under the existing propaganda paradigm
Thursday, September 18 2003
When the Mongols successfully invaded and conquered China, they were surely excited about all the loot, women, and land suddenly at their disposal. Surely now the Mongols ruled the entire world and would hereafter be known as its masters. But a couple generations later, most evidence of Mongol rule in China had vanished. Chinese culture had proved so compelling and accepting that the Mongol leaders of the Yuan dynasty were first assimilated and then driven from power. (For somewhat similar reasons, Jews have had great difficulty persisting as a distinct ethnicity in China - they've gone there as they've gone everywhere else, and a generation or two later they're all Chinese, some of whom abstain from pork but don't know why.)
Today comes the news that AOL-Time Warner is dropping the AOL from its name. Remember way back in history, before 9-11 and the Brooks Brothers Riots, back in the dotcom boom when AOL was so overvalued that it could actually buy Time Warner? The reality of the takeover soon demonstrated AOL to be a tiny garden snake and Time Warner to be a horse. This snake thought perhaps it could swallow Time Warner beginning with a hoof. Now Time Warner can toss away that frustrated stretch-mark-defiled snake like a used condom. It has to; the "AOL" is a bigger liability than an asset in its name.
The news today was mostly about the ongoing landfall of Hurricane Isabel in North Carolina. But I was more interested in a matter less subject to the whims of the Almighty. If you paid careful attention to the flow of news today, you could observe a perfect example of the way in which casualty reporting unfolds in Iraq under the existing propaganda paradigm. In the morning I head something on NPR about an ambush in Iraq. Eyewitnesses reported seeing three obviously dead Americans being carried away from the scene. Then, throughout the day, all we heard on the news about this firefight was that two Americans had been injured. This was apparently the only information that the US Military was willing to release. Only later in the day did they concede that yes, three Americans had died in the ambush. Evidently they'd decided to just sit on this news, which they'd known from the start, as Karl Rove and his henchmen pondered how best to spin this news in such places as Bill O'Reilly's no spin zone. I expect nothing good from these people. A good rule of thumb goes as follows: a government that defaults to secretiveness behaves this way because they have things to hide. I have faith - I couldn't go on with out it - that one day all will be revealed.
Taking a cue from a recent Salon article comparing their sound to Neutral Milk Hotel, for the past couple days I've been downloading and listening to music by The Decemberists. The music, with its frequent layering of sad accordians and slide guitars, is noticeably better-produced than anything by Neutral Milk Hotel. The lyrics are somewhat less gratuitously bizaare but compensate for this by being gratuitously Victorian. It's this Victorian quality that imparts a unique melancholy to the music. Everything about it has a quirky Edward Gorey quality. Why, for example, do all the women mentioned in the songs have distinctly Jewish names? It's just a quirk, like Bob Pollard's fascination with jet fighters, Robert Plant's Middle Earth tic, Liz Phair's recurring headache meme, or Roger Water's dreary obsession with his dad.
But in the end I only really liked two songs by The Decemberists: "Here I Dreamed I Was An Architect" and "Leslie Anne Levine."
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