Monday, January 14, 2013

The CIA & Hollywood

Ben Affleck’s “Argo” won the 2013 Golden Globe award last night for best dramatic film. That’s the kind of reward you get for craven ass kissing in Hollywood! “Argo” is presented as the true story of the CIA operation to rescue 6 US diplomats harbored in the Canadian embassy during the Iran hostage crisis (Nov. 1979 to Jan.1981) when 52 US embassy officers were held hostage by Iranian students & militants. Affleck admits in interviews that he’s taken dramatic license with reality & given the film “a spirit of truth” rather than historic authenticity.

The problem is not with Affleck’s fictional account of the rescue but with the heroic depiction of CIA operatives. The CIA has been taking quite a beating internationally for its documented roles in drug trafficking; for Guantanamo & its numerous rendition prisons; for its use of torture, including waterboarding; for assassinations, coup d'états,  unlawful detainments, & numerous unspeakable crimes against humanity. It is a criminal organization functioning outside the law & needs to be exposed, dismantled & prosecuted--not glorified in film.

While the Pentagon, the FBI, & other US agencies have long “worked” with Hollywood filmmakers, authors, screenwriters, documentary producers through liaison offices to the film industry, the CIA only opened their official propaganda station in 1995 when it hired covert operative Chase Brandon to monitor & censor films. The mandate is to get favorable portrayal of the CIA & discourage (i.e., intimidate) any hint of verisimilitude which portrays them as sociopathic killers. They offer this censorship free of charge. Brandon’s film credits include The Recruit, Sum of All Fears, Enemy of the State, Bad Company, In the Company of Spies; he was technical consultant for television programs including The Agency, Alias, & JAG. He made numerous appearances on Discovery, Learning Channel, History Channel, PBS, A&E & other documentaries as well as interviews on E-Entertainment, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight & other film industry news programs. Covert operative Paul Barry succeeded Brandon in 2007.

CIA deception & subversion of the Bill of Rights (First Amendment) in the film industry would make a thriller all its own. There is an entire genre of action thrillers portraying the CIA not just favorably but admirably (including especially the Jack Ryan films starring Harrison Ford, Affleck, & others); its murderous agents are depicted as rogue elements within a patriotic, legally monitored organization. Some like The Bourne Trilogy with Matt Damon were denied CIA imprimatur because the depiction was not glorified & deceitful enough. The TV series “24” was denied the imprimatur for its depiction of CIA torture.

What’s interesting to note is that most of the dozens of actors positively portraying CIA agents are considered liberals & progressives (Clint Eastwood is a notable exception) & they are most likely fully aware of the political crimes charged against the CIA. How could they not be!? But ones career status & financial opportunities expand considerably when you dummy up & play ball. Jennifer Garner went on from the TV series “Alias” to make CIA recruitment films. You get invited to state dinners at the White House, you get tickets to the foreign correspondents banquet to whoop it up with state power & its minions, you get chosen for meaningless film awards that treat art like a horse race. You learn to grovel behind closed doors in order to stand tall before those movie cameras. You betray art & any talent you might have had for propaganda. Given the atrocities committed against humanity by the CIA, the only award you deserve is the one named after Leni Riefenstahl, the filmmaker of the Nazi Party & Hitler’s Third Reich.   (Photo of Garner & Affleck, the golden couple of the CIA, from Huntington Post)

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