Professor Froward's Slough of Despond

Proud purveyor of flawed generalizations and vacuous tautologies.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Media and War

The UK has centuries of proud military history to commemorate and an attic full of honorable debacles, but you'd hardly guess from the Imperial War Museum's web site. Quite a remarkable number of left-leaning exhibits there, to my American way of thinking, but maybe to a Brit, hagiography of Greenham Common "peace" kooks looks centrist by now. I mean, they weren't explicitly chanting "We All Deserve to Die!", were they? Which puts them well to saneward of George Galloway.

What's more interesting is IWM's guide to techniques of war propaganda, which very charmingly describes eurolefty "discourse" about Americans:

Talk of defending a way of life, standards of living, rights and freedoms.

Disrespect the 'other': do not see them as equals. Mockery and sarcasm used to degrade, belittle, insult or ridicule others.

Dehumanisation [sic]: depict the 'other' as diabolical or inhuman.

Use of atrocity stories.

Warn of the threat posed by the 'other'.

Etc., etc. All of this applies even more plainly to European media coverage of Israel. Here's a good one: "Use abstract and general language — it is easier to kill 'things' than to kill human beings." Yes, indeed, and it's easier to approve when others kill "things", than when they kill human beings. For example, if your friends massacre a bus full of civilians, you might want to describe the civilians very briefly as "targets", without any names, ages, or details, and then move onto a nice sympathetic profile of the mass-murderer. If he died in the "operation", you could show his grieving family. The "targets" don't have grieving families, of course; "things" never do.

Remember, this is like the diagnoses in the DSMV IV: None of the "symptoms" counts unless it's happening consistently, and to a pathological degree. A sniffle is not pneumonia. Washing your hands twice a day doesn't make you obsessive-compulsive. Every undergraduate who ever took Psych 101 spent the semester diagnosing his friends with exotic psychiatric disorders, but in truth most of them were just run-of-the-mill losers with a few harmless quirks. The IWM's web site does not bother to make this point.

What's funny is the solemnly unironic tone. The left's been warning about "dehumanization" of "the Other" for quite a while now, and they've got a point. They just also happen to believe, as a matter of principle, that they don't have to worry about doing it themselves. They're preternaturally innocent, for ontological reasons: They belong to a category that can do no wrong. It's not them that goes around dehumanizing people; it's the Other doing that stuff. They're just defending their rights and freedoms against the stupid, inferior cowboy barbarians who kill all those kids in their quest to rule the world.

A corollary which ought to be obvious is that you and I are no more immune than the BBC is.


Thanks to Kim du Toit for posting a link to the IWM a while back. Always follow the links, folks.