Friday, February 21, 2014

PROPAGANDA REVIEW: “The American Dream” (2011)

It’s the worst libertarian-themed cartoon you’ll ever see (that wasn’t made by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, anyway.) 


There was a time in my life when I was a huge fan of “South Park.” That time, unfortunately, was called 1998, and it has long since passed.

Whereas other trappings from the era (Orbitz soda, I’m looking at you) have vanished into the miasma of yesterday, “South Park” continues to truck along, so far beyond its expiration date that you can almost smell the corpse meat of the franchise. To be fair, for a while the show was actually pretty decent -- you know, back when the extent of the program was one-off stories about chicken molesters and hunting Sasquatches with your drunken uncle. Sadly, the show decided to take a detour into the political sometime in the early 2000s, and my interest in the program has waned ever since.

I bring up “South Park” for two primary reasons. For one, the influence of the show on “The American Dream” is utterly unmistakable; indeed, the art style is so similar, it might as well constitute plagiarism. And secondly, the libertarian politics of Trey Parker and Matt Stone seem to be shared quite equivocally by the producers of “The American Dream.” As preachy as some “South Park” episodes got, “The American Dream” absolutely takes it to the threshold and back, however, at times feeling more like the frothing, hastily drawn rantings of a Prison Planet lifetime subscriber than anything resembling an attempt at entertainment. It’s the cuckoo conspiracy theorist Ron Paul Looney Tunes bonanza that in the era of Final Cut Pro, was surely inevitable and even at a seemingly paltry 28 minute runtime, it still feels like it takes a lifetime for the film to drag towards its foaming, anticlimactic conclusion.

So, what is “The American Dream,” exactly? Well, it’s this cartoon made a couple of years back by some group called The Provocateur Network -- whom, three years later, still don’t have a fully functioning website, I might add. The film -- crudely drawn, with even cruder humor -- appears to be an attempt to explain to the unenlightened masses how debt-based economies work, but of course, the makers of the film have a not-so-hidden agenda here…and their ultimate thesis, I assure you,  is crazier than Charles Manson on an acid trip.

The main protagonist of the film is your age-less, Anglo-Saxon everyman, named Pile. The cartoon begins with Pile procuring loans to buy a home (as visualized by a giant truck, with the word “BANK” scrawled on it, literally tossing money at people), which is ultimately foreclosed. After his dog, appropriately enough named “Dream,” is taken away from him, a very familiar looking DeLorean shows up, and the film’s secondary protagonist -- Hartman, who was the lead character’s protectorate against bullies in the fourth grade -- shows up and starts rambling on and on about how his old chum needs to grow a set of cojones…which concludes with Hartman literally gifting his buddy with a set of red balls. Hilarious.

Nothing says cutting edge satire quite like advocating for the execution of people, no?

This leads to Hartman doing a really uninspired Rod Serling impersonation, in which he “explains” how the great housing market crash of 2006 came to be. You see, the problem was, those nefarious banks were just lending to everybody, including frat boys and random street urchins, and to top it off, they even started circulating credit cards as a means of obtaining more loan monies. With some tired Scooby Doo and “The Wizard of Oz” references tucked in there -- alongside a sight gag in which one of the characters yanks the bikini off a woman -- Hartman then proceeds to explain how American over consumption and predatory lending eventually frothed to a point that the housing collapse could transpire. So far, so good…nothing too crazy, and nothing you really can’t argue against either. And then, the film turns its eye towards the Federal Reserve.

Per the characters in the film, the Federal Reserve is so clandestine that not even Jesus Christ can get in there. Funny, seeing as how the Fed was audited by the GAO as recently as 2011, no? The two characters then break into the Federal Reserve, “Mission: Impossible” style, and talk about how the bank is actually a private, non-federalized entity -- an assertion that has quite a few things wrong with it, obviously. And as the film explains, normal banks get their money from the Fed, and the Fed makes the U.S. mint produce more money to help keep up with the normal banks’ demand. As such, the makers of the film accuse the Fed of unconstitutionally controlling the U.S. money supply, even though that little function STILL resides in the hands of the U.S. Treasury. The kicker is when the film states that because the Fed loans so much money to the government, the taxation system as we know it had to invented to keep up with payments. This, despite the fact that the federal government had been collecting excise taxes and tariffs monies for well over a century prior to the ratification of the 16th Amendment, but clearly, that’s a point that doesn’t matter.

From there, we jump to 10th century Arabia, where Hartman explains how fiat money came to exist. A segment featuring a riff on “The Candyman Can” ensues, which leads to a diatribe against inflation and “worthless” paper money. The sequence ends with the gleeful hanging of a banker (really) and paper currency being denounced as un unstable evil on par with nuclear power (no, double really).

Because the New World Order is run by the same guys that run M.A.D., it appears.

And here’s where things start REALLY going wacko. The characters discuss the Rothchilds, who in the film, are literally symbolized as “Red Shields.” According to the film, the Red Shields made their fortune by lying about the outcome of the Napoleonic Wars and engineering a British stock market collapse -- which facilitated their outright “buying” of the country. Their goal ever since, the characters in the film tell us, has been the objective of bringing that ungodly “fractional reserve banking” to the U.S., which leads to some highly suspect claims about early American governance. After heaping praise upon slave-fucker Thomas Jefferson and unabashed Indian-killer Andrew Jackson, the film alleges that the U.S. entered a time of unfettered economic bliss throughout the 19th century and early 20th century, primarily by avoiding a debt-based economy. You know, the same time frame that gave us financial collapses in 1873, 1884, 1893, 1901 and 1907 and all that jazz.

Which brings us to the infamous 1910 “Jekyll Island” meeting (the masturbatory fodder for many a conspiracy buff) in which several industrial titans and bankers allegedly came together to hash out some grandiose blueprint for control of the planet or some other stupid bullshit. Perhaps honing up to their own nonsense, the makers of the film themselves don’t even know who the ringleader of the covert plan was, in turn just referring to the Cobra Commander-like figurehead as the “Supreme Master Leader.” But, uh, Woodrow Wilson did have something to do with it, they reassure us.

The IRS is then shown as a towering robot that literally opens up the Capitol building and starts eating its contents. Pile and Hartman travel back to 1955 (meeting Michael J. Fox, no less) and discuss how the Fed and the IRS work together to “tax inflation.” Hartman talks about how expensive goods are today compared to their price points 60 years ago, completely overlooking the fact that prices 60 years before 1955 were also cheaper, too. Cue a reference to “A Clockwork Orange” -- in which Pile is forced to listen to Kennedy’s “Secret Societies” speech -- and we get a brief history lesson about Executive Order 11110 and how it resulted in JFK getting whacked. A montage of the Feds consolidating more banks and printing more money leads us to the dénouement of the film, a super-dated homage to “300” in which the main character does battle to the death with Henry Paulson. And…credits.

...which, of course, means the "bad guys" have to be REALLY, REALLY bad. 

Psychologically, I can understand why stuff like “The American Dream” exists. The great economic collapse of the late 2000s resulted in a lot of people losing their life savings, and staring your own economic destruction in the face, it sure is comforting knowing that your downfall had something to do with an orchestrated, evil plan instead of things just being the  unplanned consequences of a seemingly-endless number of interconnected variables charging towards a perfect storm. Random chance, we can’t accept, but we sure as hell can believe in a devil-worshipping global conspiracy, I tell you what.

As for the film itself, it really doesn’t have much to say, besides that banks (our designated Orwellian foe, of course) are inherently evil, and that our current financial systems and consumption cycles are really just ways for the “elites” to trick us into servitude. The gigantic problem with the film, then, as that even with this thesis (as shaky as it is) in place, the film makers don’t even BEGIN to outline a solution to their own problem. A gander at the movie’s website has something of a battle plan, but its suggestions range from the cockamamie (back to the Gold Standard, amigos!) to ironically statist (I mean, how else are you going to encourage people to live within their own means without excessive state interventions, no?) The entire point of the film, and the motionless movement the filmmakers wanted the movie to kick off, seems to be nothing more explicatory than “things suck, and the suck because of these guys, so be really, really pissed off at them.”

The two masterminds behind the film -- Tad Lumpkin and Harold Uhl, whom look like bad Create-a-Wrestlers of Trey Parker and Matt Stone -- really haven’t done much before or after the movie, outside the aberrant appearance on such hard news outlets as “The Alex Jones Show.” Of course, you can always visit the official website for the film, which has links to all sorts of Drudge Report wannabes and historically inaccurate profiles of individuals like Lyndon Johnson and J.D Rockefeller (whose head, apparently, actually was an oil drum.)

So, what to make of all of this flimflam and hubbub? Well, not much, frankly, as anyone with access to Wikipedia can shoot down virtually every single accusation the movie makes in the span of ten minutes. It’s a boring cartoon, and even worse propaganda; ineffective, unconvincing and about as inspired as a warmed over Egg McMuffin, “The American Dream” is visual agitprop of the absolute worst variety. Preachy and inaccurate is one thing, but to be preachy, inaccurate AND unentertaining? That’s just an unpardonable offense, fellas.

4 comments:

  1. Troll review. It's just more comforting for you to believe you lost money in 2008 by accident instead of it being stolen by the banks. It's interesting doc to anyone without ADHD

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    1. all anyone has to do is take 5 minutes too look into any claim made by these "Documentaries" to see how huckleberry bullshit these claims are but no fuckers are too lazy and will believe anything if it is presented to them with confidence. its also funny how these "Documentaries" make these claims with sometimes zero references as to where their information came from but yet every time someone publishes any article debunking these conspiracies they are LITTERED with legitimate references...

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