I just read Robert Kagan’s Power and Weakness, on policyreview.org. I do not always aggree, but I have to say that though I was skeptical at first – to the point of not reading onwards – it is brilliant, a true springboard for further thought.


Here my infamous CNN article published, for those who asked for it

Requiem CNN:

pornography and propaganda

People exhibits strange habits while viewing pornography. I for one sometimes find a slipper in one hand. It was with slippers and shoes that the enraged citizens of Fallujah beat at the charred remains of american contractors before hanging them like grizly scarecrows from a nearby bridge. It is with a clutched slipper that I sometimes wish I could touch the members of the CNN family while watching. Like Wolf Blitzer, for instance, the incarnation of CNN reporting – as seen on the Last Word on Sunday Talk, or during the more orgasmic Breaking News interruptions. Both features represent a point on CNN’s ever – oscillating spectrum between perceived and lauded objectivity and outright “swallow it, you will” porno-propaganda. The former, the Last Word, is somewhere on the more benign end of the scale, with chubby, familiar U.S. senators dishing out their dissenting views on the narrow bandwith of what Noam Chomsky calls accepted opinion. Blitzer, wavering in the wind of world affairs, knows to ask the right questions at the right time. About whether the UN is really irrelevant, before the war. About where the WMDs are, afterwards. Investigative journalism. What the public wants. Then, Breaking News. A whole different ballpark. Offering little time for grooming, some porno might slip through. Like waiting for the bombing of Bagdad with Mr. Blitzer, at the beginning of the war. Behind his back, the live video stream of Bagdad is still silent. The capital does just not want to go to hell, yet. Blitzer promises MOAB, the mother of all bombs, weight measured in tons. But viewers might just be tuning in; in case you missed it, the Army promised awe-insipring, humiliating destruction on a never before-seen scale, Shock and Awe. But the streets of Bagdad are still silent. Blitzer is impatient. Then, the first Bombs light up the screen behind him. He stops talking, urging us to watch. Bombs go off like lava fountains sprouting from the earth. Blitzer is mostly silent, leaving us with the quiet dignity of the images. Finally, Bagdad is literally going to hell.

I for one would express it otherwise: we voyeurs are being taken to hell. For all viewers who believe they have become too cynical to care about the victims, for all those who have stopped shedding tears for those we are supposed to care about – like aforementioned lynched Americans working for Blackwater security – and those we aren’t, this is no longer just about pitying the tragedy of others. It’s about saving our own souls from a kind of hell.

Because as a network that promises to “take you there”, CNN is essentially a portal, connecting your home with world events and talking heads. Like reporters speaking Live from the White House, middle-aged women with a touch of sado-maso allure who elaborate on what Mr. Bremer just said. Take his announcement that the enemies of freedom who perpetrate actions against the coalition wish a return to the Rape Rooms. Here, a sceptical soul loses all traction. What should I care more about: the (no doubt often terrible) realities behind Bremer’s alliterating catchphrase, or the fact that the Rape Rooms are being so deliciously instrumentalized to entertain and educate us all at once. The Rape Rooms. Call it CNN’s sexually stirring soul-seduction.

When CNN is being subtle, in the benign moments of the oscillatory cycle, the candyman may come. In special reports, pleasant, chubby journalists like Tom Friedman get much air-time to bless us with CNN-objectivity on the most controversial topics, like the wall being built in Israel. Friedman, who is freed from all biases (explicitly: being a Jew reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict) by being Pulitzer-Prize Winning, winds his way through the arab-israeli streets (“they told us to meet at the car dealership, which is either a Datsun or Toyota, I’m gonna go with Datsun”) pants and puffs his way up apartments to interview both sides of the conflict. CNN could actually have spared itself the trouble of hiring an outside journalist, because we get proven CNN blend: Israeli legal experts, angry arab men, pretty palestinian representatives (chosen by the PLO more to please western eyes than ears). Much is discussed, and it is aggreed that the wall separates. As walls tend to do. But silly us, CNN is not primarily a discursive forum! Where is the pornography? The long-awaited catharsys comes in the form of a suicide-bombing, to bring it to the point, to really drive it home. Emotional, Friedman jogs toward ground zero of the explosion. Sirens wail. Debris litters the street. The viewer squints to find human remains in the rapidly-scrolling rubble. The point to be made must come soon now. Friedman pants into the camera, out of breath, because mid-stride. He looks us head-on. He is an angry god. Finally: “You know… if you want to know where the wall starts… it starts.. here”. Amid the wailing sirens and misery, truth has been delivered. The crying Israeli soldieress thrown in afterwards is just icing on the cake. She talks about how her comerade always kept his shoes clean, that they were clean even while he was dying. Ironic, really. What a contrast to the angry mobs of Fallujah, who don’t seem to mind getting their slippers dirty.