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British playwright Harold Pinter apparently gave a blistering Nobel Prize acceptance speech, attacking U.S. foreign policy for the past fifty years.  I've not seen the speech itself, but the New York Times article of December 8th reporting it is behind the cut.  So, I already know one person will read this.  Anybody else?


Playwright Takes a Prize and a Jab at U.S.

Accepting Nobel, Pinter Says Lies Were Used to Justify War

London, Dec. 7:    The playwright Harold Pinter turned his Nobel Prize acceptance speech on Wednesday into a furious howl of outrage against American foreign policy, saying that the United States had not only lied to justify waging war against Iraq but had also "supported and in many cases engendered every right-wing military dictatorship" in the last 50 years.

"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them," Mr. Pinter said.  "You haave to hand it to America.  It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good.  It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis."

Sitting in a wheelchair, his lap covered by a blanket, his voice hoarse but unwavering, Mr. Pinter, 75, delivered his speech via a video recording that was played on Wednesday at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm.  Doctors told him several years ago that he had cancer of the esophagus and recently ordered him not to travel to Stockholm for the speech, his publisher said.

The playwright, known in recent years as much for his fiery anti-Americanism as for his spare prose style and haunting, elliptical plays like "The Caretaker" and "The Homecoming," was awarded the $1.3 million Nobel literature prize in October.  In its citation, the Swedish Academy made little mention of his political views, saying only that he is known as a "fighter for human rights" whose stands are often "seen as controversial."  It mostly focused on his work, saying that Mr. Pinter "uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms."

The literature prize has in recent years often gone to writers with left-wing ideologies.  These include the European writers Jose Saramago of Portugal, Gunter Grass of Germany, and Dario Fo of Italy.

When he won the award, Mr. Pinter said he did not know if the academy, whose deliberations and reasoning are kept secret, had taken his politics into account.  He clearly welcomed the platform the award gave him to bring his views, long expressed in Britain, to a larger audience.

Dressed in black, bristling with controlled fury, Mr. Pinter began by explaining the almost unconscious process he uses to write his plays.  They start with an image, a word, a phrase, he said; the characters soon become "people with will and an individual sensibility of their own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or distort."

"So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction," he continued, "a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time."

But while drama represents "the search for truth," Mr. Pinter said, politics works against truth, surrounding citizens with "a vast tapestry of lies" spun by politicians eager to cling to power.

Mr. Pinter attacked American foreign policy since World War II, saying that while the crimes of the Soviet Union had been well documented, those of the United States had not.  "I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road," he said.  "Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be, but it is also very clever.  As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self-love."

He returned to the theme of language as an obscurer of reality, saying that American leaders use it to anesthetize the public.  "It's a scintillating stratagem," Mr. Pinter said.  "Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay.  The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance.  You don't need to think.  Just lie back on the cushion.  The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable."

Accusing the United States of torturing terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, Mr. Pinter called the invasion of Iraq -- for which he said Britain was also responsible -- "a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law."  He called for Prime Minister Tony Blair to be tried before an international criminal court.

Mr. Pinter said it was the duty of the writer to hold an image up to scrutiny, and the duty of citizens "to define the real truth of our lives and our societies."

"If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision, we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us -- the dignity of man," he said.


Dec. 11th, 2005 12:17 am (UTC)
Harold Pinter has always been one of my fave authors and a hero of mine ever since uni. That certainly confirms it. He's an amazing man, too bad this probably won't have as much impact as it should.
Dec. 11th, 2005 01:07 pm (UTC)
Every little bit helps... keep being one of those Americans who is thinking! :-)
Dec. 12th, 2005 04:10 pm (UTC)
keep being one of those Americans who is thinking!

You're not talking to me, there, are you? Because I am not American, lol.

But yes, every little bit helps. It's still never going to be enough, not when other countries keep pointing fingers at the US and not paying attention to all the ways they're trying to become the same. *sigh*
Dec. 13th, 2005 10:26 am (UTC)
(Lol. I think I mixed up your icon with Karen's.)
Dec. 11th, 2005 01:11 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I have taken the speech home to read.
Dec. 12th, 2005 11:13 am (UTC)
It would be interesting to know how many papers in the U.S. apart from the New York Times even reported the fact of the speech. I wonder what kind of coverage it got in the Washington papers (I'd hope that the Post would have covered it). I'll have to check when I have some time.

Did you ever see the film Betrayal?
Dec. 12th, 2005 11:40 am (UTC)
A few things...
First, it looks like the Washington Post did comment on the speech, quite detailed actually, though I don't know the leaning of the journal, it seems direct enough not to be trying to make too much light of it. I just read the speech this morning, and I hope that I can sincerely refute what you put in the original post about Pinter becoming a persona non grata in the US - I hope really just becomes a persona non grata as far as mainstream politics are concerned. But Karen, why have you been hiding from me the grassroots return in the States? Even Arnie was favourably mentioned in the Canadian press, and the cool cities initiative looks just completely fantastic. Even if you have one of the most agressive governments acting outside your borders (notice I say 'one of' - refer to those articles on France in the Ivory Coast...), there are so many positive things that we just don't hear about the states. And then there's you - and I'm sure there are a whole lot more wonderful people there like you who do give a damn! Hurrah! ... Now would be a perfect time to take me to task for that non-multiculturalist comment I made earlier. You realise that most of my news from US policy comes from Washington - if it were just for Washington, I wouldn't have even heard about the Sierra Club initiatives - it looks like there's a lot more grassroots effort in the US than the international press gives credit to! Tell me more...

I have never seen the film Betrayal, do tell...

Oh, and just because I don't know where to put it, remember the domino swallow you commented on? He's getting a sort of posthumous tribute...
Dec. 12th, 2005 12:48 pm (UTC)
And not to be too controversial...
USA Today focussed on the winners of the physics prize instead... *searches the Pinter speech for quote about being suffocated by the comfortable pillow* Suffocation kills brain cells, doesn't it? Perhaps they were just not too clear on what exactly Mr. Pinter meant. He got something of a journalistic honourable mention at the bottom. Well, I suppose USA Today didn't want their readers to get indigestion with their morning McDonalds...

The Chicago Tribune was about as watered down.

And they could have really sunk their teeth into the question of a scientific morality. ... Could have...

(Sorry, there aren't any other national newspapers that spring to mind... maybe the Seattle Times? NYTimes sort of coverage. *tumbleweed blows through brain* That's about it...)
Dec. 12th, 2005 01:27 pm (UTC)
Re: And not to be too controversial...
Oh lovely! Thank you. :-)

Shall I hire you as my research assistant? I can pay you with recipes .... *G*

Have flagged this and will follow the links when I can.
Dec. 13th, 2005 10:24 am (UTC)
Re: And not to be too controversial...
Mmm... well, let's see... what recipes have you got for... *thinks what has come into season at the market* I guess it's still pumpkin... oh, and winter cabbage, something between bok choy and Savoy... Actually, I might as well just try frying them up together, lol. ;-)
Dec. 13th, 2005 10:34 am (UTC)
Re: And not to be too controversial...

Did you just come online? When you get around to reading your flist, you'll see my post from yesterday. I want to double check your address before I post Christmas stuff. E-mail me, okay?
Dec. 12th, 2005 04:12 pm (UTC)
Nope, never saw the movie. I didn't even know there was a movie. I know it as a play, though.

As for Pinter's speech, I don't think it even got all that much coverage here, unfortunately. And given what some of the potential candidates for our upcoming presidential elections think of the American model, that worries me. *sigh*
Dec. 12th, 2005 04:23 pm (UTC)
The film was made a few years ago and starred Ben Kingsley and Jeremy Irons (and I'm drawing a blank on the name of the actress who played the wife). I loved it, and have been hoping it will eventually turn up on DVD.

Do you think Sarkozy's prospects (at least in the short-term) are going to be damaged by this whole "confront our colonial past" thing? Btw, Jenni was trying to draw you out with that post of hers the other day about Sarkozy; did you see it? She thought you might come and debate her.
Dec. 12th, 2005 04:31 pm (UTC)
The film was made a few years ago

LOL. It was out in 1983, that's more than a few years ago. Also explains why I wouldn't have seen it as I was merely 8, lol. The woman was played by Patricia Hodge.

As for Sarkozy's prospects, all I know is they are good, and that's enough to depress me to no end. As for Jenni's post, I don't remember... I must have seen it as I'm sure I've kept up with the flist, but I don't remember anything about Sarkozy, lol. Though what is there to debate? He's a dangerous asshole with fascist political ideas. I'm not debating anything more than what I once debated in my own lj, lol. (can you tell he's become a "bête noire"?
Dec. 12th, 2005 06:27 pm (UTC)
LJ is up to its old non-notification tricks again.

Everything in perspective, my dear. When you get to be my age, 22 years will qualify as "a few years ago" for you as well, lol!

(Actually, I phrased it that way because I couldn't remember when it was released and didn't have time to google it to find out.)
Dec. 13th, 2005 10:48 am (UTC)
Before I point you to the post (because now I'm a little worried ;-)), allow me to do some research - who are the non-UMP potential candidates for 2007? *hopes that she at least got the part name right*
Dec. 13th, 2005 05:51 pm (UTC)
I expect that Jem can give you the latest info, but I know I clipped something out of the Financial Times after the Paris riots that talked about some of the potential candidates on the left. I was going to post it, but then never had the time. I'll see if I can dig it up tonight to at least give you the names that were being bandied about.
Dec. 14th, 2005 11:29 am (UTC)
Okay, I've got: Francois Hollande, Segolene Royal, Jack Lang (possibly), Dominique Strauss-Kahn (possibly - ha ha, we could have another Ukraine with both candidates with the first name - I know I made a lame joke about that skewing the election results before... I really should stop laughing at my own jokes) and Lionel Jospin ('not ruled out').

Okay, that tells me... I had better wait until they choose a candidate or at least narrow it down. In a way it's a good thing I don't have internet at home - I'd just be surfing articles on everyone all day.
Dec. 16th, 2005 12:58 pm (UTC)
The Left? Don't make me laugh.

You're right, there are those 4, and they can't seem to choose between them (can't blame them myself, see below). The PS makes the UMP look united. I don't think any of them have a chance of beating Sarko, Segolene Royal at most, perhaps, I'm not sure she actually plans to run; I think it's just rumours so far, though I suspect she will try to put herself up. Her partner was re-elected PS leader recently and is assumed to be planning a campaign. A recent poll put up all the major PS candidates against Sarko and Dominique individually, and none of them is predicted to beat the UMP two in the final round.

Francois Holland: Oh, please.

Segolene Royal: Maybe, if France is ready for a woman president. Disgustingly conservative.

Jack Lang: Take a look at this. Has a bit of a playboy reputation, not very serious. Maybe.

Strauss-Kahn: No way. France has had enough of corrupt politicians. Or at least tainted-with-scandal ones. OK, now you're probably laughing, but to beat Sarko/Dominique, the Left are going to have to come up with someone really special, and he has no chance. Everyone was happy when he resigned.

Jospin: Didn't Dominique ruin his career already?
Dec. 16th, 2005 01:26 pm (UTC)
The Left? Don't make me laugh.

I think this is why some of my French friends are so down in the dumps. They hate Sarko, and don't think Dominique is much better, but they can't see anyone from the other side of the political spectrum who might really challenge either one of them.
Dec. 16th, 2005 01:37 pm (UTC)
Explain your 'the Left' comment... Actually, Royal said she should run which pissed her husband/partner off, ha ha, or so I hear. I love politics. :-)

You'd think that Jospin would just lie down and die quietly, but I suppose once a politician...

All right, if your assumptions are right, that the left has no chance (I'm also thinking this way, but an electorate is unpredictable, and there are still quite a few months for something drastic to happen) - will the UMP allow both of them to run?
Dec. 16th, 2005 03:20 pm (UTC)
will the UMP allow both of them to run?

From what I understand about the primary voting that Sarkozy just got the party to agree to (see Dominique's WA post), even if D loses to S in the primary, he can still run if he wants to; he just won't have the backing of the party machine. That was the point about Dominique's "does anyone have 21 million euros" question.
Dec. 17th, 2005 10:18 am (UTC)
See, being used to the US system, it just seems so odd to have two Presidential candidates from the same party.

*cherishes the parliamentary model... most of the time*