Désaméricanisation du monde: Obama-Poutine-Xin, même combat ! (But who’ll stop the Nobels from voting with their feet ?)

20 octobre, 2013
https://i2.wp.com/www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/02.05.04/gifs/alties-0406-ig-nobel.jpgIl est alarmant que l’intervention militaire dans les conflits internes à l’étranger soit devenue chose ordinaire pour les États-Unis. Est-ce dans l’intérêt de l’Amérique à long terme ? J’en doute. Des millions de personnes à travers le monde considèrent de plus en plus l’Amérique non comme un modèle de démocratie, mais un modèle reposant uniquement sur la force, fabriquant artificiellement des coalitions sous le slogan du « vous êtes avec nous ou contre nous ». Vladimir Poutine
Alors que les politiciens américains des deux partis politiques continuent à faire des aller-retour entre la Maison Blanche et le Capitole, sans parvenir à un accord viable pour apporter la normalité au corps politique, et qu’ils s’en vantent, c’est peut-être le bon moment pour le monde embrouillé de commencer à envisager la construction d’un monde dé-américanisé. (…) Des jours aussi inquiétants où les destinées des autres pays sont entre les mains d’une nation hypocrite doivent prendre fin. Un nouvel ordre mondial doit être mis en place dans lequel toutes les nations, grandes ou petites, riches ou pauvres, verront leurs intérêts clés respectés et protégés sur un pied d’égalité. (…) À cette fin, plusieurs mesure fondamentales doivent être prises pour soutenir un monde dé-américanisé. (…) Pour commencer, toutes les nations doivent respecter les principes fondamentaux du droit international, y compris le respect de la souveraineté et ne pas s’ingérer dans les affaires intérieures des autres. (…) En outre, l’autorité de l’ Organisation des Nations Unies dans la gestion des points chauds du monde doit être reconnue. Cela signifie que nul n’a le droit de mener toute forme d’action militaire contre d’autres sans un mandat de l’ONU. (…) En plus de cela, le système financier mondial doit également faire l’objet de certaines réformes importantes. (…) Les économies émergentes et en développement doivent avoir davantage leur mot à dire dans les grandes institutions financières internationales, y compris la Banque mondiale et le Fonds monétaire international, afin qu’ils puissent mieux refléter les transformations du paysage économique et politique mondial. (…) Autre élément clé d’une réforme efficace, l’introduction d’une nouvelle monnaie de réserve internationale qui doit être créée pour remplacer le dollar américain dominant afin que la communauté internationale puisse s’éloigner définitivement de la contagion de la crise politique intérieure des États-Unis qui s’intensifie. (…) Bien sûr, l’objectif de ces changements n’est pas de mettre complètement de coté les États-Unis, ce qui est également impossible » conclu l’éditorialiste. « Il s’agit plutôt d’encourager Washington à jouer un rôle plus constructif dans la lutte contre les affaires mondiales. Agence Xinhua
President Obama has shelled out more in federal spending than the five presidents that came before him. Elizabeth Flock
Here’s a real bitter irony for the GOP. At the same time as their ideology took an ugly beating in the reality department, the man they are determined to destroy has a better record at deficit reduction than any of their recent Presidents. In fact, government spending under President Obama has grown at a slower rate than it did under any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to Bloomberg (that’s over 50 years ago, if you’re counting). Ironically, this fact is due in part to their own obstructionism and President Obama’s endless compromises with them. Sarah Jones
Pour savoir qui sont réellement ces super-riches, accapareurs ou fainéants, il est intéressant de se plonger dans les travaux d’un chercheur, Edward N.Wolff, qui figure parmi ceux qui traque les inégalités depuis près de 20 ans. (…) Dans un rapport de 2010, il dévoile que 73,8% du patrimoine du 1% les plus riches sont dans des « unincorporated business », que nous croyons pouvoir traduire par entreprises individuelles, ces entreprises que leur fondateur n’a même pas constituées en sociétés à leur création mais tout simplement débuté en offrant ses produits ou services et qui sont restées sans statuts. Le grand public non averti pourrait penser que la fortune industrielle américaine est dans les grandes entreprises cotées, les Google, General Electric, les 40 entreprises du Dow Jones ou les 100 du Nasdaq. Erreur. Elles ne constituent que 11,8% du patrimoine total américain et 16,8% si l’on inclue les actions indirectement détenus à travers les fonds de pension, les OPCVM, etc. contre 20,1% [4] pour le patrimoine représenté par les entreprises individuelles. Plus de la moitié du patrimoine industriel américain est donc dans des entreprises non incorporées. De même d’ailleurs qu’en France. Dans son rapport 2010 sur les patrimoines 2007, Wolff confirme que les très riches américains sont ces créateurs d’entreprises individuelles, par cette phrase remarquable : « a somewhat startling 74 percent of the very rich reported owning their own business ». Pourquoi les entrepreneurs individuels représentent 75% des plus riches américains. C’est que la plus grande partie de la richesse d’une nation n’est pas créée par des élèves de grandes écoles ou universités, qui cherchent généralement des carrières sures au sein de grands groupes mais par des autodidactes qui, flair ou accident, débutent une activité en affichant simplement un panneau et ne s’embarrassent pas de statuts beaucoup trop compliqués ou coûteux. À force de travail et d’économies, leur activité grandit et ils finissent, aux USA, par constituer plus de 50% de l’actif industriel. On en trouve confirmation dans les travaux d’un autre chercheur [6]. C’est qu’un entrepreneur individuel ne peut généralement compter que sur lui-même – et son entourage familial –, pas sur les institutions financières, pour survivre en cas de retournement de la conjoncture économique et qu’il est donc conduit à accumuler de la richesse, à épargner, à s’enrichir au maximum, en vivant s’il le faut chichement, comme Sam Walton, le fondateur de la plus grande chaîne de distribution Wallmart qui roula dans sa vieille Ford plus de 20 ans, jusqu’à sa mort. (…) Ce qui nous conduit à penser que si la reprise américaine est si lente et si hésitante malgré les vannes de crédit largement ouvertes par la Federal Reserve, ce n’est pas que les circuits bancaires manquent de capitaux, c’est que les principaux agents de la croissance qui sont ces entrepreneurs américains, qui ont fait leur fortune généralement en partant de rien, ces riches américains n’ont plus confiance dans leur gouvernement et gardent leur fortune plutôt que de la risquer. Bernard Zimmern
Capital is a coward, and Mr. Obama has put the fear of uncertainty into capitalists. Take it from me, it’s hard to grow the pie — and thereby, hire more workers — when you are unsure how Washington is going to be divvying it up or what new rule it will come up with next. Mr. Moore points out that we’ve added 5,000 pages to the tax code in just the past 10 years. (…) Once upon a time, envy used to be a sin, but now it’s public policy. (…) “We tried tax cuts, and it didn’t work,” Mr. Obama claimed. He’s wrong. Experience is clear — be it from the Harding-Coolidge cuts of the 1920s, the Kennedy cuts of the 1960s, the Reagan cuts of the 1980s or the Bush cuts of the 2000s — taxing and spending doesn’t work, but cutting taxes grows the economy and brings in more revenue. As John F. Kennedy once put it, “A rising tide will lift all boats.” However, Mr. Obama, who once promised to control the tides, wants to control economic growth. (…) Has Mr. Obama reduced taxes on the middle class as he claims? Not quite. His tax-refundable credits cost the Treasury $81.49 billion a year. They are “welfare payments that masquerade as tax cuts,” Mr. Moore rightly notes. I agree with Mr. Moore that it would be fair if everyone paid at least something, but I think he may be overstating it a tad. The poor do pay taxes — they just pay them in forgone opportunity rather than with a check. Herman Cain
Under both Republican President Calvin Coolidge and Democratic President John F. Kennedy, high-income people paid more tax revenues into the federal treasury after tax rates went down than they did before. There is nothing mysterious about this. At high tax rates, vast sums of money disappear into tax shelters at home or is shipped overseas. At lower tax rates, that money comes out of hiding and goes into the American economy, creating jobs, rising output and rising incomes. Under these conditions, higher tax revenues can be collected by the government, even though tax rates are lower. Indeed, high income people not only end up paying more taxes, but a higher share of all taxes, under these conditions. This is not just a theory. It is what hard evidence shows happened under both Democratic and Republican administrations, from the days of Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. (…) The Democrats and Republicans both took positions during the Kennedy administration that were the direct opposite of the positions they take today. As Stephen Moore points out, « the Republicans almost universally opposed and the Democrats almost universally favored » the cuts in tax rates that President Kennedy proposed. Such Republican Senate stalwarts as Barry Goldwater and Bob Dole voted against reducing the top tax rate from 91% to 70%. Democratic Congressman Wilbur Mills led the charge for lower tax rates. Unlike the Republicans today, John F. Kennedy had an answer when critics tried to portray his tax cut proposal as just a « tax cut for the rich. » President Kennedy argued that it was a tax cut for the economy, that changed incentives meant a faster growing economy and that « A rising tide lifts all boats. » (…) ot only John F. Kennedy, but even John Maynard Keynes as well, argued that cutting tax rates could increase tax revenues and thereby help reduce the deficit. Because so few people bother to check the facts, Barack Obama can get away with statements about how « tax cuts for the rich » have « cost » the government money that now needs to be recouped. Such statements not only promote class warfare, to Obama’s benefit on election day, they also distract attention from his own runaway spending behind unprecedented trillion dollar deficits. Thomas Sowell
Reflecting the global mood, Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, editorialized last week that, with a possible U.S. default on the horizon, « it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world. » But then there is the Nobel Prize, and the fact that Americans, both native-born and immigrants, took home nine of them this year alone. Note to Xinhua: China, with 1.3 billion people, has produced a grand total of nine winners in its entire history. Of those nine, seven live abroad, including three in the U.S. Another, Liu Xiaobo, sits in a Chinese prison. How is national greatness best judged? The typical view is that what matters is size: Size of the economy, population, landmass, navy, nuclear arsenal. Hence the hysteria that China may overtake the U.S. in terms of GDP sometime in the next decade. Hence the treatment of middling powers such as Russia (with a GDP roughly that of Italy’s) as great powers. But a better metric for greatness is the ability of nations to produce, cultivate, attract and retain intellectual greatness. What is the ratio of Nobel laureates living in any one country to the total population? Russia, with a population of 142 million, has three living Nobel laureates, or one for every 47 million. So much for the land of Pasternak and Sakharov. A more interesting case is Israel. The Jewish state should be a Nobel powerhouse, given that Jews, 0.2% of the world’s population, have won 20% of all Nobels, including six prizes this year alone. But while Israel can claim nine living laureates, three of them live and teach mainly in the U.S. Why? « There are a lot of smart people in Israel and at the same time there was not a job, so he left, » Benny Shalev, brother of this year’s chemistry winner, Arieh Warshel, explained to the newspaper Haaretz. It isn’t enough for countries to produce geniuses. They also have to figure out how to employ them. Then there is Europe: Half a billion people with a comparatively minuscule Nobel representation. France has, by my count, just 10 living laureates. Germany does better, with nearly 30, although at least nine of them (including Henry Kissinger, physicist Arno Penzias, and this year’s medicine winner, Thomas Südhof ), have long lived in the U.S. Britain does about the same as Germany. Why is Europe such a Nobel laggard? In hindsight, evicting and killing most of its Jewish population was perhaps not the best idea—a lesson that still goes unlearned, considering the feverish efforts on European campuses to boycott Israeli academics. A more contemporary answer is the pervasive mediocrity of higher education throughout the EU. Cambridge and Oxford aside, the Shanghai Jiao Tong rankings list only one European university—the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich—in its top 30, and Switzerland isn’t even a member of the EU. Most European universities, overcrowded and underfunded, can’t hope to compete with their American peers. Which brings us to the Nobel superpower. Since 2000, Americans have won 21 of the 37 physics prizes, 18 of the 33 medicine prizes, 22 of the 33 chemistry prizes and an astonishing 27 of the 30 economics prizes. Pretty impressive considering our nonstop anxiety about failing schools, mediocre international test scores, undergrads not majoring in math or the sciences, and the rest. Singapore, South Korea and Finland may regularly produce the highest test scores among 15-year-olds, but something isn’t translating: Nobody from Singapore has ever won a Nobel. Korea has one—for peace. The Finns last took a science prize in 1967. The secret of America’s Nobel sauce isn’t hard to understand: an immigration culture that welcomed everyone from Ronald Coase (from the U.K.) to Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (from India) to Martin Kaplus (from Nazi-era Austria) to Elizabeth Blackburn (from Australia). A mostly private, highly competitive, lavishly endowed university system, juiced by federal funding for fundamental research. A culture of individualism and an ingrained respect for against-the-grain thinking. Bret Stephens

Attention: une désaméricanisation peut en cacher une autre !

Neuf prix Nobel dans toute son histoire dont sept vivant à l’étranger et trois aux Etats-Unis sans compter un en prison pour 1, 3 milliard d’habitants (Chine), trois prix Nobel vivant et à peine plus que le PIB italien pour le plus grand pays du monde et 147 millions d’habitants (Russie), 20% des prix Nobels de l’histoire et neuf encore vivant dont sept cette seule année mais trois travaillant la plupart du temps aux Etats-Unis pour 0, 2% de la population mondiale (Israël), dix Français, trente Britanniques et autant d’Allemands dont neuf vivant ou ayant vécu aux Etats-Unis pour un demi milliard-milliard d’habitants (Europe – finalement, l’expulsion ou l »extermination des Juifs n’était peut-être pas la meilleure des solutions), vingt-et-un des trente-sept derniers prix Nobel de physique, dix-huit des trente-trois Nobel de médecine, vingt-deux des derniers trente-trois de chimie, vingt-sept des derniers trente d’économie (Etats-Unis) …

Au lendemain, en cette saison des prix Nobel, où nos médias se félicitent de la victoire du plus rapide prix Nobel et accessoirement plus grand creuseur de déficits de l’histoire sur la prétendue folie du Tea party

En ces temps où, coup sur coup, les parangons de liberté tant de Moscou que de Pékin se paient le luxe de faire la leçon au supposé chef de file du Monde libre …

Pendant qu’un autre modèle de vertu démocratique fête à son inimitable manière son élection au Conseil de sécurité et qu’au pays de l’Obama français qui se voit ridiculiser par une petite Rom de 15 ans le matraquage fiscal continue …

Petite remise des pendules à l’heure, avec l’éditorialiste du Wall Street Journal Bret Stephens, sur la réalité de ce fameux monde qu’on est censé « désaméricaniser » …

Et ces prix Nobel qui refusent obstinément d’arrêter de voter avec leurs pieds …

Nobels and National Greatness

Anyone who thinks America’s best days are behind it should take a close

A look at the latest Nobel haul.

Bret Stephens

The WSJ

Oct. 14, 2013

In its proud and storied history, Hungary has produced a dozen winners of the Nobel Prize: four for chemistry; three for physics; three for medicine; one for economics; and one for literature. Not bad for a little country of not quite 10 million people.

But one curious fact: All of Hungary’s laureates ultimately left, or fled, the country. If you are brilliant, ambitious and Hungarian, better get out while you can.

I’ve spent the past week reading up on the Nobels, mostly to relieve the gloom emanating from Congress, the White House, the State Department, the GOP caucus. It’s paralysis time in D.C., and America-in- Decline time on the op-ed pages. Reflecting the global mood, Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, editorialized last week that, with a possible U.S. default on the horizon, « it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world. »

But then there is the Nobel Prize, and the fact that Americans, both native-born and immigrants, took home nine of them this year alone. Note to Xinhua: China, with 1.3 billion people, has produced a grand total of nine winners in its entire history. Of those nine, seven live abroad, including three in the U.S. Another, Liu Xiaobo, sits in a Chinese prison.

How is national greatness best judged? The typical view is that what matters is size: Size of the economy, population, landmass, navy, nuclear arsenal. Hence the hysteria that China may overtake the U.S. in terms of GDP sometime in the next decade. Hence the treatment of middling powers such as Russia (with a GDP roughly that of Italy’s) as great powers.

But a better metric for greatness is the ability of nations to produce, cultivate, attract and retain intellectual greatness. What is the ratio of Nobel laureates living in any one country to the total population? Russia, with a population of 142 million, has three living Nobel laureates, or one for every 47 million. So much for the land of Pasternak and Sakharov.

A more interesting case is Israel. The Jewish state should be a Nobel powerhouse, given that Jews, 0.2% of the world’s population, have won 20% of all Nobels, including six prizes this year alone. But while Israel can claim nine living laureates, three of them live and teach mainly in the U.S. Why? « There are a lot of smart people in Israel and at the same time there was not a job, so he left, » Benny Shalev, brother of this year’s chemistry winner, Arieh Warshel, explained to the newspaper Haaretz. It isn’t enough for countries to produce geniuses. They also have to figure out how to employ them.

Then there is Europe: Half a billion people with a comparatively minuscule Nobel representation. France has, by my count, just 10 living laureates. Germany does better, with nearly 30, although at least nine of them (including Henry Kissinger, physicist Arno Penzias, and this year’s medicine winner, Thomas Südhof ), have long lived in the U.S. Britain does about the same as Germany.

Why is Europe such a Nobel laggard? In hindsight, evicting and killing most of its Jewish population was perhaps not the best idea—a lesson that still goes unlearned, considering the feverish efforts on European campuses to boycott Israeli academics.

A more contemporary answer is the pervasive mediocrity of higher education throughout the EU. Cambridge and Oxford aside, the Shanghai Jiao Tong rankings list only one European university—the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich—in its top 30, and Switzerland isn’t even a member of the EU. Most European universities, overcrowded and underfunded, can’t hope to compete with their American peers.

Which brings us to the Nobel superpower. Since 2000, Americans have won 21 of the 37 physics prizes, 18 of the 33 medicine prizes, 22 of the 33 chemistry prizes and an astonishing 27 of the 30 economics prizes. Pretty impressive considering our nonstop anxiety about failing schools, mediocre international test scores, undergrads not majoring in math or the sciences, and the rest. Singapore, South Korea and Finland may regularly produce the highest test scores among 15-year-olds, but something isn’t translating: Nobody from Singapore has ever won a Nobel. Korea has one—for peace. The Finns last took a science prize in 1967.

The secret of America’s Nobel sauce isn’t hard to understand: an immigration culture that welcomed everyone from Ronald Coase (from the U.K.) to Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (from India) to Martin Kaplus (from Nazi-era Austria) to Elizabeth Blackburn (from Australia). A mostly private, highly competitive, lavishly endowed university system, juiced by federal funding for fundamental research. A culture of individualism and an ingrained respect for against-the-grain thinking.

The government shutdown is unfortunate; a default would be a disaster. But anyone who thinks America’s best days are behind us should take a close look at the latest Nobel haul. It says something that we take it for granted.

Voir aussi:

An Overdue Book: « Who’s The Fairest of Them All? »

Thomas Sowell

The New American

28 November 2012

If everyone in America had read Stephen Moore’s new book, Who’s The Fairest of Them All?: The Truth About Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America, Barack Obama would have lost the election in a landslide.

The point here is not to say, « Where was Stephen Moore when we needed him? » A more apt question might be, « Where was the whole economics profession when we needed them? » Where were the media? For that matter, where were the Republicans?

Since Who’s The Fairest of Them All? was published in October, there was little chance that it would affect this year’s election. But this little gem of a book exposes, in plain language and with easily understood facts, the whole house of cards of assumptions, fallacies and falsehoods which constitute the liberal vision of the economy.

Yet that vision triumphed on election day, thanks to misinformation that was artfully presented and seldom challenged. The title Who’s The Fairest of Them All? is an obvious response to liberals’ claim that their policies are aimed at creating « fairness » by, among other things, making sure that « the rich » pay their « fair share » of taxes. If you want a brief but thorough education on that, just read chapter 4, which by itself is well worth the price of the book.

A couple of graphs on pages 104 and 108 are enough to annihilate the argument about « tax cuts for the rich. » These graphs show that, under both Republican President Calvin Coolidge and Democratic President John F. Kennedy, high-income people paid more tax revenues into the federal treasury after tax rates went down than they did before.

There is nothing mysterious about this. At high tax rates, vast sums of money disappear into tax shelters at home or is shipped overseas. At lower tax rates, that money comes out of hiding and goes into the American economy, creating jobs, rising output and rising incomes. Under these conditions, higher tax revenues can be collected by the government, even though tax rates are lower. Indeed, high income people not only end up paying more taxes, but a higher share of all taxes, under these conditions.

This is not just a theory. It is what hard evidence shows happened under both Democratic and Republican administrations, from the days of Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. That hard evidence is presented in clear and unmistakable terms in Who’s The Fairest of Them All?

Another surprising fact brought out in this book is that the Democrats and Republicans both took positions during the Kennedy administration that were the direct opposite of the positions they take today. As Stephen Moore points out, « the Republicans almost universally opposed and the Democrats almost universally favored » the cuts in tax rates that President Kennedy proposed.

Such Republican Senate stalwarts as Barry Goldwater and Bob Dole voted against reducing the top tax rate from 91% to 70%. Democratic Congressman Wilbur Mills led the charge for lower tax rates.

Unlike the Republicans today, John F. Kennedy had an answer when critics tried to portray his tax cut proposal as just a « tax cut for the rich. » President Kennedy argued that it was a tax cut for the economy, that changed incentives meant a faster growing economy and that « A rising tide lifts all boats. »

If Republicans today cannot seem to come up with their own answer when critics cry out « tax cuts for the rich, » maybe they can just go back and read John F. Kennedy’s answer.

A truly optimistic person might even hope that media pundits would go back and check out the facts before arguing as if the only way to reduce the deficit is to raise tax rates on « the rich. »

If they are afraid that they would be stigmatized as conservatives if they favored cuts in tax rates, they might take heart from the fact that not only John F. Kennedy, but even John Maynard Keynes as well, argued that cutting tax rates could increase tax revenues and thereby help reduce the deficit.

Because so few people bother to check the facts, Barack Obama can get away with statements about how « tax cuts for the rich » have « cost » the government money that now needs to be recouped. Such statements not only promote class warfare, to Obama’s benefit on election day, they also distract attention from his own runaway spending behind unprecedented trillion dollar deficits.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is http://www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at http://www.creators.com.

Voir également:

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

WHO’S THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL?: THE TRUTH ABOUT OPPORTUNITY, TAXES, AND WEALTH IN AMERICA

By Stephen Moore

Encounter Books, $21.50, 136 pages

Herman Cain

The Washington Times

Saturday, November 3, 2012

« The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so, » Ronald Reagan once said. He might have been talking about tax policy.

Stephen Moore’s latest book, « Who’s the Fairest of Them All?: The Truth About Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America, » fairly sets our liberal friends straight on the issue that seems to be confusing President Obama and the general American public a lot — economics and, in particular, tax policy.

Mr. Moore, the senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, formerly president of the Club for Growth and a fellow of the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation, has an encyclopedic knowledge of the tax fights of the 1980s. He condenses that nearly three decades in public policy in a slim 119-page volume that is an accessible and thorough guide to understanding economic growth. He understands that if we don’t learn the lessons of the past, we’re bound to repeat the follies, and so he has taken aim squarely at their chief originator, President Obama. While Mr. Obama may think of himself as Snow White — « the fairest of them all » — when it comes to taxing, he’s really Dopey, treating the world as if the Laffer Curve didn’t exist, as if food stamps and unemployment insurance actually grow the economy.

We should have seen this coming. It wasn’t so long ago that Charlie Gibson asked candidate Obama about his support for hiking the capital gains tax, given the historical experience that whenever government increases that tax, it loses revenue. After much back and forth, Mr. Obama insisted: « Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness. »

Four trillion dollars of debt later and 4 million jobs fewer than four years ago, we have learned that what Mr. Obama meant by fairness was actually going to make the tax code far less fair. The richest 1 percent of taxpayers already pay almost 40 percent of all income taxes, but still Mr. Obama wants more, threatening the « fat-cat bankers » with higher taxes. Mr. Obama wants a tax rate of 42 percent on anyone making more than $250,000. In some states, taxation could well be more than 50 percent. Capital is a coward, and Mr. Obama has put the fear of uncertainty into capitalists. Take it from me, it’s hard to grow the pie — and thereby, hire more workers — when you are unsure how Washington is going to be divvying it up or what new rule it will come up with next. Mr. Moore points out that we’ve added 5,000 pages to the tax code in just the past 10 years.

Mr. Obama would like to have you believe it’s the rich whose taxes will go up, but the fact is that the poor and the middle class get stuck with the consequences. At the same time Mr. Obama threatens to raise taxes on capital gains and therefore discourage people from investing, he has gutted the most successful anti-poverty program ever — the 1996 welfare reform law — turning our safety net into a safety hammock. It doesn’t have to be this way. Once upon a time, envy used to be a sin, but now it’s public policy. We can change that.

Economic growth could return again. With the help of groups like the Job Creators Solutions, which I co-founded with Bernie Marcus, we can begin to help employers educate employees about why it is so pivotal — for the rich and poor alike — that growth continue.

« We tried tax cuts, and it didn’t work, » Mr. Obama claimed. He’s wrong. Experience is clear — be it from the Harding-Coolidge cuts of the 1920s, the Kennedy cuts of the 1960s, the Reagan cuts of the 1980s or the Bush cuts of the 2000s — taxing and spending doesn’t work, but cutting taxes grows the economy and brings in more revenue. As John F. Kennedy once put it, « A rising tide will lift all boats. » However, Mr. Obama, who once promised to control the tides, wants to control economic growth.

Has Mr. Obama reduced taxes on the middle class as he claims? Not quite. His tax-refundable credits cost the Treasury $81.49 billion a year. They are « welfare payments that masquerade as tax cuts, » Mr. Moore rightly notes. I agree with Mr. Moore that it would be fair if everyone paid at least something, but I think he may be overstating it a tad. The poor do pay taxes — they just pay them in forgone opportunity rather than with a check. Poor people aren’t stupid; they’re just poor. They know things aren’t working in this country, and while they may not connect it to the tax rate, they too know something is amiss.

My 9-9-9 plan and discussion of opportunity zones was to start that conversation. Mr. Moore favors a flat tax and eliminating the corporate tax. I’m willing to negotiate. Are Congress and the president?

Herman Cain is a co-founder of Job Creators Solutions and former candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Voir encore:

Idée reçue

Qui sont les très riches Américains ?

Idée reçue : le 1% le plus riche des Américains n’est pas constitué de financiers de Wall Street mais aux trois quarts d’entrepreneurs individuels.

Bernard Zimmern

Emploi 2017

18 avril 2013

Contrairement aux croyances largement répandues, le centile le plus riche des Américains n’est pas constitué des financiers de Wall Street mais aux trois quarts d’entrepreneurs individuels, à la tête d’entreprises non incorporées. Ils ont débuté leurs entreprises sans s’embarrasser de statuts et sont parvenus dans le premier centile des plus riches par leur travail et en économisant. Mais ils possèdent plus de la moitié de la fortune industrielle des États-Unis et c’est donc d’eux que dépendent la croissance et l’emploi. Ceci peut expliquer la faible reprise de l’activité américaine malgré les vannes du crédit ouvertes par la Banque Fédérale si ces entrepreneurs n’ont pas confiance dans leur gouvernement et ne veulent plus prendre de risques.

Un débat clé pour l’avenir de nos sociétés occidentales

Ce débat a agité et continue d’agiter l’Amérique puisque Barack Obama réclame une taxation spéciale des millionnaires et qu’il est même question d’instituer aux USA un impôt sur la fortune. Un débat qui concerne la France. Il n’aurait en effet guère d’incidence s’il s’agissait seulement de couper le superflu et, comme le suggèrent rien moins que deux prix Nobel, de punir les plus riches qui vivraient, au mieux d’une rente, au pire de l’exploitation de la sueur et du sang des plus pauvres.

Le hic, c’est que ce sont précisément les plus riches qui sont responsables de plus de la moitié de l’investissement dans les entreprises et l’emploi. Comme dans probablement la quasi-totalité des pays de l’Ouest. Et que, comme l’a fort bien rappelé l’OCDE, la lutte contre les inégalités commence par un travail : « L’emploi est la voie la plus prometteuse pour réduire les inégalités. Le principal défi consiste à créer des emplois plus nombreux et de meilleure qualité, offrant de bonnes perspectives de carrière et des chances réelles d’échapper à la pauvreté » [1].

Les très riches Américains sont aux trois quarts des entrepreneurs individuels, non incorporés

Pour savoir qui sont réellement ces super-riches, accapareurs ou fainéants, il est intéressant de se plonger dans les travaux d’un chercheur, Edward N.Wolff, qui figure parmi ceux qui traque les inégalités depuis près de 20 ans. Pour chiffrer la fortune des Américains et sa composition en fonction du niveau de fortune, il s’appuie sur les enquêtes du Survey of Consumer Finances effectué par le Federal Reserve Board, publiées tous les 2 ans et portant sur environ 5.000 ménages (avec échantillonnage spécial sur les ménages les plus riches pour tenir compte de leur petit nombre). Un des intérêts de ces enquêtes est qu’elles se sont répétées depuis 1983 et que le chercheur les commente et les analyse tous les 2 ans depuis 1994. Ses travaux sont d’autant plus crédibles que Wolff appartient plutôt au clan des égalitaristes, comme d’autres membres de son université semble-t-il, qu’au clan des entrepreneurs.

Dans un rapport de 2010, il dévoile que 73,8% du patrimoine du 1% les plus riches [2] sont dans des « unincorporated business » [3], que nous croyons pouvoir traduire par entreprises individuelles, ces entreprises que leur fondateur n’a même pas constituées en sociétés à leur création mais tout simplement débuté en offrant ses produits ou services et qui sont restées sans statuts.

Le grand public non averti pourrait penser que la fortune industrielle américaine est dans les grandes entreprises cotées, les Google, General Electric, les 40 entreprises du Dow Jones ou les 100 du Nasdaq. Erreur. Elles ne constituent que 11,8% du patrimoine total américain et 16,8% si l’on inclue les actions indirectement détenus à travers les fonds de pension, les OPCVM, etc. contre 20,1% [4] pour le patrimoine représenté par les entreprises individuelles. Plus de la moitié du patrimoine industriel américain est donc dans des entreprises non incorporées. De même d’ailleurs qu’en France.

Dans son rapport 2010 sur les patrimoines 2007, Wolff confirme que les très riches américains sont ces créateurs d’entreprises individuelles, par cette phrase remarquable : « a somewhat startling 74 percent of the very rich reported owning their own business » [5].

Pourquoi les entrepreneurs individuels représentent 75% des plus riches américains

C’est que la plus grande partie de la richesse d’une nation n’est pas créée par des élèves de grandes écoles ou universités, qui cherchent généralement des carrières sures au sein de grands groupes mais par des autodidactes qui, flair ou accident, débutent une activité en affichant simplement un panneau et ne s’embarrassent pas de statuts beaucoup trop compliqués ou coûteux. À force de travail et d’économies, leur activité grandit et ils finissent, aux USA, par constituer plus de 50% de l’actif industriel.

On en trouve confirmation dans les travaux d’un autre chercheur [6]. C’est qu’un entrepreneur individuel ne peut généralement compter que sur lui-même – et son entourage familial –, pas sur les institutions financières, pour survivre en cas de retournement de la conjoncture économique et qu’il est donc conduit à accumuler de la richesse, à épargner, à s’enrichir au maximum, en vivant s’il le faut chichement, comme Sam Walton, le fondateur de la plus grande chaîne de distribution Wallmart qui roula dans sa vieille Ford plus de 20 ans, jusqu’à sa mort.

Les entrepreneurs individuels, le facteur clé de la croissance, qui manque actuellement

En 2007, c’est pourtant ce 1% des plus riches qui représente 49,3% de toutes les actions et fonds communs de placement, 60,6% des placements financiers, 62,4% du « business equity » [7], donc représente plus de la moitié de la fortune industrielle américaine. Page 19 de son édition 2012, Wolff va même plus loin et rappelle que « comme montré tableau 6, les foyers du centile le plus riche (rangés par patrimoine) investissaient plus des trois quarts de leurs économies dans la propriété immobilière, les entreprises, des actions de sociétés et des placements financiers ».

Ce qui nous conduit à penser que si la reprise américaine est si lente et si hésitante malgré les vannes de crédit largement ouvertes par la Federal Reserve, ce n’est pas que les circuits bancaires manquent de capitaux, c’est que les principaux agents de la croissance qui sont ces entrepreneurs américains, qui ont fait leur fortune généralement en partant de rien, ces riches américains n’ont plus confiance dans leur gouvernement et gardent leur fortune plutôt que de la risquer.

Sur le web.

Notes :

OCDE (2011), Toujours plus d’inégalité : Pourquoi les écarts de revenus se creusent. ↩

Pour éviter toute ambiguïté, il écrit lui-même que les très riches sont les 1% les plus riches, pas les 10% ou tout autre décile. ↩

Table 6 page 49 « Recent Trends in Household Wealth in the United States » 2010 Edward N. Wolff. Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. ↩

Page 16, ibid. ↩

Page 16, même document. ↩

« Entrepreneurship, Business Wealth, and Social Mobility » par Gabriel Basaluzzo UT Austin / ITAM. ↩

Table 9 ibid. ↩

Is Obama Like Ike?

Michael Doran

October 2013

“I remember some of the speeches of Eisenhower,” Hillary Clinton said during a joint interview with President Obama in January. “You know, you’ve got to be careful, you have to be thoughtful, you can’t rush in.” It seems likely her memories were jogged by the reviews of Evan Thomas’s recent book, Ike’s Bluff, which argued that Eisenhower’s experience as a soldier and general taught him the limitations of exercising power. That book and a spate of other recent studies have established Ike firmly in the public mind as the very embodiment of presidential prudence.

They have also turned him into a posthumous adviser to the Obama administration. Before becoming secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel bought three dozen copies of David A. Nichols’s study of the Suez Crisis and distributed them to (among others) the president, Hillary Clinton, and Leon Panetta, his predecessor as secretary of defense. At Suez, Ike refused to support Britain and France when they (in collusion with Israel) invaded Egypt, and he effectively killed the intervention. Hagel’s lesson was clear: Don’t let allies drag you into ill-advised military adventures.

In an influential essay published last year in Time entitled “On Foreign Policy, Why Barack Is Like Ike,” Fareed Zakaria argued that when the president showed a wariness to intervene in places like Syria, he was displaying an uncanny resemblance to Eisenhower. The key quality that the two share, Zakaria argued, is “strategic restraint.” In his recent book, Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era (Princeton University Press, 200 pages), Joseph S. Nye of Harvard takes the argument even one step further. Nye claims Eisenhower was actually an early practitioner of what an Obama aide, speaking of the administration’s role in the ouster of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya, notoriously called “leading from behind.”

A cursory examination of Eisenhower’s actual Middle East policies reveals the hollowness of both this thesis and the notion that Eisenhower, as president, followed a strategy of restraint—especially as regards the Middle East. To be sure, he frequently exercised prudence in military affairs. He ended the war in Korea and did not intervene in 1956 when the Hungarians rose in revolt against their Soviet masters. Most notable of all, he refrained from intervention in Vietnam. But military prudence should not be confused with global strategy. Modern-day “restraintists” are quick to cite Eisenhower’s warning, in his farewell address, regarding the dangers of “the military industrial complex.” They typically forget, however, to quote his justification for it: “We face a hostile ideology—global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration.” Eisenhower, in other words, zealously prosecuted the Cold War. Indeed, contemporary critics diagnosed his administration as suffering from “pactomania,” an irresistible urge to organize alliances against Communism. Many historians now regard his reliance on the CIA, which toppled regimes in Iran and Guatemala, as anything but restrained. And there are also more public examples of Eisenhower flexing his presidential muscles.

There was Syria, for one. Then, as now, the country was at the center of a regional power struggle. In the summer of 1956, when the Syrian government began to drift toward the Soviet Union, Eisenhower instructed the CIA to topple it. By summer 1957, the spy agency had attempted to stage two coups, both of which failed. No sooner had Syrian counterintelligence rolled up the second plot than Eisenhower formulated another plan: fomenting jihad. He instructed the CIA to position itself in order to stir up violent disturbances along Syria’s borders. The goal was to present these incidents to the world as a threat—a Syrian threat—to the peace and security of the region. Syria’s neighbors would then use the unrest as a pretext to invade and topple the government in Damascus.

The trickiest part of the plan was convincing the Arab states to invade. In the hope that Saudi Arabia would help, Eisenhower wrote to King Saud. The letter expressed alarm over the “serious danger that Syria will become a Soviet Communist satellite.” It affirmed that “any country that was attacked by a Syria which was itself dominated by International Communism” could count on the United States for support. And then it closed with an appeal to Islam: “In view of the special position of Your Majesty as Keeper of the Holy Places of Islam, I trust that you will exert your great influence to the end that the atheistic creed of Communism will not become entrenched at a key position in the Moslem world.” The letter missed its mark. “Saud,” as the historian Salim Yaqub wrote, “had little interest in Eisenhower’s jihad.”

In praise of Ike’s pacific record, Zakaria notes that “from the end of the Korean War to the end of his presidency, not one American soldier died in combat.” The statistic is striking, but it creates a misleading impression. In truth, Eisenhower had the one quality all successful leaders have: He was lucky. Any number of his policies could easily have backfired, producing a much less impressive statistic. The Syrian crisis of 1957 is a case in point. While Eisenhower was attempting to generate a jihad, the Turkish government amassed 50,000 troops on the Syrian border. The move provoked the Soviets. In an interview with the New York Times, Nikita Khrushchev, then the Soviet premier, publicly accused the United States of fomenting the crisis and issued a warning to the Turks: “If the rifles fire,” he said bluntly, “the rockets will start flying.” Secretary of State John Foster Dulles immediately came to the aid of the Turks: “If there is an attack on Turkey by the Soviet Union,” he said, “it would not mean a purely defensive operation by the United States, with the Soviet Union a privileged sanctuary from which to attack Turkey.” In such tense circumstances, a miscalculation by a Turkish, Syrian, or Soviet commander could have dragged the United States into an extremely ugly conflict. History, in that case, would have produced less impressive statistics.

Zakaria also happens to be factually wrong. A number of soldiers did die on Eisenhower’s watch—three, to be exact. One fell to an enemy sniper; the other two to friendly fire. All of them died in Lebanon during the 1958 intervention. Zero or three—either way the record is remarkable, but the fallen Marines should remind us of an important fact: Eisenhower, when the situation required, did not shrink from entering a messy conflict.

In the first half of 1958, Camille Chamoun, the Lebanese president, was battling an insurgency and strongly urged Eisenhower to come to his assistance. The insurgents were receiving support from Syria, which by this time had merged with Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt to form the United Arab Republic. Eisenhower feared a quagmire and resisted calls to intervene. But overnight, his calculus changed.

When Eisenhower went to bed on Sunday, July 13, Iraq was an ally—“the country,” he wrote in his memoirs, “that we were counting on heavily as a bulwark of stability and progress in the region.” By the time he woke on Monday, the bulwark had collapsed. In the early morning hours, renegade army officers staged a successful coup, destroying Iraq’s Hashemite monarchy and replacing it with an Arab nationalist republic that Eisenhower feared might align with the United Arab Republic and its Soviet patron. In a mere instant, a Cold War ally had disappeared.

Fearing a push by Nasser and the Soviet Union against all Western-leaning states of the region, a number of American allies—including the Lebanese, Saudis, and Jordanians—called for immediate intervention by the United States. Cairo and Moscow, they argued, must be put on notice that the Americans would not let their remaining friends go the way of the Iraqi monarchy. If the United States failed to intervene, the Saudi king informed Eisenhower, it would be “finished” as a power in the region. Eisenhower sprung to action with remarkable speed. Within a few hours, he gave the order to send in the Marines to bolster the resolve of allies and reinvigorating the deterrent capability of the United States.

Almost immediately, Eisenhower invited a bipartisan group of congressional leaders to the White House for a briefing. Sam Rayburn, the speaker of the House, expressed concerns: “If we go in and intervene and our operation does not succeed, what do we do then?” He also worried that “the Russians would threaten general war.” Eisenhower replied that it was impossible “to prophesy the exact course of events. If we do or if we don’t go in, the consequences will be bad.” He calculated, however, that it was crucial to take “a strong position rather than a Munich-type position, if we are to avoid the crumbling of our whole security structure.” Rayburn also believed that “intervention would intensify resentment against us throughout the area.” Eisenhower shared his fear.

The Lebanon intervention, we now know, went as cleanly as any such operation in history. At the moment of decision, however, Eisenhower regarded the venture as highly risky—so dangerous, in fact, that it reminded him of giving the go order on D-Day, the most momentous event of his life. “Despite the disparity in the size of the two operations,” he wrote in his memoirs, “the possible consequences in each case, if things went wrong, were chilling.” What, in particular, made the intervention so dangerous? “In Lebanon, the question was whether it would be better to incur the deep resentment of nearly all of the Arab world (and some of the rest of the Free world) and in doing so to risk general war with the Soviet Union or to do something worse—which was to do nothing.”

Over the last year, a parade of America’s Middle Eastern allies have made their way through the White House, raising the alarm of Syria, and urging Obama to organize a more robust international response. Unlike Ike, Obama calculated that doing nothing was preferable to taking actions that have uncertain outcomes. As a result, when Obama finally decided that some response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons was necessary, he found himself almost bereft of allies.

And what about Nye’s favorable comparison of Obama’s foreign policy with Eisenhower’s? “An incautious comment by a midlevel White House official characterized the Libya policy as ‘leading from behind,’ and this became a target for political criticism,” Nye writes, but adds that “Eisenhower was a great exemplar of knowing that sometimes it is most effective to keep a low profile and to lead from behind.”

This is an act of rhetorical legerdemain. Nye’s use of the term gives the impression that two very different things are actually one and the same. With respect to Obama, “leading from behind” describes his administration’s policy toward Libyan intervention. With respect to Ike, it describes his management style, which Fred Greenstein famously called “the hidden-hand presidency.”

In Eisenhower’s day, intellectuals almost universally regarded him as an amiable dolt, more golfer than strategist. Before Greenstein (together with Stephen Ambrose and others) set the record straight in the 1980s, it was widely assumed that John Foster Dulles was the man who actually ran American foreign policy. Using declassified documents, Greenstein and his cohort showed that Eisenhower was resolutely in charge, a master of detail, fully in command of strategy and tactics. Eisenhower might have put Dulles out front and center stage, but he was always guiding him with a “hidden hand.”

The diary of Jock Colville, Winston Churchill’s right-hand man, provides a vivid example of Eisenhower’s skills at “gentle persuasion,” to use Nye’s phrase. After Stalin died in March 1953, Churchill, then in his final term as prime minister, perceived signs of moderation in Moscow. He began a campaign to convince Eisenhower to convene a summit with the USSR on the model of the great wartime conferences. Ike repeatedly rebuffed Churchill, who eventually made his differences with Eisenhower publicly known. Tensions came to a head in Bermuda in December 1953 at a conference attended by the leaders of the United States, Britain, and France. During one of the opening meetings, Churchill immediately delivered an eloquent appeal for engaging the new Soviet leaders. Eisenhower, Colville writes, was enraged. He reacted with “a short, very violent statement, in the coarsest terms,” likening the Soviet Union to “a whore” whom the United States would drive off the main streets. Colville was shocked by Eisenhower’s profanity. “I doubt,” he noted, “if such language has ever been heard at an international conference.”

Now consider: The Islamic Republic of Iran recently elected a new president, Hassan Rouhani, whom many observers regard as a moderate. Those observers have been urging Obama to engage with him directly, just as Churchill urged Ike. Imagine a conference between Obama and a delegation of European leaders who argue eloquently for reaching out to Rouhani. Obama springs up, enraged. The veins in his forehead pop out, throbbing. He launches into a profanity-laced tirade. “Iran,” he thunders, “is a whore and we are going to drive her off the streets of the Middle East.”

If Obama were truly like Ike in foreign policy, this thought experiment would not be a fanciful one.

The popular association of the Eisenhower administration with “strategic restraint” is itself he product of historical revisionism. It was not the contemporary view. Until the 1980s, most pundits believed the opposite. Their view was perfectly distilled in Townsend Hoopes’s The Devil and John Foster Dulles (1973). The unstated goal of the book was to saddle the Republicans with responsibility for the Vietnam War—no mean feat, given that Democrats Kennedy and Johnson had made the key decisions to intervene. Nevertheless, Hoopes found an ingenious method to lay the responsibility squarely on Eisenhower’s shoulders—or, more precisely, on the shoulders of his secretary of state.

John Foster Dulles’s influence, Hoopes explains, was so immense that it extended beyond the Republican Party. Dulles managed to shape the zeitgeist by establishing in the broad culture the unassailable sanctity of “America’s posture of categorical anti-Communism and limitless strategic concern.” Once he successfully stamped the culture with anti-Communist zealotry, the Democrats had no choice but to follow its inexorable logic, which led to imperial overreach in Vietnam. “In early 1968,” Hoopes writes, “when the Tet offensive and Lyndon Johnson’s withdrawal from further political combat tore away the final veil hiding the misperception and failure of America’s freedom-defending and nation-building in South Vietnam, I faced, along with many others, the dawning of the realization that an era in American foreign policy had ended.”

This was hysterically overwrought, obviously, but in its day, intellectuals took the argument seriously. It’s worth considering why. Caricature, of course, exaggerates recognizable aspects of reality. In the 1970s, the very real anti-Communism of the Eisenhower era was still a part of living memory. “Mutual Assured Destruction,” “the domino theory,” “brinkmanship”—these 1950s catchphrases reverberated, testifying to the fact that Ike, even while steering clear of military adventures, took the fight to the enemy. By contrast, contemporary audiences know Ike only from history books such as Greenstein’s, which emphasizes Eisenhower’s pragmatism precisely in order to supplant the prevailing caricature of his stupidity.

Still, there was more than just a grain of truth to Hoopes’s presentation. Ike operated in a specific ideological context. To detach “Ike the pragmatist” entirely from it is to draw a caricature every bit as distorted as “Dulles the zealot.”

Zakaria sees Ike and Obama as uncannily similar for exhibiting “strategic restraint” in their Middle East policies. That Obama has been restrained is undeniable. In what way, however, is his reluctance to use military force “strategic”? What larger plan does the policy serve? The best answer came last March from Tom Donilon, his former national-security adviser. The Obama administration, he explained in an interview, had determined that the United States was “over-invested in our military efforts in South Asia and in the Middle East.” At the same time, it was “dramatically under-invested” in Asia, which was “the most economically dynamic region in the world.” Therefore, it was “rebalancing” to Asia.

So Obama, the global strategist, pores over a huge map spread out on the table before him. Using his pointer stick like a croupier, he slides pieces from the Middle East to Asia. That’s all well and good on the global level, but what about the Middle East? The region is undergoing an epochal transformation. Where does the president see it headed? What is the American role in guiding it there?

In May 2011, a few months after the Arab Spring first broke out, Obama identified a powerful movement toward freedom and democracy and reached out his hand in partnership. “The question before us,” Obama said at the time “is what role America will play as this story unfolds.” He answered with clarity: “There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity.” Only two years later, he struck a less hopeful note. In the Middle East, he said, “there are ancient sectarian differences, and the hopes of the Arab Spring have unleashed forces of change that are going to take many years to resolve. And that’s why we’re not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else’s war.”

Where Obama was nurturing democracy two years ago, he is now arguing for quarantining sectarian violence. This blatant shift raises even more questions. Will this sectarianism burn itself out, or will the conflagration grow? What security structures will best contain it? How will the “rebalancing” to Asia help build them? One suspects that there are no answers to any of these questions, because the decision to pull back was disconnected from a larger vision of the Middle East. “Strategic restraint,” when applied to Obama’s policies, is synonymous with “strategic neglect.”

That was not true of Eisenhower’s policies. His eight years in office also coincided with a revolutionary wave. The old imperial and colonial order was crumbling. A new one, dominated by secular pan-Arab nationalism, was taking its place. Eisenhower saw it plainly and formulated a strategy to deal with it. His goal was to channel the nationalism of the region away from the Soviet bloc and toward the West by offering security and economic assistance. The United States was engaged in a delicate balancing act, supporting its European allies against the Soviet Union while simultaneously facilitating the rise of the independent nations of the Middle East, which were hostile to the Europeans.

It is impossible to understand any of Ike’s major moves without reference to this vision. Take, for instance, the Suez Crisis, which Zakaria cites as a prime example of “strategic restraint” and which Hagel holds up as a model for Obama. When Eisenhower turned against his allies, he did not do so out of any overarching commitment to “restraint.” He simply believed Britain and France were alienating Arab nationalists and destroying the prospect for a strategic accommodation between the Arab states and the West. He therefore shunted the Europeans aside—in what was actually the most dramatic assertion of American primacy of the Cold War.

In the midst of the crisis, he announced the Eisenhower Doctrine, a unilateral American commitment to defend the entire Middle East. His doctrine put the world on formal notice that the United States was replacing Britain as the dominant power in the region. The result of Ike’s “strategic restraint” was a massive increase in the global responsibilities of the United States. Obama’s restraint represents an attempt to shed those responsibilities.

The Ike–Obama analogy creates an illusion of commonality and historic continuity where none exists. It is bad history, because it depicts Eisenhower as a two-dimensional figure, entirely detached from his key associates and their core beliefs. At the same time, the analogy presents us with a distorted view of Obama. The Eisenhower Doctrine asserted American primacy in the Middle East, and every president since has regarded it a vital American interest to shape the international order of the region. Every president, that is, except the present one.

The old order in the Middle East is crumbling. The enemies and rivals of the United States—Russia, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda—are working assiduously to mold the new order that benefits them. Their efforts, which are often in conflict, have ignited a great fire. Unlike his predecessors, Barack Obama has determined that the United States is best served by hanging back. This is a sharp break with the past—especially with Eisenhower. Those desperately looking to burnish Obama’s reputation when it comes to foreign policy by associating it with that of a successful presidency will have to look elsewhere.

About the Author

Michael Doran, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration, is the Roger Hertog Senior Fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He is finishing a book on Eisenhower and the Middle East. He tweets @Doranimated.

Voir enfin:

Pourquoi les Français sont « en colère » : le rapport secret des préfets

François Bazin

Le Nouvel Observateur

19-10-2013

Un rapport confidentiel des préfets montre les racines d’une exaspération qui peine à s’exprimer sur le terrain social, mais qui menace de tout emporter dans les urnes.

C’est une note de quatre pages, classée « confidentiel » et rédigée par le ministère de l’Intérieur. Chaque mois, les services de Manuel Valls, sur la foi des rapports que leur adressent les préfets, rédigent une « synthèse », qui est une manière de plonger dans les méandres de l’opinion publique. Elle dit l’esprit du temps, le moral des élus et l’humeur des Français, ceux que l’on entend peu dans les grands médias et qui représentent ce que certains appellent « le pays profond ».

La dernière en date de ces synthèses a été publiée le 27 septembre dernier. Elle est remontée illico jusqu’au sommet de l’Etat et a été jugée suffisamment inquiétante à l’Elysée et à Matignon, pour que, cette fois-ci, elle soit communiquée aux principaux dirigeants de la majorité.

La France gronde, les Français sont en « colère « . Ce mot-là, François Hollande, en déplacement la semaine dernière en Haute-Loire, l’a d’ailleurs prononcé publiquement. Dans la synthèse des préfets, il ne figure pas de façon explicite. Mais c’est tout comme ! Les casquettes de la République n’ont pas l’habitude d’employer les formules chocs et les phrases qui claquent. C’est ce qui fait tout l’intérêt de la note du 27 septembre.

Il faut savoir la décoder pour mesurer son caractère alarmiste. Tout est écrit par petites touches qui signalent, une à une, les sources d’un mécontentement qui monte, qui tourne, qui s’alimente parfois à de petits riens dont on mesure toutefois combien ils pourraient devenir explosifs si demain ils devaient se cristalliser dans un même mouvement. On n’en est pas encore là. C’est ce qui explique, au bout du compte, un climat insaisissable fait d’aigreurs accumulées, sur fond de ressentiment à l’égard de ce qui vient d’en haut, du pouvoir parisien, de ceux qui gouvernent l’Etat.

« Un sentiment d’abandon »

Le premier point mis en exergue par les préfets porte sur le monde rural. Celui-ci « s’organise pour revendiquer une spécificité de traitement dans les réformes en cours ». A quelques mois des municipales, il n’y a rien là de secondaire.

Si le redécoupage cantonal « ne suscite guère de réactions dans l’opinion, il fait parfois l’objet de débats enflammés dans les exécutifs locaux ». Plus que « des accusations partisanes », les préfets notent ainsi « les inquiétudes sur les conséquences d’un tel redécoupage sur le maillage territorial des services publics et l’éligibilité à certaines subventions ou projets d’équipements ».

Le discours qui monte est tout entier dirigé « contre l’hégémonie des métropoles » que le gouvernement serait en train d’organiser à travers la loi Lebranchu. Chez les petits élus, tout fait désormais sens : les restructurations liées au vote de la loi de programmation militaire aussi bien que la réforme Peillon des rythmes scolaires. Le sentiment qui domine est « un sentiment d’abandon ».

Le deuxième point abordé par les préfets a davantage fait les gros titres des médias. »Inquiets du discours antifiscal qui pourrait favoriser les extrêmes, écrivent-ils, les élus considèrent que les limites du consentement à l’impôt sont atteintes. »

Là encore tout converge : « Dans les esprits où domine la hantise du chômage et de la baisse du pouvoir d’achat, la hausse de la fiscalité devient un élément anxiogène de plus. » L’expression utilisée est celle de « choc psychologique » pour « des foyers jusque-là non imposables ». A preuve,  » l’afflux record dans certains centres de finances publiques de contribuables à la recherche d’informations « .

Dans ce contexte, « les élus confient avoir constaté la radicalisation des propos de leurs administrés qui fustigent ‘un matraquage fiscal’ et ‘une hausse insupportable d’impôts qui financent un système trop généreux’. » Et les préfets de conclure : « La menace de désobéissance fiscale est clairement brandie. »

Le troisième point abordé par les casquettes de la République porte sur « l’évolution des modes de délinquance ». « Médiatisation croissante des faits divers par les médias locaux […] dans des régions qui s’en croyaient indemnes » ; « cambriolages, délinquance de proximité, incivilités » : la formule choisie pour résumer le sentiment des Français se passe de commentaire.

Tout cela « inquiète autant que cela exaspère ». C’est ce qui conduit les préfets à souligner que « la population semble désormais prête à s’impliquer davantage dans la lutte contre la délinquance à travers des opérations comme ‘voisins vigilants’ ou ‘alertes commerce' ».

Enfin, sur un mode un peu plus positif au regard des mesures prises récemment par le gouvernement avec notamment la baisse de la TVA sur la rénovation de logements, les préfets soulignent « la situation de détresse » qui est aujourd’hui celle des professionnels du bâtiment.

Loin du discours convenu sur les bienfaits supposés du statut d’auto-entrepreneur, ils rappellent ainsi que « dans certains départements, près de 70% des créations d’entreprises artisanales » relèvent de ce dit statut. Ce qui, ajouté à « la concurrence d’entreprises étrangères qualifiée de low cost », entretient un discours récurrent sur la « concurrence déloyale ».

Ras-le-bol fiscal

Faut-il dès lors s’étonner que le Front national monte dans les sondages ? Sentiment d’abandon des zones rurales, ras-le-bol fiscal, augmentation de la petite délinquance, détresse du monde artisanal : on retrouve là tous les ingrédients qui, mis bout à bout, nourrissent le programme lepéniste dans ce qu’il a de plus tristement classique. Durant l’été dernier, Hollande confiait volontiers son inquiétude de voir la réforme des retraites « unifier » un mécontentement latent.

« Si ça prend, disait-il en privé, toutes les catégories qui grognent oublieront leurs antagonismes pour se retrouver derrière la première manif venue. » Le danger n’est plus là. La réforme des retraites, bouclée fin août avec un sens achevé de l’équilibre hollandais, a étouffé dans l’oeuf le mouvement social et du même coup mes projets assassins de la gauche Mélenchon, en lien avec les secteurs les plus durs de la CGT ou de FO.

Sur le front de l’emploi qui s’améliore doucement, les plans sociaux qui tombent provoquent plus de ressentiments que de mobilisations. De même qu’il existe des grèves perlées, on voit s’installer une colère diffuse qui entretient dans le pays ce curieux climat où l’insatisfaction domine sans que jamais elle ne s’exprime de manière unifiée dans la rue.

« Ne comptez plus sur notre bulletin de vote »

Aujourd’hui, on en est là. Les sondages le disent. Les préfets le confirment. Les plus expérimentés des élus de gauche confient, la peur au ventre, que cette situation leur rappelle celle qui prédominait avant leur déroute des législatives de 1993. « Les gens se taisent. Bien sûr, sur les marchés, nos sympathisants viennent râler. Mais tous les autres ont le visage fermé, témoigne un député d’Ile-de-France. Ils se contentent d’un ‘C’est dur, hein !’ dont on sent bien qu’il veut dire ‘Ne comptez plus sur notre bulletin de vote’.  »

L’abstention, voilà l’ennemi. Celui qui fait trembler les candidats de l’actuelle majorité, à l’approche des municipales. Avec, en toile de fond, une attention croissante au discours lepéniste, perçu comme la dernière manifestation possible de ce refus du « système » qui fait désormais florès.

Dans ce climat délétère, tout est désormais fléché pour que la colère qui monte se porte sur le seul terrain électoral. Quand Jean-François Copé répète à tout-va que la seule manière de « sanctionner le pouvoir » est de favoriser une « vague bleue » aux prochaines municipales, mesure-t-il qu’il ne se trompe sur rien, sauf sur la couleur exacte d’un vote qui s’annonce essentiellement « bleu Marine » ? Face à cela, la majorité ne peut compter que sur l’implantation de ses élus sortants. Elle tente de faire souffler sur le pays un air d’optimisme, encouragé par la croissance qui revient et la courbe du chômage qui devrait s’inverser à la fin de l’année.

C’est peu et beaucoup à la fois. C’est un peu tard surtout pour espérer que le courant qui enfle, dans les profondeurs du pays, puisse être freiné dans les mois à venir. En 2014, immanquablement, tombera la facture. Pour Hollande, comme pour la droite républicaine, il n’y a guère de raison de penser qu’à la colère qui gronde, ne succédera pas, demain, une de ces sanctions dont on ne pourra pas dire qu’elle est venue par surprise.


Religion/neurones miroirs: Comme le Père m’a aimé (Keeping God real is what’s hard)

19 octobre, 2013
Photo : AS THE FATHER HATH LOVED ME (keeping God real is what’s hard)The moment I wake up before I put on my make up I say a little prayer for you ... I run for the bus dear, while riding I think of us dear I say a little prayer for you ... At work I just take time and all through my coffee break time I say a little prayer for you ... Aretha Franklinhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgahyfSGpVYBut it's so hard loving you ...The Beatles  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB7Syh_iY84It may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.Bob Dylan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AWgnsYECLohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLFNTBcPNfQAs the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you (...) This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you ...Jesus (John 15: 9-12)For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.Jesus (Matthew 11: 38)Jack (...)  set aside an hour and a half each day for this. He’d spend the first 40 minutes or so relaxing and clearing his mind. Then he visualized a fox (he liked foxes). After four weeks, he started to feel the fox’s presence, and to have feelings he thought were the fox’s.(...) For a while he was intensely involved with her, and said it felt more wonderful than falling in love with a girl. Then he stopped spending all that time meditating — and the fox went away. It turned out she was fragile. (...) The mere fact that people like Jack find it intuitively possible to have invisible companions who talk back to them supports the claim that the idea of an invisible agent is basic to our psyche. But Jack’s story also makes it clear that experiencing an invisible companion as truly present — especially as an adult — takes work: constant concentration, a state that resembles prayer.It may seem paradoxical, but this very difficulty may be why evangelical churches emphasize a personal, intimate God. While the idea of God may be intuitively plausible — just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are atheists who have prayed for parking spots — belief can be brittle. Indeed, churches that rely on a relatively impersonal God (like mainstream Protestant denominations) have seen their congregations dwindle over the last 50 years. To experience God as walking by your side, in conversation with you, is hard. Evangelical pastors often preach as if they are teaching people how to keep God constantly in mind, because it is so easy not to pray, to let God’s presence slip away. But when it works, people experience God as alive.Secular liberals sometimes take evolutionary psychology to mean that believing in God is the lazy option. But many churchgoers will tell you that keeping God real is what’s hard. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/opinion/luhrmann-conjuring-up-our-own-gods.html?_r=0The essence of this mechanism — called the mirror mechanism — is the following: each time an individual observes another individual performing an action, a set of neurons that encode that action is activated in the observer’s cortical motor system. The mirrormechanism was originally discovered in the ventral premotor cortex of the macaque monkey ... Single-neuron recordings showed that this area contains neurons — mirror neurons — that discharge both when a monkey executes a specific motor act and when it observes another individual performing the same motor act. Mirror neurons do not fire in response to a simple presentation of objects, including food. Most of them do not respond or respond only weakly to the observation of the experimenter performing a motor act (for example, grasping) without a target object.There is convincing evidence that an action observation–action execution mirror circuit also exists in humans. This evidence comes from brain imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroencephalography (eeG) and magnetoencephalography (MeG) studies. The crucial issue concerning the parieto-frontal mirror neurons is their role in cognition. If this mirror mechanism is fundamental to understanding actions and intentions, the classical view — that the motor system has a role only in movement generation — has to be rejected and replaced by the view that the motor system is also one of the major players in cognitive functions. Further evidence of goal encoding by the parieto-frontal mirror circuit was obtained in an fMRI experiment in which two aplasic individuals, born without arms and hands, and control volunteers were asked to watch video clips showing hand actions. All participants also performed actions with their feet, mouth and, in the case of controls, hands. The results showed that the parieto-frontal mirror circuit of aplasic individuals that was active during movements of the feet and mouth was also recruited by the observation of hand motor acts that they have never executed but the motor goals of which they could achieve using their feet or mouth. The issue of whether the human parieto-frontal mirror network encodes motor goals was also addressed by fMRI and TMS studies investigating the activation of motor areas in subjects listening to action-related sounds. Hearing and categorizing animal vocalizations preferentially activated the middle portion of the superior temporal gyri bilaterally (a region that is not related to motor act coding), whereas hearing and categorizing sounds of tools that were manipulated by hands activated the parieto-frontal mirror circuit. Similarly, it was shown that listening to the sound of hand and mouth motor acts activated the parieto-frontal mirror network. This activation was somatotopically organized in the left premotor cortex and was congruent with the motor somatotopy of hand and mouth actions.In support of this view, two studies showed that the meaning of the motor acts of other individuals could be understood in the absence of visual information describing them. In one study, monkeys heard the sounds of a motor act (such as ripping a piece of paper) without seeing it; in the other study, the monkeys knew that behind a screen was an object and saw the experimenter’s hand disappear behind the screen, but they could not see any hand–object interaction. The results showed that in both experiments F5 mirror neurons in the monkeys fired in the absence of visual information describing the motor act of the experimenter. The neuronal activation therefore underpinned the comprehension of the goal of the motor act of the other individual, regardless of the sensory information that described that motor action.There is no doubt that, in some cases, understanding the motor behaviour of others might require a mechanism different from mirroring. A typical example is the capacity of humans to recognize the actions of animals that do not belong to the human motor repertoire and cannot be captured by a motor generalization. The evidence for a non-mirror mechanism in action recognition was provided by an fMRI study in which volunteers were presented with video clips showing motor acts that did or did not belong to the human motor repertoire. Although all volunteers recognized the observed motor acts regardless of whether or not they belonged to their own motor repertoire, no activation of parieto-frontal mirror areas was found in response to acts that did not belong to their motor repertoire (for example, a dog barking). The areas that became active in such cases were occipital visual and STS areas. By contrast, the sight of motor acts that were within the motor repertoire of the observer (for example, a dog biting) recruited the parieto-frontal mirror network.Finally, there is evidence that the mirror mechanism, possibly located in this case in the fronto-mesial areas, also has a role in setting up an anticipatory representation of the motor behaviour of another individual. It has been shown that the ‘Bereitschaftspotential’, an electrophysiological marker of the readiness to act, occurs not only when an individual actively performs a motor act, but also when the nature and the onset time of an upcoming action performed by another individual is predictable on the basis of a visual cue.Such motor-based understanding seems to be a primary way in which individuals relate to one another, as shown by its presence not only in humans and monkeys, but also in evolutionarily distant species, such as swamp sparrows and zebra finches.Saxophone playing has been used as an example to show that the mirror view of action understanding is “untenable”: no motor competence is required to understand that someone is playing a saxophone. This is true, but such competence leads to a different understanding of saxophone playing. The non-motor-based understanding implies a mere semantic knowledge of what a saxophone is for, whereas the motor experience allows an individual to understand what saxophone playing really means — that is, it provides a musical knowledge ‘from the inside’Furthermore, this mechanism indicates the existence of a profound natural link between individuals that is crucial for establishing inter-individual interactions. Finally, preliminary evidence suggests that the impairment of this natural link may be one of the causes of the striking inability of people with autism to relate to other individuals.http://www.cogsci.ucsd.edu/~pineda/COGS260Mirroring/readings/Rizzolatti_NatureRevNeurosci10.pdfhttp://www.ted.com/talks/vs_ramachandran_the_neurons_that_shaped_civilization.htmlhttps://jcdurbant.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/mimetisme-qui-sassemble-se-ressemble-what-if-it-was-flocks-that-made-birds-of-a-feather/Photo : HOW MUCH MORE YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN (Shabbat Shalom to all !) If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?Jesus (Matthew 7: 11)Samuel (Joshua Reynolds, 1776)Photo : TRAIN UP A CHILD IN THE WAY HE SHOULD GO (the costs of dumbing down our children's meals but also of trusting your man too much with the food shopping - even the French know that !)Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22: 6Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.Exodus 20: 12'If children were eating what their parents eat - and, like the French, eating round the table - then we wouldn't have the iron deficiency problem we have. If they sat together there are less chances of the kids manipulating the parent over food.'It may be tempting for tired, pressurised parents to resort to the easier option - to avoid the time it takes to sit with a child and develop healthy eating habits.'But research has shown the nutritional intake and growth rate of children between the ages of 2 and 12 can have a profound influence on their susceptibility to obesity and chronic diseases in later years.'The food you feed your children now does not only influence their weight and health in the short-term, it can adversely affect their health in the future.' Dr Colin Michie (chair of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health's nutrition committee)Getting fathers to do the food shopping pushes the budget up by hundreds of pounds a year. On average, men who do the food shopping spend an extra £235 a year, or £1,175 every five years, largely because they tend not to plan meals before they set out and so are more susceptible to impulse buys.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2319770/Healthiest-children-eat-parents.html#ixzz2SRFgcPcnComme le Père m’a aimé, je vous ai aussi aimés. (…) Aimez-vous les uns les autres, comme je vous ai aimés. Jésus (Matthieu 15: 9-12)
Nul ne peut servir deux maîtres. Car, ou il haïra l’un, et aimera l’autre; ou il s’attachera à l’un, et méprisera l’autre. Vous ne pouvez servir Dieu et Mamon. Jésus (Matthieu 6: 24)
Car mon joug est doux, et mon fardeau léger. Jesus (Matthieu 11: 38)
The moment I wake up before i put on my make up I say a little prayer for you … I run for the bus dear, while riding I think of us dear I say a little prayer for you … At work I just take time and all through my coffee break time I say a little prayer for you … Aretha Franklin
But it’s so hard loving you … The Beatles
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody. Bob Dylan
Jack (…)  set aside an hour and a half each day for this. He’d spend the first 40 minutes or so relaxing and clearing his mind. Then he visualized a fox (he liked foxes). After four weeks, he started to feel the fox’s presence, and to have feelings he thought were the fox’s.(…) For a while he was intensely involved with her, and said it felt more wonderful than falling in love with a girl. Then he stopped spending all that time meditating — and the fox went away. It turned out she was fragile. (…) The mere fact that people like Jack find it intuitively possible to have invisible companions who talk back to them supports the claim that the idea of an invisible agent is basic to our psyche. But Jack’s story also makes it clear that experiencing an invisible companion as truly present — especially as an adult — takes work: constant concentration, a state that resembles prayer. It may seem paradoxical, but this very difficulty may be why evangelical churches emphasize a personal, intimate God. While the idea of God may be intuitively plausible — just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are atheists who have prayed for parking spots — belief can be brittle. Indeed, churches that rely on a relatively impersonal God (like mainstream Protestant denominations) have seen their congregations dwindle over the last 50 years. To experience God as walking by your side, in conversation with you, is hard. Evangelical pastors often preach as if they are teaching people how to keep God constantly in mind, because it is so easy not to pray, to let God’s presence slip away. But when it works, people experience God as alive. Secular liberals sometimes take evolutionary psychology to mean that believing in God is the lazy option. But many churchgoers will tell you that keeping God real is what’s hard. T. M. Luhrmann
The essence of this mechanism — called the mirror mechanism — is the following: each time an individual observes another individual performing an action, a set of neurons that encode that action is activated in the observer’s cortical motor system. (…) The mirrormechanism was originally discovered in the ventral premotor cortex of the macaque monkey … Single-neuron recordings showed that this area contains neurons — mirror neurons — that discharge both when a monkey executes a specific motor act and when it observes another individual performing the same motor act. Mirror neurons do not fire in response to a simple presentation of objects, including food. Most of them do not respond or respond only weakly to the observation of the experimenter performing a motor act (for example, grasping) without a target object. (…) There is convincing evidence that an action observation–action execution mirror circuit also exists in humans. This evidence comes from brain imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroencephalography (eeG) and magnetoencephalography (MeG) studies. (…) The crucial issue concerning the parieto-frontal mirror neurons is their role in cognition. If this mirror mechanism is fundamental to understanding actions and intentions, the classical view — that the motor system has a role only in movement generation — has to be rejected and replaced by the view that the motor system is also one of the major players in cognitive functions. (…) Further evidence of goal encoding by the parieto-frontal mirror circuit was obtained in an fMRI experiment in which two aplasic individuals, born without arms and hands, and control volunteers were asked to watch video clips showing hand actions. All participants also performed actions with their feet, mouth and, in the case of controls, hands. The results showed that the parieto-frontal mirror circuit of aplasic individuals that was active during movements of the feet and mouth was also recruited by the observation of hand motor acts that they have never executed but the motor goals of which they could achieve using their feet or mouth. The issue of whether the human parieto-frontal mirror network encodes motor goals was also addressed by fMRI and TMS studies investigating the activation of motor areas in subjects listening to action-related sounds. Hearing and categorizing animal vocalizations preferentially activated the middle portion of the superior temporal gyri bilaterally (a region that is not related to motor act coding), whereas hearing and categorizing sounds of tools that were manipulated by hands activated the parieto-frontal mirror circuit. Similarly, it was shown that listening to the sound of hand and mouth motor acts activated the parieto-frontal mirror network. This activation was somatotopically organized in the left premotor cortex and was congruent with the motor somatotopy of hand and mouth actions. (…) In support of this view, two studies showed that the meaning of the motor acts of other individuals could be understood in the absence of visual information describing them. In one study, monkeys heard the sounds of a motor act (such as ripping a piece of paper) without seeing it; in the other study, the monkeys knew that behind a screen was an object and saw the experimenter’s hand disappear behind the screen, but they could not see any hand–object interaction. The results showed that in both experiments F5 mirror neurons in the monkeys fired in the absence of visual information describing the motor act of the experimenter. The neuronal activation therefore underpinned the comprehension of the goal of the motor act of the other individual, regardless of the sensory information that described that motor action. (…) There is no doubt that, in some cases, understanding the motor behaviour of others might require a mechanism different from mirroring. A typical example is the capacity of humans to recognize the actions of animals that do not belong to the human motor repertoire and cannot be captured by a motor generalization. The evidence for a non-mirror mechanism in action recognition was provided by an fMRI study in which volunteers were presented with video clips showing motor acts that did or did not belong to the human motor repertoire. Although all volunteers recognized the observed motor acts regardless of whether or not they belonged to their own motor repertoire, no activation of parieto-frontal mirror areas was found in response to acts that did not belong to their motor repertoire (for example, a dog barking). The areas that became active in such cases were occipital visual and STS areas. By contrast, the sight of motor acts that were within the motor repertoire of the observer (for example, a dog biting) recruited the parieto-frontal mirror network. (…) Finally, there is evidence that the mirror mechanism, possibly located in this case in the fronto-mesial areas, also has a role in setting up an anticipatory representation of the motor behaviour of another individual. It has been shown that the ‘Bereitschaftspotential’, an electrophysiological marker of the readiness to act, occurs not only when an individual actively performs a motor act, but also when the nature and the onset time of an upcoming action performed by another individual is predictable on the basis of a visual cue. (…) Such motor-based understanding seems to be a primary way in which individuals relate to one another, as shown by its presence not only in humans and monkeys, but also in evolutionarily distant species, such as swamp sparrows and zebra finches. (…) Saxophone playing has been used as an example to show that the mirror view of action understanding is “untenable”: no motor competence is required to understand that someone is playing a saxophone. This is true, but such competence leads to a different understanding of saxophone playing. The non-motor-based understanding implies a mere semantic knowledge of what a saxophone is for, whereas the motor experience allows an individual to understand what saxophone playing really means — that is, it provides a musical knowledge ‘from the inside’ (…) Furthermore, this mechanism indicates the existence of a profound natural link between individuals that is crucial for establishing inter-individual interactions. Finally, preliminary evidence suggests that the impairment of this natural link may be one of the causes of the striking inability of people with autism to relate to other individuals.  Giacomo Rizzolatti and Corrado Sinigaglia

A l’heure où nos savants font la fine bouche (mais c’est aussi leur boulot et comme ça que la science avance) devant l’une des découvertes peut-être les plus révolutionnaires du siècle …

A savoir celle des neurones miroirs

Sans lesquels, des primates aux humains mais aussi aux oiseaux,  tant l’apprentissage que l’emphatie ne seraient possibles …

Comment ne pas voir avec ce récent article de l’anthropologue de Stanford T.M. Luhrman et le cas particulier de la religion …

L’importance, comme pour l’amour (voir Aretha Franklin) et comme le Christ lui-même l’a montré, de l’imitation active …

Pour initier une relation avec Dieu …

Mais, aussi et surtout comme par exemple la brillante mais brève période born again d’un chanteur comme Bob Dylan l’a si spectaculairement montré …

Pour l’entretenir et la maintenir …

Conjuring Up Our Own Gods

T. M. Luhrmann

The New York Times

October 14, 2013

BIG SUR, Calif. — “AMERICANS are obsessed with the supernatural,” Jeffrey J. Kripal, a scholar of religion, told me here at Esalen, an institute dedicated to the idea that “we are all capable of the extraordinary.”

Surveys support this. In 2011, an Associated Press poll found that 8 in 10 Americans believed in angels — even 4 in 10 people who never went to church. In 2009 the Pew Research Center reported that 1 in 5 Americans experienced ghosts and 1 in 7 had consulted a psychic. In 2005, Gallup found that 3 out of 4 Americans believed in something paranormal, and that 4 in 10 said that houses could be haunted.

One interpretation of these data is that belief in the supernatural is hard-wired. Scholars like the anthropologist Pascal Boyer, author of “Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origin of Religious Thought,” and the psychologist Justin L. Barrett, author of “Why Would Anyone Believe in God?” argue that the fear that one would be eaten by a lion, or killed by a man who wanted your stuff, shaped the way our minds evolved. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were more likely to survive if they interpreted ambiguous noise as the sound of a predator. Most of the time it was the wind, of course, but if there really was danger, the people who worried about it were more likely to live.

That inclination to search for an agent has evolved into an intuition that an invisible agent, or god, may be there. (You can argue this theory from different theological positions. Mr. Boyer is an atheist, and treats religion as a mistake. Mr. Barrett is an evangelical Christian, who thinks that God’s hand steered evolution.)

However, intuitive plausibility is one thing, and measured, sober faith is another. These are the two kinds of thinking that the Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, author of “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” calls “system one” (quick intuitions) and “system two” ( deliberative judgment). When we’re scared in the dark, we populate the world with ghosts. When we consider in full daylight whether the ghosts were real — ah, that is another matter.

Consider how some people attempt to make what can only be imagined feel real. They do this by trying to create thought-forms, or imagined creatures, called tulpas. Their human creators are trying to imagine so vividly that the tulpas start to seem as if they can speak and act on their own. The term entered Western literature in 1929, through the explorer Alexandra David-Néel’s “Magic and Mystery in Tibet.” She wrote that Tibetan monks created tulpas as a spiritual discipline during intense meditation. The Internet has been a boon for tulpa practice, with dozens of sites with instructions on creating one.

Jack, a young man I interviewed, decided to make a tulpa when he was in college. He set aside an hour and a half each day for this. He’d spend the first 40 minutes or so relaxing and clearing his mind. Then he visualized a fox (he liked foxes). After four weeks, he started to feel the fox’s presence, and to have feelings he thought were the fox’s.

Finally, after a chemistry exam, he felt that she spoke to him. “I heard, clear as day, ‘Well, how did you do?’ ” he recalled. For a while he was intensely involved with her, and said it felt more wonderful than falling in love with a girl.

Then he stopped spending all that time meditating — and the fox went away. It turned out she was fragile. He says she comes back, sometimes unexpectedly, when he practices. She calms him down.

The mere fact that people like Jack find it intuitively possible to have invisible companions who talk back to them supports the claim that the idea of an invisible agent is basic to our psyche. But Jack’s story also makes it clear that experiencing an invisible companion as truly present — especially as an adult — takes work: constant concentration, a state that resembles prayer.

It may seem paradoxical, but this very difficulty may be why evangelical churches emphasize a personal, intimate God. While the idea of God may be intuitively plausible — just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are atheists who have prayed for parking spots — belief can be brittle. Indeed, churches that rely on a relatively impersonal God (like mainstream Protestant denominations) have seen their congregations dwindle over the last 50 years.

To experience God as walking by your side, in conversation with you, is hard. Evangelical pastors often preach as if they are teaching people how to keep God constantly in mind, because it is so easy not to pray, to let God’s presence slip away. But when it works, people experience God as alive.

Secular liberals sometimes take evolutionary psychology to mean that believing in God is the lazy option. But many churchgoers will tell you that keeping God real is what’s hard.

T. M. Luhrmann, an anthropologist at Stanford, is a contributing opinion writer.

Voir aussi:

What’s So Special about Mirror Neurons?

Ben Thomas

Scientific American

November 6, 2012

In the early 1990s, a team of neuroscientists at the University of Parma made a surprising discovery: Certain groups of neurons in the brains of macaque monkeys fired not only when a monkey performed an action – grabbing an apple out of a box, for instance – but also when the monkey watched someone else performing that action; and even when the monkey heard someone performing the action in another room.

In short, even though these “mirror neurons” were part of the brain’s motor system, they seemed to be correlated not with specific movements, but with specific goals.

Over the next few decades, this “action understanding” theory of mirror neurons blossomed into a wide range of promising speculations. Since most of us think of goals as more abstract than movements, mirror neurons confront us with the distinct possibility that those everyday categories may be missing crucial pieces of the puzzle – thus, some scientists propose that mirror neurons might be involved in feelings of empathy, while others think these cells may play central roles in human abilities like speech.

Some doctors even say they’ve discovered new treatments for mental disorders by reexamining diseases through the mirror neuron lens. For instance, UCLA’s Marco Iacoboni and others have put forth what Iacoboni called the “broken mirror hypothesis” of autism – the idea that malfunctioning mirror neurons are likely responsible for the lack of empathy and theory of mind found in severely autistic people.

Ever since these theories’ earliest days, though, sharp criticism has descended on the claims they make. If it turns out that mirror neurons play only auxiliary roles – and not central ones – in action understanding, as many opponents of these claims contend, we may be looking in entirely the wrong place for causes of autism and speech disorders. We could be ignoring potential cures by focusing on a hypothesis that’s grown too popular for its own good.

And through it all, the mirror neuron field continues to attract new inquisitive minds. September 2012 marked the first-ever Mirror Neurons: New Frontiers Summit in Erice, Sicily, where researchers championing all sides of the debate gathered to share their findings and hash out their differences.

In the wake of the Summit, I caught up with some of the world’s top mirror neuron experts, and asked them to bring me up to date on their latest findings, debates, and discussions. Their insights paint a more subtle, nuanced picture of mirror neurons’ role than anyone originally suspected.

Can mirror neurons understand?

There’s something strange about the range of actions mirror neurons respond to. They don’t respond to pantomimes, or to meaningless gestures, or to random animal sounds. They seem specially tuned to respond to actions with clear goals – whether those actions are perceived through sight, sound, or any other sensory pathway.

This realization led the discoverers of mirror neurons to put forth what they call the “action understanding” hypothesis – that mirror neurons are the neural basis for our ability to understand others’ actions. On this hypothesis rests a kingdom: If it’s true, Iacoboni may be right that we can treat autism and speech disorders by repairing the human mirror neuron system. But this kingdom’s borders have fallen under relentless attack since its very earliest days.

One of the first scientists to question the “action understanding” hypothesis was UC Irvine’s Greg Hickok. Though Hickok doesn’t dispute the existence of mirror neurons, he’s highly skeptical about their supposed central role in empathy, speech, autism and understanding – and he’s spent the past 10 years publishing research regarding those doubts.

The question of whether mirror neurons allow us to understand movement gestures, Hickok explains, is only one of the “action understanding” school’s unsupported claims – researchers who argue for a mirror neuron-centric model of speech comprehension also bear the burden of proving their claim that the motor system is involved in representing the meaning of action-related language.

What the “action understanding” school originally claimed, Hickok says, was that mirror neurons provide the neural mechanism for attaching meanings to motor actions – but in recent years, many of those same researchers have been leaning away from that claim, and toward the contention that mirror neurons themselves actually encode the meanings of actions. And both of these claims, according to Hickok, remain unsupported by hard evidence.

“Iacoboni and the other ‘action understanding’ supporters are conflating two logically independent questions,” Hickok explains. “Their original claim was that mirror neurons provide the mechanism for attaching meaning to actions like hand and speech gestures. But the second question – which they conflate with the first – is whether the meanings of actions are coded in motor systems.” In other words, before we can say for sure whether mirror neurons are necessary for understanding others’ actions, we first need to establish whether these neurons associate actions with their meanings, code the meanings themselves, or neither.

“It could be that mirror neurons facilitate your understanding a reaching movement,” Hickok adds, “but don’t themselves represent the semantics of the concept ‘reach’ generally.” In short, even if mirror neurons do enable your brain to access the concept ‘reach,’ that doesn’t mean they themselves are the neurons that encode that concept.

Over the years, Hickok has led several dozen studies that find dissociations between motor control and conceptual understanding. If he’s right, and mirror neurons help code movements but not semantic concepts of them, researchers may be looking for the causes of autism and speech disorders in areas that merely reflect, rather than produce, the symptoms – like picking trash out of a creek while ignoring the garbage dump upstream.

Take patients with Broca’s aphasia, for instance. These patients, who’ve suffered severe damage to the motor areas of their brain’s left hemisphere, have major trouble joining words into coherent phrases. Ask a person with Broca’s aphasia about the last time he visited the hospital, and he’ll say something like, “hospital… and ah… Wednesday… Wednesday, nine o’clock… and oh… Thursday… ten o’clock, ah doctors.” Even so, a patient with Broca’s aphasia can still understand sentences he hears others say. “If the neural system supporting speech production were critical to speech recognition,” Hickok says, “Broca’s aphasia should not exist.”

To use a more familiar example, babies – and, arguably, even dogs – clearly understand the meanings of many words without having the motor ability to say them. By the same token, we can understand the meaning of a verb like “echolocate” without having any understanding of how to perform it.

Thus, Hickok says, “hearing the word ‘kiss’ activates motor lip systems not because you need lips to understand the action,” but because your previous experiences with the word “kiss” are associated with movements involved in kissing. Mirror neurons, then, don’t encode the meaning of the word “kiss” itself; they simply happen to fall downstream of that understanding in your brain’s river of associations.

What all this implies, Hickok says, is that “action understanding is clearly not a function of the motor system.” If we want to find the neural correlates of understanding itself, Hickok suggests, we should concentrate our search upstream from the motor cortex, in brain regions like the superior temporal sulcus (STS), which plays a central role in our ability to associate objects with goals – to decide, in other words, what an action or object is “for.”

Not everyone’s thrilled by this line of argument, though. “When one looks at the data,” Iacoboni says, “true examples of dissociation between action understanding and action production are very rare.” Action understanding doesn’t always require motor-cortex activity, he agrees; but in many instances, mirror neurons do indeed appear to be crucial for it.

For example, patients with damaged motor cortices seem to have trouble placing photos of people’s actions in chronological order – though they have no trouble ordering photos of, say, a falling ball. Cases like these, Iacoboni says, argue strongly for mirror neurons’ importance in understanding the intentions of other people’s actions. This means, he says, that the concepts of “action” and “understanding” need to be integrated into a single model of mirror neuron function – not picked further apart.

But action execution and action understanding fall apart naturally, Hickok contends. “This is evident in the fact that the inability to produce speech following brain damage or in developmental speech disorders, for example, does not cause speech recognition deficits. It is also plainly evident in the fact that we can understand actions that we can’t perform, such as fly, slither, or coil.”

As you may have noticed by now, a specter that’s even harder to pin down lurks throughout this whole debate: We have no empirical rubric for action understanding; no experiment that can tell us for sure whether it’s happening – because there’s no real agreement about what exactly “understanding” is. It’s a weirdly recursive question: Understanding implies meaning; and so far, neither Hickok nor his opponents have been able to pin down what “meaning” means in neurological terms. “The fact is, we don’t know exactly how semantic understanding is achieved neurally,” Hickok says. “I certainly don’t know.”

Does association mean understanding?

It doesn’t always take a brand-new discovery to shake up an old debate – sometimes what’s needed is a new way of seeing the data. In the mirror neuron debate, that fresh approach comes courtesy of Cecilia Heyes, a professor of psychology at Oxford’s All Souls College. At the 2012 New Frontiers Summit, Heyes presented her case for an altogether different approach to studying mirror neuron function. The really important question, she says, isn’t whether mirror neurons encode understanding, but whether they qualify as a special class of neuron at all.

Mirror neurons, in Heyes’ view, aren’t evolved specifically “for” understanding, imitation, or any other purpose – rather, they’re simply ordinary motor-cortex neurons that happen to take on special roles as we learn to associate motor actions with sounds, feelings, goals and so on. “Special-purpose mechanisms can be forged by evolution or by learning,” Heyes says – and if we can figure out what makes certain neurons, but not others, take on mirror properties in the first place, we’ll be in a much better position to examine what they’re up to.

As for the question of whether mirror neurons “do” meaning, association, or both, Heyes thinks it may boil down to how we choose to define “meaning” and “understanding.” “I don’t think it’s right to contrast meaning and association,” she says. “In principle, mirror neurons could be a product of associative learning and help us to understand the meaning of actions.” But before we can find that out with a lab experiment, she adds, supporters and defenders of the “action understanding” hypothesis will need to explain what exactly it is that they’re claiming or denying, so we know what we’re looking for.

Hickok, for his part, says Heyes’ hypothesis actually supports his argument that mirror neurons don’t constitute the basis of action understanding – after all, he explains, if mirror neurons associate incoming stimuli with motor responses, why does the concept of “understanding” need to enter the picture at all? “The mirror neuron system links sensory stimuli to the motor system for the control of action,” he says. “It’s a system that acts reflexively and adaptively.” So as far as describing mirror neurons’ function in terms of sensory-motor association, Hickok says, Heyes is right on the money.

While Iacoboni also agrees that Heyes’ hypothesis is reasonable, he cautions that mirror neurons are still a special kind of associative cell: One that’s specialized for action-oriented associations. “Why should mirror neurons respond to specific actions,” Iacobini asks, “if they’re just learning visuomotor associations?” Why, in other words, do they respond not to just any action-related stimulus, but only to actions that have goals?

And it’s on this question of goal-orientedness – and what it implies about the human mind – that the views of Hickok, Heyes, and the Parma school all diverge once again.

Does empathy depend on mirror neurons?

No matter whose side of the debate you’re on, Vittorio Gallese cuts an imposing figure. One of the original discoverers of macaque mirror neurons – and a father of the “action understanding” theory – Gallese has spent the past three decades vigorously defending the centrality of mirror neurons in our ability to know what others’ actions are “for.”

“The data strongly suggest that mirror neurons map between an observer’s goals and the acting animal’s motor goals,” Gallese says. These neurons fire in relation to the goal of grasping, he explains, whether it’s performed by a hand, a pincer, or another tool; whether it’s performed by oneself or another individual; whether the other’s movement is seen or merely heard. The only common factor in all these events, Gallese says, is the goal they aim to achieve.

Gallese actually agrees with Hickok that understanding can take place without mirror neuron activation. However, he notes, “only through the activation of mirror neurons can we grasp the meaning of others’ behavior from within.” In other words, mirror neurons enable us to understand other people’s actions in terms of our own movements and goals – to empathize with them.

Hickok will have none of it. Gallese, he says, is trying to quietly slip out of his original hypothesis that mirror neurons associate meanings with actions, and into a more evasive “claim that they allow ‘understanding from the inside,’ whatever that means.”

Gallese has an answer at the ready: If not in mirror neurons, then where else should we look for action understanding? Surely not in the STS, as Hickok advocates. “Evidence demonstrates that only the motor system – not the STS – can generalize a motor goal independently from the effector accomplishing it,” Gallese says: When it comes to directly mapping others’ motor goals against our own, mirror neurons are still the only serious contenders in town. That kind of perceptual mapping, says Gallese, is what he means by “understanding from the inside.” More work is necessary, he acknowledges, to establish the exact nature of this kind of understanding – but nevertheless, its dependence on mirror neurons is clear.

Iacoboni is somewhat less sanguine. “Admittedly, it is very difficult to obtain empirical evidence that unequivocally proves this hypothesis,” he says – though he’s quick to add that “both imaging and neurological evidence are compellingly consistent with it.” The evidence is also consistent, he adds, with the idea that mirror neuron function is significantly altered in people on the autism spectrum of disorders (ASD) – implying a correlation between autism and “broken” mirror neurons.

That may be so, Heyes interjects – but ASD is too complex a range of disorders to lay at the feet of a single malfunctioning neuron system. “Iacoboni doesn’t ask,” she says, “whether atypical mirror mechanism activity generates – rather than merely accompanies – autism spectrum disorders.” If, as Hickok contends, mirror neurons lie far downstream in the process of action understanding, this abnormal mirror-neuron activation may simply be another symptom of autism, rather than its cause.

Gallese agrees – partially. “It is very unlikely that autism can be simply equated to a mere malfunctioning of the mirror neuron mechanism,” he says – but nevertheless, “many of the social cognitive impairments manifested by ASD individuals might be rooted in their incapacity to organize and directly grasp the intrinsic goal-related organization of motor behavior.” Mirror neurons map others’ motor goals to our own; autistic individuals have trouble grasping others’ goals; therefore, Gallese argues, some kind of correlation clearly exists.

But there’s an even more serious problem with this line of reasoning, says Morton Ann Gernsbacher, a prominent autism researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It has been repeatedly demonstrated,” Gernsbacher says, “that autistic persons of all ages have no difficulty understanding the intention of other people’s actions.” Not only that – decades of research have also shown that autistic people can perform imitation tasks as well as or better than non-autistic participants, and that they can be highly responsive to imitation by others.

And so, once again, we come back to the question of what kind of understanding it is that we’re talking about here: Can people with autism really be said to “understand” an action they can’t readily imitate it? Gernsbacher says that, obviously, the answer’s yes. Gallese would argue that this isn’t “understanding from the inside,” but a more abstract kind.

Iacoboni, as usual, takes a more integrative view: “Current theories of empathy suggest a multilayer functional structure, with a core layer of automatic responses to reproduce the affective states of others. Mirror neurons are likely cellular candidates for the core layer of empathy.” And it’s that core layer of empathy, Iacobini says, that likely lies at the root of true action understanding.

In the final analysis, the one conclusion that’s emerged loud and clear from all these debates is that mirror neurons aren’t the end-all of understanding, empathy, autism, or any other brain function. The closer we examine the parts these neurons play, the more we find ourselves peering between the cracks of these mental processes – watching them unravel into threads that run throughout the brain. It may very well turn out that “meaning” and “understanding” aren’t single processes at all, but tangled webs of processes involving motor emulation, abstract cognition, and other emotional and instinctual components whose roles we’re only beginning to guess.

After decades of research, these strange cells continue to astound and confound us – not only with their unique abilities, but with the hidden complexity to which they may provide a key. But, as so often happens in neuroscience, we may end up having to pick the lock before we understand exactly how the key fits into it.

About the Author: Ben Thomas is an author, journalist, inventor and independent researcher who studies consciousness and the brain. A lifelong lover of all things mysterious and unexplained, he weaves tales from the frontiers of science into videos, podcasts and unique multimedia events. Lots more of his work is available at http://the-connectome.com. Follow on Twitter @theconnectome.

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The functional role of the parieto-frontal mirror circuit: interpretations and misinterpretations

Giacomo Rizzolatti*and Corrado Sinigaglia

Abstract

The parieto-frontal cortical circuit that is active during action observation is the circuit with mirror properties that has been most extensively studied. Yet, there remains controversy on its role in social cognition and its contribution to understanding the actions and intentions of other individuals. Recent studies in monkeys and humans have shed light on what the parieto-frontal cortical circuit encodes and its possible functional relevance for cognition. We conclude that, although there are several mechanisms through which one can understand the behaviour of other individuals, the parieto-frontal mechanism is the only one that allows an individual to understand the action of others ‘from the inside’ and gives the observer a first-person grasp of the motor goals and intentions of other individuals.

One of the most intriguing and exciting developments in neuroscience in recent years has been the discovery of a mechanism that unifies action perception and action execution 1–3 . The essence of this mechanism — called the mirror mechanism — is the following: each time an individual observes another individual performing an action, a set of neurons that encode that action is activated in the observer’s cortical motor system. The mirror mechanism is present in many cortical areas and brain centres of birds, monkeys and humans. The basic functions of these areas and centres vary con – siderably, from song production to the organization of goal-directed motor acts , to emotional processes. Thus, like other basic mechanisms (for example, excitatory postsynaptic potentials), the functional role of the mir – ror mechanism depends on its anatomical location, with its function ranging from recognition of the song of conspecifics in birds 4,5 to empathy in humans 6 . The aim of this article is not to review the vast literature on the mirror mechanism, but to focus on one spe – cific circuit endowed with mirror properties: the parieto- frontal action observation–action execution circuit. The reason for this choice is twofold. First, the proposed interpretation of the function of the parieto-frontal circuit as a mechanism that enables individuals to under – stand the actions and intentions of others ( mirror-based action understanding ) represented a paradigm shift in the classical view that these cognitive functions depend on higher-level mental processes. Second, mostly as a reaction to this new perspective, there have been attempts to interpret the functions of the action observation–action execution circuit in a way that minimizes or even denies its role in cognition. For these reasons, a review of the data on the mirror mechanism in the action observation–action execution network seems timely and necessary. In this Review, we examine first what the parieto-frontal action observation–action execution circuit encodes in monkeys and humans and then discuss its possible func – tional relevance for cognition. After examining different views on these issues, we conclude that the parieto-fron – tal mechanism allows an individual to understand the actions of another individual ‘from the inside’ and gives the observing individual a first-person grasp of the motor goals and intentions of another individual. The parieto-frontal mirror network The monkey parieto-frontal network. The mirror mechanism was originally discovered in the ventral premotor cortex of the macaque monkey (area F5) 1–3 . Single-neuron recordings showed that this area contains neurons — mirror neurons — that discharge both when a monkey executes a specific motor act and when it observes another individual performing the same motor act. Mirror neurons do not fire in response to a simple presentation of objects, including food. Most of them do not respond or respond only weakly to the observation of the experimenter performing a motor act (for example, grasping) without a target object 7 . Area F5 has recently been divided into three sectors: F5c, F5p and F5a 8–9 (FIG. 1) . Mirror neurons were originally recorded in the cortical convexity that corre – sponds to F5c 1–3 . However, functional MRI (fMRI) data showed that the other two areas also respond to observing a grasping action 8 . Mirror neurons are also present in the rostral part of the inferior parietal lobule (I pl ), particularly in area p FG 10 – 12 and the anterior intraparietal area (AI p ) 9,13 (FIG. 1) . Both these areas are heavily connected with F5: p FG mostly with F5c, and the AI p with F5a 14 . Both area p FG and the AI p receive higher-order visual infor – mation from the cortex located inside the superior temporal sulcus (STS) 13 – 14 . STS areas, like mirror areas, encode bio – logical motion, but they lack motor properties. They are therefore not part of the mirror system in a strict sense. The AI p also receives connections from the middle temporal gyrus 15 . This input could provide the mirror areas with information concerning object identity. Finally, area F5 is connected with area F6 — the pre- supplementary motor area (pre-SMA) — and with the prefrontal cortex (area 46) 16 . The prefrontal cortex is also richly connected with the AI p 16 . The frontal inputs con – trol the selection of self-generated and stimulus-driven actions according to the intentions of the agent 17 . It was recently shown that, in addition to areas p FG and AI p , two other areas of the parietal lobe contain mirror neurons: the lateral intraparietal area and the ventral intraparietal area. The mirror properties of neurons in these areas are not the focus of this Review but are briefly discussed in BOX 1 . The human parieto-frontal network. There is convinc – ing evidence that an action observation–action execu – tion mirror circuit also exists in humans. This evidence comes from brain imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroencephalography ( ee G) and magnetoencephalography (M e G) studies. Brain imaging studies have shown that, as in the mon – key, this action observation–action execution mirror cir – cuit is formed by two main regions: the inferior section of the precentral gyrus plus the posterior part of the inferior frontal gyrus; and the inferior parietal lobule, includ – ing the cortex located inside the intraparietal sulcus 18 . Additional cortical areas (such as the dorsal premotor cor – tex and the superior parietal lobule) have also been occa – sionally found to be active during action observation and execution 19–21 . Although it is possible that their activation is due to a mirror mechanism, it is equally possible that it reflects motor preparation. In support of this interpreta – tion are single-neuron data from monkeys showing that these areas are involved in covert motor preparation 22–23 . As for the superior parietal lobule, although its activation is typically absent in studies in which the experimenters use distal motor acts as visual stimuli, it is prominent when volunteers observe proximal arm movements that are directed to a particular location in space 24 . Single-subject fMRI analyses have recently provided evidence that other cortical areas (for example, the pri – mary and secondary somatosensory cortices and the middle temporal cortex) also become active during action observation and action execution 21 . It has been suggested 21 that these activations outside of the ‘classi – cal’ mirror areas are caused by additional mechanisms (for example, internal models) that are triggered by the mirror mechanism. These activations would enrich the information about the actions of other individuals that the mirror mechanism provides. A tale of two populations. Some authors have recently argued that the activation of the same areas during action observation and action execution is not suffi – cient to prove the existence of the mirror mechanism in humans 25 . Instead, they have suggested that, in humans, motor areas have distinct, segregated populations of vis – ual and motor neurons, the visual neurons discharging during action observation and the motor neurons during action execution. They proposed to use the ‘repetition– suppression’ technique — that is, a technique based on the progressive reduction of a physiological response to repeated stimuli to prove this point 25 . If mirror neurons exist in humans, they should ‘adapt’ when the observa – tion of a motor act is followed by the execution of that motor act, and vice versa . The ‘adaptation’ effects are, in general, difficult to interpret 26 . Adaptation occurs at the synaptic level and should therefore be present only when information repeatedly reaches a neuron through the same or largely common pathways 27 . This input commonality is typically absent when mirror neurons are activated during action observation and execution. During action observation, the input to the parieto-frontal circuit arrives from higher- order visual areas (for example, the STS) 16 whereas, during voluntary movement, it mostly comes from the frontal lobes 17 . The results of adaptation experiments therefore depend on the design of the experimental paradigm and on the stimuli used. These considerations could explain why the results of repetition–suppression experiments have been contradictory. Although some authors found evidence of the mirror mechanism in the parietal 28 or the frontal nodes 29 , others obtained negative results 30–31 . Regardless of the empirical data that may help to define some properties of the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism, the logic of the two-population story is flawed. Assuming that neurons in motor areas respond – ing to action observation are merely visual neurons implies that motor areas contain a large number of ‘dis – placed’ visual neurons and that these neurons do not communicate with their ‘neighbour’ motor neurons. Both these assumptions are hard to reconcile with what is known about the organization of the cerebral cortex. Most importantly, TMS studies have shown a clear con – gruence between the observed motor act and the acti – vated motor representation 32–36 . Thus, if higher-order sensory information describing a motor act reaches motor neurons that encode that same motor act, these motor neurons are mirror neurons by definition. Humans do not differ from monkeys in this respect. What do parieto-frontal mirror neurons encode? Evidence for goal coding in monkeys. The crucial issue concerning the parieto-frontal mirror neurons is their role in cognition. If this mirror mechanism is fundamental to understanding actions and intentions, the classical view — that the motor system has a role only in movement generation — has to be rejected and replaced by the view that the motor system is also one of the major players in cognitive functions. To address this fundamental issue, a preliminary problem must first be solved: what do the parieto-frontal mirror neurons encode when they discharge in response to the observation of the actions of others? A way to solve this problem is to examine what mir – ror neurons encode when they discharge during motor behaviour. w hat is recorded in single-neuron studies during both action execution and observation are action potentials — that is, neuronal output. Thus, having deter – mined what neurons encode during the execution of an agent’s own motor act, one also knows what they encode when they are triggered by the agent’s observation of a motor behaviour of others. e arly experiments on area F5 found that most of the motor neurons in this area encode motor acts (that is, goal-related movements, such as grasping) rather than movements (that is, body-part displacements without a specific goal, such as finger flexion) 3 7 –38 . A recent study provided compelling evidence that this is the case 39 . This study describes single-neuron recordings from monkeys that were trained to grasp objects using two types of pliers: normal pliers, which require typical grasping movements of the hand, and ‘reverse’ pliers, which require hand move – ments executed in the reverse order (that is, first closing and then opening the fingers). The results showed that F5 neurons discharged during the same phase of grasp – ing in both conditions, regardless of whether this involved opening or closing of the hand (FIG. 2) . The functional properties of I pl motor neurons are similar to those of F5 neurons: the goal of the executed motor acts is the parameter that is encoded by I pl neurons that fire during the execution of motor acts 11,40 – 42 . The mirror neurons in F5 and I pl do not differ in their motor properties from parieto-frontal motor neu – rons that do not have visual properties 1–3 . Thus, when they fire in response to motor act observation, they send information about the goal of the observed motor acts. This information can be encoded with different degrees of generality: some mirror neurons (strictly congruent mir – ror neurons) fire when the observed and executed motor acts are the same (for example, grasping with precision grip), whereas other mirror neurons (broadly congruent mirror neurons) fire when the observed motor act has the same goal as the executed motor act (for example, grasp – ing), but can be achieved in a different way (for example, with both precision and whole-hand grips) 43–44 . Recently, a single-neuron study investigated the effect of the spatial relationships between an agent and an observer, comparing F5 mirror neuron responses to motor acts performed near the monkey (in the peripersonal space) or outside its reach (in the extra – personal space) 45 (FIG. 3) . The results showed that many F5 mirror neurons were differentially modulated by the location of the observed motor act. Some neurons were selective for actions executed in the monkey’s peripersonal space, whereas others were selective for stimuli in the extrapersonal space. These findings indicate that mirror neurons may encode the goal of the motor acts of another individual in an observer-centred spatial framework, thus providing the observer with crucial information for organizing their own future behaviour in cooperation or competition with the observed individuals. Goal and single-movement coding in humans. In accordance with early findings 46–49 , a series of new fMRI studies provided strong evidence that the human parieto- frontal mirror circuit encodes the goal of observed motor acts. Volunteers were instructed to observe video clips in which either a human or a robot arm grasped objects 50 . Despite differences in shape and kinematics between the human and robot arms, the parieto-frontal mirror circuit was activated in both conditions. Another group extended these results by investigating cortical activation in response to the observation of motor acts performed by a human hand, a robot hand or a tool 51 . Here, bilat – eral activation of a mirror network formed by intra – parietal and ventral premotor cortex occured, regardless of the effector. In addition, the observation of tool actions produced a specific activation of a rostral sector of the left anterior supramarginal gyrus, suggesting that this sector specifically evolved for tool use. Further evidence of goal encoding by the parieto- frontal mirror circuit was obtained in an fMRI experi – ment in which two aplasic individuals, born without arms and hands, and control volunteers were asked to watch video clips showing hand actions 52 . All partici – pants also performed actions with their feet, mouth and, in the case of controls, hands. The results showed that the parieto-frontal mirror circuit of aplasic individuals that was active during movements of the feet and mouth was also recruited by the observation of hand motor acts that they have never executed but the motor goals of which they could achieve using their feet or mouth. The issue of whether the human parieto-frontal mir – ror network encodes motor goals was also addressed by fMRI and TMS studies investigating the activation of motor areas in subjects listening to action-related sounds. Hearing and categorizing animal vocalizations preferentially activated the middle portion of the supe – rior temporal gyri bilaterally (a region that is not related to motor act coding), whereas hearing and categoriz – ing sounds of tools that were manipulated by hands activated the parieto-frontal mirror circuit 53 . Similarly, it was shown that listening to the sound of hand and mouth motor acts activated the parieto-frontal mirror network 54 . This activation was somatotopically organ – ized in the left premotor cortex and was congruent with the motor somatotopy of hand and mouth actions. u nlike in monkeys, the parieto-frontal mirror circuit of humans also becomes active during the observation of individual movements 55–56 . The initial evidence for this mechanism was based on TMS experiments which indi – cated that the observation of the movements of others results in an activation of the muscles involved in the execution of those movements 32–36 . Additional support comes from ee G and M e G studies showing that the observation of movements without a goal desynchronizes the rhythms recorded from motor areas 5 7 –64 . Recently, it was shown that mirror coding might depend on the content of the observed behaviour. Motor evoked potentials (M ep s) in response to TMS were recorded from the right opponens pollicis (O p ) muscle in participants observing an experimenter either open – ing and closing normal and reverse pliers or using them to grasp objects 65 . The observation of tool movements (that is, opening and closing the pliers without grasping anything) activated a cortical representation of the hand movements involved in the observed motor behaviour. By contrast, the observation of the tool grasping action activated a cortical representation of the observed motor goal , irrespective of the individual movements and the order of movements required to achieve it. Together, these findings show that the human parieto-frontal mirror network encodes both motor acts and movements. Understanding the actions of others Cognitive functions of the parieto-frontal network: evidence and criticisms. w hy should the motor sys – tem encode the goal of actions performed by others? From the discovery of mirror neurons, the interpreta – tion of this finding was that they allow the observer to understand directly the goal of the actions of others 1–3 : observing actions performed by another individual elic – its a motor activation in the brain of the observer similar to that which occurs when the observer plans their own actions, and the similarity between these two activations allows the observer to understand the actions of others without needing inferential processing 43–44 . In support of this view, two studies showed that the meaning of the motor acts of other individuals could be understood in the absence of visual information describing them. In one study, monkeys heard the sounds of a motor act (such as ripping a piece of paper) without seeing it 66 ; in the other study, the monkeys knew that behind a screen was an object and saw the experimenter’s hand disappear behind the screen, but they could not see any hand–object interaction 67 . The results showed that in both experiments F5 mirror neu – rons in the monkeys fired in the absence of visual infor – mation describing the motor act of the experimenter. The neuronal activation therefore underpinned the comprehension of the goal of the motor act of the other individual, regardless of the sensory information that described that motor act. This interpretation of the function of the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism has been challenged with objections and alternative proposals 68–71 . A key criticism has been advanced by Csibra 69 . He argued that the interpretation of mirror neuron function in terms of action understanding contains a “tension” between “the claim that the mirror mechanism reflects nothing else but faithful duplication of the observed action” and “the claim that mirroring rep – resents high-level interpretation of the observed action”. In other words, if mirror activity represents a copy of the observed motor act, it is not sufficiently general to capture the goal of that motor act; conversely, if it is sufficiently general for goal understanding, it cannot be interpreted in terms of a direct matching mechanism between sensory and motor representations (see also R EFS 70,71 ). In the earlier studies on the mirror mechanism, it was indeed not clearly specified that the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism in humans is involved in two kinds of sensory–motor transformation — one mapping the observed movements onto the observer’s own motor representation of those movements (movement mirror – ing), the other mapping the goal of the observed motor act onto the observer’s own motor representation of that motor act (goal mirroring), as described above. By match – ing individual movements, mirror processing provides a representation of body part movements that might serve various functions (for example, imitation), but is devoid of any specific cognitive importance per se . By contrast, through matching the goal of the observed motor act with a motor act that has the same goal, the observer is able to understand what the agent is doing. This is true not only for the mirror neurons that are broadly congru – ent but also for those that are strictly congruent, because these neurons also do not encode the elementary aspects of a movement (for example, its kinematics), but respond to the goal of the observed motor acts 44,56 . Typically, authors who play down or even deny the importance of the motor system for cognitive functions suggest that goal understanding is primarily due to cortical activation in the STS. This region, as described in a series of fundamental studies in monkeys 72,73 , is involved in the visual analysis of the actions of others. Several fMRI studies showed a similar role for the STS in humans (see R EFS 74,75 for a review). There is little doubt that STS neurons have an impor – tant role in encoding the behaviour of others. However, it is unlikely that the STS by itself mediates the processing of action understanding, relegating the parieto-frontal mir – ror network to an ancillary role in this function 65 : among the neurons in various areas that become active during action observation, only those that can encode the goal of the motor behaviour of another individual with the great – est degree of generality can be considered to be crucial for action understanding, and the available evidence shows that this capacity for generalization characterizes the parieto- frontal mirror neurons rather than STS cells. Indeed, pari – eto-frontal mirror neurons encode the goal of observed motor acts regardless of whether they are performed with the mouth, the hand or even with tools. Although STS neurons may encode some types of motor act, goal gener – alization such as is achieved by the parieto-frontal mirror neurons seems to be absent in the STS 72,73 . Most importantly, there are theoretical reasons why STS neurons are unlikely to encode actions with the same degree of generality as parieto-frontal mirror neurons. If an STS neuron selectively encodes the visual features of a given hand action (for example, grasping), it is unclear how this neuron would also be able to encode selectively the visual features of a mouth performing the same motor act. One could postulate an associa – tion process similar to that described for the temporal lobe 76,77 . However, in the STS, the association would be between spatio-temporally adjacent visual representa – tions of body part movements and not between visual representations of the same motor goal achieved by different effectors. By contrast, parieto-frontal mirror neurons — owing to their motor nature and the fact that they encode the goal of motor acts — can be trig – gered by different visual stimuli (for example, hand and mouth actions) that have a common goal (for example, grasping). Only the presence of a ‘motor scaffold’ that provides the goal-related aspects of observed actions can allow this generalization; such generalization cannot be achieved by mere visual association. A recent study provides empirical evidence in favour of this point 78 . The study was based on a TMS adaptation paradigm 79 . p articipants were presented with ‘adapta – tion-inducing’ movies of a hand or foot acting on vari – ous objects and asked to respond as quickly as possible to a picture of a motor act similar to that of the movie. TMS pulses were delivered over the ventral premotor cortex bilaterally, over the left I pl and over the left STS. The results showed that the delivery of TMS over both premotor and I pl cortices shortened the reaction times to ‘adapted’ motor acts regardless of which effector performed the observed motor act; by contrast, TMS stimulation of the STS shortened the reaction times to ‘adapted’ motor acts only if the same effector executed the act in the movie and in the test picture. Understanding actions from the inside. Another argu – ment against the role of mirror neurons in action under – standing is that there are several behavioural instances in which individuals understand the actions of others even if they are unable to perform them. For example, macaques can react to the observation of humans mak – ing the gesture of throwing objects overhand towards them 80 . It was proposed that, although monkeys never throw objects overhand, they could nevertheless under – stand the action they saw because they analysed the vari – ous visual elements of the observed actions and applied some form of inferential reasoning . However, this argument would only be valid if the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism consisted solely of strictly congruent mirror neurons. As the authors of the study themselves recognize 80 , the capacity of broadly congruent mirror neurons to generalize the goal of motor acts might account for the observed phenome – non. Given that broadly congruent mirror neurons may generalize from a hand action to actions performed with tools, even when they are as bizarre as reverse pliers, it is plausible that they could equally generalize from one type of throwing to another. There is no doubt that, in some cases, understanding the motor behaviour of others might require a mechanism different from mirroring. A typical example is the capacity of humans to recognize the actions of animals that do not belong to the human motor repertoire and cannot be captured by a motor generalization. e vidence for a non- mirror mechanism in action recognition was provided by an fMRI study in which volunteers were presented with video clips showing motor acts that did or did not belong to the human motor repertoire 81 . Although all volunteers recognized the observed motor acts regardless of whether or not they belonged to their own motor repertoire, no activation of parieto-frontal mirror areas was found in response to acts that did not belong to their motor reper – toire (for example, a dog barking). The areas that became active in such cases were occipital visual and STS areas. By contrast, the sight of motor acts that were within the motor repertoire of the observer (for example, a dog biting) recruited the parieto-frontal mirror network. These data indicate that the recognition of the motor behaviour of others can rely on the mere processing of its visual aspects. This processing is similar to that performed by the ‘ventral stream’ areas for the recogni – tion of inanimate objects. It allows the labelling of the observed behaviour, but does not provide the observer with cues that are necessary for a real understanding of the conveyed message (for example, the communica – tive intent of the barking dog). By contrast, when the observed action impinges on the motor system through the mirror mechanism, that action is not only visu – ally labelled but also understood, because the motor epresentation of its goal is shared by the observer and the agent. In other words, the observed action is under – stood from the inside as a motor possibility and not just from the outside as a mere visual experience (BOX 2) . Understanding motor intentions of others From motor goals to motor intentions. The properties of parieto-frontal mirror neurons described above indicate that their activity reflects what is going on in the ‘here and now’. However, there is evidence that parietal and frontal mirror neurons are involved in encoding not only the observed motor acts but also the entire action of which the observed motor act is part. Monkeys were trained to grasp objects with two different motor inten – tions: to place them into a container or to bring them to their mouth 11 . After training, motor neurons in the I pl that encode grasping were studied in the two set-ups. The results showed that the majority of these neurons discharged with an intensity that varied according to the action in which the motor act was embedded (‘action- constrained motor neurons’). This finding implies that the I pl contains ‘chains’ of neurons in which each neuron encodes a given motor act and is linked to oth – ers that are selective for another specific motor act. Together, they encode a specific action (for example, grasping for eating). A striking result of this study was that many of these action-constrained motor neurons have mirror proper – ties. w hen tested in the two set-ups described above, the majority of these neurons were differently activated depending on the action to which the observed motor act belonged (‘action-constrained mirror neurons’). This finding indicates that, in addition to describing what the observed individual is doing (for example, grasping), I pl mirror neurons also help the observer to explain why the individual is performing the action, owing to chained organization in the I pl . That is, I pl mirror neurons ena – ble the observer to recognize the agent’s motor intention. A recent study demonstrated that action-constrained neurons are also present in area F5 ( REF . 82) . The compar – ison of F5 and I pl (specifically area p FG) mirror neuron properties revealed no clear differences in their capacity to encode the motor intentions of others. e vidence that the parieto-frontal mirror circuit in humans is also involved in intention encoding was first provided by an fMRI experiment consisting of three conditions 83 . In the first (the ‘context condition’) the vol – unteers saw a photo of some objects arranged as for an ongoing breakfast or arranged as though the breakfast had just finished; in the second (the ‘action condition’), the volunteers saw a photo of a hand grasping a mug without any context; in the third (the ‘intention condition’) they saw photos showing the same hand actions within the two contexts. In this condition, the context provided clues for understanding the intention of the motor act. The results showed that the intention condition induced a stronger activation than the other two conditions in the caudal inferior frontal gyrus of the right hemisphere. An activation of the right parieto-frontal mirror cir – cuit during intention understanding was also described in a repetition–suppression fMRI experiment 84 . p articipants were presented with movies showing motor actions (for example, pushing or pulling a lid) that could lead to the same or to different outcomes (for example, opening or closing a box). The results showed that the responses in the right I pl and right inferior frontal cortex were ‘suppressed’ when participants saw movies of motor actions that had the same outcome, regard – less of the individual movements involved. Responses in these regions were not influenced by the kinematics parameters of the observed motor action. Brain imaging experiments allow the cortical sub – strate of a given function to be located, but they do not give information about the mechanism underlying the function. Cattaneo and colleagues tested whether the understanding of motor intention in humans might be based on the ‘chain mechanism’ described in the monkey 85 . p articipants were asked to grasp a piece of food and eat it or to grasp a piece of food and place it in a container. In another condition, they had to observe an experimenter performing the same actions. In both the execution and the observation condition, the electromyographic activity of the mylohyoid muscle — a muscle involved in mouth opening — was recorded. Both the execution and the observation of the eating action produced a marked increase of mylohyoid muscle activity as early as the ‘reaching’ phase, whereas no mylohyoid muscle activ – ity was recorded during the execution and the observa – tion of the placing action. This indicates that, as soon as the action starts, the entire motor programme for a given action is activated. Interestingly, the observers also seem to have a motor copy of this programme. This ‘intrusion’ allows them to predict what action the agent is going to execute from the first observed motor act and thus to understand the agent’s motor intention. Finally, there is evidence that the mirror mechanism, possibly located in this case in the fronto-mesial areas, also has a role in setting up an anticipatory representation of the motor behaviour of another individual. It has been shown that the ‘Bereitschaftspotential’, an electrophysio – logical marker of the readiness to act 86 , occurs not only when an individual actively performs a motor act, but also when the nature and the onset time of an upcoming action performed by another individual is predictable on the basis of a visual cue 87 . Mirroring intentions and inferring reasons. The studies reviewed above indicate that the parieto-frontal mirror network may subserve the understanding of the motor intention underlying the actions of others. This capacity represents a functional property of the parieto-frontal mirror network that further distinguishes it from those of visual areas. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how motor intention understanding could be based on visual processing alone, including visual processing that is car – ried out in higher-order visual areas such as the STS. It is true that some STS neurons are selective for a sequence of stimuli. For example, in contrast to classical visual neu – rons that respond to a specific static stimulus, some STS neurons respond to the static view of a body only when this stimulus occurs after a certain movement (for exam – ple, walk and stop) 88 . However, despite this fascinating property, these neurons do not give information about the agent’s motor intention: they describe a given motor act according to a previous motor behaviour, but they do not provide information about the motor intention underlying that motor act. This does not mean that the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism mediates all varieties of intention under – standing. Intention understanding is a multi-layer process involving different levels of action representation, from the motor intention that drives a given chain of motor acts to the propositional attitudes (beliefs, desires and so on) that — at least in humans — can be assumed to explain the observed behaviour in terms of its plausible psychological reasons. w e provide an example to clarify this point. Mary is interacting with an object (for example, a cup). According to how she is grasping the cup, we can understand why she is doing it (for example, to drink from it or to move it). This kind of understanding can be mediated by the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism by virtue of its motor chain organization. However, the mirror mechanism is not able to provide us with the reasons that might underlie the motor intention of Mary (for example, she grasped the cup to drink from it because she was thirsty or because she wanted some caffeine, or she did it to please her friends). u nderstanding the reasons behind an agent’s motor inten – tion requires additional inferential processes 89–91 . Recent empirical data confirmed these considera – tions. They showed that, although the parieto-frontal mirror mechanism is active in all conditions in which the motor task has to be directly understood, when vol – unteers were required to judge the reasons behind the observed actions, there was an activation of a sector of the anterior cingulate cortex and of other areas of the so-called ‘mentalizing network’ 92 . Activation of the same network was also shown in a study that investigated unu – sual actions performed in implausible versus plausible contexts 93 , as well as in a study on the neural basis of reason inference in non-stereotypical actions 94 . As there are different levels of action representation, there should be diverse neural mechanisms subserv – ing these different levels of intention understanding. u nderstanding motor intention relies on the parieto- frontal mirror mechanism and the motor chain organi – zation of the cortical motor system. u nderstanding the reason behind motor intention seems to be localized in cortical areas — the temporal parietal junction and a part of the anterior cingulate gyrus — that have not as yet been shown to have mirror properties. There have been theoretical attempts to integrate these two ways of understanding the intentions of others 95–96 . n onetheless, unlike for the mirror mechanism, there are currently no neurophysiological data that can explain how the ‘mental – izing network’ might work. Conclusions The mirror mechanism is a neurophysiological find – ing that has raised considerable interest over the past few years. It provides a basic mechanism that unifies action production and action observation, allowing the understanding of the actions of others from the inside. Such motor-based understanding seems to be a pri – mary way in which individuals relate to one another, as shown by its presence not only in humans and mon – keys, but also in evolutionarily distant species, such as swamp sparrows 4 and zebra finches 5 . Furthermore, this mechanism indicates the existence of a profound natural link between individuals that is crucial for establishing inter-individual interactions. Finally, preliminary evidence suggests that the impairment of this natural link may be one of the causes of the strik – ing inability of people with autism to relate to other individuals (BOX 3) .


Presse: L’IHT ne soufflera pas sa 127e bougie ! (End of an era for the Trib: iconic symbol of the expatriate American presence in Paris finally bows to globalization)

16 octobre, 2013

Jean Seberg in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 film “Breathless.”The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a break at the award ceremony for his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.LOREM IPSUM

Le quotidien mondial par excellence : créé par des Américains en 1887, édité à Paris, imprimé dans 28 villes du monde, lu dans 180 pays, le titre est beaucoup plus que l’édition internationale du New York Times, son unique propriétaire. Longtemps détenu à parts égales par The New York Times et The Washington Post, l’International Herald Tribune a beaucoup évolué depuis 2004. La couleur est apparue en une ; l’économie, la culture, les loisirs ont une place plus importante. Du coup, les deux tiers de son lectorat sont constitués de non-Américains. Courrier international
To me, the Herald Tribune represents a time when Paris truly was the expatriate capital of America. Charles Trueheart
You are wiping out a great tradition which you don’t really understand. Ronald Koven
The only thing that’s changing on October 15th are the words at the top of the flag, This is not some sort of hostile takeover . . . We love the print paper. We are going to put out a print paper for as long as we can, but the growth in readership is elsewhere. Richard Stevenson
I don’t think it will die in the next five years, but I think it will die . . . The richness of the experience you get on a tablet . . . 10 years from now the print circulation of newspapers . . . the technological advances we’ve had in the past 10 years . . . it’s almost unimaginable. Larry Ingrassia
Techno utopians do not seem alarmed by the fact that two-thirds of digital advertising revenue goes to tech giants – Google et al – not to the composers, writers, artists, translators and newspapers whose production they appropriate without compensation. Studies show concentration and retention plummet when one reads from screens; no wonder we all seem to suffer from ADD. The internet revolution raises enormous sociocultural issues, but they’re not being addressed, in part because we are dazzled by technology. (…) Much of the INYT operation has already shifted from Paris to Hong Kong and London, to escape the high social charges and obstreperous printers’ unions that make it so costly to publish in France. I asked if the paper would continue to accord the importance to French news that it has in the past. “No,” Ingrassia answered. “It’s a small country in the world.” Coverage has increasingly focused on the countries that “count” – chiefly the US, Russia, China, Germany. Internet readers can toggle between domestic US and global news. “ (…) Like Starbucks, the INYT will offer a choice of sizes. For less than a third of the price of a full subscription, the “need to know” formula will provide what one needs to know before going to a dinner party – the 20 or 30 most important stories of the day. The Irish Times

L’IHT ne soufflera pas sa 127e bougie !

Enième victime de la mondialisation et de l’Internet, le légendaire quotidien-phare de plusieurs générations d’expatriés américains de Paris perd son illustre patronyme …

Ou plus précisément la partie de patronyme dont il n’avait depuis bien longtemps plus que le nom …

Et qu’il devait d’ailleurs en fait à un premier rebaptème lorsqu’il avait été repris en 1966 par un consortium du Washington Post et du New York Times (le New York Herald Tribune – du nom du premier journal new-yorkais dont il était l’édition parisienne – devenant l’International Herald Tribune) …

Avant, dix ans après le départ du Washington Post (lui-même racheté – autre signe des temps – l’été dernier par le patron d’Amazon) sa reprise totale par le quotidien dont il était devenu de fait l’édition internationale …

Sa nouvelle dénomination d’International New York Times ne faisant alors que confirmer – à l’instar du transfert (merci l’Etat et les syndicats français !) d’une bonne partie de la production à Hong Kong – la simple et dure réalité des actuels rapports de force mondiaux …

Comme de l’évident déclin de la place de Paris dans le coeur des nouveaux expatriés américains ?

Jean Seberg ne vendra plus le Herald Tribune sur les Champs-Elysées

Pierre Haski

Rue89

14/10/2013

C’est l’une des images mythiques de l’histoire du cinéma… et de la presse : Jean Seberg vendant le Herald Tribune avec Jean-Paul Belmondo, cigarette au bec, dans « A bout de souffle » de Jean-Luc Godard.

C’était en 1960, une époque où vendre un quotidien papier frisait l’érotisme. Cette époque est révolue, à la fois pour le papier qui a perdu la partie face aux écrans, et pour le Herald Tribune, le quotidien américain basé à Paris – Neuilly pour être plus précis – qui deviendra mardi l’International New York Times.

Un numéro collector

Certes, à l’époque d’« A bout de souffle », il s’agissait du New York Herald Tribune, rebaptisé par la suite International Herald Tribune. Mais c’est bien le même journal qui a publié ce lundi un numéro collector, le dernier d’une longue histoire avant de changer de peau, d’identité, de plonger dans l’ère de la globalisation.

« Ne pleurez pas, ce n’est pas le premier changement de nom », implore Serge Schmemann, responsable des pages éditoriales du « Trib », comme on l’appelle familièrement, dans le supplément de 24 pages consacré à l’histoire du journal publié lundi.

Le quotidien a publié son premier numéro le 4 octobre 1887 (par comparaison, le plus ancien quotidien français est Le Figaro, né en 1866) sous le nom de Paris Herald, édition parisienne du New York Herald destinée aux Américains voyageant ou vivant en Europe. Il s’est appelé tour à tour New York Herald Tribune, puis International Herald Tribune lorsque le New York Times et le Washington Post s’en partageaient la propriété – et les pages.

Le premier quotidien global

Depuis une décennie, le New York Times est seul maître à bord, mais c’est seulement récemment qu’il a pris la décision de le transformer en International New York Times, tout en se lançant dans un pari audacieux : devenir le premier, et peut-être le seul, quotidien papier et numérique véritablement global du monde, basé à Paris, Londres et Hong Kong.

L’édition chinoise en ligne du New York Times (capture)

Parallèlement à la transformation de son édition internationale, le New York Times tente de se développer dans d’autres langues : le chinois depuis l’an dernier, malgré la censure du régime de Pékin qui est venue contrarier ses ambitions, ou le portugais à destination du Brésil annoncé, mais pas encore lancé.

Le New York Times, qui a failli être emporté par la crise de la presse et n’a été sauvé que par un prêt du milliardaire mexicain Carlos Slim, remboursé depuis par anticipation, s’est déjà transformé :

en devenant un quotidien réellement national, imprimé dans plusieurs villes, vendant 1,9 million d’exemplaires en semaine, 2,3 millions le dimanche ;

en produisant l’un des plus importants sites d’information au monde, avec plus de 40 millions de visiteurs uniques par mois, dont quelque 700 000 abonnés payants.

Quitte ou double

La mondialisation du New York Times est un pari quasi existentiel : le journal, toujours contrôlé par la famille Sulzberger, a vendu – à perte – certains de ses actifs, notamment le quotidien Boston Globe et des chaînes de télévision locales, pour financer son expansion tous azimuts.

Il a accumulé un « trésor de guerre » d’un milliard de dollars pour financer sa stratégie globale.

« C’est quitte ou double », commente un vétéran du journal, en priant pour que ça marche.

L’aventure du média global a été tentée précédemment par la télévision, que ce soit par CNN ou par la chaîne Sky de Rupert Murdoch, ou plus récemment par Arianna Huffington et le groupe AOL avec le Huffington Post et ses déclinaisons nationales.

Avec le New York Times, c’est un journalisme de qualité « à l’ancienne » qui tente de créer le média du XXIe siècle, avec 3 500 employés dont près d’un millier de journalistes, l’une des meilleures rédactions au monde.

L’International Herald Tribune est donc mort, longue vie à l’International New York Times !

Voir aussi:

L' »International Herald Tribune » rebaptisé « International New York Times »

Marc Roche (Londres, correspondant)

Le Monde

14.10.2013

Depuis le 15 octobre, l’International Herald Tribune a été rebaptisé « International New York Times » en vue de permettre au quotidien d’outre-Atlantique de se développer en dehors des Etats-Unis.

Au hasard d’une nostalgie, cette image en noir et blanc du film A bout de souffle (1960), de Jean-Luc Godard sur laquelle on distingue la comédienne Jean Seberg, la frange très courte, dont le tee-shirt blanc proclame, en lettres noires, « New York Herald Tribune ». Tout ce qu’il y avait à retenir du quotidien anglophone, lancé à Paris en 1887 et rebaptisé International Herald Tribune en 1967, était dit. Les expatriés américains, la Ville Lumière au centre du monde et un quotidien hors norme devenu propriété exclusive du New York Times en 2003.

Sur son site Internet, l’IHT présente un article multimédia sur son histoire :  » Turning the page »

C’était hier, c’était jadis. Depuis le 15 octobre, l’IHT a été rebaptisé International New York Times en vue de permettre au quotidien d’outre-Atlantique de se développer en dehors des Etats-Unis.

« Nous voulons exploiter cette opportunité pour attirer les lecteurs étrangers, les abonnements numériques et les publicitaires. (…) C’est le moment idoine pour créer une marque médiatique planétaire unique » : le directeur général du New York Times, Mark Thompson, justifie cette décision par la volonté d’utiliser le vénérable titre comme tête de pont du développement du New York Times à l’international, en particulier son édition numérique.

Comme en témoigne une diffusion quotidienne moyenne de 224 771 exemplaires en 2012, l’International Tribune est bien implanté en Europe, surtout en France, en Allemagne et en Italie, ainsi qu’en Asie. Reste que l’enseigne, à peine rentable, est dépourvue de site Internet. Et le site payant du New York Times, un « paywall » au-delà d’un nombre d’articles, ne compte actuellement que 10 % de ses abonnés numériques hors des Etats-Unis.

CONCURRENCE

Dans la nouvelle configuration, Paris, la base historique de l’IHT, devrait perdre des effectifs rédactionnels au profit de Londres et de Hongkong, mais supervisera néanmoins désormais les vingt-cinq bureaux du New York Times en Europe. Fort de son énorme puissance de feu rédactionnelle, le New York Times est confronté aujourd’hui à une concurrence à couteaux tirés dans la construction de marques de presse anglo-saxonnes « globales ».

A gauche, le Guardian, qui a créé une édition Web gratuite spécifique aux Etats-Unis et à l’Australie, veut s’imposer comme leader du journalisme d’investigation. A droite, le Wall Street Journal, vaisseau amiral du groupe Murdoch, bénéficie de synergies au sein du conglomérat News Corp présent sur quatre continents. Sur le créneau très porteur du journalisme économique, le Financial Times est parti à la conquête des lecteurs du monde des affaires de par le globe. Le quotidien britannique aux pages saumon a annoncé, le 10 octobre, qu’il entendait se concentrer sur le Net en ne publiant qu’une édition papier unique à partir du premier semestre 2014.

Dans cet affrontement, il faut aussi compter avec la compétition, tout aussi sévère, des sites gratuits de la BBC et de CNN.

Voir également:

End of an era as venerable ‘Herald Tribune’ to be reborn as ‘International New York Times’

The Irish Times

Lara Marlowe

October 11, 2013

In the 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, the first thing Ernest Hemingway’s fictional alter ego, Jake Barnes, does on returning from Spain to France is to buy the New York Herald from a kiosk in Bayonne, sit down at a cafe and read it.

Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 New Wave film classic Breathless consecrated the newspaper – by that time called the New York Herald Tribune – as a symbol of expatriate American life in Paris, portraying Jean Seberg as a student hawking the paper on the Champs-Élysées.

The International Herald Tribune, its name since 1967, will appear for the last time on Monday, to be reborn the following day as the International New York Times.

Richard Stevenson, the Europe editor of the INYT, and Larry Ingrassia, the assistant managing editor for new initiatives, on a visit from New York, met with the Anglo-American Press Association at the INYT’s offices in the Paris suburb of Courbevoie.

The AAPA seemed to have been cast as representatives of print journalism. These days, anyone who mourns the death foretold of letters delivered by post, bound books and printed newspapers is assumed to be a modern-day Luddite, after the 19th-century weavers and farmers who smashed mechanised looms and threshing machines in Britain.

There was a certain tension with Stevenson and Ingrassia, the young Turks from New York and the embodiment of the digital world. “You are wiping out a great tradition which you don’t really understand,” said Ronald Koven, one of several AAPA members who had worked for “the Trib”.

“The only thing that’s changing on [Tuesday] October 15th are the words at the top of the flag,” Stevenson protested. “This is not some sort of hostile takeover . . . We love the print paper. We are going to put out a print paper for as long as we can, but the growth in readership is elsewhere.”

The future is digital, Stevenson and Ingrassia repeated like a mantra. The NYT still earns more from print than from the internet, but as print circulation declines, digital subscriptions rise. Print advertising subsides; digital advertising grows.

About 10 per cent of the NYT’s more than 700,000 digital subscribers are outside the US. “I’d be thrilled if we could double that to 20 per cent in a couple of years,” Ingrassia said.

Survival

Asked how long he thought print newspapers would survive, Ingrassia replied: “I don’t think it will die in the next five years, but I think it will die . . . The richness of the experience you get on a tablet . . . 10 years from now the print circulation of newspapers . . . the technological advances we’ve had in the past 10 years . . . it’s almost unimaginable.”

This evolution poses the basic question: at what point does a newspaper cease to be a newspaper? Stevenson and Ingrassia emphasised the importance of video, live-blogging and “multimedia packages” to the NYT.

“Those of us who think primarily about digital don’t think necessarily of newspapers as being competition,” Stevenson said. So who was their competition? The fact that the former head of the BBC is now chief executive of the NYT “is telling in terms of the culture and priorities of the paper”, he added.

Digital advertising

Techno utopians do not seem alarmed by the fact that two-thirds of digital advertising revenue goes to tech giants – Google et al – not to the composers, writers, artists, translators and newspapers whose production they appropriate without compensation. Studies show concentration and retention plummet when one reads from screens; no wonder we all seem to suffer from ADD. The internet revolution raises enormous sociocultural issues, but they’re not being addressed, in part because we are dazzled by technology.

“Our biggest challenge now is not transitioning from print to the website,” Stevenson said. “It’s keeping up with the technology and the way people consume news . . . The New York Times newsroom has become an R&D lab. We have some of the smartest, most creative people in the world . . . What they bring us is wizardry.”

Much of the INYT operation has already shifted from Paris to Hong Kong and London, to escape the high social charges and obstreperous printers’ unions that make it so costly to publish in France. I asked if the paper would continue to accord the importance to French news that it has in the past. “No,” Ingrassia answered. “It’s a small country in the world.”

Coverage has increasingly focused on the countries that “count” – chiefly the US, Russia, China, Germany. Internet readers can toggle between domestic US and global news. “A lot of readers from outside the US consciously, affirmatively, choose the US edition on the website,” Stevenson says.

There’s no place for Pat Rabbitte’s proverbial Irish caveman among the NYT’s subscribers, defined as “English-speaking, highly educated, mobile, affluent,” by Stevenson. “If you look at the political, cultural, business elite of the world . . . that’s our audience,” says Ingrassia. “There are five million, 10 million, of those people. If we can get 100,000 of them to subscribe digitally at 350 bucks a year, that’s far greater potential growth than with print.”

Like Starbucks, the INYT will offer a choice of sizes. For less than a third of the price of a full subscription, the “need to know” formula will provide what one needs to know before going to a dinner party – the 20 or 30 most important stories of the day.

“The hope is we can figure out new revenue streams that we haven’t actually imagined today,” Ingrassia concluded.

Voir encore:

International Herald Tribune: the paper of the American abroad

Newspaper to become International New York Times as it attempts to project itself as more recognisable global brand

Simon Tisdall

The Guardian

14 October 2013

Immortalised by Jean Seberg in Godard’s 1960 film À bout de souffle, the paper of record for Americans abroad has become the International New York Times. Photograph: The Ronald Grant Archive

Ernest Hemingway, author, exile, and Rimbaud-esque enfant terrible, fully understood the life-enhancing, horizon-broadening significance that Paris and its transplanted New York-owned newspaper, the English-language Paris Herald, held for nouveau-riche middle-class Americans.

In his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, the first thing the autobiographical hero, Jake Barnes, does on his return to France from Spain is buy the Herald, as the present-day International Herald Tribune was then known, and read it in a cafe with a glass of wine.

Whether Hemingway intended it or not, Barnes struck a contagiously cosmopolitan pose that proved irresistibly attractive to the many would-be emulators who subsequently made the journey across the Atlantic.

For generations of Americans travelling to Europe before, during and after the two world wars, swapping the competitive, tight-laced rigours of the materialist, capitalist, God-fearing USA for the sophisticated languor, louche-ness and chic of the French capital, the Herald reported, reflected and symbolised the quintessential experience of embracing foreignness, and specifically Frenchness.

It provided a link with home while reminding the expatriate of his or her daring plunge into the unknown, slightly dangerous culture of the Old World.

Ernest Hemingway and Gary Cooper Ernest Hemingway with Gary Cooper in Paris. Photograph: Keystone via Getty Images

And it became the newspaper of glittering record for what Gertrude Stein, perhaps the original « American in Paris », dubbed « la generation perdue », the lost generation, which hailed from America’s Gilded Age and came into its own during the first world war. Its denizens included F Scott Fitzgerald, Isadora Duncan, TS Eliot, Waldo Peirce and Alan Seeger as well as Hemingway himself.

Years later, in 1953, Hemingway was still propping up the bar at the Paris Ritz, where he was discovered drinking bloody marys by the Herald’s humorist, Art Buchwald.

Hemingway denied a report that he had consumed 15 martinis in 45 minutes at the Dome cafe in Montparnasse. The great man told Buchwald: « First of all, I’d never do such a silly thing, and secondly, I’d like to see anybody drink a dry martini at the Dome. »

The exchange was reproduced in a special supplement published on Monday by the International Herald Tribune (IHT) to mark its last day of publication under that name. From Tuesday it will be marketed as the International New York Times, reflecting its present ownership and, presumably, the New York title’s desire to project itself as a more recognisable global brand.

Buchwald’s anecdotes aside, the supplement unearths old opinion and editorial pieces, historic news reports and front pages, fashion shocks, scientific breakthroughs and fusty photographs of mostly forgotten icons and tyrants, and reprints several of the paper’s consistently unfunny cartoons. All were published after the Herald opened for business in Paris in 1887 under the auspices of James Gordon Bennett, owner of the New York Herald.

Like newspapers in the digital age, the transplanted paper was made possible by revolutionary technological advances, including more efficient printing methods and improved communications stemming from the laying of the first transatlantic telegraph cables in 1858.

At the same time, according to Charles Robertson, author of a history of the paper, new audiences were being created by the rapid development of steamship travel and the advent of a new class of wealthy Americans eager to discover the Europe of their forebears.

In an editorial for the last edition, the IHT’s Serge Schmemann argues bravely that the rebranded paper will remain vital and relevant because « we still need trusted reporters and editors to sort out the vast waves of information sweeping this chaotic world of ours. We need those first rough drafts, the smart commentary, the impartial news, to function in these times. »

Not everything was smart, of course. To its credit, the IHT reproduces a May 1932 editorial that bemoans the lack of a strong fascist movement in America. It declares: « The hour has struck for a fascist party to be born in the United States. »

Seven years later, reporting the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, the paper’s tune changes: « The madman has unsheathed his sword, with Poland as his first victim. »

Eye-catching photographs include one of Andy Warhol sitting in Venice in 1977 reading the « Trib » – an unwitting tribute to Breathless, the 1960 film by Jean-Luc Godard that features an American student who takes a job selling the paper on the streets of Paris. Others show Adolf Eichmann at his sentencing in Israel in 1962 and Fidel Castro in full revolutionary fig in 1957. In 1931, but it could be 2013, Walter Lippmann discusses Gandhi’s non-violence doctrine and deplores the way Americans, « who want peace but no responsibility », have abandoned a global peacemaking role.

Other reports and photos from the IHT archives record inspirational individuals of different stripes, including Simone de Beauvoir, Greta Garbo, Grace Kelly, the Beatles, and Martin Luther King, in Oslo in 1964 for his Nobel peace prize. One brief item from 1911 sums up the sort of journalistic dedication the rebranded paper will hope to maintain. It concerns a railway accident in which one of its reporters was injured. The reporter, who gets no byline, is quoted as saying: « Please ring up my paper and tell them there is a big story here. I’m sorry I cannot work on it myself. » Then he died.

Voir de même:

The Life of a Newspaper

Serge Schmemann

The New York Times

October 13, 2013

This is the last time you will be reading The International Herald Tribune; as of tomorrow, it is The International New York Times. But weep not:

This is not the first name change for what was popularly known in its early years as the ‘‘Paris Herald,’’ and if the genealogy of a newspaper is reflected in its name (the original parent, The New York Herald, at one point the most profitable and popular paper in all the United States, ended its days as The New York World Journal Tribune), the DNA of a great paper is defined by evolution of the complex and intimate interplay of reader and editor, owner and technology.

And that is best discovered in the figurative basement of the paper, in those stacks of brown, brittle copies of old newspapers that trace the ever-changing interests, dramas, world views and pleasures — all that we call ‘‘news.’’

Mining these vintage broadsheets is a pleasure that may be lost to future generations if the ‘‘paper’’ goes out of newspapering. The real gems buried in these stacks are not necessarily the ‘‘first rough drafts of history’’ that reporters like to claim as their product — these are easier to access in footnotes and online — but rather the obscure little story on an inside page (‘‘Is London Hairdresser Really a German Spy?’’) alongside an ad for a forgotten product at a forgotten price (‘‘Take Carter’s Little Liver Pills … The stomach, liver and bowels will be cleansed of poison …’’) or the society news from a time when everybody knew who everybody was (‘‘Mr. Irving Marks, an American resident of Paris, has moved from the George V to the Plaza Athénée, where he plans to remain indefinitely’’).

Many a brief item leaves us craving for more: An 1897 dispatch from Kronstadt, the port of St. Petersburg, describes the arrival of President Félix Faure of France: ‘‘Ladies faint and utter strangers embrace affectionately.’’ Why?

The paper of Feb. 20, 1898, described how it took 12 Parisian policemen aided by two victims to get two muggers to the station house. Even then, one of the suspects would have escaped ‘‘had it not been for the appearance of a gigantic policeman, who goes by the name of Napoleon and who is kept on the premises specially to overpower disorderly prisoners.’’

This was the daily cafe fare of the gilded generation of ‘‘An American in Paris,’’ of the Lost Generation (‘‘America is my country and Paris is my hometown,’’ Gertrude Stein declared), of doughboys and tourists. The Paris Herald flourished at a time when the goings-on at England’s Downton Abbeys were still news even as a new social era was fast rising: A cartoon I found from 1896 shows two women resting in front of their modern bicycles. Bell: ‘‘Why did old novels all end with ‘And they lived happily for ever after?’’’ Nell: ‘‘Because the New Woman was not known then.’’

The paper evolved with the times. The European edition founded in 1887 by the wild and wealthy owner of The New York Herald, James Gordon Bennett Jr., for his fellow American expatriates in Paris spread first to London (‘‘In order to ensure an extremely rapid delivery of the New York Herald in London, the airplanes of the Air Union Company carry it over every morning’’ — 1932), then across Europe, and finally to Asia.

Its names and owners changed from time to time — it became the European Edition of The New York Herald Tribune in 1924; then, in 1967, The International Herald Tribune, under the joint ownership of The Herald Tribune, The New York Times and The Washington Post. This troika was reduced in 1991 to The Washington Post and The New York Times and then in 2003 to only The Times. And thus, as of tomorrow, it will be The International New York Times.

Whatever the name, the connection between the paper and its audience has long been clear. Already in 1911, an art magazine of the time called Lotus noted, ‘‘As all American travelers in Europe know, or should know, the ‘N.Y. Herald’ publishes in Paris a European edition that usually is spoken of as ‘The Paris Herald.’’’ (The Herald had reported a claim by the Prado Museum in Madrid that its ‘‘Mona Lisa’’ was the real one, not the Louvre’s.) And by its 100th anniversary — a birthday marked by a memorable feast at the Trocadéro, with the Eiffel Tower across the Seine recruited as a spectacular birthday candle — the Trib, aka the IHT, had become ‘‘the first global newspaper,’’ the trusted daily fare of Americans and other English-speaking travelers, businesspeople, diplomats, expatriates and journalists across Europe and Asia.

I became a regular user, and contributor, when I went abroad as a foreign correspondent 35 years ago. In my years as a New York Times correspondent in the Soviet Union, we would get the Trib in stacks, the freshest never less than four days old. But we would still devour them all — not so much for the news, which by then we’d learned, but — as with those musty stacks of Gilded Age and Jazz Age Paris Heralds — for a taste of the life in the world out there.

Of course, a lot of people will lament the latest name change, just as they do any change. Among the letters to the editor I read in the papers of yore, one railed against ‘‘the loud-speaker radio’’ and the ‘‘croaking and screeching of unseen tenors and sopranos’’ filling Parisian apartment houses; another ranted against central heating — ‘‘What can beat a good coal fire for comfort and health?’’ And newspapers, I have learned, are notoriously habit-forming — loyal readers resist any alteration of their daily fix.

But even back in the day, lurking among those who lamented change were always a few who welcomed it. The paper itself devoted an entire page in 1896 to advising ladies how to ride a bicycle and what to wear (and eat — this was France) when cycling. In 1932, one James J. Montague submitted a poem (something we don’t see much any more, alas) addressed to an infant growing up in an era of rapid technological advances: ‘‘The progress of science foretells/ That when you grow up all your work will be done/ By photo-electrical cells.’’

The fact is that The Herald/IHT/INYT (will that be the next nickname?) was itself from its inception a child of revolutionary technological advances. According to the history of the paper by Charles L. Robertson, it was industrialization and the rapid development of steamship travel after 1850 that created a new class of wealthy, Atlantic-hopping Americans. And it was the trans-Atlantic telegraph cables, first laid in 1858, that made it possible to keep them in close touch with their country, their businesses and the world. Bennett, in fact, was instrumental in lowering the cost of trans-Atlantic communications — and thus making a European edition of his paper economically feasible — by partnering with another magnate to break the monopoly of Western Union in laying trans-Atlantic cables.

The world has not ceased shrinking since. The first trans-Atlantic transmission by cable moved 98 words in 16 hours. Today, suppliers fight to shave milliseconds off the speed of transmission via fiber optic cables. But Mr. Montague’s prophecy of photo-electric everything, including eyes, has not come to pass, and it takes us as long to read those 98 words as it did in 1858. So long as that doesn’t change, we will still need trusted reporters and editors to sort out the vast waves of information sweeping this chaotic world of ours. We need those first rough drafts, the smart commentary, the impartial news, to function in these times. And we should hope that our grandchildren will delight in finding telling tidbits about our era when they find this newspaper in your attic.

Serge Schmemann is the editorial page editor of the International Herald Tribune and a member of the editorial board of The New York Times.


Columbus Day/521e: Au commencement le Monde entier était Amérique (There was no « Europe » before 1492: How Columbus discovered Europe)

15 octobre, 2013
https://i2.wp.com/libcom.org/files/images/history/Indians.jpghttps://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/9d7d3-columbus.gifAinsi au commencement le Monde entier était Amérique, et plus que ce ne l’est maintenant; car nulle part on ne connaissait de chose telle que l’Argent. Trouvez quelque chose ayant son Usage et sa Valeur parmi ses Voisins, et vous verrez le même Homme commencer rapidement à agrandir ses Possessions. John Locke
Hey Americans! Feeling uncomfortable with Columbus Day? You are cordially invited to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. Stephanie Carvin (University of Ottawa)
America, as it appears in these famous words from the Two Treatises of Government, is John Locke’s political Genesis. For Locke, America is the beginning of civilization, to the extent that it reveals civil society’s natural origins. But Locke’s vision of the new world is a ‘beginning’ for the old world, in a different, although equally profound, sense. Steeped in the colonial zeal of his patron, the Earl of Shaftesbury, John Locke saw America as the second Garden of Eden; a new beginning for England should she manage to defend her claims In the American continent against those of the Indians and other European powers. America, like the world described in the original Genesis, is England’s second chance at paradise, providing the colonial masters of the old world, with a land full of all the promise known in that first Idyllic state. America thus represents for Locke and his readers a two-sided Genesis, a place to find both the origins of their past and the promise of their future. It is the role of America and Its native inhabitants In Locke’s political theory which has been previously overlooked in scholarship on the Two Treatises. Given the number of specific references In this work to America, and Locke’s lifelong Involvement In the colonization of the new world, it Is Indeed surprising that so little has been written on the subject. The oversight is Important for without considering Locke’s use of  America and its inhabitants in light of the collection of American ‘travelogues’ within his own personal library and the political needs of Shaftesbury’s colonial enterprise in Carolina, an important aspect of the Two Treaties will be missed. This thesis will argue that Locke’s Two treatises of Government were a defense of England’s colonial policy in the new world against the counterclaims of the Indians and other European powers to the continent. In particular, it will be shown that the famous chapter on property, which contains most of the references to to American Indians in the Two treatises, was written to justify the dispossession of the American Indians of their land, through a vigorous defense of England’s ‘superior’ claims to proprietorship. Morag Barbara Arneil
Columbus’s voyages caused almost as much change in Europe as in the Americas. This is the other half of the vast process historians now call the Columbian exchange. Crops, animals, ideas, and diseases began to cross the oceans regularly. Perhaps the most far-reaching impact of Columbus’s findings was on European Christianity. In 1492 all of Europe was in the grip of the Catholic Church. As Larousse puts it, before America, « Europe was virtually incapable of self-criticism. » After America, Europe’s religious uniformity was ruptured. For how were these new peoples to be explained? They were not mentioned in the Bible. The Indians simply did not fit within orthodox Christianity’s explanation of the moral universe. Moreover, unlike the Muslims, who might be written off as « damned infidels, » Indians had not rejected Christianity, they had just never encountered it. Were they doomed to hell? Even the animals of America posed a religious challenge. According to the Bible, at the dawn of creation all animals lived in the Garden of Eden. Later, two of each species entered Noah’s ark and ended up on Mt. Ararat. Since Eden and Mt. Ararat were both in the Middle East, where could these new American species have come from? Such questions shook orthodox Catholicism and contributed to the Protestant Reformation, which began in 1517. Politically, nations like the Arawaks-without monarchs, without much hierarchy-stunned Europeans. In 1516 Thomas More’s Utopia, based on an account of the Incan empire in Peru, challenged European social organization by suggesting a radically different and superior alternative. Other social philosophers seized upon the Indians as living examples of Europe’s primordial past, which is what John Locke meant by the phrase « In the beginning, all the world was America. » Depending upon their political persuasion, some Europeans glorified Indian nations as examples of simpler, better societies, from which European civilization had devolved, while others maligned the Indian societies as primitive and underdeveloped. In either case, from Montaigne, Montesquieu, and Rousseau down to Marx and Engels, European philosophers’ concepts of the good society were transformed by ideas from America. America fascinated the masses as well as the elite. In The Tempest, Shakespeare noted this universal curiosity: « They will not give a doit to relieve a lambe beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian. » Europe’s fascination with the Americas was directly responsible, in fact, for a rise in European self-consciousness. From the beginning America was perceived as an « opposite » to Europe in ways that even Africa never had been. In a sense, there was no « Europe » before 1492. People were simply Tuscan, French, and the like. Now Europeans began to see similarities among themselves, at least as contrasted with Native Americans. For that matter, there were no « white » people in Europe before 1492. With the transatlantic slave trade, first Indian, then African, Europeans increasingly saw « white » as a race and race as an important human characteristic. James W. Loewen

Attention: une découverte peut en cacher une autre !

En ce 521e anniversaire de la découverte de l’Amérique par Christophe Colomb

Qui, politiquement correct oblige, se voit accuser de tous les maux de la terre …

Et où nos amis canadiens en profitent discrètement pour fêter leur Thanksgiving

Retour sur l’autre découverte que rendit possible celle de Colomb avec ses inexplicables « Indiens » et ce nouveau jardin d’Eden extra-biblique …

Mais aussi l’immensité des nouveaux espaces ouverts qui inspirera à Locke sa fameuse définition de la propriété

A savoir au-delà naturellement de la justification des visées coloniales de son employeur le comte de Shaftesbury

L’autodécouverte, par l’Europe elle-même, de sa propre identité …

Essai sur la véritable Origine, l’Étendue et la Fin du Gouvernement Civil.

John Locke

Chapitre V

De la Propriété.

25. Que nous considérions la Raison naturelle, qui nous dit que les Hommes, à la naissance, ont droit à la Conservation de soi, et donc au Boire et au Manger, et à ces autres choses que la Nature procure pour leur Subsistance; ou la Révélation, qui nous représente ces Concessions que Dieu a faites du Monde à Adam, et Noé, et ses Fils, il est très clair, que Dieu, comme le dit le Roi David, Ps. CXV. xvi. a donné la Terre aux Enfants des Hommes, l’a donnée à l’Humanité en commun. Mais ceci étant supposé, il subsiste pour certains une très grande difficulté, comment quiconque pourrait-il jamais devenir Propriétaire de quoi que ce soit: je ne me bornerai pas à répondre que s’il est difficile de comprendre la Propriété, dans l’hypothèse que Dieu donna le Monde à Adam et à sa Postérité en commun; il est impossible que qui que ce soit, sauf un Monarque universel, devienne Propriétaire, dans l’hypothèse que Dieu donna le Monde à Adam et à ses Héritiers dans l’ordre de Succession. Mais je tâcherai de montrer comment les Hommes ont pu devenir Propriétaires de parties différentes de ce que Dieu donna à l’Humanité en commun, et ceci sans Contrat exprès de tous les Usagers.

26. Dieu, qui a donné le Monde aux Hommes en commun, leur a aussi raison donnée pour l’utiliser au mieux et à la commodité de la Vie. La Terre, et tout ce qui s’y trouve, est donnée aux Hommes pour le Soutien et le Confort de leur existence. Et bien que tous les Fruits qu’elle produit naturellement, et toutes les Bêtes qu’elle nourrit, appartiennent à l’Humanité en commun, en tant qu’ils sont produits par la main spontanée de la Nature; et bien que personne n’ait à l’origine de Domination privée, à l’exclusion du reste de l’Humanité, sur n’importe lequel d’entre eux, en tant qu’ils sont dans leur état naturel: cependant, donnés pour être utilisés par les Hommes, il doit nécessairement y avoir un moyen ou un autre de les approprier avant qu’ils ne puissent servir ou bénéficier à qui que ce soit. Les Fruits, ou le Gibier, qui nourrissent l’Indien sauvage, ne connaissant point la Clôture et encore Tenancier en commun, doivent être à lui et tellement à lui, c’est-à-dire partie de lui-même, que personne ne peut plus y avoir droit, avant de pouvoir lui être d’aucun bien pour le Soutien de sa Vie.

27. Bien que la Terre, et toutes les Créatures inférieures soient communes à tous les Hommes, cependant chacun d’eux est Propriétaire de sa propre Personne. Sur elle nul n’a de Droit sauf lui-même. On peut dire que le Labeur de son Corps, et l’Ouvrage de ses mains sont proprement à lui. A tout objet, donc, qu’il tire de l’État où la Nature l’a procuré et laissé, il a mêlé son Travail, et joint quelque chose qui est son bien, et le fait par là sa Propriété. En le retirant de l’état commun où la Nature l’a placé, ce Travail lui a annexé quelque chose, qui exclut les autres Hommes du droit d’usage. Car, Propriété incontestable de celui qui le fournit, personne d’autre ne peut avoir droit à ce à quoi il est désormais joint, du moins là où il en reste assez, et d’aussi bonne qualité, en commun pour d’autres.

28. Celui qui se nourrit de Glands ramassés sous un Chêne, ou de Pommes cueillies sur l’Arbre dans les Bois, se les est certainement appropriés. On ne peut nier qu’ils ne soient à lui. Je demande alors, à partir de quand? Au moment où il les a digérés? mangés? fait bouillir? ramenés chez lui? ou ramassés? Il est évident que rien ne le pourrait, si les cueillir d’abord ne le faisait. Ce travail les a mis à part de ceux qui sont en commun. Il leur a ajouté quelque chose de plus que ce qu’avait fait la Nature, la commune Mère de tout; et ainsi ils sont devenus son droit privé. Et dira-t-on qu’il n’avait point droit aux Glands ou aux Pommes qu’il s’est ainsi appropriés, parce qu’il n’avait pas le consentement de toute l’Humanité pour les faire siens? Était-ce donc un Vol que de supposer à lui ce qui appartenait à tous en Commun? S’il fallait un tel consentement, l’Homme serait mort de faim, nonobstant l’Abondance que Dieu lui a donnée. On voit dans les Communaux, qui le restent par Contrat, que c’est le fait de prendre une partie de ce qui est commun et de la retirer de l’état où la Nature la laisse, qui fait naître la Propriété; sans laquelle le Communal n’ait d’aucune utilité. Et prendre telle ou telle partie ne dépend pas du consentement exprès de tous les Usagers. Ainsi l’Herbe que mon Cheval a broutée; la Tourbe que mon Serviteur a découpée; et le Minerai que j’ai extrait n’importe où je partage avec d’autres un droit d’usage, deviennent ma Propriété, sans assignation ni consentement de quiconque. Le travail qui était mien, en les retirant de cet état commun où ils étaient, y a fixé ma Propriété.

29. S’il fallait un consentement explicite de tous les Usagers à tous ceux qui s’approprient une partie de ce qui est donné en commun, Enfants ou Serviteurs ne pourraient pas couper la Viande que leur Père ou leur Maître leur a fourni en commun, sans leur assigner de part en particulier. Bien que l’Eau à la Fontaine soit à tout le monde, qui peut douter que dans le Pichet elle ne soit qu’à celui qui l’a tirée? Son travail l’a retirée des mains de la Nature, où elle était en commun et appartenait également à tous ses Enfants, et l’a par là appropriée à lui-même.

30. Ainsi cette Loi de la raison fait du Cerf le bien de l’Indien qui l’a tué; il est permis que les biens auxquels il a appliqué son travail soient à lui, bien qu’auparavant chacun en eût le droit d’usage. Et parmi ceux qui passent pour la partie Policée de l’Humanité, qui ont fait et multiplié les Lois positives pour déterminer la Propriété, ce Droit de la Nature originel pour faire naître la Propriété, dans ce qui était auparavant en commun, a encore cours; c’est en vertu de lui que le Poisson capturé dans l’Océan, ce grand Communal encore subsistant de l’Humanité; ou l’Ambre gris qui y est pris, deviennent par le Travail, qui les retire de l’état commun où la Nature les laissait, la Propriété de celui qui s’en donne la peine. Et même parmi nous, la Hase, que l’on court, est pensée comme lui appartenant par son poursuivant au cours de la Chasse. Puisqu’étant une Bête qui passe encore pour commune, et n’est Possession privée de Personne; quiconque a employé autant de travail à quoi que ce soit, que la débusquer et la poursuivre, l’a retirée par là de l’état de Nature où elle était commune, et a fait naître une Propriété.

31. On objectera peut-être à ceci, Que si cueillir des Glands, ou d’autres Fruits de la Terre, &c. donne droit à eux, alors n’importe qui peut accaparer autant qu’il veut. A quoi je Réponds, Non. Le même Droit de la Nature, qui nous donne par ce moyen la Propriété, limite également cette Propriété aussi. Dieu nous a donné toutes choses richement, 1 Tim. vi. 17. est la Voix de Raison confirmée par l’Inspiration. Mais jusqu’où nous l’a-t-il donné? Pour jouir. Autant que quelqu’un peut en utiliser en faveur de la vie avant qu’il ne se gâte; autant il peut y fixer une Propriété par son travail. Tout ce qui est au-delà, est plus que sa part, et appartient à autrui. Dieu n’a rien créé pour que l’Homme le gâte ou le détruise. Et ainsi vu l’abondance des Vivres naturels qu’il y avait longtemps dans le Monde, le peu de consommateurs, et la petitesse de la fraction des vivres sur lesquels l’industrie d’un Individu pouvait s’étendre et qu’elle pouvait accaparer au détriment d’autrui; surtout s’il restait dans les limites mises par la raison à ce qui pouvait lui servir; Querelles ou Litiges sur la Propriété ainsi établie n’avaient donc guère de place.

32. Mais l’objet principal de Propriété n’étant pas maintenant les Fruits de la Terre, ni les Bêtes qui y subsistent, mais la Terre elle-même; comme ce qui englobe et comporte tout le reste: je pense qu’il est évident, que la Propriété en ce qui la concerne s’acquière aussi comme la précédente. Autant de Terres qu’un Homme Laboure, Plante, Améliore, Cultive, et dont il peut utiliser le Produit, autant est sa Propriété. Par son Travail il les enclôt, pour ainsi dire, du Communal. Et cela n’invalidera pas son droit de dire que Tout autre y a un Titre égal, et qu’il ne peut donc approprier, enclore, sans le Consentement de tous ses Co-Usagers, de toute l’Humanité. Dieu, quand il donna le Monde en commun à toute l’Humanité, commanda aussi à l’Homme de travailler, et l’Indigence de son État le lui imposa. Dieu et sa Raison lui commandaient de soumettre la Terre, c’est-à-dire de l’améliorer en faveur de la Vie, et ce faisant d’y dépenser quelque chose qui était son bien, son travail. Celui qui, Obéissant à ce Commandement de Dieu, en soumettait, labourait et ensemençait une partie, lui annexait ainsi quelque chose qui était sa Propriété, à laquelle autrui n’avait point de Titre, ni ne pouvait lui prendre sans lui léser.

33. Et cette appropriation d’une parcelle de Terre, moyennant son amélioration, ne nuisait à personne, puisqu’il y en avait encore assez, et d’aussi bonne; et plus que ne pouvait utiliser celui qui était encore dépourvu. Si bien qu’en effet, il ne restait jamais moins aux autres de la clôture pour soi. Car celui qui laisse autant qu’un autre peut utiliser, fait comme s’il ne prenait rien. Personne ne pouvait s’estimer lésé par ce qu’un autre buvait, même s’il s’agissait d’une bonne Gorgée, si toute une Rivière de la même Eau lui restait pour étancher sa Soif. Et il en est exactement de même pour la Terre, là où, comme de l’Eau, il y en a assez.

34. Dieu donna le Monde aux Hommes en Commun; mais puisqu’il le leur donna pour leur bien, et pour les plus grandes Commodités de la Vie qu’ils étaient capables d’en tirer, on ne peut supposer que ce fût pour qu’il restât toujours en commun et non cultivé. Il le donna à l’usage de l’Industrieux et du Rationnel (et le Travail devait être son Titre); non à la Fantaisie ou à la Cupidité du Querelleur et du Chicaneur. Celui qui en avait d’aussi bon pour l’améliorer que ce qui était déjà pris, n’avait pas à se plaindre, ne devait pas se mêler de ce qui était déjà amélioré par le Travail d’un autre: S’il le faisait, il est évident qu’il voulait profiter de la Peine d’autrui, à laquelle il n’avait point droit, et non du Sol que Dieu lui avait donné à travailler en commun avec les autres, et dont il restait d’aussi bonne qualité que ce qui était déjà possédé, et plus qu’il ne savait en faire, ou que son Industrie pouvait attraper.

35. Il est vrai, dans la Terre qui est commune en Angleterre, ou ailleurs, où il y a une Abondance de Gens sous Gouvernement, qui ont Monnaie et Commerce, personne ne peut enclore ou approprier quelque partie que ce soit, sans le consentement de tous ses Co-Usagers: parce qu’elle est laissée en commun par Contrat, c’est-à-dire par le Droit foncier, qui ne doit pas être violé. Et, si elle est Commune, relativement à certains, elle ne l’est pas à toute l’Humanité; mais elle est la co-propriété de telle Contrée, ou de telle Paroisse. En outre, le restant, après une telle clôture, ne serait pas aussi bon au reste des Usagers que ne l’était le tout, quand ils pouvaient tous l’utiliser: alors qu’au commencement et au premier peuplement du grand Communal du Monde, il en était tout autrement. La Loi sous laquelle était l’Homme, était plutôt pour l’appropriation. Dieu Commandait, et ses Besoins le forçaient au travail. C’était sa Propriété qu’on ne pouvait lui prendre partout où il l’avait fixée. Et de là nous voyons que soumettre ou cultiver la Terre, et avoir la Domination, vont ensemble. L’un donnait Titre à l’autre. Si bien que Dieu, en commandant de soumettre, donnait Pouvoir d’approprier. Et la Condition de la Vie Humaine, qui nécessite Labeur et Matières à travailler, introduit nécessairement les Possessions privées.

36. La Nature a bien établi la mesure de la Propriété, par l’étendue du Travail humain, et la Commodité de la Vie humaine: il n’y avait personne dont Travail pût soumettre ou approprier tout: ni la Jouissance consommer plus qu’une petite partie; si bien que personne ne pouvait, par ce moyen, empiéter sur le droit d’autrui, ou acquérir, pour lui, une Propriété aux dépens de son Voisin, qui trouverait encore place pour une Possession aussi bonne, et aussi grande (après que l’autre a pris la sienne) qu’avant son appropriation. Cette mesure limitait la Possession de chacun à une Proportion très modérée, et telle qu’il pouvait s’approprier, sans Léser qui que ce soit aux Premiers Ages du Monde, quand les Hommes risquaient plus de se perdre, en s’écartant de leur Compagnie, dans les alors vastes Déserts de la Terre, que d’être empêchés de s’établir par manque de place. Et la même mesure vaut encore, sans nuire à qui que ce soit, aussi plein que le Monde paraisse. Car, si un Homme, ou une Famille, dans l’état où ils étaient au premier peuplement du Monde par les Enfants d’Adam, ou de Noé, s’établissait dans quelque endroit vacant d’Amérique situé à l’intérieur des terres, nous verrions que les Possessions qu’il pourrait se constituer, en fonction des mesures que nous avons données, ne seraient pas très grandes, et que, même aujourd’hui, elles ne nuiraient pas au reste de l’Humanité, ou ne lui donnerait pas de raison de se plaindre, ou de s’estimer lésé par l’Usurpation de cet Homme, quoique la Race humaine se soit maintenant disséminée aux quatre coins du Monde, et surpasse infiniment le petit nombre qu’elle était au commencement. Bien plus, l’étendue du Sol vaut si peu, sans travail, que j’ai entendu dire qu’en Espagne même, on peut être autorisé à labourer, semer et moissonner, sans être inquiété, sur une Terre à laquelle l’on n’a d’autre Titre que l’usage qu’on en fait. Mais qu’au contraire les Habitants s’estiment obligés par celui dont l’Industrie sur une Terre négligée, et donc vaine, a accru le fonds de Grains, dont ils avaient besoin. Mais quoi qu’il en soit de ceci, je ne m’y appuierai point; Voici ce que j’ose affirmer hardiment, la même Règle de Propriété, (à savoir) que chacun devait avoir autant qu’il pouvait utiliser, subsisterait encore dans le Monde, sans gêner personne, puisqu’il y a assez de Terres dans le Monde pour suffire au double d’Habitants, si l’Invention de l’Argent, et la Convention tacite des Hommes pour lui mettre une valeur, n’avaient introduit (par Consentement) des Possessions plus grandes, et Droit à celles-ci; je vais bientôt montrer plus en détail comment cela s’est fait.

37. Il est certain, Qu’au commencement, avant que le désir d’avoir plus que les Hommes n’avaient besoin, n’eût modifié la valeur intrinsèque des choses, qui ne dépend que de leur utilité pour la Vie humaine; ou n’eût convenu qu’un petit morceau de Métal jaune, qui se conserverait sans s’user ni s’altérer, vaudrait un grand morceau de Viande ou tout un tas de Grains; quoique les Hommes eussent chacun Droit de s’approprier, par leur Travail, autant de choses de la Nature qu’ils pouvaient utiliser: ce ne pouvait cependant pas être beaucoup, ni nuire à autrui, là où ceux qui utiliseraient la même Industrie en trouvaient encore tout aussi abondamment. J’ajoute, que celui qui s’approprie de la Terre par son travail, ne diminue pas mais accroît le fonds commun de l’humanité. Car les vivres servant au soutien de la vie humaine, qui sont produits par acre de terre enclose et cultivée, représentent (sans exagération) dix fois plus que ceux rendus par acre de Terre, d’une égale richesse, restant vaine en commun. Et donc on peut vraiment dire de celui qui enclôt la Terre et obtient de dix acres une plus grande abondance de commodités de la vie que celle qu’il pourrait avoir de cent laissées à la Nature, qu’il donne quatre-vingt-dix acres à l’Humanité. Car son travail le pourvoit maintenant de vivres tirés de dix acres, qui n’étaient le produit que de cent restant en commun. J’ai évalué ici très bas la terre amélioration en n’envisageant son produit que dans le rapport de dix à un, alors qu’il est beaucoup plus près de cent à un. Car franchement, mille acres dans les bois sauvages et dans les terres vaines incultes d’Amérique laissées à la Nature, sans aucune amélioration, labour ou culture, rendraient-ils aux habitants nécessiteux et miséreux autant de commodités de la vie que ne le font dix acres de terres d’égale fertilité dans le Devonshire où elles sont bien cultivées?

Avant l’appropriation des Terres, quiconque cueillait autant de Fruits sauvages, tuait, capturait ou domestiquait autant de Bêtes qu’il pouvait; quiconque employait sa Peine sur n’importe lequel des Produits spontanés de la Nature, à le modifier d’une façon ou d’une autre, à partir de l’état que lui donne la Nature, en y plaçant quoi que ce soit de son Travail, en devenait Propriétaire: Mais s’il périssait, en sa Possession, sans leur bonne et due utilisation; si les Fruits pourrissaient, ou le Gibier se putréfiait avant qu’il n’ait pu les consommer, il enfreignait le Droit coutumier de la Nature, et s’exposait à châtiment; il envahissait la part de son Voisin, car il n’avait point Droit, au-delà de ce que son Usage en demandait, et ils pouvaient servir à le pourvoir des Commodités de la Vie.

38. Les mêmes mesures gouvernaient également la Possession de la Terre: Tout ce qu’il labourait et moissonnait, mettait en réserve et employait avant que cela ne se perdît, lui appartenait en propre; tout ce qu’il clôturait, pouvait nourrir, et employer, Bétail et Produit, était aussi à lui. Mais si l’Herbe de son Enclos pourrissait sur le Sol, ou si les Fruits de son plantage s’abîmaient sans être cueillis, et mis en réserve, cette partie de la Terre, nonobstant sa clôture, devait encore être tenue pour Terre Vaine, et pouvait être Possession de n’importe qui d’autre. Ainsi, au commencement, Caïn pouvait prendre autant de Sol qu’il pouvait en labourer, et dont il pouvait faire sa propre Terre, et cependant en laisser assez aux moutons d’Abel pour y paître; un petit nombre d’Acres servait à leurs deux Possessions. Mais à mesure que les Familles s’accroissaient, et que l’Industrie augmentait leur Fonds, leurs Possessions s’étendaient avec leur besoin; mais c’était communément sans aucune propriété permanente du sol qu’elles utilisaient, jusqu’à ce qu’elles se fussent unies, établies ensemble, et qu’elles eussent construit des Cités, et donc que, par consentement, elles en vinrent à fixer les limites de leurs Territoires distincts, à convenir de leurs frontières avec leurs Voisins, et par des Lois internes, à établir les Propriétés des membres de la même Société. Car l’on voit, dans cette partie du Monde habitée en premier, et donc susceptible d’être la mieux peuplée, même en des temps aussi éloignés que celui d’Abraham, qu’elles erraient avec leur petit et gros Bétail, qui était leur substance, librement partout; et qu’il en était ainsi d’Abraham, dans un Pays où il était Étranger. D’où il ressort, qu’au moins une grande partie de la Terre restait en commun; que les Habitants ni ne l’évaluaient, ni n’en revendiquaient la Propriété sur plus qu’ils ne pouvaient utiliser. Mais quand il n’y avait pas au même endroit assez de place pour que leurs Troupeaux paissent ensemble, par consentement, comme le firent Abraham et Lot, Genèse xiii. 5. ils séparaient et étendaient leur pâture, où cela leur convenait le mieux. Et c’est ce qui fit qu’Esaü quitta son Père et son Frère, et s’établit dans la Montagne de Séïr, Gen. xxxvi. 6.

39. Et ainsi, sans prêter de Domination et de propriété privées à Adam, sur le Monde entier, à l’exclusion de tous les autres Hommes, ce qui ne peut être prouvé, ni être à l’origine de la propriété de qui que ce soit; mais en supposant le Monde donné comme ce le fut aux Enfants des Hommes en commun, on voit comment le travail pouvait faire des Hommes des titres distincts à des parcelles différentes, pour leurs usages privés; où il ne pouvait y avoir d’incertitude juridique, ni de place pour les différends.

40. Et il n’est pas aussi étrange que peut-être a priori il paraît, que la Propriété du travail puisse l’emporter sur la Communauté de la Terre. Car c’est en effet le Travail qui met la différence de valeur sur toute chose; et, quiconque s’interroge sur la différence entre un Acre de Terre plantée en Tabac ou en Sucre, ensemencée en Blé ou en Orge; et un Acre de la même Terre restant en commun, sans Culture, trouvera que l’amélioration du travail fait de loin la plus grande partie de la valeur. Je pense que ce ne sera en faire une Évaluer très modeste que de dire, que 9/10 des Produits de la Terre utiles à la Vie humaine sont les effets du Travail: bien plus, si l’on veut correctement estimer les choses à leur stade final, et calculer les différentes Dépenses qu’elles nécessitent, ce qui en elles est dû purement à la Nature, et ce qui l’est au travail, on trouvera que dans la plupart d’entre elles 99/100 sont à mettre intégralement au compte du travail.

41. Il n’y en a pas démonstration plus claire, que les diverses Nations Américaines, riches en Terre, et pauvres dans tous les Conforts de la Vie; qui, quoique la Nature les ait pourvues aussi libéralement que n’importe quel autre peuple des matières de l’Abondance, c’est-à-dire d’un Sol fécond, apte à produire copieusement, ce qui pourrait servir de nourriture, vêtement, et contentement; n’ont pas, faute de l’améliorer par le travail, la centième partie des Commodités dont nous jouissons: Et le Roi d’un vaste Territoire fécond là-bas se nourrit, se loge et s’habille plus mal qu’un Journalier en Angleterre.

42. Pour rendre ceci un peu plus clair, il suffit de suivre quelques uns des Vivres ordinaires, dans leurs différentes étapes, avant leur stade final, et de voir combien ils reçoivent de leur valeur de l’Industrie Humaine. Pain, Vin et Drap sont d’un usage quotidien, et de grande abondance, cependant nonobstant, Glands, Eau et Feuilles, ou Peaux constitueraient notre Pain, notre Boisson et notre Vêtement, si le travail ne nous fournissait pas de ces Denrées plus utiles. Car tout ce que le Pain vaut de plus que les Glands, le Vin que l’Eau, et le Drap ou la Soie que les Feuilles, les Peaux ou la Mousse, est intégralement dû au travail et à l’industrie. Les uns étant la Nourriture et le Vêtement dont la Nature inassistée nous pourvoit; les autres les vivres que notre industrie et nos peines nous préparent, quiconque calculera de combien la valeur de ceux-ci excède la valeur de ceux-là, verra alors combien le travail fait de loin la plus grande partie de la valeur des choses, dont nous jouissons en ce Monde: Et le sol qui produit les matières, doit à peine y être compté, comme toute autre partie, ou au plus que comme une infime partie; Si infime que, même parmi nous, la Terre totalement laissée à la Nature, que n’améliorent pas les Pâture, Labours, ou Plantage est appelée, comme elle l’est en effet, vaine; et l’on trouvera que son profit se monte à presque rien. Ceci montre, combien le nombre des hommes doit être préféré à la grandeur des dominations, et que l’accroissement des terres et leur bon emploi sont le grand art de gouvernement. Et le Prince qui sera assez sage et divin pour établir des lois libérales pour assurer protection et donner encouragement à l’honnête industrie humaine contre l’oppression du pouvoir et l’étroitesse partisane deviendra vite trop fort pour ses Voisins. Mais c’est là une parenthèse. Revenons à notre propos.

43. Un Acre de Terre qui rend ici Vingt Boisseaux de Blé, et un autre en Amérique, qui, identiquement Cultivé, en rendrait autant, ont sans doute la même Valeur naturelle, intrinsèque. Mais cependant le Bienfait que l’Humanité retire de l’un, en un an, vaut 5 l. et de l’autre probablement pas un Penny, si tout le Rapport qu’un Indien en tire était évalué, et vendu ici; du moins, à vrai dire, pas 1/1000. C’est donc le Travail qui met la plus grande partie de la Valeur sur la Terre, sans lequel elle vaudrait à peine quelque chose: c’est à lui que l’on doit la plus grande partie de tous ses Produits utiles: car tout ce que la Paille, le Son, le Pain, de cet Acre de Blé, valent de plus que le Produit d’un Acre d’aussi bonne Terre, qui reste vaine, est intégralement l’Effet du Travail. Car ce ne sont pas simplement la Peine du Laboureur, le Labeur du Moissonneur et du Batteur, et la Sueur du Boulanger, qui doivent être comptés dans le Pain que nous mangeons; le Travail de ceux qui ont dressé les Boeufs, qui ont extrait et travaillé le Fer et les Pierres, qui ont abattu et façonné le Bois employé pour la Charrue, le Moulin, le Four, ou n’importe lequel des innombrables Ustensiles requis pour ce Blé, depuis son existence de semence à semer jusqu’à celle sous forme de Pain, tous doivent être imputés au Travail et reçus comme un effet de celui-ci: La Nature et la Terre n’ont fourni que les Matières en elles-mêmes presque sans valeur. Combien étrange serait le Catalogue des choses fournies et utilisées par l’Industrie pour chaque Miche de Pain avant son stade final, si nous pouvions en suivre la trace: Fer, Arbres, Cuir, Écorce, Bois, Pierre, Briques, Charbons, Glu, Drap, Teintures, Poix, Goudron, Mâts, Cordes, et toutes les Matières utilisées dans le Navire qui a apporté n’importe laquelle des Denrées employées par n’importe lequel des Ouvriers, à n’importe quel stade de l’Ouvrage, toutes Matières dont il serait presque impossible, du moins trop long, de faire le compte.

44. D’après tout ceci il est évident que, quoique les choses de la Nature soient données en commun, cependant l’Homme (en étant Maître de lui-même, et Propriétaire de sa propre Personne, ainsi que des actions ou du Travail de celle-ci) avait en soi le grand Fondement de la Propriété; et ce qui formait la plus grande partie de ce qu’il appliquait au Soutien ou au Confort de son existence, quand l’Invention et les Arts eurent amélioré les commodités de la Vie, était parfaitement son bien propre, et n’appartenait pas en commun à autrui.

45. Ainsi le Travail, au Commencement, donnait-il un Droit de Propriété, partout où quiconque se plaisait à l’employer, sur ce qui était en commun, qui resta, longtemps, la partie de loin la plus grande, et est encore plus que l’Humanité n’en utilise. Au début, les Hommes, pour la plupart, se contentaient de ce que la Nature inassistée Offrait à leurs Nécessités: et bien que par la suite, dans les parties du Monde (où l’accroissement des Gens et du Fonds, avec l’Usage de l’Argent) avait rendu la Terre rare et ce faisant de quelque Valeur, les diverses Communautés eussent établi les Frontières de leurs Territoires distincts, et par des Lois internes réglementé les Propriétés des Individus de leur Société, et qu’ainsi, par Contrat et Convention, elles eussent établi la Propriété engendrée par le Travail et l’Industrie; et par des Alliances, conclues entre plusieurs États et Royaumes, niant expressément ou tacitement toute Revendication et Droit sur la Terre en Possession d’autrui, elles eussent, par Consentement commun, renoncé à prétendre au Droit d’usage naturel, qu’elles avaient à l’origine sur ces Pays, et qu’ainsi, par convention positive, elles eussent établi une Propriété parmi elles, sur des Parties et Parcelles distinctes de la Terre: néanmoins il subsiste encore de vastes Étendues de Terre à découvrir, (dont les Habitants n’ont pas rejoints le reste de l’Humanité, dans le consentement à l’Usage de son Argent commun) qui restent vaines, et surpassent ce qu’en font les Gens qui y habitent, ou ce qu’ils peuvent en utiliser, et donc qui restent encore en commun. Quoique ceci puisse à peine exister dans la partie de l’Humanité qui a consenti à l’usage de l’Argent.

46. La plus grande partie des choses réellement utiles à la Vie humaine, et dont la nécessité de subsister fit s’occuper les premiers Usagers du Monde, comme elle le fait maintenant aux Américains, sont généralement des choses de brève durée; qui, si elles ne sont pas utilisées, s’altéreront et périront d’elles-mêmes: L’Or, l’Argent, et les Diamants sont choses, auxquelles la Fantaisie ou la Convention ont mis de la Valeur, plus que l’Usage réel, et le Soutien nécessaire de la Vie. Maintenant de toutes ces choses que la Nature a fournies en commun, chacun avait Droit (comme il a été dit) à autant qu’il pouvait utiliser, et était Propriétaire de tout ce qu’il pouvait effectuer avec son Travail: tout ce à quoi son Industrie pouvait s’appliquer, dont elle pouvait modifier l’État dans lequel la Nature l’avait mis, était à lui. Quiconque cueillait Cent Boisseaux de Glands ou de Pommes, en avait donc la Propriété; ils étaient ses Biens dès qu’il les avait cueillis. Il devait seulement veiller à les utiliser avant qu’ils ne se perdissent; sinon il prenait plus que sa part et volait autrui. Et c’était d’ailleurs aussi stupide que malhonnête que d’amasser plus qu’il n’en pouvait en utiliser. S’il en donnait une fraction à n’importe qui d’autre, de sorte qu’elle ne pérît point inutilement en sa Possession, c’était aussi en faire usage. Et si aussi il troquait des Prunes qui auraient pourri en une Semaine, contre des Noix qui pouvaient rester bonnes à manger pendant toute une Année, il ne lésait point; il ne gaspillait pas le Fonds commun; ne détruisait aucune part de la portion de Biens appartenant à autrui, tant que rien ne périssait dans ses mains inutilement. Derechef, s’il voulait donner ses Noix contre un morceau de Métal dont la couleur plaisait; ou échanger son Mouton contre des Coquillages, ou de la Laine contre un Caillou brillant ou un Diamant, et les conserver toute sa Vie, il n’usurpait pas le Droit d’autrui, il pouvait entasser autant de ces choses durables qu’il voulait; le dépassement des limites de sa juste Propriété ne résidant pas dans la grandeur de sa Possession, mais dans ce que quelque chose y périsse inutilement.

47. Et ainsi vint l’usage de l’Argent, quelque chose durable que les Hommes pouvaient conserver sans qu’il se perdît, et que par mutuel consentement ils pouvaient accepter en échange des Choses nécessaires à la Vie vraiment utiles, mais périssables.

48. Et comme les degrés différents d’Industrie tendaient à donner aux Hommes des Possessions en Proportions différentes, cette Invention de l’Argent leur donna l’occasion de continuer à les agrandir. Car soit une Ile, coupée de tout Commerce avec le reste du Monde, où ne vivraient qu’une centaine de Familles, mais où il y aurait Moutons, Chevaux et Vaches, et d’autres Animaux utiles, des Fruits sains, et assez de Terres à Blé pour cent mille fois autant, mais rien qui soit, du fait de sa Généralité ou de sa Périssabilité, propre à occuper la place de l’Argent: Quelle raison quelqu’un pourrait-il y avoir d’agrandir ses Possessions au-delà de l’usage de sa Famille, et d’un approvisionnement abondant pour sa Consommation soit en produits sa propre Industrie, soit en produits qu’il pourrait troquer contre des Denrées pareillement utiles et périssables avec d’autres? Là où il n’y a rien à la fois de durable et de rare, et d’une valeur qui fasse qu’on l’amasse, on ne tendra pas à agrandir ses Possessions de Terre, si riche et si libre qu’elle fût. Car je vous le demande, Que vaudraient pour quelqu’un Dix Mille ou Cent Mille Acres d’excellente Terre, déjà cultivée, et également bien pourvue en Bétail, au milieu des Parties de l’Amérique à l’intérieur des terres, sans l’espoir de Commercer avec d’autres Parties du Monde, de tirer de l’Argent de la Vente du Produit? Enclore ne vaudrait pas la peine, et nous le verrions restituer au Communal sauvage de la Nature, tout ce qui dépasserait les Commodités de la Vie qu’il en pourrait tirer pour lui et sa Famille.

49. Ainsi au commencement le Monde entier était Amérique, et plus que ce ne l’est maintenant; car nulle part on ne connaissait de chose telle que l’Argent. Trouvez quelque chose ayant son Usage et sa Valeur parmi ses Voisins, et vous verrez le même Homme commencer rapidement à agrandir ses Possessions.

50. Mais puisque l’Or et l’Argent, peu utiles à la Vie humaine proportionnellement à la Nourriture, au Vêtement et au Transport, ne tiennent leur valeur que du consentement des Hommes dont le Travail fait cependant, en grande partie, la mesure, il est évident que les Hommes ont convenu d’une Possession disproportionnée et inégale de la Terre, quand ils ont par un consentement tacite et volontaire inventé la façon, dont un homme peut honnêtement posséder plus de terres qu’il ne peut lui-même en utiliser de produit, en recevant en échange du surplus, de l’Or et de l’Argent, ces métaux qui, ne se perdant ni ne s’altérant dans les mains du possesseur, peuvent être amassés sans léser qui que ce soit. Ce partage des choses, dans une inégalité des possessions privées, les hommes l’ont rendu réalisable hors des limites de la Société, et sans contrat, uniquement en mettant une valeur à l’or et sur l’argent et en convenant tacitement d’utiliser l’Argent. Car dans les Gouvernements les Lois règlent le droit de propriété, et des constitutions positives déterminent la possession de la Terre.

51. Et ainsi je pense qu’il est très facile de concevoir, sans aucune difficulté, comment le Travail a pu d’abord faire naître un titre de Propriété sur les choses communes de la Nature, et comment le dépenser pour notre usage le limitait. Si bien qu’il ne pouvait y avoir de sujet de différend sur le Titre, ni d’incertitude sur la grandeur de la Possession qu’il donnait. Droit et Commodité allaient de pair; car comme un Homme avait Droit à tout ce sur quoi il pouvait employer son Travail, il n’avait point la tentation de travailler pour plus qu’il pouvait utiliser. Il n’y avait pas place pour Controverse sur le Titre, ni pour Empiétement sur le Droit d’autrui; la Portion qu’un Homme se taillait se voyait aisément; et il lui était aussi inutile que malhonnête de s’en tailler une trop grande, ou de prendre plus qu’il n’avait besoin.

Columbus, the Indians and the ‘discovery’ of America

Howard Zinn on the « discovery » of America, the treatment of the native population and how it was justified as « progress ».

Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island’s beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:

They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus.

Columbus wrote:

As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.

The information that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold? He had persuaded the king and queen of Spain to finance an expedition to the lands, the wealth, he expected would be on the other side of the Atlantic-the Indies and Asia, gold and spices. For, like other informed people of his time, he knew the world was round and he could sail west in order to get to the Far East.

Spain was recently unified, one of the new modern nation-states, like France, England, and Portugal. Its population, mostly poor peasants, worked for the nobility, who were 2 percent of the population and owned 95 percent of the land. Spain had tied itself to the Catholic Church, expelled all the Jews, driven out the Moors. Like other states of the modern world, Spain sought gold, which was becoming the new mark of wealth, more useful than land because it could buy anything.

There was gold in Asia, it was thought, and certainly silks and spices, for Marco Polo and others had brought back marvelous things from their overland expeditions centuries before. Now that the Turks had conquered Constantinople and the eastern Mediterranean, and controlled the land routes to Asia, a sea route was needed. Portuguese sailors were working their way around the southern tip of Africa. Spain decided to gamble on a long sail across an unknown ocean.

In return for bringing back gold and spices, they promised Columbus 10 percent of the profits, governorship over new-found lands, and the fame that would go with a new tide: Admiral of the Ocean Sea. He was a merchant’s clerk from the Italian city of Genoa, part-time weaver (the son of a skilled weaver), and expert sailor. He set out with three sailing ships, the largest of which was the Santa Maria, perhaps 100 feet long, and thirty-nine crew members.

Columbus would never have made it to Asia, which was thousands of miles farther away than he had calculated, imagining a smaller world. He would have been doomed by that great expanse of sea. But he was lucky. One-fourth of the way there he came upon an unknown, uncharted land that lay between Europe and Asia-the Americas. It was early October 1492, and thirty-three days since he and his crew had left the Canary Islands, off the Atlantic coast of Africa. Now they saw branches and sticks floating in the water. They saw flocks of birds.

These were signs of land. Then, on October 12, a sailor called Rodrigo saw the early morning moon shining on white sands, and cried out. It was an island in the Bahamas, the Caribbean sea. The first man to sight land was supposed to get a yearly pension of 10,000 maravedis for life, but Rodrigo never got it. Columbus claimed he had seen a light the evening before. He got the reward.

So, approaching land, they were met by the Arawak Indians, who swam out to greet them. The Arawaks lived in village communes, had a developed agriculture of corn, yams, cassava. They could spin and weave, but they had no horses or work animals. They had no iron, but they wore tiny gold ornaments in their ears.

This was to have enormous consequences: it led Columbus to take some of them aboard ship as prisoners because he insisted that they guide him to the source of the gold. He then sailed to what is now Cuba, then to Hispaniola (the island which today consists of Haiti and the Dominican Republic). There, bits of visible gold in the rivers, and a gold mask presented to Columbus by a local Indian chief, led to wild visions of gold fields.

On Hispaniola, out of timbers from the Santa Maria, which had run aground, Columbus built a fort, the first European military base in the Western Hemisphere. He called it Navidad (Christmas) and left thirty-nine crewmembers there, with instructions to find and store the gold. He took more Indian prisoners and put them aboard his two remaining ships. At one part of the island he got into a fight with Indians who refused to trade as many bows and arrows as he and his men wanted. Two were run through with swords and bled to death. Then the Nina and the Pinta set sail for the Azores and Spain. When the weather turned cold, the Indian prisoners began to die.

Columbus’s report to the Court in Madrid was extravagant. He insisted he had reached Asia (it was Cuba) and an island off the coast of China (Hispaniola). His descriptions were part fact, part fiction:

Hispaniola is a miracle. Mountains and hills, plains and pastures, are both fertile and beautiful … the harbors are unbelievably good and there are many wide rivers of which the majority contain gold. . . . There are many spices, and great mines of gold and other metals….

The Indians, Columbus reported, « are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone…. » He concluded his report by asking for a little help from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from his next voyage « as much gold as they need … and as many slaves as they ask. » He was full of religious talk: « Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities. »

Because of Columbus’s exaggerated report and promises, his second expedition was given seventeen ships and more than twelve hundred men. The aim was clear: slaves and gold. They went from island to island in the Caribbean, taking Indians as captives. But as word spread of the Europeans’ intent they found more and more empty villages. On Haiti, they found that the sailors left behind at Fort Navidad had been killed in a battle with the Indians, after they had roamed the island in gangs looking for gold, taking women and children as slaves for sex and labor.

Now, from his base on Haiti, Columbus sent expedition after expedition into the interior. They found no gold fields, but had to fill up the ships returning to Spain with some kind of dividend. In the year 1495, they went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the five hundred best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route. The rest arrived alive in Spain and were put up for sale by the archdeacon of the town, who reported that, although the slaves were « naked as the day they were born, » they showed « no more embarrassment than animals. » Columbus later wrote: « Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold. »

But too many of the slaves died in captivity. And so Columbus, desperate to pay back dividends to those who had invested, had to make good his promise to fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao on Haiti, where he and his men imagined huge gold fields to exist, they ordered all persons fourteen years or older to collect a certain quantity of gold every three months. When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang around their necks. Indians found without a copper token had their hands cut off and bled to death.

The Indians had been given an impossible task. The only gold around was bits of dust garnered from the streams. So they fled, were hunted down with dogs, and were killed.

Trying to put together an army of resistance, the Arawaks faced Spaniards who had armor, muskets, swords, horses. When the Spaniards took prisoners they hanged them or burned them to death. Among the Arawaks, mass suicides began, with cassava poison. Infants were killed to save them from the Spaniards. In two years, through murder, mutilation, or suicide, half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti were dead.

When it became clear that there was no gold left, the Indians were taken as slave labor on huge estates, known later as encomiendas. They were worked at a ferocious pace, and died by the thousands. By the year 1515, there were perhaps fifty thousand Indians left. By 1550, there were five hundred. A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original Arawaks or their descendants left on the island.

The chief source-and, on many matters the only source-of information about what happened on the islands after Columbus came is Bartolome de las Casas, who, as a young priest, participated in the conquest of Cuba. For a time he owned a plantation on which Indian slaves worked, but he gave that up and became a vehement critic of Spanish cruelty. Las Casas transcribed Columbus’s journal and, in his fifties, began a multivolume History of the Indies. In it, he describes the Indians. They are agile, he says, and can swim long distances, especially the women. They are not completely peaceful, because they do battle from time to time with other tribes, but their casualties seem small, and they fight when they are individually moved to do so because of some grievance, not on the orders of captains or kings.

Women in Indian society were treated so well as to startle the Spaniards. Las Casas describes sex relations:

Marriage laws are non-existent men and women alike choose their mates and leave them as they please, without offense, jealousy or anger. They multiply in great abundance; pregnant women work to the last minute and give birth almost painlessly; up the next day, they bathe in the river and are as clean and healthy as before giving birth. If they tire of their men, they give themselves abortions with herbs that force stillbirths, covering their shameful parts with leaves or cotton cloth; although on the whole, Indian men and women look upon total nakedness with as much casualness as we look upon a man’s head or at his hands.

The Indians, Las Casas says, have no religion, at least no temples. They live in

large communal bell-shaped buildings, housing up to 600 people at one time … made of very strong wood and roofed with palm leaves…. They prize bird feathers of various colors, beads made of fishbones, and green and white stones with which they adorn their ears and lips, but they put no value on gold and other precious things. They lack all manner of commerce, neither buying nor selling, and rely exclusively on their natural environment for maintenance. They are extremely generous with their possessions and by the same token covet the possessions of then; friends and expect the same degree of liberality. …

In Book Two of his History of the Indies, Las Casas (who at first urged replacing Indians by black slaves, thinking they were stronger and would survive, but later relented when he saw the effects on blacks) tells about the treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards. It is a unique account and deserves to be quoted at length:

Endless testimonies . .. prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives…. But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder, then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then…. The admiral, it is true, was blind as those who came after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians….

Las Casas tells how the Spaniards « grew more conceited every day » and after a while refused to walk any distance. They « rode the backs of Indians if they were in a hurry » or were carried on hammocks by Indians running in relays. « In this case they also had Indians carry large leaves to shade them from the sun and others to fan them with goose wings. »

Total control led to total cruelty. The Spaniards « thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades. » Las Casas tells how « two of these so-called Christians met two Indian boys one day, each carrying a parrot; they took the parrots and for fun beheaded the boys. »

The Indians’ attempts to defend themselves failed. And when they ran off into the hills they were found and killed. So, Las Casas reports, « they suffered and died in the mines and other labors in desperate silence, knowing not a soul in the world to whom they could turn for help. » He describes their work in the mines:

… mountains are stripped from top to bottom and bottom to top a thousand times; they dig, split rocks, move stones, and carry dirt on then: backs to wash it in the rivers, while those who wash gold stay in the water all the time with their backs bent so constantly it breaks them; and when water invades the mines, the most arduous task of all is to dry the mines by scooping up pansful of water and throwing it up outside….

After each six or eight months’ work in the mines, which was the time required of each crew to dig enough gold for melting, up to a third of the men died.

While the men were sent many miles away to the mines, the wives remained to work the soil, forced into the excruciating job of digging and making thousands of hills for cassava plants.

Thus husbands and wives were together only once every eight or ten months and when they met they were so exhausted and depressed on both sides … they ceased to procreate. As for the newly born, they died early because their mothers, overworked and famished, had no milk to nurse them, and for this reason, while I was in Cuba, 7000 children died in three months. Some mothers even drowned their babies from sheer desperation…. hi this way, husbands died in the mines, wives died at work, and children died from lack of milk . .. and in a short time this land which was so great, so powerful and fertile … was depopulated. … My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write. …

When he arrived on Hispaniola in 1508, Las Casas says, « there were 60,000 people living on this island, including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it…. »

Thus began the history, five hundred years ago, of the European invasion of the Indian settlements in the Americas. That beginning, when you read Las Casas-even if his figures are exaggerations (were there 3 million Indians to begin with, as he says, or less than a million, as some historians have calculated, or 8 million as others now believe?)-is conquest, slavery, death. When we read the history books given to children in the United States, it all starts with heroic adventure-there is no bloodshed-and Columbus Day is a celebration.

Past the elementary and high schools, there are only occasional hints of something else. Samuel Eliot Morison, the Harvard historian, was the most distinguished writer on Columbus, the author of a multivolume biography, and was himself a sailor who retraced Columbus’s route across the Atlantic. In his popular book Christopher Columbus, Mariner, written in 1954, he tells about the enslavement and the killing: « The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide. »

That is on one page, buried halfway into the telling of a grand romance. In the book’s last paragraph, Morison sums up his view of Columbus:

He had his faults and his defects, but they were largely the defects of the qualities that made him great-his indomitable will, his superb faith in God and in his own mission as the Christ-bearer to lands beyond the seas, his stubborn persistence despite neglect, poverty and discouragement. But there was no flaw, no dark side to the most outstanding and essential of all his qualities-his seamanship.

One can lie outright about the past. Or one can omit facts which might lead to unacceptable conclusions. Morison does neither. He refuses to lie about Columbus. He does not omit the story of mass murder; indeed he describes it with the harshest word one can use: genocide.

But he does something else-he mentions the truth quickly and goes on to other things more important to him. Outright lying or quiet omission takes the risk of discovery which, when made, might arouse the reader to rebel against the writer. To state the facts, however, and then to bury them in a mass of other information is to say to the reader with a certain infectious calm: yes, mass murder took place, but it’s not that important-it should weigh very little in our final judgments; it should affect very little what we do in the world.

It is not that the historian can avoid emphasis of some facts and not of others. This is as natural to him as to the mapmaker, who, in order to produce a usable drawing for practical purposes, must first flatten and distort the shape of the earth, then choose out of the bewildering mass of geographic information those things needed for the purpose of this or that particular map.

My argument cannot be against selection, simplification, emphasis, which are inevitable for both cartographers and historians. But the map-maker’s distortion is a technical necessity for a common purpose shared by all people who need maps. The historian’s distortion is more than technical, it is ideological; it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports (whether the historian means to or not) some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual.

Furthermore, this ideological interest is not openly expressed in the way a mapmaker’s technical interest is obvious (« This is a Mercator projection for long-range navigation-for short-range, you’d better use a different projection »). No, it is presented as if all readers of history had a common interest which historians serve to the best of their ability. This is not intentional deception; the historian has been trained in a society in which education and knowledge are put forward as technical problems of excellence and not as tools for contending social classes, races, nations.

To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves- unwittingly-to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)-that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly.

The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks)-the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they-the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court-represent the nation as a whole. The pretense is that there really is such a thing as « the United States, » subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with common interests. It is as if there really is a « national interest » represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the decisions of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education and the mass media.

« History is the memory of states, » wrote Henry Kissinger in his first book, A World Restored, in which he proceeded to tell the history of nineteenth-century Europe from the viewpoint of the leaders of Austria and England, ignoring the millions who suffered from those statesmen’s policies. From his standpoint, the « peace » that Europe had before the French Revolution was « restored » by the diplomacy of a few national leaders. But for factory workers in England, farmers in France, colored people in Asia and Africa, women and children everywhere except in the upper classes, it was a world of conquest, violence, hunger, exploitation-a world not restored but disintegrated.

My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different: that we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been, The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.

Thus, in that inevitable taking of sides which comes from selection and emphasis in history, I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish, of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott’s army, of the rise of industrialism as seen by the young women in the Lowell textile mills, of the Spanish-American war as seen by the Cubans, the conquest of the Philippines as seen by black soldiers on Luzon, the Gilded Age as seen by southern farmers, the First World War as seen by socialists, the Second World War as seen by pacifists, the New Deal as seen by blacks in Harlem, the postwar American empire as seen by peons in Latin America. And so on, to the limited extent that any one person, however he or she strains, can « see » history from the standpoint of others.

My point is not to grieve for the victims and denounce the executioners. Those tears, that anger, cast into the past, deplete our moral energy for the present. And the lines are not always clear. In the long run, the oppressor is also a victim. In the short run (and so far, human history has consisted only of short runs), the victims, themselves desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims.

Still, understanding the complexities, this book will be skeptical of governments and their attempts, through politics and culture, to ensnare ordinary people in a giant web of nationhood pretending to a common interest. I will try not to overlook the cruelties that victims inflict on one another as they are jammed together in the boxcars of the system. I don’t want to romanticize them. But I do remember (in rough paraphrase) a statement I once read: « The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is. »

I don’t want to invent victories for people’s movements. But to think that history-writing must aim simply to recapitulate the failures that dominate the past is to make historians collaborators in an endless cycle of defeat. If history is to be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe, emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win. I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past’s fugitive moments of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare.

That, being as blunt as I can, is my approach to the history of the United States. The reader may as well know that before going on.

What Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortes did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots.

The Aztec civilization of Mexico came out of the heritage of Mayan, Zapotec, and Toltec cultures. It built enormous constructions from stone tools and human labor, developed a writing system and a priesthood. It also engaged in (let us not overlook this) the ritual killing of thousands of people as sacrifices to the gods. The cruelty of the Aztecs, however, did not erase a certain innocence, and when a Spanish armada appeared at Vera Cruz, and a bearded white man came ashore, with strange beasts (horses), clad in iron, it was thought that he was the legendary Aztec man-god who had died three hundred years before, with the promise to return-the mysterious Quetzalcoatl. And so they welcomed him, with munificent hospitality.

That was Hernando Cortes, come from Spain with an expedition financed by merchants and landowners and blessed by the deputies of God, with one obsessive goal: to find gold. In the mind of Montezuma, the king of the Aztecs, there must have been a certain doubt about whether Cortes was indeed Quetzalcoatl, because he sent a hundred runners to Cortes, bearing enormous treasures, gold and silver wrought into objects of fantastic beauty, but at the same time begging him to go back. (The painter Durer a few years later described what he saw just arrived in Spain from that expedition-a sun of gold, a moon of silver, worth a fortune.)

Cortes then began his march of death from town to town, using deception, turning Aztec against Aztec, killing with the kind of deliberateness that accompanies a strategy-to paralyze the will of the population by a sudden frightful deed. And so, in Cholulu, he invited the headmen of the Cholula nation to the square. And when they came, with thousands of unarmed retainers, Cortes’s small army of Spaniards, posted around the square with cannon, armed with crossbows, mounted on horses, massacred them, down to the last man. Then they looted the city and moved on. When their cavalcade of murder was over they were in Mexico City, Montezuma was dead, and the Aztec civilization, shattered, was in the hands of the Spaniards.

All this is told in the Spaniards’ own accounts.

In Peru, that other Spanish conquistador Pizarro, used the same tactics, and for the same reasons- the frenzy in the early capitalist states of Europe for gold, for slaves, for products of the soil, to pay the bondholders and stockholders of the expeditions, to finance the monarchical bureaucracies rising in Western Europe, to spur the growth of the new money economy rising out of feudalism, to participate in what Karl Marx would later call « the primitive accumulation of capital. » These were the violent beginnings of an intricate system of technology, business, politics, and culture that would dominate the world for the next five centuries.

In the North American English colonies, the pattern was set early, as Columbus had set it in the islands of the Bahamas. In 1585, before there was any permanent English settlement in Virginia, Richard Grenville landed there with seven ships. The Indians he met were hospitable, but when one of them stole a small silver cup, Grenville sacked and burned the whole Indian village.

Jamestown itself was set up inside the territory of an Indian confederacy, led by the chief, Powhatan. Powhatan watched the English settle on his people’s land, but did not attack, maintaining a posture of coolness. When the English were going through their « starving time » in the winter of 1610, some of them ran off to join the Indians, where they would at least be fed. When the summer came, the governor of the colony sent a messenger to ask Powhatan to return the runaways, whereupon Powhatan, according to the English account, replied with « noe other than prowde and disdaynefull Answers. » Some soldiers were therefore sent out « to take Revenge. » They fell upon an Indian settlement, killed fifteen or sixteen Indians, burned the houses, cut down the corn growing around the village, took the queen of the tribe and her children into boats, then ended up throwing the children overboard « and shoteinge owit their Braynes in the water. » The queen was later taken off and stabbed to death.

Twelve years later, the Indians, alarmed as the English settlements kept growing in numbers, apparently decided to try to wipe them out for good. They went on a rampage and massacred 347 men, women, and children. From then on it was total war.

Not able to enslave the Indians, and not able to live with them, the English decided to exterminate them. Edmund Morgan writes, in his history of early Virginia, American Slavery, American Freedom:

Since the Indians were better woodsmen than the English and virtually impossible to track down, the method was to feign peaceful intentions, let them settle down and plant their com wherever they chose, and then, just before harvest, fall upon them, killing as many as possible and burning the corn… . Within two or three years of the massacre the English had avenged the deaths of that day many times over.

In that first year of the white man in Virginia, 1607, Powhatan had addressed a plea to John Smith that turned out prophetic. How authentic it is may be in doubt, but it is so much like so many Indian statements that it may be taken as, if not the rough letter of that first plea, the exact spirit of it:

I have seen two generations of my people the…. I know the difference between peace and war better than any man in my country. I am now grown old, and must the soon; my authority must descend to my brothers, Opitehapan, Opechancanough and Catatough-then to my two sisters, and then to my two daughters-I wish them to know as much as I do, and that your love to them may be like mine to you. Why will you take by force what you may have quietly by love? Why will you destroy us who supply you with food? What can you get by war? We can hide our provisions and run into the woods; then you will starve for wronging your friends. Why are you jealous of us? We are unarmed, and willing to give you what you ask, if you come in a friendly manner, and not so simple as not to know that it is much better to eat good meat, sleep comfortably, live quietly with my wives and children, laugh and be merry with the English, and trade for their copper and hatchets, than to run away from them, and to lie cold in the woods, feed on acorns, roots and such trash, and be so hunted that I can neither eat nor sleep. In these wars, my men must sit up watching, and if a twig break, they all cry out « Here comes Captain Smith! » So I must end my miserable life. Take away your guns and swords, the cause of all our jealousy, or you may all die in the same manner.

When the Pilgrims came to New England they too were coming not to vacant land but to territory inhabited by tribes of Indians. The governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, created the excuse to take Indian land by declaring the area legally a « vacuum. » The Indians, he said, had not « subdued » the land, and therefore had only a « natural » right to it, but not a « civil right. » A « natural right » did not have legal standing.

The Puritans also appealed to the Bible, Psalms 2:8: « Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. » And to justify their use of force to take the land, they cited Romans 13:2: « Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. »

The Puritans lived in uneasy truce with the Pequot Indians, who occupied what is now southern Connecticut and Rhode Island. But they wanted them out of the way; they wanted their land. And they seemed to want also to establish their rule firmly over Connecticut settlers in that area. The murder of a white trader, Indian-kidnaper, and troublemaker became an excuse to make war on the Pequots in 1636.

A punitive expedition left Boston to attack the NarraganseIt Indians on Block Island, who were lumped with the Pequots. As Governor Winthrop wrote:

They had commission to pat to death the men of Block Island, but to spare the women and children, and to bring them away, and to take possession of the island; and from thence to go to the Pequods to demand the murderers of Captain Stone and other English, and one thousand fathom of wampum for damages, etc. and some of their children as hostages, which if they should refuse, they were to obtain it by force.

The English landed and killed some Indians, but the rest hid in the thick forests of the island and the English went from one deserted village to the next, destroying crops. Then they sailed back to the mainland and raided Pequot villages along the coast, destroying crops again. One of the officers of that expedition, in his account, gives some insight into the Pequots they encountered: « The Indians spying of us came running in multitudes along the water side, crying, What cheer, Englishmen, what cheer, what do you come for? They not thinking we intended war, went on cheerfully… -« 

So, the war with the Pequots began. Massacres took place on both sides. The English developed a tactic of warfare used earlier by Cortes and later, in the twentieth century, even more systematically: deliberate attacks on noncombatants for the purpose of terrorizing the enemy. This is ethno historian Francis Jennings’s interpretation of Captain John Mason’s attack on a Pequot village on the Mystic River near Long Island Sound: « Mason proposed to avoid attacking Pequot warriors, which would have overtaxed his unseasoned, unreliable troops. Battle, as such, was not his purpose. Battle is only one of the ways to destroy an enemy’s will to fight. Massacre can accomplish the same end with less risk, and Mason had determined that massacre would be his objective. »

So the English set fire to the wigwams of the village. By their own account: « The Captain also said, We must Burn Them; and immediately stepping into the Wigwam … brought out a Fire Brand, and putting it into the Matts with which they were covered, set the Wigwams on Fire. » William Bradford, in his History of the Plymouth Plantation written at the time, describes John Mason’s raid on the Pequot village:

Those that scaped the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatchte, and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stincke and sente there of, but the victory seemed a sweete sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie.

As Dr. Cotton Mather, Puritan theologian, put it: « It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day. »

The war continued. Indian tribes were used against one another, and never seemed able to join together in fighting the English. Jennings sums up:

The terror was very real among the Indians, but in rime they came to meditate upon its foundations. They drew three lessons from the Pequot War: (1) that the Englishmen’s most solemn pledge would be broken whenever obligation conflicted with advantage; (2) that the English way of war had no limit of scruple or mercy; and (3) that weapons of Indian making were almost useless against weapons of European manufacture. These lessons the Indians took to heart.

A footnote in Virgil Vogel’s book This Land Was Ours (1972) says: « The official figure on the number of Pequots now in Connecticut is twenty-one persons. »

Forty years after the Pequot War, Puritans and Indians fought again. This time it was the Wampanoags, occupying the south shore of Massachusetts Bay, who were in the way and also beginning to trade some of their land to people outside the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Their chief, Massasoit, was dead. His son Wamsutta had been killed by Englishmen, and Wamsuttas brother Metacom (later to be called King Philip by the English) became chief. The English found their excuse, a murder which they attributed to Metacom, and they began a war of conquest against the Wampanoags, a war to take their land. They were clearly the aggressors, but claimed they attacked for preventive purposes. As Roger Williams, more friendly to the Indians than most, put it: « All men of conscience or prudence ply to windward, to maintain their wars to be defensive. »

Jennings says the elite of the Puritans wanted the war; the ordinary white Englishman did not want it and often refused to fight. The Indians certainly did not want war, but they matched atrocity with atrocity. When it was over, in 1676, the English had won, but their resources were drained; they had lost six hundred men. Three thousand Indians were dead, including Metacom himself. Yet the Indian raids did not stop.

For a while, the English tried softer tactics. But ultimately, it was back to annihilation. The Indian population of 10 million that lived north of Mexico when Columbus came would ultimately be reduced to less than a million. Huge numbers of Indians would the from diseases introduced by the whites. A Dutch traveler in New Netherland wrote in 1656 that « the Indians … affirm, that before the arrival of the Christians, and before the smallpox broke out amongst them, they were ten times as numerous as they now are, and that their population had been melted down by this disease, whereof nine-tenths of them have died. » When the English first settled Martha’s Vineyard in 1642, the Wampanoags there numbered perhaps three thousand. There were no wars on that island, but by 1764, only 313 Indians were left there. Similarly, Block Island Indians numbered perhaps 1,200 to 1,500 in 1662, and by 1774 were reduced to fifty-one.

Behind the English invasion of North America, behind their massacre of Indians, their deception, their brutality, was that special powerful drive born in civilizations based on private property. It was a morally ambiguous drive; the need for space, for land, was a real human need. But in conditions of scarcity, in a barbarous epoch of history ruled by competition, this human need was transformed into the murder of whole peoples. Roger Williams said it was

a depraved appetite after the great vanities, dreams and shadows of this vanishing life, great portions of land, land in this wilderness, as if men were in as great necessity and danger for want of great portions of land, as poor, hungry, thirsty seamen have, after a sick and stormy, a long and starving passage. This is one of the gods of New England, which the living and most high Eternal will destroy and famish.

Was all this bloodshed and deceit-from Columbus to Cortes, Pizarro, the Puritans-a necessity for the human race to progress from savagery to civilization? Was Morison right in burying the story of genocide inside a more important story of human progress? Perhaps a persuasive argument can be made-as it was made by Stalin when he killed peasants for industrial progress in the Soviet Union, as it was made by Churchill explaining the bombings of Dresden and Hamburg, and Truman explaining Hiroshima. But how can the judgment be made if the benefits and losses cannot be balanced because the losses are either unmentioned or mentioned quickly?

That quick disposal might be acceptable (« Unfortunate, yes, but it had to be done ») to the middle and upper classes of the conquering and « advanced » countries. But is it acceptable to the poor of Asia, Africa, Latin America, or to the prisoners in Soviet labor camps, or the blacks in urban ghettos, or the Indians on reservations-to the victims of that progress which benefits a privileged minority in the world? Was it acceptable (or just inescapable?) to the miners and railroaders of America, the factory hands, the men and women who died by the hundreds of thousands from accidents or sickness, where they worked or where they lived-casualties of progress? And even the privileged minority-must it not reconsider, with that practicality which even privilege cannot abolish, the value of its privileges, when they become threatened by the anger of the sacrificed, whether in organized rebellion, unorganized riot, or simply those brutal individual acts of desperation labeled crimes by law and the state?

If there are necessary sacrifices to be made for human progress, is it not essential to hold to the principle that those to be sacrificed must make the decision themselves? We can all decide to give up something of ours, but do we have the right to throw into the pyre the children of others, or even our own children, for a progress which is not nearly as clear or present as sickness or health, life or death?

What did people in Spain get out of all that death and brutality visited on the Indians of the Americas? For a brief period in history, there was the glory of a Spanish Empire in the Western Hemisphere. As Hans Koning sums it up in his book Columbus: His Enterprise:

For all the gold and silver stolen and shipped to Spain did not make the Spanish people richer. It gave their kings an edge in the balance of power for a time, a chance to hire more mercenary soldiers for their wars. They ended up losing those wars anyway, and all that was left was a deadly inflation, a starving population, the rich richer, the poor poorer, and a ruined peasant class.

Beyond all that, how certain are we that what was destroyed was inferior? Who were these people who came out on the beach and swam to bring presents to Columbus and his crew, who watched Cortes and Pizarro ride through their countryside, who peered out of the forests at the first white settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts?

Columbus called them Indians, because he miscalculated the size of the earth. In this book we too call them Indians, with some reluctance, because it happens too often that people are saddled with names given them by their conquerors.

And yet, there is some reason to call them Indians, because they did come, perhaps 25,000 years ago, from Asia, across the land bridge of the Bering Straits (later to disappear under water) to Alaska. Then they moved southward, seeking warmth and land, in a trek lasting thousands of years that took them into North America, then Central and South America. In Nicaragua, Brazil, and Ecuador their petrified footprints can still be seen, along with the print of bison, who disappeared about five thousand years ago, so they must have reached South America at least that far back

Widely dispersed over the great land mass of the Americas, they numbered approximately 75 million people by the rime Columbus came, perhaps 25 million in North America. Responding to the different environments of soil and climate, they developed hundreds of different tribal cultures, perhaps two thousand different languages. They perfected the art of agriculture, and figured out how to grow maize (corn), which cannot grow by itself and must be planted, cultivated, fertilized, harvested, husked, shelled. They ingeniously developed a variety of other vegetables and fruits, as well as peanuts and chocolate and tobacco and rubber.

On their own, the Indians were engaged in the great agricultural revolution that other peoples in Asia, Europe, Africa were going through about the same time.

While many of the tribes remained nomadic hunters and food gatherers in wandering, egalitarian communes, others began to live in more settled communities where there was more food, larger populations, more divisions of labor among men and women, more surplus to feed chiefs and priests, more leisure time for artistic and social work, for building houses. About a thousand years before Christ, while comparable constructions were going on in Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Zuni and Hopi Indians of what is now New Mexico had begun to build villages consisting of large terraced buildings, nestled in among cliffs and mountains for protection from enemies, with hundreds of rooms in each village. Before the arrival of the European explorers, they were using irrigation canals, dams, were doing ceramics, weaving baskets, making cloth out of cotton.

By the time of Christ and Julius Caesar, there had developed in the Ohio River Valley a culture of so-called Moundbuilders, Indians who constructed thousands of enormous sculptures out of earth, sometimes in the shapes of huge humans, birds, or serpents, sometimes as burial sites, sometimes as fortifications. One of them was 3 1/2 miles long, enclosing 100 acres. These Moundbuilders seem to have been part of a complex trading system of ornaments and weapons from as far off as the Great Lakes, the Far West, and the Gulf of Mexico.

About A.D. 500, as this Moundbuilder culture of the Ohio Valley was beginning to decline, another culture was developing westward, in the valley of the Mississippi, centered on what is now St. Louis. It had an advanced agriculture, included thousands of villages, and also built huge earthen mounds as burial and ceremonial places near a vast Indian metropolis that may have had thirty thousand people. The largest mound was 100 feet high, with a rectangular base larger than that of the Great Pyramid of Egypt. In the city, known as Cahokia, were toolmakers, hide dressers, potters, jewelry makers, weavers, salt makers, copper engravers, and magnificent ceramists. One funeral blanket was made of twelve thousand shell beads.

From the Adirondacks to the Great Lakes, in what is now Pennsylvania and upper New York, lived the most powerful of the northeastern tribes, the League of the Iroquois, which included the Mohawks (People of the Flint), Oneidas (People of the Stone), Onondagas (People of the Mountain), Cayugas (People at the Landing), and Senecas (Great Hill People), thousands of people bound together by a common Iroquois language.

In the vision of the Mohawk chief Iliawatha, the legendary Dekaniwidah spoke to the Iroquois: « We bind ourselves together by taking hold of each other’s hands so firmly and forming a circle so strong that if a tree should fall upon it, it could not shake nor break it, so that our people and grandchildren shall remain in the circle in security, peace and happiness. »

In the villages of the Iroquois, land was owned in common and worked in common. Hunting was done together, and the catch was divided among the members of the village. Houses were considered common property and were shared by several families. The concept of private ownership of land and homes was foreign to the Iroquois. A French Jesuit priest who encountered them in the 1650s wrote: « No poorhouses are needed among them, because they are neither mendicants nor paupers.. . . Their kindness, humanity and courtesy not only makes them liberal with what they have, but causes them to possess hardly anything except in common. »

Women were important and respected in Iroquois society. Families were matrilineal. That is, the family line went down through the female members, whose husbands joined the family, while sons who married then joined their wives’ families. Each extended family lived in a « long house. » When a woman wanted a divorce, she set her husband’s things outside the door.

Families were grouped in clans, and a dozen or more clans might make up a village. The senior women in the village named the men who represented the clans at village and tribal councils. They also named the forty-nine chiefs who were the ruling council for the Five Nation confederacy of the Iroquois. The women attended clan meetings, stood behind the circle of men who spoke and voted, and removed the men from office if they strayed too far from the wishes of the women.

The women tended the crops and took general charge of village affairs while the men were always hunting or fishing. And since they supplied the moccasins and food for warring expeditions, they had some control over military matters. As Gary B. Nash notes in his fascinating study of early America, Red, White, and Black: « Thus power was shared between the sexes and the European idea of male dominancy and female subordination in all things was conspicuously absent in Iroquois society. »

Children in Iroquois society, while taught the cultural heritage of their people and solidarity with the tribe, were also taught to be independent, not to submit to overbearing authority. They were taught equality in status and the sharing of possessions. The Iroquois did not use harsh punishment on children; they did not insist on early weaning or early toilet training, hut gradually allowed the child to learn self-care.

All of this was in sharp contrast to European values as brought over by the first colonists, a society of rich and poor, controlled by priests, by governors, by male heads of families. For example, the pastor of the Pilgrim colony, John Robinson, thus advised his parishioners how to deal with their children: « And surely there is in all children … a stubbornness, and stoutness of mind arising from natural pride, which must, in the first place, be broken and beaten down; that so the foundation of their education being laid in humility and tractableness, other virtues may, in their time, be built thereon. »

Gary Nash describes Iroquois culture:

No laws and ordinances, sheriffs and constables, judges and juries, or courts or jails-the apparatus of authority in European societies-were to be found in the northeast woodlands prior to European arrival. Yet boundaries of acceptable behavior were firmly set. Though priding themselves on the autonomous individual, the Iroquois maintained a strict sense of right and wrong…. He who stole another’s food or acted invalourously in war was « shamed » by his people and ostracized from their company until he had atoned for his actions and demonstrated to their satisfaction that he had morally purified himself.

Not only the Iroquois but other Indian tribes behaved the same way. In 1635, Maryland Indians responded to the governor’s demand that if any of them lolled an Englishman, the guilty one should be delivered up for punishment according to English law. The Indians said:

It is the manner amongst us Indians, that if any such accident happen, wee doe redeeme the life of a man that is so slaine, with a 100 armes length of Beades and since that you are heere strangers, and come into our Countrey, you should rather conform yourselves to the Customes of our Countrey, than impose yours upon us….

So, Columbus and his successors were not coming into an empty wilderness, but into a world which in some places was as densely populated as Europe itself, where the culture was complex, where human relations were more egalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations among men, women, children, and nature were more beautifully worked out than perhaps any place in the world.

They were people without a written language, but with their own laws, their poetry, their history kept in memory and passed on, in an oral vocabulary more complex than Europe’s, accompanied by song, dance, and ceremonial drama. They paid careful attention to the development of personality, intensity of will, independence and flexibility, passion and potency, to their partnership with one another and with nature.

John Collier, an American scholar who lived among Indians in the 1920s and 1930s in the American Southwest, said of their spirit: « Could we make it our own, there would be an eternally inexhaustible earth and a forever lasting peace. »

Perhaps there is some romantic mythology in that. But the evidence from European travelers in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, put together recently by an American specialist on Indian life, William Brandon, is overwhelmingly supportive of much of that « myth. » Even allowing for the imperfection of myths, it is enough to make us question, for that time and ours, the excuse of progress in the annihilation of races, and the telling of history from the standpoint of the conquerors and leaders of Western civilization.


Mode: La Révolution Kate Upton (Kate vs. the incredible shrinking women: will curvy finally kill the skinny star ?)

9 octobre, 2013
http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1250424.1359488260!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/upton30n-3-web.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/cdn1-www.thefashionspot.com/assets/uploads/2013/05/file_180515_0_Kate-Upton-Voguw.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lw06y0SdEo1r2g5ufo1_500.jpgkate halchishick photoQue ta mise soit aussi coûteuse que ta bourse te le permet, sans être de fantaisie excentrique ; riche, mais peu voyante ; car le vêtement révèle souvent l’homme ; et en France, les gens de qualité et du premier rang ont, sous ce rapport, le goût le plus exquis et le plus digne. … Avant tout, sois loyal envers toi-même ; et, aussi infailliblement que la nuit suit le jour, tu ne pourras être déloyal envers personne. Polonius (Hamlet, Shakespeare)
Il nous arriverait, si nous savions mieux analyser nos amours, de voir que souvent les femmes ne nous plaisent qu’à cause du contrepoids d’hommes à qui nous avons à les disputer (…) ce contrepoids supprimé, le charme de la femme tombe. On en a un exemple dans l’homme qui, sentant s’affaiblir son goùt pour la femme qu’il aime, applique spontanément les règles qu’il a dégagées, et pour être sûr qu’il ne cesse pas d’aimer la femme, la met dans un milieu dangereux où il faut la protéger chaque jour. Proust
Quand les riches s’habituent à leur richesse, la simple consommation ostentatoire perd de son attrait et les nouveaux riches se métamorphosent en anciens riches. Ils considèrent ce changement comme le summum du raffinement culturel et font de leur mieux pour le rendre aussi visible que la consommation qu’ils pratiquaient auparavant. C’est à ce moment-là qu’ils inventent la non-consommation ostentatoire, qui paraît, en surface, rompre avec l’attitude qu’elle supplante mais qui n’est, au fond, qu’une surenchère mimétique du même processus. (…) Plus nous sommes riches en fait, moins nous pouvons nous permettre de nous montrer grossièrement matérialistes car nous entrons dans une hiérarchie de jeux compétitifs qui deviennent toujours plus subtils à mesure que l’escalade progresse. A la fin, ce processus peut aboutir à un rejet total de la compétition, ce qui peut être, même si ce n’est pas toujours le cas, la plus intense des compétitions. René Girard
Si nos ancêtres pouvaient voir les cadavres gesticulants qui ornent les pages de nos revues de mode, ils les interprèteraient vraisemblablement comme un memento mori, un rappel de la mort équivalent, peut-être, aux danses macabres sur les murs de certaines églises médiévales. Si nous leur expliquions que ces squelettes désarticulés symbolisent à nos yeux le plaisir, le bonheur, le luxe, le succès, ils se lanceraient probablement dans une fuite panique, nous imaginant possédés par un diable particulièrement malfaisant. René Girard
L’homme est un animal social qui diffère des autres animaux en ce qu’il est plus apte à l’imitation, Aristote le disait déjà (Poétique 4). Aujourd’hui on peut tracer les sources cérébrales de cette spécificité humaine. La découverte des neurones miroirs permet de mettre le doigt sur ce qui connecte les cerveaux des hommes. En outre cette découverte a encore confirmé l’importance neurologique de l’imitation chez l’être humain. Les neurones miroirs sont des neurones qui s’activent, non seulement lorsqu’un individu exécute lui-même une action, mais aussi lorsqu’il regarde un congénère exécuter la même action. On peut dire en quelque sorte que les neurones dans le cerveau de celui/celle qui observe imitent les neurones de la personne observée; de là le qualitatif ‘miroir’ (mirror neurons). Simon De Keukelaere
Nombre de recherches sur l’obésité, qui soulignent les styles de vie sédentaires, la biologie humaine ou la nourriture rapide, passent à côté de l’essentiel. L’augmentation de l’obésité doit être considérée comme un phénomène sociologique et non pas physiologique. Les gens sont influencés par des comparaisons relatives, et les normes ont changé et continuent à changer. Andrew Oswald (université de Warwick)
Girls are ditching diets for the first time in decades and embracing natural curves. More than two thirds of women now want a voluptuous look like model Kate Upton. The Sun
For a long time, fashion has been going to celebrities. Celebrities are on the magazine covers, and nobody wanted models. But why not have a model celebrity? Why not a girl who comes with her own following? Social media brings a personality to models. That’s how consumers today decide what to buy. I studied this. People told me I couldn’t be fashion, that I’m just an old-fashioned body girl, only good for swimwear. But I knew that I could bring back the supermodel. What can I say? I’m relatable. Kate Upton
When Kate first came in, everyone at the agency thought I was crazy. She wasn’t ‘fashion’ enough. (…) Kate is bigger than fashion. She’s the Jayne Mansfield of the Internet. Ivan Bart (IMG Models)
We would never use Ms. Upton for a Victoria’s Secret show, her look, she is “too obvious” to be featured in what has become the most widely viewed runway show in the world. She’s like a Page 3 girl. She’s like a footballer’s wife, with the too-blond hair and that kind of face that anyone with enough money can go out and buy. Sophia Neophitou
I come from a business where the perennial question is ‘Are you beautiful in a fashion sense or in a beauty pageant sense or beautiful-girl-next-door sense?’ And I feel like, why can’t we try to find something that’s a little bit different? If you’ve ever looked at pictures of Jean Harlow up close, she had the same curves as Kate Upton, the same silhouette, and she was the definition of beauty at the time. Stephen Gan
Thirteen years ago, every cover of every magazine wasn’t actresses, it was mostly models and then actresses would be featured inside. And now every actress is expected to also be a model. Busy Williams
But there’s been little talk about how the shift has affected actresses. As Busy said, the need to be « cover-ready » has put more pressure on celebrities to stay fit. The consequence, ironically, is that while magazine readers strive to achieve the celebrity body shapes they see on magazine covers, the celebrities on the covers are striving to maintain bodies like the models they’ve replaced. The result? No one really wins. Ellie Krupnick
We really want girls to have a focus on being healthy and also have realistic views of modeling, expectations and things like that. It’s just a really horrible mentality. I really want to focus on trying to be part of the solution to this problem. I felt like, `If you build it, they will come.’ And that’s kinda what happened. Everybody has a story and everybody is a person. You have to be sensitive to them as people and not just judge them off of a photo or off of the way they look. Katie Halchishick
I think girls just realized that they can be beautiful while still being a size 6 or 8, or plus, and you don’t have to be a size 0 or 2 to be liked or popular or get guys’ attention. Kristin Close
Prior to the assembly, Close handed out a survey with about five questions including: What size are you? What size do you want to be? Why? What she learned astonished her: Every girl wished she were skinnier no matter her current size. Even if she were a size 2, she wanted to be a size 0. (…) Halchishick believes this is because of the images young girls are inundated with of unrealistically thin models. In fact, most straight-size fashion models are thinner than 98 percent of American women, according to the NEDA. But what these young girls don’t know, Halchshick says, is what has been done to perfect the image, such as pinning, stuffing and the use of Photoshop. (…) During the boys’ assembly, they focus on how they can be the solution to the problem by understanding that what they say to girls about their weight or looks truly affects them. (…) The response from students, parents and principals has been amazing, says Halchishick. By continuing to get the word out, she hopes to start a revolution as more girls take the initiative to bring the program to their school. Daily News

Les courbes finiront-elles par avoir raison des brindilles ?

Alors que l’ancienne star de l’écurie Disney Miley Cyrus se sent obligée,  après ses anciennes collègues et le look putassier en plus, de nous refaire le coup de la tête rasée et des larmes de Sinead O’Connor …

Les formes généreuses du véritable phénomène internet Kate Upton qui avec sa blondeur et son physique de femme de footballeur faisait autrefois fuir les agences de mode …

Et une nouvelle génration de jeunes mannequins comme la fondatrice de la nouvelle agence « Healthy is the new Skinny » Katie Halchishick

Réussiront-elles enfin à libérer notre gent féminine et surtout les plus jeunes de la tyrannie anorexisante de nos magazines et de nos défilés de mode ?

Ou feront-t-elles, elles aussi pour les hanches ou les fesses et après les lèvres,  la fortune de la chirurgie plastique du repulpage ?

‘Healthy Is the New Skinny': Throwing a few curves at model myths

Stephanie Cary

The Daily News

11/09/11

Look in the mirror. What do you see?

Many teenage girls might shock you with their answers, as body-image issues are plaguing students in high schools across the nation.

In fact, as many as 10 million females in the United States have a body-image related eating disorder such as bulimia or anorexia, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. According to NEDA, more than half of teenage girls use unhealthy weight-controlling behaviors such as throwing up, skipping meals, fasting, taking laxatives or smoking cigarettes.

But now, Katie Halchishick — a 26-year-old Los Angeles resident and former plus-size model who struggled with her own body-image issues — is trying to fight the epidemic with her « Healthy is the New Skinny » campaign, which is promoted in collaboration with her modeling agency and nonprofit school program.

« Natural Model Management is a model agency that is built upon better values in the industry, » Halchishick said. « We really want girls to have a focus on being healthy and also have realistic views of modeling, expectations and things like that. »

At her heaviest, Halchishick was a size 14. But as she started to lose weight in an effort to get healthy, she lost clients as well.

Her agency told her to either gain back weight so she could continue modeling in plus-size, or lose enough that she could be booked as a straight-size model — size 0 to size 4.

Halchishick didn’t appreciate feeling like her agency was in control of what happened to her body or her career. She believed there were clients out there who would want to book her for the body and size she was naturally meant to be — which shifts between a size 8 or 10.

« It’s just a really horrible mentality, » Halchishick said. « So I was like, I really want to focus on trying to be part of the solution to this problem. I felt like, `If you build it, they will come.’ And that’s kinda what happened. »

Natural Model Management embraces models with healthy, natural weights as well as plus-size models. With almost 50 girls in the agency, Halchishick is proving skeptics wrong by showing there are clients out there who want natural-looking women.

Her models have been booked internationally and they have clients such as Kohl’s, Target, Jessica London, Torrid and Forever 21. As Halchishick says, there may not be a huge market for middle-range sizes, but they put the effort in to find jobs for their models.

But more than just trying to help change the fashion industry’s view of what’s beautiful, she is also trying to make a difference with younger girls through her Perfectly UnPerfected Program, a nonprofit school campaign that addresses body-image issues with students.

The program started after Kristin Close — then a senior at Placer High School in Auburn — had been talking to Halchishick about the prospect of modeling. After learning Halchishick’s message of « Healthy is the New Skinny, » Close decided that was something her school could benefit from hearing and, for her senior project, asked Halchishick to come to Placer High.

Halchishick agreed and brought along some of the Natural models as well. The project included separate assemblies for the boys and girls, as well as photo shoots during lunch and after school so the students could get their photo taken wearing a « Healthy is the New Skinny » T-shirt.

Close, now 18, says the assemblies really had an impact on the students — especially the girls — as many had to dry tears when hearing the models’ stories.

« Katie talked and another `Healthy is the New Skinny’ model, Angela — she’s a mother and she has very unique facial features that she got made fun of in high school for and she was bulimic, » Close said.

« You’d just look around the auditorium and girls were in tears because Angela was telling her story and I actually had to run up on stage and give her a tissue. I think girls just realized that they can be beautiful while still being a size 6 or 8, or plus, and you don’t have to be a size 0 or 2 to be liked or popular or get guys’ attention. »

Prior to the assembly, Close handed out a survey with about five questions including: What size are you? What size do you want to be? Why?

What she learned astonished her: Every girl wished she were skinnier no matter her current size. Even if she were a size 2, she wanted to be a size 0.

Halchishick believes this is because of the images young girls are inundated with of unrealistically thin models. In fact, most straight-size fashion models are thinner than 98 percent of American women, according to the NEDA.

But what these young girls don’t know, Halchshick says, is what has been done to perfect the image, such as pinning, stuffing and the use of Photoshop.

« I think girls only get to see these perfect images, they don’t ever actually get to hear anyone talk, » Halchishick said. « So girls assume that all these models are perfect and their lives are perfect because they see everything from a picture. And when you work with them and we all talk, that’s not the case at all. »

Since the Placer High School assembly last year, Halchishick has expanded the Perfectly UnPerfected Program to other schools with the help of her boyfriend and former model Bradford Willcox, and Hugo Schwyzer, a professor of gender studies at Pasadena City College.

They will be going to six schools in Washington and are in the process of bringing the program to a Los Angeles college in 2012.

They skew the details of the assembly to accommodate what the school wants, but the message of « Healthy is the New Skinny » is always there, as they talk with students about body-image issues, show pictures before and after Photoshop, and conduct question-and-answer sessions.

During the boys’ assembly, they focus on how they can be the solution to the problem by understanding that what they say to girls about their weight or looks truly affects them.

The response from students, parents and principals has been amazing, says Halchishick. By continuing to get the word out, she hopes to start a revolution as more girls take the initiative to bring the program to their school.

« Everybody has a story and everybody is a person. You have to be sensitive to them as people and not just judge them off of a photo or off of the way they look, » Halchishick said.

« It’s totally changed my life. That one day at Placer was more rewarding than any picture I’ve ever taken. »

Voir aussi:

Is Kate Upton the First Social Media Supermodel?

Hayley Phelan &Tyler McCall

When Kate Upton’s GQ cover hit this morning, we’re sure ours weren’t the only jaws to drop. There are few models who look (or move!) like Kate. Likewise, there are few models who have enjoyed such a meteoric rise to fame and success.

But make no mistake: Upton is by no means just a benefactor of good luck (or bountiful breasts). She’s very much a star of her own making, and her career decisions–starting with the fateful day she posted that Dougie video to YouTube–have helped her carve out an image and public following that is truly unlike any other model: She managed to parlay a popular YouTube clip to propel her ho-hum modeling career into the supermodel stratosphere, becoming a favorite of fashionistas like Katie Grand and Carine Roitfeld and lad mags alike. Taking cues from reality TV, she plays up her blond bombshell, sometimes even ditzy, personality with a wink–and now she’s poised to become a household name.

So how exactly did she do it? Read on for a look at the ups and downs of Upton’s career–and how she harness the power of social media to ensure she’d be more than just a good set of you-know-whats.

Voir également:

Model Struts Path to Stardom Not on Runway, but on YouTube

Guy Trebay

The New York Times

February 13, 2012

There was a time, not long ago, when the surest path to modeling stardom was down the runway of a top designer’s show, when it would have been unthinkable to find among the industry’s top ranks a swimsuit girl whose main claims to fame were ad campaigns for Guess jeans and Beach Bunny Swimwear.

But that was before social media altered the paths to fame.

Unlike the many little-known beauties now on view at New York Fashion Week — women seldom identified by more than one name (Agata, Hanaa, Frida, Joan) — Kate Upton, just 19 and resembling a 1950s pinup, but with the legs of a W.N.B.A. point guard, has arrived on the scene as a largely self-created Internet phenomenon.

It is not just that she has a respectable Twitter following (170,000 people at last count), or a YouTube video with over 3 million viewers, or marketing potential perhaps best measured by her rocketing from obscurity to No. 2 on a list of the world’s 99 “top” women compiled by AskMen.com, an online magazine with 15 million readers. (Sofia Vergara, of the ABC sitcom “Modern Family,” is No. 1.)

Less than a year after Ms. Upton, curvaceous and rambunctious, posted a video of herself at a Los Angeles Clippers game doing the Dougie, a dance popularized in a hip-hop tune by Cali Swag District, she finds herself in one of the most coveted positions in the modeling business.

Joining an elite club of modeling powerhouses — brand names like Cheryl Tiegs, Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum — Ms. Upton was announced Monday night on David Letterman’s show as the latest cover girl for Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue, the circulation and advertising behemoth that has long been equally the dream book of adolescent males and the bane of feminists.

In modeling, as in movies (see: “Chronicle,” the film that hit No. 1 at the box office this month after relying on social media outlets like Twitter and YouTube for its marketing), music (the band Fun. and its inescapable viral hit “We Are Young”) and most other cultural endeavors, it is increasingly clear that there is no longer a single path to success.

“We all know that social media now creates its own reality,” said Wayne Sterling, the publisher of Models.com, an industry Web site. “If you become a YouTube star among teenagers, you have even more recognizability than a TV star,” he said. “Kate Upton is the perfect example of that.”

It was soon after the Dougie video went viral that a seasoned scout, David Cunningham, brought Ms. Upton to the attention of Ivan Bart of IMG Models, the company behind the multimillion-dollar careers of women like Gisele Bündchen, Ms. Klum and Kate Moss.

“When Kate first came in, everyone at the agency thought I was crazy,” Mr. Bart, the “superagent” who heads IMG Models, said of Ms. Upton. “She wasn’t ‘fashion’ enough.”

Mr. Bart signed her anyway. And soon, to the surprise of some in the industry, Ms. Upton was being sought out for editorial sittings with people like Carine Roitfeld, the French fashion eminence known for her prophetic eye, and by Katie Grand, the influential stylist and editor of the fashion-forward British magazine Love.

Wholesomely proportioned at 5 feet 11 inches with a 36-25-34 figure, Ms. Upton was a long way from the coolly robotic Eastern European beauty ideal that has dominated the catwalks for many seasons. “Kate is bigger than fashion,” Mr. Bart said. “She’s the Jayne Mansfield of the Internet.”

Though the catwalks of New York, Paris and Milan, traditionally a pathway to magazine covers and the lavish cosmetic and fragrance advertising campaigns that are the grail of every modeling hopeful, will continue to exert influence, it is increasingly difficult for the industry to ignore the world outside the Fashion Week tents, particularly the one that is virtual.

“It’s not just enough to cast such-and-such a girl that opened Prada or Vuitton or whatever,” said Trey Laird, the creative director of Laird & Partners, the advertising agency behind brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Juicy Couture and the Gap. “It’s a huge help if a girl already has a platform and followers, and Kate Upton is a great example of that.”

Those dubious about Ms. Upton’s crossover potential, or of any career driven toward the stony heart of fashion from the do-it-yourself fringes of the blogosphere, include Sophia Neophitou, editor of the English style bible 10 and a creative force behind the casting of the Victoria’s Secret shows.

“We would never use” Ms. Upton for a Victoria’s Secret show, Ms. Neophitou said by telephone last week from London. And, while Ms. Upton has, in fact, modeled on occasion for the company’s catalog, her look, said Ms. Neophitou, is “too obvious” to be featured in what has become the most widely viewed runway show in the world.

“She’s like a Page 3 girl,” Ms. Neophitou said, referring to the scantily clad voluptuous women featured in The Sun, a London tabloid. “She’s like a footballer’s wife, with the too-blond hair and that kind of face that anyone with enough money can go out and buy.”

And yet, Ms. Upton turns up as the hottest new face in the industry in a coming issue of V, a fashion magazine with a cult following among the cognoscenti.

“I wasn’t necessarily drawn to her because of her having been big online and having several million hits on YouTube,” said Stephen Gan, V’s editor in chief and creative director. “In fact, I first heard of her when we were having a party at the Boom Boom Room and Kate Moss’s agent called and said, ‘Can you put Kate Upton on your list?’ ”

Unfamiliar then with the young model, Mr. Gan searched Google and came upon the Dougie video, along with the welter of gossip items that connect Ms. Upton to celebrities like Kanye West and the New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. Tabloid readiness aside, he saw in her something a less seasoned fashion eye might overlook.

“I come from a business where the perennial question is ‘Are you beautiful in a fashion sense or in a beauty pageant sense or beautiful-girl-next-door sense?’ ” Mr. Gan said. “And I feel like, why can’t we try to find something that’s a little bit different? If you’ve ever looked at pictures of Jean Harlow up close, she had the same curves as Kate Upton, the same silhouette, and she was the definition of beauty at the time.”

Sitting last week in the Manhattan offices of IMG Models, clad in tight jeans and Christian Louboutin stilettos and with her peroxided hair piled high, Ms. Upton called to mind the dumb blondes of an earlier era, women like Ms. Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe who, as we now know, were not dumb at all.

But unlike the passive beauties of the 1950s, Ms. Upton has a coolly appraising approach to her assets. She also has a big laugh, no shortage of confidence and the habit of cracking her knuckles like a tomboy bombshell.

“For a long time, fashion has been going to celebrities,” she said. “Celebrities are on the magazine covers, and nobody wanted models. But why not have a model celebrity? Why not a girl who comes with her own following? Social media brings a personality to models. That’s how consumers today decide what to buy.”

“I studied this,” added Ms. Upton, a Michigan native who was raised in Melbourne, Fla., and who began work at 15, spending her first few years toiling in the lucrative but unglamorous salt mines of catalog modeling.

What Ms. Upton learned was that before Ms. Bündchen grew Angel wings and became Mrs. Tom Brady and a business impresario overseeing a multimillion-dollar empire built on the licensing of everything from lingerie to shower shoes, she was just another runway girl from the first wave of then-new Brazilians, a woman routinely informed she would never make it big in high fashion because her figure was too curvy and her nose was too long.

“People told me I couldn’t be fashion, that I’m just an old-fashioned body girl, only good for swimwear,” Ms. Upton said. “But I knew that I could bring back the supermodel.”

“What can I say?” she added. “I’m relatable.”

Voir encore:

Has Kate Upton forgiven Victoria’s Secret for those ‘too obvious’ comments? Model makes surprise appearance in lingerie giant’s new catalog

Victoria’s Secret’s casting director said early last year that the model is ‘like a page three girl’ with ‘the kind of face that anyone with enough money can go out and buy’

Tamara Abraham

Daily Mail

28 May 2013

Kate Upton appears to be modeling for Victoria’s Secret, just over a year after the casting director for the lingerie giant’s catwalk shows said she ‘would never use [her].’

In an image obtained by Buzzfeed of the back of the newest Victoria’s Secret catalog, the model, 20, is seen wearing a black Body by Victoria bra.

It comes as some surprise to see her posing for the brand, given that she was the subject of some scathing comments from its model booker, Sophia Neophitou, in a New York Times interview early last year.

Ms Neophitou told the paper that she would never book Miss Upton for the Victoria’s Secret catwalk show.

‘She is too obvious. She’s like a page three girl.’ she said. ‘She’s like a footballer’s wife, with the too-blond hair and the kind of face that anyone with enough money can go out and buy.’

Ms Neophitou appears to be alone in her opinion of Miss Upton though. The model, who shot to fame after landing the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 2012, has become the darling of the fashion set.

In just under 18 months, she has appeared on three Vogue covers, fronted the inaugural issue of CR Fashion Book, and posed in photo shoots for V Magazine, Terry Richardson and Harper’s Bazaar.

She has also attended the Met Gala and modeled in campaigns for Sam Edelman and Mercedes Benz.

And she still remains in favor with Sports Illustrated, who chose her for yet another Swimsuit Issue cover this year.

But while Miss Upton has never been an official Angel, it would seem that she has maintained a relationship with Victoria’s Secret since her teens.

Buzzfeed reveals that she modeled pajamas for the brand back in 2011, when she would have been about 18, well before her Sports Illustrated fame.

But the site’s Amy O’Dell explains that a model’s presence in the catalog does not automatically qualify her for the runway show.

‘Casting for the catalog and fashion show are seen as two very different things to the fashion community,’ she said. ‘There’s a lot of cross-over but it’s not a fully symbiotic relationship.’

MailOnline reached out to Victoria’s Secret to determine the nature of Miss Upton’s apparent new role, but is yet to get a response.

Voir encore:

Models vs. Actresses On Covers: What The Shift Has Meant For Celebrities’ Bodies

Ellie Krupnick

The Huffington Post

05/31/2013

The era of models-as-cover-stars came to an end around the time Anna Wintour took over at Vogue. There, she popularized the casting of celebrities — mainly actresses and pop stars — for fashion covers instead of models. Her first major celeb cover featured Madonna, a choice that was seen as a risk… and resulted in a 40 percent spike in newsstand sales.

The shift was a positive eye-opener for Vogue and the other magazines that followed suit. But the turn from professional models to celebrities might have had a negative impact on the celebs themselves. In a recent interview with Amanda de Cadenet for « The Conversation, » actress Busy Philipps provided an interesting insight:

« 13 years ago, every cover of every magazine wasn’t actresses, it was mostly models and then actresses would be featured inside. And now every actress is expected to also be a model. »

It’s been widely discussed that the move from models to Hollywood A-listers negatively affected the models. Naomi Campbell said it best: « Of course, we want the magazine covers back… [A young model has] got more to compete with and there are only a certain amount of covers they’re going to give a model a year. Before, you had models 12 months a year. »

But there’s been little talk about how the shift has affected actresses. As Busy said, the need to be « cover-ready » has put more pressure on celebrities to stay fit.

The consequence, ironically, is that while magazine readers strive to achieve the celebrity body shapes they see on magazine covers, the celebrities on the covers are striving to maintain bodies like the models they’ve replaced.

The result? No one really wins. Let’s hope that Anna Wintour was watching Philipps’ interview and took away a few insights. Watch the conversation for yourself in the video above, or go to TheConversation.tv.

More women we love speaking out about body image:

Voir enfin:

Miley Cyrus, son clip et le twerk : faux scandale, vraie hypocrisie, marketing de génie

Benoît Raphaël

Le Nouvel Observateur

07-10-2013

LE PLUS. Miley Cyrus apparaît nue dans son clip. Miley Cyrus agite ses fesses devant Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus lèche une masse de chantier, Miley Cyrus fait des trucs avec sa langue. Bref, Miley Cyrus fait plein de choses et buzz à tout va. Du bruit, au point que même Sinéad O’Connor et Annie Lennox s’en sont mêlées. Cyrus est-elle vraiment scandaleuse ? Pas sûr. Analyse de Benoît Raphaël.

Les médias web peuvent dire merci à Miley Cyrus. Miley Cyrus peut dire merci au web. Chacune de ses apparitions grimpe à 10 sur l’échelle du buzz. Son dernier single (« Wrecking Ball ») fait un carton. Et plus on lui reproche de montrer ses fesses, plus elle gagne de l’argent. Et des fans. Cool.

C’est un jeu auquel l’Amérique adore jouer depuis des dizaines d’années : puritanisme + provocation + business. La formule est bien rodée. C’est même à se demander si les détracteurs de la jeune chanteuse n’auraient pas été payés par la maison de disques.

Rappel de l’histoire pour ceux qui auraient raté ce cas d’école du buzz marketing.

Anatomie d’un buzz parfait

Août 2013 : Miley Cyrus fait une performance épicée aux MTV Awards. Sur la chanson de Robin Thicke, « Blurred Lines », dont le clip fait déjà l’objet d’un buzz pour sexisme, la chanteuse se lance dans un twerk (le twerk est une danse assez moche qui consiste à remuer les fesses sous le nez de son partenaire… ou de son chien). Elle porte un maillot de bain couleur chair.

Bon. Buzz « Blurred Lines » + buzz « twerk » + buzz « petite tenue » + buzz « MTV Awards » = buzz multiplié par 4.

On notera que Miley Cyrus a été, il n’y a pas si longtemps que cela, l’idole des des enfants. Vous vous souvenez peut-être de sa prestation doudou dans Hannah Montana. La présence d’ours en peluche sur la scène des MTV Awards n’est d’ailleurs certainement pas innocente. Clin d’œil à son passé de Mickey Girl, la mise en scène a pour objectif de marquer une rupture. Un peu comme Britney Spears en son temps. Ou encore Selena Gomez. Ce qui nous rajoute un cinquième ingrédient de buzz.

Ah oui, j’oubliais la langue. Miley Cyrus dispose d’une langue particulièrement longue, qu’elle fait tourner dans tous les sens, ce qui, au-delà de la provocation, est un excellent support pour la création de memes (le meme est le détournement répété et viral d’une image pratiqué par les internautes avec l’aide de Photoshop).

La grande langue, donc, sixième ingrédient à placer dans cette recette de buzz marketing autour du lancement de l’album d’une jeune chanteuse jusque là un peu fade.

L’opération est donc presque un cas d’école, qui révèle une forme de science arithmétique relativement aboutie (adepte des mathématiques, Rihanna s’est elle aussi mise au twerk…).

La machine était lancée.

Annie Lennox et Sinéad O’Connor surfent sur la vague

Après une petite série de provocations, Miley Cyrus enfonce le clou avec un clip plutôt sobre dans lequel elle apparaît nue sur un boulet de démolition, et où on l’aperçoit lécher une masse.

On a vu plus dénudé. Lady Gaga notamment, il y a quelques semaines, à l’occasion du lancement de son dernier album. Un lancement raté. Pour Miley, c’est différent. Le buzz était lancé. Les médias web ont fait des tonnes de pages vues sur le buzz, il n’était pas question de s’arrêter.

C’est là que Sinéad O’Connor s’en mêle. Elle publie une lettre ouverte à Miley Cyrus, lui conseillant d’aller se rhabiller. Et lui expliquant (je résume) : ce monde est cruel, tu n’as que 20 ans, et tu te fais manipuler par des business-men sans complexes qui te déshabillent pour vendre tes disques.

Annie Lennox (Eurythmics) lui emboîte le pas et demande à ce qu’on arrête avec l’hypersexualisation des clips. Ben voyons.

Résultat : doublement du buzz. Du coup, on reparle et de Miley Cyrus et de Sinead O’Connor. Qui a peut-être, elle aussi, un album en préparation. Non, en fait c’est plutôt un livre… Annie Lennox ? On parle d’un nouvel album pour 2014.

En tout cas, les deux vétérantes ne pouvaient pas rendre un meilleur service à ces méchants exploiteurs de jeunes filles innocentes que seraient les maisons de disques.

Good buzz, bad buzz, même combat.

Maintenant, ce sont des nus de la starlette shootés par le photographe Richardson qui font tourner la machine à clics. Un classique !

L’archétype de l’hypocrisie américaine

Bref, un buzz bien orchestré, dans les règles de l’art. Pas vraiment original depuis Madonna et le bout de sein de Janet Jackson. Mais qui continue visiblement de fonctionner. Rien de grave, d’ailleurs. L’album est plutôt pas mal, et Miley Cyrus a suffisamment d’humour pour se moquer de ses propres prestations. Il n’y a qu’à visionner son auto-parodie le week-end dernier au « Saturday Night Fever ».

Au fond, ce n’est que du divertissement. Tant que tout le monde s’amuse et gagne de l’argent, où est le problème ? Au pire, ce buzz banal nous montre combien l’Amérique a encore du mal à se sortir de son puritanisme… Mais est toujours aussi bonne en marketing !

Tout le reste n’est qu’hypocrisie.


Prix Nobel: Cherchez la femme (Lise Meitner: Looking back at the woman who would not be a bomb)

9 octobre, 2013
http://hollywoodrevue.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/bombshellposter.jpgPhoto : CHERCHEZ LA FEMME (Physics Nobels: Looking back at the woman who would not be a bomb)We see a shy, introverted girl -- handsome but not beautiful -- blossom into an aggressive researcher. Physics was her life; Sime found no evidence that Meitner was ever involved in a romantic relationship. “I will have nothing to do with a bomb.”Lise Meitner While professional jealousies only threatened to keep Marie Curie from receiving the Nobel Prize, they succeeded in denying Meitner the same recognition. With her name missing from the key experimental paper on nuclear fission (previously Meitner and Hahn always shared the credit on their joint efforts), Hahn alone received the 1944 prize for chemistry. Sime shines an insightful spotlight on the politics of science through this biography -- how the idealistic quest for scientific knowledge can be sullied by a scientist's obsessive watch over citations and credit. It is thus surprising to discover that Meitner remained loyal to Hahn throughout this turmoil. In fact, horrified by the bomb, fission's offspring, she had mixed feelings about being linked in any way to its creation. With the discovery of the neutron in the early 1930s, the scientific community began to speculate that it might be possible to create elements heavier than uranium in the lab. A race to confirm this began between Ernest Rutherford in Britain, Irene Joliot-Curie in France, Enrico Fermi in Italy and the Meitner-Hahn team in Berlin. The teams knew the winner would likely be honored with a Nobel Prize.http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/reviews/lisemeitner.htmhttp://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2010/02/0211lise-meitner-publishes-nuclear-fission/all/We see a shy, introverted girl — handsome but not beautiful — blossom into an aggressive researcher. Physics was her life; Sime found no evidence that Meitner was ever involved in a romantic relationship. The Washington post
I will have nothing to do with a bomb. Lise Meitner
While professional jealousies only threatened to keep Marie Curie from receiving the Nobel Prize, they succeeded in denying Meitner the same recognition. With her name missing from the key experimental paper on nuclear fission (previously Meitner and Hahn always shared the credit on their joint efforts), Hahn alone received the 1944 prize for chemistry. Sime shines an insightful spotlight on the politics of science through this biography — how the idealistic quest for scientific knowledge can be sullied by a scientist’s obsessive watch over citations and credit. It is thus surprising to discover that Meitner remained loyal to Hahn throughout this turmoil. In fact, horrified by the bomb, fission’s offspring, she had mixed feelings about being linked in any way to its creation. WP
With the discovery of the neutron in the early 1930s, the scientific community began to speculate that it might be possible to create elements heavier than uranium in the lab. A race to confirm this began between Ernest Rutherford in Britain, Irene Joliot-Curie in France, Enrico Fermi in Italy and the Meitner-Hahn team in Berlin. The teams knew the winner would likely be honored with a Nobel Prize. Wired

Attention: un prix Nobel peut en cacher un autre !

Alors qu’après la série des Miss qui vient de finir, les hommes entament leur saison de prix de beauté à eux …
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Retour 75 ans après le prix Nobel de la bourde de Fermi
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Et sans parler, d’Arafat à Gore et Obama, des innombrables erreurs de casting de la fondation de l’inventeur de la dynamite …
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Sur un autre prix volé que, après son homologue britannique et contrairement à la double lauréate polonaise qui venait « briser des ménages français », n’aura jamais la physicienne autrichienne Lise Meitner

The Woman Behind the Bomb

Marcia Bartusiak

The Washington Post

March 17, 1996

In the history of modern physics there are names that perpetually resonate: Ernest Rutherford and Niels Bohr for unveiling the secrets of atomic structure, Erwin Schroedinger and Werner Heisenberg for establishing the rules of the quantum game, and Albert Einstein for recognizing that mass is frozen energy. In this company the name Lise Meitner has diminished to a footnote.

Yet in her day she had a reputation as one of Germany’s best experimentalists. Einstein fondly referred to her as « our Marie Curie. » Meitner’s perceptive realization that atomic nuclei can be split in half was the first step in a cascading set of discoveries that would relentlessly lead to the atomic bomb. But, in the midst of these revelations, Meitner had to flee from Nazi Germany, which cut her off from her laboratory and colleagues. While this exile saved her life, it cost her the Nobel Prize and a prominent niche in many annals of physics.

Fortunately, attention is gradually being refocused on this remarkable woman. Richard Rhodes devoted an appreciable section in The Making of the Atomic Bomb to Meitner’s work on nuclear fission. And now Ruth Lewin Sime, a chemist at Sacramento City College, has written the definitive scientific biography of Meitner, a riveting and masterful account of a scientist’s steadfast devotion to physics. Sims blends the science and history with seamless ease. Even though decades have passed since the collapse of the Third Reich, Sime’s extensive research offers fresh insights on the devastating legacy of Nazism’s distortion of the scientific truth.

Born in Vienna in 1878, Meitner was one of eight children; her father was among the first group of Jewish men to practice law in Austria. As with Curie (but rare for a woman at the turn of the century), the intellectual atmosphere that surrounded Meitner as a child nurtured her scientific proclivity. Only the second woman to obtain a doctoral degree in physics at the University of Vienna, she was soon drawn into the novel study of radioactivity.

In 1907 she moved to Berlin, the mecca of theoretical physics, where she was introduced to Einstein and Max Planck, the father of the quantum. More important, she met Otto Hahn, who became her closest collaborator and a valued friend. They were an interdisciplinary yin and yang: Hahn, the chemist, Meitner,the physicist. While he was methodical, she was bold. Together, in 1917, they discovered a new element, protactinium.

Despite the terrible gender discriminations of the time (especially in Germany), Meitner’s deft abilities could not be ignored. By 1917, still in her thirties, she was given her own physics section in the prestigious Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry. In 1934 she convinced Hahn to join with her once again to investigate the very heart of the atom, its nucleus, and seek elements beyond uranium, then the heaviest atom known.

By bombarding uranium with neutron particles, the two researchers encountered a nightmarish jumble of radioactive species that could not be easily identified. For four long years, Hahn, the expert chemist, carefully separated and processed the radioactive materials; Meitner’s job was to explain the nuclear processes going on. Sime, so obviously at home with the periodic table of the chemical elements, dissects each and every one of Hahn and Meitner’s experiments to a degree that only a specialist can follow. Newcomers to this material would have been helped by some simple diagrams of atomic structure and an introductory overview of nuclear physics. Yet it is through such detail that the reader comes to appreciate Meitner’s originality of thought and creativity at the laboratory bench. We see a shy, introverted girl — handsome but not beautiful — blossom into an aggressive researcher. Physics was her life; Sime found no evidence that Meitner was ever involved in a romantic relationship.

Throughout these years Hitler was casting his long, dark shadow upon Europe. Sime’s engrossing narrative shows how easy it was for so-called « good » Germans to rationalize their compromises and look the other way. Dismissed from teaching, her name suppressed, Meitner hung on without protest, nervously hoping that the unpleasantness would be temporary. Although of Jewish descent, she had been baptized a Protestant and loved her country.

But as restrictions on « non-Aryan » academics tightened, Meitner at last slipped across the border with only a small valise carrying a few summer clothes. She was 59. Her mind as vigorous as ever, she continued to advise Hahn through letters from Sweden, which became her new home.

A breakthrough in their work came at the end of 1938, just months after Meitner fled Germany. At Meitner’s direction from afar, Hahn and his assistant Fritz Strassmann more closely analyzed the byproducts of the neutron-bombardment experiments. To their amazement, the elements weren’t heavier than uranium, but lighter. « Perhaps you can come up with some sort of fantastic explanation, » Hahn wrote Meitner. « We knew ourselves that [uranium] can’t actually burst apart into [barium]. »Within days, collaborating with her nephew Otto Robert Frisch, also a noted physicist, she worked out a theoretical model of nuclear fission.

Hahn published the chemical evidence for fission without listing Meitner as a co-author, a move she understood given the tinderbox that was Nazi Germany. In The Making of the Atomic Bomb Rhodes wrote that Hahn had always hoped to add Meitner’s name to this historic paper; Sime tells a different story. She builds a strong case that Hahn was distancing himself from his longtime collaborator even before Meitner escaped. More tragic was Hahn’s conduct after the war; he maintained the fiction (or convinced himself) that his chemical experiments verifying fission had never been inspired or guided by Meitner. And, over the years, this version of the tale lived on. Meitner, Hahn’s equal partner at the Institute for 30 years, came to be mistakenly known as his junior assistant.

While professional jealousies only threatened to keep Marie Currie from receiving the Nobel Prize, they succeeded in denying Meitner the same recognition. With her name missing from the key experimental paper on nuclear fission (previously Meitner and Hahn always shared the credit on their joint efforts), Hahn alone received the 1944 prize for chemistry. Sime shines an insightful spotlight on the politics of science through this biography — how the idealistic quest for scientific knowledge can be sullied by a scientist’s obsessive watch over citations and credit. It is thus surprising to discover that Meitner remained loyal to Hahn throughout this turmoil. In fact, horrified by the bomb, fission’s offspring, she had mixed feelings about being linked in any way to its creation.

But there is a happy ending yet. Though denied the coveted Nobel, Meitner will be rewarded with far more durable fame: a permanent abode on the periodic table. In 1994 an international commission agreed that element 109, artificially created in Germany by slamming bismuth with iron ions, will be named « meitnerium. »

Marcia Bartusiak regularly writes on astronomy and physics. The author of « Thursday’s Universe » and « Through a Universe Darkly, » she is an adjunct professor of science journalism at Boston University.

Voir aussi:

Feb, 11, 1939: Lise Meitner, ‘Our Madame Curie’

Beverly Hanly

Wired

February 11, 2010

1939: Austrian-born physicist Lise Meitner publishes her discovery that atomic nuclei split during some uranium reactions. Her research will be overlooked by the Nobel committee when it awards a prize for the work.

Meitner is a prominent example of a woman whose gender put her in the back seat when the top prize was given. The political climate in Nazi Germany contributed to her obscurity — as a Jew, she had to flee the country to survive, but leaving cost her the chance to publish with her colleagues. Plain old scientific jealousy also played a part in who got credit for discoveries that led to splitting the atom and, ultimately, the atomic bomb and nuclear power.

Other honors would come late in life to Meitner. Einstein even called her “our Marie Curie.”

Meitner was born in Austria in 1878 to Jewish parents. Women were not allowed to attend institutions of higher learning in those days, so she had to study privately to earn a doctoral degree in physics in 1905 at the University of Vienna. Meitner was only the second woman to do so.

She went to Berlin, where she met Einstein and attended lectures by Max Planck. Planck had previously refused to teach women, but after a year, she became his assistant and teamed up with chemist Otto Hahn. They discovered several new isotopes, and in 1909 she presented two papers on beta radiation.

When Meitner and Hahn moved to the new Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin in 1912, she worked unpaid in Hahn’s department of Radiochemistry. She got a paid position at the institute in 1913, only after being offered an assistant professorship in Prague. She was given her own physics section at the prestigious academy in 1917.

She and Hahn were a productive team. They discovered the first long-lived isotope of the element protactinium. Meitner isolated the cause of the emission from atomic surfaces of electrons with “signature” energies in 1923, but the French scientist Pierre Auger made the same discovery independently in 1925 and his name was attached to the phenomenon. It’s been known thereafter as the “Auger effect.”

With the discovery of the neutron in the early 1930s, the scientific community began to speculate that it might be possible to create elements heavier than uranium in the lab. A race to confirm this began between Ernest Rutherford in Britain, Irene Joliot-Curie in France, Enrico Fermi in Italy and the Meitner-Hahn team in Berlin. The teams knew the winner would likely be honored with a Nobel Prize.

When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Meitner was acting director of the Institute for Chemistry. Her Austrian citizenship protected her, but other Jewish scientists — including her nephew Otto Frisch, Fritz Haber, Leó Szilárd and many others — lost their posts and most left Germany.

Meitner buried herself in her work, but when Austria was annexed by the Nazi regime, she had to flee. Dutch physicists helped her escape to Holland in July 1938. She was 59 when she landed in Sweden, where she worked with Niels Bohr and corresponded with Hahn and other German scientists. Later that year, she met Hahn secretly in Copenhagen to plan a new series of experiments.

Now, it gets tricky. Hahn performed the experiments that isolated the evidence for nuclear fission, finding that neutron bombardment produced elements that were lighter than uranium. But he was mystified by those results.

“Perhaps you can come up with some sort of fantastic explanation,” Hahn wrote Meitner. “We knew ourselves that [uranium] can’t actually burst apart into [barium].”

Meitner and Frisch quickly came up with a theory that explained nuclear fission, resolving Hahn’s key problem. “Hahn published the chemical evidence for fission without listing Meitner as a co-author,” writes The Washington Post in a review of a Meitner biography. “[It was] a move she understood, given the tinderbox that was Nazi Germany.”

A letter from Bohr documents her inspiration in December 1938. Although some historians say that Hahn hoped he would be able to add her name later, others report that he maintained the fiction that Meitner functioned as a junior assistant. Whatever his intention, her insights were key to his discoveries — and to the developments in radioactivity and nuclear processes that changed the world.

Meitner and Frisch made other key discoveries. They explained why no stable elements beyond uranium existed naturally. And she was the first to see that Einstein’s E = mc2 explained the source of the tremendous releases of energy in atomic decay, by the conversion of the mass into energy.

The aunt and nephew coined the term “nuclear fission” when they published “Disintegration of Uranium by Neutrons: A New Type of Nuclear Reaction” in the journal Nature on Feb. 11, 1939. Instrumental as they were in the discovery (.pdf), they were still overlooked when it came to awarding the 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. It was Hahn alone who received the prize.

Meitner’s realization that nuclear fission made possible a chain reaction of huge explosive power had meanwhile galvanized members of the scientific community to act. Knowing German scientists had the knowledge, Leo Szilard, Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner convinced Albert Einstein to use his celebrity and warn President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The result was the Manhattan Project.

Meitner was invited to work on the Manhattan project at Los Alamos, but categorically declined: “I will have nothing to do with a bomb.”

Refusing to move back to Germany, even when it was safe for her to do so, she worked in Stockholm doing research into her late 80s. She conducted atomic research, including work on R1, Sweden’s first nuclear reactor.

Meitner received many awards later in her lifetime. Element 109, meitnerium, is named in her honor, and her picture appeared on an Austrian stamp. She received many honorary doctorates and lectured at Princeton, Harvard and other U.S. universities. In 1946, she was named “Woman of the Year” by the National Press Club at a dinner with President Harry Truman.

The German Physics Society gave her the Max Planck Medal in 1949. Hahn, Meitner and Fritz Strassmann won the Enrico Fermi Award in 1966.

Meitner died in 1968, a few weeks shy of her 90th birthday. She had mixed feelings about being associated with work that led to the A-bomb, so perhaps the fact that her role in discovering nuclear fission was not widely known is a kind of blessing.

Voir également:

Il y a 75 ans, le Nobel de physique récompensait… une incroyable erreur

Passeur de sciences

Pierre Barthélémy

6 octobre 2013

Lundi 7 octobre s’ouvre la grande parade annuelle des prix Nobel, avec la catégorie « physiologie ou médecine ». Suivront la physique (le 8 octobre), la chimie (le 9), la paix (le 11), les sciences économiques (le 14) et la littérature à une date qui n’est pas encore déterminée. 2013 est l’occasion d’un curieux anniversaire puisqu’on fête cette année les 75 ans de ce qu’on peut appeler le prix Nobel de l’erreur et ce dans le domaine qui est censé être le plus précis de tous ceux que cette récompense recouvre, à savoir la physique.

En 1938, c’est l’immense chercheur italien Enrico Fermi qui reçoit la distinction suprême pour, je cite, « sa découverte de nouveaux éléments radioactifs, développés par l’irradiation des neutrons, et sa découverte à ce propos des réactions de noyaux, effectuées au moyen des neutrons lents ». Le communiqué explicite cette découverte ainsi : “Fermi a en effet réussi à produire deux nouveaux éléments, dont les numéros d’ordre sont 93 et 94, éléments auxquels il a donné le nom d’ausénium et d’hespérium.” Seulement voilà, d’ausénium et d’hespérium il n’y avait en réalité point dans l’expérience du savant transalpin. Fermi s’était trompé dans son interprétation et il avait néanmoins eu le prix Nobel pour la découverte de deux éléments imaginaires…

Pour comprendre cette erreur, il faut replonger dans les années 1930, ère des pionniers du noyau atomique. L’histoire illustre à merveille la manière dont la science se trompe, se corrige et, ce faisant, s’améliore. Que fait Enrico Fermi dans l’expérience qui lui vaut ce Nobel, relatée en 1934 dans Nature ? A l’époque, on ne connaît pas d’élément chimique dont le noyau contienne davantage de protons que l’uranium (92) et le chercheur italien se demande s’il est possible de synthétiser des éléments plus lourds. Son idée est de profiter de la radioactivité bêta qu’il vient de modéliser et grâce à laquelle un neutron peut se transformer en proton (ou le contraire). Pour son expérience, Fermi part de l’idée qu’en bombardant de neutrons des noyaux d’uranium, ceux-ci vont finir par absorber un neutron qui, sous l’effet la radioactivité bêta, se transformera en proton. Le noyau aura finalement gagné un proton, ce qui aura « transmuté » l’uranium à 92 protons en élément nouveau à 93 protons (que Fermi appellera ausénium). Après une nouvelle étape, celui-ci se métamorphosera en élément à 94 protons (nommé hespérium). La difficulté de l’expérience consiste à détecter la présence de ces nouveaux éléments. Fermi ne les identifie pas chimiquement : il se contente de constater que l’expérience produit deux « choses » radioactives dont les caractéristiques sont inconnues. Pour lui, c’est la preuve, certes indirecte, mais la preuve quand même, qu’il a synthétisé deux nouveaux éléments.

Comme l’explique Martin Quack, chercheur à l’Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Zurich, dans l’article qu’il a récemment consacré à cette histoire (publié par Angewandte Chemie International Edition), Enrico Fermi est au départ plutôt prudent dans sa formulation. Mais les années passant et rien ne venant contredire cette interprétation, cette prudence s’estompe et l’on considère le résultat comme acquis, d’autant que la stature scientifique de l’Italien est immense. La chimiste allemande Ida Noddack tente bien d’avancer que le niveau de preuve n’est pas suffisant, mais personne ne tient vraiment compte de ses objections. Un magnifique cas d’école de l’aveuglement des experts.

Tout se précipite à la fin 1938, comme dans un thriller scientifique où le temps se condense et s’accélère. Le 12 décembre, Enrico Fermi reçoit à Stockholm son prix Nobel des mains du roi de Suède. Il en profite pour fuir aux Etats-Unis, la situation de son épouse, qui est juive, étant de plus en plus précaire dans l’Italie mussolinienne. Une semaine plus tard, le 19, le chimiste allemand Otto Hahn, qui a, avec Fritz Strassmann, reproduit l’expérience de Fermi, envoie ses résultats à sa consœur Lise Meitner : les produits de l’expérience ne sont pas des éléments superlourds. Au contraire, cela ressemble à des isotopes inconnus d’éléments plus légers, notamment du baryum (56 protons). Mais comment diable de l’uranium peut-il donner du baryum ? Pendant les vacances de Noël, Lise Meitner discute avec son neveu, Otto Frisch de la possibilité théorique qu’un noyau d’uranium se brise pour donner des noyaux plus légers. Ils écrivent un article en ce sens qui sera publié en février 1939. Ce qu’avait réalisé Enrico Fermi sans le comprendre, c’était la première expérience de fission nucléaire !

Le coupable était dans l’uranium. Le minerai naturel d’uranium contient deux isotopes de cet élément. Le premier, l’uranium 238 (92 protons + 146 neutrons) est de très loin le plus courant puisqu’il représente plus de 99 % du minerai. Le second, l’uranium 235 (92 protons + 143 neutrons) est beaucoup plus rare (0,7 %) au point qu’on peut le considérer comme une impureté. C’est lui qui est fissile et que l’on emploie dans de nombreux réacteurs nucléaires. Et c’est aussi lui qui se trouvait dans la bombe atomique d’Hiroshima. Dans l’expérience de Fermi, le bombardement de neutrons n’a, contrairement à ce qu’espérait le savant italien, rien fait aux atomes d’uranium 238. En revanche, il a provoqué la fission des noyaux d’uranium 235. Les produits nouveaux qu’a détectés l’Italien étaient des produits de fission, des éléments plus légers, inconnus sous cette forme radioactive, comme le baryum 140.

Enrico Fermi méritait sans doute un Nobel et il est dommage qu’il l’ait reçu pour une expérience mal interprétée et pas assez approfondie. Dès qu’il apprit la découverte de Hahn et Strassmann, début 1939, il modifia son discours de réception du prix pour intégrer ce nouveau résultat, preuve d’une grande honnêteté intellectuelle. Les deux chercheurs allemands reçurent le Nobel de chimie 1944 pour la fission nucléaire (Lise Meitner étant scandaleusement oubliée dans l’histoire) et, d’une certaine manière, pour avoir corrigé l’erreur de Fermi. Ce dernier réalisa, en collaboration avec Leo Szilard, la première pile atomique en 1942, c’est-à-dire la première réaction nucléaire en chaîne contrôlée de l’histoire. Et, bien sûr, Fermi travailla pour le projet Manhattan qui mena à la bombe atomique. Quant aux éléments 93 et 94, le neptunium et le plutonium, ils furent bel et bien produits selon le processus qu’avait prévu Fermi. En 1951, on donna donc de nouveau un prix Nobel (de chimie) à ceux qui les avaient mis en évidence, mais cette fois-ci pour de vrai : Glenn Seaborg et Edwin McMillan.

Trois-quarts de siècle après le Nobel de l’erreur, l’histoire vient rappeler que la science a deux versants inséparables, le côté créatif et le côté critique. Comme le souligne Martin Quack dans son article, « la composante créative s’engage dans de nouvelles idées et dans des avenues inexplorées (…). Elle se vend bien grâce au terme chic de « nouveau ». Cependant, la composante critique est tout aussi importante que la composante créative. Elle interroge le résultat « nouveau », soumettant ses faiblesses à une critique sévère, répétant et testant les résultats dans de longues enquêtes impliquant un dur labeur. Souvent elle rejette ou corrige le résultat original et mène parfois à une découverte encore plus frappante. » Vérifier les résultats des autres a des airs austères et tristes de police scientifique mais conduit parfois à la révolution.


Miss America/92e: Attention: un racisme peut en cacher un autre ! (No Kansas guns and religion, please, we’re New Yorkers: Has Miss America betrayed the American dream ?)

2 octobre, 2013
https://i1.wp.com/images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large/1-margaret-gorman-1921-granger.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/www.historybyzim.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Miss-America-1921-Margaret-Gorman.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large/my-favorite-brunette-dorothy-lamour-everett.jpghttps://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/a69ce-bessmyersoncollage.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/31.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m9acqcRGQF1qjkeqso1_400.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/www.vfa.us/MISS%20AMERICA%2009%2007%20196803.jpghttp://img.timeinc.net/time/photoessays/2009/10_beauty/beauty_williams.jpghttp://www.alleewillis.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Vanessa-Williams-cornflakes-box_2350.jpgVanessaWilliamshttp://covers.openlibrary.org/w/id/169318-M.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/www.orangejuiceblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Miss-America-2014-dancing.jpg
 
http://media.philly.com/images/526*395/theresa_vail_Miss_Kansas_600.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/About/General/2013/9/19/1379575928829/Obabiyi-Aishah-Ajibola-010.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2012/06/2012-sdt-asian-americans-0232.pnghttp://familyinequality.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pew-asian-income.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2012/06/2012-sdt-asian-americans-0261.pngCar on donnera à celui qui a; mais à celui qui n’a pas on ôtera même ce qu’il a. Jésus (Marc 4: 25)
Je rêve que mes quatre petits enfants vivront un jour dans un pays où on ne les jugera pas à la couleur de leur peau mais à la nature de leur caractère. Martin Luther King
Vous allez dans certaines petites villes de Pennsylvanie où, comme dans beaucoup de petites villes du Middle West, les emplois ont disparu depuis maintenant 25 ans et n’ont été remplacés par rien d’autre (…) Et il n’est pas surprenant qu’ils deviennent pleins d’amertume, qu’ils s’accrochent aux armes à feu ou à la religion, ou à leur antipathie pour ceux qui ne sont pas comme eux, ou encore à un sentiment d’hostilité envers les immigrants. Barack Obama
Nous qui vivons dans les régions côtières des villes bleues, nous lisons plus de livres et nous allons plus souvent au théâtre que ceux qui vivent au fin fond du pays. Nous sommes à la fois plus sophistiqués et plus cosmopolites – parlez-nous de nos voyages scolaires en Chine et en Provence ou, par exemple, de notre intérêt pour le bouddhisme. Mais par pitié, ne nous demandez pas à quoi ressemble la vie dans l’Amérique rouge. Nous n’en savons rien. Nous ne savons pas qui sont Tim LaHaye et Jerry B. Jenkins. […] Nous ne savons pas ce que peut bien dire James Dobson dans son émission de radio écoutée par des millions d’auditeurs. Nous ne savons rien de Reba et Travis. […] Nous sommes très peu nombreux à savoir ce qu’il se passe à Branson dans le Missouri, même si cette ville reçoit quelque sept millions de touristes par an; pas plus que nous ne pouvons nommer ne serait-ce que cinq pilotes de stock-car. […] Nous ne savons pas tirer au fusil ni même en nettoyer un, ni reconnaître le grade d’un officier rien qu’à son insigne. Quant à savoir à quoi ressemble une graine de soja poussée dans un champ… David Brooks
Mon Dieu,donnez-moi la sérénité d’accepter les choses que je ne puis changer, le courage de changer les choses que je peux, dt la sagesse d’en connaître la différence. Prière de la sérénité (tatouage de Miss Kansas)
Il y a autant de racismes qu’il y a de groupes qui ont besoin de se justifier d’exister comme ils existent, ce qui constitue la fonction invariante des racismes. Il me semble très important de porter l’analyse sur les formes du racisme qui sont sans doute les plus subtiles, les plus méconnaissables, donc les plus rarement dénoncées, peut-être parce que les dénonciateurs ordinaires du racisme possèdent certaines des propriétés qui inclinent à cette forme de racisme. Je pense au racisme de l’intelligence. (…) Ce racisme est propre à une classe dominante dont la reproduction dépend, pour une part, de la transmission du capital culturel, capital hérité qui a pour propriété d’être un capital incorporé, donc apparemment naturel, inné. Le racisme de l’intelligence est ce par quoi les dominants visent à produire une « théodicée de leur propre privilège », comme dit Weber, c’est-à-dire une justification de l’ordre social qu’ils dominent. (…) Tout racisme est un essentialisme et le racisme de l’intelligence est la forme de sociodicée caractéristique d’une classe dominante dont le pouvoir repose en partie sur la possession de titres qui, comme les titres scolaires, sont censés être des garanties d’intelligence et qui ont pris la place, dans beaucoup de sociétés, et pour l’accès même aux positions de pouvoir économique, des titres anciens comme les titres de propriété et les titres de noblesse. Pierre Bourdieu
Dieu merci, le temps de la domination des barbies blondes peroxydées est révolu … Time
Quand on est miss America, on doit être américaine. Tweet
C’est l’élection de Miss Etats-Unis, pas Miss Inde. Tweet
Super, ils ont choisi une musulmane comme Miss America. Obama doit être heureux. Peut-être qu’il a voté. Tweet
Les juges de Miss America ne le diront jamais, mais Miss Kansas a perdu parce qu’elle représente réellement les valeurs américaines. Todd Starnes (Fox news)
Une fille au teint foncé comme Nina ne serait jamais devenue Miss Inde. Au moins, elle est devenue Miss America. Varun Agarwal
À cette miss New York aux allures pas assez « américaines » (encore faudrait-il définir ce qu’est un vrai américain parmi ce peuple originaire d’Afrique, d’Europe, ou encore d’Asie), ils préféraient miss Kansas : une femme blanche, sergent de l’armée américaine, arborant un insigne militaire de toute beauté tatoué sur l’épaule. Céline Husson-Alaya
Nous avons délibérément choisi de tenir cet événement juste avant la finale des Miss Monde afin de montrer qu’une alternative existe pour les musulmanes. Créatrice du concours Miss Muslimah
Margaret Gorman represents the type of womanhood America needs, strong, red-blooded, able to shoulder the responsibilities of homemaking and motherhood. It is in her type that the hope of the country rests. The NYT (1921)
There she is, Miss America There she is, your ideal The dreams of a million girls Who are more than pretty May come true in Atlantic City Oh she may turn out to be The queen of femininity There she is, Miss America There she is, your ideal With so many beauties She’ll take the town by storm With her all-American face and form And there she is Walking on air she is Fairest of the fair she is Miss America. Jingle de Miss America
Thank God I have lived long enough that this nation has been able to select the beautiful young woman of color to be Miss America. Shirley Chisholm (Congresswoman)
Beauty contests are ways that if you live in a poor neighborhood, you can imagine getting ahead because it is a way up. It is a way to scholarships, to attention, and it’s one of the few things that you see out there as a popular symbol. When I was living in a kind of factory working neighborhood of Toledo, the K-Part television Miss TV contest, something like that, was advertised. And I decided I would try to enter the contest even though I was underage. I think I was 16 and the limit was, was 18. So I lied about my age. It wasn’t a terrible experience. It was a surrealistic experience. You had to put on your bathing suit and walk and stand on a beer keg. I did three or four different kinds of dances. Spanish and Russian and heaven knows what. I thought I would get money for college. And it seemed glamorous. It seemed to me in high school like a way out of a not too great life in a pretty poor neighborhood. Gloria Steinem
In spite of cringe-worth flaws of the pageant [like the bikini-in-heels (aka « swimsuit ») competition], Nina Davuluri, the new Miss America, probably represents some of the best qualities and aspirations of « modern » America. Here’s why: America was built on a dream of hard work by people from all over the world. She and her family certainly fit that ideal. Her father is a physician and she aspires to be one as well. (…) Thanks to the life her parents built (from scratch), and her own hard work-ethic, she graduated from the University of Michigan debt-free. She’s a great example of working through failure and difficulty, and getting back up again. This shows in her struggle against bulimia. For fifteen years she studied classical Indian dance, refining a nuanced art form. She was gutsy enough to showcase a fusion of classical and Bollywood dance in her talent act (…) Her platform: « Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency » couldn’t be more timely. (…) When headlines all over the world proclaim Nina Davuluri as Miss America, this stops anti-Americans in their tracks. They see that the USA can live up to its values, as the land of the free, home of the brave. It’s where dreams for a better life come true. It’s where diverse people are welcomed. It’s full of beauty and sparkles and anything is possible. Homa Sabet Tavangar
Half of employed Asian Americans (50%) are in management, professional and related occupations, a higher share than the roughly 40% for employed Americans overall. Many of these occupations require advanced degrees. (…) These high levels of educational attainment are a factor in the occupational profile of Asian Americans, especially their concentration in the fields of science and engineering. Among adults, 14% of Asian Americans hold these types of jobs, compared with 5% of the U.S. population overall. The share among Indians is 28%. Another facet of the Asian-American occupational profile is the high share of immigrants from Asian countries who are in the U.S. under the H1-B visa program. These visas were authorized under the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1990 to increase the inflow of highly skilled “guest workers” from abroad. Asian countries are now the source of about three-quarters of such temporary visas. In 2011, India alone accounted for 72,438 of the 129,134 H1-B visas granted, or 56% (…) Among Indian Americans ages 25 and older, seven-in-ten (70%) have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree; this is higher than the Asian-American share (49%) and much higher than the national share (28%). Median annual personal earnings for Indian-American full-time, year-round workers are $65,000, significantly higher than for all Asian Americans ($48,000) as well as for all U.S. adults ($40,000). Among households, the median annual income for Indians is $88,000, much higher than for all Asians ($66,000) and all U.S. households ($49,800). (…) The share of adult Indian Americans who live in poverty is 9%, lower than the shares of all Asian Americans (12%) and of the U.S. population overall (13%). (…) Compared with other U.S. Asian groups, Indian Americans are the most likely to identify with the Democratic Party; 65% are Democrats or lean to the Democrats, 18% are Republican or lean to the Republicans. Pew (2012)
Les Indiens-américains sont en effet une nouvelle « minorité modèle ». Ce terme remonte aux années 1960 quand les Americains d’origine asiatique – les Chinois, Japonais et Coréens – étaient connus pour leurs hautes qualifications et hauts revenus. Les ressortissants d’Asie du nord-est continuent d’exceller aux États-Unis, mais parmi les groupes minoritaires, les Indiens sont clairement le dernier et meilleur « modèle ». En 2007, le revenu médian des ménages dirigés par un Indien-américain était d’environ 83 000 $, comparativement à 61 000 $ pour les ressortissants d’Asie du nord-est et 55 000 $ pour les Blancs. Environ 69 % des Indiens-américains de 25 ans et plus sont au moins détenteurs d’une licence, ce qui éclipse les taux de 51 % et 30 % atteints respectivement par les Asiatiques en général et les Blancs. Les Indiens-américains sont également moins susceptibles d’être pauvres ou en prison par rapport aux Blancs. Alors pourquoi les Indiens-Américains s’en sortent-ils si bien ? Une réponse naturelle est l’autosélection. Quelqu’un qui est prêt à s’arracher à ses racines et à traverser la moitié du monde aura tendance à être plus ambitieux et travailleur que la moyenne. Mais les gens veulent venir aux États-Unis pour de nombreuses raisons dont certaines – comme par exemple le rapprochement familial – ont peu à voir avec l’ardeur au travail. En fin de compte, la politique d’immigration décide quels types de qualités nos immigrants possèdent. En vertu de notre politique d’immigration actuelle, une majorité d’immigrants légaux aux États-Unis obtiennent la carte verte (résidence permanente) car ils ont des liens familiaux avec des citoyens américains, mais un petit nombre (15 % en 2007) sont choisis spécifiquement pour leur valeur sur le marché du travail. La proportion d’immigrants indiens qui ont reçu une carte verte liée à l’emploi est l’une des plus élevées de toutes les nationalités. Par conséquent, c’est principalement l’élite instruite indienne et ses proches qui vient aux États-Unis. Forbes

Miss America a-elle trahi le Rêve américain ?

Alors qu’en cette saison finissante de l’été et de ses habituels concours de beauté

Où tous voiles dehors la troisième Miss Muslimah nous bassine de ses versets d’un livre prétendument « incréé » à qui l’on doit sur son seul continent d’origine une énième boucherie au Kénya et les destructions à présent quasi-hebdomadaires d’églises chrétiennes …

La première Miss Monde philippine, dont le concours sous la pression des islamistes avait dû être déplacé à Bali, est non seulement née aux Etats-Unis de père américain mais déjà actrice confirmée …

Comment ne pas voir, avec l’élection récente de la première Miss America d’origine indienne qui triomphe avec un numéro digne de Bollywood mais dont le teint foncé n’aurait probablement jamais permis l’élection en Inde même, la trahison précisément du Rêve américain qu’elle était censée servir ?

Et ne pas comprendre du coup les réactions dites « racistes » qui ont accompagné, derrière cette lutte entre l’urbanité d’une Miss New York,  fille de gynécologue et future médecin elle-même, et la ruralité d’une Miss Kansas, blonde diane chasseresse aux rangers et tatouages religieux et militaire, l’apparent couronnement du produit de la plus grande concentration de privilèges ?

Où la géniale mais bassement commerciale trouvaille (probable reprise des fêtes médiévales du premier mai) du fameux Barnum des femmes à barbe et des cirques du même nom pour allonger la saison touristique des plages américaines et servir accessoirement de marche-pied pour Hollywood (Dorothy Lamour, Miss Louisiana 1931), la mode ou la publicité (jusqu’à 100 000 dollars annuels pour Miss 1926, soit plus que le champion de baseball Babe Ruth ou le président des Etats-Unis !) à la première jeune Américaine venue …

Qui sous la pression des ligues de vertu religieuses puis féministes et entre la première lauréate juive (et future candidate au Sénat au lendemain du génocide de 1945), la première Noire (1984) ou la première handicapée (2005), avait progressivement abandonné les manteaux de fourrure et bijoux des débuts pour devenir le premier fournisseur de bourses d’étude pour filles au monde (quelque 45 millions annuels pour 12 000 jeunes filles dont un total de 340 000 dollars pour l’élection finale et 50 000 pour la gagnante) …

Finit en fait entre le désormais sacrosaint impératif de diversité, la multiplication des épreuves toujours plus « intelligentes » (comme par ailleurs, sans compter les dérives de la chirurgie esthétique et des concours pour enfants, d’autres concours tels Miss Monde, Miss Univers, Miss International ou Miss Terre !) et cet adoubemment d’une nouvelle « minorité modèle » qui ajoute à présent l’ultime luxe de la beauté aux plus hauts taux de diplômés et revenus des Etats-Unis …

Par remplacer (ne nous avait-on pas déjà fait le coup en 2008 avec l’élection qui avait viré au concours de beauté politiquement correct du premier président américain de couleur ?) un racisme (ethnique) par un autre (social) ?

Has Miss America betrayed the American dream?

JC Durbant

October 2, 2013

What is more American than Miss America and its idea that any well-deserving American girl will make it to the top ? But with the recent controversial election of Miss America 2014, has America’s oldest beauty pageant really kept its promise of unlimited personal progress ?

To be sure, over its 92 years of existence, America’s favorite beauty contest has had its share of criticism: immorality, commercialism, dehumanization, over-sexualization, even racism. Yet over the years it has always seemed to adapt with the times, introducing ever more advances such as a talent competition, scholarships, evening gowns or allowing non-white participants. Thus, 1945 saw the election of the first Jewish American girl and 1983 the crowning of the first of many non-white contestants, including this year’s first Indian-American. And even if it did start as a marketing device to make Labor Day tourists prolong their stay at the Atlantic beaches, it did provide an opportunity for ordinary young women such as Hollywood superstar Dorothy Lamour to realize their American dream in the form of advertising or movie contracts. In fact, it even helped its first Jewish winner to enter politics and run for the Senate in 1980. Or provided initial exposure to one of today’s most powerful and influential women in America and in the world, namely talk show host Oprah Winfrey. And over the years it has distributed millions and millions of dollars in scholarship money to the point where it is now the world’s largest provider of scholarships to women.

So how to explain the controversy which this year’s election has just generated ? After all, Miss America’s first Indian-American winner has got all the talent, brains and beauty that one can expect from the woman that is supposed to represent the best of America’s womanhood for a year ? Shall it be assigned to the usual cause of racism that America’s slowly-dwindling white majority has been known for in the past ? Or could it be that Miss America is just the victim of its own success? After raising, one after another, its standards over the years as a response to the criticisms of which it was the object, America’s oldest beauty pageant now finds itself electing the best America can offer. An India-American gynecologist’s daughter with the brightest education record and plans to be a physician herself, Nina Davuluri is the perfect example of a new model minority that is already the best educated and best-off of all the ethnic groups in the country -whites included. Hence perhaps the not-to-unexpected resentment of some in a white majority that in these days of recession is fast losing ground.

But is this not in fact one of the inherent contradictions of the American dream itself – and the source of America’s persistent and even increasing inequalities – in which only the best are supposed to win and where therefore you end up rewarding the least needy in the end ?

Voir aussi:

La nouvelle Miss America est d’origine indienne (donc arabe, musulmane et fanatique d’Al-Qaïda)

Céline Husson-Alaya

Femmes, féminins, féminismes

La plus belle femme des États-Unis est d’origine indienne. Rien de bien étonnant en soi en Amérique, terre d’immigration et de métissage par excellence. Nina Davuluri, grande brune à la peau mate née dans l’État de New York il y a 24 ans, a été élue Miss America 2014 le 15 septembre au soir.

Mais cette élection a visiblement courroucé certains conservateurs. Non pas pour le côté suranné d’un concours de beauté féminine tout à fait discutable au XXIème siècle, mais parce que certains estiment que la belle Nina n’est pas assez américaine. Pire, elle serait arabe (passons sur le fait que toutes les personnes mates de peau ne sont pas nécessairement arabes, et que les Indiens le sont encore moins). Double tare, elle serait musulmane (comme Barack Obama en fait, c’est une conspiration). Provocation ultime : lors de « l’épreuve des talents », elle a interprété un mélange de danse traditionnelle indienne et de mouvements de films de Bollywood. N’en jetez plus.

La nouvelle miss a été lynchée de tweets racistes sur le site de micro-blogging. « Quand on est miss America, on doit être Américaine », « Quand est-ce qu’une femme blanche sera élue Miss America ? Jamais ? », « Ils ont choisi une musulmane pour devenir Miss America. Obama a dû être content. Peut-être qu’il faisait partie du jury ». « Comment une étrangère peut gagner ? C’est une Arabe ! ». Sans compter une réflexion de toute beauté : « #MissAmerica hmmm quoi ? Avons-nous oublié le 11 septembre ?  » et le splendide : « C’est plutôt miss Terroriste #MissAmerica ».

Comme on dit, la bave de crapaud n’atteint pas la blanche colombe, qui déclarait après son couronnement : « Je suis si heureuse que cette institution prenne en compte la diversité ». « Nous sommes en train d’écrire l’histoire ici, en tant qu’Asiatiques américaines », alors que la communauté asio-américaine compte 18,2 millions de personnes aux États-Unis (5,7% de la population). Balayant la polémique, la reine de beauté affirmait lors de sa première conférence de presse : « Je dois m’élever au-dessus de ça ». « Je me suis toujours considérée en premier lieu et avant tout comme une Américaine », elle qui racontait avoir dû combattre les préjugés sur sa culture durant cette année d’élection (certains étaient convaincus que ses parents allaient organiser un mariage arrangée pour elle).

À cette miss New York aux allures pas assez « américaines » (encore faudrait-il définir ce qu’est un vrai américain parmi ce peuple originaire d’Afrique, d’Europe, ou encore d’Asie), ils préféraient miss Kansas : une femme blanche, sergent de l’armée américaine, arborant un insigne militaire de toute beauté tatoué sur l’épaule.

Ni musulmane, ni Indienne, et encore moins arabe, (et quand bien même) Nina Davuluri est une étudiante diplômée de l’Université du Michigan qui souhaite devenir médecin, comme son père, gynécologue obstétricien, et souhaite utiliser l’argent de sa victoire, non pas pour financer Al-Qaïda, mais pour payer l’université. Et réaliser son rêve américain.

Ce n’est pas la première fois qu’une miss America est la cible d’attaques racistes. En 2010, Rima Fakih, une jeune femme d’origine libanaise, était la cible des mêmes relents haineux. Car d’origine libanaise, donc arabe, donc musulmane et donc sans doute terroriste, elle était accusée de militer pour le Hezbollah.

Voir également:

Non, Miss America n’est pas une terroriste !

L’attribution de la couronne de Miss America à Nina Davuluri, une Américaine originaire de l’Etat de l’Andhra Pradesh, a déchaîné une véritable hystérie raciste en ligne. Des nombreux utilisateurs de Twitter ont vu en elle une terroriste arabe. Une histoire à vite oublier, estime le quotidien.

Neeti Sarkar

The Hindu

19 Septembre 2013

Quand Nina Davuluri est devenue la première Américaine d’origine indienne à remporter le titre de Miss America [le 16 septembre], tweets malveillants et autres commentaires racistes se sont multipliés sur les réseaux sociaux.

Aujourd’hui, avec la révolution des télécommunications, n’importe qui peut dire n’importe quoi sur le web. La démocratie Internet est une hydre. Les commentaires [racistes] sur Nina y voisinent avec ceux, peut-être plus nombreux encore, qui prennent sa défense. Bina Hanchinamani Ellefsen, une avocate de Seattle, se dit « mal à l’aise face aux commentaires racistes au sujet d’une Miss America d’origine indienne. Nous ne sommes pas moins américains parce que nos ancêtres étaient indiens et non pas européens. »

Quant à Nimisha Gandhi, gestionnaire dans le monde de la mode, elle « déplore qu’un pays par ailleurs si avancé soit si arriéré dans sa mentalité. Et sur les réseaux, dès qu’il s’agit de dénigrer quelqu’un à cause de sa couleur de peau ou de sa religion, les commentaires pleuvent. Je suis désolé pour cette belle fille intelligente et forte qui a été traitée de tous les noms. D’un autre côté, je suis contente qu’un jury américain ne se soit pas laissé influencer par les différences raciales. »

« On est choqué de lire tant de commentaires racistes sur Twitter, s’indigne la journaliste et blogueuse Divya Sehgal. Et c’est effrayant de s’apercevoir que les Américains d’origine asiatique ne sont toujours pas reconnus comme des Américains. Cela dit, je pense que c’est le fait d’une petite minorité. Si vous faites défiler l’article de Buzzfeed [site qui a mis en ligne les commentaires postés sur Twitter], vous verrez combien d’Américains sont choqués par ces propos racistes. Donc, si le racisme est déplorable, j’ose espérer qu’il n’est qu’une goutte d’eau dans un immense océan non raciste. »

« Nina ne serait jamais devenue Miss Inde »

Tandis que la plupart des Indiens sont attristés par ce qui s’est passé aux Etats-Unis, l’entrepreneur et auteur Varun Agarwal a reçu 600 commentaires favorables sous son message [posté sur Facebook]. « Une fille au teint foncé comme Nina ne serait jamais devenue Miss Inde, écrivait-il. Au moins, elle est devenue Miss America. »

Selon la psychologue Jamuna Tripathi, « nous vivons malheureusement dans un monde qui perpétue les stéréotypes. La société rend complexés les gens à la peau foncée. L’aspect positif, c’est que Nina est restée très digne face à l’adversité. Sa confiance en elle et sa maturité sont vraiment la marque d’une gagnante. »

Tout en rappelant qu’il serait temps de prendre de la hauteur, l’ancienne Miss Inde et Miss Terre 2010, Nicole Faria, affirme : « Chacun a le droit d’avoir ses opinions et, dans les concours de beauté, tout le monde peut avoir un point de vue différent ; la beauté est dans l’œil de celui qui regarde. Ce qui est bien, c’est que le résultat est définitif, et, même si certains peuvent voir les choses autrement, le verdict est tombé. Nina a remporté la couronne. En tant qu’Indienne, ça fait chaud au cœur. Rappelons-nous que la beauté et la bonté ont triomphé, et ne laissons rien ternir de cette victoire si méritée. »

Voir aussi:

Attaques racistes

« Miss America est une terroriste »

Clémentine Rebillat

Paris Match

16 septembre 2013

Nina Davuluri, la nouvelle Miss America, a été élue dimanche soir. A peine a-t-elle eu le temps de savourer sa victoire que la jeune femme d’origine indienne a été la cible d’insultes racistes.

Quelques minutes après son sacre, Nina Davuluri déclarait: «Je suis tellement contente que cette organisation laisse une large place à la diversité». La nouvelle Miss America 2014 n’avait pas encore conscience du flot d’insultes dont elle allait être la victime. La jeune femme de 24 ans d’origine indienne qui a remporté dimanche soir à Atlantic City le prestigieux concours de Miss est au coeur d’une polémique. Malgré sa grâce, ses talents de danseuse et ses brillantes études -elle souhaite devenir médecin et compte utiliser l’argent de son couronnement pour payer l’université- Nina ne fait pas l’unanimité. Loin de là.

Miss America

Au moment où son nom a été annoncé par le présentateur, la sublime brune à la beauté exotique a déclenché un flot d’insultes racistes sur les réseaux sociaux. «Si tu es Miss America, tu dois être Américaine», a lancé un internaute. «Super, ils ont choisi une musulmane comme Miss America. Obama doit être heureux. Peut-être qu’il a voté», a écrit un autre. «Miss New York est une Indienne… Avec tout votre respect, c’est l’Amérique», «Et une Arabe devient Miss Amérique. Classique», «#Miss Amérique. Avons-nous oublié le 11-Septembre?», «Miss America est une terroriste», «C’est Miss America ou Miss Al Qaïda?» ont posté d’autres téléspectateurs…

« La domination des Barbie blondes peroxydées est révolue »

Pour beaucoup d’internautes, ce n’est pas Nina qui aurait dû gagner mais Miss Kansas, une sculpturale blonde tatouée, militaire, parachutiste, boxeuse et championne de tir à l’arc. Theresa Vail n’hésite jamais à poser en treillis ou arme à la main. Une image de l’Amérique conservatrice que les détracteurs de Nina auraient voulu gagnante. «Les juges de Miss America ne le diront jamais, mais Miss Kansas a perdu parce qu’elle représente réellement les valeurs américaines», a réagi sur Twitter l’animateur de la Fox, Todd Starnes.

Pourtant, Nina Davuluri, qui, plus jeune, s’est battue contre des troubles alimentaires, a elle aussi une histoire forte. Farouchement opposée à la chirurgie esthétique -un fait rare dans les élections de miss aux Etats-Unis- son père est un éminent médecin, un métier qu’elle veut exercer, d’après CNN. Le «Time» de son côté se félicite que le «temps de la domination des Barbie blondes peroxydées est révolu». Si beaucoup d’internautes se sont déchainés contre la gagnante, d’autres n’ont pas hésité à prendre sa défense, critiquant «l’ignorance» des auteurs.

Malgré la polémique, Nina Davuluri est bien décidée à profiter de son sacre et ne compte pas se laisser abattre par les insultes. En conférence de presse, elle a déclaré qu’elle «devait passer au-dessus de tout ça». «Je me suis toujours vue avant tout comme une Américaine», a-t-elle ajouté. Pour son premier déplacement en tant que Miss America, cette passionnée de Bollywood devrait se rendre dans le New Jersey, sur les lieux de l’ouragan Sandy.

Voir encore:

Les «Miss musulmanes» répliquent à «Miss Monde»

Chloé Woitier, AFP, AP, Reuters Agences

Le Figaro

18/09/2013

Ce concours de beauté où la piété et l’engagement comptent autant que la beauté aura lieu en Indonésie quelques jours avant la grande finale de Miss Monde, qui se déroule cette année dans le même pays.

Alors que, sur l’île de Bali, les Miss de tous les continents sont en pleine préparation de l’élection de Miss Monde, un concours de beauté d’un autre genre s’apprête à avoir lieu à près de 1000 kilomètres de là. La capitale de l’Indonésie, Jakarta, accueille en effet ce mercredi la finale de World Muslimah 2013, ou Miss musulmane du Monde.

Si World Muslimah reste avant tout un concours de beauté – la taille et le poids des 20 finalistes sont listés sur le site officiel du concours -, la sélection des jeunes femmes s’est faite sur des critères religieux. Pour participer, il est en effet obligatoire de porter le voile islamique, et de savoir lire parfaitement les versets du Coran. Les photos jointes au dossier de candidature doivent se faire «dans une tenue conforme aux standards musulmans», qui ne «laisse pas voir les courbes du corps», «empêche de deviner la peau et les cheveux», et dont le voile «est suffisamment long pour couvrir les oreilles, le cou et la poitrine». «Vos poses doivent être élégantes, nous recherchons avant tout la modestie», souligne le site officiel.

Dans les coulisses du concours

«Porter le voile n’empêche pas de réussir sa carrière»

Les candidates, âgées de 18 à 27 ans, doivent également expliquer dans leur dossier de candidature pourquoi elles ont choisi de mettre le voile. Mais la dévotion ne fait pas tout. Les jeunes femmes doivent également justifier d’une activité professionnelle, associative, artistique ou sportive qui met en avant leurs talents et leurs qualités morales. «Ce que je recherche, c’est une personnalité forte, quelqu’un qui aide sa communauté et prouve que la beauté n’est pas que corporelle», explique l’une des juges du concours.

Les candidates de World Muslimah, sélectionnées sur Internet, ont également dû préparer une vidéo pour se présenter. La jeune femme actuellement la plus populaire – 889 votes sur le site officiel – est originaire de Bali. Âgée de 21 ans, Febrian Nur Vianti explique dans sa vidéo être passionnée de mode et s’exercer à créer ses chaussures pour lancer à terme sa propre entreprise. On la voit également réciter longuement des versets du Coran, et «espérer que sa candidature prouvera aux jeunes musulmanes que porter le voile n’empêche pas de réussir sa carrière».

Miss Monde, «un concours de prostituées»

Les 20 finalistes, originaires d’Indonésie, d’Iran, de Malaisie, du Nigeria, de Bangladesh et du Brunei, se sont fait offrir un voyage à Jakarta pour préparer la finale et ont effectué un stage spirituel de trois jours. La grande gagnante pourra partir tous frais payés à La Mecque pour réaliser son pélerinage, tandis que ses dauphines participeront à des «voyages éducatifs» en Inde, Turquie, et au Brunei.

La grande finale de World Muslimah aura lieu quelques jours avant celle de Miss Monde, qui est sous le feu des critiques des islamistes d’Indonésie. Ces derniers ont dénoncé un «concours de prostituées» et obtenu que la finale soit déplacée de Jakarta à Bali, île à majorité hindouiste. Les organisateurs de World Muslimah ne sont pas associés à ces critiques. «Nous avons délibérément choisi de tenir cet événement juste avant la finale des Miss Monde afin de montrer qu’une alternative existe pour les musulmanes», affirme la créatrice du concours, qui avait été licenciée de la télévision indonésienne en 2006 pour avoir refusé de retirer son voile à l’antenne. «Nous préférons montrer à nos filles qu’elles ont le choix entre Miss Monde et Miss musulmanes».

Voir également:

5 Reasons the First Indian-American Crowned Miss America Represents Best Aspirations for Modern America

Homa Sabet Tavangar

Huffington Post

09/16/2013

I didn’t watch Miss America, but now I wish I had. Monday morning I woke up to a fascinating news feed about backlash on the winner, Miss New York, an Indian-American, and a first. But just as her mascara-punctuated tears began to flow as the tiara graced her perfect coif, the haters on Twitter reared their narrow-minded heads. Here’s an example of the media coverage, from CNN.com, with the headline:

Miss America Crowns 1st Winner of Indian Descent; racist tweets flow

The Tweets included this racist one from Todd Starnes, host of Fox News and Commentary: « The liberal Miss America judges won’t say this – but Miss Kansas lost because she actually represented American values. #missamerica »

Many, many Tweets protested her being « Arab » (really?!), Muslim (she’s Hindu) and not American (she was born in Syracuse, NY and has lived in Oklahoma and Michigan as well).

In spite of cringe-worth flaws of the pageant [like the bikini-in-heels (aka « swimsuit ») competition], Nina Davuluri, the new Miss America, probably represents some of the best qualities and aspirations of « modern » America. Here’s why:

America was built on a dream of hard work by people from all over the world. She and her family certainly fit that ideal. Her father is a physician and she aspires to be one as well.

The Founding Fathers were slave owners and came from Europe. Obviously, to be true to the ideals they enshrined, we don’t need to continue to live and look like them.

Thanks to the life her parents built (from scratch), and her own hard work-ethic, she graduated from the University of Michigan debt-free.

She’s a great example of working through failure and difficulty, and getting back up again. This shows in her struggle against bulimia. For fifteen years she studied classical Indian dance, refining a nuanced art form. She was gutsy enough to showcase a fusion of classical and Bollywood dance in her talent act (this made me want to try it!). Here’s a clip:

Her platform: « Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency » couldn’t be more timely. She chose this in part since she had to dispel so many misconceptions about her culture through the year, such as whether her parents will arrange a marriage for her. With the national spotlight, these prejudices are obviously rampant and growing, but it also offers an opening for a meaningful conversation: What is « cultural competency » and why does it matter? What are the values you hold dear as an American? Does she represent them? Does her brown skin and non-European heritage stand in the way of appreciating her accomplishment?

When headlines all over the world proclaim Nina Davuluri as Miss America, this stops anti-Americans in their tracks. They see that the USA can live up to its values, as the land of the free, home of the brave. It’s where dreams for a better life come true. It’s where diverse people are welcomed. It’s full of beauty and sparkles and anything is possible. Millions of dollars in weapons couldn’t convince youth in Iraq or Afghanistan or Egypt of this fact, but Nina’s smile just might.

Voir encore:

Will the Next Miss America Wear Combat Boots?

Susan Kraus

Huffington Post

09/03/2013

There is a Miss America contestant this year whose platform is « Empowering Women: Overcoming Stereotypes and Breaking Barriers. »

2013-09-02-_51K65811.jpg

Her name is Theresa Marie Vail, Miss Kansas, and she’ll be breaking a few barriers herself.

Theresa is in the military. She enlisted in the Army National Guard, raised her right hand and took the oath to « support and defend » just three weeks after her 17th birthday. She completed basic training the summer between her junior and senior years of high school, and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) as a mechanic between high school and college. She was the only woman in her class, and graduated #1. After three years she transferred to a medical detachment and went to dental tech school where she also graduated at the top of her class.

She’s not the first contestant to be in the military. There’s been one: Miss Utah 2007, Jill Stephens, a medic in the Utah National Guard. They have similarities: commitment to service, dedication to country, and almost no experience as a contestant.

Theresa entered her first pageant just nine months ago.

« I never thought about it until a mentor, in my unit, explained how the recognition could help with what I want to do as a role model, » Theresa explained in a recent interview.

As a child she was teased and bullied, and was shy and insecure as a result. But she overcame obstacles, relied on her religious faith, and worked very hard to become the leader she is today.

Theresa is a young woman who excels. Now 22, she’s a Kansas State University senior with a double major in Chemistry and Chinese (with a 3.8 GPA in Chinese) – the first because she wants to be a dentist and the second because it’s a challenge. Theresa loves a challenge. Tell her she can’t do something and then stand back and watch her go.

She’s an expert marksman on the M 16. She’s an expert bow hunter. She skydives. She boxes. She’s working on a private pilot license. She started motorcycle racing but stopped after a crash in which she broke all the fingers her right hand (hard to be a good dentist without flexible fingers.)

With pageant festivities back this year in Atlantic City (where Miss America began in 1921), the « Show Us Your Shoes Parade » will return to the famed boardwalk. The September 14th parade will be televised live for the first time ever (and will be lead-in to the pageant itself on the 15th). This is where contestants flash extravagantly decorated, often state-themed, girly-girly high heels to laughing crowds yelling « Show us your shoes. »

Only Theresa will be in uniform, wearing combat boots instead of four-inch heels.

When it comes to the bathing suit competition, Theresa will be breaking another barrier: she’ll be the first contestant ever with visible tattoos. No itty-bitty rose hidden under a bikini top for this girl. She has the insignia for the U.S. Army Dental Corps on her left shoulder. The Serenity Prayer (« God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference ») flows down her right side.

« It’s my personal mission statement, » Theresa said.

Of course, Theresa is also – if one can use this description for someone trained to shoot to kill – drop-dead gorgeous.

When asked about what she is most proud of, she grinned.

« I just got promoted. I made sergeant, » she said. « And I re-enlisted for six years. »

So, if things get wild in Atlantic City in a few weeks, this would be another Miss America first: Here she comes, Miss America … Miss Kansas… Sgt. Theresa Marie Vail.

Voir de même:

Combat boots, tattoos, and a Miss Kansas pageant sash

Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, at a Miss America event in Atlantic City. Vail, an Army National Guard sergeant, is an expert marksman, used to race motorcycles, and likes to skydive and bow-hunt for deer.

Jacqueline L. Urgo

Inquirer

September 13, 2013

ATLANTIC CITY – Hey, Kansas, your beauty queen wears combat boots!

And has big tattoos, too.

As an active member of the military, Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail – ahem, Army National Guard Sgt. Vail – may just have a slightly different take on world peace than the typical Miss America pageant contestant.

She’s also drop-dead gorgeous – literally. The slender blonde is an expert marksman who apparently knows her way around an M-16. She raced motorcycles as a teen until she broke her fingers. She is fluent in Chinese (she has a 3.8 GPA at Kansas State University) and likes to skydive and bow-hunt for deer. She’s working on a hunting series in production for the Outdoor Channel. (She will be the host.)

While her Miss America profile head shot has her looking like a supermodel, decked out in a hot-pink outfit, fluffed hair, and dangle earrings, other promo websites feature photos of her in full camouflage garb sporting a hunting rifle, bow and arrow, even posing with her prey (a deer, a fox).

But Vail is among only a handful of Miss America Pageant contestants to have military credentials. She is a dental technician with a National Guard medical unit based out of Kansas. Five pageant women since 1992 have been active-duty military, and Miss Utah 2007, Jill Stevens, was the first to work in a combat zone.

Also, Vail, 22, competing this week in the 2014 Miss America Pageant, is the first contestant ever to sport visible tattoos. Sure, other contestants have had tattoos – tiny, hidden ones, according to pageant officials.

But Vail’s big bold tat, of the Serenity Prayer, flanks her entire right midriff. She also sports the insignia of the Army Dental Corps on her left shoulder. The university senior aspires to be an Army dentist.

« No one expects a soldier to be a beauty queen. . . . Right now, everyone thinks of Miss America as this girl on a pedestal, and I want her to come down from that. She is just a normal girl, » Vail said in a recent interview with a newspaper in Kansas.

So there it was, the big tattoo, when she competed Tuesday night in the swimsuit portion of the three-night preliminary competition. She didn’t win, wearing a bright-red bikini and the tattoo, done in scrolly vintage lettering.

But she apparently scored one for the atypical beauty queen crowd.

With no beauty contest experience, Vail entered her first pageant just nine months ago and became Miss Leavenworth County before winning Miss Kansas in June. Her pageant platform is « Empowering Women: Overcoming Stereotypes and Breaking Barriers. »

It’s a subject Vail – who says she was bullied and teased through school – holds dear, hoping to inspire other young women to be whatever they choose.

Even for Saturday’s much-anticipated « Show Us Your Shoes » Parade – an all-out glittery spectacle where the contestants get to show off their flashy side – Vail is opting to wear her camouflage Army uniform and combat boots instead of the de rigueur five-inch heels and evening gowns being worn by most of the other women.

The next night, the Miss America Pageant will be televised live beginning at 9 on ABC.

« I think Miss Kansas’ participation in the pageant, » said Sharon Pearce, president of the Miss America Organization, « shows us the diverse women that are involved in the competition. »

Miss Kansas

Name: Theresa Vail.

Hometown: Manhattan, Kan.

Age: 22.

Education: Leavenworth High, Kansas State University.

Platform issue: Empowering women, overcoming stereotypes, and breaking barriers.

Scholastic ambition: To obtain a doctor of dental surgery degree.

Talent: Vocal.

Scholastic honors: Georganne Howler Chemistry Scholarship recipient; distinguished honor graduate of Army School of Ordnance; distinguished honor graduate of Army School of Health Science.

Career ambition: To become a prosthodontist for the Army.

About Face: Military Service and Miss America

Anu Bhagwati

Makers

September 19, 2013

I fully admit it—I’m steeped in judgment about beauty pageants as an industry, and I still wrestle with assumptions about the women and girls who participate in them. Almost all I can stomach on the topic is Miss Congeniality, in which Sandra Bullock plays a gung-ho FBI agent who goes undercover as Miss New Jersey at a national pageant and is forced to endure all of the industry’s sexist humiliations to pass as “gorgeous”—mandatory starvation, bikini waxing, high heels and all. Her resistance to the industry and her tough-guy attitude make the subject matter not only palatable but also even therapeutic.

Before you judge, let me share the negative impact the so-called “beauty industry” has had on me and almost every girl and woman I know—hours upon hours, spent week after week, for years on end, obsession with self-hatred, guilt or shame for how we look, what we do or do not eat, and how we must dress, speak and act in order to earn our family’s and society’s acceptance, and power and influence in the world. Miss America plays a role in shaping these powerfully defeating narratives in the lives of women and girls across the nation.

However, by the look of it, the face of national pageantry, if not the substance, is changing in apparently new and exciting ways. Plenty of attention has been a paid to the winner, Nina Davuluri, but I’m just as interested in Sergeant Theresa Vail, otherwise known as Miss Kansas, who made media waves as the first contestant ever to bare her tattoos. It’s not the first time a military woman has entered the pageant –Sergeant Jill Stevens, a combat medic, competed in 2008—and it certainly won’t be the last. But the media obsession with the “Serenity Prayer” tattooed around Vail’s midriff is less about women expressing themselves in authentic and edgy ways than it is about varying the same old theme on objectifying women’s bodies.

I don’t blame or resent Sgt. Vail for participating—I actually admire her talent and drive. And I don’t hold her even remotely responsible for either reforming the beauty pageant industry or for representing all military women everywhere. But I disagree with her that being Miss America and being a soldier are “one and the same”—you are not likely to get shot wearing the Miss America crown, and the average service member sacrifices a hell of a lot of comfort and privilege, unlike a crowned beauty queen.

Most of all, I am disappointed and indignant that the most national attention service women got this month (during a time of war, no less) was when the National Guardsman bared her skin in a red bikini and platform heels on prime time television. And that is entirely the fault of a sexist industry and the narrow-minded society that gives rise to it. Because to feature the sacrifices of women, women who have literally fought and died for this country, women who have accomplished great feats of leadership while in uniform might too provocatively subvert the gender status quo as we know it.

I’m reminded of a high profile event I reluctantly attended at New York City’s Fashion Week a couple years ago called, “Fatigues to Fabulous.” It was organized by several groups to, presumably, help women veterans and supported by several high profile fashion designers. The implication (and an actual suggestion) that what women veterans needed most when returning from war was to look “beautiful” still makes my stomach turn. If lipstick, stiletto heels and a $5000 dress could heal posttraumatic stress, they would definitely be onto something.

I discussed Sgt. Vail’s participation in the pageant with my fellow staff members at SWAN, women who have worn the uniform, deployed overseas and commanded troops. There was a palpable sense among us that we know what it’s like to be judged by our looks, to have our bodies scrutinized, to have to command mostly male troops within a climate of harassment and discrimination. At the end of the day, baring tattoos as a form of self-expression doesn’t erase the fact that Vail had to wear a bikini to express herself or that in the eyes of national media, a woman warrior is defined more by her looks when she’s undressed than by what she can do in uniform.

Voir par ailleurs:

Miss America

PBS

Film Description

On September 17, 1983, a long-legged 20-year-old sashayed across the stage at Convention Hall in Atlantic City. As the orchestra started to play, her powerful voice launched into « Happy Days are Here Again. » Millions of Americans sat transfixed in front of their televisions. It was no surprise when the slender, hazel-eyed brunette was back on stage later in the evening among the pageant finalists. But what happened next made history. As the emcee announced: « And our new Miss America is… Vanessa Williams, » the young woman’s mother leaned forward on her couch at home and in hushed tones, whispered « finally, finally. »

Williams was the first African American woman to be crowned Miss America. Black leaders claimed her victory as a milestone in American racial history. Some compared the achievement to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. A black Miss America meant so much in 1983 because over the decades of its existence the Miss America Pageant had come to mean so much.

Miss America tracks the contest from its inception in 1921 as an exuberant local seaside pageant to its heyday as one of the most popular and anticipated events in the country’s cultural calendar. Among the many stories it uncovers are those of Williams and her predecessor, Bess Meyerson, who was crowned the first Jewish Miss America in 1945, the same year the Allies won World War II. It paints a vivid picture of the changing ambitions of the contestants and it describes how the pageant became the target of the first national protest by the women’s rights movement.

As the film unfolds, it becomes clear Miss America isn’t just the country’s oldest beauty contest. It is a powerful cultural institution that over the course of the century has come to reveal much about a changing nation — the increasing power of the image, the rise in commercialism, the complexity of sexual politics, the important role of big business and the emotional resonance of small towns. It is, we learn, about winners and losers, getting ahead, being included and being left out.

Beyond the symbolism lies a human story — at once moving, inspiring, infuriating, funny and poignant. Using intimate interviews with former contestants, archival footage and photographs, the film reveals why some women took part in the fledgling event and why others briefly shut it down. It describes how the pageant became a battleground for the country’s most conservative and progressive elements and a barometer for the changing position of women in society. It reveals how for women in the 1920s the pageant was an avenue to movie stardom and for women in the 1950s it paved the way to academic success.

Miss America intercuts period film with contemporary footage of the 1999 and 2000 pageants that captures the glamour and excitement of the event, both on stage and in the wings. The documentary reinforces the pageant’s continuing hold on the imagination of the American public.

Origins of the Beauty Pageant

PBS

Contests to determine « who is the fairest of them all » have been around at least since ancient Greece and the Judgment of Paris. According to legend, a poor mortal goatherd, Alexandros (Paris), was called upon to settle a dispute among the goddesses. Who was the most beautiful: Hera (Juno), Aprhodite (Venus), or Athena (Minerva)? All three goddesses offered bribes: according to the writer Apollodorus, « Hera said that if she were preferred to all women, she would give him the kingdom over all men; and Athena promised victory in war, and Aphrodite the hand of Helen. » When Paris selected Aphrodite in exchange for getting Helen of Troy, the most beautiful mortal of the time, he inadvertently started the Trojan War.

While ancient Greeks memorialized in myth the complicated relationship between beauty and competition, there is no historical evidence that they actually held contests for women. A « contest of physique » called the euandria was held yearly at an Athenian festival — but the contest was for men. European festivals dating to the medieval era provide the most direct lineage for beauty pageants. For example, English May Day celebrations always involved the selection of queens.

In the United States, the May Day tradition of selecting women to serve as symbols of bounty and community ideals continued, as young beautiful women participated in public celebrations. When George Washington rode from Mount Vernon to New York City in 1789 to assume the presidency, groups of young women dressed in white lined his route, placing palm branches before his carriage. General Lafayette’s triumphant tour of the United States in 1826 also was greeted by similar delegations of young women.

The first truly modern beauty contest, involving the display of women’s faces and figures before judges, can be traced to one of America’s greatest showmen, Phineas T. Barnum (of circus fame). In the 1850s, the ever-resourceful Barnum owned a « dime museum » in New York City that catered to the growing audience for commercial entertainment. Some of Barnum’s most popular attractions were « national contests » where dogs, chickens, flowers, and even children were displayed and judged for paying audiences. While 61,000 people swarmed to his baby show in 1855, a similar event the year before to select and exhibit « the handsomest ladies » in America proved a disappointment. The prize — a dowry (if the winner was single) or a diamond tiara (if the winner was married) — was not enough to lure respectable girls and women of the Victorian era to publicly display themselves.

Barnum developed a brilliant alternate plan for a beauty contest that would accept entries in the form of photographic likenesses. These photographs would be displayed in his museum and the public would vote for them. The final ten entrants would receive specially commissioned oil portraits of themselves. These portraits would be reproduced in a « fine arts » book to be published in France, entitled the World’s Book of Female Beauty. Barnum sold off his museum before the photographs arrived, but in employing modern technology and in combining lowbrow entertainment with the appeal of highbrow culture, Barnum pioneered a new model of commercial entertainment.

In the decades to come, the picture photo contest was widely imitated and became a respectable way for girls and women to have their beauty judged. Civic leaders across the country, seeking to boost citizen morale, incorporate newcomers, and attract new settlers and businesses to their communities, held newspaper contests to choose women that represented the « spirit » of their locales. One of the most popular of these contests occurred in 1905, when promoters of the St. Louis Exposition contacted city newspapers across the country to select a representative young woman from their city to compete for a beauty title at the Exposition. There was intense competition and, according to one report, forty thousand photo entries.

By the early decades of the twentieth century, attitudes had begun to change about beauty pageants. Prohibitions against the display of women in public began to fade, though not to disappear altogether. One of the earliest known resort beauty pageants had been held in 1880, at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. However, it was not until the twentieth century that beach resorts began to hold regular beauty pageants as entertainments for the growing middle class. In 1921, in an effort to lure tourists to stay past Labor Day, Atlantic City organizers staged the first Miss America Pageant in September. Stressing that the contestants were both youthful and wholesome, the Miss America Pageant brought together issues of democracy and class, art and commerce, gender and sex — and started a tradition that would grow throughout the century to come.

Transcript

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: You can have wars and atom bombs, but so it seems there must always be a Miss America.

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: Just one talented young girl receives top honors as Miss America. So democracy works here too for the Atlantic City Miss America contest is predicated on the conviction that the typical American girl has talent and brains as well as beauty.

KATHY PEISS, Historian: I think the Miss America Pageant has been about the American dream for some women. It has been about a dream of being beautiful. It’s also been about a dream of being successful. And that combination is I think the kind of complicated stew that is very much American women’s experience of the last eighty years.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: I am tingling with excitement wondering who will be the next Miss America.

BILL GOLDMAN: When my kids were little, one of the big nights of the year was just the four of us sitting there watching the Miss America and saying oh she’s got to win. And you root and you got involved in it. And we all loved it. It was a part of our lives.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: You know in this twentieth century, we have witnessed the birth of a legend, the legend of the American girl.

MARGARET CHO, Comedian: I think it’s a really important story to tell, because it’s about how we feel about ourselves as women, and how we’ve changed as women and who we are as women and what it means to be judged by men.

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: There are beauty contests and beauty contests, and then there’s the Miss America competition and this year’s crop seems to be the most beauteous bevy of breathtaking beauties in decades.

TRICIA ROSE, Cultural Critic: The Pageant is this example where you can be sort of nationalistic and patriotic and pro American and get to see some « T and A » all in the same event.

KATE SHINDLE, Miss America 1998: The thing about the pageant is that you have to have a sense of humor about it. I mean you’ve got girls who have invested their entire lives in wanting to become Miss America. On the one hand, it’s this investment of thousands of dollars in this huge goal, and on the other hand a girl is spray gluing her swimsuit to her butt so it doesn’t ride up.

JULIA ALVAREZ, Writer: You know this is like Miss America. I mean it’s not Miss Coffee Beans. It’s not Miss Peach Blossoms. This is the woman that sort of represents the country like the President does. And so it’s seeing what is the way to be the woman of the most powerful country on earth.

MISS AMERICA

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: These were the fabulous furious roaring 20s and this is why they roared.

NARRATOR: The Miss America Pageant started out as a promotional gimmick — dreamed up by Atlantic City businessmen in 1921, as a way to keep tourists in town after Labor Day. Over the next eight decades, it would become a national tradition dedicated to defining the ideal American woman.

Year after year, the Miss America Pageant would struggle to pull off a delicate balancing act — objectifying women while providing them with real opportunities; promoting traditional roles while encouraging women’s independence; glorifying feminine modesty while trading on female sexuality. Along the way, it would come to be a barometer of the nation’s shifting ideas about American womanhood.

But in 1921, Atlantic City’s businessmen were simply trying to turn a profit — by capitalizing on the country’s fascination with beauty.

KATHY PEISS: Well, there are many beauty pageants in the 1920’s, and they range from pageants oriented towards African-American women, Miss Bronze America. Even the Ku Klux Klan has a beauty pageant for Miss 100 Percent America. So there’s something about beauty as a symbol that is extremely important and many different groups are getting together and saying, we have the most beautiful woman who represents us. And Miss America is the national symbol of what is going on all over the country.

NARRATOR: The first Miss America Pageant was a spectacular two-day festival, culminating with a beachfront parade called the Bather’s Revue. The only rule for the competition was that all participants « must positively be attired in bathing costumes. » A board of censors had been appointed to review questionable entries.

VICKI GOLD LEVI, Atlantic City Historian: Atlantic City was a place where everybody was kind of given to letting your hair down and having a delicious, romantic time. Bathing suits had changed a great deal and stockings were now being rolled beneath your knees, which was very daring. And women had to have their bathing suits at a certain length. And so there were beach censors who would actually come down and measure the length of your bathing suit.

NARRATOR: On the morning of the Revue, more than 100,000 people swarmed onto the Boardwalk, hoping to catch a glimpse of the scantily-clad young women down on the sand. The spectators’ stand out favorite was a slight, freckled sixteen-year-old from the nation’s capitol. Named Margaret Gorman.

RIC FERENTZ, Pageant Historian: Margaret Gorman was a sensation. She was tiny, petite, five one, with blonde, long ringlets who looked very much like Mary Pickford who was the biggest star of the day. So, the combination made this young, sixteen-year-old girl a star.

NARRATOR: Gorman swept the competition — and later that evening, she was crowned the very first Miss America. « Margaret Gorman represents the type of womanhood America needs, » the New York Times declared, « strong, red-blooded, able to shoulder the responsibilities of homemaking and motherhood. It is in her type that the hope of the country rests. »

NARRATOR: The first Miss America Pageant was a staggering success. Before the receipts were even tallied, city officials announced plans to continue the contest through the decade — confident that as long as there were girls in bathing suits, the crowds would come.

LEONARD HORN, Former CEO Miss America Organization: It was one of the first, if not the first instances of the marriage between advertising and the beauty of the female form which was ingenious because from then on many, many advertisers thought they could get more attention by putting a good looking woman into the picture. Some say it got started in 1921 in Atlantic City.

RIC FERENTZ: The very first years, there was a literal breakdown. Five points for the construction of the head, five points for the limbs, three points for the torso, two points for the leg…I mean it…you know and it added up to a hundred percent. Whether they really went by that, it’s hard to say.

NARRATOR: Throughout the 1920’s, scores of young women flocked to Atlantic City each year, most hoping the Pageant would land them a career in show business. While the average working woman labored in a factory or a typing pool, Miss America had offers from Hollywood and vaudeville — and the opportunity to cash in on her looks.

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: « 5 feet 4 inches tall, 118 pounds of beauty. Norma Smallwood is crowned Miss America of 1926. »

NARRATOR: During the year of her reign, Miss America 1926 — a small-town girl from Tulsa, Oklahoma — reportedly made over $100,000, more than either Babe Ruth or the President of the United States.

RIC FERENTZ: Norma Smallwood had an acute business sense. In 1927, when she was due to return to crown her successor, she demanded a fee for her appearance in Atlantic City. And although she arrived and took part in the early part of the pageant, during the middle when that money was not forthcoming, Norma picked up and left for another job in North Carolina. And the press was not very kind to that. They thought that she should have been the gracious one that didn’t take the money and stayed around to crown her successor, and Norma thought, I’m sorry, this is a business.

KATHY PEISS: There was a general sense that the Old World had died and a new one was being born. And I think that was especially important for women. There’d been a women’s movement that had been successful in certain ways, women had gotten the right to vote for example, and women are increasingly in the labor force in the 1920’s. A number are getting college educated. And so in some ways the pageant seems to be a contradiction. Here, feminists had wanted women to move into the public sphere to sort of gain the positions that men had gained, and yet the pageant represents women very much as female and as in some ways, sexualized, as beauty objects.

NARRATOR: The Pageant’s attention to the female form had troubled conservative Americans since the very beginning. But in the late-1920’s, critics finally went on the offensive.

All over the country, women’s clubs and religious organizations publicly attacked the Miss America Pageant, and accused organizers of corrupting the nation’s morals. « Before the competition, the contestants were splendid examples of innocence and pure womanhood, » one protestor argued. « Afterward their heads were filled with vicious ideas. »

In 1928, fearing the controversy would ruin Atlantic City’s reputation, the Chamber of Commerce voted twenty-seven to three to cancel the Miss America Pageant.

For now, morality had shut the Pageant down. But America’s infatuation with beauty would endure.

CONTEMPORARY FOOTAGE: Brandi: « It’s very me, it’s very Brandi… »

MARGARET CHO: I think the fascination with beauty pageants is that there can be a winner. That there are certain rules, guidelines that constitute beauty, that it is not necessarily in the eye of the beholder. That we as the collective beholder have agreed on certain qualities that create beauty and uh that there can be a contest to judge it. It’s this fascinating thing.

TRICIA ROSE: What gets defined as beauty? I mean, it’s not unlike high fashion supermodels in that the bodies that work are the bodies that are least like what women look like. So what are we saying? What are we actually saying about what women look like when we say, well you know what, to be most beautiful you have to not look like what women look like?

ISAAC MIZRAHI, Designer: I think that fashion and beauty is everything in the way a woman marks her identity today, unfortunately. But I can’t think of a period of time when it wasn’t about that, and there are all sorts of obvious manifestations of that you know, the length of your skirt, the size of your waist. But there are other even more subtle things. Like when you shave your legs, even if you’re wearing pants that day you feel three times prettier, I think.

JULIA ALVAREZ: You know, there’s a yearning in the human spirit, an aspiring for beauty. And, the successful man still has a beautiful woman on his arm. That’s the prize. It’s been our power structure and it’s…it’s still operative. Beauty is still the currency out there.

GLORIA STEINEM, Writer: The traditional way to get ahead is to compete with other women for the favors of men, you know and this is not different from any other marginalized or less powerful group. You’re supposed to compete with each other for the favors of the powerful. So what could be a greater example of that than a beauty contest?

NARRATOR: Not long after the Miss America Pageant was cancelled, a devastating economic depression brought Atlantic City’s tourist trade to a halt. Desperate, local businessmen opted to ignore the critics and revived their lucrative beauty pageant. In 1933, thirty young women were brought to Atlantic City, aboard a chartered train called the Beauty Special, to compete for Miss America’s crown.

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: Yeah it’s sort of relaxin’ what with strikes and food shortages and international disputes and so on to have the lassies back with us once again. Oh well, one good turn deserves another.

NARRATOR: « So striking was the change between the ideal figure of the twenties and that of 1933, » one observer said of the contestants, « that one might almost have thought that a new anatomical species had come into being. »

Among the entries was Marion Bergeron, a high school sophomore and the daughter of a Connecticut policeman.

MARION BERGERON SETZER, Miss America 1933: 1933, it was a depression and at 15 years old I hadn’t been out of Westhaven, Connecticut, let alone wind up in Atlantic City.

NARRATOR: A curvaceous blonde with a striking resemblance to screen-siren Jean Harlow, Bergeron had competed in her first local pageant just weeks before.

To her surprise, she had won the title of Miss New Haven, and then Miss Connecticut — and before she knew it, she was being crowned Miss America.

MARION BERGERON SETZER: To the judge’s eyes, I was the typical American girl. Totally unsophisticated, very naïve, had a lot of enthusiasm, had a lot of talent that they didn’t ask for, but I did have that. And I was just, I was just a 1933 typical American girl. My figure then as they described it was a typical Mae West figure which was hourglass, thirty-four bust, a twenty-six waist, eighty-two buns.

NARRATOR: The new Miss America was just the kind of girl vaudeville producers were looking for — and they soon came waving contracts, promising to make her a star.

But all the attention was short-lived. As soon as the newspapers reported that she was only fifteen, the show business contracts were quickly withdrawn — and Bergeron went back to high school.

MARION BERGERON SETZER: On our way home, I had to go back only to be met by the nuns that said I had had entirely too much undue publicity. And they felt that it would be better if I chose another school. Yeah, and that’s practically being kicked out of school. Here I feel like I’m really somebody. You know, I’m just the most glamorous thing that ever happened at 15 years old, but the but the nuns didn’t think so.

KATHY PEISS: Beauty pageants by the early thirties had a reputation for being somewhat disreputable, like …a carnival atmosphere. And especially the association with Atlantic City and the seaside resorts made that venue somewhat of a question mark I think for women in terms of their respectability. To be a public woman had a longstanding connotation of having loose morals, of being either a prostitute or sexually loose. And that doesn’t disappear, certainly through the 1930’s.

NARRATOR: In October 1935, a Pageant scandal rocked Atlantic City. Less than a month after seventeen-year-old Henrietta Leaver was crowned Miss America, a nude statue of her was unveiled in her hometown of Pittsburgh.

Leaver — a high school dropout and dime store salesgirl — swore she had worn a bathing suit when she posed, and that her grandmother had been present at all times. But the press coverage was merciless, and the businessmen behind the Pageant finally decided to make some changes.

For help, they turned to a single, 29-year-old Southern Baptist with years of experience in public relations. As the Pageant’s Executive Secretary, she would spend the next three decades inventing a new image for Miss America. Her name was Lenora Slaughter.

RIC FERENTZ: She was the iron fist in a velvet glove. I think that she was a woman that was well ahead of her time. She was tough when she had to be. But knew how to get by on a Southern drawl.

NARRATOR: Slaughter’s mission now was to eliminate scandal and to attract what she called « a better class of contestants. »

She immediately established a minimum age requirement of eighteen, then added a talent competition to the traditional line-up of bathing suits and evening gowns. Once the contestants were in Atlantic City, Slaughter insisted they be chaperoned at all times, and that they observe a strict curfew of one a.m. They were barred from drinking establishments, forbidden to smoke, and there were to be no private visits with men — not even their fathers.

A Pageant judge once asked Slaughter what to look for in a winner. « Honey, » she answered, « just pick me a lady. »

VICKI GOLD LEVI: She brought a respectability to the pageant. She presented her girls with class, with style. She transformed the pageant by setting the standards high, by making it something that women would want to participate in.

NARRATOR: Sometime later, Slaughter slipped one final entry requirement into the Pageant by-laws. Known as Rule Seven, the new regulation strictly limited Pageant participation to women « in good health and of the white race. »

SARAH BANET WEISER, Communication Scholar: Race has always factored into anyone’s notion of ideal womanhood in the United States. It’s just that the way in which whiteness functions is through invisibility. It’s not seen as a race. It’s just the normal way to be. It’s just regular. And it’s really no different in the Miss America Pageant.

TRICIA ROSE: That’s what’s most interesting about it to me that we are supposed to believe that this is what American womanhood looks like. And it really is an enormously narrow conception from facial features, you know, height, weight. And then of course there are the most obvious more political categories: race, ethnicity and all of these things are very important in the historical understanding of the Pageant.

NARRATOR: By the early 1940’s, Slaughter had constructed an ideal woman to represent the Miss America Pageant. Now, the mass media would make her a star.

Each September, millions of Americans watched the annual newsreel of Miss America’s crowning. She was featured in newspapers and advertisements, and honored with her own day at the World’s Fair. And when the United States entered World War II, and the Federal Government shut down most large public events, Slaughter convinced officials that the Pageant should be allowed to go on. « Miss America is emblematic of the nation’s spirit, » she told them, « and that spirit [continues] through war and peace, good times and bad. » Permission was granted — on the condition that the winner sell war bonds.

KATHY PEISS: The early period of the 1940’s is one where we see women being mobilized for the war effort. They’re being encouraged to take jobs, to work more than full time to support the war effort. At the same time, those women are encouraged to maintain their femininity and their beauty. And there’s a huge effort to sell women lipstick, to see cosmetics as morale boosters. And they are one product that is not rationed during the war. There’s an attempt to ration cosmetics but it’s overturned within six months. Women are given the pitch that one of the reasons we’re fighting the war is for women to be beautiful.

NARRATOR: Lenora Slaughter believed there was more to a woman than her looks — and she wanted Miss America to prove it. So in 1944, she convinced the Pageant’s new board of directors to award Miss America a scholarship to college.

Raising money proved a bigger challenge. Of the 236 companies Slaughter approached for contributions, only five signed on as sponsors. But between them, Slaughter had enough cash for a five thousand-dollar prize — and in 1945, the Miss America Pageant became one of the first organizations in the country to offer college scholarships to women.

VICKI GOLD LEVI: That’s immediately what redefined Miss America because no other pageant, competition, beauty contest was giving scholarship money. And by doing this it really, really set the pageant in a different category. You didn’t have to go in there just to prove you had a pretty figure, you could go in there to prove you had brains.

NARRATOR: Among those vying for the first scholarship in 1945 was a twenty-one year-old New Yorker named Bess Myerson. The American-born daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Myerson had paid her own way through New York’s Hunter College by giving piano lessons in the Bronx neighborhood where she grew up. Now she hoped to go on to graduate school, where she planned to study conducting.

BESS MYERSON, Miss America 1945: Talent was very important because that was the way we were going to make our living. That’s what we were going to support ourselves doing when we grew up. The most important thing was that you do well at school…oh no. The most important thing was that you listened to your parents. That you do well in school. And that you play a musical instrument. We never imagined anything else would be open to us.

NARRATOR: To Lenora Slaughter, Myerson seemed the ideal candidate for the new scholarship prize. She was beautiful, talented, smart. There was only one problem: she would have to change her name.

BESS MYERSON: Lenora Slaughter said my name was not a good name for show business. And I said well, you know I have no intention of going into show business. I said, what do you want me to change it to? Well you know there are a lot of good stage names like Beth…Beth Merrick. I said…the problem is that I’m Jewish, yes? And with that kind of name it’ll be quite obvious to everyone else that I’m Jewish. And you don’t want to have to deal with a Jewish Miss America. And that really was the bottom line. I said I can’t change my name. You have to understand. I cannot change my name. I live in a building with two hundred and fifty Jewish families. The Sholom Aleichem apartment houses. If I should win, I want everybody to know that I’m the daughter of Louie and Bella Myerson.

NARRATOR: On September 3rd, Myerson and the other contestants appeared on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk for the Miss America Pageant’s opening ceremony: a victory parade to celebrate the end of the war. In the crowd was Myerson’s older sister Sylvia. Her mother, who spoke no English, had been left at home in the Bronx.

BESS MYERSON: The first night I compete with a group of girls on talent, I won. Headline says, « Jewish Girl in Atlantic City Wins Talent in Miss America Pageant. » Now we’ve just learned all the details of six million Jews being killed, slaughtered, burned, tortured. And naturally it attracts attention, and the juxtaposition of the two things was so improbable. There were people that would come to the hotel where I was staying with my sister, and they would introduce themselves to me and say I’m Jewish, and it’s just wonderful that you’re in this contest. But how about when people came up to you with numbers on their arms, which they did as well, and said, you see this? You have to win. You have to show the world that we are not ugly. That we shouldn’t be disposed of and so on however they worded it. I have to tell you that I felt this tremendous responsibility. I owed it to those women to give them a present, a gift, that to them was the gift.

NARRATOR: On the second night of preliminaries, Myerson scored another win, in the swimsuit competition, and she now seemed a strong favorite for the finals. « The new Miss America will either be Miss New York City, Bess Myerson, » one newspaper predicted, « or somebody else. »

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: They’re about to pick Miss America of 1945. Well, they’ve made their choice and the crown goes to Miss New York City, a 21-year-old, 5’10 » brunette, Bess Myerson, Hunter College graduate.

NARRATOR: By the time Myerson’s name was announced, her sister Sylvia was already in tears. From the audience came shouts of « Mazel tov! » « Don’t let anybody kid you, » Myerson said years later. « It was one hell of a terrific moment. »

VICKI GOLD LEVI: Bess was the answer to every Jewish woman’s dream. Her win was such a multilevel symbol. It was a symbol of a certain statement against anti-Semitism. It was a symbol of a victory against Hitler. It was a symbol for women, and when she won there was great celebration in our house. It was like when Roosevelt won or something.

NARRATOR: Myerson expected to spend her reign making appearances and promoting the Pageant’s new sponsors. But after an obligatory four-week performance tour, where drunks in the audience demanded she play the piano in her bathing suit, there were few requests for her time. None of the sponsors wanted a Jewish girl — even a Jewish Miss America — posing with their products.

BESS MYERSON: Half way through that year, I said to the pageant, I’m not available to you anymore because I want to do something else. I’ve met people from an organization called the Anti-defamation League. And they’ve asked me to go out on a tour speaking at the high schools and colleges, speaking to students where there are problems having to do with anti-Semitism, with hatred, with racism. And I did a speech called « You Can’t Hate and be Beautiful. »

SARAH BANET WEISER: Bess Myerson took on the mantle of Miss America in a different way. It’s the historical moment, it’s her ethnic identity, it’s her own aspirations, and all those put together you know provided a very different kind of Miss America and a very different kind of reign.

NARRATOR: Myerson had made Miss America a scholar and a lady. But the following year, pageant judges made it clear that looks still counted. « It was the year they brought out the rubberized bathing suit, » one of them said later, « and we voted for the girl with the best of everything showing. »

GLORIA STEINEM: The swimsuit competition is probably the most honest part of the competition because it really is about bodies. It is about looking at women as objects. That’s what it’s about. The fact is that the most disqualifying part of the competition is how you look.

MARGARET CHO: When you see their bodies, it’s so interesting because they seem so not real. You don’t see anything off. They are so perfect and not sexual really but you just kind of these perfectly shaped women that their bodies are very smooth. There’s no creases or lines, there’s no stretch marks or nipples or hair. It’s kind of jarring. You think god whose body is like that? And then you think, oh, maybe I’m not the woman. Maybe they’re the women, and I’m not the woman. And then you kind of feel like an imposter too.

ISAAC MIZRAHI: It’s always so sort of…heartbreaking to watch the swimsuit competition because these…these good girls they’re sort of like ooh, I’m such a piece of meat or something you know. Of all the parts of the pageant that I feel victimize women the most, it’s that part of the pageant. These poor girls in those painful looking high heels my heart goes out to them. But you know honestly if you have to wear a swimsuit and you have to parade, good, you should wear the high heels, because there’s nothing better on your leg than a high heel.

KATE SHINDLE: I worked so hard to be ready to compete in swimsuit that I didn’t dread it. You know, I actually found it kind of empowering because I figured that once I could get over enough issues to walk around on the stage in a bathing suit in front of twenty million people, I could pretty much do anything I wanted to.

ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: « Go ahead and drool, it’s Miss America time… »

NARRATOR: For more than a quarter century, the bathing suit competition had been the Miss America Pageant’s feature attraction. But with the scholarship program now in place, Lenora Slaughter wanted to project a more dignified image.

The challenge was to downplay the bathing suits without offending Catalina Swimwear, one the Pageant’s major sponsors. In 1947, Slaughter struck the term « bathing suit » from the official Pageant vocabulary, and replaced it with the more athletic-sounding « swimsuit. » Then, she banned two-piece suits from the competition, and announced that Miss America would now be crowned in an evening gown.

Still, when most Americans thought of the Pageant, a girl in bathing suit was the first thing that came to mind.

Then along came Yolande Betbeze. A twenty-one-year-old opera singer from Mobile, Alabama, Betbeze had been recently sprung from convent school when she captured her first local crown, Miss Torch 1949. Miss Alabama wasn’t far behind.

YOLANDE BETBEZE, Miss America 1951: I didn’t plan on the Miss America Pageant. I didn’t know anything about it. I was in a convent for fourteen years. The last four years in a cloistered convent, behind high walls, and no escape, and I was very naïve when I arrived in Atlantic City. I mean coming from a small town in Alabama borrowing shoes of high heels and taking the braces off my teeth. I had a ball.

NARRATOR: The minute Betbeze stepped off the train in Atlantic City, Slaughter knew she was looking at the next Miss America. « Yolande was the sexiest, most glamorous thing I had ever laid eyes on, » she later said. Slaughter’s new husband, a business manager for the Pageant, agreed. « She can’t lose, » he predicted, « unless the women judges run away from her. »

YOLANDE BETBEZE: I thought I was a little bit plain to be Miss America, but I knew that I would do well in talent as an operatic coloratura, and indeed I did… I did win the talent. The swimsuit was difficult. Fortunately, it was a suit in good taste, one piece, white, nothing very revealing. But even so, I mean to stand up for the first time in your life in front of fifty thousand people in a bathing suit is…is awkward. ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: The field is squared off at 16 curvaceous finalists. The winner is brown haired brown-eyed Yolande Betbeze, 21, of Mobile, Alabama.

NARRATOR: The morning after she was crowned, the new Miss America was summoned to a breakfast meeting, where she was to be briefed on her duties for the coming year.

YOLANDE BETBEZE: I did not know what to expect with this. So I arrived and they…all these…these suits were sitting about. Older men, board of directors, congratulated me and said now Miss Betbeze, this is what I represent, this is what you’re going to do for us. Then it came to the bathing suit, the most important sponsor. And this man said to me, November we’ll be in Wyoming, and you’ll wear this and that bathing suit. I said wait a minute please. No. No way. To…go into Milwaukee in the middle of the winter and walk around a department store in a bathing suit is not my idea of Miss America, scholarship foundation, the reason I’m here. And he really, really thought I had lost my mind. He couldn’t believe it.

RIC FERENTZ: I love the fact that she made the statement that she had to play their game to become Miss America and once she became Miss America they had to play by her game. I thought it was very bold of her to say to one of its major sponsors which was Catalina that she just wasn’t going to pose in a swimsuit, that she was an opera singer, she was not a pinup.

NARRATOR: Catalina withdrew its sponsorship of Miss America, and soon launched not one, but two pageants of its own — Miss USA and Miss Universe. Both judged contestants entirely on looks and absolutely required them to wear Catalina swimsuits.

VICKI GOLD LEVI: For the Pageant there was always this pull between the pulchritude and the pulpit. There was always this sort of dichotomy about how are you an upstanding, religious, well-educated girl and you could show your thighs and cleavage — which is always kind of a theme of America anyhow, sexuality and godliness. The Elvis Presley phenomenon. Shake your hips while singing « Nearer My God to Thee. »

NARRATOR: In the fall of 1952, the Pageant’s directors invited an up-and-coming Hollywood actress named Marilyn Monroe to serve as the Grand Marshall of the Boardwalk Parade. « She wore the first dress anybody had ever worn, » that year’s Miss America said later, « that was cut down to her navel. » Monroe was not asked back to Atlantic City.

NARRATOR: It had taken nearly three decades to transform Miss America from a local celebrity to a national phenomenon. But making her a household name would take just one night — September 11th, 1954, when Miss America would be crowned live on national television.

The Pageant’s board of directors had asked former Miss America Bess Myerson to provide backstage commentary for the viewers at home, and had even invited Academy award-winning actress Grace Kelly to judge the competition.

Now, as the cameras wheeled into position on Atlantic City’s Convention Hall stage, ABC sent out the broadcast signal — and television audiences coast-to-coast joined the Miss America finals already in progress.

ARCHIVAL: « Live from Atlantic City . . . « 

LEE MERIWETHER, Miss America 1955: The only time I really noticed a camera was we were waiting to have the crowning. I saw a television camera, and it was coming toward us, so I thought, ooh it’s…it’s time. And then I saw Lenora Slaughter, the head of the pageant bringing a banner over, and she put it on my lap. She said, Lee, you’re our Miss America.

ARCHIVAL: 19 year old, Lee Ann Meriwether of San Francisco, California. She triumphed over 49 other…

LEE MERIWETHER: My head flipped back and that is all I remember. And I was crying hysterically. Crying, crying, I couldn’t stop, but I do remember my mother being pulled backstage. And my mother said, stop your sniveling. And that did it.

NARRATOR: More than 27 million people, nearly half of the television audience, watched the Miss America Pageant that night — in a broadcast that broke all records for TV viewership. « To think that folks out in Idaho could see this was just amazing, » one Pageant volunteer recalled. « It just knocked everything off the airwaves. »

WILLIAM GOLDMAN, Screenwriter: The Miss America contest was something that seemed very glamorous to all of us in the thirties and forties and fifties. But all we ever saw of it were snippets on newsreels in movie theaters. And then suddenly when television happened, here was this fabulous event and in that period it was incredibly popular. When you look at old black and white television now it looks so prehistoric, but my god, it was free, it was in your house, you could watch it. And it changed everything.

NARRATOR: By the second broadcast, the Pageant had been redesigned for TV, and a celebrity singer and announcer had been hired to serve as the regular master of ceremonies. The forty-year-old star of a popular TV program called Stop the Music; he was known to audiences across the country as the guy with « the smile you can read by. » His name was Bert Parks.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: Thank you very much. Thank you. Good Evening. What a wonderful audience …

LEONARD HORN: Bert Parks came along at just the right time. And his ability to be funny, to be extemporaneous, to be silly, and yet at the same time allow the women to be the stars of the show was a perfect, series of ingredients that the Miss America program needed at that time.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: « Hi. And this of course ladies and gentlemen is Miss Oklahoma. From what city please? » Miss Oklahoma: « I’m from Alva, Oklahoma. » Parks: « Alva? » Miss Oklahoma: « Alva. » Parks « What is the population of Alva? » Miss Oklahoma: « 7000. » Parks: « 7000. What’s Alva most famous for? » Miss Oklahoma: « Wheat and cattle and my daddy’s bakery. » Parks: « Golden Krust bakery, call him up tonight. »

VICKI GOLD LEVI: I don’t know if he would fly today, but he was really into the girls, the women, and that’s what made Bert Parks so different. He wasn’t a celebrity flown in on a Saturday night. He was there all week getting to know them. They trusted him. He loved what he was doing, and he really was one of the defining factors that made households and television households love Miss America. And when he sang « There She Is » that was it. There she was.

NARRATOR: Making its debut right alongside Parks was the official Miss America theme song. Composed in just under an hour by a New York songwriter named Bernie Wayne, the song was an instant hit. It would soon be as recognizable as the national anthem.

KATHY PEISS: It evokes a wedding with Bert Parks kind of giving away the… bride, or…in his youth he was more of the groom. It evokes the debutante ball. There is this real sense of suddenly being the most beautiful woman at the ball. And so there is this sense that this could happen to anyone, or at least that’s the fantasy, that this could happen to any girl.

JULIA ALVAREZ: We didn’t see a whole lot of what it was like to be an American woman. This was our little window into what it was like, what this world was like. It was a way to, I don’t know, climb the ladder of success. And so you know it was like watching a female version of a Horatio Alger story.

LEE MERIWETHER: I had no knowledge of the pageant really at all. I knew there was a Miss America Pageant, but I thought it was a quote unquote bathing beauty contest, and as such I would never have entered. And then my father passed away and just my life sort of stopped right there. And my mother said the money is no longer here, daddy’s gone and if you want to continue on with school, that’s the thing, go to Atlantic City.

GLORIA STEINEM: Beauty contests are ways that if you live in a poor neighborhood, you can imagine getting ahead because it is a way up. It is a way to scholarships, to attention, and it’s one of the few things that you see out there as a popular symbol. When I was living in a kind of factory working neighborhood of Toledo, the K-Part television Miss TV contest, something like that, was advertised. And I decided I would try to enter the contest even though I was underage. I think I was 16 and the limit was, was 18. So I lied about my age. It wasn’t a terrible experience. It was a surrealistic experience. You had to put on your bathing suit and walk and stand on a beer keg. I did three or four different kinds of dances. Spanish and Russian and heaven knows what. I thought I would get money for college. And it seemed glamorous. It seemed to me in high school like a way out of a not too great life in a pretty poor neighborhood.

NARRATOR: By 1958, Atlantic City’s local tourist attraction had become one of the most popular television events in the country. With networks competing over the broadcasting contract, and companies clamoring to provide the high-profile program with sponsorship, the Miss America Pageant could now afford to award over 200,000 dollars worth of scholarships. But winning money for college was only part of the Pageant’s appeal. As every contestant knew, being crowned Miss America on national television could turn a small-town girl into an instant celebrity.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: I’m sure you all realize, ladies and gentleman, what a frightening experience it is for these young ladies, most of whom have never appeared in public before much less here in the convention hall in Atlantic City before some 25,000 people and over a full television network.

NARRATOR: One of the contestants that year was Mary Ann Mobley, a nineteen-year-old drama major with her eye on the Broadway stage. A native of Brandon, Mississippi — population twenty-five hundred — Mobley had competed in her first pageant only two weeks before, at the personal request of Brandon’s mayor, and had walked off with the state title.

MARY ANN MOBLEY, Miss America 1959: Everyone was in shock. I said to my Sunday school teacher, I said, Miss Long I can’t believe I’m on the way to Atlantic City. I mean, I had seen the previous Miss America. She was tall, I mean her legs started at my armpits. And she had these wonderful features and long blonde hair, and I thought that’s what Miss America should look like and I’m nowhere near that.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: and now ladies and gentlemen, we come to the talent competition…

MARY ANN MOBLEY: Now I have to tell you that I had never sung with an orchestra. And there I was in front of two football fields put together. Well, I was panicked. And my horror was I was going to get out there and no sound was going to come out. And one of the stagehands tapped me on the shoulder and he said you go get ’em Mississippi.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: Mississippi, let’s bring her on…

MARY ANN MOBLEY: And they swagged the curtain and I thought I’ve got two options, I can run or I can walk out there. And I said I can’t embarrass my home state and myself by running away, I have to walk out there.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Mary Ann Mobley: Tonight as my talent, may I sing a portion of the lovely, « Un bel di » from Puccini’s opera, Madame Butterfly.

MARY ANN MOBLEY: And I started « Un bel di, » and it came out and it sounded okay. And then I said stop, but I’m tired of being proper and cultured and of appreciating Beethoven, Puccini and Bach …

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Mary Ann Mobley: I want to sing and dance to something that’s solid and hot. So, there’ll be some changes made.

MARY ANN MOBLEY: (SINGS) There’ll be a change in the weather and…

PAGEANT BROADCAST: (SINGING)…a change in the sea. And from now on, there’ll be a change in me. My…. »

MARY ANN MOBLEY: They started to applaud.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: (SINGING)…nothing about me’s going to be the same.

MARY ANN MOBLEY: And I said they like me, or else they’re just applauding that I’m not going to finish the aria.

RIC FERENTZ, Pageant Historian: I think Mary Ann was very popular because she was different. She was tiny and spunky and had a little bit of guts.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: Here is your question, Miss Mississippi. What is your favorite topic when with a young man for opening the conversation? Mary Ann Mobley: Well, I’ve read different articles that tell you how to get along with the opposite sex, and the first thing that they say is get him to talk about himself. So the first thing I ask is, Do you play football or what sport are you interested in? And then if he doesn’t say anything, then you say, Well, what are your hobbies? And you go down the line from there and if you can’t get him to answer you on any of those then you’re just quiet for the rest of the evening.

RIC FERENTZ: I think that she showed a different side to Miss America. A more girl next door type. I think that more young women could relate to Mary Ann than they perhaps could to the Miss Americas that had preceded her.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: First runner up, Joan Lucille McDonald, Miss Iowa. Miss America … Miss Mississippi.

MARY ANN MOBLEY: Once I won, I came unglued. I mean, I’m not talking about glistening tears. They were running down my chin onto my chest and my dress. CBS ran that for a long time because you really saw someone terribly, terribly affected by what was happening in her life. But I remember thinking, what am I … what am I doing here, no one’s going to believe this. And I’m not pretty enough to be Miss America, but here I am with a crown on my head. It’s real, and how could it happen to the little girl from Brandon, Mississippi. I think even now it evokes memories. I guess what I was really feeling was I was Cinderella.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: « Everybody’s got talent. »

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Over the years the talent competition has become the most significant and the most popular part of this decisive final night. The ability to be poised and personable in the living room is a far cry from the ability to be self possessed on the stage of this great convention hall before a live audience of 25,000 people and a television audience of many millions.

VICKI GOLD LEVI, Atlantic City Historian: I do remember a girl having a talent where she told us how she packed her suitcase. I definitely remember that. And illustrators were big. They had big pieces of paper clipped on and they would quickly do cartoon sketches and things.

WILLIAM GOLDMAN, Screenwriter: I have this great memory of this beautiful blonde girl from Wisconsin whose talent was telling a fishing story with an accent. And she was just beautiful. And it was…you were laughing at the screen even then, you couldn’t believe that that was her talent, telling a story with a Norwegian accent.

ISAAC MIZRAHI, Designer: I don’t really remember any of the talent except that it was always terrible you know and completely not interesting. And that you know what I used to think was a giant flop would get the biggest applause. Like I’d sit there thinking, wow that stank. And then the audience would just go mad, loving every second of it you know.

LEONARD HORN, Former CEO Miss America Organization: A lot of people sat back and laughed at it. I always thought it was kind of cruel to laugh at it because here was a young woman that was competing her little heart out for a coveted prize that was important to her. That’s what the program was all about. It was another reason why it became so popular because it was every woman and every woman was competing. And every woman is not an accomplished singer or an accomplished monologist.

MARGARET CHO, Comedian: If I had a talent I don’t know what I would do. I think that I would probably collate a script. Collate some new pages in a script. That’s…I’m really good at that, that’s probably my talent, or operating a three hole punch, I can do that pretty swiftly and, I’m probably the best at that.

ISAAC MIZRAHI, Designer: What would I do as my talent? I would probably sing a song.

GLORIA STEINEM, Writer: I wouldn’t enter but now I would I suppose read something I’d written.

JULIA ALVAREZ, Writer: As my talent? You know I worried about that. I mean there was a way in which I thought I could never be that, but it wasn’t just because of the beauty, I just didn’t have any displayable talents. I couldn’t sing. I couldn’t dance. I had an accent, so I couldn’t do a dramatic part. And I sort of wondered what I would do.

NARRATOR: By 1960, the Miss America Pageant had become a national ritual. Each year, on the second Saturday in September, Americans gathered in their living rooms, switched on their sets, and settled in to see if their favorite contestant would capture the crown. Five times over the next decade, the Miss America Pageant was the highest-rated show of the year.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: With her beauty, brains, poise and talent, the American girl has become the most envied and admired girl in the world.

NARRATOR: Richard Nixon claimed it was the only program his daughters were allowed to stay up late to watch.

And all across the country now, little girls dreamed of becoming Miss America.

VICKI GOLD LEVI: It was this time when I sort of call the debutante era of the pageant, sort of the late ’50s, early ’60s, when everyone looked like they were at a cotillion with the high white gloves and the crinolines and the big hoop skirts and they were for god, motherhood and apple pie. They wanted to be good mothers, good wives. They wanted to be supporters of what their husbands chose to do, they wanted world peace.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Parks « This is a presidential election year. If a qualified woman were running for president, how would you feel about voting for her and why? » Contestant: If the men candidates running were qualified, I feet I would vote against her. My reasons being that women are very high strung and emotional people. They aren’t reliable enough when it comes to making a decision, a snap decision. I believe that a man in such a predicament would be able to make a more justifiable and better decision.

PAGEANT BROADCAST Parks « What in your opinion constitutes the ideal wife? » Contestant: « I imagine that the ideal wife depends entirely upon the viewpoint of the husband. »

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Parks « Some sociologists say that American women are usurping the place of the male in American life and have become too dominant. Do you agree or disagree and why? » Contestant: « I do agree w/that. I believe that there are far too many women in the working world. I can see many cases where this is a necessary arrangement, but I do feel that a woman’s place is in the home with her husband and with her children. »

LEONARD HORN: The concept of Miss America as an ideal American woman was consistent with society’s ideas of what an ideal young woman was. She was your everyday young girl who any man would be happy to call daughter, any man would be happy to call wife. Miss America was the American girl next door. She was an ideal that many women aspired to.

NARRATOR: Until now, the Pageant had managed to present a vision of ideal womanhood that most of the country shared. But by the mid-1960’s, the all-American girl-next-door was changing fast.

At a time when bikinis and miniskirts were all the rage, Pageant contestants continued to wear the regulation one-piece suits and dresses that fell within two inches of their knees. While anti-war protestors marched through the nation’s streets, Miss America was in Vietnam, touring with the USO. And in a moment of sexual revolution, the Pageant’s ideal remained wholesome and pure.

KATHY PEISS, Historian: Well, the pageant bore no relationship to the reality of life in the United States at that moment. The height of the Vietnam War, a period of great civil unrest, the civil rights movement and black power movements at their height, and the beginnings of a feminist movement. The birth control pill, the counterculture, the origins of the gay and lesbian liberation movement. All of these suggested that the pageant was terribly out of date and that it really was no longer relevant to the lives of women.

GLORIA STEINEM: It was a very exhilarating, affirming, funny explosion of rebellion and consciousness. It was partly about taking off the symbols, the gloves, the little white gloves, the dyed to match shoes, and in the middle of all of that, the artificiality of the Miss America Contest was an obvious kind of cartoon.

NARRATOR: In the spring of 1968, a 27-year-old writer and editor named Robin Morgan decided to take a stand — and with help from a group called New York Radical Women, she began laying plans for a protest at the annual Miss America Pageant.

« Where else could one find such a perfect combination of American values? » Morgan argued. « Racism, militarism, and capitalism — all packaged in one ideal symbol: a woman. »

ROBIN MORGAN, Writer: It seemed to me you know a sort of epiphany moment because it was the nexus of so many issues, beauty standards, money, women’s freedom, objectification of women, patriotism, and all of this somehow wrapped up in motherhood and apple pie or virgin hood and apple pie, in terms of Miss America. So it seemed like my god, what is not to dislike about this?

NARRATOR: Word of the protest soon reached Atlantic City, and pageant organizers braced themselves for the picket line.

It would be the first major demonstration of the women’s liberation movement in the United States.

ROBIN MORGAN: We had you know prepared for about maybe fifty people, and to do some guerilla theater, some songs, some chants, to picket on the boardwalk all day. What we had not counted on was that close to four hundred women showed up on the boardwalk. They came from all over. I mean they were carrying signs from Florida and from Wisconsin and some people drove from California, and that was just amazing. I mean it had clearly this protest tapped into something that was enormous and very, very moving.

GLORIA STEINEM: They put on the boardwalk a big trashcan and dumped in it all kinds of symbols of the stereotypical female role, a steno pad, a dust mop, an apron, a bra, all of these things. I think they never did burn those items because they couldn’t get a fire permit. Just shows you we’ve been too law abiding.

ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE: singing « Ain’t she sweet. Makin’ profit off her meat. Beauty sells she’s told, so she’s out pluggin’ it. Ain’t she sweet. Ain’t she quaint with her face all full of paint. After all how can she face reality? Ain’t she quaint. »

NARRATOR: The demonstration soon drew a crowd of more than 600 spectators — most of them men, and nearly all unsympathetic. One suggested that the protestors throw themselves into the Freedom Trash Can.

ROBIN MORGAN: The threats, the epithets, the screams were mostly from guys who would, you know lean over the barricades and do the usual. I mean say sort of you know go back to Russia, you’re commie pinko lesbian crazy broom riding witches. You name it. You’re all too ugly to be in the Miss America Pageant.

NARRATOR: Inside Convention Hall, the Miss America contestants were running through one last rehearsal before show time. Outside, on the Boardwalk, the protestors were burning Bert Parks in effigy.

Parks was unfazed. When he got wind that one of the demonstrators was planning to infiltrate the Pageant finals that evening, he didn’t miss a beat. « I’ll grab her by the throat, » he said, « and keep right on singing. »

PAGEANT BROADCAST: 1968 Bert Parks sings, and Judy Ford crowned…

NARRATOR: Judy Ann Ford, an eighteen-year-old gymnast from Illinois, was the first blonde in eleven years to be crowned Miss America. « I’m so glad, » she gushed to the press that evening. « I feel like it’s a breakthrough. »

Meanwhile, just four blocks from Convention Hall, at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, another ideal was about to be chosen.

Calling itself a « positive protest, » the Miss Black America Pageant had been scheduled to begin at midnight, in the hopes that newsmen would drop by when they left Convention Hall. It was nearly three in the morning before nineteen-year-old Philadelphian Saundra Williams was crowned. « Miss America does not represent us, » Williams told the audience. « With my title, I can show black women they, too, are beautiful. »

TRICIA ROSE, Cultural Critic: Miss Black America is of course an effort to say well, look, trying to be like a white person is not what’s at stake. But appreciating what is black is quite important. So Essence Magazine emerges. Black is beautiful, afros, you know, black women emphasizing that which is black as beautiful and so this was a way of saying, we exist as both a market and as a kind of esthetic really begins to take place in the late 1960s and gets even stronger in the late 70s and 80s.

NARRATOR: All the controversy of 1968 took its toll on Miss America. And before the year was out, Pepsi Cola, a sponsor of the Pageant for over eleven years, withdrew its support. « Miss America as run today, » the company declared, « does not represent the changing values of our society. »

LEONARD HORN: Society was swirling around it but the Miss America pageant stayed the same, continuing to worship an outmoded ideal. In fact, the powers that be at the pageant never did learn. They never did learn. They didn’t because they regard the Miss America pageant as sacrosanct. The Miss America pageant had developed a formula. The formula worked and nobody wanted to change it.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Bert Parks: « You know often I’ve heard it said, « Is Miss America relevant today? Well, is personal achievement relevant, is scholarship, is good citizenship relevant? We think it is. And we think it will be for a long time to come. »

NARRATOR: The Miss America Pageant still drew an enormous audience — reaching a peak, in 1970, of over 22 million households. But then the ratings started to slip — and the Pageant was finally forced to catch up with the times.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Song and dance number: « Call Me Ms. »

GLORIA STEINEM: It just seemed as if they were just trying to keep the lid on. You know they were just hoping against hope that…that somehow there wouldn’t be too many demonstrations or that the contestants wouldn’t stand up and raise a fist. You know somehow the people who ran the pageant were trying desperately to preserve it.

NARRATOR: The time had come for a new-style Miss America — and in 1973, the Pageant found one in an aspiring attorney from Denver, Colorado named Rebecca Ann King.

REBECCA KING DREMAN, Miss America 1974: I started watching it, the Miss America Pageant as a young girl and I wasn’t really sure that it was the kind of young woman that I was going to be, because I knew I was going to be president of the United States some day. The young women looked a little Barbie dollish to me. They looked a little too made up to me and a little too world peace and I just didn’t think I was that kind of young woman.

NARRATOR: King was finishing up her senior year at Colorado Women’s College, when a friend tried to talk her into entering the Miss America Pageant.

REBECCA KING DREMAN: I said what’s in it for me? She said there’s scholarship money so you can go on to law school. And so I said okay. I’ll think about it, but don’t tell anybody.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: King « During the past 23 years, my grandmother often said to me, that the character of the nation is determined through its womanhood. Through the practice of law, I hope to make a productive contribution to mankind, and find the happiness of a fulfilled woman. »

REBECCA KING: I was really in it for the money. And I think it shocked the pageant when I said I was in it for the money. And I didn’t think it was strange at all. I said what is it? It’s a scholarship program, right? Isn’t that what we’re here for?

PAGEANT BROADCAST: Parks « The winner of a 15,000 dollar scholarship and our new Miss America Rebecca Ann King, Miss Colorado… »

REBECCA KING: Well I didn’t fall apart as Miss America. Walked over, got the crown on, and I think my mother received maybe a hundred letters because I didn’t cry. She didn’t cry. What kind of Miss America do we have here on our hands walking down the runway not crying?

NARRATOR: For most Americans, the real surprise came later, when the new Miss America began speaking to the press — and came out in favor of legalized abortion.

REBECCA KING: It was right at the time of Roe v. Wade. I thought a woman ought to have the right to choose whether to continue with the pregnancy or not. And it just blew completely up and the Pageant never said not talk about it.

KATHY PEISS: Well the Miss America pageant in the 1970’s is faced with the growing politicization of women on both the left and the right. And one of the key moments of course is the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973. So when Miss America comes out as pro-choice, inserting a political stand in the Pageant which had always seen itself as nonpolitical or apolitical it really is an important moment.

REBECCA KING: The pageant has always been a little behind the times, but it was definitely the ’70s. It was time for people to move on and the pageant was trying.

NARRATOR: The national press applauded Miss America’s new image. Even feminists, who had been protesting against the Pageant for half a decade, now called off their war and invited King to speak at the National Organization for Women’s annual convention.

Still Miss America’s television audience continued to shrink, edged out by competition from new cable networks and dismissed by younger viewers as old-fashioned.

LEONARD HORN: I think that a large number of people began not watching the Miss American pageant probably about the mid-70s. The ideals upon which the Miss America pageant appeared to rest no longer seemed very exciting or relevant. And I think we lost a generation of people.

NARRATOR: By the late 1970’s, Pageant organizers were desperate for viewers and casting about for ways to update the show. So they decided to fire Bert Parks, Miss America’s master of ceremonies for a quarter of a century.

It was later reported that the Pageant’s sponsors considered 65-year-old Parks « too old and too out of touch. » The decision caused such an uproar that Tonight Show host Johnny Carson even held an on-air campaign to get Parks reinstated. The Pageant replaced him anyway.

But a new host did not bring new viewers.

TRICIA ROSE: I was a teenager in the late-70s, and I, my recollection of the Pageant was that it just being a New Yorker, it just didn’t seem to reflect what the City looked like to me. So the pageant was a sort of helpful travelscape for me like oh this is what women look like in Texas and Florida. I was pretty much sure that the most blonde was going to be in the top two if not the number one slot. If a brunette was going to win, it was because of some other extraordinary traits that were compensating, but I very much understood it as a tall, blonde, you know, Southern woman’s festival.

MARGARET CHO: My father was very into it. And then, at one point when I was a little girl, I said oh I want to be one of those contestants. I want to grow up and do that, and he said no, oh no, you cannot do that, no. You know like, and I took it to mean that the beauty pageant was not open to all women. I mean my father thought that this whole pageant was fascinating and we would pick out the winners, but I was not allowed to even entertain the fantasy of becoming one of these women. And I thought well maybe I’m just not pretty enough. Maybe I’m just not white.

LENCOLA SULLIVAN, Miss Arkansas 1980: I remember always sitting in front of the television watching the Miss America every single year when I was a little kid, and I was the only one watching. Everybody else kind of went to bed, and I would be so excited, mom, mom, I got a … I chose the first runner up or the second runner up. But the interesting thing about that, I always kind of saw myself on stage as well, although no one looked like me. There was no one who looked like me.

NARRATOR: Twenty-year-old Cheryl Brown, Miss Iowa 1970, had been the first African-American woman ever to compete in Atlantic City. In the decade that followed, there had been just ten other black contestants — and of those, only one had made the top five: Lencola Sullivan, Miss Arkansas 1980.

LENCOLA SULLIVAN: You know I made history that night by being the first black woman to ever make top five in the Miss America Pageant’s history. And even though that was wonderful, of course I was sad that I didn’t make it to the top and didn’t walk away with the…the title of Miss America. That was actually one of the questions that was asked of me when I competed, was…is America ready for a black woman to become Miss America? And I said if Arkansas is ready, America is ready, but obviously America wasn’t ready.

NARRATOR: But in 1983, the 61st year of the Miss America Pageant, everything suddenly changed.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: 1983 Vanessa Williams singing and being crowned.

NARRATOR: A twenty-year-old musical theater major at Syracuse University, Williams had entered the Pageant in the hope of breaking into show business. Like so many Miss America before her, she wanted to be a star. But first, she would become a political symbol.

To some, the crowning of a black Miss America was a milestone in the struggle against bigotry. « Thank God I have lived long enough, » said Congresswomen Shirley Chisholm, « that this nation has been able to select the beautiful young woman of color to be Miss America. »

KIMBERLY AIKEN COCKERHAM, Miss America 1994: I remember watching the pageant, and I don’t know that I had watched it before and I remember her singing. I remember her performance. I remember her being crowned, I remember thinking wow, she looks like me. This is something that I could do. I had never to that point thought that Miss America was something that was for me or something that I could do. So I think that that was a turning point for me. I think everybody was shocked, excited and just looking forward to having a year where there was a Miss America that was black and would get to do all the great things that every other Miss America had ever done. So I think it was just a time of excitement and anticipation.

NARRATOR: Williams’ fans made her the most heavily-booked Miss America in the Pageant’s history. Not quite ten months into her reign, she had already earned a record $125,000 in fees.

WILLIAM GOLDMAN: I remember talking to some pageant people and they said that the best Miss Americas they ever had was Vanessa Williams. Apparently she was just sensational. She was just the most verbal, bright, terrific seller of the Miss America contest they’d ever had.

NARRATOR: But there were those who considered Williams’ victory an affront. For the first time, Miss America received death threats and hate mail. When she made appearances in the South, armed guards had to be posted at her hotel room door. And even in the African-American community, there were those who assailed her for not being « black » enough.

Then, in July of 1984, Williams was informed that an unauthorized pictorial, featuring explicit nude photos she had posed for two years earlier, was about to be published in Penthouse magazine. Pageant officials were quick to respond.

ARCHIVAL: L. Horn press conference: « We do not believe that under the content and spirit of the rules as well as the contracts as well as the image of Miss America that she should remain Miss America and still give this particular program the vitality as well as the respect to which it is entitled. If we don’t draw the line here, where do you draw the line? »

LEONARD HORN: The sponsors were waiting on the sidelines. We had received a warning that if we didn’t handle this right, it didn’t turn out right, they were going to pull out. If they pulled out at the end of July, there would have been no money and no Miss American pageant in 1984. And there would not be a Miss America pageant today. That’s how close we came.

NARRATOR: Williams was given 72 hours to resign. She would be allowed to keep her scholarship and the money she had earned, but her title would be given to the first runner-up, Suzette Charles.

ARCHIVAL/Vanessa Williams: « It is one thing to face up to a mistake that one makes in youth. But it is almost totally devastating to have to share it with the American public and the world at large as both a human being and as Miss America. I put the session in the back of my mind and believed the photos would never be used for any purpose as the photographer had verbally assured me. I never consented to the publication or the use of these photographs in any manner.

NARRATOR: It was the first time in the Pageant’s six-decade history that a Miss America was asked to give up her crown.

KIM AIKEN: A lot of people were very disappointed. And I think any community, any minority community looks to their role models that are so accepted and are so loved by everybody as a point of inspiration, and maybe at that point it is, you are let down that okay, these are choices that she made that have caused a lot of embarrassment to her and her family but also to the black community.

TRICIA ROSE: I do remember feeling … incredibly sorry for her. I just felt that she was carrying the weight of this whole history of vicious stereotypes about black women and simply by trying to win the Pageant, she was in a sense trying to counter many of those stereotypes. And then to have these pictures emerge to undermine it was probably the most vicious way to have it because I would be stunned if she was the first Pageant contestant to have tried to raise money as a model by doing these kinds of pictures. I would be stunned if she were the first. But I wouldn’t be surprised if people were more interested in finding hers to undermine it because she in a sense you know, by definition threw the rest of the contestants into stark relief.

NARRATOR: The Vanessa Williams issue of Penthouse would ultimately bring in over 20 million dollars, the magazine’s all-time, single-issue sales record.

MARGARET CHO: You know what’s great about it is that she’s the only Miss America that anybody remembers, and she’s the only one that ever really became a star and that is what’s really great is that her … she has the most kiss my ass story that you can triumph over anything so she’s certainly a big hero of mine.

NARRATOR: For a time, the scandal revived public interest in the Miss America Pageant, and ticket sales for the 1984 finals rose by twenty percent.

That night, after only two months as Miss America, Suzette Charles walked the Convention Hall runway to a standing ovation, before crowning her successor: 20-year-old Sharlene Wells, a tall, blonde Mormon whom USA Today described as « squeaky-clean. »

NARRATOR: Confronted now by the possibility of scandals that Lenora Slaughter never could have imagined, Pageant directors drew up a new contestant contract, gradually adding dozens of regulations to which potential Miss Americas were subject.

KATE SHINDLE, Miss America 1998: That you’ve always been female, is one. Is that hilarious? You have to sign a contract saying I’ve always been female. There is, there’s a clause in the contract that you have never posed in the nude there’s always a clause that you can’t have ever, you can’t be the natural or adoptive parent of a child that you have never done anything that could possibly be interpreted as illegal, immoral, unethical, whatever. And everybody signs the contract, but who didn’t cheat on a second grade math test, you know what I mean?

NARRATOR: With the changes in the contract came a renewed campaign to portray Miss America as a « thinking woman » who could make a positive contribution to society. In 1989, Pageant officials introduced a new competition called « the platform, » which required contestants to demonstrate on ongoing commitment to a social problem — and to back it up with community service.

PAGEANT FOOTAGE: Miss Florida ‘Hello from the Sunshine State. I’m devoted to promoting unity through the celebration of our cultural diversity’ … Miss North Dakota, ‘I am devoted to encouraging youth to postpone their sexual activities …’

KATE SHINDLE: It’s one of those things that people love to make fun of. I’d love to, I support world peace and I want to give everyone a flower. It’s, it’s the kind of stereotype that we abhor that we really want to get away from, and the way of doing that at least in my mind is to show that we can walk the walk as well.

PAGEANT FOOTAGE: Kate Shindle being crowned? And talking about AIDS

KATE SHINDLE: Because I was talking about AIDS which was something people don’t necessarily associate with the sort of conservative, white bread grass roots Miss America organization, it got a lot of media attention I took some flack for talking to students about sexual activity, certainly about abstinence but also about safer sex. There are people who don’t want you to come to their high school and say things like that. But I will tell you that Miss America got me so much access. The fact that I was invited to speak at middle and high schools in middle America where they would never never invite an AIDS activist to come and speak to their kids. But they’ll roll out the red carpet for Miss America and hope she brings her crown was an enormous part of what I felt was effective during that year.

NARRATOR: More than eighty years after the first contest was held in Atlantic City, the Miss America Pageant still endures. It is one of the longest-running television programs in American history, seen by more than a billion people since its first broadcast in 1954.

It is also the single largest scholarship organization for women in the world. Each year, 1200 state and local pageants are franchised by the Miss America Organization. And each year, more than 10,000 young women enter those contests, all of them hoping Miss America’s crown will change their lives.

KIM AIKEN: I think every contestant that comes to Miss America has a different agenda. Some contestants and I remember even my year said, I don’t want to win this pageant, I really just want to be on TV. Some contestants come there because they want to be discovered by a modeling agency or they want to go into acting or broadcasting. Many contestants go because of their social activism. Many contestants go just because they have this idea of Miss America with the crown and the walking down the runway and many contestants go for that reason.

PAGEANT BROADCAST: 50’s contestant: I would love to be your next Miss America . . . it would enable me to further my studies at Sacramento State College … It would also give the opportunity to meet many wonderful people that I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet … and it would considerably broaden my outlook on life … I would love to be your next Miss America.

MARGARET CHO: I think that women’s roles have changed so much in the last twenty years that we are constantly looking for the outside world to tell us who we are and that we really search for this sure identity, for this sure being of who we are and the pageant is one way of defining ourselves.

SARAH BANET-WEISER: It’s not you either love it or you hate it. It’s not it’s either good or bad. It just doesn’t fit that neatly into one of those boxes. I think that what civic rituals do is that they are stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves. And I think that along with considering the Miss America Pageant as popular culture we needed to consider it as a civic ritual, as something that is about imagining citizenship and imagining, who we are, why we’re here, what we’re for.

WILLIAM GOLDMAN: I wonder, I don’t know, do little girls now of six and seven dream of being Miss America? I don’t know. Or do they dream of replacing Bill Gates, I have no idea.

Voir également:

AS IT HAPPENED

ATLANTIC CITY IS A TOWN WITH CLASS — THEY RAISE YOUR MORALS WHILE THEY JUDGE YOUR ASS

Judith Duffett, New York

On Sept. 7, nearly 150 women committed to women’s liberation from New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Florida, Boston and Detroit, converged on Atlantic City to protest the degrading image of women perpetuated by the Miss America Pageant.

Our goal was No more Miss America! Our objections to the Pageant, its racism (there’s never been a black contestant); its use of Miss America as a military mascot to entertain the troops abroad and symbolize the « unstained, patriotic American womanhood our boys are fighting for »; the degrading Mindless-Boob-Girlie symbol which puts women on a pedestal/auction block to compete for male approval; the consumer con game which makes Miss America a walking commercial and oppresses all women into commodity roles; the cult of youth and the American institution of planned obsolescence which makes last year’s Miss America as stale as yesterday’s news and makes all women « useless » when they are no longer ripe for exploitation as sex objects, the Madonna/Whore image of womanhood which means that Miss America must be seductive in a bathing suit and at the same time be pure and untouched; and the whole idea of beauty contests, which create one « winner » and millions of insecure, frustrated losers, who feel they must meet the imposed standards of beauty or face disaster: « You won’t get a man! »

photo source: « The Liberated Woman’s Appointment Calendar And Survival Handbook, 1971, » by Jurate Kazickas and Lynn Sherr. Universe Books, 1970

Our purpose was not to put down Miss America but to attack the male chauvinism, commercialization of beauty, racism and oppression of women symbolized by the Pageant. We arrived on the Boardwalk at 2 p.m. Saturday and began picketing in front of Convention Hall. Some of our signs read: « Everyone is Beautiful, » « I am a Woman, Not a Toy, Pet or Mascot, » « Who Dares to Judge Beauty, » and « Welcome to the Miss America Cattle Auction. »

Guerrilla theater was used to illustrate some of our points. A live sheep was crowned « Miss America » and paraded on the liberated area of the boardwalk to parody the way the contestants (all women) are appraised and judged like animals at a county fair.

« Women are enslaved by beauty standards » was the theme of another dramatic action in which some of us chained ourselves to a life-size Miss America puppet. This was paraded and auctioned off by a woman dressed up as a male Wall Street financier. « Step right up, gentlemen, get your late model woman right here–a lovely paper dolly to call your very own property … She can push your product, push your ego, or push your lawnmower … »

The highlight of the afternoon was the giant Freedom Trash Can. With elaborate ceremony and shouts of joy, we threw away instruments of torture to women–high-heeled shoes, Merry Widow corsets, girdles, padded bras, false eyelashes, curlers, copies of Playboy, Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, etc.

Throughout the afternoon activities, we were observed by some five or six hundred onlookers, mostly men, who were by turns amused, perplexed, and mostly enraged by our presence. The heckling was led by two young men: « You’re just jealous–you couldn’t be Miss America if you were the last man (?) on earth! » « Get back on your broom! » « Why don’t you go back to Russia? » « Which one of your girlfriends is your husband? » The women in the mainly lower middle class crowd by and large agreed with them. One woman, however, crossed the police line with her three children and joined us!

We generally ignored their jeers, but in the evening (we stayed until midnight), when the crowd was somewhat less hostile, we changed our tactics. Many of us put down our signs and went right up to the police line and began engaging in dialogue with the people. Two more women crossed the line to our side, though we did not make any noticeable conversions. But a dialogue was established, and women who had felt confused and hurt by the signs and leaflets which they didn’t understand and demonstrators with whom they could not identify, began to go through some changes in their heads when we started to talk to them personally. Proving what many of us have felt for a long time: women who are unreachable on most radical issues can be reached on this one, since it involves their daily lives.

Sixteen of us purchased tickets to the Pageant and from seats in the balcony near the stage, began a disruption as the outgoing Miss America was making her farewell speech. Although there was no TV coverage of the disruption (we were told later that one of the cameramen was about to pan to the balcony when he was told that if he did he would lose his job), the cameras and microphones did record the visible turning of heads and the stuttering and trembling of Miss America as we shouted « Freedom for Women! » and « No More Miss America » and hung a banner from the balcony reading « Women’s Liberation. »

The sixteen were quickly hustled out, and five were arrested, charges against them later dropped. Earlier Peggy Dobbins had been arrested and held on $1,000 bail. She was charged with disorderly conduct and « emanating a noxious odor » for spraying a can of Toni home permanent throughout the audience. The Pageant and city officials were undoubtedly sensitive on this area of commercial products. We had already declared a boycott of the products sponsoring the Pageant, of which Toni is one (the others are Pepsi-Cola and Oldsmobile). We expected that they would sweep Peggy’s case under the rug. Instead the charges against her were escalated to an indictable offense, with a possible sentence of two to three years.

All in all, the day was a tremendous success. We intend to be back in Atlantic City next year and every year until the Miss America Pageant is closed down. It may not take too long. There have been rumors that because of the disturbance, the Pageant next year may be taped with no studio audience.

We have also been in contact with a former Miss America who is on our side, and have heard from a woman who was asked to be a judge but declined, partly because she heard of our plans. I suppose it’s possible to have the Pageant without an audience, but you can hardly have one without contestants or judges!

‘BEAUTY OF THE BLACK WOMAN’

source:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh

« There’s a need for the beauty of the black woman to be paraded and applauded as a symbol of universal pride, » said J. Morris Anderson, an organizer of the competing pageant. « We’re not protesting against beauty. We’re protesting because the beauty of the black woman has been ignored. It hasn’t been respected. We’ll show black beauty for public consumption — herald her beauty and applaud it. »

At Convention Hall, at least a few of the women pickets were Negroes. They were aware of the Miss Black America contest, but were not sure what they ought to do about it. « I’m for beauty contests, » said Mrs. Bonnie Allen, a Negro Bronx housewife in her mid-thirties. « But then again maybe I’m against them. I think black people have a right to protest. » « Basically, we’re against all beauty contests, » Miss Morgan said. « We deplore Miss Black America as much as Miss White America but we understand the black issue involved. »

NEGRO FINALISTS ACTIVE

While the Miss America finalists stayed out of sight, reportedly primping for their last show in Convention Hall, the eight Miss Black America finalists were out on the town acting like

source:http://www.pbs.org

beauty queens. They rode in open convertibles from the Ritz Carlton past the hall, around the business district and on into the Negro community. They waved white-gloved hands, smiled perfect smiles and showed off themselves as well as their elegant evening gowns in the afternoon sun.

They were cheered everywhere. The predominantly white strollers along the boardwalk waved and applauded. But nowhere was the reception more enthusiastic than along the main streets within the Negro community. Besides a motorcycle escort, they were accompanied by music makers with bongos, cowbells and flutes. And after their automobile tour, they went off to swim, party and wait for the midnight judging to begin. The final’s beginning coincided with the Miss America finale.

The Miss America Organization

The Miss America Pageant and its sponsor, the Miss America Organization, has evolved from a beach-side showcase for frolicking bathing beauties to a competition that still includes bathing suits, but now emphasizes scholarships and social causes. In 1921 the winner of the first Inter-City Beauty Contest was crowned « Miss America, » and she won a first place prize of $100. The first pageant had only seven contestants from cities along the East Coast. Although the number of contestants and the pageant’s popularity increased throughout the decade, the event was closed down in 1927 due to growing criticism and charges of immorality, as well as a lack of financial support.

In 1933 organizers revived the pageant. By 1940, the pageant had regained its financial footing and respectability. It continued as a not-for-profit event; its official title became the « Miss America Pageant » and chose the Atlantic City Convention Hall as its permanent venue. The national executive director, Lenora Slaughter, shaped the modern pageant by adding features such as state competitions, the scholarship program, and a judging category based on personal interviews.

In the 1990s the pageant was reformed into The Miss America Organization, a not-for-profit corporation which comprised three distinct divisions: the traditional Miss America Pageant, the scholarship fund, and a Miss America foundation. The organization grants state franchises to one « responsible » organization in each state — usually the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees). The state organization conducts a state competition in accordance with all the rules and regulations established by the Miss America Organization. These include having a panel of Miss-America-certified judges. The state pageant organizations, in turn, are responsible for reciprocal franchising of « responsible » organizations within each state to sponsor local and regional competitions. The local, state, and national organizations all rely on a vast army of volunteers and financial supporters to work throughout the year.

Contestants at all levels of the pageant compete in four categories: talent, evening wear, interview and physical fitness. Further, every Miss America state titleholder must select a platform for a social cause that is important to her. She spends her year’s service as a state winner advocating her issue. On the national level, Miss America also spends her year (since 1989, when the platform requirement was established) advocating her cause to the media, business people, public officials, and civic and charitable organizations.

The pageant competitions and the national broadcast are only one part of what the Miss America Organization does. The national and state organizations operate twelve months a year, raising scholarship funds from large and small businesses. The Miss America Organization’s main mission is to provide contestants with the opportunity to pursue their professional and educational goals through monetary grants and awards.

On the national level, scholarships are distributed as follows:

Miss America, $40,000

First runner-up, $30,000

Second runner-up, $20,000

Third runner-up, $15,000

Fourth runner-up, $10,000

Each of the five semi-finalists also wins $8,000. Each of the other 40 contestants receives $3,000. The three preliminary talent winners get $2000 each. The three preliminary swimsuit winners gain $500 each. One non-finalist interview winner is awarded $1,000. There are a number of other scholarship awards on the national level, including ten Bert Parks non-finalist talent winners, receiving $1,000 each, and a newly established Steinway Music Scholarship of $5,000.

Since establishing the scholarship program in 1945, the Miss America program has distributed more than $150 million in educational grants, making it the world’s largest scholarship program for women. Each year more than $30 million in diverse scholarships are made available to thousands of women who participate in local, state and national Miss America programs.

Lenora Slaughter Transforms the Pageant

From its inception, the Miss America Pageant wrestled with its image. In the 1920s, pageant organizers worked to make it a sophisticated event. But critics such as women’s clubs and religious groups abhorred the display of the female form in public; it was not considered respectable behavior. Although Victorian values had relaxed, new freedoms for women — from the expression of more direct sexuality to winning the vote in 1920 — led to a general anxiety about women’s apparently loosening morals. To make matters worse, most of the women who flocked to the pageant came with hopes of landing a Hollywood or stage career, cashing in on their good looks but raising questions about their morality. The growing criticism caused pageant officials to shut down the event in 1928.

The economic depression of the 1930s brought a more conservative understanding of « proper » femininity. The ideal of the frugal homemaker replaced that of the flapper. Before the pageant could be revived, organizers had to create an event that had a higher moral tone. In 1935 Lenora Slaughter was hired to produce an event that was respectable and legitimate.

Lenora Slaughter, a Southern Baptist and businesswoman, had made a name for herself in St. Petersburg, Florida, by working tirelessly at the Chamber of Commerce to put that town on the map. Slaughter came to the Miss America Pageant on a six-week leave of absence from St. Petersburg. She ended up staying, and in time would become director of the pageant, in a reign that lasted until 1967. The pageant became her passion. She would bring the most significant and lasting changes to its structure.

The newly revived pageant of 1935 marked the beginning of a concerted effort to attract an appropriate « class of girl » to represent the nation with the title of Miss America. Unfortunately, Slaughter’s early years were plagued with scandal and notoriety. In 1935, a sculptor unveiled a nude statue of that year’s Miss America, Henrietta Leaver. Later, Miss America 1937, eighteen-year-old Bette Cooper, changed her mind about becoming Miss America and escaped in the middle of the night.

Slaughter initiated an all-out crusade to improve the pageant’s image. First, she banned contestants who held titles that represented commercial interests, such as newspapers, amusement parks and theaters. Contestants were required to carry the title of a city, region, or state. This distanced the pageant from the crass practices of other pageants where the connection between money and women displaying themselves in public was obvious. The contestants now had to be between 18 and 25 years old, and never married. And while in Atlantic City, they had to observe a 1 am curfew and a ban on bars and nightclubs. Slaughter initiated the talent competition in 1938, introducing the idea that the contestants could be judged on more than beauty.

Slaughter did not stop there. At the time, theaters, swimming pools, state fairs, and amusement parks ran local pageants. She persuaded local Junior Chambers of Commerce (Jaycees) to become sponsors, allowing parents to feel their daughters were in safe hands. Further still, Slaughter persuaded socialites from Atlantic City’s upper strata to act as hostesses and chaperones for the young women when they were in Atlantic City. A pageant judge once asked Slaughter what to look for in a winner. « Honey, » she said, « just pick me a lady. »

Slaughter’s most significant legacy is the Miss America scholarship program. « I knew that the shine of a girl’s hair wasn’t going to make her a success in life, » she wrote in her autobiography. Prizes before Slaughter consisted of such things as a fur coat, a Hollywood contract, or the chance to earn money modeling. In offering opportunities for advancement through education, Slaughter fashioned a pageant that appealed to middle-class sensibilities. Slaughter sat down and personally wrote about three hundred letters to businesses asking for college scholarship money that could be offered as the prize for the Miss America title. She initially raised $5000, and in 1945 the Miss America Pageant became one of the first organizations in the country to offer college scholarships to women. Lenora Slaughter died in December 2000 at the age of 94. By the time of her death, the Miss America Organization was the single largest contributor of scholarships to women in the United States.

Breaking the Color Line at the Pageant

The first African Americans to appear in the Miss America Pageant came onstage as ‘slaves’ for a musical number in 1923. It was not until 1970 that a black woman, Iowa’s Cheryl Brown, won a state title and made it to Atlantic City as a contestant. Lencola Sullivan, Miss Arkansas 1980, was the first African American to make it to the top five. In 1984 Vanessa Williams became the first black Miss America, beginning the year as one of the best Miss Americas ever, in the eyes of many pageant insiders, but ending her reign mid-year amidst scandal.

The pageant’s long history of excluding women of color dates from its beginnings. At some point in the 1930s, it was formalized in the notorious rule number seven of the Miss America rule book. Instituted under the directorship of Lenora Slaughter, rule number seven stated that « contestants must be of good health and of the white race. » As late as 1940, all contestants were required to list, on their formal biological data sheet, how far back they could trace their ancestry. In the pageant’s continual crusade for respectability, ancestral connections to the Revolutionary War or perhaps the Mayflower would have been seen as a plus.

Bess Myerson, Miss America 1945 and daughter of Russian-Jewish parents, while technically eligible to compete under rule seven, sensed the far-reaching bigotry behind it. She had, after all, been pressured (unsuccessfully) to change her name to a less Jewish-sounding name. Myerson was the first Jewish Miss America — and the only one ever to be crowned, as of 2001. Myerson later recalled her discussion with Slaughter:

« I said… the problem is that I’m Jewish, yes? And with that kind of name it’ll be quite obvious to everyone else that I’m Jewish. And you don’t want to have to deal with a Jewish Miss America. And that really was the bottom line. I said I can’t change my name. You have to understand. I cannot change my name. I live in a building with two hundred and fifty Jewish families. The Sholom Aleichem apartment houses. If I should win, I want everybody to know that I’m the daughter of Louie and Bella Myerson. »

In addition to Myerson, others had pushed the boundaries of the pageant’s unwritten and written rules for inclusion. In 1941 a Native American, Mifauny Shunatona, represented Oklahoma at the pageant, though there would not be another Native American contestant for 30 years. Irma Nydia Vasquez from Puerto Rico, and Yun Tau Zane from Hawaii, the first Asian contestant, both broke the color bar in 1948.

Asian American comedian Margaret Cho recalls watching the pageant: « My father was very into it. And then, at one point when I was a little girl, I said oh I want to be one of those contestants. I want to grow up and do that, and he said no, oh no, you cannot do that, no. …and I took it to mean that the beauty pageant was not open to all women. I mean my father thought that this whole pageant was fascinating and we would pick out the winners, but I was not allowed to even entertain the fantasy of becoming one of these women. And I thought well maybe I’m just not pretty enough. Maybe I’m just not white. »

By the 1960s there still had not been a black contestant. Following the advances of the civil rights movement, black Americans set up their own contest in 1968. Black communities had sponsored segregated black beauty contests for years, dating farther back than the Miss America contest. However, the 1968 Miss Black America Contest, held in Atlantic City on the same day as the Miss America Pageant, was organized as a direct protest of the pageant. On that same day, feminists staged a boardwalk demonstration protesting the pageant. The 1968 Miss America Pageant was confronted with its shortcomings on several fronts.

It was not until 1984 that Vanessa Williams of New York was crowned as the first black Miss America. Many likened her accomplishment to that of Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in baseball. Controversy followed Williams as, for the first time, Miss America recieved death threats and hate mail. By all accounts, Williams was doing an excellent job of representing the pageant at her public appearances. But halfway into her year, the discovery of pornographic photos of her forced Williams to resign. She had been pressured into posing for the photographs that she had been told would never appear in print. In 1984 they came out in the most successful issue of Penthouse magazine ever printed, netting publisher Bob Guccione a windfall profit of $14 million.

When Williams resigned, the media and the American public could talk of little else. Williams’ situation seemed to be about more than a single young woman’s error in judgment. Many people, both inside the black community and outside it, saw racial politics at the heart of the scandal, and debated how Williams’ race might have affected events. No matter how people viewed the scandal, Williams often was cast as representing not only herself, but also her race.

Vanessa Williams persevered, and went on to have a major recording career. Her runner-up, an African American woman from New Jersey named Suzette Charles, took over as the 1984 Miss America. Since then, there have been other black Miss Americas, as well as the first Asian Miss America, Angela Baraquio, Miss Hawaii of 2000. Today, the Miss America Pageant has made diversity part of its official mission.

Still, it is a particular kind of diversity. For recent historians and commentators, the question that is becoming most significant is how « diverse » a contestant can be. Is the pageant truly diverse, or is it peddling an outdated image of America as a homogenized melting pot? Do women of color need to fit the idealized white version of femininity that is the legacy of the pageant? Can more ethnic and racially diverse features be represented at the pageant? And can modern beauty even be reduced to a single, representative face? These questions are likely to be raised by the pageant for years to come.

History follows former Miss Iowa First black pageant winner recalls her crowning moment

Shirley Davis

Quad-City Times

October 19, 2000

Cheryl Brown Hollingsworth, now of Lithonia, Ga., is married and the mother of two married children. She hopes to be in Davenport for tonight’s pageant.

Thirty years ago a pretty and talented ballet dancer from Iowa set the international press spinning when she became the first-ever African-American contestant in the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J.

The fact that she came from a conservative Midwestern state like Iowa was doubly astounding to those who were reporting on the pageant, and she drew attention not only from newspaper and magazine writers around the world but from the security forces in Atlantic City, who were quite visible during rehearsals in Convention Hall.

Today, Cheryl Brown Hollingsworth of Lithonia, Ga., who was Miss Iowa of 1970, says, “Iowans were very accepting of me, but I think it took the country by surprise to realize that it was a young woman from Iowa who became the first African-American contestant.

“I don’t feel I personally changed the pageant,” Brown said in a phone interview from her home this week, “ but I feel that my presence expanded people’s minds and their acceptance. And, in subsequent years, they were much more open to African-American candidates.” She says, “I didn’t feel hounded by the press, but it was obvious that security was tight —especially at Convention Hall rehearsals when our chaperones weren’t always present.

“There were women’s lib protesters on the Boardwalk, and no one knew whether there would be more protesters because of the African-American connection.” The reigning Miss Iowa, Jennifer Caudle of Davenport, who will give up her crown tonight, is only the second African-American contestant from Iowa in the past 30 years.

Brown, who has been working in banking industry for 26 years, manages a financial center for First Union National Bank in Atlanta, Ga. Her husband Karl, formerly of Moline, is regional human resources manager for the Federal Express. Her mother-in-law, Mildred Taylor, still lives in Moline.

The couple has been married 28 years. Their daughter Etienne Thomas of Durham, N.C., finished law school in December and was married in January. Son Joshua also is married and is an Army paratrooper at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Brown was to have judged this week’s state pageant in Davenport, but a conflict with her job made that impossible at the last minute. At this writing, she planned to arrive in Davenport by Friday evening, operating on a very tight schedule. “I’ll be pushing it,” she said, “but I hope to make it.” She’d also hoped to be here for the 50th anniversary pageant two years ago, but had to cancel because of another conflict. “This would have been only the third pageant I’d have judged,” she said. She was an Iowa judge in the early ’80s.

Brown came to Davenport in 1970 as a student from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. As Miss Decorah, she won a college scholarship —then more scholarships from the state and national pageants, with an extra scholarship for being a non-finalist talent winner in Atlantic City.

These helped with her education at Luther College, where she met her husband.

Although she didn’t place in the coveted “top 10” in Atlantic City, Brown’s talent brought her back to the Miss America Pageant the following year. “I was one of the Miss America contestants chosen to go on a USO tour to Vietnam, and we were all invited back to the pageant.

“I think it was one of the last Miss America groups to go to Vietnam,” Brown said.

Because she was a New Yorker, Brown stayed in the Bettendorf home of Marge and Walter Steffens during her reign, because her title required her to maintain a Quad-City residence. The Steffens’ daughter Barbara was a friend of Brown’s. She remembers the fun she had shopping for her Atlantic City wardrobe —all at the expense of the pageant board.

Brown now keeps up with Miss Iowa news through a pageant newspaper.

She had hoped to come back for the 50th anniversary of the Miss Iowa Pageant in 1998, but another conflict prevented that.

“My daughter isn’t interested in pageants and is not a dancer,” Brown said. Brown’s father, who had been employed at a New York City airport, died three years ago, and recently her mother moved to Atlanta to be near her.

Fighting Racism, One Swimsuit at a Time

Belva Davis

February 10, 2011

As we celebrate Black History Month and honor progress against racial and gender bias, it’s good to acknowledge some of the roadblocks that had to be overcome, especially for African American women.

In the 1960s, nobody had to tell me that a dark-skinned girl was ineligible to be Miss America; everybody knew the crown was reserved for white girls only. The rare occasions when the pageant included African Americans had been demeaning, such as the 1923 competition in which blacks played the roles of slaves during a Court of Neptune musical extravaganza. By the 1930s, the exclusion was made explicit with Pageant Rule #7, which required that Miss America contestants “be of good health and of the white race.”

By the 1940s, contestants were required to complete a biological data sheet tracing their ancestry as far back as possible —preferably to the Mayflower.

Not until 1970 would a U.S. state be so rebellious as to send a black contestant to the Miss America Pageant, and ironically it would be one of the whitest states in the nation: Iowa. The first black woman to win the Miss America crown was Vanessa Williams in 1983, a surprising triumph at a time when the prototypical “beautiful woman” in the mainstream culture of the day had a slim build, blonde hair and blue eyes.

Internalizing this racism, many black females put themselves through a torturous process trying to appear “less black” —straightening the kinks out of their hair, bleaching their skin, minimizing their curvaceous bodies and even occasionally clamping their wider noses with clothespins in a preposterous attempt to narrow them. They weren’t unaware of the consequences of skin color: Social science research would later establish that lighter-toned African Americans had better employment prospects than their darker counterparts.

But I had no doubt that attractive girls and women came in all colors, from pale porcelain to glorious ebony, as history has taught us. And if the Miss America pageant was too stubbornly prejudiced to see that, I decided, we should simply initiate a contest all our own. Maxine Craig, associate professor of women and gender studies at the University of California, Davis, took note of it in her scholarly paper ”Walking like a Queen: Learning to be Miss Bronze:”

On June 9, 1961 an Oakland, California black newspaper announced the beginning of the ‘first major beauty contest for Negro girls held in Northern California.’ Belva Davis, an energetic free-lance journalist, recruited contestants, trained them, found sponsors, a band and a banquet hall, sold tickets, arranged for press coverage and thus created the first northern California ‘Miss Bronze’ contest.

The pageant was open to unmarried African American women 17 to 25 years old, from the Oregon border all the way south to Fresno. I recruited contestants in the Bay Area via my newspaper column, my radio show and even church appearances. Eventually Sacramento, Merced and Fresno staged their own local pageants, with their winners advancing to the Miss Bronze Northern California finals. The winner and first runner-up, as well as the talent-competition winners, were awarded free trips to Los Angeles to compete in the Miss Bronze California Pageant finals.

I did everything I could to make the competition affordable to all young women. Entrance was free, as were the required charm school classes. We secured donated swimsuits for the contestants — always modest one-pieces, to keep the churches happy —and provided stipends for their evening gowns.

Today, few would consider the creation of a beauty pageant as a serious way to fight injustice, but it proved to be an effective tool four decades ago. The Miss Bronze contest gave our young contestants the confidence and self-pride they needed to pursue the dreams they held of breaking through the crust of doubts about their own self-worth. Simple things such as good posture, a confident smile, the rewards of volunteering–all helped the contestants define and aspire to become their best selves. Participation in the Miss Bronze California pageant opened the door to talented women of that era, some who continue to enjoyed long careers in the entertainment industry–like Oscar nominee (for The Color Purple) Margaret Avery, and Marilyn McCoo and Florence LaRue of The Fifth Dimension.

The words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave me the comfort I needed to realize the value of what some saw as frivolous and demeaning to women. He said,

If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.

Those words hold true today. Find a place where you can work toward equality, forget the name and go to work.

Belva Davis’s new memoir is Never in My Wildest Dreams; see an excerpt from it in the latest issue of Ms. magazine.

Photo of Marilyn McCoo of The Fifth Dimension performing in 1970, from Wikimedia Commons. McCoo won the Miss Bronze California pageant in 1962.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Miss America Pageant

FOX News Magazine

September 13, 2013

The preliminary rounds for this year’s Miss America pageant are already under way in Atlantic City, with the final night of competition airing on ABC this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.

But before you settle down for an extravaganza of swimsuits, singing and sashaying, why not take a few minutes to learn a bit more about one of America’s favorite national pastimes? After all, there’s a whole lot more to Miss America than meets the eye (besides her hidden talent for playing the marimba).

Here’s a few of the most interesting stories, scandals and secrets surrounding the Miss America pageant.

* * * * *

#1. The Miss America pageant started as a ploy to keep tourists on the Atlantic City boardwalk after Labor Day. In 1920, a group of local businessmen organized an event called the Fall Frolic, which happened to feature a rolling chair parade of young ladies. At the following year’s Fall Frolic, the parade was reworked as the Inter-City Beauty contest, and entrants were chosen through newspaper-sponsored photo contests. Sixteen-year-old Margaret Gorman won the title of « The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America » and took home the Golden Mermaid trophy. She returned to defend her title in 1922, where she was informally dubbed « Miss America. »

#2. After Yolande Betbeze won the title of Miss America for 1951, she flat-out refused to wear or promote Catalina swimwear, one of the pageant’s sponsors. (Betbeze told the company she was a singer, « not a pin-up. ») Because of this, Catalina cut ties with Miss America and created their own beauty competition in 1952: the Miss USA pageant.

#3. To compete for the Miss America crown, a contestant can’t be married — but she can certainly be divorced. A rule change in 1999, which was applied to the 2000 pageant and onward, states that the contestants only need to swear that they’re unmarried, not pregnant, and not the adoptive or biological parent of a child (rather than the previous rule that required a Miss America contestant to swear that she had never been married or pregnant).

#4. California, Oklahoma and Ohio boast the most Miss America wins with six each. Nineteen states and two U.S. territories share the distinction of earning zero Miss America titles.

#5. In 2012, the widow of the songwriter who penned the familiar Miss America tune (« There she is, Miss America … « ) filed a lawsuit against the pageant. Phyllis Wayne felt that the song — written by her late husband Bernie Wayne — had been improperly licensed at the 2011 and 2012 ceremonies. A confidential settlement was reached in late 2012, but the song wasn’t heard at the 2013 pageant, and it won’t be heard at the 2014 pageant, either.

#6. Historically, there has always been a set of qualifying criteria that must be met in order to enter the Miss America pageant, but none was as controversial as rule #7. This rule, which was in place until 1940, stated that « contestants must be of good health and of the white race. » To satisfy this requirement, Miss America hopefuls were required to trace their ancestry back through as many generations as they could.

#7. The first and only Jewish Miss America, Bess Myerson, was crowned in 1945. She was pressured to change her name to « Beth Merrick » for the pageant, but the Bronx native told her pageant director that she wouldn’t do it. « I said … the problem is that I’m Jewish, yes? And with that kind of name it’ll be quite obvious to everyone else that I’m Jewish. And you don’t want to have to deal with a Jewish Miss America, » Myerson recounted. « And that really was the bottom line. I said I can’t change my name. You have to understand. I cannot change my name. I live in a building with two hundred and fifty Jewish families. The Sholom Aleichem apartment houses. If I should win, I want everybody to know that I’m the daughter of Louie and Bella Myerson. »

#8. Television and radio announcer Bert Parks has hosted more Miss America pageants than anyone else, having emceed the event every year between 1955 and 1979. When he was fired at the age of 65 (organizers were trying to revamp the show for a younger audience), Johnny Carson staged a « We Want Bert » campaign to get him reinstated. It didn’t work, but Parks was eventually invited back to appear as a guest for the pageant’s 70th anniversary in 1990.

#9. Prior to becoming an Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning actress, Cloris Leachman competed in the 1946 Miss America pageant as Miss Chicago. (In the pageant’s earlier years, delegates representing larger metropolitan areas such as New York City and Chicago were allowed to enter alongside delegates from New York State and Illinois. After complaints, the pageant did away with these positions — as well as the position of Miss Washington D.C., albeit temporarily.)

#10. The morning after winning the title of Miss America at the 1937 pageant, Bette Cooper decided she didn’t want to commit to the role and ran off with a man (by motorboat, some say). She opted to return to school instead of fulfilling her Miss America duties, and no other contestant was awarded the title in her stead.

Regina

Vintage Powder Room

a window into the past

1 Jul, 2012

All hail the Queen! The Regina hair net envelope suggests that any wearer of the net inside will become a queen. Well, a hair net is much easier to wear out in public than a jeweled crown is — unless you’re Miss America.

The Miss America Pageant was conceived in Atlantic City. The Businessmen’s League of Atlantic City devised a plan that would keep profits flowing into the city past Labor Day, which was when tourists traditionally left for home.

The kick-off event was held on September 25, 1920, and was called the Fall Frolic. Who could resist an event in which three hundred and fifty men pushed gaily decorated rolling wicker chairs along a parade route? The main attractions were the young maidens who occupied the chairs. The head maiden was Miss Ernestine Cremona who, dressed in a flowing white robe, was meant to represent peace.

The Atlantic businessmen had scored a major success with the Frolic. They immediately realized the powerful appeal of a group of attractive young women dressed in bathing suits, and so a committee was formed to organize a bather’s revue for the next year’s event.

The bather’s revue committee contacted newspapers in cities as far west as Pittsburgh and as far south as Washington, D.C. asking them to sponsor local beauty contests. The winners of the local contests would participate in the Atlantic City beauty contest.

Atlantic City newspaperman Herb Test reported that the winner of the city’s pageant would be called Miss America.

The 1921 Fall Frolic was five days of, well, frolicking. There were tennis tournaments, parades, concerts, a fancy dress ball and SEVEN different bathing divisions! If you were in Atlantic City during those five days and not dressed in a bathing suit you would have been out of place. Children, men, even fire and police personnel, all were in bathing suits. There was a category created specifically for professional women, and by professional the pageant’s organizers didn’t mean corporate women, secretaries or hookers, they meant stage and screen actresses.

Margaret Gorman

The first Miss America was chosen by a combination of the crowd’s applause and points given to her by a panel of artists who served as judges. Sixteen-year-old Margaret Gorman (30-25-32), who bore a strong resemblance to screen star Mary Pickford, was proclaimed the winner. Gorman was crowned, wrapped in an American flag, and presented with the Golden Mermaid trophy and $100.

Atlantic City expanded the frolic during the 1920s and the number of contestants grew to 83 young women from 36 states. The event drew protestors who thought that the girls were immoral — why else would they be willing to parade around in bathing suits in public? The organizers countered the protests by publicizing that the contestants were wholesome, sweet young things who neither wore make-up, nor bobbed their hair.

Louise Brooks, bobbed haired beauty.

With the runaway success of the Atlantic City pageant, other groups saw an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon by promoting their own ideals of beauty. The 1920s saw pageants for a Miss Bronze America, and even the Ku Klux Klan staged a pageant for Miss 100 Percent America! It’s difficult for me to visualize a woman wearing a bathing suit and one of those dopey conical hats.

For the next several years the Atlantic City pageant continued to thrive and to change. One of the changes was in scoring. How does a panel of judges determine a beauty contest winner? By the mid-1920s a points system was established: five points for the construction of the head, three points for the torso, two points for the leg…I’m wondering just how many points a perky rounded posterior was worth.

Norma Smallwood

In 1926, Norma Smallwood, a small-town girl from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was crowned Miss America. She parlayed her reign into big bucks. She reportedly made over $100k — more than either Babe Ruth or President Calvin Coolidge!

Smallwood appears to have been the first Miss America who realized that her crown was a business opportunity. When she was asked to return to Atlantic City in 1927 to crown her successor, she demanded to be paid. When the pageant reps didn’t come forward with a check, Norma bid them adieu and headed for a gig in North Carolina.

By 1928 women’s clubs, religious organizations and other conservative Americans went on the attack and accused the organizers of the Miss America Pageant of corrupting the nation’s morals. One protester said, “Before the competition, the contestants were splendid examples of innocence and pure womanhood. Afterward their heads were filled with vicious ideas.”

Still from OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS (1928)

The controversy over the beauty contest scared the Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce so badly that, in 1928, they voted twenty-seven to three to cancel the event!

The stock market crash and resulting economic depression made the Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce rethink the event, and it was revived 1933.

In 1933, thirty young women were brought to Atlantic City aboard a chartered train called the Beauty Special.

The Atlantic City Press newspaper reported:

“Queens of pulchritude, representing 29 states, the District of Columbia and New York City, will arrive here today to compete for the crown of Miss America 1933.

The American Beauty Special train will arrive at the Pennsylvania-Reading Railroad Station at South Carolina Avenue at 1:20 p.m. to mark the opening of the eighth edition of the revived Atlantic City Pageant. The five-day program will be climaxed Saturday night with the coronation ceremonies in the Auditorium.

A collection of blondes, brunettes and red heads, will assemble in Broad Street Station, Philadelphia, this morning, and the beauty special will leave at 11:55 a.m.”

It is surprising that more women didn’t participate in the 1933 Miss America pageant. In the midst of the Great Depression the contest prizes sounded fabulous, “Wealth and many honors await the Miss America this year. She will receive many valuable prizes and a cash award as well. In addition, she will have opportunities to pursue a theatrical career.”

Some of the contestants may have believed the stories related in rags-to-Broadway-riches films like GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933. The opportunity for a girl to win a part in a film or on Broadway would have been a potent lure for those who saw themselves as the next Joan Blondell or Ruby Keeler. I can imagine many of the Miss America hopefuls on the Beauty Train singing WE’RE IN THE MONEY.

The 1933 winner was Marian Bergeron, a talented girl from Westhaven, Connecticut. She was poised for a shot at stardom until the newspapers reported her age; she was only fifteen. Her young age put a damper on an offer from RKO, but she was buoyed by a two year reign – no pageant was held in 1934.

Marian Bergeron

During the 1930s the Miss America pageant continued to be viewed by many as a circus of sin. In October 1935 a scandal rocked the contest.

Less than a month after seventeen-year-old Henrietta Leaver had been crowned Miss America, a nude statue of her was unveiled in her hometown of Pittsburgh.

Henrietta swore up and down that she had worn a bathing suit when she posed for the statue, and she also said that her grandmother had been with her each time she had posed. Nobody bought Henrietta’s story and the image of the Miss America pageant was further tarnished.

One of my favorite Miss America contestants of the 1930s was Rose Veronica Coyle (1936 winner). Rose was twenty-two when she won title of Miss America. Rose wore a short ballet shirt with a white jacket, brightened by huge red polka dots, and sang “I Can’t Escape from You”.

Rose Coyle, Truckin’

She then wowed the judges with her eight-minute long tap dance routine performed to TRUCKIN’. The audience loved her so much the judges allowed her an encore — the first in the pageant’s history.

The Miss America Pageant lost its venue after WWII broke out because it was needed by the military. Rose Coyle and her husband, Leonard Schlessinger (National General Manager of Warner Bros. Theaters) saved the day by relocating the Miss America Pageant to the Warner Theatre on the Boardwalk. It would be the pageant’s home until 1946.

Beauty Pageants, Miss America, Miss American Rose Day

A Return to True Beauty

In What Day is it?

October 20, 2009

In thousands of beauty pageants across America, she stands there, an aura around her as she tries with all of her might not to squint under the bright, hot kleig lights causing tiny beads of sweat to form on her forehead, as she focuses on holding that perfect vasoline-covered smile, praying not to trip on the dress while walking past the dimly-lit judges’ table in front of the stage….

Origin of Modern-Day Beauty Pageant

In 1921 the Businessman’s League of Atlantic City, a fun-loving group of guys to be sure, decided to hold what they called a ”Fall Frolic.” Sticking wheels on 350 colorful wicker chairs, the organizers decorated them and assembled together scores of attractive women to pose on the chairs, as men pushed them down the Boardwalk. The spectacle was such a success (go figure) that organizers decided to ask cities far and wide to run photo pageants in their newspapers, perform state-wide runoffs, and send all the winners to Atlantic City the following year as state representatives. A local newspaperman, Herb Test, spoke up and stated that the ultimate winner should be crowned “Miss America.” Although only a handful of states sent women the next year, an empire was born, changing how beauty was perceived for decades to come.

Rubber-stamping Beauty

The nationalizing and glamorizing of beauty pageants significantly helped to standardize what it means to be “beautiful” in America. Oh, I’m not trying to villify the Billion-Dollar pageant industry…. They were only building on the commercial success that came with parading a steady stream of female cinema bombshells in Hollywood. It’s no coincidence that the first winner of the Miss America Pageant was 16-year-old Margaret Gorman, noted to have been popular because she looked like then-famous movie starlet Mary Pickford.

Little girls in small towns scattered across America read about the annual winners, pouring over photographs of the contest in their local papers. Quite a bit more than a handful of young women began that dream of competing someday in what has become over 1,200 local and state-level pageants leading to the now televised national pageants, hoping to be picked (by the new pageant ”experts,” tape measure in hand) as perfect.

Eating Disorders : The 800 lb. Gorilla in the Room

A Johns Hopkins University study showed that the average contestant on Miss America is 5’7″ talls, weighs in at a feathery-light 120 lbs., and has a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18.5, placing her squarely in the undernourished category for her height. This is to be compared to the average American woman, with a height of 5’4″, weighing 142 lbs., with a BMI of 24.4. In other words, to be considered as the next nationally televised representative of American beauty, a young women has to put serious consideration in joining the population of those residing deeply in the territory bordering an eating disorder.

My three young girls see the woman who is pressed forward by the crowd, to cut the ribbon on the new mall’s ground-breaking with impossibly large scissors. They see the happy young girl waving from the car passing by on the parade, the one in the beautiful white formal. My girls are health, having been known to turn down seconds at the dinner table many a time. Despite these continual exercises in self-control, they don’t see the same figure in the mirror as those that represent our shared ideals of shapeliness. How easy it must be for them to equate success in life with that waif-like figure paraded in front of them in magazines and on television, in music videos and commercials. I work hard to make sure they understand the difference between perception and reality…

It is estimated by the National Institute of Mental Health that between 5-10% of all women in America suffer from eating disorders, and up to 15% have had issues with them in their lives. Women have begun to fight back at this impossible body image, demanding a more realistic view of what is considered beautiful by the media, often lashing out at the beauty pageants, television conglomerates, and fashion industry.

From Skinny to “Fit”

She looks fat?

She looks fat?

Beauty pageant marketers have heard the complaints, simply moving their message from thin to the more popular image of “fit,” adding the word “fitness” to describe swimsuit competitions, as though to wear a skinny slip of fabric is akin to a sporting activity. My Dad used to watch pretty much any sport that was on television, including of all things Bass Fishing. If they had grass growing competitions, I am sure he would have owned a hat with Kentucky Blue Grass emblazoned on it. To my surprise, he also loved to watch Women’s Baskeball. I’m not always sure it was for the right reasons… The players looked pretty fit to me. The average female Olympic women’s basketball player (a Hell of a lot taller, fitter and thinner than the average woman) coincidentally has a BMI averaging 24.4, same as your typical, much shorter red-blooded and totally hot American female.

There is nothing fit in the rapid (and dangerous) weight-loss regimen that one not-long-ago Miss America winner underwent, going from a size 7 to a size 2 in just four months in preparation for the competition. I seriously doubt she played basketball to get in that condition. Our girls cannot (and should not) try to keep up with this dangerous example of American “fitness.” They don’t wind up on stages with tiaras after that type of behavior. They wind up in hospitals.

The Addition of “Good Causes”

National and International Beauty Pageants have further pushed away the issue of eating disorders by brandishing before them (and perhaps hiding behind) a variety of wonderful causes they support financially, including AIDS Education, Women’s Rights, School Violence and Breast Cancer Awareness. They are certainly incredible, worthy causes. I believe in and support them all, in case an apologetic wants to bash me over the head with one. But the pageants continue to fail to take on the 800 lb. gorilla in the room head-on, undertaking the loosening of what body style has to be met to compete and win. What better way to create a more healthy, positive body image for our daughters, one that empowers them to stop looking in the mirror so much and begin looking more seriously at their educations, than to change what they physically see in beauty pageant winners? In that girl who cuts the ribbon or waves in the parade?

Even Barbie is No Longer Skinny Enough…

Cankles? Really?

Cankles? Really?

French Shoe Designer Christian LouBoutin recently complained that he felt that Barbie, the perennial American doll that pretty much everybody acknowledges has impossible proportions, has cankles. Yes, fat ankles. He wants the doll redesigned to have skinnier ankles. Thanks, jerk.

Ralph Lauren model Filippa Hamilton (size 4) sparked controversy in the news recently, stating she was let go for being too fat to fit in the clothing provided to her for photograph sessions. In support of these statements, fashion shots of the 5’10″ 120 lb. model were produced to the media, doctored in order make her hips appear even skinnier than her head, because a size 4 was not small enough to produce the desirable eye-candy on a sailboat look…

The Power of Beauty

There is no mistaking the power of attractiveness. Have we been trained to believe that beautiful people somehow possess greater faculties of the mind, or a deeper reservoir of essential, earthy goodness? Researchers have shown that when handing in homework of equal merit, more attractive students get higher grades on average by their googly-eyed teachers. More attractive criminals tend to get lighter sentences from their jurors. Less attractive people earn less than average-looking people, who make less than more attractive workers holding similar positions.

Where Does It Stop? Who Will Take a Stand?

Thank you Miss American Rose!

Thank you Miss American Rose!

The Miss American Rose Pageant is very unlike other pageants. Competitors of all ages are not invited to attend at a particular location, instead mailing in their applications to pageant headquarters. That’s right, mail-in. There are no travel expenses, no clothing and hairstyle costs, no hotel rooms and trainers, no poise school and singing lessons, no tape under the boobs, no wardrobe malfunctions, no stupid answers to canned questions. And definitely no itching powder in a competitor’s swimsuit.

The competition is based largely on a girl (or woman’s) lifetime achievements, rather than being almost wholely focused on one’s appearance and poise. There are optional competitions based on academics, talent, community service, career, and finally beauty. But before you roll your eyes, the beauty portion of the pageant is based on either photograph or written essay, as outer and inner beauty are each being considered as having their merit..

I have to stand and applaud the Miss American Rose Pagaent. They have shirked the standardized beauty specifications, put down the tape measures and scales, and allowed the definition of what is beautiful to return to the eye of the beholder. They have drawn forth and celebrated the inner beauty in each and every girl and woman, empowering and pushing them to be leaders, teachers, and examples for all of us.

From the bottom of my heart I thank you, Miss American Rose Pageant. My daughters and I love you.

Timeline: Miss America

1845

Women’s History entry

Newspaperman Horace Greeley publishes a landmark book by journalist and social reformer Margaret Fuller, Woman in the Nineteenth Century. The work argues for women’s equality in all aspects of life.

1848

Women’s History entry

Leading women in early feminist movement American women move further into the public sphere; the first Women’s Rights Convention is held at Seneca Falls, New York.

1849

Women’s History entry

Amelia Bloomer begins her crusade to reform American women’s fashions.

1854

Miss America entry

P.T. Barnum’s efforts to launch a live beauty contest are unsuccessful. Respectable women do not parade their beauty in public. He launches a picture-based beauty contest sponsored by local newspapers. It is highly successful and imitated.

1861-64

Civil War soldier holding flag The nation is divided in two as North and South clash in the U.S. Civil War.

1863

January 1: President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation.

1880

Miss America entry

The first recorded bathing beauty contest takes place at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Inventor Thomas Edison is a judge. A bridal trousseau is the prize. Contestants must be under 25, not married, at least 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weigh no more than 130 pounds.

1889

Women’s History entry

November 18: Journalist Nellie Bly sets off to travel around the world in under 80 days.

1890

Women’s History entry

An umbrella organization, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, is formed. Women’s clubs are venues for women’s education and development, and will increasingly focus on community service.

In a second wave of U.S. immigration, people from Eastern Europe and Italy come to America.

1893

Miss America entry

The Chicago Columbian Exposition features a Congress of Beauty.

1895

Women’s History entry

The National Federation of Afro-American Women is formed. A year later it joins with the League of Colored Women to become the National Association of Colored Women.

1896

U.S. Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson rules that segregation is not unconstitutional. The doctrine treating African Americans as « separate but equal » holds for the next half century.

1898

Rough Riders, San Juan American soldiers fight the Spanish American War in Cuba and the Philippines.

1902

Women’s History entry

The National Women’s Trade Union League is formed.

Women’s History entry

November: McClure’s Magazine publishes the first installment of muckraker Ida Tarbell’s exposé, The History of the Standard Oil Company.

1907

Miss America entry

Swimmer Annette Kellerman is arrested for indecent exposure while trying to popularize a one-piece swimsuit worn with tights rather than bloomers.

1909

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded.

1914

World War I begins in Europe.

1915

D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation is the first full-length feature film in the new motion picture industry. It portrays the Ku Klux Klan as American heroes.

The new sound recording industry begins a phase of rapid growth.

1917-18

World War I poster The U.S. enters World War I. Of the 4.3 million American soldiers who fight, 126,000 are killed. The total number dead in the bloodiest war mankind has ever seen is 8.5 million, from over a dozen nations.

1919

Women’s History entry

Meter readers The First International Congress of Working Women meets in Washington, D.C.

The Red Summer: widespread anti-Communist sentiment, racial and labor unrest, and the aftermath of war combine and cause the nation to erupt in violence.

1920

prohibition January: The Eighteenth Amendment makes the sale, manufacture, and transportation of intoxicating liquors illegal.

Women’s History entry

August: The Nineteenth Amendment is ratified, giving women the right to vote. The National League of Women Voters is organized.

1921

Miss America entry

Margaret Gorman with other contestants September 7: The first Miss America Pageant, called the « Inter-City Beauty Pageant, » takes place in Atlantic City as a part of a Fall Frolic to attract tourists. There are seven contestants. Sixteen-year-old Margaret Gorman from Washington, D.C., wins the title, Miss America.

1923

Miss America entry

September: The Inter-City Beauty Contest grows in popularity, attracting over 70 contestants. After pageant officials forget to include a « no marriage » rule, it is discovered that « Miss » Alaska, Helmar Leiderman, is not only married but is also a resident of New York.

Miss America entry

September: Mary Katherine Campbell becomes the only woman to win the Miss America title two years in a row. Pageant officials subsequently establish a rule that a woman cannot hold the title more than once.

1924

The Immigration Act establishes a national quota system for limiting immigration.

1926

Miss America entry

Norma Smallwood, Miss America 1926, makes $100,000 in appearance fees, an income higher than either Babe Ruth or the president of the United States.

1927

September: Baseball star Babe Ruth hits record-breaking home run number 60. All the people in attendance wave handkerchiefs in his honor. The record will stand for over 3 decades.

1929

Miss America entry

Religious groups and women’s clubs protest the loose morals of young women in the pageant. Bad press plus financial trouble shut the pageant down between 1929 and 1932.

Unemployment lines October 24: The stock market crashes. The Great Depression begins.

1931

March 25: Nine black youths are accused of the rape of two white women in Paint Rock, Alabama. The Scottsboro boys’ case becomes one of the most significant legal fights of the twentieth century.

1932

Women’s History entry

Female nurse May 20: Amelia Earhart is the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She becomes a Depression-era hero and advocate for women’s equality, saying, « A pilot’s a pilot. I hope that such equality could be carried out in other fields so that men and women may achieve equally in any endeavor… »

Miss America entry

September: Atlantic City sponsors revive the Miss America Pageant. Fifteen-year-old Marian Bergeron is Miss America 1933. Age requirements are instituted afterwards requiring contestants to be between 18 and 26.

1930s

Miss America entry

Sometime in the 1930s a pageant rule is established requiring contestants to be of the white race.

Women’s History entry

Union membership among women in the U.S. increases threefold, to almost 20% of the female workforce.

1933

Franklin Roosevelt President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is inaugurated.

1935

Miss America entry

– Pageant officials hope to re-invent the pageant. They hire Lenora Slaughter to do the job for six weeks. She will stay for 32 years, serving as the pageant’s director.

1937

Miss America entry

Winner Bette Cooper changes her mind about being Miss America, and flees Atlantic City.

1937

Farmer Dust Bowl farmers in the Great Plains suffer the effects of severe dust storms as well as economic hard times.

1938

Miss America entry

A « society matron » chaperone system is enacted, to keep pageant contestants away from scandal.

Miss America entry

A talent competition is added as part of the scoring process.

Miss America entry

Contestants are no longer allowed to represent cities, resorts, or theaters. Instead, they are required to represent states.

1939

April: RCA’s National Broadcasting Company (NBC) broadcasts the opening of the New York World’s Fair. One of the first television sets is displayed at the Fair.

September 1: Germany invades Poland. World War II begins.

1940

Miss America entry

September: The pageant is officially dubbed the Miss America Pageant and moves into Atlantic City’s Convention Hall.

1941

Pearl Harbor December 7: The Japanese bomb a U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. A day later, President Roosevelt declares war on Japan and the U.S. enters World War II.

1941-1945

Women’s History entry

Women working for war effort Women’s employment rises dramatically as women take on new wartime jobs.

1942

Miss America entry

Miss America is transformed into an emblem of patriotism. Miss America 1942, Jean Bartel, turns down a lucrative movie offer to sell a record number of war bonds.

1942-1943

Women’s History entry

Women’s branches of armed forces are formed, including the Army WACS, the Navy WAVES, the Coast Guard SPARS, the Marines MCWR, and the Army Air Force’s WASPS. Women are six percent of the armed services.

1944

January 22: More than 17 months after news of Hitler’s plan to annihilate Europe’s Jews reaches the U.S., President Roosevelt issues an executive order to establish the War Refugee Board.

Miss America entry

Director Lenora Slaughter raises $5000 to launch the Miss America scholarship program. Previously Miss America is offered furs and movie contracts. Now she is offered funds for college. The original scholarship patrons are: Joseph Bancroft and Sons, Catalina Swimwear, F.W. Fitch Company, and the Sandy Valley Grocery Company. She also enlists Junior Chambers of Commerce across the country to sponsor local and state contests.

Miss America entry

September 8: Bess Myerson becomes Miss America 1945, the first Jewish Miss America and the first winner of the scholarship program. She plans to study conducting.

1945

Miss America entry

Bess Myerson receives few offers for appearances and product endorsement. America appears not to be ready for a Jewish Miss America. Myerson decides to spend her year speaking for the Jewish Anti-Defamation League on the topic, « You Can Not Be Beautiful and Hate. »

May 8: V-E Day. President Harry Truman announces the end of the war in Europe via radio.

September 2: V-J Day, when Japan formally surrenders, ends World War II.

1946

Miss America entry

Lenora Slaughter bans the phrase « bathing suit »– the garments are to be called « swimsuits. »

The Baby Boom begins. The birth rate will rise dramatically over the next decade.

1947

Miss America entry

Lee Meriwether September: For the last time, Miss America is crowned in a bathing suit. Afterwards, winners are crowned in evening gowns.

1948

Women’s History entry

June 12: President Harry Truman signs into law the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, enabling women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed services. The law limits the number of women that can serve in the military to two percent of the total forces in each branch.

1949

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is formed.

1950s

A « Cold War » develops between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

1950

Korean woman and child June: North Korea invades South Korea. President Truman commits U.S. troops.

Miss America entry

September: Yolande Betbeze sings an operatic aria and is crowned Miss America 1951. Catalina Swimwear withdraws sponsorship of the pageant after Betbeze refuses to appear in public in a swimsuit.

1952

Dwight Eisenhower is elected president.

Miss America entry

Catalina inaugurates the Miss Universe and Miss USA Pageants, two years after withdrawing support for the Miss America Pageant.

1953

June 2: Queen Elizabeth II is crowned in England.

Miss America entry

ABC approaches the pageant about televising the event. Fearful of losing the Atlantic City audience to TV, pageant officials say no. Movie star Eddie Fisher hosts the pageant.

September: Alfred Kinsey’s report, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, challenges many myths about sexual behavior in American society.

December: Playboy, a men’s magazine featuring photographs of nude women, publishes its inaugural issue, featuring Marilyn Monroe on the cover.

1954

May 17: The « separate but equal » doctrine established by Plessy v. Fergusson in 1892 is overruled in Brown v. Board of Education. The Supreme Court unanimously rules that segregation in schools is unconstitutional.

Miss America entry

Miss America on television Philco Television Sets purchases 1954 television broadcast rights to the pageant for $10,000 and contracts with ABC for the broadcast.

Miss America entry

September 11: Twenty-seven million people tune in to see Lee Ann Meriwether crowned Miss America. Grace Kelly is a judge and Bess Myerson reports from backstage. The scholarship award is $10,000.

1955

Miss America entry

Bert Parks Bert Parks is hired as the pageant’s emcee. He introduces a theme song, There She Is , written by Bernie Wayne.

1959

Miss America entry

Every state in the nation is at last represented at the pageant.

1960s

Women’s History entry

Women protesting in Washington Women are major participants in the civil rights and anti-war movements.

1961

Women’s History entry

The President’s Commission on the Status of Women is established, chaired by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The commission will take two years to publish its Peterson Report, documenting workplace discrimination against women and making recommendations for child care, maternity leave, and equal opportunity for working women.

1963

Women’s History entry

Betty Freidan publishes The Feminine Mystique, reflecting a groundswell of dissatisfaction with women’s social status, and it is a best seller. Gloria Steinem’s magazine article, « I Was a Playboy Bunny, » details the author’s undercover investigation of the New York Playboy Club.

Martin Luther King Jr. August 28: Martin Luther King leads a March on Washington to urge support for pending civil rights legislation. He delivers his famous « I have a dream » speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

November 22: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated.

1964

Women’s History entry

The 1964 Civil Rights Act includes a key provision for women. Title VII outlaws discrimination in public accommodations or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. At the last minute the word « sex » is added by a Southern congressman, thinking it will kill the entire bill. Instead, it passes.

The Immigration Act abolishes a quota system that had restricted immigration.

1965

President Johnson with American soldiers The first American troops arrive in Vietnam.

1966

Miss America entry

The Miss America Pageant is televised in color in its first year on NBC.

Women’s History entry

October: The National Organization for Women is formed.

1967

Women’s History entry

The women’s liberation movement begins to grow. In Berkeley, California, women gather to raise consciousness about feminist issues.

Miss America entry

Lenora Slaughter, the pageant’s director, retires.

1968

April 4: Martin Luther King is assassinated. Rioting occurs in 100 American cities.

June 6: Senator Robert Kennedy is assassinated.

August: Protesters disrupt the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Miss America entry

Miss Black America pagent September 7: Judi Ford is crowned Miss America 1969. Feminists get national media attention for their protest on the Atlantic City boardwalk, where they crown a sheep and throw products like lipstick and hair curlers into a « Freedom Trash Can. » The same day, the first Miss Black America Contest is held in Atlantic City in protest of the « white » Miss America Pageant.

Miss America entry

Pepsi Cola withdraws its 11-year sponsorship, claiming the pageant no longer represents the changing values of American society.

Women’s History entry

Shirley Chisholm is the first African American woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

1969

Miss America entry

Feminist protesters at Atlantic City Feminist protesters return to Atlantic City, claiming the pageant treats women as sex objects. Protesters will return every year well into the 1970s.

1970

May 4: National Guardsmen kill four students at anti-war demonstrations at Ohio’s Kent State University.

Miss America entry

Rules barring non-whites have finally changed. The first black contestant to make it to Atlantic City is Cheryl Brown, Miss Iowa.

Miss America entry

Pam Eldred, Miss America 1970, has to be evacuated to safety while entertaining soldiers in Vietnam.

1971

Women’s History entry

A prototype of Ms. Magazine is published.

1972

Women’s History entry

March 22: The Equal Rights Amendment passes Congress and is sent to the states for ratification. The amendment will be defeated, after a lengthy battle, in 1982.

Women’s History entry

Title IX of the Higher Education Act bans exclusion on the basis of sex from programs or activities in universities receiving federal financial assistance, marking a turning point for women’s access to athletics programs.

June 17: Five men are arrested for breaking into Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate apartment and office complex in Washington, D.C.

1973

Women’s History entry

January 22: In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court grants women the right to legal abortions.

March 29: The last American troops leave Vietnam.

Miss America entry

Becky King Rebecca King is chosen Miss America 1974. She is the first winner to use her scholarship award for professional education, studying to become a lawyer.

1974

Women’s History entry

Little League Baseball votes to allow girls on its teams.

President Richard Nixon August 9: President Nixon resigns.

1979

March 28: The nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania has a meltdown at its core, in America’s worst nuclear accident.

November 4: Militant Islamic students seize hostages at the American Embassy in Teheran, Iran. Fifty-two hostages will be detained for 444 days — over 14 months.

1980

Miss America entry

Miss Alabama, Lencola Sullivan, is the first African American to make the pageant’s top five finalists.

Women’s History entry

Only 27% of the nation’s households conform to traditional ideas of a family with a male breadwinner and female housewife. Two-income families or female-headed households are rapidly replacing the older pattern.

President Ronald Reagan Ronald Reagan is elected president.

1981

Miss America entry

Bert Parks is fired. He is considered too old, too corny, and too sexist for the times. Talk show host Johnny Carson initiates a protest that is unsuccessful. Ron Ely and then Gary Collins replace Parks.

Women’s History entry

September 25: Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the U.S. Supreme Court’s first female judge.

1983

Women’s History entry

Sally Ride June 18: The first woman astronaut, Sally K. Ride, travels into space aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Miss America entry

Vanessa Williams Vanessa Williams is crowned Miss America 1984 and is the first black woman to hold the title. Two months before the end of her reign, Penthouse magazine will publish nude photos of her taken when she was 17. Pageant officials will force her to resign.

1984

Women’s History entry

The Democratic Party nominates Geraldine Ferraro for the vice presidency, the first time a major party has nominated a woman.

1987

Miss America entry

Albert Marks retires as Chairman of the Board of the Miss America Organization after 27 years. The first paid CEO, Leonard Horn, is hired.

1988

Miss America entry

Miss America Kaye Lani Rae Rafko devotes her year to advocacy of care for the terminally ill, becoming the first winner to dedicate her reign to a social issue.

1989

Miss America entry

The social issue platform, where contestants commit to advocating for a cause if they become Miss America, becomes part of the pageant’s requirements.

1990

The Berlin Wall falls, marking the end of the Cold War.

1990-1991

President George Bush with leader of Kuwait Persian Gulf War. The U.S. leads a multi-national coalition against Iraq after that country invades Kuwait; Iraq surrenders.

1991

Women’s History entry

Anita Hill, a law professor, testifies before a U.S. Senate committee that the conservative Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas, engaged in sexual harassment. Issues of race and gender are debated across the country.

1992

Miss America entry

Kim Aiken, Miss America 1993, is the fifth African American Miss America. She uses her year to promote the cause of the homeless.

1994

Miss America entry

Alabama’s Heather Whitestone wins the swimsuit and talent competitions and is crowned Miss America 1995. She is deaf and becomes the first Miss America with a physical handicap.

1996

Miss America entry

Record low TV ratings prompt NBC to drop the Miss America Pageant after 30 years. ABC picks up broadcast rights.

1997

Miss America entry

The swimsuit competition is modified. Contestants can wear any style, including two piece and bikini.

1999

Miss America entry

The swimsuit rules are again modified, barring string bikinis and thong swimsuits.

2000

Miss America entry

In the year 2000, the first Asian American Miss America is crowned. Angela Perez Baraquio of Hawaii is Miss America 2001.

2001

September 11: Terrorists from the Middle East highjack four airplanes. Two crash into New York’s World Trade Center, destroying both towers and killing thousands. One crashes into the Pentagon, also causing extensive damage and loss of life. The fourth plane crashes in a field in Pennsylvania, killing all passengers.

The United States commits to a war on terrorism.

Miss America entry

September 26: Katie Harman, Miss America 2002, rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, along with several New York firefighters.

Voir enfin:

Indian Americans

Pew

June 19, 2012

History

The arrival of more than 6,000 Indians from Asia between 1904 and 1911, mainly to work as farmhands, marked the first major influx of this population into the United States. Indians from Asia in the U.S. were first classified in court decisions of 1910 and 1913 as Caucasians, and therefore could become citizens as well as intermarry with U.S.-born whites. However, the decisions were reversed by the Supreme Court in 1923, when Indians from Asia were legally classified as non-white and therefore ineligible for citizenship.

That court decision prevented Indian immigrants from naturalizing. New immigration from India already had been prohibited by a 1917 law.

The restrictions were lifted after passage of comprehensive immigration legislation in 1965. Since then, a large influx of highly educated professionals from India has immigrated to the U.S. for skilled employment. In 2010, an estimated 2.2 million adult Indian Americans lived in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Indians are the third-largest group among Asian Americans and represent about 17% of the U.S. adult Asian population.

Characteristics (2010 ACS)

Nativity and citizenship. Nearly nine-in-ten (87%) adult Indian Americans in the United States are foreign born, compared with about 74% of adult Asian Americans and 16% of the adult U.S. population overall. More than half of Indian-American adults are U.S. citizens (56%), lower than the share among overall adult Asian population (70%) as well as the national share (91%).

Language. More than three-quarters of Indian Americans (76%) speak English proficiently, (41) compared with 63% of all Asian Americans and 90% of the U.S. population overall.

Age. The median age of adult Indian Americans is 37, lower than for adult Asian Americans (41) and the national median (45).

Marital status. More than seven-in-ten (71%) adult Indian Americans are married, a share significantly higher than for all Asian Americans (59%) and for the nation (51%).

Fertility. The share of Indian-American women ages 18 to 44 who gave birth in the 12 months prior to the 2010 American Community Survey was 8.4%, higher than the comparable share for Asian-American women overall (6.8%) and the national share (7.1%). The share of these mothers who were unmarried was much lower among Indian Americans (2.3%) than among all Asian Americans (15%) and the population overall (37%).

Educational attainment. Among Indian Americans ages 25 and older, seven-in-ten (70%) have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree; this is higher than the Asian-American share (49%) and much higher than the national share (28%).

Income. Median annual personal earnings for Indian-American full-time, year-round workers are $65,000, significantly higher than for all Asian Americans ($48,000) as well as for all U.S. adults ($40,000). Among households, the median annual income for Indians is $88,000, much higher than for all Asians ($66,000) and all U.S. households ($49,800).

Homeownership. More than half of Indian Americans (57%) own a home, compared with 58% of Asian Americans overall and 65% of the U.S. population overall.

Poverty status. The share of adult Indian Americans who live in poverty is 9%, lower than the shares of all Asian Americans (12%) and of the U.S. population overall (13%).

Regional dispersion. Indian Americans are more evenly spread out than other Asian Americans. About 24% of adult Indian Americans live in the West, compared with 47% of Asian Americans and 23% of the U.S. population overall. More than three-in-ten (31%) Indian Americans live in the Northeast, 29% live in the South, and the rest (17%) live in the Midwest.

Attitudes

Here are a few key findings from the 2012 Asian-American survey about Indian Americans compared with other major U.S. Asian groups:

Indian Americans stand out from most other U.S. Asian groups in the personal importance they place on parenting; 78% of Indian Americans say being a good parent is one of the most important things to them personally.

Indian Americans are among the most likely to say that the strength of family ties is better in their country of origin (69%) than in the U.S. (8%).

Compared with other U.S. Asian groups, Indian Americans are the most likely to identify with the Democratic Party; 65% are Democrats or lean to the Democrats, 18% are Republican or lean to the Republicans. And 65% of Indian Americans approve of President Obama’s job performance, while 22% disapprove.


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