'A Grammar of Redaction' at the New Museum's Temporary Center for Translation

A Grammar of Redaction. As part of the New Museum's Temporary Center for Translation (Summer 2014), I submitted some materials from an ongoing book project, How To Do Things Without Words, which looks at the aesthetic logic of redacted documents from the American War on Terror. A few pages of the grammar are on display as part of the exhibition. I also wrote a longer grammar analysing some of strange linguistic categories to be found in these documents, as well as a Phrasebook, that contains excerpts from the texts that I discuss in the grammar. You can download both below.



Droning On

I used to work in a call center in which we were instructed to make 50 calls an hour. Our pay depended on us fulfilling this quota. Most hours, this didn't prove to be a problem. At 7pm, there was a list of thousands of old grannies eager to be divested of their retirement fund. Things got trickier, however, on the night shift. At 3am, who do you call to fulfill your quota?
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Washington Monthly article leads to Senate inquiry

At the beginning of the month, Meg Stalcup and I published an article in the Washington Monthly. It analyzes the unregulated explosion of counterterrorism trainers in America. Building off sham qualifications and a very dubious knowledge of Islam, they capitalize on America's fear, and teach law enforcement tactics that will neither help them fight terrorism, nor build good relations with the Muslim community they should be serving. You can read the article here. The Nation Institute Investigative Fund, who funded our investigation, has a good round-up of the reaction to the story in the sidebar here.

Yesterday, Senators Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman started a Senate inquiry into counterterrorism training, quoting the article.

I never thought I would say this, but thank you Joe Lieberman.

A response to the Bail letter

After Meg Stalcup and I published an article in the Washington Monthly, criticizing badly regulated counterterrorism training for law enforcement in America, some of the trainers who we criticized responded, and a friend of theirs, Joseph M. Bail Jr, wrote a letter claiming to "rebut" our claims. His letter, which you can read in the side panel here, did no such thing. We responded to his letter, rebutting his claims. The response is below.
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Washington Monthly piece on Counterterrorism Training for Law Enforcement

(written with Meg Stalcup) On a bright January morning in 2010, at Broward College in Davie, Florida, about sixty police officers and other frontline law enforcement officials gathered in a lecture hall for a course on combating terrorism in the Sunshine State. Some in plain clothes, others in uniform, they drifted in clutching Styrofoam cups of coffee, greeting acquaintances from previous statewide training sessions. The instructor, Sam Kharoba, an olive-skinned man wearing rimless glasses and an ill-fitting white dress shirt, stood apart at the front of the hall reviewing PowerPoint slides on his laptop. As he got under way, Kharoba described how, over the next three days, he would teach his audience the fundamentals of Islam. “We constantly hear statements,” Kharoba began, “that Islam is a religion of peace, and we constantly hear of jihadists who are trying to kill as many non-Muslims as they can.” Kharoba’s course would establish for his students that one of these narratives speaks to a deep truth about Islam, and the other is a calculated lie. “How many terror attacks have there been since 9/11? Muslim terror attacks,” Kharoba asked the room. Silence. “Let’s start the bidding.” “Over a hundred,” someone volunteered. “I got a hundred,” Kharoba called back. Another audience member, louder now, suggested three hundred. “Three hundred!” Kharoba declared. “Over a thousand,” offered another voice in the audience. Kharoba stopped the bidding. “Over thirteen thousand,” he said. “Over thirteen thousand attacks.” He paused to let the statistic sink in.
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Death and the Idea of America

When Europe tells stories about America, it is principally telling stories about itself, what it fears it will become; what it is already. To read Baudrillard's America, with its evocations of joggers cocooned in the solitary sacrifice of their energy, is to listen to a story about a world where death is banished to the margins - old age people's homes languishing in the suburbs - and our lives become more frenetic the more we try to push death away.
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The Revenge of the Truth

The ‘facts on the ground' do not always have a direct bearing on the policies that emerge in response to what is really happening. This is no more true than in today's Iraq - and in the policy responses that are the fallout for the Middle East of what is taking place in Iraq. Policy - in the form of the arguments emerging from Washington as well as from among some of those states to which it remains allied in the region - is not driven by the reality of a ‘Sunni-Shia' split in Iraq; instead, writes Joshua Craze, the policy of seeking the existence of a Sunni-Shia split is now creating the circumstances in which such a split might become a reality. The US Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that a ‘cold war' between Sunni and Shia is in the offing, was not based on the view that there is a cold war - but on the need to create the impression that such a war exists. And to what end is all this taking place? Contending with Iran is clearly at its heart - with the focus being on holding Iran responsible for the situation in Iraq - despite the violence in Baghdad being committed by Sunni insurgents, and there being no definitive evidence that this ‘cold war' - or a ‘hot' equivalent - is really taking place.
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