You try to be phlegmatic about these things, because if your nerve fails in the face of every fearsome provocation, you end up living a life of desperate vulnerability. What’s more, if you’re not phlegmatic, you end up adopting a sort of fortress mentality, maybe convinced that the only way to survive is to arm ourselves to the teeth. Still, every so often you come across something that shatters your cool. For me, that something is this video that aired on Iranian TV last week, showing Iranian drones and missiles laying waste to Tel Aviv. (If you’re pressed for time, watch from 4:30 to 5:20, and you’ll get the gist.)

The superficial message of the video is clear enough. It warns Israel and America that if either attack Iran (against the backdrop of efforts to quash its nuclear program), retribution will be brutal and effective. Presumably, too, it is meant to reassure Iranian citizens of the same. In all this, it partakes of the Herman-Cohn, Dr.-Straneglove logic of “mutually assured destruction” (MAD), and the logic of the playground: “fuck with me, fucker, and I’ll fuck you up!” But this straightforward threat seems like so much bluster. It reminds me of a training film of the Syrian army that I once saw, showing elite commandos biting the heads off snakes. Films of toughs acting tough can have a paradoxical effect – often it seems like the brutes are trying too hard – and in any case, that is not what troubles me about the video.

There is something else at play here. The video is porn, both in its formal aspects (lousy production value, cheesy sound, crazy implausibility, aspirational virility, and slow-and-steady build to impossibly sustained climax) and in its message (power is yours, control is yours, you call the shots). The film offers the bitter thrill of porn, replacing the petite mort of coitus consummated with the grande mort of a city consumed.

And it is this that disturbs me. When heads of spy organizations, think-tank fellows and generals go on TV to reassure us about Iran, they usually insist that the men calling the shots in Iran may be radical, but they are also rational. They are forever doing the sorts of cost-benefit calculations that Western countries do, and coming to the same conclusions. That beneath the traditional robes and the radical rhetoric, Iranian leaders are Just. Like. Us.

This video raises serious doubts, though. Peddling drone porn like this on national TV suggests there’s something other than rational calculation at work in Tehran. A few months ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that the leaders of Iran are a “messianic, apocalyptic, radical regime” and a cult “wild in its ambitions and its aggression.” Like most leftists I dismissed these statements as unfounded hyperbole. Such immoderate criticism, I thought, caused more harm than good, damaging Israel’s credibility and destroying whatever small chance we had of indirect dialogue that might allow us to settle with the Iranians using words instead of bombs.

But this video makes me realize that Netanyahu may have been more right, and his point more important, than I gave him credit for. People who made the film, aired it, and enjoyed it, may well be wild in their ambitions and their aggression.

So this short video accomplished what hours of Netanyahu’s speeches at home and abroad failed to do. It made me to see the world, for once, as he sees it, alive with peril that rational discourse alone cannot eliminate. And allowing me to see the world through Netanyahu’s eyes; that is yet another disconcerting aspect of Iranian drone porn.