Refugees, Muslims, and Terrorists


The following is from the latest issue of my newsletter, Notes From Table 30. You can subscribe by clicking here. 


I want to talk about Paris and terrorists and radical Islam, but before I do that, I want to talk about something that has nothing to do with that: Syrian refugees. Not one of the terrorists who attacked Paris was a Syrian refugee. In fact, anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of the Syrian conflict will understand that Syrian refugees are refugees because they’re trying to escape groups like ISIS. A fact that rarely gets mentioned in Western Media is that Muslim extremists kill more Muslims than anyone else.

The argument that Islamic extremist terrorists might be hiding out pretending to be Syrian refugees is such a weak one that not even France is buying it. In the wake of the Paris terrorist attack, France is welcoming 30,000 Syrian refugees. And yes, many of them are Muslim, but it’s worth noting that putting all Muslims in the same category is a lot like putting a Catholic grandmother and David Duke in the same category.

If you’re afraid that Muslims and America don’t mix, you might be surprised to learn that there were Muslims here before the Revolutionary War. Muslim Americans are as American as any of us. Thomas Jefferson owned a Quran. We have had over 750,000 refugees enter the country since 9/11 and not one of them has committed a terrorist act. I know some will point out that the Tsarnaev brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon were refugees, but they weren’t. And even if they had been, if 749,998 out of 750,000 are pretty good odds.

Syrian refugees aren’t terrorists. They are people simply trying to survive relentless attacks that have killed tens of thousands of their fellow citizens and want nothing more than to live.

I’ll admit that the photo above is manipulative. It’s true that a photojournalist took a photo of a 4-year-old Syrian refugee and she raised her hands thinking it was a gun. And the very concept that this 4-year-old is living a life where guns are pointed at her so regularly that it’s habit to raise her hands is heartbreaking. If you can look at that photo and not feel empathy, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. But it’s also worth noting that not all Syrian refugees look like that. Many look exactly like terrorists you see on television shows and movies. That said, there’s really no reason whatsoever not to help those people too, because again, they aren’t terrorists.

But they might be. How easy it would it be to simply slip into the crowds quietly waiting for the right time to act? Not as easy as you think. It’s not as simple as saying, “I’m a Syrian refugee and I’d like to go to America.” There are many, many steps between being a refugee and being a refugee in America. It takes months or years and as a refugee unless you already have family in a specific country, you don’t really get to choose where you’re going. Even if you are selected to go to America, there’s still an extensive process involving many interviews, background checks, identity checks, and other processes each of which must be verified and each can take weeks, months, or even years. If a terrorist organization wanted to place people inside America, doing so disguising them as Syrian refugees seems like among the least likely ways to do it. It’s worth noting that all of the 9/11 hijackers arrived here using business, tourist, or student visas. (For more details on exactly what it takes to get into the United States as a refugee click here and read about it from an immigration lawyer.)

Syrian refugees are fleeing Muslim extremists. There hasn’t been one documented case of terrorism in the United States due to refugees. Being a refugee is one of the most difficult ways possible to try to get into America. And there are dozens of other, easier, faster, and better ways to infiltrate the United States. There is no rational way to argue that Syrian refugees are terrorists.

This leaves the argument of, “Why should we help Syrian refugees when we have homeless veterans?” It’s worth pointing out that many of the Conservatives saying this voted for people who actively block veteran’s bills on a regular basis. So their sudden concern for homeless veterans is spurious at best. But that doesn’t matter, because despite the desire some have for a black or white world, we live in a world where we don’t have to choose to help either homeless veterans OR Syrian refugees. And the argument that we should entirely solve one problem before we start working on another is absolutely unrealistic and quite frankly stupid. That’s not how reality works. It’s worth noting that not one of the politicians who has been against Syrian refugees coming to America has recently any bills helping homeless veterans. Those saying ‘Why not help homeless veterans before helping Syrian refugees?’ in truth have no desire to help either group of people in need.


I’m an atheist. According to Saudi Arabia that makes me a terrorist. This is so absurd as to be laughable, but it’s exactly the same level of absurdity as thinking all Muslims are terrorists. And yet, you have Donald Trump saying that we should have a database of all Muslims. You have Mike Huckabee saying he wants to shut down anything that influences Muslim extremists including Mosques, websites, and cafes. It may be easy to dismiss these people as fringe elements but they’re fringe elements running for President of the United States and in Trump’s case, he’s still got a shot at the nomination. So we shouldn’t dismiss them just yet.

As religions go, Islam is kind of terrible. It lends itself to violent extremism in a way that is genuinely dangerous, but the same can and should be said about Christianity. Any time you’re giving people a religious doctrine that says clearly that this doctrine is the ONLY possible way for eternal salvation and all others are either wrong or outright evil, you’ve got a fine recipe that only needs psychotics to make it worse. When you’re denying science and reality in favor of blind faith, things aren’t likely to go well.

That said, there are 1.57 billion Muslims in the world. That’s 1,570,000,000 people or just over 20% of the population of the world. One in five people on the planet are Muslim. I think it’s safe to say from the lack of craters that used to be cities that the vast, vast majority of Muslims are not extremists, recognize that some of the more extreme parts of the Quran are antiquated or irrelevant, and live their lives without trying to kill people who don’t think like they do. Twelve million of those Muslims are living in the United States right now. That’s the population of New York City and Los Angeles combined. And as mentioned earlier, Muslims have been living here in America since before America was the United States.

Given that this is the case, the very concepts of putting them all in a database, encouraging them to quit their religion, making them all wear badges or similar craziness is just that. Insanity. If we’re going to stop terrorism in general or Muslim extremists in particular, the first step is recognizing who they are and who they aren’t. Given the number of terrorist attacks on United States soil committed by Christians, it’s fairly easy to argue that religious fanaticism is a bigger problem than Islam in general.

Blaming all Muslims for the actions of their worst members is like any other form of bigotry. It’s just objectively wrong.


Now that we’ve effectively established that terrorists are not Syrian refugees. And Muslims are typically not terrorists, let’s talk about the people who are terrorists. And for the sake of this article, let’s talk about the Islamic State or ISIS. They aren’t the most prevalent terrorists in America. (That ‘honor’ goes to radical Christians.) They aren’t the most dangerous terrorist group in the world. (That would be Boko Haram.) But I’d argue that they are the most talked about by Western media and as a result the one we as Americans seem to be both most afraid of and the ones we seem to want to do the most about.

People respond to these sorts of things in different ways. Some think that more guns are the answer. Some think that the only sane response to the insanity of brutal violence is to visit that same level of violence upon those who have done us harm. As Americans, this is an especially natural way to feel. The Boomer Bible says that if there’s only one thing true about America it’s that if you wrong us we will get you back no matter what it costs us. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent most of my life writing stories and half my life watching our never ending war on ‘terror’, but I’ve started to see a pattern.

In the last 15 years, acts of terror have increase worldwide 500%. Unless your sole concern was the death of Osama bin Laden, any other way you measure the ‘War on Terror’, it has been a spectacular failure. So much so that it’s somewhat embarrassing that our leaders won’t admit as much. It’s like the politicians that refuse to admit climate change or that people need to be paid a living wage. It’s so obvious that you have to wonder if they’re that dumb or if they think we’re that dumb. If you’ve done something for a decade and a half and it hasn’t worked, maybe it’s time to come up with a new strategy.

For me when it comes to anyone doing something I don’t want them to do I’ve found the most effective way to deal with them is to fuck with their narrative. As humans we tell ourselves stories of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We plot and we plan. We come up with a narrative. Here’s the way the ISIS narrative works:
–       They commit some atrocity killing dozens of people.

–       The West responds predictably with bombing runs, drones, and other politically acceptable means of mass destruction that limit the danger to Western troops.

–       These bombs kill and injure thousands of civilians as well as their intended targets.

–       This results in disenfranchised civilian survivors who have had their lives damaged or ruined by Western actions, leaving them vulnerable to radical Islam recruiters who tell them that the West wants nothing less than to kill every last Muslim on the planet. They tell them how all Westerners hate and will never accept Muslims in their countries.

–       This causes some Muslims to join ISIS and commit some atrocity that continues the cycle. (It’s worth noting that this cycle also makes a ton of money for those that sell weapons to Western governments.)

And so when I see people saying they don’t want to allow Syrian refugees in because they’re predominantly Muslim, I see these people basically doing exactly what ISIS wants them to do. They are following the narrative that has failed us again and again and again.

The greatest military in the history of the world has been actively fighting ISIS and groups like ISIS since the turn of the century with almost nothing to show for it because that’s part of the narrative. Spending billions of dollars on a war without end makes defense contractors very rich. Certainly there are those in power who would love to stop ISIS, but there are just as certainly those who are profiting incredibly from a tactic that has failed for nearly a generation.

If we want a different story, we must fuck with the narrative. It starts by not reacting so predictably to acts of terror. One hundred twenty-nine people died in the attack in Paris last week. Since 1948 there have been 265 terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists all over the world. Those attacks have killed a total of 19,865 people. That works out to an average 296 people every year all over the world who are killed by acts of Islamic extremists. In America 82 people die from gunshot wounds every single day. About as many people shoot and kill themselves every year in America as have been killed by Islamic terrorists in the last half century. While terrorist’s tactics are often flashy and spectacular, they aren’t even remotely a statistical problem compared to so many other potential causes of death. So step one in fucking with the narrative is simply not overreacting.

Fucking With The Narrative of Islamic Terrorism

  1. Stop Overreacting. The reaction to a terrorist attack should not be revenge, but resilience. We should not be promising a ‘pitiless war’. We should not be saying that it’s changed Europe forever. We should not be suddenly looking to see if our surveillance needs to be even more widespread. We should be pointing out that the day before the attack, Paris was a city full of life, love, and humanity in all its variations. And the day after the attack, it was still that same city. You blew something up? We’ll rebuild. You killed people? We will mourn and we will move on. You want us to hate you? You’re not worth that much energy because what you do means nothing. These pathetic attempts to attack our way of life will not change who we are because we do not give you that power. And fuck you.
  2. Stop Bigotry. All of the terrorists in the world represent a tiny, tiny fraction of humanity. They are not representative of Muslims. They are not representative of Arabs. They’re not representative of anything but small groups of zealots who are willing to kill those they do not agree with. While many of these groups have a tribal mentality, these groups come from all sorts of tribes. If you want to really bother ISIS, accept Muslims as fellow human beings. It goes against absolutely everything they believe in.
  3. Stop The War on Terror. We should have learned with the War on Drugs that wars against ideas not only never end, but they can never be won. No amount of bombing, invasions, drones, intelligence, or special-forces will eliminate every last Muslim extremist with a willingness to blow themselves up or shoot a gun into a crowd. More to the point, every tiny piece of collateral damage is ammunition for radical Islam to recruit more members. In a war on terror, every bomb and every bullet creates more terrorists than it kills. We should not continue to be a part of this.
  4. Stop Playing Nice with Saudi Arabia and other ‘allies’. We’ve known for a while now that most of the funding for ISIS and other terrorist groups comes from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. They fund these groups in part as payoff in return for a distinct lack of terrorism on their country. The Saudis could stop this. They could go after organizations identified as fronts for terrorist activities. But they don’t. And we do nothing about it. If we’re serious about hurting ISIS and Islamic terrorists everywhere, killing their funding will do more than any bomb.
  5. Stop Being Terrorized By Terrorists. We’ve established that terrorist attacks are about rare as they are tragic. No matter what scary images they show us online and on television we know that it’s about the least likely way for you to die. As an American you’re literally more likely to be struck by lightning. Your fear of terrorists does not reflect reality and it’s time that it did. Rather than headlines proclaiming ‘The Biggest Attack On Paris Since WWII’, it’d be more realistic to say, ‘Handful of Zealots Fail To Destroy Our Way of Life.

– Jack Cameron

My Very First Published Story

It was 1984. I was in third grade. We were given an assignment to write and illustrate a story. Each story would be published as a little book. There would be exactly one copy of each book. Those books would reside in the school library.

I wrote a story called, “The Genie”. It was the first time I’d ever written a story. My teacher looked at it and said, “This is good. You should write more.” I thought she was saying it wasn’t long enough. I offered to make it longer. She said, “No, no. You should write more often.”

“Is it extra credit?” I asked.
“No. That’s not what I mean. You’re a good writer. You should write stories for fun outside of school.”

This was the first time I’d ever even considered such a thing. It was that teacher who made me pursue writing. And it The Genie was the story that started it off.

On the last day of my sixth grade class at my elementary school, I went to the school library and stole my book. I’ve had it ever since.

And now, after spending an evening scanning the pages, for the first time in thirty years, you can read my very first story that I wrote when I was nine years old. Since then my writing has gotten better. My artistic skills have not.

Jack Cameron


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Conspiracy Theories and the Forklift Six


In Fredericksburg, Virginia on May 6th of this year, Keith’s forklift overturned, killing him. Five days later on May 11th, in Powell, Ohio a man named Marcellus was crushed by a sand hopper that fell from a forklift. Three days laster in Lexington, Kentucky on May 14th of this year a man named Chiu was killed by a large slab of granite falling on him. The granite had fallen from a forklift.

Less than a month later, in Buffalo, New York, a guy called Charlie was electrocuted when a forklift boom contacted with an energized power line. A few weeks later, a 25-year-old man named Allen was securing a load on a forklift June 29th, in Granite Falls, North Carolina, 55-year-old Steven was crushed by forklift that he was operating.

Six men all killed by forklifts. One killed by falling granite. Another killed in Granite Falls. The last man killed was 55 years old. He was killed on the 55th day since the first Forklift killing.

Everything I’ve said is entirely true. I got the information from a website called The Weekly Toll which looks at workplace killings. If I were to tell you that I believe that Forklifts have become sentient and are trying to systematically kill us, you’d rightly say I must be joking or I’ve lost my mind. Or if I were to tell you that there’s a lever factory in Kansas City, Missouri that is hell-bent on destroying the forklift industry by making them look bad just at the start of the season of industrial equipment conventions, you’d see it for the silliness that it is.

And yet, if the forklift operators are alternative medicine doctors or vaccinated children or any number of other things that have nothing to do with each other, we see conspiracy. We see a secret pattern. We’re humans. We’re pattern seeking creatures which often means we see patterns that simply aren’t there.

There are two fallacies at work. One is Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc  (After, Therefore Because Of). This refers to the assumption that simply because one event happened after another event, the first event is the cause of the second. It’s often untrue. One hour before Donald Trump announced he was running for President, I made a sandwich. My sandwich had nothing to do with Trump’s latest stunt.

The other is the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy where we’re looking for a specific pattern and we find it by ignoring anything that doesn’t fit with our narrative. With the Forklift Conspiracy I’m ignoring all the other workplace deaths and all the millions of times in those 55 days that forklifts were used without incident.

Recently I saw a meme that listed half a dozen alternative medicine doctors throughout the country that had mysteriously died. Unlike most memes, this one listed names. So I did some digging and soon found that one had been murdered by their spouse, another had committed suicide, three had disappeared in literally the most dangerous part of Mexico, one had wandered into the wilderness never to be seen again. The Forklift Six have more in common than these doctors did.

It’s easy to get caught up in patterns that aren’t there. The only way to avoid it is to continually ask yourself questions and do some research before believing there’s some sort of X-Files level conspiracy going on.

– Jack Cameron

Going Viral


Exactly one week ago I read an article on the News Tribune website. The article said the following:

A possible suicide attempt at the South 48th bridge over Interstate 5 snarled traffic in both directions Friday afternoon.

The individual jumped or fell from the overpass, and was taken to a local hospital, Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said.

The individual’s condition was unknown.

Police were investigating the incident, Cool said.

After some digging I found the identity of the person who jumped and a link to a public shaming video. You can read all about this over at my other site Or you can read about it at Daily Kos or the New York Daily News. In the seven days since I posted the article, my post has been viewed over 250,000 times. (To put that in perspective a busy day on previously was 500 people in a day.) Dozens of other news sites have quoted from it. There are over 300 comments before I chose to shut the comments section down. For a while it was trending on Facebook. In short, my post about a young girl killing herself has gone viral.

This has been a fairly educational experience for me. After the first day, I was contacted by three television reporters and one newspaper reporter. They all asked me for information I’d dug up on my own that they just as easily could have dug up. One of them asked me for the victim’s family’s home address, a piece of information I don’t have and wouldn’t share with anyone if I did. All of them asked for a copy of the public shaming video I’d mentioned, but by that time the link I had to it had been taken down. I asked around and eventually found someone who posted it on youtube.

The thing that immediately happens when your post goes viral is that you lose all control of anything except the post itself. I chose not to share the public shaming video on my page. I chose not to include the name of the victim or the names of her family members. I didn’t mention the school she attended. I didn’t mention who originally posted the video online (because I didn’t and still don’t know that). Other websites had no such decorum or respect. In some cases the articles mentioned rumors as facts. In the Jezebel article they incorrectly mention my name as ‘John Cameron’ and say I said things in my original article that I never said.

The Daily Kos article unfortunately cites the Jezebel article. (To its credit, the Jezebel article does link back to my article.)  The New York Daily News doesn’t cite any other online source at all.

All this attention has resulted in more than a few emails. Some of them are angry and/or threatening. Most of them are thanking me for talking about the issue. I’ve received some emails from the family of the victim. They asked me to shut down the comments section and I agreed. There were also emails from counselors and people who’ve lost someone to suicide and started or joined anti-suicide foundations. I’ve talked to dozens of people I wouldn’t have even known about otherwise.

I’ve also done quite a bit of research on the topics of suicide and public shaming since I posted the article. I’ve learned a lot. And while there’s a part of me that is impressed with all the attention and the conversations about how public shaming is abuse, I would rather it not all have to center around the death of a 13-year-old-girl and the unimaginable pain and hardship her death has caused her friends and family.

I run a website that talks about crime and death among other things so I suppose it’s inevitable that if something went viral, it would involve someone’s death. I have very mixed feelings about that.

Some people have asked me if I’ve received any job offers after all of this attention. I haven’t. And while I wouldn’t mind a new writing gig, I think my feelings on such a thing would be more mixed than ever.

– Jack Cameron

How The X-Men And Matthew McConaughey Helped Me Accept My Mortality


I’ve been an atheist for about five years. It didn’t happen all at once. I spent years being unsure. I spent many years searching, reading, researching, and thinking before I came to the conclusion that there is absolutely no evidence of an omnipotent God and plenty to contradict the existence or divinity of Jesus Christ. I won’t get into what all went into that because that’s not what this post is about. What I want to do with this post is give an answer to a question that has bugged me for most of my life:

If there is God and no afterlife, what comfort can be found in knowing that you and I only get 80 years of life (give or take a decode or three) no matter what?

I tried thinking that the best we can do is do good and be good to ourselves and others and enjoy what we have. That’s a nice thought, but it’s really not all that comforting. It’s like decorating tips for a house that’s on fire. I’m all for being good and doing good and being an all-around nice person to other people, but that’s not helping me get over this thing where one day I die and cease to exist. I like existing.

I tried thinking of technological answers to our mortality problem. Cryonics offers hope that they might be able to freeze you and bring you back in a cloned body. The problem with this is that it requires that your current body (or at least head) are in good enough shape when you die that cryonics is even an option and even assuming everything works right, you’re still trapped in a human body which can be destroyed any number of ways, many of which are simply unavoidable. One day you might be able to upload your consciousness into a computer, but is that really you or just an artificial intelligence that thinks it’s you? I’m thinking it’s the latter. If you uploaded your consciousness into a computer, but you were still walking around after that, you wouldn’t say that computer was you would you?

I was stuck. Without God, no theological answer was likely to help. Philosophy on being a good person wasn’t helping. Technology isn’t there yet for serious life extension and even when it is, it’s only life extension, not something more. For a while, I stopped searching and did my best to accept the words of Jackie Greene, “We walk through life and we live and die/We do our best to not ask why.” I listened to music. I read books and comic books. I watched television and movies. And recently, the confluence of my media consumption resulted in a slight epiphany.

Sam Harris is a noted atheist and one of the faces of the so-called ‘New Atheist Movement’, a term that even Harris dislikes. I’ve read most of his books and attended one of his lectures. I’ve written about his books on this site before. While The End of Faith helped inform my already atheist views, his books Free Will and Waking Up have had significant impact on my life and the way I think about some things.

In Free Will Harris argues that free will is an illusion. He argues that our every decision is a result of our genetics, our past experiences, and luck. I approached the book disagreeing with the premise, but the more I read, the more it made sense. And then there was the following passage from the book:

“Take a moment to think about the context in which your next decision will occur: You did not pick your parents or the time and place of your birth. You didn’t choose your gender or most of your life experiences. You had no control whatsoever over your genome or the development of your brain. And now your brain is making choices on the basis of preferences and beliefs that have been hammered into it over a lifetime – by your genes, your physical development since the moment you were conceived, and the interactions you have had with other people, events, and ideas. Where is the freedom in this? Yes, you are free to do what you want even now. But where did your desires come from?”

As a writer of fiction, this passage entirely freaked me out. When I’m creating a character for a screenplay or a novel, I figure out who she is by making up her family, her upbringing, and her past experiences. Each of these informs me as to what sort of character I’m working with and results in my often knowing what a given character is going to do simply because of who they are. The way he’s talking about how we humans operate is the same way three-dimensional characters operate. This was one piece of the puzzle.

I also recently watched the first season of the HBO crime drama, True Detective. One of the main characters played by Matthew McConaughey is a burned out detective with a penchant for nihilistic atheist monologues. Among many of the great scenes in the show is this:

In the above clip he talks about M-Theory, which I knew (and still know) almost nothing about. The important part for the purposes of this article is that while you and I experience reality as linear time, that’s not all there is to reality. What we experience as time is just one big thing if viewed from beyond our third dimension. This is a difficult thing to fully grasp, but it’s nearly impossible to comprehend if free will exists. How can it all be seen from another dimension if we all can choose to do anything we want? Without free will, this makes a bit more sense.

This was the second piece of the puzzle.

The latest piece was the Christopher Nolan movie Interstellar (also starring Matthew McConaughey). There is a lot that happens in Interstellar, but the relevant part for my purposes is that they attempt to show the universe outside the third dimension in one particular bedroom. It looked like this.


The room had many books in it. So it’s not an accident that it looks like a bunch of books. I don’t know the reasoning behind this particular plot device, but it helped me visualize the concept of being outside of time and brought me back again to fictional storytelling.

With these pieces I added one final piece. I’ve been collecting Marvel Comics since I was twelve. I have thousands of comics starring the X-Men. I often reread them. From the perspective of the X-Men if they were real, they’d be experiencing time linearly. The X-Men of 1963 would have no knowledge that Magneto would one day be an ally. Of course, I can read their entire history at any point that I like. In this way I stand outside of time when it comes to the Marvel Universe. The X-Men are not dead or alive. They are both and neither because it depends on what point in time I choose to focus.

All of this led to a dream I had recently. In the dream, the technology to upload your consciousness into a computer had been achieved. Not only that, but when you upload your consciousness into the computer, the memories that are in your mind are hazy are crystal clear in the computer. In fact, they are so full of sensory input that accessing a memory would feel exactly like you were experiencing it. I awoke briefly wondering if that were exactly what was happening.

If there is God and no afterlife, what comfort can be found in knowing that you and I only get 80 years give or take a decade or three of life no matter what?

The comfort I’ve found is in knowing that everything I’ve done, everything I’m doing, and everything I will do is all happening at once and will always happen. Every loved one exists forever living, loving, and feeling every bit of life. The comfort is in knowing that we’re an eternal part of a picture that is reality.

– Jack Cameron

An Open Letter From Sekovia to Joss Whedon

Much has been made of Joss Whedon’s portrayal of Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but little has been said about the country where most of the film takes place. It’s almost as if people are pretending it doesn’t really exist.

– Jack Cameron

Here is an open letter from the Office of Public Affairs in Sekovia:


From: Office of Public Affairs
Republic of Sekovia

To: Joss Whedon

Dear Mr. Whedon,

The following is an open letter protesting the portrayal of our country and our countrymen in your American movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron. As you know, when we agreed to allow you to film in our beautiful country, we asked that you accurately show our culture, our heritage, and our people. Now that we’ve seen your film, we feel that we were duped.

Despite the long and hard fought history of Sekovia, you treat our nation as if it were some amalgamation of any given Eastern European country. Borat gave more character to Kazakhstan. The only time someone actually talks about our country in your film, she says, “It’s nowhere special but on the way to everywhere special.” Nowhere special? How can you say that about a country that boasts the eight tallest arch in Eastern Europe? Did we not repel invasions from nearby Latveria, not once, not twice, but three times? Does Sekovia not rival Madripoor in underground fighting syndicates? Nowhere special? Sekovia is very special indeed, Mr. Whedon.

It is clear that you made this film specifically to shame the Sekovian people. People will walk away from your film not knowing one true thing about Sekovia but thinking we harbor terrorists and possibly have a gigantic crater where one of our largest towns used to be.

We do not know why you have chosen to attack us in such a fashion, but rest assured that your slights against our country and our people will not be ignored.

I have spoken with our esteemed leader and he has instructed that no movie house in all of Sekovia will screen your movie. Furthermore any future film permits will not be granted.


Ex Machina Movie Review


Artificial intelligence is a genuinely fascinating topic. If we were able to create a true AI, would this make us less special? Would they, and more importantly should they be considered every bit as human as you and me? Being self-aware and knowing how we tend to treat machines, would they kill us all? If we create true AI, what responsibilities do we have towards those creations? These are questions that are asked and answered to some degree in every AI movie, where it’s Blade Runner, Terminator, Short Circuit, AI: Artificial Intelligence, Chappie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ex Machina or any dozen other movies. How these movies go about tackling these questions is what determines the quality of the movie.

In Ex Machina, we have a deranged billionaire genius named Nathan played with clear delight by Oscar Isaac who has invited a hapless employee named Caleb (played by Domhnall Gleeson) to see his newest creation, an artificial intelligence that has the basic appearance of a human (Alicia Vikander). Caleb’s job is to determine if the AI called Ava is truly self-aware or simply pantomiming awareness.

What follows is a series of conversations and scenarios in which we learn significantly more about each of the characters. If you’re looking for a big blockbuster action movie, Ex Machina isn’t it. This movie is more philosophical than anything else.

Initially I thought it was a very well put together movie with some good acting that essentially said nothing about artificial intelligence that I didn’t already get from Blade Runner. As my girlfriend and I talked about the movie she pointed out that there was an entirely different aspect of the movie that I was missing.

As a movie about artificial intelligence very little original or new happens in Ex Machina. But by making the robot female and her inquisitors/captors male, Ex Machina becomes an interesting study on the objectification of women. In Ex Machina the female lead is literally an object. Her value as an individual is being judged by two men. If she fails, she’s likely to be destroyed and recycled like a broken computer. What must Ava say or do to continue to survive? What is she willing to do?

The fourth character in Ex Machina is Kyoko played by Sonoya Mizuno. She plays Nathan’s silent servant, again reinforcing a subservient female role. The two females in Ex Machina are introduced to us as servant and object. Nathan effectively owns them both. If Caleb or anyone else were to run away with Ava, would that be kidnapping or stealing? The best sci-fi makes us ask profound and uncomfortable questions. From that perspective, Ex Machina is an incredible success.

Ava is a machine that behaves like a female human. The disturbing thing is how difficult it is to figure out if Caleb and Nathan are treating her like a machine or like a woman because what the movie makes clear is that regardless of the answer, she is treated as less than a man.

This isn’t the first time that writer Alex Garland got me thinking about things. His screenplay for Never Let Me Go was phenomenal. Ex Machina marks the first time Garland has directed. Given the performances, the script, and the flawless special effects, I’m definitely interested in what he does next.

Ex Machina is a quiet masterpiece. It’s simultaneously seductive and challenging. It’s a movie that stays with you long after you’re done watching it.

Jack Cameron