Balancing The Noir Shadow In US Culture
Following a decade of military invasion and occupation in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, the United States is becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of empires: “We get no respect!”
The undisputed post-World War Two top dog in the world, on virtually every front the United States is more and more playing catch-up with two-faced, Clintonian shuttle diplomacy around the world and a well-entrenched regime of secrecy and sophisticated public relations aimed at keeping the dismal story of decline out of the domestic mind-space.
Economic realities dictate that the US government ratchet down its exorbitant military from the strutting days of Colin Powell’s two-front shock-and-awe doctrine to a leaner doctrine centered on highly mobile, focused assassinations. Instead of bombing cities and structures like a boxer who batters the body, we now go for quick, well-placed head shots, especially to the key, sensitive areas of the brain that provide inspiration and leadership to the movements we deem threatening to our declining future.
US citizens are absorbing this accelerating imperial decline without being informed that’s what’s going on. The myth of exceptionalism must be kept alive and the donut hole of our global empire -- the American homeland where we all work and raise our families -- must carry the burden of sacrifice.
The imperial system isn’t working like it used to; and much of it is being held together by political fantasy. What else can explain the incredible degree of unreality and nonsense more and more at the core of American politics? As the secrecy rises, formal bullshit, as defined by Harry Frankfurt, has become an American language.
Democrats are accomplished with it, but for the masters of bullshit you have to witness the current preposterous level of argument and thinking among the presidential candidates in the Republican Party. There’s no presumption of even a grip on reality; it's a struggle for power and nothing else -- with the mainstream media keeping score.
We Live in a Noir World
As part of a personal study, I recently watched two classic RKO noir films from 1947 – Out Of The Past and Born To Kill, the former very famous and the latter more obscure. The sensibility of these black and white films seems perfectly in synch with the incredibly corrupt times we live in.
(Noir means black in French. The symbolism of blackness as evil goes way back in white, European culture, so unfortunately noir imagery as used here does collide today with the desire to be racially neutral. Human symbolism is complex; for example, in places like Haiti, funeral hearses are often white.)