Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Wednesday Wednesday Wednesday

with 6 comments

* Read the article on professor-mothers that set Twitter aflame. Guaranteed to be the worst thing you read this week!

* No one can figure out how Borislav Ivanov is cheating in chess. Via Boing Boing.

* The rise and fall of the American arcade.

The Earwolf podcasting network (beloved home of Comedy Bang! Bang!) has added live mimages to its offerings.

* The intentional fallacy: Kathryn Bigelow says Zero Dark Thirty’s fine because she’s a lifelong pacifist.

* Single charts that explain everything.


* #nodads: California convicts twelve-year-old boy for murdering his neo-Nazi father at ten-years-old.

Finally, proof that all movie trailers use the same color palette.

Todd Glass looks back on a year since “the Marc Maron thing.”

Here Are Obama’s 23 Executive Actions on Gun Violence. 11. Nominate an ATF director. That’ll solve it!

You can carry a loaded firearm into national parks and can tuck your rifle and ammunition into stowed luggage on Amtrak trains. Federal product-safety law subjects everything from toys to toasters to safety inspection and recalls, but exempts guns. Little-known laws shed light on NRA influence.

* I know people will believe anything, but I have to believe Sandy Hook Trutherism is almost entirely a media phenomenon.

* And when the GOP has lost the Koch brothers…

6 Responses

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  1. I saw “Zero Dark Thirty” a couple days ago. Bigelow’s piece does a pretty good job of echoing the stance the movie itself takes, which as I read it is, “Nasty shit happened, more nasty shit happened, people tried to do their jobs & didn’t always agree about how to proceed, eventually a grimly persistent woman and her team tracked down bin Laden, and some bad-asses killed him.” Bigelow’s peace activism has nothing to do with this; I assume she put her position statement in there because there are a lot of people wrongly assuming they know her opinions on the US government, war, and torture, based on their own interpretations of the movie she made.

    As for the torture in the film… we never see any information coming directly out of it (i.e. people actively being tortured and giving their interrogators intel). Instead, it just seems to break people down. There are a couple of times when people are threatened with torture and give up information because they are afraid of going through a horrific ordeal again. I suppose that is a sort of argument that torture works, though the information that is obtained this way is of no immediate relevance at any point in the movie. (The torturers are usually looking for info about terror attacks they know are about to happen; they never get anything that helps them.) Most of the leads that the bin Laden investigation follows are obtained through other means (surveillance, bribes, looking through old files). So I think Bigelow’s statement that “ingenious detective work” was responsible for finding him is depicted pretty clearly in the film.

    I agree with her that making this movie and including no torture would have been a gross misrepresentation of what actually happened at the CIA in the last 12 years. There’s a point near the end of the movie when one of Maya’s co-workers finds a photo of the guy they’ve been looking for since 2003. She says they had it in the files all along, but it was lost in the “white noise” after 9/11. It’s a great metaphor for all the rage, grief, clamor, false information, and counterproductive reaction (including torture) that took place after the Trade Towers fell. Reality fuzzing out in a blast of terror and vengeance.


    January 16, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    • But there’s good evidence that she adds in scenes and narrative transitions that suggest torture is effective that have no historical basis. And the complaint that people should go after the torturers rather than the movie-makers rings a bit hollow to me when those people were basically her co-producers.

      It’s a tough issue, and I still haven’t seen the film yet, but I don’t think she can escape the criticism she’s been receiving in this way. Most of my friends who have seen the film differ from your take and say it’s affirmatively pro-torture, if anything worse than Greenwald originally said…


      January 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      • I mean, I know we’re just rehashing the argument we already had about this, but my friends who have seen it have been pretty hostile to it almost universally.


        January 16, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      • I understand that some people think the effectiveness or non-effectiveness of torture has bearing on whether it should be used or not. I am not one of those people. It’s 100% not OK, in my opinion. So it seems like a bit of a waste of time to me to argue over which pieces of information might have come out of which indirectly torture-related interrogations (and they are indirect in the actual movie), if what you’re actually arguing about is whether torture is a tactic that the CIA ought to be able to use.

        People who think the movie is advocating the use of torture are misreading it, IMO. There are certainly characters in the movie who advocate it, just as there are in real life. But the film itself does not depict it in a particularly sympathetic light or show it to be a very helpful tool in gathering information. Neither does it show it to be completely useless, which is, I guess, what your friends would have wanted. Unfortunately, I don’t think the complete details of the 10-year hunt for bin Laden are ever going to be known by anyone, so I’m not sure people will ever agree on what pieces of information led to what and when. Bigelow’s point is that torture did happen in the search for bin Laden. Whether it might have indirectly resulted in a couple of clues that helped to achieve a particular result 8 years later doesn’t have much bearing on the moral issues.

        Regarding the comment about the CIA being a “co-producer”… can you explain what you mean by that? Yes, Boal interviewed people at the CIA, but that does not mean that they had any control or influence over the movie that resulted. Unless you count feeding him wrong information, which is certainly a possibility.


        January 16, 2013 at 4:16 pm

  2. I just think it’s a bit disingenuous for her to get government cooperation and then say “it’s not my fault, they’re the torturers.” Maybe that’s unfair of me.


    January 16, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    • Interestingly, I just came across a statement about “Zero Dark Thirty” from Michael Morrell, Acting Director of the CIA:

      He seems a bit annoyed about it. However, he says in bullet #2 that “enhanced techniques” DID lead to some actionable intelligence in the hunt for bin Laden. His trouble is with what he perceives as the emphasis in the film, which he says implies that torture was “the key” to finding UBL. I disagree with him about that. It was very clear to me that there were many streams of intelligence contributing to the end result. The film that I saw matched his description of what actually happened pretty well, except for the point in bullet #1 about the size of the team. Sorry, but that’s just unavoidable in a dramatic film. The movie already seems overstuffed with people whose names you never learn; adding a couple hundred more just would not work.


      January 16, 2013 at 4:44 pm

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