Robert Greenwald wants us to vote against McCain
As a member of New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO), I get lots of screeners sent to me even when I don’t request them, including Robert Greenwald’s 60 minute documentary “The Real McCain”. This can be ordered from the ironically named Disinformation Company Ltd. Disinformation also includes 9/11 “truth” movies in its inventory that I have received but not reviewed. That’s because I said everything I wanted to say on the topic after watching “Loose Change“.
Since Greenwald is responsible for “Iraq for Sale“, one of the better documentaries that Disinformation puts out, I was curious to see what he had to say about McCain. The documentary can best be described as a kind of infomercial for Greenwald’s “viral videos” attacking the Republican candidate. The DVD contains 10 of Greenwald’s videos that he hopes will attract as many viewers as “Leave Brittainy Alone” and other such classics. In between each video, you can see Greenwald or other McCain haters explaining how important his work is. I suppose they should know.
Made explicitly for venues like Huffington Post and Youtube, the videos attempt to show McCain as a bumbling, lying, reactionary slug. This is like breaking down an open door. The technique often involves showing McCain in John Kerry type “flip-flops” like opposing offshore drilling and then supporting it. Obviously this particular exposé was rendered toothless after the Democrats’ latest reversal.
I should mention that Greenwald is not related to Glen Greenwald, the salon.com columnist and constitutional lawyer who has written some rather trenchant attacks on the Bush administration, especially around issues such as Guantanamo. Robert Greenwald got started as a producer and director of what the N.Y. Times called “commercially respectable B-list movies”.
Since 2004 Greenwald has worked almost exclusively on political documentaries such as “The Real McCain”. His film company is called Brave New Films and the website contains a number of “viral videos” of the type that show up in “The Real McCain”, including “How to Stop the Smears Against Obama“. Not that I want to discourage the good folks at Brave New Films, but one really has to wonder about the effectiveness of a video that in answering Sean Hannity’s accusation that Obama never says that America is great quotes Obama saying: “But America is a great nation…” as a lead-in to talking about its productive work force, etc.
For all of Greenwald’s rhetoric about new media in the documentary, his videos are essentially the same thing as “negative ads” that cost millions of dollars to air on television. The novelty with Youtube, etc. is that it is essentially free to show a 10 minute attack on McCain. What is missing in either case is a careful consideration of the issues, which given Obama’s relentless drive to the “center” is almost an exercise in futility.
The issue of our day is wage slavery just as chattel slavery was in the 1840s and 50s. Of course, it is a lot harder to focus on wage slavery since most Americans, including those in thrall, accept it as normal. Unlike feudalism or chattel slavery, workers tend to see themselves as economic actors on the same level as the boss. A slave does not have the freedom to pick up and move to another plantation to work, but a worker has such freedom. In Michael Moore’s “Roger and Me”, there is a memorable moment when an unemployed auto worker informs Moore that he is leaving Flint to go to Houston where there are supposedly lots of jobs. It never occurred to that worker that General Motors had no right to throw him to the wolves.
Back in 1858, they did not have television nor did they have Youtube. All they had was newspapers. That’s the downside. On the upside they had politicians like Abe Lincoln who did not mince words in his debates with Douglas over slavery:
That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles-right and wrong-throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, “You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.” No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.