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Gangs of New York

[1]1,873 words

March 30, 2003

I finally saw Gangs of New York, and I wish that I had gone much sooner. Gangs is an absolutely magnificent movie, the best movie I have seen since The Two Towers. It is Martin Scorsese’s best movie — ever. Better even than Taxi Driver, which has been my favorite of his films until now. But Gangs is now closing its run in theaters all over the country, so see it if you still have the chance, for it is an unforgettable experience on the big screen.

I am in general agreement with Erik Meyer’s letter about Gangs posted on the V-DARE site (http://www.vdare.com/letters/tl_010503.htm [2]), and I recommend that you read it.

Gangs is the story of the conflict between two criminals, Bill “the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day Lewis) and Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo di Caprio), in New York’s “Five Points” during the American Civil War. Bill the Butcher is the head of the “Native Americans” gang, fighting for the interests of those who descended from the original settlers and founders of the United States against recent immigrants, primarily from Ireland. The immigrants are represented by the “Dead Rabbits,” a gang led by “Priest” Vallon (Liam Neeson).

The prologue of Gangs is set around fourteen years before the main story. The Dead Rabbits and the Native Americans meet to settle, by the “ancient laws of combat,” who has control over Five Points. The battle is the most savage and gut-wrenching I have seen on screen since Braveheart. In the end Priest Vallon is mortally wounded and then dispatched by Bill the Butcher while young Amsterdam Vallon looks on in horror. Orphaned, he is taken to a reformatory, where he nurses his resentment, gets into lots of fights, and dreams of revenge.

All grown up, Amsterdam returns to New York, joins Bill the Butcher’s gang, and gains first his trust and then his love, becoming the son he never had. And the love of Bill the Butcher is not something to be spurned. Not because he is a dangerous criminal who might take revenge, but because he is a truly heroic and noble man, one of the most remarkable characters in film and literature — ever. And his portrayal by Daniel Day Lewis is one of the greatest film performances — ever. (Given the mounting exposure of Jewish evil in the world, it only makes sense that Lewis and Scorsese were passed over in the Oscars. The Jew Brody received the Best Actor and the Jew Polansky the Best Director Oscars for what must be the six millionth holocaust flick, The Pianist.)

Torn between his feelings for Bill the Butcher, who is the greatest man he has ever met, and the dead father he barely knew, Amsterdam chooses revenge. Not that Amsterdam is unable to appreciate Bill the Butcher’s greatness. But in the end he succumbs to his own smallness. His chosen method of revenge is equally small and cowardly. Instead of meeting Bill the Butcher in open combat, as “Priest” Vallon did, Amsterdam tries to assassinate the Butcher “like a sneak thief” with a throwing knife while he is celebrating the anniversary of his victory over the Priest.

It is an act of revenge that dishonors not only Amsterdam, but also his father, who was cut from the same noble stuff as Bill the Butcher. The Butcher respects him as the “only man he ever killed worth remembering.” It is a brutal irony that Priest Vallon was better honored by the man who killed him than by the son who avenged him.

The assassination fails, and Bill the Butcher leaves Amsterdam alive, to experience the shame of his cowardice and defeat and perhaps to recover his honor, just as “Priest” Vallon once let a defeated Bill the Butcher live to redeem himself. The Butcher’s mistake is that such tactics only work against honorable men, and Amsterdam Vallon is not an honorable man. Amsterdam Vallon is supposed to be the hero of this film, but he is utterly despicable, and he never redeems himself in the end.

Gangs proves that director Scorsese is a genius of subversion. Like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, Bill the Butcher presents a coherent and compelling critique of the society of his time. And like Travis Bickle, Bill the Butcher is portrayed as a psychopath and a criminal. But both Bickle and The Butcher are alienated and “maladjusted” because they are idealists frustrated by the corruption of the world around them. They take to violence only because society falls short of their ideals. They see violence as the only way to restore the proper order of things. They are instruments of a higher justice, a justice that requires the system be overthrown.

Hollywood would never allow the sentiments of Travis Bickle or Bill the Butcher to be uttered by heroes, but they think it safe to put them in the mouths of villains. Smugly conventional people will, of course, dismiss anything said by a criminal or a “psycho,” no matter how coherent and compelling. But people with minds accept the truth no matter who speaks it. People of honor admire heroism no matter who displays it.

Bill the Butcher is a far more articulate hero than Travis Bickle, and Gangs presents a far more complex criticism of American society than Taxi Driver. According to Bill the Butcher, America is not an “idea” like freedom or equality. It is not a political or economic “system” like capitalism or democracy. America is an organic community, a community of blood: a community purchased by the blood of its founders to safeguard the blood of their posterity. Bill the Butcher’s father spilled his blood fighting for America. Bill the Butcher was born in this country. And that, to his mind, should count for something. He has a birthright, a blood right, not a mere abstract “human” right that does not distinguish him from a Hottentot or a Papuan.

Because of his philosophy of Blood and Soil, Bill the Butcher is opposed to immigration. He sees immigration for what it was then, and what it is now: A tool by which raceless, rootless men dispossess Americans of their birthrights. In Gangs the two representatives of this type are Abraham Lincoln and Boss Tweed.

In a brilliant sequence, Scorsese shows how Lincoln’s men took desperate young Irishmen right off one boat, enlisted them in the Union army to dispossess Southerners of their birthrights, and then loaded them onto another boat — while at the same time offloading coffin upon coffin of his victims. This is why Bill the Butcher throws a knife into a poster of Lincoln and starts a riot at a performance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He sees that Lincoln’s artificial “Union” devoted to the “proposition” of equality is the mortal enemy of an organic community based on blood. The blood of White men is more valuable than the blood of Blacks. So there is no reason for White men to die for the freedom of Blacks.

Boss Tweed uses immigrant votes to defeat nativist candidates, running the same people through the polls again and again until the votes cast outnumber the potential voters. Don’t laugh. That is how your votes are being nullified today.

Another category of raceless profiteers on immigration are the businessmen who use it to depress wages, paying an Irishman a nickel to do the job an American once did for a dollar. Nothing, apparently, has changed.

The main objects of Bill the Butcher’s wrath are the Irish, but it is clear that he opposes the Irish because they are immigrants, not the immigrants because they are Irish. Indeed, the man in the film he admires most is Priest Vallon, and he employs Irishmen in his gang. This is important to note, because one effect of Gangs is to exacerbate Irish resentment against the American establishment and promote a mindless attachment to open borders, because, after all, the Irish were unwelcome immigrants too. Just for the record: I love Irish people, Irish literature, and Irish folk music. But that does not blind me to what I like to call “the Irish Question.”

There is an Irish Question for the same reason that there is a Jewish Question: the Irish are good at holding grudges, and they have carried their grudge against the English to America, directing it against the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants who founded and used to run this country. The divisive presence of the Irish was an important factor in the rise of our present Jew-dominated system, and although the Irish are slated for eventual extermination along with the rest of us, they still enjoy a higher status in the propasphere than any other White ethnic group.

That’s why Americans all celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, but not Saint George’s Day. That’s why on television and in the movies so many of the positive White characters (crusading liberal attorneys, meddling social workers, sensitive cops, and all manner of career girls) have Irish names. That’s why the multicultural “Rainbow Confederates” of the League of the South promote the myth of a “Celtic” Confederacy in a pathetic attempt to align themselves with a Jew-approved White ethnic category, which in effect would assure them only of being on the LAST cattle car to the extermination camps.

In this context, Amsterdam Vallon can be seen, not merely as an individual Irishman, but as a symbol of the Irish Question. He has inherited a grudge. He is sick with self-pity and eaten up by resentment. He tosses his Bible in the river when released from the reformatory, but uses the Catholic Church as a rallying place when it suits him politically. He even prays for victory. In his resentment against Bill the Butcher, the American of Blood and Soil, he allows himself to be used by Boss Tweed, the rootless System man, to strip Americans of their birthrights. He is too stupid, or too blinded by his own pettiness, to see that the system he is aiding will in the end destroy him and his kind too.

The fact that the same System is at war with both Americans and immigrants is underscored by the backdrop of the film’s climax: the great New York draft riots of 1863. When the System began to draft men into the Union army, but allowed the rich to buy exemptions, the poor rioted. Politicians and Blacks were lynched; the military was called in to restore order; thousands were killed. Scorsese’s handling of the riots is brilliant. (They were especially satisfying to me because he smashes and burns all the props and accessories from his worst movie, The Age of Innocence. These were so obtrusive that the film seemed like a cross between Merchant-Ivory and the Home Shopping Network.)

Gangs has been criticized because the riots overwhelm and literally obscure the battle between Bill the Butcher and Amsterdam Vallon. But that’s the point. The great tragedy of this film is the tragedy of the White race as a whole: We are divided by language, culture, religion, and ancient, senseless grudges, which drive the best of us — the Bill the Butchers and Priest Vallons — to slaughter each other, when we should be uniting to destroy the System that was, and still is, destroying us.

VNN, March 30, 1003