Dance, puppets!

by Sonny Bunch on December 11, 2012

As I thought might happen, the liberal-left freakout over Zero Dark Thirty has been kind of fun to watch. The Free Beacon published a good roundup of the reax; I just want to add one quick comment to a point Glenn Greenwald made.

Greenwald, in that hyperbolic, hyperventilating way he has so vigorously mastered, denounced the film as the worst thing since Hitler, or something. Then, in an update, he wrote this masterpiece of a “sentence”:

I’m writing here about two issues:

(1) those reviewers who state that the film glorifies torture with falsehoods yet nonetheless praise the film as great; I’m arguing that this should not be possible since their view that it contains falsehood-ridden torture glorification should preclude that sort of praise; and,

(2) the fact that the film asserts, falsely, that torture helped the US find bin Laden, which is a fabrication and an inexcusable one at that, one that inevitable leads to the glorification of torture for the reasons I expressed; nobody, including the filmmakers, disputes that the film does this.

I just want to focus on that bolded part for a moment, because it’s a brutally insane way of looking at film criticism. Greenwald appears to be arguing that it is impossible to a.) acknowledge that a film has a historical inaccuracy,* b.) still think that that film is worthy of praise. This is, in a word, nuts. It is not the job of the film reviewer to also serve as a historian. There are plenty of great films that contain wild historical inaccuracies.

Consider, for instance, Gladiator. Ridley Scott’s rousing tale of a general who became a slave who became a savior ends with the restoration of the Roman Republic. To be blunt: That didn’t happen. But it wasn’t really held against the film, which won raves as well as a boatload of Oscars.

Or think about Inglourious Basterds, a movie that ends with a pack of Jewish American soldiers killing the entirety of the Nazi high command in a French movie theater. Again: That didn’t happen. But that didn’t stop the film from being nominated for a number of Oscars (including best original screenplay!) and earning high praise from critics.

Now, perhaps Greenwald is trying to argue that pretending to drown a terrorist committed to murdering innocent Americans is uniquely awful that using it as a plot device instantly invalidates the art in question. Or maybe he’s arguing that this specific movie, which has been praised as “journalistic,” has to maintain 100% accuracy. It’s hard to say because that sentence is such a cluster. Either way, I don’t think he has much of a leg to stand on.

*Though the “inaccuracy” of Zero Dark Thirty is very much in doubt.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

tgt December 13, 2012 at 5:01 am

Just because someone claims an alternative history doesn’t mean the issue is in doubt. People claim that we didn’t land on the moon, but that’s not in doubt.

In this case Rep. King is saying things that are counter to known reality.

Come on, you’re better than this.

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Sonny Bunch December 13, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Or you could listen to Mark Bowden:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/10/this-is-50-50-behind-obamas-decision-to-kill-bin-laden/263449/

Or Jose Rodriguez:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-path-to-osama-bin-ladens-death-didnt-start-with-obama/2012/04/30/gIQAfFmdsT_story.html

I’m not saying the measures definitely did provide the break that led to bin Laden, mind you. I’m just saying that the Sullivanista catechism—that harsh interrogations are not only morally and legally wrong *but also* always pass along either no or faulty intel—is silly.

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tgt December 14, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I don’t recall Sullivan ever claiming that they ALWAYS pass along either no or faulty intel, just that the intel is not likely to be useful.

Bowden specifically notes that KSM lied about the courier. That goes against what was claimed by King.

I also seriously doubt the words of a group who would have evidence for their position, but for that they destroyed that evidence.

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