Quentin Tarantino’s stand on the side of victims of police brutality

56363bf6c36188410f8b45e0-2RT

After taking a public stance in solidarity with the victims of lethal violence in the United States, Hollywood filmmaker Quentin Tarantino is learning that free speech in the land of the free comes at a price.

The movie director recently attended a public demonstration in New York to commemorate the victims of police killings and protest against police brutality. He did so, he said, because he “stood on the side of the murdered.”

Those are undoubtedly strong words, which predictably have met with a fierce reaction in the shape of politicians, chiefs of police, and media commentators attacking him. Even more extreme has been the campaign launched by police unions across the country to boycott his movies – the latest of which, The Hateful Eight, is due for release in December.

Indeed such has been the controversy stirred up by Tarantino’s public stance and words that his own father, Tony Tarantino, has publicly distanced himself from his son’s sentiments, stating: “Cops are not murderers, they are heroes.”

However no amount of criticism of Quentin Tarantino, and no boycott campaign against his movies, can alter the fact that there is a serious and growing crisis within US law enforcement.

According to figures compiled by the website, The Counted, run by the UK Guardian newspaper, 950 people across the US have been killed by the police so far this year alone, 189 of them unarmed. Moreover, the majority of the victims, measured as a proportion of the population, have been black.

The crisis is both social and cultural in dimension. The increased militarisation of law enforcement in the US – involving the regular deployment of the kind of weaponry and equipment you would associate with a warzone – has only succeeded in feeding a macho ‘take no shit’ law enforcement culture that has long been prevalent. It underpins a ‘them or us’ outlook, one responsible for the growing polarisation between police officers and the public they are meant to be protecting and serving. Add to the mix institutional racism and mass poverty, especially within minority communities, and in the United States social cohesion is close to disintegrating completely.

Paradoxically, Quentin Tarantino was already part of the debate on the prevalence of gun violence in the US due to his movies, known for regularly portraying violence and violent characters in a flattering light, making both appear cool and sexy. However the filmmaker has always vehemently denied any connection between movies, such as his, which regularly depict gun violence and violent characters, and the real thing in wider society. In this regard he has consistently claimed that the violence in his movies is so exaggerated and outlandish, it is more akin to cartoon violence than real life.

But regardless of his movies, Quentin Tarantino is perfectly entitled to raise his voice along with others protesting the extent to which people are being gunned down by the police, and with seeming impunity. The problem, surely, is that police brutality and killings have reached the point where people feel the need to come out and protest against it. In fact it has now reached the point where people – especially minorities and from low income communities – are entitled to believe that rather than ensure their safety, police departments across America exist to intimidate, terrorize, and kill people. As Edward Snowden said: “Police officers kill more Americans than terrorism.”

One theme that comes over consistently in Tarantino’s body of work – Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Django Unchained, and so on – is sympathy for those on the margins of society; its criminals, drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes, killers, etc. It suggests an affinity with the ‘underclass’ that his critics will now seeks to exploit to denounce his appearance at an event on the side of the victims of police violence.

However, as well as diminishing the scope of the crisis, this misses the point entirely.

Quentin Tarantino is someone who has done very well in life. He is one of the world’s highest paid movie directors with millions of fans around the world. He is lauded as one of the greatest screenwriters and directors of all time, credited with creating a distinct oeuvre that has changed the nature of movie making. His work is even credited with having a marked impact on American culture, an achievement very few artists in any field can claim. As such, the filmmaker is someone who doesn’t need to expose himself to the kind of heat he has just generated in standing up against a law enforcement establishment that has circled the wagons in defense of the indefensible.

Much easier for someone in his position to instead remain ensconced in their Beverly Hills mansion, shut off from reality in a bubble of affluence and celebrity.

Instead he chose to come out and raise the profile of the victims and the communities most affected by the rising tide of police brutality in a country the world is continually being told is synonymous with liberty and freedom. This takes courage; the kind of moral courage that very few in his position possess.

Ultimately murder is murder, whether committed by someone carrying a gun and a badge, or whether by someone carrying a gun and no badge. Denying the connection between both is to deny justice to the victims of the former and their families.

The only problem with Quentin Tarantino’s stance is that there aren’t more like him. It is he, not those calling for a boycott of his movies, who is standing on the side justice in the land of the free.

 

 

 

35 comments on “Quentin Tarantino’s stand on the side of victims of police brutality

  1. Well fair play to you John.

    It takes some arsehole, i.e. nerve, chutzpah, to write on criticising a foreign country (Russia) ‘Why would I take it upon myself to criticise Putin’s running of Russia when I don’t live in Russia, have never lived in Russia, and haven’t even visited the country? Isn’t this a colonial mentality at work, our assertion of the right to criticise other countries when we have enough probelms in our own to contend with?’, whilst actually penning some telling criticism of another foreign (the USA) for a foreign news channel noted for dishing it out to all and sundry, save the country that in its title.

  2. I have lived in America, do visit America, and America plays a unique role in the world as a superpower whose status is the one that impacts everybody economically, culturally, and politically.

    Nice try though.

  3. John,

    Come on John, we’ve all met at some point in life a dickhead who’s been to Greece for 2 weeks or the like, and supposes they’re an expert on the country in qui. I am not suggesting that your knowledge of USA is equally superficial, but you take the point.

    The real point is that as you criticise (in the case of police brutality I wouldn’t expect you’d flinch on the issue were there protests following an instance in Britain) at home so you earn the right to criticise abroad. And as this article demonstrates you’re not reticent in doing so abroad – except when it comes to Russia or its allies. A country that isn’t without influence ‘economically, culturally, and politically’ – as Syria demonstrates.

  4. #3 Sam, you can’t suggest seriously that the USA is on a par with Russia in terms of power and influence in the world as a whole.

    More to the point, what influence does Russia have here?

    RT??

    Additionally, for all sorts of political, cultural (particularly linguistic) reasons we are tied to the USA and have far more knowledge of the place than we do about Russia and therefore have a far greater responsibility to speak out about what happens on the streets of Washington, New York, Baltimore or wherever than we do about what happens in Moscow, St Petersburg or Volgagrad.

    On the subject of racism I was in a pub yesterday evening before the Man United v CSK Moscow game with a black friend surrounded by groups of very heavy looking Russians.

    Given CSK are the team whose fans abused Toure when they played City I was quite relieved that neither I nor (more to the point my friend) noticed anything untoward.

    Having said that, it’s pretty clear that there is a serious problem with racist thuggery in Russia, as there is however with so many of “our” allies in the EU, but most importantly in the USA, and there the worst thugs seem to be wearing Police unofroms.

    And things aren’t so wonderful everywhere here. Ask any Muslim living in Rotherham at the moment for example.

  5. StevieB on said:

    Good for Tarantino to take a stand. But ……. I recall a report some time ago that he absolutely would not allow unionised workers on his film sets. Is this still the case? Personally, I find his films tedious – Spike Lee does it for me.

  6. Vanya,

    A bit contrived this Vanya.

    I know you’re an inveterate of the left but you don’t have to follow the time warn practice of distorting what somebody says and then responding to their alleged position by (easily) knocking them down. So: ‘you can’t suggest seriously that the USA is on a par with Russia in terms of power and influence in the world as a whole’. I can’t seriously say that because it wouldn’t be true. In fact – here’s the key point – I didn’t say that. This is what I said: ‘A country (Russia) that isn’t without influence ‘economically, culturally, and politically’ – as Syria demonstrates’. Clearly that isn’t akin to saying that Russian influence is ‘on par’ with the USA. But, on the substantive issue, Russia is a great power. Part of the motivation for Putin’s policy vis Syria is to win back some of the influence in the ME it has lost over recent decades. Historically, as I’m sure you know, it has had an imperial role, territorial and cultural (Russian sponsored pan-Slavism etc). Read your Lenin on Great Russia chauvinism comrade.

    On expressing an opinion on foreign countries, I just don’t accept (here’s my little bit of caricature to pay you back) that our ‘special relationship’ with our ‘colonial cousins’ allows us to comment on internal affairs there, but not elsewhere.

    On Russia and Russians, I am sure that the reality is more nuanced than is sometimes depicted. I saw a BBC4 documentary last week by a Black straight Londoner on gay life in Russia. Even amongst conservative nationalists he spoke to, the views (obviously this was on camera) were not as uniform as might have been expected. It was also the case that one gay couple he spoke to had come to the view that life in contemporary Russia has become intolerable. Because I have spoken out on gay rights here – on one occasion almost being beaten up in the factory in which I worked years ago – I think I have the right to do so there. And I am sure you agree.

  7. Francis King: How about we all limit ourselves to speaking out only about things and countries we know something about?

    I can’t speak for others, but this suggestion in my case is tantamount to a blank cheque. Sam, on the other hand, would be forced to confine his contribution to general elections, by elections, and council elections.

    Not really fair, is it? 🙂

  8. However much we disagree, I’m sure we all look forward to the future communist society where the division of labour of capitalism no longer applies and, as Marx prophesised: ‘each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic’.

    And, in John Wright’s case, and this is a utopian scenario right, also a comedy writer during the day on SU.

  9. jock mctrousers on said:

    Do I see a pattern here? Every time John Wight posts something, Sam cries ” but will you DENOUNCE RT?” Is that it? Excuse me if I’m slow on the uptake.

    Is Sam calling for a cultural boycott of RT? Sam seems to be saying that we can’t credit John Wight with integrity while he contributes to RT? Then we must apply that also to for instance Chris Nineham, John Rees, Linsey German, John Wight, George Galloway, Noam Chomsky, Flint and Hilary Mann Leverett, Joshua Landis, Richard Sakwa, Richard Lerner, Michael Pettis, Michael Hudson, William Blum, Ray McGovern, Paul Craig Roberts (and that’s just off the top of my head – multiply by ten), and there would no longer be any left (or just a little grown-up) voices on tv, just like before? McCarthyism?

    A quote from Michael Parenti springs to mind, in response to MSM journalists who claim they’ve never been told what to say. ” You say what you like because they like what you say.”

    No, I’m not talking about RT. I’m talking about why Sam64 is given so much leeway here. Does someone up there LIKE what Sam says?

    But to critical views of Russia: Sam mentioned somewhere (maybe on another thread) a book by Luke Harding: Mafia State. Well, I haven’t read it, and I’m not going to, but is this news? So Russia is run by mafiosi? In that case it’s just what RT portrays it as – your average modern state!

    On the other hand, this short and unusually readable (for him) review from Richard Sakwa seems to me as good as it gets as an approach to modern Russia, and let me suggest a good reason you’re not going to get a lot of this on RT – who’s interested? Me, John Wight, a few dozen others…

    Is Russia really a kleptocracy? RICHARD SAKWA
    Karen Dawisha PUTIN’S KLEPTOCRACY Who owns Russia?
    http://www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/public/article1514756.ece

  10. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers: Is Russia really a kleptocracy? RICHARD SAKWA
    Karen Dawisha PUTIN’S KLEPTOCRACY Who owns Russia?

    Here’s another good read. Not about Russia technically. The Peripheral by William Gibson.

  11. Karl Stewart on said:

    jock mctrousers: I’m talking about why Sam64 is given so much leeway here. Does someone up there LIKE what Sam says?

    Hey disagree with Sam by all means, but don’t challenge his right to make contributions on here.
    I often disagree with him myself, but he seems a genuine left-wing guy, I’ve never read anything racist or discriminatory from him and this site needs robust exchanges of views otherwise it would get boring.

    Keep on posting Sam!

  12. jock mctrousers,

    Woo Jock, I seem to have really got your goat, sorry about that. Though I suppose I should be flattered, devoting a few hundred words to attacking me of an evening when you could be doing something more agreeable, cheering on Chelski in the Gazprom sponsored Champions League perhaps?

    You ask: ‘Do I see a pattern here? Every time John Wight posts something, Sam cries ” but will you DENOUNCE RT?” Is that it? Excuse me if I’m slow on the uptake’. If memory serves, by all means further flatter me by searching through the archives all afternoon, I have mentioned RT News on SU just once this year – a couple of days ago. And I don’t think I’ve ever said, directly or indirectly, ‘but will you DENOUNCE RT?’

    As for the rest, I don’t really understand what you’re on about Jock. The prose is coherent so I guessing you weren’t on the vodka, but I can’t see the logic. E.g. ‘But to critical views of Russia: Sam mentioned somewhere (maybe on another thread) a book by Luke Harding: Mafia State. Well, I haven’t read it, and I’m not going to’. WTF.

    Look there is an issue here. John Wright writes clear, provocative articles (sometimes primarily for a media outlet of one form or another, e.g. RT) that he posts on SU. Others respond Jock. That’s the way it works. It’s quite clear that whilst he dishes it (criticism) out to various opponents, his criticism is muted when it comes to anything to do with the Russian state. In fact, it’s non existent. Now if that’s because John earns a crust from RT that’s fair enough, I do get that – you don’t bite the hand that feeds and I wouldn’t if I was in his situation. However, it does crucially – I’d say fatally – influence SU’s critical independence in respect to the Putin regime. His half hearted defence that ‘he’s never been to Russia’ etc. is frankly risible.

    Thanks for the link Jock: Well, I haven’t read it, and I’m going to.

  13. Sam64: Now if that’s because John earns a crust from RT that’s fair enough,

    I have never uttered or written a word on RT that I do not believe. That is a scurrilous claim to make.

    But here’s the thing. I am close to kicking off this blog, reading your latest pish, because what you are doing is attempting to delegitimise my views based on the fact that they appear at RT. This is the kind of nonsense we get at HP and other places.

    You have already distracted from the Tarantino article, which I posted, one of the very few I have done that I originally wote for RT. I refuse to be taken to task and forced to defend my work at RT by you or anybody else.

  14. John,

    Do what you want John. If you read what I’ve actually written it doesn’t relate to ‘I have never uttered or written a word on RT that I do not believe’.

  15. Karl Stewart on said:

    John: I am close to kicking off this blog, reading your latest pish

    Can I urge you not to John. This blog needs different viewpoints.

    Sam64,
    RT was the only news channel that told the truth about the crisis in the former Ukraine SSR. It’s an asset in my opinion.

  16. Sam64: it does crucially – I’d say fatally – influence SU’s critical independence in respect to the Putin regime. His half hearted defence that ‘he’s never been to Russia’ etc. is frankly risible.

    Unfortunately given the overall control of the mainstream media by the capitalist establishment, people with John’s views do not tend to be given prime slots by the BBC and other mass outlets.

    As a couple of others have noted Sam, if you were to restrict yourself to commenting on things about which you have any knowledge or understanding, it would dramatically reduce the quantity of your comments, but increase the average quality.

  17. RT does have its problems, but so do all media outlets. Importantly, even if their motives are a bit suspect, RT provides a platform to a lot of radical campaign groups that they otherwise would not have.

    I think this is a well written and well crafted piece. I also don’t think there is any issue with John’s right to write about it. Do I agree with all of John’s views on Russia? From what I’ve read no. But he comes from a clear and consistent position and I don’t see anything in this that contradicts it.

  18. What I find interesting is that Sam seems so concerned to play the man rather than the ball that he makes these comments on this thread rather than one of those already pretty much about Russia.

    So in effect the discussion has been about Sam and John rather than the rather more important topic of institutional racism in the USA. And my apologies for my role in that.

    Great article btw John.

  19. Karl Stewart:
    So Sam’s been banned for asking ‘difficult’ questions.

    Has he / she? Perhaps she / he is just sulking.

    I do think there’s a difference between difficult questions and McCarthy-style smears.

  20. Karl Stewart: So Sam’s been banned for asking ‘difficult’ questions.

    I don’t think anybody can accuse me of refusing to deal with difficult questions. In fact quite the opposite, I am more than willing to debate and argue with critical views of anything I post here, as a quick check over past articles will prove.

    But Sam crossed the line into the kind of trolling that was once the norm on this blog until Tony came on board and cleaned the place up. He/she followed me into a separate article to continue to impugn my motives for writing for RT. I’m simply not having that. I have been more than indulgent where Sam is concerned, and taken a lot of abuse in the process – being called a dickhead is not part of the job description of writing and posting articles.

    If he or she wants to read anti-Russian or anti-Putin views I suggest there are plenty of other places to go and find them. Every newspaper, news website, and most left blogs carry them on a daily basis.

  21. Apart from the obvious truth that John Wight can look after himself in almost any situation (that excludes the use of deadly force) I would suggest that in this case the discussion needs the stewardship of an editor other than himself.

  22. Mr Pink: ‘D’ you kill anybody?’
    Mr White: ‘A few cops.’
    Mr Pink: ‘no real people?’
    Mr White: ‘Just cops.’

    😉

  23. #32 When I went to see that film in a cinema in student land in South Manchester that line resulted in an outburst of laughter from all sides (not from me, obviously). I did always suspect that the line you quote and the scene where the cop gets tortured were the real reason why there was so much hostility to the film from the powers that be. It certainly got far more stick than (for example) Goodfellas which (I think) came out around the same time was a similar genre but with as much, if not much more, graphic violence.

  24. Good point, I’ve not considered that. I was probably about 10 when it came out and about 14 or so when it finally was shown on TV, and by that point it had been blown so out of proportion that we were like ‘is that it?’