Sascha D. Freudenheim on 30 Oct 2000 05:06:00 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Getting Inured to Middle East Violence

With the level of saturation of violent images from the Middle East,
it's too easy to get accustomed to it.  Too easy to start looking at
fellow humans, whether Palestinian or Israeli, as something less than
human.  This is a mistake, and a tragic one at that.  Even worse is the
small, pathetic role so many individuals play in helping to faciliate
that point of view.  Spreading the trash must stop; it's a
small-but-smart step towards peace.

"Israeli Porn," by A.D. Freudenheim
Published on - republished here with the
permission of the author.

Pornography: the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to
arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.  This is the third definition
of the word as listed in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary.
Nudity, grotesqueries, or blood – it’s all compelling, whether our
secondary reaction is “I shouldn’t be looking,” or even “Gross!”  It is
human nature to be interested in the gory details, whatever the type,
and these details constitute distinct forms of pornography, from the
simplest erotic nude to the most psychologically compelling fetish.

Sexual pornography is also about the distortion of reality in order to
achieve that intense emotional response.  With magazines like Playboy
and Penthouse, it is all about the come-hither look: look at me and
think about how I good could make you feel.  With movies, it is even an
more explicit distortion, since what we see and hear are willing (or,
perhaps, unwilling) couplings taking place – but more for our benefit,
as viewers, than for that of the participants.

There is political porn, too; the Monica Lewinsky episode is a good
example, combining both political and sexual titillation.  Political
pornography has a similar need for distortion – and these days, the
Jewish community, has its own new collection of it: Israeli porn.  As
the fighting in the Middle East worsens, so does the volume of seductive
e-mail circulating as “news” or collections of “myths and facts.”  Not a
day has gone by in recent weeks without the arrival of a new article
describing, in gory detail, the assaults made on Israelis; or a
collection of photos, purporting to balance out media bias, showing
Palestinians, looking angry and militant, with guns instead of rocks.
These collections are then vigorously passed from friend to friend, each
article or letter as irresistible as the last, and each one contributing
further to the collective energy of American Jewry mobilizing in support
of Israel’s new fight with the Palestinians.

Many of these messages are quite alluring, casting their own come-hither
look.  Many are also misleading, propagandistic, or just plain
incorrect.  Some examples.  One complains that “Whether you even support
Israel itself, support truth and justice and don't allow lies to warp
your thinking and that of your friends.”  This from an e-mail whose most
noticeable – but certainly not only – sin of omission is to refer to
Ariel Sharon’s trip to the Temple Mount as “the unarmed visit of a Jew,”
and ignoring the surrounding 1,000 heavily-armed Jewish policemen.
Another, this one a collection of photos, captures how militant the
Palestinians can be, and their cruelty and cunning in sending armed
children into the street.  Brilliantly seductive – but the photographs
do not represent accurately the disproportionate strength of the
Israelis, even as they seeks to capture the realities of Palestinian

It’s like dropping quarters into a peep-show slot: we are unable to
stop.  But we should heed the intellectual over the emotional, before we
run out of quarters.  Instead of thinking critically, and writing our
correspondents that these missives are inexcusably deficient, our
reactions are emotional, the result of the nervous system’s control of
the brain: titillating and thrilling, and giving us a surge of energy.
Undoubtedly, these are more informed communiqués than the limited and
biased reality CNN or The New York Times chooses to show us.  No.  The
“reality” here is that while we’ll never know the truth for either side,
most of us don’t seem to care.  Nonetheless, we should take the time to
stop, to think, and to worry.  Spreading pornography of the standard
variety would make most of us queasy; why don’t we feel the same about
these ugly, pornographic exchanges that pose as intellectual or
political discourse?  How are these missives influencing our feelings
about the situation, and for the worse, not for the better?

That we should have the right to distribute pornography is one thing.
How we choose to exercise that right is something else altogether.

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