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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Joao Pina Speaks And Sets The Record Straight

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It is rare to have a photographer speak back to you. I can’t say how thrilled I was to receive a carefully written email from the Argentinian Portuguese (thank you Ziyah Gafic!) photographer Joao Pina some months ago in response to my criticism of The New York Times Lens Blog piece about his project CONDOR.  The original piece, titled Exposing The Legacy Of Operation Condor, which appeared on June 24, 2014, in fact very obviously elided the deep American collaboration and support (financial, intelligence, political and possibly even in weaponry), for the operations that shattered the political and civic resistance landscape in a number of Latin American countries.

In my original piece I had argued that:

An important photo project, but if you are going to speak about Operation Condor, you cannot, and must not, remain silent about the American collaboration and acquiescence in the campaign. It is important to remember that six nations were involved in this campaign, and they were American allies, not the least of which was Pinochet’s Chile. The US was well aware of the mass disappearances and killings that were taking place, and it did not merely stand aside, but also provided technical and other assistance to our allies while it was all taking place.

adding further that:

Photojournalists have to confront history and speak honestly. It is not enough to simply make strong photographs. It is not enough to compartmentalise history into conveniently acceptable and polite packages. I don’t know if Pina will say more in his own words and in his own pages, but I hope that he will see that the New York Times is not the place to offer the complete story of Operation Condor.

And in fact, Joao Pina has said a lot more, and very explicitly too. I learned this through an email I received from Joao Pina some weeks after I wrote my criticism, where he very carefully and with great civility, set me straight on the matter. Details »

The Cowardice Of Political Comedy And The Mendacity Of A Political Comedian

I suppose people will say I am harping on this. And I hope they do.

Time Magazine – a publication that Glenn Greenwald recently referred to as a ‘…click-hungry gossip website’ gleefully highlighted how the comedian John Oliver told Edward Snowden that nobody knows who he is or even cares.

This segment – discussing one of the most egregious violations of American constitutional protections and the continued blasé manner in which these protections have been summarily dismissed since 9/11, to say nothing about the flood of lies by our political leaders, including Obama, our military and our intelligence administrators about these programs, is a classic example of how comedy and jokes denude the issue of meaning, gravity and concern. Details »

Not Laughing Any More

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon.

Trevor Noah.

Jon Stewart.

People are discussing this drivel as if we were not talking about two career comedians meek and polite enough for mainstream media to give them prime time multi-million dollar shows, but political radicals behind whom millions galvanised to over throw society and build a new political order!

Please forgive me not confusing a good joke for political and social dissent. I apologise for not seeing The Daily Show to be an important manifesto. Details »

The Silence Of The Lambs

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A big congratulations to the New York Times Lens blog for yet another obfuscatory, confusing, and overtly misleading piece about Libya, ISIS and the chaos that reigns there. Oh, but you will argue, this is not about that, but about the suffering of the families of the Christians who were killed by ISIS. Its an emotional story. A human interest story. Indeed. It is anything but that. It is in fact very much about the fact that the deaths of the these men occurred at the hands of a militancy that only exists because of the near decade long series of idiotic, immoral, criminal and illegitimate military actions we have been gleefully conducting in the region. That is, there is a history, and it is one that we as Americans have written with mendacity, illegality, brutality and simple stupidity. But of course, in the finest traditions of propaganda journalism, all this is simply jettisoned. Details »

Teaching At Fotografia Europea 2015 In Reggio Emilia, Italy

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The photography workshop needs a serious re-think and re-design. The traditional workshop formats that focus on linear story telling – with their now rather anachronistic conventions of ‘opening image’, ‘sense of place’ images, predictable first-this-one-then-that-one sequencing, basic narrative flow etc. just seems irrelevant and rather out-dated given the possibilities, flexibility, and imaginative capabilities presented by online media. Details »

Seeing Beauty Or Seeing Repression – Is It A Question Of Perspective?

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Federical Valabrega’s photo essay on the lives of Orthodox Jewish women in Brooklyn, New York that appeared on Time Lightbox reminded me of something I had read in Carol A. Brekenridge and Peter van der Veer’s excellent book Orientalism And The Post Colonial Predicament Details »

What Can’t Be Discussed Or How Photojournalism Disconnected Itself From Its Own Reality

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These are the discussions the photojournalism industry – from editors, to award winning photographers – refuse to engage in. I have already written about the many ways in which manipulated and doctored photography has been for the last some decades been a core part of photojournalism. I have argued that the competitions assiduously avoid speaking about this, and continue to waste time and energy on trivial issues of ‘digital image manipulation’. Somewhere along the line, photo editors, and photojournalists, have convinced themselves that their only, and exclusive, purview is what lies within the frame – the aesthetic of the image. So they endlessly discuss the style, the grammar, the technical facets of frame / image only, but nothing more. Nothing can touch on the lies, manipulations, and doctoring that goes on beyond the frame. Details »

On Things Shown And Those Hidden – The Travails Of World Press Photo

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What ails World Press Photo? Well, if you were to read the online comments, and the public statements being made by representatives and spokespersons of WPP, you would think that the only issue that matters is the now seriously tiresome, circular and self-righteous arguments around ‘image manipulation’. Here is a system (which also includes other competitions like POYI for example), that remains silent, and in fact in collusion with, the image manipulations of state-sanctioned, military enforced, ‘embedded’ photojournalism, and yet wails endlessly about ‘digital’ manipulation.

When compared to the fact that corporate and embedded photo/journalism has been one of the ugly handmaidens to our recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Chad, Mali, Somalia, Pakistan’s Waziristan regions and more, I find it egregiously silly, if not entirely infantile, that manipulations that led to the deaths, destruction, occupation, torture, and more, are quietly ignored, but digital manipulations that are largely irrelevant and silly, garner all the outrage. We get so upset that Paul Hansen edited his image, while remain silent about the structural reasons for the deaths of the children that his image actually showed! Details »

How To Read In France

I question (a) its (Western liberal discourse’s) assumption that ‘religion’ is the major threat to the principles of tolerance and democracy; (b) its part in constructing “an Islamic enemy”; (c) its privileging of the fate of literary authors (and media persons) as against other victims of cruelty; (d) its sacralization of the principles of Freedom of Speech. In brief, I question the assumption that the people who attack these literary authors (and media persons) are part of the larger forces that threaten Modernity itself.

Talal Asad, Europe Against Islam: Islam In Europe 1997

Few are still willing to provide a context, so here is some.”Je Suis Charlie” could just as well be “Je Suis Charles” – here I am referring to the bigoted French interior minister from 1986-1988 Charles Pasqua whose immigration policies were so harsh – as he himself argued, waxing beautifully racist and stupid at the same time: “we will terrorize the terrorists”, that even the UN had to speak up and issue a severe reprimand.

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Seeing It Again, But This Time Seeing It Differently

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An image from Northern Iraq that I made back in 2005 while working on a story about the struggle of Iraq’s Assyrian Christian community, appears this week on the poster of a new film by Daniel Lombroso about the region’s oldest Christian community. Back in 2005 I had argued that the invasion and occupation of Iraq had bought no respite to a community that had been targeted under the Saddam Hussein regime, and that all pretense to the contrary, the so-called ‘liberation’ of Iraq was about to create even more miseries and difficulties for the very people we claimed we were there to ‘liberate’.

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