Americans Are Living in an Orwellian State
By Brian De Palma
– Film director Brian de Palma has become an expert in voicing people’s frustration with the shortcomings of the US government. RT caught up with the celebrated Hollywood filmmaker and screenwriter to ask him political and apolitical questions.
Known best for his suspense and crime thriller movies, such as Scarface, The Untouchables, and Mission: Impossible, de Palma has also made a number of films that challenge the political establishment such as Casualties of War.
In his 2007 picture, Redacted, de Palma tells a story of a US soldier in the Iraq War trying to shoot an amateur documentary. Through the eyes of this soldier de Palma exposes what he considers to be the hypocrisy inherent in the US war machine.
RT: Oliver Stone, who wrote the script to one of your best-known films ‘Scarface,’ said in an interview with RT that Americans are living in an Orwellian state. It might not be oppressive on the surface, but there is no place to hide, eventually some part of you is going to end up in a database somewhere. According to historian Peter Kuznick, the US government intercepts over 1.7 billion messages a day. Are you aware of this?
BDP: Well, I can understand Oliver’s paranoia because Oliver, like myself, has very strong views about what our American foreign policy now is. Needless to say, I probably have been followed around since the 1960s, because I made very political anti-war pictures at that time. I sort of accept it. My last political picture ‘Redacted’ was not received well in my country, because I was criticizing our foreign policy and what the hell we are doing in Iraq. All these terrible things happen when we put these young boys in these worlds where they don’t understand what they are fighting for or why they are there. So I understand why Oliver thinks we are being followed all the time, we probably are!
RT: Your drama ‘Redacted,’ which deals with the war in Iraq, provoked political debate in America with claims it portrays the US soldiers in a negative light. Are you sensitive to such critiques? Even your film’s title makes it clear that the truth about the war in Iraq has been edited and hidden from the American public.
BDP: Unfortunately, in America you can never say anything negative about the American troops even though they are over in a country they shouldn’t be, doing things where a lot of innocents are getting killed. They are all valued warriors.
I think our foreign policy is incorrect, I don’t think we should have been in Iraq at all, I think we were lied to by our government. When you put young boys in situations when they don’t know why they are there, it’s even worse than Vietnam. Not only are you in a terrible environment, where everybody wants to kill you, and you walk around and suddenly the earth explodes, your best friend’s just lost his leg, you detest the people you’re supposed to be fighting for and you do crazy things. That’s what ‘Redacted’ is about, and that’s what ‘Casualties of War’ was about. These wars make no sense and crazy things happen.
RT: You’ve studied the phenomenon, or rather the pathology of violence for over four decades. Why is America so keen to get involved in conflicts wherever they happen, Afghanistan to Libya, shooting first and thinking later?
BDP: Many things that are repeated over and over again sort of create a special atmosphere. One is: ‘America is the greatest nation in the world!’ I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that! Do they say that in Russia? Do you say Russia is the greatest nation in the world?
RT: Not so often, hpw no.
BDP: Why are we all over the world? Why do we have a military presence in countries all over the world? Why? Because we are the policemen of the world? Who decided this? Consequently we get ourselves into a lot of trouble. And there is also the economic thing.
RT: According to president Obama, an economic recovery has began. But America cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many can barely make it.
BDP: What do we sell? Planes, guns, rockets, missiles – to all these countries all over the world. That’s where our biggest interest is. It’s our biggest export. Defense.
RT: America spends as much money on military security intelligence as the rest of the world combined.
BDP: You’re dealing with a big economic reality. The idea that we would cut any money to the defense budget is unbelievable. Let’s get a few more planes, let’s buy a few more ships. For what? We’re going broke doing this. Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex: Watch out! It just grows and grows and grows. And nobody can seem to stop it!
RT: Barack Obama has been recently sworn in for his second term, but you don’t seem to be very happy with his achievements.
BDP: Oh no, Obama’s trying to change some of this, but our country is very split. We have liberals on either coast, and we have this very conservative center of the country. That’s why it is so difficult to get anything done in the Congress.
Why do we have guns? What about guns all over the place? We’re slaughtering children and people think – oh, maybe we need more police within the school rooms. It’s crazy! But guns are big business. They like to sell guns. We are probably the only country in the world, that has guns all over the place.
RT: Following the mass shooting at the elementary school in Connecticut in December, the Los Angeles police department has decided to deploy 600 armed police patrol at elementary and middle schools. Do you think increasing police patrols could help halt violence? Some say that the real purpose of a police buildup at schools is to make kids used to the constant presence of police and the growing atmosphere of fear.
BDP: There was an incident in China where somebody went to school and attacked all the children. Fortunately, he only had a knife. So he only managed to stab a few people and kill no one. When you have automatic weapons that can fire a hundred rounds in 10 seconds, it gets crazy. These are the kind of things that make no sense in America. Obviously, after this last terrible tragedy, they are trying to make some changes in the gun rules. So, I can buy an automatic weapon with a magazine that holds 200 bullets to go hunting? It’s absurd! These are the kind of things that drive me crazy. They make no sense whatsoever.
RT:‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ the controversial US drama focusing on the decade-long manhunt for Osama Bin Laden, has been slammed for excessive violence and depiction of torture. Do you find such criticism fair enough?
BDP: Absolutely not! Big surprise, we tortured a few people to find out where the terrorists were. Wow! I can’t believe it! America torturing people? What’s going on in Guantanamo Bay, these poor guys have been there forever? Is the war ever over? Maybe we should waterboard them a little bit. They’ve only been there for 10 years.
RT: Where does this glorification of murder and torture come from?
BDP: I think the use of torture in the Bigelow movie is very realistic. I don’t know why everybody is so surprised or upset. But the fact that you would say that Americans actually torture people was like… impossible. But of course they torture people!