18 April 2014

Captain America and the Threat of OIP Derangement Syndrome

As I noted yesterday, some right-wing media organizations responded to The Lego Movie with complaints that it was anti-business. (Others, to be sure, saw it as simply anti-government, and they were fine with that. Critics on the left saw it as about the danger to people of business and government intertwining, as they often warn. In fact, it’s about commercialism taking over entertainment.)

What about the other big superhero adventure of the spring, Captain America: The Winter Soldier? The directors of that film, Joe and Anthony Russo, said months ago that they were modeling it on the political thrillers of the 1970s, with a few over-the-top action sequences thrown in. They cast Robert Redford as a high official because his filmography includes Three Days of the Condor and All the President’s Men. They even dressed him in a 1970s-style three-piece suit, and he still looks good.

Both Christian Toto at Breitbart on the right and Asawin Suebsaeng at Mother Jones on the left picked up on that anti-authority theme by saying the film wouldn’t be screened at the White House soon. Nor, they could have added on the same speculative grounds, in Congress, the FISA court, the Pentagon, or other pillars of the political center and the security establishment.

But John Nolte at the Breitbart site went off the deep end, calling the movie “a blatant $175 million ‘screw you’ to Barack Obama's surveillance state.” One might be concerned about Nolte watching a PG-13 movie without a parent since he doesn’t appear to remember anything earlier than six years ago. But his response is just a symptom of OIP Derangement Syndrome.

The big danger in Captain America: The Winter Soldier is that a government agency wants to launch worldwide preemptive strikes against what it sees as threats to America or democracy. Preemptive action was the core of the “Bush Doctrine,” which Nolte cheered on his old website, now left to drift into the aether.

The “surveillance state” that Nolte blames on President Obama was in fact built by the Bush-Cheney administration. Nolte really should know that because he’s written, for example, about the Washington Post’s coverage of the NSA’s PRISM program, which clearly stated that program was established in 2007. As soon as the Obama administration came into office in 2009, it started to reveal more about the programs it inherited and to put more limits on them.

The disclosures of Bradley/Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden show that there’s much more we the people have to know. Nolte offered notable praise for Glenn Greenwald for helping to share the Snowden files. Of course, that happened during the Obama administration.

Based on Nolte’s stated support for some of the most egregious Bush-Cheney policies, such as waterboarding, and his decision to become a right-wing media voice (at first pseudonymous, then openly) because he disliked opposition to the Iraq invasion, I can’t help but think that his position on security leaks would have been quite different under a right-wing President.

Likewise, if Captain America: The Winter Soldier had been released under an administration he supported, Nolte would have complained that it was Hollywood’s usual attack on anything good and conservative. That’s been his professional hobbyhorse for years.

In making the security state its major threat, Winter Soldier echoes a common theme of the American left—a theme the American right takes up only when it’s not in power.

TOMORROW: And does the movie really tackle that threat?

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