Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Che Guevara, saint of the hip, cool and groovy

Wretchard analyzes the myth of this Communist thug:

Che Guevara is a testament to the power of a media symbol. As a purely military force he was negligible. As an organizing force and agitator of Bolivians he was an abject failure. But as an international Marxist symbol and poster-boy Che was eminently successful. Millions of people have worn his likeness on a T-shirt believing that he was a brilliant revolutionary and guerilla when in fact he was neither. But that would be missing the point. Guevara was the prototypical example of the triumph of image over reality. What did it matter if he wrote nothing of lasting ideological value? What did it matter if he was a comparative military failure? He was a surpassing public relations success and that made up for everything else. The power of Che lay not in his M2 carbine, which was shot out of his hands by the Bolivian Rangers. It lay in his beard, beret and his photogenic camera angles. Long before the word "spin" came into common usage Guevara was all spin -- a spin which will outlast the memory of those who defeated and slew him.

Though he died nearly forty years ago Che, from a media perspective, is thoroughly modern. He is so modern it would be possible to argue that both Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab Zarqawi are simple extensions of his great archetype. Zarqawi, for example, is by almost any measure a complete military failure unless one counts massacring women and children as some kind of martial accomplishment. Zarqawi is even incapable of clearing a stoppage from a light machinegun he fires on video. But no matter, because it is the video not the machinegun which is the real weapon. It is the T-shirt graphic not the man depicted on the T-shirt which is important. News no longer describes war; it is war which inscribes news.

Trying to get this through the head of a true believer is like denying the existence of Jesus, Santa Claus, Mother Teresa, and the Easter bunny. The left have too much invested in Che.

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