Watched Michael Palin's 'Journey from Pole to Pole' (I think that's what it's called). I didn't watch it when it was first shown on tv because I knew it would be... well, filled with trite observations and a televisually blithe disregard for its subject(s). But it's daytime tv, so I watched the re-run.

As predicted, the show fully maintains (post)colonial relationships within tourism and the gaze of the camera. There are the usual Liberal observations about the legacy of Apartheid in South Africa. There are even a few comments on the colonial legacy in the rest of Africa but mostly his tone and what he chooses to focus on - not what he actually says - gives us the impression that we (Europeans and those of European descent) have the right to laugh at Africans.

He uses a language of civilisation for European monuments within Africa, and a language of mysticism and magic for the African elements [sic]. He utterly maintains the White (or European)=Culture and African=Nature/Savage in the framing of his observations. The cutaway shots of his reactions invariably show him bemused at 'African' practices and impressed with 'European' interventions into the African landscape.

This kind of unwitting, or even conscious, construction of an Us and a Them reminds me of what happened recently with the 'Shoe Bomber'.

When we first saw images of the Shoe Bomber, he looked very Arabic, very Muslim, let's say, with his head bowed and maybe a turban or something wrapped about his head. On the news we saw pictures of how that image was caught. It is the way criminals are often shot - through the window of their police van, with lens thrust at windows and scores of flashes bursting at the prisoner from all angles. They're serendipitous photos, which usually have the criminal looking wierd and awkward and a bit mad.

For no particular reason, I smelled a rat behind all the 'news' that seemed to emanate from this incident.
First they called him by one name, a Muslim name, then by another, a 'traditional English' name. When they were still calling him by the Muslim name, there were suggested reports that his nationality may be English, this stirring up the memories of 'all those british muslims who have gone to fight for the taliban'.
Eventually we saw images of his mum, an 'ordinary' (read 'white') woman and his identity became fixed as not Arabic.
Everything about how this man, this nutter, was portrayed went from originally being symbols of Islam, or Arabic-ness - his name, his clothes, his face, the darkness of skin tone as well, to suddenly becoming more 'english'-looking with all the oppostie signifiers.

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