Bulletin N°556



15 January 2012
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,

As we prepare for the spring semester here in southern France the ice is on the ground and the wind is periodically blowing at high velocity. It’s like having left the refrigerator door open, I try to explain to my children. The sporadic cold spells we have witnessed since October are the direct results of the robbery from icebergs which used to exist in the Arctic Circle, thousands of years of accumulated energy, a mass the size of the United States, has been transformed into liquid and gas and flushed toward the southern hemisphere of our planet by warm temperatures invading the north.

Despite this grim prognosis, we play in the snow anyway, wondering if this will be our last chance for the next million years, as the small islanders must wonder how much longer they have before their homelands disappear under the ever-rising levels of ocean water.

Where does class struggle --that optimistic hope that countervailing forces do exist-- fit into this scenario of cataclysmic changes that threaten to destroy our species (along with many others) and the natural environment on which we all depend.

Long ago, I read Viktor Frankl’s autobiography, entitled Man’s Search for Meaning (1959), in which he seemed to suggest that survival in hard times involves keeping your mind occupied, on no matter what.... Ordinary people living within imperialist nations seem to excel in this formula for remaining sane, murderously sane!!!

Occasionally, we see the best among us fall and momentarily we show some curiosity, like a pack of dogs might sniff the surrounding grounds, before we go on, back to our “business,” which is really nothing more than a pretext for keeping busy, for blocking out the unpleasant scents of reality which threaten to intrude into our lives, for fabricating a distraction in order to go on living.

In the 9 items below, readers can see signs of a resurgence of resolve, of collective focus in these grim times. Too little, too late? Perhaps, but nevertheless these 21st-century expressions stand as a tribute to our human potential to adapt to the requirements of our times and to work to modify our environment so that it fits our genuine collective needs, and always against the wishes of local despots and their gunners. [For more on despotisms, old and new, see CEIMSA Bulletin #234.]

Item A., sent to us by David Segal, at DemandProgress.org, is an appeal for an investigation into the death of Aaron Swartz, victim of US government ‘mobbing tactics’.

Item B., from Information Clearing House, is an exposé by Philip Giraldi on the anti-Muslim narrative in the US media and an exemplary cartoon by the popular US cartoonist, David Trudeau.

Item C., from Professor Francis Feeley, are two videos that describe the planting of the seeds of imperialism, from which we are witnessing the bitter harvest of today.

Item D., sent to us by Professor Edward S. Herman, is an article by Chris Hedges on the tine-honored role of the FBI spreading fear across North America and beyond.

Item E., from Information Clearing House, is an article by Robert Fisk predicting more of the same for the Middle East in 2013.

Item F., from Edward Herman, is “an open letter to Kathryn Bigelow” by Naomi Wolf, first published in the Guardian(UK).

Item G., from Reader Supported News, is an article on imperialist entertainments by Mick LaSalle, of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Item H., from The Real News Network, is a series documentary videos on “US Murder, Inc.” (a.k.a. “Drone Warfare”).

Item I., is a 2011 article by Jerome Roos, reflecting on social movements, far and wide….

And finally, we offer CEIMSA readers the production of the play by Michael Frayn on "uncertainty", performed by students from Vassar College at Poughkeepsie, NY and representing an imaginary dialogue between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg after their deaths, when they had nothing to lose by telling the truth :

Copenhagenhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KnUGMHKec4[performed in the Summer of 2007]


Francis Feeley
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego

from David Segal :
Date: 15 January 2013
Subject: Aaron Swartz, another 21st Century Robin Hood has fallen.

See Democracy Now! coverage of Aaron Swartz’s death :

E-mail this link to your friends :
Here's a sample email you can send to your friends:

You've surely heard of Aaron Swartz's tragic passing. Demand Progress sent out this statement today, and is encouraging those who'd like to help forward Aaron's fight against injustice to sign up here:
We are deeply saddened by the passing of Demand Progress’s Aaron Swartz. Friends and family have issued a statement and created a memorial page, here :

See also Aaron Swartz speaking  in May 2012 at the Freedom to Connect Conference in Washington, D.C. :

Aaron was a dear friend, and an ideological brother in arms. As others have spoken to at great length, he was indeed a passionate advocate for access to information and for a free and open Internet. He believed in these things for their own sakes, but moreover as means towards the even deeper end of building a world defined by social and economic justice.
He resisted the impulse to presume that he alone was responsible for his brilliance or should benefit therefrom, and he wasn’t a techno-utopian: He was a communitarian, somebody who was deeply aware of our world’s injustices and who understood the constant struggle that is necessary to even begin to remedy them. That’s why this organization exists.
We’ve worked closely with Aaron over the last two or three years, but have not known him for as long as have some others who’ve written profoundly moving tributes to him and his life’s work. We met him as a genius, but not as the boy-genius that Larry and Cory and many others knew, and we would suggest reading their pieces for deeper insight into his personal and professional evolution.

We first encountered Aaron through our executive director’s unsuccessful run for Congress in 2010. Aaron became a fixture in the campaign office, rigging up cheap ways to do polling and robo-calls and helping give the uphill effort a fighting chance. But it was never about just one campaign: He was honing skills and tools he wanted to use to build capacity for much broader social movements that would create fundamental, structural change. He’d taken to calling himself an “applied sociologist.” He was trying to hack the world, and we were happy to help in what small ways we could.

That campaign work quickly transitioned into Demand Progress and Aaron’s conception of the initial petition in opposition to the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act, and then the ensuing 18 months of activism that helped bring down SOPA and PIPA. There are so many stories to tell about that effort: trudging around the halls of the Capitol, getting under the skin of intransigent senators, generally scrapping away as we struggled to build a movement against all odds. Many of them are best told by Aaron himself, here. But Aaron’s legal troubles began approximately commensurate with the launch of that anti-COICA petition, and it was clear that his persecution by an institutionally corrupted criminal justice system weighed heavily on him throughout the last two years, and certainly more so of late.

We are working with Aaron’s friends, family, and colleagues to determine how best to pay tribute to him — it will surely entail engaging in political activism in service of making this world a more just one. We will be in touch with our members and the general public in the near future to offer suggestions about ways to move forward. Tragically, we’ll have to continue to stifle the visceral impulse to run our half-formed ideas by Aaron, to help us make them better ones.

Click here if you’d like to receive updates from us.

In the meantime, Aaron had deep respect for GiveWell. Those seeking to donate in his name might consider giving to the charities they recommend.


from ICH :
Date: 9 December 2012
Subject: How films and other media have shaped an anti-Muslim narrative.

Why We Hate Them: Arabs in Western Eyes
[A new PBS documentary reveals how films and other media have shaped an anti-Muslim narrative]
By Philip Giraldi

January 02, 2012 "The American Conservative " - Control of the preferred narrative is essential in today’s instant-news political culture. This has been particularly true since 9/11, as the United States government and the cooperative media have worked together to make sure that a series of enemies are identified and then attacked as a response to what has been shaped as a global terrorist threat. Narrative-shifting also protects against failure, by making it more difficult to advance any actual inquiry either to learn what motivates terrorists or to explore the apparent inability of the federal government to respond effectively. The best known attempt to shift the blame and thereby redirect the narrative was President George W. Bush’s famous assertion that “those evildoers” of 9/11 “hate us because of our freedom.” Other, more plausible motives need not apply.

Later this year PBS will release to its affiliates a documentary film that it co-produced called “Valentino’s Ghost.” I recently watched a preview copy. In its full version it is 95 minutes long, and it lays out a roughly chronological account of how Muslims, particularly Arabs, have been perceived in the West since the 1920s. Written and directed by Michael Singh, it includes interviews with a number of well-known authorities on the Middle East, including Robert Fisk, Niall Ferguson, John Mearsheimer, and the late Anthony Shadid, the New York Times journalist killed in Syria last February. The film explores the political and cultural forces behind the images, contending that the depiction of Arabs as “The Other” roughly parallels the foreign policies of Europe and America vis-à-vis the Middle East region. The title of the film is taken from the first great cinematic “Arab,” Italian Rudolph Valentino, who starred in the 1922 silent film “The Sheik.” When asked regarding the plausibility of the script, in which English aristocrat Lady Diana falls for the “savage” Sheik, Valentino responded “People are not savages because they have dark skins. The Arabian civilization is one of the oldest in the world…the Arabs are dignified and keen brained.”

Valentino’s cinematic triumph was followed by other films extolling Arabian exoticism, including 1924’s “The Thief of Baghdad,” starring Douglas Fairbanks. But the cinematic love affair with Arabia did not last long. The 1920s also witnessed Anglo-French moves to divide up the Arab provinces of the defunct Ottoman Empire and to gain control of Iran’s oil supply.The Arabs, not surprisingly, resisted, which forced a rethink of who they were and what they represented as reflected in Eurocentric movies made in the 1930s, including “Beau Geste,” “The Lost Patrol,” and “Under Two Flags.”

Arabs were increasingly depicted in the cinema as lawless savages who mindlessly opposed the advanced civilizations of Europe, not unlike the American Indians who had stood in the way of manifest destiny. The possible motives for their savagery were strictly off limits, as they were in the American historical narrative. The good Arabs were the ones who were “obedient” and sought accommodation with the French and British. The bad Arabs were the “disobedient” who sought to maintain their traditional ways of life.

The rise of the Zionist movement and the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, with its forced relocation of most Palestinians — which Mearsheimer describes as “ethnic cleansing” — made further shifts in the narrative essential, particularly to demonstrate that Jews had a historic right to the land of Palestine and that the creation of the Jewish state was humanely carried out in a land that did not exist politically and was largely empty and undeveloped. Movies like “Exodus” and “Lawrence of Arabia” appeared, with the former omitting the Zionist terrorism that had led to the creation of Israel while also emphasizing historic Jewish claims to the land. The latter film expressed some sympathy for Arab nationalism but also demonstrated that savage and undisciplined Arabs could only triumph militarily under European leadership. The two films together largely completed the process of defining the Arab in Western popular culture. In “Lawrence of Arabia,” Peter O’Toole, playing Lawrence, described Arabs as “a little people, a silly people. Greedy, barbarous and cruel.” Nothing more need be said.

The Six-Day War further added to the denigration of Arabs in general. Israel’s surprise-attack triumph over its neighbors, in which it was able to exploit superior military resources, was seen as a victory of good over evil in the U.S. media. Walter Cronkite announced on the evening news that “Jerusalem has been liberated.” Footage of long columns of Palestinian refugees appeared briefly on television but then disappeared completely. Mearsheimer describes the post-1967 unwillingness to discuss either the Palestinians’ plight or the nature of the Israeli relationship with Washington as “The Great Silence” fueled by “The Great Silencer,” namely the charge of anti-Semitism or Jewish self-hating inevitably leveled against any critic of Israel. The circle of immunity from scrutiny for Israel also extends to the principal Israel lobby AIPAC, which was last featured on an investigative report on U.S. television in 1977.

The Israeli occupation triggered a wave of terrorism, and the Palestinians sought to have their story told. Limited media attempts to understand the Arab point of view perhaps understandingly vanished completely in 1972 after 11 Israeli athletes were murdered in Munich. When Arabs subsequently sought to use an economic boycott to force the West to stop Israeli expansion on the West Bank, the U.S. media depicted the action as an affront engineered by greedy oil Sheiks.

The increasingly harsh political environment, soon to be framed as a clash of civilizations, corresponded with a rise to prominence of evangelicals in the U.S., together with the popularity of end-times narratives in books and other media, including Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. Evangelical pastors such as John Hagee conflated the return of the Jews to Israel with the Second Coming of Christ, leading to unlimited political support for Israel and identification of its Arab neighbors as the enemy that would have to be confronted and destroyed at Armageddon.

The Iranian Embassy hostage crisis further hardened views of Islam, with Ayatollah Khomeini lampooned on American television and ABC News featuring a one-hour block each night on “America Held Hostage,” more intensive coverage than the network had given to the Vietnam War. Ronald Reagan referred to the Iranians as “barbarians,” and there was little effort made to learn if there might be some legitimate grievances (there were, dating back to the ouster of Mohamed Mossadeq and the installation of the Shah in 1953).

In 1992 the Disney animated movie “Aladdin” featured a song during the opening credits that referred to Arabia as a land “where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face, it’s barbaric.” Other major Hollywood movies produced in the 1990s routinely depicting Arabs as terrorists, even if an “obedient” Arab frequently appears among the good guys, included “Rules of Engagement,” “True Lies,” and “The Siege.” 9/11 converted the disturbing or sometimes vaguely amusing Arab into the Arab as attacker, as an existential threat — witness the success of the recent television series “24″ and “Homeland.” The denigration of Arabs in the media has real-world consequences:  it is unlikely that Madeleine Albright would have said the death of 500,000 Iraqi children was worth it or that Rush Limbaugh would have described Abu Ghraib as a “college fraternity prank” if one had been speaking of European or American victims.

Niall Ferguson notes that the justification provided through the hyping of a dark and fearful external threat in support of a burgeoning overseas empire inevitably leads to a suspension of the rule of law back at home. Robert Fisk observes that the shifts in language and metaphor make the entire Middle East unintelligible to most Americans, even to those who claim to be well informed. Colin Powell, while secretary of state, stopped referring to the West Bank as occupied by Israel – he instead referred to the area as “disputed,” a practice that continues to this day in the mainstream media. That went along with Jewish settlements being referred to in the media as “neighborhoods” and the border wall being called a “security fence.” Why would those disgruntled Arabs want to fight over something that is only disputed or object so strongly to a neighborhood or a fence?

One of the more interesting vignettes in the film takes place near the end, with Hillary Clinton saying in March 2011 that many Americans are viewing Qatar-owned television channel al-Jazeera for “real news” because U.S. news programs have become so devoid of content. Would that it were so. Al-Jazeera is only available in New York; Washington, D.C.; Burlington, Vermont; Toledo, Ohio; and Bristol, Rhode Island — and only intermittently in many of those locations, due to political objections over its “Arab” and “anti-American” point of view.

If I have a problem with “Valentino’s Ghost” it is that it tries to do too much. It takes on many issues too superficially given the film’s technical constraints and time limitations. I have been informed that over the objections of the producer the original 95-minute version has been edited down considerably for the version that will be released to PBS affiliates. PBS indicated that it would not use the film without considerable changes. Much of the excising relates to segments critical of Israel and its policies, as well as its U.S. lobby, AIPAC. The affiliates themselves can choose whether or not to air the film, so there will probably be pressure coming from donors and local programming boards not to show it. This would be a shame, as “Valentino’s Ghost” exposes widespread bigotry and the deliberate shaping of a narrative against Arabs while also providing considerable insights into why American foreign policy continues to fail in an important part of the world. One has to wonder what the reaction would be if the film were to be viewed in the White House.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

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from  Francis Feeley :
Date: 15 January 2013
Subject: The seeds of imperialism were panted long before the harvest we are seeing today.

Adam Hochschild on King Leopold's Ghost (1998)



Frontline on Rwanda Genocide (1994)


from Edward S. Herman :
Date: 7 January 2013
Subject: More dirt on the FBI.

State of Fear
by Chris Hedges

January 07, 2013 "Information Clearing House" -  Shannon McLeish of Florida is a 45-year-old married mother of two young children. She is a homeowner, a taxpayer and a safe driver. She votes in every election. She attends a Unitarian Universalist church on Sundays. She is also, like nearly all who have a relationship with the Occupy movement in the United States, being monitored by the federal government. She knows this because when she read FBI documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) through the Freedom of Information Act, she was startled to see a redaction that could only be referring to her. McLeish’s story is the story of hundreds of thousands of people—perhaps more—whose lives are being invaded by the state. It is the story of a security and surveillance apparatus—overseen by the executive branch under Barack Obama—that has empowered the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to silence the voices and obstruct the activity of citizens who question corporate power.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, said in a written statement about the released files: “This production [of information], which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protesters organizing with the Occupy movement. These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”

The FBI documents are not only a chilling example of how widespread this surveillance and obstruction has become, they are an explicit warning by the security services to all who consider dissent. Anyone who defies corporate power, even if he or she is nonviolent and acting within constitutional rights, is a suspect. These documents are part of the plan to make us fearful, compliant and disempowered. They mark, I suspect, a government attempt to end peaceful mass protests by responding with repression to the grievances of Americans. When the corporate-financed group FreedomWorks bused in goons to disrupt Democratic candidates’ town hall meetings about the federal health care legislation in August 2009, Eric Zuesse of the Business Insider notes, “there was no FBI surveillance of those corporate-organized disruptions of legitimate democratic processes. There also were no subsequent FreedomWorks applications for Freedom of Information Act releases of FBI files regarding such surveillance being used against them—because there was no such FBI campaign against them.”

The combination of intimidation tactics by right-wing fringe groups, which speak in the language of violence and hate, with the state’s massive intrusion into the personal affairs of the citizen is corporate fascism. And we are much farther down that road than many of us care to admit. 

“When activists took up relatively long-term residence in Zuccotti Park in New York City on Sept. 17 [in 2011], their message of outrage was a mirror to my own after we bailed out the banks with our tax dollars, then watched them get off scot-free without even a token attempt to help fix the wreckage they’d created,” McLeish told me over the phone when I called her home. “I personally lost considerable income and my retirement with the economic collapse, as well as more than half the value of my home. I could see the people around me struggling, too. I have friends, neighbors and family members that the banks refused to help, who lost their homes or were forced to pay for costly attorneys to defend themselves against fraudulent foreclosure attempts. People couldn’t sell their homes, as they were worth so much less than what they’d paid for them. Homes all over the area, including in my neighborhood right near the downtown [of Ormond Beach, Fla.], were abandoned due to the foreclosure crisis—and left to rot by the banks. Strip malls were emptied as businesses went bankrupt and closed their doors. More and more homeless people were wandering through the neighborhood—people you could tell had never been homeless, just by virtue of what and how much they carried with them. Families were sleeping behind big-box stores, and my area was featured on national news repeatedly for the number of homeless families."

"These are some of the things that prompted me to create a Facebook page for Occupy in my area in solidarity with the courageous activists camping in Zuccotti—the only group to fully give voice to what I saw as the issue: the corruption of pretty much everything from the economy to the environment to our social safety nets to our democratic system of governance due to corporate greed,” she said. “The message of OWS [Occupy Wall Street] resonated deeply and moved me to action.”

The FBI documents obtained by the PCJF show that government security services began to monitor the activities of Occupy activists before the Zuccotti Park encampment was established. They revealed that when McLeish met with about 40 other activists in Daytona Beach, Fla., several undercover law enforcement officers were present.

“None of them identified themselves as law enforcement to meeting attendees, though a Homeland Security agent approached me afterward, probably because I facilitated the meeting,” McLeish said. “When the agent approached me after the meeting, it was pretty unnerving. I decided the best way to deal with it was head on. I responded with, ‘I’m so glad you’re here! There’s a group making threats against us. I assume that’s why you’ve come.’ I think he was surprised. I don’t think he acknowledged knowing about the threats from an online gun group. He said he wanted to make sure we weren’t infiltrated by troublemakers. He asked if we’d meet with law enforcement to find out what we were allowed to do. I said I’d be happy to do so. He said he would check into the threats. He said he would put me in touch with someone from the Daytona Beach Police Department.”

“I can’t remember exactly when we met with Daytona Beach Police Department the first time,” she said. “It could have been the next day or the day after. There were about six or seven of us, and I think it was three officers: Deputy Chief Ben Walton, who is now retired, and two other high-ranking officers. If I remember correctly, I pretty much began the discussion by stating that we were aware of our right to protest. We would be glad to coordinate as much as possible to make the Police Department’s job easier, but not to the point of infringing upon our rights.”

“We agreed upon very low police presence—one to a few officers—on the basis of the threats made by the online gun group, but not for surveillance on citizens engaged in peaceful protest,” she said.

The daylong event she and the other activists held on Oct. 15, 2011, was attended by more than 300 people. The past president of the local NAACP chapter spoke, as did a leader in the teachers union who was also a member of the school board, a couple of members of the postal union, the leader of a homeless coalition who was homeless himself, and a member of the Daytona State College Environmental Club. A female uniformed officer was present. McLeish noticed a man with a professional camera taking photographs of individual protesters in the crowd. She saw him later the same day amid several police officers. One officer confirmed that the photographer was with law enforcement but would not give more information, McLeish said.

Daytona-area activists during the fall of 2011 continued to organize events, including sidewalk marches to banks. In most cases they notified the police in advance. At one big event, men in plain clothes and standing with folded arms surrounded a seated group as it held a teach-in.

“It was extremely intimidating, not to mention the effect on people walking by who might have joined us if it weren’t for these heavy-handed tactics,” McLeish said.

The local activists set up an Occupy encampment every weekend in December 2011.
“There were no incidents of any kind,” McLeish said of the camp in Daytona. “No one spoke aggressively to an officer at any time. No one drank or used drugs. We had clearly posted rules to that effect at the camp. There was no violence whatsoever, verbal or physical—as was the case with any event we organized, and we had quite a lot of them. Further, we clearly expressed that while we would act in accordance with our rights, we would not violate any laws.”

“Given the lengths we went to, you can imagine my dismay as I saw Daytona repeatedly mentioned in national news as one of the main areas under surveillance by the FBI, Homeland Security, as well as some unknown ‘private partner’ agency,” she said. “We were being investigated, according to the released FBI documents, as if we were a ‘terrorist’ group engaged in ‘criminal activity.’ I checked the released pages to see what could only be references to me—my name, age, and phone number. Though redacted, they indicate that any search of people connected with domestic terrorist groups is likely to turn up my name.”

Since the spring of 2012 McLeish has co-hosted a morning radio show called “Air Occupy” (also streamed online) with Liz Myers and Jerry Bolkcom. They have interviewed, among others, Alexa O’Brien, the organizer of US Day of Rage, and Carl Mayer, the lead attorney in the case Hedges v. Obama, a challenge to the indefinite detention clause of the National Defense Authorization Act. Immediately after “Air Occupy” posted on YouTube the interview about the lawsuit against the NDAA, YouTube permanently banned the radio show on the ground of “violating community standards”—a ban that usually is imposed for graphic, violent or gory images or pornography. According to YouTube’s guidelines, a poster is allowed three “strikes” before an account is terminated. “Air Occupy” had received no notice of “strikes” or warnings of any kind from YouTube.

McLeish worries about how being a target of FBI attention will affect her life. “Can the inclusion of my name and information on a federal law enforcement domestic terrorist watch list impact my ability to make a living and provide for my children?” she asked. “Can I be subject to retribution of some kind through the NDAA’s new provisions or to federal surveillance due to interviewing other activists or in addition to my involvement in Occupy protests? I can’t afford an attorney to protect myself.”

“What does such surveillance and militarized response mean for our democratic system of governance as more and more people in our country and abroad struggle to survive and are moved to protest stark economic inequalities, mass unemployment and unfair working conditions, and impoverished living conditions?” she asked.

Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years
This article was originally posted atTruth Dig

from ICH :
Date 3 January 2013
Subject: More of the same in the Middle East in 2013.

Could Saudi Arabia be Next?
Bad News For Palestine in 2013

by Robert Fisk


from  Edward Herman:
Date: 4 January 2013
Subject: Naomi Wolf: A letter to Kathryn Bigelow on Zero Dark Thirty's apology for torture.

A letter to Kathryn Bigelow on Zero Dark Thirty's apology for torture
by Naomi Wolf

[By peddling the lie that CIA detentions led to Bin Laden's killing, you have become a Leni Riefenstahl-like propagandist of torture.]

Kathryn Bigelow

Director Kathryn Bigelow holds her 2010 Academy Award for The Hurt Locker. Photograph: Paul Buck/EPA


Dear Kathryn Bigelow,
The Hurt Locker was a beautiful, brave film; many young women in film were inspired as they watched you become the first woman ever to win an Oscar for directing. But with Zero Dark Thirty, you have attained a different kind of distinction.

Your film Zero Dark Thirty is a huge hit here. But in falsely justifying, in scene after scene, the torture of detainees in "the global war on terror", Zero Dark Thirty is a gorgeously-shot, two-hour ad for keeping intelligence agents who committed crimes against Guantánamo prisoners out of jail. It makes heroes and heroines out of people who committed violent crimes against other people based on their race – something that has historical precedent.
Your film claims, in many scenes, that CIA torture was redeemed by the "information" it "secured", information that, according to your script, led to Bin Laden's capture. This narrative is a form of manufacture of innocence to mask a great crime: what your script blithely calls "the detainee program".

What led to this amoral compromising of your film-making?

Could some of the seduction be financing? It is very hard to get a film without a pro-military message, such as The Hurt Locker, funded and financed. But according to sources in the film industry, the more pro-military your message is, the more kinds of help you currently can get: from personnel, to sets, to technology – a point I made in my argument about the recent militarized Katy Perry video.

It seems implausible that scenes such as those involving two top-secret, futuristic helicopters could be made without Pentagon help, for example. If the film received that kind of undisclosed, in-kind support from the defense department, then that would free up million of dollars for the gigantic ad campaign that a film like this needs to compete to win audience.

This also sets a dangerous precedent: we can be sure, with the "propaganda amendment" of the 2013 NDAA, just signed into law by the president, that the future will hold much more overt corruption of Hollywood and the rest of US pop culture. This amendment legalizes something that has been illegal for decades: the direct funding of pro-government or pro-military messaging in media, without disclosure, aimed at American citizens.

Then, there is the James Frey factor. You claim that your film is "based on real events", and in interviews, you insist that it is a mixture of fact and fiction, "part documentary". "Real", "true", and even "documentary", are big and important words. By claiming such terms, you generate media and sales traction – on a mendacious basis. There are filmmakers who work very hard to produce films that are actually "based on real events": they are called documentarians. Alex Gibney, in Taxi to the Dark Side, and Rory Kennedy, in Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, have both produced true and sourceable documentary films about what your script blithely calls "the detainee program" – that is, the regime of torture to generate false confessions at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib – which your script claims led straight to Bin Laden.
Fine, fellow reporter: produce your sources. Provide your evidence that torture produced lifesaving – or any – worthwhile intelligence.

But you can't present evidence for this claim. Because it does not exist.
Five decades of research, cited in the 2008 documentary The End of America, confirm that torture does not work. Robert Fisk provides another summary of that categorical conclusion. And this 2011 account from Human Rights First rebuts the very premise of Zero Dark Thirty.
Your actors complain about detainees' representation by lawyers – suggesting that these do-gooders in suits endanger the rest of us. I have been to see your "detainee program" firsthand. The prisoners, whom your film describes as being "lawyered up", meet with those lawyers in rooms that are wired for sound; yet, those lawyers can't tell the world what happened to their clients – because the descriptions of the very torture these men endured are classified.

I have seen the room where the military tribunal takes the "testimony" from people swept up in a program that gave $5,000 bounties to desperately poor Afghanis to incentivize their turning-in innocent neighbors. The chairs have shackles to the floor, and are placed in twos, so that one prisoner can be threatened to make him falsely condemn the second.

I have seen the expensive video system in the courtroom where – though Guantánamo spokesmen have told the world's press since its opening that witnesses' accounts are brought in "whenever reasonable" – the monitor on the system has never been turned on once: a monitor that could actually let someone in Pakistan testify to say, "hey, that is the wrong guy". (By the way, you left out the scene where the CIA dude sodomizes the wrong guy: Khaled el-Masri, "the German citizen unfortunate enough to have a similar name to a militant named Khaled al-Masri.")

In a time of darkness in America, you are being feted by Hollywood, and hailed by major media. But to me, the path your career has now taken reminds of no one so much as that other female film pioneer who became, eventually, an apologist for evil: Leni Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl's 1935 Triumph of the Will, which glorified Nazi military power, was a massive hit in Germany. Riefenstahl was the first female film director to be hailed worldwide.

Leni Riefenstahl at Nuremberg, 1934, directing Triumph of the Willhttp://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2013/1/4/1357321137974/Leni-Riefenstahl-at-Nurem-008.jpg

[Leni Riefenstahl directing her crew at the Nazi part rally in Nuremberg, 1934, for her film Triumph of the Will. Photograph: Friedrich Rohrmann/EPA]

It may seem extreme to make comparison with this other great, but profoundly compromised film-maker, but there are real echoes. When Riefenstahl began to glamorize the National Socialists, in the early 1930s, the Nazis' worst atrocities had not yet begun; yet abusive detention camps had already been opened to house political dissidents beyond the rule of law – the equivalent of today's Guantánamo, Bagram base, and other unnameable CIA "black sites". And Riefenstahl was lionised by the German elites and acclaimed for her propaganda on behalf of Hitler's regime.

But the world changed. The ugliness of what she did could not, over time, be hidden. Americans, too, will wake up and see through Zero Dark Thirty's apologia for the regime's standard lies that this brutality is somehow necessary. When that happens, the same community that now applauds you will recoil.

Like Riefenstahl, you are a great artist. But now you will be remembered forever as torture's handmaiden.

from Reader Supported News :
Date: 4 January 2013
Subject: Imperialist entertainments.

LaSalle writes: "Some will claim that movies influence behavior, even as producers will invariably insist that movies only reflect society."

Violent Media Poisoning Nation's Soul
by Mick LaSalle
'The Dark Knight Rises' was a wallow in nonstop cruelty and destruction. (photo: Ron Phillips/Warner Bros./SF)http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/276-74/15372-violent-media-poisoning-nations-soul
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

from The Real News Network :
Date: 3 January 2013
Subject: Murder Incorporated.


US Drone Wars

from Jerome Roos :
Date: 12 August 2011
Subject: Social movements, far and wide….

In Chile and Israel, a revolt against neoliberalism
by Jerome Roos on August 12, 2011