2. J. D. Frank and A. Y. Melville, Breakthrough Emerging New Thinking, (New York: (Place of Publication: Walker and Company, 1988), pp. 199-208.

3. Edward Said, Orientalism, New York: Vintage, 1979, pp. 1-8.

4. Brian Massumi, introduction The Politics of Everyday Fear, edited by Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), pp. 3-38.

9. Lev Tolstoj, Anna Karenina (Ware:Wordsworth Editions Ltd, september 1995), p.364.

HOW TO CREATE THE PERFECT ENEMY?

-  A CRASH COURSE WITH THE HELP OF GEORGE W. BUSH

 

 

"Brean: What's the thing people remember about the Gulf War?

A bomb falling down a chimney. The truth: I was in the building where

we shot that shot, with a one-tenth scale model made out of Legos.

Stanley Motss: Is that true?

Brean: How the hell should we know?"

~ Wag the Dog (1997)

 

PROLOGUE -

 

SHE: Can I ask you why do you need this course exactly?

HE: You have professional confidentiality, right? Well, I can’t go into specifics, but I have a
pretty high post at the Ministry of Defence and now my boss has this plan which is … Well, have  you ever seen the movie Wag the Dog?

SHE: About that presidential candidate who hires a spin-doctor and a Hollywood to fabricate a  war in order to cover up his sex scandal?

HE: Yes, that one. Now, just imagine that I have to do something like that: I need to know how I  can use the idea of an enemy as a political tool. The only problem is that I’m doubting about  the whole plan: is it acceptable on moral grounds?

SHE: You’re a politician- you’re not supposed to have morals. But you’ll be fine, just start with  reading this out loud to me please.

 

HE: “We must never forget the most vivid events of recent history. On September the 11th,  2001, America felt its vulnerability -- even to threats that gather on the other side of the   earth. We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat, from any   source, that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America.” 1

SHE: Recognise that speech? George W. Bush did an amazing job here. In this speech, given to on October 7th 2002 in Cincinnati, he justifies a war. In no less than half an hour, he argued  that the war was the best, or even, the only solution of his problem.

HE: It wasn’t even a war. It was an invasion and occupation and which left approximately   500.000 Iraqis and 5000 American service members dead.

SHE: Indeed, and how did he do this exactly?

HE: By by telling the citizens of the United States that there is an enemy out there.

SHE: Not just an enemy, but one which threatening to kill them all. That apparently is reason  enough to invade another country.

HE: So I need a fake enemy to threaten us?

 

ACT ONE - IN THE BEGINNING,  WE CREATE THE ENEMY.

 

SHE: Just like for any other social creature, we humans live in groups, in order to survive. We  can almost exclusively exist as a member of an organised group because groups provide for psychological stability as well as protection from dangers from outside and hostile  environments. Every group is characterised by a set of norms, customs and a shared values which is what gives significance and meaning to their lives.2

HE: So the other groups with different norms will become an enemy?

SHE: Not necessarily, in order to become an enemy you have to pose a threat first, but we’ll  come to that later. You have to understand that the idea of having a common enemy is an  important factor in a society because creates a demarcation between ‘us’ and ‘them’. So for  the creation of an enemy, you have to look for ‘the other’. Read this.

HE: “Why do they hate us?” - Is that Bush mumbling again?

SHE: Yes, it is. With asking this he made the U.S. populace make an artificial Us-and-Them  division in the relation between the United States and the countries and cultures in the   Middle East.

HE: But this kind of dishonest behaviour is an important factor of the ongoing war on terrorism!  And remember when he said: “You’re either with us, or with the terrorists.” That was the   moment Bush forced people to chose their ‘side’, as if there were only two sides to chose  from…

SHE: Not a big Bush fan, I figure? According to Edward Said, in order to create the Other you  have to highlight their weaknesses, whether social, political, cultural or economic, against  the strengths of the imperialist power, in this case the Self. So They have to be    treacherous, warlike, and cruel, while We are trustworthy, peace-loving, honorable. “Thus, by way of such “moral responsibility”, the Self is authorised a civilising mission.” 3

HE: But won’t our enemy also describe us as treacherous, warlike, and cruel? And  themselves as peaceful?

SHE: Of course. The perceptions of the enemy very often mirror each other - that is, each side attributes the same virtues to itself and the same vices to the enemy. A good example of this are the movies ‘Rambo’, with which you’re probably familiar, and the Russian movie ‘The Detached Mission’. This movie was the Soviet  Union’s response to the second Rambo movie, in which a Russian hero is fighting Vietnam veterans and the CIA. In both movies the images of the enemy are in many aspects identical.

HE: Which is a bit ambivalent maybe since we also use the idea of the enemy to  create our own perception of right and wrong. But anyhow, I know how to create this image of the Other and giving this Other the worst characteristics possible, would that be enough?

SHE: Well, no. But social theorist Brian Massumi said the following: “Ever-present dangers blend together, barely distinguishable in their sheer numbers. (…) An unspecified enemy threatens to rise up at any time at any point in social or geographical space.” 4 So the populace is already waiting for this enemy the rise up. The only thing you have to do is to specify the enemy and make sure this enemy imposes a threat to you, your culture and your people.

 

ACT TWO - A THREAT IS UNKNOWABLE.

 

SHE: “The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam  Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do -- does it make any sense for the   world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more   dangerous weapons?”1  Could you, based on this quote tell me what a threat is?

HE: Well, it’s a bit vague what the actual threat is here. Bush doesn’t know when, or what or  who exactly wil do something, but he is sure something is going to happen.

SHE: Indeed, you’re very close to the core of the concept of threat. As Brian Massumi phrases it: “If a threat were known in its specifics, it wouldn’t be a threat. It would be a situation (…)   and a situation can be handled. A threat is only a threat if it retains an indeterminacy.”5

HE: So a threat doesn’t have a substantial form, but more like a time form?

SHE: Futurity, as it’s being called, is a future event or possibility. So a threat as such is nothing  yet- it’s just looming.

HE: How is this relevant for me using an enemy as political tool?

SHE: Isn’t that clear to you yet? A threat is a form of futurity, but has the ability to fill the present  without presenting itself. However, the shadow of this threat is what we call fear. And   people will do a lot of crazy things when their choices are based on fear.

HE: Aha, so the threat will be the future cause of a change in the present? But, it’s not actually a cause, is it? It’s a virtual one, a quasicause, a product of the imagination.

SHE: I always like to envision this concept as if the politicians are a bunch of snorkelers in the  ocean, just as in the metaphor of ‘The New “Depthiness’. In this case, the politicians are   drifting with the surface currents, but are looking down into the ocean,“intuiting depth,   imagining it- perceiving it without encountering it”.6 For me, the threat could be down there, at the bottom of the ocean, and the politicians will tell the people (who will be, for the purpose of the story, surfing on the waves) that there is a threat down there, looming.

HE: The people on the surface will never know whether the politician is speaking the truth. The  politicians will tell the media, the media will the people and the people will go crazy. Back in  2015 I read a poll in which 30% of the Republicans would support the bombing of Agrabah!7 They didn’t even know Agrabah was the hometown  of Disney character Aladdin; they just thought it was an Arabic sounding city-name, so why not bomb the shit out of it?

SHE: But isn’t that exactly what you also need? You need to make people believe you when you say there’s a threat with a capital T. You have to make a business out of creating creating a reality which  will not be distinguishable from a simulation of the  reality. The media will help you with that, since “one of the few things Americans seem to share is the popular culture that celebrates danger and fear as entertainment organized with canned formats delivered through an expansive and invasive information technology.”8  The media will be thrilled to cover another spectacular war.

 

EPILOGUE -

 

HE:  So now I’m ready? Prepared for the real stuff?

SHE:  Yes, I guess you are.

 

 And then HE left, thinking of the words: “Be bad, but don’t be a liar, a deceiver”9.    Remembering her saying: “You’re not supposed to have morals”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. “President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat,” Cincinnati Museum Center, Office of the Press Secretary, October 7 2002, http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB80/new/doc%2012/President%20Bush%20Outlines%20Iraqi%20Threat.htm, accessed May 28 2016.

5. Brian Massumi, “Fear (The Spectrum Said),”  Positions 13:1 (2005): pp. 31-37.

1. “President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat,” Cincinnati Museum Center, Office of the Press Secretary, October 7 2002, http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB80/new/doc%2012/President%20Bush%20Outlines%20Iraqi%20Threat.htm, accessed May 28 2016.

6. Timotheus Vermeulen, “The New Depthiness”, e-flux journal 61, January 2015, http://www.e-flux.com/journal/the-new-depthiness/

7. Trevor Timm, “Poll: 30% of GOP voters support bombing Agrabah, the city from Aladdin,” The Guardian, December 18, 2015, accessed May 31, 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/18/republican-voters-bomb-agrabah-disney-aladdin-donald-trump

8.  David L. Altheide,  “The news media, the problem frame and the production of fear,” The Sociological Quarterly 38:4 (1997): 667-668.

How to create the perfect enemy?

 

An essay considering the role of- and the creation of- "the enemy".