Battle in Seattle and Virtual JFK Ask Are We, or He, the People?

Two movies ask: Do the masses or the man make the difference in history?

A less hysterical version of the Oliver Stone thesis that Kennedy was assassinated precisely so the Pentagon could have its war, Virtual JFK suggests that—unlike Kennedy, and despite his tremendous victory in the 1964 election as well as a detailed cautionary memo from his new vice president, Hubert Humphrey—Lyndon Johnson was susceptible to pressure and immediately capitulated to demands that he escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam. (The filmmakers are too polite to recall that McNamara was among those egging Johnson on.) Given the Kennedy record, it does seems unlikely that he would have been stampeded by the Gulf of Tonkin—although, given as well that this questionable incident occurred in the midst of a presidential election, who can say?

André Benjamin fights the power in Battle in Seattle.
Ed Araquel/Redwood Palms Pictures
André Benjamin fights the power in Battle in Seattle.


Battle in Seattle
Directed by Stuart Townsend
Redwood Palms Pictures
Opens September 19
Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived
Directed by Koji Masutani
September 17 through 30, Film Forum

As Wilson's Ghost, a treatise on idealism and American foreign policy that Blight wrote with McNamara, was haunted by Kennedy's, so Virtual JFK conjures the specter of George W. Bush (and also the spirit of Errol Morris in solemnizing its footage with the music of Philip Glass's public-domain precursor, Erik Satie). There's no need to note that Kennedy's assassination has its equivalent in the stolen election of 2000, or to raise the question of whether Al Gore would have responded to 9/11 by going to war in Iraq. In the current context, Virtual JFK is a virtual paid political ad for Barack Obama.

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