While the Bond franchise uses sex for box office purposes, our media see prurient scandals as an opportunity for better ratings. It's now a tiresome reality about our culture and media that sex is oftentimes more an issue of censorship for obscenity than violence. As a conceptual experiment, which of the two images below would be considered more obscene? Considered in a serious adult context, both images are relevant to the Petraeus Affair.
Gustave Courbet's 1866 painting "The Origin of the World" and a child killed by a US drone in Pakistan
A concerned moralist in our moment in history might ask: Where is the media storm about the scandal of ever increasing remotely-piloted lethal drone attacks around the world? Where is the media storm about the increasing use of special ops assassin teams?
The answer is: Nowhere. Nowhere is the moral scandal of ever-more-technologically-focused violence an issue in our media, except in marginalized venues like this one at This Can't Be Happening. That's the real scandal.
Newsweek: A Rag For Our Time
Through a strange turn of fate, the November 12 issue of Newsweek magazine has turned out to be an especially telling example of the propaganda machine our national security state relies on. Edited by the great magazine wizard Tina Brown, the Veterans Day issue was titled "The Heroes Issue" and featured stories on a harrowing medevac rescue in Afghanistan; the story of a black mother who joins the Marines to serve her country; stories about an assortment of heroes from Hurricane Sandy; a profile of a maverick diplomat in Afghanistan, and finally a story how the selfless credo of the SEALs is being tempted by the seduction of Hollywood.
Newsweek front and back covers November 12, 2012
They're all good stories -- especially the Hollywood SEAL story -- as far as they go, which is only to serve the codes of Patriotism and American Exceptionalism. There are advertisements for Jeep and Prius vehicles, Bank of America and Citibank, Omaha Streaks and Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals and, on the back cover, naturally, a joint watch-fetish ad for Omega watches and the Bond film, Skyfall.
On the last page of the magazine, to the chagrin of Tina Brown and other editors at Newsweek, is a one-pager titled "Petraeus's Rules for Living: Lessons on Leadership from General David Petraeus" -- written by Paula Broadwell, author of All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.
"If there is one factor that unites the American heroes we spotlight here," writes editor Brown, "it is their adamant refusal to be portrayed as special." (Newsweek, far from being heroic, is not so restrained or so humble.) The story of the truly brave medevac team is, in her words, "spine tingling." "Awe," she writes, "is the only appropriate word to describe our response to the heroes here."
The November 12 issue of Newsweek may not be the worst example of a propaganda rag, but it's a good candidate to be a classic of the form, thanks to the extra frisson provided by the Paula Broadwell coda on Petraeus' "Rules for Living."
Here's some wisdom from Rule #8: "If you rely on rank, rather than on the persuasiveness of your logic, the problem could be you..."
This is a rule worth pondering in the odiferous, rank-ridden corridors of Washington D.C. and Tampa. Also in the offices of Tina Brown and other corporate media moguls. If you consider the Myth of American Exceptionalism an extended example of "rank" in the world, when things go wrong allowing that "the problem could be you" is a good rule not to discard. The same goes for the Myth of the Chosen People in Israel, as Bibi Netanyahu's military, again, rips into Gaza.
1 | 2