Monday, September 28, 2015

Movie Motive

There's a documentary on the Black Panthers just out. Haven't seen it, but it's been getting great reviews.  Of course, looking at the squib review by Alan Scherstuhl in the LA Weekly, you've got to wonder if the critics are reviewing the film or the politics:

What do you think scared the powers-that-be more, the Panthers' allure or their avowed program, which called for the end of the ongoing "terror, brutality, murder and repression of black people"?

I'm not sure what "scared" the powers-that-be--you remember those powers-that-be, the ones that passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 just before the Panthers were born?--but maybe it was something else, like the threat of violence.  Perhaps they misread the Panther's motives, but if Scherstuhl thinks they did, all the more reason not to assume the worst motives on their part.

Since J. Edgar Hoover declared the Panthers the John Dillingers of the late 1960s, Official America has found black anger a useful excuse to crack down on blacks and keep whites terrified. Never mind the Panthers setting up breakfast programs for local kids, or Bobby Seale himself proclaiming, "We don't hate anybody because of their color. We hate oppression."

No matter what you think of this argument (excuse me, "argument"), please note that Scherstuhl isn't even pretending to review a film any more.

The film, with its traditional mix of talking heads and vintage footage, is honest about schisms between party members favoring armed insurrection and those who found community improvement a more satisfying and achievable goal than the overthrow of the U.S. government.

So Scherstuhl is aware that some of the Panthers favored armed insurrection and the overthrow of the U.S. government.  Why was he wasting our time noting they had breakfast programs and said they only hated oppression, as if that meant no one should be worried?

There is reason to hope here. Compare the on-message clarity of #BlackLivesMatter, and it's easy to see that the revolution remains a work in progress — and that it had a clear vanguard.

He's not even editorializing about the past any more, he's editorializing about the present.  Mr. Scherstuhl, your political acumen is wasted on the film pages.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anybody read the LA Weekly. You cite and skewer them all the time but I am guessing they are writing for an audience that wants to hear what they are peddling

11:55 AM, September 28, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I don't know how big their circulation is, but it's not insignificant. After the LA Times, I'd assume they've got the biggest readership in town of anything specializing in local issues.

They tend to have a leftist bent, but no more so than numerous alternative weeklies available across America or, for that matter, many critics and editorialists in mainstream sources. It's just that I read the Weekly regularly, because it's free and readily available. (By the way, I know the editor and her politics are far from doctrinaire.)

Certainly other magazines and papers have inspired posts--in fact, when I used to read the LA Times regularly, I probably put up more stuff about it than I did the Weekly.

12:24 PM, September 28, 2015  

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