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Film review: Dick Cheney: Revolutionary for the Super-Rich

by Tobias Riegel Monday, Mar. 18, 2019 at 11:52 AM

In the film, the Cheney group appears like a resolute Mafia clan that took over the levers of power in no time after the election. The vice-president pulled the strings in all important areas: military, energy, bureaucracy and foreign policy. "Vice" is a cynical film for a cynical era.


By Tobias Riegel

[This film review published on February 20, 2019 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.nachdenkseiten.de.]

A remarkable new film portrays the “most powerful Vice-president of all time,” Dick Cheney, as the ice-cold cynic that he is. The effective, Oscar-nominated production “Vice – The Second Man,” reopens the abysses of the Bush era.

A whirlwind of political corruption, military unscrupulousness and personal hunger for power appears on the surface. The war crimes, perversions of justice and smear campaigns perpetrated by a group around ex-Vice-president Dick Cheney cannot even be listed since they are so numerous, according to a new Hollywood film. Wars of aggression, torture, illegal surveillance and financial deregulation make up the maelstrom.

“Vice – The Second Man” by Adam McKay is a film about these abysses – and about masks, cinematic and real. Firstly, the optic transformation of the actor Christian Bale into the former US Vice-president Cheney is breathtaking. Secondly, hardly a politician understood how to hide his cynical and licentious character behind the mask of the long-drawn out administrator as well as Dick Cheney. McKay highlights the motto of an anonymous writer:

“Beware of the reticent, uncommunicative man. When others speak, he observes. When others act, he plans. When others rest, he strikes.”

Dick Cheney: Lining up for the internal coup

This warning was not heeded. “No one saw Cheney coming,” the film says. Therefore, the ice-cold and talented tactician could slowly reach for power – and hide behind the political hand-puppet George W. Bush who had no will. As the film narrates, Cheney used Bush whom he despised as a weak vehicle to ultimately climb the stories of power. According to the film’s version, Cheney only accepted the unloved and rather symbolic post of the vice-president because he had a plan: Bush’s dethronement behind the scenes and his own ascent into the shadow president.

According to the film, the inexperienced and timid Bush agreed in advance to this degradation. After the dubious and extremely close 2000 election, an internal-government coup occurred immediately. Bush was separated from his confidants and surrounded by Cheney’s people like Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld.

The presidential emails showed how far Bush’s control passed to Cheney’s confidants. According to the film, they were all read by the vice-president’s group. In addition, they were stored on private servers and deleted a million times after the end of the administration – particularly the emails from the time of the propagandistic preparation of the Iraq War. In the film, the Cheney group appears like a resolute Mafia clan that took over the levers of power in no time after the election under the leadership of the inscrutable godfather.

Wars of aggression, torture and propaganda – The inheritance of Dick Cheney

The vice-president hardly noticed by the public for a long time pulled the strings in all important areas: military, energy, bureaucracy and foreign policy. Bush stayed back as a neutralized and purely representative dope or idiot. That was an effective tactic since Bush’s onlooker could long cover up the goal-directed and corrupt character of this regime team for poorly informed people.

Cheney’s final grasp for power took place on September 11, 2001. He exercised the office of president in the critical hours after the attack and did not surrender this full power after Bush’s official return. With stoic persistence, the Cheney group worked on the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq inspired by the 9/11 attacks. These monumental crimes were accompanied by unparalleled media campaigns and legal tricks purporting to legal torture and kidnapping.

A cynical film about a cynical era

“Vice” is a cynical film about a cynical era – in light of the brave and disappointing “George W.” by Oliver Stone. With his farce on the financial crisis “The Big Short,” (2015) Adam McKay showed he is no longer the light-minded comedy director that he once was.

In flashbacks, McKay describes the meteoric rise of the youth from middle class conditions. In the 1970s, the former drinking brawler Cheney appeared as an occasionally disciplined foot soldier of power. Behind the scenes, he developed quickly to one of the most effective revolutionaries whom the super-rich could send into the race for their neoliberal coup as the film explains. In the 1980s, Cheney withdrew temporarily from politics and rose in the energy company “Halliburton.” What would the world have been spared if Cheney had remained a private man? Now and then, corporate CEOs can inflict enormous damage as politicians. At the end of the 1990s, the inexperienced George W. Bush asked for support. Cheney was there as vice-president.

The film divides the public

Alongside its political-propagandistic accuracy, the film is an artistic delight with its concise and polished screenplay, solid writing, camerawork and script. Amy Adams, Steve Carell and Christian Bale give stoic and detailed representations, an achievement that went far beyond the interpretations and the perfect masks. The drama-comedy mixture is carried out and everything is formally extraordinary.

The film has the usual deficits of an entertainment format. Exaggeration and superficiality cannot be denied and call to mind Michael Moore’s films. On the other hand, the film brings this episode of US history into the debate again. While the work has been nominated for many Oscars, the work has its critics. Besides enthusiasm, it understandably triggers negative reactions in the big media.

The system hides behind the villain

Focusing on a super-villain conceals the danger of diverting from the system that produces the super-villain. This is also the case with Cheney and the film involuntarily helps here. Concentration on the individual gives the impression that his removal cou9ld have a crucial influence on the US political system beyond political cosmetics. The history of the presumed well-meaning Barack Obama and the crimes with which his name is now connected have shown the narrow limits of this system and the far-reaching exchangeability of individuals.

Nevertheless, the perpetrators of the Cheney-Bush administration do not deserve immunity. This group organized several massive wars presumably for industry lobbyists – for base motives and with great criminal energy.

Achievements and deficits of “liberal” Hollywood

The pseudo-left “liberals” from Hollywood have often been criticized. Firstly, the cooperation between large film producers and the Pentagon for war propaganda is proven. Secondly, some actors used their prominence very thoughtlessly for dubious “freedom fighters.” In the film “Vice,” US film producers collaborated to produce enlightened “infotainment.” This divides the public as well as critics. Some harsh Cheney critics cannot get enough of the black humor; other moviegoers feel the film is as hypothermic as Cheney himself. Still others regard the film as unfair demonization. Something of all these deficits exist in the film that on balance goes further politically than one would expect from a Hollywood production.

Cheney and propaganda

“Vice” touches aspects of the theme manipulation of public opinion. According to the film, an immense investment was made in language research with “focus groups” (representatives of the “normal” population to find propaganda formulas. So, the unloved inheritance tax was repressed with media help to a “death tax” and the threatened “global warming” was largely trivialized to the more gentle “climate change.”

This tactic of reinterpreted words, emotionalization and other language-confusions was applied in Germany. As in the US, this strategy was very successful for many years in immobilizing state services, defending wars and demonizing political rivals. The tactic is used by parts of the democrats and is not only a characteristic of republicans. This is also clear in the film. Both US parties have united into a “war party.” At present, they are only different in questions of political cosmetics. “Vice” damages the current media myth that the US political system first lost its well-meaning nature through Donald Trump.

Control-techniques: Who “creates” reality?

At the moment, a satiation toward the stale, empty words “freedom,” “values,” and individuality” is manifest at least for informed persons in the course of the German-American estrangement. Parts of the spirit of the times rebel against genuine and alleged US propaganda. No “all-clear signal” can be issued. The republic spin-doctor Karl Rove, a famous-notorious propaganda figure, also appearing in the film was dominant during the Bush era according to journalists. He displayed a boundless self-glorification but presumably had a true core and therefore is still authoritative today:

“We are now an empire and we create our own reality when we act. While you rationally study this reality, we will act again and create different new realities that you can also study. We are the actors of history and all of you will have to study what we do.”


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