The Guardian

The Guardian February 2, 2000

Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland


For capitalism, the only moral justification you need to do something is 
whether it will make a buck.

Carol Howe was a well-brought-up middle class girl in Tulsa, North East 
Oklahoma, on the Arkansas River. My electronic encyclopaedia describes 
Tulsa as "a commercial, manufacturing, and financial centre that serves as 
the headquarters for a number of industries, including aerospace equipment 
and oil-field supplies".

After high school graduation, Ms Howe sought something more exciting than 
the normal life of a debutante in Tulsa, and became a neo-Nazi white 
supremacist (as one does, if one lives in the USA, apparently).

Later, she accepted an offer from the Feds to become a paid government 
informant, spying on her fascist friends. It was some of her friends who 
blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Now some Hollywood company has reportedly paid her $500,000 for the rights 
to make a movie of her tawdry life (not that it will be tawdry in their 

Some of the more responsible media commentators have noted that "the notion 
that her story could be made into a movie is extremely upsetting to many 
people whose lives were shattered by the bombing in Oklahoma City."

But hey, what's the beef? It's nothing personal, it's just business!

* * *
Backscratching Greece and Turkey signed a series of accords on January 20. Under the pretext of easing tension in the Eastern Mediterranean, the accords will actually make it easier for Turkey to be integrated into Europe. Turkey, NATO's Middle East watchdog and gatekeeper for the United States' eastern energy corridor to and from the Caspian oil fields, has been under pressure to clean up its act. Its odious record on human rights is a constant embarrassment to both the US and Europe. It undermines equally US leaders' global posturing on human rights and right-wing efforts to hound Turkish and Kurdish migrants out of Germany. Greece's social democrat government hopes, by playing handmaiden to Turkey on behalf of imperialism, to receive more favourable treatment for the Greek bourgeoisie in an integrated Europe. One of the accords signed on January 20 guarantees that investments will be protected. The others provide for co-operation in fighting organised crime, preventing illegal immigration, promoting tourism and protecting the Aegean environment. "Co-operation in fighting organised crime" is a bit of a laugh: like its mentor the US, Turkey's top levels of government, law enforcement, national security and organised crime are well integrated, with a mutually advantageous "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" relationship. Turkey's Human Rights Association's annual "Balance Sheet of Human Rights Violations" for 1999 shows that 205 people fell victim to "unknown murderers" between January and November last year. Almost as many, 199, died as the result of extra-legal execution (i.e., without a court decision), torture, or simply brutal detention. "Skirmishes" accounted for another 837 deaths, while "actions directed against civilians" left a further 136 dead (and 290 wounded). Thirty-two people simply disappeared (and are listed as "missing"). Only 2,056 people were arrested, but 48,095 were "detained", of whom at least 523 were tortured. In all 262 mass organisations, political institutions, and press organs were raided; 158 were closed. As for accord to promote tourism, would you want to holiday there?
* * *
AI culture Did you see that depressing report in the Sydney Morning Herald about the film production activities of Greg Coote former head of Village Roadshow and the Ten Network, co-chief of Roadshow Coote and Carroll and an executive of Columbia Pictures? Based in Los Angeles, Coote makes TV series and telemovies in Australia but they are not shown here. They are made for cable TV "internationally", which means US cable channels essentially plus other "markets". "It's television made for a world-wide market, basically. It's not made for the Australian market. It's not made for any single market." But that's what's wrong with it. It's not rooted in a specific culture but in a bland, "mid-Atlantic" never-never-land that is supposed to appeal equally to all cultures that are familiar with the conventions of US movies. This is an artificial culture created by the US bourgeoisie for the working people of the world. A giant one-size-fits-all culture that is economically viable because a film made for it in Australia will be just as viable as one made for it in Germany or the US or Japan or Italy. And just as empty and uninteresting. No wonder the on-screen explosions are getting bigger they're universal whereas scripts require words and ideas and they in turn tend to need a cultural milieu in which to work. There is no such thing as a universal culture. It's the diversity of national and regional cultures that makes life and the movies interesting and worth experiencing. In the US and Australia, ordinary working class kids do not receive an education intended to equip them for a cultured life. In New York, the educated have a choice of an amazing array of foreign, independent and unusual films, both old and new. The mass audience, on the other hand, is encouraged by every commercial means possible to eschew anything foreign or unusual or difficult and to settle for mass-produced and mass-marketed papp. Cable television, with its insatiable demand for product, could be bringing people all manner of innovative, low-budget, thought-provoking, minority- interest, or just ground-breaking films. Instead it is being catered for by the likes of Greg Coote, with his 44 episodes of Flipper, 22 episodes of Beastmaster, 22 episodes of The Lost World and 52 episodes of The Aquanauts. All made in Australia, yes. But is the Australian experience on the screen? Are the ideas and thoughts and aspirations of Australians embodied in what's on the screen? Or is it just made-for-a-buck formula television made for the "international market".

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