Sunday, September 19, 2004

I've been trawling through various right and left blogs and news sources today. (Haven't been paying much attention recently.)

And then I watched one of those lousy, straight-to-video Hollywood movies that end up as the big late saturday night entertainment on Globo.

And then I had this thought. "Wow! This is serious. The US is really screwed." Followed by two further thoughts :

* And it's Hollywood's fault.

* And also it's weblogging's fault.

Because on the one hand, it looks more and more as if Iraq is spiralling out of control. The Taliban / Al Quaeda are regrouping in Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan. Stigmergic inspiration is sweeping the islamic world : from Pakistan to Egypt, Saudi to Russia, Indonesia to Turkey.

Now, this lously film had a good cop. With a little hand-gun. And lots of thuggish, scary bad-guys. Good cop goes out into the world, kicks ass. Bad guys blast him from all sides with automatic weapons and he mirraculously survives, by ducking behind convenient obstacles. After which, he pops back, with a couple of spare, elegant flicks of his hand-gun, takes out each bad guy.

Good hearted people everywhere flock to him and help him. No one challanges "how" he does things. Sometimes he does dumb, stupid stuff that end in a fire-fight. Yet no-one ever questions afterwards if he couldn't have thought it through a bit first, and maybe minimized the body count. The girl who's father dies. The loyal buddy who takes a bullet. No-one gets bitter.

And then I remember, the US film industry has been telling this story for decades. At least since Stagecoach. Almost 70 years of the same thing : being the good-guy is more important than how many henchmen you have, how much fire-power in your weapons, how careful your planning or suave your social and diplomatic skills.

So when the Project for the New American Century say you win them over just by kicking out their big bad boss; or when Rumsfeld decides to overrule the military experts and use an undersized army; why should there be any surprise?

The majority of US voters see nothing wrong. We've worried about trashy films inspiring violence. But what about the problem that they inspire bad tactics and failure of common sense?

Like I say, 70 years of this. Three generations of Americans.

Then, on the other side, I'm getting really impressed by the division in the US. Maybe it was like this at the end of the 60s, beginning of the 70s. But the vitriol, the smearing, the absolute disagreement and disengagement between the sides is breathtaking to me.

And maybe blogging isn't helping at all.

Sure, the idea is we all read those we disagree with, and understand them better. And this happens too. But names of blogs become short-hand : the Oxblog "falacy". "Little Green Footballs", "Daily Kos" are used as labels for moral failings, not as places to go to correct your biases and enrich your view. The web lets us see how our opponents think. And often it's so unimpressive we're left with a deep revulsion.

What the hell will happen if and when Bush wins? Will some of the frustrated oponents give up on party politics? Switch to violence? How can US society hold itself together, when it's torn by such passion, and compromised by such stupidity abroad?

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