I finally got around to watching the film, Rosewater. It's about an Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari who is detained by Iranian forces who brutally interrogate him under suspicion that he is a spy. I was particularly interested initially because it was directed by Jon Stewart of Daily Show fame and written by him and the central character himself, Mr. Bahari.
At first I was stunned at the ubiquitous display of propaganda all over Tehran; on the side of buildings, signs and bill boards everywhere. But then it occurred to me, there are parallels here too. But in America the propaganda is not about the religion of Islam. It's about Western religion, capitalism.
An American can really never be out of the reach of marketing, public relations, sales campaigns and any and all devices used to convince us that the royal road to happiness is through consumption. Someone please explain to me how we are different.
The key event in the movie was the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mass voter protests that his election provoked. It was apparent that the election was rigged and the voice of the voter was ignored. I thought, this can't happen here.
Then another parallel popped into my mind. The presidential election of 2000 when George W. Bush received about a half million votes less than Al Gore and finally, after questionable machinations, was appointed the winner by the Supreme Court. It was the first election in 112 years in which a president lost the popular vote and still won the election. Then I was reminded of the impact of gerrymandering when we locally re-elect incumbents up to 90 percent of the time; these being the same incumbents who get a 7 percent approval rating by voters at large.And then economist Lawrence Lessig's book, Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress and How to End It, where he shows us that the voting public never gets a chance to really vote on anyone but those who have been vetted and pre-approved by the moneyed interests in the United States.
The film did an excellent job of showing how the ruling Iranian theocrats imposed their will on the masses through various forms of physical and mental intimidation and control of the propaganda machine. I thought, well at least that's not the case here in America until I began thinking about the recent Princeton University study. It proved the American voter has little to no influence on the laws passed by Congress. It also shows a direct correlation of their legislative outcomes to the needs and desires of the mega wealthy in America, otherwise known at the 1 percent.
Finally it all came together for me. Iran is simply a constructed enemy; an enemy constructed by American propagandists for political purposes. Much the same way we are used as a constructed enemy called the great Satan by the propagandists in Iran.
But how does this happen? How can this kind of propaganda be so effective? Then I began to think about an item I had read on line somewhere. It had to do with the attitude of the German people about overblown nationalism. You know the kind I'm thinking about, "we're the greatest people on the planet" kind of hubris. They're very cautious about this way of thinking. They have learned from their past and how damaging this kind of delusion can be. All they needed was a lunatic named Hitler to reinforce their hallucinations and lead them into creating one of the greatest tragedies in modern times, WW II, when untold millions died.
So what does that have to do with the film? It shows that while we are fed enough propaganda about our exceptionalism to distract us, we can also be led to believe that somehow we should be relieved to not live in places like Iran. That they are different and by being so are inferior to our better system.
I won't argue which is better or worse. I will argue that the parallels I found give me lots of reason for concern. Especially as our over-extended 2016 presidential campaign farce begins and we hear from candidates who just know they need to send our sons and daughters into harm's way to combat another constructed enemy.