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"War Made Easy" A Movie On How Government Deception and the Conservative Media (includeds NYT & NPR, national pentagon radio) has fostered War.
September 29, 2007 12:39 PM   Subscribe

“War Made Easy" is a documentary with Sean Penn narrating, and is based on a book by Norman Solomon . This is an award winning expose on how the American Public has been led into a 50-year pattern of government deception and spin, dragging the United States from one war into another. Remarkably this film exhumes archival footage of official distortion and exaggeration from LBJ to George W. Bush, revealing in stunning detail how the American news media have uncritically disseminated the pro-war messages of successive presidential administrations. Brutally persuasive this film presents disturbing examples of propaganda from those we want to believe in.
posted by Rancid Badger (51 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just wanted to highly recommend the book.
posted by ao4047 at 12:51 PM on September 29, 2007


easy peasy
posted by larry_darrell at 1:05 PM on September 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's gotten to the point that when some Pol invokes 'the American People' it makes me want to bury my wallet.

(or get a Swiss bank account. Then again, I don't have any money...)
posted by vhsiv at 1:36 PM on September 29, 2007


are they going to make it available for download? (or is there a torrent yet?) : >
posted by amberglow at 1:42 PM on September 29, 2007


larry_darrell, this one is a bit more informative
posted by rxrfrx at 1:48 PM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


related and excellent thing, about the myths that are spun (and believed) about foreign policy and our role in the world: The Theology of American Empire
posted by amberglow at 2:24 PM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, Sean Penn's involvement means it will be wholly and utterly ignored by everyone who counts. And most of those who don't count.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:25 PM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


amberglow, it looks like the complete film is on Google Video, as is a talk by Solomon.
posted by homunculus at 2:56 PM on September 29, 2007 [6 favorites]


Sean Penn? Sorry but that makes this, otherwise interesting link, a 'no click' for me.
posted by acetonic at 3:16 PM on September 29, 2007


acetonic, that attitude is precious. and somehow bolster's the point that 'Mericans can be disastrously distracted from keeping their eye on the ball. I'm not a particular fan of his, but dam, it's not like it's Courtney Love or anything.
posted by Busithoth at 3:21 PM on September 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


[though, granted, it would probably be a better read, only a narrator of the quality of Brian Blessed could outperform my inner voice.]
thanks for bringing it to my attention, RB, AG.
posted by Busithoth at 3:28 PM on September 29, 2007


Sean Penn? Sorry but that makes this, otherwise interesting link, a 'no click' for me.

So Sean Penn, self-appointed champion of civic consciousness, is also its greatest deterrent?
posted by Curry at 3:36 PM on September 29, 2007


I'm a Canuck, and I won't bother watching it simply because Penn is involved. I've watched the guy on TDS or CR and while I agree with the end goals, can not bear to listen to him. He's such an ass.

His efforts would be better put to use as an unseen hand, helping a better-presenting person become the public figurehead.

And, damn, I read some JFK quotes today that speak an eloquent, passionate, right vision for what the American government should be and should do. America would have been so much better off today, had he not been offed.

You need another JFK. A uniter, not a divider. A diplomat. Respectable. Compassionate. Intelligent. Well-spoken. Educated. Charming. A lover.

I think Obama fits that role...
posted by five fresh fish at 3:40 PM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


That's ad hominem. Wait, I mean, ad patriam.

No wait, racist, that's it. Racisiam ad goeatmoreiceandsnowae.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:04 PM on September 29, 2007


wow, I'd never have guessed there were so many Mr. Hands lurking on Mefi.
posted by Busithoth at 4:17 PM on September 29, 2007


I don't think Sean Penn is an ass and I'm glad he helped in making this documentary, which is intelligent and worth watching.

I read some JFK quotes today that speak an eloquent, passionate, right vision for what the American government should be and should do.

Sound bytes don't make for an authentic political leader. Gore was not a good sound byte man and he would have been an infinitely better president than Bush. People in the US need to study political leaders, care enough to know about who and what they are voting for and not get sold by appearances.

Being duped by media concocted appearances is exactly what this documentary is about.
posted by nickyskye at 4:23 PM on September 29, 2007


I'm a Canuck, and I won't bother watching it simply because Penn is involved. I've watched the guy on TDS or CR and while I agree with the end goals, can not bear to listen to him. He's such an ass.

I like sean penn. He tries and he isn't afraid to put himself out there and risk the opprobrium of the shallow folk who spend time focusing on appearances.

Plus that uniter bullshit is such crap. American gov't functions best when there is adversity - checks and balances and compromises. A united government and population always does awful shit.
posted by srboisvert at 4:40 PM on September 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Embedded journalists" was an unbelievably sleazy, vicious and vindictive scam. We're talking all time low. Following the close of Vietnam (which the documentary points out has often been linked to negative news coverage) the government was pretty efficient in keeping journalists from covering their military actions. The press was kept completely in the dark in Grenada, in Panama and in the Balkans. So when the Pentagon decided to ship reporters over to Iraq with the troops, it was viewed as an "about face," and not the culmination of the sticky military-media relationship that it was. It indicates media-government collusion, as well as reeking of utter contempt for members of the Fourth Estate. In one deft move The Powers That Be framed the war narrative as noble, valiant, action-packed, etc., while keeping the reporters completely reliant on the heavily-armed people whose actions they were supposed to be scrutinizing.
posted by Curry at 4:44 PM on September 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm sure Sean Penn is doing this because any other actor who did the narration would be the next Sean Penn, where people would say, Oh, God, he's just an actor, he shouldn't meddle in politics, what an ass, I won't ever listen to anything he says. But Sean Penn is already that guy, so there is no need to ruin another actor by using someone else.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:56 PM on September 29, 2007


Sean Penn kicked total acting ass (alongside the excellent Kevin Spacey) in Hurly Burly, one of the greatest plotless movies ever made. Here's a trailer, but, er, they're all dubbed into Spanish...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:11 PM on September 29, 2007


Sean Penn? Sorry but that makes this, otherwise interesting link, a 'no click' for me.

So very silly.

And, damn, I read some JFK quotes today that speak an eloquent, passionate, right vision for what the American government should be and should do. America would have been so much better off today, had he not been offed.

But this hero-worship is far worse.

JFK fought against any kind of federal intervention in the early civil rights efforts, such as the Selma Bridge or the Freedom Rides. He wouldn't come out against them publicly; he was in favor of equal rights in the abstract; but he was not at all willing to give up any electoral advantage on mere principle.

Oh, he also escalated U.S. military presence in Vietnam, and framed de-escalation as defeat and withdrawal.

So explain to me how that's any different—much less better—than what we have now.
posted by cat.dog at 6:12 PM on September 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


This film is breathtakingly, childishly, infuriatingly naive. Perhaps if the filmmakers read a bit more history - 19th century, 18th century, and much earlier - the notion that political leaders of global powers make blatant power plays AND engage in something less than forthright public communication wouldn't seem so novel or unusual. The other side's arguments are always "propaganda" while ours are always "persuasion" or "truthtelling." What on earth is the point to this hour-long whine, and what do they expect to be different in the future?
posted by twsf at 6:17 PM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


What on earth is the point

Knowing more about how the conservative media (includes NYT & NPR, national pentagon radio) has fostered war.
posted by nickyskye at 6:52 PM on September 29, 2007


LOL. If you label NYT and NPR as "conservative" media then you've proved the point that these issues are timeless and not just a function of contemporary media structures. Yes, the media are how political rulers reach their subjects, and smart, effective leaders understand the media -- and the public -- well enough to be able to develop messages that convey their views persuasively. I promise not to spoil this thread by revealing that the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, um, never mind...
posted by twsf at 6:58 PM on September 29, 2007


twsf, that was my first thought also, I have not watched the film, but it is certainly useful and interesting to see how its been done recently - there was no TV in the 19th century. The purpose of this film/book seems to be to arm viewers with information to protect themselves from propaganda techniques currently in use.
posted by stbalbach at 7:20 PM on September 29, 2007


"the film exhumes remarkable archival footage of official distortion and exaggeration from LBJ to George W. Bush, revealing in stunning detail how the American news media have uncritically disseminated the pro-war messages of successive presidential administrations"

I think that's worth looking at and that Norman Solomon has written some excellent articles.
posted by nickyskye at 7:22 PM on September 29, 2007


The other side's arguments are always "propaganda" while ours are always "persuasion" or "truthtelling." What on earth is the point to this hour-long whine, and what do they expect to be different in the future?

So everybody's a liar, what's the point, fuck it?
posted by nickyskye at 7:36 PM on September 29, 2007


I'm watching it now (yay BT).

it's not bad - so far just narration over old footage/newsreels/etc.

Sean Penn is actually a way, way better narrator than say, Alex Jones. I've heard worse narrators; if I didn't know it was him I wouldn't mind at all.
posted by mrbill at 7:49 PM on September 29, 2007


The New York Times did the reporting on their December 2005 NSA wiretapping story before the 2004 election, then delayed its publication for over a year. Then they lied when they finally published it and said the delay was only a year. The Times also spiked a story about the bulge on President Bush's back during the debates that was scheduled to run before the election. (It turned out to be a bulletproof vest, and administration lied to the Times reporters when they asked about it when they were investigating the story.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:52 PM on September 29, 2007 [3 favorites]


When I was in high school, I read about the U.S.' involvement in Latin America, our arming of dictators, and other bad deeds. I thought at that time that many of our leaders were bad, and often deceived us. My view later mellowed as I learned a bit more history. But when I started reading things like Norman Solomon's book again, my views swung back to the ones I had in high school.

Make all the excuse you want, "conservatives", and "pragmatists." Lives are lost over this shit. It's not an abstract discussion to U.S. troops missing limbs, or Iraqi citizens tortured at Abu Ghraib.

If our shores are attacked, I'll take up arms with the rest of you. Otherwise, I'm staying out of it. Its a scam.
posted by 4midori at 8:45 PM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Those darn conservatives at NPR!!
posted by mattholomew at 9:15 PM on September 29, 2007


I promise not to spoil this thread by revealing that the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, um, never mind...

Aww please, share you wisdom with us. We are lost without it.
posted by homunculus at 10:33 PM on September 29, 2007


So everybody's a liar, what's the point, fuck it?

Yeah. Fuck it. Accept that the media lies, accept that the government lies, accept that you will never be able to tell when they're telling the truth and when they're not until it's too late.

Stop letting people decide your opinions for you. Stop paying attention to the TV news, the newspapers, the blogs, the columnists, the assholes on talkback radio, and start following your own moral compass on these issues.

Be informed by what you know to have happened in the past, not what some asshole is paid to make you believe about the future.

Grab hold of only the most basic, undisputed facts, the stuff that's public knowledge, the stuff you can see in photos or read in the Encyclopedia Britannica, not "facts" that come from wishy-washy "officials" that demand you trust them because the important stuff is "classified" for your own good.

Clearly, however, my little plan will be adopted by few. The very fact that people can watch Fox news and believe it when they have little fighter jets turning into eagles screaming out of their logo, when the only things that pass for debate are either bouts of mutual masturbation or childish yelling, when reporters cream themselves over millitary hardware and describe air raids as an "awesome lightshow", makes it clear to me that I. Just. Don't. Understand. People.
posted by Jimbob at 10:36 PM on September 29, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'd favorite your comment more than once if I could Jimbob. YES, they're all lying: peddlers/merchants/businesses/corporations (whatever they're calling them nowadays) are exploitative, princes/kings/politicians all sell out to the highest bidder.....and it has nearly always been this way. The sad fact of human rule.

Funny thing though, I'd be classified as conservative if I thought politics were worth anything. I see the bad that never changes, but the good too. But none of that good is found in politics or money-making in my opinion.
posted by Danila at 12:01 AM on September 30, 2007


Yeah, as far as I'm concerned, news should just be the facts.

Just a guy sitting infront of a camera, telling you what happened in this part of the world today. Who did what. Who said what. Boring, but functional.

Ideally these facts should come from actual journalists on the ground, who've seen things and heard things first hand, instead of relying on regurgitating press releases. And if all you've got to go by is "offical sources", there should be some attempt to check whether the official version of events matches up with actual facts on the ground.

Instead, what we tend to get now is lazy journalism; as highlighted in this documentary, just repeating whatever the government gives them. The journalists now see their job to be to give their opinion on it. Not facts. Opinion. And in the case of particularly shitty commentators, make it clear that their opinion is the only one that's valid, and letting people know exactly what they think of people who disagree with them.

That's bullshit. Give us the facts, we'll make up our own minds, thankyou very much.

And increasingly, the people on, for example, cable news channels aren't journalists. They aren't guys who've worked their way up the ranks, doing investigative journalism, spending time in war-torn parts of the world sending back correspondence. They're just talent - loud, opinionated people - "pundits", "commentators". They're not there because they're smart, or because they have integrity, or because they have in-depth knowledge of the news they're giving their opinion on. They're there because they're forceful, they evoke emotion.

And bias is another issue that's become increasingly warped. Nowdays, news coverage aims to be unbiased by, for example, including both a "liberal" and a "conservative" pundit in a debate.

That's not being unbiased. Being unbiased is if you present all of the original facts, not just both sides of the opinion that follow them.

I do believe the current, what do they call it? New Media can go either way on this. The internet is full of blogs, where amature "journalists" follow the example of their cable TV idols, just giving their opinion on what they've read elsewhere, yelling at each other through comments sections. But at the same time, we can see what's been coming out of Burma in recent days where the internet has been shown to also be a very useful tool for getting raw facts out there - video, photos, stories from people involved, rather than just hot air.
posted by Jimbob at 1:44 AM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


(I do see your point, Danila, that it's always been bad. There have, indeed, been periods in the past with much more blatant and offensive propaganda. But I still think that basic news reporting and journalism has become seriously weird in the recent past.)
posted by Jimbob at 1:45 AM on September 30, 2007


Jimbob: have a listen to Leigh Sales's acceptance speech for this year's George Munster award. There are still good ones out there.
posted by flabdablet at 2:44 AM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Be informed by what you know to have happened in the past

Apart from the Encyclopedia Britannica, what resources do you deem relatively trustworthy?
posted by nickyskye at 9:22 AM on September 30, 2007


"I like Sean Penn so I'll watch it."
"I don't like Sean Penn so I won't watch it."

Most people know to hide idiotic motives like this behind at least a veneer of principle.
posted by dreamsign at 9:41 AM on September 30, 2007


I look forward to your reports on the musing of Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly, dreamsign.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:07 AM on September 30, 2007


War is Peace.
posted by nickyskye at 11:36 AM on September 30, 2007


War is a Racket.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:57 AM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


But at the same time, we can see what's been coming out of Burma in recent days where the internet has been shown to also be a very useful tool for getting raw facts out there - video, photos, stories from people involved, rather than just hot air.

Raw facts without context and determination of the truth is just as bad as what we get now--Where the internet and other media is most valuable in terms of our mainstream media and discourse is in showing the reasons behind why we're even hearing certain things and not others, and the forces pushing certain stories and killing others--except now it's often the media themselves, who have been trained too well by the right. From Iraq to Iran to inane stories about candidate's haircuts, etc--to Myanmar: Why did Bush mention it for the first time ever? Why now? Why is it all of a sudden in the news when not one news org has ever paid any attention at all? What's the oil connection?

And other things done to affect coverage: Why did the NSA hold reporter conferences to instruct them in NOT REPORTING anything about their actions? And why were they spying on reporters themselves?are they still? Why did the Blackwater story disappear from the news so quickly---and all the other stories about this administration's actions? Why do we have more private mercenaries and security than troops in Iraq? Who helps Blackwater? ... All the GOP scandals, which are still not being covered or are being buried? ... Who is behind all the smear stories and distractions we get everyday and why--Who is pushing what when--Which stories belong in which of those categories? ...
posted by amberglow at 1:36 PM on September 30, 2007


and this latest thing getting enormous amounts of attention: The most well-connected 'outsiders' in the country--
The headline on the AP report on Freedom's Watch reads, "Outsiders aim to frame political debate." If there's a less accurate description of the powerful conservative activists behind this new group, I can't think of it.
...
"Bookends"? Eli Pariser, the executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, noted, "The main difference is that MoveOn is a group of 3.3 million. Freedom's Watch is a few mega millionaires."

What's more, they're incredibly well-connected mega millionaires. ...

posted by amberglow at 1:55 PM on September 30, 2007


more on Myanmar: ... why should it be that the United States government has, for the last few years, been applying sanctions to Burma along with its allies? Why is it championing the main democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi? Only an ostrich would imagine it has anything to do with democracy. Well, it's the same as East Timor in many ways. The West, after having backed a genocidal regime for years, has terrorised the opposition into accepting a neoliberal programme. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has promised that, upon taking power, it will implement structural adjustments opening up huge parts of the economy to international investors. ...
posted by amberglow at 2:21 PM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


as far as I'm concerned, news should just be the facts.

Which facts? How many facts? Who selects? How much background (for which read, history) do I assume the reader already has, and can I properly judge which facts are or are not irrelevant to the story? Do you trust a journalist, however intelligent or earnest, who is thrown at a story in an area he knows only a bit about in a country whose language he does not speak or a culture he does not understand? The best do the best they can, but there's always going to be uncertainty, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

I appreciate your impatience, I share it, but what you want is probably impossible both to achive and probably to recognize. Anyway, what you and I want no one is selling. News is put forward either by politically motivated publishers or by guys trying to sell dishwashing liquid. Pretty much always has been. Truth can still slip out, but the only thing you can do is to read as much as possible and try to figure out who's telling the largest whoppers.

By the way, I understand that No End In Sight is a pretty good take on our current obscenity in Iraq.

Then again, I could be wrong.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:30 PM on September 30, 2007


I appreciate Penn and all the people who put this together. Stand up.
posted by chance at 6:51 PM on September 30, 2007


After reading all of this, I will make an honest effort to remember to watch this movie/documentary.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:17 AM on October 1, 2007


More on Burma: Thousands dead in massacre of the monks dumped in the jungle
posted by homunculus at 10:24 AM on October 1, 2007


WH on Myanmar: ... And reports about very innocent people being thrown into detention, where they could be held for years without any representation or charges, is distressing.

Another compelling moral argument brought to you by the people who run Guantanamo.

posted by amberglow at 2:02 PM on October 1, 2007


Made Love, Got War: Norman Solomon on Close Encounters with America's Warfare State
posted by homunculus at 1:15 PM on October 3, 2007


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