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Jaffe's subject in Terror-Dot-Gov ...
Jaffe's subject in Terror-Dot-Gov is not the everywhere-represented "illicit" terrorism so much as "licit," institutionalized terrorism, and he assaults his subject from multiple angles: razor-sharp satire, precisely cadenced rhetoric, faux-reportage, and "unsituated" dialogues (Jaffe's term, referring to his trademark talking heads with perfect pitch). The result is virtuosic and paradoxical: a prodigious display of firepower-in the cause of peace.
Posted February 20, 2006
To read Harold Jaffe's pieces as a commentary on or critique of the war on terrorism is to under-read him, as Beckett was misread as being 'symbolic' or Swift as a fantasist. Just as Swift made an ostensible target of the Irish in his 'Modest Proposal' while actually targeting the bigotry of the English, so too does Jaffe construct a triadic argument. The ostensible target this time may be the war on terror, but the true target hiding behind the straw man is the reader. Jaffe reveals imbedded assumptions in the language of these docufictions and in so doing betrays the lack of objectivity in news texts and reports as we receive them. He points his pen at us and shows us how complicitous we have been in committing the atrocities he describes. We may revile the media's displays of violence and feign shock, but we are always willing to stand in line to pay the price of admission. In 'Behead,' for example, the beheading of Brent Marshall is described as not going very smoothly 'because of Marshall's exceptionally thick neck.' Thus the brutality of the slaying is blamed on Marshall, a Virginia 'thick-neck' of the type we have learned to feel less compassion for over the years because a thick neck represents a 'dumb jock,' 'a red neck,' 'a hick.' 'Big as an ox' means 'dumb as an ox,' as we conflate clichés to get there. In 'Pizza Cannibal,' one character says, 'I just couldn't believe this guy [Salt Brumley] could have done something to bring out the feds.' Brumley is described as a 'homely bachelor' with 'stick-out ears, large flat feet, cleft palate, and low IQ,' and the first three attributes are taken as personality issues: people with stick-out ears and large flat feet are routinely made fun of as being 'stupid' in our society (see Li'l Abner), and are generally considered too 'simple' to be harmful. In the same story, Jaffe challenges us liberals to look at our own smug intellectual superiority--would we who uphold that what goes on between consenting adults in the privacy of their bedrooms is perfectly acceptable include mutually agreed-upon murder and cannibalism? Or are we liberal only up to a point? What point? Why? Caveat Emptor? The dialogue in 'Trader Joe's' contains pure consumer speak. Where would conversations go nowadays without consumerism? Would we have anything to say to one another if we lost our retail chains and baseball scores? Even references to Pinochet and suicide bombs are dropped into conversations because of their impact on Chilean wines and Home Depot. My favorite of these docufictions, the one that really got me involved, is 'White Terror.' This is presented as a game, with the key refrain being, 'Who would you bomb in that one?' Scenarios are given to us, such as how one of Queen Elizabeth's corgis was bitten by a terrier belonging to the daughter. Who would you bomb? The respondent is told the dogs are named Raj and Dottie, but even after knowing which dog was which, the respondent still assumes that Raj was the terrier. He assumes the violent one has the Eastern name. Assumptions such as these are at the heart of the book. Jaffe challenges the reader with disquieting juxtapositions and multiple versions of the same story. 'Which is true?' we might ask. Can we ever know, even if we are 'told' by media or government that one version is true? Of course not--all we get is filtered versions whose points of view and choices of diction reveal deep-seated biases. Look, for example, at the different descriptions of a group of dogs in the six alternate versions of a canine attack in 'Revolt Wives.' The dogs are described as a 'lumpen,' a 'Gestapo,' a 'kasbah,' a 'death row,' a 'Bentustan,' a 'Gaza' of frenzied dogs--each term, of course, associated with death and abuse but carrying with it so many different connotations that they alternate versions of the scenarios are immediatley colored by that word choice. This is Jaffe's brilliance: he shows us how language has been used against us as a weapon, and he chWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 14, 2005
How can 'fiction' precisely document the inhumanity of war and maintain its esthetic value? Jaffe accomplishes the impossible in Terror-Dot- Gov, a must-read by a master of his craft.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 23, 2005
Posted April 30, 2005
Author Harold Jaffe out does all others in this brilliant collection of ¿docufictions¿ that exposes hypocrisy on both sides of the wall. Embedded firmly in each of these strategically architected stories is a graphic elegance that is complexly combined with a new revolutionary consciousness. The skill with which the author handles such serious subject matter resonates with his razor-sharp wit and high-beamed laser critique aimed directly at the target. Jaffe¿s teasing investigation of media absurdity in ¿15 Serial Killers¿ goes a step further with ¿Terror-Dot- Gov.¿ Here, Jaffe¿s ¿treatment¿ of what could be considered ¿real¿ and what consists of media implanted fiction is mixed together in a intricate recipe of artful daring.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.