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The Imperial Messenger: promotional video

The following is a short promotional video for my book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work. (gracias Amelia)


Things the BBC forgot to ask Jody McIntyre

BBC newsroom to be added shortly (Image from thetvroom.com)

BBC anchor Ben Brown has proven himself an ace investigative reporter, revealing during an interview with disabled victim of British police violence Jody McIntyre that the latter has not yet launched an official complaint with the police—despite the fact that the incident occurred several days ago! Thus, McIntyre’s brutal treatment must be a fabrication, even though it is recorded in video footage shown on the BBC.

In case the incident really did happen, Brown accusingly interrogates McIntyre about reports that he wants to start a revolutionary movement and that he was rolling toward police in his wheelchair, obvious provocations that warrant being dragged across asphalt and hit with a baton. He then cuts off McIntyre’s attempt to liken BBC coverage of the tuition fee protests with BBC coverage of the Palestinian issue, both of which focus on blaming violence on the victims.


A Single Golpista Race and the Honduran Top Five

Honduran newspaper discovers Photoshop (Image courtesy of Cubadebate)

Watching the documentary “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (2003) about the short-lived coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 2002, I arrived at the conclusion that Che Guevara’s detection of a single mestizo race stretching from Mexico to the Straits of Magellan must be fine-tuned to account for the existence of what appears to be a single golpista race spanning the same territory.

This race is concerned that, if not carefully monitored, the entire continent will turn into Cuba and citizens with multiple houses will be relieved of their extraneous properties by the government. A scarily amusing scene from “The Revolution” features a pre-coup meeting of well-dressed Venezuelans, who are being warned by an expert in such matters to beware of the potential political affiliations of their domestic servants.

As for pre-coup footage of Chávez supporters in Caracas shooting in self-defense after being targeted by gunfire during a golpista-orchestrated confrontation with opposition marchers, the opposition media—which reigns in Venezuela despite regular hysteria about the supposed lack of freedom of expression under Chávez—manipulates the scene such that the chavistas are shown to be firing not at an empty street but rather at one filled with peaceful demonstrators.


Chileans loot but do not maraud or swarm

Might swarm at any moment.

Let us compare the introductory paragraphs of Reuters news articles concerning the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes of January and February 2010, respectively.

First, a Jan. 18 article on Haiti:

U.S. troops protected aid handouts and the United Nations sought extra peacekeepers in earthquake-shattered Haiti on Monday as marauding looters emptied wrecked shops and desperate survivors began to receive medical care and air-dropped food.”

Now, a Feb. 28 article on Chile:

Chilean rescuers used shovels and sledgehammers on Sunday to find survivors of a huge earthquake in Chile that unleashed a Pacific tsunami and triggered looting by desperate and hungry residents.”

Despite covering the same general topics, the introductions differ in the provenance of their protagonists—which in the case of Chile are Chilean and in the case of Haiti are U.S. troops and the U.N.—and in the fact that desperate Haitian survivors are an afterthought to marauding looters while Chilean looters themselves are merely desperate, hungry, residential and above all a product of the earthquake rather than of any sort of anthropological flaw.


Honduran newspaper discovers murder after 3 days

A headline in this morning’s edition of the Honduran daily La Tribuna, fervent defender of last year’s coup d’état against President Mel Zelaya, announces the search for the “gang member” that killed the daughter of veteran union organizer and anti-coup resistance figure Pedro Brizuela. The murder of Claudia Larisa Brizuela Rodríguez, which took place on February 24 in the Céleo González neighborhood in the northern city of San Pedro Sula, had not prompted any prior coverage in the mainstream Honduran press despite the papers’ usual predilection for homicide photographs.

Honduran journalistic traditions had also been disrupted in July 2009 by the murder during a demonstration at the Tegucigalpa airport of anti-coup teenager Isis Obed Murillo, whose picture appeared in the daily La Prensa only after his blood had been removed via the Photoshop program. La Tribuna refrains from erasing the pool of blood surrounding Brizuela Rodríguez’ body on her living room floor, or from explaining how it is that members of the National Criminal Investigation Directorate (DNIC) are “hot on the trail” of the alleged gang member when the only identifying information provided by witnesses is that he is short.


American Muslims radicalize selves in tradition of European counterparts, Washington Post discovers

U.S. government, on the other hand, continues to refrain from radical behavior in Pakistan.

A 12 December The Washington Post article entitled “Arrests suggest U.S. Muslims, like those in Europe, can be radicalized abroad” by Mary Beth Sheridan and Spencer S. Hsu begins:

A spike in terrorism cases involving U.S. citizens is challenging long-held assumptions that Muslims in Europe are more susceptible to radicalization than their better-assimilated counterparts in the United States.”

The limited scope of Sheridan and Hsu’s anthropological breakthrough is suggested by the fact that they neglect to explain whether the rape of Iraqis by US soldiers would not also qualify as “radicalization abroad”; as for “long-held assumptions,” these had apparently been bolstered by “British domestic intelligence chiefs [who had] warned in 2006 and 2007 of 200 terrorist networks [in Britain], at least 2,000 individuals who posed a direct security threat and perhaps 2,000 as-yet unknown would-be terrorists.”


Thomas Friedman paints Iraq

(Photo: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

(Photo: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

In a July 14 column on the New York Times website entitled “Goodbye Iraq, and Good Luck,” Thomas Friedman informs us that he is in Kirkuk “tagging along” with Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They are at a meeting with 11 Iraqi provincial leaders, a sum Friedman explains has been dealt with by “local U.S. officials [who] have provided me a color-coded guide, identifying each Iraqi politician, their political tendencies and religious affiliation.”

The topic of discussion is which part of Kirkuk should be assigned to which color group. The 11 representatives—“seated on one side of the conference table”—present their  claims one by one via Arabic interpreter, until a Kurd breaks the succession with a joke in English. Friedman notes that it is his lucky day, and provides a transcript of the joke:

After Saddam was ousted in 2003… there was an elderly citizen who wanted to write a letter to the new government to explain all his sufferings from the Saddam era to get compensation. But he was illiterate. As you may know, outside our government offices we have professional letter-writers for illiterate people. So the man told the letter-writer all of his problems. ‘In the ’50s, they destroyed my house,’ he said. ‘In the ’60s, they killed two of my sons. In the ’70s, they confiscated my properties,’ and so on, right up to today. The letter-writer wrote it all down. When he was done, the man asked the letter-writer to read it back to him before he handed it to the governor. So the letter-writer read it aloud. When he got done, the man hit himself on the head and said, ‘That is so beautifully done. I had no idea all this happened to me.’ ”

Friedman then supplies a translation of the joke, as even Orientals expressing themselves in English require outside decipherment. Friedman’s rendering is as follows: “Everyone here has a history, and it’s mostly painful. We Iraqis love to tell our histories. And the more we do, the better they get. But with you Americans leaving, we need to decide: Do we keep telling our stories, or do we figure out how to settle our differences?”

An observer unfamiliar with Iraqi culture might have interpreted the Kurd’s joke to simply mean that color-coded representatives were embellishing their claims to Kirkuk. The untrained eye might have also failed to detect the reference to the Americans, or wondered why Friedman’s version of the joke was not funny.