Saturday, May 12, 2012

We don't need guns. We have the Avengers.

I couldn't resist this post, even though it interrupts my Batman series. But how could I not comment on The Avengers a week after writing this:

"This of course gives progressives some idyllic comfort that order in society can be enforced without guns, justifying their love of gun control as well as their love of secular supermen who can save their utopian vision from reality. But this is only a superficial progressive bias."

That assessment, intended for The Dark Knight, fits The Avengers perfectly except for the "superficial bias" part. The anti-gun bias this time was a core element of the plot. I saw the movie last night, a week after opening. It broke a record for opening weekend. It really was a great movie. I heard a lot of great things about it and it did not disappoint. I'm very happy to see sci-fi oriented directors like Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams make it in the big time. MOAR PL0X? Spoilers to come.

Hollywood really opened the door to their progressive bias for everyone to see on this one. None of our heroes use guns, except for a couple of scenes showing Black Widow and Nick Fury futilely popping away with a couple of peashooters and Captain America firing wildly, looking incompetent and eventually getting pwned while trying to fire an assault rifle he picked up off a bad guy. A spraying from a fighter jet's cannons only serves to make the Hulk angry, prompting him to destroy said jet. Bullets bounce right off every one of our superheroes, failing of course to ever hit the heroes who were actually vulnerable to them. Oh yes, I almost forgot. There was the scene where the minor character Phil Coulson tried to use a gun to kill the bad guy, and was immediately stabbed to death contemptuously, forever showing the futility of using mere projectile weapons against knives. The only characters in the entire movie who wielded guns effectively were the bad guys. The dedicated ranged hero, Hawkeye, wielded a bow just like the Hunger Games heroine and was given long periods of action film glory until he finally ran out of arrows. Iron Man uses missiles and rockets, not guns. Even when they want to use ranged weapons, Hollywood writers cannot bring themselves to use guns without portraying them as ineffective, evil or both. The bias, which is becoming more and more obvious, is absolutely fascinating to me.

Far more substantial than just the heroes not using guns is the anti-gun bias in the plot itself. The ineffectiveness and indeed, evilness of guns is the entire moral of the story. S.H.E.I.L.D., a group run by a bunch of suits in shadows, tries to use some device called the tesseract to make space-age guns to protect the earth from all the threats in the universe. Unfortunately the device backfires, opening a portal to another realm full of all the bad guys you could want. Loki, the chief villain, comes through first, wielding a spear type weapon that also fires energy projectiles and converts good guys to bad guys. (Iron Man derides this weapon as the "stick of destiny." Robert Downey, Jr. is great once again with the one-liners.) Loki is then followed by an army of evil aliens wielding similar weapons with only the energy projectile capability and no sharp edges or points in sight.

As the heroes battle the bad guys, the superheroes begin to realize that Nick Fury, S.H.E.I.L.D.'s fearless but puny human leader, is hiding the awful fact that his organization was *gasp* trying to make weapons for normal people to use against their extra-terrestrial enemies. The cur! The slime! How could he? Doesn't he know that the superheroes, not one of whom fails to whine, complain and resist the call of duty at the beginning of the movie, will always be on the job to protect humanity!? Fury redeems himself by converting after seeing his friend Phil Coulson stabbed to death after attempting to use one of the new weapons. Phil's dying words were something like: "It never would have worked, Nick." Of course guns don't work! Didn't you see all the bullets bouncing off everyone in the movie? Poor Phil Coulson, the repentant sinner who paid for his crime with his life, must be avenged by those who, by virtue of their non-self-propelled-projectile-less violence, have remained pure of heart. Ever after, the Avengers are motivated by vengeance against Loki for Coulson's death. Nick Fury even produces poor Phil's blood-stained Captain America trading cards to motivate said Captain and Iron Man, this of course being a bit of staged theater since Coulson did not have the cards on him when he bled to death. A deceitful, theatrical manipulation of emotion turns out to be the best weapon puny humans could ever need and the turning point of the movie. How baldly Hollywood proclaims the superiority of their art to the actual art of war. The emotional instability and gullibility of a few superheroes proves far more reliable security than arming the entire defenseless human race.

Fury is accosted by his shadowy suited overlords after his conversion, and promptly dismisses them without consequences, leading the audience to wonder why they were needed in the first place. They of course hatch an evil plot to nuke the portal to the other realm. You remember. The portal to an evil realm accidentally opened by the energy device while they were using it to make guns? Fury takes out one of the nuclear-armed fighter jets with a RPG. Apparently self-propelled projectiles are okay as long as they are being used to take out friendly nukes and are not themselves armed with nukes. But alas! A second nuke-laden jet makes it through and launches at our heroes fighting to save the world not only from aliens but also from its own evil desire to protect itself from said aliens. Iron Man saves the day by directing the good-guys-turned-bad-guys-rich-gun-and-nuke-loving-suited-overlord's nuke through the portal, where it fortuitously destroys the enemy mother-ship, nearly stranding poor Iron Man in space. Apparently nukes can only be effective after being launched by bad guys, redirected by the nuke-less and gun-less pure of heart and the beneficiary of happenstance. Even then the evil nuke nearly killed a pure of heart hero. Luckily there is enough of earth's gravitational field projecting through the portal into zero-G space to pull Iron Man back through the portal as it closes. And how did it close? How did our superheroes stop the evil cubic gun-creating portal-opening bringer-of-bad-guys tesseract after all projectile weapons failed to penetrate its shield? By poking the stick of destiny through the shield and stabbing it. Apparently even a stick is a more effective weapon than a gun.

Now that's whack.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Politics of Batman: Chaos Part One

Chaos has always been an amorphous yet persistent idea. To this day, Chaos is difficult to define, because it's most basic definition depends on the definition of something else:  order. Chaos, we know, is the lack of order. But what is order?  Even order is difficult to define.

Chaos has been part of natural science since the mid 1800s as something called "entropy," a consequence of the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy itself has always been mysterious. Nobody really knows what it is. It is a phenomenological concept, meaning that it only exists as an empirical phenomenon, a measurement of something we know must be there but don't have any idea where it comes from. In fact, in the chemistry course I teach there are all sorts of values for entropy for specific chemical reactions.  In fact, entropy (S) is an important part of the Gibbs free energy (G), which is a quantity that will tell a chemist whether a specific reaction will occur spontaneously or not:
G = H - TS

If you ask a chemist why wood does not spontaneously burst into flames, he will tell you that the Gibbs free energy of the combustion reaction for wood and oxygen is positive. Why does wood burn then, one might ask. The chemist will reply confidently that increasing the temperature (T) will eventually turn the Gibbs free energy for the combustion reaction negative, making the reaction spontaneous. In fact we can even tell you for defined examples how much you would have to increase the temperature to make reactions happen. But if you ask a chemist what entropy is, he will have a difficult time answering. Is it a force? Is it a property? Is it just a confluence of several unknown factors? We simply don't know. All we know is that according to the second law of thermodynamics, entropy is always increasing. If we do burn that wood, the combustion reaction itself will increase the total entropy of the universe. Given enough time, it will increase to the point where all matter and energy are evenly distributed throughout the universe resulting in a completely uniform universe and a complete lack of order. This is a universe in which life cannot exist. Physicists refer to this as the "heat death" because the way entropy increases is understood as the escape of unusable heat energy when any work is done, such as combustion. 

Is entropy evil? Without knowing exactly what it is, it seems at first glance impossible to say. However we do know it is part of the laws of the universe, and God implemented those very laws. If entropy is itself evil that means God created evil. But now we must define evil.  Evil, in my view, is anything that goes against the will of God. If God created entropy, which I believe He did, than it cannot be evil because it is part of the will of God. It is possible that God put entropy into the world as a consequence of the Fall, but even if the pre-Fall universe existed without entropy, and entropy was introduced by God as a consequence for sin, then it still cannot be evil in and of itself. It is only a consequence of evil, and consequences for evil are not in themselves evil.  They are good and just. Even without reference to entropy, we know that God often issues negative consequences for evil, even upon people who are themselves innocent. Death itself was such a consequence. Is Death evil if God Himself instituted it? Even if He instituted it as a righteous and just punishment for evil? My sin did not cause Death to enter the world, even though I do sin, but I die because of Adam's sin. David's child with Bathsheba died because of David's sin, and there you have an example of an innocent life (if you reject original sin, which I do) being killed as a consequence of someone else's sin. Entropy, or chaos, is certainly not desirable to me (unless I want to start a fire), but I cannot bring myself to believe it is evil. I may, in certain instances, ask God for a stay of judgment for various reasons.  And He may grant my request, but it is not unjust if He doesn't, which also entails it is not just if He does. It is irrelevant to the broader concept of Justice for Him to direct consequences of sin to different parts of the timeline. We may wish him to do so, but that wish cannot be called "good" or "just." It is merely a desire which God is free to satisfy or not. And so I must believe that chaos in the sense described by entropy is irrelevant to the concepts of injustice and evil. 

The Batman movies suggest that Chaos is Evil.  Although this equivalence is not directly stated, it seems obvious that we are to interpret the Batman as the "good guy" and the Joker as the "bad guy." The Batman doesn't kill people; the Joker kills indiscriminately and seemingly for fun. That the Joker describes himself as "an agent of Chaos" when explaining his motivations therefore implies that Chaos, according to the Batman movies, is in fact evil. In this we have another example of a popular identification of something which is not evil portrayed as evil. Entropy might be a consequence of evil, but that doesn't make it actually evil itself. 

This view of entropy or chaos as evil helps only the progressive political viewpoint, because progressivism has always emphasized that traditional morality must be replaced by a new morality. Part of the war against traditional morality is the attempted mitigation or total erasure of the consequences for disobeying the old morality. This strategy of the enemy is as old as sin on earth. Hence the progressive obsession with abortion, despite the fact that in every other area they put on airs of defending the defenseless.  Hence the progressive obsession with HIV. Mitigating the consequences of some types of bad behavior is an important political goal of progressivism, and historically the introduction of the pill led to the sexual revolution and a massive culture-wide escape from traditional sexual mores. The scientific struggle to better our lives, end hunger and all sorts of other goals was an attempt to build a Tower of Babel that would reach to the skies of a utopia where no one would ever be in danger of anything undesirable ever happening to them again. The consequences of both individual sin and the sin of Adam would be eradicated. Poverty? Famine? War? Disease? All things which progressives believed could be eliminated entirely through the progress of science and government. All things that Jesus Christ said would continue to happen right up until the end of the world. Conservatives only regrouped after World War II, given to us by government, and the atomic bomb, given to us by science, finally put an end to all those lofty progressive utopian dreams. But even progressives never believed we could beat entropy. That didn't stop them from believing it to be evil rather than just punishment for a fallen world. Once again, the "agent of Chaos" is a vehicle for the progressive worldview.

Now that's whack. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Politics of Batman: Overview

The recent Christopher Nolan Batman movies epitomize the subtlety with which Hollywood's not-so-subtle progressive bias informs the public narrative. Almost nobody would accuse the dark, epic, satisfying and tangentially moral tales of being political. But the progressive politics are there, right down to the roots.

First of all, Batman is an even more perfect Superman than Superman himself, being a regular human being with a seemingly good but wholly secular purpose. (Not surprisingly, Nolan is currently working on a Superman film as well, and I will have more to say about the √úbermensch in the future.) It helps that both Superman and Batman traditionally do not use firearms. Superman doesn't because he doesn't need to.  Batman, however, doesn't because of some unspoken moral code which prevents him from killing his enemies. This of course gives progressives some idyllic comfort that order in society can be enforced without guns, justifying their love of gun control as well as their love of secular supermen who can save their utopian vision from reality. But this is only a superficial progressive bias.

The real nitty gritty of the hidden progressive bias in the Nolan Batman movies shows itself marvelously in the epic confrontations between Batman and the Joker in the second film, The Dark Knight, although the same themes are visible in the first movie as well. Conservative activists have had some fun juxtaposing Joker's face with Obama's even though Obama resembles Two-Face almost to perfection. Obama is not the Joker. The Joker represents conservatives.

The character of the Joker as masterfully portrayed by the deceased Heath Ledger intrigues us with his motivations. He is, in his own words, "a better class of criminal." His goal is not money or power or even anything material.  He wants only to win an argument: deep down everyone else is just as evil as he is.  He goes about trying to destroy civil order to prove himself the progenitor of the future human society, or lack thereof. He is "ahead of the curve." He calls himself "an agent of Chaos," which is apparently the series' replacement for Satan, but more on that in Part II.

The mob's got plans, the cops have plans, Gordon's got plans.  You know, they're schemers.  Schemers trying to control their worlds.  I'm not a schemer.  I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are.  

The Joker lays out here, better than any of the heroes could have, the movie's central message. The good guys are schemers. The good guys make plans. The good guys try to control things. The similarities to the progressive vision don't stop there. The good guys in the movie believe that human beings are inherently good, and when worst comes to worst humanity will collectively do the right thing because of their innate morality, without reference to God or any sort of imposition of morality from outside themselves. The climax of The Dark Knight, since neither the hero nor the anti-hero's goal is to kill the other, is a showdown of two different faiths in humanity. The Batman believes the people of Gotham are good not only without being coerced, but even against coercion; the Joker believes they are not.  

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.  

Right here lies the key, not just to the movie's progressive bias, but to the very heart of the difference between conservatism and progressivism in America today, which dates all the way back to the American and French Revolutions. Progressives believe that human beings are innately good.  In fact, morality is not properly imposed from without but can only come from within. Conservatives on the other hand are more cynical. Conservatives believe that human beings left to our own devices always trend towards evil, and morality must be imposed upon society from the outside. The truth is more subtle, but in the real world the conservative vision is a much better approximation of reality. In the real world the Joker is right. In the Hollywood version, the Truth is not true. The Truth is the bad guy.  

Now that's whack.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Progressive Fatalism

"[Choice is] a convenient shorthand for the way my past resolves itself.  Not just my past, but the past of my ancestors, the planet, the universe."

~Barack Obama

Obama's feelings as a young man on the subject of choice are not surprising to me, though this quotation was just released in anticipation of a new book about Barack Obama from the perspective of two ex-girlfriends.  The concept of political liberty has always been the enemy of progressives, and it becomes much easier to justify progressive policies if liberty has been rejected as an illusion.  If there is no real choice, then there is no real problem with extending illegitimate control over something that doesn't exist.  Liberty, according to progressives, is an illusion.  It has to be, or everything they are trying to do would be unjust.

Now that's whack.

Welcome to the Whack!

I already started what I intended to be a blog, but decided I should reproduce my efforts here on a traditional blog. Aside from this introduction, all posts here will be exactly reproduced on the forum site.  I have also disabled comments here because I prefer interacting over the web using the message board format.  Comment sections on blogs are difficult to maintain longer discussions on, and the message board format has a great many features that I cannot live without.  If you wish to comment, by all means head over to the forum, register and comment on the exact same post over there.

Now that's whack.