Obama Campaign Challenged by 2016 Film

MEDIA ROOTS – Released nationwide on Friday, the documentary film Barack Obama: 2016 is not only highly critical of President Obama’s job performance, it again raises the question of who he is and what his view of America is in the world. While the film does not offer many certainties about the president’s potential second term in office, it does use his previous actions as a device for telling a story that many Americans may not be familiar.

The film, distributed by Rocky Mountain Pictures, is written and directed by Dinesh D’Souza and based on his book The Roots of Obama’s Rage. It is very open about its conservative approach, which allows the viewer to set aside any perceived spin and focus on the information presented. Some ideas about the president’s past would excite conspiracy theorists as the production makes clear there are many more questions than there are answers.

After a brief description of his own youth in India, D’Souza begins his narrative with a brief comparison of his own life and that of Mr. Obama. Born, having graduated from college, and married in the same years as each other, the two lives appear at first quite parallel. What shapes their youth more than anything is their immigration to the United States and, in particular, their Ivy League education.

But what Mr. D’Souza cannot relate to is having not been brought up with a father. He does, however, appear to make an honest effort in learning the developmental psychology of such abandonment during childhood by interviewing a specialist and a former co-worker of his mother. Additionally, he uses Obama’s own words – literally Obama’s voice from the book-on-tape – from the book Dreams from my Father, to help paint a picture of an upbringing that often felt empty. But because of his mother’s compassion, “Barry” did have several male influences throughout his upbringing and it is this subject matter that seems to interest D’Souza the most. Who were these men and how come so little is known about them?

The film goes on to explore several of these relationships. As a young boy in Indonesia, Obama’s stepfather Lolo Soetoro may have helped foster a free spirit and as a young man in Chicago, Obama worked with Weather Underground’s Bill Ayers and listened to radical sermons delivered by Reverend Jeremiah Wright. But it’s his childhood mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, which seems to be of particular influence on his development while remaining virtually unknown to most Americans. After a closer examination into this relationship, one might develop a keen insight into what is yet to come for the United States.

Two comedies, one theme

Game Change, released by HBO in March, confirmed what every rational American already knows: Sarah Palin is about as adept at managing a family as she is at answering basic questions from the press. While the film was officially denounced by both Senator McCain and Governor Palin, it was endorsed by one of Senator McCain’s former senior advisers and appeared to be a way for the Republican establishment to reconcile its 2008 campaign blunder. It hardly challenged viewers perceptions of the right wing and provided very little insight into future GOP strategy.

The Campaign has been in theaters for almost a month and offers viewers a slapstick parody of the election process. Distributed by Warner Brothers, the film provides a non-partisan approach to politics but does reinforce the corporate media establishment by providing several product placements of cable news networks. Many television pundits made cameo appearances including Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz of MSNBC, Wolf Blitzer and Piers Morgan of CNN, and Bill Mahr of HBO. (Interestingly enough, many of these personalities seem to have close ties to the White House. Mahr made news earlier this year after donating one million dollars to the Obama re-election campaign while Schultz claims he would donate to the president if he could.)

Political films released during campaign seasons will continue to leave an impression on the minds of voters and nonvoters alike. But as the left-right paradigm begins to lose traction with an increasingly alert citizenry, it is still uncertain if this same awareness will be applied when considering the corporate media establishment. For if citizens continue to consume political comedies produced by this entity just prior to an election, then their laughter will most likely translate into increased apathy of the electoral process and the elite will remain in control.

Oscar Mosko for Media Roots.

Photo provided by Flickr user Osipowa.

Gray State: A Modern Red Dawn?

MEDIA ROOTS — The 1980s anti-communist film Red Dawn is a favorite among the liberty movement and any paleo-convervatives whom support big government. The cult film portrays a youthful resistence movement that formed in response to a full-scale military invasion of the United States by a communist nation.

Thirty years later, the upcoming independent film Gray State has recently released a concept trailer which puts a fresh spin on the martial law scenario featured in Red Dawn. In this scenario, militas form in order to fend off the U.S. military and other federal agents from taking advantage of declared martial law. As the trailer progresses, the savior against Big Brother becomes a rag-tag group of thirty-something, gruff-looking, alpha-male milita fighters organized to take on American “peacekeepers.” 

The movie intends to shed light on the impending power of the federal government and many facets of an increased domestic police state, but it seems to fall into the fantasy pipe dream that with the citizenery armed, it can defend itself against the most technologically-advanced military force in the world.

Most three-act films end on some kind of cathartic or happy ending, one where the protagonist prevails and the viewer leaves the theatre fufilled–so I understand why the filmmakers didn’t end the film with a more realistic outcome. However, if the scenario portrayed in Gray State were to actually occur, there would be little room left for happiness. The most realistic ending would leave one possibly very helpless for guns alone will not save American society.

Regardless, the trailer has a lot of high quality visuals and special effects. We hope the filmmakers complete the project with a strong script and in the end don’t force in a happy ending. Check it out below as well as a mini documentary featuring interviews with activists and journalists explaining the concept behind the film.

Robbie Martin for Media Roots.


The film Gray State recently released its first concept trailer and is scheduled for release later this year.

Abby Martin, along with other independent journalists, discuss the scope and importance of the film Gray State.


Photo by Flickr user Alexhophotography

MR Original – Paul Goodman Changed My Life

Paul_Goodman_wikiMEDIA ROOTS — If you’re like me, you don’t always have the cash or time to catch a flick the first time round. “Paul Goodman Changed My Life,” directed by newcomer Jonathan Lee, is a film of heart and soul whose protagonist has been associated with the American New Left. It debuted last October and is now available online.

Paul Goodman captured teenage angst in his famous and influential book for the ’60s generation, Growing Up Absurd. Martin Luther King, Jr. has said, “When Paul Goodman wrote Growing Up Absurd, he electrified the public.”

Lee’s film focused on Goodman’s anarchist tendencies before and after discovering Bakunin and Kropotkin, his writing, and his Oscar Wildean personal drives and desires of being something of a family man and a free-spirited bisexual. Ultimately, although I appreciated the human interest story aspects, the weakness of this documentary seemed to be how it fell into the common trap of alienating the thinker from the thinker’s environment, socioeconomic class, and, thus, from the power structures of the thinker’s day and how the ideals being considered succeeded and/or failed in affecting those power structures—particularly the two-party system, which undergirds daily socioeconomic realities addressed by disparate dissenters. 

As Gore Vidal has long held since at least the ’50s, in the USA we have one party, the party of property, of corporate and banker elite, of the 1%—one party with two wings, both right-wing, one Republican, one Democrat.

Gore Vidal, 1977:  “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt — until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.”

“We can’t deny that there’s been every kind of effort to create an insane consensus,” said Paul Goodman, “And whenever you students try to do anything about it, in order to save my kid from being fried, whether what you’re doing is right or wrong, it’s something!”

Although there were fascinating moments when Goodman faced militants on the Left and Right, they weren’t fleshed out. Instead, the film zoomed in on the individual, on the corporeal, almost divorced from objective political reality in its preoccupation with the culture war and the subjective. The film seemed to avoid the more difficult questions and lessons we may draw from the 1960s New Left for today’s sociopolitical landscape, such as parallels with the Occupy Movement and 9/11 Truth.  

From the intro to Growing Up Absurd:

“We see groups of boys and young men disaffected from the dominant society. The young men are angry, and beat. The boys are juvenile delinquents. But these groups are not small and they will grow larger. Certainly, they are suffering. Demonstrably, they are not getting enough out of our wealth and civilisation. It is hard to grow up in a society in which one’s important problems are treated as non-existent. It is impossible to belong to it. It is hard to fight to change it. In this book I shall ask, is the harmonious organisation to which the young are inadequately socialised perhaps against human nature or not worthy of human nature? And therefore there is difficulty in growing up? If this is so, the disaffection of the youth is profound and it will not be finally remedial by better techniques of socialising.”

They say the personal is the political. But we may have countless dreamers on the margins writing beautiful prose and compelling possibilities, yet devoid of political clout, as neocons and neoliberals strip us of our rights bit by bit, even the right or capacity to dream or imagine. To me, the most compelling expositions are those of actions which, not only challenge the imagination of the individual, but directly challenge relevant centres of power. Thus, the opening clips, such as showing Goodman lecturing power players of the industrial-military complex or freely writing ideas considered seditious by the state, were the most salient. 

Paul Goodman spoke at the Causerie at the Military-Industrial in October 1967 during the Stop The Draft week and boldly asserted in “A Message To The Military-Industrial Complex”:

“You are the military industrial of the United States, the most dangerous body of men at present in the world, for you not only implement our disastrous policies, but are an overwhelming lobby for them. And you expand and rigidify the wrong use of brains and resources and labour, so the change becomes difficult.”

“These remarks have certainly been harsh and moralistic. And none of us are saints and ordinarily I would be ashamed to use such a tone.  But you are the manufacturers of napalm, fragmentation bombs, the planes that destroy rice. Your weapons have killed hundreds of thousands in Vietnam. And you will kill other hundreds of thousands in other Vietnams. I’m sure that most of you concede that much of what you do is ugly and harmful at home and abroad. But you would say it is necessary for the American way of life, at home and abroad and, therefore, you cannot do otherwise. Since we believe, however, that that way of life is, itself, unnecessary, ugly, and un-American, I and those people outside, we cannot condone your present operations. They should be wiped off the slate.”

However, my central complaint with this documentary film is the seeming refusal to contextualise the narrative within the political superstructures dominating the political landscape, the refusal to analyse the role of political parties, given their centrality in all of this historical contextualisation—or tacitly giving the false progressivism of the Democrat Party a free pass. Malcolm X never did that, which is probably why he has remained one of the most compelling and enduring of the people’s heroes:

“Anytime you throw your weight behind a political party that controls two-thirds of the government, and that party can’t keep the promise that it made to you during election time, and you’re dumb enough to walk around continuing to identify yourself with that party, you’re not only a chump, but you’re a traitor to your race.”

In the film, Paul Goodman describes the need to move from “formal” or nominal democracy, to substantive democracy in practice, participatory democracy. Yet, the filmmakers seem disinterested in the role of democracy, of voting and the political parties which follow from the voting process. So, audiences lose another opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past, such as the mistake of supporting the corrupt Democrat Party or the mistake of not working toward a non-dualistic/multiparty system of free and fair democratic elections. Instead, the life of Paul Goodman is alienated from the USA’s state of democracy as engendered by the dualistic two-party system, or dictatorship (depending on your sensibilities). 

Under this lense, we may pine for the ideals yearned by Goodman, but we are not asked to think about them within the context of the USA’s rigged political system monopolised by two corrupt and predominant political parties—the Democrats and the Republicans. Instead, the focus is on the supplicant aspects of dissent, on protests and so forth. Political reality is avoided like the plague, perhaps to protect the entertainment value of the biopic, but despite the distortions produced. Don’t get me wrong; protests are crucial, but so is the need for protesters to understand and articulate the corruption of the Democrat and Republican parties. And crucial, too, is the need to reject the Democrat Party, to break the dualistic trap of the two-party system.

Greenwich Village Peace Center Draft & Military Counseling is one example featured in the film. Like single-issue groups of today, lacking analysis of contemporary political parties, groups seem willing to advise the public on how to avoid the draft, but not on how to avoid corrupt political parties, like the Democrat and Republican parties, which enabled the draft in the first place.

Also featured in Lee’s film are Goodman’s extramarital affairs and his wife’s pain as a result; his decade as a Gestalt psychoanalyst/psychologist; and his pacifist outspokenness; and his pamphlet Drawing the Line against the military draft. Lee also featured Goodman’s differences with radical “militants,” such as SDS, which he said “makes no sense.” Being able to appreciate aspects of the SDS and of Paul Goodman’s work, it’s great to hear and parse opposing points of view.  Nothing is ever good enough. Some are too radical, we say. Others are not radical enough. But the beauty of this narrative of Paul Goodman’s life is the depiction of his Socratic spirit, his ability to publicly dialogue, to debate, and to interact intergenerationally. Also notable was the discussion about those liberals or leftists, which later became conservatives or quasi-fascists, as documented in a photograph taken of Paul Goodman and others at a civil disobedience conference, including a very young Donald Rumsfeld, of all people (provided Rumsfeld wasn’t there as a spy to begin with).

These are my initial thoughts after viewing Lee’s film. Perhaps readers may help articulate a clearer analysis of what alienates us from one another. But in the meantime I recommend this film as worthy of your time, especially, for new generations unaware of Paul Goodman’s contributions to ‘60s progressive, or Leftist, thought and, therefore, to modern progressive thought. May Goodman encourage you to, as one KPFA radio scoundrel in Berkeley likes to say, “Pick up a good book and read it.”

Written by Winston Raskolnikov for Media Roots

Photo by Wikicommons


Animation – Heliofant: I, Pet Goat II

MEDIA ROOTS – Since we U.S. citizens all live under a government, which has chosen to engage in perpetual war at great cost, it is important to use every tool available in order to analyze our collective condition.  Heliofant’s recent release, entitled I, Pet Goat II, is a mindblowing short film rife with explanatory symbolism and profound juxtaposition, from which we all may learn.  

The animated film tackles many intertwining, contemporary dilemmas: false flag attacks, rampant consumerism, corporate power, invasive religion, and money’s influence over politics.  On an esoteric level, Heliofant broaches the Illuminati, the Masons, the Orphic Egg, the hammer & sickle, and the Federal Reserve.  For Heliofant’s own breakdown of some of the symbolism, click here.  

Beautifully elucidating the last decade of chaos and human suffering, the moving film leaves many feeling encouraged.  After all, we still have the beauty of personal choice.  Through exercising this choice, we may eventually save ourselves. 

Christian Sorensen for Media Roots


Heliofant: I, Pet Goat II 


A story about the fire at the heart of suffering. Bringing together dancers, musicians, visual artists and 3d animators, the film takes a critical look at the events of the past decade that have shaped our world.

Original soundtrack “the Stream”, written and performed by Tanuki Project.

Animation is about half keyframe animation and half motion capture. Motion capture recording by Lartech. 


Photo by Flickr User The Halo Above


Media Roots Music – ATOP Mix #18

MEDIA ROOTS – This set is dedicated to humanity: the establishment of peace and the eradication of intolerance. I believe this can be achieved once we have taken away the power from elite politicians and CEOs that have the most influence over this world. Once we reclaim our power as free human beings, we can make this world as amazing and as hospitable as it should be toward every living thing. 


ATOP Akkad the Orphic Priest

All the featured music on the mix can be found through searching discogs.com or by emailing me: [email protected].

Track Listing:

Gavouna – Three
Clams Casino – Angels
Keyboard Kid 206 – Burn One, Pass it
Lorn – Ghost
Cloaks – #00148 (Dead Fader rmx)
Radioactive Man – Flying F**k
The Hundred in the Hands – Faded
Nathan Fake – Sense Head
A Produce & Loren Nerell – String Theory feat. Robert Anton Wilson
Third Eye Foundation – I’ve Lost that Loving Feline
Yppah – Never Mess With Sunday
S U R V I V E – Omniverse
Lofty305 – Cybrpunk Police Killr
Can – Millionenspiel
Protect-U – Lawndog

araabMUZIK – Lift Off
SKYWLKR – Sidekick Chillen’
Clark – The Pining pt 1
Mr. 76ix – Lectric Lady
Steinvord – Cyg X-1
Lapalux – Gutter Glitter
Fluorescent Grey – Quebecoise Italo
No UFO’s – Vertigo edit (K. Alexi)
Isengrind – Cygnus
M Geddes Gengras – Rebirth
Galaxy Toobin’ – God’s Day
Battles – Dominican Fade (Qluster rmx)
Lilacs & Champagne – Babbling Brooke
Inner Tube – Hardbodies
Robert Turman – Mind The Gap


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