Tuesday, September 8, 2009

it's not a crime in service of the king

Watching a marathon of Band of Brothers on cable, saw an interesting disclaimer coming back from commercial advising viewer discretion due to coarse language and the graphic depiction of "war violence."

Which got me thinking: what exactly is the difference between war violence and regular violence? It's not like other shows warn as specifically about "urban violence" or "farm implement-related violence." Would a viewer refrain from calling the FCC to complain about watching a man shoot another simply because he wears the right uniform while pulling the trigger?

Back in my Gandhi-obsessed Marxist days (a mode of thinking I'm currently trying to de-program) I would have a ready-made soapbox speech about the legitimization of state violence. There are still things that trouble me about lionizing the participants in a dark chapter in humanity's history; it's especially weird that someone would object to glorifying this, but have no objections to glorifying this.

We're already of a schizoid mind when it comes to violence committed during war, and the international prosecution of war criminals is not clearing things up:
  • The massacre of civilians in Darfur is not actionable as a humanitarian crisis, but as a war crime it just might be (but probably not).
  • The brutalization of civilians in Sierra Leone lands the president of Liberia in the dock at the Hague (war crime), but despite the much fresher corpses of civilians in Baghdad (collateral damage).
On top of all this is the far more disturbing fact that continent-wide war serves as fodder not for reflective art that would seek to prevent its repetition, but instead the background for much less ambitious entertainment.

(While it does nothing to end war, Band of Brothers is a great show.)

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