<videovortex> Iraqis mock US soldiers and themselves on You Tube

Geert Lovink geert at xs4all.nl
Wed Jan 30 09:34:55 CET 2008

> Iraqis mock US soldiers and themselves on You Tube
> 1 day ago
> BAGHDAD (AFP) — US soldiers are lampooned, policemen are shown as 
> buffoons and Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is irreverently cheered by 
> penguins... Iraqis are turning more and more to YouTube to express 
> their dark-edged humour.
> The main butt of send-ups posted by Iraqis on the popular Internet 
> video site is, as one might expect, the US military.
> With around 160,000 troopers scattered across the country there is 
> clearly no dearth of subjects -- nor lack of innovative video makers.
> One video shows a large-mouthed soldier repeating Arabic phrases told 
> to him by a group of locals.
> "Bring us back to our family, bring us home. Bring us some bread, any 
> bread, hot or cold," he says, seemingly unaware of what he is 
> repeating.
> "The salary is not that good either," he adds as the camera zooms 
> closely on to his face.
> Another video shows a group of Iraqi soldiers speaking to a female 
> American trooper, who clearly knows a smattering of Arabic.
> They ask her name, and she replies "Sarah." They ask her questions and 
> she replies in Arabic. She is from Alabama -- she does not like New 
> York.
> The walkie-talkie strapped near her shoulder crackles and she bends 
> her head towards it to answer.
> She speaks for a minute or two, bending her head forward each time she 
> answers.
> "Shaar (hair)," the soldiers say suggestively, enticing her to break 
> out into a sensual Iraqi dance during which unveiled women throw their 
> heads forward to send their hair flying upwards.
> Many videos show male US soldiers dancing clumsily with their Iraqi 
> counterparts or with people in the streets.
> One minute-long segment captures an American military policeman, 
> complete with flak jacket and weapon, spinning round and round while a 
> group of Iraqi policemen cheer him on.
> The US military has itself taken to posting video clips on YouTube 
> showing American troops in combat and insurgents being bombed in a 
> "boots on the ground" perspective of the Iraq war.
> Multi-National Forces Iraq created a "channel" on the popular 
> video-sharing website last March to show the clips, which often 
> capture the intensity of combat while generally showing US troops in a 
> positive light.
> With dancing in public such an integral part of Iraqi culture, it is 
> little wonder that the funnier side of this practice has been captured 
> on video by Iraqis.
> People fall, lurch into one another, and in one featuring Iraqi 
> policemen they even drop their trousers.
> Away from the dance floor, two policemen are shown in one clip 
> stopping a truck. As the edgy pair bend down to inspect the underside 
> of the vehicle the driver toots his horn, giving both such a fright 
> that they fall over backwards.
> But little appears sacred for Iraqis caught up in brutal sectarian 
> violence and harsh living conditions, proof of the maxim that 
> populations in high stress situations or oppressive environments use 
> dark humour to help them survive.
> One of the main targets in the highly religious country is Moqtada 
> al-Sadr, the powerful Shiite cleric whose thousands-strong Mahdi Army 
> militia is known to hero-worship him.
> One video clip shows a colony of penguins, led by a large male with 
> distinctive orange markings on his neck, swaggering around the ice 
> chanting "Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada!"
> The 66-second segment, its soundtrack clearly recorded at a Mahdi Army 
> gathering engaged in rowdy praise of the cleric, shows the penguins 
> raising their flippers heavenwards, beaks wide open as they become 
> more and more enthusiastic about Sadr.
> The video, clearly doctored electronically, ends with the penguins 
> forming a large heart-shaped gathering around their leader who stands 
> bellowing in the middle.
> More controversial in a country divided by sectarianism are clips 
> showing Shiites in mosques during Ashura ceremonies when devotees beat 
> their chests -- set to Iraqi pop music.
> One video shows earnest devotees raising their hands, beating their 
> chests and chanting in anguish as a popular song called "Orange" plays 
> on the soundtrack.
> The song features a lover who pours out his tender devotion for his 
> girlfriend and her favourite colour.
> Not all Iraqis approve of their leaders being belittled in this way, 
> and comments posted on the site beneath the videos reflect the wide 
> divergence of opinion that characterises the country's political 
> landscape.
> "Shame on you to liken Moqtada al-Sadr to a penguin and humiliate him 
> in front of all the world," says "Wisam" beneath the penguin clip.
> "It is indeed a shame," agrees "Abdul." "He and his donkeys are far 
> worse than penguins."

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