Very much in the eye of the beholder, according to the admittedly partisan Hinderaker, who surveys the legacy media’s response to “Act of Valor“:
(Quite) a few movies have been made about post-September 11 warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. Virtually every one of them has been shameless propaganda. You probably didn’t see them–hardly anyone did, for the most part–so let’s call the roll of shame: Fahrenheit 9/11; Rendition; In the Valley of Elah; Why We Fight; Homecoming; The War Within; Lions For Lambs; Stop Loss; Redacted; No End In Sight; The Kingdom; and Home of the Brave. No doubt I’ve missed a few. These films were anti-war, anti-military propaganda. Audiences avoided them like the plague, but the Washington Post had no problem with anti-war propaganda, nor did any of the critics, pundits or news outlets linked above.
Countless anti-military movies can be made, and continue to be made, even though their backers must know that they are destined to lose money. But if they are countered by a single pro-military movie, liberals get out their cloves of garlic and crosses–no, wait, just the garlic–and try to ward off the evil spirit of “propaganda.” It is a humorous phenomenon, but not one that will influence American movie-goers in the slightest.
I saw the film this weekend with the Hobbit, and we both quite enjoyed it, although the lady needed a moment or two to collect herself after the credits rolled. For it’s not all beer and skittles in the SpecWar community, and not everyone comes home.
What I liked:
- The sheer versatility of our Navy, from the SEALs themselves, to the aviation, submarine and special warfare combat crewman who ferry them to their insertion points, and then extract them back again, the necessary work having been done.
- The unabashedly pro-American point of view. Most of us of a certain age were brought up believing that we represented mankind’s last, great hope. Somewhere along the way, some of us came to think that wasn’t quite good enough. They came to think that we could be better still, and that falling short of their own personal vision of that ideal rendered all that went before it not just insufficient, but actively evil. Some people didn’t get enough mothering.
- The practiced grace and ease of warriors entirely within their own skin. There’s a moment where a SEAL takes a sliding knee to get into firing position behind a column. Even as he slides into that position, he subtly kicks a leg out to refine his cover, changing his vector from a more exposed position to one more perfectly suited to offensive action and defensive superiority. You could shoot that frame a thousand times with a “professional” actor, but you’d never replicate it, nor even come close. You get there by countless hours of training and experience, knowing that each movement presses a finger upon the scale of your own destiny.
- The firepower. If it’s not working, you’re not using enough.
- Many media critics decried the acting as “wooden.” But these were men not acting. They were being themselves, and I treasured them for it.
- The teamwork: It’s trite but true to say that to be a SEAL is to be a member of “the teams.” To be part of something bigger than yourself, which somehow represents the whole.
- The sacrifice: They have and had families they left behind because someone has to do it. Not everyone comes home, and sometimes warriors roll atop the grenade, knowing that they would die in any case, but the rest might be saved. The pinched-faced, lemon-biting shrews who saw that and said to themselves, “propaganda” have never had a moment’s thought for any life they loved more then their own, and I pity them for it. They never heard of Michael Monsoor, and their lives are poorer for that loss. Bruce Willis, Matt Damon, George Clooney – none of them – ever faced a moment of clarity so crystalline as did Petty Officer Monsoor, and they are at once personally blessed and eternally impoverished by that fact.
What I didn’t like:
To be fair, it isn’t, I don’t think “liberals” qua liberals who find this movie disquieting, even threatening. Patriotism is not limited to one or another partisan preference. But they were critics. Many of whom find themselves more comfortable with the “blame America” crowd than with those who celebrate America for what it is, rather than withhold their love in favor of what it might yet be. Conditional love being akin to chronic emotional abuse.
To which I quote a man who was once deemed a “traitor to his class”:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship in a Republic,” Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910