Why the Oscars are a con

‘This year’s Oscar nominations are a parade of propaganda, stereotypes and downright dishonesty. The dominant theme is as old as Hollywood: America’s divine right to invade other societies, steal their history and occupy our memory. When will directors and writers behave like artists and not pimps for a world-view devoted to control and destruction?

I grew up on the movie myth of the Wild West, which was harmless enough unless you happened to be a Native American. The formula is unchanged. Self-regarding distortions present the nobility of the American colonial aggressor as a cover for massacre, from the Philippines to Iraq. I only fully understood the power of the con when I was sent to Vietnam as a war reporter. The Vietnamese were “gooks” and “Indians”, whose industrial murder was preordained in John Wayne movies and left to Hollywood to glamourise or redeem.

I use the word murder advisedly, because what Hollywood does brilliantly is suppress the truth about America’s assaults. These are not wars, but the export of a gun-addicted, homicidal “culture”. And when the notion of psychopaths as heroes wears thin, the bloodbath becomes an “American tragedy” with a soundtrack of pure angst …

My Oscar for the worst of this year’s nominees goes to Invictus, Clint Eastwood’s unctuous insult to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Based on a hagiography of Mandela by a British journalist, John Carlin, the film might have been a product of apartheid propaganda. In promoting the racist, thuggish rugby culture as a panacea of the “rainbow nation”, Eastwood gives barely a hint that many black South Africans were deeply embarrassed and hurt by Mandela’s embrace of the hated springbok symbol of their suffering. He airbrushes white violence – but not black violence, which is ever present as a threat. As for the Boer racists, they have hearts of gold, because they “didn’t really know”. The subliminal theme is all too familiar: colonialism deserves forgiveness and accommodation, never justice. At first I thought Invictus could not be taken seriously, but then I looked around the cinema at young people and others for whom the horrors of apartheid have no reference, and I understood the damage such a slick travesty does to our memory and its moral lessons. Imagine Eastwood making a happy-Sambo equivalent in America’s Deep South. He would not dare’. – John Pilger

Read the rest here.


  1. I was attached to some American Rorce Recon Marines in the Tet of 1968, out of I Corps (Phu Bai). I was a Royal Marine. I have nothing but good to say about the American Marines I fought shoulder to shoulder with, true Marines, and men that fought for the principal of freedom and a peoples rights therein. It really was Semper Fi with them!


  2. Ah, our dear old friend, John Pilger. He obviously hasn’t seen Avatar, in which the ‘gun-addicted, homicidal “culture”’ gets its comeuppance for once…! LOL And it requires one of their own to bring it about. (On the other hand, Pilger would probably say I’ve missed the point of Avatar and it’s still glorifying the gun culture….maybe he’d be right!)


  3. Jason
    Pilger is exactly right about Invictus. It is worse than Gran Torino (which is saying something). Particularly egregious is a scene in which Eastwood attempts to connect to American post 9/11 trauma. Mandela is portrayed as someone who believes that the strength of the individuals will can overcome opposition and enable change. The ANC barely gets a look in. Plus the direction is bizarre.


  4. I’m still trying to figure out why American Hollywood stars needed to make a movie about South African history concerning what is for them a minority sport.


  5. Mike Crowl: what kind of “comeuppance” does “gun-addicted, homicidal culture” get in Avatar? The Na’vis’ (Navy’s?!) problems are solved by a gun-toting Marine. This squarely fits Pilgrim’s argument.


  6. I certainly agree with Pilger re the Oscars if Invictus is as he says it is. Certainly Avatar shows a complete failure of moral imagination. It takes the side of ‘natives’ and the planet. But in the end it is just another western. In taking the side of the indians it still concludes that a shoot up is inevitable and then glorifies and exults in the pure violence of it all. My vote for the Oscars is on An Education, but it is such an ‘english’ movie it’s hardly going to win.


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