Saturday 2 August 2003

Amy Reiter plays it straight

Courtesy of Professor Bunyip, I came across one of the best interviews I've seen in a long while. It's of a Hollywood actor (yawn) called James Woods, blathering on about some film or other, Northfork I believe. The whole subject leaves me agog with disinterest, worthy though the film may be. I would never have read the interview in the normal course of events, and that would have been my loss.

The interesting thing is that the interviewer plays it absolutely straight:
AR : I'm gonna let you go, but it's been a pleasure.

JW : I'm sure you're just saying that.

AR : You're starting to sound a little paranoid.

JW : You probably don't gamble much, do you.

AR : No, not much.

JW : Well, sheltered life. But I would give you 7 to 1 odds that this is going to be a slash piece, but that's OK. I'm willing to take the heat.
He'd lose his bet. The interview appears to be exactly as he said it, no Dowdification or malicious editting. And the interviewer isn't afraid of being made to look like a pratt. Examples:
AR : Let's talk about the wildly diverging opinions. I know you're interested in politics and you have a reputation for being an outspoken conservative. How would you categorize yourself politically?

JW : That's a good question because the thing that most aggravates me about people's political stance in this country these days is that they're being polarized, and I just don't think it's necessary. People always have the wrong impression of me. I just have very specific and, I hope, common-sense responses to each individual scenario.


JW : A lot of my friends in Hollywood have actually said things like "Let's melt their hearts with hugs and love." It honestly doesn't work. So I respect people's sweetness for believing that you can melt the heart of Osama bin Laden with a hug, but you can't. The only solution to Osama bin Laden is a fucking 88-millimeter shell through his forehead.


JW : I tell you why these conversations sadden me. I don't ever like to do press anymore and that's only because there's never any advantage for me to do it. The only thing the press is ever interested in is controversy and creating it even if it's not there. They can't pick on my personal life because I live an exemplary, decent person's life, so they pick on my politics. Do you think I want to be the one lone voice against the Hollywood liberal establishment? It's not going to do me any good. So I prefer never to have these conversations because, quite frankly, nobody on either side is going to be convinced by anybody on the other side. It's just too polemical and it's too polarized, so I'm not interested in having them.


AR : You're clearly interested in politics, and this is an opportunity to get your opinion out there.

JW : I'm neither inclined nor really in any way interested in disabusing people of their political positions, however ridiculous they may be or however sound they may be. They can think whatever they want. I've never talked to an extreme liberal or conservative who could be disabused of his or her notions about their positions. They are intractable in their thinking, they are unreasoning and unreasonable and it's just a waste of breath to talk to them. I always say to them, "Look, just go sit at the card table with the rest of the kids and let the adults run the country." No matter what position you may take about the Bush presidency, if George Bush parted the Red Sea, found every single terrorist, found every weapon of mass destruction, fed the poor, opened the shores of America, gave every starving kid a college education, do you think would write about it? No, you wouldn't.

Let me ask you a question, OK?

AR: Sure.

JW: In Afghanistan in 1992 through the year 2000, under the Clinton administration, how many women went to school in Afghanistan? You know the answer.

AR : None.

JW : Zero. How many women are in the equivalent of high school, junior high school and in college in Afghanistan today under George Bush?

AR : Um ... a lot.

JW : How many?

AR : I don't know.

JW : You don't? You're a journalist. And you're interested in politics. And you're a woman.

AR : I write about entertainment.

JW : I'm asking you because I like you and I think I'm going to like you for a while and I'm going to talk to you a lot in the future because I like you, but you seem like an intelligent woman and probably a feminist and good for you. Many aspects of feminism have equaled a lot of wrongs and many of them have been just a disaster, but they've done a fundamentally good thing.

So I would think that you as a political writer for a very important Web site that is read by many, if you really want to be -- and I'm going to make a joke here -- fair and balanced, then you might want to actually report that under George Bush's tutelage of our country and to a certain extent of our entire world there are women in Afghanistan who are now enjoying the fruits of education and there were zero under Bill Clinton. You might want to write an article about that. "This fucking moron" is actually educating women in Afghanistan with your tax dollars. Don't you feel good about that? I do. He can raise my taxes on that one anytime he wants.
So there you have it : a denizen of Hollywood with both intelligence and an open mind, and a reporter, an Entertainment reporter yet, with intelligence and integrity. My world-view is shattered.

Oh yes, Ms Reiter, if ever you should read this, may I please request that you move into political reporting? We need more people like you.

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