Disgraceful

Bob already mentioned this, but I’m mentioning it again because it bothers me. I’m not squeamish to what I see on film, but I find this to be ethically reprehensible.

If this New Yorker piece on Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty is accurate, this utterly disgraceful and grossly irresponsible.

The film includes wrenching scenes of a terrorist suspect being waterboarded and subjected to other forms of torture by C.I.A. operatives; the suspect eventually surrenders information that helps lead to bin Laden. Bigelow maintains that everything in the film is based on first-hand accounts, but the waterboarding scene, which is likely to stir up controversy, appears to have strayed from real life. According to several official sources, including Dianne Feinstein, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the identity of bin Laden’s courier, whose trail led the C.I.A. to the hideout in Pakistan, was not discovered through waterboarding. “It’s a movie, not a documentary,” Boal said. “We’re trying to make the point that waterboarding and other harsh tactics were part of the C.I.A. program.” Still, Bigelow said, “the film doesn’t have an agenda, and it doesn’t judge. I wanted a boots-on-the-ground experience.”

To claim the film doesn’t have agenda if it portrays torture leading to the raid on Bin Laden is absurd. It practically screams an agenda. And frankly, to ignore the implications of portraying that, and passing it off as ‘just a movie,’ makes me seriously question both your professional and personal integrity. It’s lazy and incurious.

Andrew Sullivan gets it exactly right

If Bigelow is calling torture “harsh tactics” she is complicit in its defense. And lies do have an agenda, whatever Bigelow says. They pretend that the law allows torture, they violate the historical record, and they make war crimes more likely in the future. Yes, it makes for a more thrilling ride if we start with a torture scene in a movie drama. But actual torture, authorized illegally by war criminals, is not fiction and is far too grave a matter to be exploited as a plot device. It is illegal because it is evil and because it provides unreliable and often false leads, not real ones. Bigelow cannot argue that her movie has no agenda, or duck behind the excuse that this is a “movie” and not a “documentary”. If it lies to promote the efficacy of torture, it has a very real agenda. And that is a defense of barbarism as entertainment, and as the law of the land.

If this isn’t edited out before the film is widely released, it could be career-ending. Or at least it should be in my opinion.

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  • D_C_Wilson

    So, how long until wingnuts cite this film as “proof” that waterboarding helped us get bin Laden?

    • http://twitter.com/SugaRazor Razor

      They already cite Jack Bauer as a reason for torture, so I don’t think it’ll take long.

  • http://www.facebook.com/arthur.tiersky Arthur Tiersky

    >>The film includes wrenching scenes of a terrorist suspect being waterboarded and subjected to other forms of torture by C.I.A. operatives; the suspect eventually surrenders information that helps lead to bin Laden.

    If we’re not going to withhold judgment until we see the movie, let’s at least withhold judgment until more details emerge to clarify the above sentence. It does NOT say waterboarding led to getting the information, it just says he was waterboarded, and then eventually he helps. For all I can tell from this sentence, it portrays waterboarding as a complete failure of a tactic, and something else down the line – the complete OPPOSITE of torture, for all we know – is what finally works.

    I don’t know much more about the film than anyone else out there, but I transcribed a lot of interviews with the cast, and did not get the impression for a moment that this takes a pro-torture stance, or that anyone involved including Bigelow and Boal are the least bit supportive of torture.

    So how ’bout we hold off on demanding the cutting of a scene until we know what it’s about, hey?

  • RilesSD

    I see what you and Bob are saying, but let’s not be like those on the Right who protest movies before they are released.

    And Sullivan’s quote “If it lies to promote the efficacy of torture, it has a very real agenda,” is just ridiculously over the top. I wonder if he has a problem with the “lies” in Boardwalk Empire.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t the source of the Bin Laden intelligence waterboarded? It didn’t lead to the evidence of his location, but it did happen didn’t it? And if that’s in the movie, I don’t think that’s a lie.

    • nellcote

      I see what you and Bob are saying, but let’s not be like those on the Right who protest movies before they are released.
      ===
      This!

  • JackDaniel07

    I play first person shooters and I love me some Navy SEALs but with or without that scene there is no way I would ever watch that “movie”. I was disgusted when I saw the trailer.

  • MrDHalen

    I will say this, if the film does not show torture to be a failure, then it should never have had access to US military equipment for filming or the cooperation of any branch of service.

    If we have become a nation of torturers and celebrate it in film, then we deserve whatever hell is brewing to correct our disgusting path.

  • js hooper

    This is sure to give neo-con wingnuts and paultards firebaggers like greenwald a raging hard-on that will rival the Eiffel tower…To the right wingers it will reinforce their idiotic claim that Bush & Cheney were right to torture…and to the equally dishonest paultards / firebaggers it will be another thing they can FAP FAP FAP to while moaning…”JUST LIKE BUSH”

  • http://www.facebook.com/arthur.tiersky Arthur Tiersky

    Okay, there are good articles at Slate and Salon on this topic, by people who HAVE SEEN THE MOVIE. Apparently, someone is waterboarded and tortured in other ways early on (in scenes set in ’04), and he eventually gives up some information, but nothing that useful, nothing that leads directly to bin Laden. And according to some sources, there WAS some torturing going on in the course of this thing in real-life, but not waterboarding. So this sounds like minor license, and arguably justifiable, if it’s showing waterboarding to be this horrific thing that we DID do many times in the course of this War on Terror.

    Again, I’ll withhold judgment, but from the sound of it, it absolutely does NOT sound like the movie endorses torture or even suggest that torture led to the capture, and the deviation from the facts, while not ideal, is within the realm of reason for this kind of thing.

    Obviously, this w0n’t stop the wingnuts from claiming that it DOES score one for torture, but that’s wingnuts for you.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2012/12/zero_dark_thirty_and_torture_does_kathryn_bigelow_s_bin_laden_movie_make.html

    http://www.salon.com/2012/12/11/zero_dark_thirty_doesnt_celebrate_torture/