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21/06/2005

Magazine Roundup

Literaturen | The New Yorker | L`Espresso | London Review of Books | L`Express | Lettre International | The Economist | Magyar Narancs | Al Ahram Weekly | Le point | Le Nouvel Observateur


Literaturen
, 01.07.2005 (Germany)

Slobodan Milosevic
put forward Austrian author Peter Handke as a defence witness at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague. But instead of standing before court, the writer sent Literaturen a twenty page diatribe against the "farce of a court", in which he demands that charges be brought against NATO and denies that the chains of command originated with Milosevic. "I am utterly convinced that the World Tribunal, as it meets for session (upon session) in Hall One, the one time Haag Chamber of Commerce, is no good - and that as much as it might administer justice on a formal level, it is from its very beginnings, foundations and origins wrong and it remains wrong and acts wrongly and will continue to allow wrong to be done – that it contributes not a single iota to establishing the truth – and that in the face of the not only noble but, unlike other ideas, immortal idea of justice, it administers an appalling mockery: in other words it is the WRONG COURT. Yes my 'inner conviction' goes so far as to say that I not only see Slobodan Milosevic before the wrong court, but - and although I by no means believe he is 'not guilty' – I believe that he is 'not guilty according to the terms of the charge', and of the organisation of the trial, its behaviour, and its leadership at the hands of the judge."


The New Yorker, 27.06.2005 (USA)


Hanna Rosin portrays the Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, where young Christians are trained to be politicians. "One of the students, Elisa Muench, has hung photographs of the Bushes and the Cheneys on her walls, Elisa tries to read the Bible every day, usually in the morning before working out. She explained that in any other school she'd be considered a true conservative, which is what she considers herself, "but at Patrick Henry I’m more liberal.'" Elisa believes "that the Bible dictates that 'there are different roles for men and women'. But the expectation of most of the guys she knows at Patrick Henry - that wives should just 'fade out,' that she should instantly take on the identity of a wife and mother 'and consider it a blessing' - is not something that she’s comfortable with. 'I just think there’s more that God called me to do, and that's a hard thing to say around here'."


L`Espresso, 23.06.2005 (Italy)


Umberto Eco peers into the tube and finds it full of all sorts of friendly law enforcement officers. On the big screen and on TV, today's policemen are loveable, humane and sometimes even gay. Up until the mid-eighties the picture was very different, reports Eco and he holds politics responsible for the change. "The climate is different today because after the tragic years of terrorism, left-wing parties turned towards the state and therefore no longer made enemies of the law. Today – a wonderful ironic turn – it is the Right which brands the judges and their executives as criminals. Seen in this light the television, or Mediaset (Berlusconi's media enterprise) counteracts Berlusconi's attacks against the administration. Soon things will have gone so far that TV audiences will see the police and the officers of the law as a left-wing brigade that bizarrely takes its orders from government."


London Review of Books, 23.06.2005 (UK)

Patrick Whright reports humorously on a very particular kind of convenience marriage. The newly published "DPM: Disruptive Pattern Material; An Encyclopedia of Camouflage: Nature - Military – Culture" informed him of the important role played by artists in the evolution of military camouflage. For some this came as a surprise: 'I well remember at the beginning of the war,' Gertrude Stein wrote in 1938, 'being with Picasso on the Boulevard Raspail when the first camouflaged truck passed. It was at night, we had heard of camouflage but we had not seen it and Picasso, amazed, looked at it and then cried out, yes it is we who made it, that is Cubism.'

In a stirring portrait, Eliot Weinberger introduces us to the Chinese poet Gu Cheng, who was born in 1956 in Peking. His happiest days were spent during the Cultural Revolution when his family sent him to herd pigs in the salt desert of Shandong Province. "The locals spoke a dialect Gu Cheng could not understand, and in his isolation he became absorbed in the natural world: 'Nature’s voice became language in my heart. That was happiness.'" It was not to last long. Gu Cheng, who lived in New Zealand and Berlin among other places, lost his mind and in 1993 he murdered his wife and then committed suicide.


L`Express, 20.06.2005 (France)

Punctually at the beginning of the French great holiday migrations, Amandine Hirou goes on a sociological tour of the world's beaches – on which, depending on the country, very different morals and customs prevail. Anthropologist Didier Urbain, for example, alleges in his book ("Balneaire. Une histoire des bains de mer", published by LBM): "The beach provides a fantastic terrain for observation, one that tells much about the political, social and religious situation in the various countries." The strange phenomenon that many Western vacationers go to mass beaches to find "peace", and even believe they find it there, Urbain explains as follows: "Doubtless because at the bottom of his heart the 'beach vacationer' is looking for the company of people like himself. He does not go there simply to swim in the sea, but to plunge into a sea of sociability." Among many astonishing details, we learn that some Chinese beaches have a hierarchical "lying order", according to whether one is boss, employee or worker.


Lettre International, 18.06.2005 (Germany)

Global business is one theme in this week's Lettre, which overflows with very readable articles. Isabel Hilton visits China's rural factories, and reports on workers who have been burned like fuel in global production and are now fatally ill and fighting for compensation. Hilton visited a Chinese factory for the first time thirty years ago, when students, both local and foreign, were sent to work in factories. That "gave me an lasting impression of the theatrical side of the Chinese revolution. On our last morning we had to tidy up the workshop, because foreign visitors had been announced. That afternoon we were solemnly shown around the very same shop – the visitors were us." (Excerpt in German here. Original English version available in the latest issue of Granta magazine.)


The Economist, 17.06.2005 (UK)

British papers have considerable difficulties establishing an Internet presence, reports the Economist, not lastly because of the excellent – publicly financed – online presence of the BBC. "Part of the papers' problem online is that they're papers: they don't understand moving pictures and graphics. The BBC's television background gives it a feel for what works well on the Internet. And, crucially, it has far more journalists on tap than any newspaper. As the Sun website's night team of four people rushed to cover the result of Michael Jackson's child-abuse trial this week, its editor, Pete Picton, was dismayed to see how much the BBC was doing and with what resources. 'They had a micro-site, journalists coming out of their ears, different angles and their own video footage,' he says. 'We can't compete with their breadth of material.'"


Magyar Narancs, 16.06.2005 (Hungary)

In the wake of the constitutional debacle, Balint Szlanko, Brussels correspondent for this Hungarian left-liberal weekly, castigates West Europeans for their laziness. "The vile monster of favouritism has raised its ugly head in the West, its eyes lit up with xenophobia... The lazy French – and the lazy Western Europeans in general – do not feel like competing with the cheaper labour costs in Eastern Europe – or with the Eastern European economies, that can produce goods more cheaply." For Szlanko, the decisive question after the debacle is "whether the European public can accept that the EU represents the sole instrument for coping with the increasingly harsh competition in the globalised world. Only the European Union can use globalisation and harvest its fruits, while simultaneously protecting us from globalisation's most unpleasant effects. Only transnational institutions can successfully handle transnational phenomena."


Al Ahram Weekly, 16.06.2005 (Egypt)

Palestinian Knesset member Azmi Bishara gives a pithy and competent description of the "Gordian knot" that is blocking political development, comprising the rentier state model (more here), the legitimation crisis of the national state, US oil interests and finally Islam, which is present on many different levels. "Arab regimes have used Islamic rhetoric as an alternative means for establishing their legitimacy, while simultaneously exploiting the rise of non- democratic radical Islamist movements as a way of intimidating their societies. Meanwhile, state repression of the non-democratic Islamist alternative works to make that agenda the only apparent alternative. Political movements without a martyrdom cult tend to withdraw rapidly from the fray when faced with repression."


Le point, 16.06.2005 (France)

Bernard-Henri Levy addresses central questions of the hostage issue after the liberation of journalist Florence Aubenas: Ransom or no ransom? Public hue and cry or no? Is journalism still possible? Concerning the tasks facing journalists he writes: "Should one, as some have already suggested, refrain from covering conflicts that are too risky? Should one, like many American reporters, consent to the unnatural practice of 'embedding'? Or should one lie low? Infiltrate? Should journalists disguise themselves? Will journalists have to change their status to protect themselves, and pass themselves off for what they are not? Will they have to become a new kind of 'agent' in the service of truth? I know these questions are taboo. I know they touch on the very ethics of an activity that Sartre – himself a great journalist - liked to call the essence of publicity and transparency. No matter. I fail to see how the profession can avoid asking them, if it wants to learn from the suffering of Florence and Hussein."


Le Nouvel Observateur, 16.06.2005 (France)

The rejection of the EU constitution by the French and the Dutch has plunged Europe into a "crisis of identity", writes US economist and Europe-watcher Jeremy Rifkin (more here): "Strangely, it is less the European constitution that is at stake in the current debate than the future of capitalism, not only in Europe but worldwide. Europeans are increasingly asking themselves whether the model of free or social market economy is the ideal way to a future economic order. The referenda provided French and Dutch voters with an indirect means of expressing their hopes, fears and biases about economic development." Rifkin thinks it's unfortunate that current discussion turns around the two extremes of capitalism and socialism. But he writes that if a reformed European social economy were able to balance the "tensions between the entrepreneurial spirit of capitalism and the social solidarity of socialism," it could be a "model for the rest of the world."
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