Performance, Politicians, and War: Selling Iraq in the Culture War

David Williams


‘Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?’ (Joseph Stalin, as cited in Law, 2006: vi)

‘[T]he battle for Iraq is now central to the ideological struggle of the 21st Century […] We will not allow the terrorists to dictate the future of the 21st Century.’ (George W. Bush, as cited in Memmott, 2006)

In his book Welcome to the Desert of the Real (2002), Slavoj Zizek posits that Western liberal democracies throughout the 1990s operated under the illusion that politics had become only ‘the art of expert administration, that is […] politics without politics’ (Zizek, 2002: 11), and that this illusion was shattered by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As the above epigraph suggests, overt ideological conflict is now clearly a key feature of the public work of politics. It is notable that this ‘ideological struggle’, this battle for ideas, is taking as its central battleground an ongoing military conflict occurring at a significant physical distance from the overwhelming majority of those engaged in the ideological struggle within Australia and the United States.

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