Friday, January 13, 2012

War Porn

I've already addressed the dreary slog of Angelina Jolie's Bosnian War movie from the artistic standpoint; now that I've had a chance to observe the promotional efforts and official commentary, I'd like to address its political implications.

The film opens in Mordor-on-the-Potomac this weekend, and Jolie, Pitt and their brood were in town promoting it. Jolie even paid an emotional visit to the Holocaust Museum, and its Bosnia exhibit.

Critics mostly agree that the movie is a stinker. The fact that it's being shown in only a small number of art-house theaters suggests the producers are aware of this too. As Peter Brock (author of the outstanding "Media Cleansing") noted in his write-up, propaganda movies about the Balkans have never done well at the box office.

Then again, moneymaking never figured highly in Empire's motivations to intervene in the Balkans. Whether the goal was sticking it to the Russians, keeping Europeans in their place, enjoying the worshipful groveling of eager regional clients, seeking to impress jihadists worldwide - or any combination thereof - the Empire's white-knighting project in the Balkans has been about power.

Commercial films seek to make a profit. Art films want at least to break even while telling a story. Propaganda films aim to preach; for them, breaking even or profiting at the box office is useful, but not necessary. Jolie's film, a textbook example of "chetnixploitation", is intended to reinforce the official narrative by demonizing the designated villain. So, Serbs bad, Muslims (Croats, Albanians, etc.) good, and the Empire is the shining savior from aggression, rape and genocide. And if not, it should be - so says the Power Doctrine.

The title of the film was outright stolen from photographer Ron Haviv, a major source for Balkans imagery favoring the mainstream narrative. And Jolie herself has been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (since 2007), a body behind much of Empire foreign policy.

Lo and behold, all the elements come together in a review in The Atlantic: Jolie "gets the war right", there is mention of the CFR and Power's work, all the memes and motifs are reinforced - and then Jolie is mildly criticized for being less than subtle (!) about hammering them home. Because the Empire is all about subtlety, after all...

To the Imperial establishment Jolie represents, it doesn't really matter that the film stinks. The story is hackneyed. Though the actors do their best (I've seen them in other productions), their lines are just terrible. Even the imagery itself is derivative, trying hard to present the Bosnian War as a re-run of the Holocaust - as seen in movies.

Why now, though? Could it be that, faced with a bleak economy at home and the inglorious end of two foreign wars, the Empire needs to trumpet a "success" to its populace (and oh so coincidentally, one that the Clintons can claim credit for)? Thing is, the Bosnian War ended 16 years ago. Few Americans cared about it at the time, and fewer still care about it now. Worse yet, Empire's white-knighting experiment turned out to be a complete and utter failure. The "rescued damsels" did not respond with gushing gratitude - quite the contrary. So all Jolie's film actually manages to do is underscore the Empire's pathetic disconnect from reality.

As for the whole knights-in-shining-armor rescuing-the-world myth, authentic war footage just exploded that. Professionally produced war porn, just like the actual kind, just cannot compete with amateurs anymore.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Two years ago, a group of film critics launched a blog dedicated to "Chetnixploitation" - a subgenre in modern cinema devoted to the demonization of Serbs. Though in recent years it appeared to have been a passing fad, Chetnixploitation recently made a comeback, from a couple of throwaway lines in the latest Mission: Impossible movie to Angelina Jolie's directorial debut.

So, in the interest of public edification, and having been unable to find an adequate English-language explanation of the term, I've decided to provide a translation of the definition, as offered by the authors:
Chetnixploitation, noun

A common name for primarily cinematic works depicting the wars in the former Yugoslavia in a naive, one-sided, and grotesquely simplified manner; whether out of laziness/stupidity/ignorance or malice, all or almost all the horrors and atrocities are blamed on the Serbs ("Chetniks") while the responsibility of other participants in the wars (Croats, Bosnian Muslims, etc.) is either minimized, dismissed or even denied outright.
Such movies pretend to be art, yet amount to more or less camouflaged propaganda, seeking to "affirm" the black-and-white narrative of the Western media concerning the wars, with rigid roles allocated thus:

- Serbs ("Chetniks") are the aggressors, war criminals, rapists, robbers, murderers, terrorists, sadists. Bearded, with bloodshot eyes, bloodthirsty werewolves.

- Serb enemies (Bosnian Muslims, Croats, Albanians) are the VICTIMS: passive, pitiful, powerless, unarmed, principally women (to be tortured and raped) and children (poor crying orphans), innocent, with tear-washed suffering faces, sheep.

These films exploit the ethnic bigotry and the established imagery of the Serbs as war criminals, seeking to show (or in more sophisticated examples, suggest) their primary or even exclusive culpability for all the horrors of the Balkans Wars.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


The furor over the Iowa caucuses tonight is an illustration of the sad state of democracy in America. The mainstream media have done their best to create an atmosphere in which the whole process will be dismissed as a fluke if a particular candidate wins. Especially since that candidate is a man they have first ignored, then laughed at, then demonized... And yes, the quote attributed to Gandhi does come to mind here.

Much as it was decided in 2008 that the best heir to Bush the Lesser would be Barack the Blessed of Hopechange, the establishment has decided that the Republican candidate in November shall be Mitt Romney. Just look at the pattern in the GOP race so far: Romney gets treated as the front-runner, while every other candidate is built up and then torn down - a phenomenon Vox Day dubbed the "Romney-alternative-who-is-not-Ron-Paul wheel."

Trouble is, Paul isn't going away. He's a clear alternative to the establishment (as Vox puts it, to "Newt Romney O'Bama"), or to borrow what Phyllis Schlafly said about Barry Goldwater, "a choice, not an echo."

Predictably, the "smearbund" (Murray Rothbard's expression) tried hard to paint Paul as a racist. Unfortunately for them, that accusation has been the first resort of political scoundrels for so long, people have grown tired of it. It doesn't quite work anymore. It also happens to be a lie. So they accused Paul of being an anti-Semite instead. That, too, is untrue.

Today, Richard Cohen of the Washington Post almost called Paul a Nazi, while praising all the Imperial interventions that Paul has opposed. Cohen, by the way, argued passionately back in 2003 that "bagging Karadzic" would show the Muslim world all the white-knighting virtue and love of the United States, and win its never-ending gratitude. Well, Karadzic was "bagged" in 2008, Ratko Mladic last year, the US has created not one but two Islamic states in the Balkans (per Tom Lantos)... where's all the gratitude? Oh wait.

Daniel Greenfield really dislikes Ron Paul. He's convinced Paul's policy of dismantling the Empire is bad for the Jews and bad for Israel, suspects him of Islamophilia, even argues that Paul is working with George Soros. But it is Greenfield that wrote the best rebuttal of Cohen's idiotic rant, by pointing out that the U.S. never actually intervened to stop genocide. Not today, not in WW2, not ever.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I like Ron Paul. Back in 2004, I interviewed him for NIN - then a premier Serbian news magazine, later sold to a German consortium and thoroughly ruined - mostly about his principled opposition to America's illegal foreign wars. To prep for the interview, I did a fair bit of research on his voting record and where he stood on issues. And I have to say, even when I disagree with him (on immigration, for example), I respect him and his integrity. Assuming there is a way to save the United States of America from the consequences of imperialism - and forgive me if I'm not entirely convinced at this point that there is - Paul is the man who might be able to pull it off.

But even if I thought otherwise, even if I disliked the man and his ideas entirely, I'd still be objecting to the obvious problem of his treatment at the hands of the mainstream media and the political establishment. As should we all. Because what we're seeing here is what Philip Cunliffe noted about the 2008 Serbian elections: that democracy means whatever the Empire says it means.

So the Iowa caucuses will be declared legitimate, meaningful and proper only if the establishment's preferred candidate (i.e. Romney) wins. If Paul carries Iowa, it will be dismissed as a fluke, the whole caucus system will be derided as stupid and obsolete, and a host of other excuses will be enlisted to tell the general populace why what just happened didn't matter at all. Nothing to see here, move along, vote Romney O'Bama and the Bank Party in November, thankyouverymuch.

That sounds very much like a diabetic being forced to make a "choice" between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. It's not just that he doesn't get to choose water, it's that either of those will kill him.