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15/11/2005

Magazine Roundup

The Spectator | Die Weltwoche | Le point | The New Yorker | Plus - Minus | Heti Vilaggazdasag | Foreign Policy | The Times Literary Supplement | The New York Times


The Spectator, 11.11.2005 (UK)

France is burning. The media blame the failed integration of the immigrants, their poverty, their unemployment and the racism of the French. But Rod Liddle is amazed that no one is using the "dreaded M word". "It may well be that the motive for the rioting was nothing more than an inchoate grievance allied to youthful exuberance and a penchant for bad behaviour, but it was Islam which gave it an identity and also its retrospective raison d’être. The political aspirations of many French Muslim organisations and explicitly of the most important political Islamic organisation on the Continent, the Arab European League, is for much greater segregation, for Verwoerd's ideal of separate development — the very essence, to my mind, of racism. The appalling Arab European League, in fact, likens assimilation or integration to 'rape' and calls upon all Muslims to resist such cultural imperialism. And the director of the Great Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, who delivered that nice fatwa, has seemed to request that the French government give Muslims autonomy within the state; to, in effect, allow them to follow their own rules. So for those pundits on French TV, apologies, but au contraire: the French Muslims do not, as a whole, want greater integration. They want less integration."


Die Weltwoche, 10.11.2005 (Switzerland)

Is the rioting in France linked to Islam? If only, sighs Daniel Binswanger, who spent some time looking for answers in the banlieues. "You almost want it to be about political insurrection, with Islamic, autonomous or other ringleaders pulling strings in the background. You wish there were some political movement behind the fiery delirium and that you could approach the unrest with 'understanding' and a political strategy. But there is nothing but a monstrous symptom of social and psychological devastation, snowballing zones of anarchy.... French etatism comes up against a strange socio-psychological barrier in the banlieues. Although the state is seen as the absolute evil – the weapon-toting arm of the rich, white and privileged, it remains the only redeemer. People are infinitely hostile and yet full of expectations. They set fire to the town hall and demand more subsidies. They think it 's right that the police station should be attacked and complain that there aren't enough police officers. They burn down the gymnasium where their own sport club trains. Alarmingly large swathes of the population have locked themselves into the mental ghetto of victim discourse. And that leads to nothing but infantile self destruction."

Albert Kuhn conducts a patchwork interview with Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek about ideologies in everyday life, Lacan in Ljubljana and total freedom in communism. "When I look for the highest degree of intellectual freedom, it has to be the last years of communism. Those in power knew that their time was over. So they desperately tried to be nice to all and sundry. Suddenly homosexuals were not only tolerated, the government even sent out delegations to promise their support to gay organisations, to finance their publications etc. Or – a ridiculous example – pornography. Suddenly it was allowed, and without any of the regulations in western Europe. From zero to a hundred."


Le point, 10.11.2005
(France)

After a week's delay in some cases, the majority of French magazines are now addressing the unrest in the banlieues. In Le Point, Bernard-Henri Levy writes in his notes on "Explosion": "Physics of the body. Sinister energy of pure hatred. Nihilistic whirlwind of violence without idea or plan which intoxicates itself, town by town, in the reflection of its own spectacle in the TV images which are just as fixated themselves. This is no war. In contrast to what the extreme Right, extreme Left, or the Islamists want to make us believe, this is not a black French intifada." This is a totally new degree of craziness. "The vandals are driving their own fathers' cars out to set fire to them."


The New Yorker, 21.11.2005 (USA)

For Jane Cramer, the unrest in France is a pan-European problem with the assimilation of immigrants. "The only thing most Europeans agreed on was that the 'American model' was wrong, although the American model wasn't really a model at all but a kind of success ethic - the Europeans said 'dollar ethic' - in which making money and moving up in the world was what made Americans out of strangers. It was, for better or for worse, the one model that seemed to work."


Plus - Minus, 12.11.2005 (Poland)

In the weekend edition of the Polish paper Rzeczpospolita, Dariusz Rosiak analyses the spectacular collapse of French integration policy. "After 15 years of smouldering conflict, the French still don't know – or don't want to know – what lies behind the immigrants' hatred for France. The reasons can be found in the republican tradition, and how it is implemented in the French suburbs. The noble principle of equality of all, which among other things leads to there being no statistics taken about ethnic or religious minorities, is unfortunately a fiction. Poles may well soon face the same problem: "No matter what we think of ourselves, from the perspective of a Vietnamese, Kenyan or Chechnian we are among the richest countries in the world. Their work, their culture, could be an enrichment to us, but can we convince them of the advantages of integration?"


Heti Vilaggazdasag, 12.11.2005 (Hungary)

"Without reliable topographical aids, the enemy is as helpless as a blind man." Tamas Vajna looks at Hungarian maps from the days of the Cold War, which were radically manipulated for purposes of counter-espionage. "All maps were confiscated after World War II. But it soon became apparent that that meant a stop to hiking, the traditional leisure activity of the working classes, who were exhausted from constructing the people's democracy.... Later the military censors became more clumsy. One legendary example is the map of the Balaton Region published at the end of the 80s, showing harmless fields on the location of a secret Soviet air force base. But the 'airport trench' surrounding it was left on the map."


Foreign Policy, 14.11.2005 (USA)

Until now, American Internet theorist Lawrence Lessing has been no friend of Internet regulation by the American organisation ICANN. But he is not at all thrilled by the European attempt to break American Internet dominance at the Internet summit in Tunis, as he admits in an interview: "The Europeans are eager to stand up to the Americans, and that I think has been produced by the last five years of U.S. foreign policy. It’s not really a cyberlaw problem." Lessing suggests leaving control with ICANN. "It’s not because I have any affection for the U.S. government’s control over ICANN, but because I think that they’ve developed an internal norm about making as light a regulatory footprint as they can. I would be worried about transferring authority because I think that some other body coming in might imagine it can use its power over the domain names to try to regulate all sorts of policy objectives. We’d all be worse off if that happened."


The Times Literary Supplement, 11.11.2005 (UK)


Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt has read Richard Burnett's book "Company of Pianos", on the Finchcock piano collection, and takes the opportunity to comment on the singularity of various instruments. A New Yorker Steinway, for example, is alright for playing Rachmaninov or Tchaikovsky. Otherwise it's got to be built in Hamburg. The piano industry, however, has gone the same way as so many others: "The brand name is kept, but the instrument is made more cheaply in China, Korea, Japan, or Eastern Europe. Global competition means less variety. The Pearl River piano factory in China has 4,000 employees and is increasing production to 100,000 pianos a year, which they fabricate for more than twenty different companies around the world. How many people, when going to buy a piano, realize that their Bechstein could have been made in Germany or in Korea by Samick, depending on the model number (and price); or that the Boston piano designed and sold by Steinway is made by Kawai? There are still, however, smaller piano makers such as Paolo Fazioli in Italy (who makes 100 beautiful grand pianos a year in his factory near Venice), Steingraeber in Bayreuth, and Stuart in Australia (to name but three), who are determined to do things on their own."


The New York Times, 13.11.2005 (USA)

In the Book Review, A. O. Scott passionately condemns not only of the National Book Award, which will be presented on Wednesday (finalists here), but also of the entire award culture. "It will escape no one's attention - not even the winners' - that the very idea of handing out medals and cash for aesthetic and intellectual achievement is absurd, if not obscene. Furthermore, the selections will inevitably reflect the rottenness of the literary status quo, which is either hopelessly stodgy and out of touch, or else distracted by modish extraliterary considerations - hobbled, that is, either by conservative complacency or by political correctness."

David Orr judiciously discusses both elite and popular appraisals of Garrison Keillor's successful poetry anthology "Good Poems". One thing bothers him about the book's sequel, however: "The most obvious problem with 'Good Poems for Hard Times' is that it proposes that 'the meaning of poetry is to give courage.' That is not the meaning of poetry; that is the meaning of Scotch. The meaning of poetry is poetry."
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