Uncertain Future – Part VI – If the Feds Aren’t Safe, What Makes You?

Ok, so maybe various versions of making people look bad on the internet aren’t nearly as terrifying as legitimate terrorism, but what about the presence of true cybercrime, those who use the internet with no agenda for reform, no desire for publicity, and who 99% of the time, you never knew existed? What about when the threats aren’t out to make you think about some subjective moral wrongdoing, but steal your money and ruin your life. What’s really scary is that no one is safe – quite literally no one. Not even the director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency.

A group of young hackers, using rather unsophisticated methods, broke into the CIA Director John Brennan’s personal email. So that we are all aware, the director of the CIA is the guy in charge of all US spies and one would thing be well beyond the reach of hackers… especially a group of teenagers. Much to the chagrin of the US government, he really wasn’t. This one, however, wasn’t really his fault. The method the hackers used was to implement a tactic that predates modern computing by only a few thousand years. They pretended to be people they weren’t, tricked a Verizon worker and got Brennan’s email password changed the old fashioned way… by lying. The term they used is “social engineering”. While they didn’t find much, they did find were some documents important to him. Then they bragged about it on Wired. While all of us think this one is hilarious, if a story turns up about a few of these kids turning up missing in a couple of years when no one remembers their antics… don’t say this wasn’t foreseeable.

The same group were responsible for this breach also targeted the FBI… because they are just ballsy I guess… and broke into portals used by police and federal agents to share intel. The site is also used to book suspects, and while it isn’t known how much was taken, hundreds of thousands of users may be vulnerable, many already being leaked following the hack.

2015 saw attack after attack like these, and some of the most massive breaches to internet security the world has yet seen, all with little other incentive than stealing money, stealing information, and extortion. Like my fictional spy from the future, there are many who profit heavily from the information you keep secret. Over the course of the last year, it is estimated that some 70% of the US population experienced some form of cyber attack and over 2.1 billion internet users worldwide.   In a Verizon Study of 90 Security breaches, there were 285 million data exposures. Unsurprisingly, attacks are getting much more advanced, with hackers sometimes using multiple attacks simultaneously to succeed in a breach, such as malware, brute force, and SQL injection. Furthermore, 74% of the attacks were external, meaning that 26% were executed from within the companies we are trusting with our data.  [21]In a related vein, but just as disturbing, we are now seeing more breaches being discovered by employees than outsiders. Traditionally, these sorts of attacks were discovered by feds or other companies detecting the irregularities. [22] Now, it is much more likely that when you’re breached, you’ll be the first to know… which for some of us, isn’t that comforting.

Depending on how you look at this, it could either be welcome news or utterly terrifying. On the one hand, this means that internal security is at least able to grow to the point that they become aware of their own breaches. On the other hand, it means that the number of breaches, and all the possible avenues of failure have become so numerous, that no government agency can possibly be aware of the threats anymore, let alone protect us from them.

The next troubling discovery, this one from the 2014 report, was exactly how big the hacking business is. In spite of the whole last section of activities by groups such as Anonymous, malicious hackers working with financial motives still account for some 60% of cyber crime. Corporate spying, those seeking intellectual property and trade secrets accounted for some 25% (up from previous years). Those hackers who were not set on serious crimes (you know, for the lulz) or hacktivists with some ideological agenda, in spite of all the news, accounted for next to nothing. [23]That means that in spite of internet hacktivists publicised achievements, the vast majority of illicit attacks happen for no other reason than to rob of us of something precious.

Some of the biggest of these hits last year:

  • Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield – 10 million records lost including names, birth dates, social security numbers, mailing addresses, financial accounts, and claims information [24]
  • Anthem Health Insurance – Access to 80 million current and former customers names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and income data [25]
  • Experian – 15 million T-Mobile customers names, addresses, birth dates, drivers’ license ID numbers, and passport numbers. Encrypted Social Security numbers were also stolen, which may provide some measure of safety, but the company warned that encryption may have been compromised [26]
  • Scottrade – 4-6 million customers contact details compromised [27]
  • CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Costco – millions of customers’ credit card, email, postal addresses, phone numbers, and passwords. [28]
  • Donald Trump’s hotel chain – many thousands of guests’ credit card data [29]

Several people probably noticed that last line and thought to themselves, “Ha, that will show the asshat.” Well, we need to think about that one again, don’t we? Who was hurt by the breach at Trump hotels? Innocent people. Really think about who these people are who are hurt; people who slept at a place. Imagine yourself, really just you, getting a hotel anywhere in the world, never really thinking about the guy whose name is on the side of the exterior wall and if one day he may potentially run for President of the United Freaking States. No, you just slept in a place and now your information is floating around the internet by people who are trading it for money. So to those who are getting their lulz right now from finding out that the “Orange carpeted clown” got pwned (“laughing hard at the misfortunes of Donald Trump” for those not accustomed to the vernacular of the lower internet), you’re real a-holes.

To illustrate this point, as shown already, some the biggest breaches didn’t steal money directly. The big payoff was information. Hackers who can get access to data about real people, not just one, but millions of people at a time, are the biggest scores in the illicit industry of online invasion. Stealing a whole database with customer or employee names, birthdays, SSNs, or any other useful private information can open the door for those people to be targeted later for individual attacks. These attacks may be for money, or they can be for more information, perhaps even national secrets, incriminating information for blackmail, or worse. Often, this information is collected and merged into larger databases, where users are profiled and where that which is stolen can be used against them in some of the most terrifying ways imaginable later… like a hack on the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS is a common target of hacking. As the central collection agency for all taxes of all people of the United States, it is one of the largest gold mines ever created. In 2015 it suffered the largest breach in its history. It acknowledged that hackers had gained access to view more than 300,000 previous tax returns. They did this through a tool made available by the IRS called “Get Transcript”. Get Transcript allows users to view old returns. The safety in this system is that it requires numerous layers of identifying information to access Get Transcript and view those old returns. The types of information needed: names, social security numbers, birthdates, addresses – the very same items stolen from the other hacks mentioned above. This means that the hackers were able to make one of the largest internet heists in history, only through access of stolen information, gathered, collected, and organized by other hackers in a cyber black market where your information is the most valuable and most traded commodity there is.

Relying on personal information — like Social Security numbers, birth dates and street addresses — the hackers got through a multistep authentication process. They then used information from the returns to file fraudulent ones, generating nearly $50 million in refunds. [30]

That means that each of the victims were hacked not once, but twice. The big takeaway from the 2015 IRS Hack is that there is growing evidence of the existence of something we are all afraid of. Databases out there that are growing day by day, where cells of each of our data are collected and merged without our permission or our knowledge, and that these databases are being traded by people across the world, with no good intention for us. This leads many to believe in a future decades from now which has no secrets, where all of our information is direct and open to the public. For those of us with bank accounts, street addresses, or children, that’s not the idealistic image of an open society that some would paint. The fact is, we live in a state of danger everyday because of the secrets we entrust to others. In the next few decades, for companies to remain viable, they are going to have to prove they can be trusted with our information. More so than this, if we ever want to feel safe again, perhaps the most valuable enterprise in the future of internet security might not be the next guy who is able to steal our information, but the first guys who figure out how to get it back.

Uncertain Future – Part V – Hactivism


Having said that, there is more power to the open internet than you think. Your private information, while important to you for reasons shown in the previous section, is very little compared to what organized groups with an agenda are really after – complete system change. These groups have proven the means to bring down massive sites and even fight terrorism. Of course, they have also cost thousands of innocent people their personal information, destroyed companies, and ruin marriages, along with more than a few lives.

To begin, one needs to look into the (perfectly named) Ashley Madison Affair [13]. Ashley Madison was and is the internet’s largest website for cheating. Literally, that’s all they do is help people who are married cheat on one another. After a savvy campaign including talk shows and clever advertising, one which brought tons of open scorn, but just enough silent attention to keep the profits rolling in, a group calling themselves, “The Impact Group” decided they weren’t amused with the salacious shenanigans. The Impact Group researched Ashley Madison and found it to be under the ownership Avid Life Media, which also owns other hookup sites like Cougar Life and Established Men, which they claimed supported prostitution and human trafficking. When Ashley Madison reported that they offered a service to completely delete the accounts of users no longer interested in their services, the Impact Group moved out to show that this service wasn’t all it was cracked out to be. 37 million disclosed users later and the site which sold itself on discretion, was in the midst of its worst nightmare.

The impact group is only one such online Robin Hood alliance which exists. Others out there have proven themselves time and time again to be able to affect change, either through direct action, or the threat of it via hacking individuals, corporations, and even governments. One such group calls itself, aptly enough, Anonymous.

Wikipedia describes Anonymous as a loosely associated international network of activist and hacktivist entities. A website nominally associated with the group describes it as “an Internet gathering” with “a very loose and decentralized command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives”.

To understand them further, a group of users of various internet forums Reddit and 4Chan, all functioning under anonymous user names began coordinating efforts towards various political and social agendas. Conversation in the all anonymous sites would form, ranging on the spectrum of enlightened social commentary and debate, to outright bigoted hate groups. Within these conversations, like minded leaders would collectively pool resources, and take the conversation into a more private level.

To use a metaphor, the internet is a single massive room where everyone is screaming to be heard. The chaos and confusion that follows allows a small group to gather by a wall, completely visible to anyone who were to look, and speak openly to where anyone could listen, but their voices still lost because of the constant noise of internet traffic, entertainment, and news. In these “private open sessions” the leader groups came to a consensus of some action which should be taken. Among them were many who were legitimately talented crackers, the term for internet hackers with malicious intents. Their skills, along with a few who just executed their wishes, were able to achieve some crazy results. From here, the cell would plan an operation, in their parlance, and if successful disintegrate back into the crowed. From there, they may join a new operation, or never be heard from again. For this, they describe their movement as “leaderless.”

In the beginning operations or “attacks” ranged on the low end with benign acts of internet weirdness, such as the when hundreds of Anons gathered in an online Finnish Hotel with identical black avatars, forming swastikas and closing down the pool due to “fail and AIDS”. A bit higher up were a few high profile “operations” including attacks on the Church of Scientology,  Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, various international copywriting offices, Paypal, and eventually Sony’s Playstation Network.

The group’s preferred method of attack were a series of well-publicized publicity stunts and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS). A DDoS attack is one in which an asset is bombarded with fake traffic, slowing down the service or bringing them down all together. Consider a telethon for kids with cancer or adopting puppies. A version of a DDoS attack (by seriously mean people) would be hundreds of people who all collectively call in with prank calls, tying up all the operators, thus making it impossible to actually take real donations. On the internet, this is done through special programs written to cause a single normal device, such as the phone or computer you are reading this article on, to send false traffic to a website with its spare processing power in the background. Your devices are actually quite powerful and the spare processing power can generate a lot of worthless traffic for the receiver. This is often compounded through the use of botnets, programs which control many devices, sometime thousands, with or without their owner’s consent, all generating traffic to bring down the target websites or online assets. Technically, this attack is harmless, unlike uploading a malicious computer virus, as all effects end the moment the attack stops. The servers go back to operating as normal, no harm done… except for the millions lost through down time and breaches in their security.

Of course, this is all extremely illegal. Many anonymous members found that their movements weren’t as secretive as they believed. Various Anons were jailed or suffered massive fines for their infractions. Sadly, many of the people who suffered the most were not leaders in the movements, or operations, but people who didn’t understand the risks and were just acting under instructions from other Anons more versed in what could go wrong. One example of this is Dmitriy Guzner [14], a 19 year old American given a one year prison sentence for attacking a protected computer. It was around this time that Anonymous truly began evolving in an attempt to be more than just internet pranksters. Seeing many hauled off to long prison stays saw the movement break into various camps; namely those motivated for ideological reasons and those seeking to provoke for entertainment, ie. trolls for the lulz.

Following this period of internal rebranding, and backed by energy gained through the Occupy Wall Street Movement [15], there was some realistic clout to those who participated in the online actions. Brought together by the idealistic sides of Anonymous, operations became more complex, as legitimately talented media experts, artists, videographers, and yes, more hackers, were able to add their capabilities to spread their message and their actions. In the next few years their major operations were more focused and even altruistic. Charitable actions included events like #OpOkand Operation Safe Winter, as well as attempts to intervene in what they viewed as unlawful police brutality, attacking the KKK, and taking down child pornagraphers[16]. Most recently, in an attempt to fight back against the growing threat of Islamic fundamentalism and Middle East born terrorism, operations like #OpSaudi and#OpISIS, sought to disrupt funding for the Islamic State and their vast online propaganda presence. According to some reports, as many as 20,000 accounts on Twitter of ISIS affiliates and recruiters have been brought down [17], as well as the hundreds of websites, and the releasing of ISIS recruiter’s personal information including their home address.  [18]

While many question Anonymous as nothing but a bunch of unaccountable internet pranksters with various and chaotic agendas, others are impressed by their power and the complexity their operations are taking, if for no other reason, than the attention they are able to garnish for their causes and themselves. Others, however, aren’t happy with what they are considering a virtual lynch mob. Some are leaving the group for its rather chaotic history of attacking innocent people, which have included people in the random databases Anons have gained access to, as well as anyone who speaks badly about Anonymous. [19]

“When I started with Anon I thought I was helping people but over the past few months things inside anon have changed,” the hacker said in a statement posted to the Web. “I am mostly talking about AntiSec and LulzSec. They both go against what I stand for (and what anonymous says they stand for). Antisec has released gig after gig of innocent peoples information. For what? What did they do? Does anon have the right to remove the anonymity of innocent people?

At least one commentator went so far as to consider them the living embodiment of George Orwell’s thought police from his classic science fiction 1984.  [20]There thinking anything against the Party was deemed a criminal act – a “thoughtcrime”, which brought about arrest and rehabilitation (read that as torture) under the Thought Police.

1984 is considered a definitive cautionary tale, but what makes Orwell’s masterpiece particularly terrifying is how close 2015 mimics Orwell’s dystopian fiction. You see it in hacktivist groups like Anonymous, commentary shows like The Hannity Show, and online across social networks, the Thought Police has become a reality. If you are outside of their thinking, you become Public Enemy #1 and must be destroyed.

What this means for businesses and organizations is yet another threat to security which has to be accounted for. No one knows when something they do, or some policy they have, will catch the attention of Anonymous, or any other major group of like minded internet anarchists to bring about action in numbers that the government can’t actually do much about. You never know what kind of vulnerability you have until 10,000 angry hackers start inspecting the cracks in your walls.

Uncertain Future – Part III – Online Harassment

Beginning in August 2014, a the hashtag #GamerGate [6] began to form. It was began by groups of video game enthusiasts on differing camps of the politics of gaming. Those on the side of Gamergate gave the stated purpose for it to be combatting political correctness, censorship, and poor journalistic ethics in video game reporting. Specifically, many organized their efforts to target several female members of the gaming community for attacks against the genre norms and values. In retribution, these women and commenters denied the ethical basis and condemned the affair as misogynistic, which then led to reprisal attacks from across the internet world.

The roots of the debate began as a progressive pull to make  females in video games less… um… genetically improbable babes.

Designers and other feminist gamers argued against the exploitive nature in which females were depicted in many games, showcasing outrageous body types, and surfacing new controversies like “Same Armor/Same Stats” and “Less Armor/More Protection”.

So yeah, anyone who argues that is pretty much arguing, “I want more boobs! Don’t take away the boobs!” Granted, in the defense of the status quo, some interesting arguments did come out  deeper than merely, “Save the boobs!” Many Gamergates, argued that coming down on developers was a legitimate attack on free speech, while others decried the very nature of political correctness for gaming. Perhaps the best I had yet heard gave a rather remarkable feminist appeal by asking whether a very popular, and famously buxom, character from the 1990’s should be “reduced” for the upcoming remake. The argument there was that to retool, some said sensor, a character which is already well known on account of her body type is an attack on anyone who legitimately has that body type. In this case, it sends the message that simply having large breasts or long legs is wrong, and something to be ashamed of.  [7]

I honestly didn’t know if I just heard a masterful counterargument supporting both sides of the controversy from the feminist perspective or simply some grade A BS. Regardless, many of the feminists dismissed such views outright, some retaliating through the absolute attack on what it meant it meant to be a “gamer”, coinciding the meaning with being synonymous with misogyny. This, as it should surprise no one, led to a greater and greater tit-for-tat assault on both sides. More joined the Gamergate cause simply in opposition to the radical feminists among those who in over the top demonstrations, stated that all those who don’t agree with the narrative of the feminists were misogynistic, and eventually homophobic, racists, and bigoted.

That was wrong, but what happened next disappointed many as conversation wasn’t the only thing that came out. Users operating, mostly anonymously via sites like Reddit, 4Chan, and 8Chan, began attacking against leaders on both sides taking the stances that games need to redirect. The attacks eventually grew to threats, including the threat of rape and murder for many of the feminists, and threats to have get many of the Gamergaters fired from their real world jobs. Most of us were surprised it got as bad as it did as fast as it did. I wondered why so many gamers became so visceral in their attacks against activists in the industry, or even just their defense of the boobs. I, along with much of the rest of the gaming community with large internet followings, just wondered with surprise how it got that bad.

And that is what is really scary about online security threats like these. People online can get really mean, hateful, and even cruel. I’m not talking about calling you an “asshat” cruel. I mean subjecting people to the constant barrage of hate that results in  IRL (in real life) ugliness. There is even a hashtag going out on snapchat called #TBR. For those of us blessed not to work with children on a daily basis, you’ve probably never heard of #TBR, but it stands for To Be Rude. Literally, it is nothing but children being hateful to one another, insulting one another in “secret”, via Snapchat. Snapchat is a novel tool for kids because it allows sharing of content that will “delete” after a predetermined time or number of views, and only to those you choose. I suppose this may be useful to revolutionaries fighting against totalitarian regimes, but mostly kids just use it to post pictures of themselves naked and be monsters to one another. It sort of explains the ghost icon, though; a hint of secrecy.

Now where this fits into the GamerGate controversy was that we didn’t just see children acting like children. We saw adults acting very maliciously with the intent to cause fear and psychological harm, with the intended purpose of manipulation. By most accounts, that’s terrorism. What made normal, boring actually, twenty and thirtysomething year old gamers turn into, well let’s call it what it was, terrorists is a question we all need to answer, but it is probably the same reason kids use snapchat to post hateful videos instead of Youtube.

Not getting caught.

In both cases of Snapchat or #Gamergate, the offenders function behind a wall of protection from authority. For middle schoolers acting badly, it is really no different than any other time when mean girls said mean things when no teachers were around. With #Gamergate, we saw something very different. Grown adults behaving online in a way they never would in the real world. Many attribute this to the anonymous nature in which they gathered, communicated, and executed their “operations.”

Anonymity on the internet is an important thing if for no other reason than to understand how people act when functioning under the guise of anonymity. Dr. John Suler is a Professor of Psychology and has written on the subject of online behavior. In his paper The Online Disinhibition Effect, Suler argues that those on the internet are able to disconnect from their normal behaviors and can frequently do or say as they wish without fear of any kind of meaningful reprisal. An example being most Internet communities, even one such as Quora which uses real names. The worst kind of punishment an offender can expect for bad behavior is being banned from interaction. In practice, however, this serves little use; the person involved can usually circumvent the ban by simply registering another username and continuing the same behavior as before [8]. Suler calls this toxic disinhibition.

CB radio during the 1970s saw similar bad behavior:

Most of what you hear on CB radio is either tedious (truck drivers warning one another about speed traps) or banal (schoolgirls exchanging notes on homework), but at its occasional—and illegal—worst it sinks a pipeline to the depths of the American unconscious. Your ears are assaulted by the sound of racism at its most rampant, and by masturbation fantasies that are the aural equivalent of rape. The sleep of reason, to quote Goya’s phrase, brings forth monsters, and the anonymity of CB encourages the monsters to emerge.

Suler’s work was a brilliant synopsis, but we on the internet need a simplified version. “John Gabriel’s Greater Internet F***wad Theory” was a posted comic strip by Penny Arcade. The post regards reflects the unsocial tendencies of other internet users as described by the online disinhibition effect. Krahulik and Holkins, Penny Arcade’s creators suggest that, given both anonymity and an audience, an otherwise regular person becomes aggressively antisocial. [9]

How this relates to security is obvious to those who have experience it. The internet can feel like an unsafe place sometimes. The internet can be an unsafe place sometimes. Looking to the long term effects of bullying that are being better understood every day [10], sometimes I wonder if this place I’ve called a second home is a place I want my kids to play on. Most of us who are active on this playground understand this as the status quo, but in the future of internet security, the debate will center around the freedom to be private and the freedom to be anonymous. Many fear, given precedence, what may happen under this veil of anonymity. I can’t help but agree that his is a rational concern for many. Sometimes the internet comments go far beyond words or threats, which carry lasting psychological damage to some of the victims, but transforming to very legitimate real world threats. What this will mean for the future is that companies is deciding what kind of culture they want to deal with. For the internet to stay the internet we want to be on, we may see more companies adopt guidelines like Quora’s, with it’s real names policy and Be Nice Be Respectful Policy, a place where people feel welcome and safe to exchange and interact.

Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

This was a disappointment. The movie made me was sad on many levels.

I’m going to break this down in a few ways. First, I’m going to talk about what my friend, the comic book nerd, said; then our wives; then me; along with why it is important to get their take on it.

What my nerd friend said:

The nerdy friend is that guy who knows the comic books by their smell alone. He can quote every obscure reference and which page it appeared on. That said, these guys are demanding. If you aren’t true to the fan base and the following, the nerdy friend will tear you apart.

That sort of happened here. The problem was that the whole event was rushed. Everyone felt the need to compete with Marvel’s Avengers and that is what they were trying to do. The problem with that is that the Avengers have been in the works for literally over a decade. We are just too far behind to make a “Justice League” movie in time to compete with it.

Beyond that, many of the characters were not in keeping with their comic book traditions. Some were not congruent with in any retelling. People acted out of known character to fit the plot, backstories made no sense, if there was one at all, and others were just dreamed up out of nowhere, destroying the vital and awesome stories that were originally invented for these characters. While I wasn’t really impressed, my friend, the guy who knows all this backstory considers the movie an utter travesty. If that is you, you know you are going to see it, but don’t expect to enjoy it.

Look, if Deadpool taught us anything, it is that if a character is good enough to rate a movie then nobody cares about your stinking creative vision. These people became famous because people loved the character they were and grew to be. The movies should capture that, not try to reinvent them. That’s what Man of Steel did, and people liked it. A lot. When you have 70+ years of collective vision on beloved heroes, you don’t just go screwing with something millions of people already know and love… because your ego demands it.

What my wife said:

The wife’s opinion can be thought of like this. “I am so freaking tired of Superhero movies. I am only here because of my profound love of this nerd, but I just need something different to give a single crap about this movie.”

Mrs. Davis didn’t get that. Mrs. Davis was bored. The words, “Somewhere at the beginning I was thinking, ‘Oh man. This going to be such a horribly long movie.'” actually came out of her mouth tonight and that should just make the creators feel bad. They’ve created a story that can’t hold the attention of the people who may not be interested in comic book movies. You think that is impossible? Think again.

Jennie loved Deadpool. It was funny, it was fresh, it was hot. It kept her awake. Superman just didn’t. It was a snore to her, and if you snore the wives, you have lost the interest of millions of people who will do anything to avoid seeing the sequel… if there is one. Deadpool 2? Yeah, she’ll go see that even if I am not there, because it was legitimately entertaining to people who aren’t there to see their childhood fantasy realized on the big screen… which they are so freaking tired of.

What I think:

This one let me down because, from what I know of the comics, there was so much to draw from here that was just left so completely unused that the story came out horrible. Without spoilers, there were many very, very important characters to the DC Comics universe that were just thrown in here to add spectacle. Each and everyone of these people had so many legendary stories to draw from, that they could have made a movie, or several, all on their own.

Let’s take Wonder Woman for example. We have known she would be a part of this for a while. I’m not spoiling anything right now, because the movie tells us literally nothing about her. We have no idea where she came from, why she doesn’t age, what her powers are, anything, anything about her secret identity. She just sort of shows up. Out of the blue, there she is. It feels extremely forced to tie in so many of these characters for a big finale, but when the finale comes, you don’t care anything about them.

And that’s the problem, you just don’t love these people. You haven’t put in the time investment into seeing them grow and understanding them in this continuity. Just so that we remember, in my lifetime there have at least nine different people Batman in a major way. They all do it different and you have to ask, “Who did it best?” With characters like Wonder Woman , Lex Luthor, Doomsday, and even Aquaman, and the Flash you need a build up. You need to really love them, or really hate them. That takes time.

Instead you had a lot of characters who we got the impression the writing staff thought, “You know people know Batman. Let’s just skim over the whole ‘trauma’ thing. No one really cares anymore. Batman is Batman” and so they skimmed over that to fit in more plot. Wonder Woman? They never even said her name besides “Miss Prishhhh…”, I’m sorry I didn’t really hear that. What did you say? Prince? Fish? I mean, at the end of the movie we know literally nothing about her. It makes you feel like she was added for no other reason than to appeal to female audiences, which was fine… except to do that you have to actually make her an important character, as in a history, a motivation, a damn name for Pete’s sake! I mean, she is one of the big three. Give her some freaking screen time before the very end of the stinking movie. Honestly, feminists are going to pick up on this and it won’t be pretty. Then there was Flash, Aquaman, and the other barely mentions. I just want to say, I was really wanting to see more of these guys. I was excited when I found out that Jason Momoa was going to be playing that guy. I’ve loved him Stargate Atlantis. We see him for literally about six seconds in the film. It was just a massive letdown, though he does look cool.

Add to this that all the characters are acting in ways that are completely against their way for plot sake, which there is way too much of in not enough time and you just end up breaking what should have been the most awesome movie of the year. I can’t really fault too many of the actors. This really felt like direction without vision, but most of all, absolutely terrible writing.

As for the individual portrayals.

Supes…

Look, anyone who has ever read anything of mine on Superman knows that I think Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Superman is quite possibly the most beautiful thing ever put to film. I simply loved the first film. It makes me sad that it took a limey Brit to portray the ultimate American Superhero, but he did it. I mean look at him. That is a beautiful human being. I can’t say enough for how right his performance was, not only in Man of Steel, but also in Batman vs Superman. That said, even the strongest man in the universe is only so strong, and carrying a whole damn movie is just too much to ask.

Lex Luthor

Robert Frost really captured it pretty well a while back in What are your thoughts on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer 2?

In January 2014, I answered What are people’s views on casting Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor in the upcoming Batman-Superman movie? and in my answer included the following diagram.

After watching the latest trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I feel obligated to revise the diagram as such:

In that earlier answer I wrote:

Eisenberg is also too young. He’s done the young cocky genius in The Social Network and Now You See Me. He came across as a petulant child in both. Lex Luthor is not a petulant child.

All I saw in the new trailer was petulant child.

Here’s the thing about Luthor, he’s crazy, but not “Joker” crazy, more Hannibal Lector Crazy. Calculating, sociopathic, cool even. Sometimes he gets too cocky when he starts to monologue his diabolical plans, but that is really the “craziest” he ever gets. Eisenberg comes off as just twitchy and weird. I don’t know if they picked him for his twitchy socially dysfunctional depiction of Mark Zuckerberg in the Social Network, but this was just not the Lex Luthor you know and fear.

There was one good scene, where you see his plan coming to fruition in a beautifully diabolical manner, one which negates all of Superman’s power with just cold hard manipulation. That was a really good scene for him. Everything else, no. It was just terrible. He honestly did come of as more deranged like the Joker than like the criminal mastermind we all know and hate.

What’s more, his backstory was terrible too. All we know about him in this continuity is that his father was was from Eastern Europe when Eastern Europe sucked, he made a big business for little Lexi and that he beat him. Is that it? You want to break the world because your dad hit you? Have some perspective.

Look, a villain is only great when it helps you bring out the beauty of the main character. He didn’t. He was written horribly. He was acted badly, or at least wrongly. And he was even directly terribly. There were actually times you can hear actors refer to him as “Luther”. That’s an issue. It’s LuthOR”, with an “O”. For the director not to have caught that tells me he really didn’t get it when directing for this character, or this role.

The other villain

Look, I am just going to spoil this a little, this is Doomsday. He’s freaking important and a walking spoiler if you know how important he is. That said, for all the significance of the character, he is visually underwhelming (kind of reminded me of the new Ninja Turtles) and his plot line was reduced to just being weird. I mean, he has the coolest background, but they nerfed it to fit into the story.

So fans of the old Doomsday as a force of pure destruction, prepare to be underwhelmed, all the way from ripping off the placenta to the somehow underwhelming defeat, and in spite of thing you already know is going to happen which is implied by his existence.

The Bat…

As I said before, wow. This was just terrible. Possibly the worst part of the movie was Batman. Yeah, Christopher Nolan sort of reset the standard, but this was bad. I won’t say Batnipples bad, but ungood. I wanted to say that, “Hey, nobody expected anything from Heath Ledger’s Joker, but damn.” In reality though, Affleck’s Batsy was just terrible. You didn’t really connect with the Batman, or Bruce Wayne, at all. There was no personality, just sneaking around, and being angsty with Alfred. Oh, and there was a girl in his bed. And he scowled a lot and looked sleepy all the time. There was nothing inspiring about him. He was just the bad guy. Batman is not a bad guy. He is the Dark Knight, the good guy who just operates in the shadows. Why are you trying to retconning this into a “bad guy who catches worse guys”? I mean, it was a completely forgettable performance. All I could think of was that joke from the Family Guy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Xy5C-0P0zs

I can’t really blame it all on Affleck though. This one too, came down to writing. Look, this story moved too fast. You have Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, Doomsday, as well a host of other characters that were just forced to do stuff that doesn’t make sense for their characters just so that they can all be squeezed into the same place.

Spoiler:

Batman doesn’t kill people. He has this rule. We don’t kill people. He is also the smart one. Of all the Justice League, Bats is able to hang with people with actual superpowers because he has the overwhelming superpower of planning and intelligence. He also has tons of money, but mostly he wins because of his incredible intelligence, intuition, and foresight. He is never surprised. There was even an episode of the animated series where Bats is poisoned, only to come back in the end with the rational that he had been secretly taking small doses of it for years and was now immune. What luck, huh? No. He was just that prepared. Honestly, nothing stopped him because he carried every conceivable method for solving any possible problem in his cargo belt. If preparedness were a legit superpower, well… it’s Batman. He was also the undisputed champion of putting two and two together. With far, far less information than should be necessary to discover who done it, Batsy had the perp tracked to a warehouse on the docks and all mysteries solved. It was actually sad sometimes to see these demigods and masters of the universe all look to Batman every time and see him hold their hands like little kids watching Blues Clues. “Hmmm… do you see a clue?”, “Ooh! Ooh! It’s the moon!”, “That’s right Diana! Good for you.”

So what’s the story behind Batman.

  • Angsty
  • Doesn’t kill
  • Super smart

The new Batman? He’s not angsty, just grumpy. That’s all, just grumpy and looks like he recently took a melatonin. He just looks tired. Not sad or brooding. Just like he needs a nap. He also kills. He killed a lot of people. He even killed them with guns. What the? No guns. We don’t kill. We don’t use guns. We don’t kill with guns. I mean, this is crazy because Affleck is actually a really devout liberal, so to play a character who doesn’t use guns, but now uses guns because reasons just seems… I don’t know. I don’t understand the universe anymore. Then there is his real super power, smarts. He has none here. Seriously, he is played throughout the whole movie by people smarter than him. It’s embarrassing how stupid he is and how slow he is to figure out he has been manipulated throughout the whole movie into fighting Superman.

Oh, and back to don’t kill. I want to make it clear, he put a lot of effort, planning and detailed preparation into the act of murdering Superman. I mean when you watch it, it isn’t some sort of self defense thing. He is trying harder than anyone in the history of ever to murder Superman. But then what? It takes exactly 12 seconds of, “But wait! There is something else!” and just like that, he has completely abandoned his desire to murder the Man of Steel. I mean, you were wrong, but where is your guts? Honestly, I can’t think of a more unBatman than this Batman. This video sort of explains it all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwXfv25xJUw


Overall, it was pretty terrible, but it could have been awesome. They had a great cast that should have been able to pull this off, but writing destroyed the piece from the bottom up. Frankly, it was obvious that they tried to jump the gun on Captain America:Civil War, and it was a terrible idea. The pacing was all wrong. We just don’t love these people. We don’t connect them. We don’t understand what their motivations are in this movie. We don’t even know them. I mean seriously. Wonder Woman is an anomaly in this movie, just showing up in the end with both the other two like, “Who is this chick?” That’s really, really crappy setup.

Some of us love the characters from when we were kids, but the rest of the world was just lost and confused as the plot moved so fast from one person to the next with no real clue why anyone is doing anything. The background was there, there just needed to be more lead into it. Frankly, most of these people needed their own movies. We needed a standalone Batman movie to buy into this idea of Affleck as such an iconic role. We also could use a Wonder Woman movie. Why hasn’t that freaking happened yet. Look, the nerd world has girls now. Heck, even Lex could have rated his own film. Do all that and we get the movie this movie was meant to be, a real competition for Avengers, which it seriously could have been. Instead what does Warner Brothers do?

The suicide of Will Smith’s career.

Look, if Harley Quinn doesn’t carry the Suicide Squad, I don’t know what DC is going to do, because we are all a bit concerned about Leto and the Joker.

That said, there is so much that could have been done if Warner Brothers took the time to invest in the characters of Superman vs Batman (the correct order). Instead, it is diverting assets to films that shouldn’t be in existence, at least not until after the previously mentioned ones come around to bring the story up to the point where all this action has meaning and the relationships are established. The movie rushed it and that showed through. It was a terrible piece built on a foundation of so much good. The characters seemed forced. The plot is predictable. The ending was anticlimactic, and in the end, you are just mad that they would do this to the beautiful masterpiece that is Henry Cavill. Don’t worry you beautiful man. You’ll do fine. The rest of this franchise… I just don’t know after this.


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ISIS attacks Muhammad Themed Art Show in Texas – Then They Died.

A recent news event from yesterday centers around a few jihadists’ hapless attack in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. So far, there are reports that at least one of the attackers were on the FBI terror watch list and that he wanted to join jihadist forces, Al-Shabaab in Somalia. The second man is reported as his roommate.

The attack took place on a political protest on Islamic fundamentalism and art show awarding prizes for the best depiction of Muhammad. The show was put together by Pamela Geller. Geller and other organizers are stating the intended purpose of the event is to bring attention to the Islam’s growth in the United States and Europe as well as and the violent nature within large segments of its population. The organizers also have considered the event one demonstrating their rights afforded to them to do so by First Amendment protections and Free Speech privileges. Geller and others also reported that the contest was a response to the Charlie Hebdo attack in which numerous employees of the often offensive magazine were murdered for similar works.

While I would like to agree that this sort of display is religionist by nature, it would take a strong will to not call it embarrassingly prophetic for the religion of peace. Quite honestly, there was nothing stopping the Islamists from mounting a counter-protest at the door with signs instead of guns. It would have done a lot more good. That hasn’t stopped sites like Vox from blaming Geller and the other participants of the protest for provoking their attempted murder. I’m pretty sure that women’s rights activists call that “blaming the victim”… something about short skirts. So, while I will agree that the show was without some degree of taste, it proved a lot more points than the jihadists did. Then again, so was Charlie Hebdo, but that magazine has been heralded for its dedication to free speech and spreading the truth, at least by their standards. Throw an American face on it though and you have a racist. Ironic. Food for thought, the picture above, that’s the first place winner.

Oh well, oddly enough for once, American racism isn’t the main story here. The main story is the attack itself. There are reports that precipitating the attack, one of the shooters announced his intentions on Twitter, which was retweeted by various ISIS accounts, in effect, taking responsibility for it and showing some degree of foreknowledge. During that assault, one police officer was shot in the ankle. He has since been released from the hospital with no further injuries. The two shooters though, both armed with rifles and explosives, were shot and killed by police not long after the attack began. In a powerful show of force, the Garland, TX art show proved to be one of the first times when a premeditated terror attack on a civilian center was prevented with no loss of life (for the good guys anyway) and the terrorists involved (everywhere) thoroughly humiliated in their worthless martyrdom.

Well, Texas police had a response of their own. It sounded something like “Come at me, Bro.”

Whatever your stance on the protest, or whatever your stance on the attack, yesterday was a massive victory against jihadist forces worldwide. They offered a humiliating first strike by ISIS in America, while giving American defense and intelligence agencies much to research in preparation for future attacks. Even more so than this, it showcased the true incompetence of ISIS outside the Middle East while showing the world a humiliating display of terrorist nincompoopery, the jackasses. It also did a great job proving all of us who predicted this sort of thing right, only I could not have hoped for a first blood nearly this good.  Basically, we all need to say to ourselves that it is a good day, for whatever the reason, when 10,000 jihadists simultaneously face palm for the terror attack they were too stupid not to claim as their own.

That said, results stand as followed: Garland Police – 2, Terrorist – 0.

For that, all of Texas earns an eagle.

Does ISIS really stand a chance in the long run?

The group that exists today is probably doomed, but the ideas that they have propagated and evolved will live on, as will most of the individuals who are taking part in the atrocities.

The ideas that the Islamic State are building themselves around are not new. By some interpretations they can be sourced to Islamic leaders in the mid 1700’s in Saudi Arabia, but more recently in the contributions to these philosophies by others in from the Egypt, Kashmere, and others since the 1920’s. These ideas have spread throughout the Islamic world and are the root cause of Islamic Jihadism today. Until these ideas are segregated from the greater Islamic philosophy, villainized properly for the barbarity they eventually lead to, and purged by Muslims from their own practices, these ideas will continue to grow, prosper, spread, and evolve in places like Iraq and Syria (ISIS) , Afghanistan (Taliban), Mali, Nigeria, and Chad (Boko Haram), and Somalia (Al-Shabaab). Even if ISIS were to be completely routed and destroyed, (magic wand thinking), the ideology behind what brought it into existence will continue to grow even if the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant no longer exists.

Second, the people who fight for ISIS will continue to exist, as well. Most of the people who fight in jihadist wars don’t come from the land where they are fighting. Instead, they follow an international call to arms against a myriad of supposed threats. Below is an estimated map of where most of the international recruits to ISIS come from. The vast majority of are from Middle Eastern and North African nations. Still, a disturbing amount are coming from Islamic communities within Western Europe.

There are several problems with this beyond the sheer terror that it invokes. First that I will mention, is that if the core of ISIS were magically destroyed, all of these individuals would return home to their native countries. In places like France, this phenomenon has directly caused at least one massacre, as well as others in Spain and London, not to mention the rest of the Middle East. The fear that many international security agencies have had is that these individuals will go back home and bring terror with him, once again, independent of what is going on in actual war zones like Syria and Iraq. Charlie Hebdo provided proof of concept in this concern, dubbed “islamophobic” only a month ago.

Moving on from this is the international conflict it invokes. What happens if we were to be able to just capture all these individuals, not kill them, but not let them go back home? Well, they are still citizens of those foreign governments and now they are under US (or whoever’s) control. How would the Russian community respond to hearing of Russians being held by Western forces indefinitely for actions that took place overseas? What about the Chinese, or the French, or the Saudis? The United States doesn’t even understand the rationality behind it and will fight the very act of detaining known terrorists, so I have to ask about the strain this sort of event would have on international relations. Probably, in at least a few cases, important bonds would break down and geopolitical stability would be damaged.

Third, even if ISIS were to disappear, the Jihadi Wars will continue. As I have said, the land may be deprived of the jihadists, but their ideas will not go away, nor will the individuals disappear. They will continue to go on and spread their ideals and attempt to reform their home mosques to their own version of Islam. If we were to even hope to track all these people, it would require the creation of perhaps another separate CIA or an international intelligence task force with the sole purpose of tracking these individuals. It’s an almost impossible problem, let alone the philosophical and legal burdens that implies. This means that keeping track of them is a pipe dream. They will also take with them the connections: financing, weapons dealers, fanatical religious leaders, the media. These relationships will be able to grow, as well. So too will their will their tactics and the ideas which form the pillar of their fundamentalist agenda. All this will be happening as they reintegrate into their native homelands, unaware of the jihadist’s past.

Eventually, the call to arms will move somewhere else. It may be that the fight is called for Somalia, or West Africa. Perhaps it will be in the Kashmere region. It may just as easily move to places like Chechnya, Kazakhstan, Serbia, or even in Southwestern China or France. When that happens, the same mujahid fighting today will flock to the region, this time with their sons and their friends who they have converted to their perverted view of Islam. The rest of the world won’t make the connection between say, Chechnya in 2020 and ISIS today, but by the same connection, no one was tracing the link to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, or between them and the Mujahideen of Afghanistan in the 1980’s or between all of them and some Saudi cleric three hundred years ago.

If we ever want to truly see the forces which caused the rise of the Islamic State to fail, we are going to have to support Muslim’s effort to purge the jihadists’ ideology from their own belief system. Their media outlets and outreach need to be secured and silenced and as many of them as possible need to be killed right now, before they go on to pollute the rest of Islam with their fanatical belief system.


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Review of American Sniper from Marine Iraq War Veteran

So far, I haven’t seen very many reviews of American Sniper from anyone who was present in Iraq during the time Kyle was there. My first base, Al Taqaddum was about thirty minutes from Fallujah , the location of much of the story. Some of the times we were there coincided, so I feel like I have a different view of the story than most movie goers or professional reviewers.

I really don’t like seeing war movies about Iraq because, like “The Hurt Locker” and “Brothers”, they are critically acclaimed by millions who never took part in the wars, but create ridiculously stereotypical caricatures of real people who deserve more respect, and are abysmal failures of research into the actual military methodology that deserves more understanding. To me, movies like these are just riding waves of war curiosity and civilian guilt while telling their over-sensationalized story, rather than any semblance of a real story – essentially, an insult to anyone who actually took part in the conflict while making millions for people who didn’t. I fully expected American Sniper to be much of the same, so I was probably just going to wait and rent the DVD. It wasn’t until my sixth grade students, some of which still in diapers when I went to war, started asking questions about what it is was like for me after seeing they saw the movie that I decided to watch so that I could give an answer based on their new context, rather than mine.

When I sat down for the movie I fully expecting all the nonsense and war porn that was The Hurt Locker. My only hope was that Clint Eastwood, whose work I have enjoyed in the past, would do better. The lights went down and the opening began to the Islamic call to prayer. Before even the first frame of actual film footage, I was shocked that I was immediately taken back to that other time and place. What the Adhan means, to me, is an immediate sense of anxiety and foreboding. I know that for billions of people, that is not the case, but when the first place you hear it is over hundreds of loudspeakers echoing from the village of Haditha below your base, it is more reminiscent of the people living there lobbing rockets at you every week than of any religion of peace. Eastwood starting the movie with that, I feel was intended as a spiritual call to arms for Iraq veterans and for me at least, it landed. What the opening first scene actually ended up being, locked me in for the rest of the movie.

Where this film shines, in my opinion, was in the degree of accuracy it had in its presentation. As I said before, movies like The Hurt Locker turned me off for military flicks for years. This one got details right that I have no idea how they could have known. I have no idea how they thought to even ask. My case in point, which no one reading this noticed, was a water bottle used to automatically close the wooden door in their plywood shelter on the first deployment. It is an almost meaningless detail of that war that we walked past every day, but that you would never think to see in a movie because it is just so mundane and inglorious. But there it was. It meant a lot to me that that detail made it in, among countless others which will go unheralded. Honestly, the whole living area was done perfectly. It felt exactly like what I would have expected to see in Iraq. In fact, it was too perfect. There was no dust and everything was at right angles so shelves didn’t look like they were made by a cross-eyed Lance Corporal who lost his glasses. But besides being too perfect, it was perfect. To be clear, this was a very researched and well done military movie. There were times where troops wore the wrong gear and other things, but overall, very well done in most regards.

Second, was the actual portrayal of military deployments. Every war movie I have ever seen shows you and your war buddies gearing up for “The Big One” and going off to war. Those who miraculously survive come home to ticker tape and beautiful women, the war forever just a memory. What the regular people don’t get is that we go to war, once, twice, four times, eight times… I commented to Jay Wacker‘s review to his point that, “The film dragged a little in the 3rd tour, which began to feel a bit same-same…” which shows a great deal of how good movies run counter to real life. There’s a reason that the film drug during the third tour. By the third 6-to-10 month combat tour, life is same-sameish. That said, the fact that Eastwood showed the transition – civilian home, killing insurgents, having a baby, seeing a child murdered, playing with the dog, seeing your friend killed, going to the mall, nearly dying, as a realistic sequence of events does far more to display life for those of us who really deployed and our families. Living in that perpetual state of transition was a a mind numbing experience, delivered of course, by the film’s leading actor, Bradley Cooper.

Cooper got it right in so many ways I can’t even describe how much I now respect this Hangover alumni. It wasn’t his general badassness in battle. Every war movie tries to make their hero a superhero. Whatever, boring. I’ve seen that before over, and over, and over… So to those who see this as just a real-life Iron Man or Captain America”, you missed so, so much.

The scene that meant the most to me when thinking about Cooper’s acting ability was one that most people were probably bored by, but for veterans, really drives the point home that they got it right. I’ll throw a spoiler because the plot point really doesn’t matter. It was the scene where Kyle and his family are having the tire on their car changed. A Marine recognizes Kyle and comes up to thank him with all the “You saved me in, blah, blah, blah…” and “A lot of guys didn’t come back, blah, blah, blah…” tropes that are in every war movie. What you probably didn’t notice about that scene was Cooper. To moviegoers he was boring, but what I saw was something I don’t understand how he got right.

In that scene, Cooper displays classic signs of a veteran who doesn’t enjoy being thanked. He immediately deeply retreats upon being recognized and becomes politely evasive. His speech breaks down into monosyllabic chirps of general acknowledgement, while not maintaining eye contact and attempting to not carry the conversation further. While I’ve never saved anybody, I’ve had this experience dozens of times when random strangers thank me for my service. You really can’t describe the feeling that follows, but last Veterans’ Day when my boss made a big deal about thanking me in front of all my students, a motive I am deeply appreciative of, I was overwhelmed with a feeling I can only describe as a profound and sudden sense of humiliation which I can’t begin to quite understand. I had to ask her to stop. Like seriously. All I can say is Cooper’s portrayal of this feeling was something I saw in his short chirps and expressionless awkward glances that communicated a level of detailed research, coaching, and acting, to say the least of getting to know real veterans that needs to be known and acknowledged.

What I didn’t like most was the wife, played by Sienna Miller. The character was too one-dimensional. The acting was fine, but the role was built to serve as a person who represented the state-side life of deployed military personnel and nothing else. For that reason, regardless of the real Taya Kyle’s persona, the character came off as deeply unsupportive and against the war or at least her husband’s participation in it. It lends to the idea that “normal” people wouldn’t be all right doing what he does. The only time you actually see her mention that she is proud of her husband’s achievements was when he retired from service, which left a very ambiguous taste in my mouth. What exactly was she proud of? This felt very unrealistic as the SEALs are pretty much the most gung-ho, hyper military individuals that Hollywood often paints them to be, but their families are just as gung-ho proud as they are. They suffer the deployments, sure, but “My husbands a SEAL, dammit!” In my experience, you don’t find successful military people who have a home life with someone that unsupportive of their efforts “over there”, particularly when they were in service prior to their romantic life. I can easily dismiss this because this character, in the movie, is a symbol meant to showcase the torn nature of Kyle’s character, and rounding her out would have taken away from the plot while adding time to an already very long movie, but it just didn’t land home with me. The brother’s extremely short feature in the late story also seemed remarkably unrealistic and more Hollywood than real life. I get that he may not have liked the war (who does?) but the day you go home is the happiest day of your life. You’re happy. Act happy.

There were other plot problems, as well. Specifically, on his first deployment he is pretty much looked at as some sort of key leadership role, which isn’t realistic. He’s a SEAL, not a God of Warfare. What it seemed to me to happened was that several key leaders, namely SEAL officers, were merged with Kyle’s character for story telling convenience. By his third or fourth tour he would have been an actual Chief (Chief Petty Officer) and had a leadership role, but not by the first deployment. Abandoning overwatch to go house to house was also a bit unforgivable, because I said so. “Let me show you a few things,” to the Marines, which were filmed as almost incompetent, was a bit annoying. Getting a phone call in the middle of a mission? Umm… no. The whole climax scene was also really over the top and highly fictionalized for the movie from several different events in the book at once.

The last thing I didn’t really enjoy seeing; all the PTSD and blown up troops. Honestly, the next time you see it, attempt to find me one single veteran who left the military and was not very much traumatized or horrifically maimed. If movies like this were the only evidence you had to go on, everyone would believe that all 2.5 million of us who went would to Iraq or Afghanistan are sporting a titanium leg. I’ve seen a dozen different reviews that speak about how they did a great job of showing what it’s like for returning troops mentally speaking, but they really didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, they did better than any other, but you don’t feel what having cancer is like by watching an actor play a person with cancer. You just feel sad for the character. You don’t understand it, though. I appreciate how very, very hard they obviously worked on showcasing the issue respectfully, but honestly I’m concerned that the fact that since every war movie must show returning veterans as irreparably broken and destroyed individuals, (Brothers anyone?) is just perpetuating the idea that we are creatures to be pitied in the best case scenario; that is, pitied but kept safely away from friends, children, dogs, your workplaces, or guns because we will probably murder you in a fit of PTSD rage. We have enough problems without dealing with the stereotypes that films about the war continually reinforce in a population that has no first hand experience with its actual military veterans.

These few major points and the numerous small inaccuracies were why it isn’t a five star movie for me. That said, I can dismiss these because I get that we need certain things in a movie to take place and be entertaining to movie-going audiences. Enough of the details and story were preserved and given their proper respect that I can deal with the hyped up sensationalization of much of the movie. I do want to end on a positive note.

Many have spoken to the fact no one says a word when the movie ends. It was the same for us. The ending was extremely powerful and brought to the surface many emotions that you just can’t go back to the real world immediately from. For my wife and I, it remained silent for most of the twenty minute car ride home, as well. I dealt with a lot of personal feelings that the movie dug up. I’m usually livid after movies like that, talking about how this was wrong, or that was wrong, but Eastwood’s film just reached me in a way that others who want to tie themselves to the trials of military personnel couldn’t. The film respectfully and as accurately as I could imagine, tells the story of one American warrior’s struggle in making terrible choices, fighting against terrible people, separated from his family and doing it again and again for something he believed was important. To many of us who were there, the story also helps in a small way to communicate parts of ourselves we simply failed to communicate before. I honestly don’t know if there will ever be an Iraq War movie that I would give five stars to, but I am deeply appreciative to the work that Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, and the team that brought American Sniper have done to bring this story to the big screen.

In summary: Must See.


unnamedJon Davis is a US Marine Corps veteran writer, focusing on the topics of US veterans and international defense. His work has been featured in Newsweek, Forbes, Gizmodo and elsewhere. He is also a writer of military science fiction with his first book, The Next War, due out early this year. You can follow Jon Davis via his personal blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts, and can support his writing via the web donation service, Patreon.