Monday, May 08, 2006

Republican Achilles heel?

The Democrats think they have it! They are confident they can reclaim the Senate and the Congress! What, pray tell, is it that makes them so confident? Well it’s a number of things, but a big issue besides immigration, the war on terror, Iraq, the economy, international prestige (or lack there of), oil prices, NSA wiretaps, response to hurricane Katrina, the environment, conservative backlash, social security, health care, budget deficits, and over spending is stem cell research!!!

Yes, that’s right; the democrats believe that they can use stem cell research as a rallying call. Of all the things the Democrats could be harping on about, stem cell research doesn’t seem like the one that would top the list, but it definitely is up there. After a recent congressional bill limiting the embryonic cells which can be used for research, the Democrats feel that they (much like transnational social movements are either spawned or gather support from protests) can use this issue to split voters and win the moral high ground.

Whether the take over occurs, or whether the Senate passes the bill, or even whether the American people really care one way or the other about this issue has yet to be seen. What is the case is that the Democrats, though slightly misguided, are definitely aware of the need to find succinct messages and issues and roll with them. The problem with this strategy and stem cell research is that people don’t particularly find it that pressing. A common feeling amongst most Americans is that if they are not immediately affected by something then they most probably won’t care. The Democrats have the right idea but their eye is on the wrong issue.

For all the science fans out there wanting to know the latest on stem cell research!

For an explanation of the picture, click here.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Guns, War and Videotape

It has been argued that the American war against terrorism is not a war which can be won solely with bullets. Such suggestions seem to be deflected by the White House as they have already waged two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) and the likelihood of a third (Iran) is becoming ever so great. However, it is apparent that the United States still understands the power of propaganda and perceptions during a time of conflict.

Osama bin Laden and co. have released countless tapes threatening the United States and her allies, and displaying an air of bravado and machismo to the rest of the world. In the latest tape released by Zarqawi, the United States decided to show the entire story.

An important moment has taken place in the Global War Against Terrorism. Technology and mass media has been used many a time by terrorist groups in order to gain support and communicate. The United States government has come out before and told the world that Al Qaeda is weak and non-functional, but very few believe such words (especially when the latest edition of “Osama Threatening From a Cave” is released). But by releasing video images of Zarqawi, apparently not quite with it, the US government has found a way of attacking Al Qaeda where it was still relatively strong. Al Qaeda is not so much an organization as it is a philosophy now. One doesn’t have to be part of Al Qaeda to fly airplanes into a building. As long as there is a strong leader, delivering a coherent message then that philosophy will ring strong and survive. But by showing the “prophet” of this message as nothing more than a senile old man, the US government has used a relatively inexpensive and efficient way of kicking Al Qaeda where it hurts.

Control, Alt, SHOOT!

The United States has long been accused of a marketing based on stereotypes. In the past ten to twenty years Hollywood and the gaming industry have pumped out product after product vilifying Muslims as nothing more than rogue terrorists with a mindless agenda. From the early Chuck Norris Delta Force films, to True Lies, to the hit television series 24, Arabs are often portrayed in a negative light. This pattern has transcended itself into video games too, as children can now play as courageous American soldiers fighting against the forces of evil in….the Middle East? Now it appears, though, as if the tables have turned.

“Tech-savvy militants” in the Middle East have actually gotten their hands on these new video games and have modified them so that you can play as the Arabs fighting off an invading, imperialistic American force. Much like the US army created a free video game simply entitled ARMY, Islamic militants are probably hoping that new youths will become attracted to the idea of fighting against “infidels” for real.

The usual American reaction to games such as this (or the Turkish blockbuster about the villainous US army in Iraq) is one of shock and horror (very different from the catchy “shock and awe”). However, we should not be surprised by such attitudes. All great blockbusters and video games depict a classic American hero fighting against a classic, not-difficult-to-hate villain who usually ends up portraying a stereotype. If anti-American games and movies are such a success in the Middle East, is it really that difficult to comprehend that our presence there is not one which will be welcomed with rose petals?