Secrets, Lies, & Propaganda

Hollywood’s Zero Dark Thirty, America’s Liberal Culture of Torture, & the Struggle for its Abolition
03 January 2013

After the US embrace of torture after 9/11 it was only a matter of time before Hollywood decided to make a tribute to America’s liberal culture of torture for the big screen; Zero Dark Thirty

After 9/11, US policies of torture and extraordinary rendition – the latter term a euphemism for the kidnapping and transfer of persons to countries where they would be tortured at the behest of the US – quickly went global.

To be sure, US support for terrorism – the innocent killing of noncombatants – and programs of torture on a global scale existed long before 9/11. Before 9/11, though, these programs were often carried out via US support of a global network of client states, including the military dictatorships and death squad “democracies” of Latin and Central America.

Particularly notable here was the first 9/11, the US supported overthrow of the democratically elected Socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile, Latin America’s oldest democracy, on September 11, 1973 (Reifer, 2008; Harbury, 2005; Chomksy, 1991, 1999a, b; PBS, 2008). It didn’t take the attack on the US on 9/11 for US officials to support terror and torture, as US support for the Latin and Central American dictatorships so dramatically revealed (McSherry, 2005).

When one thinks about the US embrace of torture after 9/11, perhaps it was only a matter of time before Hollywood decided to make a tribute to America’s liberal culture of torture, for the big screen, instead of for the small screens via the pro-torture television series 24 (Mayer, 2007).

That time has now arrived, except that while 24 was obviously based on fiction, Hollywood’s award winning director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal are trying to sell their new Hollywood fantasy film as being based on fact. Bigelow has a lot of money behind her, as she is the first female to win an Academy Award for Best Director, as does her award-winning screenplay writer; Boal is a former freelance writer who was once embedded with the US armed forces in Iraq.

Both of them are famous in Hollywood and beyond for their powerful film, The Hurt Locker, which was nominated for nine Oscars at the Academy Awards and won six, including for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay (Boal also wrote the screenplay for 2007 film In the Valley of Elah). Both films were set in Iraq and In the Valley of Elah has profound anti-war themes.