“He redefined the usually underpowered Vice Presidential role to affect a practical coup-by-stealth”

Requested repost:

Movie Review: VICE (2018)

“A week is a long time in politics” is a well worn phrase and is even more outdated in the age of Trump and the internet. When you have a political leader who is all about constant self-promotion and when the news cycle changes so rapidly, its hard to keep up with what’s happening. This no doubt effects collective memory too. Trump is sometimes seen as sui generis and makes his predecessors look highly capable, whether they were or not.

Its worth remembering that as little as nearly 20 years ago, people were decrying another President with shallow understanding and who had an even more devastating effect on the world. George W Bush was inarticulate and superficial and headed a regime that went to war on spurious grounds, a war that in one form or other is still going. Michael Moore has made a bio-doc of Trump, Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018) in his now very tiresome ‘gotcha’ style, but nobody has made a feature film yet. Bush received attention in W (2008) but its about time somebody went back to re-visit the period, now that a new generation has come-of-age since then. That wish has been answered in the suggestively titled film VICE (2018).

This movie doesn’t look at Bush himself, but covers the personal and to a greater degree political life of his Vice-President Dick Cheney (Christian Bale). As portrayed in this account, the still little known Cheney began life as a young tear away with intelligence but limited academic aptitude. Through the intervention of his more astute wife Lynne (Amy Adams) (not God as supposedly was the case with Bush), he turned his life around and found his way into the Washington bureaucracy. There he came under the wing of Donald Rumsfeld, played with great relish by Steve Carell as an almost ideology-free player of personal realpolitik in the scandal riddled Nixon White House.

Various ups and downs ensue, with Cheney working steadily and mole like in various positions, resurfacing briefly as a possible candidate for President himself at one point. Simply put, he was so poor in the limelight, this option was never going to be realistic. In probably the best segment of the movie, ‘Dubya’ (Sam Rockwell) appears as an alternative for President and seeks out Cheney as a Vice President. Cheney initially turns the offer down. Then in a scene that employs internal monologue and an extended visual metaphor, we see a master fisherman luring in a flashy but dumb ‘fish’ onto his line. In some ways its a bit of a blunt idea but the acting of Bale helps carry it.

The central thesis of the film when it covers the time in power is simply that it was Cheney himself who had that power. It wasn’t that he acted as some kind of Svengali or Caligari figure, controlling W as a puppet master behind the throne. The claim is more that using a highly authoritarian interpretation of executive power and a team of underlings as Machiavellian as himself, he redefined the usually underpowered Vice Presidential role to affect a practical coup-by-stealth that by-passed the normal checks and balances. How much of this is speculation and how much can be backed up, is probably still open for some debate. Even if some of it proves not to stand up, it is an interesting take on things and makes you sit up and notice all such grey, bland figures who lurk in the corridors of power around the world.

In his previous movie The Big Short (2015) Director Adam McKay took the equally important and dull subject of the prime mortgages scandal and decked the story out with a series of flashy techniques that served the story well. For example, breaking the fourth wall by having famous personalities speaking to the audience as themselves, helping to explain the otherwise banal aspects of the financial crisis. In that film it worked. Here, he resurrects similarly ostentatious methods, including an unreliable narrator who offers the viewer direct-to-camera soliloquies, a false mid-story ‘ending’ with a re-wind and most absurdly a surreal interlude where the main protagonists launch into Shakespearean dialogue while in bed. Unfortunately in this case, it works contrary to the greater good of the story and runs right up against the very effective acting Christian Bale injects into his central character. Bale has a long career and has sometimes gone overboard in his method approach. In VICE, he does a good job of portraying somebody who is largely an enigma, but holds a calm power and some of the techniques described undercut this.

To conclude, VICE is a good reminder that a power structure is an edifice with many components. It doesn’t consist solely of the flashy front-man who distracts the crowds. There are often others behind the scenes who we need to be made aware of. Despite some faults, this movie serves that important function and is worth watching to remind us that the past is still with us.


Ghahraman reveals domestic violence, gets abused

In an interview Green MP Golriz Gahraman has revealed she has been the victim of domestic abuse – ‘I got strangled’ – and has again been the victim of reprehensible abuse on Twitter.

In an interview with Vice, the Green MP discussed the disproportionate amount of threatening messages she receives online – more, she says, than politicians much more powerful than her.

She said she’s had first-hand experience with how verbal abuse can quickly spiral into physical violence because she was once in a deeply unhealthy relationship.

“I’d go out with my friends, there’d always be a massive fight,” she said.

“I couldn’t turn on my phone because every time I’d turn it on I’d just get a barrage of messages that would just be something like, ‘slut-slut-slut-slut-slut,’ or ‘bitch-bitch-bitch-bitch-bitch-bitch’. And I’d just be like, ‘oh well I’ve got to turn my phone off’.”

The relationship got worse and worse, to the point where her partner began hurting her.

“Eventually, it got really physical. It was just like pushing and shaking and whatever. And then it got to a point where a couple of times I got strangled.”

This is awful, but if you follow court news in New Zealand you will know that this sort of abuse and violence is not uncommon (and gets worse than as described here).

Here is the full interview:

Some of the responses:

It wasn’t just on Twitter. SB at Whale Oil: Great News: Social Justice Warrior & virtue signaller extraordinaire may quit

It seems that the Green list MP we love to hate for her mistruths, incompetence, general stupidity and activism has finally seen the writing on the wall. However, given this nobody list MP’s penchant for the limelight I suspect that she has zero intention of actually quitting. 

In the article, the criticism and the facts revealed by critics were dismissed as baseless trolling likely fueled by racism. Golriz is portrayed as a poor widdle immigrant who just wants to be loved. A  fragile figure, who needs protection from the harsh reality of life and who seems astounded that her words and actions have consequences in the real world. Why can’t everyone just be nice?

The article also reveals another reason why we should be sympathetic towards a woman who spent her time as an intern helping defending violent and murderous men. One of her previous relationships was with a violent man and she is a survivor of domestic violence.

Atkins quotes the Vice account of the domestic abuse she has been subjected to and responds:

Her lying by omission and the role the Green party played in the deception is explained.

Given how much ‘lying by omission’ and deception Slater et al have been involved in this is hypocritical, and also sick.

And highly ironic given his recent post playing the victim and seeking sympathy and donations.

In comments, Nige:

She describes anyone who asks her about her past as a right wing troll.

Given Nige’s prominence in supporting and promoting Whale Oil as  self described ‘super-blog’ and still claiming to be ‘the fastest-growing media organisation in New Zealand’ perhaps it’s time to starting asking questions about his past.

There are a number of typically nasty comments, with blog manager Spanish Bride joining in (in reaction to “Is she predicting the Greens will be wiped out at the next election?”):

If she and her fellow Gunts keep up with the economy wreaking and activist behaviour it just might happen ( fingers crossed).

She is deeply involved in an activist blog often intent on political career ‘wreaking’ (sic). There are a few fingers crossed that Whale Oil may be wiped out before the next election (I think it may survive in some form).

The Whale Oil post became a part of the Twitter attack on Ghahraman:

This is a crappy indictment on social media and political blogging in New Zealand, albeit just an extreme portion of it.

I expected some nasty comments on Kiwiblog, but there are no posts and no comments I can see in General Debate – perhaps David Farrar is moderating on this topic. If so, good on him, it should happen more there.

I’ve been critical of Ghahraman as an MP, and I have my doubts she will succeed in politics unless she learns from her mistakes and improves somewhat.

But I think there is no excuse for the levels of abuse (the latest being just more of the same old crap that has been thrown at her) that she has inflicted on her.

Domestic abuse is a huge problem in New Zealand. There are many victims scattered across all demographics. Abusing people who publicly reveal the abuse they have suffered is despicable, and with an MP it is dirty, dirty politics.

It is difficult to stop individual cretins using via social media (confronting and standing up to them is one way that may help).

‘Media organisations’ and blogs that join the fray – and lead the baying bullshit – should also be confronted for their crappy behaviour and their promoting of crappy behaviour.