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Censorship: From North Korea to the West Wing

The 2015 Academy Award nominees will be announced Thursday, and already a documentary by an American filmmaker – a film far too few Americans are even aware of – is favored in that category.

If you don’t know of Laura Poitras or her film “Citizenfour,” that’s because it is being screened largely in arthouses – and that’s in the cities where it is being shown at all. None of which are located anywhere in North Carolina.

Kim Jong-un

“Be a clown, be a clown…”

One would think news organizations which lately went nutzo over North Korea’s objections to “The Interview” and its alleged hacking of Sony Pictures’ computer network due to the comedy’s completely imaginary assassination of that country’s comedic-in-his-own-right Kim Jong-un would be interested in the, I’ll say it – censorship – of “Citizenfour.” Until, that is, one stops to consider the real-life character assassination our own government has perpetrated on “Citizenfour’s” subject, Edward Snowden.

Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald flew to Snowden’s Hong Kong hotel to accept classified documents from and interview the whistleblower in June 2013, after he fled Hawaii to expose the privacy-violating extremes to which the National Security Agency (NSA), goes in surveilling American citizens. A documentarian whose work has earned a Peabody award and previous Oscar and Emmy nominations, Poitras was contacted anonymously by Snowden after he learned of her regular harassment in airports at the hands of NSA-directed agencies here and abroad. CITIZENFOUR is the screen name Snowden used in his initial contacts with her.

Poitras filmed and edited down the entirety of those hotel-room conversations, which occurred across eight days. “Citizenfour” is the result, and it’s been showered with awards since debuting in late October. The film has been described as “chilling” by those lucky enough to have seen it.

So why, here in our little corner of the land where free speech and open dialogue are supposedly sacrosanct, haven’t we?

Maybe because no major theater chain has shown it. And because Greenville has no independent theaters.

But given the scope of the Snowden saga, it seems important to ask why mega-plexes didn’t screen this film, outside of – shall we say, persuasion? – on the part of the same government that seeks to discredit Snowden, a man to whom we all owe tremendous gratitude for reminding us of the sort of country we’re allowing ourselves to become.

Whether the squelching is that ham-handed or less conspiratorial in nature, there’s good news: HBO will air “Citizenfour” beginning February 23, the day after the Oscars.

Even in North Carolina.

See the trailer here, and don’t miss Poitras’ thoughts about Facebook here.

I ? Jet Noise

You see the bumper stickers from time to time, more often as you near the coast, with its Lejuenes and Cherry Points. They also show up farther inland, thanks to Seymour Johnson.

“I ♥ Jet Noise.”

In these military-centric communities, jet noise is the sound of money. In Havelock, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point last summer won a contract to service and more recently to modify the new F35-B fighter, bringing civilian jobs and new meaning to the word “noise,” to a degree one simply can’t, um, appreciate? – without experiencing it firsthand.

But you know, it’s funny. A few years back, when the Navy wanted to build an OLF (outlying landing field) on fertile farmlands in Washington and Beaufort counties, displacing 74 farming families in one of the poorest areas of the state and threatening the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, citizens rebelled. NoOLF“No OLF” signs were painted on everything from scraps of plywood to the sides cotton modules harvested from the subject fields. In the end, the citizens won – just as they did more recently in Currituck and Gates counties, when the Navy tried to take its OLF act there. Indeed, the airstrip project – it would have been used for training runs by fighter pilots stationed at Cherry Point and Oceana Naval Air Station, near Virginia Beach – has been indefinitely scrapped.

Jets may mean money and jobs on military bases, but they also create havoc around those bases and everywhere else they fly – including noise loud enough to impact wildlife, and land requirements big enough to destroy human lives.

Doesn’t our military/surveillance complex do enough of both those things already?

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