"Everything is as it should be."

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22 July: A Review


My Rating: 3.25 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. Not the best film of the year but maybe the most important film of the year.

22 July, written and directed by Paul Greengrass, is based on the book One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway and Its Aftermath and tells the true story of the infamous 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway committed by right wing extremist Anders Breivik which killed 77 people. The film stars Anders Danielsen Lie as Brevik and Jon Oigarden as his lawyer Gier Lippestad.

I have been a fan of director Paul Greengrass since I first saw his film Bloody Sunday in 2002. Greengrass’ direction on Bloody Sunday was extraordinary and his frenetic cinematic style made that film a viscerally unnerving movie to experience. As a first generation Irish-American, my attachment to the Irish people protesting against the British in Bloody Sunday was already entrenched, but Greengrass’ innovative visual approach made the film and the horrific slaughter it depicts so emotionally jarring that I had difficulty containing myself as I watched.

Greengrass has tackled other emotionally raw material besides Bloody Sunday, as he also made the 9-11 film United 93, which told the story of the passenger rebellion against the 9-11 hijackers on that ill-fated flight that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. On United 93 Greengrass’ signature mixture of documentary-style realism combined with a hectic stylized hyper-realism through manic camera movement made that already emotionally combustible story all the more charged.

Grenngrass has used his style on other films such as Captain Philips and three of the Bourne franchise movies to good effect even though those stories were not so emotionally imperative and volatile as Bloody Sunday or United 93.

Which brings us to 22 July. 22 July is a very emotionally potent story even without Greengrass’ cinematic maneuvers, as it deals with children and young adults being in mortal peril. Any story dealing with the violent targeting of children is bound to arouse an emotional response from viewers, especially parents. I don’t know this for sure, but I would assume that the response of being revolted and unsettled at the sight of children being harmed is hardwired into the human brain. (and this biological auto-response is a useful tool for propagandists, as I have written before).

As I watched 22 July for the first time, as a father I found my reaction to be similar to my reaction to Bloody Sunday, I was shaking with emotion, projecting my son onto the children in peril in the film. But I also noticed something peculiar about the film, namely that as much as I was shaken by it, Greengrass actually seemed to be pulling his visual punches in telling the story. The scenes of Breivik’s attack on youth campers was jarring, but the way Greengrass shot it actually felt a bit watered down. The violence was palpable and garnered a visceral reaction from me but it was not even remotely explicit. Even Greengrass’ shaky camera seemed tamed down a bit.

I don’t blame Greengrass for being more strategically sensitive in his depiction of such an atrocity, but that decision to soften the blow of the tragedy a bit seemed to permeate the rest of the story. The more I watched the more I felt as though the drama Greengrass was trying to build was being undermined by the earlier decision to spare the audience of the grueling physical aspects of Breivik’s carnage.

After the attack sequences, which as I stated, were emotionally effective if visually subdued, the film struggles to maintain a compelling pace and narrative, as it focuses on the struggle of the survivors to come to grips with Breivik’s destruction.

The action skips between the Rocky-esque physical, mental and emotional recovery story of a young man and the story of Breivik’s attorney, who accepts the thankless job of defending this monster.

The survival story is uncomfortably trite and feels as though it is from another movie altogether as it is paced differently and thematically is out of rhythm. Jonas Strand Gravli plays the wounded young man, Viljar, and he gives a good effort to a very difficult role, but he never quite moves beyond indicating and graduates to experiencing. Viljar is not as multi-dimensional a character as he needs to be, whether that is Gravli’s fault or the fault of Greengrass’ script is open to debate, but regardless, the film suffers because of it.

The lawyer story though, is fantastically compelling, and is in many ways the best part of the movie. The lawyer, Gier Lippestad, is precisely and exquisitely portrayed by Jon Oigarden, who is a fantastic actor. Oigarden plays Lippestad as an understated hero, an archetypal Knight in Invisible Armor who does his duty because it is the right thing to do even if he doesn’t want to do it.

For those not familiar with the Norway Massacre upon which the film is based, which is probably true of most Americans, 22 July will be a startling and unnerving revelation. Breivik accurately foretold of the coming populist and nationalist wave that is currently engulfing the entire planet. In some of the darker corners of the web, Anders Breivik, who massacred 77 people, 69 of them children, is referred to as St. Breivik because he is part prophet/part martyr for the cause of European ethno-nationalism. Breivik told Europe, the U.K. and the world what was coming, and no one listened to him. Breivik may be evil, he may be mentally ill, but he certainly wasn’t wrong.

The Lippestad character is the one that viewers should focus on if they are looking for a way to quell the call of St. Breivik upon their countrymen and the equally thoughtless reaction of liberals to Breivikism. Lippestad does not embrace emotion, he does not embrace revenge, he does not embrace reactionary measures to silence dissent. What Lippestad does is pledge his loyalty and his life to the law. Lippestad understands his place in Norwegian civilization, and his critical role in keeping it afloat. Lippestad’s courageous decision to defend the heinous Breivik, despite what it costs him personally and professionally, make him a hero not just for Norway, but for all of Western Civilization.

The U.S. is well beyond repair now because it has long lacked people like Lippestad, most strikingly in the wake of 9-11. The Patriot Act, the expansive surveillance, the torture, the illegal wars…all of it…were a result of America and Americans embracing myopic and emotionalist vengeance. As is always the case, when emotion is your guide and an eye for an eye is your philosophy, everyone ends up blind.

Besides embracing the Lippestad ethic, viewers would be wise to not label Breivik as an irrational loon or outlier and should focus more on answering the legitimate questions he asks and the problems he raises. Breivik was not created in a vacuum, and while it would be comforting to simply try and eliminate or ignore him and his far right acolytes, the idea that propels them is uncontainable and on the loose, you ignore it or try to banish it at your peril. Liberal’s tactic of reducing their opponents to nothing more than irrational “racists” not only doesn’t solve the problem, it greatly exacerbates it. Stifling debate, delegitimizing serious concerns and ignoring observable reality is a sure fire way to radicalize opponents even to the point of violence. If liberals shut down the immigration debate with cries of “racism”, that doesn’t mean they’ve won it, or changed people’s minds, it just means they’ve abandoned the debate and shoved the resentment of their opponents into the closet, thus turning it into a shadow element that grows in power and intensity in the dark. Breivik is a fungus that grew in that shadow darkness…and he won’t be the last.

Breivik is a monster, but he was also right. Immigration is a major problem in Europe. European cultures are under siege and attack and Breivik’s logic was pristine when seen through that lens. Ignoring these realities doesn’t make you an enlightened liberal, it makes you a damn fool. When a people or culture are under attack one of two things can happen, these people can either capitulate or they can fight. Throughout human history the usual response has been for people to fight. You can see this in recent history, from the Middle East to Britain. Not surprisingly America was not welcomed as liberators in Iraq…or Afghanistan…or Syria…or Yemen…or Libya…or anywhere else. Just like the waves of African, Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants have resulted in Brexit, Viktor Orban, the Five Star Movement, Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen and Trump and every other anti-immigrant, pro-nationalist movement on the rise in Europe.

As I have written before, when an invasion occurs, war breaks out. Whether that invasion is of military troops or migrants makes no difference. And when war breaks out, always bet on the home team…that is why the U.S. has lost in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere. And that is also why the nationalist surges in Europe and even in the U.S. are the favorites to prevail.

An example of why this is can be seen in the behavior of my liberal friends out here in Hollywood, where everyone likes the idea of diversity, but once it costs them a job, or their children an opportunity or puts their children at risk, diversity goes out the window. People either fight or they capitulate. Here in Los Angeles, a very diverse city, many of my liberal friends who literally say that “diversity is the most important thing” to them, don’t send their kids to the very “diverse” public schools, but rather move to a tony neighborhood where the diversity isn’t “so diverse”. Either that or they send their kids to extremely expensive private schools in order to embrace “diversity” but just not too tightly. Like most things, diversity is great in theory, but more difficult in practice. In most cases when it comes to Hollywood liberals, “diversity” is deemed mandatory but only for those “racist” other guys, which is just like the Hollywood liberal approach to immigration, which they wholeheartedly support just as long as it doesn’t negatively effect them.

In conclusion, while 22 July is not the best film of the year, it is among the most important ones. I urge people to steel themselves and watch it, especially because you can see it on Netflix for free. 22 July asks viewers very uncomfortable questions that we all need to find the courage to deeply and honestly ponder, as we might not like the truth that presents itself when we look deep enough to find the answer. For me, the greatest takeway from 22 July is that Breivik was a prophet of doom and Lippestad is the needed antidote to Breivikism. The unsettling reality is that the Breivik infection has spread while the Lippestad antidote is in very short supply.


THE JOHN OLIVER TWIST : Out-Trumping Trump on The Great Wall of Trump



This is the fourth article in our new series THE JOHN OLIVER TWIST, where we monitor tv's political comedians and hold them accountable. The original article, Court Jester as Propaganda Tool, can be found HERE. The second article, The Drumpf Affair and Little Bill Maher's Power Fetish, can be found HEREThe third article Waxing Brazilian and Waning Credibility can be found HERE.

John Oliver's HBO show "Last Week Tonight", took Easter weekend off, so you would think I would have no fodder for my John Oliver Twist article this week. You might also think that with it being Easter that I would be so busy with bunny related activites that I would have no time to write yet another John Oliver Twist article...you would be sadly mistaken on both counts. After last week's John Oliver Twist - Brazil article ran long (as most of my articles do), I decided against posting my analysis of Oliver's allegedly devastating takedown of Trump's Mexican border wall proposal. With no new material to dissect this week, I am free to go back a week to examine Brave Sir John's supposed evisceration of The Donald's cornerstone issue. Here is the relevant segment from the March 20, 2016 episode of "Last Week Tonight".

As someone who does not support a wall on the Mexican border, I found Oliver's argument on episode six of season three against Trump's wall to be, frankly…Trumpian in its vacuousness, speciousness and transparency. What made this "takedown" so absurd was how obviously flaccid it was to anyone with an open mind on the subject and half a brain in their head. A brief glance at Oliver's argument reveals it to be at best, amateurish. 

Brave Sir John challenged Trump for his ever changing estimate of the cost of building "his" wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. At first Trump said the cost would be 4, then 8, then 10, then 12 billion dollars. Not surprisingly, Trump is a bit fuzzy on the details, which is par for the course with The Donald and part of his appeal to his followers, you see Trump is a big "ideas man", he'll let others fill in the details. Regardless of where that number lands, it certainly is a lot of money. Oliver claims that Trump's estimate isn't the half of it, as there will be maintenance costs and all sorts of hidden building costs and such, which will greatly increase the ultimate final cost, which Oliver puts at roughly $25 billion. Brave Sir John points out that this is $77 per American, and that money would be more effectively and more wisely used buying each American a Palmer Waffle Iron rather than building a wall. Cute. He then joked that this plan, unlike Trump's would not offend Latinos…only Belgians. In a weird coincidence, the terror attacks in Belgium a few days later made that joke much less funny in hindsight.

The issue I have with this line of attack from Brave Sir John is this, if we have learned anything over the years it is that Americans never give a rat's ass how much something costs, especially if it is something that they want. Look at it this way, $25 Billion certainly is a hell of a lot of money, but to put it into perspective, it is a drop in the bucket compared to other government spending. When compared to say, Obamacare, which is something that Oliver's liberal audience would presumably support, and that program's cost over a ten year period, which is $2.76 trillion, or even just the increase in overhead for Obamacare over that same time period which is $270 billion. Liberals would not be swayed against Obamacare by a "cost" argument, just like conservatives, and most Americans, were not swayed against the Iraq war by the cost argument. Speaking of which, $25 Billion is still $5 billion less than the U.S. spent every single month in Iraq during the war. If you remember, that war was sold on the premise that oil revenue would pay for the war effort…or put another way…the Iraqi's would pay for the war. Sound familiar? It should, because The Donald is guaranteeing that Mexico will pay for building the wall.

Brave Sir John did step up and take on the claim by Trump that "Mexico will pay for the wall". He used two clips of former Mexican presidents saying that "no" and "fuck no" they won't be paying for Trump's stupid wall. These denials are absolutely meaningless in the debate and prove little except how paper thin John Oliver's anti-wall argument really is, because of course Mexican politicians are going to say that Mexico won't pay for the wall. Trump's argument is that Mexico will pay because they wouldn't want to endanger the $54 Billion trade surplus they have with the U.S. Brave Sir John countered that by saying that yes, Mexico does have a trade surplus with the U.S., but that money is not just sitting in some pile somewhere, it is Mexican businesses money. A glaringly obvious point is sitting right out there for all to see but Brave Sir John ignores it because to acknowledge it would scuttle his entire argument. That point is this, that if a President Trump (God help us all) is in power and says to Mexico, "hey, either you pay for this wall or I am going to put big tariffs on all Mexican products coming into the U.S.", a Mexican President might say "fuck you" to Trump, but Mexican business interests will say…"no...fuck you El Presidente, pay that orange haired gringo for his stupid wall". And in Mexico, as in the U.S., money talks and bullshit walks. The reason is simple and clear, Mexico needs the wealthy American market much more than America needs Mexican goods. Apparently Brave Sir John has never heard of the term leverage, or how to use it. For decades now, the U.S. has been idiotic with it's "free trade" policy, this fact is a great part of Trump's appeal to blue collar workers. If Donald Trump, or anyone else, becomes President, he or she would be very wise to tear up all the free trade agreements we've gotten ourselves into and end "free trade" as we know it because it is neither free, nor trade. America is the wealthiest nation on the planet, we are of much more value as a market to every other nation on earth, than those nations are valuable to us for their products. Sometimes being a bully has its uses, and in the trade debate, this is one of those times. 

Oliver's next line of attack was to claim that Trump's wall simply won't work in keeping out illegal immigrants because no matter how high it is, people will just get ladders one foot higher to climb it and use ropes to climb down on our side. Of course, this conveniently ignores the reality that a wall is much more easily manned than a wide open border. And since the wall will be manned anyone trying to climb it will be exposed to the people meant to protect the border who are working on the wall. This is an obvious point that any impartial observer would note, and it is an extremely silly argument against Trump's wall.

Oliver also makes the claim that "nearly half" of all illegal immigrants have come across the border at official checkpoints. Brave Sir John makes it seem like this is some magic bullet that proves that the wall is totally useless and a giant waste of time and money….case closed.  Of course, this does nothing of the sort…think about it, "nearly half" of all illegal immigrants cross at border checkpoints? "Nearly half" can also be said another way…"less than half"…or better yet try this on for size, "more than half of all illegal immigrants do not cross the border at a checkpoint". Think of it this way…if the U.S. could stop "more than half" of all crime, wouldn't that be a pretty tremendous accomplishment. Or "more than half" of all drugs coming over the border, or terrorists coming into the country or whatever it is you are trying to stop. Even though his supporters are too blind to see it, Brave Sir John's semantic gymnastics are again, little more than clever cover for a glaringly vacant argument. 

Oliver attempts to buttress his "wall is useless" argument by declaring that Trump's wall won't stop drugs coming into America either because drug cartels already build tunnels, or use catapults, or slingshots, or just have people throw drugs over the border in an attempt to evade law enforcement. Seriously…this is his argument. Think about that logic for a second, we should not build a wall because people will try and circumvent it? Yes, cartels will still try to get drugs into the U.S., I mean, you can't keep drugs out of a secured facility like a prison, so your not going to keep them out of an entire country, but does that mean we shouldn't try to keep them out? O.J. got away with killing two people, so I guess we shouldn't arrest anyone for murder. What the fuck kind of dimwitted logic is that and what sort of numb-nuts falls for it?

The biggest issue I have with Oliver's "takedowns" of Trump are that they are fighting fire with fire…or better said…Oliver fights emotionalism with emotionalism. Trump is the master of pushing buttons and playing on people's emotions, and to counter that, one must plug into reason, logic and rational thought, not with counter-emotions. Trump's proposal is certainly vacuous, but Oliver's attack of it is specious at best. What Oliver is really doing is not rationally countering Trumps proposal, but rather satiating his liberal audiences emotional and psychological desire to feel intellectually superior. Think of it this way, would Oliver's argument against the wall convince anyone who believes that we need a wall to change their mind? No…it would only reinforce the beliefs of those who are already against the wall. This sort of argument is perfectly Trumpian…empty, hollow and emotive. Trump does little more than posture, pose and preen, and although his liberal devotees don't, won't or can't see it…John Oliver does exactly the same thing. Both men are symptoms of the same disease that has become epidemic and is ravaging this country…emotionalism.

In terms of the specifics of the immigration debate…want me to let you in on a little secret? Here it is…the powers that be don't want to fix the illegal immigration issue, they want it to forever be a mess. You want to know why? Well…whether you do or don't , I'm going to tell you. Illegal immigration keeps wages down and undermines organized labor in the U.S. (whenever you hear someone say that "illegal immigrants do the jobs Americans don't want to do" tell them that sentence is incomplete. Here is the complete version, "illegal immigrants do the jobs American don't want to do…AT THAT WAGE". And therein lies the problem and the proof of downward wage pressure), which keeps American workers struggling to keep their heads above water, and keeps corporate profits way up. Corporate profits keep the the powers that be happy and low wages and neutered unions keep working people struggling and disorganized, and a struggling, disorganized person is one who is more worried about paying their bills than marching in the streets. Speaking of marching in the streets, illegal immigration also does something else, and this is a topic no one talks about…it keeps pro-U.S. corporatists, tyrants and right-wing fascists in power in Central and South America. If all illegal immigration into the U.S. were stopped today, and all of those poor people who come here for a better life were stuck in the shithole from which they came, then eventually, the pressure in their home countries would grow and grow until finally it would explode in a huge wave of revolution. It is easier for the U.S. to absorb these down-trodden people and use them as near slave labor, than it is for the U.S. to keep them where they are and let them grow in numbers and get more and more disgruntled until they finally lash out and overthrow our corporate puppets who run their country. Mexico is, of course, the greatest example of this. But the rest of Latin America is also riddled with nations that have gone through multiple revolutionary cycles. The region is also infested with drug gangs and cartels, which the U.S. works very hard to keep in business. What? Why would the U.S. do that? Well, for one, to destabilize our own inner cities through an influx of drugs so that the poor can never organize and protest effectively, and also so that the U.S. intelligence community can have an off the books way of raising money for their nefarious operations around the globe. 

Which brings us to the truth about John Oliver, that he is a propaganda tool for the establishment in arguing for the status quo. John Oliver's audience is overwhelmingly liberal, yet he argues time and time again against working people and for the powers that be, and the immigration debate is no different. Oliver's liberal audience should believe in a strong working class and a unionized labor force, but illegal immigration undermines unions and the working class while exploiting poor illegal immigrants for nearly slave wages. In his case against Trump, Oliver argues against using our leverage to strengthen America's trade position in favor of giving our power away to corrupt Central and South American governments like Mexico. John Oliver argues for the status quo and allowing the people of Latin America to escape their native lands for the U.S., which lets corrupt tyrants and corporatists favorable to the U.S. establishment to never be held accountable to their people and to prosper throughout the region. As highlighted with last weeks Brazil column, Oliver has a special hatred for any left or liberal government in Central or South America (Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina etc.) that does come to power through the people's vote and goes out of his way to denigrate and attack them. 

John Oliver's stance on immigration is once again proof of his being a propaganda puppet for the establishment, and his liberal viewers unwitting dupes in his charade. The biggest red flag about Brave Sir John being a warrior for the establishment is that he never makes an alternative proposal to Trump about what to do about illegal immigration. This shows that John Oliver wants to maintain the status quo, which benefits no one but those at the very top of the power structure in the U.S, in other words, the people to whom Brave Sir John answers.

In order to not be accused of doing just what Brave Sir John does, and not offering a counter proposal to Trump's immigration plan, let me offer my own. You want to solve the illegal immigration problem? Make it a crime punishable by prison time for a business to hire any illegal alien and enforce that law for everyone in the corporate power structure of the company. Deport a million illegal aliens, and I promise the rest will leave by their own accord because they can't work due to pulling the weed at the root, which is employment. If illegal immigrants have had children in the U.S., which makes those children citizens, then allow those people to stay under a green card (with all the worker protections that come with it) and garnish a portion of their wages for ten years, and make them become proficient in the English language. After ten years or a certain total sum paid in fines for coming here illegally, and once they have learned English, they become citizens. Finally, legalize narcotics, which will eliminate the need for the drug cartels to use violence, corruption and human exploitation in order to run their business. Wow…look at that, I just solved some of the biggest issues currently ailing our nation. But guess what…none of these things will happen, not because they can't happen, but because the establishment don't want them to happen. It is more beneficial to the power structure in the U.S. for the scourge of the illegal drug trade, the downward wage impact of illegal alien labor, and the upward corporate profit motive, to continue than it is to solve the problem. With shills like John Oliver…and his HBO partner in crime, little Bill Maher, consistently making the establishment case while pretending to be rebelling against the establishment, I am sure no one will notice, or do anything about it, which is just how they want it.