Entertaining war with the spin doctors

Last night I watched Fair Game with friends at RCA House. A thriller with real teeth, this film presents a barely fictionalized account of events related to how the Bush administration apparently lied on a massive, perhaps criminally reprehensible, scale regarding Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program, seeking justification for America’s going to war with Iraq.

One of the most interesting things about Fair Game, for me, is how an entertainment based on actual events cycles back to continue the “real-world” narrative  that gave rise to it.

The film actually further pursues husband-and-wife Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson’s counterattack against those in George W. Bush’s administration who deliberately leaked Plame’s status as a covert CIA operative to discredit her husband, formerly an Africa expert with the State Department, who had gone public with the news that the US government was lying about Iraq having imported large quantities of “yellow cake” uranium from Niger.

The film weaves together excellent acting by Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, in the roles of Plame and Wilson, with network video footage of Bush and Cheney spinning the grounds for going to war, as well as with other documentary material I won’t reveal for fear of spoiling its impact. Fair Game has no compunction about using these names as well as those of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. There’s a heady tone of, “Okay, these people, whom we’re naming flat out—this is no time for coyness—appear to be a bunch of evil, lying bastids. So we say, and they can sue us if they dare.”

According to the storyline, not only did Bush/Cheney’s spinmeisters set out to destroy Plame and Wilson’s careers and public reputations, they showed utter disregard for the lives of the many agents Plame was operating in countries such as Iraq, where Saddam’s displeasure, when the agents’ cover was blown, entailed brutal ends for agents and family members alike.

Through much of the story, Plame and Wilson are getting smeared by the bad guys. By film’s end, however, their tough and principled refusal to back down is finally paying off.

Now the film itself presents a nicely self-referential continuation of their attempt to show that—even in this age of mass media and expert political manipulation of public perceptions—us little people can fight back. And we can resist partly by using similar instruments.

At this point, though, the cynic in me rears up and suggests it ain’t so easy, and nowhere is it writ that the good guys have to win. How much will Fair Game serve, as surely it was intended, to alert the public to how amoral many of our puppet masters really are? Hardly at all, I’ll bet. More likely, those who were already true liberal believers will say, “Right on, right on!” while those who suckle their realities at the Fox News teat will dismiss Fair Game as just more consarned work of the Devil and his liberal minions. And never the twain will meet.

So the Republicans will win the US national election in two years, and China will loom at one end of the Tea Party negotiating table, other guests being North Korea as the dormouse and Iran as the March Hare. (Does anyone know where I can find a couple of affordable tickets off-planet? One way will do fine.)

Whatever. Did I mention the movie is also very entertaining?

Fair Game, directed by Doug Liman; scripted by Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, based on the books The Politics of Truth by Joseph Wilson and Fair Game by Valerie Plame Wilson. Showing at RCA House.

Last night Fair Game, at RCA House, drew an audience of a dozen people or more. The House cinema complex is a modern Bangkok institution, and deserves more support. The operators are surely losing money, as it stands, and must be applauded for continuing to serve up films the more commercial joints won’t.

Here are some interviews with the real-life Plame and Wilson: Michael Nacht talks to Wilson; Bill Maher talks to both.

Here’s an excellent Huffingtion Post article (“ The Two Most Essential, Abhorrent, Intolerable Lies Of George W. Bush’s Memoir“), in which Dan Froomkin examines  what he reckons are the worst lies in Geo. W. Bush’s newly published memoir, Decision Points (which I can’t bring myself to link), chronicling both Bush and Cheney’s continuing efforts to rewrite history in their favor.