Tuesday’s daily State Department briefing seemed fairly humdrum — until you got to end, when department spokesperson Jen Psaki called on Associated Press reporter Matt Lee.
“Apparently the U.S. embassy in Canberra (Australia) is offering free tickets to see the movie ‘Dirty Wars” at the city’s film festival, Lee said, asking whether anyone in Foggy Bottom knew about ticket freebies being offered on the embassy Twitter account to a “documentary about undercover JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command] operations around the world that is not exactly the kind of movie that portrays the U.S. government in a positive light.”
Indeed. As The Washington Post’s review noted: “The narrative begins in an Afghan village near the city of Gardez, with [The Nation magazine’s national security reporter Jeremy] Scahill investigating a 2010 raid by U.S. forces that left several civilians, including two pregnant women, dead. Although the U.S. military initially denied involvement, it eventually admitted to its role and apologized for the deaths with the gift of a sheep to the villagers, who refer to the bearded commandos who stormed their home as “American Taliban.” The film doesn’t change gears after that.
Psaki said she would check out the report.
Lee followed up on Wednesday, noting that, of course, “one could argue that it is laudable that the embassy would want to, you know, promote divergent views of things.”
“Well, as always, context is important,” Psaki said, adding that the department’s public diplomacy and outreach programs worldwide “promote independent films, promote Hollywood films. That’s something we’re doing here.” The Canberra film festival “has dozens of movies, including 16 U.S. films,” and the department is “providing some funding for that,” she said, and the embassy is offering “a range of tickets for. . . more than a half-dozen movies.”
“We believe in freedom of speech,” she said. “We’re not judging or advocating or endorsing any of the movies, but we are just simply encouraging people to participate in the film festival.”
Besides, it’s not as if they are giving away small American flags for people to burn after the movie.