Thursday, December 8, 2005

Harold in Gitmo

British playwright Harold Pinter excoriated the United States, its foreign policy, its attitude about life, the universe, and everything in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Stockholm.

“The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them,” Mr. Pinter said. “You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”


Mr. Pinter attacked American foreign policy since World War II, saying that while the crimes of the Soviet Union had been well documented, those of the United States had not. “I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road,” he said. “Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be, but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self-love.”

I am sure that the right-wingers here in the US will launch a jihad against Mr. Pinter, most of whom don’t have a clue about who Pinter is or know any of his works, and they’ll dismiss the Nobel Committee as just another left-wing fringe group — you know how those socialist Scandanavians are — who hate America. Any theatre group that is planning a production of The Birthday Party or The Homecoming had better brace themselves for bomb threats.

The only thing that surprises me is that anyone who knows his work would be surprised at Pinter’s speech. When you read his plays, you see the anger and frustration of his characters held in great restraint as they try to control themselves and manipulate others. We playwrights are used to dragging our emotions out over two acts in two hours. However, when you only have a few minutes and you’re phoning it in — Pinter delivered his speech via videotape due to illness — you have to let it all out at once.

As for what he actually said — that America represents an arrogance of power and delivers it under the guise of having the best interests at heart; Father Knows Best on a global scale — Mr. Pinter is not the first to raise that point, nor is he the first British intellectual to get his dander up about it; Bertrand Russell was a thorn in the side of America for decades. The problem is that few of us will actually listen to what he said, consider his words, agree or disagree, challenge or concur. It will all be lost in the heat of the argument that some old guy in a wheelchair used a formal occasion like the Nobel ceremony to attack America, and their solution will be to demand that he be labeled as an “enemy combatant.”

The one saving grace for Mr. Pinter is that he is in England. If he were here, I’m sure someone from the Justice Department would find a way to make his life miserable, as if having cancer of the esophagus isn’t enough. Well, I hear Cuba is nice this time of year.