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You've Seen The Movie, Now Don't Buy The War

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  • You've Seen The Movie, Now Don't Buy The War

    YOU'VE SEEN THE MOVIE, NOW DON'T BUY THE WAR

    Steyn on America
    Monday, 05 November 2007

    As far as I know, the movie Deliverance has featured in political discourse just the once. Back in 1996, Pat Buchanan, hot from his triumph over Bob Dole in the New Hampshire primary, warned the country-club Republicans that he was coming to get them "like a character out of Deliverance." In the film, you'll recall, a quartet of suburban guys spend a nightmare weekend in the backwoods, in the course of which one of their number winds up getting strapped to a tree and sodomized by a mountain man. ("Squeal, piggy!")

    At the time of Pat's remark, I remember thinking: What a great country! In how many other political cultures can a fellow identify himself with a stump-toothed inbred psycho hillbilly homosexual rapist as an applause line? I'd love to think he'd paid some demographic-positioning consultants to focus-group the thing, but it seems more likely it was an impromptu flourish by the candidate.

    Now, however, Newsweek has attempted a more sustained political deployment of the movie. In a column headlined "War and Deliverance," their Middle East editor, Christopher Dickey, makes the picture the defining metaphor for "the Mesopotamian quagmire." The Atlanta suburbanites in the picture include Burt Reynolds as the obsessive wannabe back-to-nature survivalist and Jon Voight as "the perfectly ordinary man, the just-getting-by guy," but the one who in the end delivers his pals from the hell of their weekend in the country. Unlike most of us, whose knowledge of the film relies on hazy memories from the Seventies and late-night TV screenings, Dickey knows the story in depth: his dad wrote the novel and the screenplay. And, as he sees it, the Burt Reynolds character with his "untested ersatz fortitude" is "Dick Cheney's closet fantasy of himself," and the Jon Voight character is "the rest of us, just scared and trying to get by." As for the river whose rapids they set out to negotiate, "that's the war in Iraq."

    Christopher Dickey paints with a broad brush: "On a grand scale they [the Administration] could reinterpret the Constitution until it became meaningless." (Monitoring jihadist phone logs being the reinterpretation into meaninglessness, unlike, say, partial-birth abortion, which is merely an ancient constitutional right the Founders had cannily anticipated a need for.) So one's first reaction to this is a faint flicker of surprise that Dickey doesn't see Cheney as the mountain man and the Constitution as his rape victim. One's second reaction is that the metaphor is dishonest. When it comes to "closet fantasies" about toppling Saddam, it's not Dick Cheney versus "the rest of us." Throughout the 1990s and all the way up to the Iraq war resolution, there were a lot of folks auditioning for the Burt Reynolds role: Bill Clinton, Al Gore and almost every other prominent Democrat indulged in just as much "ersatz fortitude" about Iraq and its WMD as Dick Cheney ever did.

    But the third and bigger point is that, enjoyable as they are, pop-culture metaphors aren't really of much use, especially when you're up against cultures where life is still defined by how you live as opposed to what you experience via media. It seems to me, for example, that when anti-war types bemoan Iraq as this generation's Vietnam "quagmire," older folks are thinking of the real Vietnam — the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and whatnot — but most anybody under 50 is thinking of Vietnam movies: some vague video-store mélange of The Full Metal Deer Apocalypse. Take the Scott Thomas Beauchamp debacle at The New Republic, in which the magazine ran an atrocity-a-go-go Baghdad diary piece by a serving soldier about dehumanized troops desecrating graves, abusing disfigured women, etc. It smelled phony from the get-go — except to the professional media class from whose ranks The New Republic's editors are drawn: To them, it smelled great, because it aligned reality with the movie looping endlessly through the windmills of their mind, a non-stop Coppola-Stone retrospective in which ill-educated conscripts are the dupes of a nutso officer class. It's the same with all those guys driving around with "9/11 Was An Inside Job" bumper stickers. That aligns reality with every conspiracy movie from the last three decades: It's always the government who did it — sometimes it's some super-secret agency working deep within the bureaucracy from behind an unassuming nameplate on a Washington street; and sometimes it's the President himself — but when poor Joe Schmoe on the lam from the Feds eventually unravels it, the cunning conspiracy is always the work of a ruthlessly efficient all-powerful state. So Iraq is Vietnam. And 9/11 is the Kennedy assassination, with ever higher percentages of the American people gathering on the melted steely knoll.

    There's a kind of decadence about all this: if 9/11 was really an inside job, you wouldn't be driving around with a bumper sticker bragging that you were on to it. Fantasy is a by-product of security: it's the difference between hanging upside down in your dominatrix's bondage parlor for half-an-hour after work on Friday and enduring the real thing for years on end in Saddam's prisons. That's the real flaw in Christopher Dickey's Remembrance metaphor: If Cheney is Burt Reynolds, and the rest of America is Jon Voight, and the river is Iraq, who are the mountain men? Well, presumably (for he doesn't spell it out) they're the dark forces you make yourself vulnerable to when you blunder into somewhere you shouldn't be. When the quartet return to Atlanta a man short, they may understand how thin the veneer of civilization is, but they don't have to worry that their suburban cul-de-sacs will be overrun and reduced to the same state of nature as the backwoods.

    That's the flaw in the thesis: Robert D. Kaplan, a shrewd observer of global affairs, has referred to the jihadist redoubts and other lawless fringes of the map as "Indian territory." It's a cute joke but a misleading one. The difference between the old Indian territory and the new is this: No-one had to worry about the Sioux riding down Fifth Avenue, just as Burt Reynolds never had to worry about the mountain man breaking into his rec room. But Iran has put bounties on London novelists, assassinated dissidents in Paris, blown up community centres in Buenos Aires, seeded proxy terror groups in Lebanon and Palestine, radicalized Muslim populations throughout Central Asia — and it's now going nuclear. The leaders of North Korea, Sudan and Syria are not stump-toothed Appalachian losers: their emissaries wear suits and dine in Manhattan restaurants every night.

    Life is not a movie, especially when your enemies don't watch the same movies, and don't buy into the same tired narratives. To return to that 1996 Presidential race, Bob Dole, apropos Pat Buchanan's experience hosting a CNN talk-show, muttered testily at one point, "I was in the real crossfire. It wasn't on television. It was over in Italy somewhere, a long time ago." Happy the land for whom crossfire is purely televisual and metaphorical. But, when it turns real, it's important to know the difference.

    http://www.steynonline.com/content/view/667/
    Islam... it's a blast - literally.

  • #2
    I don't know who wrote this but it is so fragmatized and disjointed that I sure hope that someone doesn't actually get paid for their opinions. Oh wait, I'm talking about a journalist. That automatically means they are senseless and cannot conjutate a simple sentence.
    "If you are right, then you are right even if everyone says you are wrong. If you are wrong then you are wrong even if everyone says you are right." William Penn.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by trailboss49 View Post
      I don't know who wrote this but it is so fragmatized and disjointed that I sure hope that someone doesn't actually get paid for their opinions. Oh wait, I'm talking about a journalist. That automatically means they are senseless and cannot conjutate a simple sentence.
      Bless you TB. I got half way through it and thought I'd become illiterate.
      My Avatar: Ivan W. Henderson Gunner/navigator B-25-26. 117 combat missions. Both Theaters. 11 confirmed kills. DSC.

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      • #4
        It was written by Mark Steyn. He is widely syndicated, was born in Canada but, I think, he now resides in the US.

        I've always found him thoughtful and though provoking, even if does use the long, complex and mind-numbing sentences of a British intellectual.

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        • #5
          I started doing double takes in the third paragraph.
          Those that forget history are condemed to repeat it.
          If you're going to be one you might as well be a BIG RED ONE

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          • #6
            Originally posted by The Mclush View Post
            It was written by Mark Steyn. He is widely syndicated, was born in Canada but, I think, he now resides in the US.

            I've always found him thoughtful and though provoking, even if does use the long, complex and mind-numbing sentences of a British intellectual.
            We must have ran him out of the country, what blathering!!
            Eternal War(gaming) Armoured Struggle Car Bob

            History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis.
            Lazarus Long

            Draw the blinds on yesterday and it's all so much scarier....
            David Bowie

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            • #7
              Mark Steyn wrote THAT??? The same Mark Steyn that wrote "America Alone"?

              I am quite disappointed in him now, he now seems like in an incoherent 3rd grader.

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              • #8
                BTW, anyone seen "Lions for Lambs" around here? Heard it's an expensive flop, even with two heavyweights Meryl Streep (again?) and Robert Redford (way past his prime), and the handsome nut Tom Cruise.

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                • #9
                  So Steyn thinks he pop movie Deliverance is a metaphor for the war in Iraq? I thnik I got that out of his twisted rhetoric...but I honestly don't see the connection, unless Dubyah Bush is the retarded kid with the banjo as a metaphor for the entire American government.

                  Ogokuo: You should probably move your thread to the Movie section or the Barracks, hmmm?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by MountainMan View Post
                    So Steyn thinks he pop movie Deliverance is a metaphor for the war in Iraq? I thnik I got that out of his twisted rhetoric...but I honestly don't see the connection, unless Dubyah Bush is the retarded kid with the banjo as a metaphor for the entire American government.

                    Ogokuo: You should probably move your thread to the Movie section or the Barracks, hmmm?
                    Well, actually I think that Harry Reid is a much better character to put in the role of the kid with the banjo. The infamous Ms. P could be any of the womenfolk with buckteeth and torn clothes. Then I think that Ron Paul would be one of ....Well, I better hadn't go there.
                    "If you are right, then you are right even if everyone says you are wrong. If you are wrong then you are wrong even if everyone says you are right." William Penn.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MountainMan View Post
                      So Steyn thinks he pop movie Deliverance is a metaphor for the war in Iraq?
                      No, he doesn't.

                      "Back in 1996, Pat Buchanan, hot from his triumph over Bob Dole in the New Hampshire primary, warned the country-club Republicans that he was coming to get them "like a character out of Deliverance." In the film, you'll recall, a quartet of suburban guys spend a nightmare weekend in the backwoods, in the course of which one of their number winds up getting strapped to a tree and sodomized by a mountain man. ("Squeal, piggy!")

                      At the time of Pat's remark,...."


                      I thnik I got that out of his twisted rhetoric...but I honestly don't see the connection, unless Dubyah Bush is the retarded kid with the banjo as a metaphor for the entire American government.
                      I think the retarded kid with the banjo would be the type of person who continually takes jabs at bush.
                      Islam... it's a blast - literally.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Reiryc View Post
                        I think the retarded kid with the banjo would be the type of person who continually takes jabs at bush.
                        All the rednecks in Deliverance were pure Republican stock. Even the rapist (I seem to remember a large number of gay Republican congressmen in the news over the past few years. . . ).



                        And I don't think Bush is capable of playing the banjo, really. That kid has the edge on Dubya in the IQ department.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by daemonofdecay View Post
                          All the rednecks in Deliverance were pure Republican stock. Even the rapist (I seem to remember a large number of gay Republican congressmen in the news over the past few years. . . ).



                          And I don't think Bush is capable of playing the banjo, really. That kid has the edge on Dubya in the IQ department.
                          Gotta agree with Dubya and the kid.
                          Yep the Republicans have made some news. But then the Demos aren't interesting. "Dog bites man" thing. It's expected.

                          DoD, might change your posted "name". Sorta, kinda, makes ya look feminine. We all know "cold", and "large" dont usually mix
                          Last edited by holly6; 13 Nov 07, 19:50.
                          My Avatar: Ivan W. Henderson Gunner/navigator B-25-26. 117 combat missions. Both Theaters. 11 confirmed kills. DSC.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by daemonofdecay View Post
                            All the rednecks in Deliverance were pure Republican stock. Even the rapist (I seem to remember a large number of gay Republican congressmen in the news over the past few years. . . ).



                            And I don't think Bush is capable of playing the banjo, really. That kid has the edge on Dubya in the IQ department.
                            I rest my case...
                            Islam... it's a blast - literally.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by holly6 View Post
                              Gotta agree with Dubya and the kid.
                              Yep the Republicans have made some news. But then the Demos aren't interesting. "Dog bites man" thing. It's expected.
                              I bet it's because the sexual orientation of the Dems is kinda understood already, while the Republicans are still in denial.



                              DoD, might change your posted "name". Sorta, kinda, makes ya look feminine. We all know "cold", and "large" dont usually mix
                              A little viagra could solve that "cold" yet "large" problem.



                              Does that mean Viagra can fight off frostbite?

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