Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Munich - the movie

I saw Spielberg's Munich last night. I was a bit worried going in to the movie, what with all the brouhaha and all. I had heard all sorts of things from one friend who thought the movie was pretty good, to another who called it "self-hating and anti-Semitic".

I assume that the plot is no surprise to anyone. A bunch of Israeli athletes are murdered in the Munich Olympics. Golda Meir sends a team of people to kill all the people involved with the attack. The three hour movie actually spends about five minutes on the attack and the victims. The rest is spent on the team of people, led by Avner, killing the perpetrators.

This is where the first problem lies, as Charles Krauthammer comments, the victims are statistics, they are practically faceless, and it is almost comical when they are all running, trying to flee the gunmen in the hotel in their underwear. The Perpetrators have lives. They are human. They are polite, they are socialites, and they are literary scholars. Except for Avner, who has a wife and daughter, the team's characters have no depth, nor do the victims. Avner and the team's depth consisted of their moral problems with the mission.

So why do some claim this can bring peace to the Middle East? Why are people so up in arms about this? I think I have it figured out. It relies on a few things that people need to understand about today's Left.

But first, why was everyone so upset about this? The reason seems to be that one only displays moral qualms about some issue if there is a genuine moral problem. Hollywood would never waste our time showing two people agonizing over a moral issue if the answer was obviously cut and dry. Right? Hollywood is a great arbiter of mortality and if it says there is a moral dilemma, then damn it, there is one. So for those who take the reprisals as a natural morality-free response to the Munich massacre, then you'd be upset seeing it portrayed as a moral dilemma.

Incidentally this movie was not the story of what happened. The massacre took place, but after that, the record is a bit hazy. People on both sides (the Mossad and planners of the massacre) have dismissed the book that the movie is based on as inaccurate.

But let me get to the heart of the matter. Here is a sign of a contemporary liberal thinker: every act of killing can easily be construed as being on a moral par. "A" blows up an airline full of children. "B" kills "A" in response. For today's left, both "A" and "B" are both murderers. The big difference is in quantity. In the case of Munich, Black September killed about 10 athletes. Israel responded by killing about 10 Palestinians involved. Ergo both Israel and the Palestinians are mass murderers.

If you are a Hollywood (or academic) leftist, you probably think you are showing a balanced picture here, especially if you follow it up with reports of how this just escalates in a "cycle of violence" after the reprisal killings, where this never seems to end. So everyone is equally wrong here. No one gets blamed in a cycle of violence because . . . well . . . that is the nature of a cycle. It just keeps on going. No beginning or end.

But the movie faces a problem here. Avner, and his team are portrayed as having these moral qualms. That is what the movie is about. It would have been way too much of a stretch to portray the Palestinians as having a moral take on this. And it is this lack of a moral Palestinian dialogue that really shows Munich and Spielberg for what he is. He is a racist, like most liberals.

A liberal, first of all, only holds white people morally culpable. (Jews are white, Arabs are not.) White people know how to think morally, and are responsible for their actions. Lesser evolved peoples, for liberals, do not have such qualms. So when there is a moral issue at hand, only white people grasp the concept of taking it seriously. So the Israelis are portrayed as doing such, Arabs are not. (All liberals really believe this. Notice the lack of liberal outcry at such injustices as Rwanda, Sudan, Communist Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia, Halabja, Hama, (death toll nearly 4 million) and any mass murder committed by a non-white, and the constant hysterical liberal outcry at the South African Apartheid, and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians (Death toll what, 4000?). Notice that the “Just wars” of this century were against Milosevic and Hitler - white people, and not The Vietnamese Communists or Saddam Hussein (Asians and Arabs).) So I think when Spielberg made the focus of the movie to be the team’s difficulties, he is continuing this racism. I’d bet anything that in reality there was an equal amount of soul-searching on the terrorist part as there was on the team’s – zero.

Spielberg's racism, prima facie looks as if it is sympathetic to the Israeli cause. It is not. It is sympathetic to Israelis, not their objectives. It says "you Israelis are moral, and are to be held to an impossibly high moral standard." He wants to hold Israelis to some imaginary moral standard that exists only in Christian fantasy - the turn the other cheek standard.

At the same time, it condescends to Palestinians saying that they are not capable of moral reflection (which is clearly worth something, otherwise the whole movie wouldn’t have been about it), but nor do they need to be. Their cause is on par with the Israelis, despite the fact that they are incapable of having a conscience about it.

And this is what bothers me most. Non-white people are NEVER portrayed as having second-thoughts about the killing they are doing. It is just how they are. This exonerates them. They are not capable of moral thought, so why hold terrorism against them. As we are told in the movie, killing them just causes others to take their place, because the next generation will not either be able to think about the righteousness of their cause. We do not hear from the terrorist mouth that there will always be Israeli athletes, so why kill these? They, as non-whites are fairly incapable of that.

The movie was not very good, as a piece of morality, psychology, or history. It was a fiction. It was racist. It excused terrorism. It portrayed Jews as turn-the-other-cheek Christians.


Shosh said...

wow. great review. I've always thought similarly about the iraq war-it's smug and racist of liberals to say "maybe the middle eastern (muslim) world doesn't want democracy. Their values aren't the same as ours. We need to respect their customs." What, they don't want decency? They can't want to protect women from being stoned to death for showing their ankles? They can't possibily support the free exchange of ideas without threat of death or dismemberment? bah!

EJ said...

I'm not clear on this - many liberals are racists and don't expect 'people of color' to have the ability to make moral choices?
I'm astonished even at the suggestion :)

bec said...

seriously, that was one of your best posts yet, and you are absolutely right on all counts, especially regarding the liberal stance on white vs. non-white historical events.
i'm currently having a bitter debate with someone via email regarding how wrong my beliefs are (because i disagree with the liberal propaganda) and she exemplifies most, if not all, of the points you've brought about in your post.

Karl said...

As a rhetorical gesture it usually scores a few points when you accuse the other side of racism. And with liberals you can usually do it. All you have to do is point out that liberals almost never complain when non-whites do bad things, they actually go so far as to excuse them. (It's their culture after all, why interfere with Saddam Hussain's gassing of the Kurds, or the Janjaweed's massacre of the Christians?) But when whites do things that hint of unfairness or killing, even if it is save others, then there is talk of boycott and divestment.

Granted the right are no saints. They don't really speak out against bad things that happen either. But 1) when there is something to gain for them they do, and 2) they do not divide the world by race, like the Left subconsciously does.
They divide the world in to more abstract categories (eg, good and evil, democratic vs non-democratic, capitalist vs communist.)

Ideally we should cry out whever there is real brutality in the world and support any attempt to end it wherever it is feasable. In Iraq it was deemed feasable, and I hope it works. In Darfur it was not, but I hope it is soon. We tried in Somalia, but that didn't work, and you can be sure that the only reason we didn't stay the course and accomplish anything thereor in Lebanon is because of the outcry we were expecting after more Aericans were killed in another Blackhawk incident or barracks bombing. It is good we stayed the course here.

30 something said...

Karl said...

And now I'm a luddite.

30 something said...

The Luddites. A social movement of English workers in the early 1800s who protested – often by destroying textile machines – against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution that they felt threatened their jobs. The movement – which began in 1811 – was named after a probably mythical leader, Ned Ludd. For a short time the movement was so strong that it clashed in battles with the British Army. Measures taken by the government included a mass trial at York in 1813 that resulted in many death penalties and transportations (deportment to a penal colony).

The English historical movement has to be seen in its context of the harsh economic climate due to the Napoleonic Wars; but since then, the term Luddite has been used to describe anyone opposed to technological progress and technological change. For the modern movement of opposition to technology, see neo-luddism

I don't get it.

Karl said...

"Luddite" is generally the term used to describe people who are against technology. In a stretch, you can use it to describe someone who is agianst progress. Spielberg is progressive, so naturally anyone against him is anti-progress. I assume he is thinking along those lines.