Whenever I look around me, I wonder what old things are about to bear fruit, what seemingly solid institutions might soon rupture, and what seeds we might now be planting whose harvest will come at some unpredictable moment in the future. The most magnificent person I met in 2013 quoted a line from Michel Foucault to me: "People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is what what they do does." Someone saves a life or educates a person or tells her a story that upends everything she assumed. The transformation may be subtle or crucial or world changing, next year or in 100 years, or maybe in a millennium. You can’t always trace it but everything, everyone has a genealogy. Rebecca Solnit in TomDispatch: The Arc of Justice and the Long Run: Hope, History, and Unpredictability [more inside]
Makers of War. "The arms manufacturers of Aleppo used to be ordinary men—network administrators, housepainters, professors. Then came the bloody Syrian crisis. Now they must use all their desperate creativity to supply their fellow rebels with the machinery of death." [Via]
Frontline journalist Olly Lambert captures the event of a Syrian government air strike on the town of al-Bara. Powerfully upsetting and tragic, his footage conveys the sheer terror afflicting the lives of Syrian refugees struggling to survive under the Assad regime. [36min SLYT] [more inside]
'I'm sick of being ashamed." Three days ago, an anti-harassment activist said those words to me in a flat above Cairo's Tahrir square, as she pulled on her makeshift uniform ready to protect women on the protest lines from being raped in the street. Only days before, I'd heard exactly the same words from pro-choice organisers in Dublin, where I travelled to report on the feminist fight to legalise abortion in Ireland. I had thought that I was covering two separate stories – so why were two women from different countries and backgrounds repeating the same mantra against fear, and against shame?[more inside]
Shokri Belaid, leader of the Popular Front coalition, has been shot dead outside of his home in Tunis sending thousands of protesters in the streets. [more inside]
"I want to encourage mainstream journalists to speak up when they discover their companies are misleading the people, doing PR for corporations and governments and disguising it as journalism."
Former CNN journalist Amber Lyon is speaking out against the network after it decided for "editorial reasons" not to air its documentary iRevolution on CNN International. Lyon worked on a 13-minute segment interviewing democratic activists in Bahrain, who risked their own safety to be heard. Glenn Greenwald reveals that at the same time, CNN was being paid by the Bahrain Economic Development Board to produce pro-state coverage as part of its "Eye On" series. A senior producer complained to Lyon about the nature of her coverage: "We are dealing with blowback from Bahrain govt on how we violated our mission, etc."
"The Western observer tends to split the Russian press into two camps: evil statists and martyrs. But for their part, members of the Russian press are convinced of their superiority over their Western colleagues, at least when it comes to Syria. Russian journalists aren’t under the illusion that they are more objective than their Western counterparts, but they are convinced of their ability to convey a more realistic, complex picture of the events in Syria." - The New Republic: In Russia, Even Putin’s Critics Are OK With His Syria Policy
Brown Moses Blog curates and analyzes news regarding the Syrian uprising, the wider Arab Spring, and the UK phone hacking scandal. It is written by Something Awful forums moderator Brown Moses. Recent entries include discussion of the increasingly well armed Free Syrian Army, senior members of the Catholic Church criticizing pro-Assad clergy, and a look at the evidence of more sophisticated IEDs being used in Syria. [more inside]
This week's riots (WaPo) in Tunisia started last Saturday, when a mob of hardline Salafists, after trying to disrupt an art exhibition deemed offensive to Islam, were booed off ("dégage!") by the crowd. They came back a few hours later to destroy the works: here are the artworks, before and after the attack at the Abdellia Palace in La Marsa, Tunis.
The British newspaper The Guardian has obtained a cache of 3,000 emails purported to have been exchanged between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his wife, and a close circle of advisers and friends. The personal emails allegedly show Assad dismissing his government's proposed reforms, mocking the efforts of Arab League monitors to spot military tanks besieging cities, as well as Assad's wife placing extravagant shopping orders, sometimes through intermediaries. [more inside]
"I saw bodies of women and children lying on roads, beheaded." At least 260 people were killed last night in a government assault on Homs, the epicenter of the Syrian uprising. This came right before a key UN vote to support the Arab League's plan to have President Bashar al-Assad hand over power to the vice president and hold early elections for a national unity government, which failed this morning with 13 in favor and a double veto by China and Russia. [more inside]
Egyptian army officer's diary of military life in a revolution -- It's ridiculous; at the height of the unrest reserve officer salaries doubled and everyone was getting huge bonuses all the time [...] Most full-time officers didn't really care what was happening politically on the streets, they were just happy with the extra money. Occasionally though you'd hear guilty jokes about how we were the only people who were benefiting from the revolution and the Egyptian people had been screwed over.
10b Photography has established itself as one of the world’s leading digital darkrooms, handling post-production for scores of award-winning photojournalists who trust that the company knows where to draw the line between processing and manipulation. [...] 10b is quick to point out that it is not a retouching firm. The term is often associated with Photoshop experts, who are hired to alter the look and shape of fashion icons, for example. So when it comes to defining Palmisano's role, it can get tricky. Post-processing in the digital age.
Well, to put it simply, The Big plan is the same as the immediate plan: they want you dead. It’s not that they want to kill opposition; they want to kill the opposition, literally. This country ain’t big enough for the both of you, and they have everything to lose. And they have guns. And the media. And all the keys of power. And you want to overthrow them. How do you think they will react to that? Give you cookies? - an on the ground report of what's going on in Egypt now from a blogger turned parliamentary candidate.
[...]There was still talk of snipers, of a counterattack by Qaddafi’s men, of a fifth column of “sleeper cells” lurking inside the capital. Victory had come too easily. Only weeks earlier, the rebels seemed in disarray, and Qaddafi’s forces, having withstood more than four months of NATO air strikes, seemed poised to hold out for many more. Then, on Aug. 20, a planned uprising broke out in Tripoli, as the ragged rebel army converged on the city from various directions. The final battle, expected to last weeks, was over in two days. Qaddafi and his top lieutenants fled almost immediately. Now it was hard to know who was a killer and who a mere dupe.[...]
The Surreal Ruins of Quaddafi's Never-Never Land, Robert F. Worth (Note: nytimes. Via longform.com)
The Surreal Ruins of Quaddafi's Never-Never Land, Robert F. Worth (Note: nytimes. Via longform.com)
Following Libyian rebels taking Tripoli and Gadhafi's family fleeing the area, pictures of Gadhafi's family compound are surfacing. "The value of these images isn't in their artistry or aesthetic, but in their storytelling information as we seek to uncover more behind the scenes of the Khadafi regime that spanned forty-two years." Also found: an album filled with photos of [Gadhafi's] 'darling' Condoleezza Rice. [more inside]
The Crimes of Col. Qaddafi An original essay by Christopher Hitchens, that starts: In George Orwell's 1939 novel, Coming Up for Air, his narrator, George Bowling, broods on the special horrors of the new totalitarianism and notices "the colored shirts, the barbed wire, the rubber truncheons," but also, less obviously perhaps, "the processions and the posters with enormous faces, and the crowds of a million people all cheering for the Leader till they deafen themselves into thinking that they really worship him, and all the time, underneath, they hate him so that they want to puke."
The Battle For Tripoli Begins: In the last few hours, news outlets and Twitter have been abuzz with reports of fighting around Tripoli. The Libyan rebel council is claiming that “zero hour” has started and a major offensive to take the city is beginning. [more inside]
Annia Ciezadlo, author of Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War [reviews, excerpt] discusses Iraqi intellectualism, war and food, ancient Iraqi cooking, the Middle East's dependence on imported wheat, and the link between bread and civilian uprisings. [more inside]
Obama calls on Assad to step down. The US and EU announce sanctions on Assad's regime. The New York Times looks at the resistence in Homs. Al Jazeera has an ongoing Syrian Live blog. Enduring America continues to cover the Arab Spring.
Telex is an interesting proxy-less anti-censorship system designed to combat state-level censorship (pdf). But would it cost too much? Should we really trust "good" state-level actors with our anti-censorship efforts? And might it divert resources from established anonymity projects, like Tor, I2I, Freenet, etc.
From Vice Magazine (NSFW photos in sidebar): The New Libyans: Knee-deep in the Shit with Benghazi's New Rebels, by Trevor Snapp. (warning: gory photo) More photos of the New Libyans from Trevor Snapp. Also from Vice, on Libya: Big Muammar's House. Also on Vice, on Libya: Notes from a Libyan Lurker, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11.
"I almost can't believe I'm witnessing this. We're inside the fortress of terror, our very own Mordor..." [more inside]
'The fall of Mr. Ben Ali marks the first time that widespread street demonstrations have overthrown an Arab leader.' Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the president of Tunisia for 23 years, has fled the country amid protests that have been ongoing for weeks. [more inside]