Few would think there is a discernible link between the mega-behemoth conclusion of The Avengers cinematic macro-series and the odious white nationalist ideologue John Tanton, whose major hobby over the past few decades has been infiltrating various liberal-progressive organizations like Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club so to dupe gullible members into proliferating his particular brand of xenophobic nativism.
By contrast, Avengers: Endgame, which brings to completion the Marvel Cinematic Universe Infinity Saga of 22 different inter-connected superhero action films, is the escapist fare that audiences turn to for a break. They look to these pictures to exit from a reality where Tanton’s diabolism is part of a hard right that has seen a morale boost in some quarters owing to the election of President Donald Trump. (Whether that political force is growing is debatable owing to the sensationalism [bordering on outright lunacy] of the hypocritical liberal press, which has spent the past three years screaming to the heavens about…Russian espionage that would be at home in a Marvel Comics title featuring The Avengers?)
But no, in fact, there is a real link between Tanton and the new Marvel film…
And his name is Thomas Malthus!
Economist Dr. Michael Hudson writes in his J Is for Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception:
[Thomas] Malthus [1766-1834] is best known for his population theory…. Malthus…blame[d] the victims (the poor) for their poverty by warning that they would respond to higher wages simply by having more children. Their tendency toward “geometric growth” would keep their wage levels down. In reality, the normal response to rising incomes has been falling reproduction rates as families spend their income on elevating the educational, living and housing standards of their children (usually on credit).
This economist has been the subject of either adulation or lampooning for over a century now, depending on where one’s loyalties lay. No less than Karl Marx devoted an entire polemical chapter of Capital Vol. 4: Theories of Surplus Value to rebuking Malthusian theory for being “written in the interests of the capitalists against the workers and in the interests of the aristocracy, Church, tax-eaters, toadies, etc., against the capitalists.” In our era, plenty of amateur non-economists latch onto Malthusian theories in order to build a pseudo-scientific argument about why population growth is linked with economic chaos. In the hands of determined xenophobes and racists like John Tanton or Breitbart News, it is the kernel of a herrenvolk communitarian praxis that underwrites the thinking of militant white nationalists who aspire to an apocalyptic race war.
Of course, in the hands of Marvel super-villain Thanos, it is the reason to halve the entire population of the universe.
Indeed, the entirety of the past 22 Marvel films was about the Mad Titan trying to collect the six Infinity Stones into a gauntlet so he could use its power to eradicate 50% of living beings with the snap of his fingers (literally, just watch).
It is a sad and disturbing thing to acknowledge how closely the aspirations of someone like Steve Bannon align with those of the antagonist in one of the biggest box office hits of the decade.
Yet here we are.
The forced disappearing of Black Panther, Spider-Man, Wanda Maximoff, and Nick Fury can very easily be read as an analogy for the way ICE makes people disappear also, and not in some abstract, elitist intellectual way either. The wave of militant xenophobia fostered by the GOP and President Trump is utilized by John Tanton’s Malthusian misconception of political economy, as is the case with Thanos (though it bears mentioning that I am more certain that Tanton would still be a monster had he never heard of Malthus, whereas I am convinced of the opposite being possible with the comic book character). Hell, on this September 5, 2015 version of the Trump campaign website, they actually link to a Tanton website!
But this is what makes the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame that much more rewarding.
Look, I’ve got no problem saying that I find acting in the Marvel films by and large to be on the bland side and the very conservative side when you tease out the political inclinations of the constituent super-heroes. Even Black Panther (which I found to be stunning in its design and screenplay) and Guardians of the Galaxy (which was twice a pitch-perfect comedy slam dunk) have an underlying political ideology that is very reactionary. The entire Avengers project (in the story, that is) is a multi-decade military-industrial smorgasbord that would lead you to believe that the Pentagon can do no wrong and instead is a benign force for positive change on the international stage, something way to the right of Ron Paul! And furthermore, it’s important to point out here that Tanton sometimes gets a little too much hype as an individual actor as opposed to indicting the wider systems that terrorize Black and Brown workers.
But with that said (while giving away no spoilers here), this final picture ends with a multi-ethnic international (well, actually intergalactic and inter-dimensional) super-army destroying the Malthusian evil-doer once and for all.
And that is what in the end of this nightmare will also bring about the destruction of not just Trump, Bannon, and Tanton but Trump-ism, this virulent strain of Malthusian white nationalism that has grown in profile not since 2016 but truly since 2004, when the first conspiracy theories about Barack Obama made their debut, and which were given further buttress two years later by antagonism to the May Day “A Day Without Immigrants” protests. What and how it will look in the final formulation is hard for me to completely envision because that day is a long way away still (though I would look to W.E.B. Du Bois for some hints).
But I do suspect it will be super…