Ken Loach, the film director, is demanding heavy censorship
on films and art exhibitions. After praising Senator McCarthy and his important
work in the US in the 60s, he demands that art works by blacks and Jews be
barred from being shown. Oh, and he also wanted to remind everyone he has a new
movie coming out.
More precisely, the story goes as follows: The Edinburgh film
festival got a grant from Israel, at the huge amount of 300 pounds, to allow
the Israeli filmmaker, Tali Shalom Ezer, to come to Edinburgh for a screening
of her film Surrogate in the festival. At which point Ken Loach (a modestly successful
director but considered by some critics) steps in and says: “The massacres and state terrorism in Gaza
make this money unacceptable,” he said. “With regret, I must urge all who might
consider visiting the festival to show their support for the Palestinian nation
and stay away.”
The intervention brought an immediate capitulation from the organizers.
In a statement the festival said it accepted that Loach spoke “on behalf of the
film community, therefore we will be returning the funding issued by the
Israeli Embassy”. (quoted from http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article6322826.ece)
So no, Ken Loach didn’t explicitly mention McCarthy, but is
there really much of a difference? Yes there is. The McCarthy issue was with a
clear political choice of the people involved, while Loach’s has to do with the
country they come from. Even McCarthy didn’t go that far.
Loach is not saying anything about the artwork, simply going
after the money. This is nothing new for people advocating censorship. It’s
almost always: “How can public funds be used to support such an exhibit” and
the threat is almost always financially. For instance the censorship committee
won’t say the director has to edit out certain scenes, but will otherwise give
it an X rating which will cause it financial ruin. One would think that as a
film director, with the long history of the fight for censorship on films, he
would be against censorship, one would think.
But, if I’m criticizing Ken Loach, and I am as I find his
actions despicable and the immediate caving of the Edinburgh film festival
saying that Loach spoke “on behalf of the film community” deplorable, but if I’m
criticizing him do I think he’s wrong to do what he did? That’s a much tougher
question that has been discussed on THINQon in different contexts: Regarding
censorship in sports in why is political racism accepted
generally in Where are the limits of political activism
. Personally, I
don’t have an opinion yet on the matter and am hoping these discussions can
The general question is very hard. Where should we draw the
line, and is censoring anybody we disagree with a reasonable political move?
But what I find surprising is: Why is this question constantly come up
entangled with Israel? As the discussion on the limits of political activism
showed, it happens in every household. Why then does it seem to get to these
levels only with regards Israel? In The international response to the
the discussion quickly moved to the question of south Africa and
are the cases similar. I don’t remember but was the South African embargo also
with regards South African artists and scientists as is the case in Britain and
More importantly, if people accept such actions why don’t
they act the same way where it is perhaps much more important and could have a
larger effect in many other fields, for instance in recycling? Moreover, the
American government is involved in its fair share of horrors, as is certainly
the British government – did Ken Loach never accept government money? Does he
call for all state money to be purged from supporting the arts? (Does he prefer those 300 pounds go to buying
What I don’t understand is why does Israel manage to enrage
people beyond their sense so much more then it seems any other issue in the
world (where there are so many important political issues the world is facing).
Certainly racism no one cares about any more, or chauvinism, or cure for
diabetes, but anything having to do with Israel can ensure him to get headlines
– and I’m sure it is completely coincidental that he has a movie coming out
just now. Oh ya, it has nothing to do with wanting the press to talk about him.
The Jews are used to being a comfortable target for attack
in order to get the public attention but it is always funny to see.
To finish I wanted to ask, if someone calls for art
censorship based solely on the artist’s origin, shouldn’t they themselves be
censored? That is, why would anyone who cares about art go to see his films or
would even agree to distribute and show them? Personally I would boycott
anything he does. But I won’t just say of him, of anyone who calls for a boycott
on someone else based only on their origin. I wouldn’t accept it about a black
person, a Chinese, a Jew, or a Muslim.
In case it wasn't completely clear to everyone, I should add as postscript that no, surprisingly Loach didn't actually say anything about McCarthy, nor about censorship or blacks or Jews. Not explicitly. The first two lines were obviously my interpretation of what he was really saying and where his logic leads, to which many will disagree. In general, people advocating censorship very rarely actually use that word.