Thursday, September 22, 2005

The return of the "Idiot Civilian"

I watched E-Ring the new TV series on NBC starring Benjamin Bratt and
Dennis Hopper about the Pentagon Special Forces people. Dennis hopper
plays the generic crazy, Wild Bill type colonel, ala Blue Velvet. He
talks 'crazy talk' about how he want to smash the idiot neophyte,
whining, brat, civilian political appointee who never served in the
military.

Benjamin Bratt plays the hero. A gentlemanly Git-R-Done, battle tested
Delta Force guy who has a desk job now but still has his idealism and
bends the rules with help from his CIA girlfriend. He is the
prototypical soldier. It is his job to remind Hopper how crazy he is
and that he needs to smash the untouchable idiot civilian appointee and
break the rules so he has room to save the day. For half the show, the
only enemy was the idiot civilian that wants to 'leave our people
behind' and is afraid to take necessary risks. He is the real cause of
the intelligence failures, messing up the efficient and patriotic
soldiers and generals. The idiot civilion is the scape goat. This is
the first TV show or movie that has a scape goat that I have seen that
can only be Republican.

I think that message from the show had an interesting ring to it. It
completely inverts the anti-war message into a pro-military, anti-stupid
civilian line. The real problem is the civilian "political"
appointees. They are building on the fine tradition in America of
hating politicians and Washington and respect for the military. In
addition to that, the military needs to actually fight the political
system in order to get things done. I was expecting Fox style, Walker
Texas Ranger, Highway to the Danger Zone, hero worship. Instead it was
more like Rambo, GI Jane style anti-hero worship. This is no Navy NCIS
type TV show.

What is interesting about their choice of a Rambo model for their
prototype is that he is the eternal anti-establishment soldier, always
the underdog, always running. He wins by bypassing or hijacking the
system not following it, and using his wits not the rules. The arrogant
and thick headed civilians are the real problem in his world, they are
run on twisted politics not reality. Rambo can survive on his machismo,
'All American' internal strength, courage, MacGuyver like ingenuity and
righteous anger, and he always wins. It is the message where the person
wearing the black hat, the rebel, is really the good guy. He must rebel
because otherwise the corrupt system would destroy him. That is a post
Vietnam kind of message, back then it was an inherent criticism of the
paralytic and socially divided political legacy of Lyndon Johnson. The
system that is being portrayed now as being broken and inept, is under
the aegis of the right wing Republicans.

Ronald Reagan and every conservative that followed him frequently used
anti-establishment themes, they believed that the government built by
Roosevelt is the enemy. The measure of their success is that all the
targets they once used as a rallying point, the traditional supporters
of government and civil society have been wiped out or silenced. All
that remains of the Roosevelt and Johnson eras are the bedrock
programs. The thing they must contend with now, and a source of
opportunity for us, is that the political system belongs to them. It is
the result of their ideology. They have engendered a need for total
control of our society. There is no aspect of our society that stands
undiminished or without the threat of takeover. And they use what they
have gained for personal enrichment at the expense of the nation.
Anything they cannot use, they destroy, if for no other reason than to
deprive their enemies of what they want or need. They are breeding a
deep animosity within the American psyche, that will only grow from here
on out.

The Soviets used to call these kind of people aparatchiks, they would
sit in on everything and monitor and try to control everyone, but were
only loyal to their political masters. The aparatchiks made corruption
an essential part of the politcal system, a vile pyramid of graft, greed
and corruption. The malaise that has infected this country is a
Republican malaise. Who would ever have thought ten years ago that the
Republicans could be portrayed as having so much in common with the
Soviets. At this point, one of the messages we can own completely is
the message that the current system must be bypassed, that the only way
to succeed is to rebel against Republican authority, and that the social
paralysis we are experiencing is the result of an ideological and moral
failure by the right.

In a way we are back to where we were 25 years ago, the politics may have finally come full circle. The old messages from the Vietnam era have been inverted. The question I ask myself is how we can take advantage of this new wind blowing through our culture. It may mean that we need a new protest model or method of political expression that can tap into the popular consciousness, people might be waiting for the right message to come along. It may also mean that the Republican themes they used to rely on are now obsolete.

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