Thursday, July 06, 2006

Let's Roll (Sunday Bloody Sunday)

I have to say something about this post, which has blown up on Google and Video Bomb...

George Bush sings Bloody Sunday

There have been lots of "mash-ups" floating around recently, some of which have been brilliant, and some of which have sucked, and I have to say, there's something uniquely compelling about this one.

Here's the thing... it's not a nuanced political statement. It doesn't really have anything to do with Bush's policies or priorities, and it doesn't say much about the Democratic or liberal agenda, either. It's just about jarring images, a memorable melody, and words that are just meaningful enough for us to recognize them.

But that's what politics is about these days, too.

Look at Bush. His media presence, orchestrated by media outlets and public appearances, has nothing to do with the actual decisions he's made as an official. Ultimately, he's a two-dimensional representation of military strength and family values. We don't talk about politics any more... we talk about symbolic presences, and we THINK we're talking about politics.

The value of this video, and of videos like it (Gay Bar was another good one) is that it manipulates this spin-doctored symbolism in a way that deconstructs it. It's only effective because the viewer is presented with the twenty-first century symbol of military might, along with his mechanical cabinet, and he's manipulated to sing one of the most iconic anti-war songs of the MTV generation.

So there's something weird about it. Strangely enough, it almost made me want to cry, because Bush's presence made the imagery of war and tragedy all the more acute. I've gotten over that initial emotional reaction (I'm not a knee-jerk pacifist, I promise), but there's still something to be said about the jarring simplicity of these images and the melody that accompanies them.

Some further comments:


It's so weird hearing this song in Bush's smug voice. I must admit, he's good at making us feel like he's confiding in us, and that what he's saying is personal and important. This quality is one of the most effective elements of this piece, because we're so unaccumstomed to hearing Bush talking about something that actually invokes a personal response. Bush's rhetoric is self-important and generally unconvincing, so when you make his voice say words that somebody was really passionate about, it's like hearing a cat barking in your ear.


Excuse the obscure academic reference, but there's something about the standing congresspeople that reminds me of Walter Benjamin's The Mass Ornament, or Fritz Lang's Metropolis. These people, both allies and opponents of the president, stand mechanically, on cue, to punctuate his flaccid political talking points. The pace of this video makes them seem like pistons, showing how their bodies have become part of a big grinding political machine. It's creepy.

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