So anyway, some time ago I recorded a first bumper sized audioblog/podcast/lecture thingy. I used Audacity, a free open-source audio editor. This was the first time I’d used the software, my net previous experience being a little bit of mucking around with SoundForge about 15 years ago. I recorded the lecture. It took quite a while, but I only got it into a fairly raw form. I planned to do more, but I kept having technical difficulties. Nearly 90 minutes of multi-track high bit-rate audio turned out to be a bit much for my poor wee laptop to handle. A month later I was just about to trash the whole thing, and maybe start again another time. Then I thought, bugger it, I’ve done this much, I might as well put it out there so here it is.
Yes, it is imperfect. No, I am not a fluent or eloquent lecturer, but I hope to improve. Yes, it may be difficult to understand what I’m getting at, however I’m not sure that that is even a flaw. If it was simple to follow what I was saying it would indicate that my words are already familiar in some sense, and that I was conveying nothing truly unknown to the listener. This is a long lecture, full of all sorts of stuff that may be interesting or moving. My ultimate intent is to convey an analytical idiom which will render transparent the strategies behind the most fateful and monstrous acts of our time, but it is enough at this point to understand the context of suffering, of duplicity, of callousness, of humanity, and that thing which ironically we refer to as ‘inhumanity’.
BEFORE YOU START
As yet, I don’t have a projected structure for a lecture series, however I do want these ‘podcasts’, or whatever, to have a lecturish feel and to be a way of moving towards a structured series with a central thesis. To this end I have decided to have a ‘set text’ for each lecture. I am not, of course, suggesting that you should ‘read’ a text, canonical or otherwise, and then I will explain how you should interpret it. Rather, I think that having a text which is ‘read’ in advance of a lecture immediately activates the engagement of the listener. You can’t ‘read’ a text without some implicit analysis. One makes judgements on meaning and significance. If the text is relevant to the lecture, then you enter into a heightened level of engagement wherein the lecturer’s contentions are not merely passively accepted or rejected but become subjected to the faceted multivalent impressionistic judgements which our brains are so good at, and which partially compensate the limits of language.
The text, a moving speech by S. Brian Willson, is one I chose to set a tone. It is the first 15 minutes that concern this lecture most of all – an eyewitness account of the just how bad US actions in South Vietnam could be; the consequences and the callous cruelty that lay behind them. I feel I must emphasis that there is no violent obsenity that Westerners are somehow unable or even less likely to do than other peoples. Again and again I come across instances where those who witness Western brutality, even first-hand, still must construct in their minds some sense in which the brutality is essentially un-Western. Yes we are civilised, but civilised people are just as capable of dashing a baby’s brains out against a wall as barbarians are – you may not believe that at this point, but it is true. In Vietnam a veteran of the Korean War told Philip Caputo: ‘I saw men sight their rifles in by shooting at Korean farmers. Before you leave here, sir, you’re going to learn that one of the most brutal things in the world is your average nineteen-year-old American boy.’i It is impossible to proceed properly while clinging on to old delusions. Even our treasured ‘liberal values’, on proper examination, incorporate: advocacy of mass murder; authoritarianism [yes I do mean that there is a ‘liberal authoritarianism’]; racial and ethnic hatred; and rabid fanaticism.
THE SET TEXT: Brian Willson’s speech
THE LECTURE ITSELF: Soundcloud or A-Infos Radio Project
In this lecture I introduce mself and introduce the thesis that major US interventions in Korea, Indochina and Iraq are best considered as genocide. Leaving aside, for this lecture, a precise (or even imprecise) definition of genocide, I use, as an expedience, the deliberate systematic mass killing of civilians as being consonant with the concept of genocide. I discuss the systematic mass-killing of civilians by the US in the Phillippines; Korea; Indochina; and, perhaps most surprisingly to some, in the latter stages of World War II.
Brian Willson’s autobiography: Blood on the Tracks.
Mountaineater (opening music): Soundcloud; Facebook; MySpace. “If you thought HDU were capable of wreaking sonic destruction, this trio will leave you gasping” Real Groove
David Rovics (“Who Would Jesus Bomb”): davidrovics.com; lastFM; MySpace; Soundcloud. “If the great Phil Ochs were to rise from the dead today, he would probably be hailed as the new David Rovics.” Andy Kershaw, BBC; “David Rovics is the musical version of Democracy Now!” Amy Goodman, Pacifica.
I welcome feedback. I need feedback. But allow me to clear on thing up right now:
characterising US interventions as genocide is not a political stance and is not something I just made up on a whim.
Yes, I do have political leanings and they do influence my judgement, and I would be grateful to anyone who indicated to me any instance where my political or moral stance had caused partiality in intellectual judgement by, for instance, not giving enough credence or weight to claims made by those whose politics I dislike. Politically, morally and ethically I am opposed to imperialism and military aggression and that interest was what led me first to employ genocide as an analytical characterisation (as is explained in the introductory lecture). If, however, I was writing or speaking purely in the interests of my political beliefs I would address all sorts of things, but probably just avoid the issue of genocide the way most anti-imperialists do.
I apply the term genocide because it is the appropriate term… the appropriate term… for US interventions in Korea, Iraq, and Indochina (no doubt there are other instances, such as Afghanistan, but I cannot comment with authority). If you want to disagree you had better be prepared with a knowledge of the nature of those interventions, a knowledge of the concept of genocide, and a knowledge of other instances of genocide. If you are going to deny US genocides please do not do so in exactly the same terms which others use to deny the Holocaust or other genocides. Likewise, even if you have a PhD, even if you have tenure, do not assume that you have superior knowledge on a subject you have never studied. I realise that in some people’s worldview I must be wrong a priori because my claim is so wildly opposed to the broad accepted consensus view among the intellectual classes. It is a point which makes me somewhat bitter so I will simply confine myself to stating that a trust in orthodoxy is what transforms some of the most potentially useful and incisive intellects into the greatest pack of useless idiots on the face of the planet.
iPhilip Caputo, A Rumour of War, London: Arrow, 1978, p 137.