I would like to start on a somewhat unrelated note: I fucking hate Tom Hanks. It’s not just that he cultivates a saccharin liberal image, or that he’s known predominantly for playing crusty old men in highly acclaimed amerikan period-pieces that amount to little more than the old CNN opera (stay tuned for his inevitable role as singing Nixon at some point), no, it’s the utterly shallow and pretentious “first man of amerikkkan history” title he keeps chasing, all because somebody fucked up and casted him in Saving Private Ryan and now Hanks thinks he’s a historian. Year after year we get a Post or Ryan or Charlie Wilson’s War; or, failing that, a documentary series about humble, salt of the earth americana revolving around some lowest-common-denominator pablum like the civil war, the depression, pioneers, the second world war or all of the above if possible, narrated by the man himself, all designed to captivate the world’s tiniest audience: liberals who believe the end hasn’t come.
That’s what The Post is about, really. To assure their audience (again, about the smallest one you can imagine) that everything will be alright if we just Keep Calm and Be Amerikan. Why else would the film be called The Post and not The Times? You know, the actual paper that decided to publish the Pentagon Papers? It can’t possibly be that WaPo is the best, and most credible journalistic force assailing Trump at every turn. The NYTimes is too big, too institutional, too discredited. Amerikkkana is never a mirror, but a really soft club with which to nudge your enemies. In the world of amerikkkana pablum, Lincoln is actually a surprisingly modern liberal, Jefferson even more so. FDR was a prototype of Bernie, and Richard Nixon was actually George Bu—shit, I mean Trump. The liberal script gets edited every few years, they just missed one.
How do we know this is a film about Trump and the last gasps for decency and civic nationalism? Because they tell us so. “The premier political thriller in the age of Trump,” “more important than ever,” and other adulations accompany it and code it for the consumption of “the resistance.” Every rag of merit has already named it a smashing success, the National Board of Review named their #1 of 2017, and TIME and the AFI both have included it on top 10’s. They apparently forgot to tell the public, however, because at the time of writing, its limited release since December 22nd has grossed the 50 million dollar clintonite paean only 2 million bucks. But that might change when the film goes nationwide on the 12th, but I doubt it. Millenials are nostalgic for their childhoods, not their parents’ childhoods, and nobody wants to see what is overtly an anti-Bush film poorly updated for the Orange Menace.
The amerikan liberal’s historical fanfiction is a specific genre, and shares only characters in common with the real world wherein Lincoln was not an abolitionist, FDR was an anti-semite, LBJ escalated the war in Vietnam, Nixon (who was further “left” than Bill Clinton) ended it, and Barack Obama prosecuted more whistleblowers than any president in history. So this is where The Post is at—liberal historical fanfiction, Tom Hanks amerikana at its most cynical. The great beauty Amerika must be saved from Nixontrump. “We can’t let them do this!” Hanks cries. A chant of “Murka, murka, murka” rises in the bullpens of the Washington Post, Daniel Day-Lewis reprises his role as Abraham Baines Johnson and bestows upon Tom Hanks the sword of Lafayette, and Barack Obama humbly accepts a third term as president.
I assume that’s how the movie goes, I haven’t actually seen it. What? If that red-brown loser Zizek can do it goddamn it, why can’t I? How can one be expected to waste their time of this stuff? This is the kind of trash Fareed Zakaria gives fives stars when he isn’t faking bad Yelp reviews for Iranian restaurants in NYC.
In all seriousness, one doesn’t have to watch this dreck to know what its game is. It’s a film about institutions generally, and journalism in particular. The reason this film has the smallest audience imaginable is because somebody forgot to tell the sheltered millionaires who star in it that the era of institutions is over. The world is shrinking, the u.$. empire is in retreat. The film portrays a time when it was perfectly rational for an amerikan imperialist to pontificate on what’s going on in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Brazil, Honduras, Ecuador or Venezuela. Today the suzerainty of the u.$. is almost pathetic in its scope. Conservative in its hopes (mostly to stay together), and utterly cynical in its outlook. Its people have lost all illusions of amerikan dreams and institutions like journalism and democracy. The traditional media lives on credit, and survives only on its primetime comedies. When epochs come to a close, there are always champions and propagandists of the old order who epitomize both the sincere hopes of the old way, and its senile parochialism. Chivalry had Coucy and Froissart for deed and word, neoliberalism had Obama, NYTimes and, if you like, WaPo.
This is the era of Trump, of tribalism, of multipolarity and the shadow of the coming wars of redivision. The Post, and the liberal fossils responsible for it, take up the cry on behalf of the institutions, ignorant to the fact that they lay in ruins. At the end of his life, Froissart came to realize chivalry was indeed dead. I don’t think the neoliberals have as much sense.