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“whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture” – allen ginsburg July 26, 2007

Posted by KG in politics.
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saddam_statue.jpg

bill maher’s recent blog post on huffington post (excerpt):

“A common right-wing talking point is that we weren’t in Iraq on 9/11 and they still attacked us. Yes, but this “war” is a numbers game: before we invaded Iraq, how many young Muslim men were ready to join up for a suicide mission against the west? Some, but my guess is, not very many. But now? My guess is very many. The exact opposite of what the president says is true: because we’re there, this shit is going to follow us home. You could probably make up a chart with incidents and images on one side, and the number of terrorist recruits on the other. The abuses at Abu Ghraib: 25,478 Muslim men decide to strap on the suicide belt. Pictures of Saddam getting probed after he was captured: 962 vow jihad on America. Haditha: 6,089 more. Of course, I’m making these numbers up, and we’ll never know what the real numbers are, but every time I see on the news pictures of our “surge” — that is, pictures of American troops knocking some Iraqi’s door in, women wailing, men blindfolded on the ground while an infidel writes on their neck in magic marker — I think, yep, there’s another X amount of really, really pissed off Muslims who are going to do something about it.”

the cia calls this “blowback,” others call it unintended consequences, while those less prone to niceties simply say “no shit”

at the risk of oversimplifying a complicated subject or sounding naive i’ll just say that images and symbols can sometimes be more powerful than any reasoned argument. the visuals of war are hard to stomach (see: the guardian’s sean smith) and the visuals we receive on our nightly news are far different from those shown in the middle east. we rarely see real human life or a personal narrative attached to the death or violence. most of what we see consists of explosions or aerial shots of missiles etc.

for all of the desensitization in american culture, maybe we need some more “real” visuals of war so we can truly grasp the reality of what happens or the gravity of taking someone’s life.

let me also say that i don’t think either/any side has a monopoly on violence. but for america, we should have learned our lesson by now (see: south american anti-americanism as a result of years of supporting dictatorships in the name of “stability”). i realize i’m stretching the analogy, but my basic point is that we should pay a little bit more attention to the “unintended consequences” of our actions – which is something that requires long term thinking – something that few are fond of.

photo by sean smith

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