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J. Paul Narkunas
The strategy?: Mobilize a moral category that has universal claims that can conveniently be changed depending upon context.
Instead, the empty time of the TV war is packaged with subsidiary bits of “infotainment,” which serves as political commentary on the war. The war as a space of destruction and death is instead reconfigured as a competition between foes. The winner is foreordained--we are merely to watch for the drama, the unforeseen contingencies and purportedly due our part for the country by hoping for a low body count for “our” side. Many of the same narrative techniques as reality-based TV shows and sports events are used to package this war, albeit they are not quite fast enough. There is not enough rough material to sate the viewing public desires appetite for entertainment, to keep them from switching the channel. Indeed, narratives and information must be used to fill in the gaps of the war to avoid dead time. Graphics framing the images of war or commentary are glossy replete with collaged images of American flags and the light color of sand—I guess for context. We are shown, therefore, computer-generated images of all of the military hardware my tax dollars have enabled. I am supposed to perceive these spectacles as something I am participating in something grand of tremendous world historical importance. It was through a mixture of institutionalizing “clichés” as the normal order of discourses. The eerie familiarity, the visual clichés, are ironically disarming, but Arendt’s caveats prevail: “the notion of being involved in something historic, grandiose, unique (“a great task that occurs once in two thousand years”), which must therefore be difficult to bear. This was important because the murderers were not sadists or killers by nature…”
is not enough rough material to sate the viewing public desires appetite for entertainment, to keep them from switching the channel.
There are some first rate stories that follow specifically American narrative clichés. The American captivity narrative: Saving Private Lynch, a stereotypical American blond from West Virginia is rescued from brown people who was captured by Iraqi soldiers is saved by American soldiers due to ingenuity
I am in the middle of Shock and Awe, and the physical damage I can see on TV is nothing in comparison to the epistemological difficulties I have trying to process the absurd staging of doublespeak to legitimate the destruction of lives, buildings, technologies, hopes, beliefs, and futures that are effaced from the visual field of American TV. The networks decide after day three no longer to offer 24 hour coverage. We must wait for the ground war for some quality death in the name of good, and programming of the war will need to shift.
On reality TV shows or sports events, there is very little that actually happens or takes place, the action or plot as it were are perpetually suspended to fill in the space.
the war continues on other fronts with
We have been told repeatedly in the US context of the universal beauty of democracy as a political formation. We are also told of the needs for markets and economic measures to be transparent. In other words, the law has clearly defined limits in geographical and geometric space where it can be exercised, followed and politically recognized. It is for this reason that the accused if s/he has left the territory where s/he broke the law must be extradited in order to “stand” trial. This demonstrates a paradox of the law: it claims universality, but it is situated. Borders determine the limits for exercising the rules of laws, but both borders and laws can move and fluctuate. (Laws in British, German, French, and American colonial contexts provide specific examples.) Extending the scope of the law globally relies on specific technologies of nation-states to work. International law requires transnational policing mechanisms that require universal consensus on the “good” or at least the limits of legality. International laws and state institutions are, however, persistently tested and thwarted in emerging formations of flow—humans, capital, goods, cultural formations, ideas, and so forth. Flowing relations avoid the regulatory mechanisms of the nation-state, but not the force of statist mechanisms, such as international law and the declaration of human rights. The nation-state’s politics and laws persist, but the spaces where they can be exercised are geographically determined and limited. Consequently, the institutions of the nation-state often ironically frustrate international or global attempts instigated in Europe that try to enact universal policies or laws beyond a delimited territory, such as human right’s laws. Or they fail when specific states with universalist pretensions like the US now act in defiance of international law.
State-forms determine the limit; they have no outside to the limits of their exercise because they perpetually remake the border or limit, and therein lies the problem, and not the solution of international law.
My paper topic was in part preempted by a delightful piece of satire published in one of the more trenchant organs against power. like why attack Iran if it has no explicit connection to Al Qaeda? Where’s the proof about weapons of mass destruction we were promised? Why not let the United Nations, one of the few—however ineffective—global and political forces--play a more active role in this infinite fight against terrorism? Why is even forcing reflection on the terms of this event and the potentially less-than-noble intentions of the war, somehow the most dangerous and treasonous act? In a country that self-identifies as monopolizing freedom of speech, wouldn’t critical reflection, dissent, and active dialogue be one of the most democratic and patriotic acts? Apparently not. Interestingly enough, many of the ideas for the current American war machine—both as military and economic forces—were developed by the Project for the New American Century, projecting the “pax” Americana into the new century.