Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Washington — You're Fired! (William Lewis/BSMG, 2008)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2008 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

I ended up in the auditorium watching a movie being introduced by Congressional candidate Mike Copass, Washington — You’re Fired! It was made in 2008 by director William Lewis and had a rather stentorian narration (presumably delivered by Lewis himself, though the narrator was uncredited) and — despite the title and the context, which would make one believe it was a movie about ordinary citizens running for political office and challenging the political elites, really only about the last 10 minutes or so dealt with that: the rest was a quite grim and depressing look at how the Bush administration (and other administrations before that) has systematically abolished our civil liberties; how both of the major parties have been complicit and indeed actively involved in the process, and how these efforts have trashed virtually the entire Bill of Rights.

Lewis fell into the trap a lot of political filmmakers do: he wanted to document in great detail the enormity of the evils he was railing against so the audience for his movie would be stirred up to rise against them — but the film is just as likely, if not more so, to depress the hell out of its intended viewers and make them think, “What’s the use?” There are some fascinating people in the movie, including law professor Jonathan Turley (a frequent critic of the Bush administration’s legal policies and one of the few Left-of-center voices still permitted on the op-ed pages of the Los Angeles Times) and Mark Klein, the whistle-blower who revealed that his former employer, AT&T, was routing all the e-mails its company handles through a special room that transferred copies of them to the National Security Agency for data-mining.

Lewis’s script for the film assumed that the right to privacy is a core Constitutional guarantee (it isn’t, and indeed it’s clear that the Right has never believed in the right to privacy, and that its attack on that concept goes far beyond the usual areas in which the issue is argued, women’s access to birth control and abortion) but otherwise did a good job of articulating the case, though the sheer scope of the assault on our constitutional liberties and the numbing indifference with which the American people in general have greeted it (it’s one of the many issues that nobody seems to be discussing in this campaign) is, as I noted above, more likely to drive people out of activism than to encourage them to get active.

The discussion afterwards was moderated by a couple of the so-called “9/11 Truth” people, one of whom pissed me off by saying that the whole idea is to bring about the “One World Order” (frankly, a world government more or less on the order of the European Union would be a decided improvement on what we have now!) before he drew back a little after realizing that made him sound like a Right-wing paranoiac. (As many friends as I have in the so-called “9/11 Truth” movement — the loose-knit group of people who argue that the U.S. government itself attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 and framed Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda as a pretext to institute repressive measures they’d planned for decades — I still think it’s a lot of nonsense. I’ll never forget Randall Hamud, author of "Osama bin Laden: In His Own Words," giving a presentation at the First Unitarian-Universalist Church and being confronted by one of those people, who asked him, “Why do you believe 9/11 was an attack by a terrorist organization run by Osama bin Laden?” — and a rather taken-aback Hamud answered , “Well, for one thing, he said so.”)