AFTER CNN’S BREAKING NEWS RECEDES, I return to my usual programming only to notice that Netflix has split into two channels, each taking up half of my laptop screen. The Movie I find myself watching seems to use the same footage in both instances, but it quickly becomes clear that one of them is spinning it as a pro-Pussygrab story, the other as anti-.

 

Though the dichotomy disturbs me, I see no option other than watching both at once.

 

From what I can tell, the story focuses on how Big Pharmakos made the decision to offer his services to the Regime as — both halves agree on this term — the “official comedic warm-up act for the coming First Dodge City Genocide.”

 

Old newsreel footage of the actual First Dodge City Genocide (the one I remember learning about as soon as I arrived here) plays behind Big Pharmakos strutting on a huge stage in Pussygrab Palace, doffing a top-hat and doing vaudeville tricks with a cane. “This, friends,” he says, pointing his cane at the atrocity footage, “which many of you have probably been taught in lie-school is footage of the First Dodge City Genocide, is actually just the trailer! That’s right folks, the real First Dodge City Genocide is still coming, thanks to — you guessed it — the Good Colonel himself! So, no need to worry. You haven’t missed a thing. With your help, and the Colonel’s guidance, we’ll have ourselves the best little Genocide this tired old world has ever witnessed!”

 

Riotous applause across both halves of the screen.

 

Semi-consciously, I make a face imploring Big Pharmakos to return to decency, though I remind myself that he can’t see me from where he is.

 

“What we have here,” says Netflix 1, as the volume on Big Pharmakos’ giddy routine fades to a murmur, “is the patriotic awakening of a formerly degenerate artist. A man who, by his own admission, spent the first half of his life ‘wallowing in the filth of my own self-image,’ only to finally heed the call of duty, upon the historic occasion of Pussygrab’s unanimous victory last fall, and step up to the plate to pave the way for the First Dodge City Genocide, which, let me tell you folks, is going to make us all, as citizens of this fine town, damn proud.”

 

Netflix 2 interrupts with its own narrative. “What we’re seeing here is a disgraceful moral collapse of the sort that is sadly all too common in the ascendency of fascist regimes. A collapse which is, indeed, a key component of such ascendencies, a component without which no fascist regime can ever fully take hold. The poisoning of the culturati, if you will, which is in many ways a darker and more sinister process than the provoking of the angry mob which was, after all, nothing but an angry mob to begin with, even before Pussygrab whipped it into a murderous frenzy. What do you think causes a comedian of Big Pharmakos’ stature to turn like this?”

 

Here the camera pans from the first pundit, who looks somewhat familiar (I find myself wondering if everyone on both channels is an extra from Dodge City TV, dressed up as a partisan expert), to the second, who looks even more concerned.

 

“Well, Bob, that’s certainly a good question. I think it has to do with validation, quite simply. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves. Big Pharmakos was hardly at the height of his comedy career when Pussygrab came to power. And, to be even more honest, did he ever make it as big as he’d like to have us think? Was he really on Marc Maron’s podcast, as we all know he loves to claim? If so, have you heard the interview? I haven’t. I’d argue that he was, along with so many other members of the Regime and even Pussygrab himself, nothing but a washed-up hack who saw the dark glimmer of opportunity after last fall’s trainwreck of an election and, well, was either smart or dumb enough to seize it, depending on your point of view. When regimes like Pussygrab’s come along — regimes in desperate need, you might say, of entertainment value, since no dictator can go very far without comedy to lubricate his path — there’s always a Big Pharmakos waiting in the wings.”

 

*****

MY FIRST INSTINCT is to defend my old pal — it hurts to hear him discussed like this — but when the screen cuts back to him mincing onstage, with Paul Sweetie and all the higher-ups seated behind him, smiling moronically and fanning themselves with oversized photos of Pussygrab, it’s hard not to agree.

 

As if reading my thoughts, the camera zooms in on his grimacing face, covered in sweat-streaked pancake makeup and black eye shadow, leading the crowd in a chant of, “Kill the Jews! Kill the Jews! Kill the New Jews and make Dodge City gentile again!”

 

So what mental calculus is there left to perform? I begin the hard work of denying that he was ever my friend. As I watch him reiterate to the crowd that the First Dodge City Genocide never occurred and that Pussygrab will soon rectify this problem, I think, you do your Denial, old friend, and I’ll do mine.

 

As soon as I think this, I open a new window and start searching for a Netflix Movie that shows my time in Dodge City free of Big Pharmakos’ friendship — one that, ideally, shows me rejecting his creepy fascistic advances early in my time here. I find I can no longer evaluate whether it’s reasonable to expect such a Movie to exist, but I know I’ll feel soothed if it does.

 

*****

WHILE I’M SEARCHING, both Netflix Movies I just watched end at the same time and a box pops up asking me to rate my experience. I hover my cursor over both 1 and 5 stars, unsure how to rate both versions at once, until I decide to split the difference and give it a 3. A safe bet, I find myself thinking, trying to suppress my sense of irony for the time being.

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