Posts Tagged Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories
Posted by Keith Spillett in Existential Rambings, Mr. Spillett's Academy Of Film Study For The Mentally Tormented on December 15, 2010
Few films capture the spirit of modern American paranoia better than William Friedkin‘s 2006 film “Bug“. It is a bleak, disturbing picture of two people consumed by sadness and connected through a shared feeling of conspiratorial persecution. Peter Evans (Michael Shannon) is a drifter who wanders into the life of Agnes White (Ashley Judd). They quickly find themselves embroiled in one of the more unhealthy relationships in recent film history. Agnes has barely survived a horrifically abusive marriage and the kidnapping of her young son. Peter has just finished a stretch some sort of shadowy psychiatric hospital where, depending on who you believe, he was either a severely disturbed escaped patient or a survivor of a series of Operation MK-Ultra meets The Manchurian Candidate type experiments. Together, they become the proverbial Bogey and Bacall of the Black Helicopter set. It would be easy to dismiss their ideas as the demented imaginings of two troubled people, but the narrative they construct about the meaning of lives and their relationship to the world is a powerful statement about modern mass hysteria.
Peter gets the paranoia party started by insisting that a mysterious THEY have put bugs in his blood. He is deeply committed to this idea, to the point of yanking some of his own teeth out in order to remove the egg sacs that are in his mouth. Quickly, things spiral out of control. They cover the walls of the room in tin foil, buy up half the bug zappers in Oklahoma and embark on a wild spree of shared psychosis and Dionysian self destruction that eventually annihilates them. The logic that gets them to this point is nothing short of amazing. They come to believe that everything that is happening to them is somehow connected to a greater plan. Peter connects his own experience to sixty years of back room schemes created by a mysterious unnamed cabal bent on completely enslaving the entire human race. In an amazing monologue, Peter manages to link the bugs he believes to be carrying to The People’s Temple in Jonestown, the Bilderberg Group and their secret meetings from 1954 until the present and even Timothy McVeigh (who was apparently the other lab rat who was given these bugs). Agnes soon links her own experiences to his and comes to realize that her abusive ex-husband and missing child are also products of the exact same treachery. It is the “everything happens for a reason” philosophy writ larger than life. All of these random, non-intersecting parts mean something. Each person’s life is a giant puzzle where all the pieces fit. It’s just a matter of collecting them all together and putting them in the correct places and then it will all make sense. This is the sort of thinking that Kurt Vonnegut lays bare in his book “The Sirens of Titan“. In that book, the entire arc of human history has been measured and calibrated in order create a replacement part for an alien space ship which will one day have the important task of placing a “greeting” message on a far away planet. We all have a purpose and that purpose happens to be completely absurd.
“Bug” takes this theme and runs wild with it. The characters have created meaning for their lives out of a mess of half-baked theories. Peter and Agnes really believe that this crazy composite of events was created for them. They see themselves as the protagonists of human history. They don’t simply pick one story as their narrative; they pick every single one that they have ever heard. The world really does revolve around them.
As I was watching this film I began to wonder if this was an accurate portrayal of the condition of the paranoia that exists in the minds of most Americans? Since I have never been in the minds of most Americans, I am not really able to say for sure. However, things are getting pretty weird out here in the real world and I have to wonder whether some of this isn’t the product of the same ideas that drove Peter and Agnes into mental oblivion. After all, there are a good number of people who will tell you that our President was born in Kenya, the National Security Council masterminded the 9/11 attacks, or the Federal Reserve killed John F. Kennedy. I’m not really interested in debating the validity of the ideas, I personally don’t believe them, but if you do that is really fine with me. I have a few pretty bizarre ideas about human history myself. What I find interesting about these theories is that how they illustrate the Woodward and Bernstein fantasy that some people are living. We are the investigators of some great cosmic puzzle whose pieces are scattered willy-nilly through a series of cultural and political markers. We are Sherlock Holmes turning our collective magnifying glass on everything. Media events are not things unto themselves; they are clues that connect us all to a larger picture.
Marshall McLuhan argued in his book “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” that modern technology had “extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace”. In “Bug”, Peter and Agnes disappear as individuals and instead try to take on the narrative of the human race as their new identity. McLuhan saw this loss of identity as a dangerous thing. He ominously noted that “the loss of individual and personal meaning via the electronic media ensures a corresponding and reciprocal violence from those so deprived of their identities; for violence, whether spiritual or physical, is a quest for identity and the meaningful” (Canadian Forum, 1976) This quote is “Bug” in a nutshell. Two beings entirely destroyed (first as individuals, next as physical beings) by the electric connection to the rest of the world. If violence is a necessary and eventual component of this search for identity then maybe we do have a great deal to be paranoid of.
A popular expression that tends to get used when people make asinine comments to a member of the media is “What were you thinking?” It is a common retort used to illustrate when someone has said something so utterly without merit that the reporter doesn’t feel the urge to mount a counter reply. Recently, Luke Scott, a muscle-headed, mouth-breathing Baltimore Oriole baseball player, who clearly cut many a history class in order to spend an additional hour in his school’s Chik Fil-A sponsored batting cage, made some monumentally dumb off the cuff remark about Barack Obama not being an American citizen. This sort of remark has faded a bit from its mid-2009 health care hysteria peak, but you still hear the occasional Manchurian candidate nonsense rearing its jingoistic head. I don’t expect Luke Scott to say anything worth listening to. What passes for discourse between athletes and reporters is the general ever flowing stream of “I’m going to go out there and do the best I can and, God willing, my teammates and I will get a win” type truisms that are taught to these folks in six hour cram session classes run by slime bucket agents who are looking to make their commodities more marketable to the slab of the American public that loves to hear the same thing over and over again.
I really could care less what Luke Scott has to say. What annoyed me was the glib, dismissive way that Yahoo writer Steve Henson rejected his remark in his recent free agency winners and losers column. Obviously Steve, we know what he was thinking. He was very clear about that in his statement. He was thinking that Obama was born in another country and, therefore, is an “illegitimate” President. The question seems to not be geared to mock what he was thinking, but his inability to know that when a reporter is around it is your job as an athlete to spout nothing but inoffensive, meaningless, Hallmark card style platitudes. Henson was really asking, “How could he not know that saying this would make him look ignorant? Doesn’t he know that it is his station in life to carry on this endless tradition of banal player interviews that we so love and revere? Why didn’t he just say something like “Obama will be fine if he gives this whole being born in the United States thing 110 percent”?
One of the unnamed right of passage exams that an athlete goes through on the way to householdnamedom is the “Can you say absolutely nothing of substance every time you are within 50 feet of a microphone” test. This is why listening to most athletes being interviewed is a highly painful endeavor. It’s as if the interviewer and the player a conspiring to cover up any human characteristics the athlete could possibly have. Occasionally, we are treated to colorful dimwits like Charles Barkley or Curt Schilling who say embarrassing “what the average guy is thinking” sorts of things, but mostly it’s just more of the “It was my childhood dream” sort of garbage. The Barkley/Schilling type stuff is awful for other reasons, but at least when I listen to it I know that their is a human being in there instead of a piece of equipment that runs a 4.3 40.
There is an upside to athletes feeling they have the ability to express themselves with some degree of freedom. For one, I now know that Luke Scott, once only known to me as the guy I might pick instead of Edwin Encarnacion in the 14th round of my AL keeper league draft, is a raving lunatic. Luke Scott has gone from 27 homeruns and 72 RBIs to a real human with definable features. I can like him or dislike him based on his ideas. Maybe there are a few Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Dock Ellis or Jim Bouton types who really have something unique to say. There is a real loss sports fans experience when athletes do not speak their minds. It is the loss of the chance to meet these players as human beings with real ideas and emotions. The ideas they have may be shameful, obnoxious, or ill informed but they remind us that we are living in a world of humans who feel, think and dream just like we do.