Quakers Pan “Zero”

Contributed PhotoNew Haven Quakers showed up at the Criterion Cinemas Saturday—not to watch a movie, but to ask other people not to.

The New Haven Friends group, organized by Grant Wiedenfeld of East Rock, were joining a national day of picketing of showings of the film Zero Dark Thirty. The National Religious Campaign Against Torture organized the nationwide action.

They argue that the film promotes a dangerous fallacy: the waterboarding helped the United States find and kill Osama bin laden.

Leafletrers asked people to check out a 20-minute video (at left) instead.

The New Haven group distributed a critique of the film written by Karen Greenberg on the website TomDispatch. She argued in part:

“As its core, [Kathryn] Bigelow’s film makes the bald-faced assertion that torture did help the United States track down the perpetrator of 9/11. Zero Dark Thirty—for anyone who doesn’t know by now—is the story of Maya (Jessica Chastain), a young CIA agent who believes that information from a detainee named Ammar will lead to bin Laden. After weeks, maybe months of torture, he does indeed provide a key bit of information that leads to another piece of information that leads… well, you get the idea. Eventually, the name of bin Laden’s courier is revealed. From the first mention of his name, Maya dedicates herself to finding him, and he finally leads the CIA to the compound where bin Laden is hiding.  Of course, you know how it all ends.

“However compelling the heroine’s determination to find bin Laden may be, the fact is that Bigelow has bought in, hook, line, and sinker, to the ethos of the Bush administration and its apologists. It’s as if she had followed an old government memo and decided to offer in fictional form step-by-step instructions for the creation, implementation, and selling of Bush-era torture and detention policies.”

Click here to read a report on the protest by the Register’s Phyllis Swebilius.

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posted by: Dean Moriarty on January 14, 2013  2:30am

I find it amusing, and yes, frustrating I’ll admit, that when conservatives have a viewpoint they’re labeled as having been “bought in, hook, line, and sinker, to the ethos of the Bush administration”, yet when liberals express their views the media typifies it as something positive.  I long for the days when news media reported the NEWS, as is their purpose, and not opinion.  And please, don’t rehash the garbage about FOX News being opinionated.  The three major networks have done far more to espouse the left than Fox has ever done for the right.

posted by: Truth Avenger on January 14, 2013  10:00am

@Dean Moriarty: Your frustration is misplaced. Your problem is that you accept a false equivalency as regards the various media outlets and the historical record.  In this specific case, the media is correct in reporting that torture did not lead to the capture of Bin Laden.  The media would have been derelict to report otherwise. Bush himself made the claim that “We do not torture,” yet by any definition, torture (including water boarding)and humiliation have been part of the military’s M.O. for some time. An investigation has been launched in Congress to help determine whether the movie was predicated on classified information that was itself, a politically-based, compromised version of the truth. You can decry the characterizations of Fox’s politization and partisanship of the news as much as you please. Many of their main “talents” even led political rallies to boost their partisan causes. They have defended the indefensible and outright lies while acting as a defecto outlet for Republican propaganda.  My RX is for you to see how many times their stories have been debunked - Check Mediamatters.org, or simply watch the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, whose incisive parodies expose Fox foolishness with regularity.

posted by: Wooster Squared on January 14, 2013  11:03am

I see their point, but their strategy is a bad one. There’s no better way to generate interest in a movie than to protest it and tell people not to watch it.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on January 14, 2013  12:55pm

I thought the movie presented a pretty strong case against torture - it shows how cruel it is and how unreliable the information is. The most important piece of evidence that led to Bin Laden was found in a file that the CIA already had prior to 9-11, but no one actually looked for it until around 2008. The movie makes the case for standard interrogation, competent data collection and looking back at intelligence previously obtained, which is how virtually all the information that led to Bin Laden’s whereabouts was ascertained.

posted by: Truth Avenger on January 14, 2013  3:25pm

To JH…Ultimately, the movie suggests cause and effect; torture, and you get results.  In this case results that led to the capture of Bin Laden.  Many will leave the theater thinking that torture is an effective tool, that the ends justifies the means.  Most people will never connect that the movie is a good yarn, but predicated on fiction.

posted by: streever on January 14, 2013  7:57pm

Dean: Truth Avenger has it clear. The movie—made in close cooperation with our government—claims that torture led to Bin Laden.

Our Congress has stated that this is absolutely untrue.

Your position is a fantasy of what might have been, not an honest description of the actual events that occured, so it is absolutely appropriate that media is reporting accurately on the real world.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on January 15, 2013  2:12pm

In the movie, torture provides unreliable information, if any at all. The existence of Abu Ahmed, Bin Laden’s carrier, was obtained indirectly with the use of torture. However, Ahmed’s role was confirmed by several other detainees who were not tortured - revealing to the audience that this information could have been obtained through standard interrogation. Furthermore, the CIA already had a substantial file on Abu Ahmed (under a different alias) that should have been found in 2004 if it weren’t for incompetence. Some of the characters in the movie feel that torture is a necessary device, but other events in the movie clearly demonstrate that torture is cruel, unnecessary and ineffective. Whether or not it was the intention the writers, producers and director to promote the use of torture is irrelevant, in my opinion, because I did not leave the theater believing that, since the movie shows that the same information that was obtained through torture could have been (and was) obtained through standard interrogation.
The people that leave the theater thinking torture was a necessary tool in capturing Bin Laden are probably the same people that think Apocalypse Now is simply a Vietnam War movie. They’re also the same people that are persuaded by political talking points. I’m against stupid people that can’t dissect a political talking point through their own research and can’t look at the scenes of a movie and come to a different conclusion than what the moviemakers intended. By the way, Kathryn Bigelow has stated that the movie does not endorse torture. People going into the movie supporting torture will probably see what they want to see, even if it isn’t there (which it isn’t).

posted by: pauldhammer on January 16, 2013  11:09pm

Thanks for your coverage.  As one of the Quakers handing out leaflets, you got most everything right but one thing wrong.  When you write that “New Haven Quakers showed up at the Criterion Cinemas Saturday—not to watch a movie, but to ask other people not to” you implied that we were urging folks to boycott the movie.  That is not the case.  We were simply informing movie-goers that one of the premises of Zero Dark Thirty, namely that torture provided the U.S. with key information that enabled Navy Seals to Osama bin Laden, was untrue, while providing credible sources to support our point of view. The notion that torture is a legitimate intelligence tool belies the truth that it has not only been shown to be ineffective but that it is also a fundamental violation of human rights.