Last Night Sean Hannity devoted the entire hour of his Fox News program to the documentary “Generation Zero.” This morning Fox Nation featured it on their web site as a “Must-See” film.
Generation Zero recently made its public debut at the Tea Baggers Ball in Nashville and was subsequently screened at CPAC, where it was introduced by the terminally choleric Andrew Breitbart. The film was produced by David Bossie of Citizens United, the plaintiff in the recently decided Supreme Court case that granted corporations unprecedented financial participation in federal elections. It was directed by Stephen Bannon who, in another life, produced the Sean Penn directed “The Indian Runner.” Don’t tell Bill O’Reilly, who is boycotting Penn’s films.
I haven’t seen this film (it’s not actually been released yet), but its pedigree and cheer leaders reveal something of its intended mission. The web site says the film is not about the failure of capitalism, but it goes on to say that it will “change everything you thought you knew about Wall Street and Washington.” That assertion makes it difficult to separate the movie’s message from the tenets of capitalism. From reviews and discussion of the film, it seems the basic premise is that the current economic meltdown we find ourselves struggling through was caused by the selfishness and egocentrism of the children of Woodstock. This is a peculiar and illogical theory.
It’s a peculiar theory in that it presumes to blame the “Baby Boom” generation for today’s economic catastrophe. But in doing so, the film is really blaming the poor parenting skills of the “Greatest Generation” who, in their zeal to shield their kids from the pain of depression and war, acceded to their every material want and raised them to be shallow and self-indulgent. That’s a pretty harsh condemnation of the generation that survived decades of trauma in the first half of the last century. The filmmakers are essentially charging the generation that fought its way through the economic disasters of the 1930’s and the worldwide conflagrations of the 1940’s with raising their children to be so socially decadent as to lead the nation into near economic collapse. Do the filmmakers really believe that these parents passed no lessons on to their kids about the hardships they endured?
It’s an illogical theory in that it attempts to create linkage between the hippies of the 1960’s and the financial barons of the 1990’s. So much of the rhetoric of right-wing history revisionists relies on castigating the youth movement of the 1960’s. They are portrayed as drug-addled degenerates and dropouts who contributed nothing of value to society. Their preoccupation with trivialities like civil rights, peace, and free love, permanently labeled them as subversive and anti-social. Since when did their reputation get rehabilitated to the point that they are now seen as captains of industry and finance with the blood of our capitalistic empire on their hands? Surely many former hippies went on to successful careers, but I would venture to say that not one of them became the CEO of AIG or Merrill Lynch.
The Baby Boomers that took the helm of big business were the ones that kept their hair short and listened to Pat Boone in the 60’s. They were the hall monitors and the narcs at their prep schools. They were born to wealth and privilege. It was they, who were already inbred with self-indulgence and egotism, who held the reins of power in the 2000’s. It certainly was not a bunch of idealistic, public school, counter-culture, former flower children who somehow grew up to be greedy sociopaths.
It wasn’t a cabal of aging hippies who invented credit default swaps. It was a cooperative of Wall Street pirates and their Washington patrons. It wasn’t the result of permissive parenting, but of submissive regulators and legislators. While Generation Zero dwells way too much on an unrealistic Leave It To Beaver version of the 1950’s, it actually does approach this part of the problem as well. The movie does not neglect the culpability of an entrenched financial class that has no historical memory whatsoever.
Ironically, that’s exactly what Michael Moore presented in “Capitalism: A Love Story.” Moore’s film was an indictment of the coziness between Wall Street and Washington. And it assailed the notion that solutions had to be afforded to the tottering financial institutions, rather than to the suffering citizens who were the victims. So some of the themes in Generation Zero that are now being heralded by the rightist media were previously explored by Moore. But while there are clear parallels between Moore’s Capitalism and Bannon’s Zero, it is unlikely that either side will acknowledge it. The chasm is far too wide to cross. Even on Hannity’s show there was an exchange that came close to recognizing this ideological affinity, but it was ultimately ignored as they broke away to a commercial.
Sean Hannity: Is it the political system that is more corrupt? Because I believe Capitalism works. Capitalism is the answer.
David Bossie, Producer: Clearly Capital Hill is corrupt. Capital Hill is the problem, not Wall Street here.
Stephen Bannon, Director: I think it an inextricably linked network between Capital Hill and Wall Street. [...] You’ve had the American taxpayer, the average, middle-class American, paying taxes to bailout these big firms, and there’s been no change in behavior, no change in structure no change in regulation.
It’s interesting to see Bossie quickly suck up to Hannity and absolve Wall Street of any liability. It’s even more interesting to see Bannon contradict both of them and spread the blame evenly across the econo-political spectrum. But most interesting would be if all the people that go to see Generation Zero would pick up a copy of Capitalism: A Love Story as well. They may realize that Michael Moore is not the demon he’s made out to be by the right. And conversely, Moore might take a look at Generation Zero. If it isn’t stuffed with right-wing polemics and denunciations of 60’s “radicals,” perhaps he could promote it alongside his own movie.
If both of these films tell the same story of overarching corporate greed and government complicity, it would make a compelling double bill.