Category Archives: politics

Joni 75 (2019)

This concert film showcases everything that is simultaneously wonderful and loathsome about the Flower Power generation. Filmed over the course of two nights at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Joni 75 features an all star cast of peers and proteges who came to pay tribute to one of the modern era’s most unique and influential artists.

Originally hailing from Alberta, Mitchell’s career took root in the ferment of the now infamous Laurel Canyon scene. Despite her reputation as an icon of the allegedly counterculture 60’s, Joni Mitchell remains a true maverick amidst a sea of revolutionary wannabes. She has demonstrated a remarkable ability to both avoid the ideological pigeonhole that defines her more openly partisan peers and sustain artistic vitality in an industry which disfavors innovation.

With a career that spans 19 studio albums over the course of more than 50 years, Mitchell has attracted a following that draws from the worlds of pop and jazz. She’s that rare artist who can leave the listener’s heart wrenched by the immediacy of her lyrics while the musicians in the audience all puzzle over her unusual chord changes. Backed by a top notch band, Joni 75 featured performances by Brandi Carlile, Glen Hansard, Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Chaka Khan, Diana Krall, Kris Kristofferson, Los Lobos with La Marisoul, Cesar Castro & Xochi Flores, Graham Nash, Seal, James Taylor, and Rufus Wainwright.

On the one hand, it’s a beautifully shot, recorded and performed concert featuring some of our finest artists singing mostly successful covers from the Joni Mitchell songbook. It’s unfussy and straightforward. The footage of artists showering Joni with praise is kept to a merciful minimum. Surprisingly, Peter Gabriel’s prerecorded tribute had a rare moment of honesty when he suggested that she’s probably a raging cunt when you have to work too closely with her.

On the other hand, despite its ostensible goal of just being a straightforward concert film, it couldn’t help but draw attention to its own wokeness. The band was so #DIVERSE! The guests were so #INTERSECTIONAL! Oh snap! Rufus Wainwright just mentioned his HUSBAND! What’s Mike Pence going to think?! And of course, Graham Nash just had to politicize the whole thing. What should have been a sweet remembrance about the creation of the song “Our House” was completely poisoned when he linked it to the 2018 election results. Way to convince people you aren’t raging totalitarians underneath all that hippie horseshit, Graham.

The film also draws attention to the question of whether multiculturalism and universalism are in fact mutually exclusive propositions. While Joni has taken public positions that set her apart from the rigidity of contemporary woke orthodoxy, the concert felt like another self-congratulatory advertisement for multiculturalism and immigration. This was especially true of the treatment Los Lobos and La Marisoul gave to “Nothing Can Be Done”. It’s a vibrant and joyful rendition that gave the song a Mexican flavor while being propelled by a gentle quasi Afro-Cuban groove. Chaka Khan’s ecstatic interjections managed to elevate it even further. It’s the kind of cross cultural collaboration that we’re supposed to celebrate as sophisticated cosmopolitans. Yet at the same time, the Woke Stasi are constantly browbeating and shrieking at the unenlightened rubes about the nefarious evils of “cultural appropriation”.

Is multiculturalism a melange from which anyone and everyone can freely pick and choose? Or is it a collection of disparate subcultures which must remain within the confines of their respective people groups in order to retain uniqueness? Or is it just another excuse for SJWs to be selectively outraged over fake transgressions?

More importantly, is multiculturalism building a universal culture? Or is it appropriating different cultures only to strip mine them of their context and uniqueness? Is it just a self-reinforcing orthodoxy which operates on the presumption that there is no downside to infinite immigration? Does it inculcate an unwavering belief that there are no issues of cultural assimilation and that the future that awaits us is a rainbow hued utopia of vegan taco trucks, body positive belly dancing and gender neutral drum circles? Is it just an excuse to revel in a smug sense of cosmopolitan moral superiority? Does the obsessive liberal quest for global “oneness” degrade cultural distinctions or enhance them? Is it just an excuse for progressives to be selectively outraged over “racism” in one moment while in the next moment being selectively outraged over “cultural appropriation”?

I love Joni Mitchell’s music. The artists mostly did a great job. It was beautiful but also kind of sad that a collection of aging wealthy Boomers still affect a pretense of being edgy revolutionaries. That somehow, another collection of self-satisfied children of the establishment celebrating their engineered cultural revolution as an unqualified success was finally going to convince the unenlightened peasants of flyover country that they’re stupid and backwards. I mean come on, bigots. “Big Yellow Taxi” is the theme song for the Green New Deal! Get #WOKE!

Perhaps what I heard in Joni’s gnostic rallying cry for the Age of Aquarius was something she didn’t necessarily intend. When James Taylor delivered a heartfelt rendition of “Woodstock”, it wasn’t heralding the advent of a secular New Eden. It was, in fact, the sound of a generation that has spent its entire adult lifetime trying to convince you that its complete monopoly of institutional consensus is the height of counterculture and rebellion. That all you need to usher in the final revolution is to don the pussyhat, hoist the placard aloft and post that fist pump to Instagram, baby. And that, my friends, is the sound of exhausted desperation.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are caught in the devils bargain
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

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Die Another Day (2002)

James Bond: I’m looking for a North Korean.
Raul: Tourist?
James Bond: Terrorist.
Raul: One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

Trash it if you must, but it has its charms. Not the least of which is Halle Berry’s homage to Ursula Andress. Beyond the fact that the action sequences approach Marvelesque levels of absurdity, there are some interesting pieces of geopolitical subtext to note.

It’s easy to dismiss Bond films as pure escapism, but just about anyone who pays real attention to geopolitics can plainly observe that the real movements of world events take place behind the veil of NGOs, military black operations, shell companies, intelligence fronts, and vast networks of deep state assets. In short, a Bond film offers a window of insight into the true nature of power politics. Of course there’s eye candy. Of course there are going to be hot chicks, gun fights, car chases and high tech razzle dazzle. We expect these things in a 007 film, and Die Another Day delivers these in heaping portions. But this franchise wouldn’t be this big if there wasn’t an agenda behind it.

Die Another Day is most accurately seen as a piece of post-Cold War/post-9/11 propaganda. Specifically, it’s a piece of anti-North Korean propaganda. Released a year after 9/11 and the initiation of the invasion of Afghanistan, the longest war in US history, Die Another Day offers more than a few eyebrow raising propositions to ponder. Especially in light of current events. This film wants us to buy into the idea of North Korea as a military powerhouse which has a net surplus of armaments to hock in the arms trade black market in exchange for African blood diamonds. So not only are these repressive Juchebags exacerbating the conflicts in the mineral rich African countries, they’re exporting arms to innumerable baddies throughout the world. Even worse, they have imperial ambitions to reclaim the Southern half of the country lost to the capitalist running dogs of the decadent West.

Isn’t that something? When George W. Bush and the woke overlords of the Western world were mobilizing all of our collective military might into fighting the Taliban and eventually, Saddam Hussein, Die Another Day wants us to see North Korea as the font of Pure Evil.

But why? Maybe to divert your attention from the fact that the very phenomenon the filmmakers are pinning on North Korea was being underwritten by the West to prop up the War on Terror. In fact, the 2002 story of Sanjivan Ruprah’s arms trafficking to the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone bears a striking resemblance to the storyline in Die Another Day. Isn’t it interesting that this nefarious arms dealer managed to secure a gig as Liberia’s deputy commissioner for maritime affairs? And isn’t it even more interesting that he just happened to be in contact with the CIA with information pertaining to arms smuggling to the Taliban?

[Here be spoilers and shit]

And it gets better. Our chief nemesis in Die Another Day, Colonel Tan-Sun Moon, is the heir to the seat of power in North Korea occupied by his father, General Moon. It’s a mirror image of the real life hereditary dictatorship of Kims Jong Il and Un. Also mirroring his real world analogue, Tan-San Moon is portrayed as the recipient of a Western education. When it’s revealed that he has transformed himself into aerospace/geotech mogul, Gustav Graves, through gene replacement therapy, the presumption is that his acquisition of Western scientific knowledge allowed him to build a solar geoengineering weapon. So our dastardly North Korean dictator who presides over an impoverished communist country in real life threatens the world through access to Western education, capitalism, technology, and gene therapy.

Right.

Above all else, these films are about acclimating you to technological innovation that has far reaching implications. Back in 2002, geoengineering wasn’t even discussed publicly, and 17 years later, it’s out in the open. The idea of a satellite that can replicate or block sunlight and can be weaponized to manipulate weather seems outlandish to most people, but we’re already starting to see this idea being discussed openly as well.

The most disturbing element is the human trafficking implications of the gene therapy subplot. The Avengers franchise eventually used this as a plot device for both Captain America and Black Widow. It’s being used in a similar way here because both Zao and Moon become genetically engineered super soldiers through the process. Halle Berry’s Jinx discusses the therapy with the Cuban physician who administers the treatment, he says that the blood plasma comes from “orphans, refugees and people who will not be missed.” What a pleasant thought. The movie wants you to be repelled because it’s being used by the bad guys, but in real life, this is being touted as a kind of all purpose miracle cure and fountain of youth.

What’s the more plausible thesis about this film? That the organization behind the Bond series just pulled this story out of their asses? Or that it’s a useful distraction and a mental palliative to alleviate the necessity of thinking about things too deeply? Hey. Credit where credit is due. Halle Berry AND Rosamund Pike in one 007 movie are pretty decent distractions.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Part of me thinks the best thing about this film is Psylocke’s kink/bondage combat outfit. Enjoy it while you can, folks. Sexy superhero costumes are headed for the memory hole.

Anyway.
Meh. It’s okay.

I’m generally cool with the Marvel franchise, but if I’m paying more attention to the political subtext and the symbolism than the story, something is off. I don’t mind that Marvel movies are overt pieces of military-industrial globalist propaganda. I just hope that the characters and storytelling are compelling enough to lend a smidgen of dramatic heft to the destruction porn. Sadly, in X-Men: Apocalypse, it’s lacking in this department.

But boy oh boy, is this movie packed to the brim with symbolic inversions, historical revisionism, geopolitical and deep state intrigue. Yes, these are superhero destructathons, but these movies wouldn’t be made if the various institutions behind them weren’t deeply invested in the messaging. People are way more interested in watching J Law kick ass in a body suit than Hillary Clinton cough up a lung in a pantsuit.

Between the Avengers and the X-Men, there are lots of overlapping ideas and themes. Since the X-Men are mutants, there is a little more emphasis on genetic engineering, mind control, panopticism, and believe it or not, geoengineering. I also propose that Magneto’s ability to control magnetic fields suggests aether based occult physics that are also a feature of the Avengers series.

As the film opens, we’re taken to the Nile Valley circa 3600 BC where our antagonist, En Sabah Nur (aka Apocalypse), is attempting to transfer his consciousness into a younger body the old fashioned way: through ritual magick. The proles revolt and he’s buried in a tomb.

From a symbolic perspective, Apocalypse is a Luciferian mutant inversion of Adam. He has a veneer of Egyptian and pagan mythology, but he’s grafted with elements from Christian theology. Apocalypse is presented as The First Mutant, but because he’s a bad guy, Marvel have been very explicit about his demonic origins. His adoptive father is Baal. Baal is an actual character in the MCU, but Baal is known more widely as one of the seven princes of Hell in goetic occult texts or as a Phoenician deity from the Old Testament. He is guarded by The Four Horsemen; entities that are associated with The New Testament and herald the rise of the Antichrist. So remember, kids. Despite Christianity being a bunch of dogshit that’s only for brainwashed Trumptards, it seems that the geniuses at Marvel need to borrow and invert all this religious stuff in order to generate their own superhero mythology.

Could it be that metaphysics and theology provide the foundational maps of being from which we derive guidance, inspiration and purpose? Could it be that these logoi form the basis of our entire knowledge of ourselves, the physical world, and our underlying assumptions about how reality itself is ordered?

Nah! We’re just sacks of meat floating through a universe of chaos and meaninglessness fighting off delusions of free will, dude.

Naturally, Apocalypse is eventually stirred from his slumber after our Indiana Jones wannabe/CIA asset, Moira MacTaggert, starts digging some shit up amongst the Egyptian pyramids. Finally revived after a successful occult ritual, Apocalypse is displeased with humanity, and sets out to wipe the slate clean with a master race of mutants leading the way. Of course, Apocalypse is just updating an idea that Blackwolf already tried in Wizards back in 1977, but whatever. Luciferian mutants just wanna fuck some shit up, I guess. It’s just the latest cycle of creative destruction in an endless wheel of time man!

Essentially, what the X-Men mythology presents is the idea that mutants have Luciferian origins, but being bestowed with superhuman powers isn’t grounds for being shunned or hunted down all by itself. They’re just different and special, bro. More evolved. If they go to Charles Xavier’s Hogwarts School for Gifted Youngsters, they’re good mutants. If they get too caught up in Apocalypse’s depopulation agenda, they’re bad. Don’t worry if there’s massive collateral damage, global surveillance, or if one of the baddies succeeds in killing off some of the population. Just accept the idea that there are people working in the corporate military-industrial complex and the deepest recesses of the state on harnessing these powers for good. And they definitely don’t have any nutty ideas about depopulation despite the fact that nearly every sci-fi offering presents some kind of doomsday scenario that wipes out humanity.

What Marvel and Bryan Singer have done is subvert your expectations by making the X-Men heroic embodiments of ideas that might not go down so easily if you think about the ramifications for five minutes. Ororo Munroe/Storm is essentially a one woman geoengineering facility. Perhaps even a proxy for HAARP itself. Cyclops is a living Directed Energy Weapon. Wolverine is a genetically engineered, MK Ultra super soldier. Charles Xavier and Cerebro together are the most powerful global surveillance operation ever. Not only does he have total information awareness, but he can steal memories and manipulate thoughts. Apocalypse wants to control Charles’ mind because when he does, he’ll be able to control every mind. Don’t think for a minute that this is just a comic book driven flight of imagination either.

There are interesting geopolitical details as well. When Raven liberates Nightcrawler from the mutant cage fighting match, she takes him to Caliban so he can forge IDs and passports and gain entry to the US. Because our sympathies are with the X-Men from the start, we’re totally distracted from the fact that they’re running an underground ID forgery operation. By extension, they’re creating a fast track for illegal immigrants to enter the US that bypasses the standard protocols. Does this have a real world analogue? I know which side of that bet I’m on.

I also propose that film, including and especially these Marvel movies, are subtle forms of historical revisionism. They reference actual historical events, but are refracted through the lens of fiction. They’re giving you grains of truth, but they’re occluded and distorted by the fictional packaging. When we’re introduced to Scott Summers (aka Cyclops), he’s learning about a big showdown between Mystique and Magneto. There was a Paris Peace Summit in Paris in 1973, but I’m certain that Magneto and Mystique weren’t there. What were the filmmakers saying about this event if Mystique and Magneto represent two competing sides of a mutant class of super beings? Perhaps that the two factions represented at the Paris Accord was a completely controlled dialectic from the start and the whole thing was a stage managed PR stunt? Kind of like a real life X-Men movie but without Olivia Munn in a kink/bondage combat outfit? You decide!

Above all else, the X-Men franchise is promoting transhumanism. Whether they’re scientifically engineered or innate paranormal/occult powers, these films want you to accept the idea that mutants and mutation represent humanity’s future. The people you think are outcasts or freaks are really just potential X-Men who haven’t yet been initiated into Charles Xavier’s Hogwarts School for Gifted Children. That article you just read about “brain-computer interfaces”? That’s just the next Jean Grey, man. Don’t be such a paranoid, conspiratorial bigot. It’s only the natural course of human evolution, bro.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

I saw Close Encounters at least twice when it was initially released, and on one of those occasions I was reduced to a weeping mess by the film’s conclusion. After rewatching it all these years later, it’s clearer to me why it hit me so hard back then. Yes, it’s an alien visitation movie and it’s got all the UFO porn you could ask for. But if we take the case that the mythology of extraterrestrial intelligence has been inserted into the culture in order to mainstream various forms of esoteric and Eastern religious beliefs, the film reads as an allegory of the Boomer generation’s nihilistic and narcissistic pursuit of Enlightenment. Roy Neary’s final decision to join the aliens is meant to be the triumphant fulfillment of his messianic vision quest, but he ends up jettisoning his family in the process. Whether it’s the chase for hedonistic thrills or the desire for institutional power and stature, Neary’s departure feels like a large scale symbolic removal of the father figure from the pop culture consciousness. It’s an act of cinematic demolition that has proceeded unabated since then.

Above all else, Close Encounters is a study in the power of visual and aural symbols. If you think this is a reach, consider the scene when François Truffaut’s Lacombe and Bob Balaban’s David Laughlin travel to Northern India to record the ecstatic song of the villagers. When the translator asks the villagers to identify the source of the song, they simultaneously point to the sky. The crowd is singing the 5-note melodic motif that will eventually be used to communicate with the aliens. Good luck getting that out of your brain. Jay Dyer has suggested that this tone sequence resembles the Tetragrammaton, and I think this is plausible. However, I also it’s a variation on the Gayatri Mantra, a devotional hymn to the sun deity, Savitr. Spielberg himself has said that it’s “When You Wish Upon a Star” meets science fiction’. A filmmaker as skillful as Spielberg doesn’t divulge something like that arbitrarily so it’s not unreasonable to surmise that a chant used to communicate with beings from the stars carries all the esoteric meaning connected to stars within the occult and Eastern traditions. Even the imagery on the poster suggests the same idea. An open stretch of highway with a glowing light emanating from beyond the horizon.

Roy’s vision of Devil’s Tower is similar. He is smitten with what amounts to a divine revelation of an Axis Mundi or a Holy Mountain. He is so consumed by the vision that he is compelled to fill an entire room in his home building a replica using everything from garbage pails to uprooted shrubbery. His wife played by Teri Garr is understandably frustrated and disturbed by his obsession and eventually leaves Roy with the children. Roy is initially upset, but his distress evaporates when he receives visual confirmation of his vision on the television newscast. He defies federal orders to stay clear of the area and begins his pilgrimage. But what kind of quest is this if Roy’s Mount Sinai is called Devil’s Tower?

There is a conspiracy component to this film as well. While it’s undoubtedly meant to stoke the longstanding theory of a government coverup of UFOs, it’s very subtly telling you that the military-intelligence complex is capable of manufacturing a public panic. Right down to the deployment of nerve gas agents that correspond to the the fake threat promulgated in the news media. I also couldn’t help but think of the ghetto liquidation scene from Schindler’s List when I saw the panicked townspeople feverishly scrambling to board the train. Obviously, Close Encounters wasn’t nearly as harrowing as Schindler’s List, but the essential idea that was put across felt the same. A frightened citizenry being herded onto a train by military forces. If we take the case that the coordinates featured in the film point to some hidden military dictatorship ensconced beneath or around the Denver Airport, then maybe this film is a nightmarish piece of predictive programming I certainly never previously imagined.

Roy’s ascension to the alien spacecraft reads as an initiation rite and an ode to Boomerseque self-absorption and narcissism. In the absence of any larger sense of purpose or meaning, an opportunity to join either a secret society, fraternal order or an “alien species” seems like a more important quest than being a devoted father. As it turns out, Richard Dreyfuss was declared a Mason at sight in 2011, so Spielberg’s casting choice was a window of insight into how he is perceived to the establishment elite.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind belongs to a well established tradition of films which explore the idea of a visitation from an advanced and benign intelligence. Picking up from the globalist message of The Day The Earth Stood Still, Close Encounters arguably jump started the UFO mythology for the modern era of mass entertainment and internet culture. As shows like the X-Files and the recently released Project Blue Book attest, the appetite for UFOs is bigger than ever. Coincidentally, the stories appearing in the mainstream media which tease the prospect of an actual sign of extraterrestrial life are also multiplying. But is it a coincidence? Maybe after all of our hubristic posturing of scientific rationalism, people are ultimately drawn to one idea that provides a sense of something greater than our seemingly empty and insignificant existence.

WE ARE NOT ALONE.

The Mule (2018)

Every now and then, the fanfare surrounding a film is warranted and I suggest that the praise heaped on The Mule marks such an occasion. While Earl Stone’s journey from horticulturalist to drug mule drives the top layer of the storyline, the emotional undertow of his parental and marital failings packs the hardest punch. Beginning with Unforgiven from 1992, Clint Eastwood has leveraged his storied career as an onscreen badass par excellence to limn the depths of his personal travails like no other actor. This dramatic heft is satisfying on its own terms, but like a piece written by a great jazz musician, his performance has many additional layers that are equally praiseworthy. Aside from the numerous threads of commentary on the drug war, The Mule touches on immigration, veterans affairs, the toll of globalized e-commerce on local economies, the dissolution of intergenerational wisdom, the challenge of aging in America and the corrosive effects of political correctness.

Even when he’s playing a badass, Eastwood’s characters are never one dimensional and Earl Stone is no exception. Like Ellington or Mingus, Eastwood lays out the contours of Earl’s character with clean phrases but repeatedly plays them against dissonant harmonies. When we first meet Earl in 2005, he’s a model of geriatric charisma and swagger. He is quick witted, well dressed and still knows how to charm the ladies. Earl is a law abiding citizen, appreciates old fashioned verities and is a Korean War veteran to boot. Irrespective of the personal failings in his family life, Earl Stone is a model citizen. He is the guy with whom everyone wants to have a beer and shoot the shit. When he eventually turns to smuggling drugs, your sympathies do not diminish. Earl’s ill gotten economic gains are used help finance his granddaughter’s wedding and the rehabilitation of the VFW Hall. He puts the money to work out of a genuine desire to mend fences with his estranged daughter and ex-wife as well as to uphold a place of community and refuge for his fellow soldiers.

These qualities endeared him to hardboiled gangsters, Bradley Cooper’s FBI agent and his immigrant gardeners while making the unvarnished edges of his personality go down easier. When he sternly admonishes his Mexican staff to fix their car so that it won’t be a “ticket to deportation”, you’re disarmed by his honesty. When he tells his cartel handlers they’re getting dirty looks because they’re “two beaners in a cracker bowl”, it comes across like a straightforward observation rather than a hateful epithet. And the fact that he’s willing to say something that risky to the faces of armed thugs is also pretty funny.

Like clockwork, the puritanical screeching over Earl’s politically incorrect coarseness has come from the SJW corners of the mediasphere. Sadly, these insufferable scolds will never grasp the point that Eastwood was making. When Earl offers to help a black couple change a tire, he refers to them as “negroes”. Instead of being thankful for the help he offered, they spent all their time being triggered and butthurt by his words. They inform him that it’s against #WOKE protocols to say such terrible things, but Earl smiles and proceeds to help them. Eastwood is cleverly pointing out what everyone outside the progressive bubble already knows. The Left has indoctrinated a posture of perpetual offense and a pathological desperation to enforce to a set of ever changing rules. “Negro” was once perfectly acceptable and Earl’s usage of the term did not carry a tinge of racial animosity.

Speaking of PC scolds, Eastwood’s demolition of progressive puritanism isn’t limited to his willingness to piss off the racism cops. He gives us something that feels increasingly rare in today’s era of hypersensitivity: unabashed Latina pulchritude. When Earl successfully completes a record run, he’s treated to a proper celebration that only a drug lord could host. Earl is flown to the Mexico compound where Andy Garcia’s Laton throws a party that’s overflowing with liquor, drugs and tons of scantily clad chicks. Eastwood’s camera lingers on their curvaceous asses as they gyrate to salsa jams. It’s a lovely sight to behold and the fact that some harpy from the online feminist stasi is seething with rage over its inclusion makes it that much more glorious.

Though somewhat softer than the grizzled hardass he played in Gran Torino, Earl is perpetually bewildered and perturbed by the fact that he lives in a world that’s increasingly disconnected from the traditions with which he grew up. “Didn’t your daddy teach you to change a tire?” he asks of the couple in distress as the man flails about haplessly searching for network connectivity. For Earl, the idea of a father not teaching basic automotive care never crosses his mind. Let alone the possibility that either of them might have grown up without a father. The #WOKE intelligentsia will probably chastise Eastwood for this attempt at cinematic paternalism, but I’m inclined to think this was also Eastwood’s stealth commentary on illegitimacy in the black community.

While Earl feels the walls closing in on the destructive trade in which he’s inserted himself, he never stops seeking redemption, grace or a few minutes to stop and smell the roses. The pressures of the cocaine trade should never supersede the opportunity to enjoy the best pulled pork sandwich in the Midwest. Just because you’re being tailed by the FBI doesn’t mean you can’t impart hard earned wisdom with the agent who has you in his sights. Even as he basks in Laton’s decadence, he counsels his handler Julio to abandon the thug life. Earl never has to face the destruction his drug running exacts on the social fabric he wants to see preserved, but he never loses sight of his culpability in the consequences of his choices.

A cynic might say that casting Alison Eastwood in the role of Earl’s daughter was an act of nepotism, but in this case, it was a masterstroke. There’s no doubt in my mind that Iris’ resentment towards her father came from a genuine place, but like Earl, Iris goes through a growth arc of her own that feels equally genuine. Dianne Weist is brilliant as Earl’s ex-wife, Mary, and the mixture of emotional anguish and love she holds for Earl is palpable.

The Mule is making some very obvious points about how the media spotlight creates perverse incentives for federal law enforcement, but I suggest that Eastwood giving us a glimpse of something even more profound. This isn’t just a skillful adaptation of a real world story. This is a window into a tightly controlled network of forces that’s been deployed and managed by the establishment. Hollywood is the propaganda arm for two sides of a dialectic that appear opposed but are more intertwined than they appear. Eastwood may have the trappings of a successful Hollywood career, but I believe Earl’s fate is a metaphor for Eastwood’s life in more ways than one.

Hollywood’s pathological fixation on youth has fueled a culture of narcissism, vacuous moral preening and increasingly impoverished filmmaking. The mere existence of this film amidst this sea of fame seeking hacks and soulless technicians feels as precious Earl’s day lillies. With The Mule, Eastwood has risen to the stature of the jazz greats he admires. This is work of an artist who breathes life into every line and frame. The entire film feels like Eastwood’s lesson in filmmaking to the up and coming generations. I can only hope they’re paying attention.

Interstellar (2014)

Updated 12/29/2018

Recommended, but with caveats.

Let’s get the science stuff out of the way first because this aspect of the film relates to all the underlying editorial. I’ve been watching sci-fi films for most of my life. I’m cool with suspension of disbelief. I do not expect any science fiction to present textbook scientific realism. I like movies with dimension hopping spacecraft, AI robots, transporter machines, alien beings and laser weapons just as much as anyone. I’m not interested in “fact checking” this film. However, Interstellar is presenting itself as a next level science fiction film which supposedly extrapolates from the cutting edge of relativistic physics. Similar to other highbrow sci-fi films like Contact, this is a movie that wants you to learn something and contemplate deep shit while you enjoy mind bending special effects and gazing upon Matthew McConaughey’s dreamy visage. It wants you to feel especially smart and virtuous when you retweet Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The simple truth is that there isn’t a single Hollywood science fiction film which features interstellar space travel that deals in pure scientific fact. In fact, some of the most realistic science fiction films like Looker or Altered States involve no space travel at all and suggest actual scientific phenomena that are much closer to reality such as hallucinogenic mind control and media induced mass hypnosis. This should be self-evident, but it needs to be said in this case especially because Interstellar wants to claim a mantle of scientific legitimacy. Underneath all the CGI whizbang, nearly every sci-fi film is smuggling in some combination of scientism, occult metaphysics or eschatology. That’s especially true of this film. Subsequently, I believe that it’s important to delineate the boundary between speculative leaps of imagination and observed scientific knowledge in order to parse out the underlying agenda. When Interstellar takes its speculative leaps, it’s patently obvious that it’s trying to fill the gap once occupied by traditional theology.

Interstellar is using speculative cosmological phenomena like wormholes, time dilation and black holes because it wants to supplant the traditional notion of a Creator with the gnostic idea that we are our own gods. Much like the hero of the film, it’s using the unresolved clash between macrocosmic gravity and quantum mechanics to transport the idea that gravity, and ultimately love, are physical properties that can traverse the fabric of spacetime. And that if we continue to believe in #SCIENCE, we will transcend the higher dimensions of spacetime and learn to hack the eternal wheel of time in order to send Morse Code messages back to our progeny and save humanity. Like its predecessor 2001: A Space Odyssey, Interstellar wants to dispense with the idea of metaphysics and locate all seemingly transcendent phenomena within the physical world and under the purview of “science” and “space travel”.

Cooper: Love, TARS, love. It’s just like Brand said. My connection with Murph, it is quantifiable. It’s the key!

The irony is of course that this film is deeply spiritual, but like just about everything else in cinematic sci-fi, its metaphysics are Hermetic and gnostic. And these are revealed in the film’s symbolism. It’s not an accident that the wormhole through which our heroes travel is located near Saturn, the Lord of Time and Death. It’s not an accident that Cooper’s passage into the tesseract is a hypercube, a four-dimensional analogue of the cube and itself a symbolic reference to Saturn. It’s not an accident that the secret space program is called Lazarus as a gnostic signifier of the conquest of death and an inversion of the traditional reading. It’s not an accident that 12 ships with 12 astronauts were deployed mirroring the 12 Tribes of Israel. Nor is it an accident that the black hole through which McConaughey’s Cooper travels is called Gargantua named after Rabelais’ character of the same name. In Rabelais’ book, Gargantua builds the anti-church, the Abbey of Thélème and its parishioners adhere to one rule: DO WHAT YOU WANT. Needless to say, it’s a dictum which was refined to “DO WHAT THOU WILT” by the individual who actually built the Abbey of Thelema, Aleister Crowley.

Similar to its thematic predecessor and companion film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the ideas presented in Interstellar are deeply intertwined in what is now simply being called transhumanism. It is the idea that through scientific gnosis, we will transcend our profane existence and achieve the immortality and godhood that is our one true divine purpose. This is what I believe is the central theme in Interstellar, and it is being disingenuously smuggled into the film under the banner of “science”. Where 2001 presented HAL hastening Dave Bowman’s transformation into the Star Child, Interstellar also features an AI called TARS, an anagram of STAR, which facilitates Cooper’s transition through the cosmic abyss. As Cooper’s wisecracking Alexa assistant, TARS is both physically analogous to the monolith of 2001 and another symbolic black cube of Saturn.

All of my other beefs with the film are byproducts of these basic premises.

Besides all the space travel and highbrow relativity stuff, Interstellar is also a work of dystopian science fiction. The film is set in the 2060’s and humanity is beset by famine, technological retreat, technocratic micromanagement and state enforced agrarianism. Just as we’ve seen in numerous dystopian films, Interstellar is conceding climate change as a forgone conclusion and using that premise as the reason that half the population has been decimated. Whether it’s the Terminator series or the Avengers, mass depopulation is a prominent theme in sci-fi films of every stripe. If we take the case that movies are a form of social engineering, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that this is what the global elites intend.

Also worth noting is that the film is set in eastern Colorado. Besides the numerous conspiracies surrounding the Denver Airport, Colorado was where the survivors of the biological agent made their defense in The Stand. Colorado is also featured prominently in the similarly themed dystopian science fiction novel, The Passage. With this additional reference, there can be little doubt that Colorado is very significant to the cryptocracy.

There is no visible animal life and people are forced to farm wheat and corn. This suggests that the vegan agenda has been taken to its fullest conclusion. The government has imposed proficiency test mandates through the public schools which require that the majority of the population enter into agriculture in order to meet the global demand for food. When the very idea of “achievement” or “potential” is the province of bureaucrats, the standards can be manipulated to serve those in power.

History books have been rewritten to exclude space flight because humanity simply cannot afford such extravagance. This is another eyebrow raising moment because the reason spaceflight was purged from the historical record is because it was declared to be hoax. How about them apples? Along with Diamonds Are Forever and Capricorn One, this marks another cinematic reference to the idea of a fake moon landing. This is very clever because Nolan is presenting a dystopian future, so we’re automatically to assume that the world has been overrun by right wing conspiratards who hate science, read the Bible and watch Fox News. But it’s not all bad. When the school administrators deliver the news of Cooper’s children’s test results, we learn that his luddite son is best suited for farming and….wait for it….his DAUGHTER IS A FUCKING SCIENTIFIC GENIUS WHO’S TEST SCORES ARE THROUGH THE ROOF!

Wow. Amazing. Another scientifically adept female heroine who is going to save the world with math and science. How novel. Hollywood just doesn’t write enough strong womyn characters, amirite? It’s not like THIS IS HOW EVERY CONTEMPORARY FEMALE CHARACTER IS WRITTEN NOWADAYS OR ANYTHING. I guess mass depopulation hastened the demolition of the patriarchy. Or something.

Adult Murph is played by Jessica Chastain and she’s passable in the role. With the notable exception of the loathsome Miss Sloane, I’ve found her performances in the various films in which she’s appeared enjoyable, but I’m getting a little tired of seeing her play the Strong, Empowered, Intelligent, Heroic Womyn in every goddamn film.

Played very sympathetically by Matthew McConaughey, Cooper is a former NASA pilot and engineer. Except for his Roy Neary-esque decision to fly into the depths of space, he is a positive father figure who teaches his kids to be independent thinkers, function well in the physical world, appreciate the scientific method and be self-sufficient individuals. He’s the kind of father who insists that they know how to change a car tire, but has a healthy enough irreverence for government property that he would remotely down a drone and dismantle it for parts. Of course, he’s just not meant for the farming life. His destiny is among the stars, man! Mirroring the journey of farm boy to star hero that we witnessed in Luke Skywalker and Clark Kent, Cooper is the gnostic Jesus who sacrifices himself so that his Sophia-like daughter can deliver the final salvation.

Roughly analogous to the encoded ciphers presented in Contact and Close Encounters, Cooper finds structure in the perfectly arranged piles of dust that accumulate in their library after a duststorm. As it turns out, they’re coordinates which lead them to a secret NASA installation filled with scientists and engineers hard at work planning humanity’s extinction interstellar salvation.

The government has imposed dystopian mandates around employment, the food supply and education, yet they are still funneling billions of dollars into NASA programs which are somehow completely secret. This is yet another eyebrow raising moment because it suggests the possibility that there is presently a secret space program. Also, this band of enlightened government scientists aren’t militarized, experience no budget overruns or shortfalls, are rational and pleasant people, and are quietly working on spacecraft which can traverse interstellar distances completely beyond the view of the press and the public. The NASA crew are astonished that Cooper found them and William Devane presses him on how he sussed out their location. Apparently, everyone has been banned from the internet, and since smartphones have been confiscated, no one knows how to read maps anymore.

Michael Caine’s Dr. Brand informs Cooper that there are two plans for saving humanity. Plan A involves cracking the mysteries of gravity which allows the underground centrifuge to get into orbit. Plan B involves sending a crew of astronauts through the wormhole to be an interstellar Noah’s Ark and repopulate the species on a new planet. Because Cooper’s daughter is a scientific genius, she warns Cooper not to go because she can decode the mysterious “ghost” sending Morse Code signals through the bookshelf. Since she’s kicking the asses of her teachers, Brand takes Murphy under his wing so that she may fulfill her intellectual potential and solve the mysteries of gravity.

Depending on how you want to read it, the dystopian future of Interstellar can also be considered super #WOKE. It’s evidence that depopulation finally hastened the intersectional utopia progressives have long sought. The intrepid crew includes token white male Cooper, a smart black dude, another white guy who gets killed really quickly, and Dr. Brand’s smart, capable daughter, Amelia Brand played by an annoying and generally unlikable Anne Hathaway. Cuz the future is female and shit.

The film also broaches the age old question of reconciling individual interest with collective interests. This is one of the great dilemmas ushered in by the Age of Darwinian Scientific Materialism. If all that exists is a material universe full of deracinated, atomized individuals seeking only economic gain, how do you extend a larger concern for group welfare beyond immediate blood relations? I’ll give you a hint. It may involve the threat of impending global catastrophe.

Brand: Maybe we’ve spent too long trying to figure all this out with theory.

Cooper: You’re a scientist, Brand.

Brand: So listen to me, when I say that love is not something we invented. It’s observable, powerful. It has to mean something.

Cooper: Love has meaning, yes. Social utility, social bonding, child rearing…

Brand: We love people who’ve died. Where’s the “social utility” in that?

Cooper: None.

The film ultimately reconciles this and its wilder scientific speculations by positing that love is the unifying force which transcends the barriers of knowledge and science. Sounds a little like faith, people!

Brand: Maybe it means something more, something we can’t… yet, understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some… artifact of a higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive. I’m drawn across the universe to someone I haven’t seen in a decade… who I know is probably dead. Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving… that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t understand it yet. All right, Cooper… yes… the tiniest possibility of seeing Wolf again excites me. That doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Apparently, Crowley felt the same way.

“Love is the law, love under will.” The Book of the Law, Aleister Crowley

Not to get too pedantic, but the film’s economics are about on par with Star Trek. Wildly speculative to put it mildly. The film presents not just one, but multiple manned flights through a wormhole which is located near Saturn. This is not a cheap endeavor nor is it one with an economic payoff on the other side. Hard to imagine when half your tax base has been wiped out and people are being conscripted into compulsory agriculture.

Don’t get me wrong. None of these gripes destroy the film. Christopher Nolan is among the most gifted directors working today and his films are so convincing because he works so hard at grounding his films in physical reality.

The visual, musical and thematic allusions to 2001: A Space Odyssey are myriad and the comparison is fully warranted. The two films are companions and Interstellar updates the ideas 2001 introduced.

Interstellar is unquestionably a Big Ideas sci-fi film that poses big questions. Some of which it wants you to notice, others less so. It claims to be a movie about Big Scientific Theories, but I suggest that the first question should be “What is the scope of the scientific method?” Sure, it’s has a beautiful rendering of a black hole and the idea of a wormhole is super cool, but have these phenomena ever been observed? Has time dilation ever been observed? Is the scientific method about building mathematical models that fit the theory irrespective of observation? Or is it the other way around? We’ve been getting black holes and wormholes in film for decades now. Part of me thinks Interstellar is just a more grown up version of Disney’s The Black Hole from 1979.

Beyond the “scientific” speculations, Interstellar is also asking big questions about Humanity’s Future. But I don’t think it really wants you to think too hard about what it’s saying. I suspect Nolan simply wants to confirm the fears and concerns that are being amplified in the mediasphere 24/7. According to Interstellar, you should freak the fuck out over climate change and accord unquestioned deference to the space program. Like, DUH. Do you even follow Neil deGrasse Tyson on Twitter, bro? It’s #SCIENCE, man!

Dr. Brand: Then get out there and save them. We must reach far beyond our own lifespans. We must think not as individuals but as a species. We must confront the reality of interstellar travel.

Russell Kirk: The Conservative Mind

Edmund Burke

Growing up in a progressive environment, I developed the requisite contempt for conservatism that accompanies the standard leftist political worldview. If you’re a progressive, you will regard conservative ideology as the province of regressive dullards who desperately cling to religious nostrums, rigid notions of the Constitution, and nationalistic sloganeering. This contempt for conservatism has been the hallmark of progressive and liberal reformers since the dawn of the modern democratic age. John Stuart Mill was calling conservatives “the stupid party” long before Buzzfeed and Salon were able to build clickbait empires off of articles which expound upon that single premise. After two centuries of the American experiment which has given us Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, and Donald J. Trump as the faces of political conservatism, one would not be unreasonable to wonder for what does conservatism stand exactly? Is there anything beyond the God, guns and country caricature that’s promulgated by the progressives? What does the conservative aim to conserve? Russell Kirk’s excellent book from 1953, The Conservative Mind, sets out to answer these questions and much more.

The Conservative Mind

Kirk’s analysis is not an examination of political parties, but an exploration of the foundations of modern conservative thought beginning with the statesman he holds in highest esteem, Edmund Burke. Kirk guides the reader through two centuries of British and American conservatives who lived up to the Burkean standard in different ways. As the title suggests, Kirk lays out a collection of conceptual pillars which comprise the foundation of what he considers the conservative mind. While not explicitly an examination of metaphysics, Kirk is attempting to elucidate the lens through which the conservative sees the world. Where the progressive sees the world through a filter of largely unexamined assumptions which he takes as a given, the conservative makes at least a cursory attempt to ground his worldview in theology or philosophy deeply informed by classical theology. Rather than being a set of rules or laws, he’s providing a detailed sketch of the framework of thought the conservative applies to the challenges of his time. As Disraeli famously said, every conservative is a “creature of his age”, so the conservative must consider the circumstances of his age and the needs of his nation. Given that each age has unique challenges and the conservative is always swimming against an orthodoxy of progress which automatically disfavors historical knowledge and precedent, the conservative is perennially saddled with the stigma of being regarded as both the regressive, inflexible dolt and the fearful, hidebound bigot.

Stephen Colbert famously ridiculed George W. Bush, and all conservatives by extension, when he introduced the word “truthiness.” The entire joke was an attack on conservatives’ alleged prioritization of feelings and instinct over factual analysis. You don’t look things up in a book he deadpanned, you “look them up in your gut.” The joke has extended into the Trump era as Kellyanne Conway’s famous insistence on “alternative facts” has served as fodder for more than a few late night 2 minutes of hate. Even if George W. Bush was a terrible conservative (and he was), the joke landed its punch because there was a grain of truth to it in terms of how the conservative views the world and governance. The true conservative doesn’t see the citizenry as dehumanized units of input to be plugged into an economist’s model or a social scientist’s data sample. The conservative is not trying to radically reorganize society or confer special rights to groups. The conservative is not trying to appeal to a scientific worldview when it comes to the job of governance or the conservation of culture. The conservative is trying to draw time honoured wisdom culled from centuries of cultural and historical knowledge combined with appeals to divine counsel, affirmations of organic social bonds and a recognition of inherent differences between nationalities and ethnicities.

The true conservative knows that man’s nature is fixed and flawed. Subsequently, he also knows that a stable social order requires permanent institutions and a healthy reverence for virtuous authority. He affirms the dual role of Church and State, and that each are natural expressions of divine Providence. He is impervious to the fickle abstractions of liberal reform and knows that true progress is a product of cultural prescription and Providential order. He knows that equality of liberty must accompany equality of virtue, but does not subscribe to the idea of full political equality as it is a recipe for economic levelling. He rejects the liberal fascination with endless innovation for its own sake, its atomistic pursuit of individualism, and its rejection of authority. He vigorously opposes the liberal reformer who seeks to acquire state power in order to confer abstract “rights” or otherwise order society through some mathematical calculation of utility. He is suspicious of the liberal belief in unbounded human progress and academic prescriptions based on positivism. He repudiates the idea that a stable social order can be attained through Reason alone, and that true Reason is ultimately subordinate to moral virtue and the slow accretion of intergenerational wisdom. The conservative is, in fact, the conservator of civilization by ensuring that the transmission of cultural values remains decentralized, localized, and oriented around family and faith. Subsequently, the conservative is a bulwark against the encroachment of overweening politicians and academic busybodies because he knows that the role of government in the democratic era is limited, and must ultimately serve the greater cause of preserving the constitutional covenant between God and the People. To this day, conservatives continue to be assailed by progressives as hidebound ideologues who live in a echo chamber despite being reviled 24/7 by a progressive media monopoly. Even if their worldview is confined to post-Enlightenment/Burkean thought, a conservative is swimming against an overwhelmingly monolithic progressive cultural consensus.

Kirk masterfully guides the reader through two centuries of conservative thought and leadership to document the successes of conservatism given the seemingly inexorable tide of liberal expansionism. The net result is a unique work of political philosophy that is not just a collection of analytical arguments. Rather, it is a painterly portrait of the achievements and contributions of men whose wisdom and insight remains largely underappreciated by a world drunk on the elixir of progressivism. With this book, Kirk attempts to catalog the various ways conservatives have sought to conserve virtuous authority over centralized reform and tradition over liberalism.

The Failure of Conservatism

Paradoxically, this is also a chronicle of the abject failure of conservatism in the liberal democratic age. Despite all of the loving care Kirk expended in carefully curating these stones of eternal wisdom to erect a monument to modern conservatism, the sad truth is that its foundation has been eroded bit by bit in the post-Enlightenment age. The entire liberal project was solely concerned with supplanting the theological and religious underpinnings of conservatism with rationalism and empiricism. Propelled by an unquestioned belief in the institutions of democracy to improve human affairs and ignite civic engagement, the liberal elite have systematically dismantled and undermined every last vestige of traditionalism. Once those foundational precepts were removed, conservatives had no other recourse but to compete in a secular political arena arguing for positions that were borne from a conservative instinct but divorced from their larger context. Subsequently, conservatives have been playing a game that was designed to be stacked against them. Progressives could always claim the mantle of being the clear headed, forward thinking, compassionate revolutionaries because in the liberal worldview, there are only political, scientistic and institutional solutions. Since progressives have monopolized the engines of cultural consensus, the very notion of government not being the central institution driving social change will be viewed as regressive and backwards from the outset. Even worse, the very notions of fixed moral principles, objective truth and conserved tradition would themselves be targeted for elimination in the final quest for global domination of the liberal imperium.

Ultimately, Kirk’s presentation is an attempt to canonize a conservatism that’s borne of the conservative instinct while simultaneously being a product of the liberal worldview to which it’s presumably opposed. Through the course of the book, Kirk continuously grasps for the strands of conservative vitality while, as a reader, you’re left with a sinking feeling that you’re reading a chronicle of defeat. No matter how incisive, how profound or how deep these thinkers were, Burkean conservativism ends up being an empty husk whose seeds of vigor have been rapaciously consumed by neocons, Rockefeller Republicans, Moral Majoritarians and other globalist shills. The glowing endorsement of William F. Buckley Jr. prominently emblazoned on the cover is doubtless meant to confer deep legitimacy to this tome, but I doubt that anyone sees the revivification of the conservative instinct taking flight on the pages of National Review. Let alone from the insipid blathering of Margaret Hoover.

What you see in each chapter is two recurring patterns that persist to this day. On the one hand, you have a cycle of political conservatives being eventually defeated and going through an ideological retrenchment process while attempting to consolidate and assimilate ground ceded to progressives. In the process, the meaning of the word “conservative” gets diluted ever further until it is reduced to a collection of platitudes. Consequently, the gulf between the conservative population and the conservative political establishment continued to widen as the culture shifts further away from any notion of conservatism. The longstanding grievance amongst the rank and file conservatives that the establishment that represents them is weak and compromised steadily accumulates more weight. Meanwhile, the progressives move the political goalposts and conservatives are forced back to playing defense while yesterday’s progressive reform is either forgotten or assailed for its inadequacy. Conservative cultural critics, artists, academics and media figures, whether they’re establishment shills or readers of Modern Age, struggle on the margins to wrest the foot of cultural consensus off the gas pedal of progress from a body politic that’s drunk on the delusion of an eschatological inevitability. That the world will be unified and perfected under progressive, scientific, and increasingly multicultural governance. Herein lies the evil genius of the liberal mindset. It supplanted the traditionally religious outlook with a secular religious outlook. Against this ideological battering ram, both political and social conservatism was and is utterly ineffectual and flat footed.

Nothing captures the absurdity of the plight of modern conservatism better than the presidency of Donald Trump. A former Democrat billionaire who lived a very public and decadent lifestyle prior to entering the political arena becomes the second coming of Hitler upon his ascendancy to the Oval Office simply by taking on the issues that should have been conservative bread and butter from the start. In Trump, we have a man whose public positions on issues were a mishmash of textbook classical liberalism, moderate conservatism and economic neoliberalism prior to his entry into the political arena yet this prompted an unprecedented and neverending howl of national outrage from the progressive establishment. Even when he takes on causes previously championed by progressives, whether rolling back the War on Terror or criminal justice reform, his mere opposition to the global elite consensus is reason alone to brand him a tyrant even if there’s no evidence to support such an assertion.

Kirk’s Oversight

All of which brings us to what is arguably the single biggest oversight in Kirk’s otherwise stellar research into the life of Burke and his intellectual progeny. Was Burke a Freemason? Given that he’s upholding Burke as a conservative gold standard, and the endorsements of known members of Skull and Bones like William F. Buckley Jr. and PNAC/#NeverTrump establishmentarians like David Frum are featured prominently on the book itself, one must ask if this is being proffered as the outer boundary of Approved Thought. Contrary to claims on prominent Masonic websites, Burke’s membership in the Brotherhood has not been confirmed. His affinity for a known Mason, John Wilkes, makes this an especially important unexplored vein of thought.

Since Burke had risen to prominence by opposing the French Revolution, his support for what amounts to the Girondin version of the Revolution which was ultimately exported to the US seems very significant. Furthermore, his opposition to the philosophy promulgated by Freemasonry, deism, and its younger and dumber progeny, atheism, leaves one bewildered that Burke or Kirk felt that “prescriptive” liberty stood any chance against “abstract” liberty in the long run. Kirk points out that both Burke and John Adams apprehended the rot at the core of liberalism early on.

Thus, at the inception of modern liberalism, Burke and Adams saw the canker of liberal decay in the flower of liberal vigor. The postulates of the new liberalism, in France, England, and America, depended on old verities which the liberals themselves already were repudiating: upon the Christian assumption that men are equal in the sight of God, and upon the idea of an enduring moral order divinely sanctioned. The Deists had discarded most of Christian teaching, and Burke and Adams knew that the Deists’ intellectual heirs would reject religious dogma, root and branch. The new liberalism would tolerate no authority.(pg. 103)

All you need to add is the preposition “except its own” to that last sentence, and this insight is flawless. Burke was completely correct, but being right didn’t matter. His temperate vision of conservatism was destined for a collision course with the Freemasonic vision of liberalism espoused by America’s founders. His belief in the primacy of Christianity in public and private affairs was never going to be compatible with an ideology committed to the dismantling of throne and altar. The conservation of faith and heritage would be subsumed by rationalism and empiricism. Within a liberal paradigm which favored scientific materialism and nominalistic reign of quantity, conservatism was destined to be little more than a brake pedal at best and a punchline at worst.

Surely, he was aware that the Catholic papacy had already issued a ban on Freemasonry in 1738. Surely, he was aware of King George IV association with the United Grand Lodge. Surely, he was aware of Masonic sympathies and associations among the various American founders. Surely, he was aware that his narrow construction of the concept of equality was doomed to be crushed under the bootheel of the forward march of an unending appetite for the social and economic leveling he so vigorously opposed. Yet, Burke’s thought legacy defined the modern conception of conservatism in the post-Enlightenment era. But if Burke’s underlying thought is running on the same presuppositional operating system as the liberals, does anyone wonder why conservatism has failed? Traditionalism and liberal secularism are mutually exclusive positions. Yet, this liberal “conservatism” is exactly the virtue Kirk applauds. Why would Burke endorse the liberal project unless he was himself, and Kirk by extension, anointed to direct the other half of the Masonic dialectic?

Liberty, Burke knew, had risen through an elaborate and delicate process, and its perpetuation depended upon retaining those habits of thought and action which guided the savage in his slow and weary ascent to the state of civil social man. All his life, Burke’s chief concern had been for justice and liberty, which must stand or fall together—liberty under law, a definite liberty, the limits of which were determined by prescription. He had defended the liberties of Englishmen against their king, and the liberties of Americans against king and parliament, and the liberties of Hindus against Europeans. He had defended those liberties not because they were innovations, discovered in the Age of Reason, but because they were ancient prerogatives, guaranteed by immemorial usage. Burke was liberal because he was conservative. (pp. 20-21)

Whither Conservatism?

While Kirk certainly does a good job making his case for the conservative mind in the democratic era, it’s not unreasonable to ask what has conservatism actually conserved. What is it trying to conserve in a Western society where the legacy of secular democracy (i.e. multiculturalism, progressivism, Islamism and communism) are the default settings for a significant majority of the population? How can you claim a desire to conserve a strict construction of a collection of revolutionary ideals when the very utterance of an opinion that’s construed as conservative runs you the risk of being drummed out of society and being labeled a Nazi by the #WOKE intelligentsia? Where can you delineate the boundaries of conservatism when the progressive establishment controls the Overton Window of debate and self-identified classical liberals like Jordan Peterson and Alex Jones are routinely branded as alt-right extremists? How can you marshal a mass revival of conservatism when the progressive establishment has weaponized culture against you?

Since there is a concerted effort on the part of the establishment elites to create a technocratic superstate, conservatives have a difficult choice. In a world dominated by a liberal consensus that confines every sphere of life into the realm of politics, conservatives have two grassroots dissident right movements from which to choose: religious nationalism or ethno nationalism.

Though the alt-right consumes all the media bandwidth and are routinely propped up as an imminent threat, it’s unclear exactly how big the movement is from the social media footprint alone. Progressives will never admit it, but they need the spectre of the alt-right in order to justify their draconian agenda. They need the threat of a rising alt-right boogeyman in order to keep the flame of Trump hatred white hot. For the generations of progressives who know nothing but the technocratic administrative state, the caricature of “fascism” they’ve been spoon fed is as close to an absolute moral negative as they’re ever going to get. All moral virtue can be summed up by simply tweeting #RESIST.

While the racial arguments remain controversial and run counter to the progressive consensus, the argument for ethnic and cultural preservation strikes me as quintessentially Burkean. Perhaps it’s even Burkean conservativism taken to its fullest conclusion. Since both the Burkean and the alt-right worldview posit a very generic and unspecific metaphysic at the core which assumes the inherent dignity of people groups, the existence of higher morals, the natural existence of cultural differences, and a hierarchy of order, there is nothing incompatible between these coalitions except the stigma of advocating for racial majority or ethnostate. If prejudice and prescription emerge from a conserved tradition and hereditary knowledge, then what the alt-right propose is fully consistent with those foundational principles. Kirk even concedes as much in the final chapter.

The new laissez-faire will endeavor to create conditions “within which autonomous groups may prosper.” It will recognize as the basic social unit the group: the family, the local community, the trade union, the church, the college, the profession. It will seek not unity, not centralization, not power over masses of people, but rather diversity of culture, plurality of association, and the division of responsibilities. (pp. 489-90)

Not that anyone in the progressive establishment is paying attention, but there is more to the dissident right than the alt-right. Though some among the dissident right would probably not admit their conservative sympathies, this coalition also includes AnCap Rothbardians, paleoconservatives, civic nationalists, minarchist Libertarians, anti-globalist truthers, and increasingly, a faction of post-liberal reactionaries. While most in this latter category are Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox traditionalists, the unifying principle behind these voices is the conviction that liberalism has failed and a return to religious belief must be the central principle animating the revival of the West.

As abhorrent as it may seem to those who still subscribe to a cosmopolitan liberal mindset, I’m increasingly inclined to believe that all these liberty minded people must also confront this stark choice. Sure, there’s a chance that QAnon isn’t a LARP or a psyop, but the likelihood that the cabal behind Q will bring the progressive establishment to its knees is slim. For those who remain committed to the liberal project, The Conservative Mind poses one big question for conservatives, libertarians, classical liberals and anarcho-capitalists alike. What are you trying to conserve given the state of the culture and the demographic transformation that’s already well underway? And if the answer is some variation on “traditional American values” or “liberty”, how do you plan on revitalizing these ideals in the face of a decades long indoctrination campaign which has demonized everything you hold dear?

Now that the Democratic Party are the party of immigrants, overeducated urbanite baristas, public sector workers, academics, tech monopolists, Wall Streeters, neocons, deep state denizens, and Hollywood elites, the Republican Party have inherited the working class that were once Democratic loyalists. And the libertarian elites of the establishment haven’t necessarily warmed up to this reality.

As brilliant as it is, The Conservative Mind already feels like the caricature of conservatism that has been emblazoned into the progressive consciousness. You can already imagine the snarky outtakes in the Borowitz Report or Colbert doing an extended riff off of any given figure Kirk lionizes. Progressives have been conditioned to view the entire conservative worldview with disdain and condemnation from the start. No matter where they align themselves on the rightward end of establishment thought, conservatives end up becoming the kickstand propping up the progressive establishment.

Ironically, Kirk also seemed to outline the walls of the prison that’s been so artfully constructed around us.

This utilitarian utopia, prophesied by Henry and Brooks Adams as the triumph of the cheapest, starves the realm of the spirit and the realm of art as no other domination can. The culmination of liberalism, the fulfillment of the aspirations of Bentham and Mill, and of the French and American spokesmen, it is also the completion of capitalism. It is communism. Rockefeller and Marx were merely two agents of the same social force – an appetite cruelly inimical to human individuation, by which man has struggled up to reason and art. (445)

This is a supremely astute observation. Every aspect of the liberal project, including conservatism itself, can be appropriated to further the final goals of the global progressive agenda. Even a show like Downton Abbey which romanticizes the twilight of the British aristocracy becomes a subtle tool for propagandizing the advent of the technocratic era.

Perhaps Kirk is correct when he suggests that tomorrow’s conservative victories will be built on the ashes of today’s failures. With libertarianism serving as little more than an arm of the progressive establishment to be selectively appropriated as the mandates of political expediency dictate, the true conservative is the only bulwark against the ever encroaching global technocratic despotism. A despotism whose magnitude and ruthlessness Kirk certainly apprehended, but whose remedies are questionable at best.

Facing a progressive establishment whose braindead foot soldiers routinely cheer the removal of dissident voices from the digital public square, the odds seem stacked against the conservative as never before. But has it ever been any different in this age of democratic supremacy? The progressives promise emancipation, but everyone outside the bubble of the true believers knows they intend pure enslavement. As the paucity of substance, principle or virtue in the liberal worldview becomes increasingly apparent, the craving for meaning, purpose, legacy and moral clarity in the traditional mindset will only grow. The Conservative Mind may not have been the barricade against the rising tide of liberalism Kirk intended, but red pills come in many different degrees of strength these days. If nothing else, Kirk allows us to take in the fullness of conservatism’s failure in the democratic age. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Contact (1997)

Generally speaking, cinematic science fiction goes one of two ways. Either it goes after big ideas and weighty philosophical questions or it goes after CGI mayhem and hot chicks in body suits. Sometimes it succeeds at both, but more often than not, a science fiction film falls into one of these two camps. Robert Zemeckis’ 1997 adaptation of the famous Carl Sagan novel, Contact, is unequivocally a Big Ideas sci-fi film which manages to pack a lot of meaty content into a popcorn blockbuster presentation. Though it does boast its own spin on the legendary Stargate scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey in the final act, the film is propelled almost exclusively by solid performances and a fairly robust dramatic clash between the forces of scientific materialism and religious belief. No Hollywood sci-fi film comes without an agenda or esoteric symbolism and the various ways it smuggles in its messaging is especially sly. Contact is somewhat more charitable about theism and the entire realm of metaphysics than you’ll find in just about anything secular these days, but ultimately, it is itself a work of scientistic hermetic theology. More specifically, Contact is a very clever piece of propaganda which promotes the theosophical ideas of HP Blavatsky, Alice Bailey, UNESCO, and the Lucis Trust. Virtually every component of the NWO global agenda can be found in this movie.

Since the dawn of the Enlightenment, we’ve been taught that there is an irreconcilable schism between science and faith. In both the cinematic and literary form, the modern science fiction tradition is replete with stories which dramatize this conflict. With very few exceptions, the forces of scientific progress are in perpetual struggle against the forces of religious belief. The scientists are always portrayed as infinitely resourceful master technicians who are likeable, quick witted and can kick your ass if the story demands it. By contrast, the faithful are authoritarian dolts and mean spirited tight asses. Or as The Omega Man and The Chronicles of Riddick demonstrate, they are embodied as fanatical, vampiric cultists whose sole motivations are enslavement, conversion or conquest. In Contact’s case, the religious characters include a suicide bomber, a status seeking bureaucrat, a vacuous Catholic priest, and a cross between Jeff Spicoli and Joel Osteen. In other words, yet another mostly uncharitable Hollywood portrait of religious people. Since many of the prime movers of the sci-fi genre were themselves globalist technocrats, it makes sense that we’d eventually get a film which reconciles these seemingly opposing forces into an alchemical union to grease the wheels for the dystopian hellscape glorious global techno-utopia that awaits us.

On the surface, Contact presents itself as a sophisticated science fiction story which believably posits the possibility of contact with a higher extraterrestrial intelligence. Though Steven Spielberg has given us two different versions of the benign alien visitation in E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact is following in the footsteps of the loftier speculations of Arthur C. Clarke. Instead of a kid friendly vision of Crowleyan entities you find in Spielberg, you get to watch the whole world build a dimensional portal which does real science-y shit like “folding spacetime” but is really just the most expensive VR machine ever built.

Every character represents an archetypal ideal, and the heroine of the film, Ellie Arroway, is modeled after Hypatia, the Alexandrian martyr for science. For those who remember Cosmos, Sagan lavished mountains of praise on Hypatia in the series despite having no substantial record of achievement in the history of scientific thought. This choice makes sense when viewed through a gnostic lens because she represents the illuminated Sophia. Eleanor is Greek for “shining light” and Arroway is a play on Voltaire’s last name, Arouet. Her nickname is “Sparks” to signify the fact that she possesses Luciferian flame. Right away, Sagan is signaling a connection to gnosticism, Freemasonry, and by extension, the Hermetic roots of modern science. Played with heartfelt vigor by Jodie Foster, Ellie is a paragon of determination, grit, tenderness and the passionate thirst for discovery. She is the fearless seeker who is willing to persist in her quest for extraterrestrial life despite constant rejection and doubt from all corners. She remains steadfast in her convictions when facing the ridicule of the vapid, self-aggrandizing and conniving David Drumlin. She is also the radical empiricist who demands proof of God’s existence when probing the faith of Matthew McConaughey’s Palmer Joss.

This brings us to one of the film’s clever sleights of hand. Ellie is essentially a female version of David Hume or John Locke. In the wake of her second greatest tragedy, all her Catholic priest could offer was a few perfunctory words about how it was “God’s plan”. Pfft. Piss off, religion! She doesn’t believe in God because she needs empirical proof! Not mealy mouthed platitudes! Checkmate, conservatards! Bet you never heard THAT ONE before! Of course, this is by now an insufferably tiresome cliché. Materialism and empiricism is the bread and butter of the entire New Atheist community. For them, there is no valid knowledge outside the peer reviewed science or what can be observed in the realm of sense perception. But what the film doesn’t want you to notice is that this premise is in and of itself an article of faith! To Zemeckis’ credit, he makes this point explicit when Ellie is called upon to provide evidence that she actually did traverse the galaxy. There is no empirical evidence for the claim that all knowledge claims must be subject to empirical evidence. Furthermore, Ellie embodies a set of virtues. She is a heroic archetype. She’s tough. She’s conscientious. She’s honest. She’s principled. She’s loyal. She spends the bulk of the film asking people to believe in her quest for extraterrestrial life. The natural world has nothing to say about prescriptive ethics, duty, honor, integrity or morality. To ground an entire worldview in nothing more than a posture of skepticism and an unquestioned belief in the scientific method leads to either to nihilism or the substitution of politics for religious faith. Humans build and strengthen the architecture of morality through storytelling. We must ultimately subordinate ourselves to a hierarchy of authority which starts with the family and reaches its pinnacle in the nation state. Because we’re imperfect, we crave stories which simultaneously speak to our flawed nature yet appeal to our highest aspirations. The progressive worldview mostly rejects metaphysics. Subsequently, virtue must be smuggled through occult archetypes and esoteric metaphysics and Sagan has very skillfully achieved that in Ellie.

It is also noteworthy that Ellie is initially presented as a child with a dead mother. She eventually loses her father too, and this marks her as yet another Hollywood portrait of a child without parents whose life choices are informed in part to fulfill a longing borne of a prematurely severed connection and in part to insulate herself from the emotional vacuum at the core of her being. It’s little surprise that when she has her encounter with the “alien” species, it appears to her in the form that she would find most comforting: her father. Her life quest is wrapped in the rhetoric of scientific inquiry, but it reads as a sort of spiritual calling. The liberal democratic imperium needs atomized individuals pursuing life ambitions that advance scientific or material progress in one way or another. Preferably, it’s a pursuit untethered from family ties and religious tradition. This is entirely consistent with the professed agenda behind the mythology of extraterrestrial life as Arthur C. Clarke is on record stating in Brenda Denzler’s book, The Lure of the Edge.

Her counterpart, Palmer Joss, presents a clever subversion of expectations. Just as we saw in the relationship between Mulder and Scully in the X-Files, Contact reverses standard male and female attributes. Despite the numerous studies which demonstrate a higher degree of empathy and social skills in women, Sagan wrote Ellie as the hard bitten scientific realist consumed with a need for evidence. By contrast, Matthew McConaughey’s Palmer Joss is the believer. Granted, he’s an earthy crunchy academic theologian who’s influential enough to be anointed the spiritual advisor to the POTUS. His real world analogues are establishment cucks like Rick Warren and Tony Campolo. He represents a form of toothless Christianity that’s been opportunistically coopted by the establishment to help politicize the churches and lend moral authority to political agendas. Once again to Zemeckis’ credit, Joss lands a solid blow against the edifice of Ellie’s scientific materialism when he asks for proof that she loved her father. It’s the only cinematic moment of which I’m aware when a secular rationalist is left speechless by a theist.

Contact isn’t just an apologia for scientific materialism, but a work of occult theology. When Ellie presents the decryption primer to the Security Council, she insists that the civilization who sent the message had benign intentions because it was presented in the language of science and mathematics. Unlike the dumb religious retards who follow divine revelation, the machine plans were proof of a species who had harnessed the power of science to evolve beyond their primitive tendencies toward self-destruction. Here, Sagan and Zemeckis presume that unchecked technological progress all by itself is a virtue that will elevate and unite humanity. It’s exactly the kind of belief that’s promoted by UNESCO, the UN and their theological subsidiary, the Lucis Trust. They are trafficking occult teleology. As Palmer Joss rightfully pointed out as she made her pitch, what she received was a message emanating from a “booming voice from the sky”. Sagan substitutes three dimensional engineering schematics embedded in a digital black cube of Saturn for the Ten Commandments. She wants people to believe that the construction of the machine will only edify the human race. What atheists like Sagan conveniently ignore is the simple fact that fetishizing the scientific method doesn’t capture the imagination. What does animate human spirit is the possibility that our man made ambitions might unite the world and eventually bring us into contact with a higher intelligence.

Of course, this also means that we must also deify the corporate aristocracy behind the democratic imperium. As industrial mogul, S.R. Hadden, John Hurt is the Randian übermensch who funds Ellie’s ambitions, decrypts the extraterrestrial blueprints, and subcontracts with Japanese company to build a second machine. Without rich industrialists to bankroll these moonshot ideas, we will never achieve our globalist utopia, proles. Though he is portrayed as a sympathetic character, he is another spin on a Nimrod archetype. Zemeckis wants you to see him as a benevolent old coot but as his name suggests, he is a representation of the Assyrian despot, Esarhaddon. He is more accurately seen as a David Rockefeller or George Soros. He is among the wealthy capitalists who fund NGOs, populate academia with cultural Marxists, finance every conceivable fifth column organization and function as a de facto shadow government. Throughout the film, Hadden communicates to Ellie using the most sophisticated technology and possesses more intelligence about her than you would think a private citizen can access. When James Woods’ hardass conservative proposes the possibility that Hadden has perpetrated a hoax on the entire globe, your sympathies are already with Ellie, and by extension, Hadden. Tough shit, you dumb Alex Jones loving conspiratards. George Soros did nothing wrong. So shut it.

What’s most stunning about Contact is the degree to which it blurs the line between fiction and reality. Actual footage of Bill Clinton commenting on the Mars meteorite discovery in which he stresses the importance of ascertaining “facts” has been seamlessly inserted. Actual CNN anchors are “acting” as CNN anchors throughout the film commenting on a fictitious machine which opens wormholes. A news highlight discusses a fake group of religious fanatics committing mass suicide, and it just happens to mirror the actual mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult just a few months before the film’s release. I guess it’s just a lucky coincidence that all these things happened in time for Contact’s release. All of which begs a key question. If “real” news outlets like CNN and real politicians who present themselves as the arbiters of truth are willingly inserting themselves into a fake story about a contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence, why shouldn’t we assume that the “reality” they’re presenting isn’t every bit as synthetic as Contact itself?

While I disagree with his interpretation, Germain Lussier points out the ubiquity of telecommunications devices in the film. The fact that our contact with one another is now being heavily mediated, refracted and distorted through electronic media suggests this was subtle predictive programming. The internet may have brought the whole world together in ways that were unimaginable to previous generations, but the degree to which it has been a salutary force is debatable at best and detrimental at worst. I suggest that this film is tipping us to the possibility that the space program is ultimately about building and enhancing global panopticism.

Speaking of fictitious machines, Contact is basing its technological speculations on special relativity, but if we actually think about how the machine was supposed to work, it doesn’t add up. Resembling the classical model of the atom we learned in grade school, the machine was comprised of several interlocking steel rings. Presumably, with enough acceleration, the rings would convert to mass and tear the fabric of spacetime. Not to get all Neil deGrasse Tyson, but there is no known material that could withstand that kind of energy let alone an energy source to power it. But this came from the mind of Carl Sagan. A scientific mind, right? I don’t mind leaps of imagination, but when you’re presenting a speculative machine that’s linked to a very specific theoretical model that is itself unproven and unobserved, how is this different from theistic belief? Isn’t it interesting that the IMDB trivia page indicates that Carl Sagan wanted to ensure the “science” was correct and the word is bracketed in quotation marks? Isn’t it interesting that this very same visual idea was recycled in Event Horizon and instead of uniting us with benign entities, the machine in that film opened a portal to hell? Why should we presume that a dimensional portal will bring us into contact with benevolent beings as Ellie so fervently insists?

After recovering from her VR journey to the center of the galaxy, Ellie finds herself in the position of having to defend the veracity of her experience before an incredulous government oversight committee lead by a relentless James Woods. Without evidence, Ellie is forced to ask the country to believe that she traversed light years and encountered a simulacrum of her father. You should also believe that an Einstein-Rosen Bridge is legitimate science despite the complete absence of empirical evidence. Is it any wonder that Anita Sarkeesian and Christine Blasey Ford were able to weaponize #BelieveWomen so easily? The cool and dispassionate pursuit of the facts doesn’t hold when religious icons are being violated.

Ellie’s vision amounts to her burning bush moment. In that brief encounter, she was filled with a revelation of the preciousness of life that was so profound, she felt compelled to spread the Gospel of Intergalactic Gnosis with the world. As she descends the Capitol building stairs/Mt. Sinai, she passes through the pillars of Boaz and Jachin, and we behold the throngs of New World Israelites gathered together to pay homage to our gnostic savior. Having crossed the abyss on the Kabbalistic tree of life, she has reconciled the sky and the earth and attained Enlightenment. Joss’ profession of solidarity with Ellie doesn’t just signify a romantic happy ending, it’s the alchemical synthesis of science with divinity just as HP Blavatsky taught in her writings. No longer do we have to cling to the divisive notion that science is at war with faith. Scientism is an article of faith, but now, we can make common cause with religious people as long as they’re promoting a One World State God and don’t get carried away with any of that Jesus shit.

As shows like Netflix’s Maniac demonstrate, Hollywood is pushing the public closer to the idea that pharmacologically enhanced VR is going to provide people with the transcendent experience unavailable in our mundane existence. Even pop culture figures like Tom Delonge are going to great lengths to mainstream the existence of UFOs. Burning Man already has a cosmic temple to prep us for the new Cosmic AI God. Grimes has already written the first transhuman cyberpunk pop anthem. Science fiction films which posit the possibility of alien intelligence are a key component of this agenda. And Ellie Arroway was certainly among the most indelible characters of the modern era to illuminate the path.

The Post (2017)

Most of Steven Spielberg’s directorial output falls into two broad categories. Big budget popcorn blockbusters like Back to the Future and Ready Player One in one group, and quasi-historical agitprop like Schindler’s List and Amistad in the other. While they both serve the same political goals, the films in the latter category are easier to dissect because they aren’t veiled in fantasy or sci-fi symbolism. Released a mere year into the Trump presidency, anyone who isn’t already on board with Spielberg’s politics can smell the agenda behind the film a mile away. Simultaneously a softball primer on the Post’s role in exposing the Pentagon Papers and a love letter to the movie’s namesake, The Post amply demonstrates Spielberg’s mastery of the medium. Though one gets the impression that Spielberg more or less phoned this film in, it is a surprisingly satisfying drama on its own terms. It is also a cunningly deceptive work of progressive propaganda. If we take the case that even when making historical dramas Spielberg is revealing occulted truths underneath the exoteric editorial, The Post reveals a lot about the true nature of the DC power structure.

The film traces the events that occurred between Daniel Ellsberg’s theft of the Pentagon Papers from the Rand Corporation archives up to the Post’s coverage of the report and subsequent Supreme Court exoneration. The drama of the film centers around the tensions that arise when a sedate establishment paper like the Post exercises editorial courage and actually lives up to its assumed mandate to hold the powerful accountable for their actions. As WaPo heiress, Kay Graham, Meryl Streep is the tentative-but-determined publisher and widower trying to negotiate a path forward for the paper. While trying to reconcile the competing aims and advice of Post chairman, Fritz Beebe (Tracy Letts), editor-in-chief, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), and board member, Arthur Parsons (Bradley Whitford), Streep is plying yet another tiresome spin on the Beleaguered Womyn Standing Up to The Patriarchy.

As the film opens, we are plunged into the war torn hellscape of South Vietnam in 1965 as it’s seen through the eyes of high level Pentagon bureaucrat and assistant to Secretary of Defense, Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg knows the war effort is a failure and all their attempts at technocratic administration have had no effect. Disaffected with the lies being spewed by Robert McNamara, Ellsberg returns to the employment of the Rand Corporation and uncovers reams of research performed by his employers that reveal just how much had been hidden from the public over several administrations.

In 1971, New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan ran the first article exposing the leaked papers and was subsequently throttled by the Nixon administration in court. Cowed by the iron fisted tactics of the White House, the leadership of the Post were at first reticent to pursue what was obviously an explosive story. Driven by a sense of journalistic duty, Post reporter, Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk), goes on a tireless search for Ellsberg in a world without internet connectivity or cell phones. After communicating through presumably untapped phone booths, the two meet in a secluded hotel room and Ellsberg hands him the 7000 page trove. As he flies back to DC, the stewardess innocently asks about the giant box occupying the adjoining seat. “Just government secrets”, he quips.

As a viewer, you already know how things will resolve, but Spielberg masterfully crafts the dramatic beats. It remains engrossing throughout. However, just like Bagdikian’s quip, Spielberg is also putting a lot in plain sight that goes beyond what he wants you to see. For one thing, he is very clever about how he frames the moral conflict. When Bradlee presses Graham about the importance of maintaining the integrity of their role as members of the fourth estate regardless of whose feathers might get ruffled, Graham initially balks because of her close social ties with McNamara. To his credit, Spielberg is revealing the longstanding symbiosis between the progressive political establishment and their media lapdogs. At a crucial juncture in the film, Bradlee openly acknowledges the Grahams’ proximity to the highest echelons of the Democratic power elite.

Ben Bradlee: [to Kay] You know, the only couple I knew that both Kennedy and LBJ wanted to socialize with was you and your husband.

It’s a refreshing moment of honesty, but this is also a cinematic parlor trick. Just as Lincoln portrayed the Democrats as the villains, Spielberg again wants you to see this film as a fundamentally apolitical work upholding timeless truths and sacred American ideals irrespective of his obvious partisanship. After all, this is simply a quasi-historical account of an event which was damaging to Democratic presidents. Spielberg wants to show you how pained and tortured Bradlee and Graham were in weighing the decision to release the information that would be damaging to people in their social circles who also happened to be on the same political team as they were. He really wants you to believe that the WaPo of 2018 and all other establishment media outlets are just these selfless, intrepid truth seekers who would fearlessly pursue the truth even if it was damaging to a Democratic regime. Spielberg really wants you to think that all of these pampered elites are going to put everything on the line and hold the political class to account even if it disrupts their cushy lives, their exclusive access and their career fortunes. Ergo, you should trust the media to be just as fearless about holding both parties accountable regardless of which party occupies the White House or controls Congress. Right.

The central deception of the film is that it tries to paint WaPo and establishment media as independent actors. Who really thinks that the Washington Post under Jeff Bezos is really a completely neutral paper without an unspoken ideological bias? Who really thinks that the millions donated to Democrats and the prospect of a fat Pentagon contract aren’t tilting the coverage in one direction? Who really takes Jennifer Rubin and George Will seriously as honest conservatives?

And what about the Rand Corporation? Ellsberg gets painted as a hero for stealing the report and leaking it to the media, but is anyone asking what they’re up to in the first place? If you read the official line, it’s just a cutting edge think tank which just happens to attract the brightest minds from the military, intelligence and academic communities who are applying themselves to the world’s thorniest issues. If you scratch just below the surface, you find a collection of shadow technocrats and neocons who are agitating for expanding surveillance, global military intervention, weather manipulation and various forms of social engineering. When anyone discusses the “deep state” or the “shadow government”, it includes quasi-private, para-intelligence organizations like Rand. Who’s to say that the release of the Pentagon Papers wasn’t quietly authorized by Rand as a large scale psychological operation in the first place?

What’s really galling about The Post is just how predictably tone deaf Spielberg is to the cultural moment. Like his imperious cohorts and their servile, feckless sycophants, Spielberg is painfully oblivious to the media landscape of 2018. Since Trump announced his candidacy for POTUS, there has been an incessant and increasingly unhinged howl of fauxtrage from the ruling elites that someone who hasn’t been properly anointed has claimed the reins of power. He hasn’t hidden the fact that this film was meant as another broadside against Trump, but who’s going to come away from this film with a changed mind? Progressives will congratulate themselves for watching another movie which confirms their biases and conservatives will either ignore it or vent over Hollywood’s liberal agenda.

What’s perhaps most odious about The Post is that Spielberg has the audacity to continue to present progressives as the champions of press freedom and civil liberties. The media and political landscape of The Post is ancient history. Like everyone in Hollywood establishment, Steven Spielberg seems to hold the belief that there are people outside his echo chamber who need a history lesson on the importance of a free press and the dangers of executive overreach. The stupid rubes just don’t get it. Pay attention, you MAGA hat wearing degenerates. Steven Spielberg wants all you stupid peasants to just ignore the absolute monopoly progressives hold in media, Hollywood, Silicon Valley and academia and get really worried about the despotic overreach of Donald Trump. Just ignore the aggressive and punitive clampdowns of the Obama administration. Pay no attention to the fact that during the era in which this was set, the entire liberal counterculture predicated their movement on free speech First Amendment rights, but now cheerleads the multibillion dollar tech giants who openly censor and deplatform any opinion to the right of Bernie Sanders. Just disregard the fact that WaPo Executive Editor, Marty Baron, openly admitted that Trump was more accessible than Obama at the recent Poynter Ethics Summit. Just close your mind off to these inconvenient facts and focus all your attention on that ominous final scene and pretend that Trump is just a carbon copy of Nixon. Just luxuriate in this romanticized portrait of a bygone era where liberal virtue was a metaphysical certitude. Kind of like the way Wade Watts donned his VR goggles as he entered the Oasis in Ready Player One.

The Post takes its place alongside All The President’s Men and Spotlight as a subgenre of films in which Hollywood consecrates its fellow media brethren as eternal champions of truth and guardians of the American republic. It’s not that these media victories were inconsequential or untrue, it’s just that the one-sided agenda they serve is so blatantly obvious at this point. Will Spielberg ever make a film chronicling the years the media spiked or ignored Hollywood’s abuses? Will the cinematic adaptation of the Harvey Weinstein media story ever get made? Will Spielberg ever make a film which paints the sexual revolution in a bad light? Where’s the media’s aggressive investigation of the allegations contained in An Open Secret? Oh, that’s right. None of these exist because this would be damaging to the progressive establishment.

On the positive side, The Post’s historical details are outstanding and a shocking reminder even to me of how distant the technological world of 1971 seems. Telephones were devices plugged into walls and had rotary dials which required a small amount of physical exertion to operate. Newspaper print had to be laid out in typesetting machines and then put into production with giant presses. After the paper is printed, the bundles are loaded on to trucks through human chains of men. Sure, it still goes on to this day, but for how much longer? Shortly after Graham authorizes the printing of the story, the film cuts to Bagdikian cracking a wry smile as the rumble of his desk signifies the impending arrival of a historic journalistic scoop. And when the paper arrives, the whole world stops to read it. Maybe there’s something to learn from the analog world after all.

The Post is an enjoyable enough 2 hours of viewing, but I doubt anyone will look back on it as one of Spielberg’s best films. The fact that this film was fast tracked into production so quickly after Trump entered the White House says quite a bit about how deeply he’s agitated the ruling elites. In the film, Parsons excoriates Graham for putting the future of the paper at risk by publishing stolen top secret government documents. His concern that everything was on the line rang true. I suggest that Parsons’ anxiety offers a window of insight into the panic that has gripped the progressive establishment. Not because he’s the tyrant they continuously portray him as, but because he’s not in their Club. Sure, he’s a billionaire and everyone loved him before he went into politics, but since he entered the arena, he joined the Wrong Team. Making things worse is that he’s openly adversarial and calling out WaPo and all the other media lackeys for being the water carrying propagandists they are. Anyone who isn’t inside the progressive bubble knows this. And we certainly don’t need a patronizing cinematic lecture from Steven Spielberg in order to understand the virtues of a free press.

Jonas Salk: Survival of the Wisest

Though it’s debatable that his name means anything to anyone under the age of 30, Jonas Salk is known as of the inventor of the polio vaccine. If his name registers at all, he is likely to be seen as a fearless champion of scientific progress and a paragon of enlightened modernism whose contributions to medical science have elevated Western society out of the backwardness of religious superstition. So when Jonas Salk writes a speculative tract called Survival of the Wisest which spells out the type of individual best suited to guide humanity into its new age of enlightened virtue, it is meant to be accorded the reverence one would normally reserve for religious doctrine. Survival of the Wisest is, in fact, a quintessentially scientistic work. It has the veneer of scientific rigor. It is filled with charts and fancy scientific words like “metabiology”. Make no mistake though, Salk has donned the miter of the scientific priesthood and has issued what amounts to a proclamation of Scientific Prophecy.

Survival of the Wisest is a short read, but it’s dense and by his own admission, it’s not a work of actual scientific theory. It is a speculative, philosophical work which presents itself as authoritative prescription for humanity as we march forward into the new age of global liberalism. Salk posits that scientists’ “attention must turn increasingly to questions of of general human concern.” While he claims that his concern is for the general welfare of humanity, it comes across like a justification for the existence of a scientific dictatorship. By synthesizing Darwinism, Malthusian warnings of cataclysmic overpopulation, Freudian psychoanalysis, and a quasi-Lockean post-Enlightenment outlook on Natural Law, Salk tries to manufacture a telos for the entire human race.

This book demonstrates the hubris of placing scientific materialism as the foundational propositions for modern society. Salk claims that true wisdom is the product of those who are able to negotiate inexorable forward march of competing dialectical tensions. Man is simultaneously the author of his evolutionary progress and the victim of his lethal excesses. By ensuring that the “wisest” among us are able to guide this forward march of evolution, we are fulfilling the purpose that’s in accord with “nature”.

Needless to say, Salk is engaging in a long form circular argument. In order to attain wisdom, you must first dismantle the “illusion” that man is a purposeful being in the first place. Because after all, there is an order and a direction to the evolutionary flow of the universe. And it’s only properly understood by the Wisest among us. And the Wisest are the ones best adapted to discern true wisdom. See how this works?

While presenting abstract concepts such as “being” and “ego” as though they’re objective phenomena and their relationship to somatic biology over time as an ironclad fact, Salk is trafficking lots of metaphysical assumptions that he cannot prove through pure scientific empiricism. He comes across like the illuminated Platonic mystic who apprehends the world of true forms and is simply here to decode the shadows of the cave wall for all you rubes. Everything in the natural world is in a state of evolutionary flux except for his speculative prescriptions for the future. His talks of the synthesis of the scientific and the artistic, but his language is freighted with an aura of moral imperative and absolute necessity.

The truth is that Salk and the adepts of the scientific priesthood have already prevailed. Science is used to rationalize anything and for the most part, no one can distinguish between the science and the moral prescriptions wrapped around the rhetoric. If depopulation and eugenics can be justified by the “wisest” among us and they have the sanction of the media, political and academic classes, who can stand in their way? Better yet, if you can manage to make people believe it’s virtuous through popular culture, you won’t face opposition when the laws are passed. How else do you explain the Thanos Did Nothing Wrong subreddit?

Survival of the Wisest seems indistinguishable from the likes of HP Blavatsky, Alice Bailey and Annie Besant who have proclaimed that we’re in a new Age of Aquarius. Post-Enlightenment liberalism has demolished the traditional cornerstones of the classical worldview. Subsequently, the void of meaning and purpose needs to be filled with substitutes. However, the task of filling this void has laid bare the numerous contradictions of the neverending pursuit of liberation. The perpetual quest for infinite tolerance and freedom cannot be reconciled with a society that respects boundaries and limits. You got a problem with womyn of size, bigots? Do you object to cannibalism or something? Do you oppose progress?

Even the academic elites cannot avoid confronting the fact that liberalism has only compounded the problems against which it rebelled in the first place. Of course, the solution cannot be a rejection of liberalism. It must be a reaffirmation of liberalism. You know. Just cede the tedium of thinking to Wisest among us. They’re only concerned with their Survival.

Oops.

I mean OURS.

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