The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Seeing is, apparently and unfortunately, believing

Imagination versus Visualization Watch

One thing that has surprises me about my fellow humans (though perhaps it shouldn’t) is our real blind spot to consequences and concepts that are not EXPLICITLY dramatized with visual images. That is to say that for many people, if we don’t have pictures to go with our stories, it is as if the stories don’t exist.

For example, there were anecdotes of people who watched the move “The Day After Tomorrow” and seemed suddenly to realize, for the very first time, that global climate change might just be a problem. It was as if they literally needed to see it (or a dramatization of people dying in highly exaggerated, severe weather events) for their brains to process the information. Just saying, “If we continue to mess up our atmosphere, we will be screwed,” is not enough. People need Roland Emmerich to create a shlocky disaster film about it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Nobody enjoys a good dystopic vision of the future more than I do. From Soylent Green to Silent Running, it is interesting to see environmental jeremiads given life on film. But I read a news story (which I wish I could find now) about an American automobile executive who had decided, upon seeing “The Day After Tomorrow”, that maybe it might be important to increase the fuel efficiency on his company’s cars, because global warming was a serious issue. Gee, do you think? This guy literally had to watch a piece of crap popular movie before he could even come to that conclusion. Hooray for the power of film and visual imagery and all that, but boo to this executive, who presumably had the ability to improve the situation before this and never acted.

The power of the image is well understood by our Republican leadership, as is obvious from their actions. The American people are shielded from certain realities of our lives day in and day out by their absence in the visual imagery we use to communicate. Take poverty, for example. It is real, and it occurs to millions of people, including children and babies, in our own country. And the policies of the corporatists push more and more people into more and more severe poverty. How much poverty do we see depicted in any kind of visual medium? Very, very little. It is hidden, shameful, out of sight, and though we can discuss it and read and write articles about it, for many if not most people, if they don’t “see” it, it doesn’t exist.

Likewise, the costs of Bush’s War are hidden from us. The cost in treasure is easy to hide. Billions of dollars are disappearing, misappropriated into this dark pit of corruption. I think at last count Halliburton had about $8.5 billion in tax money they couldn’t account for. That’s roughly $100 from every taxpaying family in the US just gone, for which we are getting no benefit, either here or abroad (unless you consider having richer, more corrupt corporate cronies looting the treasury a benefit). Not even counting the looting, profiteering, and corruption that are occurring, the American people probably wouldn’t make a squeak about it unless someone made a movie about corrupt executives profiting off of the war. Or maybe a movie or series of pictures that literally showed how much money was disappearing, what the real opportunity costs of this foolish, murderous folly was. Without the pictures, it will mean nothing to most people. And the right wing understands this. Look at the shrieking fits they have concerning Michael Moore, whose chief crime seems to be putting images together with concepts, so that even the most unimaginative can understand that they are being screwed.

As far as the human costs, they are well hidden from view. We can show our weapons bombarding a city, causing “shock and awe”, firing at buildings. Photos of dead, maimed, screaming, crying, bloody, battered, exploded Iraqis are very rare. Also rare are photos of dead Americans, their bodies and futures turned into hamburger. Imagine this: the public is so protected from images of our own war dead that the Pentagon won’t even provide the incredibly sanitized images of the flag-draped boxes that bring them back to Dover AFB. (Yes, I know this policy was put in place for the Gulf War and persisted unaltered throughout Clinton’s tenure. Two important points: Clinton had zero combat deaths during his term, if you count military actions that he initiated. And he also attended military funerals, such as those from Powell’s fubared Somalia deployment, which Chimpy never does. When Reagan died, it finally gave W the chance to be seen next to a flag-draped coffin.) Our losses, except as they affect individual families, have been abstracted to the point of meaninglessness. There is no national sense of mourning, no sense of loss or senselessness or even meaning. Remember how the right wing flipped its wig when Ted Koppel’s Nightline dedicated a single show to showing the faces and reading the names of the dead from Bush’s war? They understood that even this tasteful show of respect for the fallen was a chink in the wall of invisibility they had built around the victims of this criminal war.

Finally, we get to torture, our national shame. Consider for a moment, that A) our President wanted his legal department to find a way to justify torture (!I still can’t get over that!) and that B) his justice department complied. (Can ANYONE tell me why these human scum stains are still in office?) But this, more than anything, has really been hidden. No pictures of what we are doing to other human beings are leaking out of Guantanamo, though there are awful stories. Of course, without pictures, Bushco is safe with its torturing gulags. When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke (that is, when the public found out about it, the administration knew months and months beforehand), remember what really steamed Rumsfeld’s crabs? It wasn’t that the torture happened, it was that pictures of the torture got into the media. He kept going on and on about how these pictures got into the media, and what a problem that was. Of course it was a problem. Without the pictures, the less imaginative portion of our population can’t decide whether torture is wrong. In fact, they even seem incapable of visualizing it. The Rude Pundit tries to paint a mental image of the shoe on the other foot in this post. As he describes, think of any movie you’ve seen where the good guy is tied up, and the bad guy comes in wearing a uniform, and tortures the good guy. It makes you hate the torturer, doesn’t it? We are that torturing bad guy, wearing that uniform, and the rest of the world is learning to hate us because of it. Bush can’t even go to Canada in peace and safety because he is an international torture criminal. But in this country, we don’t seem to get the picture.

“Bring it on!” Watch

Attached is a graph of US casualties in Bush’s War, labeled with various events for reference. The killing of Americans has continued at a relatively steady pace and is increasing. The various milestones (“Mission Accomplished”, “Sovereignty”, capturing Saddam) have little to no effect on the rate of death of our servicepeople. This graph is kept updated.


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