I went to see There Will Be Blood this weekend, expecting Daniel Day-Lewis and director Paul Thomas Anderson to live up to their distinguished pasts and their current rave reviews. I must say I came away disappointed. The dark boy-finds-oil/boy-gets-rich/boy-goes-nuts movie does not have much humor or understandable passion; nor can we generate any empathy for a central character with irredeemable deficits. In the category of no-happy-ending stories told last year by talented movie makers, the Coen brothers’ stark No Country For Old Men is imminently more memorable and a much better film.
One thing Blood gets right, though, is the display and ultimate exposure of the False Prophet. Paul Dano (the disturbed teenager in Little Miss Sunshine) is magnificent as the young evangelical hustler who gives false hope to the poor dirt farmers being exploited by the outside oil men. Ultimately, he has to decide whether or not to confess his religious sins in exchange for financial redemption. Unlike Day-Lewis’ similarly insincere prostration before him years earlier, Dano is not rewarded.
On our country’s right-wing, the purveyors of lies and phony faith face a similar denouement. Stripped of their primary function as remote-controlled Bush/DeLay enablers, the nut-right flounders in a wilderness of their own making. Bereft of issues or candidates that fit their outdated designs, they find themselves boxed in by the echos of their own megaphone pronouncements. Although they claimed to be in a battle of ideas, their political convictions floated with the winds of Bush whims and ineptitude (example: nation-building was bad, until Iraq). Now, they are stuck with themselves, trapped in empty rooms with a dwindling number of fellow travellers.
Consider, for instance, the hilariously-titled "Defending the American Dream" dog-and-pony show in Pewaukee on Saturday (sympathetically live-blogged starting here). A production of the right-wing front-group Americans for Prosperity (the rest of us being against prosperity, I suppose), the program featured third and fourth-rate speakers, baying at the suburban moon about everything from taxes to "earmarks" to global warming. With "stars" like third-tier mainstream radio wing-nut Vicki McKenna (who spends much of her imported-from-Madison radio show on WISN complaining about the shrinking options for her to smoke her Camel Lights in public) lighting the way, conference attendees would be forgiven if they thought they were being led into one of Blood’s black, shaky drill-pits without the government safety protections they rail against so much.
The danger that these charlatans might have people buying their snake oil again is as slim as the roster of speakers. National movement "intellectual" Dinesh D’Souza had to share stage time with local pikers like Sheriff David Clarke and Judge Mike Gableman, who continued to push the judicial election envelope, claiming (according to the blogger) that Justice Louis Butler’s alleged "judicial liberalism makes Wisconsin less safe". Empty suits like J.B. VanHollen, Scott Walker and Paul Ryan abounded...is this the best Republicans can do around here? The answer is "yes" – all the better for those of us on the other side.
As described on the blog, the whole event seems not very inspiring, by any stretch of the imagination. Those deluded souls looking for dynamic tools to fight on had to leave disappointed. The conference was apparently nothing but the converted preaching to and telling lies about themselves.
A session about global warming gets a lot of play by the blogger, so we can see how truly out-of-touch the nut-right is on that vital topic. Global warming is one of the their favorite protect-the-rich hot-button topics, where they ignore science and exploit the obvious ("Hey, it’s freezing outside – some ‘warming’, huh?"). Besides the predictable shoot-the-messenger ridicule ("Gorebal Warming", "Algore Goracle" – stop, yer killing me), the session apparently cranked up its message with hysterics and very little science. "Biggest threat to freedom", "draconian measures" "slow down the economy" – whatever. They even trotted out their favorite former weekend-weatherman, Republican Assemblyman Jim Ott, to wax skeptical about the problem, although he still trotted out some solutions like conservation and (wait for it...) more nuclear. Let’s just say that, if their campaign to stay stupid on the environment is successful, I hope they all leave their forwarding addresses behind so we can find them when the coasts start dissolving.
Alas, after all that dream-defending, the right-wing faithful left the conference the same way they came in – doomed to electoral defeat and exposed as the frauds that they are. Like dirt-farmer preachers and megachurch frauds, they use their mainstream radio forums and "think"-tanks to probe the ignorant, the weak and the fearful for softness and then pounce, holding them upside-down until every shred of money and/or ideological support falls out of their pockets. They shrink from fair fights and make self-righteous judgements about those who dare to challenge their lies and devices.
When enlightened congregations rise up and toss their false preachers from the pulpit, the disgraced would-be clergy wander from place to place, looking for the next gullible target. When the wing-nuts lose their political sponsors and their audience, where will they go?
The American people might forgive them for their sins, but, first, we should demand that they declare their False Prophecy for all to see and hear. Admit they were wrong, admit they never believed it, admit they lied. Since they have no self-respect and we have nothing to bail them out with, it might be hard to motivate them to take that step. But, as their ideas fail in the diverse ideology of the near-future, they may be desperate enough to seek a little secular redemption. Then, like Dano’s preacher, they will get an answer – one way or another.