This and that for your Thursday reading. – Jordon Cooper rightly argues that we should move away from forcing people to rely on homeless shelters and other stopgap measures when we can afford to provide permanent homes: We fill a bus for the hungry while ignoring that the reason forContinue reading
Salon.com pundit Andrew O’Hehir looks at the week’s revelations on American torture and sees in it the demise of American democracy. O’Hehir asks, “Can we quit pretending torture is some huge aberration? It fits into a larger pattern of America’s imperial decay.” He says it’s convenient to blame this onContinue reading
We have all read the horrifying stories about the CIA's torture campaign. The systematic brutality, the mechanical cruelty, the monstrous depravity.And a lot of Americans are finally understanding how they got from 911 to Ferguson. When hijacked airliners slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an empty Pennsylvania fieldContinue reading
So the U.S. has finally and formally confessed its sins. Good for the Americans. All nations sin, the better ones own up. That the CIA ran a torture regime isn’t really news but it’s important for the U.S. to officially get the nasty business out on the table, discussed andContinue reading
On International Human Rights Day, 50 civil society organizations urge Harper government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. The post International Human Rights Day: 50 civil society groups urge Harper to oppose torture appeared first on The Canadian Progressive.Continue reading
I was never a fan of Bush II and his malicious sidekick Cheney, and even less so of their misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yesterday’s revelations of CIA Torture are crimes. These people abused prisoners in ways that all Western powers should be horrified by, and they knew damn good andContinue reading
Have you ever wondered about some of the shared traits of humanity? One could prosaically think of Love, Compassion and Happiness and one would be correct. If the similarities ended there, I wouldn’t be writing, nor would you be reading about the prevalence of torture across the globe. “TheContinue reading
You can bet your bottom dollar it is not, but let’s allow DarkMatter2525 illustrate yet another putrid facet of the glory of christianity. Mmm…sweet sweet torture symbols for the winz! Filed under: Religion Tagged: christian “morality”, DarkMatter2525, Morality, Religion, The DWR Sunday Religious Disservice, TortureContinue reading
The U.S. military is using a Vancouver band’s music to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay — and the artists are working to make sure they pay for it. Electro-industrial act Skinny Puppy has learned through a former guard at Gitmo that inmates would be drowned in their unsettling sounds forContinue reading
A group of lawyers has asked Canada to arrest former US Vice President Dick Cheney for torture and war crimes when he visits Toronto later this week. The post Canada must arrest Dick Cheney for torture, war crimes: Lawyers appeared first on The Canadian Progressive.Continue reading
Shutdown this, markets crashing that. Hey, if the Americans want to self-destruct their country maybe they should start with Guantanamo Bay. Filed under: Politics Tagged: Force Feeding, Guantanamo Bay, Human Rights, Hunger Strikes, Institutional Evil., TortureContinue reading
We learned recently that the policy framework which allows CSIS to trade in information that might be the result of torture, or might lead to torture, or both, was actually a collaborative effort involving several federal agencies and departments. Now we have confirmation that CSEC is playing by the sameContinue reading
One of the dirty little tricks American interrogator/torturers adopted during the War on Terror has made it to the homeland. It is subjecting the prisoner to the prolonged stress of intense cold. That, according to lawyers, is a method being used against hunger-striking prisoners by California prison guards. Prison guardsContinue reading
A year ago last March, I took Vic Toews to task for granting CSIS the authority to trade in information derived from torture. In that post, I described a scenario in which the torture of one, possibily innocent, person of interest could easily lead to the torture of additional, possiblyContinue reading
I really questioned whether I should put the following video on my blog, so graphic is it in its depiction of the forced feeding that 40 of the detainees in Guantanimo are currently being subjected to. Rapper Mos Def volunteered to undergo the procedure, for purposes that I think willContinue reading
Richard Hughes Political Blogger The ‘Truth Seeker’ is revealing legal efforts to arrest and prosecute George W. Bush and Barack Obama for illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Further charges for illegal surveillance, war crimes including torture, genocide, drone attacks world wide are being pursued against President Obama as well.Continue reading
Richard Hub Hughes-Political Blogger It is becoming hard to keep track of all the ‘Whistleblowers’ and the tunes that they are whistling. It is clear that many countries spy, snoop and infiltrate. It has been going on for centuries but accelerated during World War 2 and the Cold War thatContinue reading
I am not writing this blog post with the idea that the right to free speech, or expression is without limit. Tom Flanagan proves that in exercising that right, the social consequences can be swifter and less judicious than any of the hate speech crimes we have on the booksContinue reading
Spoiler alert: The U.S. Navy SEALS murder Osama Bin Laden and several others in his Pakistani compound without mercy and with vengeful malice. Most of the controversy swirling round the film revolves around whether the filmmaker, Kathryn Bigelow – positioned as auteur by most commentators – endorses torture or whether the film’s narrativeContinue reading
Representations of torture are recessed in the second half of the film, it should be noted, not because of a moral awakening by any given character but only because of a policy decision by a new administration. The Obama TV moment presented in the background in the context of a CIA war or situation room makes this crystal clear. Even Dan’s warning to Maya – relatively early in the film – about the possible repercussions of “enhanced” methods of detainee interrogations comes in the form of a political warning about saving her CIA ass, not moral reprehension.
The devastating loss of American lives on 9/11 is the initiating narrative event that rolls out a straightforward revenge structure ending in the murder of Bin Laden and several of his domestic companions. Before the film proper begins in earnest, however, we are exposed to an introductory screen text informing us that the representations we are about to watch are based on “firsthand accounts of actual event.” There is an implicit moral distancing in this textual strategy – “I’m just showing you the way it was” – but certainly one of its other effects is to suggest that what we are about to see carries the weight of authenticity and is therefore important if not “real.” The now conventional use of handheld cameras is meant to reinforce this effect with a documentary-like style of shooting. In other words, the “realism” of the film is not an allegiance to “truth” or reality,” whatever those may be since neither is a given, but a filmic effect resulting from a well-established set of film conventions creating an illusion, a fiction, of “what really happened.” It seems appropriate to evaluate the film as such.
The film proper opens with a black screen over which we hear the dying voices of only American victims of the twin towers, a restriction thus positioning us emotionally if not ideologically as American viewers. Immediately after this audio text, we are treated to roughly forty-five minutes of extensive torture sequences, including several instances of the infamous water-boarding technique. Juxtaposing the first visual torture scene of al-Qaeda’s No. 3 leader, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, with the voices of the twin tower Americans who are about to die creates a structural effect implying a retaliatory cause-effect relationship – “I am torturing you because of 9/11” – and that effect is sustained throughout the entire 45 minutes of multiple scenes of torture and implied throughout the entire film.
These kind of scenes are gradually recessed as we move in the second half of the film towards interrogations without torture – but nonetheless grounded in bribes or threats – and sequences of CIA group intelligence analysis: the so-called “hard work” some critics want to see as the reason for discovering Bin Laden. But the dialogue reveals on several occasions that the analysis – the “hard work” – really results from information received from interrogated detainees, on screen and off, and those detainees, we know, were abused in some form or other if not overtly tortured. “Does our treatment of detainees work? You bet.”
Inter-cut with these intelligence analysis scenes is a revenge justifying history of major terrorist attacks against westerners since 9/11, but especially against Americans, each successfully gaining more screen time and thus significance until the final, climactic suicide bombing in Afghanistan of one of Maya’s closest colleagues, Jessica, who has been betrayed by her al-Qaeda connections. Now it’s “personal” is the implication as we move towards the final bloody revengeful act of murder in Pakistan.
But, in truth there has been little if anything personal in the film – no character development for anyone let alone Maya who has been merely the driving agent of revenge. We know little more about her by the end of the film than we do at the beginning, and the final scene of Maya in a giant U.S. army transport plane alone, isolated, and small is telling in its ambiguity. “Where do you want to go?” asks a crew member, his question unanswered. And what do we read on her face? Relief? Satisfaction? Sadness? An unwinding? Anxiety now that her obsessive-compulsive revenge narrative has come to its end? Plenty of room for the the viewer’s meaning.
Following that final character scene is another screen text rounding out the ideological thrust of the film in its acknowledgement of the victims of 9/11 once again and all those who serve the American exceptionalist project. Closure is provided by that framing text confirming the essence of the film as an apologia of sorts, a justification of policy, of strategy: “Revenge and all that that entails, including torture, are okay because they drove us to get Bin Laden, and we did that for you.” Whether this is a impaired moral justification is the viewer’s decision.
In the end, it matters little what the filmmaker or commentators say about Zero Dark Thirty. You are the site of meaning: it’s your reading of the film conditioned though it may be by your cultural, moral, and social inscription that matters. Like any text, film texts are unstable, dynamic, their meaning put in motion by your engagement with them. In a sense there is no film without you.Zero Dark Thirty is provocatively open enough – disturbing in so many ways – to allow for a variety of ways to read it, and that makes it a challenging, ideologically complex film well worth viewing – far more exciting than some of its straightforward conventional Oscar challengers.