The ‘New’ Iranian Stand-Off Is Just Business As Usual for the USA

In recent months, news coverage has again become dominated with reports from Iran, with President Trump and his counter-part President Hassan Rouhani stuck in a now-familiar war of words in response to Trump escalating sanctions against the beleaguered Gulf nation, with Rouhani recently calling the Trump “mentally retarded”. Retarded… maybe not. Simple? Most definitely. Yet the US administration’s latest escalations with Iran are not the birth of a new conflict but exhaustively predictable behaviour from a nation which has been behaving this way for decades, even when it was ruled by much sharper minds than Donald J. Trump.

It is notable that Iran can take credit for being one of the few prizes for aspiring rulers of any international hegemony which has resisted subservience to America, the dominant world power. The country has become economically crippled and a fundamentalist, autocratic Islamic theocracy along the way. The Republican administration of 2019 has not radically hardened America’s response to their resistance: Democratic and Republican administrations alike have pursued the same neo-realist approach which requires rebellious, resource-rich and strategically important states such as Iran to be brought in line or duly punished. (more…)

#MeToo in Indie Music, and the Pinegrove Example

In a year which has heaped upon us a depressing deluge of exposés of revered figures in our popular culture, from Michael Jackson to Rolf Harris (okay, not always that revered either…) there are few of us music fans who haven’t been touched by the dilemma of separating art from the artist. In music especially, it has become impossible to ignore that fact that some songs which have formed the soundtracks to some of the best days of our lives were made by humans whose actions we abhor. In the last week, many Morrissey fans may have found themselves struggling to listen to his new LP over a different moral quandary, thanks to his appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon wearing that badge.

At least the medium, sound, was always innocent in all this: there are no liberal chords and fascist riffs. Imagine that you come across a 1970s flamenco album on a spurious random internet blog, you download the ZIP file and find that it touches you deeply. You don’t speak Spanish, but the music is joyous and you want to share that joy, by hijacking playlists at parties and sending a link to your mother. Then, years later, you make the mistake of sharing your little find with a Spanish-speaking friend, who is shocked to find you endorsing an old album with lyrics which can be best described as rampantly fascist. You are horrified, but what are you meant to do? It’s too late, you’re already in. You may loathe the politics, but nothing has inherently changed about the music itself.  (more…)

Oklahoma Teachers On Food-stamps and Raw Sewage in Alabama: the “Forgotten Men and Women” in America Today

Donald Trump became President on January 20th 2017 and, appropriately, marked the occasion with a tweet. It read:

A little over a year later, reports from the nation’s heartlands suggest a radically different narrative, where “forgotten men and women” have not only yet to be remembered, but have fallen foul to a collective bout of governmental amnesia. Shocking stories are not new to de-prioritised US states; the lack of clean water in Flint, Michigan reverberating the world over, such was the shock of such a situation within the world’s great superpower. So supportive was the story of the doom-leaden image of American painted by Donald Trump; Hilary Clinton’s neglect to visit Flint stands as one of her most deplorable campaign failures. (more…)

An Inconsequential Awards Show Just Hosted A Touchstone Moment In An Intensifying Cultural Divide

“What just happened?” These were the words which headlined many an article reporting on the chaos which occurred on stage at the 89th Oscars on Sunday night, where bookies’ favourite La La Land appeared to attain the inevitable, only for Warren Beattie to have to prepare before an audience of millions an entire buffet of humble pie and reveal that it was the other critical darling, Moonlight, which had actually won the award. However with the racial tensions surrounding the dramatically unrepresentative Oscars of previous years and conspiracy theories already abound, it seems ‘what just happened’ was little to do with cinema or what went down on stage, and was instead the creation of a talking-point which evidences rising social narratives that are increasingly radical, vitriolic and unforgiving. (more…)

How Did We Get Here?

Yesterday, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. It’s still quite surreal. It will be hard to disassociate the images of him in the Oval Office with President Obama which emerge today from all those SNL sketches at first, but that’s the reality. It’s also not the end of the world. As the residing President said himself: the sun still rose this morning. Hyperbole isn’t helpful. It’s also hard to imagine a deeply unprepared President Trump, who has seized upon the pain of so many but has offered not a single solution to resolve it, making it beyond four years. So let’s take this for what it is: a wake-up call. It’s a gut punch which may finally force everyone who is against the fascism of Donald Trump and far-right populism in the West to realise that it’s no anomaly, that we can’t pretend that it’s not there or that people aren’t suffering. It should urge us to finally aim to reach out to the people feeling it and name alternative causes of the symptoms they feel so strongly. (more…)