Tenth Anniversary of a Great Satire

by | Jun 11, 2007 | Stress Blog | 3 comments

Stanley Motss: The President will be a hero. He brought peace.
Conrad Brean: But there was never a war.
Stanley Motss: All the greater accomplishment.

Politicians use war as a tool to keep the masses under control. HL Mencken said “the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. Wars are no longer waged by the will of superior men, capable of judging dispassionately and intelligently the causes behind them and the effects flowing out of them. They are now begun by first throwing a mob into a panic; they are ended only when it has spent its ferine fury.” The question Wag the Dog asks is, given this salient fact – the ideas and motivations behind the killing are pure nonsense – wouldn’t it be more efficient to dispense with the killing?
The film was released 10 years ago, to great reviews and excellent box office business. The film director Barry Levinson and actor Dustin Hoffman had taken a brief respite from slogging through shooting one of the worst movies of the 1990s, and they quickly shot one of the best – a film that, in my view, should rank with Dr. Strangelove as one of the all-time great political satires. Everyone in this movie is full of garbage – and the movie wonders why should any of us trust politicians we know are just as full of garbage as all the rest of us?
My favourite part of the flick is De Niro’s great “There ain’t no war but ours” speech. The screenplay is by the great writer David Mamet (despite what the credits say). Here’s the speech, brilliantly delivered by De Niro:

And if you go to war again, who is it going to be against? Your “ability to fight a Two-ocean War” against who? Sweden and Togo? That time has passed. It’s over. The war of the future is nuclear terrorism. It is and it will be against a small group of dissidents who, unbeknownst, perhaps, to their own governments, have blah blah blah blah blah. And to go to that war, you’ve got to be prepared. You have to be alert, and the public has to be alert. Cause that is the war of the future, and if you’re not gearing up, to fight that war, eventually the axe will fall. And you’re gonna be out in the street. And you can call this a “drill,” or you can call it “job security,” or you can call it anything you like. But I got one for you: you said, “Go to war to protect your Way of Life,” well, Chuck, this, this is your way of life. And if there ain’t no war, then you can go home and prematurely take up golf, my friend. ‘Cause there ain’t no war but ours.

Listen to The Scott Horton Show