|Col. Claus von Stauffenberg|
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
The Liberty Movement in Cinema
When I talk about the liberty movement in movies or television, I don’t refer to Ron Paul Flix or Rand Paul Flix (though those are both great venues and all Paul supporters should check them out on YouTube as soon as possible). I’m talking about well-known and loved Hollywood movies where the conservative/libertarian viewer can draw clear parallels between the content of the film and a particular episode from his own time as an activist. Once the viewer knows what themes, archetypes, and patterns in character and plot development to look for, there will be liberty movement parallels leaping at him from the screen.
I won’t include The Patriot in this rant, nor will I include Atlas Shrugged, Margin Call, The Social Network, or any of the other movies favorably reviewed by Jeffrey Tucker, Mark Thornton, and other Austrian economists. Why? Those movies show the glories of voluntary association and individual liberty while exposing the blatant evils of large, oppressive government, intellectual property, Keynesian economics, etc. Basically, those movies all preach to the conservative/libertarian choir.
Since I’m feeling bitter and cynical, I want to have a good dark-humored laugh and make light of the more trying episodes in our movement’s recent history. I want to be able to laugh at our failures. Trust me, I’m not just some nihilist—nihilists rarely apply themselves—I just think it’s healthy for us in the liberty movement to be able to laugh at ourselves once in a while, otherwise we’ll go crazy from all the setbacks and disappointments. Hence the popularity of the Ron Paul Problems blog. Here’s a look at five movies with scenes that serve as perfect metaphors for epic fails in our recent history:
1. Henry V. Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of England’s King Henry the Fifth (according to William Shakespeare) is nothing short of excellent. The film and story truly are epic (and enjoyable, despite the imperialistic overtones). The best scene of the entire film takes place just after the Battle of Agincourt, where the English have defeated the French but at a painful cost. Even the king’s own squire was killed. The victors sing the religious chant “Non Nobis Domine” as they wade through mud, blood, and thousands of corpses to collect their own dead. This scene reminds me of the day after the 2012 California Primary Election where Ron Paul and a great many liberty candidates were annihilated by neocons, yet we still managed to score a few victories for liberty candidates who would survive to see the general election.
2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This movie is a classic for reasons I need not explain. I’ll only mention that it’s a great underdog story. Several of the men in the asylum remind me of my comrades in our movement. Like them, people think we’re crazy but we’re only playing their game because it serves our purposes. Unfortunately, the little rebellion in the mental hospital was crushed by the vindictive nurse. At least the chief escaped! Most of our candidates may have been evaporated in the 2012 election cycle, but some of them will live to fight another day.
3. Valkyrie. The Germans who conspired to take out Hitler were by no means men of Ludwig von Mises’ caliber. Many of them were dedicated socialists and more like rats on a sinking ship who saw how thinly stretched the Third Reich’s forces were. Still, I have the highest admiration for Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg who was truly different from most of his co-conspirators in that he was never a member of the Nazi Party nor a supporter of Hitler. Everyone knows the July 20th plot to assassinate Hitler failed and Stauffenberg and company were executed. This small group of dedicated reformers who dared hijack the state, the Nazi Party, and the German armed forces to enact instant change for the survival of their country remind me of the vastly outnumbered Ron Paul delegates at the 2012 Republican National Convention. What advice would I have given the Paul delegates as they were being de-credentialed and swept aside at the RNC? Stauffenberg’s words to General Olbricht: “Look them in the eyes. That way they’ll remember you.”
4. Richard III. Shakespeare has led us to believe that England’s notorious king Richard the Third was a cruel and wicked despot whose overthrow meant the liberation of his people from tyranny. Roy Morris Jr.’s editorial in the December 2012 issue of Military Heritage turns that historical theory upside down since Richard had a legitimate claim to the throne and the victorious Henry Tudor (Henry VII) was technically the usurper who strong-armed his way to the throne in a bloody coup. Since Queen Elizabeth was a Tudor, Shakespeare probably had to kiss ass in order to obtain the Queen’s political favor by demonizing Richard III while making Henry VII look way more awesome than even Ron Paul. Unfortunately, Morris’ probably-true account doesn’t make good drama and Shakespeare’s douchebag king does. Ian McKellen does the role justice in the 1995 film paralleling the York regime with the Third Reich. When the despot finally commits suicide at Bosworth Field (with musical accompaniment by Al Jolson) the viewer is left incredibly frustrated. Sure, it’s great and dandy that the despot is dead, but everyone knows Henry should have dealt the death blow! Picture the 2012 General Election: We’re all happy Romney got the crippling defeat he deserved, especially after the millions he spent to sabotage Ron Paul, but it still sucks that Paul wasn’t the victor in this election (and that we still have another four years of Obama waiting for us).
5. The Empire Strikes Back. If anyone’s actually thinking of correcting me for not writing the Star Wars Episode V prefix, go punch yourself and bathe in cold water now. What happens in the Empire Strikes Back? Just to name a few: the Rebel Alliance get their asses handed to them in the Battle of Hoth, the Alliance only narrowly survives after a fighting retreat, Luke Skywalker quits his Jedi training early (and loses his arm in close combat), and Han Solo gets frozen in carbonite and hauled away by Boba Fett. The gleeful days following the destruction of the first Death Star are long gone, the Empire has regained the initiative, and the Rebel Alliance is losing the war. Welcome to the liberty movement today! Ron Paul didn’t get the nomination, he’s now retired from Congress, a great many liberty candidates didn’t get elected in 2012, Justin Amash and other fiscal conservatives have been kicked off of key committees, and freaking Jim DeMint left the Senate to go write fairy tales at the Heritage Foundation. What the hell, man! But not all is lost. Rand Paul and Mike Lee are still the liberty movement’s Dynamic Duo of the Senate; Amash, Bentivolio, Massey, and other pillars of conservative/libertarian thought are still raising hell in the House, and Judge Napolitano still hasn’t shut up.
Furthermore, the final scene of The Empire Strikes Back where Luke holds Leia is bittersweet but with a shade of optimism. Sure, it seems like the good guys are up shit creek without a paddle, but the fact stands that Luke and Leia will live to fight another day. The fact that members of the liberty movement are reading this and agreeing with some of it means that we will live to fight another day in the political process. Rand may even run for President in 2016! Together, you and I will push forward for liberty and Constitutional government for as long as fifteen or twenty years if we have to. (Because I’m also missing my right arm, I get to be Luke Skywalker. No discussions.) The statists may have won this round but the fight ain’t over. I don’t know about all of you, but I don’t intend to go quietly.
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Film festival photo by "Borislavkf" and used via CC BY-SA 3.0 license. No copyrights were given or implied for the Stauffenberg photo. Both images were obtained from Wikimedia Commons. YouTube videos are not the property of Zach Foster but are used according to the Standard YouTube License. Intellectual Property can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. If it weren't I'd have used photo stills from Star Wars. Oh well. Add that to the list of things to bellyache about.