Recently there has been some discussion comparing the actions of Batman in the blockbuster film The Dark Knight to those of George W. Bush. Don’t serious pundits have better things to write about? Apparently not.
The argument centres around the fact that in the film, Batman takes control of the Wayne Enterprises cell phone system in such a way that he can visualize and track everything that happens to any phone connected to the network. He does this in order to discover the location of the Joker, so he can smack him around a little before leaving him hanging outside a building. Political pundits are comparing this to the Bush administration’s surveillance program, which saw Telecommunication Companies spying on Americans, violating the law and the civil liberties of their victims.
“President Bush signed a secret order in 2002 authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States, despite previous legal prohibitions against such domestic spying, sources with knowledge of the program said last night.”
Lots of people are saying that The Dark Knight is a piece of right wing propaganda, and attempt to show that the actions of the Batman and the actions of the Batty Bush are the same.
Bullshit. That’s right, I’m calling bullshit on that right now.
I’m not going to refer to Chaos or Game theory, I’m not going to reference Nietzsche, or anything that intelligent, I’m just going to logically and specifically compare the actions of a fictional crusader to those of the least popular president of the USA in, like, ever.
1. The system Batman is using is targeted to one person, the Joker. Unlike the real world surveillance, Batman was only looking for one thing, and one thing only; the voice signature of the Joker. He didn’t care if you were badmouthing him, or talking about your deepest darkest secrets. All he was waiting for was the Joker to say something so he could find him. Period. The NSA spies collected thousand and thousands of hours of phone conversations of hundreds, and perhaps thousands of people. If you said the wrong thing, if you had the wrong name, there could be people listening to your conversations even now.
2. Batman trusted one person, and one person only with this system. Although he built the system in secret, when it came to operating it he only gave access to his most trusted advisor (after Alfred, I suppose) Lucius Fox. The man who often acts as Bruce Wayne’s conscience, the connection to his long lost father. So strong are Fox’s morals he resigned his position (as a board chairman, no less) upon discovering the truth of the system, and what it could do. Fox is the only person who is trusted with it, because Batman knew he, of all people, would not be tempted to abuse it. We have no idea who Bush employed to listen to the private conversations of his citizens.
3. Batman knew what he was doing was wrong. Bush and his cronies feel they are above the law, and they think their actions are those of a reasonable government facing a shadowy and fearful enemy. “President Bush signed a bill Thursday that overhauls rules about government eavesdropping and grants immunity to telecommunications companies that helped the U.S. spy on Americans in suspected terrorism cases.”
So, not only is he unapologetic, but he is finding ways to make the surveillance legal, and protecting the companies that violated the civil liberties of the very people Bush was sworn to protect. Batman knew that the system was wrong, so he gave Fox the power to completely destroy it, as soon as he caught the Joker. Remember that he was using this system against one specific, known enemy, the person who had killed the woman he loved, his dearest friend since childhood, a man who blew up hospitals and butchered people randomly and gleefully. Even with all of this, Batman totally recognized the fact that what he was doing was not right, and so he used it once, only one. Bush takes the opportunity to legalize his surveillance program. This is the main difference, the thing that completely discounts any argument that Batman is a right wing hero, or a stand in for Bush. Even this fictional character has more soul, more humanity, and more logic than the President of the United States of America. And that’s scary.
The Batman ain’t no Bush, and Bush certainly ain’t no Batman.