March 20, 2007
COMMENTARY: Coming Soon: More Fear Mongering with ‘Obsession’ Sequel
By Nick Patler
Staunton, VA (Special to HNN) -- The sequel to the trendy documentary, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” is now in the making -- the next part in a popular series of fear mongering coming to a theater near you, or to your mainstream news networks.
What more could they possibly say or do in a sequel? How can they top “Obsession”?
This tragic documentary weaves together disturbing film clips of children dressed like suicide bombers screaming hateful, violent epithets at the West, radical Muslim clerics promising to destroy America, Adolph Hitler blaring speeches in German, the World Trade Towers being attacked, goose stepping, guns, explosions, etc.—all entangled in a background of chaos, violence, the threat of Muslim world domination and the meshing of Nazi and Islamic symbolism and rhetoric.
While the producers of “Obsession” were nice enough to include a statement in the beginning and end that “most Muslims do not accept this radical vision,” this documentary, with a menacing soundtrack underscoring the movie, is chillingly apocalyptic in tone and gives the impression that Muslims are a sinister and universal threat.
Worse still, “experts” in the film make the fallacious claim that radical Islam is potentially more powerful than the Nazis (Wasn’t Nazi Germany a large, cohesive military state that included millions of soldiers and cutting edge weapons technology, as opposed to small radical Islamic groups who are disparate, divided, and lack basic resources?).
This piece of propaganda was shown on CNN, Fox, 30 U.S. college campuses, promoted by one famous film critic for the Academy Award, and distributed worldwide. They even have a website that offers help and advice in obtaining and showing the film.
How can they top this success? By producing a more frightening documentary that will make even more money! Fear sells. And like horror movie sequels that outdo the ones before it with more gruesome scenes, I dread to think of the next level of twisted evidence and imagery the “Obsession” sequel will invent to exploit fears and create paranoia. Sadly, the blog sites on the internet (not to mention news programs) are packed with commentaries of people who blindly buy into this propaganda. They believe they are being told the truth here and, unfortunately, they will welcome more distortion from a sequel because it fits into their conditioned belief systems.
“Obsession” does, however, raise some interesting issues. Yet as a propaganda piece, these issues are presented superficially to indict those being vilified, rather than as legitimate problems to be seriously explored. For example, the main theme of the film is that radical extremists hate America. But, like the Bush administration, that’s the only point they make.
Perhaps the film would have had a smidgen of value had they pursued the question as to why extremists hate the U.S. But that would require for us to humble ourselves and take a hard look in the mirror—not an easy thing to do for a proud, irreproachable superpower.
And being introspective in regards to our own behavior would mean facing the reality that American policies and actions have for over a half-century infringed upon the sovereignty, religion and culture of Muslim peoples, which has finally inspired retaliation by extremists. This is not rocket science, which makes its intentional neglect in public discourse (and policymaking) all the more tragic.
The film “Obsession”, like the rhetoric of the Bush administration, promotes the myth that Islamic violence against the West is nothing more than a desperate effort of the barbarian to topple the righteous. Indeed, this sounds so similar to what the current administration has been saying for years, along with the fact that this independent documentary was so well marketed on mainstream American news networks, that I was curious as to where its funding came from.
The moneybags, I quickly discovered, were intentionally hidden from public view. When asked in an interview about the film’s funding, producer Raphael Shore refused to answer, only saying that funding sources “requested anonymity” for their “protection.” It’s strange that they needed protection and not the numerous other people whose names are publicly associated with making the documentary. Whatever the case, the film undoubtedly serves the interests of the status quo in the White House and think tanks that support their policies.
The sequel to “Obsession”, like the extremely low quality of public discourse in the U.S., threatens to move us further away from exploring the tough questions, thus becoming part of the swirl of misinformation, dehumanization and neglect that could have tragic consequences, quite possibly inviting more terrorist attacks worldwide.
I can imagine that historians will one day look upon this period as a time when xenophobia swept through an America that refused to look itself in the eye. Documentaries like “Obsession” may even be shown in future classrooms as a tool for understanding the uses of sensational propaganda in history, right along side “The Birth of a Nation,” which terribly demeaned African Americans in the early twentieth century, and Nazi documentaries that dehumanized Jews as vermin. And hopefully they will say that in these times it was darkest before the dawn
Nick Patler is the author of “Jim Crow and the Wilson Administration: Protesting Federal Segregation in the Early Twentieth Century.” Readers may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org This article originally appeared in the Staunton (VA) News Leader, and is reprinted by permission of the News Leader.