The previous post quotes Roger Ebert. When I visited the site, I took special note of this passage
from his review of Open Range
One of the many ways in which the Western has become old-fashioned is that the characters have values, and act on them. Modern action movies have replaced values with team loyalty; the characters do what they do because they want to win and they want the other side to lose. The underlying text of most classic Westerns is from the Bible: "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?" The underlying text of most modern action movies is from Vince Lombardi: "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."
These words don't hold true for all westerns or all action films, but the principle seems sound.
It occurs to me -- after reading some of the comments evinced by the previous posts, after reading the comments on other web sites, and after reviewing the traumas we've experienced over the past few years -- that this culture made a huge mistake when it switched from westerns to action movies. In modern politics, as Bob Somerby notes, it's always shirts versus skins.
I don't speak purely in terms of D-versus-R. In the primaries, for the first time, we saw the "action movie" mentality applied to a primary. And we can slice the cheese even thinner: I well recall that when I wrote exposes of the "certificate of birth" nonsense, the woman who helps to run No Quarter wrote to me and told me to lay off. In essence, her message came down to this: Obama was Enemy #1 and any weapon against Enemy #1 was justified.
Shirts versus skins. And never mind the truth.
Today, Karl Rove
wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal whose message is summed up in the head and subhead:
The President's GOP Outreach Comes Too Late
A photo-op is not the same as compromising on policy.
Unreal! Of course, this president has done nothing but
compromise with the Republicans. He has, in many ways, been a Republican president. Rove knows
that, and a lot of other people know it, but they'll never admit it, because doing so wouldn't fit the shirts/skins narrative.
The bloody battle between Obama and the GOP is really a battle between a moderate Republican somewhat to the right of Eisenhower and the ultra-right kooky radical rightists whose ideological forebears used to call Ike a commie. And yet the battle is no less bloody. Henry Kissinger once said: "Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small." Today, one could say that Washington politics are so vicious precisely because the differences are so small.
Here's a question for readers. If I were to point out something worthwhile being done by the Obama administration, how many of you would conclude that I've softened? If I were to point out a worthwhile plank in the tea party platform, how may would conclude that I've softened? If I were to quote a good line from Karl Marx, how many would conclude that I must be a commie? If I were to quote a good line form Adam Smith, how many would conclude that I've turned libertarian?
Values -- or shirts-versus-skins?
Fear the kids growing up on Michael Bay. They need some John Ford.
(By the way, Open Range
should be watched twice: Once, because it's a good movie. And a second time, just to study Robert Duvall's performance. That guy could sell a line even if the words were chosen by a computerized randomizer. And no jibes about Costner: His work here is terrific.)