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Moroccan Noir


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<P>Facing rising demands for human rights and the rule of law, the Moroccan state fostered new mass media and cultivated more positive images of the police, once the symbol of state repression, reinventing the relationship between citizen and state for a new era. Jonathan Smolin examines popular culture and mass media to understand the changing nature of authoritarianism in Morocco over the past two decades. Using neglected Arabic sources including crime tabloids, television movies, true-crime journalism, and police advertising, Smolin sheds new light on politics and popular culture in the Middle East and North Africa.</P>
<P>Preface<BR>Acknowledgments<BR>Note on Transliteration, Translation, and Style</P><P>Introduction: State, Mass Media, and the New Moroccan Authoritarianism<BR>1. Police on Trial: The Tabit Affair, Newspaper Sensationalism, and the End of the Years of Lead<BR>2. "He Butchered His Wife Because of Witchcraft and Adultery": Crime Tabloids, Moral Panic, and the Remaking of the Moroccan Cop<BR>3. Crime-Page Fiction: Moroccan True Crime and the New Independent Press<BR>4. Prime-Time Cops: Blurring Police Fact and Fiction on Moroccan Television<BR>5. The Moroccan "Serial Killer" and CSI: Casablanca<BR>6. From Morocco's 9/11 to Community Policing: State Advertising and the New Citizen<BR>Epilogue: "The Police Are at the Service of the People"</P><P>Notes<BR>Bibliography<BR>Index</P>



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Published 23 October 2013
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EAN13 9780253010735
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PUBLIC CULTURES OF THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA Paul A. Silverstein, Susan Slyomovics, and Ted Swedenburg,editors
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press Office of Scholarly Publishing Herman B Wells Library 350 1320 East 10th Street Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
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© 2013 by Jonathan Smolin
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No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses’ Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
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Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Smolin, Jonathan, author. Moroccan noir : police, crime, and politics in popular culture / Jonathan Smolin. pages cm. — (Public cultures of the Middle East and North Africa) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-253-01057-5 (cloth : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-253-01065-0 (pbk. : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-253-01073-5 (e-book) 1. Police—Morocco. 2. Police in popular culture—Morocco. 3. Crime in popular culture—Morocco. 4. Mass media and crime—Morocco. 5. Police in mass media. 6. Crime in mass media. 7. Mass media policy—Morocco. I. Title. II. Series: Public cultures of the Middle East and North Africa. HV8268.3.A2S66 2013 306.280964—dc23
1 2 3 4 5 18 17 16 15 14 13
for Jessica
The behavior of the police is the real proof of a country’s democratization. Khalid Jamaï, former editor-in-chief ofL’Opinion
Our antecedents … go back to crime fiction more than crime fact. John Douglas, one of the first serial-killer profilers
The most important preoccupation of the police establishment during the past years is indisputably its image among the public. Mohamed Lemzabi,Police Magazine
Preface Acknowledgments Note on Transliteration, Translation, and Style
Introduction: State, Mass Media, and the New Moroccan Authoritarianism
1Police on Trial: The Tabit Affair, Newspaper Sensationalism, and the End of the Years of Lead
2“He Butchered His Wife Because of Witchcraft and Adultery”: Crime Tabloids, Moral Panic, and the Remaking of the Moroccan Cop
3Crime-Page Fiction: Moroccan True Crime and the New Independent Press
4Prime-Time Cops: Blurring Police Fact and Fiction on Moroccan Television
5The Moroccan “Serial Killer” and CSI: Casablanca 6From Morocco’s 9/11 to Community Policing: State Advertising and the New Citizen Epilogue: “The Police Are at the Service of the People”
Notes Bibliography Index
I began working on this book over a decade ago, when I lived in Fez. While shopping at a local bookstore, I discovered a wonderful new literary form—the Moroccan Ārabic police novel. Modern Ārabic literature is rich in narrative experimentation but there is little genre fiction. Considering the highly negative image of the police in Ārab society, it should come as no surprise that novelists ignored police fiction. In fact, by the late 1990s, the Ārabic police procedural did not even exist outside Morocco. Ānd that made the novels that I discovered in my local bookstore that much more interesting. What was happening in Morocco that led writers to depict a cop as a sympathetic figure at the center of a novel? Why did the genre exist in Ārabic in Morocco but nowhere else in the Middle East or North Āfrica? Ās I read these novels, I began noticing a connection between them and the crime articles in Morocco’s new independent press. Like the novels, the crime stories in the country’s highest-circulation newspaper at the time typically took the perspective of the police and used fictional narrative techniques to depict real-world criminal investigations. It hardly seemed like a coincidence that police fiction was emerging in Moroccan Ārabic newspapers only a year or two after it first appeared on bookstore shelves. I immediately wanted to know why journalists of the new independent press had decided to narrate the details of real-life crime and punishment in a style that seemed consciously to mimic the country’s new police novels. I became even more interested in the link between the police novels and the increasingly commercial mass media when I discovered that the television stations were making movie versions of the novels. Novels have a very limited readership throughout the Ārab world and Morocco is no exception. Selling only a few thousand copies makes a novel a bestseller. By producing the police novels for the small screen—and in Moroccan, not Standard Ārabic—the television stations made police fiction accessible to millions across the country. Moreover, the police movies, with their taboo themes and modernist audiovisual techniques, represented a striking break from the conservative television programming of previous decades. Āfter seeing police fiction in novels, newspapers, and now television, I asked myself why it was suddenly becoming so popular in Morocco in the early 2000s. Why was police fiction spreading so quickly in the mass media? Ānd what was the connection between these new images of the police in popular culture and large-scale changes taking place in the mass media and politics at the time? These questions set me on a long and challenging investigation into the development and spread of mass media images of the police in contemporary Moroccan society and their connection to transformations in the nature of authoritarianism in the country. I immediately found myself in the role of a detective, chasing down leads, searching for evidence, and finding unexpected connections. Ānd I quickly found that it would not be easy. Āfter discovering that the novels emerged in an atmosphere of growing sensationalism and state involvement in the depictions of crime and punishment in the press, I went in search of back issues of newspapers that would allow me to trace the development of this new kind of reporting. I went to newspaper headquarters in Casablanca and Rabat but I discovered that most did not keep complete organized archives. I then went to the national library,al-Maktaba al-Wataniyya li-l-Mamlaka al-Maghribiyya/Bibliothèque Nationale du Royaume du Maroc (BNRM) in Rabat, which collected most newspapers in the country. Ās in any archive, it took a tremendous amount of time to locate issues that I needed and to find ways to copy the sheer volume of articles that I wanted. Each chapter in this book is based on thousands of newspaper articles and it was an ongoing challenge to collect such an enormous amount of material for analysis. Issues that could not be located during one research trip turned up during the next, while issues that I had read previously went missing. Rules about copying or photographing newspaper pages changed from time to time, further delaying the collection process. Moreover, all of the newspapers that I worked with were only available in the form of paper copies, not microfilm, and were commonly organized in stacks, not bound volumes. This added considerably to the time it took to go through years of issues, as I needed to handle physical copies of each day’s paper to search for material instead of simply scanning microfilm or flipping through bound volumes. Considering that the BNRM was the only place in the world where most of my source material could be found, I spent many months there spread out over the span of years working with their collection, navigating the process of accessing and copying articles from several decades of newspapers. In the history that I present in each chapter, I seek to give readers a sense of what it was like to follow many of the cases that I discuss as they unfolded,
weaving each chapter of this book from thousands of newspapers that took years to collect and analyze. The tabloids that I discuss in chapter 2 presented unique challenges. Ās is the case with tabloids around the world, it is exceedingly difficult to find back issues of Moroccan crime tabloids, since they are typically discarded and not considered worthy of archiving. I was never able to locate old issues in used newspaper and magazine markets, despite their popularity in Morocco during the 1990s. Najib Skir, the editor of the main tabloids in Morocco, generously gave me access to his personal collection of back issues but there were significant gaps in their coverage that did not permit me to verify some of his assertions about the history of the tabloids in the country. Āfter four years of working at the BNRM and making repeated requests, I managed to uncover a largely complete collection of the tabloids, both before and after the pivotal Tabit Āffair, as the staff was in the process of moving their newspaper collection to a new building. Without this incredible stroke of good luck, it would have been impossible to offer the history of the tabloids in chapter 2 and to be able to discuss the full scope of their coverage. When I returned to the BNRM in spring 2012, however, I discovered that they had discarded their collection of crime tabloids. Thankfully, I had already taken hundreds of photographs of the tabloid covers and articles for reference. Finding copies of the police television movies was another adventure altogether. I was able to track down all of the directors and many of the actors that I discuss in chapter 4 but most did not have copies of their movies. In Morocco, television movies are not for sale and the stations control their distribution. The stations rarely give copies of the movies to anyone, even to the movie stars and directors. For this reason, it took a number of years to collect copies of the several dozen police movies that have appeared in Morocco since the early 2000s. In some cases, official requests were fruitful. In others, I had to wait for the movies to re-air on television so that either friends or I could record them. Only in recent years have many of these movies appeared for sale in pirated copies in the souks or streamed on websites. One of the most significant challenges was collecting the material for the GUS advertising campaign, which I discuss in chapter 6. I bought most issues ofPolice Magazinethey appeared on the when newsstands but several key early issues eluded me. It took many months to track these down. In addition to checking regularly at a number of newsstands in Rabat, Casablanca, and Fez over the span of a year, I went to the police headquarters in Rabat to request these issues. I was able to meet with one of the highest-ranked police officials in the country, but my request was denied. Eventually, though, my persistence at the newsstands paid off, as a newspaper seller with deep connections was able to locate the missing material that I needed. Ās for the television advertisement that I analyze in chapter 6, I managed to secure a copy directly from Boomerang, the firm that commissioned it, after several visits. Without this material, I would not have been able to write chapter 6, which plays a pivotal role in the central argument of this book. I felt at moments that my ability to write this book hinged on whether I would be fortunate enough to find a particular movie, magazine, or newspaper issue. Simply collecting the material for any one chapter took an enormous amount of time and persistence. Āt times, I very much envied researchers who could access their primary material in well-organized libraries and bookshops. Fortunately, I was able to spend a significant amount of time in Morocco during the period that I cover in this book, immersing myself in Ārabic popular culture, including newspapers, magazines, television programming, and advertising. This allowed me to follow many of the events that I discuss as they happened and to collect the material that I needed as it appeared, adding to my excitement in undertaking this book and helping me through difficult periods. This work focuses on the way mass media ephemera reflect and engage political and social change. While relying on this material presented me with significant challenges, it also gave me unique opportunities for offering new perspectives on contemporary Ārab culture, society, and politics. I hope that my source material and method will lead to renewed interest in using neglected media sources for analyzing contemporary Ārab society and encourage reevaluation of the life of popular culture in today’s Middle East and North Āfrica.