The Battle of Algiers depicts a situation in which ideology is created and shows how it works to suppress the Arab inhabitants of the city. The French colonial power is strict and powerful, but the Arab FLN (The National Liberation Front); the Algerians’ national movement against the French, presents a strong resistance. As guerilla warfare ensues, the colonial power enforces more and more restrictions on the movement and freedoms of the native Arab people. The colonial power works in an ideological manner, but is reinforced by the repressive state apparatus as well, which inflicts fear and harm upon the Arab subjects who refuse to succumb and conform to the strict ideological identity of the French (Althusser).
An example from the film of how ideology works on people and constructs certain fears and stereotypes of the “other” is depicted in the scene when an innocent Arab man is arrested and charged for a crime just because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is sitting on a street eating a sandwich and minding his own business when a crime occurs and everyone looks out there window and immediate places blame on the first Arab man they see. In there eyes no Arab is innocent; their views are assembled through the ideological assumptions of the French colonial power. Later in the movie, the Arab kid near the bombing is harassed, and the point is…he could have been the bomber, he also might not have been, but he was in an unfortunate position, and was the first Arab seen at the scene and therefore was blamed.
Stereotypes that surround gender ideals are exploited and used in a way to help promote the FLN. The colonial police officers are instructed to leave the Arab women alone. This provides an avenue for which the FLN are able to hide their means of violence beneath the women’s traditional coverings. The FLN also uses the stereotypes constructed concerning French women as innocent and Arab women as suspicious. The Arab women can get through the checkpoints without a hassle so long as they dress in the traditional French manner. The Arab women conceal the bombs they have by dressing to imitate French style and pass through the checkpoints without being questioned or searched. This is the way in which the FLN strategically takes advantage of the colonial stereotypes surrounding clothing, image, and innocence of French women in order to bomb French civilians.
This conflict helped construct the European stereotype as Edward Said called it, “The Orient”. The conflict was portrayed as brought on by the Arabs, and unorganized, along with irrational. This enabled the Europeans to label the Arabs as barbaric in opposition to themselves. The FLN is portrayed as terrorists because the colonizing power portrays them as such. The torture that the French inflicted on the Arabs is hidden from the public, while the Arab retaliation is publicized and therefore the public is naïve to the rationale behind what they see as random attacks. The public discourse was obliviously to the actions of the French colonial power, and was only concerned with the attacks against them. The French intentionally used military power and hegemonic ideology to work in their favor against the Orient.
The tapeworm analogy used by the paratroopers is the idea that the resistance will regenerate until you’re able to kill the main leaders. The French thought they were fighting against a radical movement led by a select group of people with big ideas, when in fact this was a movement largely supported by the entire Algerian population. This is shown at the end of the film when all of the main leaders are dead, but the resistance movement continues.
Café Group: Natalie, Beau, Grace, and Andrew