Summary: We interrupt our series about the TV show “Castle” to answer a reader’s question. This analysis reveals dark aspects of US culture (with worse to come in future chapters), but are the lessons from “Castle” typical of American TV? To answer that we’ll look at one of the shows in the hit Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) franchise: “NCIS: Los Angeles”. It should be called Gestapo: LA. Spoiler for the post: the answer is “it’s not only typical, there are darker shows.”
Post your thoughts in the comments.
- The NCIS franchise: fun & effective
- About NCIS: Los Angeles
- About the the Gestapo
- Ending on a darker note
- Other posts in this series
- For More Information
(1) The NCIS franchise: fun & effective
The original “NCIS” has been a hit for 11 seasons. It spun off “NCIS: Los Angeles”, the short-lived “NCIS: Red”, and the new “NCIS: New Orleans”.
Goebbels, the NAZI propaganda genius, would have loved these shows. They’re fun to watch because they’re well-written and done by skillful actors. They’re useful because they have a powerful subtext.
Their popularity shows our acceptance of tyranny; perhaps even our eagerness for it. Watching these was one reason for my prediction that Snowden’s revelations about government surveillance would produce no substantial reforms.
(2) About NCIS: Los Angeles
In NCIS: LA we see, and can react to, a prototype of an American Gestapo (i.e., in an early stage of development).
Their agents are a diverse group of attractive, young, incredibly skilled security agents. Each speaks many languages fluently, and has mastered many skills — except for Marty Deeks, the least of the team, the butt of their jokes, who is a LA street cop who has a law degree and passed the difficult California bar exam. Their supporting technicians are geniuses.
It’s important that Americans consider their gestapo agents to be superior men and women.
Each week our team hunts down unamerican terrorists (foreign and domestic) — often
gypsies, Jews, and people of color — stopping their nefarious plans to destroy America.
It’s important that Americans remain accustomed to seeing people of color as fit subjects for close surveillance (as New York’s Finest did with area mosques).
Investigations routinely break into homes and databases (with the occasional, if rare, mention of warrants). Interrogations frequently mention the certainty of anal rape in prison and the option of torture in Guantánamo Bay). Often the hunt ends with a hail of gunfire (perhaps Guantánamo Bay is full).
It’s important that Americans know their gestapo agents are above the law.
We’re a long way from TV shows like Highway Patrol (1955 – 1959), The FBI (1965 – 1974) and Adam-12 (1968 – 1975). There were unrealistic portrayals of these agencies, but benign entertainment. Unlike our shows today, where we’re applauding the precursors to our next — and probably quite undemocratic — political regime.
How accurately does NCIS: LA show the activities of our security services (especially the well-funded multi-agency Federal apparatus)? From the scraps of information in the news, about as usual for TV. Quite unrealistic (e.g., the frequent fire fights). But the NCIS: LA agents’ indifference to our civil rights — that they appear to have captured well.
(3) About the the Gestapo
Gestapo was the abbreviation for Geheime Staatspolizei, the “Secret State Police”. An apt description for the secret agents of NCIS: LA.
The Gestapo was formed in 1934 from the political and intelligence sections of the German national police. The NAZI leadership retasked them, as our leaders have re-tasked elements of our law enforcement agencies. History shows these things spin out of control quite quickly.
(4) Ending on a darker note
In the tradition of the FM website, we’ll end on the darkest note. The NCIS shows are fiction, but they mirror the evolution of local, State, and Federal security services. As they grow as outlaws, they’ll need to recruit people — people who are de facto enemies of the Republic under the Constitution. Read the comment threads to the posts about torture.; you’ll see people doing practice auditions for the American gestapo.
When the time comes, the government will have no difficulty recruiting.
(5) Other posts in this series about “Castle”
Tomorrow we’re back to mining the TV show “Castle” for insights about ourselves. The next few posts are darker than the first four, but not as dark as this one. I think we’ve hit pay dirt in their series.
- (1) Spoilers for “Castle”: explaining the finale & season 7. It’s a metaphor for America.
- (2) What we do here. Why it’s unpopular. And our new theme.
- (3) What the TV show “Castle” teaches us about America, and ourselves, — About our myths
- Intermission: NCIS: Los Angeles – TV adventures of our stylish security police
- (4 ) The TV show “Castle” challenges us to see our changing values. Most fans decline, horrified.
- (5) “Castle” shows us marriage in America, a fault line between our past & future
- (6) “Castle” shows us a dark vision of Romance in America
- (7) Richard Castle shows us the dark reality of justice in 21st C America
- (8) “Castle” shows that many of us don’t defend New America because we don’t like it
- (9) The bitter fruits of our alienation from America — more lessons from “Castle”
(6) For More Information
Posts about our heroes:
- A philosophical basis for the Batman saga, 23 July 2008
- The problem with America lies in our choice of heroes, 12 November 2010
- Robocop is not a good role model for the youth of Detroit, 12 March 2011
- We want heroes, not leaders. When that changes it will become possible to reform America., 11 January 2013
- Our choice of heroes reveals much about America, 2 June 2013
- The Lone Ranger tells us about America, 6 July 2013
- Are our film heroes leading us to the future, or signaling despair?, 28 October 2013