Batman’s ‘Dark Knight’ Reflects Cheney Policy

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Monday, July 21, 2008 at 5:15 pm

"The Dark Knight" (Image Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures. TM & © DC Comics)

The thought of Vice President Dick Cheney in a form-fitting bat costume might be too much for most people to bear. But the concepts of security and danger presented in Christopher Nolan’s new Batman epic, “The Dark Knight,” align so perfectly with those of the Office of the Vice President that David Addington, Cheney’s chief of staff and former legal counsel, might be an uncredited script doctor.

Insofar as it’s possible to view an action movie that had the biggest three-day-opening in cinematic history as a comment on the current national-security debate, “The Dark Knight” weighs in strongly on the side of the Bush administration. Confronting the Joker, a nihilistic enemy whose motives are both unexplained and beside the point, the Batman faces his biggest dilemma yet: whether to abuse his power in order to save Gotham City. Again and again in the movie, the Batman’s moral hand-wringing results in the deaths of innocents. Only by becoming like the monster he must vanquish can Batman secure a victory that even he understands is Pyrrhic.

Batman, the film’s hero, played by Christian Bale, sees this as a morally devastating paradox. Dick Cheney and his ideological allies in the Bush administration, however, clearly view this as a righteous challenge. Cheney, Addington, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and others can go to to this sixth Batman movie to see, in the Joker, as played by Heath Ledger, a perfect reflection of their view of Al Qaeda. He presents an enemy unbounded by any scruple; striking out for no rational reason; hell-bent on causing civilization-threatening destruction, and emboldened by any adversaries’ restraint.

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

President George W. Bush, as Jane Mayer of The New Yorker writes in her recent book “The Dark Side,” believed that the problem facing the U.S. was that Osama bin Laden “didn’t feel threatened” by it. Attempting to understand Al Qaeda in order to confront it on its own terms was the stuff of the weak and the unsure — part of the problem, in other words. The Bush administration instead set out, in a morally Manichean way, to ensure that the U.S. became as fearsome as possible.

When last Nolan left the caped crusader — in 2003′s “Batman Begins” — playboy Bruce Wayne’s menacing alter ego had begun to strike fear in the hearts of both the criminal underworld and the hopelessly corrupt power brokers of Gotham City. The structural problems of Gotham are exacerbated by punchable villains — all stand-ins for fear. But the Batman was an iron will refusing to bend to fear, a symbol of hope emerging from the darkness, a predator upon those who prey upon the innocent. He struck an alliance with straight-shooting police lieutenant Jim Gordon based on their mutual incorruptibility.

[NB: Many 'Dark Knight' spoilers follow.]

“The Dark Knight” all but annihilates the premises of “Batman Begins.” In addition to the avarice of Gotham, Batman finds himself in battle with a remorseless psychotic, the Joker. It is immediately clear that the Joker is playing a far different game than the Batman ever imagined. He kills erstwhile allies for pleasure, and in an exquisite performance by the late Ledger, enjoys a sexual frisson from shattering other people’s lives. But the Joker’s true motives are unexplained, unlike those of all previous comic-book villains. He tells his victims a story of his past abuse he suffered, but offers many permutations — sometimes he says his father cut his face into a gruesome smile, other times he says he did it himself — as if to underscore the foolishness of looking to the Joker as a reliable narrator. “Some men,” says Batman’s butler Alfred, the moral center of Bruce Wayne’s universe, “just want to see the world burn.”

Batman is powerless against such a villain. Faced with opportunities to kill the Joker, Batman refuses to sacrifice his moral code — something the Joker exploits. Each time the Batman restrains himself, the Joker manipulates him into making choices that result in greater catastrophes. Most awful are the death of Rachel Dawes, Wayne’s love interest; and the related mutilation of Harvey Dent, the pure-of-heart district attorney and symbol of Gotham’s rebirth. Yet, each time, the Joker tells the Batman that the key to beating him is to become as nihilistic as he is.

That, in the final analysis, is what the Joker is really interested in: to deprive Gotham of its hero, its hope, and its soul. Batman, in other words, must “work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows.”

That quote, of course, is Dick Cheney’s only explicit statement of purpose to the American people about where he thought U.S. foreign policy needed to go in the post-9/11 world, delivered on “Meet the Press” on Sept. 16, 2001.

In the wake of that statement, Cheney and his allies created an unprecedented architecture of institutionalized abuse. The CIA would possess the power to kidnap suspected terrorists around the world, hold them indefinitely in undisclosed detention facilities — or hand them over to partner intelligence services that use torture — and torture them in the name of intelligence gathering. The Pentagon would enter the detentions business at Guantanamo Bay, freed of its obligations to abide by the Geneva Conventions, and would take the leading role in foreign policy by prosecuting “pre-emptive” wars of aggression and occupation. The National Security Agency, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, would wiretap the communications of U.S. persons without warrants.

Underlying these actions is a certain conception of the danger this is designed to confront. That danger is formless, limitless, uncontainable. Viewing civilization as inherently soft and vulnerable, it seeks to find restraint and punish the restrainer. Its motives, and even its capabilities, are less important than its desires for future disaster. Erring on the side of caution is the surest path to annihilation.

Such a threat creates an awful burden on those entrusted to protect others. “When Cheney spoke about it on national television a few days after the attacks,” writes Ron Suskind, in his surprisingly sympathetic book explicating Cheney’s weltanschauung, “The One Percent Doctrine,” “he had given it a note of recognition — this is what we must do, where we must live, like it or not.”

That recognition is how Batman attempts to square his moral circle. He creates a surveillance technology that gives him limitless power, something that horrifies his ally Lucius Fox, and vows to destroy it after its first use. (In the comics, it’s known as the Brother Eye, and it leads to disaster.) Only by abusing the trust of Gotham City can Batman redeem it. But through it all, he reassures himself — at least implicitly — that his awareness of his betrayal is what separates him from the Joker: intentions. It is this, and not consequences, that matter here. As part of his burden, he recognizes that he has become an outlaw, and accepts the ensuing persecution from the Gotham Police Department.

In so doing, Nolan’s version of Batman is motivated by moral philosopher Michael Walzer’s “dirty hands” argument. Walzer grappled with the problems on display in “The Dark Knight” and proposed, in an influential 1973 essay, that the key to engaging in morally dubious activities, like torture, during times of emergency is to acknowledge their heinousness and, once the emergency passes, accept legal sanction for the burden of saving the world.

One problem with Walzer’s argument, as its many critics have noted, is that the results are still horrific — torture, indefinite detention, assassination and other such practices incompatible with civilization. Another is that it presumes that once unlimited authorities are handed to an individual, that person can be trusted to relinquish them — or even to determine, contrary to his or her interest, that the emergency has passed.

In the world of comic, that’s easy. Batman is Batman — he’s conflicted, sure, but he’s a hero. That’s why in both movies, little children — fellow incorruptibles — are the only ones who neither fear nor hate him: they can see him as he sees himself.

But in the real world, this concept is ludicrous and anti-American.

First, it presumes an absurd omnipotence that the Cheneys of the world can even tell who is and who isn’t a real threat — a proposition shattered by the unreality of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda in 2003.

Second, it presumes that the emergency will pass at some point, though Cheney and his allies have repeatedly said they view it as open-ended and generational. In testimony earlier this month to a House panel, Addington hectored members of Congress for, in his view, suggesting that the danger from Al Qaeda had somehow diminished after seven years of the war on terrorism. Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld famously dubbed it “The Long War.”

Third, it gives Al Qaeda exactly what it wants — open-ended wars of occupation that deplete U.S. military and financial resources, increase Muslim discontent at U.S. policy and, ultimately, makes the the world a more dangerous place.

In “The Dark Knight Returns,” the heralded 1986 graphic novel about retirement-age Batman, the writer Frank Miller offers another explanation for the Batman’s behavior: he’s a psychologically unhealthy man who cannot control himself, and masquerades his obsessions as a pursuit of justice.

Whether Nolan will mine that storyline in a third movie remains to be seen. Similarly, whether Cheney possesses the same degree of self-awareness as to who he is and what he has done to America remains, at the least, subject to debate.

Follow Spencer Ackerman on Twitter


Categories & Tags: Commentary| National Security| Torture|

Comments

88 Comments

bwillderd
Comment posted August 17, 2008 @ 9:30 pm

You really have to jump through some hoops with multiple spins to come to some of the conclusions many of you have managed in these comments. Throughout our history, there have been leaders who have committed ‘un-American’ acts in order to secure the future from chaos. Abraham Lincoln is the most egregious example. Roosevelt is a close second. Bush is a minor example. At times, they endured ridicule, approbation and outright hatred because they did what had to be done, and often those things made us squirm as we express the outrage appropriate to the clueless. Those leaders accepted that burden. In the light of history, we condemn their ‘failures’ to live up to the American ideals, but we honor them for the courage and steadfastness in the face of
that which would destroy us.

Why did the victims on the boats have the luxury of deciding by taking no action? Because they lived in a society where others made those decisions for them, and this instance was no different. Had they all been killed, they would not have been celebrated as noble martyrs for ‘good’, they would have been seen as victims of the failures of those they had become reliant upon for protection. It was Batman’s fault, or Bush’s.

You seem to miss your part in the play as you assign identities to the characters. You are the judgmental, ungrateful, accusatory, clueless public who use the freedoms secured for you by leaders whom you bitterly denounce. Until you feel safe again, at which time you will build monuments to the memory of their service and say you were for them all along, but wish they hadn’t done some of those awful things along the way.


truepatriot
Comment posted August 16, 2008 @ 5:12 pm

…Kenneth R. Miller). And just because you don’t like what you’re reading right now, don’t hide your head in the sand. Bush supporters–stop with the cognitive dissonance, please. If you don’t know what a signing statement is, or gerrymandering, or are unfamiliar with Richard Clarke’s memo, Google is your friend


truepatriot
Comment posted August 16, 2008 @ 5:09 pm

The framers, in all their wisdom, did their best to form a system that would safeguard democracy. To do this, they created various checks and balances. Many in America want to destroy this; some without realizing it, others with full intent.

Our founding fathers first goal was to prevent tyranny. With reference to the executive branch, they wanted to ensure transparency, accountability, and prevent a president from being above the rule of law. In this regard, the Bush/Cheney administration has had the worst record.

Aside from the will of the people as expressed through elections, there is separation of powers. Within congress there is the house and the senate as a check and balance, and combined, congress is supposed to provide oversight for the executive and judicial branches. Congress has failed to oversee the executive branch, initially due to being a


verafromsedona
Comment posted August 12, 2008 @ 12:15 pm

Is John McCain in the pocket of oil companies?

Is John McCain in the pocket of insurance companies?

Is john McCain in the pocket of pharmaceutical companies?

Is John McCain in the pocket of other nations?

Here is a list of lobbyists and employees of major companies working in major positions in the McCain campaign. It will answer any questions you might have about the people who are advising and influencing him.

http://mccainsource.com/corruption?id=0006


kwaayesnama
Comment posted August 12, 2008 @ 11:22 am

George Bush, Dick Chaney, Condoleezza Rice and John McCain are responsible for the murder of 94,330 innocent people while they looked for nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

Of that total 4,134 were Americans.

They are also responsible for the wounding of 30,464 people.

As of 8 – 07 – 2008.


feanor70115
Comment posted August 5, 2008 @ 3:05 pm

Here’s how I’ve just responded to a friend’s blog post in which he asks us to comment on Mr. Ackerman’s views:

I’m not familiar with the Washington Independent, so I can’t really qualify my opinion with any information about its editorial bias, if it has one.

In any event, I find that their language trivializes, over and over again, the issues they are discussing. Batman having a strict inhibition against taking life is merely “moral hand-wringing.” While they are happy to dissect the Batman’s motives, they take the Joker at face value. The entire point of the Joker, whatever his metaphorical relationship with any real-world figure, is that he is the opposite of one’s conscience: insane, nihilistic, exploiting any and every vulnerability and turning decency into a weakness. Bob Kane did perhaps his only piece of compelling writing the first time he described the rictus forming on the dead face of one of the Joker’s victims in 1939 or so. Making the victims of murder smile was the Joker’s joke.

The Joker says that the key to beating him is to become as nihilistic as he is? So what? When does he say anything but to manipulate others?

Moreover, the writer seems to be trying to make a point that his own evidence doesn’t back up: Batman’s would-be love is disenchanted and chooses the symbol of upstanding law and order. Alfred nearly loses patience with his obsessive and relentless methods. Commissioner Gordon only reluctantly accepts his help. And furthermore, except for the cell-phone spying helping to catch the Joker (and neutralise the bumbling cops), it never does any good when Batman crosses a moral line. Doing so is just playing the Joker’s game.

The writer really betrays his bias with this:

“That, in the final analysis, is what the Joker is really interested in: to deprive Gotham of its hero, its hope, and its soul. Batman, in other words, must “work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows.”"

Applying Dick Cheney’s words to the Batman is a cheap trick, commonly known as putting words in someone’s mouth. Those words are revelatory about Cheney and no one else.

The cell-phone spying thing as a metaphor for war-on-terror policies is obviously true. It’s equally a metaphor for Lincoln suspending the writ of habeas corpus or Roosevelt interning suspected enemy sympathizers (thousands of whom were actually of European descent). The fact that the power was laid down afterwards – something the Bush Administration has no intention of doing – is also telling, and is a metaphor for Roman dictators through Sulla among other historical antecedents. I seem to recall that the film actually referred to Cincinattus.

Also, the writer makes the mistake of assuming that because any one questionable Bush war-on-terror policy is evil, they all must be. Why? Because they’re associated with Bush and Cheney. Further, the writer just doesn’t understand that the screenwriters knew they were writing fiction. Torture is, by any sane moral calculus, excusable in a ticking-bomb scenario when one has the actual perpetrator in custody. However, that scenario has never happened and probably never will. Finally, the writer absolutely misses or misinterprets the abundance of material in the film that counters his position.

Anyhow, my take on the film is that it encourages the audience to think about those issues and draw its own conclusions. If Spencer Ackerman thinks that the film sided with Bush, it’s because he admits the superiority of that side’s argument (one I would not concede). I note he doesn’t spend any time proposing an alternative take on the story, one which would support the other side.


avenger
Comment posted August 1, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

Yes, Cheney and his pals would like us to see the world in stark comic book terms of good and evil. But any rational analysis of what has happened over the past nearly eight years would lead an honest observer to conclude that Cheney and his gang of pin-striped gangsters are morally inferior to the people they seek to destroy. They have a) invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children — ripping them to pieces with cluster bombs, immolating them with white phosphorous, vaporizing them in their homes using 2,000 pound bombs; b) destroyed the Iraqi health care system, which might have tended to the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians they maimed and dismembered with weapons we’ve been forced to pay for; c) doomed countless children to miserable lives of blindness, paralysis, and grotesque disfigurement; d) terrorized millions of others by exposing them to the danger that their entire families might at any moment be murdered by US forces; e) threatened non-nuclear nations with preventive nuclear strikes, an act that would make the Joker wet his pants with glee; f) created a global gulag into which men, women and children have disappeared to be tortured by contractors working for private for-profit corporations; g) attempted to plunder Iraq’s enormous resources and place them at the disposal of US-based multi-national corporations with which they have continuing business and personal ties; h) violated and undermined the the Constitution of the United States, which they are sworn to uphold, placing the freedom of the American people in great jeopardy. And, of course, when it comes to the Treasury of the United States, that’s just money to burn. On top of all their other crimes, they’re bankrupting us through the transfer of public money into private pockets through no-bid contracts to scum like the Dark Prince of Blackwater, a mercenary organization that casually murders civilians knowing that enjoy an impunity that the Joker might relish. Fortunately for the rest of the world, the United States is rapidly going broke. But the wisdom and goodness and righteousness of Cheney and his fellow murderous clowns is pure fantasy: relying on them to save us from the occasional psychopathic scum bag would be like begging the Gestapo to protect us from pickpockets.


matthewlove
Comment posted July 27, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

I can’t read the mind of the writers, but I prefer to interpret the movie in a very different way. I think the Joker is a better symbol of Dick Cheney than he is a symbol of al-Qaeda. After all, al-Qaeda is not really a threat to the United States, and if it is, it is a tenth or a hundredth of the threat represented by Bush, Cheney, the military-industrial-intelligence complex (check out Naomi Klein’s recent piece entitled “China’s All-Seeing Eye” for more on the reality of surveillance in the post-9/11 world and how it ties into intelligence operations that have little to do, if anything, with fighting terrorism but have everything to do with profiteering and keeping the local population in a state of confusion and fear). The Joker brought Gotham to its knees. Al-Qaeda has never been capable of such a feat. The Bush administration has been. It went from a do-nothing administration to securing wide popular support through inciting fear and phony patriotism. It used its popularity to hijack the country, with the help of the media (which strangely enough, the Joker was adept at manipulating for his evil schemes), it pushed through some of the worst pieces of legislation in U.S. history, namely the Patriot Act. It secured record profits for Bush’s chief campaign contributers, specifically the oil industry, and it began an endless war of terrorism against a faceless opponent that will not end in our lifetime and will not be regulated by international law, U.S. law, or basic human decency.

And the extent to which al-Qaeda is a threat, it is a manufactured threat: both physically and psychologically. The CIA and its allies created al-Qaeda is an instrument of Cold War policy to force the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Later, when the Islamic extremists focused their attention on American hegemony as the source of their brand of Islam’s declining support in the Arab world, the Neocons decided to make them into the new Soviets (the buzzword switched from “communism” to “terrorism”) as an excuse for launching yet another crusade, with the United States playing the role of the good Christians. The Neocons eventually won the support of U.S. regimes, secured jobs in their respective cabinets, and came to dominate the current Bush administration’s foreign policy strategy.

This is a long explanation, but the point is that Bush/Cheney Inc. has never been interested in maintaining order. They are interested in the total opposite. They want the chaos that the Joker spoke so fawningly of. They don’t like laws or regulations. They hate the Constitution. They hate human freedom and would replace it in a second with total corporate elite rule if they could just get Congress, the Supreme Court, and a few other key establishments on board – or eliminate them altogether, as they have plans to do with something on the books called “Continuity of Government.” Just look at their response to Hurricane Katrina. Look at deregulation of industry. Look at the chaos in Iraq. Is Blackwater there to establish law and order? Maybe, if that includes killing Iraqi civilians for leisure and getting away with it because of the total LACK of law and order in Iraq as IMPOSED by Paul Bremer and other administration lackeys. These men RELY ON chaos to extract profits from unsuspecting people. Read Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine.” They only care about law and order so long as it keeps the masses away from asserting their right to true political and economic freedom.

To even insinuate that Cheney ever had the American people’s interests in mind is to be naive. He has no idea what the typical American experience is and doesn’t care.

Therefore, the Dark Knight is certainly NOT Cheney because he has the people’s interests in mind (despite being super-rich). He reminds me of some of the Left in this country. Some of us are so misguided we choose to participate in the devil’s game rather than accepting that the whole game is fixed and we need to quit and draw up a completely new game. The Joker was going to do whatever he wanted regardless of the response. This is the key. Torturing or killing him doesn’t solve the problem because he is only the symptom and not the disease, and we can’t defeat him by becoming him. If Cheney/Bush Inc. were assassinated tomorrow, it would not eliminate the graft and greed that plagues this country. The same goes for the Joker. The goal should be to fix the systems that give rise to this graft. Capitalism, namely, which encourages self-interest above everything else, and representative government that only represents the people who can afford to fund the election campaigns of its representatives.

My view of the film was that Batman was able to keep most of his principles. He refused to let the Joker die, stopped himself from “playing the hero,” and allowed the controversial surveillance system to phase itself out when it was no longer needed. In the end, he selflessly walked into persecution in favor of restoring order, even though it could be argued that this was unprincipled because it served to hide the truth from the people, which to me was that there was no way for the system as it was to stop crime, under Harvey Dent or anyone else. It was also fallacious in suggesting that one knight in shining armor, whether suited in a tie or a cape, could somehow protect the people of a sprawling metropolis. Whatever happened to all of those principled people on the ships who refused to kill in order to survive? They were the heroes Gotham needed. Why weren’t they glorified in the press? Why do we in the West rely on one man to save us, whether it be George Bush, Barack Obama, or Jesus Christ? Can’t we empower ourselves?

No, we’d rather leave all the grunt work to a handful of activists and two or three super-activists, like the caped crusader himself, to save the day. When you put all that pressure on a few people, is it any wonder that they might abuse their power, as Batman did? Power is abusive when it is concentrated. This is fundamental.

So in following my existing framework, the plot is much different. We see Joker trying to root out the last real revolutionary leader, the Dark Knight, and his few good men. He fails to kill Batman, but he largely succeeds in killing the spirit of Gotham. He has made people to be something worse than militant – indifferent, cynical, powerless. This is where the American people are now. This is the ultimate weapon of the elite, and they have used it well.

But if I learned anything from the one hopeful scene of the movie, the dilemma of the passengers on board those two ships in the harbor, it’s that maybe the same will happen here, given another catastrophe. Maybe people will wake up the day after a second 9/11 and realize what this system really is and how it is more dangerous than 100 al-Qaedas, how it gives rise to men like Cheney (the Joker), who can easily subvert the modest regulations it possesses, and how it also gives rise to men like Batman who take it upon themselves to defend the millions of faceless people they claim to represent from overwhelming odds while attempting to keep their principles. A better society would give rise to neither.

So the choice belongs to the people. We can continue playing this old, tired game of good vs. evil where lower-class people from around the world are pitted against each other while the indifferent corporations make their profits. We can go on thinking that some “people out there” are just downright evil and want to kill us without any rationale, or we can accept that imposed poverty, itself a form of violence, illegal occupation, and injustice fuel terror. That terror fuels more terror in response, and the resultant chaos and cynicism creates a situation where bystanders decide to kick back and watch the profits roll in while the world burns (which Cheney, like Joker, would love to see). After all, war is so much more profitable than peace.

We can play this game and watch characters mimic it on the big screen at over-priced movie theaters, or we can reject it for something better. That something better is based on love, environmental stewardship, and the understanding that all people are worthy of dignity and respect – and that any system that strays from these principles is not worth keeping. It is also based on the understanding that if we continue to let chaos rule, it will consume the entire human race, rich and poor alike. This planet will not be able to sustain us if we continue to rape it in mad pursuit of profit and expansion. The time to change course isn’t now. It was yesterday.


stayinuplate
Comment posted July 27, 2008 @ 1:25 am

The makers of this film used a Bush/Batman allegory to promote the idea that all of Bush’d unlawful and deceitful policies were a necessary evil to fight the war on terror. Some people have come to believe the propaganda that Bush sacrificed his reputation for the good of the country, just as Batman does in the film. I think that America needs to realize that Bush lied about the threat of Iraq to start a war, he set up secret off-shore prisons to torture people, and he conducted unlawful wiretaps on American citizens. This movie tries to justify these actions by painting them as necessary evils. In reality, these actions were not necessary, they have only been made to seem necessary through propaganda such as “The Dark Knight”. I would urge others to consider what I’ve said and post their thoughts on it so we can engage in a reasonable dialogue.


demilu
Comment posted July 26, 2008 @ 10:15 pm

drvictordavishj, I would argue that the Joker was reacting not to Batman’s flamboyancy but to Batman’s threat to his means of survival. Without Batman around to reel in the harshest criminals, the Joker was free to thrive in an environment where crime was rampant and criminals needing to hire a madman like the Joker were many.

oogiedoogie, nice response.


jayt
Comment posted July 25, 2008 @ 9:05 am

I saw the movie last night, and read your response this morning. It’s hard not to see the similarities between Batman and Bush et al. But in my view the Joker is also a reflection of the administration’s dark tactics in Iraq and in the GWOT more generally. The Joker is a force of radical destabilization who does his utmost to generate fear-driven class conflicts of all kinds (criminals v. law-abiding citizens; citizens v. politicians; police grunts v. police officials) while providing cover for the mob. Sounds like Bremer in Iraq, and Rove at home. The difference of course is that the Joker does not represent the interests of the mob whereas the Bush administration does. But even that discrepancy might bring us closer to an understanding of how Bush and Cheney operate in creating a global instability which both promotes exploitation and endangers capital at one and the same time.


doctorjay
Comment posted July 24, 2008 @ 6:14 am

I saw the film in a converse light. I saw it as a repudiation of Bush, Cheney, et al.
Yes, it is about the choices we make and the deceptions and fantasies we succumb to.
Morgan Freeman helps Batman as he says “only once and followed by my resignation.”
He’s told to type his name in at the end and that act evaporates Batman’s FISA network.
The principled act by a sub=ordinate leads to rectitude. Similarly, the boat scene was profound.
When the huge, black criminal stood up and demanded the detonator, as representative of a
man of action, who in the audience did not believe he would blow up the other boat, whether
based on our own prejudice or personal identification. But he didn’t; he led the way to a higher moral principal: “Give me liberty or give me death!” The Joker has no answer to that truth; and neither does Osama nor his enablers, Dick and Bush. Even the criminals on that boat understood the choice and made the noble one; the mainstream folks on the second boat backed into that
same decision, perhaps as you say out of cowardice but I believe out of a sense of guilt if not conscience, as in “What profit a man to gain the world [his life] and lose his very soul?”

No! I totally disagree with your take that this movie supports the views of Addington and Cheney; on the contrary I was deeply moved to tears, first for the loss of such an incandescent talent as Heath Ledger, and second, for the denigration of the Constitution of the United States of America by this administartion and its minions. While in the throes of the movie, I thought of all those complicit Democrats and Republicans, who along with GWB and DC abrogated their oath of office and, for that alone, have committed acts of treason, far beyond those of Ethel and Julius, or of Sacco and Vinzetti.


brianlangeman
Comment posted July 23, 2008 @ 6:44 pm

escobar says:
“The former chief of the CIA


drvictordavishj
Comment posted July 23, 2008 @ 3:25 pm

One thing you’re overlooking, oogiedoogie, is that the film strongly implies that the Joker is a reaction to Batman. That Batman’s flamboyant, melodramatic symbolism creates an equally flmaboyant, evil one. We most definitely do not “need such heros” if they just wind up creating more problems than they solve.

And make no mistake, oogiedoogie, Batman doesn’t win at the end of this movie. It’s at best a draw.


ufred
Comment posted July 23, 2008 @ 2:50 pm

I found enjoyment in this essay and write with thanks. I was most impressed with your invocation of Walzer’s argument and look to seeing you explore it in more depth.


oogiedoogie
Comment posted July 23, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

I agree that the Dark Knight is a surprisingly deep film. While many authors have drawn similarities between the Bush administration and Batman, none few really delve the depths of Batman’s dilemma: there is a cruel, ruthless, and sinister villian on the loose who has promised to kill the innocent.

While many criticize Batman for abuses of power, they almost never offer alternatives. What alternatives are there when faced with such madness? To do nothing leaves leaders culpable since they had the power to intervene, but did not.

This may be why both Scheuer and Walzer advocated for action followed by accountability. While abuses of power almost always lead to collateral damage, some refuse to accept the reality that the alternative is greater carnage, but on the enemy’s terms.

Suppose Batman had refused to utilize his surveilance system on moral grounds. Would he have been a hero? The Joker would surely have progressed unhindered to greater atrocities. Society, if knowledgable of Batman’s capablity, would rightly accuse him of holding his own morality in higher regard than the lives of others – clearly not the choice expected of a hero.

In the film, Batman has the strength of character to accept societal rejection in order to accomplish the greater good. This quality is almost totally absent in today’s leaders who look continually to popularity polls for guidance.

Nowadays, rare is the leader who will sacrifice personal reputation for the good of the nation. Like Gotham, we need such heros, but instead we elect “weathervane politicians” who give us short-term fixes in exchange for long-term consequences. Leaders who cannot withstand popular opinion will never be able to defeat the challenges that threaten our country.


deadlycowfish
Comment posted July 22, 2008 @ 4:34 pm

I think the biggest problem with this analysis is that it’s pushing too hard to constrain a moral allegory to real world characters who to put it mildly are an extremely shaky fit to the fictional ‘counterparts’. I didn’t see the ferry scene as ‘why we need a utilitarian strong-man’ I saw it as an obvious way of saying ‘survival is not always compatible with morality’. That’s not justification per se, it’s food for thought, ultimately both boats chose to die rather than kill the other to ensure their survival, they decided it was more important to ‘be good’ than to survive, even though they were as the ballots showed, afraid of dying.
But more to the point a very central theme of the movie is actions and consequences, Batman breaks the hold of the mobsters on Gotham with his theatrical brand of vigilante justice. The reaction is the emergence of the Joker, an equally theatrical, equally intelligent enemy who sees batman’s ‘I want to give people a symbol to give them hope against ceaseless corruption and violence’ and responds with ‘I want to give people a symbol that kills the goodness in them and shows they don’t deserve anything or any protection’. More to the point THE JOKER WINS. Harvey Dent is destroyed and Batman resorts to unreasonable means in his attempt to defeat the Joker. The people on the boats are the only ones who at all ‘win’ against the Joker, who doesn’t really care if he is captured or killed, the people on the boats choose to die rather than murder each other to survive.
If one of the boats had destroyed the other, it would have been understandable, but it wouldn’t have been the ‘right’ decision. Sometimes there is no right decision that allows you to survive. We live in a complex world, diverse enough for us to wonder if Gandhi was more ‘good’ than George Washington, wonder if that question is stupid or wonder what meaning morality really has when you detach it from reality. Harvey Dent did what was understandable and went out for revenge, we can all understand that, but it didn’t exactly seem like the best decision ever, did it?
You can take the Dark Knight as an endorsement of Cheney, though I feel that’s kind of a stretch, given the prevalence of moral ambiguity in the film, compared to the Bush Administration’s black and white view of the world. However, you can also take it as a suggestion as to why we can’t turn to the simple and violent solutions, because we might create a bigger dragon. When you punish people for pickpocketing with the death penalty, you don’t eliminate pickpocketing, you make the stakes so high the criminals become murderers, rather than petty thieves. Likewise when you stop using law and instead turn to brutal, unreasoning force, you will find in response, brutal unreasoning force.
I’m interested in seeing where the third film goes, but I think this article is oversimplifying things rather profoundly.


davee1
Comment posted July 22, 2008 @ 5:07 am

There’s one basic fallacy in your premise. Batman’s motive in the film is to bring order to Gotham and to eventually relinquish his role as “savior”. Cheney has no such motivation. His motives are demonstrably more sinister. Profit, and control (hegemony) are Cheney’s goals, not order.


escobar
Comment posted July 21, 2008 @ 10:00 pm

Excellent article by Spencer Ackerman.
And a great response by drvictordavishj.

My concern would be the implied comparison of the nihilistic Joker to a rational movement called Al-Queda.

The danger of this comparison is that it underestimates the threat Al-Queda presents.

The former chief of the CIA’s Bin Ladin Unit, Michael Scheuer, has written extensively of the sound tactical logic behind Al-Queda. These are patient men with a rational mission. Not the Joker running around blowing up things for kicks.

Instead of recognizing it as a philosophical movement of liberation capable of inspiring millions of young Arab men…We’re assuming that only the poor, dumb, and child-abused would be attracted to such a force.

Michael Scheuer proposes the “heavy handed” approach though.
He would see quick and heavy strike as more merciful and effective than the slow and ineffective posturing of the Bush administration.

The real joke here is believing that our foreign enemies fear Cheney.
I’d suggest folks read the works of Michael Scheuer at the JamesTown foundation:
http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/analysts.php?authorid=251


drvictordavishj
Comment posted July 21, 2008 @ 8:32 pm

I agree with you but I would argue that the film is not necessarily all that pro-Batman. After all, Alfred


drvictordavishj
Comment posted July 21, 2008 @ 3:32 pm

I agree with you but I would argue that the film is not necessarily all that pro-Batman. After all, Alfred


escobar
Comment posted July 21, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

Excellent article by Spencer Ackerman.
And a great response by drvictordavishj.

My concern would be the implied comparison of the nihilistic Joker to a rational movement called Al-Queda.

The danger of this comparison is that it underestimates the threat Al-Queda presents.

The former chief of the CIA's Bin Ladin Unit, Michael Scheuer, has written extensively of the sound tactical logic behind Al-Queda. These are patient men with a rational mission. Not the Joker running around blowing up things for kicks.

Instead of recognizing it as a philosophical movement of liberation capable of inspiring millions of young Arab men…We're assuming that only the poor, dumb, and child-abused would be attracted to such a force.

Michael Scheuer proposes the “heavy handed” approach though.
He would see quick and heavy strike as more merciful and effective than the slow and ineffective posturing of the Bush administration.

The real joke here is believing that our foreign enemies fear Cheney.
I'd suggest folks read the works of Michael Scheuer at the JamesTown foundation:
http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/analysts.php…


davee1
Comment posted July 22, 2008 @ 12:07 am

There's one basic fallacy in your premise. Batman's motive in the film is to bring order to Gotham and to eventually relinquish his role as “savior”. Cheney has no such motivation. His motives are demonstrably more sinister. Profit, and control (hegemony) are Cheney's goals, not order.


deadlycowfish
Comment posted July 22, 2008 @ 11:34 am

I think the biggest problem with this analysis is that it's pushing too hard to constrain a moral allegory to real world characters who to put it mildly are an extremely shaky fit to the fictional 'counterparts'. I didn't see the ferry scene as 'why we need a utilitarian strong-man' I saw it as an obvious way of saying 'survival is not always compatible with morality'. That's not justification per se, it's food for thought, ultimately both boats chose to die rather than kill the other to ensure their survival, they decided it was more important to 'be good' than to survive, even though they were as the ballots showed, afraid of dying.
But more to the point a very central theme of the movie is actions and consequences, Batman breaks the hold of the mobsters on Gotham with his theatrical brand of vigilante justice. The reaction is the emergence of the Joker, an equally theatrical, equally intelligent enemy who sees batman's 'I want to give people a symbol to give them hope against ceaseless corruption and violence' and responds with 'I want to give people a symbol that kills the goodness in them and shows they don't deserve anything or any protection'. More to the point THE JOKER WINS. Harvey Dent is destroyed and Batman resorts to unreasonable means in his attempt to defeat the Joker. The people on the boats are the only ones who at all 'win' against the Joker, who doesn't really care if he is captured or killed, the people on the boats choose to die rather than murder each other to survive.
If one of the boats had destroyed the other, it would have been understandable, but it wouldn't have been the 'right' decision. Sometimes there is no right decision that allows you to survive. We live in a complex world, diverse enough for us to wonder if Gandhi was more 'good' than George Washington, wonder if that question is stupid or wonder what meaning morality really has when you detach it from reality. Harvey Dent did what was understandable and went out for revenge, we can all understand that, but it didn't exactly seem like the best decision ever, did it?
You can take the Dark Knight as an endorsement of Cheney, though I feel that's kind of a stretch, given the prevalence of moral ambiguity in the film, compared to the Bush Administration's black and white view of the world. However, you can also take it as a suggestion as to why we can't turn to the simple and violent solutions, because we might create a bigger dragon. When you punish people for pickpocketing with the death penalty, you don't eliminate pickpocketing, you make the stakes so high the criminals become murderers, rather than petty thieves. Likewise when you stop using law and instead turn to brutal, unreasoning force, you will find in response, brutal unreasoning force.
I'm interested in seeing where the third film goes, but I think this article is oversimplifying things rather profoundly.


oogiedoogie
Comment posted July 23, 2008 @ 7:27 am

I agree that the Dark Knight is a surprisingly deep film. While many authors have drawn similarities between the Bush administration and Batman, none few really delve the depths of Batman's dilemma: there is a cruel, ruthless, and sinister villian on the loose who has promised to kill the innocent.

While many criticize Batman for abuses of power, they almost never offer alternatives. What alternatives are there when faced with such madness? To do nothing leaves leaders culpable since they had the power to intervene, but did not.

This may be why both Scheuer and Walzer advocated for action followed by accountability. While abuses of power almost always lead to collateral damage, some refuse to accept the reality that the alternative is greater carnage, but on the enemy's terms.

Suppose Batman had refused to utilize his surveilance system on moral grounds. Would he have been a hero? The Joker would surely have progressed unhindered to greater atrocities. Society, if knowledgable of Batman's capablity, would rightly accuse him of holding his own morality in higher regard than the lives of others – clearly not the choice expected of a hero.

In the film, Batman has the strength of character to accept societal rejection in order to accomplish the greater good. This quality is almost totally absent in today's leaders who look continually to popularity polls for guidance.

Nowadays, rare is the leader who will sacrifice personal reputation for the good of the nation. Like Gotham, we need such heros, but instead we elect “weathervane politicians” who give us short-term fixes in exchange for long-term consequences. Leaders who cannot withstand popular opinion will never be able to defeat the challenges that threaten our country.


ufred
Comment posted July 23, 2008 @ 9:50 am

I found enjoyment in this essay and write with thanks. I was most impressed with your invocation of Walzer's argument and look to seeing you explore it in more depth.


drvictordavishj
Comment posted July 23, 2008 @ 10:25 am

One thing you're overlooking, oogiedoogie, is that the film strongly implies that the Joker is a reaction to Batman. That Batman's flamboyant, melodramatic symbolism creates an equally flmaboyant, evil one. We most definitely do not “need such heros” if they just wind up creating more problems than they solve.

And make no mistake, oogiedoogie, Batman doesn't win at the end of this movie. It's at best a draw.


brianlangeman
Comment posted July 23, 2008 @ 1:44 pm

escobar says:
“The former chief of the CIA


doctorjay
Comment posted July 24, 2008 @ 1:14 am

I saw the film in a converse light. I saw it as a repudiation of Bush, Cheney, et al.
Yes, it is about the choices we make and the deceptions and fantasies we succumb to.
Morgan Freeman helps Batman as he says “only once and followed by my resignation.”
He's told to type his name in at the end and that act evaporates Batman's FISA network.
The principled act by a sub=ordinate leads to rectitude. Similarly, the boat scene was profound.
When the huge, black criminal stood up and demanded the detonator, as representative of a
man of action, who in the audience did not believe he would blow up the other boat, whether
based on our own prejudice or personal identification. But he didn't; he led the way to a higher moral principal: “Give me liberty or give me death!” The Joker has no answer to that truth; and neither does Osama nor his enablers, Dick and Bush. Even the criminals on that boat understood the choice and made the noble one; the mainstream folks on the second boat backed into that
same decision, perhaps as you say out of cowardice but I believe out of a sense of guilt if not conscience, as in “What profit a man to gain the world [his life] and lose his very soul?”

No! I totally disagree with your take that this movie supports the views of Addington and Cheney; on the contrary I was deeply moved to tears, first for the loss of such an incandescent talent as Heath Ledger, and second, for the denigration of the Constitution of the United States of America by this administartion and its minions. While in the throes of the movie, I thought of all those complicit Democrats and Republicans, who along with GWB and DC abrogated their oath of office and, for that alone, have committed acts of treason, far beyond those of Ethel and Julius, or of Sacco and Vinzetti.


jayt
Comment posted July 25, 2008 @ 4:05 am

I saw the movie last night, and read your response this morning. It's hard not to see the similarities between Batman and Bush et al. But in my view the Joker is also a reflection of the administration's dark tactics in Iraq and in the GWOT more generally. The Joker is a force of radical destabilization who does his utmost to generate fear-driven class conflicts of all kinds (criminals v. law-abiding citizens; citizens v. politicians; police grunts v. police officials) while providing cover for the mob. Sounds like Bremer in Iraq, and Rove at home. The difference of course is that the Joker does not represent the interests of the mob whereas the Bush administration does. But even that discrepancy might bring us closer to an understanding of how Bush and Cheney operate in creating a global instability which both promotes exploitation and endangers capital at one and the same time.


demilu
Comment posted July 26, 2008 @ 5:15 pm

drvictordavishj, I would argue that the Joker was reacting not to Batman's flamboyancy but to Batman's threat to his means of survival. Without Batman around to reel in the harshest criminals, the Joker was free to thrive in an environment where crime was rampant and criminals needing to hire a madman like the Joker were many.

oogiedoogie, nice response.


stayinuplate
Comment posted July 26, 2008 @ 8:25 pm

The makers of this film used a Bush/Batman allegory to promote the idea that all of Bush'd unlawful and deceitful policies were a necessary evil to fight the war on terror. Some people have come to believe the propaganda that Bush sacrificed his reputation for the good of the country, just as Batman does in the film. I think that America needs to realize that Bush lied about the threat of Iraq to start a war, he set up secret off-shore prisons to torture people, and he conducted unlawful wiretaps on American citizens. This movie tries to justify these actions by painting them as necessary evils. In reality, these actions were not necessary, they have only been made to seem necessary through propaganda such as “The Dark Knight”. I would urge others to consider what I've said and post their thoughts on it so we can engage in a reasonable dialogue.


matthewlove
Comment posted July 27, 2008 @ 11:41 am

I can't read the mind of the writers, but I prefer to interpret the movie in a very different way. I think the Joker is a better symbol of Dick Cheney than he is a symbol of al-Qaeda. After all, al-Qaeda is not really a threat to the United States, and if it is, it is a tenth or a hundredth of the threat represented by Bush, Cheney, the military-industrial-intelligence complex (check out Naomi Klein's recent piece entitled “China's All-Seeing Eye” for more on the reality of surveillance in the post-9/11 world and how it ties into intelligence operations that have little to do, if anything, with fighting terrorism but have everything to do with profiteering and keeping the local population in a state of confusion and fear). The Joker brought Gotham to its knees. Al-Qaeda has never been capable of such a feat. The Bush administration has been. It went from a do-nothing administration to securing wide popular support through inciting fear and phony patriotism. It used its popularity to hijack the country, with the help of the media (which strangely enough, the Joker was adept at manipulating for his evil schemes), it pushed through some of the worst pieces of legislation in U.S. history, namely the Patriot Act. It secured record profits for Bush's chief campaign contributers, specifically the oil industry, and it began an endless war of terrorism against a faceless opponent that will not end in our lifetime and will not be regulated by international law, U.S. law, or basic human decency.

And the extent to which al-Qaeda is a threat, it is a manufactured threat: both physically and psychologically. The CIA and its allies created al-Qaeda is an instrument of Cold War policy to force the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Later, when the Islamic extremists focused their attention on American hegemony as the source of their brand of Islam's declining support in the Arab world, the Neocons decided to make them into the new Soviets (the buzzword switched from “communism” to “terrorism”) as an excuse for launching yet another crusade, with the United States playing the role of the good Christians. The Neocons eventually won the support of U.S. regimes, secured jobs in their respective cabinets, and came to dominate the current Bush administration's foreign policy strategy.

This is a long explanation, but the point is that Bush/Cheney Inc. has never been interested in maintaining order. They are interested in the total opposite. They want the chaos that the Joker spoke so fawningly of. They don't like laws or regulations. They hate the Constitution. They hate human freedom and would replace it in a second with total corporate elite rule if they could just get Congress, the Supreme Court, and a few other key establishments on board – or eliminate them altogether, as they have plans to do with something on the books called “Continuity of Government.” Just look at their response to Hurricane Katrina. Look at deregulation of industry. Look at the chaos in Iraq. Is Blackwater there to establish law and order? Maybe, if that includes killing Iraqi civilians for leisure and getting away with it because of the total LACK of law and order in Iraq as IMPOSED by Paul Bremer and other administration lackeys. These men RELY ON chaos to extract profits from unsuspecting people. Read Naomi Klein's “The Shock Doctrine.” They only care about law and order so long as it keeps the masses away from asserting their right to true political and economic freedom.

To even insinuate that Cheney ever had the American people's interests in mind is to be naive. He has no idea what the typical American experience is and doesn't care.

Therefore, the Dark Knight is certainly NOT Cheney because he has the people's interests in mind (despite being super-rich). He reminds me of some of the Left in this country. Some of us are so misguided we choose to participate in the devil's game rather than accepting that the whole game is fixed and we need to quit and draw up a completely new game. The Joker was going to do whatever he wanted regardless of the response. This is the key. Torturing or killing him doesn't solve the problem because he is only the symptom and not the disease, and we can't defeat him by becoming him. If Cheney/Bush Inc. were assassinated tomorrow, it would not eliminate the graft and greed that plagues this country. The same goes for the Joker. The goal should be to fix the systems that give rise to this graft. Capitalism, namely, which encourages self-interest above everything else, and representative government that only represents the people who can afford to fund the election campaigns of its representatives.

My view of the film was that Batman was able to keep most of his principles. He refused to let the Joker die, stopped himself from “playing the hero,” and allowed the controversial surveillance system to phase itself out when it was no longer needed. In the end, he selflessly walked into persecution in favor of restoring order, even though it could be argued that this was unprincipled because it served to hide the truth from the people, which to me was that there was no way for the system as it was to stop crime, under Harvey Dent or anyone else. It was also fallacious in suggesting that one knight in shining armor, whether suited in a tie or a cape, could somehow protect the people of a sprawling metropolis. Whatever happened to all of those principled people on the ships who refused to kill in order to survive? They were the heroes Gotham needed. Why weren't they glorified in the press? Why do we in the West rely on one man to save us, whether it be George Bush, Barack Obama, or Jesus Christ? Can't we empower ourselves?

No, we'd rather leave all the grunt work to a handful of activists and two or three super-activists, like the caped crusader himself, to save the day. When you put all that pressure on a few people, is it any wonder that they might abuse their power, as Batman did? Power is abusive when it is concentrated. This is fundamental.

So in following my existing framework, the plot is much different. We see Joker trying to root out the last real revolutionary leader, the Dark Knight, and his few good men. He fails to kill Batman, but he largely succeeds in killing the spirit of Gotham. He has made people to be something worse than militant – indifferent, cynical, powerless. This is where the American people are now. This is the ultimate weapon of the elite, and they have used it well.

But if I learned anything from the one hopeful scene of the movie, the dilemma of the passengers on board those two ships in the harbor, it's that maybe the same will happen here, given another catastrophe. Maybe people will wake up the day after a second 9/11 and realize what this system really is and how it is more dangerous than 100 al-Qaedas, how it gives rise to men like Cheney (the Joker), who can easily subvert the modest regulations it possesses, and how it also gives rise to men like Batman who take it upon themselves to defend the millions of faceless people they claim to represent from overwhelming odds while attempting to keep their principles. A better society would give rise to neither.

So the choice belongs to the people. We can continue playing this old, tired game of good vs. evil where lower-class people from around the world are pitted against each other while the indifferent corporations make their profits. We can go on thinking that some “people out there” are just downright evil and want to kill us without any rationale, or we can accept that imposed poverty, itself a form of violence, illegal occupation, and injustice fuel terror. That terror fuels more terror in response, and the resultant chaos and cynicism creates a situation where bystanders decide to kick back and watch the profits roll in while the world burns (which Cheney, like Joker, would love to see). After all, war is so much more profitable than peace.

We can play this game and watch characters mimic it on the big screen at over-priced movie theaters, or we can reject it for something better. That something better is based on love, environmental stewardship, and the understanding that all people are worthy of dignity and respect – and that any system that strays from these principles is not worth keeping. It is also based on the understanding that if we continue to let chaos rule, it will consume the entire human race, rich and poor alike. This planet will not be able to sustain us if we continue to rape it in mad pursuit of profit and expansion. The time to change course isn't now. It was yesterday.


avenger
Comment posted August 1, 2008 @ 9:04 am

Yes, Cheney and his pals would like us to see the world in stark comic book terms of good and evil. But any rational analysis of what has happened over the past nearly eight years would lead an honest observer to conclude that Cheney and his gang of pin-striped gangsters are morally inferior to the people they seek to destroy. They have a) invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children — ripping them to pieces with cluster bombs, immolating them with white phosphorous, vaporizing them in their homes using 2,000 pound bombs; b) destroyed the Iraqi health care system, which might have tended to the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians they maimed and dismembered with weapons we've been forced to pay for; c) doomed countless children to miserable lives of blindness, paralysis, and grotesque disfigurement; d) terrorized millions of others by exposing them to the danger that their entire families might at any moment be murdered by US forces; e) threatened non-nuclear nations with preventive nuclear strikes, an act that would make the Joker wet his pants with glee; f) created a global gulag into which men, women and children have disappeared to be tortured by contractors working for private for-profit corporations; g) attempted to plunder Iraq's enormous resources and place them at the disposal of US-based multi-national corporations with which they have continuing business and personal ties; h) violated and undermined the the Constitution of the United States, which they are sworn to uphold, placing the freedom of the American people in great jeopardy. And, of course, when it comes to the Treasury of the United States, that's just money to burn. On top of all their other crimes, they're bankrupting us through the transfer of public money into private pockets through no-bid contracts to scum like the Dark Prince of Blackwater, a mercenary organization that casually murders civilians knowing that enjoy an impunity that the Joker might relish. Fortunately for the rest of the world, the United States is rapidly going broke. But the wisdom and goodness and righteousness of Cheney and his fellow murderous clowns is pure fantasy: relying on them to save us from the occasional psychopathic scum bag would be like begging the Gestapo to protect us from pickpockets.


feanor70115
Comment posted August 5, 2008 @ 10:05 am

Here's how I've just responded to a friend's blog post in which he asks us to comment on Mr. Ackerman's views:

I'm not familiar with the Washington Independent, so I can't really qualify my opinion with any information about its editorial bias, if it has one.

In any event, I find that their language trivializes, over and over again, the issues they are discussing. Batman having a strict inhibition against taking life is merely “moral hand-wringing.” While they are happy to dissect the Batman's motives, they take the Joker at face value. The entire point of the Joker, whatever his metaphorical relationship with any real-world figure, is that he is the opposite of one's conscience: insane, nihilistic, exploiting any and every vulnerability and turning decency into a weakness. Bob Kane did perhaps his only piece of compelling writing the first time he described the rictus forming on the dead face of one of the Joker's victims in 1939 or so. Making the victims of murder smile was the Joker's joke.

The Joker says that the key to beating him is to become as nihilistic as he is? So what? When does he say anything but to manipulate others?

Moreover, the writer seems to be trying to make a point that his own evidence doesn't back up: Batman's would-be love is disenchanted and chooses the symbol of upstanding law and order. Alfred nearly loses patience with his obsessive and relentless methods. Commissioner Gordon only reluctantly accepts his help. And furthermore, except for the cell-phone spying helping to catch the Joker (and neutralise the bumbling cops), it never does any good when Batman crosses a moral line. Doing so is just playing the Joker's game.

The writer really betrays his bias with this:

“That, in the final analysis, is what the Joker is really interested in: to deprive Gotham of its hero, its hope, and its soul. Batman, in other words, must “work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows.”"

Applying Dick Cheney's words to the Batman is a cheap trick, commonly known as putting words in someone's mouth. Those words are revelatory about Cheney and no one else.

The cell-phone spying thing as a metaphor for war-on-terror policies is obviously true. It's equally a metaphor for Lincoln suspending the writ of habeas corpus or Roosevelt interning suspected enemy sympathizers (thousands of whom were actually of European descent). The fact that the power was laid down afterwards – something the Bush Administration has no intention of doing – is also telling, and is a metaphor for Roman dictators through Sulla among other historical antecedents. I seem to recall that the film actually referred to Cincinattus.

Also, the writer makes the mistake of assuming that because any one questionable Bush war-on-terror policy is evil, they all must be. Why? Because they're associated with Bush and Cheney. Further, the writer just doesn't understand that the screenwriters knew they were writing fiction. Torture is, by any sane moral calculus, excusable in a ticking-bomb scenario when one has the actual perpetrator in custody. However, that scenario has never happened and probably never will. Finally, the writer absolutely misses or misinterprets the abundance of material in the film that counters his position.

Anyhow, my take on the film is that it encourages the audience to think about those issues and draw its own conclusions. If Spencer Ackerman thinks that the film sided with Bush, it's because he admits the superiority of that side's argument (one I would not concede). I note he doesn't spend any time proposing an alternative take on the story, one which would support the other side.


kwaayesnama
Comment posted August 12, 2008 @ 6:22 am

George Bush, Dick Chaney, Condoleezza Rice and John McCain are responsible for the murder of 94,330 innocent people while they looked for nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

Of that total 4,134 were Americans.

They are also responsible for the wounding of 30,464 people.

As of 8 – 07 – 2008.


verafromsedona
Comment posted August 12, 2008 @ 7:15 am

Is John McCain in the pocket of oil companies?

Is John McCain in the pocket of insurance companies?

Is john McCain in the pocket of pharmaceutical companies?

Is John McCain in the pocket of other nations?

Here is a list of lobbyists and employees of major companies working in major positions in the McCain campaign. It will answer any questions you might have about the people who are advising and influencing him.

http://mccainsource.com/corruption?id=0006


truepatriot
Comment posted August 16, 2008 @ 12:09 pm

The framers, in all their wisdom, did their best to form a system that would safeguard democracy. To do this, they created various checks and balances. Many in America want to destroy this; some without realizing it, others with full intent.

Our founding fathers first goal was to prevent tyranny. With reference to the executive branch, they wanted to ensure transparency, accountability, and prevent a president from being above the rule of law. In this regard, the Bush/Cheney administration has had the worst record.

Aside from the will of the people as expressed through elections, there is separation of powers. Within congress there is the house and the senate as a check and balance, and combined, congress is supposed to provide oversight for the executive and judicial branches. Congress has failed to oversee the executive branch, initially due to being a


truepatriot
Comment posted August 16, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

…Kenneth R. Miller). And just because you don't like what you're reading right now, don't hide your head in the sand. Bush supporters–stop with the cognitive dissonance, please. If you don't know what a signing statement is, or gerrymandering, or are unfamiliar with Richard Clarke's memo, Google is your friend


bwillderd
Comment posted August 17, 2008 @ 4:30 pm

You really have to jump through some hoops with multiple spins to come to some of the conclusions many of you have managed in these comments. Throughout our history, there have been leaders who have committed 'un-American' acts in order to secure the future from chaos. Abraham Lincoln is the most egregious example. Roosevelt is a close second. Bush is a minor example. At times, they endured ridicule, approbation and outright hatred because they did what had to be done, and often those things made us squirm as we express the outrage appropriate to the clueless. Those leaders accepted that burden. In the light of history, we condemn their 'failures' to live up to the American ideals, but we honor them for the courage and steadfastness in the face of
that which would destroy us.

Why did the victims on the boats have the luxury of deciding by taking no action? Because they lived in a society where others made those decisions for them, and this instance was no different. Had they all been killed, they would not have been celebrated as noble martyrs for 'good', they would have been seen as victims of the failures of those they had become reliant upon for protection. It was Batman's fault, or Bush's.

You seem to miss your part in the play as you assign identities to the characters. You are the judgmental, ungrateful, accusatory, clueless public who use the freedoms secured for you by leaders whom you bitterly denounce. Until you feel safe again, at which time you will build monuments to the memory of their service and say you were for them all along, but wish they hadn't done some of those awful things along the way.


kathleen
Comment posted September 13, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

Spencer if you as well as the Bush Cheney regime continue to ignore some of the core issues that has continually been aggravating the situation in the middle east…U.S. military bases on Muslims holy land and what many Muslims see as the seepage of the dark side of U.S.'s culture on their populations, the lop sided policies of many U.S. administrations in the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the unwillingness of Israel to sign onto the IAEA non proliferation treaty while demanding that their neighbors abide by this treaty…then you obviously are unable to look at this issue clearly due to your own biases.


Joe
Comment posted September 21, 2008 @ 9:01 am

WOW! Give me a break on the far-left communist crap.


beandipdave
Comment posted November 11, 2008 @ 8:55 pm

bewillderd, you are, whats that word…………………fu#$@*# retarded!!! Man, people are so brain washed in this country! PLEASE wake up people, please!


Scotlaroc
Comment posted December 26, 2008 @ 10:49 pm

The problem is that 10000 years from now, none of this will exist. So, the Satanic philosophy says nothing matters and to do what you want. The God philosophy says obey me and you will be rewarded with liberation from the chaos of time, eternal peace. So, is it real or isn't it? Is it a lie or isn't it? Is it just a game played by higher beings the same as we play chess? If it is then choice is an illusion. Maybe understanding why we do the things we do is why we go on. Maybe it's just preprogramed habit. Maybe wanting change is watching the world burn. Maybe having your parent tell you not to touch the flame because it will burn you is not the same as experiencing a burn itself. To want power you must desire control over your life. For the long haul, to control your life you must be willing to control others lives. Eventually others will want control to counteract your control and one thing will lead to another. A rock or a mountain can sit for a very long time which seems almost eternal. The facts show that given enough time even the pyramids will turn to dust and constant rain fall, freezes and heat can shatter any stone given enough time. If all life is just one prodigious gag real, perhaps what it means to be in the image of Him is to laugh right along with him and fear not and hate not knowing that all that exists will one day cease to exist. The promise of being taken into the realm of a timeless existence all hinges on your belief. In one way or another, eventually, all will be taken. Perhaps I'm just praddling on but lastly I will share something personal. Many years ago I had a dream. For years I have tried to decipher it, but I have not been able until recently, I think. I dreamed of a god like figure like something Michaelangelo carved himself. He was striking with a fury that I had never seen swinging a black smith's hammer in his left hand upon an object in his right which he was squeezing intensely upon an anvil. As I approached closer I saw blood every where from his chest to the floor to the anvil. This being had ripped his own heart out of his chest and was striking it into a shiny metal, silver perhaps. As I got closer he turned and looked me in the eyes and to my own horror… hmmmm, well let's leave something to the imagination. You guess. I've been at a loss for years, but recent events I think have given me some insight. I don't see the point in telling or else you'll miss the point. I will say I believe this… the cost of power is too great, often you become what you despise. I think it's impossible for the Batman to do what he does without (whether it be accidental or intentional) becoming what he despises. Can he live with that? Could you?


Scotlaroc
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I've read all the coments and people fail to mention the important clues. The Joker (Satan) uses wants and fears (especially money and who makes and controls the money?) to recruit everybody and anybody (he doesn't work alone although it seems so). He recruits the mafia, street thugs, police men and women, people in the justice system and pulls the strings of children with masks and pistols which the police are ready to gun down. He puts men in position in medical garb to assasinate. Who he can't buy he manipulates with fear. He does this with the people on the boats. It was when they could not be bought or motivated by fear that they did the right things. You have to be willing to die to do the right thing especially in extreme conditions. Harvey was a symbol of this path. Although his flesh was ravaged and he did die he still became a martyr, but not one for violence, but for justice and purity of heart. Like Christ his memory will live on. Batman caught the Joker, but did not kill him, but instead jailed him. Michael the Archangel captures Satan, chains him and cast him into the pit. Commissioner Gordon is just a man who has picked the side of justice (rightiousness) to act on and though confused still works with Batman to continue this good, but difficult work. In all the chaos, do we not often blame God for the problems of the world in effect blaming his angels? And also do not people have personal problems and cast judgement on people and things saying it is the devil? If God's ways are mysterious then I believe so is the devil's. And people often, just as Job, are confused between the two to the point where everything is grey. Doesn't the joker wear purple and didn't often kings and religious leaders wear purple? Didn't they manipulate on a mass scale beyond most peoples understanding and not often know who works for them? Isn't the Angel of Death often portrayed as a skeletal figure cloaked in black? Aren't demons portrayed often as having bat wings? So there you have it. The machinations of the devil and the mysteries of God often become blurred to the human eye. Didn't the sight of Angels and Satan and his demons strike fear at times, but at times they appeared beautiful apparently changing costumes at will? The Bible tells us what each one stands for and that even though in reality our lives (for the long haul) are not really in our hands, it's the choice to do good that matters in the end and whether you are a so called law abiding citizen or a convicted criminal we are all in the same boat and it's never to late to make the right choice. And even if we do make the right choice and death is at your front door step, yes some malevolent force can push a button and exterminate us. But, evil will not have our obedience. If the eventuality of all things is death does it matter? You might ask. It claims your life, but not your spirit (not your heart). That is the message of the film. And when we all make that choice, maybe, just maybe, there will be a Dark Knight hidden from us in the shadows fist deep in blood yet wings flying in the heavens to stop Historys Worst Joker from pushing the button. If we fail that test, we will have noone to blame but ourselves. Star Wars, The Matrix, Doctor Who (who has two hearts by the way) use many tricks to fight evil, but in the end it is the heart, it is with love that finally won the day. Vader's love for his son. Smith touched Neo's heart and was vanquished. Doctor Who's love for humanity and a little help from assistants helped him win battle after battle. The war is on going. Like positive and negative, matter and antimatter they are always drawn to one another and only through contact do you find either cancellation or cooperation. The out come is impossible for man to predict most of the time. Man is too small to understand all the things, but from what we can see, life is constantly growing, making, spreading, consuming destroying and rebuilding. It is the way of the universe. Perhaps that is the way of God and his reflection of it is seen here on earth. If government and world government has become a wild beast, ask yourself who is the harlot that is riding it? Remember Sin City? Who controled the assassin? Who is drunk off the blood of martyrs and holy ones? Rev. 17. I think a major world wide battle is about to occur and noone will be safe. Let us all pray that the Ultimate Dark Knight comes to the rescue.


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Its motives, and even its capabilities, are less important than its desires for future disaster. Erring on the side of caution is the surest path to annihilation.


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The former chief of the CIA's Bin Ladin Unit, Michael Scheuer, has written extensively of the sound tactical logic behind Al-Queda. These are patient men with a rational mission. Not the Joker running around blowing up things for kicks.

Instead of recognizing it as a philosophical movement of liberation capable of inspiring millions of young Arab men…We're assuming that only the poor, dumb, and child-abused would be attracted to such a force.


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