Friday, January 23, 2015

Chris Kyle, American Sniper, and Christian Fascism

The popularity of American Sniper, the new biopic about Chris Kyle's life as one of the most deadly men in the history of the United States military, is disturbing. As I wrote here, American Sniper is war porn propaganda, and a type of public masturbation with Right-wing ejaculate composed of militarism, cruelty, history and current events bereft of context, and embracing worshipfulness towards a sociopathic killer.

The popularity of American Sniper is also an indictment of America's conscience and ethics. 

9-11 caused a type of derangement for the American people en masse. 

The movie American Sniper and the mass public's complicity and support for the vile deeds done in the name of the American people as detailed by the recently released C.I.A. "torture report" are wanton wickedness in stereo. The banality of evil was and is a condition not exclusive to the German-Nazi regime: it is very much at home in the United States.

Films make a bargain with the viewer. The audience suspends disbelief if the events on screen are compelling and "believable"--all the while they take place on a stage and are an artificial representation, a set of mediated images and sounds. 

In total, the movie house is a space for communal fantasy and wish fulfillment. American Sniper offers the compliant viewer the opportunity to kill Iraqis and Muslims, and to engage in warrior patriot dreams that free them from their quotidian day-to-day mundane lives by identifying with Chris Kyle.

There has been some smart writing about the Right-wing thug politics of American Sniper. 

[This call-in segment on C-Span was very revealing as well.]

While Kyle's religious fundamentalism has been talked about as a feature of his life--and part of his mythos as a new age Crusader--it has not been fully triangulated or related to the (momentary) cultural phenomenon that is the movie, or to the White Right, more broadly.

American Sniper is a propaganda film. The legitimation of Christian Fascism (or Christofascism) is its political work. Chris Hedges, Frank Schaeffer, and others have deftly exposed the threat from Christian Fascism (as well as Dominionists and Reconstructionists) to the established norms of civil society in the United States. 

But to see Chris Kyle on the stage of a Christian fascist church (take note of the American flag in the Fellowship Church poster/logo), in dialogue with one of its leaders, recounting his violent deeds while a mouthpiece for the American Taliban uses them as a pastoral tool, is a direct experience with Christian Fascism as a living thing. 

Kyle's conversation with Ed Young is political ideology as practice.

In the twisted and deranged epistemology of the Christian Right, Jesus Christ road a dinosaur while holding an assault rifle...Chris Kyle is now in the shadows, protecting him with a sniper rifle.

As Kyle shared in his autobiography, he is the perfect warrior for the Christian Right:
In the book, Kyle refers to everyone he fought as “savage, despicable” evil. He writes, “I only wish I had killed more.” He also writes, “I loved what I did. I still do. If circumstances were different – if my family didn’t need me – I’d be back in a heartbeat. I’m not lying or exaggerating to say it was fun. I had the time of my life being a SEAL.” On an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s show he laughs about accidentally shooting an Iraqi insurgent. He once told a military investigator that he doesn’t “shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.”
A profile of Kyle by The New Yorker highlighted his other bonafides as a hammer for Right-wing Christian ideology and violence:
Kyle seemed to consider himself a cross between a lawman and an executioner. His platoon had spray-painted the image of the Punisher—a Marvel Comics character who wages “a one-man war upon crime”—on their flak jackets and helmets. Kyle made a point of ignoring the military dress code, cutting the sleeves off shirts and wearing baseball caps instead of a helmet. (“Ninety per cent of being cool is looking cool,” he wrote.) Like many soldiers, Kyle was deeply religious and saw the Iraq War through that prism. He tattooed one of his arms with a red crusader’s cross, wanting “everyone to know I was a Christian.” 
Both politics and popular culture are centered on the use of emotion to manipulate public audiences. Politics and popular culture are also intertwined with one another: they reflect the social, cultural, and material concerns of the society and historical moment that produced them.

American Sniper, the C.I.A. torture report, the murder of innocent people of color both abroad and at home by the American government, and a culture of cruelty and neoliberalism that robs the most vulnerable of us to fatten the wallets of the 1 percent, are reflections of a sick society whose ethics have become twisted and rudderless. 

If film is a cultural document that reveals the character of the society that produced it, then American Sniper is an indictment; it is the filmic proof that will be part of the answer for the next time an American troglodytes asks "why do they hate us?" in response to a terrorist attack on the United States. 


Stanley Rogouski said...

This is probably the best piece of writing on American Sniper I've seen so far. You really capture how the whole phenomenon feels like a flashback to March of 2003.

Michael Varian Daly said...

And yet confronted with these violent psychopaths, the American Left compulsively disarms itself.

Dan Kasteray said...

The only thing the right understands is force. Its past due that sane people fought back against the tide of crazy and treated conservatism and fundamentalism for what they are; diseases on par with AIDS and Cancer

Buddy H said...

I'd be worried if I were Michael Moore. He tweeted that his uncle was killed by a sniper in WWII, and that his family always thought of snipers as cowards. As expected, he's received death threats. And Sarah Palin posed next to a "Fuc_ You Michael Moore" poster, with the "o"s in Moore little crosshairs. Remember what happened to the last person in Palin's crosshairs.

chauncey devega said...

Political violence and threats are part of the central game plan for the Tea Party GOP and the White Right. Again, they are never held accountable. When violence that their talking bloviators on Fox News and elsewhere incited they look around and say, "what? us?"

chauncey devega said...

Lots of good stuff out there. I am just surprised more people in prominent places are not putting Kyle in context w. Christian Fascism.

joe manning said...

This piece is an effective retort to the right's campaign to normalize war porn and the general demoralization.

CMoon67 said...

Mr. DeVega, you've again published another poignant and well informed assessment of the 'American Sniper' catastrophe. Although, your site is listed on my blog roll; I had to also feature this article on the website of the week.

Courtney H. said...

Excellent, well-written essay, Chauncey! What do you think of these:

Human Relations 1932 said...

I think 9-11 provided an excuse for a lot of people to embrace their inner cretin, including most of my family. My sister claimed that her husband was laid off from his job 'because of 9-11.' I found out later that it was due to him talking racist trash to a black coworker.

I haven't been in touch with any of them for eight or nine years now.

Other than making a few comments on various blogs here and there I've pretty much disengaged from society. I mostly just observe, in the manner of a rubbernecker at the site of a horrible car wreck.

The popularity of this movie is just the cherry on top of the turd-cake as far as I'm concerned. I'm personally boycotting anything Eastwood or Cooper have a hand in from here on out, as if that will have any effect on anything.

My wife and I watch a lot of foreign films and independent stuff. There is still a concern with reality in this world among some filmmakers, but I don't expect any of that to make much of a dent among the people here, where infantile garbage seems to bring in the money, without fail.

Buddy H said...

I watched a bit of Sarah Palin's latest speech. Rambling, incoherent, but that's nothing new. At one point she complained about liberals making their accusations against her and the GOP; accusations of sexism, racism, etc. She said something to the effect that when the liberals point their fingers at us, we should point our fingers right back. To illustrate this she made a gesture with her right hand of pointing a gun.

It really seems like she wants desperately to incite more violence. She already succeeded with the mutant who shot Giffords.

DanF said...

"Thou shalt not kill" is a top five commandment. I get how Christians can see their way clear of this commandment in self-defense, and even in times of war, but to relish with glee over an act that is supposedly offensive to ones religion - to wish that you could kill more - is repulsive. Turn the other cheek so I can punch that one too...

skilletblonde said...

This is the kind of cognitive dissonance and utter hypocrisy are the typical traits of white supremacy. We saw it with the Hebdo Murders. The West has been occupying and bombing the Middle East, and assassinating its leaders for over a 100 years. Millions of Muslims lay dead. France with its occupation and war with Algeria left 1.5 million Algerians dead. Now they are with the U.S. in Syria. The last figure I saw indicated 200,000 Syrians are dead. Yet, you saw all of that wailing and gnashing of teeth over Charlie Hebdo. Muslims were called upon to do what we African Americans are so familiar with. That is we must apologize for the acts of a few... because racism dictates, we are to be judged as a group, not individuals. Only whites are deemed individuals.

Moreover, I had to cut the video about 10 minutes in the show. I just couldn't stand it. Since the Midterm Election, I have been thoroughly depressed. I have not subjected myself to any political views from the Mainstream Media. My bull-shyte tolerance is down to 1%. Having this Southern Bubba sitting there in a so called church talking about "Kills" is too unbearable for me. In other words innocent Iraqis, men women and children are just Kills. This is yet another example the cognitive dissonance of white supremacy, and its oh so clever way of refraining heinous acts, as good deeds.

It would not surprise me if Chris Kyle went to Louisiana during Katrina. I have always believe that something really vile happened to our people there, and it wasn't just the hurricane. Kyle is exactly the kind of man that not only military is looking for, but intelligence, and the local police. Racism is an attribute in these occupations. Men like Kyle are fundamentally ignorant. They are reared on mass media that reiterates to them over and over, their problems are people of color. This is exactly why so many of them are in the military and on the police force. Hence, they are able to do what they have been obsession to do, which is to kill anything that isn't white. Racism is a hell of a drug,

Jeff said...

Mankind has had groups of bad folks attacking peaceful societies for 2,000+ years and it won't go away anytime soon. There will always be a time when rational nations like the USA will have to get involved in a disaster we'd all rather walk away from... The outcome from such activities will always give rise to folk hero's, and stories that will be passed for generations.
I can promise every reader of this post. There will always be those who wish to do others harm - and a failure to act will not cause the threat to pass. Let's just always hope we have done our homework and we always make dam sure our citizen soldiers are not sent into an unjust situation with out objective and a plan. Above all, let each and everyone of us remember that war is hell.

Black Seal1 said...

@ Skilletblonde,
In case you did not know. A couple of Chris Kyles closest SEALs (life long friends) were black men. Furthermore, Chris Kyle was killed by a white male.
Your black/white race comment has no facts...

Leftwing said...

I agree!!!
I also think it would be great if all of us joined the service and took our message to Iraq first hand and let them know that we want to be peaceful and work with them! I'm sure we would be well received if there were thousands of us!!! I mean really - do these people over there really want to kill people from the West? NO! I bet we could even cure this ISIS problem as well. Let's tell the Right Wing Tea Party GOP - we know how to get it done! No need for bombs, drones, and troops.

chauncey devega said...

I am not kidding--do you think she is on some rich white housewife cocktail of prescriptions drugs and wine?

chauncey devega said...

Is the United States "rational?"

chauncey devega said...

What nice support. Just trying to tell a little truth. No revelations here; just surprised that no one is talking about the larger cultural movement he is connected to.

chauncey devega said...

How kind. What is your blog? Do share.

skilletblonde said...

Yet, he bragged in his book about going to Louisiana and shooting at least 30 looters. And we know for dam sure he wasn't talking about white people.

Buddy H said...

Short answer: yes.

She is living proof that if you say the right things (no matter how stupid or incompetent you are) you will be taken care of. I didn't really know much about wingnut welfare until you wrote extensively about it.

And then she stands up there and says we need to teach our kids there's no free lunch, no free college, no free healthcare, etc.

IT IT IT IT IT 2 IT IT said...


EASTWOOD continues to obediently deliver 'on board'
time release POST AMERICA demoralization
----------------------------disguised as
------------------------------------'heartfelt americana'.

Meanwhile, Korea era draftee EASTWOOD has walked
away from some 5 decades of awesomely relevant
milestone anniversaries for the agenda 'very unfriendly'
-----------------------KOREAN WAR-------------------------.

And that was, remember, thru the very heyday

STEER CLEAR this vastly over-rated 'EYE-CON' ----job
and his latest SUCK--CESS'.


Courtney H. said...

I am glad that you are talking about it. Maybe others will start talking about it, too, to let people know what is really going on about this cinematic trash!

Courtney H. said...

What do you think of MrSuperboy*s comments (it is the YouTube video)?

CMoon67 said...

HajjFredHMinshall said...

Yup. "Some of my best friends are knee-grows." One would think that after 55 years white supremacists could come up with an original excuse. Not buying.

HajjFredHMinshall said...

And the Amerikkkan right worships them.

HajjFredHMinshall said...

At a Washington DC “veterans’ event” the First Lady Democrats pretend to love and Republicans love to hate got all warm and runny about the “American Sniper” movie. She said (in part):

"The number-one movie in America right now is a complex, emotional depiction of a veteran and his family.”

Jeez—hand me a Kleenex.

Sorry Mrs. Obama—no matter how much you grovel to the rednecks, they'll still hate you. That’s who they are, and without question that’s who Chris Kyle was.

Read his book—see who Chris Kyle wanted us to think he was in his own words (to the degree his co-writers and editors couldn’t get him to tone it down). Unlike most of today’s
low-profile white supremacists, Kyle didn’t bother to hide his views.

Kyle hated ALL Iraqis, including those who served with him, and said without hesitation he always would. Killing them was "fun". According to him, even the "loyal" ones were stupid, cowardly, incompetent and not to be trusted. He referred to his patrols as forays into “Injun country.” Yikes—that’s enough to make even Dan Snyder feel better about himself!

He tattooed a “crusader’s cross” on his right forearm in red ink,
symbolizing his hatred of ALL Muslims, and declared he wanted to shoot people who carried Qur'ans. Since I sometimes carry one myself when I travel, I must
vehemently disagree with him on that point.

Fact is Kyle had nothing positive to say in his book about people "of color", period. In his book, black fellow sailors aboard the USS Kitty Hawk were "gangs" and "thugs" he and his intrepid band of tough white guys "dealt with" at the skipper’s behest. He also claimed he shot 30 more such
"thugs” from atop the Super Dome in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, an absurd self-promoting fabrication—one would hope—that calls into question the legitimacy of ALL his alleged "kills."

Fact is “American Sniper—the movie” for the most part omits Chris Kyle’s unabashed bigotry, to say nothing of his outright lies. The best I can say about Eastwood's portrayal is that he merely substituted Kyle's lies with those he deemed more palatable for public consumption.

And the movie’s most glaring omission was the irony that Chris Kyle was murdered by a “savage” from his own tribe—and he never saw it coming. What goes around comes around.

PS: I'm a former 8404 "grunt" Hospital Corpsman who served with the USMC 1976-1982, and am a Shi'a Muslim with family in Baghdad, Najaf and Kerbala.

HajjFredHMinshall said...

Heh. That's a little too 'high-class' for Palin. I live in Anchorage, AK and did so before she abandoned the governorship. Culturally she's more like a trailer-trash housewife who got hold of someone else's credit card and is going on a shopping spree.

HajjFredHMinshall said...

I also wish to thank you for publishing your insight. The "Christian" aspect of incipient American fascism is something my family and I have dealt with for decades and that therefore has seemed obvious to us.

I was going to ask you what you're doing with my cat, but he just jumped up on my desk, so he's still here. Found him in an abandoned house in Sand Pt., AK 11 years ago.

Back then he fit in the palm of my hand, and I stuck him in my coat pocket when I boarded the plane for home (you can still do stuff like that on some in-state flights in AK).

HajjFredHMinshall said...

Sorry, your rather simplistic "analysis" doesn't automatically make the USA the "good guys". This blinding fallacy that MILITARY superiority--and the economic largess that derives from it--somehow translates into cultural, spiritual or moral superiority must be jettisoned. All it means is that you're a better KILLER. And that's always a temporary situation.

Andrew Patton said...

And that illustrates the problem with using 16th century English. The truth is that in the 16th century, "kill" was only used to refer to criminal homicide. Justified homicide was referred to by the generic term "slay." Now, however, "kill" is a generic word for homicide, whether criminal or justified. Here we have a warrior like David, eager to slay as many of the enemy as it takes to deliver his people from their wicked hands. When our boys blow the brains out of monsters who crucify children, we ought to celebrate that the ones who tortured children to death are no longer a threat, and that justice has been served.