Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 23, 2012

Owen Jones on Gaza

Filed under: zionism — louisproyect @ 11:47 pm

The Central Park Five; The Loving Story

Filed under: african-american,Film,racism — louisproyect @ 10:38 pm

Starting today, New Yorkers will have an unprecedented opportunity to see two uniquely hard-hitting documentaries on race relations in the U.S. at Maysles Cinema in Harlem, one of the crown jewels of the nation’s most famous Black neighborhood. As a team, Albert and David Maysles were documentary filmmakers, whose work encompassed a wide variety of topics, from the hustling bible salesmen of the 1968 “Salesman” to the Rolling Stones concert flick “Gimme Shelter”. The younger brother David died of a stroke at the age of 55 in 1987. Now 86, Albert Maysles is still going strong. Only two years ago Albert served as director of photography on Oliver Stone and Tariq Ali’s “South of the Border”, a real inspiration to me as a 67-year-old aspiring Vimeo auteur. If Albert Maysles can gallivant around in the thin air of the Andes, then I should have twenty good years ahead of me as well.

The best thing you can say about “The Central Park Five” and “The Loving Story” is that they are the sorts of films that David Maysles must gaze upon with admiration from his perch in filmmaker’s heaven. They do him proud. Starting today and running through the 29th, “The Central Park Five” is a study of the naked racism of New York’s police department, district attorney’s office, and mass media collaborating together to carry out an act of injustice that is no exaggeration to compare to the Emmett Till case. As Malcolm X said in a 1964 speech: “America is Mississippi. There’s no such thing as a Mason-Dixon line—it’s America.”

“The Loving Story” is also a study of prosecutorial racism, in this instance the 1958 conviction of Richard Loving and his wife Mildred for violating the miscegenation laws in Virginia. Richard was white, and Mildred was an ethnic mixture of Black and American Indian. They were simple, rural people not at all interested in becoming civil rights activists but they insisted on the right to live as husband and wife in Virginia. Their case went up to the Supreme Court and in 1967 their legal victory had the effect of wiping such Jim Crow laws off the books everywhere except Alabama, which finally relented in 2000. When watching the film, you cannot but help be reminded of the struggle to legalize gay marriage—another seemingly “normal” ambition that strikes at the heart of American backwardness. “The Loving Story” opens on December 10th and runs through the 16th.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about “The Central Park Five” is that Ken Burns directed it. To me Burns is the Steven Spielberg of documentary films, focused on “feel good” narratives about uncontroversial subjects such as jazz or baseball that are calculated to serve as cinematic comfort food to PBS audiences. With such a powerfully engaged work like this to his credit, it should encourage everybody—including me—to check out his PBS series on the Dust Bowl now in progress.

The story of Burns’s decision to make such a film is most interesting. A New York magazine article starts off:

“They’re so full of shit,” says Ken Burns, railing against lawyers for New York, the city that’s been the glamorous star of so many of his documentaries. “The outrage that I feel comes from the fact that people were readily willing to sacrifice the lives of five young men, that they were expendable, that they’re still stuck in a lie, and that the institutional protectionism continues.”

The idea for the film came from his daughter Sarah:

It was her project from the start. Sarah met two of the Central Park Five back in 2003, when she was a Yale undergrad interning at a law firm that was preparing their civil case. Casting around for a ­senior-thesis topic in American studies, she wound up with a 50-pager on the media’s use of racial tropes in covering the case. Newspapers had coined the dubious term wilding to describe the “wolf pack” of 30-odd kids that had roamed the park that April night, beating and mugging passersby. (Other teens were convicted of lesser crimes; the Five were part of that group but probably not ringleaders.)

I have vivid memories of the incident that occurred back in 1989. I used to run along the same path that the jogger took and slowed down on 102nd Street to see the placards, candles and flowers left there by people who felt remorse over what happened to her. Like many New Yorkers, I began to worry about being attacked myself. This was a period in the city when the crime rate was much higher, largely a result of the crack epidemic that the film alludes to. When the five teenagers were arrested, the city saw this as just another instance of an out-of-control Black and Latino community. Just as Mayor Dinkins was accused of favoring his own race by creating the conditions that allowed a Jew to be stabbed during riots in Brooklyn, the “wilding” in Central Park was largely attributed to a breakdown of law and order. Shortly after the youths were arrested, Donald Trump paid for full-age ads in the city’s four daily newspapers urging the reinstatement of the death penalty—the only thing that could put a dent in what was implicitly a Black and Latino assault on white people.

As stated in the New York magazine article, the Central Park Five were involved with crimes in the park that evening but nothing more than physical attacks on white people. In a city so polarized back in 1989, such attacks were widespread and bidirectional. For example, if a Black or Latino accidentally wandered into an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn late at night, the consequences would be the same. It was their misfortune, however, to be arrested on the very evening when an investment banker was being savaged to the point of near death. The cops were under pressure to find the culprits and they would do.

A word must be said about Mahnola Dargis’s despicable review in the New York Times. She faulted the film for not telling the whole story:

[T]he Voice printed an investigation by Barry Michael Cooper that quoted residents of a housing complex across from Schomburg Plaza who identified several of the accused teenagers as belonging to a group of sometimes violent neighborhood troublemakers. Some of the accusations involved the usual kid stuff, like making noise, but there were also brutal attacks. A lengthy New York magazine cover article several months later also detailed violence.

The problem with this is that none of the youth were convicted of any crimes nearly so brutal as the rape and near-murder of the jogger. Furthermore, we have no access to the articles Dargis cites so we have no way of evaluating her take on what was written. Maybe this is her way of exculpating her employer that had this to say in the days following the arrests:

The ferocity of the attack – the repeated beatings, the use of a pipe as a weapon, the serial rapings – sets it apart, too. Every attack, every rape, particularly by gangs, is vicious; but this one suggests a sort of mindlessness, not so much an indifference to pain and suffering – to humanity, that is – as a rather joyful ignorance of it, as when a cat torments a mouse. But these assailants and this victim were not dumb beasts.

That’s from an op-ed piece by Tom Wicker, arguably the paper’s most liberal columnist. If that is what he was writing, you can imagine the racist vitriol in the pages of the Daily News and the Post.

Five young men spent seven years and upward for a crime that they did not commit. It was a miscarriage of justice that in some ways is reminiscent of the West Memphis Three case in Arkansas, when three outsiders were convicted of a murder solely on the basis that they were devil-worshippers. It is frightening to think that a Black or brown skin can amount to the same kind of offense in “civilized” New York. The Central Park Five will be in attendance at the Sunday matinee and I strongly urge you to buy tickets for that showing or any other for that matter. This film is on the inside track for my nomination for best documentary of 2012.

If you spotted Richard Loving in person sans identification, you’d look for the nearest getaway. With his blond crew cut and his passion for drag racing, the first thing that comes to mind is redneck, if not a suspicion that he was behind the drive to ethnically cleanse his rural village of a mixed-raced couple, if not worse. That his face screams out Klansman but in fact conceals the soul of an unprejudiced human being serves up the same lesson to be drawn from Ken Burns’s documentary but positively. You can’t rely on stereotypes.

Richard and Muriel knew each other from an early age. As they put it in Nancy Buirski’s hugely inspiring documentary, whites and Blacks lived among each other in their village and saw nothing wrong with hanging out together. Indeed, some of the most interesting recollections about Richard, who died in an auto accident in 1975, came from Black friends who worked on cars with him.

After they were wed, the last thing that the Lovings intended was to be some kind of Rosa Parks taking on the racist establishment. But when the local cop, an avowed racist, entered their bedroom in 1958 shining a flashlight in their eyes to inform them that they were breaking Virginia’s race laws, they refused to accept society’s verdict.

In exchange for a suspended sentence, they had to agree to leave the state of Virginia. After moving to Washington, they were never happy with urban life and yearned to return home. Eventually they found themselves represented by Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop whose reflections on the case permeate the film. Both are interesting characters in their own right as the press notes indicate. Cohen was born in 1934 and became involved with the case through a referral from the ACLU. Hirschkop has been involved with constitutional rights cases throughout his life and has been chief counsel of PETA since it began. More intriguingly—and going against stereotypes—he is also an ex-Green Beret.

This was Nancy Buirski’s debut film and as such an auspicious step into the world of documentary, a key element of the struggle for social justice in America today—as important in many ways as Iskra was to the fight against Czarism. When some on the left complain about our impotence, they need to be reminded of the role of people like Sarah Burns and Nancy Buirski who are leading the charge against injustice using the camera as a sword.

Up the Anti Conference: December first, Queen Mary University

Filed under: anti-capitalism — louisproyect @ 5:47 pm


Since the financial crisis broke we have seen a rising tide of protest, revolutions and resistance.

One of the driving forces of these movements has been a desire to change the future: to reject the idea that we have no future outside of the logic of never ending austerity, declining living standards and the loss of public services to private profiteers.

Up the Anti is a one day conference to think about and discuss  how we lay claim to the future that we want and deserve. It will host an eclectic mix of sessions, ranging from in-depth seminars and debates to participatory, facilitated discussions and workshops. There are many questions we need to ask, including:

  • Is there an alternative to capitalism? What might it look like?
  • How do we win popular support for new radical projects?
  • What can we learn from the social struggles and new movements in Europe?
  • And how do we overcome divisions within left and radical movements?

What next after the Occupy protests?

We called the event ‘Up the Anti’ because we all agree that we need to build a bigger movement against social oppression and capitalism.  But we are not just against things, we also want to reclaim the future from those in power who seem intent on dragging us towards austerity, growing social inequality and environmental destruction.

The conference will be held in London at Queen Mary university, not far from Mile End and Stepney Green underground stations.

But the day is not just all workshops and seminars, we also have time for a gig at Queen Mary Student Union with comedy, music and DJs. Highlights include the up and coming radical comedian Chris Coltrane and the critically acclaimed blues guitarist Sean Taylor.

UP THE ANTI is a genuine movement event put on by a plurality of groups, websites, publishing houses, and networks. It is sponsored by New Left Project, Ceasefire, Occupied Times, Anticapitalist Initiative, Red Pepper and Globalise Resistance.

November 21, 2012

A picture is worth a thousand words

Filed under: Fascism,zionism — louisproyect @ 10:33 pm

Bard College, Israel and the Palestinians

Filed under: bard college,middle east — louisproyect @ 12:12 am

Peter Beinart

Walter Russell Mead

The Fall issue of the Bard College alumni magazine came with its regular New Republic type propaganda, this time taking the form of an article by Peter Beinart titled “Israel’s Challenge: Can Democracy and Zionism Coexist?” Sigh, all I ever wanted to find out from an alumni magazine is whatever happened to Shoshana Rosenberg, the art major who liked to listen to Olatunji records when we were having sex. Why do I have to put up with sermons from the right wing of the Democratic Party? I want my tuition money back, all $8000 of it.

Beinart’s article was actually a speech he delivered at Bard last spring on his new book “The Crisis of Zionism” at the invitation of the campus chapter of J Street, a liberal Zionist group that is viewed in AIPAC circles as little different from Hizbollah. To show you how unhinged groups like AIPAC are, J Street is a group that now states:

Israel’s current military operation is a response to the hundreds of rockets that have rained down on Israel from the Gaza Strip over the past year. Every day, Israel’s southern residents carry with them the fear that a sudden Qassam rocket could change their world forever.

It should be said that Beinart has been the target of the American Likudniks as well. When he was invited to speak at the annual Jewish Book Fair in Atlanta, the powers-that-be disinvited him. In my view, this is not so much a sign that Beinart’s views are progressive but that official Judaism is veering ever more sharply to the right. Given time, they will be ostracizing Alan Dershowitz. (Well, maybe not.)

The talk was sponsored by the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities, one in a host of liberal think-tanks largely paid for by George Soros. It is useful to remember what Hannah Arendt once said about the kind of people who run Israel today and the well-funded lobby that speaks on its behalf. This was an open letter to the N.Y. Times on December 4th, 1948 signed by her, Albert Einstein, and other Jewish notables:


Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.

The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin”s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.

Read in full

Breinart’s speech was filled with all the old bromides. I found this one particularly nauseating:

Most of Zionism’s founders were people who originally wanted to live in the countries of their birth in Europe, and who desperately hoped that Europe would live up to the Enlightenment liberal ideals that they believed in fervently. They reluctantly came to the conclusion that they could not live safe, full lives in Europe, and that the Jewish state could be more true to Enlightenment principles than the countries they came from.

Talk about denial. Let’s look at one of these champions of “liberal ideals”, a fellow named Israel Zangwill who was born in London in 1864. At one time he was an advocate of colonizing Palestine but later on favored settling in any territory deemed ripe for a takeover. This was a guy who championed Jewish emancipation, woman’s suffrage, and peace among nations—just the sort of high-minded person Beinart was referring to.

But from Wikipedia we learn:

In 1901 in the New Liberal Review, Israel Zangwill wrote that “Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country”.

In a debate at the Article Club in November of that year, Zangwill said, “Palestine has but a small population of Arabs and fellahin and wandering, lawless, blackmailing Bedouin tribes.” Then, in the dramatic voice of the Wandering Jew, “restore the country without a people to the people without a country. (Hear, hear.) For we have something to give as well as to get. We can sweep away the blackmailer—be he Pasha or Bedouin—we can make the wilderness blossom as the rose, and build up in the heart of the world a civilisation that may be a mediator and interpreter between the East and the West.”

In other words, the “democracy” that Beinart blathers on about was democracy for the Chosen People, not the dirty fellahin. If there is any real difference between the original aspirations of the Zionist movement and that of the French in Algeria, it is lost on me. At least the pied-noir spared us liberal, democratic pretensions.

Apparently some students at Bard were not taken in by Beinart’s nonsense. In a profile on Peter Beinart that appeared in New York Magazine a couple of months after his appearance there, we learn:

In late April, Beinart takes an Amtrak train out of Penn Station and heads two hours north, up the Hudson Valley. Like any author flogging a book, Beinart has become a familiar presence on the speaking circuit—although, given his book’s subject, his particular circuit largely consists of synagogues, Jewish community centers, and Hillel houses. Oftentimes, he faces a hostile audience. At the Columbia Hillel, he debated Daniel Gordis—the event was promoted as a “Heavyweight Fight on Zionism”—and was heckled. “I feel like from the clapping I have about a quarter of the room,” Beinart said during a rare moment of applause, “which is better than I expected.”

On this April evening, Beinart’s schedule calls for him to be at Bard College. It is Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, and he has been invited by the school’s J Street student chapter. The mood, however, is anything but festive—although this time he is facing anger from his left. As he walks into the lecture hall, he is handed a flyer by a student protester that reads celebrate ­israeli ethnic cleansing “independence.” He then spends most of his 90 minutes insisting to those in attendance that Zionism is not racism and that Tel Aviv is not the center of all the evil on Earth. When it is over, Beinart looks whipped. “I wish Jeff could have seen that,” he says.

(The “Jeff” referred to immediately above is Jeff Goldberg, another “liberal Zionist” who shares Beinart’s early support for the war in Iraq and tepid criticisms of Israeli policies.)

My guess is that Leon Botstein has probably evolved toward a J Street type of Zionism. He is smart enough to show his new clothing by advising (I’m sure) the alumni magazine to include Beinart’s speech. He has also attempted to burnish his reputation among progressive Jews by defending the right of the International Solidarity Movement to have official status on campus.

Over the past several weeks, Bard College and I as its President have been the object of unsubstantiated, exaggerated, and often vitriolic accusations regarding a student group on campus that has chosen to affiliate itself with an organization called the International Solidarity Movement. Some of those who have posted on blogs and written emails claim that ISM is a “terrorist” organization committed to the destruction of the State of Israel and its people. The information on the Bard ISM student website is being misrepresented to suggest that the college and its students are involved with illicit activities, encouraging and training terrorism.


One can only welcome the president’s stance on this issue. Anything else of course would have been a sign of gross capitulation to the Israel lobby and clearly an unwise course of action.

The latest IDF blitzkrieg on Gaza has elicited a “think piece” by Bard professor Walter Russell Mead, who I have described once as the school’s Thomas Friedman. Titled “America, Israel, Gaza, and the World”, the article attempts to answer the question “Why aren’t the Americans hating on Israel more?”

Mead cleverly tries to make his position more tenable by reducing ostensibly radical positions to a caricature: “Others allege that a sinister Jewish lobby controls the media and the political system through vast power of Jewish money; the poor ignorant Americans are the helpless pawns of clever Jews.” Well, the fact is that the major media is careful to omit any analysis that is to the left of Peter Beinart, but few of us blame this on “Jewish money”—starting with me. Israel gets kid gloves treatment because it is a reliable protector of American imperialist interests in the Middle East. Once upon a time Walter Russell Mead, before he became fat and sloppy at the trough of academic privilege, understood how this worked—at least to some degree.

This is the Publishers Weekly blurb on Mead’s “Mortal Splendor: The American Empire in Transition”, written in 1988, when Mead apparently still had some dim memory of a leaflet he wrote 20 years earlier:

Since the end of World War II, Mead asserts, the United States has maintained the largest empire in history. This neoimperialism, he argues, is built on intervention in the domestic affairs of Third World countries and coercive political efforts to block those countries’ sustained economic growth. Both Nixon and Carter tried to regulate change in underdeveloped nations in ways that would be acceptable to U.S. corporate interests.

Nowadays, Mead enjoys a perch at the American Interest, a magazine with an editorial board including the likes of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Niall Ferguson, Bernard-Henri Levy. What the hell. If you are going to sell out your youthful beliefs, you might as well do it in grand style.

Assuming a kind of professorial neutrality, Mead draws a contrast between most people on earth who are appalled by Israeli barbarism and the “Jacksonian” American people who do not believe in proportionality. This is a reference to Andrew Jackson who did not believe in fighting by the rules. I would say that the fate of the Palestinians and the Cherokees—seen side-by-side—gives some credence to that.

Mead tries to explain the average American’s response:

Thus when television cameras show the bodies of children killed in an Israeli air raid, Jacksonian Americans are sorry about the loss of life, but it inspires them to hate and loathe Hamas more, rather than to be mad at Israel. They blame the irresponsible dolts who started the war for all the consequences of the war and they admire Israel’s strength and its resolve for dealing with the appalling blood lust of the unhinged loons who start a war they can’t win, and then cower behind the corpses of the children their foolishness has killed.

Key to Mead’s presentation of the American mindset is this analogy:

Certainly if some kind of terrorist organization were to set up missile factories across the frontier in Canada and Mexico and start attacking targets in the United States, the American people would demand that their President use all necessary force without stint or limit until the resistance had been completely, utterly and pitilessly crushed.

But that’s where Mead drops all pretensions of being a James Chase Professor entrusted with the hard-earned $50,000 dollar a year education of Bard students and becomes what he really is beneath the pretensions: a crude propagandist of the sort that pops up regularly in the op-ed pages of the N.Y. Post.

While Mexicans certainly had grievances against American imperialism (the reference to Canada of course was absurd–almost as absurd as Ali G. advising  Brent Scowcroft to bomb Canada), imagine if the American Southern slavocracy had defeated the North and colonized Mexico in order to reproduce the plantation system. To make it work, it would find it necessary to expel the native peasant population into El Salvador and Honduras. At that point, it would be logical for the expelled Mexicans to fight for the right to return to their homeland.

Once upon a time Mead might have understood this. Nowadays he is an addled old sot drunk on his own propaganda.

November 19, 2012

UK Jewish MP: Israel acting like Nazis in Gaza

Filed under: zionism — louisproyect @ 5:22 pm

November 18, 2012

Jews against Zionism

Filed under: zionism — louisproyect @ 1:22 am

Jewish Anti-zionist demonstrators protest near to the Israeli embassy in central London on November 15, 2012 outside of the Israeli embassy in central London.

November 17, 2012

Busted by the sociobiologists, and busting back

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 10:10 pm

Irven DeVore

For Irven DeVore, this picture explains Hugh Hefner’s deal with 21 year old women

Four days ago I got this comment on my blog from one Claire DeVore beneath an article on Napoleon Chagnon:

I am curious about your photo copyright. My agency represents Doctor Chagnon I have no record of your requesting use of the final image. Please contact me at cdevore@anthrophoto.com

I had used a photo of Chagnon that turned up in a Google image search, just as would most bloggers. Furthermore, the photo was not retrieved from www.anthophoto.com but from the Boise State College website, without any attribution to Ms. DeVore’s company there. In any case, I did not care that much about using that particular photo so I replaced it with another and then followed up with a message to her.

I already replaced it, assuming that the photo in question was used in the article you commented on. Btw, I got it from the Boise State website, not yours. There was no copyright notice there, as far as I know. I should add that I am very respectful of intellectual property. After all, what would our wonderful world of capitalism be without it?

Apparently the crack got under skin since she followed up with this:

Capitalism?  Hardly.  My website doesn’t make a profit.  I keep it running to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples we worked with.  I lived with the !Kung San when I was seven years old.  “Profits” are sent back to the Kalahari People’s Fund for many of those images.

As to Nap’s photo I try to keep a tight hold on those for obvious reasons, after the Tierney attack.

Thank-you for removing it.


Claire DeVore

This bit about living with the !Kung San and the reference to “Nap” intrigued me. Who were these people? A trip to the website turned up three names in what is apparently a family-run operation:

Nancy DeVore – Image Procurement, Billing, Professional Services
(617) 868-4784, ndevore@anthrophoto.com

Dr. Irven DeVore – Professional Services
(617) 868-4784, idevore@anthrophoto.com

Claire DeVore – Image Procurement, Pricing, Billing, Research
(617) 484-6490, cdevore@anthrophoto.com

From what I can gather, Nancy is the wife of Dr. Irven DeVore, a Harvard professor emeritus, and Claire is their daughter. Acting on a hunch, I googled “Irven DeVore” and “Napoleon Chagnon” and turned this up:

Chagnon, who retired this year as a professor of anthropology at the University of California in Santa Barbara, still retains his eminence in the field. Irven DeVore, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard, says, “Chag was both first and thorough. First in the sense that very, very few anthropological studies have been carried out by an anthropologist who was first on the scene. Thorough in the sense that Chag has visited at least seventy-five Yanomami villages on both sides of the Venezuela and Brazil borders. I cannot think of a comparably thorough survey among any cultural group by any anthropologist. Chag gathered very detailed and documented data on the villages–so much so that another investigator could study the same population and come to a different conclusion. Chagnon’s study was ‘scientific’ in the best sense of the word.”

This is from Patrick Tierney’s November 6, 2000 New Yorker article on Napolen Chagnon that would get a full-blown treatment in  “Darkness in El Dorado”. This book triggered a huge debate that divided anthropology between Chagnon supporters and those who agreed with Tierney, even with qualifications.

I wrote a series of articles on Chagnon, including the one that had the photo Ms. DeVore wanted removed. I think her problem (and more likely that of Chagnon and Professor DeVore) was more with the text than the picture, as the first few paragraphs would indicate:

When I first got word of the Jared Diamond/New Yorker magazine scandal, I could not help but think of Napoleon Chagnon and the Yanomami. Just around the time that the Marxism list was launched, a big fight broke out among anthropologists over Chagnon’s fieldwork with the Amazon rainforest Indians provoked by the publication of Patrick Tierney’s “Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon”. Sides were drawn in the profession between those pro and con Chagnon, who at least unlike Jared Diamond had professional qualifications in the field. In doing some preliminary research on the Chagnon-Tierney dispute, I have learned that some experts in the field without any apparent axe to grind have faulted his research.

I plan to revisit the controversy in light of what I have learned about evolutionary psychology, particularly through my reading of Jared Diamond’s “The Third Chimpanzee” but want to start off by posting some excerpts from the fifth edition of Chagnon’s “Yanomamo”, a book that was titled “Yanomamo: the fierce people” in its initial publication in 1977. Given all the controversy his research has generated, it is understandable why he would have dropped the term “fierce people”, especially since the global perception that they are facing extinction. It would be like writing a book in 1940 titled “The Aggressive Jew”.

Now that my curiosity was piqued, I wanted to see what this guy Irven DeVore was about. I couldn’t imagine that he was as bad as Chagnon (who could be?) but wanted to see where he stood in the oft-compromised world of anthropology.

On May 11, 1993 the Washington Post had a survey article on new glossy magazines devoted to making scientific issues understandable to the unwashed masses. One of them was Omni that was launched by Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione. In an issue devoted to “Sex and Violence among the Primates”, there was an expert the magazine interviewed who assured its readers that sex and violence against women is in our genes. Just look at the mating habits in monkeys, “particularly certain species wherein the female gives sex exclusively to one male in exchange for protection from other males” in a manner “eerily similar to certain human relationships.”

That expert was Irven DeVore. No wonder why he would take the side of a total dick like Napoleon Chagnon.

DeVore’s views on male domination were spelled out in a series of articles on the baboon, whose aggressive behavior among males and male domination over females supposedly is the key to human society.

This typically biological determinist approach was dismantled in an Autumn 1991 issue of “Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society”, published by the U. of Chicago. Titled “Baboons with Briefcases: Feminism, Functionalism, and Sociobiology in the Evolution of Primate Gender” and written by Susan Sperling, it takes on the male domination is in our primate genes theories almost always written by males.

Early sociobiological views of the evolution of human gendered behaviors incorporated primatological data and viewed males and females as having differential reproductive strategies. Because of the presumably greater “investment” of female primates in infant rearing, female behaviors were viewed as selected because they advanced a female’s chances of gaining male protection during vulnerable periods for herself and her offspring (offspring are seen as fleshy packets of shared genes). Females frequently were pictured as conservative, coy, and passive. By contrast, it behooved males to inseminate as many females as possible, thus forwarding their attempted genetic monopoly of the future. [E.O.] Wilson wrote: “It pays males to be aggressive, hasty, fickle and undiscriminating. In theory it is more profitable for females to be coy, to hold back until they can identify the male with the best genes. Human beings obey this biological principle faithfully.” DeVore and other sociobiologists have maintained that the sexual and romantic interest of middle-aged men in younger women and their presumed lack of interest in their female age cohort stem from selective pressures on male primates to inseminate as many fertile females as possible [emphasis added].

No wonder Bob Guccione would want to interview Irven DeVore on women. One can just as easily imagine him as a frequent guest at the Playboy mansion especially in light of “the sexual and romantic interest of middle-aged men in younger women and their presumed lack of interest in their female age cohort stem from selective pressures on male primates to inseminate as many fertile females as possible.”

Dr. DeVore puts himself forward as an expert on everything primate and human. When feminist students at Harvard demanded a Women’s Studies program, he opposed them—stating that the class he taught on social relationships should be sufficient. I doubt that they were assuaged in light of his observations in an April 1986 issue of Science magazine:

Soap operas have a huge following among college students, and the female-female competition is blatant. The women on these shows use every single feminine wile. On the internationally popular soap Dynasty, for example, a divorcee sees her ex-husband’s new wife riding a horse nearby. She knows the woman to be newly pregnant, so she shoots off a gun, which spooks the horse, which throws the young wife, and makes her miscarry. The divorcee’s own children are living with their father and this woman; the divorcee doesn’t want this new young thing to bring rival heirs into the world to compete with her children.

Whole industries turning out everything from lipstick to perfume to designer jeans are based on the existence of female competition. The business of courting and mating is after all, a negotiation process, in which each member of the pair is negotiating with those of the opposite sex to get the best deal possible, and to beat out the competition from one’s own sex…. I get women in my class saying I’m stereotyping women, and I say sure, I’m stereotyping the ones who make lipstick a multibillion dollar industry. It’s quite a few women. Basically, I appeal to students to look inside themselves: what are life’s little dilemmas? When your roommate brings home a guy to whom you’re extremely attracted, does it set up any sort of conflict in your mind?

To my readers with kids in high school: don’t waste your money sending them to Harvard. They’d be better off at a good state college, especially one that does not have imbecile sociobiology professors eager to shove sexist theories down their throats.

New Syrian opposition leader unacceptable to American imperialism

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 2:40 pm

Obama says US not ready to recognize or arm newly formed Syrian opposition group
By Associated Press, Published: November 14

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Wednesday he’s encouraged that the Syrian opposition has formed a new, more representative leadership council, but the U.S., unlike some other countries, isn’t ready to recognize the group as a “government in exile” or to arm it…

Obama said the U.S. needed more time and wanted to make sure that the group “is committed to a democratic Syria, an inclusive Syria, a moderate Syria.” He also said the U.S. isn’t considering sending weapons to the opposition because of concerns the arms might fall into the hands of extremists.

“We have seen extremist elements insinuate themselves into the opposition and one of the things that we have to be on guard about, particularly when we start talking about arming opposition figures, is that we are not indirectly putting arms in the hands of folks that would do Americans harms, or do Israeli harm or otherwise engage in actions that are detrimental to our national security,” he said.



The new leader of Syria’s opposition has a history of statements that are anti-Semitic, outrageous, and sometimes downright bizarre.

Khatib’s animosity toward the West is similarly evident in his writing. In one article, written in 2011, the new coalition leader speaks of “stupid American, cunning British, and malignant French diplomacy.” He also accuses Western powers of propping up the old Egyptian regime and working to weaken the country for their own ends. “The collapse of the Egyptian regime is the beginning of the international regional system’s descent,” he writes. “The collapse of Egypt itself is an enormous Israeli desire [emanating] from its frightening project to split the region into repugnant sectarian entities.”

The new Syrian opposition leader doesn’t hesitate to stoke Muslims’ fears of persecution at the hands of the West. He posted on his website a flamboyant Dutch Radio report on the imminent ethnic cleansing of Europe’s Muslim minorities, based on statements by right-wing European figures and Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of the Tunisia’s Islamist Al-Nahda party, which is now a major partner in the country’s coalition government.

Khatib is also a fan of Qatar-based Egyptian televangelist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi. His website places Qaradawi on equal footing with Tunisia’s Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation set off the Arab revolutions, and praised the Egyptian preacher as “our great Imam.” Qaradawi is a controversial figure who has been denied entry to France and Britain for his support of suicide bombings — he has described such attacks, when used against Israel civilians, as “evidence of God’s justice.” Given Qaradawi’s Qatari connections, Khatib’s praise of the cleric may be an indication of where his loyalties lie.


November 16, 2012

Martin Fay, Fiddler With the Chieftains, Dies at 76

Filed under: music,obituary — louisproyect @ 2:43 pm

NY Times November 16, 2012

Martin Fay, a classically trained violinist who helped revive traditional Irish music as a founding member of the Chieftains, died on Wednesday in Dublin. He was 76.

His son, Fergal, confirmed the death.

The Chieftains formed in 1962 as pacesetters of a new movement to reclaim the pure musical traditions of Ireland from the relatively slick commercial-sounding groups that had come to dominate the folk stage. Mr. Fay played haunting fiddle lines and contributed popping rhythms by knocking together a pair of bones, a time-honored Celtic instrument. His fiddle is the first sound heard in the Chieftains’ music for Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 film, “Barry Lyndon,” a performance that helped propel the group to world recognition.

In 1989 the Chieftains were appointed official musical ambassadors for the Republic of Ireland, a role they fulfilled by performing with the Rolling Stones, the Boston Pops, Willie Nelson and Luciano Pavarotti. They entertained Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Ireland in 2011. They played before the pope and on the Great Wall of China. They have made more than 40 albums and won six Grammys.

Mr. Fay was born in Dublin on Sept. 19, 1936. Inspired to take up music after seeing a film about the violinist Niccolò Paganini, he studied the violin and won a scholarship to the Municipal School of Music in Dublin. He played in the orchestra of the Abbey Theater, Ireland’s national theater.

Increasingly fascinated by Ireland’s indigenous music, Mr. Fay was recruited by Sean O Riada, the leading figure in reviving the old music, to play in the ensemble he led, Ceoltoiri Cualann. Paddy Moloney, who played the traditional Uilleann pipes (the Irish bagpipes), and was also a member of Ceoltoiri Cualann, started the Chieftains. The other original members, besides Mr. Fay, were Michael Tubridy on wooden flute, Sean Potts on tin whistle and David Fallon on the bodhran, a kind of drum.

Mr. Fay stopped touring in 2001 and retired the next year. Mr. Moloney is the only original Chieftain still playing with the group. (Mr. Tubridy and Mr. Potts left in 1979, Mr. Fallon in 1965.) The other current members, now a quartet, are the fiddle player Sean Keane, the vocalist and bodhran player Kevin Conneff and the flutist Matt Molloy.

In addition to his son, Mr. Fay is survived by his wife, Grainne, known as Gertie; his daughter, Dearbhla Fay; a sister; and a grandson.

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