and Hoover: Do films about the two 20th century icons
the gathering decay of right-wing politics in the world?
Opera Mundi, Brazil
Films on Hoover and Thatcher Reflect 'Decay' of the Global Right
while the lives of conservative political figures are back in fashion, it is not as
the idols they once were, but as representatives of right-wing decay. Hoover, who worked
at the FBI for over 50 years, was a key player during almost the entire period
of the Cold War; and Thatcher, who by championing neo-liberalism, was as one of
the most important leaders in reviving and renewing the global right."
It seems that the prolonged capitalist
economic crisis has banished from bestseller lists the biographies of
successful CEOs. That is except for here in Brazil, where there is economic
growth and where the story of Batista Eike remains on
top. Today, while the lives of conservative political figures are back in fashion, it is not as
the idols they once were, but as representatives of right-wing decay.
The two films on key
conservative characters - J. Edgar, directed by Clint Eastwood, and The
Iron Lady by Phyllid Lloyd - are being released simultaneously in Brazilian
cinemas. Hoover, who worked at the FBI for over 50 years, was a key player
during almost the entire period of the Cold War; and Thatcher, who by
championing neo-liberalism was one of the most important leaders in reviving
and renewing the global right.
Both films try hard to focus
on the personal lives of obviously tough and unsympathetic characters. In
Hoover’s case, the difficulty is compounded by his homosexual relationship with
a chief advisor. For Thatcher, there is no break between her personal life and
political role, because in the private sphere she practiced the same kind of tyranny
- starting with her husband.
Viewed from today's vantage
point, they are both victorious personalities - each in their own way and fashion.
The end of the USSR was the dream of the right for decades, even if few
believed that the dream would ever come about. Hoover never witnessed this and died
bitter, passing away just as Nixon won reelection. His view, classically
visceral in its anti-communism, was always that the U.S. itself had been
penetrated to its very marrow by communists or their agents. It was a paranoia that
went unslaked even after the decade of the 1960s, when a faithful right-winger won back
the presidency. Hoover predicted very grave hours for the United States.
He wasn't around to witness
the way the Cold War ended with victory for the U.S.-led Western bloc and the incredible
self-dissolution of the USSR, which had deteriorated from within. Anti-communists
like Hoover never believed there was any alternative to war between the U.S.
and USSR. The theory about totalitarianism predominant during the Cold War held
that the Soviet dictatorship was so thickly shielded from its own internal contradictions,
that only from outside would it be possible to defeat it. The West's
international propaganda campaign was intended to convey messages to some
sectors, but without any expectation that they could weaken the Soviet regime
Along with Reagan and Pope
John Paul II, Thatcher was a central figure in the offensive that led to the dissolution
of the USSR, the socialist camp, and with them, the Cold War and the bipolar
world. But Thatcher also became embittered as she aged, seeing symptoms of the
rebirth of her historic enemy - communism - everywhere and anywhere and under many
Both films manage to balance the
political character of the two with their personalities and private lives. Of
course, as with all non-fiction films that are not documentaries, the films
fail to capture much of the political roles they played. That is particularly
true in the case of Hoover, who for decades was responsible for some of the worst
and most savage U.S. aggression. But both movies present an image that reflects
the power that both Thatcher and Hoover held until the bitter end - along with the
old ghosts of communism that fueled their lives and never abandoned them.
*Emir Sader is a political
scientist and professor on the faculty of Philosophy, Languages and Literature,
and Human Sciences of the University of São Paulo. He is an executive secretary
at the Latin American Council of Social Sciences and general coordinator of the
Public Policy Laboratory at the Universidade do
Estado do Rio de Janeiro. This article was originally published in the Boitempo
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