Who Is Tony Karon?

I’m a journalist from Cape Town, South Africa, resident in New York since 1993. I’m currently a senior editor at TIME.com (although I do this site on my own time, and am personally entirely responsible for its content, which in no way reflects the views or outlook of anyone else). I’ve worked there since 1997, covering the Middle East, the “war on terror” and international issues ranging from China’s emergence to the Balkans. I also do occasional op-eds for Haaretz and other publications, as well as bits of TV and radio punditry for CNN, MSNBC, and various NPR shows. I did an ever-so-brief stint at Fox News (measured in months, I swear!) and worked at George magazine in its startup year. Having majored in economic history, I cut my analytical teeth in South Africa in the struggle years, where I worked both as an editor in the “alternative” press and as an activist of the banned ANC. And in that context, my obsession with understanding global events took root, as a means of contextualizing the choices and obstacles we faced in the struggle against apartheid.

In 1990/1, I gave up my activist career almost as soon as Nelson Mandela was released, the ANC was unbanned and the regime conceded to a transition to democracy — once we’d achieved a “normality” to politics in South Africa, and it was not a profession that interested me. (If you’d been French under occupation, you might well have joined the resistance, but that didn’t mean you’d remain active in party politics after the Nazis were gone — that was how it was for many of my generation of South African activists.) I went to work in the mainstream media at the Cape Times and the Mail&Guardian Weekly, before leaving for New York in 1993 on what I imagined would be an extended holiday. A brief research gig at Time Out opened my eyes to the possibilities of working here — as well as hooking me up to the first connections of the sort of ever-expanding networks that make life in the city possible (and if this were an Oscar thank you speech, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a huge shout-out to Gerda Marie Kenyon, wherever you are now, who gave me that Time Out gig and started the snowball rolling). What followed was a mad array of freelance gigs ranging from the sublime (television work for Britain’s Channel 4 that involved escapades such as spending three days with the rapper Notorious B.I.G.) to the ridiculous — writing the script for a Geffen Records “rockumentary” on Manowar, an upstate New York heavy metal band, really big in Spain and Greece, whose brief spell in the Guinness Book of records as the world’s loudest band underscored their image of themselves as Norse warriors and Wagner’s true inheritors.

While I relished the professional holiday from the serious themes that had preoccupied me during the 80s, and the opportunity to explore other interests and passions, I seemed to gravitate back to writing about geopolitics despite myself. The optimism surrounding the new paradigms of post-Cold War politics suddenly began to recede, and familiar patterns began to repeat themselves. Reading the New York Times on the subway en route to various day jobs, I found myself drawn back to the big themes. There were things that needed saying, and I had more to offer than commentaries on the marketing strategies of the Wu Tang Clan.

In the aftermath of 9/11, I found many friends and acquaintances asking me to share private observations about the “war on terror” and related subjects. I started mailing those out to a list of friends and colleagues, that just kept growing as they forwarded them to others. And finally, after a substantial hiatus, they’ve evolved into this web site.

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  4. Hannah Zapf says:

    Dear Mr. Karon,

    my name is Hannah Zapf and I am a 15 year old student from Berlin, Germany.

    I am currently working on a project concerning terrorism and it’s „political effectiveness“. Our approach to answering our lead question “Terrorism- an effective political tool?“ by analizing the attacks of 9/11. We are therefor looking to identify the political goals of bin Laden, the resulting political effects and wether or not his objective failed or not.

    While researching, I came across your article „What were the causes of 9/11“ published in 2006 in which you also reference to Michael Scott Doran’s essay „Somebody else civil war”.

    In 2006 you came to the conclusion that bin Ladens goal, to launch “a global Islamist revolution aimed at ending U.S. influence in Muslim countries, overthrowing regimes there allied with Washington and putting al-Qaeda at the head of a global Islamist insurgency“, was not achieved.

    At this point I would like to remind you that although I have done my best to inform myself about all aspects of this topic, I have so far not been able to comprehend the complex structures behind the conflicts in the middle east. Please apologise my lack of knowledge and the resulting inexpert questioning.

    The reason for me questioning your conclusion are current movements of extreme islamic groups in the middle east. As you have probably guessed at this point, I am referring to ISIS.

    Is there a direct link between the attacks of 9/11, political action that was taken as a result and todays increasing support of the IS? Would you revoke your opinion on bin Ladens success regarding current developments?

    Since you are a leading expert on the Middle East, I decided to contact you in the hope of reaching a conclusion concerning the question mentioned above. I would value your opinion incredibly much and would be honoured to get a reply soon. Since I have been unable to find an E-mail address of yours, I am trying to contact you over your website.

    With kind regards,

    Hannah Zapf

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  12. FootballFan1894 says:

    I recently stumbled across an article on the ‘Time’ website titled “No, England Did NOT Invent Football (Soccer) As We Know It” by Tony Karon. The article was so incorrect I felt there were points that needed correcting, however as there appeared to be nowhere on the site where I could leave comments, I found the author had his own website so I decided to leave my comments here.

    Tony Karon is either somebody that knows little about the history of Football or he is so anti-English that he doesn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. Either way his article is full of incorrect information. He says that Dave Richards’ argument is flawed, maybe Tony should have checked his own response, which is more than just flawed.

    Let’s look at some of the points raised in Tony Karon’s article:-

    1. They called it “football,” not because the ball is played with the feet, but because the game is played on foot rather on horseback. (sic)

    The theory ‘The word football was coined to refer to games that were played on foot (as opposed to on horses.)’ has no historical evidence to prove this. And it is just a theory and nothing else, put about by people who try to justify calling Association Football, ‘soccer’. And it is a fairly recent theory.

    Let’s look at the evidence we do have. The word ‘Football’ has been in use in England since at least 1314, this is when the Lord Mayor of London on behalf of Edward II, issued a writ to prohibit football in England. However as the ruling classes used French as their language the de cree was written in French and not English.

    The oldest known use of the word ‘Football’ in English was in 1409, when Henry IV issued a proclamation forbidding the leving of money for ‘Foteball’.

    Then we come to a book written circa 1660 by Francis Willughby called ‘Book of Plaies’, which describes ‘Football’ as a kicking game.

    In 1780 ‘A General Dictionary of the English Language’ by Thomas Sheridan defines ‘Football’ as “a ball driven by the foot”.

    If that is not enough, in 1801 ‘Sports and Pastimes of the People of England’ by Joseph Strutt, tells us that ‘Football’ “is so called because the ball is driven about with the feet instead of the hands.”

    Now getting back to this theory that football referred to games that were played on foot as opposed to on horses, this as I said before has no evidence. As we know the word ‘Football’ is an English one, so for the horseback theory to be correct then there would have to at least have been a medieval ball game played on horseback as opposed to on foot, played in Britain. Yet the earliest record of such a game played in the British Isles is polo, which was introduced to England in 1834. As we have already seen the word ‘Football’ had already been in the English language for over 400 years by then.

    If the horseback theory was true then games such as cricket, hockey, stoolball, bandy, golf and loads more would have also been known as football. We know through records kept that these games were not known as football, in fact the only games that were known as football were those that involved kicking the ball with the foot, hence the name Football. Funny that!

    2. The idea of moving the ball towards the opponent’s goal by passing it from player to player was invented in Scotland (which, if you know your football geography, is a different country) in the early 20th century.

    This is also incorrect. Passing the ball in football had taken place in Britain for hundreds of years. However in the Football Association’s 1863 Laws of the Game, the offside law (Law VI) read ‘When a player has kicked the ball, any one of the same side who is nearer the opponent’s goal-line is out of play, and may not touch the ball himself, nor in any way whatever prevent any other player from doing so, until the ball has been played; but no player is out of play when the ball is kicked from behind the goal-line.’ This in effect ruled out forward passing. Players would go it alone and try to dribble the ball as far up the field as possible. This was common practice among the public schools. But remember back then many football clubs played to their own set of laws and would have a different offside law to that of the FA’s.

    In 1866, the FA changed Law VI to read ‘When a player has kicked the ball, any one of the same side who is nearer the opponent’s goal-line is out of play, and may not touch the ball himself, nor in any way whatever prevent any other player from doing so, until the ball has been played, unless there are at least three of his opponents between him and their own goal; but no player is out of play when the ball is kicked off from behind the goal-line.’ This change of wording to the offside law in effect made forward passing possible.

    Sheffield, who played to their own rules, had been passing the ball from at least 1865, and the Royal Engineers from at least the late 1860’s. Both these English clubs along with Scottish club Queen’s Park, who had amended the offside law from three to two of his opponents between him and their own goal and who also had been playing a passing game from the late 1860’s, are known as early pioneers of the passing game in Association Football.

    Other early pioneers included Blackburn Olympic and many Lancashire clubs, Cambridge University, Shropshire Wanderers, Corinthians, many schools and many working class clubs. While it was true that some former public school boys would carry on with their dribbling game for a few more years and the Scottish excelled at passing the ball, by the early 20th century, when Tony Karon said it began, most clubs in Britain would have been playing the passing game.

    Interesting to note that Sheffield was pioneers of another important feature of the modern game, that is heading the ball, which they had done so from at least 1866.

    3. Scottish coaches took their style to Central Europe in the 1920s, creating the foundation for the legendary prewar Austrian national team… That same interwar Scottish-influenced game in Central Europe laid the foundation for the “Magnificent Magyars,” the Hungarian national team.

    Many British coaches had took to coaching on the continent. One of the most important football coaches behind both the great Austrian and Hungarian teams was Jimmy Hogan, who worked with the great Hugo Meisi as coach to the great Austrian side of the 1930s. While the Hungarian coach from 1949 to 1957, Gustav Sebes said of him “We played football as Jimmy Hogan taught us. When our football history is told, his name should be written in gold letters.” Sandor Barcs, the president of the Hungarian FA said in 1953, “Jimmy Hogan taught us everything we know about football.” Tony Karon fails to mention Hogan. Why? Because Jimmy was English, and to mention him would not sit well in his anti-English spill.

    4. England invented a game of running around kicking a ball in the mid-19th century (although the Chinese claim to have played a version centuries earlier).

    Actually football had been played in England from at least the 12th century (and very possibly earlier) and organised with rules from at least the 15th century.

    As for China, although many early forms of football existed such as Tsu Chu or Cuju in China, Kemari in Japan, Harpustum played by the Romans, the Greek game, Episkyros (aka Pheninda), or Sepak Raga, played in the Malay states, or in South America, Poktapok which was played by the Mayans. Ullamatzli played by the Aztecs, the Native Americans played ball games using bats and feet. The Aboriginals in Australia played Marn Gook, while the Pacific Island communities of Polynesia and Micronesia had their own kicking games, and in North Africa, they played Koura. However, these and other early forms of football had very little in common with Association Football.

    It’s a pity that Tony Karon couldn’t be bothered to do any real research as if he did his article would have read much different. Too many people try to write articles by surfing the net, they would be better using libraries checking books, newspapers etc. You would expect better from a journalist, or is that too much to ask?

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