Wakanda Forever borrows from Wagner Group playbook
The film's anti-French tropes lean into the Russian militia's propaganda
This weekend, a clip from the Hollywood film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, tweeted out by French journalist Jean Bexon, went viral. It depicts a group of rapacious French mercenaries humiliated and forced to take the knee in front of the United Nations for attempting to loot an African country’s natural resources. The country is fictional, but the parallels were clear enough for the French Minister of Defence Sébastien Lecornu to “strongly condemn this false and deceptive representation of [France’s] armed forces.”
📸|Propagande – Dans la dernière production américaine Marvel (Black Panther Wakanda Forever), les mauvais mercenaires français qui opèrent au Mali sont habillés comme des soldats de l'opération Barkhane. pic.twitter.com/8qKJnutvL5
— Jean Bexon (@jean_bexon) February 11, 2023
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While this might seem like an overreaction to Hollywood’s milquetoast tropes on colonialism, it appears as though there are many other aspects of the film that are in fact leaning into Wagner Group propaganda.
Over the last decade or so, the Russian mercenary group has been waging a major information war against its adversaries, especially against France in Western Africa. Ranging from cheap cartoons that frame French soldiers as invading zombies or snakes to films like Tourist, the themes remain the same: Russia’s mercenaries are the gallant saviours of the locals whereas the French are parasitic “demons”.
Those clips have gone viral through social media, but also via radios in countries with less internet access. Wagner pays local influencers to spread their talking points and even had some success recruiting local mercenaries. The mercenary group only narrowly missed a major propaganda coup when Wagner men attempted to stage a mass grave near one of France’s freshly abandoned bases in Gossi in Mali, only for their ploy to be caught on camera by a drone.
Parts of the Wakanda film are set in Ansongo, in the Gao region of Mali, where French soldiers first intervened and are still regularly targeted by jihadists. In the movie, the French mercenaries (that have been hired Wagner-style by the French government) use their outpost in Ansongo to prey on Wakanda’s natural resources.
But most disturbingly, Marvel took scrupulous care to equip the French mercenaries with uniforms (including battle fatigues) worn by French soldiers in the region for the past decade. Understandably, Lecornu thus saw in the movie a “serious informational attack” against his army. No doubt Wagner is grateful that one of the most powerful anti-French pieces of propaganda of the past decade was produced in America.
It’s easy to forget that it was at the request of the Malian government that France intervened a decade ago to save the country from a hostile takeover by jihadists. The conflict against these jihadist groups subsequently spread to the larger Sahel region at the cost of 58 French soldiers and billions of euros. And while in 2013 the French were warmly heralded as liberators, today they are increasingly seen as occupiers. Wagner propaganda was crucial to the souring of those relations.
Marvel are so far yet to respond to the controversy. It is unlikely they ever will. But this is an opportunity for France to be much more forceful in defending the raison d’être of its struggle at home and abroad against jihadism and its allies. It should also make the case very clearly that if a movie sounds at times like Wagner-style propaganda, then it might want to reconsider exactly which audience this is for.
Good for the French. A few years ago I would have said this was an overreaction but now I think it is important to correct the record.
A friend of mine told me recently that he thought that the British police were very corrupt. I asked why and his evidence was the BBC drama Line of Duty!
Yes, I’m horrified by how many people base their political views on popular TV tropes.
I suppose it is just the old instinct that there is no smoke without fire. If the TV writers say it is like this, then there must be some truth in it, rather than just being plucked out of thin air.
With Line of Duty, it seemed to me that the writer came up with a conspiracy drama without any reference to real life but added grit by having his characters use realistic sounding jargon and acronyms. That is fine – his job is to come up with the most exciting script he can. It isn’t his fault how people react to it. But it is still troubling that normal, intelligent people do take it as being a representation of the truth.
With this story, people will just assume that there are French mercenaries running around Africa to steal natural resources. It is right that the French army points out that this is not true. Maybe the Home Office should have objected to the representation of the police as bent in LoD.
The trouble is that the “Western bogeyman” narrative has been repeated so much that supposedly intelligent people now take it as a “just so” story, which requires neither evidence nor reason. Holding such views is now taken as proof in and of itself of being intellectual.
Everyday I remind myself to be patient..as 50% of the population or folks that you bump into daily have IQs under 100….
They’re not very corrupt, but they are quite corrupt. Policemen, policemen, everywhere, to fine you for a “traffic offence”, or for sending naughty tweets, but just try and spot one when there’s a bunch of thugs beating someone up, or hurling litter about and shouting profanities. The few times I have needed them they were reluctant even to record the crime, presumably because if they did, it would make their “statistics look bad”.
(But point taken re Line of Duty)
Nasty racist franchise, unbelievable how this stuff is considered acceptable.
Remember when this craze swept the world – or at least the parts where debasement and Struggle sessions are so popular amongst certain ethnicities.
I still have that image of Pilosi ‘taking the knee’ in the Senate – the world’s single most insincere gesture in all history…. and Cresida in London? Wow………The symbolism in this image above is amazing –
haha, a declining empire, the West …..
Wakanda is a nation that believes in strong borders so that it can look after national self interest. It creates them-and-us distinctions between its “own kind” and outsiders.
In short, the whole tale is pro establishment while at the same time billing itself as anti-establishment. In our crazy world it gets away with this because national self interest by a country representing an in-group is seen as heroic, while exactly the same ambitions by the out-group is considered “extreme right wing”.
I suppose it speaks to the lack of self awareness that this kind of doublethink is gobbled up without any hint of cognitive load stemming from this contradiction.
The parallels between a story about a technologically advanced ‘ethnostate’ surrounded by rapacious neighbours and reality never fail to amuse.
It’s all comparative. The French are renowned for never having really let go of their former colonies in West Africa. It isn’t unfair when they prop up horrible dictators, run closed shops when it comes to military/infrastructure deals and have always maintained French military units in the region who get involved in internal affairs etc. The equivalent would be if we had gone in to sort Mugabe out and still had troops in Zimbabwe/SA long after our colonial rule had ended. It is this stereotype that is being played upon. Maybe France should keep their noses out of their old colonies as we do.
Similarly those thinking the British police are corrupt clearly haven’t had many dealings with police in other parts of the world. By comparison they are paragons of virtue even if they are shit at their jobs and have to enforce unpopular laws. That doesn’t make them corrupt.
Well – I am just glad to see they let the mercenaries keep their combat knee pads on when kneeling, a very nice little gesture.
Whole generations are being steadily indoctrinated to see all white people as oppressors. A false sense of grievance is being sown aided and abetted by the academic establishment with their embrace of CRT.
History shows what happens when this is done deliberately. It doesn’t lead to a happy place.
Given the direction Disney has gone in the last decade, it’s interesting to see that now there is pushback.
More Hollywood/Disney hatemongering against European people. Nothing new there. The real question is whether the modern black audience they crave to replace pale stale male moviegoers will fall for this silliness.
Watched this movie recently & felt uncomfortable & exploited as a viewer at the opening scenes setting up the French in this way. Also the woke taking of the knee which the soldiers had to do to the black Wakandans (all black American & British actors). It seemed Marvel was untypically taking a current political line in what have always been entertaining fantastical films, weaving in notions of ongoing French/western imperialism & of course the enforced single knee taking. Thankfully that plot line didn’t continue through the film & the French never reappeared, which was interesting.
Too bad we can’t truss up the people who made this and ship them off to the jihadists, where they can find “a new definition of pain and suffering”. (Well, the pit of Carkoon is a long wayaway.)
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