Thursday, March 4, 2010

Why I don't like snapshots of the zeitgeist

They're almost always stupid.

That's an essay guest-posted at the increasingly useless io9 by Bob Goodman, one of the writers of Warehouse 13, a Sci-Fi ChannelSyfy show I have never watched and don't plan on watching because it sounds unbearable to me. In it he describes what he thinks the show is about. It's interesting from a writers' standpoint; as an embarrassingly infrequent writer myself, I recognize the feeling of realizing what your work is about well into the process, and also of not knowing if anyone else feels the same way about it.

As a description of the world (which it also tries to be), it's, as I hinted at above, really stupid. Here's the most ridiculous passage:
I apologize in advance for invoking 9/11, but on that day at the start of the new millennium, a group of people still fighting the Crusades used airplanes to destroy a pair of iconic buildings from the 1970's, killing 3,000 people and shocking the West's financial system... and the way we fight them is by cutting off the opium trade.
I think I've said before that sometimes people say things that are so completely unrelated to reality that you can't even describe them as right or wrong any more than you could use those words to describe, say, JRR Tolkien's take on Sauron.

As fantasy, unrelated to the real world and what actually happens in it, we can argue about the literary merits of Goodman's description of 9/11. In the real world, trying to respond to it just gives me a headache. Hey, Bob: "the Crusades" were an endless series of wars of aggression against the various Muslim nations of the middle east and guess what that's still happening. And the way we "fight them"? More by slaughtering millions of completely unrelated people than by "cutting off the opium trade." And that's just a start. I'm too tired to go any further.

All of the nonsense about the internet as a fundamental game-changer rather than a delightful convenience, well, I'm way too tired.

UPDATE: Yeah, I was definitely too tired, because I never actually got to my point, which is in two parts.

1. Trying to reduce the motivations of the 9/11 hijackers to a kind of postmodern schizophrenic mish-mash is ridiculous; it only works if you assume that they could not possibly have had an actual motive. They weren't "still fighting the Crusades" because they just felt like it, or were too stuck in the past to move on; they were fighting it because, as I said, it's still going on. Their choice of the WTC has absolutely nothing to do with its being a 70's icon--after all, if that was the case, they wouldn't have also targeted the Pentagon (ded. 1943) and the Capitol building (built over a period from 1793 to 1811). Obviously the sites were targeted because of what goes on inside of them.

And, uh, so on.

2. Goodman's colossal misrepresentation of reality in this one teensy paragraph completely disproves his entire argument, or at least reveals that he has misunderstood it. Sure, Goodman, our lives are on shuffle. But they don't have to be. You've chosen to mindlessly believe a received narrative of 9/11 that falls apart under a moment's scrutiny. But you have the information available to you to make you realize that you've been misled, if you just chose to become aware of it. That you simultaneously are conscious that you have a wealth of information available to you and refuse to make use of it reveals quite a bit about you.


Jenny said...

Mm, I don't think that means Bin Laden shouldn't be prosecuted..

This rant sums up my feelings:

"People die in wars. Oftentimes, they are civilians in the theater of combat, which generally tends to be located in the weaker country. The inevitability of this is why you don't go to war for no reason, which is why the Iraq war was a mistake. If we try to talk about Afghanistan again, you will post a video where Chomsky says that if we had only met the burden of proof required by the Taliban's highly sophisticated court system, they would have gladly surrendered Osama Bin Laden and all this would have been over, and also, because the US government 5 presidents ago provided material support to the Contras, it is impossible for any US government to ever engage in any military action whatsoever.

If you do not understand that there is a moral distinction to be drawn between torturing people in your custody who pose no threat to anyone to death and authorizing an air strike in error, EVEN IF THE SECOND ACTION RESULTS IN MORE DEATH, you are fucking hopeless.

Also, I like how the US is responsible for Iraqis ethnically cleansing each other, just like the US is responsible for the rise of the Khmer Rouge, but magically the Holocaust is not the Allies' fault for forcing Germany into economic ruin with the terms of the treaty of Versailles. It's almost as if the left believes that white Europeans possess agency and control of their own actions and Asians and Arabs don't. Hey, Saddam's out of power, let's go start a militia and blow up some mosques! WHAT CHOICE DO WE HAVE? Hey, the US bombed our country, there is a power vacuum, let's throw everybody into re-education camps and kill half the country? WHAT CHOICE DO WE HAVE? It's the only rational response! The US made us do it"

And c'mon, there is a bit of religious fundamentalism in their rhetoric. What makes the taliban/Bin laden's reasons any more rational then say Jerry Fawell's? The only reason Bin Laden gave was the relationship between the u.s. and Israel- none of the other things that Ward Churchill claims.

Fuck it, I'm tired.

Ethan said...

Jenny, who the hell said anything about...oh, never mind. I'm going to ignore everything you say from now on unless it betrays some hint that you have actually read what you're responding to. I think it'll free up a lot of time for me.