Mia Farrow: “virtual hostage”

Irony alert
Those familiar with Farzaneh Milani’s path-breaking literary analysis will recognize the phrase “hostage narrative,” a term she has been devloping over many years to apply to that best-selling genre of politically tinged “true stories.” In these “hostage narratives,” women writers who are now “liberated” or “un-veiled” tell the world of their past “cultural captivity” in their native, usually Muslim lands.
In this genre, as Professor Milani documents, the line between “fact” and “fiction” gets lost, as those sympathetic to the “message” focus only on the cause served. It’s a great way to sell books and a shrewd way to “heat up” the political culture to support bombings and invasions to “liberate” the presumed hostages. Thus the sequel:
“Reading Lolita while bombing Tehran.”
(And oh by the way, are women now better off in today’s de facto Islamic Republic(s) of Iraq than they were under Saddam? Where’s columnist Ellen Goodman been on that?)
Veteran actress Mia Farrow now takes the “hostage narrative” to a new, virtual realm, with her over-the-top offer to exchange herself for the “freedom” of a Sudanese “dissident” rebel leader and Darfur advocate, Suleiman Jamous. Depending on the source you read, Jamous is a “virtual prisoner” who cannot leave a UN hospital and/or cannot leave the country for medical treatment.
To Sudan’s President, Ms. Farrow writes,

Mr. Jamous is in need of a medical procedure that cannot be carried out in Kadugli… Mr. Jamous played a crucial role in bringing the SLA to the negotiating table and in seeking reconciliation between its divided rival factions.
I am… offering to take Mr. Jamous’s place, to exchange my freedom for his in the knowledge of his importance to the civilians of Darfur and in the conviction that he will apply his energies toward creating the just and lasting peace that the Sudanese people deserve and hope for.

How curious. Ms. Farrow’s “courageous offer” to become a female hostage in a Muslim land is a recognizable stroke of p.r. brilliance. It’s getting widespread softball media treatment in the US, as anything supporting the long-suffering Sudanese Darfuris is “hip” in the US and must be “a good thing.” And besides, she’s a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, and what’s the harm — particularly if it helps focus the international microscope back on unresolved Sudanese nightmares? (US international broadcasting has been prominently featuring Ms. Farrow’s offer too….)
Ms. Farrow of course knows there isn’t a chance the Sudanese government will take her up on her offer to become a “hostage.” What a p.r. disaster for them that would be!
In her best acting yet, Ms. Farrow professes to the media the sincerity of her wish to be a real hostage. Indeed.
We’ll likely have to settle for Ms. Farrow keeping a journal for enthralled admirers of her “ordeal” as a surreal hostage-in-waiting – a “virtual hostage” on behalf of a “virtual prisoner.”
Oh the drama. I feel another best-seller in the works, no doubt for a worthy cause. (Aren’t they all? Though perhaps in Mia Farrow’s case, the title, “Not Without My Daughter” might be a bit inappropriate…..)
So what’s next? Hundreds, if not thousands, of Darfur activists on college campuses signing up to join Mia as “virtual hostages?” eh? Me & Mia? No doubt that’s too harsh.
I hear Ms. Farrow’s next movie will be a comedy.

21 thoughts on “Mia Farrow: “virtual hostage”

  1. Joshua

    Scott, I cannot fathom why you are upset by:
    1) Women from closed and repressive societies speaking out against those conditions.
    “Hostage Narrative?” How about “Speaking Truth to Power.
    And then there’s….
    2) People speaking out against perhaps the worst atrocity on earth at this moment, and stating their willingness to sacrifice their freedom for it.
    Where in the world do you come off claiming that those protesting the genocide in Darfur are not concerned with preventing wars?
    I guess if the target of the protests is not the U.S. or Israel, it’s not worthy enough for you.

  2. escott

    Jumpin’ jehosophat!
    Sing right along with the Amen chorus Joshua. You protest too much and illustrate the concern perfectly. How could anybody dare to challenge the bona fides of neocon-backed and “best selling” authors or, separately, a legendary actress? Surely not, we all know actors & actresses are genuine material, eh? I heard it proved last night on ET.
    (and by the way, I surely didn’t mean to cast aspersions on all celebrities who use their fame on behalf of political causes – Bianca Jagger is a favorite — but they’re not above reproach)
    In this case, come now, do you really think that darling Mia really thinks she’s gonna be a “hostage!?” It’s a fantastic publicity “strategy” — and one with absolutely no risk to Mia.
    By the way, about your wee slanderous quip, I’ll go right along, as a private citizen and researcher, with studying and protesting human rights abuses anywhere – on my own terms that prefer facts over hype. (I also said nothing negative here about the “long-suffering Sudanese dhofaris”– quite the contrary)
    In this case, I was wearing my analyst hat – as a long time student of rebel movements and the intense competions among them for “international legitimacy” and attention.
    Yet one might observe I paid Ms. Farrow a back-handed compliment — noting her shrewdness in tapping into the long established publisher proclivity to celebrate the “non-fiction” “hostage narrative.” Slick move on her part.

  3. Joshua

    Ok, so now concern about genocide in Sudan, or the oppression of women in Iran, is a “neocon” trait.
    Fortunately, I know of plenty progressive, liberal Americans who disagree with that formulation.
    Even if Mia Farrow’s claim is a symbolic one (and I see no reason to doubt her sincerity), she’s courageously speaking out against an atrocity.
    I wouldn’t hold it against anyone who chose not to do so. On the other hand, trying to demean such acts is just shameful.

  4. Scott

    FYI, (for those interested in the substance of the matter at hand, rather than the media strategy) see the “informed” and extended comment on both Farrows (mom & son) and on Suleiman Jamous by Swiss Journalist Kurt Pelda.
    http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/Article.aspx?id=1006
    Pelda is clear that he too wishes to see Mr. Jamous released, even as he is far more circumspect about the degrees of respect and support SJ commands (compared to the unqualified support from the Farrows)

  5. Scott

    See also this published entry from Pelda’s diary on an interesting and perhaps revealing encounter with Suleiman Jamous earlier this year (in March)….
    http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/article.aspx?id=984
    In a different context, I’m reminded of how Arafat at one moment would toy with even veteran international journalists — and at other moments in his career, actively court them. SJ plays the same “game” — one that also features both witting and un-witting advocates and lobbyists….
    I rather think of this as an oft’ overlooked, yet key aspect of Int’l relations today (whatever side happens to be your “favorite”)
    Of course, it hasn’t always been this way. Decades ago, I recall one book on early Sudan rebellions entitled, “The Grass Curtain,” referring to how the international community generally paid little interest to the conflicts in Sudan, despite efforts to “get the word out” (except when there was famine as a byproduct and all its horrific images)

  6. vadim

    for those interested in the substance of the matter at hand
    Substance? Who needs substance when there’s “ironic” guffaws to be had at the expense of “slick,” “shrewd” publicity hungry white wimmin!
    Well done Scott! I love your parody of cynical right-wing misogynist Bill O’Reilly. Poor Joshua clearly didn’t get the joke. More impressions please.

  7. Dick Fitzgerald

    It’s interesting that the author of “Reading Lolita In Tehran” has aligned herself with the most reactionary neocon elements @ Johns Hopkins.

  8. Salah

    how the international community generally paid little interest to the conflicts in Sudan, despite efforts to “get the word out” (except when there was famine as a byproduct and all its horrific images)
    Well done Scott, can you tell us from your experiences in ME how old this case please?
    As “Operation liberation of Iraq” (OIL) all turned be lies and all about OIL, so now you in the same “”neocon” trait ” or train about Sudan, off course no one like human tragedy happens in Sudan or in any place elsewhere, but Iraq a good example of human made tragedy Scott.
    Some call the Sudan tragedy worse than Iraq!! Which really out of the reality if counted by human suffering and number of people affected, but we all understand what propaganda we got and from.

  9. Scott

    Quick replies:
    to Dick Fitzgerald, I’m impressed you know about the AN & JHU/Wolfowitz tie…. It’s deeeeeeper than is commonly known…. :-}
    To Salah, I’ll owe you one on the exact book reference. If memory serves, it was one of Edgar O’Ballance’s books…. reviewing Anya I (etc.) about the “Secret War in the Sudan.” (dating from the 50’s)
    As others have noted already, it’s an interesting story why the Darfur has achieved considerable attention here in the US. By way of comparison, back in 1988, I may been a rare one in reading John Garang’s rather brilliant Ph.D. dissertation on development prospects for the Sudan — written at the Univ of Northern Iowa….
    Ya say who? Yup, “Dr.” Garang, long time war-leader of the S.P.L.A. — (black southern African Christians/animists) Garang had a miserable time getting measurable “legitmacy” for his cause from abroad.
    It happens a few years later I had a student whose father was a Congressman from Northern Virginia — and perhaps coincidentally…, Frank Wolfe (a Republican who had previously had little expertise on foreign affairs) later became a leading (and informed) voice in Washington re. the Sudan. (as part of a broad, bi-partisan effort that eventually helped broker the deals for the Sudanese south)
    And oh Vadim, you blew my cover. :-}
    I surely was doing the O’Reilly thing (or was it John Stewart?) too last year about this time w/ my little reverent tip towards the ascended one from Princeton….. (Mr. Lewis)
    http://justworldnews.org/archives/002075.html
    I’d like to think what little ironic ear I have can be bi-partisan…. :-}

  10. Michael Murry

    I remember seeing the Roman Polanski film, “Rosemary’s Baby,” a few decades ago. After watching Mia Farrow’s “performance,” I left the theater rooting for the “devil.”
    I take her ersatz offer to “become a hostage” about as seriously as I take Mitt Romney’s explanation of his five sons refusing to join the military because feathering their own nests — i.e., pursuing “other priorities” — in fact qualifies as the highest form of patriotism in America.
    Somehow, I can’t get an image out my mind from the movie “Shrek”: namely, that scene where the Ogre appeals desperately for some “other” fairy tale creature to lead him to Lord Farquad’s palace, only to continually see the annoying, talking donkey leap up from the cartoon crowd, again and again, shouting “Oh! Pick me! Pick me!” Faded, over-the-hill “movie stars” obsessively trying to score a little publicity off the misery of others strike me the same way.
    I’ll take Cindy Sheehan over Mia Farrow any day. For what we could have saved getting out of Iraq yesterday, we could use to help lots of deserving people in Dafur, Palestine, Lebanon and elsewhere — or even in America. Of course, that would mean putting and end to the “campaign for democracy” waged by the United States and Israel dropping tons of “collective punishment” ordnance on whomsoever they damn well choose. But, then, “chutzpah” does mean “belligerent, unmitigated gall;” and we certainly can’t stop demanding unconditional surrender as a “precondition” for “negotiating” with people “we can’t locate” because we already killed or imprisoned them.

  11. Joshua

    Wow, Scott is still PROUD of his post where he belittled Bernard Lewis of having Alzheimer’s disease (“Your best post yet!” chortled Helena).
    I really don’t care who allies themselves with Afar Nifisi. If certain people want to cede women’s rights and the freedom to read what you want to “neocons,” then that tells us more about their reactionary views than Nifisi’s.
    Let me stress, I do not consider Scott to speak for any meaningful constituency on the left. In my experience, most progressives think women’s rights and free inquiry is a good thing.

  12. Scott

    As would Farzaneh Milani, by the way, if you check the bio-link in my original post. She’s been a long time director of “women’s studies” here at the U. of Virginia.
    Perhaps you may find some of her forthcoming writings to be of special interest…. If I’m still around, I’ll let you know about them.
    BTW, I don’t recall questioning Mr. Lewis’ mental faculties in the least. (if you took it that way, that’s your call, not mine) My own mentor is pushing 80. I’m also against mandatory retirements for esteemed faculty…. :-}
    Yet considering the absurdity of what the exalted one had predicted, I was merely questioning his “prophetic credentials.”
    A “true” prophet among the believers would be able to claim 100% accuracy…. In neoconservative circles and Murdoch media, it seems the standard is a tad lower. When was the last time Lewis accurately predicted anything of substance? It might be “instructive” to put together an anthology of his opeds since 2001.
    cheers,
    Scott

  13. Joshua

    Scott, you are absolutely correct. It was Alastair who made the nasty “Alzheimer’s” jibe, not you. My apologies.
    I still think it’s incorrect to say that Lewis, one of the most venerable scholars in his field, is simply in the “neocon”

  14. JHM

    I don’t recall questioning Mr. Lewis’ mental faculties in the least. (if you took it that way, that’s your call, not mine) My own mentor is pushing 80. I’m also against mandatory retirements for esteemed faculty. Yet considering the absurdity of what the exalted one had predicted, I was merely questioning his “prophetic credentials.” A “true” prophet among the believers would be able to claim 100% accuracy…. In neoconservative circles and Murdoch media, it seems the standard is a tad lower. When was the last time Lewis accurately predicted anything of substance?
    This is to sadly misconceive what Wingnut City’s and Rio Limbaugh’s good ol’ boy Bernie has been up to lately, I fear. Did the Exalted One ever set himself as a “prophet” rather than a historian? I think not.
    Insofar as their faction’s factious neo-Bernie has stuck to irrefutable retrodiction rather than venturing upon rash prediction, has he not done great credit to his “mental faculties”? The only serious objection to their neo-Bernie is that he pulls his punches, that he could scribble a whole book about What Went Wrong? that points relentlessly at a certain conclusion never actually spelled out. I myself could easily tell you in twenty-five words or less exactly what neo-Bernie thinks went wrong with Arabs and Muslims, but to do so would be like giving away who killed Roger Ackroyd. Unless you have actually read such mystery thrillers as those of B. Lewis and A. Christie through for yourself, you’ll derive no profit at all from fortune-cookie-length summaries of their plots.
    “When was the last time Agatha Christie accurately predicted anything of substance?” would be an utterly absurd question to ask, would it not? And likewise with neo-Bernie, as far as I’m concerned. You really just plain gotta read their books to get that proper thriller thrill out of them! Quickie short-cuts won’t do.

  15. Salah

    “international legitimacy” and attention
    how the international community generally paid little interest to the conflicts in Sudan
    what’s the harm — particularly if it helps focus the international microscope back on unresolved Sudanese nightmares? (US international broadcasting has been prominently featuring Ms. Farrow’s offer too….)
    These are genuine concerns Scott, for you and for us and every minded person.
    So Scott, you look very determent to have Sudan case focused and dealt with internationally!!
    So then let’s come back to Iraq case what and why US working to take off the attention about Iraq occupation from international attentions apart from her alias who are helping here in Iraq?
    The media was full of stories of Iraq but US was very firm that any international interference be in her favour or been blocked to solve the atrocities taking place in Iraq for 5 years now.
    So what your work in this direction as a fan to helps focus on “international community” to resolving human disastrous around the glob?
    And how in case of Iraq that can work in your view?

  16. Salah

    Sudanese scholar Sayeed Al Khateeb said on Thursday that Darfur’s was basically a tribal conflict, which was compounded by the international community’s concerns due to a large number of internally displaced people.
    Speaking at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) on the “Latest Development in Sudan”, Al Khateeb said the crisis in Darfur was everyone’s fault, and none of the parties to the conflict could be absolved of the blame.
    (And oh by the way, are women now better off in today’s de facto Islamic Republic(s) of Iraq than they were under Saddam?
    In regards to your artistic skills of giving names for Iraq, it’s worth reading what Rauf Naqishbendi is a contributing columnist for Kurdishmedia.com and the American Chronicle and has written Op/Ed pages for the Los Angeles Times.
    In civilized nations, a constitution is the legal vehicle for the protection of individual rights and property, and serves to outline the power of the executive and legislative branches of government. However, though a constitution can be an expression of a decent conscience written by the greatest minds alive, it still is powerless to appeal to justice and liberty unless these ideals are part of the collective will of a country’s citizens and are evident in their interactions with each other.

    This is the dilemma in Iraq. The Shiites ignore the rest of the Iraqi fabric in order to advance their own agendas and please their Iranian Ayatollah counterparts. Regardless of how diligently they frame the Iraqi constitution, it will not be worth the paper it’s drafted on if the Shiites decide to act in accordance with their own hearts rather than in accordance with their constitution. For proof, just look at Iran. As they draft the constitution, they sway every article in their interest in order to disenfranchise the Kurds, which in turn provides the impetus for the Kurds to strive for their own statehood.

  17. Scott

    Thanks for the interesting links Salah.
    As for me being “determined” to have Sudan this or that, I should clarify that my first interest is in studying how various rebel movements (of all sorts of shapes) seek international legitimacy, why some (like the Kurds) obtain various degrees of it (but seem always on the verge of losing it) and others (like the Omani Dhofaris a generation ago or the “People’s Mujahedeen of Iran) generally have not been as successful in their quests for IL.
    There’s of course the flip side to the contest — how various status quo powers naturally may either be indifferent to or actively resist such “rebel” endeavors.
    Sudan is, of course, a long running case study – many sub-contests over decades. No doubt many here, beginning with Helena, know more of the ins & outs of the recent struggles on the ground.
    I may indeed have my own particular sympathies to the various conflicts as I learn about and keep tabs on them. My first focus though is as an observer, a “student” if you will, of the international strategies pursued — of the “game” — in documenting and understanding it.
    My apologies if that might at first seem cold or unfeeling to the justice of a given cause. Alas, I receive (and welcome) challenges from this or that side that wishes I was more “in their camp.”

  18. Salah

    I may indeed have my own particular sympathies to the various conflicts as I learn about and keep tabs on them.
    Off course every one had his personal or own “sympathies” Scott, but that should not in any way or form be a driving force to impose his will or thoughts upon the rest.
    If Sudan have failed to control the human tragedy which not new at all for us as ME citizenry who have studied Sudan struggling with hunger and poverty for different reasons (I am not can go in details in this) its really very wise that international community should rash to help the Sudanese firstly as a government and secondly as a state to restore the power of law and help here to achieve here desire to stop this human tragedy.
    In same talken Scott, this also applicable to Iraq , as the occupying force failed to stop and secure Iraq and Iraqi human tragedy there, then I believe, I think you agree here that International community should rush to help Iraqis to get out of this misery that brought to republic of Iraq which made it unfunctional state and unfunctional government, whatever US “own particular sympathies” have for groups or parties or personal that should not be blocked or stopped the interventions of international community to solve this human made tragedy, isn’t Scott?

  19. Salah

    Scott, you still did not give me your answers for my questions about Iraq human made Tragedy? Looks you trying skipping it!!

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