Narrative and the Memory of War
It is a measure of the power of narrative that we publicly grieve more for the deaths of our enemies than those of our allies in a war that is now fading quickly from human memory.
On both the European and Pacific theaters of World War II, Hollywood and the rest of the left have certainly been doing their part in recent years. Regarding the former, recall the 2008 movie The Reader, staring Kate Winslet, Lena Olin, Ralph Fiennes, and Bruno Ganz. The film begins with metaphors of illiteracy and seduction of youth. It concludes in the late-1980s (Spoiler alert!) by contrasting Olin as a glamorous and wealthy Holocaust survivor comfortably ensconced on Park Avenue, versus a heavily made-up Winslet portraying her now elderly concentration camp guard now herself dying in squalor in a German prison. The Reader was a textbook lesson in moral equivalence and tacit apologies for Germany’s actions in World War II.
Meanwhile, at the Huffington Post, Greg Mitchell, the longtime editor of the legacy media house organ Editor & Publisher writes, “I happen to believe the [atom] bombs should not have been used against Japan:”
While I respect the views of a range of historians on this matter, and the opinions of the men who fought in the Pacific, I happen to believe the bombs should not have been used against Japan — directly over massive cities — at that time. The war would likely have ended very shortly without it (or a bloody American invasion planned for months later), largely because of the Soviets finally declaring war on Japan — an event long-dreaded by Japanese leaders.
Yes, there was a day when conservatives like John Foster Dulles, columnist David Lawrence, Admiral William Leahy and General Dwight D. Eisenhower — “We shouldn’t have hit them with that awful thing,” Ike declared — clearly condemned the use of the bombs. They knew that the argument of “saving tens of thousands of American lives” only counted if an invasion actually was necessary. We had demanded “unconditional surrender,” dropped the bombs — then accepted the main Japanese demand, keeping their emperor as figurehead.
But the key point for today is this: How the “Hiroshima narrative” has been handed down to generations of Americans — and overwhelmingly endorsed by officials and the media, even if many historians disagree — matters greatly. (And see my piece this week on Truman editing the first Hollywood movie on the bombing, and an earlier piece on the extremely significant suppression of footage shot in Hiroshima by U.S. military film crews.)
Over and over, top policymakers and commentators say, “We must never use nuclear weapons,” yet they endorse the two times the weapons have been used against cities in a first strike. To make any exceptions, even in the past — and in certainly a horrid situation — means exceptions can be made in the future. Indeed, we have already made two exceptions, with more than 200,000 civilians killed. The line against using nuclear weapons has been drawn… in the sand.
A medium that can be brushed away and remolded almost as easily as news, opinion, and history itself.
Speaking of which, “Recognize this Photo? Well, Some Professional Journalists Don’t.”