Shortly after the conclusion of World War I former German Officer Hans Janowitz would meet Austrian-Jewish writer Carl Mayer in Berlin, Germany in the Spring of 1919.
A fast friendship developed between Janowitz and Mayer after the men realized that the events of the recent world war, had a dramatic and life-changing effect on both of them. Each man’s experience of the war caused them to develop a deep seeded belief in pacifism, with stark opposition to war, militarism, or violence.
Using their varied experiences, Janowitz and Mayer, teamed up to write what would eventually become one of the most prominent examples of German Expressionist cinema with the silent horror film, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.”
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari tells the story of an insane hypnotist: Dr. Caligari, who uses a person that suffers from sleepwalking to commit murders. Directed by Robert Wiene, the film featured a dark and twisted visual style in order to express the symbolic and stylized vision of the German writers.
Janowitz and Mayer’s film was meant to be a representation of themes of brutal and irrational authority. The insane Dr. Caligari is meant is meant to be an illustration of the German war government, whereas the hypnotized sleepwalking killer is symbolic of the common man conditioned, like soldiers to kill.
The sentiment of the film ultimately reflects the culture and subconsciousness of German society at the time and their need for a tyrant. It was an example of Germany’s obedience and unwillingness to rebel against deranged authority. The movie provides a unique insight into the views of post-World War I Germany, and it accurately predicted the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, occuring within a year after the film’s release.
Many film historians and critics, consider The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to be the world’s first true horror film; cinema’s first “cult film,” and the most significant influence in the emergence of the cinematic style of “film noir.” The film review website, Rotten Tomatoes lists Dr. Caligari as one of the top 100 most influential films of all time.
Dr. Caligari happened to be released just as foreign film industries were easing restrictions on the import of German films. As a result, the movie arrived in American theaters just in time to offer up a unique set of coincidences.
Around the same time of Dr. Caligari’s American release, the United Artists film studios were formed by the actors D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks. In response to famous actors establishing their own film studio to protect and control their careers, the head of the major film corporation: Metro Pictures, Richard Rowland, remarked, “the lunatics have taken over the asylum.”
The timing of Rowland’s quote with the release of Janowitz and Mayer’s film on American soil fostered the emergence of a common social expression. The connection comes from the fact that in the film Dr. Caligari is the director of an insane asylum, yet he himself is a homicidal psychopath. Hence, “We can’t have the inmates running the asylum.”
By 1965, virtually all psychiatric institutions in America had been deinstitutionalized, and through indirect cost-shifting, jail and prison detention facilities became the primary housing for Americans with mental disorders deemed unmanageable and noncompliant. Keeping up with the times, “asylum” was replaced with “prison,” and the idiom used to express situations in which the people least capable of running things are placed in charge, and the result is total chaos and calamity evolved to become
“We can’t let the inmates run the prison.”
The phrase was born through a series of happenstances, guilty associations, and unintended consequences roughly 52 years ago. However, in 2017, the term would suddenly break its seal and re-emerge from the bottomless pit to remind us of its real meaning.
“(the NFL) can’t have the inmates running the prison.”
This was the solution offered by Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, for solving the issue of NFL player’s protest during the playing of the national anthem at a closed-door meeting amongst NFL owners. The entire meeting's focus was on the specific topic of player protests.
When the news spread of McNair’s comment, he issued a statement apologizing and said,
“I regret that I used that expression. I never meant to offend anyone and I was not referring to our players. I used a figure of speech that was never intended to be taken literally. I would never characterize our players or our league that way and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it.”
Honestly, I actually really do believe Bob McNair when he said what he was expressing was a figure of speech and that he did not intentionally mean to be offensive. However, to a large part, his lack of overt intent is exactly what could be offensive the most.
Now, before I say anything else, I do want to get one thing out of the way. I’m not sure if Mr. McNair wrote his own statement of apology. However, whoever wrote it still managed to successfully express a tone of disconnected obliviousness toward the thoughts, feelings, emotions, or intelligence of other people. Specifically, I would be referring to the fact that not once, but twice the sentiment is expressed, “I was not referring to our players” – “I would never characterize our players or our league that way.”
Well, who the hell were you referring to Bob when you used “that expression” and “figure of speech?” The cheerleaders? The fans? Politicians? The guy selling “Cold beer here! Get-ya Cold beer here?” Who the hell was it?
I mean is this real life right now? Did a billionaire energy tycoon really just leave us with a “Who killed J.R.? On the TV show Dallas cliffhanger,” here in regards to who exactly he was likening to inmates?
I would like to touch on another underlying issue here with this whole incident.
There is always a contingency of people who will always say the exact same thing no matter what someone has said or done.
“Every time somebody says something that someone else doesn’t like it’s automatically racist.”
Nooooooo… That’s not true. Stop being silly. In fact, the biggest issue when someone acts as if THEY are offended by the mere mention of racism is that people express this as if the context of what someone has said or done has occurred inside some random vacuum and is completely exclusive of any additional background or circumstances. People act as if Bob McNair made that comment while staring up at the stars and was randomly babbling.
However, that isn’t at all true. In fact, the statement was made in reference to NFL players protesting the disparaging treatment of African Americans. Now, I don’t know any clearer way to express this. Honestly, if one cannot see the link, well then you simply are just making a conscious effort to be blind.
If you make a disparaging comment about African Americans who are protesting disparaging treatment, indeed that is going to fall into the realm of racial disparity. If it makes you feel better to say that making a disparaging comment towards African Americans who are protesting the disparaging treatment of African Americans, proves that African Americans are treated disparagingly…
Well fine! Say that then and avoid using the R-Word.
Now, in his statement, Mr. McNair said, “I used a figure of speech that was never intended to be taken literally.”
Well… thanks for clearing that up for us Bob. I now know that you were not being literal by expressing that you had forgotten you owned an NFL team and instead believed yourself to be a prison warden.
Essentially, of course, what McNair said was a “figure of speech” or an “expression.” Clearly, it was not literal. However, that actually again makes everything that was said worse and not better. Why? Well because figures of speech are meant to convey a sentiment and actually aren’t mean to be literal. Instead, it is the sentiment that is being communicated that makes the use of an expression good or bad; harmful or helpful.
Ironically, that would LITERALLY be the root of racial slurs. A figure of speech meant to express a sentiment that is derogatory or hateful. In fact, Bob, if you’re trying to express that you just completely used a figure of speech outside any semblance of contextual connection to the subject of African American players protesting… well then by all means, please do not further apologize to anyone. Instead, accept that you have lost your ever-loving mind.
At the end of the day, the sentiment that Bob McNair was expressing is centered on superiority and inferiority. That is the reason I started by providing the historical context of the expression McNair used. The expression is meant to convey an attitude that “I’m better than you.” If I was to allow you to run the show you would utterly fail because you’re not as good as me.”
“But Lt. McMillan he is the owner and they are his employees so technically he does run things.”
No, he doesn’t. He owns the team. Actually, Lamar Miller runs for the team.
There isn’t a boss, leader, or business owner in the land that anyone would like to work for that doesn’t recognize that their success is dependent on the success of their employees. Bob McNair might have a net worth of 3.5 billion dollars, but he is no exception.
Bob McNair is not going to go onto a football field and run, pass, catch, or tackle anyone. Without those football players, Bob McNair doesn’t own a football team. Instead, he would actually be the proud owner of a logo, since NGR Stadium is owned by Harris County, Texas.
At the end of the day, the sentiment Bob McNair expressed has racial underpinnings because of the context of what he was describing. However, the overall mindset relates to a belief that extends beyond simply just racial injustice. Rather it resonates to the core belief of superiority and privilege.
Ultimately, what the Texans owner was expressing was that he views the players as a commodity. Their value is worth what they can provide for his organization and de facto him.
Lest we forget, one of the sentiments expressed by fans as the source of their displeasure over the players protesting is that they are wealthy athletes paid millions to play a game. Essentially, the players have a financial and social privilege that 99% of the population doesn’t.
Ok, well if you happen to be a person that shares that opinion, how do you feel about a man who has a sitting net worth of 3.5 billion dollars disapproving his “workers” upsetting his revenue sources?
Keep in mind the cost of a general admission ticket to a Houston Texans game is $103.69. That is up 6.5% from the general ticket price of $97.32 in 2016. Comparatively, the median average weekly salary in America is $927 per week. Essentially, the entry-level cost for admission to a Texans game represents 11% of the median average American’s weekly income.
Putting this further in perspective, Bob McNair’s entire net worth is equivalent to the annual average median income of over 68,000 Americans; or the entire population of 98% of the incorporated cities in the United States.
Given this enormous gap between Mr. McNair’s net worth and 99% of the rest of America, he is so concerned about his ability to charge 11% of the median average American’s weekly income for a ticket, he hasn’t even taken a moment to reflect on exactly what his players might be protesting. If he had, he would have realized beforehand, how poor taste the expression he used would have been.
To be clear in what I am trying to say; What the Houston Texans owner expressed was is an opinion that the players, the fans, or you and me, are merely just numbers on a financial sheet. We lack any other quality traits that human can possess or inherent ability to bring emotional value into Mr. McNair’s life. Instead, we inanimate objects who each play a part in bringing in something the owner holds in high regard… money.
Ultimately, what Bob McNair fails to see if the collaborative value that we all bring to each other. In regards to this entire system, the only way any facet of it is superior over the other is if one places the quantity of financial gain at the pinnacle of all human pursuits.
The players are paid to perform in a game. A game they have been working hard to refine their skills at since they were small children. In that regard, personally, I have no problem with the amount in which they are compensated.
Then it is the fans who support the players for providing us with an entertaining distraction from our day-to-day lives.
Finally, it is team owners, like Bob McNair who fund the salaries of the players, along with various other aspects that facilitate the fan’s ability to enjoy and support the team.
People who are incarcerated do indeed possess a degree of inferiority, as they lack their own free will over their freedom. Essentially, this means that the inmates cannot truly topple the entire prison. Provided of course you don’t allow them to become in charge.
However, when it comes to an NFL team; between the owner, players, and fans… if you take any one of these components out of the mix, the entire system collapses.
Eventually, that is the entire message that Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer had intended to express with their 1920 silent film, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” The German writers wanted to remind people of how easy it can be to forget one’s significance within an organization or even in a society as a whole. Ultimately, you will find yourself submitting to a belief of inferiority at the feet of an authority that only wants to use you, and could care less about who you really are.
Ultimately, once that happens you never even notice the fact that you built the prison for them and then locked yourself in. All on your own.