Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Truth Is Strange

Why would a grown man waste his time watching “The X Files”? Where is there any value in a television show about a supposed FBI agent who chases around ghosts, goblins, and UFO’s? Why would a reasonably mature adult spend precious hours allowing his brain to be filled with quasi-science and paranoid fantasies about “the government” and alien visitors? Could only subliminal mind control be at work here, subverting the intellect and making me watch DVD after DVD of the exploits of Fox Mulder, the show’s main protagonist? Or is there something about “The X-Files” that actually makes it worth watching? Perhaps there is a perfectly logical explanation why I have become a devotee of “The X-Files”.

My instincts, I believe, do not arise from the muck of popular culture. I’m not some poodle-haired freak in grungy jeans and t-shirts who sneers at people for having religious beliefs. Yet “The X-Files” has an undeniable appeal. The reason for this is the two fundamental tenets at work in “The X-Files” that make the stories intriguing. And I am not talking about the sloppy scientific ideas or the supposed existence of the paranormal.

The first tenet is that the entire world is actually run by a super-secret government within the government. This dark and sinister group has pretty been much running things and guiding the course of human history since the end of the second world war. Every major political event including the assassination of JFK have been the evil machinations of this secret organization. (Ok, and they are somehow in an entangling alliance with would-be alien invaders.)

The second main tenet of “The X-Files” is that, outside of this super-secret coven, nobody in the world seems to realize what is going on. Everybody is so isolated and controlled by the media that only a handful of loose cannons such as Mulder have any inkling that all is not right in the world and that the clock is ticking.

Oddly enough, the show seems to stumble upon and strike a real cord of reality. Ask yourself something: How many times have you followed the proceedings of our government and had an eerie feeling that it was all just a circus act? How many times does it seem that the big decisions have already been made and everything you are allowed to see and hear in the media is just posturing and white-washing? And how many times have you stood in line about to buy something, flipped the tag over, and saw “Made in -----“ and remembered reading about the laws in that country that prohibit your religion, or how that country abuses human rights? When you handed the money across the counter did you wonder if it made any difference or not if you bought those socks? Did you wonder if your supposed government representative even cares?

In “The X-Files”, everybody thinks that the government still represents them. And although everyone is modestly cynical about big corporations, they have no idea of what the corporations are really up to.

We live in a world where, for the most part, power elites control politically impotent masses, and carry on acting in their own best interests despite the most dearly held beliefs and values of those they rule. These elites include large corporations as well as governments. The large shiftless masses are not just in the third world, either. They are right here in America. Over there it is a matter of nations full of poor and oppressed people with little or no history of self government. Over here it is even worse - our country is little more than a mass of inert, politically ignorant consumers. To the government that is supposed to represent us and to the corporations that are supposed to follow the same laws and embrace the same values, we are just a featureless horde. No matter how much the government fails us and no matter how many times the corporations betray us, we will continue voting for the one and buying from the other.

In the words of Fox Mulder. “This sounds like an X-File!” And this is why I keep on watching.

Yes, I know the network that produced “The X-Files” is just one of those corporations that is criticized here. You have to wonder what their purpose was in producing such a thought-provoking show. But “The X-Files” was just a good product during an era of low religion, high anxiety, and a growing market for far out ideas such as UFO fervor. They did it for the ratings. And they inadvertently produced something worthwhile.