Give Us Three Minutes and We’ll Give You the World

The original version of Robocop hilariously satirizes TV news and television commercials.  Sure, a movie made in the 80’s is bound to get a couple things wrong, but overall it captures the shallowness of modern culture excellently.  Years on our culture still too often feels like an 80’s action movie.

One of the general plot points in the science fiction movie Robocop is that a military industrial corporation is trying to take over the police force of Detroit.  Knowing now how are police have often been militarized, thanks in part to the military industrial complex, a good deal of this movie is still more relevant than one would hope it would be.  

Police Militarization in the Media and in Pop Art

Robocop-Motorbike-4

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/14/ferguson-protests-policing_n_5680594.html

The above link is an article from Huffington Post where Police are actually engaging with the protestors in St. Louis instead of using force against them.  This is what police should be doing.  I have have been especially hard on Police through this blog because of the increasing militarization and excess use of force that we have seen throughout the country.  Not just in Missouri, but as an overall trend.  However, there are some officers in a St. Louis suburb that are engaging with protestors int he right way and they should be commended.  

Our police officers should be a part of our communities and not something terrifying that stands outside and apart from communities.  They have a hard job, I’ve never denied that.  However, they are supposed to protect and serve citizens, which is a mission that seems lost on a more and more consistent basis across the country, due largely to the increase in SWAT teams and the movement of equipment from our war zones to our police departments.  

Yesterday I watched the new Robocop.  It can’t compete with the classic version from the 1980’s that was actually a pretty smart satire in the form of a sensationally violent 80’s action movie.  The new movie has many faults, mostly in the action scenes that are bloodless and cartoon like.  However, the movie is not completely stupid and not without its merits.  One of the things that movie does get right is the idea of a corporation moving military equipment from foreign war zones to our cities and communities.  This is something that is actually being done in reality and the movie uses science fiction to heighten what is being done in reality.  (The movie also deals, although slightly superficially, with the ideas concerning our increasing use of drones, our manipulation of the media by corporations, the way our corporations are stateless actors that think outside of what is good for the nation state, and our unjust occupation of foreign countries.  However, even if some of these things are being dealt with on somewhat of a superficial level, it is great to see a big money tent-pole movie that actually have these ideas included in it.)   

I am glad to see our mainstream media focusing more on this problem in light of what has happened in Missouri, although of course I wish the root cause of it had never happened.  I am also glad to see some police officers realizing their true mission and acting as part of the community.  Third, I was happy to see a piece of pop art that dealt with these subjects.  Hopefully there will be continued awareness brought to these issues through the media and entertainment.  

Shivering in Bed Watching Robocop

Well, today got lost in the shuffle and I didn’t get to post as much as I would have liked to.  Shinyribs played Blues on the Green last night at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas.  The final estimate for the crowd was 16,000 people.  That is the most people I have ever played for.  I got swept up in the moment and the next thing I knew I was doing shots of Jameson out of a Philadelphia Eagles shot glass at 1am.  Time warp to today and I was laying in bed in the dark watching Robocop.  So the moral of the story is: if you play to a large crowd it eventually leads to you alone shivering in the dark watching Robocop.  Or at least that is where it led me…

Robocop and the Reality of Robot Wars

Sometimes you can pick up new ideas in the strangest of places.  For Christmas my brother bought me a magazine called Geek that had a feature about the new Robocop movie that is being made.  He bought it as a present of fun.  Both of us share a love for the extreme violence and brilliant satire of the first Robocop movie.  It is insanely quotable and beneath its sensationalist action picture front is a deeply subversive satire of fascism, the military industrial complex, the news, and many other aspects of modern American life.

I was not expecting much out of the remake as most remakes are dreadful.  It’s still too early to tell how the new remake will fair, but the director of the new picture, Jose Padhila, seemed of rare intelligence for an action movie.  He talked about how the new film will include ideas derived from our modern drone war.

I mentioned, in an earlier post, the new footage that has appeared of Boston Dynamic’s robots.  These are robots that are being built with largely Pentagon funding.  It appears that drones are just the first step in automated warfare.

The director, in the Robocop article, raised a series of interesting questions and ideas.  Since the Vietnam War a large degree of our country’s opposition to war has derived from the bloodshed of our fellow citizens.  Would the protesting of the Vietnam War have reached such heights without kids coming home in body bags?  Although, in a now volunteer army, the bloodshed affects fewer families and other citizens than ever before, a large degree of what opposition there was to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq came out of the blood and treasure that our country is losing in those wars.  The protests that arose from those wars were nowhere near the levels that we saw during Vietnam.

So the director brought up the question that if there is very little or no bloodshed in warfare, on our side, will we allow our government to fight wars for far longer than they need be?  Many people feel that the drone war that Obama is waging is immoral, but there is no large scale revolt to it.  I have my doubts that changing the President would change the nature of the way we are fighting war right now.  Although there is a faction of the Republican Party that is against intervention overseas, most Republican politicians are more hawkish than Democrats.  I think if we are going to change the nature of how and why we fight wars it is going to have to come from the bottom.

What happens if troop deaths are kept to a minimum because their most dangerous tasks have been replaced by robots?  If we can fight wars where only one side really suffers will our fear of war diminish?  With technology stacked on our side in ways not before imagined, will we become even more hawkish in our relations with other countries?  These are only a few of the questions are being raised by this scary technology.  Some of you may laugh at the idea of robots fighting wars, but do you homework and you will see that this is no longer the prospect of science fiction movies.  One does not need to be a genius to look at what we are now doing with drones, view the footage below, and see how we are at the cusp of dangerous new technology.  We better start asking moral and ethical questions now, before it is too late.  Soon enough the terrible dreams of our writers will be the new normal.

Link to Boston Dynamic’s Military Robots:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAspqCD34Hw

(I think they could have done without the dramatic music.  The implications of this clip are scary enough without it.)

That B Movie Future is Now

Who thought that by this point in our history our world would look like science fiction B movies from the 80’s?  The three movies I have in mind are Robocop, The Running Man, and Ice Pirates.

In the movie Robocop the government of Detroit can no longer take care of security, so they entrust a private corporation to do so.  Private corporations are militarizing our police around the nation as we speak thanks to Homeland Security.  And look at all the mercenary contractors taking the place of jobs our military used to do in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.  Hell, with Detroit going bankrupt I wouldn’t even be surprised if a private company bought the whole city.

The Running Man is a movie about reality TV taken to the extreme.  Criminals play the game The Running Man for a chance at freedom while they are chased by stalkers who try to kill them.  I feel like we’re only a couple extreme challenges away from that.  And with some of these shows Ice Road Truckers and Naked and Afraid it probably won’t be long before someone dies on one of these shows.  If someone doesn’t and the ratings start to slide, I don’t expect it will be to long till a TV executive pushes things even further.

Ice Pirates, the worst movie by far of the lot, and a movie I haven’t seen for some time, is about a bunch of space pirates that steal and transport water because it’s so rare.  With global warming there is going to be a lot of wars over water.  Central Texas, where I live, is going to be in big trouble, too.

That’s what we’ve done folks.  We’ve taken this big beautiful blue ball, the only home we’ll ever know, and turned it into an 80’s science fiction B movie.  Is everyone happy now?  When someone asks what happened to Miami or some other place that gets cut off from the rest of the country due to rising sea levels, I just hope there is a big muscle bound Austrian around to say a one liner like, “It had to split”.