The Daily Bork

August 16, 2005

"The enemies we make"

Done With Mirrors has an excellent article on caricaturing the "enemy" and the curious inversion that has taken place between WW2 and now. As the official organs of Western governments go more and more out of its way to avoid caricaturing, the film makers and commetators in the West have gone to the other extreme.
Atop a grieving Statue of Liberty, the demonic-looking U.S. president waves a banner reading "democracy," but in his other fist he clutches the club of "dictatorship." Around him, on the statue's crown points, a young woman hangs in fetters, "anti-war" soldiers carouse, U.S. workers protest, and a clown in a dunce cap emblazoned with the Star of David inflates a stars-and-stripes balloon.

The latest from Ted Rall, Ward Churchill, Steve Bell, or Michael Moore? Something from "Le Monde" or "Der Spiegel?"

No, the president caricatured is Roosevelt, and the image is by the great Japanese illustrator Ono Saseo, and it graced the pages of the January 1942 issue of the Japanese magazine "Manga."

It is an interesting article, contrasting Frank Capra and Michael Moore, Imperial Japan and bin Laden, the attitudes to the enemy and allies.

Capra was reluctant at first to create propaganda films to motivate the troops, but eventually became the master of using the enemies own pieces to damn them. Moore on the other hand has become the master of using his own countrymen's and allies pieces to damn themselves (although in this age of online information it isn't hard to find the rebuttals and refutations)...
If this technique reminds you of Michael Moore, it ought to. He did the same thing, but with the morality and virtues in photo-negative.

Like Capra, Moore mostly used footage shot by others when he cobbled together "Fahrenheit 9/11." The IMDB "cast" list for the film names 40 public figures; of these, 37 are credited as from "archival footage." Even the common soldiers portrayed often weren't filmed by Moore. Some are from an Australian documentary, "Soundtrack to War," and were used despite the objection of film-maker George Gittoes, who said he had no idea his work was in "Fahrenheit 9/11" until it was screened at the Cannes film festival.

Moore's archival footage of Baghdad before the invasion shows the kind of happy glow Capra might have given to the American hearth. And where Capra showed the devastated cities of China strewn with civilian corpses, Moore gives us a U.S. military campaign in Iraq that seems to have killed only women and children.
In particular he draws attention to the weird use of Moore's propaganda by those who wouold never allow its creation in the first place...
How ironic is it that the most significant piece of Hollywood propaganda produced in this current war is lauded by the people who would burn Hollywood to ash and sow its soil with salt if they had the chance? The religious authorities in Iran scrapped the scheduled program at the Farabi Cinema complex in Tehran to put Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" on display. "This film unmasks the Great Satan America," a spokesman said. "It tells Muslim people why they are right in hating America. It is the duty of every believer to see [this film] and learn the truth."
He ends with a lament, which on the whole is not unjustified...
The care taken by our people to avoid crude caricatures of the enemy's culture is worthy of praise. It sets this war apart from World War II -- ironically, the "Good War" -- when even Dr. Seuss got into the Jap-bashing act. But how sad that we've turned instead to making crude caricatures bashing ourselves.


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