Logo Home Writing News About Contact Links

Site Map

Home >

Writing >

Books >

Battle of Symbols >

One Way...

Battle of Symbols

One Way Transmission

"What do We Mean by the Revolution? The War? That was no part of the Revolution. It was only an Effect and Consequence of it. The Revolution was in the Minds of the People, and this was effected from 1760 - 1775 in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was drawn."

John Adams, 1815 (Letter to Thomas Jefferson)

Understanding the current war from a symbolic perspective involves understanding that it began long before September 11th and that it will continue on long after it is officially declared over. It started not with the political policies of America in the Middle East but rather with the invasion of western symbols.

This invasion was always a one-way affair. America and the west as the great producer and transmitter of symbols. The rest of the world (particularly the Middle East) as a great market for symbols. There was little in the way of symbols transmitted back to America. The result was that the world was filled with symbols of America while America had few symbols of the rest of the world.

In Paradoxes of Prosperity, economist Diane Coyle addresses this one-way transmission of western symbols. As Coyle asserts, resentments among the billions of people in the world who live on less than $2 a day have long been simmering partly because of the West’s ability to broadcast images of affluence and self-contentment toward them.

In an interview with William Holstein in the 10/28/2001 edition of The New York Times, Coyle observes "There are countries where almost everybody lives in poverty. They can see what is going on in America because of global television. I think it must make people feel powerless." She recalls the attempt to gain power through association with the invading symbols:

"I saw a picture in a magazine recently of an African man who had just bought a pair of beat-up used shoes. He painted the Nike symbol on them. He had seen it somewhere on television. He wanted the same lifestyle and comfort that he’d seen."

At the same time, apart from making millions envious of the American symbols, another effect of this one way transmission of symbols was to allow others to understand America’s deepest dreams and fears. As Coyle notes in the Holstein interview "we put our deepest fears on display in Hollywood movies. The terrorists seem to understand very well how easy it is to make people afraid. It is fear itself that could do the most damage."

Therefore, the attacks in September and October, marked a particular turning point in the one way transmission of contemporary western symbols. Now, symbols are transmitted back at America. Symbols based on grand Hollywood spectaculars of destruction. America’s deepest fears. The terrorists had learned much at the knee of the master.

^ To Top

Home | Writing | News | About | Contact | Links

Copyright © 2001 John Fraim