Sunday, October 31, 2004

Follow-Up: Arte and the "War of Words"

In a comment to "American Beheaders", Alene remarked that there appears to be "a propaganda war being waged against the US". It would indeed seem that way. I don't think it has anything to do with earlier Soviet propaganda, as Alene speculates it might. Arte, for instance, has in the past proven itself capable of being as anti-Communist as it is anti-American. This is perhaps not so surprising. There has, after all, been at least one major modern political ideology - one which had a notable run of successes in Europe in the 1930s - which combined ferocious anti-Communism with ostensible "anti-Imperialism" and which already back in the day identified the "Anglo-Saxon" powers, the United States and the United Kingdom (not to mention "the Jews" of course), as the principal agents of imperialism.

Citing Antoine-Henri Jomini's 1837 Précis de l’art de la guerre [Handbook of the Art of War] in a (Marxist!) critique of philosopher du jour Antonio Negri that appeared in the French journal Cahiers pour l'Analyse concrète, Hugo Rossi writes, "All the great strategic thinkers have noted the tight relation that exists between a 'war of words' and war as such, as much during the course of an armed conflict as in preparing the ideological ground for the conflict or in order to weaken the enemy from the interior." Seen in this perspective, it is not only the Islamist militants of Al Qaeda and its affiliates that are today at war with the US, but also, in effect, Germany and France, which use their taxpayers' money to finance the incitation of hatred against America and "the Americans". In light of modern communications technologies, it should be added that the war in which France and Germany are engaged against the US is both a "war of words" and a "war of images". The predilection of Arte and kindred media for broadcasting gruesome images of civilian casualties - preferably children - of American military operations, as contrasted with the daintiness displayed by these same media in dealing with the victims of Islamist terror, makes this perfectly clear. It should also be noted that whereas the US under George W. Bush has responded to the armed Islamist offensive in resolute fashion, France's and Germany's "war of words" with the US has remained decidedly one-sided. I can easily imagine that some French reader of bad faith might respond to this remark: "What about Fox? Surely, Fox must engage in heinous French-bashing on a regular basis." But, firstly, while I have crossed paths with many a French detractor of Fox News, I have yet to meet one who has actually watched it; and, secondly, Fox is a private network and hence whether it is francophobe or francophile or simply indifferent (the mostly likely option, it seems to me, even if the most hurtful) is irrelevant in this context. The American public media, what little there are of them, are most certainly not used to incite hatred or contempt for France or Germany: not for their peoples, nor their institutions, nor their political leaderships.

What makes the conduct of the French and German governments in subsidizing Arte's anti-American propaganda especially hostile and especially deleterious to American interests, is that the dissemination of Arte programming is by no means limited to France and Germany alone. Arte is widely available elsewhere in Europe on cable or satellite networks, and, by virtue of partnership agreements Arte has concluded, selected Arte programming is also rebroadcast on public television in several other European countries, including, notably, Spain. A comment posted by Kees Rudolf on David's Medienkritik, which was kind enough to link to my Arte piece, gives some idea of the consequences. "In the Netherlands Arte is available on cable-television," Kees Rudolf writes, "Most households here have got cable television. It plays certainly some role in forming 'would-be sophisticated, would-be politically engaged opinion'..., in addition to the role of some other high-brow media. It's really pure poison. ...I think a lot of 'documentaries' on other TV-channels follow exactly the same pattern. To my regret, I can see the impact of it on the brains of some young students, who, in their desire to be well informed and to have well founded opinions, mistake this insidious propaganda for reliable information."