Friday, February 6, 2015

I.S.I.S. Snuff Films - that "GITMO-Orange" metaphor goes over many heads

Week-by-week the fanatics who call themselves the "Islamic State" struggle with the same problem facing Hollywood celebrities, Rock bands, and politicians of every stripe.  How do we hold our audience?  With I.S.I.S. it's all about brutality and sadistic forms of execution. To listen to CNN meat puppets talking about the "slick production values" used in I.S.I.S. videos, is to realize that they are acknowledging a competitor for American  'eyes and ears'.... because 'hearts and minds' are completely out of the question.

Recently though, I was startled to learn that Canadians don't "get" many of the metaphors common to political theatre as practiced by Muslim militants.  They certainly don't understand the orange-jumpsuit metaphor which is common to all I.S.I.S. snuff videos directed toward a Western audience.  Following the recent murder of the two Japanese captives I asked several students their best guess why the videos were always staged the same way.  Not a clue! Then I moved on to adults. Nobody knew!   That's very, very odd because evidence suggests that millions of news viewers in the U.S. and Europe are savvy to "Gitmo-orange", but why not Canadians?

In short, the I.S.I.S. executioners are reminding us all of the Muslims imprisoned and indoctrinated at the American military base on Cuba.  The whole sordid freak-show of the United States handling high risk enemy militants -  with offshore military prisons, C.I.A. torture centers, rendition flights, etc., gets thrown back into American faces when I.S.I.S. puts its own prisoners on display and administers its own own sadistic and perverted form of "justice". 

It's January 11, 2002 - and the first twenty "detainees" arrive at Camp X-Ray in the American Zone on Cuba.  The prisoners, shackled and wearing orange jumpsuits, kneel with their heads bowed during "in-processing".   [U.S. D.O.D. handout photo - click to enlarge]  Twelve years later I.S.I.S. would storm out of Syria into Iraq and carve out a sinuous territory they call the "Islamic State"  The Black banner and kneeling prisoners garbed in "Gitmo-orange" was evidence of a new form of militant threat and the Americans took several months to recover from the shock.

All over Europe and in many American cities, the display of political prisoners in orange jumpsuits, bound and often hooded, became the new shock-metaphor for those publicly rejecting American foreign policy, U.S. global surveillance, and Washington's continued illegal occupation of a corner of Cuba.

Click on photos if you need enlargement.

The Islamic State has captured thousands of Syrian soldiers and officers. Most have been executed by rifle fire, but a number have been beheaded on camera. None were garbed in "Gitmo-orange".  The colour orange is reserved for "high value detainees", a term invented by the Americans and now whole-heartedly adopted by I.S.I.S.  The use of video is common to both sides.  For example, the Americans have given hundreds of T.O.W. missile launchers to an A.B.C. of crackpot Syrian guerrilla groups.  The stipulation is that every missile launch MUST be videotaped.  Not for publication on YOUTUBE (although many TOW shots have appeared) but because the Americans want to count every missile firing. After Syrian President Assad is dragged out and killed like Gaddafi, the U.S. will probably bomb the guerrilla arms depots, in attempt to destroy the borrowed launchers and unexpended missiles.  Likewise every American assassination by Predator drone is video recorded, and I would suggest that atomizing a Toyota sedan and its passengers with a Hellfire missile is no less cowardly that taking the head of a bound captive.

CLOSE GUANTANAMO BAY, an Amnesty International poster

I close with this Amnesty International poster (above) which is simple yet eloquent.  I think you would agree that it is clever and definitely ironic.   Three symbols - the dove of peace, the Amnesty International motif of barbed wire, and the bright orange of Guantanamo, combined into one.  What I find especially ironic is that those first photographs taken of the kneeling terrorists at Camp X-Ray were not the work of some intrepid journalist using a long lens. They were taken by a U.S. Navy petty officer and released to the media by the D.O.D.   Fast forward to 2015.   I.S.I.S. captives are now posed on their knees as  Muslim "detainees" were posed on their knees in 2002.  Both sides kill, and kill often, but I.S.I.S.  is much more clever at satisfying the worldwide thirst for menacing images and vicarious thrills.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

I.S.I.S. takes Japanese Head Trophies - when will it be a Canadian's turn?

Kenji Goto displays the photo of beheaded ISIS hostage Haruna Yukawa

Japanese hostage Kenji Goto displays photo of fellow prisoner Haruna Yukawa,
who was beheaded by an I.S.I.S. guerrilla on January 25, 2015.  The latest
instalment of Islamic vengeance killings designed to weaken our resolve.

Or, if you prefer,  the tremulous media version... pixilated:

pixilated  I.S.I.S. Japanese hostages - Yukaw3a and Goto

It's really rather amazing how quickly the iconic image of 
kneeling I.S.I.S. hostages has burned into our subconscious.
It's been less than a year, and we easily recognize the black and
bright-orange hostage photos  pixilated AND miniaturized:

Yukawa Haruna - Japan's wannabe mercenary

There have been very few Japanese mercenaries in the modern era. I can think of perhaps two who made a name for themselves.  Yukawa Haruna was not made of the "right stuff".  Like millions of his fellow Japanese, he enjoyed dressing up in costumes and posing for the camera, but he was not a killer. He should not have journeyed into the most dangerous war zone in the world unless he was very prepared to die. Now he is dead, and Kenji Goto may soon join him.

Yukawa Haruna - tank boy, a childhood pose in front of Japanese tank

Yukawa Haruna - as tank boy. Nobody could fault the lad, or his dad, for this playful childhood pose. We've all done it with our kids.  Here he stands in front of a Japanese Self-Defence Force  M.B.T. 

Yukawa Haruna - posing in tactical gear - Japan
Just cosplay, or was he serious?  Yukawa Haruna poses in
tactical gear, somewhere in Japan, before leaving for Syria.

One is struck by the feminine appearance of the Yukawa face in the passport photo, (above)  in comparison to the matured face of the I.S.I.S. hostage.  I guess certain knowledge of your impending death by decapitation will do that to a fellow.

Yukawa Haruna posing with RPG launcher, Aleppo, Syria 2014

Professional mercenaries do not Blog from the battlefield.  Yukawa Haruna posed for and posted war-zone portraits constantly to the Internet, and he had a small fan following among members of Japan's para-military sub-culture.  It is quite obvious why I.S.I.S. chose to execute him first.   On his quirky FACEBOOK page he listed among his favorite music - Justin Bieber ! Another sure indication, as we Canadians might phrase it...   that Yukawa "wasn't all there!" 

It's interesting that I.S.I.S. executioners have now beheaded two Japanese, with a third condemned man soon to die.  This ferocious head trophy fetish was the big atrocity story of 2014, and may not burn itself out for a few years.  My generation was raised on history which emphasized Bushido and Japanese war crimes of civilian massacres and the beheading of Allied prisoners.  And now Japanese society is said to be severely shaken by recent events. Are they really?

For my earlier introduction to the history of head trophies, jump to BLACK JUNE - ISIS "Selfies" of head trophies shouldn't surprise anyone.

An Australian P.O.W. shown the instant before he was beheaded
by a Japanese with a sword. Thousands of civilians were so murdered.

I can't help speculating on how well the Canadian people will take it should I.S.I.S. get ahold of one of our CF18 pilots,  or one of our Special Forces soldiers who are currently "painting" targets with lasers in assistance of the bombing campaign.  I don't think our people can stomach that level of bestiality directed at one of our own, but they may have to. Worse, I already shudder at the paroxysms of  faux-suffering and genuine political theatrics that will ensue. 

CANSOFCOM - Canadian elite soldier deployed to Iraq

In 2014 CANSOFCOM deployed to Iraq and un-named countries in that region.  This is one of Canada's elite warriors -  who are authorized to engage I.S.I.S. and exterminate as many possible.  This past week our Prime Minister altered an unimportant speech to include a few words about Canadian operations in Iraq and Syria.  I quote Mr. Harper:
"Let me be clear. This is a robust mission. We're there to make those guys [Special Forces] effective so they can take on the Islamic State and deal with them. And if those guys fire at us, we're going to fire back and we're going to kill them, just like our guys did, and we're very proud of what they're doing in Iraq."
To my knowledge, that is the first time a Canadian prime minister has uttered the words "we're going to kill them" or anything even close to that phrase. I am proud of him for showing some balls at the appropriate moment. I haven't voted Tory in decades but with that genuine response to ISIS terror he just earned my vote, and a donation at election time.

Feb. 2, 2015 Update - And now the Japanese Prime MInister shows us he too has a pair of testicles.  Kenji Goto was beheaded on the weekend, and the Japanese are naturally feeling outrage and even a little vengeful.  Haruna Yakuna was an adventurer who needlessly exposed himself to I.S.I.S. killers, but the Kenji Goto was a harmless reporter of the news, with no connection to the Western intelligence agencies. The Japanese Prime Minister said his country "will cooperate with the international community and make the terrorists pay the price."  Hopefully he means providing additional  funding for the Japanese military, and not simply letting the NSA bug the toilets in every mosque in Japan.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

G. Gordon Liddy - in 1988 he described how terrorists could cripple the U.S. with a few cheap tricks

G. Gordon Liddy - former FBI agent discussed terror scenario in 1988

G. Gordon Liddy is now 84 years old and he's enjoyed a very full life.  A former FBI agent and lawyer,  he served 4 and 1/2 years in prison for his part in the Watergate Scandal during the Nixon administration.  His life after prison was even more interesting.  He wrote books, performed in movies and television, and was host of a nationally syndicated Talk-Radio program. He must be content with all of that.

In 1988 OMNI magazine commissioned him to write a fictional projection of what happen to America if it were hit by a team of well trained and motivated terrorists. (It was published in their January 1989 edition.)  By coincidence, Mr. Liddy was writing his piece just about the time Osama bin Laden was founding "The Base" or Al-Qaeda, and it would be years before the young Saudi would appear on anyone's radar. Liddy's tale has the Soviets assisting in the attack, and at the time Liddy shared in America's total preoccupation with the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua. This background dates the story, and as a result it will likely never be reprinted. That is a shame because on my recent second reading I found that it still holds up.  As a public service I thought I would take the time to extract the text from amid the vintage ads and other clutter.

It takes only fifteen minutes to read. I will meet you at the bottom.  (click on photos to enlarge)

"Liquid Metal Embrittlement (LME) agent"

G. Gordon Liddy - THE RULES OF THE GAME, pub. Jan. 1989

"EHV  transformers"
G. Gordon Liddy - THE RULES OF THE GAME, pub Jan. 1989

Gordon Liddy - Stacked & Packed, 2001 girls and guns Calendar
Many Americans love putting up Girls and Guns type calendars.
Gordon Liddy was a master of self-promotion, and having served both 
in the FBI and in prison, he was a natural fit for the genre.

"The EMPG, cruder and more bulky than our own classified device..."

G. Gordon Liddy - THE RULES OF THE GAME, pub. Jan. 1989

"the prayer of public officials has always been..."

G. Gordon Liddy,  THE RULES OF THE GAME, pub. Jan. 1989

"The Capital Hill Riot"
G. Gordon Liddy, THE RULES OF THE GAME, pub. Jan. 1989

There you have it.  What is unique in this fiction is that the author resisted the temptation to describe the American retaliation, which is inevitable and is which is always disproportionally greater than the original offence against the Stars and Stripes. Of course we now know that it would be a cunning band of Saudi Arabians which would execute the most effective surprise attack on the Americans since Pearl Harbour. But there was no way at all for Liddy to know, in mid-1988, what the geo-political fallout would be to United States pro-insurgency in Afghanistan. 

And finally, the one thing in the story which seemed bogus, turns out to be true.  Liquid Metal Embrittlement or LME.  I had never heard of it, but there is a Wikipedia page and much more on the Internet.   In a few minutes I found plenty to catch up on, including a recent U.S. Army study on LME which might further improve the lethality of U.S. munitions by "making a round with selectable fragment distribution".  Just what the word needs. Improved lethality.

Liquid Metal Embrittlement LME for improving U.S. explosive ordnance
Liquid Metal Embrittlement (LME) for improving
the fragmentation properties of U.S. explosive ordnance.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Exercising Free Speech - CHARLIE HEBDO and symbols of sadistic expressionism

John O'Brien (American cartoonist) - Exercising Free Speech
Yesterday's grim massacre at CHARLIE HEBDO in Paris put me in
 mind of this cartoon by the American, John O'Brien.  The metaphor 
seems appropriate as the guillotine was a French invention.


CHARLIE HEBDO or Charlie Weekly, is a satirical publication with a weekly circulation of approximately 50,000 copies. It is described as "left-wing", not because it advocates the overthrow of the Western democracies but because its targets are typically religion, politicians and corporations. It does so with crudely drawn cartoons and biting sarcasm. All very low-brow, which explains the limited circulation. Its managing editor, Stephane Charbonnier, was one of those murdered yesterday. He sometimes took his leftist credentials rather literally, such as when he promoted his publication with the clenched fist of defiance - a traditional gesture of the Communists. It was gutsy of him, because he was courting death. Paris is polluted with Muslim fanatics, and it was inevitable that one of them would go after Charbonnier with a knife on the sidewalk outside of his office.  Had I been Charbonnier,  I would have kept a shotgun within reach behind my desk.  Not a funny image, but a more effective gesture than a clenched fist.

Stephane Charbonnier, editor of CHARLIE HEBDO - clenched fist in 2012

Many will be outraged, for a few days at least, over the massacre perpetrated inside the editorial offices of CHARLIE HEBDO, but the media will turn away and illuminate the next tragedy. They will blather about "free Speech"  but in fact there is not one working journalist in Canada who would subscribe to  CHARLIE.  Not one, and I need not list the reasons.  Mercifully, this time the jihadist assassins had no time to videotape themselves cutting off heads of their victims. We had enough of those gory political theatrics in 2014.  

Still, it is instructive to witness the interplay of crude symbolism. Recall that after decades of wars and atrocities in post-colonial Africa, Asia and the Middle East, the world had grown weary of the bloody images and simply tuned out the carnage.  So ISIS, the new terrorist on the block,  turned up the volume by making a fetish of performing ritualistic beheading ceremonies - filming and uploading the decapitations of captured soldiers and foreigners. Ghastly. Serious.

And then we have the French cartoonists who lampooned the vicious ISIS ritual, even making it the feature gag for the cover of CHARLIE HEBDO on October 1, 2014. (below) The cartoonists in Europe are just as comfortable as the skinheads with the head-lopping motif as the Muslim murderers.  I'm not being prissy in pointing that out. I have written about my Celtic ancestors who were enjoyed taking head trophies and my point remains - millions of moderns are getting too comfortable with ancient forms of barbarism.

CHARLIE HEBDO cover page - ISIS headhunter slays the ptophet
In this CHARLIE HEBDO cover page, an ISIS guerrilla
takes the head of the prophet.  The "Charlie" brand of
humour is so primitive that a Neanderthal would "get" it.
For Canadian-style cartoon humour try an earlier
 article Pissing on the Taliban - for a classic Donato cartoon.

And should anyone think for an instant that I am forcing the point, here is a cartoon just published by Dutch cartoonist Joep Bertrams.  It is entitled "Onsterfelijk" with the weekly personified by a staffer in T-shirt, and rendered "Immortal" by a Muslim scimitar. It is clever and effective - the cartoon, not the killing.   In fact the senior staff at CHARLIE HEBDO were lined up and shot in the head with Kalashnikov assault rifles. The Muslim killers were garbed in black fatigues and balaclavas, the well known uniform ISIS guerrillas, (or French anti-terrorist police for that matter), and one gave the raised finger ISIS salute to those filming him with cellphones. So the Dutch cartoonist simplifies matters by returning to the more shocking image of head-chopping. We get it. We get it instantly.

Dutch cartoomn in support of CHARLIE HEBDO

The Canadian media response to the Paris Massacre have been tepid and tame - oh, so safe.  The most honest was of course Christie Blatchford in today's NATIONAL POST [JAN 8/15]  Ms. Blatchford began with these trenchant paragraphs:

Christie Blatchford - Terrorists Have Cowed Us All - Jan. 8, 2014

I'm hoping the POST with archive her article for a year or more.  Most of the media-rash on murderous events will disappear from websites in a few months, if not weeks, but I'm hoping Blatchford's article will have legs. Jump to the NATIONAL POST and read her piece while it is still topical.


Of course many flaks rushed in to remind us, ad nauseam, that the Muslim fanatics in Western Europe are few,  while their massive immigrant populations are placid and peace loving. Of course the professional talkers have never read CHARLIE HEBDO or they would know that the weekly often lampooned the prejudices of majority-Muslims.  Here is a sloppy taste of HEBDO humour:

CHARLIE HEBDO cover mocks Muslim homophobia - editor takes sloppy kiss
CHARLIE HEBDO mocks Muslim homophobia,
which is very widespread.  Here the CHARLIE
 editor takes a sloppy kiss from the Faithful.

Of course CHARLIE HEBDO was an enemy of all established religions - but especially Christianity, Judaism and Islam. And as we know, cartoonists need only fear the wrath of Muslims. The Hebdo office was guarded by a policeman, and he was the first to be cut down. Unfortunately for expectant readers,  "Left-Wing" satirists  have yet to discover the burgeoning cult of environmentalism, with its many associated fetishes.  That's too bad. I'd like to see what they could do with it.

CHARLIE HEBO cover mocking religion - Rabbi, Pope and Imam
CHARLIE HEBDO taunted all of the traditional
religions.  Here are a crudely caricatured 
Rabbi, Bishop and Muslim Imam.

"FREE SPEECH"? Now that's funny!

Obligatory Update - January 10, 2015
Wikipedia pages always grow from spectacles that the public seems to be following, so I thought I would consult the Wiki-page for the "Charlie Hebdo shooting".  "Free Speech" on wikipedia? Pardon me while I puke... 
At Noon today the wiki-page for  the massacre of the Parisian cartoonists contains NOT A SINGLE EXAMPLE OF THEIR WORK, with the exception of a photo of a protestor holding up an old copy of the weekly.  Note the careful wording of the caption (below).

Wikipedia promotes political correctness - Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris
WIKIPEDIA is a owned by Jimmy Wales, an American businessman who self-describes as an "atheist".  He currently enjoys living in London, England and according to the most recent update of his own Wiki page, "In December 2014, Wales shared the inaugural $1-million Mohammed bin Rashid Knowledge Award with World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berniers-Lee."   

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Adolph Hitler's public debut - August 2, 1914 - the Photograph of the Century

Adolph Hitler.  Hands down, "Der Fuhrer" is the most famous figure of the 20th Century.  His face, even in the crudest abstract form,  (a black-plastic comb under any nose), is still the most recognizable visage in the entire world. 

All through the month of August the news media salted the airwaves and the Internet with blaring reminders that August marks the 100th Anniversary of the start of the First World War.  I suspect most of junk reportage was ignored, as the public has been fixated on Gaza, the Ukraine, the I.S.I.S. Caliphate, and Ebola.  These past four weeks I planned to write an article on "the most remarkable photograph of the 20th Century" - the exact moment when Adolph Hitler was first photographed at a public event, and nobody recognized him or had any inkling of what he would become.  It was on the Odeonplatz in Munchen (Munich), August 2, 1914.  Hitler was just "a face in the crowd," joyously cheering the Declaration of War against Russia, and joining in the lusty outburst of German National songs.

Hitler - a studio portrait taken by Heinrich Hoffmann, in Munich
This portrait, taken by Heinrich Hoffmann, was published in 1933.
This was how Hitler saw himself and how he wanted to be portrayed.

Below,  is one of a sequence of six photographs taken by Heinrich Hoffman, a Munich photographer.  Years later Hoffmann was hired as Hitler's personal photographer, and when his boss mentioned have been at the event Hoffman took the negatives into the lab and made poster-size enlargements. He was thrilled to discover that quite by chance he had recorded Hitler's face in the Bavarian crowd. It was a stunning find, and it was first published on March 12, 1932.  The photo was syndicated and appeared in an unknown number of periodicals and with sets of cigarette cards which are today in thousands of collections worldwide.  In the summer of 1914 Hitler was a complete unknown, but within the week he volunteered for the German Army and was soon in the thick of the fight.  An extraordinary man and I agree with George Will who dubbed the picture "the century's most remarkable photograph". 

Hoffmann was not alone covering the event.  Many German newspapers covered the event, as did at least one newsreel cameramen.  It was even featured in the Illustrated London News. I have collected over a dozen images of the crowd, taken in all four directions.  In addition I have found four different published versions of the shot printed in the 1930s,  in which Hitler is isolated in a circle or vignette.

In this photograph the citizens of Munich assemble in front of the Feldherrnhalle, a symbol of military prowess, to cheer the coming of a great war.  They don't yet understand that conflict will destroy their empire and brutally humble the Germanic tribes.  In that crowd is a loner, a man of intelligence but who lacks in the conventional graces, and who doesn't yet understand his own potential as a leader.  Postwar, he will be responsible for rebuilding and empowering his defeated Germany, and return annually to that very symbolic spot to perform the rituals of blood and honour intended to cleanse the stink of defeat.  The loner in the crowd on Aug. 2, 1914 was a man of destiny so potent in significance that a century after this photograph was taken there are writing men who seek their own notoriety in trying to debunk every aspect of Adolph Hitler's life - even to the petty extent of mocking this photograph. 


As everyone should know,  the modern German state and most of the Germanic people are still traumatized by the Nazi period of social, cultural and political domination.   Political correctness is expected, and few Germans today are capable of producing unbiased accounts of Adolph Hitler or the Third Reich. Some academics go so far as to make false claims which they cannot back up.  For decades the Hoffmann photograph was accepted by authoritative biographers and historians.  Then in December of 2010, the historian Gerd Krumeich, a man whom one London newspaper insisted is "recognized as Germany's greatest authority on World War 1", stepped forward and declared the photo a fake. His precise accusation was that Heinrich Hoffman had doctored the photo, inserting Hitler's face, for the purpose of helping him win an election.    The story spread like an infectious contagion because of course Hitler bashing is easy and fun, and it panders to the lazy mobs that cannot seem to find any 21st Century witches to burn.

Krumeich claimed that he had examined many variants of the Hoffmann photo and found minute differences, such as a lock of hair hanging in one and absent in others.  That is not surprising as  many prints were in circulation and were screened and tinted by individual printers. I include a vignette printed in 1933 as a collectable card. It is tinted in colours and a technician has touched up the moustache to give it more definition, but there are no substantial differences.  If Hitler had a hat, it was down at his side. He is not waving it in the air as many in the crowd were doing.  More to the point, Hitler had become a practiced politician, and he was hyper-vigilant of his image.  He spent hours in front of the mirror perfecting his body language and building a repertoire of facial gestures.  Heinrich Hoffmann had photographed his client's theatrics and he had a huge archive of images on file.  If he wanted to pull some photo-fakery he could have done a much better job, and he would have had the client looking at the camera, just as others standing next to Hitler are doing.  How obvious is that?

Everyone in the crowd understood they were witnessing history, and there were cameras recording faces from all points of the compass.   So what was Hitler looking at, while the other men are looking into Heinrich Hoffman's camera lens? 

The Feldherrnhalle, Munich,  August 2, 1914 -  Hitler in the crowd.

Hitler was intensely interested in the official proceedings - ie. the declaration of war.  He longed for war, and the joy on his face is very apparent.  He was at this point in his life disassociating himself with his native Austria, and would petition the government of the King of Bavaria for permission to join his army. Permission was in fact immediately granted.

Hitler cheers the declaration of war, Munich  Aug. 2, 1914
The Bavarian State Library in Munich has many Hoffman images in its
online catalog, which it will gladly sell to publishers and film makers.
This one, "HOFF 4482" is offered without any editorializing about it
being faked or contrived. It is deemed an authentic record of German history.

The city of Munich was where Hitler found his courage, honed his iron will,  and developed his unique form of political brilliance. He was particularly enthralled by the historical symbolism of the Feldherrnhalle and after the war, when he began moulding the NSDAP, he would annually meet with Nazi recruits in the Odeonplatz for oath-taking pageantry which was highly scripted and very photogenic.

I conclude PART 1 of this article with this water colour of the Feldherrnhalle on the Odeonplatz, which was painted by Adolph Hitler.  It is more evidence of just how important that ceremonial structure and that unique location were in his thinking process.  All my life I have read in biographies and weighty works that Hitler did not have what it takes to become an artist. The truly nasty insisted that had no talent at all, as if the man who orchestrated the murder of six million Jews must be stripped of the merest shred of humanity.  That verdict is of course absolute rubbish, shared and repeated by cowards who are afraid to form their own opinions about art and about the man.  What Hitler inflicted on Europe after he took leadership of the Nazi Party is another story entirely.    Those who make no attempt to understand the man he was before Germany's defeat in the Great War or before the coming of his leadership in the NSDAP, are not worthy of your attention.   Young Hitler walked the streets of Munich carrying an artists easel and would not have bothered with a camera even if given one. He had an eye for detail and an ear for a well turned phrase, and on August 2, 1914 he pressed close enough to  the great hall to catch the speeches and the military salutes. We are very fortunate that Hoffman preserved his negatives  long enough for one of them  to reveal something of Hitler during those formative years before he had yet to find his destiny or capture the public imagination.

Part 2 and 3 will appear when time allows.

Update Jan 7, 2015: clearly I had no time in 2014 to return to this interesting subject. That is unfortunate because it's a fabulous story muddied and distorted by a couple of recent books written by academic historians with contemporary political agendas.  I think I need a bigger gun than a Google Blog for this one.

Ronald J. Jack
August 30, 2014

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Livens Flame Projector - It made the Somme explode like some horrific industrial accident.

Flamethrower - British Toy Soldier,  Livens
Toy soldier with flamethrower - for burning the beastly Boche in your backyard.

August 2014 is of course, the hundredth anniversary of the opening of World War 1 - which is being  trumpeted by some as... wait for it... "The Forgotten War".  How significant a cliche is that? Network television is certain that 2014 - 2018 is a golden window of opportunity to flood our eyes with NO- COST reruns of old war films and documentaries, interlarded with saccharine stories believed to be of "local interest".  The Royal Canadian Mint and Canada Post are invested heavily in promoting public awareness, and will be offering tens of millions of dollars of collectible merchandise over the next four years. Veterans Affairs has no surviving Great War veterans to roll out, and so vigorously mines the memories and enthusiasms of descendants of C.E.F. volunteers.  Our news industry (which wraps advertising around content) and the Canadian government (which wraps "Heritage" money around its perceived voter base), clearly believe we need their officially  mandated and infomercial form of remembrance. Do we?

Have you noticed a nauseating stream of faux-reportage this month?  Stale stories are, I think, a propaganda effort certain to fall on deaf ears. It is a campaign which I suppose will play out over four years, annoying the hell out of those who do possess historical awareness. The problem is that reporters and politicians are not believable people, and we instinctively know that there is not an ounce of genuine interest or compassion in their commemorative message.  As one who frequently teaches young people about WW1, its technology, its poetry and its lasting impact on our society, I am constantly searching for stories which can cut through the avalanche of sticky, kaleidoscopic imagery which is over-stimulating our youth.  Obviously such images must be arresting if they are to have any chance of competing with Hollywood's output. Archival images of the muddy trenches and the poppy fields, with a bugler blowing the Last Post in the background, doesn't cut it with the cellphone generation.  Emphasizing "how very young" the boys of that "Lost Generation" were, fails to put a lump in the throat of today's teenagers. A strangers death does not scare them, and a soldiers death does not move them.

Assuming the B.C. Teachers Strike ends sometime soon, and students are one again required to struggle with Social Studies 11,  "Canada in World War One" will be on their plate. It's a given that when you teach war history it is helpful to have artifacts on the table. When a student picks up a Ross rifle bayonet and is asked to imagine the pain of a German who had that rammed threw his rib cage, it leaves an impression. I'm always seeking new ways to make such impressions. I may soon be tutoring well-rested students on really scary war-tech, like the LIVENS LARGE GALLERY FLAME PROJECTOR:

Test Firing - the Livens Flame Projector, 1916
Click on each photo to enlarge.

In May of 2010 a team of archaeologists and historians assembled on a farmer's property at Mametz, France to open an exploratory trench. They were looking to disinter a forgotten monster of WW1.  They had excellent maps, photos, Regimental War Diaries and more, which made it fairly easy to locate the blasted gallery where one of the Livens Flame Projectors was sited.  The whole excavation, which included the assistance of a party of Royal Engineers, was recorded for a British network television show, called "TIME TEAM".   Over the years I have watched three or four episodes on YOUTUBE, but I had not heard of this episode. I stumbled over it just a week ago.  It seems that it was co-produced for Canada's HISTORY CHANNEL, but then H.C. is not my cup of tea.

It is very clear to me that the reason this documentary project went off so well is because it was meticulously researched by historians who know their stuff. Kudos to them. But while I do recommend the program for its visuals, it is obviously made for people who don't know anything at all about warfare or who divide their time between the TV screen and their cell phones.  The 47 minute program is extremely repetitious and filled with looped clips and contrived drama, which was totally unnecessary. (In researching this article I checked the production companies website. This video project is listed as a "Docu-drama". Fair enough.)  The battlefield dig at Mametz was well funded, precise in execution, and fully supported by a British university, a French Museum, the British MOD and even a few French donor companies.  As a result the  excavations generated a wealth of physical evidence and support a highly interesting story.  The team effort justified the investment of resources, and I have read that the program was  "a hit".

I first watched the TIME TEAM program on YOUTUBE, cut into four segments.  You can now watch the 47 minute show intact.  It is here -   THE SOMME'S SECRET WEAPON.

Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector - detailed model of the weapon.

The massive flame projector was designed for a single purpose. Assembled below the front trenches in strict secrecy, they would be used as a shock weapon to neutralize a length of the German line, just as an assault was initiated.  Only four were built for the Somme.  Two were successful and two were destroyed by enemy action.  We realize today that this type of weapon is better deployed in a defensive scenario.  Image if, earlier this month, Israeli sappers had encountered such fire beasts as they entered Gaza?  Fortunately Hamas weapon makers prefer  I.E.D.s to flame throwers.

Livens Flame Projector - WW1, Test firing by Royal Engineers 2011

Following recovery of whole sections of a Livens Flame Projector buried in collapsed SAP 14, the device has been recreated in a four versions.  A  C.G.I.  graphic, a tiny scale model, a full-size scale model (sans pressurized tanks), and incredibly -  a full-sized working facsimile built and tested by the Royal Engineers.  I think the last was unnecessary (and environmentally filthy) but it made for highly dramatic television images.  

The Royal Engineers actually cheated. They did not even try to use Livens' original system of piston-driven compressed gas.  They used an electric pump attached to very large portable fuel bladders of a type which  all NATO forces have in their inventory.  Still, if you compare the test firings made with the reconstructed weapon, with the original image at the top of this article, you will agree that the  R.E.s succeeded in copying the effect. A horrifying flame weapon indeed.

Livens Flame Projector - WW1 terror weapon recreated by Royal Engineers

Something from a madman's notebook?  Not really. All weapons are murderous in intent and in use. But some are designed to scare you as well as kill you.  What is amazing about this Flame Projector, which some marketing guru has now dubbed  "The Dragon of the Somme", is that is took Livens and skilled British craftsmen and Engineers  just 25 weeks from first sketch - to fabrication - to deployment in a clay tunnel.

I have learned that an 83 minute version of the TIME TEAM documentary was edited for North American viewing. I haven't seen that longer version, but it may simply be the "Two Hour Special" produced for HISTORY TELEVISION.  If so, I might still watch it, hoping that the historians get to speak more than "Tony" the Time Team's  on-air talent.

Livens flame weapon was reminiscent of Martian death ray in THE WAR OF THE WORLDS

"The War That Will End Wars"
If you have read the H.G. Wells novel THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, you will recall that the Martian heat ray was an energy weapon carried by walking machines that laid waste to much of England's urban core, incinerating London and at least one Royal Navy Dreadnought.  When I first read of Livens' devastating flame projector, in a history blog, I pulled down a riot of visual memories which enhanced my reading experience.  Odd thoughts really, such as wondering if his diabolical design was not somehow influenced by his recreational reading. It cannot be denied that Mr. Wells was widely read, and he was influential.  In his "Martian" novel, Wells described the shock effect of the hellish invaders roaming about the English countryside unchallenged, their towering machines burning all humans they encounter.  Livens' more industrial version of a death ray failed only because it was so vulnerable to German artillery that it had to remain hidden sub-surface, and because its fiery charge was expended in only a few short bursts.  The B.E.F. did make territorial gains from time to time, and the Livens flame weapon was not mobile.  Of course, once I had seen the British video, with its full colour recreation of the weapons' destructive power,  the imaginative component of  my reading experience evaporated.

Although not a combatant, H.G. Wells was a participant in the Great War from its beginning to end.  His book,  THE WAR THAT WILL END WAR was published in October of 1914, which was months before our Canadian troops (the C.E.F.)  reached the battlefield. Before long the title was "in circulation" in a skeptical form as "The war to end all wars". The book's opening line reads "The cause of a war and the object of a war are not necessarily the same." is still a basic truism.  In our own time the war making ambitions of radical Islam triggered an American response  - the declaration of a so-called "War on Terror", but as some of us realize, ever since President Wilson expressed his credo of "making the world safe for democracy" the United States government has always managed to scare up a threat to its particular way of life.

The Flame Tank - Hugo Gernsback's lurid idea for a magazine cover in 1936

The concept of flame projectors never died, but what they did do was become mobile. In World War ll all nations with tank armies developed flame-thrower variants. They were most famously used by the Americans during the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. More recently, assemblers of books on Science Fiction art invariably include the more fanciful covers from Hugo Gernsback publications, very often including this one showing his "invention", The Flame Tank, which appeared not in a S.F. pulp but his hobbyist magazine SCIENCE AND MECHANICS (Jan. 1936).  The only thing unique about this painted scenario is that the artist has the infantry garbed in flame resistant uniforms and hoods, which implies that they would fight almost amid the flames.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BLACK JUNE - I.S.I.S. "Selfies" of head trophies should not surprise anyone

When Shakespeare summed up human failings, he could be devastating. "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." That was not written to flatter us, but  rather to confirm that we are all beasts, and many of us monstrous beasts.  I thought of this recently as I examined a dozen atrocity photos shared I.S.I.S. warriors in  Syria, who were not content with executing captives, but felt the need to go further. They decided to cut off their heads and make a display of the gory trophies.  

A selfie from Syria  I.S.I.S.  fighters as headhunters
An I.S.I.S.  selfie posted on TWITTER.  Head-hunting shots flatter the beast.
He was born in the Netherlands, but his heart burned for an ISIL homeland.
The idea here is the killing of the "near enemy" or impure Muslims. The
killing of the "distant enemy" we impure Westerners, can wait for now.

Consider the two men in the photos, one a passport holder from the Netherlands and the other from Australia.  Don't let the beards fool you.  Not long ago these fellows were living on our side of the divide, sitting in a food court at some generic shopping mall, cheap baseball caps on their heads, munching on junk food.  You would not have given them a second glance, and they found that infuriating.  With these photos they spit in your salad, do they not?   2013 was declared the Year of the Selfie, so what did thousands of angry Muslim youth do? They flew to a war zone beyond American military supervision, where they could trump one of the most odious forms of narcissist Western expressionism - the Selfie.  (Even the Obama's employ the SELFIE gimmick without any hint of irony.) Now we have the head-hunting selfie. Bravo fellows!

The Australian press made a big deal out of the fact
that this immigrant, Mohamed Elomar, abused their passport, 
not to mention Aussie hospitality.   It's easy to be offended,  and 
many are these days, but harder to act. 

There is nothing new in this of course.  My ancestors were warrior Celts of the West European forests and river valleys. They were tribesmen who took heads whenever they felt the urge to publicize their fearsome courage.  They also successfully resisted the military power of the Roman Empire - less so the cultural intrusions which they considered a spiritual pollution.  The declaration of a new I.S.I.L. "caliphate" in territories which were reallocated by the Imperial British and the Imperial French, is a startling new reality.  The wheel of history is turning.  We will get used to radical Islam, or we won't. The Americans are the premier war fighters on this planet, but they have instinctively recoiled from this new radicalized form of warfare because the modern G.I. is not ruthless enough to put the blade to the throat, as our ancestors did.  

  In the Hollywood war fantasy - ALIENS -  the enemy is a creature which cannot be negotiated with, and is too lethal to co-exist with humans. Corporal Hicks, the sturdy Colonial Marine decides on Armageddon. "We'll nuke 'em from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."  Real life solutions are a bit trickier.  We cannot ever nuke our home world. Nuclear warheads are not an option for all the obvious reasons, and in the end will not even save Israel.  But where is that antibiotic, the magic bullet,  capable of flushing the homicidal beasts who infect our pluralistic societies?   

Celtic head hunter, the warrior hero, c180 B.C.
A reconstruction of broken limestone statuary excavated in France -
a Celt hero figure, circa 300 BC,  displays  head trophies for all eternity.
Roman Legionnaires smashed it to bits, fearing its power to incite resistance.

If you are interested in the significance of head trophies, there is a mass of archaeological evidence and art history which documents its function.  The only thing at all humorous about the atrocities we have seen committed (recently) in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, (and even more so in Mexico) is that the bearded beasts really think they have invented something new, when in fact they are reverting to something very ancient.  Head hunting has never completely disappeared from our world, any more than have cannibalism or even the plague.  As disgusting as the war-porn has become, it could get worse. So far at least we haven't witnessed full-reversion to the bloody ape, although recent African conflicts drew us very close indeed.  The Neanderthal would crack the human skull open to access the sweet brain. So far the Islamic Jihadists have refrained, but consumption of human flesh was witnessed in at least three recent war zones in sub-Saharan Africa.  The beasts are stirring.

severed head  c300 BC, in stone, Celtic head hunting tradition
A stone head  grasped by the hand of a Chieftain.  In a fusion of sorts,
the Greco - Roman form of expression (sculpture in stone) was used to
immortalize Celt values -  the Hero-Warrior displaying his trophies.

What is really ironic about the Islamic use of the ancient head-hunting motif, is that it has kindled interest in comparable Celtic symbolism in Western Europe, particularly in those countries where the hyper-vigilant police jump on any display of Nazi regalia, even when it appears in non-authentic, stylized form.  There is a huge European sub--culture now collecting, re-interpreting and sharing pagan symbolism, and much of it informs their political idealism.  For some, aggressive images on a T-shirt or a banner are a manifesto, and the sword or gun pose is too cliche.  A severed head, held high, is an arresting image which cannot be ignored. One can safely predict that when the next European war breaks out, possibly in the 'balkanized' Balkans, the display of head trophies will finally return to European warfare... shared of course on Facebook and Twitter.

Severed heads of British bankers - protest on London Bridge, 2009
A gruesome form of protest which doesn't turn a single head.
These head trophies were models of living British bank executives.
Would this be a "hate crime" in Canada, or deemed legitimate protest?
Bring me the head of JUSTIN TRUDEAU - and please be creative.

Celtic Headhunter, Thomas Gunn Miniatures, Wiltshire
The Celt Headhunter - Thomas Gunn Miniatures, Wiltshire (U.K)


Taliban Hunting Club,  U.S. manufactured patch
This design  is not unit specific.  It is manufactured in Nevada 
and  sold online as a "morale boosting" item.  I am not 
aware of any instance where American personnel defied Army
authority and  took a trophy,  either in Afghanistan or Pakistan.  

U.S. Army publication - VISUAL PROPAGANDA  AND EXTREMISM, July  2014

The very latest U.S. Army publication on "visual propaganda".
Not a single mention of the thousands of colour photos of
severed heads which flooded onto the Internet in 2014.

Addendum: Pixilated Postcards from the Beastly Press

Seven year old Australian boy displays head - ISIS Recruits 2014