Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 30, 2007

Fatuity of Do-Gooders

I am outraged about Myanmar. Not about the military dictators there who stopped demonstrations with tear gas and bullets. I am outraged about the selected coverage in 'the west' and by some 'liberal do-gooders' who fall for dubious sources.

Point of my outrage is a current diary now no. 2 on the recommended list at Daily Kos and titled:

Burma: They burned the injured protesters/civilian people in the YaeWay Crematorium

It currently has some 110 comments.

It is a charlatanry starting with its name. The official international name of the country is Myanmar, not Burma. That was the colonial name. Should Zimbabwe again be referred to as South Rhodesia and Beijing as Peking?

The diary starts with copies of two parts of a posting from a blogspot blog by one 'ko htike'. The first:

Telephone conversation with a members of public

Er… they shot… people got killed.  Er…but it seems like it wasn't as bad as yesterday in terms of number of deaths, however we will know the accurate picture tomorrow.  Er… la  another disturbing news is that er… I would like to know if you would inform BBC and CNN about? (sob!!!) They burned the injured protesters/civilian people in the YaeWay Crematorium la la .  Er… the staff from crematorium told this, crying, to the people who went to the funeral service.  Please let this known to CNN and BBC. Thank you!!

The second is a picture of some light pink thing and some leafs laying in water and what the caption provided says is:

.. the brain of a young student who was beaten violently to death by soldiers of the junta found in the drain near No. (3) Tarmway high school.

Embedded in the picture is the URL www.myanmarmuslim.net. On that website, registered in Malaysia, the same picture is captioned:

A piece of Brain of a people at Tamwe

I am not sure what is really shown in the picture but I remember an open head injury I once bandaged as a volunteer ambulance paramedic. That brain looked a lot different.

Another bit quoted in the diary is attributed to yet another blogspot site - burma myanmar genocide. It says:

To take records of Dead Bodies in the River

Burmese democratic activists have announced to inform and to take records and photographs of any corpses at the lower delta of Yangon River and Hlaing River in Yangon.

The rest of the diary are quotes from regular news sites about the UN envoy's visit to Myanmar. The core of the diary, as its title, are the three above quoted bits.

What flusters me is that NOT ONE of the 110 comments to the diary nor the diarist voices ANY doubts about the above three pieces of 'information'.

  • An anonymous blogsite carries an anonymous phone call which narrates that some group  of unnamed people said something to some other group of unnamed people.
  • An unsourced picture that might show what the caption says or might not.
  • An anonymous announcement that something will be recorded in case it happens.

All other information in that diary is simple news about an UN envoy visit.

Still the comments are about Auschwitz and Rwanda, calls to front-page the diary, discussions whether the protesters in Myanmar should be armed or not and laments how Bush has hampered U.S. interventions.

Obviously the commentators take the information for granted even though none is sourced to anything verifyable. You might think they would start wars based on such.

I certainly do not support the military dicators in Myanmar. There should be better ways for the people there to govern themselves.

But one shouldn't underestimate the difficulty of establishing democracy in a relative big country with lots of minority groups and situated between competing world powers while being rich of hydrocarbons. The potential human toll of a revolutionary move there is huge.

At the same time of this virual horror about Myanmar the last 24 hours saw no Daily Kos diary or story of these verified incidents:

Police used tear gas and batons to disperse lawyers protesting Saturday against legal rulings clearing the way for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to run for another five-year term.
...
Chaos ensued with security forces and protesters pelting each other with rocks. Police fired tear gas shells and beat the protesters, with one officer using a tree branch. At least two lawyers suffered bloody head injuries.

Live television coverage also showed police arresting some female supporters from Bhutto's party and shoving them into a waiting van. Three opposition legislators also were dragged away.

Running clashes continued for more than two hours. At least seven journalists were taken to hospitals after being beaten severely by police, with ARY news channel correspondent Asma Sherazi saying they were deliberately targeted. An AP reporter was beaten on the back with a baton and punched in the mouth.

Lawyers also rallied in Lahore and Karachi, where police arrested some and beat others.

Musharraf is a military dictator supported by huge amounts of U.S. taxpayer money in a country with nukes that is quite possibly a future flashpoint of wars.

Myanmar also has a military dictatorship. But it is neither of global importance nor are violent riots about gas subsidies something unheard of elsewhere.

Incidents in one country get lots of press and virtual tears at Daily Kos - incidents in another country are ignored.

Why?

Posted by b on September 30, 2007 at 01:26 PM | Permalink

Comments

watching BBC and Sky it appears that this crisis in Myanmar has been created by the brits. as too often happens the story starts in the english press and is then picked up in the US. It could be a distraction or it could be another front opened against China, gotta keep the pressure on them everywhere....Africa as well as their own backyard. global politics, the great game

I too noticed the use of Burma to describe the country and wonder if it might just be because that is the familiar name. It was not until a couple of years ago that I had heard of Myanmar and had to look it up. Beijing is another as is Mumbai which I had to look up as well. maybe it is colonialism creeping back or maybe it is just a way to make it easier for folks to know what you are talking about.

watching the video of the japanese photographer getting shot point blank was a bit sobering. those kinds of things generate more emotions than simply reading about atrocities in a land such as pakistan which has already undergone many similar episodes.

plus, some folks are probably suffering from outrage fatigue. i think we need to focus on things we can or could change and not chase after every injustice that is brought to us in the latest news cycle. but, as you can see it is quite easy to get the people to respond however you want them to. all those billions spent on public relations and the experience gained advertising agencies over the last 50 or 60 years is being used to great effect.

thank you b for staying mad as hell and not taking it anymore.

Posted by: dan of steele | Sep 30, 2007 1:59:02 PM | 1

C'mon, we can't afford to be outraged at every injustice in the world, we'd scream ourselves hoarse and run out of server capacity for all the blog postings. Let the Dail Kos set their own priorities...

Posted by: ralphieboy | Sep 30, 2007 3:23:19 PM | 2

The question of the name of the country is, like everything else about the country, not simple.

A friend from school, who is a citizen of Myanmar/ Burma, tried to explain it at the time (1989) that the name change was promulgated. I asked which I should use. His feeling: Burma may have been the colonial name, but it was also used by the independence government. Myanmar is a change ordained by a military junta that few people of the country recognize as their legitimate representative.

Furthermore, in their own language the name did not change. As best I can understand, the relationship between Burma and Myanmar is similar to that of Peking/ Beijing.

Then, finally, either name, Burma or Myanmar, derives from only a part of the country and the dominant ethnic group.

So, in the opinon of my Burmese/Myanmese friend, he didn't much care which name was used, and uses them interchangeably. He regarded both names as conventional markers for the same geographic place, and neither name as having any particular political purity to it.

Posted by: small coke | Sep 30, 2007 3:54:34 PM | 3

As a member of Daily Kos, who doesn't blog there very often, I don't think you can expect it to be more than reflective of the particular interests of its individual member diarists (keep in mind that it responds to the Democratic party, so as such it has an explicit political agenda). Despite having mined it for very important and useful news items and background information to current events in the past, I believe it is incorrect to judge it as a "news" agency or a "news" blog. Some of the information contained in diaries has admittedly been incorrect and is usually subject to corrections when discovered to be such.

Posted by: Maracatu | Sep 30, 2007 4:37:25 PM | 4

C'mon, we can't afford to be outraged at every injustice in the world, we'd scream ourselves hoarse and run out of server capacity for all the blog postings. Let the Dail Kos set their own priorities...

That priorities seem to be "love the dictator we pay, hate the one we don't"

Posted by: b | Sep 30, 2007 4:55:09 PM | 5

People in Burma/Myanmar have as much right to be free as anyone else in the world. Dictatorships suck, whether they're allied with the U.S. or not. People who struggle against dictatorships are entitled to some attention and support, if they seek it.

Which is not to say that all forms of support are helpful. Bush's seizing the opportunity to offer vocal support means that many who rightly disdain him will be less inclined to be sympathetic, much less provide concrete help -- as this post demonstrates. From the MoA point of view, it's apparently just tough luck for people in those countries too small or poor to be deemed not of world importance. I'd hope this enemy-of-my-enemy approach to human rights would not be taken so far as to deny that the government of Burma/Myanmar is a particularly repressive dictatorship.

The complete abandonment of ordinary standards of evidence and critical thought is no help, either. The current example is far from the only example of Kos commenters' credulity; in this case there are probably few people registered to post there who are at all knowledgeable about the situation and willing to risk being misinterpreted as supporting the ruling Burmese/Myanmarese regime.

The past repression already carried out out by the regime and the history of what can happen when governments make serious efforts to seal off populations from contact with the outside world tend to make outside observers fear the worst about what might be going on. That doesn't excuse the Kos commenters' credulity, but it's undoubtedly playing a role in inhibiting calls for fact-checking.

Posted by: Nell | Sep 30, 2007 5:00:47 PM | 6

Nell,

if you haven't been here for a while, you should check out what Debs is dead has written about this.

I am reluctanct to help someone. it could very well make their lives a lot worse as experienced by many Iraqis

Posted by: dan of steele | Sep 30, 2007 5:20:48 PM | 7

@small coke The last point you made is the most telling for me. The ruling culture consolidated under the Brits was of the Burman people. There are many more ethnicities within Myanmar than Burmans and that is one of the reasons for the name change and the reason to mistrust the motives of the use of the old form Burma.

Most of the ex-pat protesters are Burman descendants of the colonial and early post colonial regime of General Aung Sung. As brutish as the current regime may be they have established lines of communication with with the minorities other than by massacre, which was first committed by the General Aung Sung's regime on the Karen, ironically for being 'pro-British'. I apologise for not supplying that link I thought I had backed it up and hadn't, so went back to Wikipedia and found huge chunks have been re-edited deleting all reference to Aung Su Kyi's work for the military regime as an ambassador and removing the link from a Karen site which pointed out that general Aung Sung had instigated the first massacre).

After the 8888 riots the military regime sought aid from China, the Chinese agreed to supply arms and money in return for oil and natural gas, as well as being able to establish the Sig Int bases throughout Myanmar which BReal posted this link on. The Chinese also insisted that the Yangon government talk with the minorities and try and establish some common ground. Since this has occurred the major ethnic armies have struggled to maintain their numbers and power within the ethnic groupings.

In a process very similar to that faced by ETA, the Basque seperatist resistance, many people drift away once the worst of the oppression stops and economic development occurs. That situation has evolved over the last decade in the Mynmar minorities.

Except in Myanmar there is a huge prize of hydrocarbon, precious stone, mineral wealth to be exploited. That means every wanna-be with a dream and a few friends can get someone outside the country to bankroll their grab for power. The Karen movement has fragmented into many separate movements as have other groups such as the Shan and Mon.

There are still many grievances particularly for those minorities unlucky enough to live on top of something seen to be exploitable but unless a genuine broad based coalition of all the groups within Myanmar develops to oppose the current regime it is difficult to see how any change could be for the better.

Say Aung Sung Suu Kyi and her predominantly Burman group achieve their aims and become the new ruling elite. Everyone calls it Burma again Yangon reverts to Rangoon and the rulers are more receptive to their english and amerikan backers. The Chinese influence has spread down through the administrative classes so much of that trade would continue except the economic aid to the minorities since that is primarily there as a result of Chinese pressure on the military rulers.

The armed struggle in the rural areas kicks up and the country which had been consolidating fragments once more.

It may suit the corporate capitalists to take resources out of a weakened nation state.

Their interference has achieved that in the Congo and is aiming for it in Iraq. While China is the predominant advisor to Myanmar, they want stability as they don't need shit going on next door. Exactly the same as Iran with Iraq.

It has been the Chinese society which has suffered the most damage from Shan heroin exports, so they want those minorities mollified then pacified, the USuk mob couldn't give a flying fuck about that (see Afghanistan). Smack is an opportunity for intelligence agencies to make money off the books, that is about the extent of their interest.

I doubt that the current riots/uprising and the supression of them will lead to anything. The rise in world oil prices caused the military junta in Mynmar to commit the fatal error of allowing some of the rise to seep into their protected economy. Undoubtedly there would have been corruption and illegal exports of domestic gas to China at the heart of their decision to raise fuel prices in July and that upset many in Myanmar.

USuk took advantage and through the BBC Burma service and the Democratic Voice of Burma funded by Washington based National Endowment for Democracy encouraged the locals to act out. They can't have any realistic idea of changing much but are prepared to sacrifice the protesting citizenry to put pressure on China over Darfur or Iran, most likely Iran since Darfur is off the boil at the moment.

Ask yourself how amerika would behave if Chinese funded propaganda stirred the Iraqis up to fight amerikans or more similarly provoked an attempted revolution in Mexico? The Chinese have been quite cool so far and I suspect they will stay staunch.

This is a much bigger issue than the '08 Olympics as it is about Chinas economic, social and physical security.

Maybe they will give way on Iranian sanctions and for that USuk sacrificed those Yangon schoolkids? Awfully like the Shia of Southern Iraq 1990-91 don't you think?

Greed is an ugly motive and as long as greed is the primary driver for social change in Myanmar that change will make things worse.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Sep 30, 2007 5:46:17 PM | 8

Oops I was head down hammering at the keys when you posted the link to my earlier post DOS.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Sep 30, 2007 5:56:32 PM | 9

I also find the unwillingness of the likes of the BBC to refer to Myanmar as rather puzzling - or not.

Refusing to call a nation by its proper official name may seem insignificant to some but generate resentment among a very high majority of the Myanmar population. The subject concerns with the recognition of the country by its original name. Of course, there are a few politicians in Myanmar who for certain political reasons prefer to retain the name Burma given by the former British Colonial Administration.

(See the Myanmar US Embassy link.)

The Burmah Oil Company operated in Burma until 1963 until it was nationalized.

Maybe its got something to do with branding. When Myanmar is finally liberated, how would the name Myanmar Oil Company stack up against Burmah Oil Company on the share registers.

Posted by: DM | Sep 30, 2007 5:57:08 PM | 10

Myanmar tests our humanity in a much more subtle and more pernicious way than a simple example of good Vs bad such as the invasion of Iraq.

I hate posting on it although I feel obliged to because aside from MoA few are presenting alternative viewpoints. The reason I hate posting on it is that my heart is with the brave kids who are copping the worst, while the sons and daughters of the former elite conspire with USuk to get those kids to 'run at the gun'. The greed isn't in the hearts of the resistance fighters but is in the hearts of those that seek to exploit them.

How could any humanist's heart not be with those kids, yet I find myself in conflict with those who are cheering them on.

I'm sure my conflict on this is shared by many others. Even worse some of what I write finds a resonance with the mealy mouthed statements of elected leftists who are in the process of selling out their constituents. The phrases such as "let's be realistic" "What can we really hope to achieve" or "patience, a journey of 5,000 kilometres begins with one pace."

We know them all and have come to loathe them all so what am I/we doing?

I was an evangelist for forcing change on corrupt regimes from outside the corruption for most of my life, but the destruction of a multi-lateral process to do that since the neutering of the UN has convinced me to oppose outside interference.

Myanmar, Darfur, Iraq all of these nations should be the impetus to force a fundamental reform of the way we assist oppressed people by using a multi-lateral machine which has no agenda other than the welfare of the oppressed, yet right now would be the worst time to try to change the UN constitution. There is no group strong enough to stand up to USuk, Nato or the other security council hegemons any change there would likely be for the worse.

All we can really do right now is agitate for reform of the peak multi-lateral consultative body while recognising most people are too absorbed by immediate events to pay much attention. We can also let others know what the sub-text is when situations like Myanmar 'go off' and hope they will eventually join the pressure for change.

Amnesty International is leading the way in england by organising protests against atrocity in Darfur and Myanmar, yet it seems a lot quieter on issues much closer to their support populations in the West. Issues like the siege of Gaza or the invasion of Iraq, CIA renditions and torture. Issues where real pressure could effect a change since they are pressuring their own leaders rather than a distant tyrant.

Compromise of ideals eventually happens in all organizations, all people really, which is why we need to question ourselves when we do take a stance which seems to conflict with human freedom, such as Myanmar.

I am uncomfortable as hell advocating qualified support for the Myanmar regime during the civil unrest rather than total support for the resistance, but every time I examine the issue I come to the same conclusion.

That conclusion is not static though, as circumstances change my own attitude towards the Myanmar regime must be re-examined, which means my continued questioning of my own position. If only USuk would butt out and allow all the people of Myanmar to sort it out for themselves.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Sep 30, 2007 9:10:27 PM | 11

Eric Margolis: Madness in MyanmarIncreasingly serious situation could turn into another Iraq or Yugoslavia

Growing unrest and mass street demonstrations across Myanmar could herald an extremely dangerous period for the nation formerly known as Burma.
...
Myanmar, in-deed, is a nasty police state. Its generals have plundered resources and kept this magnificent nation in direst poverty.
...
But extreme caution is advised in dealing with Myanmar. If things go wrong there, it could turn into an Asian version of Iraq, Yugoslavia or Afghanistan.
...
Myanmar has been at war for 50 years with 17 ethnic rebel groups seeking secession from the former 14-state Union of Burma created by Imperial Britain, godfather of many of the world's worst current problems.

Burmans, of Tibetan origin, form 68% of the population of 57 million. But there are other important, well-defined, independence-minded ethnic groups: Shan, the largely Christian Karen, Kachin, Chin, Mon, Wa, Rakhine, Anglo-Burmese, and Chinese.
...
The military juntas in Rangoon, and their 500,000-member armed forces, known as Tatmadaw, battled these secessionists for decades until the current junta managed to establish uneasy ceasefires with the major rebel groups.

If the junta were to be replaced by a democratic civilian government led by the gentle Suu Kyi, and military repression ended, it is highly likely Myanmar's ethnic rebellions would quickly re-ignite. The only force holding Myanmar together is the military and secret police.

Shan, Karen, Kachin, and Mon still demand their own independent nations. Myanmar's powerful neighbours -- India, China and Thailand -- have their eye on this potentially resource-rich nation.
...
A new democratic government in Yangon-Rangoon that is not tough enough to deal with secessionist regions around its troubled periphery could see Burma fall into internal turmoil and also invite intervention by covetous neighbours.

At worst, India and China could even clash head-on over control of strategic Burma, a threat identified in my book on Asian geopolitics and Indian-Chinese rivalry, War at the Top of the World.

So the West should tread with great caution in Myanmar. The West and Asia must exercise great care they do not exchange military dictatorship for ethnic strife and regional conflict.

Posted by: b | Oct 1, 2007 4:58:06 AM | 12

Exchanging military dictatorship for ethnic strife and regional conflict? I believe that's what the Bush is referring to to when he talks of "spreading democracy".

Posted by: ralphieboy | Oct 1, 2007 9:33:29 AM | 13

Debs is dead and b, thanks very much. I appreciate the information, the explanations of the ways in which the situation isn't as straightforward as it's being portrayed, and most of all Disd's attitude of self-questioning.

The main post seemed to me to be a knee-jerk dismissal of human rights concerns because of the selectivity of western focus on them. The comments more than made up for that. Thanks again.

Posted by: Nell | Oct 1, 2007 10:51:14 AM | 14

What's in a name? The difficulties of naming, pronouncing, and writing the name of a country, from Wikipedia.

As with all language, it contains volumes about present and past histories, migration, and conflict.

In the Burmese language, there have been controversies about the name of the country since the 1930s, but the decision of the military regime in 1989 carried the controversy into the English language. Although the military regime thinks that Myanma is more inclusive of minorities than Bama, it was shown above that historically this is not true, Myanma being only a more literary version of Bama. Quite the opposite of being more inclusive, opposition parties and human rights groups contend that the new English name "Myanmar" is actually disrespectful of the minorities of Burma/Myanmar.

Criticism also concentrates on the fact that the military regime, not democratically elected, has no legitimacy to change the name of the country. However, it should be remembered that the military regime did not change the official name of the country in Burmese, but merely changed the name of the country in English. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at first opposed the new name "Myanmar", pointing out the hypocritical justification of inclusiveness put forward by the military regime. Opposition parties, although they oppose the English name "Myanmar", do not oppose the official Burmese name Myanma, and no opposition party is proposing to use the colloquial name Bama as the official name of the country.

The final "r" in English "Myanmar" is absent in Burmese Myanma (much as the medial "r" in "Burma" is absent in standard Burmese Bama). The reason why the commission added a final "r" in English was to represent the low tone of Burmese, in which the word Myanma is pronounced. In the low tone, the final vowel "a" is lengthened. The commission was influenced by Received Pronunciation and other non-rhotic English English dialects, in which "ar" (without a following vowel) is also pronounced as long "a" (often given as "ah" in American English). However, in variants of English in which final "r" is pronounced, such as standard American English, adding this final "r" leads to a pronunciation very different from the Burmese pronunciation.

Posted by: small coke | Oct 1, 2007 11:21:59 AM | 15

its being reported that thousands have now been killed.i read it on buzzflash thismorning. can't seem to link.i am still so angry i think my head is going to explode.but all i can do is cry.

Posted by: onzaga | Oct 1, 2007 12:45:47 PM | 16

The main post seemed to me to be a knee-jerk dismissal of human rights concerns because of the selectivity of western focus on them.

Sorry - that wasn't intended - the issue for me is how people fail to see the agendas behind unverifyable news. I wish the best to the people in Myanmar and hope they will find a way to that.

Wishing the best to them includes no 'western' interference as that is likely to make things worse.

Th DKos diary was the worst of examples how uniformed and manipulated 'western' do-gooders start to call for such intervention.

Posted by: b | Oct 1, 2007 1:30:17 PM | 17

@onzaga - I can reach Buzzflash and the big top headline says:

Report: Thousands dead in massacre of the monks dumped in the jungle. Bush does nothing to "liberate" the Burmese being tortured and killed as they merely demonstrate for democracy. He just reads meaningless words of support. Meanwhile, he wastes hundreds of billions of our dollars on a civil war in Iraq.
But that piece of "outrageous" text is linked to an article in the Mail on Sunday that is titled: I hate all Iranians, US aide tells MPs

Buzzflash has a good point with that fake "report".

While some are concerned about unverfied news on Myanmar and blame Bush - they ignore what he and his stooges are really doing.

Just the same message I tried to provide in more words ...

Posted by: b | Oct 1, 2007 1:36:16 PM | 18

Thanks, b.

Barflies: You really, really need to see the photo in the Mail on Sunday link.

Posted by: Tantalus | Oct 1, 2007 2:06:26 PM | 19

The Daily Mail piece Onzaga saw was likely this one (was also on the front page of Raw Story today):
Burma: Thousands dead in massacre of the monks dumped in the jungle

Meanwhile, Global Research isn't impressed by the democracy rhetoric:
Bread and Butter Issues behind Myanmar Protests
and International narcotics agenda behind Myanmar instability

Lastly, interesting little details caught by a RigInt forum member in a Sept. 29 Times article,

(snip)
At the US Embassy, a concrete fortress that opened two weeks ago with the most expensive and up-to-date technology, no one could make an outgoing call all day.
(snip)
One person in Rangoon who is not afraid is Shari Villarosa, the chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy. She has no need for fear, of course. High walls and American Marines protect her, and relations between the US and the generals have deteriorated far beyond the point where she needs to mind her Ps and Qs.
(snip)

Posted by: Alamet | Oct 1, 2007 6:15:14 PM | 20

Amnesty International is leading the way in england by organising protests against atrocity in Darfur and Myanmar, yet it seems a lot quieter on issues much closer to their support populations in the West. Issues like the siege of Gaza or the invasion of Iraq, CIA renditions and torture.

and this selectivity does not go unnoticed by the rest of the world, where the hypocrisy undermines any respect for so-called 'Western Values'...

Posted by: DeAnander | Oct 1, 2007 6:28:03 PM | 21

Why?

Because the bloggosphere is mainly reactive. Then again, most things start as reactions and the bloggosphere is (compared to the MSM) still new.

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Oct 1, 2007 7:27:24 PM | 22

thank you b for posting the link.i do indeed hope that the mail on sunday article is just rumor but regardless the pictures and reports that have been confirmed are reason enough to send me into a crying rage.

Posted by: onzaga | Oct 1, 2007 9:12:32 PM | 23

You really, really need to see the photo in the Mail on Sunday link.

I ran across that story/picture a few days ago and decided it was just too over the top to link to it here. Is Debra Cagan von Richtofen wearing an Iron Cross in that photo...?

Posted by: Monolycus | Oct 2, 2007 1:42:08 AM | 24

If that photo is a genuine picture of a BushCo advisor at work, those lame-asses have become caricatures like the evil protagonist's inner crew in a Batman flick. The dykey leather clad dominatrix complete with pseudo nazi regalia is just so over the top it is plain lame.

Still those english pols, particularly the Tory one who couldn't bring himself to talk about her, will be having wet dreams about Dubya's dungeon mistress for weeks. But for most in 'old Europe' the symbolism is too obvious. That stuff may seem subtle in the bible belt but it doesn't play well on tour.

The other photo of the saffron robed corpse is a horror but it also reminded me of a BBC news clip I saw this morning. Just as a picture of one corpse was illustrating a story "thousands of protesters have been killed and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle." On the BBC newsclip the voice-over said thousands flee Burmese junta's repression while the vid showed the usual scene at those Myanmar/Thai border crossings in the morning ie lots of traders bringing produce (today it was mainly cut flowers) across the border to sell for hard currency.

They aren't even trying. I suppose some people just think oh well maybe his camera was off when the downtrodden refugees were in the picture. That has been a common occurence in the Myanmar reporting ie the pictures rarely if ever match the story.

Which is not to say the newscasts should be snuff flicks-I didn't check out the death of the Japanese photographer for the same reasons as I haven't ever watched the Daniel Pearl vid - what a horrible exploitation of a tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people watch you get brutally murdered and get to go Oooooh-Aaaah as the bullet/knife/shrapnel goes in.

TV reports don't have to be foul and exploitative but without some documentary evidence it is asking a lot for people to accept that these stories are coming from impartial observers.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Oct 2, 2007 7:00:30 AM | 25

Debs, This will explain the Iron Cross around Ms Cagan's neck.

The Hungarians must be so proud....

Posted by: dan of steele | Oct 2, 2007 7:35:16 AM | 26


Too right, Debs - no Tory can resist a dominatrix.

Posted by: Tantalus | Oct 2, 2007 7:59:59 AM | 27

I was the one who mentioned the Iron Cross, dano, although I should have said Pour le Mérite, and it would definitely fall under "pre-Nazi" regalia.

Anyway, Debs, Ms Cagan is not now, nor has she ever been "Dubya's dungeon mistress". That's Condi Rice's job. Debra Cagan is only Robert Gates' dungeon mistress, thank you, very much.

I don't want to take anything away from Ms Cagan by saying that. She has accomplished a lot since the days when she was the bane of the Flying Beagle.

Posted by: Monolycus | Oct 2, 2007 10:32:59 AM | 28

sorry Monolycus,

I thought I had seen it someplace but thought it might have been over at Salon. no slight intended.

Posted by: dan of steele | Oct 2, 2007 2:16:08 PM | 29

Thanks for clearing that up Monolycus I had been concerned than Condi's lair may have fallen out of favour, with old shrub evolving into a bottom that eschews safe words - that Cagan comes across as one who would never listen out for such things.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Oct 2, 2007 4:58:54 PM | 30

why is it that obnoxious female political figures always get smeared -- by both leftyboys and rightyboys -- with allegations that they are prostitutes of some kind? is the allegation that Condi or Debra are dominatrices or dungeon-mistresses for rightwing men of power supposed to be a slur on those men for being "pussywhipped" i.e. unmanly? or a slur on the women for being hookerish, i.e. subservient to wealthy white baasmen? in any case, it whiffs more than a little of misogyny and gender anxiety to me...

Posted by: DeAnander | Oct 2, 2007 7:22:16 PM | 31

@DeAnander I agree that women in politics are subjected to unreasonable attacks on their sexual probity. My attack on the Cagan was in reference to her rather outlandish costume but as jobs go I have no problem with people who choose to be dominatrixes, although those who choose to use them are another matter. Saying so I reckon some may see my comment on Cagan's costume as something that wouldn't happen to a male's costume, but I beg to differ, if Gonzales or one of the other evil male minions turned up at a press conference in a leather suit with a pseudo-Nazi (something which summons that image rather than actually being that image) jewellery, the comment would have been the same. The talk of dominatrix's was an attack was on Bush and Gates rather than the dominator.

I have never supported the comments about Condi 'banging' shrub or being his mistress as the implication was that was the only way a black woman could get the gig. Being a dominatrix isn't about sex anyway.

That said I'm sure I've cast aspersions on shrub's fetishes before, I see no reason why women should be excluded from such attack just as I see no reason they should be singled out.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Oct 2, 2007 8:36:46 PM | 32

My own feeling is that it is funny - very darkly funny, given the circumstances - that this particular government has senior functionaries who feel comfortable parading about dressed as cartoon fascists. In public. At state functions. The fact that the functionary in question is a woman is irrelevant, surely.

Posted by: Tantalus | Oct 2, 2007 8:52:08 PM | 33

"Prostitutes"...? Oh, hell, no. Nobody said that. They're lifestylers. I could understand seeing misogyny or gender anxiety if someone were suggesting an exploitative client/service relationship. It's more of a symbiotic host/parasite thing here. You're not suggesting that only males can have hangups and, if a woman is involved, she must be being exploited by catering to someone else's desires? That's a leap we weren't making; I don't have any problem accepting that women can be as deviant as men can.

If we were discussing James Gannon/Jeff Guckert, Patrick McHenry, Mark Foley, Dusty Foggo, Brent Wilkes, Mitchell Wade, Porter Goss, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, David Vitter or Larry Craig, I could see the word "prostitute" getting bandied about. "Misogyny", not so much.

In future, I would appreciate it if you didn't refer to me as a "leftyboy". The preferred nomenclature is "persyn of indeterminate gender with sinister leanings".

Posted by: Monolycus | Oct 3, 2007 4:16:29 AM | 34

Tantalus, are you referring to the photo in the Mail on Sunday of Debra X, who hates all Iranians? http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=484762>mail on sunday I suppose so in view of the following discussion.

The photo is an old one, as pointed out by Dan of Steele. The hardware on her lower neck and upper chest is the Hungarian Commander's Cross Order of Merit. (I will not discuss the scarf on her upper neck.)

In its shape, it is modeled on the Iron Cross, a military decoration of Prussia, first awarded in 1913. It is a military bauble. With some exceptions, as old Adolf handed it out to some - non military bodies.

The Maltese cross has the same shape. Christian Warriors!

The history of the shape itself, like that of the swastika, with which ppl are more familiar, is very old. The eight points (two on each outbranch, pointing out) symbolize all kinds of noble and desirable qualities. Decorations of that kind are almost always pastiches, partial copies, harking back to ancient traditions whose origins are lost. They rarely contain ‘secret messages’ but are the product of misplaced and ignorant grandiosity, informed by the local expert/designer.

Shiny red tight tops. Well. Women often wear red to be visible.

Posted by: Tangerine | Oct 3, 2007 12:14:33 PM | 35

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