Weekend

Required Reading

This week, contemporary art and global inequality, Melania’s jacket and fascist history, queer Turkish identities, children and their toys, and more.

Artist Gabriele Galimberti takes photographs of children around the world posing with their toys. Here is Arafa and Aisha Saleh Aman, both age 4, Bububu, Zanzibar. The whole photo series is beautifully shot. (via Colossal)
  • Maybe we missed the real meaning of Melania Trump’s “I DON’T REALLY CARE, DO U?” jacket? The term, or the Italian version more specifically, “Me Ne Frego” (aka a vulgar term for ‘I don’t care’), was a fascist rallying cry. Giovanni Tiso writes:

Fascism lay its roots in the campaign for Italy’s late entry in the First World War, of which Mussolini was one of the leaders. It was at this time that the phrase ‘me ne frego’ – which at the time was still considered quite vulgar, along the lines of the English ‘I don’t give a fuck’ – was sung by members of the special force known as arditi (literally: ‘the daring ones’) who volunteered for the front, to signify that they didn’t care if they should lose their lives.

… This lapel pin worn by an original member of the Black Shirts was recently sold on a website devoted to military memorabilia. It is emblazoned with the words ‘Me ne frego’ underneath the original symbol of the arditi and the acronym FERT (which stands for the motto of the Royal Family). The seller calls it ‘bellissimo’.

… ‘Me ne frego’ was the title of one of the most famous songs of the Fascist era. Its original version, dating around 1920, hails D’Annunzio and Mussolini as the fathers of the fascist movement, recycling the old war song of the arditi as the third stanza.

Equally botched is Poirier’s depiction of the postwar trial of the writer and Nazi collaborator Robert Brasillach. Not only does she fail to explain Camus’s reasons for signing the controversial petition asking Charles de Gaulle to commute Brasillach’s death sentence (and not, as Poirier believes, pardon him), but she also fails to mention Camus’s reasoning. As Camus told Marcel Aymé, the reactionary writer who started the petition, he despised Brasillach, but signed the petition because of his opposition to the death penalty.

In perhaps the most egregious failure to fill out a story, Poirier makes much of the roundup of 300 or so American women in September 1942. They were herded into the vacant monkey house at the zoo in the Bois de Boulogne, where Poirier tells us that while they lacked freedom “they were better fed than in Paris.” No doubt they were also better fed than the 12,000 or so French and foreign Jews who, less than two months earlier, had been rounded up by French police and tossed into the bicycle arena, the Vélodrome d’Hiver, and eventually shipped to Auschwitz. Poirier mentions this event in a single line, even though it marked a turning point in public opinion and resistance activity.

Transgender and gay identities have gone through three stages in Turkish history. Under the Ottomans, gender distinctions were fluid; under the militaristic nationalists, genders had to be strictly defined following the modern Western model; under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, prime minister from 2003 to 2014 and now president, a combination of conservatism and neo-Ottoman tolerance for gender fluidity became widespread.

In what Erdoğan often refers to as “the New Turkey,” trans and gay people have become more visible—LGBTI News Turkey, a website that provides English translations and sources on LGBTI Turks, lists forty-eight organizations dedicated to them; Time Out Istanbul has a bustling LGBTI section that lists weekly events—and consequently they feel more vulnerable. Trans and gay Turks are at times directly demonized by politicians, as in Putin’s Russia: the former minister of women and family affairs Aliye Kavaf called homosexuality a “disease” in 2010; the former prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in 2015 that homosexuals “caused the destruction of the tribe of Lot.”

There is nothing new about such pragmatic patriots aiming to beat right-wing populists at their own game. Contrary to Mounk’s morality tale about liberal democracy, mainstream parties of the centre left as well as the right have deployed the methods of what Stuart Hall called ‘authoritarian populism’ ever since the oil shocks and the recessions of the 1970s and 1980s. Hall coined this term in the late 1970s to describe ‘the rise of the radical right under Thatcherite auspices’ from the ruins of ‘the social-democratic consensus’. With capitalism afflicted by an unresolvable structural crisis, fresh populist consent had to be mobilised – often through moral panics about immigrants – for the imposition of harsh neoliberal policies. Thirty years later, even New Labour resorted, towards the end of its tenure, to authoritarian populism. As an article in the Utopian, an American web magazine, pointed out in 2010, Blair had ‘dragged Britain into the Iraq War’ on the basis of blatant falsehoods and then ‘adopted the most restrictive anti-terror legislation in Europe’. There was an ‘authoritarian streak’ in both Blair and Brown, who ‘ratcheted up coercion’ because of ‘their failure to make real economic improvements’. Economic growth, ‘heavily centred on the financial industry’, was ‘achieved at the price of ever-new presents to bankers and the super-rich’. As a result, ‘Britain’s abject underclass has actually continued to grow’ and many in the ‘disaffected white working class’ had either drifted away from electoral politics or embraced such radical rightists as the BNP. ‘Labour’s populism,’ the article concluded, ‘is a desperate attempt to win back this milieu.’

Artists, as a result, depend upon patronage. This can take many forms, ranging from a wealthy collector to an acquisition by a public or private institution, or a grant. Public funding for the arts is not an alternative to patronage but simply another one of its many guises. Dealing with patronage necessarily means dealing with power: economic, political, or both. Since time immemorial, one of the key challenges for visual artists has been the question of how to balance the demands of a patron with the preservation of intellectual and creative autonomy. The history of art is filled with such relationships, both good and bad, many of which have been influenced by the vagaries of political and economic regimes. Contemporary artists, however, find themselves facing new challenges in respect of patronage since the issue of the day, the topic that dominates all social, political and economic life, is that of global inequality.

  • In response to the recent detention of child immigrants at the US-Mexico border, actor George Takei, who was forcibly moved into a Japanese American internment camp at the age of 5 by the US government, writes:

My family was sent to a racetrack for several weeks to live in a horse stall, but at least we had each other. At least during the internment, my parents were able to place themselves between the horror of what we were facing and my own childish understanding of our circumstances. They told us we were “going on a vacation to live with the horsies.” And when we got to Rohwer camp, they again put themselves between us and the horror, so that we would never fully appreciate the grim reality of the mosquito-infested swamp into which we had been thrown. At least during the internment, we remained a family, and I credit that alone for keeping the scars of our unjust imprisonment from deepening on my soul.

So now we’re in perhaps the greatest national crisis since the civil war. And grifters are everywhere. There are the obvious ones -literally every person in the White House, and the underground ones- the people becoming billionaires off of human suffering, see my thread here for a rage cleanse- but I want to talk about another group of grifters, the grifters in the “resistance”.

Perhaps you’ve seen them. The new organization whose numbers don’t quite add up. The group that gets a lot of press but you can’t quite put your finger on what they do. The org that sends out a LOT of petitions. The fact is, grifters exist on both sides of the aisle, and right now is a really good time to get rich and famous off of liberal fear.

Male journalists’ accounts have more cues that legitimate them in the eyes of other beltway journalists. Men are more likely to have the all-important sign-off as a veri-fied Twitter account, a sign they are a “public figure” in the eyes of the tech company (or the news organization that may have submitted their account for verification), they have more followers as a whole and they tweet more, cues for their cultural capital on the platform. When it comes to engagement patterns, men reply to men an astonishing  percentage of the time, and both men and women follow more male beltway journal-ists. Amplification patterns advantage men more than women, with the vast majority of retweets featuring male journalists.

The expansion of humanitarian aid in Syria and its neighboring states has gone hand-in-hand with a growing restriction on refugees’ right of movement and ever-stricter control over refugees’ personal information and biometric data. UNHCR and the Syrian and Jordanian governments share two interests in particular: to raise humanitarian funds and to centralize information and control over refugee populations. Disastrously, this shared interest has created a control regime for refugees in the region that is much stricter and more violent than what existed before humanitarian actors’ large-scale involvement. This situation is sad and tragic, given UNHCR’s outspoken commitment to human rights and track record of alleviating refugee suffering.

During the April war and in the days that followed, the image of the heroic soldier took centre stage in Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh. It was within this context that Hi Zinvor, the first online game for mobile phones, was developed. Released in February 2017, the game now boasts more than 70,000 users in Armenia and across the world.

The shooter game does not contain any bloody or cruel scenes. It boasts twelve locations including towns, military bases, forests, mountains and fields created using computer graphics and design,. It does not include a single real place name associated with Nagorny Karabakh, yet clearly deals with the unresolved Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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