Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 22, 2016

What’s wrong with the response to the Orlando massacre?

Filed under: Gay,terrorism — louisproyect @ 7:04 pm

(A guest post by Jamil Khader)

Conservative right-wing and liberal leftist reactions to the catastrophic mass-shooting at Pulse, the friendly gay club in Orlando, falter around the shooter Omar Seddique Mateen’s Muslim background. While conservative pundits and populist anti-immigration politicians drum up the perpetrator’s Islamic background, liberal commentators, including members of the Muslim and LGBTQ communities, try to downplay it. The former get caught up in right-wing Islamophopbic histrionics and the latter in politically correct taboos.

Both responses, however, are misguided, since they shift the discussion to cultural issues, thereby displacing the important question of the political economy of terrorism and homosexuality. These responses thus obfuscate the ways in which these terrorist acts be it homophobic, religious fundamentalist, or white fascist supremacist, are byproducts of the dynamics of global capitalism, in which sexual violence, including homophobic violence, has become central to its hegemony around the world.

The Fascist Islamophobic Backlash

Opportunistic politicians and conservative media pundits are using this homegrown lone-wolf terrorist act to continue framing the massacre in terms of the failure of liberal multicultural ideology and integration. They are adamant about making political capital out of this tragedy, by stoking the fire of Islamophobia. They resort to hackneyed colonial Orientalist narratives of the “clash of civilizations” between allegedly distinct and homogenous cultures and the “domestic radicalization” of immigrant Muslim youth.

Political leaders in both U.S. and around the world wasted no time pointing the finger at the homophobic Muslim shooter and to pay lip service to the humanity of the LGBTQ community. At the same, these same leaders have consistently supported anti-LGBTQ legislation or exploited LGBTQ issues as well as the massacre to pinkwash their atrocious records on human rights violations.

But Mateen’s links to ISIS or any other radical Islamic terrorist group remain tenuous at best. Although IS radio claimed responsibility for the massacre, which they referred to in Islamic military terms as “ghazwah” (incursion), Mateen had actually pledged allegiance to two ideologically opposed radical Islamic terrorist groups at war with each other. While the FBI has just confirmed that prior to the attack, Mateen had no connections whatsoever with ISIS, the FBI was the only organization that tried to recruit Mateen to commit terrorist acts.

By drumming up his religious affiliation and spurious terrorist connections, right-wing politicians and conservative commentators simply displace deeper socio-economic changes that result from the contradictions of the global capitalist economy onto a whole faith, culture, or race. The anti-Semite’s Jew of yonder years has been effectively replaced by the fascist’s Muslim. This fascist rhetoric also covers up not only the FBI’s “indirect role” in inadvertently fostering a culture of domestic terrorism. More importantly, it occludes the imperial interests of Western countries and their role in supporting the same radical Islamic terrorist groups, against whom they are supposed to be waging the “war on terror.” This way they can push their hysterical campaign to consolidate an “expanded police state” in the service of the global capitalist class.

Liberal Guilt

The liberal reaction, on the other hand, understandably downplays the shooter’s Islamic background. Even if Mateen’s links to ISIS were categorically proven to be inexistent, however, it is counterproductive to suggest that the shooter’s Islamic background played no role in shaping his views. Mateen’s putative links to ISIS notwithstanding, the fact remains that this fantasy of membership in a terrorist group is what sustained his sense of reality and what gave it consistency. His actual links to ISIS or any other terrorist group are really beside the point.

Predictably, liberals also seeks to demonstrate that homophobic terrorism is democratically distributed across all faiths and cultures.  They tend to pin the Orlando massacre down on Christian fundamentalist homophobic rhetoric. This might be useful in dealing with the guilt Western liberal leftists feel about their putative Islamophobia or the Western role in fragmenting Arab and Islamic countries, but it does not help account for the deeper causes of homophobic terrorism across the globe.

Blaming the massacre on cultural discourses simply ignores the structural changes that global capitalism has introduced especially, in gender and sexual norms, around the world. A better explanation is needed of how homosexuality is rejected even among Christian fundamentalists in the West as a byproduct of (Western) liberal discourses of gender performativity or postmodern permissiveness.

This can also shed better light on homophobic terrorism as an expression of the desire of different cultures and traditions to reclaim the past and return to fictitious traditional notions of cultural and religious purity, in which homosexuality did not allegedly exist.

The liberal response also insists on using the mantra that every individual, friend or foe, has a story of suffering and victimization. By providing a personal story to criminals and perpetrators, as the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek notes, “the monstrous murderer reveals himself to be a deeply hurt and desperate individual, yearning for company and love.” Along the same lines, liberal leftist pundits insist on reconstructing Mateen’s story, giving him a human face and making it possible to identify with his tragic humanity and suffering.

According to these reports, Omar Mateen is “a simple, Americanized guy,” who was going through a cultural and sexual identity crisis. He changed his name from Omar Mir Seddique to Omar Mir Seddique Mateen and was believed to be a closeted homosexual who “chose to hide his true identity out of anger and shame.” Indeed, Mateen has been reported to patronize gay bars, use gay chat apps, and even befriend a drag queen. This also explains his history of domestic violence.

The pop psychological analysis was quick to follow. Writing for Salon, Amanda Marcotte suggests that “Mateen had some self-loathing issues going on” which “he projected onto men who lived more unapologetically queer lives.” She concludes that Mateen “was acting on his sexual resentments more than . . . some well-articulated devotion to the ISIS caliphate.”

Media reports also leave no doubt as to the toxic environment in which Mateen grew up. Mateen’s father, a self-proclaimed homophobe, has reportedly posted a Facebook comment, expressing his shock and disbelief at his son’s actions, since “God will punish those involved in homosexuality.” It is not simply that the father passed his homophobic comments on to his son, as one report suggests, but that he instilled in him a characteristically “homosexual panic” at his own unspeakable forbidden desire.

The father’s political views also seem to have influenced Mateen’s actions. His support for the Afghani Taliban and his resistance to Western imperial intervention in his home country must have trickled down to his son. In a facebook post, Mateen had lashed out on Russia and the US for bombing IS and killing innocent women and children. In the midst of the killing spree, moreover, an eyewitness reported that Mateen told police negotiators on the phone he “wouldn’t stop his assault until America stopped bombing his country.” Nothing can explain this homophobic terrorism better than his alleged anti-colonial sentiments, but the real ideology, whether religious or nationalist, underpinning such anticolonialism is not clear.

Imperial designs were also intermixed with multicultural politics. As a fellow security guard stated in an interview with Newsday, Mateen hated everybody—“blacks, Jews, gays, a lot of politicians, our soldiers. He had a lot of hate in him.” Ironically though, the same eyewitness reported that as he was shooting, Mateen was trying to be politically correct: He made it clear he did not have a problem with “black people,” who have “suffered enough” in this country.

However, less emphasis has been placed on the link between his violent behavior and his employment at G4S. But it is equally important to understand the role this international private security company plays in maintaining new zones of apartheid within the global capitalist system around the world. G4S is responsible for managing prisons and military installations, erecting apartheid walls, and protecting the transnational capitalist class. Indeed, G4S is the same company that is responsible for constructing the 600-mile Great Wall around Mecca as well as the apartheid separation wall in Palestine.

Islamic Homophilia

On their part, Muslims around the world, but especially in the West, have fallen in line to perform what seems to be by now a familiar script in the aftermath of catastrophic terrorist acts: They refuse to accept, and correctly so, that these terrorist acts are committed “in the name of Islam” and at the same time, they insist on showing that Muslims account for the majority of victims of extremist Muslim violence.In this particular case, moreover, the focus in Islamic circles has shifted to theological squabbles about the meaning and status of homosexuality in the Quran and the traditions of the prophet Mohammad. As the first openly gay Imam Daayiee Abdullah states, “Nowhere in the Quran does it say punish homosexuals. And historians have also never found any case of the Prophet Muhammad dealing with homosexuality.”Undoubtedly, this theological squabble can be important for deconstructing the tyranny of the literalist interpretation of religious texts. This emphasis on interpretation can also demonstrate the diversity of theological views on homosexuality in different Muslim countries around the world. Indeed, as liberal commentators insist on reminding us, a 2015 Pew poll shows that most Muslims in the U.S. are more tolerant of homosexuality and gay marriages than major Christian groups

Nonetheless, the hermeneutic question keeps the problem within the cultural realm, away from questions about the political economy where attitudes to homosexuality and terrorism can be articulated together. In other words, the attitudes of diverse Muslim countries towards homosexuality should not only be examined in relation to the struggle over religious authority, however important that is for the project of reforming Islam, but more significantly in relation to the impact of global capitalism on these countries and their integration into the global capitalist system.Although some countries endorse homophobic terrorism as an expression of their anti-colonial struggle against Western hegemony, most countries that criminalize homosexuality have major stakes in the geopolitical struggle over power in the region and world, even more as allies of these same Western colonial powers. This might explain the difference in the official governmental position on the issue between on the one hand, more gay friendly or neutral countries such as Indonesia, Jordan, and Albania, and on the other, homophobic countries such as Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia that actively criminalize queer desire and disparage the LGBTQ community as “perverts.”

Re-inscribing the Class Struggle

Understanding homophobic terrorism in the context of global capitalist dynamics clears a space for dealing with the problem of terrorism in new ways. Indeed, no serious measures or policies can be taken to prevent another mass-shooting of this scale, unless the global dimensions of such acts are clearly worked out. By erasing the role of global capitalism in reproducing these acts of terrorism, moreover, conservative and liberal approaches also fail to offer a new emancipatory universal position that can unite diverse groups in the struggle for fundamental change in the global capitalist system.

This cannot be done, as Kenan Malik states, by “celebrating diversity, while treating everyone as citizens, rather than as simply belonging to particular communities.” Since local traditions work well with global capitalism, as Žižek points out, the precondition for a new path of freedom is precisely the renunciation of all roots in favor of an emancipatory universal identity. Žižek is thus right to insist, in his recent book Against the Double Blackmail, on the need to reinscribe the class struggle, since the task of the left today should be building “global solidarity of the exploited and oppressed,” a politics of solidarity structured around a common struggle for a “positive universal project shared by all.” This is the only ground from which a meaningful solution to terrorism can emerge.

 

January 17, 2016

Carol

Filed under: Film,Gay — louisproyect @ 8:08 pm

This year publicists sent out three film screeners about the lives of LGBT people for consideration by NYFCO in our December 2015 awards meeting. One was “Tangerine”, a film that was distinguished technically for having been made with IPhones but I could not even watch to conclusion since it was undistinguished in every other way. It starred transgender actress Kitani Kiki Rodriguez as a transgender prostitute who is trying to track down her pimp in Los Angeles and take revenge on him for cheating on her. I found it amateurish, cartoonish and exploitative despite the 96 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Moving right along, there’s “The Danish Girl”, a biopic based on transgender artist Lili Elbe who was the first man to ever undergo sexual reassignment surgery. It was a high-minded affair that smacked of Merchant-Ivory and hardly worth the 71 percent fresh rating it received on Rotten Tomatoes.

And then there is “Carol”, a film for the ages based on a Patricia Highsmith novel about the love affair of two lesbians. A number of her novels have been made into films, including the Hitchcock masterpiece “Strangers on a Train”. “Carol” was based on her 1952 novel titled “The Price of Salt” that appeared under the pseudonym Claire Morgan. Unlike many films and novels about homosexuals or lesbians such as “Brokeback Mountain”, Highsmith defied convention and gave her tale a happy ending. Perhaps this was related to the fact that she was a lesbian herself but just as easily could have been a function of her affection for outlaws in her novels, most especially Tom Ripley, the shifty and resourceful working class criminal of a number of her novels who aspires to join the bourgeoisie and succeeds on its own terms.

Unlike Gore Vidal’s 1948 “The City and the Pillar”, a gay coming-of-age novel that appeared under his own name and was published by the prestigious E.F. Dutton, Highsmith’s novel was rejected by Harper’s—her regular publisher. It ended up as a 25 cent Bantam pulp paperback with “The novel of a love society forbids” appearing on the front cover.

Highsmith wrote the novel after spotting a beautiful woman in a fur coat when she was working as a clerk in Bloomingdales the same year Vidal’s novel came out. Unlike her novel, Highsmith never ended up in bed with the woman but was sto smitten by her beauty that she was moved to write what amounted to a wish fulfillment story. What is so unusual about “Carol” is its ability to identify with the two main characters whatever your sexual orientation. As part of Hollywood’s general drift into the sewer, there are fewer and fewer love stories that have the power of the Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn epoch. Working with Highsmith’s gold, director Todd Haynes has exactly the right sensibility to make sure that not a single carat is lost.

As an openly gay man, Todd Haynes was obviously some suited to treat the material lovingly. Beyond his sexuality, he has a flair for the ambience of “Carol”, which is close to that of “Far from Heaven”, his 2002 film about a repressed gay man living in suburban Connecticut in the 1950s whose wife develops a platonic relationship with a Black gardener that comes within a hair’s width of becoming physical. “Far from Heaven” was viewed as homage to Douglas Sirk, a filmmaker who might have made a film like “Carol” if it was permissible in his day. Fortunately for Highsmith’s legacy, Todd Haynes is the Douglas Sirk of our day.

The film stars Cate Blanchett as Carol, the wealthy shopper who becomes the embodiment of Highsmith’s 1948 fantasy. While shopping for a Christmas present for her daughter, she runs into Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a younger aspiring photographer, who persuades her to buy an electric train instead of the typical feminine gift, a clever way to signal that the two women are not interested in playing by society’s rules.

Therese eventually gets invited out to Carol’s mansion in Connecticut for a Christmas dinner. As the two settle in for a comfortable and possibly intimate evening, their mood is broken by the arrival of Carol’s husband who is in the process of divorcing her. When he spots Therese in the house, he goes ballistic at the two women for their sexual transgressions.

To get away from the angst of her divorce, Carol suggests to Therese that she join her for a cross-country drive in her Cadillac. Like Jack Kerouac and Neil Cassidy, the two women go on the road to discover America and to satisfy their physical and spiritual needs. In a series of motels, their love deepens until her husband’s crude and vengeful intervention drives a wedge between the two—at least temporarily.

Since Highsmith is a novelist of the greatest story-telling ability and profound psychological insights with dialog to match, suffice it to say that the film is equal to the original material. While my respect for Alfred Hitchcock is second to none, Todd Haynes was a director born to make such a film. Through effective costume design, film score, and sets, “Carol” has a lot of the atmosphere of “Mad Men” but it is not meant to call attention to itself. It is instead just a backdrop to the story and as such works perfectly. Haynes is also a master of cinema and the road scenes are deeply evocative when traveling across the USA in a Cadillac was everybody’s fantasy, including Jack Kerouac’s.

Almost eight years ago, I wrote an article on Patricia Highsmith for Swans. My recommendation is to see “Carol”, my pick for one of the best three films of 2015. If you enjoy it and other film adaptations of her work including “Strangers on a Train” and the Ripley films, I urge you to read her fiction that I regard as neglected masterpieces. Let’s hope that the deserved acclaim for “Carol” leads to a Patricia Highsmith revival since she certainly deserves it.


Patricia Highsmith

The Crime Novels Of Patricia Highsmith

by Louis Proyect

(Swans – January 28, 2008)   Well-read Americans might not be familiar with the name Patricia Highsmith. At least this was the case for me before I stumbled across the movie Ripley’s Game on the IFC cable channel a couple of years ago.

Directed by Liliana Cavani and starring John Malkovich as Tom Ripley, a professional thief, it was quite unlike anything I had ever seen. Ripley, an American émigré living in rural France, pressures Jonathan Trevanny, a British frame shop owner in the local village who has never committed a crime in his life, to carry out a series of hits on Ripley’s enemies in the Italian mafia. Since Trevanny is suffering from leukemia, Ripley reasons that he would be amenable to killing complete strangers for a handsome fee in order to help meet family expenses after his death. Ripley has another motive in recruiting Trevanny. At the start of the movie, Ripley overhears Trevanny describing his estate as typically nouveau riche and out of character with the French countryside. Further study on my part would reveal that the Ripley films, and the nonpareil novels they are based on, nearly always involve such class resentments at their core.

Eventually I discovered that Highsmith’s Ripley’s Game also provided the narrative for Wim Wenders’s The American Friend that featured Dennis Hopper as Tom Ripley and Bruno Ganz as the frame-maker Jonathan Zimmermann (a Germanized character in keeping with the film’s relocation to Rotterdam from rural France). Wenders took some liberties with Highsmith’s novels that are not quite successful in my view. The Ripley character seems more in keeping with Dennis Hopper’s public image rather than the fictional character. With a cowboy hat lodged permanently on his head, Hopper’s Ripley is much more macho than Highsmith’s character, whose epicene malevolence is rendered far more successfully in Cavani’s movie.

Since Ripley’s Game was such an outstanding film, I was persuaded soon afterwards to watch The Talented Mr. Ripley, based on a much younger Tom Ripley’s introduction to the criminal world. Starring Matt Damon as the title character, it involves Ripley’s introduction to the world of the haute bourgeoisie. Hired by a shipping magnate to persuade his playboy son to return home to America from Italy, Tom Ripley allows himself to become the son’s paid companion in a relationship that has strong homoerotic implications, another theme that is omnipresent in Highsmith’s novels. When Tom Ripley learns that Dickie Greenleaf, the boating heir, has plans to dump him, he murders him and assumes his identity. Damon, like Malkovich, is adept at capturing the utterly cynical and amoral psyche of this most intriguing character.

As so often happens with excellent movies like Ripley’s Game, I make an effort to read the novel upon which the screenplay is based in order to find out more about the author. Eventually I discovered that Highsmith’s novels have inspired some of the finest movies over the past 50 years including her first, which provided the scenario for Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. Like the Ripley novels, Strangers on a Train involves homoerotic themes and a penetrating study of the lifestyles of the rich and infamous. Unlike the movies, however, the novels are blessed by Highsmith’s narrative voice, which is an utterly distinct one as demonstrated by this excerpt from Strangers on a Train.

That evening, Charles Anthony Bruno was lying on his back in an El Paso hotel room, trying to balance a gold fountain pen across his rather delicate, dished-in nose. He was too restless to go to bed, not energetic enough to go down to one of the bars in the neighborhood and look things over. He had looked things over all afternoon, and he did not think much of them in El Paso. He did not think much of the Grand Canyon either. He thought more of the idea that had come to him night before last on the train. A pity Guy hadn’t awakened him that morning. Not that Guy was the kind of fellow to plan a murder with, but he liked him, as a person. Guy was somebody worth knowing. Besides, Guy had left his book, and he could have given it back.

For those who have seen Strangers on a Train, you will remember Bruno as the worthless rich boy who cuts a deal with the tennis pro Guy Haines (an architect in the novel), who he has met on the train. If Guy will kill Charles Bruno’s wealthy father, thus facilitating his inheritance of a fortune, Bruno will kill Guy’s estranged wife, another worthless person, who has refused to give him a divorce. In the movie, Guy Haines struggles to release himself from the deal, even after Bruno has killed his wife. Despite Hitchcock’s dark sensibility, the movie is a sanitized version of the novel in which Guy Haines does carry out his end of the deal and is apprehended by the cops in the end.

This is not the only sanitized treatment of a Highsmith novel. In an otherwise masterful production, René Clément’s 1960 treatment of The Talented Mr. Ripley released in France as Plein soleil (the title Full Sun becomes Purple Noon in the English release) ends with Tom Ripley being nabbed by the cops for murdering his patron Dickie Greenleaf. In the novel Ripley goes scot-free and inherits Dickie’s fortune, thus proving that crime pays. It also downplays the homoerotic aspects, which is understandable given the period in which it was released. Starring Alain Delon as Tom Ripley and Maurice Ronet as Philippe Greenleaf (he has been Frenchified), the film does excel at showing the class distinctions between the two men. In one memorable scene that takes place on Greenleaf’s yacht, Ripley is humiliated by his bourgeois companion for not using his silverware properly. Delon was cast perfectly in this underdog role, as indicated by a particularly useful Wiki article:

At 14, Delon left school, and worked for a brief time at his stepfather’s butcher shop. He enlisted in the army three years later, and in 1953 was sent to fight in the First Indochina War. Delon has said that out of his five years of military service he spent 11 months in prison for being “undisciplined.” After being dishonorably discharged from the army he returned to Paris. He had no money, and got by on whatever employment he could find. He spent time working as a waiter, a porter, and a sales clerk.

This is somebody who would understand in the marrow of his bones what it meant to be a Tom Ripley. In Highsmith’s novel, we are introduced to the character as somebody who lives by his wits and on the fringes of the law. Indeed, he is even more dissolute than the character played by either Alain Delon or Matt Damon. He is sharing a seedy apartment with a window dresser (traditionally, a job done by gay men) where he spends his days sending out letters to unsuspecting victims in the name of the IRS demanding back tax payments.

When Dickie Greenleaf’s father approaches him with the proposal to go over to Italy to persuade his son to return to the U.S., Tom Ripley leaps at the opportunity since it would enable him to leave this sordid life of petty crime behind. After joining Dickie, Tom finds himself more and more drawn to the wealthy young man, to the point of trying on his clothes one day in secret. Matt Damon draws out all the homoerotic implications of this act, Delon less so.

Ripley is caught in the act, however, and humiliated by his social better — thus helping decide to take his eventual revenge. The scene is pivotal both to the American film (directed by the Briton Anthony Minghella) and Purple Noon. In Highsmith’s novel, the writing conveys what is beyond any movie to convey, once again establishing the priority of the written word as an art form. (The Marge referred to in the dialog is Dickie Greenleaf’s girlfriend.)

“What’re you doing?”

Tom whirled around. Dickie was in the doorway. Tom realized that he must have been right below at the gate when he had looked out. “Oh—just amusing myself,” Tom said in the deep voice he always used when he was embarrassed. “Sorry, Dickie.”

Dickie’s mouth opened a little, then closed, as if anger churned his words too much for them to be uttered. To Tom, it was just as bad as if he had spoken. Dickie advanced into the room.

“Dickie, I’m sorry if it—”

The violent slam of the door cut him off. Dickie began opening his shirt, scowling, just as he would have if Tom had not been there, because this was his room, and what was Tom doing in it? Tom stood petrified with fear.

“I wish you’d get out of my clothes,” Dickie said.

Tom started undressing, his fingers clumsy with his mortification, his shock, because up until now Dickie had always said wear this and wear that that belonged to him. Dickie would never say it again.

Dickie looked at Tom’s feet. “Shoes, too? Are you crazy?”

“No.” Tom tried to pull himself together as he hung up the suit, then he asked, “Did you make it up with Marge?”

“Marge and I are fine,” Dickie snapped in a way that shut Tom out from them. “Another thing I want to say, but clearly,” he said, looking at Tom, “I’m not queer. I don’t know if you have the idea that I am or not.”

“Queer?” Tom smiled faintly. “I never thought you were queer.”

Dickie started to say something else, and didn’t. He straightened up, the ribs showing in his dark chest. “Well, Marge thinks you are.”

“Why?” Tom felt the blood go out of his face. He kicked off Dickie’s second shoe feebly, and set the pair in the closet. “Why should she? What’ve I ever done?” He felt faint. Nobody had ever said it outright to him, not in this way.

“It’s just the way you act,” Dickie said in a growling tone, and went out the door.

Although Patricia Highsmith wrote almost exclusively about the homoerotic tensions between male characters, she knew the gay life from her own experience as a lesbian. Written under the pseudonym Clare Morgan, her 1952 The Price of Salt is the story of a love affair between two women based on her own coming out experience in New York. Along with Gore Vidal’s 1947 The City and the Pillar, it is an honest account of the gay experience and a breakthrough for American fiction.

Like Gore Vidal, Highsmith’s outsider sexual identity went hand in hand with outsider politics. As a student at Barnard College in New York City, Highsmith discovered an attraction for communism around the same time that she discovered an attraction for other women. As a native Texan, she found herself marching to the tune of a different drummer from an early age. Eventually, the contradictions of living in a society that was hostile to her political views and sexual identity became unbearable and she moved to France.

Despite working almost exclusively in the crime genre, Highsmith was not the typical pulp fiction author. In everything she wrote, there was an affinity with the more complex psychological novels that she studied as an undergraduate, including such favorites as Gide and Dostoevsky. Indeed, as one of the few openly gay novels of the 1920s, Gide’s The Counterfeiters had a major influence on Highsmith’s work. With a plot focused on forgery (Tom Ripley’s specialty) and its shifting identities — including the use of a pseudo-author — one can see how Gide’s masterpiece informed Highsmith’s work. Andrew Wilson’s very perceptive biography of Highsmith titled Beautiful Shadow: a Life of Patricia Highsmith makes this connection clear:

For Gide and for Highsmith, feelings, like love, were prone to the fantastical fluctuations. Highsmith’s protagonists bore witness to Gide’s theory, outlined at the end of The Counterfeiters, that emotions taken on as pretence, those which are feigned, can be felt as keenly as so-called ‘real’ feelings. Just as Gide uses the counterfeited gold coins to symbolise the notion of the fabricated personality, so Highsmith would work out elaborate plots featuring fakes and con-men in order to explore the mercurial fluidity of human identity.

It seems as if Highsmith used Gide’s novel as a blueprint for her writing; she reread it in late 1947, together with his journals and Corydon [four dialogues on homosexuality written in the spirit of Socrates] and looked to the character of Edouard as a kind of fiction-dised mentor figure. Like Edouard, Highsmith believed that reality did not exist unless she saw it reflected in her journal, while she also subscribed to his theory of depersonalisation, the ability of writers to negate their identities and take on the qualities of others. Such writerly empathy, Edouard states, ‘enables me to feel other people’s emotions as if they were my own’. Similarly, Highsmith, in her notebooks, often wrote about how her imagination provided her with inner experiences which were more ‘real’ than the actuality being played out around her. Although she was occasionally attacked for creating characters riddled with inconsistencies and illogicalities, Highsmith articulates the paradox of human nature: the irrationality of the civilised rational man. Gide, in The Counterfeiters, expressed another contradiction — the fact that in fiction one is often presented with men and women who behave in a logical fashion, while in real life it is common to meet people who behave irrationally.

With the advent of the 1960s radicalization, Patricia Highsmith became more outspoken on the issues tearing apart the United States. She opposed the war in Vietnam and took a keen interest in the plight of the Palestinians, as Andrew Wilson makes clear:

In an unpublished essay Highsmith wrote about the Middle East conflict in August 1992, she outlined the historical background that had formulated her position. When Israel was created — in May 1948, while Highsmith was at Yaddo, writing Strangers on the Train — following the withdrawal of the British, she remembers feeling optimistic about its future. ‘How happy and cheerful we all were then, gentiles and Jews alike!’ she wrote. ‘A new state had been born, and was therefore to be welcomed into the community of democracies.’ Yet soon after the state was formed — initially an area comprising of Jewish and Arab land, together with an internationally administered zone around Jerusalem — it was invaded by Arab forces, a move which in turn prompted Israeli troops to seize and gain control of three-quarters of Palestine. Highsmith was appalled at what she saw as Israeli brutality and insensitivity, remembering how some of her Palestinian friends were forced to flee their homeland. Since then, of course, the area has been the site of a series of complex, and increasingly violent, power struggles, yet from the beginning Highsmith aligned herself with other writers such as Gore Vidal, Alexander Cockburn, Noam Chomsky and Edward W. Said, who believed in Palestinian self-determination. In December 1994, Highsmith nominated a collection of Said’s essays and talks, The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination 1969-1994, as her book of the year for the Times Literary Supplement, commenting that she thought him ‘both famous and ignored. His eloquence on the real issues makes America’s silence seem all the louder.’ Highsmith agreed with Said’s opinion that the alliance between Zionism and the United States had resulted in the continued displacement of Palestinians. As a result, she felt forced to take a stand, no matter how small. After the election of Menachem Begin as Prime Minister in 1977, Highsmith would not allow her books to be published in Israel. ‘I’m sure the world couldn’t care less, but it shows that not every American refuses to see what’s happening,’ she said. In interviews she told journalists that she loathed Ariel Sharon and the Likud party, and that she found America’s support of the Israeli regime to be despicable.

‘Americans and the world know that America gives so lavishly to Israel,’ she wrote, ‘because the United States wanted Israel as a strong military bulwark against Soviet Russia during the Cold War. Now that the Cold War is over, America has cut none of its aid . . . What is an American tax-payer to make of the fact that the USA gives thirteen million dollars a day, still, to Israel without any request for repayment? . . . I blame my own country for the majority of injustices now being inflicted by the Israelis in what they consider Greater Israel… I blame [the] American government for the bad press permitted about the Arabs in the United States.’

As someone who has written about spy genre novelists in the past for Swans (e.g., Eric Ambler’s A Coffin For Dimitrios and Alan Furst’s Red Gold), I am happy to recommend Patricia Highsmith’s crime genre novels to its readers. While a source of great entertainment, the crime novel has the distinction of being able to serve as commentary on the phenomenon described by Honoré de Balzac in Le Père Goriot: “behind every great fortune lies a great crime.”

Ernest Mandel, the great Belgian Marxist economist and Trotskyist politician, was a life-long fan of crime novels and took time off from his busy schedule to write Delightful Murder: a Social History of the Crime Story in 1984.

In the chapter titled Inward Diversification, Mandel treats the class detective story in which the hero (Sherlock Holmes, et al.) outwits the villain as a kind of parable on commodity production in the early competitive days of industrial capitalism:

With the arrival of monopoly capitalism, however, reason has more and more trouble triumphing over irrationality, particularly in the era of fascism. A Sherlock Holmes has little chance of coming out on top of a jackbooted SS member who would defy the law even when confronted by his guilt. To get to the top of the heap under such a system, having superior intelligence is insufficient. Instead you need cunning and determination, two qualities that typify Tom Ripley, the quintessential modern man.

The crime novelist of the monopoly capitalism epoch can even decide to subvert the norms of the genre by making the criminal rather than the detective the real hero. Indeed, Mandel points to Patricia Highsmith as best representing this category. In Ripley’s world, the criminal always comes out on top. Even if Tom Ripley achieves his goals through brutal violence and a talent for falsehood, he will be a mere piker in comparison to the men who have invaded Iraq and wrought the financial scams that have resulted in the forfeiture of millions of American homes. Unlike Ripley, who retains a raffish charm throughout the series of novels that bear his name, these criminals evoke nothing but disgust and a fervent desire to disarm them before they manage to destroy the planet.

 

April 7, 2015

About Elly; Salvation Army

Filed under: Film,Gay,Iran,Islam — louisproyect @ 7:29 pm

Although I am generally put off by prizes and “best of” lists, I would be remiss if I did not cite Asghar Farhadi as one of the best filmmakers in the world today, who is to Iran what Nuri Bilge Ceylan is to Turkey: a supremely gifted dramatist that weaves the stories of individual men and women into the social and political fabric of his nation.

Opening tomorrow at the Film Forum in New York, “About Elly” is the third Farhadi film I have seen. Even though its release follows “A Separation” and “The Past”, it was made first—back in 2009. Made in 2011, “A Separation”—as the title implies—deals with the break-up of a husband and wife in Tehran whose marital problems are exacerbated by Iran’s charged political climate, especially for such well-educated and secular middle-class people. Made a year later and set in Paris, “The Past” examines some of the same family issues of “A Separation”. An Iranian husband has traveled to Paris to sign the divorce papers for his French wife. Although the primary tension in the film is about the pending break-up, a parallel drama revolves around the fate of foreigners in an increasingly nativist France.

This social milieu and its particular problems are once again the subject of “About Elly”, a film that works both as a story of responsibility and guilt after the fashion of Ian McEwan’s earlier (and better) novels, as well as the problems facing single women in Iran today.

“About Elly” opens with a small caravan of cars barreling through a tunnel in Iran as one of the women passengers is yelling out the window for no good reason except to be heard. She and the others are in high spirits since they are driving to a beachside resort on the Caspian Sea, the Iranian counterpart to a weekend in the Hamptons.

One of the male passengers is a handsome and bearded (but probably not for religious reasons) man in his thirties named Ahmad, who like the protagonist in “The Past”, has just separated from a European wife—in this instance a German. He is visiting Tehran where he hopes that Sepideh, a female member of the entourage, can fix him up with a nice Iranian woman.

Sepideh invites Elly, her daughter’s teacher, along for just that reason. Despite the Western-sounding name, it is just an informal version of Elizeh or Elika, etc. The fact that Sepideh has no idea of Elly’s full name might indicate that the ties between her and the rest of the group are tenuous at best. In essence, what is taking place in this well educated and secular milieu of law school faculty members is not that much different than traditional courtship rituals that have taken place for a millennium and one that usually empowers man at the woman’s expense.

As the group drives along toward the resort and even after they have unpacked, they tease the two who have just met about the upcoming marriage—to Elly’s mounting irritation. Perhaps the fact that all the women wear scarves—even indoors where it is not mandatory—indicates that their modernity is incomplete.

In the only moments when Ahmad and Elly are alone together, she asks why he and his German wife had divorced. His answered that she told him “a bitter ending is better than an endless bitterness.” He obviously agreed.

About twenty minutes into the film, there is an abrupt shift toward the tragic. Sepideh has asked Elly to keep an eye on her young son who is wading in the sea just behind their villa. As the film cuts to the group playing volleyball in their villa’s back yard, we see one of the younger children come crying. Sepideh’s son has been carried out to sea. The men rush into the turbulent waters and rescue the boy from drowning but Elly is nowhere to be seen. They fear that she has drowned trying to rescue the boy but hold out hope that she might have only left unannounced back to Tehran out of annoyance with their teasing.

The remainder of the film consists of mounting tension between Sepideh and her husband over her role in procuring a date with Ahmad, especially in light of the fact that Elly has been engaged for the past three years. If Elly had mixed feelings about the arranged tryst with Ahmad, she is simply miserable about being engaged to a man who will not allow her to break it off. All of this takes place against a backdrop of a desperate search for her body in the foreboding waters of the Caspian.

It is worth mentioning what David Bordwell, arguably the most respected Marxist film critic in the world today, wrote about the film in 2009:

The best, and my favorite film I’ve seen so far this year, was About Elly. It is directed by Asghar Fahradi, and it won the Silver Bear at Berlin. I can’t say much about it without giving a lot away; like many Iranian films, it relies heavily on suspense. That suspense is at once situational (what has happened to this character?) and psychological (what are characters withholding from each other?). Starting somewhat in the key of Eric Rohmer, it moves toward something more anguished, even a little sinister in a Patricia Highsmith vein.

Gripping as sheer storytelling, the plot smoothly raises some unusual moral questions. It touches on masculine honor, on the way a thoughtless laugh can wound someone’s feelings, on the extent to which we try to take charge of others’ fates. I can’t recall another film that so deeply examines the risks of telling lies to spare someone grief. But no more talk: The less you know in advance, the better. About Elly deserves worldwide distribution pronto.

While not quite “pronto”, we can be grateful for the opportunity to see a film that according to Wikipedia was rated the 4th greatest Iranian movie of all time by a national society of Iranian critics. Considering the artistic merit of Iranian films in general, this is high praise indeed.

Arriving as VOD (identified at the distributor’s website), “Salvation Army” is a major breakthrough since it is the very first film with a gay protagonist to come out of the Middle East and North Africa.

Abdellah Taïa, the first openly gay author in the Arab world, has now adapted one of his novels as a film, one that showed at the New Directors/New Films Festival in New York last year. Set in Casablanca, this is a bildungsroman in Taïa’s own words. The main character is a teenaged boy named Abdellah who is a closeted gay who has desultory trysts with older men in his neighborhood but whose most amorous feelings are directed toward his older heterosexual brother. His mother, sensing that there is something “wrong” with him, abjures him from spending too much time going through his brother’s clothes, especially his underwear.

It is obvious that family life has gotten the better of him. With a father who beats his mother and a mother who treats him like a servant, and sisters who laugh at his softness without actually openly engaging in gay bashing, there is not much joy to be found in Casablanca. In many ways, this is a tale that subverts the stereotypes many people have developed from reading Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs and the like.

Deliverance arrives in the form of a gay Swiss professor who kept Abdellah as his courtesan in exchange for help in a visa and entrance into the college where he works. The second part of “Salvation Army” depicts and older and wiser Abdellah fending off the professor and trying to eke out a living in Switzerland just before his first semester begins. This includes crashing at the local Salvation Army, the title of the film.

The film does not have a conventional plot but moves along as a series of vignettes that reflect different aspects of gay life in Morocco. It is not surprising given its provenance that it has a novelistic quality, with most of the drama having a subdued if not repressed quality. In the most evocative scene, Abdellah has gone to a beachside resort with his older and younger brothers. Just before they leave, the mother gives him an amulet to put under his older brother’s bed as a spell to ward him away from prostitutes. When he hooks up with a surly but willing waitress, Abdellah phones his mother to advise her that a stronger spell was needed.

I strongly recommend the Wikipedia entry on Abdellah Taïa that reveals him to be a multifaceted figure with a willingness to take up many other issues besides gay rights, including repression in Putin’s Russia and the terrorism that afflicts the Muslim world.

There is also a N.Y. Times article that is very much worth reading that I include below, just so that you do not run into the usual paywall issues:

HE was born inside the public library of Rabat in Morocco where his dad worked as a janitor and where his family lived until he was 2. For most of his childhood, he hid his sexuality as best he could, but his effeminate demeanor brought mockery and abuse, even as it would later become a source of artistic inspiration.

About eight years ago, the author Abdellah Taïa, now 40, came out to the Moroccan public in his books and in the news media, appearing on the cover of a magazine under the headline “Homosexual Against All Odds.”

It was an act that made him one of the few to publicly declare his sexual orientation in Morocco, where homosexuality is a crime. The hardest part, he recalls, was facing his family. They probably always knew, he said, they just never talked about it. Still, it took years to overcome the rifts.

“They cried and screamed,” said Mr. Taïa, who now lives in Paris. “I cried when they called me. But I won’t apologize. Never.”

In February, Mr. Taïa screened his film “Salvation Army” at the National Film Festival in Tangier, an adaptation of his book of the same title, and a promising directorial debut that gave the Arab world its first on-screen gay protagonist. The film, which has already been shown at festivals in Toronto and Venice and won the Grand Prix at the Angers Film Festival in France, was shown at the New Directors Festival in New York last month.

“Salvation Army” is based on the author’s life growing up in Morocco, his sexual awakening, his fascination with a brother 20 years older, his encounters with older men in dark alleys and his complex relationship with his mother and six sisters who mocked him for being too girly or too attached to them.

SHOOTING the film in two countries, he made clear artistic choices: no voice-overs, no music, no explicit love scenes. The film details a trip with his brother on which the two men bonded and also, a few years later, an affair with a Swiss man. After he moves to Switzerland in his 20s, he connects again with his mother.

But the film also shows the anger and frustration of the young Abdellah, as he fends off the advances of older men in a society that publicly rejects homosexuals.

“A lot of men in Morocco have sexual relations with men, but I looked feminine so I was the only homosexual,” he said. “In Morocco, sexual tension is everywhere and I wanted to show that in my film without having crude sex scenes; to stay true to these secretive behaviors.”

One night when he was 13 and with his family, drunken men outside called out his name and asked him to come down to entertain them, a traumatic scene he recalled in a New York Times Op-Ed article, “A Boy to Be Sacrificed.” After that he decided to change his persona, to eliminate his effeminate mannerisms to stop men asking him for sexual favors.

He worked hard to learn French so he could move to Europe to escape the oppression, moving to Switzerland in 1998 and then to France the following year.

“I can’t live in Morocco,” Mr. Taïa said in an interview in a Parisian brasserie. “The entire neighborhood wanted to rape me. A lot of people in Morocco are abused by a cousin or a neighbor but society doesn’t protect them. There, rape is insignificant. There is nothing you can do.”

Mr. Taïa spent his childhood watching Egyptian movies, detailing them in a scrapbook where he collected pictures of movie stars he admired, like Faten Hamama and Souad Hosni. The freedom in Egyptian cinema, where women appeared without veils and alcohol was consumed openly, pervaded his living room and gave him hope. In a scene in “Salvation Army,” the family is seen watching “Days and Nights” (1955) by Henri Barakat, and a scene where Abdel Halim Hafez sings, “Ana Lak ala Tool” (“I Am Yours Forever).

“Egyptian movies saved me,” he said. “There was already the idea of transgression through television happening in my house with my sisters. In my head, I connected that to homosexuality.”

THE author says he considers himself Muslim because he is very spiritual, and he believes that freedom has existed in Islam through those such as the Arab philosopher Averroes and the Iranian poet Rumi, and in works such as “1001 Nights.”

“I don’t want to dissociate myself from Islam,” he said. “It is part of my identity. It is not because I am gay that I will reject it. We need to recover this freedom that has existed in Islam.”

His books have stirred some negative reviews and reaction. His writing, in particular, has been criticized as undisciplined, as if it were dictated. Others say that it is the rawness of the writing that makes his work authentic and touching.

Mr. Taïa says he always wanted to become a filmmaker. He became a writer by accident after writing all his thoughts and experiences down in a journal to learn French. While he draws on his experiences growing up, he says he has never looked to art to exorcise the pain and abuse he experienced as a child and teenager.

“Books, like the film, do not solve anything,” he said. “My neuroses are, at some level, what we might call my creativity. But what I produce artistically does not help me in any way in my real life. Nothing is resolved. Everything is complex, complicated. I sincerely believe that there is only love to heal and soothe troubled souls.”

He says he has no preference between writing and filmmaking. “To me, both have the same source: the wonderful Egyptian films that I discovered with my family on Moroccan television during my childhood. Everything comes from images. For years, my brain has been structured from images of films I thought and rethought, in a manner at once naïve and serious. I will continue to write books inspired by images — and by my neuroses, of course.”

Today, he has patched up relations with most family members, though there are still awkward moments. His older brother, always cold and distant, remains estranged, a point of particular pain for Mr. Taïa. The brother was worshiped by the entire family not only for his charisma but because he saved them from poverty when he took several government jobs before marrying at the age of 35.

His mother died shortly after Mr. Taïa came out, and he now has a cordial relationship with his sisters. He has over 40 nieces and nephews who symbolize a new more open-minded generation of Moroccans — they often post messages of encouragement on his official Facebook page.

Still, Mr. Taïa finds it very difficult to go home.

“I can’t talk to them,” he said. “I am just a human being. They were ashamed of me. I always felt they were. I don’t want them to be proud of me. And anyway, they’re not.”

HE was one of the few Moroccan authors to denounce the oppressive policies of the kingdom and to strongly back the Feb. 20 movement that led protests in Morocco in 2011 demanding democratic reforms. His thoughts on this experience are detailed in chapters of the book “Arabs Are No Longer Afraid,” which was released at the biennial at the Whitney Museum in New York in March.

Mr. Taïa is working on his next book: a tale about old Moroccan prostitutes who at the end of their careers touring the world have landed in Paris. He lives in a small studio apartment near the central Place de la République, and worked as a baby sitter for over 10 years to finance his work. He still hasn’t found love but is convinced it is what will heal his wounds.

December 17, 2014

The Lenin Museum

Filed under: art,Gay,ussr — louisproyect @ 6:55 pm

Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 1.46.23 PM

 Representing a men’s room stall at the Lenin Museum, where gay men cruised

It would be hard to imagine any art show more topical than “The Lenin Museum” that opened at the James Gallery in the CUNY Graduate Center on 365 Fifth Avenue (at 34th Street) in New York on November 14th and runs through January 17th. As a statement on the troubled relationship between gay people and the state in Russia, it is not to be missed. The show is the latest in a series by conceptual artist extraordinaire Yevgeniy Fiks, a Russian émigré whose work I have been following with keen interest for the past two years.

In conceptual art, the ideas take precedence over traditional aesthetic and commercial considerations. Since much of it is one-time installation, it is hardly the sort of thing that you can take home and mount over a mantelpiece. While many of its adherents have taken it up as a challenge to the tyranny of the gallery, someone like Damien Hirst creates conceptual art that caters to the decadent-minded hedge fund speculator with a taste for the transgressive.

Fiks has created his own niche, one that is dedicated to the examination of the Soviet legacy. As someone left-of-center, he is intrigued by the experience of official Communism, both in the USSR and in the USA, the home of this 42-year old artist for the past twenty years.

Fiks is a mischievous sort who in some ways hearkens back to the glory days of Dadaism, when every work of art conveyed a bit of the spirit of Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. that depicted the Mona Lisa with a mustache. Nothing expresses that more than his “Lenin for your Library?”, a project that involved sending copies of Lenin’s “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism“ to 100 major transnational corporations including the Gap, Inc., Coca-Cola, General Electric, and IBM as donations to their corporate library. He received 35 response letters with 14 companies accepting the donation.

Fiks’s latest show is more somber. It deals with one of the most troubled legacies of the former Soviet Union that persists until this day, namely homophobia. In 1917 the young Soviet state decriminalized homosexuality. At the time the socialist movement was finally tackling this medieval prejudice, especially in the Weimar Republic where Magnus Hirschfield organized the First Congress for Sexual Reform in 1921. In a key article on socialism and homosexuality, Thomas Harrison wrote about the possibilities that were opening up at the time:

In 1923, the Commissar of Health, N.A. Semashko, on a visit to Hirschfeld’s Institute, assured the Germans that Soviet legalization was “a deliberately emancipatory measure, part of the sexual revolution.” Two years later, the Director of the Moscow Institute of Social Hygiene Grigorii Batkis, in a pamphlet, The Sexual Revolution in Russia, described Soviet policy as “the absolute non-interference of the state and society in sexual matters, so long as nobody is injured and no one’s interests are encroached upon. Concerning homosexuality, sodomy and various forms of sexual gratification, which are set down in European legislation as offenses against morality — Soviet legislation treats these exactly the same as so-called ‘natural’ intercourse.”

In 1934, Stalin recriminalized homosexuality, a measure that was consistent with the Bonpartist retreat from the early 20s when the heavens were being stormed. Even under the threat of repression, gay men and women were determined to hold on to the gains of 1917. In May 1934, Harry Whyte, the editor of Moscow’s English newspaper, The Moscow News, sent an open letter to Stalin titled “Can a Homosexual be a Member of the Communist Party?” that is part of the installation. Whyte stated:

Since I have a personal stake in this question insofar as I am a homosexual myself, I addressed this question to a number of comrades from the OGPU and the People’s Commissariat for Justice, to psychiatrists, and to Comrade Borodin, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper where I work.

All that I managed to extract from them was a number of contradictory opinions which show that amongst these comrades there is no clear theoretical understanding of what might have served as the basis for passage of the given law. The first psychiatrist from whom I sought help with this question twice assured me (after verifying this with the People’s Commissariat for Justice) that if they are honest citizens or good communists, his patients may order their personal lives as they see fit. Comrade Borodin, who said that he personally took a negative view of homosexuality, at the same time declared that he regarded me as a fairly good communist, that I could be trusted, and that I could lead my personal life as I liked.

The title of the show “The Lenin Museum” is a reference to a favorite cruising spot, the men’s room of an institution that housed Lenin memorabilia of the sort that Fiks keeps returning to in his remarkable career. An article on “Sex in the Soviet closet: a history of gay cruising in Moscow” in the Moscow News (the only reliable newspaper in Putin’s Russia) will give you a sense of what will await you at this stunning show:

One day in 1955, a railway stoker named Klimov entered the GUM department store, looking for a bite to eat. While inside, Klimov, 27, stopped by the bathroom.

“In the toilet a young lad came up to me, shook my hand and said, ‘Let’s get acquainted,'” Klimov later recalled. The man’s name was Volodya. He invited Klimov to the Lenin Museum.

“He bought the tickets with his money, and we went straight to the men’s toilet.”

An intimate encounter began, but they were interrupted by a pair of strangers.

Several weeks later, the men happened to meet in the GUM toilet again. This time, they opted for the secluded woods of Sokolniki Park.

From 1933 to 1993, homosexuality was officially outlawed in Russia under Article 121 of the Soviet Criminal Code. But all the while, the Communist capital’s most famous landmarks served as pick-up spots for gay men.

In a new photo book, titled “Moscow” and published by Ugly Duckling Presse, Russian-American photographer Yevgeniy Fiks captures the city’s Soviet cruising grounds as they look today. They are familiar to any resident of the city: the square in front of the Bolshoi Theater, Alexandrovsky Sad, Okhotny Ryad metro station.

Most of the spots are usually crowded. But in Fiks’ photos, they stand empty.

“This book is a type of kaddish [mourning prayer] for the lost and repressed generations of Soviet-era gays,” Fiks said.

October 7, 2014

Hunted: the War Against Gays in Russia

Filed under: Film,Gay,Russia — louisproyect @ 7:04 pm

Thirty years ago when I was working closely with Peter Camejo on getting the North Star Network off the ground, I totally agreed with him that the left should not be divided on historical questions like when and if the USSR became capitalist. Or on international questions such as whether to support Eritrea or Ethiopia, etc. You can obviously have sharp differences that must be debated openly but they are not “split” questions as is the norm in the Trotskyist movement.

After watching “Hunted: the War Against Gays in Russia”, I am not so sure any more, at least on the international question. This 48 minute documentary that can be seen on HBO Go, a streaming service available to HBO subscribers, left me in a complete state of rage both for what is happening to Russian gays but also for the open affection for Vladimir Putin that exists on wide sectors of the left.

Needless to say, the Western left would never support a politician who was responsible for fostering a war on gays in the USA or Britain. Furthermore, in all of the pro-Putin propaganda in the “anti-imperialist” left, you will never see him applauded for his anti-gay legislation that serves as legal cover for the vigilante movement exposed in the HBO documentary. That instead is what you will hear from the rightwing movements that also back the Kremlin, including just about every neofascist group in Europe, including Jobbik, Golden Dawn and the National Front in France. They love Putin because he stands up for “traditional values”. One imagines that in their heart of hearts, the “anti-imperialists” have no problems with crackdowns on NGO’s that defend gay rights in Russia since they are obviously a necessary defense against plots concocted in the basement of the State Department by George Soros, Nicholas Kristof and Samantha Power. After all, if you were going to make a choice between gays being forced to drink piss by skinhead vigilantes and coming down on the same side of an issue as Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, you’d naturally opt for gays drinking piss.

Fortunately, you can see the documentary as well on Youtube. This is identical to what is being shown on HBO but with a different narrator:

The film will give you a good idea why a sixteen-year-old gay youth sought political asylum in the USA. Here on an exchange program, the boy decided that he would stay in the USA rather than put up with the kind of bigotry seen in the film. Tass said that this was all the result of a gay cabal and Russia said it would no longer participate in the exchange program.

Directed by Ben Steele, the documentary takes a look at two of the major vigilante organizations in Russia, Parents of Russia and Occupy Pedophilia. Leaders of both groups were more than willing to allow the cameramen to film every one of their attacks. Naturally, this would be the case since the cops are their accomplices.

To give you an idea of how the cops operate in tandem with the ultraright, you see gay rights activist Yekaterina Bogatch hounded by the cops for simply standing on the sidewalk holding a sign calling for equal treatment of all citizens. If she had put the word gay on the sign, she risked arrest.

Parents of Russia is a group that is dedicated to exposing gays by putting information about where they live, etc. on the Internet. Yekaterina Bogatch, a schoolteacher, is one of their prime targets. They want her fired from her job even if she is straight. Gay teachers, who are not even involved with protests, have just as much to worry about since Parents of Russia deems them as pedophiles.

That is basically the strategy of the vigilantes, the Russian Orthodox Church and Putin’s base of support in elected officialdom. Although laws against homosexuality were lifted fifteen years ago, the attacks are mounted as against pedophiles rather than gays. Occupy Pedophilia is a prime example. It tells Steele that is only after pedophiles but in the one entrapment scene that involves their activists openly tormenting a gay man they have lured through the Internet, there is not the slightest evidence that pedophilia was involved.

I have often scratched my head trying to figure out the attraction that Putin has for the “anti-imperialist” left. It reminds me of Shakespeare’s “Midsummer’s Night Dream” when Puck puts a potion in Titania’s eyes. Upon waking, she falls madly in love with Bottom, a man whose head has been replaced by that of a donkey. Who has put such a potion in the eyes of Pepe Escobar, Andre Vltchek and Michel Chossudovsky, I ask you?

For an unrepentant Marxist like me, the Russia I adore is the Russia of the 1920s when laws against homosexuality were not only lifted, there was a pervasive sense that sexual freedom and socialism went hand in hand. Ironically, despite the Workers World Party’s tendency to fall in line behind the Kremlin, one of their activists has written some very useful material on sexual freedom in the early USSR:

During the 1920s, in the first decade of the Russian Revolution, signs that the struggle to build socialism could make enormous social gains in sexual freedom–even in a huge mostly agricultural country barely freed from feudalism, then ravaged by imperialist war and torn asunder by civil war–were apparent.

The Russian Revolution breathed new life into the international sexual reform movement, the German Homosexual Emancipation Movement, and the revolutionary struggle as a whole in Germany and around the world.

It was a historic breakthrough when the Soviet Criminal Code was established in 1922 and amended in 1926, and homosexuality was not included as an offense. The code also applied to other republics, including the Ukrainian Republics. Only sex with youths under the age of 16, male and female prostitution and pandering were listed. Soviet law did not criminalize the person being prostituted, but those who exploited them.

For example, author Dan Healey states, “The revolutionary regime repeatedly declared that women who sold their bodies were victims of economic exploitation, not to be criminalized, and campaigns to discourage them from taking up sex work were launched.” The growth of prostitution had of course been spurred by the chaos and dislocation of people accompanying war.

Historian Laura Engelstein summarizes, “Soviet sexologists in the 1920s participated in the international movement for sexual reform and criminologists deplored the use of penal sanctions to censor private sexual conduct.” (“Soviet Policy”)

In 1923, the Soviet minister of health traveled to the German Institute for Sex ual Science and reportedly expressed there his pride that his government had abolished the tsarist penalties against same-sex love. He stated that “no unhappy consequences of any kind whatsoever have resulted from the elimination of the offending paragraph, nor has the wish that the penalty in question be reintroduced been raised in any quarter.”

Also in 1923, Dr. Grigorii Batkis, director of the Moscow Institute of Soviet Hygiene, published a pamphlet titled “The Sexual Revolution in Russia.” It stated, “Soviet legislation bases itself on the following principle: it declares the absolute non-interference of the state and society into sexual matters, as long as nobody is injured, and no one’s interests are encroached upon.”

And the pamphlet spelled this out clearly, “Concerning homosexuality, sod omy, and various other forms of sexual gratification, which are set down in European legislation as offenses against public morality–Soviet legislation treats these the same as so-called ‘natural’ intercourse.”

June 3, 2014

Long Live the Jewel Box Revue

Filed under: african-american,Gay,obituary,popular culture — louisproyect @ 3:43 pm

On Thursday the NY Times reported on the death of a legendary African-American lesbian and gay activist:

Storme DeLarverie, a singer, cross-dresser and bouncer who may or may not have thrown the first punch at the 1969 uprising at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, but who was indisputably one of the first and most assertive members of the modern gay rights movement, died on Saturday in Brooklyn. She was 93.

I encourage you to read the entire obituary but want to hone in on one paragraph:

There was a long period in Chicago, where, she told friends, she was a bodyguard for mobsters. From the mid-1950s through the 1960s Ms. DeLarverie was the M.C. of the Jewel Box Revue, billed as “an unusual variety show.” She dressed as a man; the rest of the cast members, all men, dressed as women. One of the show’s stars was Lynne Carter, a female impersonator who later performed at Carnegie Hall.

As it turns out, I had an encounter with one of the male cast members when I was about 10 years old. This is from the abortive memoir I did with Harvey Pekar (relax, Joyce, this is considered “fair use”):

Screen shot 2014-06-03 at 9.33.59 AM

The Kentucky Club was a hot spot in my little village that drew vacationers from all through the Borscht Belt. Buses used to drop off women from the local bungalow colonies and small hotels to take in what amounted to the original La Cage Aux Folles. They loved the Jewel Box Revue, especially the surprise ending when it was revealed that the male MC was actually a woman—Storme DeLarverie.

I refer to the dancer as Miss Vicky but in reality that was just a name I gave the man who was sitting next to my mother. In all likelihood it was probably Don Marshall, one of the few Black men performing in drag at the time (I couldn’t find his stage name).

Since I was only 10 years old when I met Don Marshall, I had no idea what being gay meant although I was quite puzzled to see a man wearing a dress. I barely could conceive of a man and woman having intercourse, let alone people of the same sex. A couple of years later I’d find a copy of “Marital Hygiene” in my parent’s dresser and things would become much clearer.

The best introduction to gay performers can be found at http://queermusicheritage.com/, with news, for example, on the bearded cross-dresser Conchita Wurst who won the Eurovision Song contest. For information on the Jewel Box Revue, go to http://queermusicheritage.com/fem-jewl.html.

On December 4, 2012, Wayne Anderson, a LGBT rights activist and gay veteran of the U.S. Army, wrote about the revue in the Huffington Post. The opening paragraphs:

In 1939, during a time when gay people were viewed as abhorrent subversives and a threat to society, two gay lovers, Danny Brown and Doc Benner, created and produced America’s first racially inclusive traveling revue of female impersonators. It was staffed almost entirely by gay men and one gay woman and was known as the Jewel Box Revue. In many ways it was America’s first gay community.

A recent and insightful paper (http://www.lvc.edu/vhr/2012/Articles/dauphin.pdf) by Mara Dauphin argues that the early drag/female impersonation revues of the 1940s and 1950s were “highly instrumental in creating queer communities and carving out queer niches of urban landscape in post-war America that would flourish into the sexual revolution of the sixties.” And though there were other popular female impersonation clubs, such the famous Finnochio’s in San Francisco and the infamous mafia-owned Club 82 of New York City, with the exception of the Jewel Box Revue, all the revues were operated and controlled by straight people, who were not always very gay-friendly (a notable exception being the Garden of Allah cabaret in Seattle, which featured the Jewel Box Revue as their opening-night act in 1946). Robin Raye, who performed in several early establishments, including Finocchio’s and the Jewel Box Revue, once said of Mrs. Finocchio, “I don’t think she liked gay people, but she certainly knew how to use them.”

In 1955 there were very few out of the closet gays and lesbians. However, there were very many ways in which homosexual identity was conveyed under the radar. I would strongly recommend Vito Russo’s “The Celluloid Closet” for more on this, which can be seen on a Netflix DVD or Amazon streaming.

But for me the closest anything came to an open portrayal to a mass audience at the time was professional wrestler Ricky Starr who wore ballet slippers and minced around the mat before, during and after bouts. He used to toss miniature ballet slippers to the audience as a ritual before each bout. Years later, after Stonewall, gay men would tend to eschew the queen identity but in 1955 it was safer since it was seen more as being a “sissy” then being a “pervert”.

Here’s Ricky versus Karl Von Hess, who some regarded as a Nazi-identified wrestler but who had much more to do with traditional Prussian values.

I recommend a look at Sharon Glazer’s “Professional Wrestling: Sport and Spectacle” on Google/Books. This is a scholarly analysis of the sport that in my view was a lot more entertaining in the 1950s than it is today. Here she is on the classic Starr/Von Hess contest:

Starr’s performance especially his taunting of von Hess, is explicitly (homo)sexual. He wiggles his buttocks under the other wrestler’s nose while pretending to straighten his shoe, performs a series of pelvic thrusts, and hops on and off von Hess’s back, controlling his opponent with apparent ease and leading the commentator at one point to worry half-seriously about the network censors: “Mr. Starr is just loosening up. Nothing wrong with that. With he would loosen up out of camera, though. This is a family network, you know.” As Starr continues, the commentator informs us that Starr was taught his moves by an old (male) burlesque star who went by the name of “Toots” and that: “This program [is] sponsored by bumps and grinds incorporated.” Von Hess snarls and plays it as straight as a villain can under the circumstances. Clearly the loser in the fan sweepstakes as well as the match, he is finally defeated by Ricky Starr’s rapid and proficient series of drop kicks. In a coda to the match, von Hess gets into a slugfest with the referee, which ends when Starr intervenes on the ref’s behalf, taking a hit himself in the process.

Glazer’s scholarly treatment of professional wrestling is matched by Amber Clifford’s dissertation “Queering the Inferno: Space, Identity, and Kansas City’s Jazz Scene” that will be published soon as a book. You can look at it on Google/Books as well. Here is Amber on Storme DeLarverie:

A clear example of how this silence about sexuality is prevalent in the history of male impersonators lies in the story of Storme DeLerverie. DeLarverie worked as a female singer in night clubs before joining the Jewel Box Revue in 1955. The Jewel Box Revue was a female impersonation floor show and touring act. Founded originally in Miami in 1939, the Jewel Box relocated to New York in 1955, where the Jewel Box had its base ofoperations until it closed in 1973. DeLarverie was the only female in the show, and the only African-American member of the Jewel Box Revue. [I have contacted Ms. Clifford on my contact with Don Marshall.] She joined the show as a male impersonator and emcee and gave birth to the Revue’s tagline “25 men and a girl.” Photographs of DeLarverie from the Jewel Box Revue program show a slender African American who looks liken a young man in a slim cut suit and tie, cl close-cropped hair and an inscrutable look, holding a cigarette on a pinky-ringed left hand. The caption reads “Miss Storme Larverie The Lady Who Appears Be a Gentleman”. Throughout the program, photographs of female impersonators show them in both costume and masculine street-clothhig. No such juxtapositional photographs of Storm DeLarverie appear.

Research about Storme DeLarverie and her work with the Jewel Box illuminates several aspects of Jacobs’s biography. First, according to scholar Elizabeth Drorbaugh, DeLarverie avoided any gendered or sexualized labels. DeLarverie’s cross-dressing helped spatialize her as ‘family” in the world of gender impersonation, a position she did not wish to endanger by discussing her own desires shares commonalities with Jacobs, who entered her work as an impersonator after a stint as a singer. Jacobs, perhaps, felt included in the community at Dante’s [a Kansas City drag club], the world she “learned a lot from,” and did not want to endanger that world by revealing her own sexual desires, whatever they were. Another aspect of this question of identity is pivotal to understanding the subjectification of gender impersonators, we cannot forget that they were performers. According to Drorbaugh, performers of gender impersonation resisted being read as one gender or another, preferring ambiguity to identification.

One can certainly understand the need for ambiguity in 1955. The homophobia was so intense you could have cut it with a knife. Let me conclude with another snapshot from my youth:

Screen shot 2014-06-03 at 11.31.17 AMScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 11.31.30 AM

 

May 11, 2014

Michael Sams reacts to being drafted by the St. Louis Rams

Filed under: Gay,sports — louisproyect @ 1:23 pm

April 5, 2014

Reed Elsevier sucks

Filed under: Academia,computers,Gay — louisproyect @ 6:23 pm

Yesterday I spent three hours on the phone with Apple tech support to resolve a problem that had nothing to do with our Mac’s. Out of the blue my wife was unable to print certain PDF’s  around a month ago. Not only would they fail to print either on our Brother laser or Epson inkjet, all other PDF’s would fail to print following a failure even though they had been printable in the past. The first tech support person I dealt with advised reinstalling the operating system on my wife’s IMac, which I did to no avail. On the second call I spoke to a senior technician who worked with me for over an hour to pinpoint the problem. I have to give Apple credit for working with me so patiently. It cost $19 for their support, a reasonable fee given the amount of time they spent. Finally, we discovered that the unprintable PDF’s had this in common. They all originated from Reed Elsevier’s ScienceDirect website. Oddly enough, I was able to print them from my Macbook but my wife’s IMac spit them up. We left it this—as long as we had this workaround, there was no need to investigate any further.

Curious to see if anybody else was having a problem that both Apple and I agreed was exceedingly obscure, I googled “Reed Elsevier ScienceDirect printing problem” and came up with this:

Screen shot 2014-04-05 at 11.41.30 AM

Now I have no idea if this is the same exact problem we ran into on my wife’s IMac but something tells me that the Reed Elsevier website is flakey, especially in light of the problems I have run into with the new release of Lexis-Nexis. This is the results set for a search on “Paul Buhle”, the radical historian.

Screen shot 2014-04-05 at 11.46.54 AM

The default sort order is newest to oldest, right? So how come 2008 and 2003 are the years for the first two results in the list followed by those for 2014? When I spotted this bug, I contacted Elsevier who told me that they needed to look into the problem. That was about a year ago. Their fucking sort is still broken. If the programmers at Columbia University produced a software release that was this flawed, they would be fired. Plain and simple.

That’s not the end of it. If you do a Boolean search on “Paul Buhle” and “culture”, you get a results set of 75 articles. But if you do a simple search on “Paul Buhle” that returns 354 articles and then do a “search within” for articles that refer to “culture”, you get 96 articles. This of course does not make sense. They should be identical.

On top of all this, even if the software was not bug-laden, the new interface is horrible. An old friend from academia who was doing research in NY blew his stack working in LexisNexis while he was here. In the past you were able to specify all articles within a one-year, five-year, ten-year range just by checking a box. Now you have to enter the specific dates, which is a royal pain in the ass if you are looking for a bunch of different articles. He wondered if the academic version of LexisNexis that he and I use was deliberately sabotaged in order to drive users to pay for the premium version. I have a feeling that the premium version has the same interface. The only difference between the two is that the academic version has a site license.

Reed Elsevier is the result of a 1992 merger between Reed International, a British trade book and magazine publisher, and the Dutch science publisher Elsevier. You may be aware that Reed Elsevier is he target of a boycott by scientists as the NY Times reported on February 13, 2012:

More than 5,700 researchers have joined a boycott of Elsevier, a leading publisher of science journals, in a growing furor over open access to the fruits of scientific research.

The protest grew out of a provocative blog post (http://gowers.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/elsevier-my-part-in-its-downfall/) by the mathematician Timothy Gowers of Cambridge University, who announced on Jan. 21 that he would no longer publish papers in any of Elsevier’s journals or serve as a referee or editor for them.

Last week 34 mathematicians issued a statement denouncing “a system in which commercial publishers make profits based on the free labor of mathematicians and subscription fees from their institutions’ libraries, for a service that has become largely unnecessary.”

The signers included three Fields medalists — Dr. Gowers, Terence Tao and Wendelin Werner. The statement was also signed by Ingrid Daubechies, president of the International Mathematical Union, who then resigned as one of the unpaid editors in chief at the Elsevier journal Applied and Computational Harmonic Analysis.

“We feel that the social compact is broken at present by some publishing houses, of which we feel Elsevier is the most extreme,” Dr. Daubechies said. “We feel they are now making much larger profits at a time when a lot of the load they used to take has been taken over by us.”

Long before the boycott, there were signs that academia was becoming fed up with Reed Elsevier. The NY Times reported on “Concerns About an Aggressive Publishing Giant” on December 29, 1997:

It must have been an extraordinary scene: on Dec. 1, the president of an important subsidiary of the world’s biggest publisher of academic and trade journals, the purveyor of what it likes to call ”must have” information, was politely but firmly told by an important client that ”must have” had become ”can’t afford,” and ”don’t need.”

Russell White, president of Elsevier Science Inc., a division of Reed Elsevier P.L.C., the British-Dutch giant, told a group of professors from Purdue University that the prices of the 350 on-line publications that now supplement the company’s entire list of 1,200 scientific and technical journals could be locked in for three years at an annual increase of 9.5 percent.

What he heard in response could not have pleased him.

Purdue was unwilling and fiscally incapable of absorbing anything close to that sort of rate rise, the professors told him. Moreover, they said, the quality of what they were getting was not worth the money.

Even before Mr. White’s visit, Purdue, which spends more than $1 million a year on Reed Elsevier journals, had canceled 88 of the 803 titles it once received. Among those axed: Brain Research (an annual subscription costs $14,919), Mutation Research ($7,378) and Tetrahedron With Tetrahedron: Asymmetry ($8,506).

”Reed Elsevier journals tend to be second- and third-tier publications, which range from the acceptable to the terrible,” said G. Marc Loudon, a professor of medicinal chemistry at Purdue who attended the meeting. ”None are in the top tier in chemistry, biology and biochemistry, the fields I read in. If we lose Elsevier journals in those fields we will be O.K.

”Why do we want to buy garbage at a 9.5 percent price increase?” he asked.

Erik Engstrom is the CEO of Reed Elsevier. I can’t say that I am surprised to discover that he was formerly the President and Chief Operating Officer of Random House, the publishing house that gave me a royal screwing over the memoir I did with Harvey Pekar. Random House, it should be noted, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bertelsmann Group in Germany that infamously used Jewish slave labor during WWII.

The chairman of the Reed Elsevier board is one Anthony Habgood, who is also the chairman of Whitbread plc, a British hospitality and food corporation. His work on the Whitbread board must have recommended him to Reed Elsevier:

http://news.sky.com/story/1057059/horsemeat-whitbread-shares-slide-on-new-tests

Horsemeat: Whitbread Shares Slide On New Tests

A leading pub chain sees its share price slide after saying it would impose new tests on all its processed meat products. The Whitbread pub chain, which found horsemeat in its food products, sees its share price fall after announcing a new test regime.

At the close of trading on the FTSE 100, Whitbread’s share price was one of the biggest fallers, losing 3.67%.

The slide occurred after the group said it would impose the new testing regime on all processed meats provided by suppliers and introduce a new system of certification.

Chief executive Andy Harrison said: “We have been dismayed by the recent discovery of equine DNA in two of our restaurant products.

One hopes that when Whitbread embarks on a new testing regime that they are careful not to rely on the guidelines advised by Reed Elsevier science journals that Purdue regards as “garbage”.

Back in 2007 Reed Elsevier finally dropped out of the arms show business after many of its affiliates, especially Lancet, a medical journal that had led the way in detailing civilian casualties during the Iraq war, organized a campaign to bring this lucrative business to a halt. While Reed Elsevier spoke piously about respecting the sensibilities of its mainly academic clients, it is likely that concerns about its bottom line made the big difference just as is the case with Israel and the BDS. The Guardian reported on February 12, 2007:

The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust said today it had sold its £2m stake in Reed Elsevier because of concerns the publishing giant is stepping up its involvement in arms fairs.

According to the charity two Reed subsidiaries, Reed Exhibitions and Spearhead Exhibitions, have continued to organise arms exhibitions despite the charity’s three-year campaign to make Reed sever ties to the arms trade.

It said the subsidiaries’ arms fairs included Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi), held every two years in London and organised in association with the Ministry of Defence.

Finally, this article would not be complete without mentioning the scandal that developed around a homophobic “study” that appeared in Social Science Research, a Reed Elsevier journal. A University of Texas sociologist published an article there that claimed that same-sex marriages were bad for children raised in such an environment.

The article was not properly peer reviewed (Regnerus’s colleagues participated) and was marked by serious methodological flaws as Debra Umberson, a colleague of Regnerus at U. of Texas revealed:

The recent study by my colleague Mark Regnerus on gay parenting purports to show that young adults with a parent who ever had a same-sex relationship turn out worse than young adults with continuously married heterosexual parents (who are, in addition, biologically related to their children). He calls this latter group the “gold standard for parenting.”

But in making this claim, he has violated the “gold standard for research.” Regnerus’ study is bad science. Among other errors, he made egregious yet strategic decisions in selecting particular groups for comparison.

His definition of children raised by lesbian mothers and gay fathers is incredibly broad — anyone whose biological or adopted mother or father had a same-sex relationship that the respondent knew about by age 18. Most of these respondents did not even live with their parent’s same-sex partner; in fact, many did not even live with their gay or lesbian parent at all! Of the 175 adult children Regnerus claims were raised by “lesbian mothers,” only 40 actually lived with their mother and her same-sex partner for at least three years.

Regnerus was recruited to put together this study by an outfit called the Witherspoon Institute that paid him $785,000 for his bogus research. Witherspoon is a rightwing think-tank funded by all the usual suspects: the Olin Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, et al. One William Bradford Wilcox, a conservative sociologist at the U. of Virginia who was hired to do the statistical research, is an editorial board member of Social Science Research. Surprise, surprise.

Darren Sherkat, nother board member of Social Science Research, was asked to conduct an audit of the Regnerus “study”. The New Civil Rights Movement, a gay rights website, reported on Sherkat’s findings:

In his audit, Sherkat explains the role that parent company Reed Elsevier played in pushing greed to predominate over ethical science publishing in the Regnerus scandal.

The Regnerus publishing scandal actually is much broader than just the Regnerus and Marks papers. Three Regnerus study commentaries published alongside the Regnerus and Marks papers were done by three persons without same-sex-parenting science expertise, and with conflicts of interest in commenting on the study. Those three are 1) UT’s Dr. Cynthia Osborne, Regnerus’s co-researcher on the “study;” 2) Dr. Paul Amato, a paid Regnerus study consultant; and 3) David Eggebeen, a Witherspoon bigot crony who supports the continuation of sexual orientation apartheid.

Here is part of Sherkat’s explanation of how Reed Elsevier greed is driving the publication and promotions of the wide-scaled anti-gay Regnerus scandal:

“Controversy over sexuality sells and in only a week after publication these papers have already skyrocketed to the most downloaded papers published in Social Science Research.” (Bolding added). “But neither paper should have been published, in my opinion. Undoubtedly, any researcher doing work on same-sex parenting will now have to address the Regnerus paper, and these citations will inflate the all-important “impact factor” of the journal. It is easy to get caught up in the empirical measures of journal success, and I believe this overcame Wright in driving his decision to rush these into print. The fetishism of the journal impact factors comes from the top down, and all major publishers prod editors about the current state of their impact factor. Elsevier is particularly attentive to this and frequently inquires about what Wright is doing to improve the already admirable impact factor of Social Science Research. As social scientists, popularity should not be the end we seek, and rigorous independent evaluation of these manuscripts would have made Social Science Research a less popular but better journal.” (Bolding added).

In his CYA “audit,” Sherkat further wrote:

“once they were accepted there was an unseemly rush to publication.” He continues: “that was justified based on the attention that these studies would generate. The published responses were milquetoast critiques by scholars with ties to Regnerus and/or the Witherspoon Institute, and Elsevier assisted with the politicization by helping to publicize the study and by placing these papers in front of the pay wall.” (Bolding added).

So you have to wonder. Did Aaron Swartz die in vain? If this is the kind of junk behind the JSTOR paywall, maybe we are better off just dumping these journals. Or finding a way for scholars to share information without corporate pigs who organize arms shows and sell horsemeat getting into the act? Open Access journals have their problems as well, but at least they are not tainted by the almighty buck. Whatever solutions lie in store, let’s hope that Reed Elsevier is excluded since everything about them sucks.

February 14, 2014

Ted Rall on Michael Sam

Filed under: Gay,sports — louisproyect @ 10:02 pm

February 13, 2014

Good commentary on Michael Sam

Filed under: Gay,sports — louisproyect @ 8:29 am

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