Friday, April 27, 2007

Made for TV

It is really kind of sad, for one who has grimly enjoyed the unintentional Strangelovian surrealism of it all, to see the national security state's ham-handed efforts at WWII-style citizen warrior mythmaking breathe their last emphysemic gasps.

I suppose the spin doctors in charge grew up watching late night replays of The Fighting Sullivans and the like — heroic tales of average American fellas who give it all up for the noble cause of freedom and Democracy. All as remixed through the (now quaint and harmless, almost nostalgia-worthy) age of California Über Alles, with its Top Guns, Rambos, and Chuck Norris-as-Bo Gritz craptaculars.

(Speaking of which, I see where Stallone is working on Rambo IV. Not much out there about the latest scenario, but he'd be wise to look back to David Morrell's original material, the fine First Blood, whose tale of hunter-killer veteran wreaking havoc on a cush society that does not know how to re-integrate him into the highly socialized fold is likely to be far more germane archetyping than the steroid-fueled jingoism of the mid-1980s.)

Jessica Lynch has finally come clean, testifying before Congress about the true lies of her rescue attempt. Remember that one? The perfect 21st century descendent of Sgt. York — scrappy West Virginia girl in a convoy of mechanics that took a wrong turn in some Shiite southern province, blasting away solo at the Republican Guard, a working class Valkyrie who redeemed our lost valor. And the daring rescue by an elite squad, who conveniently had a videographer along for the show.

In case you hadn't figured it out already, it was, to put it charitably, spin-doctored a bit. (News too late for the made-for-TV dramatization.) But hey, Matt Lauer is no Edward R. Murrow, because that's not what the American public wants anymore.

And then there's the Pat Tillman thing. The NFL player who quit the Cardinals after 9-11 to join the Rangers, only to get fragged by his squad on some Afghan moonscape. Subject to an elaborate cover-up complete with burned evidence and an unearned posthumous medal, until his savvy lawyer dad busted the brass. Conspiracy theories involving Tillman's nascent anti-Iraq War stance and planned meeting with Noam Chomsky (!) no doubt abound. The investigation of that one continues.

Too bad the spin doctors weren't a little more up-to-date. Perhaps they should add a little cyberpunk, a little Pranks!, a little Baudrillard to the curriculum at whatever war college it is where they teach the big thinkers of America's domestic propaganda during the age of the GWOT. (It's actually illegal for the Pentagon to direct psychological warfare at "homeland" audiences, but apparently real-time hagiography from the front with no more attachment to objective reality than made-for-TV docudramas doesn't count.)

If the Pentagon were smart, it would feature dramatic profiles of more Zeitgeist-ready 21st century archetypes of that weird combo of American civilian savvy with warrior service to the national cause. Like:

- The guys who bombarded Iraqi officers with one-on-one cell phone psyops in the run-up to the 2003 invasion, implementing smart mobbing as counter-guerilla warfare.

- The guys who blasted continuous loops of Barney and Metallica at detainees as a fun alternative to waterboarding (heirs to the masters of The Noriega Playlist).

- The female interrogators at Gitmo who came up with such ingenious techniques as wiping faux menstrual blood on torn out pages of the Koran, flashed in the faces of their charges under the hot light.

- The young Predator Drone pilots, sitting in their air-conditioned trailers in some desert lot, cruising onscreen over the world (viewed through crosshairs), playing the awesome new first-person shooter that actually kills. (A society whose most mind-numbing juvenile pasttimes now unintentionally incubating an Army of latchkey Enders.)

Those are some reality action movies that might actually get my patriotic hormones pumping. But the cyberpunks aren't in charge of our psyops yet (so far as we know).

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