Propaganda 102 Supplemental: Holly Would “Zero Dark Thirty”

(c) 2012, Columbia Pictures, image used w/o permission.
(c) 2012, Columbia Pictures, image used w/o permission.

by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

Upon the suggestion of long time and valued blog contributor James in LA, this column on “Zero Dark Thirty” and the controversy surrounding that film is offered as a supplement to the earlier entry in the series on propaganda,”Propaganda 102: Holly Would and the Power of Images“. It is in part movie review and in part a critical examination of the film’s content as related to the controversy around whether or not this film is pro-torture propaganda. Thank you for the excellent suggestion, James!

Is “Zero Dark Thirty” (ZDT) a good film? Is ZDT propaganda? If so, is it pro-torture propaganda (i.e. does it support or promote the idea of torture as a valid and/or necessary intelligence gathering methodology)?  Let us examine these questions . . .

ZDT is well paced, the cinematography is strong and it is well written by Mark Boal – all tributes to the technical expertise behind this film being first rate and director Kathryn Bigelow ties it all together in a better than average Hollywood package. The 157 minute running time moves rapidly and keeps you engaged. As a film, ZDT works. Kind of. And I’ll get to that, but first, the acting.

The supporting cast is a veritable who’s who of some of today’s best character actors from James Gandolfini (“The Sopranos”, “Where the Wild Things Are”) to Harold Perrineau (“The Matrix Reloaded”, “Lost” and “Oz”) to Stephen Dillane (“Game of Thrones” and even more notably Thomas Jefferson in the “John Adams” HBO mini-series) to Mark Strong (perennial Guy Ritchie gangster favorite, “Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy”) to John Barrowman (known to any Whovian and “Torchwood” fans as Capt. Jack Harkness).  Many of these strong actors though are a bit wasted on parts that often are only a couple of lines and/or scenes, but their presence does greatly contribute to the overall quality of the film. Three actors really drive the film and get the bulk of the screen time: Jessica Chastain (“The Help”, “The Debt”), Jason Clarke (“Lawless”, “Public Enemies”), and Jennifer Ehle (“Contagion”, “The Ides of March”, “The King’s Speech”). My compliments to the cast and crew on skilful execution of their jobs. Especially the lovely Jennifer Ehle who is as strong a stand out in this film’s deep ensemble cast as she was as the scene stealing epidemiologist she played in the equally strong cast of “Contagion”.

Character-wise the film’s primary focus is on Chastain’s “Maya”, Clarke’s “Dan” and Ehle’s “Jessica” and in some ways they are representations of two different schools of thought on how to best gather intelligence. Maya is the young blood. New to field intelligence work, she’s thrown into the deep end. Her first field assignment and her first scene is with Dan as he is in mid-torture, er, interrogation. Maya is the audience proxy into Dan’s “Torture Works!” world and into Jessica’s “Old School/We Have Rules” world. Her choice is clear and it is clear from the first scene. She’s with Dan.

The torture itself is brutal and inhumane and the character Dan comes across as a pure psychopath and a sadist. Dan alternates charm with threats, beatings, stress positions (including cramped confinement), humiliation, and waterboarding. The waterboarding depicted is done so in a spontaneous and off hand way that is seems almost a casual aside. We know from memos from Cheney’s lawyers that the practice was methodical and repetitive. This is not the only time the film deviates from what we know to be the reality of torture. The other is that torture led to a detainee revealing the nom de guerre of OBL’s courier when it has been revealed that this information was in fact part of a larger traditional human and signal intelligence operations. In the real world, almost all of the information acquired through “enhanced interrogation techniques” was recalled because it was inherently unreliable.

Dan is the least sympathetic character of the film, but I don’t think he’s meant to be unsympathetic. He’s just a guy with a tough job. Maya is at first a bit taken aback, seemingly uncomfortable by Dan’s torture techniques, although she rather quickly (almost unbelievably so) opts to participate instead of watching although her involvement in the torture proper is fairly passive compared to Dan. To show how tough she is, she assures Dan she’s “fine” when asked. In one fell swoop, the young blood becomes true believer. This is all within the first fifteen minutes mind you.  The torture component is only in the first part of the film, but it does set the tone thematically and as Maya character development. Maya meets Jessica afterwards in a mid-level status update meeting among the various CIA assets running ground operations in Pakistan. Jessica advocates using greed as a motivating factor to encourage people to bring them actionable intelligence. Later, Maya offhandedly dismisses this tactic by noting “it worked well enough in the Cold War” and rationalizing her tacit approval of Dan’s techniques under the rubric that the enemy are fanatics. The relationship of Jessica and Maya is important later down the road as they become friends despite their differences. This is important to the analysis of whether this film constitutes pro-torture propaganda, but the basic progression of the film is fairly simple.  Torture, misadventures in human intelligence gathering, solid lead, decision to act, apprehension, afterward/closing.

At the most basic level, ZDT is a well made film. On that level, I must say it was a good movie. Not everything that is propaganda is excluded from being art. In cinema, the prime example of that is “Casablanca”. It was certainly pro-Allied propaganda in the “good people choose to act against the Nazis” kind of way. That in no way interferes with enjoying it as a film and in part because the message is one that just about everyone not a Nazi can agree with.  That is not the case with ZDT and it is part and parcel of why it almost works as a movie. ZDT is certainly a piece of propaganda in the most negative meaning of the word. It presents a clear and unambiguous portrait of torture as being critical to intelligence gathering and it does so from the first scene.  This message is irrevocably fundamentally wrong from both a human rights and Constitutional standpoint as well as an outright lie about the role of torture in capturing bin Laden. It is revisionist history of the worst sort; the kind designed to whitewash the actions of bad actors.

Not only does the new blood Maya quickly buy in to the torture paradigm of information gathering, it is never once denounced by any character. This includes the “voice of traditional intelligence methods” character of Jessica. She voices her opinion in favor of traditional techniques, but she seems otherwise perfectly fine with Dan’s methods. That Dan’s methods are justified is further illustrated by traditional human and signal intelligence as being portrayed is not only ineffective but a direct causal factor in the death of the Jessica character which serves as the final impetus for the Maya character to kill bin Laden.  And it’s consistently and from the get go kill bin Laden – no talk is had of capture.  Maya wants him dead and will stop at nothing until he’s dead. Several other characters take action based upon or make comment of the value of the “detainee program”. Dan leaves the field and goes back to Washington in part because he’s “burned out” in the unintentionally least sympathetic scene in the whole film.  Po’ ol’ Psycho Dan is just worn out from all that torturing.  He’s “seen too many naked men.” Of course, that he smells the changes on the political wind and wants to get out before he gets caught does nothing to enhance sympathy for the psychopath’s plight. His interest is strictly in himself and his self-preservation. He even warns Maya that she “doesn’t want to be the last one left holding the dog collar” before going home, in reference to the earlier torture scene where Dan makes a prisoner wear a dog collar and walks him around the cell. The CIA Station Chief Joseph Bradley (played by Kyle Chandler) bemoans the loss of the detainee program as does Mark Strong’s character George, a nebulously defined CIA manager fairly high up the food chain and in charge of the task force that employs Maya. These commentaries stand out in stark contrast to what the later half of the movie shows, namely that human and signal intelligence are the means which ultimately lead to bin Laden’s capture despite the dogged insistence that the initial break came from torture. Even when prisoners choose to cooperate, they make it clear it is because they do not want to be tortured further.

Some in the press are speculating that Bigelow was played by the CIA’s right wing elements that followed Cheney’s lead on torture. Some think she’s a right wing ideologue endorsing torture herself. I say it is irrelevant to the end product being propaganda by merit of having a decidedly pro-torture message. Dupe or willing propagandist, the product is propaganda just the same.

ZDT is propaganda at its blackest. It starts with torture, never criticizes torture, bemoans the loss of the tool and never waivers that it was instrumental in capturing bin Laden despite the reality to the contrary. It ends with Maya on a plane home, crying – unrepentant, unquestioning, tears of her sacrifice that ignore her part in war crimes, still very much the hero. And that is the final nail in the coffin that makes ZDT almost work as a movie. There is no examination of whether torture is wrong or not. Just a tacit endorsement writ large in the self-pitying tears of the lead actress as she rides off into the sunset.

As the credits rolled, from behind me I heard another theater patron say, “Well . . . f@ck.”  I turned to see a college kid with a t-shirt bearing the text of the 8th Amendment. I smiled a slight sad smile, tipped my ball cap to him and his girlfriend. “Nice t-shirt,” I said. They waved before walking away hand in hand up the aisle, excitedly mumbling to each other in that insular way young lovers do.

I knew how they felt. It was cold and rainy outside as I exited the side door of the theater opposite the young couple. It was rainy and cold in my heart. I thought, “So many people are going to see this movie and buy its bullshit without questioning the message, or worse, believing it.” But maybe not. Maybe it will backfire and act as unintentional agitprop to reinvigorate the discussion about torture and what we should do to hold those responsible accountable.  Ah, hope. Our greatest strength as a species and concurrently our greatest weakness. But I digress.

There has been much defense in the media played by many involved with the film. Director Kathryn Bigelow said, “We depicted a variety of controversial practices and intelligence methods that were used in the name of finding bin Laden. The film shows that no single method was necessarily responsible for solving the manhunt, nor can any single scene taken in isolation fairly capture the totality of efforts the film dramatizes.” Which is utter nonsense as every bit of intelligence gathered is predicated on torture forcing a prisoner to tell us the nom de guerre of OBL’s courier when in real life we knew that from other traditional sources of intelligence. It’s abundantly clear in the film that no progress would have been made without torture first revealing that bit of information.  Even a Sony executive weighed in. “We are outraged that any responsible member of the Academy would use their voting status in AMPAS as a platform to advance their own political agenda,” said Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chairman of its Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group. “This film should be judged free of partisanship,” she said, adding that the film “does not advocate torture.” Also utter nonsense and anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of propaganda can tell it is utter nonsense by the content of the film. The film doesn’t explicitly endorse torture, true, but the implicit endorsement practically screams off of the screen. Thanks, Amy, but I think I’ll judge the movie by simple human decency and the fact that torture is unconstitutional and illegal and any film that acts as a tacit endorsement of torture is vile no matter how well made it is. Then again, what do you care? You got my money and I’m not a member of the AMPAS. I will, however, probably choose to vote with my dollar on the next film either you or Kathryn Bigelow are attached to that I might be interested in seeing as well as any product in general from Sony or Columbia/Tri-Star. I don’t think I’ll see another Kathryn Bigelow film even if it’s so good it makes you cry tears of gold, sweat happy playful puppies and smell like fresh baked cookies.

I don’t regret seeing the film. It was not a waste of time. It is an excellent study piece in propaganda. It was well made.  However, I do wish I had my money back. People who advocate torture – even implicitly – shouldn’t get a dime for doing so. Having seen this, I urge you to see it for as free as possible and make up your own mind in light of what you have learned from this series or elsewhere about the nature of propaganda.

If you’ve seen it or not, but especially if you have, what do you think?

Source(s): “Zero Dark Thirty“, CNN, Global Research

~submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

The Propaganda Series;

Propaganda 105: How to Spot a Liar

Propaganda 104 Supplemental: The Streisand Effect and the Political Question

Propaganda 104 Supplemental: The Sound of Silence

Propaganda 104: Magica Verba Est Scientia Et Ars Es

Propaganda 103: The Word Changes, The Word Remains The Same

Propaganda 102: Holly Would and the Power of Images

Propaganda 101 Supplemental: Build It And They Will Come (Around)

Propaganda 101: What You Need to Know and Why or . . .

Related articles of interest;

Mythology and the New Feudalism by Mike Spindell

106 thoughts on “Propaganda 102 Supplemental: Holly Would “Zero Dark Thirty””

  1. 25 years later, how ‘Top Gun’ made America love war

    By David Sirota,August 26, 2011


    Considering King’s previous silence on such issues, it’s not clear whether he’s standing on principle; more likely, he is trying to prevent a particular piece of propaganda from aiding a political opponent. Yet, even if inadvertent, King’s efforts make possible a broader look at how the U.S. government uses taxpayer resources to suffuse popular culture with militarism.

    If and when King holds hearings on the matter, we could finally get to the important questions: Why does the Pentagon treat public hardware as private property? Why does the government grant and deny access to that hardware based on a filmmaker’s willingness to let the Pentagon influence the script? And doesn’t such a practice violate the First Amendment’s prohibition against government abridging freedom of speech?

  2. The Zero Dark Thirty File

    Lifting The Government’s Shroud Over the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden

    National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 410
    Posted – January 17, 2013

    Edited by Nate Jones and Lauren Harper with Documents from Jeffrey T. Richelson and Barbara Elias

    For more information contact:
    Nate Jones, Freedom of Information Coordinator

  3. Oscar 2013: Hollywood’s CIA Celebration

    By Robert Scheer


    What was Michelle Obama thinking? If the card for “Zero Dark Thirty” had been lurking in that best picture envelope Sunday, the gushing first lady would have appeared to the 1 billion people watching to have endorsed the very torture policies that her husband has denounced, at least rhetorically, if not always in practice. Saved from that fate by the Academy’s selection of “Argo,” she tacitly condoned the CIA’s subterfuge in pretending that its covert rescue operation was a genuine film project.

    Not an insignificant matter, given the agency’s lengthy history of subverting cultural, journalistic and human rights organizations for its not always admirable purposes. It is not much of a stretch to extend that example to journalists as presumed foreign agents, and that is the charge most often used to kill them. Or human rights workers, religious missionaries, medical personnel or any of the thousands of nongovernment workers who are daily threatened as they go about their work in dangerous lands, advancing their do-gooder notions.

    This is the movie season to consider the CIA as a benign force, occasionally stumbling but in the end, driven by good intentions. The example of Iran, where the “Argo” caper is set, is instructive of the absurdity of that view. Iran for the past half century has been ravaged precisely by such CIA antics. To its credit, “Argo” acknowledges, in its opening minutes, that the U.S. government overthrew the last secular democratic leader of Iran and brought the despotic shah to power, and in his aftermath, the religious madness of the ayatollahs. But it is a point soon forgotten, as the film goes on to reveal an Iran populated by inhabitants so universally deranged that their dialogues in Farsi are not even worthy of subtitle translation. (continues…)



    Torture, Lies and Hollywood


    Published: February 22, 2013

    I WATCHED “Zero Dark Thirty” not as a former F.B.I. special agent who spent a decade chasing, interrogating and prosecuting top members of Al Qaeda but as someone who enjoys Hollywood movies. As a movie, I enjoyed it. As history, it’s bunk.
    Enlarge This Image
    Associated Press

    An unidentified detainee standing on a box with a bag on his head and wires attached to him in late 2003 at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

    The film opens with the words “Based on Firsthand Accounts of Actual Events.” But the filmmakers immediately pass fiction off as history, when a character named Ammar is tortured and afterward, it’s implied, gives up information that leads to Osama bin Laden.

    Ammar is a composite character who bears a strong resemblance to a real-life terrorist, Ammar al-Baluchi. In both the film and real life he was a relative of Bin Laden’s lieutenant, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. But the C.I.A. has repeatedly said that only three detainees were ever waterboarded. The real Mr. Baluchi was not among them, and he didn’t give up information that led to Bin Laden.

    In fact, torture led us away from Bin Laden. After Mr. Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times, he actually played down the importance of the courier who ultimately led us to Bin Laden. Numerous investigations, most recently a 6,300-page classified report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, have reached the same conclusion: enhanced interrogation didn’t work. Portraying torture as effective risks misleading the next generation of Americans that one of our government’s greatest successes came about because of the efficacy of torture. It’s a disservice both to our history and our national security.

    While filmmakers have the right to say what they want, government officials don’t have the right to covertly provide filmmakers with false information to promote their own interests. Providing selective information about a classified program means there is no free market of ideas, but a controlled market subject to manipulation. That’s an abuse of power.

    John O. Brennan, a former C.I.A. official and now President Obama’s nominee to head the agency, recently testified that the classified report raised “serious questions” about information he received when he was the agency’s deputy executive director. Mr. Brennan said publicly what many of us — who were in interrogation rooms when the program was devised — have been warning about for years: senior officials, right up to the president himself, were misled about the enhanced interrogation program.

    For instance, a 2005 Justice Department memo claimed that waterboarding led to the capture of the American-born Qaeda member Jose Padilla in 2003. Actually, he was arrested in 2002, months before waterboarding began, after an F.B.I. colleague and I got details about him from a terrorist named Abu Zubaydah. Because no one checked the dates, the canard about Mr. Padilla was repeated as truth.

    When agents heard senior officials citing information we knew was false, we were barred from speaking out. After President George W. Bush gave a speech containing falsehoods in 2006 — I believe his subordinates lied to him — I was told by one of my superiors: “This is still classified. Just because the president is talking about it doesn’t mean that we can.”

    Some of these memos, and reports pointing out their inaccuracies, have been declassified, but they are also heavily redacted. So are books on the subject, including my own.

    Meanwhile, promoters of torture get to hoodwink journalists, authors and Hollywood producers while selectively declassifying material and providing false information that fits their narrative.

    The creators of “Zero Dark Thirty” attempted to document the greatest global manhunt of our generation. But they did so without acknowledging that their “history” was based on dubious sources.

    The filmmakers took the “firsthand accounts” of a few current and former officials with an agenda and amplified their message worldwide — suggesting to Americans in cinemas around the country, and regimes overseas, that torture is effective and helped lead to Bin Laden. There is no suggestion in the movie that another narrative exists.

    Hollywood is primarily about entertainment. The moral responsibility for setting history straight, ensuring the public isn’t misled, and making sure mistakes aren’t repeated falls to Congress and the president. Yet the Senate report remains classified, and only those with security clearances, like Mr. Brennan, can read how the public was misled.

    It’s the duty of the president and Congress to responsibly declassify the report — and the other documents that advocates of torture don’t want released.

    That’s the only way to ensure that future generations won’t ever go down that dark and dangerous path again. As Senator John McCain has said, the Senate report “has the potential to set the record straight once and for all” and end “a stain on our country’s conscience.”

    Once that’s done, it won’t be long before another Hollywood movie comes along to tell the real story about how America killed Bin Laden.

    A former F.B.I. special agent who interrogated Qaeda detainees and the author of “The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda.”

  5. Not a surprise. And he’ll be confirmed.

    John Brennan, Obama Nominee For CIA Director, Had Detailed Knowledge Of Torture

    Reuters | Posted: 01/30/2013 6:59 am EST

    by Mark Hosenball

    WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (Reuters) – John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the CIA, had detailed, contemporaneous knowledge of the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on captured terrorism suspects during an earlier stint as a top spy agency official, according to multiple sources familiar with official records.

    Those records, the sources said, show that Brennan was a regular recipient of CIA message traffic about controversial aspects of the agency’s counter-terrorism program after September 2001, including the use of “waterboarding.”

    How deeply involved Brennan was in the program, and whether he vigorously objected to it at the time, as he has said he did, are likely to be central questions lawmakers raise at his Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing, scheduled for Feb. 7.

    After Brennan temporarily left government service in 2005, he publicly disavowed waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, and other physically painful techniques that are often described as torture.

    The official records, which include raw CIA operational message traffic that remains classified, are silent on whether he opposed the techniques while at the spy agency, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Brennan served as deputy executive director of the agency beginning in 2001.

    Some former officials familiar with deliberations about the program said they don’t recall Brennan voicing objections to the use of harsh interrogation techniques.

    But other former officials say Brennan was among agency officials who were uncomfortable with the use of physically coercive tactics, despite the legal opinions that supported their use. He expressed concern, according to these officials, that if details of the program became public, it would be CIA officers who would face criticism, rather than the politicians and lawyers who approved them.

    “If John says he expressed reservations about some techniques, I believe him because he’s an honest guy,” said John McLaughlin, who was deputy CIA director at the time.

    “Mr. Brennan had significant concerns and personal objections to many elements of the EIT (enhanced interrogation techniques) program while it was under way,” a senior administration official said in response to Reuters’ inquiries. “He voiced those objections privately with colleagues at the agency.”

    The question of whether and to what extent Brennan raised objections will be a focus of his confirmation hearing for Republican and Democratic senators alike.

    “I have many questions and concerns about his nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, especially what role he played in the so-called enhanced interrogation programs while serving at the CIA during the last administration,” Senator John McCain, who was tortured during captivity in North Vietnam, said recently.


    Under the CIA program, which largely ended before Obama took office, captured militants were detained and interrogated in a network of secret CIA prisons. Sometimes, they were delivered to foreign governments through an extralegal process called “extraordinary rendition.”

    Three high-ranking al Qaeda leaders, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, were waterboarded.

    Because he was a regular recipient of operational traffic related to the interrogation and detention program, Brennan’s name appears in a secret draft of a 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee investigative report on the program, sources familiar with that report said. They added, however, that he was cited in passing, not as a significant supervisor or manager of the program.

    Brennan, who is now Obama’s White House counter-terrorism adviser, played no role in the program’s “creation, execution or oversight,” the senior Obama administration official said.

    “(Brennan) was on hundreds if not thousands of messages a day regarding many different issues but his primary responsibility was … helping manage the day-to-day running of the agency, to include support, logistics, IT, budget, personnel resources, facilities, IG (Inspector General) recommendations, and the like.”


    This is the second time that Obama has sought to nominate Brennan to head the spy agency, and the second time that questions have arisen about his involvement in enhanced interrogation tactics when he was a CIA official during the administration of former President George W. Bush.

    Brennan’s candidacy for the top CIA job was derailed over the issue when he was an early front-runner for it after Obama’s 2008 election victory.

    Brennan withdrew his name from consideration at that time and, in a letter to President-elect Obama, said he had been a “strong opponent” of Bush-era policies, including the Iraq war and coercive interrogation techniques.

    Brennan instead became Obama’s White House counter-terrorism adviser. Obama issued an executive order banning the techniques shortly after taking office.

    Barring unexpected revelations, most political handicappers believe Brennan will be confirmed as CIA director this time. (Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing By Warren Strobel and Christopher Wilson)

    Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters.


    CIA Veterans Debate Accuracy of Film ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

    Washington, DC
    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

    “The American Enterprise Institute hosts a discussion on the accuracy of Director Kathryn Bigelow’s recent film “Zero Dark Thirty,” about the hunt for bin Laden, with three CIA veterans who were involved in the investigation.

    General Michael Hayden (ret.), former director of the Central Intelligence Agency; John Rizzo, former deputy counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency; and Jose Rodriguez, former director of the National Clandestine Service discuss the enhanced interrogation techniques depicted in the film, as well as the film’s linking of information gained from the interrogations to the capture of bin Laden.

    AEI Fellow Marc Thiessen, and author of “Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack,” moderates the discussion”

  7. “Maybe we should reconsider Leni Riefenstiel’s role as a powerful feminist director.” -Mike S.

    Crowd cheers… laughter…


    Kathryn Bigelow: Torture scenes in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ are ‘honest’

    By Meredith Blake

    January 23, 2013, 10:40 a.m.


    Describing the movie as a “first rough cut” of history, Bigelow expressed her own unequivocal objection to torture, which she characterized as “reprehensible.” But she said she would have been “whitewashing” history if she had chosen not to include scenes of enhanced interrogation.

    Colbert noted the difficult position Bigelow was in with regard to her critics: Although she’s being attacked by many on the left who see “Zero Dark Thirty” as an explicit endorsement of torture, they also “would have been screaming bloody murder” if she left it out.

    “It was also part of the history and we wanted to tell the story respectfully and honestly,” Bigelow replied. “And so since it’s part of the history we had to show a few sequences of enhanced interrogation.”

    Curiously, the abridged interview that aired Tuesday did not include the most intense exchange in the conversation. Colbert asked Bigelow about the veracity of a sequence in the film in which Maya (Jessica Chastain) gathers information from videotaped sessions with detainees subjected to various enhanced interrogation techniques.

    “It’s part of the history, it’s part of the story. Could you have found the house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, without the detainee program? I don’t know, I think it’ll be debated for perhaps years if not decades to come,” Bigelow replied.

    Not satisfied with her answer, Colbert sharpened his line of inquiry, asking whether Bigelow thought it might be possible that she had been “duped” by her sources in order to make the case for torture, as some of her critics have alleged.

    Bigelow initially replied with a question that didn’t exactly strengthen her argument — “Are you trying to say that people in Washington spin?” – but in the end she defended the film’s version of history, calling it “a fair assessment of those times.”

    As for whether she’s prepared for the possibility of testifying before Senate, Bigelow said that while “no one is ever ready for something like that,” she stands by the movie: “I believe in the film, I’m proud of the film, I wouldn’t change anything in the movie because it’s based on an honest telling of the story as we know it.”

    Colbert wrapped up the interview by asking if Bigelow planned to “play it safe” with her next film, perhaps by tackling a less controversial subject “like gun control.”

    “I don’t know if I’m capable of doing that,” she said.

  8. “It would be good to remember that there is no worthy feminism without justice and if there is no justice, there is no peace.”

    Dark, zero-feminism

    The heroine in Dark Zero Thirty is hardly an example of progressiveness – there is nothing feminist in revenge.

    by Zillah Eisenstein


    “My point: do not justify or explain US war revenge with a pretty red-head white woman with an “obsession” to catch the mastermind of 9/11. This film is not to be made seemingly progressive or feminist because it presents a female CIA agent as central to the demise of Osama. Nor should any of us think that it is “good” that Maya is female, or that several females had an important hand in the murder of Osama. There is nothing feminist in revenge. We can learn from the Indian feminists just now who say that they do not seek the death penalty for the men responsible for the brutal death and rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey. Kavita Krishnan says: “Gender justice needs to be brought and kept in the centre stage of the debate, not the death penalty”.

    Maya is not believable to me. She is an awful stereotype: a driven, obsessive woman, alone with no friends. She has no depth. She is all surface. She says she prefers to drop a bomb rather than use the Seal team. She says she knows 100 per cent that Osama is in the building. She says she is the “motherf—er” who found the safe house in the first place. She assures the men of the Seal team that Osama is there and that they must kill him for her.

    I was thinking through the film – if they hate us, they do so because we are hateful. I am sad to know that this film will be seen across the globe. It will be read as another story of imperial empire with a (white) female twist. How unfair to all the people in the US who do not choose revenge and murder. How unfair to my Pakistani friends who are also US citizens. How unfair to most of us across the globe.

    I was hoping that maybe no nods would be given to Jessica Chastain for her role as Maya at the Golden Globes. I was hoping that no one would give a feminist nod to Kathryn Bigelow for directing ZDT. I was just hoping that maybe feminism would not get mucked up in the conversation about torture and the murder of Osama. But that was not to happen.

    Chastain calls Maya an “unsung hero” and I think this is deeply troubling. But it got worse for me when Chastain accepted the Golden Globe Award for best actress and thanks Bigelow for putting forward “powerful, fearless women” who disobey and make a difference.

    I do not like the film or the way that Bigelow and Chastain choose to depict it. Given both, and the way each bleeds into the other, there is no neutral ground here. I think it is important to reject the imperial feminism that is embedded here.

    It would be good to remember that there is no worthy feminism without justice and if there is no justice, there is no peace.”

    “Zillah Eisenstein has written feminist theory in North America for the past thirty years. She is an internationally renowned writer and activist and Distinguished Scholar of Anti-Racist Feminist Political Theory at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York.”

    1. “Chastain calls Maya an “unsung hero” and I think this is deeply troubling. But it got worse for me when Chastain accepted the Golden Globe Award for best actress and thanks Bigelow for putting forward “powerful, fearless women” who disobey and make a difference.”

      Hmm……Maybe we should reconsider Leni Riefenstiel’s role as a powerful feminist director.

  9. Among those “leaks” featured in the film are implications that Iran is working on a nuclear bomb. Assange rejected such notion and claimed the film “fans the flames to start a war with Iran.” -RT (link below)

    Assange calls WikiLeaks film ‘propaganda attack’

    Published: 24 January, 2013, 08:33

    Julian Assange has lashed out at a Hollywood film about WikiLeaks, calling it “a massive propaganda attack” against the whistle blowing website, also accusing it of fanning “flames of war” against Iran.

    DreamWorks Studious announced Wednesday that “The Fifth Estate,” starring British actor Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange, will be released in the United States in November 2013. The film’s director though says it will not try to pass final judgment on Assange.

    The famous whistleblower, who managed to obtain a copy of the script, denounced the film as “a lie.” He spoke to students of Britain’s top Oxford University on Wednesday via a video-link from his refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

    “It is a lie upon lie. The movie is a massive propaganda attack on WikiLeaks and the character of my staff,” he told the Oxford Union debating club.

    However the video of Assange’s speech has not yet been posted on the Oxford Union Society’s YouTube channel, where the organization usually publishes such videos.

    “‘The Fifth Estate’ traces the heady, early days of WikiLeaks, culminating in the release of a series of controversial and history changing information leaks,” DreamWorks said describing its project.

    Among those “leaks” featured in the film are implications that Iran is working on a nuclear bomb. Assange rejected such notion and claimed the film “fans the flames to start a war with Iran.”

    “How does this have anything to do with us?” the Australian questioned.

    “It may be decades before we understand the full impact of WikiLeaks and how it’s revolutionized the spread of information,” the film’s director, Bill Condon said. “So this film won’t claim any long view authority on its subject, or attempt any final judgment,” said Condon in a statement.

    Assange has been confined inside the Ecuadorian Embassy since the 19th of June, after Ecuador granted him political asylum. Should he leave the building the whistleblower faces immediate arrest and extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on charges of sex crimes.

    Despite all the difficulties the WikiLeaks faced in 2012, Julian Assange vowed to publish some 1,000,000 new documents in the coming year. In his Christmas speech he called for people to continue fighting for democracy “from Tahrir to London.”

  10. Dirty Wars: Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley’s New Film Exposes Hidden Truths of Covert U.S. Warfare


    RICK ROWLEY: Yeah. All we had were these tiny little scraps of clues that weren’t even supposed to exist, and pictures of a person who was unknown at the time. I mean, Admiral William McRaven, you know, no one knew who he was. I mean, that was the first sort of shock here—looked at him, see his rank, read his name. But he’s not—he wasn’t from the NATO command. He wasn’t from the Eastern Regional Command that owns that battle space. He was not even—I mean, why was this elite force operating, kicking in the doors on farmers? I mean, that is the sort of the—the mystery that begins the investigation.

    AMY GOODMAN: And then you take this forward, Jeremy, back to the United States and show McRaven a photograph.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. And so, you know, after—after we learn that this figure, William McRaven, was the leader of this raid, it sort of—our film was sort of in the—this journey was sort of like pulling on the tail of an elephant that’s behind a hidden wall. And you’re pulling on it, and you’re pulling on it, and the cracks start to show this behemoth that’s behind a wall, and you realize that this is part of a much bigger story. And really, that kicked off a journey that took us to Yemen and Somalia and elsewhere.

    And, you know, for us, I mean, the sort of—just this incredible looking-glass moment happened when Osama bin Laden was killed. And all of a sudden, everyone is talking about JSOC. It’s everywhere. I mean, we had spent so much time embedded in this story, where there was very little being written about it, except for a small circle of journalists. And all of a sudden, the people that—whose journey we’d been tracking had become national heroes. And Disney tried to trademark SEAL Team 6, and, you know, the Hollywood producers got in bed with the CIA to make their version of the—you know, the events, the sort of official history.

    AMY GOODMAN: And you’re saying that’s the film…?

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Oh, Zero Dark Thirty. I mean, it’s—and we can talk about that film later. But, I mean, the relationship between the CIA and Hollywood over this issue is one that I think needs to be very, very thoroughly debated. And I’m thankful that we are debating it. And, you know, one great thing that has happened as a result of Zero Dark Thirty is that people are actually talking about torture and what has happened in the past. But for us to see, you know, McRaven sitting in front of Congress and JSOC being talked about publicly was really an incredible experience, because we had seen this other side. Our film is about all these things that these same units did that almost never get talked about. What Americans know about JSOC is overwhelmingly limited to what happened in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. And, you know, Rick often points out sort of the irony of the way that that’s covered versus the role these forces play around the world.

    RICK ROWLEY: Yeah, I mean, we’re flooded with details about one raid, the—on May 2nd, 2011. We know everything about it. We know how many SEALs were in the helicopters. We know what kind of helicopters they were. We know what kind of rifles they were carrying. We know that they had a dog with them that was a Belgian Malinois named Cairo. We know everything about this raid. But that same year, there were 30,000 other night raids in Afghanistan. So, we know everything about this, but those—those are all hidden from us. … interview continues

  11. A CIA veteran on what ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ gets wrong about the bin Laden manhunt

    By Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., Published: January 3

    Jose A. Rodriguez Jr. is a 31-year veteran of the CIA. He is the author of “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives,” written with former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, who also contributed to this essay.

    So says Jose Rodriguez.


    “Feinstein, McCain and Levin have now turned their focus to the CIA’s cooperation with a movie that they believe conveys the mistaken impression that torture led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. Rodriguez makes no secret of what he thinks about Congress prying into the CIA’s dark corners. He singles out a scene in Zero Dark Thirty when an agency employee threatens to alert a congressional committee about her boss’s seeming failures. “Now that,” Rodriguez writes, “would be torture.””

    (Congress must start “prying”, but it won’t happen. Not in my lifetime.)

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