One photographic register of violence a day… (warning: extremely graphic imagery)

Warning: most of the links have extremely violent imagery.

I gave myself a task: to look at photographs of violent events for a period of more or less a month and to chose a photograph per day (which wasn’t manageable after all). I realized from this experience that I haven’t really been looking at photographs of violence for quite some time, so it was chocking, at the point of making me very sick and vomit. I also realized that not only the violent imagery I was acquainted to was too mediated (to the point of being censured), but also that the most gruesome events don’t even get exposure, as if that sort of violence was too much for us. And it is, sites such as http://warisacrime.org/uncensored, or  http://www.genocideinsyria.org easily prove it.

But do we conscientiously chose to forget these events? I guess so, otherwise capitalism would go down, because the only way we can live with the knowledge of such violent acts is to develop our critical thought about the world, which has inevitable consequences on the choices we make, what and how we consume.

Because I am involved in the education of visual culture, photography in particular, I try to reflect upon these issues with my students. However, I realized I have been going about it the wrong way, for when it comes to photographs of current events, I only have been looking at the work of professional photojournalists, who I now consider not to be succeeding at their jobs. It’s not necessarily their fault, but the media enterprises, who apply censorship on a daily basis. I know this has to be debated in a more serious and profound manner, but for now I’ll just add a few bullet-points:

  • I don’t consider photojournalism an art, as I don’t consider most of the so called artistic expressions to be examples of art. I’m not using the term “art” here as a qualification. The point is that art, as I see it, is not about communication or the illustration of an idea, but rather about an expression that escapes linguistic discourses and aims at an internal “reception” of it – experience, abstraction, imagination, etc, etc, etc.
  • Having said this, the aesthetic parameters should not be the most important thing in photojournalism. As I see it, an ethical approach to the documenting of events should. 

As it happens, professional photographers seam to be unable to fulfill this task. “Professional hazard” one might say, for they cannot avoid to “beautify reality” (as Sontag would put it). Apparently, citizens everywhere are stepping into their shoes and giving us proofs of the violence happening all around the world.

While doing this exercise I came across some hardcore sites dedicated to showcasing gruesome photographs, most of which I won’t even mention here. But one is worth mentioning: Best Gore, whose statement goes like this:

Why This Website Is Important
Best Gore is a reality news website which reports on real life events which are of the interest to the public. Best Gore was founded on the fundamental principle that freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right of the public to be informed are fundamental and necessary conditions for the realization of the principles of transparency and accountability that are, in turn, essential for the promotion and protection of all human rights in a democratic society.

[…]

History demonstrates that censorship is mostly used by those who detest freedom and progress, simply to stop truths or ideas emerging. This is inexcusable.
Harm to freedom of expression caused by censorship of content just because some may deem it blasphemous, obscene or morals-corrupting would be devastating and should be of utmost concern to all people of conscience.
Supporters of censorship and human rights violations need to be exposed for petty tyrants that they are, and dealt with accordingly. And this is where Best Gore steps in as the website has played a pivotal role in exposing lies which were declared as official truths by the mainstream media, exposed countless cases of police brutality, governments sanctioned terrorism, war profiteering, fear mongering and other unsavory activities which enslave the people in injustice.
Why It Is Important to Communicate Uncensored Information Published on Best Gore to the Public
By self censoring yourself to the content on Best Gore, you are censoring your self to the truth. In any situation, if you feel like you can’t, won’t, shouldn’t or are not allowed to look at something, you open the door to allowing someone else to tell you what happened.
By not seeing things for yourself, you are opening the door to being lied to and persuaded in one direction or the other. No matter how brutal, hard, sad, offensive, immoral, obscene or [fill in the blank] something is to look at, only by seeing it with your own eyes can you make up your own opinion on the matter and see truth.
When you bring yourself to look at the real violence in the world, it kicks your ass into realty because referring back to what I said earlier, everything I just said could be a lie.

Although the imagery displayed in their site is unbearable to watch, I do agree with the statement. The problems start when news get mixed up with gossip. Although most of us would agree with the importance of knowing about the gruesome attacks of Boko Haram (for example) and some of us think it is important to be visually exposed to such violence, car crashes and similar accidents add absolutely nothing to our awareness and conscious perspective about the world. So why should one level the importance of a motorcycle crash with the news of a young Nigerian woman who had her heart removed by “ritualists in the area”?

One conclusion that chocked me while trying for this task is the frequency with which news/articles/posts are illustrated with photographs that reference another event. Apparently it doesn’t matter. If the news is about a Kurdish woman being killed at a wedding by the man to whom she was promised (her cousin) apparently any chocking photograph of a dead woman in a pool of blood serves the purpose. If the news if about the finding of a mass grave of Shiite Muslims in Nigeria, why can’t it be illustrated by the photograph of another mass grave with victims from the Boko Haram that was also found in Nigeria? If the news is about civilians being burnt to death in Fallujah in April 2016, why can’t the posts be illustrated with pictures of similar events that happened the year before? And what’s so wrong with mistaking anti-fascist protesters with fascist protesters, after all don’t they dress alike?

I know, it shouldn’t surprise me, for how often do people confuse the purpose of photography with the illustration of an idea? (Here’s another example with no great consequences: while covering the news of the hijack of an Egyptair flight, some sites were accompanying the news with photographs of an anti-hijacking exercise held in China in 2009).

The free press is a cornerstone of democratic regimes precisely because it supposedly makes it possible for people to have their own opinion about things. Some of the most important events in the world today are not even being photographed or, if they are, what reaches us is politically approved imagery. We see the pictures from the mass grave found in Palmyra in March, containing 42 bodies of mostly children, women and old men, but where are the graves from the killings of the Russian and US bombings? Where are the graves sponsored by the so-called western world?

On the 28th of March, in Angola, a group of 17 activists that were imprisoned after getting together to discuss the reading of From Dictatorship to Democracry: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation, by Gene Sharp, were sentenced to prison. No violent protests erupted after that, even though they are illegally detained as political prisoners. As I see it, that absence of violence is a sign of their lack of liberty (if ‘to use or not use violence’ is a question, here’s a good article (in english) and a great one (in portuguese).

One could say that violence only generates violence, and that those who defend themselves through violence tend to act as inhumanly as those who initially perpetrated the violence (the destruction of ISIS is just a recent example), but what about our right to resist the undercover violence that is everywhere, before it gets bloodier? When in a democratic regime, should we just abide by the rules, in the name of the institutionalized normalcy? For me the answer is a clear no.

The violence perpetrated by the so-called democratic regimes is still hard to document. For example, since the beginning of the year, everywhere in Europe there have been neo-nazi demonstrations and counter-demonstrations (anti-fascism, anti-racism, anti-Islamophobia, you name it) but the photographic registers fail to document the violence that is perpetrated by the police forces, who too often protect the nationalist parades and imprison those who get in their way. Photographs of police beating and arresting civilians don’t really portrait the violence of such an act.

Fact is that I am also contributing to the hypocrisy of the seemingly peaceful environment in which our governments try to make us believe. All the extremely violent imagery that I saw during this task was left out of the post. It’s just too gruesome and hard to watch. I believe most people won’t be able to keep their eyes open while facing such reality.

What I concluded was that no professional photographer is publishing the extreme violence that is happening all around the world. And why is that? Because it is unimaginable? Simply because it is impossible to be there to witness it? Are the killers documenting their acts with their cameras and cellphones? Are they publishing those images in social media and we just don’t want to share it? Is the non recognition of an image of a thing the same thins as the non admittance of such an event? If we erase the proves, can we forget that moment? If we share the proofs of those violent acts are we endorsing and promoting it?

This “exercise” made me think about my choices. For instances, before this I had never looked at ISIS propaganda. I even rejected writing down their name, as if naming it was a validation that I didn’t want to commit to. But why did I chose to do it? After this, I have no doubt that the answer is related with my denial of that reality. I also thought I couldn’t handle watching a decapitation, and feared once I did, another step towards the relativization of evil could be taken.

I’m still in denial when it comes to videos showcasing violence. I never watch them. Are the photographs less competent in “telling the truth”? I think not at all! For instances, the still of a decapitation or the beheaded bodies are horrific, chocking, and they make you vomit, but how could they not? Such imagery surely doesn’t provoke the sort of crocodile tears that Salgado’s photographs do, because we are not talking about art, or the making of the beautiful, but about the significance of violence and how its visual documentation is important in the leveling of humanity.

February, 24th, 2016

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© António Lacerda. ‘Petistas’ (suporters of the PT party) attack a man who supported Dilma’s impeachment. This was published.
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© Fernando Frazão. A member from the Workers’ Union is attacked by a member of the opposite side (defending Dilma’s impeachment). This was not.

February, 25th, 2016

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© Philippe Huguen. An anti-riot policeman throws a tear gas grenade during the dismantling of the refugee camp in Calais.

February, 27th, 2016

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© Eric Hood. Stab victim being treated at a Ku Klux Klan Rally and Counter-Protest in Anaheim, USA.

March, 12th, 2016

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Author not identified. Bodies of Houthi terrorist outside the city, liquidated by the Yemeni Army. Taiz residents and the Popular Resistance Forces rejoicing the triumph.

March, 13th, 2016

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Author not identified. Photograph of two death bodies at Grand-Bassam (Côte d’Ivoire), consequence of an attack by the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) on a touristic resourt. March, 13th, 2016.

March, 16th, 2016

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© Konstantinos Tsakalidis. Refugees attempt perilous Greece-Macedonia crossing and plea with police to let them continue their march.

March, 22nd, 2016

Injured people are seen at the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels

Handout for Reuters. Injured people are seen at the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the two bomb attacks in Brussels that killed dozens of people, a news agency affiliated with the group said.

March, 24th, 2016

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© Hazem Bader. Israeli soldiers, including a combat medic now under investigation for murder, stood near the body of a Palestinian suspect that one of them shot in the head on Thursday in Hebron.

March, 25th, 2016

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Screenshot from new propaganda video. The nine-minute video titled “The Exile of Islam and Brussels Attacks” was released by the Al-Battar Media Foundation and shows Trump’s photo in flames while playing his interview clips about the attack in Brussels.

March, 26th, 2016

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© Glauco Araújo. Protesters setting a Dilma puppet on fire during the Easter-time ritual of the burning of Judas.

March, 27th, 2016

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© AFP/Getty. An injured Pakistani child victim of a suicide blast rests in a hospital in Lahore after a suicide bomber attacked a park thronging with families celebrating Easter killed at least 72 people.

March, 31st, 2016

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© Thomas Samson. French riot police clash with union members and students demonstrating against labour law reforms (El Khomri) close to the Gare de Lyon train station in the French capital Paris on March 31, 2016.

April, 1st, 2016

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Author not identified. Iraqi Army executes ISIS member after asking the users on Instagram whether they should kill him or not.

April, 2nd, 2016

police arrest protestors at the Bourse Memorial as they protest against the calls for a far right-wing demonstration cancelled by Mayor before taking place in Molenbeek Brussels Belgium April 2 2016 EPA OL
© Olivier Hoslet, Belgium policemen arrest protestors at the Bourse Memorial for victims of the terrorist attack, as they protest against the calls for a far right-wing demonstration that was cancelled by Brussels Mayor before taking place in Molenbeek, Brussels, Belgium, 02 April 2016. At lease 20 people were arrested at the Bourse Memorial include President of Belgium Human right watch movement amnesty international Lawyer Alexis Deswaef.

April, 5th, 2016

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Author not identified. Armenian Soldiers Killed by Azerbaijan Forces -Nagorno-Karabakh War.

April, 6th, 2016

A Pakistani migrant threatens to hang himself from a utility pole during a demonstration inside the Moria registration centre on the Greek island of Lesbos
© Giorgos Moutafis.A Pakistani migrant threatens to hang himself from a utility pole during a demonstration inside the Moria registration centre on the Greek island of Lesbos.

April, 8th, 2016

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Author not identified. Iraqi Sunnis children killed by Iraqi army airstrikes on popular market in Fallujah.

April, 10th, 2016

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© STR. Indian bystanders carry an injured man after a fireworks explosion and fire at The Puttingal Devi Temple in Paravur.

 

≡ Refugee chic? Oh, my! Here we go again… ≡

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Inspired by the echos of the migrant crisis in his home country, hungarian photographer Norbert Baska has made a fashion shoot called “Der Migrant” with models in luxurious clothes posing as refugees in fake camp set-ups with barbed wire. ‘Lovely‘, some say. ‘What’s the problem‘, others ask. But the majority of us will immediately recognize it as being essentially wrong. So why?

NYT: As Nathalie Hof observed in the online journal OAI13, the images that attracted the most attention showed the model, Monika Jablonczky, pausing to “take a selfie, leaning against the border fence, in her designer clothes, with a phone which bears the distinct logo of Chanel.” That the model’s shirt is half open drew particular ire, given the cultural and faith backgrounds of many of those fleeing wars in the Middle East.

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Baska’s response to the (apparently surprising) critic reaction of his colleagues:

I hoped people would realize that the situation is very complex and see that they are taking stands based on partial or biased information. I do not understand how people can take a clear stand (pro or con) while we are flooded with contradictory information through the media, so no one has extensive knowledge of the situation as a whole. This is exactly what we wanted to picture: you see a suffering woman, who is also beautiful and despite her situation, has some high quality pieces of outfit and a smartphone.

The shooting is not intended to glamourize this clearly bad situation, but rather… to draw the attention to the problem and make people think about it…

Why shouldn’t Baska glamourize such reality? If for some the answer is very clear, as a photography teacher I frequently testify to its complexity. For very different reasons, this generation has a very particular sense of ethics and not much respect for human values; they struggle to identify what’s wrong with “the Baska approach”. I’d rather not go back to Sontag’s idea of ‘inauthentic beauty’, which she used to describe Salgado’s work, but the truth is that the concept immediately came to my mind.

Baska’s statement that he didn’t want to glamourize, rather wanted to dignify, has no truth to it. Either he was aware that he was taking advantage of a harsh reality to move the spotlight on him, or he has just ignorant. Either way, it was a bad call. In general, there’s nothing wrong with choosing current events as themes for commercial work, but if you want to create fictions that are so closely related to reality, you’ll have to play by social reality rules and so, if you want to talk about a situation that involves the death of people fleeing the war, it’s not a good idea to make a composition that puts together in the same image this sort of symbols: Chanel, barbed wire, eastern looking model, luxurious clothes and cellphones.

It’s disrespectful in so many ways. 1) the migrant crisis has created several situations that deal with our collective unconscious, and the barbed wire being used in Hungary plays a big part on it. Women, men and children concentrated in one place, asking for help with barbed wire on the horizon will always arise the memory of World War II;

2) Chanel cellphones are products of a society that is ruled by capitalism, precisely the same society that is more concerned with the markets than with building a more just and equal way of living for us all. When you put a girl leaning on barbed wire taking a selfie with a Chanel cellphone, what it the subtitle? Syrian girl takes selfie à la mode des westerners to see if she can fit in their society???;

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3) And what about the joke with the sandwich? How can one understand such nonsense? Is it: Look at me, I’m hungry but still I’m not really going to eat it all because I want to keep my figure so that you can all love my body? Or: Look at me, I’m a refugee and I’m hungry but still I’m a sex bomb and I’ll let you take a peek under my skirt?

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After a lot of controversy, here’s Baska’s team official notice: We have experienced a lot of negative feedback since the publication of our photo series Der Migrant, although more and more people recognize the true message behind the pictures and agree with it […] Considering the heated emotions and because, despite our intentions, many unfortunately consider the pictures offending, we have decided to remove the series from our website.

≡ From Edmund Perry to Michael Jackson to Cova da Moura ≡

This post relates three very different events: 1) Edmund Perry’s death in 1985; 2) Michael Jackson’s music video for “Bad”, directed by Martin Scorsese and scripted by Richard Price; 3) events in Cova da Moura (urban suburb in Portugal), February, 2015.

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1) Edmund Perry was a black kid from Harlem, with a poor upbringing, whohad just graduated from one of the nation’s most prestigious prep schoolswhen he was shot after an attack to a white undercover policeman, on the night of 12th June 1985. The events made journalist Robert Sam Anson write a book called Best Intentions: The Education and Killing of Edmund Perry, published in 1987, which became a best-seller. Anson had a son in the same school Perry attended before his death. About the events the kid said “Couldn’t be true. Eddie was too smart for that. The cop musta’ just killed him.” In fact, the morning after, the headlines suggested that a young and bright black kid had been brutally shot by a white policeman.

books3 copyAnson’s story begins as follows: “Wednesday, the twelfth of June, 1985, was not one of New York City’s better days. It had rained on and off that morning and afternoon, and all day long the heat – uncommon for that time of year – had been oppressive. By nightfall, the air was thick and soggy, as if a huge, wet blanket had descended on the city.” And continues: “On the Upper West Side, in Morningside Heights, one of those New Yorkers was going about his nightly business. His name was Lee Van Houten, and to those who saw him strolling through the shadows along Morningside Drive, his youth and his casual attire – sweatshirt, blue jeans, and tennis shoes – suggested a student heading back to a university dorm, or an intern on his way to a local hospital. In fact, Van Houten, whose baby face and curly hair made him seem even younger than his 24 years, was a plainclothes police officer. […] It was a chancy assignment for any officer, especially one with only two years on the force.

books5 copyAnson’s description is obviously an effort to humanize the police officer, giving him a name and a face, before anything else. He then goes on to describe Edmund and his brother attack on him, in such a way that it reads like Van Houten had no other option, but the discussion is far from over. “For a few days the editorialists, black and white, were indignant. The police were bitterly condemned, the young man proclaimed by journalists ‘a future Moses for his people” and ”a prized symbol of hope.’ Yet less than two weeks later a Manhattan grand jury refused to charge the police officer and described the killing as justifiable homicide – at which point, for many, moral outrage gave way to embarrassed silence and a gnawing perplexity. Moreover, Perry’s older brother, Jonah, then 19 years old and a sophomore at Cornell University, was indicted as an accomplice in the aborted mugging. The policeman’s record and testimony no doubt influenced the grand jury. He was young, well educated, anything but gun-happy, a decent person who obviously had been assaulted and beaten before he used his gun – and he was devastated by what had happened, what he had done, had felt he had to do, lest he be killed. Mr. Anson is interested in exploring Edmund Perry’s short life, and especially his education – the irony that someone who had already traveled so far would end up lying on a sidewalk so close to where he had grown up, a cop’s bullet in his belly.

2) 1987: the year Anson’s book and Michael Jackson’s Bad record were published. I got to know the relation between these two events after watching Spike Lee’s documentary Bad 25. The making of the video for Bad is portrayed roughly between minutes 00:15 and 00:30. Scorsese, who was directing, invited Richard Price, who had written The Color of Money, to write the script “as a dramatic piece”. It was Price, who was friends with journalist Robert Sam Anson, who recalled the story about Edmund Perry and had the idea to base the video clip on it. The videos above comprise the short story created for Bad, which is iconic (some say legendary) for all the good but also also for bad reasons. Although Michael Jackson is still a huge influence on many levels, this video is THAT relevant because the events depicted keep repeating itself. It could be done today: the choreography is unbeatable, the director alive and kicking and the story unfortunately current. Even the clothes are in fashion.

Screen-Shot-2015-02-08-at-12.31.49-800x450first images from the detainees. Source.

3) Cova da Moura, Amadora, Portugal, circa 15km from Lisbon. Cova da Moura, a neighborhood inhabited (mostly) by a community of African heritage. Last Thursday, 5th, about noon, Bruno Lopes, 24, was beaten up and arrested by a group of police officers. I would like to say no one died because of this event, but it’s too soon to tell. It’s not uncommon for white policeman in Portugal to have disproportionate reactions to situations where black kids are involved. Several have been killed in the past 10 years by police officers whose guilt is never accessed: 16-03-2013, Rúben Marques, 18; 15-03-2010, Nuno Manaças “MC Snake”, 30; 13-02-2009, Tiago Correia, “Seedorf”, 20; 04-01-2009, Elson Sanchez “Kuko”, 14. And the list goes on.

But there are a couple of new facts this time and they might change the ending. Bruno was arrested and beaten because he laughed and spoke crioulo (an african dialect) while some cops were passing by. Soon after knowing about the events, Celso Lopes and some friends, went to the police station to ask about the situation and things escalated, rubber bullets were fired and Celso was hit. Celso is an investigator and part of a community project. Journalist Enric Vives-Rubio spoke to him and reports what some of the policemen were saying. Thins like: “Garbage and dogs belong on the floor”, or “You’re lucky the law doesn’t permit it, otherwise you’d all be executed” and so on and so forth. No one knows what will follow and being accustomed to this judicial system gives little hope. An internal investigation is in course, meanwhile the community is hungry and frustrated and a protest against police brutality will take place this Thursday in front of the parliament. A gathering that, most certainly, will oppose the people, those calling for civil rights, to the state, fronted by a police barrier. It’s crazy exhausting. We keep repeating the same mistakes and the results are the same. How hard is it to make a change?

٠ Turkey as The place for an historical turn ٠

Two things justify this (another) post about Turkey: first, the fact that today – June 22nd -, confrontations restarted in Istanbul and Ankara, with the police intervening with TOMA’s, tear gas, sound bombs and arresting people; secondly, a text about the Turkish Uprising, by Alain Badiou, posted by Cengiz Erdem @ Senselogic, which would be more than worthy of a single feature, if not for the accompanying events. All photos by George Georgiou, who lived in Turkey for four and a half years and witnessed the geographical, demographic, sociological and political changes taking place. All photos from the series “Young Turks”, taken in the middle of Taksim square, for Panos Pictures.

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1“A large proportion of the educated youth all across Turkey are currently leading a vast movement against the government’s repressive and reactionary practices. This is a very important moment in what I have called “the rebirth of History.” In many countries around the world, middle school, high school, and university youth, supported by a part of the intellectuals and the middle class, are giving new life to Mao’s famous dictum: “It is right to revolt.” They are occupying squares and streets, symbolic places; they are marching, calling for freedom, “true democracy,” and a new life. They are demanding that the government either change its conservative politics or resign. They are resisting the violent attacks of the state police.

These are the features of what I have called an immediate uprising: one of the potential forces of popular revolutionary political action – in this case, the educated youth and a part of the salaried petty bourgeoisie – rises up, in its own name, against the reactionary state. I enthusiastically say: it is right to do so! But in so doing it opens up the problem of the duration and the scope of its uprising. It is right to take action, but what is the real reason for it in terms of thinking, and for the future?

The whole problem is whether this courageous uprising is capable of opening the way for a genuine historical riot. A riot is historical – as was the case only in Tunisia and Egypt, where the outcome of the struggle has still not been determined – when it brings together, under shared slogans, not just one but several potential actors of a new revolutionary politics: for example, in addition to the educated youth and middle class, large sectors of working-class youth, workers, women of the people, low-level employees, and so on. This move beyond the immediate riot toward a mass protest movement creates the possibility for a new type of organized politics, a politics that is durable, that merges the force of the people with the sharing of political ideas, and that thereby becomes capable of changing the overall situation of the country in question.

3I know that a number of our Turkish friends are perfectly aware of this problem. They know three things in particular: that there must be no mistake about contradictions; that the movement mustn’t pursue the path of a “desire for the West;” and that it is above all necessary to join with the popular masses in inventing, with people other than themselves – with workers, minor employees, women of the people, farmers, unemployed people, foreigners, and so on – forms of political organization that are currently unknown.

For example, is the main contradiction in Turkey today between the conservative Muslim religion and freedom of thought? We know it is dangerous to think so, even and above all if this is a widespread idea in the countries of capitalist Europe. Of course, the current Turkish government openly claims allegiance to the dominant religion. It is the Muslim religion, but ultimately that’s only a minor issue: even today, Germany is governed by Christian democracy, the President of the United States takes the oath of office on the Bible, President Putin, in Russia, constantly panders to the Orthodox clergy, and the Israeli government constantly exploits the Jewish religion. Reactionaries have always and everywhere used religion to rally a part of the popular masses to their government; there’s nothing particularly “Muslim” about this. And it should in no way lead to regarding the opposition between religion and freedom of thought as the main contradiction of the current situation in Turkey. What should be made clear is that the exploitation of religion serves precisely to conceal the real political questions, to overshadow the basic conflict between the emancipation of the popular masses and the oligarchical development of Turkish capitalism. Experience shows that religion, as personal, private belief, is by no means incompatible with commitment to a politics of emancipation. It is surely in this tolerant direction, which requires only that religion and state power not be confused and that people distinguish in themselves between religious belief and political conviction, that the uprising currently underway must move in order to acquire the stature of a historical riot and invent a new political path.

Similarly, our friends are perfectly aware that what is currently being created in Turkey cannot be the desire for what already exists in the rich, powerful countries like the United States, Germany and France. The word “democracy” in this regard is ambiguous. Do people want to invent a new organization of society, headed toward genuine equality? Do they want to overthrow the capitalist oligarchy of which the “religious” government is the servant but of which anti-religious factions, in Turkey as in France, have been, and can become again, the no less efficient servants? Or do they only want to live the way the middle class lives in the major Western countries? Is the action being guided by the Idea of popular emancipation and equality? Or by a desire to create a solidly established middle class that will be the mainstay of a Western-style “democracy,” that is, completely subject to the authority of Capital? Do they want a democracy in its genuine political meaning, namely, a real power of the people imposing its rule on landlords and the wealthy, or “democracy” in its current Western meaning: consensus around the most ruthless capitalism, provided that a middle class can benefit from it and live and speak as it wishes, since the essential mechanism of business, imperialism, and the destruction of the world won’t be tampered with? This choice will determine whether the current uprising is just a modernization of Turkish capitalism and its integration into the world market, or whether it is truly oriented toward a creative politics of emancipation, giving new impetus to the universal history of Communism.

2And the ultimate criterion for all this is actually quite simple: the educated youth must take the steps that will bring them closer to the other potential actors of a historical riot. They must spread their movement’s enthusiasm beyond their own social existence. They must create the means of living with the broad popular masses, of sharing the thoughts and practical innovations of the new politics with them. They must give up the temptation to adopt, for their own benefit, the “Western” conception of democracy, meaning: the simple, self-serving desire for a middle class to exist in Turkey as an electoral and falsely democratic client of an oligarchic power integrated into the world market of capital and commodities. This is called: liaison with the masses. Without it, the admirable current revolt will end in a subtler and more dangerous form of subservience: the kind we are familiar with in our old capitalist countries.

We intellectuals and militants in France and other rich countries of the imperialist West implore our Turkish friends to avoid creating a situation like ours in their country. To you, our dear Turkish friends, we say: the greatest favor you can do for us is to prove that your uprising is taking you to a different place from ours, that it is creating a situation whereby the material and intellectual corruption in which our sick old countries are languishing today will be impossible.

Fortunately, I know that in contemporary Turkey, among all our Turkish friends, the means exist to avoid the erroneous desire to be like us. This great country, with its long, tormented history, can and must surprise us. It is the ideal place for a great historical and political innovation to occur.

Long live the uprising of Turkish youth and their allies! Long live the creation of a new source of future politics!”

CLAP! CLAP! CLAP!

┐ Dominic Nahr └

PAR396294© Dominic Nahr, EGYPT. Cairo. January 29, 2011. A protestor, using the Egyptian flag as a face mask, takes a break inside a building during protests against the government of Hosni Mubarak which pushed towards Tahir Square.

PAR396319© Dominic Nahr, EGYPT. Cairo. January 30, 2011. Protestors cover an Army tank while they chant and sing after another day of protests in Tahir Square.

PAR396316© Dominic Nahr, EGYPT. Cairo. January 30, 2011. The National Democratic Party building along the Nile can still be seen engulfed in flames a day after it was set on fire during clashes with police at protests against the government of Hosni Mubarak which pushed towards Tahir Square.

Looking back at the Egyptian uprising last year, as a entrance to think about current events.

“In the past year and a half, Egyptian society has achieved an unprecedented level of political consciousness. The revolutionary sentiment among the revolutionaries themselves — especially those who fought in the front-lines during the overthrow of Mubarak, and many of whom lost friends and/or family in the uprising — is particularly strong. So when the average Egyptian found out about Morsi’s decrees, they felt as though their struggle had been in vain. But rather than giving up, they took back to Tahrir — and started another sit-in.

But inside Egypt, the people are divided. A schism of epic proportions has developed between Morsi’s supporters and his detractors; a schism that has only now begun to surface. On the one side are the liberals, the leftists, the judges, the youth, intellectuals, and revolutionaries. On the other side are the Muslim Brotherhood members, sympathizers, and many of the poverty-stricken people who have been bought out with a kilo of sugar, bread, or (in the rare occasion) meat – the same people who were bought out on the day of the Camel attacks during the 18-day occupation of Tahrir Square.

The streets have once again become a small war-zone. Tear gas thrown by the police; Muslim Brotherhood militia attacking peaceful dissidents; stones and Molotov’s being thrown by the revolutionaries. But all of this happens as we await, whilst biting our nails, the position of the military. This, just like the beginning of the revolution, will tip the scales in either direction. If the military sides with the dissidents, Morsi will be unable to stand up against the people for long. His Pharaoh-like rule will come to and end as quickly as it came. But if the Egyptian military decides to side with Brotherhood, expect a civil war.”

excerpt of Nadim Fetaih‘s article In Tahrir, the beginning and end of a Pharaoh, in RoarMag. continue reading here

More of Dominic’s work here

┐ Blindness └

all photos © Adam Hinton in Gaza, 2012

all drawings © Joe Sacco, taken from Footnotes in Gaza, 2010. An interview with Joe Sacco about the book and the massacres reported in it here

Articles about the Palestine/Israle conflict can be accessed via Stop the War Coalition

┐ A Prototype for the Futture – la ZAD – 17th November 2012 └

“We have entered La ZAD (Zone A Défendre) – Europe’s largest postcapitalist protest camp – a kind of rural occupy on the eastern edge of Brittany, half and hour’s drive from the city of Nantes.  Like a rebel constellation spread across 4000 acres of forest, farmland and marshes, it takes the form of old squatted farms and fields, DIY strawbale houses, upcycled sheds, theatres and bars cobbled from industrial pallets, hobbit like round houses, cute cabins built with the worlds waste, huts perched frighteningly high in trees and a multitude of other disobedient architectural fantasies. La ZAD has been a laboratory for ways of living despite capitalism since the 2009 French Climate Camp. At the camp activists and locals put together a call for people to come and live on the Zone to protect it.  Now you can find illegal goat herds and organic bakeries, bike workshops and bee hives, working farms and communal kitchens, a micro brewery, a mobile library, and even a pirate radio station: Radio Klaxon. Emitting from a secret location somewhere in the Zone, the station hijacks the airwaves of “Radio Vinci Autoroute” the traffic information channel run byVinci for its private network of French motorways. The world’s largest multinational construction firm, builders of nuclear power stations, African uranium mines, oil pipelines, motorways, car parks and the infrastructure of hyper capitalism everywhere, Vinci also happen to be the company commissioned by the French government to cover this landscape in concrete and open Nantes new airport (it already has one) by 2017.  Well that’s the plan. (…)

On the 16th of October 1200 riot police overran La ZAD. What had been a state free autonomous zone for 3 years was transformed within a few hours into a militarised sector. Road blocks sealed the area, Guard Mobiles (military mobile gendarme units) swarmed everywhere and bulldozers groaned across the fields. Despite resistance from the Zadists within two days the state had destroyed 9 of the 12 of the squatted spaces. On one of the days, 250 rounds of tear gas were fired into the market garden, seemingly to contaminate the vegetables that until that moment had fed over 100 Zadists every week. A principle of war is of course: cut off the supplies.(…)

Ayrault [the airport] has promoted the project as a “green” airport. It is planned to have living roofs covered in plants, the two runways have been designed to minimise taxiing to save on CO2 emissions and an organic community supported box scheme is meant to feed its employees. Next year Nantes will celebrate its latest award: European Green City 2013.  To call this double speak is generous. According to a recent report a hundred million people will die of climate driven deaths over the next eighteen years. 80 percent of the slaughtered will be in countries with lower emissions. The Climate Catastrophe is no just a threat to our ecosystems and the species we share the biosphere with, it’s a violent war on the poor. A war whose weapons are built out of steel and concrete, tarmac and plastic, a war with a ticking methane bomb hiding under the artic. Waged by the logic of growth and disguised as everyday life according to capitalism, climate change is the war that could end all wars and all life with it. Calling an airport green is as cynical as calling a concentration camp humane. Perhaps in the future  if we are lucky t have one, descendents will contemplate the ruins of airports as we do the sites of 18th century slave markets and wonder how a culture could have committed such barbarity so openly.(…)

Since the evictions began the art of building barricades has taken over everyday life here. Everywhere you go there are little teams busy hauling materials across fields to erect another barricade. The idea is to slow the advance of the authorities, who have named their operation “Cesar” (Caesar), perhaps a reference to Obelix and Asterix’s resistant gallic village. The police have taken the weekend off and so barricade building takes place unhindered. Now there are ones rising on the main roads as well as the green lanes. The multiplicity of different barricades reflects the different cultures at La Zad. Those living in tree houses in the Rohanne Forest have asked people not to cut living trees to make them, whilst in another part of the Zone a team of chainsaw wielding activists are tacking down oak trees and tangling steel rope in them. On one crossroads there are at least 20 barricades. There are huge hay rounds with cans of petrol beside them ready to set alight when the police attack, there is a steel wall of sitex – Anti squatting panels normally placed on doors and windows of empty houses –carefully welded together and one made from dozens of bamboo poles sticking out of the tarmace decorated with bicycle wheels.  In the middle of it all there is makeshift kitchen with its mobile pizza oven made from an oil drum.

An affinity group armed with cordless angle grinders and pick axes, have been working day and night to cut out giant trenches in the roads –  in some cases several metres wide and deeper than a standing adult.   Ishmel tells me that yesterday road agency workers came to mend one of the smaller trenches  (not surrounded by barricades). People talked to the workers, trying to persuade them to turn around and not do the dirty work of Vinci. Despite having their boss on the phone coercing them to keep going, they eventually turned around and left the hole in the road. One of the workers later said “ What troubled me most was that I’m from around here and (clearing the barricades to allow the police to circulate) feels a bit like I was helping demolish my neighbours house.”There have also been stories of local police officers that refused to join the operation.

excerpt of Laronce‘s article Rural Rebels and Useless Airports: La ZAD – Europe’s largest Postcapitalist land occupation. continue reading here

More bout La Zad in their site http://zad.nadir.org/ and in the blog of Notre Dame des Landes

┐ an unwelcome guest └

© REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis, A masked protester holds a metal bar during a violent demonstration in Syntagma square in central Athens

OPEN LETTER TO ANGELA MERKEL

Dear chancellor Merkel,

We start by saying we address you only as chancellor of Germany. We did not vote for you and do not acknowledge the existence of a chancellor of Europe. We, the subscribers of this open letter, write to you as free citizens. Citizens of a country you wish to visit on the next 12th of November, as well as citizens in solidarity with all the countries attacked by austerity. Due to the character of the announced visit, those who have to struggle daily with the dire economic and social situation in Portugal, must stress that you are not welcome. You should be considered persona non grata in Portuguese territory because you clearly come to interfere with the Portuguese State’s decisions without being democratically mandated by those who live here.

Even so, because our government has of late ceased to obide with the laws of this country and its Republican constitution, we address this letter directly to you. The presence of many great businessman in your entourage is an outrage. Under the guise of “foreign investment”, you will bring a group of people that will come to plunder the ruins in which your policies have left the Portuguese economy, as well as those of Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain. Your delegation is composed not only by those who have coerced the Portuguese state, with the connivance of its government, to privatize it’s property and most valuable assets, but also by the potential beneficiaries of those properties and assets, bought today at fire-sale prices.

This letter cannot and should not be seen as any sort of nationalist of chauvinist vindication – it’s a direct address to you as the chief promoter of the Neoliberal doctrine which is ruining Europe. We do not address the German people who have all the democratic legitimacy to elect whomever they want for their representative offices. However, in this country where we live, your name was never on any ballot. We did not elect you. As such, we do not recognize you the right to represent us and even less the right to make political decisions on our behalf.

And we are not alone. On the 14th of November, two days after your announced visit, we will rise with several others in a general strike which will include many European countries. It will be a strike against the governments which have betrayed and still betray the trust the citizens deposited on them, a strike against the austerity applied by them. But do not delude yourself, chancellor. It will be a strike against the austerity imposed by the troika and against all those which intend to transform it into an authoritarian regime. It will be a strike against you, Mme. Merkel. And if we salute the people of Greece, Spain, Italy Cyprus and Malta, we also salute the German people who suffer with us. We know very well that the Wirtschaftswunder, Germany’s “economical miracle”, was built on the basis of successive debt pardons by its main creditors. We know that the supposed current German economic thrust is built on a brutal crackdown on wages for over 10 years and the massive promotion of precarious labour, temporary and low-wage work that afflicts a great part of the German people. That also shows the perspective you, chancellor Merkel, have for your own country.

It’s very likely that you won’t reply. And it’s probable that the Portuguese government, subservient, weak and feeble, will receive you with flowers and applause. But the truth, chancellor, is that the majority of the Portuguese population blatantly disapproves of this government and the way in which it is destroying the country, supported by the troika and yourself. Even if you choose a secret route and a private airport to get away from the demonstrations against your visit, you have to know that they will occur all around the country. And they will be protests against you and what you represent. Your entourage may try and ignore us. The European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank may try to ignore the streets. But we are more and more, Mme. Merkel. Here and in all countries. Our protests will be stronger and stronger. We become more aware of reality every day. The stories you have all told us were always awkward and now we know they were full-out lies.

We have awaken, Mme. Merkel. You are an unwelcome guest.

┐ we’re all in deep shit X – no room for laughter └

If there was any doubt about the sort of actions these scumbags from the golden dawn are promoting here is the video

The latest public opinion survey gives a lead to left-wing SYRIZA towards Nea Dimocratia, while Antonis Samaras is still considered as “best Prime Minister”. Neo-nazi Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi) gets the third place in the respondents’ preference.

Wake up before it’s too late

In Portugal they’re rioting over one measure when here we’ve been made to accept countless cuts and tax increases. And the worst thing about being ground down is that it breeds extremism,” said the silver-haired leftist. “In the case of Greece it is extremism that is going to the right because [the neo-Nazi party] Golden Dawn has managed to exploit people’s despair. But it won’t just stay here. It will spread, like this economic crisis, to other parts of Europe, too.” Guardian

“We have a major socioeconomic crisis in which several hundred thousand Greeks are losing ground,” said Nikos Demertzis, a professor of political sociology at the University of Athens. “And you have a rising number of immigrants in Greece, many illegal. This is creating a volcanic situation where all the classic parameters for the flourishing of a far-right force like Golden Dawn are present.”

Golden Dawn’s tactics are similar to ones it used before parliamentary elections in June. Preying on fears that immigrants are worsening crime rates and economic hardship, the group has been stepping up attacks against immigrants, many of whom are legal citizens, with the police frequently standing by. It is also trying to expand its reach with the Greek diaspora. New York Times

┐ don’t say a word, don’t tell a soul └

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some of my photographs from monday’s concentration in front of the parliament to fight Portugal’s austerity plans. as can be seen, this film has been to hell and back, which actually seems to suit the scene. what follows is an excerpt of a text distributed amongst protesters on 15O.

“If you’re photographing a demonstration, make sure not to take any images that might incriminate others. A photograph can fall into the hands of the police and help them chase someone. The police can easily have access to these photos by capturing people’s cameras.
(…)
In case you’re arrested, do not say anything other than your name and address. Do not talk about yourself or others. A good cop might come to tell a joke or a bad cop to make a threat; both want to get information. Ask for a lawyer, be quiet and still and stay away from their game. You are not alone: your fellow protesters and friends will be thinking about you or waiting outside the police station.”

┐ “a terra é de quem a trabalha, os fascistas comem palha” └

yesterday, in Portugal.
some thoughts on what is changing amidst the sort of protests we create here (pt). Also, just for foreigners, a brief description of the events via BBC. I don’t feel like elaborating on what’s happened just now. I’ll come back once my film is processed to share some images. For now a glimpse through the eyes of another:

© D.R.

© Ângelo Lucas/Global Imagens

© Patrícia de Melo Moreira/AFP

┐ The Aesthetics of Vandalism – the consequences of having no consequences └

the twenty mugshots of Black Bloc protesters arrested Saturday in San Francisco.

The detained protesters are now facing charges of conspiracy, riot, refusing to obey a lawful order from a police officer and resisting, delaying and obstructing a police officer, and assault and battery on a police officer. The bail for each person is VERY high, from $36,000 to 51,000.

more details here

(…)Gentrification is all about private property and the primacy of property rights over human needs in a market society. Vandalism of the property of wealthy invaders is an organic automatic response to the threat of dispossession gentrification brings. But sometimes a brick through a window is only a brick in a window. In fact, in most cases a broken window is just a broken window, a mere expression of atomized powerless rage. Context is everything.(…)

(…)In a period of relative social peace, authentic revolutionary extremist action is all about communication. It is about communication to the virtual complete exclusion of all else. If an action or event fails to communicate, then it has failed completely — and it doesn’t matter how much fun it was for the people doing it. Subjectively radical individuals have to try to communicate an uncompromising subversive message, on as wide a scale as possible, of direct relevance to the mundane everyday life concerns of mainstream working people. And this is usually best done as capitalist society itself generates opportunities for it.(…)

an excerpt from Max Crosby‘s In San Francisco’s Mission District, the Black Bloc Breaks Some Windows and Fails to Make an Impact. Continue reading here

┐ we’re all in deep shit VIII └

still from Dogtooth

In Greece, Police decided to ban all forms of gatherings and demonstrations happening tomorrow, October 9th, between 9am and 10pm in downtown Athens for the fat queen’s coming to town. It’s just as saying: I’m sorry, democracy is down for the moment, we’ll be back in a few hours… This is not going to go well with the Greeks. Beware, they bite!

Live news of the Eurozone crises via The Guardian

┐ Just the Wind └

“With the collapse of the Hungarian economy and government austerity measures, crimes—petty or otherwise—and every other social ill were blamed on the Roma and a lynch-mob atmosphere was whipped up against the community, which only constitutes about 5 percent of the Hungarian population. Homes were fire-bombed and Roma men, women and children shot and killed by extreme-right terror groups operating with the tacit support of the police and state authorities.


Just the Wind is filmed in documentary style with hand-held camera, natural lighting, sparse dialogue and non-professional actors. It chronicles 24-hours in the life of one Roma family—Mari (Katalin Toldi), a single mother, her invalided father, Anna (Gyöngyi Lendvai) and Rio (Lajos Sarkany), her two school-age children. The family is part of a small poverty-stricken Roma community living on the forested outskirts of a Hungarian town.


Poverty dominates every moment of their lives. Mari works two low-paying cleaning jobs, including one at her daughter’s school, to try and make ends while hoping that her husband, who has emigrated to Canada, will send for the family.
Mari leaves for work in the early hours, with her children more or less left to their own devices, and returns after dark. Anti-Roma slurs and institutionalised racism confront them at every turn—whether at school or in the work place. The entire community, in fact, is under threat following the recent murder of a neighbouring family.


Ugly incidents build throughout the film. Anna witnesses a rape at school but is too afraid to report it to the authorities, probably because she has been subjected to the same brutality. Eleven-year-old Rio does not go to school, plays video games, and spends time in a secret hideout he has fashioned in the nearby forest. He hopes it will protect him in the event of any violent attacks.


Rio later overhears two Hungarian policemen examining what remains of the home of the murdered neighbouring Roma family. One of the cops tells his partner that this family were “hard-working” and should not have been killed. “They are shooting the wrong families. I could show them who to shoot,” he declares.


The film’s climax occurs at night, after Mari has returned home and they are preparing to sleep. There is some rustling outside their rudimentary home but they reassure each other that it is “Just the wind.”


Fliegauf is measured in his approach and does not idealise the Roma family or sensationalise the tragic story. While the film’s closing credits provide some limited factual details on the anti-Roma attacks there are no references to the role played by Hungarian governments—past and present—and the mass media who are politically responsible for extreme-right militia thugs‘ attacks on the Roma.


Despite this, Just the Wind is a compassionate work and hopefully will encourage audiences—especially outside Europe, where there is virtually no reportage on the Roma—to investigate these issues more deeply.”

by Richard Phillips, from here

More about the violence against Roma in Hungary here