It's the early 1970s, and the war in Vietnam has split the country into two camps: old America and young America. Old America is defined by moms, pops, and cops; young America is defined by white male intellectuals, black male revolutionaries, and white female feminists. The government, run by Nixon, has granted old America the power to punish and discipline young America. Urban young people are arrested, placed onto military trucks, transported to the desert, and tried by the white moms and pops of America.
During their trials, the young have only this to yell at the old: They are supporting a fascist, violent government and a criminal war; they are indifferent to the suffering of poor people around the world. The old have only this to yell at the young: They need to respect their parents, the law, and the flag. In one trial, a black revolutionary is informed that blacks in America have nothing to complain about because their standard of living is higher than that of whites in the Soviet Union—"You have more color TVs than they do." In another trial, the lyrics of a feminist singer are read and mocked: "Santa Claus is coming with a bag of bombs and guns/Santa Claus is here, the revolution has come... Get yours and fight like crazy..."
Every trial ends with a guilty verdict and a mysterious offer: The guilty person spends either years in prison or days in Punishment Park. All opt for Punishment Park, which turns out to be a deadly desert game of hunters and hunted. The hunters are not soldiers but armed cops (yes, pigs!). The cops even chase the youth in cop cars! And they mercilessly gun them down! And all of this fiction is made to look like a documentary (the film was made in 1971). The pursuit is mixed with interviews of gum-chewing pigs ("It's their fault for not obeying the law") and terrified, heat-exhausted youth ("This is not about my country, it's about my sanity"). In the end, what we see is the strange birth of reality-TV shows like Survivor and The Biggest Loser.