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Elite Squad II | Reviewing the Review


I read it on the Web site of the Instituto Ludwig von Mises Brasil.

Cristiano Fiori Chiocca reviews the film Tropa de Elite IIElite Squad II: The Enemy Within, directed by José Padilha.

As I may have mentioned, a recent regulatory clampdown on audiovisual content producers and distributors here in Brazil means that foreign-owned cable TV operations — Sony, Disney, Universal, Fox, A&E, TNT, Telecine, AXN, MGM, HBO, MAX, NatGeo, Discovery, History Channel … must air a certain proportion of content «made in Brazil».

I always think what a shame it is to see Brazilian theatrical talent relegated to the quick as a wink dubbing credits at the end of every Simpsons episode — and how it grates on your nerves that the dubbers chose to make Bart a baritone.

It is equally disappointing to see that the available back catalogue of the Brazilian film industry seems so shallow, though we hope that programmers will start digging deeper, striking it rich with such classics as Assalto ao Trêm-Pagador.

At any rate,, as our cable plan complies with regulation, we are starting to see the same movies over and over and over  and over, day after day after day — case in point: Elite Squad and Elite Squad II: The Enemy Within, two films about official corruption and the culture of violence in Rio de Janeiro.

This sort of regulatory activism  is just the sort of thing that drives the libertarians of the Instituto Millenium crazy.

Closely associated with ABERT, the Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters, on the one hand, and neoconservative and neoliberal movements in Germany and the U.S. — its game plan comes straight from the Atlas Toolkit — IMIL is mostly a forum for venomous libertarian rantings of the third degree.

A case in point is the Mises Institute’s review of Elite Squad II.

I translate, with interlinear commentary …

Elite Squad 2 starts out poking fun at a leftist intellectual, Diogo Fraga, an enemy of Nascimento, who later in the movie will be elected to the state assembly, As the film wears on, it portrays the repression of the drug trade by militias as successful, but also exposes other forms of corruption of the System — Padilha uses the term “System” instead of “State,” as he ought to. The mafias, or militias, as they are called, control all “illicit” activity in the communities they dominate …

A rapid pan gives us a glimpse of such business activities as financial services — i.e., loan-sharking –, water and gas distribution and van services, among others. To that extent, the film paints an accurate portrait of the informal economy.

In real life, however, people have to get by as best they can. They are not able to follow rules imposed by state regulators and therefore all business is conducted “in the Informality.”

The film goes on to show, correctly, that the population is held hostage to police who spend a great deal of their off-duty hours serving in militias, and who receive most of their income from the “security tax” paid by local residents.

And here Padilha reveals his blind spot: The State is doing exactly the same thing as the militias. It imposes taxes on services we never asked for and does this in the name of the right to taxation.

Yes, but the State promises representation and in Brazil at least is relatively efficient in making make sure the selection process is reliable and credible.

The Parapolitical Anti-State says, «Vote Quimby or I will blow your fucking brains out.» A scene from Elite Squad II shows the state governor at a BBQ with his campaign coordinators — militiamen all — in what the militia has turned into an “electoral corral.”

Likewise, aspects of the unholy matrimony of underworld finance and the political sphere is explored in depth in the film when a young reporter is caught inside a militia HQ full of illegal political campaigning materials.

The young woman is tortured and threatened with rape. The incident is suggested by the real-life story of a team of O DIA reporters from 2006 or 2007, let me check. Their editor ought to have been fired for placing them in danger, I thought at the time.

But why? Is it because community residents need to pay the militias in order to evolve their own economic activity?

Aside from engaging in robbery plain and simple, the militias also play a vital role in keeping these economic activities alive.

Aside from practicing taxation without representation and influencing consumer choices at gunpoint, the militias perform a public service?

Let me explain.

The film once again shows us militia members collecting license fees from informal van services.

Van operators are considered illegal by the State. Very few have a state license to operate in this market. In this way, state regulation defines all unlicensed van service operatores as criminals.

The militias — policemen who should be enforcing this law and arresting black-market van drivers — look the other way, allowing the services to operate in return for a fee. In permitting this “crime” to continue, the militias are benefiting hundreds of passengers who use these services daily.

Our reviewer forgets the van wars of several years ago.

An unforgettable image from that time: 10 black-clad ninja cadavers discovered in an alt.van service’s VW bus full of military-grade assault rifles.

As we were leaving the movie theater after seeing the film, I teased a friend of mine: If someone is bringing in illegal medicine that could save your grandmother’s life, should he be considered a criminal? And what about the customs official who allows the medicine into the country in exchange for a modest cash contribution: Is he helping or hurting society?

The first question — which must be answered before proceeding to the second, more important one is: Who entrusted so much power to the militias? Who gives the customs official so much power over us?

A monopoly over the legitimate use of force in a geographical area, in which democracy is a necessary and sufficient condition for legitimacy.

How is it that a policeman can extort us when he catches us with an open container or threaten to ticket a gas station for lacking the proper documentation? …

Note here that the act of extortion may take range from a modest bribe to heavy legal penalties: fines, arrest, and so on. In the case of economic activity, enforcement of these laws also affects the consumers of these goods and services.

We are talking here about crimes that are victimless.

In recent years, the regulators have invaded every aspect of our lives. You cannot make a move without infringing on some law or other. It is impossible to open a business without breaking the law.

Everything is controlled by the bureaucrats. The bingo player is a criminal, as is the marijuana smoker, and the distribution of these goods and services are grave offenses. But who does it hurt if Dona Isolda plays the nickel-hunter machine or Bob tokes on a joint?

No one!

The state commits the true crime in regulating the free exchange of goods and services among free individuals.

Much has been said about the violence of the drug traffic, but this violence is the fruit of prohibition. Vans are outlawed and a black-market van mafia springs up. Rice is outlawed and a black market in rice springs up. Shampoo is outlawed and we see shooting wars among the shampoo gangs.

To the extent that the state criminalizes — regulates or controls — the free exchange of goods and services among free individuals, we are ever more at the mercy of those who arbitrarily enforce the laws, no matter how idiotic those laws may be.

We now turn to the second question: Who pressures the State to regulate and criminalize free economic exchanges?

At the end of Elite Squad 2, the leftist state assemblyman becomes the hero of the piece — a bastion of truth and morality. But what is he really defending?

Diogo Fraga is clearly identfiable as a member of the PSOL — the film shows him campaigning for office and agitating in his lectures.

He was in fact based on Marcelo Freixo of the PSOL, a member of the city legislature who investigated militias in the city and state..

The PSOL as we know it today may seem to many like a parody of itself , but it continues to serves as the ideological wing of socialism and communism and demands no less than that the state regulate all human activity.

Those who defend this ideology also want to feed “the System” …

It is not for nothing that communist nations sustain themselves through the activity of mafias that smuggle everything from food to toilet paper.

Paraguayan Marlboros and Windows 8 on pirated DVDs that hit the streets before Microsoft even launches — the black markets here are almost too big to fail.

That’s how things are in Cuba and North Korea — in the latter, thanks to the efficiency of law enforcement, the population is starving to death.

In short: Elite Troop 2 is way off the mark.

I don’t think so.

The film sticks close to the literal truth here.

After the CPI of Militias in 2006, Rio state and municipal lawmakers actually did go to jail for their role in militia schemes.

The final scenes in the film show the former movers and shakers in a squalid, overcrowded prison. And recent headlines suggest they may have company soon.

But Padilha is no fool. IMHO, he has simply knuckled under to an establishment that branded the first Elite Troop film as fascist in outlook.

The problem is not corrupt legislators, it is idealistic lawmakers who demand to regulate and control every aspect of society. They are the cause of all our problems.

No, the problem is agents of the State who privatize the means of coercive violence — how many times have we read that execution-style killings were carried out using .40 ammunition reserved for police forces? — for private gain when the State fails to equip, train and pay them adequately.