Saturday, April 05, 2003
Its Saturday morning so perhaps it is safe to admit that I chuckle every time I hear the media say “Iraqi Television”. I do not mean to cast any sort of slur upon the Iraqi people. I’m just wondering, as Dan Rather likes to say, about the context of the phrase Iraqi Television.
I keep waiting for them to say, “Saddam Hussein appeared today on Iraqi Entertainment Tonight.” Instead I get this morning’s New York Times’ “Iraqi TV Presents a Relaxed Hussein”…sipping a Zima was he???
I certainly don’t expect the present US media to bother pointing out that maybe Iraqi TV really means Ahmed and his camcorder and I certainly don’t expect them to point out that Ahmed is really kind of clever.
I was amused, when was it, this war blurs everything, the other day to notice the Iraqi Information Minister (already a deliciously convoluted and corrupted twisting of meaning and intent) standing before a mercator world map in identical color tones as the expensive Hollywood-designed map appearing behind the US Generals in Qatar. One was cardboard and one was a digitally airbrushed image displayed through a plasma screen digital monitor. And, there really is, a knack in the matching of tone so perfectly and quickly. There is a moral here.
As a television director for almost 30 years I can respect a guy who is generating a particular impact with what I’m guessing is little or no budget.
Little imagination is required to see Friday’s Saddam footage as a Bonfire of the Vanities moment. Take a relatively few people, high camera angles mixed with close angles only and that zany smile and wave or I shoot you exuberance and, “Voila!” you are guaranteed to hear, as I did, someone on CNN say, “it looks like a relatively large crowd…”
Once it’s a media moment, it’s a media moment forever. Remember the Vincennes and the Iranian Jet episode? Right after that plane went down there appeared on the US media supposed footage purporting to show victim bodies floating in the Persian Gulf waters. Can you discern my slight bias? Bloated, unblemished naked bodies floating in the Gulf. This was July 3, 1988, just how many camcorders do you think there were in Iran? How many camcorders are in the US today? While sometimes it seems as though every tornado that lands is videotaped that certainly is not the case. Yet some lucky camcorder-toting Iranian just happened to videotape these perfect unmarked “floaters” to use an ugly inside media word. It is vitally important to remember that these victims had been blown out of an exploding passenger jet, a state of affairs known to have dramatic affects upon the human body, and so the unmarked state would seem unlikely. Yet, no matter the historic reality of the Vincennes incident, I still see this Iranian home video mindlessly B-rolled in historical media set-ups.
In a concept partially taken from the new William Gibson novel Pattern Recognition, the Saddam footage is remarkable for its very lack of remarkability. Walls draped in white hangings, the odd ever-changing table dimensions and sometimes drapery and the strange heavily slip-covered motel furniture Saddam seems to prefer all combine into a timelessness that cannot be easy to achieve no matter the skimpy budget for set and effects. Is there an Iraqi David Lynch camera ready to make Blue Velvet Baghdad style?
Watching Friday’s Saddam footage, and I swear my partner’s better at spotting the phony Saddams than those CIA computer programs, I could almost hear some sniveling producer sucking up to a bedridden Saddam saying, “Oh my Father it looks like thousands…”
What it really looks like are, I’m sorry to say, balls, big heavy brass ones. A certain high-ranking official is in the boxing match of his life, $250K in plasma screen versus $5 in cardboard and Krylon. Someone on CNN is sure to say, ”…It looks like thousands!”
As I write the networks are reporting that our American troops have entered downtown Baghdad. May God and their skilled bravery protect these fine soldiers and the innocent among the Iraqi people.
I want to also thank the Media Horse for yesterday linking to this humble blog in his list of Unbiased Dailies. I’ve had a large increase in hits. Thank you.