You Back the Attack! We'll Bomb Who We Want! Remixed War Propaganda - Micah Ian Wright

I forget where I heard about this book—probably on NPR—but it sounded like it would be similar to When You Ride Alone You Ride with bin Laden, Bill Maher's book of modern-day war propaganda posters. Wright has a lot more posters in this collection than Maher did, plus apparently much more online which I haven't looked at yet.

Each poster is paired with commentary by various authors from the Center for Constitutional Rights, on topics from SUVs to torture to freedom of speech. One bonus is that Wright includes all the original posters as well, so you can see what the context was for the illustration. The downside, however, is that you can see that sometimes Wright's "remixed" propaganda poster is actually a completely new idea, superimposed on a 40s-era image. (For instance, his poster about nuclear winter is actually just an advertisement for coal.) Also, there are a few posters that are just as appropriate in their original form now as they were sixty years ago, and really didn't need any remixing.

Obviously, the book is quite critical of the current war and Bush's policies; the better posters are the ones that are a little more subtle and borrow more from the originals. Often it just feels like Wright adds too much text to what used to be a simple design, and the new text is generally in a font that doesn't quite match the original. With the commentary, however, you do get some more substantive critiques with plenty of citations, allowing you to do your own research.

The verdict? Much like Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," my guess is that this book will mostly be read by people who already disagree with the Bush administration's policies. Probably most Bush supporters won't even read it, and if they do, it will only be to find things to disagree with. Bush critics will just find more things to get angry about. That appears to be the general trend with political books these days, though. At least with this book you could be somewhat entertained by the pictures.

For me, the most fascinating part was seeing original war posters (from various countries, not just the United States) and comparing them to the sorts of messages we get from our government today. During World War II, citizens were expected to make many sacrifices to support the war; it contrasts greatly with Bush's exhortations to keep the economy strong by continuing to go shopping, and the now-trite comment that if we stop driving our SUVs or taking vacations, the terrorists will have won. The big question is, what should our government be telling us to do?

Fed to jonathan's brain | August 17, 2004