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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


In "Figures of Quagmire," I wrote:

I'll pass quickly over {J. Lamb's] complete misrepresentation of the [theme of WINTER SOLDIER]. While I observed that Captain America's diffidence about the monstrous hellicarriers "reflects an ethos of fair play that doesn't hold with attacking supposed enemies before they attack you," Lamb can only paint the Captain as a fascist for defying weapons "authorized by American policymakers." And yet, as if to prove that superheroes can't win in Lamb's book, the Captain is also a hypocrite because he attacks the hellicarriers but doesn't attack "the floating nuclear version [of the hellicarriers] at sea." The Hydra conspiracy, by the way, is referred to "an ad hoc terrorist conspiracy," which only goes to prove that Lamb does not know what the phrase "ad hoc" really means.

Today on the "Figures of Empire" response-thread, Lamb correctly pointed out that he had not used the phrase "ad hoc terrorist conspiracy" for Hydra, and that it was meant to connote the film's three heroes, who unite to stop Hydra in what I suppose is technically an 'extra-legal" action.  So I will say a small mea culpa to having misread one of Lamb's sentences, though as my response below shows, I'm even more incredulous that the phrase was ever meant to apply to WINTER SOLDIER's protagonists.

J. Lamb,
On the specific point of using the term "ad hoc," I agree that the sentence as written connotes the teaming of the film's heroes, not the actual terrorist conspiracy represented by Hydra. I have to say that I might have been thrown off the course by the quantity of prepositional phrases, but it's still my bad: you didn't say what I believed you said.
I would still question the use of the term in its actual context, though. Here's Wikipedia's description of the action of what is at stake when the three heroes form what you call a "terrorist conspiracy:"
"[the heroes] force [Hydra agent Sitwell] to divulge that Zola developed a data-mining algorithm that can identify individuals who might become future threats to Hydra's plans. The Insight Helicarriers will sweep the globe, using satellite-guided guns to eliminate these individuals."
Given that Cap, Widow and Falcon cannot trust anyone in SHIELD, and that there is a clear and present danger to human lives by an organization that has usurped the purpose of the helicarriers, I don't see that the heroes have any alternatives, nor do I see any logic in deeming their prompt action to be un-heroic. Should they have waited for a congressional investigation to be convened after Hydra's victims were killed?
I don't think that any real-world parallel to these actions would have been that of an "ad hoc terrorist conspiracy," either. If a group of private citizens had stumbled across one of the CIA's plots to assassinate Castro, and those citizens believed that Castro would be killed unless they intervened in some violent manner, would their actions be terrorist actions?
Early in TWS, it's made clear that Steve Rogers doesn't approve of the helicarriers, recognizing them as what you correctly call "gunboat diplomacy." But in the film I saw, he takes no action against the helicarriers until it's clear that their purpose has been usurped by an actual terrorist organization. Once this has happened, it doesn't matter that the weapons were made legal by American policymakers; they are going to be used in an illegal manner by terrorists. In contrast to real life, where comparable crimes are often discovered after the fact, the film's heroes are lucky/skillful enough to discover the plot before lives are lost.
So, while admitting that you did not refer to Hydra itself as an "ad hoc terrorist organization," I find that there's still no  logic in using the phrase to refer to the film's protagonists.

Additionally, I've posted this addendum to my statements elsewhere regarding what I believed to be a threat of deletion on the HU site:

ADDENDUM: As of 6/9/15 Noah Berlatsky has stated that the "MRA nattering" remark was not directed at me, but at a poster who had been deleted. This does not invalidate all of the rhetoric regarding Kashtan's essay and other related matters, but I acknowledge that I may have been somewhat precipitate in my response.

More to come, perhaps.

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