I Spent The Weekend Watching Topless Feminists Piss Off Neo-Nazis
Last Friday, I took the Eurostar from London to Paris to meet the topless feminist protest group Femen. Originally based in the Ukraine, the organization has since spread across the world. The idea was to film the buildup to Femen’s next protest, but I didn’t find out quite what I was getting myself into until I arrived at their headquarters—a lofty space above a theater in Goutte D’or—that afternoon.
The area has a large Muslim population and is dotted with Islamic cultural centrers, so it seems quite a ballsy (or boobsy? Is that a thing?) move to base themselves there considering a large part of their shtick is protesting against conservative Islam. Their last protest action, for example, was Topless Jihad Day—a day where Femen members got their boobs out in various European cities to show solidarity with Amina Tyler. Amina, is a 19-year-old Femen member from Tunisia who was drugged and given a “virginity test” after posting topless protest pictures of herself on Facebook.
When I arrived, the Paris HQ was plastered with banners from previous demos—one that read “Sextremism” in bright red paint covered an entire wall. A few members were trying to decide on the best slogan for the massive new banner, which a girl called Oksana was already decorating with paintings of topless Femen activists. The reason for the extended deliberation was because of a heated discussion over whether “Nazi factions” should be spelled with or without an s at the end. No one’s going to pay you much attention in the protest world if you mess up your spelling.
VICE: What made you decide to hack the Onion this week after spending so much time targeting serious news organizations?
The Shadow: We are well aware of the satirical nature of the Onion, but this does not detract from the fact that the basis of their “humor” was rooted in the narrative promoted by most major corporate media. What convinced us to make our move was an article titled “The Onion Website Joins the U.S. Anti-Syria Club” by Shamus Cooke that details how the Onion can be a more effective wartime propaganda tool than even “serious” and seemingly credible media. The irresponsible promotion of chemical weapons claims and attribution of all the mayhem in Syria on the one side attempting to keep order is very much an assumption of their focus on Syria. This is why the majority of informed people do not find such articles funny.
Why did you accuse the Onion of taking “Zionist money” in exchange for defaming Syria?
We have various tactics when we penetrate a media outlet. For the Onion, we decided to loosely follow their style. We do not seriously suggest any kind of money transfer from unnamed “Zionist” sources, we realize it is more likely that the Onion follows the corporate line as a matter of ideology. During the Second World War, both the Germans and the Americans used satire to attack one another. The Onion serves the same sort of wartime role that the Disney anti-German short films did back then.
What do you think about the Onion’s response?
Many readers found it in poor taste. One Twitter user responded with a simple “yikes.” This reaction was exactly what we were hoping for, as the writer placed all their anger in it, dropping the mask of the real situation in Syria. The rebels were depicted in the exact same manner as reality, so it cannot really be classified as satire except with one difference—the Syrian army will win and we don’t have a “base” that can be attacked.
—We spoke to an alleged member of the Syrian Electronic Army about hacking The Onion’s Twitter. Full interview
It Was Probably the Internet, Not Chechnya, That Radicalized the Boston Bombers
The Tsarnaev brothers are the first Chechens to have been implicated in alleged jihadist attacks on US soil. But the more we learn about Dzhokar and Tamerlan, the blurrier their motives become. Why would these two seemingly well-integrated young men indiscriminately kill citizens of the country that welcomed them with open arms? What has America done to Chechnya? And is the horror we witnessed in Boston the beginning of a frightening new trend—an amalgamation of foreign and domestic terrorism into a bouillabaisse of confused and largely undefined hate?
While we’ll still be searching for more information about the Tsarnaev brothers and what motivated them for months—if not years—to come, their roots in Chechnya and the history of that country are a good place to start.
In the early 19th century, Chechnya resisted Russian attempts to occupy their small mountainous motherland, nearly 1,000 miles south of Moscow. The fight intensified when the region was assimilated into the Soviet Union. To quell rebellion in the 1940s, Stalin forcibly relocated the entire Chechen population to remote areas of Central Asia, repopulating the mountains with ethnic Russians. Some 200,000 people, one-third of the Chechen population, lost their lives to this process, called Operation Lentil.
A family takes an afternoon walk amid the rubble and burned-out apartment blocks destroyed during the fighting between Russian forces and Chechen rebels.
While Islam remains a central part of Chechen identity, religion didn’t play a major role in the nationalist struggle until recently. In the mid-90s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Chechens again attempted to wrestle their independence from Moscow. Volunteer fighters, preachers, and NGOs espousing Wahhabism (an Arab Gulf version of ultraconservative Islam) flocked to the region to fight against Russia and instill Chechens with their radical views. A Chechen administrator explained at the time, “They [the Wahhabis] went to the market, and they paid with dollars. There was no power here; there was disorder everywhere, and their influence was very strong. The poor Chechen people were already suffering so much, and our young guys simply couldn’t think. They were ready to accept any ideas.”
Hungary’s Appetite for Self-Destruction
Hungary isn’t necessarily a country famed for its defenses. After losing 1.5 million people in World War I, a third of its population deserted the country. Then, during World War II, over 60 percent of its economy was destroyed, leaving the Soviets to take control until 1989. It’s the George Costanza of landlocked central European nations—highly unlucky, kind of testy, and not particularly well equipped to defend itself from outside attacks.
In 2013, however, it’s not alien armies they have to worry about, it’s the burgeoning far-right movement, a worrying level of state control, and an increase in censorship all brewing within the country’s borders.
Last Friday, members of the European parliament met in Strasbourg to discuss the country’s human rights—a meeting that follows a succession of criticisms made by heads of states and political commentators; the refusal by acclaimed authors to accept cash prizes in protest against the country’s abuse of human rights, and its own people marching almost non-stop since the beginning of last year.
So what’s really been going on? And why—when there’s already Greece’s fascist Golden Dawn, Italy’s far-right Lega Nord, and Britain’s festering nationalists, the BNP, to deal with—are European politicians spending so much time on a small country with apparently little international presence? Here are a few potential explanations.
It might only be ten years old, but Jobbik (The Movement For a Better Hungary)—described by its opponents as fascist and neo-Nazi—is already the country’s third most popular party. At the end of last year, its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Márton Gyöngyös, called for the country’s Jewish population to be cataloged and screenedas potential security threats. A month later, 10,000 people took to the steps of parliament to protest the move and urge the government to condemn the man who proposed it.
Following that little flirtation with eugenics, FIFA ordered last month’s World Cup qualifying match between Hungary and Romania to be played to an empty stadium due to antiSemitic displays from Hungarian fans. Jobbik responded to that by protesting outside the stadium. There have also been attempts by sympathizers to talk down the extent of antiSemitism in the country, both from Jobbik and elsewhere. Even though defining Jews as potential threats just for being Jewish would seem to be more or less transparently bigoted.
Also, this week the government had to oppose a nationalist motorcycle club from disrupting the March of the Living, a commemoration of Holocaust victims. Which kind of says it all.
This Week in Racism: Ann Coulter Wants to Arrest Women for Wearing Hijabs
Best-selling author Ann Coulter receives this week’s Ann Coulter Award for Excellence in Racism for declaring without reservation that deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsnarnaev’s wife should be imprisoned for wearing a hijab. That’s not paraphrasing—Coulter stated on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show that, “She ought to be in prison for wearing a hijab.” She went on to say, “This immigration policy of us assimilating immigrants into our culture isn’t really working. They’re assimilating us into their culture. Did she get a clitorectomy too?” A clitorectomy, for the uninitiated, is a barbaric process of female gential mutilation that takes place primarily in Africa, which, last time I checked a map, was not Chechnya. Don’t let that get in your way, Ann! Keep hustling, girl! RACIST
Barcelona’s Ideological Shoplifting Movement
The world’s economy is still fucked. And ever since the West went into an economic meltdown in 2008, anticonsumerist sentiment has been steadily on the rise—presumably because you kinda have to eschew materialism when you’ve got the spending power of a Dickensian chimney sweep. But while proletariats in the US have largely settled for memories of Zuccotti Park and organizing “buy-nothing days,” the Catalan civil disobedience movement Yomango has been getting out there, actively raging against consumerism since 2002. How? Through a campaign of ideological shoplifting.
Spawned in Barcelona by your usual black-bloc types and those hash-smoking crusties you see hanging around Thompkins Square with dogs on ropes, Yomango is Spanish slang for “I steal,” as well as a pun on local clothing company, MANGO. Falling somewhere between social experiment and sixth-form political statement, the movement’s members claim that what they’re doing is raging against the machine.
Yomango practitioners pillage multinational franchises for five-finger discounts and turn their stolen winnings into feasts. These feasts are kind of like countercultural Christmas dinners, with those taking part sharing shoplifting tactics (which, handily, are also now available as instructional YouTube videos), exchanging loot, and discussing ways of turning throwaway junk into DIY thieving accessories. If you’re not using an alarm-detector-resistant handbag, or a jacket with “magic” pockets that disappears swiped goods, you’re not shoplifting like these pros.
Episode 4 of VICE on HBO premieres tomorrow night at 11! Catch a preview: http://viceonhbo.com/
I Guess We Need to Say It Again: George W. Bush Was the Worst
above: Look at this colossal fucking piece of shit. Photo via Rex USA
Americans get stereotyped as stupid, but I think it’s unfair to call us ignorant, exactly—the problem is that we, as a nation, have a short memory. Sometimes this constant state of collective amnesia serves us well, allowing the country to move on from tragedy and put out of our minds the failures and injustices of, but sometimes it results in 47 percent of Americans say that they approve of George W. Bush. That’s according to a poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC in advance of the opening of his new presidential library, which opened today and seems devoted to telling visitors, “Sure, Dubya started wars, condoned torture, dug the country deeper into debt, and watched as terrorists launched the most successful attack on US soil ever, but it was really, really hard to be president, you guys. Would you have done any better? Thought not, asshole.” Even if that 47 percent number is too high, it’s clear that a majority of Republicans still think he did a pretty good job
That’s a fucking disgrace, y’all.
I guess we have to issue a disclaimer: any look back on an ex-president’s record is going to be tinged with ideology and personal beliefs—conservatives really hate Woodrow Wilson, for reasons Glenn Beck can explain to you; liberals despise Ronald Reagan, who’s practically a saint in Republican circles. And parts of Dubya’s legacy are open for debate. You can have wonkish arguments over the pros and cons of Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit he signed into law; you can scoff, as Ron Paul has, at Bush’s expansion of foreign aid or you can note how much good he did Africa. But the big-ticket stuff, the important things he did and didn’t do when he was the most powerful elected official in the world, were all pretty much uniformly awful.
Start with the Bush tax cuts, which were enacted thanks to the GOP’s pathological hatred for taxes and the surplus the government was running at the time. They jacked up the deficit while mostly giving money back to rich people, but the real trick was setting them up to expire in 2010—when, the people pushing the cuts must have known, allowing them to do so would have been the same as raising taxes, which is political poison in America. (Sure enough, after a hideous fight on the edge of the “fiscal cliff,” most of the cuts are permanent.)
Yemen Wants Their Guantanamo Detainees Back
In some regards, the Yemeni government’s recent demand for the repatriation of Yemeni detainees who have been languishing in Guantanamo Bay for nearly a decade seemed to come out of left field, as did the prison hunger strikes that prompted it. President Obama’s 2008-election-campaign promises to close the notorious prison remain unfulfilled. According to recent polls, roughly 70 percent of Americans back the president’s decision to ignore his pledge and keep the prison open; polls taken at the start of his 2012 term put support for Guantanamo’s closure at a tepid 53 percent.
It’s a mistake, however, to say that the detainees have completely disappeared from most Yemenis’ minds. Of the 166 detainees who remain held without charge in Guantanamo Bay, 91 are Yemeni. It’s not quite as popular an issue as the drone strikes, but Yemenis still bring up Guantanamo on a nearly weekly basis. Many see the legal limbo of their fellow countrymen as a kind of tragicomic joke.
Recently in Sanaa, dozens of family members of Guantanamo detainees gathered at the American embassy to protest their internment.
“We demand that the American government release all detainees,” one father said, holding up a poster of his son. “The Yemeni government should do everything in its power to pressure them. Does Obama think that there’s a Yemeni exception when it comes to human rights?”