The Borking of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’


Weeks before the Oscars, Sony Pictures, the studio behind “Zero Dark Thirty,” put out this statement: “We are outraged that any responsible member of the Academy would use their voting status in (the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences) as a platform to advance their own political agenda. The film should be judged free of partisanship. To punish an artist’s right of expression is abhorrent. This community, more than any other, should know how reprehensible that is.”

To what was Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal referring?

“Zero Dark Thirty,” directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, was the target of a vicious, unfair campaign against the film led by members of the supposedly open-minded, tolerant Hollywood left.

The story of the search for Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 terror attacks, is an obvious subject for a major motion picture. To that end, the Obama administration gave Bigelow and Boal what some called “unprecedented” access to the State Department to help make the film as realistic as possible.

One big problem. The film destroyed its chance of winning the Oscar for best picture with one of its first scenes. A captive was waterboarded. Contrary to the assertions of “anti-torture” critics like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others, the film implies that waterboarding actually “worked” — meaning its use extracted actionable intelligence.

In a rare statement about a movie, the CIA issued a press release. The film, wrote acting CIA Director Mike Morell, “takes significant artistic license, while portraying itself as being historically accurate … . ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ is a dramatization, not a realistic portrayal of the facts. … Whether enhanced interrogation techniques were the only timely and effective way to obtain information from those detainees, as the film suggests, is a matter of debate that cannot and never will be definitively resolved.” Sens. McCain, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., sent a letter to the studio demanding clarification.

So let the Borking begin.

In condemning “Zero Dark Thirty’s” “easy tolerance of torture,” actor David Clennon said: “I’m a member of Hollywood’s Motion Picture Academy. At the risk of being expelled for disclosing my intentions, I will not be voting for ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ — in: any: Academy Awards category.”

Actor Ed Asner also publicly encouraged fellow members of the voting Academy to vote against the film. “‘I would like to condemn the movie,” Asner told The New York Times, because the film made it seem that “torture” might have been useful in hunting down Osama bin Laden.

The Times wrote: “Mr. Asner said he and fellow actor Martin Sheen planned to join in a letter, drafted by yet another actor, David Clennon, asking fellow members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to factor in matters of conscience when casting awards votes. ‘We hope that ‘Zero’ will not be honored by Academy (or Guild) members,’ said a draft of the letter.”

Never mind admissions by members of the Obama administration, including former CIA Director Leon Panetta, that waterboarding “worked.” Panetta told NBC’s Brian Williams: “Some of the detainees clearly were, you know — they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees. But I’m also saying that, you know, the debate about whether — whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always gonna be an open question.”

In their defense, director Bigelow and screenwriter Boal say that the film accurately depicts the role that waterboarding played, along with other sources and means, in leading to the killing of bin Laden. The film takes no moral position on the question of waterboarding. To the left, that’s not good enough.

It’s hard to overstate how offensive the “waterboarding equals torture” crowd finds the assertion that it can ever be of value or that it can ever be justified. “Waterboarding is torture,” said President Barack Obama. “It’s contrary to America’s traditions. It’s contrary to our ideals. That’s not who we are. That’s not how we operate. We don’t need it in order to prosecute the war on terrorism.”

Sen. McCain, subjected to torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, not only calls waterboarding a “mock execution,” but insists it “often produces bad intelligence.” “You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour,” said former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, “and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.”

Again, “Zero Dark Thirty” does not “endorse” waterboarding. Even if it did, whatever happened to artistic license? Remember the tense final scene in “Argo” when Iranian airport security questions the Americans posing as Canadian filmmakers? Never happened. Completely bogus. The Americans actually went through without incident, never having to convince anyone that they were members of a Canadian film crew.

Sens. McCain, Feinstein and Levin sent no letter to the studio demanding clarification. No one from the CIA put out a statement, “‘Argo’ takes significant artistic license, while portraying itself as being historically accurate.”

One more thing. If anyone in the acting community called this attack on the film’s artistic integrity a form of “McCarthyism,” he or she received little publicity.

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an “Elderado,” visit: www.LarryElder.com.

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