The Purge Anarchy: Social Commentary on the NRA, Austerity and Class Warfare

© Josh Sager – July 2014

The Purge: Anarchy is a hyper-violent action movie that doubles as a deceptively brilliant piece of social/political commentary, targeting the extreme right wing and the gun lunatics in the United States.

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As a foreword to this article, I would like to say that I would warn ANYBODY who is squeamish, sensitive to violence, or disturbed easily away from this movie—it has virtually non-stop graphic violence. Personally, I am not usually a fan of such movies, but that is because they tend to cover a poor or non-existent plot with gunfire and explosions. That said, the Purge has a very interesting premise, so I watched it and will talk about it so you don’t have to go see it for yourself.

The Plot

The Purge is set in a near-future America where an extreme right wing group called the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) has taken control over the government and implemented a “holiday” every year where all crimes are legal. For a twelve hour stretch, no public services (ex. police, fire, hospitals, etc.) are available, and nothing is illegal, including murder.

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Poor people are preyed upon by those who can buy weapons or protection, while the rich remain secure in fortified houses, either partying or killing people who are captured and brought to their homes.

The basic premise of the movie is a meeting of three different groups of good people—a police officer looking to avenge his son, a mother and daughter, and a couple whose car was sabotaged—meeting and trying to survive the night as psychos and murderers stalk their every step. They face paramilitary death squads, gangs who capture people to sell to rich people for caged hunts, and random lunatics who gang up on the purge night to act out the violence that they normally hide over the year.

Eventually, they are captured by their pursuers and brought to a group of very wealthy people who bid for who gets to hunt them—predictably, it ends very badly for these wealthy “hunters” and the group of main characters escapes certain death.

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Long story short, this group travels through the city, playing a game of cat and mouse with their pursuers and witnessing the insanity of the night, an inordinate number of people die, and the story ends with the good people more or less triumphing (as much as can be expected in such a cynical movie).

Social Commentary in the Purge

Gun Culture

Arguably the most on the nose piece of commentary in the movie is its portrayal of the insane gun culture of the United States. The Purge’s American is awash with guns that are taken out one night a year so that everybody can shoot at anybody who offends them (or who is simply in the way).

In many ways, the movie portrays an extreme illustration of the end-state for the NRA’s gun nut rhetoric. Almost everybody is armed with powerful weapons and is expected to defend themselves rather than relying on the government for help. No restrictions are put on gun sales (there is a guy openly peddling guns on the street to anybody who walks by hours before the purge begins), and people who are not armed are simply prey.

During the Purge everybody “stands their ground” rather than relying on the police for protection and the only thing that can stop the “bad guys with guns” are good guys with guns (or other bad guys with bigger guns, who will then turn them on innocent people). This is the world of gun anarchy that the NRA is bringing us incrementally towards.

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The massive firefights during the purge nights are the end result of a world where guns are ubiquitous and vigilantism is acceptable. The heavily armed society of the Purge is anything but safe, as everybody has guns and is using those guns to perpetrate violence against everybody else. Innocent citizens own guns, but criminals and gangs own even more guns and are happy to use them.

Finally, the Purge gives a very convincing portrayal of the violent segment of gun enthusiasts and their fetishization of violence. While some people are obsessed with guns because they are paranoid, the scary fact is that many simply want to shoot somebody—they fantasize about using their guns for “self-defense” and cannot wait to use them to kill anybody who “threatens” them. This zeal has caused many gun nuts to shoot and kill innocent people who really never posed a threat to them (ex. George Zimmerman or Michael Dunn).

The type of person who obsesses over his gun and fantasizes about self-defense is the same type of person who would secretly love to “purge” and have a legal excuse to use the weapons that they love.

Extreme Austerity

While the NFFA calls the purge a time to expunge negative emotions for the entire year, the reality of the night is that it is an excuse to cull the bottom of society. The poor are killed because they live in the worst areas—which are often used as battlegrounds for heavily armed suburbanites and gangs to come and kill people—and lack the resources to hire private armies. Just to hammer this point home, it is discovered by the main characters that the government secretly hires death squads of heavily armed soldiers to go into housing projects to kill the poor when the poor are not being killed in sufficient numbers.

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The goal of the fascist NFFA is to enact extreme austerity by eliminating those who rely on social welfare programs. The government doesn’t need to pay as much to support the poor when thousands of poor people are killed every year in the brutality of the purge.

The extreme right wing in the USA wouldn’t dare support killing the poor overtly, but they happily support austerity that makes life unlivable for the lower class. In effect, they are going at austerity from the other side of the equation; instead of killing the poor to reduce the costs of welfare, they reduce welfare until the poor can no longer survive.

Class Predation

Arguably the most disturbing aspect of the Purge move is not the actual violence, but rather the extreme dehumanization of the lower classes by those with money. Middle class and wealth people sit at home, watching jingoistic programs and live feeds of cities tearing themselves apart, with absolute detachment. The poor who are unable to defend themselves are seen as sub-human and, during purge nights, it is acceptable for anybody to kill them.

The uber-wealthy often “order” poor people to kill by paying them to sacrifice themselves willingly or paying people to snatch the unwilling off of the street. To these uber-wealthy, the poor are no longer human and are little better than animals to hunt.

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While I wouldn’t argue that many real-life uber-wealthy Americans consciously think like those in the Purge that it is a good idea to massacre the poor, the attitude of a disturbing number of the uber-wealthy mimics that of their analogs in the movie. Rich bankers screw poor people out of their pension funds and for-profit health insurers charge usurious prices for life-saving treatments, while chemical CEOs knowing spill poison into drinking water just to save a little money—they may not be picking up a knife or gun to kill others, but they are causing death and hardship just the same.

In order for the real-life uber-wealthy to knowingly harm those who are less fortunate, they must dehumanize them and see them as unworthy of concern. While the real-life version of this dehumanization is not as extreme or overt as it is in the movie, both are representative of the same toxic mentality.

 

12 thoughts on “The Purge Anarchy: Social Commentary on the NRA, Austerity and Class Warfare

  1. More sophism from the faulty assumption that governmental violence, in the form of state coercion, where the application of force for victim-less crimes is somehow preferable to force without a badge or government title.

    This blind argument from authority galvanizes the ideological divide between individualists, and collectivist. Where being held at gunpoint by one individual as seen as a greater crime than being held at gun point by a mob in uniform.

    What is wrong for the individual cannot be made right by a majority.

    If governments wanted to protect the citizen they claim to represent, perhaps they should hold themselves accountable when they do not. Aside from the risk of loosing their job next term. When the government sets supreme court precedence (Castle rock VS. Gonzales 2005) that individuals cannot hold law enforcement accountable for their inability to protect, how can it be argued that relying on oneself for protection is anything other than necessary?

    When a government specifically states that it has no accountability to protect you, why would you rely on that?

    Even on a real world basis, this “stand your ground” phobia plays out a tired argument. That for some reason the “streets running red with blood” scenario failed to materialize, even though it has had 27 years to come about. As what it showcased in the depicted example is the same hyperbole argued when the first “Shall issue” laws where being debated in Florida in 1987.

    Really, this is a blatant misrepresentation attempting to pull of satire, with the nuance of a 12 ounce hammer used for dental surgery.

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    • Sifaka? Three words for you: Strunk and White. Your syntax and sentence construction is absoutely horrendous. In addition, tossing around $5 words that you apparently don’t understand, doesn’t help your “cause” either.

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    • ” What is wrong for the individual cannot be made right by a majority.” A totally false statement, made worse by the hubris with which it was delivered. Ask the Jews who survived the death camps, the gays that survived Stone Wall, ask Rosa Parks. All individuals who would take to task your cynical view, and ask you to revisit history.

      When did the government “specifically state that it has no accountability to protect you”? What country do you live in? It is that actual part of the government that is skewed and perverted when privatized.

      Socialism became a dirty word as soon as Capitalists realized that it gave the individual rights and protections that made them equals in the eyes of the law. And, it is exactly your ‘dentistry’ analogy that describes the Capitalist hammer on the working poor.

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      • There were 2 cases that basically defined how Police have no duty to protect you. Warren v DC 1981, and Castle Rock v Gonzales. both state Police have no duty to protect you, even if you file a protection order.

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      • The police have no legal liability if they fail to protect you, but they have an obligation to enforce the law–this means that, as long as the law is written in a way that protects you, the police are obligated to follow it and thus protect you indirectly (ex. the police must arrest murderers, even if they don’t want to).

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      • This is not true jsager99. The police do not need to arrest murderers. We have already seen recently that when put to the test, the Police definitely have no duty to intervene to stop a serial killer, even if they are directly witnessing those actions. That happened fairly recently in New York, Joseph Lozito was attacked by a serial killer while the Police watched through the window of the locked forward cab of a train… fortunately Mr. Lozito won the struggle, but almost died doing so. When he sued the city for the Police not stepping in when they were actually on the train to catch said serial killer, the court cited Warren v. DC, and told Mr. Lozito the Police had no duty to protect him from a murderer.

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      • The gays that “survived” the Stonewall? The police that raided the Stonewall Inn did not go there with the intention to kill anyone and no one died as a result of the riot. Plus, it was the police that were outnumbered that night and in danger.

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      • All your examples are of people being persecuted by governments because the majority wanted them to be. It’s your hubris to say that segregation, the holocaust, and Sodomy laws don’t come from governments.

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  2. Interesting article. I anticipated you writing something about this movie sequel. Did you see the first one? The Purge explained why the “holiday” was implemented. Before the Purge, crime and poverty were out of control and the US seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Afterwards, crime and unemployment plummeted and the US became a virtual Utopia except for one 12 hour period on one night every year. By the way, the people who choose to purge are not standing their ground. They are aggressively seeking others to kill. The people who choose to stay home and wait out the night are the ones who actually “stand their ground”. During the annual purge, all crime is legal (with the exception of using weapons of class 4 or higher and killing certain high ranking government officials) so stand your ground would not even be an issue.

    The movies do send the message that the poor are preyed upon. However, the poor also have the right to purge and can kill as many rich people as they can in one night if they choose to do so. In the first movie, a rich family chooses to “lock in” and not participate. They soon have to defend themselves from other rich people after they choose to give sanctuary to a homeless black man who is being hunted by a group of young, upper class whites. At the end of the first movie, the family is almost murdered by their rich neighbors who decide to use the night as a way to deal with their jealousy and contempt for the family because they are the most wealthy family in the neighborhood. You failed to mention that at the end of the second movie (spoiler alert) that a small army of heavily armed poor people assaults a building where rich people have gathered to watch other people purge. Also the photo that you included which shows the elderly black man sitting in a chair surrounded by four obviously wealthy white people who intend to kill him requires some explanation. That man was terminally ill and resided with his daughter and grand daughter. His care was a tremendous burden on them and he contacted the wealthy white family and offered to allow them to kill him during the Purge for the sum of $100,000 which had been deposited into his daughter’s bank account.

    Do you remember the scene from the second movie (spoiler alert) where the five people are walking through the financial district and see the body of the murdered banker hanging above the bank door? The corpse has a sign attached to it basically stating that whoever killed him blamed him for having caused them to loose their pension and savings. You did disclose that in the second movie, it is learned that the government has to resort to hiring individuals to kill lower class citizens when the death toll isn’t as high as they wish it to be. This is because the majority of US citizens do not choose to purge and are not as blood thirsty as some would assume.

    Whenever a mass shooting occurs (I’m talking about real life now), there is no shortage of people who immediately blame the NRA instead of the inadequately funded mental health or criminal justice systems. Can you please show me one incident where it has been proven that Wayne Lapierre or any NRA representative staged a shooting and provided a weapon to someone and paid them to kill anyone? In other articles, you have mentioned hypothetical situations where armed citizens may cause “cross fires” by mistaking other armed citizens for criminals. However, you have yet to provide any information about one incident where this has occurred. This article makes it appear as though you believe that all people who own guns actually want to use them and kill another human being. If this were true, we would already have anarchy in the US since we have nearly 310,000,000 guns in civilian hands by some estimates. “In many ways the movie portrays an extreme illustration of the END-STATE for the NRA’s gun nut rhetoric.”? The NRA encourages law abiding Americans to exercise their constitutional rights and defend themselves and their country, but does not condone murder. Are you suggesting that all this time, the NRA and the extreme right wing members of the government have secretly been working together and conspiring to remove liberals from power for the purpose of killing the poor?

    P.S. I will remind you that George Zimmerman was acquitted in a court of law. I was not there that night on 02-26-2012 in Sanford, FL and did not see what happened. Were you there? Michael Dunn was convicted of three counts of second degree attempted murder. Why did you choose not to mention Oscar Pistorius? Do you believe that Reeva Steenkamp was not an innocent person who never really posed a threat?

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  3. The evidence suggest Trayvon Martin was a threat to George Zimmerman when he was sitting on him and punching him. Maybe he wasn’t originally a threat, but he became one.

    Dragging Zimmerman into your argument is a poor example and doesn’t accurately represent your point.

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