October 07, 2008
Having seen “American Carol“ on the basis of James Hirsen’s glowing review on Newsmax I am still reacting to this flick’s neoconservative message with a queasy stomach. From my exposure to this movie that David Zucker threw together with Bill O”Reilly, who appears as one of the movie’s characters, it seems that I was viewing a cinematic adaptation of Victor Davis Hansen’s collected rantings in The Weekly Standard. Every war the US entered, or so it was explained, was a holy crusade for democracy. To make this point even more explicit, Kelsey Grammer playing General George S. Patton explains to the caricature of Michael Moore, here called Michael Malone that if Lincoln had not been willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of Americans in the Civil War, black people would still be picking cotton on Southern plantations. Of course there is no reason to suspect that if Lincoln had failed to engage in armed conflict with the seceding Southern states, the result 150 years later would be the continuation of a plantation economy, one that already by 1860 seemed to most of the Western world, including many Southerners, to be anachronistic. Besides, Patton, like Winston Churchill and Benjamin Disraeli, greatly admired the Confederacy. His own family had held command post in the Confederate army, an achievement that Patton always returned to in conversation.
Even dumber but predictably neocon was a scene of Neville Chamberlain shining the shoes of Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo, at what was intended to be the Munich conference in October 1938. Never mind, that the Japanese didn”t attend that meeting; and although concessions were made at Munich to the German Nazi government, allowing it to annex the preponderantly German Sudetenland (given to the Czechs after World War One), the English prime minister at Munich did not grovel to Hitler. He finalized an international agreement recognizing German rights to the Sudetenland that had been worked out during the previous month. Contrary to the false impression conveyed in the movie, Chamberlain was not an appeaser by nature. He was a man already dying of cancer who was stalling for time because the British in October 1938 were not psychologically prepared to plunge into another bloody conflict that might be on the scale of World War One. Chamberlain, by the way, did support a declaration of war against Germany in September 1939, after the German invasion of Poland. And even then the British continued to stall so that they could mobilize adequately against their continental foe.
The movie is a clever takeoff on Dickens’s Christmas Carol, and it offers lots of laughs, mostly from the comically overweight Moore/Malone, who is the modern-day unpatriotic version of Scrooge, being brought to his senses after visits from long dead American military heroes. I also guffawed at the rallies held by perpetually adolescent professors protesting American belligerence, events I have sometimes attended as an observer at which the mental decrepitude of my academic colleagues is fully in evidence. A Rosy O”Donnell “recreation” of the violence of “radical Christians” is in fact the funniest thing I”ve seen in a movie, and particularly since all of my leftist acquaintances honestly believe that American is succumbing to Christian fanatics who are as violent as Muslim jihadists. In this movie Rosy fabricates stories that become “documentaries,” about nuns and priests who seize airplanes and who shoot passengers while offering Christian prayers and brandishing copies of the “Holy Bible.” I not only have run into the nutcases who believe such stuff. About half my acquaintances with PhDs fall into this category.
The movie, however, also pushes a simplistic neocon belief, namely that those who challenge American armed efforts to oppose our undemocratic enemies are unpatriotic. Anyone who questions these periodic adventures is deemed a fool, and indeed no better than the silly war protestors at Michael Moore/Malone’s “Hate America” rallies. Thus America Firsters who tried to keep the US out of World War Two were supposedly precursors of the anti-Vietnam War Left and prefigured the silly profs and coeds who are shown hanging around Malone. This association is factually inaccurate, as Justus Doenecke and Wayne Cole have amply demonstrated in writing about the opposition to America’s entry into World War Two. Although some America Firsters underestimated the nastiness and aggressiveness of Nazi Germany, there is no way that they could be reasonably described as unpatriotic or as soft on the enemy’s ideology. Unlike the Red Diaper babies who thronged the ranks of the anti-anti-Communists of the 1960s, America Firsters were thoroughly patriotic Americans, who often came out of Midwestern and Prairie State isolationist backgrounds. Many, like Robert McCormick, had served in World War One and to their consternation, had discovered the lies that had been used to push Americans into the European conflagration. Pace Zucker-O”Reilly, these earlier dissenters were not like the academic protestors I still vividly recall from the late 1960s. With few exceptions, these apparent enemies of war of my own generation were loudly and overwhelmingly pro-Communist.
The movie’s identification of patriotism with support for the war in Iraq, however, takes on a ludicrous aspect, probably not entirely intended. Malone’s nephew, who is a strapping young American soldier, leaves his wife and two badly handicapped children (one modeled on Dickens’s Tiny Tim), to fight for his country against terrorists for a democratic Iraq. In the next to the final scene we see Malone profusely apologizing to his soldier-nephew for not having previously recognized the nobility and necessity of the sacrifice he is about to make. Needless to say, I would be delighted if the staff of the Weekly Standard resigned their lucrative posts to go fight in a war they”ve incited, but I”m not sure the soldier who was on their wave-length in the movie was acting responsibly. If his children were as gravely impaired as the movie suggested, then his first obligation was to stay with them rather than to leave for a military tour overseas. Although possibly his military position forced him to go, the movie created the impression that he was leaving of his own volition, as a patriotic act. Do Zucker and O”Reilly really think that this young American father and husband was behaving correctly by abandoning his wife with two special-needs children? Allow me to register my doubts.