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A People's History of Middle Earth

Via Mike Backes, a two-part series (part one, part two) from McSweeney's, "Unused Audio Commentary By Howard Zinn & Noam Chomsky, Recorded Summer, 2002, for The Fellowship of the Ring (Platinum Series Extended Edition) DVD":

Chomsky: Here again we have the Orcs running after the Fellowship. The Orcs, apparently, are going to slaughter them, and in my estimation they would be well within their rights to do so. But do they? No, they do not. They stop.

Zinn: They stop.

Chomsky: And then they run away because the Balrog comes out. Take note of the fact that the Orcs don't appear to like the Balrog much themselves. They're scared of it.

Zinn: I'm not sure what role the Balrog really plays in this.

Chomsky: I think it just happened to be there, guarding its own little part of the mine.

Zinn: And look at these Orcs! Supposedly so evil and vicious, and yet they don't do anything. They even appear to talk it over amongst themselves.

Chomsky: Look at it from their perspective: They've been locked up in this cave. They're frightened, they know they're not good fighters. They're just a bunch of farmers.

Zinn: As evidenced by their long, ungainly swords.

Chomsky: Perhaps they've been radicalized a bit. But I doubt they are true evil-doers.

Zinn: Again, I'm not sure what role the Balrog plays.

Chomsky: I, too, am uncertain on that point.

Zinn: Here, very significantly, we have the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm. You will notice that what is destroyed is a bridge -- another potential connector.

Chomsky: On a symbolic level, that is a very good point.

Zinn: All the borders in this film are constantly being destroyed, or overrun, or eliminated, or sealed. It's all about fear -- fearing the other. Notice, too, that the Elf Legolas jumps across the ruined bridge first.

Chomsky: They'll cross this bridge and the bridge will collapse, and they'll never be able to communicate with the Balrog again, or with the Orcs inside. In fact, they're sealing off the Orcs from ever escaping. They're leaving the Orcs in the cave with this big Balrog. Now, again, surely, among these Moria Orcs were some Orc radicals -- aggressive, angry, militant radicals. We shouldn't understate that.

Zinn: Well, look how the Orcs grow up. What do you expect?

Chomsky: I mean, what other options have they?

Zinn: I dare say that, were I an Orc, I might possibly be one of those terrorist Orcs, shooting arrows at the Fellowship myself.

Chomsky: Here comes the Balrog. Notice Gandalf's unilateral action. "Quick, get away, I have to fight this thing alone!"

Zinn: Once again you see a creature that's on fire being demonized in this movie: the flaming eye, the flaming Balrog. As though being on fire is this terrible affliction to have.

Chomsky: As though they can help it if they're on fire.

Zinn: After Gandalf falls, you get another view of the so-called terrorist Orcs. You know, the regrettable side of the Orcs does occasionally come out. The violence. It doesn't help their cause when these distinct, individual Orcs take it upon themselves to lash out at the inequality of the system. But notice that even these violent Orcs don't seem happy. They're not pleased with themselves. It's a violence borne of necessity.

Chomsky: Sure. They're trapped in a cycle of violence.

Brilliant! Now all we need is former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark to offer to represent any high-ranking leaders from Mordor.

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