Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Batmad


I started to write a piece on Andrew Klavan's Wall Street Journal editorial piece back before everyone else pointed out how stupid it was. Then I figured there wasn't much point in writing to say that I think Klavan's piece is stupid, too.

But, over the weekend I finally went to see The Dark Knight and I thought it might be worth writing on this general topic after all.

First, let's get this out of the way. The stupidity of this piece far exceeds even its august venue's standard for stupid.

A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds . . .

Oh, wait a minute. That's not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a "W."

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.
It's . . . curious? surprising? appalling? Yes, I think it's appalling that at this late date we still see this witless neoconservatism on the hoof.

For a while after 9/11 it seemed that there was a certain impulse, an irresistible impulse in some circles, to trump what was with what they preferred to be true. While the occupation of Iraq may not turn into a complete and utter foreign policy catastrophe for the US, the experience has been one long clinic on how the neoconservatives who told us what we could expect when we invaded, what would ensue and what good we'd get for invading we're pitifully naive and utterly incompetent.

And so now Iraq policy seems to be in the hands of people whose expertise extends beyond movies and comic books and maybe we'll escape Iraq having made it into a country something like Iran but a lot more unstable.

But still the role-playing warriors of the right are with us, some more shameless than others. For instance, Kenneth Pollack, who championed the war in 2002, at least now has the decency to admit the the war has been a colossal fiasco, regardless of its justification.

Klavan seems to be more of a Hitlerian sort of propagandist: just keep telling the big lie. In this case the lie is that the Iraq war had anything to do with the War on Terror aside from being a distraction from it.

And it wasn't an accidental distraction. George Bush simply chose to fight a war other than the one that, if carried out vigorously, was going to bring him toe-to-toe with an already-existing nuclear power: Pakistan.

In short, Bushman has already given up on the fight against the Joker and he did so a long time ago. He's no hero: he made a pragmatic decision to not force a lot of dangerous issues in Central Asia, but he was too much a coward to face the inevitable criticism he would receive for being pragmatic, so he quickly left for another venue he thought would allow him to play the hero at small cost.

After having seen the film and read many of the reviews, it is interesting to me to see how eagerly viewers embrace the idea that the "terror" against which we are at war is nihilistic.

The truth is that it isn't: Osama bin Laden has a pretty specific agenda--he wants to eliminate the influence of the West in the Islamic nations and he wants those nations to more closely follow the tenets of Islam. He isn't just in it to watch the world burn.

So what do we seem to want an adversary like that? Because the implied critique is less pointed? Better to be mere hypocrites that the joker points out than to be the object of legitimate grievances (no matter how badly acted-upon)?

[edit: added link for Kenneth Pollack]