War Porn: The Death of James Foley


ALEPPO, Syria -- We have become a world of sensates, who require more and more input only to receive less and less gratification. We live in a world, and in fact this website and the millions of others like it, inhabit a sphere dedicated to satisfying the immediate need for any information or misinformation that we may seek.

Today, we awoke to the news that another journalist had fallen in the line of duty while trying to expose gross injustices in war-torn Syria. His death was as brutal as, or more so than, the hundreds of murders captured by video and being circulated through the web depicting the torturous final moments of people chosen by radicals to demonstrate the nature of their resolve.

The radical 'du jour' was ISIS, a.k.a. Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, but yesterday it was Boko Haram, tomorrow it may be Hamas, the next, The Ayran Brotherhood, perhaps the KKK,  Al-Qeda may rattle a saber or two, but in the end, the name of tyranny is less important than the fact that "all it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." ~ Edmund Burke.

It is easy for us to blame the evil perpetrators for their reprehensible behavior, and indeed, we should feel outraged, but in so doing we must examine ourselves for our role in this dance of the macabre. ISIS would be just another group of religious zealots killing, maiming, and torturing people in the name of their version of "god," but for social media.

ISIS has learned to harness the power of social media to promulgate its ideology, but more insidious, they understand that human nature will do the rest. Much like the style of horror movies known as "torture porn" for its gratuitous amount of screaming, nudity, and bondage; the industry continues to produce these movies because there is an appetite for it. It satisfies a certain type of voyeurism that requires sadism to complete the experience.

Hence, more and more violence, for less and less satisfaction, as proven by the plethora of disturbingly violent videos and graphic images that crisscross the web. Most cannot be authenticated, but lacking in provenance doesn't stop people from 'sharing' and circulating it. Thus is the case with the horrific beheading of James Foley, an American journalist who reported from conflict ridden areas of the world as a freelance photojournalist for the GlobalPost.

That we would wake up this morning to millions of shares of the images captured by an ISIS adherent of Foley's lasts moments, should make us all feel soiled. ISIS heinously, with malice aforethought, and in cold-blood staged the beheading of Foley for the sole purpose of having us, the audience, disseminate it. They are the bait trap, into which we have climbed, and thus poisoned, we leave believing we have escaped, when in fact, we have become the carrier of that which will kill not only us, but everyone with whom we come in contact.

Like pornography, once the image has been viewed it can never be removed nor unseen. There is no such thing as a degausser for our brains. That is what makes pornography so pernicious, it repels and attracts, the image horrific or seductive continues to gain strength and relief is only found in revisiting the image, thus trying to recapture the initial sensation, it becomes addictive.

ISIS knows this as well as any successful purveyor of illicit material. They know that they only have to put it out there, and if one person views it, and even if that person is appalled and simply wants to share their outrage with their social media network, ISIS has already accomplished the goal of proselytizing through the power of concentric exposure.

That Foley had to die under such tragic and inhumane circumstances is heartbreaking. That his mother had to hear about or read about the fact that the world was greedily consuming the last moments of the life of her child is unimaginable. That his family and friends were not even allowed the dignity and privacy to begin the mourning process without the vivisection of their tragedy is shameful. That news media outlets lacked both decorum and humanity in posting the graphic video and images of Foley's beheading is morally reprehensible.

That we have a choice to share or not share the video and images of Foley's murder is the greatest and most powerful choice we can make in this situation. That, and to remember that "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

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Stacie Halas, Beyoncé, Separate and Unequal


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 12:32 p.m. EDT, 23 January 2013

Stacie Halas, Teacher and Previous Porn Star Fired, Photo by Paraíba

OXNARD, California - This past year has been tough on women, especially for those who have taken a brave and public stand like Malalai Yousafzai, a young Pakistani teenager who recently survived an assassination attempt and continues to live under a death threat simply because she advocated for education for girls in her country.

In the United States, a country with far more progressive women’s rights legislation than some nations, women are still subject to unequal treatment, physical abuse, and verbal castigation as in the case of Sandra Fluke.

In 29 February 2012, Fluke was called a “slut” and a “prostitute” by a conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh in response to the Georgetown University Law Center student’s speech the previous week to House Democrats in support of mandating insurance coverage for contraceptives.

To add insult to injury, this past election cycle revealed a concerted effort by politicians and other far right factions to dismantle the legislative gains women have achieved in this country. In 1963, author, Betty Friedan published her book, “The Feminine Mystique.” She discovered that most housewives were unhappy with their lives in which they were relegated to cooking and cleaning, while the men provided.

Although, opportunities for women has expanded beyond the domiciliary confines; there are still many impediments to women achieving equality in both the work place and society in general. Globally, women continue to encounter difficulties in achieving economic and social equality.

According to the White House Project, nearly 18% of women occupy top leadership positions compared to 82% of men. In fact, “among Fortune 500 companies, women constitute only 3% of the CEOs, 6% of the top paying positions and 16% of the corporate officers. Among Fortune 500 companies, women account for 15% of the board members; 13% of these companies have no women on their boards.

The leadership pipeline exists – women make up 48% of the labor force and 51% of all management/administrative/professional positions – but progress beyond this point is stalled and has been for the past three years. The wage gap widens as women age and move up the ladder into management. Women make only 78% percent of what men make – an improvement of less than half a penny a year since 1963 when The Equal Pay Act was signed. African-American women make 64% and Hispanic women make 52% of what white men make. (Source: The White House Project)

Today, many American youth look for role models in the sports and entertainment industries. Young girls are more likely to identify with a movie star, singer, or television personality, than a female CEO or other executive. As an example, in the 2013 January issue of GQ magazine, Beyoncé Knowles graced the cover for a feature article about the state of feminism in Western society. Posing in a small pair of shorts, a cropped and revealing man’s shirt that almost exposed her breasts; this was the image that the editors chose to entice readers to purchase the magazine.

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Published: 23 January 2013 (Page 2 of 2)

Sex sells; however, this obviously transparent appeal to its reader’s libido under the guise of exploring the state of feminism today is nothing short of crass. In reading the Knowles’ interview, one wonders why she would have chosen to dress so provocatively while discussing a topic as serious as women’s rights, cultural and sexual bias, and the state of feminism.

Gloria Steinem and others would not have chosen to present themselves in a manner that is obviously antithetical to the cause of being taken seriously as a human being, and not just as an empty vessel sex symbol.

In terms of economic prowess and success, Knowles inhabits a rarefied world of top echelon entertainment earners. But, her GQ interview could have been an opportunity to do more than pay lip service to feminism.

In fact her attire on the cover of the magazine, as well as her dress in music videos and while on tour, belies the pro-feminist sentiment she presented in her interview. This obvious dichotomy is part of the reason she is probably successful, but is it an appropriate stance for a woman who millions of young women desire to emulate?

Only Knowles can be the arbiter of her actions and their impact on young women, because in the end it is her life, and her legacy, and any judgment by others would likely be viewed as envy versus circumspection.

Which brings us to the most recent and egregious example of unequal rules governing the lives of men versus women.

In Oxnard, California, Stacie Halas, 32, a middle-school science teacher was fired from her job after it was discovered that she performed in pornographic films during an eight-month period from 2005 to 2006 because of financial problems after her boyfriend abandoned her.

Halas had successfully overcome her past and was by all accounts performing admirably as a teacher. Despite this, she was unceremoniously dismissed and subsequently brought suit against Haydock Intermediate School for wrongful dismissal.

Her lawyer, Richard Schwab said Tuesday. "I think she's representative of a lot of people who may have a past that may not involve anything illegal or anything that hurts anybody.” (Source: Huffington Post)

This is not to say that men do not suffer the repercussions of bad sexual conduct, as in the high-profile case of former President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Whereas Clinton was subjected to impeachment proceedings and public humiliation, Lewinsky was vilified as a “slut” and a “home wrecker,” and subsequently moved out of the country.

Though the discovery of these pornographic videos of Halas on the website may indeed pose a problem for her continued effectiveness in teaching minors; firing her for past indiscretions when many men have been caught in equally compromising position or had sordid pasts revealed without suffering commiserate punishment is hypocritical.

Examples abound, like former D.C. Mayor, Marion Barry, who was caught with a prostitute while smoking crack cocaine, but after a brief incarceration was allowed to resume his political career. Or more recently, former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who fathered a child, Joseph Baena, with his housekeeper who continued to work for the family until the revelation of the affair when the boy was 15 years old.

Though these are not one-to-one comparisons, they are yet another example of justice unequally rendered, and reminiscent of the racist rational of Jim Crow laws which enforced the political hypocrisy of "separate but equal."

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Liquid Lust in India's Parliament


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 21:32 PM EDT, 8 February 2012

NEW DELHI, India - News channels have broadcast footage of three Indian politicians from a morally conservative party watching pornography during a session of state parliament. This revelation would have been noteworthy in itself, but what captured our attention was the fact that one of the men is the minister for women and child development.

The broadcast showed footage of Karnataka state Minister for Cooperation Laxman Savadi sharing a porn clip with his colleague C.C. Patil, the minister for women and child development. The phone is purported to belong to Krishna Palema, the state Minister for Ports, Science and Technology.

All three men have subsequently resigned, though they each categorically deny deliberately watching the porn. The three state politicians explained that they tendered their resignations because they did not want to cause any embarrassment for their party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules the state and is in opposition at a national level.

Pornography is not harmless as some would assert. Proponents of this billion dollar industry advertise that all the actors in the industry are willing participants who are well compensated. On the revenue side, porn moguls defend their massive profits by claiming any type of restriction would infringe upon freedom of expression.

Many men and women who have become addicted to porn, in particular internet and video, have seen their lives ruined because of their unnatural attachment to unrealistic body types and contrived sexual situations. As the addiction progresses they are only able to achieve sexual gratification through the images presented in this LCD universe.

Since most men and women do not look like the people featured in these movies, it becomes difficult for those addicted to porn to develop conflict resolutions skills that are required to maintain intimate relationships in the non-LCD world. Though the industry would be loathed to admit it, pornography contributes to the objectification of the women and men who perform in these films. With regard to women, who in many societies are already marginalized or objectified, pornography can further inure men to their humanity and thus the suffering of all women in their societies.

Girls and women in largely patriarchal India face a barrage of threats including rape, dowry-related murder, forced marriage, domestic violence, honor killings and human trafficking. For these ministers to watch pornography further reinforces the rights of men over women in a country where there already is this social mindset that women are disposable commodities and are seen as transferable property.

Renuka Chowdhary, a former federal minister for women's development and a member of the Congress Party told CNN-IBC that "it really is troubling that the people who are in positions of power and have the responsibility to change things actually have the same mindset and are busy watching porn."

Granny Porn in Kenya

Granny Porn in Kenya

After the release of information by the American government which claims that pornography was discovered on Osama Bin Laden's computer, the idea of pornography in Islamic nations shouldn't be strange. In fact, I wrote a post titled "Sex for Sale from Moldova to Dubai," which deals with the topic of human trafficking and sex slaves from former Eastern Bloc countries who end up working across Europe and the Middle East. But even researching these abuses I had never heard of "Granny Porn." The term evoked an image of an elderly frail grandmother with white hair engaged in non-consensual sex. In fact, because of the lead-in I thought that Dr. Drew was going to focus on the issue of the rape of elderly women in nursing homes.

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