The False Economy of War

Fascinating interview with Robert Pollin, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and founding co-director of its Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), quite persuasively debunking the persistent myth in American political discourse that the military is an essential driving force in the U.S. economy and a vital necessity for the development of innovative commercial technologies.

In the first part, the contention that it was WWII that ended the 1930s Depression and its present corollary that expansion of the war in Afghanistan may likewise have a beneficial stimulative economic effect is examined. According to Pollin, it’s not so much a question of whether war itself is effective means of boosting the economy (quite the contrary according to the statistical analysis), but that it’s the only thing that seems capable of generating the kind of bi-partisan political will to engage in massive, albeit inefficient, deficit spending.

In the second part of the interview, Pollin expands on his assertion that the money being generously funneled into military expenditures would actually produce better economic outcomes if they were invested in domestic social programs (e.g., education, healthcare, etc.), infrastructure development and innovative research programs. Unfortunately, such forms of public spending are conventionally regarded with derision as wasteful expressions of “big government” whereas, through some schizophrenic intellectual legerdemain, military expenditures are viewed as necessary investments made by a distinct entity that are absolutely vital to national security, etc. (even though it’s indisputably just another creature of government)

The irony of course, as pointed out by Pollin, is that the development of new technologies within the framework of the military-industrial complex circumvents all the usual rigors of the vaunted “free-market” through the closed loop of the military procurement process that practically guarantees a highly profitable return on investment for even the most harebrained, massively unproductive, and grotesquely wasteful schemes.

Reel Bad Arabs

Arabs are the most maligned group in the history of Hollywood — so says Dr. Jack Shaheen, noted media critic, author and presenter of the 2007 documentary film produced by the Media Education Foundation,
Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People.

Reel Bad Arabs dissects a slanderous aspect of cinematic history that has run virtually unchallenged from the earliest days of silent film to today’s biggest Hollywood blockbusters. The film explores a long line of degrading images of Arabs — from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheikhs and gun-wielding terrorists — along the way offering devastating insights into the origin of these stereotypic images, their development at key points in U.S. history, and why they matter so much today.

Shaheen shows how the persistence of these images over time has served to naturalize prejudicial attitudes toward Arabs and Arab culture, in the process reinforcing a narrow view of individual Arabs and the effects of specific US domestic and international policies on their lives. By inspiring critical thinking about the social, political, and basic human consequences of leaving these Hollywood caricatures unexamined, the film challenges viewers to recognize the urgent need for counter-narratives that do justice to the diversity and humanity of Arab people and the reality and richness of Arab history and culture.