Jack Ryan: Social Justice Warrior

Season two of Jack Ryan is the answer to a question nobody asked: How could the CIA effect regime change in Venezuela with the blessing of elite liberals? The answer only takes a minute of screen time in which Jack Ryan claims that Venezuela is run by a nationalist tyrant who has impoverished the country despite its great natural resources. But, Ryan adds, miraculously, there is a savior in waiting, a social justice female academic, running against him in upcoming elections.

The show further reassures its woke audience by segregating the Hispanic antagonists by color—white for the tyrant, but brown for the social justice heroine, just in case good and evil aren’t painfully clear. Further still, daring American liberals, both black and white, criticize the tyrant to his face and walk away unscathed. The show manages to be self-righteous about an entirely inverted realty—a Venezuela that is somehow the victim of nationalism in need of social justice.

Why is this fictional inversion of the reality in Venezuela necessary? Liberals can allow themselves to care for Venezuelans only if they pretend it’s not the socialist Maduro, with help from communists in Castro’s Cuba, destroying the lives of millions of people—right now and for generations to come. And if you doubt the liberal desire to identify more with tyrants murdering Americans than with America itself, just remember the recent Iran hysteria. Liberals were less forthcoming than the Iranian media about Soleimani’s real legacy.

Indeed, the show is plagued by this immoral refusal of the truth. Many on the Left cannot find it in their hearts to support the protestors in Hong Kong seeking freedom from China. At the same time, they still cannot accept that communist China has become the worst tyranny on the planet, despite its regime having placed at least a million Muslim Uyghurs in a new gulag system. So also with the ongoing Iranian protests or the previous ones last November—the Left likes Ayatollah Khamenei because he’s an America-hating tyrant.

A further problem is that liberals believe America is only justified in overthrowing a regime if it is a response to perfect injustice, irrespective of American interests, which preferably are not involved at all. The show’s creators meet these stringent conditions by having the Venezuelan regime murder an American senator in Caracas—himself Hispanic, a veteran, and a sort of father figure to Jack Ryan—in some conspiracy connected to the tyrant. It is only under these conditions that Ryan believes himself to be forced, against his will, to overthrow a tyranny.

Aside from distractions, the plot is a mix of such events. Later in the season, Jim Greer, Jack’s primary mentor, who is black and Muslim—again, in order to show the correct woke morality—is captured and tortured by the tyrant’s men. This, of course, further inspires Ryan to take action against the regime and save Greer.

The show also offers a suitable heroine to lead the Venezuelan people out of misery. The show sets the future female president up as an idol, a perfect mother to her family and a courageous revolutionary. Crowds at campaign events adore her as she calls for revolution and an end to poverty. She talks about hunger but seems to live in luxury, indeed paradise, and everyone around her is just short of model pretty. Hers is photo-op heroism, without sacrifice, danger, or discomfort.

Nor have liberals escaped their longstanding sentimentality about evil. The misery of more than 30 million Venezuelans is no reason to avoid scenes where the tyrant and his right-hand man reminisce about their childhood patriotism and good intentions. This might seem gratuitous and merely an inability to take tyranny seriously—but it’s not. Sentimentality about cruelty simply prepares viewers for the overarching theme of the show: colonialism is evil, and American capitalism is to blame.

In this fictive universe, foreign tyrants offer little competition to American senators when it comes to orchestrating evil for profit. When Ryan unveils the season’s main conspiracy, led by a U.S. senator—obviously, a rich, white man—the story finally achieves the complete liberal vision of politics. The enemy was us all along!

The show’s obsession with skin color as morality might appear to be simple woke virtue signaling, or perhaps a well-meaning overreaction to America’s past racism. But it goes beyond this. It is, in fact, the direct result of a view of world politics where America acts only for the advancement of its colonial schemes and the pursuit of wealth, not honor or principle. American exploitation explains every tyrant in the world.

This also explains the obvious madness of depicting Venezuela as a nationalist tyranny in need of the socialist revolution, when in reality that revolution already occurred and continues to beat and starve its people. But from the liberal point of view, the real evil is always American capitalist exploitation—hence the need for more socialism.

Moreover, this mentality forces the Left to view nationalism as a form of false consciousness—a favorite old Marxist phrase. This remains an understandable defensive mistake, since it starts, like the tyrant, from good intentions about family and community, but eventually leads to violence. Nationalists lack an adequate understanding of the evils of capitalism, and America especially. And so they fail to see that without the socialist revolution, even good intentions are doomed to be captured by capitalism.

So most of what’s wrong with the show, especially the obviously crazy or sentimental moments, follows from the standard Marxist vision, muddled though it is by woke passions. This ideological framework frequently gets in the way of some good old-fashioned action, in which Ryan and his fellow spooks and Special Forces operators kick ass and take names. But the framework isn’t incidental. It is what lets the writers recast the reality of Venezuela today.

You might not think of the Marxist temptation our liberals keep succumbing to as a kind of fantasy or cosplay, but it is. Since TV sells us political fantasies with worrisome regularity, why not this one, too? Admittedly, Marx thought of his work as rigorously scientific, and the politics he inspired was deadly serious. America’s Left elites, however, have never understood Marxism or socialism as a concrete regime. To them, it’s mostly a rebellious fantasy, albeit a dangerous one.

Other parts of the show, especially the action, are quite good and all shot in HDR (high dynamic range), which is the new standard for prestige TV. The acting is passable and the production is quite impressive, which has the effect of beautifying a country that is supposedly starving. This way, viewers who have no idea about the realities of Venezuela can enjoy the thriller without any concerns.

For those who do know enough to see what’s wrong with Jack Ryan’s Venezuela, it’s trickier. To achieve the same effect, imagine Xi Jinping and China are misunderstood victims of American capitalism and the Uyghurs in the gulags are in need of more socialist brainwashing—which must be even truer for the wealthy protesters in Hong Kong. Or imagine Ayatollah Khamenei is a victim of capitalism and the protesters in the streets of Iranian cities are in need of Marx to rid them of their false consciousness problems.

The new Jack Ryan has moved on from its focus on Jack as a wounded warrior to a new effort to undermine the idea of American decency as a whole—a perversion of Tom Clancy’s legacy.