Chuck Norris vs Communism [2015)

Dear Ilinca Călugăreanu,

You have made a beautiful film.

Which the world needed to see.

And the title made me think it would be imperialist propaganda directed at North Korea.

But I could not have been more wrong.

Because Romania has touched my heart so many times.

And so I am glad to add another name to the list of auteurs.

Cristi Puiu, Corneliu Porumboiu, Cătălin Mitulescu, Cristian Mungiu…

And now Ilinca Călugăreanu.

Yes, it is only right that a young female director should bring us this story.

This documentary.

Ms. Călugăreanu, born in 1981.

Because this film is very much about the 1980s.

VHS.

Videocassettes.

And the situation in Romania.

Chuck Norris is merely a placeholder.

A meme which has undergone a certain détournement.

But there is no substitute for communism in this tale.

Perhaps, authoritarianism.

You see…

if you tell people to do one thing…and you’re really heavy-handed about it,

they will almost certainly do the opposite.

At some point.

And Ms. Călugăreanu’s very persuasive hypothesis is that videocassettes brought down the Ceaușescu regime.

And so there is very little way around this impasse without talking political economy.

First, let us address the very astute current Russian minister of culture Vladimir Medinsky.

The esteemed Mr. Medinsky has famously (?) called Netflix “U.S. government…mind control”.

Or at least that’s how The Washington Times (who needs the Post?) framed it.

But let’s investigate.

Let’s have Mr. Medinsky’s words and not just a CliffsNotes, elevator-pitch summation of them.

He says [translated],

“And, what, you thought these gigantic startups emerge by themselves? One schoolboy sat down, thought for a bit, and then billions of dollars rained down from above?”

That is pursuant to the funding which helped birth Netflix (and, presumably, other American companies with what Mr. Medinsky feels is a global, insidious reach).

He continues [translated],

“It turns out that that our ideological friends [the U.S. government] understand perfectly well that this is the art form that is the most important…”

Ahh, cinema…

And Vladimir Lenin himself knew it!

Mr. Medinsky then seems to evoke the Leonard Cohen of “Tower of Song” when he says [translated],

“They understand how to enter everyone’s homes by getting into every television with the help of Netflix…”

Leonard Cohen (God rest his soul) said it thus:

“Now you can say that I’ve grown bitter but of this you may be sure
The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor.”

Ah!

What a lyric!!

And that was in 1988!!!

So our director, Ilinca Călugăreanu, knows that of which she speaks.

Because the grip of Ceaușescu was beginning to slip.

But let’s give Mr. Medinsky one more say [translated],

“And through this television, [they get into] the heads of everyone on Earth. But [Russians] don’t grasp this.”

Ok.

Now why was Mr. Medinsky so upset?

Well, because Netflix undertook a vast expansion this past summer.

Indeed, the article from which I’m pirating these quotes (yes, translations are intellectual property) dates from June 23, 2016.

The same article notes pointedly that Netflix’s expansion into Russia, plus a vast number of new territories, means that the streaming service is now available in 190 countries worldwide.

Wait a minute…

How many countries are there, you might ask?  196.  Or 195.

Poor Taiwan, they just can’t catch a break.

So then you might say, well…what the fuck?!?

What countries is Netflix NOT in???

It appears those countries are China, North Korea, Syria, and…Crimea?

Suffice it to say, the international “community” is not unanimous in their appraisal of Crimean statehood.

Is it part of Russia?

Is it part of Ukraine?

What do the words Republic of Crimea even mean if its not an independent country?

Which brings up the specter of “frozen conflict zones”.

I’m guessing that Netflix might be unavailable in Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, and Transnistria.

But I digress…

Because we are on to more specific matters.

There are at least two major ways in which Americans can view the Romanian communist period as it has been depicted in motion pictures.

First, Americans can sympathize with the repression of the Romanian people.

Any doubters should do a little digging on the PATRIOT Act.

Indeed, the psychosis of surveillance (which is mentioned in Chuck Norris vs Communism) could not field a more forbidding bogeyman than the National Security Agency.

And so, dear peoples of the world, would you feel more or less safe living in the same country in which the NSA is headquartered?

Exactly.

Second, Americans could extrapolate Ms. Călugăreanu’s hypothesis to mean that countries such as China will eventually implode as a result of the fulminating combination of repression and technology (even, perhaps, with a starring role for entertainment).

All of that is to say that movies COULD bring down China or North Korea or even Iran.

[Notice the non-Netflix countries…Syria is without, but apparently Iran does have the service.]

Which is to ultimately say, Mr. Medinsky’s fear is completely warranted.

What is at stake in Russia?

The fall of Putin.

A sea change in leadership.

And I will be quite frank.

There is no doubt that Netflix’s catalog is heavily biased towards globalist propaganda.

One of the most glaring areas is India.

I can’t tell you how many watery, transparent premises there are on Netflix which are some permutation of a young person rebelling against a repressive culture.

It’s almost like they’re churning these formulaic films out in a factory.

Boy marries girl from lower caste.  Mayhem follows.

Girl goes to human rights court.  Happily ever after…

Boy rebels against father’s traditional ways [read:  religion].

I mean, at a certain point it’s just pathetic.

But we must hand it to Netflix for some (SOME) of their selections.

Actually, I have found a good many gems on the site.

But it is a very biased (and historically-uninformed collection).

In general, history doesn’t exist for Netflix.

Unless that history is the Holocaust.

Then, of course, there are a plethora of scenarios to “inform” you about the Nazis.

Make no mistake (my best Obama voice), the Nazis were bad.

Really bad.

But do we need 10 fucking films about the Holocaust?

And if Schindler’s List is the zenith of the genre, God help us…

But I digress again…

Chuck Norris vs Communism is a very beautiful film.

It’s about rebellion.

It’s about the little things we do to assert our existence.

And in this case, it’s about a translator (a voiceover dubbing artist) who reached the hearts of innumerable Romanians.

Irina Nistor.

Whether it was Chuck Norris, or Jean-Claude Van Damme, or Sylvester Stallone, Irina’s voice made the dialogue come alive in Romanian.

But it was a subversive activity.

“Imperialist” films were not allowed in Romania.

But Romania was falling apart.

To take the interviewees of our documentary at their word, their lives sucked…without “video” night.

But we must be clear.

Everything (EVERYTHING) about this enterprise was illegal in Romania.

First, the videos had to be smuggled across the border.

Then they had to be copied and dubbed (voiceover).

Then they had to be distributed.

Then some brave schmucks took the risk of screening these films on their TV sets (for a few lei, of course).

But it was dangerous business.

Especially if you were the kingpin.

So it is then strange to meet this kingpin of video piracy face to face.

Zamfir.

Not the guy with the panpipes.

No, this was Teodor Zamfir.

Made a pretty penny.

But the fascinating thing (by Călugăreanu’s hypothesis) is that he completely changed Romanian culture.

The seeds of revolution were sown by Dirty Dancing, Last Tango in Paris, The King of Comedy

And especially by the action films.

Rocky, Rambo, Lone Wolf McQuade…

And so, if you want to piss off a communist (or socialist, or whatever they’re going by these days), you can go with the familiar tack,

“Didn’t they already try that?  Wasn’t it an immense failure?”

I don’t know.

But I don’t doubt the faces of those who lived through Ceaușescu.

No national cinema has been nearly as effective as the Romanian in communicating to the West just what life under communism was like.

And so Romania becomes our lens into the Soviet Union and its satellite states.

I know there are Russians who fondly remember communism.

Let’s be clear:  capitalism can also suck.

Change and upheaval can be deadly.

They say, “Watch the price of eggs” (to demonstrate how a free market dictates prices).

But we see a very similar discontent in the Middle East.

Is this democracy?

Fuck this!

Yes, America has made some mistakes.

And so we should watch everything with a critical eye.

Be your own critic.

Be like Emerson.

Be bold.

And then double back.

Waffle.

Live by palimpsest.

Because you are the ultimate philosopher.

For your life.

I can’t tell you.

And you can’t tell me.

We have to learn.

It must be the right time.

To receive a particular lesson.

I draw courage from Irina Margareta Nistor.

But most of all, I draw courage from the Romanian people.

Perhaps my country’s Hollywood crap (the stuff I took for granted) was just the stuff necessary in the dark times.

Entertainment.  Ass kicking.  Escape.

But the Romanian cinema of today inspires me beyond words.

And so let us remember, whether we are capitalists or socialists, the price paid by the people of Romania in December 1989.

Was it 1,100 people?

11,000 people?

110,000 people?

It’s troubling that nobody knows for sure.

But even if it was a thousand people.

They didn’t just get trampled by goats or run over by garbage trucks.

It wasn’t a bloodless revolution.

At least 1000 people.

They saw their moment.

They seized on a moment.

They capitalized on their opportunity.

There was something which impelled them not to just sit at home and listen.

I salute these brave souls who went out into the streets.

For a thousand people to have died, it seems rather inconceivable that there wasn’t an attempt made by the government to “restore order”.

That’s the line which can’t be crossed.

That’s when a government has lost its legitimacy.

Some stories are twisted.

And full-blown civil wars do erupt.

But it appears, in the end, that repression lost.

And repression, censorship, and heavy-handed tactics (whether adopted by socialists or capitalists) should, by historical lesson, be most strictly avoided.

It is human nature.

The people will not tolerate being treated like livestock.

And something as seemingly inconsequential as VHS tapes can tip the balance.

-PD

Trump vs. Clinton, September 26 [2016)

The naysayers will call it politainment, but that’s as uncreative and trite as trotting out “reactionary”.

And while there was indeed a tremendous amount of substance in this first US Presidential debate a month ago, it was solely from one side.

Lester Holt largely disgraced himself as another “presstitute” (not my coinage, but fitting).

Holt was the decidedly unmoderate moderator.

“The questions are mine and have not been shared with the commission or the campaigns.”

Yeah right.

“The audience here in the room has agreed to remain silent so that we can focus on what the candidates are saying.”

Fat chance.

You see, Americans don’t stay silent.

They/we might be wrong (the “ugly American” stereotype), but we/they are rarely silent.

Some observers around the world recognize this as the asset it is.

Others denigrate it as “squeaky wheel”/”loudest duck”.

There’s very little silence in this year’s election (except in the corporate mass media concerning Hillary Clinton’s litany of disqualifying activities).

“I am honored to have this role, but this evening belongs to the candidates and, just as important, to the American people.”

…but most of all, to the American “elite” (and their transparently biased media) who had already picked their anointed, sycophantic, warmongering, maniac of a candidate:  Hillary Clinton.

“There’s been a record six straight years of job growth…”

But at what rate, Lester?  Read the Wall Street Journal, fucking moron.

Excuse me.

What I meant to say was, the “record growth” is anemic in historical terms.

So the “record” aspect is merely academic.

It’s been stable as shit.  That is the most accurate characterization.

Then “Secretary” Clinton takes over:

“Today is my granddaughter’s second birthday…”

Oh really?!?  I didn’t know robots could reproduce!!

“First, we have to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.”

…like her.

“That means we need new jobs, good jobs, with rising incomes.”

Her biggest export would be American jobs.  She’s got a bad case of cognitive dissonance from too much globalist Kool-Aid.

“I want us to invest in you.”

Whether that’s what she wants or not, it’s not what she’s planning to do.  So it’s immaterial what she “wants”.  Her intent is clear:  destroy her own country economically (if not literally in a nuclear war) by way of some twisted Robin Hood fantasy.  Sorry Hillary, we’re not in Jonestown.  Why don’t you drink your Kool-Aid first?

“…most of the new jobs will come from small business.”

Which will go OUT OF BUSINESS as a result of your idealist, rubbish policies.

“…equal pay for women’s work.”

Oh, you mean like never, ever having a job…like you?

Hey Hillary, your boss (the American people) called.  They want to know what the hell you were doing using a personal email server as the goddamned SECRETARY OF STATE???  And by the way, they want your work emails…because those are property of the company (the United States of America).  Oh…  You were writing emails about yoga on the job?  Ok, no problem.  But as you were being paid to write emails on “yoga”, we’d like to take a look at those emails.  You did, after all, produce “yoga” emails with our tax dollars.  Oh…  You destroyed the emails?  After being subpoenaed??  Hmmm…  That’s a problem.

[That must have been one hell of a “yoga” discussion.]

“We’re going to do it by having the wealthy pay their fair share…”

Oh, excellent.  I guess we can start with freezing the assets of the Clinton Foundation.  Seems that some small group was getting very rich off of that scam.

“Donald, it’s good to be with you.”

First and last time she’d ever say that.

“I hope that I will be able to earn your vote on November 8th.””

You’ve never earned anything in your life.  You’ve been a carpetbagger from Arkansas to New York to Washington, D.C.  “Social climber” does not qualify as a métier.

Ok…that’s enough Clinton.  How about some truth?  Fire torpedo #1!

“That’s called business, by the way.”

Ah, business.  Value.  Creating value.

If you’ve read this far (and I’m sure there are very few who have), I’ve created value for you.  I’ve held your attention.  You could think I’m the dumbest motherfucker on the planet, but that feeling of condescension is worth your time.  Perhaps I’m entertaining.  That’s also value.  And, God forbid, I actually say something that rings true…  For anyone who agrees with me enough to delve so far into this specious blog post, I’ve created value.

“Secretary” Clinton creates NO value…in anything she does.

I don’t even take enjoyment in insulting her.  To insult her is my duty.  I don’t want this person leading my country for the next four years.  Hell no!

“And, Hillary, I’d just ask you this. You’ve been doing this for 30 years. Why are you just thinking about these solutions right now? For 30 years, you’ve been doing it, and now you’re just starting to think of solutions.”

Exactly.  Say what you want about Trump, but he hasn’t been dicking around as a government do-nothing during that time.  He’s created value.  You can denigrate the true worth of that value, but it does have a dollar value.  It’s like a stock price.  It is a market measurement.  You want your money back?  Fine.  Sell your one share of Google stock.  Yes, the broker will charge a fee.  No, holding one share is not recommended.  But it’s a market measurement.  The market value of Trump’s activities is indisputable.  It’s not perfect.  It doesn’t figure in obtuse Althusserian dimensions, but it’s a measurement (damn it!).

Hillary is much more comfortable hiding in the maze of government with her private server and hiding behind the nonprofit structure of the Clinton Foundation.  She creates no value.  She never has to prove what value she has created.  She knows that her social climbing has bought her immunity from accountability.

[BUT MAYBE NOT]

Hillary might have been thinking about bringing jobs back to America for the past 30 years, but she certainly hasn’t acted on those musings.

“Your husband signed NAFTA, which was one of the worst things that ever happened to the manufacturing industry.”

[giant sucking sound…alarums and excursions]

“But you have no plan.”

Of course she doesn’t.  Her plan is being prepared by a bunch of globalists.  All she has to do is stay on two legs and…  [whoops!]

“…you are going to regulate these businesses out of existence.”

And that is no accident.

“I’m going to cut taxes big league, and you’re going to raise taxes big league, end of story.”

Yeah, pretty much.

“She tells you how to fight ISIS on her website. I don’t think General Douglas MacArthur would like that too much.”

Indeed, no matter the outcome of this election, Hillary Clinton is not going to go down in history as a master strategist.

“…you’re telling the enemy everything you want to do.”

Right again.  Pick up some Sun Tzu, Hillary.

“…the taxes are so onerous…”

Point Trump.

“…we have a president that can’t sit them around a table and get them to approve something.”

Yeah, that’s because he’s never had a job either.  “Amateur golfer” does not cut the mustard.

“And with a little leadership, you’d get it in here very quickly, and it could be put to use on the inner cities and lots of other things, and it would be beautiful.”

Value-creation works.  As a model.  As a measure.  What ISN’T sustainable is sucking the thriving countries dry in an effort to bring up the languishing ones.  There is a solution.  There is a deal.  A compromise.  But Hillary doesn’t have that spark of problem-solving genius.  All she knows is the college playbook from pseudo-intellectual, hippie-era Yale.

Ok, I’m even starting to bore myself.

There is not enough digital ink in my pot to finish penning this diatribe.

I think you get the point.

In cinema terms, this was an auteur (Trump) vs. a metteur-en-scène (Hillary).

Shot.  Reverse.  Shot.

 

-PD