Wednesday, January 17, 2007

USA media news - Chomsky Book - Palestine Israel

The Whining About "24" Has Started

Posted by Robin Boyd on January 16, 2007 - 11:33.

Last night I predicted that CAIR would be demanding an apology from FOX for the depiction of Muslims in "24" within 24 hours. Well it's not CAIR but ABC has started the ball rolling...

Sut Jhally, co-producer and co-director of the film "Hijacking Catastrophe," says the dramatic action in the show creates a dangerous climate in which the public loses some of its perspective on what's real and what's not. Of course that may be a minority opinion given the show's enormous popularity.
Television shows like '24' also reinforce stereotypes about Arabs, he said, and in this episode connections are drawn between terrorism, Arabs and nuclear war. With the U.S. wrestling with Iran over its nuclear capabilities, these associations are dangerous, he said.
"This television show is very political, and it's no accident that it's on Fox," said Jhally, who directs the Media and Education Foundation and is professor of communications at University of Massachusetts. "Given their propaganda system, it doesn't surprise me."

How many times do we have to tell the MSM that if they want to be taken seriously, they need to reveal the background of their "experts"? Giving the complete title of a movie wound be a great place to start...

A new documentary "Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire" examines how the Bush administration used Sept. 11 to transform American foreign policy and enter a phase of so-called preemptive warfare while rolling back civil liberties and social programs at home.

The film is produced by the Media Education Foundation and features former government officials combined with many of the leading scholars and thinkers of our time including Noam Chomsky, Norman Mailer, Chalmers Johnson, Daniel Ellsberg, Tariq Ali and more. The film is narrated by Julian Bond.

Nah - no bias here.... Move along now...

Chicago improv legend grows

`Trucker's' Koechner latest to make his mark

For decades, veterans of Chicago's improv scene have been migrating to television, but these days, there's an unusually strong bumper crop of Windy City talent on the small screen.

Veterans of the fertile Second City and IO (formerly ImprovOlympic) stages of the '90s are responsible for a good deal of the most intelligent comedy on TV these days (and these are just a few of the more high-profile names):

Steve Carell is the quietly masterful star of "The Office."

Steven Colbert's wickedly sharp "Colbert Report" gets funnier by the week.

Neil Flynn is an ace supporting performer on "Scrubs" (he also did a deft guest turn as a washed-up ballplayer on "My Boys" recently).

Tina Fey's "30 Rock" is must-see TV, in part thanks to a sweetly goofy performance by yet another Second City and IO veteran, Jack McBrayer.

Who knows if it's because of the improv training they received here or the performers' innate talent, but what unites these varied characters is that they are characters -- they're not just vaguely defined stock personas who exist only to deliver or guffaw at predictable one-liners. What's funny about them derives from the fact that they're real human beings, even at their most ridiculous.

Add a sly drifter named Gerald "T-Bones" Tibbins to that list of memorable creations.

Tibbins, one-half of the highly amusing "Naked Trucker & T-Bones Show" (9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Comedy Central), is the creation of David Koechner, a mainstay of Chicago's improv scene from 1985 until 1995. The actor debuted an early version of the audacious character years ago for a Chicago improv show called Jazz Freddy.

"It was loosely based on a drifter that had come through my hometown in high school, this guy Four-Way George," says Koechner, a 44-year-old native of Tipton, Mo.

A few years after moving out to L.A., Koechner was invited to perform in a late-night revue created by Dave "Gruber" Allen, who does a character called the Naked Trucker. When T-Bones took the stage with the Naked Trucker, it was a true meeting of the minds, and their twisted, deceptively deep show became a mainstay of Los Angeles' comedy scene.

On the road

For their TV show, the duo performs songs and chitchats in front of an audience; those bits are interspersed with filmed sketches, which usually revolve around T-Bones' demented schemes or the pair's inspired interactions with hitchhikers.

In the show's premiere, one hitchhiker is played by Will Ferrell, a castmate of Koechner's when the Chicago actor did a single season of "Saturday Night Live." Andy Richter, another IO veteran, makes a guest appearance in a later outing.

One of the things that's so pleasing about the pairing is that the Naked Trucker seems like a perfectly reasonable, intelligent guy. Who just happens to be nude. And just when you're ready to dismiss the brash and cocky T-Bones as a drunken, no-account schemer, he'll toss out a reference to Samuel Beckett, John Negroponte or Noam Chomsky.

One thing's for sure, "The Naked Trucker & T-Bones Show" is like nothing else on TV.

"That's what I love, no one knows how to describe it," says Koechner with a laugh. "To me that is high praise."

Koechner describes the pair's vibe as "Abbott and Costello meets Martin and Lewis meets the Smothers Brothers all on a long road trip with Jack Kerouac, and Creedence Clearwater Revival is playing on an 8-track player, loudly.

All along the road, the hay bales are soaked in moonshine, and they're on fire, while Noam Chomsky discusses the entire enterprise with the undead ghosts of Joseph Campbell and Hunter S. Thompson."

As for T-Bones, he's a product, in part, of Koechner's years of study with IO's Charna Halpern and Chicago improv icon Del Close, whose teachings the actor calls the "greatest part of what informs my work."

"Del said, `Play everything at the top of your intelligence.' And so that's what we've endeavored to do," Koechner says. The idea was, "don't talk down to your own characters and certainly don't talk down to your audience."

Especially at IO, where he cites his fellow students as among his best teachers, "it was completely put in your hands to develop and create your own voice," he adds.

"It was encouraged -- it was insisted upon."

"It kind of reminded me of being a kid and playing and not caring what you looked like or if you sounded foolish," fellow IO and Second City veteran McBrayer said in a recent interview. "It was just fun."

Twenty years after stumbling upon Chicago improv, Koechner still participates in the scene. He does improv with fellow Chicago transplants at the IO's L.A. outpost, and he and Allen continue to perform the live version of "The Naked Trucker & T-Bones Show" at the L.A. club Largo when their schedules allow.,0,6173565.story?coll=mmx-television_heds

Book Review: 100 Ways America is Screwing Up the World by John Tirman

I was initially reluctant to read this book for a reason I cannot quite articulate.  I think my feeling was, and still is, something like ‘it’s too simplistic’ or ‘illogically overgeneralized’.  I think it is a mark of maturity to take criticism well and learn from it, both as an individual and as a society or nation, but being told that one is just “screwing it up” tends to provoke a bad reaction instead of a mature one, and tends not to help one improve very much (this is my main problem with some of the work of Noam Chomsky, an example of which I am discussing in a 9-part series on this site).  Also, in one sense it is not accurate.  America is not ’screwing up the world’, but certain prevalent trends in America and certain actions and trends of our leaders are causing a lot of unnecessary harm to a lot of people, and should be opposed.  The lack of clarity of the title of the book in this case is unfortunate, as the author of this book is very mature, and much of the book reads like an abstract or concise summary of the major problems of America and the world, many of which we can address, and some of which will not be known to the general reader as they do not or have not recieved much attention in the popular press. 

The author is John Tirman, executive director of the Center for International Studies at MIT, a leading scholar in the field of international affairs and contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and The Nation.  Given this, I wonder if the title and structure of the book (references given online instead of in the book) are part of a marketing scheme with an understandable, if somewhat questionable logic to it.  I have seen this kind of logic in science writing.  I think it was Stephen Hawking who warned that for every equation you put in a popular book, your sales decrease by half.  His long-time collegue, Roger Penrose, obviously disagrees, as his books and especially his latest popular work, The Road to Reality, are filled with equations in fields of mathematical physics that many who don’t follow the sciences much aren’t likely to have ever even heard of.  I am not sure which is the better strategy; I suppose it depends upon intent.  If one wants to be more widely read but not get all the points across with supporting evidence, then perhaps the way of Tirman and Hawking is the best.  However, any serious student of international affairs or mathematical physics may find Hawking and Tirman trivial. 

If it was Tirman’s aim to give a summary of the most important problems in American foreign policy today with the option of further research for the general reader, he has done his job well.  Most readers will find much to agree with in this book, as Tirman, like any honest and objective scholar, comes off as mainly non-partisan and only vaguely ideological in his analysis.  The selection of topics is based on reasonable principles but also reflects to some degree the personal preferences and desires of the author.  So we find essential chapters on America’s significant contribution to global warming and the destruction of the natural environment, support for oppressive regimes, defiance of international law and basic moral and political norms, etc., along with some discussion of the likes of Mel Gibson, Paris Hilton, and Michael Jackson.  Tirman designates the last ten issues on his list “Ten Annoyances” to indicate that he finds them comparitively trivial, but includes them, I think, because they do in fact say something significant about the American popular mind (it is an interesting question why the celebrity culture even exists, isn’t it?).  For good measure, and no doubt to also pre-empt the vacuous charge of “American hating leftist” (or whatever), Tirman includes a section on “Ten Things America Does Right in the World”, including fairness, secularism, creativity, and human rights as appropriate topics.

The picture all of this very general discussion gives is of an often dangerous and destructive but potentially glorious nation run on principles of justice, tolerance, and freedom as liberation of the spirit of the common people.  Walt Whitman, who in his life and work would make my list as one of the greatest contributions America has given the world, argued in Democratic Vistas that America finds it’s greatness not in it’s institutions or national leaders or wealth but in the common people, and may find it’s ultimate unforeseeable justification in a better future brought about by those very people.  John Tirman’s book, despite it’s possible marketing flaws and lack of detail, fits squarely in the best of the American tradition and looks forward to just such a future.


Game of hegemony


A scholarly work that traces and analyses the policies of the Unites States in its quest for global dominance.


NOAM CHOMSKY'S insightful and scholarly Hegemony and Survival created yet another round of worldwide debate after Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, recently held up a hardback copy of the book in the United Nations General Assembly for the world to see, as a corroboration of the United States' aggressive quest for dominance and its violent pursuit of policies across the world as well as the resistance from Latin America. Being ardent critics of neoliberal globalisation and U.S. foreign policy, both Chavez and Chomsky regard the U.S. as the leading terrorist state in the world and challenge its unjust power.

When I asked Chomsky recently about his views on U.S. foreign policy in Asia in the wake of the Latin American Left forming an alliance against American unilateralism, he replied: "Washington is no doubt deeply concerned by the developments in South America, which, for the first time since the Spanish conquests, is not only moving towards greater independence but also integrating, at least to some extent. But I do not think this is the prime motive for U.S. efforts to improve its strategic-economic position in Asia, to counterbalance China. That would have proceeded in about the same way, I suspect, even if Latin America remained under control." In the face of a persistent obsession with an enemy that is about to destroy them, the Americans have always laboured under fear and mistrust, a driving force behind their role in international politics. It is a game of hegemony and survival that works in tandem to counter paranoia, which, as Chomsky argues, "when combi ned with immense power and an extremely cynical and violent leadership is a dangerous combination, no doubt". Even if one's motives are the promotion of democracy, the use of bloodshed as intimidation makes it very difficult to predict how one's enemies will react. The counter-insurgency in Iraq exemplifies this.

Whether it is Asia or Latin America, the motives are the same. The operation of ideological hegemony to maintain power over public opinion has been largely responsible for the brainwashing of a majority of Americans as well as millions around the world into believing that Iraq had amassed weapons of mass destruction or that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in the 9/11 massacre.

Hegemony thus operates through mechanisms including the media, education systems and newspeak with the primary function of maintaining public support for the dominant socio-economic system in the U.S. And sometimes, if need be, force is employed to make nations and peoples fall in line. Chomsky succinctly points out: "Attack is therefore defence, another logical illogicality that becomes coherent once the doctrinal apparatus is properly understood."

As Alexander Hamilton (the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury) writes, the "great beast" (he means the people) had to be kept within convenient confines. Power resides in the hands of a few or, as Woodrow Wilson and George Washington both maintain, those who are "good" and behind "polyarchy". The elite decision-making reinforces the hegemonic/repressive rule of the state. However, in open societies, brutal force cannot be tolerated by the masses, and thus subtle means of ideological state apparatus begin to be strategically employed to control opinions and attitudes. Such self-righteousness of the state is visible within the state or outside it when powerful nations, in the name of democracy, intervene or resort to military action for self-promoting agendas. Walter Lippman's notion of the "manufacturing of consent" is thereby vindicated in the state machinery's success in casting a network of false consciousness over the public. American altruism is only a sham. The media-elite nexus concentrates on the common interests of the media and the corporate world. It is a known fact that The New York Times, a deeply right-wing paper, allows adversarial opinion only as eyewash. The truth is that not a statement made by Edward Said or Chomsky in the post-9/11 months found any space in The New York Times. It is obvious that journalists of the mainstream press internalise the myth about a liberal society that pretends to regard all issues objectively. The happy complacency of the reader is a top priority, and care is taken not to allow over-radical views to destroy it. For instance, all intellectuals in the West have supported the war on terrorism, but any questions that involve the terrorism of the state are conveniently kept out.

PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ of Venezuela holds a Spanish-language version of "Hegemony and Survival" while addressing the 61st session of the U.N. General Assembly in 2006.

Hegemony and Survival also takes into account television news that is often taken as natural and obvious, dependent on "certain preferred definitions of reality and these definitions have profound implications for the cultural reproduction of power relations across society". The truth claims of television news are taken to be authoritative, credible and factual, making it thus a potentially hegemonic agency used for the reproduction of oppressive relations of power across society, an everyday experience in relation to social divisions and hierarchies. The media, therefore, are instruments used for the naturalisation of power relations, working in a way so as to bestow ideological validation onto a range of social disparities and thus setting out to create a world of make-believe impartiality. It works to project the most even-handed and wise "truths" in order to replicate the essentials of hegemony. Antonio Gramsci explains this phenomenon of power dynamics in our society as a "... `spontaneous' consent given by the great masses of the population to the general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group; this consent is `historically' caused by the prestige (and conse quently confidence) which the dominant group enjoys because of its position and function in the world of production".

The lackadaisical approach of the Bush team towards global warming is again an instance of "profit over people", which ruthlessly ignores "extreme risks for the United States, Europe, and other temperate zones". The Kyoto treaty is meaningless to President George W. Bush. The threat to the survival of the human race is as immediate in the present times as it was when the Bay of Pigs incident almost triggered a nuclear war; the U.N. took pains to ensure that such disasters do not endanger the human race in the future and, therefore, went on to ban the militarisation of space, but the U.S. blocked these efforts. The invasion of Iraq evoked warnings of a human disaster, but it fell on deaf ears. As Chomsky reiterates, specialists warned that U.S. "belligerence, not only with regard to Iraq, was increasing the long-term threat of international terrorism and proliferation of WMD". The response to this foreseeable catastrophe was to declare "the right to resort to force to eliminate any perceived challenge to U.S. global hegemony". Iraq became the first victim of this "grand strategy".

The weeks immediately following the 9/11 tragedy saw the provocation of worldwide public opinion that opposed the rising power of America and its unscrupulous policy of entering a war on the pretext of checking Saddam Hussein's designs of bringing havoc to the Western world. It was the power of a mighty state against international opinion. The world has veered to a position where it is Bush who has metamorphosed into an antagonist more hateful than Saddam. Only a few months ago when I was at Lake Como (near Milan, Italy), I was witness to the damning of the political leadership in the U.S. when American and Canadian academics gathered there distributed badges at the breakfast table inscribed with slogans such as `Impeach Bush' and `Bush must go'.

Chomsky surveys the unfolding events over the last few years that he takes to be a valid reason for the global hatred and fear generated by the arrogant hegemony of a nation that is prepared to stop at nothing. "Dismissal of elementary human rights and needs [is] matched by a display of contempt for democracy for which no parallel comes easily to mind." But it is of no surprise to Chomsky who emphasises that "there is ample historical precedent for the willingness of leaders to threaten or resort to violence in the face of significant risk of catastrophe. But the stakes are far higher today. The choice between hegemony and survival has rarely, if ever, been so starkly posed".

The polemicist in Chomsky underscores the hypocritical strategies followed by the American state in its blatant dismissal of elementary human rights, evident in the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay debacles, and its simultaneous support for democracy and human rights. Chomsky also details the history of the U.S. trajectory, after the Second World War, towards becoming the most powerful state in history by using military and economic policies that were anything but democratic. As argued by him, the actions and guiding doctrines of the U.S. are of prime relevance to those institutions still operating to maintain global peace and order as well as to the general public that can be the only truly counter hegemon to Washington.

Bookmark and Share
posted by u2r2h at 10:20 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home