Batman–The Dark Knight after 9/11

This past Saturday night I had the pleasure of seeing “Batman: The Dark Knight.” The movie was exceptional, and I believe it should be given multiple Oscar nominations.

I spent yesterday going over the many reasons to see the movie itself. It is a brilliant entertainment vehicle. Yet watching this movie twice is necessary to appreciate its equally brilliant political commentary.

The Joker played by the late Heath Ledger is more than a criminal. He is a terrorist.

Like any other terrorist, negotiation does not work with the Joker. He cannot be reasoned with, because he has nothing to lose. He is not afraid of dying.

Also, the Joker, like true terrorists, does not even want anything. He cannot be bribed. He craves neither money nor power. The destruction and carnage he inflicts is not the means to any end. The pain and suffering he causes is the end itself.

The movie does not bother to understand why he acts the way he does. He is simply a homicidal sadist. He kills people because he can, because they are there, and for sport. He also wants to torture them before he kills them. That is why he prefers the slow twisting of a knife to a quick kill with a gun.

Nevertheless, he is perfectly comfortable with guns and other munitions.

He also does not mind using mentally and physically handicapped people as his unwilling suicide bombers. As for his willing accomplices, he murders them the moment they cease to become useful.

When I was in the car after the movie, my friend was trying to figure out who would be the evil terrorist most comparable to the Joker.

My opinion is that neither Osama Bin Laden, Zawahiri, or Saddam Hussein fit the analogy.  True, these men were bloodthirsty killers. However, they were also pragmatic. None of them were willing to die.  None of them were willing to kill indiscriminately. In fact, they killed for specific reasons. Osama and Zawahiri wanted to spread Islam and create a caliphate. Saddam killed for the most basic of reasons, to enhance his own power.

So who best fits the role of completely psychotic, and willing to kill anything and everything?

Abu-Musab Al-Zarqawi.

Zarqawi enjoyed violence for the sake of violence. He even murdered his fellow Sunni Muslims.

My friend proffered a theory that is worth considering. What if Bin Laden and Zawahiri gave up Zarqawi? Maybe he was too bloodthirsty for even them? By killing to brutally, and against anyone and everyone, the local tribal leaders switched sides and joined the Americans against Al Queda.

The Joker was too evil for the other criminals. The mobsters wanted him dead, regretting that they ever did business with him. Harvey Two-Face wanted him dead as well. The Joker did not have loyal followers. He had victims that he brutalized into helping him.

The Joker also showed no interest in money. Without spoiling the movie, what he does with his share of the money he steals defies any reasonable behavior. Given that money is unimportant to him, he cannot be negotiated with.

In a world of terrorists, there are those that fight them. They come in the form of police officers, district attorneys and their fellow prosecutors, politicians, military personnel, and various special forces such as SWAT teams.

In any war, the bad guys are usually united. The good guys get bogged down arguing over procedures. The bad guys do not have to worry about warrants, Miranda rights, or writs of Habeas Corpus.

The delicate balance that the good guys face in the Batman movie and in real life is how to catch the bad guys without becoming them.

Harvey Two-Face sees the ruin that is his life as one of the good guys, and descends into becoming what he hates. He becomes one of the bad guys.

Batman and Commissioner Gordon refuse to give in. Commissioner Gordon is a law and order policeman through and through. He will not cross the line.

Harvey Two-Face could be represented by the American people. We struggle on a daily basis with the choice between doing what is morally and legally right, and doing what is effective. These two roads often diverge, and moral hazards and how we respond to them make us human. Harvey Dent, brilliantly played by Aaron Eckhart, lets his despair consume him. The good way does not work. He slides into badness. Others in the movie refuse to give in. Commissioner Gordon never given in.

This is why so many people are uncomfortable with Batman. He operates outside the law. He is a vigilante. The debate among the people of Gotham City about Batman is a debate about vigilantism itself, especially in a post 9/11 world.

Those who favor the rule of law at all costs see Batman as a threat. Yet those who support Batman do so because they see their civic institutions at being unable to protect and defend them.

This argument goes all the way back to ordinary people like Bernard Goetz. He shot several people who approached him with screwdrivers. They were going to rob him (For those who dispute this, grow up. They were going to rob him). His choices were shoot or be victimized.

This is at the heart of the gun control debate. Some feel that only police officers and judges should have guns. Others feel that this would embolden criminals. We now know that increased citizen gun ownership leads to dramatic reductions in crime. Deterrence works.

Batman is a deterrent. His methods scrape dangerously against the law. In fact, Batman takes steps in this movie that would make the ACLU cringe. A debate between Christian Bale’s Batman and his henchman, played by Morgan Freeman, about how far is too far, is a fabulous metaphor for how far we can go in an attempt to catch terrorists.

Issues such as warrantless wiretaps, FISA Courts, and military tribunals bubble beneath the surface of this movie.

Also, Gotham City does not have the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay. They merely have the county jail. The Joker knows this. In fact, he wants to go to a jail. That way he can use the jail itself to further his ambitions. Criminals in jail meet other criminals. Had the Joker been given solitary confinement, perhaps he could have been stopped.

One quality of Batman is that he will not murder. If he catches a criminal alive, he will preserve that life. He is willing to capture the Joker, and kill him if he has to do so. Yet he will not murder him. The Joker has no such constraints.

So who is Batman?

Batman is controversial. He has his supporters, and his detractors. When times are good, people love him. When times are tough, he is hated. He is even blamed for exacerbating problems, when the audience knows that deep down he is the good guy willing to do what they will not do.

People criticize Batman, but they simply do not understand that he saves lives.

Most importantly, Batman himself is willing to be reviled and let others take the credit. He is not worried about the popular opinion of him. He is busy saving lives.

I did not make the comparison, but my friend pointed it out perfectly. Batman is President George W. Bush.

President Bush wants to kill terrorists. The argument is not over whether to do it. With the exception of the most extreme left wingers, there is a consensus in America to get the bad guys. The argument among the good guys comes in the form of the methods.

President Bush, like Batman, gets raked over the coals. Yet when all is said and done, Batman’s critics have no alternative solutions that are viable. If they did, Batman would not be necessary.

There are people in this nation that have a deep dislike for President Bush, in many cases crossing the line into hatred. Yet when asked what they would do to keep America safe, the crickets chirp loudly.

Talk of diplomacy can work with those that want to live. Yet with bloodthirsty madmen like Zarqawi, there is no room for dialogue. We killed him in a targeted air strike, and the world is forever better off for his death.

The question regarding Batman is whether he is a net positive or net negative. For those who focus on methods, he is a negative. For those who care about results, he is an overwhelming positive.

For those on the left, be prepared to be frustrated by the new Batman movie. With regards to the War on Terror, the message is very politically conservative.

Gotham City is at War, and the terrorists are using Gotham’s civil institutions against it. Batman dangerously approaches the line, and some would argue that he crosses it. Yet when all is said and done, he gets the job done. He delivers results, which is more than anyone else is doing.

Yes, this is a movie. However, entertainment has always been about social commentary. It is refreshing that in an industry dominated by left wing nonsense, that the biggest blockbuster of the Summer, and perhaps of all time, is offering an anti-hero that prefers a hard @ssed approach to crime and terror.

In fact, crime and terror should not be lumped together. Crime can be defeated with jails and courtrooms. Terrorism requires much more aggressive methods.

Gotham City is like any other city in America. In fact, it is actually the metaphor for New York City.

New York City was decaying. Then the crackdown of Rudy Giuliani took place. Yet even Mayor Giuliani could not have been prepared for the horror and pure evil that was 9/11.

One reassuring aspect of the movie is that despite some despairing that the Joker has won, when all is said and done, he does not win.

The arguments over the methods used to capture the Joker can and should be argued. Those debates are part of a healthy democracy. Having said that, I maintain that Batman did the right thing. He saved the city, and took the backlash. Saving lives trumped dithering and dawdling.

In the same way Batman  leaves, George W. Bush will be leaving office in several months. His detractors will never give him his due. His supporters are just glad that Zarqawi is gone.

Now we need to get the rest of the Zarqawis.

All hail the Dark Knight. He got the job done.


5 Responses to “Batman–The Dark Knight after 9/11”

  1. […] Batman?The Dark Knight after 9/11 By blacktygrrrr Crime can be defeated with jails and courtrooms. Terrorism requires much more aggressive methods. Gotham City is like any other city in America. In fact, it is actually the metaphor for New York City. New York City was decaying. … THE TYGRRRR EXPRESS – […]

  2. I am at a complete and total loss words, except to say that I am at a complete and total loss words.


  3. Huh. I forgot to write the word “for.” Twice! See what I mean?


  4. POTR says:

    Ya sold me I’ll go see it.

  5. blacktygrrrr says:

    Batman Update:

    Another brilliant article analyzing Batman and the War on Terror can be found below.

    One commenter named Bob went even deeper than I did. The weaselly guy that threatens to blow Batman’s cover is representative of the Jayson Blair Times.

    Well Done Bob!

    eric :)

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