True lies: Robert Redford and the Dan Rather story

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Robert Redford

We’ve been looking at Robert Redford‘s long record as a producer, director, and/or star of several high-budget (and usually low-box-office) pieces of vintage Hollywood propaganda. His latest vehicle won’t be out until October, but if you look at the source material, at the comments he and others have made about the picture before and during its production, and at his own ideology as revealed in his previous films, you can get a pretty clear picture of what’s in store for us. He isn’t the producer or director, but he’s the star, and given the nature of the material, he surely wouldn’t have taken the role if he didn’t believe wholeheartedly in the picture and its message.

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Dan Rather

Truth: that’s its title. Written and directed by James Vanderbilt, it professes to set forth the facts about why Dan Rather, after 24 years as anchor of the CBS Evening News, was asked by the network to resign in 2005 in the wake of the so-called Rathergate scandal. Redford plays Rather; Cate Blanchett plays Mary Mapes, the 60 Minutes producer who was fired as a result of her involvement in the scandal and whose book, Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power, was the basis for Vanderbilt’s script.

DALLAS, TX - JULY 10: Former President George W. Bush speaks during Naturalization Ceremony at the George W. Bush Presidential Center on July 10, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/WireImage)
George W. Bush

A brief history of the scandal. It began with a set of documents that purported to cast an unflattering light on President George W. Bush’s service in the National Guard from 1968 to 1974. The documents came into Mapes’s hands and, on September 4, 2004, less than two months before the presidential election, were presented as authentic in a 60 Minutes segment on which Rather was the correspondent. The story began to collapse immediately – because the documents, bearing dates in the early 1970s, had plainly been typed many years later on a computer with proportional spacing. In other words, they were forgeries that only an idiot (or somebody born after the 1970s who’d never seen a typewritten page from that decade) would fall for. Yet even as the criticism mounted, Rather and Mapes stubbornly kept maintaining that the documents were genuine.

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In 2004, using the program’s default settings, blogger Charles Johnson typed out in Microsoft Word the text of one of the 60 Minutes documents supposedly written in 1973, then superimposed the new text over the “old” one, thus providing dramatic evidence that the “old” document was not as old as claimed

At first CBS backed them up; on September 20, however, the network reversed itself. An independent review panel was formed, and in the end it criticized CBS severely for having spent more than two weeks defending the indefensible. From the beginning, of course, critics charged that Rather and others at CBS News had aired the National Guard story because they wanted to dent Bush’s chances of re-election; Rather, of course, denied this. And Mapes, in her book and elsewhere, dismissed the entire issue of proportional spacing, claiming that members of the “Bush camp” had disingenuously raised “really obscure type-face issues” to convince ignorant Americans that the documents had been forged. The “Bush camp,” she argued, was intent on “sliming anyone who raised questions about the president.”

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We couldn’t find a picture of Redford with Castro, but here’s a picture of a picture of Redford with Castro

This, then, is the “truth” that Redford’s forthcoming movie (which, by the way, Rather himself has enthusiastically promoted) will apparently present. On the contrary, the movie’s “truth” is the very opposite of the truth: whatever one may think of George W. Bush, the fact is that Rather and Mapes were the ones who were engaged in “sliming,” using transparently fake documents to try to smear him – and then, when countless people who had nothing to do with Bush reacted publicly to the manifest fakeness of the documents, turning around and claiming that his “camp” had been involved in “sliming” them.

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A recent picture of Redford and his wife with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife

The entire premise of the film is that Rather and Mapes lost their jobs because they’d stood up for the truth; in reality they lost their jobs as just payment for clinging to a lie.

How can Redford involve himself in such a project? Because for him, as one after another of his movies has richly demonstrated, the concept of “truth” isn’t about real truth – about, that is, the hard facts. It’s about the “higher” truth – the revealed truth, as it were – that emerges when you look at the world through the lens of the ideology that has made Redford, for decades, such a splendid stooge for the likes of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. And it’s clear that Dan Rather, when viewed by Redford through that lens, is on the side of the angels.

Redford: romanticizing Che

the-motorcycle-diaries2We’ve just finished surveying some of Robert Redford‘s celluloid agitprop. On The Milagro Beanfield War, Lions for Lambs, and The Company You Keep, he was director; on the 2004 film Motorcycle Diaries, directed by Walter Salles from José Rivera’s script and based on Che Guevara’s memoir of his youthful travels around South America, Redford served as producer. Depicting Che as a sensitive charmer, the film purported to depict the process by which he developed the supposedly noble political “convictions” that ended up making him a hero to millions. In other words, the picture entirely ignored Guevara the cold-blooded, pathological mass murderer and firmly endorsed the thoroughly twisted popular image that led him to become the face on a million T-shirts.

Enthusiastic but clueless critics used words like “charming” and “poetic” to describe the Che movie; A.O. Scott of the New York Times praised it as “a lyrical exploration of the sensations and perceptions from which a political understanding of the world emerges”; with apparent approval, he stated that the film’s closing scenes depicted Che “as a quasi-holy figure, turning away from the corruptions of the world toward a higher purpose.” Some understanding! Some purpose!

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The real Che

At least Roger Ebert didn’t join in the cheering. “Che Guevara,” he wrote, “makes a convenient folk hero for those who have not looked very closely into his actual philosophy, which was repressive and authoritarian….He said he loved the people but he did not love their freedom of speech, their freedom to dissent, or their civil liberties. Cuba has turned out more or less as he would have wanted it to.” Jessica Winter of The Village Voice agreed, noting that the film “politely overlook[ed]” Che’s “totalitarian leanings” and served up hackneyed images of “noble” peasants and “plucky lepers” who in shot after shot “face the camera in a still life of heroic, art-directed suffering.” (The Milagro Beanfield Wars does exactly the same thing.) While the filmmakers didn’t so much as hint that its glamorous hero would go on to become a psychopathic killing machine, they did manage to slam the CIA in the closing credits.

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Aleida Guevara

In January 2004, Redford went to Cuba to screen The Motorcycle Diaries for Che’s widow, Aleida, and their children. Aleida pronounced it “excellent.” While Redford was there, Fidel Castro dropped in to see him at the Hotel Nacional. It wasn’t their first meeting: the movie star and the dictator had gone scuba-diving together 16 years earlier, and according to some reports, which described them as “friends,” had met several times – a fact that didn’t exactly endear Redford to the Cuban exile community in the U.S.

And what’s Redford’s latest? We’ll talk about that one next time.

Robert Redford: glamorizing totalitarians

rrSince starting this site, we’ve talked about several of Hollywood’s most reprehensible stooges. But we’ve given short shrift to Robert Redford.

He’s been acting since 1960. He was the #1 money-making star for three years in a row in the 1970s; he’s won an Oscar for best director; he’s a top film producer; and he’s the founder and head honcho of the highly influential Sundance Film Festival.

In short, he’s got power. And he uses it. How? To churn out shrill propaganda films that betoken useful stoogery of the first order.

lionsTake The Milagro Beanfield War, a 1988 tale of heroic Mexican peasants and evil U.S. landowners – directed by Redford and starring John Heard – that was breathtakingly cliche-ridden and one-dimensional. Or Lions for Lambs (2007), a numbing talkfest about the War on Terror, directed by Redford and starring him, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise, that the left-wing Guardian‘s reviewer Peter Bradshaw called a “muddled and pompous” dose of “fence-sitting liberal agony” and “injured sensitivity” that “gives liberalism such a bad name that on leaving the cinema, I felt like going out and getting a nude study of [right-wing editor] Norman Podhoretz tattooed on my inner thigh.”

The_Company_You_Keep_posterThen there’s The Company You Keep (2013), also helmed by Redford, which glamorized several aging former members of the Weather Underground, a Vietnam-era Maoist group that sought to bring down the U.S. with bombings, killings, kidnappings, mass imprisonment, and “re-education.” (The ex-terrorists were played by Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, and Redford himself.) Striking what the New York Times‘s Stephen Holden called “a scrupulously ethical balance in contemplating domestic terrorism” (what’s that supposed to mean?), the film was a morally reprehensible exercise in nostalgia for the ideologically rooted violence that marked “The Sixties” at their very worst. Redford freely admitted that back in the day he’d sympathized with this crew of creeps; after seeing the movie, Peter Collier, himself a recovered left-wing radical, asked a pointed question: “Weatherman was always radical, but how did it become chic? How did this group—proudly totalitarian in its day—get mainstreamed without ever having to undergo denazification? Why has it been allowed a rehabilitation without evincing at least a token of remorse?”

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The Weather Underground in its heyday

Deploring the film in the New York Post as a “rose-colored hagiography of bloodstained killers” that “defiles the memory of all those victimized by left-wing militants on American soil,” Michelle Malkin recalled the couple on whose story the movie was loosely based: 

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Boudin’s mug shot

In 1981, rich-kid Weathermen ideologues and lovers Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert joined forces with Black Liberation Army thugs and other ragtag commie revolutionaries to hold up an armored Brink’s vehicle in Nyack, NY….Two of the victims gunned down in the botched Brink’s robbery were police officers; one, a private security guard. All were veterans from working-class backgrounds….

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Boudin receives an academic award

Boudin and Gilbert were convicted and sent to prison. Prior to her arrest, she had been an 11-year fugitive from justice after an accidental homemade bomb explosion at her New York City townhouse resulted in the death of three people….Boudin was paroled in 2003 after convincing the parole board that she acted nobly out of “white guilt” to protest racism against blacks. Never mind that Waverly Brown was black.

Boudin, by the way, is now a professor in the School of Social Work at Columbia University; in 2013 she was also a Scholar-in-Residence at NYU Law School. (The useful stooges take care of one another.) 

These, then, are the kind of monsters whom Redford glamorizes in his films. Oh, and let’s not forget Che Guevara. We’ll get around to him next time.

Brainless actor fond of penniless country

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Glover and Harry Belafonte at a 2009 cultural event in Havana

As we saw the other day, movie star Danny Glover had a soft spot for late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez. If anything, however, Glover loves the Castros even more than he ever loved el caudillo. While routinely savaging Israel as an apartheid state and supporting the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement against the Jewish state, Glover fiercely opposed the U.S. embargo of Cuba. As the editors of the New York Post noted last December, there was, at least, no ideological contradiction here: Glover supports BDS because he hates the only democracy in the Middle East; he opposed the Cuba embargo, quite simply, “because he admires Havana’s Communist regime.”

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Glover accepting a prize in Havana

By all accounts, Glover has spent a remarkable amount of time in Cuba. According to the Washington Post, he “goes there all the time with little fuss.” He’s attended an annual Havana film festival several times.   In 2011 he accepted a “cinema award” in Havana;  in the same year he took part in a Havana event entitled “Cuba and the Afro-Descendant Peoples of the Americas.”

lethal[1]He’s made it clear that he sees Cuba as some kind of utopian society that’s free of, among other things, racism. In a 2012 interview with the Cuban state media, he gushed that the Cuban Revolution is infused with “an extraordinary will to find truth and to reveal the new human being, the new man and a new woman.” The official Cuban daily Granma has called the relationship between Glover and Havana “intense….It was love at first sight, and not only has it stood the test of his frequent visits, but it is growing deeper and deeper, through discoveries and affinities.”

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Paquito D’Rivera

Quoting this statement in his memoirs, the distinguished jazz musician Paquito D’Rivera – who fled Cuba after his musical style was condemned by the Castro regime as “imperialist” – wryly observes that “Castro’s black victims from Havana…haven’t been among [Glover’s] discoveries and affinities.” Listing the names of several black Cuban human-rights activists who’ve been imprisoned by the Castro regime, D’Rivera asks: “Has Danny Glover denounced the sentences perpetrated against these heroic black Cubans?…On the contrary, Glover’s solidarity is for the man who subjugates black Cubans.” Indeed, we’ve searched the Internet unsuccessfully for any indication that Glover has ever spoken up for any of the Cuban natives who’ve been incarcerated for criticizing their own government.

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Glover visiting Gerardo Hernández in prison

Glover was especially active in seeking the release of the so-called “Cuban Five” – a group of Cuban spies who were imprisoned in the U.S. for many years. (They’re now free.) The Cuban government itself admitted that they were spies, but this didn’t keep Glover from calling them “heroic men.” He became especially close to one of them, Gerardo Hernández, who’d also been convicted of conspiracy to commit murder (this for his involvement in the “shoot-down of unarmed civilian planes piloted by members of the Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue”). Glover visited Hernández frequently in prison, and described him as his “spiritual brother” and “one of the greatest people I ever met.”

This, then, is the real Danny Glover. And however many times you may see his name online preceded by the word “humanitarian,” just remember: it’s not exactly the mot juste.  

Danny Glover: lethally stupid

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Danny Glover, Hugo Chávez

We’ve devoted a certain amount of attention on this site to top-drawer Hollywood stooges like Sean PennRobert Redford, and Steven Seagal, but so far we’ve neglected to cover one of the most assiduous ones: Danny Glover, star of such films as The Color Purple and Lethal Weapon, and, um, Lethal Weapon 2, and – let’s see, what else? – oh, yes, Lethal Weapon 3 and Lethal Weapon 4. To read the most prominent sources, you’d think Glover is a prince of a guy. “He is an active supporter of various humanitarian and political causes,” reads his Wikipedia page. On IMDB, he’s identified as an “[a]ctor, producer and humanitarian.” On his own Facebook page he calls himself an “actor, producer, activist, and humanitarian”; the h-word is also front and center on his official website

Yet look beyond the PR and you’ll find that Glover’s outsized enthusiasm for despots makes some of his fellow Tinseltown tyrant-fans look almost irresolute by comparison.

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Danny Glover, Hugo Chávez

Let’s start with Venezuela. Glover was chummy with the late strongman Hugo Chávez for years: along with Harry Belafonte, Cornel West, and others, he met with the caudillo back in 2006. So close was he to Chávez that El Presidente actually set up financing for a couple of movies Glover planned to produce – one of them about Simón Bolívar, the other about Haitian rebel leader Toussaint L’Ouverture. (Neither of these films has yet materialized, although the latter is listed as forthcoming on Glover’s IMBD page.)

Glover’s love for the Caracas regime didn’t end with Chávez’s death. Last year, when a gang of the usual suspects, among them Oliver Stone and Tom Hayden, wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress expressing support for Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, Glover’s name led the list of signatories.

But Chávez isn’t the only dictator, alive or dead, with whom Glover’s been chummy. Guess who his other fave is? We’ll take a look at that friendship on Monday.  

 

Cubans vs. Obama

Since President Barack Obama announced the normalization of relations with the Communist government of Cuba, many conservative critics of the administration have attacked him severely.

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Marco Rubio

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, for example, wondered “what, if anything, has been achieved…in terms of securing the return of U.S. fugitives being harbored in Cuba, settling outstanding legal claims to U.S. citizens for properties confiscated by the regime, and in obtaining the unequivocal right of our diplomats to travel freely throughout Cuba and meet with any dissidents, and most importantly, securing greater political freedoms for the Cuban people.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner agreed: “The Obama administration is handing the Castros a lifetime dream of legitimacy without getting a thing for the Cuban people being oppressed by this brutal communist dictatorship…As I’ve said before, relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until Cubans enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner.”

(FILES) In this 04 September1999 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro discusses his request to the president of the International Olympic Committee in Havana for an investigation into the treatment of certain Cuban atheletes. Castro said the communist nation is not afraid of dialogue with the United States -- and not interested in continued confrontation with its powerful neighbor. The comments came as a group of US lawmakers visited Cuba this weekend to try to end nearly half a century of mutual distrust and amid reports that President Barack Obama was planning to ease economic sanctions on the island, including travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans. "We're not afraid to talk with the United States. We also don't need confrontation to exist, like some fools like to think," Castro, 82, said in an article on the Cubadebate website on April 5, 2009. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE /FILES (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images) Original Filename: Was672139.jpg
Fidel Castro

Now their voices have been joined by those of pro-democracy activists in Cuba itself, at leat 90 of whom were arrested at an August 9 protest against the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana. (One estimate puts the number at 118.) Several of the activists who took part in the protest were wearing masks of Obama – not because they support the American president, but, on the contrary, because they feel that Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba has led to an intensified crackdown on domestic critics of the Castro regime.

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Angel Moya Acosta

“It’s his [Obama’s] fault, what is happening,” charged Angel Moya Acosta, a prominent activist and former political prisoner who is the husband of Berta Soler, head of the anti-Castro group Ladies in White. Thanks to Obama’s action, claimed Moya, the Castro government “has grown even bolder….That’s why we have this mask on. Because it’s his fault.”

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 11: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about the Iran Deal on August 11, 2015 in New York City. The U.S. Congress has until September 17 to approve a bill either supporting or rejecting the deal. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
John Kerry

A spokesman for Secretary of State John Kerry, who is scheduled to open the embassy in Havana tomorrow (Friday the 14th), deplored the arrests but, when asked if Kerry planned to meet with dissidents during his visit to Cuba, fumfered unimpressively: “I don’t have anything specific with his — on his schedule Friday when he goes down to Havana. We’ll — we’ll — as we get closer to Friday, we’ll be able to give you more details about — about does it.” On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported – surprise! – that Cuban dissidents would not be invited to “Secretary of State John Kerry’s historic flag-raising at the U.S. Embassy in Havana on Friday, vividly illustrating how U.S. policy is shifting focus from the island’s opposition to its single-party government.” Kerry, added the AP, “intends to meet more quietly with prominent activists later in the day.” Key word: quietly. Arrange a meeting (in hopes, presumably, of muting their anti-Obama rhetoric), but don’t do anything that might win them Western media attention or help their cause.

Mind you, we’re not calling President Obama a useful stooge. But those pro-democracy activists in Cuba were certainly calling him precisely that.

Fortune cookies: U.S. colleges in China

ci2We’ve been looking at NYU, Yale, and other major U.S. universities that have sold their souls for Arab petrodollars. Another top source of dirty money for these schools’ ambitious, ethically challenged administrators is the People’s Republic of China, which sponsors so-called “Confucius Institutes” – centers for the study of Chinese language and culture – at around campuses in the U.S. The American host universities for these centers, as Shaun Tan has noted, “must sign a ‘memorandum of understanding’ endorsing the ‘one-China policy’ that precludes recognition of Taiwan as a state.” As Jim Sleeper wrote earlier this year, the Confucius Institutes

ci1sometimes muscle out American host universities’ own independent scholars on China, not only by offering them free Chinese language instruction but also by pressuring them to disinvite uncongenial speakers and cancel public discussions of “forbidden” topics, including Tibet, Taiwan, and Tiananmen. CI directors monitor the work and pronouncements not only of their own teaching staff but also of their nominal American colleagues, who, if they criticize China, may suddenly find it difficult to obtain visas to continue research there. The effect is to “intimidate and punish” scholars, Chinese and Western, who challenge Beijing’s agendas.

Tan recalls that when Chinese Premier Hu Jintao spoke at Yale, audience members weren’t allowed to ask questions and protesters were kept away from the site of his speech, lest he be inclined to “rethink his recent decision to allow Yale to be the first foreign university to trade on China’s heavily regulated stock market.”

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NYU-Shanghai

We’ve already seen how John Sexton, the simpering fool who runs NYU, has kowtowed to UAE sheiks in order to establish NYU-Abu Dhabi. But that’s only one chapter in the shameful history of Sexton’s selling out. In 2013, he also presided over the founding of an NYU branch campus in Shanghai. Sexton was plainly not troubled by China’s severe limitations on academic freedom. Indeed, he seems quite happy to help enforce them not only in China but in New York: in June 2013, Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng said Sexton’s administration had yanked his NYU fellowship and his Manhattan apartment in order to placate his former torturers in Beijing.

Earlier this year, notes Sleeper, China’s Education Minister forbade the country’s universities from using “textbooks promoting Western values…in our classes” or permitting classroom “remarks that slander the leadership of the Communist Party of China” or “smear socialism.” How can any university worthy of the name operate under such restrictions?

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Xia Yeliang

Then there’s the Xia Yeliang incident. In October 2013, Xia, an economics professor at Peking University (PKU), was fired, apparently in retaliation for his “outspoken” opinions. Members of the faculty at Wellesley College, which had just signed a deal with PKU, wrote a letter of protest to that university’s president, calling the dismissal “such a fundamental violation of academic freedom” that they “would find it very difficult to engage in scholarly exchanges with Peking University.” Impressive. But Wellesley, alas, was the exception that proved the rule. As Peter Ford reported in the Christian Science Monitor, almost fifty American institutions of higher education had deals with PKU at the time of Xia’s firing, but only two (the other was the University of Virginia) spoke up about it.

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Susan Reverby

What does it mean for us to rent our reputation abroad?” asked Wellesley history prof Susan Reverby. “At what point does one side go over a line that the partner organization does not think should be crossed?” Sleeper, noting that Stanford University “has a $7 million center at Peking University,” quoted Stanford dean Richard Saller‘s less-than-stirring statement on Xia’s dismissal: “We went into our relationship with Peking University with the knowledge that American standards of academic freedom are the product of 100 years of evolution. We think engagement is a better strategy than taking such moral high ground that we can’t engage with some of these universities.” (Translation: ka-ching!)

And Xia himself? He told Ford that fifteen years earlier the administrators of PKU “thought they should listen to the West….But today so many famous universities want to cooperate with PKU…[that] they think they can set the rules.” On that point, the folks at PKU would seem to be entirely correct.