The Manchurian Candidate: The Cost of Fear is Privacy
Art School, Mar 26, 2022
The Manchurian Candidate is a political thriller from the 1960s that depicted America's social and political anxiety during the Cold War. This film argued that the greatest threat to the United States was not communism, but fear of communism. If Americans lose their freedom, it will be fear that undermines democracy by convincing citizens to give up their liberties in exchange for safety.
The "threat to American freedom" has shifted from communism to terrorism. Unlike in The Manchurian Candidate, where Americans never gave up their freedom, Americans today have it in the form of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, abbreviated USA PATRIOT Act.This has resulted in new invasions of privacy by the NSA, whose documents were famously leaked in 2013 by Edward Snowden. Almost a decade later, there is no sign of big tech slowing down surveillance technology. Nations around the world continue to fracture and the threat of the unknown keeps cropping up in the form of racism, illness and war.
Mrs. Iselin stated, "[the nation] will sweep us up into the White House with powers that will make martial law look like anarchy." She understood the power of fear better than anyone else. Fear, not force, is the most effective way to control an entire nation. People are willing to believe anyone and everything that offers comfort during a time of great anxiety. Citizens will begin to trade their liberties for protection as they become more easily manipulated. Mrs. Iselin was correct in her prediction that American citizens would eventually allow their government to impose fascist policies for their benefit. Infringement on liberty appears to be a fair trade for protection against evil acts. Ironically, the very act of defending freedom destroys it.
The minority group targeted in Manchuruan Candidate are those of Asian descent. Anxiety and fear were prevalent during this time period, and Americans did not want to stray from their comfort zone. Asians were deemed exotic and frequently associated with communism because of China and North Korea. The Manchurian Candidate emphasized this point by stripping all Asian characters of their individuality. The actual ethnicity of people, whether it be Chinese or Korean, is confused and deemed of little importance throughout the film. They were not individuals, but rather a group of communists who posed a threat to the United States. This willingness to lump unrelated people together based on superficial means has recently gained traction on both sides of the political spectrum.
The most important message of The Manchurian Candidate is that a society cannot let fear overtake them. It is a timeless message that can be applied to countless events throughout history. Fear is more powerful than any other external force of evil. Fear can destroy a nation from within, and it is happening around the globe.