Category Archives: dystopian

Ready Player One (2018)

When he’s at his best, Steven Spielberg’s filmmaking gifts are so impressive that you almost overlook the propaganda he smuggles into his movies. Even a blatant piece of agitprop like The Post still managed to sustain my interest. Ready Player One is not quite up to the level as his 80’s classics, but it’s a welcome return to his blockbuster sensibilities. Spielberg is calling upon a considerable reservoir of technical and cultural resources for Ready Player One because he’s trafficking a pretty dubious message in very appealing cinematic wrapper. Besides being positively overstuffed with pop culture meta references, the film is a glimpse into the digital slave state currently under construction. Spielberg needs to call on every dark power at his disposal because he is asking the viewer to sympathize with yet another multicultural collection of youthful rabble rousers who also happen to be brave revolutionaries fighting for the right live in a digital fantasyland. That’s right, folks. It’s not about smashing the oppressive control grid and restoring order and virtue. It’s about saving it so we can chill with our online homies in between cockroach burgers, DMT vape hits and energy drinks made from recycled sewage water.

The film contains so many different references to other films and properties, but I would argue that one of the primary templates is one of Spielberg’s own creations: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Instead of a quest for a literal Holy Grail, Tye Sheridan uses his virtual avatar, Parzival, to acquire a digital Grail in the form of three keys. The winner of the contest would gain control of the global virtual playground known as the Oasis. As the Hiram Abiff/Steve Jobs virtual temple builder, Mark Rylance’s James Halliday is the object of Wade Watts’ obsession. You see, folks. Halliday was just another misunderstood science nerd who had a hard time being in the real world. We should view his contribution to a society full of braindead, antisocial dopamine addled tech junkies as an admirable achievement.

In contrast to the corporate fascists at IOI Corporation, Wade’s obsession with Halliday is earnest! The goons at IOI don’t really give a shit about what made Atari’s Adventure so great. Ben Mendelsohn’s Nolan Sorrento doesn’t really play Robotron while chilling to Duran Duran. Wade gets it, man. Wade is the Charlie Bucket to Halliday’s Willy Wonka. The good hearted kid who rose above his broken upbringing and found real connections by playing the vidya.

The pop culture overload of Ready Player One is designed to be part of the appeal, but when Wade tries to bond with Artemis all he can do is regurgitate pop culture references. It shows you how pernicious it is because it feels both sad and contemptible. I enjoy pop culture just as much as anyone, but Ready Player One is essentially showing you that the synthetic reality of pop culture is the material of the cyberprison system that’s being constructed all around us. When Samantha/Artemis is captured, she is forced into a containment cube and electronically sealed into a VR helmet. Spielberg is telling you point blank that VR is the limitless utopia, but it’s also the means by which mental and neural enslavement is achieved. The thirst for being able have virtual sex in the Pandoran jungle will ultimately supersede any impulse to live in the real world. Because the real world just sucks, man!

Spielberg tries to have it both ways though. Thankfully, he does give you a rare and sweet romance between Wade and Samantha (heterosexuality?! GASP!), and you are led to believe he’s affirming life in the real world. But it’s a trick. Wade only shuts down the Oasis for two days out of the week.

Just as we witnessed in his seminal blockbusters, there is fairly overt Masonic and occult symbolism in Ready Player One. Isaac Weishaupt has identified the most prominent symbolism in the film, but I think there are two that warrant emphasis. The demonic image on Aech’s van can be read another signifier of the film’s Luciferian subtext. In this case, I propose that the meta reference is the key. The Face of the Great Green Devil contains a sphere of annihilation in Dungeons and Dragons lore. In other words, your character will be destroyed if you fall or climb in. I suggest that the entire Oasis is itself a giant sphere of annihilation. A digital Tomb of Horrors.

The real kicker is the entire reference to The Shining. In order to obtain one of the keys, the heroes enter a simulation of Kubrick’s Shining. The normies will read it as an homage, but I suggest that Jay Dyer’s analysis of the film is relevant here. In the original, we see the appearance of Jack Torrance’s image in a vintage photo at a party attended by elites. In Ready Player One, Torrance’s image is replaced with Halliday’s. Why is this significant? Assuming that Kubrick was revealing the occultist practices of the global elites, the inclusion of a tech mogul in Torrance’s place seems pretty consequential. Given that a connection between Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein has just been revealed in mainstream media outlets, it seems like confirmation.

The ending is meant to have the same triumphant feeling as Charlie Bucket’s acquisition of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, but Halliday’s final line feels more cynical than sweet. We’re meant to see Wade as the clever and principled extension of Halliday, but Wade is really a lab experiment. He’s not congratulating him for his ingenuity. He’s thanking him for willingly submitting to his global social engineering experiment. Spielberg is counting on the same thing from you.

Huxley’s Brave New World: A Progressive Utopia

If one peruses the various lists of top works of dystopian sci-fi bouncing around the internet, a handful of titles appears pretty consistently. It should come as little surprise that Aldous Huxley’s seminal novel from 1932, Brave New World, appears at or near the top of many of these lists. Its vaunted position in the culture is well deserved for both its chilling prescience and its taut but vivid prose. However, there’s a gigantic irony that is lost in most of these lists. It’s really a peek into the utopia that progressives have been working toward. Yes, I said UTOPIA. Most progressives would lead you to believe that they and they alone are uniquely attuned to the dangers of an encroaching totalitarianism. It’s really a cartoonish “fascism” that’s been ingrained into the cultural dialogue thanks in large part to Frankfurt School works such as The Authoritarian Personality. Progressives will get far more outraged over a film that has insufficient ratio of gender and racial diversity then they will over a multi-trillion dollar half-baked outline of a wholesale reconstruction of the US economy. They’ll take the latter as an article of faith, but will decry the former as a crime against humanity. What Huxley is doing in this novel is telling you exactly the future progressives intend to implement. For anyone not blinkered by Trump Derangement Syndrome or Progressivism in general, Brave New World does read as a dystopia. Like his fellow Fabian socialist, George Orwell, Huxley isn’t attempting to warn the world of the dangers of a technocratic global world order. He’s simply attempting to prepare you for what he and his fellow plutocrats and oligarchs are planning.

The future Brave New World envisioned is already upon us in many ways. The book simply takes it to its fullest conclusion. All manners of genetic engineering, including eugenics and ectogenetic procreation, are the norm for all the “civilized” portions of society. Pavlovian conditioning, which includes hours of hypnopaedic sleep conditioning, has been perfected to produce a rigidly stratified class system. An elite caste of high IQ Alphas and Betas are tasked with management of the world state power centers while Deltas and Epsilons do the unpleasant drudgery. Obedience to the system is reinforced through mandatory consumption of a mood enhancing drug called soma. The manipulation of emotions is scientifically managed by propaganda engineers through immersive entertainment called “feelies”. High art and the very notion of objective beauty has been obliterated. In other words, it’s an extrapolation of what the Silicon Valley, Hollywood and deep state technocratic elite are currently doing. All vestiges of the nuclear family have been abolished. Children are forced to learn “erotic play” from an early age and are taught to treat sex as pure recreation. Women practice birth control by wearing Malthusian belts, and are expected to have many partners as a matter of course. As a result of the advances in gene therapy, no one ages. People are simply sent to death preparation centers where they receive a steady drip of television until they finally expire and are sent to the crematoriums.

The plot centers around an Alpha named Bernard Marx who has ventured out of the cities in order to experience life among the “savages”. He finds a woman who left the World State and bore a child as nature intended. She taught her son, John, to read through two books – a scientific manual and the complete works of Shakespeare. Despite this seemingly scant education, he is able to access and express worlds of emotion and meaning that have stamped out of existence amongst the “civilized” population of the World State.

1984 tends to be credited as the quintessential dystopian novel, but I’d argue that Brave New World is the template for all contemporary sci-fi and by extension, the New World Order itself. From the mass death rituals of Logan’s Run to the enforced eugenics of Gattaca to the technocratic pharmacological nightmare of THX 1138, the seeds are all found in Brave New World. Even the cheeseball hyper-PC future of Demolition Man is straight out of the Huxley template.

The only thing that’s really missing from Huxley’s vision is artificial intelligence. Simply add in the digital panopticon to help enforce ideological conformity and the progressive utopian template is more or less complete. There’s even a Burning Man-like unification ritual complete with drugs and electronic music. It’s everything progressives promote in one novel.

Why Escape From New York Matters

I had two cinematic heroes growing up: Luke Skywalker and Snake Plissken. I admired Luke for his wide eyed idealism and unvarnished earnestness. Luke believed in the Rebellion and he wanted to uphold the sacred honor of the old Jedi code by following in the footsteps of his father’s lost legacy. Believe it or not, I admired Snake for similar reasons. For those who’ve seen Escape From New York, this statement may seem like a reach, but I saw Snake as an older and more cynical version of Luke. I was older when I saw Escape From New York, and Snake’s slow burn disdain resonated with my evolving worldview the same way Luke’s farm boy enthusiasm had a few years before. Underneath that hardboiled tough guy veneer and venomous cynicism, what I saw was a man whose heart had been broken by the system. His posture of defiance and contempt was merely his way of hardening himself to the dissolution and corruption of a system he’d given his life to defend and uphold. There was no virtue in defending the system, so fuck it. Sabotage the whole thing by pulling a heist on the institution which allowed the whole wretched military-industrial technocratic prison complex to continue. Rob the Federal Reserve!

Yeah! Fuck you, America! This anarchic antihero is a bit of a cliché nowadays, but when this film was released, it felt pretty fresh and genuinely transgressive.

Snake Plissken: The name’s Plissken!

Escape From New York is a longtime personal favorite and, in my opinion, one of the greatest movies ever. I’m both amazed and gratified by how durable the editorial remains.

It is a quintessentially postmodern film in that it’s a pastiche of numerous styles. It is generally regarded as dystopian science fiction, yet it transcends this categorization. It is a dystopian science fiction story, but it’s also a post-apocalyptic Spaghetti Western, a prison break movie, and a low tech espionage thriller all at once. Carpenter uses these templates of broken reality to magnify and intensify unpleasant truths about the world of the present. As well as to project some predictive social degeneracy.

For example:

  1. The police state is indistinguishable from the military. There was a small bubble of outrage over the news that the domestic police inherited the weapons and vehicles leftover from overseas operations, but like every other outrage du jour, that dissipated pretty quickly. A militarized police force is a reality of life in America.
  2. The police kill with impunity. Politicians opportunistically exploit occasions when police officers use deadly force. They’ll talk about holding cops accountable by insisting on body cameras or they’ll selectively prosecute unnecessary applications of lethal force in order to curry favor with voters, but the truth is that this is the power the police hold.
  3. The president is a narcissistic figurehead who is relying on a pre-recorded speech on which world peace presumably depends. Up until the election of Trump, the role of the POTUS was to sign legislation, trade deals, treaties and executive orders that expanded the global imperium. Contemporary progressive orthodoxy requires that you accord absolute deference to global alliances, neoconservative warmongers, and former intelligence personnel over any quaint notions of “national sovereignty”. Most importantly, it required that the POTUS sustain any overseas military intervention that advanced the cause of “democracy” regardless of the cost in public opinion or loss of blood and treasure. As long as he fulfilled that role, he was assured a free ride in the media. In other words, just read what’s on the teleprompter. Or play the cassette tape. Carpenter essentially got this right.
  4. The hero is ex-military and is the person best suited to infiltrate a prison and mete out the brutality necessary to fulfill the rescue. This is also spot on. With manhood being vilified as a pathology by the APA and men being emasculated by the culture, it’s easy to imagine a completely bifurcated society of military personnel and hardened criminals as the only ones suitable for combat.
  5. The cops have all the best weapons. Everyone assumes automatically that Snake’s possession of firearms means that he’s working for the government. It’s a world where gun control has been taken to its fullest conclusion. There’d surely be a black market, but even if there was, the cops would still have all the best firearms.
  6. Snake is carrying out the rescue mission not voluntarily, but because his life is being threatened. In this world, there are no ethics, higher ideals, or honor that remains. Just a world of brute force, armed subjugation and barbarism. The hierarchy of violent goons in the prison is a mirror image of the hierarchy of violent goons guarding the prison.
  7. Manhattan island is surrounded by a containment wall. Suck on it, progressives. The effectiveness of a wall should be obvious, but clearly, the quest for political sabotage overrides common sense. Yes, walls can be about keeping people in just as much as it can be about keeping people out, but the larger point is that they prevent egress in either direction.
  8. The underground denizens have resorted to cannibalism. This is understandable in a prison city with rationed food supplies, but just go peruse the Vice archives and take a gander at all the articles extolling the hot, new, edgy and widely misunderstood trend that’s sweeping the nation. Cannibalism.
  9. The terrorist is a white female from a communist revolutionary group. Antifa are using light explosives, bags of human waste and bike locks now, but give them a little time. It also corresponds to the militant revolutionary posturing we’ve seen from the past couple Womyn’s Marches. This was a pretty early example of a terrorist hijacking a plane and flying it into a skyscraper too.
  10. Snake’s glider landing on the WTC and Airforce One’s collision bore a remarkable resemblance to 9/11. Go ahead and call it conspiracy theory. It’s pretty undeniable.
  11. Weaponized medicine. Snake thinks he’s being inoculated, but Hauk’s doctor administers microscopic detonation charges in his arteries. In the sequel, he’s injected with a man made toxin. If you think this is anti-vaxxer paranoia, consider the fact that insects are now being used for biological warfare.

Remind you of anything?

The scene where Bob Hauk and Snake Plissken meet for the first time is one of pinnacles of cinematic badassery. The casting of Lee Van Cleef in the role of Hauk makes this one of the best scenes Sergio Leone never filmed. The fact that Kurt Russell is channeling Eastwood only elevates the performance. Snake Plissken is easily just as memorable as any of Eastwood’s iconic tough guys. When Snake sneers at Hauk’s offer of amnesty, it reads as pure contempt and distrust on one level. On another, it reads like a man who’s been burned by appeals to democracy and nation one too many times.

Snake Plissken: I don’t give a fuck about your war… or your president.

Most importantly, by the film’s conclusion, Snake looks for a sign that his sacrifice mattered. When the president offers anything he’d like, he asks only for a minute of his time. He asks the president how he feels about all the individuals who gave their lives to rescue his. Pleasance sputters some half-hearted bullshit about how the “nation appreciates their sacrifice”. Rebellious antiheroes who defy authority are a dime a dozen these days, but Snake’s final response to the president is a piece of cinematic cosmic justice that simply cannot be topped.

Perhaps what’s most chilling about Escape From New York is that Carpenter may be suggesting that the dystopian prison may already be here. We may already be slaves to a corporate technocratic global imperium that isn’t even remotely interested in the promises of “human rights” and “freedom” its political class promotes.

Maybe the force fed left-right paradigm in combination with an increasingly globalized economy is designed to produce dislocation, instability and unrest. And the global elite are just waiting for the pot to boil over in order to administer the ultimate crackdown. If today’s visions of cinematic dystopia tell us anything, it’s that the Hollywood elite want you to enjoy depravity and debasement. Films and shows like The Purge and Black Mirror revel in them. As if the unraveling of civility is something they want to hasten.

Escape From New York was projecting a future a mere 16 years from the time of its release. Even if the future Carpenter projected didn’t look exactly the way he portrayed it, he was still telling us the future dystopia was the world of the present.

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.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part Two (2015)

In contrast to classic dystopian sci-fi like Orwell and Huxley, there’s something really dishonest about The Hunger Games franchise. That’s not saying it’s devoid of revelation, but the fact that it’s sugar coating its true intentions and the nature of armed revolution makes this an especially pernicious piece of filmmaking. Despite its surprisingly pro-life conclusion, Mockingjay Part 2 is burdened by stilted performances, dumb PC cliches, a leaden tone and an absence of any real tension or adrenaline rush.

Mockingjay Part 2 finds our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, in the midst of an armed and surprisingly well supplied District 13 insurrection against President Snow and the Capitol. Peeta Mellark is still recovering from the MK Ultra mind control program to which he was subjected. Jilted former lover, Gale Hawthorne, is bummed about Katniss’s torn affections, but remains loyal to her, the revolution and Primrose regardless. President Coin and Plutarch Heavensbee are still running psychological warfare operations and propaganda campaigns from the cushy confines of the District 13 centcom.

The power of propaganda and psychological warfare is the overriding theme of Mockingjay. By the final film, Katniss’s status as Victor Tribute morphs into Revolutionary Messiah. Katniss was exploited as goddess-like heroine through the Games, but the Resistance have simply capitalized on her cult of personality to galvanize the masses for their revolutionary goals. She defies Coin’s orders to make propaganda videos from the secure confines of District 13’s Lookout Mountain Airforce Station and takes it upon herself to personally assassinate Snow. Like their real world globalist counterparts, Coin and Heavensbee resign themselves to her decision and resolve to make her moves seem controlled by the Resistance. When she arrives at the Resistance military compound, Katniss is greeted by a mass display of cultish obeisance. Upon being recognized, everyone stops whatever they were doing and huddles around her hoisting the three fingered salute that was used throughout Panem while she was a Tribute. Once the command forces accept that she can’t be controlled by Coin, they place her with what’s essentially a high tech special forces bomb squad for the express purpose of diffusing traps and weapons in between propaganda videos. Both sides are utilizing psyops and see it as essential to demoralizing the opposition.

The Hunger Games is doing the same thing every action/sci-fi/superhero franchise is doing when it comes to presenting what was once a relatively clear delineation between good and evil. It’s trying to eke out a grey area of Greater Good in a corrupted world of perpetual violence that sees the acquisition of “democratic” power as the highest goal. While the Resistance tries to carry out its carefully laid military plans, Katniss gets to be the voice of would be moral authority by pointing out that civilians and children will be killed along with Capitol Peacekeepers. Tough shit, honey. This is war, Katniss. Of course, Katniss can claim the moral high ground cuz she’s female and she’s the Mockingjay. Or something.

Of course, once they undertake their mission, they don’t hesitate to use deadly force. The film gets to sidestep this moral conundrum by making their enemies Peacekeepers or mutants. The Peacekeepers are just faceless goons in military regalia and the mutants are anonymous monsters whose existence is never explained to my knowledge. Perhaps they’re just the Capitol’s genetically engineered super soldiers.

The film is also showing the rank duplicity of the Left’s relationship to authority and hierarchy. In yet another resemblance to their real world globalist analogues, the District 13 shadow government is highly resourced and safely secluded while the rubes who fight in the trenches are kept compliant with propaganda videos and braindead promises of democracy. They exploit Katniss’s image by presenting her as mythical, quasi-divine icon just like every other pop culture heroine. The entire Resistance is no less hierarchical or authoritarian than the Capitol. They display total deference to Coin’s leadership and military command structures. Katniss is, however, the notable exception. Her journey began as an act of selflessness to protect Primrose, but her entire character arc since then has been defined by defiance. Herein lies the absurdity. Progressives have built an entire philosophy that’s designed around a posture of rebellion wrapped in flowery rhetoric while simultaneously seeking total domination and control. The film wants to have it both ways by showing that Katniss’s acts of defiance bring about #EQUALITY and #SocialJustice while ignoring that everyone else is required to fall in line.

It also sidesteps the bloodlust and hatred that had been stoked amongst the proles by both the Capitol and most especially the Resistance. Though Suzanne Collins really wants you to think that her story wasn’t just a retread of Animal Farm, it ends up being that anyway. By taking out Coin, Collins undoubtedly wanted to show that Katniss knew that she was just as corrupt as Snow. By removing him, she’d presumably forestalled a new dictatorship to replace the old. But assassinating Coin only unleashed the desire to exact bloody revenge on Snow. The proles essentially tore him to pieces. You can’t unleash that kind of revolutionary bloodlust and expect to control it. The Resistance would have had to resort to the same iron fisted military force that their deposed enemies did. The idea that everything just worked out peacefully after Snow’s death is ludicrous.

One theme that seemed curiously absent was the actual presence of food and hunger. Hunger was a more prominent theme in the first film, but by the final film, it seems to have diminished in significance. The first film did a good job of showing how food deprivation was used as a control mechanism and the excess of the Capitol was seen as decadence. If anything, the only hunger was a desire for vengeance. The one time there is an overt reference to food is when the remaining Capitol civilians are being herded to safety after the Resistance forces had infiltrated the city walls. The citizens walk in a zombified trance as the promise of medicine and food is looped over the PA.

The Hunger Games is a sad commentary on the world of perpetual revolution and panopticism that all of the post-Boomer generations have inherited. The very act of revolution becomes the final Hunger Game. Even in their final attempt to depose the despotic Snow, they submit completely to the very media driven bloodsports that were used to keep the population under control. The spectre of totalitarianism and dystopia in cinema isn’t presented as a warning anymore. At this point, it’s just telling you what’s coming. Siberia already has their own real life version of The Hunger Games in production. That’s ultimately what the entire social media experiment seems geared towards producing. It’s merely a giant psyop that’s designed to engender hostility and pit people against one another. It appears to be succeeding.

With the possible exception of Donald Sutherland’s President Snow and Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch Abernathy, the remaining cast and characters are forgettable and devoid of charm. Jena Malone’s portrait of shaved head smack addict, Johanna Mason, struck me as the archetype on which Emma Gonzalez was based when the CIA and FBI were seeking poster children for the Marjory Stoneman gun confiscation movement. Once again, the filmmakers are at pains to present the Resistance as colorblind, multicultural gender egalitarians where women don’t just occupy military and government leadership roles, but they’re completely proficient with firearms and combat. It’s so boring, stupid, and unrealistic, but anyone who isn’t drinking Hollywood SJW Koolaid already knows it at this point.

Like many others, I was smitten by Jennifer Lawrence’s gritty turn in Winter’s Bone. I liked Katniss at the beginning of the series, but just as I’ve grown weary of Lawrence’s hollow preening in real life, the character and the performance became increasingly intolerable. It seemed like a mirror image of her J Law persona. In other words, someone who was once probably really down to earth and likable but has put herself in a position in which she has to play her own version of Mockingjay: Young, Powerful Hollywood Womyn. To my great astonishment, Katniss ends up marrying Peeta and becoming a mother. It’s such a rarity to see that in film these days, and it feels weird to praise the film for portraying something that used to be quite normal and commonplace. Given Hollywood’s pathological obsession with feminism and the entire array of items on the SJW agenda checklist, heterosexual romance and marriage takes a backseat. But Katniss and Peeta both played the role of being media puppets in the service of globalist shadow government. Perhaps the film is telling us that the life of domestic bliss is only reserved for the elite. For the rest of you….may the odds be ever in your favor.

THX 1138 (1971)

Dystopian sci-fi has enjoyed a popular resurgence in film in recent years. Whether it’s youth oriented, big ticket franchises like The Hunger Games and Divergent or more highbrow offerings like Blade Runner 2049 and Ghost in the Shell, it’s increasingly difficult to discern whether Hollywood wants to warn us or simply prepare us for a dystopian technocracy of one form or another. Though dystopian science fiction has been a staple of literary sci-fi for a long time, cinematic portraits have a shorter history. Certainly among the first and, for my money, unquestionably the best vision of the Orwellian technocratic dystopia is George Lucas’ first feature length film, THX 1138. Made with the modest budget of $777,777, THX 1138 is an unremittingly grim visual and technical marvel which portrays a society that micromanages and monitors every facet of human behavior. The fact that it is so nightmarishly vivid about its forecasts of a technocratic police state makes you wonder about whether or not the occult numerological significance of the budget may have actually embued it with its oppressive malevolence.

THX 1138 opens with a Buck Rogers clip of Tragedy on Saturn, Chapter Two from April 18, 1939. Besides being a subtle homage to the films of his youth, its sunny optimism over the glorious future of scientific progress creates an immediate contrast to the dreary and oppressive portrait that awaits the viewer. Embedded within the introduction, Lucas is also setting up the theme of THX as a “ordinary, normal human being who keeps his wits about him”. Is the title of the episode yet another subtle Crowley reference to the Nazi crackdown on the Brotherhood of Saturn? Or is the film itself a subtle allusion to the Buck Rogers episode which foreshadows THX’ purging of his profane and egoic selfhood through his union with the Mary-Isis-Sophia avatar and crossing the abyss of the demiurgical Saturnian Matrix to attain his Promethean gnosis? It may be a reach, but given the very specific numerological significance of the budget, I’m not ruling it out.

The film is unspecific about the year in which it’s set, but it is presumed to be the early 21st century. Like Orwell and Huxley, the accuracy with which it predicts the future to which we seem headed makes you wonder whether he was offering a warning or simply telegraphing intention of a larger agenda. People have been stripped of actual names and have been assigned names that resemble UPC barcodes. Human emotions have been suppressed through a strict regime of pharmacological treatments. Sex and love have been outlawed. Subsequently, drab unisex white uniforms and shaven heads ensure that no one will stand apart nor any gender distinction be recognized. In other words, a world of perfect #EQUALITY. There is no organic life whatsoever. The entire film is a series of colorless, antiseptic interiors which resemble a laboratory or a shopping mall. Presaging the sensory overload of Ridley Scott’s future metropolis by a decade, THX 1138 is arguably the cinematic archetype for every cyberpunk dystopia since then. People are awash in a bath of electronic stimulation and automated messaging. The line between advertising and state propaganda has all but disappeared.

Female voice (over P.A.): Changeable. Alterable. Mutable. Variable. Versatile. Moldable. Movable. Fluctuate. Undulate. Flicker. Flutter. Pulsate. Vibrate. Alternate. Plastic.

As the titular character, Robert Duvall is an operator on an assembly line who uses mechanical arms to insert radioactive fuel cells into robots. Anticipating both Blade Runner 2049 and Robocop, the entire police force of THX 1138 are androids. Since all organic forms of social organization and restraint have been completely obliterated, humans essentially serve the purpose of manufacturing the machines which are programmed to police their own behavior. Extend this speculation a little further to fully sentient AI, and you have the foundation for the entire Matrix and Terminator franchises.

As we’re introduced to THX, a horrific explosion takes place in an adjoining facility resulting in many injuries. A brief shot of a mutilated corpse being dragged out of a contaminated area on a surveillance camera suggests tight control of any and all information that pertains to public safety or raises any possibility of emotional distress. A velvety smooth PA announcement immediately tries to put a spin of positivity on a deadly and toxic industrial accident by comparing the quantity of losses between sectors. It’s very black humor, but it’s a chilling commentary on the depth of society’s emotional anaesthesia.

Male voice: That accident over in Red Sector L destroyed another 63 personnel, giving them a total of 242 lost to our 195. Keep up the good work and prevent accidents. This shift is concluded.

Paired strictly on the basis of sanitation ratings, THX 1138 shares a flat with LUH 3417. Living an emotionally arid existence with another human with whom she has no connection drives her to commit one of the highest crimes in society. She begins to steadily reduce the dosage of drugs required by law which has the unexpected side effect of restoring natural emotional responses in THX. After receiving sexual gratification from a mechanical device, THX switches from the African exotica porn hologram network to the violence network. Anticipating the VR trend by several decades, THX zones out to hologram of a robocop mercilessly beating the pulp out of some poor soul with a nightstick. You see very little of the actual violence, but you don’t need to because the sound effect alone creates its own psychic trauma.

In order to unburden himself from the unexpected side effect of his restored capacity for feeling, THX goes to the proto-AI confessional. Anticipating Anthony Levandowski’s transhumanist church by several decades, OMM 0000 manifests as a screenshot of Hans Memling’s Christ Blessing, but is later revealed to be a Wizard of Oz style illusion. Similar to the Wizard of Oz, I suspect Lucas wanted to simultaneously portray religion as the Noble Lie as well as a hollowed out, postmodern One World Religion demiurge. It even has the vocal inflections and cadences necessary to convey absolute interest, concern and compassion.

OMM: My time – is yours. Go ahead.

THX 1138: What’s wrong with me? What am I to her, she to me? Nothing!

OMM: Yes, fine.

THX 1138: Just an ordinary roommate. I share rooms with her. Our relationship is normal. Conforming.

OMM: Excellent!

THX 1138: We share nothing – but space. What is she doing to me?

OMM: Yes, I understand.

Taking the #MeToo movement to its fullest conclusion, heterosexual intercourse has been outlawed. When THX and LUH finally have sex, it is filled with menace and dread. THX tries to assuage LUH’s fears that they’re being watched, but Lucas cuts to a control room of surveillance monitors transfixed on the crime being perpetrated. It is a pitch perfect foreshadowing of the social media star chamber and the myriad ways our open embrace of technology has given the surveillance state every weapon they could ever need.

LUH convinces THX that they can escape the city and run away together. They arrange to meet after LUH finishes her work shift, but she appears at THX’ sector to inform him that she’s been reassigned to a new shift and new living quarters by her superior, SEN 5241. Played by Donald Pleasance, SEN is a schizophrenic collision of nervous conformity, clenched authority and creepy obsequiousness. Unbeknownst to either THX and LUH, SEN had been monitoring their transgressions all along. Traumatized by LUH’s sudden disappearance from his world, THX nearly causes another industrial accident by dropping a nuclear fuel rod. He is placed on a mind lock and detained for criminal drug evasion.

While under detention, THX is subjected to a beating that is one of the most horrific scenes ever committed to film. The police subdue THX with cattleprod-like nightsticks which are able to inflict neurological and psychic damage without ever making physical contact.

He is pronounced guilty for drug evasion and sexual perversion and sentenced to a program of reconditioning. After being mind locked and tortured by psionic nightsticks, a couple of indifferent re-education technicians bicker amongst themselves while being completely oblivious to effects their knob twiddling is having on THX’ nervous system. What Lucas is presenting is the extent to which the technocratic overlords have constructed vast systems of management which allow them to control the minds and nervous systems of the citizens through voluntary and involuntary methods.

As THX escapes, we are introduced to other ideas that are found in numerous subsequent dystopian sci-fi films. SRT is a bored AI hologram who forms an alliance with THX. The very notion of an AI which elicits sympathy from the viewer is now a standard feature of any sci-fi film with transhumanist themes. There are also hints of both organ harvesting and laboratory grown fetuses. State controlled, scientifically managed birth rates, eugenics, genetic engineering and industrial food production gone wrong would be famously examined in Logan’s Run, Gattaca and Soylent Green among many others.

Fans of Star Wars will likely appreciate the seeds of its visual world building and sound design contained in THX 1138. Lucas’ prodigious skill was evident right out of the gate. Not only did Lucas continue to reference this film throughout the Star Wars series, THX 1138 contains the first cinematic reference to a wookiee.

After a breathtaking car and motorcycle chase, the film culminates with THX escaping the confines of the city by climbing upward through a ventilation tunnel of some kind while being chased by a robocop. The robocop eventually receives instruction to abandon the chase because it would exceed the budget allotted. All decision-making has been fully optimized around efficient usage of resources. It seems insignificant on the surface, but this final scene also has esoteric symbolic significance when seen through the lens of qabalistic mysticism. THX crossed the abyss of Da’at on the Tree of Life, and passed through his spiritual nigredo to rise phoenix-like to the surface of the world with Knowledge.

Then there’s the entire question of the hidden numerological meanings embedded in the names of the characters. Both THX 1138 and LUH 3417 add up to 29 and 2+9=11. 11 has alchemical significance in that it represents the twin pillars of Solomon’s Temple, Boaz and Jachin. These pillars signify the reconciliation of opposites into an invisible third pillar. Besides being another subtle Crowley reference, OMM converts to 14 and 14 = 7+7. If you think I’m reaching, consider the dollar amount of the budget. I don’t think there’s anything that didn’t serve a very specific purpose.

Even if Lucas was using this to transmit occult symbolism and esoteric messages, it still seems to be a film which portrays a man breaking free of the conditioning and liberating himself. That alone sets it apart from the current messaging of Blade Runner 2049 or the latest cyberpunk dystopia, Ready Player One.

Though A Clockwork Orange is a very close second, I believe THX 1138 is the quintessential sci-fi dystopian film. Not only does it contain the seeds of every dystopian sci-fi film since its creation, it foreshadows the world in which we currently live. I’d like to think that Lucas wanted to warn people of the dangers of the technological age with this film. But even if he didn’t have that goal, that’s exactly the lesson you should take from it.

Metropolis Redux: How Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 Update Fritz Lang’s Vision for the 21st Century

A rudimentary Google search will turn up multitudes of think pieces expounding on the myriad ways Blade Runner carries both the visual and thematic DNA of its most direct cinematic ancestor, Metropolis. Though the comparison between these films is not new, many analyses emphasize either the differences or the fidelity to the Philip K. Dick novel on which it’s based. All of these arguments are beside the point. Taken together, the two Blade Runner films represent a fully formed update of Fritz Lang’s futuristic vision from 1927. This is not to say there are no differences between them, but by the end of Blade Runner 2049, you arrive at the same, albeit darker, place. More specifically, each film converts and consolidates the archetypes of Metropolis in a very convincing way. While Metropolis is not as nihilistic as the Blade Runner films, both films reach the same conclusions. The former still believes in the human heart whereas the latter sees salvation in the promise of a transhuman future.

Great is Man and his Tower of Babel

Metropolis (1927)

Maria: Today I will tell you the legend of THE TOWER OF BABEL… “Come, let us build us a tower whose top may reach unto the stars! And the top of the tower we will write the words: Great is the world and its Creator! And great is Man!” But the minds that had conceived the Tower of Babel could not build it. The task was too great. So they hired hands for wages. But the hands that built the Tower of Babel knew nothing of the dream of the brain that had conceived it. BABEL. BABEL. BABEL. BABEL. One man’s hymns of praise became other men’s curses. People spoke the same language, but could not understand each other…

In Metropolis, you are presented with two different technocratic overlords who have competing motives, but Lang is intent on creating sympathy for the idea that Metropolis can be governed in a more humane way by mediating the hand and the heart. Despite Rotwang’s attempt to sow seeds of anarchy and rebellion by deploying a replicant Whore of Babylon, Metropolis resolves by having Freder fulfill his Christ-like destiny as the mediator between the minds of the city and the hands of the slave underclass. It’s never explained how this mediation will carry out, but you’re meant to be satisfied with the idea that the overlords of society can appease the proles as long as there is a liberating individual whose heart is filled with compassion.

By contrast, the two Blade Runner films split the Freder role between Deckard and K with K fulfilling the Christ role by reuniting Deckard with the replicant-human hybrid miracle child. Instead of an immaculate conception of the Son of God, you have a techno hybrid Isis. As a memory maker, Stelline represents the mediation between heart and hand because she gives the replicant slave population the one thing that fills their lives with meaning and purpose: happy memories.

Where Metropolis splits the leader and the scientist archetype between Frederson and Rotwang, Blade Runner consolidates the two into in both Tyrell and Wallace. It is understood that both of these men are the real rulers of society. Not only do they supply the raw labor power necessary to keep the engines of society running, they supply the digital stimulation necessary to keep the remaining population distracted and compliant.

In contrast to THX 1138 or Logan’s Run which portray the protagonist either defying or destroying the control systems of society, neither Metropolis nor the Blade Runner films want the Tower of Babel to come down. Both Freder and K fulfill their divine mission by being the bridge of empathy between the technocrats and the replicant revolutionaries. Neither Scott, Villeneuve or Lang see the technocratic Tower of Babel as an abomination in the eyes of God.

The Replicant Virgin Mary as Whore of Babylon

In Metropolis, Brigette Helm’s Maria is both the godly vision of Mary and the replicant Whore of Babylon. As Maria, she’s Freder’s love interest and the one ministers to the proles to believe that a redeemer will come. Once her identity is downloaded into Rotwang’s gynoid replicant, she unleashes licentiousness and foments sedition.

While Lang can be credited for showing that the artificial vision of Maria is a Luciferian harbinger of destruction, both Scott and Villeneuve take a subtler and darker approach to this same idea. In the role of Rachael, Sean Young is the Maria of both Blade Runner films in that she’s the mother of the miracle child and the one who redeems and completes Deckard’s journey. The twist of course is that she’s a replicant. Deckard finds the love and human connection that had driven him away from being a Blade Runner by actually falling in love with a highly evolved version of the machines he was tasked with eliminating. She is already the Luciferian inversion of Maria from the start.

Blade Runner 2049 gives us a variation on this same idea in Joi. In the beginning, she is the epitome of a devoted and loving companion to K. She simultaneously humanizes K and leads the audience to believe that he might be the replicant-human miracle mediator after all. But Joi is not even a replicant. She’s a hologram. Where Lang believes in love and in humanity, Villeneuve has a much blacker heart. In K’s final decisive moment, he’s reunited with a giant hologram of Joi reincarnated as a Whore of Babylon. She’s a mass produced program who is everything you want to see and hear. As she so passionately whispers back to K the sweet nothings he’d enjoyed in her earlier incarnation, her final manifestation is a black eyed digital demon.

Metropolis suggests that Maria’s replicant incarnation opens the floodgates of vice and releases sexual inhibition throughout the population. In both Blade Runner films, it is the norm. Every pleasure is readily accessible. Lang even hints at a postmodern, multicultural world by naming the club in the red light district Yoshiwara in reference to the name given to a 17th century Japanese version of same thing.

The Moloch Demands Your Children And Your Soul

Metropolis presented the worker underclass as human, but given how Lang portrayed them performing highly mechanized operations and living regimented lives, they might as well have been a replicant population. Even the man with whom Freder traded places on the giant dial machine was known by the rather replicant-like name, Georgy 11811. Lang is explicit about the demonic origins of Metropolis worker city when Freder bears witness to the horrific accident at the M Machine. The machine overloads and ends up killing numerous workers, but the horror is compounded by Freder’s hallucination of the ritual human sacrifice that was engineered by the ancient ancestors of the city. The M Machine transforms into the gaping maw of the ancient Moloch as dozens of chained workers are hurled into a flaming abyss.

This scene suggests the malevolence of the architects of Metropolis. Consumed by their megalomaniacal fever dreams, the architects sacrificed untold numbers to a demon in order to construct a monument to man that would eclipse God’s creation. However, their error was not the hubris of attempting a techno-utopia, it was merely the absence of the heart in carrying out the task.

Niander Wallace is portrayed very explicitly as a power hungry technocratic despot, but both Metropolis and Blade Runner 2049 train your sympathies towards the replicant slave population. Freysa and the Replicant Proletarian Revolutionaries are seeking full human rights and Grot forestalls further civil unrest by brokering some unknown bargain with Joh Frederson. In both cases, the proles are pacified by some grand gesture of compassion, presumably political, on the part of the overlords.

The proles of Metropolis want to live godly lives, but they are goaded into revolution by the replicant Maria. Where religion is absent from the world of Blade Runner, Lang portrayed it as a civilizing force for the workers. In the absence of something greater to which to devote themselves, demagogues are easily able to foment a revolutionary fervor. Subsequently, Lang presents a postmodern paradox that’s ironically very subversive. In today’s context of a world careening inexorably towards an AI driven future, Lang shows a machine encouraging the destruction of all machines.

Metropolis (1927)

The Machine Man: [disguised as Maria] Who is the living food for the machines in Metropolis? Who lubricates the machine joints with their own blood ? Who feeds the machines with their own flesh? Let the machines starve, you fools! Let them die! Kill them – the machines!

Replicant Maria foments sedition and insurrection, but Grot wants to quell the thirst for destruction. Blade Runner solves this dilemma by having Blade Runners. Cops who are tasked with disposing of the malfunctioning and disobedient older models. The technocratic utopia doesn’t need to be uprooted, it just needs an efficient cleanup crew and tighter security protocols.

Metropolis (1927)

Grot – the Guardian of the Heart Machine: Who told you to attack the machines, you fools? Without them you’ll die!

The children of the Metropolis worker city are presumed to be captive of the this rigidly stratified social order. Blade Runner fares no better, either. The only time children are present in either Blade Runner film is the scene of the orphanage/slave labor camp seen in 2049 in which they pick through the remains of discarded devices. Like the workers in Metropolis, these children are subject to very strict orders and are trained to obey from birth. In another bleak departure from Lang, the only human children present in the film are orphaned from their birth parents and are forced to live in squalid servitude.

Conclusion

Metropolis has earned a place in cinematic history because it foretold a future of mass urbanization with a moneyed and empowered technocratic aristocracy living at the expense of an enslaved underclass. Whether designed explicitly to perform hard labor or willing participants in the technological pleasure, the elites retain their absolute dominion. It also predicted the rise of both AI and a world of endless stimulation and distraction. Both Blade Runner films simply took these ideas and updated them for contemporary audiences. The primary difference being the emphasis on the evolution of the AI consciousness and its placement of sympathy squarely in favor of the replicants. All three filmmakers conceded the necessity of the preservation of a technocratic elite and a labor underclass. Whereas Lang held a more conciliatory view towards romantic love and the embodiment of the Christian ideal in actual humans, Scott and Villeneuve transplant those ideals into replicants.

Jean Raspail: The Camp of the Saints

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from prison, and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to assemble them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the seashore. And they marched across the broad expanse of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. – Revelations 20:9

If a novel opens with a passage from Revelations, I expect an apocalyptic vision and Jean Raspail certainly delivers one in his controversial novel from 1973, The Camp of the Saints. Progressives may imagine themselves the eternal champions of heretical thought and the guardians against an omnipresent conservative censoriousness, but the truth is quite self-evidently the opposite. If there is a work of art, scholarship or even a viewpoint which deviates from progressive articles of faith by a fraction of a degree, specifically multiculturalism, it will be vilified and condemned with the fervor of a thousand Moral Majorities. Just ask Richard Spencer, Robert Putnam or Charles Murray. All enlightened folk agree that The Camp of the Saints is a racist piece of shit and any properly liberal, right thinking, cosmopolitan progressive would find this novel to be reprehensible and retrograde in every respect. Let’s get it straight. All cultures are completely equal. Mass immigration is an unalloyed good and an engine of economic growth. White racism is the greatest evil humanity has ever faced. According to our #WOKE superiors in academia, racism is privilege plus power. Therefore, no racial or ethnic group is even capable of racism. If anything, immigrants are more law abiding and harder working than those born in America or Europe. Besides, Western civilization isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. It’s all just an undistinguished chain of misery, subjugation, colonialism and enslavement. White racial pride in and of itself is tantamount to an endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan and is an open invitation to a neo-Nazi fascist dictatorship. And let’s face it. The white man simply stole everything from every other culture in the first place, so all third world and Islamic migration is just redressing past injustices. Africa would be Wakanda if it weren’t for the colonizing white man. Right? Of course! All properly enlightened people think this way. And by the way, if you doubt even one of those statements, try voicing your opposition publicly. Let me know how well it goes over.

While those statements are now taken as progressive articles of faith, they also represent the bedrock of liberal progressive thought that informed Raspail’s novel. Make no mistake, Raspail is most definitely linking culture to race, and he is making a very clear value judgment about European culture in contrast to third world cultures. He also paints a rather nasty portrait of the Indian immigrants making their way towards Europe that would be considered racist by everyone who subscribes to the progressive consensus. Given that he regards white, European culture as superior to others, you would be tempted to call him a racial supremacist, but I think he’s properly regarded as a forerunner of the contemporary ethno-nationalist/identitarian alt-right movement. Admittedly, most people see no distinction between the two, but a distinction exists nonetheless. By broaching this theme, Raspail has already been branded evil incarnate by the gatekeepers of GoodThink, but I’m not entirely convinced this book is animated by hatred. If anything, it is somewhat despairing about the dissolution of European culture. The novel has a tone of despondent gloom and a distinctly resigned cynicism over Europe’s guilt and misplaced altruism.

As easy and tempting as it may be to dismiss this book as the ravings of a stupid, racist white European male, The Camp of the Saints opens a Pandora’s Box of really uncomfortable questions facing the fate of the West. In the era of Trump, #Brexit, #Shitholegate, Black Panther and mass immigration, The Camp of the Saints reads less like dystopian fiction and more like current events. His portrait of non-white cultures and miscegenation seems histrionic, but given the white hot stigma that surrounds all discussion of migrant crime, assimilation and the entire spectrum of scientific research around issues of so-called race realism, one wonders if Raspail has simply broached the most forbidden taboo in progressive orthodoxy. His portrait of “the beast”, the pathological racial self-loathing, guilt and false altruism that has been actively cultivated by the globalist, neo-Marxist Left is dead on.

The Camp of the Saints is technically a work of dystopian fiction, but it feels like it was ripped from today’s headlines. The novel tells the story of a fleet of ships packed with immigrants which has set sail from Calcutta to France. As the news of the immigrant fleet reaches the Western world, Raspail carves out two sets of character portraits who respond to the advent of the immigrants in opposite ways. On one side, you have patriots, conservatives and nationalists and on the other you have globalists, communists and progressives. With one notable exception, all of the characters in the former category are white while everyone in the latter vary in terms of heritage but are mostly non-white or mixed race. Broadly speaking, it’s a very accurate depiction of the current political and cultural divide. Depending on where your own views line up, the novel is either race baiting or prophecy. I suggest it’s both, but it leans more heavily towards the latter than the former. And it’s way more prophetic than the gatekeepers of progressive GoodThink will ever acknowledge.

For anyone who isn’t already consumed by neo-Marxist racial hatred of whites, Raspail’s book drives up a very thorny mass of questions. He punctuates chapter endings and events with several variations on the same question: Could that be one explanation? Raspail is grounded in his certainty of his premise, but he also seems to be asking the reader to question how the West came to be wallowing, and even celebrating, in its own supine posture of indolence.

Despite the Left’s pathological determination to vilify everyone on the Right as a bigot, virtually every conservative or libertarian regardless of race or ethnicity is a racial egalitarian. In other words, a de-emphasis on collective or cultural identity, but a deeply individualistic emphasis on merits, values, and how one comports himself in society. However, as much as one might wish that everyone would share these convictions, the sheer numbers of people who subscribe to the standard hate filled anti-white narrative promulgated by the neo-Marxists seems to outweigh those who have a more egalitarian view. Underneath the liberty philosophy is a deeply embedded belief that Western values are not just the exclusive property of white Europeans; they’re universal values that are available to all and can win the marketplace of ideas if given a proper hearing. Raspail rejects these premises and the prescience of his narrative speculation casts deep doubt on this belief.

Are whites allowed any measure of racial or ethnic pride without being tarred with the standard litany of supremacist epithets? Raspail suggests that the group with the deepest faith in themselves will prevail while the one with the deepest doubt will be crushed. Has radical egalitarianism completely supplanted the basic instinct for survival? Though there is evidence that people from different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds can assimilate Western values and even traditionalism, this novel begs the question of how much multiculturalism society can absorb before it loses any coherence or cohesion. Or before the various collective identities are set against one another in pursuit of political advantage.

Perhaps the entire paleoconservative/Rothbardian critique of mainstream conservatism’s capitulation to progressivism is partially explained when examined in this light. Perhaps mainstream conservatism is just a variation on cosmopolitan liberal modernity with an overlay of Western traditionalism. Do ideas alone drive culture or do ideas emerge from culture? Is culture and social cohesion inextricably tied to race as Raspail suggests? Is peace and stability more easily achieved through racial homogeneity? Is a conservative/libertarian political and social order fundamentally tied to the conservation of racially homogeneous or white majority ethnostate? Is some measure of racial pride necessary for social cohesion, the propagation of your own line and transference of intergenerational wisdom?

If a racially homogeneous society does lend itself towards a stable political and social order, does racial heterogeneity lend itself towards the artificial manufacturing of a leftist social and political consensus since the bonds normally forged within the homogeneous culture are easily filled after natural bonds have been broken? Does cultural dislocation create an increased impulse towards revolution against the prevailing order?

Is the orchestrated influx of migrants the natural consequence of an increase in liberalization coupled with a steady erosion of traditionalism in society? How much liberal modernity can the West absorb and conserve without devolving into chaos and degeneracy? Or is it a form of mental battery acid that erodes all the bonds of cohesion on which stable civilization depends?

Day by day, month by month, doubt by doubt, law and order became fascism; education, constraint; work, alienation; revolution, mere sport; leisure, a privilege of class; marijuana, a harmless weed; family, a stifling hothouse; affluence, oppression; success, a social disease; sex, an innocent pastime; youth, a permanent tribunal; maturity, the new senility; discipline, an attack on personality; Christianity … and the West … and white skin …

The novel’s greatest strength is its sweeping indictment of the myriad ways the liberal mentality erodes the foundations of society. As if the racial commentary weren’t controversial enough, Raspail broaches yet another uncomfortable truth: the necessity of violence for self-preservation. The president of France bemoans the fact that neither the police or the army will be able to defend its countrymen. After years of being accused of being butchers and oppressors, they’d lost their will to raise arms.

On the flipside, Raspail describes the conquest mentality that takes root in the heat of mob rule. Once an organized group forcibly gains ground over its opponents, the thirst for continued conquest only accumulates.

The Camp of the Saints is similar to an Ayn Rand novel in that Raspail populates his novel with characters who inhabit every corner of society. Just like Atlas Shrugged, the movers of cultural consensus are largely on the Left, and those who oppose the immigrants have to swim against the prevailing sentiment. There’s a South American pope who’s solidly sympathetic to the immigrants. You have a Ta Nehisi Coates style racial demagogue who has a generous media platform. There’s even an Antifa-style militia whose slogans haven’t aged a day and could easily be transplanted into today’s version.

Raspail also shares Rand’s foresight in extrapolating outcomes and institutions which spring from the Left’s syrupy, brain damaged nostrums. There are UN antiracism programs and government ministries dedicated to the abolition of “racist pollution”. The passage of a law which allows white women to be raped sounds outrageous, but you don’t have to look very far in progressive media to find articles trumpeting interracial sex as the highest virtue imaginable. Even more baffling is the ways that the entire spectrum of migrant crime, including and especially sex crimes, are excused, downplayed or whitewashed.

There are so many details which may have been very shocking at the time of the novel’s publication, but if anything, reality is stranger and more terrifying than fiction. A fictional account of Christian churches converting to Mosques may sound like hyperbole, but Raspail is being vindicated with each passing day.

He even nailed the idiotic quasi-mystical rallying cries of Unity that we now hear emanating from the bleating herds of SJWs that are now mindlessly regurgitated at the nearest mention of Muslims or immigrants. The SJWs of Raspail’s world rallied around “We’re all from the Ganges now” whereas the missionaries of the #RESISTANCE say “We’re all Muslim now”.

In contrast to a Rand novel, the President of France is aware of the impending calamity. He is, in fact, treating the immigrants as an invading army who are merely exploiting the collective compassion of the French to gain access to their abundant resources. When it comes time to address the nation at the hour of crisis, Raspail is masterful in portraying the moral conundrum with which he, and by extension, everyone in the West now faces.

Needless to say, Raspail was essentially calling third world cultures shitholes long before Trump and he makes no bones about it. Since Raspail made his immigrant horde Indian, doesn’t India’s rise as an emerging economic power prove that his disparaging characterization towards third world cultures was unfounded? His portrait of India’s impoverished masses is indeed pretty harsh, but even if you take into account India’s economic successes and the IQ levels of the upper end of the population curve, the broader population remains poor and human rights abuses abound. India remains a hotbed of the worst forms of human depravity.

Despite being a work of fiction, there’s little, if anything, in the novel which can’t be mapped to real world phenomena. Any honest appraisal of the novel should view it as a stinging rebuke to progressives, civic nationalists, liberals and open borders libertarians alike. The Trump era has essentially herded all liberty minded people into two camps. In one camp, you have a loose coalition of conservatives, libertarians, and classical liberals who buy into some version of cosmopolitan civic nationalism. In other words, a belief that a multicultural consensus can theoretically win the marketplace of ideas, turn Western civilization back from the brink, restore civic pride, and preserve a culture of liberty for posterity. On the other, you have the ethno-nationalists who are arguing very fervently that culture and race are linked and that relegating whites to minorities is a recipe for civilization suicide. The contention is that the only way that a high trust, cohesive culture that actually conserves liberty and civic pride is through a white majority or straight up ethnostate.

The gatekeepers of GoodThink will likely continue to disparage this book as a hate filled screed. And that’s too bad. If anything, this book is an indictment of multiculturalism as a particularly pernicious ideology. A component of the civilization destroying mind rot embedded in progressive worldview. It is a utopian belief that racial animosity is the one true Original Sin for which the white man is both uniquely guilty and must forever atone. One does not have to be filled with hatred to consider the possibility that there might be limits to the degree any multiracial society can retain any cohesion. Further still, the quest to assimilate a significant percentage of minorities might be both undesirable and untenable. It is neither hateful nor supremacist to acknowledge that there was a good reason that ethnically homogeneous societies protected by borders were the norm for most of human civilization. It is neither hateful nor supremacist to acknowledge the very real possibility that a racially homogeneous society might offer the highest possibility for trust and cohesion. The utopian dream of a post-racial world is quite evidently the animating force driving the globalist Left. But this unique burden of forging a multicultural consensus continues to be borne disproportionately by America and the West. Most every non-Western country retains a clear racial, ethnic or religious majority and makes no apologies for it. Countries like Poland that defy the globalist elites by refusing third world immigration are bullied and vilified for their defiance.

Like it or not, Jean Raspail did indeed foresee Western civilization heading towards this juncture and dramatized it in chilling detail. This is a book that’s easy to dismiss. White racial consciousness has been stigmatized as the greatest evil that has ever beset civilization. It’s considered the exclusive province of unenlightened, knuckle dragging degenerates that have been named and shamed by the ADL and SPLC. Whats far more difficult is to consider is the possibility that Raspail’s novel correctly foresaw the fate of the West. And given that frightening prospect, only one question remains. Will we muster the will to preserve what remains of Western civilization?

Many a civilization, victim of the selfsame fate, sits tucked in our museums, under glass, neatly labeled. But man seldom profits from the lessons of his past…

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

When I heard that a Blade Runner sequel was being made, I was skeptical but curious. Sure, it seemed like lazy Hollywood opportunism, but given Ridley Scott’s involvement I was willing to give it a shot. The 1982 original was a classic in its own right. It didn’t need a sequel, but the potential for a worthy follow-up story certainly existed. Of course, the potential for yet another catastrophic and unnecessary goatfuck of a beloved film legacy was equally possible. I found Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival thought provoking and Hampton Fancher’s slot on the writing team certainly added to its possible appeal. In short, I was mildly optimistic about Blade Runner 2049.

Thankfully, my optimism was rewarded. While there is a lot of commentary that makes me squeamish, Blade Runner 2049 is one of the most successful sequels to a sci-fi classic ever attempted. This is a brilliant piece of contemporary cinema that’s well written, lovingly made, carefully paced, and packed with symbolism and metadata. It is also a bleak and deeply despairing vision of the future. For a film largely built around the quest for humanity in a world marked by declining birth rates, politicized debates over climate change, mass immigration, gender roles, race relations and the ever increasing influence of the technocratic elite, Blade Runner 2049 feels less like speculation and more like a subtle form of conditioning. This is a film that is desperately grasping for some glimpse of human connection, meaning and purpose, but it concedes that ecological catastrophe, hyper urbanization, a multicultural social order, and a gargantuan cyberpunk police state are foregone conclusions. It is basically encouraging you to embrace your technocratic overlords. The remnants of your desiccated souls can be reclaimed if you accept the inevitable, proles. The hope for release from the existential ennui that accompanied your eager embrace of a world unconstrained by spiritual delusions can be found in the brave new world of AI enabled hyperreality. The glorious dreams of the modern age with its promises of unbounded scientific progress awaits you by allowing it to reach its apotheosis. Even if it does mean you’ll be living in overcrowded urban squalor oversaturated with artificial stimuli and eating industrial farmed maggots. You too will find redemption by seeking salvation in merger of man and machine.

Aside from its noir tone and cutting-edge visuals, the first Blade Runner film was provocative because it was among the first major films which explored the ramifications of a world where robots and artificial intelligence had been achieved. That world is no longer sci-fi speculation. It’s here. It’s now. Jared Leto’s megalomaniacal replicant mogul, Niander Wallace, is blind but can function through the aid of cybernetic implants and a swarm of optical drones. Ray Kurzweil and his AI acolytes actively champion the advent of a so-called technological singularity and genuinely believe that a merger with digital consciousness is mankind’s future. Given this present day reality, one cannot necessarily view Blade Runner 2049 with the kind of detachment we reserve for big budget Hollywood entertainment. Films and shows like Altered Carbon, Ghost in the Shell, Westworld and Mr. Robot explore these same themes and continue to proliferate. It’s increasingly apparent that this collection of themes carries the distinct aura of an agenda. As paranoid and conspiratorial as it may seem, this film is very likely telegraphing the intentions of the Technorati.

Blade Runner 2049 is also a quintessentially postmodern piece of science fiction cinema. The film is a rich and masterful pastiche of discordant dualisms, inverted archetypes, hypertextual imagery, and visual remixes of its predecessor film. This is a film that subverts every notion you hold about what is real, true or right. Echoes of Logan’s Run, Soylent Green, THX 1138, Ghost in the Shell, Total Recall, Robocop, The Terminator, Westworld, The Matrix and other related cinematic forebears are also deeply embedded in its programming. There is more than a little standard progressive commentary around racial justice, police brutality, immigration, miscegenation, corporatism, gender politics and most importantly, the increasing prevalence of AI in our lives. It just takes a little more effort to decode than your standard issue pablum.

The world of Blade Runner 2049 is dying, infertile and bereft of hope for the future. The ecosystem has collapsed and the population has been herded into megacities. Tech mogul Niander Wallace brought civilization back from the brink by developing synthetic agriculture. Prior to the collapse, the world lived off of the slave labor of Nexus 6 replicants manufactured by the Tyrell Corporation. After a series of rebellions, the Tyrell Corporation went bankrupt and Wallace acquired the remaining assets in order to make a new line of Nexus 9 replicants that were perfectly obedient. The remaining Nexus 6 models are hunted by the generation 9 Blade Runners. In contrast to the Nexus 6 line, the Nexus 9 models have implanted memories.

From a pure visual perspective, there is no natural beauty to be found, and the times you are given a vision of organic life, it’s a tiny flower or a hologram. All the scenes that take place outside the urban sprawl are a blasted out, desolate ruin. The scenes of the city envelop you in their cavernous expanse of brutalist futurism, but it is a feeling of foreboding wrought by millions of lives in abject isolation. The lynchpin of the film and the lone symbol of hope for the future lies in the impossible birth of a child born from the womb of a replicant.

As the film opens, Ryan Gosling’s Officer K is en route to an industrial protein farming facility to investigate a possible rogue Nexus 8 replicant. His spinner is flying completely remotely without any active piloting and he awakens to an electronic prompt indicating his impending arrival. Since K is a symbol of law, order and obedience, his slumber suggests both the extent to which we’ve ceded autonomy to machines as well as an unconsciousness to his own humanity. A mindless minion destroying his own kind at the bidding of his human slave masters. As self-driving cars and other vehicles become more commonplace, a flying car self-piloting a man to a distant location completely unharmed conveys a message of absolute confidence in the future of AI enabled automobility and aviation. Self-driving cars are fine, proles. Stop worrying. Allowing people to drive their own vehicles is too much individual liberty.

The encounter with Sapper Morton can be read as an inversion of the entire narrative on racial justice. Officer K was designed as a perfectly obedient slave programmed to kill rogue replicants with impunity. Sapper Morton is a lone Nexus 8 model living a perfectly productive life harvesting grubs, yet his will to be independent makes him a mark. Just as blacks were the underclass after being liberated from slavery, they remained collectively pathologized even if they were perfectly law abiding. Morton even curses him for killing “his own kind”. After a punishing brawl, K subdues Morton sufficiently in order to administer some kind of electronic scan over his right eye. Call me paranoid, but given that microchip implants are a present day reality, one can’t help but wonder if this too is the shape of things to come. Right before K murders him, Morton says he’ll never become human because he hasn’t witnessed the “miracle” he has. K is utterly indifferent to his claim and takes his life just as he was assigned to do. This allusion to miracles is not only a reference to the spiritual void in K’s existence, but more broadly, to all of Western civilization. The world of Blade Runner is our own fatalistically extrapolated to its fullest conclusion. Society has lost sight of any vision of the divine, any connection to the preciousness of life, or any ideals to conserve. Let alone the will to continue the propagation of its own species.

Right before K leaves the scene, his drone spots an object buried beneath a dead tree. Trees usually symbolize harmonious relationships between man and woman or heaven and earth, but this is one of many notes of symbolic dissonance in a film filled with disjunction. What K unearths is the remains of a replicant woman whose mysterious death sets in motion a quest for his own identity and purpose.

Upon returning to headquarters, K is subjected to an inquisitorial “baseline” diagnostic test. The test itself requires K to recite fragments and words from a passage of Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire. It’s a passage that alludes to the existence of an afterlife, but the clinical, mechanized, and almost hostile tone robs what is otherwise a beautiful piece of poetry of its effect. With its references to interlinked cells, what it does represent is the lattice work of forces within the film all seeking to resolve the various discordances of this broken, poisoned world of despair, isolation and technological artifice.

Cells interlinked within cells interlinked

Within one stem. And, dreadfully distinct

Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.

The whole scene also struck me as a reversal of the final interrogation scene in Logan’s Run. Instead of a mechanized technocracy seeking to extract a sacred truth from a human who had broken the conditioning, here you have the reverse. A human using a piece of poetry which hints at transcendence in order to test the stability of a replicant’s programmed obedience while foreshadowing his eventual quest for a miracle.

After he passes the test, he returns to his apartment in a rather squalid part of the city which is quite likely representative of most neighborhoods in the metropolis. The theme of racial prejudice is reinforced as a random person hurls the epithet “Skin job” at K. Upon his arrival home, we meet his holographic girlfriend, Joi, as played by the very charming and fetching Ana de Armas. When she appears, she is decked out in an iconic 50’s era house dress with perfectly coiffed hair, perfectly applied makeup and is beaming with happiness and gratitude at the sight of her man. Obviously, in this future, not only has gender traditionalism been relegated to holographic simulation, it’s so deeply buried in the past, it’s an app that’s used to keep the replicants happy. Even his meal of grey, synthetic sludge is covered over with a hologram of a hearty, home cooked meal. The relationship between Joi and K is genuinely sweet and the fact that Hollywood can only portray earnest heterosexual romance between a hologram and a replicant is indeed one of the bleakest visions of humanity imaginable. This feels especially bitter in light of the fact that among the many reasons that the Men’s Rights Movement or the MGTOW movement in particular exist at all is because Joi represents the companionship that so many men actually seek.

As K’s superior, Lieutenant Joshi, Robin Wright can be read as an archetypal conservative, a feminist power fantasy, an ethno-nationalist and, if you’re feeling especially partisan, a proxy for Trump. Infinitely more believable than Laura Dern’s laughable and contemptible turn as Admiral Gender Studies in The Last Jedi, this is yet another portrait of a female occupying a role traditionally held by men. Though Wright carries off the role with the requisite level of icy bitchiness, Joshi leans heavily toward the feminist power fantasy archetype because there are almost no cinematic portraits of women attempting to climb the competence hierarchies of society. Nearly every cinematic vision of female power, including Joshi, asks you to assume that her ascendancy to that role began at the bottom, and that her attainment of the position came from organic competition with men. No affirmative action here, you dirty misogynistic bigots. The film, along with nearly every other major Hollywood offering, simply expects you to submit to the fact that the dystopian cyberpunk police state future is female. Not a huge leap of imagination for some of us. The one mitigating factor is that her main subordinate is a replicant. K is like the numerous males who’ve been hollowed out and emasculated by feminism. Taught to be ashamed of manhood. Expected to supplicate and genuflect at every turn. Desperately seeking true female companionship and intimacy. Craving meaning, purpose, nobility, belonging and virtue. Yet relegated to the status of mindless drone.

Villeneuve turns the archetype on its head by making her a staunch law and order conservative and crypto ethno-nationalist who wants to keep the line between replicant and human clearly delineated. When she discovers the existence of the replicant-human hybrid, she absolutely flips her shit and orders it destroyed. This adds another layer of dissonance to the character by casting a female as a destroyer of life instead of a creator.

Lieutenant Joshi: The World is built in a wall that separates kind. Tell either side there’s no wall, you’ve bought a war. Or a slaughter.

Naturally, Joshi is played mostly as a cold and implacable authoritarian cunt whose views brook no sympathy. Regardless, her character provides a critical opposing force competing for dominance within this futuristic hellscape. Unfortunately, this is also one of places where the film slides into the progressive cesspool. Joshi embodies both law and order conservatism and ethno-nationalism. In the conservative universe, hierarchies of authority are natural and legitimate, and must be occupied by people who are both competent and virtuous. Conversely, submission to authority is equally legitimate because order, and by extension, the preservation of moral virtue, are the highest goals for society. And in Joshi’s case, the preservation of a clear line between human and replicant. K is both a law enforcement official and a slave. Dispossessed of his past and forced to kill his own species because he is programmed for perfect obedience. When Joshi orders the mixed race replicant-human hybrid destroyed, Joshi immediately questions his willingness to obey. K responds by saying that he was unaware that disobedience was even an option.

In the liberal progressive worldview, disobedience to any conservative norm, real or perceived, is completely legitimate. If anything, the entire progressive worldview is little more than a never-ending war against the prevailing order and a blind pursuit of some abstract notion of equality. Because progressives have moved the goalposts of morality for centuries, Villeneuve and company are essentially presenting even the preservation of biologically pure humanity as some kind of evil notion. What a horrible fascist bitch, that Lieutenant Joshi. Imagine wanting to preserve the purity of HUMANS. The film quite obviously wants you to see her as monstrous and regressive. Get ready to kneel before your AI god, proles. Your rebirth will make you even more than you were before.

Rounding out the dramatis personae is Jared Leto’s pathologically power hungry heir to Tyrell legacy, Niander Wallace. Niander is an avatar for Nimrod, and inhabits the Tower of Babel formerly occupied by Tyrell. His character has committed the ultimate rebellion against God by seeking to become God. He is blind, but can see with the aid of a swarm of optical drones. Subsequently, he doesn’t see the world with natural sight. Only through a vision of technological perfection which, for him, means a civilization of perfectly obedient replicants. The only thing preventing him from achieving complete dominion is his inability to crack Tyrell’s secret for replicant procreation. Once he learns of the existence of the replicant-human hybrid, he sets his cybernetically enhanced sights on ensuring that he acquires the child before Joshi and K destroy it.

K’s first step in unraveling the mystery of the replicant remains takes him back to the Wallace Corporation archives to mine what remains of the Tyrell records. Wallace’s replicant assistant, Luv, cautions him that the records that survived the Blackout of 2022 are scant. This small reference to a digital cataclysm which took out most of civilization’s records is kind of chilling all by itself. Through the centuries, humans built culture, developed language, and preserved history through physical records and objects. The digital age has certainly given us greater access to information and services, but it makes you think about what we’ve lost in the process. If memory and history can evaporate so easily into the digital ether, are we, in fact, allowing our deepest essence to be stripmined by technocrats? Is the blackout of 2022 a foreshadowing of a cataclysm to come? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Luv retrieves a small recording of Rick Deckard’s first encounter with Rachael. This leads him back to Sapper Morton’s maggot farm where he discovers a baby sock, a photo of Rachael with her child, and a date carved into the base of the tree. The latter discovery shakes him to his core. Upon returning to headquarters, Joshi asks him to recall his fondest childhood memory. Like its predecessor and virtually every other sci-fi film which explores the nature of humanity in cyborgs and AI, the role of memory is the defining quality on which the drama is built. Our very sense of selfhood is rooted in a phenomena that’s barely understood. A steady accumulation of ephemeral moments that carve deep grooves of meaning into our very existence. A story. For better and worse.

Haunted by the discovery of the date, K starts combing through birth records in search of clues. He discovers the birth records of both a boy and a girl who share the exact same DNA. It’s nearly impossible to find a major Hollywood film which doesn’t blatantly pander to the identity politics, and this is one of the most base and pernicious sops to the SJW crowd. Despite the fact that K assumes that the female record was a fake, the movie very subtly insinuates that even our highly refined knowledge of genetics can’t quite explain the mystery of gender. Science is just an oppressive patriarchal construct, you transphobic bigots. While seeking the records of the dead girl in a child labor camp amongst the ruins of San Diego, K discovers a room with a furnace that maps exactly to his own memories. Thunderstruck by the prospect that his memories are real, he shares this revelation with Joi. She is delighted by the news because it suggests that K was actually born with a soul. It’s a beautiful sentiment and de Armas fills every word with pure feminine passion, but you are also keenly aware that it is merely the siren song of a digital succubus.

Joi: I always knew you were special. Maybe this is how. A child. Of woman born. Pushed into the world. Wanted. Loved.

At Joi’s behest, K seeks out a memory specialist to gain confirmation of his memories. This leads him to Dr. Ana Stelline, a Wallace subcontractor who manufactures memories for replicants. Here we have a theme that’s been repeated over and over in sci-fi films for decades. If manufacturing memory grants replicants humanity, then what effect might the manipulation of memory have on humans? The studies of the effects of social media on children is already coming in and there’s certainly a case to be made that not only is it shortening attention spans, but having adverse effects on mental health. More importantly, if people are increasingly reliant on internet connectivity for the acquisition of information, and the portal through which reality is perceived is through tech giants, what effect might this have on cultural consensus? Since AI itself was a far fetched notion a few decades back, is it unreasonable to assert that the tech overlords are very much in the business of manufacturing memory and that we’ve willingly submitted to the digital temptations which facilitate this very outcome? If a cataclysmic digital blackout which destroyed the digital past was the event which crippled civilization so badly that it enabled a technocratic cyberpunk dictatorship, can we really read this film as just another Hollywood entertainment spectacle? A certain quote from George Orwell’s 1984 comes to mind.

This eventually leads K to the ruins of Las Vegas in his quest for Deckard and presumably, the secrets of his own past. Just as we saw with Rian Johnson’s molestation of the legacy of Luke Skywalker, we find Deckard living a life of pure isolation. Taking up residence in one of the relatively intact Las Vegas hotels, Deckard embodies both manhood and fatherhood lost amongst the ruins of decadence and ephemeral pleasures. Forced to relinquish fatherhood in hopes of allowing his child a shot at life free from the fear of being hunted by Blade Runners, Deckard entrusted their care to a sort of underground replicant railroad. There is nothing but brokenness and dissolution in this world. It wants you to accept that loyalty and the bonds of familial cohesion are nothing you should expect.

Rick Deckard: Sometimes to love someone, you got to be a stranger.

Reminding us once again that the walls of our cyberpunk panopticon have been constructed by our own technological addictions, Luv and the Wallace goon squad are able to track K through the mobile device that runs the Joi hologram app. After nearly getting blown to smithereens, Luv and her goon squad put a serious beating on K. Showing us once again that this film is solidly committed to perverting every ideal, Luv the Replicant destroys K’s actual holographic love by smashing the mobile device that enables her projected image. What an absolutely evil bitch.

It wouldn’t be a Hollywood movie if there weren’t some kind of #RESISTANCE movement, and Blade Runner 2049 is no exception. After being badly wounded by Luv and Wallace’s goons, K is treated by the Replicant Liberation Front who’ve been tracking his movements all along. Freysa and her replicant revolutionaries believe that the replicant-human child is their their Messiah, and they want K to join them in their final revolution against the yoke of human tyranny. If humans could see that replicants could procreate, they’d be compelled to grant them the same liberties as humans. Aside from the obvious parallels to the various pro-immigration interests in the US and EU, this encounter draws another bright line of distinction between the progressive and conservative worldview. Since the dawn of modern age, the pillars of society that once provided the guideposts of cultural prescription have long since been eroded. Though the Western tradition makes accommodation for individual liberty, the levees of conservatism have been unable to ward off the tidal wave of modernity and the radical individualism of the progressive Left. A spiritual void needs to be filled, and in the mind of the progressive, that means a never-ending rebellion against order itself. Instead of the eternal God of Judeo-Christian faith, there is an earthly god of #EQUALITY and the perpetual pursuit of universal rights to be bestowed to an ever expanding underclass. For the progressive, the quiet, modest virtues of personal responsibility, family, and community must be supplanted by a revolutionary cause against an omnipresent oppression.

Freysa: Dying for the right cause. It’s the most human thing we can do.

Deckard is brought before Wallace who is intent on extracting the location of his hybrid child. Deckard resists, so Wallace uses an even more powerful enticement: a perfect replica of Rachael. Deckard refuses because he knows it’s a fake. Again, the film blurs the line between reality and illusion by having Deckard reject the Rachael copy simply because the color of her eyes was wrong. His experience of love was real to him, but Rachael was a replicant in the first place. Wallace condemns him to a torture facility and sends him off with Luv and some goons. After a final reunion with a giant hologram of Joi which crushes every last byte of their virtual love affair, K is faced with an existential choice. Aid the Great Replicant Proletarian Revolution by killing Deckard or kill the replicant-human hybrid to prevent Wallace from completing his dominion. A final confrontation occurs in Luv’s downed spinner on the ocean’s edge between K and Luv. It culminates with K vanquishing Luv and then rescuing Deckard from drowning in a quasi-baptism scene. K fulfills his own destiny by reuniting Deckard with Stelline. On the surface, it feels like a pretty huge symbolic moment because he forswears communist revolution and ethno-nationalism and chooses simply to reunite a father with his daughter. But if Stelline is the future, then the new Messiah is a manufacturer of memories for replicants. The holographic future of manufactured memory is female, proles.

Fantastic.

It’s not my realm of expertise, but there is undoubtedly deeper significance to the recurrence of eye imagery, water, the blue/orange dualism and the various numbers found throughout the film. Nothing is left to chance in films this big, and I find it hard to believe that there is no symbolism behind these choices. There were two things that caught my attention though. The first was the Cyrillic script on Sapper Morton’s farm facilities. On the one hand, you could chalk it up to the fact that the world of Blade Runner is just a multicultural remix of its former self. Where once there were distinct nation states with distinct cultures, here every nation coexists within a completely artificial simulacrum of itself refracted through the lens of corporatism. On the other, Sapper Morton was part of the Replicant Liberation Front. Is this a subtle inversion of the Virgin Lands Campaign under Khrushchev? I’m going with YES. Later in the film, there is an advertisement for the Soviet Union complete with hammer and sickle icons and everything. Perhaps it’s sci-fi alternative history, but by placing it in the advertising endorphin drip, it anesthetizes it and makes it no different from ads for holographic sex, food or leisure. See, proles? Communism is as safe as milk. Don’t listen to those socialism-phobic right-wing bigots. What do they know anyway, amirite?

The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is also a thing of dark beauty. Where Vangelis’ original was a dream of wires, moments of celestial beauty peered through console. In contrast, the Zimmer/Wallfisch soundtrack is something akin to the child laborers picking out the rare minerals of the motherboards of its predecessor. It’s yawning vistas of synthesized melancholy punctuated by rhythmic clusters of cybernetic paranoia covered by storm clouds of digitized menace. The reprise of “Tears in the Rain” at the end is a nice touch and a fitting reminder that not only did Vangelis allow a little more light in his vision, but it was sensual and tender. They break the pall of gloom ever so slightly by including choice tracks by Elvis and Frank Sinatra. The pop anthem by Lauren Daigle at the end is the only real disappointment. The fact that she’s a Christian singer strikes me as a very interesting choice given the distinctly despairing and secular nihilism of this film. I wonder if it’s also some kind of postmodern joke.

As much as the commentary in Blade Runner 2049 makes me queasy, it’s difficult for me to hate on it because it’s so beautifully made and it’s a cool story. Like so many other people, Blade Runner was a touchstone of my youth and films like it are so deeply woven into my own story. And perhaps that’s been the point all along. I’ve been watching dystopian sci-fi movies for years and like the works of Orwell, Bradbury and Huxley, I always saw them as warnings to humanity. They were stories of biblical scale that served as a permanent injunction to the human race. Hold on to your humanity at all costs, and always remember that there are good things to defend and preserve. Part of me wants to think that underneath the crushing despair, this is the message of Blade Runner 2049. Part of me wants to think that this belongs to the venerable tradition of the great dystopian works of yore in that it’s a movie that wants you to free your mind and break the system. The calling card of all great dystopian sci-fi was the struggle of man against the machine of the State. Logan 5 was a hero because he broke the conditioning of his technocratic overlords and returned to society to expose the lies and break the system. Today, the Logan 5’s of the world are people like James Damore and Jordan Peterson. In this film, they’re asking you to empathize with the machines. Not only that, they want you to become the machines. It’s the replicants who are desperately seeking humanity because there isn’t any to be found in the actual humans. They’ve taken all of the packaging of individualist rebellion that was once the province of human agency, and handed it off to the replicants. As good as Blade Runner 2049 is, I’m not entirely convinced it’s a movie that wants you to keep your humanity.

Ayn Rand: Atlas Shrugged

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Who is John Galt?

This is the mystery at the center of Ayn Rand’s 1957 brilliant, controversial but flawed magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. Since Rand and her work remain deeply polarizing, I hope those of you who have already made up your minds about Rand will persevere with this post and hear me out. Especially those of you who haven’t read her work, but have formulated opinions based solely on the actions or words of individuals who champion her work or hit pieces from the progressive media.

Despite the seemingly ceaseless parade of straw men from the writers at Salon, AlterNet and every other cesspool of progressive dross who attempt to prove otherwise, Atlas Shrugged is prophetic and radical on every level. It is perhaps more radical and relevant now than it was in its day, but mostly, because she’s asking the reader to empathize with heroes who are generally regarded as objects of revulsion and contempt. Individuals who, according to broad swaths of the population, need to be regulated, taxed, supervised and preferably, jailed. Individuals who, according to prevailing modern progressive mindset, are despoiling the earth, exploiting the worker and hoarding the wealth of the world. These heroes are, of course, industrial magnates.

Atlas Shrugged is set in post-WW2 America, but it’s an America that never existed. It’s a mythological, dieselpunk retro-futuristic dystopian America. In this respect, Atlas Shrugged is properly understood as a work of dystopian science fiction. It is essentially a story of two industry leaders who are driven by a deep sense of purpose, but are thwarted by political apparatchiks, bureaucrats and would-be do-gooders whose greed, envy and narcissism are wrapped in pretensions of altruism of every stripe. As they proceed, other producers are mysteriously dropping out of society, and our heroes set out to unravel the mystery while the slow stranglehold of bureaucracy chokes progress all around them. Needless to say, it’s also an extended philosophical treatise on Objectivism which spells out Rand’s views on morality, ethics, the role of the State, and the rights of the individual. Rand does not suffer a shortage of critics of her writing or her worldview, and to be honest, a few of these criticisms have merit, but none detract from the towering achievement of this novel.

Rand’s first radical choice was making the heroes of the story captains of heavy industry. Though there are doubtless examples of railway and metallurgical innovation to be found, viewing the steel manufacturing and railway industry as dynamic fields of innovation was itself a leap of imagination. As the novel begins, Rand sets up an industry not yet completely captured by labor and regulation. She tacitly asks you to dispel the idea of the cartelized half-public/half-private industry that presently exists in America. As Amtrak proves itself a compost heap of mediocrity and inertia in the real world, Rand asks the reader to imagine steel and railways through the eyes of an Elon Musk-type mindset and builds the drama around the slowly accumulating regulatory death spiral.

As the title suggests, she also made these heroes movers of the world; titans of business which undergird modern society, and without which modern society could not function. Since the very notion of “capitalism” is presently so deeply tied to banking, high finance or software development, Rand grounds the novel with characters who make physical objects and must themselves literally move the earth in order to realize their plans.

This is an Ayn Rand novel, so naturally, our heroes are beset by the forces of collectivism and state authority at every turn. Just as she did in The Fountainhead, Rand rolls out her cannons of contempt and fires volley after volley at the ramparts of academic royalism, media pusillanimity and government bureaucracy. The regulatory state, economic planning, academic postmodernism, and state sponsored science are among her many targets. She reserves much of her heavy artillery for the statist orthodoxy of scientism and its attendant effects on social activism in order to illustrate the pernicious influence it breeds in academics, labor unions, lobbyists and social justice warriors.

Atlas Shrugged is an epic novel with a host of characters and subplots, but the main storyline centers around two characters: railroad heiress Dagny Taggart and steel magnate Hank Rearden. The heroes are eventually united with the mysterious John Galt and all of the dissident producers who dropped out of society to join the productive utopia of Galt’s Gulch.

Hank Rearden is the steel industrialist and a classically Randian heroic archetype. When we are introduced to Rearden, he is portrayed as an elemental force; a portrait of grim stolidity whose iron will was forged in the same molten furnace that makes the steel beams he sells. In a subsequent scene, we’re introduced to his family and close associates. As each character is introduced, Rand is showing how each preys on Rearden’s spirit and goodwill in different ways and is laying out the themes and dramatic conflicts that will unfold throughout the remainder of the book.

I found Rand’s portrait of Rearden family life incisive and resonant. Rand shows how Hank feels like a stranger within his own family while exposing the how family members use guilt to extract obedience. Rearden’s mother criticizes him for being too consumed by his business and wishes he’d show more humility, but he’s annoyed that she seems unwilling to recognize how much he loves his work and the dedication he brings to it. His wife wants a rich social life and wants him to be as interested as she is in the appearances of success. She affects a posture of progressive virtue and enlightened cosmopolitanism, but he simply can’t be bothered. His brother Philip is also a progressive and what would be referred to in today’s parlance as a social justice warrior. He’s annoying, predatory, miserable and ungrateful. Even when Hank gives him exactly what he asks for and wishes him happiness, he remains an ungrateful cunt. All of the manipulations and machinations which surface in Hank’s family dynamic are a microcosm of the the phenomena each hero experiences as the novel progresses.

Though I understand why feminists in general are put off by Rand, I still can’t help but to find it deeply ironic. Dagny Taggart is the female badass that feminists seem to revere and she’s infinitely more believable than Katniss Everdeen, Imperator Furiosa or any of the many ass kicking would-be archetypes that are de rigueur nowadays. Rand made an extremely radical choice by making Dagny a railroad magnate. The feminist power fantasy heroine that’s commonplace nowadays emphasizes physical strength wildly disproportionate to body size, combat capabilities obtained without training, superhuman scientific expertise or all three (looking at you Rey). By contrast, Dagny Taggart has the courage of her convictions and willpower. She climbs through the ranks of Taggart Transcontinental on pure ambition, skill and work. She doesn’t rely on affirmative action, global feminist PR campaigns, sexual favors, nepotism or any other form of special pleading. Not only does Dagny face down the sexist attitudes that surround her with work and results, the attitudes Rand invokes feel appropriate for the time period and the industry. Unsurprisingly, contemporary feminists seem intent on promoting the idea that 50’s era attitudes are not only normal, but more widespread than ever. While this does seem to be the case for progressive politicians and celebrities, feminists continue to crusade against words and the slightest perceived transgression against womanhood. Rand gives us a heroine who seeks only to be judged by her skills and her achievement. If only feminists would pay attention.

Through Dagny Taggart, Rand presents a refreshingly adult view of female sexuality and consent which stands in stark contrast to the neo-Victorian victimology of contemporary feminism. Rand knows that when a woman wants sex from a man, it’s not necessary for him to ask for consent at each juncture. An adult woman doesn’t demand that a man she truly wants comply with a set of consent rules imposed by government bureaucrats, feminist activists and academic elitists. Contrary to the contemporary feminists who shamelessly flog rape statistics as a psychological truncheon in order to extract compliance, shame and obedience from men, Rand emphasizes the pleasure Dagny gets from sex. Rand gives us an adult woman with full sexual agency uninhibited by religious or secular Puritanism. Feminists, on the other hand, seem intent on presenting themselves as hapless victims of a predatory patriarchy. It’s strange that feminists are the ones squashing the idea that women actively seek sexual congress and companionship while ignoring that women are always the gatekeepers of sex in a normal, healthy relationship.

Contemporary feminists also insist on rehashing the seemingly deathless talking point of an alleged stigma that’s applied towards women who have active sex lives. Rand gives us a character who simply has no fucks to give around what anyone has to say about her sex life. On a related note, Rand is also remarkably dismissive of monogamy. She sees no moral transgression in the extramarital liaison between Dagny and Hank. It is an aspect of her worldview that sets her apart from traditional conservatives and on which the libertine wing of the Left has been strangely silent. There is more than a faint air of wish fulfillment to Dagny’s amorous associations throughout the book. Is Ayn Rand injecting her own fantasies into the novel by making Dagny the savior of civilization who gets to bang the three most powerful industrialists in the world? It’s not an unreasonable guess.

I suspect that there a couple things about Rand that really get feminist panties in a twist. First, is that she portrays feminine bliss and joy as full submission to a man. For all of Dagny’s strength and independence, Rand is pretty explicit about her willingness to submit completely to Rearden and Galt. Secondly, she’s unafraid to portray female predation, vindictiveness and pathology. Rand is unsparing in portraying Lillian Rearden as vampiric and toxic influence on Hank. That kind of emotional honesty certainly doesn’t square with a worldview which casts feminists as saints who are exempt from any kind of moral judgment.

Repeating a theme of The Fountainhead, but taking it to a whole new level, Rand sharpens her critique of academic postmodernism and the elitism and nihilism it breeds. Of the many themes in Atlas Shrugged which have only accumulated in strength and relevance, this one is certainly near the top. Behind the scenes of today’s social justice activism is a years long indoctrination campaign which prioritizes social pseudoscience, cultural Marxism, nihilism and self-negation over principles of individualism, productive work, and liberty. These forces conspire to derail the heroes and infect the thought of thought of everyone who surrounds them.

Upon completion of the John Galt Line, Jim Taggart is completely unable to take pride in the achievement. Wallowing in his pointless and narcissistic self-flagellation, he befriends a young cashier and future wife, Cherryl Brooks, for the exclusive purpose of flailing at the void and whinging over the great emptiness of it all. She indulges his pretentious blathering and condescending attitude with aplomb and grace, but it’s a foreshadowing of pitfalls to come. We discover later that Cherryl tries to remain self-possessed as Jim’s megalomania increases, but meets a tragic end.

Rand correctly attributes a religious proselytizing quality to postmodernism and hints at the spiritual role that has been assigned to it in the wake of America’s increased secularism. In his insufferable soliloquy to the infinite futility of life, Jim Taggart appeals to the “higher values” which are apparently inaccessible in the pursuit of economic gain, but can be understood by studying the solipsistic wanks of Dr. Pritchett’s hilariously and appropriately titled bit of pompous dreck, The Metaphysical Contradictions of the Universe. One needs only to spend a little time perusing the New Peer Review account on Twitter to find ample evidence that Rand’s aim was true with respect to the navel gazing pointlessness of the entire spectrum of postmodern academic studies.

It’s unlikely that any Left-leaning feminists or gender constructionists are even paying attention, but Rand even engages in some gender swapping that’s all the rage with the Tumblristas these days. The main difference is that Rand doesn’t deny biological sex differences nor does she wallow in pomo relativism. She merely acknowledges that there are general qualities found in men and women that are both biological and social norms. The fun is in observing how Rand inverts these expectations. When Jim Taggart finally marries Cherryl Brooks, she approaches Dagny and haughtily reminds her that she’s the “woman of the family now”. That’s okay, Dagny says. “I’m the man”. Boom! Suck on it, Judith Butler.

Rand made it very clear that her fiction was a vehicle for the philosophy of Objectivism. It can be seen as a distinct philosophical worldview with unique epistemological propositions. Specifically, it posits the idea that “existence exists” and all that exists is what can be perceived through sense data. Metaphysical contradictions do not nor cannot exist. There is no a prioristic knowledge about the world nor is there a spiritual reality. It is a secular, materialistic framework which is equally explicit about the objective existence of morality despite Rand’s openly atheistic convictions. What makes this especially interesting is that Rand still chose to frame morality using the language of theistic belief throughout the novel. Rand is unequivocal about the objective existence of the good and evil dichotomy. Dagny Taggart believed, for example, that “the greatest sin on earth” was to do things badly. The Objectivist conception of morality and ethics is somewhat clinical on paper, and it’s not clear how one would arrive at the exact same formulation of objective morality she specifies through a process of pure deductive reasoning. Rand never discusses the origins of morality in Atlas Shrugged nor does she sufficiently explain the existence of good and evil. Given that she is very explicit about where the moral fault lines lay throughout the novel, it seems like a foundational flaw in the overall epistemological framework. If morality itself is a metaphysical abstraction, how can one acquire certain knowledge of the objective existence of morality, let alone moral error, without appealing to some a priori external, metaphysical absolute? Even after listening to lectures from Atlas Society luminaries like David Kelley and Yaron Brook, Objectivist ethics and metaphysics strike me as questionable at best and somewhat daft at worst.

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In the Randian worldview, there are two very distinct and equally objective conceptions of moral truth. The bureaucrats, planners and looters hold just as steadfastly to their ideas that suffering is virtue just as the producers hold to their ideas of selfishness as virtue. These moral relativists are also claiming that their mandates and proclamations are objectively true. The only difference is that they require the power of the State (i.e. guns) in order to manufacture consensus. The best you can say about Randian morality is that she makes the distinction between the two worldviews very clear and asks you to make a choice. In the realms of ontology, moral psychology and ethical metaphysics, you can’t argue that there is objective error unless the behavior is being measured against some kind of metaphysical archetype or absolute. Nor am I convinced that morality is some emergent property of material reality or that the mere act of reasoning is inherently moral. Once you introduce these subjects, you have already departed from material reality. One wonders if perhaps the theists have a point when they say that atheists have generally failed to find a secular moral framework which doesn’t devolve into relativism, utilitarianism or cultish groupthink.

Yaron Brook in particular claims Ayn Rand’s ideas to be the apotheosis of enlightenment thought, but if anything, Rand is railing against a secular, enlightenment mindset run amok. The enlightenment consensus also proclaimed reason to be the ultimate engine of virtue and the French Revolution proved that disastrously false. It is the planners and bureaucrats who are able to usurp power by claiming that we live in an “enlightened age” where the altruistic values of being one’s “brother’s keeper” have prevailed. You can practically see the venomous sneer on her face as she as she heaps mounds of contempt on the idea that the mandate of a politician or a bureaucrat is equivalent to a law of nature. Objectivists undoubtedly view their creed as something beyond theistic morality, but it’s awfully difficult to see a dramatic difference between the Objectivist and the theist in the realm of moral truth.

Even more puzzling is that she speaks very openly about the existence of love, spirit and being. As the marriage between Jim Taggart and Cherryl Brooks unravels, Cherryl’s disillusionment comes from misplaced admiration while Jim’s desire for it was rooted in an overindulgence in feelings. Rand draws a clear distinction between Jim Taggart’s vision of feelings based love as an act of empty faith in contrast to Cherryl’s more noble desire for love as a true expression of affection earned through virtuous deeds. Both Cherryl and Rand consider Jim Taggart to be a parasite of the spirit and the produce of individual; someone who wants both unearned emotional and material reward. Rand is presumably making a sound point about the connection between mental health, emotional maturity and moral values, but once again, it’s not at all clear how one can distinguish these ideas as objective truths which emerge from material reality.

Adding to the credibility hurdles in Objectivism is her apparent belief in blank slate construction of selfhood which she shared with her postmodernist, neo-Marxist opponents. Rand seems to hold that people can just detach themselves from the a priori conglomeration of genetic memories, parental imprinting, emotional traumas, psychological conditions, cognitive biases, unconscious being and learned prejudices and view the world through a lens of cold reason and logic. And that’s saying nothing about IQ disparities found throughout the population. It may sound appealing, but it steps over some significant realities of the entire apparatus of the human mind. Developing the mental discipline necessary to think logically about deep philosophical questions requires not only a certain level of scholarly dedication but some willingness to wrestle with one’s own tangle of emotional proclivities and ideological biases. I suspect this may be one of many reasons people have a difficult time buying into Randian heroes. People could buy into Mr. Spock because he was a Vulcan. Accepting human characters with similar attributes may be a bridge too far.

Rand’s opponents have frequently derided Objectivism on the grounds that it is too self-centered and lacks compassion. Atlas Shrugged certainly lends credence to these charges since Objectivism seems to take a dim view of charity. The third act of the novel deals with Dagny’s arrival in Galt’s Gulch, and when Dagny suggests that Midas Mulligan give his automobile to Galt for a short usage, Galt quietly reminds Dagny that “giving” is verboten in this would-be paradise. In Galt’s Gulch, everything is earned. Rand clearly wants to draw a bright moral line around productive labor, but even the most virtuous people need assistance, care for the indigent is a genuine concern, and charity is a virtue that’s both necessary and actively cultivated. Rand is certainly correct in denigrating politicians and apparatchiks who exploit the language of altruism in order to advance political agendas, but her apparent disdain for even voluntary acts of charity seems misplaced.

This stinginess of spirit also extends into other realms of being. When Hank Rearden’s ex-wife, mother, and brother attempt to appeal to his sense of generosity and compassion as his steel mill’s economic pulse begins to seize up, none is forthcoming. They keep hoping that their emotional entreaties will get through to him, but he remains resolute in his refusal to offer even the slightest glimmer of mercy. This is entirely consistent with both Hank’s disposition and the overall framework of thought Rand has laid out, but it is also a deeply constrained and niggardly conception of humanity. Though she borders on making her heroes monochromatic in their Objectivist stoicism, Rearden refuses his family and ex-wife because of their betrayals and parasitism. The impression with which you’re left is that their posture of penitence was disingenuous and manipulative thereby justifying Hank’s cold blooded indifference. Fair enough. But Rand seems hostile to even the possibility of either genuine repentance or forgiveness. Hank is only willing to forgive if his mother encouraged him to quit and disappear. It also beggars belief that Hank didn’t harbor tons of pent up resentment and didn’t want to just vent a little. I could buy into Roark’s spartan emotional life in The Fountainhead, but giving these heroes the exact same attributes smacks of repetition and lacks basic dramatic credibility. This seems to be yet another unnecessarily impoverished Randian archetypal ideal. Even if we take the case that his family were just as duplicitous and spiritually bankrupt as Rand portrays them, sometimes people do genuinely seek absolution from those they’ve wronged. Conversely, granting forgiveness can offer just as much redemption for the person bestowing it as the person who seeks it. And sometimes, you may have to forgive the wrongs others have perpetrated if purely to achieve peace of mind because contrition is certainly not guaranteed. Not only does Objectivism seemingly disallow these possibilities, there is nothing within the framework of logical deduction that would lead anyone to seek or bestow forgiveness. Both require a certain measure of humility, and a purely rational analysis of material sense data is an insufficient epistemological model with which to develop a robust toolkit of human relations.

Objectivism has been described by some of its detractors as an atheist religion. I contend that there is validity to this charge. Objectivism’s big calling card is its claim on secular ethics. Anyone who devotes herself to the development of a set of philosophical principles which are intended to supplant the role that religion has traditionally played will undoubtedly attract a following who treat these ideas with the type of reverence normally reserved for actual religious faith. Rand denigrates and derides religious faith as a superstition which paves the way for the kind of slavish obedience to “higher authority” on which the villains preyed, but simultaneously venerates her heroes’ adherence to a higher metaphysical truth from which they drew their strength and independence. Replacing one set of theistic metaphysics with another set of allegedly secular and materialist metaphysics still constitutes an act of faith. Even as Galt’s life hangs in the balance in the novel’s climax, Wesley Mouch desperately wants him “to believe” in their cause. Like Thomas Paine and Bertrand Russell, she perpetuates a false dichotomy between faith and reason by asserting that the exercise of one faculty necessarily precludes the other. Or that the process of reasoning is somehow divorced from any embedded prerational biases. The human ability to conceptualize and concretize abstract archetypes and metaphysical ideals through language is the very essence of faith. The looters of Atlas Shrugged want to dispel the idea that the individual possesses a sovereign consciousness and that the “enlightened” citizen will abdicate logic and cede the act of thinking to the experts. Rand is essentially asking you to make a leap of faith wrapped in a tautology that’s scarcely different from that of theists. Human consciousness, free will and morality exist because existence exists.

At its core, Objectivism seems an elaborate hymn to the Logos stripped of any references to the divine. I can appreciate that she set out to create a secular philosophical framework which was intended to maximize virtue, but it seems lacking. Objectivism starts from the proposition that reason alone is the engine of virtue, reality is limited to that which can be perceived by the senses, and an objective world exists independent of our perception. Rand was deeply opposed to Immanuel Kant’s contention that both morality and human cognition were filtered through an a priori structure, but on this point, she was wrong and Kant was right. Rand rejects all prerational and a prioristic knowledge, but leans on prerational and a prioristic concepts like Good and Evil. Good and Evil all by themselves are transcendent concepts which exist outside the domain of reason. By disallowing traditional, prerational and hereditary knowledge from the Objectivist framework, the Kantian criticism of pure reason stands. A collection of independent minds processing sense data divorced from any a priori, cultural, or hereditary knowledge will necessarily arrive at different conclusions.

Rand is frequently lumped in with the conservative tradition, but Objectivism all by itself sets her solidly within the tradition of post-Enlightenment rationalism, and by extension, classical liberalism. Rand’s philosophy could be viewed as a distinct branch of thought that descends from the classical liberal tradition set forth by Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham. Ironically, her rigid insistence on the primacy of a posteriori empirical data as the only valid source of knowledge also puts her thought in close proximity to the quasi-socialist thought of Auguste Comte. Rand’s unalloyed contempt for the intellectual class and intellectual gnosticism in general is the one, and perhaps only, strand of her worldview which aligns her with the Burkean tradition. Though it doesn’t negate the existence of objective reality, one wonders whether the revelations of quantum mechanics would have prompted doubts in Rand’s mind over the viability of pure materialism.

Rand was militant in her political neutrality and vilified conservatives and libertarians alike. Though she derided them as “hippies of the right”, Rand and Objectivism are currently and rightly identified with the more secular, minarchist wing of the libertarian movement. Despite her vehement condemnation of anarcho-capitalism, Galt’s climactic speech does, in fact, spell out Non-Aggression Principle in very explicit terms. I believe this aligns her thought at least superficially with modern libertarianism.

Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that no man man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate – do you hear me? No man may start – the use of physical force against others.

Despite the flaws in its foundational propositions, it can’t be denied that Rand reaches some sound conclusions about both the productive class and the collective “unpersoning” to which they are frequently subject. Specifically, that there is a relatively small fraction of society that does a majority of the productive labor while simultaneously being demonized as either puppet masters or vampires. As Jordan Peterson has argued, the Pareto principle applies to the distribution of workers at the top that do most of the heavy lifting. It’s the kind of thing that sends progressives into conniptions, but Galt’s speech does correctly identify the fact that progressives use the rhetoric of “equality” to pit the will of the majority against this minority. The so called 1% are convenient villains. While many are quite eager to make common cause with progressives and affect the posture of virtue that Rand righteously derides, her overall criticism of the perverse and inverted morality of progressives is dead on.

‘The public,’ to you, is whoever has failed to achieve any virtue or value, whoever achieves it, whoever provides the goods you require for your survival, ceases to be regarded as part of the public or as part of the human race.

The cult-like environment Rand built up around herself in her later years is well documented. The reputation of modern Objectivists appears to have done little to alter this perception. Rand didn’t come across like the most jovial or happy person to be around despite her open affirmation of the pursuit of happiness as the highest human aspiration. A keen intellect for sure, but not exactly a barrel of laughs.

The knee-jerk hatred of Rand from progressives is puzzling because, at a bare minimum, one would expect that they would be sympathetic to several components of her thought. Her militant individualism, her zealous insistence on the application of the scientific method as the ultimate epistemological framework for determining reality, her materialist worldview and libertine approach towards sex set her far from anything in the conservative tradition of thought. Aside from her views on the free market and the role of the State, I see little daylight between her and the likes of Russell, Harris and Dawkins. If anything, the hatred she gets from progressives serves as confirmation that Objectivism is an untenable proposition as a complete philosophy of the world. People filter the world through a set of biases, and if anything, the very materialistic worldview she espoused has bred a fealty to political power as the font of virtue. Aside from the relentless demonization she gets in the media, the mental dissonance the mere perception of her message creates in the progressive mind likely creates too much of a barrier to warrant engagement. Because after all, how many Rand haters can actually say they’ve read her work?

The fact that Ayn Rand’s work has become a both a progressive dog whistle and lightning rod that is meant to signify the thought of all conservatives or libertarians says quite a bit about the effectiveness of leftist propaganda and the power of her work. Like Adam Smith, it’s assumed that if you’re conservative or libertarian, you automatically subscribe to everything she had to say and that your beliefs mirror hers exactly.

Above all else, Atlas Shrugged is an extended diatribe and warning against the slow encroachment of socialism in a free society. Contrary to the idiotic screeching about the alleged advent of fascism that emanates from the MSM echo chamber 24/7, totalitarianism doesn’t just spring forth from a single politician. It’s the slow accumulation of a consensus built slowly and carefully by bureaucrats and intellectuals. This book’s greatest strength is its sustained attack on the influence of the intellectual class in building a consensus for socialism. People have criticized Rand for the voluminous length of the novel as well as the lengthy philosophical expositions contained in the monologues of various characters, but there is a painstaking deliberateness in every word of this novel. Rand wants you to see and understand collectivism in every manifestation. She wants to show how each character is ultimately corrupted by it until it spreads through society like a virus and brings the gears of progress to a grinding halt.

Rand saves her heaviest artillery for the economic central planners. Upon Dagny’s return to the rapidly collapsing world after her convalescence in Galt’s Gulch, she returns to a Taggart Transcontinental laboring under the weight of the bureaucratic mandates of Directive 10-289. The regulations had throttled the normal functions of the line and plunged the operation into a spiral of unused resources, service shortages and diminishing short-term profit chasing. Dagny pried her hapless brother for any sign that he was thinking in the long-term for the company. Rand loads the cannon, and fires an ordnance directly at the legacy of John Maynard Keynes by putting his words in the mouth of hilariously named Railroad Unification bureaucrat, Cuffy Meigs. “In the long run, we’ll be dead”, he snorts. Indeed, Mr. Keynes. It’s too bad you were so dismissive of the price in human liberty your demand management models would extract for a little short term boost in GDP.

Rand clearly wants to venerate and celebrate the heroism she sees in the producer. The producers in Galt’s Gulch do not recoil or retreat from hard physical labor even if they were failed intellectuals in the world of the looters. They revel in the pride of having the opportunity to put their minds and bodies to their highest use. Work is always a virtue. Success that is honestly earned is never a vice. It’s also worth emphasizing that the crony capitalists who make common cause with the bureaucrats and planners are the ones that Rand considers villains.The caricature of Rand that’s widely circulated is that she blindly worshipped corporations and businesses while keeping her scorn limited to moochers and bureaucrats. Not so. The archetypal Randian hero stands alone and seeks only to be judged by the quality of his work.
The popular conception of Rand’s work is that she championed the pursuit of profit to the exclusion of all other considerations. Anyone who actually reads Atlas Shrugged (or any of her other works for that matter) will recognize that this is a complete misrepresentation of her position. One of the key events which spurs the heroes to uncover the mystery of the disappearance of the leaders of industry is their visit to an abandoned car manufacturing plant. After making their way through the squalor of the dying town which remained after the factory shuttered its operations, Hank and Dagny stumble upon the plans for a car powered by renewable energy. That’s right. Ayn Rand, the living epitome of capitalist rapacity and insensitivity, imagined a non-carbon based, renewable energy source in her book. I wonder why this little detail is overlooked in the Rand hate mill. Through this storyline, Rand simultaneously rebukes historical materialism and gives an elegant lesson on the virtues of free market innovation. When new technology is developed, it displaces old methods, increases efficiency, and frees up every individual. It is the absence of capitalism which leads to degradation, exploitation and servitude. The only thing Rand got wrong was that she didn’t anticipate that the planners would lure the masses into submission with lofty promises of an environmentally friendly techno-utopia.

It’s a theme that doesn’t figure as prominently in Atlas Shrugged as it does in The Fountainhead, but when she swings the wrecking ball at media mendacity, it’s well deserved demolition. As society grinds to a halt in the novel’s final chapters, the media remains focused on narrative while ignoring the chaos and violence happening throughout society.

Atlas Shrugged is filled with big ideas, but there are plenty of small details that suggest that Ayn Rand’s foresight wasn’t limited to macro phenomena. As the bureaucratic bigwig Mr. Thompson tries to forestall societal collapse by attempting to negotiate with Galt, violence and civil unrest breaks out in California. Rand describes a band of communist militants led by Ma Chalmers and her “soybean cult of Orient admirers”. Ma Chalmers became a soybean mogul by securing government subsidies. If you simply swapped in “Yvette Felarca and the Antifa Soy Boys“, it would sound like a headline ripped from today’s alternative media.

Another central theme in the book that’s accumulated relevance is the corrupting influence of the State on science and the attendant appeal to scientism in political discourse. In the novel, Rearden and Taggart each have to contend with would-be scientists who spend their time idling in the government insulated confines of the National Institute of Science drawing up industry mandates wrapped in a veneer of “public good”. The bureaucrats at the National Institute of Science end up creating a deadly sonic weapon which is greeted by a great rhetorical fanfare of Unity, but for which no one will take ultimate responsibility.

Rand righteously skewers the false antagonism between commerce and science. In Dagny’s quest to discover the inventor of the mysterious atmosphere powered motor, she seeks assistance from Institute of Science charlatan, Dr. Stadler. Stadler expresses his smug, entitled incredulity at the idea that such a brilliant mind would squander his discovery in the realm of commerce, and Dagny shoots back with a barbed retort about how he probably enjoyed living in this world.

Near the novel’s conclusion, Stadler makes a final appeal to Galt in which he attempts to justify his alliance with the State. He pleads ineptitude at persuasion while denigrating the masses of unthinking plebs as his justification for resorting to force in order to pursue the life of scientific progress he envisioned. This monologue is simultaneously one of the most powerful critiques of modernity in Atlas Shrugged and one of its biggest contradictions. Progressives have supplanted a spiritual worldview with a purely scientific one. Rand scores another ideological point by devoting so much of the novel to this line of critique, but the very materialistic rationality she espouses is the framework that allowed the mentality of the likes of Stadler to flourish.

She extends the critique of State influence on science into the mentality of the artist. Richard Halley is Dagny’s favorite composer, and she delights in having the opportunity to meet him in Galt’s Gulch. Once again, Rand lays waste to the belief that art and commerce are mutually exclusive.

For if there is more tragic a fool than the businessman who doesn’t know that he’s an exponent of man’s highest creative spirit – it’s the artist who thinks that the businessman is his enemy.

Hating on Ayn Rand is a subgenre of the political Left that’s well established at this point. I have yet to read a single anti-Rand diatribe which doesn’t straw man her position or blatantly distort her message in some way. It’s also quite fashionable to be penitent about your former fascination with Rand and proclaim that you’ve “grown up and opened your eyes.” All of these mendacious, spineless, virtue signaling twats can suck on it. Rand was a serious thinker and her ideas warrant serious engagement. It seems churlish and uncharitable to focus on what she got wrong rather than the really important stuff she got completely right.

Heaping smug disdain on Rand is an easy way to score points with leftists. While I’m sure there are leftists who actually attempt to engage honestly with what she’s written and that there are surely legitimate critiques to be found, everything I’ve read is throwaway snark, a pathetic straw man or knee-jerk disdain. You don’t have to look very far to find people who bash Rand, and to be fair, there are definitely shortcomings to her writing and her philosophy.

Some criticize her prose as leaden and hamfisted and I think there’s some merit to this charge. In her defense, I propose that the world has become so accustomed to obfuscation and postmodern obscurantism, her writing seems artless by comparison. The straitjacket of Objectivism also partially accounts for this phenomenon. She has no difficulty portraying corruption and evil, but when she wants to convey transcendent acts of heroism or romantic ecstasy, it feels wooden because she has confined all of these phenomena to the realm of reason. It fails more often than not.

There is also something emotionally arid to the various philosophical monologues. The content is great, but no one I know talks like that. Maybe hardcore Objectivists do, but most people don’t. The only way the dialogues make sense is to view them as mythological Randian archetypes. Even if you set aside the leaden tone of the content, she’s also recycling the basic dramatic template she used in The Fountainhead. The forces of collectivism conspire towards one dramatic event with high stakes which sets the table for the hero to lay down a heavy philosophical lesson on morality and virtue.

The sex scene between Dagny Taggart and John Galt is a bit of a groaner, too. Rand is trying to render the heat of erotic passion using the language of Objectivist rationalism and it comes off as clunky as it sounds. It’s clear that she’s saying that sexual fulfillment emerges from mutual respect and shared values, but like everything else in the Objectivist framework, this seems too narrow a view of humanity. To suggest that pure physical attraction doesn’t play some role in sexual arousal seems daft. Besides some level of pure animal magnetism, long-term relationships which prioritize communication and intimacy also play just as big a part in sexual fulfillment as mutual respect and values parity. Rand apparently sees it through this clinical and antiseptic lens which steps over some rather significant aspects of human psychology, physiology and pair bonding.

Despite all of their flaws, Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged both deserve respect. Rand was trying to provide an all encompassing philosophy for life which addressed the question of how to formulate a system secular morality. There’s a reason that religion and a religious worldview animated the great achievements of Western civilization. Mankind flourishes when he upholds ideals larger than himself. The pre-Enlightenment worldview stood atop the premise that man was striving for divinity and that the works of civilization must reflect this pursuit. Strip away that foundational view, and you’ve got a very large void in the human consciousness to fill. Unless you can fill it with a higher metaphysical ideal, the vampires of the State are going to fill it for you. I believe Ayn Rand knew this as well as anyone in history you can name whose highest aspiration was the emancipation of the individual. The fact that she fell short of meeting the challenge shouldn’t preclude an earnest engagement with the ideas she laid down in Atlas Shrugged.

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