Bright Wall/Dark Room June 2015: A History of Violence

The scaffolding around this essay is my unshakeable belief that images matter, in real time and in retrospect, because visual media can and do shape the way we see the world, frequently more than we bargained for. Does Hersh’s account transform “Zero Dark Thirty” from half fact into whole fiction? If the cinematic treatment of a supposedly true story turns out to be a lie, does that make it propaganda? To what, exactly, can we ascribe the profusion of doubt that’s accompanied this tale of sound and fury, and what does it mean that this is a story we can’t seem to tell, much less find the moral in?

I really liked this essay (and the movie).

Bright Wall/Dark Room June 2015: A History of Violence

For what shall I wield a dagger, o lord?
What can I pluck it out of or plunge it into
when you are all the world?

Devara Dasimayya, 10th century Indian poet/saint. (via)

If you want to understand foreign policy, read history, not the newspaper. When you read history, you get distance. You learn how events looked to people at the time – and how wrong they usually were.


Restrepo. This is as depressing as you’d expect. It’s also some ballsy filming, tastefully done. I’m really glad the film kept its focus on the on-the-ground experience without straying into speechy political analyst territory. People who weren’t there don’t get to talk.

Three Kings

Three Kings. The setting is Iraq at the end of the Gulf War, when bored/greedy soldiers go in search of stolen Kuwaiti gold and get in over their heads. It veers from buddy-movie hijinks to touching moments to graphic battle scenes and never rests, never goes wrong. Very highly recommended. Ebert says.

Interview with William Gibson – Viceland Today

What we call terrorism is always asymmetric warfare. You’re a small group with no reputation, and you start covertly blowing up or murdering the people of a big group, like a government or a nation-state or a whole race. And you can’t just do it and then go and do the next one. You have to do it, and then go and do your PR. “We just bombed your mall. It was us.” And then maybe you do it, and some other guys, these upstart assholes across town, are calling up the news and saying, “We did it! We bombed the mall!” So then you have to get your PR guy on the phone and say, “No, they’re full of shit. WE bombed the mall.” So it’s about branding to that extent.

Interview with William Gibson – Viceland Today

Getting Their Guns Off – Magazine – The Atlantic

Certainly one of the reasons why World War II came to be called “the Good War,” and those who fought it “the Greatest Generation,” and why Americans have reserved their utmost sentiment for the European theater of that war, is because the 1945 discovery that we’d helped shut down a genocide redeemed that theater’s carnage—ex post facto—and bestowed upon that campaign a narrative, moral, and even aesthetic appeal that is exceptional for any war. Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers epitomize that theater’s irresistible appeal, with their mix of commendably upsetting, technically brilliant combat scenes and more general uplift. Every mangled limb, every shattered facade, every act of conditioned violence stage-whispers “Sacrifice” amid the gently weeping soundtrack and the faded–Saturday Evening Post color palette, with the overall effect evoking stateliness, esteem, even nostalgia—emotional luxuries that only a comfortable remove can give to the hectic, terrifying nature of combat. All of which takes viewers half out of the moment, despite the kinetic you-are-there cinematography.

Getting Their Guns Off – Magazine – The Atlantic

Lapham’s Quarterly looks like a worthy new periodical. Each volume covers a specific theme and the essays come from a wide range of historical texts. The current issue, “States of War,” draws on Patton, Ruskin, Lenin, Goebbels, bin Laden, Virgil, Tim O’Brien, Whitman, Vonnegut, Tolstoy…