January 16, 2015

Gendarmes, terrorists and tourists in Paris

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:31 pm

Cartoon Museum shot




















In November of 1986, when America’s evening news featured scenes of gendarmes with submachine guns at the major intersections in Paris was like viewing a scene ripped from the pages of “1984,” that had come to life. A series of terrorist incidents had prompted coworkers to suggest that it might be a good idea to cancel the trip. Our reply was: “Yeah, but if I get killed by a terrorist’s bomb in Paris that will mean that my demise will be reported on the front page of the New York Times.” November in Paris in even numbered years means that the Month of the Photo will be celebrated and since we had waited all our life to check out the moveable feast in action, we scoffed at the idea of canceling the trip. A paucity of tourists meant that the traditional comedy shtick about Parisian waiters being rude to American Tourists had also been put on “Pause.”

An American in Paris, in November of 1986 didn’t get the royal treatment that American soldiers received in August of 1944, but any Gringo tourist who was there for the 1986 Month of the Photo was accorded semi-hero status. We hope that this year’s American tourists who want to make “April in Paris” one of the highlights of their life and not just a song title, won’t be intimidated by fear and trepidation.

On Monday, January 14, 2015, there was a report on KCBS news radio that a controversial ad juxtaposing Hitler and a Muslim had appeared that day on busses in San Francisco. It was reported that the ads would remain on display. We went to Fog City on Tuesday to get a photo of the newsworthy bus ad.

We spent some time trying to find and photograph the elusive ad. We changed plans and headed towards the San Francisco Museum of Cartoon Art. As we walked through the financial district, we noticed flyers, taped to various light poles, that depicted the prophet Muhammad as a cartoon stick figure.

The Museum, we learned, was trying to formulate their response to the attack on cartoonists in Paris.

Wasn’t Charles Chaplin known in France as “Charlot”? Didn’t he inspire the names for two brands of cigarettes? Tramps and Charlie?

Cliff Robertson won a lead actor Oscar for playing the title role in the 1968 film “Charlie.”

A source close to the Conspiracy Theory Manufacturers Association, speaking anonymously, told us that the move to portray the Hebdo Massacre as the French 9-11 as a way to start vaporizing French citizens rights is underway. It is time (as they used to say in the Sixties) to run that theory up the flagpole and see who salutes it.

As with all events these days, some people are suggesting that it was a false flag tactic.

Is it time to print T-shirts depicting Charlie Chaplin, General de Gaul, and Che and have the same dialogue balloon on each one that read: “Je suis Charlie!”?

On Wednesday, January 14, 2015, when the new issue of Charlie Hebdo magazine was in the news, the topic became which media were showing the cover and which were only describing it. We began to think that perhaps we should not post even the image of the right side of the flyer we saw Tuesday in San Francisco.

If American media can print the Pentagon Papers but not the cover of the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo magazine, you shouldn’t have to wonder if the terrorist attacks are being considered a success and will be continued.

We spend the better part of a day roaming around San Francisco trying to get a photo to illustrate this week’s column and we come up empty-handed. We’ll have to settle for an innocuous and non controversial image that is (hopefully) at least eye-catching.  What can a columnist do about a week’s search that delivered a Sisyphus’ type final score?

Then we had the brilliant idea that maybe it’s time to market an article titled “Being the World’s Laziest Journalist is hard work,” but then we asked ourselves: “Who’d want such an item?” and immediately we replied: “What about ‘the Idler’ magazine in Great Britain?”

Surely the Brits would grok to the concept of “editor errant,” wouldn’t they? We’ll have to pitch them on some story/column ideas we think they would dig and see what their reaction is.

Maybe we could become their editor at large in the San Francisco Bay Area and finally realize our goal of sitting around in a posh gin mill and have fawning fans besiege us with potential column items just like our heroes Herb Caen and Walter Winchell used to do?

That should be a hella easier than covering riots, such as we did in December, and encountering a phalanx of police officers in riot gear as we have done repeatedly in the last half dozen years.

The reassurance of a large police presence was contrasted by what happened in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdicts were announced. LAPD Chief Darryl Gates announced that the LAPD wouldn’t respond to the calls for help generated by rioting and looting that occurred the night the verdicts were announced. All f*****g hell broke loose in “Shakeytown” that night.

The slowdown by police in New York City recently would seem to be a limited example of the sit-down strike philosophy.

When workers at Ford, in the Thirties, called a strike action, a few were shot and killed and the strike was of short duration. Later workers at General Motors went to their work stations and remained idle, it was called a sit-down strike. It was a tipping point for unions and the Auto Workers Union became a viable entity in the history of Detroit.

The concept that police officers have the right to self defense while performing their dangerous job should be obvious. The fact that such a right can lead to egregious abuses of that right should also be obvious. Since discourse in America has disintegrated into a binary choice, compromise is rendered impossible to achieve.

(Can’t you just imagine the voice of Lenny Bruce suggesting that a study commission come up with an acceptable number of yearly police shooting totals? )

The goal of zero accidental fatal police involved shootings is impossible to achieve. It should be obvious that castrating the concept of policing is a bad idea, too.

This year will have a massive amount of feature story potential. It is very unlikely that this column will be the first and only mention of the fact that the Battle of Britain will be marking its 75th anniversary this summer.

It also seems quite likely that for political pundits, 2015 will be a bumpy ride with the use of seatbelts being mandatory.

If Obama is impeached, and if the Vice President is sworn in as President, what will Hilary’s chances be for landing the 2016 Democratic Party’s Presidential Nomination? Don’t incumbent Presidents, who aren’t restricted by term limitations, have a lock on the nomination?

Wouldn’t it be more pleasant to be churning columns out describing delightful assignments such as (hypothetically speaking) a lunch/interview with an author in his hometown of San Francisco?

The closing quote this week is a famous line of dialogue from the film “Apocalypse Now:” “Charlie don’t surf!”

Now the disk jockey will play a the song with the title “Charlie don’t surf!,” the Kingston trio’s “MTA,” and Waylon Jenning’s song “Don’t you think this outlaw bit’s done got out of hand?” We have to go cover the 13th annual Noir City Film Festival (noircity dot com) which starts in San Francisco this weekend. Have a “no politically incorrect images” type week.

Powered by WordPress