Monday, November 21, 2005

Something Is Rotten In Denmark. Like Eggs. Rotten Eggs.

There is a certain rapture to the lucidity of madness. Madness is often a type of liberation from social norms of behavior, a freedom of responsibility, an opening of the floodgates of thought and feeling. When Hamlet feigns madness, he is able to tap into this lucidity and put it to good use. He is able to get away with eliminating Polonius, mocking his father, insulting his mother, and generally being an obnoxious twit. He feels morally sanctioned to do this because he is on a mission: he must regain his throne from the vile, incestuous usurper and reclaim his family’s honor. However, that heady mix of social freedom and self-righteousness soon places Hamlet in a position in which he feels that he is God’s hand on Earth, prepared to be judge, jury and executioner. He soon becomes intoxicated and becomes much like an equivocator, and thus descends down the slippery slope into madness. By the end of the play, Hamlet is mad in a determinedly more sociopathic way; after all, “My thought be bloody or be nothing worth!”
Initially, we see that Hamlet is acting the part of the madman, nothing more. “As I perchance shall hereafter shall think meet/To put an antic disposition on” (Act I, scene v, lines 191-192) indicates that Hamlet is intentionally putting on the show. Even Polonius sees that Hamlet’s comments are suspiciously accurate (“Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.” Act II, scene ii, lines 223-224). Playing the madman will allow Hamlet to investigate without hesitation, to terrorize his mother and father, and to cede responsibility if caught. He can also act without Ophelia obstructing his way. But already we see a darker, crueler Hamlet emerge, and already Hamlet is making sacrifices in the way he treats other people for his cause of justice.
The turning point is when Hamlet decides to wait to slay Claudius. Initially, Hamlet is thinking in fairly just terms. Hamlet was planning on showing Claudius the mercy Claudius did not show Old Hamlet: a quick death right after Claudius is absolved of his sins. (Ironically, though Claudius does ask for forgiveness, he recognizes that he is likely damned, as asking for forgiveness for theft while keeping the stolen items is an empty gesture at best). But, Hamlet decides instead to be cruel and zealous in his distribution of punishment. “When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage…” (Act III, Scene iii, line 94) will Hamlet kill Claudius, and ensure Claudius suffers in hell or in purgatory, much like Old Hamlet is.

From this point on, Hamlet’s thoughts are bloody and bloody alone. Even the next scene speaks volumes of Hamlet’s newfound cruelty. Hamlet hears Polonius yelling, and thus says “How now, a rat?” (Act III, Scene iv, line 29). Hamlet knows perfectly well who the voice must be, but he ignores it and stabs Polonius without a second thought. When his mother protests, his only response is “Hah! Look at you! You married your brother!” Hamlet does not even make a pretense of remorse for Polonius’ unfortunate demise. He describes with a twinkle in his eye how one could find Polonius in heaven, or hell, or in the stairs going into the lobby. Polonius’ death causes Ophelia to fall into madness and in turn die, nearly ending that family unit. We do see one sign of hope, however. Hamlet does ask for forgiveness from Laertes for what happened, and makes a reference to his madness. At this point, the game is almost up: Hamlet knows that he must eliminate his uncle soon or he himself would die. Why would Hamlet make an admission of madness at that point in time? Perhaps because what was left of Hamlet’s decency and mercy was allowed one last chance to speak.

The combination of vengeance and freedom causes Hamlet to fall precipitously, much like Lucifer fell because of the same pride. Hamlet forgot the cardinal rule of Jesus’ teachings: mercy. And that is what took a decent young Catholic man from a steadfast and reputable character to a person responsible for many deaths.

Emelia Under A Fragmented Gaze

Abstract:It is my contention that feminist scholarship has in general looked at characters in plays holistically, averaging the sum of their complex parts and determining if they are gender heroes, cowards or villains. I find this practice arbitrary, and I will instead analyze Emelia's character and actions in terms of possibly competing aspects of her personality, dictated by her emotional state and position vis-a-vis a broader social context. Emelia is conscious of the power of social influence and of common gender dynamics. She is the gender parallel to Shylock, simultaneously offering a profound reason to reject the status quo while reifying it. Emelia and Desdemona are mirror images: Emelia being conscious of oppression but acquiescing to it, Desdemona being unconscious but willing to confront it. Shakespeare's work, despite his own parochialisms, is largely consistent internally and can withstand a progressive interpretation. To find the revolutionary woman, one must find the permutation of Ophelia and Emelia, instead of critiquing one against the other and unconsciously confirming the view of society that such individuals are pathological and at some level deserve what they got.

Some historians attuned to gender conflict have theorized that matriarchal societies passed into patriarchal societies when men realized that sex produced children. At that point, it became valuable to control sex through marriage and incredibly restrictive laws and practices that kept women essentially in solitary confinement. In this sense, relationship and kinship dynamics form the bedrock upon which more complex forms of oppression are built. Othello is a complex entity in this regard. While it was written by a man certainly trapped in his zeitgeist, it is a good enough story that it has a life of its own, and only peripheral looks at Shakespeare will be necessary. The problem is that all of the main women characters (Desdemona, Bianca and Emelia), while being empowered and talented women, tolerate abusive relationships. It is my contention that feminist scholarship has in general looked at characters in plays holistically, averaging the sum of their complex parts and determining if they are gender heroes, cowards or villains. I find this practice arbitrary, and I will instead analyze Emelia's character and actions in terms of possibly competing aspects of her personality, dictated by her emotional state and position vis-a-vis a broader social context.

Emelia is conscious of the power of social influence and of common gender dynamics. When Desdemona asks, “Wouldst thou do such a deed [abuse one's husband] for all the world?”, Emelia responds, “In troth, I think I should... not for any petty exhibition; but, for all the whole world – 'Ud's pity! who would not make her husband a cuckold to make him a monarch?” (Act IV, Scene III, lines 66-73). This response is complex. It indicates that she values power over dignity, a deep character flaw. But it also indicates that she associates her success with that of her husband's; that is, that she would be willing to abuse her husband to give him power. A question immediately arises: Is she censoring herself to avoid shocking Desdemona, or does she truly want power only for her husband?

The matter is complicated by the lines coming immediately after these. Emelia blames husbands for the pathologies of their wives; “But I think it is their husbands' faults/If wives do fall. Say that they slack their duties/And pour our treasures into foreign laps” (same act and scene as above, lines 82-84). She blames husbands for infidelity; after all, if men did their jobs in satisfying women, would women seek out other men? She then goes on to issue a familiar-sounding proclamation (same act and scene as above, lines 89-99):

Let husbands know
Their wives have sense like them. They see, and smell,
And have their palates both for sweet and sour, as husbands have.
What is it that they do
When they change us for others? Is it sport?
I think it is. And doth affection breed it?
I think it doth. Is't frailty that thus errs?
It is too. And have we not affections,
Desires for sports, and frailty, as men have?
Then let them use us well, else let them know,
The ills we do, their ills instrust us so.

This paragraph is the gender parallel to Shylock's speech on race and religion in The Merchant of Venice. In both cases, a character considered within the context of the play to be a villain is momentarily raised in status and given a brief humanity. In both cases, while courageously speaking out against the stereotypes and the norms and societal roles that hold them down, they immediately return to proactively filling those roles to the tee: Shylock by being a greedy Jew, Emelia by being a passive wife always seeking to satisfy her husband. Emelia, however, gives up the game in her speech: She points out that, while both men and women commit depravities, women are placed onto a pedestal by society. It is key to note that, like the “model minority” myth for Asians, that the “holy mother” image of women, while appearing to be reverent, is in fact a fairly crass carrot-and-stick manuever. It constructs a behavior model that, however admirable the model may be, implies a group behavior. When members of that group do not fulfill the expectations, they can be branded as aberrants and be severed off from their fellow group members; in this case, if a woman cheats on a man, she is being sincerely devilish since no good woman does that. (The model in question, of course, also assumes docility and puppy-dog-like loyalty to be virtues and independence to be something to be sharply curtailed, but that is of secondary importance; any model will do fine). Emelia points out that women have to stick to this model or else risk showing men something men don't want to see: That the majority of immoral actions committed by women are caused by the system being rigged in favor of men in the first place.

In this sense, Emelia and Desdemona are mirror images. Both have powerful husbands in important positions in the military. Both of their husbands are aware of, at some level, an injustice against them and a precariousness to their position (Iago is snickered at because his wife supposedly slept with Othello; Othello is a foreigner who must walk a very narrow line, and still faces racial slurs from the likes of Brabantio and Iago when he does walk the line). Both are talented, privileged women with obvious intelligence and wit. And both kowtow to their husbands' demands, retreating into a state of passivity precisely as their husbands become more abusive. The flaw in the mirror image is exactly the same as the flaw in the reflection between Iago and Othello. Desdemona comes from a position of innocence; she is not used to abusive relationships. Othello has a similar naivete; he blindly trusts Iago just as Desdemona blindly trusts Emelia and Othello. She seems unaware of the reality of the racial and gender dynamics in the society. Iago, being a manipulator, is inherently aware of the tools he works with, and Emelia is similarly conscious. She knows that the game is rigged against her gender; she is aware of Othello's status as an alien; and, most importantly, she knows that she is in an abusive relationship with a man who cares very little about her. Ironically, this conscious acquiesence to her society keeps Emelia alive longer than Desdemona, but both attitudes are unsustainable. What would be needed would be Desdemona's bright-eyed view combined with the information and pragmatism Emelia possesses.

It is key to note that Shakespeare had to appeal to a very heavily gender-biased audience. For evidence, look no further than The Taming of the Shrew, a comedy about wife-beating. Elizabethan England was severely polarized in almost every sphere of life: the state was a totalitarian monarchy, the economic system was feudal, a man could drink away his wife's life savings, and ethnic Others were horrendously mistreated, not to mention the corrosive effect of the Church on the body politic. Given this context, it is amazing that Shakespeare's work has the implications it does. Whether or not Shakespeare himself was liberal or conservative by the standard of his times is a chimerical question: his work takes on a life of its own, one with progressive implications, I believe. Nonetheless, asking the question would have one implication: If there is not a simultaneously self-empowered and conscious woman in the play (Desdemona being self-empowered, Emelia being conscious), is this because Shakespeare chose not to write such a character for whatever literary or social reason, or simply because he could not imagine such a woman, so antithetical to his social order?

The contrast between Emelia and Desdemona becomes clear in Act II, Scene I. Iago accuses Emelia of idiocy, back-talking and infidelity (Act II, Scene I, lines 100-102, 104-107, and 109-112). He then goes on to joke about every possible combination of women. He finally describes his ideal wife, a woman indistinguishable from the worst kind of slave. During this time, Emelia only says “You have little cause to say so” and similar weak retorts (same act and scene, lines 109 and 116). Desdemona, on the other hand, rebuts Iago's chauvinist diatribe at every turn. Desdemona even comments that Emelia “has no speech” and tells Emelia to ignore her worse halfs' ramblings (lines 103 and 159-161). Desdemona seems unaware that such behavior is a faux pas in her society; Emelia keeps her mouth shut. Only when she is away from Iago does she confide about her understanding of the world that she lives in.

In the end, Emelia is complicit in the chain of events that lead to the death of Desdemona, Othello, herself and Iago. Her desperate desire to please the man who, despite his wanton abuse, she still loves, does her in. But her pragmatic acquiescence to her gender position does keep her very briefly alive; only at the end of the play does she slip, and she is immediately snuffed. It is ironically often the strongest women who let themselves be abused by their lovers, and I view Emelia as a paragon of strength, if not a blazing courage. It is far too easy for radicals to attack the individuals who make less than admirable decisions in the context of oppressive social structures. The relevant question is not, “Why did Emelia not behave in a revolutionary manner, despite her obvious consciousness of her condition?”, but rather, “Why is society designed in such a way that such a woman is kept relatively powerless?” Institutions do not just assign roles: they alter perceptions and make rebellion difficult. It carries deep personal costs to resist the status quo. Within the context of the status quo, people will make all sorts of decisions. Radicals should focus on attacking the context that propels repugnant decisions rather than the individuals who made them. To do otherwise is to unconsciously reify the structure that views such behavior as pathology. To find a revolutionary, one must seek out both Desdemona's intolerance of injustice and Emelia's consciousness of the same injustice. This search will not be done in dusty archives, but in the consciousness of humankind.

Special Election Blues

An opinion came up among scholars and commentators, as in a letter to the Union on Oct. 21, during the special election. It was bemoaned that millions were being spent and that the Legislature was being run-around.Of course, Arnold was using the special election to play “chicken” with the California Legislature and make the inequity of political access between the poor and rich even more radical.But there is something disturbing about this argument, found among liberal commentators, that shows how tepid their critique is. It is that, well, democracy just isn’t that worth it, certainly not worth millions of dollars (out of the billions in the state budget alone). We even hear that the initiative process needs to be “reformed” because people are too involved in their democracy, and that the fox (state Legislature) should be allowed to watch the henhouse (initiatives that would undermine their interests).This same difficulty shows in the Democratic Party’s inability to describe the elections in Iraq for what they are: a colonial front, itself won by popular resistance. Instead we hear about WMDs endlessly, a worthy topic to be sure, but not the one that the Iraqi people, our victims, care about.

Film: Trivial and Dangerous or Powerful and Reactionary?

What better defines a romantic evening than a dinner and a movie? One absorbs food to food the body and entertainment to feed the mind and soul. Movies define and are defined by culture: they are vanguards for the dissonant voices that form a society. Sometimes they are propaganda of varying qualities, such as with Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Passion of the Christ; other times they embody some spiritual criticism of modern culture, such as in American Beauty; and elsewhere, they are embodiments of militarist values, such as in every vapid action movie from Commando to American Ninja. Critiques of film follow roughly two paradigms. The first is, loosely speaking, a “conservative” paradigm. Film is viewed as a triviality, vapid entertainment that through its very frivolity encourages violence and sex to be desensitized and glamourized. This aspect of the media is considered to be dominated by liberal forces who question sanctified truths and thus launch a headfirst attack at the moral fabric of the nation. However, this critique fundamentally regards films as such simplistic entities that they can be regulated by state intervention or community activism, so basic and trivial that such basic intervention is unproblematic. While there are disagreements internal to this paradigm as to the strength of the media, the underlying assumption seems to be that the structure of film is a simplistic way of communicating narratives, and the only thing that should and can be changed is the content of those narratives. The “liberal” paradigm is markedly different in crucial respects. While the advocates of the paradigm also disagree sharply over the exact degree of impact the films pose, the general consensus is that film is capable of at least rivalling, if not surpassing, the complexity and depth of symbolism and meaning of the novel or philosophy textbook. Here, if glamorizing violence or sex or racist values is a concern, it is not because the media is so frivolous that it encourages these subjects to be portrayed frivolously, but because the art form of film has such untapped reserves of potential. To this paradigm, abstract or non-sensical narratives, documentaries, and cultural criticism are all within the capabilities of the art form. The concern here seems to be instead that the media, by wasting and squandering its potential, instead serves as a reactionary bulwark for society. Both paradigms ignore that film is like any other art form: it is capable of vapid triviality, inciting dangerous and unchecked change, and equally capable of squandering beautiful potential and acting as commissar and thought enforcer.

The conservative notion is expressed in the Hays code and in the outcry of the Legion of Decency. Its tactics are described in James Rorty's August 1, 1934 piece, “It Ain't No-Sin”: blacklists, whitelists, boycotts, arguments that the “government should do its duty”, and an attack on the industry as a cesspool of filth that distributed these trivial substances masquerading as art, almost like heroin packaged in the Mona Lisa. Rorty points out that private distributors kowtowing to the pressure of the Legion placed blame on the distributors' “block booking” and “blind booking” practices, where one was forced to buy all but 90% of the block of movies from a company, yet these exhibitors used these privileges to cancel 'Cradle Song' and other wholesome and artistic films yet didn't use the privileges to cancel 'I'm No Angel' or similar sexually charged films. The criticism of this opinion scarcely focuses on businesses as economic entities and instead characterizes and constructs them as cultural forces that are naturally regressive and seek to peddle filth for profit. The disgust comes from the filth, not the profit. Often, this criticism is bounded together with ethnic hatred, as in the case of the Warner Brothers producing Confessions of a Nazi Spy (see Steven Ross' article in the collection Warner's War), where the Warner Brothers were attacked by anti-Semites, thinly veiled and not-so-thinly veiled. The conservative criticism rarely offers a guideline for films' artistic content; they simply demand that certain social and political questions not be breached and that certain types of narratives and language (such as obscenity, sex and violence) be restricted by community and government intervention.

The liberal commentary is slightly more nuanced. Here, film is discussed as a complex institution, often a reactionary one. In Maltby's “It Happened One Night: The Recreation of the Patriarch”, it is argued that It Happened One Night is a traditional narrative of an independent woman infantilized by a powerful male figure, a narrative attempting to explain the neurosis of the Depression Era's crisis of capitalism as a crisis of patriarchy. The film business is understood as primarily that: a business with the profit and power considerations of market capitalism constraining the possibilities of film. The captains of the film industry are portrayed not as demoniac peddlers of perversion but rather as cowards kowtowing to popular demand simultaneously for filth and purity; as Rorty puts it, “... the industry was too cynical, too hypocritical, and too scared to fight.” What is decried is not the violence or sex per se, but the exclusion of any other content whatsoever; Rorty accuses film of “emptiness” and a “lack of genuine social and artistic content”. Understanding of film as a complete artiface and not a delivery system of perversion, however incomplete and distorted this understanding may be, is also part of this paradigm. Dale's :”What Are Motion Pictures For?” does not simply describe the negative (“They're not supposed to spread perversion”) but instead argues that if film is not progressive and socially conscious, it will not be apolitical and harmless but will in fact be reactionary and socially bereft. In his words, “The motion picture, then, should show you just what problems people are facing today and the different ways that these problems can be solved.” Film is not simply art or storytelling, but in fact carries the potential for activism. Peterson and Thurston also stress this conception in their “Motion Pictures and the Social Attitudes of Children”, cataloguing how multiple films stressing the same message can cause a cumulative impact greater than the sum of its parts and thus implying that film should be careful about the assumptions it makes. The alternative here is not censorship or regulation; rather, the liberal critique is an appeal to filmmakers to broaden their horizons. Such a critic may appreciate It Happened One Night as an excellent comedy and yet, as Maltby does, criticize it strongly for reifying the role of the patriarch and act as the knight in shining armor in more ways than one for an oppressive social institution. Admittedly, there is quite a bit of hypocrisy in this narrative. WaltL industry and an artist, yet the dissonance of the two roles is never called into question. “Exposing Mickey Mouse” does nothing of the sort; rather, it focusses on narrow technical questions. This is possibly because “Europe's Highbrows Hail[ed] Mickey Mouse” and because, according to the 1933 Literary Digest piece, “The picture [Three Little Pigs]... has many... virtues, which helped to make it the film darling of the intelligentsia”. Cartoons are not dismissed as frivolous distractions; rather, champions of modernity such as Soupault, Morienval and Jazarin stress not the author but the work, arguing that animation can breach the wall between reality and unreality and end the “tyranny” of traditional art.

Both conceptions conveniently ignore film's true nature. It is neither a predatory monster spewing an addictive drug to snare the young and impressionable nor an entirely untapped cultural heritage. Possibly the best secondary material in the reader discussing this ambiguity is “Black Face, White Noise”. Though the piece does criticize the racial injustice portrayed by black face, it simultaneously shows how The Jazz Singer helped to end an era of silence associated with patriarchal values and how the movie used black face to empower the Jewish singer, bridging the gap between the poor and the rich, the weak and powerful. All film is thus ambiguous. A good story may contain aspects that, viewed in isolation, beg serious questions. Yet the entire work is rarely dragged down by such aspects; rather, the context makes film more than the sum of its parts. Thus, one can watch Dirty Harry and comment on how it enshrines patriarchy and violence, yet it also criticizes bureaucratic ineptitude and creates an almost revolutionary figure. The perennial weakness of both liberal and conservative critiques is that they isolate particular subnarratives of film and make these the centerpiece, in a way that is never done with a novel. When reading Shakespeare, one can see the parochial influences yet still marvel at the handiwork, the skill at crafting the language, the wit and subtlety mixed in with crass and base humor, and the social commentary. If we wish to treat film like a novel, we need to understand it as such: each a story composed of multiple narratives, none of which can be isolated without doing injustice to the whole piece. Film is not simply a trivial drug, because it can deeply inspire and teach in succinct and memorable ways complex lessons, such as in Cabaret; yet it is also not simply a squandered artistic resource, as it does contain elements of pacification and excessive violence and filth. As Rorty says, “The movie magnates have treated the American people like cattle. They have exploited the prurience of our Puritan mass culture, made films to exploit and incidentally confirm that prurience, and added for a good measure a little of their own... Of honest sin or honest sainthood they have given us practically nothing. Fake sin, fake sex, fake social and moral values: how can a culture achieve a healthy maturity on that diet?” Overwhelmingly, film is too complex to wish away to simpler times with one-size-fits-all government regulation or snide liberal critique. It must instead be taken as it is and used
as a vehicle for discussion, as any other story. Otherwise, it will become the worst of its parts: reactionary, encoding militarist, racist, sexist and other values and thus serving as a cultural smokescreen and bodyguard for oppression; trivial, distracting and corrupting for its own insiduous ends through excessive sex, violence and obscenity, all sound and fury signifying nothing; complex, so much so that it becomes a morass of competing nothingness; and dangerous to the utmost.

Potential or Realization? Differing Analyses of Aesthetic Quality

When giving platitudes to the creator of a piece, one can approach the comments from roughly two different angles. The first is to honor the piece in a vacuum: aesthetically, for its mastery of the tricks and turns of the trade, as a good story or construction, much like an architect could analyze a building's harsh beauty. The second is to honor the piece's external potential, either as a blueprint for further work within the art or as a vehicle for achieving some other goal, much like an architect could admire a building for the uses to which it will be put. These two distinct possibilities can be seen most profoundly with Walt Disney and The Jazz Singer in the one hand, and Sunrise and Scarface in the other.

Reviewing the analysis of The Jazz Singer and Walt Disney shows that the concern is not exclusively or primarily with the value of the works themselves, but instead commenting on the potentials that the technology and technique of each could be used to break the stultifying tyranny of dominant forms. As Crafton makes clear in “The Uncertainty of Sound”, The Jazz Singer was not acclaimed for rising out of a vacuum (pun intended) and blasting a horn of a new era of sound. The institution of sound was a gradual imposition from sound as a novelty to sound as an expectation that sometimes was not used because of aesthetic choices (watching Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times is disorienting, as Chaplin intended it to because, because sound is used in snippets of appropriate dialogue, but at other times sound disappears to strengthen the impression of the panopticon operating in the factory that suspended all comfortable and natural feeling). Rather, The Jazz Singer bridged the gap between silence and sound: it was a transitory film and not an epochal and novel film, but yet all the more epochal because of it. The Jazz Singer, according to Crafton, uses sound and the lack thereof to symbolize freedom and repression, love (sexual and otherwise) and the squashing of that love, etc. in dichotomous representations. It actually leverages the incomplete application of sound to accomplish its art.

Yet The Jazz Singer is imperfect and incomplete: it “excised... social struggles that united Jews... in trade unions, radical movements...” It even “contains no jazz” in the strict sense, exorcising the essence of the minstrel to opportunistically use its face as a mechanism for Jewish solidarity. The analysis that Crafton makes focusses on the one truly original part of the movie, a relatively minor one in terms of screen time: the racial and sexual implications of the dress-up as black, the “sexual drag”. The subsequent news articles focus on the novelty value of the sound genre, the novelty of Jolson as a singer and of Cantor Rabinowitz, and most importantly on the potential, but not the actuality of the media, expressed most strongly in “Moving Picture Audiences Differ from Musical Comedy” and “'Jazz Singer' Scores a Hit”, both pieces that underscore how Jazz Singer is viewed as a blueprint for a paradigm shift for the movies but not the paradigm shift itself. “Europe's Highbrows Hail Mickey Mouse” describes this same phenomenon with Disney. Jazarin argues that “The animated drawing has fought for its life. It is on the point of triumph... Doesn't it permit the expression of the wildest conceptions...? The animated drawing alone can unite evocative power of design with the impalpable motion of life, with speech and with music. Thus it becomes a complete art...” Morienval says, “The moving and sound drawing has as a matter of fact no limits...” There is little to no discussion of the literary or artistic merits of the Walt Disney pieces as such. Instead, the focus is on their potential, what animation can do in terms of broadening the scope and style of storytelling.

Meanwhile, Sunrise itself is considered to be “Opening A New Day in Movies”. German critics, according to Saunders, viewed Sunrise as a uniquely German-American film, composing something new from more than the sum of its parts, arousing “superlatives for overcoming deeply entrenched beliefs”. Both its critics and its supporters recognized that something new was at work. Sunrise was viewed as an independent masterpiece of raw technique, rather unlike Disney's relatively simplistic animation that ended up reifying the traditional tyranny of story forms and The Jazz Singer's lackluster direction. It had “fantastic cinematographic achievements... capturing ambience with light, lens and rhythm.” The criticisms of it were because of what was believed to be an un-German and even contra-German sentimentality and hope for a good and happy ending, yet it was conceded on all sides to be a hallmark film capable of capturing an aesthetic sensibility without doubt. Scarface was considered so dangerous in constructing a charismatic devil figure who the audience identifies with that it was changed to have artificially-inserted sermons on public responsbility to stop crime. Scarface constructs a reverse Macbeth figure: a character who, while being a monster of viciousness, falls because of his own truly human and positive characteristic, his love for his sister. With masterful lighting and characterization, it was recognized as a tiger that the movie industry had by the tail, something that could glamorize crime and the gangster life.

These two patterns of critical reception occur over and over: the film viewed as a flawed epochmaker, and the film viewed as so perfect that it almost breaks the epoch by destroying any possibility for a film to be anything but a pale imitation. Sunrise became the silent film's last gasp, while Jazz Singer became the sound film's first tentative breath. Who knows when the action film will finally see its perfect realization and finally die?

Flu: The Forgotten Killer

Influenza, more commonly known as “the flu”, does not inspire feelings of dread in the way more media-friendly diseases such as Ebola or AIDS do. It is in general viewed as a minor annoyance. Yet influenza historically was considered very serious. Historians Alfred Crosby and A.A. Hoehling among others have written extensively on such events as the influenza epidemic between September 1918 and June 19191. That epidemic in particular claimed 675,000 lives and manifested symptoms similar to pneumonia, a death toll more drastic than all the American combat casualties of World War I and II, Korea and Vietnam combined. Striking in two waves and killing combatants and non-combatants alike, the epidemic was no trivial matter. However, modern technology and understanding of epidemiology has greatly reduced the threat of the flu. It may thus seem to be deserving of its triviality status, yet this report will argue that the flu remains a relevant issue for the 21st century.

The primary danger is the pathology of the flu itself. In a December 2nd lecture to a class in UC Davis, Cinda Christensen, a pharmacist at Davis, discussed the main dangers of the flu. It can transmit itself through watery particulates at ranges of up to 3 feet, making it a danger in the winter months when people are in close quarters with each other. It infects the respiratory tract and causes massive cell damage. Because the cilia lose activity, the body is open for bacterial or viral superinfection, or opportunistic infection by microbes that normally would not find purchase in the body. In this sense, flu is worse than AIDS: not only does it strike at the body's defense mechanisms, but it also contains its own potentially deadly symptoms. Repairing the damage completely can take anywhere from two to ten weeks, and among vulnerable populations, the flu can take a course towards asphyxia and pneumonia, as it did in 1918. It is reasonably virulent and rarely kills the host, allowing it to spread rather rapidly. And, like AIDS, it is constantly mutating, making vaccination almost an exercise in futility and multiple lifetime flu infections common.

It is clear that the pathology of the flu poses a serious threat to even well-established public health systems, but what of systems in other countries? According to Christensen's statistics, the US accounts for anywhere from 3.6% to 7.2% of the world's flu casualties. A US Food Aid Service (FAS report) cites that the US has about 276 million people and that the world now has more than 6 billion humans, indicating the US has about 4-5% of the world's population.2 The vast majority of the rest of the influenza deaths are abroad. A UK Health Protection Agency FAQ mentions a 1957 'Asian Flu' and a 1968 'Hong Kong Flu', but also points out that no flu pandemic has struck in major industrialized countries for thirty years.3 The most recent epidemics and pandemics have been in Third World and industrializing countries. The “avian influenza” scare recently has obfuscated the fact that, despite the relative danger of a new strand emerging, the real dangers are not to be found here or in other European countries, as agencies like the CDC and HPA have established protocols to contain such new mutations. The real cost is borne elsewhere. A United Poultry Concerns report estimates that 50 million chickens in Asia have been exterminated to prevent an outbreak of the flu and a shift to the human population.4 This is because this flu has anywhere from a 30% to 70% mortality rate, a simply massive death toll. The report also notes that as these countries move to capital-intensive agriculture, with the now-common symptoms of incredibly confined and cramped spaces for the livestock and general inhumane treatment, diseases such as the avian flu can now spread like wildfire among the animals and mutate to a dangerous strand. A similar mass slaughter of chickens in the Netherlands, supported by the World Health Organization, cost the government $344 million. A World Health Organization study pointed out that worldwide death tolls for flu has been 50 million lives, a number higher than even the Chinese famine that Amartya Sen among others has analyzed5. It also demonstrated that 250 million vaccinations total have been administered, yet the group most in danger, seniors over the age of 65, now constitutes 380 million people. Klaus Stohr, reviewing the WHO report, argued that, “ influenza pandemic will have its greatest impact on developing countries where there is no vaccine and antiviral protection”. These concerns are key for the US, for a few reasons. First, the neoliberal regimes advanced by the US and other G-8 countries have been key forces in reducing the power of the government to effectively fight epidemics and pandemics. Edward Herman, Greg Palast and Patrick Bond, among others, have documented how neoliberal regimes drive down growth rates, push patents for drugs preventing governments from buying and distributing cheap generic drugs, privatize essential health services, and generally establish the type of poverty and health conditions essential for an outbreak.6 This means that there is a moral obligation for the US to do something, as the head mover and shaker in pushing globalization. Second, massive outbreaks of disease can help spur destabilizing pressures. Lao's Prime Minister Bounnhang Vorachit cited avian influenza as an impact of globalization and discussed it seriously as a security concern for ASEAN7. The fiscal and human impact of a pandemic can cause anger, hatred, fear, and general danger and thus spur dangerous wars. According to Rick Rowden, a Political Science teacher at Golden Gate University, the US bombing of Cambodia and subsequent famine was one of the main impetuses for the formation and popularity of the Khmer Rouge and their subsequent killing spree.8 Clearly, influenza on its own will not cause conflicts to erupt, but governments faced with serious problems including influenza outbreaks could use war as a solution for a variety of reasons. Even more likely is dissatisfaction caused by a perception that certain ethnic minorities or distant powers are responsible for the misery inflicted. In Worlds in Collision, Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley Kenneth Waltz argued that, “Unsurprisingly... weak states and disaffected people... lash out at the United States as the agent or symbol of their suffering.”?9

Dealing with this international problem would not be that difficult. Kofi Annan, in his “Astonishing Facts”, has pointed out that the amount that Europeans spend on ice cream exceeds the annual total needed to provide clean water and sewer systems to the world, that Americans and Europeans spend more on pet food than it'd cost to provide basic nutrition to the world, and that $40 billion a year (4% of the combined wealth of the 225 richest people in the world, and a drop in the bucket of most Western GDPs) would suffice to provide basic education, health care, food, water and sewage systems for the world.10 Edward Herman in his Sophistry of Imperialism outlined an alternative course for globalization and economic development that involves independence, democracy, reparations (again, relatively cheap ones relative to GDP) and autonomy11. He cites numerous examples of globalization not only lowering growth rates, but also increasing inequality. Dani Rodrik, Professor of Economics at Harvard, points out that this increase in equality also lowers growth in the long term: a 10% increase in the Gini index of inequality lowers growth rates 1.2%12. Abandoning the dogma of commitment to “free markets” would not only raise the general economic standard of Third World countries and thus help raise their immunity to the flu, it would allow governments to not privatize their health systems and provide efficient health care and establish preventative systems to avoid outbreaks. It is thus in the security and economic interests of the United States to adopt Annan's and Herman's proposals. Dealing with influenza specifically, aid and research assistance (including easing of intellectual property restrictions) would help local economies develop their own flu vaccine stores. The US could target an infinitesimal part of its budget to subsidies for vaccine development and other aid programs to attempt to contain such epidemics. Such a simple investment could avoid the massive economic impact of slaughtering infected livestock and losing worker productivity to disease. Not only does the US, thanks to its colonial and neocolonial history and ongoing practice, have an obligation to help Third World economies recover, develop and defend their people from disease and famine, it has a practical interest in doing so. After all, disease is borderless: in the age of jet planes and cruise ships, a disease in Africa can spread to America and Europe.

A third problem concerning flu is the domestic analog to the international issue. Luckily, here the US is not so remiss. A USDA news release of May 12, 2004 outlines a USDA program to help defend against avian influenza.13 These kind of preventative programs can help prevent what happened in February of this year, where the outbreak necessitated massive poultry euthanasia and trade restrictions on infected countries. However, the danger remains real. The same USDA press release predicts that one gram of contaminated manure could infect up to a million birds. It is important for government officials to avoid fearmongering, however. While the flu is dangerous, it is not close to pandemic proportions, and US health care systems are capable of dealing with the stress. Vaccine rationing this year is highly prudent, as Dr. Christensen demonstrated convincingly (cited above). CBS News ran a story on October 18, citing the CDC Director as saying, “It's important for people to understand we've got 20 million doses of flu vaccine coming on the way. It's coming out of the factory in an orderly manner and we're doing everything to get it to the people who need it most in an orderly manner.”14 However, this has required using an experimental vaccine, something not too likely to have dangerous ramifications, but a frightening thought nonetheless. The difficulty with effective policy-making is caused by the fact that the flu mutates constantly, making stockpiling vaccines useless. Instead, the government should double the most pessimistic predictions and order that many flu shots. The excess can be shipped to other countries at a discount. The essential point is to shore up as much demand as possible and encourage companies to avoid abandoning flu vaccine production. This is essential because, as the same CBS story reported, “Some economists expect losses in productivity, not just in terms of sick employees but lost workdays to tend to sick family members, reports The Wall Street Journal. One expert tells the paper twice as many people could get the flu this year because of the lack of vaccine. In a normal year, the flu is the leading cause of Americans calling in sick to work. David Cutler, a professor of economics at Harvard University, estimates that the flu's effects on the economy could approach $20 billion this year. ”

The fourth problem regarding the flu is the media reporting and framing of the issue. In general, the media seem to adopt a crisis-response agenda, shortcircuiting discussion of long-term and perennial issues. Noam Chomsky (in Manufacturing Consent) among others has pointed out that the American media is especially prone to “brevity” and sound-bite style reporting due to the high degree of advertising saturation15. Thus, the media focus on SARS instead of the perennial death toll of the flu. Only when there is a crisis such as a flu vaccine shortage does the issue enter the public mind. This causes chronic public underconcern and thus ineffective policy-making and a public prone to panic. The government should fund awareness programs in schools and communities to bridge the gap and provide reasonable and available information. Simply put, if people spent more time worrying about the flu than SARS, it would be easier to deal with the flu.

The fifth problem concerning flu outbreaks is a simple sanitation and health issue. Flu spreads during the winter months because people are confined, yet simple practices such as getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, washing one's hands, regularly cleaning the home with disinfectant, covering one's mouth when coughing, being willing to keep kids at school and sick adults at home, and other common sense habits can help slow the spread even during winter months.16 For this, public awareness programs can help substantially, as well as improving programs to allow workers more sick days and less fear of repercussion if they don't go to work. Both are relatively easy proposals to institute.

While people in Western countries often consider the flu simply an annoyance, it is serious business. It is a perennial and historic disease, yet modern technology and techniques can legitimately make it into simply an annoyance. Yet the majority of the world's population does not have that luxury. This Congress can and should place health issues as a number one priority. If the US is going to be a world leader, it might as well be a world leader in preventing pandemics and not simply raw military and economic might.


1. See Crosby, Alfred W., Jr. Epidemic and Peace, 1918, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1976; and Hoehling, A.A. The Great Epidemic, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1961.
2. Food Aid Service. October 12, 2004. “Who's Coming to Dinner: How Global Population is Growing.” Accessed December 12, 2004.
3. Health Protection Agency. “Frequently asked questions on flu.” Accessed December 12, 2004.

4. United Poultry Concerns. February 13, 2004. “Avian Influenza – Death Toll: 50 Million and Rising.”

5.The Lancet Infectious Diseases Vol. 2 September 2002. “Reflection and Reaction: Influenza - WHO Cares.” Reprinted at the World Health Organization website and citing their work. For Sen's work, see Dreze and Sen's Hunger and Public Action.

6. The Vientiane Times. December 1, 2004. “Bounnhang advocates peace and stability.”

7. Rick Rowden. San Francisco Chronicle August 1997, reprinted at the Light Party website. “Khmer Rouge first gained popularity as fighters of Lon Nol regime.”

8. In general, Z Magazine's coverage of this topic has been excellent and cogent. See in particular: Herman, Edward. April 30, 2001, “The Media at the Barricades in Support of 'Free Trade'”. Bond, Patrick, accessed December 12, 2004, “Cultivating African Anti-Capitalism”.

9. Walth, Kenneth. Worlds in Collision, edited by Boothe and Dunne.

10. Annan, Kofi. “Kofi Annan's astonishing facts”, reprinted in New York Times News Service, September 27, 1998.

11. Herman, Edward. “Sophistry of Imperialism”, Z Magazine March 2 2002.

12. Rodrik, Dani. “Where Did All the Growth Go? External Shocks, Social Conflicts and Growth Collapses.” John F. Kennedy School of Government, Cambridge MA; last revised August 1998.

13.United States Department of Agriculture. “USDA Funding Approved for Avian Influenza Prevention Program.” Washington, May 12, 2004.

14.CBS News. “Feds: No Need for Flu Shot Panic”, citing an AP release. October 18, 2004.

15.From a list of quotes from Noam Chomsky: ..." suppose I'm talking about international terrorism, and I say that we ought to stop it in Washington, which is a major center of it. People back off, "What do you mean, Washington's a major center of it?" Then you have to explain. You have to give some background. That's exactly what Jeff Greenfield is talking about. You don't want people who have to give background, because that would allow critical thought. What you want is completely conformist ideas. You want just repetition of the propaganda line, the party line. For that you need "concision". I could do it too. I could say what I think in three sentences, too. But it would just sound as if it was off the wall, because there's no basis laid for it. If you come from the American Enterprise Institute and you say it in three sentences, yes, people hear it every day, so what's the big deal? Yeah, sure, Qaddafi's the biggest monster in the world, and the Russians are conquering the world, and this and that, Noriega's the worst gangster since so-and-so. For that kind of thing you don't need any background. You just rehash the thoughts that everybody's always expressed and that you hear from Dan Rather and everyone else. That's a structural technique that's very valuable. In fact, if people like Ted Koppel were smarter, they would allow more dissidents on, because they would just make fools of themselves. Either you would sell out and repeat what everybody else is saying because it's the only way to sound sane, or else you would say what you think, in which case you'd sound like a madman, even if what you think is absolutely true and easily supportable. The reason is that the whole system so completely excludes it. It'll sound crazy, rightly, from their point of view. And since you have to have concision, as Jeff Greenfield says, you don't have time to explain it. That's a marvelous structural technique of propaganda...."

16.Dr. Vincent Iannelli. “Don't Get Sick with the Flu!” Reproduced in part from a CDC Influenza Vaccine Q&A in 2003-2004.

The Iraqi Conflict (A Pre-War Essay)

The Iraqi Conflict: Hate Hitler or Heil Hitler?

Since the advent of the era of agriculture and humyn organization, there have been intellectual classes whose job it is to punish deviance, manage and control, to create the society’s established truths, and to prevent those with alternative modes of thought from reaching out to the general populace. These intellectuals are connected with the ruling establishment, and are members of a class of secular priests, who hold sway over security (in their political form) and prosperity (in their economic form). They command corporations, who hold the capital of entire nations captive. They command nuclear weapons and security policy, and are capable of unleashing nigh-infinite devastation upon the entire planet. In the modern day, the imperialism of great powers must be disguised through pious rhetoric and mindless patriotism. Several of these secular priests have recently compared President Bush's proposals for war against Iraq to the war against Hitler. They say that the 1991 Gulf War campaign did not inflict enough damage and carry enough cost to Saddam’s regime, and that the years of sanctions and inspections must culminate in disarmament or severe consequences will be inflicted. The critics think of the history of United States-Iraqi relations as being Iraq bursting out of nowhere and attacking Kuwait, then being driven back by idealistic United Nations (hereafter referred to as UN) defenders and then treated with a firm, unyielding hand as long as the dictatorial Saddam continues to violate international law. Further, many of these intellectuals argue that not attacking Saddam would be similar to the policy of appeasement taken place before World War II and that Saddam must be eliminated much as Hitler was. Ironically, given the state of affairs, the recommendations for war by these intellectuals actually echo Hitler's call for war against Poland and other states that were “unjustly” taking Germany's lebensraum, as opposed to the Rooseveltian model of a necessary intervention against a foe that was dangerous in the moment and not in a theoretical future. Further, the similarities that exist between the two situations are even more indicative, and speak volumes both about American myths about World War II and the involvement in the Iraq situation historically. The United States’ (hereafter referred to as US) calls for war in Iraq are not Rooseveltian idealism in practice, but rather Hitlerian imperialism.

One elementary distinction between the Rooseveltian model and the Hitlerian model is the element of declarations of war. In World War II, Hitler attacked other nations without declaring war upon them, or declaring war for trumped up reasons – Roosevelt, on the other hand, only became involved when Germany declared war upon the United States in an attempt to keep cordial relations with the other great Axis power, the Japanese. Two questions then must be asked in determining whether or not the Iraqi ‘war’ is Hitlerian or Rooseveltian: Did Iraq declare war upon the US, thus eliciting a justified US counter-declaration; and, was a legitimate declaration of war made upon Iraq? In addressing the first question, if evidence demonstrating a declaration of war upon the United States were to exist, it would be a massive surprise to the American people, as it has not received any press coverage. But no one, not even the most ardent champions of war and the people deploying the Rooseveltian analogy, has bothered to offer such evidence, mainly because it does not exist. Iraq did declare war against Kuwait, but all the available evidence indicates that this was because American diplomats green-lighted the endeavor in meetings with Saddam Hussein (the stand echoed on multiple occasions was “We have no opinion on your border dispute with Kuwait”, indicating a veiled carte blanche for Saddam Hussein to invade). This is a non sequitur, however, because Iraq immediately offered a peace settlement after discovering the response of the United States, a fact which immediately demonstrates the Hitlerian analogy (in other words, attacking a nation which retreats at the slightest threat of force). Further, the invasion of Kuwait does not prove the Rooseveltian analogy, in which American intervention occurred only after Pearl Harbor and a declaration of war, as there is a distinction between allied soil being under attack and one’s own soil being invaded. Meanwhile, much like the mustachioed German, the sub-literate American will attack without a Congressional declaration of war, simultaneously spitting on the Constitution and the UN Charter. The Bush administration argues that it does not need a declaration of war, because Congress ipso facto declared war by not doing so after the Gulf War. This is an profoundly expansive interpretation of executive power. It is also a flagrant violation of international law. The Bush administration’s arguments for preemptive warfare justify Osama bin Laden’s arguments for 9/11. The UN Charter asks that all nations refrain from the use of force except in self-defense, but it is clear in the rhetoric of the aggressors that those rules apply only to regimes who do not matter.

Roosevelt’s intervention was prompted by the attacks upon Pearl Harbor, done by a member of the Axis, and Hitler’s troops were attacking Britain, occupying France and striking into Russia. Hitler’s attacks, in comparison, were upon nations that had not attacked Germany or its allies. There has never been any evidence offered that an Iraqi ally attacked US soil, or that Iraqi troops are currently occupying Israel or Kuwait, which makes the conflict preemptive at best and murderous at worst, demonstrating the Hitlerian model. Some commentators attempt to make a dubious link to Osama bin Laden and demonstrate that an ally of Iraq did attack the US, but an intelligent and informed eighth-grader could see the problem with that argumentation. Note that if there is any doubt that Osama is connected to Saddam, the only argument that the conflict is direct retaliation disappears, and the war becomes Hitlerian imperialism under a cloak of moralistic righteousness. Osama and Saddam are ideological opponents; the former is an Islamic fundamentalist, the latter a secular nationalist. Of course, if one adopts the Nazi framework that there are those who support the party line and those who do not and no other groups, then perhaps the two are in the latter category. However, merely being an enemy of the US does not mean that one will ally with those who have opposite intentions. In fact, the CIA report issued to the Congress last October not only declared that there was no tangible connection, but also that an attack would probably increase terrorism, and that Saddam would be committing suicide if he funded any al Qaida cells, as their attacks will eventually plague his nation. William Safire’s article in the New York Times, “Saddam’s Al-Qaida Link” is a rare example of an attempt to link the two, and expresses two rather specious connections. The first is a supposed al Qaida cell operating in Kurdistan. Like the majority of Arabs, these al Qaida members assaulted Kurds who are interested in freedom in Iraq. This level of a connection is ridiculous. The US has given money to the Iraqi Kurds to kill their Turkish cousins, has refused to fund them for any other reason (including insurrection against Saddam), and has sponsored Turkish ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish population. Are Safire’s readers now to assume that the US government is an al Qaida stronghold? Given the links between the US and al Qaida from the past, this would be far more convincing. Further, even if Saddam were financing al Qaida members to kill Kurds, this would illustrate that he is essentially hiring them as mercenaries, not that he agrees with their attacks on the US. The other link he makes is that a Mr. Zarqawi received medical assistance from a Baghdad hospital and then made his way to the Kurdistan al Qaida camp, carrying a poisonous chemical named ricin that is “well known to Iraqi chemists”. More tenuous argumentation cannot be found outside of Nazi archives, which is unsurprising considering Mr. Safire’s assistance in helping Nixon lie and finagle through six years of corruption, although readers are now to assume that Mr. Safire has become a top flight intelligence agent with impeccable credentials and absolute honesty. All the evidence Safire cites, from himself to Mr. Colin Powell to the Kurds (who will given a chance to live if they attack their cousins across the border in Turkey), is completely unbelievable. This is particularly obvious when one considers the numerous falsehoods constructed in Mr. Powell’s speech before the UN. Mr. Powell argued that a group called Ansar al-Islam was the missing link between Saddam and Osama, and that this group was developing chemical weapons. He was lying on both counts. Numerous journalists, including reporters from the BBC, investigated into Ansar al-Islam. It is essentially a group engaged in particularly bloody local politics and has no demonstrated connection to either Saddam or Osama. The supposed “chemical warfare installation” was a number of concrete huts and a kitchen, the journalists upon the scene concluded. The Safire article is typical of the level of integrity and quality of the intellectual classes who attempt to argue the Rooseveltian metaphor. Ironically, the mere attempt to link terrorism done by one group to a country composed virtually entirely of another group is Hitlerian in content. Hitler alleged that there was an international conspiracy of Jewish Communists and bankers. Such irrational guidelines fundamentally direct the notions of the intellectual classes when dealing with US culpability. Thus, mountains of evidence demonstrate that there is no ally of Iraq attacking America or American allies, showing once more that the US is engaging in preemptive imperialist conflict, which will incidentally escalate the cycle of violence.

In the Rooseveltian metaphor, the fascist opponent was an industrial monster of
gigantic proportions that had recuperated from World War I; Hitler, on the other hand, chose targets which had been devastated by the previous conflict in order to consolidate his power base. The main argument offered for the dangers Iraq poses has to deal with alleged weapons of mass destruction (also known as WMDs). This is the perfect target for the commissars, as WMDs can be hidden effectively and inflict great damage. However, the intellectual bankruptcy of the position is at once revealed when one considers that these analysts did not raise their pen in any sort of righteous indignation against Iraq's usage of chemical weapons when they were being used. These crimes were retrospectively discovered when the ideological requirement was to demonize Iraq in order to push the rejectionist Oslo accords. Before moving onto consider the WMD stockpile, it is worthwhile to consider momentarily why there is such a frantic search for proof that Iraq has some sort of weaponry to put him into material breach of UN conventions. The reason is that, as virtually every commentator concedes, the Iraqi military and populace has never recovered from the Gulf War, and thus the only way that a minimally plausible threat can be concocted is to propose that Iraq can do damage despite it’s conventional weakness with unconventional weapons. If it is true that Iraq’s WMD stockpiles are similarly weak or nonexistent, the US action in Iraq would be illegal, vicious and Hitlerian. To answer the question: Does Iraq have WMDs? If it does, the arsenal appears to be strategically insignificant; Scott Ritter, the former UNSCOM chief, said that Iraq “has been disarmed to a level unprecedented in modern history”. Hans Blix, the lead weapons inspector, noted that if Bush actually was concerned about WMDs in Iraq, he would adopt an entirely different stratagem, perhaps the methodology currently being advocated by France and Germany to strengthen the inspections rather than stopping them, an intuitive response if one’s goals are not imperialist. The US has demonstrated just how fiercely it resents weapons of mass destruction by selling them to dictators across the world, not signing the Biological Weapons Convention enforcement protocol due to intense biotech lobbying, and violating the NPT (itself a flawed treaty, as it allows original nuclear weapons states to keep their weapons virtually indefinitely). It is a characteristic of totalitarian states that crimes of others will be bitterly resented while the flaunting of international law and the atrocities of the state will be glossed over with apologetics. Despite years of inspections, weapons of mass destruction facilities have failed to procure proof of any sort of weapons program that would threaten the US, for if it had, the headlines of the New York Times and the covers of Time and Newsweek would be filled with righteous outrage over America’s former client acquiring weapons America gave him the wherewithal to get, the Colin Powell report notwithstanding. This is damning, considering the tremendous success rate for UN inspections. The best job that has been done was the report presented to the United Nations by Mr. Powell, but even this speech was riddled with flaws that a more skeptical observer could pick up. The “overwhelming evidence” amounted to a few tapped phone calls and some satellite photos. As for US credibility for utilizing photos, one should remember that in the Kosovo conflict, the US consistently manipulated footage to put evidence in the best possible light; for instance, in order to prevent criticism of so-called “smart” weaponry devastating civilians, the US accelerated flight tapes in order to make it seem that the pilot was going too fast to stop and adjust her aim. Mr. Powell’s speech presented very few pictures of plants in ordinary conditions, meaning that one would have to take his word at face value that those were not the regular conditions of the plants. The Iraqi response to Powell’s allegations was to reanalyze the scales and the location of the plants, and to then claim that the plants produced short-range missiles. There was no rebuttal by Mr. Powell. The CIA’s evidence and behavior in general has been atrocious, consistently planting evidence and lying to the American public about everything from Soviet missile dangers to international terrorism. If Soviet Russia had demonstrated “irrefutable evidence” that the US was militarizing in space twenty years and ago and used “human (sic) sources” for most of their strongest claims, none in the hallowed halls of the United Nations would have believed them. Given that most of the evidence in Powell’s speech was indicated to be from American intelligence, the credibility of his claims is flawed. He did make a reference to a “fine” file ostensibly created by British intelligence. However, it was in fact a hamhanded public relations piece constructed by Tony Blair’s top PR agent and a number of lower office men. It used information taken from a misquoted twelve-year-old student paper. Of course, no one denies that Iraq is likely not in violation of numerous conventions and norms of international law, but it has offered to comply fully if the sanctions regime were dismantled, meaning that the best argument that Mr. Powell can make is that currently the Iraqis are not trustworthy, not that they are inevitably so. The history of the US torpedoing international agreements that would have begun to restore Saddam to the fold indicates that there is clear fear that Saddam may not be a bad enough “bad guy”. In addition, the effectiveness of inspections also proves that these facilities must not be very prevalent or powerful, as the inspectors cannot find them in a nation the size of California. Imagine a team of inspectors proportionally sized searching the United States. In this nation filled with weapons of mass destruction, it would take a matter of days to find untold quantities of weapons. Also, the amount of omissions in the speech indicates Mr. Powell’s disdain for elementary rationality and facts. Chemical and biological weapons may be dangerous, but they are only effective if they are optimally used, and even the United States with its comparatively infinite resources cannot use such weapons to achieve maximum casualties. Further, the weapons can be effectively countered with advance warning, and the US and several other nations have prepared counter-CBW teams and equipment. And the usage of CBWs assumes a substantial launch system, replete with the necessary infrastructure, i.e. fuel, trucks to ship materials, silos, and so on and so forth. Mr. Powell’s speech barely touched upon the most important part of using any weapons: the delivery mechanisms. In addition, as noted by Ritter, chemical and biological weapons have a limited shelf-life. Every weapon in the alleged Iraqi stockpiles except for the mustard gas would have gone bad by now, even if they hadn’t been destroyed. But, according to Hussein Kamal, Saddam’s son-in-law (who ended up being murdered by the dictator), all the weapons and molds were destroyed, and there were no missiles left in Iraq. Thus, at worst, Iraq is like a baseball player with no arms: they ruefully await being able to pick up the bat so they can protect themselves from the incoming ball, but it’s not happening. Thus, there is no immediate threat from Iraq (as conceded continually by every commentator), and the Hitlerian model is spectacularly demonstrated once more.

The commissars shield their flanks from their lack of evidence by suggesting that Saddam’s nuclear weapons could be used as a deterrent in future conflict, so one must attack now even if there is no reason to suspect that he has weapons now. They suggest that Iraq could attack conventional targets with impunity using their WMD capacity as a barrier to interventionism. This argument is specious for multiple reasons. First, to be an effective deterrent, one must have enough weapons to make an opponent seriously have to calculate the risk of attacking. Even the SCUDS that were deployed against Israel were not sufficient to deter the Israeli assault, and all commentators concede he has less access to WMDs than before the Gulf War and years of murderous sanctions, and less capacity to build up an infrastructure to make them. Most deterrence analysts believe that the weapon total must be enough to reduce a nation to complete and utter poverty, destroying enough of the military and civil infrastructure to prevent a rebuilding. Further, weapon totals and delivery systems must be sufficiently protected and numerous as to prevent the effectiveness of a first strike. Even the Soviet Union was not operating at that level of capacity for much of the Cold War. However, were it proved that Saddam could seriously get access to sufficient weapons to be able to harm the US, the only scenario in which they would be used would be if Saddam were suicidal, and he is clearly quite rational, as demonstrated by his consistent attempts to appease the international community and avert a war which would topple his regime. (Incidentally, some may say that Saddam’s mistreatment of the Kurds demonstrates his sadism and irrationality, but in fact the Kurds are disorderly elements and potential dangers to his regime, making his actions against them rational, though morally repugnant). Suppose, then, that Saddam got access to enough Anthrax to halve the US population. Then suppose he decided to attack Egypt or Saudi Arabia. The US and Israel would immediately threaten a war and prepare their own WMD stockpiles. Saddam would be forced to enter into a conflict in which he would die. The history of the Twentieth century proves that such an event would never take place: though the world would teeter on the edge, both sides would back down. Unless one assumes Saddam is a raving suicidal maniac, the scenario collapses immediately. Analysts offer the example of the Soviet Union to prove that WMD deterrence prevents intervention, but the real reason the US turned to WMDs at all was to beat the Soviet Union’s conventional force superiority within its domains. Thus, attacks upon the Soviet Union were not considered merely due to conventional troops; NATO was not strong enough to attack the USSR directly. However, clandestine support for groups such as Afghani fighters continued, and in fact repelled the Soviet assault. The Soviet Union’s weapons did not protect them from US-funded resistance fighters, and thus the scenario collapses due to the empirical analysis. Finally, this is not the Cold War. The US has developed advanced weapon systems that would allow it to partially or completely debilitate the entire Iraqi strategic arsenal in one blow. These include nuclear bunker busters and space weapons. The National Missile Defense program was in fact a mere pretense to launch offensive space weaponry, as noted by Karl Grossman (an award-winning author on space militarization) and others military analysts. These include microwave and beam weapons that can leave behind “entire cities of microwave grilled people”, “holographic decoys”, and “destructo-swarmbots” (taken from Pentagon sources quoted by Karl Grossman). These space weapons are capable of destroying a nation such as Iraq’s entire strategic status within seconds, which in fact causes proliferation pressures, as countries feel they must defend their stockpiles by having more than can be destroyed. These paranoiac delusions of future dangers from Iraq are shared only by the commissars and the American people they attempt to delude: even Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek expressed feigned astonishment at the fact that Turkey and most of the Arab states do not view Saddam Hussein as a threat to their regimes.

The commissars also argue that Saddam is guilty until proven innocent, and that he must present tangible proof that he has abandoned his weapons program or risk punishment underneath UN resolutions. But Saddam has claimed repeatedly to not have any more weapons of mass destruction, and the inspectors have found no evidence to argue with this, though they are worried by Iraqi recalcitrance. They didn’t have any reason in 1997 and 1998, either, when they were withdrawn by the Clinton administration in order to drum up support for another attack upon the people of Iraq. This was during the last leg of the disarmament process, in which under 20% of the project had yet to be completed. By removing the inspectors, the US was able to paint Saddam as the uncooperative rogue leader, and allow a future final conflict to install a dictator (or democracy, for that matter) friendly to US interests and to gain access to the profits from Iraqi oil. The extent to which the Gulf War and subsequent policy devastated Iraq is little acknowledged in the mainstream press. Conservative estimates indicate that the sanctions regime placed upon Iraq has killed several hundred thousand people. The mere quantity of deaths brings the Nazis back into mind. These sanctions are supported virtually in exclusion by the United States (and its junior partner and client terror dog, Israel). The sanctions prevent items such as baby clothes, cancer medicine and ambulances from being shipped into Iraqi soil. Even more obscure is the Depleted Uranium debacle. These munitions are made from the waste product of refining weapon-grade uranium. They are sixty percent as radiological and every bit as heavy. Their high density makes them capable of piercing heavy armor, and their tendency to ignite into superheated radiological gas clouds make them optimal armor piercing weapons. The residue left from these weapons has been directly linked to eighty-fold increases in cancer and such spectacles as children being born with their internal organs on the outside of their body. In a few generations, forty percent of the population of Iraq may fall from these weapons. Iraq has never recovered from the murderous post-Gulf War assault. Some may argue that only the general population has suffered and that the military is mostly intact. For one, this is not true – the military has also suffered, particularly due to the fact that the sanctions are quite effective at keeping out dual-purpose items, and also because the sanctions prevented capital from flowing in that could have been used to rebuild the military (for example, money from Iraq’s tremendous oil supplies). For another, even if this were true, it would only fuel the arguments for immediate withdrawal of the sanctions. Saddam has repeatedly declared that if he was not cooperating with international authorities, it was because the sanctions regime, legally expired, was not being eliminated, and that he would begin to play ball when Britain and the US did. Reasoned discussion in the United States has politely ignored this fact, as it would cast a shadow upon the military parade and would make US citizens less willing to blindly follow the trumpets of war. Such elite obedience is a hallmark of totalitarian states.

The insincerity of all this argumentation is proven at once with a cursory examination of the North Korea issue. Unlike Iraq, North Korea actually has the will and the capacity to fight. They have weapons of mass destruction, for one. North Korea was able to justify attaining these weapons by pointing to the United State’s violation of the 1994 agreement set up between the two nations (by failing to send the advanced nuclear reactors which do not produce fissile material), a fact missing from most analysis of the North Korean scenario. North Korea also has batteries pointed at South Korea. America’s South Korean allies tell Mr. Bush, rightly, that North Korea is no problem as long as they are treated with courtesy and do not have to deal with US violation of agreements. Thus, American policy has been one of diplomacy and accommodation. The message is clear: The United States only kicks people when they are down. This is actually a key part of deterrence doctrine – the concept of projecting a position of a brutal and less than rational national strategy, in order to make people afraid of messing with the psychopathic superpower. America is doing a phenomenal job of learning from its thick-mustached idol. Unfortunately, this message indicates to those afraid of US intervention in their countries that the answer is to proliferate. People are not stupid or cowardly – when their interests are being attacked, they will find a way to defend themselves, and one way to do that is through acquiring weapons of mass destruction; another is to support terror networks. The ensuing cycle of violence is of tremendous importance to American citizens and principled cosmopolitans everywhere, but not to US planners. This proliferation incentive is particularly inviting when the US itself has done so much to be a proliferating force, through frequent violation of international treaties and through its sale of military equipment. It is also inviting because the US’ space militarization and other first strike capacities can always be trumped by having more weapons. Arsenals of sticks and stones are beginning to give people the confidence to hurl harsh words. All these results indicate that the US, like Hitler, attacks weak states to build up its power base and to terrify the world, again calling the sincerity of the Rooseveltian metaphor into question.

The moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the arguments for war is further proven when considering the comparative strength of the US and Iraq. America’s intervention in World War II was costly, requiring the imposition of a command economy (including rationing and the complete conversion of civilian production to military production), the deaths of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, and the detonation of two nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the Gulf War unleashed more raw tonnage than was used in the whole of World War II, leaving the Iraqis no chance to fight back.

This would not be so devastating to the proponents of war if the American military was not adequately prepared to deal with an opponent such as Iraq, a country which could not pose a threat to many of the countries in its region. However, clearly this is not the case, and the American hegemonic machine is capable of mass destruction on an untold scale. An entire nation was reduced from an aggressor status to absolutely nothing in a matter of weeks in the original Gulf War. The US’ tremendous quality of equipment comes from its budget, which is seventeen times the amount of its regional adversaries combined, and accounts for a large percentage of military spending in the world, almost double the percentage of the US's economy in the world. The infamous army of Saddam Hussein failed to defeat post-revolutionary Iran after eight years of armed struggle financed by the US, Arabic states and European countries. Further, the country has lived under a state of continual bombardment and sanctions. The way this demoniacal adversary was displayed simultaneously as "cadaver and world-wide menace" may remind several of the portrayal of the Soviet Union throughout this century, and of the portrayal of opponents in the Hitlerian states. The media has consistently, since the days of Walter Lippmann, portrayed American opponents as deadly figures of Satanic proportions who threaten US economic and social life at the roots, then pretend to be amazed when the American military machine crushes the target. The fact is that Saddam is not a threat, evidenced by the fact that he needed American support even after the Gulf War, when Iraqi Kurds joined with Iraqi dissidents (including a few Generals) and formed a rebel army. This army immediately requested US support. Not only did the US turn down the offer, United States General “Stormin’ Norman” Schwartzkopf authorized the usage of Blackhawk helicopters and other military implements to put down the revolt.

Roosevelt’s intentions in World War II were reasonably principled and well meaning, though we must never forget the increasingly overwhelming evidence that Japan would have surrendered without the detonation of the nuclear weapons and that the firestorms in Dresden and Hamburg actually strengthened German resolve and lengthened the war; meanwhile, Hitler’s early conflicts against nations such as Poland were like shooting fish in a barrel: easy and costless, leading to an expansion of Germany’s borders and the beginning of a new thousand-year Reich. The intentions of US planners in Iraq must then carefully be analyzed. As proven elsewhere, any pretense of non-proliferation efforts must be discarded as the purest hypocrisy. The concept of self-defense runs into the problem that clearly the planners mean the right of self-defense to be exclusive to the US and its allies and to be deployed when the US wants it to be. Thus, that argument inevitably leads to the “Why?” once again. Democracy cannot be the issue, because mere history shows how little the US cares about democracy in Iraq and elsewhere. In fact, the government has been rather forthright about this, talking about the need to preserve “stability” in Iraq, perhaps with a repressive junta, perhaps with an ostensible democracy in the Costa Rican mode (which constitutionally outlaws the Communist Party and is deeply tied to US capital). If one wants further proof, one can look at the horrendous civil liberties records of the US itself, Israel, and other client states all over the globe. Studies have repeatedly shown that states that torture their people or commit consistent humyn rights violations get disproportionate amounts of US aid. Perhaps a look at enduring elements of US foreign policy may answer some of the questions. The necessity to keep an iron grip upon Middle East oil reserves and other resources has been recognized since Eisenhower, who talked about the Middle East region as the ‘greatest material prize in history’. President Nixon conceptualized a system of mostly non-Arab “cops on the block” who would control the Arabs and prevent them from organizing to keep the resources that they own in their hands, as well as “Arab facades” (such as Saudi Arabia) who would be weak but brutal states capable of functioning as effectively a business proxy. In other words, the bulk of American foreign power must be aimed at preventing people from protecting themselves from theft. The history of post-9/11 foreign policy is especially revealing given this history. Afghanistan had one of the largest oil pipelines in the Russian region. Oil experts referred to the pipeline as the only sufficient infrastructure to ship Russian oil, and were concerned about the unwillingness of the Taliban to allow the pipeline to flow. The apologetics for Russian state terror against the Chechen rebels are necessary in order to make sure Russia stays cozy with the US and offers preferential rates for oil trading. Iraq has huge untapped oil reserves, the second largest in the world. In every scenario, the need to dominate oil reserves and coerce those who own them is clear. This alone is insufficient, however. In general, the US conceptualizes a “Grand Area” friendly to the interests of US corporations at the cost of the people of the regions. One way to achieve this is to project an image of “calculated irrationality”, what people know as “bullying” in more principled circles. Once the possible motives are looked at, the Hitlerian analogy is once again confirmed spectacularly: any statement of benevolent concerns on the part of those in power is sheer fraud.

Roosevelt was fighting an enemy that refused to sue for peace or surrender until the absolute end (an enemy that might be found in North Korea); Hitler was fighting enemies who were perfectly willing to appease and acquiesce for as long as possible. History will likely never know if Iraq would have abided by the peace settlement it offered because the settlement was rejected and relegated to the deepest recesses of unmentionable facts. Saddam knew he had performed a serious gaffe when the US began to get angry from the invasion of Kuwait – he had made his employers angry, and thus immediately offered to pull out, likely leaving behind a puppet government in the conquered area, much as the US had done in Panama. Virtually every Arab state and the majority of the American populace supported the peace settlement, but the Hitlerian offender, the United States, rejected it. The peace settlement was then thrown into the Orwellian “memory hole”, never to be seen again… at least not in acceptable discourse in the countries of the offenders. Further, the offender of international law in many respects in this case is the United States. The United Nations Charter specifically restricts the resort to force except for self-defense and only until the Security Council has acted. Perhaps Saddam was in violation when he invaded Kuwait, though he was also in violation of international law during the years America supported him. However, a unilateral US strike would place America into the category of North Korea and Iran, doing what it wants when it wants. The evidence is clear: Iraq is a chastised and pummeled state, with a weaker military than even the much smaller Kuwait, which attempts to comply with international law as much as possible while retaining the barest semblance of sovereignty. The United States is the “rogue superpower” that transmutes appeasing gestures by other countries into proud rhetoric about the efficacy of violence and then embarks on another farcical “moralistic crusade to end inhumanity”.

Another distinction between the Hitlerian analogy and the Rooseveltian analogy is the commitment of US state authorities to international terrorism and the flaunting of international order and law. Just as Hitler was openly disdainful of the League of Nations and peace proposals, “principled” leaders of state action such as Madeleine Albright have noted that the US will act unilaterally if it must, multilaterally if it can. In other words, regardless of international opinion and law, the US will do what it wants, categorically. Further, official US doctrine has been to endorse and engage in “low intensity warfare”, “counterinsurgency”, or other actions that correspond precisely to terrorism. These methodologies involve brutal violence culled from Nazi archives (gained in the little known “Operation Paperclip”, discussed at greater length later) deployed against those in the population who begin to take a progressive or populist stance. Mildly social-democratic or labor-oriented parties have been brutally slaughtered everywhere from Nicaragua to Grenada to Vietnam to Indonesia. Perhaps in the abstract the point is not quite clear. Here are some examples of counter-insurgency principles:

Strafing fishing boats and hotels, bombing petrochemical facilities, poisoning crops and livestock (Cuba)

Allowing paramilitary forces in client states to leave womyn hung on the side of the road, breasts cut, faces slashed (South American nations)

Funding entire armies of mercenaries to let a populist country stew in it’s own juices and undergo internal collapse (Nicaragua)

Giving tacit support for the destruction of an entire political party, as well as hundreds of thousands of assorted miscreants (Indonesia)

Bombing dikes to allow water to rush out and kill crops (Korea)

Pressuring nations not to send assistance (such as water buffalo or bananas) to targets of the counter-insurgent’s wrath (Vietnam, Nicaragua)

Supporting juntas and coups with atrocious humyn rights records in order to terrorize the populace back into “stability” (Chile, Nicaragua, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Greece)

Prompting the invasion of a country and then giving money to religious fundamentalists to humiliate a hated enemy (Afghanistan)

Utilizing chemical and biological defoliants and “anti-personnel” weapons (Vietnam, Cambodia)

Littering countries with mines and bomblets that remove limbs, cause grievous injury, and prevent ambulances and commercial vehicles from driving through areas (Laos, Vietnam, Afghanistan)

These actions continue to be undertaken by the US and its clients. In Indonesia, Sudan, Nicaragua, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Grenada, Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, Panama, Columbia, and elsewhere, the price of US imperialism and terror continues to extract a fresh toll. The United States is one of the only countries in the world to have its head of state officially indicted by the International Court of Justice (Bush, after the invasion of Panama) and to have officially flaunted another Court ruling (regarding Nicaragua). It is also one of the most rejectionistic nations inside the UN Security Council and General Assembly. The US ignores resolutions by the UN that Israel must acknowledge Palestinian self-determination, that all nations must stop terrorist activity (issued at the time of the Nicaraguan atrocities), and that nuclear weapons should not be proliferated. The US violates the Chemical Weapons Convention, international law regarding space militarization, and has refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. To compare: Iraq was going to sign onto the CWC before the US attacked the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; Iraq has signed the Biological Weapons Convention enforcement protocol; Iraq is not in violation of space militarization treaties. The history has a clarity rare in history: The US, like the Nazis, is officially committed to defying international law and elementary morality in order to preserve its power and prestige.

There are some places where the Rooseveltian analogy may make sense, but these areas are even more indicative than the Hitlerian similarities. Saddam Hussein is indeed a murderous monster. He did use chemical weapons upon his own people, and is a brutal dictator who keeps an iron-fisted control over the population. However, these are exactly the qualities that endeared him to US planners and ensured him ecstatic support and funding to deal with the issue of the Iranian popular revolution and other problems. Hitler was also a murderous monster, engaging in actions of repression and genocide. However, the reason why he was able to exist at all was because of the European state’s extortion and robbery of an exhausted Germany through the Versailles Treaty. Further, German and international business and political forces (as indicated in such films as Cabaret) wholeheartedly supported Hitler as a force to fight the Communists. This support continued after the war in the form of Operation Paperclip, which transferred Nazi specialists in terror all over the globe, the least of which was the control of German scientists for usage in post-war rocket projects. Nazi groups were funded and supported in order to crush partisan resistance fighters in former Nazi territories, and such figures as the Butcher of Lyon were taken to South America to teach fledgling dictators and their minions how to suppress populist resistance. In that sense, the death squads supported wholeheartedly by the US in South America are the ideological descendants of those responsible for Nazi death camps. However, in both scenarios, the darling of international power overstepped his boundaries and began doing things that displeased those in power.

Another revealing similarity is the result of the wars upon peace and stability in the area. Numerous historians, Howard Zinn among them, have noted that Hitler’s initial policy towards Jews was one of deportation and removal. Had World War II been delayed, more Jews would have been removed, and would not have been killed. It was only the pressures of the war that began to make Hitler consider the “Final Solution”. Further, the US failed to do a number of things that may have prevented atrocities, including bombing the tracks to Auschwitz and making concessions to get Jews deported from Hungary. The same thing happened during Clinton’s bombing of Kosovo. Contrary to popular belief, the ethnic cleansing and other effects of “Operation Horseshoe” only came after the bombing began, as evidenced by the chief NATO officer denying that the bombing had anything to do with ethnic cleansing. Those who advocate the resort to force against Saddam’s regime must take similar considerations into account. The CIA noted that an attack against Iraq would spark anger in the Middle East and would likely cause a new wave of terrorism to drive the imperial aggressors out. The chaos caused by the destabilization of Saddam’s regime would make the area a ripe fruit for terrorist recruiters, as well as allow terrorists access to weapons previously controlled by the Iraqi government. Further, bombing weapons of mass destruction facilities often leads to their detonation or aeration, causing further innocent casualties and potential damage to US land troops. In general, chaos and violence in Iraq is worse than even slow proliferation, even if that slow proliferation were happening.

Much like Roosevelt’s defiance of his country’s stated calls for non-involvement, the United States and other warmongering countries are ignoring the requests of their people. The calls to war against the Axis powers were unpopular in America for quite some time. The US had had too many of its men die in World War I, though admittedly not as many as Europe had to suffer. US citizens felt that they should leave well enough alone, and that involvement with international affairs was anti-American and dangerous. After all, hadn’t US involvement in World War I caused this Hitler guy to be able to be popular in the first place? It took unremitting propaganda and attacks upon America to spur the populace to action, and the uncritical acceptance of wartime strategies lead to hundreds of thousands of innocent lives lost for no reason or even to extend the war. The war against Saddam is similarly unpopular. Over eighty percent of European respondents to polls issued by Time believe that the US is the greatest threat to world peace. Eighty percent of Italians oppose the war even if WMDs are found, as well as seventy-five percent of Spain, sixty-six percent of Czechoslovakia, seventy-five percent of Poland, fifty-three percent of Portugal, forty percent of Britain (ninety percent of British oppose it if is only done by Britain and the US), and ninety percent of Turkey. The leaders of these countries who decide to do the democratic thing and refrain from involvement in the war are attacked by the commissars for daring to follow the will of the people who elected them. Even in the United States, which is unique in that the populace actually fears Saddam, another Time poll indicated that forty two percent of Americans opposed sending ground troops to Iraq to remove Hussein without the approval of the UN, and nineteen percent opposed such an action regardless. Also, fifty seven percent of Americans believe that the UN should make the final decision, and thirty seven percent believe that the President or Congress should (the poll did not specify who approved of which actor). In other words, the majority of Americans consistently oppose the President’s plan to attack regardless of international opinion. Unremarkably, the intellectual classes did not describe this juxtaposition with words that do it justice, and the article did make the comment that “… the country is… being asked to wage a kind of war it has never fought before, one launched against a country that has yet to attack the U.S.” The fact that that claim could be rebutted by an informed 6th grader or any American who remembers anything about the 60s indicates the subservience of Time and the corporate class to government tyranny and violence.

Intellectual classes have, throughout history, made truly stupendous contributions to injustice and death. The US has come a long way from the days when millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians could be terminated without a second thought. The surprising development of intellectual and moral integrity in the 60’s generation did astounding things to intellectual culture worldwide, forcing the state to go underground in it’s dealings. While it may not seem like much of an accomplishment, activism has already proved costly to the interests of those who prey upon injustice. But the control and domination of the elite classes has gone a long way. When a murderous, imperialist war can be defended as “self defense against an aggressor of Hitlerian proportions”, much is left to be done.

Friday, November 11, 2005


Feminist bloggers have developed an acronym, “Patriarchy Hurts Men Too.”, or PHMT. The context typically goes something like this: “Yes, of course men are harmed by patriarchy and sexism in that they cannot properly relate to their spouses and lovers. PHMT.”1 What is patriarchy? How are gender roles formed, and how is gender distinct from sex (or “biological gender”)? How much of the radical feminist focus on patriarchy's impact on women rather than a more flexible construct that notices the parallel impact upon men is necessary and how much is unnecessary “identity politicking?” This paper will attempt to answer these questions.
Clearly, men and women have different reproductive apparatuses. Some genetic difference, as scientists know from biological analysis, is obviously there. Humans may be “weakly dimorphic” (Judith Lorber, “Night To His Day”), but they are in fact dimorphic. However, as Lorber continues to argue, “For human beings there is no essential femaleness and maleness, femininity or masculinity, womanhood, or manhood, but once gender is ascribed, the social order constructs and holds individuals to strongly gendered norms and expectations. Individuals may vary on many of the components of gender any may shift genders temporarily or permanently, but they must fit into the limited number of gender statuses their society recognizes.” Thinking of gender as similar to other institutions such as the state helps. Of course humans socially organize fairly much independent of culture. But the modern nation-state is a unique cultural artifact distinct from the tribe or even the monarchy. While intrinsic intelligence may lead someone to become a doctor, the meaning of “doctor” (its wages, social prestige, training requirements, etc.) obviously varies across societies. Even the “man”/”woman” dichotomy is not innate: As Lorber continues to describe, “Some societies have three genders-men, women, and berdaches, or hijras, and xaniths.” Even language is impacted by gender norms: As Tannen describes in “You Just Don't Understand”, the way that men and women as well as ethnic and geographic groups perceive interruptions is not innate but quite fluid. A key fact that will return later is Tannen's position that both men and women can be proceeding quite respectably and kindly according to their norms yet make each other unhappy and come into conflict, through no fault of their own but through the way their behavior is being filtered negatively.

What leads to the consistent and historical perpetuation of these norms if there is little or no gender reality? There are an infinite array of mechanisms, but among the most important include kinship structures and the distribution of gender-related labor (such as childrearing, social support, etc.), expectation of behavior and ostracism for those who do not behave, and often wholesale application of violence. Lorber describes the formation of gender hierarchies, “Most societies rank genders according to prestige and power and construct them to be unequal, so that moving from one to another also means moving up or down the social scale. Among some North American Indian cultures, the hierarchy was male men, male women, female men, female women.” Hochschild describes in her work, “The Second Shift”, an intriguing dialectical interaction between economy and gender. The feminist movement managed to gain successes in terms of equal access to jobs, but because of the nuclear family (associated with capitalist institutions) that artificially made the support and childrearing systems concentrated in the household, women ended up on average working a guaranteed 8 additional hours around the house after 8 hours of work, a “second shift” of labor. Of course men would pick up some degree of the slack, but as Hochschild makes clear, this was usually less formal, upon their leisure and far less of an imposition upon their day. Further, the men would reply that they were still the primary breadwinners and thereby had more stress on the economic end, but that is a normative statement that Hochschild shows to cut both ways: women thereby are made artificially dependent, which makes them afraid of the future as well, but also helpless.

Most importantly for the point of the essay: To which gender does the system lean in terms of material benefit, if any? The above Hochschild arguments establish one unfair inequity. Women are far more likely to get Ph. Ds than men yet less likely to get tenure track positions2. The Ferraro and Johnson article, “How Women Experience Battering”, argues convincingly that, aside from the arrangement of psychological difficulties that is lumped together under “battered wife syndrome”, the feeling of social obligation and the lack of economic resources prevents moving out. Men and women of equal “objective” qualifications are perceived as having markedly different skills and abilities (women's successes are domesticated, underplayed, sexualized, etc. and generally made not “the norm” while male outlooks are believed to be the standard by which we judge behavior.)

To what extent does patriarchy hurt men too? A Violence Against Women's piece describes how increasingly women abuse men, either physically or emotionally, in relationships3. The Messner piece, “The Meaning of Success”, describes how the need for identification and recognition by male peers leads many men to highly destructive athletic situations, wherein they damage their bodies and are ironically deprived of the community that they are seeking by the rampant homophobia and competitiveness. Men disproportionately enter into the patriarchal, personally destructive and imperialist military system. The Tannen piece describes how men become artificially estranged from their wives, girlfriends and female acquaintances even in their conversations. Much like women, men constantly are questioning their virility, attractiveness, and fashion sense. Homosexual men are attacked and discriminated against, often forced into unstable heterosexual marriages that produce unhappy children. Being estranged from brothers, fathers, and friends by homophobic pressures and the association of intimacy with female qualities means men lose contact with a vibrant social network that would sustain them.
Gender institutions are not simply occasional bouts of sexism perpetrated by horny men, but are rules and norms that impact every person. Their childhood is contoured because of the way they are placed into gender categories with expectations placed upon those categories despite whatever personal feelings they may have. Their relationship with their parents and the life of those parents is similarly affected. Their sexualization and their intimate lives are assaulted. And men are victims of it too.

For an example of the usage of PHMT, see “PHMT”, ap://

For discussion of Ph. D incidences, see Diversity Web's article on the topic . An AP story available at is another good article.

“Are Heterosexual Men Also Victims Of Intimate Partner Abuse?” Violence Against Women. A compilation of numerous studies.