Carlyle's hero worship was the way history was taught when I was in school. The evolutionary advance of civilization by war and invasion was enshrined in Alexander the Great, Julius Ceasar, and a long list of other conqueror/heroes produced by western civilization. Naturally, colonial visualization was a big part of the presentation of American exceptionalism. The revolutionary war heroics of George Washington, the civil war and the freeing of the slaves by Abraham Lincoln, these were the high points of history. No one brought up Europe and her colonies, other than to depose Monarchy and feudalism, so that America could prosper as the light of the civilized world. This look into truer history was both informative and timely. Countervisualization is an important text for American Studies to employ. Counterhistory critically encountered is always interesting, as we see different perspectives.
The Field Manual 3-24 of modern warfare acts as the endbooks for this counterhistorical escapade. CounterInsurgency (COIN) is now the worldwide battlefield that includes drone and cyber warfare, unlimited Presidential authority to wage endless war in preemptive strikes against enemies of US imperialism, economic hegemony, and cultural surveillance. The twenty-first century has already seen the destruction and occupation of ancient Babylon, which I participated in back in 2003, much to my chagrin. The RMA doctrine of the neoconservatives Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Cheney pushed George W. Bush into regime change in Iraq. I was first sergeant of a National Guard Transportation unit called to active duty for the 2003 invasion. Being a National Guard Technician for 28 years, I was fully aware of what Bush was getting us into. My memories of the utter devastation squalor and poverty caused by the shock and awe campaign still visit my dreams 10 years later. The visualization I experienced there turned me against the war and caused my removal from my unit and eventual forced retirement for "medical" reasons. I guess you could say my countervisualization of the travesty I witnessed caused my separation from the virtual reality of the imagery presented to the public by the embedded media. I became an active member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and tried to activate WSU to no avail. The reasons for my failure to activate a countervisualization on campus should be obvious. The propaganda machinery brought to bear on public opinion overwhelmed the few opponents here. Anyway, General Betrayus got his way and we now have endless war, on the cyberbattlefield and video game representation of insurgency as terrorism.
Mirzoeff's book reveals the struggle against Euro-colonial slavery that took place in spite of the powerful monarchs of Europe and their naval power. The rebellion in Haiti, which is a stark contrast to Dominique next door today, especially since the earthquake, was visualized as a heroic Taussant leading a grassroots strike against the owners and overseers of the Island's cane plantations. The failure of the freedmen after the strike to create a sustainable economy of eating despite their claims to liberty and human rights raises the question of countervisualization's historical accuracy. The formation of Haiti resulted in a long disaster still unfolding. The counter history Haiti brings to the book is therefore problematic in that Haiti has not been a success since the revolt. Why not and what can be done now to help Haiti become sustainable?
Mirzoeff's "Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality" explores the possibility that we are experiencing the unfolding of Orwellian surveillance, especially in the UK. Are we living "1984"? I think so.
The United State's political gridlock and the unlimited power of the Military Industrial Complex,(the wedding of private contractors with the Pentagon) feeds US Imperialism on the world wide battlefield. The everyday occurence of Drone strikes against human targets around the world and the collateral damage to innocent bystanders results in enhanced enmity against US Imperialism. Is this creating more enemies than it is destroying? I think so.
Final comment, Academia today is paying at least lip service to creating an interdisciplinary American Studies that conceives itself as critical cultural studies ranging from pop to hybridity. Does Mirzoeff's book represent a launching pad for countervisualization that will be useful in the future? I think so.