Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I really liked Jon Stewart's take last night on the notion that Guantanamo prisoners are so mind-bogglingly dangerous that we -- a country that imprisons large numbers of drug dealers, murderers, rapists, and (as Stewart says) even brain-eaters -- can't possibly manage to secure them:

Also see Atrios and Hilzoy, who've been mocking the notion that the Gitmo prisoners are "supervillains."

As I ponder this, I think I now understand why right-wingers consider The Dark Knight a conservative movie. Kyle Smith, writing for Pajamas Media, tried to explain this last summer, but I don't think he got the reason quite right:

There is no pretending necessary to fear the Joker (Heath Ledger, in a role that is already a screen landmark). It is said of the Joker that "Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn."

How to deal with such a figure? There is no easy answer, and here is where
The Dark Knight strikes me as a conservative movie.

That's almost it, but not quite. The key isn't that the Joker is a nihilist -- the key, as I noticed a couple of weeks ago when I finally watched the movie -- is that he can seemingly do anything he wants. Despite his schlumpy, depressive, beaten-down affect, he's just about omnipotent -- no evil plot seems physically, logistically, or financially impossible for him to pull off, instantly and effortlessly.

That, added to the nihilism, makes him the villain of right-wingers' dreams.

See, if your goal is pure evil and you can do anything you decide to do, then we, the good guys, get the delicious option of throwing out the rulebook. Since you would do anything and you can do anything, we're allowed to do anything we want right back -- no torture, no act of brutalization, is off limits.

That's the right-wing fantasy. Oh, and it's compounded by the sheer pleasure of telling liberals that their pathetic due process just isn't going to cut it.

In fact, The Dark Knight doesn't really champion that level of heroic sadism. But I think right-wingers play a different Dark Knight in their heads, one in which every jihadist is as uncontainable as the Joker, so no holds are barred.

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