The Right Opinion

The Borking of 'Zero Dark Thirty'

By Larry Elder · Feb. 28, 2013

Weeks before the Oscars, Sony Pictures, the studio behind “Zero Dark Thirty,” put out this statement: “We are outraged that any responsible member of the Academy would use their voting status in (the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences) as a platform to advance their own political agenda. The film should be judged free of partisanship. To punish an artist's right of expression is abhorrent. This community, more than any other, should know how reprehensible that is.”

To what was Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal referring?

“Zero Dark Thirty,” directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, was the target of a vicious, unfair campaign against the film led by members of the supposedly open-minded, tolerant Hollywood left.

The story of the search for Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 terror attacks, is an obvious subject for a major motion picture. To that end, the Obama administration gave Bigelow and Boal what some called “unprecedented” access to the State Department to help make the film as realistic as possible.

One big problem. The film destroyed its chance of winning the Oscar for best picture with one of its first scenes. A captive was waterboarded. Contrary to the assertions of “anti-torture” critics like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others, the film implies that waterboarding actually “worked” – meaning its use extracted actionable intelligence.

In a rare statement about a movie, the CIA issued a press release. The film, wrote acting CIA Director Mike Morell, “takes significant artistic license, while portraying itself as being historically accurate … . 'Zero Dark Thirty' is a dramatization, not a realistic portrayal of the facts. … Whether enhanced interrogation techniques were the only timely and effective way to obtain information from those detainees, as the film suggests, is a matter of debate that cannot and never will be definitively resolved.” Sens. McCain, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., sent a letter to the studio demanding clarification.

So let the Borking begin.

In condemning “Zero Dark Thirty's” “easy tolerance of torture,” actor David Clennon said: “I'm a member of Hollywood's Motion Picture Academy. At the risk of being expelled for disclosing my intentions, I will not be voting for 'Zero Dark Thirty' – in any Academy Awards category.”

Actor Ed Asner also publicly encouraged fellow members of the voting Academy to vote against the film. “'I would like to condemn the movie,” Asner told The New York Times, because the film made it seem that “torture” might have been useful in hunting down Osama bin Laden.

The Times wrote: “Mr. Asner said he and fellow actor Martin Sheen planned to join in a letter, drafted by yet another actor, David Clennon, asking fellow members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to factor in matters of conscience when casting awards votes. 'We hope that 'Zero' will not be honored by Academy (or Guild) members,' said a draft of the letter.”

Never mind admissions by members of the Obama administration, including former CIA Director Leon Panetta, that waterboarding “worked.” Panetta told NBC's Brian Williams: “Some of the detainees clearly were, you know – they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees. But I'm also saying that, you know, the debate about whether – whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always gonna be an open question.”

In their defense, director Bigelow and screenwriter Boal say that the film accurately depicts the role that waterboarding played, along with other sources and means, in leading to the killing of bin Laden. The film takes no moral position on the question of waterboarding. To the left, that's not good enough.

It's hard to overstate how offensive the “waterboarding equals torture” crowd finds the assertion that it can ever be of value or that it can ever be justified. “Waterboarding is torture,” said President Barack Obama. “It's contrary to America's traditions. It's contrary to our ideals. That's not who we are. That's not how we operate. We don't need it in order to prosecute the war on terrorism.”

Sen. McCain, subjected to torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, not only calls waterboarding a “mock execution,” but insists it “often produces bad intelligence.” “You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour,” said former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, “and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.”

Again, “Zero Dark Thirty” does not “endorse” waterboarding. Even if it did, whatever happened to artistic license? Remember the tense final scene in “Argo” when Iranian airport security questions the Americans posing as Canadian filmmakers? Never happened. Completely bogus. The Americans actually went through without incident, never having to convince anyone that they were members of a Canadian film crew.

Sens. McCain, Feinstein and Levin sent no letter to the studio demanding clarification. No one from the CIA put out a statement, “'Argo' takes significant artistic license, while portraying itself as being historically accurate.”

One more thing. If anyone in the acting community called this attack on the film's artistic integrity a form of “McCarthyism,” he or she received little publicity.



rab in jo,mo said:

How ironic that there is so much concern over the use of waterboarding to extract information from suspected terrorists when each and every one of the SEALs involved in the capture/execution of Bin Ladin had been subjected to waterboarding as part of their training!

BTW - Jessie "Scruff Face" Ventura needs to man up, STFU and go back to Baja instead of picking on a widow and her children. Let the grudge die with the man.

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 8:54 AM

MIResident in Michigan said:

Ok, adding actor David Clennon to my long list of actors and producers that I will not watch due to their bloviating.

Taking son to see Dark Thirty this weekend - thanks to the bloviators in making my choice easier where to spend my money.

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 8:56 AM

Ready4AChange in Illinois said:

Well, let's see - our enemies wouldn't hesitate to use torture on our troops if captured, but we are supposed to treat our enemies to cake and cookies? Tell that to the people who lost friends and family in the 9/11 attacks - or to Ambassador Steven's family. Come on people - get real.

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 11:09 AM

PaulRod in Kansas City MO replied:

Ready, you just don't get it. It doesn't matter how vicious or inhumane the other guy is, it doesn't matter that he is perfectly willing to blow up innocent people, even using his own children, it just doesn't matter what they do. WE have to kill our enemies nicely.

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 2:14 PM

GeorgePA in PA said:

"Sen. McCain, subjected to torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, not only calls waterboarding a "mock execution," but insists it "often produces bad intelligence." "You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour," said former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, "and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.""

Jesse completely misses the point of what the interrogators were doing. They were not using waterboarding to establish guilt or innocence of random people yanked off the streets, they were using it to extract information from individuals already caught through other means. There is a gigantic yawning gulf of difference between the two approaches.

One can still disagree as to its morality, but there is little doubting its effectiveness.

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 2:08 PM

HP in Kalispell, MT said:

Water boarding is a bogus issue. This film was rebuffed because it did not make Obama out to be a hero in killing Bin Ladin. If fact the movie has nothing to do with zero. Remember that the film was scheduled for release the week before the election. At the last minute, it was delayed until after the election. Watching the film gives you the feeling Bush caught OBL. The torture argument, if you can find any torture in the film, is just ass cover. The film was great and Bigelow earned Best Director and Best Film. I refused to see it because I knew it would be an ode to zero but I was pleasantly surprised. It is a great movie!

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 2:33 PM

Larry Nolte in Huntington Beach, ca. said:

Great article Larry. Zero Dark 30 was the best movie of the year. The fact Kathryn Bigelow was not nominated was absolutely absurd. She also should have won. Liberals love sticking their heads in the sand and pretending in their fantasy world.

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 9:01 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

Being a retired Army veteran, I could care less what type of interrorgation is used against our enemies. If the intelligence gained saves just one soldier's life then I'm all for it. Most of the idiots whining about water boarding wouldn't lift a finger to defend this country because in their delusional minds the US is the enemy.

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 9:54 PM

Joan in Dayton,Ohio said:

When they were talking about going after Bin Laden I ask the question, didn't he die already? After some searching on the internet I found a video of Benazir Bhutto in 2007 saying Bin Laden was dead. She was assassinated in Dec.2007. I also saw where Bin Laden's Dr said he had died in 07. On 9-11-01 Bin Laden was on kidney dialysis three to four times a week, so I researched kidney dialysis to see how long a person can live on dialysis and they said it depends on how old the patient is. Bin Laden was born in 1957 and would have been 45 in 2001, living six more years on dialysis, if he died in 2007, which is the life expectancy for that age. If he lived to 2011 he would have been 54 and lived around 14 years on dialysis. I heard that Bhutto did not actually mean to say Bin Laden was dead when she made the video and I'm wondering was it a slip of the tongue, or the truth. I never did understand why they buried him at sea.

Friday, March 1, 2013 at 3:22 AM