Friday, March 31, 2006

Against The Postmodern Red Of The Liberal Communists


Red Bono's flexible solution to world poverty and AIDS

Today's Question: What's the difference between these two pairs of "liberal communists": corporate "humanitarian" capitalists Bill Gates and George Soros, and crusading celebrity-rock-star venture capitalists Bono and Bob Geldof?

Nobody has to be vile, Slavoj Zizek.
From The London Review of Books (vol. 28, number 27, April 2006).
[Via I Cite] :

Since 2001, Davos and Porto Alegre have been the twin cities of globalisation: Davos, the exclusive Swiss resort where the global elite of managers, statesmen and media personalities meets for the World Economic Forum under heavy police protection, trying to convince us (and themselves) that globalisation is its own best remedy; Porto Alegre, the subtropical Brazilian city where the counter-elite of the anti-globalisation movement meets, trying to convince us (and themselves) that capitalist globalisation is not our inevitable fate – that, as the official slogan puts it, ‘another world is possible.’ It seems, however, that the Porto Alegre reunions have somehow lost their impetus – we have heard less and less about them over the past couple of years. Where did the bright stars of Porto Alegre go?

Some of them, at least, moved to Davos. The tone of the Davos meetings is now predominantly set by the group of entrepreneurs who ironically refer to themselves as ‘liberal communists’ and who no longer accept the opposition between Davos and Porto Alegre: their claim is that we can have the global capitalist cake (thrive as entrepreneurs) and eat it (endorse the anti-capitalist causes of social responsibility, ecological concern etc). There is no need for Porto Alegre: instead, Davos can become Porto Davos.

So who are these liberal communists? The usual suspects: Bill Gates and George Soros, the CEOs of Google, IBM, Intel, eBay, as well as court-philosophers like Thomas Friedman. The true conservatives today, they argue, are not only the old right, with its ridiculous belief in authority, order and parochial patriotism, but also the old left, with its war against capitalism: both fight their shadow-theatre battles in disregard of the new realities. The signifier of this new reality in the liberal communist Newspeak is ‘smart’. Being smart means being dynamic and nomadic, and against centralised bureaucracy; believing in dialogue and co-operation as against central authority; in flexibility as against routine; culture and knowledge as against industrial production; in spontaneous interaction and autopoiesis as against fixed hierarchy.

Bill Gates is the icon of what he has called ‘frictionless capitalism’, the post-industrial society and the ‘end of labour’. Software is winning over hardware and the young nerd over the old manager in his black suit. In the new company headquarters, there is little external discipline; former hackers dominate the scene, working long hours, enjoying free drinks in green surroundings. The underlying notion here is that Gates is a subversive marginal hooligan, an ex-hacker, who has taken over and dressed himself up as a respectable chairman.

=======================>Round Up The Usual Suspects

Liberal communists are top executives reviving the spirit of contest or, to put it the other way round, countercultural geeks who have taken over big corporations. Their dogma is a new, postmodernised version of Adam Smith’s invisible hand: the market and social responsibility are not opposites, but can be reunited for mutual benefit. As Friedman puts it, nobody has to be vile in order to do business these days; collaboration with employees, dialogue with customers, respect for the environment, transparency of deals – these are the keys to success. Olivier Malnuit recently drew up the liberal communist’s ten commandments in the French magazine Technikart:

1. You shall give everything away free (free access, no copyright); just charge for the additional services, which will make you rich.
2. You shall change the world, not just sell things.
3. You shall be sharing, aware of social responsibility.
4. You shall be creative: focus on design, new technologies and science.
5. You shall tell all: have no secrets, endorse and practise the cult of transparency and the free flow of information; all humanity should collaborate and interact.
6. You shall not work: have no fixed 9 to 5 job, but engage in smart, dynamic, flexible communication.
7. You shall return to school: engage in permanent education.
8. You shall act as an enzyme: work not only for the market, but trigger new forms of social collaboration.
9. You shall die poor: return your wealth to those who need it, since you have more than you can ever spend.
10. You shall be the state: companies should be in partnership with the state.

Liberal communists are pragmatic; they hate a doctrinaire approach. There is no exploited working class today, only concrete problems to be solved: starvation in Africa, the plight of Muslim women, religious fundamentalist violence. When there is a humanitarian crisis in Africa (liberal communists love a humanitarian crisis; it brings out the best in them), instead of engaging in anti-imperialist rhetoric, we should get together and work out the best way of solving the problem, engage people, governments and business in a common enterprise, start moving things instead of relying on centralised state help, approach the crisis in a creative and unconventional way.

Liberal communists like to point out that the decision of some large international corporations to ignore apartheid rules within their companies was as important as the direct political struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Abolishing segregation within the company, paying blacks and whites the same salary for the same job etc: this was a perfect instance of the overlap between the struggle for political freedom and business interests, since the same companies can now thrive in post-apartheid South Africa.

Liberal communists love May 1968. What an explosion of youthful energy and creativity! How it shattered the bureaucratic order! What an impetus it gave to economic and social life after the political illusions dropped away! Those who were old enough were themselves protesting and fighting on the streets: now they have changed in order to change the world, to revolutionise our lives for real. Didn’t Marx say that all political upheavals were unimportant compared to the invention of the steam engine? And would Marx not have said today: what are all the protests against global capitalism in comparison with the internet?

Above all, liberal communists are true citizens of the world – good people who worry. They worry about populist fundamentalism and irresponsible greedy capitalist corporations. They see the ‘deeper causes’ of today’s problems: mass poverty and hopelessness breed fundamentalist terror. Their goal is not to earn money, but to change the world (and, as a by-product, make even more money). Bill Gates is already the single greatest benefactor in the history of humanity, displaying his love for his neighbours by giving hundreds of millions of dollars for education, the fight against hunger and malaria etc. The catch is that before you can give all this away you have to take it (or, as the liberal communists would put it, create it). In order to help people, the justification goes, you must have the means to do so, and experience – that is, recognition of the dismal failure of all centralised statist and collectivist approaches – teaches us that private enterprise is by far the most effective way. By regulating their business, taxing them excessively, the state is undermining the official goal of its own activity (to make life better for the majority, to help those in need).

Liberal communists do not want to be mere profit-machines: they want their lives to have deeper meaning. They are against old-fashioned religion and for spirituality, for non-confessional meditation (everybody knows that Buddhism foreshadows brain science, that the power of meditation can be measured scientifically). Their motto is social responsibility and gratitude: they are the first to admit that society has been incredibly good to them, allowing them to deploy their talents and amass wealth, so they feel that it is their duty to give something back to society and help people. This beneficence is what makes business success worthwhile.

This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. Remember Andrew Carnegie, who employed a private army to suppress organised labour in his steelworks and then distributed large parts of his wealth for educational, cultural and humanitarian causes, proving that, although a man of steel, he had a heart of gold? In the same way, today’s liberal communists give away with one hand what they grabbed with the other.

There is a chocolate-flavoured laxative available on the shelves of US stores which is publicised with the paradoxical injunction: Do you have constipation? Eat more of this chocolate! – i.e. eat more of something that itself causes constipation. The structure of the chocolate laxative can be discerned throughout today’s ideological landscape; it is what makes a figure like Soros so objectionable. He stands for ruthless financial exploitation combined with its counter-agent, humanitarian worry about the catastrophic social consequences of the unbridled market economy. Soros’s daily routine is a lie embodied: half of his working time is devoted to financial speculation, the other half to ‘humanitarian’ activities (financing cultural and democratic activities in post-Communist countries, writing essays and books) which work against the effects of his own speculations. The two faces of Bill Gates are exactly like the two faces of Soros: on the one hand, a cruel businessman, destroying or buying out competitors, aiming at a virtual monopoly; on the other, the great philanthropist who makes a point of saying: ‘What does it serve to have computers if people do not have enough to eat?’

According to liberal communist ethics, the ruthless pursuit of profit is counteracted by charity: charity is part of the game, a humanitarian mask hiding the underlying economic exploitation. Developed countries are constantly ‘helping’ undeveloped ones (with aid, credits etc), and so avoiding the key issue: their complicity in and responsibility for the miserable situation of the Third World. As for the opposition between ‘smart’ and ‘non-smart’, outsourcing is the key notion. You export the (necessary) dark side of production – disciplined, hierarchical labour, ecological pollution – to ‘non-smart’ Third World locations (or invisible ones in the First World). The ultimate liberal communist dream is to export the entire working class to invisible Third World sweat shops.

We should have no illusions: liberal communists are the enemy of every true progressive struggle today. All other enemies – religious fundamentalists, terrorists, corrupt and inefficient state bureaucracies – depend on contingent local circumstances. Precisely because they want to resolve all these secondary malfunctions of the global system, liberal communists are the direct embodiment of what is wrong with the system. It may be necessary to enter into tactical alliances with liberal communists in order to fight racism, sexism and religious obscurantism, but it’s important to remember exactly what they are up to.

Etienne Balibar, in La Crainte des masses (1997), distinguishes the two opposite but complementary modes of excessive violence in today’s capitalism: the objective (structural) violence that is inherent in the social conditions of global capitalism (the automatic creation of excluded and dispensable individuals, from the homeless to the unemployed), and the subjective violence of newly emerging ethnic and/or religious (in short: racist) fundamentalisms. They may fight subjective violence, but liberal communists are the agents of the structural violence that creates the conditions for explosions of subjective violence. The same Soros who gives millions to fund education has ruined the lives of thousands thanks to his financial speculations and in doing so created the conditions for the rise of the intolerance he denounces.

BoBonoism: Make BoBono History - Confronting the Geldof-Bono Obscenity [Via Dissensus]

"The repeated claim from onstage multi-millionaires that the audience were going to 'change history' simply by turning up and tuning in cheapens agency in every sense. Participating in a narcissistic, self-righteous Spectacle is not 'doing something'. Tony Parsons, of all people, made the very good point in The Mirror today that the generation of the Thirties and Forties did not expect Crosby and Sinatra to change the world - but, as he says, many of them had either risked or given up their lives to change things. ... What needs to be kept in mind is BOTH that capitalism is a hyper-abstract impersonal structure AND that it would be nothing without our co-operation."===>MarK

The Make Macho-Posturing Kapital Whores History musick-celebritishy spectacle was essentially part of the Blair government's PR campaign surrounding the G8 meetings last July [or was it June, or maybe August, or maybe why should anyone bother to care?], a cynical campaign aided and abetted by the Bush regime, British NGOs, and quite unfortunately, those two blarney-babblers, the ultra-montane reactionary Kapitalists, Bob Geldof (wealth: 200 million [in pick your favourite currency]) and Bono/Paul Hewson (1 billion), both of whom run large venture capital outfits when not parading their egos on the world media's virtual stage.

The most influential player of Make Geldof History was Oxfam, a centrist-complacent NGO with close allegiance to the British government, in particular with British Chancellor Gordon Brown's office. Working closely with the Commission for Africa, which is chaired by, um, tyrannical ego-maniac Bob Geldof and run by batty Blair, nosey Brown, and Britain's overseas aid minister Hilary Beenie Benny, the official Make Bono History campaign ignorantly fell into supporting the neo-liberal agenda of the G8 leaders.

Meanwhile, calling George Bush a "sincere and passionate man," [making Michael Moore real envious] resting his head lovingly on Tony Blair's shoulder while posing for the media cameras, Bob "What about Paula, Bob?" Geldof joined Texan-Stetson Bono's tradition of delegitimizing the protesters and pandering to elite leaders, in particular two of the eight men who actively facilitate the poverty in the first place.

Geldof and Bono's actions not only dismissed the much more complicated and deeper critiques made by the G8 protesters, but also implicitly condoned the hypocritical decisions of the corporate and government elites made during that week alone. The Scottish government punished members of Parliament who spoke out in favor of protecting protesters' rights to peacefully dissent in Gleneagles. For an entire month, these MPs were banned from government buildings and their salaries as well as the salaries of their staff were taken away. While Bonol and GAdolf spoke from the sublime heavens about "saving" the Africans, the rock stars took no action to pressure the UK government to let across the African protesters who were being denied entry into the country and denied participation in the events at which they had been invited to speak. Worse, Geldof, on a panel at a press meeting and in front of the gathered world broadcast media, contemptibly dismissed as "offensive and outrageous" the comments of an African member of the panel, who had simply questioned the effectiveness of Make Geldof Rich History.

Moreover ["as if we didn't know"], the assumptions and recommendations manufactured by Bobbly's Commission for Africa will prove disastrous for Africa's workers, peasants, and the urban poor. These include the assumption that the impact of Western manoeuvers on Africa has been largely benign. There is a complete absence of criticism of the ongoing Western military interventions of the last half century, and the colonial exploits and brutality forced upon the peoples of African nations. The other damaging assumption of the Commission revolves around the premise that free trade and privatization are somehow the key to liberation for Africans. The International Monetary Fund is viewed as being able to "play an invaluable role" in clearing the way for "private sector investors." Private profit making is seen as the panacea to poverty: "Successful growth will be led by the private sector." The commission concludes that only by ridding themselves of barriers to free trade and exporting to the rest of the world can Africans work their way out of poverty. Yes, Bobo, "Make Poverty Permanent cuz it made me obscenely rich. And I like it."

Besides completely whitewashing the real story behind Africa's debt burden, which has deteriorated further post-Live8, and the continuous misery their policies impose on the rest of the world, Blair and Brown and the rest of the G8 leaders hoped to use the Make All The Little People, The Masses History events as a smokescreen for the crisis occurring in Iraq. Unfortunately, agents-of-Kapital Bono and Geldof wholeheartedly supported this move. Because of their facile and naïve view of the political situation, Bono and Geldof helped to take the heat off Bush and Blair at their weakest point, the Iraq war, which is strategically situated as the first in a long series of dominos set up by and for both Western administrations. If this domino falls, pressured by the global anti-war movement, then the long line of imperialist drives, including the debilitating imposed debt on Africa, has a much greater chance of falling, of being cancelled. Instead, with foolhardy optimism in a system and its pushers who have literally created the misery, the millionaire rock stars persist in criticizing protesters through name-calling and displays of ignorance about protesters' understanding of the situation as if ordinary people simply could not grasp the real story behind the debt.

"Ironically bolstered by the strength of the global anti-war movement's ability to draw out millions in the streets, Geldof organized Make Poverty History concerts all over the world and called for people to march in Edinburgh. As opposed to providing the real justice that South African activist Trevor Ngwane and others called for, however, Geldof instead used his impressive soapbox to call for patronizing charity, and a more than polite request to the G8 leaders to "play nice." In the same vein, Geldof also intentionally refused most African artists to play on his stages, saying they wouldn't draw crowds. Thus, he paternalistically reduced the people of Africa to uncultured children who need to be pitied, not empowered. He also privileged the minuscule numbers of the powerful ruling class into the position of being willing and able to change the world not the masses of ordinary people everywhere.

To make matters worse, Geldolf emailed an edict to each of the Live 8 performers, forbidding them from mentioning the Iraq War or saying anything that would "embarrass" Blair. As with the Make Everything History demonstration, this was a case of the millions of participants being more progressive than the organizers of the event.

It was also a perfect exemplification of class unconsciousness. From the stage, the wealthiest man on the planet, Bill Gates, along with the likes of Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Bob Geldof, positioned themselves as experts on Third World debt and poverty. Millionaires like Madonna, before performing, asked the crowd if they were ready for a "revolution." And perhaps the most egregious moment came when Chris Martin of the pop band Coldplay, commented that the Live 8 concerts were the most important events ever organized in human history."
===>Why Bono and Geldof Got It Wrong, VIRGINIA RODINO, Counterpunch.

"And still U2 - always U2. The pious priests of anti-punk. The sound of the Restoration. Anthemic pathos. Nothing will happen until U2 are destroyed, destroyed utterly. Until it is much more embarrassing and shameful to like U2 than it ever was to like ELP or Floyd." ===>MarK

And Geldof has apparently just been co-opted by Britain's Conservative Party as an advisor on global poverty: Geldof helps Tory poverty policy.

So that's all nicely wrapped up then ...

'This will not make poverty history. It is vastly disappointing. Millions of campaigners all over the world have been led to the top of the mountain, shown the view, and now we are being frogmarched down again'
Charles Abugre, Christian Aid

'We are very critical of what Bob Geldof did during the G8 Summit. The objectives of the whole Live 8 campaign had little to do with poverty reduction in Africa. It was a scheme to project Geldof and Blair as coming to the rescue of poor and helpless Africans'
Demba Moussa Dembele, African Forum on Alternatives

'A disaster for the world's poor'
The World Development Movement

Even The Guardian, some months after the Live8 concerts, revised its earlier sycophanticism:

"In fact, the murmurings of dissent among the charities associated with Make Poverty History started soon. The promised aid actually included the figures for debt relief, they said; in fact, only $12bn of new money, not $25bn, would be available in 2006. The World Bank was trying to water down the debt relief, imposing conditions on the recipient nations; Germany and Italy were letting it be known that "budgetary constraints" might prevent them from meeting the obligations that Blair had persuaded all the leaders to sign up to, in their own handwriting, at Gleneagles.

But the dissenters reserved their strongest words for Geldof. "He got too close to the government, and he got burned," is how John Coventry, of War on Want, puts it. "It seems that Geldof and Bono decided that they were bigger than the campaign and were pursuing their own strategy," the World Development Movement says in a statement. Live 8, the organisation claims, "displaced" the efforts of Make Poverty History "with a wall of celebrities, and no message beyond a vague notion about caring for the poor and wanting politicians to 'do something'. It obliterated everything else."

===>Three months ago Bob Geldof declared Live 8 had achieved its aim. But what really happened next? by Oliver Burkeman

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Conspiracies as Fantasy's Reality Support

At the Dissensus forum, poster Blunt writes:

"I'm wondering to what degree the prevalence of easy conspiracy theories is an inevitable result of how much of the West's experience of the world is mediated. Mediation creates for us the illusion of understanding 'how things work' on a macro-level, but the process of mediation (especially where mass media are concerned) typically - inherently? - involves the subject matter being wrapped up into a tight story, with beginning, middle and end, good guys and bad guys etc. This makes the message that much more palatable (and impactful) - but it generally doesn't have that much to do with the real world."

"A story is defined as much by what it excludes as what it includes, and real life tends to be rather more subtle than an episode of 24. It's usually the absence of these shades of grey that makes most conspiracy theories ring fairly hollow for me; it's their very consistency and narrowly-defined coherence that makes me doubt their veracity."

"I think Alasdair Spark summed up this idea best at the event I mentioned upthread. He concluded his part of the evening by saying: "I'm not sure I believe in 'truth' at all; which is not to say that I don't believe in reality." How often have I thought the same; but seldom expressed it so well ."

"Jake ... it's Chinatown"
The "perplexity" of the conspiracy "phenomenon", its symbiotic structure of belief, does have implications at the narrative (and postmodern) level. We can dismiss conspiracies as literal impossibilities but nonetheless an unresolved tension remains which suggests that simply rejecting them outright as obscurantist delirial raving is also reactionary.

And isn't what Blunt above defines as "mediation" yet another term for culture generally, actual social quotidian reality, itself a mere cultural construction, of the synbolic network of the Big Other? And if he believes that all of this is mere illusion [as he suggests above], a dream world, that serves to mask a real world behind it [quote: "but it generally doesn't have that much to do with the real world"], then doesn't HE TOO believe that the everyday social world we inhabit is a manufactured conspiracy serving to hide the really real (eg the world of power and capital) that lies behind it (analogous, for instance, to The Matrix narrative, among numerous other pomo conspiracy film narratives: the list, in fact, is endless)?

The problem here is that one cannot actually or simply separate fantasy from reality (to say, for example, that "this here is fake, but that there is real" etc): reality is dependent for its very consistency on fantasy, on phantasmatic support - if you "remove" the illusion, reality too collapses, and vice versa. In other words, "real" reality is structurally inaccessible in and of itself - the closer you get to it the more it distorts. This impossible-but-true phenomenon of the inaccessibility of reality, of course, has been well known in modern science since the discovery of Quantum Mechanics and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, and in psychoanalysis since Freud's and Lacan's theories, and, incidentally, in political economy since Marx's analysis of the unrepresentability, the abstract nature, of power and capital.

So the paradox of conspiracies [and debates about them] is that they establish an ontological conflict between, on the one hand, a reality in which the sources of power, capital, corruption, etc are revealed or exposed, and on the other hand, a reality in which a perceptual obsession with secretive cabals and subterranean forces behind the everyday experiences is evidence of paranoia, hysteria, insanity. Conspiracy stories and narratives endeavour to map the "unrepresentable negative sublimity of Capital" (Jameson), so invoking a tension between an analysis of the impersonal forces of power and capital, and an "explanation" of power that concentrates on the actions of a mysterious, specific group or cabal.

[And isn't Sparks' sentiment, which Blunt quotes above, the ultimate in postmodern disavowal of belief, viz "I know that there is no ultimate truth or reality, but nevertheless I privately believe that there is ..."?? ie. he too believes in the notion of an underlying conspiracy in spite of his "disavowing" of it.]

The rational difficulty that arises with the outright rejection of all conspiracies of whetever ilk - because they're too "simple" or too "ridiculous" or just downright paranoid and devoid of "common sense" (another ideological construction) - is that the very power relations that conspiracies hint at or point to are also rejected, the worlds of social relations are depoliticised, the real of social power is rejected outright: such a reactionary move is thus away from the collective-political and towards the personal-subjective - one seeks refuge in personal fantasies [eg the imaginary symbolic of New Ageism, etc], which then become the "real" while the "outside" world itself becomes a "fantasy", a dream, a crazy hallucination of meaningless phantasms, appearances and floating signifiers. The result of such a retreat into "solipsistic narcissism", into a limitless fantasy Ego, is the pathology of dissolving all analyses of actual power relations in the external world into mere "subjective neurosis", a reversal of the true state of affairs.

The world of power and capital, however abstract, is real. It is contemporary, postmodern culture, and the ideology underlying it, that seeks to "normalise" itself by disavowing this reality, so rendering this cultural phantasm itself as "natural" and "common sensical" and Real: we have to face facts, we have to recognise limits, we have to play the game, this is all there is, etc. Conspiracies about the power relations underlying that culture serve to challenge and undermine it, and so are therefore attributed to delusion.

And at a time when a majority of, for instance, Americans, now believe that they were betrayed, manipulated, misled about the illegal invasion of Iraq, among other things, the Bush Admin having used the pretext of 9/11 and the resulting paranoid, permanent "war on terror", isn't it only inevitable that a growing number of Americans will seek out a "conspiracy theory" when their Hollywoodized fantasy world starts to collapse, the "real" of such a conspiracy serving to prop up [suturing or quilting] or regenerate such fantasies??

CNN POLE: Do you agree with Charlie Sheen that the U.S. government covered up the real events of the 9/11 attacks?

Yes = 82% 11,337 votes
No = 18% 2,501 votes
(Total: 13, 838 votes )

So.. Is it safe to come out yet? [via Qlipoth]

Charlie Sheen has at least one thing in common with George Bush: His father played the president on TV for a very long time. But Charlie Sheen is not afraid to question the official story of September 11th as endorsed by George Bush. Sheen's words - and four years of hard work by 9/11 skeptics - are making a difference. It is suddenly allowable to voice your suspicions about September 11th. The official mythology is losing its sway with the American people. Suddenly, a spokesperson is invited to appear on CNN…

Martin Sheen's son, Charlie Sheen: "We're not the conspiracy theorists on this particular issue. It seems to me like 19 amateurs with box cutters taking over four commercial airliners and hitting 75% of their targets, that feels like a conspiracy theory. It raises a lot of questions."

"It feels like from the people I talk to in and around my circles, it seems like the worm is turning… It is up to us to reveal the truth. It is up to us because we owe it to the families, we owe it to the victims. We owe it to everybody's life who was drastically altered, horrifically that day and forever. We owe it to them to uncover what happened."

"There was a feeling, it just didn't look any commercial jetliner I've flown on any time in my life and then when the buildings came down later on that day I said to my brother 'call me insane, but did it sorta look like those buildings came down in a controlled demolition?"

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Diversions and Inactivities

Apologies to regular readers for the delay in transmission of late, having been over-distracted into posting activity at assorted forums and the comments sections on others' blogs [as well as some depressing protest activity during the past week: the anti-war demo last Saturday in Dublin attracted a pitiable 600 souls, versus 100,000 three years ago, further confirmation of the consequences for such movements of being hijacked by self-serving party politics, all this occuring as the slaughter escalates in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, and the US nuclear-strike threat goes critical].

Two lengthy posts are due: one an extended review of Zizek's The Pervert's Guide To Cinema [much more refreshing than his recent unreasonably provocative, lazy contribution in the New York Times, on Europe as the only significant Evental-Site of resistance to US global hegemony (and its Chinese version), perhaps the most ill-considered, ridiculously un-Zizekian article he has ever produced in his increasingly perverse, chameleon over-identification with his "target audience"]; the second, inspired by K-punk's recent outline of Telecommunism , and accompanied by Angela's post at S0metim3s on national-international distractions from the communist project, concentrating on the Theology of Kapitalism and on those strategies of accelerated alienation that may serve to progressively undermine it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Delighting in Zizekian Perversity

Having received its world premiere at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in February, a one-hour version of Sophie Fiennes' two-hour documentary, The Pervert's Guide To Cinema, scripted and presented by Slavoj Zizek, will be broadcast on Britain's Channel 4 this Thursday at 23.05 as the fourth and final installment of ArtShock, the contemporary art series:

ArtShock , a four-part late-night arts series, follows some of the UK's most prolific artists as they investigate the more extreme angles and examples of modern art. Is cinema one big Freudian slip? What can the Marx Brothers tell us about the workings of the unconscious? And why exactly do The Birds attack in Hitchcock's masterpiece of horror? Addressing these questions and many more, The Pervert's Guide to Cinema takes the viewer on an exhilarating ride through some of the greatest movies ever made. Serving as presenter and guide is acclaimed philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek. With his engaging and passionate approach to thinking, Zizek delves into the hidden language of cinema, vividly uncovering what the movies can tell us about ourselves. Prod/ Dir: Sophie Fiennes; Exec Prod: Martin Rosenbaum; Prod Co: Lone Star Productions.

From the Rotterdam Film Programme:

A unique journey through film history. Been now world-famous psychoanalyst and culture theoretician Slavoj Zizek takes us using famous film fragments to the deepest crypts of the human psyche.

Slavoj Zizek is a phenomenon. This popular and untiring Slovenian sociologist, philosopher and culture critic has a great influence on contemporary political and cultural debate with his publications and lectures on themes including fundamentalism, globalisation, human rights, cyberspace, post-modernism and multi-culturalism. Sophie Fiennes had the idea of putting Zizek into models designed by Remko Schnorr and Ben Zuydwijk of the sets of several famous feature films. With infectious enthusiasm, Zizek lets his - highly (post-)psychoanalytically influenced - ideas loose on films such as The Birds, The Conversation and The Great Dictator. It is no accident that Zizek often stumbles upon Hitchcock, probably the most Freudian of all film directors. For instance, he compares the three floors of the scary Norman Bates mansion (Psycho) with the Freudian concepts of Id, Ego and Superego. And he links the unforgettable scene in Blue Velvet where Kyle MacLachlan, hiding in the wardrobe, observes the violence and frustrated interaction between Isabella Rossellini and Denis Hopper, with the moment when an innocent child sees the sex act performed by his parents. Zizek presents his arguments so naturally, so convincingly and so rapidly that the viewer's head is left spinning. To what degree are film makers aware of the unconscious or subconscious components of their own creativity? And how much do these components contribute to the success of their films?

About The Film-Maker

A serious view on reality TV, Penelope Debelle, February 22, 2005

[Alternatively, How To Successfully Pitch A Documentary Idea]

Reality TV, and the low-browness the genre encompasses, may be the ugly cousin of the more revered documentary artform but it has surprising support among serious documentary makers.

Sophie Fiennes, a London-based filmmaker who worked as an assistant to the British film director Peter Greenaway before turning to documentary, says we should learn from it. In Adelaide this week [February] for the 2005 Australian International Documentary Conference, Fiennes, who is the sister of film stars Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, defended shows including Big Brother despite what she calls their "terrifying gladiatorial" base.

"It is actually very interesting because the key series of reality TV really do reflect society," she says. "People are very quick to demonise Big Brother or Wife Swap, but they don't knock the programs I think are really hideous - how to improve your house, how to improve your hairstyle, your this, your that, the endless bourgeois bettering."

While others hate them, including the anthropological documentary maker Dennis O'Rourke, whose Landmines - A Love Story, set in Kabul, premiered last night, Fiennes says that they are talked about so much shows their relevance to culture.

"As hideous as they are, they reflect a hideousness that is at work in social programming where we think we have choice to be ourselves but we are really being pocketed into being certain kinds of types," she says.

Fiennes is best known for her documentary Hoover Street Revival, a study of life around the Los Angeles church of the charismatic black preacher and brother of singer Grace Jones, the Reverend Noel Jones, whose vibrant and powerful sermons have been the salvation of the congregation in one of the toughest ghettos in Los Angeles.

"I was seeking actually to see what was the tension between what was said in church and what life itself dealt people who went to church," says Fiennes, still jet-lagged after a 25-hour flight from England. "I couldn't even follow individual stories. I was more interested in the impossibility of seeing what was happening in this community - it was more like, 'wham, bam, thank you ma'am' into disparate moments of people's lives rather than the usual documentary conceit where 'I have found my characters and I will follow their journey'."

Tomorrow she will be one of about 20 hopefuls selected to pitch their latest project to international and Australian programmers, financiers, co-production partners and buyers who have come to Adelaide looking for material. Her shamelessly titled The Pervert's Guide to Cinema will focus on the work of hip Slovenian cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek, author of Enjoy Your Symptom!. Instead of observing him, documentary style, Fiennes wants an essay to camera with Zizek talking about the psychological level on which cinema functions.

After that, she may take up an offer from Grace Jones to make a film of her life, or try directing a work of fiction. She is writing her first feature piece. Her brothers are not necessarily included, but could be. "If there was a part - you know, something they were well suited to play - then yeah, I am very close to them," she says.
Zizek's Latest Mainstream Cut n' Paste Media Incursion:

Defenders of the Faith, Zizek, NYT editorial, March 12, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor [via I Cite]

FOR centuries, we have been told that without religion we are no more than egotistic animals fighting for our share, our only morality that of a pack of wolves; only religion, it is said, can elevate us to a higher spiritual level. Today, when religion is emerging as the wellspring of murderous violence around the world, assurances that Christian or Muslim or Hindu fundamentalists are only abusing and perverting the noble spiritual messages of their creeds ring increasingly hollow. What about restoring the dignity of atheism, one of Europe's greatest legacies and perhaps our only chance for peace?
This argument couldn't have been more wrong: the lesson of today's terrorism is that if God exists, then everything, including blowing up thousands of innocent bystanders, is permitted — at least to those who claim to act directly on behalf of God, since, clearly, a direct link to God justifies the violation of any merely human constraints and considerations. In short, fundamentalists have become no different than the "godless" Stalinist Communists, to whom everything was permitted since they perceived themselves as direct instruments of their divinity, the Historical Necessity of Progress Toward Communism.
Fundamentalists do what they perceive as good deeds in order to fulfill God's will and to earn salvation; atheists do them simply because it is the right thing to do. Is this also not our most elementary experience of morality? When I do a good deed, I do so not with an eye toward gaining God's favor; I do it because if I did not, I could not look at myself in the mirror. A moral deed is by definition its own reward. David Hume, a believer, made this point in a very poignant way, when he wrote that the only way to show true respect for God is to act morally while ignoring God's existence.

Fundamentalists do what they perceive as good deeds in order to fulfill God's will and to earn salvation; atheists do them simply because it is the right thing to do. Is this also not our most elementary experience of morality? When I do a good deed, I do so not with an eye toward gaining God's favor; I do it because if I did not, I could not look at myself in the mirror. A moral deed is by definition its own reward. David Hume, a believer, made this point in a very poignant way, when he wrote that the only way to show true respect for God is to act morally while ignoring God's existence.

Two years ago, Europeans were debating whether the preamble of the European Constitution should mention Christianity as a key component of the European legacy. As usual, a compromise was worked out, a reference in general terms to the "religious inheritance" of Europe. But where was modern Europe's most precious legacy, that of atheism? What makes modern Europe unique is that it is the first and only civilization in which atheism is a fully legitimate option, not an obstacle to any public post.

Atheism is a European legacy worth fighting for, not least because it creates a safe public space for believers. Consider the debate that raged in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, my home country, as the constitutional controversy simmered: should Muslims (mostly immigrant workers from the old Yugoslav republics) be allowed to build a mosque? While conservatives opposed the mosque for cultural, political and even architectural reasons, the liberal weekly journal Mladina was consistently outspoken in its support for the mosque, in keeping with its concern for the rights of those from other former Yugoslav republics.

Not surprisingly, given its liberal attitudes, Mladina was also one of the few Slovenian publications to reprint the infamous caricatures of Muhammad. And, conversely, those who displayed the greatest "understanding" for the violent Muslim protests those cartoons caused were also the ones who regularly expressed their concern for the fate of Christianity in Europe.

These weird alliances confront Europe's Muslims with a difficult choice: the only political force that does not reduce them to second-class citizens and allows them the space to express their religious identity are the "godless" atheist liberals, while those closest to their religious social practice, their Christian mirror-image, are their greatest political enemies. The paradox is that Muslims' only real allies are not those who first published the caricatures for shock value, but those who, in support of the ideal of freedom of expression, reprinted them.

While a true atheist has no need to boost his own stance by provoking believers with blasphemy, he also refuses to reduce the problem of the Muhammad caricatures to one of respect for other's beliefs. Respect for other's beliefs as the highest value can mean only one of two things: either we treat the other in a patronizing way and avoid hurting him in order not to ruin his illusions, or we adopt the relativist stance of multiple "regimes of truth," disqualifying as violent imposition any clear insistence on truth.

What, however, about submitting Islam — together with all other religions — to a respectful, but for that reason no less ruthless, critical analysis? This, and only this, is the way to show a true respect for Muslims: to treat them as serious adults responsible for their beliefs.

UPDATE: Le Colonel Chabert's comment on Zizek's article - " ... this bit of smug, ostentatious White Supremacism ..."

To put it bluntly, do we want to live in a world in which the only choice is between the American civilization and the emerging Chinese authoritarian-capitalist one? If the answer is no, then the only alternative is Europe. The Third World cannot generate a strong enough resistance to the ideology of the American Dream. In the present constellation, only Europe can do so. The true opposition today is not the one between the United States and the Third World, but the one between the whole of the American global Empire (and its Third World colonies) and Europe.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Oscar ... Can't Be With Us Tonight

As US Fascism deepens and normalises...

Irish Oscar winning film's star tells of airport detention

The star of Ireland’s newest Oscar winning film today told about the heavy handed tactics of US immigration officials who refused him entry to America to attend the awards. Ruaidhri Conroy, who starred in action short Six Shooter, said he was barred from entering the States because he overstayed a visa by two days in 1998. During his day-long detention in Los Angeles airport, the award winning actor was offered only crisps, crackers and processed noodles to eat.

Conroy claimed he had never been made to feel so unwelcome.“I was escorted onto the plane by four officers and they said if you behave we won’t handcuff. They were very heavy,” he said. Directed by renowned playwright Martin McDonagh, dark comedy Six Shooter picked up the gong for Best Live Action Short Film. Conroy, who had a seat reserved at the 78th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood for the ceremony, revealed how he spent 22 hours in custody at Los Angeles’ LAX airport before being sent home. “I came up with my passport and my little immigration form and they just said they wanted to talk to me about my stay there in 1998 – I was over in New York doing a play written by Martin as well actually,” he told RTE Radio. “They said I had overstayed on a visa, and I didn’t think very much of it.”

US immigration officials questioned Conroy about his visits to America, his parents, and warned him he might not make it into the country.“They asked what age I was, all sorts of ridiculous questions,” he said. “And then took me into a cell, a bare cell, and put me up against the wall and searched me, went through my bag, took an inventory of all my valuables and took all my fingerprints again.” Conroy told the officers he had travelled to the States to attend the Oscars. “I said that from the beginning, but I don’t think that impressed them very much to be honest. I think that egged them on more to keep me out of the country rather than keep me in,” he said. “They weren’t very nice people to be honest, they weren’t very welcoming.” He went on: “I don’t think I’ve felt so unwelcome anywhere in my life and I think they just thought that I am a young man saying I am going to the Oscars that they may have got a certain satisfaction from preventing that happening."

You were treated like a criminal basically.”

Conroy was best known for his role as Tito in Into the West [Directed by Jim Sheridan]. His latest film, Six Shooter, which also stars Brendan Gleeson, has already been shown twice on RTE television and is due to be aired on Channel 4 on Wednesday.

There is of course nothing unusual here. Indeed, the 50,000 or so undocumented Irish, as with all other nationalities, in America now live in constant fear, in daily dread, unable to travel abroad, unable even to get a driver's licence, while Ted Kennedy & Co continue lobbying on their behalf, lobbying that is clearly doomed under the WASP/Neo-Con openly fascist Republican regime. Worse, aren't US legislators about to pass a law making it a felon to "be" an "illegal immigrant" - so criminalising all undocumented immigrants in the US - all 12 million of them, PLUS anyone else who might assist them (more millions of employers, landlords, charities, religious organisations, etc). All this occurring as the Bushists secretly construct "prison camps" for the future "benefit" of US Muslims ...

As low-wage immigrants constitute the core economic backbone of most wealthy Western economies, such a law (among others recent and planned) will further hasten the collapse of the US economy. And The Sooner the Better, For All ...

I boycotted the country 4 years ago. I would strongly recommend you do the same, at this point - and for rational, ethical Americans to systematically encourage same.

And ... you only have to look odd to be tossed out of Amerikay now - remember this?

Yusuf Islam Banned from U.S.
September 28, 2004

Last week, Yusuf Islam (the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens) was on a plane bound for Washington, DC when it set down in Bangor, ME. The plane was boarded by FBI agents who removed Islam before sending him back to London. So far, U.S. officials have been very sketchy on there reasons for deporting Islam, but the composer of Peace Train has been marked as a potential threat to national security. Islam converted to Islam in 1977, leaving his music career behind (he has recently returned to recording and performing). After Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses was published, Islam reportedly supported an Iranian fatwa against the author, although he now claims that he was misquoted and he has recently been campaigning for peace. Would seeing Cat Stevens sitting next to you on a plane make you nervous?

While the US banning, harassment, and attempted criminalisation of "suspect" foreigners, especially artists, has been continuing to escalate for a number of years - now Britain has decided to join in: Just Like In The Movies.

Chomsky's Turn

Very, very different views expressed here from just six weeks ago:

World in peril, Chomsky tells overflow crowd

-----March 5th, 2006-----Press & Sun-Bulletin

There are dire consequences to the current direction of the U.S. foreign policy, said Noam Chomsky in a speech Saturday at Binghamton University. Among those consequences, he said, is a nuclear Armageddon.

"Under the current U.S. policies, a nuclear exchange is inevitable," the 77-year-old MIT professor said in his presentation, "Imminent Crises: Paths Toward Solutions." He spoke to an over-capacity crowd in BU's Osterhout Concert Theater. Chomsky cited nuclear proliferation and environmental collapse as the two greatest crises that "literally threaten survival."

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The United States of Death Squads: Now in Iraq

Death Mask: The Deliberate Disintegration of Iraq

[... an extended version of a column appearing in last December 2's edition of The Moscow Times.] [via Empire Burlesque]

The recent revelations about the virulent spread of death squads ravaging Iraq have only confirmed for many people the lethal incompetence of the Bush Regime, whose brutal bungling appears to have unleashed the demon of sectarian strife in the conquered land. The general reaction, even among some war supporters, has been bitter derision: "Jeez, these bozos couldn't boil an egg without causing collateral damage."

But what if the truth is even more sinister? What if this murderous chaos is not the fruit of rank incompetence but instead the desired product of carefully crafted, efficiently managed White House policy?

Investigative journalist Max Fuller marshals a convincing case for this dread conclusion in a remarkable work of synthesis drawn from information buried in reams of mainstream news stories and public Pentagon documents. Piling fact on damning fact, he shows that the vast majority of atrocities now attributed to "rogue" Shiite and Sunni militias are in fact the work of government-controlled commandos and "special forces," trained by Americans, "advised" by Americans and run largely by former CIA assets, Global Research reports.

We first reported here in June 2003 that the U.S. was already hiring Saddam's security muscle for "special ops" against the nascent insurgency and re-opening his torture haven, Abu Ghraib. Meanwhile, powerful Shiite militias – including Talibanic religious extremists armed and trained by Iran – were loosed upon the land. As direct "Coalition" rule gave way to various "interim" and "elected" Iraqi governments, these violent gangs were formally incorporated into the Iraqi Interior Ministry, where the supposedly inimical Sunni and Shiite units often share officers and divvy up territories.

Bush helpfully supplied these savage gangs – who are killing dozens of people each week, Knight-Ridder reports – with American advisers who made their "counter-insurgency" bones forming right-wing death squads in Colombia and El Salvador. Indeed, Bush insiders have openly bragged of "riding with the bad boys" and exercising the "Salvador option," lauding the Reagan-backed counter-insurgency program that slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians, Newsweek reports. Bush has also provided a "state-of-the-art command, control and communications center" to coordinate the operation of his Iraqi "commandos," as the Pentagon's own news site, DefendAmerica, reports. The Iraqi people can go without electricity, fuel and medicine, but by God, Bush's "bad boys" will roll in clover as they carry out their murders and mutilations.

For months, stories from the Shiite south and Sunni center have reported the same phenomenon: people being summarily seized by large groups of armed men wearing police commando uniforms, packing high-priced Glocks, using sophisticated radios and driving Toyota Land Cruisers with police markings. The captives are taken off and never seen again – unless they turn up with a load of other corpses days or weeks later, bearing marks of the gruesome tortures they suffered before the ritual shot in the head. Needless to say, these mass murders under police aegis are rarely investigated by the police.

Earlier this year, one enterprising Knight-Ridder reporter, Yasser Salihee, actually found several eyewitnesses willing to testify to the involvement of the U.S.-backed commandos in 12 such murders. The offer was shrugged off by the Interior Ministry's spokesman – an American "adviser" and veteran bones-maker from the Colombian ops. In the end, it didn't matter; Salihee was shot dead by a U.S. sniper at a checkpoint a few days afterwards.

The Bushists may have been forced to ditch their idiotic fantasies of "cakewalking" into a compliant satrapy, but they have by no means abandoned their chief goals in the war: milking Iraq dry and planting a permanent military "footprint" on the nation's neck. If direct control through a plausible puppet is no longer possible, then fomenting bloody chaos and sectarian strife is the best way to weaken the state. The Bushists are happy to make common cause with thugs and zealots in order to prevent the establishment of a strong national government that might balk at the ongoing "privatizations" that have continued apace behind the smokescreen of violence, and the planned opening of Iraq's oil reserves to select foreign investors – a potential transfer of some $200 billion of Iraqi people's wealth into the hands of a few Bush cronies, the Independent reports.

The violence is already dividing the county into more rigid sectarian enclaves, the New York Times reports, as Shiites flee Sunni commandos and Sunnis flee Shiite militias in the grim tag-team of their joint endeavor. It's all grist for the Bushist mill: an atomized, terrorized, internally riven society is much easier to manipulate. And of course, a steady stream of bloodshed provides a justification for maintaining a substantial American military presence, even as politic plans for partial "withdrawal" are bandied about.

There's nothing new in this; Bush is simply following a well-thumbed playbook. For example, in 1953 the CIA bankrolled Islamic fundamentalists and secular goon squads to destabilize the democratic government of Iran – which selfishly wanted to control its own oil – and pave the way for the puppet Shah, as the agency's own histories recount. In 1971, CIA officials admitted carrying out more than 21,000 "extra-judicial killings" in its "Phoenix" counter-insurgency operation in Vietnam. (The true number of victims is certainly much higher.) In 1979, the CIA began sponsoring the most violent Islamic extremist groups in Afghanistan – supplying money, arms, even jihad primers for schoolchildren – to destabilize the secular, Soviet-allied government and provoke the Kremlin into a costly intervention, as Robert Dreyfus details in his new book, Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. Later, Saudi magnate Osama bin Laden – whose family firm helped kick-start George W. Bush's business career – joined the operation, and his men were sent to America for "anti-Soviet" terrorist training, as Greg Palast reports. And of course, these examples only scratch the scorched-earth surface of America's double-dealings in this deathly shadow world.

This bi-partisan policy has been remarkably consistent for more than half a century: to augment the wealth and power of the elite, American leaders have supported – or created – vicious gangs of killers and cranks to foment unrest, eliminate opponents and terrorize whole nations into submission. The resulting carnage in the target countries – and inevitable blowback against ordinary Americans – means nothing to these Great Gamesters; it's merely the price of doing business. Bush's "incompetence" is just a mask for stone-cold calculation.

And via Qlipoth

Somebody is trying to provoke a civil war in Iraq :

Robert Fisk: The real question I ask myself is: who are these people who are trying to provoke the civil war? Now the Americans will say it's Al Qaeda, it's the Sunni insurgents. It is the death squads. Many of the death squads work for the Ministry of Interior. Who runs the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad? Who pays the Ministry of the Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities ... We don't hear of anybody stopping a mosque getting blown up. We're not hearing of death squads all being arrested. Something is going very, very wrong in Baghdad ... What is going on in Iraq at the moment is extremely mysterious. I go to Iraq and I can't crack this story at the moment. Some of my colleagues are still trying to, but can't do it. It's not as simple as it looks. I don't believe we've got all these raving lunatics wandering around blowing up mosques. There's much more to this than meets the eye. All of these death squads that move around are part of the security forces ... I go into the Interior Ministry in Baghdad and I see lots and lots of armed men wearing black leather. Who is paying these guys? Well, we are, of course. The money isn't falling out of the sky ... I mean, this is a barbarous world we're living in now in the Middle East. It's never been so dangerous here, either for journalists or soldiers but most of all for Arabs. Hence the thousands of people in the mortuary.


American Islarmism

December 08, 2005,

U.S. Helps Some Iran-Backed Terror -- Inter Press Service -- Dahr Jamail and Harb al-Mukhtar

BAGHDAD, Dec 8 (IPS) - After the U.S. forces and the bombings, Iraqis are coming to fear those bands of men in masks who seem to operate with the Iraqi police ... Omar Ahmed's family learnt what it can mean to run into the police, their supposed protectors ... "The Badr Army is conducting a campaign to destroy other political parties and their electoral advertisements," said Saleh Hassir, a doctor at a Baghdad medical centre. "We see black paint and tears on ex-prime minister Allawi's posters and those of the Sunni groups, but pictures of al-Hakim remain unaffected." The doctor says the Americans have helped bring in new Iran-backed terror. "So many of us are against Iraq being controlled by these fundamental Islamic Iranian loyalists like al-Hakim," the doctor told IPS. "Now we are seeing the suffering and ultimate dictatorship they have brought us here with the help of the Americans."

The Seasoned Pro's Opinion:

Warning of the outcome of a possible civil war in Iraq, Negroponte said sectarian civil war in Iraq would be a "serious setback" to the global war on terror. Note - he did not say it would be a "serious setback" to the Iraqi people, over 1,400 of whom have been slaughtered in sectarian violence touched off by the bombing of the Golden Mosque last week in Samarra. No, the violence and instability in Iraq would be a "serious setback" to the global "war on terror." But it's interesting for him to continue, "The consequences for the people of Iraq would be catastrophic," whilst feigning his concern. Because generating catastrophic consequences for civilian populations just happens to be his specialty. If we briefly review the political history of John Negroponte, we find a man who has had a career bent toward generating civilian death and widespread human rights abuses, and promoting sectarian and ethnic violence ...

In the middle of Negroponte's tenure in Iraq, the Pentagon (read Donald Rumsfeld) openly considered using assassination and kidnapping teams there, led by the Special Forces.

Referred to not-so-subtly as "the Salvador option," the January 2005 rhetoric from the Pentagon publicized a proposal that would send Special Forces teams to "advise, support and possibly train" Iraqi "squads." Members of these squads would be hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga militia and Shia Badr militiamen used to target Sunni resistance fighters and their sympathizers.

What better man to make this happen than John Negroponte? His experience made him the perfect guy for the job. What a nice coincidence that he just happened to be in Baghdad when the Pentagon/Rumsfeld were discussing "the Salvador option."

Fast forward to present day Iraq, which is a situation described by the Washington Post in this way: "Hundreds of unclaimed dead lay at the morgue at midday Monday - blood-caked men who had been shot, knifed, garroted or apparently suffocated by the plastic bags still over their heads. Many of the bodies were sprawled with their hands still bound."

The Independent newspaper from London recently reports that hundreds of Iraqis each month are tortured to death or executed by death squads working out of the Shia-run Ministry of Interior.


... As the Black-ops spread to Iran:

Bomb blast hits Iranian oil city

- The attack is the latest in a series to hit the restive Khuzestan Province, at the heart of Iran's oil industry.