Argo in Context

Posted: October 11, 2012 in Patrice Greanville
Tags: , , , , , , ,

There are films that simply should not be made, and this is clearly one of them. The historical context in which a work of mass communication is created and distributed should be taken into account by morally responsible artists. It rarely is.


Bryan Cranston. and Affleck (as Mendez).

by Patrice Greanville

Ben Affleck’s latest actioner using the Iran hostage crisis as a backdrop may hit the mark as a thriller but misses the target big time by serving as a propaganda vehicle for US war in that region.


Already hailed as one of the year’s best, Argo is a 2012 American political thriller film directed by Ben Affleck (and co-produced by George Clooney, whose fascination with shady intel ops and Middle East intrigue is rather notable). The film is loosely based on a true story, CIA “exfiltration expert” Tony Mendez’s account of the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran at the height of the 1979 “Iran hostage crisis”. The film stars Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman. The film is scheduled for release in the United States on October 12, 2012.

What’s so bloody wrong with this film


Appearing in late 2012, prior to the US presidential election, and in the midst of an all-out propaganda campaign to demonize Iran and take America to war against that long-victimized country (a stealthy dirty war of sabotage and assassination has been waged against Iran for quite some time now by NATO assets and the Mossad, with probably ample support from the Gulf royal mafia), the film can only add fuel–what else–to the flames. This film, under the guise of a thriller, can only exacerbate anti-Iranian feeling in America and elsewhere, and, in passing, perhaps as an unwitting bonus, give the sinister CIA a cuddly wink of approval. Which is exactly what you’d expect from nincompoop liberals like Affleck and Clooney.


As film-makers Affleck (just check out The Town, a taut, absorbing heist thriller he helmed in 2010) and Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck, Syriana) are on solid ground. Their acting, producing and directorial chops command respect and they are still maturing as artists. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for their political vision, or shall we call it…tact? For what kind of self-indulgent blindness causes otherwise smart individuals like Affleck and Clooney to suddenly become oblivious to the possibly harmful social and political repercussions of their work? We’re not talking here about being blind to issues like widespread hunger or gay rights violations, which, as card-carrying centrist liberals, both vociferously (and correctly) agitate against. With vehicles like Argo they’re messing with international politics, with the laws of the universe…entering the sphere of grand propaganda, and serving as clueless handmaidens to US foreign policy, especially when they clamor for intervention for “humanitarian reasons” in Libya, Syria, Darfur, etc. (the latest Hollywood fad), thereby providing cover for Washington’s own criminal agenda in precisely those regions. Clichéd as it sounds, as far as the ruling cliques are concerned, if Hollywood liberals didn’t exist they’d have to be invented.


Argo is bad cinema. Not qua technique, nor acting, nor any of the many other categories by which a complex work like a film is normally judged. Argo is bad because it is a toxic social product. By raising still higher the probability of a horrendous war in the Gulf, by glorifying what Western intelligence agencies actually do in our name, Affleck and Clooney are not doing us any favors, and no amount of entertainment can justify such undertakings. If they really sat down and thought about it perhaps they might finally get it, but I doubt it. Insulated, privileged creatures like big Hollywood celebs are largely immune to the deeper political truths that define the planet’s current dilemmas. In any case, whatever Argo’s cinematic value, this is a film to avoid. Political obtuseness, artistic vanity, or worse—witting complicity with the forces that are bringing this poor world to a tragic end—are not to be rewarded.

Of course, as usual, I probably am pretty much alone in thinking this way.

Media critic Patrice Greanville is founding editor of Cyrano’s Journal Today and The Greanville Post.


  1. I’m glad to see articulate voices exposing what this movie plot implications are, beyond the innocent mask of “compelling entertainment.” This reviewer nails the situation quite nicely: This is bad cinema because it apparently fits into a much larger canvass of global propaganda pushing the US toward the “mother of all wars” in the damned Middle East, a region accursed for sitting atop an ocean of oil. My heart goes out to the countless, faceless victims of our insane, coldly criminal policies around the world. What’s most ironic is that these wars of choice hardly make us safer, and the habits of the military/police monster we have created are now beginning to crop up all over here, on American soil.

  2. Margo Stiles says:

    Tremendously excited to see a site devoted to political messages deviously embedded in cinema (and I assume television, too). Far too long people have considered films innocent artifacts chiefly charged with escapism but it’s clear that American cinema, for one, has long been used as a propaganda tool, openly in fact during WW2.

    While some exceptions pop up here and there (Sayles, Stone’s better films, like Wall Street), the thrust of most Hollywood films is toward propping up comformism with the status quo, the mythical “American Way of Life,” not to mention serve as a recruiting posters for the nation’s imperial armies.

  3. Margo Stiles says:

    Hmm..forgot to say this review of ARGO rocks! How will Affleck, Clooney, Arkin and the rest defend such blatant whitewashing of a criminal agency or the indirect chauvinism and warmongering implicit in this story?

    Meanwhile I expect the movie will rake in the dough, while mainstream critics knock each out singing praise to “this sure Oscar winner”!


  4. Delia Tremont-Vaughn says:

    Agree entirely with preceding comments. And Mr Greanville is quite right in calling ARGO a toxic social product to be avoided like the plague. I certainly will no matter what the Oscar crowd says.

    In fact I want to see the liberal bunch behind ARGO explaining their participation in this concoction when the bombs start dropping for real all over the Middle East and central Asia and who knows where else as a result of American/Israeli meddling in the region…soon after the next election.

    Like many Americans and foreign observers I don’t think it matters one fig who wins in November: this is a war show brought to us by the US ruling circles, as clearly there is majority consensus for this kind of recklessness, and the whole Mideast has been in their sights for a new-minted form of domination for decades.

    Thank you for a terrific website; this cultural area needs political analysis desperately and I can see you’re gathering a great team of critics. Will spread the word.

  5. David Louis Backmann says:

    A clear and forceful denunciation of a piece of well-crafted political sleaze. Well done indeed. When will these awful lies stop? And this coming from what most people regard as “liberal” artists? I feel the world is doomed, but, hey, let me go with my eyes wide open. This work helps me see, so thank you all.

  6. Jeff Rawlins says:

    My trust in today’s “liberal Hollywood” is now seriously shaken if not finished. Kaput. Over. There was a time when people had firm standards; that era seems to be gone now forever. Everyone has got a price or if properly approached can be swung to play for the devil’s team. What’s the true “meta history” of this film? Where did the idea come from? Who was eager to finance it? The public is surely entitled to know but will never know until this system is swept away with all the rubbish humanity has produced down teh centuries—considerable.

    Without having seen it (and I certainly will not under any circumstances) this is in the same sneaky, insalubrious breed as WON’T BACK DOWN, a piece of reactionary propaganda in the guise of contemporary, “inspirational” drama.

  7. F. Van Rejerts, Amsterdam says:

    Jeff Rawlins: I share your sentiments of revulsion, but I am a bit perplexed you speak of an era when Hollywood, as an industry, was NOT subservient to Washington’s agendas. Certainly we can remember a “liberal H-wood” that even employed the likes of John Lawson and others in the Hollywood 10, but by and large Hollywood and its stars (actors and directors not to mention producers) have been always “mainstreamers” in taste and political line. Their occasional criticisms of the system at best were oblique, never enunciated clearly, as in The Grapes of Wrath, for example. In recent times the ONLY film I can think of that spoke with a clear voice (it even showed the FBI as the snister political force it is) by a major group of artists—Woody Allen, Herschel Bernardi, Zero Mostel, Michael Murphy, Lloyd Gough, Joshua Shelley, and written/produced by Walter Bernstein and Martin Ritt, all victims of the McCarthy witchhunts, is the stupendous THE FRONT (1976). In that same period the great Martin Ritt also gave us NORMA RAE, about the tough struggles of union people.

    Most of the time Hollywood liberals remain safely within the confines of the capitalist value system, treating its crimes as “aberrations,” as we see in SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, about a rightwing golpista general (played to perfection by Burt Lancaster).

  8. brian says:

    why not raise the issue with Ben Affldeck and Clooney?

  9. Editor says:

    You have their email addresses?

  10. Very true – I loved Argo for its entertainment value and I always enjoy anything historical. That being said, I am aware of the political issues surrounding Iran at the time, the U.S. coup to overthrow their democratically elected government, and the serious push by top officials to legitimize invading the country.
    I guess most who view this film wouldn’t necessarily be aware of those issues and it is true that it is terrible timing. Great piece.

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