This review appears to be shadow-banned on letterboxd, so I’m porting it over here. Originally reviewed October 4, 2016.
“For example one teacher said that she felt that Darren Wilson wasn’t wrong, that she felt that he should’ve shot him.”
“And that’s what she said?”
“What was the first thing y’all said in regards to how she felt?”
“My exact words were, ‘Man did you hear what she just said? She must be crazy.’ Those were my exact words. Like, when she said it, I couldn’t believe it like, i- it all saw makin’ me feel like, makin’ me wanna stay more distant from those teachers. Like, we can’t really relate so, how can you sit there and talk to me, like, I don’t understand.”
“If they catch us, we don’t know what could happen. We could be the next Mike Brown, for real. They wonder why we just take off running. It’s not that we doin’ anything bad, we scared to be around them. If they see young black kids, trouble, that’s what they think right off the bat, trouble.”
“Black folk are seen and thought to be innately criminal. Innately terrifying. More powerful, more strong, beastly. Which is why you can have a recording of Darren Wilson referencing Mike Brown as something other than human, as an ‘it’. And if that perception is guiding our engagements with folk, the biggest problem is not about the use of weapons alone, as in physical weapons, but as in the ideological weapons we need to rage war against.”
So I went in this documentary expecting to get pissed off. At the bias. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned about the Black Lives Matter movement over the past several months, it’s that the cases of police brutality they base the foundations of their cause on are horseshit. Case in point, Michael Brown. It doesn’t take long to debunk the whole, “He was an angel who did no wrong to the officer or to anybody,” theory. A video here, a video there, and you realize that the officer was in fact within his legal and logical rights to shoot that guy. But no matter. Once it made headlines by the biased sack of shit news media that chose to spin the story in the most racially-motivated way possible (as they continue to do to this day), the riots began.
Justice for Brown. Hands up, don’t shoot (a situation that didn’t happen at all, so even that is built upon a lie). So let’s also loot and burn down some buildings while we’re at it. The court house? The police station? No, that’s too dangerous, let’s take out the easy targets.
The riots were bullshit, and anyone who loots stores that had nothing to do with the events are sacks of shit, I don’t care if they’re crackers or niggers.
And of course the documentary didn’t cover any of that. Because the poor suffering black community has to be held in a shining light. It’s bullshit manipulation.
That being said, the documentary did go into a direction of understanding that I wasn’t expecting. Because the black community in Ferguson was (is) poor, the black community in Ferguson was (is) suffering. But it’s not because police are discriminately killing black people left and right because their racist emotions got the better of them. Oh no, it’s more logical than that, though no less anger-inducing. The city of Ferguson (and a portion of the city of St. Louis from what I understand) initially had a housing plan that developed in the 60s. Long story short, it fell through, and the city began doing horribly financially. And what’s the best way to generate income for the city if there is a sector of Missouri that isn’t offering a source of income due to failed businesses and minimum wage housing where the black community lives paycheck to paycheck (how and why the housing plan initially failed is left out of the documentary)? By ticketing the shit out of them. Get police to patrol areas and target low-wage earners for citations and ticketing, at which point they will go to court, where they can’t afford a lawyer, and they will most likely plead guilty to it, and they will be stuck having to pay off the fine, which is anything but cheap for them. Add onto that fact that there are more tickets that citizens living in the city, and you’ve got yourself a very bad state of affairs. But it got the city the money income it was looking for to keep itself going. And to make sure the process got more effective, they would hire more and more police officers.
“You need so many police officers that you start getting to a point where the quality of those police officers I think is being compromised, to say the least.”
This explains perfectly why there is such disdain between the black community and the police force. So why isn’t this in the news more often? Because it targets the higher ups? Top officials? Well if there’s any good that came out of this, it’s that ever since the riots and protests, despite how misdirected they were, something happened as a result of this.
“On March 4 , the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report of the Ferguson Police Department. It confirmed that officers violated constitutional rights by disproportionately targeting African-Americans and exploiting them as sources of revenue.”
As a result, the mayor and the police chief and a few others stepped down from their positions. Now one can only hope that progress will be made. But to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how. What is an honest and legal alternative mean for the city to generate income and not go bankrupt? Is progress being made towards such a goal? I don’t know. I’m not an expert on the subject, and I just don’t know. What I do know is that, if there’s to be protesting, it would go a lot better if they picked their spots and methods for protesting more logically. Such as in front of the court house where they are given their fines to pay, or in front of the police station where the cops are at who hand out these tickets, or at the mayor’s office.
There is an injustice being done in similar towns with similar black communities, but this isn’t a nationwide epidemic as far as racism is concerned. Believe me, if they could pull this off on a white community, or dare I say a mixed community, they would. And they do. Because I’ve lived in and been to such communities. It’s nothing new for the police force to seek out giving tickets to citizens, because that generates their paycheck and is what keeps the courts going and generates revenue for the city. There needs to be a better way than that. This is something to focus on, on a city by city basis. So why can’t something like that be the focus of the media as opposed to this racially/viewership-motivated cherry-picking those fuckers do?
Michael Brown, Black Lives Matter, Hand up Don’t shoot, those are built on lies. The anger built from mistreatment by the police and the city government is not. Can we find some common ground here?
I expected this documentary to be more of a one-sided “make peace, not war” film which showed how muslims are becoming unjustly discriminated against and imprisoned for being potential jihadists, but are really just nice people.
To my surprise, that’s not what this is.
This takes a hard look at both sides. The film mainly focuses on one incident where this guy gets arrested and charged and sentenced for 4 counts of conspiracy, an American born and raised muslim. It focuses on the family members, mainly the sister and occasionally the mother, who are saddened by this and say that there is no way he would ever do such a thing, etc. I expected the film to mostly compose of that, until it showed the other side, one of the officials discussing how he and others were tracking this guy, what led them to eventually arrest and charge him, why they did so, their history with cases like this, and so on. It becomes a very muddled grey area, where you can’t be sure if this guy was as innocent as his family claims, or not.
But the film doesn’t just focus on that small scale. Throughout the runtime, it goes bigger, talking about how people become jihadists, how they become terrorists, incidents involving terror attacks (mainly the Boston marathon bombing and the Fort Hood attack), the culture and atmosphere of the environments such events lead to, etc. It even mentions the English speaking magazines written by whosoever that talk about how one can become a terrorist, make bombs, how to attack, etc. How a bad economy makes opportunities more rife for citizens to become terrorists.
But most importantly of all, the film even offers a solution to the problem (not some solution that’s going to guarantee jihadist attacks never happen again, there’s no such thing as a 100% guaranteed solution, terror attacks have always happened since the beginning of civilization). That teachers and families must not be afraid to confront and discuss this issue with their children. Because one way or another, children will get curious enough to go online and look this stuff up and come to their own conclusions. Better to discuss it early on, at the right age, when they can be educated on why it’s bad and so on. Because one of the reasons some people go on to become terrorists, bad economy aside, is because it’s a subject considered too taboo for school and families. That’s bullshit, and that’s the wrong stance to take. It should be discussed, it should be talked about, there should be discussions about it.
The finale of the film couldn’t have been done any better. It all comes to a head when the CIA official, who talked about the why and how of arresting that potential terrorist guy, gets in the same room as that guy’s family, his sister and mother. They talk about the whole incident. Was it wrong? What should they have done? If they could go back would they change anything? Role reversal? Etc. It’s a fantastic thought provoking sequence that has no clear easy answers to it. It’s worth sitting through the entire film just to get to that moment it’s been building up to.
That being said, they could’ve trimmed a couple minutes off the runtime during some portions. But as is, it’s actually a fairly good documentary. It’s not as one-sided as you might think, takes a look at several sides (including the side of a muslim teacher who discusses the importance of the cultural learning and the consequences of not making the hard subjects talking points), and is something that I honestly think should be considered for viewing in modern culture classes.
This documentary I’ve been wanting to see for a while. But I’ve been putting it off because, well, despite wanting to see it, I always find some excuse to watch/do something else instead. But now we’re in September, the anniversary is approaching again, and now seems as good a time as any. Not sure if I’ll be able to do any more of these types of reviews for 9/11 after this. I mean, I’ve already reviewed The Path to 9/11 extensively, and that 2-part miniseries still banned by Disney is probably never going to be topped in terms of there being a great movie made on the subject. I’ve reviewed World Trade Center and United 93, which are the only other 2 decent films on 9/11 (the latter being the best one next to Path to 9/11). I’ve even reviewed Path to Paradise which covers the 1993 world trade center bombings which would eventually lead to the 9/11 incident. I even reviewed Loose Change and unleashed my wrath on that piece of shit documentary.
To put it simply, I’ve just about run out of steam on this topic. This might be the last one I’ll review for this incident (unless some other film gets released on the topic which grabs my attention, which I doubt will happen, taking into account a few factors that makes Hollywood want to whitewash history in ways that have nothing to do with white supremacy). So, with all that said…
Review of 9/11
The film was made primarily by 2 French brothers who wanted to make a documentary about New York City firefighters (and remained more respectful towards American patriotism than fucking Damien Chazelle did with his movie). The first 20 minutes, barring some foreshadowing during the first minute, is pretty much filmed with this in mind. Just showing these New York City firefighters going about their daily business, and primarily following a new rookie who learns the ins and outs of it all. Bonds are formed, it is shown how anything can happen that can take a firefighter’s life in an unexpected instant, and the foreign brothers are eventually accepted among the crew as a sort of family after a little over 2 months of filming (they started at around July 2001).
And then September 11 comes, and one of the brothers manages to capture the only known footage of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Then everything changes. The whole purpose of the documentary, the firefighter’s routine for that day, the lives of citizens in New York City, and all of America. Everything changed. From there one of the brothers follows the firefighters into the base level of the tower, where many firefighters in the city would setup operations and try to figure out how they were going to deal with this. And as we should know, there was no contingency plan for something like this. They weren’t sure what to do other than to evacuate as many as they could. Plus since the impact of the plane knocked out tower communications, the firefighters could only rely on their radios, which got overloaded with communication between multiple houses/ladders/districts.
What is interesting is the restraint the film-maker shows while he’s shooting amidst the chaos. There’s one moment where he enters the tower for the first time, and remarks narratively on how he didn’t turn the camera in a certain direction to avoid filming these two people who were on fire. Because he didn’t believe anyone should have to see that. So he kept himself restricted to just following the other firefighters into the main lobby. Have to admit, most film-makers I’ve seen, they would’ve tried to capture that sight. Under the context and circumstance, I actually found this restraint admirable. On a similar note, the other thing not shown is the aftermath of people falling from the upper floors of the tower to their doom. Some of the firefighters describe the site, of blood and dismembered legs and arms covering much of the ground around the tower, but no footage of such is shown. Another act of restraint that is also appreciated. With that said, you still here the screams of those off-camera and on fire. You still hear the loud slams of jumpers hitting the concrete (unsettling to say the least).
While one brother is in the tower, the other is attempting to make his way to the tower, and he captures other significant moments, such as a brief instant of the 2nd plane hitting the 2nd tower (while the other brother capture the debris of that impact falling down outside the windows of the first tower), and showing footage of one of the plane engines on the sidewalk, several blocks away from the tower. A plane engine that got ejected from impact, flew several blocks away, smashed into a road sign and then settled onto the sidewalk below. Amazingly, from what I understand (and correct me if I’m wrong), but it doesn’t seem like anyone got injured from all the debris that flew away from the towers, excluding those few buildings that caved in next to the towers, including WTC 7. Even amidst all this, somehow, some way, the film-maker managed to capture an irony. Right behind this plane engine is a sign that says, “Do not litter.” Have to admit, despite the gravity of the situation, it got a chuckle out of me.
Eventually the first tower falls, and the one brother was still inside along with many other firefighters when it happened. Miraculously, he manages to survive along with most of the other firefighters (but not all). Not long after they manage to make their way out, the 2nd tower falls, and they run again from the debris, only to be forced to take cover behind vehicles as the debris and dust clouds overtake them.
Yes, the film does get quite gripping after those first 20 minutes. The intensity eventually starts to relent when the survivors make their way back to the firestation, and regroup and re-coordinate their efforts. Then the film has a long drawn out epilogue showcasing the lives that got lost. And I get it, this is a sad moment of remembrance as we see the faces of those firefighters who lost their lives, but I can only stay sympathetic for so long before I get bored out of my mind with this and the musical eulogy. It would’ve been better if all that played alongside the end-credits. Then again, the end credits aren’t all that long, because this documentary was made by a very small team on an independent budget, almost like a college project or something.
Despite that, this remains one of the most gripping ground-zero films out there on the 9/11 incident next to 102 Minutes That Changed America. That documentary comes just as highly recommended as this one, possibly even more-so. It also shows footage from everyday citizens who took their cameras out to film the incident as it unfolded after the first plane hit. While the 9/11 documentary shows it primarily from the perspective of the firefighters, 102 Minutes shows it from the perspective of everyday New Yorkers, from several perspectives of random people who each own their own video recorder. Both documentaries act as the perfect companion piece to each other.
A part of me is tempted to bring up the other stuff when thinking outside the box. The political/cultural implications, how things changed for the worse, or in some cases how some say it changed for the better. The other part of me is telling myself not to go down that route, to just look back on these videos, these moments in time. But to what end? To remember? And why remember? What’s the point of remembering? The same reason one would remember history, to learn from it. I may regret it, I may hate myself later for it, but I’m giving in to the former temptation. Because when I think back on events like this and how it caused things to change over the years, up to where we are today, I come back to remembering this one commercial that somehow managed to come to the forefront of my memories.
How this imagery used to be true for a while, until it wasn’t by no later than 2015 in many places. Once a tragedy that caused Americans to unite together as patriots against an enemy that attacked them (though our retaliation became muddled amidst political and corporate interests, which many became aware of as the years went on), has now faded into the opposite spectrum. Many now sympathize with the religion that is one of the root causes of violence worldwide today rather than be critical of it (at the very least one should be critical of the radicals to keep them in check so that this so-called religion of peace can be practiced as such). Many now spit upon patriotism by kneeling and flag-burning, while being praised by mainstream media and various corporate entities for doing such.
And all this just makes me wonder what the hell happened? How did it come to this? Why is it that those who once decried extremist terrorists and united against them now attack each other while a portion ally themselves with terrorism in one form or another? What would happen if some 9/11 event happened today amidst all this? Would such a tragedy give us cause to unite again once more for a time, or would it somehow divide us further? Back then one could fault the government for its inadequate security measures and not taking such things seriously enough. But who would be blamed today if something like this happened again? Sure, the government, or at least a branch of it, would be blamed. But I fear we have somehow devolved into a state where citizens would be blaming each other as well. And the worst part is that I wouldn’t think they would be entirely in the wrong either. What kind of country with such division and such anti-patriotism would be worth defending by its own citizens?
So I ask what will it take to get us all together again (or at least most of us) before some other big tragedy strikes? What will it take for everyone to see and act with reason? Because I’m honestly not sure how that can be done without an age of violence that can cause us to move down one path or the other. The question is whether that path will be the correct one that leads to a brighter future, or one that leads us to a dark age that generations must suffer through before things are made right again. Or, dare I say, we go down a path that leads towards our ultimate destruction?
What I do know is that an entire nation shouldn’t be damned just because some aspects of it are corrupted. Damn those aspects, not everything around it. Being anti-patriotic and hating your own country is not the path to take. Seeking self-destruction and taking all that you can down with you is not the path to take. Being filled with such (self) loathing never leads to anything good. Rather, love yourself and your country enough to want the best for it, to attempt to fix the imperfections within it, to make it a better country. That includes listening to the advice of others and gaining elements of wisdom and knowledge to know better which actions to take. Individualism is important, but so is some sense of unity, some sense of brotherhood, sisterhood, family, friendship, ethos. Find a way to compromise, find a way to be tolerant (except towards those who will never be anything but intolerant), find a way to come together.
After all, it was that togetherness, that patriotism, that love for one another, that caused many to act selflessly saving the lives of others during 9/11. There can be many instances found during that tragic day of other Americans helping other fellow Americans survive, amidst the chaos, amidst all that was going wrong. And not just the police who protect (because despite what some may say, there are plenty of good cops who do protect), or the firemen who save, but also everyday Americans who are capable of protecting and saving in their own way. It is another reason to never forget.
PS: Made this tribute a few days early of the anniversary mainly to encourage others to track down and watch a couple of these films. Especially The Path to 9/11, if you can.
Condescending broad generalizations, get real old real fast! Yeah! Just because most hippies and their parents have sold out, does not mean that you (yeah you), and your children,and their kids won’t last! Say your prayers, with the death of a nation! Say your prayers, for a dead a generation!
— Anti-Flag, Death of a Nation
Alright cocksuckers, time to get political. Don’t want to deal with that, then don’t read the review (or maybe you just don’t want to here the opinion of someone who supports this movie and would rather spend your time reading all the “<= 1 star” reviews that support your confirmation bias). For everyone else who is either the intended audience for this film, or isn’t but is actually legitimately curious as to what some of the film’s supporters have to say about it, hopefully some of which may be interested in a discussion to sway minds, feel free to proceed.
NOTE: To Letterboxd moderators, strike this review down like you did with The Red Pill, it will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. Zwoo Zwish.
“I’m going to judge each and every customer who comes to see this.” — Chadwin
Alright, so first thing I got to say about this movie is that it isn’t the best-made film out there. In the end, it’s basically a glorified History Channel special with a longer running time and a… well I’m honestly not sure if I can say a higher budget because some of the special effects are shit, including Hitler’s mustache. But in all fairness, the History Channel wouldn’t air shit like this because they’re selective in what they’ll show nowadays (and for the past few years). They’d rather do reality-tv stuff and Ancient Aliens. If they tried to make some documentary like this, it would derail fast.
Second, the interviews. This film does the one thing that makes me skeptical of any and every interview segment done in documentaries, or even news broadcasts. Continual cutting between people talking. As in the camera doesn’t stay focused on the speaker the entire time, but cuts back and forth between the person listening, and some other clips/flashbacks. It’s enough to make one think they’re altering what’s being said to fit the intended narrative. The funny thing it though, it does the exact same thing whenever Dinesh D’Souza is speaking to the person he’s interviewing too. So now I’m wondering if he’s (overly) biased with his presentation of interviews, or if he really is this terrible of a film-maker.
Make no mistake, whether you agree or disagree with the message of this film, there’s no denying that Dinesh just isn’t cut out for making movies. Now I say this having not seen his other previous works, though I am aware of their existence. They just didn’t really interest me enough for various reasons. America: Imagine The World Without Her. No. I’m not into “what ifs” or “what could’ve beens”, at least not when the entire movie is based around that idea. 2016: Obama’s America. What’s the point when we are pretty much living in Obama’s America in 2016? What does it matter if the movie is right or wrong on whatever points it makes? Didn’t seem like it was going to make any difference or change anyone’s mind, thus it failed to make me interested in seeing it, as it comes off as pointless and only existing for confirmation bias. Hillary’s America. That one I wanted to see, until I saw the trailer. The movie just looked so fucking bad, I just didn’t care about the message at that point. The acting, the sets, the bluntness; I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or roll my eyes or both. I would rather see him give a speech at a college campus about the message of the movie; which he did, and I did watch that, and I’m pretty sure it’s preferable to watching the film. Alternatively, I guess I could’ve read the book.
So what made me want to see this movie rather than the others? The title and the message seemed more overall relevant, at least enough to allow me to get through the budget bullshit of historical re-enactments (I mean, to be fair, they are on-par with most History Channel stuff, but that’s why I don’t watch most of today’s History Channel stuff; use some fucking still photos, it’s cheaper that way, and probably more convincing). The message being how America is likely in a downward spiral towards implosion (ie self-destruction), and drawing parallels to other nations of the past which suffered similar fates. That of Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Rome. Unfortunately, regarding the latter, the film just says Rome’s name at the beginning as an example of nations that fell, but that’s where Rome’s significance with the film’s message begins and ends. He never talks about the how/why it fell compared to how he covered Germany and Italy (though in the case of those 2 nations, they’re still around, they just had to pick themselves up after getting beaten down badly while under the rule of fascist dictators; actual fascist dictators, without stretching the definition like people do today).
It does take a while for the film to get to that point though, getting to the actual meat of the subject matter. Until then, you have to put up with the first 20 minutes (or so). First there’s the terrible re-enactment of the last act of that movie Downfall. Then there’s the whole coverage of Trump during his 2015 and 2016 rise to presidency, which will either be sweet music to your ears, or nails on a chalkboard, depending on your political views and how much entertainment you find in seeing leftists laugh at Trump’s chances and then seeing them melt down in despair over the election results (I’m of the sweet music variety myself).
Once it gets past all that, then the film finally gets going. Mentioning ANTIFA and their rioting and silencing of opposing speakers on campuses, plus their destruction of property. The leftist’s tactics of doing everything they can to take Trump out in one fashion or another, starting with recounting the election results in some states (which had the opposite desired effect), then calling on the Hollywood has-beens to convince the electoral college to not do their duty and vote the way the voters want them to vote, which ended up failing despite the death threats they received. So then they went for calling Trump racist/sexist/fascist/etc., all the stuff you’ve heard before in one form or another, especially if you’ve been on any social media site at anytime from 2017 and onward. And, of course, there’s the currently ongoing Mueller investigation which probably isn’t going to turn up anything significant.
The film does mention that the media is biased in their coverage of Trump, but it doesn’t spend anywhere near enough time on this topic, considering the parallels it will draw on later, mainly with Hitler’s Germany. Same thing with what schools are teaching, which it spends even less time on (which is probably only a few seconds). Maybe if the film did that instead of having these 2 pause moments where some patriotic music is being sung, once by this lady on a stage (where the fuck is John Wilkes? He needed to get out of that booth and shoot me in the head to put me out of my misery during that segment), and a second time just before the end credits by this black choir (the entire time I was thinking, “Lord murder me now”; make that a choir song).
State lies dressed up as evening news We’re tired of lies we want the truth Broadcast by corpses courting you We’re tired of lies we want the truth
Most people they will never know We’re tired of lies we want the truth With you or against you? Then I am against you because you’re a
Turncoat, killer, liar, thief Criminal with protection of the law I can’t hear you Turncoat, killer, liar, thief Criminal with protection of the law
In your corner, makes me wanna, oh Douse myself in gasoline Civil servants fall in line for you Too brainwashed to see the truth You use anyone you can
Anyway, the film draws parallels between Mussolini’s blackshirts, Hitler’s Nazis, and the actions of ANTIFA, the media, and the police. How the blackshirts cracked down on protesters and were eventually given power as militia to maintain order under Mussolini. The Nazis more or less did the same under Hitler in Germany (after one failed attempt anyway). The news sources were only to report specific news bits and not others, supporting these new radicals and not condemning them, ultimately assisting in their rise to power. And the police stood down to let these groups go on cracking down on protesters, and teachers in school who weren’t teaching students the way Hitler/Mussolini demanded.
In the case of Germany, they also wanted to purge Communists and Jews from the nation. Communists for having a different ideology, being more loyal to Communism and Russia than to the Fuhrer and Germany. The Jews, uh, honestly I’m still not sure why they wanted to crack down on them. Because Hitler hated himself or something? Well in any case, the Nazis molded their method of purging Jews after the method Democrats had during that time period of labeling black people as second-class citizens. Democrats had this “1 drop” policy, indicating that 1 drop of negro blood makes you black and thus a second-class citizen, meaning that if just one parent or grandparent in your lineage was black, you’re second-class. Something that was pointed out in the film Free State of Jones. The Nazis thought this was too harsh (which I think is hilarious, the assholes who went genocide on people of a religion, they thought the democrats and KKK were too harsh for treating blacks as second-class citizens; priorities). So they implemented a 3 drop policy instead, meaning if you had 3 parents or grandparents who were Jewish, you were labelled a Jew, and less than a citizen, and eligible for the camps and the chambers. Wonder if Hitler fit those parameters.
Anyway, apparently, prior to WWII, or at least prior to learning of the said concentration camps and genocide of the Jewish people, the democrats, and Franklin D. Roosevelt admired Hitler, for his rise to power, for turning Germany into a more efficient socialist populist country, and felt honored to know he based some element of his policies off of that of the democrat handbook. But once the war ended and the genocide became known, the democrats had a change of heart. They couldn’t be found to be associated with Germany at that point, not in that way. So they took inspiration out of the Nazi’s handbook, to censor/rewrite history, stating that they had nothing to do with Hitler’s policies, being an inspiration or otherwise, and shift that onto the republican right, something they would also do during the 1960s civil rights movement.
As the poster for the film indicates, Dinesh also attempts to draw parallels between Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump, stating that both were elected during a time when there was pushback against democratic racism, which would end up igniting a civil war. However, it is here that Dinesh is stretching. Granted, there are some similarities between the two presidents when it came to the social/political climate, but it really oversimplifies history when stating that the civil war happened because Lincoln became president. While it’s true that may have been a factor, that wasn’t the sole factor, and probably not even the primary factor. No more than slavery was (again, it was a factor, but probably not the primary factor). There was also the economic and social differences between the North and the South, with how the North was developing advanced technology while the South stayed a bit more on the, for lack of a better word, primitive side of technology. State rights vs. Federal rights. Unions and workers. It was about how the North was evolving into a new way of life while the South wanted to stay in an older way of life. The development of technology that would make slaves picking cotton an inefficient and outdated method compared to technology that would do if for plantation owners, the North embraced this, the South did not. Both sides had rights and wrongs, but neither were able to resolve their differences through dialogue and compromise. So the war came.
So the film gets docked a point for that parallel attempt. But it does get a partial point back for pointing out that there were still plenty of Democrats in the North during the civil war who were very much pro-slavery, who were against the president, even as war was tearing the country apart. Personally, I would’ve found it amusing if the documentary also pointed out the parallels between Hollywood actors of today tend to be anti-Trump, and how John Wilkes Booth was clearly anti-Lincoln. There’s some similarities the film doesn’t address that feel like missed opportunities.
Well, they’re planting the seeds on destruction’s eve. Then take away your rights to keep you free. Yeah they’re planting the seeds on destruction’s eve. Then take away your rights to keep you free on your knees still the vengeance of the world will target you! DOWN ON YOU? DOWN ON YOOOOOOOOU?!!!
Our flesh turned to ash will scatter in the wind.
BOOM BOOM BOOM!
Such a wicked force you had never seen though countless times it took place in your name.
BOOM BOOM BOOM!
Your apathy comes with a price tag after all it seems.
–Anti-Flag, When You Don’t Control Your Government People Want To Kill You
There is plenty of other stuff in the movie, and once it starts the whole parallel game, it moves at a very fast pace, so fast you’re forced to keep paying attention lest you lose some factoid that could fly over your head. But I’ll only mention 2 other bits.
1.) Dinesh interviews this guy who is considered to be one of the most popular white fascist neo-nazis in America today, Richard Spencer. Now personally, I didn’t really know anything about this guy until this film. I mean, I’ve heard his name mentioned before, and I might’ve heard it being associated with white supremacy, but it’s always been more as an afterthought, as a “I couldn’t care less.” So seeing some build-up to his reputation and then seeing the interview segment, I found it kind of interesting. At first, I was trying to figure out if there was anything wrong with this guy, for someone many associate (by generalization, of course) with Trump and thus use that as a means to label both as white supremacists. But the further the interview went on, the more distinct Spencer’s views became from Trump. On top of that, his philosophical beliefs became more clear, and it became more obvious why he’s such a controversial figure. He only wants white people to immigrate (legally) into America. He doesn’t really believe much in the visa policy. And, in some sense that’s not quite as simple as many would make it out to be, he does believe whites are superior, but not in a neo-nazi kind of way. In any case, Dinesh does point out flaws in some areas of his beliefs, while at the same time showcasing how generalizing and “guilt-by-association” is dangerous for people on all sides, no matter their political stance or personal beliefs.
2.) The White Rose movement in Nazi Germany during the last years of the war. Up until this film, I hadn’t heard of White Rose or Sophie Scholl. For those who don’t know, she and her brother and other family/friends printed anti-nazi, anti-Hitler propaganda and secretly mailed it to citizens, pasted them in phone booths and random places in various cities, and placed them around classrooms and dormitories in schools. However, she was eventually caught, tried, and executed, along with her brother. and acquaintance. She was brought up near the end of the film as an example on how to win against true fascism, against true oppression, against censorship and socialist rule. Would’ve helped if the film mentioned how her efforts and martyrdom actually helped Germany, but it seemed content just to show someone being the equivalent of a modern right-wing blogger/youtuber dying for a cause.
But that wasn’t enough to satisfy me. So after getting home from the cinemas, I proceeded to look up some facts on this person, and was rewarded by finding a film titled Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. It fleshed things out a bit, and opened up another point of view in Germany during WWII. Yes there was rule by Nazis, harsh rules, strict penalties. But you also gain insight into others who don’t identify as Nazis. As those who are just German citizens. Publicly, they support the Fuhrer. But you can tell with some subtle manners and expressions, they do so out of fear of retaliation. That many don’t want to see Germany continue to be this way. So they stay silent (silent majority?) and cooperative with the Nazis and the National Socialist Party (ok, I guess those are the same thing in this case) rather than have the balls to revolt. But not those in the White Rose movement. Not Sophie Scholl. She hoped to inspire others to revolt and stop the madness. And after her death, one of the last leaflets was smuggled out of Germany, and mass printed by the U.S., and they rained copies of the leaflet down onto Germany in mid-1943. All this from a student who hated seeing how not just her school, but her country was turning out due to censorship, media, and a fanatical ruler and socialist party.
And today the damn thing is beginning to repeat itself. It’s been happening in the U.K. with Tommy Robinson, it’s starting to happen in the U.S., particularly where anyone would want the brainwashing to begin, at the schools and campuses. But it’s not just a political party (disguised as a religion) making all this happen, it’s also a religion (disguised as a political party). The film opts not to bring up the religion portion of all this.
Despite the flaws, this film is relevant enough to be worth watching today, if nothing else than as a conversation starter, something to encourage critical-thinking and further research into the subjects covered in this film. But that’s the difficult part, as I’ve seen. From the opposing reviews I’ve read so far, many aren’t interested in digging deeper to find the flaws or embellishments, to compose constructive arguments for or against the film. Many would rather just label it as nonsense just on principal, on the principals they’ve been taught and raised with by people just as ignorant as them. But to be fair, I’ve spotted at least one article that at least attempts to make a sound argument against the film. Case in point, Vadim Rizov of AVClub:
To prove that Hitler wasn’t a “right-winger” but truly belongs to the left, D’Souza notes that the dictator is often deemed right-wing because he’s perceived as homophobic. (Well, yes.) But in fact, that’s incorrect, because Hitler tolerated homosexuals in the brownshirts as long as they were good fighters; ergo, he wasn’t homophobic, and by extension he’s not right-wing. Beyond the ridiculousness of the claim, D’Souza either missed the logical conclusion of his own argument—that to be right-wing is to be homophobic—or hopes the audience doesn’t clock the trap he’s set for himself.
The problem with this is that he’s cherry-picking. This isn’t anywhere near the only argument Dinesh makes for Hitler not being a right-winger (though I will agree it is one of his weakest). As stated earlier, there’s also his socialistic policies taken in-part from the democratic playbook (at the time), with how a socialist regime should operate, with how to repress citizens that can be made out to be enemies of the state, for the sake of having a scapegoat if nothing else (though I do believe Hitler had a belief about the Aryan race being superior and thus mandating non-Aryans be wiped out, similar to how blacks were viewed pre-1970s, let alone pre-civil war). Plus how FDR among other democrats admired Hitler (as did JFK during the 1930s, though this isn’t mentioned in this film). The gay segment was put in less as an attempt to separate Hitler from the right-wing than to say, “In some respects, he wasn’t as terrible as democrats in this regard.” You know, like saying at least people don’t freeze to death in Death Valley, California.
One more bit from that article:
The reason D’Souza interviews Spencer is to prove that Trump is not a white nationalist; to that end, he asks Spencer questions about whether he loves America and the flag. Spencer spouts exactly the same kind of racist drivel he says in any situation (along with inexplicably citing James Polk as one of his favorite presidents), D’Souza says that he sounds more like a liberal than a conservative, and Spencer, predictably, doesn’t care; if that makes him a liberal, he’s fine with that. Case closed: Donald Trump loves Ronald Reagan and conservatism, unlike Richard Spencer, and therefore he’s not racist. That D’Souza carefully (“respectfully”) talks with Spencer, taking great pains not to overtly attack him, solely to make this inane non-point, is staggering.
Oversimplifying the conversation and cherry-picking yet again. There’s also the immigration stances, Spencer’s views on whites as opposed to any other race, how no life is special, among other things I don’t recall many hours after viewing the movie. Plus there’s more to be gained from his interview with Spencer than just, “This is how he differs from Trump.”
And it’s easy to spot ignorance when SJWs and radical left-wingers make statements that are usually groundless rather than a well-composed argument. Those who just say it’s ridiculous hogwash rather than stating specifics as to what makes it hogwash. Those who follow an SJW policy as blindly as many followed the Nazi policies in WWII, both in and out of classrooms. And who believe it’s the right thing to do to silence opposition by shouting them down, by censoring them, and by attacking them; rather than by reasoning.
You can spoon my eyes out, But I can still see through you Slice my ears from my head, But you cannot shut out the sounds of truth Lock off each hand at the wrist, So I can’t raise my fist.
You can kill the protester, But you can’t kill the protest You can murder the rebel, You can’t murder the rebellion Sawed my feet at the ankles, But I wasn’t going to run So he grabbed my face, And sliced off my tongue Lock off each hand at the wrist, So I can’t raise my fist You can kill the protester, But you can’t kill the protest You can murder the rebel, You can’t murder the rebellion
–Anti-Flag, You Can Kill The Protester, But You Can’t Kill The Protest
The film doesn’t flesh out its points enough to be great, and it doesn’t help that some of the re-enactment scenes look so cheap. And even though I’m a patriot, those 2 song segments annoyed the shit out of me. But if you can look past that and focus on practically everything else that happens after the first 20 minutes, you’ll find relevant information. The film may not fully succeed in the whole parallel thing, since it misses opportunities in some regards and reaches too far in others, but it does hit enough of the time. Where the film primarily succeeds is in taking the arguments many SJWs come up with against Trump, and his supporters, and right-wingers in general, and throws them back in their face by exposing their own hypocrisy. This is a film I would normally give 2 1/2 stars, but it’s current relevance gives it that extra half star. This isn’t a film that will likely stand the test of time. Most politically-driven documentaries don’t.
If Dinesh ends up making another film, he’s better off letting someone else direct and edit it. He’s better as a writer and speaker than he is as a film-maker.
So this documentary series was recommended by a reviewer or two after watching the Ken Burns and Lynn Novack PBS documentary from 2017 (which left me wanting, and feeling cheated, by the end). When I found out that this documentary series was censored via its 2004 DVD release (compared to it’s 1987 VHS release), that sealed the deal. I would watch this, but not before tracking down the original VHS set, which I acquired on eBay for about as much as I payed for the Blu-Ray Ken Burns documentary. Watched it in its original VHS glory, then burned them onto my computer, and later compared and contrasted the VHS versions with the DVD version (the latter of which are currently available on youtube; only a couple of the VHS episode versions are on youtube as of this writing). And unfortunate to say, I’m seeing a pattern here with documentaries of old compared to documentaries of new, and revised versions of documentaries of old. But either way, I can definitively say this, Vietnam – A Television History is a far better documentary on Vietnam than the 2017 PBS version is. While the PBS version spent a respectable 18 hours on the subject spanning over 10 episodes, the VHS version spends 13 hours over a span of 13 episodes (while the DVD version only has 11 episodes, thus only 11 hours), and still manages to provide a better understanding of it all.
I’ll be referencing the uncut VHS edition from here on (at least up until the end). If you want to see how badly the DVD version fucked things up, I uploaded several youtube videos (and 1 bitchute video, because fuck youtube and its censorship bullshit) highlighting the differences between the VHS and DVD versions, mainly showing what was left out (not in any stylish way, I decided to keep it simple and therebye subtly encourage those who are interested to track down the VHS editions to get the full experience if they’re interested). You can see them here (though the last episode is missing simply because the DVD version left out the last episode entirely):
The Vietnam War. Probably the most controversial war America has ever gotten involved in that has people bickering about it to this day. Why did we go in there? Was it ever winnable? Should we have ever gone in there? What were our initial intentions, and how did they change? What were the intentions of each individual high-ranking official in a position of power to influence the war? Do we have that much of a right to judge those who were involved when we are incapable of experiencing what they have experienced?
So I became interested with Ken Burns in particular after seeing his incredibly well-done Civil War documentary series from 1990. Both that miniseries and this Vietnam one were done on PBS. So I ended up getting this at Best Buy as an impulse buy. And for the first 7 episodes, despite a few slow bits here and there with emotional reflections put on by veterans and family members of dead veterans, I thought it was pretty good solid stuff. Like the Civil War documentary miniseries, it covered a good amount of historical ground, with events going as far back as 1858 leading up to the war, to the retreat of the French only to be replaced by the U.S., the political plays and disasters done by John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon, stories of the soldiers on the battlefield including Vietnamese from both sides, and so on. I felt I was getting my money’s worth…
… at first. But the thing is, when it comes to documentaries as ambitious as this, especially with Ken Burns involved, and with the tagline on the poster, my expectations tend to be high. And when they are high, I make double sure about the quality. And when it comes to documentaries, I am much more picky than normal about biases and context. There were a few things that I found a tad questionable, in that it seemed like some detail was being left out. For instance, the protests and calls for ending the Vietnam War in the United States, with many people, especially college and high school students, protesting the war, but not much given for those who protested against the anti-war protesters. The Kent State incident, how it seemed like there was more to it than the documentary was letting on (similar to how some details of Abraham Lincoln’s surprise re-election during the Civil War were left unsaid in the Civil War documentary). The testimonies of some Vietnamese, but not as much from the Southern side. The portrayal of Ho Chi Min as a saint who had no ill intentions whatsoever.
The final straw that made me want to take a look outside of the box came when the whole Jane Fonda thing happened, where it showed how she was not only against the war, but seemed to hold a hatred for American troops yet had sympathy for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. Yes, it did highlight her voiced opinions on the matter, and how some (if not all) veterans felt betrayed by her (and rightly so in my opinion). She also called the POWs liars for claiming they were mistreated by their captors. However, there was/is a rumor that she did more than that, that she shook the hands of some of the prisoners, and one of the prisoners handed her some small paper scraps with the POW’s social security numbers, indicating that they wanted her to take the papers back to their families in the U.S., to let them know they are alive. But she ended up giving the papers to the prison guard instead, who then severely beat the POWs. Now, from what I’ve researched, this rumor is false, but it was one of the things that made me want to take a closer look. Sometimes, what a documentary shows is all there is, and the rest is baseless conspiracy theories. Stuff I’ve been careful of ever since wising up about 9/11 truthers.
However, there is stuff the documentary did leave out, that did really happen. First, Ho Chi Minh. The documentary portrays him as a somewhat peaceful man who desired a united and independent Vietnam country, and even quoted the Declaration of Independence by the United States. It states that he admired the message of the U.S., of their desire for all countries to be free and independent. How he didn’t really want a war, but it was really more of the prime minister’s doing for instigating the conflict in Vietnam, Le Duan. It basically puts Ho Chi Minh in a similar light as Gandhi, yet he was also a rebel when he needed to be, helping the Vietnamese against the French armies. However, the documentary completely overlooks how repressive his regime came during the mid 1950s (after successfully driving out the French, but remaining in the North half of Vietnam, similar to how there’s a North Korea). How due to the state of that portion of the country, he asked for assistance from communist Russia and China, began agricultural reforms, and became more brutal and oppressive as a result (Source). How brutal and oppressive? How about being responsible for the killing of tens of thousands of his own people (perhaps even hundreds of thousands)? In a Soviet-style land-reform campaign (Source). The fact that this was left out is unforgivable for a documentary series like this, especially when its tagline claims to be going over multiple truths in the war, indicating that it will highlight many of the grey areas. Besides, whenever anyone is portrayed as purely angelic or as pure evil, I become skeptical. I believe they should be portrayed as they were, as human. And humans are flawed beings, with some good things about them, and some bad things.
Doing a little more research, I’ve also learned of incidents leading up to the first Indochina War (prior to the U.S. involvement). A good amount is covered, but a few significant events were left out. The miniseries did not cover France granting Cambodia independence in 1953 (Source), which at the very least portrays the French as less assholish and authoritarian-like when it came to their Asian involvement (though that doesn’t mean they should be left off the hook, it’s just better to have more facts like that to give more food for thought). Little to nothing is said of the Japanese involvement as well (and there-bye completely overlooking president Truman’s involvement in the war), which is something fascinating in of itself, that America would entrust Vietnam to the Japanese for a brief period of time within a decade after defeating them in WWII.
The documentary covers the riots and protests not just in the U.S., but also around the world; though it’s very frustrating to show the international riots yet give no mention as to what they were about or why they were happening; you know, for those of us not as well educated. International rioting aside, not enough detail is given regarding the U.S. protests when it came to the organized groups, like the Black Panthers or the Weather Underground. Since the documentary indicated it was going to show not just how the Vietnam War affected things culturally, but also how a wave of civil rights was going on at the same time within the country, you would think details like that would be a bit more important than another 5 minutes of some soldier reflecting on some emotional moment in his/her life (there’s more than enough of that as-is). Giving details as to what these organizations were, what their goals were, and some of the stuff they did. No mentions of blowing up buildings or shooting people, thus indicating these protesters did bad things outside of just trashing streets and destroying cars and damaging property (by breaking windows). Seemed too much in favor of the protesters. The film is very much on their side when it came to the anti-war portrayal. Hardly any time is given to vets and/or citizens who were against the anti-war protests, and thus not shedding any light on the perspectives of those who voted on certain gallup polls (which were mentioned) which was split on the protests, or mostly against them. If nothing else, I would go so far as to say there’s a hint of contempt for that majority who voted as such in those polls. The closest that I can remember regarding an alternate view is some woman saying something along the lines of, “I respect your right to protest, as that’s your free speech privilege. But if you come knocking at my door again, I’ll blow your head off.” And that’s it. Every other interview ranges from support of the protests, to “It’s amazing that this is happening.” That’s because virtually all the Vietnam vets that are interviewed for the documentary were a part of “Vietnam Veterans Against the War”. I sense bias.
Then there’s the Kent State shootings in May 4, 1970, where National Guardsmen opened fire on the students in the parking lot, killing 4, wounding 9. The documentary portrays it as a random act, letting the footage imply the guards turned and fired suddenly, as if alerted to something going on behind them. But other than the footage speaking for itself, the narrative seems more on the side of the protesters, implying that the National Guard was in the wrong, and that this was a sign of the government forces turning on civilians, calling into question the purpose of the government being for the people by the people, and asking what exactly were the soldiers in Vietnam fighting for if all this was going on. But the film never really goes into detail about the incident, such as how the National Guard felt they were in danger, becoming surrounded, cut off from escape by both the protesters and a fence, that several guardsmen had rocks thrown at them, and they felt firing was necessary because they felt they were threatened. The documentary also doesn’t mention that several of the guards fired into the air to scare off the campus protesters, while others actually fired into a group in the parking lot, thus indicating there was confusion amidst the chaos (Source). But the documentary did bring up an interesting point about how the burning of the ROTC building at Kent State by protesters, combined with the fact that the National Guard were anything but anti-military, implied that this created enough tension as-is, making a disaster like this borderline inevitable if the protesting continued on. Still, would’ve been nice to have more detail and grey area shown, which wouldn’t have been difficult if more narration was provided over the footage.
The documentary also doesn’t mention the Hmungs, among others, who also fought alongside U.S. troops to combat the North Vietnamese. It also doesn’t mention the atrocities committed against the Montagnards, Hmung, and Nungs after the war ended.
Richard Nixon is definitely portrayed as a worse individual than JFK and LBJ, despite the bad/stupid shit LBJ did (JFK though, if anything, was slightly overdone with his role in sinking the U.S. further into the war; yes, he did the stuff shown in the documentary, but it’s left unsaid some of the other things he did trying to prevent the U.S. from sinking so far into it). Look, the bottom line is that all politicians are assholes, they all lie, but they also try to do some good things too, even if that’s ultimately secondary to staying in power. This is more of a nitpick than anything else compared to all the other faults in the documentary, but it’s clear that Burns and/or Novick has it in for Nixon, going a bit beyond just stating facts when it comes to showing his faults (and very little of his successes, and even then underplaying them).
The infamous footage/photo of that guy getting shot point-blank in the head and dying, it highlights the reaction, viewing it as a terrible thing, yet fails to mention why the guy was getting executed. It was because he killed the wife and 6 children of a police officer. No single truth in war, remember the tagline!?!?
While the miniseries does show the instance of that Vietnamese girl getting burned by napalm in that famous photo, and stating that she lived and later moved to Canada, it failed to mention that she moved to Canada to escape from the Communist regime of Vietnam, because they wouldn’t let her attend school or get a real job because they were more interested in using her as a propaganda piece.
There isn’t enough information given regarding the disparity of U.S. troops, as in how they acted. Not all U.S. troops acted as despicably as those in the My Lai Massacre, not all U.S. troops treated the Vietnamese like shit. There was a decent number of troops that acted as respectful as one would expect and hope, especially back in the day when we had this naive belief that we could do no wrong. On that note, and I believe I’m repeating myself a bit here, the documentary doesn’t really mention much of anything regarding how similar atrocities were done by the North Vietnamese (or the Viet Cong).
There is no mention of the role opium played. The only indication of opium is that a decent number of U.S. troops got addicted to it. There was more to it than that (something hinted at in the more recent TV show Quarry). That opium was utilized in Vietnam by U.S. forces (I would assume the CIA) to help finance not just the Vietnam war, but also the Korean war. And this financing eventually led to its spread into the United States (it wasn’t just the Colombians helping Americans getting hooked on that shit).
And lastly, the documentary doesn’t cover anywhere near the level of atrocities committed by the Communist regime after the war in Vietnam (or hell, even during the war; there’s more focus on the atrocities committed by the U.S. troops and by South Vietnam). The only implication we get is that they got a hold of classified information regarding those who helped the U.S., and thus created a “blood list,” a list of those for the Communists to hunt down and kill. It doesn’t mention anything beyond that implication, just that the war ended, China invaded briefly, and they suffered from trying out Socialism for 10 years with disastrous results before recovering and turning into a decent country.
This documentary is selective in its focus, lies by leaving out important details, and without a doubt has a bias extreme enough to cause a very tiny alarm in my head to ring at me when I saw that it was made by PBS. “But the Civil War documentary was also made by PBS,” I said to myself. “But that was 1990, not 2017,” I should have responded to myself. A lot can change in 27 years. The details it leaves out are focuses in a few specific areas, and the fact that they are focused in what is left out confirms my suspicions. It leaves out much of the atrocities the Communists wrought upon the Vietnamese (it’s mentioned to a small extent, infinitesimal compared to how much is focused regarding the amount of atrocities committed by the South Vietnamese and the Americans to the Viet Cong and civilians). It leaves out much of how North Vietnam and the Viet Cong were still able to function so well and in an organized matter despite the losses they were taking (such as by being supplied by the Chinese and Soviets). Most importantly, most of the Vietnamese that are interviewed are of Viet Cong or North Vietnam origin. The only bits dedicated to the South are of how corrupt their government has become, how poor their military conditions were, how much they disliked the Americans, and so on. Nothing is ever really mentioned of the “victories” the U.S. and South Vietnam achieved during the war (such as the Battle of Dong Ha Bridge); it paints a grim picture of constant ambushes and inability to hold taken ground without showing hardly any evidence to the contrary (aside from coverage of the battle portrayed in the film We Were Soldiers, and holding out against the Tet Offensive), plenty of which does exist.
This documentary is a glorified rehash of the defeatist zeitgeist of the 1970s. It paints the picture far too heavily on the traditional, “America fucked up by getting involved,” narrative without clearly displaying the fact that other countries were clearly involved as well. In essence, it was a sort of proxy war between the U.S. and the Communists, a proxy war we lost thanks in part to having no clear strategy other than body count, bad intelligence, bad military decisions made by politicians and due to pressure from anti-war protesters. That doesn’t in any way take away from the blunders and atrocities and levels of hypocrisy done by U.S. soldiers/generals/politicians, but it does show that this was a picture far less simple than the documentary lets on. On top of all that, the documentary from the very beginning is clearly on the side of the message that states that Vietnam was a war the U.S. had no chance of winning, a message many disagree with; it never even considers the alternative that there may have been a way to win the war, even when there are some books written on that very idea. That doesn’t necessarily mean they were right, but concluding from the start that the war was unwinnable leaves their opinions out of the picture, opinions that I believe are worth pondering. The fact that it is dedicated to its very core towards keeping the picture so simple is a shame.
To quote an Amazon.com review of the film:
A veteran is quoted at the end of the film saying, “We have learned a lesson…that we just can’t impose our will on others.” While that daffy aphorism sums up the documentary, in real life the opposite is true. Alexander imposed his will upon the Persian empire. Rome indelibly imposed its will upon Carthage. After the Civil War, the Federal government imposed its will upon the Confederacy. Following World War II, we imposed our will upon Nazi Germany and bushido Japan. In 1975, the North Vietnamese Stalinist government imposed its will upon the South Vietnamese. — Joshua Welte
If they really wanted to do a good job covering as much as possible with the war, it needed more focus. Part of that focus should have included what life was like for various Vietnamese in the North and South, before, during, and after the war. How their lives changed, what hopes they had at various times, if America was affecting those hopes in a positive or negative way, how they viewed Ho Chi Min and Russia and China.
There is more that is left unsaid with the documentary that should’ve been covered at least for the sake of trying to be fair and balanced, but I’ll leave that for those who want to research further into the subject.
Now, with that being said, all those bits of historical facts that are absent from this documentary series isn’t enough for me to completely hate it. There’s still plenty of good stuff to be had here. Like showing how Nixon secretly went behind many people’s backs to prevent a peace meeting between the North and South Vietnam from happening so that he would have a better chance at winning the election, something LBJ was aware of, and could prove it, but wouldn’t do it because he had acquired this information illegally. The documentary also goes into nice detail (albeit briefly, but justifiably so) of Vietnam’s history with the French leading up to the 1960s-70s war (though leaving out the bits with the Japanese). Despite the bias, I currently agree that this was a war America should never have gotten into, as it did much more harm than good (though some still debate to this day if it was winnable or not; though I wouldn’t deny that any chance of victory for the South was fucked from the start due to political corruption and dumb political decisions from both the South Vietnamese government and the U.S. government), it just didn’t need to be so biased and anti-war to get that message across. And it has a decent epilogue regarding the Vietnam Memorial (and how it came to be), and how our relations with Vietnam have improved since then, as we learn to make peace with the past. Regarding that last sentence though, it showed Bill Clinton going to Vietnam to instigate peace, and it showed Barack Obama doing the same, but skipped over George W. Bush making the visit during his term in 2006 (Democratic bias much?). So it is worth watching, but with a large grain of salt and with a critical eye. Don’t be fooled in to thinking this documentary gives enough perspective to be considered satisfactory.
While there is enough information in it to make it worthwhile despite the bias, I just can’t in good conscience give it more than a 2.5 / 5 score, considering the flaws. That being said, I’m going to search for another Vietnam documentary series that is less biased than this, and has more in-depth information. A few films aside, this search has led me to an old 1982 documentary series titled Vietnam – A Television History. Now while it has gotten a DVD re-release courtesy of American Experience, it has a serious problem. From what I’ve gathered, it trims down on the fucking interviews! It censors the original version and throws in more advertisements! And I fucking hate censorship! So now I have to track down a fucking VHS collection of the goddamn thing, watch it that way, likely download it onto my computer through Pinnacle/Dazzle (and I’m all ears for a better alternative than that software), and then put it in a safe storage space online somewhere so that it doesn’t get lost through the ravages of time. The censored American Experience (there’s an ironic name for a company in this context if I ever heard one) version can currently be viewed on youtube, but I’m sure as shit not watching it that way.
PS: For a fascinating yet gut-wrenching case study that gets right down to the horrors of war, atrocities committed by Americans at My Lai and how the effects carried on after the war, I know of two things I can recommend watching. It will show soldiers who have regret, and will make you wonder if they can be forgiven, when they can’t forgive themselves, and have instilled a permanent hatred amongst their victims. It is raw and powerful stuff, and I recommend watching them in this order: My Lai (by American Experience; yes, I’m recommending a documentary done by them after bashing them for censoring a previously made documentary), and Four Hours in My Lai (hosted by a show called First Tuesday). Back-to-back, it becomes more clear as to how decent American citizens can devolve from being decent soldiers to being capable of committing some of the most atrocious acts imaginable.
Edit: Ok, so Ken Burns is definitely a leftist, as made clear with a speech made at the 2016 Stanford Commencement Address, which is hypocritical of him giving the context of the rest of the speech, not to mention flat-out lying with some of his statements. A pity too, because he makes some really great statements in the speech. Guess it sums up some of the pros and cons of his more recent documentaries in a nutshell.
“[…] any time you hear the words ‘based on a true story,’ that’s usually a translation for ‘We bought the rights to this story, took out the boring parts, then made up just about everything else.'” — Bill Simmons
“I don’t think the movie should be more important than the truth.” — Greg Paspatis
“History is written by the victors.” — Winston Churchill
So I was going to talk about the film All the Money in the World, but I’ve failed to come up with enough content to make it a worthwhile review entry. I’ve been stuck with writer’s block over the past few weeks (that, and I’ve been working longer job hours, dealing with the flu, trying to complete projects so I can review them on this site but get side-tracked by something, plus plain old procrastination), so I’ve been struggling to get back on this site and post some new content. But believe me, once I get a couple of these “projects” out of the way, I’ll get my groove back in no time. These are projects I intend to make a post about.
But anyway, after seeing the above mentioned film, it got me thinking about another topic I’ve been wanting to discuss for a while now, a topic that came up after seeing Hidden Figures, and revisiting a childhood favorite of mine, Remember the Titans. Movies based on true stories/events. In the past, I never really made that much of a deal over films like these. After all, as I’ve been told in the past, “it’s just a movie”. No need to make a big deal about it, no need to bitch about it, just simply enjoy it or don’t, and leave it at that. The thing is though, I’ve learned over the past couple years that the “it’s just a movie” argument is bullshit. That’s like saying the novel 1984, or A Clockwork Orange, or Animal Farm, “is just a book.” Because, as I’ll demonstrate, there are things going on that make it clear that it’s more than just a movie.