Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Spirit of '42

Caught an old wartime movie from 1944 today called The Purple Heart:
This is the story of the crew of a downed bomber, captured after a run over Tokyo, early in the war. Relates the hardships the men endure while in captivity, and their final humiliation: being tried and convicted as war criminals.
I assumed it was only generically based on the historical Doolittle raids, but it turns out the actual characters themselves in this film were real:
Based on the eight men captured by the Japanese after the Doolittle raid: Lt. Robert Hite, Lt. William G. Farrow, Lt. George Barr, Sgt. Harold A. Spatz, Cpl. Jacob De Shazer, Dean Hallmark, Robert Meder, and Chase Nielsen. The trial, as depicted in the film, was held at Police Headquarters in Shanghai, China on 14 October 1942.

The eight men were condemned to death. Hallmark, Farrow, and Spatz were executed by a firing squad of the Imperial Japanese Army at sunset the next day. The remainder were given an Imperial commutation to life in prison. In 1943, Meder died of mistreatment and various diseases. The remaining four survived until they were freed upon Japan's surrender in August, 1945.
Of course in 1944 the filmmakers would not have known that four would survive, and the film ends with them marching out defiantly to be handed over to the military authorities for execution to the strains of The U.S. Air Force (Into the Wild Blue Yonder).

This, in the movie, being after they had rejected an offer to be treated as "normal" prisoners (hardly an improvement) if they would only give up information on where the raid came from.

What is interesting is the final statement, given by Dana Andrews as Captain Harvey Ross, which one commenter at imdb implies comes at least in part from an actual record of the trial via a Portugese reporter:
No your excellency. It's true we Americans don't know very much about you Japanese. And we never did. And now I realize you know even less about us. You can kill us. All of us, or part of us. But if you think that's going to put the fear of God into the United States of America, and stop them from sending other flyers to bomb you, you're wrong.

Dead wrong.

They'll come by night, they'll come by day. Thousands of them. They'll blacken your skies and burn your cities to the ground and make you get down on your knees and beg for mercy.

This is your war. You wanted it. You asked for it. You started it. And now you're going to get it. And it won't be finished until your dirty little empire is wiped off the face of the earth.
And that's exactly what they did, God bless 'em.

That's how to win wars.

Today that kind of moral clarity and cultural self-confidence is all too lacking.

Here is a "propaganda" poster that relates directly to the incident above:

Would you look at that, righteous anger at the enemy was not considered something to be ashamed of:

Here is a lesson plan for studying "propaganda" at a Florida elementary school. It exposes the nasty tools of propaganda, to thwart its wicked purpose. Here is one example, the students were to look at this actual "propaganda" poster:

The Teacher's Guide for this poster states:
In this poster we see demonization, emotional appeals, name-calling, and evocative visual symbols.
Well, duh!

Demonization? Name-calling?

It's presented as a bad thing, or somehow inappropriate, or manipulative, to "demonize" actual Nazi atrocities?

Here's another:

Poster #3: In this poster we see caricatures of Adolf Hitler and Admiral Yamamoto sneaking around the globe to attack the United States from both sides. Both brandish weapons, with blood dripping from Yamamoto’s knife. America is shown clean and unspoiled, yet defenseless against the aggression of the Axis leaders, even though neither side really had the capability of launching a full-scale invasion of the United States. The objective of this poster is to increase factory production of war materials. In this poster we see evidence of the following tools: demonization, emotional appeals, half-truths or lies, evocative visual symbols, and caricatures.
Oh, you see, there was really no threat at all! The whole effort of WW2 was based on half-truths and lies! And demonization!

Why, they even dehumanized and mocked the enemy! It's horribly racist!

The whole social programming of the past few decades has been to instill the notion that anger at anyone but our own guilty selves is wrong, and that all "propaganda" that "dehumanizes" the "enemy" is based on that worst of all possible sins, racism, and must be stopped.

If your goal is to win, however, it's absolutely necessary to dehumanize the enmy or how else are you going to get ordinary people motivated to kill them?

The whole point of destroying our ability to get angry at the enemy by counter-propaganda that "humanizes" them is to get us to not be able to win wars.

All anti-war "literature" is geared to making wars unwinnable by our side.

Rather than make war less likely, the doves end up making us as a society unable to fight back effectively against real threats, like medieval islamic barbarism.

They act like they don't have a stake in the outcome, as if they exist on some other ethereal, theoretical plane and won't suffer any consequences from a lack of victory.

Indeed, they gain some perverse satisfaction from seeing the U.S. humiliated. It assuages guilt.

I recall shortly after 9/11, I was mentally composing some "fantasy speeches" that I was hoping the President would give, that would be to the effect of announcing a scorched earth policy rather than what I feared might be one of "proportionality."

What was telling was that someone I knew well from college also composed a "fantasy speech", and posted it to his blog, in which HIS major concern was for the President to essentially say, "for God's sake, you racist Americans, don't be suspicious of or mean to arabs and muslims! That is the MOST IMPORTANT THING!!!"

What a fool.

Or should I say, what a sheep:
Are all people stressed out by a defeat or does it hurt some more than others? It may depend on whether they are power-hungry wolves or sheep, say U-M psychology researchers.

In a study published in a recent issue of the science journal Hormones and Behavior, Michelle Wirth and co-authors Katy Welsh and Oliver Schultheiss looked at what happens to stress hormone levels when people are defeated in a laboratory contest.
"The power-hungry 'wolves' among our participants were hit hardest by a defeat, whereas the 'sheep' couldn't care less about being beaten."

As it turns out, then, not only does being defeated hurt some more than others. Defeating others also might be a source of stress, the researchers conclude.

"The sheep were really uncomfortable with winning," Schultheiss says. "This runs counter to the idea that everybody likes coming out at the top of the heap. That's a really surprising finding for us."
Of course this study may be mistaking some sheepdogs for wolves.

But I digress.

At this point, the argument is usually along the lines of, "but we mustn't become like them!"

Ok, that's ridiculuous for a multitude of reasons, namely that we've fought difficult and brutal wars several times in the past and apparently have NOT "become like them", because it's not in our basic nature.

Which is part of the reason propaganda is so necessary.

And because of our resilient institutions and the true power of our real core beliefs in freedom and individual rights.

But let's assume we DO risk becoming like them.

Ok, so SOMEONE is going to end up "being like them" in the end, right?

So why not US rather than THEM?

I mean, wouldn't it be better to "be like them" and be alive, rather than being dead with them being like them?

Well I suppose a few, in the apparent safety of not having to really face such a decision, might claim that indeed, they'd rather die than compromise their principles.

Even though from a purely utilitarian viewpoint, the outcome isn't any worse.

So then I ask the real question:

Do you not have the moral courage to risk "being like them", in order that your children do not have to face the same choice or be enslaved?

Burn their cities to the ground with pride!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, YOU seem to have a great deal of "moral clarity," and I just hope and pray that the next president does as well...wish it could be you!


11:28 AM, July 05, 2006  

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