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Monday, July 28, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Two things to follow up on my post on The Dark Knight and foreign/security policy.

First, in thinking more about the movie, I will say that there are two scenes/actions by Batman that could be seen to mirror part of the GWoT debate (and I will be vague so as not to spoil anything). There is an interrogation scene and a scene about surveillance that raises privacy questions. I note, however, that in both cases they deal with a person who is known to be guilty and not only guilty, but still in the process of committing extremely violent crimes. Much like scenes in 24 or the ever-popular ‘ticking timebomb” scenario, the guilt and threat presented by the person against whom extraordinary measures are being used is unambiguous.

Of course, the irony on the interrogation scene is the information that the interrogator wants is ultimately freely shared (no extraordinary interrogation techniques were actually needed) and in regards to the privacy issue there is a rather clear check on the system that makes abuse of the system impossible. And again, in both scenes, the only person being harmed is as guilty as one can be-no real moral conundrum at all.

All of this feeds into my next point, which is that Matthew Yglesias captured well in the following sentence my basic point about the comparison of the movie to reality and where I disagree with Klavan as well as most of the commenters at OTB about the post:

I think Cheney would look at the movie and say “see — this is what we’re doing.” I look at the movie and say “see — if you were fighting a comic book bad guy and you were a comic book hero then your policies would make sense.”

And this is my basic point: the paradigm in fighting terroristic organizations is hardly that of the fight against the supervillain (regardless of how it is often presented as such to the public). As I noted yesterday, the destruction of Saddam (the supervillain in Iraq) did not solve the problem and while getting Osama bin Laden would be great, that won’t solve the problem of Islamic extremism. In the movies catching the Joker ends that problem, in real life getting the iconic leader may solve nothing.

Beyond that, like in the interrogation and surveillance examples above, the issues in the movie/comic is straightforward: focusing such tools only on the known supervillain. Yet in real life those tools end up being used on persons other than the villain because we are not always sure who the villain is. In the real world, people who don’t deserve to be sent to Guantanamo and hardly interrogated are and in the real world the innocent get caught up in the surveillance dragnet.

Put another way, let me quote Porch Dog:

this is precisely why I would discourage people from trying to find the exact, real-world fit for the commentary made in The Dark Knight…it’s fantasy….real over the top, adolescent-inspired fantasy. The main character is a ninja that dresses up like a bat. The main bad guy is the lead singer of the Insane Clown Posse.

As such, it makes for a poor guide to much of anything in the real world.

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One Response to “Back to Batman Foreign Policy”

  • el
  • pt
    1. Captain D Says:

      We’re not seriously thinking that this was anything more than a movie, are we?

      I mean, really - the whole get-the-supervillain thing has been done about ten thousand times before and hard interrogation is portrayed not just in about every third movie that Hollywood poops out but also every one of the ten trillion episodes of Law and Order (and all of its sixteen thousand spinoffs). This is hardly something new to the age of GWoT.

      Can’t say that I really have a problem with Hollywood depictions of terror being off the mark most of the time. Every generation has had its military conflicts and its movies to go along with them, and those movies almost always (with a few exceptions from the 60′s) paint the badguys as vividly bad and the goodguys as sanctimonious heroes. It’s a kind of escapism that is not new, and, I don’t think, unhealthy.

      I’ve been on the gritty nasty battlefields. Leave me my Hollywood supervillain with his painted face and my Dark Knight champion. I think that’s how a lot of people think, for a couple of hours we get to sit and watch the goodguys be good and the badguys be bad. Not sure ’bout you, but I NEED such relief from time to time. Cucumbers on the eyes doesn’t work for me. I need the Dark Knight! He’s my trip to the spa!

      I mean, really - Cucumbers on the eyes? What is that supposed to do anyway?

      Besides - he has a really cool motorcycle.

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