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The Dalai Lama,
During a trip to Seoul, translator Sabine Program was approached by a couple that claimed to be North Korean dissidents. They handed her a DVD with the request to translate and disseminate it. The film features a North Korean scientist whose identity has been concealed, who uses hundreds of TV excerpts and archive footage to show what's wrong with Western visual and consumption culture. In the tradition of Michael Moore, the film attacks the moral attenuation, political manipulation and hyper-consumerism that characterize the Western world. In chapters with titles like "Rewriting History," "Complicity" and "The Cult of Celebrity," we are treated to a lineup of the most embarrassing occidental excesses and globalization, a point of view that remarkably resembles the recent Occupy movement: the "psychological warfare" at the hands of multinationals, shopping-obsessed consumers and the failure of democracy. Toward the end of this propaganda piece, the role of North Korea in all of this ... Written by
Over several decades, GG and I have engaged in many types of anti-capitalist struggles, including mass mobilizations, protests, occupations, strikes, etc.; radical journalism; group studies and production of various forms of in-depth analyses of the global Empire's political economy, ideology, consumerism, dogma, military and diplomatic dynamics, and economics. We often critique politics within the Left, including theory and practice of progressive, radical and revolutionary organizations and individuals.
GG: "This is presented as a North Korean production, but some of the comments suggest that it's a fake. Any thoughts?"
Petros: "You have an incredible sense of timing, as always. Events around us keep bordering on catastrophe, while brutality, misery, and ignorance induced by the global Empire are at an all time peak.
And now you send me this movie about the system's methodical and scientific mind control operations..."
GG: "One glaring inaccuracy: It depicts the British Invasion (i.e. the Beatles) as happening after the anti-Vietnam War protests, not before. Otherwise, if in fact it is a production of North Korea, it demonstrates an encouraging sophistication in terms of its understanding the mass-psychology and propaganda system of the imperialist West.
What the documentary does very well is depict the average westerner's brain as occupied territory. It reminds me of the Gospel of Mark, chapter 5, which depicts Jesus exorcising a "Legion" of devils from a man who lived among the "tombs." Legion is code for the forces of the Roman Empire and "tombs" is code for the "Scribes and Pharisees," i.e. the church and state of the Jews (see Matthew 23:27). I think it's saying that the Empire has occupied our souls with the complicity and acquiescence of the local authorities. What we need is a mass exorcism!
But this time, I don't want to see any more pigs suffer because of the shameful condition of our species."
Petros: "I kept pausing the movie in order to contain my excitement. They articulate so well, so much that I want to say! Here's a few thoughts that might serve as a foundation for a future Critical Review.
If I were to pick on ONE cultural-political item today to explain to someone what the Liberation Movement is all about I'd pick this movie.
"Propaganda" has some shortcomings and deficiencies, but they are miniscule.
For example the thing you point out about the British Invasion. It's true of course that the most massive and militant anti-Vietnam war protests began after the Beatles' British Invasion. But protests against the war had already begun in 1960 and kept growing massively. So strictly speaking, there's no anachronism in the movie.
The number of homeless they gave, "38 million homeless Americans" sounds a little steep even for my sense of reality.
Official numbers in the US are usually one tenth of that (about 3,5 million). But then according to "official" numbers Canada comes out with more homeless per capita than the US! Clearly the US is under-reporting homelessness, but I don't think the real number is more than 10 to 15 million.
Another deficiency is that "Propaganda" hints at, but has no understanding of how perverted (manipulated) sexuality sustains a culture of ignorance, commodification, and brutality. According to Wilhelm Reich, MD., author of the very best scientific analysis of Fascism on the basis of oppressed and degenerated sexuality, all these constitute "secondary drives" produced by authoritarianism. One reason that the creators have a partial blind spot on sexuality is that stalinism, which is very strong in North Korea, is itself bound up with anti-sexual politics.
Then there's the image of North Korea, itself. Most EuroAmerican Leftists are embarrassed by it. Imperialist media keep presenting North Korea in such a bad light that it's impossible to defend it, even in the eyes of "rational" people - propaganda and distortion is so vile that any rational discussion about North Korea is condemned before it even starts.
Therefore, their discomfort with the movie, influenced by the country's image peaking out through the movie introspectively, is invalid. Most Leftists in the advanced industrial world usually are unable to perceive reality in their own countries, never mind North Korea.
I found that the movie is an astounding improvement over Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle", which is the pinnacle of the Situationists' critique of modern society on the basis of the Spectacle, the newest form into which alienation (in the marxist sense) congeals in our era.
Alienation, the separation between products and producers, is no longer just a need driving us to market. In our era, alienation congeals into something material, experienceable: the Spectacle, more than just urging us to the market, creates our own image of ourselves within our heads, defining our reality.
And as our friend Sue S. pointed out, "Propaganda" has overtones from Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent" and from Naomi Klein's work. Still there's something unique in this movie; it has character and personality; often one can discern the hand of masters at the editing tool.
Also I was shocked to find mention of the Truth about September 11 in the movie! A taboo that came up so naturally...
I definitely agree with you about the need to (re)exorcise that demon named "Legion" who plagues our society; I'm with you! The movie gets a zero in making a differentiation between authoritarian religion (enforced bondage to church), and a freely chosen Spirituality embodying Liberation Theology, a moral force of the revolution. Also, they fail to see that the Bible contains some spiritual, scientific and historical Truth of great value along with all the dogma, hatred, falsifications, distortions and mind-numbing irrelevancies.
Still, with all of its weak elements or deficiencies I'd gladly promote "Propaganda", and perhaps a critique such as this might empower its message.
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