Saturday, May 2, 2009

From Korea to Korporate Amerika: The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Movie review by Columbia Jones
Directed by Jonathan Demme

…Unfortunately, Demme gets a little too carried away with other, less inspired revisions, subjecting this "Candidate's" A-list cast to B-movie machinations such as secret labs behind bedroom walls, credibility-stretching sci-fi brain implants, villainous mad scientists with vague accents and Nazi comb-overs, and gimmicky, overly convenient plot devices that defy common sense.1

The 2004 remake of John Frankenheimer’s 1962 Manchurian Candidate leap frogs over the comfortable old Cold War conception that “brainwashing” was something foreigners did to “our boys,” then lands on both feet in the boardrooms of corporate America. Implausible? Hardly. In an era wherein corporations rule nations and create wars to fill the coffers of weapons manufacturers and reconstruction contracts, buying mind-controlled killers and leaders has only awaited the technology. Science fiction? Not at all. And while The Manchurian Candidate is fictional, what it alludes to is not.

First of all, the choice of director indicates more than entertainment fare. Jonathan Demme’s award-winning, insightful documentaries such as Swimming to Cambodia and the recently released The Agronomist, coupled with thoughtful films such as Beloved, Philadelphia, and The Silence of the Lambs, indicate that he is interested in probing boundaries, including (one might assume) the boundaries between corporations, politics, and the covert technology of mind control. Not a science fiction film in the bunch.

Secondly, contrary to the fluff that passes for film reviews (such as the review the quote above is from), films that shape public opinion about hot topics are exceedingly interesting to governments. Heinrich Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, understood this tenet of social engineering well and was a master at implanting repetitious words and symbols in film and newsprint that would stir the emotions he was after. Reach into the memory hole and pull out the BBC article, “Army turns to Hollywood for advice” (October8, 2001): “American intelligence specialists are reported to have ‘secretly’sought advice on handling terrorist attacks from Hollywood film-makers.”2 George W. Bush sat on the board of Silver Screen Management, Colin Powell on the board of Time-Warner. Since 1991, the CIA has had its own Entertainment Liaison Officer.3 And remember the release of Black Hawk Down, the blatant re-write of American involvement in Somalia? The film’sWashington premiere was attended by VP Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Oliver North, and a division of generals.4

The truth is that Hollywood and the Pentagon have been tight since long before 9/11:
Hollywood film-makers have frequently changed plot lines, altered history and amended scripts at the request of the Pentagon, according to recently released military documents. Producers and directors have often agreed to changes in order to gain access to expensive military hardware or to be able to film on military property.

On many occasions films have been changed so that the US armed forces are shown in a more heroic fashion. Film companies agree to the changes because doing so saves them millions in production costs. If film-makers do not agree to alterations, assistance is withheld.5

Films that have won Pentagon approval are Armageddon, Air Force One, The Jackal, Top Gun, Pearl Harbor, Bad Company; films that haven’t, The Thin Red Line, Apocalypse Now, Sergeant Bilko, Platoon, Independence Day, SpyGame. I wonder how the new Manchurian Candidate stands.

The Institute for Creative Technologies is even scarier. An interactive virtual-reality warfare simulation center and think-tank in Marina Del Ray, operated by the University of Southern California, ICT has been contracted by John Rendon, a “strategic communications” firm hired by the Pentagon, to come up with ways by which Hollywood might help the present antiterrorist war effort – to the tune of $45 million. At its 1999 inaugural banquet, Jack Valenti, president of Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), was keynote speaker. His opening volley was, “Los Angeles is not the entertainment capital of the world. (Pause.) Washington, D.C. is the entertainment capital of the world!” (Laughter.)6 Much food for thought here.

Thirdly, this remake of The Manchurian Candidate is not just entertainment because – well, because of Liev Schreiber.7 In The Sum of All Fears (2002), a Tom Clancy spinoff in which the nation and its leaders are caught off guard by a terrorist attack, Schreiber [which means writer in German] played CIA agent John Clark. Completed before 9/11, the film was however not released until thefollowing May. Its premiere in Washington, D.C. was attended by the vice chair ofthe Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretaries of the Navy and Air Force. – In otherwords, The Sum was one of the first films to come out of the post-9/11 joint venture between Hollywood and the Pentagon and was probably therefore on the “approved” list. Schreiber’s character – whom many believe was stronger than Ben Affleck’s Jack Ryan – was coached by (who else?) the CIA. Schreiber: “We also had an actual Agency officer, a guy named Chase Brandon, who was a field op for about 20 or 30 years. He was our technical consultant on the film and he would show me some things.”8 This is how thingsare done now. The Pentagon and CIA wisely follow Goebbels’ lead.

In essence, the new Manchurian Candidate is a fictional plot that attempts to envision the danger that powerful global interests – amalgams of economic and political interest – might represent for nations. Ever since ancient Greek drama, good fiction has attempted to reflect probable realities so that the body politiccan emotionally experience and examine their complexities. Demme seeks to do just this in Manchurian Candidate while treading a delicate(Pentagon?) line.

Frank Sinatra and the influences behind him recognized how real were the concerns brought up by novelist Richard Condon’s vision of a Cold War truth, which may be why, after John F. Kennedy’s assassination – an assassination engineered by several crosswires of Manchurian Global-like interests, an assassination that made use of a “lone nut” –Sinatra bought up the rights to the film he had starred in and shelved it for a quarter of a century.

Though still labeled a “political satire,” the 1962 Manchurian Candidate was for a long time in a category all byitself. Now,it has been joined by its present reincarnation. Both may be political thrillers, but because they are about the ultra-secret “psy-ops” technology of mind control, they are in a small club, indeed.

Now, forty years after Sinatra did his military and intelligence friends a favor by burying the greatest role he everplayed until they deemed the American people “ready” to see it, even a remake has been allowed. Why?

Because the public’s ability to read fiction’s images and symbols is finally disabled after years of “entertainment,” so there is no longer any danger in revealing the truth, as long as it is revealed in the guise of fiction. Turn the truth into entertainment and watch literalist critics like Blackwelder interpret a director’s bold attempt to choreograph sophisticated mind control technology and its side effects of lost time and dreamscapes as mere sci-fi “B-movie machinations.” No, Mr. Blackwelder, it is your perception that is B-grade. Arthur C. Clarke’s sage insight now falls on deaf ears: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

This public process of mind control – perception control – is what Michael A. Hoffman explores in his excellent little book, Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare 9. The remake of The Manchurian Candidate goes further than its predecessor in revealing just how this magical technology is done because no one will take it seriously today; everyone will just watch and think it’s science fiction. Now you see the truth, now you don’t.

Whether Demme intended it or not, several features of the new Manchurian Candidate’s plot beg to be noticed: A connection between the 1991 Gulf War and South Africa? The evil South African doctor (played by Simon McBurney) has been hired by Manchurian Global to kidnapand program both Major Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) and Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) during their tour of duty in Kuwait 1991. One is to be programmed as a “lone nut” expendable for one hit only, the other for President of the United States. While it is now public knowledge that the U.S. government and U.S.-based corporations colluded on biological/ chemical warfare research with South Africa, I wonder: did some of their “research” end up as the Gulf War syndrome?

Childhood is when we are politically programmed. In the elementary school where the voting polls have been set up, children are on stage, dressed up as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, etc., and enacting a patriotic American drama very different from the one we are viewing. Despite the fact that both versions of Manchurian Candidate indicate that Marco’s and Shaw’s programming occurred only during their adult years in a war abroad, those familiar with mind control programming know that the stage for adult programming is set during childhood.

The necessity of incest or sexual abuse to mind control programming. The Oedipal scene between Raymond and his mother, Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw (MerylStreep), during which he sits like a young Adonis being groomed by her, impeccably reveals the incest bond essential to exploiting inner violence and turning it outward. Though the film would have us believe that Senator Shaw only recently sold her son’s mind – and freedom – to Manchurian Global, the truth is that it occurred long before in order to create the psychological profile that the South African doctor could properly exploit.

Two programming tracks. Raymond’s programming was total and therefore required a lifetime overhaul of everything he would have been but would now not be allowed to be, whereas Major Marco’s programming was the typical torture-hypnosis-drugs programming that all expendable “lone nut” assassins undergo. Demme hinted at Raymond’s innumerable “tune-ups” in the scene in which he is triggered by a phone call to enter a dreamscape self-abduction from his hotel room via mirror programming (symbolized by the magnificent wall mirror within a mirror within a mirror over the bed) and make his way magically to the operating theatre. Demme’s portrayal of Raymond as the programmed victim who has learned, after years of such “procedures,” to be obedient and smile at every horror,was accurate and heart-rending. Major Marco’s programming, on the other hand, was not nearly as comprehensive because he would be used only once and then dispensed with, as are all “lone nut” assassins.

Corporations and governments. This unhappy courtship has been going on since before outgoing President Eisenhower tried to warn the nation about the increasing power of the military-industrial complex. Now that the marriage has been consummated and we have been screwed, mind control technology is becoming but another commodity available on the world market to the highest bidders. This reality endangers all governments and their citizens. The Manchurian Candidate sets this problem squarely before us. The future has arrived, science fiction be damned.

"Fortunate Son.” Not only was this the title of a 1999 biography on George W. Bush 10– the author, James Howard Hatfield, 43, purportedly committed suicide two years after the book came out – but it was also a 1970 song by John Fogerty. The film closes with this song blasting:

Fortunate Son by John Fogerty

Some folks are born made to wave the flag,
Ooh, they're red,white and blue.
And when the band plays "Hail to the chief"
they point the cannon right at you.

It ain't me,
it ain't me.
I ain't no senator's son.
It ain't me,
it ain't me.
I ain't no fortunate one…

For those in the know about the great technical strides mind control programming has made in the past decades, Demme’s Manchurian Candidate gets closer to the truth than any film so far –so close, in fact, that those who have been its unwilling guinea pigs would be well advised to see the film with a friend, given that it is loaded with triggers, particularly telephone and mirroring triggers. After viewing it the first time, I came out shaking and wondering if subliminals had been used. The second time was easier and I was able to be more objective. Caveat vidor.
Though many movie goers will not grasp the political imperative hidden in the nightmarish folds of The Manchurian Candidate’s plot, others will. Do not be deceived by the sheen of the incredible. (Rememberthe Arthur C. Clarke rubric.) This technology exists and is now passing from military and intelligence agencies to global corporations and consortiums.

It’s a brave new world in which everything is for sale, even fortunate sons.

1.From“Conspiracy Dreary,” film review by Rob Blackwelder
3. Alex Constantine, “Collateral Brain Damage: The Hollywood Propaganda Ministry,” High Times, July 2003.
5. Duncan Campbell, “Top Gun versus Sergeant Bilko? No contest, says the Pentagon,” The Guardian, August 29, 2001.
6. James Der Derian, “9.11: Dreams, Lies, and Videotapes,”
7. Schreiber’s biography and family background are intriguing. (Is he an MK himself?) See

8. Chase Brandon originally worked for the 8. CIA’s Public Affairs Office (PAO), then became Entertainment Liaison Officer in 1996. He is also Tommy Lee Jones’ cousin. (See Constantine, footnote 3.)
9. Michael A. Hoffman II, Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare (Independent History and Research, P.O. Box 849, Coeur d’Alene ID 83816; 1989).
10. James Howard Hatfield, Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President (St. Martin’s Press, 1999; Soft Skull Press, 2001).