Total Recall

Jerry Nadler says Trump's rhetoric reminds him of Germany in the 1930's.  I didn't know he was that old.  "Remind" in this sense means to bring to mind personal experiences.  Nadler, despite appearances to the contrary, was born in 1947.  So what he is being reminded of are movies he has seen and magazine articles he has read.  Like most Americans in the political class, his "mind" is something implanted by aliens from another galaxy, another dimension, who can only enslave us if we continue to accept  their memory implants at face .

Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie?  He made the mistake of taking a virtual vacation, which triggered the authentic memories that had been replaced by implanted ones?

Some years ago, a newspaper columnist asked a bunch of congresspersons what children's books had affected them the most.  Many answered Where the Wild Things Are, despite the fact that it had been published when they were already adults.  When the inevitable follow-up question was posed, one of the rulers of the American destiny snapped out that he turned all such questions over to staffers.  He couldn't help it if they made mistakes.

A similar answer was given by a Pulitzer Prize winning historian, some of whose work had been borrowed from predecessors.  Don't blame me, he argued, the fault lay with the sloppy graduate assistants he employed.  I suppose those students had a share in the profit and the honors that fall to the lot of successful lackeys of the regime.

When the movie Saving Private Ryan came out, many reviewers and commentators said things like, "Now I know what it was like to be in WW II."  Really, watching a movie made by someone (Steven Spielberg) who was born in 1946 and has had  no experience of any war, and starring Tom Hanks, born eleven yeas after the end of the war can give someone an insight into historical reality?

Socrates,  when the Delphic Oracle pronounced him the wisest of men, at first pooh-poohed the idea but then then acquiesced to the point of saying that he was wiser only in knowing that he knew nothing.  American politicos and academics, by contrast, know everything about everything, and, the younger they are the more they know.  We recently met a young man in his twenties who, in the course of an evening, told us what birds we were watching at our feeders, how mistaken we were in our interpretation of the postwar America we grew up in, before going on to make pronouncements on Latin,  of which he had studied a bit, and Greek, which he hadn't.  He had many further revelations but the eroding powers of my memory have mercifully erased them.

This is America, not just post-millennial America, but America my entire lifetime--an imaginary country, a nation dedicated to a proposition, an experiment in democracy, a city on a hill--whose unbelievable national mythologies first celebrating our  individualism, and exceptionalism, and then condemning our racism, and bigotry, were  concocted by first by John Dewey,  Walt Disney, Henry Luce, The New Republic and the New York Times and more recently by Frankfurt School Marxists and Hollywood's schlock purveyors

It has been a long time since Americans read real books written by real people.  When I was a child, kids were still reading Nancy Drew and the Rover Boys, manufactured book products churned out by committees working on a factory system.  They went to movies made by the same mechanical processes, and they bought mass-produced clothes sold in department stores or promoted in Esquire and later GQ; they bought wines recommended by a series of wine gurus such as the people who are now writing for the truly disgusting Wine Spectator, and if they developed any interests they had to take courses that handed out certificates.  The fiction they buy are formulaic thrillers produced by the miracles of word processing programs operated by illiterates like Tom Clancy and his clones.  If they do have to read a real novel, it is usually in a lit course where the teacher pre-chews the material and spits it into the babies' mouths.  If they grow up into litterati, then they read the critics who do the same thing, being careful to add a variety of toxins to the pap.

We' ve been trying to watch the TV series "based on" The Man in the High Castle.  Dick was not the world's greatest master of narrative fiction, but the book was gripping and disturbing.  Imagine an alternate reality that had broken free of what we know--what if the Axis powers won WW II and divided America.  What if there was film evidence of what really happened.  What would we do?

The TV show is a soap opera dumbed down far enough to obscure the author's subversive understanding of the false reality that has clouded over the minds of modern men and women.  I was thinking yesterday, about a series of books and films in which the secular prophets of our time tried to warn us against the almost universal embrace of unreality, whether in the form of Marxist politics or hedonism:  RUR, The War With the Newts, The Rhinoceros, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep--the Dick novel turned into Blade Runner by Sir Ridley Scott who apparently either did not get the point of the book or, as an agent of the conspiracy, decided to suppress it.

The last television series our family watched was The Simpsons, at least in its earlier years.  In one improbable episode, Homer goes to college and somehow runs afoul of the administration.   Since his only knowledge of college life comes from Animal House, he devises an impossible plot against "the evil dean."  When one of the students asks him if he thinks the plan will work, Homer answers (as I recall): "Of course it will work, unless movies and TV have been lying to me all my life."

So here I am, stuck in this alternative reality stream of time in which mind-eating leftists have conquered my country, my church, my culture.  Somewhere there is a man in a high castle, with friends and allies who knows the truth.  How will we find them?  Oh, here's a horrifying thought.  What if there is no man, no castle, and we are on our own, without no powerful friends to turn to?

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

21 Responses

  1. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    My wife and I have been watching reruns of Gunsmoke, seasons 7 through 10. I have also obtained seasons 1 through 4 on dvd. There are 635 episodes spread over 20 seasons from 1955 – 1975. We have seen a couple of episodes in which apparently innocent men were convicted of murder and hanged. Both men were drunk when they committed their alleged crimes and could not recall what happened. COZI and INSP TV are running the series.

    I have noticed that the slant of the episodes written by women differs from those written by men. Seasons 7-10 show the transition from Chester (Dennis Weaver) to his replacement by Festus (Ken Curtis), as well as the introduction of the “halfbreed” Quint played by Burt Reynolds. Many other actors appeared in the series before they became famous later on.

  2. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    May I recommend that you also listen to the radio series–crisper and sometimes more pointed. Bill Conrad had the perfect voice for Mat, and Parley Baer and Howard MacNear were excellent as Chester and Doc. Indeed, Weaver borrows rather too generously from the radio prototype. The team that produced it–Norman McDonnell, John Meston, and some of the other writers went on to create the TV show, whose early episodes are mostly remakes of the radio programs. My first exposure to the program was a radio broadcast on a weekend–we did not yet have TV–though we later watched the show on television, since my father loved the Old West. I could say a great deal more but won’t bore the readers further.

  3. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    PS I posted this piece rather too early and it has been revised, corrected, and expanded.

  4. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Thanks for the radio version tip.

  5. Andrew G Van Sant says: has 461 episodes for download.

  6. Harry Colin says:

    The question of aliens from space always begs the question: are they friendly or hostile?

    I would suggest that any alien force responsible for the mind of Rep. Nadler is indubitably hostile.

  7. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    AGVS, I note that your download link has the Bob Bailey Johnny Dollar shows, which are as consistently entertaining as any radio mystery show ever was, though the CBS Mystery program of the 1970s, as I recall, was rather good. My wife and I would listen to it driving back and forth to Cincinnati, when I was teaching at Miami U. To further my study of mystery narrative, I tried to listen to all the Johnny Dollar programs, from the early half hour promo with Dick Powell, through Edmund O’Brien and the others, to the five continuous half hour shows per week with Bob B. Taking out commercials, that gave the writers 100 minutes, and, though they had to have brief resumes at the beginning, this allowed for a plot and character development unparalleled in a radio serial. Some of the long episodes used plot lines from the older half hour episodes and the contrast is interesting. Bailey’s character is less hard t Han his predecessors, a bit less interested in sex per se and more sentimental. All the other JD actors liked him personally and appreciated what he had done and some gave him parts from time to time, though his attachment to the bottle and face made for radio did not permit him to have much of a career.

    I think, probably, the comparative seriousness of Gunsmoke and JD was due in part to the challenge of TV. They had go produce stories that would not just compete with the small screen but go one or two better in narrative/dramatic art.

    We like to listen to old radio, partly for reasons of nostalgia, and partly for its inoffensiveness, but mostly because we can sit on the porch, watching the birds, driving our martini or glass of wine, and chat occasionally like human beings. Radio lends itself to socializing, while television is more demanding, and the only response to people who might point out a tornado on the way is to shout, “Shut up! I’m trying to watch the show.” TV is like watching a play or movie, while radio is more like watching a game in a bar or music in a club..

  8. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    HC, Sam Francis and I used to discuss alien films, and one thing he always insisted on was the division between good aliens and bad aliens, which was the difference between bad sci fi–“I come in Peace”– and good sci fi–The Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (only the original Don Siegel film). So, with this in mind, the Jerry Nadler show is good scifi.

  9. Jacob Johnson says:

    This is somewhat of a minor point but my grandfather, who had a leg amputated as a result of being wounded at T-bone Hill in Korea, said that Saving Private Ryan featured the most realistic depiction of combat he had seen in a movie. This was coming from someone who despised Hollywood, especially for what he thought was its derisive and inaccurate portrayal of the military. How ever the accident of the possibility of some truth coming from Spielberg and Tom Hanks (who starred in the dumbest movie I’ve every unfortunately seen in my life) occurred, I’m sure the professional film critics wouldn’t know.

  10. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    JJ, it’s not a minor point. Your grandfather is a witness you can trust. On the other hand, if he was anything like me, he saw in the film the details that confirmed his own experience and ignored what did not. The rest of us are not in a position to judge.

  11. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Thanks again for your recommendation Dr. Fleming. I agree with you about the advantages of listening to radio.

  12. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Thanks to you I listened to two X Minus One shows, neither was especially good but not too bad. The acting was a bit too excessive but I’ll try several more.

  13. Allen Wilson says:

    Speaking of real books written by real people, I mentioned a few months ago that since I had no time to read books worth reading, I was wasting what little time I had reading de Bono’s useless thinking books. I got through half of one and two thirds of the other, and then threw them away. Why not just waste your time on you tube? I can waste my time learning about swords in the middle ages and what peasants ate.

    Anybody got any suggestions for something educational that one can do in spare moments? Even just a you tube channel on some subject would do.

  14. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Pick a period of history and culture you like and work your way into it until you get bored. Say,17th century France. Read a general history then some literature, start studying French with both a textbook and audio. Start doing a little French cooking, read a French news site, rent a few subtitled movies. Eventually you’ll get tired and move onto Fifth century Athens. Read Herodotus and Sophocles, invest in an introductory grammar,read Bury’s old history, watch the war news in classical Attic–damn that Brasidas!

  15. Jacob Johnson says:

    A short list of channels I find useful for spending ten to twenty minutes on youtube:

    After many years of egregious time wasting, I find it best to spend no longer than 20 minutes watching youtube videos, unless listening to a talk of some sort, in which case it is better to download the audio and listen while doing something else.

  16. Dot says:

    Is everyone getting an “error 404 not found” when logging in?

  17. Dot says:

    I mean “error 404 page not found”.

  18. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Why, no, I haven’t.

  19. Dot says:

    Mr. Rosenberger, I used the “Total Recall” to ask the question. When trying to log in, I checked “The Fleming Foundation Mission Statement” “read on”. I clicked on read on and “error 404 page not found” came up. I believe this FF Mission Statement was a podcast. I watched it once and wanted to look at it again but couldn’t get it. I was wondering if there was a problem elsewhere so I sent my message through “Total Recall”.

  20. Clyde Wilson says:

    Clearly we live in a post-literate age, as a slight acquaintance with today’s college students will confirm. We have libraries and book stores full of nonbooks.

  21. Allen Wilson says:

    Dr Fleming, as always thank you for the advice. It appears that you have described how to obtain a self-education. It’s what I will do if I ever get enough time.

    Mr Jacob Johnson, thank you for the links. The one with the music looks quite interesting.

    Dr Wilson, I can’t agree more. It’s nice to see you round these parts again.