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Grand Delusion 

Wednesday, Jan 9 2002
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The recent home-video release of Pearl Harbor has allowed us to luxuriate once more in the sensory milk bath that is Hollywood’s version of war. The movie is three dreamy hours of beautiful people gliding about in slow motion, exhaling pitiless banalities as their tough-but-fair government strategizes in sun-dappled rooms. “I think World War II’s just started!” a sailor shouts during the Japanese attack on Oahu. Pointing out that the rest of the world had been at war for two years prior to December 7 would seem like raising a technicality to most Americans, if not bad manners, for as far as we’re concerned history begins and ends with us (U.S.!), and anything outside the camera range of our own national drama is mere back-story.

Supposedly this delusional insularity is one of the things “forever changed” by September 11, but, paradoxically, it seems to be the one thing that has remained unaltered throughout the turbulent events that followed. Americans have been watching this piece of history through the same gauzy lens as Pearl Harbor, The Movie. There’s the slo-mo footage of our soldiery bringing order and common sense to Afghanistan; the sun-dappled statesmanship of George W. Bush as he slips Fort Knox’s PIN number to his party’s corporate sponsors in the name of economic stimulus; and tough-but-fair John Ashcroft dismantling the Bill of Rights.

No one in the big media questions why CIA agents are engaging in combat situations, much less why our country (and our national lifestyle) requires more than 250,000 military personnel to be stationed beyond its borders — in addition to the 50,000 currently serving in Operation Enduring Freedom. And nary a comment about the vanishing of tens of millions of dollars sent to the “Iraqi opposition.” Instead, we assume that the rest of the world looks gratefully upon us and our ordeal as the story of some golden race and not the fantasy of a nation of sleepwalkers.

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It’s Not About Oil

All right, perhaps calling the attorney general “Ayatollah Asscraft” is not the subtlest of barbs, but Dr. Susan Block’s tirades and japes about September 11 and its aftermath are nevertheless among the most readable to come out of Los Angeles. Her essays are soul-searching yet eschew the I’ll-never-be-the-same melodrama of many writers who were nowhere near New York during the attacks; they also smartly combine outrage and eccentric observations with levelheaded warnings about the loss of civil liberties. Where else can one find the destruction of the World Trade Center towers likened to castration? (“We are all men in America, all strong compared to the poor of the world, and we have all had our big dicks cut off. Suddenly. And it hurts. Real bad.”) Or an article supporting the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan that begins with a discussion of Block’s “lethally sharp high heels”?

Although a few of her essays have been posted on Alexander Cockburn’s CounterPunch Web site (www.counter punch.org), most of Block’s epistles can be found where one can always find Block — in her online erotic journal (www.drsusan block.com), a site normally given to discussions of female ejaculation, foot fetishism and bonobo chimpanzees (“the horniest apes on Earth”). Block has become intimately acquainted with controversy over the past few years, having had her downtown studio raided by the LAPD and the video portion of her long-running public-access TV show blacked out by Adelphia Cable. Still, the response she received to her September 11 writings took her a little by surprise.

“The regular people on my site said, ‘You should stick to sex, lady,’” Block explains. “Then I got the usual burn-in-hell from religious types. But suddenly all these political people came to my site and asked, ‘Why do you have to have all this sex on it?’”

Sex and eroticism, of course, are what Dr. Block is all about, and her linking the actions of al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Bush administration with the denial of the pleasure principle should come as no surprise to longtime Block watchers. For now the good doctor has laid off the September 11 commentaries, explaining that sex, not political editorials, is what pays the bills for her Web site. She sadly notes, however, that America has found violence to be the balm for its emasculation trauma.

“We felt searing, awful castrating pain,” she says. “Then our president and his team decided the way to heal the wound was to make a war. And it’s made the wound heal — slowly, tentatively we are feeling our dicks again.”

Sneaker Attack

“It’s not part of the public record,” said Samantha Martin, officially declining our request for information on a breaking story. “You’re not the first to ask,” she assured us. “I laughed when Advertising Age called.” Martin is spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, and the information that is not for public disclosure is the brand of basketball shoes in which American Airlines passenger Richard Reid secreted his unforgettable shoe bombs. Today, all we know is that they were black-suede high tops. The speculation, however, irresistibly leads to the possibility that Nikes might have been Reid’s choice of weaponry — what with the brand’s Just Do It motto and the fact that Nikes were the preferred footwear for the Heaven’s Gate suicide cult. But there are other coincidental facts supporting the theory that Reid (no relation to the Richard Reid who, until recently, was a Nike New Zealand executive) may have chosen this brand. After all, the Nike travel bag carried by Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, convicted last spring in the 1998 al Qaeda bombing of our Kenyan embassy, was found to have traces of explosives in it. And a year ago, T-shirts bearing the Nike logo, along with an AK-47 and quotes praising Osama bin Laden, began appearing in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Finally, in 1997, Nike was forced to dump a costly advertising campaign and recall thousands of pairs of basketball shoes whose flame pattern resembled the Arabic word “Allah.”. Talk about a hotfoot.

Dept. of Priorities

In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, media experts are confronted with the task of creating a new approach in response to a different world . . .

“This is a pivotal point in the history of public relations,” said Michael Levine, author of Guerrilla P.R. (HarperCollins) and Hollywood publicist.

—Press release from Michael Levine, publicist

In today’s world, after Sept. 11, people want something that brings a smile to their face. Some of the items glow in the dark so you’ll never lose your boyfriend when the lights go out.

—Ian Miller, Playboy Enterprises marketing director, announcing in L.A. a new line of men’s underwear

Look Out America, Osama Is Coming.

—Legend on a 2001 calendar sold in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Reach the writer at smikulan@laweekly.com

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