Category Archives: Culture

Hollywood at war: interview with Matthew Alford

Hollywood at war: interview with Matthew Alford
by Ian Sinclair
Peace News
November 2011

Last year Matthew Alford published Reel Power: Hollywood cinema and American supremacy (Pluto Press), an analysis of mainstream US cinema’s representation of US foreign policy since 9/11. He discussed his book with Ian Sinclair for Peace News at the Rebellious Media Conference.


PN: What is the main argument of Reel Power?

MA: That Hollywood films which depict American foreign policy have a very strong tendency to support notions of American “exceptionalism” and almost never criticise it at a serious level.

PN: Why do the vast majority of Hollywood films routinely promote the United States as a benevolent force in world affairs and support the foreign policy of the US government?

MA: Hollywood is a corporate media system akin to the news in that it is ostensibly free but nevertheless directed by strong factors that determine a pro-establishment line. These factors are: the concentrated ownership within Hollywood, which is owned by the same parent companies that own the news media; the prevalence of product placement and the general commercialised feel; the influence of the department of defence and the CIA, and the fact that if filmmakers do push radical political positions they tend to cause themselves a lot of problems (the Jane Fonda effect). Then there is the pervading ideology which says there is an “us” and “them”, that America is good and benevolent, with enemies throughout the world.

PN: How do you respond to the argument that Hollywood is simply giving audiences what they want?

MA: Hollywood corporations provide what they think audiences will accept. But would audiences feel the same way if they were to see at the beginning of the credits for Transformers (2007-11) or Terminator Salvation (2009) or Battle: Los Angeles (2011) “This film was made with the cooperation of the department of defense”? I suspect not.

PN: In Reel Power you highlight some films such as Redacted (2007), Syriana (2005) and Avatar (2009) that are, to a degree, critical of US foreign policy. How do you explain these films being made within corporate Hollywood? What makes them different?

MA: There are special cases which do come up and that’s because Hollywood is a free system. There is no one censorship body saying you must not produce political films which attack American exceptionalism. So a film like Avatar did get through, largely because of the enormous power that [Avatar director] James Cameron wielded through his reputation for making very profitable movies. Typically, though, such ideas slip through in films like Redacted and War, Inc (2008), which are made on low budgets and tend to be distributed very poorly. To take another case, Disney was very unhappy about the political content of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004). We don’t quite know why. It might have been due to the general political edginess of it. Others suggest it was because it looked at the relationship between the US and the Saudis. Disney prevented their subsidiary from distributing the film, which was a big move to make for one $10 million documentary movie.

PN: Are there any historical periods in which more critical and questioning Hollywood films have been produced?

MA: Yes, in the immediate aftermath of World War One, there was a general feeling of anti-militarism which was reflected in Hollywood. Perhaps most famous was All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), which provoked the Nazis in Germany to release rats in cinemas. Also to some degree in the 1970s there was an opening up of creativity prior to the big parent companies coming in and buying up Hollywood. This was the era of Apocalypse Now (1979), The Deer Hunter (1978) and Taxi Driver (1976). But even these films have to come with an asterisk attached. The Deer Hunter is widely seen as a great anti-war film but it still has really vicious representations of the Vietnamese. Do you remember the Russian roulette scene? Well the filmmakers just made that up. And although war was depicted negatively it was the American invaders who were suffering.

PN: Reel Power focuses on American movies and American foreign policy. Could your analysis be applied to British cinema and British foreign policy?

MA: When it matters to the powers that be, yes. So Peter Watkins’ The War Game (1965) docudrama, that “recreated” a nuclear war, was banned by the BBC for twenty years. Or go back to the early days of cinema and consider the film biopic The Life of David Lloyd George (1918), which was bought and suppressed by someone in the Liberal Party and found in mint condition eighty years later (Lloyd George was the wartime British prime minister). However, it’s worth pointing out that Hollywood is uniquely open to military influence because its filmmakers frequently need the assistance of the armed forces, due to the traditional emphasis on high-budget, action-packed blockbusters.

PN: What can concerned citizens and activists do to encourage films that are critical of US foreign policy?

MA: I think we should be primarily concerned about criticising films that encourage US foreign policy, rather than the other way around. We should actively oppose the most egregious, corporate-led, CIA/department of defense-backed movies through protest, boycott and criticism. If people also want to encourage anti-war films, then yes, that’s fine – they can make them and they can distribute them fairly easily through the web. One of the things that came out of the session [at the Rebellious Media Conference] was a whole range of activist ideas from the audience. For example, people were talking about calling up their local cinema to encourage certain films to be put on there. And, yes, I think if people are actively engaged in film rather than being passive consumers that will usually result in better products.

Benghazi: the real story

Benghazi: the real story
by Ian Sinclair
Morning Star
21 March 2016

Hollywood, as lecturer Matthew Alford explains in his 2010 book Reel Power, “routinely promotes the dubious notion that the United States is a benevolent force in world affairs.”

Thus Michael Bay’s $50 million recent film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi tells the story of the September 11 2012 attack on the US consulate in Libya, which killed the US ambassador and three of his colleagues.

As with movies such as Black Hawk Down (2001) and Lone Survivor (2013) the audience watches as a small band of brave US servicemen heroically fight back against hundreds of faceless Arabs, with no apparent motive other than a hatred of Westerners.

13 Hours is clear about the benevolent intent of the US in Libya, with the initial credits explaining the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had an annex close to the US consulate, where operatives gathered intelligence to try their best to get weapons taken off the black market.

In an extensive February 2016 investigation into the US intervention in Libya, the New York Times repeats this official narrative, explaining the US “struggled against weapons proliferation” after Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi had been overthrown and killed.

However, a number of reports show there is far more to the story than the US government, 13 Hours and the New York Times would have us believe.

In August 2013 CNN reported that dozens of CIA operatives had been on the ground in Benghazi and that “the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing remains a secret.”

According to one source quoted by CNN, the CIA has been involved in an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency’s Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out. All of which begs an obvious question: if the CIA were simply attempting to stop weapons proliferation in Libya, why would this need to be covered up?

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh’s reporting on US actions in Libya may provide the answer. According to an article he published in the London Review of Books in April 2014, the CIA, with the assistance of Britain’s MI6, set up a “rat line” to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya to Syria via southern Turkey. “The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,” says a former intelligence official quoted by Hersh.

Citing a classified annex to a US Senate intelligence committee report, Hersh notes the funding for the weapons transfers came from US allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

A formerly classified October 2012 US Defence Intelligence Agency report echoes Hersh’s discovery, noting that “during the immediate aftermath of … the downfall of the [Gadaffi] regime in October 2011 … weapons from the

former Libyan military stockpiles located in Benghazi, Libya, were shipped” to Syria. Importantly, the report explains the shipments ended in early September 2012 — the date the US consulate was attacked and when Hersh also says the shipments ended.

Michael Morrell, the former deputy director of the CIA, confirmed the existence of the weapons shipments in testimony to the US House intelligence committee in November 2012. However, the part of the transcript showing Morrell’s response to a question asking whether the CIA was involved in co-ordinating the weapons transfers is redacted. “Long story short: the CIA was watching closely as our allies transferred weapons to Syrian rebels,” explained the independent journalist Marcy Wheeler, summarising Morrell’s testimony and the CIA report.

So, while many of the details are fuzzy, it seems clear the US was transferring weapons from Libya to Syria or, at the very least, was fully aware its allies were doing this and did nothing. Weapons, it should be noted, that a plethora of experts and observers — from former Nato secretary-generals to the United Nations — have warned will only escalate and deepen the war in Syria.

In addition to contradicting the Establishment-promoted image of US-British power as benevolent and positive, the real story of Benghazi fatally undermines the dominant narrative that, as BBC Today programme presenter Nick Robinson recently noted, the Obama administration has had a “deep unwillingness to get engaged in” the Syrian war. Or, as well-respected think-tanker Shadi Hamid argues, US policy in Syria has been one of “defensive minimalism.” Furthermore, the Libyan-Syrian “rat line” story also highlights another inconvenient truth: Hersh notes that “many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida.”

If, as the independent media icon Amy Goodman has said, “the role of journalism is to go where the silences are,” then the CIA and MI6 role in Benghazi should be the first port of call for anyone looking to shine a light on the nefarious machinations of the Western powers in the Middle East.

My favourite non-fiction books of 2015

My favourite non-fiction books of 2015
by Ian Sinclair
Morning Star
21 December 2015

A polemical, first-hand expose of the corporate elites who rule and ruin the world for the rest of us, ex-Financial Times journalist Matt Kennard’s The Racket is investigative journalism at its best. “A class war is being fought and the poor are losing”, he notes. Covering the Turkish repression of the Kurds, the continuing US-led plunder of South America and the downtrodden of the US itself, the book makes a good case for Kennard being a true heir to John Pilger and the older generation of muckrakers.

Like Kennard, as a long-time advocate for nonviolent revolution, Peace News provides an alternative way of viewing and understanding world events. Their latest book, The World Is My Country by Emily Johns and Gabriel Carlyle, continues this non-conformist tradition by remembering and celebrating the people and movements that opposed the mass slaughter of the First World War. Inspired by To End All Wars, Adam Hochschild’s majestic 2011 book about the British anti-war movement, the short booklet is comprised of Carlyle’s well researched accounts of the war resisters and ten original posters painted by Johns. The global perspective they provide is particularly impressive. “The very term ‘The First World War’ is highly ideological”, the authors note. “Viewed from the Global South there was already a ‘world war’ in progress on 27 July 1914: namely, a war by the European (and American) empires against much of the rest of the world.”

David Rosenberg’s Rebel Footprints: A Guide To Uncovering London’s Radical History is also concerned with resistance and rebellion. Interwoven with practical walking guides, Rosenberg tells the story of the capital’s radical history from the 1830s to the 1930s. From the massive Chartist demonstration on Kennington Common in 1848, to the middle-class dissidents of the Bloomsbury set and the class-conscious Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst these accounts will no doubt inspire readers to agitate against today’s Tory Government and the corporations who cast such a long shadow over our democratic institutions.

Book review: The Racket. A Rogue Reporter Vs. The Masters of the Universe by Matt Kennard

Book review: The Racket. A Rogue Reporter Vs. The Masters of the Universe by Matt Kennard by Ian Sinclair
Red Pepper
September 2015

Having worked as a reporter at the Financial Times, Matt Kennard left to write this barnstorming expose of the US-led economic, political and military elites that rule the world. “A class war is being fought and the poor are losing”, he notes.

Following Amy Goodman’s dictum that “the role of journalism is to go where the silences are”, Kennard fires off incendiary dispatches from the parts of the world rarely covered by the Western mainstream media. With the secrets uncovered by Wikileaks underpinning the reportage, the book focusses on Turkey’s US-backed ethnic cleaning of the Kurds and US attempts to undermine progressive change in Haiti, Honduras and Bolivia.

Refreshingly, Kennard is unafraid to highlight the inconvenient facts often overlooked by his professional colleagues. “Israel is – by any definition of international law – a rogue, terrorist state”. Elsewhere he explains that in the 1970s the US helped to set up Operation Condor, a South America-wide terror network which targeted those opposing the right-wing dictatorships that were supported by the US. At the highly undemocratic United Nations, since the 1960s the US has used its veto on the Security Council far more than any other nation. NATO designed the 1999 Rambouillet peace talks with Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslavia to fail.

Echoing Noam Chomsky, his key intellectual influence, Kennard argues that throughout the West there exists “a well-stocked army of intellectuals whose sole purpose is to make theft and brutality acceptable to the general population”. The media is a central player in this deadly propaganda war. And with power selecting for obedience, Kennard writes that journalists “have to block out the truth of how the world works” if they wish “to flourish in the corporate media”.

Like the best work of John Pilger, George Monbiot and Naomi Klein, The Racket is investigative, passionate journalism with a purpose – to defend the powerless against rapacious power. A hugely important tour de force, it will inform and inspire resistance movements for years to come.

Album review: Whatever’s Left by Grace Petrie and the Benefits Culture

Whatever’s Left by Grace Petrie and the Benefits Culture (www.gracepetrie.com)
Morning Star

Four stars

The latest album from the left-wing Leicester-born singer-songwriter is a stirring bulletin from the frontlines of the struggle against the rapacious British political elite.

Taking Morrissey’s advice, refreshingly Petrie goes beyond the Punch and Judy politics of Labour vs. Tories. After criticising Labour for their support of Workfare on You Pay Peanuts, You Get Monkeys (You Pay Nothing, You Get Nowt), on the title track she says that “The only red politics I’ve seen are Green.”

It’s not all politicking. Over her band’s folk-pop, Petrie sings of relationships gone wrong on The Last Love Song, a cutting kiss-off to a former infatuation, and the break-up blues The Heartbreak Handbook. Listen out too for cheeky musical nods to Dolly Parton and Bob Dylan.

One hesitates to use the cliché Voice of a Generation, but if anyone encapsulates the frustrations of life under Cameron its Petrie.

Superb.

The Daily Show: Speaking truth to power or setting the boundaries of acceptable debate?

The Daily Show: Speaking truth to power or setting the boundaries of acceptable debate?
by Ian Sinclair
Znet

31 October 2008

As November 4 approaches, The Daily Show is likely to have a disproportionately large effect on the political debate surrounding the US Presidential Elections.

Studies consistently show that a large proportion of young Americans choose to get their news from this satirical half-hour “fake news” programme aired on Comedy Central four nights a week, rather than watch the mainstream news broadcasts on CNN, NBC or CBS. With an audience of 1.6 million, The Daily Show not only skewers the gaffes and doublespeak of the incumbent Bush Administration, but also mocks the often Alice in Wonderland world of the mainstream media.

Despite the show’s popularity, Jon Stewart – the show’s sharp-witted host and liberal poster boy – has always denied The Daily Show is serious journalism, arguing that its primary purpose is to make people laugh, quipping “the show that leads in to me is puppets making crank phone calls.”

However, when you consider the high regard in which many young people hold the show, Stewart’s defence begins to ring a little hollow.   It is common knowledge that when he took over hosting The Daily Show in 1999, Stewart pushed for a more issues and news driven approach, ditching the previous character-based, celebrity format. This change in style has led to a string of recent high profile political interviews including Barack Obama, John McCain, Bill Clinton, Evo Morales and even Pakistan‘s President Pervez Musharraf.

This focus on serious issues was confirmed by a 2006 Indiana University study which found The Daily Show had news coverage on a par with traditional broadcast network newscasts (although, interestingly, the study found that both had a relatively low level of substantive coverage). Furthermore, incredibly a Pew Research poll last year found that the ‘fake news anchor’ Stewart was the fourth most admired journalist in the US – tied with real news anchors including Tom Brokaw of NBC and Dan Rather of CBS.

The show has also been a huge success with the critics, receiving two Peabody Awards – one step down from the Pulitzer awards apparently – for its coverage of the 2000 and 2004 Presidential Elections, along with eleven Emmy Awards. More importantly, the liberal elite has taken the show to its heart, with PBS journalist Bill Moyers arguing “you simply can’t understand American politics in the new millennium without The Daily Show”. Michiko Kakutani goes even further in his recent story about the programme in the New York Times, praising Stewart for “speaking truth to power”.

The problem is that while Stewart – earning a reported $14 million a year – certainly does criticise the present Administration he also holds a slew of naïve views and assumptions about the workings of American power that would make his high school socialist hero Eugene Debs turn in his grave. For example, Stewart’s criticisms of US foreign policy are frustratingly limited to talking about ‘strategic errors’ rather than a radical analysis that highlights how, since 1945, the US has, in the words of British historian Mark Curtis, “been systematically opposed” to “peace, democracy, human rights and economic development in the Third World”.

Witness Stewart’s seven-minute teary-eyed monologue at the start of the first show aired after 9/11. Like many other liberals at the time Stewart seems to have been politically paralysed by the atrocity, happily swallowing the US Government’s simplistic, self-serving explanation of the attack. According to Stewart “what the whole situation is about” is “the difference between closed and open. The difference between free and burdened… it’s democracy…. They can’t shut it down.” That’s right Jon, it’s nothing to do with US foreign policy in the Muslim world, or the more than one million Iraqis who died because of US/UK sanctions or the continuing US support of Israel. No, it’s about the very healthy democracy in the your country where approximately half the electorate usually don’t bother to vote.

With his apartment overlooking the World Trade Center, maybe Stewart can be forgiven for losing the plot in the emotionally charged times after the attack. But what are we to make of his jocular, back-slapping interview with Senator John McCain in 2007 (who is apparently a personal friend of Stewart’s)? Discussing the occupation of Iraq with the Republican Presidential candidate, The Daily Show host asserted: “They [the Iraqis] are fighting each other. We are there keeping them from killing each other.” Stewart seems to be unaware of the US Government’s own figures that show the overwhelming majority of attacks by the insurgents are against the US-led coalition forces rather than against each other. Ditto the 2006 Lancet survey which highlighted how, rather than “keeping Iraqis from killing each other”, the US forces were infact a major source of killing in Iraq.

The last straw for me was Stewart’s ‘softball’ interview last month with Tony Blair – a man widely seen as a compulsive liar by many in the UK, and as a potential prisoner in The Hague by those who took a close interest in the lead up to the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Flipping uncomfortably between strained jokiness and grave seriousness, Blair spouts (largely unchallenged) nonsense about how no two democracies have ever gone to war with each other (the US vs. Iran in 1953, Chile in 1973 and Nicaragua in the 1980s?) Clearly unaware of Eduardo Galeano’s dictum that “in general, the words uttered by power are not meant to express its actions, but to disguise them”, Stewart came out with this incredible nugget about George Bush: “He is a big freedom guy. He believes if everyone was a democracy there would be no more fighting.” That’s right folks. The problem is that the US is trying too darn hard to spread democracy around the world. This explains why Bush is so close to the Saudi Arabian royal family, and why the US invaded oil-rich Iraq, bombed Afghanistan back to the stone age and supported the 2002 coup against the democratically elected Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

Although it sounds like an oxymoron, comedy can be both serious and radical. “There is one political party in America, and that is – THE BUSINESS PARTY”, wrote the legendary Texan comic Bill Hicks in 1992, while British comedian Robert Newman explains in his stand-up routine that “the central political battle of our time is between corporate power and democracy.” In contrast, Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show is largely confined to the playground politics that dominate the degraded political discourse in the US today – liberal vs. conservative, Democrat vs. Republican, Tweedle Dee vs. Tweedle Dum.

Stewart is surely right to state the mainstream news media in the US is “hurting America”, as he did during a heated exchange on CNN’s now-defunct Crossfire in 2004.   However, as a programme that is adversarial but always within very strict ideological boundaries, surely it is also true The Daily Show has its own role to play in what US dissident Noam Chomsky calls ‘the manufacture of consent’: “Thus far and no further”.

An open letter to Bruce Springsteen REM, Wilco and Arcade Fire on President Obama

An open letter to Bruce Springsteen REM, Wilco and Arcade Fire on President Obama
by Ian Sinclair
Winnipeg Free Press
25 February 2012

Dear Bruce Springsteen, REM (RIP), Wilco and Arcade Fire,

First a few admissions in the interests of transparency. Bruce, I consider you to be the most important and vital singer-songwriter working today. My deep respect for you led me to write my 15,000-word dissertation on your music for my masters of American studies. I would include Murmur in my top 20 albums of all time. I remember Automatic For The People playing in the background as I fell in love at university. I think Pitchfork Media was spot on when they awarded Yankee Hotel Foxtrot their 10 rating. I love, absolutely love, Anodyne. In short, you have all played a huge role in soundtracking and enriching my life.

Oh, yes. I almost forgot. Arcade Fire. I like your music but have never completely fallen in love with you like everyone else. But you are very much the band of the moment and everyone I know thinks you are touched by the hand of God, so I thought it was important to include you.

I am writing to you all because in 2008 you enthusiastically endorsed the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, playing numerous benefit concerts in support of his campaign.

Speaking to the BBC Culture Show, Bruce described Obama as “a knight” who had come to save the United States from “the disastrous administration of the past eight years.” During his public appearances at Obama’s election rallies, Bruce emphasized Obama’s qualities of “temperateness,” “compassion,” and “understanding.” In November 2011, Michael Stipe and Mike Mills of disbanded R.E.M. appeared on BBC Newsnight and stated they were “huge fans” of President Obama and would be voting for him again come November. Speaking backstage at a concert where he introduced the then Illinois senator as “the next President of the United States,” Jeff Tweedy of Wilco explained that Obama “melted our hearts” when the band first met him in 2005.

Guys, with your support – and the votes of nearly 70 million of your fellow Americans – Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States in January 2009. However, while many of you were openly critical of the Bush Administration, as far as I can tell none of you has made any public criticisms of the Obama administration. Of course this could be because Obama’s actions in the White House do not warrant criticism. But can this be true if former CIA director Michael Hayden is correct when he says “there’s been a powerful continuity between the 43rd and the 44th” presidents?

The former head of Britain’s MI6 is in general agreement with his American counterpart, noting foreign policy under Obama has remained “very aggressive and hardline.” On Afghanistan, Obama has actually escalated Bush’s war, sending an additional 30,000 American servicemen and women into danger. Predictably this has led to an escalation in violence, with the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office recently noting that the number of insurgent attacks grew by 14 per cent in 2011 to 13,983 attacks a year. Similarly, civilian deaths are at an all-time high. How did you feel when U.S. warplanes bombed the Afghan village of Granai in May 2009 killing perhaps 140 people, around 90 of them children? The killing continues. Earlier this month, NATO killed eight Afghan children in a bombing raid. Does Obama’s policy of propping up an Afghan government that runs medieval-like torture systems, including a stretching rack, make you queasy?

Across the border in Pakistan, did you know Obama is just as unpopular as Bush was, with a 2011 Pew Research poll finding 69 per cent of Pakistanis view the United States as an enemy? Turns out Pakistanis aren’t that keen on American drone strikes. Would you be happy if another country was conducting drone attacks on New Jersey, Athens, Chicago or Montreal? The Bureau of Investigative Journalism recently reported drone strikes in Pakistan “have been stepped up enormously under Obama,” averaging one every four days and killing between 282 and 535 civilians.

Did you know the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who joked about using drones on the Jonas Brothers, has now authorized drone attacks in six nations across the world – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and Libya? This reflects Obama’s preference for targeted killings – sometimes of American citizens – rather than capturing suspected terrorists, the latter the preferred policy of the Bush administration.

What do you think of the Obama administration’s treatment of Bradley Manning, described by 250 legal scholars in the United States as “degrading and inhumane”? And what to make of Obama’s deliberate attempts to scuttle any serious attempt to get a global deal on climate change?

Back at home, it is widely accepted Obama is running a “Wall Street government.” The signs certainly weren’t good when he hired Timothy Geithner, a key player in the deregulation of finance in the 1990s, as his treasury secretary, were they? “At every crucial opportunity, Obama has failed to stand up for the poor and middle class,” Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs noted last year. “It’s not hard to understand why. Obama and the Democratic Party politicians rely on Wall Street and the super-rich for campaign contributions.” Were you aware Obama was raising far more money from Wall Street than John McCain when you publicly endorsed him? And does the October 2011 Washington Post article explaining “Obama has brought in more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and other financial service companies than all the GOP candidates combined” concern you at all?

All of this is not to say you were not right to support Obama over McCain in 2008, and wouldn’t be right to back Obama over the Republican presidential nominee in 2012. There are clearly real differences between having a Democratic and Republican president, especially for the most vulnerable members of society. But does this mean you should stay silent when Obama carries out the same or similar policies as his predecessor?

“Obama’s greatest achievement is having seduced, co-opted and silenced much of liberal opinion in the U.S.,” argues journalist John Pilger. Your silence during the death and destruction of Obama’s first term is living proof of the political con-trick he performed to win Ad Age’s marketer of the year award in 2008. But do you think the Pakistani mother whose child is killed by an American drone cares whether the attack occurred under a Democratic or Republican president?

Isn’t a key role for artists in any society to ask awkward questions? To hold power to account? To think outside the box? Songs like Born in the USA, Welcome to the Occupation and The Flowers of Guatemala were some of the most powerful critiques of the Reagan administration’s domestic and foreign policies. But this is 2012, not the 1980s. If the narrator of Born in the USA was “born down in a dead man’s town” a generation later, he would have “a brother in Helmand/Fighting off the Taliban.” The Flowers of Guatemala would be renamed The Flowers of Pakistan.

Rather than continuing to support the most powerful politician in the world – what Matt Taibbi calls the “imperial administrator” – isn’t it time you, as popular artists with huge audiences and all the influence this suggests, began to give a voice to the victims of the Obama administration?

Yours,

Ian Sinclair
London, UK