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By Which Means?

Andre Rector

On August 17, 2006 a full page ad appeared in the Los Angeles Times that read:

"We the undersigned are pained and devastated by the civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon caused by terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. If we do not succeed in stopping terrorism around the world, chaos will rule and innocent people will continue to die. We need to support democratic societies and stop terrorism at all costs."

The statement was endorsed by about 90 members of the Hollywood film industry, including conservatives such as Joel Surnow, Lionel Chetwynd, Rupert Murdoch, Dennis Hopper, Sumner Redstone, Sylvester Stallone, James Woods and Bruce Willis, as well as liberals like Michael Mann, Ridley Scott, Irwin Winkler, Bernie Mac, Nicole Kidman and Lawrence Bender. The ad was paid for by Nu Image/Millenium Films, which is preparing RAMBO IV and also producer Irwin Winkler's Iraq vet drama.

The statement seems well-meaning, but notice that "supporting democratic societies" has to be expressed vaguely because otherwise the signatories would have to support Hamas, which was elected democratically. They'd have to support Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain, and, if there was an election within the year, Hezbollah.

Since 1967 being liberal tacitly means blindly supporting Israel in whatever it decides to do. Who called Clinton right-wing for this? Only a few on the margins. This is not to suggest that there's a conspiracy working for the fortification of Israel, rather it's a sign of the times: compassionate people, with interests to maintain all the same, who are incapable of doing anything but weighing in under already-sanctioned risk-free positions.

In these appeals they neither extol in any depth nor do they expose. To extol would run the risk of presenting potentially dangerous ideas in the raw to a disintegrating, very cooked society, and to expose requires good timing, the will to stay in one place, and space to do it; space that encroaches on the glut of advertising of products and selfhoods.

Causal relations have broken down, so that the Bush Administration can simply say Israel 'won', Hezbollah 'lost', and Thomas Friedman can have a make-believe conversation with himself as though he's a Lebanese civilian (disregarding every philosophical inquiry into the Other ever done) and say things in this role that go against every recent poll taken there and every piece of evidence coming out of the ruins (see the New York Times for August 14, 2006.). Who has forgotten Bush's "Mission Accomplished"? One answer is: the Iraqi people, long ago.

We cannot forget that these concerned millionaires watch CNN too, where commentators chastise "the Arab world" for "irresponsibly fanning the flames of "anti-Israel/Americanism" by showing images of dead people pulled from buildings in Qana, Tyre, or Beirut. As though there were some sort unreconcilability between the cause and effect of bombs and dead bodies, therefore the showing of images of the dead bodies is suspect. As if Al-Jazeera's was an artistic choice. Israel would prefer a 'structuring absence'. The news is happy to blame a corpse for being lifeless and go to great lengths to promote this point of view.

Evidence shows that the Lebanese photographer who brushed up his photographs for Reuters was only being a realist; instead of presenting an image (that he risked his life to get) which he found unsatisfactory in showing the actual situation, he decided to add some truth. He could only manage to photographically catch that Israeli plane firing one missile instead of the three, so he had to add two discharged missiles. If the objections are concerned with the integrity of photographic/digital ontology, that's one thing. If the objections are to a manipulation of reality, than we can easily cite the plethora of US newspaper front-pages that present Israeli soldiers with sunsets behind them, nobly fulfilling their heroic mission; in other words, wholesale manipulation.

Maybe the first place to occupy by force is the media, and all those actors and producers who signed the ad are in the media. Film workers defer to Papa television.