To see or not to see

This morning on the train on my way to work, I came across an article about a new documentary called “Forbidden Films” which asks the question whether the Nazi propaganda films should be un-banned or not. This is a topic that has come up in my mind for 25 years now and I do not have the answer!

One of my first jobs was in a small library situated in my father’s office in Germany. The library focussed on religion (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) and history of religion and there was of course also a whole section on World War II.

Martin-Buber-Haus_Heppenheim

Part of that library section was called “Der Giftschrank” (“The poison shelf”) where  some Nazi propaganda material was kept, like for instance Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” or some copies of the notorious Nazi propaganda paper “Der Stürmer”. That section was locked and was only allowed to be opened, and the materials in it perused, by permission from the boss himself (my dad). The Giftschrank was there for study purposes.

I have always learned that censorship is bad and that freedom of speech is essential in a free world. Yet here we are, forbidding these Nazi propaganda films to be seen and the literature to be read. On the other hand (due to having been allowed to leaf through some Giftschrank materials) I know how sickening this material is and it is unthinkable that there are people out there who might want to re-use some of it for their own twisted purposes! This stuff is so toxic, it would create a stir and get attention that you maybe don’t want it to have. On the other hand, how are we to really learn from history if we keep the evil locked away? Or should everything be open, but with comments explaining what it helped do? Or should there be no explanations and should these texts and films just speak for themselves?

Triumph des Willens - Leni Riefenstahl

Still from Nazi propaganda film “Triumph des Willens” made by Leni Riefenstahl

I have no answers to all these questions. My first reaction is that everything that is so discriminatory and racist and sets people up against each other should be forbidden. Yet – those materials offer opinions and points of view and shouldn’t we at least be open to what others think (or thought) even if we absolutely hate what they think? It’s the same with all these “Je suis Charlie” cartoons. I find many of the anti-Islamic cartoons to be extremely offensive and racist and it sets up people against each other. I realize it is also a reaction to extremist Islamic ideology (which I also absolutely hate – I hate any extremist ideology, period). But even with those cartoons I wonder: how far can we allow these opinions to be aired? Where is the line and should there be a line?

The whole recent Cybersmile brouhaha, with freedom of speech and censorship essentially at the heart of it all, has made me think about this and now the article I read this morning throws it into a larger arena – what can or can’t we say, what can or can’t we write and what may be read or watched and what should be forbidden?

I’m very curious to see this “Forbidden Films” documentary, I wonder to what conclusions I would come. I don’t expect answers because I don’t think there really are definitive answers but I am throwing this out there in the universe to ponder over…

Le_penseur_de_la_Porte_de_lEnfer_(musée_Rodin)

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Je suis Charlie

I won’t go into a long rant about what happened yesterday in Paris…  I am shocked at the terrorist attack on the satiric newspaper office “Charlie Hebdo” when gunmen ruthlessly shot journalists and two policemen, yelling “allah akhbar” as they exited the building. At attack on freedom of speech which is so shocking it literally made me sick to the stomach.

In my heart I was fearing what would happen next and it looks like it is happening: mosques in France have been attacked in retaliation! I wish people would see the difference between religion and fundamentalism! I know muslims and I know they are just as horrified as I am about what happened… When will the witch-hunting of muslims stop? When will the ‘hunts’ focus on perpetrators instead of attacking a whole religion? This feels like “The Crucible” all over again….

Will mankind never grow out of mob-behavior? And can fundamentalism never be rooted out of humanity? In the long run fundamentalism can never last as it ignores personal freedoms.

I have no words to express how I feel about what is happening in the world… it scares me and makes me unbelievably sad…

A whole new world… and freedom of speech

I started my blog a while ago but only recently have I decided to go more public with it. I’m tentative that way… I love to write but am afraid to share it with anyone else. Do I really want to put myself out there with what I really think and feel? I decided to just take the plunge and see where it leads me, so here I am…

I blog about things I love and one of the things I love is Richard Armitage (although he won’t be the only subject I blog about!). I have loved his work for 9 years now, have followed all he does online through C19 and RichardArmitageNet and more recently through some blogs that I enjoy (Me+Richard Armitage foremost) and I thank these bloggers (although they don’t know it!) for giving me the courage to start this adventure…

Bilbo going on an adventureWithin the first days of my blog going public I saw a whole controversy erupt over the interviews of Marlise Boland from the Anglophile Channel with Richard Armitage! “Oh my goodness, what is happening?” I thought. I follow some more blogs now than I did before so I got to see more of the controversy going on than I maybe wished for. Like watching a train wreck but not being able to tear your eyes away. “I also have my thoughts about these interviews that I was going to share,” I thought, “but I don’t want to get caught up in any controversy!” And so I decided to keep out of it, just read what others said and wanted to move on. But blogging is about writing about something that moves you and it turns out that this controversy somehow moves me. And so I write after all…

So, to start off this topic: let me complicate things more and bring religion into it. I am a pastor’s daughter but the daughter of a critical pastor who has faith but has always always remained critical but also very open at the same time. This critical mindset is probably what caused all of his children to either become non-religious (like me) or become Jewish (like my brother and sister) while he remains Christian. What I have learned from him and from my mother is that tolerance and compassion for others is key to anything you do! So, what I truly hate HATE in religion is when people of one faith try to convert others to their way of thinking and to their own faiths. Yes, I welcome open discussion. In fact, I love discussing religion and trying to understand what the other believes and feels to be true to their core. In return, I would like to openly be able to say what I believe and feel to be true in my core and we each need to respect the other for their own beliefs. Through open discourse you can truly learn from the other and who knows, maybe learn something for yourself along the way. You can talk and critique but still be respectful but when something goes to the core of what you love, like in religion, it is hard to stay objective. Hence all the wars over religion.

The Richard Armitage fan world is a religion of sorts, I am finding. Well, any fan world is, really. Come to think of it, I guess Christianity grew out of a Jesus Christ fandom… In Christianity there are sooooooooooo many different ways of believing and in comparison there are soooooo many ways to be a Richard Armitage fan or well-wisher or whatever. There is no one single kind of fan but the one thing we do have in common: we love the man. To make the comparison to religion even stronger: I have even heard the word “gospel” referenced to in relation to Richard Armitage! Not in a serious way, but still… One blogger (I apologize, I can’t remember who!) even referenced “The Life of Brian” (one of my all time favourite films) stating how people give meaning to Richard’s comments just as the throw-away shoe gains importance for the people who decided Brian should be followed. Brian was just a man who found himself in a public position, Richard is just such a man too.  No more, no less. What we learn from The Life of Brian is that we remain critical, that we not get carried away and that we don’t take things too seriously. Free speech and free will matter!

I’m trying to make a point here. The question is whether I am getting to it…So, in the interest of free speech and room for open discussion….(deep deep deep breath!)…. the Boland interviews… my two cents….

I thoroughly enjoyed the first interview in, what was it, February? Richard seemed very relaxed, he was very humorous and while I don’t think it gave us that many new insights into Richard Armitage it did show us his fun side. I am not a huge Marlise Boland fan, I found, even in that first interview. She was too flirty for my liking and quite self obsessed but that had it’s positives too: I felt that the drawing attention to herself and away from him made Richard relax in a way I have rarely see him relax before in interviews. Apparently her flirty and self centered style did bring out Richard’s flirty side, which, admit it, we all like to see. 😉 So, I thoroughly enjoyed Richard in these videos and didn’t pay too much attention to Marlise and yes, hoped she would be able to do more interviews with him in time. And then this new interview appeared last week. In honesty, Marlise Boland seemed even more touchy feely and flirty than she did in the first interview and it did make me cringe. But again, she brought out his playful, relaxed side and we saw more of him than we usually do in the 4 or 5 minutes we get in all these press junket interviews. So, while I sometimes cringed over Marlise, I enjoyed watching The Armitage in action and he seemed relaxed. He indeed adapted to the interviewer who was ‘light’ and so he was ‘light’ as well.

Will Marlise ever be a hard-hitting journalist? I don’t think so. She is a fan of all things British (and now also of all things Armitage) and has been able to make a living as journalist of sorts out of it. Good for her! It is always wonderful if someone can make a living out of their passions! And that’s just the way I see Marlise – as a fan trying to earn a living by doing something she loves and hopefully learning more about professional journalism as she goes along. Do I prefer to learn something new with each interview? Sure! Is that realistic? No. If you really want a hard-hitting interview, the Anglophile Channel isn’t the place to be.

The one recent interview that really told me something new about Richard was this one from the Wall Street Journal: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/12/19/how-richard-armitage-let-thorin-become-unhinged-in-the-hobbit/. The interviewer really listens to what Richard has to say and when she hears something interesting tries to explore it deeper and she gets new answers! Or at least answers I had never heard before.The father-grandfather question and the following questions about family illustrate perfectly that the interviewer was listening and truly curious to delve deeper. I missed that in the Boland interview (and in MANY other interviews I have seen as well, by the way!). Marlise Boland missed a few opportunities to delve deeper into something Richard Armitage was saying. There were several times when I thought “ooh, ask him more about what he’s saying now!” and she didn’t. A great pity, but, again, that is not what I expect from her. I expect her to stick to the lighter side, just like a late night chat show host, and that is what she gets: the lighter side of Armitage and I enjoy the interviews because of it. You don’t expect in depth interviews on those late night talk shows. You expect fun and those shows are fun to watch. I love watching Graham Norton, for instance! Now there’s a show I’d really like to see Richard on… 🙂

Anyway…. I read with great interest the blogs that addressed this fan versus journalist discussion. Marlise in my eyes isn’t a great journalist but she does bring out fun Armitage, so I concentrate on watching that and the interviewer just becomes something on the side (even if she is very present). If I commented on every annoying journalist I have seen these past few weeks I could write a book! So, what makes Marlise Boland special in that she needs to be singled out and critiqued? It probably is the way she presents herself so publicly as an Armitage fan and the way in which she presents herself speaking for fans. Because of this she draws attention from the Armitage fans in a way no other interviewer I know of does and so she also draws comments. In that first interview Armitage said something like “She is the best interviewer ever” and (to come back to the religious aspect), his word has become gospel so it seems: many fans agree and Marlise Boland is flattered and has become even more emboldened in how she approaches Richard Armitage like an old friend. And that is totally fine! To each their own and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Richard is a grown man and can handle himself and everyone has a right to like or dislike, agree or disagree.

So, in the midst of all of this approval of the Anglophile Channel interviews I have to say it was a breath of fresh air to read some points of critique as well! And while I don’t agree with all the points made I do agree with many of them and I thought it couldn’t hurt to discuss it. Just as I was thinking of jumping in and discussing (as a new blogger you have to jump in somewhere, n’est-ce pas?) this turned into one big controversy and I totally shied away. I was amazed at the harsh retaliation by The Anglophile Channel. Aren’t communities allowed to discuss points of critique? What happened to freedom of speech and professing a critical opinion? Suddenly bloggers were hiding behind ‘anonymous blogs’ and being negative and irresponsible? An unnecessary over-the-top reaction, I felt, and of course an uproar followed! People were touched to their cores and to reiterate what I said earlier: when something goes to the core of what you love it is hard to stay objective.  And so now it seems like two camps have formed: pro-Boland and anti-Boland and there is no more room left for true and open discussion so that we can learn from each other and learn to understand the other and accept a differing view. We do not have to agree with each other, but we can respect the other’s opinions. And we can try to explain what we like or don’t like about a certain issue and then remain friends and each go our own way. Right? I hope we can. I don’t want to get caught up in any sort of Armitage religion where one side tries to convert the other side or vice versa. I hope room remains for open and honest discussion and then you agree or agree to disagree and move on.

A whole new world is opening up to me in this first week of being a blogger. Secretly, I think more than enough has been said about this whole interview business and that includes my sermon here. In the whole scheme of things it isn’t that important. What is important, however, is that such a controversy should not keep me from saying what I feel. I want to feel free to speak of matters that catch my interest! So, I have now addressed what I wanted to say but had shied away from due to the blow up and I feel better now for being brave and speaking my mind. 🙂

I hope to move on to more joyful blogging times now. I would like for this new blogging world to bring me the fun, tolerance and open exchange that I hope for.  I am a little afraid now (controversy really isn’t my thing!) but I will boldly say that I am still looking forward to this blog-ride.

I have a busy few days ahead so doubt I will be online much but let me leave you by wishing you all happy, peaceful and stress-free holidays and in the wise words Eric Idle: “Always look on the bright side of life!”

XO

Esther