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Grovelling at the feet of Le Grand Complotiste: A guest post, by Fred Litwin.
Why is Quebec's high society rolling out Le Tapis Rouge for a washed-up Hollywood conspiracy theorist & obsessive homophobe who also happens to be Vladimir Putin's most slavishly devoted hagiographer?
In the thick clouds of public-relations bumpf attending to this week’s big event in the cultural life of Quebec City, there is nothing to explain why this is happening. But it is, and from the reports on the CBC, La Presse, and in all the usual press-release redistribution platforms and ‘zines of the kind that masquerade as arts journalism in Canada, you would never even know what, exactly, is going on here.
So, for the record, this is what is happening in Quebec City this week.
A fantastically wealthy Hollywood has-been who has asked the bloodthirsty Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin to be his daughter’s godfather is being welcomed with open arms by some of the city’s more notable and lavishly subsized high-society personalities. A yesteryear darling of Oscar night awards ceremonies, his most recent contributions to cinema include an eight-part 2021 series titled Qazaq: History of the Golden Man. It’s an encomium to Nursultan Nazarbayev, the wilted, famously-photoshopped and recently semi-retired supreme leader of Kazakhstan.
You would never know this from what the Quebec Film Festival has had to say about the splendid occasions they’ve managed to arrange for this superstar this week, and you will have learned nothing about the bloated gargoyle the city’s special guest has become since his last Oscar win in 1991, for the disgracefully revisionist JFK, for cinematography and editing.
The film was also nominated for best picture that year. It was also furiously protested by gay rights groups, because it made a truth-seeking folk hero of a corrupt and vicious persecutor of innocent gay men, who fabricated evidence to lay a trumped-up charge against a gay man for conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy. The real-life villain of the story was New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison. The fictional hero of Stone’s treatment was played by Kevin Costner in the lead role.
We’re talking about Oliver Stone here. He was already a dried-up pariah by 2017 when he produced a four part, four hour sycophancy of interviews with Vladimir Putin, who is currently waging a devastating, bloody war of conquest in Ukraine.
It was in 2019, two years after those interviews, that Stone asked Putin to be his 22-year-old daughter’s godfather, an intimacy that even Putin found a bit gross. Stone’s affections for Putin remain as torrid as ever, despite Russia’s barbarism in Ukraine. The Ukrainians were asking for it, Stone says. They had it coming.
The sinister homophobia driving Stone’s 1991 JFK fabrication carries over into his relationship with Putin. In that 2019 follow-up interview, Putin says: “We have a law banning [gay] propaganda among minors.” Stone responds: “Yes, that’s the one I’m talking about. It seems like maybe that’s a sensible law.”
After Stone’s fellow-traveling with Putin on victimizing Russia’s gay communities attracted the attention of the American news media, Stone responded that Russia’s policies on gay rights were just “misunderstood.” Said Stone: “Do not bring American expectations to Russian life any more than you expect Iran, Korea, Venezuela, or China to follow our political or social demands.”
These are among the subjects that are too awkward to have been raised by the Quebec news media. Stone is just a glamourous American movie-maker, a bit eccentric, perhaps, but you know what artists can be like. And awkward questions certainly haven’t been raised by the Quebec Film Festival’s grosse légumes, whose pre-Covid subsides listed by the Canada Revenue Agency from 2020 show total revenues of $1.46 million, more than half of which was taken from taxpayers: $507,000 from the Quebec City municipal government, $201,000 from the Quebec government, and $180,000 from Ottawa.
To the Quebec Film Festival crowd, Stone is just a colourful free thinker, the director behind such bygone-days blockbusters as Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July, and of course, JFK.
It is not clear how much of the cost of Stone’s various appearances and junketeering around town is being covered by the city tourism agency, Destination Quebec, which is listed as a co-sponsor of the main event: An “intimate evening” with Stone on Wednesday night in the Hydro-Quebec Auditorium at Le Diamant, the swish performing arts centre on Rue Saint-Jean.
While the Quebec Film Festival’s Martin Genois told Radio Canada that some time will be set aside during Stone’s stay in the city for “visiting the region as a filming location,” this is hardly plausible. Stone hasn’t made a major movie in years. He’s mostly been producing public-relations films for dictators, Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezula’s Hugo Chavez among them.
Stone will be put up at the magnificent Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, where he will be treated to a special private dinner on Tuesday evening with Chef Coudurier, and joined there by Destination Québec’s Robert Mercure, Chateau Frontenac manager Ken Hall, the theatre and opera impresario Robert LePage, the film director Melanie Carrier and of course Genois, the Quebec Film Festival’s director-general. Also some guy named Paul Bleau, a business professor at the Champlain-St. Lawrence college.
And there it is.
Bleau, like Stone, is a crank. And that’s what’s going on here, and it wasn’t until today - weeks after the Quebec Film Festival’s triumphant announcement that it had managed to convince Stone to come to town - that there has been any serious notice in the news media that there might be something, you know, “divisive” about the whole thing.
That’s the way Le Soleil presented the story today, in an article by Genevieve Bouchard, who notes Stone’s intimacies with Putin, in passing. The headline: “Oliver Stone in Quebec: a presence that fascinates and divides.”
It was Professor Bleau who managed to convince the Quebec Film Festival to choreograph a kind of Oliver Stone Week in Quebec City, which included a retrospective run over several days at Cinémas Le Clap preceding a Q&A discussion tonight with Stone after a showing of his revisionist faux-documentary treatment of Kennedy’s November, 1963 assassination, JFK Revisited: Through The Looking Glass. The film’s screenwriter, James DiEugenio will also be on hand.
DiEugenio is a notorious conspiracy theorist who dismisses almost all the physical evidence accumulated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Warren Commission into Kennedy’s assassination as either faked or planted.
I should note here that in response to my book On the Trail of Delusion, DiEugenio composed a 30,000-word denunication, attacking me for being a “neocon” and a “culture warrior.” I also wrote another book partly about JFK conspiracies, humorously titled I Was A Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak, a memoir of my youthful journey to the reality-based community. DiEugenio didn’t like that book either.
As for JFK Revisited, I have systematically exposed every lie, falsehood, error and misrepresentation in this handy viewer’s guide.
As for how Professor Bleau comes into it, it’s not just because of his childhood fascination with the tragedy of Kennedy’s assassination, which is how the CBC’s Alison Brunette allowed Bleau to present himself in the lead-up to Stone Days in Quebec City. Bleau is a well-known, longtime JFK conspiracy nut who and he appears prominently in JFK Revisited, expounding on his own version of the usual conspiracy.
In Bleau’s version, there were multiple plots to kill Kennedy in Tampa and Chicago that also involved arrangements for the framing of patsies. Like Stone and DiEugenio, Bleau contends that the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was a patsy, an innocent man framed and murdered.
Other than peculiar elaborations of that kind, JFK Revisited presents the same old Age of Aquarius fantasy of a dashing young president who was murdered by the U.S. military-industrial complex because he was going to be nice to Fidel Castro’s Cuba and end the war in Vietnam and wean America away from its obnoxious imperialist habits.
Harmless enough, one could say. But this isn’t even a premiere of any kind, and Stone isn’t showing up during festival season. Stone’s JFK Revisited was already broadcast last November on Showtime, and simultaneously broadcast in Canada by Bell Media’s Crave TV video-on-demand service.
Netflix sensibly turned it down because although it presents itself like a documentary, JFK Revisited is no such thing. The Netflix fact checkers told Stone to go away. So did National Geographic’s television channel.
This is what historian Tim Weiner wrote in Rolling Stone magazine about the film: “We have a moral obligation to call bullshit when we see it. Especially when public figures promote lies for profit. Stone’s JFK films are fantasies. Conspiracy theories are not facts. They’re a kind of collective psychosis. And they’re driving our country down the road to hell."
Stone is treated with the utmost deference and respect, however, by propaganda platforms like Moscow’s Izvestia and RT (now banished from Canada’s cable offerings because of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine), and by Beijing’s Xinhua news agency, and Cuba’s Prensa Latina. They all loved JFK Revisited.
The Quebec Film Festival appears perfectly content to show Stone the same deference and respect, going to great lengths in order to showcase Stone himself, allowing him to present his decidedly rancid and revisionist standpoints and conspiracy theories about politics and history, as he pleases.
Quebec City’s Stonemania is being billed as a kind of innocent, post-Covid coming-out party. But there is nothing innocent about Oliver Stone. Just one of the “experts” featured alongside Professor Bleau in JFK Revisited is Lisa Pease, the author of a book which argues that Sirhan Sirhan was firing blanks at Robert Kennedy in 1968 (Sirhan assassinated Robert Kennedy). Pease responded to last month’s mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, by suggesting the gunman was killed quickly by police so that nobody could determine whether or not he was a “mind-controlled” assassin or a patsy.
Last December, Stone scoffed at the idea that Putin would invade Ukraine. In a fawning interview conducted by the American pop-controversialists Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper, Stone said: “Ukraine is so rabid, the leaders in Ukraine are so nuts. And they need to get re-elected, so they’ll do just about anything. Lie, steal, cheat, and say that Russia is going to invade Ukraine. What a joke! Russia could, if it invaded Ukraine, it could take what it wanted in a day or two. I mean it’s not an issue for them.”
After Putin invaded Ukraine in February, Stone said Putin had no choice, because he was provoked. He told Robert Scheer, former editor of Ramparts Magazine: “The United States and its allies in NATO have been provoking Russia for, since two years now—actually three years over the Ukraine, more. I mean, they started this in 2014. But they have been using Ukraine as bait, as a temperature-taker of that region. And now we’ve reached this place where they have threatened the Russians so much that they had to react, because I don’t think Putin could have stayed in office if he had not reacted.”
In an interview last month with Lex Fridman, a Russian-American podcast host, Stone suggested Putin may have invaded Russia because he’s been so isolated, owing to Covid. “Some people would argue that the isolation from normal activity. . . It was very hard – perhaps he lost touch with, contact with, people.” In that same interview Stone suggested that the United States was preparing a “false-flag” operation involving “a low-yield nuclear explosion of unknown origin, somewhere in the Donbas region, killing thousands of people. . . it would be a very dramatic solution to sealing this war off as a major victory for the United States.”
Only five weeks ago, at the Barcelona Film Festival, Stone described Putin as a “rational, calm, thoughtful man,” and called the U.S. “a Doberman, a methodical killer animal with lots of money, too much money.”
Well, what about Moscow’s savage conduct in Syria, where the civil defence White Helmets first-responder organization has documented Russia’s bombing campaign, in alliance with Bashar Assad’s barrel bombers, targeting and destroying hundreds of hospitals and medical clinics? Stone says Putin has been a “stabilizing force” in Syria.
Stone told Fridman last month that the White Helmets are “corrupted” and their evidence of Assad’s chemical weapons is merely part of an American plot to “demonize Assad and the Russians.” United Nations investigations of the attacks have been tampered with, and the culprit is the United States, Stone said. “So, the United States is willing to use chemical in Syria freely.”
In 2018, Canada helped lead a rescue operation that ended up bringing hundreds of White Helmet volunteers and their families to Canada. Most of them settled in Quebec.
Wednesday night’s “intimate evening” with Stone at Le Diamant will take the form of a friendly conversation with Jean-Francois Lepine, a former Radio Canada celebrity journalist who went on to become Quebec’s de-facto ambassador to China, and then veered into his own corporate consultancy business.
I got in touch with Lepine. I sent him summaries of all the background research I’ve carried out on the gaping holes in all of Stone’s absurd claims about the JFK assassination, including a thorough debunking of the four-hour version of JFK Revisited and his even more deranged historical rewrite titled JFK: Destiny Betrayed. I also sent Lepine Stone’s several defences of Putin and the genocidal war Russia is waging in Ukraine.
All I got back from Lepine was this: “I was a journalist for more than 40 years at the CBC and Radio-Canada. That’s why they asked me to do the event with Oliver Stone. He will not have a free ride. But he is also a great director/writer. The event will be great!”
The Wednesday night event is nearly sold out. The event is cosponsored by Destination Québec, Cinémas Le Clap, Le Diamant and the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac.
As of last Friday afternoon, seats were available only in the last three rows. The best seats went for $96. The back-row seats are selling for $67.
The author of this edition of the Real Story newsletter is Fred Litwin. He is a dear friend, the author of three books: Conservative Confidential - Inside the Fabulous Blue Tent, On the Trail of Delusion, and the amusing and engaging I Was A Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak. Fred is the founder of Northern Blues Music, a notable Ottawa film-festival animateur, a damned good man and a founding subscriber of The Real Story newsletter. He highly recommends that everyone reading this take out a paid subscription right now.
For the underground currents of ineradicable conspiracy theories underlying last summer’s Year of the Graves uproar, see my previous newsletter.