Saturday, May 31, 2008

Information as......

"The chorus of radio and television, the slow build of plasma image and newspaper and magazine photograph, the rising leafstorm of banners and newsflashes not only made any error impossible to rectify, they made errors the truth, the truth became of no consequence, and the world a hell for those whom it randomly chose to persecute." (Unknown Terrorist 290)

In the current and increasing state of globalization, the world has unified into a single gaze that views events through a media that circulates information immediately, constantly, and ubiquitously. Richard Flanagan examines how the media picks and chooses how and who to focus the gaze upon, creating a story out of a person's life that may or may not involve the truth. Either way, the story becomes reality, shaping public imagination around a constructed idea. Can or does this amount to terrorism? It may be a bomb of sorts, at least Paul Virilio would describe it as such. Does it function as a spectacle, ala terrorism? Or does it have distinctly different qualities? With regard to Flanagan's passage above, what do we call our propensity for information?

29 comments:

John Collins said...

I think that some of the things that the media does (manipulating facts, fabricating complete stories, victimizing innocent people etc.) is similar to terrorism in some respects. Although the media does not participate in the physical aspects of terrorism like bombings and kidnappings I think the media can have the same effect as a terrorist act. I believe the first day of class someone pointed out that the real power of terrorism is not the damage caused in attacks, but rather the fear it generates among a group of people. Following 9/11 news anchors did little to reassure people that they were safe, but instead created a world that was dangerous and chaotic. We were force-fed images of possible terrorists and likely bombing targets, the warning levels were constantly raised to orange and red, and politicians preached wartime rhetoric. All of these amount to the media making a spetacle of current events. Although it's not done in the same way, the media does have the ability to incite fear in people like terrorism which I feel makes the two similar.

In regards to Flanagan's passage, I think people like to be told what is real and what isn't, who's the good guys and who's bad guys, because it makes life much more simplistic and easier to handle. However, as Flanagan points out the information we are receiving is not always the truth and the media has the ability to demonize anyone, like it did to the Doll in the book.

op.3no.2 said...

Sorry to deviate from the passage so soon, but I want to comment on our discussion in class today.
I'm afraid our class shows religious bias in their interpretation of the work. I don't think Flanagan is Christian. In fact I don't think he's religious at all. I am convinced of this from the first two pages. As a non-religious person myself, when I read the first two pages, I was not shocked or offended; in fact I thought it was wonderful, thoughtful writing and it seemed a great way to start off a work of ideas. It seemed the genuine thougts of a non-religious person on religion. Having said this, the Doll is probably not Jesus. Richard Cody is Jesus. The Doll is Nietzsche. See it from the view of a non-religious person. Why would the Doll be Jesus? The Doll didn't make up stories about heaven and hell, but Richard Cody did. He made up stories about the Doll. He made her 'Satan.' He made the government seem great. The government is 'God.' Richard Cody believed in what he was doing. He believed that he was the voice of good. He detested the rich and petty. He died in the place called the 'Cross' and he was killed by the Doll - "God is dead." Nietzsche 'killed' God/Jesus/religion.
Now, seeing it from this perspective, what is Flanagan saying? He is saying that both Jesus and Nietzsche wanted love - they're both noble in that sense - but neither of them will survive for the same reason. Love is not enough, and if you believe in it too much you will become unrealistic, and also have to invent more hate to counterbalance the love; similarly if you don't believe in it at all, but you want it very badly, you will become the classic psychopath and go around in a rage of destruction. Thus, Richard Cody is killed by the hate he created, and the Doll is killed because she has become a danger to society.

John Collins said...

Wow, that is a really interesting viewpoint on the book and one I never would have thought of. I can see some validity in the connection between the Doll and Nietzsche because she does in fact represent many of the things that are wrong in society (objectifying women, sex and drug addictions, terrorism) and the vices that she participates in can be seen as destroying religion or "killing God".

I have to disagree with your point about Richard Cody representing Jesus though. Richard Cody initially felt that he was protecting Sydney and helping the people. However, at the end of the book when he saw the Doll enter the strip club Flanagan writes that "it was this perfect, terrifying blankness that now convinced the Doll that he had never believed a word of what he had said on television, because if he had, he would have been afriad."(Unknown Terrorist 305) I think that after the "Unknown Terrorist" news special Cody felt on top of the world, but everything came crashing down when he heard the two women laughing at him and calling him "Shitcart". He realized that he hadn't changed people's opinions of him as a person and that although he had captured the people's attention for the timebeing, he realized that other than a few ratings he had not made much of an impact. Towards the end of the story I think all the convinction in his views eroded and he realized what a terrible thing he did to the Doll.

Although its not nearly as creative as your explanation, I still feel that Doll represents Jesus for a lot of the reasons that people said in class. I think Flanagan is trying to portray the media and Richard Cody as the evil that corrupted and killed the Doll and I think he subtly puts it in the last couple of pages of the book. When Cody notices the Doll, "no one said anything. Richard Cody laughed. A few laughed with him and then stopped. "Jesus," someone stammered." (Unknown Terrorist 306) I think Flanagan purposely put that in to hint that the Doll is actually representing Jesus because the response kind of seems out of place otherwise. I think the conviction and singular focus on their purpose that Cody was lacking in the very end of the book, the Doll had and acted on by essentially dying to forgive the sins of the media and all the people that tried to persecute her.

op.3no.2 said...

I appreciate your interest in my viewpoint, but I'm afraid you've misunderstood me. I did not connect the Doll to Nietzsche because Nietzsche stood for evil, no no no, that would be my last intention. Nietzsche did not support evil, immoral acts - his philosophy was simply corrupted by people that came after him. I connected the Doll to Nietzsche because they both see the failures of the world, they're both born dreamers turned scathing realists by the cruelty of the world. Now, you seem in your comment to be equating religion to good. What I'm saying is see it from the viewpoint of a non-religious person: religion is not necessarily good. This is the viewpoint I think Flanagan is writing from. Richard Cody wants to believe that he is doing everything for the greater good, that he's adding positively to society - but in reality, he's just a person like anybody else, with flaws and vices, working for ambition. Religion (any religion, not just Christianity) wants to think it's doing a lot of good, but more than a few times it's practiced by people who are just as virtuous as most people - not that virtuous. And how many people have been killed by religion? - think about it, how many wars between people happen because of difference of faith? Many religions say, "if you don't believe in this, you will go to hell." Sometimes they say, "we will help you, we'll kill you ourselves." In Flanagan's story, if government represents God and Richard Cody represents Jesus, then the story says: Richard Cody/Jesus tells the people what to think and what their values should be (anti-terrorism); government/God will kill/imprison people who go against these values (perceived terrorists). And there are mistakes, like in the Doll's case, like in the case of the Salem witch trials, like in many other cases throughout history.

John Collins said...

I'm sorry, I did not mean to twist the connections you made about the Doll and Nietzsche to him being evil or a supporter of immoral acts. I guess the similarities I drew were different from yours. I meant that Nietzsche's viewpoints (not the man himself) such as he "began to fear that what drove the world forward was all that was destructive and evil about it" were similar to how the media constructed stories about the Doll that exemplified everything that was deemed evil and destructive in society such as being a stripper, a drug junky, or a terrorist. I absolutely see where you coming from with regards to Flanagan's religious perspective and I think there is a lot in the first two pages of the book to support your viewpoint.

Sarah Jane said...

So I was reading a few of your comments and I understand that Flanagan isn't writing from a Christian perspective. On pg 1 it says "Jesus, who wanted love to such an extent, was clearly a madman, and had no choice when confronted with the failure of love but to seek his own death." This definitely isn't a Christians view on Jesus, and possibly not Flanagan’s. But I do think this is the perspective Flanagan approached the book. Now after reading that first page, which I took as the narrators definition of Jesus, it seems that Richard Cody couldn't be "Jesus" in the book. It was the doll that wanted love and went crazy because she was confronted with the failure of love with her own child. I also think that Richard Cody wasn't really seeking his own death. I think he was glorying in his power, and it was the doll that felt she had no other choice in her life and became a madwoman by actually killing after realizing she could never find love. At the same time I agree you can make a case for either one really fitting in to that version of Jesus somehow. In the end, the Doll might not fit as the so-called Christian view "Jesus", but I think that she might fit into the madwoman Jesus of the first 2 pages.

op.3no.2 said...

Nietzsche wanted love very badly. When he couldn't have it he went mad and sacrificed himself for a horse. Jesus wanted love very badly. When he couldn't have it he went mad and made up stories. Richard Cody wanted love/acclaim very badly. When he couldn't have it he made up stories to get it. The Doll wanted love very badly. When she couldn't have it she went mad, killed Richard Cody, and sacrificed herself for the whores, the workhorses of her age. That is how I read the book.

CAH said...

The Media and Terrorism-Is what killed the doll basic to human nature? Fear of the unknown and powerlessness? Is the media just a "monger out of hell" itself when it comes to purveying lies and gossip that is unfounded? CAH

On PTSD regarding the Spectacular aspect of tramua-as I said we need a scale of 1 to 10 from functional to dysfunctional. After we make our list of spectacular traumas ranging from being shot to massacres, such spectacles as "The Challenger, & 9-11-- Graph where they intersect we can determine each case on an ethical basis for courts of law & disability, review boards would be able to use this type of data to help the public & the professional person cope with PTSD. Our Prof is trying to help us get a perspective on a current social problem. CAH

KLamm said...
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KLamm said...

aAll the comments about the relationship between the characters and Jesus/Neitzsche are amazing. I completely agreed with our class discussion that the Doll was Jesus, but after reading these comments, my opinion has changed. For me, the idea of Richard Cody as Jesus makes more sense in the context of how Flanagan started out his book. Something that really struck me in the first page was the statement that Jesus "had to invent Hell" and he "created a god". From a Christian perspective, this was opposite of what I believed. Jesus was not the creator, but he was created by God to save mankind. From this perspective, I can definitely see how the Doll could be Jesus in a sense that she was condemned and basically sentenced to die by a community. The idea of the Doll "going to the Cross" (pg 296) and the image of blood running down her head are all very Christian ideas. However, in the context of the first two pages, I agree with the argument that Richard Cody was Jesus and the Doll was Nietzsche. The Doll did not "invent" or "create" anyone. Cody did. In the final pages of the book, the Doll used to last bit of her coke and one could argue that by doing this she went insane, like Nietzsche. She willingly went to a place where she knew people would be watching for her, and she knew that people wanted to kill her. She sacrificed herself like Nietzsche did for the horse. The only discrepancy I see in this argument is that Richard Cody did not "seek his own death" as Flanagan states that Jesus did. He seemed almost pompous and all-powerful, stating, "Well, look who's here," and "If it isn't the unknown terrorist," when the Doll entered the strip club. I don't really see any sense of self-sacrifice in Cody's character at this point.

P.S. I'm not trying to ignore your post, CAH. I had already thought a lot about the previous comments before I saw yours!

yanks4life10 said...

In regards to this passage i think we can bring it back to what was said in class yesterday about how power is knowledge. Richard Cody had all of the knowledge about the doll when he first saw the picture of her therefore dictated how she was portrayed. The people did not know her or were ignorant about her situation therefore had to conform to what the media told them.
Also, in regards to the biblical sense, could you not say that terrorism in general is the jesus figure.. not by their actions or statements but the way the media portrays it. Jesus was feared when he performed miracles and other things people had never seen. Just like the way the media construed the doll (my representation of terrorism) people were fearful of her therefore casting her out of society and ultimately leading her to her death. My question is, why did Flannigan conform to all what the public saw her for at the end? By her killing Cody she gave in to all that society saw her as and never received redemption.

CAH said...

Personally, I think the story line for the Doll and the imagery for the blood sacrifice are there in the literature as a parallel I haven't examined very closely but it would make an excellent subject for paper. I agree that it is a shame that the Doll did not rise above the norm in the book and come out on top--Would that even happen to 10% of the population in real life. CAH

CAH said...

I was releived that the Doll was killed by accident. The life she was living was in a "downward spiral" becomming emotionally vacant. I don't think she wanted that. If she wouldn't have died in the club that day, an overdose would have been the next think on the menu. CAH

callie grace said...
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callie grace said...

A downward spiral of emotion... similar to the downward spiral of dancing the Doll was forced to preform for society's so called 'gentlemen' from the stage at The Chairman's Lounge. Dancing should be a way of the body expressing passion, individuality, and love.

But the Doll cannot dance like this, for the media has told her, taught her that there is a specific type of dance that will fill her desires--a dance that is taught and preformed routinely. Conforming to medias constructed definition of what it is to dance in a desiring manner, Doll is stripped of the emotion, passion, and individuality felt when one dances.

Being robbed of this joy is yet another example of the Doll's fall into her black hole of emotion that increases in intensity as it is fed by fear of living outside the boundaries set by the media.

Wilder is portrayed on page 63 dancing in the parade... she is fascinating to the Doll and is sexier than when dancing with the intent of being sexy. But the Doll recites that "the one thing you never dared dance was yourself" (flannagan 63). Dance as the world wants you to dance. Feel as the world wants you to feel.

Mario said...

I agree with CAH's post. I was also relieved when Doll was accidentaly shot because her life was on a downward spiral, and I believe it actually started when her baby was born dead and not with the media showing her as a terroist.

She was always able to come back from difficulties in her life, but after the baby she was never herself again and we see that in the book. In her death was the only time she was truly "starting over." She avoided what would have sure been a horrible trial where her verdict was decided when she slept with Tariq and the media created their own story about her.

Mario said...
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CAH said...

"Downward spiral"-emotionally, what I am saying is that the probablity for her death by suicide, if nothing else interferes, no other form of death. She might even become "homeless" and then die if she was no longer recognizes. Basically, the Richard Corley sealed her doom with his treatment of her in the media. Thanks for all you comments, they are very interesting. CAH

John Collins said...

One thing I found a little dissapointing in the book, and hopefully someone could clarify why Flanagan chose it, was the last time that the Doll encountered the homeless man wearing the bomber jacket. After the second time she passed by a homeless person I thought that she came to the realization that she was not all that different from him and felt sympathy towards him. During the last encounter I was almost sure she was going to come to the defense of the homeless man getting beaten up and that was how someone would find out she was the suspected terrorist. Instead, the Doll just walked by completely indifferent to the way the homeless man in the bomber jacket was being treated. I just thought it was a big letdown.

Dillon said...

*** I put this comment on the wrong topic, so I'm trying to fix it now*****

These posts have been so interesting to read! Everyone’s personal beliefs are being represented from their interpretation of this book. You have one person’s opinion that the Doll is Nieche and others believe that the doll is Jesus, others believe that the doll represents both etc. I am glad to see that there are some more secularist opinions in the class (I’m in that boat as well), and I would like to make the point from this “interpreting of the book”: we are pretty much the same when speaking of our beliefs. We all have beliefs about what this book is about, and that one person’s belief is not “more religious” than someone else’s. Everyone has a theory and that is their religion. Saying one person is more religious is silly; the real issue is everyone has equally different interpretations of this book and that parallels people’s beliefs about religion.

So here is MY interpretation of the symbolism in the book:

God is Nature. God is the beach. He brought the Doll and the guy together by fate.

Richard Cody is a social construct. He was the culmination of fear. His job was saved because fear existed. Richard Cody controls the city with fear. Social construct is different than God. If anything, they may be completely opposite are at odds.

The Doll was the sacrifice created by Richard Cody, the culmination of fear. Her sacrifice is reminiscent of Jesus. In my opinion, Jesus was sought after. The world new he was going to come because fear was all that was driving the world before he came. The world needed him. He came and the fear was eliminated through his sacrifice. This is what I also see with the Doll. The Doll was God’s answer to the social construct of fear so he put the Doll together with Tariq in the ocean.

In the end, the entire plot was controlled by fate, God, nature, whatever you want to call it where the Doll was sacrificed to create change.

Mario said...

john i think what he was trying to do was give the reader hope and then take it away in the same way that doll was so hopeful that someone would help her but in the end never did

jtjohnson2009 said...

or how the doll was hopeful to better her life via the money she saved and then got it all taken away from her.

blfreemyer said...

I agree because I think that the Doll was hopeful and believed that all problems, including her's, could be solved with money. "And as money had once been the solution to her life, now it would be the solution to her problem. With my money I can buy my way out of this" (Flanagan 168). Once her money was gone it seemed that her hope seemed to disappear too.

KLamm said...

This is a little late, but as I was going back through this book to do research for my paper, I found this that really caught my eye.

"After all, every new attempt at a new life... she now saw was just a different way of agreeing with that very power that was now turned on her. On her, who had always agreed that those who were judged as evil were indeed evil. On her, who had never questioned the right of those who made the judgements to be the judges!" pg.291

I think this passage perfectly shows the effect that media can have on people and how it can act as terrorism. A terrorist act is one that makes a statement, that tries to make people believe a certain way. In this passage, the Doll is saying that she succumbed to the media's attempt to getting her to think like they did. She did not question, she did not doubt or analyze. She just agreed and as a consequence allowed the media's beliefs to become her beliefs. I think Flanagan is trying to make a statement that we should all take information with a grain of salt. Question everything, be educated, and never stop trying to learn.

JE said...

I believe that the media is the reason why we are all conflicted with the good and bad of the world. I am not going to say that community does not have influence, but I feel that the mass production of a bias opinion feeds the world BS that has no real meaning.

JE said...

Klamm, I agree with your thoughts. I truly feel that the media encourages the issues behind terrorism and it is the force that drives the brain behind the madness. We often see the negatives of life daily on the news channels. This feeds into our minds and causes and effect. The problem with the media is that it allows these worries and issues to live in our minds. If we think a certain way, we will live that way. The media drives the world into a state of fear and shock.

CAH said...

The Media of Today-a response--seems to have more power than in the past. I don't believe that objective reporting is necessarily their goal at this time. I value freedom of speech more than objective reporting, but I feel that is one of the problems in today's world--the media construct needs an attitude adjustment. CAH

madel09 said...

I agree callie. I feel that freedom of speech is very important and it was one of the founding ideals of this country but we need to get back to a balance, which is what i think you were getting at where reporters and journalists are not hindered by censorship but we, the public are getting the facts and getting the truth of the story before it is aired or printed

CAH said...

Freedom of speech--it has been that Editorials were set aside or commentary sections were established for opinions. The media is more biased in reporting than in the past--for the most part. I'm not certain why that seems to be. Something has happened in the competition of media, ownership of the stations or in society that has changed the direction of reporting. There are not as many "happy campers" as there were more than a decade ago. If anything there have been too many changes in protocol everywhere to suit me. One of them has been the use of digitized answering telephone answering programs--an abrasive to society--scouring our sensitivites with a "closed door" policy to patrons who used to be welcomed in businesses. They are outmoded and should be ditched in favor of email if there is not a human around to take the call. Again, I said business places not the government. They don't seem to be abusing their automated answering systems the way the healthcare companies are. Just one of the changes on the list that have assaulted society with a "no comfy zone." We just don't have it anymore when it comes to "politeness." So yes, the freedoms don't need to be tampered with while we recover from our bout of social insanity where we think that a machine can take a human's place. CAH