Do you ever find yourself bored on the couch, surfing nearly-identical streaming services or, if you still have it, cable? Do you succumb to watching something you’ve already seen in lieu of trying something new? In an era of content overload, there’s never been so little to watch or read. The sheer amount of garbage that is pumped onto screen and page alike almost seems by design, and it probably is.
Luckily, we have Counter-Currents’ Trevor Lynch book series, the latest of which is Trevor Lynch’s Classics of Right-Wing Cinema. It is a collection of film reviews published over the past few years on movies, many that we’re already familiar with, which give a specific Right-leaning impression. I know what you’re thinking: There’s a sub-genre of Right-wing filmmakers out there that I’m unaware of? Sadly, no, not really. In the preface, Greg Johnson states, “To be a Classic of Right-Wing Cinema, a movie need not have an explicitly Right-Wing director or message. Indeed, very few movies fit that description. Instead, a movie simply needs to have a message that resonates with the Right.”
Though I don’t want to discuss every movie reviewed, one example (my personal favorite) is the first one in the book, on American History X. The reason I enjoyed this one the most is because it may be the archetypal film that epitomizes Hollywood glorifying something that they were in fact trying to shame. Other examples of this are Fight Club, which tried to satirize masculinity and ended up making it cool; Full Metal Jacket attempting to demonize war but causing a surge in Marine Corps recruitment; and Avatar, which sought to discredit colonialism but everyone rooted for the humans, anyway. American History X does the same thing with the holiest of Hollywood holies: racism. Edward Norton is featured in two of the movies I just named, and I’m honestly shocked that no one at the New York Times has written a piece accusing him of being a crypto-fascist. Unfortunately for the screenwriter and director, the film “actually increases audience sympathies with neo-Nazi skinheads, despite its best efforts to present them as hateful hypocrites and losers,” as Trevor Lynch writes in his review. Some chalk this up to good storytelling, one method of which is to make your viewers actually sympathize with those who you believe to be in the wrong. But even in 1998, when the film was first released, there’s no way Hollywood would have sanctioned anything that even inadvertently sanctioned racism. As Lynch writes:
One does not need to endorse Derek’s Nazi ideology, rhetorical excesses, and physical violence to admire his sincerity and conviction, or to see the merits of his arguments. As for his opponents, they have nothing to offer but hurt looks, breaths sharply drawn in disapproval, and mumbling about racism and social inequalities.
How could such a misstep occur? Mere smugness, according to the review — and this hits the nail on the head.
The other review that I greatly enjoyed was a clear-cut classic of Right-wing cinema: Taxi Driver. Most have already seen it, and if you haven’t, you probably should. The essay does an excellent job of likening the arc of the protagonist, Travis Bickle, to that of men of present times, comparing him to today’s Rightist “honorable defeatists” or incels. Whereas the system once tolerated the vigilante’s crusade against the world’s degradation, it now shouts it down, because they know what they’re pushing. The bottom line: “Travis is a glutton for punishment.” The incel comparison might be the review’s most interesting observation, and it almost seems as if Taxi Driver was an eerie template for the modern, isolated, cultural dystonia that we live in today. Some of my other favorites were those about Bridge on the River Kwai, A Clockwork Orange, and House of Gucci.
Counter-Currents has always emphasized the importance of culture and entertainment as a part of metapolitics, as is evident from many of the books it has published. Another group that has noticed this are those who are currently in control of the mass media. The 1992 documentary Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, based on a book of the same name and directed by Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick, is a great primer on Chomsky’s work on the subject of media manipulation. A line from the book is reiterated in the documentary: “It’s the primary function of the mass media in the United states to mobilize public support for the special interests that dominate the government and the private sector.” This indoctrination is fact the “essence” of democracy. In an interview with Chomsky included in the film, he discusses how this is accomplished. There are two main targets for propaganda: The first is the “political class,” which is roughly 20% of the population — those who get an education, are articulate, and who play some sort of role in societal decision-making, as well as the mid- and upper-level managers such as teachers, professors, and writers; essentially, those who partake in politics. “Their consent is crucial and has to be deeply indoctrinated,” says Chomsky. The main function of the remaining 80% “is to follow orders and not to think.” Think sportsball and Marvel movies. Has not one mainstream scholar sought to apply Chomsky’s observations to our current regime’s propaganda and indoctrination?
It goes without saying that this manipulation goes way beyond CNN and FOX News. Entertainment-based media is just as crucial. Though there’s no changing the ways of the world overnight, Trevor Lynch’s Classics of Right-Wing Cinema gives you an opportunity to sit back, relax, reinterpret, and maybe even rewatch some of your favorite films, and perhaps some new ones as well. There’s a long road ahead, and everyone needs to some occasional diversion.
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Plastic Patriotism: Propaganda and the Establishment’s Crusade Against Germany and German-Americans During the First World War
Bad to the Spone: Charles Krafft’s An Artist of the Right
The Unnecessary War
Field of Dreams: A Right-Wing Film?
Memories of Underdevelopment: Revolution & the Bourgeois Mentality
Jon Stewart’s Irresistible: An Election in Flyover Country
It’s Time to Wind Down the Empire of Nothing