Current Comedy 8/25/09: "Rev. Right's" Hell House: The 33 Minute Hate (Preaching to the Choir Part Two)

Across the country, there is a phenomenon that occurs each fall. In cities and towns across America, Christians unite to scare the crap out of their children by sending them to hell. Hell House that is. Imagine the worst assortment of those church elder, "I told you so!" fire and brimstone lectures, acted out with zero budget FX and local actors as if directed by Mel Gibson with a 55 gallon barrel and a ladle.

Officially nothing more than a heartfelt nationwide crusade to save the souls of young people, Hell House® is also a best selling product among those believing they can purchase their way to Jesus. As the watchdog group Religious Tolerance explains, Hell House was developed by Keenan Roberts, a pastor of the Abundant Life Church in Arvada, CO back around 1992 and traces its roots to Jerry Falwell. Each $200 "Hell House Outreach" kit includes "a 263 page manual which covers 'everything from media publicity to casting and costume.'"

Hell House is supposed to scare the devil out of you, to make your impressionable teenager beg for the chance to stick to the straight and narrow unless they burn forever in hell, or inadvertently drown during a dousing of red tinted corn syrup. Though Falwell gets to claim ownership on inventing this beauty (just one among many gifts to humanity, or so they say); the proper progenitor of this type of entertainment was actually an Englishman named Eric Blair, more commonly known as George Orwell, the inventor, or definer of our current condition; for we are all living a post 1984 existence.

We've always been fighting Oceania, or is it Eastasia, or Eurasia? It's always been hell. What with War being Peace, and Freedom being Slavery, it comes as small wonder that Ignorance is Strength. The news says everything's never been better; and we can't remember so we take their word for it. All we have to remember is our two minutes' hate.

Remember? As 1984's main character, Winston Smith, drags his way through a typical day he is occasionally required to assemble en masse for a film presentation to incite the passions, patriotism, and lust for bloody revenge among the citizenry, AKA the "Two Minutes' Hate." Even though Winston knows most of what he is watching is nothing but lies and propaganda, for he works in the factory that manufactures lies, Smith like everyone else is still enflamed by the masterfully crafted images of the glory of love of country, the barbarism without, the innocents needing protecting within. Mostly the hate video was about the evil ones who hate us for our freedom and how we want to kill, Kill, KILL them.

The two minutes' hate is a very powerful image. It brings to mind O'Reilly spraying the lens with spittle from the intensity of his rant or Rush Limbaugh conjuring oxycotin-speak as he waves around in clouds of his cigar smoke. It's not news. It's the angry lust for revenge bought and sold as entertainment. It's hate, but hate sells.

And as I arrived on Aug. 22, 2009 at the Assembly of God Church, I saw Trent Franks' opening act was a 30-minute short, 33 Minutes, brought to us free of charge by the Heritage Foundation; in an instant I realized I was experiencing our own era's Two Minutes' Hate. Ironically enough, on the website you can even view the standard or the extra special two minutes' long trailer.

My favorite part of the full length version that I steamed through while waiting for Trent Franks, A Right leaning Jeremiah if ever there was one, was early on when they purposefully misquoted the Preamble to Constitution to make it seem like the first obligation of our country is to be militaristic as Hell[house], because according to the Constitution "defend the nation" is our nation's "first duty."

Actually it's not. As in: it is not our first obligation to our country to wage a war of aggression or intimidation with most of the countries we do business with. Nor is "defend the nation" the first of the 6 defining clauses in the Preamble. As you can see, it is number 4, right there beside the supposed horrendously socialist injunction to "promote the general welfare."

"We the People of the United States, in Order to: 1. form a more perfect Union, 2. establish Justice, 3. insure domestic Tranquility, 4. provide for the common defense, 5. promote the general Welfare, and 6. secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

To me, after being caught bold-faced in that act of fudging like that, everything that follows is suspect and for those familiar with the techniques of a two minutes' hate, the distortions come so fast and furious it's dizzying.

33 Minutes tries to justify both the violence we've created around the world with our atomic weaponry and how we can finally have peace by just making some more atomic weaponry. This is next level of violence the Heritage Foundation and Trent Franks wants to sell us-a brand new Reagan style Missile Defense Shield with 21st Century bells and whistles. Make no doubt about it, Mr. Franks, religious man that he is, is above all else, a minister of war.

And why not? With his position on the Armed Services Committee, you can bet Franks has some friends with some dollars in military contracting. As Vote Smart plainly tracks for you, Franks received over 50 grand from defense contractors, with 4 of 10 of his top donors being military/aerospace, it's safe to say he's making a killing selling us war.

Early on the film takes up that great saint of the right, Ronnie Reagan, and one could feel the crowd almost coo. While some remember Reagan as the 5th face that should grace Mount Rushmore, I'm of the school that remembers a Reagan who committed some of the biggest Republican Presidential outrages between Nixon and Bush II.

I could start with Iran-Contra and that would be plenty by itself, but to be sure my point is made we can throw in Afghani-flipping-stan and Osama flapping Bin Laden, ignoring the AIDS crisis into an epidemic, closing mental hospitals and overnight creating a whole new world of homelessness, Supply-Side "Voodoo" Economics, Trickle Down theory, anti-unionism, wave of deregulation and the whole Central America shamefest of covert invasions and propped up human rights abusing dictators. School of the Americas, anyone? That's what Reagan taught the world to think of us.

But in the view of Hades known as 33 Minutes, his word was gold. He was such a peacemaker Reagan "wanted to make nuclear weapons obsolete"; so he raised his defense budget 50%, bought still more nuclear weapons and did his damnedest to sell us a multi trillion Star Wars Missile Shield that made billions for our friends in the military-industrial complex until somebody wisely pulled the plug.

And now more than healthcare, Trent Franks came to Kingman with a mission to sell us something. A missile. He knew he was preaching to the choir on healthcare. No need to come to Kingman over that. But he was here to sell us something: fire and brimstone. And that's what 33 Minutes delivers. With explosions flickering the eye every few moments, booming bass lines shrieking the urgency of action in fully throated surround sound, 9/11 tromping on our heartstrings recurring in a measured rhythm, flashes of violence, billows of smoke, exploded debris, Arabs and Asians, and uniformed talking heads wearing lots scrambled eggs, 33 Minutes sells its hate by telling us how dangerous our world is and the only way to make it safer is to buy them bigger guns.

It's the kind of film that punctuates its jump cuts with drum beats and flashing lights. The kind of film that shows the same snippets of destruction several times in various montages, because those images of fire are so cool. The kind of film that makes a big deal of explaining that the legendarily lethal "Electro Magnetic Pulse" is "...a pulse of electro-magnetism" because that explains everything. It seems the worst thing that can happen in an atomic attack is to have an A-Bomb blow up in the upper atmosphere. It doesn't necessarily kill you, but it might stop your blackberry from texting which as everyone knows is almost as bad as waterboarding. SO, the best way to avoid having them blow up their H-bomb in the upper atmosphere is ... to blow it up ourselves.

Unfortunately for the Heritage Foundation and the artistes behind this work of cinema, the film's final hellish invention fails, an attempt to present George Bush as a man of vision and integrity who also wants to sell you this umpteen trillion dollar missile system and we should buy it because he is a man of integrity. Anytime your argument depends on George W. Bush's image as a wise statesman, the project's in trouble.

As 33 Minutes enfolds itself into its final moments of flag waving and Lady Liberty kissing, the serious, earnest narrator implores us to dig deep, to save our souls from such hell. Remember, "You can't put a price on people's lives," ... except of course when it comes to paying for their universal healthcare.

Luckily for us all this particular overlong episode of the two minute's hate left us with its own justification to pull the plug on Franks' latest missile defense boondoggle and the ad campaign, he's working so hard to star in. As the narrator explains, "If America is constricted by fear, then all is lost."

I agree.

Stay Tuned for Part Three: The Right Jeremiah

--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.