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In America, no event is possible lest it be prefigured in cinema. A narrative not flickered into our brainpans by our trainers has no validity, is not even comprehensible. Let's see.

The red state rabble are known as PUPs, for Pious Uneducated Poor. They vote Republican, the party of their masters, the unrecognized elite they so scornfully abuse. This is the equivalent of the matador diverting the bull from his own self onto a harmless cloth, with the exception the bull is at least smart enough not to gore himself.

The phenomenon is best presented in "What's the Matter with Kansas?" by Thomas Frank.

For decades Americans have experienced a populist uprising that only benefits the people it is supposed to be targeting. In Kansas we merely see an extreme version of this mysterious situation. The angry workers, mighty in their numbers, are marching irresistibly against the arrogant. They are shaking their fists at the sons of privilege. They are laughing at the dainty affectations of the Leawood toffs. They are massing at the gates of Mission Hills, hoisting the black flag, and while the millionaries tremble in their mansions, they are bellowing out their terrifying demands. "We are here," they scream, "to cut your taxes."

In the film Shane, the eponymous stalwart and his boss Starrett are whuppin' up on some hands of Ryker, the territorial cattle baron. It's the upstart downtrodden sodbusters versus free range ranchers again, only with a twist at this moment. After the fist fight, Starrett and Shane back out the door, and Starrett declares:

"Ryker ain't paying for this damage. Not with a nickel he ain't. I'm paying for what's broke. No, by Godfrey, we're paying for what's broke, me and Shane!"

It is maybe the only time in film where a member of the proletariat declares a willingness to finance collateral damage against capital in the struggle against the oppression of the landed gentry class all by himself. Marx had quite a lot to say about that, I imagine.

Originally posted to Timus on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 12:26 PM PST.

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