplishments, however, could only be made visible – in the first place – by money.

Money advanced afterward to the spiritual vehicle of self-produced earthly success – the inscription ‘In God We Trust’ on the American dollar also referred to this meaning – through which the American fixation on wealth and material values was made explicable, as was the public identification with the most well-off and prominent – whose prominence-status was usually inseparable from being well-off. Without a doubt, the intellectuals and artists were not the real heroes after the Civil War, but rather the dominant figures in industry and the business world. Whoever finally stood at the pinnacle of the money-aristocracy only depended upon the educational level of the representatives of the money-aristocracy, as they were able to establish and multiply their wealth through certain knowledge or learned abilities. Totally in keeping with the principle of the ‘self-made man’, the majority of the most successful figures in the American economic scene had worked their way up in their respective professional areas as self-taught. As a rule, a talent for aggressive business practices constituted the key to success.” (my translation)

** The following quote is from the most outstanding book concerning the thought and work of Kazimir Malevich that the present writer knows of (a German book unlikely to make it any time soon into English translation):

“For Malevich there is a direct relationship between representationalism, representationality, deceptiveness and image cults in art – and a false consciousness, a dangerous capitulation of man to the world of objects, possession and power greed which ultimately all merge into a totalitarian cult of the leader, enslavement and war. […] The reason for the catastrophic greed for power of the ‘leaders’ and for the over-willingness of the masses to surrender to such a rule is rooted for the Russian avant-garde – as exemplified in the power and war criticism of both Chlebnikov and Malevich – in a defective perception and mindset that ultimately degenerates into a deadly ideology or ideology of death. The ‘missing link’ between false perception and false thinking is the idolatry that took place in the dictatorships of the 20th century: the fixation on images, on ideas and solutions, on a ‘world of doubles’ and voracious ‘idols’. / At the latest with the Lenin cult, which began already before 1924, Malevich sees as one of the first to become a veritable cult of rulers; he speaks literally of the ‘leader-magician,’ for whom the people call. / [Malevich writes]: ‘The leaders professed to be a good god and misused artists to dance for the entertainment of the people […] and woe to the art that will not be prepared to put the image of their leader in their mirror. This leader most of all fears that [the mirror] does not reflect him.’ (Kazimir Malevich, ‘Iskusstvo’ [‘Art’], 1924.)” (my translation)

(From: Aage A. Hansen-Löve, Kazimir Malevič – Gott ist nicht gestürzt! – Schriften zu Kunst, Kirche, Fabrik; München: Hanser Verlag, 2004 / Kazimir Malevich – God is not cast down! – Writings on Art, Church, Factory.)

https://books.google.de/books/about/Gott_ist_nicht_gest%C3%BCrzt.html?id=FB-RPQAACAAJ&redir_esc=y

About the author: David A. Powell is an American artist living in Germany since 1990. In addition to having a lifelong, ongoing involvement and fascination with the most radically unpopular ideas and concepts capable of being imagined by anyone, he has a degree in art history and literature and – along a number of other occupations and activities throughout his life – has also exhibited his paintings (in Germany, at least).

The Essential Saker II
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