Tag Archives: james bowman

Review of “Sully”: an example of fake history in the making

Summary:  James Bowman describes a small but telling example of making fake news in the film Sully, showing how Hollywood turns an episode of skillful piloting into a fake morality tale about a heroic individual vs. an irrational bureaucracy. People watch films and learn not just about the specific incidents depicted, but also the larger lessons they show.


Film review: “Sully sullied?

By James Bowman.

American Spectator, 23 September 2016.

Posted with his generous permission.

Should we be troubled by the Clint Eastwood’s mild falsification of what actually happened after “the Miracle on the Hudson”?

Whatever else it does or doesn’t do, Clint Eastwood’s Sully makes an interesting case study for those of us who think a lot about the relationship between movies, or popular culture in general, and real life. Because the whole story of “the Miracle on the Hudson” on January 15, 2009 took only seconds to unfold, and because it was caused by Canada geese being sucked into a jet airliner’s engines and was therefore seemingly uncomplicated by any human drama behind the scenes, it must have been obvious to Mr. Eastwood from the start that some such drama had to be confected for the movie — if not quite ex nihilo then by way of exaggeration of what really happened.

He chose an inquiry by the National Transportation Safety Board which actually took place months after the plane’s “forced water landing” — as Captain Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) insists on calling it, as opposed to a “crash” — relocating the hearing to the days immediately after the event and showing his hero, still suffering from post-traumatic stress (we can watch his CGI nightmare of crashing the plane into Manhattan), being badgered by his bureaucratic inquisitors for taking an unnecessary risk with his passengers’ lives by ditching in the Hudson instead of making an emergency landing at one of the New York area airports. A computer simulation is said to have found he could have made such a landing. Sully, then, in the time-honored fashion of courtroom drama, gets to explain to his dunderheaded tormentors why the simulation is wrong.

It never happened in real life, but the story sort of fits with a familiar movie “narrative” of corrupt bureaucrats working against ordinary guys and gals who have behaved heroically and on behalf of corporate interests, in this case the airline (U.S. Airways, as it then was) and its unnamed insurers, who are supposed to be trying dishonestly to prove the hero no hero at all. There is also, slightly buried here, a man-vs.-machine drama — the computer simulation versus Captain Sully’s having “eyeballed it” — as well as just a hint of man-vs.-media as, for a brief moment at least, the TV reporters who are such a big part of the story scent scandal arising out of the NTSB inquiry.

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Sources of inspiration for America’s renewal

Summary:  Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To gain anything, something of equal value must be given.  That is life’s First Law of Equivalent Exchange, and applies to thing tangible and intangible — matter, energy, and spirit.  When America learns this we will be back on our true path.

As describe in dozens of posts on this site, America has come to a point where the burdens of self-government are too great for us to bear.  Our national motto seem to be “It’s not my fault”, which should replace  E Pluribus Unum on the dollar bill. **   This is the ethos of a nation in decline. 

What’s next?  When a people’s conceits and delusions are burned away, we must fall back on our core beliefs.  Those are seldom enough, at least IMO not enough for America.  Belief in freedom, free markets, human rights, and a republican form of government — all valuable and important ideals.  But America is in a sense an intellectual project, which gives it a basis in our minds but not our hearts.  So it should not surprise that these beliefs did not prevent us from our current situation — similar to that of  a jet aircraft with sputtering engines, pilots bickering, and passengers panicking.  Neither self-interest or love of our nation provide guidance in such a crisis.

All we have left are our myths. Unfortunately our modern myths reflect the spiritual weakness that is one cause of our crisis.  For example, most of them tell about about people who find a magic dingus and become great, or have powers bestowed on them by some Great MacGuffin.  James Bowman calls these Hollywood’s “slacker heroes”:

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“Some people just want to see the world burn”

Summary:  This is the first post in a series.  The next is 4GW in India – more people who want to watch the world burn. It’s not about India, or specific religions.  This is the dark side of humanity, a battle that has to be fought each generation.  Sometimes the battle goes poorly, as these killers find homes in both sides of the many non-trinitarian (or 4th generation wars) that rage across the globe.

World burning


Many people who have neither traveled through the third world nor read Martin van Creveld’s new book, Culture of War, did not take this seriously:

“He can’t be bought, bullied or negotiated with… some people just want to see the world burn.”
—   Alfred (Michael Caine) speaking of the Joker, in The Dark Knight (2008)

What would they make of this insight in the CIA? Perhaps their reaction would be like that of critic James Bowman:

Are there such men? Conceivably. But history affords no example of them, outside of comic books and the movies, attaining the sort of power it would take actually to burn the world, or even any very significant part of it.

Reality seems to provide a natural check upon such people in the form of a shortage of those who both (a) share their psychosis and (b) are willing to play the part of humble assistant — rather than starring as the evil genius themselves — in accomplishing their purposes. This problem for the would-be evil geniuses — a reassurance to the rest of us — is what creates the distinctive unreality of Mr Nolan’s movie.

How wonderful it would be to live in Mr. Bowman’s world.  A world in which there would be no people like Babu Bajrangi, who says in this interview published on 3 November 2007 in the Indian newspaper Tehelka (Wikipedia entry).  These people flourish in our world, finding homes in all sides of all 4GW conflicts.  These are our enemies.  The practitioners of real-politics who ally with them betray our civilisation and do us no good.

Not so, as we see in the thread and on sites like Bill Quick — who just require that kills have a good excuse. See the update at the end of this post.

Back to the interview:

Bajrangi: My role was as follows: I was the first to start the [Naroda] Patiya operation… We and the local residents were all together. Patiya is just half a kilometre away from my home… I had gone to Godhra when it happened… I could not bear what I saw… The next day, we gave them a fitting reply…

TEHELKA: What were you unable to tolerate in Godhra?

Bajrangi: Any person who saw the Godhra kaand [massacre] would have felt like just killing them at once, hacking them apart… that’s how it was…

TEHELKA: You were there?

Bajrangi: Yes, yes, I was with them… So the Godhra kaand happened and after what I saw, I just came back to Naroda and we took revenge. … We and the Chharas carried out the Patiya massacre… After that, we all went to jail… People gave us a lot of money after we were jailed.

… TEHELKA: The day the Muslims were killed…

Bajrangi: I spoke to Jaideepbhai 11 or 12 times… aur humne tabiyat se kaata… Haldighati bana di thi [and we killed at will, turned the place into Haldighati]… And I am proud of it, if I get another chance, I will kill even more.

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Losing touch with our past weakens us

At what point does a nation move from attempting to grow and evolve beyond its past, to considering its past illegitimate — and then forgetting it?  What effect does this have on a people?

21st century America offers a surfeit of examples, from recasting the Founders as racists builders of an aristocratic or plutocratic society to the effort to reform our literature.  Here are three snippets of this process in action.

  1. Losing Sight of History“, James Bowman, The American Spectator, 29 November 2007
  2. Ken Burns’s War“, James Bowman, The New Criterion, 30 November 2007
  3. Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom (1987)

What might be the effects on America?

1.  Losing Sight of History“, James Bowman, The American Spectator, 29 November 2007 — Excerpt:

Not that anyone could be surprised at the feminist production of The Taming of the Shrew at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington this fall, but it has got me wondering if anyone will remember, in another generation or so, that people used to be different from the way they are now – or the way they will be by that time.

Oh, people will know it in theory, perhaps, but they will have got so far out of the habit of trying to imagine themselves back into the world of their great-grandparents that stories of their curious customs and habits will appear to them as fairy tales do to us, or the Greek myths. People will as soon believe that the abduction of Helen of Troy caused the epoch-making Trojan war as that the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand caused the equally epoch-making World War I. It just won’t be credible. People don’t do those sorts of things, any more than they converse with gods and giants.

… Such people look at the past and its cultural artifacts and they can only see themselves reflected in them. Soon, perhaps, that will be true of everybody.

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James Bowman shares his insights about America from the election

Over the centuries many art critics have provided trenchant insights into their culture.  Today such people are most often conservatives, perhaps because their viewpoint is so alien to the liberal or leftist ideologies dominant in the West’s artistic communities.  Two leading examples are the Canadian Mark Steyn and James Bowman.

Here is an excerpt which moves from its subject onto wider and even more interesting terrain (as his essay’s so often do).  I recommend clicking on the link to read it in full.

The Choice of Sarah Palin“, James Bowman, The New Criterion, 31 October 2008 — Excerpt:

faux Vogue Cover

faux Vogue Cover

It may seem odd, at first, that the unbending, hard-line “pro-choice” attitude to abortion adopted by so many feminists of a generation now deprived by nature of their “reproductive rights” came to its present position of political importance just when it did. For that was at the same moment in our cultural history, the early 1970s, when the only good reason for legalized abortion apart from mere personal preference — namely, the social stigma attaching to single motherhood — was on its way, very rapidly, out. Who could imagine such a cruel, unenlightened approach to female sexuality today as the one which was all-but universal up until the 1960s?

And yet some very enlightened people in the media and the Democratic party would have been happy for an ad hoc re-scandalizing of illegitimacy when it was revealed, the day after John McCain’s electrifying announcement of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his choice for the Republican vice-presidential nomination, that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, was pregnant.

Of course it wouldn’t do for them to call this teenager a slut and a hussy, but they were pretty sure that there must be something in her interesting condition which would allow them to accuse her mother, a conservative evangelical Christian, of hypocrisy. Or something.

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Symptoms of a fever afflicting America’s culture

Symptoms of a fever afflicting America’s culture.

  1. Hollywood’s Hero Deficit“, James Bowman, July/August 2008
  2. Red Hoax Blue Hoax“, Ann Coulter, 29 October 2008 — About the plague of fake hate crimes.

Both are, each in their own way, serious symptoms of underlying weakness or even illness in America’s culture.  As usual, self-awareness is the first step to a cure.


Hollywood’s Hero Deficit“, James Bowman, July/August 2008 — This is just a snippet of a valauble article, which I strongly recommend reading in full.

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