Saturday, 11 December 2010

Edge of Darkness and Where Wikileaks Shone a Light

Recently on a trip to Port Alberni, British Columbia, a town which seemed like a dreary and depressing place on the winter day I was there, I was recommended a film. It happened while we were combatting the surroundings by browsing the shelves of the local video store. Fortunately for the townspeople, this was no run of the mill establishment; they are blessed with a stellar independent video store. The owner (I've never seen this before, and I've been to a lot of video stroes) even cares enough to put recommendations inside the shelf copy covers of the movies, and I could tell he had unusually good taste.

We didn't end up renting anything because we didn't have the current phone number for the town resident whose house we were staying at. However, one title did stick with me, and I made sure I rented it when I got home. My gym rents out movies for free, mostly bad formula-crap but also the occasional gem that performed poorly at the box office and must be cheap to licence. I suspect this perk is to thank the members of a club that otherwise has low enrollment, possibly due to being located in the less frequented downtown section of another dreary town, Kitchener. Sorry, I digress. I knew the film was there, and walked by it a dozen times before seeing the video shop owner's unlikely recommendation. It was Mel Gibson's Edge Of Darkness

Why had I ignored this film? Well, despite heavily guarding my mind against mainstream media tripe and brainwashing, I cannot have a 1.000 Goals Against Average. It seems a flubbing shot with the message that Mel Gibson is crazy, unstable, and off the deep end had slipped past my mental knee pads and lodged itself in the net of my cerebral cortex. This allowed my brain (which is obviously occupied with a million other things) to make the simple dismissive computation: Mel G x allegations of abuse/unstable behaviour + history of saying wacky shit = obvious wack job therefore latest project waste of time.

Nevermind that the man has had a great career and I have greatly enjoyed much of what he's been involved with in the past (apart from Passion Of the Christ, which I refused to watch). The media managed to rob my abilities to judge for myself by stealth. How? By the same means they always employ when it comes to discrediting people. By smearing, insinuating, and embarrassing the person in question, while lining him up for the ultimate softball lob to smack out of the park once and for all - "crazy" and "unstable". It has nothing to do with the person's actual situation or mental state (see Toronto, erratic mayor of) as much as them deciding when people are going to stop taking you seriously.

It is ironic that this happened to me over this particular film, because it turned out to be quite good. If a character judgement of Mel Gibson has been preventing you from seeing it, I suggest you drop it and give it a watch. Gibson in fact still has the ability to act. The film deals quite adeptly with the story of a single main character with integrity trying to expose the evil deeds of a large, multifaceted, secretive consortium type entity (and apart from the slight cheese veneer of him doing this for entirely personal, noble reasons, it works quite well). Gibson plays a cop trying to simultaneously expose and outmanoeuver a massive government/defence contractor/shadowy operator machine that is playing all kinds of dangerous games by manufacturing nuclear weapons in the U.S. which will have the appear of belonging to other nations. They murder his daughter for imminently threatening to expose this, and he is the one man wrecking crew hot on their tails. So yes, the man against evil machine narrative is very entertaining once the film gets going, if you can suspend your disbelief about its unlikeliness. The unstable Gibson also delivers a rock solid performance that carries a film otherwise populated by a bunch of mostly capable but unknown actors. What is unbelievable about the film is the powers that be (a CEO, a senator, hitmen)'s struggle to keep a lid on their sinister machinations, and their clumsy ineptness once the cat gets out of the bag.

The irony I mentioned is also that its not so unbelievable anymore, with rise of Wikileaks and the viral fame of Julian Assange, who is also now the target of a mainstream media takedown campaign. It has been nothing less than hilarious to watch public figures for the last couple of weeks clam up and sputter while eggs fell on their faces. The site has been up and running for awhile, and gaining notoriety for exposing such widely known facts as civilians were killed in Iraq, publicly crushing the ambiguity and lies of the official American line once and for all. It recently went "too far" when it exposed the United States to be a highly paranoid and megalomaniacal nation, obsessed with its enemies and the direction of any other sovereign nation, including its closest "allies". Other leaks included comments by a spy agency director at one of the said allies. The head of Canada's FBI-CIA wannabe clone, CSIS, went as far to accuse the people who handed the prison buildin', war in afghanistan wagin', mandatory minimum sentence hankerin' Harper conservatives two straight governments of having an "Alice in Wonderland worldview".

The past leaks involving more serious matters give pause for lament and reflection; the bluster and indignation of people in power following their private conversations being exposed is as delectable as it is predictable.

Their anger is probably due to having their bubble of the appearance of wisdom and infallibility punctured, losing even more of a dwindling number of people who continue to take them seriously, and especially, especially, having it out in the open that they are a bunch of lying, backstabbing, scheming goddamn nincompoops who aren't to be trusted as far as they can be thrown. Again, for the few concerned who did not think that already.

The juicy stuff from the leaks can be followed in a mainstream-media approved, in pictures slideshow here, and typical middle aged anger at Assange for "preventing people in power from doing their very important jobs by embarassing them with sideshows they have no power to defend themselves against (because they said these things) is here. I don't understand how people who usually don't hesistate to weigh in on issues of concern with untold amounts of moral authority are suddenly depending public figures who are supposed to be conducting themselves with integrity at all times against someone who has no public mandate to anyone.

And what do we learn in these leaks, really? That the group of politicians who gather at the G20, with the very serious demeanour they project while they talk about promoting democracy and managing the economy, talk shit about each other and make snide comments behind each others backs. That an oil company has an outsize amount of control over Nigeria's government. That the Mugabes are rich off their impoverished country's diamonds. Who would be surprised by such revelations? In most people I know they would prompt at best a shrug.

But the establishment does not take kindly to being exposed as foolish or worse, human, and so you have all their defenders trying to take down Assange now and even the Canadian political commentator Tom Flanagan saying he should be assassinated.

The diplomatic cables are not the massive international evil conspiracy that Assange would have exposed if he was a character in a Hollywood movie. It is nevertheless not total banality to find out that in the great International High School, America is the annoying type A class president who doesn't like the Russian bully Prime Minister, or the hard partying womanizing septugenarian Italian Prime Minister, but also derides its Canadian butt boy for having an "inferiority complex" and gets its female executive member to pull some mean girls shit on the female president of Argentina by asking if shes medicated and calling her mental stability into question.

What we are left with is the impression that these leaks represent a huge inconvenience. As people in power prefer things to be as predictable and reliable as possible, including details we may find inconsequential, this inconvenience would best be removed and shut down as soon as possible. Finding out what we've found out may not be so bad after all, but the people in power do not see it that way. Remember, they got where they were less because of their nice smiles and pleasant appearances than because of their ruthless, obsessive micromanaging. So the movement to discredit and take out Assange as a factor has begun in earnest. He has some rape charges to face in Sweden. Its all in the link above; I don't think there's anything there. That article does describe him as a "rockstar" which means anybody who supports him is a deluded follower who can't think for themselves. The charges are a stain on his personal character that can now be used to discredit him. Worst of all, the mission of his life and some past things he wrote define him as an "anarchist". This is one of the worst labels that can be applied to one now, along with crazy and unstable, because its defines one as being so alienated from the status quo that ones undermines it. I doubt Assange will be able to take down the establishment with the amount of firepower Mel Gibson does in Edge of Darkness. What will be interesting to see is what tactics are henceforth used to try and silence him forever now that he is a very public figure.

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