Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A while ago a friend of mine asked me if there was a particular book that changed the way I looked at the world, that shattered my preconceived notions about something fundamental or "inherent" to my persona. My initial response was World On Fire by Yale professor Amy Chua due in part to it's breadth of topics under one carefully constructed theme of the "buzzword" globalization. Chua's book itself focuses on "marketization" and democratization as two of the many contributing factors to globalization and its aftereffects--political backlash, economic backlash, and, of course, violence--that continue to shape the world with potentially devastating effects for American society (the world's non-ethnic minority) in particular.

While World On Fire is arguably my favorite on multiple levels, I have recently found another one to add to that short list insofar as I've only read half of it. (Of course I'll be reading the whole thing for one of my classes!) Indeed it is rare that I stumble upon a book that makes me rethink fundamental notions either set in place or previously taught as a form of rules or grounding. "Bring 'Em On: Media and Politics in the Iraq War" edited by Lee Artz accomplishes that deconstruction of preconceived notions. Artz's amalgamation of articles examines the rhetoric from the President and the media leading up to, during, and following the Iraq invasion and exposes the truths and flaws behind each particular piece of rhetoric. One of the articles I enjoyed thoroughly addresses metaphors and analyzes the dehumanizing factors of visual rhetoric produced by cartoonists using metaphors, both discursive and nondiscursive, to convey public opinion. The article goes on to prove that metaphors simplify expansive information at the cost of disguising the real costs of such rhetoric--the loss of human value and the potential and likely loss of human life. There are other chapters within the book that set out to prove or disabuse notions and conceptions of the media and how they shape public opinion, but the overriding theme of the book is the difficult task of interpreting the public rhetoric that shapes those conceptions and notions that effect public decision and democracy.

While the book itself focuses on Iraq, the themes apply today with the conflicts occurring in the Middle East, North Korea, and Africa. We must examine the rhetoric of today and juxtapose it to the recent rhetoric of our previous engagements and current affairs if we wish to stay informed and make proper decisions about the world around us.


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