Over the past 25 years, the international appeal of Halloween seems to have grown exponentially, with peoples around the world grasping the appeal of dressing up likely a sexy monster in order to terrify their friends and family. Yet the global order that made Halloween an international holiday is now stalked by at least five scary, horrific beasts.
Freddy Krueger murdered twenty children but escaped justice, only to be cornered and burned to death by a group of vigilantes. Freddie gets his revenge by hunting the children of those vigilantes in their dreams. Nearly eighty years ago, the Western democracies and the Soviet Union destroyed fascism and right-wing authoritarianism in Germany, Italy, and Japan. Much like Freddy, the transnational fascist right now hunts democracies in their nightmares. Extreme right-wing movements in Italy, Sweden, the United States, and elsewhere have seen electoral success. These fascists (many of whom draw direct intellectual inspiration from their 1940s counterparts) threaten to overturn the post-war liberal international order, and have even found a new sponsor in Moscow. Today’s fascists have scars, but they also have sharp knives and they have no intention of leaving the world’s democracies alone.
Searching for the secret to everlasting life, Dr. Victor Frankenstein accidentally assembled a monster with a set of grievances and a taste for murder. The United States did not create the People’s Republic of China, but trade policies pursued by several consecutive presidential administrations helped turn the PRC into the economic giant that stands astride Asia today. At the same time, Washington excluded Beijing from many decisions about the core rulesets of global society. The hope was that trade-oriented capitalism would necessarily bring democracy to China, but that hasn’t worked out. Instead, China has grown more authoritarian and is beginning to get aggressive in both its near and far abroad. It has become far too late to undo the creation of the Monster (if it was every possible), and so now the world must either defeat it or learn to deal with it.
Michael Myers, a murderous mental patient with hints of the mystical, does not quit. He absolutely wants to kill Laurie Strode, for some reason, and he’s not interested in any small talk along the way. He can also take an enormous amount of punishment. In February, Russia made clear that it does not quit, and it absolutely wants to crush Ukraine for some reason. Despite taking horrendous casualties and suffering dreadful losses on both the military and economic fronts, Russia has persisted in its aggression. Indeed, much of the point of Russia’s invasion seems to be the need to make clear to the world that Russia EXISTS, is not going away, and must be paid some attention. To be fair Russia isn’t nearly as quiet as Michael Myers (the Russian state isn’t shy about vocalizing its needs), but it does seem to be nearly as relentless, even in the face of injuries that would be catastrophic for any other state.
A vampire of mysterious origin, Count Dracula traveled from his castle in Transylvania to London in order to search of the blood of new victims. Dracula’s relationship with his victims is fundamentally parasitic; he provides nothing of value to them, while they provide sustenance to him. Today, Dracula represents a corrupt, oligarchic, kleptocratic class that essentially surfs on the prosperity of the masses while providing nothing of real value. The world has grown astonishingly rich, and yet great multitudes remain mired in poverty. A privileged set takes advantage of corruption, legal loopholes, offshore tax havens, and a variety of other methods to skim vast wealth off the top, enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else. Like every other monster discussed here, the Vampire of Kleptocracy is astonishingly difficult to pin down and finish off, always managing to escape scrutiny in some fashion and find another place to stash its ill-gotten gains.
Cthulu, High Priest of the Great Old Ones, The Great Dreamer, The Sleeper of R’lyeh:
Lord Cthulu represents the impending, unavoidable reawakening of the Elder Gods, who remember the ages before the dawning of the world, who hate humankind, and who intend to destroy it. In other words, climate change. Despite generations of data and decades of warnings, the world has yet to prepare to fully deal with the crisis of climate change. Shifts to renewable, non-polluting sources of energy haven’t failed, exactly, but they have fallen prey to geopolitics and to domestic infighting. The effects of climate change, much like the rage of Lord Cthulu, remain mysterious in their specifics yet terrifying in their enormity. Holders of forbidden knowledge (climate scientists) do their best to warn the world, but their cries too often fall on deaf ears in the public and the policy community. But ignoring the creature absolutely does not make it go away.
It’s a scary world out there, and unfortunately, it’s also a scary world in here. Halloween lets us grapple with at least some of those fears, making them tangible and sometimes just a little bit funny. But in an important sense the monsters are real, and it’s altogether sensible to be afraid of them. In each case, the trick is to figure out how to finish the monster off once and for all.
Dr. Robert Farley has taught security and diplomacy courses at the Patterson School since 2005. He received his BS from the University of Oregon in 1997, and his Ph. D. from the University of Washington in 2004. Dr. Farley is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), the Battleship Book (Wildside, 2016), and Patents for Power: Intellectual Property Law and the Diffusion of Military Technology (University of Chicago, 2020). He has contributed extensively to a number of journals and magazines, including the National Interest, the Diplomat: APAC, World Politics Review, and the American Prospect. Dr. Farley is also a founder and senior editor of Lawyers, Guns and Money.