Tag Archives: Fox News

Anti-Muslim sentiment in a post bin Laden USA

15 May
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld shares a ...

Image via Wikipedia

Whoa, hello, back home again, seriously discombobulated with regard to day and night, and with a mind teeming with intense impressions. Whatever you think about the USA, it’s stimulating.

A few days ago two imams attempted to board a plane in Tennessee on their way to North Carolina. They went through three separate security searches, and then the pilot threw them off the flight. His reason? Other passengers complained that they felt uncomfortable  with the imams sharing their journey.

I saw the imams interviewed on the news. They were surprisingly affable, given their circumstances. Puzzled, confused, and a little hurt by the treatment they’d received, they explained they were on their way to a conference when their ordinary day turned surreal.

The airline involved eventually apologized to the imams, and they were conveyed to their destination. There is speculation that they will sue. It’s un-American not to.

There were a few people I felt uncomfortable with on my flight home but it never occurred to me to ask that they be thrown off. As they were Westerners not Muslims, it would likely have been me who’d been thrown off as a potential nutter if I’d objected to their behaviour, as opposed to their appearance.

All the while, street parties and celebrations continued over the death of Bin Laden. Relics of the Bush administration such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld seized the opportunity to resurrect themselves, and appeared on Fox News claiming credit for Bin Laden’s death on the grounds that if it had not been for their waterboarding of prisoners in Guantanamo and other places, Obama (have to be carful there, more than one TV commentator consistently confused Obama with Osama in his or her reportage) would not have been able to carry out the raid that took Osama out.

Ergo, they continued, torture is a good thing and it must be brought back. I was unaware that torture had been entirely dispensed with by the current administration.

Bellagio Fountains

On the day of Bin Laden’s death, the magnificent choreographed fountains at the Las Vegas Bellagio hotel danced to the Star Spangled Banner with cannonball explosions thrown in to create an effect derivative of the 1812 overture, as the water surged hundreds of feet into the clear blue desert air. It was spectacular, and people cried and cheered and hurled their two foot long margarita glasses into the lake in celebration while screaming “God bless America!”

The very next tune to issue forth from the fountains was, to my incredulous astonishment, Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli‘s version of Time to say Goodbye.  Make of that what you will, but it wasn’t irony. They don’t do irony in Las Vegas, all those simulacra representing Paris, Rome, Venice and Donald Trump‘s penis are not ironic. “It’s just like the Eiffel Tower!” I heard a French tourist exclaim as she wandered through the Paris Hotel casino, gazing up at a ceiling painted light blue with fluffy white French clouds floating around a construction imitative of the famed Parisian landmark, on her way to the slot machines. Nope. Definitely no irony.

After a great deal of careful thought, I’ve decided the choice of song was accidental and hugely funny, to me at least.

A few isolated and subsequently vilified public voices raised themselves in protest against the undesirability of “rooting for death”, even when it’s Bin Laden’s. However these traitors were speedily humiliated and silenced. A patriotic news analyst speculated as to why Bin Laden had no wall paper in his house, and wasn’t filmed sitting in a Lazy Boy recliner, both of which are middle class American icons. If Bin Laden was so important, his reasoning went,  how come he lived without what many Americans regard as essential items?

Speaking of Donald Trump, the world’s wealthiest bleached blonde mullet gave a foul mouthed speech at the Treasure Island Casino as part of his tilt at being a presidential candidate. The room spilled over with a certain type of Republican who responds to sentences peppered with expletives such as motherf***er, c**nt, etc. and demands that the US stop building hospitals and schools in Afghanistan because the bastards just blow them up, so why aren’t we building the mother f***ing schools in Brooklyn instead?  Trump received a standing ovation from the audience, which was obviously comprised of Republicans who believe that all a man needs to carry out the top job is the ability to accumulate obscene personal wealth. Surprising that with all that wealth, he doesn’t get his roots done, instead appearing in front of all those people looking like trailer trash.

I miss the channel that does back to back re-runs of Law and Order. I really, really do.

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Bolt lands TV show, thanks to Gina

8 Apr
Fair & Balanced graphic used in 2005

Image via Wikipedia

Andrew Bolt has landed a Sunday morning gig on Channel 10, thanks to his über wealthy fan, mining heiress Gina Reinhart.

Reinhart recently acquired a 10% stake in the network, and has decided that it’s about time for a “Fox News style show” on 10.

Reinhart’s move into media gives her an opportunity for far wider cultural influence and control than she currently enjoys, and it looks as if she’s wasting no time getting that up and going.

Bolt is embroiled in legal action taken against him by several high profile Aboriginals, following his observations that some light-skinned Indigenous people exploit their heritage for personal gain. Bolt apparently thinks that if you don’t look Aboriginal you shouldn’t be claiming that you are, given that he thinks the claims may give you a leg up in your profession and position in the world, and an advantage over non Indigenous competitors.

All the evidence points to Bolt’s on-going enjoyment of the publicity and attention the court case has brought him. Scoring his own weekly TV show must be icing on his cake. Taking personalities such as Bolt on publicly usually does backfire: giving them an even bigger stage on which to parade their opinions seems to work largely in their favour.

Whatever you may think of Bolt’s opinions, he does have the right to express them. Easy enough to support free speech if it’s agreeable, it’s when agreement is absent that the principle really matters. And as somebody said, the only way to contest bad speech is by more and more good speech: trying to stifle opinions, no matter how wrong-headed you might think they are, isn’t going to work well.

On the question of heritage, I can understand why people want to proudly claim everything they’ve got. As someone who has no knowledge of my father and his family, I’ve had my struggles with genealogical confusion.

It also seems pretty natural to me that if one does have a heritage in which family was maligned and discriminated against, there can be a strong desire to restore that heritage and the family to its rightful human place, personally, politically and culturally. It’s a personal healing process, a fulfilling of responsibility to ancestors, and a powerful assertion of place and belonging.

I guess the fact that Andrew Bolt can see it only as exploitative and opportunistic says a great deal more about him than it does about those he’s maligned. But I’m not about to give Bolt the satisfaction of being one more person railing against him. Go for it Andy. There’s still plenty of us producing good speech. You’ve got a long way to go before you drown us out, even with the Fox News template on your side.

Palin’s got them in her sights in the USA

10 Jan

by Ramon Duran via flickr

Twice a year I make the journey from Australia to the USA, to visit with my loved ones who live there.

I have other reasons. I also love America. I love its complexities. I love its idiosyncrasies. I love its ambiguities, its ambivalences; I love the impossibility of ever being able to define the country, or confine it in any particular categorical cage. No matter how hard one tries, America’s contradictions thwart all attempts at constraint.

And this I what love, in an individual and a nation.

When the American people elected Barack Hussein Obama as their president I was astounded, and filled with admiration. This brave new world that has such people in it, was what I thought, and said, though many laughed at me and called me naïve. What I was responding to was simply the fact that America had elected this man. I had no great expectations, he is, after all, a man and not a god, but that the country had chosen him seemed to me a wonderful and hope-filled thing.

Today, reading of the death and injury visited upon bystanders and participants in a political gathering outside a Safeway supermarket in Tuscon, Arizona, I’m sad again for another gun slaughter in America.

A few short weeks ago I was in the car park of just such a shopping mall in Nevada, a state that borders Arizona, and shares a geographical similarity. There I noticed an over-sized four-wheel-drive that bore the numberplate Jim Crowe. Jim Crow is not a neutral name in the USA. It refers to the racial segregation laws enacted in 1876 that were in effect until 1965. These laws mandated segregation in public schools, public spaces, transport and restrooms. Restaurants, drinking fountains and the military.

I pointed out the number plate to my son. He whispered that there is a great deal of racial tension in the state of Nevada.

A few days earlier I’d spent the day at a local public elementary school. At the end of morning assembly children and teachers placed their hands over their hearts, faced the flag, starkly outlined against the blue desert sky, and recited: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. It was moving, to hear the children’s voices earnestly piping these noble sentiments. It was remarkable to witness just how much they seemed to mean what they said.

The Nellis Air Force Base is just outside of Las Vegas, and as we stood in the playground with our hands on our hearts, squads of fighter jets flew over in formation, in rehearsal for another theatre of war. It was a numinous moment.

The Tea Party

On the website of the USA Tea Party movement, whose most famous member is Republican Sarah Palin, there is a map of the USA. Various congressional seats are highlighted in various states on this map, including the Arizona seat where the wounded Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, murdered Federal Judge John Roll, and a murdered a nine year old girl, were gathered with others injured and killed on an ordinary day, carrying out their ordinary daily duties.

The congressional seats marked out on Palin’s map are targetted with gun sights. They are the seats currently held by Democrats who voted for health care reform.

In states where the Democrats have recently retired, the rifle cross hairs are drawn in red.

Palin’s tweeted slogan is Don’t retreat. Reload.

Above the website map is the exhortation: We’ve diagnosed the problem. Help us prescribe the solution.

I hear Palin has since removed this from her website. But I found it at the Huffington Post.

It’s too simplistic to blame Palin and her followers alone for this most recent mass shooting. Yet in a gun culture such as that in the USA, where the right to bear arms is fiercely protected, it is but a short step from rhetoric to action when the weapon is sitting in your closet. The escalating vitriol towards politicians with whom one does not agree, the sense that anyone who is not with you is against you, the incitement to violence and killing such as that directed towards the foreigner Assange, for example, all speak to a culture that can quickly become murderously out of control.

The notion that if you don’t like something someone says you can and should kill them is promoted, and not only metaphorically, by conservative public voices in the USA such as Glenn Beck, employed by Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch. The notion is based in concepts of morality that conflate disagreement with heresy and blasphemy, punishable by death in a righteous political war.

There are consequences to a rhetoric in which voters are defined as soldiers, the opposition is portrayed as morally bereft, and the solution is prescribed in metaphors of war. It permeates the atmospheres. It makes possible that which should not be possible. It promotes a culture of violent action and reaction, because it makes the unthinkable thinkable, and therefore all too possible.

Words matter. Words both construct and describe the world in which we live. Words can kill.

Winter in America is cold

In San Francisco, the iconic Virgin store on the corner of Powell and Market has closed down. Riding the trolley bus down Market towards City Hall, we see store after store with boarded up windows covered in graffiti.

In the big Westfield shopping centre there’s hardly anybody looking in the up-market Nordstrum store. There are groups of homeless and disaffected people resting in comfortable chairs in the halls and lobbies outside the stores, their broken plastic bags of belongings in unsteady piles beside their legs. It’s warm in here, and dry. San Francisco is experiencing one of its wettest winters for some time. Every morning we wake to the steady drip of rain on the apartment windows. On the television news, vision of cliffs in danger of collapse down on Pacific Heights, of apartments at risk of plunging into the ocean show just how vulnerable this city is to natural disasters.

We spend a lot of time in the Museum of Modern Art, and in Golden Gate Park at the De Young Museum. After three days of thinking the rain will stop, I’ve abandoned my torn hardware-store blue plastic poncho, finally accepting that it’s going to rain for quite a while and I’d better get a proper raincoat. I trot down Union Square to Macy’s, where they’re having a permanent sale, it seems. On the top floor I find thousands of raincoats. I’m completely bamboozled, and wander round irritated, overheated, and confused by choice. I want a cream Calvin Klein, on sale for US$80. It’s glamorous, it’s a movie star’s raincoat, and I’ve never owned anything like it. Instead, thinking of my grandmother, I choose a black one because it won’t show the dirt.

The poor are everywhere. Some have dogs, cats or birds for company. I don’t have enough money to give to everyone I see. There’s a long line of customers outside the Apple store on the day they release the iPad. A few homeless people push their way in and get onto the public computers. Apple staff don’t send them away, but they do hover.

Soon I’ll be leaving the USA. As always, sadness gets the better of me at Los Angeles International airport, and I cry quietly across much of the Pacific. I don’t like leaving the ones I love, and I don’t like leaving the country I love more and more with every visit. In spite of it’s exasperating contradictions. In spite of the notice in the local park that reads: No profanities. Have a nice day. I have barely been able to restrain myself from sneaking back into that park in the middle of the night with a black Texta stolen from a child’s pencil case, and scrawling No fu**ing profanities! Have a fu**ing nice day! right across that sign.

Back in Australia I notice in the airport car park a large four-wheel-drive with a sticker in its window that’s a map of Australia. Across the map is the slogan F**ck Off! We’re full!

I’m not one of the cohort who think that what happens in the US may just as likely happen in Australia. Our societies are very different, in spite of the influences of US cultural imperialism. Nevertheless, if we have any sense we will learn from the American experience. We’ll cool down our political rhetoric. We’ll call a halt to the verbal ferocities in our parliaments. Mindless slogans, ill-thought out verbiage, ad hominem abuse. We have a chance to avoid what the USA continues to suffer. Let’s hope we take it.

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