More and more Netflix and less Hollywood, by Ramon Aymerich

The United States is increasingly portrayed as a society overcome by violence and mutual mistrust, in which the ideas of the old South have shaped the political culture of the right.

FILE PHOTO: Kyle Rittenhouse breaks down on the stand as he testifies about his encounter with the late Joseph Rosenbaum during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, November 10, 2021. Sean Krajacic / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo

Kyle Rittenhouse cried and broke down upon hearing the acquittal


This is a story of violence. On August 25, 2020, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse traveled 30 kilometers to Kenosha with a survival kit and an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. A young man of order, he made himself available to the police in this Wisconsin city during the riots due to anti-racist demonstrations (just a few days ago, the police had shot and killed a black citizen). Hours later, Kyle shot and killed two protesters and wounded a third. All three were white. Last Friday, a jury acquitted the young gunman on the grounds that he had acted in self-defense. Kyle Rittenhouse cried excitedly and broke down when he heard the sentence.

The moral of Kenosha is demoralizing. But it doesn’t go wrong with the script about the race war in America. A part of the population of Wisconsin thinks that if Rittenhouse had been black, he would be in jail with a long sentence. The other half consider him a good boy, a symbol of the right to use weapons to survive in a country used to violence unusual in other Western societies.

Hollywood has manufactured the image of the US for a century With Netflix, it has become darker

Hollywood has been the factory that has built America’s image for a century. A director like Steven Spielberg is the one who has expressed it best. On Save Private Ryan , set in the American landing in Normandy in 1944, a group of soldiers risk their lives to return a comrade home. The war scenes are bloody and savage. But the film conveys a message of hope. There is hell, but also good people, who act motivated by generous feelings, the American ideal. Realist writers have worked in Hollywood, from Raymond Chandler to Dennis Lehane. But never America seemed so dark as in current fiction. Like on Netflix.

There is a debate among moviegoers about whether Hollywood or Netflix is ​​better. It is a discussion that has to do with the future of cinema, distribution, technology and the financing of films. In any case, Netflix’s America is darker than the one that came out of the California studios. Probably because he sneaks into the house without asking for permission. You don’t have to go to a room of your own choosing. The platform finances projects that would not have seen the light of day in Hollywood. Netflix doesn’t screen or screen like Hollywood did. On Netflix there is everything. Good feeling stories, but also zombie movies, haunted houses, psychopaths, serial killers, and hated tormented people. Why talk about Netflix? Because the real America, the one of the race war, looks more and more like Netflix every day.

Racial animosity and proliferation of weapons depict an unusually violent society

The America of ambiguous sentiments has been personified in Donald Trump, which has lost confidence in collective solutions and is suspicious of its neighbor. But the persistence of racial animosity and the increase in sales of assault weapons among a white minority very far to the right, makes it necessary to wonder if the United States is an anomaly. If in fact they were always like that and they did not tell us. Or if they have become more violent.

One of the most successful narratives to explain the changes that have fueled this drift is the so-called “China Effect” by economists like David Autor. That is, the departure to Asia of a part of the manufacturing factories and the loss of thousands of reasonably well-paid jobs for whites between 1990 and 2015. The loss of employment and employment would also explain the fall of a part of them in the marginalization, violence and drugs (defined as epidemic by Anne Case and Angus Deaton in the book Deaths from Despair ).

Millions of whites emigrated from the South. They took the country, the barbecues and the faith in racial segregation

Now a group of historians has just published a study (The Other Great Migration: Southern Whites and the New Right; Ferrara, Pearson, Bazzi, Testa and Fiszbein) that complements those hypotheses. According to them, the political and cultural changes caused by the emigration of millions of whites from the South to the states of the North and West would explain the transformation of the American right, in which the traditional division between North and South seems to have been erased.

Millions went to emigrate to the northern and western states between 1900 and 1940. They took with them a taste for music country and barbecues. But also a culture of racial animosity (they are in favor of segregation), a cultural and political conservatism that spread through the evangelical Baptist churches, which began their expansion in the north around 1940, and local radio channels. That same year the population of southern origin was 3% in most states, enough to disrupt the course of local politics.

In the 1960s, those whites abandoned the Democrats and their radio stations and churches spread their political conservatism.

In the 1960s, these whites began to leave the Democratic Party and their churches became interested in politics (against sex education in schools). In 1968 they supported the candidacy for the presidency of the white nationalist George Wallace. His ideas displaced those of the traditional moderate right and were key to Donald Trump’s victory in 2017. In 1970, 20% of those born in the South lived outside the states of the former Confederacy. Without them, the surge in Republican votes in states with a Democratic tradition like Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania cannot be explained.

This week they cheered Kyle Rittenhouse, who has walked like a hero on Fox and other media to explain how he feels. Like in a Netflix series.

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