Iraqi Campaign Posters

As many of you know, the parliamentary elections in Iraq are underway.  Take a look at some of the election posters currently plastering the streets of Baghdad; just a small sampling of the 6000 candidates vying for 325 seats in the Iraqi parliament.  Pay particular attention to the iconography on the posters; which is significantly less subtle than the images used in today’s American political campaigns.  As always, we welcome any comments.

Poster #1

United Iraqi Coalition

List #348 Sequence 2

“Your future is in our hands”

Dr. Mahmoud Mashadani (Former Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament)

Moderation, Clarity, Honesty, Courage
poster #2

The Iraqi Party for the Victory of Independent Disadvantaged People

We will compromise on the salary of the parliament…

List #313

Mohammed Shirhan al-Rubaie

number 3

COA-Iraqi Unity-LITION

List #348

Our god is one
Iraq is one
Our destiny is one

Dr. Sabad Abd al-Rasul al-Tamimi
Professor of International Economics at the College of Political Science
at al-Nahrain University.
number 4

I see with your eyes
And speak with your voice
List 333/133
Iraqiya

number 5

List 333
For the courageous
Iraqiya

(The picture is of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, the head of the Iraqiya list)

number 6

Your independence is our project
Vote for change
Iraqi National Coalition List #316

(The picture is of Iraqi National Coalition List candidate Hussein
al-Mahrabbi al-Tammimi)

number 7

Iraqi National Coalition List #316
Elect Independent Candidate Hana Hana Ibrahim Al-Khafaji Sequence 121
Build  our country by the strengthening the economy

number 8

We will make them accountable… and with your voice (vote) we will
prosecute them.

Iraqi National Coalition, Sheikh Sabah As-Sadi (Chair of theIraqi Paliament’s Integrity (Anti-Corruption) Committee)

number 9

Ibrahim Al-Ja’fri (Former Iraqi Prime Minister)
Our Task of Reconciliation
Iraqi National Coalition List # 316

Our translators were unsure about the significance of the clock; they thought that maybe it was to remind people what time the polls open on election day.

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Dance, Dance… Revolution?!?

Who says revolutionary struggle can’t be fun? Not Colombia’s FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army).  Latin America’s longest running militant Communist revolutionary organization hadn’t been having the best of luck, what with the rescue of Ingrid Betancourt and the death of the group’s leader, Manuel Marulanda. The long years of wandering in the jungles, despite the FARC’s impressive record of kidnapping and sowing chaos, hadn’t brought Marulanda’s cadres any closer to taking Bogota and power. The FARC needed recruits and new wind in its sails.

How did the group plan to do this? More bombings? More kidnappings? Asking for help from Chavez’s sympathetic socialist Venezuela? No. Instead, the FARC chose to reach out to its would-be new recruits in a much more cunning and indirect way: by making a smash hit dance record.  Before dying, Marulanda set his senior commanders a bizarre task better suited for Simon Cowell than for a brutal guerilla commando like his second in command Mono Jojoy. He ordered Jojoy was to create a dance record so successful and popular it would induce a new generation of young Columbians to join the revolutionary struggle. Jojoy and Felipe Rincon, another senior commander, were so enthusiastic about the idea the Rincon chirped in an email “We have to get the guy who makes merengues and we have to offer him a big budget!”

Thus, Guerilla Dance was born, a slickly-packaged and highly-produced dance record complete with lyrics and publicity shots. It wasn’t a cheap birth, though. The FARC reportedly spent $150,000 U.S. on production as well as importing professional musicians from the Dominican Republic.  The finished product was posted on YouTube. The lyrics mix pure revolutionary rhetoric with beats to make you bump and grind. “Taca taca taca, the government will fall,” “carry the grenades and the rifles,” “enemy to the left, enemy to the right,” similar to the traditional merengue instructions to always “move those hips!” Sadly for Marulanda, not only did he die before seeing his dancefloor dreams become a reality, the song did not smash the charts, and only attracted attention as a strange changeup from the FARC’s usual maudlin ballads with little production value.

This odd tale of a Marxist/Merengue mashup reinforces how clearly new media and Pop Culture are wedded to things once considered to be only political. Revolutionaries and insurgents alike are keenly aware of the political and military uses of music, film, video, dance, and gaming.  Many terrorist organizations have theme songs to rally their adherents, but it will be interesting to see whether Hizbullah, given Beirut’s vibrant club scene, will pick up the gauntlet thrown down by the FARC and come out with a song as catchy and well produced.

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Iran’s nascent, government-controlled video game industry

People the world over have become well acquainted with the Iranian government’s draconian censorship policies regarding domestic use of the internet.  In the wake of the country’s most recent elections, the international press heralded the use of Twitter to mobilize opposition to Iran’s authoritarian government.  Rightfully, a considerable amount of attention and analysis has since been paid to how effective the use of social media can be for domestic opposition groups

Lost in this storm however has been one of the most popular uses of computers among young people: video games.  When most people in the United States think of video games, they picture games like World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto, or sports games like Madden football.  Iran, under the government’s careful supervision, has developed its own video game industry.  According to True/Slant, some of these games are actually pretty good.

A few years ago, Fox News reported on the development of the Iranian video game “Rescue the Nuke Scientist,” which “simulates an attempt to rescue two Iranian nuclear experts kidnapped by the U.S. military and held in Iraq and Israel.”  The game was developed by the Union of Students Islamic Association, supposedly in response to a game designed in the United States called “Assault on Iran.”  Mohammad Taqi Fakhrian, a leader of the student developers, explained, “This is our defense against the enemy’s cultural onslaught.”  The group has very close ties to the Iranian government and hosted the infamous 2005 conference where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad infamously called for the destruction of Israel.

This kind of video-game-as-propaganda is unsurprising.  It mimics the Iranian president’s belligerent statements towards Israel and the United States and promotes an anti-Western political discourse.

However, the Iranian government has also used video games to promote traditional Persian culture.  By far and away, the most popular Iranian video game is the Quest of Persia series.  These games draw strongly from Persian history and culture.  According to a regional gaming website, Quest of Persia is “100% Persian” and was developed by Puya Arts.

Despite its draconian control over the Internet and social media, the Iranian government for several years has used the country’s domestic video game industry as a tool for both political and cultural propaganda.  It is likely that video games will continue to be used as a tool in strategic communications because of their interactivity and popularity the world over.

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