Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The road to Munich Hell is paved with good intentions

I finally got around to listening to Terry Gross's Fresh Air interview with Tony Kushner (who wrote the screenplay for Munich). Terry Gross did a very good job asking him lots of questions based on the controversies surrounding the movie. I don't have a transcript, but I did take notes, and I thought I'd do a little, not really fisking, but analysis of what Kushner has to say. I should note that the interview shows Kushner to be bright and articulate (no surprise), and clearly acting with the best, albeit hopelessly morally confused, intentions. To begin with, Kushner bracketed the interview by admitting that he approached the whole thing with a bone deep bias. In the beginning, he admitted that he had a problem with guns and fighting, which he found "all very butch and scary." He ended the interview by admitting that he started his work being reflexively anti-militaristic, although he hastened to add, he's not a pacifist. (He did not explain how those two ideas can function comfortably in the same mental universe.) He said work on the movie made him move a little away from, or at least question, his reflexive revulsion to all things military, but that really doesn't speak well for a plot written with an open mind. Surprisingly, he was unperturbed by credibility issues associated with Vengeance, the George Jonas book on which the movie is based. Or more specifically, he was unconcerned about the credibility of "Avner," the single source for Vengeance. (Here's a rundown of some of the problems with Avner.) His personal feeling was that Avner was plausible and, while he "asked around" and did what research he was able, Kushner didn't find anything that changed his mind. The information that crossed his radar included innumerable ex-Mossad agents who have entirely discredited Avner's story, both large and small. Kushner's conclusion about the Mossad stories: they didn't have evidence. Of course, I'll add here that there is lots of evidence about Mossad operations sdhowing that Avner's story is false, at least in large parts. One example of this type of falsehood is the Vengeance/Munich storyline about the agents buying intelligence from a French family that brokers information. Many ex-Mossad agents in the know said the Mossad never did this. Kushner says it could have happened, and that's clearly enough to boost the illusive Avner's credibility, and destroy everything the confirmed Mossad agents have said. This is precisely the same type of reasoning, as I'm sure you've all noticed, that allows liberals still to trumpet the Rathergate memos as accurate -- that is, they keep saying that conservatives, even though they've proven the memos to be forgeries, haven't proven the false information in the memos to be false. They're unperturbed by the fact that one can't prove as untrue something that doesn't exist. Kushner also has absolute faith that people who see the movie will completely understand what is fact and what is fiction in the movie. He doesn't grapple with the fact that the movie relies heavily on original footage from the Olympics, which certainly creates an illusion of reality. When Terry Gross asks Kushner about objections to his showing the Mossad agents as having moral doubts about the targeted assassinations, Kushner brushes that aside. He's confident Avner had doubts and says that it would be disrespectful to the Mossad agents to assume that they didn't have doubts. I find this an interesting argument. Kushner is trying to say that he's giving the Mossad agents the moral high ground insofar as he is presenting them as people of conscience. However, it doesn't seem to occur to Kushner that people of conscience might quickly resolve their doubts, precisely because they do distinguish between right and wrong. Here, on the one hand, we have ruthless killers who slaughtered the innocent and helpless. These same killers then got a free pass from myriad European governments, removing them from the reach of a regular criminal justice system. On the other hand, we have men who believe, based both on ancient principles and the recent Nazi experience, that one can never stand aside when Jews are killed because they are Jews, and expect world governments to act. One can also never stand aside and allow evil freedom to act. One must always raise up roadblocks. It seems to me that the moral calculus isn't that difficult -- there is, simply, a difference between murder and justice. And when the European courts deny justice, there is nothing wrong with the Israeli government taking upon itself the duty to enforce it. (Incidentally, because no conversation with a liberal can ever avoid Abu Ghraib, Kushner manages to throw it in to his ruminations about the morality of targeted assassinations against killers.) Terry Gross also asked Kushner about the fact that Mohammed Daoud -- who masterminded the massacre -- was offended that Spielberg didn't ask him for advice. Kushner said that he and Spielberg consulted Palestinians other than Daoud. Showing his Leftist sensibilities, Kushner acknowledged that this is an Israeli movie, though, and it can't give full measure to the "history of Palestinian suffering." Since this is the usual Leftist talk, we know that he's not thinking of the history of fellaheen suffering at the hands of the Jordanians, or at the hands of Arab leaders who, in 1948, made a conscious political decision to keep the fellaheens displaced so as to retain their victim status. Or their suffering at Arafat's hands after he embezzled several billion dollars aimed at alleviating their primitive living conditions. Or their suffering now at the hands of the terrorist factions that populate their communities, and kill those who don't conform politically or socially. Kushner raises another relativistic point that is common on the Left, and that I think also demands some attention. He points to the fact that the movie's terrorists are "absolutely recognizable as human beings." In this regard, he thinks that "art makes an important contribution to the discussion." Kushner's argument exemplifies something common on the Left -- the inability to call Evil by its name and to ignore the trappings in which an evil person may deck himself. While police profilers may need to know if a killer loves dogs or opera, since each bit of knowledge may increase the odds of capturing him, those loves don't make the killer any less evil. (If you're thinking of Hitler at this point, so am I.) In the same vein, Kushner says that the Palestinian actors hired for the movie were afraid that the Palestinian killers would be presented as "terrorists without any souls." But isn't that what they were? They kidnapped innocent people, bound, and slaughtered them. That's a soul-less act. The fact that not all Palestinians are terrorists without souls doesn't acquit the killers of that charge. While it's hard to imagine a Hollywood movie that shows Nazis as fun-loving guys (the hilarious "Springtime for Hitler" scene in The Producers being the only exception), modern Hollywood just can't proceed without doing a psychiatric analysis of its politically correct killers, and then concluding that their vile acts are all because of psychic damage they received at the hands of . . . (fill in the blank here with white males, rich people, Israel, Jews, imperialism, oil companies, etc.). As I said, Tony Kushner does not show up as a bad guy in this interview. He shows up as an intelligent man who is so mired in self-created moral complexities that he doesn't recognize evil when he sees it. I'll therefore end this post with a very bad joke I posted on my blog some time ago:

Are you a Democrat, Republican or Southern Republican? Here is a little test that will help you decide: You're walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children. Suddenly, an Islamic Terrorist with a huge knife comes around the corner, locks eyes with you, screams obscenities, praises Allah, raises the knife, and charges. You are carrying a Glock 40, and you are an expert shot. You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family. What do you do? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Democrat's Answer: Well, that's not enough information to answer the question! Does the man look poor or oppressed? Have I ever done anything to him that would inspire him to attack? ! ! Could we run away? What does my wife think? What about the kids? Could I possibly swing the gun like a club and knock the knife out of his hand? What does the law say about this situation!? Does the Glock have appropriate safety built into it? Why am I carrying a loaded gun anyway, and what kind of message does this send to society and to my children? Is it possible he'd be happy with just killing me? Does he definitely want to kill me, or would he be content just to wound me? If I were to grab his knees and hold on, could my family get away while he was stabbing me? Should I call 9-1-1? Why is this street so deserted? We need to raise taxes, have a paint and weed day and make this happier, healthier street that would discourage such behavior. This is all so confusing! ! I need to debate this with some friends for few days and try to come to a consensus. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Republican's Answer: BANG! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Southern Republican's Answer: BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! ! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! (click...) (sounds of reloading...) BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! (click...)