AQ to CIA: You Are the Empire, and We Are Luke and Han

I loathed Star Wars, The Force Awakens. Loathed it.

I hated it so much I made myself go back and watch 1 through 6 again, to try to understand what even Jar Jar Binks (in my admittedly lonely opinion, though I urge you to go back and watch those early ones again) had on Disney’s creation. Along the way, in addition to realizing that The Empire never thought to fix the vulnerability that allowed R2D2 to hack each new-and-improved Death Star instantaneously, I realized The Force Awakens should have, instead of replaying the same Star Wars story over again, talked about what went wrong with the Rebel Alliance, which after all shouldn’t have remained the rebels for long. Why couldn’t, didn’t, our noble heroes set up a sound society to replace The Empire? Instead, somehow, The Empire gets rebooted once again, without dealing with the fact that The Empire this time should have been the rebels in charge.

I realized, as I was watching over the movies again, how for some of the same time the US was celebrating Luke and Han on the wide screen, we were secretly backing our own group of theocratic rebels in the desert as they fought an evil empire (I assume our Hollywood President enjoyed the parallel). I’m the generation of Star Wars. I was raised believing in our scrappy victory over Evil. But it’s all too clear, now, that we’re not the rebels, if we ever were. The theocratic rebels we helped blow up a Death Star in 1977 went on to blow up our Death Star, and the endless series of sequels against these rebels is bleeding us dry.

The Force Awakens didn’t deal with the fact that the US has become (if it wasn’t already, in 1977) The Empire; the movie shied away from contemplating that fact.

Of course, that made the observation from this video — from an al Qaeda fighter (presumably captured) — all the more striking to me.

An al Qaeda fighter made a point once in a debriefing. He said, all these movies that America makes, like Independence Day and Hunger Games and Star Wars, they’re all about a small scrappy band of rebels who will do anything in their power with the limited resources available to them to expel an outside, technologically advanced invader. And what you don’t realize, he said, is that to us, the rest of the world, you are The Empire, and we are Luke and Han. You are the aliens and we are Will Smith.

Hollywood is still making movies that cover up this fact.

But it’s not fooling much of the rest of the world.

Update: As happened with Syed Rizwan Farook, the tabloid press managed to get into the culprit’s home. Both his 3-year old kid’s bedroom and the bathroom are completed decked out in Star Wars gear.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
  1. gmoke says:

    Watching the latest Star Wars movie, I was also reminded of how we now seem to be in perpetual war for perpetual peace in desert countries too. It gave me a feeling of sadness and took me out of the movie, which I enjoyed more than you did.

    My gut tells me that we have told ourselves lies so often and so long that we cannot even recognize the truth in our own fantasies.

    I’m now reading a book on the generalship of US Grant whom, the author claims, set the model for the modern American warfare. I’ve made a note that Grant also serves as a model in that he lost the peace when he backed away from Reconstruction just as we seem to have lost every peace since WWII.

  2. Mitchell says:

    And we still think we’re a democracy.

    A lie takes hold and we believe it true. Like the Union won the Civil War, for example. The Union had a military victory when the South surrendered — which promptly began fighting within the system. And really, what did the South lose? Slavery was less ended and more replaced by sharecropping and later Jim Crow laws. All the expense of slavery passed onto the former slaves — whose freedom was restricted, to say the least.

    And the f***ers have fought against the Union and what it represented ever since, and here we are. But we know we won the war.

    So that’s how the Empire gets reborn instead of crushed for good, and the Rebellion is still, thirty-odd years later, still a rebellion. And haven’t had any advance in technology.

    People with false beliefs.

    That’s how.

    Y’all rag on the movie; I’ll focus on the borderline treason that’s corporate media “reportage”.

  3. Les says:

    It seems to me that a lot of the AQ/ISIS activity is orchestrated.

    We have almost 100% AQ stings until 2012. After ISIS emerges in Syria, the organization is played up on social media and the news. The FBI sting operations are 100% ISIS with a few Somalis caught in Al-Shabaab material support cases.

  4. What Constitution? says:

    Now that’s depressing. One single day, the two funnest movies of the past fifty years — Star Wars and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off — get skewered here for rank sentimentalization of the worst attributes of mainstream American society. Which was, of course, just maybe their point.

    Next somebody will suggest that Yankee Doodle Dandy was propagandistic.

    I presume Ed Walker is about to offer 15,000 words on Marcuse’s theory of repressive desublimation, which just might read like Ben Stein’s roll call. As Woody Allen could and did put it in Love and Death: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Your turn.”

    In other news, Donald Trump is actually running for President of the United States. Of course, we all see the parallels to Poltergeist in that.

  5. blueba says:

    What about this is new? She says nothing which has not been understood (and ignored) for thousands of years. US “exceptionalism” is hardly different from Roman “exceptionalism” empires throughout history have been challenged by small groups. Enemies of empires have been demonized and made “sub-human” in every culture where imperial power existed. Star Wars is good entertainment and tells a very old story but it hardly compares to Homer.

    I just despair when I see this stuff presented as if it is some new revelation or insight. Is the history of ideas and power banished from universities now? Do people look to commercial projects done entirely for profit to inform themselves rather than a careful understanding of the historical record?

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