The massive success of Clint Eastwood’s pro-military, pro-America, anti-terrorism film American Sniper has many on the left very worried. Among the deeply troubled is left-wing commentary site Vox, which warns viewers of the dangers posed by the film it decries as “recruitment propaganda” for the “culture-war extremists” who watch Fox News.
Vox’s Amanda Taub argues that the film—which tells the complex, heroic story of America’s “deadliest sniper” Chris Kyle—throws “honesty” to the wind and embraces a dangerous “black and white” view of the war on terror. Her fear is that with all the accolades and the millions packing theater seats, the “propaganda” film will prove “frighteningly effective” in winning over Americans:
American Sniper has a problem. It’s a movie about a black-and-white distinction between good and evil, but it is set almost entirely in the Iraq War, which can only be honestly portrayed in shades of gray.
Faced with a choice between altering its narrative to account for that gray versus altering the facts of history, the film chose the latter. It adopted an “honesty shmonesty” approach to the war: in its retelling, Iraq was a fight of Good Americans against Bad Terrorists, led by Chris Kyle, the Good-est American of them all.
The result is a sort of Hezbollah martyr video for the Fox News set; recruitment propaganda for culture-war extremists. In the world of this movie, the Iraq war is an extension of the war on terror; heroes with guns are our only hope of salvation; and anyone who doubts that is part of the problem. And if the film’s historic box office success and many award nominations are anything to go by, that propaganda is frighteningly effective.
Taub makes clear by the end of her bitter analysis that what she’s really upset about is that the film doesn’t portray the Iraq war as the great evil she believes it to have been:
…the actual reasons for the Iraq war go unmentioned. The words “Saddam Hussein” are never uttered in the movie. Nor are “George Bush,” “Sunni,” “Shia,” or “weapons of mass destruction.”
As Zack Beauchamp points out, this depiction of the war is breathtakingly dishonest. The Iraq War was not a response to 9/11: this was a war America chose, officially based on reports of weapons of mass destruction that were implausible at the time, and that have since been proven false.
Vox’s Taub is joined by many others on the left, like Michael Moore and Seth Rogan, in their contempt for the critically-acclaimed film about a real-life American hero. But while the film has many on the left up in arms, according to its historic box office success, millions of Americans already embrace the film’s take on the war on terror—and one of Hollywood’s lone conservatives has demonstrated yet again there’s a massive audience for conservative films.