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"War of the Worlds" or "Clash of Civilisations"?

"... he's just that great, great, great storyteller. I think he's the greatest storyteller cinema has ever known."-Tom Cruise on Steven Spielberg, Today showJune 25, 2005 MSNBC

By Jonathan Metcalfe

War of the World Movie Poster

In the world of Steven Spielberg, anything is possible.

He takes us on a space mountain ride into the imagination where dreams come true and all is well at the end of the rainbow. The pot of gold becomes attainable, wholesome American values are upheld and a child-like view of a mixed-up world is lovingly cradled in the assurance that the archetypal happy ending is never far away. Escapism and catharsis in the best traditions of story-telling reach children and adults alike as a universal messenger of hope and triumph of the human spirit...

Can you hear the John Williams orchestra soaring into ecstatic romantic crescendos? Or do you hear the harsh scratch of vinyl and the odour of propaganda?

Steven Spielberg's films remain some of the most successful examples of American cinema ever to come out of the factory line of Hollywood. There is no doubting the man's talent and business acumen. Indeed ever since his ground-breaking film Jaws (1975) cinema has been re-written into summer "blockbusters" which opened the doors for a particular kind of film-making: big on thrills, big on effects and short on soul.

Why is this talented director where he is today? Perhaps because he is one of those who best personifies the American psyche. Quite apart from cultivating and exporting a juvenile and childish perception of reality, rather than a refreshing child-like view, this brand of cinema often distorts and twists archetypes of depth and profundity, where his particular world-view has become a useful tool for the Military-Industrial complex. If it were merely a case of a high saccharin content and the indelible stamp of American family values running through most of his work we could rest easy. However, it appears that Mr. Spielberg has been fed a line based entirely on their propensity for fantasy, in much the same way as Tony Blair or Tom Cruise in fact. This is after all how they have made their living. As an example of middle-American-Jewish success story worth an estimated at $2.7 billion, he remains an outstanding example how progress within the pathological system of capitalism can be co-opted and used as propaganda against the people without many of us ever being aware. Mr. Spielberg means to do his duty as a weaver of stories designed to entrain rather than entertain. Nothing new of course. Cinematic propaganda has been growing in strength since the Second World War, though now with the added teeth of special effects that are no doubt seeping into the editing suites of many a media mogul.

Spielberg's films like many of his contemporaries,(Jerry Bruckheimer for example) as well as writers and producers have become progressively more obvious in their attempts to corral the collective consciousness of cinema-going populations. However, not all projects have the sticky fingers of neo-con pretense. Many of his films, while offering a commercial, simplistic and light-weight view of culture, race, society and history are not politically motivated. Always (1989) Hook (1991) Catch Me If You Can (2002) The Terminal (2004) could be seen as some of his more personal projects. Spielberg's religious and cultural sentiments certainly lend themselves to other box office successes which have less than innocent connotations. As one writer put it:

"He is probably more decent and more honorable than the politicians. His vague, limp liberalism, however, is of very little use. His films for the most part are life preservers for illusions. They appeal in large measure to nostalgia and inertia. In his films America often looks the way many people imagine or wish it once looked, except that it never did." - Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan: Small truths at the expense of big ones' By David Walsh 31 July 1998

"The aliens are friendly" programming appears to be an unshakable belief on the part of Spielberg and which produced one of the most distasteful scenes I can recall in the 2002 T.V. series Taken. The gifted child actor Dakota Channing was made to walk hand in hand with a so-called grey alien towards the end of the series which Amblin Entertainment financed. This echoed the director's interest in UFOs which was allowed to fully blossom in its full hideous glory with the arrival of the phenomenally successful ET: The Extraterrestrial and Close Encounters with the Third Kind which tapped into what is undeniably a huge and apparently unbreakable reservoir of wishful thinking regarding our "space brothers". (ET is now number 25 on the American Film Institute's list of America's 100 Greatest Movies which speaks volumes in itself).

A number of motifs from the UFO fields of inquiry were explored and by now, thanks to disinformation artists such as the unfailingly creepy Whitley Strieber and plenty of others crawling out of the internet woodwork, the friendly alien greys with those loving almond eyes have become synonymous with rave music, cannabis and the general flavour of youthful end of the 21st counterculture - such as it is. Much like the wholly erroneous link with Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden so too the aliens as saviours and UFOs as mechanical objects flitting in and out of our region of space. Consequently, Spielberg's forays into UFO territory remains to my mind, one of the most damaging pieces of fantasy ever produced in Hollywood, feeding into denial and ignorance concerning one of the deepest and darkest secrets of our existence. It may also be true that as a member of The Bilderberg Group, (a famously secretive body with an international membership of global movers and shakers) his task is to prime the population for a possible hoaxed alien invasion and a New World Religion, all of which is to further increase the designs for a global dictatorship. If you can get away with 9/11 then why not throw some aliens for some real control? There may however be surprises on both sides of the fence regarding the planning of this one...

Aside from other blatantly nationalistic and manipulative films that were circulating pre and post 9/11 I would like to concentrate on one of Spielberg's latest offerings that reached new heights of cinematic dross so obvious that it is hard not to imagine that there wasn't a phone-call from Rummy's Office of Strategic Influence with champagne toasting on a job well done. H.G. Well's War of the Worlds is the latest to become chopped up, processed and vacuum-packed for the mass market mind-pollution further contributing to the invasive contouring of subconscious thought. It would be churlish to suggest that the director is solely responsible for the tripe that passes for this brand of entertainment. It is the screen writers of his epics which also share part of the blame, if we can term it such. In this case, an ignoble award for transparent propaganda goes to screen writers Josh Friedkin and David Knoepp.

The discerning cinema goer and DVD watcher will be aware that both Cruise and Spielberg are proudly patriotic. This is should not necessarily pose a problem but the fact that they are so woefully ill-informed certainly does, as their record as supporters of the Bush administration clearly revealed, though they have since had the good sense to keep quiet as Bush continues to go into a terminal tale-spin. From this information alone we know that religious and American apple-pie patriotism are going to be on show while offering Spielberg an opportunity to get behind his beloved nation and show those pesky al-qaeda heathens a thing or two.

So, for "invasion" read "Islam." "Aliens" read "al-qaeda" and then you'll begin to see this movie is awash with images that conform to both the director's cultural and patriotic predispositions as well as admirably serving the Bush administrations propaganda desires on a sliver platter. What better way to propel such tosh into the minds of the masses via arguably the most popular American actor and director who both personify the adherence to the American dream, and for whom their own success stories are deemed to be ample truth enough of their beliefs. A Jewish-liberal and fanatical Scientologist on a mission to inform us - the great unwashed.

According to film pundits War of the Worlds was announced in April 2004 and widely believed that it would be put on hold until after Spielberg completed the now finished work Munich (2006) and until Tom Cruise completed Mission: Impossible 3. In actual fact those productions were strangely and suddenly shunted back and War of the Worlds given pole position. The film was aired in the summer of 2005 to some rapturous responses - at least from the US media. The Washington Post gushed: "it's your best summertime movie rush in years - a brilliantly told tale," while the Los Angeles Times called it: "...Riveting and relevant." Relevant in may ways, no doubt.

The story, As described on the lavish, is loosely based on the H.G. Wells classic novel of the same name which was also made into a movie in 1953. It tells the tale of: "...Ray Ferrier a divorced dock-worker and less-than-perfect father. Soon after his ex-wife and husband drop off his son Robbie and young daughter Rachel for a rare weekend visit a strange and powerful lightening storm touches down." Tom Cruise is hurled from one horror to another with his son and daughter in tow, miraculously surviving a nightmarish ordeal and to eventually arrive home in the heart of Boston into the waiting arms of a pregnant soon-to-be-reunited ex-wife waiting patiently for her lost family to return... "But no matter where they run, there is no safety, no refuge....Only Ray's unconquerable will to protect the ones he loves."

Sick buckets provided at end of article - believe me you'll need them.

From the moment the first scene arrives we realise this is going to be a movie with the same xenophobic elements that the eugenics advocate and starkly accurate visionary H.G. Wells so carefully fostered. A post 9/11 world is blended with a darkness and sentimentality that can only lead to a distasteful caricature of our present reality based on the prevalence of media led lies. This "unconquerable will" is transposed to the US under attack by the gathering shadow of terrorism in the form of the imminent alien invasion and the fear of the unknown. Of course, to be fair, the hysteria and self-righteous ignorance birthed from the belief that the "War on Terror" is an arab monster rather than a neo-con/Israel false-flag operation to beat them all, doesn't quite fit into the neat category of goodies and baddies so beloved of American culture. Therefore, War of the Worlds was chosen for it's fear-factor simplicity - no shades of grey here.

The first Spielberg theme of family and American values is immediately flung at our faces with all the finesse of a baboon wearing star spangled y-fronts. As the shadowy electrical storm swirls over the honest dockers and factory workers of this close-knit community mothers and babies are positioned in almost every scene right from the beginning. A veritable baby boom has occurred in this small but clearly staunchly republican town. Ah but wait..this is a dysfunctional family. All is not so rosy. Ray Ferrier has a poor record as patriarch. Yet we know that the impending crisis will bring all the protagonists together so that the expected happy ending is not compromised by Cruise as a flawed hero. Indeed, it makes him more human - more real, a worthy Perseus. And as we reach for our Kleenex amid the pop-corn and Mr. Slushy we can rest easy that our entertainment can allow us to switch off and open ourselves to entrainment. As the pesky aliens approach from what appears to be an ever-widening electrical storm, American nationalism begins to appear with a reference to the Fourth of July to kick things off. Fluttering whistle clean American flags hang from the porch of every house in Cruise's street.

Skip to the results of the "electrical storms" and we see the crafty little al-qaeda aliens have been lurking in the ground all this time, in amongst the population without anyone even suspecting! As the machines begin to erupt from the streets Spielberg throws us the first "in-your-face" propaganda pie. Backlit from golden light, the church begins to crack and disintegrate as the machine begins to appear from below. As described on the lavish web site "A towering three-legged war-machine emerges from deep within the earth" i.e. Islam and its embedded terrorists; an evil religion attacking the sanctity of Christian American values. At which point the spire falls off and disappears into the cavernous hole, a virtual dante's Inferno, created by the alien machine rising into the air. If you look carefully there are a few later frames when a crucifix from the building falls from the machine as it continues its ascent.

After much vaporizing of your average hysterically innocent American citizen and a general leveling of the town, Cruise hot-foots it back home more than a little perturbed by such militant alien effrontery and with half a ton of what's left of his community in his hair. With copious amounts of barbecuing going on in the background, they leave their ex-town with foot pressed firmly on the gas. We then have our next association to terrorists. Robby, the emotionally charged jaw-clenchingly earnest son of the equally jaw-clenchingly earnest Ray, asks what the machine is that is slaughtering all and sundry. "Are they terrorists?" says Robby. An explicit association planting it firmly in the mind. Aliens are not referred to. By implication, Cruise's character suggests that this is something much more nefarious. Islam perhaps? This is enough to build on later motifs. Now we have America under attack, subliminal and obvious nationalism, white Christian religion being destroyed into the pit of Islamic hell and pointed references to terrorism.

As we get to the home of the divorced mother they discover she has gone. They must stay in the basement and sleep. During the night they are awakened by a enormous crash and fire envelops their former resting place. In the morning we are introduced to fourth major associative image: 9/11 an the WTC. A Boeing 747 has been brought down by the fiendish tripods and Ray wanders through the wreckage. A pan shot slams the image of a huge burning engine into our faces effectively pressing our noses against the hot metal. Just in case we were in any doubt about the imagery, we follow Cruise as he steps up into the cock-pit of the plane as he is introduced to a video monitor of the Twin towers skyline with tripods playing hopscotch in downtown New York. We are given an insight into how the little critters are seeded into the ground via a form of lightening strikes; veiled references to the enemy within.

The US military convoy passing by suburban America is the chance to juxtapose the metaphor of the dysfunctional relationship of Cruise as Father abandoning his duty to care for his son with his unswerving, youthful and conscience laden patriotism. Don't abandon America in her desperate hour of need folks. We need your sons.

To reinforce this tension and guilt for not supporting dearest Uncle Sam, mightily epic and heroic scenes follow, with the US military stoically meeting the enemy head on with all the fire power that America can muster in a virtual armageddon firestorm which is given the full Industrial Light and Magic treatment. With Bobby chomping at the bit to get in amongst it all and kick some alien heads in and vent his anger against such despicable injustice and evil, Ray must make a choice between the new pilgrims of America under attack (Rachel - the new American/Zion) or the will of fresh-faced impetuous youth of his son. Bobby even says: "Let me go." Calamity! What should he do? Save his daughter or let his son fight those pesky alien Islamists and thereby lose his daughter? He let's him go of course and completes the manipulation that says "Let your sons go and fight for America." In other words, to become cannon fodder for psychopaths in love with power, greed and a Christian fundamentalism as dangerous as any Islamic militancy. Sacrifice your family for a pack of lies and feel good about it.

Aa cameo is served up in the form of Hollywood liberal activist Tim Robbins as a survivalist which boarders on farce. This is rather like casting Van Diesel for the lead in Mary Poppins 2. Indeed, Robbins looks as though he's about to burst out laughing at any moment. (Heaven only knows why he agreed). The scene opens with an archetypal freedom-fighter motif of the gun silhouetted against the sky as a gesture to Ray and Rachel to follow him underground via the hurricane shelter. This symbolised the misguided, gun-toting American patriot and survivalist movement who make no bones about voicing their intense distrust of the government.

More Christian symbolism is introduced with a serpentine alien probe weaving its way around the confines of their hide-out until it finally leaves confused by its own image in a mirror. Similar to the butchering of Philip K. Dick's novel in Minority report (2002) where the Spielberg and Cruise team help prepare the American people for the police state, the spider-robot scene is repeated with the alien beings (al-qaeda) picking over the remains of their belongings and trying to understand what this curious thing called "democracy" is. Robbin's character tries to shoot the aliens and is thwarted by Ray depicting the idea that one cannot fight these heathens head-on one has to use others means to defeat them in order to protect the family. He is none too pleased realising that they are "on a different page." (Though it appears there are not many pages of the constitution remaining).

Once Robbins realises that the life-blood of his nation and people are literally being sucked dry and sprayed as a kind of horrible weed against the rubble of democracy he begins to dig a tunnel to the city to meet with other survivalist or survivors - an underground network. Robbins is infected by a kind of madness that is digging into the very foundations of American built on the blood, sweet and toil of the Pilgrim Fathers. Ray must kill him for the greater good. Gun toting survivalists and more importantly,dissidents cannot be tolerated. They are a weakness from the inside that will extinguish any hope against the arab menace and the chance of renewal represented by his daughter. While this movement often harbours a form of fascism in itself there is also an identification here that to defy the government is not an option. Dissidents take note. "You are either with us or against us" in George W. Bush's words. At first working with Robbin's character Ray slowly realises that in order to protect his pure, white middle-class blonde girl from those pesky islamic terrorists he must also seemingly turn against his fellow Americans in order to survive and to stem the flow of blood from his nation. This is the clearest message of governmental fascism yet.

The child is told to close her eyes and sing a honeyed lullaby to herself as he dispatches Robbins behind a closed door. This sums up another aspect of propaganda - tell the people nothing. Maintain the grip of ignorance and media compliance that remains the true heritage of the US. There is the idea that we must momentarily "lose" what we love most in order to set it free. We must trust in God, family and the US military to protect us. This is the only source of salvation. We must trust that the US government must take the War to the enemy.

In a piece of truly pathetic imagery that is both puerile and crude we see Rachel taken by an alien tripod and whisked up into it's innards as a source of food. Ray searches for his child - the abused and sacred America - and purposely allows himself to be caught in order to find her. Cruise's character then has to protect her from a searching antenna or probe that is looking for the next source of crop-spraying fodder and as he throws himself over Rachel to protect her, armed with grenades, he is plucked by a probe from within the onboard civilian stockpile to be sucked up into what is suspiciously similar to an anus. Ray is about to disappear up said anus, when a military man grabs his leg and hangs on. Conjuring the attitude of good deal of the US military mentality Ray with his bag of grenades, manages to literally "shove one up the ass" of Islam and al-qaeda before being rescued. With the help of the US army and civilian courage the aliens are destroyed from within, by taking the war to the enemy the final denouement of a recurrent theme of preemption.

After all these repellent associations are concluded the rest of the film is hurriedly drawn to a close with numerous loose ends so obviously dangling in the wind it is clear that neither writer or director cared. All the major scenes of imprinting had their boxes ticked to ensure that they appeal to the most base of emotions both implicit and explicit.

The subjective and sleepy catharsis of ignorance would not be complete unless the happy ending was delivered in true maple syrup style. Spielberg's hallmark of having no clue as to understatement manages to slap on a side order of heavy handed metaphor. Rebirth and renewal arrive in the shape of autumn leaves and a pregnant radiant ex-wife waiting at home, as though she's just that minute been baking some muffins ready for their arrival. She is ready to welcome back the once broken family that was scattered to the four winds. All is about to be made whole again, for who should we see appearing at the door guessed it: BOBBY! America's youth is alive and well ( and invincible) having survived the firestorm and traveled across half of America following the scent of Mom's home-cooking no doubt. Ray greets his son manfully, gripping him firmly and proudly with a posture that would have made John Wayne weak at the knees. "Now your a man my son - Let's go home and make apple pie." No tears are necessary. Chin wobbles suffice.

So, all that you need to do is stay home and defend the homeland, support the military and don't question. Turn in anyone who dissents and if necessary dispatch your American neighbour to protect the greater good, which of course, as we all know is democracy in action. Unfortunately, that "greater good" and American way is a fully fledged fascism that has used War of the Worlds as a mouthpiece with an audacity that harks back to Goebbel's gleeful manipulations of the mass consciousness on behalf of his Fuhrer. This time however, there are comfortable technologies, a slick and empty media that ensures a desperately misinformed public remains unaware of the power of movies to reinforce lies and disinformation until it is blithely excepted.

With the constant imagery of ragged clothes floating down from the skies, the leftovers of vaporized individuals as well as the exodus of refugees, fences, wires etc. there is a definite feel not only of a holocaust but one of a specifically Jewish kind. This I suppose, should come as no surprise with Spielberg's solid support for Israel yet it is quite a coup to mange to pack so much manipulation and personal belief into what is ostensibly a flag waving exercise for a morally bankrupt and Zionist infiltrated government. It is ironic for Spielberg when we realise that this same government holds both American citizens - including Jewish-Americans - in absolute contempt.

Showing cities around the globe might have offset the imbalanced nature of the film but it was always going to be a strictly American buffering - a personal call to arms and a healing for 9/11 that enforces denial and escapism. In that sense, it serves as a potent symbol of the reasons for the United State's inexorable decline. The global view of a world in peril would have undermined the director's intention to keep the audience focused on the family unit and America's post 9/11 grief. It is an easy sell, to display Spielberg's preoccupations with misplaced innocence and the nonsense of the "clash of civilisations" idea that feeds so conveniently into the polarisation of different cultures and creeds; one that neo-liberalism and Straussian invectives constantly promote. Hatred and secularism are used as for specific political tools. The passive arena of movies are no different. They offer a message of hope based on an expansion of possibilities or they seek to reinforce the selfish instincts and pavlovian responses of us all.

It is also true that while the film is a prime example of propaganda my impression is that Spielberg and Cruise being so alike in their naivety and subjective appraisal of politics and history are having their talents used against them like most of the world's population. Perhaps they would be horrified how easily they have been hoisted on their own egotistical petards. Good intentions maybe but this is no longer enough when they wield a celebrity power that can be channeled so effectively against the very principles they claim to support. Think Bono, Geldof...

What we choose to perceive and believe will dictate whether we open ourselves to spoon-fed "harmless" propaganda or Knowledge that frees our minds and enables us to see how the story-tellers may not always be entertaining us, but are lulling us into a very dangerous sleep indeed. There is a War of the Worlds occurring. Inside us, outside us, in ways that continually make truth stranger than fiction. The question is, are we seeing it in time to able to contribute to an alternative vision?


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