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Faces of the Enemy

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“Faces of the Enemy” follows a psychologist Sam Keen as he unmasks how individuals and nations dehumanize their enemies to justify the inhumanity of war. In Sam Keen’s documentary “Faces of the Enemy” he comes up with documentation that goes in the mind of the enemy and finds out why we have enemies, and why we dehumanize these enemies. The film discussed the sociological, psychological and political aspects of war as well as the strategies we use to dehumanize the enemy. The film also includes examples of propaganda-filled films and posters that were used during World War II and the Cold War. Recently, extremist groups in the U.S. have used aspects of these wartime tactics to disseminate their agendas.

Keen wanted to figure out why individuals are enemies, so he looks into the mind of a murderer by the name of David Rice. He killed an innocent family and characterized them as his enemy because they were a suspected communist family. Rice saw himself as a soldier in a war against inhuman enemies and the only way to get rid of his enemy was to eliminate his enemy. Enemies come in many shapes and sizes but Rice’s enemy was quite different. Rice’s influence of propaganda led him into a world of no return. He killed an entire family that were innocent and normal people, but were faced with a horrible death.

The film had a way of keeping the attention of the viewer by showing how one nation would totally dehumanize another nation with war propaganda. All of it would say how we are good, and they are evil, or we are the victims and they are the ones to blame. In one of the US Army films the message they say “Let’s see what kind of people these Japanese really are. First, examine a typical Jap soldier. He and his brother are as much alike as photographic prints off the same negative.” In every war each enemy is seen as less than human, and as a monster. But the propaganda that is being drilled into the solders head is what drives them to achieve victory. A solders image of their enemy is their most powerful tool, next to his weapon. Its not like the US was alone, during World War 2 cartoons from Germany, Japan, and the US showed how alike many of the countries were in depicting their enemies as rats and snakes. Sam Keen said “Before we make war, even before we make weapons, we first create the idea of an enemy whom we can fight.” He talks with psychologists about how such techniques of ”dehumanization” are used by governments during war to provoke the citizens to join the military and do the bidding of the said government by going out and killing.

In the course of describing the propaganda during World War II, Dr. Keen noticed that every country warned their people that in case of an invasion, the people would suffer a slaughter from their monstrous enemy. The Japanese and the Germans committed many violent acts in the countries they invaded. While the invasions at the end of the war by the allied forces led to a greater freedom for the German and Japanese people. Then during the Vietnam War there was a mass destruction of My Lai. While the US was under siege with the Vietnamese several American solders totally destroyed the village like the monsters each country put out as propaganda and killed the people that inhabited the land. First we identify ourselves as victims. Then we blame, demonize and finally dehumanize our adversaries, rationalizing our murder of other human beings. A perfect example of this situation was during the film “The Empire Strikes Back.” During the film Luke Skywalker cuts off the head of his enemy Darth Vader and uncovers it to find his own face under the mask. When he unmasks the monster Luke recognizes the lack of humanity in his actions.

Rice then cuts to David Rice, the man that killed an entire family because he thought that they were communist. For a person that thinks that he is doing what is right, he is dead wrong. Rice Says that he fights basically to keep people alive rather than just to kill. It is obvious that he is heavily influenced by propaganda. Rice decided communism was responsible for his personal problems. So, David Rice beat an entire family of four to death. He thought the family he was eliminating were communists. He remains without any regret regarding the family as “collateral damage” in a war against the Evil Empire. The Christian Fundamentalist leaders who inspired Rice are only too happy to explain that they are in a holy war against communists and any non-believers. Rice says that he listened to what they said during their events, and it told him to do what is right. But in his case he couldn’t have been any farther than his intensions. But the characterizations that Rice had were very similar to some nation’s depictions of their enemies.

This film helps us understand how systems of our own government corrupt their own citizens to hate an enemy they don’t even know. But this is an old issue, but many countries in fact create pictures, and cartoons, to get their point across that the enemy is a monster and a snake. This is because it fills the solders with hate for that particular enemy and that hate drives the solders to kill. Sam Keen’s perspective just shows there are alternatives and there are more humane ways to deal with problems than to reach for the button to drop the napalm. But In my opinion one of the speakers spoke about if a person kills someone, they should in fact be killed as well. “There’s no discussing it folks, the word of God is established forever. I’m not going to discuss it. If he says . . . a murderer gets murdered, or slain, capital punishment, it’s all right with me. Line them up and we’ll clean up our nation overnight. Start with the abortionists, might as well get rid of a few of those beasts.” The idea of capital punishment fits the crime that David Rice committed. Beating a family to death is no punishment for anyone for just being communist, and the family wasn’t even communist. So he ended four lives for no reason.


21 Sept. 2006; Faces of the Enemy – Viewing Race Film;

Viewing Race; 21 Sept. 2006; http://www.viewingrace.org/browse_title.php?film_id=318&curr_letter=f

Goodman, Walter. “TV REVIEWS; ‘FACES OF THE ENEMY,’ a DOCUMENTARY.” The New York Times 27 May 1987, Archive ed. 21 Sept. 2006.

Peterson, Paul, comp. “Rhetoric of Hate and Fear.” PHL 163 Faces of the Enemy. 7 Apr. 99. Univ of Michigan. 21 Sept. 2006 .

Wikoff, Jack; 19 Jan. 2005; Faces of the Enemy: Reflections of the Hostile Imagination; The Journal of Historical Review; vol. 10 no. 4; pp. 487-490.

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