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Saturday, 7 February 2015

Yes, ISIS Burned A Man Alive: White Americans Did The Same Thing To Black People By The Thousands |

Yes, ISIS Burned A Man Alive: White Americans Did The Same Thing To Black People By The Thousands |

Yes, ISIS Burned A Man Alive: White Americans Did The Same Thing To Black People By The Thousands

By Chauncey DeVega

outrage at the horrendous slaughter of a Jordanian pilot by ISIS is
understandable. But the US is not in a strong position to condemn,
writes Chauncey DeVega. READER WARNING: This story contains images of an
extremely graphic nature.

ISIS burned Muadh al Kasasbeh, a captured Jordian fighter pilot, to death.
They doused him with an accelerant. His captors set him on fire. Muadh
al Kasasbeh desperately tried to put out the flames. ISIS recorded Muadh
al Kasasbeh's immolation, produced a video designed to intimidate their
enemies, and then circulated it online.

ISIS's burning alive of Muadh al Kasasbeh has been denounced as an
act of savagery, barbarism, and wanton cruelty--one from the "dark ages"
and not of the modern world.

American Exceptionalism blinds those who share its gaze to uncomfortable facts and truths about their own country.

For almost a century, the United States practiced a unique cultural
ritual that was as least as gruesome as the "Medieval" punishments meted
out by ISIS against its foes.

What is now known as "spectacular lynching" involved the ceremonial
torture, murder--and yes, burning alive--of black Americans by whites.
Like ISIS's use of digital media to circulate images of the torturous
death of Muadh al Kasasbeh by fire, the spectacular lynchings of the
black body were shared via postcards and other media.

In fact, the burned to death images of the black body were one of the
most popular types of mass culture in 19th and 20th century America.

This account of the horrific murder of Sam Hose by White Americans is
an even more grotesque and exaggerated version of the cruelty visited
upon Muadh al Kasasbeh by ISIS:

The white-owned newspapers of the South had long gorged themselves
with exaggerated or fabricated accounts of such violence. In the papers'
version, the fight between Sam Hose and his boss became transformed
into the most enraging crime of all: the rape of the white man's wife.
White Georgians tracked Hose down and prepared for his lynching. Two
thousand people gathered for the killing, some taking a special
excursion train from Atlanta for the purpose. The leaders of the
lynching stripped Hose, chained him to a tree, stacked wood around him,
and soaked everything in kerosene. The mob cut off Hose's ears, fingers
and genitals; they peeled the skin from his face. They watched, a
newspaper reported, ''with unfeigning satisfaction'' as the man's veins
ruptured from the heat and his blood hissed in the flames. ''Oh, my God!
Oh, Jesus,'' were the only words Hose could manage. When he finally
died, the crowd cut his heart and liver from his body, sharing the
pieces among themselves, selling fragments of bone and tissue to those
unable to attend. No one wore a disguise, no one was punished.

The murder of Jessie Washington is a genius work in white on black violence, far worse than the wickedness of ISIS's acts against Muadh al Kasasbeh:

“Great masses of humanity flew as swiftly as possible through the
streets of the city in order to be present at the bridge when the
hanging took place, but when it was learned that the Negro was being
taken to the City Hall law, crowds of men, women and children turned and
hastened to the lawn.”

“On the way to the scene of the burning people on every hand took a
hand in showing their feelings in the matter by striking the Negro with
anything obtainable, some struck him with shovels, bricks, clubs, and
others stabbed him and cut him until when he was strung up his body was a
solid color of red, the blood of the many wounds inflicted covered him
from head to foot.” 

“Dry goods boxes and all kinds of inflammable material were
gathered, and it required but an instant to convert this into seething
flames. When the Negro was first hoisted into the air his tongue
protruded from his mouth and his face was besmeared with blood.”

“Life was not extinct within the Negro’s body, although nearly so,
when another chain was placed around his neck and thrown over the limb
of a tree on the lawn, everybody trying to get to the Negro and have
some part in his death. The infuriated mob then leaned the Negro, who
was half alive and half dead, against the tree, he having just strength
enough within his limbs to support him.

“As rapidly as possible the Negro was then jerked into the air at
which a shout from thousands of throats went up on the morning air and
dry goods boxes, excelsior, wood and every other article that would burn
was then in evidence, appearing as if by magic. A huge dry goods box
was then produced and filled to the top with all of the material that
had been secured. 

“The Negro’s body was swaying in the air, and all of the time a
noise as of thousands was heard and the Negro’s body was lowered into
the box.” “No sooner had his body touched the box than people pressed
forward, each eager to be the first to light the fire, matches were
touched to the inflammable material and as smoke rapidly rose in the
air, such a demonstration as of people gone mad was never heard before.
Everybody pressed closer to get souvenirs of the affair. When they had
finished with the Negro his body was mutilated.” 

“Fingers, ears, pieces of clothing, toes and other parts of the
Negro’s body were cut off by members of the mob that had crowded to the
scene as if by magic when the word that the Negro had been taken in
charge by the mob was heralded over the city. As the smoke rose to the
heavens, the mass of people, numbering in the neighborhood of 10,000
crowding the City Hall law and overflowing the square, hanging from the
windows of buildings, viewing the scene from the tops of buildings and
trees, set up a shout that was heard blocks away.”

Many thousands of black Americans were killed by white lynchers in the United States.

The spectacular lynching was a ceremony
(it was not something random or spontaneous; the acts of a few out for
black blood possessed insane white people), with distinct practices,
that symbolically purged the black body from the white polity in an era
of formal white supremacy:

The actual process of lynching was morbid and incredibly violent.
Lynching does not necessarily mean hanging. It often included
humiliation, torture, burning, dismemberment and castration. Victims
were beaten and whipped, many times in front of large crowds that
sometimes numbered in the thousands. Coal tar was frequently used to
douse the unfortunate victim prior to setting him afire.

Onlookers sometimes fired rifles and handguns hundreds of times into
the corpse while people cheered and children played during the
festivities. Pieces of the corpse were taken by onlookers as souvenirs
of the event [5]. Such was the case when James Irwin was lynched on
January 31, 1930. Irwin was accused of the murder of a white girl in the
town of Ocilla, Georgia. Taken into custody by a rampaging mob, his
fingers and toes were cut off, his teeth pulled out by pliers and
finally he was castrated. It still wasn't enough. Irwin was then burned
alive in front of hundreds of onlookers (Brundage, p. 42).

No-one was ever punished for this barbaric killing. Black victims
were hacked to death, dragged behind cars [6], burned, beaten, whipped,
sometimes shot thousands of times, mutilated; the savagery was
astonishing. How could ordinary people participate in such brutality?

The rendering of spectacular violence against non-whites paid a
psychological wage to white people that helped to create a type of
social cement for White America, one that covered up its own intra-group
tensions of class, religion, and gender. This racial logic continues in
the present with a racially discriminatory criminal justice system, the
murder by police of black and brown people, and how white Americans support such unfair treatment.

American politicians and other opinion leaders have denounced ISIS and the death by fire meted out to Muadh al Kasasbeh.

Would they apply the same standards to white Americans who committed
mass violence against African-Americans through lynchings, racial
pogroms, and other like deeds?

Would white folks, on both sides of the ideological divide, condemn their ancestors who participated in such types of violence?

Would they support reparations as a material gesture of apology for such crimes?

Will White America ever be willing to fully own its historic
ISIS-like behavior against African-Americans and other people of color,
and how such violence created the present, where neighborhoods are
hyper-segregated, there exists a huge wage and income gap along the
color line, and by almost every measure, black and brown Americans have
significantly diminished life chances relative to white people?

Violence is a human trait. ISIS's burning alive of Muadh al Kasasbeh is an act of barbarism.

However, we cannot overlook how the United States has conducted
master classes in violence and barbarism both before, during, and since
its founding...and yes, much of this violence was against people of
color whose labor, lives, land, and freedom were stolen to create
American empire.

* Chauncey DeVega is the editor and founder of We Are
Respectable Negroes, as well as the host of the podcast known as ‘The
Chauncey DeVega Show’. His writing has been featured by Salon, Alternet,
The New York Daily News, and the Daily Kos. This article first appeared
on his personal site. You can view it here.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Double Standards: The West and Terrorism - The AIM Network

Double Standards: The West and Terrorism - The AIM Network

Double Standards: The West and Terrorism

The West, whilst insisting
that others seek peaceful solutions, has resorted to the sword on many
occasions, writes Dr Strobe Driver.

The horrors recently delivered upon innocent
civilians and police officers in France, and being mindful of the
unspeakable multiple-traumas that would have been cast upon those
involved in Australia’s Lindt Café siege, are painful in the
extreme, and those concerned should be offered unconditional sympathy.
With the greatest of respect, especially to those who have lost a loved
one, there is s deeper malaise underpinning why these actions have taken
place. In order to understand why these individuals’ were driven to
this point must be cautiously brought to the fore. At its core is the
way in which the West has manipulated—to its own advantage—the world’s
body-politic; and the way in which this process has stirred the hatred
of many.

The process of the untrammelled expansion of the ‘West’[1]
or what is the Western ‘style’ of government and governance has been
present in the body-politic of the world for several centuries. The
European Westphalian[2]
‘system,’ is what underpins the way in which the world ‘is’ and
consists of demarcated borders, sovereign/national government,
recognized boundaries (sea, air and land), effective governance, and the
rule of sovereign law, as well as international law. This ‘system,’ has
been in place since 1648, however, there was an attempt to put in more
firmly into place after World War One—through the League of
Nations—however, this failed and it was not until after World War Two
(WWII) that it was formally reinforced through an institute: the United
Nations (UN). In coming to terms with UN ‘requirements’ and thus the
full recognition of the ‘system’ it is necessary to differentiate
between ‘government’ and ‘governance.’ Government is who ‘runs a
country’ and there are many different ‘types’ and forms of a
‘government’: dictatorship, democracy, autocracy, social-democracy,
benevolent dictatorship, theocracy and numerous others. To be sure,
often a particular government will consist of a ‘blend’ of practices
although it will form under the mantle of one type of government. Others
will be static in their representation of a ‘style’ of government such
as Cuba and Britain, both incredibly different though rigid in their
representation. Whilst there were, and are, many differences in the way
in which countries are governed all countries nevertheless, conform to
the system of governance which Europa—or what we now call Europe/Western
Europe—devised, and then disseminated around the world. The ‘manner of
governing’[3] is premised on the aforementioned sovereign-system of values, which all participants recognize as legitimate/legal.

There are, of course, disputes with regard to ‘who owns what’ and
there always has been and hence in modern day times these issues are
meant to be debated in the UN. This is in direct contrast to the pre-Westphalian system of immediate recourse-to-arms when a matter was in dispute. The savagery of which, was summed by Grotius circa early-1600s as:

I saw prevailing throughout the Christian world … a
license in making war which even barbarous nations would have been
ashamed; recourse was had to arms for slight reasons, or for no reason,
and when arms were once taken up, all reverence for divine and human law
was thrown away; just as if men were thenceforth authorized to commit
all crimes without restraint.[4]

There remains to this day, several current sovereignty/ownership
disputes and they are China-India, (Arunachal Pradesh);
Israel-Palestine, (Gaza Strip); China-Japan, Senkaku Islands/Diaoyutai
Islands; and the Argentine-Britain, Falklands Islands/Islas Malvinas.
All of the these are expected to be solved through the various
mechanisms of the UN, and the mantra of the UN has always been—through
their various charters—to insist that peaceful settlement is the best

Underpinning the UN is also an insistence that nations, regardless of
their government to (eventually) adopt ‘democracy’ as through this
mechanism the UN believes ‘best practice’ governance—or put more
succinctly the Western European ‘model’ of governing—should be adopted,
as it offers better populace representation and is the consummate
expression of fairness. All else is secondary to this model. Powerful
non-democratic nation-states (such as China and Russia) do exercise
considerable control within the UN—both are have permanent seats on the
UN Security Council and are part of the Permanent Five (P5) members on
the UN Security Council (UNSC)—and they respect the rules of polity as
per the Westphalian system. Theoretically all nations-states, and in particular democratically governed nation-states respect the Wesphalian mantra that a sovereign ruler/government has the ‘supreme authority to act in a particular sphere unhampered by others …’[5] or in simpler terms, a ruler/government is allowed to conduct their governing/governance on their own terms without the interference of others.

Therefore, one can argue, if democracies are the best representatives
of what good government and governance represents, then it is only fair
that their record be examined in what they have done in order to bring
about peace; and what they have accomplished in the post-WWII world with
regard to the non-interference of others. This should be done to
establish whether what powerful democracies have insisted upon through
the mechanisms of the UN—peaceful dialogue, negotiation and other
principles of justice—has been actually carried out by those that have
the high moral ground with regard to governing; and in keeping to their Westphalian ‘ideals.’

A perfunctory observation of the post-WWII era is an excellent
starting point because the UN has been firmly established and once
again, powerful democracies should if they are true to their ideals not
be inciting hatred through what Grotius called ‘a license to making
war’—the use of direct force—especially, when its expectations of others
has not been met.

American troops in Vietnam (image from
American troops in Vietnam (image from

The West however, whilst insisting that others seek peaceful
solutions, has resorted to the sword on many occasions. At times this
has consisted of intra-state interventions (warring with another Western
nation-state), though on most occasions it has been Western
interventions colliding with non-Western nation-states and/or peoples in
one form or another. The interest here however, is the degree that the
West, or ‘Western-orientated’ nation-states have delivered on their
adversary, whether through direct or indirect violence. Examples of the
West going to war in one form or another consist of Great Britain and
its dealings with Northern Ireland (The Troubles, 1968-1998)[6]; the British in Malaya (the ‘Malayan Emergency,’ or the ‘War of the Running Dogs,’ (1948-1960)[7];
the incursion and then invasion of northern Vietnam by the French (the
First Indo-China War, 1946-1954); the French occupation of Algeria in
what Evans has called France’s ‘undeclared war’[8];
the Second Indo-China War (the Vietnam War 1962-1975) in order for the
US to stem the tide of Communism that would take place through a ‘domino
principle,’ which would see all of Southeast Asia usurped by Communism[9];
South Africa and the Apartheid regime which included the gaoling of the
(then) terrorist Nelson Mandela; the ‘extraordinary rendition’[10]
of citizens by the US to non-Western nation-states in their ‘War on
Terror’ (2003 – ); to name only a few examples of violence which the
West has approved. Less overt, however just as troublesome is the
selective approval by the West of, arming and/or supporting
nation-states by the West that have brutal and repressive governments
such as Saudi Arabia; and the tacit support by the West of other
less-violent though highly-suspect governments in their deliverance of
democracy to all of their citizens, such as Singapore. Whilst the
aforementioned represent degrees of direct force and/or misguided
political will on the part of the West and bearing in mind Western
nation-states are the upholders of problem solving via the UN, the sheer
ineptness on the part of Western nations in bringing about an end to
the internal conflict in Syria, and a mutually beneficial conclusion to
the Israel-Palestine crisis[11]
cannot be ignored as a both, it is fair to argue, contribute to the
utter despair and rage of numerous non-Western nation-states and incite
hatred toward the West; and manifest in their peoples a divide between
how much the West really cares for non-Western populaces.

All of the above-mentioned constitute abject and in some cases
deliberate failings on the part of powerful Western nation-states in
dealing with issues that are their concern—as per the tenets of
Westphalia. Moreover, the West specifically addresses the notions of
diplomacy through the various mechanisms of the UN, yet, and as is able
to be observed resorts to war, or a degree of violence at the earliest
opportunity. The most relevant point here is, the West (and
Western-orientated countries) pontificate one point of view, resort to
violence and have the impudence, it would seem to believe their
duplicity will go unnoticed; and moreover, will not incite hatred and/or
revenge toward the West. This is folly; and can only lead to eventual
despair for the West.

The moral argument of whether attacks should take place against
civilian targets is an arid argument as the fact remains this is
happening; and is evidence of the above duplicity in action. An
alternative perspective remains to suggest that there is always another
aspect to a given issue, for instance the argument that an
agitator/event provoked the West into action—the most obvious in recent
times being the World Trade Center disaster: A salutatory point needs
mentioning here: it is the UN—usually the P5—that is charged with
whether an action is warranted and whether it should be pre-emptive or
post-event. It is not up to a single country to decide. The tenets of the UN remain in place: military force must not be used unless it has the official/legal backing of the UNSC.[12]

The West has failed in following its own rules; in its duty-of-care
to good governance and has treated other nation-states, in particular
non-Western countries, with contempt and derision. As the actions of the
West have developed and progressed in the post-WWII world the
deliberateness of these actions—in some cases toward other Western
nation-states in the case of Ireland—have caused groups to come-of-age;
be willing to sacrifice their lives; and execute others in the cause
against the direct repression that the West has delivered. While the
actions of non-state actors are reprehensible, especially when civilians
and police officers are targeted, it is far too simplistic to state
that the cause of no-state actors—terrorists, guerrillas and
insurgents—have not been encouraged to action due to the abject contempt
with which the West has shown toward others. Additionally, the West has
fundamentally failed to stem reactionary forces through both its
implementation of selective policies toward Western-friendly nations;
and used direct force when other nations have sought to deviate from the
course ‘set’ by the West.

The above argument and the West’s attitude toward others, and indeed
the ‘license to war,’ that has prevailed is able to be given a broader
perspective with a cursory observation of one of the driver’s the West
has used in its delivery of its body-politic. This has been through the
attitude of the most powerful post-WWII actor: the US. According to
Little US, and one could argue by association Western policymakers, have

Influenced by potent racial and cultural stereotypes,
some imported and some homegrown, that [have] depicted the Muslim world
as decadent and inferior, U.S. policymaker’s from Harry Truman through
to George Bush [have] tended to dismiss Arab aspirations for
self-determination as politically primitive, economically suspect, and
ideologically absurd.[13]

Current interventions (Australia’s into Iraq included) suggests this
attitude remains entrenched in the psyche of the West and
Western-orientated governments, and to be sure unless these
nation-states embark upon a change in their body-politic the horrifying
repercussions of contemporary times will continue; especially against
‘soft targets’ as per the recent sieges in urban areas.

A pertinent reminder of the rage felt toward the West is able to be
traced through the actions of Britain, France and the US and numerous
other Western nations, although when examining interventions the US
remains the most active, and has a long history of intervening in the
affairs of others. From the Caribbean, through to the Middle East, the
Central and South Americas, Africa and numerous other locales—to be
fair, the UN has sponsored several actions—and it is imperative to note
that between 1898 and 1996 there were 93 interventions on the part of
the US. This is what Peceney has called ‘democracy at the point of
For many reasons beyond the deaths of innocent civilians, a rethink of
the West’s ‘license to war’ is sorely needed. At the very least Western
and Western-orientated countries should stop offering platitudes
regarding Western and Western-orientated nation-states being the
‘upholders of the virtue of good government/governance,’ when it is
obviously a disingenuous and deeply-flawed position to now assume.  More
to the point, non-Western nation-states perspicaciously observe the
dichotomy of argument, and parallel actions.


Western civilisation and what it represents is a vast and complex
subject and fraught with interpretation. A succinct reference to this is
only needed here in order to instil an understanding of how it became
so expansive in its mechanisms that allowed this to prosper. Western
civilisation has as one of its major tenets industrialization and
science as part of its formulaic, and this in and of itself required
organization and the forming of standing forces.   Although Stearns uses
the Industrial Revolution to make a point about the West it can be
applied to when the Treaty of Westphalia and the sovereign state came
into being. Stearns avers industrialization, ‘extended a Western
commitment to using technology as a measure of social progress. The
impulse to deplore other societies as backward because they lagged
behind Western industrialization represented a further step is [sic]
what was already a well-established impulse…[and moreover being Western]
now depended on claiming unchallenged world supremacy…’ See: Peter
Stearns. Western Civilization in World History. New York: Routledge, 2003, 105-108.

The Treaty of Westphalia is also referred to as the Peace Treaty of
Westphalia, the Settlement of Westphalia, the Peace Settlement of
Westphalia, and the Peace Treaties of Westphalia. The Treaty of
Westphalia was not borne of a single document as each, to some extent
consisted of, and constituted, a ‘treaty’ of sorts. The most pertinent
ones were of Franco-German intercession: the Treaty of Münster, and the
Treaty of Osnabrück respectively. See: Leo Gross. ‘The Peace Treaty of
Westphalia.’ The American Journal of International Law, 42, 1, January, 1948, 20-41.

[3] < > January, 2014.

[4] Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), was a Dutch philosopher and author of De Jure Belli Ac Pacis (The Rights of War and Peace), [and] wrote down the conditions for a just war that are accepted today.’ See: British Broadcasting Corporation. <> July, 2007.

[5] Derek Verall. ‘The Westphalian system and its underlying normative order.’ World Order. Managing International Conflict. Editors of the School of International and Political Studies, Geelong: Deakin University Press, 1996, 3.

[6] See: British Broadcasting Corporation <;

[7] See: Noel Barber.   War of the Running Dogs, 1948-1960. Cassell Military Books, 2007.

[8] See: Martin Evans. Algeria: France’s Undeclared War. Oxford University Press, 2012.

President Kennedy in a UN speech in 1961, stipulated if Laos, Cambodia,
and Vietnam fell to the communists, this would result in the gates of
defeat for liberal-democracy being ‘open wide.’ See: John Kennedy.
‘Address in New York City before the General Assembly of the United
Nations.’ September 25, 1961. United States Government Public Papers. <http//> Accessed 23 April, 2008.

[10] See: Jane Meyer; ‘Outsourcing Torture.’ The New Yorker. February, 2005. <;

[11] See: Tanya Reinhart. Israel/Palestine. How to End the War of 1948. Seven Stories Press, 2002.

[12] See: Chapter VII. Article 39 – 43. ‘Action with Respect to Threats to Peace, Breaches of the Peace and Acts of Aggression.’ Charter of the United Nations.

[13] Douglas Little. American Orientalism. The United States and the Middle East since 1945. Chapell Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008, 11.

[14] Mark Peceney. Democracy at the Point of Bayonets. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania University Press, 1999, 16.

This article was first published on Geo-Strategic Orbit.

Dr Strobe Driver completed his doctoral
thesis in war studies in 2011 and writes on International Relations;
and Asia-Pacific security. He is also a sessional lecture and tutor at
Federation University in the social sciences, history and international
relations. The views expressed in this article are through his own

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Cartoon from Dr Mike Kelly;

Friday, 16 January 2015

It’s Not Funny if it has no Insightful Truth (Free Speech, I Mean) - The AIM Network

It’s Not Funny if it has no Insightful Truth (Free Speech, I Mean) - The AIM Network

It’s Not Funny if it has no Insightful Truth (Free Speech, I Mean)

I have written about free speech, hate, racial discrimination and
the state of our democracy on many occasions and this question will not
leave me:

Why is it, in ‘the name of free speech’, that we need to enshrine, the right to abuse each other, in law?

You would think that an enlightened progressive free thinking society would want to eliminate it not legislate it.

It is not a question that requires great philosophical, ideological
or even theological debate. It is a black and white question.

Supposedly we live in an age of enlightenment, a period where the
world has made enormous technological advances, but at the same time our
intellects have not advanced with the capacity to understand simple

Indeed, if we were truly enlightened we would treat our fellow human
beings, with respect love and faithfulness. We would do unto them as we
would expect them to do unto us and we would strive to do no harm. We
would love life and live it with a sense of joy and wonderment.

We would form our own independent opinions on the basis of our own
reason and experience; and not allow ourselves to be led blindly by
others. And we would Test all things; always checking our ideas against
our facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it did not
conform to them. We would readily admit it when we are wrong in the
knowledge that humility is the basis of intellectual advancement and
that it is truth that enables human progress.

And of course we would enjoy our own sex life (so long as it damages
nobody) and leaves others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their
inclinations, which are none or your business.

We would uphold the principle that no one individual or group has an
ownership of righteousness. We would seek not to judge but to
understand. We would seek dialogue ahead of confrontation.

We would place internationalism before nationalism acknowledging that
the planet earth does not have infinite resources and needs care and
attention if we are to survive on it. In doing so we would value the
future on a timescale longer than our own.

We would recognise that the individual has rights but no man is an
island and can only exist, and have his rights fulfilled, only by the
determination of a collective.

We would insist on equality of opportunity in education acknowledging
that it is knowledge that gives an understanding. We would seek not to
indoctrinate our children in any way but instead teach them how to think
for themselves, evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with us. We
would, in our schools open their minds to an understanding of ethics
instead of proselytizing religion.

We would never seek to cut ourselves off from dissent, and always respect the right of others to disagree with us.

Importantly we not overlook evil or shrink from administering
justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and
honestly regretted.

Lastly we would question everything. What we see, what we feel, what
we hear, what we read and what we are told until we understand the truth
of it because thoughtlessness is the residue of things not understood
and can never be a replacement for fact.

If these things truly are the embodiment of enlightenment. How do we
stack up? It is fair to say that some societies and individuals could
lay claim to attaining a measure of it. For example in some countries
gender equality is more readily accepted and there has been advances in
education. Overall though I think the reader would conclude that in most
instances our enlightenment has not progressed much.

This is no more empathised than in our understanding of what free
speech is. Are we honestly enlightened if we think we need to enshrine
in legislation a right to express hatred? There is something
fundamentally and humanely wrong with the proposition.

There is an intolerable indecency that suggests that we have made no
advancement in our discernment of free speech. If free speeches only
purpose is to denigrate, insult and humiliate then we need to  rethink 
its purpose. There are those who say it identifies those perpetrating
wrong doing but if it creates more evil than good it’s a strange freedom
for a so-called enlightened society to bequeath its citizens.

To quote Jonathan Holmes:

Let’s be clear: Charlie Hebdo set out, every week, with
the greatest deliberation, to offend and insult all kinds of people, and
especially in recent years the followers of Islam, whether
fundamentalist or not.

Look at some of the magazine’s recent covers: An Egyptian Muslim
Brotherhood protester in a hail of gunfire crying “The Koran is shit –
it doesn’t stop bullets”; a full-on homosexual kiss between a Charlie
cartoonist and a Muslim sheik with the ironic headline “Love is stronger
than hate”; a naked woman with a niqab thrust up her backside.
The Charlie Hebdo massacre as vile and as unjust as it was gave no
excuse for repressive world leaders to lecture anyone on freedom of
expression. The sheer hypocrisy of it was breathtaking. Some of the
world leaders locked arm in arm in the Paris March were from countries
with the world’s worst suppression of press freedom. To see the Foreign
Minister of Egypt marching arm in arm with world leaders was two
faced-ness in the extreme given that Peter Creste has now been in jail
for more than a year.

It’s all in the name of satirical free speech but it’s not funny if has no insightful truth.

Is this really what an enlightened society means by free speech? Does
it demonstrate our cognitive advancement? Is this what well-educated
men and women want as free speech or should we see free speech as being
nothing more or nothing less than the right to tell the truth in
whatever medium we so choose.

One has to wonder why the so-called defenders of free speech feel
they are inhibited by what they have now. I don’t. I have never felt
constrained in my thoughts or my ability to express them. I’m doing it
now. But then I don’t feel a need to go beyond my own moral values of
what is decent to illuminate my thoughts.

Why is it then that the likes of Abbott, Bolt, Jones, Brandis,
Bernardi and others need to go beyond common decency, and defend others
who cannot express themselves without degenerating into hate speech? The
answer has nothing to do with an honourably noble sort of democratic
free speech.

Why does this demand for open slather free speech always come from
the right of politics and society? They seem to have an insensitivity to
common decency that goes beyond any thoughtful examination.

They simply want the right to inflict hate, defame with impunity,
insult, and promote bigotry if it suits their purpose. And behind that
purpose can be found two words. Power and control.

The way we presently view free speech simply perpetuates the
right to express all those things that make us lessor than what we
should be.

Debate, in whatever form, should not include the right to vilify. It
is not of necessity about winning or taking down ones opponent. It is
about an exchange of facts ideas and principles. Or in its purest form
it is simply about the art of persuasion”

The argument that bigots are entitled to be bigots or that
unencumbered free speech exposes people for what they are, doesn’t wear
with me. It simply says that society has not advanced. That our cultural
ethical intellect has not progressed at the same rate as our
technological understanding.

The fact that so many people agree with the free speech argument
highlights the tolerance we have for the unacceptable right to hate each
other, which to me is the sauce of everything that is wrong with human

And we want to make it acceptable by legislating to condone it.

Are we really saying that in a supposed enlightened society that
should value, love, decorum, moderation, truth, fact, balance, reason,
tolerance, civility and respect for the others point of view that we
need to enshrine in law a person’s right to be the opposite of all these

If that is the case then we are not educating. We are not creating a better social order and we are not enlightened at all.

The fact is that free speech in any democratic system should be so
valued, so profoundly salient, that any decent enlightened government
should legislate to see that it is not abused. That it carries with it
sacrosanct principles of decency that are beyond law and ingrained in
the conscious of a collective common good.

After all the dignity of the individual (or individuals) within the
collective is more important than some fools right to use freedom of
speech to vilify another.

It says something about the moral sickness in our society
when the right to abuse each other, in the name of free speech, needs to
be enshrined in law.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Killing the messenger: Je Suis The Word

Killing the messenger: Je Suis The Word

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(Image via Committee to Protect Journalists /

The Charlie Hebdo massacre was an utter atrocity, yet
every year scores of journalists are imprisoned, tortured and murdered —
most receiving little or no attention at all from the
world. Contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence provides a touching tribute to those brave forgotten purveyors of 'The Word'.

KILLING THE MESSENGER has long been the coward's solution to annihilate truth and the unwelcome dissenting voice.

To that extent, insofar as we communicate in various ways with one
another, within our families, amongst friends, peer groups, communities
and beyond, we are all messengers of some kind; all citizen journalists,
daily reporting on the vagaries and predilictions of the human

Our collective history was not spawned in the hallowed halls of academe under the patronage of the likes of the Medici or under latter-day subjugation to sponsorships from multi-nationals.

The unbroken umbilical chord of communication that continues to
nourish the human family is forever attached throughout the ages to
those gamechanger creators of cave drawings, instagrams from our
ancestors transmitting information and depictions whose meaning and
interpretations still cause controversy, debate, argument and wonderment.

Ancient Indigenous rock art from the Kimberleys

These pictographs and petroglyphs
are part of the Universal Messenger's DNA, including those eloquent and
elegant stick figures conveying sometimes complicated tracts of
activities, predicaments and often intelligence on local species of
floral and fauna.

Today, we still use their empiracal knowledge and messaging technique
in generic symbol language, as any pedestrian traffic light will

Stop and go men from East Germany (top) and West Germany (bottom)

What else is a cunieform, but the forerunner of the ubiquitous tablet ?

Did not a god deliver Ten Commandments to one of the prophets on the
equivalent of the iMoses pad? Can not the same be said for other
religious scriptures?

The awful massacre of
the Charlie Hebdo staff in France cruelly warns us of the sometimes
deadly consequences of freedom of speech (including to non-journalists,
as in this tragic instance) and causes us to reflect on what that
complex phrase means to different people.

They are not the only ones to be brutally assassinated in the line of
duty these past 12 months and it will not escape media and social
analysts that, against the backdrop of international outrage and
outpouring, from political heavyweights as well,
that the victims were part of the European white intelligentia,
establishment and media elite — just some of the reasons for which they
were killed.

But every year, there are scores of murders, imprisonment and torture
of journalists, and among them I include musicians, authors,
cartoonists and documentary makers. Many of them are not white and
unknown to the world at large.

They are not celebrities and the only ' A' list they are on is the one for Assassination.

Who will speak up for them? Who will march for them? Who will place flowers upon the ground where they were slain?

(Cartoon by Jeff Hook, 1976)

At this moment, I cannot place one life above another. For sanity's
sake, in a sometimes madding world and because of my personal belief, I
try hard to adhere to the notion and philosphy that we are all the first
amongst equals, unless we forefeit that right. 

I seek justice and not revenge for my brother and sister colleagues. And at home, there is still much work to be done.

In October last year, the Australian Federal Police, indecently doing
the bidding of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's Coalition Government to
appease the Indonesian Government, announced the cessation of their war crimes investigation into the 1975 murders of a team of Australian newsmen in Balibo, East Timor.

The Balibo Five and Roger East (Image via

That same year, crusading and controversial journalist Juanita Neilsen, editor of the Now newspaper, vanished and, to this day, no clue as to her whereabouts or her corpse has been found.

The truth is, the big boys at the top end of town got rid of her. And who cares ?

Neilsen, who wore a spectacular beehive hairstyle, had been
vigorously and fearlessly campaigning against the demolition and
redevelopment of historic terrace houses by a real-estate company called
Victoria Point Pty Ltd, in Victoria Street, Kings Cross, where she

Her case is worthy of an ICAC investigation. Like the execution of the Balibo Five and journalist Roger East, who was also murdered in East Timor, Neilsen's case should be re-opened.

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, Australia's near-forgotten son, who is under protective self-incarceration
in London's Ecuadorian Embassy has found himself under seige from
foreign politicians calling for his execution without censure from
Australia's political leaders who even approved a preposterous and
corruptly assigned Interpol Red Notice.

Successive Australian governments have abandoned Assange, perhaps the foremost messenger of our generation.

Some while back, I started to write a poem to try and articulate my feelings about "The Word" and its messengers.

I have often expressed that journalism is my religion, because it is
how I feel about what I hope is a vocation as well as a craft — as poncy
and dopey that might sound to others.

Here is an excerpt from that work in progress: Je Suis The Word.

There is no god but The Word

there is no god but The Word
and we are its messengers,
we are legion.
you cannot kill the word.
you cannot drive a stake through its heart for it has no vital organs to impale.
its invisible skin is a viscus unto itself.
It has no veins, no vessels, neither blood nor artery,
you cannot explode it with a grenade,
you cannot raw its nerve, you cannot cause it injury,
nor can the unforgiving rounds of a Kalashnikov render it silent.
neither can a cluster-mine shatter its whole,
nor despair melt its too insolid flesh.
no blade can slash it, no oath can pledge it,
no Guantanamo rendition it,
no Peace can war it,
no coin can worth it,
no freedom can imprison it,
no chain can shackle it,
no hate can curdle it, no love can cloy it,
no flame can scorch it,
no vice can grip it, no hammer on anvil reshape it.
Neither sun nor rain can weather it,
no shadow can shade it,
no good can evil it,
no twist can turn it,
no soil can dirt it,
no shine can dull it,
no pick can axe it, no weapon can wound it
no kiss can heal it, no kiss can betray it,
no love can hate it,
no sex can mate it,
no lie can truth it,
no life can death it,
no law can rule it,
no hush can quiet it,
no Rutherford can split it, no alpha can beta it,
no past can present it, no future foretell it,
no well can drown it, no writer claim it,
no deed can own it,
no weight can hold it down,
no nitrate can explode it,
no suicidist vest it,
no wrong can write it
no right can wrong it
no gas can exterminate it
no volt can execute it, no lethal injection administer it,
no sword can decapitate it, no prison restrain it,
no rapist can violate it,
no flag can claim it
no king can beggar it,
no blasphemer can sully it,
no perfume can unsweeten it,
no steal can thief it,
no sniper can sight it,
no sin can tempt it, no whisper coax it,
no tongue can lick it,
no whip can tame it, no chain can shackle it,
no caress can comfort it, no lullaby sleep it,
no missile can strike it,
no earth can earth it, no dust can dust it, no ashes can ash it,
no balm can soothe it,
no beast can tame it,
no hurt can harm it,
no sea can calm it,
no siren's song can lure it,
no matilda can waltz it,
no steed can outrun it,
no hand can sleight it,
no torpedo can sink it,
no Hades can Hell it,
no Heaven can gate it,
no mass can destruct it,
no tide can wash it, no rain can fall it,
no book can holy it,
no mirror reflect it,
no prison contain it, no chain restrain it,
no prophet can doom it, no deity can absolve it,
no pimp can whore it, no shore can sand it,
no law can ban it, no axis tilt it, no Horatio earth it,
no moon can shine it, no candle light it,
no tear can stain it,
no soul can sell it,
no wisdom can fool it, no savant can idiot it,
no wine can age it, no thirst can quench it
no lie can truth it, no seek can hide it,
no bow can arrow it, no strength can weaken it
no lightning can strike it, no feather can judge it,
no scale can weigh it,
no balm can soothe it, no death can sting it,
no missile can stalk it,
once drawn, onve seen, once spoke, once sung, once heard,
once writ, once read, omce made flesh, its message is borne eternal,
there is no god but The Word
and we are its guardians.
we are the keepers of the flame,
we are the messengers.
we are legion.