Authentic Fakery: Who is the new US ambassador to New Zealand?

George Elliott
Originally published in Critic

It’s more obvious when an American is not being genuine. They can’t hide it from us. Chiefly, it’s the accent. We’re so conditioned to hearing it try and sell us things. If the transatlantic Beeb accent broadcasts the truth with authority, the piercing North American accent represents the superpower’s authentic fakery.

How can something be so homely (a mother that feeds you with honesty) and so pretentiously insincere (a spiteful juvenile lying to you) at the same time? At once unveiled and veiled. Indeed, the country has a child as President – one whose metaphorical womb you would not catch me in – but he has a ‘beautiful’ family, the highest degree of traditional values, so everything is okay.

He’s an idiot. But around Trump are a cohort of smart, authentic fakes, who live and thrive in the DC swamp he says he’ll drain. Trump revels in his exposed contradictions, plunges in and out of his scandalous explosions like a masochist and sucks energy from the sheer mass reproduction of his own image. The agents of deceit, however, still try to cling to the idea of tricking people, of nuanced performance. They know that we know but they don’t care and they carry on anyway.

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Cosmopolitan magazine’s 1982 ‘America’s Sexiest Man’ centrefold model, and the new ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa is one such actor. Scott Brown, born 1959, was the first US Senator (current or former) to endorse Trump’s run (Jeff Sessions’ Wikipedia page probably says the same, but hey). Brown owns a timeshare on the Caribbean island of Aruba and – if you haven’t already heard him tell you fifty six times – his daughter, Ayla, is a country singer who was on American Idol.

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Psychical Extremes, Animated Documentary & Waltz With Bashir

George Elliott
(university essay)

This essay examines Waltz with Bashir, an Israeli animated feature-length documentary directed by Ari Folman and released in May 2008. The film follows Folman as he comes to terms – with the help of interviewees – with a lack of memories of his time as a soldier in the Israel Defense Force (IDF) during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, in which Israel and its Lebanese partners fought the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and, later, Hezbollah. By the end in 1985, the war was largely regarded as Israel’s Vietnam. It was criticised as a ‘war of choice’ that lead to the rise of Hezbollah’s power in the small, fragile and diverse Mediterranean nation (Inbar, 1989). In Waltz with Bashir, the crucial gap in Folman’s memory is his specific role in the Sabra and Shatila massacre of September 1982, when more than one thousand Palestinian refugees were killed by the Christian Phalangists with the implicit support of Israel. Waltz with Bashir (shortened to Waltz herein) was released at a time when many other popular Israeli films and television series related to the country’s wars were being produced. These cultural products ignited discussion about “the Israeli psyche” and highlighted “the personal and subjective experiences of soldiers and the post-traumatic effects of the war” (Harlap, 2013, p. 167).

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I take my theoretical ques on animated documentary from Anabelle Honess Roe’s work and her argument that animated documentary, “broadens and deepens the range of what we can learn from documentaries” (2011, p. 217), and has, “the capacity to represent temporally, geographically and psychologically distal aspects of life beyond the reach of live action” (2013, p. 22). I propose that animation is suitable for expressing trauma in war and the traumatised subject’s ensuing, often deferred introspection. Benefitted by a unique animated style, Waltz confronts the latent memories and dilemmas of responsibility and complicity in war. Waltz remembers war, rather than records it and simultaneously documents its own documenting. It is driven by its protagonists’ subjectivity, in the sense that it diverges from historical grand narratives shaped by interviewed leaders and experts, which belong to what Bill Nichols (1991) calls the ‘discourses of sobriety’. By advocating animation’s place in documentary, this essay highlights the epistemological problems that develop when documentary attempts to or is unable to represent war-related emotional and psychological phenomena. What people think and feel, as with war, is not readily available for the camera to capture in an indexical image. Popular documentary’s orthodox privileging of indexical live-action photography is upset by the idea of an animated documentary.

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Media Displays Frenzied Yearning for a Trump Tax Return Silver Bullet

George E. Elliott

I witnessed something fascinating last Wednesday. Rachel Maddow, one of the most well-known liberal prime-time television hosts in the United States, tweeted “BREAKING: We’ve got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC. (Seriously).” Her colleague, Lawrence O’Donnell, tweeted “This is the night we’ve been waiting for.”

Twitter was at once abuzz with rapid-fire hot takes and speculation. The churning meme machine rapidly pumped out gif after gif, looping pop culture references; funny-looking B-rated celebs eating popcorn, cats staring patiently at screens, wide-eyed.

Did Maddow have Trump’s tax returns? Was the silver bullet finally here, the inevitable arrival of something that would kill Trump once and for all? The studio lights were beaming, MSNBC’s countdown clock was ticking away in the screen’s corner and here in New Zealand our top journos were seeking out illegal streams of the channel.

But the climax never came.

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While the Labour movement has an existential crisis, what of the radical?

George Elliott

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The Labour movement in the UK and its former colonies has transformed dramatically in the past century and has slipt into an identity crisis after gazing back at the neoliberal experiments of the past four decades and, pondering Key’s eight years and Corbyn’s idealism, asking “what have we become and where are we going?”

As our local MP, David Clark, made clear last week, the NZ Labour Party has been behind the “big ideas” of free education, the forty hour week, state housing, the minimum wage, the nuclear-free policy, et cetera.

For the cynics, the disillusioned or the radicals, Labour provides no substantial alternative to conservatism. Both are cut from the same cloth. Cultural theorist, Stuart Hall, says that the neoliberal project initiated by Thatcher, Reagan and the fourth Labour government in New Zealand, is “not likely to be reversed by a mere rotation of the electoral wheel of fortune.”

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Putin’s Nonsense Media

George E. Elliott

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George Galloway, the abrasive former British MP and leader of the leftwing Respect Party, was once a prolific moonlighter. In 2014 he made as much money working for dubious state-run news broadcasters than he did as a British Member of Parliament. Two years later, after a failed bid at becoming Mayor of London, Galloway has quit his day job. He’s now a full-time pundit, or propagandist, depending on how you look at it. His new employers – far removed from the British people of the constituency he once represented – are, effectively, the Russian, Iranian and Syrian governments and the militant Hezbollah movement. These repressive regimes have found a loyal friend in the loud-mouthed former MP, a self-proclaimed “left-wing” and “anti-war” “activist”. Galloway has worked for Iran’s state broadcaster Press TV, and the Hezbollah and Syrian regime linked news station, Al Mayadeen. He has also joined the likes of Steven Seagal and Julian Assange to become a lieutenant in Russia’s global (dis)information war, disseminated through the increasingly popular television state-funded news network, Russia Today, now known as RT (not to be confused with Rotten Tomatoes or ‘re-tweet’!). What does this veteran British activist and the propaganda arm of the Russian government have in common? Their hatred for the West and a willingness to abide by that ethos no matter who you have to jump into bed with.

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Following The Karadzic Verdict, It’s Time For A Tribunal On Syria

George E. Elliott

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More than two decades after the deadly siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of some 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica, a United Nations tribunal in The Hague has convicted former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The judges handed the 70-year-old “Butcher of Bosnia” a 40-year sentence.

Good things take time and the ‘arc of justice’ is obviously a very long one. Considering the utter mess and bloody confusion that is war, it’s no surprise that this certain path to justice has taken this long. It is a promising start for a young and revolutionary idea; the concept of international criminal justice that, with the power of transparent, legitimate, properly-funded institutions, can reach across national borders with universal jurisdiction to hold individuals accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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Game Review: This War of Mine

PC Review: This War of Mine (2014)
George E. Elliott

The representation of war in media and cultural products has long been problematic and questionable ethical territory. Video games often remold war as pure entertainment where meaningful commentary is rare and, arguably, the depiction can near full blown pro-war propaganda. An entire generation is growing up playing video games that recreate a mock war spectacle void of any story or reason; young men blow other young men’s brains out simply because they’re on the ‘blue’ or ‘red’ team while calling each other “faggots”. It’s a sad and frustrating phenomena to witness for those who are enthusiastic about the possibilities video games can offer as a medium of social and political commentary and serious storytelling. This War of Mine offers a telling of war like nothing we witness in the popular first-person shooters being pumped out year after year, like the Call of Duty or Battlefield series.

In the past decade the video game industry has been – to use a trade cliché – ‘disrupted’ by a revolution of sorts, where the medium is being reclaimed from the potent forces of commercialisation. The rise of the independent developer, propelled by advances in digital distribution, new platforms, the democratisation of software and the community magic of crowd-funding, means that modest developing teams are no longer bound by the publishing giants and the hard-wired hunt for profit. The genres, game mechanics, and themes that the so-called triple-A companies won’t touch can now be explored in video games. The award-winning This War of Mine is a telling artifact born out of this radically changing environment.

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