Sunday, January 13, 2013

Occupy Unmasked (Ava and C.I.)

You can blame it on Michael Tracey.  We do.

When Jim told us that readers were e-mailing to note that Netflix had a documentary for streaming, Occupy Unmasked, and suggested that we review it, we gave a 101 reasons why we weren't going to.  Jim had his own little trump card.  He handed us this review by Michael Tracey for The Nation magazine.

The film he briefly reviewed puzzled us.  Tracey seemed more interested in Mark Cuban than he did in the film.  If the documentary was as pointless as Tracey insisted, than why would Cuban have bankrolled it?

So we watched.

We'd recommend Occupy Unmasked, the first 42 minutes, be shown to political science and sociology classes.

This portion is of interest for a number of reasons.  It contains what Tracey labeled a "slur" against Occupy.  As part of the patriarchal left, Tracey feels comfortable writing, "Owing to a few terribly unfortunate (and isolated) incidents of sexual assault at Occupy sites  . . ."  As opposed to what?  The many wonderful (and widely dispersed) incidents of rape?

We're sorry to be the ones to tell you this, Michael Tracey, but one case of rape is one case too many.  And blaming the rapes you will allow happened on "homeless people" seems far from liberal to us.

We'd recommend Tracey's article be distributed to the classes watching the first 42 minutes.

And we'd recommend a full class be devoted to discussing both.

Can the right and the left ever communicate?

Ever honestly communicate?

More and more, our identity is solely feminist.

We're so sick of the lies from the two sides.  We're tired of their distortions, their half-truths, their attempts to gain recruits via trickery.

When Occupy Unmasked deals with those topics, the film is at its strongest.

Let's start with a disclosure on sites.  Michael Tracey insults someone because they were "only at Zucotti Park twice" so let's note we visited the NYC site only three times.  We visited the DC site more than that, we were at the Bay Area sites many times,  LA at least five times and various other Occupy sites.

The film starts by noting a cabal of professional communicators working to plan and orchestrate the 'spontaneous' and 'leaderless' Occupy.   The first move is to get people into Zucotti Park and this is important because the occupying has started and the turn out is small.  So what to do?  Lie.   The organizers spread false rumors that Radiohead will be giving a free concert.  Occupy starts with a lie.

The film makes the charge that the movement or 'movement' refuses to make demands because they don't want to be specific in order to appeal to a broad-base of people -- possibly even those still hanging around for that free Radiohead concert?

Well Occupy did refuse to make demands, even when people like Cindy Sheehan tried to urge them to make demands.  They ended looking like idiots as a result.  And their brief moment of fame came and went and they accomplished nothing.

They still think they'll come back.  Every other week, there's some incoming e-mail about how Occupy is just about to be back.

But it probably won't.  It wasn't a genuine event.  It was created around a lie and though many people participating wanted a real movement, the leaders in the shadows refused to allow it to become one.

Why is that?  The left doesn't want to get honest but they do want to insist that Occupy Unmasked is false.

Malcolm Harris was the liar with the Radiohead rumor.  He thinks it's funny to this day.  No, it's really not funny.  It was dishonest and, if you're a Radiohead fan and you did go to Zuccotti Park to see them, this lie was especially not funny.  The documentary notes he is friends with Natasha Lennard who was writing for The New York Times (freelancer).

Occupy Unmasked charges that she (and others) wanted to get arrested for storming the Brooklyn Bridge (in yet another pointless action).  Lennard disputes this claim to Tracey and states, "Expressing interest in and support for Occupy, as I did, is one thing.  But it seems Occupy Unmasked charges I actively and personally planned illegal acts -- an outrageous and provably fales claim indeed."

What's true, indeed, is that her employer was not aware she gave "support for Occupy."  We spoke on the phone to a Times editor about this comment and were told the paper would not have her covering Occupy if they'd known of her connection to Harris or that she was supporting Occupy.  "She was paid to report and part of reporting is to ensure no conflict of interest."

As she and Tracey rush to insist she did nothing illegal, they ensure that the the world knows (if they're paying attention) that she did something highly unethical.  (Lucky for her, she currently works for the ethic-free Salon.)

If you're a journalist, and Michael Tracey fancies himself as one, you might be alarmed by what Lennard's quote revealed.

But for Tracey, the 'review' is a mission to tear the documentary apart.

Everyone talks around each other, no one communicates directly.

Andrew Brietbart is dead.  He appears in the documentary and was one of the producers.  We're sure he had many friends on the right but, based on this documentary, he was no friend to truth.

We didn't call him a liar.

We said he wasn't a friend to truth.  Pretend for a moment that every word uttered in the documentary is 100% truth, okay?  Pretend especially that all Brietbart utters is truth.  Even allowing for that, he's no friend of truth.

He's loud and the vocal equivalent of a neck roll and a snap.  It's not cute.  And when he gets really loud, you have to wonder, does he think people can't hear him?

He's also not a friend of the truth as a result of the documentary.

The first 42 or so minutes make an argument.   You can agree with it in full or in part or not at all.  But there is an argument being built.  Then it's time to go to the sixties and to offer all this nonsense.  We are not of the Cult of St. Barack but we couldn't get behind any of the charges in the second and third sections of the film.  (When we say "second and third sections of the film," we are not referring to act two and act three.  We know film structure -- we're not idiots like Glenn Greenwald.  We are referring to the second and third segment as labeled onscreen in the film.)  And when the documentary wants to make a big fuss over Barack using the 'words of occupy' by showing film of the President of the United States using the term "fair" and speaking of the need for fairness, it's gone off the rails.  Regardless of who is in the White House, Americans expect that the president will speak of the importance of fairness -- that's a core US value. 

In the first 42 minutes, you had a film.  You could have released it at that length or given more examples and more discussion of events in those first 42 minutes.

Instead, we're off on something else completely.

The film makers would probably argue, "It's all connected."  That is, after all, the case they make.  'These are stunts by the left and it's ripping the country apart,' seems to be the thrust of that argument, and here's where these things started.' 

But that's not what makes Occupy Unmasked work as a film when it does work.

In moments when it's actually making a point, it's not a political point.  It works -- as muckraking always does -- by puncturing holes in the myth and exposing the truth.

It was a complete violation of journalism ethics for Natasha Lennard to have covered Occupy.  Hypocrisy exposed is where the documentary works.  That includes 'peaceful' people making threats -- whether against the police or against people they disagree with.  That especially includes Ted Hall.

Hall shows up -- and we thought he was a woman -- screaming in a high voice as he cursed about the people who had things.  Ted Hall, as Drew Grant (New York Observer) has explained, is a wealthy trust fund baby.  Occupy Unmasked could have amounted to an interesting argument that, hopefully, people from all over the political spectrum could find worthy of debate and discussion.  But instead it loses focus as it tries to make historical links and create an indictment against the left and left actions for the last fifty or so years.  The film makers believe they have established connections that just aren't there.  As a result, they weaken their own film.

How did it happen?

There's the irony or the karma.  They had a few examples of the hypocrisy in Occupy that could have been used to make a strong argument regarding Occupy.  Instead, they over-reached and were willing to be less than factual and less than honest.  A documentary calling out half-truths and untruths becomes submerged in the same mire and the reason is information takes a back seat to indoctrination.  At some point, the left and the right are going to have to get honest about exactly how much alike they really are.

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