Here's the video:
It stands on its own as agitprop-cum-entertainment for the far right, which is filled with armchair revolutionaries whose favorite fantasies involve the same elements used in this video: attractive people, video-game-like locations, nightmarish bureaucracies and the world-changing power of their own oratory. "Let our lives be the spark that ignites the fire of liberty," the protagonist shouts at one point. His words resonate with memories of historical heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice rather than yield to tyranny.
"I would so totally do that," a right-wing fantasy rebel might mutter in response.
"We are a movement on fire!" the video's hero shouts as a crowd cheers. "Will you take up the torch?" Absolutely, our viewer mumbles to himself ... "Hey, I hear they're serving free hors d'ouevres at the Pajamas Media booth...."
But this video's imagery will have special resonance for American evangelicals who believe the End Times are near. "Movement on Fire" draws heavily on the so-called "Tribulation" films of the 1970s and 1980s. Among the earliest and best-known of these films are A Thief in the Night, Distant Thunder, Image of the Beast and The Prodigal Planet, all of which were made by Iowa-based Russell S. Doughten Jr.
Doughten's previous film credits were limited to an associate producer credit for The Blob (the original Steve McQueen version) and production duties for grindhouse productions The Hostage and Fever Heat. But Christian filmmaking proved to be his forte. Doughten's website claims that "over six million have come to Christ through our motion pictures," and while the figure can't be independently verified, many Christians in their 30s and 40s recall being terrified by the films when they were young.
All but unknown outside evangelical circles, Doughten's films became required viewing in many homes, religious schools, and churches. Other filmmakers soon followed in Doughten's footsteps with films like Mark of the Beast and Years of the Beast.
These films portrayed centralized government as Evil incarnate. Their scriptural source was the Book of Revelations, whose cryptic, evocative prophecies have fascinated and frightened believers for millennia. The same message resonates in "Movement On Fire," which opens with a young woman staring across a river toward a city. "It was created to give us freedom," she says in a voice-over as a torch burns beside her. "Our city became a great beacon of liberty and hope to the world." The wind lightly ruffles her hair. "It was a shining city on a hill," she adds, quoting the phrase that passed from the Bible to Puritan minister John Winthrop before winding up in Ronald Reagan's 1976 concession speech.
"But 15 years ago," says the narrator, "something happened." Shadowy hooded figures creep up behind her. "Freedom died." In a shot that moves so quickly we barely see it, one of the figures covers her eyes.
News anchors report on the rise of the "Development Party," which took control of the city after winning control of its "Senate." (Hmmm. Cities don't have "Senates." Who could they be talking about?) We see a gray-haired man with large, black, nearly pupil-less eyes. "All must contribute," the dead-eyed "Troy Marcus" intones, "because from each, everything shall be given to all."
Many modern fundamentalists have been taught that government is the "Beast" of prophecy, a Satanic and dictatorial force which may be given a human form or an artificially synthesized persona in order to beguile and doom humanity:
"And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed."
Millions of Americans were taught that Evil's earthly reign will begin with a mysterious and charismatic figure who has no real background. Birtherism, anyone? No wonder Sarah Palin wowed the same CPAC crowd with her line, "More background checks? Dandy idea, Mr. President -- should've started with yours."
Some evangelical Christians believe that the End Times will be at hand when this prophecy is fulfilled: "... he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."
Any centralized database or tracking system can be the Mark of the Beast. Bar codes were a source of particular fear when they were first introduced, as can be seen in this scene from 1980s Image of the Beast: