Situationists and Dead People

Not that I’m going through a Situationist phase or anything, but here are a couple of links to recent obituaries of Ralph Rumney, one of the founders of the Situationist International (and expelled shortly thereafter) in the Guardian and the Independent.

Thinking of dead people, it has been a bad year for philosophers: Nozick and Bourdieu a few weeks ago; more recently Hans-Georg Gadamer. Still, he at least was very old.

Chris adds [28.3.2002]: The deaths of the philosophers are even more widespread than I realised: I missed the death last month of R. M. Hare.

Friendly Fire

Nick writes to the weblog [25.3.2002]: Two things. First, is a Good Thing which I commend to you. Second, it helped me find this piece, from

British Troops Sent To Afghanistan “Will Inevitably Be Shot By The Americans” Warns Minister

UK Defence Minister Geoff Hoon has told the British public to brace itself and expect casualties in Afghanistan as a result of British soldiers being shot by American troops.

“No government sends its troops to fight alongside the Americans without a great deal of consideration,” Mr. Hoon told reporters today. “It is not a decision that is ever taken lightly. We know there will be casualties.”

Around 1,700 Royal Marine commandos are on their way to Afghanistan to join the 1,500 troops already stationed in the country.

“We know for a fact that the Americans have highly sophisticated weapons easily capable of wiping out an entire squadron in a matter of seconds,” Hoon told MPs in the Commons. “We cannot underestimate the capacity of the Americans to kill people on their own side by mistake. They are ruthlessly efficient in that respect.”

But he warned that the potential risks should not divert attention away from the operation’s goals.

“Let us not lose sight of the aims and objectives of this very dangerous mission,” he said. “I do not know what those objectives are at this moment in time, but I will let you know what they are just as soon as I have received them from my counterpart in America.”

Al-Qaeda were unavailable for comment.

A friend also forwarded me the entertaining Hunt the Boeing link, which I hadn’t seen before; the rebuttal is here.

French Intellectuals

Apologies for the gap in posting: I was off in North Africa. Most of the readers of the weblog will have seen this already, since it’s been doing the rounds for over a week now, but some of you may not, which makes it worth reposting:

French Intellectuals to be Deployed to Afghanistan to Convince Taliban of Non-Existence of God

The ground war in Afghanistan heated up yesterday when the Allies revealed plans to airdrop a platoon of crack French existentialist philosophers into the country to destroy the morale of Taliban zealots by proving the non-existence of God.

Elements from the feared Jean-Paul Sartre Brigade, or ‘Black Berets’, will be parachuted into the combat zones to spread doubt, despondency and existential anomie among the enemy. Hardened by numerous intellectual battles fought during their long occupation of Paris’ Left Bank, their first action will be to establish a number of pavement caf�s at strategic points near the front lines. There they will drink coffee and talk animatedly about the absurd nature of life and man’s lonely isolation in the universe. They will be accompanied by a number of heartbreakingly beautiful girlfriends who will further spread dismay by sticking their tongues in the philosophers’ ears every five minutes and looking remote and unattainable to everyone else.

Their leader, Colonel Marc-Ange Belmondo, spoke yesterday of his confidence in the success of their mission. Sorbonne graduate Belmondo, a very intense and unshaven young man in a black pullover, gesticulated wildly and said, “The Taliban are caught in a logical fallacy of the most ridiculous. There is no God and I can prove it–take your tongue out of my ear, Juliet, I am talking!”

Marc-Ange plans to deliver an impassioned thesis on man’s nauseating freedom of action with special reference to the work of Foucault and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. However, humanitarian agencies have been quick to condemn the operation as inhumane, pointing out that the effects of passive smoking from the Frenchmens’ endless gitanes could wreak a terrible toll on civilians in the area…

I’m not sure where this is from originally, so if anyone can give credit where it’s due, please get in touch.

Raj writes [22.3.2002]: First saw the ‘French Intellectuals’ piece on NetTime. The home for it appears to be here.

Total but welcome stranger Shaun agrees [26.3.2002]: I’d like to pass on the following as the source of the French Intellectuals In Afghanistan piece… You’ll get a great laugh fromMichael Kelly’s site as this stuff is so typical of his humor and he deserves the credit where it’s due!

Chris replies [26.3.2002]: Credit where it’s due, indeed, though most of the rest of Michael Kelly’s site seems to me to be not terribly funny at all, and the splendid Afghanistan piece a rare triumph. That’s a swift verdict after spending less than five minutes at the site, though, so not to be taken especially seriously.


The news, just in, from Harare, on

Fear and Loathing In Harare by Zim Admin, Monday 11 March.

“They’ve already stolen the elections. They’ve won.”

I was talking to a leading independent journalist earlier today. His despondency echoes throughout the Left in Zimbabwe.

It seems as if the government have engineered the election result they wanted. The rest is just paperwork. They�ve managed to prevent people in urban pro-MDC areas from voting. They�ve managed to coerce people in rural areas, through lies, threats of violence, kidnapping of MDC election observers, killing of activists, and propaganda, to get the rural population to vote for them.

They’ve plucked out the key strategists from the MDC. Today Welshman Ncube, allegedly fleeing the country, arrested at the Botswana border. Tomorrow Tendai Biti, David Coltart and perhaps one or two other whites. Or so it feels.

This Government is smarter than the Opposition have given it credit for. No one here has slept in days. We’re tired. So tired. The vote has been for nothing. A farce that will be endorsed in a couple of days by the official election observers. Many observers don’t think this has been a free and fair election. Their opinion is sure to be overruled by their political masters, those who want stability, not justice…

Hope is, right now, in short supply.

More from “Zim Admin” was published today at The Voice of the Turtle.


New material at The Voice of the Turtle this month includes David Bleakney’s attack on and Petie Petrovich’s defence of the recent behaviour of U2’s Bono (but see here for the final word on this controversy); Radha D’Souza’s thoughts on the problems of the Global Commons; Friederike Habermann’s two separate reports, one in English, the other in German, from the crisis in Argentina; the words of the blatantly pseudonymous “Zim Admin”, who writes from the crisis in Zimbabwe; Jonathan Wilson’s article on the changing world of football in the former Soviet Union; a report of Naima Bouteldja’s recent conversation with Susan George; as well as a new agreement with Freezerbox Magazine, which has led to a new home on our site for Michael Manville’s excellent article on the Drugs War in the USA. And there’s a German text of the Manifesto of the Communist Party posted on the site, together with the text of Ken Knabb’s new translation of Guy Debord’s Situationist Classic, The Society of the Spectacle, complete with hypertext index.

Richard wrote [12.3.2002]: 1: Voice of the Turtle t-shirts. You know you want one. 2: Laugh at this.

More on booze

From the Dubliners:

At the pub on the crossroads there’s whisky and beer.
There’s brandy from Cognac that’s fragrant but dear.
But for killing the thirst and for raising the gout
There’s nothing at all beats a pint of good stout.
Drink it up, men, it’s long after ten.

At the pub on the crossroads I first went astray.
There I drank enough drink for to fill Galway Bay.
Going up in the morning, I wore out me shoes,
Going up to the cross for the best of good booze.
Drink it up, men, it’s long after ten.

Some folk o’er the water think bitter is fine,
And others they swear by the juice of the vine.
But there’s nothing that’s squeezed from the grape or the hop
Like the black liquidation with the froth on the top.
Drink it up, men, it’s long after ten.

I’ve travelled in England, I’ve travelled in France.
At the sound of good music I’ll sing or I’ll dance.
So here me then, mister, and pour me one more.
If I canna drink it up, then throw me out the door.
Drink it up, men it’s long after ten.

It’s Guinness’s porter that has me this way,
For its sweeter than buttermilk and stronger than tay.
But when in the morning I feel kinda rough,
And my curse on Lord Iveagh who brews the damn stuff.
Drink it up, men, it’s long after ten.
Drink it up, men, it’s long after ten.

Even mediocre verse about alcohol is strangely satisfying. Certainly more so than mediocre verse on most other subjects.


Thanks to James for reminding me of this excellent remark in Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (Volume II, p.221):

An American, instead of going in a leisure hour to dance merrily at some place of public resort, as the fellows of his class continue to do throughout the greater part of Europe, shuts himself up at home to drink. He thus enjoys two pleasures: he can go on thinking of his business and can get decently drunk by his own fireside.

Speaking as someone who likes to shut himself up at home to drink, I’m not sure that this should be seen as a distinctively American practice, but it’s certainly a neglected topic among contemporary social theorists.