jewin' the fat


Everyone’s a little bit racist
April 27, 2010, 2:24 PM
Filed under: media | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m still not quite sure what the relevance of the joke was, why he had to reference the tale as “true”, or how it “set the stage for [Jones’] remarks” but whatever, everyone’s a little bit racist. And besides, nothing like a little latent anti-Semitism to liven up the party. Am I right? Jim? Am I right? Har-di-har-har cause Jews sell stuff see? Har Har.

Judge the joke for yourselves after the jump.

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Fog of Battle or Full of BS?
April 14, 2010, 12:47 PM
Filed under: Comment, media | Tags: , , , , ,

“And even if the wars didn’t keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death.”
– Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five, Chapter 1

On April 5, Wikileaks.org, a website which promises to promote freedom of information and complete anonymity for its sources, posted a 38-minute video, taken by a US Apache helicopter gun-camera in Baghdad in 2007. The site, which obtained the footage via a Freedom of Information application posted two versions – one, replete with edits, subtitles, indicators and highlighting, and another fuller version. The footage appears to show – well, let’s just let it speak for itself.

 Please Note: THIS FOOTAGE MAY BE OFFENSIVE OR DISTRESSING TO SOME VIEWERS.

As posted on the front page of the Wikileaks site:

FULL VERSION:

Check out this specially constructed site

Political and defence commentators have had a field day with this one, picking apart its content, its context and Wikileaks cutting techniques, while talk back and television audiences have been ferocious in their attacks on the US and Australian military for training their soldiers to dehumanise their targets before engaging (read: killing them). Veterans and individuals currently serving are forced to defend their actions in combat against civilians who have never held a gun before, and suddenly the morality of modern warfare is all anyone can think about – that is, 65 years after the firebombing of Dresden.

“A person who hasn’t been there will never get it”                                               – Ron Leshem, Beaufort

Now regardless of whether you think the title and/or editing of the videos and site is justified or simply a ploy to pique the interest  and direct the focus of viewers, there still remains the question of credibility. 

Screen grab of Colbert's interview with Assange (HT @ The Colbert Report)

Gawker‘s empowered piece on the debacle fleshes out the issue with a smartly conceived interview between with King of Satire and doublespeak Stephen Colbert and Wikileak’s Julian Assange – nothing we read or see in public media is completely objective – so can we trust such ‘leaked’ information? Even this blog post was edited (at current count, 8 times) for maximum impact on readers. Considering the clearly political motivations of Wikileaks, as admitted by its founder Julian Assange, how do we reconcile the facts:

1. Two Reuters journalists were killed.

2. Two Reuters journalists were not identified as such, and as they should have been, and as they had been trained to be.

2. The US internal inquest into the incident and the actions of the Helicopter gunners found no conclusive evidence of intentional murder or war crimes.

3. Julian Assange titled the video “Collateral Murder”, and made assumptions on the viewers behalf, to present a vision of the events that  subscribed to his political narrative.

4. We can not rely on a gun-camera to appreciate the real-time vision of the men who fired on the group.

It’s a fogging mess. While there is no doubt this footage is on par with the photos from Abu Ghraib as a paradigm shifting tool, and a gamechanger for war reporting, the facts remain. There is no comfort in knowing, and no bliss in ignorance.



Explosive!
March 22, 2010, 10:15 AM
Filed under: Comment, media | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I can’t wait to see this in Cinemas. Four Lions is the name of a movie released in the UK in May about a group of hapless terrorists plotting an attack on London. Director Chris Morris describes the film as a ‘farce’ exposing the ‘Dad’s Army side to terrorism’. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2010 and was short-listed for the festival’s World Cinema Narrative prize. Take a look at the trailer:



Flashpoint or Excuse?

“This time the flashpoint was the reopening of a restored 17th century synagogue close to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. Rival Palestinian factions united in condemning the opening of the landmark Hurva synagogue, which was last destroyed 62 years ago in fighting with Jordan during the 1948 war that followed Israel’s creation.”

Police responded to the stonethrowers by firing tear gas and rubber bullets. HT@ Reuters: Darren Whiteside

Read more here.
 
“This time?!” I’m not sure what frustrates me about this article more –
– the fact that Palestinians are protesting the opening of a building (that has been under going construction since at least early 2004),
– that the Palestinians are “united in condemning” the opening of what Anne Barker calls “the landmark Hurva Synagogue” which was destroyed in the war of Independence (click here for a photo of the synagogue),
– the fact that the Hurva synagogue had been in a state of ruin for almost 50 years,
– the lack of context as to the exact location of the Synagogue (which is and always has been in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and has remained there since 17th Century)*
or perhaps the glib little phrase “This time”, which not only belittles the legitimate concerns of both sides, but reduces the conflict to a matter of incidences, easily avoidable if one side would just stop doing that one thing – bombing, building, walking, talking …  
 
Flashpoint, or excuse?
_ _ _ _ _ _
 *Case in Point: WordPress links this post to another, by Al Manar newsite, whose headline reads ““Israel” Hands Out Invitations to Attend Opening of Synagogue inside Aqsa Mosque”” … The article goes on …The sources added that the occupation authorities is making all preparations for that day, adding that according to a prophecy claimed by a Jewish rabbi in the 18th century, this synagogue will be established in the aforementioned date on the ruins of the Aqsa Mosque.

The sources added there is an agreement between the government and parties in Israel on the opening of this synagogue and Palestinian cooperation by Mahmoud Abbas’s authority to facilitate the opening ceremony and repel any Islamic moves to defend the Aqsa Mosque. 

In light of the Israeli preparations to quell any moves to defend the holy Mosque on that day, the occupation authorities prevented Jerusalemite worshipers under age 50 from entering the Mosque and launched a wide kidnapping campaign against Palestinian young men in the holy city.”Need I say more…?



Eyes Wide Shut
March 8, 2010, 9:11 AM
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A note. Martin Scorsese’s long overdue, much over-hyped lastest film, Shutter Island is probably enjoyed by many punters looking for a “don’t worry baby, I’ll protect you” little film to take their sweetheart to on a Saturday night. Unfortunately, it is about as organically thrilling as organic lentil soup. From the tired opening credits, to the over-worked score, which basically asks the audience to countdown to the OMFG! moment, Rocky Horror Picture Show Style, to the supremely ominous sweeping camera angles and disjointed, unoriginal dream sequences, it smelled predictable.
In fact, the big reveal moment was so much of a let down that the audience in my cinema were completely unperturbed. Complete silence, and more of the “really? That’s IT?!” variety than the hoped-for “Wow, what masterful storytelling”.
In fact, the vibe throughout the whole LONG 2 hours+ saga was unfortunately of incredulity and hyper-awareness of the construction of this elaborate plot, which, amongst other things, included mental asylums, dead wives, firebugs, psychotics, lucky strike cigarettes, and just for a little historical relevance, a few dead Nazis, some moral quandaries on the role of perpetrator/victim, House Un-American Activities Committee, and fedoras. Wow. What imaginative story telling.
Though maybe I just don’t like Leonardo DiCaprio. I’ll admit, his “Watch me Act” bit is a little tired, and even in his emotional scenes, all I could think about through out the film was “How does he keep that little band aid on his face through all that rain and hurricane? What on earth is it stuck with, Superglue?” Less than riveting, let me tell you.

2 mehs out of 5.

(Post Script: Props to Dendy Cinemas, however. My screening was captioned for the hearing impaired – and let me tell you, they don’t miss a thing. From fire crackling to creaking gates, every last indicator is mentioned. Except that stupid score. Good thing probably, they didn’t miss out on much.)



Means Justify the Ends, Beautiful Friends, The Ends
March 2, 2010, 11:19 AM
Filed under: Israel, media, Zionism | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ok, after all the speculation and hear say, after all the he-said-she-said and pointless re-iterating of irrelevant, un-newsworthy facts and numbers, names and casual insinuations, it’s time to set the record somewhat straighter than its current spiral-shape – because all this spin is making me dizzy.  So before you rip off your clothes, pull out your hair and run down your street screaming “APOCALPYSE NOW!! I SEE THE FOUR HORSEMEN!”, take a deep breath, or a shot, or a hit of your inhaler and read this.

Une : Self-righteous indignation is only permissable if the indignant are blameless. Don’t kid yourself Australia, Britain, France, or even you, Gold-medal winning Canada – sure, this time you are the victim, but are we forgetting that espionage is the dirty little secret of many great powers, used on varying occasions to kill, maime or capture war criminals, arms dealers and military and political leadership. No one is blameless, and all are punish-ed if they believe they are.  

Deux : There is no proof Mossad nor any Israeli was involved – it’s not like these people left their business card, or even a 20-shekel printed T from the Carmel Shuq. But, like all great conspiracies, the rumour is 3/4 of the way to the truth, and lights a great big stinking flare for all the crazies to come out (take this choice quote from New Matilda’s comments section, on Mustafa Qadri’s seminal work “Has Israel Finally Gone Too Far?” –  

“All Israeli Duel (sic) passports should now be triple checked and bags searched. Israel is using(some give permission)their citizens (sic) passports for their murderous deeds (9/11 ) cheering when the towers were pulled. Two planes hit two towers and building 7 just fell down ??? Mossad has blood on its hands. Guilty your honor.”  

Thanks Mate. Stellar contribution to the debate). Even in the murky jurisdictional waters of international justice, defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and subject to a fair trial – by the courts, not by fire or the media.  

Trois : The ends justify the means. Let’s not forget the end result of this little fiasco. There is one less self-described murderer and violent agitator in the world, who was killed while in Dubai on an arms-dealing mission for his organisation, Hamas, whose own political charter calls for the destruction of its neighbour, and who has acted upon that charter countless times in violent terrorism against citizens of the State of Israel. Where I come from that’s a winner. Sure, it (allegedly) took 27 people to arrange it, and a slew of tennis-related props, but the guy is no longer with us, and while I offer his family my condolences, I offer those responsible my congratulations.  

Quatre : When you assume, you make an ass of you and me. With the AFP on the way to Israel to conduct its own investigation, there is no doubt Australia is taking allegations of passport fraud seriously. However, it is worthwhile to remember that the three dual citizens named, were also shamed in extensive media coverage of the issue. I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any means, but it would be reasonable to assume that any and all parties, complicit in any illegal undertakings would be far less inclined to reveal their true involvement with hordes of cameramen and journalists banging down their doors. Especially if the likely outcome were jail time/extradition to their country of origin or revoking of their citizenship. Funny that. 

Cinq : It was Contextual, I swear. Remember that nothing happens in a vacuum – the response of the Australian government is tempered directly by the state in which it finds itself – demoting a minister, held responsible for the deaths of four tradies, and led by a Prime Minister who believes their hold to be slipping.



Marketing Magic or Mischief?
January 18, 2010, 4:02 PM
Filed under: Comment, media | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sometimes the media can surprise you. Not the usual sort of surprise – the kind that can incense the masses, cause mass-letter writing and clog the 1800-complaint services servers.

No, I’m talking about the kind of surprise demands a sharp inhalation of anxiety, and then, in an unusual turn, dissipates, only to cause the expelling of  calm and quandary. What on earth was – Did I just witness that ? Could it be that our darling media, with their infinite faults and foibles, are … somehow … with it?

See for yourself.  

As the abstract explains “Sky TV takes embedded journalism one step further with “West Bank”, a television commercial working with the concept, “Let the news speak for itself”. We’re taken to a Palestinian protest against Israel’s latest offensive, where the participants in the conflict give us their perspective on what’s happening …

Grab from Sky TV's advertisement

Created by a New Zealand company, DDB Auckland, it is quite simply, a stunning success in television News advertising – which has always placed more emphasis on the medium over the message – take for example the example Joris Lyundjek provides in ‘Fit to Print’, reprinted for ABC Unleashed here, where he recounts the impossibility of reporting the facts without the images – “After all, you tell the story with images — so it’s quite logical that if you don’t have an image, you don’t have a story.”

According to Sally Young from the University of Melbourne, this kind of advertising is a means to reverse the trend of young people searching for news content away from traditional media forms (Broadsheet, TV, Radio) – essentially making the argument that Sky News (The most watched cable TV News channel in Australia) has just as much to offer, if not more than online. And considering 48 per cent of Sky News viewers are over Fifty, it needed to make a compelling point. Which this advert does.
 
From a purely Marketing perspective, it is a fantastic strategy, especially considering a 30-sec spot in the middle-to-end of the news bulletin is not the most informative or effective tool of disseminating information. But TV is where a large proportion of people retrieve their understanding of their world, and in this case, the Israel-Palestinian conflict – 1 in 2 people in Australia own a TV.
 
So ‘moral flexibility’ aside, the real question is how effective will this campaign be in creating new viewers, or holding on to ratings for the channel? Created by a Kiwi company, it clearly has a local insight and a strong grasp of the needs and opinions of New Zealanders (would this kind of campaign work in the US or UK I wonder?), but it does raise some interesting points about TV news in general – or at least what has lacked in TV news.

Old men in Khaki reporting from Hotel bedrooms and cocktail lounges no longer suffice, when you have Chinese students blogging about human rights atrocities in Beijing, Burmese feeding up-to-the-minute reports on riots to traditional news media or Iranians tweeting photos of Basji attacks.

The ongoing division and revision of media is what this particular advert  is about. Media. Not Israel and Palestine – but the use of the conflict to market a media product. The point isn’t that Sky may or may not change it’s modus operandi – it’s about selling the promise that it doesn’t need to. It may not be smart journalism, and it is generally accepted that  TV isn’t exactly the place for smart journalists any more – but it is clever advertising, and that’s what counts.