Saturday, April 24, 2010


For many people in the late '90s, watching Red Dawn on the TBS Superstation (back when there was a TBS Superstation) became something of a Saturday afternoon tradition.

It seemed like it was on every other Saturday.

Produced at the tail end of the Cold War, Red Dawn is a film about what was probably the more likely scenario of conflict. While the notion of nuclear war kept people around the world awake many a night -- and for good reason, as the United States and the Soviet Union alone had enough nuclear weapons to extinguish all life on Earth, before one even gets around to considering Britain, France, China and (eventually) Israel -- the more likely scenario was that of a ground invasion of one country or the other.

Red Dawn is despised by the left-wing for its hyperbolic treatment of the Cold War. There is some grounds for this. The film was released in 1984, and portrayed the ground invasion of the United States by the Soviet Union as a horrific affair in which Soviet soldiers open fire on a school with no amount of provocation.

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev would take over as General Secretary of the USSR. His reforms of Glasnost and Perestroika would, in the end, spell the end of the Soviet Union.

Far from being in any condition to launch a ground invasion of the United States, the Soviet Union was at this time actually deeply embroiled in their disastrous invasion of Afghanistan, attempting to prop up the Najibullah regime.

Many conservatives love Red Dawn even knowing how unlikely the scenario portrayed in the film actually was. Many love it for its camp value alone.

Some others may love it simply because the left dis likes it so much. While this alone doesn't justify an appreciation of anything (it would, in fact, be ad hominem reasoning -- assuming something is good just because the political opposition dislikes it), it does remind one of the fickleness of the left wing.

In particular, one is reminded of the left's simmering hatred for neoconservatives, and their insistence on treating them as a grave threat.

But then, one must ask themselves: what is neoconservatism, really?

Unless one were to read some of the literature on the topic produced by conservatives -- those nearest to this particular sub-category -- one may never know what neoconservatism actually is. The left tends to label small government conservatives neoconservatives. Yet, when one reads what actual small government conservatives have to say about neoconservatives, it becomes clear that small government conservatives may love neoconservatives even less than the political left.

As it turns out, the original neoconservatives -- those with whom the movement originated -- were, in fact anti-communist liberals who reocognized the oppressiveness that was so commonplace in communist countries, and were disgusted with what they perceived as the political left's softness on communism.

In response, they shifted right and joined the conservative movement. Small government conservatives became -- and remain -- wary of the big government conservatism offered by neoconservatives. Fairly recently, Michael Tanner referred to it as "leviathan on the right" (in the book of the same title).

Individuals like Adam Curtis have argued that, after the dissolution of the USSR, neoconservatives turned their focus on international terrorism out of need for another external enemy to focus their project of global dominance.

The truth is actually very different. Having once belonged to a movement that proved soft on one particular threat, they became determined to never be soft on another. And while neoconservatives recognized the threat of international terrorism, some of those who came to power by assembling an electoral coalition between small market conservatives, neoconservatives and religious conservatives -- speaking, of course, of George W Bush -- didn't recognize the danger until it was too late, even despite being amply warned.

The left's deep hatred for neoconservatives seems easily explained in one of two ways: either the left is ignorant about the true nature of neoconservatism, or they are well aware of it, and simply resent neoconservatives for recognizing at least elements of the left that were soft on communist tyranny.

Perhaps some of those on the left who seem to despise neoconservatives most -- Murray Dobbin comes to mind -- merely despise them so much because they remind them of the extent to which some elements of the instutionalized left were actually rather sympathetic to communism, perhaps even hoping that foreign communism could help them advance at least portions of their own agenda.

Ruminations on neoconservatism aside, what makes this particular version of Red Dawn so priceless is that it treats the film with the seriousness it deserves, particularly when Russian, Cuban, and Nicaraguan soldiers happen to be speaking over subtitles.

Lines such as "homey don't PLAY this shit" and "we got some haters up in here now" make this version of the film worth watching the first time, but also for the second, third, or (possibly) thirty-third time.

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