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Oliver Stone Defends His Putin Interviews

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From Consortium News


Oliver Stone interviewing Russian President Vladimir Putin in Showtime's 'The Putin Interviews.'
(Image by Showtime)
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Not surprisingly, the U.S. mainstream media, which has obsessed over the Russia-gate "scandal" for months, is bashing director Oliver Stone for his four-part series of interviews with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the grounds that Stone should have been tougher.

But Stone's subtle and probing interviews of Putin -- The Putin Interviews airing on Showtime -- give the viewer a revealing inside look at the Russian leader, who is by all accounts extremely popular among Russians with approval ratings of around 80 percent.

I spoke with Stone at his Los Angeles offices on July 25th, soon after he was honored with the Gary Webb Freedom of the Press Award by Consortiumnews.com, hosted by award-winning investigative reporter, Robert Parry.

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Stone also will receive the Honorary Heart of Sarajevo Award "for his extraordinary contribution to the art of film" at the 23rd Sarajevo Film Festival in August.

Dennis Bernstein: Oliver Stone, how important was it for you to win the Gary Webb Freedom of the Press Award? Gary Webb, for those who don't know, was the reporter who broke the story about the CIA's relationship to drug traffickers.

Oliver Stone: Gary Webb was a hero of mine, as is Bob Parry. Bob has been with ConsortiumNews for many years. I met him when he was investigating the Iran-Contra affair back in the early 1990s.

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DB: Of course, Gary Webb was shredded for the way in which he was able to document the end result of the CIA's involvement with drug traffickers. For a moment he was lauded, but then he was very quickly run out of the trade.

OS: The Iran-Contra affair is a typical example of this country's hypocrisy. It was a huge story and what Reagan did was impeachable. The mainstream press didn't want another shake-up of the government after Nixon. There was never any proper investigation of that mess. When you hear this latest Russian hacking business, it makes you even angrier because the stuff that truly deserves to be is not investigated.

DB: Why did you choose to interview Putin at this time?

OS: While I was in Moscow talking to Edward Snowden a couple years back, I met with Mr. Putin and asked him about Snowden. He was very forthcoming and gave me his very sensible take on the whole affair. I thought it would be a good idea to continue the interviews, though I wasn't sure he would cooperate. We did a series of four visits over two years, starting in June of 2015 and ending in February 2017. I am sure that if he had not been optimistic about the project he wouldn't have continued. We would be in Moscow for just two or three days and it was difficult to see him for more than a couple hours at a time.

Of course, at the time, the 2016 election was supposed to be in the bag for Mrs. Clinton. We went back in February to interview Putin about the election results, which became notorious. Our intention was to make a profile of a world leader who had been villainized by the United States in an almost cartoon fashion since 2006-2007. The fact that the election blossomed into this huge issue only added fuel to the fire. You've seen the criticism of the film in the mass media here.

DB: The corporate mainstream reporting on the Ukraine has been amazing.

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OS: It is an historical inaccuracy. If you read the accounts at the time in the Washington Post and the New York Times, there was zero coverage from the other side. Reporters were dismissing these stories as conspiracy theories and this was "on the day of." It was so evidently a coup, the Europeans knew it. Yet, in the United States, we seemed, as we often do, to be blissfully ignorant of the other side of the story.

We are looking for some justification for restarting the Cold War. It was almost as if we were back to confronting the Soviet Union again. We have been stalking Putin since he starting putting the economy back together again. Around 2004 you start to see the earliest criticism of him as a dictator and an embezzler, and so on.

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Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)
 

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