The Aurora Massacre and the 'Propaganda of the
William Norman Grigg
Recently by William Norman Grigg: Aftermath
in Aurora: Child-Killer as 'Comforter-in-Chief'
As if performing a
tribute to the masked terrorist who is the film’s chief antagonist,
Aurora, Colorado resident James Holmes allegedly carried out an
armed rampage at the local midnight premiere of The Dark Knight
Rises, leaving at least a dozen people dead and more than
50 wounded. One of the victims was a three-month-old infant.
former Ph.D. student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado,
reportedly purchased a ticket to the film, left the theater
after the movie began, and returned wearing a gas mask and riot
gear – what
some described as a "full SWAT uniform." Armed with
four firearms, Holmes was described as setting off a gas grenade
and then shooting as panicked movie patrons dove for cover or ran
for the exits. After surrendering to police outside the theater,
Holmes informed investigators that his residence – part of an apartment
complex reserved for students, patients, and staff at the University
of Colorado Medical Center — was rigged with explosives.
were running everywhere, running on top of me, like kicking me,
jumping over me. And there were bodies on the ground," recalled
eyewitness Christopher Ramos. "I froze up. I was scared. I
honestly thought I was going to die."
At first, Ramos
recounted, he thought Holmes might be involved in a promotional
stunt associated with the film, which depicts a terrorist rampage
led by an enigmatic, hyper-violent criminal named Bane. The story
includes an armed assault on the stock exchange of the fictional
Gotham City, followed by an even more horrifying series of bombings
that paralyze the city and leave it cut off from the rest of the
country. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelley announced
that as a precautionary measure against possible copycat attacks,
his department would provide enhanced security at theaters showing
Knight Rises is the capstone to the highly acclaimed trilogy
that resurrected the Batman film franchise. Director Christopher
Nolan, widely regarded as a gifted and provocative filmmaker, has
described the film as a "war movie," one that unabashedly
addresses class conflict and institutional corruption. Partisan
pundits have attempted to shoehorn the movie into the pre-fabricated
categories that have been superimposed on contemporary politics.
incidental similarity between the villain’s name and Mitt Romney’s
Bain venture capitalist firm, Rush Limbaugh denounced Nolan for
creating a Democratic Party agitprop film. Salon critic
Andrew O’Hehir manages
to outbid Limbaugh’s foolishness by describing the movie as
an "evil" and "fascistic" masterpiece:
no exaggeration to say that the 'Dark Knight’ universe is fascistic
(and I’m not name-calling or claiming that Nolan has Nazi sympathies).
It’s simply a fact. Nolan’s screenplay (co-written with his brother,
Jonathan Nolan, and based on a story developed with David S. Goyer)
simply pushes the Batman legend to its logical extreme, as a vision
of human history understood as a struggle between superior individual
wills, a tale of symbolic heroism and sacrifice set against the
hopeless corruption of society. Maybe it’s an oversimplification
to say that that’s the purest form of the ideology that was bequeathed
from Richard Wagner to Nietzsche to Adolf Hitler, but not by much.
Whether you think Nolan is endorsing or condemning that idea, or
straddling the fence with a smirk on his face, is very much up to
of the film was obscured by the dense thicket of undergraduate-level
collectivist sophistries in which he has chosen to live. Nolan’s
story did not extol the supposed virtues of the Leader Principle
– in which lesser beings are fused into the collective instrument
of a superior will. Bruce Wayne was a flawed but irrepressible noble
hero whose individualistic crusade was meant to encourage others
to find and act on the best impulses within each of them.
the screenplay (along with his brother, Jonathan), Christopher Nolan
said that Dickens’ A
Tale of Two Cities was an important touchstone for The
Dark Knight Rises. He also referred to the influence of legendary
director David Lean. One throw-away line in the movie resonates
with Lean’s adaptation of Dr.
In the aftermath
of Bane’s revolution in Gotham, one character – examining a plundered
dwelling – muses: "This used to be somebody’s home."
everybody’s home," another character brightly replies.
calls to mind a conversation in Dr. Zhivago between two
Communist Party functionaries in the aftermath of the October Revolution.
As they help themselves to a home that has been seized from a wealthy
family, the Communists defend the confiscation as a triumph of the
"people"; after all, they insist, "it’s only just."
on Gotham was an cinematic example of what the French Revolutionaries
and their ideological offspring call "The Propaganda of the
Deed" – a conspicuous act of violence used as a "sudden,
violent shock" to shatter the status quo and catalyze revolutionary
change. Immediately after demolishing much of Gotham City, Bane
– backed by a mercenary army – imposes martial law and revolutionary
"justice" in terms very familiar to collectivist "people’s
revolutions" from Jacobin France to Cambodia under the Khmer
to think that in addition to Dickens and Lean, the Nolan Brothers
might have drawn inspiration from Carlos Marighella’s Mini-Manual
for the Urban Guerrilla, which provided tactical guidance
for generations of terrorists. (Interestingly, the Nolans compared
Bane to Argentine Marxist mass-murderer Che Guevara.)
of terrorism, explained Marighella, is to "to intensify repression,"
resulting in draconian measures that "make life unbearable"
for the subject population. When faced with "revolutionary
violence," government will eagerly resort to "police roundups,
house searches, arrests of innocent people [that] make life in the
city unbearable…. " Rejecting the "so-called political
solution," the urban guerrilla must become more aggressive
and violent, resorting without letup to sabotage, terrorism, expropriations,
assaults, kidnappings, and executions, heightening the disastrous
situation in which the government must act…."
millionaire Marxist publishing magnate, published Marighella’s
tract and gave it wide international circulation. He concisely summarized
Marighella’s strategy as the use of relentless violence against
the innocent in order to provoke an "authoritarian turn to
the right" – the imposition of dictatorial measures and the
consolidation of power by a State apparatus that will fall into
the hands of the revolutionaries.
in The Dark Knight Rises could be described as an adaptation
of the Marighella/Feltrinelli playbook. Tragically, it’s entirely
possible that the massacre in Aurora – whatever the shooter’s motive
might have been – will serve as "propaganda of the deed"
in the service of people pursuing authoritarian measures regarding
individual firearms ownership and other indispensable liberties.
from Republic Magazine
with permission from the author.
Norman Grigg [send him mail]
publishes the Pro
Libertate blog and hosts the Pro
Libertate radio program.
© 2012 William Norman Grigg
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