Skip to comments.Lee Harris: The War of Images (If you only read one article today, make it this one!)
Posted on 05/12/2004 10:27:18 PM PDT by quidnunc
It is often said that we are fighting a war of ideas. We are not. We are fighting a war of images, and right now our enemy is winning this war, while we are losing it, and losing it badly.
Consider the images that have worked their way into our collective mind since the beginning of April: the images of the massacre at Fallujah; the images of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib; the images of the decapitation of an American civilian. Now compare the overwhelming intensity of these images with the "idea" that the Bush administration is invoking in order to fight against them, namely, the abstract ideal of justice.
First, the Bush administration pledged to "bring to justice" those who committed the massacre at Fallujah; then it pledged to "bring to justice" those who were responsible for the prison abuse; and now, it has pledged to "bring to justice" the men who videotaped the killing of Nick Berg. How can such an abstract idea hold its own against such vividly concrete images? How can the pledge of due process hope to exorcise the searing memory of a severed head held aloft in triumph?
What is worse, the odds are that the only culprits who will be brought to justice are those Americans who abused Iraqi prisoners. They will be brought to justice in open and public show trials that the Bush administration feels will prove to the Iraqis that we Americans are really the good guys, after all.
Unfortunately, the justice to which these Americans will be brought will fail to satisfy the Iraqi people. No matter what verdict the military court hands down, the Iraqi street will go wild with anger and indignation at the perceived lightness of the punishment. For us, justice lies in the fairness of the process; for them it lies in the rightness of the outcome and how can any punishment short of death be appropriate for the Americans who defiled them?
Right now the Middle American psyche is being overwhelmed with reasons to hate the entire Arab world; and yet the Bush administration insists that we are in Iraq to help the Arabs. Unfortunately, the administration seems to be completely unaware of how sick and tired of Arabs the average American has become, unaware because it is politically incorrect to express such sentiments of outright hostility: but what is politically incorrect to express is all too often the motive force behind those sudden and spontaneous movements of the popular psyche that only seemed to come from nowhere because they came from a place unfamiliar to most pundits and paid prophets, namely, the gut level feelings of the average guy.
Many Americans simply wish the Arabs would go away; others wish to blow them away and wish to blow them away not because they see this step as inevitable and tragic, but because they rejoice at the prospect of getting them back for what they have done to us. Most normal Americans today just don't care any more about the Arabs and their welfare, or about their humiliation, or about their historical grievances, simply because all the images that come to us from their world horrify and appall us, including the disturbing images of Americans doing things that no normal American would ever dream of doing to other people back at home, if only because they would never be given the opportunity.
This is how most normal Americans now feel, but they dare not express it in public. But make no mistake, this feeling will be expressed somehow, somewhere: a fact of which our leaders and the world must be made aware before it occurs.
And I suspect that there will be increasing pressure to nuke 'em 'till they glow, then shoot 'em in the dark.
And it's not just Arabs that I'm getting sick of; I'm starting to get sick and tired of Muslims in general.
Tick, Tick, Tick, ..... Tick
Be prepared for an ironic anti-climax. From what I've heard, the Iraqis are puzzled why anyone should care what happens to the scum in that particular cell block, as they are the torturers, murderers, bomb throwers, rapists, and Saddamites that have tortured them for the last 30 years. All the indignation is spent, rather... we will make some points by handing over Saddam and his higherups to the newely formed Iraqi govermment. They can have their justice then, and they will forget all about some terrorists getting reamed with light bulbs.
His articles at the TechCentralStation are archived here: http://www2.techcentralstation.com/1051/searchauthor.jsp?Bioid=BIOHARRISLEE
If you want to bookmark his articles discussed at FR: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/k-leeharris/browse
The Intellectual Origins Of America-Bashing http://www.policyreview.org/dec02/harris.html
America-bashing has sadly come to be the opium of the intellectual, to use the phrase Raymond Aron borrowed from Marx in order to characterize those who followed the latter into the twentieth century. And like opium it produces vivid and fantastic dreams.
His new book: Civilization and Its Enemies : The Next Stage of History
We are accountable for the images and words we feed our eyes, ears - hearts and minds, and must be careful to guard them in the modern age - with focus-groups, Madison Ave., polls, high-speed communications - time-tested (since the Garden of Eden) and new, more effective (acceptable in the public square) ways to appeal to our basest human instincts.
If Americans care about the truth, the war, the country, they need to start turning off the untrustworthy sources, checking the facts, finding trustworthy sources - and listening to the two primary sources re. Iraq - our troops doing the fighting and dying - and the majority of the Iraqi people - those who suffered under monster Hussein and his thugs for three decades. We need to help them win this war by debunking enemy spin - by first knowing the truth - and - spreading the truth - news of the victories, and Saddam's history of cruelty.
We have been habitually reacting to calculated campaigns to provoke us, aiding our enemies who point fingers at our allies, seeking to divide and conquer - us.
The only Mulsim who has "gotten it", so far as I can see, is Gaddhafi.
But he knew, since 1986, that our record for "follow-thru" can be deadly.
Why haven't WE learned the benefits of that lesson, as well as Gaddhafi has ?
You're so right. This is the one article that has to be read today.