Holy War

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Mar 2017

Member Reviews

If there is an important idea to take away from this book it is this fact: media has always been biased in its reporting, using derogatory, defamatory, racist labels to monster-ize the perceived ‘other’, whenever U.S. is in direct conflict with another nation or country:

e.g. during Mexican war, NYT ‘stressed the backwardness of Mexican culture as the proper context in which to place and assess villainy’, while LA Times lamented the ‘racial inferiority of Mexicans’. There’s a very interesting cartoon given in this book (dated March 15, 1916) which shows the big boot of U.S. stamping out the snake of (Mexican) anarchy, revolution and murderous people. In 1928, Mexican leader Augusto Sandino was portrayed in LA Times as a ‘bandit chief’, ‘bloodthirsty Indian’, while NYT called him ‘chief of a band of marauders’.

It reminded me of the thesis put forth in Edward Said’s book ‘Orientalism’ (how think tanks, media, art, governments are used to ‘inform’ people and ‘shape’ their perception when in pursuit of a foreign country’s resources or strategic ground). But I think the author is looking at things in isolation, and needs to appreciate the universality of the negative portrayal of ‘the other’ when the other is the enemy in combat. It happens all over the world. Indian media regularly demonizes Pakistanis and vice versa. Indian rhetoric finds more ears in the world.

The author also patches together the themes in film ‘Avatar’ (calling it a ‘white messiah fable’), TV series ‘Walking Dead’ (‘Rick is a cowboy’, ‘rugged individualism’), horror genre as a whole (‘had a resurgence after 9/11’.) American films and TV have always been full of caricatures and cliches, hackneyed pluralism, so I don’t know what the point here is, because there has been a surge in terrorism-related entertainment too (24, Homeland, every superhero movie.) 

Also, the author’s main argument in the book is that Americans have a deep psychological need for warfare (!) just like an abused kid will become an abuser in adulthood; that Americans practice creationism and are deeply religious - um, is that why they are violent? (Karen Armstrong, where art thou?); And they wed capitalism and democracy with Protestant belief system to forge ahead with manifest destiny, american exceptionalism and monroe doctrine in other countries. 

Can’t it just be a case of a powerful entity wanting to expand on its powers, making sure others don’t get as strong, and that its economic interests (and hence the country’s future) are preserved? That would make U.S. a very normal aggressive country because every power, super power in the history of the world has acted similarly. Psychoanalyzing a country isn’t going to stop it. It’s nothing personal, just business - or politics.
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