Monday, December 1, 2008

An All New Season Of . . .

Back when he sort of mattered, George Will, attacking what he saw as domestic queasiness with war, wondered if Americans would've thrown in the towel had the Civil War been televised. This assumes that 1860s television would've shown graphic images from Gettysburg instead of uplifting propaganda films (Confederate TV doubtless would've aired an early version of "Hee-Haw," using slaves as slapstick props), but Will's main point was that Americans were too soft to be a serious warrior race, so the media had to help shape us were we ever to realize our imperial destiny.

Will's thesis was offered when the US relied on surrogates like the Contras and the Afghan mujahedeen to kill commies, relieving its own citizens of this necessary, national responsibility. Today, Americans are in the thick of many foreign battles, with more to follow, so Will was ahead of the imperial curve, sharpened by the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, those attacks disproved much of Will's argument, as Americans watched the planes endlessly hit hit hit the Towers, their collapse seen from every available angle and speed. Thousands died right before our eyes, and far from making us squeamish, we went batshit insane, well beyond anything Will might've hoped for a quarter century ago. Our malleable minds were ready for shaping, and corporate media outlets performed their institutional function beautifully. It didn't last -- we're Americans after all -- but it wouldn't take much to wind us up again. Indeed, we're long overdue for another national freak out.

According to some, the recent terror attacks in Mumbai are supposedly India's 9/11, a wake-up call to vengeful arms. In the Sunday New York Times, Anand Giridharadas tried to whip up the old magic:

"But what slowly became clear was that this was an attack of especial barbarism, because it was so personal. It was unlike the many strikes of the last many months, bombs left in thronging markets or trains or cars: acts of shrinking cowardice. The new men were not cowards. They seemed to prolong the fight as long as they could. They killed face to face; they wanted to see and speak to their victims; they could taste the violence they made.

“'It is an Indian variant of 9/11, and today India needs to respond the way America did,' Ravi Shankar Prasad, a member of Parliament from the rightist Bharatiya Janata Party, said on television."

Well, if you're gonna use America's 9/11 brand, you may as well go all the way. Look what it's done for us!

Giridharadas' Jim Thompson imitation paints the Mumbai violence in garish colors, as if the attacks came from another world, "especial barbarism" that's alien to civilized minds. Given India's history, from British rule to now (Bernard Chazelle reminds us of the daily economic violence that doesn't merit the Giridharadas touch), you might think that this country of over a billion people has seen worse, however brutal the Mumbai attacks. But this is Terror War time, and the prospect of Pakistani involvement fits nicely with hostilities already brewing against Pakistan, a hot front that our new president has promised to stoke, despite the fading dreams of those peaceniks who still believe Obama is antiwar.

Speaking of which -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Let that roll around in your mouth a bit before uttering it. I don't know about you, but I'm very pleased with this selection. The hollow points are in the chamber; the safety's off; Happy Hour will soon be enforced by law. Minds are being shaped once again. The terrorists in Mumbai played their role, hitting a Westernized target, which is the real outrage. President Change is preparing to play his. And Hillary? Are you fucking kidding me?

READ: Former netroots panel pals Manan and Juan who offer more on this topic.