Provocative GOP video: overthrow the tyrant, in free elections

Provocative Republican video: overthrow the tyrant ... in free elections

Topics: Republican Party, Ron Paul, War Room, 2010 Elections, Tea Parties,

Provocative GOP video: overthrow the tyrant, in free elections

Some day, historians will look back and mark it as the peak of postmodern irony when the Republican Party claimed a near-monopoly over revolutionary rhetoric in American politics. It’s a weird time. Sure, it started out on the bizarro fringes where Glenn Beck and Ron Paul dominate. But bit by bit, radical fervor has seeped into the staid institutions of the GOP itself.

The latest is a campaign site, launched by the Republican Governors’ Association, called Remember November. The centerpiece is a video portraying the rise of Barack Obama as a kind of “it can happen here” narrative. I’ll say this for them — these have got the best production values I’ve ever seen in a political ad.

The thing starts out with that Abe Lincoln quote about fooling all of the people all of the time, set to ominous strings. There’s some cutting back and forth between then-candidate Barack Obama declaring, “Yes we can,” and various ominous things that he’s supposedly done:

  • “Ignore the will of the American people”
  • “Corrupt your representatives”
  • “Bankrupt our country”
  • “End the American dream”

There’s a quick tour of scary black guys — in reality, irrelevant, powerless figures — saying easily misread things: Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla. avers, “There ain’t no rules around here. We make ‘em up as we go along.” Rev. Al Sharpton asserts, “The American public overwhelmingly voted for socialism when they elected President Obama.” That’s not entirely fair: noted white person House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in there too, and naturally, Fidel Castro shows up, calling the passage of healthcare reform “a miracle.”

I could go on like this, but I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say that, not only is every single particular of the video extraordinarily misleading in one way or another, the whole thing is so overwrought that you keep wondering when we’ll cut away to Glenn Beck sobbing while he blueprints out a heavily fortified bunker on his chalkboard.

So far, the RGA has caught flak because of the accusation that the video, with its call to “Remember November” is purposefully evoking historical British villain Guy Fawkes, and urging a violent uprising. It’s worth backing up here and tracing the circuitous path by which we ended up talking about a 17th-century British terrorist in American politics.

It was Fawkes, of course, who attempted to destroy the British Parliament in an event now known as the Gunpowder Plot. He was caught, tortured and executed, and is now burned in effigy in the United Kingdom annually on Guy Fawkes Day, on November 5. British schoolchildren learn about the holiday through this rhyme:

Remember, remember

The Fifth of November

The Gunpowder Treason and Plot.

I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason

Should ever be forgot.

Americans, of course, have discovered this story mainly from the regrettable 2005 Wachowski brothers movie, “V for Vendetta,” in which a mysterious revolutionary hero brings down a future totalitarian government by reprising the Gunpowder Plot. And this was how Guy Fawkes — really, pretty irrelevant even in England at this point — infiltrated our political life.

“V for Vendetta” was based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore, who also wrote the graphic novels  “The Watchmen” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” both adapted into movies. Moore himself apparently meant the original version of “V” as an allegorical attack on Margaret Thatcher, and the on-screen rendition took some fairly ham-handed shots at the Bush administration.

Nevertheless, the perverse symbolism of Guy Fawkes the revolutionary hero was appropriated by the nerdy guys who formed the base of the Ron Paul presidential campaign. It’s pretty clear why. The hero of the movie is a pariah intellectual who, once he dons his mask and cloak, brings down a dictator with some well-placed throwing knives and witty, rhyming comments. The stultified masses won’t throw off their chains on their own, but by God, he’ll do it for them if he has to. Along the way, Natalie Portman falls in love with him despite his disfigurements and the weird sequence in which he keeps her captive in a dungeon. “V” is wish fulfillment and comfort food for a certain kind of IT-type guy, just like “Twilight” is for tween girls. How do you think Ron Paul, a senior citizen with 19th-century political views, ended up as the tech-savviest candidate the GOP has ever had?

So on November 5, 2007, the Paul campaign had its famous “moneybomb,” and raised a huge pile of campaign cash by explicitly trading on Guy Fawkes Day. This didn’t get as much criticism at the time as it should have: to recap, Fawkes, a loyalist of the Spanish Catholic crown, was trying to blow up Parliament — the seat of then-nascent Western democracy — in revenge for its persecution of Catholics. The symbolism is really all nonsense, but of course, the Paul guys didn’t really have Fawkes in mind — they were thinking of “V,” and imagining themselves as epic action heroes.

The Paul campaign, in retrospect, was a clear precursor to the Tea Parties. It shared the hyperbolic revolutionary language, and likewise insisted on the idea that basic features of modern American democracy are, in fact, affronts to freedom and the Constitution. Also like the Tea Parties, Paul’s movement turned out to have a deeply nasty underside of racism and conspiracy-theorizing.

This takes us back to the RGA’s video. It’s not really obvious that it is an attempt to evoke Fawkes, and “V for Vendetta.” (Although check out the suggestive red letter “V” in the website’s slogan, “Remember November.”) What is apparent is that it’s equally incoherent and indulgent of supporters’ fantasies. Regardless of what the RGA is purposefully referring to or not, the video is an attempt to import the whacked-out radicalism of the Paul campaign, and its successors in the Tea Party, into the GOP’s mainstream, in service of a thoroughly banal and conventional goal: picking up vulnerable governorships in a midterm election.

But this is an area where the GOP just can’t have it both ways. We’re living in a dystopian action movie, or we aren’t. Option one is that America has devolved into some kind of Castro-Hastings-Obama-Sharpton tyranny. Option two is that we’re living in a regular, functioning democracy, the leaders of which we can vote out if we so choose. To echo fringe theories about how we’ve been robbed of our liberties and democratic representation, and, in the same breath, ask for votes in November, requires a stunning degree of dishonesty. And really, Guy Fawkes aside, that’s bad enough.

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>