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August 02, 2013

Detroit Failed Because Right Wingers Engineered It To Fail, to Prove Black People Can't Run Their Own Governments, Or Something

Precisely. You nailed it, Dummy.

By the way, we also deliberately engineered the flooding of New Orleans.

This was printed in Salon, an amateur fetish webzine specializing in political pornography which occasionally pokes fun at some rightwingers for their bizarre conspiracy theories.

Without ever noticing that those conspiracy theories tend to be "published" in blog's comments areas, rather than in the front pages of a supposedly professional webzine like Salon.

Is it pure coincidence that these two landmark cities, known around the world as fountainheads of the most vibrant and creative aspects of American culture, have become our two direst examples of urban failure and collapse? If so, it’s an awfully strange one.

I’m tempted to propose a conspiracy theory: As centers of African-American cultural and political power and engines of a worldwide multiracial pop culture that was egalitarian, hedonistic and anti-authoritarian, these cities posed a psychic threat to the most reactionary and racist strains in American life. I mean the strain represented by Tom Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby” (imagine what he’d have to say about New Orleans jazz) or by the slightly more coded racism of Sean Hannity today. As payback for the worldwide revolution symbolized by hot jazz, Smokey Robinson dancin’ to keep from cryin’ and Eminem trading verses with Rihanna, New Orleans and Detroit had to be punished. Specifically, they had to be isolated, impoverished and almost literally destroyed, so they could be held up as examples of what happens when black people are allowed to govern themselves.

Why, that is a perfectly reasonable conspiracy theory you've just made up whole cloth out of Hate and Failure Issues. I'm no psychiatrist, but I would say that that is no way whatsoever some sort of florid psychotic fantasy one might occasionally indulge in to keep the Bad Thoughts at bay.

Now since I've been forced to read this imbecile's piece, I'll just run with it and note that this guy, Andrew O'Hehir, usually fills his days embarrassing himself in movie reviews.

Here's his review of The Conjuring, a horror movie about a demonic possession and exorcism which supposedly occurred in real life, during the 1970s. The 1970s are a special problem for O'Hehir, and clearly the time this brokedown hippie came of age, as we'll see a little later.

Now I'm not going to quote much of this but I'll let you know he actually thinks most aspects of this movie are good to superior -- that is, it's a good movie. But let's not let that fact interfere with his ability to spill embarrassment all over himself by reading every single thing as some sort of rightwing cryptomessaging.

“The Conjuring” is an old-fashioned horror movie, almost old-fashioned to the point of meta-ness. I don’t just mean the 1970s setting, the haunted house in New England, the family under siege, the demonic possession, the pair of celebrity ghost-hunters and the Roman Catholic exorcism. I also mean the film’s deeply reactionary cultural politics, and the profound misogyny that lurks just beneath its surface. I don’t know how intentional this was on the part of the filmmakers – possibly not much – but “The Conjuring” is one of the cleverest and most effective right-wing Christian films of recent years. It’s a movie about America’s obsession with evil, and how easily that gets pointed in the wrong directions. It’s a movie based on the reassuring premise that when something is wrong in your family, your community or your country, you don’t have to worry about the priests, the cops, the dads or the other male authority figures. They’re the good guys. Blame the women.


Here’s the real “true story” behind “The Conjuring”: Any time people get worked up about a menace they believe in but can’t actually see – demons, Commies, jihadis, hordes of hoodie-wearing thugs — they’re likely to take it out on the weakest and most vulnerable people in society....

Are we still talking about the movie? Oh right we're not. We're talking about whatever your pea-brain gets fixated upon, moment-to-moment, like one of those poor kids that has to be leashed to Mother's shopping cart at the supermarket.

Oh well, I'll let this energetic little cretin tucker himself out and then check back with him in a few minutes, when he begins talking about the movie again.

Furthermore, I assume that James Wan, who was born in Malaysia, has no investment in America’s culture wars, and likely sees this movie’s retrograde politics as questions of style or genre.

James Wan is American, but he's Malaysian, so Andrew O'Hehir, who faints at the sight (or smell, or aura) of racism, has no problem reducing him to a socio-racial stereotype and deciding "Malaysians are apolitical on questions of culture. Like the Chinese -- they just care about tradition, family, and laundry."

I guess Andrew O'Hehir, Hater of Racism, has classed "Malaysian" as not One of the Good Minorities but are also Not One of the Bad Ones so I guess he's kind of fair and balanced on Those People.

Okay you doddering old fool of an imbecile, do screech more at us about racism, while "assuming" a raft of sociopolitical attitudes in those born in Malaysia.

Remember, it's not racism if you condescend in a good way. Sorta positive attitudes, like "I haven't declared Racial War on this guy yet because I don't know enough about Malaysians to really pigeon-hole them in a detailed fashion."

Anyway, let's crack on with the Dumb.

The three stages of demonic entanglement, as written on a classroom chalkboard: INFESTATION, OPPRESSION and POSSESSION. That also describes the mental deterioration that comes from watching Fox News for more than 10 minutes.

You're a... professional writer, right? At least that's what you tell your mom, right? You probably have business cards that say:

Andrew O'Hehir
Writer of Words
Weaver of Dreams

And yet you dashed that "Fox News" joke off and thought "That's gold, baby!," huh?

Yeah. I imagine you would.

Three words: Editors edit.

Yeah, I know. It's only two words. Ponder that a spell.

But the relentless focus of “The Conjuring” on married life,...

The movie is about a husband-and-wife "exorcist" team. Just thought I'd mention that.

Christian baptism and the old-school Latinate mumbo-jumbo of the Catholic Church...

Again, "exorcist" team.

...as essential elements in resisting evil...

Exorcist team. What does he think a Christian exorcist team would use to drive out demons of the Old Bible? Rachel Maddow transcripts?

.. and on womanhood and especially motherhood as the fount or locus of evil – is just too much to overlook.

He says this because the demon in the movie is female. It had to be one or the other (actually, I suppose one third of demons are sexless or hermaphroditic, but My God, can you imagine the review if it were a hermaphrodite? Katy Bar the Door and Get the Holy Water). Anyway, let him tell you.

Without getting too deep into spoiler-hood, the Perrons’ house turns out to be inhabited by a demonic female spirit. She preys on the living, yearns to possess a delicious and vulnerable young female body, etc. Nothing new here in terms of horror movies, or borderline Judeo-Christian theology, or generalized male panic.

Apparently when the female demon steals a woman's body, thus destroying that actual woman, it implicates the psychological syndrome of Male Panic.

Don't ask me why. Just does.

But along with the overall tone of hard-right family-values messaging...

Married couple, again. In real life they apparently stayed together until the husband dies. Thus these regrettable "hard-right family values messages." If only they took time out from exorcising demons to have a French frolic in casual infidelity.

“The Conjuring” wants to walk back one of America’s earliest historical crimes, the Salem witch trials of 1692, and make it look like there must have been something to it after all. Those terrified colonial women, brainwashed, persecuted and murdered by the religious authorities of their day – see, they actually were witches, who slaughtered children and pledged their love to Satan and everything!

Wow. I can't believe that a movie about demons posits that demons are real.

That’s not poetic license. It’s reprehensible and inexcusable bullshit, less egregious but somewhat akin to making a movie that claims, in passing, that slavery was OK or that the Holocaust didn’t happen.

Nailed it again. I'm gonna just call this guy "The Nailgun" because he nails everything in sight.

As a ninth-generation descendant of Abigail Faulkner...

1, he's probably making that up and got it from a How Goth Are You? web-quiz, and 2, if it's true, it's your typical aristocratic name-drop. You're one of the Sons of the Sons of the Daughters of Plymouth.

How wonderful for you. I kinda don't like more conservative people who are too eager to tell you about their Good Breeding and Plymouth Descent but I detest it in leftwingers, who pretend at being offended at such notions while never missing the opportunity to let you know they're of Good Stock.

Which is especially strange given his review of Secretariat, but let's finish up with this apolitical and inscrutable Malaysian's movie first.

... a convicted Salem witch who only escaped execution because she was pregnant at the time, I call down a terrible malediction upon the people who made this entertaining but indefensible movie.

Okay, well, you may be thinking, "Hey, maybe this obviously-insane idiot only got upset because he has this Persecution Fantasy connecting him to a Salem woman and he got a t-shirt about it at Hot Topic and he really wants you to notice and say, 'Hey, nice Hot Topic witch-shirt.'"

Nope. He also got very upset about the Horse Movie, Secretariat.

“Secretariat” is such a gorgeous film, its every shot and every scene so infused with warm golden light, that I began to wonder whether the movie theater were on fire. Or my head. But the welcoming glow that imbues every corner of this nostalgic horse-racing yarn with rich, lambent color comes from within, as if the movie itself is ablaze with its own crazy sense of purpose. (Or as if someone just off-screen were burning a cross on the lawn.)

No, don't roll your eyes yet. It's gonna get worse. There's so much more time for eye rolling. Pace yourselves.

I enjoyed it immensely, flat-footed dialogue and implausible situations and all. Which doesn’t stop me from believing that in its totality “Secretariat” is a work of creepy, half-hilarious master-race propaganda almost worthy of Leni Riefenstahl, and all the more effective because it presents as a family-friendly yarn about a nice lady and her horse.

I could tell you why it's a master-race propaganda piece but I don't want to spoil the surprise.

Can you guess?

Think about horses. Race horses especially. (Race horse, oh, what a giveaway.)

You've got some time. He'll get to it.

[I]t uses a “true story” as the foundation for a pop-historical reverie that seems to reference enduring American virtues — self-reliance, stick-to-it-iveness, etc. — without encouraging you to think too much about their meaning or context.

Although the troubling racial subtext is more deeply buried here than in “The Blind Side” (where it’s more like text, period), “Secretariat” actually goes much further, presenting a honey-dipped fantasy vision of the American past as the Tea Party would like to imagine it, loaded with uplift and glory and scrubbed clean of multiculturalism and social discord. In the world of this movie, strong-willed and independent-minded women like Chenery are ladies first (she’s like a classed-up version of Sarah Palin feminism), left-wing activism is an endearing cute phase your kids go through (until they learn the hard truth about inheritance taxes), and all right-thinking Americans are united in their adoration of a Nietzschean Überhorse, a hero so superhuman he isn’t human at all.

Well there you go, that's the "racial purity" thing: He's talking about the horse's bloodlines, and how it was bred to be a winner, and such.

The way racehorses actually are bred.

But whatever, he knows it's really about breeding people and whatnot.

Now, the fact that director Randall Wallace and screenwriter Mike Rich locate this golden age between 1969 and 1973 might seem at first like a ludicrous joke, if you are old enough (as I am) to halfway remember those years.

Just let me interrupt for a moment: They didn't "locate" the story of this movie during this time and in this place.

This is the time and place the story actually occurred.

See, again, a real-life story, or at least based thereon. And once again, aged hippie O'Hehir wants you to know that's not how he remembers the 70s.

I’ll say that again: The year Secretariat won the Triple Crown was the year the Vietnam War ended and the Watergate hearings began. You could hardly pick a period in post-Civil War American history more plagued by chaos and division and general insanity (well, OK — you could pick right now).

And again he's talking about a category of things I'll call Things Not In the Movie.

Wallace references that social context in the most glancing and dismissive manner possible — Penny’s eldest daughter is depicted as a teen antiwar activist, in scenes that resemble lost episodes of “The Brady Bunch” — but our heroine’s double life as a Denver housewife and Virginia horse-farm owner proceeds pretty much as if the 1950s had gone on forever. (The words “Vietnam” and “Nixon” are never uttered.)

Vietnam and Watergate aren't mentioned in a feel-good family/sports triumph movie about a Magic Horse, you say?

Interesting. No, not your point; I mean your psychology is interesting.

Not that interesting, mind you, but more interesting than your thoughtless writing.

You have all the wit of a chicken.

And not a very interesting chicken at that.

One shouldn’t impute too much diabolical intention to the filmmakers...

He began with a cross being burned just off-screen, but now he's cautioning, "Hey, let's not impute bad motives to the filmmakers."

...for all I know, Penny Chenery really did live in an insulated, lily-white bubble of horsey exurban privilege, and took no notice of the country ripping itself apart.

Let me see... a family that breeds racehorses...

Racehorses... horse racing often called the Sport of Kings, and usually involving millionaires...

Hmmm.... I'm thinking they maybe just might come from a wealthy suburb and have a little somethin'-somethin' in the bank.

"For all I know." The most telling four words in this review.

But today, in the real world, we find ourselves once again in an enraged and dangerously bifurcated society, and I can’t help thinking that “Secretariat” is meant as a comforting allegory, like Glenn Beck’s sentimental Christmas yarn: The real America has been here all along, and we can get it back. If we just believe in — well, in something unspecified but probably pretty scary.

Once again, this movie is about a Magic Horse Who Wins Races and Makes Kids Happy Yay-Yay.

Religion and politics are barely mentioned in the story of Chenery and her amazing horse...

In a Magic Horse movie? Well now I've heard everything.

... but it’s clear that “Secretariat” was constructed and marketed with at least one eye on the conservative Christian audiences who embraced “The Blind Side.” The film opens with a voice-over passage from the Book of Job and ends with a hymn.

Eek, a mouse. Okay, let's skip a bit.

If Americans love to root for the underdog, they may love to root for the favorite disguised as the underdog even more. That’s pretty much what happens here, with the blond, privileged Penny Chenery and her superhorse posed as emblems of American ingenuity and power against the villainous, swarthy and vaguely terrorist-flavored Pancho Martin (Nestor Serrano), trainer of Sham, Secretariat’s archrival. (Even the horse’s name is evil!)

The slightest amount of googling would have revealed that the horse with an evil name had to be called Sham.

Wanna know why? Because he was called Sham in real life.

And Pancho Martin, in real life, was called Pancho Martin. And was sort of swarthy, and Panchos tend to be.

And the horse is black.
And he's holding it by a rope.
Think about it. I didn't.

Now, even though Panchos tend to be swarthy, I'm sure they take no position in American culture wars. They're like Malaysians and Chinamen in that way. They're just all about Pleasing Their Grandmothers and low-rider cars.

The competition between the two horses was real enough; they raced neck-and-neck in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

Oh, you're aware! Because you've been writing for two thousand words as if Randall Wallace distilled this story from the blood of a wolf shot and hung by Sarah Palin.

But in your occasional lucid moments, you do seem actually aware that this is based on real events, real horses, a real sport, and real people.

And then you just lose it like Angry Addled Granddad. It's very sad. You're just in-and-out, as they say.

But the depiction of Martin as an evil, chauvinistic braggart is fictional and highly unpleasant — and it’s tough not to notice that he’s one of only two nonwhite speaking characters in the film. The other one is Eddie (Nelsan Ellis), an African-American groom who belongs to a far more insidious tradition of movie stereotypes. Eddie dances and sings. He loves Jesus and that big ol’ horse. He is loyal and deferential to Miz Penny, and injects soul and spirit into her troubled life. I am so totally not kidding.

The black guy who's one of the good guys is portrayed as loyal to the family, and the guy who is the Main Competition is portrayed as arrogant and a bit of a dick.

Wow. That Randall Wallace sure can innovate some right-wing cryptotexts in his scripts!

I am so totally embarrassed for you.

The man masturbates stupid and ejaculates embarrassment.

When you think about it, he treats obvious fantasy-- exorcisms of demons that didn't really exist; a fantasy premise that Salem really was Demon Central -- as reality which needs to be strenuously argued against, and then treats plain reality -- Secretariat beat Sham at about the time of Watergate -- as mere screenwriter's fantasy, which can and should be altered in order to suit his bizarre political proclivities.

A mad genius can produce searing works of art. A mad simpleton tosses off softheaded movie reviews for Salon.

This review was so stupid that even archliberal Roger Ebert declared it "bizarre" in one of his last pronouncements.

Shortly later he died. I am tempted to speculate that Roger Ebert could have read more Andrew O'Hehir reviews, but he took the coward's way out.

PS, I stole the "Think about it/I didn't" joke from Strangers with Candy.

I stole the Coward's Way Out joke from Jeff Ross, who used it, actually, about Gene Siskel. Bad taste, I know.

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posted by Ace at 07:49 PM

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