Quotulatiousness

April 22, 2017

Movie on the Armenian Genocide attracts massive number of Turkish trolls

Filed under: History, Media, Middle East — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

One of the worst aspects of the First World War was the attempt by Ottoman forces to eliminate the Armenian “threat” by launching an organized campaign of murder and deportation that killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians. A new movie which is set in this time has been drawing trollish attention from Turkish detractors:

The Promise, the grandest big-screen portrayal ever made about the mass killings of Armenians during World War I, has been rated by more than 111,300 people on IMDb — a remarkable total considering it doesn’t open in theaters until Friday and has thus far been screened only a handful of times publicly.

The passionate reaction is because The Promise, a $100-million movie starring Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, has provoked those who deny that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred between 1915 and 1923 by the Ottoman Empire or that the deaths of Armenians were the result of a policy of genocide. Thousands, many of them in Turkey, have flocked to IMDb to rate the film poorly, sight unseen. Though many countries and most historians call the mass killings genocide, Turkey has aggressively refused that label.

Yet that wasn’t the most audacious sabotage of The Promise, a passion project of the late billionaire investor and former MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian.

In March, just a few weeks before The Promise was to open, a curiously similar-looking film called The Ottoman Lieutenant appeared. Another sweeping romance set during the same era and with a few stars of its own, including Ben Kingsley and Josh Hartnett, The Ottoman Lieutenant seemed designed to be confused with The Promise. But it was made by Turkish producers and instead broadcast Turkey’s version of the events — that the Armenians were merely collateral damage in World War I. It was the Turkish knockoff version of The Promise, minus the genocide.

“It was like a reverse mirror image of us,” said Terry George, director and co-writer of The Promise. George, the Irish filmmaker, has some experience in navigating the sensitivities around genocide having previously written and directed 2004’s Hotel Rwanda, about the early ’90s Rwandan genocide.

George bought a ticket to see it. “Basically the argument is the Turkish government’s argument, that there was an uprising and it was bad and we had to move these people out of the war zone — which, if applied to the Nazis in Poland would be: ‘Oh, there was an uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto and we need to move these Jews out of the war zone,’” says George. “The film is remarkably similar in terms of structure and look, even.”

The movie itself, however, didn’t win over A.V. Club critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky:

Among the many virtues of James Gray’s The Lost City Of Z is its sense of proportion, which turns a decades-spanning historical epic into a pas de deux between vision and madness. Unfortunately, most recent historical epics have been more on the order of Terry George’s The Promise: messes of soap and cheese. Here at last is a film that tackles the Armenian genocide by way of a flimsy love triangle and an international cast (it really captures the diversity of the Armenian people), straining so hard to show its good intentions that it doesn’t bother to be directed. What does a movie that can’t even mount a competent horse chase — despite repeated attempts — have to say about the murder of 1.5 million people? At least George can rest easy knowing that his film is less bungled than Bitter Harvest, the February release that turned the Holodomor into the stuff of schmaltz. Up next, presumably, is Nicholas Sparks’ Auschwitz.

Doing his best impression of Omar Sharif, Oscar Isaac stars as Mikael Boghosian, a village apothecary who agrees to marry doe-eyed local girl Maral (Angela Sarafyan) in order to use her dowry to finance his dream of becoming a doctor. (Pity poor Maral, as no two members of the cast seem to agree on how to pronounce her name.) Arriving in Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Mikael moves in with his wealthy uncle and enrolls in medical school, but soon develops a crush on Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), the modern young woman who tutors his uncle’s children. But it’s 1914, and the Ottoman Empire is about to enter World War I as an ally of Germany and Austria-Hungary and within months will begin a strategic elimination of its large Armenian minority. As if to make matters worse, Ana has an American boyfriend, Chris Myers (Christian Bale), the Associated Press’ bureau chief of Armenian genocide exposition.

Still from The Promise, by Open Road Films.

April 21, 2017

The Nivelle Offensive – Carnage At The Chemin Des Dames I THE GREAT WAR Week 143

Filed under: Europe, France, Germany, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 20 Apr 2017

French Commander Robert Nivelle was sure that his offensive would bring the final victory against Germany. He scaled up his successful plan from Verdun which had worked so well and even when other generals questioned the very idea of the offensive, he would refuse to alter it or call it off. The Germans knew that the French were coming and were well prepared. And so the disaster at the Chemin Des Dames unfolded.

April 8, 2017

Trump’s Syria Strike Won’t Solve Any Problems But Could Make Everything Worse

Filed under: Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 7 Apr 2017

“It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the use of deadly chemical weapons,” said President Donald Trump in explaining a U.S.-missile strike on a Syrian airbase. That might sound good and even noble in theory, explains Emma Ashford of the Cato Institute, but the plain truth is that he’s wrong. What’s worse, it’s far from clear what either the United States or other countries in the region will do next.

The essential lesson that George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump keep forgetting is that military interventions, especially in other countries’ civil wars, often makes things worse, Ashford tells Nick Gillespie.

Produced by Austin Bragg. Cameras by Todd Krainin and Mark McDaniel.

March 31, 2017

Lenin Takes The Train – First Battle of Gaza I THE GREAT WAR Week 140

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 30 Mar 2017

When the Russian government promises to continue the war and support the Entente with another offensive, the Germans are allowing Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov aka Lenin to board a train from his exile in Switzerland to Russia. The British Army once again underestimates the Ottoman Empire at the 1st Battle of Gaza and the Toplica Uprising ends.

March 22, 2017

QotD: Sharia and women’s rights

Filed under: Liberty, Middle East, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

As a moral and legal code, Sharia law is demeaning and degrading to women. It requires women to be placed under the care of male guardians; it views a woman’s testimony in court as worth half that of a man’s; and it permits a husband to beat his wife. It’s not only women’s legal and sexual freedoms that are curtailed under Sharia but their economic freedoms as well. Women generally inherit half of the amount that men inherit, and their male guardian must consent to their choosing education, work, or travel.

In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, and parts of Nigeria, where Sharia law underpins the judicial system, women’s rights suffer greatly.

There is a growing trend among some feminists to make excuses for Sharia law and claim it is nothing more than a personal moral guide, and therefore consistent with American constitutional liberties. Yet the rules that such “Sharia-lite feminists” voluntarily choose to follow are also invoked to oppress women — to marry them off, to constrain their economic and human rights, and to limit their freedom of expression — who have not consented to them. The moral conflict between Sharia and universal human rights should not be dismissed as a misunderstanding, but openly discussed.

Many Western feminists struggle to embrace universal women’s rights. Decades ago, Germaine Greer argued that attempts to outlaw female genital mutilation amounted to “an attack on cultural identity.” That type of deference to traditional practices, in the name of cultural sensitivity, hurts vulnerable women. These days, relativism remains strong. Too many feminists in the West are reluctant to condemn cultural practices that clearly harm women — female genital mutilation, polygamy, child marriage, marital rape, and honor violence, particularly in non-Western societies. Women’s rights are universal, and such practices cannot be accepted.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “On This ‘Day Without a Woman,’ Don’t Leave Women Oppressed by Sharia Law Behind”, The Daily Beast, 2017-03-08.

March 19, 2017

Byzantium, Persia and the rise of Islam

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At The Declination, Dystopic explains why he’s fascinated by the untold stories of the sudden influx of Muslim armies from the Arabian peninsula that shattered the Persian Empire and nearly toppled the Byzantines in the 7th century:

In the course of perusing my backlinks, I discovered a little-known blog call the House of David. This one is fascinating because the author delves deeply into a topic which has bothered me for most my life: just how was it that Islam conquered Sassanian Persia and most of Byzantium more or less simultaneously? Normally this question is answered in the West, at least, by primarily Greek sources. Those are useful, yes, but only paint part of the picture. The proprietor of House of David seeks to answer the question from Persian and Arabic sources, also.

The strangeness of this event cannot be overstated. As successors to the Romans (or as Romans themselves, depending on how you account them), the Byzantines were masters of siege craft. Certainly the Theodosian walls impress well enough. Being consummate engineers of fortifications, Roman forts and walled cities dotted the empire, and for the most part, the Romans were excellent at defending them. The Byzantines continued the tradition of effective defense throughout most of their history, as they were under near-constant assault from all sides.

[…]

In some cases, of course, there was treachery from some of the Byzantines themselves, most notably in Egypt. But in other cases, such as the Exarchate of Africa, local Byzantine resistance was absolutely fierce. The wars in North Africa absolutely devastated the place. It never recovered after this. So complete was this devastation and desolation that Carthage, which bounced back even after the Romans razed it, never recovered from it. Even conquest by the Vandals had not been so terrible.

And still, after the Byzantines themselves lost much of North Africa, the native Christian Berbers continued to resist for some time under a supposed witch-queen named Kahina. And Byzantine resistance remained for a time around Cueta even after Carthage was destroyed, where the possibly-apocryphal Count Julian was said to have finally thrown in with the Muslims in order to avenge himself upon the Visigoths.

Yet the Arab steamroller moved on.

The final triumph of Byzantine siege craft could be seen in the twin Arab sieges of Constantinople, both beaten back effectively by the Byzantines. So why did they lose so completely everywhere else?

March 17, 2017

The Tsar Abdicates – Baghdad Falls I THE GREAT WAR Week 138

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 16 Mar 2017

The protests that emerged in Russia this week are growing stronger and the Tsar is increasingly isolated until even his generals are pushing for his abdication. And after 300 years of Romanov rule, Tsar Nicholai II abdicates and when his brother refuses to take up the throne, the dynasty is no more. Meanwhile in the Middle East, the British are taking Baghdad effectively seizing control over a large area.

March 16, 2017

Origins of the Silk Road

Filed under: Asia, China, Europe, History, Middle East — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I’ve been quietly fascinated by the ancient Silk Road trading route spanning from the Middle East to China since I first heard about it as a kid. (The most recent book I read on the topic, Foreign Devils on the Silk Road, blended bits of the history of the route with the activities of European spies in the area preceding the start of the First World War.) At Ars Technica, Annalee Newitz summarizes some recent work in Nature that pushes back the origins of the Silk Road more than two millennia:

The Silk Road was a series of ancient trading routes that spanned Asia, reaching as far as the Middle East and Europe. Self-organizing and vast, it fell under the control of various empires — but never for long. The polyglot civilizations of traders who lived along its routes are the subject of legends, and more recently the Silk Road lent its name to an infamous darknet market. Historians usually date the Silk Road from roughly the 200s to the 1400s. But a new study in Nature suggests the trade routes may be 2,500 years older than previously believed and its origins much humbler than the rich cities it spawned.

Historical accounts of the Silk Road begin in China in the 100s, when the Han Dynasty used its many routes to trade with the peoples of Central and South Asia. Han soldiers protected the roads and maintained regular outposts on them, allowing wealth and knowledge to flow across the continent. Monks wandering the Silk Road brought Buddhism from India to China, while merchants brought spices, gems, textiles, books, horses, and other valuables from one part of the continent to the other. Great Silk Road cities such as Chang’an (today called Xi’an) and Samarkand grew fat on wealth from the routes that passed outside their walls.

But Washington University in St. Louis anthropologist Michael Frachetti and his colleagues wondered how people traversed the many difficult stretches of the Silk Road that switchbacked through the mountains of Central Asia. Even though these routes weren’t urban or under the protection of soldiers, people used them all the time to pass between Asia and the Middle East. We can see where these travelers camped at over 600 archaeological sites in the mountains. Writing in Nature, Frachetti and his colleagues describe how they had to devise a new approach to track the routes people took between these camps.

The problem was that previous scholars assumed people took routes that resembled what a “least cost” algorithm would draw — essentially the easiest path. This is “largely effective in lowland zones where economic networks and mobility between urban centers are consistent with ease of travel,” the researchers write in their paper. But those algorithms won’t work in the mountains, on uneven terrain that was often barren.

NHK and CCTV did a 12-part documentary on the Silk Road, with beautiful theme music by Kitaro:

Published on 18 Sep 2013

Camels plodding across the desert, and a sense of timelessness evoked by Kitaro’s theme music… NHK devoted 17 years to the planning, shooting and production of The Silk Road, which unearthed trade routes linking long-lost civilizations of East and West. A landmark in broadcasting history, this series told the story of the rise and fall of ancient civilizations.
The NHK Tokushu and China’s CCTV documentary series The Silk Road began on April 7, 1980. The program started with the memorable scene of a camel caravan crossing the desert against the setting sun, with Kitaro’s music and a sense of timelessness. It was the start of an epic televisual poem.

The first journey described in the series began in Chang’an (now Xi’an), at the eastern end of the ancient route. On 450,000 feet of film, the NHK crew recorded the path westward to the Pamir Heights at the Pakistan border and this material was edited to make 12 monthly broadcasts. In response to viewers’ requests that the series be extended to cover the Silk Road all the way to Rome, sequels were made over the next 10 years. Seventeen years after the program was conceived, the project was completed.

1) The Glories of Ancient Chang-An
Chang-An – China’s old center. The journey begins from Chang-An, current Xi-an that was more than 1,000 years a capital in China, and the melting pot of international influences.

February 26, 2017

Disc Grenade – Camel Corps – Austro-Hungarian Heroes I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 25 Feb 2017

Indy sits in a French Chair this time and answers your questions about World War 1. This week we talk about the German disc grenades and the heroes that were celebrated in Austria-Hungary.

February 24, 2017

Mechanised War In Mesopotamia – Toplica Uprising I THE GREAT WAR Week 135

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 23 Feb 2017

After the humiliating defeat at Kut last year, the British upped their game in Mesopotamia and this week 100 years ago the British Indian Army starts making gains towards Baghdad. In the occupied territories of Serbia the local population is rising up against the Bulgarian and Austro-Hungarian occupants and on the Western Front, the British make surprisingly easy progress against the German Army.

February 22, 2017

TEDxWarwick – Tim Harford – Management Lessons from the War in Iraq

Filed under: Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Uploaded on 17 Mar 2011

Tim Harford is an economist who writes about economics theories behind our daily lives in books and as a Financial Times columnist. All of his books have been sold worldwide and widely translated, namely The Undercover Economist that has sold one million copies. He is the also only person who runs a problem page “Dear Economist” in Financial Times in which readers’ problems are answered with the thought-provoking economic ideas. Tim currently presents the BBC radio series More or Less and contributes regularly to other radio, TV programmes and publications. His talk in TEDxWarwick this year focuses on the similarities between the War in Iraq and the organisation’s top-down management.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Interestingly, the name H.R. McMaster pops up a few times in this talk…

December 24, 2016

Smug Canada has been lucky … so far

Filed under: Cancon, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Chris Selley enumerates a few of the problems other western countries have been having with Islamic terrorism, and points out that Canada just been lucky not to have a greater share:

Here in Canada in 2016, meanwhile, we have endured … almost nothing. Aaron Driver hatched a plot to blow himself up in public somewhere, but police cornered him in his parents’ driveway, the bomb didn’t work and he’s dead now. I had forgotten his name.

Instead, some of us spent 2016 patting ourselves on the backs for accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees. It was a good thing to do. But heading into 2017, I think we might usefully recall demands to bring in five or 10 times that number, immediately, and perhaps finish their security screening on Canadian soil. European countries are struggling with failed asylum-seekers they can’t deport — to Tunisia, never mind Syria. Only someone from a decadently peaceful country like Canada would ever suggest running that risk voluntarily.

Some in my trade spent 2016 penning encomiums to Canada’s supposed new status as a beacon of sanity: while Europe and America devolve into simian nativism and xenophobia, here we are enlightened, welcoming, serene. Some of these pieces conceded that being protected from uncontrolled immigration by oceans to the east, west and north, and by 1,500 kilometres of a larger, warmer economy to the south, might help keep the peace. Heading into 2017, I think we might usefully ponder just how pampered we are by that geographic reality. Faced with the European situation — unstoppable flows of unknown people, regular acts of terror, frequent reports of young migrant men abusing women — would we really react with this patented Canadian equanimity?

December 21, 2016

The western press has been colonized by ISIS/al Qaeda

Filed under: Media, Middle East, Politics, Russia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Brendan O’Neill on the way western media have been trained to report certain events to benefit terrorist organizations:

The British press is morphing into a mouthpiece for al-Qaeda. Consider its coverage of yesterday’s assassination of Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey. It is borderline sympathetic. The killer’s words — or rather, certain of the killer’s words — have been turned into emotional headlines, into condemnations of Russia’s actions in Syria. That the killer’s first and loudest cry was ‘Allahu Akbar’ — the holler of the modern terrorist — has been downplayed, and in the case of at least one newspaper, the Express, completely ignored. Instead the papers upfront the killer’s other cries, about Aleppo. ‘This is for Aleppo’, says The Times. ‘Remember Aleppo’, says the Mirror’s headline, but with no quote marks, because these were not the exact words spoken by the gunman — they’re more like the Mirror’s own sympathetic echo of the killer’s sentiment.

To get a sense of how disturbing, or at least unusual, this coverage is, imagine if the 2013 murder of British soldier Lee Rigby by two Islamists had led to headlines like ‘This is for Afghanistan’ or ‘Remember Basra’ (those two knifemen, like Karlov’s killer, justified their action as a response to militarism overseas). Or if the 7/7 bombings had not given rise to front pages saying ‘Terror bombs explode across London’ or ‘BASTARDS’ but rather ‘While you kill us in Iraq, we will kill you here’. Reading the early coverage of Karlov’s killing, and noting how different it is to British press coverage of other acts of Islamist terror, one gets the impression that the media think this killing is justified, or at least understandable. ‘Remember Aleppo’: they’re saying this as much as the killer is — a perverse union of terrorist and editorial intent.

But the killer said, first, ‘Allahu Akbar’. Which perhaps suggests that his sympathy was not with Syria as such but with certain forces in Syria. Forces likely to shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ as they kill people. Islamist forces. Something peculiar has happened in British media and political circles in recent weeks. Having spent years telling us al-Qaeda-style groups are the greatest threat to our way of life, these people have lately become spectacularly uncritical about, and even weirdly supportive of, the existence and influence of al-Qaeda-style groups in Syria. The press coverage of Karlov’s killing is in keeping with the superbly reductive, highly moralised media coverage of events in Aleppo over the past fortnight, in which there are apparently only two sides: defenceless civilians and evil Russia and Assad. The militants in Aleppo, which include some grotesquely illiberal and misanthropic groups, have been airbrushed out of the coverage as surely as some reporters airbrushed away, or at least demoted to paragraph six, the Turkish assassin’s cry of ‘Allahu Akbar’.

November 15, 2016

QotD: The one certain outcome of the Syrian civil war

Filed under: Middle East, Quotations, Religion, Russia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Russia and the West are fighting to decide whether Syria will be run by Sunni Islamists backed by Saudi Arabia or Shiite Islamists backed by Iran. This insane civil war has burned up countless lives, not to mention plenty of dollars, rubles, euros and pounds. The only certain winners of this war, once the dust has settled, will chant “Allahu Akbar” and call for the death of the infidels.

Daniel Greenfield, “It’s a Mad, Mad War”, Sultan Knish, 2016-10-27.

October 9, 2016

QotD: What triggered the First Crusade?

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Question: You write that, “There was no rational explanation or single event that triggered this sudden desire to possess Jerusalem. Various Muslim factions had held it for over four hundred years.” So how and why did what later became known as the First Crusade get started?

Answer: From a Western perspective, there was a growing interest in the Holy Land. Pilgrimage to Jerusalem had increased throughout the 11th century. There was more of a focused interest on the historical life of Christ, and as a result on historical Jerusalem, than there had been earlier in the Middle Ages.

From the Eastern perspective, starting in the mid-11th century there was an incursion of, as we like to say in the historical game, “barbarians from the East,” in this case the Seljuk Turks. Their advent — their takeover of Baghdad, their embrace of Sunni Islam — destabilized the region in a way that hadn’t happened in about 150 years.

Mixed into this was the emperor of Byzantium, Alexius Comnenus, who clearly felt endangered on all fronts, [including] from the Turks. He decided that the best way to deal with that was to write to the West and to request mercenaries to help him. He framed his request in semi-religious terms, but what he was really after were hardened professional mercenaries.

Meanwhile, in the West, pilgrims were coming back with horror stories of what they’d encountered in Jerusalem. There was a sense that the city of Christ was in danger and was being polluted by these barbarians whom they barely understood. When the request for mercenaries came from the emperor, which was subsequently given a stamp of approval by the pope, it transformed into a massive military movement fought in the name of holy war.

Virginia Postrel talking to Jay Rubenstein, “Why the Crusades Still Matter”, Bloomberg View, 2015-02-10.

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