The Politics of Fear, Guilt and War: Image is everything

- By Fabricio Rodriguez

Out of deep desperation and want for the "authentic," the public latched onto the slogan, "Image is nothing! Thirst is everything! Obey your thirst!" In 1993, Sprite begged the citizen consumer to rebel against the hype. The commercial series that sold being "real" pushed sales up 13% over the course of the campaign.

Around the same time, Bill Clinton was swept into the White House with a liberal image. But just as the commodified raps of inner-city youth in the Sprite commercial, Clinton was more image than reality®. His agenda proved to be a veritable, right-wing dream plan that weakened labor unions, the social safety net, race-baited Sista Soulja and diminished environmental and civil liberty protections. The spectacular facade of Bill and Hillary was so convincing that for eight years the liberals shut-up and the right-wing attacked the couple. The super-reality of intern-fantasy pornocracy seduced us to the media box and our own insatiable examination of a blue, stained dress revealed our cognitive dissonance. Our "thirst" was tantalized into "desire" and the reports couldn't be too explicit.

After decades of ever growing, spectacular political displays like the national nominating conventions of the two parties complete with star studded celebrities, live rock bands and flashy news formats, and up-to-the-minute election night exit polls, the political stage shows became more important than the democracy they were supposed to facilitate. This point was driven home like a stake through the heart when in 2000, Fox News declared the winner of the Presidential Race long before the outcome was certain. It was a political declaration that said "the show must go on." For fear of losing market share, the rest of the media parroted the claim. Al Gore, though he had more popular votes, was voted out of the power bubble by a tribal council comprised of TV producers and CEOs.

For the next three years, our thirst for "the real" has been quenched by an onslaught of "unscripted drama." The culture factory has remained on constant feed pumping out fast food for the minds of a nation: a steady diet of nothing. The maitre d' carted out "The Real World," "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", "What Not to Wear" and "While You Were Out," which served as perfect complements to the main course: the War On Iraq ™. The substance of the meal/message was simple: My life is too boring, I don't dress stylishly, my house is ugly and the evil doers want to kill me. All of which comprise a meal fit for the servants of a king, which meets the USDA's Recommended Daily Allowance of fear, self-doubt and loathing brought to you Viacom, Newscorp, General Electric, Disney and Time Warner.

Not surprisingly, we Americans feel increasingly empty the more we turn to our long trusted televisions. As evidence of our depleted state from fast food news, a recent study by the University of Maryland found that if a person uses TV news for information on world affairs, then he or she is more likely to believe one of the following lies that has been implicitly and explicitly fed to us:
a) Saddam Hussein had something to do with the terrorist strikes on the Eleventh of September, 2001.
b) US troops have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq since the declared end of the war.
c) World opinion supported Washington's pre-emptive war on Iraq.

Naturally, 85% of the people who believed any one of these falsehoods supported attacking the innocent citizens of Iraq. The perverse ingredients of this deep-crude-oil-fried debacle are coming to light. Someone has lifted the bun and is starting to ask questions. Anyone shocked by Upton Sinclair's, "The Jungle" would be disgusted to note what the Big Mac-ifacation of information has churning out to produce the War in Iraq.

Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner has become the modern warfare equivalent to Upton Sinclair, showing how many rats were scooped into the hopper before sausages popped out the other end. Colonel Gardiner, an expert in psychological warfare (Psy Ops), has recently released a study called "Truth from These Podia" documenting that the White House Psy Ops attack was not aimed at Iraqi citizens, but the US domestic population. The Colonel states, "This was not bad intelligence. It was much more. It was an orchestrated effort." Amid a maze of lies and threat, believing the image seems like the only hope.

The lies were supplied in ready amounts, but one cannot help but note that the lies were happily shoveled down hungry gullets by our own hands. Information that countered White House claims on every matter from the supposed Iraqi unmanned drones to connections of Al Qaeda to terrorist training camps was widely available. It would be hard for even the cave-dwelling bin Laden not to hear the low grumbling discord between fact and fiction much less the media saturated American public. To be sure, it takes a certain degree of mental reaching, a wanton desire to believe that which is not. We thirst for image… we obey our thirst!

Perhaps it was the betrayal of political principles for Clinton, or maybe remorse over not having enough energy to stop the attack on our democracy in 2000 or, perchance, our inability to turn away from the neuro-eroticism of watching those towers collapse again and again and again that has produced a mountain guilt that dwarfs even our national deficit. The truth is ugly (think vermin burger), but the guilt (yes, we ate it with relish) is even worse. A decade long consumer binge, during which we couldn't spend enough to compensate for feelings of inadequacy, left us feeling bloated, shallow, and concerned about our cholesterol count and our colon. Unfortunately, though, we ordered another super-sized meat-wich. Image or Nothing at All!

The election of Arnold "Meat-wich" Schwarzenegger, a candidate who was so glaringly unqualified for the job, was a wholesale confirmation: we want the pretty, ideal, image more than life itself. The California Selective Recall: Extreme Political Make-Over series hit of 2003, or, after a guilty decade-long political binge, did we just feel a little guilty? Excuse us, its time to purge.

- Fabricio M. Rodriguez works as the Executive Director of Jobs With Justice in Philadelphia. He can be reached at and an extended version of this article appears at

Discussion List Issues: Debating Differences Between Vietnam and Iraq (1) Debating Differences Between Vietnam and Iraq (2) The Present Crisis of US Imperialism Is Marxism Still Relevant? (1) Is Marxism Still Relevant? (2) Is Marxism Still Relevant? (3) To join our discussion list, go here Join Our Info. List:
Search Site
Our Links


Monthly Review

Z Net

Marxism List

Stan Goff's Blog

International Socialist Review

Brings the Troops Home Now

Critical Montage Blog

Dissident Voice

Seven Oaks

Against the Grain

Global Resistance Network

Electronic Intifada

Electronic Iraq

Press Action

Left Turn

Green Left Weekly


Traveling Soldier

Radical Activist Network

League of Independent Voters

Labor Net

Labor Notes


New Left Review


Illegal Voices

Clamor Magazine

Jews Against the Occupation

Democracy Now

Committee for Social Justice in Columbia

Venezuela Analysis

Act Against War

New Spark Productions

Socialism & Democracy

Environmentalists Against War

Earth First

Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and Environment

Rainforest Action Network

Food First

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

Free Higher Education