Home civil war Hollywood recent The Real ‘Civil War’
Home civil war Hollywood recent The Real ‘Civil War’

The Real ‘Civil War’

A moronic liberal president opens up the borders to mass migration in order to change the nation’s demographics and win an election, but instead touches off a civil war when the governor of a conservative state refuses federal orders to let any more refugees inside.

It’s not just the state of the Biden administration, but The Second Civil War, an HBO political satire from the era of the Clinton administration, that does what Civil War, a 2024 movie, won’t.

Civil War, currently number one at the box office, has a lot in common with its 1997 predecessor, both are civil war movies whose posters feature a battered Statue of Liberty and show the country being torn apart through the eyes of the media, but the difference between them is that The Second Civil War brought up issues while Civil War carefully avoids them.

In 1997 it was still possible for a prestige production to discuss issues like immigration from both sides, to take shots not only at the conservatives, caricatured predictably as hypocritical xenophobic buffoons, but also at an equally mindless liberal elite using immigration for political gain, while being blind to the economic and social damage that it’s inflicting on the country.

Such a position is inconceivable in 2024. That is why Civil War imagines California and Texas teaming up to topple an abusive president, but not the issues that would drive a civil war. The Western Forces militiamen are culturally coded as right-wing and xenophobic, and the reporters as liberals, but otherwise cannot touch on what would make Americans kill each other.

In The Second Civil War’s black comedy, the administration is importing millions of migrants “the lumps at the bottom of the melting pot” with the specific purposes of winning swing states. Faced with pushback from The Nation of Islam, representing black Muslims, who are fighting the Reconquista Latinos of California, the president plans to import millions of Koreans.

What was satire in 1997 is just politics in 2024. The nation’s foreign policy is being determined by a sizable Muslim minority in Dearborn, Michigan, which supports Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. The implausible demographic transformation in 1997 is a reality now as Muslims make up 10% of the Georgia State Senate delegation. Everything is diverse and in a state of perpetual war.

The Second Civil War’s Republicans don’t actually oppose immigration, they just posture for political reasons but have no intention of actually closing the border. Neither side in this bleak farce believes in anything, but is just falling into a civil war to gain a political advantage. The only truly implausible thing in the movie is that it depicts media people fighting each other over political issues. The media of 2024 is far too much of a political monoculture to ever dissent.

And so is the entertainment industry.

Hollywood today operates under codes stricter than anything in the Hays era. Everything from the number of minorities to the depiction of other cultures, religions and countries (especially China) is closely governed and passes through multiple layers of censorship. Much like in China, the only acceptable position is advocacy and the lack of it is its own sort of protest.

If Civil War, like The Second Civil War, were to address immigration in the current cultural climate, it would be impossible for the movie to do anything except take a militant open borders position and to spend its entire running time denouncing and demonizing anything else. And the same would be true for any other political issue or position. The only safe way to tell a story about a civil war that isn’t just going to be non-stop political scolding is to suppress the politics.

And that negative space may be more revealing than anything that actually is in the movie.

Liberal critics are not wrong when they point out that Alex Garland, Civil War’s director, has done little more than transplant a conventional civil war narrative that could have just as easily been set in the former Yugoslavia to America, and that it offers little substance beyond the obligatory celebration of the heroism and horror of war journalism and the shock at a nation tearing itself apart, but what they miss is that they are the reason for the civil war.

And for the obligatory silence.

Nations tear themselves apart when they can no longer talk to each other or about the issues at issue. Cautionary warnings about a civil war do no good when the political atmosphere is so totalitarian and stifling that we can’t even discuss why we might end up fighting one another.

Talk isn’t a remedy for everything. The North and the South understood each other pretty well and there was plenty of vigorous discourse before the onset of hostilities. And sometimes differences are indeed irresolvable. Or unlikely to be resolved. But there were actual efforts to find a compromise, like the redemption of the slaves, or a third option such as expanding America into Canada or Mexico, but there are no longer any efforts at a middle ground now.

The Left refuses to accept limits on anything. Borders must be fully open and every migrant must be allowed to come and live here. The most graphic kinds of pornography must be forced on children in public schools. Men must be allowed to pretend to be women. Terrorists must be allowed to kill without resistance. Money must be spent by the government without limit. DEI racial quotas must be imposed everywhere. All reliable energy sources must be banned.

There is no middle ground to any of this. Every institution in our cultural, intellectual  and political life has been ideologically compromised and broadcasts the same absolutist position while insisting that any dissent is a “threat to democracy” that must be urgently suppressed.

How does that trajectory end in anything other than a civil war?

There are already two Americas separated by culture into mutually exclusive echo chambers. In the nineties, there were still debates, but by the late oughts, an iron curtain had fallen over the culture. Conservatives exist in the liberal echo chamber only as broadly stereotyped caricatures, racist idiots in red hats carrying guns, with no awareness of what they actually believe.

In that blind spot, Civil War can only conceive of a civil war, but not what might bring it about.

Garland suggests that the absence of clear motives provides a space in which people can draw their own conclusions, rather than being told what to think about the war. There’s something praiseworthy about a movie asking the audience to make up its own mind, but it’s also a calculated evasion. Ambiguity is the cultural dissent most present in totalitarian systems.

It’s one thing to let people make up their minds, another to be afraid of saying what you think.

Say what you will about The Second Civil War, a lopsided and fumbling political satire that crammed in everyone from James Earl Jones, a badly miscast Phil Hartman (coming off his Saturday Night Live portray of Bill Clinton) as a moronic president, and Dennis Leary, from the director of Gremlins and Looney Tunes: Back in Action, but it wasn’t afraid to offend anyone.

(Can you imagine any contemporary movie showing an LA mayor laying claim to the city in Spanish before being shot and killed by the Nation of Islam without everyone getting canceled?)

And that was as typical of 90s culture as the total political monoculture is of the current age.

Civil War is a movie about a civil war that is careful not to offend anyone. And in doing so it already offended the same leftists who complained that Don’t Look Up was only metaphorically, not literally, about global warming, and every show isn’t sufficiently committed to the cause.

Silence and ambiguity are evasive and ineffectual responses to such a totalitarian movement.

What’s driving us toward a civil war are not vague concepts like “divisiveness” and “polarization”, it’s that we have no hope of resolving conflicts that we can’t even talk about. One of the few relics of the vigorous debates of the 90s is Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect. And even it has been ghettoized as “right wing” because its liberal host sometimes dissents from the Left.

That’s why the civil war we’re in is mostly silent. At least to the Left which is incapable of even seeing the other side and is convinced that with enough pressure and open borders, it will disappear. The numbers, whether Biden’s poll numbers or national polls, show otherwise.

Faced with pushback, the Left embraces state repression and political violence, whether it’s the Trump trials or the rioting mobs in the street who alternate between terrorizing cities for BLM, abortion or Hamas, rigs elections and centralizes its authority all to “save democracy”.

But what is it saving democracy from except the other half of the country? Or democracy itself.

A generation later, The Second Civil War, can appear prescient about what is actually happening and more importantly about how we stopped being able to talk to each other. Its sendup of the follies of the media is in stark contrast to the humorless journalists of Civil War who are willing to die to report on what is going on for no other purpose than to bear witness.

The Second Civil War allowed us to laugh at each other which is about the best possible counter to a civil war. In the era of Civil War, satire like the rest of comedy is dead because it’s been replaced by partisan mockery aimed squarely at the other side. When there are no other perspectives, all that remains is a sanctimonious seriousness with no vision or imagination.

Civil War’s journalist protagonists travel the country to Washington D.C. to report back that war is violent. This kind of reductive narrative is what happens when we don’t talk about what’s actually going on and out of that silence, a civil war that will tear us apart really can come.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.

Thank you for reading.


  1. It's a good account, a bland effort to steer clear of why the US would go to war with itself .
    Unlike " The Joker" from a few years back that showed causal factors for social decay.
    Garland is British, and clearly got his steer from Yeltsin 1991, Colvin as Bernstein rewritten. A corporate cop-out, as if Hugh Grant had been commissioned to recreate Rosa Parks for a Dylan Mulvaney biopic.
    Or vice versa,no one cares.
    Your 1997 tip to see the HBO film was a good one. Far more relevant, and brave.


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