I found this lovely political cartoon while browsing through the pages of The Courier Journal on a recent trip to Louisville.
Kentucky’s journalistic elites reveal holding a rather bold view of their state’s electorate. Contemptuous insinuations of ‘racism’ charges have been seen and heard plenty of during this electoral race, but this cartoon is so painfully lacking in subtlety that it reminded me of an insightful article from The Los Angeles Times.
For the first time in human history, a largely white nation has elected a black man to be its paramount leader. And the cultural meaning of this unprecedented convergence of dark skin and ultimate power will likely become — at least for a time — a national obsession. In fact, the Obama presidency will always be read as an allegory. Already we are as curious about the cultural significance of his victory as we are about its political significance.
Does his victory mean that America is now officially beyond racism? Does it finally complete the work of the civil rights movement so that racism is at last dismissible as an explanation of black difficulty? Can the good Revs. Jackson and Sharpton now safely retire to the seashore? Will the Obama victory dispel the twin stigmas that have tormented black and white Americans for so long — that blacks are inherently inferior and whites inherently racist? Doesn’t a black in the Oval Office put the lie to both black inferiority and white racism? Doesn’t it imply a “post-racial” America? And shouldn’t those of us — white and black — who did not vote for Mr. Obama take pride in what his victory says about our culture even as we mourn our political loss?
Answering no to such questions is like saying no to any idealism; it seems callow. How could a decent person not hope for all these possibilities, or not give America credit for electing its first black president? And yet an element of Barack Obama’s success was always his use of the idealism implied in these questions as political muscle. His talent was to project an idealized vision of a post-racial America — and then to have that vision define political decency. Thus, a failure to support Obama politically implied a failure of decency.
Obama’s special charisma — since his famous 2004 convention speech — always came much more from the racial idealism he embodied than from his political ideas. In fact, this was his only true political originality. On the level of public policy, he was quite unremarkable. His economics were the redistributive axioms of old-fashioned Keynesianism; his social thought was recycled Great Society. But all this policy boilerplate was freshened up — given an air of “change” — by the dreamy post-racial and post-ideological kitsch he dressed it in.
This worked politically for Obama because it tapped into a deep longing in American life — the longing on the part of whites to escape the stigma of racism. In running for the presidency — and presenting himself to a majority white nation — Obama knew intuitively that he was dealing with a stigmatized people. He knew whites were stigmatized as being prejudiced, and that they hated this situation and literally longed for ways to disprove the stigma.
Obama is what I have called a “bargainer” — a black who says to whites, “I will never presume that you are racist if you will not hold my race against me.” Whites become enthralled with bargainers out of gratitude for the presumption of innocence they offer. Bargainers relieve their anxiety about being white and, for this gift of trust, bargainers are often rewarded with a kind of halo.
Obama’s post-racial idealism told whites the one thing they most wanted to hear: America had essentially contained the evil of racism to the point at which it was no longer a serious barrier to black advancement. Thus, whites became enchanted enough with Obama to become his political base. It was Iowa — 95% white — that made him a contender. Blacks came his way only after he won enough white voters to be a plausible candidate.
Of course, it is true that white America has made great progress in curbing racism over the last 40 years. I believe, for example, that Colin Powell might well have been elected president in 1996 had he run against a then rather weak Bill Clinton. It is exactly because America has made such dramatic racial progress that whites today chafe so under the racist stigma. So I don’t think whites really want change from Obama as much as they want documentation of change that has already occurred. They want him in the White House first of all as evidence, certification and recognition.
Never express yourself more clearly than you think. —Niels Bohr
Barack Obama and the political architects of what will be his administration have expressed themselves rather clearly with respect to their plans for imposing mandatory community service on young Americans. The puzzle is figuring out just what they are thinking!
Here we have Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff, in a 2006 interview with Ben Smith of the NY Daily News. Perhaps Emanuel was not expecting to be in a position to have to own up to his own words when this interview took place, but some of his most outrageous utterances seem to have inspired Obama’s “master plan” for America.
Right before the nine-minute mark of the podcast we hear it straight from the horse’s mouth:
Citizenship is not an entitlement program. It comes with responsibility.
Citizenship is not an entitlement program? Well Mr. Emanuel, the nation’s top 1% earners who shoulder as great a tax burden as the bottom 95% would not argue with you over that. For them citizenship is more like a charity program. In fact, the nation’s highest-earning one-fifth of households receive $0.41 for every dollar paid in taxes —the rest going to finance entitlement programs for the bottom one-fifth which receive $8.21 in government spending for each dollar paid in taxes.
Anyone for whom citizenship can be conceived of as a welfare program owes such privileged existence to the productive citizens whose socks are being taxed off. The government cannot expect gratitude or reciprocation from the recipients of its “generous benevolence” funded by the compulsory taxation of other people’s dime.
Emanuel’s pronouncement sounds like a vernacular paraphrase of John F. Kennedy‘s “…ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country…” regarding which Milton Friedman had the following to say (and I couldn’t have said it any better):
In a much quoted passage in his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” It is a striking sign of the temper of our times that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic “what your country can do for you” implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man’s belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, “what you can do for your country” implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served. He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive.
The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather “What can I and my compatriots do through government” to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect? (Capitalism and Freedom)
The political conglomerate of pseudo compassionate anti-establishment collectivists we commonly refer to as “the Left” in America, has furthered its agenda by appealing to the electorate’s passion for radical personal freedoms since the 1960s. Social liberalism represents one side of the libertarian-philosophy coin, and its adoption by Leftist activists has been one of the few redeeming qualities of the Democratic Party. It seems as though in the face of ideological degeneration by the Republican Party, —manifested in its abandon of fiscal responsibility and free enterprise ideals (the other side of the coin)— Democrats are lowering their own standards too by compromising on their support for personal freedoms. In such an environment of intellectual slack the mask is finally slipping on the Left’s true agenda.
Being in the opposition party no longer, being the anti-establishment rebels no longer, they have no more need for their staple “stick it to the man” oratory flaming up our culture, and no more affinity for “personal freedoms”. The Left is mainstreaming and its agenda is achieving dreadful consistency.
The dichotomy between economic freedom and personal freedom had always been a faux rhetorical construction. Economic tyranny, even within an unrealistic bubble of personal freedom, can be reduced to a state of limited autonomy within bureaucratic boundaries dictating severe redistribution of the fruits of any successful efforts. Economic tyranny entails an indirect and often passive infringement of personal freedoms. Personal tyranny is directly intrusive and the active intervention required to enforce it cannot go unnoticed or un-resented by the citizenry. Infringements of either personal or economic liberties are all steps toward the same absolutist political direction, whatever their different nuances on the radicalism scale.
History reveals economic planning and social engineering to be sister tyrannies. In none of the countries where communism ever took over were personal freedoms of speech, association, or personal expression (dress code), reproductive rights, or privacy considerations respected. The absolutist self-declared representatives of the proletariat dictated not only the logistics and priorities of economic production but also conformist uniform morality to the masses. Personal freedom without economic freedom was always unsustainable middle ground.
The new administration is insinuating itself very boldly in the spectrum of personal freedoms previously assumed to be off-limits for the Left. Obama and Emanuel will not be satisfied with allowing us to lead our individual lives as we please while merely contingently burdening us with heavy taxes in case we “overly” succeed at making a living. No. They also want your sweat and blood. They want to not only ration the funds in your bank account, but also the hours in your week during high school and college, as well as a bloc of a few months between the 18th and 25th year of your life.
Is the Left getting bolder, or is it just getting consistent?
The election is finally behind us. After initial sighs of relief and disappointment many are already beginning to re-examine the American electorate’s fault lines. What pundits call a “center-right” nation is actually a diverse culture characterized by respect for individualism, freedom, ingenuity, and by aspirations toward American exceptionalism. Articulating the tenets of this culture had been the driving force behind Ronald Reagan’s landslide electoral victories and this same ideological vigor is bubbling up again in certain parts of the Republican mosh pit.
Other elements within the American Right are insinuating corrosive tactics into the political discourse, and seek to counter Leftist-induced capitulationism with crypto-fascist madness. The ideological dilemma facing the Right is being played out in the political arena but also in the cultural microcosm of the blogosphere. The recent fallout between the libertarian Charles Johnson of LGF and the religious supremacist Robert Spencer of JihadWatch offers instructive perspective into the fractures of the Right.
For Johnson it wasn’t much of a blog-war rather a series of restrained guerrilla attacks on his open threads, where he announced the rift and reported on incoming hate mail from Spencer’s camp. However, Spencer himself along with the ever bellicose Pamela Geller did take the battlefield with public announcements or shall I say, denouncements, on their respective blogs.
Inquiring minds need to know how it got to this, so let’s trace back this affair’s developments chronologically, shall we?
In the comment section of this article, Charles posts a lone link to a JihadWatch post supportive of the conference, silently indicating that his eyebrows are raised at Robert Spencer.
September 12th, 2008: Robert Spencer pulls down the original article from his site, offering a detailed explanation of his reasons — an account conceding that the individuals and organizations involved in the Cologne Conference have pan-fascist agendas, which no respectable counter-jihadist ought to support. His explanation for why the post was ever published in the first place and had remained on his site for four days, essentially boiled down to its author —Raymond Ibrahim— having been unaware of “all the issues involved” while he —Robert Spencer himself— had been too distracted to notice the post. From Spencer’s clarification:
One of the advantages of having other people write for this site is that it allows me, every now and again, to do other things. But that also means that occasionally I miss things that are posted here. It was brought to my attention this morning that there was a favorable post here a few days ago about Iran protesting against an upcoming anti-jihad conference in Europe that features Jean-Marie LePen, the FPO of Austria, and other prominent European far-right politicians. I took it down just now, as we do not support European neo-fascism or race supremacism (and the person who posted it didn’t know all the issues involved), but I didn’t want simply to take the post down without explanation.
Charles Johnson seemingly bought it, but none of this squared off with me. It certainly didn’t help that from my initial cursory glance at the vanished article, the “Raymond” author signature had been blurred with “Robert” in my mind. Deciding that my memory was more trustworthy than anything coming out of Robert Spencer’s mouth, I accused him of being the original author of the article and of scapegoating Raymond for the debacle. Despite my good reasons for deeply distrusting Spencer, Google cache proved me wrong on this instance. My visual memory is by no means infallible and I retracted my accusation when presented with compelling evidence. Robert indeed screeched that this undoubtedly proved me a liar, while it merely proved me wrong: I knew at least Charles Johnson had read the article before it disappeared and that he would have noticed the author. I wouldn’t have charged Spencer of being the author unless I was convinced that others who had also read the article before it was pulled down would also vouch for what I thought I had seen.
Sometime Between September 12th and September 27th: Said article is stealthily reposted and live on JihadWatch—the same article that Robert Spencer wrote a 922-word backpedaling “clarification” to announce the retraction of. I was right not to put dirty internet tricks above him after all. I noticed it on September 27th, but who knows how much earlier it had been reinstated…
Didn’t Robert Spencer owe his readers another 1000-word enlightened clarification of why he re-posted the same article he had earlier repudiated as ill-conceived and ignorant of the disreputable people involved? Or was the initial retraction coupled with the public repudiation of the European neo-fascist participants of the Cologne Conference an insincere attempt to appease Charles Johnson —nothing but a farcical little show?
Following Johnson’s e-mail threat to another close friend— the brilliant scholar and author Robert Spencer — after Raymond Ibrahim (editor/translator of The Al Qaeda Reader) simply blogged a favorable discussion (subsequently removed by Spencer,pace Johnson’s threat!) of Diana West’s September 18, 2008 Town Hall.com column at the Jihad Watch/Dhimmi Watch website — I noticed that National Review Online had a featured link (on 9/19/08) to the same West column.
Spencer’s reaction has been so oversensitive and overblown, that I am amazed he hasn’t virulently charged Bostom (who supports the participants of the Cologne Conference and clearly alludes to Spencer also sharing such sympathies underneath the lip service paid to Charles Johnson out of fear) with making libelous accusations and smearing his character! For what could be more libelous, more smearing, more demeaning and shaming for an aspiring “scholar” than to be accused of prostituting his public assignment of grave characterizations (such as “fascist,” “racist,” or “race supremacist”) to various people and organizations just in order to salvage his personal relationship with some blogger?!!
If I were a public figure and anyone publicly stated or implied that I don’t mean what I write or what I retract but merely act under coercion against my true convictions, I would: consider it a grave insult, vehemently deny the charge, demand an apology, and if not granted, entertain a lawsuit. In fact I would react the same way even in my own shoes of obscurity, minus the lawsuit part which I cannot afford to even entertain. Bostom has essentially ruled that Spencer does not actually believe the organizers and participants of the Cologne Conference to be neo-fascists worthy of being shunned, but “being vulnerable” (in Bostom’s own words), he acquiesces to Johnson and toes the line. If so, Spencer would ironically be guilty of the charge he loves to hurl at others —libel— namely making allegations he knows to be false, which give various individuals (the alleged/disputed crypto fascists) a bad reputation!
If, on the other hand, Spencer knows these organizations and individuals to be neo-fascist in agenda and character (as his post suggests), yet believes that’s all fine and dandy so long as he can subvert them toward his holy crusade again Islam —his pet-boogeyman— what then? What would that make him? A fascist apologist? A fascist sympathizer?
But Robert does expliticly state the anti-jihad movement should not indulge that side of the political spectrum in Europe or elsewhere. Only that Andrew Bostom claims Spencer doesn’t really mean this, and the pro-Cologne article sneakily crawling back up on JihadWatch shortly after the curtains went down on that little show Spencer put for Johnson certainly reinforces such impression. What does that make him then? A spineless hypocrite?
What kind of “scholar” triangulates his public positions so tightly between hypocrisy, fascist sympathy, and cowardice-induced libel? Then again, what kinds of “scholar” foams at the mouth over an obscure blog post of a 22-year-old college girl and goes as far as to call her a Nazi-emulator over it? Well Robert Spencer —the Beetlejuice of Internet forums who magically appears anywhere his name is invoked more than twice in order to furiously intimidate any critics— does.
But perhaps the points raised so far are too tangential. Robert Spencer discredits himself through his own words in much less equivocal terms. He writes:
The post in question was written by Raymond Ibrahim. I have discussed it with Raymond, who was not aware of the affiliations of the people involved when he posted it, and he was fine with my taking it down.
The only problem here is that —forgetting for a moment what Raymond did or didn’t know— Hugh Fitzgerald himself, the vice president of JihadWatch (whatever that means) made the following comment on the post in question on the very first day it was published:
If this Conference is left solely in the hands of those who are not only certifiably “right-wing” but lepenesque, and therefore disreputable, then it is the duty of others, the respectable anti-Islam legions, not to ignore the Conference or to stay morally pure, but rather to attend, even to swell its numbers, and change its nature, by appearing in force. Show Cologne, show Germany, show the E.U. that one can be just as sweet and liberal and anti-Fascist as all get out, and also want, for those very reasons, a complete halt to Muslim migration to Europe, and a deliberate policy of countering the Money Weapon, campaigns of Da’wa, and demographic conquest — all over Western Europe, resulting in a greatly diminished Muslim presence in the Lands of the Infidels. This has to be done. Itwill have to be done now, peacefully, or later,less peacefully. It can’t be avoided. It’s what’s to come. It is not still unsure. But, to quote an old poet, and to appropriate his more traditional use of the carpe-diem imperative, in delay there lies no plenty.
So get cracking.
Hugh knew of the lepenesque character of the conference’s protagonists and was clearly instructing his minions to not “stay morally pure” notwithstanding the neo-fascist agenda of the upcoming Cologne rally. In a lunatic leap of logic, he proposes that rallying up behind fascists and appearing in force at their events will show Cologne, Germany, and indeed all of Europe, that not only fascist agitators, but also sweet liberal anti-Fascists are concerned about Islam.
Wait… I thought anti-Fascists would never ally with fascists by definition. What about that rant regarding the inevitable clash of civilizations, demographic battles, and the need to greatly diminish Muslim presence in the lands of the Infidels? It can be done peacefully now or less peacefully in the future —he says— but done it must be. Is it me or this fatalistic tone foreshadows a borderline genocidal scenario Hugh sounds to be creaming his pants at the contemplation of?
Spencer’s 922-word backpedaling clarification for pulling down the pro-Cologne article from which Hugh’s comment is drawn, also absolves Hugh himself and in fact uses his articles as an example of how opposed to fascists “we at JihadWatch are.” In the meanwhile, Hugh has been drifting in an entirely different direction as we’ve just seen. So what happened? Did Hugh acquiesce to Spencer or to Johnson in towing the line? Are the internal affairs of JihadWatch so chaotic that Spencer cannot learn from his “VP” what is happening at his own blog, but rather needs problematic content to be second-handedly reported to him by readers of other blogs?
Again, why has the post been put back up on JihadWatch since at least September 27th without explanation?
Satisfied that no rational reader at this point can escape the conclusion that this has been a disgraceful flip-flop on Spencer’s behalf, I will move on.
October 25th, 2008: Spencer posts a rather awkward article lionizing a certain long-winded smarmy European pseudo-intellectual by the penname of Fjordman, whom Charles Johnson has long exposed as a fascist sympathizer. Robert Spencer’s justification for so unexpectedly standing assuredly by Fjordman and vouching for his character must have struck his readers as out of place:
The learned European essayist Fjordman here reviews Ali Sina’s Understanding Muhammad. Since Fjordman has been accused of being a white supremacist and a neofascist, some people have also accused me of being a white supremacist and neofascist, because I publish his fine essays on jihad and the Islamization of Europe. So I thought I would take this opportunity to say that while white supremacism and neofascism are wrong and should everywhere be opposed, I do not believe Fjordman is a white supremacist or a neofascist.
Who are these people who have smeared poor Fjordman with such naughty epithets? And who is trying to drag Spencer down along with him? This is a passive-aggressive thinly-veiled affront to Charles Johnson and me, respectively, though I have never called Spencer a neo-fascist or white supremacist to date, and I believe Charles has characterized Fjordman as merely a sympathizer and apologist of said unsavory ideologies.
Johnson has made his repudiation of Fjordman public for almost a year now, so why did Spencer take so long to absolve Fjordman? He was obviously trying to play nice with both sides but finally tipped over the edge. This was his way of telling Charles he had chosen Fjordman, along with the associations the latter’s endorsement carries with it (Vlaams Belang, The Austrian Freedom Party, Sweden Democrats, The National Front, the BNP, The Brussels Journal, Gates of Vienna, etc.). In fact shortly thereafter, Spencer re-blog-rolled the last two, despite their well-documented support for European fascists.
I find curious Spencer’s choice in illustrating Fjordman’s anti racialist worldview: He quotes an excerpt which Fjordman had written —Spencer says— long before any allegations of race supremacism were uttered against him. In this very chosen passage Fjordman defines the challenge for cultural preservation against Radical Islam in racial and xenophobic terms!
We shouldn’t idealize mass-immigration too much. When one group of people move into a territory where another group of people already live, this has usually throughout human history ended in war. Either the newcomers will be expelled, or they will subdue or wipe out the previous inhabitants, or the groups will divide the country between them.
What a gem of historical determinism we have here: classic collectivistic chauvinistic European xenophobia. Hegel would be proud! Fjordman treats people in terms of groups moving into territories, as flocks of sheep or wolves in a perpetual struggle for territorial supremacy.
He advocates “sticking with one’s own kind,” one’s “culture,” one’s “race,” and resisting assimilation —a very ideologically and literally inbred worldview. I wonder what Fjordman makes of the American experiment where people from all cultures and races flooded into the melting pot: no invasions, no ethnic cleansing, no expulsions, no subduing, no wiping out of anybody. Fjordman is clearly stuck in cultural medievalism and considers all potential immigration as an invasion of his pure genetic and ideological pool by hordes of barbarians.
I see little reason to expect any different result where the indigenous population happens to be white. I do not see why I should have to choose between White Supremacy and White Worthlessness. It is one thing to reject the idea that your culture should be forced onto others, it is quite another thing to say that you shouldn’t be allowed to retain your culture even in your own country. The latter is simply a matter of self-preservation, the most basic instinct of all living things down to bacteria level.
No talk of institutions, no talk of what European culture is supposed to consist of: only racialist remarks and allusions to White Supremacy as the politically incorrect term for legitimate self-preservation. Yes, I can and do read between the lines.
I have a right to preserve my culture, too, even though I have blue eyes, and cannot see anything “racist” in not wanting my children to become a persecuted minority in their own country through mass immigration. That you are denounced as a White Supremacist for just stating the obvious shows how deeply entrenched and internalized this anti-white bias has become.
And what is it that your culture consists of, Fjordman, other than your blue eyes? You never elucidate on it beyond that. Why are you even bringing up unfair accusations of White Supremacy before anyone has implicated you? Are you making any “preemptive” moves in that direction?
Is this passage the best Robert Spencer can find toward exculpating Fjordman? Just what is Robert Spencer trying to get at here? He continues on:
More recently (two weeks ago), the genuinely neofascist VNN Forum (an evil site to which I will provide no link) criticized one of Fjordman’s articles about Europe for not blaming Jews for the problem. VNN Forum writers called Fjordman “a neocon jew-ass-kisser who is either oblivious of the fact that jews are responsible for what is happening or is aware but doesn’t have the guts to name the jew.” They also pointed out that “the Brussels Journal is never critical towards the Jew” and went on to complain that “multiculturalism stops when the Jew is down and out. Those Islamophobic ‘nationalist’ parties accomplish nothing….I would rather see anti-synagogue marches over anti-mosque ones. The mosques become a non-issue if you defeat the wretched sheeny.” I would rather stand with Israel, and Fjordman, than with those racist neo-fascists.
Impressive argument: So because Wahabbis claim Shias are apostates or otherwise infidels and we know Wahabbis to be indisputably Muslim, then we must conclude that Shias are indeed not Muslims because Wahabbis say so. Yes, that makes a whole lot of sense. So because the “genuinely evil” VNN Forum (as opposed to what, the “evil lite” Le Pen et al?) disavows those neo-fascist parties that are shrewdly picking their battles and choosing to demonize Muslims wholesale rather than Jews (the latter being a much less tenable target these days), then said parties cannot actually be neo-fascistic. Because they target Muslims, that is.
How mighty convenient for Spencer, who would just about sell his soul in order to witch-hunt Muslims and Islam all the world over, to have the definition of “fascist” so elegantly rewritten: “if you are anti-Muslim, you cannot be fascist because the VNN Forum would oppose you and one fascist/Nazi cannot be against another.” Whatever is going to happen now to JihadWatch’s long record of opposing Le Pen, the FPO, and Vlaams Belang? They’re magically not fascists now because they are anti-Muslim, and the two are mutually exclusive as we know from the VNN’s annals of wisdom?
It is on the comment section of this very post that Robert Spencer bursts in unprovoked despicable insults against me and starts compulsively scratching a spot that must have been itching for a while: He makes the following fascinating contention:
I went back and took a look at Kejda Gjermani’s libelous “expose.”
Much of her case hinges upon this assertion:
“The deceptively named American Council for Kosovo is in fact a front group for the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, whose president Milan Ivanovic was arrested by the UN administration (he took his sweet time to turn himself in after initially going into hiding) on charges of attempted murder (later dropped) and of leading a violent demonstration, during which at least one hand-grenade was thrown at the police (Ivanovic has been personally accused of this act but evidence was inconclusive for a conviction, hence the dropped charge of attempted murder), and 22 mainly Polish peacekeepers were injured. […]
Mr. Ivanovic is a hard-line nationalist by anyone’s definition, a staunch supporter of the neo-fascist Serbian Radical Party— an ultra-nationalists‘ melting crackpot of greater scale and proportion than even its name suggests. For starters, the Party organized the recent rallies in Serbia to protest Radovan Karadzic’s arrest, in which the same Ivanovic was visibly involved…
The only problem with this is that her basic assertion, that the American Council for Kosovo is a front group for Ivanovic’s group, is false, and she provides no evidence to establish it. ACK spokesman James Jatras says this:
With respect to the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija as identified in the American Council for Kosovo’s disclaimer, and the suggested relationship with Dr. Milan Ivanovic: in Kosovo today there is more than one organization operating under the name “Serbian National Council,” or some variant of that name. These groups, some of them quite small, have differing political perspectives — though all categorically reject separation of the province from Serbia — and accordingly may align themselves with different Serbian political parties. As already noted, the American Council for Kosovo reflects the views of the Kosovo Serbian community as voiced by Bishop Artemije. I am unaware of Dr. Ivanovic’s affiliation with any organization connected with the Bishop. If the implication of the comment is that the American Council for Kosovo is somehow controlled or directed by Dr. Ivanovic, that absolutely is not the case. However, I have met Dr. Ivanovic in the course of my visits to Kosovo and believe the aspersions cast against him are unwarranted. There is nothing “radical” or “anti-American,” much less “supremacist,” about him as far as I am aware, unless one regards opposition to Washington’s illegal, pro-jihad anti-Serbian policy as being anti-American.
Kejda Gjermani is an accomplished liar, but in the final analysis that is all that she is: a liar.
Like momma said: “Don’t scratch that itch or it will only get worse!” Robert didn’t have to go there. If the investigative digs of an unknown college girl made him uncomfortable, the most sensible response for him would have been to ignore them and wait for my post to fade away in the vast cold blogo(atmo)sphere. But Robert just couldn’t let it go. He frantically calls me an “accomplished liar,” but I haven’t accomplished anything noteworthy and I only post articles at my private website once in a blue moon on miscellaneous topics of my interest.
Robert is the one who has built an entire career out of selling demagogic incendiary books demonizing Muslims and extolling the Crusaders, and out of giving public speeches trying to convince Muslims that their religion is indeed inherently and incorrigibly violent and supremacist and that they better get consistent in taking seriously any and all genocidal verses of the Qur’an —quite an accomplished demagogue, wouldn’t you say? Yet Robert’s career and, most importantly, his self-esteem, depend on his ability to maintain an aura of respectability and an image of erudite “scholar.” Exposed associations with vile extremists chip away at such carefully crafted public image, so Robert can’t help foaming at the mouth and impulsively suppressing anyone shining the spotlight on his putrid closet. Indeed he is outraged that I have not been banned on LGF and has even sent his sock-puppets to intimidate me with legal threats at my own blog.
Oh, but he has done it now! I have supposedly asserted without proof that A equals A: that the Serbian National Council for Kosovo and Metohija whose leader is the outrageous violent-protest organizer, alleged hand-grenade thrower, Radical Party supporter and flaming Karadzic devotee Ivan Milanovic, is the same Serbian National Council for Kosovo and Metohija for which Robert Spencer second-handedly works. As if linking organizations of the same exact name with the same identity begs any proof…
When doing my background research on Jatras, I was so struck by this man’s sheer maliciousness, callousness, and pathological lying pattern that I assumed he was some sort of evil mastermind concocting genial campaigns of nauseating Belgrade propaganda. But in Robert’s comment I am reminded again of the banality of evil. The claim that somehow there are many small organizations in Kosovo by the same exact name which act independently of one-another and bear no responsibility of each-others’ members’ and leaders’ acts or statements is a laughably desperate (and just plain laughable) attempt to evade the scrutiny that naturally comeswith Ivan Milanovic’s disreputable background.
The claim doesn’t stand even at face value: Who has heard of multiple unaffiliated organizations by the very same name operating within the boundaries of a 10,908 km2 region? Wouldn’t people confuse them all the time among each other? Wouldn’t the self-respectable ones among these organizations, if there be any, adopt a different name in order to distance themselves from the anarchic ones which are staging riots against the police? How do they keep track of one-another? Do they have separate serial numbers by any chance?
Perhaps Jatras is banking on casual examiners getting confused upon seeing the acronym for the Serbian National Council for Kosovo and Metohije appear as SNV in some places and SNC in others, and concluding that there must be at least two different organizations by the same name. This is not, however, the case: SNV is merely the Serbian-language-equivalent of SNC and they both refer to the same organization led by Ivanovic and by the Bishop. I invite everyone to look at the source of this photo of the leadership of the Serbian National Council for Kosovo and Metohija, posted at the dear Bishop’s own website, with the caption “Leadership of the Serb National Council at press conference in Belgrade Media Center, May 30, 2003 (from left to right: Dr. Marko Jaksic, Dr.Rada Trajkovic, Bishop Artemije, Dr. Milan Ivanovic)”. That ain’t half bad for a smoking gun, now is it?
In short, Robert: You and Jatras are the liars, though I would not deign you with the “accomplished” prefix, because as fevered demagogues spouting off way too many lies to keep track of, you have accomplished nothing other than discrediting yourselves anew. And don’t bother pulling down the article or deleting the cache, because I have saved everything.
Robert Spencer is the stooge of an organization whose leaders have been blacklisted by the US government for providing support to war criminals, violently opposing legal institutions, and undermining the peace process in the Balkans. What a maverick of a “scholar” Robert is!
October 31st, 2008: Robert Spencer announces the break with Charles Johnson, violently echoed by the manic fascist supporters PamellaGeller and Gates of Vienna. In his long-winded diatribe against Johnson, Spencer wraps it up like so:
But Hugh did support the Cologne conference, and JihadWatch stealthily reinstated the post it supposedly pulled down.
Hugh and I have been clear here in our rejection of LePen, the BNP, and all those who traffic in such approaches.
But Le Pen and the BNP are anti-Muslim, and by the VNN Forum’s argument which Spencer employed earlier to absolve Fjordman, they cannot be neo-fascists. Also Vlaams Belang, the FPO, Sweden Democrats, et al. all traffic in “such approaches.”
The controversy here is over whether or not some other individuals and groups belong in that category, not over whether one should support race supremacism and genocide or not. Charles has done a grave disservice by acting as if those who reject his judgments about these groups and individuals, or who even — like me — are willing to entertain differing points of view on these matters, are ipso facto neo-Nazi or white supremacist sympathizers.
What would these different points of view of yours on the matter be, Robert? It is nothing but unsustainable middle ground that you are willing to entertain. You either believe these European parties have neo-fascist agendas or you don’t.
Meanwhile, I note also with sorrow that the mendacious Kejda Gjermani (“medaura”) is spreading her libelous attacks on me at LGF yet again, as she has been allowed to do for months. It is telling.
So mendacious that medaura, eh? It is telling she hasn’t been censored for repeating inconvenient yet indisputable facts regarding Robert’s associations.
I want to emphasize that I have not endorsed the Vlaams Belang. This whole controversy is not about the Vlaams Belang, but about whether or not one can disagree with Charles Johnson and not be defamed as a result. I have merely recognized that people of good will, who are not “seriously deluded” (as someone calls them below) and are not racists or neofascists, have mounted a case opposing Charles Johnson’s assessment of the Vlaams Belang. In other words, the question is not whether or not we should support neofascists, but whether or not Vlaams Belang is neofascist. That question is hotly disputed, and those who think that Johnson has not made his case are not evil just for thinking that.
Typical Robert Spencer “open-mindedness”: his official stance on Kosovo is one of only-time-will-tell skepticism, yet he aggressively works on behalf of the Serbian lobby in order to revoke the world’s newest country’s independence. That’s so neutral indeed. He is vehemently opposed to neo-fascists and white-supremacists (and who isn’t, on record?) yet he keeps an “open mind” as to which individuals and organizations deserve such labels. While he keeps his mind perpetually wide open, he supports everyone so long as they can be instrumental to him in attacking Muslims. It is oh-so-easy to vacuously oppose fascism when you don’t believe fascists are fascists, because the opposition can thus remain purely theoretical and abstract!
Spencer also fervently opposes Serbian genocide on principle, yet his closest associates (Jatras, Trifkovic, and Gorin) are Srebrenica genocide deniers. It is easy to vacuously oppose Serbian genocide if you never believe it happened. The genocide Spencer believes in supposedly took place in Kosovo, was perpetrated by the Albanian Jihadists against the poor Christian Serbs indeed, and was aided and abetted by NATO, the UN, and the EU. Yes, they were all in on it!
Of course, it has been exposed by only an anonymous individual claiming to be a current member of the international mission in Kosovo (the unverifiability of such claim due to the writer’s anonymity somehow escaping Spencer) writing under the penname of Iseult Henry. That’s right! After all, he has to be anonymous, otherwise his life would be endangered by the evil spies of the US, UN, and EU —entities which are all in on the genocidal master plan and would fall short of nothing to suppress the truth from leaking out!
What kind of “scholar” toys with genocide? Even Albanian supporters do not claim that genocide against Kosovars took place, however more reasonable such proposition would still be compared to the reverse claim made by Spencer. Stephen Schwartz writes:
Ms. Gorin states that NATO bombed Serbia “to prevent a genocide that forensics turned up empty.” Yes, the genocide was prevented. It did not take place. Nobody claimed it had taken place, only that it was attempted. Genocide means the murder of a whole people; obviously, the Albanians were not wholly murdered.
Charles Johnson, whatever one may think of his political leanings, has unequivocally exposed thinly-disguised fascists and repudiated them wholeheartedly again and again. He was never so desperate for allies as to turn a blind eye to the ideological demons swarming right under these European political conglomerates’ insincere pretensions toward “mainstreamness” and moderation. Johnson’s endorsement had been Robert Spencer’s last main reputational anchor into the sane respectable intellectual world. Now that he deservedly lost it, let him agitate away at the fringes where he belongs.
The spread of Radical Islam poses an eminent threat to the civilized world. Anyone knows it. Even brainwashed cultural-relativist Leftists know, hard as they may try to airbrush the elephant in the room.
Highlighting the need for formulating a strategic response to this menace is not rocket science. Yet it should take no towering genius either to categorically reject and denounce certain ideological proposals for being at least as abominable and dangerous to civilization as the militant islamism they purport to protect it from. The resurgence of neo-fascist activism across the Old Continent is alarming. Such regressive ill-conceived reaction to the rise of Radical Islam is yet another living testament to Europe’s ideological sterility. Disturbing shades of brown are agitating the zeitgeist of many European countries these days. Robert Spencer, James Jatras, Julia Gorin, Andrew Bostom, Pamela Geller, Fjordman, Baron Bodissey, and Dymphna are more than welcome to coalesce toward this violent brown where their ideological affinities truly lie, so long as everyone knows where they stand. It would be nice though, in fact too nice to ask, that they at least not lie to themselves about the nature of the choice they have made. Far from being friends of peace, freedom, prosperity, and civilization, they in fact belong to a hateful and subversive stripe of agitators. which must be marginalized if both progress against radical islamists and future electoral success are to be achieved.
A casual observer of Albanian Communist cultural paraphernalia (such as Enver’s speeches, Socialist Realist paintings, Party-approved monuments or poems, state-produced films, etc.) might deduce that Enver Hoxha fancied himself a glorious leader of an epic rural nation because of the pervasive themes of mythological collective greatness and romanticized legends coloring Albania’s grim history. Enver is also portrayed as nothing short of an Iliadic hero. But that’s because of all the quixotic sugar-coating, underneath which Enver’s relationship with his people was merely that between a shepherd and a big flock of sheep. Yet judging by what little of his writings I have managed to stomach reading, he sounded like a romantic type of sorts, hence the many coats of purely ornamental lipstick on the pig that his 50-year reign was.
Aside from the vast legacy of quintessentially communist, hideous, decrepit, pigeonhole-type multipurpose buildings whose cheap paint has been peeling off for decades like a leper’s scabs, and, let’s not forget, the nearly 800,000 bunkers awkwardly dotting every corner of the country, Albanians have another haunting ubiquitous scar by which to remember Uncle Enver (as his young minions were expected to affectionately address him, just shy of full-fledged Big-Brotherhood): the aftermath of his pathological pursuit of Albanian folk music as a medium for communist indoctrination and personal self-aggrandizement. Certainly not the humblest of fellows, Uncle Enver relentlessly insinuated himself into Albanian art, and had epic songs re-written to glorify himself as the one and only eternal mythological leader of the Communist Party and, by extension, of the entire nation.
The repulsive paintings and sculptures in the vein of Socialist Realism are one thing. That genre was a totalitarian and expressionally barren artistic staple of Communist rule across the world. As much of a sore to the eyes as that “art” was, it is now no more, with no irrevocable harm done. By contrast, the perversion of Albanian music is a far graver and uniquely damaging offense because song has historically been the paramount medium of artistic expression for the Albanian people —an icon of cultural identity far more relevant than visual art. Epic songs form the centerpiece of Albania’s oral tradition. Replacing the historic themes of Albanian music with idolization of a modern totalitarian dogma is more subtly Orwellian than any act of blatant revisionism could have been.
In order for the Western reader to appreciate just how abominable this perversion of art truly is, some basic familiarity with the epic musical tradition of Albania is needed. Below are a few sample songs with lyrics translated by yours truly, for you to explore and digest before we dive head-on into Uncle Enver’s hard-core dementia. Traditional songs will be analyzed for a compare-and-contrast exercise with Communist pseudo-folk creations. I hope you may find this batch of songs interesting and, —dare I hope?— instructive, even from a purely anthropological perspective into the cultural heritage of this obscure Balkan nation.
Hasmi zu vatane/ The enemy has taken over the homeland
Lulet u thane/ Flowers have dried up
Flaka mbuloi fshane/ Flames have engulfed the village
Foshnjat u qane/ The babies have cried themselves out
O ju djemte tane/ Oh you boys of ours
Nxirrni Jatagane/ Pull out your swords
Zini histikme/ Take your positions
Ne na kini prane/ Stay close to us
Trima me palle/ Brave boys with swords
O ju djemte tane/ Oh you boys of ours
This emotionally electrifying, somber song from the South portrays the setting of a clash with foreign invaders, almost certainly Ottomans: the destruction of the village as its men are preparing to fight back is laconically described. The reference is probably to one of the countless spontaneous Albanian rebellions to which the Ottoman Empire typically responded by sending over punitive squads to burn down the rebels’ settlements, kill their leaders, and terrorize the villagers who had supported them. The tone of the song and the subtle dreadfulness of the lyrics —the nuances of which do not lend themselves easily to translation,— foreshadow a tragic end for the villagers: they are getting ready to put up a valiant fight before they die. Note that throughout the minimalistic lyrics, the only recurring epithet of praise is “brave”. Bravery (a notion loosely interchangeable with heroism) represents the pinnacle of valor for Albanian men to aspire to.
Here is another rendition of this famous song—albeit more mournful in tenor.
Janines ci pane syte/ What have Ioannina’s eyes seen! [If only you could have seen through Ioannina's eyes/ what happened in Ioannina]
Ja-Janino’/ Io.. Oh Ioannina
Ish e premte ajo dite/ That day was a Friday
Te Pese puset ne gryke/ At the entry of the Five Wells [geographic designation]
Zenel Celua vet i dyte/ Zenel Celo in second person [was not alone]
Zeneli me te Velcione/ Zenel with the Velcionian [someone from the Velc village]
Dhe trimi Jace Mavrone/ And the brave Jace Mavro
Cau mespermes tabore/ Cut right through the soldiers
E shtriu pashane e gjore/ And knocked down [slew] the poor Pasha
This very famous song commemorates the turning point of a battle against the Ottomans in Ioannina (a city situated in modern Greece which has been historically Albanian until the implosion of the Ottoman Empire, at which point Greece annexed it with the backing of Great Britain and France, and eventually had it ethnically cleansed). Three men, two of which are mentioned by name whereas the third one is identified by only his village of origin, heroically cut right through the enemy lines and kill the Ottoman Pasha in the heat of the battle.
The lyrics and melody reek of pride and reverence, but the song-writer’s perspective is modest: S/he lets the simple story speak for itself, and again, uses only the underhanded “brave” epithet (and uses it just once) to give any overt praise. Such laudatory restraint is a staple of not only epic music, but of Albanian tradition in general, which was forged by coarse minimalism through the centuries.
There are many renditions of this great song, a traditional polyphonic one to be found here, and —a modern, somewhat bastardized but uplifting version— here.
Doli Shkurti hyri Marsi/ February is out, March is in
Ne Gjirokaster u vra bimbashi/ Bimbashi [local head of Ottoman forces] was killed in Gjirokastra
Te vrane bimbash te vrane/ They killed you Bimbash, they killed you
Hitoja me Bajramne/ Hito and Bajram did
Nga Janina vjen Mazapi/ The Mazap [Ottoman leader] is coming from Ioannina
Ne Mashkullore te rrapi/ To Mashkullore [geographical designation] at the plane tree
Te rrapi ne Mashkullore/ At the plane tree in Mashkullore
Foli Cercizi me goje/ Cercizi spoke through his mouth [Cercizi said so himself]
Mylazim largo taborre/ Mylazim [Ottoman official], send your soldiers away
leri djemt e mij te shkojne/ Let my boys go
se do t’ju kuq t’ju bej me boje/ Or I shall make you red, with paint [an indirect reference to blood]
do t’ju kuq t’ju bej me boje/ I shall make you red with paint
se ashtu e kam zakone/ Because that is how I do things
Cerciz Topulli me thone/ They call me Cerciz Topulli
Hyri Prilli, doli Marsi/ April is in, March is out
Girokaster u vra bimbashi/ Bimbashi was killed in Gjirokastra
Bimbash, tu shofte emri/ Bimbash, may your name be extinguished [cursed]
me jete paguhet nderi/ With life is how honor is paid off
Nga Janina vjen mazapi/ The Mazap is coming from Ioannina
Ne Mashkullore te rrapi/ To Mashkullore at the plane tree
Te rrapi ne Mashkullore/ At the plane tree in Mashkullore
Foli Cercizi me goje/ Cercizi spoke through his mouth
-Mulazim hiq tabore/ Mylazim, send your soldiers away
Leri djemte e mij te shkojne/ Let my boys go
Se trimat ashtu leftojne/ Because that’s how brave men fight
Ashtu sic kane zakone/ The way they are used to [the way they know how]
Do t’ju kuq t’ju bej me boje/ I shall make you red with paint
- Cerciz vrane Hajredine/ Cerciz, they killed Hajredin
-Mire bene qe e vrane/ Good for them
Degjoni, qafa Kapllane/ Listen up, I swear on my life
Haken s’ja leme pa marre/ We won’t rest until we avenge him
Ne xhandare e ne nizame/ Through nizams and policemen
Kokat e tryre ne sater do vene/ Their heads shall roll
Ashtu sic beme per anene/ Just like we did for Mother
Cerciz Topulli was a revolutionary hero from Gjirokaster who fought for the liberation and independence of Albania. With his guerrilla unit, he killed the head of Ottoman armed forces in Gjirokaster in early March, 1908. Later that month he led the battle against Ottoman reinforcements in Mashkullore. That is the historic reference of the song: him facing down the Ottomans with a speech under the plane tree in Mashkullore. This is an early 20th-century song —much more recent than the others presented so far— hence the instrumental background (a modern occurrence) instead of the bare polyphony.
Excellent renditions of this song include this, and this one.
Though Cerciz Topulli is one of the most loved national figures of Albania (especially in the south), the song-writer engages in no direct glorification of his persona. Here again more is less: Cercizi’s valor is instead illustrated by means of his own words, in terms which are self-evident to the audience: brisk yet somewhat implicit references to a tradition or second nature of fighting with bravery to the death and of how honor/freedom is worth dying/killing for.
Mora rrugen per Janine/ I was headed for Ioannina
isha vetem/ I was alone
bashke me arabaxhine/ Along with the servant
apo nate/ At night
bashke me arabaxhine apo nate/ Along with the servant at night
atje me zune pusine/ That’s where they had laid the ambush
isha vetem/ I was alone
copa-copa ma bene melcine dhe zemren/ They chopped my liver and heart to pieces
The reference to the ambush in this painful song is, I believe, actually Greek rather than Ottoman. Starting from the last half of the 19th century and until the first half of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians have been killed or otherwise forcefully expelled from what consequently became the northern part of modern Greece. As can be easily inferred from these songs, Ioannina was a very important city in Albanian culture. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least two other touching songs centered on Ioannina.
Në Janinë ferman po vjenë/ The enemy is coming to Ioannina
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The soldiers are approaching
Dil Ali Pasha përpara/ Come out Ali Pasha and face them [in battle]
Dil Pasha se po vjen nata/ Come out Pasha because the night is falling [it is getting late]
Këmbekryq mbi kanapenë/ He sits on his sofa with legs crossed [in lotus position]
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The soldiers are approaching
Ali Pasha, dili pritë/ Ali Pasha, lay an ambush for them
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The soldiers are approaching
Dil Ali Pasha përpara/ Come out Ali Pasha and face them
Dil Pasha se po vjen nata/ Come out Pasha because the night is falling
(inaudible) more koke-prere/ … head cut off [they are coming for your head]
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The soldiers are approaching
Në Turqi (inaudible) ta prene/ In Turkey they cut your …. [quite possibly meaning "They ratted you out in Turkey" or "They sealed your fate in Turkey"]
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The Soldiers are coming
O veziri në Janinë/ Oh you Vizier of Ioannina
Fitove mbi tradhëtine/ You won through treason
The song is from 1822, and depicts the last day of Ali Pasha, the infamous Albanian ruler who had rebelled against Ottoman authority. He’d been betrayed by his own nephews, was vastly outnumbered by the Ottoman forces closing in on him, and had retreated to his castle in Ioannina. His loyal troops are urging him to fight, but he quietly awaits his death, knowing that there is no hope for victory at this point.
We do know from historical sources that when the end was so imminent that he was asked to surrender for the beheading, he declared: “My head…will not be surrendered like the head of a slave” and kept fighting till the end. But the song suggests that he didn’t sacrifice his troops en masse through any hopeless confrontation with the Ottomans before it got to that point. The reference in the song to Ali’s head being severed is therefore quite literal, as his head was in fact cut off and brought to the Sultan in Istanbul. Though the song is sympathetic to Ali Pasha, it does not lionize him in the least, but rather emotionally recounts with a subtle touch of tragedy the last tense moments of his reign.
Ne Pese-Puse Kala/ At the castle of the Five Wells
dolli palo Jorgua/ [is where] the vile George has come out
Kostandini shkeli krijne/ Constantine swore on his life
te ben pashken ne Janine/ to wreak havoc in Ioannina [in protest of Greece's annexation attempts]
Riza beu-tha-do ndroj dine/ Bey Riza said he would change his faith [convert to Greek Orthodoxy]
do bij bajram ne Athine/ and celebrate Eid al-Adha in [deflect to] Athens
Janine, e zeza Janine/ Ioannina, oh black [mournful/poor/doomed] Ioannina
del e shih asqere qe vijne/ Come out and look at the soldiers coming
Mahmut beu me dhjet mile/ Bey Mahmut with ten thousand [of them]
Moj Janine, o moj Janine/ Ioannina, oh Ioannina
veqil keshe Sheh Aline/ You have Sheh [Ottoman title] Ali for your lord
kajmekami me katine/ The assistant [Sheh Ali's] and his wife
radhazi telit i bijne/ are each playing strings [musical instruments] [meaning: Nero plays the flute while Rome is burning]
Mecove, e zeza Mecove/ Mecove [region near Ioannina], poor/black Mecove
shume u mbajte, pra tu hodhen/ You put up a lot of resistance [carried yourself with dignity], which is why they are assailing you
shqipetaret perpara shkojne/ Albanians are moving forward
me jatagane ne dore/ With swords in their hands
Valle kush e beri fora?/ Who do you think did it big [bravely jumped into battle]?
Selam Hasani nga Vlora/ Salem Hasani from Vlora
pika gjak i kullon kordha/ Blood drops are dripping from his sword
Janine e zeza Janine/ Ioannina, black/poor/doomed Ioannina
Janin-o/ Oh Ioannina
mire ta bene tertipne/ They served your tradition well [sarcastic: they treated you real well]
Selim Qori me Uznine/ Selim Qori and Uznia
ne Korfuz vane e te shitne/ Went to Corfu and sold you out [to the Greeks]
anapolona tre mile/ for three thousand napoleons [gold coins]
Janine te mbite ngjoli/ Ioannina, the swamp is engulfing you [concrete reference: the local lake---metaphorical reference: Greece]
hapi site se te mori/ Open your eyes or it will take you over
Po e pe qe te te marre/ If you see it taking you over
veri xhepanese zjarre/ Blow your castle up
me mire t’e djegesh vete/ Better to burn it yourself
se ta marre Junani shkrrete/ than for Greece to take it abandoned
Janine, motra Janine/ Ioannina, sister Ioannina
dil e shih c’djelma qe vijne/ Look at what kind of boys are coming for you
Taborret e Vlores vijne/ The warriors of Vlora are coming
per Bezhan e per Janine/ for Bezha [a region] and for Ioannina
dolli mileti i prine/ The people are coming to greet them
nuk e mbanin dot gezimne/ They cannot contain their joy
dridhej vendi ne Janine/ The ground is shaking in Ioannina
ka muzikate qe bijne/ from the music they are playing
The above is a merger of three Black-Ioannina-themed songs. Not long after the death of Ali Pasha, the Ottoman Empire started crumbling apart at the corners. Greece had GB’s and France’s backing to annex southern Albanian lands. Some Turkish warlords were bribed and joined the effort to invade Ioannina on behalf of Greece as mercenaries (Bey Mahmut with ten thousand soldiers). Other Ottoman officials are deflecting and converting to Eastern Orthodox Christianity so they can get asylum in Athens (Bey Riza). King George I has claimed Ioannina his, but Constantine (local Albanian leader) has sworn not to let it go. The Ottoman-appointed governor of Ioannina is doing nothing (his assistants are blissfully playing musical instruments). Greek soldiers are approaching. Meceva (region situated to the west of Ioannina) is under assault. Albanians are organizing a resistance. Fighters are coming in from Vlora (their heroism in battle against Greeks is described). The locals are cheering for them as Ioannina’s last hope and have taken heart from their arrival. The singer, in the vein of traditional Albanian honor, is advocating collective suicide for the keepers of Ioannina’s castle in case of defeat. The castle is to be blown to pieces rather than abandoned to the Greeks.
How that fight turned out is given away by today’s political maps of Albania and Greece respectively: Ioannina’s Albanians suffered a brutal fate. Even at this crucial moment when the need for heart-warming propaganda is at a record high, the song-writer does not succumb to the temptation of expediency: the Albanian fighters are modestly portrayed merely as brave boys with swords. The boundaries of praise and glory are unmistakably unpretentious.
One last great song before I get to Enver’s “gems”. This is in fact a lyrical song with epic overtones:
Mbeçe more shokë mbeçe/ I shall stay my friends, I shall stay [farewell]
Përtej Urës së Qabesë/ Across the Bridge of Qabea [somewhere in Asia]
Të fala i bëni nënëse/ Say hello to my mother
Kaun e zi le ta shesë/ Tell her to sell the black ox
Në pyestë nënëja për mua/ Should my mother ask about me
I thoni që u martua/ Tell her that I got married
Në pyeste se ç’nuse mori/ Should she ask what bride I got
Tre plumba te kraharori/ [Tell her] Three bullets in the chest
Në pyeste se ç’krushq i vanë/ Should she ask what guests came to his wedding
Sorrat e korbat e hanë/ [Tell her] Vultures and Crows who ate him
Another great rendition of this dreadful song can be found here. It is about the death of a young Albanian man as a “nizam” (forced recruit) serving in the Ottoman army away from home, in some remote corner of Asia. Ottomans used to draft local youths from the lands they occupied to serve for many years in the ranks of the Ottoman army and fight anywhere in the world for the Empire’s expansionary expeditions or defensive efforts.
The simplicity is striking and painful. This is Albanian folk music at its best.
… … …
This small repertoire is, I believe, more than sufficient to get the message across: Albanians have been an austere, impoverished, and proud people, who were caught for centuries between the brutal Ottomans and the aggressive advances of their neighbors —Greece and Serbia— in a triangulated struggle for survival. The self-imposed price for relative freedom under Ottoman rule was a nearly complete lack of infrastructure and urbanization. Warrior-villagers had to be able to disperse quickly in the forest or retreat into the mountains. Both transportation and long-term accommodation had to be made painstakingly difficult for the Ottoman armies. Hence Albanian settlements as well as personal codes of conduct preserved an archaic medieval austerity well into the 20th century.
Albanians had no resources or inclination to build magnificent edifices of exquisite artistic value, the kinds of which ornament Western European cities. They never reached the kind of prosperity through which talented individuals could afford to specialize as professional artists. For example, Albanians have had virtually zero accomplished painters from their midst (with the exception of Onufer, the famed Byzantine artist). The impoverished warriors had no business pursuing fine arts. Song was their only means of expressive recourse, through which anyone could afford to be an artist. Albanians made the most out of singing since it was the only testament they could assemble for their history: Ioannina is gone after a lot of bloodshed, but there are no photographs, videos, or documentaries depicting what happened. The archeological remnants of the one-time Albanian stronghold are now inaccessible deep within the borders of Greece. The only things Albanians have to commemorate their attachment to Ioannina are their ancient passionate songs. They provide the only livening supplement to the textbook-dry account of events.
Songs are all that Albanians have had of lasting artistic value and cultural impact. Through them traditional values such as honor and bravery are extolled, and measured —as opposed to sycophantic— praise is given to individuals who best exhibited these virtues during the course of memorable events. It is easy to notice the sincere, organic, and bottom-up nature of the songs’ lyrics: The fresh narratives were likely written by either the very participants in the depicted events or by their immediate friends or relatives. The tradition of epic Albanian songs is an intangible monument to freedom, and Enver Hoxha raped this respectable tradition.
The megalomaniac insinuation of his persona everywhere in the musical repertoire and the top-down engineering of labored, sycophantic lyrics, could only be matched in an alternate universe in which Il Duce Mussolini brought back Michelangelo from the dead and coerced him to repaint the Sistine Chapel —the pinnacle of Italian art— according to a fascist artistic tone: with sharp contours and blunt shades to represent fascist vigor, and with Mussolini’s face replacing God’s.
The performers were robbed of the archaic stoicism of their original songs. They were turned into tacky-colored clowns instead, in the big circus that the entire country had become. Just what am I talking about here? How’s this for a birthday present for the Fuhrer?
Dëgjo, Argjiro shqiponja/ Listen, Argjiro, [the castle of Gjirokastra, Enver's hometown] you eagle
këngën, që të sjell gjitonia/ to the song the fair woman has brought you
ç’të ka lezet lëm’ i këngës/ How graceful is her song
Për birin e shtrenjt’ të zemrës/ for her son dearest to her heart
Moj nëna gjirokastrite/ Oh mother from Gjirokastra
gjiri yt me qumësht drite/ Your breast-milk is made out of light
dhe mbi gjithë djepet që rrite/ And of all the cribs [infants] you brought up
ç’t'i jepje shqipes e dite/ You knew just what to give to Albania [i.e: Enver]
lum si ne!/ Blessed/Lucky are we!
Mbas çdo bore në furtunë/ After every snow fall from a storm
ball’ i malit zbardh më shumë/ The mountain’s [Enver's] forehead is even whiter [shinier]
në çdo thinj’ të mençurisë/ In every gray hair of wisdom
beharët e Shqipërisë/ lay the summers [golden days] of Albania
Mes çdo dallge e rrebeshi/ Through every wave and flood
sa udhëheqës, aq ushtarë/ as much a leader as a soldier
historia siç të deshi/ That’s how history wanted you
Komandant dhe Komisar/ Both Commander and Commissar
Shqipërisë, fjale jote/ To Albania, your word
kushtrim dhe flamur epoke/ is a call/chant and flag signifying an era
iu bë dritë siç ëndërronte/ and it was turned into light [fruition] as it [Albania] was dreaming
rrofsh sa moshë e kësaj toke!/ May you live as long as the age of this earth!
Shkon urimi gojë me gojë/ The blessing spreads from mouth to mouth
Shëndet trimit, Enver Hoxhës/ [Good] Health to the brave Enver Hoxha
se të vërtetës së kohës/ Because you were the truth of our times
i dhe krahët e shqiponjës/ You gave wings to the eagle
Shqipëria, nënë e gjirit/ Albania, your nursing mother,
të uron, bir: Jetë të gjatë!/ is wishing you, son: A long life!
dhe kur thotë: “Dita një mijë!”/ And when it says “May your days multiply by 1000!”
nënës prapë i duket pak!/ Even that to the mother seems like too little
O majë e malit me borë/ Oh you snow-capped mountain top
që s’qas re në sinorë/ allowing no cloud to cover you
emri yt gëzim lirie/ Your name is joy of freedom
lule në çdo buzë fëmije/ A flower in every child’s lips
Rrofsh Enver!/ Long live Enver!
Nga Saranda në Tropojë/ From Saranda to Tropoja [southernmost and northernmost cities]
shkon urimi gojë me gojë/ The blessing spreads from mouth to mouth
kush ndrit udhën siç do nëna/ You are the shining light on our path that mother [Albania] always wanted
sa vetë kombit i rreh zemra/ so much so that the entire nation’s heart beats [for you]
Over the top, much?
Uncle Enver seems moved and is weeping. At this point in his life he must be truly scared of dying, hence all the gag-worthy clues to longevity, the age of the Earth itself, and his days multiplied by 1,000. I can imagine how the prospect of death must have been much more painful to him than to us common mortals, since he had much more to lose in life: absolute power over the lives of over 2 million people, for one thing, and supreme control over perception of reality itself by an entire nation. He does not shy from milking his omnipotence for all its worth: he wants his entire nation to tell him he will live forever, in order to indulge himself in believing it. If perception is reality and he essentially controls both, with everyone telling him he will never die, who is he to say any differently?
Enver took great pride and satisfaction in urbanizing and “industrializing” Albania. Shedding the traditional rural garb in favor of mediocre Western clothing was seen as a sign of progress: the transcendence of the proletariat from provincialism and backwardness into the modernity and economic development brought by Communism. We are left to wonder then, why Enver would revel in the performances of such deliberate throw-backs to a more primitive era. The traditional costumes of these performers are symbols of inferiority and backwardness by Communism’s own standards, according to which industrial supremacy trumps all else. The discrepancy could have a purely sentimental explanation, of course: A young Enver may have enjoyed folk songs dedicated to local or national heroes (such as the one about Cerciz Topulli) and he probably once fantasized about being the one for whom such songs are written and performed, so in that sense he may be fulfilling a remote fantasy. Another explanation I suspect, is that the purpose of these songs, —his personal glorification— would be better served if the performers lowered themselves in the eyes of the audience. The tyranny of Communism operates under the cloak of universal equality, which is not the ideal environment for anyone’s personal aggrandizement. A certain perceived distance in status is required between Enver, —the would-be larger-than-life hero— and the sheep singing his praises, hence the deliberate status of inferiority in their appearance: they had to be lowered, so he could stand even higher by contrast.
Notice the lead male singer’s nervous smile and the woman’s exaggerated gestures. In genuine polyphonic epics, the performers almost universally acquire an intense, somber, and contemplative demeanor, as can be seen from the first two videos. The sycophantic servility and mindless collectivism permeating from these lyrics are alien to, in fact, antithetical to, the rugged, passionate, proud, and primitively individualistic culture that produced that choral singing arrangement in the first place.
Never before had Albanians been ruled by an absolute tyrant to whom they had to sell their souls in musical currency. Where is the underhanded praise? Where is the implicit pride? Where is the passionate minimalism? Gone without a trace: what we just saw has been a grotesquely faked orgasm of a traditional folk song.
Whereas here we have what seems to be a young Kyle MacLachlan (or perhaps his identical twin) singing to Enver’s glory, this time in the Northern tradition.
Enver Hoxha e mprehi shpaten, / Enver Hoxha sharpened his sword,
Edhe nje here o per situaten. / Once again for the situation.
Kjo asht shpata qe u rrin tek koka / This is the sword that hangs above the heads,
Gjithe amriqve o qe ka bota. / Of all enemies around the world.
Enver Hoxha, Tungjatjeta! / Long live Enver Hoxha!
Sa keto male e sa keto shkrepa! / [May he live as long] as these mountains and these rocks,
Zanin shqipes lart ia ngrite. / You raised the eagle’s voice up high.
Gjithe kete popull ne drite e qite. / You brought this entire nation out into the light.
Ylli i kuq shnderrin mbi maja. / The red star [communist symbol] shines above the mountain tops.
Bien daullja edhe zyrrhaja. / Drums and bagpipes are playing.
Porsi nuse asht ba Shqipria. / Albania is looking just like a bride [pretty/festive].
Flamurtare i prin Partia. / The [Communist] Party is leading her forward with a flag.
Enver Hoxha, Tungjatjeta! / Long live Enver Hoxha!
Sa keto male e sa keto shkrepa! / [May he live as long] as these mountains and these rocks,
Zanin shqipes lart ia ngrite. / You raised the eagle’s voice up high.
Gjithe kete popull ne drite e qite. / You brought this entire nation out into the light.
First things first: Anyone dressed like a medieval shepherd should not have the first clue on what a political party is. Having these archaic tribal characters sing about the glories of Marxism-Leninism is a deliberate anachronism. It’s completely out of place. And what’s with the depiction of Enver Hoxha as a fierce warrior? Sharpening his sword? Could there be a more absurd mental picture than the tame bourgeois old man in the gray suit barbarically threatening the world with a sword?
As if the performance were not derogatory in itself, these singers are subjected to another indignity: In the end, everyone in the choir is seen wearing wildly different costumes, which in fact represent the main regions of Albania with their respective micro-cultures. The spontaneous regimentation of these singers from such diverse musical and thematic traditions into a single choir is just about as natural as a Russian, Chinese, Sub-Saharan African, Italian, and Arab child, respectively, coming together and holding hands to sing Kumbaya My Lord. Parading the representatives of these largely disjointed traditions as interchangeable collective pegs (under the guise of national unity) on Enver Hoxha’s altar demeans the unique character of each micro-culture, whose songs are distinctively regional.
The same longevity themes are pounded on anew, with greater force with each passing year in order to counter Enver’s growing fear of death. These farcical songs are all so emotionally flat that they sound virtually interchangeable. The lyrics may have well been all written by the same author or by the same committee. Gone is the finesse, the originality, the pride. This prolonged desecration has delivered a devastating blow to folk music in Albania because people simply don’t respect the medium anymore, after decades of continuous subjection to such Orwellian performances as the ones you have just seen.
Folk song used to be a means of resistance to oppressors and commemoration of freedom-seeking revolutions. From 1945 to 1985 however, it became the jewel on the crown of Albania’s most ruthless dictator. The kind of radically collectivist intellectual atmosphere these songs were engineered to facilitate is best illustrated by the next and last song of this article: an unfathomable dynamic of crowd hysterics exalting a larger-than-life leader to whom the crowd’s minions fully surrender their egos. Hoxha instituted a civilian national security force in Albania, called “Sigurimi“, —literally meaning Safety/Security— which enforced the strict observance of the state religion, —Communism— across every corner of the country’s social life, no matter how remote.
Spies and agitators lurked everywhere, and it was not unheard of for family members to turn in one-another over miscellaneous charges of ‘blasphemy’ against statism. Under such repressive conditions so prohibitive to free thinking, citizens were left talking almost entirely to themselves whenever uncomfortable questions or suspicions would arise in their heads, while the rest of the world almost certainly appeared to each of them as a monolithic collective blissful in its unanimous acceptance of Party orthodoxy. I wonder how many a poor soul was ever reduced to wonder whether s/he was the only one in the entire nation entertaining ‘impure’ thoughts. Such ecstatic crowds bursting into unhinged Communist chants should come as no surprise under the circumstances then, since this predictable crowd behavior represented a rare chance for each person to be absolved of his/her private ‘thought crimes’ by publicly renewing the allegiance to the Party and to the Fuhrer and coming out of the experience with a clean slate on their hitherto troubled conscience.
An entire generation of Albanians was born, raised, and matured under such conditions —my parents among it. What’s done is done. Albanians have the cultural scars to remember this horror. I sincerely hope that Americans at least, will taste the danger of ecstatic crowds and spit out any ideological propositions stealthily conducive to such unhinged rampant collectivism before their political system gets poisoned.
Gjirokaster heroine/ Gjirokaster, heroine,
Bujarisht prite Shqiprine. / You have been a generous host to Albania [the festival for Enver's birthday is held in Gjirokastra, his home town]
Sollem kangen, burim drite, / We brought the song, a fountain of light.
Lum per djalin qe ti rrite, hej! / Blessed be the son you raised [i.e Enver], oh hey!
Ke rrit trim, ke rrit dai, / You have raised a brave, great man
Për kët trull, për kët Shqipni. / For this land, for this Albania.
Zemrat tona gzojn njiherit, / All our hearts are joyous at the same time,
Në ditlindjen e Enverit, / for Enver’s birthday.
Urojn tbardhat nanat tona: / Our white [venerable] mothers wish:
T’njefshim tmirën, o Enver Hoxha! / May we only see good [things] happen to you, oh Enver Hoxha!
Si ortek që zbret prej malit, / Like an avalanche descending from the mountain,
Derdhëm n’sofër t’festivalit / We poured down to join the festival’s table.
Fjale prej zemre, bardh si bora: / Words from hearts white [pure] as snow [sincere words]:
Bir i popullit të lumt dora! / Well done [great job], oh son of the people!
N’lule tballit gjujmë tradhtinë, / We shoot treason [traitors] right in the forehead.
Qelibar e rujmë Partinë. / We safeguard the [Communist] Party like a gem.
Gjumi kurrë nuk të zuni, / You never fell asleep [working so hard],
Vepra jote armiqt tundi; / Your deeds shook the enemies.
çove lart grushtin e zanin, / You raised the fist of your voice high up.
Jetën lidhe me vatanin. / You tied your life to the homeland.
T’lindi kombi burr të rrallë, / The people/nation gave birth to you, a rare man.
Lum Partia që t’ka n’ballë! / Blessed/Lucky the Party for having you at its front!