Author Archives: Son of Freedom

Annie Lennox: Now I Let You Go

Annie Lennox’ long term exhibit at Mass MOCA was called “Now I Let You Go”. As the text indicates, it’s an exhibit that’s concerned with the meaning we attach to objects and the possible significance they hold when we’re gone.

I found this interesting on many levels. First off, it suggests that memory itself is real and holds some intrinsic value. It also suggests our ability to sanctify objects of nostalgia as well as our ability to immortalize the impact of an individual life beyond his or her physical existence.

I think this is kind of a big deal because the underlying assumptions are, dare I say, religious in nature. In the secular paradigm, we’re just chimpanzees floating through a universe of meaninglessness indulging delusions of free will and morality. All that exists lives in the realm of sense data. The scientific method is the only valid truth test for any unknown quantity. The underlying assumptions are simply beyond the scope of what the secular worldview permits.

What Annie has done here is locate meaning almost exclusively within the realm of the objects which contributed to her artistry. Including the various recording devices and players through which her music was heard. Since she’s a global pop star, we can feel fragments of our own experiences simply through our identification with the times that we heard her and the medium through which the music was transmitted.

If there were any references to her real legacy, her children, they were not readily apparent. Subsequently, I find it odd and somewhat disconcerting that an exhibit that’s so deeply concerned with questions of mortality, legacy, meaning and memory, that she deemed her connection to her family as either cursory or insignificant.

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Atomic Blonde (2017)

It belongs to the current New Wave of Hollywood Wokegnosis, but it’s better than I expected. This is clearly Charlize Theron’s bid for the female equivalent of a 007 or John Wick franchise. To her credit, she carries off the role of MI6 superspy, Lorraine Broughton, fairly convincingly. Part of me was just happy that the film and character was based on an original property and wasn’t just another tiresome gender swap from an existing franchise.

Atomic Blonde is a Cold War espionage thriller which centers around a list of double agents which has fallen into the wrong hands. The events of the plot are set against the rising tide of democratic populism which culminated in the collapse of the Berlin Wall and Communism 1.0. Since espionage thrillers exist to propagandize clandestine services, it raises some interesting questions about the degree to which the entire Cold War was being stage managed by intelligence agencies. James McAvoy is a double agent named Percival who is also a black marketeer. He is the one who provides all of the Western consumer decadence to the cultural vacuum of East Berlin. From jeans to booze to porn, Percival helped stoke the appetite for Western capitalism and pop culture. Naturally, the film places your sympathies solidly with the burgeoning underground punk culture who are just trying to get some kicks but keep getting terrorized by Stasi and KGB thugs.

There are also several very obvious product placements throughout the film. Given the film’s tacit emphasis on the influence of consumer culture in hastening the collapse of communism, I think that these are more than advertisements. I suggest they reveal the role that these shadow elites played in moving geopolitical power blocs.

Take the nine times Stolichnaya is featured prominently. Yes, Lorraine looks very cool when she’s drinking vodka on the rocks, but why Stoli? Perhaps because the Pepsi Corporation was able to enter the Russian market in exchange for vodka and several naval military vessels. Considering the film’s anti-Russian tone, it could be an additional subtle form of mockery.

Then there are the deeper cultural references. The cutthroat moral nihilism of the film makes the inclusion of Machiavelli’s Prince an obvious choice. A prominent fight scene takes place in a theater playing Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker. Since Stalker reads (to me) as an indictment of communism, it’s very possible that David Leitch was reaching for some kind of arch metacommentary by using it as a backdrop for a fight scene. However, I believe that the inclusion of the film all by itself suggests the depth of the role that it, and consumer culture in general, had in turning sentiment against communism.

It’s surely a subject that’s been broached by many others, but the idea of a woman who is a cold blooded killer and can dispatch men bigger and stronger than her requires a greater suspension of disbelief than most other films with male leads. It seems a little too tailor made for wokescolds in the press to regurgitate the standard idiocy about “manbabies who can’t stand #STRONG womyn”. I don’t want to get too pedantic when I’m watching movies, but when every role that was intended for men gets a gender swap, it gets a little stupid.

Furthermore, we’re expected to believe that a woman with highly specialized combat skills was doing elite espionage and black operations in Berlin in the late 80’s and 90’s. Given that approximately .00002% of the current female population are seeking assignments in elite military units in 2019, the starting point is a bit of a reach. Again, I’m not saying that I’m expecting pure realism when I watch a spy thriller, but you shouldn’t have to leap this high just to buy into the initial premise.

There’s also an unfortunate humorlessness to Lorraine. Part of 007’s appeal was his charm and dry one liners. And he smiled, too. Of course, Mx. Theron can’t be bothered to enact that kind of emotional labor for us entitled dudebros, but there’s something just perverse about casting one of Hollywood’s most attractive women in roles where she exhibits no feminine charm. The lesbian makeout scene doesn’t make up the deficit either.

Even the fight scenes create a psychic dissonance that seems calculated to fuel feminist griping over “toxic masculinity”. Every normal man wouldn’t think of physically assaulting a woman. It goes completely against everything decent you’ve ever been taught. Here, you’re seeing men who are fighting Lorraine to the death. At one point in time, men fell in love with actresses in films. Now, men seem relegated to seeing themselves portrayed as dolts and villains while simultaneously watching the most beautiful actresses portrayed as potential deadly adversaries who also happen to be lesbians. Hooray for #EQUALITY.

It’s also kind of funny how schizophrenic Hollywood is in its portraits of communism. If you’re watching Trumbo or Reds, communism is a brave and principled set of ideals. If you’re watching Atomic Blonde or the latest season of Stranger Things, they’re diabolical jackbooted thugs. As someone who grew up during the 80’s, I can firmly attest to the overwhelming prevalence of Cold War hysteria. However, the fever pitch of Russophobia that has permeated every corner of the mediasphere since 2016 feels just a tad forced.

David Leitch manages to imbue the whole affair with enough style and storytelling panache to remain entertaining. The jams are pretty righteous too. In fact, I’m convinced that the inclusion of “The Politics of Dancing” by 80s one-hit synth poppers, Re-Flex, tells us everything we need to know about the role of intelligence operatives in waging psychological warfare and toppling regimes without ever firing a bullet. Despite the film’s final twist which would lead you to believe that it was Lorraine’s cunning badassery that made dupes out of the dirty commies, I suggest that Re-Flex really delivered the overriding message of the film.
We got the message
I heard it on the airwaves
The politicians
Are now DJs

A Response to an Academic Researching American Sentiment Toward Ayn Rand’s Novels

I was recently contacted by a woman who was researching American views of Ayn Rand’s work. My initial concern was that she had an ideological axe to grind and that this was going to be a cherry picked study designed to confirm the biases of progressives. She assured me this wasn’t the case so I responded in good faith. These are my responses.

Q: When and how did you first come in contact with Ayn Rand’s work?

A: I remember seeing copies of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged at the college bookstore. I was vaguely aware that Neil Peart of Rush was sympathetic to her ideas. I actually read my first Rand book in 2014.

Q: Which among Rand’s fictional works have you read?

A: Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged.

Q: How would you describe the effect of Rand’s writing on your beliefs concerning society and politics?

A: Her work affirmed and solidified certain convictions, but her worldview as a whole doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny.

Q: Which work(s) of fiction have you found most compelling – for example, the one you would be most likely to read again or that you have read several times?

A: The Fountainhead. I have others on the shelf which I intend to read at some point.

Q: For each work listed above, identify the reading experience that impressed itself most strongly on your mind, i.e. that you remember most vividly. This could be a character, an event, a description of a scene or object, a speech or a piece of dialogue, etc.

A: I got a kick out of the first trial against Howard Roark. He refuses every opportunity to cross examine and then drops the photos of his building on the judge’s desk as his final defense.

Q: What do you think accounts for the relative power of this reading experience?

A: It demonstrates that if you are grounded your convictions and certain of the quality of your work, you don’t need to be cowed and intimidated by opportunistic and vindictive jackals who thrive on defamation and the debasement of others in order to accumulate power.

Q: What meaning does this experience have for you?

A: It demonstrates that there are higher ideals that exist beyond the transitory, fickle and often malevolent vagaries of those who hold institutional power. Ironically, Rand’s worldview tries to justify this through materialism, but it’s a metaphysical and ultimately theological proposition.

Q: Please feel free to add your own comments on your experience with Ayn Rand’s work here.

A: Ayn Rand’s work is an attempt to reconcile the dialectic of post-Enlightenment liberalism. She sees the will of the individual inexorably pitted against the will of the collective, and ultimately the nation state. She holds that objective moral truth (and beauty) exists while at the same time asserting that these virtues are accessible through a process of pure reason and the sublimation of emotion. It’s an absurd proposition on its face because she presupposes the existence of things that are inherently metaphysical while suggesting that the observation of the natural world alone will lead others to reach the same conclusions she did. I don’t think she was wrong about everything and I do believe that there are powerful insights in her novels. I understand why people find her work repellent and I certainly think there’s plenty to criticize from a literary and philosophical point of view. The thing I find ironic is that if you strip away her contempt for altruism and her veneration of the capitalist entrepreneur, she’s not that far away from your average progressive. She wasn’t a conservative by any measure and her social outlook was completely cosmopolitan and libertine. So the progressive Rand hate mill can go shove their hit pieces right up their asses. In short, I think her work has merit. It’s not without flaws, but I think that the majority of the criticism out there is uncharitable and often completely dishonest.

American Bolshevism: The Tragedy and Inevitability of the Destruction of San Francisco’s Counterrevolutionary Arnautoff Mural

A little over a year ago, I wrote a piece arguing in favor of Trump’s aborted threat to defund the federal arts apparatus. Like so many conservatives who preceded him, Trump didn’t deliver on this promise and the progressive outrage mob was placated for at least five full seconds. I stand behind the argument I made in the piece, but the recent decision in San Francisco to destroy Victor Arnautoff’s New Deal era George Washington mural prompted a reappraisal of the underlying assumptions of my original argument. Specifically, the possibility that a publicly funded work of art portaying Washington in a less than heroic light holds value in a world of indiscriminate cultural destruction.

For those unfamiliar with the story, the San Francisco city council voted to allocate $600k in taxpayer money to destroy a mural that was commissioned by FDR’s Works Progress Administration and painted by a communist. Why? Because it’s a painful reminder to San Francisco’s Oppressed POCs that AmeriKKKa subjugated and murdered indigenous and brown people, you disgusting bigot. DUH.

For anyone with a rightward perspective, this is yet another moment of vindication and schadenfreude. The self-proclaimed champions of publicly funded art, and the guardians of culture itself by extension, who once celebrated this piece as a triumph of what enlightened and progressive government can achieve have done a full 180. Now, they want to destroy what is presently condemned by the #WOKE proletariat as a symbol of AmeriKKKa’s irredeemable wickedness. Because what else would you expect? Such is the nature of the #SocialJustice ratchet effect.

Let’s pause to do a brief recap and allow ourselves to take in the fullness of the cognitive dissonance. Here we have a mural painted by a communist which views Washington’s legacy through the highly parsimonious lens of Marxist historical revisionism. In other words, it’s a view of Washington designed to emphasize the oppression and misery versus the heroic achievements. This piece was commissioned by FDR’S Works Progress Administration and funded with federal tax dollars yet is now officially Counterrevolutionary Hate Speech according to San Francisco’s #WOKE Revolutionary Commissars. The layers of irony boggle the imagination. Arnautoff’s mural doubtless had numerous detractors both conservative and radical at its inception and since its installment. Regardless, it was piece funded by taxpayers presumably to commemorate both the New Deal and Washington for posterity, but is now being destroyed at taxpayer expense.

Alrighty then.

On one hand, it perfectly validates the case against publicly funded art. When art is funded by taxpayers it can’t avoid being politicized and becomes fodder for the fickle winds of contemporary sentiment. In this case, yesterday’s progressivism isn’t progressive enough for today’s revolutionaries. Case closed. If you think we’ve already entered the 9th circle of Clown World hell, think again. For some on the radical Left, this is seen either as bourgeois oppression of communist culture or an excuse to double down on revolutionary goals!

But let’s take a step back and consider the magnitude of this loss in the wake of today’s neverending slow motion Cultural Revolution. Regardless of your opinion of the NEA, FDR or the painting itself, I invite you to consider that this was an attempt, however niggardly, at canonizing Washington and his legacy for all Americans. Subsequently, it can rightfully be viewed as a contribution to America’s cultural heritage, and by extension, a source of national pride. In contrast to the Left’s overt attempts to troll conservatives with taxpayer money with pieces like “Piss Christ” or Mapplethorpe’s Corcoran Gallery exhibit, Arnautoff’s piece had enough of a veneer of earnestness that any American could, in theory, take a small measure of pride in our first POTUS. It is more likely that the mural was yet another way for spiteful leftists to troll conservatives by forcing them to fund communist propaganda, but for the sake of argument, let’s take the most charitable interpretation of the original intent and grant that this effort was animated by a sense of real national pride. I concede that it’s a stretch of imagination, but let’s give it a shot.

The Left has been carrying out a slow motion Cultural Revolution for the past couple years. In contrast to yesterday’s liberals who could at least pretend that they cared about expressions and symbols of national pride, contemporary progressives make no effort to conceal their utter disdain for America. Whether it’s the idiotic preening of Megan Rapinoe and Colin Kaepernick, the demolition of Confederate statues or the routine flag burnings, these acts of vandalism are the acts of cultural destruction one expects from totalitarian ideologues who wish to erase all vestiges of national unity and pride. It’s behavior we saw in Mao’s regime, the Khmer Rouge, the Bolsheviks, the Jacobins as well as their Islamic counterparts in ISIS and Boko Haram. It’s a steady erosion of the past to pave the way for another Year Zero.

People want and crave heroic ideals and individuals who embodied these ideals. In contrast to just about every other nation, America is young country built on what were believed to be pure and noble philosophical abstractions completely divorced from metaphysics and theology. However, people do not follow abstractions. They follow leaders who best embody heroic ideals. This is precisely why America’s founders are idealized in works of art, national symbols and monuments. Despite their human foibles and errors in judgment, America’s founders are intentionally romanticized for the express purpose of concretizing American ideals and binding the citizenry together in their preservation for posterity.

Unfortunately, it is the spirit of negation at the core of American republicanism that makes the destruction of the Arnautoff mural both a bitter loss and an inevitability. Ideally, a publicly funded work of art would be something that would represent a universal and timeless ideal which upholds a classical standard of beauty. One would hope that such a project would be borne of a genuine spirit of national pride and would inspire unity for generations to come. However, the very possibility of either universal timeless ideals or objective aesthetics are impossible in the post-Enlightenment worldview. The current decision is likely the exact outcome the painting was intended to produce.

For the the communist, the only ideal he sanctifies is perpetual revolution. Despite America itself being a product of revolutionary ideals, the communist sees only bourgeois subjugation of the various proletariat underclass groups he chooses to recognize for the purpose of advancing his own political power. The communist is not an aberration of American republicanism. He is inextricably linked to the post-Enlightenment dialectic. A society which purports to uphold a free marketplace of ideas has to allow people who only seek to destroy and undermine the very order that allows them to pursue their absurd and nihilistic jihad. After decades of propaganda which consistently casts the leftist rebel as the beleaguered underdog desperately struggling to be given his fair hearing in the court of public opinion, it has finally reached its logical conclusion in the unfortunate destruction of what was already a flawed memorial to America’s first President.

Echo in the Canyon (2018)

(aka Establishment Gen X Aristocrat Canonizes the Boomer Would-be Revolutionaries For Other Aging Boomers)

There’s one scene in Andrew Slater’s love letter to the seminal Laurel Canyon musicians that sums up the entire film. In one of many interview segments led by Jakob Dylan, Graham Nash gets all misty eyed as he looks back on those heady days of creative ferment and unbridled hedonism. “I still believe music can change the world,” he says just barely holding back the tears. Just then, it cuts to Jakob Dylan as he let’s Nash’s words hang in the air. He stares off into the distance, but to his credit, his expression reveals nothing. Maybe he’s taking in the full weight of Nash’s sentiment and genuinely feels a sense of humility. Or maybe he’s silently scoffing at Nash’s audacity for uttering such a pitifully idiotic and painfully maudlin platitude that no one really buys. Maybe he knows that Nash is just regurgitating a mythology that needs to be perpetually reinforced through books, awards shows and rockumentaries. Maybe it’s something in between.

Much like its recent companion, Rolling Thunder Revue, Echo in the Canyon has the distinct whiff of the establishment patting itself on the back. These were musicians who presented themselves as rule breaking revolutionaries, yet the film wants you see them as the torchbearers of the rock “tradition”. Herein lies the great conundrum that the Flower Power Generation cannot reconcile. As anyone who’s read David McGowan’s excellent and far superior survey of the Canyon scene knows, these people were already children of the establishment. They made great music, but they were also trafficking a lot of social degeneracy. The film only scratches the surface of the extent of the hedonism these people were importing into the culture.

I’m sure it felt really transgressive to be for tuning in, turning on and dropping out back then. But this was the generation that turned out a generation of latchkey kids. This is the generation that ushered in higher divorce and suicide rates and enshrined abortion as an article of faith. This is the generation that got hooked on cocaine in the 80s and gave rise to innumerable cults and self-help gurus. This is the generation that colonized Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the Democratic Party.

As expected, there is no mention of the dark underbelly of the Canyon scene. They completely sidestep the body count and the mysterious deaths that amassed around these people. They completely ignore Charles Manson’s proximity to the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas. There’s no discussion of the various mob, military and CIA connections behind the clubs and the record industry. This may explain why the scene in which Beck, Regina Spektor and Dylan attempt to philosophize over the broader cultural impact of these bands feels forced, artificial and utterly laughable.

They talk about the drugs and the sex, but you know they’ve completely sanitized it. Hearing Michelle Phillips talk about her affair with Denny Doherty isn’t titillating or cute. It’s pathetic and contemptible because it radiated out into the culture and wrought tragic results. Where were the uncensored interviews with Carnie and Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips to give their unfiltered perspective on what it was like to grow up with these paragons of parental excellence? These people knew exactly what they were doing, yet we’re expected to treat them like royalty.

Right.

Go fuck yourselves, Boomers.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

This is it, folks. After 22 films in 11 years, this phase of the MCU has come to an end. As far as big budget superhero franchises go, Endgame gives the audience the most satisfying conclusion for which a fan could hope in 2019. In contrast to the haphazard agenda heavy abortions of the Star Wars universe under Kathleen Kennedy’s stewardship, the MCU was conceived to hang together as a cohesive whole from its inception. At minimum, Kevin Feige and company deserve credit for shepherding a 22 film series through one continuous storyline which resolves with a real sense of closure. Endgame wraps up several character arcs for many of the key Avengers while setting the stage for the next generation of MCU heroes. As one would expect, it’s not without flaws nor is it devoid of progressive messaging we’ve come to expect from every big ticket franchise. The main difference between the MCU and its Disney companion franchise is that you at least get the impression that Kevin Feige’s crew still likes the characters and the fans. For now. With the introduction of the thoroughly detestable Brie Larson as the ostensible leader of the Avengers going forward, I am certainly not optimistic that this trend will continue. If the blatant pandering of Black Panther and Captain Marvel are any indication of the future of Marvel, then it is indeed bleak. Given the early signals from Feige, I’m expecting the MCU to crater just as spectacularly as the vile garbage heap known as The Last Jedi.

Endgame picks up where Infinity War leaves off. Thanos succeeded in depopulating half the universe. The remaining Avengers are left to face their defeat and find a way to be normal now that their comrades and loved ones have been vaporized. Tony and Pepper finally settled down and had a kid. Clint Barton was also enjoying being a family man before Thanos zapped his family out of existence and forced him to turn to vigilantism. Black Widow has basically become a shift supervisor at the Avengers help desk. The Cap tries to make a career transition to grief counselor. In a futile attempt to score points with the SJWs, he offers comfort to a gay dude at a session. Being the ungrateful, miserable shitbags they are, the Cap gets no credit for being an empathetic ally.

Scott Lang comes back from the quantum realm with a wild idea. He thinks they can hack time travel, get the Infinity Stones before Thanos, and bring back everyone who was wasted by the snap. Cap and Black Widow are sold, but they just don’t have the scientific chops. Bruce Banner tries, but he’s out of his depth. They’re forced to make an appeal to the best scientific mind in the erstwhile Avengers organization: Tony Stark. Tony has an adorable daughter, and is enjoying the simple life that was unavailable to him as a full time Iron Man. Not only does he see major problems in hacking time, he doesn’t want to give up his hard won domestic happiness. But Tony being Tony, he simply can’t let it go. So the Avengers plot one final gambit for all the marbles. Get the band back together one last time, hack time, get the Infinity Stones before Thanos, and bring back everyone else. No problem, man! These are the mothafuckin’ Avengers after all!

The Goodbyes

As expected, we say farewell to many of our beloved Avengers. Some farewells are more satisfying than others. I’ll discuss the resolutions of the three central Avengers from worst to best.

Thor

Frigga: Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be, Thor. The measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.

The closure of Thor’s story is by far the most undignified and insulting to this former God of Thunder. Thor was the most regal, masculine and distinctly Nordic character in the franchise. Subsequently, we see the pathological anti-white, anti-male, anti-tradition agenda on full display. When Rocket and Banner seek out Thor to enlist him for the time heist, they discover he’s become a reclusive, overweight drunk in New Asgard. Besides being racked with guilt over his inability to vanquish Thanos the first time, he’s also struggling with grief and PTSD over the loss of his entire family and homeland. In contrast to the arbitrary decision to turn Luke Skywalker into an emotionally defeated hermit, Thor’s situation actually makes sense given all that has happened. Thor has been through some serious shit. However, this doesn’t justify the absolutely wretched resolution of his story.

During the time heist, Thor is briefly reunited with his doomed mother. She correctly surmises that he’s the future Thor and that he’s crushed by sorrow and a misplaced sense of failure and guilt. She offers the kind of consolation only a mother could give, but instead of encouraging him to shake it off and get his ass in gear, she absolves him of any responsibility to his familial legacy. Just chillax with Peter Quill and Rocket, son. It’s all good.

So what does he do? He hands over the throne of New Asgard to fucking Valkyrie! That’s right. The son of Odin, the dude who was once in love with Jane Foster, decides to forego any responsibility to the survivors of Asgard or his heritage and just go kick it with the Guardians of the Galaxy. He doesn’t want to have kids or preserve the cultural legacy of Asgard for posterity. Come on, Marvel! Adding to the blatantly anti-European sentiment of Thor: Ragnarok, Civil War and Age of Ultron, the conclusion to Thor’s story in Endgame is the MCU’s final insult to European traditionalism. Never mind that Valkyrie was canonically portrayed as a rather voluptuous Norse goddess who was romantically involved with Thor. Nope. New Asgard is woke and multicultural now. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is going to “make some changes around here”. #TheFutureIsFemale, you white supremacist, Asgardian misogynists!

Utterly reprehensible.

Steve Rogers

Steve Rogers: Avengers! Assemble.

With all due respect to pre-Gadot Wonder Woman and pre-Snyder Superman, Captain America is arguably the biggest patriot of all superheroes. He is Captain America, after all. Despite the MCU’s post-national, globalist agenda, they managed to treat the Cap fairly respectfully and give him a decent resolution. They were able to cheat along the way, but Chris Evans and the Marvel team made me believe in the MCU Captain America. Of course, they were able to pull this off pretty effortlessly in The First Avenger because it was set in WW2. HYDRA was the secret military-intelligence wing of the Nazi Party, and Red Skull was even more diabolical than Adolf Hitler. Since everyone already hates Nazis, Steve Rogers’ yearning to join the Army and fight for America and SHIELD made sense even in Obama’s America in 2011.

Fast forward to 2014’s Winter Soldier, the Cap has been unfrozen after 74 years and is still trying to get his bearings in the modern world. He didn’t have to take sides over Vietnam, Watergate, the JFK assassination or the Civil Rights movement. He didn’t have the opportunity to formulate an opinion on Roe v. Wade, The Great Society, The Pentagon Papers, the Church Committee hearings, the Kosovo War, the 2008 market crash, the Iraq War or the PATRIOT Act. Nor was he aware that SHIELD had absconded with the Tesseract or that they secretly conscripted HYDRA scientists. He just tries to get back into action by doing what he does best. Serve. The problem is that SHIELD is a multinational operation now. The threats are not nation states. They’re intergalactic. Even worse, they’re coming from HYDRA double agents who’ve infiltrated SHIELD. Despite the multinational nature of SHIELD, he still believes that it can be restored to its proper status. The only moral imperative was rooting out the HYDRA subversives. Cap’s instincts were correct and he gives a great speech, but no direct appeals to American patriotism are necessary.

In Civil War, the Cap is forced to reckon with the fact that the Avengers can’t be lawless vigilantes who are accountable to no one. They must subordinate themselves to oversight. Marvel was once again able to completely sidestep the Cap’s loyalty to America as defined place with specific customs, traditions and laws. They simply portrayed him as a generic individualist dissident who was justifiably skeptical of World Security Council bureaucracy. Cap becomes an outlaw to the organization who commissioned the super soldier program that made him in the first place. It’s appropriate that the Cap would do what he did in Civil War, but they jettisoned his patriotism again in the process.

By the time we get to Infinity War, the Cap is sporting a Ted Kaczynski beard and his formerly red, white and blue uniform is more befitting of someone in Antifa. Because of his falling out with Tony, he no longer possesses his iconic shield. In Endgame, Tony and Steve enjoy a hard won restoration of their friendship and alliance as Avengers. When Tony pulls the shield out of his trunk, and gives it to Steve Rogers, it at least feels like Captain America has been made symbolically whole again.

In the final act, Steve Rogers time travels backwards to return Thor’s hammer and the Infinity Stones to their original timelines. Upon his return to the present, we discover that he has pulled a Dave Bowman and comes back an old man. We learn that he chose to live his life in the past with his true love, Peggy Carter. All by itself, it’s a sweet resolution for Steve Rogers. But Marvel being the postmodern relativists and social engineers that they are couldn’t leave it there. Steve bestows his iconic shield to Sam Wilson and thus presumably passing the mantle of Captain America along with it.

On the surface, it seems appropriate and earned given that Sam has been steadfast in his loyalty to the Cap. But the whole reason fans bond with fantasy characters is their uniqueness and specificity. A great character is someone you feel like you know. Steve Rogers went through a unique journey to become Captain America. The super soldier serum simply allowed him to exhibit strength that was a match for the strength of his patriotism and sense of duty. If an iconic character like Captain America is just a software app that can be run on any meatsack operating system, why put any effort into crafting any character? Steve Rogers was Captain America. Sam Wilson is Falcon. But none of that matters now. We’re in the Age of the Final Revolution and the very notions of nationhood, manhood and gender are on trial in the public square. Certainly, the idea of a superhero with a fixed identity is as much an interchangeable part as the protective case for your smartphone. Does this mean Sam will undergo the same super soldier treatment that gave Rogers his heightened abilities? Or is he just going to continue to be Falcon but with Captain America’s vibranium shield?

On an even deeper level, what will Captain America even mean going forward? Unfortunately, Sam Wilson tipped the MCU’s hand.

Sam Wilson: Only thing bumming me out is the fact that I have to live in a world without Captain America.

Despite Anthony Mackie’s considerable appeal, this move is clearly more calculated pandering. If this is a passing of the torch, expect Captain America to be a cinematic leader of the #RESISTANCE from this point forward. Marvel has attempted numerous character reboots in the comics, and fans have always reacted negatively. You can’t just take a character like Captain America, Thor or Iron Man and make him a black dude or a woman just so you can score points with the SJWs. None of these failures stops them though. They are more invested in the cultural engineering than great storytelling at this point. And that’s too bad. It puts a slightly bitter aftertaste to what felt like a well earned happy ending.

Tony Stark

Tony Stark: It’s not about how much we lost. It’s about how much we have left. We’re the Avengers. We gotta finish this. You trust me?

Steve Rogers: I do.

I complain so bitterly about the MCU’s missteps because I genuinely believe that what they get right almost negates everything they bungle. Almost. The premise with which you are presented in the Avengers franchise is yet another set of archetypal misfits, outcasts, and alphas who have to learn to rise above their own limitations and petty grievances in order to work together as a team. Of all the Avengers, the person most hobbled by narcissism and grievance is also its most brilliant scientific mind.

Tony Stark.

When we see Tony finally fulfill the dream of fatherhood he shared with Pepper in Infinity War, it already feels like a happy ending. He traversed a long personal distance from the self-involved playboy we met in the first Iron Man to the devoted father we see in Endgame, and it feels like a truly heroic growth arc. The scenes with Tony and his daughter are among the sweetest moments ever captured in the MCU. Despite all the destruction porn and CGI whizbang, this is the stuff that gives the MCU a human soul. Being a leader of the earth’s mightiest heroes still doesn’t compare to the simple pleasures of being a dad.

Tony gets an even bigger emotional payoff in Endgame. Aside from his newfound fatherhood and his reconciliation with the Cap, he has a reunion with his own father during his detour into a 1970 SHIELD facility to acquire Pym Particles and the Tesseract. As he leaves the facility, he encounters Howard Stark who is anticipating his own birth. They share a brief but awkwardly touching scene in which Tony is able to express the gratitude he was never able to give while he was alive. Again, this is the stuff that gives the MCU real emotional weight, and dare I say it, a smidgen of dramatic maturity.

When Tony joins the Avengers in pulling off the time heist, the stakes are even higher because he has something to lose he never had before. We’re rooting for him like never before. The cruel joke is of course that our tech savvy savior is a proxy for the military-industrial complex. This is the guy who unwittingly unleashed Ultron on the world. This is the guy who builds military hardware, bombs, and AI powered armored suits. How can you make that character palatable? By casting the most charismatic working actor who goes through an unprecedented eight film arc and delivers all the most smartass lines, that’s how.

Tony Stark: I saw this coming a few years back, I had a vision, but I didn’t want to believe it. Now it’s true. What we needed was a suit of armor around the world! Remember that? Whether it impacted our precious freedoms or not, that’s what we needed!

Tony is a sort of military-industrial transhuman Jesus. He seeks the same thing Thanos did: ultimate power. A device which can snuff out half of the universe with a finger snap. We don’t know how the Infinity Gauntlet can filter out its targets, but we just accept that Tony will succeed in vaporizing only Thanos and his minions. His final sacrifice ends up making the resurrection of the previously fallen Avengers a triumphant denouement. It’s quite a feat that Marvel succeeded in placing your sympathies with a weapons manufacturer who acquires the ultimate weapon, but that’s essentially what Robert Downey Jr. and Marvel have achieved here. When he’s drawing his last breath, Pepper informs him the she and their daughter will be okay. That’s great, Marvel. Hooray for Pepper. Not only can she wear the Iron Man suit and run Stark Industries, but she can raise her daughter without a father, too. Yay, feminism.

The #SCIENCE

Tony Stark: Quantum fluctuation messes with the Planck’s scale, which then triggers the Doidge proposition. Can we agree on that? In layman’s terms, it means, you are not coming home.

As I’ve written previously, I don’t go into any sci-fi film expecting pure scientific realism. That’s especially true of the MCU. I’m fine with Infinity Stones, magical hammers, and talking raccoons who pilot spaceships. However, when a film spends 5 or more seconds trying to explain its wildest speculations like the way they did in Interstellar, The Martian or Endgame, you can bet your bottom dollar they’re attempting drop some metaphysics or reach for the furthest limits of established scientific thought. In other words, they’re trying to directly influence your perception of reality itself. Time travel is nothing new in science fiction. Endgame even makes some clever meta references to other time travel films. But what are the metaphysical presumptions behind all this?

  1. The deepest mysteries of the universe are physical. In order to access the quantum realm, they need Pym Particles. Essentially, matter will allow our heroes to access immaterial dimensions of time and move backwards and forwards. Similar to Interstellar and 2001, Endgame posits that metaphysical concepts like time, love and intelligence are locked inside the material substance of the observed universe. It’s a twist on the alchemist’s quest for the philosopher’s stone.
  2. Time is merely an algorithm to be hacked. The Avengers didn’t really have to face defeat or failure. They didn’t really have to own the consequences of their decisions. Some timelines can be rewritten, but most are to be left alone. It symbolizes a scientistic resurrection myth. Subsequently, concepts that were once the exclusive province of religious faith can be substituted with a belief in #SCIENCE.

But it’s just a Marvel movie, dude! Yes. That’s precisely the point. It’s a Marvel movie that happens to be the second largest grossing film of all time. These things are never made without an underlying cultural programming agenda. There are aspects of the MCU that are already a reality. AI, robotics, drones, mass surveillance and all manners of smart tech are already a reality. Even the idea of a mind controlled super soldier is closer to reality than you might think. The MCU combines the outrageously fantastical with the real world in ways that most sci-fi films only attempt. When Tony Stark injects subcutaneous nanotechnology for the purpose of summoning his suit more easily, it’s because they want the idea of tech implants to seem sexy and cool. After all, if TONY STARK uses nanotech implants, don’t you? I mean, come on! Captain America was using facial recognition technology to search for Thanos! Why are you getting so spooked by airline kiosks that use it, bro? Stop being so PARANOID! You must listen to Alex Jones or something.

Steve Rogers: We’ve been hunting Thanos for three weeks now – through face scans and satellites, so far we’ve got nothing. Tony, you fought him…

Tony Stark: What are you talking about? I didn’t fight him. No, he wiped my face with a planet while the wizard gave away the store. That’s what happened, there’s no fight…

I also have a hunch that Hollywood is trying to manufacture a resolution between quantum mechanics and relativity through movies. In Interstellar, Cooper time travels by passing through a black hole. In Endgame, they’re using Pym Particles in a device built by the Avengers. In one film, you’re seeing a hypothetical object with zero volume and infinite gravity. In another, you’re seeing an imaginary substance being used to power a machine that can do something that only exists in sci-fi films. But Tony sure sounded like he knew what he was talking about, didn’t he?

Globalism Über Alles

Thanos: I thought by eliminating half of life, the other half would thrive, but you have shown me… that’s impossible. As long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those, that are unable to accept what can be. They will resist. I will shred this universe down to it’s last atom and then, with the stones you’ve collected for me, create a new one. It is not what is lost but only what it is been given… a grateful universe.

This quote represents the underlying sentiment animating Endgame and the entire MCU. It shouldn’t be a mystery that the MCU is one giant hymn to globalism. Mass destruction and depopulation has been recurring theme. We saw it in Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron, Ragnarok and Infinity War.

Closely resembling Erik Killmonger’s monologue in Black Panther, this quote will be another interesting litmus test. How many fans are going to find this sentiment repellent? He sounds like a full fledged member of the #RESISTANCE to me.

Besides, how would Tony’s plan be an improvement? He said he wanted a suit of armor around the planet. Freedoms be damned. Don’t think he’s the only one in SHIELD who feels that way. Pick your globalist poison, proles. Mass depopulation or technocratic superstate panopticon. How about both? Heads, we win. Tails, you lose.

Captain Marvel, the WTF and Other Cringe

Bruce Banner: If we do this, how do we know it’s going to end any differently than it did before?

Carol Danvers: Because before, you didn’t have me.

James Rhodes: Hey, new girl? Everybody in this room is about that superhero life. And, if you don’t mind my asking, where the hell have you been all this time?

Carol Danvers: There are a lot of other planets in the universe, and, unfortunately, they didn’t have you guys.

Kevin Feige, thank you very much. I hope you’re enjoying this moment because your decision to bring fucking Brie Larson into the next phase of the MCU is your first major Rian Johnson moment. I’m confident it won’t be your last either.

Like many others, I saw the 11th hour inclusion of Captain Marvel (aka Captain RBF) after the cliffhanger of Infinity War as an ill omen. No one really wants or gives a shit about a jerry rigged sop to the SJWs whose undergone a gender swap and at least nine comic book reboots. This is Marvel desperately grasping for a competitor to Wonder Woman that they simply don’t have. Even worse, they cast SJW supreme, Brie Larson, to play her. The good news is that she doesn’t fuck anything up. The bad news is that even for the short time she’s there, the cringe is palpable. She even sports the Hillary Clintonesque haircut in one scene.

Naturally, Endgame genuflects to the Church of Feminism in numerous ways throughout the film. At this point, it has become its own cliché despite the pretense of “smashing stereotypes”. It’s merely matters of degree. Even Black Widow’s sacrifice for Clint Barton has a slightly unpleasant SJW aftertaste. Aside from the abominable decision to hand New Asgard over to Valkyrie, there is one major, utterly cringeworthy sop to the SJWs in the final battle. Look, I got a kick out of Eowyn dispatching the Nazgûl in Return of the King, too. Not only is this a retread of an almost identical scene in Infinity War, you just know the Russo brothers are pandering directly to the writers of The Mary Sue and Teen Vogue when they do this stuff. Writers who are simply going to bitch about how it wasn’t intersectional enough anyway.

While we’re on the subject, Captain Marvel can bring down Thanos’ ship single handedly, but she needs the Avengers sisterhood to cross the battlefield? And they all happened to be congregated there at that moment? This is Admiral Holdo grade shit, dudes. She’s been doing the work of the entire Avengers crew on other planets, but she’s incapable of defeating Thanos on her own? Captain Marvel added nothing to the film, and her presence in the final battle carried no dramatic weight because she simply hasn’t gone through the same journey the rest of the Avengers have. This is storytelling 101. It’s something Kevin Feige and company only selectively grasp, but they have an agenda that trumps common sense.

The decision to turn Hulk into a CGI-enhanced analogue of Mark Ruffalo’s real world soy latte beta persona was also a bit of a disappointment. This is a superhero whose superpower is going on Gamma radiation roid rampages. He got his ass handed to him by Thanos and his moment of redemption is putting on the Infinity Gauntlet and snapping everyone back? Whatever.

And why the fuck was Captain America able to wield Thor’s hammer?! It’s cool, but come on, dudes. Did I miss something? I know this is Endgame and everything, but this is like Rey kicking Kylo Ren’s ass with the lightsaber in the first encounter. I can buy Pepper wearing the Iron Man suit because they at least made the effort of setting the precedent in Iron Man 3. In Age of Ultron, it seemed pretty clear that no one could wield the mjolnir except Thor and Vision.

Whither MCU?

Where do Feige and company go from here? Nowhere good from my vantage point. I expect everything that’s wrong with this phase of the MCU will be amplified. Every mistake they’ve made with comics will be transferred over to the films with no lessons learned and no meaningful concessions to fans.

Brie Larson has already signed on for seven fucking films! If that alone doesn’t chill your blood, then perhaps preachy, forced identity politics are your cup of tea. Kevin Feige and the Disney Corporation will enjoy taking your money.

Endgame was as satisfying a conclusion to this phase of the MCU as I could have hoped. The actors and the writers succeeded in making me believe that they actually cared about these characters and fans slightly more than political correctness. Sadly, that’s the benchmark for success in this Aeon of #SocialJustice. Given the weight of the mandates imposed by the woke intelligentsia at Disney, it’s as as good as it can be. What could it have been if the writers weren’t hobbled by PC orthodoxy and actually were hired for their passion for the material and characters? Ironically, those speculations are now the province of real fantasy. Such is life in clown world in 2019.

Dan Bongino’s Spygate and the Grand Chessboard

If you’ve grown up in the latter part of 20th century America and were indoctrinated educated in public schools, you’ve probably absorbed one lesson from American history above all others as an unquestionable article of faith. All meaningful social progress is the result of leftist policy and activism while all forms of authoritarian repression, bigotry, and scandal are almost exclusively the province of the political right. This article of faith is validated by what was once the greatest political scandal of the modern era: Watergate.

It’s important to keep this narrative in mind when reading Dan Bongino’s excellent summary of what is now officially the biggest scandal in modern political history, Spygate. If the political left gets its way, this book will be disappeared and sent to the memory hole because this particular scandal absolutely eclipses Watergate by several orders of magnitude. The difference this time is that the malfeasance was exclusively on the Democratic side of the ledger. All of the bleating we’ve heard over the past couple years from the progressive intelligentsia was pure projection and misdirection. You can already see the signs that this story is being prematurely buried because even the well resourced library from which I checked out this book had only three copies of this book in the entire network. Whereas they mysteriously had room for over two hundred copies of Michael Wolff’s trashy hit piece, Fire and Fury. #FactsMatter, conservatards.

The joke is that Dan Bongino’s book is what progressives used to call investigative journalism. The book is entirely sourced from mainstream media outlets, government memos and congressional testimony. However, if you consider yourself part of the #RESISTANCE, you won’t even consider asking the questions the book poses because doing so is an act of deviance from the progressive narrative orthodoxy. There’s simply no point in questioning how the Mueller investigation originated. Who cares? Blumpf is Putin’s bitch. End of story. #IMPEACH. From a progressive perspective, there’s no need to even give this the time of day. Conservatives are just dumb people who get all their information from Fox and there’s no reason to take anything they say seriously. Snopes said so. Checkmate, conservatards.

If you were getting information from anything other than the progressive media industrial complex, everything in Spygate has been covered extensively. Bongino himself has been a fixture on Hannity and Fox News panels since the Russiagate narrative took hold. While Spygate is a satisfying summary of all the players and events that shaped the biggest hoax investigation ever perpetrated on the American public, it’s also missing some crucial context which puts everything in proper perspective. First and foremost, why on earth were the Democrats so fixated on portraying Putin and Russia as an existential threat after zero hysteria during Obama’s entire presidency? Was there deeper meaning to this narrative beyond the obvious goal of delegitimizing and possibly even unseating Trump?

OMG, Mitt. The 80s called. They want their foreign policy back.

The short answer is Yes. It was convenient to have Russia as a scapegoat and smear Trump as Putin’s handmaiden, but there’s more to the story. From a globalist geopolitical perspective, Russia represents a center of Eastern power and the last significant bastion of white ethnic traditionalism and nationalism in the modern world. Subsequently, that makes it an impediment to globalist designs on cultural degradation.

On an even deeper level, one must also consider the malleable nature of the left/right dialectic and the ease with which this can be manipulated and weaponized in order to divide and conquer. Most importantly, it must also pointed out the degree to which establishment oligarchs and their intelligence community handmaidens have colonized every corner of the culture for the express purpose of manufacturing a hegemonic grand narrative which allowed an epic scale hoax like Russiagate to even take hold in the first place.

Bongino’s heart is certainly in the right place, but the manner in which he frames the underlying tensions of geopolitics is mired in these standard Boomer-tier capitalist versus communist left/right dialectics. When describing the implausibility of Trump’s alliance with Putin he describes him as a “patriot” who’s dedicated his life to the spread of free market capitalism. Whereas Hillary’s affinity for Saul Alinsky makes her a more likely bedfellow with Putin’s quasi-Marxist authoritarianism. Bongino isn’t completely wrong, but it lacks nuance and glosses over the bigger picture. If anything, capitalism has facilitated the rise of the technocratic super elite and allowed these actors to infiltrate government and monopolize cultural consensus.

Obama era white papers from the progressive intelligentsia clearly state that there was no hysteria whatsoever over Russia. They were in “reset” mode. There were lingering post-Cold War tensions, but nothing that approaches the #RussiaGate dementia that has consumed the Left since 2016. Spygate makes much more sense when you see Russia’s role on the international stage the way the global technocrats like Zbigniew Brzezinski do. In other words, Russia is a thorn of opposition thwarting the designs of oligarchs since Halford Mackinder’s 1904 globalist manifesto, The Geographical Pivot of History. While Putin is certainly no saint, the caricature that’s promulgated by the various plutocrats of the CFR, Atlantic Council, and their minions in the controlled deep state media, you’d be led to believe he’s Hitler and Stalin rolled together.

Needless to say, it’s not that simple.

In Zbigniew Brzezinski’s numerous public appearances as well his own globalist manifesto, The Grand Chessboard, he raises the specter of a resurgent imperialist Russia. A Russia whose thirst for domination must be quelled by the civilizing force of #Democracy. After Russia had annexed Crimea, it became much easier to ascribe these imperial ambitions to Vladimir Putin.

Fast forward to the present. Bongino details Paul Manafort’s work on behalf of pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Since Hillary was already the candidate of the Atlanticist establishment, Manafort’s advisory role to Yanukovych handed media busybodies a readymade narrative for manufacturing Russia hysteria. The Russia narrative was essential for keeping the public distracted and divided, but it helped intensify and foment antipathy toward Russia amongst rank and file progressives. If you want to hear the establishment narrative in its most undiluted form, all you need to do is listen to the deranged recitations of the oligarchical puppet known as Eric Swalwell. He bemoans Trump’s disengagement with Syria. He lambastes the mere questioning of the role of a post-Cold War NATO. All of these talking points mirror the elite consensus because a global technocratic superstate is the final goal. Any political moves which consolidate national sovereignty and national consciousness or undermine global institutions are to be sabotaged.

And that ultimately brings us back to the deeper motivations behind the Spygate debacle. The seeds of the narrative were planted in the media before Trump’s election, but when he actually won, the deep state cabal had to set in motion what FBI Hillary stooge, Peter Strzok, described as an “insurance policy”. The entire timeline of players and events is laid out in painstaking but succinct detail. The payments to Fusion GPS through Perkins Coie. Christopher Steele’s role in the fabrication of salacious garbage known as the Steele dossier which was used to illegally obtain a FISA warrant. The numerous leaks and violations of standard FBI procedure. The complicity of James Comey, James Clapper. Sally Yates, Andrew McCabe, Loretta Lynch, John Brennan and Rod Rosenstein. It’s information of which everyone besides perhaps rank and file progressives is aware to some extent. The larger question is whether there will be consequences for the perpetrators of this hoax. If history is any indication, the prospect is unlikely. I hope I’m proven wrong. The establishment elite are rarely held accountable. Especially if you’re a Democrat.

How Network Foretold the Age of Fake News

For better or worse, we now live in a 24/7 news cycle. More importantly, the information you consume says everything about your moral fiber according to the woke intelligentsia. When the news that long awaited Mueller report was finally complete and submitted to the DOJ, you could predict how the findings would be received simply based on which side of the Trump ideological border wall you’ve located yourself. Even if you’re not full on MAGA, there is a significant contingent of independents, libertarians, classical liberals, dissident rightists, and even a couple of lone progressives who hold a skeptical view of the news media. Like clockwork, William Barr’s release of Mueller’s statement was perceived through completely different lenses by these two factions. For anyone in the media skeptic contingent, there was vindication. Of course Russiagate was a hoax. Of course it was initiated by the Obama administration and carried out by a cabal of deep state partisans intent on undermining Trump’s presidency. Of course the media were packed with neocons, DNC shills, and deep state assets who were far more invested in an ideological agenda than journalism. Anyone not gripped by Trump Derangement Syndrome could recognize this.

For everyone else, it was merely more evidence that the conspiracy to undermine #OurDemocracy was deeper than anyone could imagine. Maybe the Russians even got to Mueller himself! What should have been a moment of self-reflection and contrition became an opportunity to double down. There has always been an ideological divide, but it appears that it is more pronounced than it has been in recent years. Perhaps more importantly, the media have been unmasked as the partisan activists they are. The degree to which they actively foment this division is now glaringly obvious. To be sure, there are numerous examples of yellow journalism that predate the Trump administration, but what’s different now is that the once vaunted “fact checkers” are being fact checked in real time. The “fake news” meme that originated in Hillary Clinton’s campaign as a weapon against Trump has been hurled back in their faces. And nothing is more beautiful than dishing back the scorn that is so routinely heaped upon the average Americans whom the media elites hold in such abject disdain.

The funny part is that Hollywood has exposed the media aristocracy as the mendacious grifters they are on numerous occasions. Films function on multiple levels and there are a handful of films which pull back the curtain and reveal the machinery of power in all of its depravity. Sidney Lumet’s scorching satire of television news media, Network, is such a film. However, Network goes a step further. It is properly seen as a piece of predictive programming or revelation of the method. With the possible exception of its pitch black ending, every aspect of the film has played out in the real world in ways that match or surpass its wildest moments.

Released in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, Network captures the television news establishment at a crossroads. In William Holden’s aging news executive, Max Schumacher, we have an archetype of dying media integrity. Max is old school. He became president of the news division in a world where the idea of an independent, objective media free from the corrupting influence of the ratings rat race and advertising dollars was sacrosanct. The news division was a loss leader on the corporate balance sheet. News was a sober affair untainted by cheap sensationalism. But Max’s moral compass withers when tempted by the sexual charms of vapid ladder climber Diana Christensen and the opportunity to usher Howard Beale into the wide world of political commentary. Max’s affair with Diana is portrayed as consensual, but the recent exposes of Matt Lauer and Les Moonves suggest that the real world of network television is a little more predatory than Lumet and company represented. Today, media executives like CNN’S Jeff Zucker make no bones about their muckraking agenda nor do they hide their attempts to silence independent voices who have an opposing editorial POV.

In Faye Dunaway’s Diana Christensen, we have a feminist power fantasy, an emotionally stunted sociopath imprisoned by her pursuit of success, and an architect of the reality TV/social media celebrity. Not only does Diana champion Howard Beale’s transformation into a television prophet, she engineers the celebrity of a group of Marxist revolutionaries. When Diana sees footage of the Ecumenical Liberation Army, she sees a ratings bonanza. Diana’s legacy is felt in every corner of the mediasphere. Simply smooth out the Marxist militancy, add lipstick, Louboutins and a middle class Latina, and you’ve got AOC. Just look at the money and fanfare she’s gotten from the Hollywood establishment and one can reasonably conclude that Lumet was revealing the extent to which the Leftist “revolution” is a completely manufactured farce. In short, Diana Christensen would be the one who green lights Jussie Smollett’s “interview” with Robin Roberts.

Howard Beale unwittingly begins his career as a commentator simply for deviating from the antiseptic “reporting” he was required to do. Beale was conceived as a Cronkite-esque anchorman who imbues the broadcast with gravitas. Nowadays, Beale’s analogue is a robotic stuffed suit like ABC’s David Muir. A braindead automaton who is trained to read a teleprompter with the requisite dramatic inflections in his voice in order to convey an impression of Serious Reporting. In Beale, we also see the origins of the blurred lines between editorial and journalism. It’s not that Beale was dishonest, it’s that he gave a voice to disaffected Americans who knew they were being plowed under by the system. He simply put all of the impotent rage, frustration and sadness over the state of the world on loudspeakers.

Seen from a progressive perspective, Beale is nothing more than a proto Alex Jones or Sean Hannity. A more honest appraisal of Beale’s legacy would also include Bill Maher, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Cenk Uygur and even Rachel Maddow. As much as CNN and MSNBC like to tout their fearless pursuit of #FACTS, the truth is that everyone filters reality through a set of moral and emotional receptors. Journalism is not just a clinical recitation of facts. Facts all by themselves don’t tell a story. Every journalist worth his salt is attempting to insert his investigations into a larger narrative mosaic. The types of questions you ask or don’t ask, the manner in which facts are framed or omitted, and the extent to which weaponized language is used all contribute to the audience’s ability to process the information. The story that’s being told emerges from a set of preconceived moral and ideological presumptions. And ethics can be bought and sold. UBS didn’t care what Beale said when they saw the ratings. They only cared when he encouraged his audience to thwart the deal between the parent company and the Saudis.

The true masterstroke of Network is the scene when Beale is called on to the carpet by CEO Arthur Jensen. After Beale’s “Mad as hell” diatribe, Jensen’s monologue is a close second. Chayefsky and Lumet pull back the curtain on the full agenda behind the entire mass media complex: global domination. It’s about total pacification and technocratic servitude. Jensen informs Beale that he hasn’t just scotched a business deal. He’s “meddled with the primal forces of nature”. Even after Jensen lays down the law, Beale continues to drop truth bombs.

Howard Beale: Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation; this tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers; this tube is the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people, and that’s why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died. Because this company is now in the hands of CCA, the Communications Corporation of America; there’s a new chairman of the board, a man called Frank Hackett, sitting in Mr. Ruddy’s office on the twentieth floor. And when the 12th largest company in the world controls the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network?

But it’s just a movie, right?

Nope. Fast forward to the present day.

In the wake of the most exhaustive federal investigation of a POTUS in modern history, half of America still thinks Trump is guilty of colluding with Russians. Motherfucking half!
Bill Maher says he knows Trump is guilty because…wait for it…..he has a television!

Howard Beale was right.

Network may be regarded as a satire, but both Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky were deadly serious. Isn’t it ironic that we have to look to entertainment for truth and news for comedy?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

I’ve seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier at the top of several MCU lists on Letterboxd and I’m inclined to agree. Despite being another piece of entertainment which wants you to abandon the notion of moral absolutes, it’s one of the best examples of the mental prison which defines the dialectics of the modern era.

Using a character like Captain America to make this kind of statement is effective in this case because the Cap is a superhero who embodies a certain kind of moral absolutism: Americanism. In Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers lives in a world where the moral fault lines were plainly delineated. America and SHIELD represented liberty and HYDRA represented tyranny. Service, duty, honor, loyalty, honesty and yes, patriotism were the highest virtues. But these virtues had to be subordinated to the expansion of human freedom.

As the Cap tries to adjust the 21st century, he finds himself at odds with a world that exploits ethical grey areas and the ability to compartmentalize. When the Cap learns that the recovery of the Lemurian Star from pirates was really a pretext for an intelligence operation, he’s none too pleased. Nick Fury reveals that Project Insight is billed as a national security initiative which could diffuse a global threat before it materializes. Not only is Cap appalled that he’s being sent on missions with SHIELD agents operating under covert instructions, he doesn’t want to live in a world in which the preservation of liberty is upheld through global surveillance and the omnipresent threat of being executed.

As we’ve seen in other Marvel films, there are subtle historical references mixed with fiction. Cap eventually learns that SHIELD conscripted HYDRA scientists through the Operation Paperclip program and this allowed HYDRA agents to infiltrate SHIELD all the way to the top. Subsequently, Operation Insight could be deployed by HYDRA to orchestrate a mass genocide. HYDRA correctly surmised that people wouldn’t willingly give up their freedom if imposed by force, but if you sowed seeds of chaos and promised security in return, people would willingly surrender it.

I’ll let you decide for yourself if you think that this attitude only exists within the minds of the boogeymen promulgated by the establishment.

Nick Fury: These new long range precision guns can eliminate a thousand hostiles a minute. The satellites can read a terrorist’s DNA before he steps outside his spider hole. We’re gonna neutralize a lot of threats before they even happen.
Steve Rogers: I thought the punishment usually came *after* the crime.
Nick Fury: We can’t afford to wait that long.
Steve Rogers: Who’s “we”?
Nick Fury: After New York, I convinced the World Security Council we needed a quantum surge in threat analysis. For once we’re way ahead of the curve.
Steve Rogers: By holding a gun at everyone on Earth and calling it protection.
Nick Fury: You know, I read those SSR files. Greatest generation? You guys did some nasty stuff.
Steve Rogers: Yeah, we compromised. Sometimes in ways that made us not sleep so well. But we did it so the people could be free. This isn’t freedom, this is fear.
Nick Fury: S.H.I.E.L.D. takes the world as it is, not as we’d like it to be. And it’s getting damn near past time for you to get with that program, Cap.
Steve Rogers: Don’t hold your breath.

No Country For Old Men (2007)

It’s bleak as fuck, but it’s still one of the Cohen brothers’ best films. On the surface, No Country For Old Men is a postmodern noir Western for the age of open borders and narco warfare. However, both McCarthy and the Cohens are always reaching for biblical scale symbolism and allegory, so I believe it can be convincingly viewed through a few different lenses. I read it as grand scale tragedy of the dissolution of the American social fabric as it transitions from the Greatest Generation to the Boomers. Though the film focuses on Llewelyn Moss’ attempt to outrun and survive Anton Chigurh, the film is seen through the eyes of Tommy Lee Jones’ Sheriff Bell. He yearns for a time when police officers didn’t have to wear guns, the moral fault lines were clear, and the administration of justice was swift and certain.

In this film, our ostensible hero is a Boomer Vietnam vet who lives in a trailer with his girlfriend. He has no children and he’s retired from a welding career. He happens upon the scene of a drug deal which turned into a bloodbath and makes off with a suitcase full of cash. So the acquisition of his great treasure is not the product of a Joseph Campbell-esque Hero’s Journey or the result of sacrifice. Right away, we’re asked to place our sympathy with a character who came by his reward through sheer happenstance. He merely stumbled upon a random carcass that was collateral damage from the drug war.

As a Boomer archetype, Llewelyn is perfect because he has a compelling mixture of damaged patriotism, trailer park chivalry, and a perverse sense of entitlement to his ill gotten booty. Since he is rendered as a Vietnam vet, his military service represents the last gasp of collective patriotism before the nation descended into a permanent posture of malaise, cynicism and discontent in the post-Watergate era. I mean, what’s wrong with scraping a little cream of the top of drug war, amirite?! Get those Benjamins, dawg! Woot!

He is pursued mercilessly and relentlessly by Javier Bardem’s cold blooded assassin, Anton Chigurh. Resembling something in between Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 and Benecio del Toro’s cartel killer in Sicario, Chigurh takes on a supernatural and superhuman quality. When we’re introduced to Anton, he kills a random motorist by using a captive bolt pistol after dispatching a police officer and stealing his car. Not only does Anton seemingly kill indiscriminately, his weapon of choice is the same one used in abattoirs to slaughter cattle. This suggests a man who sees himself at the apex of the Darwinian predator/prey dominance hierarchy. He’s not bound by quaint notions of morality. That shit is for the plebs. His purpose is to be a pure conduit for Fate. Life and death are decided at the flip of a coin. He’s just the functionary whose entire existence is about ensuring that the cosmic machinery of determinism runs smoothly.

Chigurh carries out his task with a frightening level of patience, forethought, and discipline. It brings to mind the kind of methodical planning someone like Stephen Paddock exhibited in carrying out the Las Vegas massacre. When considering these qualities along with his ability to self-administer advanced medical treatment after suffering severe gunshot wounds, Chigurh is very likely a programmed assassin with deep state military training. He exhibits the qualities we expect to see in a James Bond or Jason Bourne. There’s nothing in the film that would lead the viewer to draw this conclusion and I suggest this is by design. There’s a despairing fatalism underneath this film and I suspect the Cohens want the viewer to think Chigurh is just a natural product of the modern world.

Sheriff Bell’s final lines suggest that this film is the Cohens’ lament over the passage of a more civilized and stable America. Their employment of Roger Deakins’ cinematography leaves me with the impression of their abiding love for the beauty of America. In contrast to detestable horseshit like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, the Cohens’ underlying affection for America always seemed sincere to me. They’re Boomers themselves so there’s more than a little bit of Llewelyn in each of them. They helped usher in the America in this film and, by extension, the world in which we live. Like Llewelyn, they too are just the lucky beneficiaries of America’s post-WW2 ascension to global superpower. That’s not to say they’re talentless hacks, but they are firmly ensconced in the Hollywood establishment. By default, they’re implicated in building the world we currently inhabit. We may nod in despair to Sherriff Bell’s grim ruminations, but I’m fairly confident the Cohens themselves are standing right alongside Rob Reiner and Steven Spielberg cheerleading for open borders.

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