Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Seacookie

The Guns at Last Light; Unbroken; Boys in the Boat. Cuh-rist, the DHS is pushing the WW2 fantasy market pretty hard, lately. The worst part is, with all the educated boomers desperately searching history for Something Their People Did Right--WW2 being the one that they're still vaguely sure was "right," since it happened before they were conscious--they'd probably be turning a nice profit on these things even in a fair marketplace.

All those books above are really recent, and really popular, but this isn't meant to be merely a litany of proof re: the CIA and publishing. Rather, we're examining the way elite publishers are changing their approach to falsifying history. In the old days, it used to be done literally, which is to say, the printing presses would be turned on in order to establish a baseline by telling a story directly. "And then Hitler turned his attention to Czechoslovakia, for he believed that..."

Now, though--well, look at it. History is become a "human interest" area of inquiry, like piecing together what happened on the planet during a one-year period based on what your chums linked on Facebook. When elites want to reassure an aging population that, "Your country, however foul it is today, is at least responsible for saving the globe from Adolf Hitler," they write not massively cited overviews; oh no. Now, they write cute human-interest stories set against a backdrop of how (preceded by a Great Depression that was solved by gumption and resourcefulness) this isolated wacko in Germany started WW2 because he was crazy...thereby inspiring some heroic Olympic athletes, some bomber pilots, and other ordinary heroes to have adventures of the kind you can care about.

Ultimately (for their temporal purposes) they'll see a lot of success in this. What they have done is a great marketing trick: taking the focus off the product they really want to sell--the atrociously fabricated child's narrative of "how did WW2 happen, Grandpa?"--and aiming the intended audience at a more personal aspect of the drama instead. The subtle lies in the backdrop will be ignored, yes. More importantly, they'll be accepted. It wasn't even the focus of the story; it was the background. A lone madman started a war that the U.S. was reluctantly pulled into after an economic recession caused by a few greedy people past whom we have long moved. Also, we really showed that Hitler at the Olympics. Is Jesse Owens going to get a more detailed biography in a few years, sort of the Seabiscuit of the human track circuit?

The plot happened; in order to understand it and care, you swallow whatever background structure the author has worldbuilt in, and by the time you're done reading about how the guy survived the Japanese prison camp, you're even more of a believer in the World War's first holiday sequel without even knowing you are. The lone gunman theory stands, because they had a juggler and a fire breather and a sword eater all dancing next to the bearded lady on the right side of the grounds, so who the hell cares about all them tiny kids' shoelaces peeking out of that little white tent on the left?

Whammo, on comes the engine. Amazon's got it in the "for you" place on the front page, every "cultural editor" and "book reviewer" gets the word to put out an article discussing its pros and cons, every public library gets the memo to purchase five copies for their New Releases stack, and like moths to a flame come the readers, all ready for a gripping emotional journey across war-scarred Europe. (That invisible hand of the free market, dontcha know.)

What's terribly hilarious about all of these projects is that they're relying on the scholarly backgrounds of their authors to make their citation-light pop-drivel seem intellectual as well as entertaining, and that these purportedly academic tomes on the "second" World War are smash hits when properly promoted...yet there are fewer and fewer jobs available in the humanities, duh, and even university publishers aren't willing to keep printing actual research by their own associates anymore, at risk of creating tenure. Ironically, all the human interest stories that killed journalism as an American profession, turning newspapers into total propaganda outlets mixed with cute puppies at the local shelter, will kill the idea of reading "a whole book," making it akin to "reading a whole paper." Once it's all kindle-ized, it won't take more than a sweep of the pen to adjust the text in any work available worldwide, to correspond to the new way the story should turn out.

Ah, WW2 eros! In how many ways can you cast Winston Churchill and FDR as innocent heroes with a simple sentence near the middle of a page in Chapter 8? With what clarion beauty can you portray the people themselves as savage fools, driven to war by their own nationalized confusion, and never by Daddy Warbucks? (Sure, he made a little bit off it, but he had nothing to do with them killings, officer; honest!) "A Japanese pygmy submarine had been sunk in the harbor only a few days before, but the base commander had unfortunately not considered the possibility of..." ...oops; don't mention that one. Someone call Cuba and Ben, boys, for it's time to reforge our faith in paired orbs of iron.

3 comments:

  1. My father is Russian, and has been to the US many times, one of which coincided with the D-day celebrations. Yes, he is a smug motherfucker, but always with good reasons. I am mentioning this simply because although I was not present, I can well imagine the indignation with which he chastised them:

    "Guys, looking at these celebrations and speeches, one would think that YOU defeated Hitler and won the War."

    Well duh. if nothing else, one quick look at the fucking D-Day date would show how much of an afterthought in the WW2 outcome the US involvement really is. At that time the Red Army was already at Hitler's doorstep.


    As a (recent) Russian joke goes:

    Two Russian tank crew members stop the tank in front of a Brussels pub, go in, and order drinks, celebrating.
    - "Too bad we lost the information war, though"

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    1. On top of all of the stupid problems with Americans being so proud about WW2--that it wasn't really a "second" world war; that the U.S. was one of the primary sponsors of it; that it didn't really take American leadership by surprise...on top of all that is the most crowning of stupidities, namely that it was Russia which defeated Germany, while the U.S.A. was busy with "ex" German agents constructing a bomb that was supposed to throw the entire world to American domination. Only Russia's strength, and its ability to make the same bomb soon thereafter, kept the U.S. in token "check" during the rest of the twentieth century. And as soon as the secret police had gotten the mob back into power and brought down the USSR, it was game on again, and now America owns the middle east even more.

      Russians: the only white people able to consistently frustrate the American empire. A

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  2. (and by "them", I mean his American friends, not shouting at the TV :) )

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