Recently, Troma Films alum Oliver Stone’s newest film Snowden hit theaters. While Stone’s often historical films have been called into question for their accuracy (*cough*cough* JFK *cough*cough*), this film is the product of several months of conversations with Edward Snowden himself who hopefully kept the record straight. But what’s most impressive about the movie is not even the film itself, but how Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union used the hype of the film’s release in order to launch their newest campaign to get President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden.
With the combined efforts of Stone to bring Snowden’s case to an even larger mainstream audience and the ACLU and Amnesty’s piggybacking on the media attention to push for Snowden’s freedom, the movement in support of Edward Snowden is gaining traction like never before. Film and other forms of media entertainment from science fiction novels to punk rock and hip hop music have all inspired and awakened people to discover radical politics and this is something that has been used as an advantage when recruiting. Rage Against the Machine have turned many mainstream rock fans onto groups like the Zapatistas and the Industrial Workers of the World. Groups like CrimethInc. made a name for themselves and attracted members by tabling at crust punk shows and passing out literature. The Libertarian Party used to canvas outside science fiction conventions to recruit new members.
Back in 2006, the Wachowski Sisters wrote and produced the live action adaptation of occultist Alan Moore’s famous anarchist graphic novel, V for Vendetta. Rightly criticized for the movie’s complete avoidance of the topic of anarchism itself in favor of a watered-down anti-Bush story set in England, the group A for Anarchism formed and began hanging around outside movie theaters that were playing the film and passing out flyers detailing all the anarchist elements and philosophy that were left out of the film as well as ways to get involved in anarchist organizing locally. This proved to be a useful educational and recruitment tool.
In 1989, Alan Grant created the character Anarky as a Batman villain. Anarky was a high school kid named Lonnie Machin who admired Batman as well as thinkers such as Bakunin, Proudhon, and Kropotkin. But when Lonnie decided to follow Batman’s example as a way to enact his anarchistic vision of justice, Batman came to stop him and enforce police and state rule in Gotham City. To many Batman fans at the time, this flipped the script and showed Batman in a fascist light while making the reader feel sympathetic towards the villain. Since then Anarky has continued to be used to spread Grant’s anarchist philosophy and challenge the reader’s preconceived notions of heroism, even facing off against Green Arrow who is an outspoken anarcho-communist and a self-proclaimed social justice warrior but, unlike Anarky, is treated as a hero. Green Arrow has even been used as a vehicle to argue against the pitfalls of liberalism in his debates with the much more statist liberal Green Lantern.
In the realm of indie comics, Bitch Planet has become a great comic for discussing complex ideas like feminism, racism, and the prison-industrial-complex. With an engaging letter section, satirical ads which joyously “celebrate” patriarchy, and even discussion questions at the end of the trade paperback collections, this book has inspired everything from radical reading groups to personal involvement in prisoner support work.
Troma Films has been the longest running independent film company in America. Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman has time and again preached against big media conglomerates, environmental degradation, and the evils of capitalism and have been championing net neutrality for years. Through the humor of movies such as The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High, and Poultrygiest: Night of the Chicken Dead, Troma tackles issues of racism, indigenous rights, animal welfare, queer rights, pollution, devil worshipping corporations, and GMO foods with all the blood and nudity one could ask for.
The upcoming game, Orwell, was released which allows you to play an intelligence agent who is tasked with monitoring public citizens. The game is based on Snowden’s revelations and was created to show the players just how much access to our information the NSA truly has. The game has been used as an educational tool and a way to teach people to protect their data.
It is these uses of media that have proven effective in reaching people. A lot of disenfranchised and disgruntled people care more about their music, games, shows, books, and movies than they do about politics and who’s to blame them? But groups like A for Anarchy, CrimethInc. and the ACLU have proven that engaging with such art and using it as a launching point for other campaigns works. So let’s table at music shows, let’s create educational video games, let’s flyer outside movie theaters, let’s make art, and let’s engage people by engaging in their passions and going from there.