Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Soldier Video

Is this video authentic? It has been making the rounds for a while and from my own initial, cursory look I can't find any authentification. To what extent would it matter? Yes, there are certain lines between truth & fiction, of course. But if this is staged, and especially if its anonymous YouTube posting do not indicate otherwise (but simply leave the matter ambiguous) would this not be a case of fiction "arriving at" truth? Former soldier Stan Goff says this rings his "Reality Bells." If it rings true but is a recreation, what role or value does it have for the progressive movement? Or for those all over the world--inside America and out--who would see it? Has it been inspiring outrage outside of the radical or antiwar blogosphere? (Has it been inspiring that much outrage inside it?) At the forum Rap Godfathers there's a link to the video followed by discussion that is hardly rosy about the role that troops play in US militarism ...

4 comments:

dave said...

even if this video is "authentic" in the sense of a soldier talking about his experiences in Iraq, there's likely to be a level of inauthenticity in his retelling based on 'masculine' one-upsmanship and transgression as well as the expression and exaggeration of exactly *how* f____ed up military culture / the Iraq experience is (yes, as a badge of courage). Even the description of young female victim relies on pornographic tropes of victimhood, abuse, and the body desired ("tight," "untouched"). I'm most concerned about the problems of retelling and the way they interact with the cultural capital to be gained from perpetrating violence against women and "hajis."

dave said...

the fact that this cultural capital exists is of course problematic, but I'm not sure how this crisis of attitudes is made any more urgent by a possibly fictitious and/or probably exaggerated video.

Zach Campbell said...

Dave, yes definitely--there are at least two different registers of authenticity here, the authenticity as a confession (document) of crimes, and the authenticity of the man's discussion in terms of integrity towards his real, actual experiences. Because he could be embellishing the latter while being essentially truthful about the former; or he could be making up the former in an attempt to bolster his image in the latter count, a masculinist charade. You're absolutely right about the pornographic tropes. (Either way, to reiterate Mr. Goff again, as well as others, this feels real. Which doesn't mean it is. But why does it feel so?)

What I find strange--the thing that most made me suspicious about the film's authenticity (in any respect) when I first saw it, was the cameraman/interviewer, who seems to be asking questions in a very strange way ... I can't put my finger on it without watching again, but at the moment I can't bring myself to watch the video another time.

dave said...

The questions asked in the video seem to me like "Carson Daly questions" - the kind of leading inquiries that don't ask a question, but rather ask the interviewee to embellish and/or explain something further. The questions themselves imply, in this context, much of the exaggeration that I felt in the video. I suspect what feels real about the video is not so much the actions being described as the way they are described - i.e., the "masculinist charade." The other thing about the pornographic tropes I described is that their iconography in the video is so iconic as to feel fictionalized. They've been abstracted from the reality of abuse, crossing over to the realm of simulacrum (in the Platonic sense rather than the Baudrillardian). I'd say that the video "feels" real because it is, as Baudrillard would have it, hyperreal.