Sunday, July 11, 2004

Postmodern War

I think this article by Dave Neiwert at Orcinus makes a very good point: that we, too, are subject to the battle for hearts and minds, and that it is in fact a constant battle.

Philosopher Jean Baudrillard predicted that Desert Storm would not actually happen. After the war, he claimed he had been correct, and that no war had taken place. His point was that we would not experience the war as it was on the ground. We would instead be presented with something entirely artificial that had little resemblance to reality but accept as real nonetheless. And he was right. I bet the clearest memory most people have of the war coverage is that cockpit video from a plane using its laser guided bombs to take out some anonymous building. And its not just a matter of what is presented, but also what is kept hidden. I'd say that goes double this time around.

Right wing types are always pissed off about Iraq coverage as overly negative. This emphasis on the tone of coverage is extremely revealing. What exactly have we been shown thats overly "negative"? On what basis are you not supposed to show some piece of "negative" news? What is "negative" news? And even if you have a piece of negative news, it still happened didn't it? Its as though whats reported in the media isn't actually happening, and that the whole point of news as a source of objective information is incidental or irrelevant.

I imagine most people have the perception that events - not the media that reports them - influence what they think, and in order to change their own opinion events have to change. So complaining about Iraq coverage is a symptom of the inverse of that idea. Rather than changing whats happening, change what people think FIRST, and then when you've influenced enough people events change. Change the world in a person's mind, and ignore reality. Another instance of postmodern philosophy as a deadly weapon.

I think this point of view explains a lot of things about neoconservatives and the Bush administration in particular. The whole up is down ism that has been their trademark is indicative of this mindset. There's also the very wide streak of dishonesty on scientific matters many on the right have. The fact that this mindset held by so many conservatives is VERY ironic, and does not give me a lot of optimism about what is going to happen to our politics as we fight the never ending war on terror. The irony comes from the fact that this kind of idealism was very popular with the second favorite conservative punching bag right after The Clenis: those damn dirty hippies in the 60's. There were huge information wars between the communists and anti communists on the left. Quickly the tactics of both sides began to mimic the tactics of Lenin and Trotsky as they formed front groups of activists and magazines and radio programs. Each side producing huge amounts of propaganda made to emulate the great taste of real coke with none of the tricky facts. Eventually some of the anti communists split from the left in the 80's and became Reagenaughts, the first generation of neoconservatives. So in order to beat the commies the future neocons stole all their moves out of Trotsky's play book.

The Bush administration has many similar habits to the Soviets in addition to the media philosophy. They never admit they are wrong, and when someone finally waves a piece of evidence in Scott McClellan's goofy ass face, the story suddenly changes, and yet still stays the same. It has always been the same. The president has ALWAYS supported the Geneva accords. The administration NEVER said we went to Iraq because of WMD, we went to free the Iraqi people. Terrorism has ALWAYS been a top priority. There is also the very disturbing network of prisons for enemy combatants that seem very similar to soviet gulags. For example: once you go in you aren't supposed to be heard from again. What does this symbiotic relationship that seems to form between two rivals mean for us as a society thats battling militant religious terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam? Is there some kind of relationship between the rise of these groups and the rise of religious fundamentalists and the patriot militia movement here at home?

For me this paints the Bush administration and the rest of the neoconservatives as the most extreme kind of idealists with a very - ehem - artistic take on reality. Personal belief is one thing but this country was not built to be run by a bunch of bizarro-world communists. Our government can't function when its people are treated like heaps of clay to be molded into the proper shape - like enemies. Its stupid and dangerous and it has to stop.

Obligatory vote-his-ass-out comment here.