Jahar – like a Rolling Stone

July 21, 2013

Jahar Tsarnaev on the cover of Rolling Stone, July 2013

It seems to me that the ‘portrait’ of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of Rolling Stone is actually quite appropriate. If you bother to read the article, the picture that friends and acquaintances paint is very close to the image on the front of the magazine.

I wonder how many of the vociferously complaining patriots have looked inside to actually read the article?

I also think that Rolling Stone’s justification for the story and for the cover image is sound.

Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families. The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day. The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens. –THE EDITORS

The first par of this apologia is just boilerplate. No American publication could cover this event without first expressing sympathy for the victims. Perhaps the mistake the editors made was thinking that such a statement would be enough. But, at the end of the day, trying to satisfy or mollify the redneck patriotic sentiment of most whitebread Americans is a thankless, if not hopeless, task.
I also can’t help but wonder what the reaction would be if Rolling Stone were to put Trayvon Martin on the cover. He’s another young American male who fell foul of the system. He ended up dead, shot in the heart by a part-time security guard who has recently been acquitted of criminal responsibility for Martin’s death.

The right stuff

Janet Reitman’s portrait of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is comprehensive and well-written. Just about everyone she’s talked to for the story — Tsarnaev’s friends and his high school wrestling coach — all express their shock and disbelief that the quiet, dope-smoking young American they knew could be the same Jahar who appears in this series of images, emerging bloody and bowed after his capture by heavily-armed Boston police and FBI agents.
It is also relevant to have a discussion about the moral and artistic merit of these photos, taken by a police ‘tactical photographer’. This one, in particular, makes Jahar look like a wounded 21st century Jesus figure.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the moment of capture by Boston police

By all accounts, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was an all-American, high school sweetheart and mother’s favourite son. His Chechen background, while obviously key to his overall personality, seems to recede in the background in Reitman’s piece. The picture we get from listening to Jahar’s many friends talking to Reitman is that he was almost too good to be true.
“He was smooth as fuck,” says his friend Alyssa, who is a year younger than Jahar. Girls went a little crazy over him – though to Jahar’s credit, his friends say, even when he had crushes, he never exploited them. “He’d always be like, ‘Chill, chill, let’s just hang out,'” says Sam, recalling Jahar’s almost physical aversion to any kind of attention. “He was just really humble – that’s the best way to describe him.”

Cara, a vivacious, pretty blonde whom some believe Jahar had a secret crush on, insists they were just friends. “He was so sweet. He was too sweet, you know?” she says sadly. The two had driver’s ed together, which led to lots of time getting high and hanging out. Jahar, she says, had a talent for moving between social groups and always seemed able to empathize with just about anyone’s problems. “He is a golden person, really just a genuine good guy who was cool with everyone,” she says. “It’s hard to really explain Jahar. He was a Cambridge kid.”

What’s not to like about this boy? the cover image seems totally appropriate. It screams out the contradictions in this young man’s life that saw him transform from the quintessential nice kid into someone capable of a cold-blooded act of terrorism.

The Wrong Stuff

It seems many Americans don’t want to know the truth about Jahar Tsarnaev and the hundreds of thousands of kids like him in towns and cities across America. If Jahar can turn on the society that he made his own and that made him welcome as a refugee and a citizen, then what’s to stop hundreds more from doing the same?
It’s much better, it seems, to demonise Dzhokhar Tsarnaev through the lens of the terror frame and to imagine him as a ‘Chechen’ with an ideological chip on his shoulder and as holding the devout (read ‘exrtremist’) views of his faith.
But that is not what Janet Reitman found. She reports that others in Jahar’s circle of friends had converted to Islam and that this was not seen as anything out of the ordinary.

A few years ago, for instance, one of their mutual friends decided to convert to Islam, which some, like Cara, thought was really cool, and others, like Jackson, met with a shrug. “But that’s the kind of high school we went to,” Jackson says. “It’s the type of thing where someone could say, ‘I converted to Islam,’ and you’re like, ‘OK, cool.'” And in fact, a number of kids they knew did convert, he adds. “It was kind of like a thing for a while.”

Yep, strange as it may seems to some of us, but this is a ‘thing’ now. When I was in high school I went to a Christian fellowship and I remember a tearful ‘coming to Jesus’ in the backseat of a friend’s car. I even got my own Bible. A few weeks later it was all over and I was back to being a fairly insistent non-believer. The only reason I went to fellowship was to get out of the house on a Friday night with money in my pocket, go into the Wagon Wheels hotel for an underage schooner and then try to pash one of the fellowship girls in the church graveyard.
I went on to become a level 7 aetheist and hardcore communist, but I never wanted to blow people up.
It seems that Tsarnaev expressed a certain amount of anti-American politics – such as not agreeing with its imperialist foreign policy – but that too, I would argue, is par for the course among that late teen age group. It is a time of rebellion, some of us never grow out of it, but most do.
What this episode really shows is that there’s no easy answers and that stereotyping is a foolish waste of time. But the reaction to the Rolling Stone piece is a little OTT. It is seen as being too sympathetic to the young man, but in tone and content it is not that different from a Boston Globe profile of the Tsarnaev brothers published in April 2013. There’s a fairly nice portrait of Jahar in that piece too.
Jahar Tsarnaev from a Boston Globe video

Jahar Tsarnaev from a Boston Globe video

A disturbing coincidence

There’s another disturbing link in this case that is another piece of the Tsarnaev puzzle.
It seems that the older Tsarnaev brother, Tamerlan, is now being implicated in the September 2011 murder of a small-time Boston drug dealer and two others.
That killing occurred on either the 11th or 12th of September and the link to ‘9/11’ is now being theorised as deliberate.
Conveniently, another Chechen, who lived in Boston and was a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, is alleged to have confessed to police that he and Tamerlan were involved in the drug dealer deaths, though at the time neither was questioned.
Even more conveniently, the police who questioned Ibragim Todashev about Tamerlan, say he was shot and killed by them during a ‘disturbance’ and just at the point in an interrogation where he was going to confess to his and Tsarnaev’s involvement in the drug dealer killings.

Todashev was fatally shot by an FBI agent at his condo near Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida just after midnight on Wednesday.

He had allegedly turned violent as he was preparing to sign a written confession to his and Tsarnaevs involvement in the 2011 triple homicide, said authorities.

‘The agent, two Massachusetts State Police troopers, and other law enforcement personnel were interviewing an individual in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing investigation when a violent confrontation was initiated by the individual,’ the FBI said in a statement.

‘During the confrontation, the individual was killed.’

This is a more comfortable narrative for many Americans. It makes the point (true or not) that at least one of the Boston bombing perpetrators was already a crazy fucking terrorist two years before the marathon attacks.
That explains everything, doesn’t it?
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All a twitter over #superinjunction tweets. Advice to celebs “STFU”

May 21, 2011

So, the gloss is wearing off social media; the excitement is waning and the holy-roller experts are starting to sound like hollowed-out snakeoil sellers after a beating in the Dry Gulch town square.

We have been taken for a ride once too often. The world of celebrity tweets as a viral marketing tool may (hopefully) be over now that the super injunction scandal is hitting harder at so many British Nobs and Toffs.

But this stupid, Luddite old judge in the UK has got his judicial robes in a twist over the very obvious techno-legal time gap that has the Twitterverse all a-gush over trying to guess who’s got a super injunction in place preventing publication of details about their personal lives.

Attempts to identify a famous footballer hiding behind a privacy injunction have spiralled into an online battle over freedom of speech, as internet users responded to high court action by repeatedly naming him on Twitter.

The high court granted a search order against the US-based microblogging site on Friday as the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, warned that “modern technology was totally out of control” and called for those who “peddle lies” on the internet to be fined. (Guardian.co.uk)

It highlights once again the ever-widening void between rich and poor that super injunctions (whose very presence was itself suppressed until a few weeks ago) are available to those who can pay a high-priced whore-of-QC to front the Lords of the Court behind closed doors and tightly-drawn velvet curtains and get unsavoury details and incidents suppressed.

BTW: the footballer is apparently Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs, but that’s just a rumour I picked up on Twitter. I’m willing to repeat it because I don’t really care. I think Ryan Giggs is a great player, but the whole idea of banning coverage in the media via an all-inclusive and secret gagging order is disgusting. On balance, naming the celebrities and public figures caught up in this is the least of sins.

Giggs apparently spent 50,000 pounds on the injunction reportedly to keep his name out of a sex scandal involving a woman called Imogen Thomas who seems to be famous for taking her clothes off in lad mags like Zoo and Loaded.

Ms Thomas working hard for the money

Giggs probably didn’t want his family to know about his affair with her.

Now Giggs has outed himself by suing Twitter, Ms Thomas and several Twitter users who named him in tweets. According to the Guardian, it is possible a tabloid news organisation first leaked his link with Thomas and the superinjunctions.

A PREMIERSHIP footballer is suing Twitter and several of its users after information that was supposed to be covered by a super-injunction was published on the micro-blogging site. (The Scotsman)

Giggs was named by Spanish media ahead of the Man U v Barca UEFA Champions’ League final next weekend. Perhaps a little pride and niggle in that?

All I can say to that is “Idiot”. Did Giggs really think that suing Twitter was going to shut this matter down.

It seems that Ms Thomas was a former Big Brother contestant and she is upset that Giggs was able to keep his name out of the papers while she is the centre of allegations she tried to blackmail the Premier League player.

‘Yet again my name and my reputation are being trashed while the man I had a relationship with is able to hide.

‘What’s more, I can’t even defend myself because I have been gagged. Where’s the fairness in that? What about my reputation?

‘If this is the way privacy injunctions are supposed to work then there’s something seriously wrong with the law.’ (Daily Mail)

But, wait it gets worse. Now grubby politicians are getting into the act of breaking suppression orders and super injunctions. A Liberal Democrat in the UK has used parliamentary privilege to attack a merchant bwanker for an alleged sexual dalliance.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge criticised MPs and peers for “flouting a court order just because they disagree with a court order or for that matter because they disagree with the law of privacy which Parliament has created”.

Yesterday Lib Dem peer Lord Stoneham used the protection of parliamentary privilege to reveal allegations that former RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin had taken out a super injunction to conceal an affair with a colleague at the bank. (epolitix)

Why are these people so ashamed of what they’re doing? The fuckers (and they are at it like rabbits) should either stop shagging with people they’re not supposed to or learn to live with the consequences of their actions.

Are we over it yet?

The most sensible #superinjunction tweet

Some numbers that don’t add up

My colleague Joseph Peart put together some numbers for me regarding the use of Twitter and they are interesting.

Stats from Fortune magazine, May 2, 2011 (pp42 – 45). “Trouble @ Twitter” by Daniel Roberts

• 47% of those who have Twitter accounts are no longer active on the service.

• The time spent per month has dropped from 14min 6sec in 2010 to 12min 37sec in 2011. (Joseph Peart estimates that if usage continues to drop at 1 ½ minutes a year; by 2020, there will be no Twitter users.)

• 40% of Tweets come from a mobile device.

• 70% of Twitter accounts are based outside the U.S.

• 50% of active users access Twitter on more than one platform.

• Not all Twitter users are tweeters: less than 25% of users generate more than 90% of worldwide tweets.

• Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears have more Twitter followers that the entire populations of Sweden or Israel.

Then, from the book “Socialnomics” by Erik Qualman.

• We no longer search for the news the news finds us via social media.

• 96% of Millenials have joined a social network.

• Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S.

• If Facebook were a country it would be the World’s 3rd largest.

• 60 million status updates happen on Facebook daily.

• 50% of mobile internet traffic in the UK is for Facebook

• It seems that Gen Y considers email passé, so some Unis have stopped distributing email addresses and are distributing eReaders, iPads and/or Tablets

• YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world

• There are more than 200 million Blogs worldwide.


Oh Henry #2: Don’t shoot the messenger, but what will Beeza do?

October 7, 2010

It would be a travesty if TVNZ publicist Andi Brotherston is obliged to fall on her sword in the Paul Henry broohaha.

Brotherston made the now infamous comment that Henry was expressing what we all think, but are too scared to voice when he made racist comments about the New Zealand governor general.

She subsequently apologised in an email to TVNZ staff and now, inevitably, the email is in the public domain and Brotherston is taking the heat. This is a shame, Paul Henry has been allowed to slink off to wait it out under whichever muddy rock he currently calls home, but Brotherston is blowing in the wind and the story today is all about her.

The real issue here has to be what will Beeza do? So far Henry’s been suspended for two weeks by TVNZ, but he’ll be back on air soon enough and that will be don’t miss car crash TV. How long will the ill-tempered tosser be able to bite his tongue before bursting into glorious flaming wreckage? Let’s hope that this latest gaffe is enough to sink forever his chances of taking over from the talking moustache on Close Up.

But you know, I’ve just reviewed some Beeza cases against Henry over the past few years and most of the time he gets away with it and TVNZ is in there fighting for his right to be offensive. As they say: “That’s entertainment”. Actually, it’s not, as you will see…if you get to the end of this long post.

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Oh Henry! #$%*(^)#@@#$ to you too.

October 6, 2010

Ah, that delightful little sprite the Fuck-Up Fairy (FUF) has been dancing on the broad shoulders of disgraced TV sock puppet Paul Henry for sometime. The shit was bound to hit the fan one day and that day was Monday.

Until then the gormless and goonish Henry has been protected by some lucky charm and the dismissive comment that ‘he’s just like that’.

Well, yes. He is like that. He’s like a rotten, racist, foul-mouthed, trumped-up, bigoted, insensitive, right-wing dribblejaws with a modicum of intelligence, but not enough to help him keep his maw shut.

His comments about the Governor General not looking or sounding like a Kiwi are racist, particularly given that Anand Satyanand was born in Grey fckuing Lynn.

Sir Anand, in Delhi for the Commonwealth Games, said he had not received a personal apology.

“I haven’t seen his apology. I’ve seen news reports that he has [apologised]. If he has, that’s fine.”

He said when he heard of the comments he only had one reaction.

“I am a New Zealand-born New Zealander. I am reliably informed I was born in 37 Dryden Street, Grey Lynn at the Bethany.

“That’s all I need to add to the chemistry.”

But let’s be clear, the comments would be racist in any context and it’s good to see the strong reaction against Henry this week. Even TVNZ has reacted and thrown Henry’s sorry ass into the can for a couple of weeks. But only, it seems after first attempting to smooth the row over with another ‘that’s Paul!’  comment:

TVNZ is also facing criticism over an initial statement in which spokeswoman Andi Brotherston defended Henry, saying he often said what “we quietly think but are scared to say out loud”.

[Angry Henry]

Oh, so it’s OK to be quietly racist at TVNZ, just don’t get caught. So if you talk in code, rather than overtly bigoted tones, you can get away with it and send dog whistle messages to ACT party supporters in the vain hope that the government won’t cut the budgets even more.

Herald media commentator John Drinnan goes down this track, suggesting that TVNZ won’t be financially harmed by the outrage. He even argues that Henry’s stupid remarks were “orchestrated”:

Don’t attack Paul Henry for his latest orchestrated outrage – questioning whether Anand Satyanand has been “New Zealand enough” to be Governor-General.

Don’t blame the monkey, blame the organ grinder.

The real question is about Television New Zealand and its cynical use of racial comments to boost publicity and profits.

[Drinnan: Don’t blame the monkey]

Dirnnan may be right about this, but it does seem that TVNZ had to be pushed in order for them to agrees to (reluctantly) shove Henry off the Breakfast set for a couple of weeks. This statement from CEO Rick Ellis shows just how reluctant TVNZ was to give Henry the boot:

“Paul is one of New Zealand’s best broadcasters. He is a provocative host who speaks his mind and that is what many New Zealanders like about him. He often pushes the boundaries and that’s important in a country that values freedom of speech. But I consider his latest remarks to have well and truly crossed that line.

[TVNZ Statement @nzherald.co.nz]

I would characterise Henry as a provocative host who shits all over people without a care in the world and that’s what many New Zealanders don’t like about him. At the moment the nation is evenly divided three ways in relation to Henry, but two-thirds don’t like his most recent outburst according to this Herald poll.

OH Henry - you're buggered!

I’d like to see a similar poll about how PM John Key’s handled this mess too. It’s not always easy to publicly stand up to racists, but Key should have said something to Henry instead of trying to laugh it off. That just legitimises the racism. The real shame here is with John Key, but hey, that’s John for you!

And Paul, put a sock in that filthy mouth of yours. You hand out the bruisings, but don’t like it when you’re the subject of the hounding. Get over it. Your comments that you’ll “sue the paper” for taking shots of your house and your neighbours’ houses shows just how little you really know about media law.

“Get off my f*****g land,” he shouted. “Have you got your pictures now? Have you taken photos of my property or any of my neighbours’ properties? If any photos are published I’ll sue the f*****g paper.”

When he was not given a response, he yelled: “Can you not speak, you there in the car? I will f*****g sue your paper.”

Here’s my tip: Paul, spend your gardening leave with a shrink and a law book. You will need the next couple of weeks to prepare a defence for the inevitable Broadcasting Standards Authority complaint hearing.

The big elephant in the parlour here is just how bigoted is New Zealand. A recent example that caught my eye was the interview last week on Campbell Live with the guy who’s running the keep New Zealand farms in New Zealand campaign. I was too busy at the time to write it up, but some of the same sentiments about White=Kiwi were in evidence there too, with just a smudge of mum’s homemade jam to sweeten the bitter bun.

We should come back to this question of racism in the national identity of New Zealand at a future date.


What is 20/20 up to – are Kiwis that prudish?

July 23, 2010

A colleague forwarded me an email from a Sydney nightclub about an upcoming event.

Very interesting.

Hi there,
20/20 – a New Zealand news and current affairs show – are coming to the Hellfire Club this Friday night (23 July) to film part of a story on kink culture in Sydney.

The idea behind the story is that ordinary people like to dress up and be kinky and that it gives them an opportunity to experience themselves differently and feel sexy. New Zealanders, who are rather a conservative bunch when it comes to sex, are interested in kink and fetish but don’t know quite what it is or how to go about connecting with it.

20/20 are looking for people with all kinds of kinks and fetishes and will be around till about 11.30pm hoping to film you or hear your story. You can of course decline to be filmed, but after seeing how much fun you all had with the EWTV crew, how can we deny you another chance at your ten seconds of fame? We trust you will enjoy showing our bros across the ditch how it’s done!

Who’s that girl? This gorgeous Ranga Queen may not be our new Prime Minister… but she’s just as powerful! (now if we could just get our Julia to grow her hair and eat a mud cake or three…)

The Mystery Woman is in fact a fragment of the design of our next Hellfire Club T-shirt. It was created by the exceptionally talented Leo Nguyen – who’s work you can see in the current Rolling Stone and on the covers of both the Sydney Morning Herald Metro and The Brag magazine over the coming weeks.

We’ll unveil the whole design in the next email, and you’ll be able to get your own wearable version at the August party at The Hellfire Club. Stay tuned for hot new fetish fashion!

… look forward to seeing y’all Friday night dressed to impress those budding Kiwi kinksters!

Cheers
Master Tom
The Hellfire Club

[EM:Of course, it’s purely coincidence that 20/20 is fronted by Aotearoa’s very own ‘Ranga Queen’?]

20/20 presenter Miriamo Kamo

PS: Master Tom, have you checked out how 20/20 is likely to cover the Hellfire Club story?  After all, the programme’s slogan is ‘Provocative, Unflinching’.

Be careful what you wish for you fun-loving Sydney kinksters.

I’d be keen to hear how the shoot goes too.

[BTW: ‘Ranga’ is slang for redhead in this part of the world]


Revenge, name suppression and celebrity justice

January 7, 2010

The Whaleoil saga [background here and here] has led me to consider why the issue of name suppression for so-called celebrities (or more generally people with an already existing public profile/reputation) gets people so worked up.

There was a shared feeling of outrage when a semi-famous Kiwi “entertainer” was allowed permanent name suppression after pleading guilty to the sexual assault of a young woman and there were some demented folk exhibiting very vigilante-like tendencies when Whaleoil outed*** a former Kiwi Olympian previously convicted of a serious crime who was before the courts on further serious charges.

Now Whaleoil himself is before the courts charged with several counts of breaching suppression orders and identifying people subject to a name suppression order. But why is he taking on this crusade?

I came across some answers in a journal article from Crime, Media, Culture, which is published by Sage. The piece, “Naming, shaming and criminal justice: Mass-mediated humiliation as entertainment and punishment”, was written by Steven Kohm from the University of Winnipeg. I can’t link to the article from here as that would breach copyright and the fair access policy of AUT library. However, you can get links from Google Scholar and elsewhere.

The key arguments are as follows:

Shame is a dubious method of applying “justice” to criminals and since the advent of reality TV and forensic porn as entertainment, humiliation as a tool of social control has been amplified through the mass media – and more recently via social media – as a method of both punishment and as a form of voyeuristic and participatory entertainment.

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We don’t trust the news media – so where’s the news in that?

October 8, 2009

UMR Research has today [7 October]  released the results of a survey of New Zealanders that show, on the whole, that we don’t trust the news media.

As UMR Executive Editor Tim Grafton said in a company media release, the findings really come as “no surprise”.

What would have been newsworthy and surprising, would be a survey that says the news media’s doing well in terms of accuracy, balance and a willingness to admit mistakes.Nearly two-thirds of respondents  felt there was a problem with the media: only 35 per cent said the media was accurate, 30 per cent  that the news was balanced and only 27 per cent believed the media was willing to admit to mistakes.

Age and gender also appear to influence the results, which is also not surprising really. We might expect older men to be more inclined to read newspapers and therefore perhaps more inclined to complain and to notice potential problems.

The real issue is what, if anything, the news media – or more accurately perhaps, editors and senior journalists – are going to do about their poor standings.

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