Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympic fact, fiction, and crime

"Even before the 2012 Games formally opened Friday night, east London, an area with some of the highest unemployment and crime rates in the country, had been visibly transformed by the world’s biggest sporting event. More than $14 billion has been poured into the London Games, for building Olympic facilities, upgrading public transportation and scrubbing the high streets near venues, the government says. The new shopping mall alone has brought about 8,000 jobs."
New York Times News Service
"(H)e went looking for a taxi in paseo Maratimo, a street seemingly frozen in time and place as it waited for the extension which would link it to the Olympic Village. In the distance, the houses that had been demolished for the construction of the Olympic sports facilities looked more like a set for a film about the bombing of Dresden, The new city would no longer feel like the city he knew ..."
Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Off Side
The Times strikes a note of authenticity for its American readers, calling main streets high streets. More interesting is that the most trenchant of its responses from the Other Side of the Story comes not from an activist or area resident or member of a leftist think tank, but rather from Colin Ellis, senior vice president for credit policy at Moody’s Investor Services. “Looking at the big picture," says Ellis, “we think that corporate sponsors will benefit most. The Olympics are unlikely to provide a substantial economic boost.”

I wonder

a) whether Mr. Ellis would have been brave enough to utter such a prediction seven years ago, when London was awarded the Olympics,

 and

b) what Vázquez Montalbán, that man of the left, would have thought of such an utterance from an executive of “an essential component of the global capital markets.”
***
Here's a previous Detectives Beyond Borders post that touches on the London Olympics. And here's a post about Shane Maloney's novel Nice Try, set during Melbourne's failed bid for the 1996 Olympics. What other Olympics-related crime fiction can you think of?

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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20 Comments:

Anonymous proper manky said...

One that comes to my mind, and perhaps this is too obvious a choice, is Philip Kerr's 'If The Dead Rise Not,' part of his Bernie Gunther series. A large portion of the book takes place during the run up to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and describes some of the political background and preparations for this infamous event. I haven't read the whole series, somehow I couldn't get into it for the long haul. However, I really enjoyed Kerr's "A Philosophical Investigation' which is a terrific, futurist psycho thriller. I always wished he would have pursued this type of writing.

July 28, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And that reminds me, too, that Rebecca Cantrell's A Game a Lies is set amid preparations for those Berlin games.

Here, by the way, is Philip Kerr wearing sunglasses indoors at t Crimefest .

July 28, 2012  
Blogger verymessi said...

Often the most honest and accurate appraisal of who benefits from economic decisions and who does not comes from very mainstream sources like say the Wall Street Journal. Someone like Chomsky quotes from the Journal or the Financial Times all of the time.

In Chomsky's view these publications have to give a good and relatively accurate picture of the world since the people reading such are important and in positions to make decisions. So the picture of the world presented is often very accurate and honest.

The more I read about the Montalban book the more I won't to read it.

July 29, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Verymessi, interesting that Chomsky would concede that accurate information is available in the mainstream press. Somehow I would not have imagined him hawking the Wall Street Journal to the working classes.

July 29, 2012  
Blogger verymessi said...

As I said he quotes from it all of the time...

His point is that you have to understand its bias and view of the world, and papers again like the Journal and the Financial Times have to give a generally accurate picture of the world because the people who read it are those in positions of power and influence.

The need for indoctrination and control are not so great with these papers since those that mainly read it have already internalized the values of and perspective of the dominate political/economic culture to begin with.

The common person, by and large, does not read these papers. Maybe they should.

July 29, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

See this post and for a glimpse of Chomsky on TV.

I quite like the idea of a mass readership developing for the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. I wonder how those publications (and the financial markets) would react. Presumably the reaction would include ever more exotic trading instruments by which to separate the public from its money.

July 29, 2012  
Blogger verymessi said...

Hi Peter,

I followed your link to the Chomsky debate with Foucault. It is very famous meeting between the two and also appears in part in "Manufacturing Consent..."

I did not really see where Chomsky got his butt kicked. There seemed to be disagreement over the existence of a human nature, which surely does exist, but it can take many forms depending not the least under circumstances that people exist under, like renting themselves to institutions that exists to maximize profit or risk starvation etc...

From Chomsky anarchist perspective, which he stated in the clip you linked too, people have a need to be free, or partake in meaningful work etc and so, and not just be cogs in a machine who do nothing put make widgets all day and so on...He has also been quite clear that this can't be proven like say 2+2=4.

That was the only real difference I saw in the clip...

Chomsky revolutionary work in linguistics basically proved we have a human nature, what exactly it is no one knows.


Also as I am sure you are aware Chomsky is an excellent debater who is rarely ever debated. See for example his debate on Firing Line with William Buckley which you can also find on you tube or say his debate with Alan Dershowitz.

Also here is quote by Chomsky on the business press:

"the part that's directed toward working people and the general population is indeed designed to impose obedience. But the education for elites can't quite do that. It has to allow creativity and independence. Otherwise they won't be able to do their job of making money. You find the same thing in the press. That's why I read the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times and Business Week. They just have to tell the truth."

Full interview found at link below:

http://www.chomsky.info/books/warfare02.htm

July 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had not known Chomsky's reputation as a debater, but I would not have guessed it, based on my sketchy evidence. I don't think he acquits himself well in the Foucault discussion (He looks lost, and I don't think he defines his terms well.) I also remember hearing him on the radio once. I was prepared for a bracing critique of U.S. foreign policy, and I got that for about a minute before he started screaming and raving. I was not impressed.

July 30, 2012  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Seems a little trite now, but there is a scene in one of Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels at the Montreal Olympics. Mostly though, Parker talks about Canadian beer.

The Montreal Olympics seems so old fashioned now with the biggest benefactors being the mob and construction companies that would go on to become SNC Lavalin and the like.

July 31, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, the Montreal Olympics had none of this slick, high-tech commerclialism. It was gold, old-fashioned corruption, not that I think p-eople cared too much at the time.

July 31, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Other than Terry Mosher, of course.

July 31, 2012  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

It has nothing to do with sports, but the John Sayles' movie "Lonestar" is a nice look at how corruption goes from petty and local to thinking big.

The same story could likely be told with the Olympics and pro sports as well. Anytime the money gets big enough the small-time local mobsters get pushed aside by the multinationals. I can't figure out how marijuana hsn't been legalized and taken over by Imperial Tobacco....

July 31, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Local mobsters getting pushed aside ... local activists urging support of local mobsters, who wind up marching beside OCCUPY protesters ...

July 31, 2012  
Blogger verymessi said...

Hi Again peter,

I suggest you do a a search on you tube of the mentioned debate with Buckley..It only takes about 10 minutes for Buckley to realize he is in over his head. He basically gets cut to pieces...Same with Dershowitz, although Dershowitz does better.

If you watch these you will understand why he his not debated too often..

Again these are easily found on you tube..

As for Chomsky screaming and yelling I have no idea what you might be talking about...I am pretty familiar with his talks...I cant think of one where he yells and screams, but given that he has done literally thousands of talks and speeches over the years it is possible, but I would be shocked to hear it.

He might lose his cool when debating someone who constantly jumps in when he is trying to speak. See the Buckley debate again, or say his debate with John Silber who was then President of Boston College, I think. But by and large he does not raise his voice. If you have ever seen him speak in person you will know he is often asked to speak up since he is very soft spoken.

The Foucault talk is something like 2 hours long, if I remember correctly, your clip is about 3 minutes so I don't think it is a fair assessment of the actual talk, which was more a talk than a debate..If you saw the whole you might have a better understanding of what Chomsky was talking about...

Finally, anyone talking in absolutes when it comes to human nature cant be taken seriously since again no one really knows what it is. So Chomsky's vague and opaque comments about his anarchist sentiments and beliefs on the one hand and how much they are a reflection of human nature is just Chomsky being honest...He may certainly believe in his heart that people want to be free of oppression, or that it is basically a form of slavery-wage slavery-that people have to rent themselves in order to survive, and he may firmly believe that a society based on anarchists principles will lead to a more just and humane world given the nature of what Chomsky thinks it means to be human, but he cant prove it nor can he, or anyone else for that matter, show it in any convincing fashion to make the question moot. Hence the very tentative comments. A lot depends on your values, beliefs, assumptions etc and so on and not everyone shares the same.

July 31, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. I'm on my way out now, but I'll look for those clips. But they would not be the first time I'll have seen Buckley bested. I once saw Michael Kinsley leave Buckley speechless, possible the only time such a thing happened.

I am generally more impressed by leftist authors than leftist public intellectuals. I like those crime writers I've mentioned from time to time, and I very much like Harvey Pekar's work. But leftist public intellectuals in America, which in pratice has generally meant Chomsky and the late Alexander Cockburn, I find strident, dogmatic and smug.

Take an example you quoted above. Business news directed at the general public "is indeed designed" to impose obedience? Designed? I'll agree with Chomsky that such coverage may have that effect, but Chomsky clearly has not thought carefully about what the word "design" means. Or if he has, he contradicts a statement of his that I quote admiringly below.

I also don't like those little books in which he is interviewed by his own acolytes. Their creepy obsequiousness shines through.

On the other hand, I will give him credit for a sage observation he once made and that I cite often. Conspiracy, he said, need not imply a bunch of people sitting in a room string, Rather, it can also mean the prevalence of conditions in which certain modes of action are impossible.

I would like to see Chomsky debate John Silber, who shares some of Chomsky's obnoxious traits, though coming from an opposite political viewpoint. (Silber was president of Boston University, by the way, not Boston College.)

July 31, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I will, of course, concede that Chomsky does not lose his cool in the Foucault clip.

July 31, 2012  
Blogger verymessi said...

The Silber debate is briefly in "Manu..." he does lose his cool in this debate..

Thanks for the correction on Silber being at BU not BC. I was and am typing from memory.

I also agree with you on the interview books...I don't think they should be an introduction to Chomsky and are not a good reflection on his huge body of political writings. If you want to know where he stands then I think you should read his books, not interviews of him.

I also agree with you on on Pekar..I liked him quite a bit...

You seemed to miss read the quote, or I did not give enough of it.

Its not business news that is designed to impose obedience. Its an objective of the american education system which cant, from Chomsky's view , cant be separated out of the larger political economic structure. Schools produce good docile workers not radicals!! That's his point.

Full quote:

".. Sam Bowles and Herb Gintis, two economists, in their work on the American educational system some years back... pointed out that the educational system is divided into fragments. The part that's directed toward working people and the general population is indeed designed to impose obedience."

Text of Silber debate below.

http://www.chomsky.info/debates/1986----.htm

July 31, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Here's the part of your comment that led me to believe Chomsky was talking about the business press:

"Also here is quote by Chomsky on the business press:

"the part that's directed toward working people and the general population is indeed designed to impose obedience..."


I have found the interview format congenial as an introduction to thinkers who are either dense, occasionally obscure writers (Foucault) or just plain have trouble writing a coherent paragraph (Camille Paglia). The trouble with the Chomsky books I've browsed is the slavering eagerness with which to obsequiousness questioners suck up to him. That sort of thing is not illuminating.

I thought of Harvey Pekar because in one story he winds up hanging out with some anarchist/leftist types whom he likes because they're pleasant chaps and because they seem to have real empathy with the people whose interests they claim to have at heart. He contracts this with leftist intellectuals who can't stand "the people."

I know about John Silber in part because he was the president of Boston University when I attended that school. He was, as you can imagine, a polarizing figure.

July 31, 2012  
Blogger verymessi said...

Hi Peter,

I got "Off Side" today and look forward to reading it...

Since Montalban was a gourmand of sorts, do you know if he wrote anything on the rise of molecular gastronomy which sprung out of Catalonia in the kitchen of Ferran Adria at El Bulli. I would be interested in his take on this if he did write about it.


I also saw Montalban died in 2003 right before Barcelona's golden age in football. He also never saw the wonder that is Lionel Messi. I feel sorry for him.

August 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ferran Adria apparently wrote a eulogy for Vazquez Montalban.

August 02, 2012  

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