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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Invaders from Outer Space

New York City has been invaded, its buildings blown up and its citizens slaughtered hundreds of times. The invaders come every summer, descending from the sky and under the earth. Sometimes they aliens or gods or monsters. They are, however, never Muslims.

Every summer, for 10 dollars you can see a fantasy version of September 11 reenacted with invading enemies who deserve no mercy and receive none. They come in swarms, buildings fall, people run for cover and then they are beaten back and banished. And then, as summer fades, we pause for that obligatory week in which attention must be paid to commemorating the attacks of September 11 while seeing no connection between the discharges of tension through fictional victories used as an escape mechanism from a war that we dare not fight.

The Dark Knight, the previous Batman film, contained an elaborate analogy to the War on Terror, a shadow version of the real war fought out by men in costumes proving that it was possible to release a big-budget movie supportive of the War on Terror so long as it was dressed up in the right costume.

Since then, and before, New York City has been attacked by meteors, ice ages, mythical skeletons, more costumed criminals, the year 2012, and every possible imaginary scenario that can be dreamed up. It just hasn't been attacked by Muslims because that's something that doesn't happen in movies. Only in real life.

The actual enemy rarely shows up in movies. There have been more movies made attacking the War on Terror than movies showing American soldiers and law enforcement officers fighting terrorists. After ten years of war there have hardly been any movies made about the war in Afghanistan and the most watched movie about the War in Iraq began with an anti-war quote, just so no one made any mistakes about where everyone involved stood. And all of these are a drop in the bucket.

Our cinematic world is a relentless barrage of anxieties; week after week, movie theater screens light up with depictions of civilization collapsing into chaos, overrun by hordes of zombies and monsters, our cities torn down, buildings burning, police and military forces helpless in the face of the enemy. These collective anxieties are packaged up and exported to audiences at home and around the world who sit watching our unacknowledged fears of invasion and collapse play out in movie theaters.

A culture's art, no matter how tawdry it may seem, is also its dreams. They are the stories we tell, and they are full of conscious and unconscious meanings. Legends are created by a culture to battle its unspoken fears. Its great hunters and warriors, whether born of a god, risen from the sea or wearing a cape take a society's terrors and defeat them in a story that is reenacted over and over again to bring courage to the people and remind that all obstacles may be overcome with a strong spirit. 

No matter how degenerate a culture may be, its people still need such legends because they still have fears that need calming. The more troubled the time, the more they have need of such legends and the more they may even escape into them to find comfort against the coming of the long night.

The Islamic invasion is only dealt with through such legends where the enemy is reduced to metaphors, as the Soviet Union and the threat of Communism were in earlier generations. In earlier generations, we saw the Nazi on screen, and he is still a reliable villain, but the Communist is a more elusive fellow and the Islamist is more likely to show up in British movies than in American ones. Instead, the Communist became subsumed in stories of pod people and zombies, in depersonalized bombs falling from the sky and enemies with accents but no ideology. Even brainwashing was distanced as a technological trick in the Manchurian Candidate rather than an ideological practice. 

If Communists occasionally showed up in movies, Islamists are as rare as white elephants. There is plenty of work for Muslim actors portraying unjustly accused men being persecuted by bigoted and ignorant law enforcement officers. But there is hardly any work for them portraying terrorists.  Much as negative portrayals of Communists was Red-Baiting, negative portrayals of Muslims is Islamophobia. And it is better to be afraid of imaginary things than real ones.

Progressives insist that Muslim terrorists are a figment of our imagination, and they replace them with figments of their imagination. Even while a true invasion is underway, they give us imaginary ones to transpose real threats onto fictional threats.

Our political institutions, like our movies, prefer to deal with fictional threats as well. The CDC has issued an emergency preparedness plan for a zombie attack. It's easier to prepare disaster plans for something that won't happen than to prepare them for an Islamic biological warfare attack which might happen, but must not be spoken about.

The world we live in is stranger than fiction. It is a place where imaginary threats are constantly discussed but talk of real threats is silenced. No one complains when the NYPD releases a Zombie Patrol Guide, but a furor ensues when it investigates terror-linked mosques. The more imaginary a threat is, the safer it is to tackle it because there is no Zombie Rights organization to sue, whine and conduct interfaith rallies complaining that zombies are people too.

"With an host of furious fancies whereof I am commander, with a burning spear and a horse of air to the wilderness I wander," Tom O'Bedlam sings. "By a knight of ghosts and shadows I summoned am to tourney. Ten leagues beyond the wide world’s end – Methinks it is no journey."

We are led now by Bedlamites, feigned madmen running a society of feigned madness where it is fashionable to fight zombies and unfashionable to fight Muslim terrorists. A society in which a 100 million dollar movie that depicts Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires was just released. And if it isn't vampires or zombies, then it's monsters or aliens. We need our phantom enemies to fight and defeat; the knights of ghosts and shadows who call us to battle beyond the wide world's end of reality to avoid fighting the all-too-real terrorists of the Jihad.

To fight ghosts and shadows, zombies, aliens and vampires, is no journey at all. It can be done at home or at the movie theater. The lights go down and sound blares, adrenalin levels spike and pupils dilate, and, when the two hours are complete, the experience of confronting and surviving danger has been burned in and all the appropriate chemicals are swirling around in the body. While outside the terror grows.

More than ever, we are glutted on a feast of false victories against false enemies, while the true enemy remains nameless. While moviegoers in Times Square consumed cinematic fantasies about invaders from outer space, a real life invader from Pakistan, Faisal Shahzad, was plotting to set off a car bomb. Like so many invaders from outer space, Faisal Shahzad was able to blend in with the locals while plotting to destroy everything around him.

In movies, invaders from outer space escape notice because no one believes in aliens, but in real life invaders from Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia escape attention because it's unfashionable to believe in Islamic invaders, no matter how many times they have struck in the past. 36 percent of Americans polled believe that aliens have visited earth and 55 percent believe that most Muslims in this country are patriotic citizens. It is still unknown how many believe that little green men in UFO's are also patriots and wave the red, white and blue in between bouts of cattle mutilation.

Reality isn't a consensus, but responding to it is. If enough people stop believing in gravity or if acknowledging gravity as an invention of a bunch of dead white men becomes politically incorrect, then the rate at which objects fall will remain unchanged but the rate at which people jump from buildings expecting to fly will increase. If we don't believe in Muslim terrorists, they will still go on blowing themselves up and taking us with them, but our authorities will courageously go on ignoring them while jokingly issuing zombie warnings.

And yet reality can't be ignored. The very act of ignoring it builds up unacknowledged tensions that must be discharged. The average citizen working through those anxieties sits in a darkened room watching the end of days unfold, sees his cities fall and society plowed under and steps out of the air-conditioned theater into the warm sunshine feeling a temporary lifting of unspoken fears.

With the dollar low, debt high, terror everywhere and freedom nowhere; anxiety isn't hard to come by and even harder to escape. Most of the anxieties are the work of a political and cultural elite that likes to think that it is best fit to govern, when it is actually every bit as inept as the worst Ottoman and Imperial Chinese bureaucracies. It is especially dangerous to speak out against inept elites, because the inept kind are also the most insecure. Instead the anxieties must be sublimated, spoken of only in fantasy critiques of inept governments, corrupt cities, rampaging invaders and bold criminals who can only be restrained by assertive individuals. 

Art is more than aesthetics, it is the stories that a culture tells itself, it is the loves and hates, the hopes and fears, the bright dashes of color and the oppressive tones of shadow, it is the note that lifts and then sinks reenacting the drama of life. It is the space where even the unspoken things can be spoken indirectly. It is a place where hunters slay fell beasts, maidens drown themselves for love and where the tribe reminds itself of its strengths and fears. It is a place of many lies concealing a few dangerous truths. The dangerous truth that our culture's art conceals and reveals is the truth that we are at war.

H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" begins by drawing a picture of a complacent world of men who give little thought of what might be out there, who pay no attention to the "envious eyes" of the invaders that "slowly and surely drew their plans against us". We are aware and unaware of being at war, of passing men and women on the street who are slowly and surely drawing up their own plans against us. In the movie theater, we revisit that terrible knowledge that we are engaged in a war with no natural end under a hundred disguises. We recreate September 11 in our ten-dollar nickelodeons every summer and look to the sky. But it isn't aliens we are watching for. It's planes.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was intent on starting a fire until I read your cursory rules of engagement. Good post my intel better. Lars

Anonymous said...

An infantile people don't need to name its enemies, then they don't exist. They even makes laws that prohibit naming enemies. And don't forget everybody has their own "narrative", oh I like that, do you wonder your country elected a muslim as president only 8 years after the attack? Not the right and of course not the left are mature responsible people. They promote fantasy and a government that gives no end, why take responsibility and face reality??? Just fight nazies or zombies, they are safe to be defeated.

lemon lime moon said...

The problem is inside the nation. They are America's own erev rav(the mixed multitude of biblical fame) who do not value the nation and seek to change it.
They are the proponents of all things anti-American and protect those who hate the nation.

Keliata said...

Whistling past the graveyard is getting harder and harder to do. Even black humor is difficult. The circle of people allowed to engage in it is getting smaller and too PC.

Even in movies.

And truth? Naming the enemy??

Sam said...

Actually, NYC has been attacked by Muslims in the movies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Siege

1998, Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis
The Muslims really are the terrorists, but it is the martial law enforcing General that is the "real" villain.

SoCal Observer said...

One of the first things I noted after 9-11-2011 was people that supposedly had knowledge and experience dealing with enemies (both domestic and foreign)started falling over their collective feet to do two things: 1.) Admonish us not to be angry 2.) Insist that these were criminal acts by deranged individuals.

My opinions on why this is so: 1.) If we actually got angry as on Dec. 8, 1941, we might actually go after the perpetrators and dish out another dose of fat boy and little boy, 2.) Refusing to recognize that these acts of terror were actually supported by, and possibly instigated by state sponsors relieved the politicians of the responsibility of going after these sponsors (and possibly losing the freebies and gifts from said oil rich sponsors).

To add to this, many in the US and Isreal suffer from the same optimism and delusion that blindsided Chaberlain: Yes Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus. The reality is that there are honest and sincere people out there of all races, ethnic groups and religions. There are also people of evil from all races, ethnic groups and religions. The catch is, some do go to great lengths to hide this, others don't. Prior to going to Munich, Neville should have read Mein Kampf and listened to some Nurenburg speeches. For those trying to make deals with proponents of Sharia law, do some homework first.

Anonymous said...

Actually Daniel... there was a movie made about this. It's called "Mars Attacks" by Tim Burton - it's all an allegory of course. Substitute the martians with muslims and the Jack Nicholson's presidency with the pandering, incompetent and idiotic governments of today's Europe and the USA and there you have it. By the way, we do win - just stock up on your Slim Whitman music.

imnokuffar said...

Brilliant !!!!!!
G4S guard faces sack after he spits at Afghanistan hero and brands him...BABY KILLER

Row ... a G4S Lord's guard
EXCLUSIVE By TOM MORGAN
Last Updated: 30th July 2012
143

AN Olympic guard faces the sack for spitting at an Army hero drafted in to boost security — and yelling: “Baby killer.”
The Asian G4S worker flipped as he patrolled an archery contest at Lord’s cricket ground with the Afghan veteran.

A source said: “This security guard was ranting and raving at the soldier.

“He was trying to defuse the situation but the guard was going crazy. He spat at the soldier and screamed at him. He was calling him a baby killer.

“He left the soldier in no doubt he meant he’d been responsible for children’s deaths while serving in Afghanistan.


On patrol ... G4S guards at Lord’s. Neither of the men were involved in the row
“Despite the provocation, the soldier remained ice cool and didn’t lose his calm.

“Some of their respective colleagues arrived and the guard was removed.”

Bosses at security company G4S — which had to be bailed out by troops after failing to supply enough guards for London 2012 — yesterday said an urgent investigation was under way.


G4S ... providing Olympic security
The firm said the soldier from 35 Engineers had at some point asked to search the guard. It did not reveal why. The incident occurred behind the scenes on Saturday evening as spectators watched Italy beat the United States to win Olympic gold.

Scotland Yard said no criminal allegations had been made. Ex-Helmand commander Colonel Richard Kemp said: “This is an absolute disgrace.

“A soldier shouldn’t have to put up with this terrible insult. If there’s any possibility of a prosecution, then it should go ahead.”

G4S are understood to be waiting to see if the soldier makes a complaint.


Aiming to help ... soldiers on Olympic duty leave Lord’s, which hosts archery competition
Louis Wood
The firm said: “We are urgently investigating allegations that a security officer spat on the ground in front of a soldier and insulted him after he was searched.

“We do not tolerate insulting behaviour and where necessary appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.”

The MoD yesterday confirmed an incident had occurred. The military plugged the gap left by G4S with 4,700 troop

Will48 said...

Dear Daniel, no terrorist has ever blown himself up, nor did they intend to.

What they do blow up is their bombs, and whom they intend to kill, is us. Self-sacrificial murder is not, repeat not, a suicide.

(another crucial language distortion is mis-translation of "thou shalt not murder" as "do not kill". At least the English language is fortunate enough, unlike e.g. Russian, to have two different verbs to translate the two very different concepts from the original Hebrew.)

We should stand guard for the correct language because true speech is true understanding and false speech is confusion.

Anonymous said...

BOB in Swansea UK

No-one would have believed, in the last years of the 20th century, that the West's civilizational achievements were being jealously watched from the timeless capitals of the World of Islam.

No one in government could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

Few leaders even considered the possibility of bad intent towards us from the world of Islam. And yet, across the gulf of Persia, minds immeasurably more warlike than ours regarded what we had achieved with envious eyes, and slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us.

Http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFfZFvvuXWc

Anonymous said...

This is a masterful, psychologically sound and truthful piece. As someone who was at ground zero that day,this post reminds me that there is the strangest juxtaposition. 9/11/01 literally looked like a movie event. Especially for those watching on TV it may have been hard to not see it as a Hollywood movie production. Today, in our films & TV shows, we watch every other kind of space invader attack while the unspoken truth is always out of our reach. Muslims, like American Blacks, gay folks, and other special protected groups, are always noble, victimized and completely blameless in our current art forms. We must speak the truth to be set free.

ASG said...

The foundation to this problem was the immediate response after 9/11. We were bombarded by this nonsense of being forced to remember that "it wasn't all Muslims". But they didn't know that was a fact or not, they just said it to make them seem better than the enemy. It allowed this trickle through of false information like this crazy "Religion of Peace" garbage. Sure, maybe not all of them are pure evil, but to ignore where the ideology they subscribe to comes from is ignorance personified.

David Barry O'Connor said...

Not even with the contrived politically correct interpretion of ratings can the public stomach reality in their diet, as your words define;
"If Communists occasionally showed up in movies, Islamists are as rare as white elephants."
I'm anticipating a provocation. An 'arte pro artes' (sic) produce might do the us a favor. (But, who'd trust a theartre today?)
Hell, there'd still be a market niche. That's all they care about.

Anonymous said...

♥ Slim Whitman ♥

Edward Cline said...

I had an interesting exchange with friends via their podcast about "The Dark Knight Rises." I pointed out to them that, first, all the "good points" in the film were more or less imaginary or could be interpreted any number of ways. Second, that it's a sign of juvenilia-cum-adulthood to see deep, profound moral messages in a movie that is simply an expensively animated comic book. Comic books are fine, when one is in one's pre-teens, as introductions to higher literature. Eventually, one graduates to the written word, one leaves them behind. What ever happened to movies for adults, with adult themes? I watched several of those recently on Netflix and YouTube. It is probably true that most of the CGI-laden, action-packed thrillers on the screen today are marketed to teens and twenty-somethings. But there was a time when teens and twenty-somethings were educated well enough that they could discuss Occam's Razor and Menelaus and How Henry VII's conflict with the Vatican forever disconnected Britain politically and culturally from Continental Europe. For starters. Now they're utterly ignorant of those subjects and just about everything else that was ever taught students long, long ago in a culture far, far away, as a standard of education and a requisite for living adult lives.

The friends have degrees in philosophy and are full, mature adults. From "The Dark Knight Rises" they grasped a handful of straws and called them profound and culture-changing. I felt embarrassed for them.

And then we have the middle-aged and post-middle-aged inuring themselves to cinematic fare calibrated to assuage the fears and appeal to the shrunken epistemology and metaphysics of teens and twenty-somethings, geared to make them forget real world perils. These are mostly baby-boomers and post-baby-boomers who have forgotten everything, either haphazardly or in submission to someone else's authority or because it was too much of a bother to think. So, what's all this noise about the peril of Islam, they'll ask. That was just a handful of extremists, had nothing to do with politics. There wouldn’t be states that sponsor terrorism if we just tried to get along with them and stopped pretending we're so superior, they'll whine with sanctimonious ignorance. And they don't read about the honor killings and executions in the Mideast and all the other horrors committed in Europe by invading Muslims, because they don’t read the newspapers that report them and don’t read much on the Internet except perhaps sports stories and "human interest" items (Parrot sings "I gotta be me"; Rooster does moon walk; orangutan arm-wrestles Clint Eastwood; Madonna shows butt in concert").

It's difficult in this culture to maintain a fire to name the enemies and the false friends one finds in movies. But, it must be done. Good essay, Daniel.

Anonymous said...

Most Americans believe every person can be reasoned with and shares the same values. Absolutely false. A Muslim shares less with you than most Africans who are not Christians. But we are bombarded with the idea you can communicate with someone who lives on an alternate plain of reality. Can you speak with a dedicated Communist? No more than a pro lifer can speak with someone worshiping at the altar of America's death fetish. Or to put it another way if a tree falls in a forrest and no one hears it fall, does it exist?

In America reality can be ignored and therefor does not exist, if only we wish hard enough.

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