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‘This Place Rules’ Isn’t Original, It’s The Tired Jan. 6-QAnon Playbook With A Fresh Cover

HBO's 'This Place Rules'
Image CreditHBO/YouTube

Leftist commentaries about the right are trite and unoriginal; no matter how irreverent the packaging, they lack substance and originality.


Yet another documentary about Jan. 6 and QAnon has been released. This one, however, doesn’t explicitly prey on the anxieties of middle-aged #RESIST libs but instead seeks a younger audience with millennials and Gen Z.

“This Place Rules” is essentially a feature-length adaptation of director Andrew Callaghan’s previous venture into gonzo journalism in which he chronicled the political mayhem unfolding during the riots, presidential election, and general political and cultural upheaval of 2020. Callaghan attained a sizable following during this time by conducting distinctly candid man-on-the-street interviews at national inflection points marked by a unique sense of satirical levity and personal authenticity on the YouTube channel “All Gas No Brakes.”

Callaghan’s old videos on the “All Gas No Brakes” YouTube page feature interviews with some of the quirkier folks comprising the American populace — like those who attend fur fetish conventions and try hunting Bigfoot in their spare time. But he also features the more politically polarizing parts of our society; some include edited videos of drunken Proud Boys members attempting to explain the importance of Western civilization while elaborately pantomiming grotesque sexual acts, and others contain patient street interviews with Marxists and leftist rioters while obscuring their faces to protect their privacy, revealing where the channel’s ideological bias lies. 

“This Place Rules” maintains Callaghan’s commitment to showing some of the quirkier aspects of America. It opens by highlighting the rivalry between Joker Gang (a man who tattooed himself to look like the comic book character) and Gum Gang, two social media influencers from central Florida who settle their interpersonal beef in the ring mano a mano. 

Gum Gang even imparts some rather astute wisdom unto the audience after losing the bout, saying: “It was a loss, [I] took the ‘L’ and moved on. Hey, you don’t see me crying about it. … It is what it is, you take your ‘L,’ and you move on.”

But at the end of the day, the documentary’s focus isn’t actually on highlighting, let alone celebrating, the uniqueness of the American people, as its title might suggest. “This Place Rules,” indeed, appears to be a cynical title selection, as the documentary is primarily concerned with evangelizing audiences with leftist messaging. QAnon conspiracy theorists are representative of all conservative Americans. Right-wing protests are threats to “our democracy.” And Jan. 6 was the darkest day in our nation’s history. 

Sure, presumably in the spirit of fairness — or, more realistically, to maintain the veneer of ideological balance — “This Place Rules” shows some left-wingers acting in deranged and extreme ways. 

In one instance, the documentary crew interviews a woman in Washington, D.C., who, while rocking back and forth in her indoor rocking chair with a Biden-Harris campaign poster hanging on her wall, says, “Trump is going to go to prison in 2022, and he’s going to get raped, [but] again, I’m really not that political.” Moments before this, she referred to the former president as a “vile human being void of decency” before mocking his hair, weight, penis, and intelligence. 

Similarly, the documentary gives avowed Marxist radicals ample time to describe their niche ideologies and explain their revolutionary goals. This is done without substantive pushback or further inquiry of note from Callaghan. 

Callaghan and his team can make whatever movie they want. They have that right, but the reality is that “This Place Rules” doesn’t provide anything substantively original to public discourse. It rehashes the same leftist playbook that has been done time and time again. Make the fringes of the right-wing — illiterate QAnon conspiracy theorists, drunken Proud Boys, and racially conscious nihilists — appear mainstream while making space for and largely ignoring the antics of militant leftists.

Leftist commentaries about the right are trite and unoriginal; no matter how irreverent the packaging, they lack substance and originality.

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