Exploiting our Archives: Steven Seagal's The Way Of The Shadow Wolves: The Deep State And The Hijacking Of America
It wasn't until after I had finished reading Steven Seagal and Tom Morrissey's The Way of the Shadow Wolves: The Deep State and the Hijacking of America in a feverish two-day hate-reading sprint that I realized that Seagal had played a weirdly central role in my 2009 memoir The Big Rewind, and consequently in my young life as well.
When I was locked up in the loony bin when I was fourteen, my cracked open brain obsessed monomaniacally on seeing Seagal's Marked for Death as soon as I got out. For whatever reason, my crazily over-active imagination focussed on seeing not just movies, one of my enduring, life-long loves, but one movie specifically: the sub-par, pretty racist Seagal-kills-black people bloodbath Marked for Death.
As a 14 year old I idolized Seagal as only a lonely, friendless, movie-addicted child could. Christ, I'm realizing now that an alternate version of the Chuck Norris vehicle Sidekicks could have been made with Seagal and the fourteen year old me. That is absolutely horrifying. As 14, I thought Seagal and his pony-tail were the coolest. Flip those numbers around and you have a 41 year old morbidly fascinated by Seagal as a just barely walking train-wreck who looks and acts like the heavy from a B-list Cannon movie from 1988, is more of a threat to dessert trays than bad guys and seems to be unintentionally engaged in a bizarre, James Franco-esque never-ending performance art piece lampooning fame and narcissism. He used to be a handsome guy. Now his face looks like a baseball mitt outlined in black Sharpie.
The towering anti-masterpiece of this stage of his career is his new "thriller" The Way of the Shadow Wolves: The Deep State and the Hijacking of America. It's a gift to the camp Gods about a Mexican Cartel-Jihadist-Obama conspiracy to bring down the Great Satan with a series of devastating terrorist attacks at major monuments like the Grand Canyon (the bad guys plan to turn that thing into a giant crater!) and Camp Snoopy, and a pack of preternaturally gifted Native American "Shadow Wolves", law enforcement agents with the powers of Luke Skywalker and the political and social opinions of your racist aunt who won't stop sending you anti-Obama memes even though he's not even in office anymore. You know the one, who thinks that Dilbert is still funny but now it makes a lot of good points as well.
The Way of the Shadow Wolves seems too crazy and unhinged to exist, and yet here it is. I am going to lovingly walk you through it because there's part of me that genuinely believes that books like these are the reason I'm alive and avoiding productive labor by writing about pop culture and politics and my feelings and shit.
I was put on earth to throw myself on this and the shit I wrote about for Silly Little Show-Biz Book Club for The A.V. Club. I felt a giddy, almost manic sense of discovery reading this. It really does need to be read to be believed. I've read it, taken extensive notes and written a four thousand word essay about it, and I'm still not entirely convinced it's not all just a brilliant practical joke from Steven Seagal, the new Andy Kaufman.
One of the key rules of screenwriting, indeed in storytelling, is to use narration only when absolutely necessary. So it is surreal to see Seagal flagrantly break that role in a fucking novel! In a spectacularly clumsy opening gambit, the novel opens with our protagonist watching the end of a documentary about Native Americans with clumsily expository narration that, in angry defiance of everything we know about documentaries, and film, and reality, continues after the film ends and well into the end credits, specifically:
“Native Americans have an innate and powerful spiritual connection wit the earth and its creatures. An understanding of the ‘true nature’ of all that is on this planet and how it works in the perfect balance of cause and effect. An elite group within the Native American communities, known as Shadow Wolves, are part of this perfect balance and are the ‘best of the best’, with the ability to see what can’t be seen with the eyes. They know without having to be taught. They blend easily with the night. True right and wrong is ingrained in their souls, which makes them able to stand against evil no matter the cost. To see footprints on rock.”
Here’ the thing: they could have just opened the novel with a few paragraphs conveying the exact same information as the fictional film’s “narration” but Seagal, God bless him, apparently felt it was more “cinematic” to open the film with the protagonist sitting in a darkened theater and watching a documentary that could never exist, let alone be theatrically shown.
In the space of just a few pages, Seagal and his co-author usher us into a world that makes no sense, and de-humanize Native Americans by depicting them not as flesh and blood human beings, with weaknesses and neuroses like the rest of us, but rather as superhuman entities with a special spiritual connection to the Earth and all things.
Our hero, John Nan Tan Gode, is one of these preternaturally wise Native Americans who commune with the Great Spirit. This powerful connection to the land and the God-force has led him to know the true nature of Crooked Hillary, O'Bummer and the Dummycrats, as we learn in the following paragraph:
“His spirit was totally connected to this land. He knew that when he walked this desert, he was stepping where many brave, bold and sometimes naive men who preceded him once walked. He could feel their energy and sense their spirit with the way things were playing out in the culture. How they had been led down a path of total dependency by an elite group of politicians who were concerned only with absolute power, nothing less, nothing more.”
Yes, the true tragedy of Native Americans lies in too many governmental handouts from greedy politicians, not the fact that our country was founded upon the genocide of indigenous people and a poisonous history of unabashed racism.
Thankfully wise John shares the fervently held beliefs of an InfoWars addict, as evidenced by passages like the following:
"The Deep State within the mainstream media kept the eyes of the country on the flood of illegals that were coming across the border. They painted them as simple people in need of a better life. It was a cunning distraction to take the eyes off the drugs that billionaire drug lords were pumping into the US.”
Shadow Wolves proposes, with all of the authority and sophistication of a lunatic screaming at passerby about the Illumnati that a bought and paid for media is working in collusion with Mexican drug Lords and the Obama administration to flood our country with illegals and also hard drugs. But he’s got more on his mind than just that. He’s concerned about the Obama-New York Times-Mexican Drug Lord alliance but he’s even more concerned about what the novel dubs OTM (other than Mexicans) similarly flooding into the country to establish a “jihadi caliphate.”
Yes, John has learned much about the “Old Ways” from a spiritual teacher who is such a ridiculous, offensive caricature of a wise Native American shaman that his name might as well be Chief MuchGood SpiritualWisdom. We learn, for example, that John has the “spirit of the snake in his bloodline”, which consequently “gave him power over some people and many snakes.”
Which people? Which snakes? What about snake-people? Are they a thing?!? I should probably point out that we’re only about five pages in at this point.
Like Donald Trump and “Stephen Colbert”, John operates exclusively out of gut instinct. As with Trump, his gut is right roughly one hundred percent of the time, both because he’s perfect, but also because his gut seems to contain all of the concentrated Native American Wisdom and Power in existence in highly concentrated form. John's gut is not only the marvel of his department but also of his people and all mankind. The novel really should conclude with John at the White House receiving a diamond and gold bust of his gut given to him by President Trump, the Great Wise One Who Cannot Speak Falsehoods.
Apropos of absolutely nothing, other than the authors’ far right wing political beliefs and also racism, one chapter concludes with our perfect heroes saving two innocent lives from dirty, drug-dealing, killer Mexicans and ends with “All Lives Matter. Do they not?”
Elsewhere, Seagal non-ironically uses the phrase “bad hombres” to describe the evil, murderous Mexicans out to destroy our country with drugs and rape and rape and drugs
Judging from the novel, and everything else about the actor/author, he does not seem to understand the concept of irony. So, any who, it turns out that the Federal government is in league with both the Jihadists and the Mexican drug Cartel. I suspect Seagal would have found some way to rope Lena Dunham into all of this Deep State shenanigans but Seagal seems like the type of dude who stopped paying attention to pop culture around the time his movies stopped getting released theatrically.
At one point, evil Federal agents are discussing how they’ll sneak Jihadi-minded terrorists over the border by positing them as “crises actors”, those fabled, non-existent figures of far right-wing conspiracies who fake tragedies like the Sandy Hook shooting as part of a sinister plan by the government to steal everyone’s guns and make Obama King for Life. Shadow Wolves is like a Russian nesting doll of insane conspiracy theories.
That’s the beautiful part of Trump/Alex Jones/Seagal-style paranoia. In their minds, we’re not just at war with outside enemies; we’re at war with ourselves at well. In Seagal’s telling, the 99 Percent aren’t the downtrodden and angry—they’re the percentage of powerful people intent on destroying our nation for the sake of their Islamic/Mexican masters.
In Chapter Four, ominously titled, “Inside the Federal Building” we learn the exact nature of the sinister conspiracy: the President of the United States is colluding with Mexican cartels and Muslim terrorists to allow hundreds of Jihadists over an open border so they can commit all manner of terrible crimes against God’s own United States. So, as Sheriff Joe Arpaio so eloquently notes in the novel’s introduction, this is very clearly based in reality. It may not be the truth of today but mark my words it will be our waking nightmare tomorrow. Nah, I’m just kidding. Seriously, Foodfight! has more verisimilitude than this deranged action manifesto.
As a Mexican law enforcement states eloquently, “It is crystal clear to all of us that the USG (United States government) is completely penetrated, and this trafficking of human jihadists is approved by the president himself and being protected by rogue elements of the CIA FBI and DEA—the same rogue elements that have been smuggling drugs, guns, gold, cash, and small children for the American elite ever since Allen Dulles and J. Edgar Hoover first created a secret state within a state.”
The gorgeous thing about a passage like that is that it conveys information, sure, but it also soars as crackerjack dialogue. Seagal and Morrissey have an unerring ear for the way people talk. Why I’ve heard no less than a half dozen people causally use the not-at-all awkward and insane phrase “human Jihadi” today. It’s a particularly important phrase since so many Jihadists are goats or chimpanzees or snails.
The novel’s protagonist is named John, but one of his most trusted associates (and fellow Shadow Wolf) is also named John. They even have distractingly similar last names (Gode and Noche) and more or less identical personalities. The Shadow Wolves are all perfect spiritual beings living in harmony with nature but weirdly enough, they all seem to talk and act like the kind of profane, rasping action hero Steven Seagal plays in all his movies, particularly the direct-to-video ones where they don't even ask him to stop eating pie even in the middle of action scenes. They just edit out the delicious desserts in post-production. Giving lead characters nearly identical names, personalities and background proves incredibly confusing but if you were to dream up a colorful, original name like “John” for a character you’d want to use it as often as possible, regardless of the confusion it creates.
Being thoroughly confused as to which John the novel was taking about at any given point, before quickly realizing it didn't matter, as they're basically the same character, I kept thinking about the classic Scharpling & Wurster bit where would-be hit-maker Barry Dworkin peddles "Rock 'n' Roll Dreams'll Come Through", his magnum opus as a songwriter, a Bruce Springsteen-style street symphony featuring a preposterously out-sized cast of characters with maddeningly, uproariously similar names that makes the song's already muddled and convoluted narrative nearly impossible to keep straight.
Shadow Wolves is the kind of Neanderthal tome that feels the need to use a deeply anachronistic phrase like “woman reporter” and "news gal" even though it previously established that this “woman reporter”, like all wily female “journalists” solicited an interview with our studly hero by sending him a glamour shot of her in a seductive pose along with a flirtatious offer of a coffee date.
That apparently wasn't enough to sufficiently establish the non-male nature of this reporter, so thank fucking God these two hip young men with their fingers on the pulse of our ever-shifting culture clarified that this “woman reporter” is indeed a dame and not a normal reporter. The name “Maria” would also seemingly be a bit of a giveaway as to gender, but these authors aren’t taking any chances.
Oh, and Maria? Killed and beheaded by evil cartel henchmen of course. That is the role of sexy, dialogue-free women here. Or to be whores in the elaborate, decadent soirees where Arabs party on the shallow graves of the gringos or compadres they’ve just killed.
The bad guys don’t just plan on unleashing a hell storm upon the Great Satan that will make 9/11 seem like a pleasant afternoon in the park: they also regularly stage murder drug orgies where they combine beheading infidels, smoke Opium and the finest women of ill repute filthy Muslim oil money can buy.
What kind of parties? Here’s a description from late in book:
“The tents were up and the activities were beginning as a group of women arrived and began moving about the encampment, kissing any man who came into their path. Middle Eastern music was blaring through the speakers, placed throughout the encampment, and the smell of hashish filled the air.”
Whoa, there are women at these hashish-fueled murder orgies who will kiss any man who comes into their path? Holy shit. Slow down, there, Marquis De Sade. I don’t want this to be banned for suggestive content. Weirdly, the notorious “kissing” prostitutes charge ten times as much as sex workers who will do anything, and these women even draw the line at french-kissing.
We’re also treated to the author’s thoughts on the countercultural and oh boy are they ever timely and sophisticated. In a wonderfully/horrifyingly representative passage, the authors write,
"(Nefarious Deep State villain Wilson) walked him towards a group who was toasting the night, some waving their arms like hippies at a rock concert.
As he approached them, Wilson thought, “I wonder when they’re going to pull out their cigarette lighters and hold them over the their heads as they begin to dig the scene.” He chuckled to himself because what he was watching (sic) firmed his conviction that the hippie culture was the easiest led. And usually led by charismatic fools. He wondered if some of these people were just looking to party anytime, anywhere, like Deadheads.”
In Shadow Wolves, everyone talks like a cranky sixty-something white Republican with the exact same worldview. Think Native Americans might have issues with the Washington Redskins or being called Indians? Stupid Libtard butthurt snowflake! Why don't you crawl to your safe space and cradle your participation trophies? These are real Americans, so they sneeringly dismiss those concerns as the kind of political correctness that allows murderous illegals to flood into our country en masse to rape our white women, steal our jobs, rape our jobs and then steal our white women. It’s all very nefarious.
Even smart-ass Native American hustlers inexplicably have a Rush Limbaugh super-fan’s strong conviction that “community organizer” is slang for “Gun-Running Crack Kingpin.” A street tough one of the book’s two Johns picks up sneeringly tells him of his business selling drugs,
“I was organizing the community. Like Obama did before he organized the country.”
Even the insane, decadent Jihadists seem to believe strongly that all of our problems are caused by political correctness, like when one of any number of hateful, bigoted stereotypes of Jihadists taunts, “I’ll handle (one of the Johns) and his band of disappearing monkeys..or, as the weak-minded insist that they be called, “Native Americans” so they don’t get there feelings hurt by calling them indians. What do they call that nonsense, “political correctness!”
Seagal & his co-writing man pal have the terrorists think things like, “What fools these Americans are. They brought upon themselves their own destruction by their naive concept of justice and fairness.” Needless to say, Shadow Wolves is strongly against justice and fairness and in favor of law & order. It’s against wishy-washy girly-men politicians and in favor of angry strongmen who will give the public the abuse and total control they secretly crave, like Comrade Putin and Glorious Commandant Trump Sieg Hiel! Sieg Hiel!”
Sorry about that. I got a little too into the Shadow Wolf spirit there. Ah, but what of these Shadow Wolves? The Shadow Wolves are the most ridiculous caricature of Native Americans as vessels of pure spirit living in perfect harmony with the Lord I’ve ever seen or read. In one of the many things that make this the hate read of 2017, and quite possibly 2018, it’s positively flooded with loving homages to Billy Jack—including the timeless dialogue “Billy Jack was a fictional character who kicked dumb shits, uh, like you, in the nuts. He did that in a lot of his movies”—yet boasts an even more fawning junior high school level conception of Native American mystical perfection than Tom Laughlin’s vehicles, where, it should be noted, he did not spend too much time kicking people in the nuts. There’s not a lot of honor and dignity in kicking dudes in the nut sack and Billy Jack was all about honor and dignity.
It is possible that Seagal is confusing Billy Jack for Cock Puncher, a character he played in The Onion Movie. He was a fictional character who punched a lot of dumb shits in the cock.
In Shadow Wolves, the wise titular mystics are less Native Americans unusually attuned to the nature of the earth’s rhythms and more like X-Men whose superpowers include seeing through the lies of the Fake News Media, and being able to listen to Alex Jones for durations that would drive normal people insane. Alternately they’re like all-knowing Jedi with incredible, superhuman powers that keep them from harm. Here, it’s pretty much the entire evil shadow United States government, versus twenty or so Shadow Wolves. The authors make that seem like a fair fight, or one tilted in the Shadow Wolves’ favor.
This lurid, insane potboiler makes it seem like if a bullet were to hit one of the Shadow Wolves, instead of penetrating the skin, it would apologize for threatening such a sacred cathedral, ask for forgiveness, and then commit the rest of its life to sacrifice and serving humanity and the great spirit who watches over all things.
You better believe there’s a lot of great spirit talk here. The hero’s primary mentor is his dead grandfather, who undoubtedly proved his righteousness by using smoke signals to disseminate news of Pizzagate and elaborate interpretive dances inspired by each day’s episode of Fox and Friends.
What of the writing? These are 100 percent real passages from the book:
“At the New York Stock Exchange, there were a dozen suicide vests hidden by some on the janitorial staff who had come into the United States as refugees from Syria and at the mayor's insistence, were hired instead of the veterans who were originally promised the jobs.”
"When he parked at the casino a half hour later, Jimmy had no idea that he was being watched by a shadowy man with a heart as empty as a cave.”
"General Clap did not understand the way of the ancient warrior. However, the Shadow Wolves did.”
“This great, half-white father who lives in DC has released people from Gitmo who went right back into the battlefield killing my brothers in arm. This very day.”
“The task force commander was pulling his leadership persona out of his back pocket” (where he undoubtedly also kept his stupid comments)
“If all we had to depend on to do it was the US government, then we’d all be toast, and you’d wind up wearing a head scarf, if you still had a head, and all the men would be on prayer rugs five times a day.”
“He produced a crucifix from under his shirt. (Muslims) treat these things like Vampires treat them.”
“What he had going for him was that being Native American, they could not violate their political correctness position.”
“So the name is Gode? That’s it? She leaned forward, exposing her ample breasts to John as her blouse fell away from her body far enough to bring them into his view.”
“It all comes down to money. The jihadists have plenty of it, and the Catholics who are working with them want plenty of it.”
At times, The Way of the Shadow Wolves reads like a poorly translated fortune cookie fortune, like when wise Seagal-San and his most noble co-author write, “His smug comment came with the confidence of a fool who sees only what is right before him and misses everything else.”
Wolves asks what it imagines is a timely and explosive question: what if everyone who illegally crosses the United States borders is actually Osama Bin Laden, even the babies and women? It doesn’t seem to realize that they may be the single stupidest question ever asked about the War on Terror and immigration.
Shadow Wolves is utterly beyond satire or parody. I literally could not spoof it because it would be almost impossible to exaggerate its racism, stupidity or amateurish writing. Seagal seemingly must have had a ghostwriter but this feels so very much like racist grandpa deciding to write a thriller because he’s read several John Grisham paperbacks that it’s hard for me to believe that a professional writer, or even someone who knows how to read, had anything to do with this.
Imagining Tim Heidecker or Paul Scheer in the lead role only increased my enjoyment. I’ve hate-read many, many terrible, terrible books but I’ve seldom hate-read with the demented joy I felt reading this bizarre FOX News fever dream.
The terrible, terrible writing adds to the free-floating craziness. The authors refer to their protagonist as a “big man”, a “tall man”, a “big lawman” and a “tall lawmen” so often and so lazily (hey, when you’ve got a unique, attention-grabbing distinction like a character being tall, you’re going to want to really stress that point as often as possible, to the point of insanity) that if you were to take a shot every time John’s size was commented, you’d be dead of alcohol poisoning halfway through.
Shadow Wolves closes with the titular superheroes stopping Obama’s planned Muslimgeddon and a final chapter promising a new hope in the form of a certain orange gentlemen revered by the authors and racist morons everywhere: “Finally, there was a feeling of tremendous change that began sweeping across the land as a new president was sworn into office and was immediately beset upon by the Deep State and those left behind from the previous administration. But he was stronger and smarter and far more adept than any of them had ever imagined.”
Stronger, smarter, more adept than anyone imagines: those certainly are three things that could never honestly be said of Donald Trump but Seagal & company have sucked down the Alt-Right Kool Aid and begged for more, leading to what I genuinely think is one of the central camp artifacts of the Trump era so far and the Caveman mindset that led to it.
Do I even need to point out how often our “heroes” lovingly threaten to murder Muslims with bullets or knifes dipped in pig’s blood? Will it surprise you at all that there’s not even a token attempt to depict Mexicans and Muslims as anything other than human garbage who must be put down like dogs by noble (Native) Americans?
It dishonors Sheriff Joe, who wrote the introduction to the book hailing it as a harrowingly realistic account of a secret war that’s already being fought, to be associated with this, and Sheriff Joe is, somewhat famously, like the co-author and Big Daddy Boss Trump, a huge pile of shit. Just the fucking worse. But even that racist monster deserves better than to be connected permanently with this insanity.
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