Monday, April 16 2007

James Bond versus the Conspiracy Theories

I like a good spy action movie, and for decent production values, few do the genre better than James Bond.  In addition to the normal Bond question (Sean Connery), an interesting question to ask when discussing the movie series is: which is your favorite Bond movie?

In my case, the answer is hard to say.  I like the one where the bad guy is trying to get the two big countries to go to war against each other by faking attacks between the two.  Tomorrow Never Dies?  No, the other one.  The Spy who Loved Me?  No, the other other one.  Diamonds are Forever?  The Living Daylights?  You Only Live Twice?

The plot is a fairly common one.  Two enemies, currently at a (relative) state of peace or at least a cold war, are pushed into a deeper conflict by a third party.  It's been done in anime (El Hazard is probably my favorite example).  It's been done with the third party being the good guys (Yojimbo / A Fistful of Dollars / Last Man Standing).  Just about every Saturday Morning Cartoon show has used the plot at one time or another.

How do we recognize this plot?  We look for one of two things.  One, the presence of a party to the conflict that is supposedly neutral that deals with both sides and profits from conflict between them.  Often an arms dealer or something similar, he first shows up about the time of the first incident that escalates the conflict.  Alternatively, a militaristic member of one faction willing to go to any length to get ahead of the traditional enemy and resentful of the more diplomatic approaches taken by the current power structure.  Once you see one of those in the plot, you know he'll be the ultimate cause of the war, and it becomes up to the heroes to deliver justice and stop the villain.

Where else do we see this plot?  The conspiracy theories that have sprung up around 9/11.   It all falls into place when you assume what the conspiracy theorists assume about the administration.  Each and every member is a wannabe General Ripper.  Depending on the personal bogeymen of the individual involved, the International Jooish Conspiracy, the Military-Industrial-Oil Complex, or the Fanatic Christianists take the role of the neutral third party.  If you know they're evil, you know there's a plot involved somewhere, or else there wouldn't be a story.  If there's no story, there's no way for you to be a hero.

This idea of fitting facts to a preconceived narrative is everywhere in the news.  If you see a poor minority woman claiming to be oppressed by a group of rich young men, especially rich jocks, you know that the narrative demands that the woman be the good guy and the jocks the bad guy no matter what the evidence tells you.  When the lone, plucky scientist stands up against big industry, he's always the good guy.  Its a tempting trap, and its one we all fall into.

To start, we need to examine the way culture at all levels shapes the way we think and act.  But that is a later discussion.

Posted by: Civilis at 07: 59 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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