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A “Non-Stop” view into the conservative mind

2014 March 3
by Paul

An article from Chicks on the Right came to my attention via my Facebook feed. It’s panning a movie that I didn’t know anything about. I don’t have to watch it though, all I need to know is that it contradicts the conventional, conservative line in just about every possible way.

There’s a collection of insights that can be gleaned from 24NCIS, CSI, Blue Bloods, or just about any of the apparently hundreds of police-type dramas on television these days. Chief among these insights is that American law enforcement and American military policy are always virtuous and righteous (except when they’re not, in which case there is a careful distinction drawn between the “good” good guys and the “guys who aren’t really good guys after all”). There are other ideas that the American television and movie consumer is meant to learn from these nightly civics lessons:

  • The bad guy is always Muslim/Middle Eastern (or at the very least a foreigner). This is an interesting parallel to the days of the Cold War, when bad guys always spoke perfect English with an Eastern European accent.
  • The good guy is always presented with a clear choice between right and wrong. He or she is never asked to make a judgement call within a gray area.

So, with all this in mind, the movie that Chicks on the Right is shouting down is Non-Stop. I’ll stop right here and say that from this point on, this post will contain spoilers. If you follow the link to the COTR article, or the Breitbart article that it links to (and quotes extensively), you’ll encounter spoilers galore as well.

Now, what is it about this movie that get’s these two Über-conservative sites’ hackles up? Breitbart’s John Nolte sums up:

The terrorist is a 9/11 family member. Yes, you read that right; the terrorist is a 9/11 family-member who lost a loved-one in the World Trade Center on that terrible September morning.

It gets worse…

After 9/11,  this 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist then joined the military but found himself disillusioned by the pointless wars.

And now…

The 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist is upset because America hasn’t done enough to ensure there will never be another 9/11. And so he figures that if he can get an air marshal blamed for a terrorist attack, America will wake up and anally probe us before we’re allowed on a plane, or something.

It gets worse…

The villain’s sidekick is a member of the American military willing to murder 150 innocent people for a payday.

It gets worse…

The one passenger on the plane who is forever helpful, kind, reasonable, noble, and never under suspicion is a Muslim doctor dressed in traditional Muslim garb including a full beard.

So, let’s take this opportunity to peer into the conservative mind. The not-so-subtle structure of the article builds to a crescendo of credulous predictability, so let’s deconstruct it from the top down.

The greatest evil foisted upon the movie-going public, according to Nolte, is that in the moment of a terrorist act, no one stood up and dramatically fingered the traditionally dressed Muslim (“including a full beard!”), shouting “There he his! That’s the guy! Get ‘im!”

The penultimate sin committed by Non-Stop is that it has the unmitigated audacity to suggest that a member of the American military is not a shiny, perfect, Army Strong™, 100 percent-certified hero. As a matter of fact, this ex-soldier is a murderer for hire! I’ve never understood how enlisting in the military obliterates any potential for vice or unrighteousness in any individual.

Next in the conservative taxonomy of sins is that the film’s antagonist joined the military after 9/11 and actually “found himself disillusioned by the pointless wars.” Perish the thought! Clearly this guy wasn’t cut out for the military in the first place. Everyone knows that America’s military expeditions are always just and it only prosecutes war in order to secure the freedoms of its populace.

Here’s where I do in fact rather agree with Mr. Nolte:

The 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist is upset because America hasn’t done enough to ensure there will never be another 9/11. And so he figures that if he can get an air marshal blamed for a terrorist attack, America will wake up and anally probe us before we’re allowed on a plane, or something.

This is a pretty silly plot device (especially for one so essential to the overall plot). However, it does hit upon the fact that real people in the real world don’t always do things that make sense. In other words, things aren’t always as cut-and-dried as they are on prime time cop shows.

The first and presumably least objectionable fault in Non-Stop is that the bad guy is a family member of a 9/11 victim. You can see their bloodthirsty conservative minds blow to think that an American could do something like that. It calls to mind the speculation after the Oklahoma City bombing that a foreign operative had lit the fuse. American exceptionalism like this forms the ground of conservative thinking. There’s simply no other way to think as far as they’re concerned.

Xenophobia, warmongering, undying devotion to the warfare state (and its counterpart inside the national borders, the police state), and unwavering praise for everything American. For conservatives, without a healthy dose of each of these, it’s just not worth watching.

Assent is the currency of power

2012 September 10
by Paul

“Nothing in this world is free.”

“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

“Let the buyer beware.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user kristinausk

There are dozens of admonishments for those considering exchanging their hard-earned cash for some good or service. And with good reason: money is an everyday necessity. It is the means by which we feed and clothe our families, realize our dreams, and build prosperity. We do well to consider carefully how to allocate such a precious resource. Eventually, all sales are final. Once we’ve handed our money over to someone else, we lose the right to say how it should be used.

But what about another kind of currency? This currency is apparently not highly valued by the vast majority of Americans. It is given away on a whim to any scoundrel who is willing to make the grandest promises. However, there is a small group who do place a great deal of value on it. They will do practically anything to obtain it: lie, cheat, steal, make outrageous promises, some might even kill if they thought they could get away with it.

This currency isn’t something you keep in your wallet. It’s not in the vault at the local bank. I’m talking about votes. Of course those who covet votes are politicians.

Unlike the U.S. Dollar, votes are difficult (and illegal) to counterfeit (of course only the U.S. Government may legally counterfeit dollars). Every individual of a certain age and social status gets only one vote. In order to obtain power, a politician must convince a majority of voters to hand over his or her vote.

When a dollar transfers from the hands of a consumer to that of a business owner, its spending power goes with it. In the same way, a vote transfers power. By casting her vote, a citizen transfers her assent to another person.

“So what,” you say?

There’s a profound implication in the idea of votes as valuable commodities: spend them wisely.

Imagine scrupulously saving for months and months. At last you have enough to buy that new car. When you arrive at the dealership, the salesman shakes his head and says, “Sorry, all I have right now is this one with only three wheels and that one that they’re unloading from the tow truck.” What do you do? Do you choose the lesser of two evils? Do you declare you’d rather have anything but that three-wheeled car, so you’ll take your chances with the heap that’s being hauled in?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user shaghaghi.

If you do you’re a fool.

Even if that’s the only car dealership in town, why waste your money there? Go to a different town. Shop around. You’re the customer. You worked hard for that dollar, make them do the same.

The same goes for voting. If no one’s selling what you’re looking for in the political market, make it known that you’re withholding your vote until you’re satisfied with the offerings. Reason’s Nick Gillespie sets a great example.

An entrepreneur plies his trade in a certain market because he’s hoping that’s where the money is. In the same way, the candidates available on the ballot are there because they think they have a good shot at earning a majority of votes. If enough voters make clear that certain issues are important to them, rest assured there will be politicians eager to capture those votes.

If you’re willing to settle for a used junker every time, the streets will be lined with shady dealerships hawking curb stones. If we vote for the “lesser evil” every time, we’ll be on the path to “somewhat evil” governance for the foreseeable future. The only way to make it better is to demand more.

Above all, caveat voter.

Missionary Munitions

2011 September 11
by Paul

Ministering as opportunity surrounds us does not mean selecting our surroundings, it means being very selectly God’s in any haphazard surroundings which he engineers for us.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, September 11 entry