[Extensive coverage of the Zero Dark Thirty torture scandal here.]

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Michael Moore, Inc.


I thought Michael Moore was supposed to be a director…    I thought he was supposed to have made some documentaries…

I guess Michael Moore, having become “Inc.”, now has other priorities, such as propagandizing for those institutions that have “honored” him and his ‘fellow’ club-members (please don’t try any more “captatio benevolentiae”, Mike, of the kind my “fellow leftists” etc…; after the way you have treated Ralph Nader and even more after this piece, I doubt there will be any somewhat sane members of the human race who would consider you a ‘leftist’ of any kind…).    I must say both the movie he defends and the essay he wrote to defend it are the ones that at this point should more appropriately be entitled “Sicko”…

Michael Moore has come out to “defend” Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty”.    So let us take a look at this “defense” and contrast it with what is actually a careful, thorough, calm, balanced but devastating assessment, that of David Bromwich.

One of Moore’s chief arguments, following the desperate attempts to grab at straws by the director herself, is that actually “Zero Dark Thirty” is against torture, and in fact is an ethical film, a film that looks at the “morality” of torture instead of its “practicality”…

To ‘factually’ anchor this contention, Moore frames it by the alleged contrast in “torture” policies of the W Bush administration and those of the Obama administration.

For someone with the sort of background in documentary filmmaking and the at least partial investigative work this entails (at least done by others, consultants, etc.) this pseudo-factual architecture is perhaps the most egregious web of deceit in his whole essay…     In fact its factual basis is as nonexistent as that in those political “vote for us, we have no achievements of our own to run on, but be scared, oh so scared of what the OTHER party could do…” ads, these days the bread-and-butter of autho-totalitarian electoral manipulation of fear that the one-party system with two right-wings the Empire has become (or party-politics as torture…)…

Has Michael Moore not been following any political news for the last 4 years?     Has he digested even one story in the non-Korporate or “less-Korporate media”??

Moore’s essay is basically founded on the Obama promises (from his 2007-8 run) in the area of rights and foreign policy, vs. some of the W administration facts.    Let’s start with torture: did the Obama administration actually stop the use of torture?    Given what has leaked out of prisons in Afghanistan and those of proKonsular allies, that contention seems completely devoid of credibility and unfounded…

On the other hand what we DO know is that the Obama administration did everything it possibly could to NOT prosecute all those in the W administration that were guilty of masterminding, implementing, “legally” defending, etc. said practices of torture…

John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent, has instead been persecuted by the Obama administration, for REVEALING facts about the torture program(s).   Kiriakou who, being a person who actually does have moral convictions, also was outraged by the government’s persecution of Aaron Swartz.    Instead both the journalists and White House personnel guilty of revealing the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, as in the case of those involved in the torture program(s), were never touched by US “justice” under either W Bush or Obama…

So much for the ‘moral high ground’

One of the other major oppositions Moore tries to sell in this horror-travesty dressed as a fairy-tale, is that the film shows the opposition of: 1) the W administration, characterized by torture (immoral), no will to find or pursue Bin Laden, incapable of engaging in any “detective work”, and therefore complete lack of results vs. 2) the Obama administration, characterized by opposition to torture (moral), the will to find and pursue Bin-Laden, deeply engaged in “detective work”, and therefore … hey presto, Bin-Laden’s head on a platter… (yes the biblical echo is intentional dear Mike…)

Well Mr. Moore must think his ‘pals’ on the “left” really all are embodiments of the insults that Rahm Emanuel hurled at them…  if he thinks his story amounts to any “detective work” of any kind whatsoever…

I think virtually any (I mean literally any) issue of “CounterPunch” in the last four years would have at the very minimum one article that would totally disprove Moore’s fantasies about the Obama administration.

Let’s start with those issues most closely related to torture and human rights in foreign policy, in other words Moore’s much touted alleged “morality”.

* Guantanamo?    Never closed, still open for business, complete betrayal of electoral promises.

* Similar prisons, as for instance at Bagram in Afghanistan, or similar facilities in Pakistan, other third party proKonsular “allies” (i.e. accomplices):    Open for business as usual, same as under W.    (For one of many accounts cf. Andy Worthington “Bagram and Beyond”.)

* Renditions?     Continue as before, or rather, more secretively than ever…     Again, absolutely no prosecution or even the faintest attempt at enforcing legal accountability in this area…

*Drone strikes (remember the Nazi V1 and V2 programs: those are the sort of powers that like state-terror and legal non-accountability): at their acme under Obama, with the overwhelming majority of victims being innocent civilians (except in the tyrannical Obama administrations serial lies about the results and consequences).    Decidedly Mr. Moore’s moral arguments are getting more ballistic by the minute…

* Targeted assassinations: the exact opposite of the Moore narrative.    It is Obama who has introduced them, boasts of personally approving them, and in the processes has put the Constitution through the shredder (he has on so many different issues it is difficult to keep count…), something the W administration, at least officially, did not engage in.    Obama actually has a US citizen assassinated without any proof or having to defend (as if it really could be defensible in any case, unless Mr. Moore’s morality comes with a defense of the death penalty, etc.) its proofs, decisions, courses of action, etc. in a court of law…    In fact Obama has reversed to worse than Richard Nixon, since it was the Church committee and other similar developments that led to the exposure and shut-down (at least from what we know overtly) of the sorts of programs that the Obama administration is now pursuing with a vengeance (Bigelow’s kind of ‘vengeance’…).   For a discussion of some of these continuing practices cf. Noah Gimble “Obama and Rendition”.

Then let’s proceed to Al-Qaeda, and Bin-Laden, whom Moore conveniently relegates to the PAST of US government (CIA, etc.) involvement.    Once again pure concocted fairy-tales on the part of Moore.     Well after Afghanistan (at the time of the creation of Al-Qaeda0, in the former Yugoslavia, the US used Al-Qaeda connected assets against the legitimate government of Yugoslavia and then Serbia, as one of its many prongs in the strategy to destabilize and break-up that country (since judging from this essay Moore’s reading in political affairs seems to be non-existent, let me recommend Diana Johnstone’s work and research in that general area, as well as many more specific articles relating to the Al-Qaeda and fundamentalist asset connection, should he ever decide to read anything more than Obama’s self-promotional literature…), the clear precursor, along with the Contra strategy in Central America, to the US – NATO aggression, terrorist destabilization, etc. pursued under Obama in Libya first and now in Syria (with its ultimate targets being Iran, Russia and China).     Not only is the US fully cognizant of the role of these groups, but given its past ties, it is just completely non-credible that those have been completely severed (yes, talk is easy, and in “intelligence-speak” it is called ‘plausible deniability”, though of course for those with a minimum of savvy in foreign affairs and some time to read, there isn’t much that’s plausible about  it….), and in fact it is far from a coincidence that Al-Qaeda is such a convenient dual-purpose tool: deniable asset in current state-terrorist destabilization programs, and much inflated “bugaboo monster” to continue pursuing the War on Terror, whose ultimate real objective is the complete dismantling of the Constitution and the nation as a “country of laws” domestically.    Al-Qaeda and other fundamentalist groups/assets are used by the US and its “allies”/proxies in NATO etc. also in countries like Chechnya, etc.     Let me add that Moore’s trying to pretend the “War on Terror” pretext and charade was something just being pursued under the W administration, and that it is not just as vigorously pursued (of course its real objectives being those just stated above, not those sold to the public under propaganda pretences…) under Obama is just as patently false and ridiculous as the rest of his essay.    In fact the drone escalation is precisely a CONTINUATION and EXPANSION of that “War on Terror” which remains just as undefined and obviously a pretext for ever increasing totalitarian Kontrol by the National Security State.

Then finally let us move to the more general area of human rights, government transparency, accountability of government, freedom of and access to information, etc.

As most serious advocates in the area of access to information, whistleblower protection, etc. have proven, the Obama administration is the WORST of any administration in US history in this regard, far WORSE than that of W Bush.    In fact the whole persecution of Bradley Manning (a trial that in its perversion of justice and the law has nothing to envy any of the trials held under Stalin), Julian Assange, and many others, the latest tragic example being the thuggish persecution engaged in by Carmen Ortiz (by the way Michael, a woman…!!) which led to the suicide of Aaron Swartz…     Yet another area in which Obama, that alleged “constitutional scholar”, has shredded the Constitution….

Glenn Greenwald just published an essay in the “Guardian” today in which he discusses how Obama’s Defense Department is going to be adding 4,000 employees to the current 900 in its Cyber Command unit.    A move which as is usual for the Empire uses the rhetoric of “Defense” (as the War Department in bygone times actually engaged in a minuscule fraction of the foreign aggressions the US Defense Department has engaged in, so “defense” in cybercrime is of course actually a pretext for massive escalation, militarization of the Internet, and attacks of the kind the US/Israel already launched against Iran) to promote aggression, escalation, systematic perversion of the law(s) and justice (cf. Manning, Aaron Swartz, Assange, Wikileaks, etc, etc.) that pertain to the Internet and its infrastructure.

Once again Michael Moore’s “do-no-wrong” Obama shredding yet another area of civil society, of democracy, of an at least partial informational “commons”, to replace it with an autho-totalitarian, public-private, unaccountable, monstrum (as Greenwald explains a huge amount of this unaccountable governmental snooping and harassment on the Internet is being carried out by private corporations whose funding comes exclusively from the government, i.e. our tax dollars: just guess where their priorities lie…; of course Moore will tell us they have “moral concerns” about information, oh, and of course, “terrorism”…)

The Obama administration has a horrific record in terms of deportations…    In persecuting the Muslim community…     In setting up FBI traps against activists, ecologists, civil rights lawyers, etc…

Of course 99% of all the other betrayals of his electoral promises, from Wall Street, to Korporate Giveaways packaged as “health-care reform” to the vandalistic destruction of the public education system to replace it with a completely dysfunctional, corrupt, unaccountable “privatized” brainwashing vampire-squid of its own… are beyond the purvey of this essay and less immediately relevant to Moore’s argument, though very relevant to the context he so desperately tries to conceal in this web of fabrications…

In the concluding segments of this fabrication, Moore then tries to layer the icing even thicker, with feel-good pronunciamientos about how the film should really be praised and given (probably given the Obama administration’s real proclivities, at gun point…) our uncritical and unencumbered blessing because it is the work of so many “women”…!!    Of course there is also a film-induced reason for this identitarian “segue”, namely that the protagonist Maya, is portrayed in a monomaniacal light, that puts her ‘above’ everything and everyone else, including the institutions she works for, a point persuasively and somewhat differently expressed by David Bromwich in his review of the movie.

Of course this propaganda trying to pass for “moral argument” is exactly of the same tenor as “don’t criticize Obama”, i.e. engage in the most despicable and hypocritical double-standards, because he is “African-American”…

Mr. Moore, I am convinced there are enough adult, responsible, women with dignity, intelligence, a moral compass and achievement(s) of many sorts in their life to their credit, that they do not need to be talked down (“up”…) to in this sordid manner.     One of the most ridiculous, disgusting, self-defeating, pompous trends of the postmodern “left” in the last several decades has been all the pontificating PC speech being bandied about in a variety of identitarian guises.     A morally despicable act, creation or product remains so if it is performed, created or produced by a man, woman, white, black, green, purple, straight, gay, transsexual, otherwise able, etc.     Nothing will change that.   Listing the “women” associated with the movie (a “co-chairman”, oops Michael, did your PC kowtowing slip up here, weren’t you meant to write “chairperson”, if not “chairhuman” or, if it was meant to be as tilted and factually inaccurate as your piece generally, “chairwoman”…?, of Sony pictures: what a profession and position in a capitalist system to boast of…) as if that somehow proved its worth is beyond pathetic and ridiculous.     Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice, Hillary Clinton, Carmen Ortiz, Imelda Marcos, Margaret Thatcher, the US soldier making the front pages torturing Iraqi prisoners of war (Lynndie England),… Mata Hari (oh by the way, Mike, guess who, Leni Riefenstahl…), Eva Braun, Golda Meir, Oriana Fallaci, Phyllis Schlafly… are all WOMEN, unless Moore had conveniently forgotten the fact (and the first ones listed I would add, by all most scrupulous and relevant standards of international law, also all WAR-CRIMINALS, who, if we did really live in an “ETHICAL WORLD”, dear Michael, and one that really did have a fair, rigorous, and impartial judicial system, would all be standing in the equivalent of a contemporary Nuremberg Trial, along with a very large portion of the higher echelons of the Obama administration…).

The abstract argument that feminists are now celebrating, i.e. US women being able to join their male cohorts in war-crimes, pillage and aggression in the service of Empire in foreign lands, namely “equality before the law” is one thing.    Yes, there should not be any legal impediments to seeking equal “opportunities” in engaging in the pursuits given to other sexes (or other races, ethnicities, etc.).    We have seen with Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, and of course Obama himself, just how well “racial equality” has allowed some individuals to join the war-criminals running the Empire…, and in the case of Condi, obviously a woman also.

Having agreed on the point of law however, doesn’t make a woman doing what her male counterparts do in the service of Empire any less morally despicable, repugnant and disgusting than when men engage in it.    The same goes for aspiring to the governmental or Korporate higher echelon positions in an Empire based on ever more astronomically brutal oppression both abroad and at home (blowback with a vengeance)…      The “glass ceiling” is a completely morally depraved phrase when it hides the sort of practices women “aspire” to join men in performing.

As for all the supposed ‘cleverness’ of Moore’s arguments about ‘framing’ the torture issue in “moral” vs “practical” (i.e. what works terms), it has basically nothing to do with the criticism(s) aimed at Bigelow and “Zero Dark Thirty”.    Most of her critics of course DO object to torture on moral grounds, AS WELL as arguing that most of the time it is also a useless and counterproductive method of interrogation.

The fact is infinitely more able, and meticulous critics (i.e. not propagandists, critics…) than Mr. Moore have reviewed the film, and found it to be precisely a work that defends and advocates for torture on “practical” grounds, from David Bromwich, who pretty much shows us what the “detective work” Moore is trying to inflate boils down to, as well as Bigelow’s self-promoting “macho” pseudo-‘feminist’ agenda,  to most recently Dave Clennon on the pages of CP; all critics whose detailed discussion of the movie’s plot, dialogues, details show that Moore’s account of it is pure fabrication and fantasy (and Clennon describes some the imaginary “Obama dialogues” Moore inserted in his essay).

And those oh so heroic Yanquis having to engage in it ‘despite themselves’ in their ‘quiet regular’ way, the sort of defense Bigelow has invoked, and Moore now abetted, which is basically a variant of the completely morally repugnant and bankrupt “yellow ribbon” crowd, who under the slogan “defend our troops” essentially give a blank cheque for anyone wearing a US military uniform, now of course, to Moore’s undoubted great pleasure, including women, to engage in the sort of everyday war-crimes, torture, massacres, rapes, pillage, that were party exposed by  A REAL AMERICAN HERO, BRADLEY MANNING, not some fictional figment of the Yanqi Leni Riefenstahl’s feel-good pseudo-vendetta … for Empire…     A form of rhetoric I might add (the “yellow ribbons”…) that Moore had trumpeted far and wide he was no longer supporting at this beginning of this month (January 2013).    Apparently he was planning all along to replace it with much worse…   Not to speak of the “omerta’” as to the reasons for killing and not capturing OBL, correctly often underscored in recent and critical articles on the assassination of an unarmed Bin-Laden, that point to the fact that this extrajudicial execution was carried out the way it was to prevent an inconvenient witness to the maneuverings of the Empire’s covert-ops to be able to testify….     Let alone the connections, as argued by many disbelievers in the “official 9/11 propaganda”, to the real background this act of most likely state-terrorism, on the model of those the US and NATO engaged in repeatedly during the times of Gladio and the so-called “strategia della tensione” in Italy.    So that the ‘false flag’ explanatory model is far from either irrational, unprecedented, or having many items of evidence, from nano-thermite to engineering guidelines, to rates and manner of building collapse, on its side…     So even if Moore and Bigelow didn’t personally believe in this explanation (a kill mission exclusively, as once again Bromwich has underscored, which, given past CIA connections, poses the very obvious and logical question….), they might at least have attempted to prove why it was not logically relevant or valid…

Of course ex post facto Bigelow has tried every mealy-mouthed rhetorical trick to argue that her movie is what it is not.     A part from the fact of torture, the “Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty” are essentially propaganda pieces for the grunts in the aggressions of Empire, giving the individual perpetrators of these atrocities and war-crimes preemptive absolution and (im)moral blank cheques to commit more, because after all war is “dirty”, war is “complex”, and “we” do the “hard work” behind the scenes…

If Bigelow were really a genuine pacifist, or really had ANY of the ethical concerns Moore tries to pretend/propagandize she has, how come they are NOWHERE reflected in her filmography?     Are these great moral sentiments conveniently just dreams she has after her film comes under fire…?


While he praises the contemporary Yanqi Leni Riefenstahls for their work of most abject propaganda, albeit with forms of particularly pervasive and perverse hypocrisy which even the Nazi propagandist could not quite contort herself into….

In a PS, Moore has the audacity to compare Oliver Stone (who has constantly had the courage to buck Hollywood tacit imperatives from “Salvador” to “JFK” (talk about the “conspiracy-theory” Korporate mass-media chorus it raised…), to his recent brilliant historical series on “Showtime”…      To even compare Bigelow’s work to his is a major insult, since Bigelow’s propaganda has absolutely no critical historical perspective or knowledge as regards the Empire whatsoever (a point repeatedly made by Bromwich): in fact it takes pride in not having any, and glorifying the totalitarian culture of secrecy.    It stands in the exact same relation to the Obama (and W) administrations as Riefenstahl did to Hitler’s Third Reich.    Except that in the history of cinema Riefenstahl continues to hold an important place for her aesthetic and technical innovations, regardless of her despicable associations, contributions that are certainly nowhere to be found in Ms. Bigelow’s products…

In his PS Moore also adds yet another straw-man (pardon… “woman”…) to his arsenal, namely that we should not force directors to “dumb down” their movies.

Michael, if any one of your readers even believes one sentence of your essay, they are already so “dumbed down” that they would be willing to think Bigelow is Orson Welles (forgive me many times, Orson…).

Mark Epstein can be reached at: mwepstein@verizon.net


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