Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Kristof: The journalist as tourist

The New York Times columnist relies on orientalist cliches when writing about Iran, revealing his outdated assumptions

By Hamid Dabashi

".....What do these journalists expect to see when they fly to a place such as Iran and write a column or two for their astonishingly parochial journal - either a harem full of concubines bathing by an indoor pool a la Gérôme and Ingres, or else chaste virgins waiting in line to blow themselves up at the nearest US military base? The sheer inanity of these columns simply defies reason. But they are priceless evidence of where this wavering empire stands in its perception of the world it has the delusion of ruling.

Bizarre sexual hang-ups, leftover orientalist fantasies, condescending prose of a latter-day colonial officer-cum-tourist-cum-journalist, racist assumptions about a people, a culture and a civilisation about which they know next to nothing: All come together to make this vintage brand of US journalism nothing more than an extended arm of US military and diplomatic intelligence. The journalists go there and come back to confirm US foreign policy for what it is: putting a thin liberal mask over a flawed and failed imperial project to conquer a world and distort and destroy its cultures of resistance. Those distortions do nothing to alter the defiant facts on the ground - and yet they reveal everything about the intellectual bankruptcy of the Empire.

To understand the current stage of US knowledge production about the lands they hope to conquer, control and pacify, we have to master the art of reverse reading. The significance of Nicholas Kristof is revealing the completely vacated ideological apparatus of this empire. Between the octogenarian Bernard Lewis - who once wedded his services to the dying days of British imperialism, and now to the receding horizons of the American Empire - and Nicholas Kristof, this imperial project has nothing to offer the world by way of ideologically sustaining or morally justifying itself. Pilotless drones are the perfect fact and metaphor of this empire - a killing machine with a mechanical precision and not a single sign of humanity left in, on, or about it....."

1 comment:

anan said...

Tony, did you even read this? I did. I could not make heads or tails of it. What was he saying about Kristof? What did anything he was writing have to do with Nicholas Kristof?

Full disclosure, I have been a fan of Kristof since High School.