Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Propaganda of "Red Dawn"

The movie Red Dawn, from 1984, was on TV last night and this movie has many of the answers to why right wing conservatives exist. National Review Online has named the film #15 in its list of 'The Best Conservative Movies'

If no followup questions are allowed, "Red Dawn" gives a plausible explanation of

1. Why the survivalist movement is so important
2. Why Americans must keep their guns until they are pried from their cold, dead hands.
3. Why hunting is a fundamental skill that must be taught to all children
4. Why teenagers must have pickup trucks, and why four wheel drive could be important.
5. The importance of high school spirit, and the need for football teams.
6. What is wrong with communism
7. What is wrong with the Green Party
8. What is wrong with NATO
9. Why America is great and always will remain great
10. Why liberals are so easy to brainwash
11. Why Nicaragua needs to be destroyed

This movie was made long before the Iraq and Afghan war, so I will forgive the filmmakers for glorifying terrorism, and insurgency when the shoe is on the other foot.

One particular event in the movie got me thinking. A young American teenage girl, after an attack where she is wounded, managed to kill one of the attackers with a hand grenade. For an almost exact mirror image of this situation, check out the case of Omar Khadr, currently being tried at Guantanamo. Apparently, back in the eighties, was not illegal for a teenager to kill an invading enemy soldier with a hand grenade. Today it is.

In another scene, one of the the teenage insurgents is explaining why they have to kill the Communist troops. The answer is an emotional "Because we live here". Oooops. Isn't that the same reason why the Iraqi and Taliban are fighting the American Marines? And the Indians of the old west fought the cowboys? But you almost have to be a liberal to figure that out.

Another review from a bad speller, but still he makes a good point. "this soviet army that kicked our armies ass is somehow defeated by a small gang of poorly armed children who have no combat skill whatsoever"

The conservatives have not given up their philosophy after watching this movie twenty years later. Here is a conservative website "Dirty Harry's Place" in 2008, frustrated with the liberal attitude to Red Dawn:

"Using guerrilla tactics to wage a war against military targets versus using them to kill civilians… that’s the difference between a military unit(the Wolverines), and terrorists(Iraqi “insurgents”). And it’s a big difference, liberals."

This observation, I would say is about the best argument presented on this conservative web page. The only unfairness I can see would be that it is a comparison between a fictional unit (Wolverines) and a real world insurgency (Iraq.)

But if we compare real world to real world situation, we have to take the example of the US military in Iraq. We all know that the US has been unable to avoid killing civilians in a real insurgency, but still claims to not be targeting civilians. What does that mean?

1. The civilians may have been killed because they were in the wrong place when a nearby bomb was dropped

2. The US thought the civilians might have been insurgents, and had to kill them for fear of their own safety.

Why do the terrorists target civilians in real life situations?

1. Military targets are often too well defended (by a competent military, unlike a fictional but incompetent military)

2. They may kill civilians who are collaborating with the occupation

3. They may kill civilians of a different race than themselves, in self defence or in a pre-emptive strike

4. Sometimes what is called "deliberate targeting" is actually an accident, poor aim, or mistaken identity

5. Some of what we call "civilians" are actually mercenaries, for example, the US refers to Blackwater as "contractors"

6. Civilians thought to be feeding information to the US military for air strikes.

7. The civilian settlers, brought in to take land away from the original people.

I am not arguing for the killing of civilians. But obviously, in a fictional situation where you are trying to make one side look good, you will not deliberately show the "good guys" killing innocent people. (see "The Hurt Locker" for example). That's the difference between a propaganda war movie and real war.


  1. I loved that movie when it first came out! Didn't care about politics back then I guess..

    Saw it again just recently and yeah Bob everything you say is pretty much true

    guess what---they are remaking it and it comes out later this year!

  2. The 2010 "Red Dawn" script has changed the enemy from a coalition of Nicaragua, Cuba and the USSR, to China. Ironically, China was the ally of the American resistance in the first Red Dawn. So the irony, at least, continues in 2010.

    I also expect this movie to be a vehicle for conservative propaganda, if not just from the alternate title of the new movie "They are here to help", which is curiously similar to another conservative (free market) saying "We're from the government and we're here to help." (1,450,000 hits on Google) This saying is understood by all conservatives to mean that the socialist government is actually here to take away our guns, and our God, and force integration of the schools etc.

    Funny that the studio ran out of money in June. The USA is out of money too, and apparently they are sustaining their free spending lifestyle thanks to foreign loans, mainly Chinese. In the end, the studio may have to rely on Chinese financing (directly or indirectly) to distribute this anti-Chinese propaganda film.

    Wikipedia entry on Red Dawn 2010

  3. How wonderfully full of irony! As long as it is US doing the fighting, the tactics are excusable...but, once our enemy begins fighting us with those same techniques, we call them terrorists. Perhaps the dividing line would be murdering civillians, but we have killed thousands and thousands of Afghan, Iraqi and Pakistani civillians for thought at the very least.

    Thank you! Keep it coming...

  4. Here is China Daily's comment on "The Hurt Locker"

    China Daily Hurt Locker Review

    "The film tries to justify that “decisive shooting” is necessary on the battlefield even if it means killing innocent civilians." - China Daily

    What I think they mean is that situations were presented in "The Hurt Locker" where it was logical and necessary to kill civilians. I first thought the hidden message was that no civilians were killed in Iraq. But I realize now, that would be bad propaganda, as everybody knows by now that innocent civilians have been killed. The real propaganda is hidden beneath that, in presenting several situations to help justify to Americans why civilians may have been killed in Iraq.

  5. I also saw 'Red Dawn' around the time it was released (the sort of thing which happens when you allow your young sons to pick which movie to go see ;-)

    I found the film actually more of an analogy for the then current Soviet invasion of Afghanistan - helped, no doubt, by the presence of all those helicopter gunships, modeled on the Soviet Mi24 ('Hind').

    But, in the final analysis, I simply found the plot lacked plausibility. And am surprised that anyone would consider it a great 'conservative' movie.

    On the other hand, I suppose the 'survivalists' and their ilk have a pretty tenuous grasp on reality, so I should not really be all that surprised at that.

  6. i am a conservative . i would like to note that cilvilians defending themselves are always justified-self defence is a right. aggression otherwise is amoral. this is universal- insurgent.....terrorist.....all mere terms used by aggressors to justify their violence. only selfdefence can justify violence. the wolverines were defending- the us army was invading....