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An Era of Fraud in America
#1
This was inspired by some of the discussion going on in the FARGO thread; I almost commented for not the first time that the more you get away from Season 3 and the deeper we get into the Historical Moment ™ we're currently in, the more prescient and resonant it becomes. 

But then I thought about it a little bit more and I think FARGO Season Three is one of those works that I would categorize more as an "era of fraud" movie. 

The term comes from a big speech Steve Carrell gives at the end of THE BIG SHORT, where he says:


Quote:We live in an era of fraud in America. Not just in banking, but in government, education, religion, food, even baseball... What bothers me ins't that fraud is not nice. Or that fraud is mean. For fifteen thousand years, fraud and short sighted thinking have never, ever worked. Not once. Eventually you get caught, things go south. 

Obviously, there's tremendous overlap with some of the discussions we've had about Movies That Define The Trump Era, but I think DJT is the symptom, not the disease. I think this era - because eras are quite long - goes back much longer than him. Certainly at least until the late 90s, maybe even later. But I definitely think you could say that the Bush years were defined by fraud. 

I wonder if there are any other films or television shows, either recently historical like WOLF OF WALL STREET or BIG SHORT or VICE (I think you could argue that Adam McKay's career is built around "an era of fraud" as a thesis) or even something like I, TONYA, that speak to this. 

Obviously when we're talking about this topic, it could get political fast (all art is political!), but let's try and keep the nitty gritty to the politics thread, particularly about our current moment. 

I feel like Elvis would have some thoughts on this - it occurs to me you could go pretty far back with this topic.
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#2
The first thing I thought of when I saw this thread was the final shot of WOLF OF WALL STREET, with the audience staring back, eager to take part in the con.
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#3
BOILER ROOM was the first film that came to mind. MARGIN CALL is another one. RIP em off, cover your ass, and protect you own portfolio...fuck everyone else.
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#4
I actually posted this link over in the FB thread but it would seem more apropos here...

Sacha Baron Cohen's Keynote Address at ADL's 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate

Quote:On the internet, everything can appear equally legitimate.  Breitbart resembles the BBC.  The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report.  And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel Prize winner.  We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.
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#5
I'm watching that ADL speech right now!
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#6
(11-22-2019, 01:00 PM)boone daniels Wrote: Obviously, there's tremendous overlap with some of the discussions we've had about Movies That Define The Trump Era, but I think DJT is the symptom, not the disease. I think this era - because eras are quite long - goes back much longer than him. Certainly at least until the late 90s, maybe even later. But I definitely think you could say that the Bush years were defined by fraud. 

I think it goes back to the 1970s, with the 1990s being the shot of adrenaline/meth that's help propel us here.

In the 1970s, especially in the mid to late 70s, you see the weaponization of religious faith beginning, with Jerry Falwell gladly climbing in bed with GOP political operatives. And the underlying cause wasn't abortion: it was race. Interracial marriage, civil rights, and related legal and cultural issues were scaring the fuck out of conservatives, and they knew they needed to mobilize the until-then somewhat heterogeneous and politically inactive religious conservatives. Abortion was essentially chosen to be the hot topic, with other issues (LGBT) getting grabbed for good measure.

All of that helps get us to the Reagan Era, which from here now looks quaintly benign and not so bad. (Though it was indeed bad for many people.) 

In the early 90s, when the Republican stranglehold on the WH is broken, we see the next phase come into being: Newt Gingrich and the deliberate, ongoing polarization and demonization of anyone outside the religious and political conservative spheres. It's not coincidental that it was during Clinton's rise to the WH that consverative talk radio become a force to be reckoned with.

But the work begun in the mid-90s, with the government shut down being the exclamation point at the end of that first sentence, only increased and intensified over the next 20 years. With the election of Obama, race comes roaring back into the picture, no longer hiding behind other issues, and his election helps to foment the so-called grass roots rise of the Tea Party, the elevation of Mitch McConnell, and the current era of take no prisoners, use any means necessary financial and political warfare. 

Fraud defined almost all of this, because voters and the citizens were being told each election or bill passing was all about one thing ("The babies!") when it wasn't just about another thing entirely, it had nothing to do with actual ideologies or convictions.

Jerry Falwell, Newt Gingrich, Mitch McConnell: they are V.M. Varga.

None of which really addresses anything to do with film, so I'll now shut the fuck up.
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#7
CHERNOBYL is a work that really stands out as of the era it was produced, more than when it is set. There are versions of that story that are more hysterical about the dangers of nuclear power, or runaway greed or general hubris as the root cause. But the miniseries very deliberately frames it in a way that echoes that BIG SHORT quote; that the right hand of the USSR couldn't keep all hte lies the left hand was telling straight, and eventually it caught them out
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#8
I'm not sure if this one is quite on point but...

While The Looming Tower should have been better, the 'government' side of the story essentially ends with Condi Rice telling Richard Clark that "Rumsfeld wants it to be Iraq"
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#9
Buckley v. Valeo was probably the fulcrum upon which the ensuing 40ish years of disintegration of sensible governance pivoted.

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#10
What makes this era anymore fraudulent than another? The only difference seems to be that the masses are in on the joke now.
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#11
(11-22-2019, 05:01 PM)Munson Wrote: What makes this era anymore fraudulent than another? The only difference seems to be that the masses are in on the joke now.

That's my question as well.  Or to put it another way, I find it difficult to nail down exactly where I'd place the beginning of a hypothetical Era of Fraud when our failure to teach history as a subject means that we grow up without knowing just how cynical our forefathers were of the rich and the authorities that served the rich.

"I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer; a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."

Those are the words of a man who was, at the time of his death in 1940, the most decorated officer in the history of the United States Marine Corps, a two time recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
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#12
It's definitely more the culmination of something that has been building slow and steady (minus the occasional setback) for a very, very long time. Exactly how far back can you trace the origins of our present circumstance, specifically? I dunno. But we've been smiling and nodding along with an unjust social order built on the idea that some people are more deserving of control over their own destiny based on bullshit manufactured distinctions for aeons. We've been cheating, oathbreaking, and generally fucking over inconvenient nations/people groups practically since Westerners set foot in the New World. We've been allowing anyone with the money to run roughshod over the rights of anyone without it since time immemorial.

And, hearteningly, we have come a long way since them days, even if it's not as far as we might like to think. It's harder now than it used to be for the vile fuckers who want to oppress people unlike themselves, cheat people out of their property or personal liberty, or otherwise violate the well-being of others to do so without being held to account (eventually.)

But it seems like every time we take a major step forward, it fosters a pushback down the line. The ink had barely dried on the Emancipation Proclamation when the rise of underground hate groups and the re-establishment of racial segregation kicked into gear; the barons of industry and finance reacted to the establishment of antitrust laws by finding other, more insidious ways to protect their fortunes and influence; the old school of card-carrying sexists/misogynists just had to wait a few decades for the tools to foster a fringe movement among a new generation of assholes to carry their torch into the 21st century. And all of these things required people to be trained to buy into new spins on the lies that the old systems were founded on.

It's nothing truly new; it's just the resurgence of old demons which refuse to go quietly into the night, and which will tear down any truth that gets in their way and replace it with any lie that works for their purposes.
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#13
This thread belongs in the politics subforum.
If we can dream it, then we can do it.
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#14
(11-24-2019, 03:21 PM)Belloq87 Wrote: This thread belongs in the politics subforum.

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(sorry!  I had to take the easy layup!)
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#15
Soderbergh's The Laundromat is this in spades. It ends with Meryl Streep stepping out of make up, talking directly to the camera as a person, not a character, and then recreating the Statue of Liberty. The film is a great anthology like style tied by the frame narrative that tackles how fraud and the corruption it inspires has downriver effects that are almost impossible to trace back to the source.
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#16
(11-24-2019, 04:16 PM)Nooj Wrote:
(11-24-2019, 03:21 PM)Belloq87 Wrote: This thread belongs in the politics subforum.

[Image: QuaintFearlessFieldmouse-size_restricted.gif]

(sorry!  I had to take the easy layup!)

I laughed, so no apology necessary!
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#17
I was curious about movies/culture that reflected this particular era of fraud, whether we can look to the movies of the 1970s for harbingers in what's to come or whatever. Not necessarily "what makes this era different from all other eras?"
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#18
Soderbergh's HIGH FLYING BIRD is a good look at the state sports labor relations in the 2010s. (Andre Holland is terrific.) It's what I imagine his version of MONEYBALL would have looked like.
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#19
(11-25-2019, 01:22 PM)boone daniels Wrote: I was curious about movies/culture that reflected this particular era of fraud, whether we can look to the movies of the 1970s for harbingers in what's to come or whatever. Not necessarily "what makes this era different from all other eras?"

I have a reflexive habit of pushing back against the idea that media predicts the future.  Dystopian fiction is important to preserve as years go by, but that’s because it records the artist’s dissatisfaction with the era that they lived in, which might otherwise get whitewashed.  Howard Beale in Network, THX-1138, or even Orwell’s 1984 can seem prophetic only if we allow the history surrounding the art to be sanitized.
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#20
I've bee watching it over the past few weeks and I don't think any TV show captures this era and the depth of the rot quite as well as SUCCESSION.
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