Are purveyors of fake news endangering the lives of real journalists?

By Mathew Foresta

Earlier this week Univision journalist Jorge Ramos and his crew were detained by Venezuelan authorities. According to Ramos this was a reaction to some uncomfortable questions he asked Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro during an interview. Ramos detailed his experience being detained and having his crew’s equipment and electronic devices seized in an Op-Ed for The New York Times.

It took little time for Maduro’s American supporters to initiate a smear campaign against the journalist.

At the vanguard of all this is Grayzone Project editor Max Blumenthal, a blogger with a history of ethically questionable behavior. The Daily Beast’s Charles Davis reported that Dania Valeska Aleman Sandoval was tortured for protesting the regime of Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega. Blumenthal’s Grayzone Project used video of her torture extracted confession to criticize those opposing Ortega’s regime. Additionally, he tweeted a picture of himself with a bag over his head to mock a report that Syrian civilians were desperately trying to make homemade gas masks. Journalist Sulome Anderson recently announced she was suing Blumenthal and Norton “for libel and defamation.”

Blumenthal was amongst a group of reporters questioning Ramos after his return to Miami.

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Let’s Talk About Genocide: Words Matter (the Macmillan Edition)

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Last month I wrote a letter to several major dictionary publishers, outlining the dangerous implications of imprecise definitions of the term ‘genocide’ and the potential of prevention that a precise definition can contain. In my letter I appealed to the publishers to reconsider their existing definitions.

Within 24 hours, Cambridge Dictionary and Macmillan Dictionary confirmed that the letter has been forwarded to their editorial teams for consideration. Three days later, I received this reply from the Macmillan team:

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Genocide: Words Matter (the Macmillan Edition)”

Samar Yazbek: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria (2015)

Samar Yazbek was a well-known journalist, a presenter on Syrian television and a celebrated novelist when she fell foul of the Assad regime, leaving her no choice but to flee. She was forced to watch from afar as a peaceful uprising turned into violent conflict and her country burned. This is from 2015.

Intimations of Ghalib

Professor Guy Rotella’s on Intimations of Ghalib (Orison Books, 2018), M. Shahid Alam’s sublime new translation of the great poet’s Ghazals.

I first encountered Ghalib in the early 1970s. I was in graduate school, studying poetry. Then, as now, I had no Urdu. The medium of transmission—translation—was Aijaz Ahmad’s Ghazals of Ghalib, from Columbia University Press. It comprised versions of ghazals by W.S. Merwin, Adrienne Rich, William Stafford, Mark Strand, and others, all of them working from Ahmad’s literal translations and supplementary comments. My interest (probably slaking along the way some ersatz thirst for the supposedly exotic) was more in the American poets I admired than in the original poems they tried to bring into English. Merwin, Rich, and the rest were driven to Ghalib, or so I thought, by their quest for alternative models to the high modernist masters they were trying to shed or shred, by their search for remoter precedents to replace nearer ones they needed to reject.

ghalib-front-coverThe ghazal is united by form (two-line units, rigorous patterns of rhyme and refrain) but discontinuous in theme (each two-line stanza is distinct and separable from its fellows). The ghazal is also oral and performative, even in some ways interactive. And, however much it is steeped in tradition, at least in Ghalib’s hands, it feels intensely personal. This must have seemed an antidote to imaginations trained on, then sick of the thematic and other unities of British and American poems, of the primacy of print, and of the then still thunderous man-date to write impersonally that had begun as a revolt and become an orthodoxy. There’s irony in this: the ghazal belongs to a master-apprentice tradition bound not only to technical rigor but also to stern commitments to inherited and formulaic sets of images, characters, and motifs. But it’s an irony lightened by the ghazal’s roots in oral performance and by the at least apparent likeness of its discontinuities to the surrealist, deep image, and other, often foreign styles American poets in those days were trying out and trying on. At a time of cultural upheaval, when America’s inherited colonial war in Vietnam was being prosecuted and protested, Ghalib’s particular circumstances might have resonated, too. He was an impecunious aristocrat in a still only nascently nationalist India; he lived at the tag end of a dying Mughal dynasty increasingly beholden to British colonial rulers who were capable of monstrous reprisals to repress and punish rebellion; he could seem to have made a separate peace. A faithful but non-sectarian Muslim, Ghalib was also wittily, irascibly irreverent and more in tune with ecstatic Sufi sensuality than more conservative Islamic asceticism, as much given to the pleasures of love affairs and wine as to those of the strictest poetic craft. Even Ghalib’s more than Keatsian precocity—many of his finest poems were written by the time he was 19—might have seemed a recommendation in those youth-besotted days.

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Let’s Talk About Genocide: Words Matter

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alt-5b51feb34c621-5439-8e988795982d8b2f6e682380a3b0adb6@1xSince I’ve started the Let’s Talk About Genocide series, over four years ago, the discussion around Israel in the context of the crime of genocide has grown substantially. And while many scholars, journalists, and human rights defenders have embarked on the arduous task of examining the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (12345678910111213141516); many others have dedicated many words to the various, very partial definitions found in most English language dictionaries (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Based on these inaccurate definitions- that no genocide scholar in either the Political Science or the legal field would agree on- inevitably the authors reach the conclusion that Israel is not committing genocide against the indigenous Palestinian people. Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Genocide: Words Matter”