“There really is only one essential ingredient to fascism—victimhood.”
This political season seems fraught with warnings of fascism and racially charged rhetoric. Campaigns have often used fear and xenophobia as foundations. “Black Lives Matter”, “Blue Lives Matter”, “All Lives Matter” vie for media attention. Sometimes it seems that we are on a powder keg and the fuse is burning. In reality there are those who would like to set off that powder keg, and they may not be who we think they are. Imperium, inspired by real events, is the story of a young FBI agent who infiltrated the White Supremacist movement.
After radioactive material goes missing from a truck accident, the FBI fears terrorists may have gotten their hands on it and could make a dirty bomb. Most agents are concentrating on possible Islamic terrorists, but Agent Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette) remembers that the Oklahoma City Bombing was done by a White Supremacist hoping to start a race war. She recruits newbie agent Nate Foster (Daniel Radcliffe) to go underground in an attempt to find the culprits.
For Foster it is a descent into a very strange land. He discovers that the movement is much more varied than we might think. It is not a monolith of hate, but rather various groups with some common values that don’t always get along. There are skinheads, groups that try to turn the Bible into Nazi doctrine and use their church as cover for their activities, a nationally known hatemongering radio host, even nice middle class people who host suburban barbeques and listen to classical music all the while espousing racial animosity.
These are not just angry, crazy people (although some certainly are). They see the world through lenses that reflect not just racism, but are tied to a whole set of literature and philosophy that may have no credence outside the movement, but is taken as ultimate truth by those within it. Such certainly makes it nearly impossible to bring reason into the discussion.
While the film is designed as an action-thriller (and works moderately well as such), it may better serve as exposure to the depth of the hatred that exists in parts of our society. We may often think it is a small and therefore powerless group, but many of the ideas they espouse have found their ways into the political discussion this year in seemingly acceptable forms. Hatred and fear, especially when cloaked in lies purporting to be truth, is not what either America or the Kingdom of God are about. Perhaps this film will help us recognize the kinds of language that have given rise in some people’s minds of the threat of fascism in the current political climate.
Photos courtesy of Lionsgate Premiere