Monday, January 10, 2005

Thoughts About the Culture War

I need to begin with a caveat; I don't get cable or satellite, yet I require a certain amount of Television each day, so this means I am compelled to watch whatever is available on the broadcast networks. Sometimes that means I get to see something interesting, if beyond my normal range of chosen fare. At other times, it reminds me exactly why so many people are paying extra for satellite and cable channels. Sunday night, I saw two shows which provoked a train of thought which led to this article.

Sunday began well enough. My wife and I were a little under the weather, so we slept late, which meant I missed the usual Beltway spin on current events. This is rather like missing potholes on your way to work. I was able to catch most of the NFL Wild Card games, so that was good, God's gift to me for being good all week, although Sunday's games were not nearly as competitive as Saturday's offerings. There is just something right about watching football games in cold weather in January, although Indy's squeaky-clean dome and fake turf reminded me more of a Nintendo simulation than an actual gridiron matchup. Anyway, my daughter and I watched football while my wife watched a DVD, and after the first quarter of the Packers-Vikings game, I took my little girl to the park to play for a couple hours.

The evening offerings were much more sparse, and we ended up setting 2 sets to 2 different shows; '24' on Fox, and 'The 31st Annual People's Choice Awards' on CBS. And while both shows reminded us that they wore out whatever virtues they held as entertainment long ago, they also had little lessons in them.

I will start with the 'People's Choice' awards. This little Hollywood production began decades ago, when it was discovered that the average American no longer gave a rat's patootie who won Golden Globes or Oscars; the blatent political overtones and expectations had long cast those awards on a course far from Reality. The 'People's Choice' awards, or the PC Awards as I'll call them, were Hollywood's pathetic attempt to convince America that they are somehow relevant and hip. It's not working, although the show provided some lessons in Left-think.

There was the crass commercialization we've come to expect from Hollywood, tying some "Red Carpet" awards to things like hair (sponsored by an overpriced hair soap), smile (sponsored by one of the tooth-whitener companies), and best 'look' (sponsored by either a makeup company or a cosmetic surgery company, I really stopped paying attention by then). And the voting, while it's wide-open theoretically, all began with careful and restricted 'nominations' from Entertainment Weekly, so they really didn't care what America though - as usual, the "elite" chose the field, so that none but the socially acceptable would even be considered. Which brings us to 2 notable winners.

I have to say I am a bit disappointed in Mel Gibson. His film, "The Passion of the Christ", certainly did well critically and at the box office, and in any fair consideration would have received both Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. But Hollywood is nothing if not hostile to mainstream value, and relentlessly opposed to letting producers and directors actually deviate from the formulae so long ago imposed from the stink-tanks in Deepest Liberalia. So the PC Award for Best Film Drama was a token acknowledgment by Hollywood, as if they believed this would convince America that values embraced by the nation in large measure would be respected, or at least granted some consideration in future expositions. And I found it interesting, that when he accepted the award, Gibson spoke out against "the System" which demanded a certain tone and flavor to films, and its unforgiving emnity to those who defied the existing order. But behind the curtains, Gibson frankly blew it, when he expressed a comraderie with propagandist and hate-monger Michael Moore, flatly asking "Why are we in Iraq?" While everyone has the right to their personal opinion, this was an unfortunate slap in the face of many of the people who supported Gibson; he somehow paid no attention to the values and opinion of the people he had praised on-stage, and in fact undercut them in a display of his own shallow ego and ignorance. It should be noted that Gibson is Australian, and while he has no public opinion on politics in his own country, feels quite free to pop off on issues he doesn't come close to understanding, in a manner insulting to the many millions of Americans who understand the issue, supported the War on Terror as it is being fought in Iraq, and who had been led to believe Gibson was an ally. And this, of course, brings us to the curious case of Michael Moore.

Michael Moore is a lying propagandist, but there is no question he is successful at his chosen profession. This year, his much-vaunted campaign against President Bush was far more successful than it ever deserved to be, in large part because the Old Media cast his film as a "documentary", by which standards Camelot and South Park should be designated "documentaries" as well. But there cannot really be any argument against the fact, that Moore's carefully crafted slander was effective, enough to bring the least-qualified candidate in the past century to serious contention for the White House. Were it not for bloggers and the Swift Boat Vets, this nation might be paying dearly for Moore's crude and false presentation.

This success was evident in the PC Award selection of "Pack-o-Lies 9/11" as the "Best" Overall Film for 2004. By Box Office numbers, fan popularity, merchandising, DVD sales and rentals, or any other sane standard, that honor was won by "Spiderman 2" or "Shrek 2". I have a strong suspicion the voting numbers were fudged, but no matter. It remains evident that Moore has his fans, and they are distinctly vocal and energized. During Moore's acceptance speech, he tried to portray himself as a patriot, unconcerned with political positions or the sharp disagreements between Conservatives and Liberals about the direction and mission of America. The resulting boo's and catcalls, mixed with cheers, showed that the decision to reward Moore was not universally accepted, even in Hollywood. Further, the fact that Moore has chosen to back off from his public statements supporting the terrorists (remember his 'Minuteman' speech?), and attacking the troops by contending that they were re-fighting Vietnam and being directed by incompetent or immoral leaders, is clear evidence that Moore is trying to cut his losses, rather in the fashion of leading Democrats. The lesson from Moore's award and speech last night is a 3-parter: Moore's hatred of Bush still has its buyers, Moore is retreating for a different approach later, and Hollywood still hasn't clued in to the difference between the elitist arrogance of Rodeo Drive, and the common sense of Mainland America.

Moving on, I now have a couple thoughts on the Soap Opera which is '24'. I call it a soap, because '24' has all the qualities required to be a Soap Opera:

1. Bad Acting
2. Bad Plot
3. Sex, often thrown in to mask poor plot transition
4. Violence, also often thrown in to mask poor writing
5. A large percentage of the dialogue is overly dramatic, especially involving yelling, apparently to imply sincerity and deep emotional commitment, those qualities being beyond the acting scope of the cast.

'24' is a peculiar show; it's not often a drama jumps the shark in its first season. From the beginning, the storyline lacks any connection to believability., We're supposed to accept the existence of a terrorist threat against the United States, but instead of all or any of the 30 agencies tasked to handle Intelligence, the discovery of the plot, its details, and coordination of the U.S. response is limited to one fictional agency, and in large part handled solely by a single field agent, whose role shifts according to his whim, in complete abrogation to all known policy and statute. Jack kills or tortures with impunity, he is injured (even killed in the second season), and yet returns with long-term effects, and he breaks whatever rules he find inconvenient without consequence. The President in the show, I decided long ago, must be a vampire - he never appears in daylight or in public, and he appears to be afraid of the White House - he is never seen there, as if the 'West Wing' people filed suit to prevent any other fake President from being seen in the Oval Office. And Jack's people at CTU come in 2 flavors - morons who oppose him, unable to understand his brilliance and courage or else jealous of him, and slightly smarter morons who understand that Jack Bauer is somehow America's only hope, but who are themselves unable to think through the analysis or develop a cogent plan of action.

This laughable design might actually work as a comedy. But it is presented with the same sober expectations one gets from Dan Rather or Peter Jennings, who also should not be taken seriously. And this suggests the reason why the Left fears the Right so much. It seems that the Left, who truly are unable to grasp the history and imperatives of the War On Terror, actually belueve that the neocons are intent upon setting loose an army of little Jack Bauers - violent attack thugs who would choose violence as their first option in every case, accomplishing short-term goals at the cost of long-term needs. It explains the dichotomy of people who will say they support the troops, but never their mission when it involves opposing tyranny and freeing millions of people. They fear that somehow, even complete success wil lead inevitably to disaster. America, they believe, cannot be trusted, and yet they never consider the possibility that their own arrogance needs to be considered in the light of history. It's how Leftists can oppose sending troops in to Iraq to free 25-30 million people, but demand we imemdiately rush into Liberia, the Sudan, or Bosnia, no matter the cost or lack of planning. They can demand that we commit to treaties which demand the United States pay billions to other countriesd for no purpose but extortion, but refuse to accept that any other nation has a responsibility to the United States.

Just as Mr. Moore's movie was a fiction taken by many as fact, it would seem that '24' is an illustrative example of another fiction taken far too seriously. And there is a lesson for future education and resolve.

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