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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Walter Benjamin: Journalism

File:Cam-2 lindbergh cover.jpg

Flown large commercial corner cover carried by Charles A. Lindbergh, Chief Pilot, CAM-2, from Chicago to St. Louis, on the opening day of the route, 15 April 1926. Contractor: Robertson Aircraft Corporation, Lambert Flying Field, Anglum, Missouri: photo by US Post Office Department, 15 April 1926: image by Centpacrr, 19 April 2008 (The Cooper Collection of Lindberghiana)

Alongside all the solemnity that frames Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic, we may allow ourselves the arabesque of a joke -- the amusing pendant to the regrettable frivolity with which the Paris evening papers prematurely announced the triumph of Nungesser and Coli.* The same papers are now exposed for the second time. They owe this to an idea conceived by a student at the Ecole Normale -- an idea that Karl Kraus might envy. As is well known, this Ecole Normale is the celebrated French school that every year admits only an elite group of applicants, after the stiffest entrance examinations. On the afternoon of the first day Charles Lindbergh spent in Paris, someone telephoned all the newspaper editors with the news that the Ecole Normale had resolved to declare the aviator "a former student." And all the papers printed the announcement. Among the medieval Scholastics, there was a school that described God's omnipotence by saying: He could alter even the past, unmake what had really happened, and make real what had never happened. As we can see, in the case of enlightened newspaper editors, God is not needed for this task; a bureaucrat is all that is required.
*Francois Coli (1881-1927) and Charles Nungesser (1892-1927) were French aviators whose plane, L'Oiseau Blanc, disappeared over the North Atlantic during their attempt to fly nonstop from New York to Paris.

Walter Benjamin (1882-1940): Journalism, first published in Die literarische Welt, June 1927, translated by Rodney Livingstone in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 2: 1927-1934, 1999

File:Charles Lindbergh 1925.JPG

Graduation photo of 2nd Lt. Charles A. Lindbergh, US Army Air Corps Flight School, Kelly Field, Texas, March 1925
: image by Artur Andrzej, 23 September 2010 (US  Army Air Corps)

File:Kelly Field - Texas - 1920.jpg

Kelly Field, Texas, 1920: photographer unknown, from Mueller, Robert (1989). Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C.
; image by Bwmoll3, 12 March 2013 (US Air Force)

File:L'administration en 1920 de Normale Sup.jpg

l'École normale supérieure, Paris.
L'administration en 1920: au premier rang de gauche à droite Ernest Vessiot, Gustave Lanson, Paul Dupuy; debout de droite à gauche Lucien Herr, Fernand Maurette et le «Pot», L. Meynieux: photo by E. Vallois, 1920; image by morphypnos, 3 August 2012 (Bibliothèque de l'École normale supérieure)

File:Cour aux Ernests sous la neige.jpg

Cour intérieure de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris), et bassin aux Ernests, de nuit, sous la neige: photo by Evarin, 19 January 2012


Charles Lindbergh's plane The Spirit of St. Louis surrounded by a mob of spectators at London's Croydon Aerodrome, London, eight days after landing at Le Bourget airfield in Paris following a 33 1/2 hour transatlantic flight from Roossevelt Field, near New York City. The plane's license number N-X-211 is visible on its wing in this aerial photo, taken from one of the planes used to escort Lindbergh's craft -- a specially modified Ryan monoplane  -- across the English Channel; the letter N is the international designation for the United States, the X signifies "experimental": photographer unknown, 29 May 1927 (via Iconic Photos)

Charles Lindbergh's airplane in flight, c1927

 Charles Lindbergh's airplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, in flight: photographer unknown, c. 1927 (Library of Congress)
Front Page Image 

New York Times front page, 22 May 1927 (New York Times)

File:CAL CAM2 Postage Report 021227.jpg

CAM-2 Air Mail pilot Charles Lindbergh's own copy of the weekly postage report for mail carried on the Chicago-St. Louis route during the week of 6 to 12 February, 1927. Less than two weeks later, Lindbergh left St. Louis for San Diego, California, to oversee the design and construction of the Spirit of St. Louis, which he flew non-stop from New York to Paris on 20-21 May 1927: image by Centpacrr, 19 April 2008(The Cooper Collection of Lindberghiana)


B.L. Rowe corner cover flown by Charles Lindbergh in the Spirit of St. Louis from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince (6 February 1928) and Havana (8 February 1928): image by Centpacrr, 20 April 2008 (The Cooper Collection of Lindberghiana)

File:CAM-2 LAFTAM.jpg

Flown, registered Springfield, Illinois USPOD #13 penalty cover autographed by Charles A. Lindbergh and the five regular Robertson Aircraft Corporation CAM-2 pilots (L.H. Smith, E.L Sloniger, H.A. ("Bud") Gurney, T.P. Nelson, P.R. Love) who flew the mail on CAM-2  northbound on 21 February and southbound on 22 February 1928, on the "Lindbergh Again Flies The Air Mail" flights, with all cachets and backstamps. The cover is addressed to William A. Steiger, the Assistant Post Master at Springfield, Illinois who was in charge of Air Mail service there: photo by William A. Steiger, US Post Office, Springfield, Illinois, 21 February, 1928: image by Centpacrr, 20 April 2008 (The Cooper Collection of Lindberghiana)

File:Lindbergh check.jpg

Charles A. Lindbergh's paycheck as a U.S. Air Mail pilot from the Robertson Aircraft Corporation dated 15 January 1927, four months before his nonstop flight to Paris. By then Lindbergh had saved up $2,000 of his own money to contribute to the project which was funded primarily by a $15,000 loan made by the State National Bank of St. Louis on 18 February 1927: image by Centpacrr, 25 March 2008 (The Cooper Collection of Lindberghiana)

File:Lindbergh Airmail Stamp c10.jpg

U.S. "Lindbergh Air Mail" Postage Stamp (Scott C-10) issued 11 June 1927: image by Centpacrr, 19 April 2008


TC said...

Boston Attack Media Coverage: Flurry Of Conflicting Reports Cloud Situation: Jack Mirkinson, Huffington Post, 15 April 2013

TC said...

And speaking of journalism... that HuffPost headline writer could perhaps have used a little coaching on verb-agreement (but as we know the flurry of the moment cloud the judgment some time).

kent said...

In fact, verbal
Flurries falling
From moment cloud
Use little judgment
Most time.

Journalism is
As Huffington huffs.

TC said...

Well... to punctuate this with something a bit more positive:

There's dancing behind movie scenes,
Behind those movie screens -- saddi rani.

She's the one that keeps the dream alive,
From the morning, past the evening, till the end of the light.

Brimful of Asha on the forty-five.
Well, it's a brimful of Asha on the forty-five...

And singing
Illuminate the main streets and the cinema aisles.
We don't care about no government warning...

Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow; mine's on the RPM...

['Asha' refers to Asha Bhonsle, a prolific Indian "playback" (backup) singer; but in the context of the song, the word also perhaps signifies "hope".]

TC said...

Took a while to sort the reason the Cornershop tune about Asha on the 45 popped up straight out of the blue like that.

Then it came to me: in the spring of 1924, eighty-nine years ago right now, in a café on the Isle of Capri, in the Bay of Naples, where he'd gone off to live on the cheap, Benjamin met a Latvian Bolshevik theatrical worker named Asja Lacis, and a "holiday romance" ensued.

Asja / Asha.

It was Asja led Benjamin to Marxism.

Following a breakdown Asja was confined to a mental asylum in Moscow. Benjamin visited her in the winter of 1926-1927. He bought a goose to be shared at a communal Christmas dinner. The goose was badly cooked. Six to eight people, crowded round a small desk, tucked in at the thing, babbling away in Russian, a language Benjamin did not understand. Asja soon tired of translating for him. Benjamin felt alienated. The evening was a disaster. Benjamin returned to Berlin to study the origins of capitalism.

Nora said...

That Cornershop album was the soundtrack to my junior year of college. Thanks, Tom, for the trip down memory lane.

TC said...

Just chalk it up to the Marxism!

Hazen said...

When the war comes home, this is how it feels. The battlefield is anywhere. Everyone is a potential “enemy combatant.” Everyone, just by being here, is “a person of interest”—the citizen suspect. The war at home begins to look like the war we make “over there.” La guerra total—war against all and everything.

(I do like that Cornershop song).

Wooden Boy said...

We've just buried a conjuror here who with one small phrase could make society disappear.

I suppose Lindbergh would have been studying eugenics during his imaginary tenure at the Ecole Normale.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Your last remark, Tom--capital! (And that Cornershop song no slouch, either.)

Marie W said...

That frantic swarm of bees is impressive. Gathering around the airplane, their honey. Their hero.
Yellow butterflies...
The story about Ecole Normale claiming their own hero made me smile. Such a classic. He is ours, he is ours. Every one needs heroes.

TC said...

The whole world is one big beehive now. Or possibly hornet's nest, more like.

Oh, well... May as well admit this post was meant to cause a bit of a pause for reflection over the way the recent atrocity in Boston has sprung the bad genie out of the instant-media tarn yet again.

The usual suspects were always going to come in for an immediate bashing, naturally.

NY Post, 15 April: Authorities ID Person of Interest as Saudi National

15 April: Fox News conservative columnist "jokes" about retribution vs Muslims -- "kill them all"

And then a few days went by...

This from The Guardian, 17 April:

"Two days after the outrage, an element of confusion entered the hunt for the perpetrator of one of the worst attacks on American soil, at least in public. The day was characterised by swirling media speculation, first of a positive identification of a suspect, then of an imminent arrest, and finally of an actual arrest, which was swiftly proven to be wrong...

"Denying there had been an arrest, the FBI released a statement warning the media against the 'unintended consequences' of inaccurate reporting.

"Intense media interest in the hunt erupted in a spate of inaccurate reports that strained relations with the FBI. The agency issued a strongly worded warning to media after it was compelled to contradict media accounts that an arrest had taken place.

"Erroneous reports, the FBI statement said, could have 'unintended consequences', and it called for the media to exercise caution. 'Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate,' the FBI said.

"CNN, the Boston Globe, Fox News, the Associated Press and the BBC were among the organisations that carried inaccurate reports that a suspect either had been arrested or that an arrest was 'imminent'."


Otherwise, a bit of an irony, I thought, in the fact that for most of the 20th century, the speed of "connecting up" (mantra of today's mayfly social media platform hucksters) probably owed more to Lindbergh, who effectively invented air mail and made a crusade of promoting it, than to any other individual.

I realize of course that there are people alive now for whom the concept of air mail, like that of the iron horse, has no meaning. Still.

(A century from now, if there are people alive at all, doubtless there will be many who will draw a blank when challenged with such outdated terms as "internet" and "blogging".)


And by the by, that South Asian lad from Leicester who is the "person responsible" (if not also the "primary suspect") in the case of the wonderful 1997 Cornershop tune... he has an actual name. It's Tjinder Singh. Here for your expanded entertainment access is the "juiced" version of his tune, which turned it from the particular cultural moment in which it originated into a global event. One world, connected-up.

Brimful of Asha on the 45: Norman Cook remix