Eyes Wide Open Film Series
Weapons of Mass Deception
May 19, 2005
The first documentary of the Eyes Wide Open Film Series was presented on May 19th: a full house, intense expressions during the screening, a very lively debate afterward -- it couldn't have gone better.
The documentary was Danny Schechter's award-winning Weapons of Mass Deception, which shows how, in the aftermath of the Twin Towers tragedy, the media were enrolled by the Bush administration to promote a war that did not have to happen. (See the hand-out distributed at the screening.)
The full house consisted not only of Americans living in Rome, but also expats from many different countries (Canada, Britain, Egypt...) plus, of course, Italians interested in getting to know l'altra America, i.e. "Americans who differ from the stereotypes".
The intense expressions and lively debate afterward showed that, although the audience was clearly well informed about current events, several revelations in the film caught them by surprise and prompted them to ask questions to find out more.
For example, the alleged fact that the Bush administration, in creating hysteria over Iraq in order to justify a war, was simply following a blueprint drawn up years before by a group of neo-conservatives who favor an "Imperial America" (Richard Pearle, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, etc., backed by a certain Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld: see the Economist of April 24th, 2005);
Or the alleged fact that non-embedded journalists in Iraq risk getting killed "by accident" (they are "targeted") if they start portraying the gruesome reality that the Pentagon wants hushed up -- i.e., the kind of horrors that, during the war in Vietnam, shocked the American people into demanding peace. (Speaking of Vietnam, it should be remembered that it, too, was a war that did not have to happen: there was, in reality, no risk of a "domino effect" that the U.S. had to stop at all costs, as history has shown);
Or the alleged control of the hundreds of local newspapers and TV stations in the U.S. by a handful of Corporate groups (in spite of the ban on cross-ownership), i.e. the same groups that sponsor the Bush agenda;
Or the difficulty of getting ordinary Americans to read alternative media sources simply because they have been induced to trust their President and not ask questions (lack of time prevented the discussion from examining in detail why this is so).
"If the corporations have got all major sources of information and even local papers under their control and if, in Iraq, the Pentagon frightens unaligned journalists away, aren't we doomed to believe whatever they want us to believe?" one viewer asked toward the end of the discussion. And a young woman chimed in: "Yeah, isn't it without hope?"
Not necessarily. The very presence -- on a hot Thursday evening in the back room of a disco on the southern outskirts of Rome -- of a significant number of Americans living in the capital, who were willing to give up their time and cross the city to watch an "alternative" documentary and discuss it for an hour (just like hundreds of thousands of Americans back home who are doing similar things, thanks to movements like Not in our name, Move on, True Majority, Answer, United for Peace and Justice...), seems to indicate that, as bad as it looks, hope there is.