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 regarding patriotic loyalty. As Reverend Billy Talen says, sentimental patriotism is the same thing as extreme consumerism.

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.

 

2012-11-05

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

When Will The Weed Be Freed?

REEFER SADNESS

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.


montana-medical-marijuana-pic

BRINGING IT HOME

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.

NoDrug


GET REAL

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
Catch the cloudcast at mixcloud.com/outerlimitsradioshow
Check out the more frequently updated tumblr page at outerlimitsradioshow.tumblr.com
Contact the research team at outerlimitsradioshow@fastmail.fm

Veterans Against War Porn

pawel-kuczynski-ak47

Painting by Pawel Kuczynski

US VS THEM

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 peaceful message of Jesus. The juxtaposition of 9_11 with Iraq invites viewers to make connections that don’t exist. Implicit jingoism encourages movie-goers to express xenophobic hatred vicariously through the film’s barbaric protagonist. The book is even worse, fostering anti-Muslim hatred and a blood lust that rivals the sentiments of Heinrich Himmler. The book spins elaborate lies, from making claims about “punching-out” former Navy SEAL Jesse Ventura to accounts of sniping looters in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina and more.  Savvy analysts understand the divide-and-conquer mentality that is at play here, since this film continues to reignite an age-old national debate, pitting American “patriots” against liberal “hippies.”

As a veteran myself, I have several grievances with the national debate currently underway. On one side it is hailed by “red blooded American patriots” as the incredible story of the deadliest sniper the American military ever produced, while on the other hand, condemned by anti-war activists as offensive propaganda. But as the tweets have revealed, spectators are coming away from American Sniper with a blood lust for killing Muslims, which appears to be the intended reaction for garnering support for the next level of imperial mobilization in the Middle East. Clint Eastwood denies this accusation, of course, proclaiming the film as a champion of anti-war ideals. Despite his lip service, the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and spectators are coming away with irrefutable jingoistic, xenophobic, and blatantly racist prejudice. Wasn’t the official narrative of the Iraq war to fight for Iraqi liberation? Didn’t the news sell us the moral high ground of being their liberators? Wasn’t the occupation itself named, “Operation Iraqi Freedom?” So if we were there to liberate them, why would we glorify in murdering them so indiscriminately?

Despite all this, I would like to offer a third point of view, somewhere in the middle of the two extreme polarities. I see this national argument as an opportunity for us as individuals to overcome our own personal biases, regardless of what side we believe is right. Learning is not about agreement. 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.

essence_of_propagandaFIRST OF ALL, I AM A VETERAN

Even before I joined the military, I was intuitively skeptical of the impact that films depicting war have on our individual psyches, and thus the influence they have on the collective overmind. 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 was to illustrate the horrors of war. The problem with most war films is this: even if they attempt to take a stance that screams, “Look how horrible wars can be,” uninformed viewers have an overwhelming tendency to get caught up in how cool it looks to shoot the weapons. The only films I ever saw that made me think twice about my decision to join the military 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 young men into battles in far away countries for reasons they cannot understand. Before I saw either of these films, the thought that I might lose a leg or an arm or be paralyzed for the rest of my life had never occurred to me, because from John Wayne’s The Longest Day through Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, I was sold the world view that there is only glory to be had on the battlefield, either in a hero’s death or the validation as an important patriot with glorious award ceremonies and ticker tape parades.

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 Geo-Political 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 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.”

American-Sniper-Visage

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 under the radar of our journalists until Jeremy Scahill spilled the beans with his newest investigative report, 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 combat specialty of Infantry despite having the ASVAB scores to go anywhere I wanted within the organization. I graduated infantry school, and shortly thereafter graduated Airborne training. I knew I had something special to offer and was prepared to show the military how capable I was. I declined further training due to a neck injury I sustained while in Airborne school that desperately required the attention of my chiropractor back home (and chiropractic was not, and still is not, a medical practice recognized by the US military as “legitimate”). Regardless, 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. After nearly a decade of military service, it became impossible to ignore how bamboozled we all were. Despite the fact that the depth of the lie was emotionally difficult to deal with, denial of the truth was absolutely out of the question once I became witness to the crimes our government insisted were not happening. Not everyone in the civilian sphere bought into the government’s vein attempts to cover up their atrocities, but there are enough Americans unwilling to question the official narrative peddled by our corporate media. Citizen apathy is all that is needed to continue to perpetuate the global military racket that continues to this day.

notpropagandaFETISHIZING MURDER

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) 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 did about murder. The only people I’ve ever met who revel in the death of others in combat situations are people who have never been in combat, or psychopaths who derive a sadistic pleasure from the pain of others.

As far as the first group are concerned – people who tell stories that never happened – we’ve all me these guys. You’ve probably bumped into one of these clowns at least once. You know, the loud guy in the bar drinking alcohol and telling you about how he was a sniper in Iraq or worked with the special forces in Afghanistan, spinning tales to whomever will listen. The first prerequisite in determining the legitimacy of  an individual’s service the military is his willingness to talk about combat. Nobody I know who saw ‘trigger time’ overseas enjoys talking about combat and will flatly refuse your requests to reminisce by changing the subject of leaving the conversation altogether. Posers, on the other hand (which there are many) who have been programmed by video games and war films to glorify war, will tell war stories that didn’t happen to anybody who will listen. They do this because the culture has brainwashed them into thinking that they can obtain respect, get laid, and gain notoriety if they can convince people they too are an American war hero. If you bump into people like this, a great test of character is to ask them what their MOS was when they were in the military – that stands for Military Occupational Specialty. If they weren’t in the military, they won’t be able to answer this question, and ten times out of ten when I bump into chaps who can’t wait to talk about battles they’ve fought in, they are unable to answer this question.

Now understand – I’m not saying Chris Kyle was a poser. But if he enjoyed the act of killing during his service, then I’m led to believe that he’s either a psychopath, or the narrative of his life has been altered to either boost book/movie sales, and/or to garner further blind patriotic support for our continued persecution of Muslim people’s through military force.

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. 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 make it sell better, 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 have twisted up the Ventura facet of the debate as well, vilifying the former Minnesota Governor for victimizing the poor widow of Chris Kyle for monetary gain. That’s not what happened. 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, the publication company 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, wrote him a check, and now the media berates 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; men who, at least as documented in Pat Tillman’s case, saw the war for the racket that it is.

I revel in the opportunity to speak my mind on the subject of war porn and violence porn because 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 service, is anyone prepared to call me anti-military? The troops that Americans claim to support find themselves completely alone when the return home – 22 of them 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 ten million 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 against the war, because if our troops are committing crimes, we are no different than Nazi Germany. Just following orders is a coward’s excuse, and hiding behind a rifle requires far less courage than standing up against a corrupt government that continues to commit crimes in the name of “freedom” while wearing the cross and wrapping itself up in the red, white and blue.

I’m not the only veteran taking a stance to set the record straight here. This week’s broadcast featured former Marines Adam Kokesh and Ross Caputi, men who served in Fallujah, Iraq – some of the bloodiest fighting in the entire Iraq conflict. They also calls the Iraq war what it is – an imperialistic resource exploitation that American soldiers are being sold on the basis of fighting for freedom.

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. Please don’t thank me for my service. Thanking me for my ‘service’ is tantamount to thanking a former Nazi for crimes against humanity. I didn’t fight for your freedom – I fought to help guarantee the profits of oil barons, banksters and oligarchs, and am doing everything in my power to atone for that mistake.

11-C-martin-luther-king-guided-missiles-pro-peace-ani-war-history-political-tshirt

Image source: Allriot t-shirts

This post was composed by Outer Limits producer and Army veteran Brandt Miller.
Catch the cloudcast at mixcloud.com/outerlimitsradioshow
Check out the more frequently updated tumblr page at outerlimitsradioshow.tumblr.com
Contact the research team at outerlimitsradioshow@fastmail.fm