Okay, so I can’t quite follow this.
I’m sure Peter’s right about the merits of The International; I haven’t seen it and don’t plan to. But I have a hard time following the logical threads to see exactly how it’s supposed to be a socialist tract. Because it is critical of capitalism? Even if that were the case, being critical of capitalism isn’t sufficient to make a person, movement or movie socialist. I know we’re trapped in binaries in this culture, but come on. I mean, saying “the movie doesn’t put much stock in bankers, banking, or anything related to the financial system” is pretty far from proof positive that it endorses a socialist system. Anarchists, for example, aren’t fond of banks, but are farther from socialism than they are from capitalism. (Even if the movie is saying not just “this bank is bad” but “all banks are bad,” couldn’t that mean the point is “let’s abolish banks as systems of illegitimate control” rather than “let’s bring the banks under the control and ownership of the people”?)
Perhaps it’s not capitalism, just capitalism’s excesses—the rapacious bankers who abuse their money and power—which are at fault? Maybe, but when the person delivering the lecture is revealed to be a former Communist stalwart, one whose fall into the banking-world cesspool requires redemption, it’s hard to interpret it any other way.
First, I don’t know that you can fairly call illegal actions in the service of capitalist enterprise capitalism’s excesses. Surely being opposed to crime, whatever the motivation, doesn’t make one opposed to capitalism. I hardly think Peter alone is guilty of seeing socialist critique where there is none. It’s a pretty constant American hobby. There’s a couple things wrong here that you see often. The first is assuming that an attack on capitalism amounts to support for socialism. Socialism means something, and while I don’t blame Peter for taking a rather liberal use of the term, I do think that we in America have rendered the term near meaningless through overuse and misuse. The other problem I have, and I think people do this all the time, is to assume that support for capitalism means support for all of the consequences of capitalism. So saying “capitalism puts too much power in the hands of corporate interests” becomes an anti-capitalist statement. I think that’s not a productive way of looking at things.
What I would like to ask Peter is whether or not he really finds the story of a powerful corporation breaking the law to serve its interests unbelievable, or if he just thinks that the degree to which it happens in this movie is unrealistic. For sure, it probably is unrealistic, being an action thriller. But if the suggestion is that fidelity to capitalism means balking at the portrayal of some large corporations as being unconcerned with law or morality, then fidelity to capitalism requires having a false vision of the world. One of the things that worries me about contemporary conservatism is how disarmed conservatives have become when it comes to recognizing the plain facts of human power politics. These are true things: there are the moneyed and the powerful; there are the poor and powerless; and the first group often uses that power and money to make sure they stay in power and the second group stays out of it; and they often break our rules in doing so. That seems to me to be a simple fact not of capitalism but of human society, as much as I believe progress can and must be made. But conservatives, so sensitive to communism sneaking in the back door, now seem entirely too quick to dismiss any notion of the rich preying on the poor. Look, money carries with it power, and often that power is used unfairly or immorally. That’s just life. If saying so is anti-capitalist then capitalism has evolved into a fantasists ideology.
As to the charge of a thriller being boring, however, there is no defense.