Sunday, January 11, 2004

Two pieces of propaganda I encountered over the holidays have already caused glee among liberals. Good conservatives should be warned to avoid the typical left wing misrepresentations in the movie Seabiscuit and the book The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome by Michael Parenti. I have bravely perused them to spare my readers.

Naturally I don't expose myself to the unwashed masses in actual theaters, and only now have I had time in my busy schedule of exposing liberalism to rent this film. We definitely need to look this gift horse in the mouth, because it is just as full of danger as the one the Greeks left for Troy. The movie is made with great skill in all technical aspects -- more to be regretted, since it is misused for a bad end. For instance, this is one of the least padded films I have ever seen. Every scene cuts right to the point. Since the director also wrote the screenplay it stayed focussed throughout on his goal of warping our minds.

The movie cynically plays up the angle exploited by the real horse's owner in the depression years of the 1930's. Seabiscuit was supposedly a neglected, ugly animal written off by the racing establishment, who became a national hero as an underdog. Much is made of the crowds of hopeless suffering people cheering on this symbolic champion of the "little people", with narration by a man who usually does those left wing tax-supported PBS documentaries, no doubt to help remind viewers those same crowds were turning to FDR and the Democrats for economic hope. The film also throws in the usual lefty feel-good junk about personal struggles to triumph over adversity by the horse owner, trainer, and jocky (a literal "little guy"). This new age fluff works in making the viewers feel uplifted and happy about the triumph over the powers that be. As the early Scrooge would say, Humbug.

The horse owner is portrayed as a struggling bicycle mechanic who just stumbled into the car business by chance. According to the book, he really owned the biggest auto distributorship in the world. Was he selling cheap cars for the masses, like Chevys or Fords? No, he got rich selling Buicks. Some popular champion!! And of course the movie tries to emphasize the determined virtue of the characters as the reason for the success of the horse, instead of the real truth -- Seabiscuit finally beat War Admiral only because the owner's wife "had pinned her medal of Saint Christopher, patron saint of travelers" onto the saddlecloth. Secular leftys wouldn't ever want to emphasize any religious connection!!

The worst shell game played by this film is about the horse itself. They want us to believe it was just a useness nag who couldn't win until he was treated with love by a caring trainer. One reviewer in the New York Times (of course) called it a "Cinderella story". In fact, the horse was more like "Michael Hastings, a forklift driver living in a country town in New South Wales", that one historian has now determined to be "the rightful heir to the British throne". (Read about him at Briton living in Australia claims his right to the Windsors' throne.)

Seabiscuit's grandsire was actually Man o' War, a champion of both the Preakness and Belmont two decades before. The equine so-called champion of the underdogs was just as much of an inheritor as George W. Bush and just as phony a "little guy" as that Yale son of Wall Street, Howard Dean. If you want more evidence of what a public relations scam this "anti-establishment" hero was, consider that the villain of the movie, the awful rich owner of War Admiral, was himself the owner of Man 0' War. He knew full well Seabiscuit was not a nothing from nowhere. Fortunately, Karl Rove has no similar incentive to pretend his candidate is facing a nobody just to sell tickets.

This liberal attempt to cash in on the popularity of someone of good breeding is not a new con game (though usually it involves people, not animals). Parenti's new book tries to claim for the left a man who can't defend himself because he has been dead for over two thousand years. If the reader hadn't been warned already by the book's subtitle, or by the favorable quote on the back from notorious radical Howard Zinn, this author is kind enough to set forth his agenda in the introduction:

"The prevailing opinion among historians, ancient and modern alike, is that the senatorial assassins were intent upon restoring republican liberties by doing away with a despotic usurper. ... In this book I present an alternative explanation: The Senate aristocrats killed Caesar because they perceived him to be a popular leader who threatened their privileged interests. By this view, the deed was more an act of treason than tyrannicide, one incident in a line of political murders dating back across the better part of a century, a dramatic manifestation of a long-standing struggle between opulent conservatives and popularly elected reformers."

Caesar was indeed part and parcel of the ruling crowd of his day, and of noble birth, not some new rich up from the grass roots. But the truth has never deterred leftys from trying to portray their betters as populists, nor has the hypocrisy of ignoring Caesar's ownership of slaves. (Consider how they have ignored Jefferson's crude sexual exploitation of his own helpless human property.)

The author, wearing his liberal-colored glasses, constantly attacks centuries of historians for being slanted advocates of a long-dead establisment. He ties it all to "land reform", which he says the good guys were for and the awful conservatives in the Senate were against. Why do poor people need land anyway? Haven't we heard this tired radical refrain before about the traditional elite in Latin America? Were the assassinated Gracchi brothers the Kennedys of their day? Was Julius Caesar, who sought to circumvent the old political system, the Howard Dean of his time? The poison here is not just insidious but very subtle. He never actually makes those comparisons, but he sets up the syllogisms so that the readers will jump to those conclusions on their own.

This is most clear with his attacks on Cicero, praised by conservatives for saving the republic from subversive conspiracies. In a chaper called "Cicero's Witch-hunt" Parenti portrays him as a cross between Joe McCarthy and John Ashcroft, condemning proto-leftists in show trials with trumped up phony evidence. He never actually ties the Roman to the modern examples, but it's clear what he wants you to think.

Parenti also denounces Cato, portrayed here as a drunk who traded his wife back and forth "like so many game pieces", described as nominally "devoted to the public, but "the public that counted was Cato's own class, the hereditary nobility"". This, again, is so he can swipe at his real modern day target. "Today, the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank, is named after the illustrious reactionary because he resisted Caesar's rule and supposedly championed liberty. Needless to say, the narrow class nature of that liberty remains unacknowledged by Cato's admirers."

But to quote more of these left-wing rants would be self-abuse. Stay away from this liberal propaganda unless you want to risk having your whole view of history corrupted, with possibly dangerous effects on your vote in this current vital political year.

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