Showing posts with label Divine Right of Kings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Divine Right of Kings. Show all posts

Thursday, October 12, 2017

*Hollywood's Frost/Nixon Watergate Interviews- Parental Guidance Still Advised

Hollywood's Frost/Nixon Watergate Interviews- Parental Guidance Still Advised

Zack James’ comment June, 2017:
You know it is in a way too bad that “Doctor Gonzo”-Hunter S Thompson, the late legendary journalist who broke the back, hell broke the neck, legs, arms of so-called objective journalism in a drug-blazed frenzy back in the 1970s when he “walked with the king”’ is not with us in these times. In the times of this 50th anniversary commemoration of the Summer of Love, 1967 which he worked the edges of while he was doing research (live and in your face research by the way) on the notorious West Coast-based Hell’s Angels. His “hook” through Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters down in Kesey’s place in La Honda where many an “acid test” took place and where for a time the Angels, Hunter in tow, were welcomed. He had been there in the high tide, when it looked like we had the night-takers on the run and later as well when he saw the ebb tide of the 1960s coming a year or so later although that did not stop him from developing the quintessential “gonzo” journalism fine-tuned with plenty of dope for which he would become famous before the end, before he took his aging life and left Johnny Depp and company to fling his ashes over this good green planet. He would have “dug” the exhibition, maybe smoked a joint for old times’ sake (oh no, no that is not done in proper society) at the de Young Museum at the Golden Gate Park highlighting the events of the period showing until August 20th of this year.   

Better yet he would have had this Trump thug bizarre weirdness wrapped up and bleeding from all pores just like he regaled us with the tales from the White House bunker back in the days when Trump’s kindred one Richard Milhous Nixon, President of the United States and common criminal was running the same low rent trip before he was run out of town by his own like some rabid rat. But perhaps the road to truth these days, in the days of “alternate facts” and assorted other bullshit    would have been bumpier than in those more “civilized” times when simple burglaries and silly tape-recorders ruled the roost. Hunter did not make the Nixon “hit list” (to his everlasting regret for which he could hardly hold his head up in public) but these days he surely would find himself in the top echelon. Maybe too though with these thugs he might have found himself in some back alley bleeding from all pores. Hunter Thompson wherever you are –help. Selah. Enough said-for now  

DVD Review

Frost/Nixon, starring Frank Langella as Richard Nixon and Michael Sheen as David Frost, Universal productions, 2008

Markin comment: after viewing the Hollywood Ron Howard production of "Frost/Nixon" I have decided to stick with my review of the original truly scary interviews. With the addition of kudos for Frank Langella's performance as Nixon and a nod for the good sense of dramatic timing for a fairly mundane subject I will stand by the comments there.

"*The Original Frost/Nixon Watergate Interviews- Parental Guidance Advised

Frost/Nixon: The Original Watergate Interview, David Frost, Richard Milhous Nixon, 1977

Apparently some things will not remain in the bottle. That appears to be the case with one Richard Milhous Nixon, one time President of the United States, certified demon and off-handedly a common criminal. Just when you though it was safe to go outdoors to get a little fresh air here he rises again to scare the bejesus out of another generation of idealistic young people and send his old time political opponents, including this reviewer, screaming in the night. What has brought on the fear?

Well, for one the recent notoriety around the movie "Frost/Nixon", the "story" behind the celebrated attempt by Nixon to `help' rewrite the second draft of history on his presidency and for Frost to leap-frog to the front of the journalist pantheon. That is what I thought I had bargained for when I ordered up what I assumed was a copy of the movie. What I got was far, far worst, a copy of the original Watergate segments of the original Frost/Nixon television interviews from 1977. I will, eventually, after my pulse returns to normal, get a copy of the movie and review that in this space but for now I will make a few comments on this little documentary gem.

As fate would have it I have recently been reading (or rather re-re-reading) "Dr. Gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson's compilation volume entitled "The Great Shark Hunt". Included in the selections were a series of articles that Thompson did for "Rolling Stone" magazine from his "mythical" National Affairs Desk at the time of the Nixon-era Watergate hearings in 1974. Thompson, not afraid to deride Nixon when he was riding high was more than willing to skewer him on his way down. To give a flavor of the times, of Thompson's appreciation of what the name Nixon meant to our generation and the importance of exposing that little crook to the clear light of day (something that, unfortunately, never really happened as he ran down some rat hole) I am reposting the concluding paragraph from a review I did of his "Songs Of The Doomed" in 2006:

"As a member of the generation of 1968 I would note that this was a period of particular importance which won Hunter his spurs as a journalist. Hunter, like many of us, cut his political teeth on one Richard Milhous Nixon, at one time President of the United States and all- around political chameleon. Thompson went way out of his way, and with pleasure, skewering that man when he was riding high. He was moreover just as happy to kick him when he was down, just for good measure. Nixon represented the `dark side' of the American spirit- the side that appears today as the bully boy of the world and as craven brute. If for nothing else Brother Thompson deserves a place in the pantheon of journalistic heroes for this exercise in elementary political hygiene. Anyone who wants to rehabilitate THAT man before history please consult Thompson's work. Hunter, I hope you find the Brown Buffalo wherever you are. Read this book. Read all his books."

And that last sentence kind of says it all. Probably from the minute that he resigned in disgrace in August 1974 Nixon began his little campaign to "rehabilitate" himself and move up in the presidential pecking order from dead last to at least beat the likes of James Buchanan and Millard Fillmore. He should not have bothered. His grilling by the well-prepared Frost (who had his own personal agenda in getting involved in this project) was as full of self-justifications, obfuscations, down right balderdash and melodramatic nonsense as one could take in an hour and one half presentation.

Even three years later he still didn't get it. The basic premise that Nixon and his staff worked under while president was that of the "divine right of kings" a theory discredited a couple of centuries ago. But why go on. Whether you want to view this little film as horror, humor or hubris do not, and I repeat do not, do it while you are depressed about the state of the world. As noted above- Be forewarned this film is not for the faint-hearted. Parental Guidance is very definitely suggested for all concerned."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In The Age Of “The World Turned Upside Down”- D.H. Pennington’s “Europe In The Seventeenth Century”- A Book Review

Book Review

Europe In The Seventeenth Century, Second Edition, D.H. Pennington, Longman,
London, 1970

No question when I think of 17th century European history I am drawn immediately to think about the English bourgeois revolution of the mid-century. That event put paid to the notion that a ruler could rule by divine right and that through various twists and turns, not all of them historically progressive by any means, some rough semblance of democratic rule would work best. Work best then in tandem with an emerging capitalist order (of course the process stretched out for some two centuries but the shell was established then) as the means of creating a stable society.

Aside from kings and queens having to worry, worry to death, about their pretty little necks (ask Charles I and Louis XVI, among others) and having rough-hewn, warts and all, rulers like Oliver Cromwell enter the scene many other things were going on in Europe in the 17th century that would contribute as well to what we would recognize as a modern Europe. What those events were, and their importance, was why when I was first seriously looking at the English Revolution back in the late 1970s I picked up Professor Pennington’s nice little survey (well maybe not so little at six hundred plus pages). And a recent re-reading only confirms (with the obvious acknowledgement of a need for some updating given the immense increase in scholarship in this area since then) its worth as a primer.

Perhaps the most dramatic social change of the 17th century was the long term (very long term globally as it is still working its way through the whole planet) trend toward more efficient agriculture leading to the lessening need for farmer workers (and large farm families as well) freeing up a surplus population to head to the bright lights of the city (maybe) and availability to work in the newly emerging industries that were just beginning to be formed in a way that we would recognize. The old feudal lord-serf relations were beginning to become attenuated, very attenuated with this movement away from the land and its seemingly eternal fixed relationships. Starting with textiles and working through to almost every possible commodity it became easier to buy machine-made products, and usually, except in times of not infrequent economic duress, cheaper.

That little spurt into what we would now call the industrial revolution changed many other aspects of the European outlook as well. Science became a more pressing social concern as the need to understand the physical work and its laws became more pressing. Religion which drove conflicts of the previous century, while still important to the plebeian masses, was lessening its grip on a more urbanized population. And, of course with that change, without becoming enthralled with a “Whig” onward and upward progressive interpretation of history came a dramatic increase in more secular interest for the arts, education, thinking of new ways of governing beyond the old time divine right of kings theories, other more radical political ideas about the family and other social relationships, and the extremely important fact that the a “right to rebellion” if not in official dogma then in practice became a legitimate form of plebeian expression.

Needless to say, as with every century, wars, wars for possession, succession, or just plain hubris, highlighted by the Thirty Years War, get plenty of attention. And, at the governmental level, that way to resolve conflicts not unexpectedly takes up much of the book. But the real importance of Professor Pennington’s survey is that it gives the “losers” in that century, places like Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Denmark their “fifteen minutes of fame,” information that when I first read the book I was not award of since many presentations, including general surveys, are front-loaded toward looking at the “winners” in various periods. England and France get plenty of attention, especially at the end of the book (and the end of the century setting up the big rivalries of the next couple of centuries. I will admit though that trying to keep up with the various partitions, dissections, intersections, and the like would drive me mad-if I was a cartographer. If your grasp of 17th century European history could use a little brushing up this survey is just fine. Then you can use the extensive bibliography and end notes (over one hundred pages between them) and move on to get the inside story of places, people and events that interest you.

Monday, May 26, 2008

In the Time of the Rump Parliament


The Rump Parliament, Blair Worden, Cambridge University Press, 1974

Most historians, especially Marxist historians, have recognized the great English Revolution of the mid-17ht century, a revolution associated with the name of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans as the first great modern revolution. Moreover, this writer would argue that as with all great revolutions the fate of the English Revolution had many lessons to impart to later generations of revolutionaries. Professor Worden’s little book on a specific part of that revolution is filled with such lessons concerning the period that has become known as the rule of the Rump Parliament (1648-53). That is the period from Pride’s Purge (the exclusion by the Army of those parliamentarians who wanted to continue to treat with King Charles I despite his various acts of treachery) until the time of the Barebones Parliament and the personal rule of the Army General-in-Chief Cromwell.

The Rump Parliament, as the derogatory designation implies, has not been treated kindly, at least not before Professor Worden’s book, at the hands of historians. This nevertheless was a period where dear King Charles I lost his head and scared the crowned heads of Europe out of their wits, leaving them ready for armed intervention against the English revolution. Furthermore, this period, despite confusion about what form of executive power to establish, firmly confirmed the rule of parliament supremacy. However, in retrospect it has also been seen as a sluggish period in the revolutionary saga where no serious reforms were implemented; to the relief of many conservatives and the dismay of the radicals- civilian ones like the Levelers and the various religious sects as well as Army ones, especially in the ranks.

Worden does a fine job of analyzing those conflicts and the basis for those claims of sluggishness. In his hands that reputation for sluggishness is exposed to be false as the work done by this body at that time was as good (if that is the correct word in this context) as any 17th English Parliament as far as dealing with the serious questions of religious toleration, land reform, tax reform, political exclusions, army grievances, extension of the political franchise, law reform and finances. Moreover, in the context of that above-mentioned threat of foreign intervention early in this period it held its own against the internal forces that wanted to make a truce with the European powers.

I have argued elsewhere in this space, in reviewing the books of Professors Hill, Underdown and others who have written about this period, that the shadow of the New Model Army hovers over this whole period. Its periodic interventions into the political events of the time are key to understanding how the revolution unfolded, as well as its limitations and its retreats. There is almost no period where this is truer than the rule of the Rump. Pride’s Purge, an army intervention, set the stage for who would govern (and who would not) for the period.

The early period of Rump rule, beset by constant military needs in order to defend the Commonwealth is basically an armed truce between civilian and military forces. In the later period of the Rump’s rule when there are more dramatic clashes between the Army’s needs and attempts to maintain civilian control the balance shifts in the Army’s favor. From that point Army rule is decisive. Some argue that the defeat of the civilian Leveller forces and their army supporters in 1649 was the watershed. I am not so sure now, although certainly the democratic, secular forces represented there were those modern revolutionaries would support.

I believe that there was no question that Army intervention was definitely necessary at the later time (1653). Moreover the New Model Army represented the best of the plebeian classes that fought for and then defended the revolution. It therefore represented the sole force that could consolidate the gains of the revolution. That it could not retain power over the long haul in the face of a conservative counter-revolution is a separate question for another day. For more insights about this period read this little gem of a book.