Review: Shooting the Truth–The Rise of American Political Documentaries

6 Star Special, 9-11 Truth Books & DVDs, America (Founders, Current Situation), Atlases & State of the World, Atrocities & Genocide, Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Censorship & Denial of Access, Communications, Consciousness & Social IQ, Corruption, Culture, DVD - Light, Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Education (General), Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, History, Impeachment & Treason, Information Society, Iraq, Justice (Failure, Reform), Media, Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle
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5.0 out of 5 stars Both a Tour of Substance, and an Eye Opener for Book People

July 29, 2010

James McEnteer

This is a 6 Star and Beyond book and is so categorized at Phi Beta Iota, the Public Intelligence Blog, where one can browse all 1600+ of my non-fiction reviews sorted into 98 categories and easily found with keywords–I’ve tried for years to get Amazon to give us this functionality and finally created it for my own work.

I was so impressed, so engaged, so absolutely educated by this author that I spent no less than four hours, and it might be as much as six, creating a table of all 120 films that he mentioned, with the directors, the year of release, and hot links. The complete list with hot links is at Phi Beta Iota, and should have been an appendix–I certainly give the list to the author should he wish to post it anywhere.

A few highlights, followed by the complete table of 120 films:


1) VHS players are still relevant for the non-fiction crowd, but DVD conversions are around 85%.

2) Amazon is doing extremely well, better than I expected, in carrying all these titles. Only a handful had to be linked outside of Amazon.

3) Although the broadcasting networks stomped down hard on anything remotely resembling intelligent and truthful issue discussion in 1950’s, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) killed the truth once and for all in 1984 by ending public service as an element of spectrum allocation, what this book really did for me is open my eyes to the wealth of offerings from both the four specific directors whose work the book showcases, and the many others.

4) My time spent creating the list of 120 films, adding the links, is an example of social production such as Yochai Benkler discusses in The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom and also an example of the importance of collaborative ethics such as are discussed in The Hidden Wealth of Nations.

As the top reviewer for non-fiction books here at Amazon (32 and 279 or whatever are over-all, including software, movies, and fiction), what this book really drove home to me:

1) There are some amazingly talented directors out there, every bit as important, as creative, and as inspiring as the best of the non-fiction authors, and people like me simply don’t “get it” (yet). I am going to pay more attention from this point on to non-fiction DVDs and the minds behind them.

2) Amazon’s provision of the ranking information really got my attention in relation to DVDs. It is now possible to browse the top 10 or top 100 on anything, e.g. on Viet-Nam, on Iraq, on Civil Rights, and I now appreciate even more the one author that took the trouble to list films after he finished listing books, at the end of each chapter, this was Revolutions and Revolutionary Movements.

3) Pentagon budget for selling the Pentagon is over 200 million dollars; at the same time, all US broadcasting about serious issues has gone “from lenses with attitude to political theater.”

QUOTE xii: Why the sudden prominence of nonfiction films? There exists in America a great hunger to understand what’s really going on. These films help feed that need. Much of that hunger has to do with the concentrated ownership of news media; the corporatization and trivialization of the news, and the decreasing spectrum of information. Instead of innovation and investigation, we get repetition and imitation.”

QUOTE xii: Now what passes for “new” includes massive doses of celebrity gossip, leaving many more important events unreported. Mass media shy away from stories of complexity, as reflected by the speed of news delivery, in rapid-fire sound bites; the shortening lengths of stories; and the glitzing up and dumbing down of news reports to hold the viewer’s attention. Reporters tend to accept government versions of events. And any stories that might offend the corporate owners of media, their clients, or their friends–all of whom together represent a significant portion of American economic power–have also become off limits.

I learn that the Carlyle Group has bought 400 Lowe’s theaters, and I shudder.

I learn that the murder rate is down in the US, but fear of murder if up because of “news” hyping of the fewer murders that do occur.

QUOTE (24-25): Entrenched corporate and government powers resist an openness that may challenge their preeminence. They use their political and financial clout to restrict the content of American television. Murrow’s 1958 admonition that television should be enlisted in the “great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance, and indifference” seems wildly idealistic today, as television exists to trumpet majoritarian values, kill time, and hawk material wares. It’s not a marketplace of ideas, just a marketplace. New technologies have made television more seductive, but not more substantive.”

Shees. He is unwittingly talking about the US secret intelligence community at the same time. And so much for what George Will calls Statecraft as Soulcraft, or what Will and Ariel Durant discuss in The Lessons of History.

This book’s relevance to all of us today comes out strongly as the author discusses the lessons not learned, the most important of which is that the real enemy of us all is war itself, and that we are failing to grasp the emotional and cultural complications that must be grasped in preventing war.

To the answer of “why” do we use the nuclear bomb, or chemical weapons, or [I would add] rendition and torture, the author, honoring the various directors and films that he lines up in this magnificent utterly stellar panorama of multi-media thought, answers: because we can. “Because the bureaucratic apparatus exist(s) to do it.”

The author offers extraordinary political relevance when he addresses the irrelevance of the left and right divisions. He says:

QUOTE (48): In fact, categories like liberal and conservative are irrelevant and misleading. The real division is between those who protect and serve the bureaucratic apparatus that perpetuates crimes against humanity–like career politicians Orrin Hatch and Joe Biden, and FBI thugs Jeff Jamar and Larry Potts–and those like journalist Dick Eavis and Davidian lawyer Dick De Guerin, who seek accountability from individuals and institutions nested with the faceless machinery of death.

This is a hugely important book, not least because it is a bridge for people who value non-fiction books and have not learned to value non-fiction films. At the age of 57, there is absolutely no question but that I can learn a great deal from this author and critic, and were he teaching or speaking in my area, he would be on my “must do” list.

The author continues to offer, today, valid social commentary, to include how we must take responsibility for the crimes against humanity of the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama era (no differences at all among them in terms of their toxic impact on humanity and especially the US middle class and blue collar class), or we share their guilt.

Visit Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog to exploit the list of 120 films mentioned by the author, all hot linked for easy review of their descriptive substance.

In passing, in his commentary on the Nobel Peace Prize being given to war criminal and ubber-impeachable Henry Kissinger, the author has inspired me to make a list of stupid Nobel Peace Prizes–Kissinger is one, Gore is another, Obama a third. The world–including the Nobel Peace Prize committee (politicians) has lost its mind. The films discussed by this book and this author are a critical bridge to getting our mind back.

My own two recent publications from Earth Intelligence Network, the 501c3 I funded before the crash took everything, both free online so don’t think I am pimping their purchase:

Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace
INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainaabilty

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Link up with the author at his South African web site (self-imposed exile?).

Below with hot links, see list of 120 documentary films and their directored sorted into the following categories: 9-11, Big Ideas, Capitalism, Civil Rights, Culture, Iraq, JFK, Labor, Lies, Pentagon, Politics, Viet-Nam.

** are the handful that seem to be at top of the heap.

BOLD means a review is available and link leads to it.

9-11 2002 9/11 (THE 9/11 film, ground zero with firefighters) Naudet
9-11 2003 Aftermath: Unanswered Questions from 9/11 Guerrilla News Network
9-11 2004 Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire Earp & Jhally
9-11 2004 Is War the Answer?  New Yorkers Respond to 9/11
Big Ideas 1992 A Brief History of Time (Stephen Hawking) Morris
Big Ideas 2001 Waking Life (in and out of dreams) Linklater & Sabiston
Big Ideas 2004 What the Bleep Do We Know? Arntz, Chasse, Vincente
Capitalism 1989 Roger & Me Moore
Capitalism 1997 Fast, Cheap, & Out of Control (Four crafts) Morris)
Capitalism 2003 The Fourth World War (Globalization 101) Big Noise Rowley
Capitalism 2004 Supersize Me Spurlock
Capitalism 2004 The Yes Men (World Trade Organization dark side) Smith, Price, Ollman
Capitalism 2007 Crooked  E: The Unshredded Truth About Enron Greenwald & Spheeris
Civil Rights 1998 Defending Our Daughters (human rights) Kopple
Civil Rights 2004 Unconstitutional (Bush, 9/11, End of Civil Rights) Greenwald
Civil Rights 2005 Mighty Times: The Children’s March (civil rights) Hudson & Houston
Culture 1951 See It Now (first and last real issues show) Murrow
Culture 1965 Don’t Look Back (Rock & Roll) Pennebaker
Culture 1968 Monterey Pop Pennebaker
Culture 1968 Underground De Antonio
Culture 1970 Gimme Shelter (Rolling Stones and Hells Angels) Maysles 2, Kopple
Culture 1977 Pumping Iron (made Arnold Schwarzenegger) Butler
Culture 1978 Gates of Heaven (Pet Cemeteries) Morris
Culture 1982 In the King of Prussia (Plowshares Eight Trial) De Antonio
Culture 1983 Seeing Red (communist party members speak) Klein & Reichert
Culture 1984 The Good Fight (1936 volunteers in Spain) Dore, Buckner, & Sills
Culture 1985 Pumping Iron II (female body builders) Butler
Culture 1990 Berkeley in the Sixties
Culture 1993 Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson Kopple
Culture 1997 TV Nation Vol One; TV Nation Vol Two Moore
Culture 1998 Wild Man Blues (Woody Allen & Soon Yi Previn) Kopple
Culture 1998 Woodstock ‘94 Kopple
Culture 2000 My Generation: The Sixties Live Kopple
Culture 2000 Rebels with a Cause Garvey
Culture 2000 Steal this Movie (Abbie Hoffman) Greenwald
Culture 2000 The Eyes of Tammy Faye Bailey & Barbato
Culture 2000 This Is What Democracy Looks Like Friedberg & Rowley
Culture 2002 Bowling for Columbine Moore
Culture 2002 Friends for Life: Living with Aids Kopple
Culture 2002 Once Upon a Time in the Hamptons Kopple
Culture 2002 Weather Underground Garvey
Culture 2004 Assisted Living Greenebaum
Culture 2004 Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst Garvey
Culture 2004 Open Water Kentis & Lau
Culture 2004 The Passion of the Christ Mel Gibson
Iraq** 1991 Nowhere to Hide (2000 mile journey within Iraq) Clark & Alpert
Iraq 2003 Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War Greenwald
Iraq 2004 About Baghdad Antoon
Iraq 2004 Bearing Witness (female journalists in Iraq) Kopple, Wotton, Eisenhardt
Iraq 2004 Last Letters Home: Voices of the American Troops from the Battlefields of Iraq Couturie
Iraq 2004 Voices of Iraq Manes, Kunert, Drury
JFK 1967 Plot to Kill JFK: Rush to Judgment (Slams Warren Commission with its own witnesses) De Antonio
JFK 1993 Beyond “JFK”: The Question of Conspiracy Kopple
Labor 1976 Harlan County, USA (Coal strike) Kopple
Labor 1976 Union Maids Klein & Reichert
Labor 1991 American Dream (meat packers’ strike) Kopple
Labor 1999 Zapatista Big Noise Eichert, Rowley, Sandberg
Labor** 2001 Life & Debt Black
Labor 2002 American Standoff (Teamsters strike) Kopple
Lies 1963 Point of Order (Army-McCarthy hearings) De Antonio
Lies** 1982 The Atomic Café (government & news misinformation) Reafferty 2 & Loader
Lies 1982 The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception CBS
Lies 1983 Dark Circle (Nuclear safety) Irving & Beaver
Lies 1988 Cover-Up: Behind the Iran-Contra Affair Trent
Lies 1988 The Thin Blue Line (Death Row False Conviction) Morris
Lies** 1992 Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media Achbar & Wintonick
Lies 1993 The Panama Deception (to retake the Canal) Trent
Lies 1997 Waco: The Rules of Engagement Gazecki
Lies 1998 The Big One (Tour with Book Downsize This!:  Random Threats from an Unarmed American Moore
Lies 1998 Wag the Dog Levinson
Lies 1999 Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (Psychatrist testifying for death penalty) Morris
Lies 2001 Hidden Wars of Desert Storm Brophy & Ungerman
Lies 2002 Ammo for the Info Warrior Guerrilla News Network
Lies 2002 Operation Enduring Freedom: America Fights Back US Government
Lies 2002 The Trials of Henry Kissinger Jarecki and Gibney
Lies 2003 Control Room (CENTCOM versus Al Jazeera) Noujaim
Lies 2003 The Awful Truth Moore
Lies 2004 Bush Family Fortunes: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy Palast
Lies 2004 Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore
Lies 2004 Heir to an Execution (Rosenbergs) Meeropol
Lies** 2004 Outfoxed: Robert Murdoch’s War on Journalism Greenwald
Lies 2004 WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception Schechter, Kopple
Lies 2005 Orwell Rolls in His Grave Pappas
Pentagon 1971 The Selling of the Pentagon Davis
Pentagon 1979 The War at Home Estevez
Pentagon 1980 The Day After Trinity (Profile of Oppenheimer & Bomb) Else
Pentagon 1987 Radio Bikini (US take-over & testing, GIs illness) Stone
Pentagon 1990 Letter to the Next Generation Klein
Pentagon 1998 Regret to Inform (Widows seeking closure) Sonneborn
Pentagon 2002 Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert McNamara Morris
Pentagon 2005 Soldier’s Pay (Enlisted looting in Iraq) Russell & Carlos
Pentagon 2005 Why We Fight Jarecki
Politics FahrenHype 9/11: Unraveling the Truth About Fahrenheit 9/11 and Michael Moore Peterson
Politics 1960 Primary (Kennedy Going Door to Door) Drew
Politics 1992 Four More Years (Political Convention) TVTV Rucker
Politics 1992 The War Room (Carville and Stephanopoulos) Pennebaker & Hegedus
Politics 1994 The Clinton Chronicles Falwell
Politics 1995 Canadian Bacon (political propaganda slam) Moore
Politics 1996 The Perfect Candidate (Charles Robb, Oliver North) Taylor & Cutler
Politics 2002 Horns and Halos (Story of Fortunate Son) Hawley & Galinsky
Politics** 2002 Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election (Stolen) Greenwald, Perez & Sekler
Politics 2004 Brothers in Arms (John Kerry Swift boats)
Politics 2004 Buried in the Sand: The Deception of America Taylor/USG?
Politics 2004 Bush’s Brain (Karl Rove) Shoob & Mealey
Politics 2004 Celsius 41.11: The Temperature at Which the Brain Beings to Die (anti Michael Moore) “Citizens United”
Politics 2004 G. W. Bush: Faith in the White House Balsiger
Politics 2004 Going Upriver:  The Long War of John Kerry Butler
Politics 2004 Journeys with George (Bush in 2000) Pelosi
Politics 2004 Michael Moore Hates America Wilson & Leffler
Politics 2004 The Hunting of the President (Clinton) Thomason & Perry
Politics 2004 The Road to the Presidency (Clinton-centered) Jacobs
Politics 2005 This Revolution (Media at Political Convention) Marshall
Viet-Nam 1965 Why Vietnam? USG & DoD
Viet-Nam** 1968 Vietnam: In the Year of the Pig De Antonio
Viet-Nam 1970 Interviews with My Lai Veterans Strick
Viet-Nam 1972 Winter Soldier (Vietnam veterans) Kopple
Viet-Nam 1974 Hearts and Minds (Vietnam) Davis
Viet-Nam 1988 Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam Cuturie
Viet-Nam 2002 Daughter from Danang Dolgin and Franco
Viet-Nam 2004 Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal Sherwood