Category Archives: Politics

What’s your jihad?

Back in October, Conservative American blogger, activist and executive director of the American Freedom Defence Initiative, Pamela Geller courted controversy by announcing plans to expand a pro-Israeli, ‘anti-jihad’ advertising campaign from its initial position on three subway platforms to include all of the buses in Manhattan.


In response, the public education campaign MyJihad has brought its campaign (to share the proper meaning of jihad as believed and practiced by the majority of Muslims) to the buses of New York as well.

Jihad means “struggling in the way of God”. The way of God being goodness, justice, passion, compassion, etc. It is ‘putting up the good fight’ as it were, against whatever odds or barriers one faces in life.

Jihad is a central tenet of the Islamic creed that has been widely misrepresented due, first and foremost, to the actions of Muslim extremists, with the knock-on effect that Islamophobes use these actions to further convince the public that such actions are the true face of Islam. Finally, a selective media understandably focuses on the sensational.

The campaign’s focus is on reclaiming Islam for the majority of Muslims, especially in relation to the public’s wider perception of what this means.

I enjoyed the campaign for its ability to combat such a negative attack so airily.






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Filed under Ad Campaigns, America, Politics, Religion

Armistice Day

The shirtless young anti-war protester in this photo is Frank C. Plada. He later died in Vietnam.


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Filed under America, Current Affairs, History, Life, Photography, Politics, War

Thought-provoking images and videos regarding the murder of Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin was a black teenager who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a white man (Jewish father, Peruvian mother) in Florida on the 26th of February. Martin, who was unarmed, had been walking to his father’s girlfriend’s home from a convenience store when Zimmerman called 911 and followed Martin after witnessing what he described as “suspicious” behaviour. Soon afterward, he fatally shot Martin during an altercation between the two. Zimmerman had called 911 over forty times in the previous 12 months. Martin, it transpired, was carrying nothing on him other than a bag of Skittles and a bottle of Ice Tea. Zimmerman told police he shot in self-defence (legal in Florida, even if your attacker is an unarmed seventeen year-old) and was not arrested. The public backlash has been immense.

Here is some of the rhetoric swirling around the blogosphere regarding an incident which has brought home the dangers of being black in a largely self-segregated society ruled by a culture of racial fear. And really, does anyone know a seventeen year-old who doesn’t own a hoodie?

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March 24, 2012 · 7:00 pm

Boies & Olson – future hypothetical Oscar material

This week, America’s west coast experienced two major developments in the ongoing fight for same-sex marriage. In Olympia yesterday, lawmakers voted to make Washington the seventh state to allow gay marriage, with the governor likely to sign the bill into law at some stage next week.

In California on Tuesday, a federal court ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional thus effectively paving the way for the gay marriage case to move to the Supreme Court.

Ted Olson and David Boies are the two plaintiffs attorneys who fought in the case Perry v Schwarzenegger. Although now firm friends, the ultra-conservative Olson and the liberal Boies were once famous opponents in the legal battle to decide whether Al Gore or George W. Bush would become the next President of the United States in 2000. The two became friends after Olson’s wife Barbara was killed on Flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.

When they teamed up to defend the right for homosexuals to marry in 2009, they set tongues wagging on both sides of the political spectrum. Since then, they have both been named in the Time’s 100 Greatest Thinkers list for their work on the landmark case and in 2011, they were awarded the American Bar Association’s highest honour: the ABA Medal.

All said and done, the story is surefire Hollywood material, courage of conviction in the face of adversity mixed with setting aside political differences for the greater good. As well as this, it is a fantastic study in exactly why there’s little better than good law.

In this extract from a Fox News interview, Olsen calmly and thoughtfully takes apart all arguments thrown at him by a partisan conservative anchor who himself concludes at the end of the interview that he doesn’t see how Olsen could ever lose a case.

Coming soon to a cinema near you? I know I’d watch it.

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, Film, Politics

Miss Representation – vive la différence?

Had you ever heard of the documentary Miss Representation? I hadn’t. And yet, it seems to encapsulate in one fell swoop almost all of the social concerns I have for the next century. The American documentary, premiered in 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival, explores how (American) mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions by circulating limited and often disparaging portrayals of females. For a prime (and frankly, shocking) example, pay close attention to the video below around the 2.45 mark.

Although the film is indeed very America-centric, this is still relevant to us across the Atlantic, given how much of the pop culture media we consume is American. Some of the statistics are quite stunning – America is actually regressing in its journey towards gender equality. This comes as less of a surprise once we consider such TV programmes as ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians‘, ‘Gossip Girl‘ and the late ‘The Hills‘. America is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an anomaly – there are only two countries with 50% or more women in parliament – Andorra and Rwanda. After that, the numbers fall dramatically.

Although we studied it at university, I have yet to see such a compelling distress signal regarding the deeply harmful effects that the misogynistic portrayal of women in the media might have on society as this film. Western nations love to pat themselves on the back for treating women equally, quick to compare themselves favourably against such backward nations as Iran where women are subjugated by the rules of Sharia law. However, the case against the Western (or at least, the American) media is strong and as the movie points out, it is only growing stronger,

It is my wont to swiftly draw comparisons between America and Europe. On Sunday the 15th of January, French journalist Anne-Sophie Lapix welcomed the far-right leader of the Front Nationale party Marine Le Pen onto her Sunday night current affairs show Dimanche +. In the space of about ten minutes, Lapix, probably as well-known for her looks than her journalism up to that point, calmly and efficiently destroyed Le Pen’s economic policies in a battle of the titans that is now all over the French press. If for no other reason, and even though the entire conversation is in French, it is worth a watch just for the pure spectacle – the meaning of what they are saying can probably be inferred simply through their body language.

What I found interesting about the segment was the way in which these women were being portrayed. Sophisticated, intelligent, and calm – they seemed to embody the exact opposite of the stereotypes referred to in ‘Miss Representation‘ of women as hysterical bimbos probably suffering from PMS. The more disappointing facet to this is the fact that France isn’t even a bastion of gender equality (although progress is slowly being made). I can’t even grin smugly and say ‘at least somebody’s doing it right – vive la différence!’.

How are we ever expected to achieve the dream of universal equality when we so readily ignore this derogatory treatment of women in a media we consume so voraciously? What does it say about our progress or indeed even our desire for progress? As the older brother of an eighteen year-old girl, the statistics and the evidence are hardly comforting. I don’t know what she wants to do with her life, I’m sure she doesn’t either, not just yet. No doubt her plans are ambitious. Looking at the trailer for this movie really makes me wonder what I’m supposed to say to her, other than ‘well, do your best’.

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, Documentaries, Europe, Politics, Pop Culture, Women

Norris -> President

The following is probably the best summary of current events in Ireland regarding the upcoming Presidential elections. For those of you unfamiliar with recent goings-on, the main point of interest is an ageing senator named David Norris, who couldn’t be more controversial a figure if he tried. He’s an openly gay, Anglo-Irish Protestant whose campaign has encountering no small amount of difficulty, leading him to bow out of the race at the beginning of August, only to re-enter last Friday:

David Norris made late-night television history Friday, appearing on the RTÉ network’s Late Late Show to address the personal allegations that have derailed his Irish presidential campaign. The Irish presidency is a largely ceremonial position, a national spokesman job really, with no legislative or executive power but a good deal of cultural clout. And for months David Norris — the openly gay, avowedly intellectual writer, Trinity College Dublin literature professor and ceremonial Irish senator — has been challenging and reshaping the Irish cultural zeitgeist like no public figure of his time. But is that a good thing? 

Read the rest…

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Filed under Current Affairs, Ireland, Politics


This photo, The Falling Man, by AP photographer Richard Drew, is of a man falling from the North Tower on September 11th 2001. To me, it’s probably the most disturbing of all the images from that day. The man has been unofficially identified as Jonathan Briley, who worked in a cafe on the top floor.

Amongst the wreckage of the two towers, 147 wedding rings were found.

Take a look at this interactive map by the New York Times, asking readers where they were on that day, ten years ago.

And this story, published in London’s Evening Standard newspaper on Friday.

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, Politics