FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Michael Moore’s Repellent Defense of “Zero Dark Thirty”

by DAVE CLENNON

Wow!

Michael Moore sure can make up a lot of dialogue for scenes he thinks happened off screen, in “Zero Dark Thirty.”

He freely invents quotes for President Obama, writing words no one else has ever quoted Obama as saying.  Here’s Moore’s Obama, scolding the CIA:

“Go find bin Laden – and don’t use torture. Torture is morally wrong. Torture is the coward’s way. C’mon – we’re smart, we’re the USA … Use your brains (like I do) and, goddammit, get to work!”

Were you writing fiction, Mike, or were you basing your script “on first hand accounts of actual events.”  (The claim of Bigelow and Mark Boal in “Zero.”)  In any case, your made-up dialogue belongs on Saturday Night Live, not in a serious defense of Bigelow and Boal.

Actually, I’d like to believe a scene like the one you wrote did take place, Mike, but it’s more like wishful thinking on your part. After all, what exactly has Obama done to bring these torturing incompetents to justice?

Torture abolitionists aren’t arguing whether or not “Zero Dark Thirty” portrays torture as “effective” (it does, though Bigelow and Boal consistently fudge the point).  We know it’s morally wrong and a crime.  BUT, like it or not, Mike, there are many Americans who are morally uncomfortable with torture, but they accept it as a necessary, “effective,” tool in the “War on Terror.”  If those people learn that torture doesn’t work, they might, eventually, come to condemn it.

Torture abolitionists don’t need you to tell them that arguments about the “effectiveness” of torture can be a trap.  Yes, such arguments can distract us from the real point — Torture is a moral abomination AND a crime.  Torture abolitionists have been making that point for a long time,  since way before Fox’s “24” went on the air (2001), and made Kiefer Sutherland America’s poster boy for torture.

What are the real reasons torture abolitionists are criticizing “Zero Dark Thirty”?

Because the heroine of the film (Jessica Chastain as Maya) and Maya’s mentor Dan, commit a grievous crime — torture — and they are never, ever, condemned for their crimes, and they are never brought to justice. (Please, Michael, don’t say they’re innocent because Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales and Woo defined many forms of torture as, well, NOT torture.)

Instead of being indicted, these torturers are presented as heroes, as brave and dedicated “detectives.”  No one gives Maya or Dan the kind of scolding, which you envision Obama giving, off-screen.  Chastain’s Maya, is presented as especially admirable, a feminist action hero.  She not only gets her man; she also muscles CIA male chauvinists out of the way, as she pushes ahead on “The Greatest Manhunt in History.”  And we’re supposed to empathize and cheer her on.

But along the way on her quest, she learns the fine art of torture, from Dan.  And she learns fast.  When she’s left alone with their first victim, Ammar, he begs her for help.  Having learned to stop flinching at Dan’s cruelty, she coldly replies, “You can help yourself by being truthful.”

Later, Chastain gets to supervise the torture of her own detainee, Faraj.  She has him punched out, as she shouts, “You’re not being fulsome in your replies!”  Then she has Faraj waterboarded.

We’ve already seen these “enhanced techniques” used on Ammar.  But Chastain’s Maya employs a new one:

She orders a liquid — a thick, brown liquid — to be poured into a funnel which has been forced into Faraj’s mouth and rammed partway down his throat.  Some of this brown liquid will spill from the sides of Faraj’s mouth; some will go into his lungs, the rest, into his stomach.

Sadly, for Maya, Faraj refuses to give up any critical information.  She complains to her mentor about Faraj’s resistance, adding, “And that’s using every measure we have.”  Dan replies, “Either he’s gonna keep withholding, or he’s gonna die from the pressure you’re putting on him.”  Maya then looks hopefully at Dan and says, “Hey, you wanna take a run at him?”  Dan declines, so Chastain has to resume putting “pressure” on Faraj by herself.

We don’t see Chastain torturing Faraj on-screen any more, but, in later dialogue, we learn that her “pressure” has finally killed him.  Her station colleague, Jessica, sees that Maya is frustrated in her quest.  Jessica tries to snap her out of it:  “So Faraj went south on you. It happens.”  With that comment, we learn that Chastain/Maya’s frustration isn’t about Faraj STILL withholding (How many more times did she pour that thick brown liquid down his throat?).  She’s upset because her detainee, still withholding, “went south” on her.  Do you get it, Michael?  Your heroine murdered another human being, in the course of torturing him.  And she is never called to account.

Torture is not a feminist act, and it’s way out of line to imply that Chastain — this gorgeous, murdering CIA thug — is a feminist hero.

Out of line and disappointing.  In “Capitalism, a Love Story,” you interviewed a priest who was based in your home town of Flint.  Memorable scene.  I’d like to know how he would interpret this film’s moral stance on torture.

Because, Mike, torture isn’t a Left-Right thing.  It’s a Good-Evil thing.

Dave Clennon is a long-time actor and political agitator, probably best known for portraying the advertising mogul Miles Drentell on ABC’s  thirtysomething.  His performance as Miles earned him an Emmy nomination.  His more recent projects include Syriana, Grey’s Anatomy and Weeds.  He won an Emmy for his performance in an episode of HBO’s Dream On.  Long-time fans of John Carpenter’s classic The Thing treasure his delivery of the line — after seeing a mind-blowing human-to-monster transformation — “You gotta be fuckin’ kidding.” 

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail