The Monopolization of Heroes by the State

Television and movies are full of heroes. Drama could hardly exist without them of course, but have you noticed that nearly every hero in modern dramas is associated with the state?
Here are dramas playing on TV in my town tonight, with the heroes following: Hawaii Five-0 – Police; Blue Bloods – Police…


Television and movies are full of heroes. Drama could hardly exist without them of course, but have you noticed that nearly every hero in modern dramas is associated with the state?

Here are dramas playing on TV in my town tonight, with the heroes following:

                       Hawaii Five-0           Police

                       Blue Bloods                Police

                       Whistleblower           Government justice officials (retired)

                       Without a Trace        FBI agents

                       Forensic Files             Government justice officials

                       Quantico                     FBI agents

And I haven’t even touched on the endless Law & Order franchise. Even if we venture into the realm of Star Trek, we still find heroes authorized by government. (The Federation.)

The same goes for movies. Here are three showing near me:

                       Mission Impossible            Government agents

                       The Equalizer 2                   CIA operative

                       Skyscraper                           FBI agent

You get the point. Certainly there are comedies and even the occasional exception among dramas, but the heroes of Hollywood are nearly all government authorized. Even when government agents are portrayed as wildly out of control and dangerous (as in Enemy of the State, for example), it’s good government agents who end up saving the day in the end.

When was the last film you saw that featured a heroic doctor or businessman or (gasp) a philosopher or saint?

Government + Violence = Good

It’s all too easy for dramas to major on violence. That’s the most obvious and visceral type of conflict, after all. But to make the violence good in some way, to sanctify it, is essential. If not, we end up writing stories about very bad people who succeed, and that strikes nearly all of us as wrong. (Thankfully.)

Why, then, should the sole agent of sanctification be the state? Historically this is a wild anomaly. Was Hercules state sanctified? Were Abraham or Moses or Jesus?

Were the Wright brothers or Bell or Edison? Or the Curies? Where they not heroes as well?

And what of Sherlock Homes or Huckleberry Finn or Robinson Crusoe or even Paul Kersey?

And yet Hollywood produces almost no heroes without also presenting the state as the womb in which heroism is formed. Honestly, it’s an artistic disgrace… a sycophantic sellout.

Two Big Reasons

There are many reasons why this is currently the case, including things like, “The first cop procedural made money, so everyone’s copying it.” Beneath these, however, are two big drivers:

  • US government agencies are major players in Hollywood. The Independent found that the Pentagon backed more than 1,100 movies – 900 of them between 2005 and 2017 – including Flight 93, Ice Road Truckers, and Army Wives. The book, National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood, catalogs many more and shows that the government suppressed plot lines about illegal arms sales, the CIA dealing in drugs, creation of bioweapons by the military, the interaction between private armies and oil companies, the treatment of minorities by the government, torture, and the failure to prevent 9/11. Matthew Alford and Robbie Graham cataloged still more in 2009.

  • Democracy has supplanted Christianity. As I’ve noted recently, it used to be that people looked to the Bible as a moral standard. Over the past couple of centuries, however, Christianity and its book have been removed and replaced with nothing at all. Filling that void has been DemocracyTM, which isn’t really democracy and which has simply become an idol. At one time the governments of the West had to show themselves legitimate by supporting and honoring the Bible or at least a Christian religion. Now they show themselves legitimate by lauding the amorphous “democracy,” which really amounts to lauding themselves.

So, we have a situation where government is all in all: There is no outside standard by which to judge. “Democracy” is both the government and the justification for government at the same time. But since logic is no longer taught in school (and since it is scary to insult power) nearly everyone accepts this as “The way things are… don’t make trouble.”

In this situation, why wouldn’t a government manipulate the stories people consume? Who’s going to complain? A few angry heretics?

And given all of this, are we really surprised that Hollywood turned into a den of abuse?

We desperately need an outside standard by which to judge the world. Our lack of one is becoming glaringly obvious.

I can survive with the Bible as a central reference, so long as no one gets a monopoly on interpretation. But if most people don’t want the Bible, that’s okay with me too, so long as we get some outside standard.

Anything that’s basically benevolent and separate from power will do.

* * * * *


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* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

13 thoughts on “The Monopolization of Heroes by the State”

  1. It was going on before television.
    “It is interesting to observe that in the year 1935 the average individual’s incurious attitude towards the phenomenon of the State is precisely what his attitude was toward the phenomenon of the Church in the year, say, 1500. … it does not appear to have occurred to the Church-citizen of that day, any more than it occurs to the State-citizen of the present, to ask what sort of institution it was that claimed his allegiance.” ~ Albert Jay Nock

  2. At some point, someone has to teach/instruct/lead. No one should coerce, force, or require anyone to do anything. As such, it leaves me with one question regarding your article, Mr. Rosenberg: Where did the Bible come from?

    1. The Bible was written by a variety of authors, between the years of about 550 BC and 120 AD. Some parts, of course, were handed down from earlier generations.

      1. I apologize, I should have been more clear. Who decided which books/stories would be in the Bible, as we know it today?

        1. By the third century BC the Old Testament was generally agreed upon. The first attempts at a New Testament “cannon” (agreed-upon text) began in the 2nd century, and the text was generally agreed upon by the 5th century AD. (The four gospels were pretty well agreed upon by the end of the 2nd century.)
          As for “who,” there were many hands trying to get their way, of course, but in the end a general consensus among believers in the texts was probably the strongest factor.

          1. Ok, so it was just a general consensus? There was no official determination by the Catholic Church? How about the Protestant Bible, which excludes 7 books found in the Catholic Bible?
            I guess my general point is that if we are going to rely on the Bible as an outside standard to judge the world, then we are also relying on the institution/people that collected and compiled the Bible as well.
            I do believe the Bible presents the world with the best way to live both individually and collectively. And just as Jesus opened up the Scriptures to his disciples on the road to Emmaus, so too do we all need help in understanding, applying, and practicing the Truths found in the Bible to our own lives.

          2. Quick responses:
            1. There were official determinations, of course, but not terribly far from the general consensus. These people were seriously committed to their texts; compromise was difficult at best; something foreign forced upon them wasn’t going to work.
            2. The “extra” Catholic books have always been disputed, and generally poorly accepted. If any have been included (however poorly) by institutional force, those would be the ones.
            3. The Bible stands on its own as an outside standard. If the people who wrote it were good/bad/fictional/whatever doesn’t matter in this regard: It is an outside point of reference available to all.

          3. Paul, I remember your interview at Anarchcast with Jeff Berwick about Bible. Your knowledge was quite impresive. How do you know that Bible was written between 550 BC to 120 AD? The oldest known Bible is from 8th-9th century AD. To my knowledge the jewish civilization was based on spoken words not writings. In the Bible the jewish kings were using messangers who were repeating kings’ words and suddenly they started using mail.

          4. Hi Wacek,
            The Dead Sea scrolls (from 100 BC or so) contain large sections of the Hebrew Bible, nearly identical with what we have. And we have the Septuagint Greek translation from a century or two earlier.
            The rest would take a long time to explain, and I can’t just now. Apologies.

  3. Christianity was central to the dominance of Europe, and it ameliorated the power of states, but it’s unlikely to return, despite its merits, because the Bible contains views that are regarded as immoral today, related for example to irrational vengeance and homophobia, and also reliance on a lot of magic that conflicts with science. But the initial growth of Christianity appears to have arisen through adulation of a compassionate and gentle hero in Jesus. Can we learn from that? Similarly, Communism, that grew to state tyranny, was initially based on protecting workers from unfair exploitation and aimed at the state “withering.” If we must have a new affiliation in order to reclaim a genuine direct democracy, can we learn from the growth of these other movements?

  4. Wow.
    I don’t often disagree with you, but I surely do on this essay.
    Over the past several years, I have publicly applauded the popularity of numerous shows that made the state their villain.
    Now, you may be right if you take an extremely narrow view of what “modern” means, as many of my examples are no longer making new episodes, but they’re pretty current.
    The X Files. Person of Interest. Star Wars. The Blacklist. The Bourne series. Snowden. Breaking Bad. The final few installments of Harry Potter. There were many others, which I will surely recall two seconds after clicking Submit.
    I’ll tell you… I don’t care who pays what think tank to take which opinion poll: if you want to know America’s gut opinion, ask anyone who went to the theatre opening week of “Independence Day.” When the spaceship looming over the White House suddenly looses a bolt of energy and blows the entire monument into Legos, the spontaneous shouts and *applause* from the audience — shocking in its revealing truth, and frankly somewhat gratifying — tells you all you need to know about Americans’ *genuine* feelings about their government.
    Here’s a reference to a source who feels the same way:

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