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Zero Dark Oscar

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In this filthy Oz, the CIA only tortures certified evil terra-rists; the US government never kills innocent civilians; and all torturers, analysts and high-tech killers are unimpeachable selfless heroes. 

Gotta love this CIA who relentlessly lied to get a war on Iraq; who engaged on a torture fest in endless black sites after endless extraordinary renditions; and who now has switched to a Drone War -- HUMINT takes too long and is too costly -- to improve its killing performance, frequently adorned with collateral damage. 

A digital tsunami has been devoted to torture as depicted in ZD30. Bigelow has essentially defended the torture scenes as "depiction," not "endorsement." Well, once again it starts with the screenplay -- written by Mark Boal, a former hack who was briefly embedded in Iraq. He based the screenplay on exclusive, privileged, "firsthand" access to CIA torturers and assorted CIA sources. Boal and Bigelow have stressed for months that ZD30 is a documentary-style "factual" narrative of the Osama bin Laden hunt and then the hit. They say it's factual. But they also say it's just a movie. 

Here's the most articulate Bigelow has been in defending ZD30. She insists she was not "interested in portraying this military action as free of moral consequences." She insists ZD30 is "rigorous" -- as in stressing its "documentary" side. She also insists she is a "lifelong pacifist."  

Bigelow did shoot ZD30 -- aesthetically -- almost as a documentary. She depicts torture not graphically, but in a carefully sanitized way. Torture, in ZD30's terms, feels entirely justified. Thus entirely normalized. Thus entirely endorsable; after all the torturers themselves are so human -- just like the hostages in Argo. Sartre to the rescue: hell is indeed other people, especially if they are Muslims. 

Boal and Bigelow have also insisted they worked in a "journalistic" way. That's -- literally -- the killer; it proves ZD30 is the ultimate product of GWOT, embedded journalism. Once upon a time, the blues had a baby, and they named it rock'n roll. In post-modern America, the Pentagon created embedded journalism; and the CIA had its baby, embedded moviemaking. 
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ZD30 should be seen as the ultimate cinematic product of the Obama era. The record shows how the "Yes we can" icon with silky rhetorical skills (wake up Spielberg, here's your new Lincoln) has trampled everything from ethics to the rule of law -- not closing Guantanamo yet effortlessly pivoting from GWOT to shadow war and an exclusive kill list (no, "we don't torture," as he says in a TV interview in the background of a scene in ZD30). In the meantime, major sponsors -- as in the CIA -- merrily bask in the glow of cinematic myth. 

The beauty of it is that Hollywood, the way it works, does not even need the CIA -- or the Pentagon -- as sponsors. Hollywood does His Master's Voice by default. And it already starts with a winning hand, technically -- because nobody, save the odd European or Asian epic, can fight its unrivaled production values and period recreation know-how. 

Still, Hollywood prides itself as "liberal." Argo may get Best Picture and Spielberg may get Best Director. But make no mistake; as the supreme representative of the post-modern military-industrial-security-Hollywood complex, nothing beats ZD30
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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)
 

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