Friday, December 16, 2005

Scary Movie

Want to see a scary movie, Bush? You need look no further than "Good Night, and Good Luck," the story of Edward R. Murrow's exposure of the ruthless attack on the United States' constitution by Sen. Joseph McCarthy--the "junior senator from Wisconsin," as Murrow dismissively calls him. That infamous episode in American history was brought vividly to life by the movie's blend of first-rate black and white photography, film and television clips from the period, and a stunning portrayal of the journalist by lead actor David Strathairn. The rest of the movie, actually, is pretty much extraneous. But the core thread was enough in itself to satisfy this one viewer.

Why scary? Because the simple mental substitution of a single word throughout--"terrorism" for "communism"--brought the events of this movie right up to date. It's all there: the bully tactics, the blatant fear-mongering, the bending of the truth to fit an ideological agenda, the indecent smearing of opponents, and the basic ignorance (or cynical flouting) of what this country's founders meant by the freedom they envisioned--all were were a healthy reminder of the tactics of your administration and supporters. Contemporaneous speeches--recorded in shaky, out-of-focus newsreel film and early television tape by McCarthy and Murrow (as well as a stunner by then President Eisenhower) seemed as fresh, and challenging, and relevant today as they were back then. The red-herring threat of international communism, the abrogation of basic freedoms for fear of the enemy within, the abuse of patriotism as the chosen attack weapon against perceived enemies... It all recalled the post-9/11 world that you've created, Bush, in a thoroughly alarming way.

So the scary part is how this shameful past is re-enacted in today's world, with the media subservient to corporate and political interests, politicans beholden to the power of lobbyists, the suspension of civil rights, the assault on privacy and independent thought. When I look at despots like your belligerent Delay, your sleazy Rove, your sepulchral Cheney, the ghost of Christmas past comes rattling his chains at us, Bush, and that's what's scary.

Back home, I watched the latest rave by the irrepressible George Carlin. He has aged considerably, white and thinning on top, a little jowly around the jaws. He has always been a keen observer of social and political restrictions on individual freedom, and last night was no exception. He dwelled a lot on death, Bush, and on suicide--and managed to be funny even on these topics. But his tone had changed, I thought. The seriousness behind the satire was closer to the surface this time, and more biting. There was anger, certainly. Almost despair, as he lampooned the easy surrender of our individual rights to those who exercise the real power in today's society. Not, Bush, not you, and not the politicians, whom Carlin lambastes as mere puppets operated by the super-wealthy, super-greedy folks at the very top of the social heap.

It's how I see your good self, Bush. A marionette. A toy president, nothing more than a make-believe plaything in the hands of unimaginable, dark forces bent on extending their empire into mindless infinity. And the tragedy is that we allow ourselves, complacent in the unprecedented material ease of our lives, to be lulled to sleep while they contaminate our bodies and our minds. But it's not funny any more, Bush. The odd thing was, as Carlin ranted on, that no-one was really laughing any more.

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