Saturday, August 31, 2019

Katharine Gun and "Official Secrets"

When I was editorial director at PoliPoint Press, Norman Solomon told me about Katharine Gun's remarkable story. A translator working for a British intelligence agency, she leaked top-secret information after learning that the United States illegally monitored the UN offices of six countries on the Security Council. At the time, the United States was seeking UN authorization for the invasion of Iraq.

We published Marcia Mitchell's book about her, The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War, in 2008. Now the film version, Official Secrets, has arrived, and Jon Schwarz's article in The Intercept calls it "the best movie ever made about how the Iraq War happened."

Friday, August 16, 2019

Media Roundup: Manson, Arnautoff, McWilliams & Ramparts

Three projects I'm involved with came to fruition this week. Though the topics are very different, all three are connected to my teaching and research interests.

The project with the longest gestation period was a documentary film called Manson: Music From An Unsound Mind. It explores the musical aspirations that brought Charles Manson to Los Angeles with disastrous results. Before that, Manson lived in San Francisco, and the film includes some of my comments about the San Francisco counterculture. I watched the film on iTunes, but it's available on many other platforms.

The same crew (Prism Films) is also releasing a documentary about Altamont. I'm not sure about the release date but wouldn't be surprised if it lands in December, which is the concert's 50th anniversary. We did both interviews here at the house on the same day.

I also talked with Robert Scheer about Carey McWilliams and Ramparts magazine on his KCRW podcast. Over the years, Bob and I have talked extensively about Ramparts and his work there; this time it was especially gratifying to blend those reflections with some discussion of McWilliams and his achievement, especially but not only at The Nation magazine.

Finally, my continuing interest in Victor Arnautoff's murals at George Washington High School led to an interview with Christoph Droesser, who produced a piece for Swiss radio and a front-page article for Frankfurter Allgemeine. I continue to follow the larger story with interest and am glad the San Francisco school board has reconsidered its decision to destroy those murals. I learned about the issue from my colleague, Bob Cherny, who wrote a 2017 book about Arnautoff. I was alarmed by the board's claim that the murals glorified slavery and genocide. The opposite is true, but the claim seemed to justify the destruction. To my knowledge, no one has actually withdrawn that claim. We'll see where that goes from here.

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