Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"300": The Banality of Fascist Art

Finally, American cinema has never ceased to make and remake the same fundamental movie, that is Birth of a nation-civilization, of which Griffith made the first version.
Gilles Deleuze, 1983

Fifteen years after its coronation as global leader (with the fall of the Soviet Union), America is becoming a fearful and lonely democracy in a politically antagonistic world.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, 2007

On Saturday I shelled out 18 bucks for me and my date to see "300" -- Warner Bros.' production of the Frank Miller graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC). Since then I have been in a persistent state of of silent panic. No one in the audience booed as did the audience at the Berlin Film Festival last month after the screening of 300. There was intermittent laughter but no anger at such a blatantly fascist, racist and sexist spectacle. I can't believe that there could possibly be any question about the nature of this film. Here's a synopsis -- the world is being engulfed and overwhelmed by degenerate, diseased effeminate dark-skinned people from Africa and Asia and the only thing that stands in their way are 300 White Super-Men from Sparta which represents "freedom" (a word that, thanks to the U.S., now is devoid of any meaning whatsoever), masculinity and physical fitness (i.e. Whiteness as configured in the movie). Thus we are not talking about a hidden message here. Where is the outrage? D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation was met with significant protests all across the country upon it's release about a Century ago. Where is the protest now? After 100 years of replaying the same fascist and racist scenario to the public it would appear that the majority have finally internalized the illusion such that, as one blogger put it, "it's ok that it has a fascist aesthetic... so long as you know it's there." I would argue that this is in fact the hallmark of culture that has become rigorously fascist. When the elements that comprise fascist ideology -- denigration of life in and for itself, glorification of death in war, racism and sexism -- become banal then you can be sure that you are living under a fascist regime.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Imperialist Discourse and Neo-Fascism in Japan

Another unspoken rule of the dominant discourse: It's alright to deny one's responsibility for past crimes against humanity -- as long as the people against whom those crimes were committed were not White.

Case in point – Last week Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe publicly denied that the Japanese Government was responsible for the system of forced sexual slavery maintained in the areas of East Asia under Japanese control during World War II:

There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support it... So, in respect to this declaration, you have to keep in mind that things have changed greatly.

The declaration Prime Minister Abe referred to was the one the Japanese Government made on August 4, 1993 in which it admitted playing an unspecified role in the maintenance of brothels – the so-called "Comfort Stations" – while denying any responsibility and denying that any war crime had been committed. This declaration came largely as a response to pressure from a movement led by some the few survivors of the Comfort Stations. The stories of these women – so-called "Comfort Women" who came from all over East Asia but mainly from Korea – are horrific. The following is the testimony of Chong Ok Sun:

I was born on 28 December 1920, in Phabal-Ri, Pungsan County, South Hamgyong Province, in the north of the Korean peninsula.

One day in June, at the age of 13, I had to prepare lunch for my parents who were working in the field and so I went to the village well to fetch water. A Japanese garrison soldier surprised me there and took me away, so that my parents never knew what had happened to their daughter. I was taken to the police station in a truck, where I was raped by several policemen. When I shouted, they put socks in my mouth and continued to rape me. The head of the police station hit me in my left eye because I was crying. That day I lost my eyesight in the left eye.

After 10 days or so, I was taken to the Japanese army garrison barracks in Heysan City. There were around 400 other Korean young girls with me and we had to serve over 5,000 Japanese soldiers as sex slaves every day - up to 40 men per day. Each time I protested, they hit me or stuffed rags in my mouth. One held a matchstick to my private parts until I obeyed him. My private parts were oozing with blood.

One Korean girl who was with us once demanded why we had to serve so many, up to 40, men per day. To punish her for her questioning, the Japanese company commander Yamamoto ordered her to be beaten with a sword. While we were watching, they took off her clothes, tied her legs and hands and rolled her over a board with nails until the nails were covered with blood and pieces of her flesh. In the end, they cut off her head. Another Japanese, Yamamoto, told us that 'it's easy to kill you all, easier than killing dogs'. He also said 'since those Korean girls are crying because they have not eaten, boil the human flesh and make them eat it'.

One Korean girl caught a venereal disease from being raped so often and, as a result, over 50 Japanese soldiers were infected. In order to stop the disease from spreading and to 'sterilize' the Korean girl, they stuck a hot iron bar in her private parts.

Once they took 40 of us on a truck far away to a pool filled with water and snakes. The soldiers beat several of the girls, shoved them into the water, heaped earth into the pool and buried them alive.

I think over half of the girls who were at the garrison barracks were killed. Twice I tried to run away, but both times we were caught after a few days. We were tortured even more and I was hit on my head so many times that all the scars still remain. They also tattooed me on the inside of my lips, my chest, my stomach and my body. I fainted. When I woke up, I was on a mountainside, presumably left for dead. Of the two girls with me, only Kuk Hae and I survived. A 50-year-old man who lived in the mountains found us, gave us clothes and something to eat. He also helped us to travel back to Korea, where I returned, scarred, barren and with difficulties in speaking, at the age of 18, after five years of serving as a sex slave for the Japanese.

The establishment of Comfort Stations in the areas of East Asia controlled by Japan began as early as 1932, became a widespread and regular practice by 1937 and continued until the Japanese surrender in 1945. Japanese Government documents, uncovered in 1992, reveal that military personnel – either directly or via middlemen – procured women for the brothels using coercion, deception and brute force. As the testimony of Chong Ok Sun and other survivors reveals, as well as the investigations of the United Nations and the International Commission of Jurists, the Comfort Stations were a system of Concentration Camps akin to the Lagers in Germany at the same time (in fact the SS also maintained "Joy Divisions" or "Womens Camps" in Auschwitz and other locations near the Eastern Front in which both Jewish and Non-Jewish women were forced into sexual slavery although the system was not as widespread as in the case of the Comfort Stations). Moreover, considering that most of these 200,000 women did not survive their enslavement, the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights stated in 1996 that the Japanese Government's establishment of the Comfort Stations should be considered an act of genocide.

Now imagine what kind of outrage would result if the Prime Minister of Germany were to declare that the German Government during World War II was not responsible for the Holocaust, that there never was a genocide and that the government was changing its position on the issue!

Remember how the news media of the core imperialist nations demonized Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for questioning the historical veracity of the Final Solution and the Lagers? And Iran wasn't even responsible for the Lagers! Here we are talking about the very same country responsible for the forced enslavement and murder of nearly 200,000 women now denying its responsibility for the crime and denying that any crime was committed at all! Where are all the noisy reporters who were so upset about the President of Iran now?