Thursday, August 31, 2006



Why Do Muslims Execute Innocent People?Islamist Ideology
by Denis MacEoinMiddle East QuarterlyFall 2006

Artigo recomendado aos investigadores sérios.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

As Mentiras das média sobre Israel

As Mentiras das média sobre Israel,
por Melanie Phillips
August 30, 2006

The media war against IsraelEarly in the recent Lebanon war, the blogosphere revealed the fabrication of images by Reuters, whose reputation is now in shreds among those dwindling numbers in the western mainstream media who still acknowledge there is such a thing as the truth. Since then, the nature and scale of the various frauds perpetrated by the media during that war put those doctored Reuters pictures into the shade. The western media are no longer merely producing questionable professional practices in reporting a war. They are now active participants in it — and on the wrong side of history.One of the very few politicians to voice concern at this phenomenon is Australia’s foreign minister Alexander Downer, who said:What concerns me greatly is the evidence of dishonesty in the reporting out of Lebanon. For example, a Reuters photographer was forced to resign after doctoring images to exaggerate the impact of Israeli air attacks. There were the widely-reported claims that Israel had bombed deliberately a Red Cross ambulance.In subsequent weeks, the world has discovered those allegations do not stand up to even the most rudimentary scrutiny. After closer study of the images of the damage to the ambulance, it is beyond serious dispute that this episode has all the makings of a hoax. Yet some of the world’s most prestigious media outlets, including some of those represented here today, ran that story as fact - unchallenged, unquestioned. Similarly, there has been the tendency to report every casualty on the Lebanese side of the conflict as if a civilian casualty, when it was indisputable that a great many of those injured or killed in Israeli offensives were armed Hezbollah combatants.My point is this: in a grown-up society such as our own, the media cannot expect to get away with parading falsehoods as truths, or ignoring salient facts because they happen to be inconvenient to the line of argument - or narrative - that particular journalists, or media organisations, might choose to adopt on any given controversy or issue.Can anyone imagine the British Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, saying this? Of course not. The level of anti-Israel, anti-American madness has reached such a pitch in Britain that any similar expression of alarm at the manifestly blatant mendacity in the reporting of the Middle East has simply become unthinkable. Yet thanks to the efforts of the blogosphere — notably Little Green Footballs, Powerline, Zombietime and EU Referendum, we can see that the behaviour of the western media during the Iranian/Syrian/Hezbollah war against Israel has constituted a major, world-wide scandal, and one which has the capacity to derail the efforts of the west to defend itself.The major incidents of apparent media fraud are these.* The claim that Israeli aircraft intentionally fired missiles at and struck two Lebanese Red Cross ambulances performing rescue operations, causing huge explosions that injured everyone inside the vehicles. This claim, which gave such incendiary traction to the lie that Israel deliberately targeted civilians, was repeated by ITV News, Time Magazine, the Guardian, Boston Globe, The Age, NBC News, the New York Times and thousands of outlets around the world.Zombietime, however, convincingly exposed this claim as a fraud. It is worth reading its analysis in full in order properly to grasp both the enormity of the libel and the way it was not only uncritically accepted but gleefully embellished by respected media outlets, whose journalists either didn’t know or care that they were transmitting an outright fabrication. Anyone with even the most cursory knowledge of the kind of missiles used by the Israeli air force would grasp immediately that the hole in the roof of the ambulance whose picture went round the world could not have been caused by such a missile. If a missile had indeed hit it there would have been no roof remaining to inspect; nor would there have remained an ambulance. Yet the rest of the ambulance in the pictures, although damaged, was pretty well intact — and the allegedly seriously injured ambulance driver not only was pictured with minor injuries, but even these had miraculously disappeared without trace in pictures taken a few days later.In short, the whole claim was patently risible. As Zombietime revealed, the hole was almost certainly made by an air vent in the roof. It was part of the ambulance. There was no attack on the ambulance. The whole claim was a lie, a hoax, a fraud. Yet this lie has gone round the world, been ‘shown’ on TV, been embellished by familiar trusted commentators and thus has attained the status of unchallengeable truth. But it is a lie.Now the Red Cross has rebuked Australian Foreign Minister Downer for relying on an ‘unverified’ blog for his claim. As Little Green Footballs observes, this was the same Red Cross that — as LGF previously reported — had quietly removed from its website the high-resolution image of the ambulance that had allegedly been struck, once the bloggers started using those vanishing journalistic attributes such as eyesight and brain activity to state the overwhelmingly obvious. For if these pictures were indeed a lie, then the Red Cross itself is squarely in the frame for disseminating it.* The claim that Israel fired a missile which hit a Reuters vehicle and wounded two cameramen. One was a Reuters employee, Fadel Shana; the other, Sabbah Hmaida, was described by Reuters as working for a ‘local news website’; although as Little Green Footballs noted, he was also reported variously as working for1) a local news web site, 2) an Arabic network, 3) Palestinian Media Group, and 4) Dubai TV— and now Caroline Glick has revealed in the Jerusalem Post that he was actually working for none other than Iran.But as Powerline has reported here, here, and here, pictures of this Reuters vehicle suggest that it was not hit by anything remotely resembling a missile. There was a modest and rusty gash in the roof and a windscreen that was shattered (although even that is in doubt in another picture). That was it. As with the Red Cross claim, the notion that such damage was consistent with a missile strike is simply ludicrous.* The claim that the Israelis deliberately perpetrated a massacre of civilians at Kana. Apart from the fact that the initial claimed casualty rate here was subsequently all but halved by the Red Cross (to 28), there is significant evidence that many of the most harrowing pictures of the victims, which did so much to turn public opinion against Israel in this war, were staged. EU Referendum has now assembled a compendium of its considerable investigative efforts over three weeks entitled The Corruption of the Media, which it has submitted to the Press Complaints Commission. Again, the whole thing repays study. In summary, it says:…many of the incidents recorded in visual form by the media were indeed staged. In fact, we feel we can go further. In our view, the bulk of the relief effort at Khuraybah on 30 July was turned into a perverted propaganda exercise. The site, in effect, became one vast, grotesque film-set on which a macabre drama was played out to a willing and complicit media, which actively co-operated in the production and exploited the results.EU referendum concludes:…what we do see from Qana is the sheer scale of the staging - not the occasional picture of the many. The majority seems to have been either posed or staged, or both. Given the large AP team present, this suggests that we are looking at more than just a rogue photographer - the malpractice seems institutionalised as normal practice.And even more devastatingly:In defence of the media, if it can be considered thus, one can only postulate that staging scenes such as these is so common a practice, and so deeply embedded in the whole fabric of photo-journalism (and not just locally in the Middle East), that no one at the incident saw anything wrong with what transpired. Either that or, so familiar were they with the techniques used that they simply did not register what was happening. As for the others, in their air-conditioned offices, hundreds and thousands of miles away from the action, did they care one way or the other? After all, Shane Richmond of The Daily Telegraph implied, the greater truth was being served. ‘Is the child dead?’, he asked. ‘Was the child killed by Israeli bombs?’ Thus, did he say: ‘If so, the picture illustrates the story. If the picture does not alter the truth of the story, we’re not being disingenuous. And the truth of the story is this: Israeli bombs killed several civilians in Qana, many of whom were children.’ That is the nearest to an admission we have that it is acceptable to stage photographs.In short, much of the most incendiary media coverage of this war seems to have been either staged or fabricated. The big question is why the western media would perpetrate such institutionalised mendacity. Many ancillary reasons come to mind. There is the reliance upon corrupted news and picture agencies which employ Arab propagandists as stringers and cameramen. There is the herd mentality of the media which decides collectively what the story is. There is the journalists’ fear for their personal safety if they report the truth about terrorist outfits. There is the difficulty of discovering the truth from undemocratic regimes and terrorist organisations. There is the language barrier; there is professional laziness; there is the naïve inability to acknowledge the depths of human evil and depravity; there is the moral inversion of the left which believes that western truth-tellers automatically tell lies, while third world liars automatically tell the truth.But the big answer is that the western media transmit the lies of Hezbollah because they want to believe them. And that’s because the Big Lie these media tell — and have themselves been told — about Israel and its place in history and in the world today has achieved the status of unchallengeable truth. The plain fact is that western journalists were sent to cover the war being waged against Israel from Lebanon as a war being waged by Israel against Lebanon. And that’s because that’s how editors think of the Middle East: that the whole ghastly mess is driven by Israel’s actions, and that therefore it is only Israel’s aggression which is the story to be covered. Thus history is inverted, half a century of Jewish victimisation is erased from public consciousness, victims are turned into aggressors and genocidal mass murderers turned into victims, and ignorance and prejudice stalk England’s once staunch and stalwart land.That’s why the fact that hundreds of thousands of refugees from the north of Israel fled to the shelter of strangers in the south; that within one third of Israel, those too poor or old or handicapped or disadvantaged to seek refuge elsewhere were forced to live in shelters for a month in great hardship; that the entire economy of northern Israel was effectively shut down for a month; that thousands of rockets were fired at northern Israel, hundreds every day, many times more than were daily fired at Britain during the Blitz — that’s why none of this was reported in Britain (where as a result such facts, when now related, are received with open-mouthed astonishment) because journalists were told to ignore it all since that wasn’t the story their editors wanted. Israel’s victimisation simply was not, could not, be the story. The only story was Israel’s aggression. But that story is a Big Lie. So a host of lies were transmitted to support it.Certain conclusions are now inescapable. First, hatred of Israel and the irrationality associated with that hatred have now reached unprecedented proportions within Britain and the west. Second, with a few honourable exceptions the mainstream media are no longer to be believed in anything they transmit, either in words or pictures, about the Middle East. It is only the blogosphere which is now performing the most elementary disciplines of journalism: to aspire to objectivity, to separate facts from prejudices, to apply basic checks to claims being made by partisans to a conflict, and to be particularly wary of those with a proven track record of lying. Third, the mainstream media must now be regarded as active accessories to the war being waged against the free world and therefore as a fifth column in that world – an enemy within. Fourth, the impact of the lies and distortions transmitted by the mainstream media in inflaming the already pathological hatred of the west within the Arab and Muslim world is incalculable. Fifth, the mainstream media’s vilification, demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel, based on outright fabrications and malevolent distortions, is imperilling the very existence of the country that is the front line of defence of the free world. Sixth, that vilification is also imperilling the safety and well-being of Jewish communities around the world, subject now to the double victimisation of attack by Islamists and attack by non-Muslims for belonging to a Jewish people that refuses to submit passively to a second attempt at genocidal slaughter and instead fights to defend itself.To date, as far as I can determine, not one mainstream editor or proprietor has acknowledged this corruption of the western media. The scale of this corruption now threatens to have a lethal impact on the course of human history. Hatred now drives not just the jihadists but their western dupes, too. Truth and freedom are indivisible. The deconstruction of the former inevitably presages the destruction of the latter. This is the way a civilisation dies.

Salman Rushdie on terrorists


Germany - Der SpiegelSalman Rushdie on the different types of terrorism In an interview with Erich Follath, Salman Rushdie discusses what makes people turn to terrorism. According to Rushdie, social discrimination is not a major motivation. "Lenin once described terrorism as bourgeois adventurism. I think there, for once, he got things right: That's exactly it. One must not negate the basic tenet of all morality - that individuals are themselves responsible for their actions. And the triggers seem to be individual too. Upbringing certainly plays a major role there, imparting a misconceived sense of mission which pushes people towards 'actions'. Added to that there is a herd mentality once you have become integrated in a group and everyone continues to drive everyone else on into a forced situation. There's the type of person who believes his action will make mankind listen to him and turn him into a historic figure. Then there's the type who simply feels attracted to violence. And yes, I think glamour plays a role too." (28/08/2006) » to the homepage (Der Spiegel)» further articles on the theme (Society/Global)

O que Dizem de Nós

O que dizem dé nós
Hungary - Nepszabadsag
New EU member states outstripping Portugal: According to a Eurostat study on economic development in the different EU states, several new members now have stronger economies than Portugal. Portugal has been an EU member since 1986, and has received considerably more EU funding than the new EU members in the years since it joined. The daily's Brussels correspondent Balazs Pocs cites Portugal as a negative example of the handling of EU funding. "Opening new roads and buildings is a favourite activity of politicians, and Portugal's politicians are no exception. They don't want to be distracted by statistics according to which the country's productivity is well below the average, its workforce is poorly educated, its old industries are fighting a losing battle with international competitors and its salaries are too low… The Portuguese have only slowly come to realise it makes better sense to spend the millions from Brussels on creating jobs, investing in high-end technologies and creating sustainable value." (29/08/2006) » full article (external link, Hungarian)» further articles on the theme (Politics of the EU/Europe)

Notícias do Vaticano

Notícias do VaticanoRecomenda-se este link onde se pode subscrever um muito útil newsletter por e-mail. Nos próximos tempos Chiesa Expresso irá dedicar algum espaço ao debate sobre Darwinismo.

posted by Patrícia Lança : 8/30/2006 01:30:07 AM

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Sunday, August 27, 2006



Artigos importantes hoje em dois jornais londrinos. Sendo o Reino Unido o "modelo" da política "multi-cultural", é significativo que algumas vozes influentes agora anunciam o seu fim.

Telegraph: Honeyford article:;jsessionid

Times: Notícia,,2088-2330258,00.html

Times: Alagiah:,,2092-2330021,00.htmlhttp:/,,2092-2330021,00.html

George Alagiah é de Sri Lanka, um imigrante de sucesso que trabalha como locutor na BBC. A sua denúncia da política oficial do governo do RU contrasta com a linha até há bem pouco tempo do seu patrão. A BBC é conhecida pela sua atitude acrítica quanto à questão do multi-culturalismo.

Friday, August 25, 2006



(First published in The Salisbury Review, Summer, 1999)


Some weeks after the announcement of this year’s Nobel prize-winner for literature a normally well-informed friend rang me from London to ask me about José Saramago. My friend is a frequent visitor to Portugal, interested in its people and politics, and she had been intrigued to see British book-shops full of translations of the latest Nobel prize-winner’s works. Was he worth reading? she wanted to know. Now, I am hardly qualified to answer this particular question. Although I am a voracious reader I have, like most of my Portuguese friends, been quite unable to get beyond the first twenty pages of any book by this particular Nobel laureate. I am perfectly willing to admit that our reactions may be due to prejudice—if prejudice means pre-judgement.

Perhaps it is true that literary quality is unconnected with a writer’s private life or political opinions. However, the intellectual Left usually holds the opposite opinion, at any rate when it comes to political views, and has all too often consigned to Limbo many a fine writer while raising to fame mediocre ones, because of this particular approach to literature. I am inclined to absolve myself of prejudice because I have read and enjoyed Gabriel Garcia Marquez despite disliking his politics. Because of his penchant for the supernatural, Saramago is often compared with Garcia Marquez and Latin American magical realism. But for me, at least, the latter writes well and Saramago does not: he leaves me and many others with the impression that his contempt for conventional punctuation and verb tenses owes itself rather to incompetence than deliberate experimentalism. And these latter faults are not always apparent in translation. These, of course, are simply personal opinions, so I will say no more about Saramago, the writer. What I believe is worth saying is something about Saramago, the political thinker, because he provides impressive proof not only that communism still lives (in the person of the writer), but also that Lenin’s useful idiots are also still around (in the persons of his admirers).

The asymmetry of indulgence
His case is indeed a supreme example of what Ferdinand Mount called the ‘asymmetry of indulgence.’ After all, one can scarcely imagine the elders of Stockholm attributing the Nobel Prize for literature to a writer, whatever his artistic merits, who notoriously denied the holocaust or was guilty of pro-Nazi militancy. And yet, if we replace the words ‘holocaust’ and ‘Nazi’ by ‘gulag’ and ‘Stalinist’, we will find that Saramago is far guiltier than the shame-faced Heidegger, who at least had the grace to give up his rather pallid militancy and, once Nazism was discredited, to feel uncomfortable about his past. But Heidegger was an intelligent and cultivated man. Whether Saramago is either of these is, on the evidence, open to doubt—and perhaps the only excuse for his abject politics.
It would scarcely be worth dissecting his past, and present, were it not that, even before the Nobel award, Saramago had become something of an icon on the literary Left world-wide with his works translated into some thirty languages and over 600,000 copies sold. Since the prize, this figure must have been far exceeded. So that with the roughly one million dollars in prize money and soaring royalties, Saramago is now rich indeed. In his own country he remained top of the best-seller list for weeks on end and his were the most-bought books to be given as presents during the 1998 Christmas season. Schools, libraries, streets and even a bridge have been named after him. Local councils and other institutions in his own country invite the writer to address sessions of ‘literary homage’, while abroad he enjoys similar VIP treatment. On these occasions and in his numerous television and Press interviews Saramago has little to say about literature: instead he is, in his own peculiar way, remarkably frank about his political views. Not for him the contortions of a Heidegger. He is, at least, fairly loyal to his past and continues uncompromising in the present. Whether his life-style has been altered, ‘bourgeoisified’, by the wealth of recent years we do not know, for this summit of Portuguese letters has been a voluntary exile from his homeland for a number of years and lives some distance away in Lanzarote in the Canary Isles. This does not, however, keep him from taking a keen interest in national politics: he is now on the Portuguese Communist Party list for election to the European Parliament. Way down on that list, certainly, in an ineligible tenth position, for the communists are unlikely to obtain more than three seats at the very most. But, explains Saramago, it is not because he wants to be a Euro-deputy that he has accepted nomination. He knows he won’t be elected and would not want to be. ‘I accepted,’ he declared, ‘as a matter of militancy.’ He will campaign for the Party which wanted his name on their lists to give them much-needed prestige (and perhaps a few votes), and the artist agreed. We can have no doubt that much as communists denigrated the value of Nobel awards when they went to such as Sakharov or Solzhenitzyn, communist euro-campaigning will make a lot of the Nobel this time round.

Who is Saramago?
So just who is José Saramago? Is he just another ‘useful idiot’? An anguished upper-middle-class intellectual with a conscience whose guilt is as deep as his ignorance of the party machine? Or is he perhaps like one of those disgraced unpolluted true believers whose first thought after release from years of the Gulag was to hasten to Party headquarters to renew their cards? Saramago is none of these.
He is no fellow-travelling ‘useful idiot’, for he has been a self-confessed card-carrying party militant since 1969, and it wasn’t pleasant to be a communist under the dictatorship, even though its rigour was waning by that year. He is no upper-middle-class intellectual: as he told his Swedish audience at the prize-giving ceremony, he was born and reared in rural poverty, has little formal education and his early employment was as a welder in a motor workshop. Nor is he ignorant of the workings of the Party machine as we shall presently see. And. as we shall also see, he is not one of those unpolluted militants, subjected to disgrace because of some act of human decency and subsequently rehabilitated. On the contrary, his standing in the party can be gauged by the words of its leader Carlos Carvalhas. ‘As a member of our party,’ he said recently, ‘Saramago makes a great contribution to our ideals and to the struggle for social change.’
José Saramago, who was born in 1922, first attained national notoriety in the turbulent years following the 1974 military coup which overthrew the Portuguese right-wing dictatorship. Prior to that he had one small novel to his credit, which helped him out of the working class and into jobs on literary journals. But he did not produce another book for many years. In 1974 with the Communist Party and its armed forces allies prominent in the government, and the Press taken over, Saramago was named Editor of the Lisbon Diário de Notícias, the country’s leading national daily newspaper. There he proceeded to do what communists in most of the country’s institutions were busy at: summarily purging them of ‘reactionaries’. Saramago arbitrarily dismissed many of the paper’s staff, journalists of long-standing whose only crime was that of not aligning themselves with the country’s new masters. These people, many with families to support, were consigned to unemployment, for nowhere else in the Press was there room at that time for the politically incorrect. The DN became one of the CP’s chief sounding boards, a Portuguese Pravda, supporting and publicizing the Party line at home and abroad. Not as narrow as Pravda, of course, for in that confused year-and-a-half of the Portuguese revolution some space was given to the antics of the less extreme of the ‘loony Left’ —something a Soviet paper would not have tolerated. Nevertheless Saramago’s DN enthusiastically promoted the land occupations which helped to destroy Portuguese agriculture, the wholesale nationalization of the economy which brought it to ruins and the disastrous kind of decolonization whose fruits are so apparent in present-day Angola.
Saramago’s career at the DN was a short one—it lasted nineteen months—as short as that of the communists in government, for they suffered an ambiguous defeat when more moderate Leftists gained power in November 1975. After that he dedicated himself to his budding career as a novelist. He did not, however, abandon his militancy and for a decade and a half thereafter was to be seen regularly on the campus of Lisbon’s classical university, especially on a Saturday morning, plying the Party Press to unwary students. What he was doing less publicly among the Party’s intellectuals only they know. Wave after wave of disenchanted dissidents left the Party during those years, but Saramago’s name was never among them. His name, however, was always present among the signatories of those regular manifestos, petitions and open letters beloved of semi-skilled intellectuals. His following solidified and grew as his literary output increased. As the years went by and memories began to fade most people outside intellectual and university circles had forgotten Saramago’s role in the 1974-75 purges.

Notoriety brings its own rewards
His name really became known outside literary circles with the publication of The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, a book condemned by the Catholic Church as blasphemous because of its portrayal of Jesus as the innocent victim of a nasty God whose real purpose was to found a persecutory Church guilty of the inhumanities of the Inquisition. The book was greeted with glee by Portugal’s powerful anti-clerical lobby and the Socialist Party then in opposition. It met with hostility from conservatives (centrist Cavaco Silva was Prime Minister) and an under-secretary of State for culture refused to allow Saramago’s name to go forward for a 1992 European literary prize. A conservative mayor turned Saramago down for a local honour. Prelates and priests denounced the book from the pulpit. Deserved or not, this hostility proved a gift for Saramago and made him a hero of the Left. Democratic socialists, always eager to attack the Church and recall its not always tacit support for the dictatorship, promptly forgot the author’s communist affiliations: Saramago became a martyr for anti-clericals, both inside Portugal and abroad. His name was now made and nobody on either side of the barricades thought of discussing literary merit. From that moment onwards he began to be mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel. It was rumoured that his communism was a thing of the past. So much so that in the immediate aftermath of the Nobel announcement the first comments in the New York Times referred to Saramago as ‘then (in 1975) a committed communist’, but now ‘an outspoken nonconformist who has a soft spot for the common man’; and someone who ‘reflects views that are always inspired by his deep concern for his fellow man.’
In interviews, Saramago frequently and simplistically exhibits this concern. Describing his novel Blindness, the tale of how an inexplicable blindness sweeps through society, he said ‘this isn´t a real blindness, it’s a blindness of rationality. We’re rational beings but we don’t behave rationally. If we did there’d be no starvation in the world.’ All this is, of course, very consoling for the orthodox Left and youthful idealists. And, if he had been shrewder, Saramago might have stopped just there.
But the Nobel prize went to his head. To the dismay of many of his admirers Saramago’s mask suddenly dropped. It happened that not long after the Nobel prize was announced there took place in the north Portuguese city of Oporto a meeting of Ibero-American heads of State, including that well-known defender of the common man, Fidel Castro. The Nobel laureate could not resist the opportunity of meeting the Cuban caudillo. A near-hysterical street demonstration of some ten thousand was organized by the communists and addressed by Castro from a balcony. Saramago stood beside Fidel, each with arms lovingly around the other’s shoulders. Castro repeatedly referred to his new friend as ‘a comrade whose views are identical with my own.’ Saramago himself was prolix in his words of praise for the Cuban tyrant. These were not well received in the Press and because the scene was shown on TV, everybody heard them. Apart from the communists, whose share of the electorate is now well below ten percent, and a rump of discredited socialists, the Portuguese do not have a good opinion of Fidel. Indeed Cubamania has largely died and it is rare to see a Che Guevara T-shirt these days. But Saramago remains impenitent when the question of his support for Fidel now repeatedly comes up in interviews as well as inconvenient questions about communism.
In his last interview on television in February, Saramago presented a very different image from the triumphant humanitarian laureate of a few weeks earlier. Questioned about political prisoners in Cuba, which he had just visited, he declared there were none. ‘Those in prison are counter-revolutionaries,’ he declared without a blush. Then he counter-attacked. ‘Why are you always picking on the errors of communism as crimes,’ he declared, ‘why do you never mention the far worse crimes of capitalism.’ All this has been too much, even for some of Saramago’s admirers and Press comments have become increasingly hostile. However, now that he is a Euro-candidate he does have the consolation of knowing one constituency to be secure: that of his permanent patron, the Communist Party.

A continuing icon of the Left
Has any of this much importance? After all, Portugal is a small country nobody knows much about. Nor does anybody know much about its communist party although it is probably the strongest old-time unrepentant Stalinist party in Europe. It has been unable to control the Press for years and nowadays its own publications are meagre and it has no theoretical journal worth mentioning. But Saramago continues to be an icon. The first official act of the new Portuguese emissary to Indonesia was to visit the Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmão, now released from jail and living in a private residence under surveillance. She proudly displayed to the TV cameras the two books she had brought as a present: one of them was a book by Saramago. Soon, it is said, he will be compulsory reading on the secondary school curriculum in Portugal. Despite hostile comment from more intelligent columnists, he is now consecrated by all of officialdom as the doyen of Portuguese letters, invited to State functions and a visitor at the presidential palace. Even centrist politicians pay him tribute, considering their attitude to his book on Jesus an unfortunate mistake. It has now become part of ‘political correctness’ to venerate Saramago and express pride in what he has done for Portugal and the Portuguese language. It appears that he is particularly beloved in Brazil and words of praise have been coming from former Portuguese Africa.
To judge by Press reports of his reception outside the Luso world, things are probably even worse there, where scarcely anybody knows who the Nobel prize-winner really is.
So the Saramago phenomenon is not to be dismissed lightly. There are a number of lessons it has to offer. First, that the literary judgement of elderly Swedes is as little to be trusted nowadays as when their grandfathers flunked Tolstoy in 1901. Second, that communism, a decade after its fall, is now quite respectable and not to be held against its adepts. This means that at least in one way things are worse than they were before the fall, when the daily publicized testimony of dissidents had made it decidedly unrespectable. Third, that the international news media, so well-informed when it comes to things lubricious, can be remarkably ill-informed on important matters. Fourth, that there are still a huge number of ‘useful idiots’ around. Indeed there are probably more of them today in consequence of 1968 and its heirs helping to destroy educational standards. Finally, that strange things happening in ‘far-away, unknown countries’ should not be dismissed lightly. The Luso world of Portugal, Angola and Brazil occupies a sizeable mileage of the Atlantic coastline and is not to be ignored when it comes to strategic considerations. Which, of course, is why Cuban and Russian military advisers are once again appearing in war-torn Angola. But that is another story which has even less to do with
literature than has Saramago.
Patricia Lança



So what about José Saramago?

Thursday, August 24, 2006



We are getting used to Nobel prizewinners in politics and the arts turning out to be rather dubious figures. They are to be found among Peace and Literature Prize-winners. Sometimes they are already notorious, sometimes their notoriety is only gained afterwards. That is the case of the latest prizewinner scandal: Gunter Grass.
He spent almost a life-time on the moral high ground telling his fellow-Germans to face up to the past, assume their guilt for it and follow his example as a socialist. Now at long last he himself admits that he served in the Waffen SS.
Such was his fame as a prominent Left-wing intellectual that the revelation has caused a storm of discussion and acrimonious name-calling. What has deservedly provoked the greatest indignation is hot the fact in itself (after all he was a youth of 17 when he enlisted) but Grass’s pharisaical posture.

The question arises: which is worse, to be a pharisee or to be openly a scoundrel? A pharisee is necessarily a hypocrite and it is often said that hypocrisy is the tribute vice plays to virtue. Grass spent his life paying tribute to anti-fascism and in his case the Swedish experts can always plead ignorance.

But what about the open scoundrels? Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet who wrote sycophantic verses in honour of Stalin? Harold Pinter who produced a vitriolic diatribe against America in his acceptance statement? The Portuguese writer José Saramago whom Fidel Castro calls a friend, and who did his best to bring communism to power in Portugal?

Monday, August 21, 2006


Portolani, known also as portolans, were early maps used by seafarers to find their way round the coasts of the Mediterranean. As they were produced by draftsmen on dry land from the accounts furnished by medieval sailors they were not very accurate, but they were better than nothing and gave mariners some idea of the dangers to avoid.
This site aims to chart some of the dangers facing modern navigators who must cope with even rockier costs.