Citizen Action Monitor

How did world’s most powerful country fail so thoroughly in its response to a global pandemic?

Totally Under Control” film traces Trump administration’s incompetence, corruption and denial in the face of COVID-19. —

No 2668 Posted by fw, October 10, 2020 —

Dorothy Woodend

“Interviewees — a who’s who of scientists, doctors and career civil servants — were sent specially-designed cameras to film themselves dropping truth bombs. These are calm and logical people who found themselves in the midst of a rapidly-accelerating crisis. Well-trained, experienced and rational, almost to a fault, the thing that seems to unite them all is not being able to comprehend what the hell was happening, even as it happened. No matter how long and loud they screamed about the threat of the virus, the response from government leaders was at best sluggardly, and at worst completely non-existent. It’s little wonder that the common emotional response throughout the film is exasperation, anger and a profound confusion. … The film directs the bulk of its fury at U.S. President Donald Trump, laying the blame squarely at the feet of one person, “the manager” as it were, of a perfect shit storm. Trump certainly bears responsibility for the state of the nation, but he had a fair amount of help from toadying sycophants along the way. Many other officials are name checked for different levels of incompetence and self-interest in the film.”Dorothy Woodend, The Tyee

Dorothy Woodend is culture editor of The Tyee.

“On January 20th, 2020 the US and South Korea both discovered their first cases of COVID-19. However, 9 months later, the novel Coronavirus has claimed the lives of over 200,000 Americans and caused staggering economic damage, while in South Korea, there were no significant lockdowns and, in an urbanized population of 51 million, only 344 lives have been lost. Where did we go wrong? As the presidential election nears, Americans are increasingly enraged by a lack of clear leadership, endemic political corruption and left to wonder how did the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world manage to fail so thoroughly in its response to a global pandemic? It will be a generation before we know the full extent of the damage wrought by this pandemic, but Totally Under Control will stand as the definitive account of the Trump administration’s incompetence, corruption and denial in the face of this global pandemic.” Text from the Official Trailer of the film, Totally Under Control.

Below is my slightly edited repost of Dorothy Woodend’s review of a new documentary film titled “Totally Under Control.” Accompanying the article are my added subheadings, text highlighting, and my embedded You Tube video of the 2-minute “Totally” trailer, which Woodend also includes in her review.

To read Dorothy’s original article and view the trailer on The Tyee’s website, click on the following linked title.

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America Is Spiralling in New Documentary ‘Totally Under Control’ by Dorothy Woodend, The Tyee, October 8, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis down south, in brutal detail. The question is, can we stomach any more of this?

TOTALLY UNDER CONTROL | Official Trailer HD by Elevation Pictures | You Tube, October 2, 2020 (2-min)

Spare pity for future folks who try to make sense of America’s response to COVID-19

It will be interesting to read how the history books of the future summarize this pandemical period. One can only imagine historians and academics not yet born poring over the mountain of information — dates, emails, statistics, task forces and endless media coverage — and trying to understand. Spare some pity for those future folks, because so much of what’s happened this year makes no sense at all. But nowhere is this confounding quality more densely aggregated [collected] than in the American response to COVID-19.

Pandemical information chaos is central to a new documentary made in secrecy over five months

The chaos is at the heart of Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger’s new documentary, Totally Under Control. Part of the mythos [story regarded as historical but not authenticated] of the film is that it was made in secrecy over the past five months.

Panel of experts filming themselves had difficulty understanding “what the hell was happening”

Interviewees — a who’s who of scientists, doctors and career civil servants — were sent specially-designed cameras to film themselves dropping truth bombs. These are calm and logical people who found themselves in the midst of a rapidly-accelerating crisis. Well-trained, experienced and rational, almost to a fault, the thing that seems to unite them all is not being able to comprehend what the hell was happening, even as it happened.

The film presents Washington’s response to the pandemic was at best plodding, at worst non-existent

No matter how long and loud they screamed about the threat of the virus, the response from government leaders was at best sluggardly, and at worst completely non-existent. It’s little wonder that the common emotional response throughout the film is exasperation, anger and a profound confusion.

How did it come to be this way? And more importantly, why?

And the story is far from over. — What will happen in the coming hours, days, weeks, and months?

As other critics have already indicated, the film might be a little too early to the party. The story isn’t done. Given the recent churn of events, it’s hard to hazard a guess about what will happen in the next 24 hours of the coronavirus, much less the coming weeks and months.

A mock exercise in 2019 predicted what a pandemic would unleash – government had a plan but ignored it

Totally’s narrative is strongest when it sticks to the earlier days of the outbreak. As the film makes clear, the idea of a global pandemic wasn’t an unexpected occurrence; in fact, a mock government exercise in 2019 entitled Crimson Contagion eerily predicted a lot of what actually happened in the spring of 2020. The U.S. government had a plan; it simply decided to ignore it. While other countries like South Korea, New Zealand or Iceland acted immediately and decisively, the American response to COVID-19 in the early days of February was slow, lackadaisical and often perversely illogical.

The film adds context to what has already been covered by other sources, including the Atlantic

What can this film add that hasn’t been covered in exhaustive and cogent fashion by the media already? The answer is simply more context. If you need a refresher, the Atlantic’s Ed Yong has covered much of the same ground, with precision and care.

The film records America’s relentless march of failure, plus a vision of what could and should have been

And while it’s interesting to put faces to names in the film, there is so much detail, so many tangential routes tracing everything from Jared Kushner’s failed task force to the rise and fall of hydroxychloroquine, that after a while your brain begs for a break. Not only from the relentless march of failure and the revolving cast of characters, but from the terrible vision of what could have and should have been.

The film saves the bulk of its fury for Trump, “the manager of a perfect shit storm,” but names names of other incompetent officials

The film directs the bulk of its fury at U.S. President Donald Trump, laying the blame squarely at the feet of one person, “the manager” as it were, of a perfect shit storm. Trump certainly bears responsibility for the state of the nation, but he had a fair amount of help from toadying sycophants along the way. Many other officials are name checked for different levels of incompetence and self-interest in the film.

What we’re witnessing is the abject failure of a once proud and capable country

What’s been consistently bewildering over the past seven months is watching a country that built its entire identity on courage, freedom and a cussed resistance to authority rendered incapable of fighting off the bully at its helm. The foundational spirit of Americans, steeped in almost every aspect of culture and education, is that theirs is the greatest country on Earth. Anything that contradicts this resounding faith is ignored or worse. As one of the film’s directors puts it, “Ignoring expert advice became an act of patriotism.”

Washington’s emergent culture of repercussion and fear brought tears to the eyes of a vaccine scientist and whistleblower

But the bully created turmoil within. Vaccine scientist Dr. Rick Bright, a key whistleblower, explains through tears how the government culture of repercussion and fear paralyzed people. Bright, who recently resigned from his position at the Department of Health and Human Services, was one of the few to speak out. Others who did so were summarily removed from their positions and labelled un-patriotic.

The suffocating impact of the film’s string of horrors eats away at you

The U.S. president’s constant blandishments [self-delusion] that provide the film its title [Totally Under Control] are documented one after another. But horror fades quickly, or maybe it’s too hard to sustain a constant reaction of shock and rage to the Trumpian antics. You cannot stay in that place forever. It’s feels soul sickening and acidic. The anger simply eats away at you, until you go numb.

Let “without truth, freedom means little” be a message of this film, a message that echoes throughout America

In light of this idea, the title of Totally Under Control takes on a different resonance, namely that without truth, freedom doesn’t mean very much. It’s an idea that keeps hitting home, whether it’s in the rage-inducing U.S. presidential debates, where the sheer number of lies starts to feel like a biblical plague of flies, or the constant low-level gaslighting that coats the mainstream news.

Despite its faults, the film draws precise connections and offers a timeline of events

To be blunt, the rush to release Totally Under Control hurt its artfulness. One of the problems with this type of documentary is that there are simply so many like it. Made with good intentions and chock-a-block with information, they can start to feel formulaic. Worse still is the feeling that they’re preaching to the choir.

But despite its shortfalls, it is still important to draw precise connections and offer a well-articulated timeline of events, especially if the film can reach a mass audience, expanding out from the niche realms of festival play into more accessible platforms.

It comes to Video on Demand on Tuesday [October 23] and will be available to screen on Hulu on Oct. 20.

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This entry was posted on October 10, 2020 by in creative protest, information counterpower, political action.
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