|Subject: Anyone see "Black Hawk Down"? (Hollywood propaganda)
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Date Posted: 15:36:13 12/13/03 Sat
Collateral Brain Damage?
The Hollywood Propaganda Ministry
by Alex Constantine, Scheduled for the July 2003 issue of High Times
"Without censorship, things can get terribly confused
in the public mind."
--General William C. Westmoreland,
Time, April 5, 1982
During the filming of Black Hawk Down, the Pentagon persuaded its producers to change the name of Army Ranger John Stebbins, portrayed by Ewan McGregor, because the true-life "patriot" had been convicted to a 30-year prison term for the sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl. (Megan Turner, "WAR-FILM `HERO' IS A RAPIST," NY Post, 12/18/01) In the movie, "John Grimes" stands in for pedophile Stebbins. Despite this and numerous other revisions to the record of the famed Somali military fiasco, Black Hawk Down met with widespread acclaim. The film's Washington premiere was attended by Vice President Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Oliver North and a division of generals. It grossed $75.5-million in its first three weeks.
But jeering protestors -- including Brendan Sexton, an actor in Black Hawk Down -- decried the movie, a riot of Hawkish clichés ("C'mon, let's roll!"), as crude war propaganda, a drug intended to stupefy the country into supporting covert operations and oil company maneuvers in Somalia, still more dead civilians. The Pentagon's heavy hand in the making of the film was condemned as a manipulation of public sentiment recalling the Goebbels propaganda mill.
And obnoxious. Brendon Sexton, speaking at an anti-war forum held at Columbia University, recalled that in preparation for his role, he and a fellow actor flew to Georgia for `Ranger Orientation Training' at Fort Benning in Columbus. From Atlanta, they shuttled to the training site and "on our flight there were a bunch of guys with Marine haircuts speaking Spanish. It took us a few moments to realize these guys were `students' of the School of the Americas, the U.S. Army's own terrorist training camp in Latin America." This experience "put things into perspective: warlords, dictators and terrorists are normally okay with the U.S., as long as they do the bidding of U.S. corporate interests." ("What's wrong with Black Hawk Down? -- Black Hawk Down Actor Brendan Sexton on what really happened in Somalia," Z-Magazine Web Site, http://www.zmag.org/ZNET.htm)
Those interests lurked beyond Ridley Scott's klieg lights in geopolitical obscurity. Throughout the 1970s and '80s, Somalia was ruled by the decrepit Mohamed Siad Barre. Bowing to the dictates of American Oil, President Barre crushed all dissent. He leased nearly two-thirds of oil-rich Somalia to four American petroleum companies: Chevron, Conoco, Phillips and Amoco. Somalia, a tiny country in the Horn of Africa, is also of interest to the U.S., a direct route to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. Barre was overthrown in 1991, Somalia erupted in turmoil and the oil companies' land contracts were rendered useless paper. At the same time, there was no shortage of misery in the world. A military adventure to Somalia would have appeared whimsical. Citing famine in Mogadishu and the South, President George Bush, Sr. let the dogs out. The Los Angeles Times noted that Bush's envoy during the operation made the Conoco compound his base. ("Black Hawk Down: Shoot first, don't ask questions afterwards," Independent, 2-2-02)
On May 7, 1993 Canadian newspapers reported that Airborne Commandos had torture-murdered a Somali teenager. Then came subsequent news of murders by Canada's peacekeepers. As many as 1,000 civilians (or "Skinnies"s) were massacred by American troops sent to "restore order" and grab Barre's successor, Mohammed Aideed. Colin Powell, then head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the military operations in Somalia as "a paid political advertisement" for the Pentagon. (Michael L. Tan, "Only a Movie," INQ7, Philippine news web site, http://www.inq7.net/opi/2002/feb/26/opi_mltan-1.htm.)
The "humanitarian" operation devolved into wholesale bloodshed. "In one incident," the Independent reported in 1998, "Rangers took a family hostage. When one of the women started screaming at the Americans, she was shot dead. In another incident, a Somali prisoner was allegedly shot dead when he refused to stop praying outside. Another was clubbed into silence." Mark Dowden, author of Black Hawk Down, wrote the article -- yet his book, released a year later, makes no mention of these atrocities. (Independent, 2-2-02) Further nips and tucks in the film script were made at Pentagon request.
Letters from the studios to Pentagon officials declassified last year reveal that Hollywood routinely rewrites history at the dictate of DoD officials with the authority to grant access to military hardware and property. If the script changes are not made, assistance is denied, the film suffers. Films that have won Pentagon approval include Armageddon, Air Force One, The Jackal, Top Gun, Pearl Harbour and Bad Company. Some movies that didn't make the grade: The Thin Red Line, Apocalypse Now, Sgt Bilko, Platoon, Independence Day and Spy Game. (Duncan Campbell, "Top Gun versus Sergeant Bilko?," The Guardian, 8-29-01.)
In the last election cycle, Bush's starched supporters regaled Al Gore for his friendship with Pulp Fiction producer Harvey Weinstein, and soliciting campaign funds in Hollywood. They selectively forgot that Colin Powell sat on the corporate board of Time-Warner before his appointment to the State Department. Time-Warner Cable offers hardcore pornography. In 1992, the ultra-conservative American Family Association named Time-Warner "the third leading sponsor of sex, violence and profanity on broadcast TV." (Robert Peters, "Time Warner Still a Major Cultural Polluter," Morality in Media Web Site: http://www.moralityinmedia.org/index.htm?mediaIssues/timewarn.htm.)
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