Gotham City is taken hostage by a gang of vicious terrorists. They have crawled out of a dark hole in the Middle East, and one has even managed to pass herself off as a Gothamite. They have made common cause with 1000 Gotham prisoners in orange jumpsuits. They have managed to get hold of a device for creating nuclear power – but the wily swine have found a way to turn it into a nuclear bomb. Their crazed fanaticism means that their only use for technology is as a means of genocide. They are led by a man called Bane. His face is covered. He is a psychopath.
It doesn’t take much decoding to work out what all this represents. It is a powerful piece of propaganda in the war against Iran. But it also taps into a much older story that white people have been telling themselves for years – the fear of being swamped by the black masses. If they are ever allowed to crawl out of their dark hole, the story goes, this is what happens. They will get into our societies. They will mix with us. Then they will destroy us.
Of course, these fears disguise the fact that it is precisely us, the white nations, which already do these things the world over. The film’s scenes of violent criminals being let out of prison and armed, of summary justice in mock courts, of public lynchings: this is what has just been imposed by NATO on Libya. The killing of scientists, the constant threat of all out war, the blockade of the city to intimidate the population: this is what the Europe and America are doing to Iran today. The random bomb attacks, the war against the police, the co-option of sections of the army under threat of total destruction: this is precisely the reality of the West’s proxy war against.
It is a psychological truism that what we hate most in others is what we refuse to see about ourselves. We kid ourselves that our own hatred and brutality is actually an attribute of our victims: and thus justify their destruction. We imagine they are as bad as us.
What makes us so convinced – without even five minutes serious study or thought on the issue – that Gaddafi, or Assad, or Ahmadinejad is a bloodthirsty murderous tyrant? We don’t feel the need to look into specifics – because we know their type. We have grown up with these archetypal evil figures – we know them from the movies and stories we’ve been telling each other our whole lives. We know exactly what these people are like. What we don’t necessarily want to accept is that these archetypes are actually based on ourselves. However successful we may be at keeping the fact out of our conscious minds, we know, in our hearts, what genocidal depravities underpin, and have always underpinned, Western/ white supremacy in the world. Our most honoured national figures are open supporters of genocide. We know we are bloodthirsty murderous tyrants. But the stories we tell our children – stories such as the Dark Knight Rises – allow us to project these qualities onto our enemies. When we wage war, it is not against ‘Gaddafi’, but the imagined Gaddafi, the one we know very well – because the imagined Gaddafi is us.
The battle ends with scenes of euphoria as the jubilant Gothamites cheer on a mushroom cloud from a nuclear bomb dropped over the sea (overseas?). Of course, in the film, no one actually dies in this explosion - but isn’t that exactly what we tell ourselves about our wars anyway? No one really dies at our hands – no one of any consequence anyway – only demons, Gaddafi-ites, insurgents; sub-humans. Won’t the war against Iran just involve a ‘surgical strike’ against ‘facilities’? We will be able to find a way to applaud the overseas mushroom cloud, one way or another; after all, we will say – it’s no worse than what they would do to us. Don’t you know what these people are like? Haven’t you seen Batman?