28 mars 2011

Ad Hominem in Critical Debate (Adrian Martin)

Here is the infamous email I mentioned in a previous post (Alert: Australia is censoring the internet!). Adrian Martin didn't even bother to send a reply to my reply. And he was not able to appreciate the fact I didn't post it on my blog right away (because such low blow isn't even worth giving it attention), it didn't give him enough time (almost 1 year) to reflect on the silliness of his ill-informed and anti-critical reaction. He didn't once try to apologize either...
Well, hoping the private resolution of a conflict is not a mistake I'll repeat again with disrespectful and hypocritical individuals who blame others of (imagined) libel after resorting to Ad Hominem themselves.
[Title : Ahem !! / Date : 2nd April 2010 / Sender : Adrian Martin]
Hey, I was very moved by your blog confession [he refers to this post : Cinéma d'auteur blasé (1)] that you begged the INDIAN AUTEUR editors to remove my recent (and in fact longstanding and long-expressed in public) thoughts on auteurism !! [he refers to his interview in INDIAN AUTEUR #7]
You yourself are turning auteurism 'European style' into a kind of dogma in your recent blog entries !! We fully agree on this: that making good films is the goal - or at least the goal of filmmaking itself !! When I talk about 'auteurism' (rather than filmmaking practice) I am talking about critical writing, critical method: and, from THAT angle, concentrating on the author is not always the most illuminating or best way to go. It can be a reduction, as as has been proved many times !!!
Also, you are wrong in thinking that the 'a film by' syndrome has no industrial/legal ramifications: it is the very basis of the studio contract of the 'director's cut' !!! [apparently he didn't read this post: Parallel evolutions of auteurism]
Back to the creativity of filmmaking practice: is the best way to arrive at a good film for the director to assume total or major control over the elements of a production? Probably so: I would agree with you there. But there are many 'strong' directors (in TV too) in this sense who have no 'auteur' personality or discernible signature: they just get their job done, and do it well !! Your 'art vs industry' polarisation is not making a lot of persuasive sense to me here.
And as for the 'danger' you imply in exposing our Indian friends to any criticism of the holy dogma of the auteur: come on, that is just a little bit racist of you, in its implication if not its intention !!!!!!
I will now retire to sleep and continue pondering the fickleness of critical fortune ...
Ahem !!
and my (ignored) reply :
[Date: 6 April 2010 / Sender: HarryTuttle]
Bonjour Adrian,
ça faisait longtemps que je n'ai pas reçu de vos nouvelles. Je vais bien, merci. Et vous-même?
"Ahem !!" ? C'est comme ça que vous accueillez la discussion critique?
Si vous souhaitez un droit de réponse, je me ferai un plaisir de publier ce présent email sur mon blog et d'y répondre pour justifier mes positions, le cas échéant.
Si cette interview s'était déroulée normalement, sans intermédiaire, je vous aurai retourné mes commentaires directement avant la publication. Il y a quelques questions auxquelles vous avez choisi de ne pas répondre aussi...
En résumé, notre désaccord repose, il me semble, sur votre généralisation des clichés issus de la mauvaise, superficielle critique dite "auteuriste" et de rejeter dans le même mouvement toute approche auteuriste quelle qu'elle soit...
Chacun ses goûts.
Bonne journée,
My contentious post was an objective critical reading of his off-kilter (anti-auteurist) response in a interview given to an auteurist journal. It was posted 5 months later, precisely to avoid an intentional muddy distraction around the date of publication of a journal I participated in. But he didn't even understand my own precaution, and even though he subscribes to Filmkrant's so-called "slow criticism" every year, he still starts his email by reproaching me my "late" after-the-fact response... 

He says I "begged" to remove a paragraph in his long interview. In my post I said I "suggested" (I asked once, they didn't reply, I gave up). Critical minds like precision.

My suggestion was sent out in private to the editor. This is a totally legit (pre-publication) debate around the modalities of publication of any article. EVERY newspapers and magazines edit their interviews!!! EVERYBODY knows (I would hope that an ex-journalist like Adrian Martin would know about it). Page space is expensive in the paper Press, and they make decisions to cut out the fat, which makes the published content all the more snappy and to the point. This is not covert censorship. Interviewee agree to being edited by accepting an interview. This is precisely why people usually complain about their words being taken out of context or truncated. In this case, I only wanted 1 question and 1 response out, which had a separate subject and would not compromise the reading of the rest of the interview.

Why? Because he misunderstood the question, and rambled off-topic. Honestly I was doing him a favor by sorting this out before the publication. My question was asking about the limitation of auteurism, knowing that Adrian was an auteurist himself (as I am myself). I expected him to identify my question as the expression of the usual detractor argument opposed to auteurism, to give him the chance to acknowledge in his answer the point of view of detractors and take this opportunity to defend auteurism and explain in a pedagogical way why the anti-auteurist position was wrong-headed... He failed. He thought that an auteurist journal cared about giving more exposition to anti-auteurist arguments. We can't use his answer in a journal which goal is to implant auteurism deeper in the land of Bollywood. If the editors did their job, and stuck to the manifesto they publish in every issue, they would have asked Adrian Martin, who couldn't possibly refuse unless he was a megalomaniac retard [EDIT: people with difability] who thought that the integrity of his unedited interview was more important for his career than to help this amateurish journal to realise its alleged mission. 
Excerpt from the Indian Auteur manifesto (1st Jan 2009):
"[..] We reject a system that encourages the above, despite its realization, and seek: [..] To work towards a film love which adopts a middle ground, to reinstate the cinema director to his deserved position, to celebrate Indian cinema of the past and the present, to examine its potential, we propose “The Delhi manifesto.”
If Adrian Martin wanted to promote anti-auterism, maybe it wasn't the right time or the right venue to do so... especially since he doesn't know how to review a film without using the auteurist jargon (see the comments in this post for a telling example). Obviously, his irrational attachment to a position that isn't his, was completely unexpected and inappropriate.

A year and a half after this interview, he writes his first non-auteurist article in Filmkrant (Jan 2011) and declares [a piece from a series on "Out of the Comfort Zone"]: 
"Film criticism (slow or fast, it's all the same) has to give up its abundant fantasies of judgement, discernment, purity [..] To do that, it will need to discard some of its hard-won habits and rituals, and open itself to first-time surprises. [..] ...And this is a first for me, for example: I have managed to write an entire article without mentioning a single film director's name." 
If it was "out of his comfort zone" to write an auteur-less article in 2011, maybe he wasn't really challenging the auteurist ways back in 2009! Hard to tell with guys who flash a disclaimer at any skeptics : "One thing I truly believe is that real critics and real cinephiles should have absolutely no track with common sense". Yeah, we can't really fault someone who warns you they are not going to make sense ahead of time...

Now about Adrian Martin's understanding of racism, and its trivialization to avoid having to justify his clumsy interview.

Basically our point of disagreement was whether it was pertinent to talk about "anti-auteurism" in this time and place. He frames it as if I was against discussing the limitations of auteurism (while I was the one who wrote in that question in his interview!!!), or against exposing Indian Auteur's readers to non-auteurist scholarship. 
Nitesh, editor of Indian Auteur, could testify that I tried to dissuade his idea that there was no Indian-Indie-friendly scholars in all India (or I could post my emails). 
Apparently, Adrian Martin (head of Film and Television Studies at Monash University) cannot comprehend the idea that defending an editorial line (established by the Indian Auteur team, not me!) might justify selecting the content that will be part of the journal, in order to increase supporters to their cause (auteurist criticism in India), rather than growing the ranks of detractors infatuated with the Bollywood star-system. How is that anti-Indian or "a bit racist in its implications" (as he puts it) on my part????? Philosopher my ass!
The simple fact that I'm not Indian, according to him, makes the formulation of any criticism against the content of such or such Film department of an Indian university automatically "racist". NON FUCKING SEQUITUR DUDE!

This is so underhanded and shameful to "poison the well" with the racist card, just to bail out of the debate (the fact he didn't reply to my reply, wherein I spared him the Ad Hominem notification, says it all about his intention to engage with the disagreement on an intellectually honest level!)
And this hypocrite dares to patronise me : "You don't know anything about me or my life or my work" before insulting someone. I doubt he knows enough "about me, my life, my work" to chance an insult of "racism"! 

Racism is a serious matter and very dangerous (especially in the wake of recent elections in France where the far-right FN unfortunately gained in popularity... which soiled the honor of my country!), and nobody should use this fallacious trump card to get out of a purely INTELLECTUAL argument. Abuse of (irrelevant) calls to racism attack will only undermine the actual meaning of this threat, and dull up the attention of readers for REAL racism!
*IF* the Indian scholars sucked (which is not my position as stated above), and *IF* I said so, it would NOT be a racist comment, but a purely intellectual evaluation of the CONTENT of their writing. Yes it is possible to disagree with scholars from a different country! It is part of the CRITICAL DISCOURSE, if you respect cross-examination and the right to criticism. And if my critical evaluation turned out to be wrong, it would disprove my point, it wouldn't make me a racist!

N.B. There is such a thing as "racist discriminations", sadly. But there is only ONE SINGLE race of human beings on Earth, there is no distinction needed on a racial level between populations or countries. We are all the same. Racism is ALWAYS a flawed form of exclusion. (See if critics cared about ethics...)

How ironic, the guy who calls Apichatpong, "Joe", in a print article, calls me a "racist" !

This is the guy who lectures me about collaborating with our "Indian friends" :
[Film-Philosophy mailing-list / 1 Oct 2009]
Would everyone who - like me - is thoroughly sick and tired of receiving the UNSOLICITED and utterly fatuous emails of INDRA KARAN please let this annoying person know in no uncertain terms that you are mad as hell and will not take it anymore! Since IK appears to be using the FILM-PHILOSOPHY mailing list as their personal mail-out line, it would be good for us to put our foot down on this collectively - OVER HALF A DOZEN REQUESTS from me to this person have not yet stopped the email abuse.
in swolidarity with everybody but Indra Karan, ADRIAN
Read the following messages to learn that this angry Adrian Martin was the only one receiving these unsolicited emails and that most respectable members defended this sympathetic Indian fellow (newly member), attacked by a bunch of intolerant and English-spelling control freaks on the list. 
I was shocked when I read this uncalled-for intervention in my in-box, coming from a "doctor in philosophy" (I guess they don't teach philoxeny and politeness in his philosophy curriculum), on a forum destined to strictly intellectual discussions (i.e. philosophical discussions!) 

A shame for any human being in general. And someone who calls himself a "film critic" MUST know better, by the very NATURE of his discipline!!!! The probity of Film Criticism isn't fixed soon...



1 commentaire:

HarryTuttle a dit…

"I am asking you politely to remove and cease posting private emails from me to you on your blogs. You can comment however you like about my public, published works, but to print and talk about private emails, as you are doing, is disrespectful of my rights as an individual citizen."
Adrian Martin (email 29 March 2011)

So first you demand censorship, then your plan-B is to go with "politeness", only in second thought? Is that how it works?
What could you do to deserve respect at this point?
I don't see apologizes. I bet you believe you've done nothing wrong and you're the victim here!
But then again, I'm French, so maybe I'm misreading this...

You see my email-reply in the post above? I held out a hand. You only had to answer "no thanks", in the past 12 months, if you worried about the publication of this email. I'm sorry you felt you were above honoring me with a reply... You made your choice NOT to solve this issue in private, AND you insulted me. You can only blame yourself now.

Next time you'll think twice before saying something stupid... hopefully.