Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Heart Of Darkness Is Just All Right With Me

Or so argues Steve Gilliard, which makes me shudder to think what wingnuts are saying about it. I don't think I'll bother trying to find out.

The war porn story is one of those awful things that could, and probably should, make a misanthrope out of anyone -- or, at least, that's my first thought. What a degraded species human beings are: the feeling is what Martin Amis has called "species-shame".

Then I read excuses for the soldiers, the revolting feeling congeals, and I begin to analyse.

No, not all humans are capable of this; only some are. Why is that? War is certainly the pre-condition, but by no means are most warriors capable of such depravity. And this is a distinct thing from the regular, awful things that soldiers must do anyway, is it not?

The war porn story is a lesson in scalp mentality -- something, by the way, that White America has responsibility for inventing as much or more than Native America.

Scalping, on one level, was done to show proof of a kill to one's own kind, which in turn made the bearer more illustrious and powerful. Psychologically, it's trophy hunting: proof, that can be shown-off, of brutal power over another. Headhunting, by the Celts or by indigenous people of the Pacific and South America, of course had a religious component, but nevertheless provided the same psychological pay-off.

In our culture such things become commodified.

Scalps, in the form of grisly pictures of the dead, accompanied by wahooing macho commentary, are being traded for porn.

Part of being a human is to resist -- even in a debased, hucksterish culture such as ours -- certain things being commodified. Slavery, for instance, is recognised as a great moral evil even though I'm certain that there is a market for it, especially in America. Contract killing is banned with stiff penalty. You know what I mean.

But on the other hand, the rot of sociopathy runs deep. Violence-obessed fetishists value gruesome images, and are willing to barter for them. Thus war pornography being traded for sexual pornography. The beauty of the human body en flagrante delicto being traded for records of dismembering and death; love -- or the simulation of love -- being traded for death. That this is a bad trade to me is self-evident.

But then that these pictures (scalps) are being taken, it would seem for the express purpose of trade, by remorseless bastards, is self-evidently an act of psychopathy. Again, the pictures aren't records; they are trophies. They aren't meant as a recount of the vileness of war; they are commodities of perverted bravado that can be traded for masturbatory fodder.

As a lesser point, I submit that any such pictures are the property of all humanity. They have a use, among non-sociopaths, as propaganda against war. If Saddam's gold-plated AK-47 is, at least in name, the property of the people of America so too should be these pictures. Again, it's offensive enough that they are taken as proof or record of "look at me killing Hadji!" It's worse that they are then used, essentially, for sex.

Anyway, Gilliard can fuck right off. Look at this mismash of reactionary and liberal excuse-making, all in one awful post: truly the worst of both worlds.

I don't know why anyone is shocked that soldiers would trade grisly pictures for porn. The Army created this market by banning porn in theater, and these kids could care less about the people who tried to kill them.

He even managed to pack it in just one paragraph.

There's the conservative-realist excuse that "war is hell" implied in the first sentence. Don't be surprised or appalled, much less revolted, he means. There's the libertarian-conservative "free markets triumph all" excuse in the first clause of the second sentence. I agree it's stupid that the Army bans porn. I'm not sure it's counter-productive from the Army's viewpoint (well, until this PR disaster), but I disagree with the ban on principle. Still, they can pay for it like anyone else. With money, not scalps. Then the neocon/Hitchens excuse in the concluding clause. Excuse me, but I take leave to doubt that all these pictures of mangled human remains are of people who've opened fire on American soldiers. As if every dead person in the photos is Osama bin laden. Of course psychopaths have no taboo against defiling the dead, no matter who the dead person may be.

They're trying to turn this into a joke, a sick joke, but joke nonetheless.

Aww, these poor soldiers, so stressed: why, it's just gallows humor! This is the "South Park Republican" excuse.

Soldiers have always done this. Omer Bartov caused a shitstorm when he created an exhibit of Wehrmacht pictures of the Eastern Front. It was the same kind of thing.

More of the war is hell, "I watch the History Channel" excuse-making. War is debasing, so there are no standards one may expect for soldiers to follow. The conclusion of this logic is that there's no such thing as a war crime.

However, if you think the soldiers won't pay for this, you'd be wrong. This will be in their heads long after you've forgotten you've seen these shots.

The coup de grace. Beautiful. The soldiers are the real victims! Finally, our squishy liberal psychotherapy excuse.

Steve Gilliard has a job waiting for him. When this guy tries to rehabilitate his political career, and tries again to paint himself as the genuinely suffering party, he has a perfect hagiographer in Gilliard, for whom, apparently, there is no such thing as the heart of darkness.

**Edit 10/03/05: Looky, looky. I found something, while researching another topic, that pertains: the soldiers are following the sterling example set by the president. In holding a scalp mentality, that is (obviously not the chickenhawkery part).