The Award for Best Paranoia?

First Lady Michelle Obama, on a video screen via satellite, announces the Best Picture Oscar with Jack Nicholson, who was at the Dolby Theatre. (Getty Images)


It happened quickly, and near the end of the night. It even involved Jack Nicholson, who for reasons I’ll wit upon in a moment may have been acting on more than one stage while beaming in First Lady Michelle Obama to reveal and award the Academy Award Best Picture—which of course went to Argo.


Nicholson walked out on stage and introduced the First Lady, who with the help of Nicholson announced the winning film. And then Ben Affleck and the team who produced Argo were on stage, and appropriately and nervously thanking all sorts of stuff and people.


The surreal nature of the moment goes without saying… but the fact that the First Lady announced the Best Picture award to a film about successfully freeing hostages from Iran, who the United States, and the White House more directly, do not have much love for right now, set off all sorts of buzzers and alarms in the head.


A few minutes and half a cigarette later, while Seth MacFarlane and Kristin Chenoweth sang a song to all the losers, I felt a fresh laceration in a part of the mind that already has so much scar tissue it’s hard to distinguish it from a fat worm glued to pale skin. That part of the mind that’s weary of propaganda and doublespeak… call it the Cranial Department of Propagandizalarmament, or the Ministry of Dome-Piece Paranoia. I suppose it doesn’t matter, but whatever the name is, it has to be absurd.


So… as hard as it is for me to use the word “improper” and not burst into hypocritically-fueled flames, it felt at least faintly improper that the Oscars and Michelle would operate together to give the award to Argo… a film about the government and Hollywood working together to extract hostages from Iran by posing as a team scouting locations to shoot a science fiction movie by the name of “Argo”.


I believe that Ben Affleck and his team deserved the award, and I have nothing against the film, but it is still not easy to swallow the fact that it was also a raging boner of a PR boon for the U.S. Government.


The surreal nature of the moment goes without saying… but the fact that the First Lady announced the Best Picture award to a film about successfully freeing hostages from Iran, who the United States, and the White House more directly, do not have much love for right now, set off all sorts of buzzers and alarms in the head.


Which leads me to my real trepidation, which is the use of industries by the government to propagandize. As sure as my dumbass goldfish have seen me drink a keg of whiskey in the last half-year, the Obama Administration has had a hard time balancing its exchequer when it comes to matching its actual policies with its actual statements. For example, President Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is a proponent of peace, yet also almost an unapologetic conduit for drone warfare—almost unapologetic because his administration tacitly ignores that this kind of warfare is being waged and is responsible for thousands upon thousands of pointless civilian deaths as ugly and tormenting as what happened in Sandy Hook just over two months ago less than ten miles from where I sit and type this out.


My first guess was that the Academy, quite liberal themselves, solicited the White House to introduce this award once the Academy tallied all the votes… which I still think is plausible, but at some point, early into the next morning while I sipped Concannon on ice and chased that with a few PBRs, I had the disconcerting thought that the White House might have actually approached the Academy… either regardless of knowing the results, or with the goal of intimidating a “politically positive” result, which would be Argo taking the win.


It’s worth thinking about, though I do not want to spawn conspiracy theories, particularly since I am no fan of paranoia or trains of thought that aren’t based on scientific fact.


I could be over-thinking the moment, or its relative significance, but as much as runaway conspiracy theories like that pathetic virus the Birthers keep passing along can increase bad paranoia in a crowd like the wave circumnavigating a stadium, there is such a thing as healthy paranoia, which might drive us to ask “Why did that happen?”


I suppose a simpler way to write this idea would be: wasn’t it weird that the White House played a role in presenting the Best Picture Award?… And leave it at that.


But these are strange times. We have megabanks like HSBC, so large they’re “Too Big To Fail” and even too large for one of their executives to go to jail for laundering billions of Iranian money through American wires (which if I did, would land me in prison for longer than my body would hold out). We have a Republican Party struggling to find its feet, and a Democratic Party that does not realize its heading into the same kinds of problems. And we have a very odd White House… to say that a liberal administration is comfortable with ordering the assassination of Americans abroad—no matter what their status—instead of insisting on their arrest and detention and a trial in a Federal courthouse.


I also understand why this Oscar event might not startle many people. It was a small blip in the nation’s history that reminded me of much larger and more serious sleights of hand. And most Americans may never have to deal with it. However, our sense of critical analysis needs a bit of honing because of our politics, drones, and what feels like a slide down the low road. We as a country have for two solid centuries celebrated the fact that we took the high road—even when we didn’t, we still aimed for it, or told historians to say that we aimed for it—and decided that sometimes it’s much, much better to live in example for others to see rather than simply act quietly in our “best” interests.


The difference between those two things is the difference between Abraham Lincoln and a vigilante. Were Abe able to speak to us from the firmament above, I firmly, without doubt, believe that he would act with absolute conviction and not change any of his actions in order to save his life—for he lived with an uncommon care in his heart that people have equality, which is a sentiment I cannot help but aspire towards despite the fact that I cannot help but be an intolerable jackass of a cynic.


Abe would also have said that Affleck deserved Best Director.

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