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Apocalypse Now Redux (1979)

When Apocalypse Now was released, it was heralded as a scathing indictment of the amorality of the Vietnam War. The war that divided America and defined an entire generation of alleged revolutionaries had finally been seen through the unflinching gaze of one of cinema’s greatest artists. In the wake of the release of Apocalypse Now: The Final Cut, the cinematic auteur himself has come clean and said that he doesn’t see it as an antiwar film. This is precisely the feeling with which I was left upon reviewing the film. It reveals the hot war in Vietnam as the merely the overt flipside to the domestic psychological degradation and debasement of the American soul being perpetrated through the media and the culture. If anything, Apocalypse Now reveals the savagery, futility and moral vacuum of modern warfare as its own form of psychological propaganda. The decadence and hedonism that had been unleashed in the counterculture were the exact same tools that were used to keep the ground forces numb to their own pain, loneliness and guilt. Sex, drugs and rock and roll weren’t the signifiers of rebellion that gatekeepers of culture would lead us to believe. The narcotic nihilism of The Doors’ “The End” playing against the symphony of destruction in the film’s opening isn’t really a lament. It’s a psychedelic sedative that’s meant to inoculate you to the juggernaut of inhumanity to which you are about to be subjected. These were the new chains of enslavement deployed by social engineers who had built their careers perfecting the means by which to erode the foundations of a healthy society. The combat was simply the laboratory in which the ideas were tested and the means by which the process was hastened.

Apocalypse Now makes this abundantly clear throughout the film in several different ways. The most obvious of which is the scene that Coppola himself concedes is a glorification of aerial combat. Lt. Colonel Kilgore revels in the fact that the Vietnamese are terrified by the sound of Wagner blaring over the helicopter squadron’s loudspeakers as they mercilessly slaughter the terrified civilians. The combination of aural psyops and aerial bombardment feels less like a rebuke and more like a celebration of American military dominance. Hell, you can even find articles discussing the possibility of video game adaptations. The practice of musical psyops has been extended into the era of Middle Eastern warfare with the only significant difference being the switch to heavy metal instead of 19th century operatic pagan mysticism. Same idea, different expressions.

The role of the media in advancing the domestic propaganda effort receives emphasis as well. When Willard arrives at the beachhead where Kilgore’s division is stationed, he is immediately met by a television crew directed by Coppola himself. In a meta moment, he instructs Willard to look like he’s engaged in combat. It’s a brief but highly effective scene because Coppola is revealing that the footage that would eventually be culled by Ken Burns and repackaged as hard hitting documentary was arguably just as stage managed as the fictitious effort you are viewing.

Despite the prevalence of Domino Effect narratives promulgated by the political class and official histories, Coppola goes one better by suggesting that the Viet Cong were yet another enemy created by the US government in a century that would be defined by wars fought for the express purpose of taking down manufactured boogeymen in service of the expansion of the Pax Americana. When Willard visits with the French colonists, he is given a lecture on American proxy warfare by Gaston de Marais.

Gaston de Marais: You Americans. In 1945, yeah, after the Japanese war, your president Roosevelt didn’t want the French people to stay in Indochina. So, you Americans implant the Vietnam.

Willard: [to Hubert] What’s he mean?

Hubert: Yeah, that’s true. The Vietcong were invented by the Americans, sir.

Willard: The Americans?

Gaston de Marais: And now you take the French place. And the Vietnam fight you. And what can you do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Later in the film, Kurtz’s sardonic reading of a Time magazine article suggests the naked and sanitized deception and the media were routinely peddling. The mention of Sir Robert Thompson’s affiliation with the neocons of the RAND Corporation simultaneously hints at the technocratic administration of the war effort while foreshadowing the eventual controlled release of the Pentagon Papers. As films like Wag the Dog and Network have so brilliantly illustrated, Hollywood has been completely forthright about the media’s rank mendacity and captured allegiance on numerous occasions. You need people as skillful as Steven Spielberg who can churn out agitprop like The Post to make the shills in the media seem heroic. This is ultimately what I believe Coppola was saying with Dennis Hopper’s drug addled photojournalist. Despite Kurtz’s murderous megalomania, Hopper remained enthralled by his poetic mystique. Hardly the behavior of an allegedly objective chronicler of America’s long term commitment in Vietnam.

Apocalypse Now offers what can now be seen as a fleeting moment in the ongoing politicization of sex. Once upon a time, liberals were actually promoting sexual liberation. They still do, but it’s been overshadowed by a lot of #MeToo moral grandstanding. Libidinous displays of female sexuality were simultaneously hailed as evidence of the liberated modern woman as well as a way to stick it to the conservative prudes. Coppola brings this to the forefront by portraying what amounts to a DOD sponsored strip show featuring Playboy playmates. Not only does it show how liberalism actively promotes sexual degeneracy, but it reveals Playboy as one of many forms of legal prostitution embedded within the entertainment complex.

If this seems like it’s a world away from the current cultural moment, it’s because liberals are a clever bunch. They carefully tend to the maintenance of both sides of the dialectic by deploying assets who can push the opposing perspective. They’ll happily peddle a former stripper like Cardi b in the mainstream while the entire feminist media complex will breathlessly extol the bravery of the #MeToo “movement”. Don’t believe me? Just ask feminist extraordinaire Gloria Steinem about her stint as a CIA asset and Playboy bunny.

Much like The Godfather, Apocalypse Now is a study in the real dynamics of American power. In one of many of Willard’s voice overs, he puzzles over the seemingly arbitrary decision to take Kurtz out. Kurtz was being groomed to take his place in the highest echelons of the American power structure. Because he had made the decision to step out of line and build his own cult of personality, he became a liability. His decorated status also made it necessary to make Kurtz’s retirement a black operation. It couldn’t be conducted through official channels because it would have been bad PR. It’s not about upholding any sacred honor or fixed morality. It’s about the preservation of the power structure at any cost.

Coppola also strongly suggests the link between the occult and the deep state. Kurtz had taken his considerable military training and transformed himself into a cult leader. I also believe that the appearances of Sir James George Frazer’s Golden Bough and Willard’s discovery of a newspaper article about Charles Manson were not accidents. Kurtz ended up being sacrificed at the altar of the death cult that bred him. His only transgression was carrying out his training without the sanction of his superiors.

In the paganistic final scene, Willard is immediately recognized as the new cult leader simply by virtue of slaughtering Kurtz. Three years after the release of Apocalypse Now, screenwriter John Milius directed a little sword and sorcery film called Conan the Barbarian starring a bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the film, he seeks vengeance against a cult leader who murdered his family. The final scene of Conan is deeply reminiscent of the conclusion of Apocalypse Now. The exact same premise of the gritty Vietnam War drama is effortlessly transferred over to the pulp fantasy epic. Hollywood doesn’t have a lot of tricks up its sleeve. If they’re recycling the same idea in two major motion pictures, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s a message they’re deeply invested in promoting.

Annie Lennox: Now I Let You Go

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

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

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

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

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

Atomic Blonde (2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What meaning does this experience have for you?

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

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

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

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Wars Prequel Roundup: The Empire Strikes Out

Like millions of others who were lucky enough to see it for the first time on the big screen, my world was rocked by Star Wars back in 1977. It wasn’t simply that it was the most incredible sci-fi spectacle I had seen up to that point. It’s that I never had a cinematic hero quite like Luke Skywalker before Star Wars. He was the pop culture hero I never knew I was looking for. The emotional void of never knowing his parents resonated with me at a deep level. His yearning for a greater sense purpose and meaning seemed a mirror image of my own. His frustration with his surroundings and the determination to escape the provincial shithole he grew up in felt identical to mine. It wasn’t simply that I could relate to Luke Skywalker. I felt at some level that I was Luke Skywalker.

When George Lucas announced his intention to tell the story of Darth Vader’s slide to the Dark Side, I was intrigued but somewhat perplexed. Return of the Jedi ended on such a triumphant note. Does Star Wars even work as a Shakespearean tragedy? Does it make sense to recast the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as a Star Wars film? Ladies and gentlemen, the answer is a resounding No. I realize this isn’t a particularly new or controversial opinion, but I wanted to put down a few words about why they’re bad films as well as why I believe they’re toxic pieces of social engineering. As much as I am tempted to attribute all blame for the corruption of the Star Wars franchise to Kathleen Kennedy, Rian Johnson, JJ Abrams, and their minions at the Disney Corporation, George Lucas managed to hasten that process completely on his own.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Yes, it’s a turd. I know.

I still think the most persuasive case for the prequels is Nick Gillespie’s piece which casts them as an allegory for the moral collapse of the Boomers. This story had potential for being coherent and good, but it would have required too many risks for someone as entrenched as George Lucas.

When he finally enlarges the Star Wars lore and attempts to deepen the story of the Old Republic, the less sense it makes. Whether it was ideological possession, laziness or myopia, the sheer quantity of bad choices he visited upon this screenplay boggles the mind.

  • Midichlorians? WTF, George. When Obi-Wan first describes The Force, he says it’s “an energy field created by all living things”. Now access to the Force is determined by the quantity of microscopic cells. So that means the Jedi quest is only accessible to people who are blessed with the right genetics. Very progressive, Lucas.
  • The inexplicable ineptitude of the Jedi Council. This was supposedly the Jedi at their peak, but they were blindsided by the reemergence of the Sith? No one picked up the fact that Palpatine was the Phantom Menace? Obi-Wan knew that Alderaan had been snuffed out, but not a single Jedi felt a disturbance in the Force? Really? Not even Yoda? Speaking of Yoda, he actually laid down some deep shit in Empire, but in every scene with the Jedi Council they just seem like effete dumbshits. Even Qui-Gon’s pronouncements are lame. Yes, it has continuity with Kenobi’s teachings to Luke, but it made more sense inside the larger context of Jedi ethics. This just seems like the wrong message to impart to the youth.

Qui-Gon Jinn: Remember, concentrate on the moment. Feel, don’t think. Trust your instincts.

  • Tatooine’s gangster/slave economy. This was the Pax Galactica before the Fall, and you’ve got an entire world that’s run by slave owners and gangsters? How does anyone make an honorable living on this planet? This was the period of peace and freedom before the iron fisted dominion of the Empire that we’re rooting to see restored? Not exactly a ringing endorsement of a multi-planetary democratic imperium.
  • Pod racing as gladiatorial sport. I realize Lucas is reaching for a Ben-Hur parallel here, but at a basic level, they’re allowing a kid to compete in a life threatening competition. This was a sort of proto-Hunger Games scenario.
  • War as video game. This criticism is hardly limited to this film, but the battle scene between the Gungans and the droid army felt like an ad for the LucasArts game. You are supposed to make a cursory effort to portray the danger, fear and carnage so that the audience perceives the gravity of the situation.

When you combine the plot problems with the character problems and your bad guys sound like they have Down Syndrome, picking on Jar Jar Binks just seems pointless.

Lucas wants you to empathize with Anakin, but there’s not much to go on. You knew this was his wunderkind period going into it, so there was no real growth arc with which to identify. At no point do you ever sense that you’re actually watching a child. He performs amazing feats of technical wizardry and displays virtuosic piloting skills without fear. His final farewell to his mother reeks of falsehood. I realize he’s the Chosen One and everything but this is exactly why Rey was so unbelievable too.

Neeson and McGregor come out the most unscathed overall. I don’t particularly love Natalie Portman in the first place and this is easily her most dreadful performance.

Good lightsaber fight though.

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Though almost unseated by the abysmal dungheap known as The Last Jedi, Attack of the Clones still holds the dubious distinction of being the nadir of the once glorious Star Wars franchise.

Pointing out the flaws in AOTC feels a bit redundant at this point, but I think the biggest Jedi Mind Trick of this film was Lucas’ attempt to make you believe it’s not itself a piece of propaganda for global Empire.

The heroine of the film is a monarch and a functionary in the Old Republic? Her world was invaded and occupied as a consequence of bureaucratic inertia in the last film and she remains a true believer in “democracy”? Star Wars celebrated the restoration of a monarchist aristocracy, but the emergence of a secessionist sentiment is a calamity that heralds the onset of tyranny? Granted, the Separatists were controlled opposition, but still. There weren’t any grassroots planetary sovereignty movements?

We’re meant to see Anakin’s slaughter of the Tusken Raiders as an act of barbarism that foreshadows his moral collapse, but why should we feel sympathy for Tusken Raiders? He may have taken things a bit too far, but come on. They kidnapped his mother! They shoot podracers indiscriminately! They attacked Luke! Fuck the Sandpeople!

I am beginning to think the epic cringe of the Padme/Anakin affair was a cinematic act of demolition on heterosexual romance itself.

The subplot surrounding the clone army presages the advent of gene editing and suggests the potential for Brave New World-style eugenics and dysgenics.

And there’s just no excuse for this, George. Come on, dude.

Anakin Skywalker: I don’t like sand. It’s coarse, and rough, and irritating, and it gets everywhere.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

It’s the most tolerable of the three prequels, but this doesn’t compensate for the outright malevolence of its underlying message. Lucas undoubtedly wants this to be perceived as a space opera reinvention of Julius Caesar, but a more sober analysis suggests that this film represents a grand scale act of vandalism on the heroic male archetype.

What we see in Anakin is essentially the caricature of the impetuous, impulsive, romantically challenged dudebro/incel dumbshit that is now omnipresent throughout the culture. In short, I believe the story of Anakin Skywalker’s submission to the Dark Side was a Trojan Horse for the vile and idiotic “toxic masculinity” meme. Just scan any article or blog post by a feminist and I guarantee that her baseline assumptions about men can be mapped to some aspect of Anakin Skywalker. Part of me thinks this is why Lucas chose an actor as unlikable as Hayden Christensen and then gave him such a turd of a role to play. The goal was to make him awkward and unsympathetic.

Despite the negative archetype he represents for men, the film is also by extension a stealth commentary on one of feminism’s sacred cows: single motherhood. Anakin Skywalker may have singlehandedly ushered in the “toxic masculinity” meme, but let’s not forget that he was raised exclusively by a woman prior to meeting Qui-Gon and Obi Wan. What mother would just hand over her son to a couple of occultist/spy warrior monks she barely knew and show so little anguish? Whether this also suggests the manner in which children are groomed for Hollywood is yet another angle to consider.

Anakin’s perfectly natural desire for a father figure is also subverted and sabotaged. The Jedi oath of celibacy seems virtuous in a world of profligacy and indulgence, but it’s never explained well. Obi-Wan’s advice to Anakin amounts to little more than “Stop getting a boner”. His allegiance to the Jedi pits his natural urge to have a wife and a child against the Jedi code. He has no role models for traditional chivalry, courtship or fatherhood. No wonder the Naboo frolic scenes are so painful. When Palpatine dangles the possibility of preventing death through knowledge of the Dark Side, it speaks to his natural urge to be protective. Of course he would find that power tempting. He’s in love. Men will do anything for the women they love. But Lucas wants us to see him as this man who had allowed himself to be corrupted and manipulated by pure evil.

What we have in Anakin Skywalker is a man who sought what men have fought for centuries to preserve. A sense of duty and honor. A sense of pride and purpose. A legacy to hand down to his progeny. A desire for peace and order. The love of a woman. The joy and fulfillment of a family. What George Lucas did in this trilogy is portray the pursuit of those virtues and ideals as a path to moral degradation. He took the best attributes of manhood and perverted them into something to be shunned and condemned. Utterly reprehensible.

On the positive side, Lucas is giving us a subtle and valuable lesson in managed geopolitical dialectics. The Jedi are properly viewed as an occult/espionage organization roughly analogous to the CIA. Just as in real life, the CIA have controlled assets in the criminal underworld as well as vast intelligence gathering networks. Lucas’ clever cinematic trick is to portray the Jedi and the Sith as the two presumably opposite sides of this dichotomy. One Good and the other Bad. Marvel uses the same device with SHIELD and HYDRA. The Bond series also uses this device by portraying SPECTRE as the shadow cabal who stands in opposition to MI6 and our beloved 00 agent, James Bond. Palpatine was, in essence, the Manchurian Candidate/double agent who kept his true identity as Darth Sidious hidden. As a Sith, he was controlling the Separatists and as a politician, he was able to exploit the chaos to secure greater power. Does this have a real world analogue? You bet your ass. The way these films always navigate the moral conundrum of absolute power is simply by saying that it must never fall into the Wrong Hands. That’s really all Lucas is saying by this film’s conclusion.

By the end, we don’t really understand why Padme dies. It just seems like another arbitrary script decision which brings the film to its predetermined conclusion resulting in two infants without parents. Because they’re children of elite pedigree, they remain in the care of elites. Luke gets the shorter end of the stick, but his CIA handler/Jedi Master-to-be sets up shop on Tatooine just to keep tabs on him and initiate him into Skull and Bones/the Jedi Order when the time comes.

I believe that Nick Gillespie was fundamentally correct when he argued that the prequels marked the Boomer generation’s embrace of Empire. They came of age promising revolution, peace and freedom, but in the end, they left a legacy of war, bureaucracy, and social unrest papered over by the most vacuous platitudes. The only thing I’d add is that final film embodies the sheer contempt the Boomers hold for the younger generations. The Original Trilogy made Luke heroic. If you were a boy, you wanted to be him. Anakin is not given the same treatment. How many boys are still going to walk out of Revenge of the Sith wanting to be Anakin just because he looks cool with a lightsaber and bagged Natalie Portman? Whatever your guess is, I guarantee it’s higher.

Anthony Sutton: America’s Secret Establishment

Understanding how the cultural climate got to its current place has been a central preoccupation on this platform, and I suggest that Anthony Sutton’s analysis of the influence of Skull and Bones on global politics and social consensus, America’s Secret Establishment, provides a plausible thesis. You don’t need an advanced degree to know that the range of acceptable opinion narrows with each passing day. While libertarians hold to the premise that this is still a free marketplace of ideas and all that one needs is libertarian historical revisionism and a dogmatic adherence to the Non-Aggression Principle in order to win the day, Sutton’s analysis of American history is far more credible. Sutton holds a right leaning libertarian view of both American republicanism and the primacy of the individual which locates his own thinking within the spectrum of conventional thought. This should not preclude a serious engagement with his analysis of the evolution of American institutions under the hidden hand of the shadow elite he refers to as The Order.

Christian monarchists hold that this socio-political order is upheld as an ideal because it corresponds to the metaphysic of the family outlined in the Bible. In other words, the patriarch is the head of the family. By having a hereditary monarchy, you have an institution at the center of the sociopolitical order which mirrors the family itself. By contrast, the democratic order places a network of institutions and representatives who have no connection to one another and no hereditary connection to their successors to bind them to the larger extended family of the nation state. Despite the founders’ best efforts at creating an organic aristocracy, the executive ends up being a de facto monarch surrounded by an impossibly byzantine bureaucracy which is captured by corporate interests. In short, it’s a sociopolitical order which lends itself to shadow government and secret societies. This is the core idea behind Sutton’s thesis and his book walks you through the formation of all of America’s institutions.

The irony is that the collection of elites to whom Sutton refers as The Order are in fact a sort of hidden aristocracy. Hidden in plain sight that is. Sutton asks at the outset something that I believe is a perfectly reasonable and rational question. “If there can be conspiracy in the market place, then why not in the political arena?” (pg. 3) Of course, nowadays, there is acceptable conspiracy theory (i.e. Russiagate) and there is unacceptable conspiracy theory (e.g. 9/11, moon landing, JFK assassination, Sandy Hook, etc). Espousing belief in the former will never draw a word of reproach whereas any inkling of sympathy towards the latter conspiracies will get you drummed out of the public square.

The entire collection of presumptions that comprise the bedrock of classical liberalism is stunningly effective because you grow up accepting that these ideas represent the pinnacle of human thought and the end of history. All that remains is the continued perfection of the institutions and the process. If we just continue to accord unquestioned deference to the continued expansion of “human rights” and “democracy”, a glorious future of human cooperation, prosperity and equality surely awaits. Sutton’s book suggests that every sphere of American thought from economics to medicine to the arts has been intentionally colonized and molded to conform to a narrow range of acceptable ideas. More specifically, he posits that the Left-Right dialectic was an idea appropriated from Hegel in order to engender servitude to the State and shepherd a process of perpetual change. Contrary to popular belief, capitalism and communism are not the diametric opposites we’ve been trained to believe.

Libertarians and conservatives are correct to oppose socialism and communism, but the error of both positions is the belief that the pure advocacy of free markets represents a view that stands in opposition to global progressivism. Russell Kirk makes a similar case in The Conservative Mind, but Sutton makes a compelling case that it is in fact the shadow aristocracy comprised of capitalists that have financed global communism. Not only have the mustach twirling Randian übermenschen historically aided and abetted leftist and communist regimes and social movements, but they continue to fund these groups in media, academia and the arts. The obvious #NotAll caveat certainly applies here, but the larger point is that the framework of the debate creates the illusion of two irreconcilable ideological poles. I’ve often found myself perplexed that the institutions and individuals I believed to be ideologically opposed to leftist political collectivism are the very people sounding the loudest bullhorns for these ideas. I found myself repeatedly playing defense when presented with the idea that wealthy capitalist donors and foundations were the ones so generously underwriting PBS, NPR and all the other media companies who openly promulgate progressive politics. Sutton argues that by funding and promoting two sides of seemingly opposed sides of a Hegelian dialectic, the shadow elites are able to manufacture crises, purchase the levers of cultural consensus and weaponize culture to ensure that the populations are debased, atomized and subservient only to the proliferation of the gospel of global liberalism.

America’s Secret Establishment focuses on the one secret society whose members bear the largest footprint of influence on American life: Yale’s Skull and Bones. For my money, the most revelatory claims pertain to The Order’s funding of both National Socialism and Bolshevism. Oh, but these are polar opposites! How can this be? That’s exactly the point. It’s a managed dialectic. After you’ve divorced concepts like “nation”, “liberty”, and “social welfare” from any larger theological or metaphysical context, they can be politicized and set in opposition to one another. The entire system is designed to produce conflict and opposition. The politicians are the self-appointed saviors who are charged with bringing people together under the banner of “human rights” and “democracy”.

Discussion of Skull and Bones and the influence of secret societies has long been regarded as the province of conspiracy theories. While I’m certain these ideas will continue to draw derision from the gatekeepers of GoodThink, that’s exactly the response I expect. In 2006, Robert De Niro made a film called The Good Shepherd which portrays the life of a Bonesman and his journey through the creation of the OSS and eventually, the CIA. Not only does it confirm the descriptions of Bones rituals and initiations Sutton describes, it basically says that these people are the true Masters of the Universe. So if all this is just a bunch of idle conspiracy theory, why would De Niro put these words in his script?

Richard Hayes: This whole wing will be your part of the world: Counterintelligence. Take a look around. I’ve got an oversight meeting. Can you imagine? They think they can look into our closet, as if we’d let them. I remember a senator once asked me. When we talk about “CIA” why we never use the word “the” in front of it. And I asked him, do you put the word “the” in front of “God”?

Revisiting the Argument for Atheism: Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not A Christian

Updated 1/23/2019

Given that atheism appears to be a rising trend in the US, it’s worth taking a look back at one of the seminal arguments against the Christian faith to see how well it holds up. Besides his numerous contributions to mathematics, history and philosophy, Bertrand Russell’s contribution to the modern atheist movement is significant. Russell comes from a long line of religious skeptics which goes back to Immanuel Kant and David Hume and finds modern expression in Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris among many others. Mr. Russell may have been a gifted intellectual in many respects, but his 1927 essay, Why I Am Not A Christian, is logically inconsistent, poorly argued and uncharitable towards Christianity. Besides inculcating an orthodoxy of negation, it also reveals a contradiction at the center of the atheist worldview which, in my opinion, few atheists have acknowledged let alone sufficiently addressed.

By staking a monopoly claim on scientific rationalism, and by extension, the entire realm of scientific discovery, atheists have essentially positioned themselves as the new arbiters of morality. While atheists have busied themselves dismantling the edifice of religious morality using the tools of logic, they have simultaneously claimed that a new secular moral order can be constructed from these tools alone. Of course, there is no coherence whatsoever to today’s woke pieties. The most honest secular atheists will openly acknowledge that consistent moral principles don’t exist, but will simultaneously argue that gay marriage, taxpayer funded abortion and feminism are unassailable, ironclad truths from which no deviation is permitted.

The core conceit of Why I Am Not A Christian is that Russell presupposes the existence of the very metaphysical phenomena to which he applies his skepticism. However, Russell has an advantage that atheists have been exploiting for decades. He is mounting an attack on the Thomistic arguments for the existence of God and these arguments use classical foundationalism as a starting point. In other words, things like the laws of logic and fixed moral principles are assumed to be a priori truths. They’re an attempt to reason backwards to God from a scholastic viewpoint that posits that all of creation are effects of an absolutely simple divine substance which makes no distinction between energy and essence. Once you divorce concepts like telos, logos and ethics from their theological underpinnings, the skeptic can set the whole philosophical enterprise against itself. Subsequently, the reigning orthodoxy of our time can be summed up in a single, self-detonating contradiction. There is no truth. Just a collection of disparate individual truths vying for conquest. And this confused, nihilistic worldview is exactly what has taken root in the Western world. Think I’m exaggerating? What would you say to a young person considering a philosophy major at college? The honest ones among us would tell him that it will be viewed very favorably as he applies for work as a barista at the local Starbucks.

But this is exactly what Russell intended. Along with other Royal and Fabian Society globalist social engineers, Russell has claimed the mantle of science and rationalism for the express purpose of hastening their destruction. Russell has written extensively on morality and ethics, but no one gives a shit what he has to say. The point was erode the Christian faith. It was to inculcate a posture of radical “skepticism” that would eventually be picked up by new generations of establishment shills and catapult vacant dittoheads like Jaclyn Glenn and Matt Dillahunty to YouTube celebrity status. The punchline is that a condemnation or a “logical” refutation of faith isn’t a sufficient replacement for a system of morality and ethics that’s been conserved over centuries. Nor does it dismantle the mechanism of belief itself. Russell merely shifted the focus of faith and pointed it towards new gods called Reason and Science. And global technocrats like himself would be in a position to write and rewrite the catechism as often as they see fit.

Russell’s essay is worth reading because it represents a sort of ur-script for the contemporary skeptic and atheist scene. Fred Copleston and Bertrand Russell hashed out this argument in 1948 and atheists have been running roughshod over the argument for contingency ever since. Outside the YouTube sphere, these debates are mostly absent from the contemporary cultural discussion, and I suspect that’s exactly what the social engineers intend. The recent Sam Harris/Jordan Peterson debates don’t really count because both of them are essentially secular liberals who remain safely within the confines of post-Enlightenment acceptability. As long as the plebs don’t get too caught up in some abstract philosophical debate that argues too rigorously for Christian theology or objectivity, it’s all good, bro.

The default assumption amongst atheists is that Christians are knuckle dragging, anti-science mouth breathers who have neither a willingness or ability to engage in formal debate. The latter may be true, but the former assumption is ironically thoroughly acceptable despite their own admonitions to police unconscious bias. Since the argument has already been fought by the likes of Russell, atheists generally take it as given that the debate is over, and engagement with these arguments is unnecessary. Conversely, Christians have largely retreated, been ignored, or simply failed in the intellectual arena against the likes of charismatic and intelligent atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins. But the irony is that the Transcendental argument for the existence of God using Orthodox theology is a more powerful argument to which I’ve yet to hear a compelling refutation from an atheist. Regardless, let’s examine a few elements of Russell’s case to show how radical skepticism creates illusory certainty about reality and inculcates a religious belief in negation for its own sake.

The First Cause Argument

That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because, in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything like the vitality it used to have; but, apart from that, you can see that the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity.

Yeah, man! Who needs a First Cause, amirite? When divorced from revelation, nature is reduced to a descralized, impersonal set of forces which only appear to have order, meaning and purpose. Subsequently, there’s no reason for a secular atheist to accept that God is the First Cause. Russell’s denial of the necessity of a First Cause is fine in an impersonal, mechanistic universe of flux and chaos, but it does little to provide a sense of certainty about how we began as a species. Subsequently, the secular scientific priesthood dangle the promise of ever expanding scientific knowledge to eventually answer the Big Questions of Existence. Maybe it’s an oscillating universe and we’re enjoying this tiny blip of cosmic expansion in an endless cycle of creation and destruction. Maybe we’re one universe among an infinite number of universes. Once the geniuses at CERN open up that transdimensional portal, we’ll finally climb the Great Cosmic Pyramid and meet the engineers we saw in Prometheus!

Who knows for sure? More specifically, who really fucking cares anyway? These questions are too deep for your puny minds anyway so just retweet this Neil deGrasse Tyson meme and pass the bong in the meantime. All you need to know is that all matter and energy in the universe was compressed into a single point at time zero and then BOOM! The universe just started organizing itself into increasingly complex material and biological forms over the course of billions of years! Everything just arose from nothing! It’s #SCIENCE man! Not that silly ass religion shit!

Coincidentally, what came to be known as the Big Bang Theory was introduced the same year he made this speech. Russell’s argument against First Cause was simply replaced with its scientific equivalent: the causeless cause.

The Big Bang Theory lends itself to the First Cause argument, but in a world of chaos and flux, why wouldn’t a skeptic argue that this also poses a problem of infinite regression? Who caused God, bro? Betcha never heard THAT ONE before! After all, God is at best an unknowable, impersonal force that’s subject to the same material forces we observe. It’s a reductio ad absurdum that’s deployed to this day.

If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause.

Even if you concede that God is the First Mover, who’s to say it’s the Christian God? Maybe it’s Xenu. Maybe it’s Allah. Maybe it’s Satan. Maybe it’s Isis and Osiris. Maybe it’s the Flying Spaghetti Monster. There’s no reason a skeptic would arrive at Christian theology using this line of argumentation.

Thus far, the scientific community has nothing definitive to say about what preceded the Big Bang. And it doesn’t need to. It’s a cosmology that reinforces Darwinian evolution and keeps the grant money flowing into the coffers of CERN and other scientific institutions determined to unlock the ultimate secrets of the universe. And to everyone who considers it a given that science and faith are incompatible, just remember that the most significant and widely accepted scientific theory explaining the origins of the universe came from a Catholic priest. Theories of cosmological origins can’t be observed, but it’s little surprise that Mr. Lemaître’s conception of the beginning of time mirror the metaphysic espoused by Aquinas. An absolutely simple, undivided monad and everything that proceeds from it are the created effects.

The Natural Law Argument

Russell’s argument here is essentially that it is too simplistic to say that the phenomena of the natural world or the cosmos can be explained away by saying Goddidit. He expands by citing how Newtonian laws of gravitation were overturned by Einstein’s more complete theory of General Relativity. “Natural laws are really human convention” he says.

How can you have a worldview which simultaneously produces ironclad scientific knowledge built from fixed principles while also being subject to the vagaries of ever evolving human caprice?

Scientific law gets called law because it explains phenomena that are constant, immutable and unchanging. A more comprehensive theory that fits the observations more completely doesn’t nullify the existence of invariant natural phenomena. Nor does it nullify the invariant and unchanging nature of the various numerical systems by which these phenomena are measured. There isn’t a single scientific law that has been invalidated or overturned since the time Russell wrote this piece. Whether we’re talking about the Laws of Thermodynamics or Newton’s Laws of Motion, scientific law gets called a law because it reveals the machinery of the natural world expressed as a mathematical equation and can be reproduced under controlled conditions. Except for climate scientists on government payrolls, scientists who study the natural world proceed into the scientific enterprise operating from a set of assumptions about how the universe is ordered. In an honest scientific endeavor free from pressures of political conformity, hypotheses extend from the limits and boundaries of what is already known and are subsequently tested for their validity. These form the foundations of a body of scientific knowledge from which technological innovation arises. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Needless to say, Russell’s malleable view of natural law is entirely consistent with the politicized state of the sciences which we currently face. Of course we’re going to have gene edited babies. Of course there are more than two genders. What are you, some transphobic dinosaur or something? All that crap about sexual dimorphism is just bourgeois patriarchal nonsense. Why do you object to hormone treatments for dysphoric children, you bigot? Why are you questioning climate change, you backwards Trumptard? Do you want to kill Mother Earth?

The Argument From Design

Russell takes a dim view of the Teleological Argument because if he accepted it, he would have to affirm that there is inherent goodness in creation. As long as it remains random, arbitrary, indifferent or hostile, it is easier to promote the promise of a scientific utopia that will provide an ultimate conquest over this abortion of a world. It’s a gnostic conception of the universe and he even suggests his sympathies for that view later in the piece.

Russell goes completely off the rails and starts sounding like a proto-SJW in the remainder of this section. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, why did we get the KKK or the Nazis? Oh snap! You just got #PWND, theists! The obvious rebuttal is that humanity is in a fallen state but was given free will. Evil is the privation of the good. It is entirely up to us to distinguish right from wrong and choose accordingly. That is the challenge of being alive. In his gnostic, scientistic conception of the world, there is no good to affirm in the first place.

The Moral Arguments For Deity

This is the core failure of Russell’s argument, and by extension, the entire atheist enterprise in my opinion.

I am not for the moment concerned with whether there is a difference between right and wrong, or whether there is not: that is another question.

The atheist argument poses a deep conundrum because it is either implicitly or explicitly a call for a secular moral order. The irony is that there is nothing in the empirical framework of the pure observation of the natural world which offers any moral prescription whatsoever. Yet the atheist, by and large, most definitely presumes the existence of right and wrong as some self-evident truth. Not only would any atheist seek punishment for the murderer, rapist and thief, atheists mostly busy themselves lambasting the evils of religion. If the atheist attacks a religious moral tenet in favor of a secular moral advancement, he is positioning himself as an arbiter of morality. If the atheist rejects the idea that faith is the foundation for moral realism, then you have consigned the entire realm of morality to the relativistic world of political ideology, or worse, scientism and utilitarianism. The atheist that claims a belief in science is somehow superior to religious faith is peddling a ridiculous fallacy. Good science does not require belief in the first place and he is glossing over the larger issues of morality and ethics. How can you claim there is individual moral rectitude or ethical virtue in a world of materialism and perpetual flux? One cannot have sound science without sound ethics, and I would contend that it is a precondition for any serious quest for scientific knowledge. The sciences of the natural world are neutral on morality and ethics. Few people would embrace it today, but eugenics were once considered cutting-edge science. On the other hand, the modern social sciences make no effort to hide the fact that they are both normative and subjective, but affect a pretense of being the engines of modern moral progression simply because they live under the broad banner of science. Gender studies, critical race theory, and climate change “science” now form a de facto secular moral order from which any dissent is met with censure and opprobrium. Committing violence in service of the advancement of political goals and being a self-appointed judge of who deserves to be punched for having the wrong political opinions are not only explicitly sanctioned by the progressive political class, academics and celebrities, but they are evidence of moral virtue.

At its core, the atheist argument is nothing more than a negation of belief. It’s a religious belief in the perpetual embrace of non-belief. It also falsely asserts that faith and reason are mutually exclusive faculties, and the existence of one automatically short circuits and precludes the exercise of the other. If this doesn’t lead to a state of pure nihilism, it creates an inherent cognitive dissonance with respect to positive engagement with humanity itself. By and large, humans generally strive towards a very general notion of Doing the Right Thing and Making a Difference. Happiness, love, friendship, loyalty, forgiveness and charity are all abstractions which cannot be quantified, and yet, these abstractions are the mythical sky wizards that every atheist presumably chases in his own life under the guise of “science” or “reason”. Every act performed which carries an expectation of positive good, whether it’s money donated to a soup kitchen or a vote cast for a politician, is its own act of faith. If an atheist truly has any hope for humanity, he must, at some level, have belief in humanity’s capacity for good. This all by itself is an act of faith. It is the Golden Rule in practice. Cynicism and nihilism are easy. Finding reasons to be hopeful about humanity is a far deeper challenge which pretty much requires some level of faith.

The yearning for justice and righteousness; more specifically, the desire to do right by for our fellow man and leave a positive legacy for posterity is hardwired into the human consciousness at some level. However, it is not a forgone conclusion that any given human will make choices that will expand and spread virtue, and it is entirely possible that many will be actively constrained and thwarted in their ability to exercise it.

As Thomas Sowell argued, the world is roughly divided between those who subscribed to a “constrained” vision of humanity which posits that human nature is fixed and unchanging or an “unconstrained” vision which asserts that humans can be molded by social forces and institutions. Atheists mostly belong to the latter camp. Sadly, no one gives a shit about “a rational proof for secular ethics” or any other lofty philosophical disquisition on morality and ethics. Bertrand Russell wrote a bunch of stuff, but who reads it except for philosophy nerds and academics? The study of neuroscience in hopes of uncovering the “moral landscape” as Sam Harris describes it seems like little more than a recipe for pharmacological and technological micromanagement of the human will. The yearning for justice appeals to human emotion, and subsequently, humans tend to respond more positively to narrative and allegory when it comes to formulating notions of morality and justice. This is why mythology and pop culture have been far more effective vehicles for the transmission of moral lessons than philosophical dialectic.

I further contend that it’s far easier to denigrate the Christian faith and morality than it is to proffer a positive alternative. There are no consequences to proclaiming yourself an atheist. It takes no courage to heap scorn and ridicule on Christians as the enemies of Real Social Progress© and scientific discovery. According to the contemporary progressive orthodoxy, the only real moral transgressions are “bigotry”, white on black police brutality, climate change “denial”, the absence of consent in sexual relations for white, middle-class female college students, saying anything negative about Islam, and pretty much anything uttered by a conservative, libertarian or Christian. But the outrage is strictly confined to the narrative as it’s defined within the walls of academia and the media echo chamber which dutifully parrots every bit of brainless tripe dispensed from the social justice priesthood. And by and large, this is where the yellow brick road of atheism has lead: to the sanctuary of the Church of Progressivism. Few atheists would admit it, but political rhetoric and social “science” have replaced the priest’s sermon.

Atheism has become a new orthodoxy which has largely ceded moral authority and agency to the leftist political class, their agenda and apparatchiks in academia. There are exceptions, but this is the trend. It seems like little more than a license to condescend to Christians, denigrate Christianity as the font of subservience and totalitarianism, and generally be miserable, nihilistic curmudgeons. Like all progressive thought, it’s not edgy, contrarian or new. With few exceptions, it’s just a standard accompaniment to a predetermined list of progressive political goals.

I wasn’t enthusiastic about making this argument since I grew up mostly secular and generally considered atheists the cool kids in the class. But if this is the quality of the argument from one of atheism’s greatest thinkers, color me unimpressed.

The Mule (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact (1997)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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