The set of “The Cutting Room” in WTFN’s West Coast studio. Theme music starts up, and a high camera pans down to show a man and a woman seated in upholstered chairs separated by a coffee table. All around are movie posters and stills of actors and actresses. The music dies down, and the host turns toward the camera, now at eye level.
LANCE BOYLE: Good evening, and welcome to Part II of WTFN’s pre-Oscar special presentation from our West Coast Studios in Los Angeles. I’m Lance Boyle and back with me is move critic Miriam Kale. (to Miriam). Miriam, on last week’s show you told us that Lincoln will likely take the Oscar for Best Picture, but the reasons you gave were shocking. Essentially, you said it will win because of outside factors that have nothing to to with the movie itself, and because the movie misrepresents arguably the most revered president in American history.
MARIAM KALE: What can I say?—Propaganda will always win out over principle. Why? Because, collectively, American society is violent, ignorant and narcissistic. Its members grow up addicted to opiates like America being the natural leader of the free world, the greatest economic power, and the champion of justice. These opiates breed a chauvinism that creates its own reality, and so Americans are unable to look at themselves rationally or understand their history. A comforting narcotic, like the one about Lincoln’s freeing the slaves, is just the fix that Americans need so they can feel good about their country and cling to the myth that it is heir to Lincoln’s greatness. In short, Lincoln proves that Hollywood is just part of a great drug distribution network designed to keep Americans in a perpetual state of intellectual infancy.
BOYLE: You also had a few choice comments to make about another quasi-historical movie, Argo, which tells the story of spiriting six Americans out of post-revolutionary Islamic Iran. You condemned it for its anti-Muslim stereotyping, calling it (reads from notes) ‘a grossly prejudiced characterization makes no mention of the roles played by violent, intolerant Jews of “The Jewish State” or the violent, intolerant Christians of the U.S., which is no less a theocracy.’ It sounds like it’s your pick for The Leni.
KALE: Well, it is a shallow, barely historical propaganada film, and on that basis it could be considered, but Affleck is not the filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl was, and Argo doesn’t preach the Holocaust®. In fact, no film does.
BOYLE: So is the award not going to be given?!
KALE: It’ll be given, but I understand the Academy has decided to give a special award of merit not to a film but to a person.
BOYLE: Who is it?
KALE: Why don’t you open the envelope and find out? (She hands it to him and he opens it.
BOYLE: Interesting choice. Not entirely unexpected.
KALE: As director of Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow does for Dick Cheney exactly what Riefenstahl did for Adolf Hitler–makes fascism seem rational, even virtuous. In fact, renowned filmmaker John Pilger, among others, has said as much: “Zero Dark Thirty…promotes torture and murder, directed by the Oscar-winning Kathryn Bigelow, the Leni Riefenstahl of our time, promoting her master’s voice as did the Führer’s pet filmmaker.”
BOYLE: But isn’t Zero Dark Thirty based on historical fact?
KALE: No. Leaving aside the fact that the idea of the U.S. government trying to assassinate Osama bin Laden is grossly illegal and a betrayal of basic democratic principles, the movie misrepresents history at the same time it rationalizes torture and inflames public prejudice against Muslims.
BOYLE: How do we know Zero Dark Thirty misrepresents history?
KALE: For starters, Osama bin Laden died of lung complications in mid-December 2001 in Tora Bora, Afghanistan. We know this because his funeral was carried in the Dec. 25, 2001, edition of Pakistan’s Observer and reported the following day on Fox News. In addition, the U.S. had been using drone aircraft to monitor bin Laden’s electronic communications, and the traffic suddenly stopped in December 2001. The FBI’s counterterrorism department thought he was dead and so did Israel. On Oct. 16, 2002, the World Tribune ran a story entitled: ‘Bin Laden is Dead: Heir has been Chosen.’ So how the hell could Bigelow direct a movie about the assassination of bin Laden in May 2011!
BOYLE: I suppose you’re going to tell us.
KALE: She couldn’t. She made a propaganda film to serve her masters in the CIA, the Pentagon and White House, just as Riefenstahl made propaganda films for the Nazis—well, almost.
KALE: Riefenstahl didn’t exploit torture or foment war-hysteria, so that at least makes Riefenstahl a respectable filmmaker, something that cannot be said for Bigelow.
BOYLE: Why make a movie about killing an already dead bin Laden in the first place.
KALE: In short, because Israel is trying to coerce the U.S. into committing an atrocity on Iran, and it is eager to have the U.S. attack Syria. This film preaches that torture and murder of Muslims is patriotic, and does so using the lie that bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attack.
Also, a movie about this fraudulent assassination helps cover up the real reason for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan—overthrowing the Taliban government and installing a puppet regime to permit a U.S. group to build a pipeline through the country. Hunting bin Laden because of 9/11 was sold to the world to justify this aggression, but when bin Laden showed up dead the U.S. lost its rhetorical fig leaf. Therefore, bin Laden had to be kept ‘alive’ for as long as necessary. As David Ray Griffin notes in his short but informative Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive? numerous fake bin Laden video or voice recordings surfaced from 2001 to 2008. If bin Laden were still alive, why stoop to such clumsy chicanery?
BOYLE: Again, bad history is nothing new, and Bigelow says the film is not a documentary.
KALE: Such a feeble excuse is typical of the propagandist, who tries to hide behind the creative medium of moviemaking. At no time did Kathryn Bigelow ask any questions about the story or the use of torture. She blindly accepted what the Pentagon and the torture apparat told her, and made the film they wanted—an apologia for U.S. war crimes and state-sanctioned murder.
BOYLE: But Michael Moore disagrees. He has come to Bigelow’s defence, saying that her decision to direct the film should not be taken as endorsement of its content or the behaviour of Americans.
KALE: I have great respect for Michael Moore and his activist films, but here he’s way off base. He’s asking us to believe that Bigelow can compartmentalize her integrity to put out a pro-torture film. How does that make Bigelow any different from a war-criminal soldier who claims after the fact that he was only following orders? Look at her feeble attempt to justify the movie: 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.
Note the distasteful quibble ‘sometimes crossed moral lines’, the extrapolation of responsibility for torture to ‘ordinary Americans’ and the connection of torture with ‘defense of [the] nation.’ Bigelow is, in effect, saying nobody was responsible for committing torture because we are all guilty
Kathryn Bigelow blindly accepted what the Pentagon and the torture apparat told her, and made the film they wanted—an apologia for U.S. war crimes and state-sanctioned murder. She is to movie-making what Judith Miller is to journalism—a Pentagon whore masquerading as an ethical professional.
BOYLE: Much has been made of the opening half-hour, which shows lingering depictions of torture like waterboarding, stress positions, beatings, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation. Had this not been included, would you think differently?
KALE: No, for two reasons. One, it would amount to sanitizing the only genuinely true part of an otherwise fraudulent film. Second, the opening scene directly ‘connects’ bin Laden to 9/11, thereby justifying the whole film. The audience hears firefighters’ radio calls and frantic cries for help from the upper floors of the Twin Towers, all against a black background, thus enhancing the horror. Not mentioned, of course, is the role Israel played in the planning and execution of the attack or the lack of any evidence to connect bin Laden to the event. From this false premise comes the justification for torture.
BOYLE: Well, I’m glad for Bigelow’s sake that she’ll get the Leni because she didn’t get a Best Director nomination.
KALE: That may be the sole redeeming feature of Zero Dark Thirty. The director’s guild is so disgusted that I understand it went out of its way not to nominate her for fear of being seen as condoning torture. In fact, Hollywood as a whole is trying to distance itself from it. At least one academy member, actor Dave Clennon, has publicly stated that he would not vote for Zero Dark Thirty in any category because of its endorsement of torture.
BOYLE: I think we saw the negative reaction at the Golden Globes, where the film’s only award went to Jessica Chastain for Best Actress.
KALE: Playing a woman who looks on torture with just as much moral emptiness as a man, and who lusts to assassinate someone is hardly award-winning material. She was much better in The Help, but here’s a bit of trivia for you. Jessica Chastain also played in last year’s Leni-winning picture!” She better start chosing her films more wisely, or she may get a reputation for being a propaganda actress.
BOYLE: Well, I see we’re almost out of time. Any final thoughts?
KALE: Maybe it takes an atrocity like Zero Dark Thirty to rouse Hollywood from its pro-Jewish/anti-Muslim torpor and demand that films not only be entertaining but also have integrity. Perhaps awarding the Leni to Bigelow will serve a positive purpose because as someone once told me: ‘Nobody is truly useless; a person can always be held up as a bad example.
BOYLE: (to camera) That’s it for another Oscar preview. I’ll se you at the awards. For Miriam Kale and me, good night!
• Read Part 1 here