The Battle for Algiers and the Battle for hearts and minds

Posted by Jennifer - January 11, 2004 (entry 130)

I just saw "The Battle for Algiers" which is playing in Chicago at the Music Box Theater this week. The movie is something of a "docudrama", technically fictional but real-life enough that it was screened at the Pentagon several months ago (the movie was first released in 1965).

There is little media analysis in the film, reporters are really just framing devices, except for one telling segment about halfway through the film. The new general brought in from France to command new paramilitary units to stop the insurgency is taking questions from the press.

Towards the end of the session he tells a reporter that they will be key in the fight to destroying the FLN. Is he enlisting them, one asks. No, he says, they just have to do good reporting. He asks what was the latest from Paris, a reporter says not much, another Sarte article. There is a pause, and the general asks why does the other side always produce the Sartes of the world.

This made me think of an Eisenhower quote from some security meeting, often quoted by Chomsky, to the effect of why were popular forces (such as in Guatamela and Vietnam) always on the other side, i.e. against the US. It's fascinating that it is not enough for the state to have enourmous power and the bully pulpit (the "bully" part quite literally these days, they want to have the hearts and minds as well. The political ruling class and the corporate media clearly feel it is their primary duty to fight for this, when it suits their interests. The most recent example of this is the amount of ink spilled over "Bush-hatred". Funny how the press didn't seem too concerned over "Clinton-hatred", even though the venom directed at Clinton had little, if anything to do with his policies (which would have been well-deserved).

On the other hand, you'd be hard-pressed to find negative reports of Bush that do not specifically reference Bush polices. Attacking a person for sleeping with an intern, a rare occurance apparently, is acceptable, but attacking somebody for starting a war over delibrate deception and and host of policies including taxes and the environment, is mystifing to the corporate press core. The most recent example of this is in last week's Economist, where several books are reviewed under "Hate Bush Books" mantra.

Of the five books mentioned, I have only read Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look and the Right". The Economist characterizes the books as "lazy affairs". Even if you don't think he is funny or even agree with him Franken's book is FULL of detailed analysis regarding specific issues, such as the Bush tax cut. The kind of analysis that might be useful to people if they came across it in the paper or on TV. The article acually finshes with the question "So why are so many people unhappy with Mr. Bush?". The Economist's answer is that its Mr. Bush's "attitude", that "Mr. Bush simply does not care".

It is very telling that an international publication supposedly dedicated to serious political and economic analysis can seriously conclude that an international movement against a President, with millions of demonstrators,hundreds of new organizations, and alot of best-selling books, can be simply fueled by the President's attitude, and simple irrationality. Mr. Bush may not care what people think of him, but his corporate media buddies are clearly distressed.

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