The American Bear


Two principles have formed the core of Wikileaks’ operative mores since its formation: uncensored information and a rigorous commitment to protect the anonymity of the whistleblowers who provide that information. Unsurprisingly, authoritarian governments, criminal corporate enterprises and their toadies just hate these two prongs of potential exposure – full disclosure of primary source material and protection of the sources of that information. Just ask Richard Nixon how he felt about Deep Throat. … For a more contemporary example, just ask the censorship-happy Obama administration, which is increasingly being viewed as the single most hostile government to whistleblowers and freedom of the press in the history of history, at least among our vaunted Western ‘democracies.’ Disney’s Ode to State Repression

National Security Porn | Binoy Kampmark

[…] The current crop of Hollywood films finds solace in a pressing condition of superhero masturbation in the face of improbable threat. Enemies are hard to find, so they need a singular streak of gifted villainy. GI Joe troops launch interventionist missions as physically taut and moral policemen (and women). Bruce Willis persists in not dying harder than ever, a permanently indestructible celluloid presence. Even his on screen offspring are heading for the Kleenex in the name of president and country.

As for the North Koreans, they also re-appear as the incorrigible invaders in the recently released Red Dawn (2012), a shameless remake of the 1984 film by the same name. The Soviets have long left the psyche, but their protoplasmic traces find their way into desperate American moviemaking. The ultranationalist Slav provides the ideal counter to the well-meaning American altruist who drinks the fluids of democracy for breakfast. Let us ignore how the starved state, a terrified brutal regime in Pyongyang can keen to keep the motor running even as it takes US leaders hostage.

If enemies are to be invented, or found, let them at least be vaguely credible. What audiences are instead seeing is an Uncle Sam on the couch nursing masochistic nightmares and indignant insecurity. What follows is surely, like the quality of acting, to be deserved, a vile sort of national security and terrorism porn, to use an apt expression coined by critic Till Kadritzke.

Newly Declassified Memo Shows CIA Shaped Zero Dark Thirty's Narrative | Adrian Chen

Kathryn Bigelow’s Osama bin Laden revenge-porn flick Zero Dark Thirty was the biggest publicity coup for the CIA this century outside of the actual killing of Osama bin Laden. But the extent to which the CIA shaped the film has remained unclear. Now, a memo obtained by Gawker shows that the CIA actively, and apparently successfully, pressured Mark Boal to remove scenes that made them look bad from the Zero Dark Thirty script.

The CIA’s whitewashing effort is revealed in a cache of documents newly released under a Freedom of Information Act request about the CIA’s cooperation with Bigelow and Boal. The documents include a 2012 memo—initially classified “SECRET”—summarizing five conference calls between Boal and the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs in late 2011. “The purpose for these discussions was for OPA officers to help promote an appropriate portrayal of the Agency and the Bin Ladin operation,” according to the memo. (Hundreds of pages of CIA documents about the film were released last year; the memo obtained by Gawker was approved for release late last month.)

During these calls, Boal “verbally shared the screenplay” for Zero Dark Thirty in order to get the CIA’s feedback, and the CIA’s public affairs department verbally asked Boal to take out parts that they objected to. According to the memo, he did. [continue]

Argo: The Stupidest Movie of the Year | As'ad AbuKhalil

It is reflective of American liberalism that Ben Affleck, who is considered to the left of the Democratic Party and who is supposed to have been critical of US foreign policies in the Middle East, is behind the movie Argo. The movie received wide publicity and acclaim and has served to energize American national pride. That is what patriotic movies are supposed to do.

But if you think about it, this movie is based on a simple premise that does not require a complicated or sophisticated plot: basically, as CIA agents were hiding in the Canadian embassy, an American traveled to Iran with fake Canadian passports, which enabled the Americans to leave the country. The rest is either manufactured or unnecessary. In fact, the entire scheme of the movie was actually comical and entirely unnecessary. Once the Americans obtained the Canadian passports, they were free to leave the country, and that is exactly what happened.

The character played by Affleck is in fact less impressive than what appears on the screen: his scheme was not the product of a sophisticated mind, and the extra length to which the CIA went to create a fake production company and even a phone number for it was entirely unnecessary, especially that the details (of the last minute phone call) were all manufactured for extra dramatic effect.

This is a typical Hollywood movie with typical Hollywood twists and turns, and with the typical formulaic ending. I mean, who is going to believe that suspenseful ending: with the plane about to leave Iranian territory, while Iranian armed men were chasing the plane on the runway because they discovered at the last minute that they were duped. But the White Man is always – in Hollywood – more than one step ahead of the native.

It should not be surprising that the movie recycled racist and stereotypical depictions from other racist movies on Iran, like Not Without My Daughter. All the Iranians in the movie were frowning or angry or yelling, and the movie never bothers to subtitle what they have to say. Only the words of submissive natives, i. e. the Iranians who cooperate with the Americans and are smiley are worth translating to the audience.

There are comical touches to the movie: there is a seconds-long history lesson at the beginning of the movie which talks about the 1953 CIA coup. But that short intro leaves out the rest of the history of US-Iranian relations: the movie mentions SAVAK [Organisation of Intelligence and National Security] in passing but does not mention that the CIA helped set up that torturing apparatus of the Shah. The movie also leaves out the various cover operations between the Shah and the US, and that the Carter administration did not rule out military intervention in Iran to keep the Shah out of respect for the people of Iran, but due to the infeasibility of that option compared with the climate of 1953.

Iran and its people and culture are all unpleasant in American popular culture and there is nothing worth admiring or liking about them. Basically, Americans can’t forgive the Iranians because they had not forgiven the Americans for their 1953 coup and for their endorsement and embrace of the rule of the Shah. Nothing about Iran is pleasant according to the stereotypical American portrayal.

But there is a funny moment at the end of Argo.

Just before the credits, you read that the movie is about a great “cooperation” between countries of the world for good purposes. So of all the examples of international cooperation, Ben Affleck and his team found the Canadian-American cooperation for the production of fake passports to be the most exemplary.

No Iranian character in the film who has a legitimate grievance against US policy is permitted to be sympathetic or to have any intimate moments that would humanize him or her.

The film tells but doesn’t show some of the US atrocities in Iran. It shows the plight of the hapless US diplomats. In making that key dramatic decision, and then in Orientalizing the Iranian protagonists as angry and irrational, the film betrays its subject matter and becomes propaganda, lacking true moral or emotional ambiguity.

“Argo” as Orientalism and why it Upsets Iranians

(via fariyah)