With this current 2016 election year encapsulating all the bombast and fervor of our historical biases and terror, including loaded accusations of Soviet-style socialism in one candidate, corruption charges surpassing Nixonian standards in another candidate, attacks of ‘conservative radicalism’ (whatever that means) in a different candidate, and being literally Hitler in the last contender, I think it’s time we addressed the issues that tie all of these together: Fascism, politics, and the entertainment industry.
The truth is, the modern political charade is nothing more than a massive media frenzy to boost ratings and capture those Youtube views. It’s obvious; take their neatly-timed 10-15 second sound bites phrased almost always in absolutes (or something close to them, anyway), or their appearances on late-night television shows and general disdain for talking policy. I mean yeah, they’ll get into office and actually have to do some political crap (presumably, our current resident-golfer-turned-President notwithstanding) after they get a majority vote from the populace and the electoral college, but their policies are largely inconsequential at this point. Their personality is what counts. How do they carry themselves, what are their opinions about people and ideas, what are they going to apologize for? That sort of thing. Like actors. Or pop stars. Policies and governmental philosophies are only important inasmuch as they provide entertaining one-liners for political pundits to get their rocks off in masturbatory idolization so they can deposit another paycheck in the bank. Their stances on social issues seem to make very little difference with regard to how most of these people will actually govern.
Why is this? What made the politics so entrenched in the average American’s home? What has turned it from dry old men arguing about what might as well be esoteric semantics among each other in a semi-circular room beneath a white dome into a multi-billion dollar industry with whole television networks dedicated to it?
The obvious answer is Hollywood. The less obvious answer is fascism.
In its broadest definition, fascism has almost nothing to do with the typical Right/Left divide of modern politics. It’s about the elevation of the average man into a Hobbesian Leviathan through which the will of the people is made manifest—and more importantly, through which the people are led to salvation by their leader, someone who must otherwise be just another average man like themselves. Typically this entails anything from totalitarian control of the entire economy (hard Socialism) or at the very least massive subsidization of specific economic fields that the state decides are important toward national or cultural security (National Socialism or Corporatism depending on the degree). The truth is, while economic policy generally decides the fate of the nation, it is the social concerns that determine the fate of the people and the culture. It is for this reason that I see no particular difference in the various subtle distinctions usually drawn between things like Soviet-style Socialism and Mussolini-led Italian Fascism—the important part is that any definition imaginable hinges on some democratically-elected strongman to come in, rough up an ineffective bureaucracy, and fix everything that’s wrong with the system.
Strong man. Fix things. Defeat the corrupt system. If these things sound familiar, it’s because they’re the life blood thematic repetitions of every big budget action movie made in the US since the 70s. It doesn’t matter if the system is Ultron or corporate America or some kind of terrorist conspiracy, just as it doesn’t matter whether the strong man is a fireman, a computer hacker, or an autist behind a mask. What matters is that there are good guys pure of will (if at times somewhat psychotic) who will do right and make everything better. That this sells tickets only means that it keeps ratings high when you remove it from its fictional chains and enact such dramas out in real time.
Just as our movies have gotten substantially worse over the past ten or fifteen years, the average man’s voting habits have likewise degenerated into jaded, apathetic nonchalance about matters that actually affect him; meanwhile, his interest has gravitated toward an overbearing bizarre fixation on politically-charged matters that have very little bearing on the wellbeing of himself or his family. Black Lives Matter is just as likely to consume the dialogue and Facebook feed of a limp-wristed New York coffee house liberal as it is the college-age black youth attending George Washington U. And something like the gender wage gap has only ever been little more than a talking point designed to make people upset over absolutely nothing anyway; another something easily written off into the bin of hysterical feminist picket signs and tears. Wealth inequality? Carbon emissions? Abortions? Your typical protestor can’t even address what the specific problems are, half the time, much less identify how it impacts their life or what can be done about it. Pick any talking point of the Left and you’ll find more or less the same pattern.
But they can’t help themselves. All of your movies and TV shows are regurgitations of the same shit. Big tough-guy action movies. Thrilling crime shows. Pull the plots for CSI and Law & Order out of the headlines because your writers are creatively bankrupt—oh, I’m sorry, what I meant was that these shows are ‘realistic’, so they’re trying to find some way to make you identify with the next poorly-conceived and painfully executed material they could churn out this week. The point is that you don’t watch this tripe for something you haven’t seen before. You watch them because they cast actors you have seen before. How’s Nick Cage going to play this superhero I’ve never heard of? How’s Ben Affleck going to beat people up in a rubber mask this time? What kind of movie is Liam Neeson starring in next? The fact that these movies are all more or less the same stories with only minor differences in fundamental elements is irrelevant. You’re paying to see the actors. Writing, directing, sound design, all that other crap is just frosting. You claim to be in it for the characters who form this imaginary world on the screen so you can identify with them as if they were imaginary friends. But that’s folly. You follow around these actors when they’re promoting their film or TV show, when they’re giving interviews, when they’re joking around with the staff backstage on pseudo-scripted behind-the-scenes footage. The characters they play are just costumes.
The whole idea is to form cults of personality. Star power sells tickets where decent writing can’t. The airtime gives them visibility and you see their faces and hear their voices more often than you might even hear your roommate’s or your see your parents or interact with your peers. Hollywood wants you to be its friend so it can get you voluntarily handing over your money and mind in ways that only an alarmist dystopic fiction novel assigned in your tenth grade reading class could imagine. While these actors get chauffeured around in cars whose price tags are comparable to the loan on my house, they’re taking part in the same media spectacle that trains you to make one-sided friendships with celebrities you’ll never actually meet in your entire life. Mussolini would have killed for a spectacle like that.
For ratings. For vote farming. For endorphins. When your anarcho-communist hipster friends talk about how the democratic process has been hijacked by big money or by the media selectively targeting candidates, remind them that these things have only ever been exploiting the ever-widening flaws of an unsustainable system. Like termites eating away at the walls of your house, it’s in their nature. The democracy of America is not the democracy of its founding fathers. It is irredeemable mob rule by the lowest common denominator, and the media—like any effective and responsible corporate body—follows its nose to sniff out where the dosh is. Legislation isn’t going to fix it. Only the culture can. Movies today are garbage and this kind of celebrity-worship is little more than an accidental training tool in the would-be cult of secularist idol-worshiping. Stop vouching for would-be fascists.