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The Second Civil War:
Did a 1997 HBO Film Accidentally Presage Today’s America?

[1]2,458 words

In 1998, when I was 12 years old, my father and I were watching television one evening when we stumbled upon an HBO made-for-TV movie called The Second Civil War.

The film has been largely forgotten in the years since, but its content — and the eerily accurate predictions within it — are quite astounding to behold today, 22 years later.

The film was directed by Joe Dante and has an ensemble cast featuring Denis Leary, Dan Hedaya, James Earl Jones, Beau Bridges, Phil Hartman, and many other well-known 1990s character actors. The story is set in the fictional near future; one that will be readily recognizable to CC readers.

The major plot point is the impending secession of the State of Idaho from the rest of the United States. (This dramatic premise was particularly ironic to my father and I when we first watched it, as we were Idaho residents at that time.)

Idaho’s impending secession has been brought to bear by the refusal of its conservative governor — Jim Farley, played by Beau Bridges — to acquiesce to federal orders to accept a planeload of Pakistani refugee children. The children are orphans that have been displaced by the dropping of a nuclear bomb on Pakistan by India. Their resettlement has been arranged by various liberal do-gooder organizations and officially ordered by the feckless US President (played by Phil Hartman), but Governor Farley is steadfastly refusing to admit them.

The reasons for this are, again, eerily prescient.

In the film, nearly every other small state in the US has been completely overwhelmed by third-world immigration, radically transforming each in the process, and the US has become a patchwork of ethnic political interests all jockeying for benefits and money. Alabama has become almost wholly populated by Hindu immigrants from India, and its ethnic-Indian Senator is reluctantly supporting the President’s resettlement of Pakistani children in the US in exchange for federal funding of more Hindu temples within his state. (The proto-Southern Indian-American senator brings to mind Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, whose political rise began around the time this film came out). Rhode Island is almost entirely Chinese — a voting bloc imported by the President’s party due to their voting patterns and the ease with which they quickly flipped the tiny state’s two senate seats. California has become almost wholly Hispanic, and all government business is conducted in Spanish.

This ethnic Balkanization is not just limited to immigrant groups, however, as the few remaining African American congressional districts in the country are represented by Nation of Islam members who are equally ethnocentric. Idaho, on the other hand, is one of the only remaining majority-white areas of the country, and the CNN-stand-in Cable News Network that provides the ongoing commentary in the film describes Governor Farley has having been elected due to his dog-whistling over the reluctance of Idaho’s white citizens to embrace their ethnic replacement.

It is appropriate at this juncture to emphasize that the film is essentially a black comedy, and in this regard the satirical humor is omnipresent. Indeed, the fact that both my twelve-year-old self and my elderly (Democrat) father found the movie intensely funny upon that first viewing testifies to the success with which the filmmakers infused the material with comedy, and most of this comes from the over-the-top portrayal of what we would today label “clown world.”

Idaho’s Governor Farley, for instance, is far from a consistent exemplar of anything resembling ethnic loyalty, as he is having an extra-marital affair with the Hispanic Cable News anchor stationed in Boise, and after calling up the National Guard to secure the Idaho border against the federal troops attempting to bring in the Pakistani children, completely loses interest in the situation due to his hopeless love for the sultry Latina.

His opponent, the President, is portrayed as a hapless idiot who makes every decision based on polling and electoral math. The president’s chief advisor is a cynical Washington lobbyist played by James Coburn, who considers every strategic move only through the lens of the coming re-election campaign, and refers to ethnic groups by the number of electoral votes they control.

All the other denizens of our modern political world are there as well.

We have the Al Sharpton facsimiles fighting within the halls of Congress against their Chinese and Hindu peers; we have the arrogant liberal news reporter crying “racism” (played by Ron Perlman, ironically); we have the Christian Identity militia members with bowls of grenades on their kitchen table hosting fundraisers for Governor Farley; the booze-guzzling Idaho and U.S. Generals squaring off on the battle line, still arguing over their Gulf War era-rivalry as the country falls apart around them; and the brain-dead television anchors attempting to save face amidst the insanity.

There is also Denis Leary, in a memorable role as the John-Wayne-worshipping gonzo journalist attempting to cover the insanity from the front lines, and James Earl Jones, as an elderly commentator providing the voice of reason within the madness (his sober perspective reinforced by his wife’s ongoing battle with cancer). Leary and Jones’ characters are portrayed the least ridiculously, but even they serve to reflect and amplify the insanity the country has descended into, as a result of the massive (Progressive) changes it has undergone.

If you are wondering how a film like this ever came to be, you are not alone, as it seems almost impossible to me that it was ever allowed to be made.

I think the answer may be that the script was simply so ahead of its time that the Hollywood liberal establishment (and even the filmmakers and actors) did not entirely realize just how verboten the themes within it would become. Indeed, neither Dante (the director) nor the film’s chiefly-credited writer (Martyn Burke) appear to be particularly conservative today, and it is quite possible the film has been forgotten in large measure because those who helped make it are understandably reticent to shine a light on its themes in the current year.


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While the film seemingly attempts to find a middle ground in its portrayal of this “clown world” America, let there be no mistake that if it were made today it would instantly be castigated as one of the evilest, most racist movies ever. What at the time must have seemed a non-partisan sendup of political correctness (again, even my lifelong Democrat father loved the movie when we watched it) would today come off as rabidly “hateful,” and that much more so because of its accuracy.

The film perfectly depicts the total incompatibility between mass immigration and democracy. Electoral politics have devolved into an ever-growing orgy of “voter importation,” with each political party attempting to import more third world immigrants that will vote for their side of the aisle. Social trust and national asabiyyah are non-existent. The Pakistani children are portrayed as not knowing how to use bathrooms, and turn the plane they are being flown to Idaho on into (as the Cable News videographer on board describes it) a “flying pile of shit.” The shrill, short-haired female activist in charge of the children’s resettlement is portrayed as a morally bankrupt parasite virtue-signaling her way to fame. Ethnic turmoil is omnipresent. And — just like today — violence is rampant. As tensions escalate, Los Angeles erupts into a full-fledged battle between the Hispanic city government and the city’s black gangs. Mexicans in Texas blow up the Alamo. Militia members blow up the Statue of Liberty.

And, while each side is portrayed as hopelessly clueless, it seems abundantly clear to me that the film’s sympathies lie with Idaho.

Indeed, the film’s denouement contains several extremely effective scenes in which white US troops refuse to fight against Idaho and are summarily executed on the order of their black sergeant (broadcast live by Leery and his cameramen, risking their lives in honor of their hero “the Duke” John Wayne). [1] [4] Idaho is eventually joined in its rebellion by Montana, North Dakota, and other majority-white states, and eventually, even non-white states join with it, as (ironically) even they no longer wish to see mass immigration continue.

At one point Rhode Island even defects to Idaho’s side, sending in a detachment of its (100% Chinese) National Guard members to Idaho’s aid. The president finally loses his temper, and he erupts in indignation: “We dotted every ethnic I, and every racial T, and now the Chinese — our goddamn Chinese for Christ’s sake (!) — side with that prick Farley and his rednecks!”

His lobbyist advisor tells him not to worry, however, as there are always more third-world voters to be imported. Or, failing that, the lobbyist says, “we can just take the Irish off birth control.” (The filmmakers didn’t quite foresee the precipitous drop in white birthrates, apparently.)

As the storyline winds to a close, both the drama and the ridiculousness are ratcheted up. The US President (attempting to be “Lincoln-esque”) decides to give Idaho an ultimatum — open the border to the Pakistani children or be attacked by federal troops — but is so reluctant to interrupt the finale of All My Children (the soap opera) that he decides upon a ridiculous timeline of “67.5 hours” instead of his original one of 72.

The Idaho governor grows increasingly detached from the war his people are about to fight, suddenly believing (rightly or wrongly — it’s ambiguous) that the Hispanic TV anchoress is pregnant with his child.

And then comes the conclusion.

You might expect that there is no way an actual civil war would be shown, but you would be wrong.

The film depicts the bloody battle between Idaho and its compatriots and the federal troops, and the scenes are no less emotionally affecting for the humor embedded within them. I’ll leave the final ending ambiguous, so as not to wholly ruin it for those who have not seen the film, and I heartily encourage any and all reading this to watch it.

The film has not yet been “canceled,” surprisingly, although this might be because it is so little-known today. And this is fortunate, for it contains much wisdom amidst the absurdity.

One exchange between Governor Farley and his chief aide close to the end perhaps best sums up the complexities advanced by the film. The aide is desperate for the Governor to come down off the top of the statehouse, where he is lost in rapture at the thought of his (potential) son with the Hispanic media journalist, whom he says they will name “Juan Pablo Farley.”

“Well. . .” says the aide, nervously, “I’d wish you come down off that ledge and make some decisions on this stuff, Governor, because we’ve got the National Guard keeping out about a million Juan Pablos right now. . .”

“Well yeah, that’s because there are a million!” Governor Farley yells. “But one Juan Pablo? One cute kid? You’re telling me we’re gonna kick him out? My son? No way, Jose!”

The governor’s statement does not come off as him finally having found “wisdom,” however. Rather, it seems to further point at his hypocrisy, a nuanced reflection of what may be the film’s most salient illustration. We as normal Americans did not want to keep out any cute little “Juan Pablos” — but such emotional considerations, as easy as they are to come to, absolutely do not scale.

Overall, the film is an unforgettable and damning indictment of what happens when a society does bring in millions upon millions of foreign immigrants, and of a hopelessly ignoble ruling class that engages in such demographic terraforming to advance their own soulless thirst for political power. Most amazing, though, is that this damning indictment seems to have been made by mistake, by the very liberal intelligentsia it so ruthlessly skewers, who perhaps themselves could not even imagine the depths of insanity progressivism would eventually reach.

Indeed, who among the Left could have realized — in 1997 — that 22 years hence their side would be supporting gender reassignment surgery on twelve-year-olds? The razing of Thomas Jefferson statues? The abolishment of the police and ICE?

The very few references to the movie in recent years made by anyone associated with it seem to seek to portray it is an indictment of nationalism and conservatism, but I believe this is at best wishful thinking on their behalf, if not half-frightened shading of the truth, due to the ease with which any focus on the film could bring about the cancellation of those who made it.

The truth is that no sober viewer could view The Second Civil War in such a manner.

Indeed, whether this was from some rogue writer who had an outsized role in the script, or from Dante and/or Burke overwhelmingly hiding their “power level” for over two decades, or whether it was merely some type of Kekian, karmic force that allowed it to be so, The Second Civil War is a film made in the crucible of Clown World that more perfectly indicts Clown World America than any other piece of art I know of.

One affecting scene in particular has stayed with me all these years.

In it, while the mutinying (white) US troops are standing blindfolded about to be executed by firing squad on the orders of their (black) sergeant, one engages in a soliloquy in the moments before he is shot.

It ends thus:

Soldier: Go ahead, kill your own, kill America!  There’s nothing left of it anyway. . .

Sergeant: Ready!

Soldier: Just a bunch of politicians, or executives, who hire people in places we don’t live. . .

Sergeant: Aim!

Soldier: Are you gonna kill for that!?

Sergeant: Fire!

Today, after seeing dozens of heritage Americas have their lives ruined or ended in similarly bleak circumstances, one can only call the scene prophetic.

That raises the obvious question: will time reveal the film to be an even more accurate predictor of America’s future? Might a conservative governor in the near future, faced with the forcible replacement of his state’s population, actually secede and start a second civil war, and thus render the film even more prophetic?

I, for one, would not complain. And I think “The Duke” would approve.

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[1] [8] It seems to me that the film’s positive references to John Wayne alone would be grounds enough for it to be “canceled” today, given the evil now ascribed to “The Duke” by those on the Left.