[Marxism] Zizek blasts "Zero Dark Thirty"

Daniel Koechlin d.koechlin at wanadoo.fr
Mon Jan 28 14:56:22 MST 2013

Zero Dark Thirty is a bad film. The last segment, the assault on Bin 
Laden's compound is actually quite chilling : the Jihadists get shot 
before they have time to utter a word, zip-zip-zip a turban-wearing 
figure crumbles to the ground while children scream. This was obviously 
shot to "demonstrate" that the commandos were just out to kill, not 
capture. And more chillingly, that they were right to do so.

That's the way the cookie crumbles. The Navy Seals go in and of course 
zip-zip-zip every male gets a bullet in the head before they have time 
to understand what is happening or time to surrender. It's all very 
efficient. Five bad guys down. No good guys hurt. Time to exfiltrate. Oh 
no wait, get Bin Laden into a body bag so as to carry him back to base. 
The expectant heroine opens the body bag and gives a sigh of relief : 
she was right after all, Bin Laden was hiding in that compound. The end.

A truly terrible film. Filmed ENTIRELY from the perspective of the 
American forces it gives us no insight into the world of the Jihadists. 
None whatsoever. I've seen better films from the 40s that at least tried 
to depict the adversary in his own milieu.

In this film, a sense of claustrophobia prevails. The enemy is only 
depicted when being interrogated at US army bases. The protagonists 
never leave these fortified redoubts or the safety of the US embassy in 
Pakistan, except for a few carefully planned excursions through the 
streets of Karachi. And even then, the camera NEVER leaves the car where 
the Americans are monitoring events.

The Islamists are never depicted outside of an army base. Only once does 
a bearded figure arrive at a military compound of his own accord, but it 
is in the form of a suicide bomber.

And when the enemy gets killed, it is by efficient zip-zip-zips. No 
firefight, no kalashnikovs blazing, no cursing in Arabic or Pashtoun.

The worrying aspect of this film is the total absence of the enemy as 
autonomous beings. Which means it is a terrible war film. We have no 
idea of the thought process of Jihadists, their personal qualties and 
flaws which influence their decision-making. In fact, we don't see them 
making any decisions. The audience has no inkling what Al Quaeda's 
strategy is, what factors are at play, how much support they have in 
Pakistan or Afghanistan, how the personality of the various leaders play 

The film is entirely focused on the American security forces' side of 
the story. To a degree that makes one regret Rambo 3, where at least the 
evil Soviet colonel appears in his own environment. And even in this 
respect, we don't get a sense of the US decision-making process. The 
heroine is some sort of intelligence-gathering operative. She is 
obsessed with capturing Bin Laden, but the plot skips all elements 
pertaining to her background. At the beginning of the film she is mildly 
upset by the torture of the AL Quaeda courrier, but she is a 
professional, and performs her task in a satisfactory manner. Half and 
hour later, and she is directing interrogations on her own without any 
qualms, apart from a vague sense of distaste (or is is irritation) on 
her part.

She appears satisfied at the end result, when Bin Laden's body bag is 
brought in by a chopper. But there is no real sense of closure as the 
main character is as shallow as a makeshift desert grave.

This is truly an abysmal example of film-making which makes Jack Bauer 
from 24 look like a complex and multi-layered character.

I don't buy the "realistic portrayal of reality" defense of the film : 
it is a bad movie, lacking in direction, lacking in depth, lacking in 
psychology, lacking any documentary value.

I would just like to end this post by stating that the credentials of 
Leninists to denounce torture on humanitarian grounds are very shaky, to 
say the least.

Trotsky made extensive and unapologetic use of torture during the civil 
war, as he smashed all those plots (from Tsarist to left-SR) directed 
against the Bolsheviks. Stalin and Mao carried on the tradition.

The only leftists who always consistently upheld the rights of the 
individual were the Anarchists, Left Communists and Council Communists. 
And they did so because they were wary of the way the yielding of 
physical force ends up creating a group of "specialists" (a.k.a "the 
security apparatus"). Instead of defense against an external threat 
being the responsibility of the entire community, the "specialists" take 
on the power of life and death, acting under orders from a power centre 
that is unaccountable for its actions.

OF course, the argument for a specialized socialist "special ops" force 
is that in order to win the war against Imperialist aggressors, eggs 
must be broken. For the dictatorship of the proletariat to come about, 
the former representatives of the ruling classes and their (knowing or 
unknowing) agents must be identifed and neutralized.

This being said, libertarian marxists have no problem criticizing US 
imperialism abroad. They just have a deeper understanding of the 
class-based nature of political violence and the sociology of 
authoritarianism than simply believing that a political organization can 
self-regulate itself because it is composed of humble, ethically-minded 
and committed socialists.

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