A friend sends me a PressTV posting by Dr. Kevin Barrett As is usually the case at that site, it’s a well-written, well-thought-out piece by someone with creds who has something to say. And, as with the best journalism, poetry, drama, fiction, conversation, etc., good thinking should inspire more of the same… and even consummate in focused action! Let’s have a go!
Dr. Barrett’s first paragraph: “The only award the makers of Argo deserve is a criminal conviction for crimes against humanity. Instead, Hollywood’s Zionist mafia has handed them an Oscar for best film of the year. The members of the academy should themselves be in the docket, facing war crimes charges, right alongside Ben Affleck.
Argo is a propaganda film. Like the films of Nazi publicist Leni Riefenstahl, it is well-made. Like those of Riefenstahl, it glorifies a murderous criminal organization. And like those of Riefenstahl, its ultimate purpose is to elicit hatred and turn its audience into mass murderers.”
There’s meat to chew on there (or organic, free-range chickens, if one prefers) but, as I wrote my friend, “The biggest problem with Barrett’s analysis is the usual specious analogy; i.e., Naziism/Riefenstahl/WWII and CIA/Hollywood/WWIII. Best go a little further back in history to get a better sense of how dangerous and insidious ARGO really is.”
Here’s what I mean: We’ve been living in a media-driven world since Edward Bernays applied his uncle’s– Sigmund Freud’s—psychological insights to mass-consumer-marketing and public relations… and then to matters of State propaganda (which often correlates to matters of war!). Born in Austria in 1891, Bernays was a baby when his family moved to the US a year later. (Snapshot Wikipedia intro: “[Bernays] combined the ideas of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of … Sigmund Freud.” Here’s the key point: Bernays “felt… manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the ‘herd instinct.’”)
Now, let’s get back to the historical record and why Afleck’s film is far more egregious than the work of Leni Riefenstahl.
Of all the major powers in WWI, Germany had tried hardest to avoid that cataclysmic conflict. Following Gavrilo Princip’s assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Kaiser Wilhelm II wrote imploring letters to his royal cousins (really!) in Britain and Russia imploring them to settle the matter of the Serbian insurrection diplomatically, to disentangle themselves from the disastrous network of alliances that had split Europe into armed camps. Nothing happened for about a month during the “July crisis” of 1914. Austria-Hungary made demands on Serbia to repress the rebellion, but the Serbs were encouraged to press on by “outsiders” (chiefly their Slavic cousins in Russia who wanted to re-establish their power base in the Balkans, but also by Britain and France–determined to crush the rising power of Germany and ensure their control of their Middle Eastern empires! And if these entanglements and hidden agendas sound a lot like our contemporary situation in Israel, Syria, Libya, Egypt and the whole shebang of the Middle East today, well, Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose!)
Needless to say, the Kaiser was barking up the wrong family tree! His letters and diplomatic missions came to kaput! The toll on Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire was unimaginable (only Russia would suffer comparable damages among the Allies!). Following the Armistice, there was the sell-out of the Versailles Treaty, the Balfour Declaration, and so forth–with much input by Zionist Jews (especially in Britain and the US) determined to seize the moment to establish a Jewish state in Palestine.
Were there “good guys” and “bad guys”… or were politicians, industrialists, armaments manufacturers looking out for their own best interests, figuring how to advance themselves—and the devil be damned? And the common man or woman or child—what did they understand of those interests? They were “herded” together to die in filthy trenches, to slaughter, and be slaughtered by, strangers. (Poets like Thomas Hardy in “The Man He Killed” and Wilfred Owen in most of his poems, and a poet-novelist like Remarque best captured the horrific ironies.)
Following the grotesque war (as all wars are!), Germany suffered a further dozen years of hyper-inflation (wheelbarrows of deutchmarks, etc.), starvation, kids dying in the street, etc. Meantime, kids were dancing the Charleston, etc. during America’s triumphalist Roaring Twenties. So, is it any wonder that German voters turned to Hitler and the Nazis in 1932, and, any more wondrous that by the Berlin Olympics of 1936, artists like Riefenstahl were celebrating a resurrected Germany? (And, notably, German artists were not alone in their adjulation. There are old Life magazines from the 1930s showing Herr Hitler as amiable host in Berchtesgaden, and one can find quotes by bulldog British imperialist Churchill praising Hitler’s accomplishments!) Notwithstanding the accomplishments, Germany remained threatened on every side by its former enemies.
No doubt there were injustices in Germany/Austria/Hungary, etc.–as there were in all the major powers of that time. Have we forgotten what it was like to be a black man in the US South back then—the public lynchings with grinning white men, women and children watching the “niggers” swing? Should we forget that long before there was any kind of “holocaust” engineered by German fanatics, there was at least as terrible a holocaust—in terms of numbers killed, 5-7 million–engineered by our future ally Stalin in Ukraine?
And this is the essence of our problem now—a problem badly exaccerbated by a movie like “Argo.” Since Bernays, we live in an often baffling, multi-layered, complex world with simplistic historical frames of reference; with simplistic solutions, pitting “good guys” against “bad guys.” (Aside: incredible to me that adults can take a phrase like “bad guys” seriously to justify drone warfare, torture, renditions, sanctions against a non-belligerent like Iran!) Fact is, Leni Riefenstahl had valid reasons to celebrate the accomplishments of Naziism between 1932 and 1939, and Germany had every reason to be wary of the empires—British, French, Russian and American—that had already devastated it two decades before.
Making Hitler and Naziism the locus of all evil in the world at that time, we have forgiven ourselves the barbarous acts we ourselves committed before and after the holocaustic Second World War! And, transferring that locus of evil to another opponent—the Soviet Union for over 40 years, or Iran for the past dozen years—we forgive ourselves in advance of committing horrors in the name of peace, security, our “freedom,” our “democracy,” our “way of life,” etc.
The situation in America today is far different from that of Germany in the 30’s! Our country has not been attacked and devastated by Iran. We have, rather, been bringing about our own ruin by the aggressive policies we have pursued since the end of WWII. There never was a “smoking gun” (in Exxon’s Condoleeza Rice’s preposterous phrase), nor yellow-cake uranium (as touted by “military hero” Colin Powell)—nor any of the other charades acted out on the world stage in order to justify the US holocaust against the people of Iraq during the last dozen years. Our CIA and Hollywood have helped to build the shaky scaffold of Middle Eastern ruin and our own. It is scaffolding that could come crashing down if the “herded” masses will awaken from their sleep–their dreams and their nightmares–and not only reclaim, but demand, their humanity.
Movies like “Argo” should be boycotted! Academy Award ceremonies should be picketed in the name of the First Amendment! Such movies have nothing to do with “freedom of speech” and everything to do with suppressing free speech and the truth for the sake of profits, promoting wars and hatred and slaughter. They are worthy of nothing but the fullest condemnation.
Let the Occupy Movement emerge from its long winter hibernation and focus its admirable energy on our spurious media—this “entertainment industry” that has cast a vail over common sense and decency for the sake of promoting Zionists, billionaires and corporatists (and let’s throw in the decadent, pederast Catholic Church Establishment, too!). That is the real story that needs to be told!
Gary Corseri has taught in US public schools and prisons, and at US and Japanese universities. His prose and poems have appeared at The New York Times, CounterPunch, The Village Voice, CommonDreams and hundreds of other periodicals and websites worldwide. His dramas have been produced on Atlanta-PBS, and he has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum. He has published books of poetry, the Manifestations literary anthology (edited), and the novels, A Fine Excess and Holy Grail, Holy Grail. He can be contacted at Gary_Corseri@comcast.net.