Review by DeAnander
I do not watch Corporate Amurkan TV so I have not been exposed to much of the US wartime wurlitzer, except in airports where I try to sit as far as possible from Dear Leader’s propaganda loudspeakers. So when I watched Control Room for the first time this week, I was exposed not only to Al Jazeera as a new media experience, but to American wartime TV as well.
I reproduce here an email sent on the following day which recaptures my immediate response to the film.
watched Control Room last night and almost couldn’t stand sitting through the STUPID blather from the CENTCOM droids. I mean, it’s not just that it’s a load of old cobblers, as my granddad would have said — it’s that it’s so bloody obviously a load of old cobblers, so downright dumb-as-paint S*T*U*P*I*D that you wonder how the mouthpieces can recite it without coming to a sputtering halt and laughing their asses off. and watching the tame US press eat it all up obediently with their little clipboards and notepads… gawdamighty, Ed Murrow must be spinning fast enough in his grave to be used as a bore drill.
maybe they selected their screen personalities carefully, but the overall impression one is left with is that the Al Jazeera crowd — some likable and some not so likable [their managing director struck me as a real organisational snake] — are intelligent . . . wearily, bemusedly, ironically intelligent. and the Americans are, to the last one, so stupid they make your teeth hurt. the newscasters, the reporters, the military mouthpieces, the soldiers — dumb dumb dumb and dumber. I had not seen before the footage of the hapless maintenance corps personnel who were taken captive, being asked “Who are you, how old are you, where do you come from, why have you come from _____ to Iraq?” — the terror on their faces, in their eyes darting from one captor to another, was almost unbearable to watch — and their ignorance, their total cluelessness about what the hell they were doing there, other than “bringing democracy to the Iraqi people”.
and yet I had to notice that the insurgents who captured them did them the courtesy of asking the questions in English, whereas the grunts breaking doors down are yelling “Get the F+++ On The Ground” in US English at terrified, disoriented Iraqi civilians, some of whom clearly do not understand what’s being said and can’t figure out what the heavily armed thugs want them to do. and that whole business of making Muslim-culture men lay their heads down in the dust of the street, ripping their turbans or head scarves off — just incredible. how to win hearts and minds all right… for the insurgency.
anyway, a pretty good documentary, tragic and ironic and in its own way deeply, vindictively sarcastic — the last refuge of the intelligent weakling in the face of moronic bullying…
watching Rumsfeld on the podium is like being stuck in a rerun of Night of the Living Dead… except way scarier. if the man were in a Salvation Army breadline he’d be just another glib delusional nutter, but when I force myself to realise who and what he is, structurally, politically, it makes me almost too scared to watch. but I think what haunts me is that propagandababble, the doublespeak out of CENTCOM’s uniformed droids. it’s almost physically sickening to listen to.
you have to wonder — I do anyway — what goes on behind the flat, apparently bored eyes of these young men as they recite palpable, risible nonsense — stuff worthy of Stalin’s less inspired agitprop factories — to the zombified press corps. which is more alarming? the idea that they are stupid, historically illiterate and prosodically tone-deaf enough to find this drivel convincing? that they [gawdelpus] actually believe what they are reciting? or that they are cynically reading their lines like any professional actor, knowing the whole time that they are frontmen for mafia bosses engaged in a nation-state hit, just earning their pay? or that they have bought the Straussian line and are inwardly gloating over their position as superior insiders, enjoying every moment of spoonfeeding this synthetic pap to the obedient press corps, sniggering in the canteen afterwards like the boys who have paid a pole dancer to do something particularly humiliating on stage?
frame any lie no matter how shameful, how demeaning, how absurd,
and there is someone who would leap at the opportunity to tell it –
who would love the lie for its own sake, climb any rooftop to yell it,
to sell it, tickled to death with their own clever twisting of words,
fabrication of evidence, murder of witnesses — you can almost smell it,
the sweat of the buzz they get, goosing the credulous herd.
– ‘recruitment office’ D. A. Clarke 2006