Monday, June 07, 2010

Pixies pulling out of Israeli show = "cultural terrorism": promoter

Stuck here out of gas
Out here on the Gaza Strip
From driving in too fast
--The Pixies (River Euphrates)

These are lines that will not be sung in Tel Aviv, now that the Pixies have decided to cancel playing what would have been their first-ever gig in Israel, in light of the Israeli government's bone-headed decision to defy world opinion and continue to punish Gazans for voting the wrong way.
Quick to play the victim card was concert promoter Shuki Weiss, who sent out his own release claiming Israel was a target of “cultural terrorism,” and that the government should step in and stop it. “I am full of both sorrow and pain in light of the fact that our repeated attempts to present quality acts and festivals in Israel have increasingly been falling victim to what I can only describe as a form of cultural terrorism which is targeting Israel and the arts worldwide.”

What a bizarre thing to accuse them of, "cultural terrorism". Only someone who completely misunderstands what the WHO called a war crime, could possibly come up with such a moronic phrase as that to describe a band choosing to simply take a pass on playing somewhere.

While Juan Cole points out that there is a sizable contingent of sane and peace-loving Israelis making their voices heard, I cannot put it any more cogently than he:
The musicians are protesting the aid flotilla massacre, in which 9 innocent persons were killed and 30 wounded. Come on. I’m not big on cultural or academic boycotts myself, but ‘cultural terrorism?’ How is declining to come a way of inspiring fear in someone? Maybe you could call it cultural passive-aggression. But terrorism?


A kind reader pointed out that Israeli troops and the Israeli authorities have now admitted to firing bullets at the deck of the Mavi Marmara before the commandos landed, and I think the evidence is that these bullets wounded some passengers and provoked the resistance to the landing.

So while we contemplate the complete loss of rational thought from the Israeli government, at least we can enjoy a good dose of Pixies singing about stuff that would almost surely explode the heads of the Israeli hawks.

OK, so yeah, you caught me - any excuse to put the Pixies into a blogpost.

J'suis coupable.

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Friday, June 04, 2010

We get mail - from US reporters wanting our opinions on other US reporters!

From: "Jacobon, Terry" [name changed]
Sent: Thu, June 3, 2010 3:56:46 PM
Subject: From Terry Jacobson [name changed] of the [MAJOR ESTABLISHED US NEWSPAPER]

Dear Scott in Montreal:

Hi. I’m a reporter for the [MAJOR ESTABLISHED US NEWSPAPER], and I’m writing under deadline about the media coverage of the BP oil spill.

I was intrigued by your comments on the Daily Kos about Anderson Cooper. He’s working hard and producing dramatic spots.

May I have a comment from you, for inclusion in my piece, about exactly *what* you think Anderson is doing right? What is he telling the world that others aren’t?

To include your quote, I’ll need your real name, and I assume your hometown is Montreal.

And I like Canada. I don’t think your government is sorry-ass. At least not always. Mine, well . . .

Terry Jacobson
Media Editor/Writer

Re: From Terry Jacobson [name changed] of the [MAJOR ESTABLISHED US NEWSPAPER]
From: Randboro
To: "Jacobon, Terry" [name changed]

Sorry to get back to you so late. I am not typically an avid consumer of US media, although I have plenty of access to it. I usually focus on issues in my own country, plus (as a die-hard Habs fan) hating the Flyers, of course!

I cross-posted the dailykos diary to my own blog, btw, at My name is Scott Murray and yes, I do live in Montreal. Quote me at will, if that helps you.

The thing Anderson did right yesterday was he communicated effectively to his audience, and took them by the hand so even a Tea Party stalwart could understand that in the case of BP, something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Given that the medium is the message, an iconic telejournalist like Cooper is a medium unto himself, so when he came down from the mountain to discover corporations are selfish and heartless, that in itself is a powerful message, regardless of the numerous ways in which his basic reporting habits are wanting.

What Cooper did a good job of, was he dismantled the cone of silence (to some degree, at least) that BP is attempting to place on the media. That he got some workers to voice their concerns despite BP's attempts to stifle all comment was probably the most impressive part for me. He could easily have taken it a bit further, and called out BP for not supplying full protection from the fumes for all clean-up workers - like the people they showed in the stock video cleaning up the Exxon Valdez disaster.

Watching again tonight, I found myself wondering why he doesn't get an expert in mechanical engineering / physics / fluid mechanics on the program, instead of lamely shrugging and saying he isn't qualified to judge what they are actually looking at from the live feed. C'mon, you're CNN, get some experts to weigh in! That's Writing and Reporting 101 stuff (with his staff and budget, only his ego could possibly be getting in the way of doing this, no?)

Plus, while those three oil-basted birds make great symbols of the carnage, I can't help thinking that an oceanographer would be a big help in explaining the long-term consequences to the food chain. That, to me, is the biggest long-term scary-scary outcome of all this; and it demands serious consideration by the media on the whole. Maybe Cooper and his producers are pacing themselves, and first dealing with the current #1 priority of their viewers, but who knows? I fear that long-term, the massive shock to oceanic biodiversity will be the legacy of this disaster, more than just the loss of fishermen's livelihoods. Like Vonnegut's Ice-9.

You should read up on the 1990s' collapse of the Newfoundland cod fisheries to get a bead on what Louisiana and other Gulf states may have to look forward to, economically. In that case, it was government mismanagement that took the brunt of the blame (and here I thought it was the insatiable worldwide demand for McDonald's Filet-o-Fish sandwiches).

I like the [MAJOR ESTABLISHED US NEWSPAPER]. Great legacy. Best of luck to you.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Anderson Cooper is restoring my faith in journalism

Full credit to Anderson Cooper. In one hour this evening, he did more to awaken his countrymen to the horrors of unchecked neo-liberal corporatism than a thousand indie-film docs on Monsanto, GM or Enron combined.

Having been riveted by Cooper's 360 show during the aftermath of the disastrous Haiti earthquake earlier this year, I felt certain he would have the best daily on-the-ground coverage available from the Gulf of Mexico, where the unfettered oil leak contamination is worsening daily.

I was not disappointed. Unlike most broadcast journalists, Cooper does not shirk to use his considerable status and reach to effectively and boldly tell the story, and to hold the powerful to account. Tonight he did just that.

This evening's show was intelligently and unrelentingly critical of the callous reaction of British Petroleum to the growing Gulf of Mexico oil-spill catastrophe that they created but cannot seem to stop.

Cooper is completely in his element when reporting on the ground from a crisis situation. Back in the territory where he made his name five years ago by tirelessly covering the devastation and abysmal federal response to Hurricane Katrina, Cooper is now setting his sites on this huge multinational corporation (British Petroleum) overdue its comeuppance for generations of being everything rotten about Big Oil that the makers of There Will Be Blood tried hopelessly to tell us. And the wily Cooper knows precisely when, where and how hard to throw his punches for maximum effect.

Just for perspective's sake, BP is the fourth-largest corporation in the world. Its market capitalization at the end of last year stood at 181 billion USD, a figure that surpasses the GNP of entire nations, including Slovakia, Morocco and Chile.

And Anderson Cooper had at 'em. With few new developments today, save for yet another spectacular mishap on BP's part in containing the leak, Cooper stoically gave their CEO Tony Hayward full benefit of the doubt in trying gamely to understand his off-the-cuff explanation for clean-up workers' health complaints as being almost certain cases of food poisoning.

Together with Dr. Sanjay Gupta (who himself was most endearing in his chemically-challenged attempts at describing hydrocarbons as things "surrounded by hydrogen molecules"), Cooper efficiently swatted away Hayward's dubious food poisoning claim by pointing out these numerous sufferers of teary-eyed dizzyness and nausea didn't all eat at the same diner, after all. He also got Dr. Riki Ott to go on camera explaining what long-term effects (including increased cancer rates) she's documented from protected Exxon Valdez clean-up workers.

Next, Cooper got a couple of today's Gulf Coast clean-up workers on camera, even though they were scared of being fired for going against the non-disclosure agreements they'd signed with BP in order to obtain their $12 an hour clean-up jobs. They were speaking out about the lack of timely pay for services; about the lack of protective gear for their personal well-being (in particular, face masks); about the fact they felt they couldn't speak up for what they thought was right because of the waivers they were forced to sign. Cooper remarked on the irony of a British company stifling the free speech of American citizens.

In truth, it could just as easily have been an American or Japanese or Indian company, of course. But the historical precedent must rankle for any American with a passing knowledge of their country's founding history, especially with Hayward doing such a fabulous job of re-enacting King George III in every way that matters.

Not done there, Cooper did everything but hold his hat in his hand, humbly begging for anyone from BP to come onto his show for an interview, while explaining that there has been no shortage of direct invitations to do so. Then, in the last few minutes of his broadcast, a live meter reading of the estimated gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf was prominently displayed in the bottom-right corner of the screen. The figure increased at a rate of about nine gallons per second, with well over 34 million gallons already disgorged.

As the show ended, I realized something more significant than Katrina is now unfolding before us. Unbelievably, I wonder if we mightn't be looking back someday, remembering this time as the beginning of the end of Big Oil.

...if not the end of Big Business itself. In conjunction with Obama's bold words today, one can only assume that some kind of significant change in American capitalism is afoot.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Well Israel, you have really lost the PR war now

You have got yourselves perfectly embroiled in an international incident that is not going away until you learn that even you must eat crow sometimes.

So far, it doesn't appear to have sunk in. I notice it only took you a few hours to release some propaganda on youtube, so we know you have a crack PR team working this untenable calamity. In a less imperfect world, the UN Security Council would enforce some strong measures. Against Israel, yes. And if you have the slightest desire to regain the upper hand in this PR war, soon you will have to realize there is only one good course of action for you to take.

It starts like this:

Immediately, Israel should send every one of the detainees from yesterday - and their boats - to Gaza and get that aid distributed.

Second: announce you are relaxing the border controls but reserve the right to re-invade Gaza should any proof of weaponization recur there (UN inspectors on the ground, which would both require Hamas approval, and corner them into transparency).

Third: apologize profusely and allow a third party investigation by Interpol, or China or some disinterested and globally respected NGO. Stop being the bad guys and realize your immense US support can be cut back substantially if your actions continue to be a drag on incumbent congress members during an election year.

Meanwhile, everybody: sit down. Have a cream soda.

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