Keyboard Heroes – those who talk very tough through the media of i-Mac and editorial column, yet put themselves in little physical danger beyond ordering an exceptionally rare steak. One such is bellicose US journalist Thomas Friedman, who wrote some time ago:
“The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps” (In The Lexus And The Olive Tree).
Business by other means, indeed! Wow, stern talk, but who are the individuals who make up this actually far-from-hidden fist? Yep. It’s us again… the international working class, who not only produce all the riches accumulated by the ruling class, but kill each other to safeguard their wealth and power. In the words of Fernando Suarez del Solar, a Californian whose son was killed in the attack on Iraq: “the military does all kinds of things to recruit Hispanics, African Americans and poor Anglos. How many children of congressmen or CEOs are in Iraq?” Quite. As in Britain, where former members of the armed forces make up a huge proportion of the male homeless population, the “great and the good” of the US have a similar attitude to the soldiers they send to carry out state violence. Praised to the skies on TV, but treated with utter contempt in reality.
With that in mind we come to the treatment of the butchery of capitalist war by the “entertainment” industry, and the ill-fated, but ongoing campaign to make a celebrity war heroine out of one Jessica Lynch. The official story went something along the lines of: heroic GI horribly shot and stabbed by fiendish enemy forces, before salvation comes in the form of a heroic rescue mission. Inconveniently, another account came along that she was injured when the vehicle in which she was travelling crashed, before being transferred by Iraqi forces to a local hospital, from where US commandos extracted her in a smash-and-grab raid. No doubt the “facts” of the case in hand will be a subject of debate for years to come. What actually happened? Who knows, and small matter, for the murderous assault on Iraq must be memorialised Hollywood-style (or at least TV movie-style) somehow, and so celebrities must be created from it. If they’re white, blonde and female, then so much the better.
But surely there’s a more reliable way to turn bloodshed into box office than scouring the ranks for celluloid-friendly tall tales? Yes, there is. Why not just enlist “real” celebrities into the armed forces? They would, after all, already have instant audience recognition. If the likes of Bruce Willis and Demi “GI Jane” Moore are so supportive of US capital’s foreign policy, a Battalion Of The Stars would give them the ideal opportunity to put their “asses on the line” for it, and make movies too. Come to think of it, if they were to do a spot of improvised acting, fugitives such as Messrs Hussein and Bin Laden would no doubt emerge from hiding, screaming for mercy.
There you go – the line between murderous reality and 90-minute popcorn-chomping “entertainment” instantly abolished, with no need for fictionalisation, casting etc. Willis in particular would no doubt be eager to reprise his on-screen gift for stripped-to-the-waist urban violence. It’s a shame Arnold Schwarzenegger would be too busy orchestrating the fleecing of the Californian working class to put in an appearance brutalising the poor further afield. And I can’t imagine Britney Spears – recently heard proclaiming to some CNN pundit: “honestly, I think we should just trust the president on every decision he makes and we should just support that” – turning down the chance of active service in the interests of the military-industrial-entertainment complex. Can you?
Or can it be that they’d give this golden opportunity a miss, and leave the real killing and dying to the working class? Those who, unless they happen to become a movie deal cause celebre, can then return (if they’re lucky), to lives of poverty, deprivation, and the inevitable combat-related stress and illnesses.