The Problem of ‘Defence’ in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

In the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, the rhetoric of defence permeates every aspect of Israeli discourse. But so long as people are violently denied their basic human dignity, the emergence of violent grass-roots organisations like Hamas is inevitable. Israel, like all colonial powers, is engaged in continual, tacit violence, violence which is often hidden by its omnipresence. Peace demands reciprocity. Flattening Gaza for the sake of killing a few Hamas militants is not an expression of peace or of real defence. If this war is to end, it is the violence of the Israeli state that needs mitigating, not that of Hamas.

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Knowing your place: Protesting and problems for the Left

Recent images of the vigil held for Mark Duggan outside Tottenham Police Station illustrate a problem which has plagued the Left for many years. Apart from a few DIY banners, all of the placards on show bare the brazen logo of the Socialist Workers Party. The issue here is not the “instrumentalisation” of Mark Duggan’s death, or even the SWP itself, but rather the omnipresent, left-wing branding of almost all protests.There is obviously nothing wrong with solidarity or showing your support for certain causes. But the fact that the vigil, like so many other protests, was completely dominated by SWP creates a host of problems.

By Matteo Tiratelli

Fellini, Sorrentino and the Roman Nobility

In the 1950s and ’60s, a trend to stage extended scenes of wild and weird parties became fashionable in Italian cinema. Directors exhibited a consortium of mismatched, obscure people swaying to the rhythms of the time. In these striking spectacles, an audience was confronted with innovative ways of communicating social, sexual and religious conflicts. What sticks out, however, are not the stories of the protagonists but rather the portrayal of the old Roman nobility.

By Alex Bower

Why Do Dictators Bother with Propaganda?

It seems strange that, in the midst of unrest and economic distress, dictators would choose to spend precious resources on propaganda. And not just any old propaganda which, being generous, we might assume is effective; but patently absurd and unbelievable propaganda. Terrible photoshop jobs. Outrageous and unbelievable claims. A personality cult which everyone knows to be out of touch with real opinions. The answer seems to be that they do so in order that people have to pretend to believe it.

By Matteo Tiratelli

Rose-Tinted Telescopes: Nostalgia, Preservation and Cinema Paradiso (1988)

This winter, on its twenty-fifth anniversary, a cinematic re-release of Cinema Paradiso will confront a new generation of movie-lovers with Whitman’s enigmatic response. The film hasn’t changed (this is a “fully restored” version of a director’s cut that’s been around for a decade now), but what has changed is the audience. We’re jaded and bored, more nostalgic than ever for a collective film memory that has begun to fade. This time round, director Giuseppe Tornatore’s paean to lost love and a dying movie culture may just be too sad for the cinephile to bear. Paradoxically, the only therapy for this melancholy is to go and see it.

By Sam Thompson

Superfunkycalifragisexy: The Demise of Sexually Explicit Lyrics

Somewhere between Prince’s “Darling Nikki” and Nelly’s “Tip Drill”, we forgot how to sing about sex. Explicit sexual references have become a ubiquitous part of pop music, but they have also become as bland and as vacuous as Chris Martin’s darkest fantasies. As boring and predictable as Miley twerking. We are saturated with naked flesh and sexual invitations but somehow they’ve never been less appealing. And I can’t help but think that we’re missing out.

By Matteo Tiratelli

How Technology, Space and Place Affect Song Writing

The idea that context determines what music is recorded, played and sung is both obvious and extremely counter intuitive. We don’t normally notice the way that music evolves in response to changes in technology and the spaces in which it is listened to. This doesn’t mean that artists are not reacting creatively and artistically to these changes but merely that their creativity is embedded in its context. What worries me, however, is that the rise of recording and modern technology has undermined their creative control.

By Matteo Tiratelli

A Question Of Taste

Two weeks ago, in a small, dingy flat in Munich, surrounded by mouldy take-away boxes and tins of food, German police found a collection of some 1,400 modernist works of art that had been looted by the Nazis and condemned as degenerate art. The “degenerate” is an idea that has haunted the art world ever since artists began to move away from classical ideas of form and beauty and is often used to frame an opposition between the avant garde and “nice”, traditional art. However, this anti-modern politics is often little more than a fear of the new, the unconventional and the radical.

By Joe Sykes

Reconciling Homophobia and Homoeroticism in Hip Hop

Since the decline of groups like “Tribe Called Quest”, “De La Soul” and “The Jurassic 5”, there has only really been one accepted definition of masculinity in Hip Hop. And that vision of manliness is one of hyper-machismo achieved through a combination of violence, physical strength, mental toughness, misogyny and wealth. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, Hip Hop has always had a strong homophobic element to it. However, what is less examined is the overt homoeroticism that permeates much of rap music, and how it can be reconciled with the homophobia that the same artists espouse.

By Luca Tiratelli

Context Is Not A Myth

Just as self-deprecation isn’t the opposite of arrogance but rather its sneaky corollary, so too the subculture(s) spring from the mainstream, germinated by a logic they purportedly oppose. “Sampling” is the example I want to use here: this musical method has degenerated, becoming coloured by some of the very worst aspects of our society.

By Yohann Koshy