Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shoe-beating At The Highest Level

Fig.1: A new line of fashion footwear...
Fig.2: Say it with shoes: one of Dubya's best portraits, degraded somehow. (image courtesy of the Beeb)

Consider this quote (via BBC) from a Syrian newspaper:


"When it became evident that George Bush, the outgoing US president, is incapable of understanding all that is being said about his rash policies, in all the languages of the world, it was necessary to invent a new language that Bush might understand, and it was the language of shoe-throwing."

The language in this editorial is restrained, quite witty, and really rather reasonable. Bush himself said (after he skillfully dodged the projectiles like a pro): 'I don't know what his (i.e. the shoe-flinging journalist's) beef is.' Thus the incapability of understanding that the US President so blithely advertises. Does he not think that perhaps SOMEONE in the nation he conquered might have a bit of a gripe for his policies in the generic sense, to be displayed by the obviously crude but effective 'language of shoe-throwing' that the journalist enacted? Never mind that beefs can be somewhat generalized. That is, uh, Mr. Bush? Uh, you did some stuff to Iraq. You think you dun good, but uh, a lot of hellish turmoil resulted from your 'well-meaning' invasion and conquering. So I guess we might consider his beef as having something to do with that kind of stuff. Besides, he said his gesture was on behalf of the widows and orphans of Iraq. it was in Arabic, but I think you had a few translators around...

Again, Bush's own words incriminate himself. He called the incident a stunt, made in order to get attention. No doubt, but what about the substance of said stunt? That is, Bush's policies have not exactly gone well for a great many Iraqis (a massive understatement). Thus the attention-getting stunt, a token statement at best, but illustrative of the deep resentment for this imperialist president and his agenda. How strange that he is so unpopular!

Indeed, this shoe-beating was a rather (or 'rawther' as Dubya would say in his Connecti- I mean, transplanted-Texan accent) gentle, even gentlemanly effort. Sort of like the foppish slapping of one's gloves in one's opponent's face as a prelude to a duel. Because the Iraqi journalist could not hope to achieve that close a contact with his chosen adversary, he had to effect it by remote control. Well, perhaps a flying plastic penis would have been more whimsical (as happened in a news conference in Russia recently), but I'm afraid that Iraq's ghastly turmoil really doesn't allow for much whimsy. It's a crushing tragedy, and pretending it doesn't exist is worthy of more than a mere toss of shoes. In the real world, war criminals are duly prosecuted under the rule of law.

Leaders have been bumped off for doing acts of far less consequence than BushCorp's in Iraq. The current occupant of the White House should consider himself blessed that he was on the receiving end of such comparatively lightweight projectiles. A creme pie would have been amusing, but the gravitas of Iraq would have made it a parody. No, it had to be shoes. Standing within Arab culture, even a president has to be subject to an environment much larger than he.

Back in the States, and during the 2004 election, I was privy to a comment made by a neighbor regarding George W. Bush. The neighbor was and is a kindly woman in her 70s, a dedicated churchgoer and volunteer, and a credit to her community. At any rate, she confided in me that her objections to Bush had been sustained at a very high level. So much so that she, a mild-mannered and responsible citizen, could only long for one solution: 'I hope Bush has an accident,' she said. 'A fatal one'. This, from no mafia criminal, or gang member, or drugged out wacko, but a little old lady of sound and sensible mind.

Why would she think such a violent thought? Why throw a pair of shoes at someone? Simple: frustration at the conduct of leaders seeks out solutions that aspire to solve the given problem quickly and permanently. It's a totally natural human reaction. Otherwise we all be sheep.

Basically, our little old lady just wished Bush would go away, or that he had not happened at all. Is that not the same sentiment as a shoe-beating? Both are completely appropriate in the face of such outrageous, egregious and uncivilized policies.

And while we're at it:


Crude, but most fitting.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

According To The Mainstream Media, A Railway Station Is A Railway Station Is A Railway Station

Fig. 1: Is this 'just' a railway station?

With standardized methods in dumbing down audiences, the mainstream media (MSM) have energetically employed practices that deliberately omit specificity in locations when reporting news stories. In other words, generic terms are usually used instead of specific names when referring to locations of newsmaking events. Apparently, this is an effort to not encumber the audience with too many details. To do so would disorient and dizzy up the average audience member, driving them elsewhere, to other sources, resulting in ratings loss, corporate sponsorship, and ultimately, the possible expiration or reorganization of the news providing organization itself. So the stakes have been made high, but by the MSM itself.

A perfect example of this trend is the recent attacks in Bombay (or Mumbai, for you Shiv Sena fans). In the vast majority of the reports from news organizations, Bombay's gigantic main railway station, the scene of one of the horrendous attacks, is referred to as - simply that: a 'railway station'. Now officially titled Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or CST (also a Shiv Sena accomplishment), though consistently referred to by its original name, Victoria Terminus, or VT, Bombay's premier railway station is one of the busiest in the world, plus it is housed in one of the grandest structures imaginable, and is most beloved by the populace. Yes, it is a creation from colonial times, but it has been wholly Indianized in its character and utility.

Perhaps the varied nomenclature of the station is a bit complicated, but is it too much for news people to figure out? I doubt that Grand Central Station would ever be referred to in the news merely as 'New York's railroad station'. Besides, the Bombay example is only one instance of how the MSM has reduced points on a map or places where events happen as - well, just that: points on a map . . . but without individual identification. This, in an age when pinpoint specificity via digital presentation is not only possible, it is the norm. Nevertheless, the MSM has chosen to neutralize identities, unless it is absolutely necessary to open them up, or unless it's an example in their own back yards.

Not referring to extremely important sites like VT/CST by their names, whatever the variations, seems an intentional strategy by news organizations to limit specific information for the reasons stated above. It's all in the ratings. If they wanted to, they could really help out in reducing geographic illiteracy. Instead, they choose a lower common denominator. Such a practice only decreases general geographic knowledge, as well as recognition skills and the importance of landmarks in everyday life. Plus, particularly for western audiences, it reduces places like Bombay, one of the world's great cities, into an anonymous urbanity without character or soul. There is even a racist aspect. The two luxury hotels, the Taj Mahal Palace and the Oberoi Trident (not 'Trident Oberoi' that many western sources insisted on saying) were referred to with perfect specificity repeatedly, probably because there were international - read: western - persons involved. Whereas the railway station, the presumed domain of the Indian masses, was not given the privilege of proper identity, even though it is vastly more important than the hotels.

This practice is not going away. Indeed, it is intensifying. I am not the only one who will continue to seek my news from other sources than the corporate entity that is the mainstream media.