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Playgrounds Of The American Imagination
t's a pet hobby to wonder how pop cultural artifacts offer glimpses into the American imagination. Nothing so ponderous as David Brooks' pseudo sociological mumbo jumbo. We're talking about informal observations picked up lounging in the neighbors' family room as they denounce again the local homeowners' association.
'24' remains one barometer, of course. Surnow naturally peddles the Neocon pantheon of bogeys — Chicoms, Russians and dark people from the Middle East. Now that Surnow's ideological agenda to support the Bush regime is overt (including his pathetic 'comedy show' for Fox) the show's reliability as a predictor is suspect. Moreover, everyone under 30 these days seems to be fleeing broadcast/cable/satellite TV. Just like they don't buy music CDs or think to get a landline phone. We were talking with some high school kids recently. They raved about some comedy “television” shows they loved. More than South Park. Where? A user generated cartoon channel on YouTube.
So when the geography and enemy migrates in the video game world we take notice. As you likely know Dear Reader, Americans more than anywhere else in the world love the first person shooter (fps) game. This is the style of game that makes the screen the player's point of view. The object is some variation of kill or be killed. Fps games are not particularly huge in Japan (one reason among many that Microsoft's game console doesn't sell well there). Wall Street money loves the fps genre, too. The American interest in first person killing is something that perhaps warrants non-David Brooks consideration. And given that one spends 10-20 times more time with a video game than a movie, they may be more instructive, too.
or our purposes here, we remain more conversational. You may know from your own family rooms that the most commercial arena for fps violent fantasy remains WW II — iconic set pieces like Normandy, Berlin or Stalingrad. Nazis naturally offer the most conscience-free target for inflicting consequence-free violent judgment. Aliens or monsters come in a close second. For real world environments, fps games used to rely on obscure terrorists in the various 'Stans — either the real ones or fictitious ones. Sometimes it involved taking on Ivan, too. Tom Clancy's “Ghost Recon” series of games are the best examples.
Iraq oddly remains off limits mostly as a major playground for the American recreational imagination. After 4 years, even the War on Terror has not spawned a major video game title hit. In 2004 we predicted a major video game “Fallujah Assault !” was only a matter of time. Instead of heading to Iraq, Tom Clancy's franchise moved to North Korea. Lucasfilm followed suit in “Mercenaries”. Armed assault on the Koreans, however, offers limited emotional release. It's hard to feel challenged or vindicated at the reptilian brain level when one has Netcentric-Global Strike-Future Combat System video game firepower against a 4th world country.
So where can one let fly on full auto without remorse? Clancy and “Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter” moved their futuristic 2012 setting to Mexico City recently. The gameplayer packs state of the art firepower, air assets and mows down hordes of faceless latino badguys. Their new sequel now set in 2014 has the player defending El Paso and the American border from an attack from Mexico. A Mexican governor has ordered that copies of the game be confiscated
. Lucasfilm, interestingly, has placed “Mercenaries 2” in Venezuala
. Chavez and others naturally denounced this American imperialization of the mind. The Iranians apparently are not taking this lying down, having announced their own videogame. The hero rescues a nuclear scientist kidnapped by the Americans.
Nazis, aliens, vague ethnics from the 'Stans/Russia, Koreans and now Latinos. Despite the full fury of the Neocon AgitProp machine and the ongoing war, the American imagination seeks cathartic release elsewhere. Videogames similarly largely avoid Vietnam and its ambiguities except for a few lamentable examples. Whatever will Jonah Goldberg do?
, Ghost Recon
How about those first person Freudian (FPF) games - Where the player is the Freudian analyst behind his desk and progressively more challanging female clients - with a variety of healty care plans (some with no insurance too) - come into the players office. And the player has to treat the patient withing a strict Freudian framework, without going outside the scope covered by insurance, and all the while keeping his own anxieties in check (or points are docked).
That Qatar news site has a headline about Khalilizad “admiting” talking to rebels. It took a long time for the British government to admit talking to the IRA, but today you had the unthinkable meeting of Paisley and Adams. Another Churchill Option - he did the unthinkable and talked with Michael Collins, even though Collins had conducted actions against British troops, etc. Maybe Dubya is just too tough - Tough guys Dubya. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Speaking of the imagination - did we imagine it or was David Stockman indicted? We recall a few years ago reading about Stockman's plan to re-industrialize the country, but we don't recall it all. A bridge too far.
“The Democratic congress doesn't understand what is going on in Iraq.”
~William Kristol & Frederic Kagan
Recall NR's “Unleash Japan” cover? They had visions of crack Japanese troops yelling Bonzai accross the near east? Maybe they want to reconsider:
How about a game where first person fathers are challanged with a variety of parenting senerios. If they're able to communicate with their 'offsprings', they get 'retirement points' and the offspring builds up points that allows them to go to 'college'.
How about a game of based on Scheur. Instead of actually conducting renditions - the player appears on cable tv and tries to explain to various cable hosts why rendition is good. But after each level gets harder - For example, he has to explain why the Italian job was worth doing even though it has been reported on, no good came of it, and it has made life more difficult for Americans officers than extremists clerics. So for example, on one show he might explain that is good in theory and that it has just been poor in execution. Then on another show, he could blame the media, etc.
He's a fascinating example of Oppositionists embracing someone they don't know well. He's also written about Bomber Harris-like genocide across the Middle East as the likely outcome of the war and talks of Sherman-esque barbarities, etc.
It's always fun to watch him on tv because he is so clueless about the political pea soup in which he jumped and unintentionally inflames his erstwhile allies while providing his critics with generous gifts.
Scheur hasn't really though this thru - His idea of rendition is fine for the movies or maybe in theory - but he acts as if he can talk about it as if the news stories re Italy are not happening every day. As if he can just say that should not happen - as if the world cares. Add on the impossibility of keeping it a secret, the pr nightmare, the legal problems, and the dissonance with the 'democracy' program that was unconvincing to the Arab world to begin with (much less Egypt). Meanwhile UBL is not found and KSM can't be tried and it's all falls apart. But the opposition was right to use him - they needed someone at that time , from the inside, to just to makes some statements at odds with the agitprop.
Imagine if corporation decided to buy up a lot of companies with asbestos legacy costs, under the theory that the they really didn't think it was fair what happened to those companies and that they thought it would be great to buy a lot of companies with lots of revenue for a relatively cheap price. Then they go and do this, and the result is massive litigation and massive legal costs and bad publicity and shareholder lawsuits and a decline in earnings. Then they still go about and justify what they did on a theoretical basis -
That's sort of like Scheur when he appears on TV smiling and bragging about his rendition policy - a visable public failure, known to the world and a breeder of future Zawahiris. He does this post failure maybe because he doesn't speak the language or travel the area, so it's as if he's playing a video game - except an unrealistic and poorly programmed one.
“But President Bush now wants it known that he is a man of letters. In fact, Bush has entered a book-reading competition with Karl Rove, his political adviser. White House aides say the president has read 60 books so far this year (while the brainy Rove, to Bush's competitive delight, has racked up only 50). The commander in chief delved into three volumes in August alone-two on Abraham Lincoln and, more surprising for a man of unambiguous convictions, The Stranger, Albert Camus's existential tale of murder and alienation ...portraying Bush as a voracious reader is part of an ongoing White House campaign to restore what a senior adviser calls ”gravitas“ to the Bush persona.”
“The next morning, after my lecture to White House staffers and Agency officials, we were asked if we’d like to spend some time before lunch in the Oval Office with ‘the reviewer-in-chief’. My original thought was the same as Churchill’s when Baldwin offered him the chancellorship in 1924 — ‘Does the bloody duck swim?’ — but I confined myself to saying yes please. When the door opened and we were ushered in, the President called out in mock surprise: ‘Andrew Roberts!’ So I adopted the same surprised tone, crying: ‘George W. Bush!’ (Lucky wouldn’t have approved.) Then Susan and I had 40 minutes alone with the Leader of the Free World, talking about the war on terror. He was full of resilience and fortitude — as I’d taken for granted he would be — but he was also thoughtful, charming and widely read. If he wasn’t the most powerful man in the world, he’d be the sort of chap you’d have as a mate ... Flew on to Paris for an intimate dinner with Nicolas and Cecilia Sarkozy ...”
Spectator Diary (3-24-07)
“Just as in science-fiction people are able to live on through cryogenic freezing after their bodies die, so British post-imperial greatness has been preserved and fostered through its incorporation into the American world-historical project.”
Doc - just make sure to catch David Broder's recent column. He compares David Stockman and Albert Gonzales - and says the parallels are “striking.”
It seems like a stretch - an excuse for Broder to just bs.
In a “Gone With The Wind” operatic sort of way, it's perfect for Broder to be stumbling about incoherently recalling the splendors of 1969 while the Washington media have become Caligulan whores and pimps.
Maybe there is something to that whole “Wrath of God” stuff after all . . .
Perhaps Bush is 'loyal' to AG AG and Reagan was loyal to Stockman - But what Stockman did (his interviews w/ Grieder and his private dissents) was pretty much opposite in spirit to what AG AG is doing (stonewalling and firingwalling on his boss's behalf). AG AG is betraying Bush in any sense and if he is let go it will be for emergency political reasons. But the whole concept of the magic accountaing asterisk is one that Bush has retained.
Meant to say AG AG is not betraying Bush in any traditional political sense - Quite the contrary, as Ehrlichman noted about a block of wood, AG AG was put into Justice. Alas, he was doing what he was put there to do, but Justice is not a block of wood and things got complicated.