About precedents: The 13th was chosen as the opening-night event of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s New York Film Festival. It is the first documentary ever accorded that prestigious position, breaking precedent with the festival’s 53-year emphasis on narrative fiction. It’s perverse, given that DuVernay’s film blames The Birth of a Nation , D. W. Griffith’s 1915 masterpiece, for setting new precedents in racism — an insultingly glib defamation for a venerable film institution to sponsor. One of DuVernay’s talking heads blathers about a “search for the medium of technology that will confirm your experience such that your basic humanity can be recognized.” If The 13th is payback, it isn’t good enough to answer Griffith’s flawed genius. But black-and-white cookies were served at the opening-night party.
Once formed, enemy images tend to resist change, and serve to perpetuate and intensify the conflict. Because the adversary has come to be viewed as a "diabolical enemy," the conflict is framed as a war between good and evil. Once the parties have framed the conflict in this way, their positions become more rigid. In some cases, zero-sum thinking develops as parties come to believe that they must either secure their own victory, or face defeat. New goals to punish or destroy the opponent arise, and in some cases more militant leadership comes into power.