It’s not as good a film as I would have liked — there are too many talking heads, and director/interviewer Charles Ferguson (who remains conveniently invisible throughout) has an annoying tendency to look for “gotcha” moments, when his interview subjects hesitate and stumble in answering his questions, as if these provide the smoking gun that shows us they’re lying, squirming, deceitful cheaters. They probably are (some of them at least), so relying on these techniques isn’t really necessary and it makes too easy targets of them as individuals.
But Inside Job still manages to pack a lot of information into a cogent and easily understandable narrative. It is, in fact, probably the best two-hour summary of what happened to bring about the recent, and ongoing, economic crisis, and of who’s primarily responsible for it. The film points its finger at the deregulator economists and the type-A personalities on Wall Street who took advantage of the opportunities deregulation offered for making millions at the expense of the rest of us dupes, and at the revolving doors between government and capital that have corrupted democracy to the point where it’s bringing about its own downfall. (The first “it” being the corruption, the second being democracy.*)
What’s to be done? First, stop getting distracted and focus on the problem: oligarchy, plutocracy, government-corporate coziness, corruption (as Jon Stewart argued in his interview with Rachel Maddow, she interviewing him, though it might as well have been the other way around). The idea that government itself is to blame has been the ruse, at least since Reagan, that’s made it possible for things to get as bad as this. The Tea Party movement (not the money behind it, but the ground-level activists drawn into it), as Noam Chomsky argued recently, is instinctively picking up on a piece of the problem, but misfiring because it’s only a piece — and in the context of the political-economic developments of the last three decades, it’s mostly the wrong piece.
This is a film everyone should see, not because it will clarify what credit default swaps, derivatives, hedge funds, and subprime mortgages actually are, or (hopefully) were — it doesn’t really, though the web site helps — but because it’ll keep us talking about the source of the problem and the way it’s wormed its way into politics to such a deep level that curing it requires a full-on heart transplant. That’s not on offer from either of the two political parties in this country, and few in others, but at least some (in Europe, mainly) are moving in the right direction. This country badly needs a movement that would push things in that direction as well.
Bill Moyers thinks it’s happening:
“There’s a rumbling in the land. All across the spectrum people oppose the escalating power of money in politics. Fed-up Democrats. Disillusioned Republicans. Independents. Greens. Even Tea Partiers, once they wake up to realize they have been sucker-punched by their bankrollers who have no intention of sharing the wealth.”
But he’s not even on television anymore.
*(I deleted a confusing sentence here from the original version of this post.)