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Ferguson: tweets of interest 1

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- the extraordinary cast of players surrounding Ferguson, not forgetting Marvin Gaye ]
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There’s a whole lot going on that, while not central to the face-off between public and police in Ferguson, is “constellating” around it, and worth our attention in any case. I’ll begin with the most interesting pairing of religious groups in Ferguson — the Moorish Temple, alongside the Nation of Islam — alongside the Black Panthers, whose interests are purely political AFAIK:

It’s interesting that according to WND — not necessarily a source I’d expect to find this sort of thing in — Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson “has had some words of high praise for some people he said helped get the violence under control for one night” in Ferguson:

It was Malik Shabazz, formerly with the New Black Panthers, and now with Black Lawyers for Justice, and his team, including members of that group as well as the Nation of Islam. [ .. ]

During a news conference held by Johnson in Ferguson, Shabazz started explained that it was his team who had shut down traffic, chased the people away and prevented rioting for a single night last week.

Johnson credited him with accomplishing exactly that.

“First of all, I want to say that those groups he talked about that helped us Thursday night, he’s absolutely correct and when I met with the governor the next day I said I do not know the names of those groups. But I said there were gentlemen in black pants and black shirts and they were out there and they did their job.

“And I told that to the governor, and I’ll tell that to the nation,” Johnson said. “Those groups helped, and they’re a part of this.”

For more on the Moorish Science Temple, see Peter Lamborn Wilson‘s Lost/Found Moorish Time Lines in the Wilderness of North America [part 1 and part 2]

The Moorish Temple, Panthers and Nation of Islam all converging on Ferguson is impressive. Apparently missing from this picture? The Scientologists. Louis Farrakhan of NOI has recently been recommending Scientology to his NOI followers [1, 2, 3], in yet another example of strange bedfellows…

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Okay, — on the face of it, the single most ironic tweet I’ve seen about Ferguson would have to be this one:

— and that’s unfortunate, because KaBoom‘s Playful City USA idea is a good one, and Ferguson deserves kudos for implementing it:

In 2012, Ferguson was recognized as a “Playful City, USA” for its efforts to increase play opportunities for children. The city of Ferguson hosts Sunday Parkways, a free community play street event in neighborhoods on Sunday afternoons. Streets are closed to cars in order to allow residents of all ages and abilities to play in the streets.

Closing down streets to traffic so people young and old can play in them isn’t enough, however — when they’re also closed down for the sorts of other reasons we’ve been seeing in Ferguson recently.

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One pair of tweets that caught my eye showed almost the same exact moment, captured from two angles that must have been almost perpendicular to one another — a pairing that would have made an interesting DoubleQuote all by itself. The first is from Bill Moyers:

while the second was addressed to him by another observer:

That second photo is the work of Scott Olson of Getty Images, a photographer who was himself arrested and then released in Ferguson, as part of the police vs press stand-off which has been a secondary motif in this whole affair.

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There are words painted on the PO box in that last photo that somehow made their way unfiltered onto at least one TV report, but one of them is NSFW. Three tweets from Yamiche Alcindor of USA Today delicately obscure the offending phrase with suitably placed asterisks, and indicate that as Congreve said, “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak” — but can also arouse them.

In this case, the arousing came first, the calming second — kudos to polite police:

— with kudos, too, to Marvin Gaye:

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I’ll close part 1 of this double post with an interesting example of a DoubleQuote in the Wild:

Coming up next in part 2: noticeable individual protesters and foreign commentary

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DoubleQuotes in Foreign Policy: Ferguson and the world

Friday, August 15th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- the militarization of law enforcement in the US and around the globe ]
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This double image is taken from a Foreign Policy slideshow published yesterday titled The Ferguson Spring and subtitled “Can you tell the difference between the Missouri town where Michael Brown was killed and some of the world’s most volatile uprisings?” The accompanying legend reads:

Left: A young man in Ferguson, Mo. at a protest against the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police. On Aug. 14, the protests entered their fourth day.

Right: A protester in the village of Diraz, Bahrain, holds a Molotov cocktail during clashes with riot police on July 19, 2013. Protests began in Bahrain in 2011, when the country’s Shiite majority began demanding more rights from the Sunni monarchy.

All told, the slideshow contains 14 such double images.

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Here’s the text of the FP piece:

In the days since Michael Brown, a 18-year-old African American man, was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the town of 21,000 people located just north of St. Louis, has devolved into an increasingly tense confrontation between protesters and its strikingly militarized police force. Photos and footage from the scene show local police officers fully outfitted with body armor and tactical weapons — scoped, short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles, accurate up to 500 meters — modeled after the M4 carbine used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq. This police force, joined by officers from upwards of 15 other departments, has patroled the streets of Ferguson in military vehicles, arrested journalists and one local politician, and fired teargas and rubber bullets at mostly peaceful protesters. On Thursday night, hundreds of protesters marched through the streets — some 75 people have reportedly been arrested since Saturday, when Brown was killed. As of Aug. 12, the FAA has listed the skies above the town as restricted airspace.

Today, speaking from his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., President Barack Obama called for calm, saying, “Now’s the time for peace … on the streets of Ferguson,” adding, “Police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs.”

But for the moment, Ferguson, Mo., looks more like Kiev’s Maidan, the street fights of Bahrain, or the clashes of Cairo’s Tahrir Square than small-town America. In fact, at a glance, it’s pretty difficult to spot the difference between the warzone atmosphere on the streets of Ferguson, and the crackdowns and clashes that have erupted in some of the most volatile and repressive countries in the world.

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The demonstrators, cops and soldiers in each slide juxtaposed with those from Ferguson come from Bahrain, Ukraine, Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh, Kenya, and the West Bank. The cops and soldiers — in every case — look uncomfortably like the cops and soldiers in all the other images, and the aame is true of the protesters and demonstrators.

What, I wonder, will a continuing media barrage of images of cops at home and abroad do to our overall perception of law enforcement and protest? Will we begin to see all cops in riot gear from Tahrir to Times Square as one and the same force, all demonstrators in street clothes with faces masked as one and the same protest? This doesn’t bode well for either group.

Matthew Harwood of the ACLU — which recently issued its own report on excessive police militarization — mentions a Johns Hopkins study in his article One Nation under SWAT thus:

People were shown pictures of police officers in their traditional uniforms and in BDUs. Respondents, the survey indicated, would much rather have a police officer show up in traditional dress blues. Summarizing its findings, Bickel writes, “The more militaristic look of the BDUs, much like what is seen in news stories of our military in war zones, gives rise to the notion of our police being an occupying force in some inner city neighborhoods, instead of trusted community protectors.”

Will that perception do anything to ease already tense situations?

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Not all the double images in the FP slideshow are as effectively paired as the one at the top of this post, but the slideshow as a whole is clearly an extended form of what I call DoubleQuotes in the Wild, and its cumulative impact is powerful.

I’ll close with another double image from the same source:

The legend with this pair reads:

Left: A Thai soldier with a machine gun secures the area outside a shopping mall in Bangkok where protesters gather for a demonstration against the May 22 military coup. Most of the anti-coup protests have been peaceful.

Right: A Missouri State Highway Patrol tactical vehicle travels down a central road in Ferguson as police try to break up protests against police violence.

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Form is Insight: parliamentarian scuffle, photographer’s eye

Monday, August 11th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- insight -- from the artistic eye via the ayat of the Qur'an and poetic and scientific "readings" to the craft of intelligence analysis ]
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You might think this was an image taken from some art book by EH GombrichArt and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation? — or John Berger — Ways of Seeing, perhaps? — but it’s not. As you might have guessed from my title, or from seeing it elsewhere recently, on BoingBoing, Twitter or wherever.

It’s a journalist’s photo of a brawl in the Ukrainean parliament, where debate is still as lively as it was on the floor of the US House of Representatives in 1798:

or 1858:

A Parliamentary brawl, it would seem, is one mode of the continuation of politics by other means. Or is it just politics as usual?

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The illustration at the head of this post is indeed “art criticism” in the tradition of Gombrich and Berger, but it’s not an illustration of Old Masterly technique — it’s an artist’s comment on a press photo of a recent brawl, as indicated above, in the Ukrainean parliament. Here’s the photo itself:

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It’s masterful — and indeed Old Masterful enough that Manzil Lajura posted the photo itself with the two attendant images on FaceBook under the title “Pelea en el parlamento Ucraniano convertido en arte renacentista” — roughly, Brawl in the Ukrainian parliament transformed into Renaissance art..

And yes.

Lajura’s post was then picked up and tweeted by James Harvey:

And thence onwards into viral multiplicity.

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So what does this have to do with intelligence — in the analytic sense, or the general sense of intellectual capacity?

Just that it’s a matter of “reading” a surface for more than superficial insight — for “signs” (ayat, the word also used to describe verses in the Qur’an).

What I’m calling “reading” here takes many forms, visual and artistic in this instance, verbal in the case of “closely read” texts — but generalizable as the ways in which we “read” the world. In my post What the Dickens? Symbolic details in Inspire issue 3 exploring the evidence for al-Awlaki’s involvement in the thankfully foiled mail attacks on two Chicago synagogues, I quoted Fazlun Khalid, Islam and the Environment:

The Qur’an refers to creation or the natural world as the signs (ayat) of Allah, the Creator, and this is also the name given to the verses contained in the Qur’an. Ayat means signs, symbols or proofs of the divine. As the Qur’an is proof of Allah so likewise is His creation. The Qur’an also speaks of signs within the self and as Nasr explains, “… when Muslim sages referred to the cosmic or ontological Qur’an … they saw upon the face of every creature letters and words from the cosmic Qur’an … they remained fully aware of the fact that the Qur’an refers to phenomena of nature and events within the soul of man as ayat … for them forms of nature were literally ayat Allah”. As the Qur’an says, “there are certainly signs (ayat) in the earth for people with certainty; and in yourselves. Do you not then see?” (Adh-Dhariat, 51:20, 21).

— and gave some additional details in a more recent update post, Eavesdropping on Twitter — about al-Awlaqi and Dickens.

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For the mystic, such signs are revelatory of the divine within the natural; for artists, hallmarks of true beauty; for a scientist, for a poet, perhaps, letters in the calligraphy with which the world is written, for jihadists and natsec analysts alike, signals in a significant code — a language used by jihadists in communication, a code analysts must surely learn to read. Here’s Galileo, with a scientist’s view:

Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book which ever lies before our eyes. I mean the universe, but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written. The book is written in the mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures without whose help it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word of it, and without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.

Recognizing the Fibonacci series / golden ratio spiral, as in the photo of the Ukrainean brawl, is just one of the ways to “read deeper” whatever sights, sounds, texts and images come our way — one of a thousand. William Benzon, blogging at New Savanna today, mentions another. He quotes J. Hillis Miller on Kenneth Burke:

Burke came to Harvard when I was a graduate student and gave a lecture about indexing. What he was talking about was how you read. I had never heard anybody talk about this. He said what you do is notice things that recur in the text, though perhaps in some unostentatious way. If something appears four or five times in the same text, you think it’s probably important. That leads you on a kind of hermeneutical circle: you ask questions, you come back to the text and get some answers, and you go around, and pretty soon you may have a reading.

Who are these folk? They are the kinds of folk who would have been recruited from Yale’s English department in the glory days of OSS and CIA

But what kind of analysis? Attempting to distinguish “signal” from “noise,” officials at the CIA and Defense Department debate competing methods of data-sifting and weigh the aggressive, “hypotheses-driven” style of interpretation favored by the Pentagon. Probability and risk are continually assessed, and sometimes the talk can sound nearly philosophical. Referring to the search for illegal weapons in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared on Aug. 5 that “the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.”

If such matters arose at a university, they would attract the attention of philosophers of science or even theorists of literature, who study how to tease meaning out of texts. And indeed, the academy has profoundly shaped the rough-and-tumble espionage trade since the founding days of the CIA. In his classic 1987 study, “Cloak and Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961,” Yale historian Robin W. Winks showed how professors took a crucial role in creating and manning the agency and its forerunner, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). No university played a greater role than Winks’s own. “From Yale’s class of 1943 alone, at least 42 young men entered intelligence work, largely in the OSS, many to remain on after the war to form the core of the new CIA,” Winks notes.

It wasn’t just globe-trotting historians and social scientists who made the leap. As Winks emphasized, Yale’s literature specialists played a key role in shaping the agency’s thinking.

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The photographer and editor who took and “framed” that image of the Ukrainean parliamentary brawl had an ‘eye” for pattern-recognition — in terms of “form” as much as “content’.

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The Daily Illustrated Dante, or is that Milton?

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- the maw of Wrath open over Gaza ]
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Via Remy Brulin, Research fellow at NYU, Shapiro fellow at GWU, this image of hell in action:

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This goes nicely with Milton, I think, describing hell in Paradise Lost, Bk 2, 170-190:

What if the breath that kindl’d those grim fires
Awak’d should blow them into sevenfold rage
And plunge us in the flames? or from above
Should intermitted vengeance arm again
His red right hand to plague us? what if all
Her stores were open’d, and this Firmament
Of Hell should spout her Cataracts of Fire,
Impendent horrors, threatning hideous fall
One day upon our heads; while we perhaps
Designing or exhorting glorious warr,
Caught in a fierie Tempest shall be hurl’d
Each on his rock transfixt, the sport and prey
Of racking whirlwinds, or for ever sunk
Under yon boyling Ocean, wrapt in Chains;
There to converse with everlasting groans,
Unrespited, unpitied, unrepreevd,
Ages of hopeless end; this would be worse.
Warr therefore, open or conceal’d, alike
My voice disswades; for what can force or guile
With him, or who deceive his mind, whose eye
Views all things at one view?

Hell, like Satan, is not without its beauty.

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Wearing their t-shirts like football uniforms

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- preliminary thoughts about an Indian group photograph, Tamils & the calphate ]
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I talked about “caliphate” merchandise just the other day, and pointed specifically to t-shirts. I’m sorry to say those tees have now cropped up in my news feed a second time, this time under less auspicious circumstances:

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Those, my friends, are Tamil (southern) Indians who support ISIS and the “caliphate”. Prayaag Akbar at Scroll.In has this anlysis:

A photograph has been doing the rounds of the Internet of a large group of young Tamil Muslims clad in black ISIS t-shirts. On the Internet it is being brandished by Hindu nationalists as justification for their narrow parochialism, but it should worry every citizen of India. Tamils have nothing to do with Iraq or Syria. Then why this adherence to ISIS over Al-Qaeda, indeed over the jihad in Kashmir?

The answer lies in ISIS’ rallying call. The politically savvy and militarily capable self-named Caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has astutely positioned his struggle as one against not the West but against Shia overreach. While many have characterised his ideology as pan-Islamist, it is in fact pan-Sunni. He seeks to create a Sunni state stretching across West Asia and the subcontinent. Needless to say, Shias will have at best subsidiary part in it.

There’s more on the Scroll.In site, of course, but those are the key paras for my current purpose.

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Dots — as yet pretty much unconnected — to keep an eye onin the subcontinent:

  • Hindu nationanalism & Hindutva
  • Sri Lanka and a revival of Tamil sentiment
  • Jammu & Kashmir
  • Ghazwa-e-Hind
  • global jihad
  • the IS “caliphate” and
  • Sunni / Shia sectarianism
  • Oy veh. Did I mention Pakistan?

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