November 16, 2014
November 15, 2014
As powerful evidence that the spirit of the Occupy movement continues, “Occupy the Farm” chronicles the struggle of Bay Area activists to preserve the last vestige of farmland in a major metropolitan center. On May 11, 2013 a group of activists, including some who had graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in agriculture, occupied the Gill Tract, a 104 acre plot of land owned by the university after learning that the increasingly corporatized institution planned to “develop” it. Part of the development included a Whole Foods supermarket, a supremely ironic touch since the Gill Tract was producing free food for its hungry neighbors under the auspices of the occupiers.
This is the second time I have seen the disgusting behavior of the Berkeley administrators in a documentary as they take on the riffraff. A large part of Frederick Wiseman’s “At Berkeley” showed how the top brass decided to smash student protests against escalating fees under a sanctimonious defense of keeping a “great” university going. As they get ready deploy the campus cops to throw the occupiers off their land, their excuse this time is to “serve the community” by creating new housing and leasing to Whole Foods, a predatory corporation that shares the Berkeley administration’s talent for sanctimonious self-justification.
Caught somewhat in the middle between the administration and the masses are the agriculture department faculty members who have been conducting corn experiments in Gill. They too would be usurped by Whole Foods and commercial development. The more left-leaning professors become part of the occupy movement while the more right-leaning (this is relative obviously, since we are in the Bay Area) try to make an accommodation with the administration.
The film supplies ample evidence that tight budgets explain the university’s hard-nose approach to the occupiers. With less public funding, the books can only be balanced through a revenue stream of commercial real estate and research funded by BP, among other scumbag corporations. Even if corn research seems more benign than commercial development in the Grill Tract, further investigation would reveal that much of it entails GMO and biofuel research rather than feeding the hungry.
Since I tend to stay on top of occupy-type protests and anything involving “Green” farming, I was surprised to learn that this exemplary movement eluded me completely. If those are the sort of issues that you find compelling as well (why else would you be here?), I recommend seeing the film at the Quad in New York starting today and at the Laemmle in Los Angeles starting next Friday. This is a documentary that will leave you feeling like the movement has power (I hope that is not a spoiler alert!)
Opening at Cinema Village today, “Drug Lord: the Legend of Shorty” recounts the efforts of two documentary filmmakers to track down and interview Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, the head of the Sinaloa cartel and arguably the most powerful drug dealer in the world. Like Michael Moore searching around for GM boss Roger Smith, the dramatic tension involves major obstacles finding their subject. It is open to debate who was more of a menace to society, “El Chapo”, which means shorty, or Smith.
Director Angus MacQueen seems ambivalent about Guzman. Although it is almost impossible to overstate the damage he has done to Mexican society, he cannot help but romanticize him in the way that narcocorridos do, the genre that combines traditional music of the border region with lyrics that “toast” the gangsters wreaking havoc. At the start of the film, there are scenes from vintage Zorro films that are somewhat questionable. Zorro fought on behalf of the poor and the oppressed while Guzman was strictly in it for making money. This is not to say that his neighbors, friends and employees were not grateful for the occasional kindness, such as transporting a rancher’s son to a faraway hospital by helicopter. For every son Guzman might have benefited, there were likely a dozen other young men or women who lost their lives either through crossfire or through turf battles.
Guzman was essentially the Pablo Escobar of Mexico. He was the CEO of an immense corporation that exported goods all across the planet. The film does make clear that it was only because the government looked the other way that he managed to avoid arrest for 12 years. In 1993 he was arrested for his role in the killing of a Catholic priest who had information on his drug gang but escaped in a laundry cart in 2001, finally being captured last year.
The most interesting parts of “Drug Lord” consist of interviews with lower-level employees and associates of Guzman, whose faces were barely disguised. One imagines that this reflects the relative impunity such men enjoy in Mexico. They are frank in their assessment of the business, seeing death or arrest as a willing price to pay for a life that is almost impossible to achieve in Mexico through legal means.
Although I can recommend “Drug Lord”, I am still looking for a documentary on the Mexican drug trade that focuses on the political and economic aspects (what else would you expect from me?) It would be important to hear what Mexican radicals, especially those trained in sociology and history, have to say about the viral growth of drug syndicates over the past couple of decades. Much more could be said about the class dynamics of this terrible affliction that turned out to be responsible for the murder of 43 students. Something like this has to be reflected in a film:
Since 2006, more than 100,000 people have been disappeared or killed in Mexico, a country where more than 90 percent of crimes go unpunished. While running for president in 2012, Enrique Peña Nieto promised a new security strategy for the country, and an end to the highly militarized campaign waged by his predecessor, Felipe Calderón. Since taking office, however, Peña Nieto’s strategy has focused not on the safety of its people but on the confidence of its international investors. To make Mexico more attractive to overseas capital, he has pursued a market-based reform agenda that includes a technocratic overhaul of education, a move to shake up the telecommunications sector and the opening of the energy sector to foreign private investment. New narratives about the “Aztec Tiger” won’t make the kidnappings, beheadings and mass graves disappear, but Peña Nieto is doing everything he can to make foreign investors forget about them.
The irony of touting market-based reforms as a means of sweeping the drug trade under the rug is that the cartels themselves have become some of the most ruthlessly effective multinational capitalist enterprises in Mexico. The cartels are beginning to diversify, making money not just from drugs and other criminal activities like kidnapping and human trafficking but increasingly from control over industries like mining, logging and shipping.
Meanwhile, finance and real estate sectors in Mexico and the United States are awash with cartel profits, with one United Nations analyst arguing that drug money was the “only liquid investment capital” that kept the international economy from completely imploding in 2008. Over the last few decades Mexican capitalism has become a tangled web of legal and illegal activity, and the distinctions between licit and illicit economies have become increasingly blurred. The policies of the Mexican and US governments are only accelerating this trend.
“Salt of the Earth” not only shares the name of the witch-hunt period classic but also its advocacy for workers and the oppressed. Wim Wenders, the acclaimed sixty-nine year old German director, decided to make a film in honor of the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado whose work he became acquainted with 25 years ago. Wenders kept one of Salgado’s most famous prints on his desk, a panoramic shot of gold miners who labored in conditions not much different from the Indians in Peru, Bolivia or Mexico 400 years ago.
Born in 1944, Salgado was trained as an economist. He and his wife, who worked closely with him on his various projects over the years, were campus radicals who managed to keep one step ahead of the dictatorship. After he took a job as an economist in Paris, Delgado took up photography as a hobby but soon discovered that this was what he really wanted to do with his life.
Most of his photos are social in nature, for example covering the working class under oppressive conditions or war zones. But he is also passionate about nature. Wenders follows him on various trips around the world, including an amazing stint in the far north photographing walruses. Probably nobody is better suited to making such a film than Wim Wenders who has demonstrated a social consciousness in films such as “Land of Plenty” as well as a singular visual style.
Suffice it to say that this is greatest film about the art of photography I have ever seen. It opens on December 31, just in time for the various 2014 awards ceremony and certainly deserves my nod for best of the year.
Tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 15) the IFC Theater in New York is hosting a documentary short program that includes a 30-minute film titled “Embedded” slotted for 12pm.
This is another documentary about a photographer whose subjects are most often victims of injustice but unlike Salgado, the 26-year old, cigarette-smoking, prematurely balding Sebastiano Tomada Piccolomini readily admits that it is not politics that puts him in harm’s way photographing the FSA in Idlib but an irresistible urge to be where the action is. He confesses to really feeling alive when he is in the war zone. One has to wonder if the cigarettes and the baldness are occupational hazards of living on the edge.
Piccolomini lives with his beautiful girlfriend in a lower Manhattan loft. Despite being quite fond of each other, Piccolomini takes great risks of losing her every time he packs up his gear and goes to someplace like Libya, Syria, Afghanistan or Egypt. He has already seen close friends killed in Syria doing the same thing he has done.
This is not a film about politics but about one man’s devotion to his profession. As such it is a good companion piece to “Salt of the Earth”. I have no idea whether Piccolomini was partial to the cause of the FSA in Syria but their cause was certainly helped—probably in a losing effort—because of his willingness to put his neck on the line. Piccolomini started off as a fashion photographer but found it unfulfilling. Check out this compelling short documentary to see how some young professionals still find taking risks on behalf of art—and perhaps freedom—worth it. (You can see his Syrian photographs here.)
November 14, 2014
On August 2nd Ian Birchall wrote an article titled “Lenin: Yes! Leninism: No?” for the Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century (RS21) website that has touched off an ongoing debate. For those trying to create an effective anticapitalist movement, Birchall’s article makes plenty of sense since it goes a long way toward putting the icons of October 1917 where they belong, into the historical archives. For those, however, who want to trace their lineage back to the Bolshevik revolution, like the connection that the Catholic Church makes between Pope Francis (a pretty good guy by the evidence) and Saint Peter, there is a need to uphold the sanctity of “Leninism”. Yet nobody outside the ranks of a Leninist party or the Catholic Church takes the lineage claims very seriously, especially people like me who went through such a painful experience (Leninism, not Catholicism.)
Ian Birchall, like many of the people involved with the RS21 website, was a long-time member of the Socialist Workers Party in Britain. This group lost many members after it failed to take action against a top leader who allegedly raped a young member, a failure that led to an ongoing crisis that I discussed in an earlier CounterPunch article. SWP leader Alex Callinicos warned members that the revolt was less about the rape charge than it was about defending the party from an attack on “Leninism”, a ploy that probably accelerated the rush to the nearest door.
November 13, 2014
From Roland Boer’s “The ‘Failure’ Of Communism: A ‘Fall’ Narrative”:
Already in the late 1950s, real wages increased by 75 per cent, returning people to pre-war levels, while collective farm workers were the beneficiaries of the first agricultural welfare and pension scheme in Europe. By the 1960s, agricultural incomes rose by 6.7 per cent per year and industrial incomes rose by 4.9 per cent annually. Consumption of healthy foods – fruit, vegetables and even meats – increased significantly, while doctors and medical facilities became commonly available. As a result, fewer children died and people lived longer. While 138.9 in 1,000 children under the age of one died in 1939, by 1990 it was 14 in 1000. And those who survived could expect to live longer: life expectancy rose to over 68 years for men and over 74 years for women. Indeed, a reasonable number could expect to make a century: in the late 1980s, 52 people were found over one hundred years of age per one million.
And where did these numbers come from?
From here, a Wikipedia article that Boer does not credit. Whoever wrote the Wiki entry did the right thing and footnoted Library of Congress papers. I wondered how this sky-pilot knows so much about Bulgarian economic performance. Now I know, he plagiarized Wikipedia like so many mediocre undergrads and high school students do.
In the mid-1950s, Soviet-style centralized planning produced economic indicators showing that Bulgarians were returning to their prewar lifestyle in some respects: real wages increased 75%, consumption of meat, fruit, and vegetables increased markedly, medical facilities and doctors became available to more of the population, and in 1957 collective farm workers benefited from the first agricultural pension and welfare system in Eastern Europe.
Increases in real incomes in agriculture rose by 6.7 percent per year during the 1960s. During this same period, industrial wages increased by 4.9 percent annually.
n 1939 the mortality rate for children under one year had been 138.9 per 1,000; by 1986 it was 18.2 per 1,000, and in 1990 it was 14 per 1,000, the lowest rate in Eastern Europe.
Even before Zhivkov, Bulgaria made significant progress in increasing life expectancy and decreasing infant mortality rates. Consistent social policies led to an increase in life expectancy to 68.1 years for men and 74.4 years for women.
My first reaction to Roland Boer getting the Isaac Deutscher Prize was one of shock, since Boer’s pro-Stalin blogging is antithetical to what Deutscher stood for, even if some Trotskyists—James P. Cannon in particular—viewed him as soft on Stalin.
In his comment on my last post, Boer stated that I am “missing even the slightest sense of humour.” I am not exactly sure what the joke is about but perhaps Boer’s blog is really a big put-on. He does say:
Do I want to rehabilitate Stalin, who was more ambiguous than the popular conception would have it? That is up to the reader to decide, although – in case the quirkiness of Australian humour is not obvious already – one should never take what is written here too seriously. Like Lenin’s jutting chin of history, I suspect that one of Stalin’s greatest achievements was that amazing moustache.
Well, it is up to the reader to decide and I decided long ago that Boer is a Stalinist. Probably the best evidence for that is that when comments appear under his posts cheering him on for defending Stalin, he has never once said anything like “Er, mate, I was only kidding.”
Plus, when Boer writes for other publications the smirk tends to disappear from his face and the Stalinism oozes forth unabashedly. For example, in an article titled “The ‘Failure’ Of Communism: A ‘Fall’ Narrative” for the Philosophers for Change website, he makes the case for Bulgarian Communism, advising his readers that the dictator Todor Zhivkov was a gentle and permissive leader who did wonders for his people. That is unless you were unfortunate enough to be a Turk. Wikipedia, which is generally deferential to Zhivkov, reports:
In December 1984, Todor Zhivkov began a campaign of forceful assimilation of Bulgaria’s Turkish minority, most notably forcing all Turks to take Bulgarian names. By 1989, resistance to this policy led to riots, which resulted in multiple deaths. In May 1989, Zhivkov suddenly granted permission of all Turks to leave the country, which led to over 300 thousand emigrating to Turkey within three months.
I imagine that this would not perturb an admirer of Stalin and/or his mustache; the tyrant was quite adept at ethnic cleansing and no friend of Muslims.
Getting back to the Deutscher prize, I can only surmise that the judges have no idea that “Stalin’s Moustache” exists. Like many academics, their emphasis is on print rather than the net. Plus, you’d have to assume that Boer’s books on Marxism and theology have zero to say about Stalin. From the little I have seen from Boer on that topic, mostly on MRZine, I found them unobjectionable but not particularly useful in terms of understanding religion from a historical materialist perspective. Boer is mostly interested in how early Christians were communist. But above all, Boer’s focus is on ideas.
Typical is “Religion and Political Thought: Introduction”, an article he wrote for “Political Theology Today”.
Over the last few years, we have been engaged in an Australian project called ‘Religion and Political Thought’ – itself part of an international project known as ‘Religion and Radicalism’. Funded by the Australian Research Council, it seeks to do nothing less than kick-start an Australian tradition of political philosophy in relation to religion and theology.
Boer has received five grants from the Australian Research Council, a branch of the Australian government that advises it “on emerging issues and strategic policy challenges.” Well, who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Blogging on behalf of Joseph Stalin and getting handouts from a government think-tank. What a marvelous combination that certainly makes Max Horkheimer’s observation seem quaint by comparison: “a revolutionary career does not lead to banquets and honorary titles, interesting research and professorial wages. It leads to misery, disgrace, ingratitude, prison and a voyage into the unknown, illuminated by only an almost superhuman belief.”
The latest on the Stalin worshipper:
I discovered from a report on the HM conference in London that this asshole just received the 2014 Isaac Deutscher prize, the worst decision since it was given to Francis Wheen in 1999 for his Karl Marx bio. It was announced at a lecture by Panitch and Gindin:
The lecture started with the announcement of the winner of the 2014 Deutscher Prize, which was awarded to Roland Boer for his In the Veil of Tears: On Marxism and Theology, V, both in recognition of the book itself and of the Criticism of Heaven and Earth series of which it was the culmination. The other shortlisted works were Costas Lapavistas’ Profiting without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All, Frederic Jameson’s The Antinomies of Realism, John Saul and Patrick Bond’s South Africa – The Present as History.
I’ll take Patrick any day of the week.
Boer is a clown. His “Stalin’s Mustache” blog is the sort of garbage that could be heard at the Stalin Society in London, even more embarrassing than the junk I used to hear from Maoists in the 60s and 70s. Here’s a sample:
Here’s the HM blurb on the book:
In the Vale of Tears brings to a culmination the project for a renewed and enlivened debate over the interaction between Marxism and religion. It does so by offering the author’s own response to that tradition. It simultaneously draws upon the rich insights of a significant number of Western Marxists and strikes out on its own. Thus, it argues for the crucial role of political myth on the Left; explores the political ambivalence at the heart of Christianity; challenges the bent among many on the Left to favour the unexpected rupture of kairós as a key to revolution; is highly suspicious of the ideological and class alignments of ethics; offers a thorough reassessment of the role of festishism in the Marxist tradition; and broaches the question of death, unavoidable for any Marxist engagement with religion. While the book is the conclusion to the five-volume series, The Criticism of Heaven and Earth, it also stands alone as a distinct intervention in some burning issues of our time.
“challenges the bent among many on the Left to favour the unexpected rupture of kairós as a key to revolution”?
Where have I been? How did I miss this? I guess I was lost in the woods spending all my time on putting Lenin in context than in addressing the “unexpected rupture of kairós as a key to revolution”. I’ll pick up a hernia belt at CVS tomorrow. That should help.
November 12, 2014
You article (https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/the-endgame-of-the-us-islamic-state-strategy/) on how ISIS sprang from the womb of American imperialism is really fascinating:
“The IS was the illegitimate fetus born and nurtured inside the uterus of the US – engineered political process based on a constitution legalizing a federal system based in turn on sectarian and ethnic sharing of power and wealth.”
I think that your methodology could be the wellspring of a new way of conducting historical research. It could persuade one given to leaps of the imagination that Nazism sprang from the womb of British imperialism since the onerous conditions of the Treaty of Versailles made economic misery in Germany inevitable.
But Lloyd George and Clemenceau were not the original architects of the Third Reich when you stop and think about it. The real blame for the rise of the modern liberal bourgeois democracy was John Locke, the naughty British philosopher whose musings on freedom and property surely must have been intended to midwife the swastika.
Digging deeper into the tentacles of this vast conspiracy, you have to put the blame on Plato and Hellenic imperialism that in many ways was the forerunner of modern fascism. Without Plato, you can’t have Locke. Plato’s Republic with its philosopher-kings–that’s obviously the incubator for “Mein Kampf”.
But why stop there? Without Neanderthal man, there is no Greek “civilization”. They say that Alley-Oop, the headman of the Gubblik tribe of Neanderthals in lower Slobovia, was bent on destroying the planet way, way back in 200,000 BC. From what archaeologists can glean from the relics, Alley-Oop was a bed-wetter whose mom used to beat him over the head with the thigh-bone of a saber-tooth tiger. If there’s any lessons to be drawn from this abysmal tale, it is don’t beat your children with the thigh-bones of saber-tooth tigers.
With a warm embrace,
November 11, 2014
The North Star website was named in honor of Peter Camejo who launched the North Star Network in 1981 as part of an effort to regroup the left around a non-sectarian and non-dogmatic approach. He chose that name in honor of Frederick Douglass who published North Star, an abolitionist newspaper, from December 1847 until June 1851.
As someone who worked closely with Peter Camejo on the North Star Network, I had hopes that a website would carry on in that tradition. Because competing demands made on a series of editors rendered that task impossible, the website became dormant. I hope to resurrect it and help reorient it to its original mandate, which like the network of the early 80s, was to regroup the left around a non-sectarian and non-dogmatic approach.
The idea of something like North Star came to me about four years ago as I was nearing retirement at Columbia University. It would not be promoting a “party line” but instead provide a platform for socialists to report on the struggles they are involved with as well as facilitate debates about how to move such struggles forward.
November 10, 2014
Despite being a long-standing enemy of the Iranian theocracy, I found “Rosewater” very unsatisfying. As cable TV comedian Jon Stewart’s maiden voyage in film (he directed and wrote the screenplay), it is hobbled by both his inexperience in this medium as well as subject matter that might defy the best efforts of a Costa-Gavras. This is a tale based on the real-life persecution of Newsweek reporter Maziar Bihari who was in solitary confinement in Evin prison after being arrested on trumped-up charges for spying in 2009.
Stewart had a personal stake in making the film since Bihari was a guest on his show and a cause célèbre for the Daily Show after his imprisonment. For those who have tuned into his half-hour satire from time to time, you’re probably aware that there’s a special place in his heart for journalists up against a repressive state like Egypt’s Bassem Youssef. For Stewart, there’s an emphasis on freedom of the press even if there’s not quite an understanding that such freedom only exists for those who own one, as A.J. Liebling once put it.
A good ninety percent of the film takes place in the confines of Bihari’s cell in Evin Prison as an Iranian cop nicknamed Rosewater for the cologne he wears pressures him to confess to being a CIA agent. No matter how committed you are to the rights of journalists, there is simply not that much drama you can wring out of an interrogator making absurd demands on a prisoner when he is not beating him. Additionally, there is very little suspense as to how things turn out since one can only surmise that Bihari did not end up with a bullet in the head. Jon Stewart is not the sort of person who would spend good time and money on creating such a downer.
An additional problem is that as a character, Bihari has no strong beliefs. Although obviously in support of the Green movement that was protesting in the streets against what it considered a rigged election, he is like most professional reporters–somebody making a living rather than a fuss. As such, his tendency is to remonstrate with Rosewater that—as Joseph K. put it—there must be some kind of mistake. There are and were revolutionaries locked up and tortured in Evin but surely we can agree with Jon Stewart that a Newsweek reporter was there only because an out-of-control theocracy was ready to victimize a reporter seen mistakenly as an enemy of the Islamic Republic.
Maziar Bihari was nothing like his father who spent years in Evin prison in the 1950s for his Communist opposition to the shah. To create a contrast between father and son, Stewart has an actor play the father in a number of scenes in which the son conducts an imaginary dialogue with his father. As expected, the father speaks in terms of a revolutionary duty to oppose dictatorship while the son replies that he is mostly interested in getting out and back to his pregnant wife and his job.
There are some odd casting choices in the film. Best known for his performance as Che Guevara in Walter Salles’s “Motorcycle Diaries”, Mexican actor Gael García Bernal plays Bihari while his tormentor is played by Kim Bodnia, a Danish actor who was unforgettable as a low-level drug dealer in Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Pusher”. Given such an international cast (Rosewater’s superior is played by a Turk and Bihari’s driver is played by a Greek with British citizenship), he directed everybody to affect an Iranian accent—something that was a bad mistake especially in the case of Rosewater who kept reminding me of those American or British actors playing Nazi prison guards: “Ve haff a way of making people talk.”
But the worst miscalculation—a function of the “based on reality” framework—was turning Rosewater into a stick figure, a prison interrogator out of central casting. Now I would be the first to admit that anybody serving in that capacity for the Islamic Republic would be a real rat-hole but wouldn’t it have been more interesting if the character had some complexity? There was a scant 30 seconds when that possibility floated past. Toward the end of the film, when Bihari was about to be released, Rosewater tells him that he was never tortured like his father was in Evin prison.
If I had written the screenplay for “Rosewater”, I would have turned that into a backstory. I would have made the extremism of the interrogator more plausible by showing what his father endured and what led Iranians to back a dictatorship that harped on American imperialism so much. An American audience does not need to be convinced that Ahmadinejad and his tools were shit but it certainly needs some education on why Iranian students so often burned Uncle Sam in effigy.
As absurd as the charges against Maziar Bihari, the Iranians were on to something when they kept harping on Newsweek being a den of spies. Again, if I had written the screenplay, I would have had Rosewater read excerpts from Carl Bernstein’s Rolling Stone article from October 20, 1977—back at a time when the CIA rather than reporters like James Risen were on he defensive:
… At Newsweek, Agency sources reported, the CIA engaged the services of several foreign correspondents and stringers under arrangements approved by senior editors at the magazine.
… “To the best of my knowledge:” said [Harry] Kern, [Newsweek’s foreign editor from 1945 to 1956] “nobody at Newsweek worked for the CIA…. The informal relationship was there. Why have anybody sign anything? What we knew we told them [the CIA] and the State Department…. When I went to Washington, I would talk to Foster or Allen Dulles about what was going on …. We thought it was admirable at the time. We were all on the same side.” CIA officials say that Kern’s dealings with the Agency were extensive.
… When Newsweek was purchased by the Washington Post Company, publisher Philip L. Graham was informed by Agency officials that the CIA occasionally used the magazine for cover purposes, according to CIA sources. “It was widely known that Phil Graham was somebody you could get help from,” said a former deputy director of the Agency. . . . But Graham, who committed suicide in 1963, apparently knew little of the specifics of any cover arrangements with Newsweek, CIA sources said.
I am not sure what Americans will get out of this film, but there is at least one Iranian it left cold. This is what Kaveh Mousavi, “the pseudonym of an atheist ex-Muslim living in Iran, subject to one of the world’s remaining theocracies” and “a student of English Literature, an aspiring novelist, and part-time English teacher”, had to say:
Bahari appeared on a program called Pargar, on BBC Persian TV. In that program he not only defended his caving as a right thing to do (which is defensible), he attacked people who remained resilient under torture. He called them – repeatedly – romantics, and foolish revolutionaries behind the flow of times, and he said all of this to the face of Iraj Mesdaghi, a man who was a political prisoner in the 80s, when the regime was ten times more vicious than 2009, who had barely escaped a massacre, and had remained resilient under severe torture, which eclipses Bahari’s torture by miles.
It was from that time that I abhorred Bahari. Many of people I knew abhorred him already for confessions, but I find that wrong. No one can demand others to act in a certain in face of torture. He had the right to choose his own safety and freedom. But I abhor him for belittling real heroes, real freedom fighters, people he’s not worthy of licking their shoes. It’s one thing to defend your own choice, it’s another to demean the choice of those who made other (arguably more honorable) choices. And this was in the heat of the time we felt Green Movement is being defeated, and we felt desperate and very angry. It wasn’t a good time to shit on the heroes of an oppressed movement, and there was no need to.
Let me conclude with a few words about Jon Stewart, a comedian I tend to avoid nowadays for the same reasons I avoid Stephen Colbert and MSNBC. For the past six years we have been living under a regime that is in many ways worse than the one that preceded it, at least if you compare it to George W. Bush’s relatively chastened second term. I simply don’t want to be reminded of how lousy the Koch brothers are when Obama has deported more “illegal” immigrants than Bush.
Comedy is all about biting the hand that feeds it. The Viacom Corporation owns Comedy Central, the cable station that hosts “The Daily Show”. Viacom’s Rupert Murdoch is a nonagenarian named Sumner Redstone, whose net worth is $6.2 billion. Despite being a life-long Democrat, Redstone endorsed George W. Bush in 2004. In addition to his control over Viacom, he also has effective ownership of CBS, formerly the parent company of Viacom.
CBS and Viacom are major players in a media oligopoly that has been reduced to a smaller number over the past several decades, the fiefdom of people like Sumner Redstone and Rupert Murdoch. In a country where the free press reigns, there is no need to torture journalists or imprison them. The system works by making the stakes for reaching a mass audience so impossibly high that critics of the system in effect suffer solitary confinement. There is no need to put a gag over the socialist press since the costs of becoming a “player” are so high. Once that movement begins to gain the hearing that the Green Movement got in Iran, trust me that our own Maziar Biharis will end up in our own Evin prisons. Take a look at what James Risen is up against right now to get a feel for what awaits us.