Archive for July, 2015
I’ve been writing about the Alongside Night Movie for over five years, starting when I was still trying to put together casting and financing to get it made. I’ve sold it hard on the libertarian content in the movie and how I believe a feature-length narrative film can be effective in approaching people — especially young people — to consider libertarian principles and comparing libertarian approaches with far-more-popular government-reliant policies.
The Alongside Night Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack just hit the market. We just started running the first radio commercial, beginning on Art Bell’s return to radio, Midnight in the Desert.
I’ve dedicated my career to the belief that storytelling can convey complex ideas to large audiences.. I became a libertarian because I read stories by Robert Heinlein. Many libertarians started with Ayn Rand.
This approach is called show-and-tell or to use an older term, a parable. History’s most effective teachers — Buddha, Jesus, Aesop, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Robert A. Heinlein, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ayn Rand — have taught by storytelling.
Masters of totalitarian propaganda including Goebbels, Lenin, Stalin, and FDR all understood that movies have been essential in mass communication.
Libertarians, Agorists, Voluntaryists, lend me your ears — and eyes.
Watch these clips from Alongside Night.
–J. Neil Schulman, who wrote the novel and made the movie
Let’s start with the plot from the most recent episode of the TNT series Proof, a paranormal drama about researchers attempting by scientific means to prove or disprove the reality of life after death.
In Season 1 Episode 6 “Private Matters” (July 21, 2015) one of the researchers — reminiscent of the 1983 movie Brainstorm — dies while wearing equipment recording his brainwaves and sophisticated computer algorithms record not only life memories but imagery suggesting transmissions from the afterlife. But when the researcher’s grieving widow is brought into the lab to separate memory imagery from possible afterlife imagery she freaks out that her late husband’s brainwave recordings of their life together is violating her privacy and sues to destroy the recordings.
I was immediately reminded of how — in a tabloid campaign reminiscent of The Banner‘s campaign against Howard Roark’s architecture for Enright House in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead or real-world yellow-paper campaigns conducted by Pulitzer or Hearst or Murdoch-owned newspapers — FNC’s Bill O’Reilly has been exploiting the grief from family members of murder-victim Kate Steinle to promote a new law cracking down on serial violators of U.S. immigration law.
Bill O’Reilly interviews Kate Steinle’s parents, James Steinle and Elizabeth Sullivan
This vile use of grief as a weapon is nothing new. Inflaming public passion by parading grieving family is business-as-usual for proponents of all sorts of more restrictive statism. After the Empire of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor hysteria about Americans of Japanese ancestry — with nothing other than race linking them to the enemy — led to American citizens’ property being seized while they were imprisoned in American concentration camps.
Every time a perp uses a gun to cause havoc gun-ban advocates parade out victims’ family members and use their tears as weapons to promote their totalitarian civilian-disarmament agenda.
If the perp can be associated with a foreign faction such as in the case of Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez who on July 17, 2015 committed a multiple-fatality shooting of Marine and Naval personnel in Chattanooga, TN, military officials will be brought on camera to express their teary-eyed rage.
The agenda is always the same: to take a criminal and his vile acts and — instead of focusing on how the public can arm themselves against future attacks — to inflame public outrage against some larger class of despised outsiders by recruiting the tears of family, friends, and co-workers as weapons stockpiled in the cause of tyranny.
No doubt there were some actual Russians who died at the hand of Ukrainians to justify Stalin’s mass starvation Holodomor and Nazis who were murdered by actual Jews used by Hitler to justify deporting Jews to Dachau and Auschwitz.
Letting one’s grief be the reason one becomes the pawn of master manipulators is understandable. They get you, like any other heartless con man does, when you’re at your most vulnerable.
But those in the media who use grieving to get ratings or, worse, to gain more power for their puppet masters, have no excuse. They are the very devil.
I revisit this topic in my article Weaponizing Grief
Let’s get one thing out of the way. Like the Hero Oscar Gordon in Robert A. Heinlein’s 1963 epic fantasy novel Glory Road, I’m a coward. Whenever possible. That doesn’t mean I’m not trained in arms and will use them to defend my cowardly life if necessary to remain alive and cowardly. I’m just too old to run away anymore.
I’m not a supporter of Donald Trump, or any other political candidate for that matter. I’m not only a coward but I’m an anarchist. Most people, even a lot of fellow anarchists, don’t know what the word means. It doesn’t mean not respecting the rights of other people and favoring chaos. That would be the nihilists. I mean that I’ve studied governments, empires, and statism and concluded the human race could do far better if affairs were organized in free marketplaces and other organization that doesn’t start with someone threatening someone else with violence or killing someone as an example to scare others into non-resistant compliance.
But I agree with Trump’s initial statement about John McCain. John McCain is no hero to me.
That doesn’t mean McCain isn’t brave and endured hellish conditions as a Vietnam War POW he chose not to escape for the sake of his fellow captured Americans. It does mean I don’t consider the job John McCain was doing as a soldier in an ultimately useless war that ended in the enemy’s victory was in any way service to the American people. McCain followed the orders of poltroons and by the trial standards established at Nuremberg his “just following orders” was no escape from moral turpitude. Certainly there is little virtue in McCain’s suspending his presidential run to lobby fellow senators to give unearned taxpayer billions to still unindicted financial criminals.
But even by the standards legendarily preached by General George Patton, there’s no “E for Effort” in warfare. Patton, like Trump, preferred winners. Alvin York in World War I and Audie Murphy in World War II — both Congressional Medal of Honor winners — are by the rules of warfare more entitled to be called heroes than service members who got captured and spent their service as prisoners. That’s not the opinion of this cowardly anarchist who never spent a day serving in the military. (If you don’t count the year I spent at age 14 wearing the United States Air Force uniform as a cadet information officer in the Massachusetts Civil Air Patrol, the Air Force Auxiliary.) That’s how the American government itself hands out ratings for military heroism.
My dad was found 4F and never recruited when he reported for duty after his World War II draft notice but if my dad had been accepted he likely would have played violin in Glenn Miller’s Army Air Force Band — Dave Schwartz, my dad’s roommate at the Curtis Institute of Music who played viola in that band, would have arranged for Colonel Miller to request him. Instead, my dad toured military bases in the U.S. as a solo violinist and played in war bond concerts. Does that make my dad’s “service” less worthy than my uncle Murray who spent the war as a U.S. army med tech in New Guinea? I don’t think so.
One of my first jobs was as a uniformed security guard for Holmes Security in New York City. Somewhere I can’t find it easily is a photo my dad took of me in my guard uniform, which if you didn’t know better could swear was the uniform of a Nazi SS officer. On one occasion I was assigned to join U.S. Secret Service, Israeli Mossad and New York City police as the protection detail for Yigal Allon, Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, on a visit to New York. I was the guy who was detailed to look for bombs. Does my working in the private sector mean I wasn’t “serving”? Does that make me a hero? I don’t think so.
There is a mythology of Service applied only to those who serve the State that questioning their heroism or service is unpatriotic. Donald Trump tripped that wire and that makes him briefly worthwhile to the libertarian cause. Someone’s job description is always up for rational analysis and there are no protective halos — not for soldiers, not for a president, not even for a Saint Mother Teresa or a Pope Francis.
Robert A. Heinlein graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served on a peacetime U.S. destroyer; during World War II he was a civilian worker in high-tech (for its time) defense work.
Robert A. Heinlein
None of this is anywhere near as important service as Heinlein’s work as a science-fiction writer (author of the pro-military novels Starship Troopers and Space Cadet, if that matters to you) whose work on the movie Destination Moon helped inspire the Apollo moon landings.
Or my dad’s work as a concert violinist.
Or, to be hoped, this cowardly anarchist’s work as a writer, publisher, activist, and filmmaker.
This desperate statist veneration of its armed forces and police as somehow being more valuable to a free society than civilians in a host of other jobs — and on this point I disagree with Heinlein — puts the world out of balance and leads to needless destruction.
I write this the day after the 2015 Anthem Libertarian Film Festival closed without playing the most focused, hard-core and just-released libertarian movie — the one based on my novel of the same title, the only one where the libertarian author also wrote, produced, and directed the adapted movie — my own movie, Alongside Night.
So why should anyone else give a damn? Why should even I give a damn when Alongside Night was one of the opening-night movies previewed in a rough cut at the 2013 Freedomfest that hosts the Anthem Film Festival and a few days ago my movie just had its commercial release the same weekend as the 2015 Anthem Film Festival/Freedomfest as a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack … and from all indications my movie has a bright future in multiple-venue and multiple platform distribution?
It’s because I’m one of that rare breed of novelists, screenwriters, and directors able to package a commercial-grade story with core libertarian themes that can also entertain people who disagree with its ideas. People who haven’t done any of this but are in positions of critical judgment over the artistic output of those like us who have done it need to pay attention.
I have four decades in as a celebrated libertarian novelist with major celebrity endorsements, awards, and reviews on my books; also as a libertarian editor and book publisher; a journalist and opinion writer published in major newspapers and magazines; screenwriter for primetime network TV; and I also won three film-festival awards for the first feature film, Lady Magdalene’s, that I produced, wrote, and directed — including a “Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Values” given to me at the 2011 Anthem Film Festival. Got that? The very libertarian film festival that I’m calling out here already gave me an award and its parent convention already played my movie that they rejected as unworthy.
Here’s the Anthem Film Festival’s description on Amazon.com’s Withoutabox website inviting filmmakers to submit:
U.S. Narrative Feature
Narrative features must highlight a libertarian theme. They can be any genre–comedy, drama, action, mystery, etc. They must present a problem created by authoritarian control and resolved by personal innovation or free enterprise. The theme may be subtle. The authority could be a parent, employer, or school board, for example; it does not have to be a government. We are looking for films that celebrate individual initiative, personal accountability, and self-reliance.
Say what else you want about Alongside Night as a movie. Maybe you don’t like my storytelling, my directing, the acting performances, the editing, the music, the visual effects. But if you’re a libertarian wanting your values to compete in the marketplace with movies carrying anti-libertarian content and promoting anti-libertarian themes, you still have to acknowledge that the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival’s call for entries describes Alongside Night. If Alongside Night had played at the 2015 Anthem Film Festival it would have been the only narrative feature film this year.
After receiving 300 film submissions the Anthem Film Festival did not select to screen a single narrative feature film — that means a feature-length movie telling a fictitious or fictionalized story, whether drama or comedy — at its 2015 festival. It played only documentaries and short films that usually appeal only to academics and indie film buffs — movies that with rare exception never have commercial appeal to a wide audience.
For a thriller like Alongside Night with a star-driven cast of actors with major film and TV credits, a film score by a composer with credits in dozens of major Hollywood movies and recorded by the National Symphony of Ukraine, visual effects done by a team that did effects for James Cameron’s Titanic, and produced, written, and directed by the only libertarian-feted author who crossed over into being a libertarian feature filmmaker — the only major libertarian movie release this season — not to play at the only film festival claiming to be libertarian is disgusting. That’s a true statement even when made by the subject of that observation, himself.
I don’t need the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival for my movie to succeed both in finding its audience and getting noticed in the media. See my article “Making Liberty Go Viral.”
But I already saw a previous attempt at a libertarian film festival — Jason Apuzzo and Govinda Murty’s 2004-2008 Liberty Film Festival go under as soon as it aligned itself with the neocon David Horowitz Freedom Center.
This year’s FreedomFest, run by Anthem festival director Jo Ann Skousen’s husband, Mark Skousen — allowed GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Marco Rubio a keynote platform speech at the convention without having a libertarian interlocutor to challenge them on their anti-libertarian positions.
A festival representing itself as pro-liberty — and that’s both Freedomfest and the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival — needs what Andy Levy said about me on Fox News’ Red Eye — “full-on” libertarians who don’t soften their expression to appeal to liberals in the media or conservatives inside the beltway.
As I already said, I don’t need Freedomfest or the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival. I can get my movie out without their help.
But we do need libertarian conventions and film festivals in general to popularize libertarian ideas and get them traction in the mainstream culture.
If Jo Ann and Mark Skousen are not to follow Jason Apuzzo and Govinda Murty into having their outreach diverted by statists in libertarian clothing, they’d better pay attention to why I have a successful four-decade career as a libertarian breaking through into the mainstream media: New York and London book publishers, the Los Angeles Times book review and opinion pages, magazines like National Review and Reason, CBS prime-time network television, and now commercial movie outlets.
I already posted on the Freedomfest Facebook page a suggestion for next-year speakers.
I strongly advise them to stop using trivial differences of personal taste or marginalization of the undiluted libertarian expression as a reason to sabotage their own core mission of popularizing “free minds and free markets” and to take my decades of experience into account.
They might also take into account that if Pat Heller and I had not run into each other at FreedomFest in 2011 when I got my Anthem award for Lady Magdalene’s, Alongside Night never would have secured the financing to get made.
Alongside Night Executive Producer Patrick A. Heller
with Anthem Libertarian Film Festival Director Jo Ann Skousen
Photo Courtesy of Liberty’s Outlook
Like or not, Mark and Jo Ann Skousen are godparents to the movie production of Alongside Night.
Postscript July 18, 2015:
In email correspondence following our public exchange of comments at jneilschulman.agorist.com Jo Ann and Mark Skousen wished to make clear that they do not in any way endorse my films, and I wished to make clear that the film festival run by Jo Ann Skousen judges libertarian content in films to be anathema. Mark Skousen also wrote that I’m quickly becoming persona non grata at FreedomFest. If FreedomFest does not reverse its course and stop providing higher profile platforms for Republicans and Neocons than hard-core Rothbardian/LeFevrian/Konkinian libertarians, that will be a badge of honor.