Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Z and Plame

I watched Z this weekend. For those who haven’t seen it and don’t want the entire plot given away, I do that below.

Early in the movie, we see the murder of a prominent leftist politician at a public rally with hundreds of police watching. The initial inquest reports an open-and-shut drunk-driving accident. Over the course of the film, though, a young, tough prosecutor gradually uncovers evidence that police command hired a local right-wing paramilitary group to carry out an assassination. He charges them all with murder.

Although the Plame case deals with character assassination rather than actual murder, the parallels are inviting. In both cases, the high government officials who carried out the attack were so convinced that they were righteous, and that they would never be punished, that they barely bothered to cover up what they did. In both cases, the prosecutor’s credibility derives almost entirely from the fact that he is not a member of the political opposition. In both cases the indictments (of Scooter Libby and, I hope I hope I hope, Karl Rove) are intense, cathartic, the lancing of a governmental boil.

Unfortunately, Costa-Gavras doesn’t stop with the indictment scene. In an epilogue of Z we learn that although most high-ranking officers got off with little more than administrative reprimands, the indictments seemed sure to sweep the leftists to victory at the next elections – until the military dissolved the democratic government altogether and instituted a dictatorship.

So that reminds me in part that we have democracies only at the sufferance of those in power: if they ever get corrupt or stubborn enough, and especially if they manage to convince themselves enough that they are fighting The Worst Enemy Ever, they may decide not to hand it over after all. And they will always have enough violent, hate-filled reactionaries around them to convince them they speak for a healthy plurality. (Maybe I’m just too consumed with paranoia about touch-screen voting. I can’t understand why a political party would go so nuts about the idea of printout receipts if, you know, they didn’t expect to get something out of a paperless, untraceable process.)

But at least in Z, in the end the dictators didn’t get to dress up as democrats anymore. There’s a realistic goal, then, if you need one: if you can’t have a real democracy, at least don’t let the people fucking it up make democracy look bad for everybody else.

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  • At 5:24 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Hm, was the Libby indictment really so cathartic? Maybe we wanted it to be a boil-lancing, but has it turned out to be? Their juggernaut barely paused. If Rove had been indicted, that would have actually affected government operations. But all Libby's indictment seemed to do was make Cheney even grumpier.

    Also, this regime already stole at least one presidential election, at basically no political cost.

  • At 5:32 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Yeah, you're right, it was mostly wishful thinking. I'll edit.

  • At 5:37 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    No, actually, I won't--my point was basically that although it feels great in the moment, like the good guys finally got one in, it turns out in the end not to be much help at all. Which is more or less what you're saying.


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