For further reading and advanced hellraising:
In 1974, Sam Lovejoy single-handedly toppled a 500-foot weather tower, built as part of one of the largest nuclear power plants ever. Charles Light and Dan Keller document Lovejoy’s immortal act–one of the first nuclear protests–in a 60-minute film, Lovejoy’s Nuclear War. To order, call (413) 863-4754, or write Green Mountain Post Film & Video, P.O. Box 229, Turners Falls, MA 01376.
Just two weeks before the 1979 meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island, The China Syndrome hit theaters across the nation with its own nuclear tale. In eerie synchronicity, movie characters denied the cinematic disaster while TMI officials lied about the real one. Now classic, The China Syndrome builds from good performances by Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, and Michael Douglas.
Much of today’s nuclear activism focuses on international events, and there’s no better source than Greenpeace. Keep up to date through the group’s international Web site: http://www.greenpeace.org.
Top Political Films
“The Big Picture” (Roger Ebert | John Sayles)
The union film is a fading genre rescued from historical obscurity by Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds, and Riffraff (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996), a comprehensive guide to 150 films on labor organizing put together by Tom Zaniello. Zaniello makes a celluloid sweep from classics such as John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath to recent sleepers such as Lezli-An Barrett’s Business as Usual. Each entry includes a plot summary and notes, as well as related resources.
From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995) is an anthology of essays, offering refreshingly readable commentary on the world of Walt Disney. Essays include: “The Curse of Masculinity” (on Beauty and the Beast) and “Spinsters in Sensible Shoes” (regarding Mary Poppins).
Several of the independent films listed by Roger Ebert and John Sayles (Hoop Dreams, Roger & Me, Parting Glances) owe their success to producer John Pierson. His new memoir, Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes (New York: Hyperion, 1995), charts Pierson’s career while indulging in the requisite amount of industry gossip (he suggests that 1991 Cannes film festival juror Whoopi Goldberg sabotaged Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever because Lee once ridiculed her for wearing blue contact lenses). Pierson also details how independent films–from Jim Jarmusch’s 1984 film Stranger Than Paradise to Terry Zwigoff’s 1995 documentary Crumb–have bypassed major studios to find audiences of their own.
Religion and the Left
In The Illustrated World’s Religions: A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions (San Francisco: Harper, 1994), Huston Smith leads us on a tour of spiritual traditions around the globe. The book is a quick study in comparative religion, at once insightful and accessible.
In The Politics of Meaning (New York: Addison-Wesley, 1996), Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun, analyzes the implications of the “elitism” and “me-firstism” that guide our times, and outlines strategies for transcending them. Lerner uses core societal values both as a guide to understanding the populism of the far right and as a means of taking action from the left.
Brian Springer’s Spin (Video Data Bank, 1995) exposes the media as never before. For a year, Springer monitored satellite-feed stations (that transmit the unedited versions of talk shows and media events) to glean 500 hours of raw footage of 1992’s biggest stories, from the presidential campaign to the L.A. riots. Spin captures moments never meant to be made public, such as CNN’s Larry King casually discussing the lurid side effects of heart medication with then-President George Bush. Copies are available from Video Data Bank for $29.95, 112 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60603; or call (800) 634-8544.
For an in-depth account of PR–often called the “propaganda-for-hire industry”–check out John Stauber’s Toxic Sludge Is Good for You (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage, 1995). Stauber, director of the Center for Media & Democracy, also produces the quarterly PR Watch. Contact him at email@example.com; 3318 Gregory St., Madison, WI 53711; (608) 233-3346.
Up in Smoke
Richard Kluger’s Ashes to Ashes: America’s Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996) is the most comprehensively researched history yet on the tobacco companies and their duplicitous success in manipulating politicians and public opinion. Seven years in the making, Kluger’s well-written book probes deeply into the strategies of denial, suppression, and sophisticated political deal-making used by tobacco companies–and Philip Morris in particular–to resist the mounting scientific evidence about their lethal product. For scholars and activists both, Ashes to Ashes is likely to become the one must-read book on the history of tobacco in America. Information from the book was used to compile our tobacco timeline.
Outspoken feminist Jean Kilbourne electrified college campuses in the 1970s with Killing Us Softly. Her new documentary, Pack of Lies: The Advertising of Tobacco, exposes the tricks advertisers use to lure teenagers and women. Order it from the Media Education Foundation, 26 Center St., Northampton, MA 01060, (800) 659-6882.
In May 1994, tobacco foe Dr. Stanton A. Glantz received the gift of a lifetime–4,000 pages of Brown & Williamson documents, leaked by a source called “Mr. Butts.” Glantz annotates the documents in The Cigarette Papers (Berkeley: Univer-sity of California Press, 1996), revealing what the tobacco industry has known for 30 years–smoking is addictive and deadly. See the papers on the Web at: http://www.library.ucsf.edu/tobacco.
Christopher Buckley’s satirical novel Thank You for Smoking (New York: Random House, 1994) introduces Nick Naylor, chief spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies. His job: to convince the world that “96 percent of heavy smokers never get seriously ill,” while debunking the “complete nonsense” that smoking kills 420,000 people annually. Believe it or not, the book is funny.
R.J. Reynolds heir Patrick Reynolds collaborates with Tom Shachtman to tell his family’s story of guilt and tainted money in The Gilded Leaf: Triumph, Tragedy, and Tobacco (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1989). The book begins with the sibling rivalry that spurred young R.J. to build his empire, and ends with Patrick’s agonizing decision to sell his RJR stock and testify before Congress in favor of cigarette taxes.
The BADvertising Institute’s take on cool-guy Joe Camel sports shades, a leather jacket–and a scythe. Intended to combat misleading tobacco ads, the BADvertising Web site (http://world.std.com/~batteryb/) reworks tobacco propaganda with images designed by artist Bonnie Vierthaler.
The National Clearinghouse on Tobacco and Health Web site (http://fox.nstn.ca/~ncth2/index.html) carries health sources, legislative updates, and links to dozens of related sites.
Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights is a watchdog group Big Tobacco can’t shake. The only national nonprofit lobbying group for nonsmokers, ANR spearheads the fight for anti-smoking legislation. It successfully campaigned for the 1987 smoking ban on airplanes. In 1976, when Philip Morris censored a British anti-smoking documentary, ANR made sure the film aired on American TV. Visit ANR’s Web site (http://www.no-smoke.org) or contact the group at 2350 San Pablo Ave., Ste. J, Berkeley, CA 94702, (510) 841-3032.
Leaders on the Lam
Some recommendations from the MoJo Wire staff:
Idi Amin isn’t just a failed leader; he’s a failed musician as well. And though we’re not quite sure what makes for truly great accordion music, we’re pretty sure that what Amin plays here isn’t it: http://eeisun5.city.ac.uk/aufiles/idi_amin.au.
Back when we were playing “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” on Apple IIe’s in the junior high computer lab, we were too naive to realize that there was a kernel of truth to the game. Thanks to Where in the World is Carlos Salinas?, now we know better. The site keeps track of the most recent Salinas sightings (apparently he’s in Dublin, Ireland these days), with a chronology of his rise and fall: http://www.mexico-virtual.com/csg/.
Genocidepage is a disturbing, thorough collection of information on Cambodian history, with a specific focus on Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge: http://www.jmk.su.se/jmk/stud/magen/l-johper/Cambodia.html.