All too often, the phrase "corporate free press" is something of an oxymoron. Whether to maximise sales, to attract advertisers, or simply to promote the interests of their wealthy owners, the mass media open strange, self-serving and grossly distorted windows onto the world.
This website is another window. Here you'll find documentaries, lectures and interviews following a different editorial line.
Taxi to the Dark Side is an excellent documentary charting the recent history of the US Governments use of torture. I hadn’t realised that a high level legal adviser to the President, John Yoo, went as far as publicly arguing that “there is no law that could prevent the President from ordering the torture of a child of a suspect in custody – including by crushing that child’s testicles.” Rationality gone mad – his name has gone on my list of people whose testicles do need crushing.
As a side note, I enjoyed Stephen Kings recent comments on the debate as to whether waterboarding is torture or not “if the Bush administration didn’t think it was torture, they ought to do some personal investigation. Someone in the Bush family should actually be waterboarded so they could report on it to George. I said, I didn’t think he would do it, but I suggested Jenna be waterboarded and then she could talk about whether or not she thought it was torture.”
“This is dedicated to two people who are no longer with us, Dilawar, the young Afghan taxi driver, and my father, a navy interrogator who urged me to make this film because of his fury about what was being done to the rule of law. Let’s hope we can turn this country around, move away from the dark side and back to the light.” Alex Gibney, Director, Academy Award acceptance speech.
A meticulous and moving reconstruction of an incident in late 2004, in which US marines are accused of slaughtering several Iraqi families in revenge for an IED attack on their convoy. Directed by Nick Broomfield (Ghosts), with performances from real Iraqi refugees and real ex-marines. See my review.
People say that there are two issues in this year’s elections: the war and the economy. But in many ways, that’s just one issue – Joseph Stiglitz talking at the London School of Economics last month(paraphrased from memory).
Wars are always expensive affairs, but the occupation of Iraq has taken that to new levels. Private armies of “civilian contractors” and cost-plus “reconstruction firms” have notoriously pushed up the price, but caring for wounded veterans also takes its toll on the economy, as does the increase in the price of oil.
However, few of these costs made themselves felt in the first four and a half years of war. The Federal Reserve has created a bubble of debt, allowing half a trillion to be spent on the military (never mind all the hidden costs) without any associated tax increase. That bubble is now bursting – or so argues the Nobel Prize-winning economist and notorious World Bank whistleblower Joseph Stiglitz in this address to Colombia University.
A Channel 4 drama (72 mins) starring Robert Lindsay as the ex-PM, in characteristic denial about his impending war crimes tribunal. I finally got around to watching this and found it surprisingly poignant. It really stands out not for its quality, but for its willingness, exceptional among the broadly sycophantic media, to refer to Blair as what he undeniably is: a war criminal.
How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.
… which, strangely enough, brings me to Iraq.
Hidden Facts: a message from the Iraqi Resistance
Purporting to be the work of the Resistance group 1920 Revolution Brigades, this is an insightful and compelling video (16 mins) with surprisingly high production values. I can’t guarantee it’s real, but I can guarantee it’s worth watching.
Reconstructing Iraq, apparently, is a job for Bechtel, Halliburton and other firms grown rich from burning the Third World’s money. Private data extraction specialists were behind some of the worst atrocities of Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, and the mercenaries of Blackwater are literally making a killing. The number of contractors like these in Iraq has been growing since the outset of hostilities, and has now overtaken that of regular troops.
Iraq For Sale
This Robert Greenwald film (76 mins) views the problem very much through a “Support The Troops” lens, but is nevertheless a shocking and highly informative exposé.
Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Private Army
Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill talks about everyone’s favourite mercenaries in this interview (41 mins) for Democracy Now.
Disgusted with the coverage of the war in American journalism, Dahr Jamail saved up and took his camera and his laptop to occupied Iraq. His unembedded dispatches are now recognised as crucial sources of information from the warzone – and are almost unique in their independence from occupying forces.
In their latest documentary (45 mins), CBC’s The Fifth Estate examines the propaganda drive that led to the invasion of Iraq.
While it’s comforting to think that most of us have learned a certain healthy skepticism since 2003, it’s worth re-examining the path to war in Iraq to prevent us from making the same mistakes again.
Fox Attacks… Iran
Robert Greenwald follows up on his Outfoxed film with this short (4 mins). It’s a shame to single out for criticism the worst of a bad bunch, as it lets the others get away with so much, but this still a chilling look at history repeating.
… has been thrown out of Parliament! This short clip is all that YouTube has to offer, so you’ll miss the nauseating display of smug knife-twisting that followed his exit.
Those of us naive enough to expect a repeat of his glorious performance in the U.S. Senate in 2005 were to be sorely disappointed. That performance, and a half-hour documentary about the honourable member for Bethnal Green and Bow and the smear campaign against him, follow.