Years ago I knew a man whose knowledge of history stemmed nearly entirely from what he gained through the viewing of Hollywood movies. Given the breadth of subjects covered by that medium, his knowledge seemed rather extensive. He was quite good at concealing the fact that almost all the particulars he tossed about in conversation were gleaned from the silver screen; particularly those concerning World War II.
And in this, he wasn’t so bad off. Why sift through a lot of research on the War when you could get quite a thorough tour of the theaters of operation right in your own local theater with the likes of John Wayne, Robert Montgomery and Robert Taylor leading the way? The hundreds of films made during the era were of vital interest to the folks back home and provided an emotional link to their men overseas.
In those days, all of the media and particularly those in the movie industry were keenly aware that it takes a whole nation to support a war effort. Morale is always important in any such endeavor, but more so in a democratic country where the support of its citizens is especially critical. In WWII, all the cogs in the national machine coalesced behind the Commander in Chief to produce the desired result: keeping the world safe from oppressive tyrants and their brutal ideologies.
Some think of those movies as nothing short of blatant propaganda; but they got the main facts right and, more importantly, they presented a united front to our enemies. Were they cleaned up some to spare those on the home front the horrors of war? Yes, but wasn’t that the point of the fighting? Yet the toll of war was all too evident in their daily lives as was the sacrifice necessary to see the country through to victory.
How times have changed and the nation along with them. Now the real propaganda is out in the open for everyone to see, and the aims of its purveyors appear at odds with those of the Commander in Chief. Most of the liberal media seem determined that our War on Terror will and must fail, and they seem equally resolute that the rest of the country feel the same way. And it isn’t as hard a task as it once might have been.
The tumult of the 1960s with its irreligious, free-love ethos has eroded much of the country’s capacity for deep thought. The evils of judgmentalism, having been laid bare to a culture eagerly welcoming their revelation, have left each person free to pursue the pleasures of life unencumbered by troublesome bouts of profundity. Armed with such well-worn canards as “never discuss politics or religion at a bar,” the liberal media will now do all the deep thinking for us.
This is not to say that there are not those outside the sphere of academia who spend considerable time in serious reflection; thankfully they have always been with us. But a great majority of Americans find it distasteful, or even rude, to entertain debate on such topics as good and evil, life and death and, yes, war and peace. Why bother with it all when corrupt politicians will do what they want anyway? Besides, The Sopranos kicks off its new season in a few weeks.
This attitude can best be summed up as the Scarlett O’Hara syndrome: “War, war, war; this war talk’s spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream.” Yes, being anti-war in a time of domestic prosperity and moral apathy is an easy sell. And so all hope for a united front would seem to be gone, not only with the wind but with the weather; a much more pleasant and convenient topic.
Now that it’s August, the media will undoubtedly turn their attention to the president’s vacation. Camped out at the gates of his Crawford, Texas ranch, they will take up their yearly cudgels to lament both the length of his vacation and, more importantly, its location.
If there’s one thing more insufferable than having to deal with weighty issues in the good old summertime, it’s a man who chooses to meditate on them far away from the media glare. So get ready for the close-up: “Bush fiddles while Mideast burns.” Coming to a theater near you.