When You Wish Upon A Death Star

Disney has given itself to the dark side.

I don’t say that as another outraged fan boy irritated by nerdy expectations, but as an historian who understands the profound inspirational power of art. I’m also astounded by the lengths that America’s imperial bread and circus brigades have proven willing to go to direct our ever fleeting attention spans toward their illusions.

Truth may be the first casualty in war, but the mechanics of that casualty involve significant co-opting of stories that bind our cultures together. The Vatican successfully assimilated the Celtic peoples of Northern Ireland by incorporating Judea-Christian names into ancient Gaelic stories, altering the cultural stories away from the traditions associated with the history of the people. These edits and omissions happened incrementally enough that after a while, many never noticed as their entire culture was rewritten.

Myths and Legends matter. They represent the art of informing subsequent generations of long established truths. And the medium of film presents perhaps the most powerful conveyance system ever conceived for expressing who we are and where our priorities lie. Cultural stories give us a shared sense of meaning and solidarity. The art of Cinema is the literal production of Motion Pictures, that is, pictures on the wall that evolve and morph and tell a story and pull you in and reconcile your emotional experience of the world.

Film was explicitly designed for dissent. It was designed to discuss alternative ideas. It was designed to push our collective narratives toward a perspective of advancing how our society examines itself – indeed, how we examine ourselves as individuals within it.

But an art form as influential as this couldn’t last as a pure medium forever. Greedy industrialists, seeing the obvious profit and propaganda potentials of film, smothered the reels with their greasy hands and began to turn it to the dark side. Now the engines of industrial art seem absolutely determined to sully one of the most important legends of the 20th century.

In essence, Star Wars: A New Hope was the story of an orphaned farm boy who became radicalized after a military strike killed what was left of his family, thus becoming indoctrinated in an ancient religion, in-turn deciding to accompany a band of insurgents on a terrorist attack that would kill hundreds of thousands of men and women. Given that appraisal, what unpatriotic pariah could possibly see any glory in such tripe? Given that appraisal, couldn’t we consider the rewriting of this myth as a good thing?

But Star Wars: A New Hope also represented the familiar story of discovering that we are more than just our flesh; that our being extends out into the universe around us; that we are all one consciousness; that the most yielding will always overcome the most rigid; that there is good inside the most evil among us. It told a story of profound forgiveness. A young man believed so strongly that his father could be saved from the dark side’s influence that he sacrificed himself to do so. After himself being tempted by the dark side, he tosses away his weapon and taunts the emperor by refusing to kill his father. The emperor responds by killing Luke slowly with painful force lightning, in-turn awakening a sense of empathy within Vader, who tosses the emperor into down the Death Star’s reactor shaft, killing him. Luke could not have known for certain that his gamble would produce fruit, but verified the belief that light will always overcome darkness in the end.

It seems rather obvious that the American Empire might want to co-opt and redirect our attention away from such a narrative. And it seems that the best way to kill something great, is to make as many copies of copies as possible and sell them to us.

So one of the corporations representing our friendly neighborhood Ministry of Truth bought the trademark to the story and now fills our consciousness with its mediocre rewrites, and not only because it knows it can make a buck doing so. Let’s remember why the demand for Disney to turn a buck on Star Wars exists in the first place: because the essence of Star Wars represented a unifying perspective that deeply touched and inspired millions, thus forming an entire culture around it – a culture now under attack by postmodern nihilism. Case and point, examine the line in the newest film:

Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. It’s the only way to become what you’re meant to be.”

Although this seems on the surface to mirror the sentiment of Forrest Gump’s assertion that “youve got to put the past behind you before you can move on,” it also constitutes an expression of postmodern nihilism. Within the context of producing yet another Star Wars film, the quote illustrates a mentality of complacency. It seeks to encourage cultural amnesia and historic myopia.

Disney’s new Star Wars films are proving themselves as tools for the subtle interjection of corporate messages and imperialist propaganda. They’re loaded with plot holes, logical fallacies, and embarrassing errors. They’re easy to understand, and instantly forgettable. They also happen to be worth a truckload of money.

In the same way, the cartoonish fairy tale we were all told about WMDs in Iraq was a corporate piece of imperial propaganda loaded with plot holes, logical fallacies, and embarrassing errors. But the story was easy to understand, and instantly forgettable. It also happened to be worth a truckload of money.

And these new Disney films have more in common with WMD’s than simply fulfilling their role as keys to distracting society’s attention. They’re stories that are received much differently by the people than they are the experts at public relations. They’re also stories with the power to shape culture by their immediate influence. The WMD story succeeded in mobilizing the massive forever-war that no one was allowed to challenge without undergoing accusations of betraying patriotic loyalty. As Reverend Billy Talen says, sentimental patriotism is the same thing as extreme consumerism, and Disney’s new Star Wars films seem to impose both.

The imposition of mindless entertainment seems to prevent such realization from ever occurring. We Americans can’t ever really know that much about foreign policy when the very engines of our culture – in this case, the entertainment mediums that dominate our collective consciousness with ever-increasing leverage – implicitly encourage us to passively accept blind obedience to authority. After all, you don’t want to spoil the circus for your neighbor by doing too much thinking, now do you? You shouldn’t remind people, for instance, that the most advanced humanoids that have ever walked this rock are right now dropping explosive shells on children around the world, while attending pastiche entertainments that explicitly glorify such behavior.

And why is this? Why does our culture seem to have such a pathological aversion to bad news – to criticism – to thinking? Could it have anything to do with the fact that many of the films we watch reinforcecompliance and apathy? Aren’t we just there to fill our minds withexplosions and cool space battles?

After all, it’s not as if films riddled with deus ex machinas might promote a culture of intellectual laziness, right?

Why be bothered by unnecessary indulgences such as plot and character development? We’ll forget all about this movie in a couple of months anyway – unlike the original films. But with each new addition we all care about the original story less and less. With every subsequent release of a new Star Wars film, a once great unifying cultural force that extended beyond the bounds of race, religion or class, becomes less significant.

At the same time, Disney has positioned itself to be one of the most influential departments in the ministry of truth, for as they co-opt the cultural icon of Star Wars, they have also aligned themselves with the annual repetition of Christmas. The aim seems obvious enough; release new Star Wars films around the holidays and you can maximize toy sales. It does indeed provide Disney corporation with an excuse to sell us the same Darth Vader and Millennium Falcon themed products every Christmas, thereby reinforcing the principal edict of American Culture: unfettered consumerism.

But something even more insidious appears to be happening as well.

Disney is gradually inserting itself as one of the principal arbiters of culture for modern American life. The stories and traditions of the Winter Solstice that extend back into the eons now must compete against a new corporate tradition that seeks to capture our collective attention. In one fell swoop, Disney assert themselves as the high authority of both Christmas and Star Wars, and in-turn, the attention of those to whom the lore matters.

Seen in this way, the new Star Wars releases aren’t “just movies.” They represent what may be among the greatest disappointments in cinematic history – a mockery of a once great cultural perspective. And we’re guaranteed to be reminded of it ad infinitum.

Perhaps surprise may be an inappropriate reaction regarding the behavior of Disney – a corporation that lobbied congress to extend copyright terms by decades in order to severely limit the public domain. And beings that influence breeds an addiction to power which can only beget a craving for yet more power, the consolidation of corporate influence seems to inevitably point to the eventual assimilation of all things relevant into a singular entity, like the Umbrella Corporation of Resident Evil.

I see two possible outcomes here. Both involve Disney’s continuous barrage of Star Wars movies, but they differ on why Disney stops producing them. In the first scenario, people begin to hate all things Star Wars and forget the original narrative completely. We’re forced to endure the mind-assault of a continuous barrage of increasingly awful things emblazoned with the Star Wars brand to the point that we might eventually forget all about the inspiring acts and deeds of courageous rebels taking on an intimidating Galactic Empire. It makes sense that this might be desirable for the American Empire.

The parallels between the original films and the American Empire seem too embarrassing for orthodox imperial culture to endure. To wipe away this inconvenient stain, the empire employs their skilled propagandists at the Ministry of Truth, and who better within the cabal of Hollywood, than Disney, to do this? It was Disney, after all, that wrote, directed and shot scores of propaganda films during the Second World War. So who better to erase an annoying tale of imperial hypocrisy?

Today’s Hollywood regularly celebrates mindless entertainment purely for the sake of mindless entertainment, as a lovely distraction away from the desert of the real. Corporate media institutions prey on the naive minds of audiences who lack their own life experience to make their own judgments. But surely, Disney oozes benevolence. What kind of heretic could possibly have suspicious eyes for the magnanimous magic of Disney?

If the big, bad wolf disguises himself within the folds of innocuous costumes to keep from prematurely alarming his prey, then what better vessel for the darkest forces of all to inhabit than the unassuming innocence of Disney? Then again, Disney’s recent acquisition of Fox for $52 Billion may threaten to war thin the perceived innocence of their brand.

In our first scenario, Disney masquerades through the world in the remains of an empty shell of inspiration, which seems like an unfortunate imperial triumph. So in the second scenario, I imagine a growing disgust for the use of electronic hallucinations to hypnotize us into set modes of thinking. It gradually takes more than one-dimensional characters and loads of special effects to maintain the attention of movie goers. Over time, a mind evolves among people who now grow tired of easily identifiable cliches, and cannot tolerate obvious fallacies or massive plot holes. A growing backlash begins to develop against the corporate consumer culture that seeks to dominate every aspect of our daily lives, especially around the holidays. Because Star Wars culture breeds Star Wars geeks. And if geeks are good at anything, it’s identifying inconsistencies. The culture of technically minded individuals who identified Han Solo’s mischaracterization of parsecs in the Mos Eisley Spaceport are the same folks annoyed by obvious plot holes. Geeks have led the way on many fronts, and they’re already losing interest in the Star Wars franchise.

Over time we begin to realize we’ve been sold another turd dipped in glitter; that the soft reboot that became Episode 7 constituted little more than a scene-for-scent remake of A New Hope, wherein we meet our protagonist on a desert planet – again – by means of a droid carrying top secret plans to a giant Super Weapon – again – who almost gets crushed in a trash compactor – again – before triumphantly flying through the exhaust trench of aforementioned Super Weapon – again – to blow up another ominous space station. It could be said to be a point by point copy of A New Hope, but without pesky distractions like good acting, thorough character development, well-defined dialogue, an original thought, a firm grasp of tension and release, or a reason to care about what happens to any of the characters.

For me, the primary metric for gauging any piece of art is the question, “What did it make me feel?” By this standard, the worst films I’ve ever seen didn’t make me feel anything. The only characters I cared about at all in Rogue One, for example, were the droid and the blind Jedi. When they died, I did feel something. But I can’t remember either of their names, so I obviously didn’t care very much. And why should I? The suicidal nature of their mission meant that all of the characters were made to be disposable from the very beginning. And I’ve already seen this movie – it was called Saving Private Ryan directed by Stephen Spielberg. The only difference between Spielberg’s Private Ryan and this new one is that the new one has storm troopers instead of Germans.

In many ways the newest of the Star Wars films can be described as yet another remake, but this time of The Empire Strikes Back; A wannabe Jedi travels from an isolated planet to train, ignores their teacher’s advice, then learns who her parents are. Next we swap out Billy Dee Williams as the betrayal character for Benicio Del Toro. Finally, our remake becomes complete with scenes of a ground assault led by 4-legged imperial walkers that look just a little bit different, attacking a rebel base on white-desert planet, but unlike Hoth, this planet is covered in salt instead of snow.

There are many reasons that the newest Star Wars films are among the least-liked Star Wars movies by audience reviews. They could be described as a Midichlorian dumpster fire that now threatens to consume timeless cultural icons.The fine minds at Red Letter Media have even dubbed the Last Jedi, “the cinematic equivalent of Homer Simpson’s makeup shotgun.” But the professional critics seem to like it. I wonder why that could be.

Remember, the Vatican assimilated the Celts by incorporating Judea-Christian names into the myths, altering the cultural stories away from traditions associated with the history of the people. While these edits and omissions happened incrementally, some assimilation happens much more quickly. When a particular ideology landed on these eastern shores, so did the onset of cultural amnesia here in the Americas. Within just a few generations, the roaring fire of long established traditions extending back through the centuries of Amerindian antiquity, shrank to a meek candle flame, struggling against the wind to stay alive. The same mentality that sought to co-opt and dominate all philosophical doctrines before, now have their sights set on the subversive stories that emerged from within that very heart of their own Empire.

The good news is that this reign of psychological terror can end as soon as we grow tired of their electronic hallucinations. People power defeats propaganda. Education, after all, is subversive by its very nature, for it forces questions to the forefront that our masters don’t want us asking.

I for one feel optimistic. Just as Luke knew there to be good within Darth Vader, I believe the concept of ethics can one day awaken within the ownership class.



Gabrielle Lafayette is a journalist, writer, and executive producer for the Outer Limits Radio Show.

When Will The Weed Be Freed?


With the ongoing legalization of medical marijuana across the country, coupled with a continued effort to secure decriminalization, and even legalization, for recreational use in a handful of states, this year’s 4/20 celebration is widely anticipated to be the largest ever seen. Colorado and Washington successfully enacted laws to tax and regulate the burgeoning recreational application. Meanwhile Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia are enacting laws to make possession of small amounts legal. But the growing trend of recreational legalization by the states exists in a state of legal limbo, perched precariously between the issue of States’ Rights, and the US Constitution’s “Supremacy Clause.” The Supremacy clause states that federal law always takes precedence when state and federal statutes are in conflict, and this is exactly what states like Nebraska and Oklahoma are citing amid their attempts to quash Colorado’s growing recreational pot industry before the US Supreme Court.

The issue of whether individual states have the legal precedent to set their own drug policies as opposed to the apparent higher authority of federal restrictions becomes even more clouded in Washington DC, where voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to allow the legal possession of up to two ounces within the city, and for residents to grow up to six plants in their homes. In an attempt to block the democratically approved measure, congress continues to work tirelessly to deny Americans their human right to alter their own consciousness and medicate responsibly. Attached within an unrelated Trillion-dollar federal appropriation bill, congress hastily attempted to prohibit the municipality of Washington DC from ever legalizing cannabis; the attached provision would not allow funding to be allocated from the budget to ‘enact’ the legalization referendum that voters passed. In fact, the future of DC’s pot legalization will be determined by the court’s interpretation of that very word: “enact.” However, since the DC pot legalization already took effect by the time this bill was passed, and since the legalization initiative did not set up any regulation or taxation programs, there is literally nothing to “enact.” Nevertheless, congressmen opposed to cannabis legalization are working hard to twist the loopholes within the legalese to retroactively squash the voice of the voters. But if anyone in DC government discuss the details of taxing or regulating the marijuana industry while they’re on the clock at work, they could actually face jail time since such discussions would technically violate the congressional marijuana order.

Adding fuel to the fire is an ongoing protest taking currently place around the clock in Washington DC, where a group of protesters have chained themselves to a 42-foot tall “liberty pole” on the capital mall. The protest, culminating at 4:20 PM on April 20th, was initiated at 4:20 AM on April 15th, tax day, explicitly to call attention to the fact that DC residents are being subjected to what they consider an instance of taxation without representation. That ancient rallying cry from the good old days of the American Revolution is such an important part of the Washington DC identity that the slogan “No Taxation Without Representation” actually appears on DC vehicle license plates. But the liberty pole protesters are eager to point out that despite their cooperation with federal taxes, they do not have voting representatives either in the House nor the Senate. Their heavy invocation of the 4/20 movement in their protest implies that congress’s attempts to snuff the DC pot law is an unfair and uninvited federal overreach into the lives of everyday citizens.

While Colorado and Washington state have introduced, taxed, and regulated cannabis for recreational purposes, Alaska and Oregon are the latest states to be found waiting in the wings. Both states are in the process of passing voter-referendums similar to that of Washington DC allowing citizens to possess and grow cannabis for personal use, but still forbidding its sale and public consumption.

Interestingly, since these laws explicitly allow donations of marijuana – not the sale of it – DC was host last month to the largest weed seed give-away in history. People lined up for blocks for a chance to receive free packets of their very own marijuana seeds given away at a local DC bar and restaurant. Since the sale or purchase of pot or seeds is still illegal in DC, it was the only chance most citizens had to obtain the seeds needed to start their own legal home-based gardens. Because of the immense turnout at the give-away, it is broadly believed that a great deal of the recipients were not actually DC residents, but had come from nearby Virginia and Maryland, where pot is still unequivocally illegal. As an unintended side-effect of congress’s attempted restrictions, DC police were legally forbidden from tracking or even monitoring the recipients of the free weed seed extravaganza in any way.

In a city where DEA and secret service agents are at the center of controversy for multiple drunk-driving and prostitution scandals, congress has unwittingly passed a law that provides a smoke-screen for a burgeoning gray-market of marijuana trade and barter in the greater DC area.



So now that we’re aware of the situation in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia, we turn our attention inward. Where does Montana stand on legal cannabis reform? In Montana, possession a single joint can still land you in jail for six months; possession of two ounces can result in a sentence of up to five years. Montana voters, however, successfully pushed the legalization of medical marijuana in 2004. Despite our intrepid legislators meeting five times since 2004 to discuss this issue, they have continuously failed to enact a workable regulatory system. Then in 2011 the legislature attempted to such down all cannabis businesses with their “repeal in disguise,” alongside coordinated paramilitary raids on marijuana facilities in 13 cities across the state in March of the same year.

Cannabis persecution presents an easy answer for law enforcement officers seeking to make themselves look good to their superiors. Montana chalked up more than 1,500 arrests and citations for marijuana-related offenses in 2012, 95% of which were for possession. At the same time, our law enforcement agencies were unable to solve 91% of all burglaries, including home invasions. Also at the same time, our law enforcement agencies failed to solve more than 85% of all motor vehicle thefts.

Our law enforcement agencies could choose to focus on actual crimes – that is, cases that involve an injured party – but instead arrest thousands of adults for possession of a substance unanimously recognized as being safer than alcohol. They couldn’t close the books on most burglaries, but somehow endeavour to protect us from ourselves, denying our human right to alter our own consciousness – to imbibe a medicine as prolific as it is beautiful – a medicine that is older than human civilization.

Meanwhile, our marijuana DUI law remains in effect. According to the Marijuana Policy Project:

“Montana’s unscientific DUI law remains in effect, which makes it a crime for a driver to have five or more nanograms per milliliter of THC (ng/mL) in his or her bloodstream, whether or not the person is actually impaired. Without a doubt, people should not drive while impaired. However, medical marijuana patients may have that level of THC in their blood long after any impairment has worn off. This law is bad for medical marijuana patients because it does not reflect on their ability to drive safely.”

Why is this collective cultural psychosis allowed to continue? Why do we tell ourselves there’s nothing we can do about this aside from electing the right representative? Why do most Americans continue following stupid orders and unjust laws in the lunacy of the modern American police state? How does America conserve her whimsical assumption that it’s not a drug if it was prescribed by a doctor? How have we allowed the madness of the Nixon administration to reverberate into the present moment? Why do we fear what will happen if our children – God forbid – experience beautiful adventures in consciousness, or live their own lives responsibly? Why must we feel so obligated to protect our children from exhilaration? Why must we protect our children from euphoria? -from growing up? -from being capable of living their lives when they grow up? How does the crazy myth of the gateway theory continue perpetuate? Why do we forever maintain the folly that misery and suffering are not only normal, but desirable? Why must we continue to demonize anything that feels good, embracing all that makes us feel miserable? Why must we prevent our neighbours from benefiting from a world that expresses love and empathy instead of fear and malice? Why does America preserve the mentality that euphoria is, in fact, a negative side effect? How is what you do with your mind any of my business? How is what I do with my mind any of your business? Why do we prolong invasive probation and parole racketeering schemes for the sake of state profits? How can law enforcement possibly justify throwing innocent souls into corrals in the name of protecting communities that they, the enforcers, are completely disconnected from? Why have we begun to label drug offenders as terrorists? Why does it seem that many politicians simply won’t rest until all of our sons and daughters thoroughly understand the hammer blows of totalitarianism? Why can’t so many citizens acknowledge that breaking stupid laws is why we revere revolutionaries of yesteryear? Why do we collectively exalt those who enforce these stupid laws as benevolent heroes? Why is America building up her police forces into domestic para-military Gestapo armies? What does a police force need a tank for? Why must the accused prove their innocence without any assets to pay for their defense in rigged court rooms? Why does the government commemorate itself as the victim in these victim-less cases that bear no injured party whatsoever? And above all else, why does America seem so hell-bent on preventing the common people from thinking, pondering, or ever even questioning this insanity that we have codified as the established tradition of the ‘sane society?’
PrisonDrugProfitsWe know these policies are absurd. We know these laws are ridiculous. The police know it too. So why is it allowed to continue? Because every year thousands of medical doctors alongside members of the Anti-Smoking Inquisition spend billions of dollars perpetuating what has unquestionably become the most misleading though successful social engineering scam in history. With the encouragement of most western governments, corporate lobbyists pursue smokers with a fanatical zeal that completely overshadows America’s ridiculous alcohol prohibition. 
And much of the mainstream media toes that corporate line, spewing fear-mongering and sensationalism. Not long ago our media was boldly claiming that cannabis use permanently lowered IQ, a finding that marijuana prohibitionists and anti-drug bureaucrats were happy to repeat ad nauseam.

Because drug offenders become labourers in our prisons. Because marijuana reform threatens the monolith of the pharmaceutical industry. Because cannabis legalization threatens the job security of police unions. Because the drug war justifies the inhuman violence that takes place each day in this country. Because the drug war provides the perfect opportunity to rationalize state-sponsored terror.



As larger and larger waves of Americans awaken from the lies of the D.A.R.E. program, Nancy Regan’s “just say no” campaign, and vociferous slough of absurdest public service announcements intended to justify the continued persecution of individuals who imbibe cannabis, an increasing number of public figures are beginning to realize they’re getting left behind.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the mainstream media’s go-to medical correspondent, was himself ardently opposed to marijuana use until he actually got around to researching it and then changed his tune dramatically, hosting three hour-long documentaries and calling for a “weed revolution.” It’s unclear whether his 180 is a result of actually conducting the research, or if he simply realized that if he didn’t admit to what the rest of the country already knows, no one would take him seriously ever again.

But it is nevertheless profound what happens when we base our decisions on facts and information as apportioned from research, instead of blindly acquiescing to scare tactics, propaganda and lies. Such endeavours seem to have a tendency of leading us toward the truth.

CannablissThis post was composed by Outer Limits gumshoe Myron Gagarin and producer Gabrielle Lafayette
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Veterans Against War Porn



Apart from analyzing the tendency of the war-film genre to glorify violence, justify racism, and fetishize murder, there are a number of factual errors and historical inconsistencies with Clint Eastwood’s newest film American Sniper, as well as the book it’s based upon. The film’s portrayal of Christian dominionism confuses the otherwise peaceful messages of Jesus. The juxtaposition of 9/11 with Iraq invites viewers to make foreign policy connections that do not exist. Implicit jingoism encourages movie-goers to express xenophobic hatred vicariously through the film’s barbaric protagonist.

And the book that Eastwood’s film was based on seems even worse, weaving a web of lies, from making claims about “punching-out” former Navy SEAL Jesse Ventura, to accounts of murdering looters in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina, all the while referring to the people in his cross-hairs as “savages” and “animals”.

As a veteran myself, I have several grievances with the national debate currently underway regarding this piece of “art”. On one side it is hailed by “red blooded American patriots” as the incredible story of the deadliest sniper the American military ever produced, condemned by anti-war activists as offensive propaganda on the other. The tweet storms seem to indicate that spectators were coming away from American Sniper with a yearning for killing. Clint Eastwood denies this, ironically proclaiming the film as a champion of anti-war ideals. Just as the official narrative of the Iraq war involved “fighting for Iraqi liberation,” propagandists spin a facade of moral high ground language as a smoke screen for obvious misbehavior.

Case in point: if we’re there to liberate them, why revel in their indiscriminate murder?

Despite the predictable “patriots vs. hippies” narrative characterizing this debate, I would like to offer a third point of view, somewhere in the middle of the two extreme polarities. Such a national argument could serve as an opportunity to overcome personal biases, regardless of what side we believe is right, and acknowledge that life is complicated. This is our chance to understand that as long as we’re arguing with each other, we’ll never be able to tackle the root of problems concerning us all. And learning the truth is not about agreement. War is about profit and power for those who wage it. The trick is convincing people to fight and die in their wars. And that’s why propagandists pull in the big bucks.

In 2017, a Freedom of Information Act request by Tom Secker and Matthew Alford revealed the extent to which the Hollywood promotes war explicitly on behalf of the Pentagon, CIA and NSA. Documents obtained by Secker and Alford detailed the military’s control of and influence over more than 1,800 movies and television shows, “including the ability to manipulate scripts or even prevent films too critical of the Pentagon from being made. … If there are characters, action or dialogue that the DOD don’t approve of then the film-maker has to make changes to accommodate the military’s demands. If they refuse then the Pentagon packs up its toys and goes home. To obtain full cooperation the producers have to sign contracts–Production Assistance Agreements–which lock them into using a military-approved version of the script.”

essence_of_propaganda MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO…

Even before I joined the military, I was intuitively skeptical of the impact that war films can have on our individual psyches, and thus the influence they have on the collective overmind if watched enough times. Many of my friends growing up were seduced by the violence of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now despite the fact that the film’s intention seemed to be the illustration of war’s many unspeakable horrors (as well as a timely adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s classic Heart of Darkness). But even if a war film attempts to convey the message of “look how horrible wars can be,” immature viewers tend to get seduced by the adrenaline-inducing weapon systems of the 21st century. Phrases like, “happiness is a belt-fed weapon” further play into this culture of carnage; a phrase that I heard repeated many times in my career, and repeated myself after becoming a SAW gunner.

The only films I ever saw that made me think twice about joining up were The Deer Hunter starring Robert DeNero, and Born On The Forth Of July starring Tom Cruise. These two films depicted the true cost of sending our best and brightest into the hungry jaws of faraway battles. Before seeing these films, the possibility of losing a leg or permanent paralysis had never occurred to me. Because from John Wayne’s The Longest Day to Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, America’s motion pictures had sold me on the world view that the battlefield yields glory, validated either in a “hero’s death” or award ceremonies and ticker tape parades that are always more fulfilling in your head than in real life.

Having said that, I’m always hesitant to lend my eyes to films depicting physical violence and bloodshed because of the messages they can send, whether they intend to or not. As with most forms of screen entertainment, many Hollywood films are meant to shape perception within the public to garner support for geopolitical decisions made on our behalf, which is why movie theaters are federally subsidized. For the same reason that recruiters are positioned in high schools to grab up our best and brightest before they’ve reached the age of reason, war films play as instrumental a role in military recruitment as first-person-shooter video games do. These forms of screen media masquerade as nothing more than entertainment, all the while subtly programming a state-sponsored narrative of justified imperialism into the malleable minds of those subject to the electronic hallucinations of the glowing rectangle. 

Seth Rogen took a lot of flack recently for drawing an apt comparison between Eastwood’s new film to the film-within-a-film, Nation’s Pride – the Nazi propaganda movie that appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. The purpose of effective propaganda is to numb the mind away from reasonable thinking, and anesthetize the emotions away from empathy. As Chris Hedges recently pointed out in TruthDig, “American Sniper caters to a deep sickness rippling through our society. It holds up the dangerous belief that we can recover our equilibrium and our lost glory by embracing an American fascism.” He goes on to say:

“The culture of war banishes the capacity for pity. It glorifies self-sacrifice and death. It sees pain, ritual humiliation and violence as part of an initiation into manhood… The culture of war idealizes only the warrior. It belittles those who do not exhibit the warrior’s “manly” virtues. It places a premium on obedience and loyalty. It punishes those who engage in independent thought and demands total conformity. It elevates cruelty and killing to a virtue. This culture, once it infects wider society, destroys all that makes the heights of human civilization and democracy possible. The capacity for empathy, the cultivation of wisdom and understanding, the tolerance and respect for difference and even love are ruthlessly crushed. The innate barbarity that war and violence breed is justified by a saccharine sentimentality about the nation, the flag and a perverted Christianity that blesses its armed crusaders… It fosters an unchecked narcissism. Facts and historical truths, when they do not fit into the mythic vision of the nation and the tribe, are discarded. Dissent becomes treason. All opponents are godless and subhuman.”


Veterans For Peace recently responded to the film in a similar way, contending:

“Following spaghetti western acclaim, Clint Eastwood, now 84, moved on to Dirty Harry movies… Over the years, he has honed this very masculine style and become a popular film director exploring the American psyche mostly from the reactionary right — though his films are always a dialogue with issues on the left. American Sniper is no different with its limited contrapuntal theme of PTSD and homefront family adjustment.

“Harry Callahan was famous for whacking creeps who deserved to die with his long, phallic .44 magnum. It was great cinema. The formula was simple: Feature a good guy who hates bureaucrats, loves to cut corners and is a man comfortable with violence and put him at odds with bad guys who are absolute perverted creeps whose death at the hands of the good guy would be cheered by an audience shoving popcorn down its gullet. The films were realistic in the sense of being harsh, brutal and loud. But they were far from realistic in the sense of being complex, morally gray, contradictory and confusing — like life itself.”

So when it comes to Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, I’m first and foremost appalled by the message we get early on that the message of Christ has anything to do with racist bigotry or a fixation of murder. How can any true Christian bemoan the crucifixion of Christ and then revel in the slaughter of other human beings?

Beyond achieving the feigned moral high ground of killing for Jesus, the film presupposes that sniper Chris Kyle was sent to Iraq because of what happened on 9/11. You don’t have to be that well informed to understand that the only connection that exists between 9/11 and Iraq is the Bush administration’s lie about Weapons of Mass Destruction which were never found in the deserts of Iraq. A deluge of patriotism that flooded our soldiers into Afghanistan created a tidal wave of militarism, the momentum of which has since bled over into operations conducted in over 75 countries. This fact remained hidden from the American people until Jeremy Scahill finally spilled the beans on JSOC with the book/documentary Dirty Wars.

When the twin towers fell, I was an ROTC cadet reporting in to my commanding officer for my morning duties. It wasn’t long after that I joined the US Army’s ranks in the 11B combat specialty despite having the ASVAB scores to go anywhere else. None of the other jobs had what I was looking for. In the summer of 2005 I graduated infantry OSUT and airborne school, both at Fort Benning, Georgia.

For people like me, it didn’t matter where the military sent us. We were absolutely convinced that our help was necessary to protect the nation, and that the military was working on behalf of the nation’s best interests. But no matter how enthusiastic I may have been at the beginning (and there was no solider more gung-ho for HOOAH than me), it slowly but inevitably became impossible to ignore the power grabs and profiteering happening above my pay grade. Once I finally became witness to the crimes of our government, that the media insisted were not happening, I couldn’t deny the truth any longer. Looking back I wonder how I was ever able made to believe any of the mainstream lies. Then again, common sense is only sense made common, and hindsight is always 20/20.


I don’t enjoy talking about my service, and no fellow veteran I know who has taken lives was ever proud of it. Which brings me to my next point about the book of the same name upon which the movie American Sniper is based. Chris Kyle, who is credited with 160 confirmed kills (God knows how many more unconfirmed) reads like a demented serial killer, reveling in the destruction and death that transpired at his fingertips during four tours of duty. This initially led me to question what role the book and subsequent film were meant to play in the society to shape public perception, and how much of it was altered to appeal to the pro-war narrative. Because no veteran I know personally has ever talked the way Kyle does about murder in his memoirs. The only people I’ve ever met who revel in the death and suffering of other humans in combat situations are people who have either never been in combat, or sadistic psychopaths.

As far as the first group are concerned you’ve probably bumped into one of these clowns at the bar, telling fantastic stories of the wars he so bravely fought in. Mine were usually socially inept boys with poor posture who liked to brag about how they were “a sniper in Iraq” or worked with the “special forces in Afghanistan” in between swigs of cheap beer. For whatever reason, stolen valor seems to have become quite popular in the age of Homeland Security.

The first prerequisite in determining the legitimacy of  an individual’s service in the military is his unwillingness to talk about combat. Nobody I know who saw ‘trigger time’ overseas enjoys talking about combat, and most will flatly refuse your requests to reminisce by changing the subject, or leaving the conversation altogether. Posers, on the other hand, who have been programmed by video games and war films to glorify human slaughter, will tell war stories that usually feel like borrowed composites from pop culture. They do this because the greater culture has brainwashed them into thinking that they can obtain respect, sex, and notoriety if they can convince people they too are an American war hero. The reality experienced by our authentic heroes, however, seldom includes any semblance of fame or fortune, but a whole lot of guilt and flashbacks.

If you bump into armchair commandos claiming military service, and you want to skillfully suggest polite skepticism of their yarns, a great test of character is to ask them what their MOS was during their military career. That’s Military Occupational Specialty, and if they weren’t in the military they usually won’t be able to answer this question. Sometimes the smart fakers have memorized some figures, but this question weeds them out nine times out of ten.

Please understand that I’m not accusing Chris Kyle of being a poser, per se. Though this book exhibits demonstrable lies, we can say based on evidence that he was indeed a veteran and served out his military contract honorably. But if he actually reveled in the act of killing during his service as the pages and scenes of American Sniper allege, and if he actually felt the way those hateful sentences convey, then I’m led to believe that he’s either a psychopath, or that the narrative of his life has been altered to boost sales and/or garner patriotic support for continued global imperialism.

Praising the act of killing into fetish territory is not the behavior of any genuine veteran I know, which leads me to believe that Chris Kyle is either not responsible for the death-glorification that appears in the book (which, by the way, is conspicuously absent from the film), or he was a psychopath. Neither case leaves me either admiring Kyle, or feeling the need to honor his memory.

I’ve also considered the possibility that many of the stories were fabrications, either ghost-written by other writers or embellished by the editor to push sales, because there are many claims throughout the text that are blatant lies: in the book we’re meant to believe that Chris Kyle punched former Navy Seal Jesse Ventura; that Kyle sniped thirty people in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina; that he murdered two men attempting to car-jack him. There is no evidence to support any of these claims, and Jesse Ventura even filed a law suit for defamation of character when Chris Kyle was still alive.


The media really twisted up Ventura’s defamation lawsuit, vilifying the former Minnesota Governor for victimizing the “poor widow” of Chris Kyle “for greedy monetary gain”. Ventura has since set the record straight about the chapter of American Sniper entitled, “Punching Out Jesse,” that the publication company was forced to change. Despite the fact that a jury came to the conclusion that overwhelming evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the incident in question never happened, instead of amending or omitting the entire chapter, HarperCollins offered money as payment to Ventura for damages. Ventura objected to the money, demanding they remove the blatant lies from the pages of the book. Though they’ve changed the name of that chapter in subsequent publications, they stonewalled Ventura on altering the content, instead writing him a check for $1.8 million, and now the media are free to berate him for taking money away from Kyle’s widow. Money that the Kyle Estate claimed was going entirely towards charity in the name of veterans organizations, which turned out to be another lie, as only about 2% of the proceeds were ever donated to said charities, according to the National Review.

This brings me to the strange circumstances surrounding Chris Kyle’s death; shot by a former Marine on a shooting range shortly after Ventura’s lawsuit began. Some analysts are drawing parallels between the Chris Kyle narrative and the Pat Tillman story. Men who’s image was worth billions in recruitment advertising to the military-industrial-complex.

A common misconception infecting the discourse of our society is that if you’re going to question the war you need to be prepared to respond to accusations of being anti-American or anti-military. As an ROTC cadet and a person who sacrificed his early life to join the military, is anyone prepared to call me anti-American? Since I was honorably discharged from my military service, is anyone prepared to call me anti-military?

22 veterans kill themselves every day. You think it’s because they’re proud of what they did? You think it’s because they’re happy with what their actions helped accomplish? You think its because they believed that their battles resulted in freedom for Americans?

And how does patriotic support of our troops equate to the anti-human stance we take on the scores of homeless veterans walking our streets every day, who we demonize for being poor? If anyone is qualified to say this, I as a veteran am: you cannot support our troops and be simultaneously against the war. That’s oxymoronic because if our troops are committing crimes against humanity, we are no different than any other totalitarian regime in history. If I’m involved in something shitty, you shouldn’t pledge my support, any more than I should be required to follow shitty orders if I think they’re unlawful. Just following orders is a coward’s excuse, and hiding behind a rifle requires far less courage than standing up to a corrupt government that continues to commit crimes in the name of freedom, God and country.

I’m not the only veteran taking a stance to set the record straight here. Former Marines Adam Kokesh and Ross Caputi who both served in Fallujah, call the Iraq war an imperialistic resource theft that exploits American soldiers who think they’re fighting for freedom.

Perhaps no one has ever said it better than two-time Medal of Honor recipient Major General Smedley D. Butler:

BUtLER“I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. “I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

“I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

“During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

For this reason, I can’t help but cringe when people reflexively respond to the news of my military service by pumping my hand and thanking me for my service, which is part of the reason I rarely bring it up. Since we’re on the subject, I must ask you all to please refrain from thanking me for my service as a matter of reflex. Because I didn’t fight for anybody’s freedom. I fought to help guarantee the profits of assholes, just as General Butler articulated all those years before me.


Image source: Allriot t-shirts

This post was originally composed by journalist and Army veteran Brandt Miller.
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