summer reading #3: not for faint-hearted

January 11, 2008



Is there something in the wind that might make 2008 an interesting year for progessive/left politics?
I don’t put much faith in the US election system, but the “change” mantra is catching on, there’s something to it.
Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton are fighting it out for the Democrat nomination, not that either of them will “change” anything fundamental about American capitalism, but the very core of politics seems to be shifting.
The neocon ascendency may be over.

I’ve just finished Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism and Joe Bageant’s eriely amusing Deer Hunting with Jesus. I recommend both of these books to anyone who wants to understand American politics today.

Bageant’s book is an insider’s view of life in working class America today, in particular in the south. It’s not a pretty picture; but as Orwell said, “if there’s any hope at all, it lies with the proles”.
Bageant is a self-taught journalist, editor and blogger who writes at “The Smirking Chimp“,though when I checked on 11 Jan 08, he hadn’t posted anything since July 2007. [Ah good, I'm not the only blogger-slacker].
Bageant grew up in the south and he understands the people of his community; he knows why they’re obese and sick and smoke and die young and bitch about blacks etc. He pulls no punches, but he also makes the point that without these people, there will be no new American revolution. He’s right about that.

On the other hand Shock Doctrine is, in one sense a more academic book. Klein thanks a small army of researchers for helping with the detail in this massive and well-written book.

Klein’s thesis is simple, yet effective. global capitalism has, for the past 30 years, thrived on crisis. In fact, one of the key drivers of profit and sustaining the system is the use of shock tactics against entire nations and peoples.
It begins with psychological torture and physical torture of the body in the 1940s, and quickly moves on to show how Milton Friedman took these tactics into mainstream economics thanks to the “Chicago Boys”.
Latin America was their first laboratory — think Pinochet and the other dictators; then the shock doctrine was applied in Eastern Europe and China during the 1980s and early 1990s; but today it’s in Iraq and New Orleans where the shock doctors ply their evil trade.
What I really found interesting was the excellent economic analysis of capitalism, even though Klein is not an avowed Marxist.
I was also pleased to see her writing about surveillance. Her arguments about the hollowing-out of the state and the privatisation of government functions (everything from Blackwater to reconstruction in New Orleans) and the rise and importance of surveillance for both commercial and political means, echoes the arguments John Harrison and I make in Communication and New Media: From Broadcast to Narrowcast.

The surveillance economy and disaster capitalism are part of the same reordering of capital in order to maintain hegemony. You can read more about Klein and the shock doctrine at her website

However, back to the good news for 2008. It seems the class struggle has not gone away and Klein’s upbeat assessment of the resistance in Latin America was pretty convincing and I’m a real skeptic about the revolutionary potential of Hugo Chavez.


News reporting faces web challenge, warns NYT editor : CyberJournalist.net

January 6, 2008

News reporting faces web challenge, warns NYT editor : CyberJournalist.net

Bill Keller, the executive editor of the , warned last week that reliable news reporting is dwindling, speaking at the Hugo Young memorial lecture in London. Keller said bloggers, internet search engines and satirical talk shows had blossomed across the world but could never replace reporting.


Bloggers and Journalists: Friends or Foes? : CyberJournalist.net

January 6, 2008

Bloggers and Journalists: Friends or Foes? : CyberJournalist.net

Audio and video of the blogging panel from this year’s Society of Professional Journalists Convention:

Legal action against bloggers has skyrocketed during the past three years. While some cases have merit, most are lawsuits designed to suppress free speech. Meanwhile, journalists have sought to differentiate themselves from bloggers through self-regulation and legislation. But should they? As new organizations have begun to embrace blogs and user-generated content, the “blogging v. journalism” debate has begun to dissolve, replaced instead by a greater awareness that what threatens bloggers today may well threaten professional journalists tomorrow.

Watch video (67.2 MB, 33:34)
Listen to or download audio


Citizen Journalism at War

January 6, 2008

Citizen Journalism at War
Video sent by 18doughtystreet

Broadcast Journalist David Heathfield’s report investigating the impact of citizen journalism on war.


Vermouth, the whole truth and nothing but Vermouth

January 6, 2008

I’m enjoying a bit of holiday reading, Frank Moorhouse’s memoir – Martini.
I’m realising how little I actually know about this most impressive of alcoholic bevvies.

For instance: What are the correct proportions of gin to vermouth? And let’s not even get started on the pros and cons of bastardised versions, what Moorhouse calls the “Crazy Drinks”; chocolate martinis and the like***

Getting back to the vermouth question: How much is too much?
There are those who believe a martini is basically gin with a threat of vermouth. In my opinion they might as well drink their gin neat. I’ve always been one for a generous splash of vermouth and I agree with Moorhouse that it’s purpose is to smooth out, or ‘sweeten’ the drink.

I also agree that a martini made with sweet vermouth is a travesty, though some people like them that way.

Moorhouse says his preferred mix, and the domestic version of the martini he makes himself, is 5-1 (gin-vermouth). This seems about right to me, though I sometimes make them at three-one. And I have, on occasion, told barkeeps to make sure they don’t pour the vermouth off before adding the gin to the shaker.

Partly this is the Yorkshireman in me; I’ve paid for a martini and it has vermouth in it; don’t pour my vermouth down the sink! But also it’s about the mix, the taste, the impact etc. A martini is a blend and I want to taste the blend. If I want neat gin, I’ll ask for it.

Here’s a recipe for those who like their martini mostly gin, with very little vermouth. I’ll try this in the next couple of days and let you know what I think.

The Montgomery Martini
According to Moorhouse this is named after the British general, Montgomery, at least as mentioned in Ernest Hemingway’s novel Across the river and into the trees. It is so-called because Monty was famous for never attacking without overwhelming numbers.

15:1 (gin-vermouth).

Hmmmm.

As Moorhouse writes: “My secret agenda in this book is to bring back the vermouth to the martini.”
I’ll drink to that!

*** I am actually partial to the fruity, choclately martini. I have previously mentioned the Musket Room in Ponsonby Road (Auckland); they have excellent Crazy Drink martini derivatives.


France’s News 24 ‘Observers’ citizen media project : CyberJournalist.net

January 4, 2008

France’s News 24 ‘Observers’ citizen media project : CyberJournalist.net

Another quick entry that will grow over the next few months. At least I hope so.


Citizen journalism dominates online news in 2007 : CyberJournalist.net

January 4, 2008

Citizen journalism dominates online news in 2007 : CyberJournalist.net

I will come back to this, it’s the story of the year for 2007.
Professional journalists are getting the wagons in a circle, and quickly too. Is this a good thing.
This is really grist to the mill(stone) of the book I’m writing now. I said earlier last year (is it that time already) that I’d blog the book and this is the first entry.
more….later


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,427 other followers