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Film / No God, No Master

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In this 2012 film, Bureau of Investigation (BOI, the predecessor of today's FBI) agent William Flynn is tasked with tracking down the terrorists behind a series of package bombs sent out on the East Coast of the US. He zeroes in upon a group of violent anarchists who are largely Italian immigrants, led by the orator Luigi Galleani. However, as the violence soon escalates, the government is not content to wait for the normal processes of law enforcement, sweeping up innocent people when they crack down against foreign-born radicals.


  • Anarchy Is Chaos: Zigzagged in the film, centering around the investigation of the 1919 Anarchist Bombings, which (as the name implies) were the work of Luigi Galleani and his anarchist followers. On the other hand, it makes very clear that other anarchists did not advocate these actions. In the end, it did nothing for the anarchists but simply get many thousands of them (violent or not) deported.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • First off, the title: "No Gods, No Masters" was then and is now an anarchist slogan-it isn't clear why they changed it.
    • Flynn, who's investigating the bombings (April-June 1919) is shown with a free Emma Goldman-but she was in prison until September 1919, making this impossible. Her Mother Earth magazine had also been banned in 1917.
    • Luigi Galleani was deported in June of 1919, while the Palmer Raids took place in November 1919-January 1920.
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    • Palmer himself suffered a bomb attack on his house in June, which the film strangely does not include, though it would have added to its drama and given him a personal motive in his heavy-handed response to the bombings.
    • Flynn was actually made chief of the BOI in July 1919, before the raids. While the People's Institute did exist (and still does), they did not give Galleani a scholarship, with him then turning on its members-this does not appear to serve any real purpose in the film but giving him a motive as John Rockefeller (a target of the bombings) was said to be its backer (in reality Galleani had been an anarchist for years already, openly advocating violence, while the story implies this had made him take up the ideology).
    • Sacco and Vanzetti had actually known each other since 1917, and left the US to evade the World War 1 draft. Both of them were anarchists who openly advocated violence, and possibly also followers of Luigi Galleani. They were known associates of Carlo Valdonoci, the Italian anarchist who delivered a bomb to Palmer's house, then accidentally blew himself up in the process. However, the pair were probably not guilty of the payroll murders, but had their political beliefs used against them. Unlike in the film, however, they were convicted in 1921 (a year after the final bombing, that of Wall Street) and only sentenced to death in 1927, as years of appeals delayed it.
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    • J. Edgar Hoover was actually appointed by Flynn to monitor suspected radicals, whereas the film contrasts them with each other unfavorably.
    • Last, this was hardly the first terrorist act on US soil. Most of these deviations don't really seem necessary to the film's dramatic purposes.
  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: This film revolves around Bureau of Investigation agent William Flynn investigating the 1919 Anarchist Bombings, where numerous prominent business and government figures were targeted with package bombs.
  • Company Town: Discussed by Flynn when he's speaking with John D. Rockefeller, as a possible motive to send a bomb for Rockefeller's house. In particular, the Ludlow Massacre at one of the company towns which Rockefeller's business runs appears to be the impetus behind the bomb.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The promotional materials bring up a lot of parallels that the First Red Scare (1919-1920) had with The War on Terror-attacks by one fringe group sparking a massive government crackdown, including raids and arrests which had sketchy legality (however those arrested were deported, not detained, after being held on prison ships in dock), most of people with no evidence they had committed any crime (it also helped inspire the American Civil Liberties Union's formation) who'd immigrated to the US.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: A news boy announces the death sentences against Sacco and Vanzetti this way.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Some of the anarchists' bombmakers accidentally blow themselves up with live dynamite set on the table near them.
  • Hollywood Atheist: The anarchist leader Luigi Galleani denounces religion, and says it's one of the things which must be abolished. It's also implied by the film title, which is based on a real anarchist slogan (though not all went this far, as shown in the story).
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Raverini beats up Andrea Salsedo when he claims not to know who the bomb packages are for. He cracks after Flynn sets one of the bombs to explode and they leave him with it.
  • Karma Houdini: None of the bombers were ever punished for their crimes, nor did Palmer and Hoover have to face any consequences over the violations of people's civil rights.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: The film closes on the wrongful convictions of Sacco and Vanzetti resulting from the anti-anarchist hysteria.
  • Officer O'Hara: William Flynn, the Irish American main character who's an agent with the Bureau of Investigation at the US Justice Department.
  • Police Brutality: The NYPD breaks up a rally by the anarchist Emma Goldman and IWW union organizer Carlo Tresca, even though neither they nor the listeners committed any crime, liberally beating people with batons despite Flynn's objections.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Flynn does his damnedest to track down the bombers. He also understands their grievances however, sympathizing with the way many workers are treated, and is against government abuses.
  • Red Scare: The first is showcased in the film, as the result of the Anarchist Bombings. Afterward, thousands of foreign-born "radicals" are arrested and deported due to the hysteria (whether anarchists or even suspected of involvement).
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Luigi Galleani calls for massive bloodshed to bring down the system, which his followers carry out through bombings. Other anarchists such as Emma Goldman denounce this however.
  • Western Terrorists: The antagonists of the film, who are Galleanist anarchists largely of Italian descent in the US.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The film ends with a summary of what happened to the major characters.
  • You Got Murder: The anarchists mailed package bombs to different business and government targets, though most of them didn't reach anyone as they had insufficient postage. None actually managed to kill any target.