Oh, to be young, hip and free now that murder is in the air.
If, as I believe, George Orwell was correct when he wrote that all art is propaganda, then what is trash? After watching the movie Down 3 Dark Streets (1954), pure, unfettered propaganda smells like the answer.
A few days after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt appointed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover as the Censor in Chief. Hoover teamed with popular "journalists" Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell, along with many Hollywood executives to overemphasize the victories of the Allies and send up the failures and incompetencies of the Axis. Well, if there has to be a bias, I'll likewise err in favor of killing Nazis. Unfortunately, Orwell was also correct in his various depictions of leaders as soulless individuals who misuse their power simply because they can. That leaves us with two types of fascism: one where jackbooted thugs stomp on the faces of their enemies for the good of the Volk, and another where guys in suits and ties scramble the minds of their followers for the good of the followers themselves.
It also gives us rather wretched art. They Came to Blow Up America (1943) and The House on 92nd Street (1945) were among the worst. But the immediate Cold War following World War II found Hollywood policing itself, churning out stench such as I Was a Communist for the FBI (1951), Walk East on Beacon (1952), My Son John (1952), Pickup on South Street (1953) all of which painted the FBI in strokes of honor, efficiency and glory, as did tonight's giggle, Down 3 Dark Streets.
It may surprise the more cynically inclined among the readership to discover that the camera work in this film is very good. In addition to street scenes that capture the Los Angeles of the early 1950s with an awkward authenticity, we're also treated to a Hitchcock-style scene behind the giant Hollywood sign on the hills. Otherwise, of course, the movie is a pathetic attempt to glorify the brilliance and tenacity of the FBI, so much so that today's audiences rightly find it hilarious.
Of course. We are so young and hip and free these days. Anything out of time feels like such a charade. Being young, hip and free, we would never fall for such transparent nonsense.
Yet a twenty-two-year-old pampered and precious little shit fuck named Elliot Rodger bought into the current propaganda that his self worth was somehow connected to his socio-economic class, which in turn was dependent upon him getting laid by hot blondes from a specific sorority and being seen in the finest of cars. And even though this pusillanimous putz was bullied as a young teenager, that fact in no way mitigates his well-to-do parents enabling his moronic lifestyle choices, much less his easy access to expensive weaponry. He was a media junkie, as befits the spoiled offspring of the assistant director of The Hunger Games. He uploaded multiple videos of his planned escapades, the grizzly details of which need not be recited here. You see, Elliot Rodger understood that the only way you count in this world is if you have the acceptance and acknowledgement of rich white hemorrhoid breeders such as Mark Cuban and Donald Sterling and their supporters at ESPN. This twisted little smidgen of puked up worm snot knew in his elitist bones that he would only matter in this world if the future dental assistant blondes of his choosing fawned over him to distract him from his own creeping impotency. This reject from the Borderline Personality Disorder ward knew it was thrilling to use his intellect and unctuous charm to con the police into believing he was merely throwing a video tantrum rather than foreshadowing disaster when he ego-plotted his mission on the installment plan with YouTube. (There's a reason shrinks can't cure Borderline Personality Disorder. It is not a disorder at all. It is a complex series of character flaws, of which the vile Elliot Rodger had in abundance.) Rodger swallowed whole the lunatic propaganda of the National Rifle Association when he oozed with the temporary power of purchasing his Glock 34 semiautomatic. And he thoroughly absorbed the joy of contemporary dread when he blew away his roommates and others he sought out last Friday night in Isla Vista, California.
He was, in many ways, the best and the brightest of his generation, at least if by best and brightest we mean tipped in favor of digesting expectations set up by everyone from Beyonce to Larry Ellison regarding what it means to be of true value in our world today. The same people who would view a scrap of well-produced drivel such as Down 3 Dark Streets with contempt and sneers view the propaganda of their own age with the same opened-mouth drooling as the Cold War generation did its own Dragnet-style fixation on law and order. Therefore we risk much by scoffing down our own elitist cuffs at the trash of long ago. Today's garbage may be shinier, but the stench is just as lethal.