Axver (axver) wrote,
Axver
axver

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I wish I could be this well-ordered more often.

Firstly, I would like to tell you all that bit torrents are absolutely fantastic. Wembley Nights 3&4 ... *drool* Zooropa and Babyface! The former was played only three times, the latter five.

Secondly, whatever was I going to say here? It was something good and non-U2 related too. Oh! A word of advice: upon hopping out of a shower, ensure that when you go to turn the taps off, that you turn them the RIGHT way unless you would love to get blasted by freezing cold water (or if you're truly unlucky, scorching hot water). Though quite frankly, that cold water was mighty refreshing.

Thirdly, the demo of Electrical Storm is WONDERFUL and is probably how it will sound live. I sure hope so. This flogs both the original and William Orbit mixes.

Fourthly, those who have read my English assignment have remarked on it being quite good, so if anyone wants to comment on it, feel free. Alan expressed surprise, asking if this really is my view, and so for the record, IT IS NOT. I am merely writing something I feel is 'good' and will get me a satisfactory mark; do not debate the politics in it because I am not about to defend it. But if you have any constructive criticism on how it should be improved, I'd love to hear it.

The purpose: To discuss how powerful discourses, thriving on fear and conformity, can result in witch hunts when language is used to isolate and vilify others. To draw comparisons between events of the 20th/21st centuries and the events of Arthur Miller's The Crucible.
The task: You are to ... writ[e] a feature article ... [for] a news magazine ... [that] will be based on your examination of contemporary events which you regard as resembling, or having the potential to resemble, the events and patterns of human behaviour portrayed in Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

Your intention is that the article should serve as a warning against seeing the history of the Salem witch trials repeated by analysing how discources operating on fear and strict conformity to dominant ideology may result in dangerous and unjust witch hunts. In particular, you will focus on how such discourses use language to label and dehumanise those seen as a threat.

The assignment

America Goes on a Witch-hunt ... Again

In a quest to eliminate terrorism, the United States of America repeats its own history.


“History never repeats, I tell myself before I go to sleep” sung Split Enz, and one can imagine American President George W. Bush doing a similar thing. However, Bush would be deceiving himself, for recent actions by him and his government emulate those of the Salem witch-hunts of 1692. These witch-hunts are vividly portrayed and investigated in Arthur Miller’s famous work ‘The Crucible’.

In Salem, Massachusetts, a literal witch-hunt broke out and absorbed the town in mass hysteria. Today, the USA is hunting for different kinds of witches, namely terrorists and Saddam Hussein, but the similarities with the past are not only striking but also disturbing.

Salem was settled by a group of religious fanatics known as Puritans who sought, through radicals means deviant to the Scriptures they placed belief in, to become pure in the sight of their God. They would monitor the behaviour of others to ensure they too were pure, and when allegations of witchery arose against Abigail Williams, conditions were perfect for a breakout of mass hysteria. Soon, the town was eagerly hunting witches and demanding confessions from the accused.

It is not hard to spot the similarities between this and what is happening today. Doubtless the reader is familiar with the violent atrocities committed by Islamic terrorists on 11 September 2001 in the USA, and the consequential events have been leading headlines worldwide headlines ever since. The world now watches as America hunts today’s witches.

On the day of the attack, President Bush was quick to proclaim that, “the search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts” and proceeded to claim that he would make “no distinction between the terrorists … and those who harbour them.” This sounds perfectly just – no-one wants to see terrorists get away with atrocities, do they? Sadly, what these statements have led to is less than just.

Bush’s statements are exactly those that would whip a nation stunned by terror into mass hysteria. Fearful of another attack, his powerful rhetoric of hunting down the culprits would appeal to the public. Eager to rid themselves of the menace of terror, they would not hesitate to join in on the hunt, attempting to root out terror. This is the beginnings of a witch-hunt.

Not only that, but it clearly emulates the past. In Salem, once allegations of witchcraft came to light (these being their terrorist attacks), powerful rhetoric such as that of Reverend Hale quickly sent the public into a frenzy of hunting down witches. Statements of his such as, “We shall find him [Satan] out if he has come among us, and I mean to crush him utterly” bear obvious parallels to the impassioned language of Bush, and both of them succeeded in using their statements to full effect. The public’s attention was gained, and with their safety under threat, they were whipped into hysteria to root out the common enemy threatening them.

Furthermore, in an attempt to bring the public onside, Bush made his cause appear holy and righteous, much like those in Salem did. In Salem, those hunting witches claimed to be doing “God’s work” and stated that “the Devil is loose in Salem.” With this kind of language, is it any wonder that people were persuaded their cause was holy? Is it any surprise that people so devoted on serving God were brought to hysteria by being told hunting witches was his work and fought the Devil?

Today, Bush is doing a very similar thing. He brought the public onside and made his cause righteous by claiming that America was targeted because “we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world.” Bush then went on to say that “no-one will keep that light from shining,” and one can see the parallels to Salem. While the Salemites sought to bind the Devil, Bush and his supporters seek to defeat all those who want to stop their light from shining. With a genuine patriotic fervour, people were attracted to this talk of righteousness, and it’s obvious that if Bush’s cause is righteous, opponents are unrighteous and essentially evil. By claiming the moral high ground, Bush vilified anyone against him.

When the invasion of Iraq was launched in 2003, Bush continued to use powerful language. Saddam Hussein simply wasn’t given a chance – on numerous occasions, the American President vilified him as a “brutal dictator.” Such a label left him isolated. Who wants to listen to a brutal dictator? He was successfully marginalised by Bush and was not allowed to plead his case.

Bush then took things one step further. He called for God’s blessing upon the USA’s troops, and if his troops are blessed by God, what does that make their opponents? Enemies of God. Thus, Bush succeeded in totally marginalising Iraq as an enemy of God ruled by a vicious man. Hussein tried to speak up but public opinion had been so swayed by Bush’s statements that he was written off as a madman.

To see just how powerful the impact of Bush’s rhetoric has been, one only needs to look to the media. In Salem, even the most respected people were involved in the hysteria and vilification, and today, even the most respected news outlets have become involved. A quote from Time magazine portrays this clearly: “Watch for men with nicks on their faces; they may be freshly shaved jihadists.” Like in Salem, even the most minor of things is used as ‘evidence’ against people, and such activity has the backing of even the most respected people. Discourses that take the moral high ground and bring God into the equation, like those used by Bush, get some of the greatest impact. They vilify and isolate those on the opposing side, and whip people into hysteria against a common enemy.

Some may argue that Saddam Hussein was a terrible dictator and deserved to be removed, and that terrorists are the scum of the earth. However, one question begs to be asked: do the ends justify the means? If the means put innocent lives in danger, the answer is an emphatic “no!”

In 1692, innocent people were hung for accusations of witchery; in the 2000s, innocent people are bombed to death by American soldiers with faulty intelligence. What’s the difference? Apart from the difference in time, none. In 1692, a cause was made holy and anyone against it was vilified as evil; in the 2000s, there is no difference. In 1692, powerful and emotive language brought people to hysteria against an enemy that was isolated and unable to defend him- or herself. Nothing’s new now; a strong leader continues to use the wrong methods to reach an end.

Bill Clinton states that “in dangerous times, people may prefer a leader who is strong and wrong to one who is weak and right.” Both Bush and the Salemites used their language to make the times seem dangerous. Both Bush and the Salemites were strong, but wrong. History never repeats? Watch the news, then read ‘The Crucible’, and one can see it clearly does.

Alright, that's it, back to the neatly-ordered entry now.

Fifthly, this week shall be such grand fun indeed! Exams! Oh joy of joys! Feel the thrill just bursting forth from me. Wednesday: German speaking exam. Thursday: German listening exam, Modern History exam. So tonight I shall study. I was going to earlier today but things got ahead of me. Then there's a heap of maths tests coming up soon too ... I'm thoroughly up the creek for Maths B. I've got to knuckle down and focus over the next week.

Sixthly, do you think Adam Clayton's only sung once (at least on anything officially released, we'll ignore the rumours of backing vocals in the early years)? Do you think his only vocal effort was the last verse of Your Blue Room? Well unless my ears are deceiving me, I think you're wrong. It sounds very much like Adam Clayton doing backing vocals on the 1996 performance of Tomorrow for the Common Ground CD. I even checked it with the end of Your Blue Room and I'm sure it's him. Thoughts, anyone? It's one of the songs available here.

Seventhly, I had a random U2 revelation. I was watching some ZooTV and I was being a bit ... bothered? by the bellydancer onstage and the fact Bono would sing Mysterious Ways to her, when it's about the Holy Spirit. Then suddenly it dawned on me. I got the whole point of it, or at least I think I did. Anyone who knows anything about U2 knows they do everything for a reason, they're not the kind of guys to do something just because they think it's 'cool' or anything, so I figured there had to be a reason behind having a bellydancer onstage during a song that Bono, better than anyone, knows is about the Holy Spirit. Those familiar with ZooTV know it was the biggest send-up of the modern world, consumerism, and the like - it was meant to be ironical, contradictory, and such. It blasted televangelists looking for money with Mirrorball Man, a really slick TV preacher. It blasted television by having a heap of them onstage. It blasted fame by using the 'last of the rockstars', Mister MacPhisto. And - here's what I figured out - it blasted the worship of figure and sex by having Bono sing a song about God to a bellydancer. It suddenly all makes sense.

Eighthly, that is all.
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