Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Manchurian (or Arabian) Candidate

Denzel Washington is starring in a remake of a movie classic "The Manchurian Candiate."

The original movie starred Frank Sinatra (as Major Bennett Marco) and Laurence (as Sergeant Raymond Shaw) army officers who are captured and brainwashed during the Korean War. Their squadron is made to believe Raymond Shaw saved their lives, for which he receives the Congressional Medal of Honor when they return to America. In fact, the Communists intended to use Raymond as an agent and, using the Queen of Diamonds as a subconscious trigger, compel him to commit heinous crimes, including murder.

The remake has been set in the current era and turned into an adventure/suspense saga. In the remake , and Washington are captured during the first Gulf War and, judging from the webtrailer, brainwashed by the Manchurian Global corporation.

This has the right-wing upset. James Hirson, Hollywood ("Left Coast") reporter for the Scaifian Newsmax, complains

In the remake of "The Manchurian Candidate," rather than using communism as the source of villainy as in the 1962 original, a multinational conglomerate called "Manchurian Global" is used.

Angela Lansbury, who was nominated for an Academy Award in the original, made clear her feelings about the remake. She has said: "I'm so unhappy. I'm so sorry they had to mess with something that was so perfect."
<>But what made the original "so perfect" was a plot twist that could hardly please the right wing. Shaw's control was his mother and the cosnpiracy was to elevate her husband (Shaw's step father), a McCarthy-like anti-Communist demagogue to the Presidency. In short, the original was not an anti-Communist movie. It was more like an anti-anti-Communist movie.

Now there's no reason a political movie element can't be transposed to the corporate world or vice versa. After all, the 1987 No Way Out starring Kevin Costner as a Soviet mole was a remake of the 1948 The Big Clock set in Time-like publishing corporation. There is at least a chance that this remake will be a solid movie. Still, it seems a shame to have abandoned the political angle.

Paul Krugman suggested a natural update: The Arabian Candidate<>

So let’s imagine an update .... This time the enemies would be Islamic fanatics, who install as their puppet president a demagogue who poses as the nation’s defender against terrorist evildoers.

The Arabian candidate wouldn’t openly help terrorists. Instead, he would serve their cause while pretending to be their enemy.

After an attack, he would strike back at the terrorist base, a necessary action to preserve his image of toughness, but botch the follow-up, allowing the terrorist leaders to escape. Once the public’s attention shifted, he would systematically squander the military victory: committing too few soldiers, reneging on promises of economic aid. Soon, warlords would once again rule most of the country, the heroin trade would be booming and terrorist allies would make a comeback.

Meanwhile, he would lead America into a war against a country that posed no imminent threat. He would insinuate, without saying anything literally false, that it was somehow responsible for the terrorist attack. This unnecessary war would alienate America’s allies and tie down a large part of the military. At the same time, the Arabian candidate would neglect the pursuit of those who attacked the United States, and do nothing about regimes that really shelter anti-American terrorists and really are building nuclear weapons.

Again, he would take care to squander a military victory. The Arabian candidate and his co-conspirators would block all planning for the war’s aftermath; they would arrange for the U.S. Army to allow looters to destroy much of the country’s infrastructure. Then they would disband the defeated regime’s army, turning hundreds of thousands of trained soldiers into disgruntled potential insurgents.

After this it would be easy to sabotage the occupied country’s reconstruction simply by failing to spend aid funds or rein in cronyism and corruption. Power outages, overflowing sewage and unemployment would swell the ranks of America’s enemies.

Who knows? The Arabian candidate might even be able to deprive America of the moral high ground by creating a climate in which U.S. guards torture, humiliate and starve prisoners, most of them innocent or guilty of only petty crimes.

At home, the Arabian candidate would leave the nation vulnerable, doing almost nothing to secure ports, chemical plants and other potential targets. He would stonewall investigations into why the initial terrorist attack succeeded. And by repeatedly issuing vague terror warnings obviously timed to drown out unfavorable political news, his officials would ensure public indifference if and when a real threat is announced.

Last but not least, by blatantly exploiting the terrorist threat for personal political gain, he would undermine the nation’s unity in the face of its enemies, sowing suspicion about the government’s motives.

O.K., end of conceit. President George W. Bush isn’t actually an Al Qaeda mole, with Dick Cheney his controller. Bush’s ‘‘war on terror’’ has, however, played with eerie perfection into Osama bin Laden’s hands — while Bush’s supporters see him as America’s champion against the evildoers.

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