08 July 2007

20th Century History On Video

Spent much of last night, this morning, and a little bit of this evening down-loading various video excerpts from Soviet, Albanian Communist, 1970's American television news, and German Nazi and Social Democratic films.

Why??? The short answer is, something to do, ain't it???

But, that doesn't tell the reasons why.

For me, it's a chance to see, albeit in truncated form, films and video footage of people and events that I would otherwise never been able to see.

These help bring people and events that I've read about to a kind of life that can't really be conveyed by literary accounts and still photographs.

To see and hear these historical figures, or rather their celluloid and magnetic tape ghosts, moving and speaking can, in a way, help tell me and others more about what figures like Lenin, Enver Hoxha, the Albanian Communist leader, Hitler, Norodom Sihanouk, the King of Cambodia until very recently, and other, more anomynous personages from history, in a way that neither texts nor still photos, which have their own sort of power, can.

That said, it has to be remembered that these images and sounds were, at the time of their original releases, shaped and used to manipulate public opinion, in their home countries and abroad, and so, they should be viewed, as should any media presentation, with a certain amount of scepticism, and, of course, critical analysis.

But, then, that can and should be said of any form of media expression, whether it be a lavishly mounted multi-media campaign spectacle, or the simplest of newspaper ads and flyer postings.

Each presentation reflects the world-views of its creators, both conscious and unconscious, and the assumptions, needs and desires, not only of those creators, but of the cultures of which they're a part.

In the case of one of the Enver Hoxha videos that I down-loaded from a French Communist site, the video, which partially depicted Hoxha's trip to Moscow in 1960, where, along with the Chinese Communists, he split off Albania from the Soviet-run portion of the Socialist bloc, the excerpt shows, both in its spoken narration and visuals, an argument line that emphasises, through its mentioning of difficulties between the Albanian Communist partisans and their British military advisers during World War Two, that Albania, and specifically, the Albanian Party of Labour(the name of the old Albanian Communist Party that ran the country from 1944 to 19920, would never, ever give up Albanian independence nor sell out what it considered to be the true principles of Marxism-Leninism, which, in the Albanian case, was really a form of hard-line Stalinism.

It also emphasised a fundamental distrust the Albanian government of the day had when the video documentary from which the excerpt came was shot(probably between 1981-84, as Hoxha died in '85), of foreign alliances of any sort, whether with the British and Americans, the Soviet bloc, or, after 1976, when the Albanians broke with them, the Chinese.

It also, of course, emphasised the supreme role of Hoxha, as leader of both the Albanian Party of Labour and of Albania proper, and his determination to retain both Albanian independence and Marxist-Leninist purity, as he saw it, and the excerpt features plenty of footage of Hoxha, whether still photo or motion picture, engaged in public speaking, presiding over rallies and the like, and so on and so forth.

This excerpt, and the documentary from which it was taken(haven't seen it, except for the excerpt mentioned here, but I think I can hazard something of a guess as to its general content and lines of argument therein from the excerpt), were made to show Hoxha and the Albanian Party of Labour in what both considered to be their best possible lights, both to convince the Albanian population at home, who would have been the primary audience for this, and whatever supporters they had abroad(the documentary's narration is in English)that Albania had, and would continue to, pursue its struggles for national independence and to create its "true" form of Marxist-Leninist socialism, without foreign interference of any sort.

Of course, what such a presentation would tend to leave out would be such items as the various, viciously bloody Party purges, the appalling prisons, the forced labour camps, and other bits of unpleasantness done by Hoxha and the Party of Labour.

But, similar accusations can be made about any government, corporation or institution, and, in many cases, they'd be at least partially right.

The manners in which the current Administration in this country has tried to block, co-opt and manipulate the media, and especially the "mainstream" media, and, in many case, has done a bloody good job of it, while in others, has completely muffed it, in regards to the Wah On Tewah(Heh, heh, heh)and the Iraq War, provide another example, or should I say sets of examples, of how institutions, and especially governments, can attempt to put the best possible faces on themselves, their leaders and their policies, while overlooking, denying, obfuscating, or just plain lying about inconvienent facts.

But, this current Administration isn't the first, nor will it be the last, in American history, to have engaged in media manipulation.

As the recently revealed CIA "family jewels" papers have shown, the Kennedy Administration, which has been regarded by many in the Democratic Party as a collection of liberal saints, happily engaged in plots and plans to use the CIA to fund, run and carry out paramilitary operations in a variety of countries in the early 1960's, and often did so in the most cavalier of spirits and manners.

But, for so long, and I think that, in part, it can explained by the early deaths of both John and Robert Kennedy, as well as the media campaigns about them and their families presented in their lifetimes and posthumously, these two have been idealised as noble figures, models of political and moral rectitude, and so on and so forth, that it generally hasn't been until in the last twenty-odd years or so that a much different, darker view of the Kennedys and the JFK Administration has appeared.

The point is, ultimately, that the primary reason for both critical analysis and a certain amount of healthy scepticism regarding any media presentation, whether big-budget, "mainstream" ones, or no-budget screeds like the one you're reading now, because, even if with the most careful attention to facts and details, there will be those that are left out, minimised, or otherwise gooped over in one way or another.

The "mainstream" media is often quite full of various kinds of shit, but, so is the non-"mainstream" media, in many cases.

The biggest differences between the two can be summed up as budgetary, access to large numbers of minds, and the assumptions and biases, stated and unstated, that they have.

But, each and every one of these outlets, large, medium, small or extra-dinky, is the product of at least one human being with a particular set of views about the world, and reflects those views, baldly or subtly, depending on the intended audience and the skill, or lack thereof, of those outlets at presenting their respective cases.

Some outlets come closer to giving a broader, more nuanced picture of the universe than others, but, in my opinion, NONE give an entirely "fair", "balanced" and "objective" total view of any given issue one could care to name.

That's why I think it's important to get one's info from as wide a variety of sources as one can, though, to be honest, I generally don't go onto far right sites, because I don't like the world-views presented on 'em.

Shame on me, I guess, but, I am a human being, and not God, after all, and, like any other human being, I've my biases and prejudices, too.

Still, even so, every now and then, I occasionally find an article or an opinion from such sources that may, even if I completely disagree with and loathe the assumptions and statements otherwise given by the particular outlet, comes what I think may be fairly close to the heart of a given matter, than others I've seen.

That said, I've generally found that to be a pretty rare event in my experience.

The totality of human and universal experience can't be summed up by any one explanation or set of explanations, I think.

That's why it's important, in my view, to do one's best to read, hear and view as widely as one can from a variety of sources, and to do so as critically as one can.

Even then, there are no guarantees that one still won't be taken in by a particular line of argument and rhetoric that proves to be invalid, if not an outright lie.

But, it can help one to not fall for at least some of the most obvious ones.

Please remember, and I say this coming from a city and state founded on fleecing suckers, that anyone can be taken in, especially if they want something to be true badly enough.

Please also remember that the minute one says to oneself and others that one can't be suckered, that that attitude will only set oneself up to be suckered, and hard.

Believe what you will, but make sure that you keep your mind open to other ways of explaining the universe.

You don't have to like, love, hate, accept or reject 'em out of hand, if you don't want to.

Just be prepared to be wrong on some occasions, and to have enough grace to admit that to yourself and others, when and if it happens.

Here endeth the lesson.

Be seeing you.

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