I complain about the cheesiness and flimsiness of conservative popular culture a lot of time, but I feel like Tom Clancy has always been a worthy foe in terms of being able to create compelling storylines that do a decent (I haven’t been converted) job of selling conservative policies and ideals. Part of his talent is for inventing villains, from the Japanese pilot who destroys the Capitol in an eerie prefiguring of the September 11 attacks in Debt of Honor to the Chinese leaders who invade Siberia. And nowhere has the Clancyverse done better at upping the stakes and turning conservative boogeymen into national security threats than in the Rainbow Six franchise, which pits an elite multinational team (Clancy’s world is scary, but he does seem to love him some multilateralism). The Rainbow Six team’s gone from combatting eco-terrorists, nuclear terrorists who acquire fissile material during the collapse of the Former Soviet Union, fascists who are hoping to manipulate oil prices and financial markets , anarchist and “Third World” bio-terrorists, border terrorists who threaten that Church of Capitalism, Las Vegas, Hutu rebels, and apparently now Occupy Wall Street-inspired terrorists:
I would love to see the mic check that goes into getting consensus for this kind of nonsense. But as much as I’d just love to knock this impulse, I’m also dead sure that while most of Hollywood will blame one-off Ponzi schemers for much of the recession, conservative artists will try to help cement a narrative that the 99 percent movement and advocates of financial system reform are inherently anti-capitalist and violent. Our culture will identify a few individual villains in the halls of power. But some narratives will demonize wide swaths of people who protest against not just Bernie Madoff and his assorted pop-culture knockoffs, but the bankers of Margin Call and the culture that made them so successful. It’s a lot easier to paint protesters as violent thugs than it is to explain what the financial system as a whole did to us, and helped us do to ourselves. But just because those narratives are easy doesn’t make defaulting to them good storytelling or good politics.