By Tench Phillips, Naro Cinema
The media in this country has been able to look good ever since President Donald and Steve Bannon declared war on the “dishonest press.” In reaction to attacks by the White House, the liberal press has piled on with their criticism of Trump. They have taken the high moral ground and defended the need for a free and independent press that holds power accountable.
But the giant media corporations don’t deserve our sympathies; they haven’t been functioning independent of the state for years. And their newfound integrity and criticism of the Trump regime is simply opportunistic and probably short-lived. Remember it’s the media that was complicit in Trump’s rise to power. They covered his every action and built up his ratings. NBC created the perfect bully pulpit for him with his reality show “The Apprentice.” And Trump will continue to maintain a piece of the action as the show’s executive producer.
And where was the same indignation shown by the liberal press during the Obama administration? Whether it’s been the media’s cheerleading for the U.S. military invasions of Arab countries, or the use of drones for illegal strikes, or illegal surveillance by the national security state, or the criminalization of whistleblowers and journalists, or the deportation of 2.5 million Mexican immigrants during the last eight years – the press has supported the deep state with little opposition. Rational voices against American militarism and for an alternative to war were trivialized and silenced. Instead we were accosted by the arguments waged by Washington think tanks and retired Pentagon Generals who work in the defense industry.
The self-appointed role of the press has been to march in step with the American empire. They neglect needed coverage of domestic social injustices and instead bombard us with frivolous entertainment and consumerism. Plus they distract us by inflating the threat of the enemy beyond our shores: Russia, China, radical Islamic terrorists, Venezuela, and socialist movements.
The fertile ground that enabled the rise of Trump and right-wing nationalism was sown by media, liberal institutions, and the Democratic Party. It’s the result of any real concern they’ve had for the plight of American workers, the unemployed, the six million home owners who lost their homes during the recent recession, the college students unable to pay off their debts, and the mass incarceration of poor people of color. Instead of caring for the working class, the Democrats have partnered with Republicans since the Clinton administration to support U.S. foreign excursions, the plunder of Main Street by Wall Street, the promotion of unfettered corporatism, and the expansion of global neoliberalism.
At least now with Trump we have the correct face on American empire. The ubiquitous smiling face of Obama projected around the world created a cognitive dissonance. His enlightened words did not synch with the reality of American militarism, neoliberalism, and worldwide surveillance. With Trump’s crass and incompetent implementation of authoritarianism, the dark, underbelly of American racism and religious fundamentalism has now been exposed for all to see.
Suddenly the American people are out in the streets again. We haven’t seen protests this large or numerous since the Sixties. Up until Obama’s last year in office, the major protests under his presidency were against climate change. Obama had largely placated the left’s anger. The anti-war movement dried up during his tenure. But since last summer we have seen the rise of Black resistance in urban areas and the mobilization of indigenous native peoples against gas pipelines and the fossil fuel industry.
Trump’s presidency has been a wakeup call for many of us. We are realizing from his selections for cabinet positions that our country has experienced a bloodless, corporate coup. Many people are horrified but a good portion of Americans hated Obama enough that they supported extreme regime change.
The inevitable rise of an authoritarian like Trump through an unjust corporatist system is due in part to some strongly held beliefs by Americans. These beliefs are reinforced by our leaders in the pulpit, in government, and in business. These beliefs include:
- The belief that free-market capitalism is the only just economic system. There’s far too little critique of capitalism and the study of democratic socialism being taught in our universities or explained in our media. As a result, there are fundamental misunderstandings about economic injustice, wealth inequality, social welfare programs, and regulatory agencies.
- The religious belief of supernaturalism. Fundamental religions believe in divine interruption of natural laws. But belief in miracles isn’t the problem. It’s the belief that one’s own religion contains exclusive truths handed down by God to the devout. The lack of studies in our schools of philosophy and comparative religion has allowed for the growth of fundamentalism.
- The belief in man’s dominion over nature. The alienation that modern man experiences as a result of living disconnected to nature has lead to speciesism, a cruel and unhealthy industrial food system, and a blindness to the ill-effects brought by pollution and global warming on our ecosystems. The belief that nature is mechanical and devoid of consciousness allows for its plundering and exploitation by corporations.
- The belief that economic growth and technology will save us. We are living in unprecedented times of habitat destruction, species extinction, and human population expansion. And yet the impulse for the growth of production and consumerism is unquestioned. Population control cannot be broached in a climate where women’s reproductive rights are suppressed as illegitimate.
- The belief that ‘freedom from’ rights guaranteed in the Constitution are the only rights needing protection. These protected civil liberties include: freedom from undue government taxation, religious intervention, and oppression of free speech. As well as the pursuit of one’s self-interests and the accumulation of property. But we must now institute economic and social rights such as the right to health care. As well as the establishment of collective rights for society, and green rights for a sustainable planet for all species, ecosystems, and future generations.
Until Americans see the underlying fallacies and contradictions inherent in their ideologies, they will be preyed upon and manipulated by so-called populist leaders who offer them simplistic solutions and visions of grandeur.
No one can predict the future of our country. But until politicians are voted into office who are not bought off by Wall Street and corporate money, our country will continue its fast descent into fascism. Our democracy eroded years ago. We have a lot of work to do going forward to regain the ideals of a democratic republic.
Upcoming Film Events at Naro Cinema
OSCAR NOMINATED SHORTS: Animation
All five Academy Award nominees in the category of Best Animated Short and more! Program includes: Borrowed Time (USA), Pearl (USA), Piper (USA), Blind Vaysha (Canada), and Pear Brandy and Cigarettes (Canada and UK). All the films are appropriate for children and teenagers except for Pear Brandy and Cigarettes which will be the last film shown on the program. In addition there will be three bonus shorts included in the program: The Head Vanishes, Asteria, and Happy End. Shows Thursday, Feb 16 and weekend matinees.
FlickIt! presents CLUELESS
Shallow, rich, and socially successful Cher (Alicia Silverstone) is at the top of her Beverly Hills high school’s pecking scale. Shows Sat, Feb 17.
Guerilla street artist Banksy has become a cultural phenomenon. His political art is subversive, and done without any intention of sale or personal profit. By definition, his paintings and installations are also a crime. Colin Day’s new film explores the culture of art consumers and the buying, selling, and collecting of the work of this mysterious street artist. It features fellow street artists such as Ben Eine, Revok, and Doze Green, as well as photographer Glen E. Friedman. Shows Tues, Feb 21. Presented with Chrysler Museum. (80 mins).
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO
At the time of his death in 1987, James Baldwin left behind an unfinished manuscript for his next project. It was to be a revolutionary, personal account of three assassinated leaders who were also his close friends—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Now thirty years later, filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished. Using only Baldwin’s words, either spoken by the man himself or read by Samuel L. Jackson, and a flood of rich archival material, Peck has crafted a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America. I Am Not Your Negro is a poetic journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter. Shows Wed, Feb 22 with Virginia poet laureate Tim Seibels and other speakers.
OSCAR NOMINATED SHORTS: Live Action
All five Academy Award nominees in the category of Best Live Action Short. Program includes: Ennemis Interieurs (France), SilentNights (Denmark), Sing (Hungary), Timecode (Spain), La Femme et la TGV (Switzerland). Shows Thursday, Feb 23.
PLAN B Live On Naro Stage!
The acclaimed comedy ensemble is back at the Naro with a comedy event you won’t wanna miss. “My Mother’s Boyfriend Made Caramel” will be a fast paced, hilarious comedic romp full of sketch, video and improv comedy. Shows Sat, Feb 25.
DECONSTRUCTING THE BEATLES’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
One of the most influential albums of our time, Rolling Stone described it as “the most important rock & roll album ever made.” Composer, musician and Beatles expert Scott Freiman looks at Sgt. Pepper from multiple angles, exploring the history behind the music. Mr. Freiman conducts an educational journey into the creative process of The Beatles’ performances and recording sessions. You are guaranteed to leave amazed at The Beatles’ innovation in the studio and have a newfound appreciation for the talents of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr. Shows Tues, Feb 28.
FIRE AT SEA
Oscar Nominee for Best Documentary. A once peaceful Mediterranean island called Lampedusa located near Sicily has become a major entry point for African refugees into Europe. There, we meet Samuele, a 12-year-old Italian boy who lives there with his family. Yet nearby we also witness thousands of men, women and children trying to survive the crossing from Africa in boats that are too small for such a journey. Filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi masterfully places these realities side by side. Shows Wed, March 1.
A UNITED KINGDOM
The acclaimed female British filmmaker Amma Asante (Belle) is of Ghanaian heritage. Her new film is the true story of the love between King Seretse Khama of Botswana – played by the brilliant actor David Oyelowo who played Martin Luther King in Selma – and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white working-class woman from London. Their proposed marriage caused an international uproar in the late 1940s and was challenged not only by their families but by the British and South African governments. Opens Friday, March 3.
Join filmmaker John Beder, and Virginia Symphony Music Director JoAnn Falletta, along with the Ambrosia String Quartet for this new documentary film that examines performance anxiety through the experience of professional orchestra musicians. Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, and always engaging. Tickets are $12 at the door and through the Virginia Symphony. Shows Sunday, March 5.
The much anticipated new film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive). Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey – they share the name. It’s also the hometown of mid-century poet William Carlos Williams. Every day, Paterson adheres to a simple routine and goes home to his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). By contrast, Laura’s world is ever changing and new dreams come to her almost daily. He supports her newfound ambitions; she champions his gift for poetry. Date to be announced.
Oscar Nominee for Best Foreign Film. Set on a remote Pacific island, covered in rain forest and dominated by an active volcano, this heartfelt story, enacted by the Yakel tribe, tells of a sister’s loyalty, a forbidden love affair, and the pact between traditional tribal ways and encroaching modernity. Wawa, a young girl from one of the last traditional tribes, falls in love with her chief’s grandson, Dain. When an intertribal war escalates, the young lovers must choose between their hearts and the future of the tribe. Subtitled. Playdate to be announced.