P U R G E
Let’s do something a bit different. Instead of analyzing real-world politics let’s look into the politics of fictional media. The fiction we will analyze is the “Purge” franchise. In particular, the political ideologies of two antagonistic forces in the series. Firstly, The main and overarching antagonistic force is “The New Founding Fathers of America” or NFFA for short.
Taking power in 2014 after the United States underwent severe economic and social strife. Once in power, they devise a plan to stabilize American society through the establishment of the eponymous Purge. A twelve-hour night in which all crime, including murder, is legal.
With a 28th Amendment ratified in 2016, a successful proto-experimental purge is done the next year on Staten Island, albeit, purposefully corrupted and manipulated, after which the Purge is made an annual event.
The event itself is framed as a national day of “cleansing” in which citizens get to “purify themselves” through committing illegal activities like robbing, raping, and mostly murdering other people. There are limits however to what you can and can’t do during the purge. Government officials ranking 10 or higher must remain unharmed. The use of weaponry above “Class 4” is forbidden, and police and emergency services are suspended.
Many have called the NFFA “Fascist.” However, they’re not. At least in comparison to Roger Griffin’s definition of what generic fascism is, Palingenetic Ultranationalism. The NFFA does use rhetoric and imagery that does invoke palingenesis, things like a rebirth or being reborn. But they do not refer to this as a part of a grand plan to seek alternative modernism and establish a new “organic” governance. Rather, the NFFA is a hyper-inflated version of American conservatism meant to satirize its obsession with violence, meritocracy, and religious fundamentalism.
The further satirization of this is showing the hypocrisy that often exists behind these views. It’s the difference between the propagandist image they sell, and how they actually act behind closed doors. The supposed bastions of moral integrity and strength are in reality, desperate hypocrites.
As the Party’s actual intention behind the Purge is to boost its own control. Killing off the lower strata demographics, boosting murder rates to reinforce their thesis that humans are inherently violent, and reducing those most opposed to the Purge as an institution. Poverty is low, and murder rates are high because those who would’ve been counted as homeless are targeted and killed during the purge by NFFA backed groups. Such as the Klan, Neo-Nazis, and any other group who would act as mercenaries for them. As mentioned before, the Staten island experimental purge was tampered with. Turns out that people aren’t inherently violent and prone to murder sprees.
Most of the crime that happened during the untampered part of the experiment was neighborhood parties, public sex, and petty theft. Until the NFFA deployed violent gangs to boost the number of murders.
This shows a clear lack of sincerity, the NFFA doesn’t actually care about bettering society. What they care about is establishing an institution they can use to boost and consolidate more power. This shows a lack of political restraint and a willingness to abuse the government they inhabit.
It was tempting to call the NFFA “Authoritarian Conservative” at first. But they haven’t installed an autocratic government. As seen in “Purge: Election Year ‘’ the electoral process still happens, and it’s even possible to remove the party through it. So, the traditional republican constitution of the US is still largely intact. Even if the NFFA does abuse it and uses the Purge to manipulate the electoral outcome.
Even to the point of trying to kill an electoral opponent during the Purge in Election Year. The rule about government officials above rank 10 being immune was absent from that particular purge. The NFFA felt threatened by opposing candidate Charlie Roan, who was gaining ground in the polls. And to summarize the end of Election Year, They fail and she’s elected president. While in office she successfully ends the purge but this does not last for long.
The actions that the NFFA commits are that of an illiberal democrat, “a governing system in which, although elections take place, citizens are cut off from knowledge about the activities of those who exercise real power because of the lack of civil liberties; thus it is not an open society.” This particular illiberal democracy is one formed from a consolidation of electoral power, where-in the government is still technically a multiple party-state but one party has managed to become dominant through government abuses. This amounts to having a de facto unitary party state while within the technicalities of not being one, with the slim possibility of that party being removable.
We should put particular focus on the way the NFFA frames Purge Night. This is key for establishing what specific political ideology the NFFA presents itself as. The films themselves broadly present this ideology as conservative, oligarchic, capitalist, and authoritarian. At first glance, they seem like the usual cliched evil political party. However, this specific evil political party exhibits a type of conservatism that bases itself around a “mass cleansing”, or a sort of sanctification of the nation.
Sanctification is a particularly fitting word as this is also tied into their religious fundamentalism. Making it both a national and spiritual event. High-Ranking members within the party will even empty out churches, replace traditional religious icons with party banners. Establishing a congregation around performing human sacrifices upon those deemed “sinners”. Such as drug addicts, or any other person deemed a “social parasite.” Killing them is seen as an act of “cleansing society.” So, the cleanse is viewed as deeply national and religious. Not presented as a racial cleansing, even if, however, the usage of the institution is consequently racist through its specific targeting of impoverished minority groups.
Even cases of NFFA sponsored parties where they host games involving the rich killing the poor through a controlled environment. This hatred of the poor for being “unclean”, “sinners”, and “parasitic” is a satire of meritocratic thinking. Taking the cruel conditions the rich impose upon the poor and amplifying it. These people are not “parasites”, rather, victims of an intensely horrific system. It’s easy to throw away the poor when one reduces social relations to just an individual level. Not accounting for broader socioeconomic factors. The malicious nature of this atomization is clearly presented here, as well as its deep hypocrisy.
Calling a drug addict a “sinner” comes from the fuzing of both harsh atomizations with religious fundamentalism. A characteristic of American conservatism is evangelical capitalism after all. So, to summarize the NFFA’s ideology: We have “National Sanctification”, an annual cleansing, presented as not racial, ethnic, or class-based, rather as an individual exercise in purging inner violence, and in doing so will preserve civil society and therefore maintain traditional institutions. Since not having a purge in the past is seen as an explanation for social ills such as rising crime and poverty.
The purge is also interestingly framed as a national necessity but not a direct government-enforced institution, as in, you’re told that those who participate in the purge are genuine individuals acting out their nature and not government-backed agents boosting murder rates. That seems to be satirizing conservative individualism when we realize that the government is indeed heavily involved in a supposed “natural” and not “government forced” but a “government allowing” institution.
Sorta-like how “free market capitalism” isn’t actually individuals acting as free agents, guided by a natural force like the invisible hand to obey supply and demand, but rather, corporate-interest groups using capital to influence government institutions to better their own positions in the market. Maybe Being is reaching here with this similarity but it’s an interesting thought.
So, “National Sanctification is needed to preserve and maintain traditional institutions.” When we synthesize this obsession with national sanctification with traditionalist conservatism we get sanctified conservatism or what will be coined as Sanctivist Conservatism. Keep in mind, this is Being trying to give the fictional party’s ideology a more specific label. Treating it as if it were real.
The other antagonistic force is the “Ever After Purge”, or “Purge Purification Force” movement which we will call the “Forever Purgers’’ for short. This political movement shows up in the fifth installment “The Forever Purge.” This movement is made up of white supremacists who use the recently reinstated Purge Night to stage a mass revolt and ethnic cleansing.
Turns out after Roan’s second term as president the NFFA returned to power and with them, the Purge was reinstated. What’s funny is that in order to do this would’ve required the ratification of another amendment.
As the 28th establishes purge night.
The 29th would’ve been needed to abolish it, as in nullifying the 28th.
A 30th amendment would’ve then been required to reestablish the purge. Thus nullifying the 29th and reenacting the 28th.
But this little confusing detail was never acknowledged.
What the Forever Purges seek to do here is to take a conservative institution like the Purge and transcend it. Taking it beyond its original intent to preserve traditional governance and society. Making it instead of a part of their attempt to create a new order. So that one night springboards into the establishment of a new government made up of “organic members and leaders.” So in a sense, this Purge is indeed made Forever.
What’s interesting here is that this is not an NFFA backed group. Rather, an autonomous group spawned from rising social tensions of the last purgless eight years. NFFA doesn’t do anything about this group until they continue to purge after the twelve hours have ended. Deploying the military to try and suppress the widespread violence. Making an attempt to restore civil society.
As the Forever Purgers jeopardize their power and the institution of the purge itself. The conflict between the NFFA and the Forever Purgers can be viewed as a conflict between conservatism and fascism. As the Fascist drive towards a new order and dismantlement of traditional government is at odds with the conservative drive to preserve it. You could also interpret the illiberal actions of the NFFA and the creation of the Purge itself as creating the conditions for this fascist revolution.
The film ends with a radio announcer talking about citizens rising up in opposition to the Forever Purgers. Making the fate of this Fascist movement and the NFFA unknown. Well, until they decide to make a sixth purge movie.
Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in learning more about this franchise, Being recommend this video that covers the fictional history more in-depth.