If you have spent literally any time arguing against western imperialism in any public forum, you have had the experience of being accused of “supporting” one of said imperialism’s targets. If you argue against regime change interventionism in Syria, you’ll get accused of being an “Assadist” or “Assad apologist”. If you argue against regime change interventionism in Iran, you’ll you’ll get people saying that you “support the Mullahs”. Enter into any debate of sufficient liveliness and it’s only a matter of minutes before it happens.

There was a meme going around at the height of the most recent failed coup attempt in Venezuela depicting a white, pink-haired socialist placing their hand over the mouth of a dark-skinned Venezuelan and saying “ACKSHUALLY, MADURO IS THE GOOD GUY”. Proponents of the Trump administration’s attempts to topple the Venezuelan government would share this meme in online debates with anti-imperialists as a way of accusing them of whitesplaining to Venezuelans that they should support an evil dictator who is oppressing them. The idea being, of course, to silence those dastardly socialists using the socially progressive value system they claim to uphold. Checkmate, leftists.

There are obviously a number of things that are wrong with this meme, including the skin pigmentation of the average Guaido supporter, the implication that all Venezuelans oppose Maduro, and the suggestion that only white western leftists oppose the Trump administration’s attempts to install a puppet regime in the nation with the largest proven oil reserves on the planet. But the dumbest thing about it is the implication that someone who opposes US regime change interventionism could only be doing so because they believe that Nicolás Maduro is a “good guy”.

The reason debates about western imperialism so frequently get bogged down by moronic arguments about “good guys” and “bad guys” is because human storytelling devices train us from an early age to constantly frame narratives in those terms. Everything we’ve been taught by TV and movies tells us that if a conflict is happening, someone in it must be the protagonist and someone must be the antagonist, and that our job is to figure out which one’s which.

For as long as humans have been telling stories, this is how they’ve been doing it. A hero wants something, has some kind of adventure trying to get it, but a villain tries to stop them. It’s a recipe for exciting storytelling that’s been used since time immemorial, and it works because the standard human ego is structured to spin mental narratives about itself as the central character whose wants are constantly being fulfilled by friendlies and thwarted by hostiles. Almost every story from the earliest prehistoric campfire circles to the latest Hollywood blockbuster has in essence been nothing other than a storyteller using a simple mind hack to attract the interest and attention of their audience, just by making their narrative relatable using the protagonist/antagonist framework which the ego finds so appealing.

We’re always the hero in our little ego narratives about our day-to-day lives. We like people who do things we want and we dislike people who do things we don’t want. We stand transfixed by our babbling mental ego narratives, so we find any similar external narrative mesmerising in the same way.

But it’s just an illusion. There are no “good guys” or “bad guys” in real life, either in our personal lives or in international affairs. There are just people. Some of those people do things we like more often than they do things we don’t like, and vice versa, but that’s not a matter of whether they’re “good” or “bad”, it’s a matter of our personal preferences and how we think people ought to behave. “Good” or “bad” isn’t written on anyone’s DNA or inscribed above their heads upon the fabric of reality; we made it up.

In reality, it’s very possible to oppose US regime change interventionism in Venezuela without having a single thought ever appear in your head about whether or not Nicolás Maduro is a “good guy”. American-led regime change interventionism has a well-documented and historically undeniable history of increasing suffering and death in the nations in which it takes place, and consistently fails to accomplish what its proponents claim it will. You don’t need to have any opinions about who Maduro is as a person to recognize this self-evident fact and oppose yet another US regime change campaign in yet another oil-rich nation.

To preempt the inevitable Godwin’s law counter-argument here, of course it’s useful to discern individual behavior patterns in people and talk about what specific patterns they tend to exhibit. Of course it’s useful to recognize that Hitler did many things that we should always oppose going forward. But notice how the only reason Godwin’s law exists is because the “good guys versus bad guys” dichotomy allows people to associate anyone who opposes their side with Hitler, thereby marking them as the “bad guy” side in a given debate. That’s all anyone who fulfils Godwin’s law is ever trying to do.

It’s very useful to pay attention to the specific behavior patterns of specific individuals, and to make distinctions as to whether or not those behavior patterns are desirable or undesirable to you. But it’s also very useful to understand how the “good guys vs bad guys” dichotomy is leveraged by those who seek to control our thoughts and perceptions.

Think about it: where are we trained to look for heroes in real life? Soldiers and policemen, the violent enforcers of the status quo. Politicians like Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, depending on which side of the fake partisan divide you’re on. And where are we trained to look for villains? Dictators and rule-breakers, and people who are on the other side of the illusory partisan divide.

Awful convenient for those who benefit from maintaining the status quo, no?

There is one direction in which we are very seldom trained to look for a superhero to come to the rescue, and that’s within. The notion that we ourselves might be the real agents of change in this world is downplayed by the propagandists who fear a surge in populism more than they fear anything else in this world.

Much better to keep people focused on polarizing figures like Donald Trump, who most people seem incapable of viewing as anything other than either a Deep State-fighting superhero or a Hitler-like supervillain whose actions are either all pure good or all pure evil. Divorced from the “good guys vs bad guys” dichotomy, this administration’s behavior can be described in the same way as its predecessors: mostly supportive of the violent and increasingly Orwellian pillars of empire, with a few helpful things mixed in. Yet it’s rare to find anyone who is capable of discussing Trump outside of the false dichotomy.

And the same would be more or less true of whoever Trump winds up running against in 2020. Even if by some miracle Bernie Sanders or Tulsi Gabbard overcome the rightward-slanted DNC nomination process and go on to beat Trump in the general election, they will with absolute certainty advance many of the destructive agendas upon which the US empire is built. They are not heroes either. This doesn’t mean they’re villains, it just means that “heroes versus villains” is an illusion we’ve been trained since our earliest media-consuming days to buy into.

The world makes a lot more sense when you peel away the lens from your eyes which perceives life in neat little Hollywood-shaped narratives with protagonists and antagonists and clear beginnings, middles and ends. Because it turns out that we’re all actually a bunch of confused primates doing the best we can with the wildly unique and incredibly complex sets of conditioning we’ve been dealt by our individual birth circumstances and life events. The “good guys versus bad guys” dichotomy is just imaginary conceptual overlay on top of a giant biological storm which carries on in cool indifference to our puny little egocentric narratives.

Atoms swirl, cells cluster, and life lifes away as this strange new species stumbles around trying to make sense of the world with its recently evolved extra gray matter and the capacity for abstract thought which comes with it. It has some successes and many failures in trying to figure out how to make living on this spinning rock a little more harmonious, and it will either succeed or it will fail. It’s egoically comfortable to slice this dance up into a narrative about heroes and villains, good guys and bad guys, but it’s really all one twirling, churning, chaotic and beautiful dance.


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31 responses to ““Good Guys” And “Bad Guys” Are A Hollywood Illusion”

  1. I was reading the archives of Mr. Paul Edwards on counterpunch today when from the ” Make America Grate Again” article these words truly captivated me:
    It is profoundly grim that the great mass of Americans is leash-trained to embrace creeds as hollow, cruel, and false as those of the parties. It’s the Charlie Brown Syndrome raised to the nth power in scope and cynicism. This Bait and Switch is run on both camps–the hostile, alienated, stupidly phobic, untermenschen Trumpetariat, and the credulous, myopic, witlessly hopeful, myth-addled, exceptionalist Democratic cadre–so effectively that both deathgrip their manky dogmas as they are herded into the abbatoir, butchered, and fed to our ravenous Minotaur, the Capitalist War Machine.

  2. Like one well to do guy on Brighton beach told with out any shade of shame said: yes we r a rogue state. That is a real problem! By don’t u Cateproduced a post about neo liberal Tom Friedman (NYtimes – Jewish Iguesse) agreeing with Naziorganizer Steve Bannon in their both interview on CNBC Google it, on the Trump anti China politics. Right there chief Nazi brimming with pride like he pull major Jewish neo liberal to the Nazi, ultra right side. That isvery bad sign! Period! Don’t be shy Caitlin! Jews around the world beginning to be scared! I talked to many tourist in NYC USA! And not just Jews. But they understand first! Don’t be silent Caitlin! Bolsonaro Brazil is a very bad signal. I would guess chief Nazi was involved.

    1. I have no time to correct the spelling. F***ng Android and Google should be open source.

  3. SomeoneInAsia Avatar

    There’s a reason why I don’t like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. Peanuts (you know, Snoopy, Charlie Brown etc) is way more intelligent.

    I do think there are genuine bad guys (and gals) around, though. They’re what are termed sociopaths. They seriously don’t have a moral conscience. There’s no telling how many of the tragedies of the human world were brought about by them. Well, perhaps we can’t blame them, because they were born with this defect… (Shrugs.)

    Some of our religious narratives and political ideologies have a way of turning otherwise normal people into bloodthirsty monsters, too. (They could have been fabricated by the said sociopaths for ulterior motives.) I think we need to be wary of the said narratives and ideologies as well. They ought to be the true origins of many of the problems we face.

  4. In America, Hollywood ingrains the tropes of cowboy with the white hat vs cowboy with the black hat into us from childhood. Everyone knows who the good guy is and who the bad guy is without a word being spoken. Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker are simply repetition of this trope. A space Western if you will.


    These are called the “knight templar” and “knight errant” tropes. Once you learn to recognize them for what they are, you’ll see these tropes everywhere in everything Hollywood does.

    Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

  5. Michel Bélisle Avatar
    Michel Bélisle

    Legendary French crooner Gérard Lenorman telling the truth about the ruling elites in this song:


    Keeping my Rosary close.

  6. “Of course it’s useful to recognize that Hitler did many things that we should always oppose going forward.”
    Like what?
    Hitler is the most extreme example of pushing a person into the good guy / bad guy narrative. If you really dig deep and analyze critically, you will find that nearly everything we’ve been taught about Hitler is false. He was one of the few genuine good guys of the 20th century, which is why the ruling sociopaths made such an extreme example out of him and his people. And they continue to do it to this day, persecuting anyone who dares try to expose the scam (like David Irving, Vincent Reynouard, Robert Faurisson, Ernst Zundel, Germar Rudolf, etc.). It is truly stupefying to become aware of this massive deception and see it perpetrated with deliberate skill and vigor every day of our lives. And like trained parrots, the public passes the deception back and forth as if it were fact, completely oblivious to their essential participation in the con. Even Caitlin does it with without any awareness when she says Hitler did “many” things that we should “always” oppose. No one has been more falsely vilified than Hitler, and uncovering how and why it was done is a complete education in itself, better than you will get from any university.

  7. Michel Bélisle Avatar
    Michel Bélisle

    “Even if by some miracle Bernie Sanders or Tulsi Gabbard overcome the rightward-slanted DNC nomination process…”

    I was hoping that 18 years after 9-11, people would have caught on about the electoral process in the West which is a sham. But people are still voting for mainstream political parties. This is very difficult to understand.

    I cannot wait for people to sing this Cliff Richard song (with one word changed of course):

    “It’s so funny
    How we don’t vote anymore
    It’s so funny
    Why we don’t vote anymore…”

    Or if you feel so guilty to do not vote, vote for a candidate with no affiliation to a known political party, i.e. an independent candidate.

    Anyway, all of this will soon be useless because if you read the prophecy of the popes, we live under the last pope and Final Judgement of mankind is coming under his pontificate.

    I pray the Rosary for that to happen as soon as possible because it is becoming unbearable. I have really really seen enough.

  8. There was a fascinating era in Hollywood in the 1970’s, after Vietnam and Watergate. They made a few movies that didn’t have formulaic good guys and bad guys and instead had more complicated characters. The heroes had a few flaws. Bad guys with a human side. Back when mass media still had mass, but actually searched to try to find what its audience wanted, instead of just brainwashing the audience to like what they are given. And of course, those movie makers who didn’t follow the good-guys-bad-guys standard script were bypassed or moved aside or replaced by some kid who knew what the studio boss wanted and didn’t have any pretensions to being an artist.

  9. This article made it to Zero Hedge.
    A very useful site to visit even though it is Evil (snark).
    Actually, when visiting Zero Hedge it is important to cull. There is lots of horrid stuff there (they are pro-guns and anti-environment), but if you are discerning you can also find…Caitlin and more!
    For example, remember when the tv pundits were all sitting around with egg on their faces on election night 2016 wondering what truck hit them? If you had been following Zero Hedge you would have seen it coming. Zero Hedge called bs on the manipulative oversampling polls being conducted. Zero Hedge produced statistics to show what the DNC, etal was doing.
    And don’t even get me started about the Russiagate hysteria. Zero Hedge is the number one place to go to stay above the McCarthyist nonsense.

    1. Know that you will enjoy this.
      Did a quick search (NOT with Google!) for:
      manipulative oversampling polls
      [About two weeks before the 2016 election] “the latest ABC / Washington Post poll that showed a 12-point national advantage for Hillary”.
      Twelve-point advantage for Hillary two weeks before the election . What could go wrong with THAT big lie!?
      The article also discusses the Podesta emails that exposes their use of manipulative oversampling in polling.
      You are welcome.

      1. By the way, the above Zero Hedge article was posted 10/23/2016.
        With a 12-point lead in the polls did FBI Director Comey thus feel safe
        in reopening the Hillary Clinton email “matter” on 10/28/2016?
        Those straight-shooters have a tendency of hitting their own feet.

        1. Donald Trump refused to say that he’d respect the results of this election.

          That’s a direct threat to our democracy.

          — Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 24, 2016

          Was there ever a bigger hypocrite than Hillary Clinton?

  10. ‘It’s egoically comfortable to slice this dance up into a narrative about heroes and villains, good guys and bad guys, but it’s really all one twirling, churning, chaotic and beautiful dance.’
    That’s all very sensible, except that seeing the whole thing as ‘beautiful’ requires, at a minimum, a good physiological, financial and social condition and, ideally, the ingestion of psychedelic mushrooms.

    1. I don’t think you’ve grasped the context of Caitlin’s assertion. If viewed for what it is, with detachment from the relatively minuscule consideration of our ego-derived human interests, the bio-physical performance we are all immersed and enmeshed within is indeed beautiful. It’s scale, its complexity, its homeostatic balance, it’s unfathomable enigma, are all interrelated features of a profoundly beautiful, utterly inexplicable condition.

      That we might ever find it not as beautiful as it is, and particularly so at this point of history, is simply a function of the corrupted, devolved and inherently inadequate social narrative(s) we have invented and succumbed to.

      Culture is a narrative-based technology that humanity has developed to engage sustainably with the enormity of reality. Sustainability involves the maintenance over extended time of both metaphysical and physical balance, simultaneously of both the individual and the collective in mindful and sincerely heartfelt conjunction with the local resource base.

      Ours has utterly failed as a vehicle for this fundamental survival. It is a failure that began with the sowing of crops and the concomitant development of food (energy) storage and hierarchical power structures that deemed the allocation or withholding of that energy. It is now at, or very rapidly approaching, the zenith of this failure.

      Reality only looks frightening because our cultural narrative makes it look so. It is not reality that is ugly or threatening. It is us, transmogrified by how we have chosen to view reality and thus make it and us respond to our own predations upon it and ourselves. We are starring in our own flesh-eating zombie movie, following a script we wrote and insanely continue to extrapolate. That’s the problem with insanity though, isn’t it? It becomes an inescapable ‘reality’. However the production set, and the beautiful dance it sits within, will remain for a new cameo script to begin when/if we are gone, either as a dominant narrative or as an entire species.

  11. From way down under it may appear that our leaders are elected, but they aren’t,  they’re appointed, and with the new and improved voting machines to be used in 2020, there will no longer be any mistakes; our leaders will be whomever the Israeli military chooses.

  12. So who devised the evil plot to have the United States, and most of Europe, overrun by fleeing refugees? Are the extermination camps ready?

  13. Very Helpful insights here. But we should not carry this nonjudgmental stance too far. We need to identify really evil and really good people, so we can know what to mostly expect from them, and how to handle them. Some snakes for example are dangerous, and it is common sense to identify them and label them as such. Human sociopaths are like that too. We are not always mistaken to put a bad or evil tag on someone as a shorthand way of alerting our defenses against them. Of course such a tag does not cover all the possible nuances or exceptions in their unique and complex reality, but it serves nevertheless as a handy warning label when dealing with someone like Donald Trump!

    1. I live out in the country where there are dangerous snakes. One does not put a label on a dangerous snake. Its for the encounters with dangerous snakes that many people out here carry guns.
      I can just imagine the expression on the ER’ nurse face when she asks how this patient got a rattlesnake bite on their face, and they say “well, I correctly identified it as a rattlesnake, and I was bending over to put a label on it.”

      1. Your idea of labeling is rather more literal than I intended. I too live in the forest, and I can tell you that carrying a gun is no protection from stepping on a snake. Like many of my fellow Americans, you seem to have a magical belief in gun’s powers of protection. Plenty of gun totting but careless hunters get bitten, by which time it is too late o shoot the snake.

  14. “The way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves” ~ Lenin

    “Divide & Conquer, the Left/Right Fraud” > CorbettReport(.)com

  15. If “The notion that we ourselves might be the real agents of change in this world” and if Politicians are simply ‘us’ cut from the same cloth, is it not then still possible too, that an individual, such as a Tulsi Gabbard say, may prove to be an exception (debunking Godwin’s Law – one individuals opinion) come from within her own being, turn out literally, as positive hero for change, in this false dichotomy that is us?

  16. moishe zinnia Avatar
    moishe zinnia

    Caitlin stated a well-articulated explanation of what so few realize. May more people come to embrace this attitude of considering nuance in their processing of opinion, and being vigilant of narrative. and their purpose.

  17. “Good” is simply a conclusion of something we want and agree with, aligned with, and desire to happen. “Bad” of course runs contrary to our thinking.
    DISCERNMENT & INTEGRITY is about seeing the bigger picture and thinking outside the box most don’t even realize they exist in.
    Foreign Policy is about looking over your neighbour’s fence, minding their business instead of your own, making their business your business. Narcissism readily sees problems outside ourselves but insists on remaining self blind. Problems create profitable opportunities.
    The western industrialized world with it’s capitalism hinges on consumerism and therefor waste is essential to spawn continuos growth. Foreign policy of necessity looks beyond borders for sustained economical growth through the medium of perpetual conflict, wars being the fast track to profitable sustainability, as inflation is irrelevant to influencing bottom line growth.
    The eternal war between “good & evil” is however very real and picking up momentum.
    Pick your team, play hard, and never lose sight of the ball.
    The goal posts are however an illusion, as the game is never ending.

  18. Spooky this.

    For the last couple of days I have been
    turning over in my head this very subject.

    1. An aside.
      Two days ago I had to correct a friend that thought I was a Republican. We rarely talk politics but …maybe 20 months ago… I had called bs on the Russiagate hysteria. I had made it very clear that I am a Green voter (she and her husband are Democrats), but apparently that had gone out their memory window and I was pegged by my stance on Russiagate.
      Some moments stick with you for years. The above conversation I had two days ago with a friend is probably going to fade from memory, but it wouldn’t surprise me if one moment sticks around in memory for a very, very long time; she said, “You know, Putin is a very evil man”.

  19. Nice.
    Skull + Bones = Pirates
    Symbols > language barriers.
    Language + biases = ambiguity/dissonance
    BWOE, “Clear” – take your pick…
    but also,
    Are things becoming more clear?

    1. No flock of sheep appreciates the sheep dog constantly nipping at their heels and driving them around the pasture according to the whims of man. Some sheep, those who actually know what a wolf is and have seen what a wolf naturally does to sheep can, however, appreciate that the sheepdog also keeps the wolf away. Other sheep, lets call them “ignorant”, simply cannot tell a sheepdog from a wolf. The wolf calls these sheep “lunch”. Is the wolf “evil”? No, the wolf is simply being a wolf and ignorant sheep are simply being “lunch”.

  20. Michel Bélisle Avatar
    Michel Bélisle

    If it is somebody who swears to have seen wreckages of airplanes in the pentagone and in a field in Pennsylvania on 9-11 that told me that somebody is a good guy and another a bad guy, I just cannot trust him.

    So, because almost the entirety of the political, economic and media elites have seen wreckages of airplanes in the Pentagone and in a field in Pennsylvania on 9-11 disqualified them to tell me who is a good guy and who is a bad guy.

    We are living Orwell’s 1984… or the days of Noah if you prefer. Remember that in the days of Noah, there was only Noah and his family who were not liars and were walking in the Truth.

    It is the situation all over again. I pray the Rosary to hasten the Return of Our Lord which must be very soon according to many prophecies. Surely I have seen enough.

  21. Dang … My Peanut allergy just flared up .

    Your such a feeder Caitlin and loving it

  22. Leonard Michael Ross Avatar
    Leonard Michael Ross

    Excellent as usual. We are creatures of shadow and light who, in our darker moments, thrive on painting our opponents as demons and our allies as gods. But everything is chiasroscoro in this world.

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