“John Brennan on Thursday recalled being asked a standard question for a top security clearance at his early CIA lie detector test: Have you ever worked with or for a group that was dedicated to overthrowing the US?”
Wennerström could have been executed by firing squad for treason because, after all, there was a war on (the Cold War).
War on Terrorism.
Was the end declared?
Instead, he was given a life sentence (which was later commuted to 20 years).
What country do Bernie Sanders, AOC, et al. most want to copy?
Replicate their “democratic-socialist” utopia?
And I get it.
It is an alluring trick.
Sweden is a beautiful country.
The land is beautiful.
The women (with cans of General Snus in the back pockets of their tight bluejeans) are beautiful.
Even rednecks like me could be fooled.
By the façade.
The “Nordic model” countries (with their literal female models in tow).
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and (chiefly powering the Left’s zeitgeist) Sweden.
But Norway has a shit-ton of oil.
But I see it.
Walk down the cobbled streets of a small Danish town and you too may be swayed by the seeming utopia.
America is not a Nordic country.
And as Nordic countries (particularly Sweden) attempt to mimic AMERICAN leftist policies (think immigration), they see their homogenous utopias ripped apart.
There are reasons certain forms of government work IN CERTAIN PLACES.
There are factors.
America, at this point in its history, cannot whole-cloth adopt the Swedish system.
And any leftist with a brain knows this.
But it doesn’t prevent American leftists from dangling the Swedish carrot (fish?) in front of the noses of their moronic acolytes.
And, as alluded to earlier, it is meant to draw the weak-minded “across the aisle”.
“Come on over. Everything will be just like Sweden. Not the current Sweden, of course, but…you know: the old Sweden.”
Two years after Wennerström’s life sentence was commuted to 20 years, he was paroled.
He had only been in custody for 10 years.
10 years for sharing 20,000 secret documents with the Soviets concerning Swedish air defenses, clandestine Swedish bases, etc.
This was the Swedish custom.
Serve half your sentence and get paroled.
Initial sentence could have been death [treason] (Cold War).
Actual sentence was life.
Sentence commuted to 20 years.
Cut in half (10 years) by parole.
That’s Sweden (in the early ’70s) and, perhaps, quintessential Swedish policy.
The “Nordic model”.
No justice, really.
No defense, really.
No state secrets, really.
No sovereignty, in actuality.
About as robust a defense apparatus as an IKEA bed.
Which is to say.
Interesting that Sweden is not a part of NATO.
What if the big, bad Russians (who have 20,000 secret documents pertaining to radar, strategy, mobilization plans…) actually were to invade Sweden?
Those are old documents by now, of course.
But the Russians have a very easy sell to potential Swedish spies.
“Don’t worry. There’s no declared war. This isn’t the Cold War. No treason. No firing squad. If you get life in prison, it will probably be commuted to a paltry 20 years. And you’ll be paroled after 10. If you even get caught.”
Great deterrence, Sweden!
Back to the “Nordic model”…
Guess who ARE members of NATO?
Denmark, Iceland, and Norway.
Finland, right on Russia’s doorstep, are (like the Swedes) not members of NATO.
For more examples of Sweden’s liberal (lax) justice/prison apparatus, see the case of spy Stig Bergling.
Sentenced to life (like Wennerström).
Fled to Moscow during a conjugal visit (you can’t make this shit up!).
Voluntarily returned to Sweden seven years after his escape.
And was PAROLED three years later.
Again, this was DURING the Cold War.
Bergling’s arrest was a full 15 YEARS after Wennerström’s.
In other words, this was the next generation (same shitty policies) of spies being slapped on the wrist.
Bergling was parolled in 1997.
Ahh, that liberal paradise…Sweden.
Unlike Switzerland, it has no natural defenses (mountains) to guarantee its continued paradisal existence.
Swedish Air Force.
Convicted of spying for Poland [Soviet bloc] during the Cold War.
Sentenced to a mere six years in prison.
Paroled after three years.
Which brings us back to the brilliant (I mean it!) Swedish storyteller Stieg Larsson…himself a committed leftist (going so far as to train guerrillas in Eritrea in the firing or mortars).
What of Vanger?
ASEA (the now-defunct General Swedish Electrical Company Limited) removed the swastika from their logo in 1933.
The company’s swastika logo had been used since the late-19th century.
What if it’s a similar sound?
In Swedish, “catches”.
Like in a cage?
In closely-related Danish, “prisoners”.
Like in cages?
What if a letter is missing?
In Swedish, “pregnant”.
Like, pregnant with meaning?
[svan, btw, means “swan” in Swedish]
Like Leda of Greek mythology?
Zeus, in the form of a swan, raped Leda (a woman) who became pregnant and gave birth to “the most beautiful woman in the world”: Helen of Troy.
And around whom does this mystery revolve?
The hauntingly-beautiful Henrietta (Helen?) Vanger.
Who had been been repeatedly raped by her father and brother.
[it is true that the Swedish equivalent of Helen would be Helena or Elin, but the initials match]
How did Larsson come to settle on this name Vanger?
Some have suggested Wagner.
Perhaps even Wegner.
Wolf, in Swedish, is “varg”.
Vargar, in Swedish, is “wolves”.
Now we are getting somewhere.
But we must flesh out the story.
We are looking for three Swedish Nazi brothers.
I believe the fourth (the good guy) was invented by Larsson.
Three Swedish Nazis?
How about Birger, Gunnar, and Sigurd Furugård?
They founded the Swedish National Socialist Farmers’ and Workers’ Party in 1924.
It’s a good fit.
The good guy might just be IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad.
By “good”, I mean that he was a member of the Swedish SSS (Svensk Socialistisk Samling [National Socialist Workers’ Party…basically Swedish Nazis]) at age 17 and before that, at age 16, a member of the fascist New Swedish Movement WHO LATER DECLARED (in 1994) that his membership in the latter was the “greatest mistake” of his life. His association with the SSS wasn’t publicly revealed until 2011 (at which time he made no further comment on having been a part of these types of groups).
So maybe Ingvar Kamprad wasn’t the good guy after all?
Did Larsson meld the Furugårds (Nazis) and Kamprad (a successful business man…and Nazi) into the amalgamation we know as the Vanger family?
So “far right” (says Wikipedia) that they were fucking socialists!?!
This is exactly what Pieczenik is talking about in the above video.
Fascism coming from the Left.
Kamprad started off with fascism (New Swedish Movement) and a year later went full-Nazi (National Socialist Workers’ Party).
You can’t take that word out of there.
And Antifa started as “anti-fascist” [against the Nazis, but FOR communism].
And they remain communist (leftist) and have devolved, ironically, into a fascist organization themselves (at least in America…where their tactics are indistinguishable from those of Hitler and Mussolini’s respective gangs [Sturmabteilung/SA/Braunhemden/Brownshirts & MVSM/Blackshirts/squadristi]).
BTW…IKEA was founded by a 17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad.
Yes, that’s right: he is confirmed in the above link to have been a member of the SSS [essentially the Swedish Nazi party] that very same year.
As for Lisbeth, look no further than the alleged Norwegian witch Lisbeth Nypan.
“blotches on its back”.
From mythology to the real life fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra).
Frigidity (able to extinguish fire).
But also “a product of fire”.
Wizards and warlocks.
Disappearance of the Beaumont children (on Australia Day).
Church of Satan formed by Anton LaVey.
Moors murder trial.
Five children (between the ages of 10 and 17) murdered in and around Manchester between 1963 and 1965. At least four were sexually assaulted.
Killer (Ian Brady) read Mein Kampf and books on Nazi atrocities.
Gertrude Baniszewski found guilty of murdering and torturing Sylvia Likens in Indianapolis. Paroled in 1985 [American justice failure].
Charles Whitman kills 14 people with a sniper rifle from above the UT-Austin Tower (after killing his wife and mother).
This much-féted masterwork was not only released on television (which is to say, it was not a “theatrical” film per se), but it was accompanied by a soundtrack on the very erudite German record label ECM and further augmented by a book (text and screenshots) published by the most famous French publishing house Gallimard.
The soundtrack is very difficult to find on CD, but it is becoming less-difficult to find in the digital realm (unlike the film itself).
You can at least “listen to the movie” on Spotify.
And so for this film review, we will only be considering (to start with) the first section (which runs 51 minutes).
It is the section with which I am most familiar.
It is my personal favorite.
But it is important to note that the entire 266 minute film is essential to the “weight” of this creation (even if this first part is the most finely-crafted).
But we will reconsider as we go along.
The first section of the film (that which is under consideration) dates from 1988.
The book was not released till 1998 (when the film was completed).
So we have a sort of serial composition here (in the sense of Finnegans Wake).
It came out in parts.
It dribbled out.
And its influence spread.
We remember William S. Burroughs and his concept of the “word virus”.
That is certainly germane here.
But I return, again, to Finnegans Wake.
No film creation in the history of cinema is more like James Joyce’s aforementioned masterpiece than Histoire(s) du cinéma.
Indeed, the only other creation I know of which enters into this same sui generis realm is Walter Benjamin’s Passagenwerk (translated in English as Arcades Project).
These are DENSE works…these three masterpieces.
One (Joyce) a “novel”.
One (Godard) a “movie”.
And one (Benjamin) a philosophical book.
Two books and a movie.
And the movie eventually became a book (Godard’s Gallimard creation).
The reverse of the usual.
Here, book doesn’t become film.
And there is not “more” in the book than there is in the film in Godard’s case.
If anything, there is certainly less.
Which doesn’t make it any less poignant.
So, what Godard has created for us with the book is a perfect guide to REMEMBERING WHAT WE SAW.
Which is a big theme of Histoire(s) du cinéma.
Film preserves the holiness of real life (to paraphrase).
Film (and video…of which this movie makes extensive use) preserves a moment.
Film can be (and is, always) a document.
Godard outlines a very French dichotomy here.
Film can be either predominantly of the Lumière brothers’ tradition (what we might call “documentary”).
Or of the Méliès tradition (a doctored reality…a “staged” document…what we might call “drama” [and its various subgenres such as “comedy”]).
But this dichotomy is not strictly “mutually exclusive”.
And here Godard brings us the example of Robert Flaherty.
Known as a director of documentaries, Godard points out that Flaherty “staged” his documentaries (which blurs the lines between the Lumière/Méliès dichotomy).
And what of Histoire(s) du cinéma?
Is it a documentary?
In many ways, yes.
It is a history of film.
But it is also a history of the filmmaker who is MAKING that very same history of film (namely, Godard himself).
To add further layers of surreality, Godard must address his own contribution to the history of cinema (which is considerable by even the most unbiased estimation).
Which is to say…
Godard is important to the history of film.
Whether you like him and his films or not, he cannot be ignored.
And so we have here a very curious and “loaded” document indeed.
It is a matter of historiography.
Godard cannot (and indeed, does not even try) to remove his own opinion from this exercise of surveying the history of cinema.
That may be, ultimately, because Jean-Luc Godard never stopped being a film critic.
It was as a lowly film critic that he started…and it is as a film critic with his caméra-stylo (“camera pen”) that he continues to create today.
All of his films are, in and of themselves, film criticism.
From Breathless to The Image Book, he is always making a statement.
Pointing out how vapid Hollywood can be.
Pointing out what doesn’t exist in the marketplace.
Perhaps he is creating that which he would most like to watch…as a film lover.
His favorite film didn’t exist (except in his head–except as a vague concept).
No one had made it.
So, in order to watch it, he had to create it himself.
Then he could (theoretically) “enjoy” it.
I imagine he does this with each new film he makes.
It is always an attempt (“essay”…from French etymology…”to try”) to materialize what he would like to watch.
No director has his cutting wit.
No director’s mind pivots so nimbly.
So he must become his own favorite director…over and over and over and over again.
But this film is indeed a special case.
Ten years of creation.
Joyce spent 17 years on Finnegans Wake.
Benjamin spent 13 years on his Arcades Project.
And all of this which I have written is merely a preface.
That is how IMMENSE and pithy(!) Histoire(s) du cinéma truly is.
To be a creator is tiresome.
It makes one weary.
To always dream.
And to sweat in pursuance of crystalizing ones inspiration.
Jean-Luc Godard has always been a bitter sort of chap.
Bitter about Hollywood.
A love/hate relationship (LOVE/HATE…Robert Mitchum…knuckle tats).
And it is true.
Godard delves very early on into the parallel birth and adolescence of cinema and the Holocaust.
Cinema and the Holocaust.
Cinema was still young.
Cinema had a responsibility to document.
The Germans were very technologically advanced (particularly in sound and video recording).
They kept records of everything.
Even when they went astray during the Third Reich.
Germany had already produced great directors by the time of the Holocaust.
At the top of the list would be F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang.
But they were not alone.
There were others.
UFA (which still exists till this day) was a giant.
So where is the documentation of the Holocaust?
[you can see what a “dangerous” question Godard is asking]
Is he “denying” the Holocaust happened?
I don’t think so.
But he’s asking a relatively simple and (I think) sincere question.
Where is the video record?
All that has been passed down to us of the concentration camps (and “death” camps) is the record made by American directors like George Stevens AFTER the camps had been liberated.
So what really went on there?
Are we to really believe the Germans shot no footage whatsoever in these camps?
And if so, why can’t we see it?
Wouldn’t it truly help us to “never forget” and “never again” and stuff etc. etc.???
It is a very inconvenient fact that, as far as the general public has been made aware, there are NO (and I repeat NO) films (NO FOOTAGE) shot by the Nazis in the concentration camps during WWII.
Surely it exists, right?
But where is it?
Who has it?
What does it show?
Godard is the ultimate enfant terrible here (and elsewhere).
He wants to know.
Because he’s a film lover.
And he ultimately blames Hollywood (which had, by WWII, become the global center of the film industry) for not truly DOCUMENTING what happened in the concentration camps (neither while the camps were active nor anytime afterwards).
But here Godard branches off into an aesthetic direction.
Godard flatly rejects the talentless Spielberg evocation of Schindler’s List.
For Godard, a directer as mediocre as Steven Spielberg has no business trying to tackle humanity’s darkest hour.
This is the conundrum at the heart of Histoire(s) du cinéma.
What Godard (I think) is saying is this: there is no way to “write” a history of cinema…because a large portion of contemporaneous history (1939-1945) was not addressed in any true way by the BUSINESS (ironically represented heavily by Jews) of Hollywood.
Godard seems to be saying that Hollywood’s Jews (which is to say, Hollywood) let down world jewry during the years 1939-1945…all for a buck (as it were).
It is a persuasive argument in many ways.
But let’s back up a step.
To reiterate, a history of cinema cannot be told…because there is a portion of that history which is MISSING.
This is a very important word here (and a very important term).
There are films which SHOULD HAVE BEEN MADE, but weren’t (by Hollywood).
And there are films which may have be made (by the Nazis), but as far as we know (factually) were not made. They do not exist (officially).
Two kinds of films missing.
Hollywood was responsible for the Méliès portion.
Hollywood should have used its immense power (and magic) to save the Jews of Europe.
EVERY FUCKING FILM should have been about the plight of the Jews in Europe who had been rounded up.
But we know very well that that’s not what Hollywood did.
The Nazis were responsible for the Lumière portion.
As twisted as the Nazis were, there is no way in hell those sick fucks did not film (with their Agfa technology, etc.) what was going on in the camps.
No fucking way.
Of course they filmed.
Like a goddamned serial killer.
And it was of pristine quality.
So where the fuck are those films?
But, sadly, Godard is called an “anti-Semite” for asking about these films.
He is coming from a “pure film” stance.
He wants to see the films.
He wants the world to see them.
And so the history of cinema is incomplete.
There is a gap.
Irving Thalberg. Howard Hughes. CIA. RKO. Starlets.
Film directors have been projecting their fantasies onto the screen since the beginning.
Their perfect women.
Their dream lovers.
But you can’t approach film history without approaching Hitler.
Film was at such an important point in its development.
And along came Adolph.
Chaplin and Hitler overlap.
They have the same mustache.
The Great Dictator was a comedy…more or less.
But it was also an attempt (“essay”) to address Hitler’s presence on the world stage.
An attempt to repudiate Hitler.
And yet, Chaplin could not quite hit the right tones.
It is maudlin.
As a comedy, The Great Dictator is pretty superb.
But it hasn’t aged that well as a piece of poetic philosophy.
In that moment, the great Chaplin was powerless.
But at least he tried.
But something was missing.
Direct reference to the camps.
Addressing the problem with no beating around the bush.
We need to see the bodies rotting.
We have seen that.
But we need to see the gas chambers.
We need to see the German efficiency and precision.
We need to see their documents.
Their film documents.
No Hollywood recreation can convey what those mythical reels contain.
No backlot will suffice.
We have the propaganda films.
I think what Godard is saying is this…
Hollywood has, since WWII, had to live with the guilt of NOT DOING ENOUGH during the Holocaust.
At the time (while it was happening), it was not kosher (no pun intended) to address the camps.
The public needed uplifting fare.
And Hollywood provided.
Hollywood provided a service.
But Hollywood (as an entity) was permanently cheapened by not addressing the deep philosophical issue of mass death…mass murder.
Hollywood could have yelled, “Fire!” in a crowded theater.
And, indeed, the theater WAS on fire.
But Hollywood said nothing.
Hollywood told jokes.
No medium is perfect.
Hollywood is people.
But as an institution, Hollywood was exposed as being essentially artless and vacuous.
There were exceptions.
Hitchcock (British…but part of Hollywood). Chaplin (British…but part of Hollywood).
Nicholas Ray. Erich von Stroheim (Germanic…but part of Hollywood). D.W. Griffith. Howard Hawks. Orson Welles.
But WWII was also the death of European cinema.
This is a very important concept that Godard conveys.
Not only were European Jews liquidated by the Nazis, but European cinema was effectively liquidated by Hollywood.
Europe would never be the same.
Fritz Lang. Jean Renoir. Abel Gance. Jean Vigo. Jean Cocteau. Roberto Rossellini. Max Ophüls.
America won the war.
The Soviet Union also won the war.
France was “liberated”.
And as Europe was subsequently split in half (the capitalist West and the communist East), the hegemony of American film [Hollywood] spread.
At the end of the Cold War, that hegemony became complete.
And so Godard is lamenting the death of his national film industry.
Godard is Swiss.
But he is, in many ways, also French.
He is a French speaker.
His years of highest-visibility were spent in Paris.
And there is not really a Swiss film industry of which to speak.
French film died (“liberated”/occupied).
Italian film died (lost war…occupied).
German film died (lost war…occupied).
Scandinavian film died.
Everything was pushed out by Hollywood.
Europe was relegated to the the realm of “art film”.
European cinema was put in a corner.
The wrecked economies of Europe could not compete with the war-machine-rich studios of America.
America had the magic–the fantasy–the special effects–the Technicolor.
Weary Europeans wanted happiness.
And they bought into the American idea of happiness.
To the detriment of their own unique cultures and philosophies.
Europe became Americanized (at least in the realm of the cinema).
Because it shows two of the most vile, reprehensible propagandists in the world.
Susan Rice and Barack Obama.
But it lets them speak.
The film lets Rice and Obama make fools of themselves.
[and it doesn’t take these two idiots long]
Then we are immersed in a richness of inquiry which befits the home country of our director.
But Álvaro Longoria’s film is about a wholly different place.
I was lucky enough once to visit Mr. Longoria’s hometown of Santander.
Though I was not there long, I found it odd that we (me and my traveling companions) boarded our plane on the runway.
A Boeing 737, I believe it was.
So we are talking about perhaps 200 people.
On a runway in Spain.
With a little control tower.
I must admit.
The operation was not heartening.
But then again, I’ve taken a propeller plane from Sacramento to San Francisco.
The world likes to think of America as filthy rich.
But we still have propeller planes for some of our shorter routes.
Flying over San Francisco Bay in a propeller plane wasn’t exactly my idea of relaxation either.
But so then…what do we think of North Korea?
If we listen to people like Susan Rice and Barack Obama (neither of whom, categorically, can be trusted), then we are to shudder at the thought of the DPRK.
Well, our director Mr. Longoria has given the most fair, measured approach to a very controversial subject.
And his final product (the film) is so much the better for it.
To wit, Mr. Longoria does not presume to think for his viewers.
He lets you decide.
If you are looking for bias in this film, you will have to look pretty hard.
Perhaps, you will reason, Mr. Longoria is a Spanish leftist and therefore he gives North Korea the benefit of the doubt.
On the contrary, one might reason that the director is a very (VERY) savvy propagandist himself…and therefore, his documentary is largely an exercise in reverse psychology.
I must admit.
When I heard the voices of Rice and Obama, my internal monologue of opprobrium almost caused me to lose my lunch.
But I stuck with it.
And I’m so glad I did.
What is at issue in this film, and in the frozen conflict zone of which North Korea is half, is the discipline/technique/art of propaganda.
If you are very dumb (and I doubt you are, as you are reading this illustrious blog), you will believe everything you hear about North Korea.
You will believe CNN.
You will believe Martha Raddatz.
You will believe George Stephanopoulos.
To call these two “presstitutes” is really being too kind.
They make Rice and Obama look like saints.
Those of the Raddatz/Stephanopoulos ilk in the United States journalistic community are really worthless individuals.
Mostly because they have ceased to BE individuals.
They aren’t even drones.
They are more like little Lego pieces of poisonous honeycomb.
But they’re not alone.
Throw in Diane Sawyer.
Actually (and I’ll throw the lefties a bone), throw in Bill O’Reilly.
All of these journalists are generally less than nothing when it comes to their global contributions.
And so it only makes the case of the DPRK stronger (for better or worse) when such née-individuals (including emasculated presstitutes) insult North Korea.
And so it is very clear that North Korea is the target of an immense amount of propaganda.
the DPRK seems itself to be quite prodigious in the art of manipulative communication.
So our director lets the two sides go at it.
It’s almost like two Charlie Brown schoolteachers (Othmars both) having a verbal altercation.
The West: “Blah blah blah blah HUMAN RIGHTS blah!”
North Korea: “Blah blah blah blah IMPERIALISTS blah.”
We must credit North Korea with restraint.
Keep in mind, this is a focus on the people.
What kind of people live in North Korea?
Adults, children…male, female…
And so the cynic will cry “Potemkin village” very early on in this one.
But it is worth watching till the end.
Most intriguing is the figure Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez.
Here’s an idealist if ever there was one.
But that’s what we must remember about North Korea.
It is a country of extreme idealism.
Let me frame it with slightly different diction.
It is a country of immense idealism.
[ah…we even got some alliteration there!]
Mr. Cao is, or was, Spanish.
Now he is a North Korean.
He is a spokesman for the DPRK.
As we say here in the West, he’s “all in”.
He digs their chili.
He’s drinking the Kool-Aid.
We want some of whatever he’s smoking.
[you get the picture]
But I must say…
Mr. Cao is an extremely (immensely) articulate individual.
To hear him tell it (and he does so with genuine conviction), North Korea is the last bastion of communism.
China has sold out to market forces (capitalism).
The Soviet Union sold out Stalin (Cao actually makes this claim).
[and, he asserts, China sold out Mao]
Vietnam is now thoroughly capitalist.
[that might be a direct quote]
So does Mr. Cao have a point?
Well, perhaps he does.
But there are doubtless few self-respecting communists [more to this sentence after brackets] who would hold up North Korea as a beacon of socialist governance.
Communist, socialist, Trotskyist…
It all begins to run together for us heathen imperialists.
There’s that other buzz word.
Indeed, if you look at the U.S. military bases in South Korea and Japan (which this documentary illustrates as a sort of “ring of fire” [pun intended]), the imperialism charge is not without evidence.
But this is really the quintessence of what Nick Tosches calls “intellectual parlor games”.
Meaning, we could be here all day.
I’m at nearly a thousand words (and so are you, if you’re still with me) and I haven’t even begun to truly scratch the surface of the imbroglio that is the 38th parallel.
Simply put, the U.S. has a vested interest in creating and propagating propaganda about North Korea.
[which does not mean that all of the reportage is made-up…indeed, the best propaganda has a kernel or modicum of truth…sometimes even a heaping spoonful…North Korea certainly does not seem to have the whole “public relations” thing down yet]
And conversely, North Korea has a vested interest in creating and propagating (mostly for internal, domestic purposes) propaganda about the United States and capitalist economies in general.
[and granted…the United States has done some incredibly daft stuff…the likes of which could be spun into a thousand tales of horror for 10,000 years]
What really complicates matters are nuclear weapons.
North Korea, we are told, has twenty (OH MY GOD! 20!!!) nuclear weapons.
The United States has sixty-eight-hundred (6,800) nuclear warheads in various states of readiness.
I hate to sound like Ted Turner (and it’s sad when Mr. Turner becomes a voice of reason), but there seems to be a rather glaring discrepancy there.
But one side is responsible (I’ll let you guess) and the other side is reckless (guess again).
Of course, nuclear weapons have never been used in war…except by the United States.
And so every society has its propaganda.
I will never feel very good that my country nuked two Japanese cities.
Somewhere between approx. 125,000 and 250,000 Japanese people (at least half of them civilians) were vaporized and/or bombarded with lethal radiation by Fat Man and Little Boy.
I know that the U.S. Department of Defense (then known as the Department of War and Department of the Navy, respectively) isn’t selling Girl Scout cookies.
But Harry S. Truman’s “display” on live targets is a rather hard pill to swallow.
We are supposed to think statistically.
Think of how many lives we saved (by, counterintuitively, squelching perhaps a quarter million OTHER souls).
I guess maybe after six years of war, we were insane.
They say it only takes 100 days.
Any man (or woman).
No matter how mentally strong.
Beyond that point.
But we were talking about North Korea…
Mr. Longoria is more of a scientist than me.
Our director, Mr. Longoria.
He meditates on the problem.
He is not rash.
Granted, his access to the “hermit kingdom” compels him to be open-minded (if only for the duration of his stay [and in strictly “apparent” diplomacy]).
It seems evident to me that Álvaro Longoria is a very formidable filmmaker.
I wonder what he would have made of our recent American election?
[when Trump supporters learned to hate Hillary…and Hillary supporters learned to hate Trump]
In retrospect, the United States has just been the battlefield of an immense propaganda war.
The winner (for the time-being) was and is Donald Trump.
But the war was so ugly that things are still not back to “normal” in the USA.
Perhaps they never will be again.
And that is also the lesson of The Propaganda Game.
This substitutes for bullets when you cannot shoot.
When destruction is mutually-assured, colder, icier methods prevail.
Sneaking, surreptitious oozing of lies and falsehoods.
All’s fair in war and love, they say.
And “close enough” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
“They” say that too.
“They” say a lot of things.
Indeed, “they” are the most quotable group around.
Yes, it is only right that a young female director should bring us this story.
Ms. Călugăreanu, born in 1981.
Because this film is very much about the 1980s.
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.
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…”
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.”
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
Yes, America has made some mistakes.
And so we should watch everything with a critical eye.
Be your own critic.
Be like Emerson.
And then double back.
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?
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.
But as that oeuvre was surreptitiously phased out, Hulu was unable to offer any value whatsoever to the thinking person.
And so perhaps it is ironic that my Netflix relationship (no chilling here) starts with a spy spoof of sorts, but make no mistake (as the woeful Barack Obama is wont to say): this is a very intelligent film.
It was a childhood favorite of mine.
Perhaps I was a strange child.
But we all want to be James Bond to a certain extent, right?
Even Putin had his cinema heroes.
Consider the film Щит и меч from 1968.
iMDB seems to fill in where Wikipedia fails.
Because these details tell so much.
To know one’s opponent.
But Vladimir Putin is not our opponent.
As long as our election stands.
Perhaps the answer is Stanislav Lyubshin.
Or was it Oleg Yankovsky?
The real answer is comedy.
Even spies need a laugh.
Spies are humans too.
Spy lives matter.
And so we get the provenance of the Pentagon basement meme.
A favorite of mine.
And this film.
Integral to who I am.
I had a cousin who worked in the Pentagon.
I don’t think she worked in the basement 🙂
But God rest her soul.
She is no longer with us.
And she was the most kind lady perhaps I ever knew.
She served her country.
I believe she did something in the health care field for veterans.
But yes…I identify extensively with Austin Millbarge.
In my own way.
Dan Aykroyd is stellar here as Mr. Millbarge.
And then there’s Emmett Fitz-Hume.
Chevy Chase is at his best in this film as Mr. Fitz-Hume.
Frank Oz is classic in his role as a test monitor.
Yes, Yoda and Miss Piggy were the same person.
How’s that for a mind fuck?
For young know-nothings like myself, this was a likely first exposure to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
And it speaks volumes that the DIA “recently” fielded its own band of covert operatives (in direct competition with the CIA).
There is, it seems, a palpable mistrust between the CIA and the U.S. military.
Different cultures. Actually, a class difference.
[Not to get all Marx here…]
But it’s real.
I can’t define the parameters other than those intuitive, nebulous sentiments just expressed.
It is (very) interesting to note that Dan Aykroyd’s wife Donna Dixon, who stars in this film, was born in Alexandria, Virginia…
We get Pamir Mountains.
We get Tajikistan.
But before that, we get Pakistan…and Budweiser…and Old El Paso tortilla chips.
And the intel cutout Ace Tomato Co.
And while we’re on the subject of failed businesses (Hulu), we should note that we definitely shan’t be accepting Indra Nooyi’s invitation (“Why don’t you gentlemen have a Pepsi?”) any time soon.
No…we’d much prefer to look at B.B. King’s Jheri curl blowing in the Nevada breeze…or watch Bob Hope “play through” on the Road to Bali.
But let us get back to that old enigmatic chestnut of our youth: the road to Dushanbe.
“It’s…’Soul Finger’…by…The Bar-Kays.”
“They must be having trouble getting gigs.”
God damn…best line ever!
“Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Aaaaand Doctor. Did we miss anyone?”
So many lines in this film which hit just the right mark.
Rarely do I write about screenwriters (it’s the auteur theorist in me), but Dan Aykroyd and his cowriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo (!) Mandel deserve major credit for the quality of Spies Like Us.
And yet, the direction of John Landis is fabulous as well!
Landis is no slouch.
I’ve previously written about the timelessness of Trading Places.
And I am sticking with that assessment.
But let’s take a break here…
Is there anything more lovely than seeing Vanessa Angel emerge from that tent?
Well, at least we get the cultural edification of some Lithuanian dancing to a boombox blasting Stax/Volt goodness around a Stolichnaya campfire 🙂
Back to the essential stand-down aspect of the false flag/stand down.
And for this we will always be indebted to Dr. Steve Pieczenik (and to a far lesser extent Roberta Wohlstetter).
We again refer to the FBI’s 1989 raid of Rocky Flats and the heavily-armed DoE agents guarding that facility.
Perhaps some U.S. Army Rangers are in Michael Chertoff’s not-too-distant future (to name but one grand conspirator).
“Ohh…I’m sorry Paul Wolfowitz! The correct answer is ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’!!!”