CAPSULE: It is no secret that the politics of this country are highly polarized and filled with more fire and smoke than with light. That is the problem that Brian Malone's PATRIOCRACY examines. You will not find a whole lot in PATRIOCRACY the film that you do not already know something about. If you did not know about these issues you probably would not be seeing this documentary in the first place. This film is a diagnosis of the problem without much in the way of a cure, though it does propose some solutions and tries to be optimistic about them. What you will get is at the least a reasonably complete statement of the problem of the polarization in one compact summary. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
For the past four years the United States has been as politically polarized and vitriolic as it has been in a century. The Congress has been at near standstill with a battle between confirmed liberals and extremist conservatives. Those who have tried to bridge the gap with moderate views have been admonished, sometimes their careers have been destroyed, and one, Gabriel Giffords, was nearly shot to death. Rallies of protest are frequent and the rhetoric is often hate-filled and vicious. Denver-based writer/director Brian Malone's film falls in two parts, one is a statement of the problem and one is of Malone's approaches to a solution. Both parts seem optimistic for the size of the problem. Along to provide voices of reason are respected experts like Bob Schieffer and Alan Simpson.
In looking at the polarization Malone examines several arenas of controversy contributing to the schism. He examines the role of the Internet. There was a time when if one had an outlandish political opinion, one was at least exposed to more moderate viewpoints on television and in the newspapers. But now the Internet connects people allowing someone with such a perspective to find many other people with similarly extreme viewpoints. On blogs, on commentary radio and television, one can surround oneself in a virtual community of people with similar ideas reinforcing those opinions in one another. One can easily avoid being exposed to countervailing opinions.
Malone looks at Fox News and MSNBC, which masquerade as news networks though they actually collect no news of their own. Frequently they simply just spread and even create rumor. Their programs look physically like network news programs with news-like graphics, newsroom-like backgrounds; they have the format of news programs with official-looking anchor people, but they provide the pre-chosen spin to news that has already been reported elsewhere. Malone calls then entertainment shows rather than news programs. Malone looks at how Fox News and MSNBC each provided their own spin to the Giffords shooting and the deficit crisis standoff.
The director looks at the 112th Congress, which Bob Schieffer characterizes as the worst, the nastiest, and the meanest Congress in his memory. He looks at the effects on elections of the Citizens United ruling from the Supreme Court which allows corporations to anonymously funnel huge funding into political campaigns as if the corporations were citizens. He considers that effect that ruling will have.
The film spends about seventy minutes presenting the aspects and facts of the polarization. Nothing it presents is at all surprising and most of it is familiar. But the case for there being urgent problems is cogent for those not already convinced. The last twenty minutes is spent on his suggestion for a solution to the problem. That there is a solution sounds good, but his solutions are not so convincing. Ex-Congressman Mickey Edwards has several steps but they are of dubious practicality. One of his steps is "reform campaign spending." (Great idea. I'll get right on it.) One is to get people to "forfeit party allegiance." (How hard can that be?) And so forth.
The approach used in the film is one of even-handedness. The film sides neither with the rightists or the leftists. That would be a quick way to alienate half of the audience. But Malone does get his point across. The United States political system is not yet irreparably broken, but it definitely needs some maintenance to get it working again. I am not greatly optimistic about Brian Malone's solutions or that enough people have the will and power to correct what is going wrong. But Malone makes a convincing case, if one is needed, that things that are wrong are going very wrong. I rate PATRIOCRACY a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. PATRIOCRACY will be available on DVD and digital download on July 17, 2012
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1916719/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/patriocracy/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2012 Mark R. Leeper