That incredibly marvelous, wonderful and important television show Sons of Anarchy debuts tonight. Again.
I know. I still can’t see how important this “Shakespearian inspired drama” is but I am starting to catch on. I am trying. My “problem” may be, as casual readers who love the show frequently tell me, that I am too stupid and crazy to understand the difference between reality and a television show.
And look, I have absolutely no intention of arguing with them because sometime I might want to use that as my legal defense.
But, consider these recent, true events related to this Fox Television phenomenon.
Reader Discretion Is Advised
On August 11, a 27-year-old Chandler, Arizona man named Joshua Seto accidently shot a hole through his penis while carrying his girlfriend’s pink pistol in his waistband. After perforating his penis the bullet lodged in Seto’s thigh.
“The movies and TV shows, like Sons of Anarchy, that show tough guys with guns shoved into their jeans are not realistic,” The Arizona Republic quoted Chandler Police Detective Seth Tyler as saying after the incident. The detective went on to explain that no matter how Jax does it, would be outlaws should always use “a holster.”
Read More If You Dare
A few days later, The San Jose Mercury News reported that cops there were harassing members of The Henchmen Motorcycle Club. “If the Henchman have nothing to hide, then why should they be concerned to be legitimately stopped by police?” the Hayward Police Chief , a woman who is not a Constitutional scholar but who is named Diane Urban, said.
“If they were not involved in criminal activity, no one would give them a second look,” a man named Jorge Gil-Blanco, who the Mercury-News identified as an “expert on outlaw motorcycle gangs,” explained.
In defense of the Henchmen, patch holder and founder Ed “Big Ed” Aki said, “We’re not choir boys but we’re not the Sons of Anarchy, either.”
Meanwhile in Laconia, New Hampshire, the Talons Motorcycle Club has been having its own problems with police harassment. Local authorities accuse the Talons of “having ties with” the Hells Angels.
Producers and others affiliated with the Sons of Anarchy television show have stated numerous times that the club in the show is meant to represent the Angels. And, I have personally seen series show runner Kurt Sutter and lead actress Katey Sagal at Hells Angels sponsored events.
And after the club was accused of “having ties” a Talon patch holder named Jim Maimone tried to explain to the Portsmouth Herald, “We’re not the Sons of Anarchy.”
Nevertheless, the Herald’s reporter, an epic journalist named Joey Cresta did imply, in his lead, that the Talons are a “highly structured criminal organization.” And, his lengthy story included a long sidebar detailing the alleged criminality of a half dozen, widely respected motorcycle clubs. The sidebar included paragraphs about the Angels, Mongols and Vagos but not the Sons of Anarchy. And, Cresta refused to return my phone call when I tried to ask him “Why not?”
For What It’s Worth
There is something happening here and what it is is pretty clear. The men with the guns who tell us all to beware are practicing the new black art called “perception management.”
Perception management is the strategy of telling the same stupid lie over and over and over until you start to see it dramatized on television. Once a lie gets on television the truth doesn’t stand a chance. For example, on television the second greatest depression is “the economic recovery.”
The lie that Sons of Anarchy repeats over and over is that motorcycle clubs are fundamentally and institutionally criminal rather than just incidentally criminal. The club in the show is fundamentally and institutionally criminal although those guys are really inept at it. Like, for example they buy guns in Europe and sell them here. But every moment of every show they are presented as criminals first and motorcycle enthusiasts second. And, then club brotherhood is one of those things that is occasionally mentioned and rarely seen. Mostly, Sons of Anarchy portrays the ideal of club brotherhood as a lie.
Criminals R Us
The truth is that institutional criminality is always what makes motorcycle clubs go “kaboom!” Institutional criminality makes it easy for cops who want to bust bikers.
Another truth is that many one percenters are unabashedly criminal. But then who isn’t? Modern policing is founded on the grim reality that everybody is a criminal. Your grandmother is a criminal. Your seven-year-old kid is a criminal. TMZ would be cancelled tomorrow if celebrities stopped being criminals.
Shia LaBeouf – let that sink in, Shia LaBeouf – brags about his bar fights.
A couple of years ago a bourgeois black, Harvard scholar named Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. got popped for disorderly conduct and Gates was shocked. Gates personal friend, President Barack “no colorful nickname” Obama, a bourgeois black professor of law, was shocked. Both men told the world that Gates was the victim of “racism.” The implication was that if Gates had been a white Henchman he would not have picked up the charge. And maybe they were both right about the biker avoiding the charge but race had nothing to do with it. The truth is, a Henchmen might have dodged the arrest because he would have seen it coming and known when to shut up.
Marlboro? Little Mescal?
The way arrests get made is that the police just stink eye somebody until he breaks one of America’s many laws. In most motorcycle club investigations, the undercover cops usually explain to the bikers what crimes they would like to see them commit and arrange circumstances that virtually compel the bikers to commit those crimes. Then, if the accused criminal does happen to actually belong to a motorcycle club, prosecutors charge him with whatever he did plus racketeering.
Ironically, America loves criminals. After Francis Ford Coppola made The Godfather in 1972, the criminal replaced the cowboy as the unofficial national hero. Once upon a time, the Marlboro Man exploited his cowboy persona to sell America cigarettes. Now Michael Imperioli, the sour guy best known for playing Christopher Moltisanti in the Sopranos, uses his Don Cologne persona to sell America tequila. Even Gatorade is now called “G.”
The nation that once defined itself by the stories it told about the American west now defines itself with stories about criminals.
The Criminal Stories Business
So, gangster stories are the stories Sons of Anarchy tells. And, of course, the drama is ultimately the product of media beast News Corporation, a soulless institution that has gotten very rich by scaring and otherwise exciting people about all the monsters who live under beds. It seems to have never occurred to any of the creative talents connected to the Sons of Anarchy that there might be other, more interesting things to say about motorcycle outlaws and the America in which they somehow manage to persist. And who are these guys who refuse to conform? And how do they persist?
The Sons are criminals who institutionally, not individually, but as a true criminal enterprise, sell guns and women and this year, since actor Danny Trejo has a role as a narco trafficante, the club will also sell drugs. I wonder, who are these guys and how do they persist?
I would be more enthusiastic about the show if I saw a scene where an undercover ATF agent spends six or seven grand to entice a half dozen of these Sons to a hotel room where he suddenly opens a suitcase containing thirty keys of old school and a half million bucks. I would like to see that scene shot like surveillance footage.
I know it is just me but I criticize the lack of scenes like that. And, at the same time I understand that people with a better understanding of life, art, commerce and truth than I believe it is impossible to make something normal people will watch from the scenes I want. At least, it is impossible to broadcast such a show on FX.
Sutter and FX know what they are doing and despite any criticism I might invent, this particular criminal drama is becoming something bigger than a basic cable hit.
Sons of Anarchy clocks five million viewers a week. It might hit five million viewers tonight. People who know nothing love the show. People who know everything love the show. Sonny Barger, it will be said a thousand times this week, loves the show. Members of the Henchmen and the Talons probably watch the show. Arizona police seem to think Joshua Seto of Chandler should have stopped watching the show a season or two ago.
Is It On Yet
Tonight, Sutter holds up his mirror to gangster America once again. Tonight, all of the club’s most notorious criminals get out of prison after negotiating plea and sentencing agreements. The episode is 90 minutes long.
I am guessing there will be no scene where the public defender says, “Look you’re in the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle gang and they have you cold. What do you expect? Do you want to go to prison forever? Take the deal or get a new lawyer.”
I am guessing that scene was omitted because there was not enough time. I am also guessing it is the same thing with the scene where the aged parents of one of the prospects break down and weep. Probably not enough time for that one either. So the weeping parents will never ask, “Where did we go wrong? Where did you go wrong? How did this happen? Why are you so loyal to these guys who treat you so bad and who you hardly know?” A scene like that would not be “dramatic” enough for this show.
On the other hand, the series will feature a new cop and a new prosecutor. The new DA will be smarter and handsomer and less interesting than real prosecutors. Katey Sagal will shake her aging moneymaker and manage to frighten people while actually being less dangerous than most ex-girlfriends and wives. Real women will swoon for series heartthrob Charley Hunnam.
This summer Kurt Sutter said that he usually likes to pit the club against an outside enemy but this year the stories will be more about the club itself. “The expository beats are fun and exciting and testosterone-driven,” Sutter promised a writer named Alan Sepinwall at the beginning of August. “The idea always is to use those external pressures to incubate what’s going on inside the club.”
I don’t know what any of that means either. I guess it means that the theme of the show this year will be “brotherhood is bullshit” but I am not sure. Probably, I am just too stupid and crazy to ever understand this smart show. I don’t get it now. I swear I am trying though.
Sons of Anarchy airs tonight at 10 pm in New Hampshire, seven in San Jose and four in the afternoon under the volcano in Ka’u where the most nervous of the witness protection guys go.