While it is hard to dispute that John F. Kennedy was the victim of an assassination conspiracy, that the rogue assassins in the Nation of Islam who shot Malcolm X were on the payroll of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that the Black Panthers were neutralized by the strategic deployment of drugs into the ghetto by the FBI's COINTELPRO program, that Nixon's criminal machinations were related to the big money concerns of the Military Industrial Complex, the filmmakers present these suppressed conspiracies as unquestionable fact, as if to say, like the producers of "LAPD": "What you are about to see is real. There are no re-enactments." In fact, not only are the majority of known historical events re-enactments — tweaked for maximum dramatic effect — these films "re-enact" scenes which are not recorded anywhere, filling in the holes in the conspiracy theories upon which the films are based. Nowhere do the filmmakers say, "This is my interpretation of what may have happened," nor do they say, as does THE THIN BLUE LINE, "Everything is someone's interpretation of what may have happened." Instead, drunk with the manipulative power of film, these directors declaim: "Forget what you saw on the evening news, this is what really happened." It is ironic, yet strangely appropriate, that the majority of real history in JFK — actual period newscasts, footage of Martin Luther King, the assassination nf Bobby Kennedy — appears on TV in the living room of Kevin Costner's character Jim Garrison, reversing the reality principle and reminding us that, since the 1950's, most of our memories of important events are TV images.

Talk!One can only hope that Hollywood has exhausted the list of controversial 1960s events to exhume and re-enact (Oliver Stone has already taken care of most of them), yet "Reality TV" shows no sign of obsolescence. New "reality-based" shows proliferate. "Cops" has turned out a series of best-selling videos, one of which — "Cops: Too Hot for TV" — contains a clip that neatly summarizes the near-total erasure of the boundaries between truth and fiction hastened by these shows and films. Among its many charms, "Too Hot for TV" differs from regular episodes by giving voice to the harassed suspects, if only to expose their laughable intoxication or frothing hatred. "Don't put your fucking dick in my ass, you cocksucking faggot whores!" pleads one less-than-compliant detainee. "You want to buttfuck me. … I was fine until you decided to molest me," observes another. But most telling of all are the reactions of one drunk woman to her arrest: "Is this 'Hidden Video'? I watch 'Hidden Video' all the time." After being assured that the police are not from "Hidden Video", and that "this is not a joke," the woman, totally adrift in the reality/fiction continuum, continues hopefully, "Are you a celebrity? Are you like Matlock?" The answer, both yes and no, is more complicated than she could ever imagine.   </end>

Andrew Hultkrans is a writer and self-admitted dilettante whose hemming and hawing about media, advertising, pop culture, and the occasional lunatic frequently appears in Artforum, as well as in Mondo 2000, Wired, Filmmaker, Fringeware Review, and several books, including bOING bOING's Happy Mutant Handbook and R.U. Sirius & St. Jude's How to Mutate and Take Over the World. He does his loose living in San Francisco.

Photos by Greg Kuchmek