The Iraqi reporter who hurled a show at president Bush a couple of days ago reminded me of a political satire released by Hollywood back in 1997 – one of my most favorite movies.
Dubbed “Wag the Dog,” the movie starred Dustin Hoffman (a creative Hollywood director and special effects specialist) and Robert De Niro (playing the role of a shrewd media spin doctor and save-the-day type of PR consultant to the American president).
The movie starts with this fictional president getting himself involved with a Monica Lewinsky kind of scandal. De Niro is summoned in by the media department at the White House-slash-CIA since he’s the only one who can come up with a media and PR plan to cover up the presidential PR disaster.
De Niro & Hoffman decide it was time to fabricate a War in some country God knows where to remove the American citizens’ attention from the Monica the President was sleeping with, and indulge them in the excitement of “freeing” a suppressed nation somewhere Russia-like.
The spin doctors come up with all kinds of news items from the battlefield of the non-existent war, all manufactured and fabricated within the Blue Rooms of Hollywood and its studios. They even bring back 303 empty coffins of non-existent soldiers who have “died in honor of their country” and the President (whose wise leadership is hailed by all American news agencies taking the bate) attends their most heart wrenching funeral.
The empty contents of the coffins were no secret to the public, De Niro worked around this little detail by creating a yet more interesting PR cover up: Media anchors around the country informed the American viewers that the soldiers were torched in “that” country by barbaric so-called freedom fighters. The poor 303 soldiers were attempting to defend the liberty of “that” nation, they all came back in coffins except for that one missing soldier who left his brown shoe behind! (The last time I watched the movie was 3 years ago, my imagination might be playing around with the plot, so take this with a pinch of salt).
Shoes, patriotism and symbolism…
De Niro’s character succeeds in making brown shoes resemble freedom, the American self-righteous quest for saving other nations from themselves, the American dream/individual lost in some barbaric wasteland! To engage the American people with the patriotic sentiments this pseudo war was all about, Di Nero ventures into historical fabrication in order to make things look and feel more believable.
He commissions a singer who lost his glory back in the 70’s to create a song called “Good Ol’ Shoe.” The song is processed by a brilliant sound engineer who makes it sound scratchy and very Vinyl. The song is actually packed into some old, dusty cover, is given a serial number and is planted in the Congress music library. By “mere chance” some reporter finds the song, people start listening to it – and if they were flower children they could vaguely “remember” hearing that glorified ballad in their youth.
According to this link: The team’s appointed songwriter, Johnny Green (Willie Nelson), pens a song for the occasion strongly reminiscent of the Persian Gulf War’s “Voices That Care” or the 1980s anthem “We Are the World.”
And the [spin-doctoring] group’s plan to encourage Americans to throw their shoes into trees in support of a missing soldier nicknamed “The Old Shoe” mirrors the trend of tying on yellow ribbons in support of war efforts.
After a long musical break the singer revives his oldie, this time with a song called “Old Brown Shoe.” (Again, remember I am unearthing most of this from memory).
Bush & the Good Ol’ Iraqi Shoe
A brilliant opportunity awaits Arab political satire songwriters. Yesterday on news in some demonstration in Iraq a guy was holding a shoe on a stick.
Good old brown shoes have in deed become a symbol, but this time they are in favor of “that” nation that Americans have conquered. Brown shoes have become a symbol of buried boiling rage at the American atrocities committed in the name of freedom. Isn’t it all too ironic. Sometimes one suspects Hollywood producers go to fortune tellers and like to shed some satirical light on the future.
P.S. I’m wearing brown shoes today.
* Why does a dog wag its tail? Because the dog is smarter than the tail. If the tail was smarter, it would wag the dog.
Writer: Ruba Saqr (inspired by conversation with Ammar Haykal last evening).