Live from Cannes: Two More Russo Reviews

varietydb2.jpgWe reported the standing ovation Aaron Russo received at the Cannes Film Festival. I’ve now seen the first two mainstream (as opposed to freedom movement) reviews of his documentary. I’ll let digitalBURG
provide some of the background

Russo, who is best known as the producer of feature films including “The Rose” starring Bette Midler and “Trading Places” starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, wrote, produced, and directed the film.

“I am disgusted by the direction America was heading,” says Russo. “I made this movie because I want to live in a free country and I want my kids and grandkids to live in a free country. The American people must abandon the myth that America is still the land of liberty that it once was.”

Through interviews with U.S. Congressmen, as well the former IRS Commissioner, former IRS and FBI agents, tax attorneys and authors, Russo attempts to provethat there is no law requiring citizens to pay a direct tax on their labor. His film connects the dots between money creation, federal income tax, voter fraud, the national identity card (which becomes law in May 2008) and the implementation of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to track citizens.

Neither left nor right-wing in perspective, the film concludes that the U.S. government is taking on the characteristics of a police state. In fact, Russo routinely bashes both Democrat and Republican parties in the website clips available on his website.

The discussion that followed the Cannes preview lasted for thirty minutes, according to Russo’s press release for the movie. Actor Nick Nolte, in Cannes for the premiere of “Over The Hedge,” joined Russo during the event. “The information in this film is something everybody has to know,” said Nolte, who was the lead actor in “Teachers,” a film produced by Russo.

Here’s some analysis from Variety:

With his warm Brooklyn accent and affectedly folksy manner, Russo has a genial-cum-pugnacious presence onscreen and a knack for boiling down complex arguments and issues into easily digestible, “Global Economics for Dummies” sound bites.

Cornerstone contention in “Freedom to Fascism” is that the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was never properly ratified, an argument popularized in Bill Benson’s controversial book “The Law That Never Was,” that’s cited here. Along with the foundation of the Federal Reserve Bank in 1913, introduction of federal tax system is described by Bob Schulz of the We the People Foundation, as the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated by government against the working men and women of America.”

To support this point, Russo deploys interviews with former IRS agents who have joined pressure groups to fight imposition of federal tax. Other means of cinematic persuasion include cartoons, solemnly presented quotes from various illustrious (Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Goethe no less) and (in pic’s view) notorious figures (banker David Rockefeller). All this is backed by ominous music, and quick inserts from popular movies to underscore points humorously. This is redolent of campaign advertising, but less convincing as journalism.One doesn’t have to be a pro-Federalist to feel Russo’s tendency to use shot-reverse-shots in interviews with those opposed to his view — such as gamely participating former Tax Commissioner Sheldon Cohen –creates the impression that rhetorical sleight of hand is being used to undermine counter-argument.

However, the strong case built in pic’s first half is weakened by the vaguely argued contention in the second that the land of the free is becoming anything but. Attack focuses on the Federal Reserve, the Patriot Act, the abolition of the gold standard, and not-yet-ratified plans to introduce identity chips on currency and in citizens in the future.

I sort of disagree with the latter review, perhaps because I’m so used to the arguments and certainly because I’ve been so involved with Aaron Russo and this documentary. Sometimes movie scenes and dining room conversations become intertwined in my memory, biasing my view on Russo’s work.

I thought the second half of Russo’s movie was much stronger because it leads to the future as opposed to dealing with the controversial past. While Russo’s presentation of the 16th Amendment issues are clearly compelling for the court of public opinion (I think Russo did a great job in this regard), they don’t seem compelling for most contemporary courts of law. I’m sure our resident law student (who was a strong Russo supporter) will likely chime in on this issue, so I don’t need to carry this argument any further. However, Russo tackled quite a few issues (such as RFID, electronic voting, and the White House’s blatant disregard for the Constitution) which will continue to surface in the mainstream media for years to come.

I’ve learned from this documentary that everyone seems to be touched by some portions of it while very few people agree with each and every point made. We each walk away with different perceptions of the film, and I’m sure that your view will differ from mine. Most importantly, Russo wants this movie to make people think and to talk about (and then get involved with) the issues — a goal at which he succeeds.

It was expected that Russo would get lines and standing ovations at the local showings mostly advertised on the Internet to people within the freedom movement. Now that he’s getting the same general reception at Cannes and in more mainstream reviews, it’s an indicator that his film will have the same general impact with general audiences it’s had with more targeted ones.

Stephen Gordon

I like tasteful cigars, private property, American whiskey, fast cars, hot women, pre-bailout Jeeps, fine dining, worthwhile literature, low taxes, original music, personal privacy and self-defense rights -- but not necessarily in this order.

  1. I think regardless of what particular aspect X person Y doesn’t agree with in this movie… there is still something for everyone and it will definitely get people thinking.

    Better yet, it will help illustrate that the repub/dem paradigm is non-existant, and this will get more and more people to start looking around and maybe find us.

  2. It’s not going to have the same impact with general audiences because 1) It’s not likely to show in more than a few theatres and 2) Our tax money is probably being used right now for a propaganda campaign to snap people into line and 3) I’m totally sure the media – especially that of the right wing persuation (supporters of freedom that they are) will be used to propagandize things IF the movie gets popular.

    I really expect it to be totally ignored. Then when things cannot be ignored, if they reach that level, then they will be endlessly bashed and rejected.

  3. The Gold Standard, silly tin-foil hat stuff? What have you been smoking? It’s a guaranteed limit on government’s power, I can tell you that much. If you don’t have a gold standard you cannot have limited government. Fiat currency systematically robs us all of wealth… and concentrates it in the hands of very few. You must really be out of your mind to suggest that fiat currency with no intrinsic value, an instrument of debt, is superior to commodity backed currency. And we wonder why we have the problems that we do now?! That is one of the roots and you foolishly deny it. We are going nowhere until people understand this.

  4. So half the movie is about the 16th Amendment not being ratified properly? That’s disappointing, because I can’t see Americans willing to toss out a Constitutional Amendment because of two insignificant typos in the ratification documents. If we did that, we’d also have to throw out the 14th, and I doubt Congress would re-pass that in its original form.

  5. Devious David: ‘If you don’t have a gold standard you cannot have limited government.’

    Sure you can. There is no need for government to meddle with currency at all. That’s a prejudice persisting from ancient times, when mining as well as minting was usually a government monopoly.

  6. Russo wasted half his movie on an issue which, if addressed, would still MAKE NO DIFFERENCE?

    (Think about it: if it were commonly believed that Amendment XVI were not ratified, how long until it -was- re-ratified? Not long.)

    As for the gold standard- if you want a currency that’s as volatile as any commodity traded on the open market, prone to highs and lows miles apart, go for it. From what I’ve seen, going off the gold standard made us stronger, not weaker, in the long run… especially since fully three-quarters of the currency exchanged today only exists as a concept, not as coin or paper but only numbers on a balance sheet.

    I was thinking about seeking this movie out; now that I’ve read these reviews, forget it. Tinfoil-hattery is too kind a term.

  7. Well said, Tomlin. From that standpoint, yes, there should be no gold standard. Government should have no hand at all in the creation or regulation of money.

  8. Kris, the purpose of the reviews is to reduce it to tinfoil-hattery.

    There are solutions to volatility and going off of the gold standard has made us much much weaker. How is it that since 1913, the dollar has lost in excess of 90% of it’s value! We have lost most of our wealth as a result of this. Being deeply in debt and wealthless is strength? Oh and not to mention the excesses that this has enabled government to grow into. That makes us stronger too. The real value of gold has remained approximately the same, while the dollar has slid drastically.

    There are digital alternatives to coins for exchange purposes, duh. Depository receipts. And your insistence that having money exist only as numbers on a ledger doesn’t alarm you?!

    You “Libertarians” need to educate yourselves on this matter. We will NEVER EVER possibly in a MILLION YEARS get where we are trying to go until fiat currencies and fractional reserve banking of any kind by anyone is to be absolutely refuted.

  9. I just can’t beleive people ENJOY having their wealth taken from them through the most dubious of means and then transferrred to the powerful.

  10. These reviewers have let preconceived notions interfere with what they saw. As a result, they missed some of the major messages and the point of the film. In order to get it, they will have to leave their personal baggage outside and watch it again, paying particular attention to what is said in the movie and ignoring the voices in their heads.

    Many people will want to watch it again because there’s a lot to absorb–far more than most people are exposed to in a lifetime of major media immersion.

    For those who are tempted to undervalue the significance of this film, here’s a reminder: More than 170 million innocent men, women, and children have been killed by THEIR OWN governments, and they had no idea what was coming.

  11. DD — rethink your positions on fiat currencies, if you would, by going further into the historical information on the issues involved.

    1) The Carter administration was specifically and willfully responsible for the vast majority of the depreciation of the dollar. This was done as a “favor” to the farmers of the US; depreciate the dollar and reduce the impact of the debt farmers had in the banks. ‘Course, they’re all back in that same problem again…

    2) The indebtedness the government has engaged in also has nothing to do with the fiat currency practice. In fact, it has more to do with the acceptance of the “New Deal”‘s logic that governments can operate indefinitely in an indebted status.

    3) The fiat currency practice, engaged on a global basis as it is, permits the exercise of fiscal wealth on a far greater basis than the hard commodity system. The average individual has had an overall effective increase in viability due to it.

    Enough said.

  12. IanC, lay down the crackpipe.

    1. There have been various different policies, ie. “strong dollar” & “weak dollar” through different administrations. You are totally wrong to beleive that Carter was responsible for much of it. Inflation was raging at that time, sure, it’s raging right now. Fluctuations in inflation for short times mean little when you understand that inflation has compounded for many years now. It is prone to fits and spurts. I think you are just anxious to suck some Republicans off.

    2. Bullshit. Your reference to the New Deal is technically incorrect, but the New Deal is an example of what is known as Keynesian economics. Keynes expounded upon the idea that government can – and should engage on unlimited debt. But where does the money that represents the debt come from? AHA! Printing presses. Monetization of debt (in various forms) is a popular means of funding government.

    3. No it doesn’t. This is just plain and utterly wrong. Fiat currency is no store of wealth…

  13. … it is a liability. The people who are present at the origin of the creation of money… or closer to the source are the ones who benefit the most. You and I, we lose on that deal because we are the ones that loose wealth. Debt is not wealth, and thus excercise of that phony wealth can only lead to ruin. The average individual has paid dearly due to fiat currency – in many many more ways than you could ever imagine. The excesses must be wrought from the system. And they will be. But you are too smart to understand and will suffer accordingly. I can’t wait!

    The sad part is that this will be THE prime opportunity for Libertarians. But is seems an awful lot of them are too smart for such a thing. And certainly smarter than God.

  14. A question for Aaron Russo

    Regarding this post in the A:FTF forum, are you aware of the connection between Cinema Libre, the company that’s distributing your excellent film, and the notorious war criminal Rabbi Dov Zakheim?

    The days we live in are becoming too perilous to allow for anything but Truth and clarity, and it’s in that spirit that I ask you this difficult question. Thank you in advance for your answer, and thank you for your excellent film.

  15. The issue of gold vs fiat currency is child-simple. Limitations of power are indeed important. Don’t believe me? 200 million dead by big government in the 20th century. Our tax money at work. And how are these “taxes” mostly collected? The powerful print money and devalue what earners bring to the table. It is printers vs the earners. Printers always devalue a fiat currency. It has been tried in tens of empires, thousands of countries, tens of thousands of currencies. And not one fiat currency ever fails to go to zero. Meanwhile, gold and silver has retained value for 5-6,000 years. Kinda hard not to “get it” eh? And these war cycles are just the flip side of the boom cycle. When the printers can’t expand through boom-based debt, they expand with war-based no-bid contracts by one kind of contrived war or another. Every war in the 20th century was financed on both sides by the same people. Meanwhile, we engage in contrived false paradigm arguments of “Left-right”. Ugh!

  16. I think individuals in the populace are so eager to show off the vague little knowledge they’ve garnered that they stumble over the teacher’s speech and lesson, interfering with the learning class. And because nobody is grading this self-knowledge, the itch for self granduer, giantizes (Hey!That’s Not A Word). Stubborn, we resort cutting down each other with the name calling just like an out of control school class. let the teachers talk please. we all distract from, when we want to inject something that may send the lesson off track, totally killing the teachers train of thought. Let’s listen until the teacher asks for questions.