Friday, February 24, 2012

Act a Fool


I was waiting to see how long it would take for someone on the left to publicly express concern over the new movie Act of Valor and the supposedly ominous precedent it may be setting when it comes to U.S. military cheerleading. I should've known it would be David Sirota to stop wringing his hands long enough to grab that flag with both of them and run it up the hill.

You'll remember that last May, Sirota penned an almost laugh-out-loud silly piece decrying the Pentagon's involvement in getting itself tied into the promotion of X-Men: First Class, ostensibly to America's impressionable youth. As if anyone other than a blithering idiot would believe that strapping on the gear of a United States soldier turns him into Magneto. Well, in today's Salon, Sirota returns to the subject of his well-documented night terrors over the "Military Entertainment Complex," the rise of which would seem to be demonstrated by any form of popular media at all that people enjoy and which doesn't flat out preach pacifism and demonize our military.

If you haven't seen the commercials for it, Act of Valor is a film which purports to star active duty Navy SEALs, certainly making it a first-of-its-kind endeavor and one that's undeniably intended to be two-hours of pro-troops propaganda. Controversy arises only if you think that glorifying a group of people who put their lives on the line in the defense of this country is something disturbingly sinister. I haven't seen the movie; it may be terrible from a filmmaking and storyline standpoint. I don't, however, think the overall "message" of a movie like this is necessarily a negative one. Obviously and not at all surprisingly, Sirota disagrees.

As with every time I bring up David Sirota, this is where I take a second to remind everyone that he wrote an entire book positing that our current political climate can be traced back to movies like Ghostbusters and Die Hard. Oliver Willis hits it pretty squarely on the head when he calls him "serially stupid."

Look, I hate to get all Colonel Nathan Jessup here, but we have an all-volunteer military in this country and somebody needs to step up and do the very difficult job that Sirota would never in a million years even be able to do, much less undertake voluntarily. I don't always back the people making the decisions to send our men and women into battle, but I almost always back the men and women themselves and I see nothing wrong with showing them some respect and with honoring their actions, by and large, by making them seem noble, heroic and larger-than-life in popular culture.

Likewise, while it's tough to fully trust an establishment entity like the Pentagon -- which admittedly has a history of treachery and malfeasance, as all military and political institutions do -- it's not beyond comprehension that it would want to make itself and its mission appear to the masses in the best light possible and to, yes, advertise. A certain segment -- though absolutely not all -- of Hollywood gets on board for the same reason that the entertainment industry has, for decades, glorified cops, firefighters and servicemen-and-women: because their jobs are dangerous and the life-and-death decisions and situations they can face every day are something completely alien to most people.

People go see Act of Valor or play Modern Warfare because it's exciting. Again, only an idiot doesn't understand what real warfare is like -- particularly given the number of media resources readily available today -- and rarely do movies, television and even video games completely gloss over the horrors of armed conflict. But Sirota, who's the modern standard-bearer of the self-appointed Liberal Protective Class, believes that we're all easy dupes for whatever supposed propaganda is aimed in our direction and therefore must be safeguarded from it at all costs.

I apparently don't know enough to be able to separate fact from fiction from hype when I see a movie like Act of Valor. Thank God for guys like David Sirota who can enlighten and coddle me from on high while comically shaking a fist at the bad people trying to have their way with me.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

With perhaps the exception being "Stoltz der Nation" (the propaganda movie in "Inglorious Basterds") most war movies are pro-troop but anti-war. While I've not seen this movie I'd be willing to bet it does the same thing making us glad it's not us in danger.

I wonder if David Sirota has poo-pooed every other war movie (be it acted or real) that's come out claiming it will set an ominous precedent.

Chez said...

I wonder sometimes if guys like Sirota and Greenwald honestly believe that the only honorable member of the U.S. military is Bradley Manning. It wouldn't surprise me at all -- although the irony would probably make my brain implode.

lakelady said...

First let me say I highly respect Navy Seals. I can honestly say that I am in awe of them. However, from the first time I heard an ad for this movie I quickly felt uneasy about the fact that it was featuring active duty Seals. I can agree that there's a need to promote military service when we have a volunteer military. But to me making them a part of a hollywood movie, and in particular using that fact as the primary marketing tag for the movie, can't help but trivialize what rare talents they are in reality.

Chez said...

That's fair criticism and a very legitimate concern. I felt the same thing when I heard that active servicemembers were in it: they're in our military; they're not movie stars. But I do get why there's a need to promote and to allow them to promote themselves because the job they do is undeniably impressive and necessary.

JohnF said...

David Sirota's the kind of crybaby "more liberal than thou" peacenik who supplies the Right with endless fodder. It only takes a few loudmouths like him to make the rest look bad. He probably thinks Audie Murphy was a fascist.
How anyone could find fault with Seal Team 6 is beyond me.

Mark said...

I am in no position to vouch for anybody's ability to separate fact from fiction, except to say that the trait is less than universal. But I looked up Francois Truffaut's quote to the effect that it's impossible to make a true anti-war movie, because combat is just so god damned cinematic. Turns out that position is vigorously debated even today.

My own issues are that war movies are often sanitized and romanticized, because true realism would be so repellent that nobody would want to watch it.

Claude Weaver said...

I don't always back the people making the decisions to send our men and women into battle, but I almost always back the men and women themselves and I see nothing wrong with showing them some respect and with honoring their actions

THIS. This is what more people, especially post-Vietnam, seem to find impossible to realize.

Despite Sirota's hand-wringing, the military isn't the bombastic hypermasculine fantasy he wets himself over; they are people who don't start fights, but can and will end them. They are in the business of walking softly and carrying quite impressive sticks.

Okay, that sounded a little Bay. Sorry.

Being the son of a vet, and having a brother, a step-niece, and a nephew in the service, one of the last things I tolerate is disrespect to the uniform.

And really, after stuff like the Somali pirates and the takedown of bin Laden, these particular guys deserve some Hollywood love.

Just...just keep them away from the Kardashians.

Scott Thomas said...

I don't think the military needs any recruitment promos. It has the stick of a sour economy and the carrot of citizenship for that. (70,000 non-citizens have been recruited in the last decade).
The suggestion that the work of our military is "...undeniably impressive and necessary." is funny. It ought to be impressive given we spend more on it than the ROW combined, but necessary? Iraq? Grenada? Panama? Chile? etc, etc.
Necessary to advance our imperialist agenda perhaps, yet the greatest beneficiaries of that don't want to pay the costs (US Corps and the 1%). The defense of the US homeland could be achieved on Canada's military budget.
What films like Act of Valor result in is pride in our Soldiers and Sailors and therefore 'support for our troops' which in Congress means: hands off the military budget.

namron said...

Sirota is maybe 40-45 years old? Maybe, his young mother in the early '70's, then waking to her empowerment as a woman and taking her first small step towards feminine self-determination, took away his G.I. Joe and gave him an Easy Bake Oven.

bafreeman said...

I just don't understand these pompous dickheads who treat their contempt like it's a virtue. "You're too stupid to see this movie--it will make want to be a...(shudder)...soldier. Allow me to stroke my cock...er...ego, by saving you from yourself."
I might be an arrogant prick who thinks most people are morons(and the "might" is only an editorial conceit), but I can't even fathom the kind of narcissism it would take to convince myself that there's something noble about my world view.

Scott THomas said...

WHy didn't you post my comment?

Chez said...

What comment? I posted all of them.

Chez said...

And is the caps lock on your 'H' sticking?

Scott Thomas said...

I posted a comment earlier, I saw the warning about my post wouldn't be until approved by you.

Not a caps lock problem as much as a weird sort of typing dyslexia

Anonymous said...

Yeah, because there's absolutely nothing wrong with exploiting and propaganadizing our already jingoistic population into making the people who kill for a living "heroes." Somebody has to do it, the killing I mean, especially when you have an empire to run; but for fuck's sake can we at least concede that this is a very bad direction that our country has taken, especially in the context of what kind of cultural identity we pretend to ascribe to to and promote worldwide. Go anywhere outsude of this country and what youll find is that most sane people view us as a war mongering people intent on maintaining our empire at all costs. We are no longer (and maybe never were) the moral leaders promoting freedom and human progress everywhere. So yeah, I find this film despicable on many levels. One of the easiest comebacks today--that has become a joke in most in circles-- is to ask: Why do you hate troops? Easy peasy. We kill many innocents but to question the humanity of those that advance that sick logic is to be branded a hand wringer; and then be ridiculed for believing in due process (Awlaki) and belittled for wanting transparency (Manning) in an effort understand the real reasons that certain decisions are being made in our name and by our "elected" officials. Yeah I know I'm deluded but to those nay sayers that prefer to cheer the killing and to want to bury their heads in the sand, I say, "America, fuck yeah!"

Chez said...

Oh, hi, Glenn. How's Rio?

John Healy said...

Could it possibly be as bad as 'Navy Seals'? Otherwise, right on.

Anonymous said...

You're so cute when you deflect Chez. Like I said the last time, I think of you every time I tea bag my boy toy.

Chez said...

Not deflecting at all, Anonymous Troll. My arguments were summed up in the piece. Don't agree? Think our troops are a bunch of heinous murderers and that killing Awlaki was unjust (yawn) and that Manning's a hero (bigger yawn), fine. Why would I possibly argue with you? I'm not going to change your opinion nor will your nonsense change mine. So best just to blow off your long-winded screed.

Get back to me, by the way, when you can be bothered to not hide thoroughly behind anonymity.

JohnF said...

Who's the Anonymous idiot? Did this link get posted at Reddit?

Mart said...

I am of the Vietnam backlash age that got to drink at 18 and did not have to register for the draft. A true universal draft, no exceptions like in the 60's and 70's for women, college students, National Guard political skaters, etc.; and these endless wars are over. Even with the Vietnam exemptions (aimed mostly to protect rich kids from serving) everyone had skin in the Vietnam War game, and that drove its demise. A son, neighbor, nephew, a friend - everyone knew someone greatly impacted by the horrors of war. An endless war that the military industrial complex told us needed to be fought to stop communism.

A response to the Vietnam War was the volunteer army. This has placed the burden of war on a small segment of the society at large. Within the military itself, a small group of "warriors" keep recycling into battle. The net impact is the horror of war is no longer a reference point for most of the population. Without a draft, the military industrial complex has nearly free range to advertise the glory of the endless war on terror, and the brave warriors who protect us. When I see soldiers standing at military attention for the finish of the US Olympic team marathon qualifier (for fucks sake), then yes, maybe we have gone a bit over the edge.

With a universal zero exemptions draft, when we all have the fear of someone we love fighting endlessly for the end of terrorism, I believe attitudes would shift dramatically.

As a bonus, with a draft, no one can complain about Cheetos Commandos cheering for war while never signing up; or claim the Sirota's of the world should not say anything negative as they are pussy's for not joining.

I love my troops, but the folks profiting from this madness can go to hell.

Chez said...

Was wondering when you'd chime in, Mart.

Ref said...

Does Anon think that "the troops" make their own decisions about who, what, and when they fight? It's the politicians who do all that stuff according to our Constitution, not the guys and gals in the uniforms, even the ones in the really expensive uniforms. I'm not convinced this movie is a great idea, only because I think these guys should be protecting their identities. Given what they voluntarily undergo for training and qualification in order to undertake protecting my fat butt, I'm willing to let them make that decision.

Chez said...

Your comment apparently got caught in the spam filter, Scott.