Prescriptive Versus Descriptive

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‘9/11 ripped the bandage off US culture’

As a work of cultural criticism, The Terror Dream is comprehensively shocking. But didn’t the extreme disconnection between reporting and reality that it exposed present the author with a problem? If the country’s cultural narrative was driven more by fiction than fact, and failed to reflect the truth of post-9/11 America, why base a whole book upon such spurious material?

“Because we live in a culture that’s so . . . you can’t . . .” She casts a hand around the hotel bar helplessly. “I mean, this is sort of miraculous, to be sitting in a room where there’s not some massive flat-screen TV yelling at us. It’s almost a sci-fi feeling, this kind of constant bombardment of programmed thought.” Its effect is not as simple, she stresses, as “monkey see, monkey do”. “But it certainly has a warping effect on how we think about the world, and how we think about ourselves.” Journalism became not descriptive but prescriptive – “and that had an enormous effect on our political life, our policy, our nightmarish policy, our misbegotten military strategy”.

This echoes my (not very original) view of modern mass (largely American) media as prescriptive and ideologically committed; the news has evolved to be less the recounting (mirror) of events couched in narrative form, and more a tableau where the details are exaggerated at the behest of some dark aesthetic. Still a mirror, but now reflecting the prejudices of it’s creator rather than that which it claims to represent.

In one respect, she concedes, cultural criticism today is less relevant than it used to be. “The culture used to move relatively slowly, so you could take aim. Now it moves so fast, and is so fluffy and meaningless, you feel like an idiot even complaining about it.” But on the other hand, “I think a reason that a lot of people feel politically paralysed is that it used to be clear how power was organised. But those who have their hands on the levers of popular culture today have great power – and it isn’t even clear who they are.” They may be commercially accountable, in other words, but not democratically.

In my youth I would often contemplate the highly accelerated nature of mass media, and it’s effects on culture. It was it’s instantaneous nature that occupied me the most. A good analogy for me was how, in bygone days of yore, the passage of time was a function of the sunrise and sunset. These days we measure the same phenomenon (illumination) through the flick of a switch.

Analogous to this, the instantaneous nature of media and popular culture lends authenticity to the mediated as immediate, and as a consequence we are prone to mistake the mediated for the truth.

J.K.

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Deus Ex Machina

From here.

J.K.


Hail Caesar

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Only Telling Half the Story?

An American occupation force joined by the Iraqi forth regiment raided Al-Siha district at the right side of Mosul city.

They attacked a house of a pregnant woman, started beating her harshly and she was screaming and crying from the pain, one of the Iraqi government forces his name is Caesar Saadi Al-Jibouri from Al-Qiara district asked them to stop beating the woman, the answer came through the interpreter was “we do what we want”.

The Iraqi soldier went to one of the armed vehicles and opened fire killing three Americans among them a captain and injured the interpreter.

Whatever weakness occurred to the nation, there comes a time when they will revolt against the occupation just like Caesar’ [one man] revolution, this incident must be a good breakthrough for Iraqis who have been involved in the service of the occupier.

While the Association of Muslim Scholars condemns these criminal acts of the occupation forces, AMSI shows its jubilation with the heroic act from the Iraqi soldier and asks employees of the police and army to consider his act as role model.

God bless America.

J.K.


Clean

Q: What is Obama’s potential Achilles heel?

NOVAK: I think the only potential Achilles heel is in a general election, if there is some racist prejudice. I’m not sure there is. He’s, as poor Joe Biden said, he’s clean. He isn’t a stereotype African-American. And I think he’s a very strong candidate.

It seems Mr. Novak would have no problem allowing Obama into his (or even the White) house. I wonder if this is the sort of change that Obama’s victory at Iowa was supposed to represent, or maybe Mr. Novak merely regards him as a house African-American

From here.

J.K.


How TV Works

Charlie Brooker is the saviour of TV.

J.K.


Destruction of Evidence

From here.

J.K.


Neocon Job

This guy is truly amazing. Truly truly amazing. And now a transcript (from here);

There are few choices more terrifying than the one Mr.. Bush has left us with tonight.

We have either a president who is too dishonest to restrain himself from invoking World War Three about Iran at least six weeks after he had to have known that the analogy would be fantastic, irresponsible hyperbole — or we have a president too transcendently stupid not to have asked — at what now appears to have been a series of opportunities to do so — whether the fairy tales he either created or was fed, were still even remotely plausible.

A pathological presidential liar, or an idiot-in-chief. It is the nightmare scenario of political science fiction: A critical juncture in our history and, contained in either answer, a president manifestly unfit to serve, and behind him in the vice presidency: an unapologetic war-monger who has long been seeing a world visible only to himself.

After Ms Perino’s announcement from the White House late last night, the timeline is inescapable and clear.

In August the President was told by his hand-picked Major Domo of intelligence Mike McConnell, a flinty, high-strung-looking, worrying-warrior who will always see more clouds than silver linings, that what “everybody thought” about Iran might be, in essence, crap.

Yet on October 17th the President said of Iran and its president Ahmadinejad:

“I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War Three, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon.”

And as he said that, Mr.. Bush knew that at bare minimum there was a strong chance that his rhetoric was nothing more than words with which to scare the Iranians.

Or was it, Sir, to scare the Americans?

Does Iran not really fit into the equation here? Have you just scribbled it into the fill-in-the-blank on the same template you used, to scare us about Iraq?

In August, any commander-in-chief still able-minded or uncorrupted or both, Sir, would have invoked the quality the job most requires: mental flexibility.

A bright man, or an honest man, would have realized no later than the McConnell briefing that the only true danger about Iran was the damage that could be done by an unhinged, irrational Chicken Little of a president, shooting his mouth off, backed up by only his own hysteria and his own delusions of omniscience.

Not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mr. Bush.

The Chicken Little of presidents is the one, Sir, that you see in the mirror.

And the mind reels at the thought of a Vice President fully briefed on the revised Intel as long as two weeks ago — briefed on the fact that Iran abandoned its pursuit of this imminent threat four years ago — who never bothered to mention it to his boss.

It is nearly forgotten today, but throughout much of Ronald Reagan’s presidency it was widely believed that he was little more than a front-man for some never-viewed, behind-the-scenes, string-puller.

Today, as evidenced by this latest remarkable, historic malfeasance, it is inescapable, that Dick Cheney is either this president’s evil ventriloquist, or he thinks he is.

What servant of any of the 42 previous presidents could possibly withhold information of this urgency and gravity, and wind up back at his desk the next morning, instead of winding up before a Congressional investigation — or a criminal one?

Mr. Bush — if you can still hear us — if you did not previously agree to this scenario in which Dick Cheney is the actual detective and you’re Remington Steele — you must disenthrall yourself: Mr. Cheney has usurped your constitutional powers, cut you out of the information loop, and led you down the path to an unprecedented presidency in which the facts are optional, the Intel is valued less than the hunch, and the assistant runs the store.

The problem is, Sir, your assistant is robbing you — and your country — blind.

Not merely in monetary terms, Mr.. Bush, but more importantly of the traditions and righteousness for which we have stood, at great risk, for centuries: Honesty, Law, Moral Force.

Mr.. Cheney has helped, Sir, to make your Administration into the kind our ancestors saw in the 1860’s and 1870’s and 1880’s — the ones that abandoned Reconstruction, and sent this country marching backwards into the pit of American Apartheid.

Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland…

Presidents who will be remembered only in a blur of failure, Mr.. Bush.

Presidents who will be remembered only as functions of those who opposed them — the opponents whom history proved right.

Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland… Bush.

Would that we could let this President off the hook by seeing him only as marionette or moron.

But a study of the mutation of his language about Iran proves that though he may not be very good at it, he is, himself, still a manipulative, Machiavellian, snake-oil salesman.

The Bushian etymology was tracked by Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post’s website.

It is staggering.

March 31st: “Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon…”

June 5th: Iran’s “pursuit of nuclear weapons…”

June 19th: “consequences to the Iranian government if they continue to pursue a nuclear weapon…”

July 12th: “the same regime in Iran that is pursuing nuclear weapons…”

August 6th: “this is a government that has proclaimed its desire to build a nuclear weapon…”

Notice a pattern?

Trying to develop, build or pursue a nuclear weapon.

Then, sometime between August 6th and August 9th, those terms are suddenly swapped out, so subtly that only in retrospect can we see that somebody has warned the President, not only that he has gone out too far on the limb of terror — but there may not even be a tree there…

McConnell, or someone, must have briefed him then.

August 9th: “They have expressed their desire to be able to enrich uranium, which we believe is a step toward having a nuclear weapons program…”

August 28th: “Iran’s active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons…”

October 4th: “you should not have the know-how on how to make a (nuclear) weapon…”

October 17th: “until they suspend and/or make it clear that they, that their statements aren’t real, yeah, I believe they want to have the **capacity**, the **knowledge**, in order to make a nuclear weapon.”

Before August 9th, it’s: Trying to develop, build or pursue a nuclear weapon.

After August 9th, it’s: Desire, pursuit, want…knowledge technology know-how to enrich uranium.

And we are to believe, Mr.. Bush, that the National Intelligence Estimate this week talks of the Iranians suspending their nuclear weapons program in 2003…

And you talked of the Iranians suspending their nuclear weapons program on October 17th…

And that’s just a coincidence?

And we are to believe, Mr.. Bush, that nobody told you any of this until last week?

Your insistence that you were not briefed on the NIE until last week might be legally true — something like “what the definition of is is — but with the subject matter being not interns but the threat of nuclear war.

Legally, it might save you from some war crimes trial… but ethically, it is a lie.

It is indefensible.

You have been yelling threats into a phone for nearly four months, after the guy on the other end had already hung up.

You, Mr.. Bush, are a bald-faced liar.

And more over, you have just revealed that John Bolton, and Norman Podhoretz, and the Wall Street Journal Editorial board, are also bald-faced liars.

We are to believe that the Intel Community, or maybe the State Department, cooked the raw intelligence about Iran, falsely diminished the Iranian nuclear threat, to make you look bad?

And you proceeded to let them make you look bad?

You not only knew all of this about Iran, in early August…

But you also knew… it was… accurate.

And instead of sharing this good news with the people you have obviously forgotten you represent…

You merely fine-tuned your terrorizing of those people, to legally cover your own backside…

While you filled the factual gap with sadistic visions of — as you phrased it on August 28th: a quote “nuclear holocaust” — and, as you phrased it on October 17th, quote: “World War Three.”

My comments, Mr. Bush, are often dismissed as simple repetitions of the phrase “George Bush has no business being president.”

Well, guess what?

Tonight: hanged by your own words… convicted by your own deliberate lies…

You, sir, have no business… being president.

Good night, and good luck.

J.K.