Monday, March 14, 2005

Off With Their Heads and Other Curious Delivery Systems

"The United States and the U.S. stand together in support of the Iraqi people and the new Iraqi government, which will soon come into action."
- Dubya redefines the present coalition forces in Iraq, Brussels, Belgium, February 22, 2005

"Sometimes, words have consequences you don't intend them to mean. 'Bring 'em on' is the classic example, when I was really trying to rally the troops and make it clear to them that I fully understood, you know, what a great job they were doing. And those words had an unintended consequence. It kind of, some interpreted it to be defiance in the face of danger. That certainly wasn't the case."
- It's kind of hard to draw that conclusion if you revisit the evidence accumulated over years of listening to Dubya, Washington, D.C., January 14, 2005

Friends tell me I watch way too much pundit TV, but they are only half-right. There's a wide disparity between simply "tuning in" for the lastest spin session on CNN or ABC or MSNBC - or the Home Shopping Network, for that matter - and charting a course that actively responds to the public relations slime job being rammed into cyberspace like Play-doh through a fun factory fuzzy pumper. The key distinction, for the vacant and retarded and uninformed, is the moment it takes to stand on the ledge in a moment of total freedom with the adrenaline vibrating through your fingertips and a tragic misstep that leads to a meaningless and terrible death.

The lesson from all of this is that you must be an educated observer, and you have to throw each broadcast over on its side to truly understand who benefits most from the message: If all you learn from the constant disorganized barrage of fractured facts and bloated commentary is the story appears to be truthful, you have been sentenced to a lifetime of confusion and horror beyond human capacity - especially if you have one of those high-end satellite systems beaming seven hundred TV stations, non-stop, in the form of a jagged white hum - from which the deliberate distortions are marked by some hellish metronome bent to hyperspeed. Our world is surrounded by a cool plasma oasis today, whether the medium is TV or HDTV or Internet, and it's getting even harder to pinpoint the distinction. The only difference between Peter Jennings on ABC and Hewged B. Clanked pimping overstock asian pornography by way of some exploited email list that burped out your domain is not so easy to comprehend when all you've done is sit in front of a terminal while the whole world is trying to lift the last bottom dollar from your wallet. These are the sum of all the passive-aggressive activities driven by incessant greed and the petty need to control, and the voices sound so genuine and concerned that it seems like it's coming from your own conscience - as if it were a whisper calling out to you during the transition of one dream and into another - until you can no longer escape the inevitable choking sound in your throat.

This is what happens when technology passes too much information at a dizzying and convergent pace, forcing you to parse out every fifteenth word just to keep up, which is like neglecting to read the fine print before you drove off the lot in that practical used car with the great finance rate that you just had to have - the one with the new coat of paint and bald tires and the pesky leak in the radiator - and many good people get taken on a bad deal every day.

Hell almighty, meandering once again, but not so far from the point I was trying to make - because any mention of "bad deal" can always be traced back to the dubious and painful reality that is Dubya. Our peachy and sociopathic child preznut, The Chimperor of Crawford. He has this deep-seated resentment about serving overseas in an unpopular war ... Clearly, he does, but we'll dig deeper into these matters at another time. But we should not totally release on this point right now, because it has a lot to do with our level of uneasiness about Iraq and the personal ideas we keep to ourselves on the nature of this conflict, even if we were to separate logic from the rationale we were spoonfed all too efficiently, then we breath a collective grunt from having been steamrolled by that coordinated scam called The Hunt for WMD, like it was penned by a drunken Tom Clancy trying to meet a publisher's deadline ... which evolved into a series of terrorist connections to Al-Qaeda and, only then, was fashioned into a pro bono exercise to spread gunship democracy in the repressive Arab world. Facts can become very flexible in this information age: Make a webpage, take donations, produce an infomercial, sign the loyalty oath, enforce message discipline ... pick any focus group tested position ... change a mind and take the ride.

Perhaps there never was a concept of in the public interest when it came to organized media, much in the sense that there never has been any concept of honor in the world of organized crime. It's all been a myth no bigger than the bogeyman living under your bed or rabid alligators running amok in the New York City sewer system. Perhaps the idea of a free and rational media - no matter the channel - bit the dust on the night Walter Cronkite declared, about Vietnam, that it was "increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could." Today these words echo like a faucet dripping in the darkness as the message machine churns out images of happy and grateful Iraqis blowing kisses into the distance like bodacious sausages in the frying pan at Denny's, while Pentagon crisis managers edit the package late into the next day, so all of it can be offloaded onto the morning drydocks feeding a media factory stripped bare of ethics and personnel and the venerable notion that news should provide a service beyond tacit servitude to the policy-elite.

It used to be that "positive spin" on the evening news was so expensive for an administration to obtain and so maddeningly difficult to manage that no public official except Richard Nixon ever rose up to the "ends justify the means" pathology of Ted Bundy without the psychotropic medication - and it was mostly out of the question to risk a spin operation in the hands of some roving journalist who might not be able to connect the dots in time. There were oversight committees with real teeth and a harsh interpretation of the equal time provision, who are now called socialists by right wing extremists aimed at your checkbooks and tax dollars and online subscriptions to Bill O'Reilly gear - but it's always done in the name of progress or sponsored by groups like The Club for Growth ... which means that somebody else is getting ahead and living fat off the public dole like Matthew Lesko minus the question marks on his suit, while "your child gets left behind" and your job gets "right-sized" and you get taxed in even newer ways because grandma can no longer live on her own because the waiting list at Golden Years Rest Home is longer than the season tickets line at the Meadowlands.

Ah, yes! The new century looks even dimmer than the old one, offering us unchecked opportunities for premeditated abuse and unheralded ways to make a buck. Anybody with a $69.95 per month PHP Server and a MySQL backend along with Zend Performance Suite and enough bogus email accounts to throttle the tsunami-spared half of Indonesia, for instance, can send two or three thousand anonymous emails a day to the prime ministers of Bangladesh and France or NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue that simply say, "REMEMBER OUR ENCOUNTER IN PRAGUE? I LOVE YOU. WHEN CAN WE EMBRACE AGAIN?" Or something more like this, "I AM THE BORDERLINE RETARDED BROTHER THAT MOM NEVER TOLD YOU ABOUT. THE DOCTORS HAVE JUST RELEASED ME INTO THE WORLD SO YOU BETTER CALL BEFORE THE VOICES TELL ME TO KILL AGAIN."

Internet technology has this wonderful capability of leveling the communications playing field, and a lot of fun happens over the wire almost every night on chat rooms with web cameras and enterprising young minds devising new ways to deliver your Vicodin and Cialis and Ambien and Xanax over the wire without prescriptions. It's the same mindset that created P.T. Barnum and Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. And this same enterprising spirit lives on today from the bowels of occupied Iraq in the shape of some of our military men and women armed with personal video recorders and laptops which can burn personalized combat movies straight to DVD.

Extreme Cinema Verite: BAQUBAH, Iraq - When Pfc. Chase McCollough went home on leave in November, he brought a movie made by fellow soldiers in Iraq. On his first night back at his parents' house in Texas, he showed the video to his fiancee, family and friends.

This is what they saw: a handful of American soldiers filmed through the green haze of night-vision goggles. Radio communication between two soldiers crackles in the background before it's drowned out by a heavy-metal soundtrack.

"Don't need your forgiveness," the song by the band Dope begins as images unfurl: armed soldiers posing in front of Bradley fighting vehicles, two women covered in black abayas walking along a dusty road, a blue-domed mosque, a poster of radical cleric Muqtada Sadr. Then, to the fast, hard beat of the music - "Die, don't need your resistance. Die, don't need your prayers" - charred, decapitated and bloody corpses fill the screen.

"It's like a trophy, something to keep," McCullough, 20, said back at his cramped living quarters at Camp Warhorse near Baqubah. "I was there. I did this."

Imagine the Kevin Dillon character from the movie Platoon, a self-professed redneck with an Alabama-sized sadistic streak, who tells the others in his unit: "I like it here. You get to do what you want. Nobody fucks with you. The only worry you got is dyin', and if that happens you won't know about it anyway. So what the fuck, man?" Now imagine this Bunny character with a palm sized digital camera and a few hardcore metal CDs and a laptop with an Avid editing program, having captured his latest firefight on video. Welcome to Redrum Rumsfeld's all-volunteer army in the 21st century, a treacherous combination of My Lai and Wes Craven, with a little Vlad the Impaler and Headbangers Ball thrown in for extra spice. Any soldier can create action packed snuff movies and send them back home to his buddies via e-mail or by way of a secure edge-server, uncensored by the military, and this practice has become a cottage industry of "photographs and video footage depicting mutilation, death and destruction that soldiers collect and trade like baseball cards." Several websites already sell some of this snuff footage from the war - which in many cases seems more like MTV meets Faces of Death, the Iraqi years.

"It gets the point across," McCullough said. "This isn't some jolly freakin' peacekeeping mission."

In the end, who really needs a big brother when you're already watching and imitating him?

This is Team Gonzography. Signing off. Good night.


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