Monday, May 10, 2010

Thoughts on "The Second Civil War" (an HBO film)

Stuff Black People Don't Like has recently come across a film that HBO would like to think was never made. Better yet, this film that aired for a brief week back in 1997 and was quickly thrown down the memory hole looks to be a movie ripped from the headlines of 2010.

The writers, producers, actors and director of this film had absolutely no idea what a prescient work of art they were working on in 1997, but watching The Second Civil War today leaves the impression that a few Cassandra's were surreptitiously involved with this product during its creation.

Have you not heard of The Second Civil War? Starring Phil Hartman as the hapless President of the United States; Denis Leary as a rouge reporter; Beau Bridges as the opportunistic Idaho Governor; and James Earl Jones as an elderly newscaster, The Second Civil War is billed as "a very uncivil comedy" but instead raises some unfortunate questions about life in the United States. Becoming obvious that the nation was quickly disuniting, The Second Civil War was an attempt to use comedy to showcase a burgeoning tragedy:

The 1997 film is set in a United States in which foreign immigration has skyrocketed: The Mayor of Los Angeles speaks only in Spanish, Rhode Island is populated mostly by Chinese-Americans, and Alabama has a congressman from India. When an atomic weapon is used in Pakistan, an international organization makes plans to bring orphans to Idaho. Idaho governor Jim Farley (Bridges) orders the state's National Guard to close its borders, and justifies his actions with speeches about how immigrants threaten the American way of life; he sees no contradiction between this stance and the fact that the Governor himself routinely indulges in Mexican food, Mexican soap operas, and an affair with a Mexican-American reporter (Peña). Despite the best efforts of his press secretary Jimmy Cannon (Kevin Dunn), Farley remains largely oblivious to the national crisis he's the center of, since Farley is more concerned with rekindling his romance with Peña rather than dealing with national affairs.

Meanwhile, the President of the United States (Hartman) turns out to be an equally ineffectual leader. Reputed as indecisive, the President relies his decision-making entirely on his advisors, most notably his unofficial chief advisor, lobbyist Jack B. Buchan (Coburn). Buchan, however, is less concerned with the good of the nation, and more concerned with politics, especially how the President's actions will play on television (resulting, for example, in a 72-hour deadline being shortened to 67 1/2 hours to prevent the news from interrupting Susan Lucci's farewell appearance on the soap opera All My Children). Buchan regularly influences the President's decisions by manipulating his desire to emulate previous U.S. Presidents, even going so far as to peppering presidential statements with fictitious "quotes" from David Eisenhower.

Meanwhile, the NN cable network is reporting the events and influencing them at the same time. News director Mel (Dan Hedaya) attempts to time events to maximize ratings, while his staff becomes polarized over the political issues involved in the conflict between the Governor and the President.

As the deadline approaches, the Governor and the President call in, respectively, the Idaho National Guard and the United States Army. Tensions rise when the commanders of both units turn out to be bitter rivals from the Gulf War. Meanwhile, governors from other states send in their own National Guard units to aid one side or the other, causing the conflict to escalate into the national arena. The nation starts dividing itself into anti- and pro-immigrant factions; Mexican-American pro-immigrant rioters bomb the Alamo, while anti-immigrants retaliate by bombing the Statue of Liberty, because of its plaque's pro-immigrant rhetoric.

Eventually, the Governor's girlfriend convinces him to back down from the conflict and resign, but a series of misunderstandings and mutinies leads to a major battle between anti- and pro-immigrant armed forces at the Idaho border, resulting in many casualties and a danger that there really will be a second American Civil War. At the movie's close, news reports indicate that hostilities have ceased, but the immigration issue is unresolved.

Yes, the film is believed to have been a comedy when it was released, but for some reason the film only lasted on HBO for a week and was difficult to find on VHS before the advent of DVD. One writer in 1997 penned these words when describing the experience he felt upon viewing The Second Civil War:

The movie is meant to be a comedy with serious overtones. Since humor is so subjective, you may or may not find the movie funny. I found it to be very much so — plus the story moves along so quickly that my mind never wandered.

The movie takes place in the "near future." The government of India drops a nuclear bomb on Pakistan — turning hundreds of thousands of children into orphans. A Save-the-Children-type organization goes to Pakistan to bring back a few thousand of them, planning to settle them in Idaho. But the Governor of Idaho (Beau Bridges) is a former liberal who won election by turning conservative and bashing immigrants. So he announces that he's closing the Idaho border to the rest of the country — to keep all new immigrants out...

As Hollywood people have traditionally been strongly ideological, outspoken liberals, this is a good sign. If even some of them can see that government doesn't work, you can imagine how many Americans can.

Unfortunately, The Second Civil War seems dead and buried.
Substitute Arizona for Idaho and you see why this film is so important to understanding life in America in 2010. The uproar over a state simply trying to enforce existing laws that the Federal Government refuses to enforce showcase that we no longer live in a world where the film The Second Civil War was merely a laughing matter.

The film even predicted the rise of Bobby Jindal, the Hindu governor of Louisiana (in the movie Alabama had a Congressman that looked strikingly like Jindal).

Some of the main points made in the film include:

  • The de-industrialization of United States (thanks to the glories of Free Trade) made fighting a conflict within its own borders impossible, as the factories that built the spare parts for tanks and other war vehicles had moved overseas where they could be made cheaper.
  • A Disingenuous White Liberal woman who heads a charity that wants to move the orphans from Pakistan to Idaho is the person who triggers the entire war. She even calls Denis Leary's character a Fascist for failing to agree with her, with his character responding "isn't it convenient to call anyone who doesn't agree with you a Fascist?"
  • Los Angeles is completely Hispanic, with only Spanish spoken. Black people have been pushed out of the city, yet wage war upon those who displaced them. During a prominent scene where the mayor of Los Angeles excoriates the governor of Idaho for daring to close the borders (speaking only Spanish), Black people disrupt the conference with a barrage of gunfire.
  • The Alamo is blown up by Mexicans, who then celebrate the destruction of the symbol of Anglo aggression by having a fiesta that is covered incredulously by a white news reporter (the majority of the film takes place in a fictional newsroom) . She attempts to find someone who speaks English, but a Mexican with beer in hand tells her - laughing - "you don't have to speak English here anymore."
  • The Statue of Liberty is destroyed by patriots in a response to the Alamo being blown up by illegal immigrants who found the culture, traditions and history of the United States unbecoming to their culture, traditions and history that they decided not leave in Mexico.
  • The only mistake in the film is having a Nation of Islam Caucus that has considerable influence. In Black Run America (BRA) that we actually live in, Mein Obama is now president and he is quite chummy with people who have ties to the Nation of Islam.
  • The governor of Idaho is profiled in one of the newscasts and his campaign slogan is "America: as it should be". Though he has an affair with a Mexican reporter, the governor of Idaho states why he closes the border by stating that states with small populations can be overwhelmed demographically (indeed, Rhode Island becomes a Chinese state). Thus the need to defend their way of life.
The Second Civil War is a movie that is hard to put in words, for it is purportedly a comedy. The majority of the film (and thus, the images of the disuniting of the United States) is shown through the vantage point of a major newsroom and James Earl Jones and Ron Pearlman star as two network employees who watch the carnage of a nation become nations.

It is through the scenes in the newsroom the real tragedy of the film is exposed, as attempts to remain objective in the face of national disunity quickly dissolve into warring camps. The film ends with employees of the newsroom watching the images of Idaho being invaded by the Federal Government and a monologue by James Earl Jones, talking about how America is like a piece of art, a work in progress.

The points brought up in The Second Civil War are left unsettled and unresolved as the credits roll. Remember, the film is purportedly a comedy, but the ending is far-from the original meaning of the word and how 'comedies' ended in Ancient Greece and Rome.

There is no comedy in The Second Civil War. It is the one film that Hollywood wishes was never made.

Stuff Black People Don't Like started out as a joke. The film The Second Civil War was also purportedly a joke. We at SBPDL see more truth in the film then comedy.

We are no longer laughing. It is a film highly recommended to all readers of this website (and can be purchased here).

The film starts out by simply stating, "Sometime in the near future."

SBPDL will now ask the question: How close to that future are we right now?


Anonymous said...

Rhode Island will never become a Chinese State - that is so GOD DAMN STUPID!

Its mostly Italian & Irish Americans!

CWN said...

Anonymous said...


I love independent films films just as much as the next guy. I actually prefer them over the mainstream cookie cutter crap that's out there today.

This film cannot be logically be perceived as anything but a comedy. It is mocking political hypocrisy and paranoia. It is far from some anti PC cautionary tale. The one comparison that comes to mind is the great show American Dad.

-Black guy

Anonymous said...

" Bobby Jindal, the Hindu governor of Louisiana..."

I believe Jindal, while raised Hindu, is Catholic.

Silent Running said...


What are your thoughts on the possibility of another civil war in the U.S.? Who do you think will fight whom?

Stuff Black People Don't Like said...

Black Guy,

I think you would enjoy this film. I recommend it highly. It is one of Phil Hartman's last performances.

Watch the film before commenting upon it. There is a reason it was thrown "down the memory hole".

Anon on Jindal - Bobby Jindal knew that being a Hindu in Louisiana wouldn't win him mass support. So he converted to the predominate religion.

Silent Running,

It all depends on how long the economy will be held together. Judging by the horrible rates of Black-on-Black, one would think Black people were already engaged in a Civil War against themselves.

Mexicans in the United States just need a captivating leader and then you will see the militarization of that demographic. Currently, Mexicans are supine and relatively peaceful... but one charismatic leader could change that over night.

Remember, Black people have been pushed aside in the racial spoils game. We still in Black Run America (BRA) thanks to sports, but numerically, Black people are in trouble with the ascendancy of Hispanics.

As "The Second Civil War" shows, Hispanics take over and leave Black people fighting a 'Four-Generational War' against their rulers.

Steve said...

I have to say as far as dystopian comedies I prefer Idiocracy more.

We seem to be rapidly approaching that

Anonymous said...

I live outside Chicago. I just returned from a trip to visit family in Oklahoma and Kansas, and as far as I'm concerned, the U.S.A has already split up and formed several different countries. Going there was like stepping into another country. No rap blasting from cars, no signs in Spanish, no crowds, and best of all, no non-whites. Everywhere I looked, white faces. I attended a high school graduation--all white students. Imagine going to a school without metal detectors, security guards, ESL classes, Tyrone JaShan da fif gettin' his dance on in the middle of class. No teachers pushing an anti-white agenda,...paradise, the way the founding fathers intended it.

America is a country in name only, and the sooner whites voluntarily separate and start looking out for their interests and their children's interests, the better off the world will be.

Anonymous said...


You made a compelling argument. I added the movie to my netflix queue.

-Black guy

Anonymous said...

"Bobby Jindal knew that being a Hindu in Louisiana wouldn't win him mass support. So he converted to the predominate religion."

He set out to be governor while in high school? 'Cause that's when Wiki has him converting... As they say: Interesting if true!

Anonymous said...

I rented this movie after reading about it on SBPDL.

As a person who spends a lot of time in South Florida I have to say the scenes about LA have an eerie similarity about what has ALREADY occurred in Miami !

The city is divided up into black and hispanic enclaves and there isn't any love lost between the two cultures. It is clearly becoming a rich/poor society mirrored after the successful countries of the Caribbean and Latin and South America.

The former "American" culture of Miami is only a tearful memory of those who once experienced that wonderful city.

One ironic side effect of the massive culture change is that many of the immigrants came looking for America but what they found in Miami was what they are trying to escape so they moved north in search of the real America . Of course when school systems are inundated with non-whites the whites that can't afford private schools move. The result is former all white areas of Broward county are now all hispanic/black and the formula is repeating itself in Palm Beach county.


Anonymous said...

I saw this movie as a VHS in South Africa with a friend who held -- how can I put this? -- similar political views to myself. We thought it was a scream. Interestingly enough, one of the producers, Barry Levinson, also had a hand in another, and equally breathtaking, cynical cinematic masterpiece:- "Wag the Dog". If you like "The Second Civil War", you'll go nuts over "Wag the Dog".