un-Realityby Brandon Edmonds / 14.04.2010
There’s fantasy and then there’s reality. Reality is what actually happens. Fantasy is just about everything else.
Reality is this right here:
The cold blooded murder of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan is the reality of US imperialism. That sickening feeling you get watching the video is made up not only of humane disgust at mindless slaughter, but the collapse of those “obvious certainties” Western media insists we take for granted. That illegal American military intervention abroad is motivated by selfless idealism. That the “international community” means well. That instances of savagery like the video above are aberrations and “mistakes” rather than standard operating procedure. That the presence of the West abroad is positive and constructive. That the people of Iraq and Afghanistan are lucky to have democracy’s soldiers in their streets.
The video reveals a starker reality than is ordinarily presented. The fact that war inevitably dehumanizes combatants. That war makes killing rote and mandatory. Fact is the “war on terror” daily contradicts and ignores “international norms” – leading to widespread cynicism about institutions, democracy and justice. You only have to look at universally plunging voter turnout to gauge how people are feeling about the political process. Cynicism and reactionary despair plays directly into the hands of elites who prefer a passively despondent populace.
Another way to pacify the public is to keep the level of social discourse incredibly low. Celebrity, sport, gossip and so on fulfills this function perfectly.
And so, fantasy:
A real bloodbath is there to be seen in the leaked military video. It speaks for itself. It is real. The imagined bloodbath – like the one this British tabloid recently trumpeted – is pure fantasy. But why? Why would a paper, even one as drenched in scurrilous drek as the Daily Star, run with a complete fantasy on its front page?
Here’s a quick list of answers: tabloid journalism is entertaining first, accurate last / Britain used to rule South Africa – any indication of social collapse reminds Empire enthusiasts what a mistake it was to give the country back / the standard framing of African politics entails a cavalcade of ‘post-liberation government failure’ – South Africa is just falling into that pattern / the ‘negotiated’ transition to democracy set an enlightened precedent for resolving social conflict by dialogue, rather than repression and force – it is not a desirable option in the Terror era – and must be seen to have failed / Africa has long provided the British imagination with luridly violent imagery at a comfortable remove – from the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, through Rwandan genocide, up to Zimbabwe’s hellish unraveling / and, finally, an event like the World Cup tops the calendar of the global community (the whole rat’s nest of bankers and owners, politicians and plutocrats, down to their employees, lawyers and fixers, journalists and publicity agents) and holding it in the ‘underdeveloped’ South makes the moneyed and powerful genuinely uneasy – hence the façade of Euro propriety currently being spray painted on everything from airports to public space – as if sub-Saharan Africa had won an EU make-over in a “reality show”. Fantasy, pure fantasy.