Dennis Broe

Dennis Broe

Dennis Broe is the author of The Precinct with the Golden Arm, the upcoming third volume in the Harry Palmer mystery trilogy whose subject is the LAPD, the pharmaceutical industry and Mexican culture in LA.

Livestreaming Genocide: With Ads, or Genocide Plus With No Ads
Friday, 10 November 2023 09:53

Livestreaming Genocide: With Ads, or Genocide Plus With No Ads

This summer, writers and actors were marching on picket lines trying to save their jobs and secure at least a working wage in ever more expensive Los Angeles. With no new product in sight, streaming audiences turned to a little-known Netflix series called Suits about a group of lawyers – and suddenly it became all the rage.

The question then was, “What to watch after all nine seasons of Suits were exhausted?” Who knew that the answer would be that next we would all be livestreaming genocide, as the world watches the Israelis bombard Gaza. They are killing, according to UNICEF, over 100 children a day in a population where nearly half are children, ie 18 or younger. 

And as with all kinds of TV entertainment, which the French call divertissement or diversion, the Western media tells us we are simply to be pleasantly horrified at the spectacle, while doing nothing about it. After all, the bombing started in the Halloween season and could be streamed alongside the season’s slasher feature Five Nights at Freddys in perhaps a seamless package.   

Keeping us on our couches  

The Biden administration, cheering on the bombing and supplying weapons and tactical and intelligence assistance, did its best to tap down dissent and keep us all on our couches as spectators. The Biden neocons are George W. Bush followers of the Wolfowitz doctrine which says that any state, entity, or corporation which challenges U.S. domination in any area must be eliminated.

They were out in full force justifying the carnage. National security advisor Jake Sullivan, in a Le Monde featured interview, allowed as how the U.S. had “made some errors” in the “War Against Terrorism” and explained they were counselling the Israelis on how to avoid these “mistakes.”

This is the repressed language of network TV, where never a cussword must be spoken in the living room of American audiences. What Sullivan failed to say is that the U.S. “errors,” as reported in a study by Brown University, resulted in the death by both military weapons and the economic weapon of sanctions of approximately 4.6 million people in the Middle East.          

When asked, what was the solution to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and the brutal 75-year suppression surrounding that occupation, Sullivan replied that the way out was to be found in Saudi-Israeli rapprochement which would be a first step toward a Palestinian state. The Palestinians on the other hand regard this attempt at the construction of a U.S. axis in the Middle East as the last straw, the nail in their coffin, which will result in their annihilation. Disrupting this stratagem was a major reason for their attack on October 7.    

This supposedly peaceful solution, which simply furthers U.S. imperial aims in the oil-rich region, would be the substitute for an earlier season’s programming that is now cancelled, the Clinton-brokered Oslo Accords. This supposed blueprint for a two-state solution was instead simply an excuse for Israel to claim more territory in the West Bank and the other occupied areas. A Palestinian described these phony “accords” as simply resulting in “More walls, more checkpoints, more prisons.”          

The evening devastation of the news

As the bombs continue falling and the outcry around the world for a ceasefire grows, the superhawks in Biden’s cabinet began proposing a “humanitarian pause.” Sounds good and appealing – it will give us all time to get up, get to the refrigerator, make a sandwich, and still be able to get back for the next round of bombing. As Norman Finklestein describes it, this is nothing more than “fattening up the turkey” before slaughtering it. But it sounds good for an administration which is now seeking funds to launch or perpetuate three world wars, in Taiwan against the Chinese, in Ukraine against Russia, and in the Middle East against Iran. ‘Humanitarian pause’ sounds peaceful, the better and easier to escape back from the evening devastation of the news to the ritualized carnage of Sunday football.     


Old white guys' “Garden” vs. everyone else’s “Jungle” 

In Europe, more media savvy audiences were also subjected to more sophisticated mainstream programming in both the left and right presses. Liberation’s coverage of this massacre would have had its anti-colonial founder Jean-Paul Satre turning over in his grave. As per European foreign secretary Josep Borrell who described Europe as “the garden” and the rest of the world as “the jungle,” its stories on the bombing of the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, where over 400 people were killed, used only mainstream Western analysts to support the Israeli claim that the hospital was destroyed by an errant Palestinian rocket.

Accompanying this story was another, detailing widespread protests in the streets as Arab populations disputed this account and blamed Israel. Though Israel has before and since bombed numerous hospitals, ambulances and convoys of wounded fleeing hospitals, the juxtaposition of the two viewpoints made it seem that in the reasoned “garden,” technical experts would find the truth, while in the “jungle,” wild crowds were simply irrational, this despite the fact that many non-mainstream media Western intelligence sources, such as ex-CIA analyst Larry Johnson, also disputed the Israeli claim.          

Finally, in an attempt to make sure everyone stayed home in front of their sets, the French president Macron banned Pro-Palestinian protests, which gave free reign to the police to use tear gas, water cannons and arrests to quell dissent. The French constitutional court affirmed the ban, a dangerous curbing of rights, but then threw the decision of whether protests could be held over to the individual prefects. What finally overthrew the ban though was people coming out en masse in a way that it could not be enforced. The ban itself is nothing more than an extension by Macron of the utterly undemocratic suppression of discussion in the legislature, as bill after bill is now passed by imperial decree without discussion. And this by someone who, like Biden, calls himself a centrist.         


Gaza, Game of Thrones with real casualties 

The programming now is starting to be more varied. The sights of mass protests everywhere in the world are creating a new series where not just destruction but also dissent is live streamed to counter corporate media complacency. However, as crowds in the West and almost the entirety of the global South call this barbarity into question, the massacring continues.

The U.S. empire which is masterminding it very happy to let a levelled Gaza, a kind of Game of Thrones wasteland, serve as a warning to the vast majority of humanity that this is what happens when they rise up and attempt to throw off all the vestiges of colonial rule.

China has the Belt and Road Initiative, a new Silk Road designed to raise the level of all those along the way, and the West counters with a devastated Gaza as the price to pay for demanding an equal place in the world. Two sharply different series, now live streaming.

Challenging the Corporate Lords of Film and TV
Tuesday, 25 July 2023 08:04

Challenging the Corporate Lords of Film and TV

Hollywood writers and actors are on strike, the first time both unions have been on strike at the same time since 1960. It’s thrown the industry into an uproar, as both groups are subverting some of the main precepts of not only the Hollywood film and television industry but the way work as a whole is constructed and managed in the digital age.

The first precept being challenged is that unions and union solidarity is a dead letter in the era of Artificial Intelligence and the ever-increasing corporate power and prestige as the twin answers to solving the world’s ills. The high profile of the two striking unions has drawn more attention and produced much more publicity for unions. The news stories in The New York Times, for example, have doubled since the actors joined the writers on strike, with most major publications feeling the need to generate stories from the picket lines, where formerly the major news outlets concentrated mainly on the beginning and end of strikes.

This has produced a kind of reverse Blacklist effect. In 1947 the House Un-American Activities Committee decided that it would launch its campaign against radical elements in the labour force by first attacking Hollywood, and thus ensuring maximum publicity in its campaign of fear. Here the opposite is happening. In the wake of the Occupy Movement, and using some of that language, the coverage of the strikes of the two unions, largely favourable in the press since its readers are avid followers of films and television series, have prompted more favourable coverage of other strikes. Teamsters and nurses have shown up on the picket lines at the Hollywood studios, with the former helping to stop production in some cases, while the leaders of the Writers’ Guild joined hotel workers in a July 4th strike for higher wages.

Serfs serving corporate lords

On the actors’ picket line Fran Drescher, President of the Actors’ Guild, employed the Occupy language of the 1 percent to criticize executive salaries. She described one of the most powerful men in the industry, Disney’s President Michael Iger who makes $27 million annually, as a dazzling example of the rampant inequality in pay structure. She claimed that she was on the line representing “the 99.9 percent of the membership who are working people who are just trying to make a living to put food on the table, pay rent and get their kids off to school” while labelling the Hollywood executives as “land barons of a medieval time.” This labelling not only echoes the language of the Occupy movement but is also drawn from a popular left characterization of a new Feudalism, with the majority of the population now in the position of serfs serving corporate lords.

1The new feudalism

The new feudalism

One of the main claims of the writers is that they can no longer afford to live in a city they helped build, as Los Angeles rents skyrocket. This claim in similar to the hotel workers who say they have to live outside the city and sometimes travel 90 to 100 miles to work. The writers’ claim was validated by a studio executive who, anonymously, told Deadline that the studio producers would “bleed out” writers and force them to “start losing their apartments.”

The second major tenant of Hollywood and the television industry which the strikes are challenging is the attempt to conceal profits and keep from paying residuals. For over 70 years the vast majority of television series operated on the principle of deficit financing. Producers and talent (writers, directors and actors) understood that the vast majority of money being made on any television series would come after the series was sold into syndication. The “magic number” that would trigger these sales was 100 episodes. The show would then become profitable in perpetuity with its creators and financiers able to live off of these sales.

Part of the drive toward online subscription services, where the studio or streamer locks content behind a solid wall, is the elimination of these residuals or the limiting of them since the creators can no longer track how their work is being monetized. The streamers, on the other hand, have much more data and can track viewer habits minutely, down to the second where the viewer continues to watch or tunes out. The old system, with the Nielsen Ratings and with syndicated contracts, was much more transparent and allowed creators to track profits, though the studios often tried to conceal their gains.

A major demand of both strikes is finding a way to reclaim residuals in the age of streaming. The battle here goes beyond film and television writers and actors and encompasses the problems with monetizing digital work as a whole. Journalists, for example, often work for less or for nothing on internet publications while search engines such as Alphabet’s Google and Microsoft’s Bing accrue value by appropriating stories from news outlets and only reluctantly pay for this content.

4AI Eats Brains

AI Eats Brains 

The third major precept which the strikes are challenging is the parceling of work, a trend that is going on throughout industry as a whole and which is being exacerbated by experiments with Artificial Intelligence and programs such as ChatGPT. The idea of breaking all kinds of work into tasks has of course been around since the Taylorist experiments with assembly lines in the 1920s. What is new, or as the owners say “innovative,” is the potential ability, once the work is broken down into its component parts, to have labourers replaced with robotic replicators of their work, or to reduce work to “smaller, more degraded, poorly paid jobs.” 

From careers to gig work

One of the complaints of the actors, echoed even more strongly by the writers, is that their careers have been turned into gig work. The meteoric rise in streaming has been fed by the work of writers creating television series of high quality and moving themselves into all aspects of production, to make sure, like the Hollywood directors of old, that all aspects of the series (costuming, makeup, set construction) form a seamless whole. This expansion fuelled the rise of more and better showrunners, responsible for the overall concept of the series.

Instead, the producers are attempting to limit the writers to just their time in the writing room, and then release them. Their preferred model is to pay a single creator an exorbitant salary (Shonda Rhimes-Bridgerton, Ryan Murphy-American Horror Story, Taylor Sheridan- Yellowstone) and dispense with the rest. The Writers’ Guild has been tracking this trend and says that writers’ time on a series has decreased because they are let go faster and that in 2022 over half of the writers, stripped of their producing jobs, are being paid at the weekly minimum, as opposed to one-third eight years ago.

3Tom C

Tom Cruise vs. The Entity 

Contrary to the Tom Cruise version of AI in Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning where an all-powerful “Entity” threatens a machine takeover of the earth, the real challenge of AI, which this Hollywood fantasy version conceals, is that it will be used to un-employ workers in all kinds of industries as well as forcing them to work harder through its monitoring capacities. Thus, warehouse workers describe being tracked minutely, pressuring them to skip breaks, while setting them up for disciplinary actions if their goals are not met. The personal touch of service workers, who one worker described as providing “a kind of therapy” to their clients, is discounted as their work is automated. A recent Biden administration summit to “regulate” AI rather than impose restrictions allowed the seven major makers of the service to voluntarily agree to guidelines. None of the restrictions even mentioned AI’s power to eliminate, tame and discipline the U.S. workforce.



A long-term goal for Hollywood’s use of AI is potentially to use the machine to grind out scripts that are then “created” not by the writer, but by the studio/streaming service. The scenario for this goal involves the studio plugging in a basic concept with AI or ChatGPT which then churns out a (highly unworkable) script. A writer would then be hired to turn the script into a workable scenario but the credit, and the profits, would then go to the studio. This is an attempt to turn television production back to the 1950s when, for example, Warners cheated the “showrunner” Roy Huggins out of the “Created By” credits for both Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip, two shows which kept the studio afloat. For Maverick, the studio bought the rights to a book that a plot turn in the pilot employed and thus claimed it owned the property. With 77 Sunset Strip, Warners screened the pilot in a cinema outside the U.S. and claimed the studio then owned the rights to “the film.” Huggins himself addressed this ignominy in his next contract with Universal which granted him the “Created By” credit and established it as a norm for the industry.

An actor on the picket line described AI as “a tool to generate wealth,” noting that the main task of the “Entity” was “cutting jobs for corporate profit.” While another writer’s guild member summoned up the end game as “creating material in the cheapest, most piecemeal, automated way possible” so that “one layer of high-level creatives take the cheaply generated material and turn it into something.” The demand of the Actors’ and Writers’ Guilds to have control of how this process is used, is a crucial attempt to counter this thrust.

Utopia, dystopia and communal alternatives
Monday, 10 July 2023 11:07

Utopia, dystopia and communal alternatives

Dennis Broe, in the second part of his articles on how corporate media downplays climate destruction, writes about recent films and TV series with both dystopian and utopian themes. Image above: post-apocalyptic dreaming in Station 11 

It is worth recalling that the genre that culminates in post-Apocalyptic television began in literature as one describing Utopia – Thomas More’s book of the same name. Its “presiding theorist” is Ernst Bloch, whose three-volume archeology of The Principle of Hope was written in the darkest days of World War II.

Such a text in which “political institutions, social norms, economic systems, and ways of life are superior” to the present could serve to call attention to the injustices and oppressions of that present.” With Bloch also comes the idea that “imagination is forward directed, a call to action.”


Ernst Bloch’s The Principle of Hope 

Thus, as Fredric Jameson says, “the waning of the utopian idea is a fundamental historical and political symptom.” So in the ’70s, as fossil fuel companies were commissioning and then suppressing studies that showed that their continued drilling could cause planetary destruction, came the disaster films, limited but horrible images of natural or human constructed devastation, including Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno.

As the consciousness of this potential devastation began to grow, public opinion went through first a questioning and then a period of greenwashing, where it appeared technical solutions within global capitalism could work. In this era, roughly the 1990s to the early 2000s, the apocalyptic impulse tended to decrease, with the fear allayed, and with occasional dystopic series where the world is threatened as in the film 9/11, but where those fleeing the earth in Battlestar Galactica still retain the image of an abundant earth in which to return.

However, with the dawning in the last decade of the full weight of climate catastrophe, the rapid acceleration of the crisis over even the last year, and the tendency toward throwing up one’s hands and deciding there is nothing to be done but submit passively, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic series, many of which simply see the end as inevitable, have increased in tempo, and the apocalyptic imaginary has also penetrated other genres.

Surely it can’t be capitalism?

In these series there are several “endings” of the world focusing on the adaptive strategies of those who survive with little left but their own resourcefulness – The Leftovers, Jericho, The Rain, War of the Worlds, and Silo. Capitalism, and its part in global war, climate destruction and a relentlessly unequal economy, is barely cited as culpable in this situation. The genre itself is a combination of science fiction, fantasy and horror, with the latter now coming to dominate.


Silo, the latest Apocalypse

The post-apocalyptic imagination is also projected into the past in AT&T/HBO’s Game of Thrones and Throne of the Dragon, set in a primitive dog-eat-dog world that could be read as “post-neoliberal” where all the boundaries and protections of the state have been overturned, and it’s also a world where the splitting of an employee’s consciousness between work and leisure in Apple’s Severance effectively denies the real-world struggle of Apple workers to organize. The series is more like workwashing than greenwashing.

So what was once an archaelogy of hope has transmuted into an archaeology of despair, dominated by what Jameson identifies as the chief postmodern emotion, irony, in the form of Elvis Costello’s “I used to be disgusted but now I try to be amused” – where “what hurts” is transformed into “what smirks.” Being above the fray and superior to it short-circuits the stage of activism but increasingly the smirk, the attitude du jour still of many academics, cannot conceal the hurt. 

An exception to these late-stage post-apocalyptic series is The Swarm, an apocalyptic series which takes place in the “near” present as the ocean is mobilizing its defence, that is at the onset rather than after the apocalypse. It can be read as a call to action before the oceans are destroyed, from the heart of what still remains of European social democracy, as the series is financed by public television stations in France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland, as well as private streamers in Scandinavia and Japan.

These series are full of sentiments echoing this resignation. The Last of Us timidly claims, disavowing collective action, that as long as “there is one person worth saving” it is possible to live a fulfilling life”. In Station 11 the actress who survives a holocaust and finds a memoir of the time before that says: “I don’t care that the world was ending because it was the world.”

These views are endorsed in the press. The New York Times’ lead television reviewer, James Poniewozik, glibly described the latter series as “the most uplifting show about life at the end of the world you are likely to see.” He praises Station 11 as a series that celebrates humanity’s drive to create, with this neoliberal mumbo-jumbo about the indomitability of the human spirit concealing the fact that creation here is refashioned as a device not to save humanity but to divert it. Poniewozik concludes that this show is for you “if you want catharsis and a surprising laugh,”— the implication being that if you’re concerned with actually changing the world or forestalling the disaster this is not a show for you.

Apocalyptic alternatives

“If we…strip away the abundance and expansionism of the liberal capitalist order, we find waiting beneath the disguise of peaceful competition and meritocratic incentive the cruelty and repression to which modern liberalism has become oblivious.”  - Peter Y. Paik, in From Utopia to Apocalypse: Science Fiction and the Politics of Catastrophe.

Oddly, this statement could be the tagline for Season 11, the final season, of The Walking Dead. In it, the survivors take on their most deceptive opponent, the Commonwealth, a seemingly utopian community blessed with abundance and locked behind sturdy gates that walls its residents off from both the zombies and the viciousness of the bands that contend with them.

The kingdom is ruled over by Pamela Milton and her family. The dynasty is headed by this blonde ageing leader, with a physical similarity to Hilary Clinton, whose words proclaim that she only wants what is best for her people. Above ground, the mood is calm and tranquil, but below ground are the prisons for those who resist the Commonwealth’s abundance. Pamela tells an underling, “Not that it isn’t, but it can’t feel like a police state,” in perhaps a nod to the patrolling in the contemporary U.S. of black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

The same old deplorable class distinctions

The Walking Dead survivors find that beneath this utopian veneer of a new world lurks the same old class distinctions, as two of the survivors are sent to a labour camp. They’re told that their “work will benefit those better than you,” while Pamela’s son, a little Hunter Biden or Eric Trump, betrays the truth of the place: “The reality is the poor stay poor so the rich can do whatever we want.” All of which reminds us of Clinton’s characterization of the working class as “deplorables” in the 2016 election.

Apforeign policy

Season 11 of  The Walking Dead 

The foreign policy of the Commonwealth is one of dominance not benevolence, as its security forces attempt to turn the other camps outside their purview into outposts or labour camps operating for the good of the Commonwealth. It reminds us of Clinton’s destruction of Libya, the oil-rich African country with the most developed healthcare system and the highest literacy rates in Africa – and then boasting about it.

Anecdote: the weekend before the bombs started to fall, the Financial Times ran a detailed map of where oil was drilled, processed and shipped in Libya to remind NATO to bomb schools and hospitals but take care to leave the oil routes alone. Ten days before NATO took over what had been more sporadic bombing the FT ran a story about how Western oil companies were fearful that the leader Gaddafi would nationalize the oil.

Finally, Milton reveals her true self as she exiles her people outside the gates of the Commonwealth as the zombies approach, in oreder to save herself and a small cohort of her associates. After she’s overturned, the final shot of her in prison is a shot which compares her – though she still has an aura of reasonableness – to the imprisonment of the most vicious monster the survivors had faced, Negan, after his more openly brutal order was defeated.

Communal Alternatives in The Last of Us 

More problematic is another zombie apocalypse, The Last of Us, adapted from the game with its showrunner Craig Mazin having visualized the real apocalypse of Chernobyl.

The series, after it quickly jumps 20 years beyond the onset of the virus or fungus, posits first in the North in Boston Fedra, a broken-down police state, after a mycologist has proposed as a solution, since there is no vaccine, to “bomb everyone in the city.” Joel (The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal) and the teenage Ellie (Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey) then go on a cross-country tour to find a group of scientists since Ellie, who survived a bite, may hold the cure.

On the tour they encounter in St. Louis populist fascists who hunt their African American guide who explains that their viciousness is the product of the police state government’s “torturing and killing people for 20 years,”. It’s an admission that the brutality of these Trump-like survivors is partly caused by a system in the U. S. that for years has continually attacked their wages and lifestyle.

Finally, Joel and Ellie find an alternative in Wyoming, in a collective where leaders are democratically elected and ownership is shared. It is here that they are offered hope, a chance as Joel’s brother says to “figure out what they want to do with their lives.” But this actual utopia is simply a resting spot they might hope to return to because they must press on to get Ellie to a hospital where she can be examined, which proves again to be part of the nightmare of modern science, where curing and killing are synonymous.

Snowpiercer and the return of the utopian impulse

“It will then turn out that the world has long dreamt of that of which it had only to have a clear idea to possess it really.” Karl Marx

The most class-conscious apocalyptic series, and ultimately the most hopeful, is Bong Joon-ho’s adaptation of his film of the same name. Bong Joon-ho, the most class-conscious director working in film and television today, is currently adapting his Academy Award-winning film Parasite for television.

In Snowpiercer, the train that the survivors of a nuclear winter cling to as it circles the earth is “a fortress to class” with the “tailies” at the back in cramped quarters, called “unticketed passengers” to stress their illegitimacy, while the ultra-rich in the front of the train enjoy fine dining. “The Revolution” of the tailies, led by a stalwart leader Andre Layton, prevails in season 1 but is beaten back in Season 2 by the return of the train’s “engineer-entrepreneur” founder Mr. Wilford, a Richard Branson/Jeff Bezos/Elon Musk type whose contempt for equality drips from every corner of his mouth onto his fur coat.


Off-loading the capitalist in Snowpiercer

Season 3 ends in a truly startling moment. Mr. Wilford has lost control of the train and is imprisoned, but attempts to regain power when the train’s original leader Melanie Cavill and Layton disagree on how to proceed over the possibility that there may be a spot on the earth warm enough to sustain life.

Imagine a world shorn of capitalist billionaires!

However, the traditional method of control, divide and conquer does not prevail, as Melanie and Layton agree to disagree on what path to follow but then together oppose the capitalist retaking the train. He is offloaded with enough supplies to survive but has lost his place in this now more equal class structure. The two factions make a mutual agreement where each takes a principled stand, which sees them dividing the train. The point is clear – with the capitalist gone, they are able to thrash out a compromise for what’s best for the train and for what’s left of humanity as a whole.

The final lesson of Snowpiercer is that if the world is shorn of its capitalist billionaires, its various and diverse peoples will find compromises that can yet save humanity. So, working from the presupposition that the world has ended, this series suggests a way forward that begins with the overthrow of the controlling leader who puts his own interests ahead of everyone else on the train and the planet. 

The reward for this bold proclamation? Warner Bros./Discovery, still ruled by the very conservative Texas company AT&T, refused to air the final season – shot and ready to go – on TNT. The company preferred a tax write-off to airing a show whose season is about how groups cooperate to learn how to retake the planet. It’s a grim scenario but we are in a grim place right now.

How corporate media downplays climate destruction: Part One
Tuesday, 20 June 2023 10:05

How corporate media downplays climate destruction: Part One

Dennis Broe, in  the first of to articles, describes how corporate media in all its forms downplays climate destruction. Above: New York skyline, with soot 

Fredric Jameson’s famous dictum that “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism” has been taken up wholeheartedly by the makers of corporate television. In numerous series stretching across different genres and now accounting for its own genre – “post-Apocalyptic TV,” – broadcast, cable and streaming TV (and of course numerous films) have concocted a plethora of “endings” to the world as we know it which have the effect of failing to challenge the climate apocalypse, which would mean immediate action in the present to keep the worst from happening.

In so doing, the makers of corporate TV, largely American but then picked up across the globe using the American prototypes, have found a new way forward in the persistent refusal to challenge the fossil fuel industry that is a more sophisticated approach to the now mostly discredited “climate denial” narrative initiated by that industry. For if the catastrophe is unavoidable, we may as well begin planning for the post-Apocalyptic future. In the industry these are referred to as Dystopian Series but that is similar to calling climate destruction climate change, it’s a carbon-neutral way of labelling the problem without discussing it.


 David Harvey reading Marx’s Grundrisse

This paper highlights the shift from apocalyptic series, which focus on the moment of the end times of the earth, and might be politically more useful, to “Post-Apocalyptic” Series, where the endpoint of destruction has already come and gone and the series is about coping with the aftermath in the best way possible. That is, the genre, for the most part, as David Harvey utilizes these terms borrowed from Marx’s Grundrisse, “presupposes” the end as at this stage inevitable and is about “positing” how to survive after the end, once the presupposition of end times is established.

The material reasons for the preoccupation with apocalypse at this conjuncture are the destruction of the earth, the escalating danger of nuclear war and the decline of the West, all of which is accompanied by a resolute repression in the corporate media which either refuses to engage or downplays the implications of any of these conditions.

However, this also allows for an opening. Whereas, in series based in the present, political content is mostly abandoned or repressed, these series, once the idea that the end time is not nigh but here, may allow a freedom for both pursuing a deep critique of the contemporary order and a positing of alternative orders.

In Season 11 of The Walking Dead, the originator and dean of this genre, the problems of the present resurface, as the neoliberal “perfect world” of The Commonwealth conceals a vicious and violent inner core, a repressive deep state needed to maintain the surface air of gentility.

The Last of Us presupposes at its outset a fascist government, the endpoint of today’s neoliberal experiments as the French, no longer believing in Macron as a bulwark against fascism, since he has used undemocratic techniques himself, now turn to Le Pen. However, in the course of the cross-country travels of the two lead characters, the series posits the creation of a communal compound which is the opposite of this order and which opposes it.

Finally, the class antagonism in Snowpiercer indicates that the post-Apocalyptic world cannot escape the problems of the present, perhaps negating or qualifying the effectiveness of this flight into fantasy, while also suggesting, in the most radical positing of the genre, that a world shorn of capitalists can negotiate its own resurrection.

Oil I Want Is You

“The best thing about the Earth is, if you poke holes in it, oil and gas comes out.” — Republican U.S. Congressman Steve Stockman, 2013


Climate activists denounce COP28, the oil-friendly climate conference 

We are all witnessing the increasing failure to confront climate catastrophe and to rein in the fossil fuel industry, with the next global conference on climate, COP28, being held in the oil rich city of Dubai, chaired by the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company which is investing billions in pumping more oil next year. It is no wonder there are calls to boycott the conference. With this capitulation depictions of the end times have increased.

At this year’s Series Mania, the largest television festival in the world held at Lille in France, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic series had, along with Me Too female liberation series, become the dominant genre, accounting for 13 percent of the total of 55 series. These included the apocalyptic tone of the endpoint of Western science in Lars Von Trier’s return to The Kingdom; South Korean high-school teens training for an alien threat that hovers over their heads in Duty After School; the Spanish series Apagon where a solar tempest strikes the earth; The Fortress, where Norway, in Trump-style, walls itself off from the world and then must confront a deadly virus; and finally The Swarm, a global series financed by several European public television networks in which the ocean sets out to wreak its revenge on a humanity bent on destroying it.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has set the Doomsday Clock at 90 seconds to midnight, as planetary destruction looms. This grim future reality though is belied by a most abundant present for oil and gas companies whose profits have never been greater.

Largely as a result of the energy crisis because of the war in the Ukraine, the profits of the five largest producers of oil and gas, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Total, were $195 billion in 2022, almost 120 percent more than the previous year and the highest level in the industry’s history with the U.S. President Biden accusing these companies of “war profiteering.” Only five percent of these profits went to developing clean energy, with the majority going as Chevron claimed to “shareholders, investing, and paying down debt.”

The war has also occasioned a return to the most dangerous and most polluting methods of extraction, including in the West deepwater drilling and the return of coal, and across the world new nuclear power plants have been announced in Malaysia, Indonesia and The Philippines. Meanwhile France threatens to bring 6 to 14 new plants on line, regardless of the nuclear waste these plants will generate.

In the U.S., now the largest supplier of natural gas, this has meant a return and reopening of the previously unprofitable industry of fracking in a new narrative where this process, which destroys drinking water and leaks methane in a way comparable to coal mining, “saved American democracy.” The day the war began the Bloomberg News Agency ran a story headlined “Fracking: A Powerful Weapon Against Russia,” trumpeting the return of an industry that had almost gone bankrupt.

The carbon imprint of the replacement of Russian oil and natural gas with American fracked gas, with its increased transport distance is twice as great as before. Add to that the imprint of American hydraulic fracking and the carbon imprint is almost three times greater.

In addition, the war has also seen the blowing up of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 Russian pipelines, with the culprit still an object of surmise but with much of the evidence, as marshalled by the U.S. Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, leaning toward the U.S. and Norway, oil producers who have been the major benefactors of the sabotage. The methane emitted from the cloud that passed across Europe was described as described as “the highest release of methane gas ever on the planet.”

The failure to confront the fossil fuel industry

Since the onset of the war, Western governments have caved into the demands of an ever more dominant and omnipotent fossil fuel industry with the U.S. president Biden having implemented all the policy requests of a secretive fossil fuel lobby group, just as Bush in a secret meeting never made public signed on to Cheney’s Haliburton agenda, and as Trump more brazenly named the head of Exxon as his secretary of state. Equally, European leaders have met more than 100 times with the industry since the war began, while industry lobbyists at 2002’s U.N. climate conference far outnumbered “climate-vulnerable African countries and Indigenous communities.”

The effects of this onslaught have already appeared in the U.S. in rising coastal sea levels in the East amid worse hurricanes and storms, Midwestern mega rains and droughts destroying crops and homes, and worsening and more destructive forest fires in the West. The apocalyptic effect by the end of this century if this destruction is not halted will be the drowning of island nations, the inundating of coastal areas from Ecuador to Brazil to the Netherlands as well as huge swathes of South and Southeast Asia and the potential extinction of major cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, London, Mumbai and Shanghai. 

All of this is linked to the failure to confront the fossil fuel industry. As Naomi Klein says:

“We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism. The actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe…[threaten] an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.”

All of this in terms of the apocalyptic imagination leads to “the acute and painful realization” that our “leaders are not looking after us . . . we are not cared for at the level of our very survival.”

Nuclear war and imperial malaise

There are two other forms of destruction on the horizon and which also are essentially going largely undiscussed and unheeded. These are are the (renewed) threat of nuclear war in the face of the ever-escalating war in Ukraine and what I will call, after Paul Gilroy, ‘imperial malaise’, the decline of the West, which is being hastened by the division of the West and the rise and resistance of the rest of the world prompted also by the war.


Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament poster 

With Russia having announced the stationing of nuclear weapons in nearby Belarus and with the NATO countries continuing the path of escalation (the British supplying depleted uranium weapons which will leave radiation traces on both the Ukrainian users and the Russian targets while destroying swathes of the environment, the Germans sending Leopard tanks east in an ominous suggestion of World War II and with Poland now demanding to be armed with U.S. nuclear weapons) and as the U.S. secretary of state declares that the U.S. will support no peace talks and will not end the war, the threat of a full-scale nuclear war increases daily. This threat, mostly unacknowledged in the corporate press, also feeds the feeling of hopelessness and a sense the world may be coming to an end.


From Apocalypse LA 

The failure of the West, led by the U.S., to enlist the rest of the world in its campaign against Russia, with fully 83 percent of the world refusing to go along with U.S. sanctions, has hastened an already accelerating decline, as the centre of economic activity shifts eastward to Asia. The results have been a cumulative apocalypse which has seen income disparity worsen to the point where the creators of these television series, the Hollywood writers, claim as a primary reason for their strike that they can no longer support themselves on their salaries while profits within the streaming industry soar.

In France inflation from price gouging and the war, the raising of the retirement age and the cancelling of job security is expressed in graffiti on the Left Bank that simply states “greve ou creve,” strike or die.

Finally, there is the crisis of the drug epidemic, as a way of coping with this destruction, that has passed from heroin to Purdue Pharma distributed oxycontin to fentanyl, seven times more potent and addictive than heroin – all three discovered and originally manufactured in Big Pharma laboratories – making the streets of Los Angeles unsafe. It’s no wonder that one of the contemporary Hollywood apocalyptic series From has everyone locked in their homes at night, with living dead, flesh-eating zombies ready to devour anyone who lets their guard down and goes outside.

The full weight of these various apocalypses is never registered in the continuing onslaught of corporate media where we are told that despite it all, the system is coping, doing its best and is still the hope for humanity. The cognitive dissonance and distance between what is said and what the collective unconscious knows to be true but which must remain unsaid is also responsible for the dominance of the terrifying images of post-apocalyptic television.

How can it be, for example, that a country which holds itself up as a shining beacon to the world, sometimes called “the indispensable nation,” supplies B-16 bombers to Ukraine at $550 million per plane but forces its homeless in Los Angeles, epicentre of a national housing crisis, to sleep at night on public buses?

Part 2 will describe various apocalyptic TV series as both promoting and contesting climate destruction.

The Global Crime Novel: Worldwide Corruption and Chiseling
Friday, 19 May 2023 10:03

The Global Crime Novel: Worldwide Corruption and Chiseling

Published in Fiction

The Global Crime Novel: Worldwide Corruption and Chiseling

In a 1931 Warner Brothers made the film Blonde Crazy, in the pre-Code period where expression was raunchier and more truthful, before the era of middle-class censorship. As the Depression reaches its peak, conniving bellhop James Cagney is trying to convince new hotel hire Joan Blondel to go on the road with him and work a hustle together. Leaning into the ingenue and laying his cards on the table, he makes his pitch, explaining that “The age of chivalry is over. This is the age of chiselry.”

Crime novel 2

Cagney and Blondel in Blonde Crazy 

In the evidence of this year’s Quais du Polar in Lyon France one of the largest conventions in the world of global crime writers, the “age of chiselry” is, as the current recession/inflation/austerity continues, back with us, bigger and badder than ever.  And that age is not only perpetrated from below but also from on top as the very rich, with the global pie shrinking, take whatever steps are necessary, lawful or not, to hold onto what they’ve got, whether it was acquired lawfully or not.

Perhaps the star of the conference was India’s Deepti Kapoor whose Age of Vice is now being adapted for series TV by Disney+ and FX. Age of Vice takes place in the early 2000s, a time, the author explained, when India was making a transition from socialism to capitalism. It was also, as she describes it in the novel, a time when gangsters and organized crime entered the government, melding with regional authorities in a level of corruption that exceeded even Russia in the 1990s under its alcoholic “czar” Boris Yeltsin.  In that period, as Nick Harkaway, a crime author himself and John Le Carré’s son who was in Russia at the time, pointed out gangsters profited from the government, but stayed out of it.

Age of Vice is also about developers profiting in this new, “modern” India as whole settlements of the poorest are removed from the Yamuna riverbank in Delhi with everyone’s conscience eased because they are offered resettlement housing. However, the gangster-developer quickly sends his representatives into this area to buy back the resettlement land and to tear down the cheap housing and build on that.

The gangster’s son, who gallivants across the globe with his father’s money, has the vision of making the riverbank look like the Thames, with museums and upscale developments replacing encampments inhabited by the poor, but his father cuts that vision short and opts instead for the pure profit of high rises for the rich.

As Kapoor pointed out, India, with now the largest population in the world, has reached new levels of inequality, in the wake of the corruption she describes in the first decade of this century. According to the latest Oxfam survey, the top 1 percent own 40 percent of the wealth while the bottom 50 percent own 3 percent.

In an opposite way, in a panel that included Kapoor, Jake Adelstein, the author of Tokyo Vice, which Michael Mann has adapted into a series now renewed for a second season, described the overreach of the Japanese Yakuza gangsters, whose power has recently been curtailed in Japan because they attempted to aggressively challenge the police and the government, disrupting a truce that saw each existing side by side with the other. Adelstein, who was a reporter working on the crime beat in Tokyo, also explained that like Roberto Saviano, whose investigative work on the Camorra has entailed him living in constant police protection, now needs police protection when he visits Japan because of his extensive inside reporting on the Yakuza.

Crime novel 3

Volker Kutscher, author of ten books on which the German series Babylon Berlin is based, with the first five translated into English, described the schlumpy hero of the series Gereon Rath as a “mensch.” Rath is the sometimes less-than-decisive protagonist of the series. He is, though, a staunch defender of the Weimar Republic as we watch as the series, which starts in 1928, progresses or regresses through the years of Hitler’s coming to power.

In The Fatherland Files, set in 1932, Rath is sent to a remote corner of Germany near the Polish/German border as he tracks a wily killer who operates in Berlin. The still unresolved tensions in the border region, which a plebiscite had claimed for Germany, and the nationalist fervor of the Germans in the region, now further deepened by the ominous presence of the brown-shirted SA as well as the supposed patriotic fervor of a prosperous brewer are the seeds from which this violence in Berlin has erupted.

Elsewhere, Dennis Lehane, author of among others Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River, addressed the conference remotely from the U.S. and explained how his latest novel Small Mercies, set in Boston in 1974 at the time of forced bussing to desegregate the public school system, dealt with a racial hatred, not so dissimilar to Kutcher’s borderland Germans, that resulted in the tragedy of the death of a little girl.

Melivina Mestre took the audience on a journey of both time and space as she described her latest novel Twilight in Casablanca, set in the early 1950s where the city was abuzz with spies, including a huge presence of American intelligence, trying to influence the continent. Jurica Pavičić, whose novel Red Water won the European prize for Best Crime Novel two years ago, returned to the conference with the soon-to-be-translated The Woman on the Second Floor.

Red Water described with a sprawling depth the break-up of Yugoslavia, the years of war after that break-up and how the modern Dalmatian coast has now turned into a high-end Western investment haven and tourist paradise – changes that have left the populace gasping as they tried to keep up.

Woman on the Second Floor covers similar territory but this time in microcosm, as a wife looks back on the events and rapid-fire transformations that led her to murder her mother-in-law. As such the novel in its intricate description of the consciousness of a single character and its explanation of what led her to violence, has something in common with David E. Kelley’s masterful Love and Death with Elizabeth Olson in a true crime recounting of how repression in a Texas suburb led her, as she made a valiant effort to escape that repression, to commit a violent act.

Crime novel 4

Also in attendance at the conference was Thomas Mullen whose trilogy titled “Darktown,” which takes the name of the lead novel, follows the first African American cops on the Atlanta police force in 1948 as they deal with violence, corruption, and racial prejudice in the pre-Civil Rights South. The final novel, Midnight Atlanta, set in 1950 stands on the cusp of that movement and features a cameo by Martin Luther King. The trilogy describes the extent of the discrimination in this earlier era where, as Cornell West described it, “Race is the way class is spoken in America.” It also calls into question how far supposedly progressive communities have come because today racial barriers are maintained through income disparity and high property values such that, in a way that allows for pristine discrimination without having to deal with ethnicity, in a reversal of West’s dictum, “Class is the way race is spoken in America.”

Finally, from Marseilles came the winner of the French prize for Crime Novel of the Year, Gérard Lecas’ Blood of Our Enemies, a “policier,” as the French call it set in that city in 1962, on the eve of the ending of the war for Algerian independence, in a novel that may well soon become a television series.

Two cops of different political persuasions, one communist, one conservative, must investigate the death of an Arab man whose body is drained of blood. The city is filled with representatives of the right-wing terrorist group the OAS, the Algerian independentist movement the FLN, “pied noir,” refugees from Algeria who supported and gained from colonial rule and Harkis, Algerians who served on the side of the French in the war. The two contrary officers must navigate these various groups as they search for the killer in a novel that has intonations of Dominique Manotti’s Marseille 73 where 11 years later the same tensions still erupt in a far-right plan to retake Algeria.

Thus, across the globe and through history, writers of crime fiction, as seen in this year’s Quais du Polar, are tracing an increasingly more malevolent turn toward violence as global conditions break down in the face of worsening poverty and inequality.


Dennis Broe is the author of “Calamitous Corruption,” The Harry Palmer LA Trilogy that consists of Left of Eden, A Hello To Arms and his latest, The Precinct With The Golden Arm.

The Vast Wasteland of Series TV, and the Writers' Strike against Corporate Juggernauts
Tuesday, 09 May 2023 11:22

The Vast Wasteland of Series TV, and the Writers' Strike against Corporate Juggernauts

What is the state of TV streaming TV Serial Series, in the wake of last year’s Netflix devaluation and this year’s bank crisis in the U.S? That was a question that was not mentioned much at Lille in Northern France at this year’s Series Mania. It’s perhaps the world’s largest television festival, boasting 55 series from 24 countries, including for the first time series from Iran (The Actor) and a Pakistani/Indian co-production (Limboland).

The question of how to survive in an industry in retreat however did surface in disguised form repeatedly. This seeming global cornucopia and abundance of series TV is belied by the fact that financing is shrinking in the wake of another bank collapse. This time it’s Silicon Valley Bank, which made loans to digital companies of which streaming is now a part including bankrolling the streaming service Roku, as well as the collapse on the international level of Credit Suisse.

Not to mention another U.S. mid-level bank failure, that of First Republic, equally crucial to the digital economy on both coasts, which lost 102 billion in deposits in the first quarter of 2023 and needed a 30 billion bailout just to stay alive. The net effect of a run on mid-level banks in the U.S. was that money fled to the supposedly safer, larger banks, in particular J.P. Morgan (whose profits jumped 52% for the first quarter of 2023) and Citibank. J.P. Morgan also has now absorbed First Republic.

These banks will be much more conservative financiers of a largely debt-ridden industry which has yet to turn a profit. Warner Bros., operator of HBO Max, which recently became just Max, is 50 billion in debt, having lost 217 million in the first quarter, claiming that loss is actually a victory since it was far less than the previous quarter, while Disney+ is hoping to be profitable by 2024.

First r 

First Republic Bank, now wholly owned by J.P. Morgan

So there will be less money to go around, and the money that is available will be coming from more conservative sources which will want more guarantees that the money invested will be profitable. All this in the wake of last year’s market devaluation of Netflix, based on subscribers declining for one quarter and a new emphasis on overall company profitability rather than on number of new subscribers, as the market becomes more suspicious of the streaming ‘house of cards’.

The retrenchment was an unacknowledged topic at the conference, with everyone realizing that budgets will be leaner and fewer series will be commissioned. There is also in the industry a new conservatism in programming, which likely dates from Reed Hastings’ comment in 2019, at that time as the head of the most influential streamer Netflix, about not opposing Saudi cuts in his company’s documentary because “We’re not in the news business. We’re not trying to do truth to power. We’re trying to entertain.”

This purposeful abnegation of any larger social role for the streaming industry was like the statement attributed to Jack Warner in 1947 in the wake of a strike against his studio, that “I will never again make a film about the common man.”

The renouncement of social content was touched upon by Series Mania director Laurence Herszberg, who candidly declared before the festival that “Today Netflix is more conservative than TF1” (TF1 is a commercial French on-air station, the equivalent in the U.S. perhaps to CBS).

The result of this retrenchment, which is already apparent, is a cutting back not only on the number of series and/or on the budgets of commissioned series, but also the failure of some of the streaming services. If they survive, it will be by making cheaper series, usually meaning unscripted or reality series which means a general diminution in quality.

Last year the French streamer Salto collapsed, while the merger of Warner Bros. and the documentary service Discovery meant that the resulting streamer, now simply titled Max, having shed the name of HBO, is now about saturation – but with cheaper reality series from the Discovery label, with the emphasis on more bottom feeder series such as Gold Rush, Deadliest Catch, and Moonshiners.

The End of Peak TV

This new state of affairs was described by the online service Slate as no longer “Peak TV” but rather “Trough” or bottom-of-the barrel TV. Two years ago, 2021, was probably the height of series abundance with 559 series produced in the U.S. By contrast, in the current climate, Sky, one of the leaders in European series, has invested in 200 series but only about 10 percent of them are scripted.

All over the world consumers, led by the U.S. and now labelled ‘cord cutters’, are cancelling expensive cable services for cheaper streamers. The problem for the streamers is that inflation and an austerity-driven global attack on working class income such as the French raising of the pension age from 62 to 64, and global central banks’ raising of interest rates which makes borrowing prohibitive, means that cord cutters are subscribing to fewer streaming services.

Meanwhile, as Herszberg says, streaming services across the globe are growing and have now reached by her count 700, which means the competition for viewers is increasing.

 nordland 99 rev

Nordland '99

All this new penny pinching has prompted a return by the streaming industry to many of the practices of the older era of network TV, practices which for a decade or so the streamers had claimed had been surpassed in a frenzy of creative activity. Series are being cancelled sooner with some now cancelled in production before they reach the air.

This practice is more in line with the usual mid-season casualty list of network TV which used to announce after Christmas a fresh second season, having replaced fall series that were duds and ratings failures with spring series, many of which, a few months later, shared the same fate.

Budgets for series are being reduced and canny showrunners are already adapting to the new austerity. One of the best series in the festival was Nordland ’99 from Danish public television, in a shortened but tight half-hour rather than the usual hour format. The showrunner, Kasper Møller Rask, has fashioned a low-budget, rural series with a cast of mostly newcomers, filmed cheaply in the Danish countryside whose dark forests are alive with the eerie intonations of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks while also echoing the themes of Lynch’s series. Here, three teens search for their missing friend and discover the evil of an adult world which itself has been left for dead by the systemic brutality of what in the West can now be labelled authoritarian neoliberalism.

Freedom to choose bland TV

Another accommodation to the network TV era is the adoption of the dreaded strategy of advertising, which Netflix previously was famous for shunning, instead claiming it was viewer-sponsored with its revenue coming exclusively from subscriptions. All streamers now though have instituted “two-tiered” pricing, with a lower price that includes advertising and a higher price that excludes it. Advertising of course also opens the door to sponsors having a say in content and particularly in the atmosphere that the program surrounding their product sets up – yet another infringement on creativity that means blander content. This new austerity, control, and limiting of the range of content is presented as “freedom of choice” for the consumer.

To appeal to lenders wanting to be assured their money will prosper, the buzzword in streaming is now “IP,” Intellectual Property, which does not mean more thoughtful challenging work but rather the opposite. IP denotes utilization of a previously successful property. In the Hollywood studio sense this could mean that the series already has an audience in another medium, thus the recent television remakes of the novels Great Expectations and Tom Jones and Drops of God, an international co-production from a popular Japanese manga about competition between wine growers in France and Japan.

More often though IP means the extension of one hit series into a franchise, the business term, or “universe,” its creative equivalent.  With the success of the very conservative Yellowstone, a kind of modern-day cross between Bonanza and Dynasty, about a rancher and his family holding onto their land, aided by the fading star quality of Kevin Costner, Paramount+ has now gone back in time and created two copycat series about the origin of the dynasty titled 1883 and 1923.

This trend is further magnified by the ratings success of the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon, which despite a lacklustre final season for the origin series has proven to be an enormous hit and which has prompted the development of six more GOT series. You can never have too much of a good thing even if that good thing ended by exhausting itself.

A mountainous abundance of ****

The general quality of the streamers’ stables is declining. Once upon a time television was referred to as “the vast wasteland” with that phrase then superseded by the labelling of the streaming era as a new “Golden Age,” harkening back to socially inflected anthology dramas of television’s early years. Today’s budget-conscious streamers, in an era of increasing competition, each stressed at the conference their desire to be all things to all audiences, a one-stop shop for entertainment, given that much of the audience can now only afford one stop.

This Noah’s Ark approach – comedy, drama, family, quality entertainment all in the same bundle – stressed the element of abundance, but the truth is there is now mostly an abundance of shows without much merit, so that, to find quality series it is now necessary to scour all the streamers to find the one or two relevant series on each.


Sylvester Stallone’s Tulsa, part of the Paramount+ “Mountain of Entertainment

Paramount+, for example, a newcomer to European markets, in line with its old studio logo featuring a snow-capped peak, described its offerings as “a mountain of entertainment,” a “popular array of content” that presented a range of series with each being “best in class.” The streamer’s “sizzle reel,” a montage of its various offerings, with the tagline “The Stars Are Streaming,” belied these claims, featuring the almost comatose Costner in Yellowstone, Sylvester Stallone in his beyond-cliched gangster series Tulsa, a coming extension of Dexter about a vengeful serial killer and NCIS Sydney, the overseas expansion of that tired franchise. This is surely a mountain of something, but I’m not sure the correct name for it is entertainment.

There are three ways that both globally and locally the power of the streamers is being challenged. The first, in Europe, is still the possibility of government intervention to level the playing field, though as in many forms of the digital economy, with the EU already currently behind in the race for Artificial Intelligence (AI) as exemplified in ChatGPT, this intervention often comes in the ‘too little, too late’ variety.

There is a European mandate that the American streamers’ content must be at least 30 percent local. Despite or perhaps to surmount this mandate, the streamers are pilfering the best European series talent, with Netflix, for example, recently having hired Eleonora Andreatta, formerly the head of the drama department of the Italian public television network RAI and with the producers of the French espionage series Bureau of Legends, which has now become a global franchise, currently working for Disney+.  

In France, though, following the Chinese model, each co-pro with an American streamer now must have a delegated French producer. The idea here is that the producer then absorbs the American model and can instill it into French production, the way the Chinese allowed foreign companies to set up in China but then absorbed their know-how.

The writers are striking!

The most impactful challenge though at the moment is located in the belly of the beast. As this article goes to press, the biggest story in series and film production is the looming writers’ strike, which is now almost a certainty and will commence in May.

Since 2007, with a contract won in the wake of the last strike, the writers have been watching those gains steadily erode as their salaries declined by on average 4 percent while profits in the entertainment industry as a whole, despite the debt, have soared. The streaming companies on the other hand, now more budget-conscious, have not budged in negotiations, trying to extract as much profit as possible from writers who have a crucial role in the establishment of series TV and whose hiring is now more precarious since series have shorter time spans, 8 to 12 episodes as opposed to the former network model of 22.

Those 8 to 12 episodes now also take longer to produce in the era of “quality TV” but writers are being paid the same amount per show and thus are forced, as are workers everywhere, to work longer hours for less pay.

One of the points of contention in the writer’s contract is the use of AI, with producers threatening to employ this latest technological breakthrough to author scripts and the writers campaigning to keep AI out of the writing process. The problem here is that because of the declining quality which this article has mapped, and the whole history of Hollywood film and television production as rolling off an assembly line, some of the recent series look like they have already been written by programs like ChatGPT.

However, this assembly line production can never replace well-written series. One need only look at two recent series, released within a day of each other, to observe this. Amazon’s bloated, utterly unoriginal John Wick/True Lies/Jason Bourne paint-by-numbers Citadel, which will become a global franchise with new entries in India and Italy, sounds like it has been spun off a machine. To use the language of AI, the script, lacking an ounce of originality, is simply recombinatory.

On the other hand, David E. Kelley’s Love and Death, an extraordinary, minute examination of how unmet desires in a suburb of Texas at the dawn of the repressive Reagan “Revolution” erupt into violence, is not a machine-like spitting out of past cliches but a highly original work.

The third challenge to the power of the streamers is in the global content of showrunners willing to buck the trend of “pure entertainment” and create socially relevant series, which admittedly are in the vast minority.

The anti-capitalist alternative to wealth porn like Succession

An India/Pakistani production Limboland, although much more Pakistani centered, being shot amid the breathtaking peaks and lowlands of the Hunza Valley in Karachi, is a Succession themed series but unlike that series – which is simply wealth porn – has an anti-capitalist point.

Limboland centers on the decisions an old man, now a wealthy hotel owner, made in his life, shutting out the woman he loved in favor of the pursuit of money with a non-Western pace that equally belies the frantic pursuit of profit evidenced even in the editing of its American cousin.

Equally, Black Santiago Club, from Benin, describes the fellow-feeling around a jazz club that is being threatened by a developer who wants to gut the club and turn it into condo apartments. The film is crystal clear on both the communal sprit engendered by the club and the attempt to destroy that spirit by privatizing for profit what is a neighborhood treasure.

 Little bird

Little Bird

Finally, two other series highlighted racial inequality. The first was Canada’s Little Bird, voted the audience favourite at the festival, which situated itself first in the present as it follows the path of a Native American ripped away from her family and inserted into a Jewish professional milieu in which she has thrived. Then it flashes back to her painful abduction by the Canadian state and highlights the attitude of superiority that allowed that state to break up families in the name of “progress.”

Netflix’s Thicker Than Water, currently streaming on the network, a tour-de-force by showrunner, writer and series lead Nawell Madani, highlights the racism of the French professional classes. An Algerian female reporter must claw her way onto the set of French TV as an anchor woman, all the while dealing with her brother who is connected to a gang, while cooperating with her sisters as their family is caught up in trying to rescue the brother. As a reporter Fara is allowed her own curly black hair, a physical mark of her Arab heritage, but as an anchor, to come into the living rooms of a white French public, she must straighten her hair and dye it blonde. After the changeover, she climbs into an elevator filled with nothing but dyed blonde French women, ascending to the top of the station hierarchy symbolically and physically.

Thicker than W 

Thicker Than Water

As Western economies everywhere decline, the streamers also find themselves in a precarious position with Peacock, Comcast’s streamer made up of content from NBC/Universal, now rumored to possibly lose its identity in a merger with Warner Bros.’s Discovery, and thus in danger of becoming the first of the major streamers to throw in the towel.

Opposing the corporate juggernauts

The struggle continues of writers, other creative workers in the creative industries, public stations, alternative streamers as well as audiences to oppose the corporate juggernauts. In the latest manifestation of this struggle, writers, never more important in the industry, attempt, through the time-honoured tool of a strike, to fight off these latest efforts to reduce their value both by a regressive movement back to “non-scripted” reality television and a coming attempt to supplant their work in general through the onslaught of AI and ChatGPT’s replacing of a writer’s sensibility with a machinic recombination of genres. Unfortunately, the decline in series quality, supposedly motivated by decreasing budgets, is playing its part by readying audiences to accept this degraded mode of production.

Dennis Broe’s articles are television are available on Substack at Cultural Politics For Those Who Care and on his website Bro On The Global Television Beat. His latest book on television is Diary Of A Digital Plague Year: Corona Culture, Serial TV and The Rise of The Streaming Services.

The Invaders: Alien Beings From A Dying Empire
Wednesday, 12 April 2023 09:50

The Invaders: Alien Beings From A Dying Empire

Published in Fiction

The Invaders: Alien Beings From a Dying Planet. Their Destination: The Earth. Their Mission: To Make It Their World. It began with a landing of a craft from another galaxy. Now David Vincent knows that the invaders are here, that they have taken human form. Somehow, he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun.

That was the opening of a piece of ’50s paranoia that ran on TV in the mid-60s. These creatures from another planet are just like us but some of them have a deformity, a pinkie finger that sticks straight up. Each week architect Vincent tried to tell people that the planet was in danger, launched by a deadly foe that did not mind wiping out all life on earth to make way for this alien life form from a planet whose inhabitants assumed human shape but showed no emotion.

Unfortunately, the Invaders still walk among us. They resemble ordinary politicians except their rhetoric is much more bellicose. They threaten the rest of the planet and at every moment attempt to push war and halt peace. They have ordinary names like Nuland, Sullivan, Blinken and Biden, and you can tell them, not by their extended pinkies, but by their use of the word “democracy” as an excuse for their desire for planetary dominance.

They disrupt the flow of goods and the peaceful development of the resources of that part of earth called The Global South in order to maintain their dominance. They are especially active in what they see as the menace of Eurasia. When they saw the possibilities for shared resources with Russia and Western Europe they immediately went into disruptive mode, in order to further promote their own oil and gas and maintain their dominance over their Caucasian vassals.

DBinvaders Countries US military interventions scaled

Make no mistake about it, they are invaders. They themselves recently revealed they have launched 251 military interventions since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and 469 since the Invaders arrived in the U.S. in 1798. The greater contemporary danger though for these creatures for whom peace is an alien concept, is the coming together to share resources and aid that is the mutual development of the entire land mass of Eurasia. This danger is led by China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which despite its problems, aims to be a bridge between the developing countries and Europe, with the trade on this New Silk Road raising living standards all along the way.

The aliens in the U.S. – already reeling from their failure to decimate Russia in their Ukraine proxy war as 87 percent of the world’s population refuses to commit to the war – have now set their sights on destroying the Belt and Road Initiative which they see as a challenge to their mission to control the earth, to keep it exclusively their world. What they pose as the alternative to the Chinese rising tide which lifts all boats is endless destruction in a kind of mafia protection racket. Either you are with us or against us and if you are against us, we are coming for you and you will be destroyed.

This is the Biden-Blinken-Sullivan-Nuland logic and, as they clamor for a rules based order, behind the braying, lies the power of their alien weapons now spread out in 800 military bases in over 80 countries while China, the country they present as a major military threat, has one foreign base in one country.


The way of life of this alien race is crumbling, as their leader, who they call The Biden, walks the streets of Ukraine with a fake air raid siren to make it seem he is in danger, while they ignore their own people who are dying in a chemical spill and then a purposeful explosion that may have decimated the drinking water and livelihoods of one-third of their own world, making it far more dangerous for The Biden to walk the streets of Palestine Ohio, where he does not dare to go, than those of Kiev.

David Vincent had to go person to person in the late ’60s to warn about these alien invaders, as people refused to wake up to the danger they posed. It is far more difficult for the David, Diane, Dinitia and Damon Vincents of today because the aliens have captured all means of communication in their world, and emit an endless stream of blather utterly out of touch with the geopolitical realities of the world around them.

Behind the wall patrolled by their alien devices which censor all global perspective, they reward their lying media as just recently a daily newspaper now taken over completely by these creatures, which they call The New York Times, was awarded the prestigious Polk Award for its coverage of the war in Ukraine. This was a completely one-sided and often inaccurate view of the war, with almost no reporting on how and why the war started and only one paragraph written about the revelations that their alien masters blew up the Russian Nord Stream pipeline.

Can the drive toward death and destruction by these alien creatures and their mad lust for power be stopped before they destroy the earth in their attempt to make it “their world” and to keep the rest of the world from rising? The architect David Vincent tried to spread the word but it will take all of us to build a peaceful world and rid this one of this ever more dangerous alien menace.

This is a preview of an upcoming episode of I Fought the Law featuring prolific author and historian Gerald Horne and titled “Me Tarzan, You, Are Either With Us Or Against Us: Joe Biden in Africa” 

Class, Crime, and the “Blonde Bombshell”: Diana Dors vs. Marilyn Monroe
Saturday, 18 February 2023 11:18

Class, Crime, and the “Blonde Bombshell”: Diana Dors vs. Marilyn Monroe

Published in Films

She was called “the British Marilyn Monroe” but in fact, in very telling ways, their paths and personas were different. The difference conveys some important truths about Diana's class-based British society, and Marilyn’s America, which was hell-bent in the 1950s on erasing any traces of class consciousness.

Both came to prominence in the oversexed – because in actuality horribly repressed – middle and late 1950s where misogynist terms like “sexpot” and “bombshell” were applied to any actress – though not to actors – who gave off the slightest whiff of sexual liberty. With Marilyn, this aspect of her persona was seen as part of her naïve charm. With Dors, it was part of a “bad girl” image from which she never strayed. She truly maintained, as a critic once described Richard Widmark, who often portrayed seedy low-lifes, “the courage of her own sordid convictions.”

Yet, underneath the tawdry image, in her British noirs of the period (The Long Haul, Tread Softly Stranger, Passport to Shame, all available for free on YouTube), was an acute identification with her working-class roots and with the pain as well as the solidarity that an exploitative class society often engendered. These films in which she had a prominent role in the late 1950s were the precursors to the wholescale entry of working-class characters into the British cinema in the early 1960s with what was called Angry Young Man or Kitchen Sink films – because they often featured working-class figures lurking around those sinks – beginning with Richard Burton in Look Back in Anger and featuring Carol Reisz’ majestic Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.  


Monroe as working-class entertainer in Otto Preminger’s River of No Return

Marilyn had a different trajectory. She too had a humble working-class background and in her early films – John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle, Roy Ward Baker’s Don’t Bother to Knock and Preminger’s River of No Return – she was often a set-upon outsider who still managed to maintain her innocence. But something happened around 1954, when she moved to New York and started studying at The Actors Studio, which nearly ruined the authentic quality she brought to her early roles. Once she became an “aactrice” and started “aacting” she began to conceal all aspects of her actual roots and moved toward becoming an unmoored icon in a ’50s America that claimed to have abolished all class distinctions in the victory of capitalism.

The low point of this second phase was 1956’s Bus Stop torn from the condescending New York stage, where she plays a bar singer who falls for a rodeo cowboy (Don Murray). Both are seen as nearly sub-human, so inarticulate they can hardly communicate, and the “aactrice” Marilyn is happy to dumb down her character as she helps throw a “upper-middle-class elite gaze” on working people.


Dors confined to a repressive reformatory in Good Time Girl

Dors was the quintessential “bad girl” – a ’40s label for women who breached the social code and sought independence – almost from her moment of entering the British film industry in 1948’s Good-Time Girl, about a rambunctious teen who breaks society’s rules and shows no remorse for doing so. After being condemned to a cruel women’s boarding house, and being a victim of a lascivious father, she breaks out, eventually led astray and into serious crime by first a gangster and then two hardened American servicemen. What is supposed to be a morality tale about the dangers of taking wrong turns, that is defying a society with rigid rules for its working-class women, instead through Dors’ refusal to radiate guilt, turns her tragedy into triumph.

She then partially tried to reform and become a more standard blonde heroine, but that part of her persona never took on. She instead went from brash prison inmate in The Weak and The Wicked to 1956’s Yield to the Night, an intensely sympathetic portrayal of a woman in her last days condemned to death for the murder of an abusive husband. In its branding of capital punishment as actual crime inflicted by the state on female victims, that film shared the limelight with the American I Want To Live, done two years later, another meticulously sculpted portrayal of the sadism of the state’s death sentence against a powerfully resilient Suzanne Heyward. Dors was lauded for her role at that year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Dors was then offered a contract with RKO in the U.S. and her persona was immediately altered by John Farrow and Jonathan Latimore ­ ­–the director and screenwriter of The Big Clock – to first bad girl and then repentant sinner in The Unholy Wife. She is saddled with a ’50s “loving,” but actually coercive, arrogant, moralistic Napa Valley wine merchant and husband, Rod Steiger, who can only think of their child which his wife never wanted. Had it been made today the film might have been called The Unhappy Wife, as in the end Dors is stripped of her platinum blonde hair, and as a bowed brunette awaiting the electric chair she repents and finds religion.


Dors trying to break free of a gangster with trucker Mature in the background

The film, which strayed so far from her persona, was not a success. Perhaps the best thing that happened to her was that she returned to Britain and starred in three remarkable noirs. The first was The Long Haul, about a crucial sector of British working-class employment, the trucking industry. Victor Mature, his hard-bitten face here still able to convey longing before he consumed himself in an alcoholic frenzy, stars as an American vet who signs on to a transport company run by a gangster. Dors is the at first equally hard-bitten gangster’s moll who instead falls in love with family man Mature, but eventually returns him to his family and consigns herself back to her former prison as a club girl at The Congo Club. She is both seductive but in-the-end also attuned to Mature’s wife and child. Her meeting with them is presented not as submission to bourgeois morality but as solidarity in her recognition of their importance. This film and Hell Drivers, about the same industry, are almost a direct line to the British working-class cinema that will follow, as outlined in my chapter on British films in Class, Crime and International Film Noir.

The pain behind the bombshell persona

Next comes perhaps the best of this trio, at least in terms of Dors’ persona. In Tread Softly, Stranger, she comes between two brothers in one of the bastions of the British working class, the Northern steel town in Yorkshire of Parkgate. The film features extensive on-location shots of the factory which one of the brothers, an accountant, intends to rob. Dors’ character Calico, at first a kind of freeloading sexual user, is pushing for the robbery and seems to be nothing but a “gold digger”– a ’30s pejorative term for women seeking some level of financial independence – as she instead falls for the accountant Dave’s older brother Johnny, an itinerant gambler returned home from London to hide because of his debts. When the crime unravels though, Johnny charges her with exploiting men: ‘Doesn’t anybody mean anything to you?”


Dors in the working-class bastion of Yorkshire in Tread Softly, Stranger

She answers with a remarkable monologue which softens and makes understandable her path and which is not only her character’s story but also partly autobiographical:

I come from a slum, from the gutter where it’s quite a step up even to the pavement. I never had a home. I never had a father my mother could put a name too. I never had a thing till one day I found I was attractive to the opposite sex. My legs could be used for something other than to stand on. I had one talent, most people haven’t got any, so I used that talent and I got tough.

She then says she never loved anyone until Johnny so in her mind she was never unfaithful but that she is faithful to him. The monologue is a clever deconstruction of the exploitative personality she was forced to adopt and her struggle to escape it. She will wait for Johnny and this becomes the fullest expression of the pain behind the “bombshell” persona perhaps ever in the cinema.

Finally, in Passport to Shame, Dors has the secondary role as a hardened sex worker in a house of prostitution in charge of overseeing the initiation of a new recruit. The ingenue though falls for a taxi driver who eventually exhorts his buddies in the cab company to rescue the recruit. Dors also falls for a not particularly handsome, but very sympathetic, cab driver and friend of the lead character, helps participate in the rescue, and leaves with her new friend. Again, a film where her persona as hardened exploiter gives way to someone who returns to her working-class roots, to male-female solidarity instead of cut-throat exploitation of each other, as she rejects the pull of the glamour of capitalist society whose promise of material wellbeing is in the end seen as empty.

Diana Dors had a remarkable career. Particularly in the late ’50s, at a time when Hollywood was simply full of beauties for their own sake as personified by Marilyn Monroe, she helped cast a new light on the working-class origins of these characters. This contributed to their ultimate dissolution as that image in the 1960s gave way to a more liberated one, while also branding her as a working-class woman of the cinema par excellence. Perhaps this is the reason why her performances – at least for U.S. and global audiences – are now almost forgotten.

A Cultural Dispatch From War-Torn Europe: Art, Theatre and Music in Vienna
Saturday, 28 January 2023 22:10

A Cultural Dispatch From War-Torn Europe: Art, Theatre and Music in Vienna

Published in Visual Arts

It’s hardly the ruined, devastated postwar rubble that was the backdrop of the most famous film shot in Vienna, The Third Man (see image above), but in more subtle ways Europe in general and Austria’s capital city in particular is showing signs of deterioration. After two years of a COVID lockdown and with the price cap on Russian oil and natural gas – prompting in return a cutoff of that supply from Russia – there is a general air of belt-tightening and despondency as well as an unleashing of right-wing sentiments in the wake of these twin catastrophes.

The belt-tightening is everywhere apparent. The museums cut back on Christmas blockbusters and instead tried to make up in ingenuity what they lack in budget. The Leopold Museum’s feature “Vienna 1900” displayed works by Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka in an exhibition that simply looks like a regurgitation of past exhibits using the fin-de-siecle 1900 label to group them under a new heading of the turn to modernism.

The Kunst Historisches (Art History) museum which in the past has featured blockbusters highlighting Titian, Caravaggio and Bruegel this year tried, in avoiding the high price of borrowing and insuring works, to trace the history of competition in art in its “Idols and Rivals” exhibit which featured an array of replicas and reproductions. It’s a topic that might have dealt more strongly with the pressures on artists to produce saleable commodities in a capitalist art market, but which instead focused on individual rivalries. Best moment was an etching of the art historian Georgio Vasari and Michelangelo visiting Titian’s studio at which time Michelangelo, peering over the master’s shoulder, is said to have remarked that the Venetians, famous as colorists, still had not learned how to draw.

The New Year’s celebration was also muted as the city, pre-COVID, had sponsored nine stages with various kinds of music ranging from Viennese waltzes in the city square to hip-hop to rock, but this year cut the display down to five. A highlight of past New Year’s events was a broadcasting outside the world-famous Staatsoper, the national opera house, of the New Year’s Eve perennial Der Fledermaus and the next day on the same screen the world-famous Vienna Philharmonic Concert. This year the events took place but were not broadcast outside, and thus remained only the province of the elite, though the concert in truncated form is broadcast on public television stations across the world.

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Surrealism and Psychoanalysis at The Freud Museum 

The most interesting exhibition was one of the smallest, a collection of 50 Surrealist pieces – sculpture, paintings and sketches – at the Sigmund Freud Museum, which recounted the sometimes troubled relationship between Freud and the Surrealist capo Andre Breton. Freud remained skeptical about the Surrealist project, which he claimed dealt only with the manifest, or overt, content of the dream, whereas he was interested in the latent, or hidden, content. But it’s easy to see that in fact the two benefited each other, with Surrealism helping to popularize Freud’s discovery of psychoanalysis, and Freud’s discovery of the unconscious which enlivened and invigorated the art world with a plethora of startling images. 

Also on hand at a revamped version of the museum was Freud’s correspondence with Einstein on the subject of the uselessness and destruction of war in the era between the two world wars. Their warning went unheeded, neither in their time nor today as we draw ever closer to global nuclear war.

The other most interesting exhibit was at the Welt or World Museum on the subject of “Oceans. Collections. Reflections.” The museum featured the work of New Zealand Maori artist George Nuku. The work, in exquisite paintings and sculptures, detailed the interdependence of the Maori on the ocean with each construction of a boat or a whale bounded by plastic bottles, indicating the way waste and the petroleum industry are devastating the livelihood and sustainability of the Maori.

Elsewhere, the exhibition described how in the 18th century New Zealand tribesmen had visited Vienna as the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire and asked for aid as they were about to be invaded by the British. The emperor granted them a printing press which they used to print leaflets and testimonies warning of the impending invasion. Helpful, yes, but also a way of exonerating the empire from its colonial role in the conquest and colonization of the peoples of eastern Europe.

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The Volksoper's Threepenny Opera 

The Volksoper, or People’s Opera, which performs light opera or operetta and musicals, featured a strikingly modern version of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil’s Threepenny Opera with the beggars dressed in the gaudy costumes of internet influencers and the thieves arrayed in the equally outrageous apparel of digital entrepreneurs. This element of the production emphasized the continuity between scammers of different centuries. What did not work was the overwrought Don Juan in Hell final death of the lead thief and cutthroat Mack the Knife which attempted to replace with smokescreens and stagecraft Brecht’s more radical ending. Brecht resolved the injustice of the play through a royal decree, which was designed to call attention to the falseness of Dickensian and other deus ex machina endings of  artworks which undercut the social critique in those works. The trope persists today, not only in fiction but also in the belief that billionaire philanthropy will in the end save the world, even as it adds to their own wealth.   

The city is dotted with metros, buses and trolleys, and is often voted the most livable on the planet. It continues to have extraordinary public transportation and affordable housing with the average price of 767 euros for a roomy one-bedroom flat just outside the central ring. Sixty percent of its population live in subsidised housing, a tribute to the post World War I affordable housing boom led by first socialist and then social democratic administrations. But as everywhere on the planet there are ominous sightings of the ever-present monstrous cranes, harbingers of the coming of large condos that will force the prices up everywhere in the city.

Renaissance of the right wing

There is also a disturbing right-wing renaissance even in this most cosmopolitan of cities. It’s perhaps the result of the support for the fascist elements in the Ukrainian government, soon to be aided by the flow of NATO arms that are making their way across Western Europe, where a right-wing planned coup was recently thwarted in Germany. Those arms have surfaced as far away as Africa, with Nigeria’s president announcing they have already reached terrorist groups in that country.

The Austrian History Museum, opened in 2019 and recounting Austrian events from after World War I to the present, featured an exhibit titled “Disposing of Hitler: Out of the Cellar, Into the Museum.” The Austrian criminal code bans any material that could be used to “perpetuate the aspirations” of any Nazi organization, but National Socialist paraphernalia – books, swords, photos, postcards – exist everywhere and can be bought on eBay. The exhibit consists of illustrations of this memorabilia and asks visitors whether it should be preserved, sold, or destroyed. Overwhelmingly the response, aided by the museum itself which presented an argument for a museum being a repository of historical memory, was “Preserve,” with no “Destroy” and an occasional “Sell.”

The exhibit thus functioned as a part of the path on the way to normalising this hateful junk, with the argument that “it’s part of our history” – the same argument propounded almost always by right-wing pundits and used to attack the pulling down of slave owners’ statues in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Elsewhere, the Staatoper’s version of Wagner’s The Master-Singers of Nuremberg, at over four-and-a-half hours the longest opera in the repertory, missed a chance to address the anti-semitism and championing of the Aryan virtues which made it not only a hit but the only opera performed at the Bayreuth Wagner Festival in Hitler’s darkest days of 1943 and 1944.

In the work, the proud German blond clean-shaven novice has to outsing the hard-hearted bearded technical master for the hand of a German maiden. The Staatsoper chose to simply recreate the work, putting its effort into painstaking reconstruction of the 17th century milieu in which the work is set, seemingly oblivious to its historical uses and its ethnic stereotyping. The opera is a fascinating meta-mediation by Wagner on the art of composing and singing, but it cries out for a modern retelling which ironizes and criticizes its original bigotry and the uses to which it’s been put. Recreating the period does not negate that history but simply suppresses it in an era in Europe where it is more alive than ever.

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Mozart in 3D 

Finally, Vienna also has, as is popular everywhere in Europe, a new immersive experience in the centre of the city titled “Mythos Mozart”. These are 3D recreations of Mozart’s death, his city Vienna in 1791 at the time of his writing of The Magic Flute, and the creation of his most famous musical number “A Little Night Music.”

In general, these “immersive” exhibitions flood the viewer with images – but afterwards one knows little more about Mozart and his world at the end than at the beginning. The last room is a kaleidoscope of random images assaulting the viewer on all four walls, the ceiling, and the floor. In response to this stultifying collage a little girl got on all fours, and raised one foot up against the wall as though she was a dog out for a walk doing its business. That little girl is going to make an excellent critic.

The beating heart of the city though, despite the rightward tilt and the wartime austerity, is still its cafes. Café Central, a haven for writers and once the home of Freud, the novelist and journalist Joseph Roth – the subject of an exemplary new biography titled Endless Flight – the anti-war critic Karl Krauss, and Arthur Schnitzler, the playwright and lampooner of the bourgeois. Café Museum was the home of the “1900” artists Klimt, Schiele, and Kokoschka and Café Mozart was the meeting place of composers and opera singers, and perhaps of Arnold Schoenberg and Albert Berg as they created the “new” atonal music.

These are now all packed with tourists but still contain the memories of a time that may hopefully be revived and prevail over the war clouds that now hang so heavily over Europe.

Calamitous Corruption: The Harry Palmer LA Trilogy
Wednesday, 21 December 2022 15:32

Calamitous Corruption: The Harry Palmer LA Trilogy

Published in Fiction

Dennis Broe presents Book 3: The Precinct With The Golden Arm

In his third encounter with the seamy world of the LA power structure of the 1940s, disgraced ex-homicide detective Harry Palmer tangles with the LAPD as it attempts to shed its aura of corruption while clamping down on the Mexican American community of Boyle Heights in the wake of the Zoot Suit Rebellion. Lurking in the background is the burgeoning pharmaceutical industry as these various threads interconnect and lead Harry into a maze of sex and drugs as he confronts his own tarnished past.

Available on Kindle and in paperback 

Praise for Book 2:

“Dennis Broe has done it again! Private investigator Harry Palmer takes us on another twisting, careening ride through the noir underworld of early Cold War America. With racist, greedy, corrupt, violent, and erotic Los Angeles as the backdrop, this plot of espionage, murder, and intrigue will have you turning pages as fast as your eyes can follow”—Peter Kuznick, co-author with Oliver Stone of The Untold History of the United States

“This worthy contribution to the unsettling history of LA fits nicely between Raymond Chandler’s earlier depiction of the region and the contemporary vision of the Curtis Hanson/James Elroy L.A. Confidential and Mike Davis’ City of Quartz--Mike Berkowitz, Mendocino News

“Harry learns how the US became a war economy, and why the beneficiaries of that process will take any measures to keep their magic money tree watered…I defy anyone not to enjoy the quips, badinage and throwaway philosophy, delightfully faithful to the style of the period”—Matt Coward, Morning Star

And be sure to check out Book 1:Left of Eden 

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