Saturday, May 19, 2007

Taking Liberties 9/11

Over the last few weeks I’ve had several beery, caffeine and tobacco fueled chats with small groups of people who have expressed a shared sense of frustration about the behaviour of our government and the limited opportunities there are to legally and peacefully express that frustration and do something to change things...

  • You could attend some demos and waste your time annoying some rank and file policemen who probably love the current government no more than you do

  • You could write a blog but that’s essentially a passive occupation and one that will never reach the majority of people who simply don’t read blogs

  • You could hand out leaflets, file Freedom of Information requests, lobby and heckle media outlets to publish material that might wake a few people up.

    However, once again, even if you have some success you are unlikely to penetrate the skulls of the majority of people who are much more preoccupied with what they believe to be more important or more interesting things...

‘I know! Why not make a commercially-distributed feature film about the bad things that are happening in this country!’

Good thinking

And, as luck would have it, somebody has.

It’s called ‘Taking Liberties’ and the now mandatory attempt at a web-based viral campaign is underway...

including a Film Makers blog. A blog which includes the line…

“Though the death threats and accusations of us all being Hard Let/Hard Right/MI5 Agents are starting to trickle through”

It can’t be much of a trickle as I’m having real trouble finding anything on-line to that effect.

Hmmm, tempting…

I’ll pass on making any death threats, that’s not my style, and I haven’t actually seen the film, so levelling specific accusations of insecurity force involvement would be unreasonable and a little bit mental. There are, however, already grounds for caution as far as participating in the viral marketing of this movie or pointing people towards it without having seen it

Reasons why the old spider-sense is already tingling -

A glittering galaxy of celebrity gobshites…

The movie features the same old shower of ineffective tools of the state-funded, state-endorsed opposition; Titans of civil liberties such as Tony Benn, Shami Chakrabarti and Boris Johnson. The kind of people who already have copious access to newsprint and airwaves and have achieved precisely fuck all in the way of preventing the encroachment of authoritarian government in the UK over the last 10 years. Their only real achievement has been to fill a void that might otherwise have been occupied by someone with something genuinely challenging or constructive to say.

So, why anyone in their right mind would be expected to fork out eight quid and give up a Saturday night to watch more of the same useless bollocks eludes me.

"Shami Chakrabountybarti has been the director of Liberty since September 2003. After graduating from the London School of Economics, Chakrabarti worked as a barrister at the Home Office, before joining Liberty on 10 September 2001. She spent the following two years campaigning against the anti-terrorist measures which followed the 9/11 attacks in the USA, such as ATCSA, and is a prominent opponent of recent counter-terrorism legislation. She is a frequent contributor to BBC Radio 4 and to The Independent newspaper on the topic of human rights and civil liberties." - I had an interesting chat with a friend of mine yesterday who has direct personal experience of the kind of solid, 'effective' campaigning Shami has been engaged in, in the context of this story about 'sword and cudgel' brandishing peace protestors - it would be nice if that friend recorded her experience on-line at some point - you know who you are... ;-)

The marketing of the movie stinks of Michael Moore, tastes like Michael Moore, is Michael Moore…

Looking at the promo poster for 'Taking Liberties' for the first time I couldn’t help but be struck by how much it looked like publicity material for some awful piece of mainstream Hollywood tat. Some of the tag lines floating about reinforce that feeling. You know, guff like this...

‘You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! Robin Williams is The Ringtone Revolutionary. The unconventional civil liberties activist with a heart of gold’

Experience tells me that any movie which shamelessly describes itself as ‘Hilarious’ or ‘The most important film of the decade’ is highly unlikely to be anything of the sort.

The feeling of déjà vu was so strong I decided to click around a little to see exactly which other poster the ‘Taking Liberties’ poster reminded me of. I must have been lucky because it only took one click

Oh yes, Fahrenheit 9/11. And it only took a little more clicking to establish that ‘F9/11’ and ‘Taking Libertiesshare a producer.

Well, fuck me sideways. What a small world it is.

And I have seen F9/11

The movie that was going to swing the last US Presidential election from the war-mongering Republican to the anti-war (sic.) Democratic party. The movie that explained that 9/11 happened because a) George Bush is an idiot and b) the Saudis did it.

I’ve met a few people who have actually thought F9/11 was quite good; right up until I gave a couple of examples of why it is not. My favourite being the coverage of Bush’s behaviour in that Florida school on the morning of 9/11. Moore plays the scene as if Bush is a bumbling fool paralyzed by indecision. What Moore doesn’t ask, effectively misdirecting the viewer in the process, is why Bush’s security team didn’t whisk him out of the room as soon as they heard about the first, or even the second, WTC strike...

Moore’s entire film is a work of misdirection and somehow manages to spend 2 hours talking about 9/11 without actually addressing any of the serious questions arising from that day. Which is a major achievement in itself.

And on the subject of Michael Moore, I’d like to direct trivia fans to the part of his Wikibio that talks about the making of his first film Roger and Me...

“Moore was largely taught the craft of film making by his cinematographer Kevin Rafferty, who is ironically also a first cousin of President George W. Bush“

Ironic is not the word I would have used in that context

Taking Liberties totally misses the point (probably)

OK, not having seen the movie this is a speculative concern but I’d put money on this being the case.

One purpose for which Michael Moore’s movies such as F9/11 and Bowling for Columbine are genuinely useful for is as learning tools for the study of how people are wanked-off by faux opposition. In the case of F9/11, Moore employs two techniques in particular; heaping as much blame as possible on an expendable puppet idiot (Bush) and misdirecting the audience through acts of omission…

And lo and behold, who features prominently on the ‘Taking Liberties’ poster?

None other than Tony Blair

Given that the film is scheduled for general release on 8th June and Blair is leaving office on the 27th that yields a shelf-life for presumably one of the central themes of the movie of precisely 19 days.

You couldn’t make it up

One of the depressing aspects of the opposition to the erosion of civil liberties in this country over the last ten years is how so many people on the Left have kidded themselves that what has happened is some kind of Blair-specific aberration. Once Blair leaves, so the fantasy goes, everything will be just fucking peachy and life will somehow return to normal.

This fantasy doesn’t square with reality. Blair didn’t vote for That War on his own and the same bunch of elected turds who voted for That War have just voted, amongst many other shameful votes, to exclude themselves from Freedom of Information legislation.

Admittedly, I’m not being entirely fair on all Labour supporters. Given that the Labour Party has lost half its membership over the last few years, a good number of people on the Left clearly have twigged to what’s going on and presumably understand that it’s not a Blair-specific issue.

(And I’m not invoking any conspiracy theories here but there really is something quite creepy about how so many of the decent, senior Labour MPs who could have replaced or challenged Blair (or Brnwoown) have died, Omen-style, over the years)

Even if you kid yourself that we retain the democratic tools that enable us to ultimately vote out the worst offenders, that still wouldn’t be enough. So much of our critical national infrastructure, including our security infrastructure, has been handed over to quasi-autonomous or privately controlled organisations, beyond public scrutiny or account, that it simply defies rational belief that it is all down solely to Blair and his immediate circle or that the direction our government is pursuing will change once Blair leaves.

The system is fundamentally broke but don’t expect anyone speaking to a mainstream audience to address crucial questions such as ‘Who is benefiting from this?’, ‘How are they exercising their influence?’, ‘What can we do to stop it?

But the real killer omission I’m expecting from ‘Taking Liberties’, the omission that will have many viewers leaving the film with a nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right but they’re not quite sure what, is the fundamental failure by all corporate- and state-permitted opposition to tackle the central issue that drives so much of the repression our government is carrying out in our name…

If people continue to genuinely believe that the UK is infested with hundreds of terror cells comprised of thousands of highly trained, well-funded, suicidally motivated lunatics with access to nuclear and biological weapons, lunatics who want to kill as many people as possible simply because they live in a free country, then no-one is going to care a flying fuck about civil liberties

(though, obviously, neutering the terrorists' core motivation by cunningly making your country less free is an intriguing proposition)

I believe that, if not entirely a state-creation, there is absolutely no doubt that the terror threat is being cynically exaggerated to serve political agendas. There is also a real risk, and there are signs that this is indeed happening, that the War on Terror will become a self-realising myth. If you kick people long enough, particularly people who believe in something, they will kick back.

Not one fucker permitted mainstream opportunities to talk about the erosion of civil liberties will touch this issue with a barge-pole. Unless someone does, this civil liberties thing will, to put it bluntly, continue to be viewed by the vast majority of people as being a theoretical concern of a few chattering middle-class Whiteboys and a bunch of chippy Pakis who have no-one to blame except for people of their own kind

And that’s the sad truth

I know at least a few people out there share the feelings I had on 7/7 and the days that followed it. Without wanting to sound melodramatic, something profoundly Evil was unleashed that day and I’m not talking about Islamic terrorism.

I really hope that ‘Taking Liberties’ tackles that Evil head on. I honestly do. But I won’t be holding my breath.



Bridget Dunne said...

Michael Moore uuugh, and the lastest stunt to make him appear sooooo controversial is the claim that he could be imprisoned for going to Cuba for his new film 'Sicko'. Anyone who caught the Cannes press conference for his Sicko film may do well to ask is MM the real Sicko here?

"In the most Moore-esque stunt, the filmmaker takes a team of sick 9/11 rescue workers -- uninsured, as they are not on the government payroll -- to the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The prisoners held there, suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, get state-of-the-art medical treatment. The filmmaker says he wants the rescue workers to get ``the same health care as al-Qaeda detainees."

As for the feeling of something profoundly evil unleashed into the world after 7/7, this Rumi quote sums it up for me:

Whenever a feeling of aversion comes into the heart of a good soul,
it's not without significance.
Consider that intuitive wisdom to be a Divine attribute,
not a vain suspicion:
the light of the heart has apprehended
intuitively from the Universal Tablet.

Great post Stef - your a good soul.

Shutter said...

3 words for Michael Moore and his views on the US healthcare system - to which On the basis of experience of both) would willingly surrender rather than our "free at the point of delivery" NHS ...
Calorie Controlled Diet.

Interestingly Michael Moore shares with that other Titan of the excoriating political documentary Borat AKA Sacha Baron Cohen,his agent limousine Liberal Ariel "Ari" Emanuel of the Endeavor Agency in Beverly Hills, California.

Ariel is of course the bro. of ex ballet dancer and merchant banker Rahm Emmanuel, Chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee - also the man who (allegedly) told Tony Blair when he was to appear with Clinton immediately after the Lewisnky scandal broke .. "This is important. Don't fuck it up,"

More here

You have to hand it to these guys, they get the sand to throw in your face,they do it with good timing.

What's the odds on a " Blair" the Movie - young man throws aside mega star career as rock singer to take up cause of the poor and oppressed, leaves the world of Fettes and Oxford behind, struggles at the bar defending the poor against the rich ... US Presidents scheme to become his friend , between them they ....
Bomb the Balkans etc ....

paul said...

There could be some very moving moments as the saucer eyed ingenue claws his way up from public school. I'd love to see the episode where he gets tapped up by the secret services to 'keep an eye on this cnd thingy'.

To think I used to view fettesians as effeminate posh twats when on my way to school. How could a young stripling foresee that these creatures would be our future overlords.

Fettes itself is a forbidding gothic pile, an exemplary choice for your eagerly awaited coffee table book on masonry and what they now call 'the built environment'.

paul said...

Here's the prototype city academy

This part of the film would appeal to harry potter fans, (ie every cunt in the world). They could thrill to scenes of twinkly eyed housemasters magically making their charges virginity disappear.

Stef said...


For some reason, as soon as I opened that picture my bottom clenched

Stef said...

@BD/S - thanks for the info on Moore, all new to me. As I have tried to make clear, the man is a god in my eyes and can do no wrong

paul said...

This film idea has so much potential, dr who fans could enjoy his time travelling antics as he goes back to watch alan milburn scoring for newcastle athletic (off a header from george best).

Die hard 2 fans could appreciate his stowaway adventure on a flight to the bahamas (no air marshals to blow his head off in those gentler times).

There's only one problem, how do we make it all believable?

paul said...

Fans of hard core pornography would enjoy the scene where the honorable member nails cherry 5 times in one night! Horror fans will gasp when the paper bag comes off her head at the end!

I think I better lie down now....

The Antagonist said...

Taking Liberties? Taking the fucking piss is more like it.

Too fucking little, ten -- no, twenty -- years too fucking late and, guess what, it doesn't and won't wash.

Everybody's already had enough of hearing how they have no rights left, no freedoms, and no laws to protect them from the State and Corporatist Capitalist machinery that consumes the lives of men, women and children like they're going out of fashion.

Trot out all the usual suspects, the same tired-old, hang-dog, withered faces who have done precisely fuck all to stop any of this coming about in favour of filling the world with more hot air than it ever needed, manufacture some hype, get some PRopagandists to spin a turd for the little that it's worth, and you can bet your bottom, worthless dollar, pound, or currency of choice, that 'political bloggers' who know precisely fuck all about politics will wet their pants with excitement and idiocy in equal measures.

The revolution will not be televised, but you can at least watch bits of it on YouTube. For now.

Still, it's not all doom and gloom. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the words and wisdom of Mario Savio which are more relevant now when the man uttered them on the steps of Sproul Hall all those years ago.

Rage against the fucking machine!

Stef said...

Videos of people of Italian extraction getting worked up about something are my *favourite*

Stef said...

@paul - Yes, why not have a lie down. It is Sunday afternoon after all. I'd get permission from my housemaster beforehand though...

paul said...

he said he'd 'tuck me in'

Kier said...

"Not one fucker permitted mainstream opportunities to talk about the erosion of civil liberties will touch this issue with a barge-pole. Unless someone does, this civil liberties thing will, to put it bluntly, continue to be viewed by the vast majority of people as being a theoretical concern of a few chattering middle-class Whiteboys and a bunch of chippy Pakis who have no-one to blame except for people of their own kind."

Sums it up perfectly.
However, the DVD F 9/11 serves a more than practical purpose as a drinks coaster in my house, especially as it's still wrapped in cellophane from when a friend gave it to me as a birthday gift. I'd like to watch it one day; I was saving it for when I'm in a passive mood, but that was two years ago and possibly says more about me than about the film.

Great post :)

Shahid said...

I didn't get the "chippy paki" bit. Seeing as I am one, I don't understand who I'm supposed to be blaming.

The Usual Suspects in that film had me driving the porcelain bus, one in particular made me wonder what the fuck happened to real oratory and not some dubmed-down, marketing for stupid-people bullshit of the kind Tony Blair has got away with for so long.

After hearing me yesterday, even my missus is doubting the official version of 7/7 to the point of well...let's not talk anymore about what she might or might not be thinking. Let's just leave it at doubt.

Liberty (with a small l) is business, like anything else - and all the fuckers in this film were paid, no doubt. While everybody gets fucked, they will all be fine.

I wonder how long before a third of this country starts screaming like they are in America, that...

"7/7 was an inside job!"

Stef said...

@shahid: That's because you're in denial. I direct you to the thoughts of that Great Thinker David Cameron ...

But there’s another side to this. Even accepting the point about language and the need for the media to think and act responsibly, do these conversations show that there is a problem amongst the Muslim community of accepting what has happened with 7/7 and other plots? Put simply is there an issue of denial?

In some parts of the community, yes. In the mosque and elsewhere I got the familiar depressing questions about who was really responsible for 9/11 and even 7/7. Dig a bit deeper and it all comes out. “CIA plot…Jews told to leave the twin towers” - even when it comes to 7/7 “how do we know the suicide bomber videos are real and not fakes?” Even if this is a view held by 5 or 10 per cent of British muslims - and I suspect it is at least that – this is a real problem which we have all got to get to grips with.

I apologize for using the expression 'chippy Paki' in my crude attempt to paraphrase Cameron's wisdom but I lack the great man's gift with words on account of not having been clever enough to go to Eton

Stef said...

Strolling down the side alley that is the use of the word 'chippy' for a moment. It clearly is one of those words whose use can cause confusion. As evidenced by the chippiness shown by some of the people reacting to Scottish author Ian Rankin describing his fellow countrymen as 'chippy'

"It took me a couple of minutes to work out that he meant 'chippy' as in chips on our shoulders. I had run to the dictionary and read with horror that 'chippy' means a prostitute in N. America, so I am almost relieved to hear that our collective consciousness is summed up by Mr Rankin in such a positive way."

However, the definition of chippy in the 1865 version of the OED clearly defines it as...

chippy adj. irritable, tempermental, or fractious.

Later versions of the OED may include alternate definitions but I wasn't clever enough to go to Eton or Fettes where they could afford new books and had to make do with a Dickensian shithole in South London where everyone spoke like Bill Sykes instead

Stef said...

... no housemasters though

Stef said...

it's also worth noting the old spelling of the word 'tempermental' used in the OED above. Much more to the point and satisfying than the modern form

Shahid said...

Oh I applaud the use of the term "chippy paki" in the correct context. I just didn't understand the context. Now that I know who you were paraphrasing, your summary of Cameron's nonsense reads very well, actually.

I have waited almost two years to have a good reason not to be "in denial"...and so far the government and their bitches have done everything possible to alienate Muslims and to foster the state of denial amongst us, thus greatly increasing the number of "cippy pakis".

So I get your thesis now, I was just a bit slow...

Oh and FUCK Eton.

Stef said...

... enough to make anyone chippy AND tempermental

Apprentice said...


Fantastic post and what a sterling comments thread, love it Stef.

And yes I will, it's out there in Live Journal somewhere, if I could remember where, it might be searchable in Google, or in LJ itself, my my searching skills ain't up to it (so far). I could rewrite it, but my friend Kate is so much angrier than I am, it would be good to find it.

She's right, you are a good 'un.

Stef said...


I tried a few searches but washed out