Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pilger: Why the Oscars are a Con, When Snow Melts

ZCommunications.orgFrom: Edge of Sports

When Snow Melts: Vancouver's Olympic Crackdown

by Dave Zirin
The Nation Blog: February 09, 2010

News Flash: Winter Olympic officials in tropical Vancouver have been forced
to import snow - on the public dime - to make sure that the 2010 games
proceed as planned. This use of tax-dollars is just the icing on the cake
for increasingly angry Vancouver residents. And unlike the snow, the anger
shows no signs of abating. As Olympic Resistance Network organizer Harsha
Walia wrote in the Vancouver Sun, "With massive cost over-runs and Olympic
project bailouts, it is not surprising that a November 2009 Angus Reid poll
found that more than 30 per cent of [British Columbia] residents feel the
Olympics will have a negative impact and almost 40 per cent support
protesters. A January 2010 EKOS poll found that almost 70 per cent believe
that too much is being spent on the Games."

Officials are feeling the anger, and the independent media, frighteningly,
is paying the price. Just as Democracy Now's Amy Goodman was held in
November for trying to cross the border for reasons that had nothing to do
with the Olympic Games, Martin Macias Jr., an independent media reporter
from Chicago, was detained and held for seven hours by Canada Border
Services agents before being put on a plane and sent to Seattle. Macias, who
is 20 years old, is a media reform activist with community radio station
Radio Arte where he serves as the host/producer of First Voice, a radio news

I spoke to Martin Macias today and he described a chilling scene of
detention and expulsion. "I was asked the same questions for three and a
half hours in a small room. They told me I had no right to a lawyer. I went
from frustrated and angry to scared. I didn't know what the laws were or how
the laws had been changed for the Olympics. I kept telling them I wasn't
going to Vancouver to protest but to cover the protests but for them that
was one and the same. This is bigger than me. We need to ask who is exactly
ordering this kind of repression. Is it the government? The IOC? Why the

Then insult on top of injury when they deported Macias and insisted he pay
his own way out of the country. "They wanted me to buy a $1,300 plane ticket
back to Chicago. I said 'no way' and now I'm in Seattle."

Martin's story is not unique. Two delegates aiming to attend an indigenous
assembly taking place alongside the games were also detained and turned

For people with just a passing knowledge of our neighbors to the north, it
must all seem quite shocking. When we think of human rights abuses and
suppression of dissent, Canada is hardly the first place that comes to mind.
But there actually is a long history in Canada of this kind of abuse of
power. The latest chapter in that history has been written during the
pre-Olympic crackdown of 2010. Now as protestors and independent, unembedded
journalists gather for the February 10-15 anti-Olympic convergence, as tax
dollars go toward importing snow, the need to silence dissent becomes an
International Olympic Committee imperative.

As Chicago's Bob Quellos, who entered Vancouver successfully after
accompanying Macias, said to me,

"Walking the streets, residents here are very clear about who is responsible
for the billions of dollars of Olympic debt they will be paying off for
generations. They are outraged that the over $1 billion that is being spent
on security has placed a cop on almost every corner of Downtown Vancouver.
And they are outraged by the government's priorities. For example, while
Vancouver's Downtown East Side struggles with poverty similar to third-world
countries and social programs continue to be gutted, VANOC is spending an
untold amount of money helicoptering in snow to the Olympic venue of Cypress
Mountain that would otherwise be a mud hill due to the warm weather."

It's not hard to deduce why the snow is melting: it's the heat on the

[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming "Bad Sports: How Owners are
Ruining the Games we Love" (Scribner) Receive his column every week by
emailing Contact him at]



Why the Oscars are a Con

By John Pilger
Pilger's ZSpace: February 10, 2010

Why are so many films so bad? This year's Oscar nominations are a parade of
propaganda, stereotypes and downright dishonesty. The dominant theme is as
old as Hollywood: America's divine right to invade other societies, steal
their history and occupy our memory. When will directors and writers behave
like artists and not pimps for a world view devoted to control and

I grew up on the movie myth of the Wild West, which was harmless enough
unless you happened to be a native American. The formula is unchanged.
Self-regarding distortions present the nobility of the American colonial
aggressor as a cover for massacre, from the Philippines to Iraq. I only
fully understood the power of the con when I was sent to Vietnam as a war
reporter. The Vietnamese were "gooks" and "Indians" whose industrial murder
was preordained in John Wayne movies and sent back to Hollywood to
glamourise or redeem.

I use the word murder advisedly, because what Hollywood does brilliantly is
suppress the truth about America's assaults. These are not wars, but the
export of a gun-addicted, homicidal "culture". And when the notion of
psychopaths as heroes wears thin, the bloodbath becomes an "American
tragedy" with a soundtrack of pure angst.

Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker is in this tradition. A favourite for
multiple Oscars, her film is "better than any documentary I've seen on the
Iraq war. It's so real it's scary" (Paul Chambers CNN). Peter Bradshaw in
the Guardian reckons it has "unpretentious clarity" and is "about the long
and painful endgame in Iraq" that "says more about the agony and wrong and
tragedy of war than all those earnest well-meaning movies".

What nonsense. Her film offers a vicarious thrill via yet another
standard-issue psychopath high on violence in somebody else's country where
the deaths of a million people are consigned to cinematic oblivion. The hype
around Bigelow is that she may be the first female director to win an Oscar.
How insulting that a woman is celebrated for a typically violent all-male
war movie.

The accolades echo those for The Deer Hunter (1978) which critics acclaimed
as "the film that could purge a nation's guilt!" The Deer Hunter lauded
those who had caused the deaths of more than three million Vietnamese while
reducing those who resisted to barbaric commie stick figures. In 2001,
Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down provided a similar, if less subtle catharsis
for another American "noble failure" in Somalia while airbrushing the
heroes' massacre of up to 10,000 Somalis.

By contrast, the fate of an admirable American war film, Redacted, is
instructive. Made in 2007 by Brian De Palma, the film is based on the true
story of the gang rape of an Iraqi teenager and the murder of her family by
American soldiers. There is no heroism, no purgative. The murderers are
murderers, and the complicity of Hollywood and the media in the epic crime
in Iraq is described ingeniously by De Palma. The film ends with a series of
photographs of Iraqi civilians who were killed. When it was order that their
faces be ordered blacked out "for legal reasons", De Palma said, "I think
that's terrible because now we have not even given the dignity of faces to
this suffering people. The great irony about Redacted is that it was
redacted." After a limited release in the US, this fine film all but

Non-American (or non-western) humanity is not deemed to have box office
appeal, dead or alive. They are the "other" who are allowed, at best, to be
saved by "us". In Avatar, James Cameron's vast and violent money-printer,
3-D noble savages known as the Na'vi need a good guy American soldier,
Sergeant Jake Sully, to save them. This confirms they are "good". Natch.

My Oscar for the worst of the current nominees goes to Invictus, Clint
Eastwood's unctuous insult to the struggle against apartheid in South
Africa. Taken from a hagiography of Nelson Mandela by a British journalist,
John Carlin, the film might have been a product of apartheid propaganda. In
promoting the racist, thuggish rugby culture as a panacea of the "rainbow
nation", Eastwood gives barely a hint that many black South Africans were
deeply embarrassed and hurt by Mandela's embrace of the hated Springbok
symbol of their suffering. He airbrushes white violence - but not black
violence, which is ever present as a threat. As for the Boer racists, they
have hearts of gold, because "we didn't really know". The subliminal theme
is all too familiar: colonialism deserves forgiveness and accommodation,
never justice.

At first I thought Invictus, could not be taken seriously, then I looked
around the cinema at young people and others for whom the horrors of
apartheid have no reference, and I understood the damage such a slick
travesty does to our memory and its moral lessons. Imagine Eastwood making a
happy-Sambo equivalent in the American Deep South. He would not dare.

The film most nominated for an Oscar and promoted by the critics is Up in
the Air, which has George Clooney as a man who travels America sacking
people and collecting frequent flyer points. Before the triteness dissolves
into sentimentality, every stereotype is summoned, especially of women.
There is a bitch, a saint and a cheat. However, this is "a movie for our
times", says the director Jason Reitman, who boasts having cast real sacked
people. "We interviewed them about what it was like to lose their job in
this economy," said he, "then we'd fire them on camera and ask them to
respond the way they did when they lost their job. It was an incredible
experience to watch these non-actors with 100 per cent realism."

Wow, what a winner.

From: Z Net - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives

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