It’s not 1984 and This is the Opposite of Thought Control

Apropos our discussion this week, here is something I saw on Facebook last week in response to the news that HBO Max decided to stop offering GONE WITH THE WIND:

Any book or film that doesn’t meet present Politburo standards is apt to be removed by a subservient corporate America. Buy hard-copy books and physical media while you still can.

This is a classic example of the butthurt white conservative treating himself as the victim instead of learning to cope with what his tribe used to call the the Genius of the Market.

Here’s the deal. The Politburo was the governing body of the centralized economy of the Soviet Union. HBO Max not wanting to platform a spectacularly racist film celebrating the glories of the Confederacy and featuring a number cringeworthy racist stereotypes is not the Politburo. Nor is it the Holocaust, Orwell’s 1984, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the Khmer Rouge’s war on the intellectuals or a dystopian nightmare of mind control by Big Brother.

Indeed, it not any kind of state body dictating what we may and may not think. In fact, it it’s the exact opposite of all that. It’s a company in a free market in a country with freedom of speech deciding that platforming a film to tell millions of Americans that the Confederacy was a fairy tale wonderland of grateful slaves loyally serving a master race of knights and southern belles is, you know, not really what the consumer is buying these days except inside a very suffocating MAGA bubble. In other words, it’s a triumph of the free market, not of a tyrannical world state.

If you are still desperate to see GONE WITH THE WIND, that same free market makes it available to you in a host of venues in both its film and book forms. That’s why you can, if you are desperate to do so, still rent, stream, and buy GONE WITH THE WIND in all sorts of other venues besides HBO Max and you won’t be sent to a Soviet re-education camp or shot in Lubyanka prison for it. Nobody will lock you in with the rats in Room 101 or send you to one of Obama’s famously imaginary shariah re-education camps. In point of fact, you just are not a victim here at all.

Yet, In the comments on this thread, virtually everybody responding to this story saw themselves suffering some great outrage and standing like Irish monks, preserving a vanishing civilization against the encroaching barbarians of the State Thought Police.

Most significant for me, as a Catholic continually embarrassed by the witness of butthurt white conservative Catholics, was the commenter who asked if THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST was likewise on the alleged purge list from Global Mind Control. Lots of murmurs of approval for this from the rest of the commenters, natch.

What none of these Real Catholic[TM] saviors of civilization in the conversation seemed to realize for one second was that questions like that communicate one thing and one thing only: to oppose racism is to oppose Christianity. That this was the automatic and reflexive assumption of everybody there is repugnant to the teaching of the Church, though not, alas to millions of MAGA Catholics. None of them dreamed that such an assumption was damning. Not one of them considered for one second what a black Catholic would feel in listening in from faaaaar outside the Universe of Discourse that cramped ideological bubble occupied.

Meanwhile, in the actual Magisterium, which has existed ever since Jesus promised that “many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 8:11) and the apostles declared that in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, black nor white, male nor female” the Culture War priorities that obsess American conservative are definitively rejected (yet again) in Nostra Aetate:

“We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man’s relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: “He who does not love does not know God” (1 John 4:8).

No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned.

The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion. On the contrary, following in the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, this sacred synod ardently implores the Christian faithful to “maintain good fellowship among the nations” (1 Peter 2:12), and, if possible, to live for their part in peace with all men, so that they may truly be sons of the Father who is in heaven.”

The most pernicious myth of white conservative American Christians is that they are persecuted. They need to believe it because they live in comfort while Christians around the globe really do suffer and because, on our soil, the Christians who are persecuted –namely the brown and poor ones–overwhelmingly suffer at their hands.

It’s a deeply rooted defense mechanism. They are classic butthurt bullies, like their great god and savior, Donald Trump. Having to click over to Amazon Prime instead of HBO Max is not the Trail of Tears or Stalin’s Famines or Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Get over yourselves. It’s embarrassing. Think about somebody else for a change.


11 Responses

  1. Seriously? It’s extremely stupid to protest in this specific manner.
    — “The Politburo is telling us what to do.” — Yeah, in a way, they are. I mean, they’re saying that a whitewashed picture of the past has no place in this society and that’s totally fine.

    I would almost agree with them if they pointed out that “Gone with the Wind” is one of film masterpieces that stands on its own artistic merits, because it does. I would still protest their mendacity, because it’s totally not the reason why they would be protesting, but on the face of it, that statement would be correct.

    “Gone with the Wind” is a masterpiece and a milestone in the history of cinema. It should absolutely be preserved.
    But what I think should happen is MGM should release the film to public domain with a creative commons license that would _prohibit_ derivative works (to prevent it being used to glorify the South, white supremacy and slavery) while not prohibiting its usage under fair use doctrine. That way it would become available to all for free, there would be no need to take it down.
    Of course, this applies to not only this movie, but all other media that shows a falsified view of history.

  2. Fun fact: Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel enters the public domain this coming January.

    There are so many ways that our society really does resemble something out of that book that these people could be upset about instead. People like Limbaugh and Carlson and Hannity tell us who today’s Emmanuel Goldsteins are and how many minutes of hate they deserve. The government and major corporations surveil us in ways Big Brother could only have dreamed of. Historical negationism is rampant (e.g. “I never said that”) and fact-checking is not to be trusted unless it presents Both Sides™ as equally dishonest.

    But yeah, sure, one company refusing, of its own accord, to offer a particular movie for streaming is definitely the thing we should be complaining about.

  3. The foundation of their identity is starting to crumble and they are afraid of being nothing. If they were capable of insight they might develop empathy during this time of revelation instead of defending beliefs that keep them from awakening.

  4. MArk, you seem to be hitting (in a non abusive way) it (no gender theory here) out (but not in a gay way) the park (the only safe place to congregate with proper social distancing) this week.

    This is the world of the MAGAts, the hyper conservative Republicans, the hyper conservative authoritarian religionists.

    If I do it to YOU, it is right, legal, good, proper, and moral. And Jesus loves me and will forgive me. And you’re a snowflake for thinking otherwise, if not an outright running dog of politburo groupthink.

    If YOUdo it to ME, youre an authoritarian communist baby killer who hates the baby Jesus, wants to destroy the American family, heterosexuality, morality, capitalism, guns, and freedom. STOP PERSECUTING ME! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah. You snowflakes are so mean!

  5. I just think censorship is a bad idea, look at the book Covid Truth, it’s become a best seller because Amazon tried to censor it, Amazon is certainly welcome to do that, but book burning didn’t work for conservatives and it won’t work for liberals, I used to get cancel culture letters to not buy Starbucks or other groups, and I liked their coffee, so I never listened, I think most people are like that

  6. I agree that pro-free-market conservative are indeed being hypocritical here. But as a leftist who’s deeply skeptical of corporate power, I don’t think the mere fact that it’s a private corporation doing this rather than the government makes it unproblematic.

    Recall the recent case where YouTube took down Michael Moore’s latest documentary about corruption in the “Green Energy” industry. Once you establish a precedent that it’s okay for private streaming platforms to remove content on ideological grounds, there’s no guarantee that only repellent ideologies will be grounds for removal.

    1. You must have skimmed over this part of the article:

      “If you are still desperate to see GONE WITH THE WIND, that same free market makes it available to you in a host of venues in both its film and book forms. That’s why you can, if you are desperate to do so, still rent, stream, and buy GONE WITH THE WIND in all sorts of other venues besides HBO Max . . . .”

      Kudos to HBO for making clear that they don’t want their corporate reputation tarnished by GWTW.

  7. Things are proceeding a bit more along the lines of “Animal Farm” than “1984.” Back in the 80s, the Left was adamant that absolutely everybody had to have equal access, and that every voice was equally heard. “All animals are equal.”

    Now, of course, everybody has a duty to tell those nasty regressive counterrevolutionaries and reactionaries (not to mention historical figures) to shut up and go away, and do whatever is within their power to ensure that nobody hears them, for not living up to the last minute bleeding edge standards of morality. In other words, some animals are now more equal than others.

    Of course, the Revolution will never tell you, or meek and gentle Jesus, to shut up and go away. They’re your friends. This Revolution will never eat its young. They’re going to do it right this time.

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