Archive for the ‘Randy Shields’ Category

[Editor's Note: See our extensive coverage of the Zero Dark Thirty torture scandal here.]

Iraqis_tortured_wp-f300

The Great White Camel

by RANDY SHIELDS

Probably many people have read the informed and thoughtful commentary on the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” by Glenn Greenwald or Jane Mayeror Karen Greenberg.

But what you’re really wondering is: what does a scalawag, what does a completely unrepentant flame thrower and certified America-hater think about “Zero Dark Thirty”? Come, sit by me.

“Zero Dark Thirty,” like director Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” (which I reviewed and contrasted with “Avatarhere), is about the trials and tribulations of American occupiers, torturers, death squads and empire builders — no Muslims need apply for any humanity, although they’re allowed to scream a lot and blow up shit. (In real life they scream a lot, too, because some party unknown to Bigelow keeps dropping bombs on them, day after day, year after year, decade after decade.)

First off, I think the critics of this movie are lost in minutia. They mistakenly credit Americans with a humanity which they don’t possess and assume that Americans will be unduly influenced by the movie’s depiction of torture when, in fact, more Americans support torture than are against it, according to this 2012 poll. More Americans support torture now than in 2007. Americans are a lost cause. Instead, let’s see the waterboard pitcher as half full and celebrate how the rest of the world might see this movie.

Two things stuck out for me about the movie, one at the very beginning and the other at the end. Watching the CIA torturers at work, waterboarding, beating, hanging a guy in stress positions, depriving him of sleep, confining him in a little box, the sexual humiliation, the blinding light and blaring music — all of it called to mind George Bernard Shaw’s observation on animal experimentation: that a race of people who would use something as barbarous as animal experiments to “save” themselves would be a race of people not worth saving. No matter what the CIA, director Kathryn Bigelow (don’t overlook that comma!) and screenwriter Mark Boales intended, that’s the real message (subliminal only if you’re an American) of “Zero Dark Thirty”: America isn’t worth saving. Creative artists don’t always know the forces and influences that they’re working under or the ultimate import and meaning of what they’re creating. History, someday even written by the working class, will judge the meaning of this film.

The definition of torture is “the infliction of pain to elicit information.” That’s why I’ve never had a problem calling animal experimenters torturers. Torture isn’t in the mind or the intent of the torturer, it’s what they do. They cause pain to get information. So the torturers in “Zero Dark Thirty” can go from being brutal to joking around in mere seconds. They aren’t foaming-at-the-mouth sadists 24/7 — they’re the war criminals standing behind us in the grocery line. It’s Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil.”

If the experiments/torture didn’t actually start out this way, in the end it always becomes about the sick fuck craziness of the torturers/experimenters themselves, their desire to be obeyed and take absolute power and control over a helpless being’s life, not the search for truth or “cures” or “protecting the American people.” (It’s perfect symmetry that the “learned helplessness” experiments of University of Pennsylvania dog shocker Dr. Martin Seligman formed the “intellectual” basis of the Bush torture program.) “Zero Dark Thirty” shows American torturers in action, which is good. In fact, I think it would be dishonest of Bigelow and Boales to toss in the one or two FBI agents who objected to the systematic torture of one of hundreds (thousands?) of people and the torture trail that went all the way up to Yoo, Bybee, Addington, Cheney and Rumsfeld for their recommendations on torture techniques. This fucking movie should go down hard in the craw of the world — there was never any humanity or conscience or enough ”good Americans” involved to even be worth noting. I don’t recall those FBI agents making any arrests of the torturers or raising hell in the press at the time they witnessed the torture.

(An aside on waterboarding: as awful as waterboarding is in the movie, I think this written description — by a man who waterboarded himself — conveys the suffering better. In media interviews, director Bigelow never calls waterboarding torture — she always calls it ”enhanced interrogation.” People who don’t call waterboarding torture are either: 1) misinformed 2) diabolical servants of the American empire or 3) the New York Times. Waterboarding has been known as torture since at least the Spanish Inquisition and the Reagan Justice Department recognized it as such when it prosecuted Texas sheriff James Parker and three deputies for doing it to prisoners to obtain confessions back in 1983.)

The other thing that struck me about “Zero Dark Thirty” was no face to face confrontation with Osama bin Laden when the Navy SEALs are blowing up doors to his compound and proceeding up the different levels to his bedroom. Once there, everything gets even murkier, despite the night vision goggles worn by the SEALs. We don’t see the shot that fells bin Laden — we see him after he’s shot and laying on the floor as a SEAL pushes away two of his wives and then another SEAL pumps his supine body with a couple more bullets.

In a movie where plenty of dramatic license is taken, why no face to face confrontation with the great terrorist mastermind, with the Navy SEAL gunslinger at high midnight delivering vengeance for the smoking ashes of the twin towers? Why no look into bin Laden’s face as he realizes he is about to die in the “claws of the eagle” (America) as he said he probably would? Why no cathartic righteous justice? It doesn’t matter that maybe in “real life” it really was dark and difficult to see and that the one-to-one look in bin Laden’s eyes didn’t happen. These filmmakers don’t give a damn about “real life” and context when it comes to vilifying Muslims. Without fail, they care about drama and maximum emotional impact, from the real life September 11 911 callers which lead directly to the waterboarding to the CIA agent who bakes a cake for the man she thinks has been turned into an informant only to have him detonate a suicide vest and kill her and several other agents. This movie is all about drama but only within the confines of CIA propaganda.

27.024000,27.024000

The filmmakers would no doubt consider showing bin Laden’s face to be “glorifying” him. If bin Laden was shown to be afraid, he might draw some sympathy as an unarmed man executed in his bedroom by a death squad. If he was defiant, this might rev up his followers. So there must not be anything recognizably human about him. Code-named “Geronimo” by the American government, bin Laden must die like every indigenous person at the hands of cowboys and soldiers in American movies: just fall down dead like a cardboard cutout, incapable of expression, meaning or emotion. Only the White Man’s struggles are of any interest. Paradoxically, bin Laden remains a boogeyman who still holds so much power that even his death in a movie can’t be shown. Moby bin Laden’s dead and America, through Ahab Bigelow, is still afraid of him, a kind of Great White Camel, an obsession, a fiend who played a very useful role for American warmongers, from terror alerts always sounded near key political and legislative moments to being the supposed inspiration for every zealot with a Kalashnikov that America must spend a fortune exterminating — not a mere criminal who could have been easily been captured alive and tried in court.

America’s pursuit of the Great White Camel told us much more about ourselves than it did about him: we killed over one million Iraqis and wrecked their country which is still going on to this day, every day. We’ve now killed more Afghan civilians than Americans were killed on 9/11, and our drone strikes in Pakistan are making it a close second. The pursuit of the Great White Camel let the world see through a mirage: America isn’t a model to be emulated, it’s not a soaring eagle but a Chicken Little who scares easily and rushed to throw away every civil liberty and legal protection it had via the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act and the National Defense Authorization Act. A deluded cowardly and bullying country that will mainly fight you from 10,000 miles away and 20,000 feet above. A country whose dumb ass personality-cult liberals believe it’s a big improvement going from Bush capturing and torturing alleged “terrorists” to Barackus Obombus Caesar who captures no one and simply kills whoever he wants wherever he wants whenever he wants. It’s no coincidence that the CIA works with an Oscar-winning director on a film depicting torture now that its preferred modus operandi is extrajudicial assassination.

So why is this movie good for the world? Because it shows the ugly beast of America out of control, it comes to you bloody and crazed, so detached from reality that it believes its vices are virtues. It congratulates itself on its military prowess while the rest of the world sees sadistic torture, innocent people killed, nations’ sovereignty violated with impunity, international law and the Geneva Conventions jettisoned, lumbering death squads coming in the night from thousands of miles away to wreck your world, terrifying women and children and sometimes killing them. This movie’s message is: America makes the whole world insecure — therefore: arm yourselves to the teeth, preferably with nuclear weapons.

“Zero Dark Thirty” shows America swaggering and bragging, torturing and killing and proud of it. Americans love this shit because they have no empathy — they never imagine themselves on the receiving end of it. And they’re so damnably stupid and easy to manipulate that even when they are on the receiving end of it, as on 9/11, they don’t learn anything from it. Forget about any self-reflection as to why so many people in the world hate America. It was so easy for the ruling class to channel Americans’  bigotry onto Muslims and deflect away the normal healthy reaction of what should have been tremendous anger at the US government for not preventing 9/11 after all the trillions of dollars spent on “defense” and “security.” (Ralph Nader suggested four decades ago that cockpit doors on planes should be strengthened and locked. But what does he know compared to “bottom line” airline executives — he only gave us seat belts.) Almost three thousand people dead, a nation shellshocked and yet no one in our vast political/intelligence/military/surveillance state lost a day’s pay or got a reprimand. No one on top pays for anything in America whether it’s torture, financial fraud, illegal eavesdropping or negligent homicide. “Zero Dark Thirty” shows the incredible resources available to kill and destroy while Americans live in cardboard boxes in New York City and tents next to off-ramps in San Diego. A country whose infrastructure is so dilapidated that it’s not even safe for people to live under its bridges. A moral and social wasteland where more of its “true believers,” its trumpeted soldiers, kill themselves each year than are killed by its enemies. A country so fucked up, from its rotting Obama drone-head on down, that an increasing number of alienated citizens make their final statement the mass killing of total strangers, especially children. One great day it will be unanimous: three hundred million Americans will hate America.

Now wasn’t this a better movie review than some reverent cinephile talking about camera angles and lighting and references to other movies that weren’t worth seeing in the first place? The only way that I could be wrong about all of this, and the S & M America-lovers could have the last laugh, is if the goal of the American government, through propaganda vehicles like “Zero Dark Thirty,” is to cause as much hatred and blowback to America as possible in order to justify ever more “defense” and “security” spending, as if the whole reason for the being of America was the wildly successful business of plunder and murder. I flame. You decide. Have it your way at Vegan King.

Randy Shields can be reached at music2hi4thehumanear@gmail.com. His writings and art are collected at innagoddadadamdavegan.blogspot.com.

by Randy Shields

Hey Raheim,

Thanks for letting me borrow Avatar, The Hurt Locker, and Blind Side. You really hooked me up this time. How did you know that Caucasian porn is one of my guilty little pleasures ? Having merciful, just, compassionate and brave white people always available and their goodness spurting off like Old Faithful, OMG, is so hot. Here’s my review:

I have to hand it to us: we whites are the most selfless, courageous, beneficent people who ever walked the face of … the silver screen. From pistol-packing white mama Sandra Bullock sashaying into the hood to tell off the home boys in Blind Side (how come those black savages aren’t doing honest work for six bucks an hour in one of Bullock’s millionaire husband’s fast food chain restaurants/plantations?) to the white gimp hero being made whole in his blue heaven of Avatar (white men can jump on Pandora!) and leading the blue savages to victory (after he and his kind brought them carnage and mayhem) to The Hurt Locker soldiers de-mining bombs unfairly planted by the sand savages (after the soldiers and their kind brought them carnage and mayhem.) The problem is always savages — savages, savages everywhere. Savages of every color and stripe (the Na’vi!) and not enough white people to save them. Whites! Carnage! Action! Salvation! Hang in there, magenta people, wherever you are, we’re on our way to save you (from us, after the introductory offer of carnage and mayhem.)

(Memo to white Christians: time to get couples counseling because, while you’re keeping the home fires and hell fires burning, the God you worship apparently hates you: He keeps carousing out there in the Third World and even other galaxies, giving away all the cosmic bling — the buffalo, the oil, the “unobtainium” — to the savages.)

I know you liked Blind Side, Raheim, but if you want a classic football movie check out North Dallas Forty with its humor, injuries, legal and illegal drugs, racism, sadistic coaches, greedy owners, groupies, the stamping out of individuality, and the camaraderie and love of competition that keeps players hanging in there to the bitter end. Should Blind Side get points because it’s based on a true story, this tale of a white southern Republican family that adopts a young black male who goes on to college and pro-football? Nah. It left me cold. I’m not interested in the America that accidentally coughs up a diamond every once in a while for our pleasure and pacification — I’m interested in seeing movies about everything that capitalism deliberately devours and shits out to produce that diamond or, more accurately, fool’s gold. Probably in the last 300 years in America there were a couple dozen instances of white people helping out black people — and Hollywood made blockbusters out of all of them.

In Avatar, put aside the white male hero character going off the rez — that’s too easy to slam — I didn’t buy Sigourney Weaver’s character trying to schmooze the tall athletic Na’vi. Wouldn’t the American empire have sent somebody like NBA Commissioner David Stern to see if the blue freaks could hit the turnaround jumper? The empire needs to be entertained too, you know. Isn’t an NBA commish born to negotiate with chief mercenary Stephen Lang, concerning the merits of a possible new expansion franchise, the Pandora Tail-Shtuppers? Even if Pandora was destroyed, a few Na’vi could have been brought back as “hardship” cases and been mentored and tutored about the discovery of their country by “explorers” Lang and Weaver and then suited up.

I’ll say one thing for Avatar, though: this film is a crack across the mouth of America, America’s military, and everything the American empire is doing in the world. Director James Cameron turned up the squirm knob on American filmgoers cuz by all rights they should have been cheering and whooping that the underdog Na’vi heroically defeated a fiendish aggressor. But there wasn’t that kind of cheering in American theaters (unlike foreign ones) because — oops, cognitive damn dissonance, these villains are the sacred and sainted troops whom it’s so important to glorify at all times. Avatar does not support the troops — and if it cost $300 million to put that statement on screen it was worth it. You can’t get that statement out of the mealy-mouthed “leaders” and supposed radicals in the antiwar movement. Maybe in America you can only tell the truth if you have $300 mil in your pocket. Or are completely broke — anything in between and you’re just a corrupt little weasel in waiting. Apologies to real weasels — we humans just labeled you really funny and it’s a great oversight that our names aren’t reversed and we aren’t all singing I-I-I-I-I-I am everyday weasels… Weasels… need weasels…

That said, Avatar’s not that threatening on a more basic level. A movie of noble savages saying a little prayer for each innocent creature they needlessly slaughter ( there seems to be a lot of juicy fruits on Pandora ) puts humans back in their cribby comfort zone. Humans are always open to the Good News of the possible necessity of killing something. Americans, in particular, can deal easier with their skyscrapers being knocked down than the true nightmare, the end times scenario: the cheeseless world of the scary vegans. To show you what America really fears, I offer you all the many anti-terror laws used against eco and animal activists during the Bush years (not so much a time of the Great Fear as the time of the Great Big I-Don’t-Give-A-Damn.) The words “soy cheese” and “tofu” elicit more instant hatred and alarm than “fuel oil” and “fertilizer.” (The best sequel to Avatar: an invasion by a thousand vegan missionaries brandishing Cornell University’s “The China Health Project” and Tom Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights while simultaneously hunt-sabbing the Na’vi and dodging all of Pandora’s carnivorous creatures. Na’vi eyes would glaze over, preceding their surrender, as we vegans carpet-bombed them with sermons on non-animal sources of B-12 and the hoax of protein complementarity.)

Now the Hurt Locker does support the troops which is why big bad liberal Hollywood gave it the best picture Academy Award over Avatar. This tedious sand fly soap opera is nothing but war propaganda. Scene after scene about the terrible difficulties that invaders, occupiers, and war criminals face. After 90 minutes of murderous foreplay, America finally gets off: a dead young Iraqi boy has a “body bomb” implanted in his torso by the diabolical insurgents and our white hero can’t bear to blow up the dead kid so he basically does open heart surgery to remove the bomb at great risk to his own noble self and carries the dead kid to the safety of the American conscience. It’s so good living here in the White Imagi-Nation. Jesus Christ, we’re good people. We would never stand by and let our government kill one million Iraqis or turn another four million into refugees or destroy their country in a simple tax/wealth transfer from our children’s future to Lockheed and Halliburton’s present. No, we sacrifice our own lives, the most valuable and meaningful lives on this whole damned planet, to make sure that even dead ragheads get a proper burial!

O courageous Hollywood directors, there is a heroic story to be told about Iraq — it’s the Iraqi resistance, particularly the Sunni resistance. At one point the Sunni were fighting the great American murder machine, the fanatical al-Qaeda interlopers and the numerically superior Shia. And in the winter of 2007 with the chaos boiling over it looked like the Sunni just might pull it off and make Uncle Sam cry uncle. But American generals screwed their courage to the sticking place — and put the Sunni on the payroll. I often wonder at the mental gymnastics that friends and loved ones of US soldiers go through. One night we went to bed knowing the Sunni are depraved terrorists who plant IEDs and the next morning the newspapers said these irredeemable murderers are now getting our tax dollars (the “Sunni Awakening” was really the Pentagon Awakening to the fact that it was about to get its five-sided ass kicked out of Iraq.) But where oh where on earth is our revenge supposed to go? And who knew that there’s so much Christian forgiveness at the Pentagon! And no congressperson or prominent media person says a word — just get used to it you idiots, we’ll tell you day is night and shit is sugar and you’ll buy it every time. We’ll tell you who to hate and when to hate and how hard to hate and then tell you to stop on a dime and you losers will do it every time, even if the blood and limbs of your sons and daughters are fertilizing Fallujah. This government is bankrupt because you’re bankrupt.

The Hurt Locker and Blind Side are two “true” stories that paint a more deceptive picture of what life is like in 2010 than does Avatar’s 22nd century Pandora.

Anyway, Raheim, keep the flicks comin’. And don’t forget to shower the weasels you love with love.

Randy Shields can be reached at music2hi4thehumanear@gmail.com.

by Randy Shields

This July 21 [2011] is the 30th anniversary release date of Brian De Palma’s political/conspiracy thriller “Blow Out,” starring John Travolta, Nancy Allen and John Lithgow. Critics praised De Palma’s artful weaving of references to other directors and movies and real life events into “Blow Out” but audiences were turned off by the film’s ravagingly sad ending. As a movie heathen, I’m not so interested in De Palma’s cinematic virtuosity, and I feel that the critics never got to the heart of why this is such a powerful film — which is the fact that it’s a deep and devastating attack on America. The film’s numerous similarities and small divergences from today’s political landscape are instructive.

SPOILER ALERT! I reveal the ending of “Blow Out,” so if you haven’t seen it and intend to, you might want to stop reading now.

Continue