Currently viewing the tag: "9/11"

Libertarians, those paranoid weirdos! Why do they believe that the government is out to get them? Well, it is, but libertarians are not thoughtless conspiracy theorists — we’re thoughtful ones! We know power is bad, and the state is the most powerful thing there is, so it is probably up to something. Join a delightful panel for a very special episodes of Politics for People Who Hate Politics, during which seven libertarians explore conspiracy theories, advocate for skepticism, but then get very distracted by how much they enjoy the stories for their sake.

Host: Lucy Steigerwald: Columnist for VICE.com, Antiwar.com, Rare.us, and Editor in Chief of The Stag Blog; @lucystag

-Jesse Walker: Books editor for Reason magazine and Reason.com, author of Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America and The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory; @notjessewalker

-Dan Bier: executive editor at the Skeptical Libertarian; @skepticaldan

-Franklin Harris: assistant metro editor for the Decatur Daily; @FranklinH3000

-Seth Wilson: blogger at cultwestern.com; @TheJackalopeTX

-Zach Fountain: songwriter, blogger at rushmorebeekeepers.com; @rbeekeepers

-Joe Steigerwald: Publisher for The Stag Blog, technical dude; @steigerwaldino

Further reading/listening/watching:

The United States of Paranoia by Jesse Walker

“The Greatest Fake Religion of All Time” by Jesse Walker

“In Defense of Paranoia” by Lucy Steigerwald

“The Alien” song by Zach Fountain

ILM-War-of-the-Worlds-After-092310-PSSeminal sci-fi invasion fiction, legendarily terrifying — and really quite wonderful – radio play that launched Orson Welles’ career, War of the Worlds has crossed mediums, but never has it had a solid movie adaption. Steven Spielberg’s incredibly 9/11-y, starring Tom Cruise at the height of his weirdness version is a very frustrating example. Not because it’s a total wash, mind you, but because it’s incredible in spots, and then goes off a big cliff.

In April, Lindsay Ellis, your Nostalgia Chick (who is always a fun reviewer), correctly describes the movie’s gorgeous design, its kick-ass tripods (which Roger Ebert hated! But he’s wrong, damn it!) as well as its myriad flaws, as well as by contrast the mysteriously wonderful quality of the thousand-fold cheesier Independence Day. The latter movie has more character arc and more things actually change, it’s rather odd.

and part two:

Now some film-dorks are too cool for Spielberg, but I never understood that. (J.J. Abrams, on the other hand, is cold, derivative Spielberg and I hate him!). I also am incredibly susceptible to alien paranoia. I was scared of both The Blob and Mars Attacks! as a child, I watched and then cowered at The X-Files (still do in fact!), and I am only slightly ashamed of being 15 and scared to death of Signs when I saw it in the theater. (I shrieked out loud in one spot. I don’t believe I have done that before or since, and certainly not in a crowded theater.) So for all that, plus my fondness for the book and radio play, plus my undying love for Jurassic Park to this day, it seems like Spielberg’s War of the Worlds should be perfect. It is not.

This 2005 War of the Worlds, like the also watchable 1953 one, is incomplete as an adaptation of the book, first and foremost because it has been modernized and turned American. But the book is a rambling narrative itself. Our nameless describer of the horrors even swaps places with his brother for a time for no clear reason beyond faux-journalistic reasons that to describe, one must be there. Those scenes are only memorable because one of the two women with whom the brother flees is bracingly competent for 1898 fiction.

The famous ending is anti-climactic, because, well, the common cold does the invaders in. The whole thing is both early sci-fi, and invasion literature (a fascinating subgenre that seems really, really of the time and that time was like 50 years up to WWI and that’s all) and extremely anti-imperialist. Which is awesome. But big budget Hollywood alien pictures don’t want to end with germs saving the day. Spielberg, to his credit, gives us the classic ending without any final, tacked-on, grand battle.

I do wildly disagree with Spielberg about whether a movie set when the book was written would be boring. (Hell, such a version is on my secret list of movies I would make if money, skill, time, and nationality, were no object.) Nevertheless, though Spielberg’s WotW goes off a cliff I would say exactly when the annoying teenage son says “you’ve got to let me go, Dad” and then hits the ground and smashes into a fiery wreck when Tim Robbins appears to gnaw on the scenery, it’s worth watching and including in my Tuesday Apocalypse list. It is extremely flawed, but has just enough to it that I have rewatched it more than once, and am likely to be entranced (at least for a time) if it is on TV. And when I watch, I rant about how it could have been so good.

Why? Well, Ellis covers it aptly in her reviews above, but some of the scenes in Spielberg’s WotW are just so fucking good you want to pause the movie and just revel in their awfulness. I’ve previously mentioned in Tuesday Apocalypse, that the j nes se quoi dread is what makes a good apocalypse piece, be it cinema or book. Call it dread-porn, or something else, it needs to actually frighten me and it needs to be just so. I know it when I see or hear it.

The radio WoTW’s highest caliber moments of that are its use of dead air interrupting frantic, Herb Morrison-esque “reporting.” Spielberg’s opening shot when the tripods arise is as fantastic as Ellis says and has an element of this searched for quality. So do the scenes of grim panic when Cruise and the kids are carjacked (which is rare, since the humans are your enemy aspect is always least interesting in this kind of fiction, at least to optimist me). Hell, the pulling back camera shot of bodies floating downstream, and particularly the shot of an out of control train entirely ablaze are worth the price of admission (this is an expression we used to use in the pre-piracy days, children).

On the opposite side of that, the completely dull aliens themselves are not scary, even in the claustrophobic, derivative of the raptors chasing the kids in the kitchen in Jurassic Park scenes. How much less frightening they are in design, and in auditory exclamation than the tripods themselves, which look menacing and sound worse!

In spite of his couch-jumping, glib-accusing ways, the acting from Cruise circa 2004 is the most solid of the three characters that matter. Maybe I have a soft spot for jerk-dads, but Cruise is such a believable one here. My father is nicer than Cruise is portrayed as being, but he’s also not some softy, or some Alpha Hero. Desperate, flailing, terrified Cruise has no idea how to help his kids at the start of all this madness. But he never abandons them or freezes, he simply reacts in a human manner to completely insane happenings the best way he can. Later, post movie-cliff, he becomes a hair too action hero, but never completely. I believe him, is the main point. And that is rare in any end of the world fiction, particularly the alien invasion movie types. Most people are much too calm, and much too heroic, unless the are of the screaming, teaming masses.

Some downsides, or at least some oddly dated moments: the 9/11 nods are not subtle. There are missing flyers covering walls. There are (fair) questions from screeching Dakota Fanning asking whether the invaders are terrorists. There’s an alarming downed plane in our heroes’ yard (I can’t do plane crashes in movies, cannot do it). And most effectively disturbing of all is how Cruise is covered in dust as he staggers back into the house after the aliens first appear. His clueless children are clueless, and grab his arm and he flips out, then does so again when he stares shellshocked in the mirror and realizes that the gray matter that covers him must be made from people.

Now, as Ellis points out in her review, the worst, most hamfisted 9/11isms in the film are the teenage son’s desire to “get back at” the alien invaders. Which is a fair impulse, except, well, why would he have that need so desperately compared to any other character? Is he just a teenage moron? Why doesn’t he have the self-preservation to run the other way instead? He doesn’t because 2005 war in Afghanistan and Iraq parallels demand he doesn’t. His motivation is not clear, neither is his loathing of his father. Cruise is the only one with strong characterization, but even he doesn’t change much over the course of the movie. He starts off jerk-dad, and gets a little nicer and a little braver. But even jerk-dad never faltered in trying to rescue his kids.

Spielberg’s WoTW is worth a watch for some stunning scenes — the look and sound of the tripods, the tipping boat scene, the burning train, the morose darkness in shots that works, instead of making you wonder what happened to the color correction! – but it does remain oddly unsatisfying for how fabulously it begins.

And I still want my serious period piece with aliens, dammit.

Check out the official first episode of the Google Hangouts panel show that is taking the world by storm:

A libertarian panel hosted by Lucy Steigerwald, where ranting is encouraged, and smashing the state is mandatory.

-Lucy Steigerwald: Columnist for VICE.com, Antiwar.com, Rare.us, and Editor in Chief of The Stag Blog; @lucystag
-Joe Steigerwald: Publisher for The Stag Blog, technical dude; @steigerwaldino
-Michelle Montalvo: Perpetual intern, sci-fi enthusiast; @michelle7291
-Cory Massimino: Student, writer for DL Magazine, Students for Liberty Blog, Center for a Stateless Society; @CoryMassimino

Our cranky, liberty-loving panel discussed Glenn Greenwald’s latest leaks, the NSA, the 9/11 Museum, Chris Christie being a hack, and whether libertarians hate sports, even if they’re way better than politics.

steigerwald-montage-2On May 21, the $700 million dollar National September 11 Memorial Museum opened to the general public,12 years and change after that awful, now-historic day in September.

The museum provoked controversy for years before it even opened. The astronomical cost – a mixture of private and government funding – to build the thing, as well as the $24 cost of admission is just one sore spot. More painfully, some families of 9/11 victims spent years in court fighting the placement of 8,000 unidentified remains of some 1000 people into a special mausoleum of sorts in the museum. These pieces of human beings are not going to be put on display for gawking tourists or anything, but it’s perfectly understandable that family members would still find the prospect of bits of their loved ones sitting behind a museum door for all eternity to be distressing. Yet, this is also the fundamental contrast between history and personal sorrow. Though the former is made from the latter, it’s trickier to know how to memorialize and remember when people who suffered or lost people are still here to witness how a tragedy is preserved.

This conflict was beautifully explored by Buzzfeed’s Steve Kandell. In a recent essay, Kandell describes a gut-wrenching visit to the new museum after 12 years of his family’s attempts to mourn the sister they loved alone and without any of the pomp and politics of having such “special” grief. Mostly, it’s a personal piece, but Kandell mentions briefly his trouble with the loaded quality of 9/11. Or at least what came after – blowback is not mentioned. Still, one guy mourning his sister should be forgiven for being unable to see the big picture; particularly when seeing the death of a sibling turned into a drop in the grand bucket is a large part of what upsets him.

The 330 million people who tolerated two aggressive wars and a decade and more of hysteria after 9/11 are another matter. And this brings up the question, what should be done about 9/11, historically? Can you make a museum about such a political moment – to use the most banal term for murder being paid back by more than two orders of magnitude – when it is still rippling throughout Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and all over the Middle East? When it is still being used to justify an incomprehensibly vast global spying enterprise? And when it gave us not only the PATRIOT Act, but also what one writer dubbed “the most dangerous sentence in U.S. history,” the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF)?

The rest here

Presented with little commentary or excuse, the young libertarian poet’s thoughts during the feverish Bush years. (Even the horrible line breaks are accurate. The capitalization is also as written. I am so sorry.) I would like to say this make me feel better about my progress in the past 12 years, but good God is this painful and funny both. I sound a lot dumber than I thought I was back then.

I was super into not using “we” when talking about America during this time. (Which is a good rhetorical point, that I have admittedly dropped entirely now.)  I was also pretty sick of “United We Stand” as a rallying cry. You can see that as I subversively add a question mark to the poem’s title. Look, there were a lot of flags around all the time and I was getting mad.

I actually remember reading this to my homeschool English group to some amount of awkward silence. Once Iraq came along, my terribly edgy sentiment was a little more welcome, if only because these good Christian conservatives weren’t all jazzed about that whole invasion business either.

 

United We Stand?

Tell us what We are

Pawns for Public Service

We Support

When you give us words

What he says — They do

and They make us We

Broadcast as the mood

Love it or leave it

Or cry quietly to be heard by

The arrogant freedom fighter

When there’s nobody like you

Then tell us we stand united

And lean us over the edge

Pray for the chance

For I told you so’s

Here we are, so we’re taken with the tide

– Anarchy anyone?

So maybe they fight

For the nation and the world

But what’s paving that road?

I also have this sweet new graphic.Check out my most recent War at Home:

Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it did not intend to appeal last month’s court decision which removed Rahinah Ibrahim from the “No-Fly list” – making her the first person in years to be taken off that bureaucratic black-hole relic of the Bush war on terror.

This is great news for Ibrahim. But she has been battling for seven years to win this victory for herself. The rest of the however many thousands of folks on that list remain there, with no clear road out of that swamp. And that’s only a small aspect of the myriad ways in which Americans and visitors to America are harassed, oppressed and impeded during their travels.

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a study that harshly critiqued the U.S. government’s various watch lists, including the “no-fly” list that Ibrahim found herself on. Some of the problems the ACLU highlighted were the secrecy and the lack of an appeals process for folks who find themselves flagged at airports or downright prevented from flying. They estimate up to a million people are on such lists, and this includes US citizens. People who suspect they are on the no-fly list can only go to the airport and see if they’re prevented from flying. But they still may not get a straight answer from the government, or have any way to get off the list. There is no other way to discover whether a typo, knowing the wrong person or being from the wrong country put them on a list that radically decreases their right to travel.

During the last week of March, the Transportation Security Agency’s (TSA) official report to Congress said the agency wanted armed police officers to be nearby during peak passenger hours. Considering the state of cops in this country, and the complete lack of rights travelers – especially at the borders – have, this is a terrible idea. Yes, last November someone targeted and killed a TSA agent. That’s unfortunate. But thebureaucratic, thoughtless, petty TSA does not need any more power than we have already let it take. We do not want air-travelers who attempt to film their pat-downs or express objections to their treatment fearing that if they reach in their pockets, some itchy-fingered cop will get worried.

The rest here