Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Radicalisation and the fifth column that threatens to destroy the USA from within

We have heard a lot about radicalisation (according to Wikipedia "a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that reject or undermine the status quo") over recent weeks, particularly given the tabloids' strange, misogynist fixation with the "White Widow". Radicalisation is usually discussed in terms of muslims listening to "hate preachers" or accessing "terrorist material" on the internet. Radicalisation within the USA is not something that I have seen much discussion of, but I can reveal that in fact it is something that has been going on for decades, with vast amounts of money spent in a huge media campaign that has radicalised significant numbers of US citizens to a terrifying degree.

This radicalisation has not been without its consequences. It has led to countless suicide gun attacks, pernicious campaigns to undermine the rule of law, and most recently to determined efforts to destroy America's economic system and to reverse decisions made through the proper democratic process.

So who is behind this process of radicalisation? Hollywood commercial cinema, that's who. Virtually since its inception Hollywood commercial cinema has presented an image of American masculinity that has inexorably led to large numbers of Americans adopting "increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that reject or undermine the status quo."

Absurd, you say? With American commercial cinema about the most patriotically gung-ho of any media organisation in the world? Well, just look dispassionately at the evidence.

One of the dominant narratives of Hollywood blockbusters since the early days has been that of a lone hero fighting to uphold his individual version of "truth, justice and the American way" and/or protect his friends and/or family from the legion of dangers that threaten to overwhelm them. Whether he be the lone, white-Stetsoned cowboy in a lawless Western town, the maverick cop in a corrupt and inept police force, even the heroic rogue soldier who disobeys orders in pursuit of the greater good the underlying story is the same: truth, justice and the American way (in the movies at least) are protected by an individual's decisive actions, often in contravention of the stultifying, or even actively maleficent dead hand of the State.

The rule of Law in Hollywood blockbusters is almost always something to be distrusted, and even actively opposed. Lawyers are almost universally crooked, devious and obstructive. They use their legal casuistry to frustrate the true hero in his pursuit of true justice, which almost never derives from the courtroom or the legislative chamber. Large scale collective action of any sort is profoundly distrusted, symbolised in films such as Star Wars by the vast, faceless drone armies, or dismissed as irrelevant, as soft liberal hippies wave banners while the true hero takes on the bad guys through direct and bloody action.

The irony of course is how immensely far removed this image of Amercanism is from the actual lives of most Americans. Despite this powerful image of individual freedom and independence from State control, Americans appear to be as placid and easily manipulated as any citizenry on Earth. There has been no tradition of mass protest in most people's lifetime, high proportions of the populace are happy (proud, even) to display that symbol of the state, the US flag, and American children even salute that flag daily in a ceremony that, if it took place in North Korea, would be seen as state brainwashing on an unimaginable scale.

So here we have a paradox: a dominant media narrative pushing a radical (and frequently extremely violent) form of individual freedom in the context of a society that has accepted state control to an unprecedented degree. And these things cannot peacefully coexist. The essence of the Harry Callaghan/John McLane/Hans Solo character is that he decides which laws to obey and which to ignore. He distrusts anyone in a position of authority, and reserves the right to take violent and bloody action against anyone he deems to be frustrating his desire to implement his vision of "truth, justice and the American way." So whilst he may salute the flag, he does not believe in any of the institutions established in the name of that flag. So just how different is such a character from the many rogue gunmen who have taken arms (as they see it) against the faceless hordes who have sought to frustrate and deny them at every turn? What is there, in truth to separate a Hollywood blockbuster thriller hero from a high-school shooter?

The thing that Hollywood heros most particularly do not believe in is government. Government (in the movies) is fundamentally corrupt, out of touch, faceless and irrelevant to the real lives and concerns of the citizenry. What matters that it is democratically elected? Politicians are all on the take, and the sole aim of government seems (in the movies) to be to frustrate the right-thinking hero in his individualistic fight for freedom and justice (and the American way, indeed.)

And so, following this narrative, what does one do if the democratically elected government seeks to implement a law (Obama's healthcare reform) which has effectively been democratically endorsed through the presidential elections, but with which you do not personally agree? Well, it seems there is only one course open to the right-thinking all-American hero (like Ted Cruz) radicalised by decades of Hollywood brainwashing. Having attempted to paralyse the functions of government by talking non-stop for 21 hours, you then seek to bring the nation economically to its knees by denying its access to continuing funding.

If this sort of anti-democratic destructiveness was happening in any other country anguished media analysts would be looking for explanations for the extraordinary radicalisation  of a portion of the nation's populace that has led to the election of, and apparent continued support for, people like Ted Cruz. Where did this radicalisation originate, they would be asking. Who is to blame? But this is America, and as I say, we have our explanation already.


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