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Torturing Democracy
October 16, 2008 1:00 AM   Subscribe

"Torturing Democracy" is a new documentary which details how the government set aside the rule of law in its pursuit of harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists. You can watch it online or on some PBS affiliates, but PBS won't run it nationally until January 21, 2009. Scott Horton suspects that may be because PBS is afraid of political retaliation. [Via]
posted by homunculus (23 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I suspect that fostering that suspicion makes it all the more intriguing and more people will watch because of it. How wonderfully spooky it all is . . .
posted by RoseyD at 2:12 AM on October 16, 2008


Shame.
posted by chillmost at 3:28 AM on October 16, 2008


Hm. Part 2 doesn't show up for me.
posted by Nattie at 4:08 AM on October 16, 2008


I'll assume we're giving the bastards a 24-hour head-start in order to make the hunt more sporting.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:12 AM on October 16, 2008


I see part one and part three but part two is missing for me as well. shame.

is that voiceover lawrence o'donnell?
posted by krautland at 4:12 AM on October 16, 2008


@Civil_Disobedient: Hell yeah! Helicopters, spotter scopes and hunting rifles! Sarah-Palin-gunning-down-wolves-style!

It's time to start ... RUNNING!
posted by kcds at 4:46 AM on October 16, 2008


If you're afraid of political retribution, you're doing it right.
posted by odinsdream at 5:27 AM on October 16, 2008


If you're afraid of political retribution, you're doing it right.

Only if that is all you care about. Seeking repair and reconcilliation of a problem does not necessarily have to involve getting in shots at the opposition, contraversy, or "shaking things up." That is radical thinking and it's what keeps radical ideas at the fringe. I'm not saying you should shy away from confrontation, you just have to pick your battles and not see things as so absolute.

PBS decided in this instance that this battlew may adversely effect their bottom line and their ability to continue to fund and produce contraversial documentary films like this. They did not shelve the project, in fact they did release it, albeit on a limited basis. That's not cowardice, that's intelligence.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:54 AM on October 16, 2008


The whole idea of PBS and public TV is that there shouldn't be a bottom line and pursuing media and entertainment that enriches the populace doesn't have to return a profit.
posted by ao4047 at 5:57 AM on October 16, 2008


The whole idea of PBS and public TV is that there shouldn't be a bottom line and pursuing media and entertainment that enriches the populace doesn't have to return a profit.

Who said it did? There is a enormous difference in having a bottom line (a budget) and turning a profit. Documentary films are not made for free. They take massive funding from grants and, in the case of PBS productions, Federal tax dollars. If Public Television is to remain public and continue to receive public funding then it must reflect the public as a whole and not one side or the other, regardless of how we may feel at MeFi and on the left in general about one side or the other. If it doesn't receive public funding then it just becomes the Documentary Film channel or Discovery or CNN or FOX or any other channel that can promote whatever agenda they like whenever management decides it wants to promote that agenda, even if it remains a non-profit organization.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:05 AM on October 16, 2008


Pollomacho: If Public Television is to remain public and continue to receive public funding then it must reflect the public as a whole and not one side or the other

Given that the public is not a monolithic entity, how would any program reflect "the public as a whole"? And how would one decide? A population-representative & large focus group for vetting purposes?
posted by Gyan at 6:56 AM on October 16, 2008


I saw a promo for this immediately before the debate last night. The ad may have even aired right at 9pm. Good hook.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:57 AM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Documentary films are not made for free. They take massive funding from grants and, in the case of PBS productions, Federal tax dollars.

You're misguided about public broadcasting budgets. Everything worth watching on PBS is underwritten by foundations or even corporations. Public money subsidizes the operation of small-market stations and the content they produce-- local current affairs programs and stuff like that. "Eye on Des Moines" or whatever. You might not watch that stuff (I sure as hell don't) but you'd be hard pressed to find an agenda or argue against the value to the communities that have programs like that.

I'll bet you anything that the documentary in question is wholly underwritten by several foundations, who also required monthly accounting of how THEIR money was spent making and promoting it. Because that's how PBS programming for national audiences is made.

If Public Television is to remain public and continue to receive public funding then it must reflect the public as a whole and not one side or the other

Right. PBS should also run a pro-torture documentary right before or after this one. Actually, if PBS is to reflect the American public as a whole, it should start producing lame, inoffensive sitcoms and talent shows.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:00 AM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


A population-representative & large focus group for vetting purposes?

Yes, actually that would be perfect. And this group could set funding limits for this sort of programming based on the groups they are representing, good thinking!

You're misguided about public broadcasting budgets.

From PBS:

Funding for PBS programs comes from a variety of sources - member stations' dues, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, government agencies, foundations, corporations and private citizens.

And from the same site on content priorities:

As a public service provider and a membership organization, PBS must serve and anticipate the constantly changing needs of our member stations and their audiences. We meet these challenges by pursuing programs employing innovative techniques to satisfy viewers' interests in a multitude of subjects including News and Public Affairs; Science and History; Natural History; Drama and Performing Arts; and Children's Programming.

Though we appreciate the value of the programs submitted to us, as well as the enormous effort that goes into executing quality programming, we have limited opportunities and funding for new shows and specials in our schedule. Therefore, not only must producers adhere to the criteria communicated in our PBS Mission and Content Priorities, but also programs and proposals must often go above and beyond our expectations to merit serious consideration for development, funding and broadcast.


PBS should also run a pro-torture documentary right before or after this one.

Now, come on. Don't be glib. I'm not advocating any such diminishment in program quality. I just think PBS had their Legislative and Regulatory mandates in mind when they decided to limit distribution of this politically contraversial program. They did not hide the program, they did not bury the program, they did not withdraw funding. They simply made a decision not to distribute it nationwide during such a politically charged period of time. The show is available right now to anyone that wants it.

If you wish to assist in the distribution of the program, why don't you host a veiwing? This is how other, non-PBS or major organization backed documentaries get publicised, is it not? If you don't live in an area that is broadcasting the show, either show the download or buy a DVD.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:28 AM on October 16, 2008


By guaranteeing our programs treat complex social issues with journalistic integrity and compassion, our audiences know they can rely on us to provide accurate, impartial information.

We guarantee it.
posted by fixedgear at 8:03 AM on October 16, 2008


The Great American Dream Machine's last program aired contained a segment on the FBI's involvement in planting bombs on college campuses to justify their presence there,It was taken off the air never to return because of funding threats from the Nixon White house.
This was the earliest leak of Cointelpro/Chaos a wonderful government program protecting America from radical students who didn't like the war.
posted by hortense at 8:38 AM on October 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


10 years of the Pinochet principle: The arrest warrant served on the Chilean head of state in 1998 changed history and has implications for the US government now
posted by homunculus at 9:29 AM on October 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is an important film and an interesting discussion. I think the Frontline documentary Rumsfeld's War, is well worth viewing as well.
posted by sswiller at 6:21 PM on October 16, 2008


I know it is an easy statement to make, but it sickens me that PBS has to cower and scrape to avoid offending the people upstairs. Certain things, like PBS, National Endowment for the Arts, NASA, OSHA, FEMA, etc. should never be part of "playing politics."

I know that isn't the case, and it probably won't ever be, but that is a pathetic shame.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:49 PM on October 16, 2008


Everyone responsible for this has to be prosecuted. If it takes years to accomplish, so be it. This cannot be swept under the rug.
Great documentary, thanks for posting it.
posted by dougzilla at 10:59 PM on October 16, 2008


Chile's supreme court has jailed five retired senior military officers over the killing of dozens of government opponents under military rule. about time.
Carl Oglesby
posted by hortense at 11:48 PM on October 16, 2008


The torture time bomb The Bush administration's approval of the abuse of detainees is a toxic legacy for the next US president. By Philippe Sands QC
posted by adamvasco at 7:28 AM on October 18, 2008


"Torturing Democracy"---prequel to "Chinese Democracy"
posted by dasheekeejones at 12:27 PM on October 23, 2008


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