Unpleasant biographical revelations have long disrupted our appreciation of beloved artists. Ezra Pound was likely a fascist and T.S. Eliot an anti-Semite; James Brown beat women and Chuck Berry videotaped them peeing — so it goes. We rationalize this by saying that, after all, the works we admire are created by human beings, with human flaws, and that the shortcomings of the artist do not detract from the art. Still, separating the two is difficult work, so it’s not all that surprising that Vanguard News Network correspondent Mark Rivers has a difficult time justifying his admiration of The Man Who Wasn’t There:
“Naturally, I’m not going to write them off just because they’re Jews… [T]he Coens are fine storytellers. In this age of Lowest-Common-Denominator crap coming from Hollywood, it’s nice to see a thought-provoking comedy once in a while, even if it is brought to us by more of those filthy Yids.”
The Vanguard News Network, a self-described confederation of “disgusted and disaffected writers driven out of academia and journalism by the Semitical Correctness that has denatured our culture” operating under the banner “No Jews. Just Right.” and apparently based out of Kirksville, Missouri, is a website of political and social commentary promoting a “White Nationalist” agenda. Recent content includes a wishful address by President Bush, admitting that he was duped into invading Irag by “the entire Jewish community in America, which so vigorously pushed the idea of waging war against Iraq via their newspapers, magazines and TV shows.”
As the review excerpted above might indicate, the movie reviews on VNN are similarly bound to the supremacist agenda. In a not unrepresentative passage from his review of AI: Artificial Intelligence, Rivers jokes: “The articulate negress in a power suit at the head of the table points out that the real ‘conundrum’ (I wonder how many bananas it took the dialogue coach to get her to pronounce it correctly?) is whether…” etc., etc. Obviously, the first and most sensible reaction to a statement such as this is outrage. But, given time, one’s righteous vigilance gives way to a certain morbid fascination.
The VNN and the movement it represents are, after all, a mustache-twirling, Snidely Whiplash embodiment of evil so far removed from one’s understanding as to be a curiosity. They’re self-made straw men: no one could invent an enemy so easy to despise, or, for that matter, to dismiss. Much of their fuming seems as motivated by a vague suspicion of their own impotence as by anything else; at the conclusion of Rivers’ review to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, he works himself into a fury culminating in what appears to be a fantasy of violence exacted by himself upon two fictional characters. We’ve gone from burning crosses to a Burn Book.
It’s also oddly (and perhaps naively?) satisfying to browse through an archive of White Nationalist movie reviews. Reading a recent review of The Notebook on VNN-affiliate Rich Brooks’s “White Alert” website, it’s difficult to avoid feeling superior to Brooks on intellectual and aesthetic grounds as well as moral. Amid praise for the film’s marginalizing of black performers, eminently [sic]-able references to actresses Gena “Rolands” and Rachel “McBride,” and a description of James Garner as having “matured and ripened like a fine wine or aged cheese,” Brooks admits that The Notebook (The Notebook!) made him cry, and concludes: “’Sweet and very tender but not saccharine’ is how I’d sum it up in seven words,” in an apparent sop to those readers that pass along his judgments by telegram and don’t wish to paraphrase.