Want to see a preview of “The Fall of the American Empire”?
Then look no further than a Hollywood epic released 48 years ago.
The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) stands as a warning of how great nations can be destroyed by corruption long before they fall to foreign invaders.
The timeline of the film spans 180-192 A.D.. At the apex of the Roman world rules the philosopher-emperor, Marcus Aurelius (Alec Guinness). He pursues a policy of peace and leniency towards the conquered peoples who make up the empire.
But his son, Commodus (Christopher Plummer) believes this is weakness, and hungers for glory as a warrior-emperor.
A conspiracy forms against Marcus Aurelius, and a poisoned apple quietly removes him from the scene. He’s instantly succeeded by Commodus, who demands higher taxes and tribute from the eastern provinces of Syria and Egypt. Enraged, they rise in rebellion.
Desperate, Commodus turns to Rome’s best general, Gaius Metellus Livius (Stephen Boyd) to put down the revolt. He does so, but then refuses to obey Commodus’ demand for savage retribution.
Commodus, outraged, bribes the senators, plebeians and the army to side with him against Livius. His money and power have already fatally corrupted the empire: The head for the colossal statue of Jupiter in the Capitoline temple has been replaced with one of Commodus. In the senate, frightened Senators have resolved to change Rome’s name to “the city of Commodus.”
Livius is arrested and is sentenced to be executed. But then Commodus’ egomania gets the better of him: He says he will prove, once and for all, that he truly is the darling of the gods–by defeating Livius in gladiatorial combat before the eyes of the populace.
(The rich–unwilling to ease the plight of the poor–are willing to pacify them with mindless entertainment: Staged fights to the death between pairs of gladiators.)
But it is Livius who emerges victorious by killing Commodus.
Victorinus, a Roman general whom Commodus had bribed to deliver Livius’ army to him, quickly switches sides. He declares Livius the new Caesar.
But Livius wants no more of Roman politics. To Victorinus and his fellow slimeballs he says: “If I were Caesar, I would crucify you all.”
As Livius leaves the city, an auction opens for the imperial throne, to the accompanying narration: ”This was the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire. A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”
Now, fast-forward to the United States of 2012 A.D.
On the June 15 edition of The PBS Newshour, veteran political analyst Mark Shields noted the corrosive effects of the Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United” decision:
“[Super Political Action Committees] are an abomination….From 1976 to 2008, we had a level playing field in this country, where money didn’t dominate, where the presidents were not chosen on the basis of who had the deepest pockets or the richest friends….
“We limited what individuals could give to a candidate, and what that candidate could spend. And in exchange for that, they accepted those limits and they accepted public funding.
“That was changed in 2008. President Obama–Democrats don’t like to acknowledge this–broke from that precedent because his campaign could outraise John McCain’s 2-1.
“But then came the  Citizens United decision from the Supreme Court….And now we have anonymous [donors]. We have unlimited [donations].
“We have corporations [that are regarded as] people. We have 32 billionaires now who have already contributed to Mitt Romney’s campaign. The president has had 164 fund-raisers already.
“This is not the way that campaigns should be run. I mean, you are spending time with the president’s being on an auction block is what it comes down to, to me. And the voice, the voices of people are drowned out in this sea of money.
“And I’m telling you, it is anonymous giving. It’s negative giving–it’s negative attack. We don’t know where it comes from. We don’t know who is giving it. And it’s just lousy.”
On June 16, the online Huffington Post ran a story under the following headline: “Sheldon Adelson to Lavish $71 Million in Casino Money on GOP Super PACs, Nonprofits.” Its first paragraph:
“Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, whose net worth makes him one of the world’s richest men, is on a check-writing spree that will soon bring his total political contributions in this election cycle to at least $71 million, according to sources familiar with his spending. That money is spread across the spectrum of GOP super PACs, which are required to disclose donors, and nonprofits, which are not.”
Adelson has already donated $36 million, including $10 million to the Romney-backing super PAC, Restore Our Future. But he has pledged to give at least $35 million more to three right-wing nonprofit groups.
Adelson, 78, has told friends that he might give as much as $100 million in donations this year to support right-wing candidates and issues.