- Noam Chomsky speaks to Intercepted about the State of the Empire:
Q: What Noam Chomsky do you believe is a just position to take on the war in Syria? Is it that people should defend Bashar al-Assad with the idea that it’s the least bad option, or that this is a matter that should be handled by the Syrians, or is there any international involvement that you think makes any sense, or could be justified under both moral principles and legal principles?
NC: Well, the first point to bear in mind, which you already mentioned is that Assad is a horrible war criminal. The bulk of the atrocities, which are enormous, are his responsibility. There’s no justifying Assad. On the other hand, the fact of the matter is that he is essentially pretty much in control of Syria now, thanks largely to Russian partially Iranian support.
The Russians actually entered Syria extensively after the CIA had provided the rebel forces, which are mostly run by Jihadi elements, provided them with advanced antitank missiles which were stymieing the Syrian Army at which point the Russians came in with air power and overwhelmed the opposition. The current situation is that Assad has pretty much won the war. Like it or not. There was in the early stages a Democratic secular, quite respectable opposition, but they were very quickly overwhelmed by the Jihadi elements, supported from the outside — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States, and others. There’s a pending humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib, the province where the Jihadis have been — the place to which they’ve been expelled or fled. If there’s a Syrian Russian attack on that it could be a total humanitarian catastrophe. There is some indication that the Russians and the Turks may have been provided a safe area to which maybe some civilians can flee but that looks like a monstrosity developing. If there’s a way of countering that attack, it should be pursued by diplomatic means.
- Inigo Thomas writes about a family member, painter Annie Swynnerton, who is the subject of a retrospective at the Manchester Art Gallery:
Rodin bought one of Swynnerton’s paintings and gave it to the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris. Sargent bought Swynnerton’s most dynamic work, Oreads. A group of nymphs are at the top of a tree seeing out a flood that has overwhelmed the woodland where they live – the water froths about their feet, there’s a fish out of water. The authors of the catalogue for this year’s Swynnerton show, Painting Light and Hope (Manchester Art Gallery, £14.99), identify the picture’s sculptural qualities, and this may have been a result of an artistic alliance with her sculptor husband. Yes, the group does resemble figures for a stone fountain, but it’s the Mediterranean sun on the naked nymphs at a moment when their plight looks desperately uncertain that’s more the thing. Sargent bought the picture when it was first exhibited and years later gave it to the Tate: an established artist making a gift of the work of a less successful artist was an important means of promotion for artists such as Swynnerton. She was elected to the RA the same year – 1922. ‘I hope you share my great enthusiasm for Mrs Swynnerton’s work,’ Sargent wrote. ‘I think her one of the best artists in England and I admire the power and the volume of this particular picture.’
The book’s central argument, convincingly made, is that Carleton Watkins and his photographs are central to the story of 19th century American art. The artist has long been recognized as instrumental in Abraham Lincoln’s landmark 1864 decision to create the nation’s first federal parkland, saving for posterity the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, thanks to Watkins’ stunning landscape photographs of the region.
True — but that’s not the half of it.
Green expands on those photographs’ deeper meanings. Just as the photographer loaded his mule cart and ventured into the rugged Yosemite wilderness with 2,000 pounds of survival provisions and bulky equipment — an enormous bellows camera he built from scratch, glass plates for negatives, volatile chemicals for fixing images and more — the very fabric of the national ideal was being torn asunder by a brutal civil war. The art Watkins made firmly resisted the war’s anguished split.
- WhatsApp Cofounder Brian Acton spills the beans about Facebook:
So Acton didn’t know what to expect when Zuck beckoned him to his office last September, around the time Acton told Facebook brass that he planned to leave. Acton and Koum had a clause in their contract that allowed them to get all their stock, which was being doled out over four years, if Facebook began “implementing monetization initiatives” without their consent.
To Acton, invoking this clause seemed simple. The Facebook-WhatsApp pairing had been a head-scratcher from the start. Facebook has one of the world’s biggest advertising networks; Koum and Acton hated ads. Facebook’s added value for advertisers is how much it knows about its users; WhatsApp’s founders were pro-privacy zealots who felt their vaunted encryption had been integral to their nearly unprecedented global growth.
This dissonance frustrated Zuckerberg. Facebook, Acton says, had decided to pursue two ways of making money from WhatsApp. First, by showing targeted ads in WhatsApp’s new Status feature, which Acton felt broke a social compact with its users. “Targeted advertising is what makes me unhappy,” he says. His motto at WhatsApp had been “No ads, no games, no gimmicks”—a direct contrast with a parent company that derived 98% of its revenue from advertising. Another motto had been “Take the time to get it right,” a stark contrast to “Move fast and break things.”
- Megan Stielstra mines a familiar vein in a fresh and urgent way over at The Believer:
It already felt like another lifetime: lights off, door locked, under my desk. I watched my students share information on social media. I memorized the carpet, the bookshelves. I tried to breath. I don’t do well with shootings—I don’t think anyone should do well with shootings—but no, I said to my son. I wasn’t scared. I was angry. I am angry. I think anger is a logical response to the world. I think it’s beneficial; a warning siren that something is wrong and needs our attention. It shows us where the fight is.
When anger isn’t heard, it turns to rage.
Petition to remove this pic from all future US articles on Iran. Thanks. pic.twitter.com/AGiJx7mOfk
— Nyusha (@gole_yaas) September 26, 2018
- Our sci-fi present in Macau:
A truly astounding image. A street in Macau with the Grand Lisboa Casino looming in the background. Photograph by Paul Tsui, National Geographic travel photographer of the year.’ The future is now. pic.twitter.com/xTcu7eRkD2
— Michael Moran (@TheMichaelMoran) September 26, 2018