Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Questionable Decision: A strange adjunct to the LC immigration resolution

DirecTV subscribers in League City Texas can see a bizarre case of art echoing life on their very own TV sets right now.  Bear with me for a moment while I set the stage for context.

The debate over the League City immigrant resolution rages on, both within City Council meetings and in the press, largely in Galveston County Daily News, where the comment count is now among the highest I've ever seen.
Front of the proposed resolution.  I re-published the original text in this July 2014 post
The resolution's reference to Islam has long since eclipsed the original debate about whether or not to receive Latin American immigrant children in League City.  Some League City Muslims are still actively opposing the reference, but the people who support it have also been vocal.
Based on the current reporting, it doesn't seem like either side exhibits a clear majority at this point.

Screengrab courtesy Galveston County Daily News.  
It's immediately apparent from reading the GCDN comment stack that many of the resolution supporters have taken their positions out of what they perceive (rightly or wrongly) as an abundance of caution.  That stance appears to arise because many people simply don't feel like they have a reliable lens through which to discern what Islam means on a local scale.  This perspective was quoted in a GCDN piece as having been stated in a Council meeting:  “During (the public comments two weeks ago) of the individuals who spoke, representing the Muslim community, never once did I hear an allegiance to this country, to our flag, to our Constitution, to anything about the American way of life,” Russell Fielder said during the public comment portion of council to a round of applause from many on the council.  In a similar vein, one commenter on GCDN noted, "It is long past time that normal, moderate Muslims speak out against radical Islam."

What both of those communications suggest is that residents simply lack a coherent framework for parsing any of this.  What they expect or hope to see doesn't exactly match the reality that has manifested.  Thirteen years after 9/11, this is apparently where we still are socially, for reasons that I'm not sure anyone really understands.

Case in point where such confusion and discrepancy is concerned - the oddness of what's currently offered in juxtaposition on your DirecTV service: two versions of the same classic American movie, but one of these things is no longer like the other.
I'll get to the explanation in a minute.

Screengrabbed from this site.   
Executive Decision has always been one of my all-time favorite movies.  It was made 18 years ago, "back in the day" when suspense films were still built primarily on plot and character development rather than on mindless ADHD-inspired computer graphics.
The film also showcased Kurt Russell's unparalleled work ethic as an actor.

Image screengrabbed from this site.  
Not only was the film a gutsy depiction of a very difficult subject (that being "radical Islamist terror groups"), it was also noteworthy for having featured a 747 aircraft that actually was bombed by such a group, that being the following:
In 1982, a bomb was detonated on PAN AM Flight 830, resulting in the death of one minor child and the injury of 16 other people.  Despite the resulting damage, the plane was able to make a successful emergency landing in Honolulu.  The aircraft was apparently re-painted for the movie with the fictitious airliner name "Oceanic".  Either that or they just used it for interior shots.

Screengrabbed from Wikipedia.
Executive Decision was a stunning portent of 9/11 five years before it unfolded, and as far as I'm concerned, it's a creative work of national significance.  But prior to being released on Blu Ray, Executive Decision was "edited", or, some would say "censored", for reasons that are not clear.  Furthermore, I can't find a single source on the internet which describes the full extent of what was done to eviscerate the film.  Most references such as this one and user Iceboy's Amazon review primarily cite digital alterations to the imagery, including removal of certain religious references and deleted scenes.  But I believe that the most significant changes actually involved extensive dialog dubbing throughout the movie, dubbing which changes utterly the character of the film and manifests most strongly with this scene.
A suspicious glare indicating a sea change of attitude 1 hour and 24 minutes into the movie:  When the leader of the terrorist group finally reveals his plan to utilize the jet to strike a deadly blow against countless innocent American citizens, his second-in-command revolts, stating, "This has nothing to do with Islam.  This is not [the Deity's] will.  You are blinded by your hatred and I will have nothing to do with your plan."

But the same lines in the censored version are spoken very differently, indeed.

Screengrabbed from my TV set.   
The bizarre part is that, if you so desire, you can currently watch both the censored and the uncensored versions at the same time.  If this situation is of interest to you, it's an opportunity for you to compare and see for yourself what's been done to the film.
The Encore HD version is the Blu Ray version available for instant access.  The Encore Suspense ("ENCSUS") version is the original uncut version.  I recorded both versions within 24 hours of each other this past weekend.

Photo from my DirecTV list with intervening screen space eliminated for clarity.  
The resulting existential questions are as follows:

Why was the movie altered in the first place?  The original version was arguably quite responsible to Islam by forming an explicit distinction between Islam and that which has "nothing to do with Islam" but is instead driven by "[blind] hatred".  This is much the same distinction that the GCDN commenter was seeking in referring to "normal, moderate Muslims" as opposed to "radical Islam".  What benefit to understanding is derived by obscuring this essential distinction in this film or in any other context?  Clearly, we need more of that distinction, not less.

Why are Americans provided primarily with the censored version?  I can understand Warner Brothers / Warner Home Video wanting to change the tone of the movie in certain restricted distributional regions where such actions might be expected, but they only made one Blu Ray, that being the censored version.  In general terms, most Americans are probably going to default to the Blu Ray as their obvious choice (audio and video quality are both superior to the DVD). Given the age of the film, most present-day watchers may not even know that an original version of the movie exists.  In more specific terms, why am I sitting on my flat American butt in my house built on American soil accessing an American content provider streaming an American-made classic movie which has effectively been censored?!  What the hell is up with that?!

The whole thing doesn't sit well with me, and it is an example of what is working against those people who are honestly trying to put Islam into an appropriate social perspective.  "Censorship" is one of the dirtiest words we have in America, provoking immediate defensiveness and hostility in those who sense that they have encountered it.  What's been done to Executive Decision is just going to raise even more suspicions and questions and confusion about perspectives and allegiances where Islam is concerned, both locally and elsewhere.
At least the "editors" had the guts to admit what they had done.

Screengrabbed and annotated from this site.  

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