Science Guardian

Truth, beauty and paradigm power in science and society

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News, views and reviews measured against professional literature in peer reviewed journals (adjusted for design flaws and bias), well researched books, authoritative encyclopedias (not the bowdlerized Wiki entries on controversial topics) and the investigative reporting and skeptical studies of courageous original thinkers among academics, philosophers, researchers, scholars, authors, filmmakers and journalists.

Supporting the right of exceptional minds to free speech, publication, media coverage and funding against the crowd prejudice, leadership resistance, monetary influences and internal professional politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, HIV(not)AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, information technology, religions and cults, health, medicine, diet and nutrition.

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I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing that ever interfered with my learning was my education. I am Freeman Dyson, and I approve of this blog, but would warn the author that life as a heretic is a hard one, since the ignorant and the half informed, let alone those who should know better, will automatically trash their betters who try to enlighten them with independent thinking, as I have found to my sorrow in commenting on "global warming" and its cures.
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American Violet’s compelling message

True to life movie a vivid portrayal of justice system’s racism

Lead role tour de force by newcomer Beharie makes audience identify

Can fiction on screen make a difference?

So much of the human skulduggery alive in modern systems is hidden beneath the surface that even the best documentaries such as House of Numbers (see below) may have a hard time revealing it all, especially when there is heavy resistance to exposure, and when the lid is taken off the cockroaches flee too quickly from the light.

That is why some authors are driven to fiction, “the great lie that tells the truth about how the world lives”, as Dorothy Allison has said. In HIV/AIDS, for instance, the truth so vastly contradicts the officially endorsed scientific error that serves as conventional wisdom that at least two authors have presented it as fiction in book form (see David Rasnick’s Germ of Lies and Stephen Davis’s Wrongful Death)

No one has yet attempted to attack HIV=AIDS thinking in movie fiction form, however, although The Constant Gardener (click for trailer) was taken by many to be a step forward in undermining the credibility of science too influenced by drug company propaganda.

No doubt there will be a movie sooner or later that will present the scientific and political manipulations of the scientists in HIV/AIDS, such as the roguish Robert Gallo, the newly discreet John Moore, and eminence grise David Baltimore and their bureaucratic fellow travelers under the dapper Anthony Fauci of NIAID. Of course there will be little need for the script writers to embellish the truth to add colorful criminality to those characters. The final cut promises to leave Jim Watson’s rip off of Rosalyn Franklin in The Double Helix smelling like an English rose by comparison.

For one thing that the movie-movie has over the documentary is that it can make plain the rights and wrongs of its case without pulling punches or leaving out motivations for which there is no hard evidence as such. This is why a movie released this week is worth noting, for beyond its entertainment value, it seems likely to change views and votes.

Review:

American Violet’s powerful plea

<b>American Violet, which stars Nicole Beharie as a Texas waittress railroaded by a small town racist DA </b>There is never any doubt in American Violet (click for trailer) as to the rights and wrongs of the case of false accusation at its heart.

Played with compelling power by newcomer Nicole Beharie in what is amazingly only her second film outing, the lead role of (pseudonym) “Dee Roberts” (real name Regina Kelly), who was 24 at the time in real life, is a cleancut young mother of three and respected diner waitress wrongly arrested in a drug sweep ordered by a racist district attorney.

Facing years in jail unless she plea bargains her way to a felony conviction which will still deprive her of job and home, Roberts fights her way out with the help of a pair of ACLU lawyers from out of town, and a reluctant ally, an ex-assistant DA and local lawyer (a charmingly conflicted Will Patton) willing to risk his own livelihood and take on all his old friends and colleagues in a system he will always have to live with.

Feeding the prisons

The high energy personal drama draws attention to one of the great institutionalized schemes of racial injustice in American democracy and shows vividly how the levers are worked. Dee Roberts’ frightening experience is typical of a justice system which unfairly punishes blacks. As the ACLU lawyer tells the blacks in Melody, “What’s happening in Melody is happening all over our country. Drug task forces use military tactics to terrorize poor people.” The national level of the problem is suggested by the televisions in the background playing excerpts of the 2000 election campaign, with then Texas governor Bush’s face on the screen.

Forced pleas, however, are the more crucial and subtle violence. The large portion of the US population (1 in 150) now in prison is vastly inflated by the numbers of blacks falsely accused and convicted of petty drug offenses with draconian penalties. Over 90% of all prisoners are incarcerated as a result of plea bargains, forced by aggressively nasty district attorneys with threats of huge jail terms for conviction unless the terrified victims cooperate.

This is exactly the chest tightening predicament of the heroine – if she doesn’t give in, it’s 16 to 25 years for conviction, she is told. Calvin Beckett, the DA played with devilish villainy by Michael O’Keefe, knows very well his informant’s charges are false. As the cop who arranges the testimony admits, “Eddie Porter is crazier than a three dollar bill. He wouldn’t know which way the sky is up unless I pointed him at it”.

DA out of control

Roberts’ story is a classic case of an innocent whose life would have been steamrollered flat in this vicious way unless outsiders had intervened. All parts of the great machine of false conviction of blacks that DA’s across the country have built to feed the prisons and their own careers are vividly portrayed. The script by Bill Haney deftly dramatizes even the depositions. The whole juggernaut in Melody is under the control of an all powerful DA with a heart so dark that even his ex wife and his daughter are moved to testify against him.

The forceful realism of the film is glossy with high decibel Hollywood level production values but the feel of documentary truth is not lost as American Violet pursues its straight ahead story line. All the talent (Charles Dutton as the local preacher, sexy rapper Xzibit as drunken, abusive father, Alfre Woodard as grandmother) has strong screen presence and Haney’s polished script expertly maps the social and legal complexities of this oil fed Texan small town without missing a beat, yielding a faster paced treatment of Southern racial tensions than its forty year old classic forerunner, Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger in Heat of the Night (1967).

Persuasive politics

With 2 million in our great democracy’s prisons – more than China with four times our population – American Violet is a true tale of courage and victory over systemic abuse which is not only fascinating in its own right, but a window into rampant injustice, a national problem which we imagine many in the audience will now be moved to vote against, or even actively fight.

The problem is by no means history, even in Hearne, Texas, the real Melody. As a screen update tells us before the credits roll, the black hat DA exposed as a racist scoundrel in the court nonetheless won reelection. On the other hand, Texan law now more explicitly forbids forced plea bargaining, illegal arrest without a search warrant, and false testimony.

Director Tim Disney is a grand nephew of Walt and he partnered producer/writer Blll Haney in documentaries before this fictional treatment of Ms Roberts brave saga. Her ordeal was so painful that rather than make her relive it blow by blow they turned to fiction, which they thought would be “more dramatically compelling and enlightening”.

They succeeded well enough to suggest that it is time to apply the same technique to the science politics with which our readers are familiar.

Update: Rave review by Rex Reed in the New York Observer: Finally, a Good Movie to See and a True Story I Can Believe In!

One Response to “American Violet’s compelling message”

  1. Truthseeker Says:

    The true cause of AIDS

    Certain parties on this site have told us that they await with interest the post promised on the true cause of AIDS about two years ago. As Robert Houston kindly pointed out to them, there have been plenty of posts with the answer since. But the specific post they are in search of may be this one, Causes and Cures for AIDS now clear in literature, to which the link was broken from the discussion that followed the post with the promise.

    We have now fixed the link.

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