Sunday, May 11, 2008

America's Weapons of Mass Distortion

The United States of America probably has the largest collection of nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, missiles and other such weapons, using which it can devastate any area in a short time. It however, possesses another set of weapons, which over a longer period of time destroy the independent opinion that a society might have about any particular subject. These are the Hollywood studios that regularly dish out various movies, documentaries, serials.

Take an example of the Soviet bloc and communism. In any documentary, movie or series, the Soviets are depicted as tyrant and as autocrats who care nothing about the common man. In contrast, the American ruling class and decision making is shown as if they always had the common man's interests in mind before taking any decision. We agree to the fact that dissent was never permitted in any Communist countries. But it is too far fetching to imagine that everyone at the top would have been ruthless and heartless. I was watching a NatGeo documentary titled "Space Race". The documentary traces the development of rockets for military purposes and the race between the USSR and USA to dominate the space. The documentary is presented in a dramatised version. It starts from the fag-end of World War 2 (WW-2) and ends with the Apollo-11 mission.

Towards the end of WW-2, the Americans are the first to discover the presence of V-2 missiles which were based on the principles of a rocket. They try to dismantle a plant that manufactures the V-2 missiles (which falls in Soviet territory after Germany was divided at the end of the war) and take it to the US occupied area of Germany so the their scientists can reverse engineer the missile. Around the same time, the Soviets discover a V-2 missile in Poland. At this point, an argument between the Polish army and Red Army officers breaks out over who will take custody of the missile. Here, the Soviet Army man shoots his Polish counterpart at point-blank range. While we don't know how Americans handled WW-2 prisoners, I doubt they would have been humanitarian enough.

The first phase of the space race was a result of independent contributions two scientists- Sergey Korolyov in USSR and Wernher von Braun in the USA. Of these, von Braun was an ex-Nazi officer who was the brain behind the V-2. He surrendered to the US in hope that they might help him pursue his space dreams. So, the US authorities take him and his team to USA, where he is supposed to lead the nation's military missile programmes. On the other hand, the Soviets bring in Korolyov and "order" him to reverse engineer the missiles, failing which he is indirectly threatened with dire consequences. While the US is pretty casual about von Braun, the Soviets are shown applying pressure on Korolyov, demanding that he build missile-rockets of ranges that were unheard of in those days. Infact, in one scene, Korolyov is indirectly threatened with death. The Soviet officers are shown to be pretty impatient with failures and do not mind shooting off the person who was incharge of the part that failed.

Everybody is aware that there have been catastrophic failures in space programmes of every country. The documentary does focus on such failures in the Space Race. But, the Soviet failures are shown in great detail with excellent dramatics and a voice over which constantly emphasises that Soviets kept the failure secret for more than 20 years. The American failures (such as the US Navy's failed launch, Apollo-1 burning) have been brushed apart with very few details. While the Americans are shown to investigate their failures scientifically and seriously, the Soviet analysis is not at all mentioned. The Apollo-11 mission, which was America's greatest success finds a detailed mention in the documentary. USSR's efforts have not been detailed exhaustively. Only their efforts in building the rockets and the capsule have been mentioned.

Thus, through the entire documentary, USSR's space programme is made to look a bit ad-hoc and completed through trial and error rather than solid scientific foundation. The US space programme is made to look as if they wanted to be scientifically pretty sound about every small thing, before any rocket was launched. For e.g. von Braun is shown testing the heat shield that would go onto the capsule, but Korolyov is not shown doing any such thing.

Such depiction of Soviets has been common. Hollywood movies are known to show tyrant Soviets and compassionate Americans. The entire Rambo series (barring the latest) is one such example. In Vietnam, the US's excesses are glossed over. The US fighting the Soviets through jihadis in Afghanistan is glossed over. In Rocky-4, Rocky is shown beating a much stronger and better boxer. The movie shows Rocky being given shabby treatment facilities in USSR, while the Soviet boxer is given proper training facilities, when he had previously come to the US. There are many more examples, where Hollywood has put various communities in bad light. Most of these communities were or are involved in some kind of tussle with the US. The US has used its propaganda machinery in an admirable manner. These Weapons of Mass Distortion can twist the thinking of entire communities in the way the US government wants them to be seen.
America's Weapons of Mass DistortionSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

1 comment:

  1. IMO USA, government here should not be held responsible for such programs. They are made for the Average American (even NatGeo and History channel episodes). It is just unfortunate that it gets telecast the world over (or america's hegemony over what the world watches).

    Even in India, a lot of things are shown as the Indians being correct and others not. For example, how Indians have culture and the sanskriti and how the west does not have any, or some anti-pakistan movies and episodes.

    America as a country, is most strongly united by its patriotism. And if such things as showing a russian to be wrong on national TV can help them achieve it, the govt will do so!!