Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Power That Dare Not Speak Its Name

I was going to write about this, but my old friend J.J. Goldberg beat me to it. And he said it all much better than I could have.

The gist of it is that, this past week, Oliver Stone was pilloried, and then forced to apologize - multiple times - for saying that:

(a) Hitler was not created holus bolus ex nihilo, but had powerful backers who were willing to overlook his antisemitism, because they found him useful in combating communism and socialism, and in advancing their economic interests,

(b) That Jews in America have worked hard to give the memory of the Holocaust a high public profile,

(c) That Jews in America are very influential in general,

(d) That the Israel Lobby is very effective, and

(e) That the Israel Lobby has fucked up American policy in the Middle East.

All of these statements, except the last one, are undeniably true and completely obvious to any honest person who is paying attention. The last one is a matter of opinion. I for one think that America is perfectly capable of fucking up its own policy without any Jewish help, but that the Israel lobby has helped by cheering it on.

But the irony of the situation is that Stone's main sin, in the eyes of his many Jewish critics, was in naming Jewish influence. And they used that very influence to force him to apologize, and are now threatening him with further sanction.

Truly - The Power That Dare Not Speak Its Name.

But J.J. said all this better than I. You can read his article here.

By the way, Stone's comments about Hitler and the Israel Lobby, were almost a complete aside at the end of an interview that focused on many other topics. This makes the resulting Jewish hysteria even harder to justify. Here is the text of that interview, which originally appeared in the London Times.

* * *

Oliver Stone’s face is 2 in from mine, voice low, husky and burning hot, telling me about the time he killed a man, “in Vietnam, near the beach, a messed- up, very confusing situation”, he says, chain glinting, tache bristling, “hard to get orders, and then a little fellow pops up out of a spider hole, right in the middle, like, ‘Hi’.

“He could open fire, and then I’d open fire and we’d hit each other. You have a choice. I took a shot, threw a grenade right in the hole. BANG!” He died? “Yeah, he died.” He gives that rakish, gap-toothed grin. “I’ve got a good lob.”

The director of Platoon, Wall Street, JFK and Natural Born Killers, Stone starts to continue, “I was wounded twice, hit in the neck and the legs and the ass . . .” but we are suddenly interrupted by the tour guide, Rosie, a slightly fried, museum-and-scones type in Laura Ashley hues who has been hired by Stone to take him, his Korean wife Jung and daughter Tara “to do Lulworth, Stonehenge and Bath all in one afternoon”, she gasps, but it’s 2pm and we haven’t moved from outside his hotel yet. So if Stone wants “LUNCH”, as he says he does, he needs to get shifting.
“Let’s move this army forward,” hollers Stone, 63, so off we trot, me, Tara and Jung, with Stone leading the way, somewhere between Jack Sparrow and Hunter S Thompson, weaving and gabbing on the phone, surreptitiously checking out skirt.

So much so that I can’t help but ask him about an incident last week in which he told a journalist at a press conference to promote his new documentary, South of the Border, that he liked her red bra. “Oh yeah, that got around,” says the notorious philanderer (Stone has been married three times but famously regards the state of matrimony as a “cultural defect”), “but she was wearing a see-through blouse, very visible, like a Lady Gaga gag. So I said, ‘Are you a protester?’, and she said, ‘Yes’. Actually, a very intelligent woman.”

We sweep into a noodle bar. “You have a quiet table?” he asks, as a boy in the corner mouths, “Oh my God, is that Oliver Stone?”

“Yeah, yeah,” mutters Stone, “probably wondering what I’m doing in a f****** joint like this,” and he sits down, urgently distributes menus, saying “Okay, dim sum, honey, dim sum, don’t ask, just order . . .” So his wife orders almost everything on the menu, whereupon Stone looks taken aback and says, “She eats like a HORSE!” He pauses. Pffs. “Thank GOD she doesn’t look like one.”

He has decided to “get out of London” and recover after an intense week promoting his new documentary about Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, but obviously he is still full of it, chatting away about the storm it’s caused in the United States, anti-American “propaganda, blah blah blah”.

“The critics will always pick things apart,” he says of a particularly scathing review that pointed out a few inaccuracies. Even though he pretends to be used to these “ugly mentions”, in fact he is highly emotional about his films: when his 14-year-old daughter says her friends back in Los Angeles aren’t quite aware of his work, preferring instead to watch things such as High School Musical, or “BULLSHIT”, as Stone calls it, he shouts, “I don’t care! They’re a bunch of ignorant people!”

In fact, he is still smarting from the reception his 2004 film Alexander received, an experience he now calls “heartbreaking”. But he is excited because he now — finally — has a better cut, an even longer one, at “3 hours 45”, he enthuses. “With an intermission.” Gawd.

Stone’s output has always been prolific. On top of his films, he has done a number of documentaries and was recently granted access to the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He describes America’s attitude to Iran as “horrible”. “Iran isn’t necessarily the good guy” — his incongruously dark eyebrows shoot up — “but we don’t know the full story!”

He has also done films on Palestine and Fidel Castro, who put Chavez onto him, in fact, “because he liked Comandante. I made two documentaries with Castro ... actually three — I have a third one coming out. So Castro had been pleased and Chavez had seen them and liked them; also loved Platoon, likes action movies. By his own admission he’s a Charles Bronson fan”, he grins.

Stone immediately identified with the socialist Venezuelan president: “a brave, blunt, earthy” man and a former soldier, too. When he met him in the jungle in Colombia at the start of 2008, around the time of negotiations with Farc (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) over the release of a French woman and other hostages, Stone was preoccupied with other projects, including W, an examination of George W Bush, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the follow-up to his 1987 masterpiece, as well as “my biggest project, a 10-hour documentary about the secret history of America”, he says, so he couldn’t slot Chavez in.

Iran isn’t necessarily the good guy — his incongruously dark eyebrows shoot up — but we don’t know the full story! But spurred on by all the “negative news reports coming out of North America”, he returned to Venezuela in 2009 and followed Chavez on a road trip, visiting a clutch of other Latin American leaders, “seven presidents in six countries, on-the-fly work, really a conversation . . .”

Anyway, he smooshed it all together in a matter of months, and here it is, a “political road trip”. Others have called it a “vanity project” and “fawning”. Is it at all balanced, I ask. Chavez doesn’t have a terrific record on human rights.

“The internet’s fully free there,” he says. “You can say what the hell you like. Compare it with all the other countries: Mexico, Guatemala, above all Colombia, which is a joke. ”

He admits, “There is a section of the Chavista party that is over the top; they’re the worst. But they have problems from the old governance, inherited shit . . .” He shrugs. “There’s a lot of broken plates.”

He has always been suspicious of “the elite in the West” and delights in any chinks in its armour. Last week, for example, he was thrilled that “the Clegg guy” spoke up about Iraq. “They should make him f****** prime minister,” he says.

Let’s not forget that he was originally one of the elite himself, the son of a philandering New York stockbroker, the model for Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko (and the man who bought Stone his first prostitute at 16). His mother is French.

“That’s true,” he says. “I was in Bush’s class at Yale; although I never crossed his path, I think I know the mentality of him.”

Stone dropped out because “I just knew I didn’t belong there”. Instead he went to Vietnam, flying out on his 21st birthday. He joined the infantry “on purpose at the lowest level, to be like everyone else”.

Vietnam was “horrible, ugly” — a traumatic episode that later bore cinematic fruit: Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July and Heaven & Earth. He won Oscars for Platoon and Born. He had already won one for his Midnight Express screenplay.

Other personal experiences went into other films. Scarface, Brian De Palma’s epic about Cuban drug-dealing in Miami, was written by Stone, whose love of drugs is well documented — he was last arrested for possession of an illegal substance in 2005, and back in the early 1980s he had an enormous cocaine habit.

“Ah, that was a dangerous drug,” he says now. “I did go ... off shore there. Those were the days I got coked-up to do the research. To talk to these people, you have to be on it, know their world.” So he’d gone down to Bimini in the Bahamas and checked into a hotel. Late one night he was “researching” with three “mid-management heavies”, he says, “and, uh, I said something that made them think I was an undercover, so they froze. They went into the bathroom for three or four minutes; I thought I was a dead man, because these guys KILL undercovers. Actually, they don’t kill! You know what they do? They cut their throats out. They used to do the Colombian necktie, hearda that? Cut your throat, take your tongue and pull it through the neck!”

Was he concerned? “Yeah, I was concerned! My wife was there.”

In the event he escaped unscathed, but “I didn’t sleep very well. I was scared. The chainsaw scene came out of that”, he says, referring to Scarface’s iconic scene when a man is hacked to pieces in a shower with a chainsaw.

I find it interesting that Stone can at once take the moral high ground and glamorise controversial issues such as drugs, killing and money, the subject of Wall Street. “Yeah, money is glamorous,” he says, “but I’m not making a judgment. I’m living inside the character. Some people said I made Bush sympathetic. No, I was empathetic. I got in his shoes. I do it from inside.”

He constantly researches, thinks, reads: at one point he even asks me if I can do him a favour and help with the “Israelis and the bomb”, after a recent conversation he had with Ken Livingstone in which the former London mayor suggested that the British knew that Israel had the bomb “as early as the 1950s”. “Could you go into the archive at The Sunday Times and see if you can find anything about the British being involved with a shipment of heavy water . . .” he says, dropping his voice. Sure, I say.

His next task, the leviathan Secret History of America, tackles received versions of events in the last century, an extension, perhaps, of what he did in 1991’s JFK, when he suggested that the president’s assassination was in fact a high-level conspiracy. The 10-part documentary will address Stalin and Hitler “in context”, he says. “Hitler was a Frankenstein but there was also a Dr Frankenstein. German industrialists, the Americans and the British. He had a lot of support.”
He also seeks to put his atrocities in proportion: “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30m.”

Why such a focus on the Holocaust then? “The Jewish domination of the media,” he says. “There’s a major lobby in the United States. They are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years.”

I notice that Tara is listening intently. Does she always agree with her father? She has managed to say, “Yes, I do,” before her father shouts, “You shouldn’t! You should look at the other side!”
“I know,” she sighs. “But I’ve been, like, sooo brainwashed.”


Anonymous Eric said...

But Syd, Stone has always manipulated facts to a conspiratorial bent--look at the spin in his movies

9:37 pm  
Blogger Sydney Nestel said...

Yes - and that is precisely why his comments are not antisemitic. He sees conspiracies everywhere. He is not singling out Jews.

And in this case there really has been a concerted Jewish effort to make the world remember the Holocaust. And there really is a Jewish effort to affect U.S. policy on the mid east. So the one time Stone is right, is not the time to call him wrong and blackball him.

11:40 pm  

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