Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Mist & Crowd Control

"'There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men.'"  -"The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" -Rod Serling, 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone

Sunday night I had the pleasure of watching the last ninety minutes of the 2007 science fiction film, "The Mist," on, appropriately enough, the SciFi Channel. I missed the first hour by watching Season 2 Episode 3 of "Falling Skies," another science fiction television program concerning invading extraterrestrials, which I find much more appealing than invading zombies, as depicted, for instance, in AMCs "The Walking Dead."
Aliens are just so much more reasonable than zombies.
I could have watched "The Mist," last night as well, and catch the first hour (considering the original film was only 126 minutes long, for a 2 1/2 hour period we all are subjected to at least 24 minutes of straight advertising) as cable networks like the SciFi Channel play the same movies over and over again (the FX Channel is fond of promoting, let's say, the Brangelina vehicle, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," with "Tonight on FX, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," only on FX," as if they haven't shown it 50 times before... literally (do advertisers really spend their money for this?!)), and often on the same night (AMC: "Tonight on AMC, during Can't Get Enough of "The Shawshank Redemption" Week, "The Shawshank Redemption," followed by... an encore presentation of "The Shawshank Redemption." Really!? I can tell you, even though I love, or loved "The Shawshank Redemption," I can get enough! I really, really can. Please! Good God, don't give me anymore of "The Shawshank Redemption!" As a matter of fact AMC, you've made  me hate "The Shawshank Redemption." Bastards).
I'm glad you brought up "The Shawshank Redemption," however. It was Frank Darabont's first feature film (he had started out by directing a short film based on a King short story, "The Woman In The Room") as director, based on the Stephen King novela, "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption." That led to Darabont's adaptation of King's novel, "The Green Mile," which led to "The Majestic," which starred our beautiful friend, former Baywatch star, the lovely Ms Jennifer Blaire.
This of course led to Frank's 4th collaboration with Stephen King (Jeezz, if you like him so much why don't you marry him?), "The Mist," based on King's 1980 novela of the very same name.
I read "The Mist," a long, long time before Frank made a film of it, and like Frank, thought it would make a great movie. I would have made it myself, before Frank got his greedy hands on it, if I happened to be a film director and had the authority to make things like that happen (as I would have "The Lord of the Rings").
I'd seen the film many times before as well. I showed it to my lovely ex-case manager Erin, and her colleague Paul, at Movie Day one time. What can I say... I like monster movies... good ones.
"The Mist," isn't really a mist at all. It's more like fog actually. But King couldn't very well call his story "The Fog," as John Carpenter had taken that name for a movie he was making that year. Anyway, up in Bridgton, Maine, a severe storm has just ravaged the area causing quite a bit of damage and power outages which apparently disrupted the work at a nearby military facility working on opening doors into other dimensions to see what's inside, you know, pretty standard stuff for our armed forces.
Well I guess the storm caused these doors to open just a tad too much allowing one particularly nasty dimension to leak into ours, bringing it's strange inhabitants with it. A thick cloud of white mist is the visible result of this leak, which expands rapidly. David Drayton (played by Thomas Jane) first sees the mist coming towards his house from across a lake, but doesn't think much about it. He doesn't know monsters are in there. Who would!? I certainly wouldn't, that's for sure.
Drayton takes his son and neighbor, played by Andre Braugher into town to pick up supplies they need to help repair the damage they suffered in the storm.
All the power is still off in town, but the local supermarket has it's own generator and has power. Luckily for Drayton and Braugher's character, Brent Norton, a know-it-all lawyer from the big city, are headed for that very market.
Pretty soon the mist envelops the town and the market with it. One guy runs into the store saying something in the mist got his friend. This is true! Something in the mist did get his friend.
There's a lot of mean, hungry, insectoid, tentacly things out there which are hunting other mean, hungry, insectoid, tentacly things which are smaller than they are. Some of them are really big. Others the size of cats. It's what it must be like to live in the ocean... hunting for food all of the time to stay alive, while being constantly hunted as well. That's what it's like in the mist.
I wouldn't want to go out there... and by the way, you won't find me scuba diving anytime soon either.
It was fortuitous that the supermarket had their generator working at the time the mist came. That's what kept the automatic doors closed and the positive air pressure from the air conditioner keeping the mist outside, which saved everybody in the store. The poor folks in the pharmacy next door didn't have any air conditioning and their doors were wide open when the mist came and everybody in there got turned into birthing grounds for mist spiders.
The people in the supermarket don't quite know what's going on, except they can't see anything outside. The generator goes off because something clogged up its vents outside. Drayton and a few other guys go in the back storeroom to see what's up. A stupid bag boy volunteers to go unclog the vent against the advice of Drayton, and as soon as they open the door tentacles creep in and drag the screaming bag boy outside to meet what those tentacle were attached to.
Drayton and the men who were with him don't want to create a panic with the others in the store,  but Drayton tells Norton, who had been planning on taking some people with him to go out and find help. However Norton doesn't believe Drayton, and decides to go anyway, refusing to even look at the evidence of the attack which got the bag boy, a chopped off piece of tentacle. Norton and his "followers," leave the store, never to be heard from again, supposedly, quickly being turned into mist monster chow.
But get this... the film isn't really about the monsters in the mist, oh no.
It's about us, and how we react in certain situations.
Within the store is one lady, a Mrs. Carmody (played exquisitely by the wonderful and lovely actress, Marcia Gay Harden), who has been described as an unstable religious fanatic, you know, like your typical Christian fundamentalist right-winger. She soon prays upon some of the other's fear to gain a small following. She does this by spewing insane religious dogma which has nothing whatsoever to do with the real situation all of these people find themselves in, but considering the stressful situation they do find themselves in, and their sense of powerlessness, anyone offering some glimmer of hope, or perceived truth, can be a welcome thing.
As she becomes more and more deranged, her following becomes larger. She soon proclaims herself the conduit through which God speaks the divine truth. At one point she whips up her by now majority of those in the store into such a fury that they murder a soldier under her direction. She has become insane, power mad, a true sociopath.
One person, who through the use of a little expertly utilized propaganda, won over a large majority of followers, who would rather belive her lies, without any evidence that what she is spewing is true, and against her followers own self interests, against all evidence to the contrary.
Does this kind of situation sound at all familiar to us. Of course it does.
We've recently discussed differences in brain utilization between two large segments of society which can be framed as belonging to progressives, or liberals, on one side, and conservatives on the other:
The following is stolen from Joshua Holland's May 2nd 2012 piece appearing through AlterNet, "Why Is the Conservative Brain More Fearful? The Alternate Reality Right-Wingers Inhabit Is Terrifying, Walk a mile in your ideological counterparts' shoes...if you dare."
We've discovered in the above post that conservatives tend to be more susceptible to fear than their liberal counterparts, and who seek comfort through perceived powerful leadership.
Holland notes that "Looking at MRIs of a large sample of young adults last year, researchers at University College London discovered that “greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala.” Now everyone knows the amygdala is involved in signaling the cortex of motivationally significant stimuli such as those related to reward and fear in addition to social functions such as mating.
In contrast the researchers also found that “greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex,” which is often associated with rational cognitive functions, such as reward anticipation, decision-making, empathy, and emotion.
As Holland points out this state of affairs not only affects all of us socially, but has grave political implications as well. He quotes Chris Mooney, author of "The Republican Brain,"  “The amygdala plays the same role in every species that has an amygdala. It basically takes over to save your life. It does other things too, but in a situation of threat, you cease to process information rationally and you're moving automatically to protect yourself.”
Holland cites other evidence suggesting existing brain structure results in the markedly different attitudes and behaviors between liberals and conservatives... which it seems the Republicans, and the Republican Noise (propaganda) Machine is instinctively aware of, and to which they use for their own political gain.
Let's look at what the world does look like to conservatives that might possibly have a heightened sense of fear, anxiety, and alarm due to their physical brain proclivities.
We have seen conservatives tend to seek figures of authority. To them these would take the form of Republican politicians and media, who it seems might lie to them to purposely keep their followers all stirred up, effectively under control, and bent to their will.
Holland: "So conservatives appear to be more likely to be hard-wired to be highly sensitive to perceived threats, and their chosen media offers them plenty. But that's not the whole story because of one additional factor. Since 9/11, and especially since the election of President Barack Obama, one of the most significant trends in America's political discourse is the “mainstreaming” of what were previously considered to be fringe views on the right. Theories that were once relegated to the militia movement can now be heard on the lips of elected officials and television personalities like Glenn Beck.
Consider, then, what it must be like to be a true-blue Rush Limbaugh fan, or someone who thinks Michele Bachmann is a serious lawmaker with a grasp of the issues – put yourself into that person's shoes for a moment, and consider what a nightmarish landscape the world around them must represent:
The White House has been usurped by a Kenyan socialist named Barry Soetero, who hatched an elaborate plot to pass himself off as a citizen of the United States – a plot the media refuse to even investigate. This president doesn't just claim the right to assassinate suspected terrorists who are beyond the reach of law enforcement – he may be planning on rounding up his ideological opponents and putting them into concentration camps if he is reelected. He may have murdered a blogger who was critical of his administration, but authorities refuse to investigate. At the very least, he is plotting on disarming the American public after the election, in accordance with a secret deal cut with the UN and possibly with the assistance of foreign troops.
Again, these ideas are not relegated to the fringe of forwarded emails. Glenn Beck talked about FEMA camps on Fox News (he later debunked them, which only fueled charges of a media coverup); dozens of Republican elected officials have at least hinted that they are birthers, while an erstwhile front-runner for the GOP nomination has repeatedly claimed that Obama is not eligible to be president. The head of the NRA, and the GOP's presidential nominee have both claimed Obama is plotting to take Americans' guns. (Many other examples abound, on and on...)
In reality, Americans are safer and more secure today than at any point in human history. But inhabitants of the world of the hard-right are surrounded by danger – from mobs of thugs at home to a variety of powerful and deadly enemies abroad."
This situation coupled with the fact that conservatives tend not to be shy about expressing their beliefs and fears to others, give us liberals an everlasting migraine. We tend to combat their policies which are based in greed and fear, with reality based facts, which quite frankly are not very effective. Al Gore was exponentially smarter than George W. Bush (still is) and would have been a hugely better president for the nation, but he wasn't sexy enough, he didn't frame his arguments and positions as well as Bush did, he wasn't as personable, all of these things paired with the fact that Bush stole the election in Florida, caused Bush to win the election, giving rise to the eight year nightmare that followed.
As Dr. Carl Sagan deftly pointed out, astrology is not a science. It's basically a scam that millions of people believe in because it helps to relieve their sense of foreboding concerning themselves and their future.
Astronomy, on the other hand, is a science. It is fairly well understood, and its study has markedly helped advance our general knowledge of ourselves, how we got here, where we are, and where we are going... yet...
Every single newspaper you may come across will almost certainly have a colum devoted to astrology. Very few will have the same for astronomy. It's just not as sexy, or appealing to the masses as astrology, even though astrology is a pack of lies.
There is a glimmer of hope though for us progressives. The current Republican candidate for President of the United States is as sexy, appealing, and personable as a stack of mud bricks.
This time the lies and deceit are not hidden by the face of the candidate, but out there for everyone, even conservatives, to see.

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