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Triumph of the Primitive

What does Team America tell us about America? Heated reactions from all sides. Plus much more.

10.22.04

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BRADY'S BUNCH
Re: Paul Beston's The World Turned Upside Down:

I enjoyed Paul Beston's analysis of the Red Sox victory over the Yankees in the American League Championship series and its meaning for New England, and smiled at his comment about Manny Ramirez's rather modest defensive capabilities in left field. But I think he went more than a little overboard when he said "America should be a Yankee nation," and "it does not speak well for our nation" that "...Yankees are hated in favor of self-congratulatory losers like Boston..." Tell a New England Patriots' fan that they're "gloomy[y]." Matter of fact, I remember people saying that, in the wake of 9/11, it was fitting that a team called the Patriots win the Super Bowl. So should America be a Patriot nation?
-- Paul DeSisto
Cedar Grove, New Jersey

WAKE-UP CALL
Re: William Tucker's The Kerry Nightmare:

With all due respect, love, and humility, I offer the following thoughts.

"Like the Indians watching the British march out of Fort William Henry, however, once the terrorists saw their enemies defeated they could not restrain themselves. Before the American soldiers had even begun to pack their bags, they were under daily attack."

What an interesting comparison [by Mr. Tucker], seeing that the indigenous population of this continent was eliminated through unabashed genocide that we still celebrate every October 12 with a Columbus Day Sale for every unnecessary item one can imagine. All I can say is at least we are finally (if only through an unintentional slip) owning up to the glaring similarities between our current occupation of a sovereign nation we chose to invade and the sordid history of this country, confused and self-unaware as it is. And one last thing -- do you honestly expect an occupied people (Iraqis or Native Americans as the case may be) to refrain from fighting back -- to simply drop on their backs like cockroaches, when exposed to the shock and awe of American benevolence? Grow up. And you call us wide-eyed idealists?
-- Marina

PRIME TIME
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Permanently Wrong:

"Both the Clintons and Senator Kerry would deal with them ferociously though at the United Nations, the Hague, or why not the Cannes Film Festival?"

That line is a prime example of why I not only subscribe to TAS but also read it online every day: truth expressed with rapier wit. Thank you, RET.
-- Stephen "Doc" Watson

It would be hard to believe that the Democrats would want the voters to be reminded of the security lapses during the Clinton administration. President Clinton must look weak too after recuperation from quadruple bypass surgery. He was weak and now he at least temporarily looks weak. This does not make a good television moment. But these are desperate times for the Democrats.
-- Diamon Sforza
San Diego, California

DEFENSIVE MANEUVERS
Re: James Bowman's He Did It His Way:

I agree with your analysis of gender differences regarding apologies and credibility. In the same vein, the Kerry camp has a new ad out mocking Bush for being unable to identify mistakes he may have made. My question: Why has no one asked Senator Kerry to identify mistakes he may have made? Surely he can think of some -- like being on the wrong side of history for the past 20+ years -- but why is Bush the only one put on the defensive??
-- Lynne Jackson
New Milford, Connecticut

To quote John Wayne's character, Captain Brittles, in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon:

"Never apologize, Mr. Cohill. It's a sign of weakness."
-- John Manguso
San Antonio Texas

MAD IN AMERICA
Re: Shawn Macomber's Mean Team America:

Shawn, Shawn, Shawn,

After the crapstorm of anti-Bush propaganda since 2000 we have all wished for some kind of appropriate response. Thank God for Team America World Police and creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.
-- John Carrigg
Rock Springs, Wyoming

Oh. please! Finally somebody gets down and dirty and puts it to the other side for once, and we get this review from Shawn Macomber pleading for civilized discourse. That's why Conservatives are always getting it in the butt; we don't know how to fight the way the Left does. There are so many attacks on our sacred beliefs so often by the Left and we're always trying to discredit them with reason and civility. We always fight using the Queensberry Rules while the Left is kicking us in the crotch. I say it's time to fight back and I'm glad that, in a way, Team America does just that.

It's about time that the Left gets skewered. I say hit 'em hard and hit 'em often. Take the damn gloves off for once. After seeing the reaction of Sean Penn, Roger Ebert, and their ilk, it's hitting the mark.
-- Joe Librandi
Peoria, Arizona

Hey, whaddya know? I WAS composing an email in my head at that exact moment [when Mr. Macomber mentioned likely reader criticisms of his column]. So, I quit reading the article instead. You can't see what's wrong with holding a puppet show to the same standard as a documentary, and I'm in a rush this morning.

A tip: you probably won't like Punch and Judy, either. It offers an inappropriately flippant take on the issue of domestic violence.
-- unsigned

I agree with the thesis in Shawn Macomber's "Mean Team America" and also am saddened by the debasement of political discourse in our beloved U.S.A. But there are two ideas to emphasize in response to his fine article and noble views.

One is that political discourse, throughout history, has elements of deliberative and statesmen-like exchange of views, simultaneously coupled with four-letter low-down dirty gutter mouth invective. It was ever thus, and it ever will be. We can hope and aim for more polite deliberation, but history does not favor it. Simply because what politicians commonly called each other back in the old days appears quaint to us, believe me, it was really offensive to them by their standards of the time. Violence, on the other hand (the main thrust of Macomber's criticism of Team America) was sometimes not thought of as all that horrible, and implied violence even less so. In Colonial America if you called a man a bastard, he would duel you and maybe cut off your nose. But you'd be drinking together the next day talking about import duties. The violence was less than the verbal offense, the body less important than honor.

The second point is Mr. Macomber argues that we "consider for a moment how [conservatives] would have reacted if Fahrenheit 9/11 had a scene in which a puppet of George W. Bush strapped with explosives walked into the U.N. General Assembly and blew himself up."

But that is not what leftists and Democrats have done in their political discourse. It is not puppets, it is real.

There is a difference between what is done to what are, after all, puppets that are cartoons of real people, and what real people said to do to other real people. Leftists commonly compare the real President Bush to the real Adolf Hitler. They don't say or depict President Bush in a comical way as Hitler-like. Rather, for leftists and Democrats Bush is portrayed and pronounced in a very real way as Hitler's equivalent.

It is immature to descend to his level, but lest we forget, I remind Mr. Macomber of what Alec Baldwin said once, on national television, of another real person. Not a cartoon, but the real Representative Henry Hyde and his family:

"They voted on one article of impeachment already. And I come back from Africa to stained dresses and cigars and this and impeachment. I am thinking to myself, in other countries they are laughing at us twenty-four hours a day and I'm thinking to myself, if we were in other countries, we would all right now, all of us together, [starts to shout] all of us together would go down to Washington and we would stone Henry Hyde to death! We would stone him to death! [crowd cheers] Wait! Shut up! Shut up! No shut up! I'm not finished. We would stone Henry Hyde to death and we would go to their homes and we'd kill their wives and their children. We would kill their families. [stands up, yelling] What is happening in this country? What is happening? UGHHH!"

In response, Stone and Parker have puppets behaving in a political Punch and Judy show, with puppet-world bullets and decapitations replacing Punch's stick.

I'll give Stone & Parker's puppet fantasy depiction to violence against Baldwin's fellow ideologues of F.A.G. a pass, but I won't give Baldwin's real invocation to violent rage against the real Henry Hyde and his family the same pass. Macomber may find them equivalent, but I cannot. Because one is a puppet, and one is incarnate. And thankfully I and other conservatives know the difference.
-- James Ward
Breux-Jouy, France

Macomber wants people who attend a showing of Team America: World Police to show a little respect/compassion for Baldwin, Garofalo and Sarandon? Perhaps people react the way they do because these "activist/actors", who are not to be taken seriously are forever getting TV "face time" when what they ought to be getting is pie-in-the-face wherever they show up.

Macomber has his opinions and he thoughtfully applies talent to expressing them in print. That is his calling and his profession. Alec Baldwin's is Grade B movies, Garofalo is a trashmouth stand-up comic who whines that she is not getting as much work since she has "spoken out." Well, as we used to say in the South Sea Islands, Tough Tahiti! Sarandon is a first rate actress and I enjoy her work, but her causes are beginning to intrude on her craft. If she had stuck with movies like Bull Durham and not strayed off into Dead Man Walking -- well, she is just too impressionable. None of these people, in my opinion, are entitled to a public forum to express their hatred for the current administration. If you will recall, Alec Baldwin made a public statement, widely circulated, wishing Henry Hyde dead in some grotesque manner. Garofalo is hardly diffident in making her opinions known. As for Sarandon, I would call them "maunderings" rather than "meanderings," but I don't write a column. My wish for Susan, in addition to shutting up, is that she, at some point becomes aware of gravity as it relates to age, and gets some good bras. I don't wish her dead, but rather uplifted.

People cheered and laughed probably for the same reason kids laugh when Wile E. Coyote catches a stick of dynamite in his teeth. Divine retribution, although they probably don't think of it as that. Besides Wile E.'s right back in the next frame and the tedious trio mentioned above will never go away willingly -- so watching their effigies get whacked may be the next best thing.

I feel that "activists' in the arts are a lot like folk singers with a message song -- they ought to be home singing' to their folks, because I don't want to hear their mournful, hopeless lamentation. I know where all the flowers have gone. It's winter and they were annuals -- the perennials will be back. We don't need a dirge about it.
-- Diane S. Smith
So. San Francisco, California

I enjoyed your review. I felt something similar after watching Kill Bill, which I saw around the time of the Abu Ghraib scandal. Kill Bill had its moments (although a lot fewer than Pulp Fiction), but I couldn't help thinking later that if the Abu Ghraib photos made me sick to my stomach and angry, why was I laughing at the carnage in Kill Bill and treating the movie like a serious art work? Uma Thurman is a babe, the scenes were well-filmed, etc., etc., but as your article points out, where's the limit? Sometimes I just want to divorce myself from the garbage culture altogether.
-- Will Pickering

Shawn: Take a deep breath. Perhaps we are a bit weary of the "reality" and "truth" shoved in our faces by Hollyweird elites and their pawns in the MSM, simply because they are highly compensated entertainers? Because isn't that what an actor is after all is said and done? They are paid incredible sums to create a false image to entertain us. We've become a nation of hero worshippers, and because we worship at their feet, any time one of them utters a word, it's a press event and new sound bite.

With all deference to the engineering prowess of Mr. Penn, the political savvy and truthfulness of Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Robbins, Ms. Garofalo and Ms. Sarandon, none of them are qualified to do more in this world that what they are already doing and when they deign to tell us what is right and wrong I must remind myself that their true avocation is prevarication and wish they would be exposed for the frauds they are. I still have the airfare for Mr. Baldwin should he make good on his promise of 4 years ago to leave. Perhaps he was just being true to form and thought it was a part he was playing?
-- Greg Mercurio
Vacaville, California

I was prepared to disagree with your column, but on reflection have to conclude that you are right. I think what happens in the movie Team America is indicative of where we are in this country. These days, humor, both political and otherwise, is mean and crude. Things that used to be said only in the company of friends, which resulted in a reply of, "oh, you're terrible" (maybe with a snicker), are now said out in the open to an audience of millions to outright guffaws. "Saturday Night Live" started it, "The Simpson's" advanced it and "South Park" is currently the culmination of the trend. I don't think it will stop here either. People now feel free to publicly say the most hateful things imaginable, without much penalty or censure. It's like someone took the circuit breakers off these people's brains. There's nothing left to block the flow of hateful thoughts from their minds to their mouths. I am hardly a prude, but I wince at some of the things I hear on TV or read in the newspapers. I think, "Oh man, the person who said this is going to get in trouble," but they never do (unless the person is Trent Lott). I'm afraid that this crude and hateful trend in discourse is one pendulum that is never going to stop swinging in the bad direction it is going.
-- D.C. Norman

Is a liberal really a conservative who has been arrested? Shawn Macomber must have sang Kumbaya one too many times in that New York City holding cell.

The Democrats have demonized Republicans for decades, comparing every GOP presidential candidate since Goldwater unfavorably to Hitler and worse.

The South Park guys create a biting satire exposing the left's hypocrisies, and suddenly Macomber is complaining that conservatives who liked the film are the moral equivalent of Michael Moore, George Soros, and the MoveOn.org fringe elements.

Shawn, get over it. Enjoy the film for what it is rather than pretending it should be something else.
-- Mike Young
Dallas, Texas

Though I agreed with your general premise that meaningful debate and discussion has deteriorated in large part to vitriol, name calling, and ideological shouting matches, I take issue with your comparing Team America to Fahrenheit 9/11. The latter was packaged and presented as an important documentary. To this day, I still have individuals, largely younger people only casually involved in politics, referencing Moore's film when offering reasons why they will vote in lockstep with the Anyone But Bush camp and why I should do the same.

Any level-headed individual should know what they're getting with a Trey -Stone production. If Trey and Stone's comments on the film fail to make their objective clear, the clearly obvious strings manipulating the puppets or the horrible voice characterizations should. I don't think anyone having seen the film necessarily wants to see the Hollywood personalities depicted actually dismembered (okay, maybe most don't), and I certainly don't expect anyone to be referencing or quoting from this film when making the case for one presidential candidate or another.
-- Hpinto
Atlanta, Georgia

…To waste an entire column on this tedious piece of cotton candy is to give it more weight than it possibly deserves. Having done so only makes me wonder about your motives for having done so. Perhaps it struck a nerve that you weren't prepared to have plucked?
-- Stephen Lee
Orlando, Florida

I'm not sure I buy the hypocrisy argument because the intent between the two sides is not the same. South Park creators' Team America kills off leftist celebrities in effigy while the Left would do it for real. These celebrities, MoveOn and their allies would be at the forefront in cheering on a French revolution like terror against people of different political views. Remember Alec Baldwin's rant where he wanted to kill Hyde and others like him (presumably including Shawn Macomber) along with their families? That was the dark side of his mind revealed and not a joke.

The creators of South Park find a rich vein in skewering useful idiot celebrities. The Left's ideas are seen for what they really are, at best worthless and usually harmful to society.

Plus killing off in effigy such hard left celebrities like Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Alec Baldwin, Janeane Garofalo and Sean Penn, who in all probability support partial birth abortion, appeals to a sense of justice.
-- Brooks Friend
Huntington Beach, California

Two days ago, while driving on two of the busiest roads in both my hometown and the county, I noticed that all the Bush-Cheney and Republican signs alongside those two roads had been removed. Almost in one night, it seemed. But none of the Kerry-Edwards and other Democrats' appeared to have been touched; in fact, it seemed there were more.

I got hot, I confess. Very angry. For an instant or two, I saw red and had visions of what I would do in the dark of the night to retaliate.

But then, thank God, common sense and lower blood pressure returned. I realized what a doofus I was for even thinking such things. As Shawn Macomber said, and as most of us know, either there are rules of civility or there aren't. There's no selective application of them to what we think is our own personal exception. If we stoop to the level of vandals and leftist fanatics, in whatever ways, what really have we become but them? We forfeit our right to criticize and certainly to demonstrate there's a different, higher road to take. It may make no difference to them, but it does to me.
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

Thank you for your review of Team America. I haven't seen the movie, nor do I plan to. It may be quite good. But I have to agree with the thrust of your argument that the intense demonization of our opponents on the left is not conducive to civil political discord. I too have been troubled by the celebration of this film by so many others in the conservative world. There was a time when I could stand confident in the knowledge that most of my political allies were decent people who wished the best for our country and for their fellow citizens, regardless of political ideology. They were also largely moral people who tried to live out the Golden Rule when dealing with others. Unfortunately, the poisoning of the political atmosphere that I believe began on the Left has definitely began to affect those of us on the Right.

If Conservatives truly want to see healing take place in our country we need to treat our opponents with civility. Allowing Matt Stone and Trey Parker to become the cheerleaders of the Right by burning liberals in effigy will not help matters, and it will only bring us down to their level.

So again, thanks for your thoughts. I wish that more conservative websites would follow your lead.
-- Chris Symank
Reedley, California

Like Shawn Macomber, I wish no ill will on political adversaries other than defeat at the polls and that the results and consequences of implementing political ideas on the public be critically examined equally. Not that that always happens but, the savage death of the lefty, even in fiction is not anything I advocate. Many left wing types assume that the malevolent feelings of MoveOn.org, "Bush Lied, Kids Died" types has its mutual partner in the right is typical of the "moral equivalence" crowd. I do draw a distinction between political rivalries and America's sworn enemies, whom must be defeated at any cost. I'll skip the movie, because "we don't all do it."
-- P. Aaron Jones

Shawn Macomber needs to lighten up. They are puppets. It is a movie. Is Michael Moore using real video outtakes to give people false impressions better? Nobody really believes that Sean Penn or Alec Baldwin should be or have been killed. The movie represents their demise in a philosophical sense and yes that is something to cheer about because when liberalism dies it will be a victory for us all.
-- Jon Daly
Hart, Michigan

Surely Mr. Macomber understands that the difference between Fahrenheit 9/11 and Team America is not content, but packaging. Both are funny, but one is offered as outrageous spoof, and the other as insightful documentary. When so-called conservatives depict as The Truth a concoction of humorously edited film snippets, then go ahead and write your "pot calls kettle black" piece. Until then, pick a new whipping boy for the devolution of public discourse.
-- Peter B. Nelson

"[B]ut can we please be serious here for a minute" in a movie with gratuitous emesis and marionette procreation that would make rabbits blush? While I was uneasy also, it wasn't for the same reasons as Mr. Macomber. I think he is wrong in his attack. Is it not striking that the movie lacks American politicians? And if so, is the comparison of prominent Republican leaders to left-leaning actors in the hypocritical issue of using the label "fascist," fair? Did the screenwriters use any labels other than Film Actors Guild?

Mr. Macomber does acknowledge that "this stopped being about ideas a long time ago" and pleads for civil discourse, but I wonder if there really is any need for debate in a world where people are permanently lodged in one camp or another or are completely apathetic.

This movie was so wanton that I'm not sure what kind of person would look at it as serious discourse. Instead of motes and beams, it's a three stooge finger-in-the-eye brawl.
-- Mark Leichty
Wayland, Iowa

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