300 and Others

Another foray into film reviews


Aficionados of impaling, dismemberment and decapitation were regaled recently with the release of "300," a film about the battle of Thermopylae. While there is no dearth of violence in the media these days, this graphic novel adaptation cannot fail to elicit a visceral response in even the most inured moviegoer or newspaper reader. 

You may read more elaborate descriptions elsewhere.  Suffice it to say that 300 gives us the hackneyed "good v. evil" scenario.  The Spartans are handsome, good and honorable and the Persians are evil, ugly and despicable.  Yawn.  It’s the same old, same old. 

Now, I have to admit, I enjoy a good impaling as much as the next guy.  I’m not squeamish.  And there is a certain appeal to the cinematic simplicity of solving complex problems with the expedient of violence, no matter the improbability of that in real life.  But it’s impossible not to take into account the context in which this allegory is taking place, namely the looming confrontation between the US and Iran.

As you are aware, or certainly should be aware, the first step in waging a war of aggression is demonizing the enemy.  Is it just an accident that this film is being released at this particular time?  We can’t answer that, but… it certainly seems suspect.  The Persians are, after all, the ancestors of the Iranians.  And the Spartans are, it is suggested, somehow our own ancestors, at least culturally — although perhaps the Athenians would better claim that title. In any case, the Spartans in the film are plenty American — ripped abdominal muscles, hooha, semper fi caricatures.

Frank Miller, the author of the graphic novel is fairly candid about how he views our current "clash of cultures."

"Our country… is up against an existential foe, yet we behave like a collapsing empire.  Mighty cultures aren’t conquered they crumble from within.  Americans are behaving like spoiled brats."  — Frank Miller

Miller sees the current events in the Middle East as a confrontation between the modern west and a "6th century barbarism."  He asks, "Why are people so self-absorbed?"  If anything, Miller is as bellicose as the Bushies.

At the very least, you have to question the wisdom of releasing such a film at this time.  Throwing gasoline on the fire in the Middle East hardly seems like a wise thing to do — unless what you really seek is to inflame passions, and cultivate a hunger for war.

Of course, one could read the film from another angle.  The story of a hegemonic super-power, intoxicated with illusions of divine right, greedy and corrupt.  Hmmm.  Remind you of anyone?  Meanwhile…

U.S. Opens Naval Exercise in Persian Gulf

But the overall effect of the film, regardless of speculations as to intent, is to advocate war.  Keep an eye out for more propaganda.  Watch the implacable machinery of war produce yet another monster.

The Lives of Others

The other film, and one I enjoyed immensely, was The Lives of Others. It *works* on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin.  Just see it.  One thing to keep in mind is the vastly greater technological resources available to Bush’s American "Stasi."   It’s not just the real-time monitoring capabilities, impressive as they may be.  It’s also the archiving and data mining capabilities.  What you do now may be innocuous.  But if you were to ever join the revolution (nudge, nudge!) and were to come to anyone’s attention, your whole history would be available for instant perusal.  Your credit card purchases.  The web sites you visited, and which pages you viewed.  Groups you belong to.  The people to whom you have sent emails, and received them from.  Those whom you called on the telephone and how long you spoke.  And their friends, too.  The Stasi was able to tyrannize a country with much less.

As always, comments, retorts, rejoinders, and asides are welcome!

Iran: An Invitation

I’ve been thinking a lot about the administration’s plans for Iran.  Am I the only one?
I mentioned it to a number of people over the weekend, and got very disturbing responses.  Some people had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. Some people didn’t understand that the plan being formulated is for a nuclear attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. One man confidently asserted that it’s all just sabre rattling, that the administration wasn’t stupid enough to actually attack.

To me, it seems like the administration is employing the same plan they used for Iraq.  Demonization, assertion of a threat, distorted intelligence, disingenuous gestures at negotiation, threats and provocation, and ultimately a manufactured casus belli.

Of course, it’s not just the administration that’s in favor of nuking Iran.  The top Democratic presidential candidates have all gone out of their way to indicate that "all options are on the table," "all options" being the polite way of saying first-strike nuclear attack in which potentially hundreds of thousands of human beings are incinerated and poisoned.

With the Democrats and Republicans trying to "out-hawk" each other on Iran, there is no countervailing political force. Thus, an attack seems all too likely.  Given their record, I think they *are* stupid enough to attack Iran.

So I find the apathy among my friends and associates regarding Iran *appalling*.  If an attack is to be prevented, who will do it? Not Congress, not the Democrats. They can’t even bring themselves to deal with the actual disaster of Iraq, let alone the potential disaster of Iran. If our feckless legislators can’t stop our reckless executive, who then has the power to prevent this horrifying human tragedy?

At this point, I’m not interested in debating whether maybe nuking Iran might be a good idea.  For me, that debate is dead, it’s offensive, and it’s a waste of time.

What is interesting to me is getting ahead of the whole process, brainstorming with others who would like to actually prevent an attack from happening.  Therefore, I invite any of you who share my concerns, and my determination to be an actor — not a reactor — to contact me.  Since not all of you agree with this endeavor, or perhaps are even interested in it, I will be setting up a dedicated list on my own server.  Not a list for endless discussions, hand wringing, diatribes and complaints; a list with the aim of preventing a war.  All are welcome.

Thanks for listening —

Here are a couple more recent articles on Iran, one from conservative Patrick Buchanan and one from Seymour Hersh.   (The Hersh article also describes how the Bush administration is funneling money to… Sunni extremists in Lebanon allied with Al Qaeda?  Fact is stranger than fiction!)

Patrick Buchanan, 3/3/07:

If Americans sickened by the carnage of Iraq wish to stop an even more disastrous war on Iran, they had best get cracking.


Seymour Hersh, 2/25/07:

… the Pentagon is continuing intensive planning for a possible bombing attack on Iran, a process that began last year, at the direction of the President. In recent months, the former intelligence official told me, a special planning group has been established in the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged with creating a contingency bombing plan for Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the President, within twenty-four hours.