Thursday, November 1, 2007


But not in the movies. In Hollywood, The Bourne Ultimatum is the standard template: Every plot has a government agency or well-connected corporation behind it. And anyone who doubts the influence of the medium should consider that a substantial proportion of the population now watches the news like a movie. The World Trade Center got taken out? Interesting. Who did it? Mohammed Atta and a gang of Saudi males? Yeah, yeah. But what’s the plot twist? Who really did it? Someone in the government, right? The planes were switched in mid-flight and the passengers were “disposed of in the Atlantic Ocean” (Professor A K Dewdney of the University of Western Ontario), and voice-modification technology was used to fake the phone calls to loved ones, and Flight 93 was “taken out by the North Dakota air guard” (retired Colonel Donn de Grand Pre), and anyway everyone knows fire can’t melt steel (Rosie O’Donnell), so Bush must have done it, and, if you don’t believe me, ask yourself why World Trade Center Tower 7 had to be destroyed.

And, if you point out that having a bunch of planes hijacked and replaced by Predator drones and the crew and passengers dumped over the Atlantic would seem to be a big enough conspiracy that somebody would have leaked something by now, if only to get a book deal, well, that just shows how cunning it is. Or that you’re in on it. There have always been conspiracies, of course, but today there’s only one, with the same relentless message: The bad guy is us, our government agents, our cabinet officials, our corporations. America is one unending director’s cut of The Usual Suspects, with Karl Rove as Keyser Sose. And yes, yes, I know Rove is supposed to have “left” the White House, but doesn’t that strike you as a bit convenient?

This sensibility is something worse than mere liberal bias. It corrodes reality itself. To the old question “Who ya gonna believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?”, a nation answers, “You’re right. My eyes must be lying.” For there is nothing so na├»ve as a reflexive cynic. So back we troop to that weary Bourne from which, apparently, we can never return. I saw a trailer for yet another movie the other day. Michael Douglas sneering, “Do you want to win the war on terror?” New film, same plot.

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