Inquisition Ad Campaign (2001)
I took in the Wachowski Brothers' V for Vendetta this afternoon. While I had some quibbles here and there, I thought its depiction of an Orwellian future fashioned on perpetual war, the curtailment of civil liberties, and a government-sanctioned campaign to keep citizens in constant fear was uncomfortably close to contemporary America.
It wasn't the terrorist-as-hero motif that bothered me, but the idea that anyone would consider the film subversive. The Man, using public relations firms, has sold the idea of striking a blow against the Man for fun and profit to a naive public eager to feel revolutionary stirrings in an increasingly corporate controlled world. So, hungry to fight the power, we gobble up Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine tunes from iMusic. Even the Man maybe enjoys sticking it to himself in a popular commercial for a cell phone service. E. M. Forster was wrong. The Machine does not stop. It simply sells us the feel-good sensation that we consumers can help grind it to a halt -- for the price of an mp3 or anarchy symbol tee shirt or movie ticket.
But what rang true about V for Vendetta -- and I sense it strongly in American culture as Bush's poll numbers continue to tank -- is that the public is finally seeing through the ongoing loopy bullshit that BushCo catapults as propaganda. In the film, a public, weary of force feed misinformation, begins to doubt the veracity of Pravda-like media spokesperson Lewis Prothero (an O'Reilly/Limbaugh animal-human hybrid) and the busy-screen Fox News imitation talking points as news stratagems. Several characters, with deepening cynicism, spit out a bitter exclamation of Bollocks as the televised hype spews forth. The citizens know, in a gut as deep as George W. Bush's, their leaders are lying to them and that the media is complicit or lazy -- all too willing to soak up and broadcast the party line. In the spirit of Shakespeare-spouting V, their governmental handlers take them "for a sponge."
The filmmakers understand this is a comment on the present. And I think the majority of the American public feel precisely the same way now. Each happy face declaration from BushCo, whether on Iraq or Katrina or torture or gas prices or port security, is met with a collective public shrug and a resounding Bollocks. Who are we going to believe? BushCo or our own lying eyes (and ears)? Did we not see King George playing guitar and eating McCain cake while New Orleans went under? Did we not see the prisoner abuse photographs from Abu Ghriab? This week the Downing Street Memo gets a reprise to reveal again that the Iraq War was green-lighted before 9/11 -- which only served as an impetus to start the engines of the war machine. And the NeoCon snake oil isn't selling so well -- no matter how much Charles Krauthammer froths this week about civil war in Iraq being no big deal because "this kind of private revenge attack has been going on at a low level since the beginning of the insurgency" and smugly reiterating that victory in Iraq is still "doable" -- assuming, of course, we don't listen to "the defeatists."
I hope your response to Krauthammer is a resounding Bollocks. We smell the shit of spin, Chuck. Besides, unlike the vice-president, we don't insist that every television be turned to Fox News before we enter a room. This allows us, Chuck, to actually recall some things you said previously and turned out to be lies as big as your ego. Your essay called "A Second American Century" printed in Time in 1999 might be a record to dredge from the memory pile. We recall you noting that "America bestrides the world like a colossus" and that the world should enjoy its position between our legs for "the main reason for the serious challenge to American hegemony is that it is so benign. It does not exact tribute. It does not seek military occupations. It is not interested in acquiring territory." Later, in 2001, in an essay in the Weekly Standard, you returned to this theme, Chuck. You wrote: "We [the United States] run a benign imperium. This is not mere self-congratulation; it is a fact manifest in the way others welcome our power."
Bollocks. Krauthammer's stay-the-course column this week is as empty as Bush's turning-the-corner speeches last week on a plan for victory for Iraq or Cheney's laughable "last throes" remark. We haven't forgotten what our eyes have seen and what our ears have heard. Benign, Chuck? Sure, as long as we can media-whitewash away the draped coffins, abuse photos, gulag horrors, mourning families, suspended liberties, Geneva Convention violations, vet benefit cuts, body armor yawns, and so much more.
Despite the televised revolution and a blacklight poster of Che, we just aren't buying the daily spiel. Bollocks.
And, as I get off the sofa and turn off the TV, I come to see that I don't have to paint a "V" over my neighbor's mock-elegant, black W -- The President bumper sticker. This blog is my spray can.
I don't want to blow up a building. But I do want to do whatever I can to knock down BushCo's house of cards filled with straw men.