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Imperial Propaganda: Our Highest Achievement

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Imperial Propaganda: Our Highest Achievement

Joe Giambrone

Hollywood likes to pretend that things aren't political when they are.  It's that bi-partisan nationalist myth that if both corporate parties agree to cheer for the empire, then everyone cheers for the empire.  It's gotten so bad now that races like the Oscars and the Writer's Guild screenwriting award are tight contests between one CIA propaganda film and another CIA propaganda film.  The first one helps to demonize Iranians and set up the next World War scenario, while the second film fraudulently promotes the effectiveness of state-sanctioned torture crimes. 

If there ever was a time for loud disgust and rejection of the Hollywood / Military-Industrial-Complex, this would seem to be it ( Email address removed ).  Naomi Wolf made a comparison of Zero Dark Thirty's creators Bigelow and Boal to Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl (Triumph of the Will).  That, to me, seems inappropriately offensive to Leni Riefenstahl.  The good German filmmaker never promoted torture through deception.  Nor was Triumph a call to war.  The film was simply an expression of German patriotism and strength, rebirth from the ashes of World War I.  The current insidious crop of propaganda, as in the CIA's leaking of fictional scenes about locating Osama Bin Laden through torture extraction, are arguably more damaging and less defensible than Riefenstahl's upfront and blatant homage to Hitler's leadership.

The Zero Dark Thirty scandal should be common knowledge by now, but here is what the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence wrote to Sony Pictures about it:

"We believe the film is grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of Usama bin Laden"  Instead, the CIA learned of the existence of the courier, his true name and location through means unrelated to the CIA detention and interrogation program."

The filmmakers had every opportunity to explore the issue more fully, instead of relying on the "firsthand accounts" of the torturers themselves, and/or their allies within the Central Intelligence Agency.  Notably, torturers are felons and war criminals.  Those who know about their crimes and help cover them up are guilty of conspiracy to torture.  Thus, these self-serving fairy tales that illegal torture led to the desired results (bin Laden) are tangled up with the motivation to protect war criminals from prosecution.  Not only does this claim of successful torture help insulate the guilty from legal prosecution, it also helps to promote further criminal acts of torture in the future.

Once this red flag issue was raised by the Senate, the filmmakers could have taken a second look at what they had put up on screens and reassessed the veracity of their material and the way it was being sold to the world.  Instead they doubled down.  Bigelow and Boal want it both ways, extraordinary access to CIA storytellers for a documentary-like "factual" telling of the bin Laden execution, but they also want license to claim that it's just a movie and can therefore take all the liberties they please. 

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Jessica Chastain, who plays a state-employed torturer/murderer, who also allegedly located Osama bin Laden, said:

"I'm afraid to get called in front of a Senate committee" In my opinion, this is a very accurate film" I think it's important to note the film is not a documentary."
In a nutshell, that's the Zero Dark Thirty defense.  It's a highly sourced "very accurate film," but we can take all the liberties we like because it's not a documentary, and so if we made up a case for torture based on the lies of professional liars in the CIA, then oops.

Mark Boal went so far as to mock the Senate Intelligence Committee, at the NY Film Critic's Circle:

"In case anyone is asking, we stand by the film" Apparently, the French government will be investigating Les Mis."

Any controversy over the picture seems to help its box office, as more uninformed people hear about it.  The filmmakers themselves suffer no penalty as a result of misleading a large number of people on torture, to accept torture, to accept a secretive criminal state that tortures with impunity. 

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 Kathryn Bigelow's wrapped-in-the-flag defense of the film:

"Bin Laden" was defeated by ordinary Americans who fought bravely even as they sometimes crossed moral lines, who labored greatly and intently, who gave all of themselves in both victory and defeat, in life and in death, for the defense of this nation." (emphasis in original)

Nice propaganda trick at the end equating those who "gave all of themselves" and "death" with the individuals who "sometimes crossed moral lines."  Everyone's dirty; you see.  All heroes are torturers; so it's okay.

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Political Film Blog Author of HELL OF A DEAL: A Supernatural Satire, a tale of Hollywood's accommodation with torture and militarism.

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I think Argo isn't quite as morally despicable as ... by Ross Brummet on Thursday, Feb 21, 2013 at 3:17:53 PM
Your article states that the CIA presently support... by Tracy Goode on Thursday, Feb 21, 2013 at 5:36:59 PM
that Obama engaged in illegal war against Libya, b... by Joe Giambrone on Thursday, Feb 21, 2013 at 8:08:15 PM
You've got to be kidding, or else you just haven't... by Wil Masisak on Thursday, Feb 21, 2013 at 9:50:37 PM
" Comparing the Obama administration to GWB's is ... by Textynn N on Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 at 1:38:03 AM
Obama has ended the war in Iraq as promised, is wi... by Tracy Goode on Thursday, Feb 21, 2013 at 5:39:12 PM
1) Obama didn't end the war on Iraq -- calling it ... by Ross Brummet on Thursday, Feb 21, 2013 at 7:05:29 PM
Not only was the murder or UBL unjustified, it was... by Wil Masisak on Thursday, Feb 21, 2013 at 10:02:00 PM
dead guy without "killing" him.... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Friday, Feb 22, 2013 at 12:07:00 PM
can only be considered moronic if you accept that ... by David McCorquodale on Monday, Feb 25, 2013 at 7:22:33 AM
Obama Administration Outsources Torture: Can U.S.... by Textynn N on Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 at 1:43:34 AM
"I agree no American should be targeted for execut... by Joe Giambrone on Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 at 2:26:51 AM
There is no evidence that Osama bin Laden was invo... by Michael Anthony on Friday, Feb 22, 2013 at 3:00:21 PM
There is no evidence that bin Laden had anything t... by Michael Anthony on Friday, Feb 22, 2013 at 3:03:08 PM
There are two kinds of people in this world . Ther... by Textynn N on Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 at 1:31:56 AM
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity take... by Joe Giambrone on Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 at 2:20:14 AM
We should all send this to our senators in DC.... by intotheabyss on Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 at 7:54:36 AM
Tracy Goode (and others) don't understand the situ... by Joe Giambrone on Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 at 1:59:07 PM