Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Art and Culture in the War of Ideas

Supporters of the Iraqi insurgency have begun producing Hollywood-style movie posters, most based on horror or action movies, satirizing the American military. While the precise origin of the posters is unclear, Britain's Sky News, the only media outlet to cover the matter, reported this summer that the images are proliferating on Islamic extremist websites, which attribute them to the insurgents themselves.

One blogger who picked up the story noted that the insurgents "show a native fluency in American popular culture." This indeed raises a variety of questions about culture, popular or otherwise.

Is culture the type of thing that can be used or abused?

Is art merely techne, the ability to craft something well? In that case, might we call this latest propaganda campaign by these mufsidun "good art"? Or does art necessarily have a moral dimension?

Finally, do cultures have an innate value, or are all equal? As a practical matter, should we be studying the enemy, in order to bring this sort of propaganda to his camp, or is there something inherently wrong with this, if his culture is intrinsically disordered? Is his culture so disordered?

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