by John Fraim
The real power in the world today is not in the western technology,
economy or military. Rather it is in images and their use in a system
of communication called symbolism. In effect, the real power of the
world today is in the symbolism of western culture.
It is this power which threatens the religion of Islam.
The power of the western world to create and communicate this symbolism
to other parts of the world, and particularly the middle eastern world
of the Islamic religion, is at the root of the problem the Judeo-Christian
west faces with the Islamic middle east.
If one accepts the hypothesis that symbolism might be at the root of
the problem, it seems important to understand 1) the basic messages
of this symbolism and 2) whether these messages might be manipulated
or recruited as warriors in the coming battle.
Certainly the western world has been adept at directing its symbols
mainly inward towards western culture in the form of propaganda and
the persuasion of our advertising into a consumer culture. American
consumer culture was created by the application and manipulation of
Emerging questions of today are 1) whether Americans can come to see
coming events of the world in a symbolic context and 2) whether this
knowledge of symbolic context will help them direct their symbol making
powers outward rather than inward.
Right now, America's symbol making powers are directed inward at persuasion
and propaganda of the populace. Anyone who doubts this simply needs
to push the button to CNN for about an hour. But, might it be directed
outward towards propaganda of the western civilization into the Islamic
We might say that it is not right to use propaganda to achieve goals.
Yet, there is a vast amount of evidence that America's enemies use many
forms of propaganda against America.
If our enemies can use propaganda against America, why shouldn't America
enlist its greatest propaganda machines in Hollywood and Madison Avenue
in the great coming battle?
Of course we do this on a simple Coke or McDonalds type of global expansion
philosophy for American brands and the unrelenting promotion of that
rather ambiguous beehive archetype symbol of ideas and emotions called
But here I mean more of a kick ass Marine philosophy of
putting Madison Avenue and Hollywood into the coming war that CNN constantly
advertises to us in a ubiquitous logo. (Yes, now our war even has its
own logo.) As well as its brand spokespeople in all the
happy and smiling faces of CNN's talking heads.
One of the real tragedies from the events of September 2001 is that
the power of America to create symbols will be used against her own
people, to brainwash them with propaganda. More of the same formula
of the past. But in the weird postmodern world, so much better if this
vast power of America could be directed outward at the real enemies
of America. Right now, American media needs to contemplate more than
ever the possibility that American citizens are not the ultimate enemies
of American government and media. The enemy is truly outside.
Perhaps contemplation of the above will lead to a new type of revelation
(and resolution) among our media, advertising and entertainment community.
There've been greater odds in Las Vegas I'm sure. But it just might
happen. That red ball might just pop into number 24.
So, what does this new force of American symbol making power with an
outward focus go into battle against?
How's this for an idea?
One of the things that struck me in this whole nightmare episode of
the past few weeks is the image of the last night of a few of the terrorists
in a Florida lap dancing club, getting drunk, insulting the girls and
making some wild claims about their next (and last) day.
Why doesn't America's greatest symbol making powers in Hollywood direct
themselves to films and TV programs or series (directed and acted in
by our greatest actors) about these terrorists? Show the Islamic world,
in the same way we show them that a Big Mac is the Satanic food invader
from the west, that their heroes aren't really heroes. I
mean using all the skills and artistic talents of Hollywood to do this.
(Add in there the talents of Disneyland's Imagineers. I visited Disneyland
right before the events on September 11th. What more of a contrast of
symbols exists in the world?)
Or, why doesn't America's greatest symbol making powers on Madison Avenue
direct themselves to advertisements selling the Islamic world on a different
American brand or symbol? Might America be packaged
and branded in a better and more positive way than that
presently being presented to the Islamic world? By the way, just how
are we being presented to the Islamic world?
This is a wonderful challenge for the film and advertising industry
of America. For the first time in their history, the history of the
world's most powerful symbol making machinery, they have the possibility
of creating not more propaganda for their citizens but rather the destruction
of lies and untruths about America in the world. If American films and
ads can blast away into homes of the Islamic world via world satellite
networks and even Internet sources, and if they can simply tell the
world about America rather than constantly re-create America in her
citizens by propaganda. . .
Oh, the power of America then.