Debunking the Oscar 'Backlash'

It appears that the Bush administration will have succeeded in colonizing Iraq sometime in the next few days. This is a blunder of much magnitude -- and we will pay for it for years to come. It was not worth the life of one single American kid in uniform, let alone the thousands of Iraqis who have died, and my condolences and prayers go out to all of them.

So, where are all those weapons of mass destruction that were the pretense for this war? Ha! There is so much to say about all this, but I will save it for later.

What I am most concerned about right now is that all of you -- the majority of Americans who did not support this war in the first place -- not go silent or be intimidated by what will be touted as some great military victory. Now, more than ever, the voices of peace and truth must be heard. I have received a lot of mail from people who are feeling a profound sense of despair and believe that their voices have been drowned out by the drums and bombs of false patriotism. Some are afraid of retaliation at work or at school or in their neighborhoods because they have been vocal proponents of peace. They have been told over and over that it is not "appropriate" to protest once the country is at war, and that your only duty now is to "support the troops."

Can I share with you what it's been like for me since I used my time on the Oscar stage two weeks ago to speak out against Bush and this war? I hope that, in reading what I'm about to tell you, you'll feel a bit more emboldened to make your voice heard in whatever way or forum that is open to you.

When "Bowling for Columbine" was announced as the Oscar winner for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards, the audience rose to its feet. It was a great moment, one that I will always cherish. They were standing and cheering for a film that says we Americans are a uniquely violent people, using our massive stash of guns to kill each other and to use them against many countries around the world. They were applauding a film that shows George W. Bush using fictitious fears to frighten the public into giving him whatever he wants. And they were honoring a film that states the following: The first Gulf War was an attempt to reinstall the dictator of Kuwait; Saddam Hussein was armed with weapons from the United States; and the American government is responsible for the deaths of a half-million children in Iraq over the past decade through its sanctions and bombing. That was the movie they were cheering, that was the movie they voted for, and so I decided that is what I should acknowledge in my speech.

And, thus, I said the following from the Oscar stage:

"On behalf of our producers Kathleen Glynn and Michael Donovan (from Canada), I would like to thank the Academy for this award. I have invited the other Documentary nominees on stage with me. They are here in solidarity because we like non-fiction. We like non-fiction because we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where fictitious election results give us a fictitious president. We are now fighting a war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fiction of duct tape or the fictitious 'Orange Alerts,' we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. And, whenever you've got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up."

Halfway through my remarks, some in the audience started to cheer. That immediately set off a group of people in the balcony who started to boo. Then those supporting my remarks started to shout down the booers. The L. A. Times reported that the director of the show started screaming at the orchestra "Music! Music!" in order to cut me off, so the band dutifully struck up a tune and my time was up.

The next day -- and in the two weeks since -- the right-wing pundits and radio shock jocks have been calling for my head. So, has all this ruckus hurt me? Have they succeeded in "silencing" me?

Well, take a look at my Oscar "backlash":

Read More Show less
ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up