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An Exhibition of Conservative Paranoia

Exhibit 51: Avatar Derangement Syndrome

The ConWeb -- led by professional right-wing movie prude Ted Baehr -- goes nuts criticizing James Cameron's blockbuster movie.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/9/2010
Updated 2/14/2010

Any successful venture draws its share of haters, and so it is with James Cameron's "Avatar," which has become the highest-grossing film in history.

Because "Avatar" has something of an environmental theme, the haters in the ConWeb have lined up to denounce it. For instance, at NewsBusters:

  • Noel Sheppard declared it to be a "multi-million dollar public service announcment for global warming."
  • Geoffrey Dickens was shocked as Cameron, in a TV appearance, "Cameron revealed the liberal undertones in his new blockbuster."
  • Mitchell Blatt insisted the movie is "anti-capitalist" with "Marxist overtones," and ridiculed it for having "big corporate partnership deals with companies like McDonalds."
  • Lachlan Markay dismissed it is nothing more than "a visually dazzling remake of Disney's Pocahontas." He then bashed New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd for her comment that she wished that "those charged with keeping us safe" were as "imaginative and innovative as filmmakers like James Cameron": "If DHS spent an ungodly sum of money on a security system that looked all fancy and high-tech but was really just the same old (dysfunctional) system we had had for years -- the same way Avatar is the same old batch of Hollywood's hate-the-white-man cliches -- would we really be better off?"
  • Ken Shepherd snarked: "Finally, a movie where the Americans are the bad guys, and it's making a KILLING at the box office."
  • Scott Whitlock lamented that Rosie O'Donnell "gushed over the allegorical plot of evil, imperialistic Marines being defeated by large blue aliens."

(Update 2/14/201o: NewsBusters' stablemates at joined in with a Feb. 11 article quoting "best-selling author and screenwriter" Andrew Klavan attacking the movie as "anti-American and anti-military" because the U.S. military "are sadists and killers. They are happy to march over the indigenous, native people to get their resources." Klavan further asserted that Cameron "hit the sweet spot of environmental irrationality.")

Over at Newsmax, James Hirsen's review of "Avatar" found that "Lots of capitalist-bashing, anti-military sentiments, and environmental propaganda permeate the movie's scenes," rehashes the plot by giving away the ending, and dismissed the film as "undisguised propaganda and cliche-ridden plot lines."

But for sheer "Avatar" derangement (as for derangement of many other kinds), one must go to WorldNetDaily, where Ted Baehr has written no fewer than four columns attacking the film. Baehr is head of Movieguide, which is a self-described "family guide to movies and entertainment"; Baehr has proclaimed that "His life’s purpose is to be used of God to redeem the values of the media while educating audiences on how to use discernment in selecting their entertainment."

In his Dec. 15 WorldNetDaily review, Baehr wrote:

In the story, a group of nature-worshipping aliens triumph over the greedy, evil human corporations that want to destroy their planet. The aliens eventually send the humans back to a dying earth to die. How marvelous!

If you think this sounds as if Al Gore wrote the script for "Avatar," not James Cameron, you may be right. This theme of kill all the humans, especially the pro-American, capitalist humans, has long been an underlying message of the left-wing, environmentalist movement, beginning with Rachel Carson's hysterical plea to ban DDT, even though, to this day, there is no evidence that DDT is harmful to humans or the environment, and even though the use of DDT can save millions of human lives from the deadly disease of malaria.

In the space of two paragraphs, not only did Baehr spitefully give away the end of the movie, he's wrong about DDT, which has in fact been found to cause cancer, endocrine disruption, adversely affect the immune system; it also persists in the environment and affects the food chain. It is, however, more effective than other, more safe mosquito eradication treatments, so it's making a limited return in developing countries.

But never mind the factual errors; Baehr is off to the races since "Avatar" offends his delicate far-right sensibilities:

For hundreds of years, the pagan, communist ideas expressed in this movie circulated among a threadbare group of outcasts with dirty fingernails and greasy hair, who shared their obtuse, occult ideas amongst themselves with manic, alienated glee. Now, James Cameron has made these insane views the major bulwark of a very spectacular movie, but the spectacle does not make these Neo-Marxist views any more coherent, rational or uplifting.

Baehr concluded: "What the people in the movie need to deliver them from their greed and the aliens in the movie need to deliver them from their severe group think is the loving salvation available only through the true God, Jesus Christ."

Baehr's problem is that he's not reviewing the movie that was made; he's complaining that Cameron didn't make the movie he wanted to see. That's not how reviewing works -- but Baehr is too busy cramming his bias and his evangelism down the throats of his readers to notice.

Indeed, he does so again in a Dec. 17 column (co-authored with David Outten), bashing the film's storyline of the "great 'white' savior" helping the native Na'vi to "fight the evil human beings":

In "Avatar," they use the word "spirit" as if plants, animals and inanimate soil were joined in an invisible moral relationship. This false concept of spirituality is known as pantheism. It does not lead to salvation because it does not connect you to God.

Jesus is more than just an historical figure portrayed in "The Passion of the Christ." He is part of the holy trinity. You don't have to plug your hair into a tree to talk to him. The oneness you need is not with plants and animals, it's a real relationship with the one true God, creator of everything – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Baehr and Outten ranted again in a Jan. 22 column, denouncing the movie's "pantheism" as "pure propaganda":

Cameron has done a masterful job in manipulating the emotions of his audience in "Avatar." He created a world where it looks good and noble to live in a tree and hunt for your food daily with a bow and arrow. He made capitalists with their huge machines look sinister.


Pantheism only works in the movies. In real life, the result of pantheism is abject poverty. Are you ready to be one with the earth and give up your car, turn off your air conditioner and do without a refrigerator? Ask the people of Haiti how "magical" that is.

But Baehr wasn't done yet. In a Feb. 2 column, he rants against those who the the film's "radical leftist agenda" is inconsequential by going the Nazi smear route:

If it doesn't matter what people communicate, then the L.A. Times should stop writing editorials and endorsing candidates, every student should be allowed to read the Bible aloud in class, Christian business men and women should be able to use Bible references in their product serial numbers and "Triumph of the Will" by Adolf Hitler's favorite filmmaker should be lauded along with "Birth of a Nation."


The problem with "Avatar" is not just that it has a "liberal," if not radical leftist, worldview. The problem is that it promotes an anti-American, neo-Marxist worldview that is anti-capitalist and that romanticizes primitive pagan societies at the expense of Western Civilization, the Christian civilization that gave Hollywood folk like Mr. Cameron the liberty to bite the hand that feeds them.

For years, European-style leftists have been trashing America's history and American values, including the American dream and American exceptionalism, in the mass media, the government schools and the public universities.

Movies like "Avatar" are more than just "escapist fantasy," as the Times Editorial Board puts it so disdainfully – and falsely. They are public myths that can galvanize a generation, in the same way that Hitler's propaganda machine galvanized intellectuals and young people among what was, at the time, perhaps the most educated populace in the world, the German people.

Baehr wasn't the only WND writer to lash out against "Avatar" (though one would think it would be more than enough). Phil Elmore unleashed his own Baehr-esque rant in a Jan. 28 column:

Just as Jules Verne's novel reflected the tide of popular and public opinion in his day, "Avatar" does as well: The movie is a spectacularly animated collage of left-wing melodramatic sentiments, misconceptions and prejudices. It scorns capitalism, rejects commerce, vilifies Western culture, deifies native Americans (for whom the blue aliens in what has been called "Dances with Smurfs" are an obvious analog) and spits on the United States military, portraying Marines working as mercenaries as little better than baby-killing, genocidal maniacs.

The only sympathetic characters in the movie are those soldiers who betray their fellows and turn their guns on their fellow Marines – and the audience is expected to root for the aliens and against all humanity. By the film's end, the humans have been expelled, sent back to their dying planet. That such a film could shatter all previous box-office records says a great deal about the current state of our society, as reflected in our opinions about space aliens and how we will or should treat them.


For that matter, if the aliens are more advanced, it would pretty damned stupid of us to act as the traveling Amway salesmen of the universe, beaming our address and phone number into the galaxy and asking that people we don't know stop by for lunch. We've even sent them naked pictures of ourselves, as well as a pile of personal data, in the form of a satellite or two whose only job is to let them know who and where we are. You wouldn't do that on an Internet bulletin board. Why does it become OK when the venue is the Milky Way instead of Craigslist?

If science fiction has taught us anything, it is that when the talking apes from the future land on the beach in their space capsule, you should help them out of the spaceship – and immediately murder them. They don't have your interests at heart, and neither do the visiting space aliens. It's a cookbook, as the old saying goes. If they have to tell you they come in peace, they probably don't.

WND's in-house movie reviewer, Drew Zahn (who has, according to his end-of-column bio, a side gig as "co-editor of 'Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching'"), also took a dim view of "Avatar," declaring it to be "'FernGully' on steroids" and complaining about the film's supposed "liberal libel":

And if you're detecting the mythos of modern history education theory, which paints America's founding as "the evil white man destroyed the natives, who were really wiser and more in tune with the earth than us" – like the biased America-bashing of the Zinn Educational Project – then you have a good nose for sniffing out political agendas. But prepare to have your olfactory senses even more odorously offended, because it gets worse.

Zahn is perhaps even more offended than Baehr that the film presents a religious viewpoint other than far-right evangelical Christian:

But before dismissing "Avatar" as just another political agenda film, a strong word of caution is necessary regarding the film's religious content.

The film not only casts the natives as having a pagan belief system, it takes audiences inside the belief system. Moviegoers are invited to embrace the idea of energy connecting all things, even trained to embrace it, as we follow the protagonist being mentored in the natives' ways. The movie's climax scenes involve pagan mass rituals, chanting and praying to "Eywa" to save.

Finally, Zahn complained that the film's theology "plac[es] the onus on 'when you earn your place,' rather than when you repent and receive the gift of God's grace."

Since it appears to be official WND editorial policy to trash "Avatar" at every opportunity, why bother with the formality of pretending to do so-called "reviews" of it?

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