WASHINGTON, January 24, 2015 — Matt Taibbi’s critique of “American Sniper” in Rolling Stone is just too offensive to ignore. Dare we call his review, “‘American Sniper’ Is Almost Too Dumb to Criticize” stupid?
Not only does Taibbi not understand how to suspend his political biases when he reviews a movie. He also demonstrates he possesses absolutely no grasp of foreign policy.
A movie review is supposed to be a critique of a given film as craft and art, not a platform for making a political statement. However, starting with his headline and moving to his first line — “I saw American Sniper last night, and hated it slightly less than I expected to” — we quickly understand that Taibbi has abandoned any pretense of objectivity.
“American Sniper” continues to set box office records, earning several Oscar nominations in the process. But it’s “too stupid” for Rolling Stone and Matt Taibbi. The hundreds of members of the Academy, the thousands of critics, and the millions of regular viewers who thought the movie was well done are too stupid to realize that “American Sniper’s” politics make it a bad movie .
After discussing the political defects of “Forrest Gump” — also a bad movie — and his shock that people in the theater where he supposedly saw “American Sniper” cheered, he wrote,
“The problem of course is that there’s no such thing as ‘winning’ the War on Terror militarily. In fact the occupation led to mass destruction, hundreds of thousands of deaths, a choleric lack of real sanitation, epidemic unemployment and political radicalization that continues to this day to spread beyond Iraq’s borders.”
Taibbi’s use of big words and his ability to connect unrelated points are impressive, but it’s clear from his review that he didn’t watch the movie. And if he did, he admits that he made up his mind that he hated it before it started.
Most liberal critics, including Taibbi, fail to understand that “American Sniper” is not a referendum on how people feel about the Iraq War. It’s a story about a guy who was there. It is not fiction, but a true story about one man’s life.
We can object to that war and dislike President Bush while still respecting or just being fascinated by the actions of Chris Kyle and his fellow troops. We learned that lesson during the Vietnam War when liberals like “Hanoi Jane” Fonda — who has since backtracked her position — turned their anger at the war into hatred of the American soldier, calling returning soldiers foul names and hurling insults at them as they arrived home to greet their families.
Soldiers don’t sign up to fight only in wars they agree with. They sign up to go where they are ordered, and they do a damn good job when they get there.
Last year, Salon published an article claiming that soldiers aren’t heroes and don’t actually protect our freedoms. That article demonstrated with great clarity that ultra-liberals like its author don’t understand or care about the military, nor about individual soldiers and their families. Taibbi makes it very clear he doesn’t care about the military either, declaring:
“Eastwood, who surely knows better, indulges in countless crass stupidities in the movie. There’s the obligatory somber scene of shirtless buffed-up SEAL Kyle and his heartthrob wife Sienna Miller gasping at the televised horror of the 9/11 attacks. Next thing you know, Kyle is in Iraq actually fighting al-Qaeda — as if there was some logical connection between 9/11 and Iraq.”
The disdain for America here is palpable. Taibbi refers to the “somber scene” of a man watching the 9/11 attacks as “crass stupidity.” But for millions of us, that scene was real. Chris Kyle really was fixed to the TV watching the horrible events of 9/11. Millions of Americans sat silently, watching in horror as the towers fell under a clear blue sky on a beautiful morning.
Except perhaps for Matt Taibbi.
“No one expected 20 minutes of backstory about the failed WMD search, Abu Ghraib, or the myriad of other American atrocities and quick-trigger bombings that helped fuel the rise of ISIL and other groups.”
Of course not. Why would Abu Ghraib be included in a story about Chris Kyle?
That passive aggressive references how difficult it is to have a conversation about Iraq with committed leftists without being thrust into nonsensical liberal talking points about the missing WMDs in Iraq — talking points that are wrong.
If Taibbi wants to talk about ISIL, we should remember that al-Qaeda in Iraq was actually defeated and on the run after the 2007 troop surge. But when Barack Obama took the Presidential wheel in 2009 and eased off the gas, Iraq fell apart, resulting in the current, disastrous advance of ISIS.
But again, what has this to do with the story of Chris Kyle? Hatred for George Bush has so seized control of liberal minds that they can’t distinguish between his administration and Chris Kyle’s life.
Taibbi misunderstands “American Sniper,” concluding that the stupidity of the Iraq war renders ridiculous any film that doesn’t take that point of view as its central premise. He admits that he is entirely unable to separate Bush and Rumsfeld from this movie.
“The really dangerous part of this film is that it turns into a referendum on the character of a single soldier. It’s an unwinnable argument in either direction. We end up talking about Chris Kyle and his dilemmas, and not about the Rumsfelds and Cheneys and other officials up the chain who put Kyle and his high-powered rifle on rooftops in Iraq and asked him to shoot women and children.”
But again, “American Sniper” is about the life of Chris Kyle. It’s not about Rumsfeld, WMDs, George Bush or Saddam Hussein. It’s about Chris Kyle and his experiences.
It’s astounding that Taibbi refuses to understand that. His bias triumphs over the legitimate professional critic’s requisite objectivity.
What is this sudden concern with history anyway? Were critics like Taibbi bothered by the blatant falsehoods behind films like “Farenheit 9/11,” “Lincoln,” “Platoon,” “JFK” and “Selma,” or was their anger stayed by the greater political truths in those films?
Ultimately, if we want historical accuracy in a film, we want to see a legitimate documentary, not a movie that is either based upon or inspired by a true story. Such a movie might be based on reality, but it is art. Art can also be honest, but it need not be accurate down to the most minute detail. Many movies reflecting a liberal perspective haven’t gotten their underlying historical narratives 100 percent right either. But their departures from reality were rightly ignored by the media as a kind of poetic license, not slammed.
“American Sniper” is not, in fact, a documentary about Iraq. It is a compelling and realistic film based on the incredible life story of the most decorated military sniper in American history. It does not strive for a documentary accuracy. Rather, it’s a portrait, a work of art revealing as much about Clint Eastwood — the artist and director — and the viewer as it is about Chris Kyle.
World War II hero Audie Murphy came home from the war and launched an acting career, eventually staring in the story of his own life, “To Hell and Back.” Life became art which in turn mirrored life. (credit: bio.com)
If he had been writing on movies in that era, Taibbi would likely have gotten stuck on that film’s failure to indict the Allies for fire-bombing Dresden, Hamburg and Tokyo.
Taibbi the critic reveals his true role as that of a propagandist by promoting his theory that the War on Terror can’t be won militarily. His role is not critical but political.
Who knows what Taibbi’s own ISIS game plan is? But it surely trumps the importance of story-telling in his judgment of Eastwood’s film. In the liberal mind, even producing a movie based on fighting terrorism is illogical.
“The most disturbing passage in the book to me was the one where Kyle talked about being competitive with other snipers, and how when one in particular began to threaten his ‘legendary’ number, Kyle ‘all of the sudden’ seemed to have ‘every stinkin’ bad guy in the city running across my scope.’ As in, wink wink, my luck suddenly changed when the sniper-race got close, get it? It’s super-ugly stuff.”
The most “disturbing” part of the movie was that Chris Kyle and his fellow soldiers competed to kill more bad guys. Taibbi has so little faith in the troops that he can’t believe the competition wasn’t murderous. He advances that false premise to conclude that the movie is fundamentally a lie. Kyle’s sarcastic joke becomes for him an admission of guilt, and that, in turn, condemns Eastwood’s artistic vision.
Chris Kyle was killing bad guys, people whose primary goal was to kill U.S. soldiers.
Taibbi purposely mis-characterizes comments made by Chris Kyle in his book, reporting that Kyle talked openly about killing savages with no remorse. His purpose is to imply that Kyle was a bloodthirsty and cold-blooded killer — a racist, not a soldier fighting a brutal enemy, a brutality that ISIS showcased this week when they murdered 13 children simply because they watched a soccer game.
Taibbi’s insults are not limited to the film. He also takes shots at people who have seen and liked the movie. Its not a new ploy for Democrats, who have marginalized Republicans by insulting the South.
Taibbi does something similar, expressing his dismay that if people were cheering for this film in a liberal part of New Jersey, then he can only imagine what film-goers would be doing in the South. The implication is that Southerners, who like guns and support the military, are stupid. He displays the liberal elite’s genuine animosity for all things Southern. Southerners are dumb because they talk funny, don’t revere gay marriage and abortion, and they read the Bible.
It would cost Taibbi very little to appreciate the incredible bravery and sacrifice, if not of Chris Kyle, of men just like him. It won’t turn him into a Republican or signal his hatred of Muslims. It won’t even take away his right to think American Sniper is a bad movie. It would simply make his dislike of the movie a statement about the movie, not a statement about the real men and women who have served in Iraq.
It would simply make him look like a rational and grateful human being.