Hollywood And War Or How The Silver Screen Is Also An Obfuscating Veil

The program does not go far enough, to be honest, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a news channel taking on the question

This of course is a subject well covered in some interesting books. The few come immediately to mind and that I consider interesting because they examination of the close collaboration between the United States arms of warfare and the United States arms of entertainment to sell a specific angle and perspective on the conflict the nation may be engaged in.

The most recent war sold has of course has been the ‘war against terror’ and the speed and energy with which Hollywood (and here I include television productions) has trotted out venomous and evil ‘Muslim’ terrorists out to ‘nuke’ America, created fantasy scenarios that set up the necessity of using torture and the many lives that were later saved, the ease with which extra-judiciary killings, incarcerations, and brutality were justified through scripts bent on simplifying the world into ‘with us/with them’, and the powerful ways in which our invasions and occupations have been re-cast as conflicts without histories and without our agency.

But this is an old story, and it goes back to WWII as Koppes and Black explain in Hollywood Goes To War: How Politics, Profits and Propaganda Shaped World War II Movies.

A work that looks at a more contemporary application of the same principles is Douglas Kellner’s Cinema Wars: Hollywood Film and Politics in the Bush-Cheney Era.

Then there is also Bogg’s Hollywood War Machine: US Militarism & Popular Culture. And so much more that helps us understand the reason we see what we see on the silver screen.

There are a lot of works that explore and highlight the close ties between those who produce mass media products like movies, television, mainstream newspapers, radio programs etc.

This is a broad, complex subject but in an age euphemistically known as ‘the information age’ our individual liberties and in fact our ability to defend or weakening democratic institutions depends on our understanding what we are told is ‘information’ and ‘news’, how this information is manufactured and sourced, how it is approved for distribution and dissemination, and how it is influenced. We are excited at the ease of access of information, but too many are too quick to grab the ‘corporate’ ease of an iPhone application, or the cable television news channels, or the laziness of the prime time evening news, and never bother to think about how all the information that is coming at them is prepared, packaged and presented.

There is no doubt that Hollywood films have been at the forefront of creating the popular beliefs that allow us to perpetuate war endlessly, and continue to silence as our public services and rights are erased while trillions continue to flow into the pockets of the military establishment and private corporate interests. popular assumptions about what is right, what is wrong, what is essential, what is compelled, are always manufactured assumptions. this is perhaps one of the oldest lessons of war and propaganda.

And while you are at it, this may also be a great time to return to Leni Reifenstahl’s Triump Of The Will to remember the original masters who conflated entertainment, and war, and helped close our minds while opening our will towards conquest and mayhem.

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Nayyirah Waheed #44

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Things Best Forgotten?

A friend sent me this reminder:

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NOOR / Nikon Masterclass – Central Asia

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Our Mothers

when I turn on the tv, I want to see muslims who look like:

our mothers
draped in saris / shalwar kameez
speaking in punjabi / urdu / bengali / pashto / gujrati / hindi
with a briskness that is sweet and firm all at once.

our mothers
wearing the latest bold&bright fabric wrapped around their hips
speaking in hausa / swahili / arabic
blending melodies of cultures and heritages
that were supposed to be wiped away.

our mothers
wrapped in abayas-
all black, or all blue, or hand embroidered in palestine-
speaking arabic or arabic or arabic:
none of it sounding remotely similar
as they answer back with feigned looks of humor.

our mothers
hair tied back, spitting out spanish,
because she grew up in el barrio
so learning the gringo’s language wasn’t a necessity,
sitting in front of the camera(wo)man,
and speaking and speaking and speaking
even the translator can’t keep up.

our mothers
singing in the farsi of struggle and revolution
in a language of kingdoms and civilizations
that existed long before this country.

our mothers
in their fro(s) or braids or locs or hijabs
speaking in a language they have to conform,
developing intonations & sounds
to talk about their experiences and lives,
looking at the pale anchors to say:
‘I was here long before you.
My religion was here long before you.
So what now?’

our mothers —
our homelands, our places of birth, our reasons for being.

but some want us to look at them and say:
“no, mama, you’re a stereotype.
you speak too loud, too strong, too much.
we can’t have you up there representing ‘us.'”

so we drape ourselves
in american flags
pin our lapels
find the suit that fits
and practice so the language leaving our mouths is
so foreign
so academic
so polished —
that explaining our struggles seems alien.

while our mothers,
who have looked into the face(s) of white supremacy &
laughed
laughed
laughed,
watch us and cringe.

by Iram Ali 

…amen sister!

We do see…them all…in their courage, beauty, piercing intelligence, complexity, freedom and agency.

We do see and we respect, love, honour them and learn from them.

We are forever their children and we are fighting, speaking back, refusing and resisting these ugly caricatures, these denigrating representations, these xenophobic feminisms, these reductive narratives, because we are their children and have learned from their strength.

No, Not Quite

Dialogue with a friend:

…they want to obsessively talk about Islam or Muslims.

Let them.

What I don’t understand is why you are not talking about their illegal wars, war crimes and criminality?

All this hot air, these bullshit ‘Islam is good’ or ‘Muslims loves peace’ statements to curry favour from power only reduce you further in their eyes. Who gives a damn if Islam is good or bad, wrong or right? How have you so easily allowed them to own the entire discourse?

Do you not realise that mendicants are only spit on.

Speak back. Speak loud. These are criminal wars, imperial wrongs, colonial brutalities and racist murders. From Israel to Syria, From Iraq to Yemen, we are witnessing mass brutality, suffering, destruction and madness.

Drones. Torture. Renditions. Bombings. Militia. Invasions. Occupations. Colonial crimes.

Men and women are dying. Others have fled their homes and are dying on borders. But these bastards drop more bombs, murder more people, and you are talking about whether Islam is good?

Get a grip. Details »

On Marginalisation

During a discussion with a friend and a colleague who has repeated expressed concern about my refusal to exhibit, or promote, or otherwise perform critical acts necessary for a ‘successful’ career as a documentary photographer. I did not have good answers for him, but later that night I happened to pick up a copy of Edward Said’s Representations of the Intellectual – a book I have read and re-read dozens of times, and came across notes I had scribbled on the back pages back in 2003 when I carried that book into South Waziristan while working on a story there. These notes helped clarify things, and in a later discussion, I was able to offer something like this:  Details »

Selling False Pearls

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People buy into this false correlation. its the same people who actually make the politics that creates the terrorist, who are most determined to believe this. Pakistan was still the same largely uneducated nation on September 10, 2001. Yet, no meaningful terrorism acts can be traced prior to that date. even despite the Afghan war that raged from 1979, Pakistan’s frontiers were regions of easy travel and ordinariness. the eleven men who carried out the 9/11 attacks were still college educated engineers and such. Robert McNamara, Henry Kissinger, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair are all pretty educated people, though many millions would call them terrorists too. Israelis are a highly literate society, but this hasn’t curtailed their violence or terrorism. I could go on.

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The Impossible Project: A Discussion – Amsterdam, Netherlands November 17 2015

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What happens when the issue, the situation or the circumstances do not permit or posses the obvious photograph? What does a photographer, who believes in the issue and is determined to bring it to light, do when s/he finds herself unable to find and/or take photographs? NOOR photographers Asim Rafiqui, Benedicte Curzen and Stanley Greene discuss a project each that confronted them with this challenge, and talk about how, determined to tell the story, they chose unconventional and unexpected approaches to it.

During the week of 16-20 November, Stanley, Bénédicte and Asim are teaching the NOOR-Nikon Amsterdam Masterclass with 15 young, aspiring photojournalists from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom at De Balie. As part of the week’s program the NOOR Foundation, with support from Nikon, has organized this evening – open to local industry professionals and the public at large.

The evening will be moderated by Nadia Moussaid.

The Courtier’s Obsession

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The Guardian reviewed Carlos Spottorno’s new work Wealth Management and claimed “…that there is enough mischief here to prove that Carlos Spottorno is one of the most serious political provocateurs currently operating in photography.” There is no doubt that Spottorno is a very smart photographer, but I disagree with the thought that this work is anything provocative. Unlike previous efforts, such as his project PIGS, this one falls within the same confines of the predictable and unimaginative.

The fact of the matter is that it has now become quite banal to document the profligate life-styles of the super-rich. In fact, Lauren Greenfield was an early pioneer of documenting the bizarre and deviant priorities and interests of the American elite society. However, since the 2008 crash, there have been a whole host of works that try to speak about global inequality and do so from the perspective of the hyper-wealthy. In fact, there are so many works that Time Magazine’s associate Photo Editor Myles Little could put together a massive global exhibition of works that bring together a visual potpourri of the lives of the super-rich.

In fact, so much so that Michael Shaw of BagNewsNotes even went so far as to point out recently that:

More and more, I’m seeing wealth and power — in specific photo stories, and even more so, in the increasingly random presentation of news photos — as not just a recurrent theme, but as connective tissue….If hyper-capitalism is becoming the issue of our time, however, I’m tempted also say that more and more images…are presenting a moral counterweight. Details »

Minding The Perceptible Gap

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I did find this discomforting…its only the trailer, but the associations and presumptions are a offensive combination of Orientalism / Historical revisionism. Indeed, as someone pointed out, they are fantastic musicians, but this fact is entirely irrelevant to the issue at hand i.e the appropriation of Western symbols of liberation and freedom, juxtaposed against highly curtailed and crafted ideas of ‘religious’ fundamentalism and barbarism. We have seen this very often, and as well made as this film is, and as well crafted the narrative, it really doesn’t seem to want to get past this dichotomy, and to find a way to convince the international movie-going circuit that there is a longing to be more like them, and a desire to speak more like they do. And in that process, all sorts of liberties have been taken to construct the freedom vs. barbarism narrative.  Details »

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