Thursday, July 29, 2010


(Apologies for strong imagery in this post.)

The cover of the new issue of Time -- with its photograph of a young woman whose nose and ears were cut off by the Taliban, accompanied by headline "What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan" -- is disgraceful on several levels. (The image is here, and no, it's not pretty; the cover story is here.)

Atrios (here and here) and Greg Mitchell (here) have made the obvious point: um, this happened while we were in Afghanistan. So the proof of how necessary it is for us to protect young women from brutal attacks of this kind is the fact that we couldn't protect this young woman?

And does anyone at Time know the story of Zahida Parveen? She suffered a similar attack, yet even more brutal: her husband, believing she was having an affair, not only cut off her nose and earlobes but blinded her and beat her while hanging her upside down. Oh, but that took place in Pakistan in 1998. Following Time's logic, I suppose the U.S. should have invaded and occupied Pakistan to prevent this from happening. (Parveen, if it's any comfort, was later fitted with a prosthetic face made by a former CIA disguise-maker named Robert Barron. This makes it easier for her to be in the presence of her children, who are no longer horrified by her appearance.)


But why is Time ratcheting up the war propaganda in the most shameless avenge-the-atrocities way, even going so far as to aestheticize the cover victim so she looks remarkably like a disfigured version of National Geographic's famous "Afghan girl" from the 1980s? Or, more to the point, why does Time seem to be far ahead of even the usual media jingoists in its effort to increase U.S. support for the war?

Regular readers of this blog know how much time I spend lurking at Fox Nation, which is where I think you see a shrewdly assembled mosaic of the propaganda that very smart, very evil people think best serves the Republican/right-wing cause. Given Fox's consistent bellicosity, you might have expected there to be a link to Time's story and cover at Fox Nation, but there's nothing. You might have expected some interest in the WikiLeaks documents -- but I haven't seen a single story headlined on the FN homepage about those documents, even one deployed as a stick to beat Obama. Nope -- it's all Obama snubbing the Boy Scouts to go on The View and illegal aliens running amok and JournoList and the New Black Panthers and Shirley Sherrod and Sarah Palin encountering a bear. The rest of the online rightosphere seems the same -- it's as if righty bloggers and news/propaganda outlets don't want to talk about Afghanistan. Why? Isn't it odd that Time in the forefront on this, and not the GOP noise machine?

First, I don't think the folks at GOP Noise Machine Central want to complicate the message. Right now, it's all about the domestic threat: big government, allegedly inevitable higher taxes, the fear of gun confiscation and black and brown people running amok. It's working, according to the polls -- why complicate a winning formula?

Yeah, but wouldn't talk of foreign evildoers complement this message of Democratic domestic perfidy, as it usually does? Well, i'm not sure the keepers of the noise machine trust how this would play out. The right-wing base and a lot of centrists relish a nice smiting of a foreign foe -- but a war with no story arc and no satisfying resolution is a different story. A well-deserved ass-kicking? Always appreciated. Being "the world's policeman"? Not so much.

I think Fox and other right-wing propagandists remember that they couldn't seem to wimp-bait Obama successfully in 2008 for his opposition to the Iraq war. Righties don't seem to have a foreign policy Plan B when wimp-baiting doesn't work; regarding Afghanistan, they can read polls, and they're probably afraid that centrists and even a few Paulite righties will react even to Taliban atrocity photos by saying, "Screw 'em -- if that's how they act, why should we waste any more blood and money on them?"

Righty propagandists could attack Obama from the left, of course -- talk of LBJ, sneering references to "Democrat wars," etc. -- but they don't seem to have a well-developed script for that. So I think they're just hoping that Obama will make good on his promise to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, and maybe then they can attack him as a traitor in the time-honored wingnut way. For now, though, they're hanging back, or trying to change the subject to Iran. Unlike Time, they're not trying to sell what they don't think the public is buying.

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