The Lesson on Egypt Found in the Dark Knight Trilogy
This summer, the release of Christopher Nolan's final installment in his epic Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, was met with fanfare, critical praise, and, as we remember, the news of the horrible killings in Aurora, Colorado. In a rush to find someone to blame for the Aurora massacre, some critics publicly laid culpability squarely on Nolan's shoulders thanks to the nihilistic violence found in his films.
These allegations are ridiculous beyond measure, of course. Blaming Nolan for James Holmes' depravity is akin to blaming Paul McCartney for Charles Manson's interpretation of "Helter Skelter." Some people are simply evil, and any attempt to understand their motivation to commit acts of evil is futile. As Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne's butler, put it in The Dark Knight, "Some men just want to watch the world burn." (Warning: spoilers follow.)
It is this thematic concept that drew the left's ire about the second installment of the series, The Dark Knight. In the first film, Batman has an unwavering faith in humanity, believing that the crime-ridden, corrupt Gotham City is not beyond redemption, and neither are its denizens. In his encounter with the Joker in the second film, however, Batman must come to understand that some men are irretrievably evil and beyond reason or understanding. To capture the Joker and thwart his murderous design, Batman must take drastic measures, including hacking into the personal cell phones of the residents of Gotham. Liberal critics say that the hero's actions offer justification for the War on Terror and the Patriot Act, or for a fascist police state, for example.
This notion that some men are unquestionably and irredeemably evil is generally unacceptable to leftists, because they must then also accept that dialogue or negotiation is beyond any usefulness when dealing with someone like, say, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose anti-Western, genocidal rhetoric has not been calmed by the West's pacifistic approach to dealing with the threat of a nuclear Iran. But the fact that such men exist, and that they will invariably want to visit their twisted vision upon others, is an inescapable issue that we all must deal with in reality, and it is an issue that Nolan tackles directly.
The third and final installment is much more ambitious in terms of convergent political topics, and this concept takes a backseat to the domestically relevant criticism of the capitalist status quo -- i.e., greedy Wall Street -- as well as portraying the danger of socialist and anarchist revolutionaries -- i.e., the Occupy movement. However, while these social themes do unravel in the film, it is undeniable that the final chapter also expands upon the driving theme of uncompromising evil from the second film, and given that in our global climate we are on the brink of foreign conflict, this latter theme is perhaps the most important. And interestingly enough, how this theme is developed provides a lesson that is directly applicable to our current debate about how to approach the radical Islamists creating havoc and terror throughout the Middle East through violent protests and coordinated attacks.
In the film, John Daggett, a minor villain that plots to take control of Bruce Wayne's company, works with the villain Bane to achieve his goals. He finances Bane's endeavors, which include setting up an underground stronghold from which to rise and eventually destroy Gotham. Daggett, however, suffers from a belief in a deadly fallacy. He believes, knowing well that Bane is an evil and dangerous man capable of horrific destruction, that the fact that he pays Bane large sums of money will make Bane compliant. He assumes that what drives Bane is also what drives him, and that Bane will function and act according to understandable logic. When Bane betrays him, Daggett is stunned; he tells Bane, "I've paid you a small fortune," as if to say, "How can you do this?" Bane simply replies, "And this gives you power over me?" before snapping Daggett's neck and proceeding to hold Gotham City in a state of terror until its inevitable destruction -- and Bane's hard-lined ideology holds no alternative to that outcome.
It is clear that the left suffers from Daggett's fallacious thought process, and we see it playing out in global politics. We know that the Muslim Brotherhood, now in power in Egypt, is dangerous. We know that it is overseeing a government in which Coptic Christians are publicly crucified. We know that it does not recognize Israel's right to exist. We know that it has held rallies in Egypt with genocidal warnings to Israelis like "the gas chambers are ready." Yet Catholic Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats believe that in spite of all this, and in spite of recent protests in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood's role in fomenting similar protests and violence, we should just continue giving economic aid to the current Egyptian government. The logic is that by paying the $1.5 billion we are expected to give Egypt this year, America has a somewhat implied political influence in the country. The problem, however, is that the Muslim Brotherhood has shown in its words and actions in Egypt that they, like the Joker, like Bane, will not be deterred from their warped aims by reason or bribery. These aims, we now know, include the persecution of women and gays, a hostile stance toward non-Muslims, and an extremely anti-Western, anti-Israel agenda.
At the very least, we should understand that Western ideals like human rights, a dedication to Zionism and multiculturalism, etc. are not what drive the Muslim Brotherhood now in power in Egypt, and we should not be funding any such government. As The Dark Knight Rises ably shows, such misplaced optimism, to the effect that we can reasonably convince ideological extremists that our values are greater than their values, is dangerous and futile.
Of course, this is the real world, and history, not a fictional story about a comic book character, tells us that we don't need a Batman to save us. All it takes is leadership that will understand that an uncompromising, evil ideology must be met with strength and resolve, and a determination to defend what is right. Someone like Ronald Reagan was. And it is someone we conservatives hope Mitt Romney can be -- because it is someone that Barack Obama certainly is not.