"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

© all material on this website is written by Michael McCaffrey, is copyrighted, and may not be republished without consent

American Factory: A Review and Commentary

****THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR MOVIE INFORMATION/SPOILERS!! CONSIDER THIS YOUR OFFICIAL SPOILER ALERT!!****

My Rating: 3 out 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. See it just to see the depressing and fast-approaching future for all American workers…and to see the consequences of America’s pro-corporate/globalist policies over the last forty years.

American Factory directed by Steven Bognar and Julie Reichert, is a documentary that chronicles the trials and tribulations of a Chinese company, Fuyao, opening a factory in Dayton, Ohio. The film is the first to be distributed by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground, and is currently streaming on Netflix.

American Factory is an infuriating film that will surely get your nativist hackles up and leave you red…white and blue with anger…I know it did with me. It is nearly impossible to watch this film and not walk away loathing the American working class for their self-sabotaging stupidity, the American ruling class for their avarice and corruption, and China and Chinese nationals for their arrogance, condescension and all-around disgusting deception.

The film starts with the closing of a GM plant outside of Dayton in 2008, allegedly due to the economic collapse. My biggest problem with this film is revealed in that simple assertion of blame because it is supposed to give context but is actually entirely, and deceptively, devoid of context. You cannot tell the story of American Factory and Fuyao’s move into Dayton without explaining the fertile ground upon which that story takes root. That fertile ground is the blood-soaked soil of post-organized labor America, and it began to take shape during the Reagan presidency when blue collar union workers voted for the flag-waving Republican former B-movie actor en-masse in 1980, and then Reagan swiftly turned around meticulously went about destroying organized labor in America.

The ground was further fertilized when Democrat Bill Clinton came to office in the 90’s and proceeded to do to America’s manufacturing base what Reagan did to organized labor…destroy it. Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement which was a boon for the investor class and ruling elites but was like a nuclear bomb dropped on blue collar workers and the working class in America. Manufacturing jobs fled the U.S. and in their wake left former bustling cities and towns looking like Hiroshima and Nagasaki after World War II. The American worker has never recovered from the back to back Reagan-Clinton double devastation.

To add insult to injury Americans followed up the disaster of Clinton by deciding they had to suffer through the even more pro-globalist, pro-business, pro-investor class, pro-ruling elite administration of George W. Bush. The Bush regime’s tenure was such an economic holocaust that it not only left the working class and blue collar workers in a pile of steaming rubble, but obliterated the middle-class and once prosperous middle-class neighborhoods with the housing bubble and subsequent collapse, followed by prodigious corporate bail outs.

The final bit of context is that this film is distributed by Barrack Obama’s new production company Higher Ground…and he has some nerve attaching himself to this movie as it is the equivalent of O.J. Simpson’s production company Good Husband distributing the Oscar winning documentary O.J.: Made in America. Obama is just as responsible for the cataclysm that American workers face today as his despicable predecessors Reagan, Clinton and Bush II. It is astonishing that Obama is getting praise for distributing this documentary highlighting the plight of working class Americans, when…you know…he could’ve done something to actually help them during the eight years he was President of the United States but chose to side with Wall Street instead.

When Obama came into office the economy was in ruins and he had the greatest opportunity of any president since FDR to make significant and lasting structural changes…but instead he chose to double down on business as usual and backed the Bush TARP plan and appointed to his administration or took on as his advisors globalist, neo-liberal, free trade, deregulating Wall Street whores like Little Timmy Geithner, Larry Summers and Robert Rubin and his acolytes, the same pricks who were responsible for the economic collapse in the first place. Obama chose to bail out corporations and shareholders and as a result they got richer, and everyone else got a whole lot poorer, and he also chose not to go after the Wall Street criminals who created the whole mess (or the Bush war criminals…but that is a story for another day).

Obama proved with his handling of the economic crisis and healthcare that he is a really disgusting charlatan who ran on “hope and change” but ruled on “fuck the working people”, just like his predecessors. Liberals and Democrats desperately need to disabuse themselves of the notion that Obama is a “good guy” and was a good president. A good way to do that is to watch the Flint, Michigan section of Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 11/9, and to educate yourself on Obama’s pro-corporate/globalist economics and then watch American Factory.

Once you have the genuine context for American Factory in place, then you can understand and become enraged by the same man, Obama, who along with his fellow establishment errands boys Reagan, Clinton and Bush, caused this catastrophe, having the temerity to comment on the horror of it.

American Factory shows America being colonized by not only foreign money, but foreign workers and foreign work culture. The globalist/NAFTA induced exodus of American manufacturing jobs in the 90’s to the cheap labor havens in China and elsewhere, hollowed out America and now foreign investors are coming in like carrion to pick away at the corpse. The systematic de-unionization of the American worker is now being exploited by billionaires, in this case a Chinese one, who come to our country and openly and blatantly shit on American workers, American culture and America…and we not only let them, we give them titanic tax breaks to thank them for it.

The American workers at the Fuyao plant in Toledo reveal themselves to be just as cowardly as the men in government who put them in this situation. The Chinese nationals treat these American workers with such disrespect and disdain that it is both shocking and repugnant. The Chinese nationals do the same to American laws as they routinely ignore environmental and work place safety laws, putting American employees at great risk. And if someone gets hurt on the job? Fuck them…they are fired.

The workers are so scared, so frightened and so weak after forty years of Reagan/Clinton/Bush/Obama, that they are totally devoid of any backbone. These workers should be ashamed of themselves for rolling over like dogs to these repugnant and despicable Chinese invaders. The shots of American workers groveling as they shake hands with the piggish billionaire owner of Fuyao, the grotesque Cao Dewang, who fancies himself a modern-day capitalist version of Chairman Mao, is revolting. One of Dewang’s most illuminating moments of assholery comes when American workers ever so gently resist against his authoritarian rule and he blames it on their anti-Chinese racism…classic. How does no one take a wrench to this vile asshole’s head and crack it wide open? How do none of the American workers show their Chinese overlords what a good old American beating looks like? Yes, they would lose their jobs and maybe go to jail, but at least they’d send a message to their enemies that Americans still have some self-respect, dignity and balls…for as the saying goes, “it is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.”

The most infuriating thing about this film is watching the American workers expose themselves for their staggering stupidity and weakness. How can anyone do anything so dumb as to trust any company, nevermind a Chinese one, to do the right and treat their employees well? How can anyone be so stupid…so mind-numbingly stupid, as to vote away their only chance at leverage and give away their only weapon?

I hate to say this but it needs to be said…if you are that stupid and that weak that you cannot stand up to your oppressors, cannot think strategically and tactically, not only don’t vote to empower yourself but vote to disarm and neuter yourself, and are so gullible as to put your trust into a corporation after watching corporations rape working people over the last forty years, then you deserve the shit sandwich you are being force-fed.

American Factory does a lot to reinforce negative stereotypes of both the Chinese and Americans, it does this by only giving viewers a shallow glimpse into the people living out this culture clash.

The Chinese workers are shown to be slavishly dedicated to their country and company over family, single-mindedly disciplined, and diabolically deceptive. The Chinese nationals are shown as two-faced rats, conspiring to destroy their American counterparts. The Chinese nationals are proud to take advantage of American hospitality by befriending American workers for the sole purpose of gaining disparaging information on them in order to ultimately fire them.

American workers fair no better in the film. The American workers who go to China do everything they can to reinforce the stereotype of the fat, lazy American, which the Chinese already whole-heartedly believe. For instance, when the American workers go to a corporate meeting in China they waddle in wearing sports and concert t-shirts and looking overall like a disheveled collection of complete and total unprofessional shlubs.

The American worker’s time in China is like a bad SNL skit come to life life. It is astounding that these embarrassments lack the intelligence and social grace to understand that maybe they should put their best foot forward and at least wear a button down shirt and try to carry themselves with some remote semblance of dignity.

Nothing is so cringe worthy as the fat, weepy American who gets emotional watching a bizarre group wedding during an event at corporate headquarters. This blubbering jackass ends up being consoled by a bunch of incredulous Chinese workers who look at him like he is some comic American mascot, like the Philly Fanatic or something, that has gone insane.

American Factory shows that America’s demise is undeniable. The workers in this film are symbolic of America, they prove themselves to be worthless and weak. God help us if we ever get into a shooting war with China because they will absolutely kick our fat, stupid asses. That is the thing that becomes crystal clear while watching American Factory, that we actually are at war with China right now, but only China seems to know and acknowledge this. The Chinese workers in America are soldiers on the front line for China, and they have knives sharpened and ready to plunge into American’s backs at the first chance they get, but the Americans are oblivious and have been softened by relentless conditioning to do nothing but repeat soft platitudes about how “ we are all one”.

I actually have great respect for these Chinese workers and their patriotism and devotion to China, as well as China’s commitment to its long term strategy to dismantle American economic and global hegemony, I just wish it didn’t come at the expense of my country. I also wish that the U.S. had the same level of dedication, discipline and forethought that China does, and instead of fighting against its working people, fought for them.

The most insidious of the Chinese nationals highlighted in American Factory is the new president of the Toledo operation, Jeff Liu, who has lived more than half of his life in America (and may actually be a citizen, it is unclear) but absolutely despises America and Americans. To be clear, Liu is an enemy of the American people in every way, shape and form, and deserves to be dragged out of his office and beaten senseless by an angry mob of Ohioans. Liu is a walking advertisement to severely restrict immigration, even legal immigration, into America. Our top colleges and universities are overflowing with students from China who come here to get an education only to then turn around and use it as a weapon for China to undermine this country. American Factory exposes this deadly deception and charade, it is like the Lenin maxim that “the capitalist will sell you the rope with which you intend to hang him” brought to life in Technicolor.

It isn’t just the Chinese nationals who are revealed to be duplicitous, as there are numerous American traitors in Fuyao management who sell their soul and side with the Chinese in their struggle against American workers. I would also be willing to bet that American elites and those on Wall Street and in the management/investor class will watch this movie and deeply empathize with Cao Dewang and his struggles to run a business and not with their fellow Americans and their desperate struggle simply to survive.

The war waged on American workers isn’t only being waged by the Chinese but across the board by all in management, the investor class and the ruling elite. As the end of the film shows, all workers are under siege and the race to make them obsolete and entirely expendable is well under way. The dream of management and the elite is to make the American worker an extinct species, and with the unions a perilously endangered species, extinction for all American workers is becoming more and more inevitable. The dream of the ruling class will be a nightmare for the rest of us.

In terms of the actual filmmaking on display, American Factory is a good…but not great, film. The film is nicely paced and does a good job of not interfering with the subject it is documenting, but the failure to adequately give proper context to the struggle playing out on screen undermines the film’s credibility and impact. The film also gives us glimpses into different peoples, both American and Chinese, and their lives around the factory, but these glimpses are much too short and shallow to give us any insight beyond caricature, and thus we are left with stereotypes and not insight.

In conclusion, this film is unintentionally an indictment of the establishment and the globalist, pro-business, pro-free trade, anti-union politicians and media elite who are responsible for the carnage that has devastated the American worker. I can’t imagine that anyone with half a brain in their head and a functioning heart in their chests could watch this film and not, at least once, throw something at their television screen. If you want to see the not-so-distant future of all America and the present day reality for blue collar workers and how Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama used free trade, unfettered immigration, both legal and illegal, and deregulation to turn first world America into a third world country…go watch American Factory (and the Flint section of Fahrenheit 11/9)…and remember the person who is distributing this film is complicit in the calamity documented within it.

©2019

Celebriphilia Epidemic Sweeps US: We Look Now To The Stars For Guidance

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes 37 seconds

CELEBRITY-OBSESSED AMERICANS LOOK TO THE STARS FOR GUIDANCE

Americans are blessed to have a plethora of benevolent celebrities who are willing to share their infinite knowledge and wisdom with them.

After a thorough examination by a team of top-notch doctors, I was recently given some very disturbing news…I was diagnosed with an acute case of stage 4 platonic celebriphilia. In case you don’t know, celebriphilia is a disease where the afflicted have an abnormal and overwhelming adoration of celebrity.

My medical team, which includes Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew and Dr. Oz, tells me that the symptoms of celebriphilia include feeling a false sense of familiarity and intimacy with celebrities which leads to the afflicted projecting an inordinate amount of inappropriate intelligence, wisdom and expertise upon celebrities.

My celebriphilia first manifested itself a few years ago when Academy Award winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow created her “lifestyle brand” Goop. Through Goop, Gwyneth sold new age, alternative therapies and devices at exorbitant prices, including “vaginal eggs” that were meant to be inserted into the vagina in order to aid “hormonal balance, and feminine energy”.

After re-mortgaging my home in order to finance the purchase, I bought a dozen vaginal eggs from Gwyneth. Now if you are wondering why I would buy vaginal eggs whose miracle powers were debunked in a lawsuit, especially since I don’t have a vagina, then you obviously do not have celebriphilia.

The way I see it is this, if I had a vagina, I would trust my friend Gwyneth to tell me (and sell me) the right wonder egg to stick into it in order to cure whatever ails me. If I’m going to trust anyone regarding my non-existent vagina, you can bet your bottom dollar it would be the woman who played Pepper Potts in the Iron Man movies…that alone makes her an authority in vaginacology.

The same is true of anti-vaccination proponent Jenny McCarthy. Jenny is a TV host and former Playboy model, which is the celebrity equivalent of being a Phd in immunology, which is why I faithfully obey her when she orders me not to vaccinate my kids because they could get autism.

Suzanne Somers starred on Three’s Company forty years ago, which is equal to getting a Master’s Degree in Bio-Genetic Engineering, and so when, contrary to mainstream medical opinion, she claims that “bio-identical hormone therapy” is the fountain of youth…I trust in Suzanne’s knowledge and wisdom.

You may think my Celebriphilia is so severe I need to take some medication to temper it…well…you’d be wrong. Kirstie Alley and her Scientology Lord and Savior, Tom Cruise, have informed me that psychiatry is a “quack” science and psychiatric drugs are dangerous. Kirstie was on Cheers, where everybody knows your name…and Tom Cruise is…well…TOM CRUISE!! So they definitely know what they’re talking about and I trust their expertise implicitly and will remain untreated, thank you very much.

My celebriphilia isn’t limited to just medical questions, the infection has spread to my thoughts on foreign policy and politics too. Thanks to celebriphilia I now blindly trust in Hollywood to tell me what to think. When Hollywood churns out star-studded, pro-war, pro-empire propaganda films and tv shows that have their scripts controlled by the Pentagon in exchange for military equipment, personnel, access and budgetary relief, I absorb the indoctrination unquestioningly.

We celebriphiliacs only get our news from rebellious comedians like John Oliver, Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert, and believe in every establishment talking point they sell us. I whole-heartedly put my faith in these second rate hack comedians desperate to stay in the good graces of their corporate overlords to tell me the unvarnished truth.

As a celebriphiliac I get all my insights regarding Russia from Rob Reiner, who is an expert because he played Meathead on the 1970’s sitcom All in the Family. When Meathead tells me that we are at war with Russia because they stole our election in 2016, I treat his anti-Russian proclamations with all the respect it deserves.

To get my political opinions I go to all the top experts…Robert DeNiro, Matt Damon, Bruce Willis, Brie Larson, Alec Baldwin, Tim Allen, Angelina Jolie, James Woods, Chris Evans and George Clooney. Sometimes these experts have conflicting opinions on political matters, like maybe Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin disagree on tax policy, or Tim Allen and Chris Evans have opposing thoughts on immigration. In order to resolve these deeply troubling quagmires, I do the logical thing and choose what I believe by siding with the celebrity who has the most Twitter followers.

Luckily for me, I am not alone in being afflicted with celebriphilia, as it is a raging epidemic in America. Here in the U.S.A. we adore our celebrities so much we actually vote them into high office. In the last forty years alone we have elected a senile, bad B-movie actor, Ronald Reagan, and a silver-spooned, D-list reality tv con-man, Donald Trump, to the presidency.

In my state of California, the epicenter of the celebriphilia epidemic, we have elected a sex-abusing, steroid-injecting, son-of-a-Nazi, movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to two terms in the Governor’s mansion, and the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea elected Dirty Harry himself, Clint Eastwood, to be mayor twenty-five years before he berated an empty chair at the RNC convention in 2012.

We American celebriphiliacs not only forgave these men for their shortcomings, we also imbued them with a wisdom, competency and expertise they did not possess, all because of their status as celebrity.

You may think that because I suffer from celebriphilia and treat celebrities like experts on things well outside their skill set, that I am insane. If the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”, then considering the level of corruption, incompetence and malevolence on display by “real” establishment experts in government, Wall Street, Big Pharma and the media over the years, be it in regards to 9-11, WMD’s and the Iraq war, the housing bubble and ensuing 2008 economic collapse, the 2016 election, Russiagate and the opioid epidemic, then listening to, believing in, or trusting in these “official” experts is equally as insane as buying vaginal wonder eggs from Iron Man’s wife, Pepper Potts.

The bottom line is this, I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv, but I have seen other people play them on tv, and I am a certified celebriphiliac, which I think qualifies me to make a formal diagnosis of what ails celebrity obsessed, and expert-addled America. After careful study and deep thought I have come to this conclusion…contrary to popular opinion, America is not losing its mind…just like me, it has already lost it.

This article was originally published at RT.com.

 

©2019

Disturbing Dispatches From "Real America"

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 11 seconds

I just returned from two weeks spent outside of my Hollywood enclave in what some would describe as "real America" where I went on a road trip from Central Pennsylvania (aka Pennsyl-tucky) to Cape Cod with various stops in between. On my journey I spoke with some regular people about their thoughts on Trump and American politics and came away struck by the disconnect between those ordinary folks and the liberal bubble in which I exist.

Since all of the information that I gathered is entirely anecdotal it should be subject to skepticism as it may very well be a result of my own confirmation bias, but with that said, the conclusion I came to after this jaunt through "real America" is that I am positive that in the battle for hearts and minds here in America, Trump is winning and winning bigly.

As I spoke with these "regular people", none of whom are particularly political, it became clear that Trump is going to win in November of 2018 (Republicans will hold onto the House and Senate) and will win re-election in 2020.

One of the most glaring things that stood out to me in my travels were the remarkable number of American flags on display. It reminded me of my childhood in Reagan's America as I have not seen that sort of unadulterated display of patriotism since the 80's. But what was fascinating to me was that the definition of patriotism and even of America has changed dramatically. "America" is not what the media thinks it is..."America" is not its institutions - the FBI, CIA or the rest of the establishment and government. "America" is now regarded as only the "regular people" throughout the country and not the leadership class. This new "America" is stridently nationalist and populist and marginally traditionalist.

This new form of nationalist populism is striking because it doesn't bring with it a muscular and belligerent militarism like Reaganism, quite the opposite. The folks I spoke with had no interest in spreading American exceptionalism overseas at the end of a gun but what they were interested in was a nativist isolationism at home where immigration is either slowed or stopped, illegal immigration is dealt with swiftly and effectively and free trade is drastically reduced.

The people with whom I spoke are not members of any political party, are not active in politics and have voted for both Republicans and Democrats at one time or another.  Nearly all of these people, even the ones who usually vote Democrat, commented on how much they loathe the waves of immigration from Central America that they believe negatively effects the "American" culture.

On the bright side, no one I spoke with said they liked Trump, in fact, even among his most ardent supporters, he was routinely called a "jackass" or a "clown", but they still supported him because he "gets things done". To a person, the Trump "voters/supporters" were not enthralled with him personally but they were most definitely much more disgusted with business as usual in Washington than with Trump's antics. Each and every one of them expressed contempt for Washington and most especially the media.

The venom spewed towards the media by these folks was pretty intense. I was thinking about these "regular Americans" when I sat in an airport waiting for my flight home and saw the news of Trump's summit with Putin and his allegedly disastrous press conference afterwards. CNN had a headline on the screen that read "Trump throws intelligence agencies under the bus". I laughed when I read it because I knew how "real Americans" were going to see that headline and the media coverage of the Russia summit, and it was the exact opposite of what CNN and their establishment media cohorts intended.

According to "regular Americans", the intelligence agencies are symbolic of the corruption of Washington and they, along with the mendacious media, are not to be believed in the slightest. The disconnect between how "regular Americans" view the Trump-Putin summit and how the media and establishment view it, would absolutely shock those making a fuss over Trump's performance at the summit. In addition, the Russian election hacking story and Mueller probe did not even register on the radar of these "regular Americans", as the story held zero interest to them.  

The subjects that did resonate with them were immigration and the economy. They liked Trump's approach on immigration, including the Muslim ban, and were very pleased with the economy, even though many of them felt no tangible results from any of Trump's policies, and in a remarkable bit of disconnect, some even had felt negative consequences from his policies (tariffs).

These "regular Americans" consistently gave Trump the benefit of the doubt whenever he had made an error and blamed the media for being too tough on him. Trump, even though he is President and controls both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, is seen as an underdog and an outsider fighting against a thoroughly corrupt system. 

My discussions with these "regular Americans" put my Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory research into very clear focus. In an almost horrifying realization...I discovered that the Churchillian archetype that was so prominent last year in the films Dunkirk, Darkest Hour and the television show The Crown, has manifested itself in the form of Trump (and to an extent in other authoritarians like Putin, Erdogan, Xi and Duterte) and not in resistance to him.

This Churchillian archetype has coalesced around Trump not in a war against an external enemy but rather in the internal civil war against the establishment (globalists). The Trump brand of nationalism, a concoction made up of a pinch of Reaganism, a dash of traditionalism and a glob of reality television populism, that my fellow Hollywoodites see as unadulterated fascism, is what the Churchillian archetype is fighting for, and that is a chilling realization when you understand how compelling that archetype currently is in our collective unconscious. This is why Trump is perceived by "real Americans" as the underdog and outsider and given the benefit of the doubt in his battle against the globalist establishment.

As Jung teaches, archetypes are neither good nor bad, they are amoral and can manifest and express themselves through a multitudes of ways. America being in the throes of the Churchillian archetype and Trump being the one through which it manifests, is a stunning turn of events, but it rather makes sense when you look at it through the prism of the other, overarching archetype also revealing itself in our world (and through Trump) at the moment...Mercury...the trickster god.

Psychologically and emotionally, Trump is terribly ill-equipped to carry the weight of the Churchillian archetype, nevermind the extremely powerful Mercury archetype, which is why we get such erratic and incoherent performances from him, but to be fair, Churchill was ill-equipped to carry the Churchillian archetype as well (which would explain his numerous battles with the Black Dog of depression)...and upon closer inspection the mythos surrounding Churchill is riddled with canyon sized cracks.

Trump supporters are not blind to his faults, they just don't care about them. Trump the man, just like Churchill the man, is almost irrelevant, it is the myth of Trumpism that matters just as it was the myth of Churchill that carried Great Britain through its Darkest Hour.

In the 80's, America fell for the flag waving, free market nonsense of Reaganism, and we still haven't even come close to recovering nearly 40 years later. Trumpism will have an even longer lasting effect on America, and it may very well be the end of the "American experiment" either because Trumpism wins, or because of the means the #resistance, including the intelligence community, use to rid themselves of this troublesome priest (Trump) will, like Brutus and friends when they conspired to eliminate the threat of Caesar to the Republic of Rome, lead to a path of self-destruction.

Regardless, those who think things will go back to normal when Trump is gone are in for a rude awakening...there is no going back. There is a new normal, and it is Trumpism. The fever of Trumpism is spreading and before it's done America and Americans across the political spectrum will be transformed into something they would not have been able to recognize a mere two years ago.

In conclusion, from my admittedly limited investigation into "real America", I came away stunned by the instinctual support not so much for Trump but for Trumpism out there. This is very bad news for anyone who opposes Trump (I know a lot of people who do), and I know the polls say otherwise, but my impressions are that his support is very strong and growing. Make no mistake about it...Trump is winning and the resistance is losing.

Deserving or not, Trump is the vessel in which the Churchillian archetype has manifested and is a vassal to the powerful Mercury archetype. One result of which is that the old knee-jerk patriotism of Reaganism has morphed into the new "nationalism" of Trumpism, and there is no breaking that spell in the short-term.

We can think that the buffoonish Trump is a joke...but the reality is that the joke is on us, and Mercury, as always, will get the last laugh...on all of us...including Donald Trump.

©2018

 

The Media Hates Conspiracy Theories…Except When They Don't

Estimated Reading Time : 6 minutes 38 seconds

KOOKS OF THE TINFOIL HAT BRIGADE

This week marks the 16th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. Whenever the topic of 9-11 comes up in the establishment press, it is wrapped in the warm cloak of officialdom and protected by vociferous assaults upon "conspiracy theories" and their unhinged purveyors. What is odd is that even during the anniversary week of the attacks, actual 9-11 conspiracy theories rarely rear their head anymore, only the denunciations of them from authority figures in the media who over time have become all the more fervent and ferocious in their attacks upon them. At this point, the sight of the anti-9-11 conspiracy crusaders pontificating in the media is akin to watching a straw man tilting at windmills.

The anti-conspiracy forces in the press don't just deride 9-11 conspiracies but all "conspiracy theories", reshaping the term into an epithet meant to belittle and mock anyone who dare believe in such nonsense as a "conspiracy". Without fail, every year, the establishment news puts out an article that "scientifically" proves that anyone who believes in a conspiracy is a loser and kook who eats his own boogers and maybe other people's boogers too. Google "why do people believe in conspiracies" and you can see the same article repackaged year after year in different media outlets. NPR, Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, Scientific American, CNN, Business Insider, Research Digest and the Washington Post all have articles reinforcing the belief that anyone who believes in a "conspiracy theory" does so because they are uneducated, lack control in their lives, are emotionally and psychologically unstable and are also inherently more violent and dangerous. 

This belittling approach to conspiracy theories by the establishment press has been very effective, for anyone who wants to be allowed entry into the Kingdom of Those Who are Taken Seriously, knows not to "peddle in conspiracy theory". A friend of mine, a man in his seventies, is so indoctrinated by this thinking that whenever any sort of "conspiracy" is even remotely alluded to he simply says "now you're talking conspiracy theory" and abruptly ends the conversation. He is not alone, as I have had more conversations than I care to recall with people of all ages where people simply refuse to consider something because they label it a "conspiracy".

"SERIOUS PEOPLE" VS. CONSPIRACY THEORY AND MAGICAL THINKING

Kurt Andersen followed the pattern of these dismissive and presumptuous articles when he wrote a magnificently awful, bias confirming, self-aggrandizing piece titled, "How America Went haywire", in last month's The Atlantic magazine where he bemoaned America's descent into non-rationality and conspiracy theory. The piece is taken from Andersen's book on the same subject and if you don't want to read it I'll give you a quick summary, Andersen majestically gets on his pristine high horse and doesn't just tell kids of this generation, but kids of ALL generations, to get off his impeccably groomed, rational and science based, lawn. Andersen's thesis is basically that he and anyone enlightened enough to agree with him, like his establishment liberal friends in the media, are the smart, rational and noble ones who are caretakers of all knowledge, and aren't fooled by idiocies like conspiracy theories or, God-forbid...religion. 

Adam H. Johnson, did a thorough and wonderful job of eviscerating Andersen's lazy, lackluster and thoughtless piece, and I encourage you to go read his article before, or instead of, reading Andersen's insipid Atlantic piece. As I read Andersen's article I was struck by many things, and then when I read Johnson's takedown of the piece I recognized that he and I both had nearly identical thoughts about Andersen's screed. The first thought I had was…why did Andersen start his timeline for when things really went off the rails in terms of conspiracy theory and magical thinking, after the Iraq invasion without ever mentioning that debacle? This struck me as odd because the Iraq war was a gigantic moment when a conspiracy theory and magical thinking came together and were peddled to the American public as fact by those in authority in the government and the press. It seems to me that the Iraq war was a key moment in destroying the credibility of the news media and authority in the eyes of Americans, which made the public more likely to disbelieve "official stories" and start to believe "alternative stories". But then Adam Johnson enlightened me as to why Andersen skipped the Iraq war altogether in his jeremiad…Andersen's editor at The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, was a key player in the spreading of those false conspiracy theories regarding Iraq and 9-11, and is a neo-con who pushed hard the magical thinking of American empire in the middle east. In other words, Andersen sold out to his paymaster in order to get his piece published in The Atlantic, which will now act as a commercial for his new book. Needless to say, Andersen's credibility and intellectual integrity are entirely scuttled by his decision to ignore some of the more glaring examples of conspiracy theories and magical thinking in recent times.

It isn't just the graveyard of the Iraq war that Andersen whistles past, what about the other real conspiracies that happened in the same time frame that effected us all, like when Goldman Sachs and the other too big to fail banks conspired to defraud their customers and the country, along with mortgage lenders, ratings agencies and the regulators? And while we are on the topic, what about the magical thinking of trickle-down economics? Or the fed re-infalting bubble after bubble? Or neo-conservatism as an ideology? Apparently, according to the King of Rationality, Kurt Andersen, neo-conservatives are not like those foolish rubes who worship an invisible man in the sky. No, neo-cons, just like Kurt Andersen, worship the right God…namely, the dollar and American Empire, neither of which are targets of Andersen's lazy, shallow, pompous and self-serving diatribe. 

THE SCIENCE IS SETTLED

"Serious person" Kurt Andersen reminds me of another self-serving, self-styled rationalist of his same, decrepit generation, Little Bill Maher, who just like Andersen, despises religion and worships "science". The trouble is that Andersen and Maher's faith in science is fundamentally flawed. An example of this occurred a few months ago when Maher was arguing with a guest on his show about the Scooby-Doo/Russian story, and his guest said that there is no evidence to support the conspiracy claims, and Maher vociferously retorted, "The science is settled!! All 17 intelligence agencies say so!!". Little Bill, as always, was talking out of his ass, as "all 17 intelligence agencies" did not sign off on Russian interference, four of them did, and they only claimed that they were "asserting" this to be true, but did not provide one iota of evidence.

Maher's phrase, "the science is settled", stood out to me. Science is rarely, if ever, "settled". The fact that it was lost on Maher that science is always evolving is ironic, considering his admiration for Darwin. What Little Bill and his equally arrogant comrade Kurt Andersen also mis-understand about "science" is that just because something cannot be replicated in a laboratory doesn't mean it is impossible or isn't true, only that it has never been replicated in a lab. Science is, at its heart, fueled by the humbling acknowledgement that we as a species have very little understanding about ourselves, our world and our universe. Maher and Andersen's presumptuous vision of science is one of a near omnipotent force that has figured out just about 99.9% of everything that is knowable in the universe. The reality is that mankind knows next to nothing about itself, its world and this universe, but the adherents of scientism, like Maher and Andersen, are too enamored with their delusions of superiority to ever fully contemplate or grasp that inconvenient truth. 

In terms of conspiracy theory, Little Bill is no better than the rest of the establishment media. On a show this past spring, Maher was talking with former CIA operative, Malcolm Nance, about the Scooby-Doo/Russia story, and Little Bill proclaimed that the intelligence community had Kennedy killed because he had a "pussy problem", meaning that Kennedy was vulnerable to blackmail because he was such a philanderer. This statement was remarkable for a few reasons, the first of which is that it went completely unchallenged by the former CIA agent, Nance, with whom Maher was talking, which would indicate that he too agrees with Maher's assessment of Kennedy's assassination, which is an extraordinary revelation. The second interesting thing about it is that Maher, ever the rationalist, is a strident opponent of 9-11 conspiracies because of his hatred of Islam, so his aligning himself with not only the Russian conspiracy, but a JFK one as well, was noteworthy in that it was a glaring intellectual inconsistency. 

Of course, what was really happening was that Little Bill was willing to set aside his usual adherence and allegiance to "facts and science"  in order to confirm his bias against Trump and the Russians, and in a round about way, be in support of the intelligence agencies. Maher wasn't saying that the intel community assassinating Kennedy was a bad thing, he sounded all for it, and in so doing he came across like he was encouraging them to do the same thing to Trump.

Little Bill's exercise in confirmation bias is, just like Maher himself, entirely unremarkable, as it is standard operating procedure in the institutional press and media. Just watch the intellectual contradictions fly on cable news or in the newspapers without any mention of the obvious moral, ethical, political and mental gymnastics required to ignore the glaring hypocrisies hiding in plain sight. 

CONSPIRACIES DON'T EXISTEXCEPT WHEN THEY DO

What I find interesting about this approach on all things conspiracy, is that it is entirely emotionally driven and so transparently vacuous as to be absurd. The reality is that a "conspiracy theory" should not automatically be dismissed simply because it claims a conspiracy occurred. The truth is, conspiracies happen all the time. I am not saying Bigfoot shot Kennedy or that Hillary Clinton is a Lizard Person (…although..I believe that he probably did and she more than likely is…), but conspiracies do not just live in the realm of fantasy, but flourish right here in reality. For instance, people are routinely charged with and convicted of "conspiracy" to commit one criminal act or another all the time here in America. So when people automatically and instinctively label anything a conspiracy false, simply because it is a conspiracy, they are not only taking a shortcut to thinking, they are denying things that are observably true. 

9-11 conspiracy theories, in particular, seem to really rile the mainstream media and those in authority a tremendous amount. Any 9-11 theory that deviates from the "official story" as compiled by the 9-11 Commission, is deemed a threat to the establishment order and treated as such with attacks and ridicule in the form of the demeaning slur of "conspiracy theory". The problem with this approach, for anyone who cares about language or…God-fobrid, Truth, is that the "official story" of 9-11 is actually...a "conspiracy theory". According to the 9-11 Commission, Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts in Al Qaeda, CONSPIRED together in a cave in Afghanistan, to have 20 hijackers fly planes into various U.S. landmarks, killing thousands of Americans. When two or more people conspire to commit an act, that is a conspiracy, and in the case of 9-11, if you subscribe to the official story, then you are subscribing to a conspiracy theory, but you will never hear the media call the official 9-11 story a conspiracy or conspiracy theory.

The truth is most people just use the term "conspiracy theory" as a way to bludgeon a disquieting set of facts or ideas that are contrary to their ideology or worldview. There is a very clear example of this dominating the headlines and talk shows on cable news this very day…the Russian Election Meddling Story. Most people I know unquestioningly believe this story, that the Russian government colluded with the Trump campaign and interfered with the U.S. election, to be absolutely, 100% true, and it may very well be true, but people are believing it without ever even reading the Intelligence report that is the foundation from which all of the stories about the subject are based.

If the Russians did collude with Trump and interfere in the election, than that is most definitely a...conspiracy, but interestingly enough, the news media are very careful to not ever call the Russia story a "conspiracy". The establishment has so systematically and thoroughly degraded the word conspiracy that they cannot even use it when they are alleging an honest to goodness conspiracy in which they themselves actually believe. 

RACHEL MADDOW LOVES SCOOBY-DOO

A friend of mine, the incorrigible Johnny Steamroller, calls the Russian "meddling story" "The Scooby-Doo Story", because "meddling" is an amorphous, weasel-word term that lacks much needed specificity, and that in the old Scooby-Doo cartoon tv show, Scooby and his gang would always solve some crime and the perp would tell the cops he "would've gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids!!" The Scooby Doo/Russian meddling story is interesting in terms of conspiracy theory because it is an "official" conspiracy theory and not an "alternative" conspiracy theory. That is the key to understanding the establishment media and their loathing or loving of a conspiracy theory. As gatekeepers for officialdom, the mainstream news will not counter any official conspiracy theory, but will eviscerate any alternative conspiracy theory. 

As a result of the distinction between official and alternative conspiracies, we get Rachel Maddow whole-heartedly embracing the Russian election conspiracy theory to the point that she makes Glenn Beck look like Walter Cronkite and Sean Hannity look like Edward R. Murrow. Maddow sees Russians behind every single thing that happens and furiously reports it as though she's found the Lindberg baby in the arms of Jimmy Hoffa. This should not be surprising though, as when it comes to the "officially" sanctioned Russian conspiracy theory, anything goes. Even the most stodgy of old school media entities have embraced the most batshit conspiracy peddlers in regards to the Russian story, one need look no further than the New York Times op-ed page where the certifiably insane Louise Mensch was allowed to write a pieceas proof of that.

Maddow may end up being totally right about Russia, and everything she is reporting true, but there has not been any solid, tangible evidence put forward to date to corroborate the claims of Russian interference she embraces. None. There was an Intelligence Report, that I wholeheartedly encourage people to go read (that Ms. Maddow tells her viewers to only read from select sections and not get bogged down in the details) that makes assertions that the Russian government tried to influence the 2016 election, but even that official report is completely devoid of evidence. That doesn't mean the story isn't true, it just means there is no evidence the story is true.

But that said, if you believe, as Rachel Maddow does, that the Russian government "meddled" in the election and colluded with the Trump campaign, then you believe in a conspiracy theory, that as of right now, has as much solid proof behind it as 9-11 being an "inside job" or the CIA assassinating Kennedy. Again, that doesn't mean those things didn't happen, it just means those things haven't been proven to have happened. 

EMOTION AS A WEAPON

Contrast Maddow's approach to the Russia conspiracy, an officially sanctioned conspiracy, to her approach to the Seth Rich murder - alternative conspiracy theory. Rich, a DNC staffer, was shot and killed at the height of the election season last year. The case is unsolved and what happened and who did it are unknown. Regardless of the void of information regarding the Rich case, Maddow, and the rest of her cohorts at MSNBC, are so opposed to any notion of a conspiracy in the Rich story that they are physically repulsed by it. The thread running through all of the anti-Seth Rich conspiracy reporting in the establishment press is that anyone who dare consider a conspiracy in the case is being cruel and vicious to the Rich family. These types of pleas to emotion by the media are giant red flags in terms of their credibility. Why should the media care if the family's feelings are hurt by people investigating the very mysterious death of Seth Rich, a case where no one knows what actually happened and who was behind his murder? And why is considering a conspiracy something that should never be contemplated ever again just because the family finds it offensive?

The same appeal to emotion occurred in regards to 9-11, when Maddow, in particular, and the establishment media in general, consistently claimed that anyone talking of conspiracies were being disrespectful to the memories of the fallen and their families. Even in the case of the JFK assassination, considerations for the Kennedy family were said to be of paramount importance to those in power and so if anyone asked why so many standard operating procedures were ignored, the establishment used the delicate feelings of the Kennedy family as an excuse for deviations from standard, or to hide documents or even destroy them (the autopsy notes etc.). 

The truth is that people may say they don't believe in conspiracy theories in general, but they will believe in a conspiracy theory as long as it acts as a piece of confirmation bias for their belief system or helps to alleviate their cognitive dissonance. If a conspiracy is useful to them, they will give it more credence than if it challenges their ideology. For example, the Scooby-Doo/Russia story is a conspiracy theory that confirms the bias of a lot of people on the left and in the establishment in regards to Trump's election victory, and may also help to reduce their raging cognitive dissonance. Being able to blame Russia for Hillary's defeat isn't just a salve for Mrs. Clinton, her adamant supporters or the media, all of whom have a great deal of humiliating egg on their faces, but it also allows all of these folks to avoid doing the thing we as human beings least like to do…namely, admitting we were wrong or that we made a grievous mistake. 

The Russia interfering in the election causing Trump to win narrative means that America isn't a nation that has lost its mind, Hillary wasn't as atrocious as she always has been and democrats weren't idiotic to have nominated her, and Clinton supporters and the media's instincts weren't as spectacularly wrong as they obviously were. Russia is a very convenient scapegoat for those looking to blame everyone but themselves for the election disaster that brought us President Trump. 

THE LADY DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH, METHINKS

As I previously said, the Russian election conspiracy may very well be proven true. There is a long history of foreign governments meddling in other countries elections, the problem is that the country doing the meddling is usually the U.S. This is an inconvenient fact for those in the establishment, and is usually ignored or glossed over as "whatboutism" or "moral equivalence", two terms in vogue at the moment used to shut down debate. 

That said, there have been previous cases of election meddling in the U.S., but these examples are also uncomfortable to the institutional press because they undermine the narrative of the establishment and American democracy as being above reproach. One noteworthy example was when Nixon sabotaged LBJ's Vietnam peace talks in 1968, in order to keep the war going and increase his chances of winning the presidency. What is interesting about this bit of election meddling is that the establishment media is only talking about it now in order to equate Trump with Nixon. 

Another example of U.S. election meddling is one that the mainstream press will deride as a "conspiracy theory", but which is in reality a conspiracy fact, and that is Reagan's treasonous deal with Iran to keep the U.S. hostages imprisoned until after Reagan won the 1980 election. Go read Robert Parry's outstanding work on this topic as it will surely help you to see Reagan's America, and the media's adulation of him, in a new light. It will also help to give context to this past year's election and the possibility of Russian interference.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, Official media go to great lengths to belittle conspiracy theories because they are seen as a threat to them and the established order they are committed to defending. The gatekeepers in the media are little more than stenographers to those in power, so when citizen journalists start stepping on their toes with questions those in authority would prefer not to hear, then the media kick it into high gear asserting their control over debate.

Just because something is a conspiracy, does not make it false, nor does it make it true. Each case should be studied and judged on the merits of the actual evidence. When judging the probability or possibility of a conspiracy, it is vital that we acknowledge our own personal predisposition's and biases and take them into account just as we take the veracity and amount of evidence into account. Know this, conspiracies happen, and the truth is that the most reliable theory of history is conspiracy theory, not the coincidence theory that the establishment hoists upon the public. 

The best bet regarding the current conspiracy du jour that the media won't call a conspiracy, the Scooby-Doo/Russian election story, is for the buyer to beware, not because the Russians are saints and Trump is a beyond reproach, but because the establishment and their shills in the media has been proven to lie over and over and over again…trusting them is a sucker's bet.

Regardless of whether a conspiracy has the imprimatur of officialdom or originates from an alternative source, it is imperative for us to demand clear-cut evidence and proof for or against whatever assertions are being made when people are trying to convince us of anything, especially when we are predisposed to believe what they are selling. Now…in that spirit, please go read the entire intelligence report on Russian election interference, especially the sources and methods section…you may find it very enlightening.

©2017

 

The Martian : A Review

 

SPOILER ALERT!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!! CONSIDER THIS YOUR OFFICIAL SPOILER ALERT!!

MY RATING: SKIP IT IN THE THEATRE, SEE IT ON CABLE OR NETFLIX

The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, is the story of Mark Watney (Matt Damon), an astronaut accidentally left behind on Mars when his fellow crew members think he has been killed in an accident. The film follows Watney's struggle to survive on the barren planet and NASA's attempts to rescue him. As my very clever friend The Magnificent Anderson said to me, "with Saving Private Ryan, Interstellar and The Martian, America has spent a ridiculous amount of money to rescue Matt Damon". I gotta be honest, after seeing The Martian, I don't think that money was very well spent.

I was excited to see Ridley Scott and Matt Damon paired off, as I am a big fan of both men and their work. Scott, much like his star Damon, is an often underrated talent. He has made some of the most iconic films of the last forty years. From Alien to Blade Runner to Gladiator to Thelma and Louise, Ridley Scott at his best is as good as anyone. Matt Damon is also often over shadowed by his more fame seeking contemporaries like Brad Pitt or Matthew McConnaghey, but Damon, with his work in Good Will Hunting, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Departed and The Informant, has proven to be by far the more superior actor. 

"NOTHING EVER HAPPENS ON MARS.BORING! BORING! BORING!" - Waiting for Guffman

From Mission to Mars to Red Planet to Mars Needs Moms, the planet Mars is generally where movies go to die. With The Martian the result of the trip is not as horrible as the three previously mentioned films, but it certainly keeps the Mars cinematic jinx firmly in place. So what went wrong with The Martian? Let's take a look.

The Martian is a very strange film indeed. It is bursting with dramatic and cinematic potential, and yet, due to it's fundamental flaws, it is never able to break the bonds of its pedestrian atmosphere and soar to the great beyond of filmmaking achievement. The fundamental flaw I am speaking of is the film's incredibly poor narrative structure, which leaves the movie curiously devoid of tension and drama. The structural flaw of the film is pretty basic, instead of giving the viewer only Mark Watney's perspective, Ridley Scott chose to show the audience the God perspective, where they see everything that is happening. So the audience is able to see and know things that the film's protagonist Watney, does not see and know. Because of this choice, all of the drama of Watney's precarious situation on Mars is drained and we are left with a rather flaccid storytelling and dramatic endeavor.

If the viewer were only given Watney's perspective, this would have greatly heightened the drama in a few ways. The first is, the viewer would be entirely connected to the Watney character to a much greater degree than they already are. If we spent the first two thirds of the film trapped with Watney on Mars, like we were trapped on an island with Tom Hanks in Castaway for instance, then we would have had a more intimate and genuine connection to Watney. The second thing that would have happened is that the audience would be put through the emotional and mental anguish that Watney would have gone through when he doesn't know if anyone even knows he's alive, never mind trying to rescue him.  We would have, along with Watney, discovered what it's like to be the loneliest man in the universe. The decision to use the God perspective completely undermines these vital dramatic points by showing us that NASA knows he's alive and is trying to figure out how to save him, and Watney doesn't know it. If we were left in the dark along with Watney, then every other development in the story would take on greater significance and dramatic power. For instance, when Watney finally figures out that NASA knows he's alive, that would have been a tremendously thrilling moment, instead it is a rather mundane one since we knew that the whole time while Watney did not. All throughout the story there are significant moments that could have been greatly increased by the use of a  minimalist perspective, such as when Watney figures out how to increase his food supply, communicate with NASA, how to escape Mars, and then how to aid in his own rescue.  Instead the viewing experience is diminished because we are never truly able to project ourselves onto Watney since we have a grander view of things than he does. The energetic connection between viewer and protagonist is broken, and the film greatly suffers for it.

Damon's performance is also undercut by the perspective issue. While he is certainly able to give Watney a humanity through humor, he fails to portray a viable sense of impending doom and dread. Watney, the eternal optimist, never has his optimism truly challenged, and neither does the audience. Resiliance is a great trait to have, maybe the greatest, but dramatically it can ring hollow if the character is never fully allowed to hit rock bottom. Watney needs to be allowed to fall into despair, a deep existential despair, yet he and the audience are never allowed to because we KNOW that he isn't forgotten and alone on Mars. If we could have shared in Watney's desperation, this would make his achievements, his strength and his resilience all the more impactful for the viewer.  Instead we get a performance that is just like the film, neither hot nor cold, but mildly luke warm. Damon's performance is, like the entire film, relentlessly safe and middlebrow, which are two words that previously would have been unthinkable in regards to a Ridley Scott project.

HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM, AND THAT PROBLEM IS YOU

The other problem with showing us the God perspective is that we are forced to suffer through all of the scenes back on earth. These earth bound scenes are, at best, terribly generic, and at worst, cringeworthy. I would prefer to die cold and alone on Mars than watch one more actor melodramatically pause and raise their eyebrows to signify that they've just thought of something astonishingly brilliant while everyone else looks on perplexed. This happens again and again and again. The acting on earth is pretty atrocious, with Mackenzie Davis being the lone, notable exception. Davis actually seems like a down to earth (pardon the pun), genuine human being, not an actor trying to play a real human being.

There are also some pretty egregious casting decisions as well. Jeff Daniels is a fine actor, his work in The Squid and the Whale is testament to that. Yet he is terribly miscast in The Martian as the sometimes cut throat leader of NASA. We seem to be in the midst of a Jeff Daniels renaissance at the moment, which is good for him, but I cannot for the life of me figure out why he keeps being miscast. He was remarkably miscast in The Newsroom as well. Daniels is good at a lot of things, but he lacks the gravitas to play the head of NASA or a bombastic tv show host. One of the reasons he lacks gravitas is that his jaw is not very prominent or square, and he is not much of a physical presence. Secondly, his voice is slightly nasal and higher toned and his diction can veer into mush mouth, both of which undermine any power or gravitas that come with the characters he is cast to play. The result is we are left with performances from him that feel forced and ring hollow when he isn't in a role that suits his considerable strengths. An actor who would be perfectly suited to play the role of the head of NASA in The Martian would be Ed Harris.

A MILE WIDE AND AN INCH DEEP

The Martian is one of those movies that badly wants to be both taken seriously and liked by everyone, yet in my opinion it achieves neither. The film tries desperately for a scientific realism throughout, but that becomes less viable as the film goes on, finally spiraling into a sort of scientific farce during Watney's rescue. The highlight of which is when Watney goes full on "Iron Man" by puncturing his spacesuit and propelling himself into the waiting arms of his commanding officer Melissa Lewis, played by an under used Jessica Chastain. This sequence is supposed to be the dramatic crescendo of the story but it plays as contrived, underwhelming and frankly laughable.

The Martian is not a great film, in fact, I would argue that at it's very best it is surprisingly average. Comparisons to another recent astronaut film, Gravity, which won seven Oscars including Best Director, will do it no favors. Gravity was not a great film either, but it was visually pretty stunning. The Martian is neither visually nor dramatically compelling, and I found it frustrating because of the remarkable talents of Ridley Scott and Matt Damon being involved.

Which brings me to my final point. Ridley Scott is a master craftsman and artist. He knows what the hell he is doing. A look at his most recent films, the bafflingly inept Prometheus and the abhorrent Exodus: Gods and Kings, shows he may have lost his fastball, but maybe, just maybe, with The Martian he was up to something else. The errors in the most basic fundamentals of filmmaking and the tepid storytelling by such a creatively brilliant man as Scott, have left me wondering if he wasn't up to something else, something much deeper. I have been thinking about The Martian and mulling it over for a week now, wondering what the hell was really going on? What was Ridley Scott REALLY up to. Was there something much deeper and more meaningful hidden within the film that could redeem it? I've come up with a few ideas. 

SYMBOLISM, THE COMING ECONOMIC COLLAPSE AND REAGAN'S MORNING IN AMERICA

One idea I had is that The Martian is really about the coming economic tsunami. What economic tsunami you may ask? Ever since I left a job on Wall Street in the early 2000's, I was telling everyone who would listen that we were headed for an economic earthquake. The evidence was hiding in plain sight for anybody with eyes to see if they dared look. I wasn't writing back then so you will have to take my word for it. Most people thought I was a kook and ignored me. Then 2007/2008 happened, and I ended up being right, and those people ended up being wrong…and losing a lot of money. Well…it seems very apparent to me that another economic seismic event on the same scale or larger than 2007-2008 is coming. The economy, like The Martian, is fundamentally flawed, dare I say, fatally flawed. The reasons for this are much too complex to get into here, but rest assured, I am not the only person seeing this tsunami coming, not by a long shot. Lots of people who are a hell of a lot smarter than I am are seeing it coming too. Spend some time over at Zerohedge, Chris Martenson, Max Keiser, Peter Schiff or The Independent Report among others and you'll get some great analysis on what is coming our way. Of course the establishment media will continue to cheerlead for the economy like the band playing while the Titanic sinks, they always do. In my humble opinion, the time frame for this global economic tsunami is the only thing in question. I believe it will happen in the next 18 to 24 months. 

Now that I've told you the tsunami is coming, what the hell does any of that have to do with The Martian?  Here's my theory…from the very beginning of the film Matt Damon represents the regular working man. In one of the very first scenes, he is meticulously checking soil along a very small grid, inch by inch. As he tries to talk to his co-workers and superior officer, he is told to be quiet and then his communication is shut off. No one wants to hear what the lowly worker has to say. Then, AS A HUGE STORM UNEXPECTEDLY ROLLS IN (the economic storm that is coming), and everyone runs to the ship, Damon is impaled and thought to be killed by a communication dish. 

When Damon awakes and finds himself alone on a dead and barren planet, he must use his smarts in order to survive. He starts by surgically removing the communications wire stuck in him, symbolically severing the ties with establishment media. Then he uses his intellect, AND THE REMNANTS OF THE MISSIONS THAT CAME BEFORE HIM, to survive. 

Damon uses everyday items to transform his surroundings and to protect himself. He uses a simple tarp and duct tape to reinforce his shelter, and later his escape rocket. He digs up some left over radioactive material in order to stay warm, a symbolic move that we must get away from carbon based fuels, of which Mars has none, and use alternative fuel, such as nuclear and solar. 

Damon uses his skill as a botanist, an old school, nearly forgotten science, in order to double and triple his food supply. This is symbolic of our need to return to more locally sourced and organic farming techniques in order to overcome the coming shortages. He even uses his own and his crew member's shit in order to grow food. After the economic tsunami, there is going to be a big shit sandwich, and we are all going to have to take a bite. The idea of turning chicken shit into chicken salad will take on a whole new meaning. We will have to be lean and resourceful to survive.

Damon also figures out how to reconfigure an old way of communicating, a Mars rover, and uses it to start communicating with NASA anew. He also uses an old, scientific alphabet when he communicates, this being a metaphor for civilization looking backward to the basics in order to look forward for solutions and that the old way of talking about things must be discarded and replaced with a new one, even if it comes from an old one.

When the US is unable to successfully send a ship to save Damon, the Chinese step in with their advanced technology in order to help out. This is symbolic of how global the coming collapse will be and how the world will be multi-polar instead of uni-polar from here on out.

Even the rescue mission is symbolic of what it will take to overcome the difficulties that lie ahead. The NASA ship that is coming to save Damon must LOWER ITS TRAJECTORY AND SLOW IT'S SPEED, in order to get closer to Damon as he can only propel himself so high. The graph used to show that trajectory could be an economic graph, meaning that endless rates of high growth are unsustainable and we will have to lower expectations and slow down growth if we want to have any chance to for the earth and humanity to survive. Also the rescue ship must blow up and jettison a great deal of its excess rooms in order to facilitate the slowing of it's speed and it's trajectory, both symbolic of the need for excess and decadence to be eschewed in order to right the ship of our planet.

Finally, as Damon is falling short of the rescue ship, he punctures his space suit in order to propel himself to his saviors, just like people will have to puncture their own bubbles of expectations in order to find the courage and the final fuel to move them forward into the future. Chastain catches Damon and the two tumble and spiral together, getting wrapped in her tether, symbolizing the need for everyone, both rich and poor, to commit to stick together in order for humanity and civilization to survive.

Yes…I know this may be insane. But watching The Martian  through this lens makes it much, much more interesting than watching it as a straight up Mars movie. There are a lot of symbols throughout the film which lend themselves to this reading of the movie. For instance, there are constant references to the 1970's…Damon watches Happy Days and poses as Fonzie, he listens to Chastain's playlists which is nothing but 1970's disco. These could all be symbolic of another more political theme, namely that Damon is the eternal American optimist, Ronald Reagan, who is trying to escape and survive the economic and cultural malaise of the 1970's and bring us into the stratosphere of the 80's boom (which was more a mirage than a boom, but that's a discussion for another day). I fully admit that this might be a bridge too far…but there is some evidence that supports this theory as well.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, if I am giving the benefit of the doubt to Ridley Scott, which I believe he has earned, then The Martian may be a metaphor for the the coming economic collapse and for how humanity and civilization must behave in order to survive it. Or it may be a metaphor for America which is stuck in a 1970's type of stagnation, both economically, politically and culturally, and that a Reagan-esque figure is needed to teach us to 'never give up' and to go back to our individualistic and resourceful roots in order to break free and survive. (by the way, just to be clear, I am not saying that is true, I am saying that the film may be saying that it's true)

Regardless of what you think of me, my economic predictions, or my theories, I recommend you keep them in mind when you watch the film. Trust me when I tell you it will make for a much more interesting viewing  experience. As for watching the film…there is no need to rush out and pay full price to see it in a theatre, you would be wiser to save your hard-earned money (and prepare for the coming economic tsunami!!). Plus you can always wait until The Martian is on cable or Netflix and watch it from the comfort of your own home while civilization crumbles all about you outside. 

UPDATE : I got a great email from reader Arthur H., who hails from the Land of 10,000 Lakes and 2 Coen Brothers, he writes in regard to The Martian…"I was greatly relieved to read your thoughtful, critical review because almost everyone I know who saw it, and so many movie reviewers, think it is a truly great film. After reading your comments, I feel much less nuts." Welcome to my life!! Just remember Arthur, in the Land of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man is King.

Arthur then gave a brief but very insightful review of his own, which with his permission I share with you here in full.

"The Martian is a "quintessential American" movie. Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, is a classic mythological American white man who, in this incarnation, claims the entire planet of Mars because he grows potatoes in his own excrement. Thankfully, he did not have to murder millions of Martians in the process of claiming Mars as his property. The Martian is also an excruciatingly boring, completely and ridiculously implausible, intelligence insulting Hollywood B movie for the uncritical masses. Watney making a plastic tarp sealed with duct tape to cover a hole in the spacecraft that can withstand the tremendous speed in his lift off from Mars? The final scene where astronauts catch Watney flying by with rope and bring him safely aboard their space vehicle? One needs to suspend your disbelief to appreciate theatre. For The Martian, you would have to totally demolish it. Well, at least, even though we, your God view, knew from the first moment Watney would be saved, there still is a lot of dramatic tension building throughout the film. NOT, none, nada, zero. Like someone said, "By the end no one cared except on the screen, and they were all acting."

Well said, thank you Arthur!!