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United States of Netflix: Lib-Con Detachment in Political Fantasyland

Patrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire

They say that sometimes ‘life imitates art,’ but where does art end and propaganda begin? 

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon in recent years when talking to many Americans. One thing which has become increasingly prevalent is how they will reference a plot or character from a Hollywood production when describing a real-life situation.

This is not confined to social conversations, but also to political discourse, and this is where things start getting weird. With so many living vicariously through their iPhones and tablets, it’s maybe not so surprising that people are drawing from Hollywood as their primary source from which to project their political views. But are these really their views, or is it just marketing? Whereas before it may have been a case of political themes baked into to political shows like West Wing, The Good Wife, or House of Cards, now there are a whole host of new dramatic vehicles for ferrying social and political messaging to the front lines of the culture wars. We all know about commercial product placements in film and TV. The object of the exercise is to make the product reproduce itself from the virtual image on the screen before becoming manifest in the real world. Now imagine the same concept as a political product placement.

Such a scenario became manifest during the recent Senate conformation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh where Democrat protesters lined-up along the banisters along Senate lobby’s mezzanine area, dressed in a puritan-style wardrobe from the dystopian TV series The Handmaid’s Tale, complete with scarlet robes and a white bonnet. Activists made the argument that this was ‘artivism‘ meant to demonstrate how this Supreme Court nomination will surely tip the ideological in favor of a conservative agenda, thus threatening women’s rights, and lead to an inevitable reversal of the 1973 landmark decision Roe vs Wade and the prohibition of legalized abortion in America. The performance troupe were from a group called “Demand Justice” who claimed that Kavanaugh was fundamentally “anti-abortion, anti-healthcare, and anti-women views,” and an “extremist ideologue who, if confirmed to the Supreme Court, will take away women’s basic rights.”

Few questioned the validity of their statement at the time, but as time passes and the political tensions have eased, maybe we can revisit these claims without fear of ‘brigading‘ by activists who’ve since moved on to the next hot-button issue. Were their concerns informed by anything in Kavanaugh’s career record? Was theirs a rational reaction to Kavanaugh’s nomination, or was it an emotive one, a post-modernist projection implanted by Hollywood? It’s worth pointing out that the Handmaiden performance took place well before Christine Blasey Ford’s character was introduced into the media mix, so these women weren’t mobilized by the #MeToo movement. An argument could be made that the political identity issue of gender has now been weaponized to such a degree in US politics that any Conservative male candidate for that position would be met with the same treatment. Still, this doesn’t explain the jump from realpolitik to horrific dystopic fiction.

I have a number of personal grievances regarding Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, none of which have anything to do with women’s issues, but rather to do with his blatant disregard for Constitutional rights, namely the Fourth Amendment and the right to privacy, all clearly demonstrated by his role in providing hardly-legal foundations for the USA Patriots Acts, legalized torture, and illegal NSA spying on US citizens. Not surprisingly, these issues do not factor into the calculus of the New Left, who, while claiming to be the undisputed champions of human rights, seem happy enough to devolve unlimited powers to the state on issues like mass surveillance and the obliteration of due process. Maybe that’s because this is a universal issue and not attached to any gender, minority or political identity issue. It’s for this reason that so-called Conservatives and Liberals seem to be in complete agreement with Kavanaugh’s skewed constitutional record, which means that both of these supposed righteous political factions really support a Orwellian dystopia. This is a classic example of how efficient the current Pavlovian political system has become, where partisan participants are conditioned to only react to certain issues, while ignoring others.

Still, it would be easy to simply draw a line under the Handmaiden performance as another just incidence of theatrical activism, and perhaps over-dramatized political reaction to what would normally be a standard political appointment process in America. In the current polarized hyper-media environment, even the most routine political ritual can provide a stage for a new performance, with many of the narratives for these dramas supplied by Hollywood.

This latest genre of Handmaiden activism can be trace back to a number of protests last year, and it demonstrates how the fictional narrative has jumped into live performance, providing a working political framework for feminist activists. At a 2017 protest against funding cuts to Planned Parenthood outside the National Capitol in Washington DC, one activist explained their position:

“All of the handmaids are subjected to listen to government officials, and they don’t have any kind of autonomy,” she said. “So for us as protesters it was a direct way to show how we are being silenced, and the government is not listening to us, and our rights are under attack and voices are not being heard.”

Are they really being silenced? Other than the costume, does their plight in any way resemble the disenfranchised Handmaidens as depicted in Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel? It doesn’t appear so with such prominent media placements across the New York Times and other leading media and television networks. Moreover, before their protest, Planned Parenthood had actually reported an increase in federal funding. Regardless, these women were able to make a political point and on a national scale.

In order to ‘stand out’ in such a busy marketplace of ideas, both the Left and Right have come to adopt the technique of over-exaggerating in order to make their point (if you can actually work out what their point is, because sometimes it gets so convoluted that it’s hard to decipher). For instance, the Left will scream: “Kavanaugh is going to ban abortions!”, while the Right shouts: “Liberals are going to ban guns!” In reality, neither is likely to happen anytime soon, much less in our lifetimes. How about the Fourth Amendment, FSA, warrantless wiretapping, and mass surveillance? Neither the mainstream Left or Right, or the ‘radical Centerists’ and their mainstream media surrogates could care less about those issues. Interesting how that works now.

Despite what might be happening in the real world, the Hollywood narrative still persists in the United Sates of Netflix. For liberals, it’s the irrational fear by way of traumatic transference of a Handmaiden patriarchal dystopia, and for hair-trigger conservatives it might be constant vigilance against the specter of a radical Islamist terrorist invasion as depicted in Keifer Sutherland’s 24. In both cases, their fears are not natural, and are more likely implanted. In both cases, Americans can’t seem to get past their domestic obsessions to form a coherent or realistic worldview, and perhaps this is by design. In reality, both sides of the political power-sharing paradigm rely on NPC groupthink automaton culture where subjects are required to self-identify with the party or ideology. The job of training crowds how to think and act is Hollywood and corporate America’s stock and trade – and slowly but surely, the American mind is being colonized by some of the darkest sociopolitical machinations and themes ever seen. Their collective efforts have an endgame, which was, is and always will be political and social engineering in order to steer the majority of the public towards a specific sociopolitical agenda, which is used to help organize the political economy de jour. If corporations want to expand the vice economy, then Hollywood and the music industry shift gears accordingly and push all things vice. If the military industrial complex need to expand the security state or promote a long war, then Hollywood is more than happy to accommodate. Presently, this is geared towards rampant consumerism and the accumulation of personal debt. But this could shift later, and no doubt when it does, Hollywood will be there to nudge malleable American minds into new intellectual and political cul de sacs.

It’s also important to point out that social engineering is not exclusive to the ‘liberal’ wing of the US establishment and its political constituency. While this so-called ‘liberal progressive’ wing of sociopolitical agenda may dominate America’s domestic political discourse, there’s an equally contrived and dumbed-down wing of discourse on the conservative side of this artificial paradigm. Right-wing multimillionaires on U.S. talk radio have invented a faux construct which they call conservatism, which is as much an anathema to any authentic paleoconservative platform, or as the contemporary ‘liberal progressive’ agenda is to classic English liberal ideas constructed around concepts civil liberties, the rule of law and economic freedom. Contrast this with the current post-modernist ‘liberal progressive’ agenda which being heralded by Silicon Valley oligarchs like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey which advocates for aggressive censorship and de-platforming of anyone with views which might run counter to a constrained mainstream-corporate ‘progressive’ agenda. Likewise, America’s  millionaire ‘conservative’ punditry class are consistently promoting overseas wars of aggression, military alliances and Military Keynesianism. The same conservatives also evangelize for an unwavering commitment to subsidizing the state of Israel and will normal follow the foreign policy dictates (even if that means going to war on its behalf) of its lobby. Just as Hollywood and CNN are there at every turn to inject the ‘progressive’ Handmaiden narratives into the minds of their audiences, they are also promoting Israeli mythology, coupled with a generalized fear and hatred of Arabs. This is more than evident throughout the majority of Hollywood and mainstream output over the last 30 years. The same could be said now about the increasingly xenophobic treatment of Russians, and the Chinese state. In any case, the conservative reverence to the Israeli apartheid state, the cult of ‘national security,’ regular overseas conquests – is fascist in the extreme. Neoconservatives invoke American exceptionalism, while Liberal Interventionists will invoke the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) doctrine. These are two sides of the same faux coin. While they may fly different colors and employ different rhetoric, both have the same objective – to export “freedom and democracy” which really means maintaining economic hegemony on a global scale. Hence, many American ‘conservatives’ will not feel fully ‘safe and secure’ unless they see a sufficient amount of bombs dropped on the Middle East on the evening news, and American ‘liberals’ will not feel satisfied until flash mobs can be seen on CNN burning tires and overtaking government installations in far-off lands. National chauvinism aside, its underlying purpose is both corporatist and imperialist, and serves permanently maintain America’s economic hegemony at the expense of everyone else, literally. Everyone else, aka the rest of the world, are the ones who are financing for America’s deficit spending by purchasing US Treasuries and other government debt. That deficit spending allows the US to project power and dominate economic markets internationally, thus enabling it to export its radical social engineering agenda across the globe. And whether they know it or not (and most of them don’t) it is at this very juncture where America’s so-called Conservatives and Progressives find themselves working towards identical ends.

For a country that has been obsessed with its own media propaganda for so long, it seems only fitting that it would finally get a reality TV star as its chief executive. Judging by the lack of depth in the current right vs. left debate in America, and the ramping-up of propaganda by mainstream media, it’s clear that the country still hasn’t learned its lesson, which means we can expect this trend towards polarization and tribalism to increase. Americans who increasingly find themselves unable to find cope will retreat further and further into their ready-made post-modernist imaginary worlds – constructed by Hollywood clip joints like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Sony Pictures. At that point you’ll have two Americas: one which lives in the real world, and one which resides in a fantasy world. It’s doubtful that any constitutional republic could survive if the majority of people reside in the latter camp.

The first step in normalizing political discourse is to stop using Netflix as the source of your political vocabulary. From there on, things will improve drastically.

Author Patrick Henningsen is an American global affairs analyst and founder of independent news and analysis site 21st Century Wire, and is host of the SUNDAY WIRE weekly radio show broadcast globally over the Alternate Current Radio Network (ACR). Over the last decade, his work has appeared on a number of publications and TV networks globally.

READ MORE SOCIAL ENGINEERING NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Social Engineering Files

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