‘This Place Rules’ Documentary, Explained: Who Profits From Dividing Americans?

Does Andrew Callaghan love America? Putting aside the obvious problems with answering a question such as that, how about we ask the right questions? What does it mean to love one’s motherland? All that I can come up with is that loving a place has more to do with pointing out its cracks than ignoring them and singing of its greatness. Callaghan’s drive brings him to the eccentric gatherings of people where he captures their oddities without a show of blatant judgment. Extracting entertainment from Callaghan’s experiences is up to his audience, as is casting judgment. With the world locked up in fear of COVID-19’s deleterious monster, Andrew Callaghan’s home RV had to take a break from driving up to rallies and concerts because there were no rallies or concerts to drive up to. That is until country-wide chaos emerged close to the 2020 Trump-Biden election, and people let out a war cry that took over the streets of America. Callaghan found a purpose in walking up to the people of both sides and witnessing the fiery events leading up to the infamous Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. Trusting Callaghan’s instinct and experience to come up with a documentary that encapsulated the real dangers that hide under the surface of loud political unrest, Studio A24 and HBO backed “This Place Rules.” And the result is the brave unmasking of all that is wrong with America through Callaghan’s schticky humor finding the most bizarre antics of its people. 

Andrew Callaghan’s gonzo journalistic method of being one with the crowds and purposefully capturing the most authentic takes, however peculiar they may be, left no room for a rigid preset decided beforehand. Unlike a set-up script, journalistic documentaries can’t hope to predict the outcome ahead of the shoot’s end. So, what Callaghan deliberately handpicked as the opening note of his powerful film had to be something that stood as a striking representation of what he concluded by the time the filming was over. “This Place Rules” starts itself off with the hilariously tantalizing rivalry between Joker Gang and Gum Gang. The two social media influencers find themselves in a boxing ring after an altercation caused by one of them hitting on the other’s girlfriend. The ridiculous boxing match between two braindead halfwits does, however, present itself as a small-scale metaphor hinting toward the horror of the bigger picture. Caught up in the political mayhem just ahead of the 2020 presidential election, the louder and more behemoth part of the country is divided into two frantic halves. The far-right is the expectedly mindless conspiracy mongers, while the radical far-left is thinking up a science fiction world. With the mainstream media on top of it 24/7, the American radical political scene is expected to plunge into the kind of pandemonium that can cause something of a civil war. To dive into what is being fed to both sides, Andrew Callaghan interviews influential conspiracy theorists and protestors on the streets.

What Do The Two Sides Have To Say?

Andrew drives to North Carolina to meet “The Inglorious Patriot,” Dave Todeschini. Dave runs the YouTube channel “Covfefe with Dave” and uses the platform to spill his “intuitive” nonsense. To the old guy who probably takes a shot of QAnon ramblings with every meal, Halloween is when the child-eaters thrive, Biden and Hillary Clinton consume infants and are pedophiles, and restaurants are fronts for kidnapping, murder, and cannibalism. Sadly, for Dave, the state won’t allow him to go to DC for the protests. Andrew, however, does find a replacement to talk to on the streets of DC. Dick from Alaska is worried about the globalist takeover that is apparently going to demolish his great country. Since he is not good with facts and words, Dick can’t particularly tell what a globalist really is. But as long as you’re out there disrespecting an indigenous musical instrument, you’re good, right? DC isn’t just crawling with right-wingers with a political agenda. There’s also an agitated antisemitic man who thinks this is the time and place to protest against circumcision. Strangely enough, a frantic African American man, who, from the looks of it, isn’t quite sober, is screaming praises of Trump, denying the horror that is COVID, and speaking against the Black Lives Matter movement. As night falls and the ballots begin to point to the upcoming winner, the peaceful lunatics are replaced by a more active crowd. A Trump supporter teacher vilifies the mainstream media for spreading lies and glorifies the likes of Alex Jones for speaking the “truths.” At the site, Callaghan now sees the sign of Antifa, a far-left protest group that Trump’s media manipulatively identifies as Biden voters. After talking to them, Callaghan concludes that most of them aren’t even there to talk about the elections. They want an unachievable new world order where there will be no concept of money and all the mushrooms their hearts desire. With the polls closing and the election heading to its conclusion, the far-right drowns in conspiracy theories and tries to drag the rest of the country down with them, while the far-left is busy picturing a world that will need the kind of work they are not about to put in.

How Do Conspiracy Theories Empower ‘Stop The Steal’ And The ‘Million Maga March’?

Trump losing Pennsylvania and his team suing the state for rigging ballots rile up the Republicans, who take to the streets with “Stop The Steal” slogans and banners. They believe with every crumb of their being that Trump is their rightful president, and there’s no way for Biden to win without a dirty, unfair election. Horror film actor Edward X. Young will only accept the alpha male president in the oval office, and another far-right protestor can’t wait to see the “whites” pounce on Antifa. With hate speech and conspiracies about a calculated false election taking over social media, countless right-wingers get kicked off the social media sites for posting risky, misleading information. Instead of putting out the fire, being shut down only drives them to come together and form an even stronger alliance that takes over the roads with the “Million MAGA March.” Biden wins, and grossly insulting Kamala Harris is somehow not even among the most asinine nonsense that his haters start to spew. They’ve got theories for it all. Theories they are gathering from one of the biggest and most impactful conspiracy theorists of all time, Alex Jones. Jones’ “Infowars,” being kicked off of YouTube did nothing to stop the lunatic from spreading utter absurdities. From something in the water turning the Americans gay to the Satanist Democrats drinking infants’ blood, there’s probably nothing Jones doesn’t turn into a possible satirical season of “American Horror Story.” In the midst of Trump supporters, Jones finds the perfect platform to let out the QAnon nonsense that his show “Infowars” is popular for. He manipulates the naive crowd into truly believing that they can still somehow overturn the election with talks of Satanic socialism and demonic globalists. On his show, Jones goes as far as to bravely back the theories of human-cow hybrids and super-spiders. On the streets, he takes the opportunity to gain even more followers for his platform by playing the dysfunctional minds of the right-wingers who desperately need something grander and distracting to believe in.

What Motivates The Far Right To Break Into The Capitol?

All fired up by the words of their hero, Alex Jones, Trump supporters gather in front of the Black Lives Matter Plaza just to anger the communists and hopefully get a reaction out of them. Just arriving at the scene to cause even more chaos are the “Proud Boys”—a neo-Nazi, chauvinistic group that is proud of its racism, sexism, and violence. After its founder Gavin McInnes stepped down due to a protestor’s death caused by neo-Nazi Proud Boy Jason Kessler’s punch during the Charlottesville rally, the group attempted to get a brand-new image of racial inclusiveness by making Afro-Cuban gun rights activist Enrique Tarrio their chairman. Tarrio speaks boastfully of the group’s defensive approach and tries to prove it on camera by not beating up an African American man. Whew! The chief battle on the streets of America is between the Proud Boys and the anti-Trump, anti-KKK, and anti-fascist Antifa. Riots breaking out in the city calls for law enforcement to step in and handle the protestors on both sides. Unsurprisingly a supporter of “Back the Blue,” Enrique is forced to change his tone about cops now that even his own people are the victims of the baton. 

In the home of the Spencers, Callaghan finds an entire family afflicted with the disease of conspiracy. With a father that spends half of his day looking for cryptic messages on the QAnon site, it’s no surprise that the kid of the house believes in reptile people, Democrats’ taste for children’s flesh, and the fake, man-made COVID virus that “Chinese” President Biden is using to control people’s rights. While the Spencer family has made their lives all about QAnon nonsense, the neighboring black community can only afford to think about survival and the end of the police brutality that took Rayshard Brooks’ life. Things are heating up in Washington. Alex Jones gives a mixed message to his followers. On the one hand, he speaks of a peaceful protest to save his own back. On the other hand, he provokes the already riled-up MAGAs into recreating the 1776 American Revolution. It costs the likes of Alex Jones and Enrique Tarrio nothing to get Trump supporters to plunge into a dangerous riot. Truly believing that they can change the election results, rioters break into and crawl all over the American Capitol. They can hardly be blamed for not being smart enough to know that they shouldn’t implicate themselves by live streaming their proud faces. They were never smart, to begin with. With hundreds of arrests breaking up the protest that has zero game plan, America marks January 6 as the day of the most futile “revolution” in its history.

Who Profits From Orchestrating A Division Between The People Of America?

After the wreckage at the Capitol and the arrests of the true believers, none of the provokers of the riot took any responsibility for it whatsoever. Alex Jones tries to pin it on the members of QAnon and Antifa. Enrique strategically got himself arrested by burning a BLM flag two days prior to the riot just so that he wouldn’t be associated with it. Each party is busy blaming the other for the happenings at the Capitol. At the same time, the Trump media is trying to manipulate the situation by turning it into a human rights issue. According to them, it was only a field trip of sorts. In the wake of their disillusionment, the Spencer family is heartbroken to accept that what they were told by the conspiracy theories wasn’t the truth in any sense. Even the little kid acknowledges the theories as political manipulations meant to create a rift between the citizens of America. The distractions placed in every nook and cranny are part of the larger political agenda of keeping them from asking questions about the real problems of a messed-up healthcare system, the scarcity of jobs, and the complete financial ruin of the country. Being run by powers that are busy fulfilling their own selfish cravings makes space for smaller but equally impactful leeches to take advantage of every unrest. “Proud Boys” chairman Enrique earns a massive amount by selling right-wing t-shirts. Adding fuel to the fire is how he can get the demand for his merchandise high enough to become unbelievably rich. His complete disregard for human life was hard to ignore when he was imprisoned for selling expired diabetes test strips. Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory platform earns its buck by selling anti-globalist merchandise and supplements to people that are simple-minded enough to fall for his tricks. A large part of his videos is solely dedicted to advertisements for his products. In 2017, Jones reportedly made a whopping $10 million from selling merchandise and subscriptions. The horrific state of a country’s businessmen profiting from the rift they cause for their own financial agenda is only validated by Trump’s own $25 million earnings from selling MAGA hats. What “This Place Rules” points to is the monumental problem of a country where people will hold on to just about anything that diverts them from the essential things they lack. They will also continue to project their own darkness onto others just to get a break from their self-loathing. Dave Todeschini, the man who accused Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Jonah Hill of pedophilia, is a registered sex offender who was charged with the first-degree sexual assault of an 8-year-old boy. The psychotic denial of a man who would go to the extremes of blaming others for his own filthy compulsion paints a disturbing picture of what really empowers the conspiracy theories. It’s the lies and the pointless anger that momentarily soothe the disordered country. And such an ardent need for distraction creates a void. And when that void isn’t filled by something helpful or reformative, it will be the zone where selfishness thrives undetected.

“This Place Rules” is a 2022 documentary film directed by Andrew Callaghan.

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Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra nerds out about baking whenever she’s not busy looking for new additions to the horror genre. Nothing makes her happier than finding a long-running show with characters that embrace her as their own. Writing has become the perfect mode of communicating all that she feels for the loving world of motion pictures.
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