Sunday, April 09, 2006

V for Vendetta



I don't usually comment on movies... because most don't inspire thought. But I just saw "V for Vendetta," which brought up something that nagged at me until I figured it out. The hero of the movie is a terrorist. And much of the story revolves around making you sympathize with him, as he goes about blowing up buildings, and plotting to overthrow a fascist government. There are clear parallels drawn to current developments here in the US, including a reference to the Koran. Through these references you are lead to the emotionally uncomfortable position ( I imagine for others as well as myself ) of sympathizing with all terrorists. And there is the problem -- this movie has lumped all terrorists in the same category.

As a libertarian, it will come as no surprise that I consider most aspects of governmental control and function to be villainous. And it's not hard, as those functions amplify and create extreme circumstances, to root for the guy who wants to tear it down. But I think that kind of terrorism, motivated by a hatred of an evil government, is very different than terrorism motivated by the hatred of a whole culture or people, such as the terrorism of 9/11. One kind of terrorism wants to make the country better by freeing it from an oppressive government, while the other seeks to destroy a country and its culture.

The strongest thread in the movie, I thought, was the degree to which a distinction can be made between a government and its people. It is in the government's interest (specifically, in the interests of people in government) to cloud this distinction. A government wants its people to think that when it is threatened or harmed, it is the citizens who are threatened or harmed. In that way, it can manipulate its citizenry, draw taxes, enlist soldiers, enforce laws, wage wars, etc. -- all for the "common good" of the people; when, in fact, these interests can be very different.

It is therefore in a government's interest to categorize the two types of terrorism as one and the same -- to consider any attack, physical or even intellectual, on government as equivalent to an attack on the people. This is the lever of fear with which the current US administration is prying this country from constitutionally mandated liberty towards fascism and dictatorship. ( I can only hope there will be a public backlash against this -- otherwise things will get very bad in this country. )

I feel the statement of the movie would have been much better had they been clearer on this distinction between the two types of terrorism. The movie made the mistake of lumping all terrorists in the same category. It is possible the mixture was intentional, in order to stir this emotional conflict in the audience. But it makes the movie weaker as social criticism, ultimately empowering leverage against its case by sympathizing with the kind of terrorists who would destroy the country, rather than save it.

Note: Yep, just talked with my Fox News addicted father: "Ugg, you watched that? It's sympathizing with terrorists, how could you watch that?"

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