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War of wordshttp://www.bushflash.com/

Mohamed Ragheb

This prescient pronouncement by the fourth president of the United States, James Madison (1809-1817) scrolls across the top of the home page: “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.

The foreign enemy is of course Al-Qaeda, and the man quoting Madison is Eric Blumrich, an illustrator, animator and web designer from Montclair, New Jersey.

Blumrich is in his mid-30s, wears glasses and baggy clothes, and looks like he has never seen the inside of a gym. He also has a black-and-white cat with nothing remotely resembling a pedigree. Altogether, he looks like a gentle, mild-mannered computer geek. But his criticism of American foreign policy is far from mild.

The piece that made Blumrich an Internet celebrity of sorts was “antiwar2. This assaulting piece of animation starts with a barrage of shots from various anti-war demonstrations, then cuts to headshots of the Bush cabinet superimposed on the American flag while words such as “greed and “corruption are flashed at the viewer. Then we are confronted with a horrifying set of photographs of maimed and deformed Iraqi children along with the caption: “Your tax dollars at work.

The heavy-handed sarcasm continues with the juxtaposition of war snapshots and George Bush’s self-serving rhetoric about liberation and democracy. All of this is accompanied by electronic marching music with a sledge-hammer bass line (“Anthem, by VNV Nation, a London-based industrial music group which has been active since 1990).

“Antiwar2 was circulated widely as the United States ramped up to the war in Iraq, and there is no denying its impact. In retrospect, it seems crude – too much like a temper tantrum. But that does not invalidate the sentiment which inspired it, and inspired similar clips by artists such as Eminem and Daisycutter (all linked by Blumrich at his “media/music page; best enjoyed with a DSL connection).

Blumrich himself has put together nearly 40 other montages decrying the war in Iraq, attacking the military-industrial complex, deriding the mainstream media and generally venting in an unpredictable way. His spoof of CNN (Corporate News Network), for instance, consists of shots of Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart and Paris Hilton flashing rapidly onscreen while an announcer simply repeats the words “Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, Paris Hilton over and over. It’s funny and creepy at the same time.

Then there is something like “prevailing, which makes “antiwar2 look like a walk in the park. It starts with the date, May 1, 2003, against a black background and then George Bush intones in voice-over: “Officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. An electronic dirge fades up, punctuated my maniacal laughter, the rattle of machine guns and other sound effects, while the most graphic images of casualties from the Iraq war succeed onscreen. These images were never shown on network television and are extremely disturbing to look at, but this is the reality of war and Blumrich is to be commended for insisting that we take heed, and for his constant reminders that the horror is not over. In addition to the animations, Bushflash contains a growing collection of JPEG stickers, some of them obvious (Bush as Hitler, complete with Charlie Chaplin moustache) and other inspired (a vintage photograph of Winston Churchill with something he said in 1943 that seems eerily appropriate about the goings-on at Guantanamo Bay: “The power of the executive to cast a man in prison without formulating any charge known to the law is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government, whether Nazi or Communist ).

Blumrich also weighs in with very opinionated reviews of some war-related documentaries and other items: “Insipid, clichéd, puerile piece of crap (Fox News’s Over There); “Totally non-partisan (about Gunner Palace, which documents the daily life of a U.S. army battalion stationed in the late Uday Hussein’s Al Azimiya Palace); “A sort of ‘Monopoly’ in reverse (about a satirical board game called Wreck the Nation in which each player is a corrupt politician beholden to a particular industry and hell-bent on squandering tax dollars); “Short on extraneous verbiage, yet long on truth (about Thou Shalt Not Kill, Unless Otherwise Instructed, a book of poems by Mike Sharpe, whose background is economics).

As you might expect, Bushflash elicits some pretty strong reactions. Support is enthusiastic, and criticism quite vicious. Blumrich responds in kind. Recurrent diatribes are addressed in the FAQ. Predictably, many sanctimonious so-and-sos have written in asking: “If you hate this country so much, why don’t you just leave? Blumrich points out that those who say this have bought into a totalitarian way of thinking that equates criticizing the head of state with maligning the state itself. Other critics and supporters are addressed in the “mailbag and “forum sections, and it’s immediately clear that Blumrich has an articulate and passionate audience – which I sincerely hope you will join.

Mohamed Ragheb is a freelancer writer and filmmaker. You may contact him at [email protected].

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