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Monday, July 31, 2006

Making the world safe for dictatorship

The best example of Communist China's cold war with the democratic world is its near-obsessive drive to preserve the world's most brutal and cruel dictatorships, such as Zimbabwe (fourth item) and, of course, the mullahcracy that imprisons Iran.  However, the Communists have also resorted to carving out chunks of northern Korea to prevent the peninsula from becoming free, democratic, and whole.

The conventional wisdom holds that moves like the above are part of a pre-emptive strike against future Korean claims to old Manchuria.  Perhaps this is so, but I suspect something more sinister: the annexation of northern Korea should Kim Jong-il's regime start to lose control, or lose its value as "bad cop" to Beijing's "good cop."  Sadly, the Communists have played the "good cop" role so well that annexation would likely bring relief to the uninformed observer - save for Koreans, who would be unable to avoid the reality that half of its country is still under foreign occupation.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on July 31, 2006 in International Affairs | Permalink


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Disney Exec Backs Mel
But will the rest of Hollywood follow along?
By Kim Masters
Posted Monday, July 31, 2006, at 2:00 PM ET
Are we really surprised at Mel Gibson's drunken anti-Semitic outburst last week? After his wink-wink Holocaust denials in the past? Probably not. The question is whether Hollywood will continue to countenance him. Disney is set to release his next movie; Oren Aviv, the new head of the Disney film studio, says he is prepared to forgive and forget.

For those who might not remember, Gibson's father is a Holocaust denier, and Gibson, pressed on the subject before the opening of The Passion of the Christ, said Dad had never lied to him in his life.

He also offered some choice Holocaust-denier code talk: Many people died in World War II and some of them were Jews. And we've heard that he didn't quite take the Jewish blood-curse language out of his movie—just the English subtitle. Since our dead languages are rusty, fact-checking this is tricky. God knows if it's true, if you know what we mean. Gibson's publicist, Alan Neirob, declined to offer any enlightenment on the matter.



Gibson has apologized for his recent outburst and said he didn't mean what he said (which was, among other niceties, "Fucking Jews … The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world"). And of course, he was drunk. Certainly in our own limited experience with inebriation, we've never found ourselves inclined to articulate opinions utterly foreign to us. Given Gibson's Holocaust-denying history, it's hard to argue that he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Even in his apology, Gibson fudged. "I am deeply ashamed of everything I said, and I apologize to anyone who I have offended," he said. "Also, I take this opportunity to apologize to the deputies involved for my belligerent behavior." We can see that Gibson had a lot of ground to cover here—he threatened to get one cop fired and called another "sugar tits." But still—he can single out a few deputies for an apology without a word for millions of Jews? Asked why Gibson didn't address his slurs directly, publicist Nierob offered a bold "No comment."

Disney is set to release Gibson's Apocalypto in December—the same Disney that recently announced plans to slash its staff and its production slate while it pursues more family-oriented movies worthy of the company brand. Certainly Apocalypto won't be one of those, as it deals with human sacrifice and the bloody fate of the Mayan people. You can be sure the subject has provided Gibson ample opportunity to indulge his well-established appetite for gore.

Aviv, who recently ascended to head of the Disney film studio, happens to be a committed member of the tribe that Gibson seems to blame for everything. It is well-known in Hollywood that Aviv stopped speaking to director Michael Mann in the weeks before the release of The Insider because Mann was rude and disrespectful. In fact, there are those who say that Aviv vowed never to work with Mann again. We asked Aviv whether he might also be annoyed by anti-Semitic invective and received the following statement:

"The rumored incident in regards to Michael Mann happened over seven years ago … it's behind us. He's a talented director and I respect his body of work. I've worked with Mel on several films over the years and we have a great relationship. We all make mistakes and I've accepted his apology to what was a regrettable situation. I wish him the very best on his path to healing."

Perhaps Aviv is showing greatness of spirit here. But while we're on the subject of fudging, note that he doesn't say he would work with Mann again, talented or not.

Will the rest of Hollywood follow Disney's lead? Some in the industry vowed not to work with Gibson after his earlier performance: Dances With Facts About the Holocaust. Yet when the big Passion grosses rolled in, many couldn't wait to embrace him. It's a business that will forgive just about anything if the hits keep coming.

Some in Hollywood argue that artists must be forgiven their excesses. Even after Roman Polanski went on the lam after he was charged with drugging and sodomizing a child, many in Hollywood's top ranks were prepared to welcome him back. And these are not simple questions. How many Gauguin canvases would you give up if the artist in exchange didn't abandon his wife and five children and knocked up fewer young girls in the Third World? What if you were responsible for chatting Gauguin up as you financed and promoted his disease-spreading adventures? Once you've got all that figured out, how do you think Mel Gibson stacks up as an artist against Gauguin, and what bargain would you make there?

Back to more tangible concerns. One prominent producer says he already has an idea to help Disney maximize its gains on the upcoming Gibson Apocalypto by launching a new theme-park attraction. "You get in a speeding car," he suggests, "while a hologram of a drunken Mel Gibson follows you shouting 'Fucking Jew!' "

Posted by: woodbridge | 2006-07-31 12:47:34 PM

My dear Woodbridge. You are skating on thin ice, sir. Your comment is way too long, it is off topic, and you didn't even write it yourself. While it is the case that only two or three posters have been dewelcomed here, it's not the case that the number is zero.

It does seem clear to me that enough of the folks at the Shotgun are getting quite tired of various forms of anti-social behaviour that some folks have been promulgating, enough so that anyone who wants to egregiously keep up with that sort of thing might find themselves under a campaign that would eventually result in slightly raising that small number.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 1:07:15 PM

As I do not know Mr. Gibson I cannot say if he likes, dislikes or is indifferent to Jews, and I do not accept a face value everything reported from or about Hollywood. Also I would like to point out that it was not all Jews who condemned his movie. All the religious Jews I know did not agree with the ADL cry of it being anti-Semitic. This came from our secular leftist camp and did not represent the Jewish community. These are the same who see all conservatives/right-wingers, practising Christians as the biggest danger while buying into Islam being a religion of peace. Go figure. I cannot explain them, but I do not have to agree with them.

Back to the topic unless the communist regime in China falls, she will remain a serious problem. I realize that most are of the belief that free trade is the answer, since it will gradually force the government to become democratic. Perhaps they are right, but I do not see any signs of it. What has resulted however is that China now has a strong pro-China lobby throughout the West due to businesses falling over themselves to cash in on the Chinese market. Only time will tell if this approach works.

Posted by: Alain | 2006-07-31 4:15:22 PM

As I've mentioned in other threads here lately, I think that the most important characteristic of what we might call modern civilization (or western civilization, but which is really an accumulation of 10,000 years of best social practices), is that it tends to be desireable to people who are aware of it.

In that light, given that China has now embraced some parts of this accumulated tradition, to what degree will their elites be able to prevent the other parts from leaking out into the desireous polity?

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 4:41:22 PM

Wait, how can it be wrong for China to do the same thing America has done for decades with nary a peep out of you?

Consistently decry America and China's support of brutal dictatorships and you'll have some credibility on the issue.

Posted by: Hypocrite | 2006-07-31 4:54:05 PM

Your conjecture would perhaps be interesting, Hypocrite, if America had been a bastion of the disasters of statist socialist totalitarianism, or, for example, had ever produced a Mao, but it hasn't.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 4:58:10 PM

"Consistently decry America and China's support of brutal dictatorships and you'll have some credibility on the issue."

Or Trudeau's support of Castro. Or France's support of, well, France. ...

Or the Allies support of the USSR in WWII. Oops, there goes Godwin's law.

What's your point? That once a nation has supported a dictator in the past they are forever forbidden from fighting despotism today?

Curious thing I noticed though. Countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and Chile with less than stellar records on freedom in the past are doing relatively well today. They transformed under guidance and pressure from the US. I can't same the same for Vietnam, Cuba, and Iran once they left the US fold.

It is an unfortunate reality that sometimes a nation has to work with bad people in order to take out worse people.

Of the Iran/Iraq war, it was once said
"It's a pity they both can't lose."

Adults sometimes need to make hard choices.

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2006-07-31 5:43:47 PM

Even worse Vitruvius, America is responsible for prime incubators of radical Islam like Saudi Arabia. It has produced people like Osama bin Ladin. In political circles, we refer to this phenomenon as "blowback".

And who said anything about America's support for dictatorships being limited to the past? It has gone on for decades and continues to this day. However, as this violates a fundamental tenet of your ideology, feel free to dismiss it as "conjecture".

As for h2o273kk9, not all conservatives believe that the enemy of our enemy is our friend (mainly due to that blowback problem again). It's terrible to see conservatives excuse in America the same kind of behaviour they castigate China for.

Posted by: Hypocrite | 2006-07-31 6:20:07 PM

I disagree with your equivalences, Hypocrite.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 6:26:48 PM

I believe OBL was a product of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and then he just got really stupid.

As for my ideology, I believe Ian has a few words for this kind of insight..."projection" or "fantasy".

Yep, blowback is a risk. Doing nothing is a risk. You are right, we should be castigating the US for supporing Stalin during WWII.

When the US goes off the rails, they have a raucous political debate of the merits, crimes, etc. to stabilize the ship again.

Saudi Arabia is a problem. More needs to be done. They can't invade every country and fix nor should they. Nor can they just cut off aid and diplomatic relations. I refer you to South Vietnam after aid was cut.

I can't say that they don't make mistakes. Some are even for selfish reasons. I try to keep my eye on the results decades down the road, however. Again, South Korea, Taiwan, and Chile.

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2006-07-31 6:35:47 PM

On the comment about ideology, I realize it may not have been directed at me. Please ignore my response.

I brought up Iran/Iraq war for a reason, there were two brutal dictatorships at each others throats. Unfortunately, it was in the middle of a vital natural resource the world (not just the US) needs for every day survival and in a region where the winner might dominate the region and who knows what mischief they would generate.

Add to that the spectre of the Soviet shark circling nearby in Afghanistan waiting to acquire warm water ports for their navy and control oil supplies to the world.

I believe the US had to act. How they should have acted is fair game in my mind.

This is just one example. I'm sure we can find others where the US was just wrong, wrong, wrong.

On balance, I support the US where warranted when presented with geopolitical realities.

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2006-07-31 6:52:11 PM


Osama was not "produced" by the U.S. The US wrote the checks for the Afghan anti-Communist resistance and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan directed the money.

Now, if you want to criticize the US for (a) delegating too much to Pakistan and SA, or (b) working with either in the first place, I would say you have a point.

In 1941, when the U.S. made its alliance with Saudi Arabia, it made some sense. Today, what with the Saudis habit of sending its dissidents abroad with lots of $$$ to keep them away from the Royal Family (this is what they did with Osama in the 1990s), it doesn't make as much sense to me.

And if you want to rip us (I'm an American) for cozying up to Pervez Musharraf, I say Bravo!

Even so, for the U.S., these are exceptions to the rule. For Communist China, backing dictators is the rule. That was my point, and it still holds.

Posted by: D.J. McGuire | 2006-07-31 8:03:51 PM

References on the basis of current situation, mean nothing in retrospect to decisions that were made during the cold war period.

Cold war decisions, made sense, in relation to combatting communism. Too bad, that in retrospection, the knowledge of the situation was not known, in relation to what is known now, or what was known well before the cold war period, and forgotten, or ignored, due to shoddy leadership.

Posted by: Lady | 2006-08-01 2:17:45 PM

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