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“You Back the Attack! We’ll Bomb Who We Want!” A Collection of Remixed War Posters

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Airborne Ranger-turned-cartoonist Micah Ian Wright puts a new spin on old war posters as he takes on the media and military propaganda.

Hermann Göring at his Nuremberg trial in 1946 said, “Naturally, the common people don’t want war … but, after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a communist dictatorship. … Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

This quote by Hermann Göring is published on the first page of Micah Wright’s new book of remixed war posters. “You Back the Attack! We’ll Bomb Who We Want!” has just been published by Seven Stories Press.

After spending four years as an Airborne Ranger in the U.S. Army, Micah Wright moved on to the next logical step in his career: writing children’s animation.

Upon earning a degree in political science and creative writing from the University of Arizona, Micah relocated to Los Angeles and began writing at Nickelodeon Animation, where he wrote for Nicktoons’ “The Angry Beavers.” That animation was nominated for an Emmy and an Annie Award. He is also the creator of the first true American anime show, “Constant Payne,” and is co-creator of the acclaimed “Chet Thunderhead: Private Eye” animated series.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: And you are listening to Democracy Now! In a few minutes, we’re going to look at a report in the Financial Times about how the U.S. abandoned the U.N. in January, deciding on war well before they told the American people, at a time when they were telling the American people that war was a last resort. We’ll be going to him.

But first we turn to a former Army Ranger who has — who was in Panama, who has spent his last years doing something interesting, and that is putting together a book of war posters.

Hermann Göring, at his Nuremberg trial in 1946, said, “Naturally, the common people don’t want war … but, after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a communist dictatorship. … Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

This quote by Hermann Göring is published on the first page of Micah Wright’s new book of remixed war posters called You Back the Attack! We’ll Bomb Who We Want! It’s published by Seven Stories Press.

After spending four years invading other countries as an Airborne Ranger in the U.S. Army, Micah Wright moved on to the next logical step in his career: writing children’s animation. Upon earning a degree in political science and creative writing from the University of Arizona, Micah relocated to Los Angeles and began writing at Nickelodeon Animation, where he wrote for Nicktoons’ The Angry Beavers, which was nominated for an Emmy and an Annie Award. He’s also the creator of the first true American anime show, Constant Payne, and is co-creator of the acclaimed Chet Thunderhead: Private Eye animated series.

So, why, Micah Wright, did you do this book of remixed war posters? And what do you mean by “remixed”?

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: Well, what do I mean by “remixed”? They’re actually old World War II posters that I’ve repainted and taken out the old text and put in new text. You know, for an image that used to say something along the lines of, you know, “Have you really tried to save gas by joining a car club?” I’ve changed the image — I’ve changed the words to “The more gas your SUV uses, the more foreigners I have to kill.” The image is of a U.S. Army soldier, bleeding from his forehead wound, which I think is kind of shocking. You would never see that in any sort of, like, Pentagon press briefing today, you know, the bloody soldiers. They try to hide all of those details from us these days.

AMY GOODMAN: And then you have, on the back of your book, a poster of a U.S. soldier in full combat gear with helmet, and he is throwing a grenade. And the quote is, “What the [expletive] am I doing here? I only joined up for the college money.”

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: Yeah, that’s actually my favorite poster I think I’ve ever done, because that’s literally me, that — you know, that guy right there. That’s me. I joined the Army to pay for college. And it did pay for college. And, you know, at the end of the day, it was a very Faustian bargain that I did not — I did not feel comfortable with at the end of it.

AMY GOODMAN: When did you join?

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: 1987.

AMY GOODMAN: And when did you go to college?

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: 1991, so four years.

AMY GOODMAN: And during that time, what did you do?

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: I was an Airborne Ranger. I lived a life of danger. That’s a jody call, sorry, you know, things we’d say when we march around. You know, the Rangers are the first to fight in the United States Army. When we invaded Panama, we took out their their primary air force base, just demolished it, and then spread throughout the country looking for Noriega, looking for his personal bodyguards, you know, his — it seems like all these dictators always have their special military units. And we spread throughout the country looking for them. And then we, you know, kind of wound up back in Panama City just in time to watch it burn to the ground. So…

AMY GOODMAN: What effect did that have on you? What happened in the city?

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: Well, you know, when you’re jumping out of a plane, and there’s people shooting at you, and you’re in a parachute, and you get to the ground, you don’t feel real bad about shooting back at them. But, you know, when you’re standing on a street corner and you’re watching 80,000 people flee a fire, and they’re dragging their two kids and their television set behind them, it gets kind of — it kind of brings it home that, you know, what the United States does overseas is not exactly all fun and games, and it’s not always aimed at the people who are responsible.

I mean, you know, there was a slum in Panama called El Chorrillo, and we bombed their version of the Pentagon, a place called the Comandancia. And the fire spread from the Comandancia into a slum. It was just a built-up huge slum with no fire safety and no, you know, modern building standards. And it just fire raged for three days and burned to the ground and left 80,000 people homeless and killed countless numbers of people in the fire itself, and, you know, just created this immense refugee crisis, that we were completely ill-prepared to deal with, because, you know, again, we’re trained to kill, not to take care of people.

And you see the same thing happening now in Iraq. You know, you have a military structure which ignored every possible warning that they had that they would be facing a massive civilian catastrophe, and they didn’t put any extra military police units in. They didn’t have anywhere near enough boots on the ground to make sure that they didn’t have the rioting. And, you know, they willfully refuse to learn from the past invasions and from the past lessons of their wars.

AMY GOODMAN: In Panama, where were you when Chorrillo was burning down?

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: Well, when the fire started, I was actually still at Río Hato. And then, when it was winding down, I was in Panama City.

AMY GOODMAN: And what were other soldiers saying, other Rangers? Were you alone in your feelings?

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: No, I don’t think I was. I think I’ve always been a lot more outspoken about the way I feel about things, but I know a lot of people were just sitting there watching that and just shaking their heads and just going, you know, “What’s the point of this?” And it’s a war on civilians. And whether or not it was an accident, which many people say it was, or not, it doesn’t matter. I mean, still, the end of the day, there’s tons of people dead, and there’s, you know, thousands, tens of thousands of people out of their house.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to break for 60 seconds.

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: Sure.

AMY GOODMAN: When we come back, I want to ask you about some of the posters that you’ve done, and also about the effect of media consolidation on your work.

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: Oh, yeah, sure.

AMY GOODMAN: So, folks, stay with us. We’re talking to Micah Ian Wright. His book is You Back the Attack! We’ll Bomb Who We Want!, remixed war propaganda by Micah Wright. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “I’d Go Anywhere to Fight for Oil to Lubricate the Red, White & Blue,” Dana Lyons, here on Democracy Now!, The War and Peace Report. Our guest is Micah Wright, who was an Army Ranger, fought in Panama, and went to college as a result of his enlisting, and now has second thoughts. The picture on the back of his book is, for you just joining us, he said, is the one that best depicts him. “What the … am I doing here?” a man, a soldier throwing a grenade. “I only joined up for the college money.” What about the quote that you have of Hermann Göring?

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: Oh, yeah, no, I mean, it’s kind of horrifying that you’re actually quoting a Nazi. And yet what he says is so — it’s so — it’s so amazingly true. And, you know, you saw that the Nazis did it themselves. You know, the Reichstag fire, whether it was started by a communist or whether it was started by the Nazi Party is yet still not to be cleared up, from what I understand. And yet they used that to push through a whole series of laws, giving themselves essentially unchallenged power over every aspect of German culture.

And you see the same thing today with PATRIOT Act and PATRIOT Act II. It’s happening in this country. And everyone — it’s so easy to say. Everyone always says, “Oh, you know, Bush is a Nazi,” or whatever. And I don’t think he’s a Nazi. I just think he’s a fascist.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at page 50 of your book. Maybe you can describe your poster.

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: Oh, yeah, it’s — in this one, actually, I didn’t actually have to change many of the words. It says, “It can happen here,” and there’s a photo of a house, and it’s all burned to the ground and bombed out. And there’s, you know, 1942, Sudan, and it’s all smashed and toppled, and the brick chimney has collapsed. And it says, “Someone could do to us what we did to Afghanistan, unless we kill them all first.” And the original text said something like, “It can happen here. So make sure you make a lot of guns and bombs, you know, for the soldiers,” or something like that.

But, yeah, I mean, just the idea that, you know, it can happen here. It did happen here. I mean, 9/11 did happen here. But, you know, Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with that. And people seem to have completely bought into this whole, you know, Fox News-Bush administration spin that Iraq was responsible for 9/11. And again, that’s, you know, going back to the theme of propaganda. That’s just modern propaganda. You know, Bush mentions 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, 9/11 and Iraq in the same sentence any number of times. He never says, “Saddam did 9/11.” But, you know, what, 72% of the American public now believe that Saddam was responsible for 9/11? That’s an astounding number. It’s a disgusting number. And yet, the spin has worked, the modern propaganda. I mean, you know, it’s advanced a little bit since the 1940s. It’s no longer posters. Now it’s moving posters, you know, Fox News.

AMY GOODMAN: Page 40, a picture of a man, and his daughter and son are sitting next to him. He’s reading to them. And you have the daughter saying to the father, “Daddy, why don’t you or any of your friends from Enron have to go to war?”

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: Yeah, that’s a very famous recruiting poster. It’s one of the most effective recruiting posters of World War I. It was a British poster. It was painted by an artist named Savile Lumley. And it is — the original text was, “Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?” And, you know, he’s like very uncomfortably, like, kind of pulling at his collar like, “Uh, well, uh.” And so, the impression there is, you know, your children are going to ask why you were such a coward when it came to wartime.

AMY GOODMAN: What about media consolidation. You’re a cartoonist, too.

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Or animator. We’re talking to Micah Wright. We are seeing on June 2nd, the FCC is expected to rule, led by Michael Powell, son of Colin Powell, on a relaxation of media rules, which will allow the further consolidation of media. How does that affect you?

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: Well, I mean, in a number of ways it’s already affected me. The 1996 Telecommunications Deregulation Act began a huge wave of mergers that collapsed the number of producers of television and film into — you know, what? They say it’s like eight companies now pretty much run every channel on cable television. And that’s expected to reduce even further after this next wave of deregulation on June 2nd. And we went from, you know, several tens of — yo know, almost 20 producers of animated programming to now there’s only about four. You have AOL-Time Warner, who owns Cartoon Channel, Boomerang, Kids WB. And then you have, you know, Disney, who owns Disney and ABC. And you have Universal Vivendi. And you have — and that’s pretty much about it right now. There’s not many — oh, I’m sorry, Viacom, of course, my old employers, who own MTV, MTV Animation, TNN, and soon to be renamed Spike TV for some reason, and Nickelodeon.

And when I was working at Nickelodeon, actually, the WGA, the Writers Guild of America, the union that covers writers, came to us, and they said, “Well, are you guys covered?” And we said, “Well, no, we don’t have a union. We don’t have any union coverage.” And they said, “Well, if you look at what your live-action contemporaries make, they make, you know, hundreds of thousands more for the same amount of work that you’re doing. And your work actually is more profitable for the corporations.” And so, we thought about it, and almost to a person, we all signed a union card. And then Nickelodeon fired us all, which is, you know, illegal. They claimed it was layoffs. They claimed it was, you know, “Oh, we just happened to be ending this this show all of a sudden, you know, three weeks after you all signed your union card.”

But yeah, the WGA appealed to the National Labor Relations Board, and it basically went nowhere, because, you know, you have a Bush appointee at the head of the National Labor Relations Board. And there are a lot of very questionable things that happened. You know, the NLRB came out and interrogated people with a representative of the company there — I mean, which is, again, you know, totally against federal law. I mean, there was just like all these things that just happened.

And as a result, not only did we — we never got our election. You know, you’re supposed to — you sign your union card, you’re supposed to have an election, and if you win the election, then you’re a union house. We never got an election. And in addition, like, I think 19 writers were laid off, out of a total of like 25, and the ones who didn’t get laid off, you know, just coincidentally, were the ones who didn’t sign union cards. And like five of us were blacklisted. We can’t — like, I can’t get a job writing an animation right now. It’s just — it’s not happening.

I had my — the composer for one of my shows was at Universal, and he was having a meeting with an executive. And she said, “Oh, did you do the music for this Constant Payne show?” And he said, “Yeah, yeah. You know, it’s really great. It’s this sort of jazzy thing.” And she said, “Oh, you want to take that off your résumé.” And he was like, “What do you mean?” And she said, “Well, yeah, this guy, the word’s out on him. No one’s going to hire him ever again, and you don’t want to be sullied by being associated with him.”

AMY GOODMAN: Well, your —

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: And it’s easy to do, because it’s only three calls now, you know? You call Universal, you call AOL-Time Warner, and you call Viacom, and, you know, you’ve pretty much blacklisted somebody out of the animation industry.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you’re not blacklisted in at least independent bookstores.

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: Yeah, no, no. And, you know, what’s funny is I’m actually writing a comic book, a monthly comic book, for AOL-Time Warner. So…

AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Micah Ian Wright, and I want to thank you very much for being with us.

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: The book, You Back the Attack! We’ll Bomb Who We Want!: Remixed War Propaganda, with a foreword by Kurt Vonnegut, an introduction by Howard Zinn, commentary by the Center for Constitutional Rights, and it is published by an independent, by Seven Stories Press. Thank you so much.

MICAH IAN WRIGHT: Thank you.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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