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<nettime> Media and mutilation
Dan Wang on Thu, 8 Apr 2004 11:39:38 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Media and mutilation


This whole thing with the ambushed and mutilated American mercenaries from
a few days ago was pretty intense. For Americans by now used to the
occasional pic of a dead Iraqi on the front pages of the newspaper, it was
a real shock. It's a good reminder that the geopolitical issues, while
interesting and important, somehow misses a basic point. When the weaker
side takes their actions to the next level, like this mob did (knowing
full well that this would get big play in the US media), you get back to
wondering: Maybe America is simply messing with the wrong people.

In this sense, the parallels to Vietnam grow. It's like the Tet
offensive--it went down, and for Mr. Middle America turning on the news it
was like Holy Shit!!! These people are serious! Maybe they ain't just a
pack of ragtag yellow ants that we can boss around or stamp out whenever
we want! Damn, they're really fighting! They mean it!

(Lots of journalists are making reference to Vietnam in their
commentaries, for example...  
http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/SITE/data/html_dir/2004/04/07/200404070021.asp
and http://www.mediachannel.org/views/dissector/affalert171.shtml )

I'm not sure the politicians ever really learned that the Vietcong would
never give up, that for them it was victory or death. So this country's
political class didn't actually learn the basic lesson from that
experience. Sincerely principled dedication is almost by definition not in
the character of national politicians in the US, so how can any American
administration possibly understand the psychology of a resistance fighter?

And so it was with these pics of hacked and charred American corpses. This
country don't have the stomach for it, and those Iraqis know it, and
they're more than willing to go there. The question is: how much of this
kind of violence will it take for Bush to learn his lesson? Answer, and
this is what the Iraqis don't know: a hell of a lot more, cause they are
dealing with the truest American chauvinist to take the reins in quite
some time, and whose impulsive response to any fighting back is to sternly
go in and do a little bitch-slapping. It is almost that simple. From USA
Today, speaking of the Falluja "disturbance": 'Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt
told reporters here that... "The Marines will put those people in their
place."'

It took until 1975 for the US to finally and totally quit Vietnam. The
Vietnamese were basically given a single choice by America: kill Americans
until Americans get tired of it. I wonder if this is the choice America is
giving the Iraqis now. Mutilate Americans once a week until we get tired
of seeing it.

http://www.canada.com/news/world/story.html?id=9eba08ec-99e1-4561-8b78-ce9a1
eca16f8

It is an odd coincidence that Air America, the new self-described liberal
talk radio programming company, launched in six cities just before
Americans woke to see these pics of the mutilations in their morning
papers.

We've got it here in Chicago on 950 AM and I've been checking into it. To
me, what is most remarkable about their product is how terrifically
jarring it is to hear an unapologetically critical viewpoint on the radio,
without break, all day long. Over the last ten or twelve years we became
completely accustomed to a dominant and inescapable hard Right voice mixed
with the quiet presence of the polite and tasteful middle-of-the-road
public radio together making up the whole of the radio dial's political
coverage. The tiny, uneven fringe of critical voices that did exist (Amy
Goodman's show, pirate and underground radio, the odd one-hour program
here and there, etc) barely make a dent in this Right/Center wall of
sound. The narrowness of viewpoint is so taken for granted that the first
few times turning in, hearing the basic social reality that I and many of
my friends perceive, but never hear acknowledged in any mass medium,
actually being reflected in commercial radio programming, was surreal. I
wouldn't go so far as to say that Air America gives me great hope, but
perhaps it is the beginning of another process of normalization, this one
more positive and palatable than the images of mutilation.

How Air America goes will be interesting. For certain, it is a business
venture. Many of the people putting this thing together possess the
backgrounds, experience, and frames of reference associated with cable and
broadcast entertainment. So were it not for the fact that Bush has opened
a chasm between the neoliberal and the imperial wings of capitalism, the
limits of the Air America progressive critique may be reached pretty
quickly. I'll enjoy it while we can.


Dan w.




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