Softly Killing Our Rights
If you want to watch a thinly veiled parable of the 2008 economic collapse, then Killing Them Softly is the movie for you.
The story is set in the fall of 2008 against the backdrop of the Barack Obama-John McCain presidential race and the economic meltdown that rocked their campaigns. Any time a character passes a television set, it will be tuned to then-President Bush selling his emergency plans to salvage the economy or, later on, to one of Obama’s campaign speeches. Except for a billboard glimpsed in the first scene, the movie ignores McCain.
Dominik’s America is grim. The story takes place in an unidentified city that is nothing but industrial rust and decay. If a lot isn’t empty, it is home to a building with boarded-up windows. Characters meet beneath the underpasses of highways that lead nowhere.
It doesn’t take much digging to get Dominik’s message. The mob-run poker games represent Wall Street. Richard Jenkins plays the unnamed lawyer in a Lexus who gives Pitt his orders. The lawyer complains that the gangsters who employ him suffer “a total corporate mentality.”
The idea of organized crime standing in for big business isn’t new. The original two “Godfather” movies did it earlier and did it better. Francis Ford Coppola lifted the veil of metaphor just once, in “The Godfather, Part II” when Hyman Roth says, “We’re bigger than U.S. Steel.”
The messages are so obvious in “Killing Me Softly” that Dominik all but dispenses with metaphor. Jackie puts it bluntly: “America’s not a country, it’s a business.”
The transition from Bush to Obama felt consequential for a number of reasons; historic transcendence of race, soaring rhetorical ambition, and the relief of finally leaving behind the dark reign of the scoundrels who ran the criminal syndicate known as the Bush administration.
While there were warning signs that the new boss was substantively the same as the old boss, it’s taken a slew of scandals to erode the foundation beneath Obama supporters. I think the following tweet (from Hasalyn Modine) illustrates the growing disillusionment:
I’m really disappointed in President Obama. I was one of the blindly optimistic ones and I feel like a fool. #prism
Last week’s multiple headlines about the NSA’s various metadata vacuuming programs came from a whistleblower who made the gutsy decision to come out from the shadows. His name is Edward Snowden, and his fate is now in the hands of a government that has declared its power to assassinate its own citizens.
Having watched the Obama administration prosecute whistleblowers at a historically unprecedented rate, he fully expects the US government to attempt to use all its weight to punish him. “I am not afraid,” he said calmly, “because this is the choice I’ve made.”
He predicts the government will launch an investigation and “say I have broken the Espionage Act and helped our enemies, but that can be used against anyone who points out how massive and invasive the system has become”.
The only time he became emotional during the many hours of interviews was when he pondered the impact his choices would have on his family, many of whom work for the US government. “The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more. That’s what keeps me up at night,” he said, his eyes welling up with tears.
On Morning Joe this morning, Joe speculated that Americans won’t give a shit about being spied on because 66% of Americans don’t give a shit that our government regularly blows up people with drone strikes.
And his sidekick, Mika Brzezinski (daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski) grilled Glenn Greenwald about what exactly is illegal with all this spying stuff.
I guess we will see if the prediction of American apathy plays out. If past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior, Joe is right, and America will move on to the next spectacle.