Friday, August 24, 2007

On fundamentalism

Maybe its because I'm sad, maybe its because I currently live in the tropical Milton Keynes that is Abuja - but I faithfully watched all three episodes of Christiane Amanpour's God's Warriors series on CNN this week. As the days wore on, the irritation bubbled up under a bunsen burner of inanity. This was a Disney-lite take on fundamentalism. The first episode, on Jewish fundamentalism, completely failed to provide a historical context to extreme right-wing Jewish thought, said nothing about the origins of Zionism, sephardism vs hasidism etc., and focused on interviews with a tiny group of opinioneers. It didn't touch on the real Israeli terrorists - Mossad and its bloody history (see the film Munich for a sampler of what they've been up to all these years). All we got was some random settlers wailing on about how much they loved the particular isthmus of Abraham's land they'd parked their trailer. If only they could see it was also Ibrahim's land they were emoting excessively over..

Day two, on Islamic fundamentalism, was arguably even more superficial and ahistorical. Rather than look at the origins of Wahabism (with Ibn Abd al-Wahab in the C18th), Amanpour informed us imperiously that Year Zero of Islamic extremism began with the travails of Sayyid Qutb, shocked at all that America was in the 1950s. By this episode, it was clear that CNN's highest paid journalist's target audience was really the US (narcissus and the ad industry making whoopee). It was easy to spot the 5 minute chunks each show had been broken into for the caffeinated goldfish attention-span of a US audience - which had been glued back together somewhat clunkily for us, the non-goldfish-consciousness world.

The final show (aired this evening), on Christian fundamenalism, descended into farce. There was no mention of the Crusades - the original Christian fundamentalism - arguably far more violent than today's Islamism. Instead, we had Christiane jetting from one corner of the States to the next, interviewing various evangelical fruitcakes of one confection or another, including Jerry Falwell (who is probably sitting on a mini-throne right now, giving God advice about 2008). If only she'd dared traipse all the way to Nigeria, to see the biggest purveyors of evangelical magic on the planet...

Lest we forget: one doesn't watch CNN to be informed or enlightened. It's more like snooping in on a circus, with tight-rope walkers balancing fiction in one hand with non-truth in the other, following (historical reality) contortionists, in Ted Turner's phantasmagorical Big Top. Yeehaa!


Confessions of a moody crab 10:54 pm  

I totally agree with you! I watched the "Muslim Warriors" and the "Christian Warriors", and to say I was disappointed with Amanpour would be an understatement. She did not tackle the real reason behind fundamentalism and the fact fundamentalistm existed WAY before 19th century! Focusing on only shia and sunni muslims, Amanpour ignored/omitted other Islamic sects like Wahabissm, the Ibadis and the tiny muslin sect Khawaraji (which in my opinion are the main fundamentalist) to mention a few.

On the xtian warriors, she left out the crusades, early apostles, did not investigate the power of evengelism beyond the four-walls of the United States, the Vatican and their rather colourful/shady past and other denominations within christianity.

Like I said, I was disappointed but then again, the documentary was made for the amrican public...

Anonymous,  10:58 pm  

If u think this is an American issue then you should take a look at Paxman's lecture delivered at the Edinburgh TV festival
Meanwhile i'm off to get some expresso, watch some CNN (which I prefer to the beeb) and link up with Osaka

Anonymous,  3:03 am  

Jeremy, i thought i was the only one that saw the "emptiness" of the whole story. I was waiting and waiting for some type of history, nada. The Christian warriors was even more offensive, why only stick to America?
I was like these people are just fruit cakes, why not come down to nigeria and witness what it is to be truly God's Christian Warriors?
Oh well you got it right,

Oyibo! 3:29 am  

spot on... it was rubbish. But what fruitcakes they managed to find! I only saw half of the jewish one and the whole of the christian programme. What world do those 'Battlecry'people live on?! that show was more an expose on how individual sociopaths, with a bit of money and a slick production unit can become a social movement. Did you notice the telling bit in one of the interviews when the guy said: "you saw, well your team came down and filmed us, and we were..." basically lifting the lid on the fact that far from being "a year long investigation" by Amanpour, she was just a talking head in some nice locations.

Chxta 8:31 am  

But really Jeremy, did you seriously expect anything better? I saw the advert and decided to pass. And even without reading your review, I knew I'd made the right choice.

A much better look at fundamentalism aired on the History Channel a few weeks back. Didn't focus on Judaism though...

Nonesuch 12:53 pm  

even though i have so very limited knowledege of history and all i felt the report was just not hitting the nerves.
like we say in Pentecostal parlance. 'it is well'and like we say in naija, 'e go better'

negresse adoree,  4:57 pm  

Isn't Christiane Amanpour the globe-trotting war correspondent? Should we expect in-depth historical analysis from her? A bit like expecting Quest to do heavyweight interviews, perish the thought.

Lina 9:49 pm  

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I love the reading very as I would have been happy for knowing your language for being able to read yours written. Chisà how many beautiful things storys. If at least you would have written in English I could have understood something. Instead nothing!
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Anonymous,  3:50 pm  

I think you watched the program looking for a verification of your historical understanding of Fundamentalism. For me, what the programme did was highlight for the majority of watchers was the fact that Fundamentalism is not solely purveyed by Arabs. Which interestingly is the majority opinion in the USA.

Anonymous,  8:27 am  

J - for an interesting commentary on current Jewish fundamentalism, check out:

Avenge but one of my two eyes
(Nekam achat mishtey eynay)
A film by Avi Mograbi, Israel/France 2005.

Not a history but a comparison of ideas of martyrdom in Zionim and suicide bombing in modern Palestine.

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