September 28, 2005


Commandress in Chief

Last night I watched the first episode of ABC's "Commander in Chief." Or maybe I should say "the last episode," judging by the reviews. It is a kind of West Wing Light or West Wing for Dummies (somewhat in the way that the Star Trek: Voyager series was Star Trek: The Next Generation for Dummies).

Geena Davis plays the Independent Vice-President Mackenzie Allen who assumes the job of a Republican President on his death. In the tradition of television's propaganda shows (but – someone might ask – is there any other kind?), the most critical problems faced by the US Government are things like rescuing a woman held for adultery in Nigeria. TV Governments never find themselves face to face with catastrophes such as, for instance, having destroyed a whole country.

Anyway, President Allen’s first act as President is to bestow American benevolence on the said Nigerian woman. The woman has been sentenced to death, and is to be executed in some crude fashion, which, needless to say, offends American sensibilities. Any kind of violence, don’t you know, offends American sensibilities. The Nigerian ambassador is duly summoned to the White House to hear about plans for a massive rescue operation in case the woman is not released into US custody. Nigeria duly complies.

There have in reality been several such verdicts in Nigeria in recent years, and the US Government (the real US Government, that is) has done nothing whatsoever in any of those cases, other than registering strong condemnations. Those verdicts were eventually overturned through diplomatic intervention by other African states and worldwide protests, which is an example of the multilateralism that solves the world's problems instead of creating new ones.

This is, of course, quite normal. No US government has ever intervened militarily to save the life of a foreign national, unless that foreign national happened to be of some use to the US government. Examples are German scientists who were removed from Germany after WWII, given new employment in weaponry and rocket development, and spared from facing the Nuremberg trials.

In the TV world, though, every undertaking of the US government is for the purpose of furthering truth and justice. Even when it does something that smells of villainy, it is for a good end, such as the assassination of an Arab leader on West Wing. After all, he was suspected of supporting terrorism …

As I have said a number of times in this blog, even American leftists are unable to perceive the real nature of their government. So, for instance, Martin Sheen, who has spent much of his life protesting against US policies, was happy to act in a TV show (West Wing) that only served the usual propaganda line. Even American leftists, in other words, see the evil that their government commits as an aberration. They are blind to the real nature of the entire American political project since its inception, which began with the Founding Fathers’ promulgation of racism and expansionism.

When a Democratic TV President played by a known professional protester failed to portray the reality of US power, what can we hope for from an Independent one?

My other posts on related topics:
Opportunism, thy name is Dubya!

All entertainment media is a slave to profits. A show about the glamor and benevolency of the American leadership, makes people feel good about their country, and therefore themselves, so people watch it and it makes money.

I would guess that Martin Sheen, a life-long actor from a family of life-long actors, has become so influenced by the endless stream of propagandist garbage coming from his collegues that he fails to see the issues that he protests as symptoms of larger systemic issues. He is very likely a registered, partisan Democrat, and so his protests do not serve the causes of justice and compassion, but rather the cause of getting his friends elected by making the other guys look bad.
There is, of course, much truth in what you say, IM. This horrible system revolves around maximization of profit. But I think what we, as leftists, should not lose sight of is the fact that the system is not about profit. It is about domination of labour by capital. One of the best ways to dominate labour is to dominate his/her mind. You may have caught the briefly aired "Mr Sterling" series in 2003. It was pulled off the air after a few episodes even though it enjoyed high ratings. It dissected the US political system and revealed its fundamentally corrupt nature through a portrayal of the career of an accidentally honest member of the US Senate.

As to Martin Sheen, my guess is that there are various aspects to his problematic. Although, like you, I would assume that he is a registered Democrat, I am not sure whether I would call him a partisan Democrat. He has, as far as I know, protested against policies of US presidents of both political stripes. Also, I think he protests against these policies from a religio-ethical standpoint, which puts him beyond opportunism. His social position as a famous actor in a family of famous actors may, however, have forced him to be content with a compromised standpoint that is less than radical.
Whoa, another Canadian conscience!

It's interesting to see that despite our detachment from the U.S., we're still drawn into the messy world of America.

I've come to realize that there are many who live in the United States of Canada who have a similar perspective to our own.

I'd like to recommend Daliwood and The Unapologetic Atheist as examples.
At least she's much better looking than Dubya, and reads the lines better. Something that might keep the viewers interested. It's all about ratings, after all.
Americans and perhaps people all over the world are brainwashed by Hollywood and the American news media to believe that America could be something different; and we keep hoping that might be true. When we see the fictional presidents on the TV screen who do the right thing, it gives us a good feeling. That perhaps Dubya and his gang of criminals are not what America is all about. That perhaps if the "right" administration takes over, then we might have a different world. Then we switch the channel to CNN or whatever and we see Dubya explaining all his blunders and all the havoc that he's created in the world. Goodbye the TV president(s) and hello the "real" president.
Yes, Moh'd, Geena indeed does look better than Dubya, but that's not saying much. Even the hunchback of Notre Dame looked better than Dubya. He, at least, looked human. "President Allen" not only reads the lines better than Dubya, but can also memorize the lines and recite them independently of the teleprompter. By the way, remember the bump on Dubya's back that was photographed during the presidential debates? He must be the first US president who can't make a single sentence on his own. The hunchback had another advantage there as well.
I watched the first episode. I can't judge yet how I'm going to like the series....I have to give it a few more viewings. So I'm on the fence. I do admit, that if Geena portrayed a Democratic president, I might be the shows number 1 fan.
Portraying benevolance is a must for the american propaganda machine these days. I mean, keep in mind that by going to war in a certain country we didn't just make Bush Al-Queda Recruiter #1 but also attracted scowlding eyes from France, Germany, China and Russia. With France, China and Russia alone you already have 3 of the 5 nations with permanent seats on the UN security council implicitly disapproving of american actions. However a TV show that puts a benevolent, republican female at centerstage may create a longlasting positive reinforcement of pseudo-american values utilizing the soft power already established through american distribution chanels.
Um, Canadians? It sounds like Bush is planning on putting us in concentration camps soon to prevent us from catching the flu. So, could you be dears and rescue us? Thanks a bunch.
I am not so sure about the Security Council part of your comment, m0R7. I don't think the "Great Powers" are opposed to American policy in general. Otherwise, they would have done something concrete about it, such as putting forward resolutions against the US at the UN. The fact that they have not done so is, in my way of seeing things, proof positive that they are in essential agreement with the US Government. They are just worried about the side effects of US actions on propagandistic images that they have worked so hard and for so many decades to create.
I thought you were only joking, HM, until I checked the related news item. It is interesting that you mention concentration camps. The way Dubya exploits every event to advance his agenda will, I am sure, someday make historians compare him to Hitler.
Could it be that by watching TV you are inceasing ratings which are directly related to profits which are the driving forces in the US? Help save the world! Stop watching commerical TV.
Thanks for your comment, "I Wonder," but I watch about four hours of TV per week (that is, about seven percent of the average), so I don't think I make a significant contribution to overall ratings. TV is dangerous, but not because it makes profits. TV is dangerous because it is one of the most powerful organs of propagnada in the United States. It provides powerful support to the perpetuation of the status quo. It shares these characteristics with the church, the mainstream press, the "justice" system, and so on. I try to maintain a critical attitude towards all such institutions and their pronouncements. I think that's a lot more important than how much TV I watch.
Agreed! TV is dangerous but can be useful if viewed selectively and critically. Also, I appreciate your quotes around "justice". We, in the US, do not have a "justice" system -- we have a legal system.
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