Saturday, December 27, 2014

Don't see "Zero Dark Thirty" without reading this letter

Don't see "Zero Dark Thirty" without reading this letter

 

I think that sometimes bipartisanship is overrated, but it's great to see two leading Democrats team up with a high-profile Republican on this: The clearest message yet that torture isn't just morally wrong, but had nothing to do with the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The reason, of course, is the looming release of the Oscar-buzzed motion picture, Zero Dark Thirty, based on the real-life pursuit of the 9/11 mastermind. Even though it's not yet in wide release, there's already a huge controversy about how the movie depicts torture. I haven't see the film, but I've read a lot of reviews that make compelling arguments on both sides. It boils down to this. Torture happened, and we should not shy away from the fact. But does the movie reveal that torture was a dead end, both morally AND in terms pf gathering intelligence? Or will it mislead millions of American moviegoers into thinking torture "got" OBL?

Comes now Sens. John McCain, Diane Feinstein, and Carl Levin with a letter -- addressed to the chairman of Sony Pictures -- setting the record straight. I thought this section was especially powerful:

We are fans of many of your movies, and we understand the special role that movies play in our lives, but the fundamental problem is that people who see ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ will believe that the events it portrays are facts. The film therefore has the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner. Recent public opinion polls suggest that a narrow majority of Americans believe that torture can be justified as an effective form of intelligence gathering. This is false. We know that cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners is an unreliable and highly ineffective means of gathering intelligence..

The use of torture should be banished from serious public discourse for these reasons alone, but more importantly, because it is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, because it is an affront to America’s national honor, and because it is wrong. The use of torture in the fight against terrorism did severe damage to America’s values and standing that cannot be justified or expunged. It remains a stain on our national conscience. We cannot afford to go back to these dark times, and with the release of Zero Dark Thirty, the filmmakers and your production studio are perpetuating the myth that torture is effective. You have a social and moral obligation to get the facts right.

Sending this letter now was absolutely the right thing to do. Moviegoers are going to leave Zero Dark Thirty with differing ideas about what the film is trying to tell us about torture. That why it's so important people walk into the theater knowing the truth.

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Will Bunch
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