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Movies/TV Last Updated: Jun 9th, 2013 - 22:29:22

Truth Online and Onscreen
By Esther Editor and Film Critic
Dec 21, 2012, 12:07

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Here, at the end of 2012, it’s a time to look at some of the important culture and media markers of the year. When I look back at the year, I am drawn to the power and importance of the Internet, to how documentaries remind us of truth and to how movies can still speak to our humanity.

The Internet, with more than a third of the world’s seven billion people logging on, continues to be a dominant force shaping not only our culture here in the US but internationally.

Halle Berry starred in the thought-provoking "Cloud Atlas."
Even at the community radio station where I volunteer as a programmer and host, WPFW Pacifica Radio in Washington, DC, where the community is waging to have our programming restored and to hold management accountable, the website has been instrumental in drawing more than 400 listeners to meetings, taking them to a petition to and the sending of more than 100 letters to Pacifica Executive Director Summer Reese.

The most recent crisis between the United States and Muslim populations in the Middle East was sparked this year by grade z movie on youtube that defamed the prophet Muhammad and the muslim religion.

The online journalism community, including the whistleblower website Wikileaks continues to expose the secrets and inconvenient truths of governments and corporations. Despite the economic stranglehold put on it,

In a new book Cyberpunks, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and his co-authors say that the world is at a pivotal decision: Whether the Internet will free us, or enslave us. In a recent interview with Democracy Now, Assange talked about these dual possibilities for the Internet and how we Internet users aid unwittingly the government and corporate spy apparatus.

"Human civilization has merged with the internet. Every society has gone onto the internet, with communications between all of us as individuals but also communications between businesses, economic transfers, and even the internal communications and external communications of states. So there is no barrier anymore between the internet and global civilization. That means that when the internet develops a sickness, global civilization also runs the risk of suffering the same sickness.

"And the sickness that the internet has developed over the past 10 years is that nation states and their corporate powers have ganged up together to engage in strategic interception of all communications flowing over the internet across national borders and in many countries even within, within its national confines, such as the United States. We know that that has occurred in different places as a result of whistleblowing cases, such as Mark Klein’s case or William Binney’s, a former chief of research at the National Security Agency. So, we have gone from a position that dissidents face and activists face and individuals face 10, 20 years ago, where if we’re engaged in political activity, we could be individually targeted and our friends could be targeted, to a situation where everything, almost, that everyone does over the internet is recorded and intercepted all the time. And that shift is a shift, as it’s called in the internal documents of the hundreds of companies now who supply this national security sector, a shift between tactical interception on a few people and strategic interception, intercepting the entire nation.

"We exposed documents earlier this year, the Spy Files—you can look them up—where, for example, the French company AMISYS, which is closely connected to French intelligence, supplied a nationwide—that’s its own words—interception system to Gaddafi’s Libya back in 2009. And in fact, lawyers connected to WikiLeaks and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism were in the manual that AMISYS shipped to Gaddafi as an example of how the interception system worked.

"There’s not a barrier anymore between corporate surveillance, on the one hand, and government surveillance, on the other. You know, Facebook is based—has its servers based in the United States. Gmail, as General Petraeus found out, has its servers based in the United States. And the interplay between U.S. intelligence agencies and other Western intelligence agencies and any intelligence agencies that can hack this is fluid. So, we’re in a—if we look back to what’s a earlier example of the worst penetration by an intelligence apparatus of a society, which is perhaps East Germany, where up to 10 percent of people over their lifetime had been an informer at one stage or another, in Iceland we have 88 percent penetration of Iceland by Facebook. Eighty-eight percent of people are there on Facebook informing on their friends and their movements and the nature of their relationships—and for free. They’re not even being paid money. They’re not even being directly coerced to do it. They’re doing it for social credits to avoid the feeling of exclusion. But people should understand what is really going on. I don’t believe people are doing this or would do it if they truly understood what was going on, that they are doing hundreds of billions of hours of free work for the Central Intelligence Agency, for the FBI, and for all allied agencies and all countries that can ask for favors to get hold of that information.

"William Binney, the former chief of research, the National Security Agency’s signals intelligence division, describes this situation that we are in now as "turnkey totalitarianism," that the whole system of totalitarianism has been built—the car, the engine has been built—and it’s just a matter of turning the key. And actually, when we look to see some of the crackdowns on WikiLeaks and the grand jury process and targeted assassinations and so on, actually it’s arguable that key has already been partly turned. The assassinations that occur extrajudicially, the renditions that occur, they don’t occur in isolation. They occur as a result of the information that has been sucked in through this giant signals interception machinery."


Nominees for the Golden Globe Awards were just announced and the nominees offer a convenient way of reviewing movies and TV shows that set the pace and tone for 2012.

On the big screen, there is not only a battle of movies but a battle of wars—narratives about the American foray into war, violence and intervention throughout the centuries. In the movie “Lincoln,” the backdrop is the Civil War. In “Argo,” there is the fallout from our intervention and excursions in Iran. “Zero Dark Thirty,” directed by Kathleen Bigelow of chronicles the decade-long mission to find and kill Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin-Laden, these are three of the five films that make up the nominees in the category of best picture.

With Argo, we are riveted to the effort of a number of American operatives from their hiding place in Tehran. There is less emphasis on the role that the US had played for decades in destabilizing Iran, including deposing their democratically elected leader and propping up the corrupt Shah of Iran.

Similarly, “Zero Dark Thirty” has to be read as a narrative of American triumph over those believe to have perpetrated 9-11, with less emphasis on this country’s history with Osama Bin Laden or the Bin-Laden family. The question repeated in Zero Dark Thirty’s trailer—when is the last time you saw Bin Laden?—turns out to have a double meaning, both in terms of this country’s history with him and the decade-long time period when he was hidden in a country that is considered an ally and while we engaged in torture that did not yield information that helped in the search. What we have experienced in the past decade after 9/11—the destruction of Iraq and a senseless loss of life in an illegal war, erosion of our civil liberties here at home, along with the ramping up of the police state is obscured by this manhunt, as if catching Bin-Laden is the end all, be all.

On a side less focused on war, The other two golden globe best picture nominees include "The Life of Pi," the fantasy based on the best-selling novel about a family moving a zoo across India and “Django Unchained," the Quentin Tarantino movie about a former slave who plots to rescue his wife from a sadistic Mississippi plantation owner. I kind of cringe at the subject of slavery and the abuse of Black women in Quentin Tarantino’s hands but I do look forward to talking about the Tarantino take on the bad negro.

Some of out other favorites, “Boardwalk Empire” and the HBO miniseries “Game Change” are also Golden Globe nominees. But the Golden Globes do not include documentaries so the powerful documentary I reviewed, <a href="“>The House I Live In,”</a> is not in the mix, nor is “Cloud Atlas,” which is one of the few movies this year that attempted deal with our purpose here on earth.

Halle Berry starred in the thought-provoking "Cloud Atlas."
This is what I call the fast and furious part of the film season when studios are releasing films that they consider their best, that they want the academy awards to consider as potential nominees, and that they they want us—the movie-going public—to make into holiday blockbusters.

But, with one or two exceptions, this swirl of releases and new and newer TV dramas and reality shows never attempt to explore the meaning or mysteries of our existence here on this planet or in the galaxy. For example, except for some cable programs about the Mayan prophecy or doomsday preppers, there is no mention of the rare galactic alignment, which occurs roughly every 26,000 years, which happens on Dec. 21. That is when our sun will align with the center of our Milky Way galaxy and what is called the “dark rift.” Yes, there was a wild action movie titled 2012 but did all the movie mayhem make us dismiss the galaxy’s movements as a joke?

Such a galactic phenomenon is way off the radar of news and talk shows—who probably view even a mention of things as fringe, hokey and hosts who are knee deep in the latest about the so-called fiscal cliff or whether the local football team has a chance to go to the playoffs.

One exception to this blind eye toward the cosmos is “Clould Atlas.” Andy Wachowski, one half of the brother team that made classic “Matrix” Trilogy, has teamed up with his wife, to make a move about the journey of the same sets of souls down through history, to the present and into the future. It is also a poignant poem about the human resistance against injustice.


Bringing it full circle to information and the Internet, I appreciated a recent essay, “The Right to Know”, by Daniel Ellsberg and John Perry Barlow. It started out with this quote from Judge Murray Gurfein, from the 1971 Pentagon Papers case: “ A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, an ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know." they are founding the the freedom of the press foundation. . to “collect deductible donations for a changing suite of scrappy public-interest organizations -- both new and existing -- focused on exposing mismanagement, cruelty, corruption, repression, and criminality in our increasingly opaque institutions.”

This post may suffice for my annual list of SB Top Ten Movies. In these times we are living in, the need for real news and information outweighs critique of narrative, for me anyway.

Defend freedom of speech and information! (And always see Black.)

© Copyright 2006

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