killing denouement

glamming up the IDF

Is this the new face of war? It’s no secret that the Israeli Defense Forces could probably do with a PR boost these days. Their solution? A new glammed up self-refreshing banner on their english language website, featuring a slew of sexy soldier femme-fatale types, smiling and pouting at the camera, sometimes in fields of red flowers. Some of them look almost editorial, replete with artfully smudged warpaint, and the kind of careful dustings of grainy sand that you most often find in swimwear shoots. The image above is particularly striking, with its sweeping bullets and row of machine gun ammunition. Out of context, I would personally find it very difficult to identify the bullets as anything but jumbo crayon oversized sticks of kohl, perhaps the shimmery highlight kind. Sex sells, sure, but can it really sell occupation and massacre?

Haaretz, an Israeli daily newspaper, has more on the above. Yet as I first learnt from the Exploited, sex and violence go hand in hand together. Even when not explicitly sexualised, the act of waging war can be seen as a channeling of inner violent urges; ones that seem inextricably linked to sexuality and domination. (For more on this, check out Klaus Theweleit’s incredible accounts of fascistic violence in Male Fantasies). With regards to art and the aesthetics of war however, a phrase from Michael Taussig proves particularly apt -that War is the pornography of an unfortunate situation. Sex thus serves to glamourise war, and even lend it an aspirational air – something the IDF’s new campaign is working pretty effectively.

Now when I think of war and femme fatales, the infamous Dutch courtesan, exotic dancer and spy, Mata Hari of WWI comes to mind. Later to be immortalised in the eponymous 1931 film starring Greta Garbo, she was executed by firing squad in 1917. Most fascinating, though are the psychological propaganda campaigns by different countries during WWII, as analysed by psychologist Herbert A. Friedman (nb some of these are fairly explicit). Especially the breakdown by country – it seems the Italians and Japanese were among the most graphic and prolific, while the British issued only three leaflets – I wonder if there’s something to be said for that?

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