There’s Nothing To Do About This, But “13 Hours” Is Unethical


“13 Hours,” directed by Michael Bay,dramatizes the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the Benghazi consulate in Libya, a tragedy, and also the center of an ongoing controversy over Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State and her truthfulness. The movie hits theaters today,  two weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses.

“The release of ’13 Hours’ will re-start the conversation over Benghazi and introduce a whole new audience to the events of that night,” says Brian O. Walsh, president of Future45, a conservative, Clinton-hating super PAC.  “Coming just weeks before the first votes are cast and in the form of a major motion picture from Hollywood, the timing couldn’t be worse for Secretary Clinton.”

He’s right. I haven’t seen the film, but the subject matter is bad enough. It is brutally unfair and an abuse of its influence and power over public opinion for Hollywood to release a feature film distorting a relevant historical event during the run-up to a national election. Doing so turns entertainment into propaganda, and confuses an already bewildered, ignorant and intellectually lazy public. It is irresponsible.

This particular film is unfair to Hillary Clinton. The candidate or specific campaign topic isn’t the issue. Nobody should want a Presidential election influenced by the kinds of reckless misrepresentations of history Hollywood cannot resist making, films like “JFK,” “Truth,” “Titanic,” “Thirteen Days,” “Selma,”  and so many others. Even arguably historically accurate films don’t belong in the middle of national campaigns, if their topics are matters of significant importance in the campaign.

Satires, like “Dr. Strangelove” or “Wag the Dog”?  Sure. Obvious fiction with a political slant, like the climate change idiocy “The Day After Tomorrow” or “Wall Street”? Fine. Even documentaries like Michael Moore’ s junk: they are blatantly and obviously  political. Dramas that are advertised as telling “true stories” however should wait until after election day.

Even if they are bad for Hillary Clinton.

This can’t be regulated or controlled, of course. Efforts to block an anti-Hillary movie was what led to the Citizens United decision, a correct one, by the way. Hollywood has the right to make any movie whenever it wants, however irresponsible, no matter what damage it does.  It could choose to be responsible, of course, but it’s Hollywood. If these people mislead  the electorate and change  the course of history, so what? How big was the box office, that’s all that matters, right?

As for conservative bloggers and pundits who are cheering this film when a film about, say, Michael Brown’s shooting that showed him putting his hands up  would have the same bloggers and critics claiming Hollywood was in league with Democrats, they don’t care about the integrity of the process any more than the progressives they deride.

36 thoughts on “There’s Nothing To Do About This, But “13 Hours” Is Unethical

  1. The problem I have is that the survivors stand by the claim that a verbal order was given. Given the choice between believing Hillary vs the troops, and my time in the military that not everything isn’t written and officials, and others, will lie to cover their asses………………

  2. This is as good a place to post this as anywhere. Since 2014, I have been telling commenters that Hillary can not win, and may not even be able to get nominated, because she is objectively awful, dishonest, dislikable and untrustworthy. Now she is gradually losing ground to a ridiculous candidate, an elderly wacko is isn’t even trying to win. Here’s a chart comparing how she blew 2008 with her “progress” now…

  3. I feel foolish even asking but . . . if Hollywood is so liberal why would ‘they’ open the movie now and not after the nomination/elections?
    Is there a conservative movie group in Hollywood? I’m not much of a movie watcher so I feel like I must be missing some key element here.

    • Michael Bay is a conservative director and a patriotic one. (“The Island,” for example, was a very strong anti-abortion allegory. His movies make lots of money. Hollywood loves liberals, but it loves $$$$ more. Clint Eastwood movies are often ideologically tilted right. They make money, so Hollywood loves them anyway.

      Also, even Hollywood isn’t that crazy about HC.

      • I think in Hollywood only a few people are mostly interested in money. The upper echelon have more money than most of us will ever see and are more interested in getting invited to all the right cocktail parties and being “in.” It’s a public intellectuals club where everyone pats themselves on the back and tells each other what courageous, forward-thinking, socially just folks they are. They grudgingly accept conservatives whose efforts succeed, but only grudgingly so.

        This release of a movie that’s clearly going to ding one candidate WELL in advance of the election, which will have cycled through long before nominees have even been picked, is but one of the film industry’s sins, which include countless formulaic stories with dubious ethics, cruelty disguised as satire, out-and-out campaign propaganda like Michael Moore produces, and lies masquerading as history. If someone was really looking to hit Hilary, he’d hold this film until October, when it could do the maximum amount of damage.

        I have to agree that it is inherently unfair to produce something like this during an election cycle when it could affect the electorate. However, I also believe actions like this need to be taken in context within the industry. In an industry that gives us stupid love story over fact (Pearl Harbor, Kingdom of Heaven), that refuses to even acknowledge another side to a legal case (Hurricane), that turns other significant figures into afterthoughts to the designated hero (Braveheart, Michael Collins), and that promotes slick mockumentaries like Moore produces through selective editing, it should not really come as a surprise when a film is tilted against a particular candidate. The whole industry is to some degree unethical and feeds on lack of ethics -wishful thinking, confirmation bias, the desire to short-circuit the system. This is just one more example of many.

  4. Jack, I have read the book and saw the movie tonight. To be fair, it has some scenes in it that were inaccurate comparing it to the book. However, I can’t see why this movie is unethical. Many people have only a vague understanding of what happened in the embassy compound and the CIA contractors attempts to rescue Chris Stevens and the other personnel there. Two of the CIA contractors died trying to defend the CIA annex afterward. These were brave men and this film honors them. Hillary is not mention in the film but people that see it can draw their own conclusions.

    • Wayne. I haven’t seen the movie and have not read the book and know nothing about the movie other than it is evidently about the Benghazi disaster. That being said, I write fiction most of which is based on people and incidents I’ve seen witnessed hand during the course of my life. If someone were to ask me, “Is that story about me?” or “Is that character me?” even if that person had been the actual inspiration for the story or character, by the time the piece of fiction is complete, the story and character really have nothing whatsoever to do with the living person.

      Fiction is art and art has its own requirements that need to be satisfied. The art form dictates many significant things that have nothing to do with historical fact. Characters need to be interesting and internally consistent, time needs to be compressed or stretched, motivations need to be demonstrated, plots need to thicken and resolve, heck, there needs to be a plot- something needs to happen, etc. I’m guessing Jack’s acutely aware of these things because of his work in the theater.

      For these reasons, releasing an artistic treatment of a historical incident in the middle of a political campaign is inherently unethical. Let’s leave the dramatization to the pros in the political arena. They create enough misinformation without the pros in Hollywood adding to the confusion.

      • Other Bill, I quite agree with you and Jack, doing “timely” fiction causes an unethical tension. The other films Jack cites make the same point equally well, regardless of ideological “bent.” Fiction has its own rules, but the audience can’t resist the temptation to see ‘behind the headlines’ and find out ‘what really happened.’ It’s a temptation Hollywood should avoid.

        I appreciate the occasional column like this one that Jack writes, because while nominally it “supports” the “left,” in fact it’s a principled point. But the occasional ‘left-leaning’ post is critical to remind us of Jack’s bona fides on the principles front.

        He’s of course entitled to his generally ‘right-leaning’ (I know, it’s a terribly vague designation, I agree) viewpoints, but he burnishes his ethical point on those issues when he occasionally skewers a position on the right. It doesn’t take much; the occasional post, like this one, is enough. It’s what keeps me coming back to read all of them.

      • What makes you automatically make you think this was fiction? I suggest that you read the book reviews on Amazon so you will see what the other readers thought.

        • I read them. They’re all over the map. It’s a Rorschach test social phenomenon, apparently just convincing people of their pre-existing beliefs. Which goes to prove Jack’s point.

  5. Haven’t seen the movie. Haven’t read the book. But I am fairly familiar with the alternative stories of what happened in Benghazi, before and after the attack, the present controversies, and the political implications.

    I am not particularly concerned that this movie is essentially propaganda aimed at HRC. (And I am not advocating that the ends justify the means here.)

    Here is why.

    So what if the movie is propaganda. American politics have long been manipulated by false narratives and propaganda in many forms… the news, talk radio, TV talk shows, TV drama entertainment, the silver screen, all sorts of print media, and especially effective… comedy. Propaganda works and propaganda has been refined to the point where Americans consume it happily while believing that they are not being manipulated by it.

    What is the difference between this movie and the many paid political advertisements that are also based on doubtful facts, distortions, and intentionally misleading narratives? Maybe the movie is propaganda and even more effective propaganda than most paid political ads. Maybe it also has some entertainment value.

    Still and always, it is up to the citizens to educate themselves as thoroughly as possible and to especially to look at issues from multiple points of view. Only then can they cast an informed and ethical vote. How many Americans actually do their homework before casting their vote? Many do. But unfortunately, too many people do not but instead follow their “gut” based on images that they have absorbed in passing in the media, or even worse yet, vote on the basis of party affiliation no matter what.

    I believe that there is “truth” somewhere out there. It is sometimes hard to find. There may even be some important elements of truth in this movie.

    I do believe that American policy and political leadership failed in Libya and led directly to the disaster in BengazI on 9/11/01. HRC was one of several high ranking people primarily responsible for the disaster. So if this movie helps to cement this narrative into the minds of voters, perhaps that is not such a bad thing.

    I agree with your assessment of HRC… it is hard to imagine a more deeply flawed candidate. It is hard to imagine that the American people would happily send HRC and Bill Clinton back to the White House. That is why I suspect that the HRC supporters in the media are peddling soft news on Donald Trump… as opposed to hard hitting, in depth and critical assessments of his character and his policies… so that HRC might have a chance against another deeply flawed candidate this coming November.

    • There is a material difference between propaganda that openly and transparently signals itself, and Hollywood movies that are asumed to be “true” and apolitical, and thus credible. Films like “Truth” are, IN truth, doubly untrustworthy. They are movies, and they do have political agendas. And the public does, unfortunately, confuse movies with history. A disturbing number of people, for example, think Private Ryan was real, and perhaps worse, that George Marshall would do something so sentimental and stupid as to place the rescue of a single GI over the rather more pressing matter of winning the damn war.

      • Why next you’ll say President Bartlett wasn’t real. He put Edward James Olmos on the supreme court for godssake, the man who spent his life protecting us from androids.

  6. “There may even be some important elements of truth in this movie … [s]o if this movie helps to cement this narrative into the minds of voters, perhaps that is not such a bad thing.”

    J.E. I think Jack and the people who comment here who are proficient in using Jack’s professional ethical and argumentation terms (of whom I am not one) would call your statement above ‘moral luck.’ And they would also say you’re making an “ends to justify the means” argument. Neither of which are good ideas and don’t get much of a favorable reception.

    • But believe me, I feel your pain. Thinking of the movie George Clooney and his wife would produce about anything in the Mideast make my blood boil.

  7. I love how everyone says the uneducated informed public cannot deal with this movie and will be influenced by it. Elitist bullshit. Everyone else is too stupid to know fact from fiction but you.

    Typical thing the left does is talk down to people and act like everyone else a idiot.

    • Let’s welcome today’s sufferer of the dreaded “If you oppose unethical conduct toward a liberal, you must be liberal” disease. In all cases, the sufferer is himself the one unable to be fair to all individuals regardless of partisan position. In other worrsd, wouldn’t know integrity if it bit him on the nose.

      As for the other silly complaint here, film’s effectiveness in misleading the average, ill-informed, historically ignorant (thanks to our schools) has been recognized for many decades. Or was Hitler just whistling Dixie when he hired Leni Reifenstahl to portay him as a Savior in “Triumph of the Will”? Millennials regard the satire on “The Daily Show” as substantive news, their parents were convinced that “The Da Vinci Code” was factual, but they’re all too smart to be confused by a vivid, Hollywood film that purports to tell a true story. The power of film to warp belief and the tendency of film audiences to leave their skepticism at the Box office window isn’t even in dispute. No, everyone isn’t an idiot. You, however…

      • “JFK” more or less turned JFK conspiracy theories into fact, as far as the general public is concerned. If you point out the far more interesting reality that the conspiracy theories were in fact themselves introduced part of a real Soviet conspiracy, YOU’LL be considered the kook.

    • Ordinarily that would be a good idea, as I agree with you that books can be a lot more objective and thorough than two hours of a movie.
      However, in this case, I looked at the Amazon reviews and found this:
      Reviewer A:
      “This book doesn’t attempt to assign blame or name who the guilty parties are. It doesn’t go into requests for enhanced security for the diplomatic compound that were not responded to.

      It also doesn’t try to assign blame for the lack of support for the fighters on the ground in spite of repeated calls for assistance.

      It is clear that if the operators had been dispatched sooner, rather than forcing them to wait until they defied orders and proceeded to the Diplomatic Compound on their own, they might have been able to save the lives of Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith….

      It’s impossible to read this book without questions as to procedures arising. There are more questions than there are answers.

      “13 Hours” does not blame Secretary Clinton or President Obama. I was hoping to have answers to questions about their involvement or lack of involvement.
      … Other books and investigations are required to answer all of the questions of the failures of the Benghazi Attacks. I’m afraid that while this book does detail the minute by minute accounting of the heroic actions of the contract operators, it leaves many details unanswered.

      Reviewer B:
      “Hard to believe people still support the Clinton’s in any way, they belong in prison. This was an excellent book and yes a very true story. Some people say they believe in freedom of speech until you disagree with them. Read it for yourself instead of getting 22nd hand knowledge.”

      And you can find lots of reviews along the spectrum in between. It’s hard for me not to conclude, from all these people who read the book, that “Benghazi” is a Rorschach test.

      They all read the same book, but the anti-Clintonites will find damning evidence for imprisonment; whereas Clinton supporters will continue to be mystified as to just what “crime” has supposedly been committed.

      Sounds like it’s a fine book to describe in micro-detail exactly what happened – but it’s not about to settle any ideological debates any time soon. Which I think goes to Jack’s point – it just inflames needlessly coming at the timing it does.

  8. Remember, I’m saying that it has the effect of propaganda, whether that’s the intent or not. I would make the same complaint about “The Big Short.” Would it be appropriate to put out a movie about “Woodstein’s” Waterrgate theory while Nixon was running during the 1972 campaign?

  9. If no one is even talking about Ben Ghazi anymore, except Republicans who are immediately shrugged off as trying to find a reason to destroy their dream gal, and this movie does spark people’s interest in somethings that should be a major concern and wasn’t…then I’m not quite certain this is a terrible thing.

  10. “It is brutally unfair and an abuse of its influence and power over public opinion for Hollywood to release a feature film distorting a relevant historical event during the run-up to a national election.”

    Yes, but:
    ‘Distorting’ = facts not in evidence. If it had been made as a hit-piece it would have been very different IMO
    ‘During the run-up to a national election’: When are Americans ever not in the run-up to a national election? Seriously, there would be no window to show this film.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.