Recovering Reality: A case for the ‘truth’?

Call them what you will for it, romantics, perhaps even naive in this regard, but Gramsci and Marx describe the ‘intellectual’ as one who possesses a  heightened sense of consciousness  – a sense that enables the intellectual to extract or recover reality from a world made purposefully hazy. For these thinkers, the mystical gift of acumen also comes with its burdens. The role of the intellectual is not simply to seek, collect and retain knowledge, but also to unveil and act in relation to these carefully hidden ‘truths’.

To this end, the aspiration of good journalism is not so different.  The ethical role of the journalist is often expressed in terms of “reporting the facts”. In this formulation, ‘reporting facts’ is tantamount to ‘good journalism’ when ‘reporting’ is synonymous with ‘truth telling.’

We also know that ‘truth seeking’ maintains a centrality in our everyday experiences, both present in our most ardent and public socio-political concerns as well as our most private existential and interpersonal questions about life. But why does the notion of ‘truth’ matter to us? What purpose does such a concept have and for what reasons should it be retained?

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The Privatization of War: Scahill reports 121,000 contractors in Afghanistan

During an interview with Riz Khan on December 21st Jeremy Scahill reported that the Obama administration has surpassed the Bush era’s privatization of war, having nearly doubled the number of security contractors in Afghanistan over the past several months. Amongst the contracting firms who remain in Afghanistan is Blackwater (now operating under the name XE)a firm that Scahill describes as “one of the most powerful private actors in the so called War on Terror.

In a series of reports for The Nation in November and December of 2009, Scahill revealed that “members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives” both inside and outside of Pakistan. Despite public indictments, Blackwater continues to work for the State Department without oversight.

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Hello Resistance, meet Resistance…..

In Volume I of History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault famously notes:

Where there is power, there is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power.

Earlier this month, Foreign Policy magazine published their “First Annual List of the Top 100 Global Thinkers.” Notably, the list included figures like Dick Cheney, General Petraeus, Larry Summers, Salam Fayyad and Ahmed Rashid – a combination of people that many, including those of us here at PULSE, felt fell short of exemplifying what FP claimed it was doing: presenting a list of  ‘thinkers’.

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Oh, the Irony!

According to the UK Telegraph, lawyers in the United States are not too pleased about the verdict in the Amanda Knox trial. Amongst the unhappy is Harvard Professor of Law, Alan Dershowitz, a well-known advocate of unlawful-preventive-indefinite- administrative  (it’s all the same anyhow) detention in the U.S and in Israel. Here’s an excerpt, with a few of the responses from bummed out lawyers in the United States:

Within minutes of the verdict on Friday, the cable news network CNN had given over its coverage to two American correspondents, both roundly condemning the trial and what they saw as a lack of evidence.

As they regularly did during the trial, the American media has been quick to wheel out domestic legal experts to rail against the iniquities of the Italian justice system.

Under the headline “An American in the Italian Wheels of Justice”, the New York Times quizzed senior academics but found none who approved of the verdict.

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The Price of ‘Existing’ as a Muslim Today

In the classic French novel, Adolphe, Benjamin Constant writes: 


There are things that for a long time remain unsaid, but once they are spoken, one never ceases to repeat them.

How true this is of so many of the things we keep inside for a time. Think, for example, of how an argument with a loved one often reveals the things that we have felt, but carefully hidden from them. Once spoken, those words repeat themselves with a frequency that suggests that we are seeking vengeance for the time they spent in silence.

The same is true of our secret prejudices, which often remain unsaid until the moment ‘feels right’ or circumstances seemingly produce the ‘necessity’ for their articulation.

It appears that circumstances today have produced a space in which articulating anti-Islamic sentiment both ‘feels right’ and ‘necessary’. It is an environment marked by series of events invoked as evidence in the ever-growing case against Islam.

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The Image and the Imagined: On Why We’re not Allowed to see Detainee Abuse

By Aisha Ghani

Abu Ghraib painting by Fernando BoteroBy Aisha Ghani

 

On Monday, November 30th the Supreme Court overturned a Second Circuit Court of Appeals order to release photographs of U.S. soldier abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to a statement by Solicitor General Elena Kagan, disclosing these photographs “would pose a clear and grave risk of inciting violence and riots against American troops and coalition forces.”

The contestation over the release of these photographs began four years ago, when a trials court judge claimed that the Bush administration was evading obligations imposed on it by the Freedom of Information Act in withholding the images. Although earlier this year the Obama administration argued in favor of releasing the photographs in an effort to encourage ‘transparency’, the decision was later reversed. While the Supreme Court has historically challenged the state’s assertions in cases concerning the rights of detainees, this time they sided with the  Obama Administration, permitting the Pentagon to block the release of these photographs and others like them.

Are we to believe that concern for the safety of U.S. soldiers and civilians lies at the heart of this decision, or can we sense a certain disingenuity when we think about how the state endangers both soldiers and civilians everyday by subjecting them to war?  Insincerity, as George Orwell tells us, is “the gap between one’s real and declared aims.”

What is it about the nature of the image in general and, more specifically, about the ‘possible’ content of these images in particular that is creating a palpable gap between the state and judiciary’s real and declared aims?

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Preachers & ‘Terrorists’

Aisha Ghani on Overlooking ‘Overlooking’

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announcing on Friday that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed would be prosecuted in federal court in New York.

 

Saturday, Nov 14th – Today I learn that conversations in delis are political. All I ordered that morning was a cup of coffee. The guy at the register, perhaps dedicated to the idea of service, gives me that and something I’m still having trouble digesting. He had been talking to customers about Eric Holder’s 9/11 trials announcement.

Addressing me although talking to the customer in front of me, he announces with palpable disdain, “Terrorists don’t deserve a fair trial.” Unable to respond, I hand him cash and receive, once again, surplus. Seventy-five cents and a question directed at me, but not to me,  “What do you guys think?” Sensing that my response would not be the ‘right’ answer, I leave, saying nothing or perhaps everything.

“Terrorists don’t deserve a fair trial.” Six words, delivered with the kind of alacrity that indicates honesty, compel this question: when we are confronted by such a statement, what kinds of things must we negate or ‘overlook,’ in order to enable their coherence? And, importantly, how and why does this overlooking take place?

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