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Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Milk": Another People's Temple Political Strongman Gets The Whitewash -- And Just Maybe Even An Oscar Or Two?

Tonight the Academy Awards Community has to make a decision: Should they, or shouldn't they--despite the well-honed production--reward a film that both mangles history and portrays a man that deliriously supported a mass-murdering cultist?

How much longer will Harvey Milk's tragic murder continue to allow him this waiver, to the point to sanctifying him now in a multi-Oscar nominated film, that includes not just Best Picture and Best Actor, but a couple of other categories that seem to say it all:

"Best Original Screenplay" and "Best Editing."

Right. Very "original screenplay." The very "best editing."

But not for the same reasons that our august Academy members would say, of course. The "original screenplay" is an amazing thing, because it can give carte blanche to all manner of fictional add-ons, while the "best editing" is that enchanting process that, in equally unscrupulous hands, may produce small & large milestones in fantasy-turned-reality.

No one of course knows this better than the man running "Firelight Media," our acclaimed left-wing Producer/Director Stanley Nelson. With joyous and unlimited "expert guidance" from those rousing official National People's Temple Cheerleaders, Becky Moore & "Mac" McGhee, the three of them cooked up the most insidious cult apologist film in history, "Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple."

The good news is, folks: The Academy didn't get suckered in and refused Nelson and his revolting cult whitewash even a nomination. He does, however, manage to keep on getting film gigs in "fantastic fiction" documentaries, the latest of which is part of PBS's upcoming American Indian series. Nelson's fantasy segment is on the gun-slinging militant American Indian Movement (AIM) that blasted its way through a 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee Battlefield.

I'm suuuuuure that ol' Stan will, like he did with the People's Temple, provide ALL the relevant facts so that viewers have an sterling accurate portrait of history, with not a trace of leftest bias. Now if anyone out there has the slightest question about how Nelson manages his magic, I'd say just give him a call at the office:

Phone: 212-234-1324

You can also send Stan a fax: 212-234-6688 in case you want more
details about what he terms his "evocative technique" in film making.

I'm certain that Lord Nelson was more than pleased over any and all aspects of "Milk," even if he can't take credit. The important thing is that the Great Spirit of Obfuscation was in full cinematic force, right?

"Milk," of course, is a very interesting part of history, dealing with the very first openly gay man to be elected to office in California. It is a poignant story, and worth telling, no question. The big problem, however, comes with this "original screenplay" and "editing." And for that, all the rest of the awards should go out the door, just to teach these fabricators a lesson about telling THE WHOLE TRUTH.

The "whole truth"? What whole truth? What, pray tell, is MISSING from our Oscar-nominated film, that has such a spectacular performance, as is almost always the case, by lead actor Sean Penn.

Well, how about this little tidbit for starters.
It's a letter written to President Jimmy Carter, in February, 1978, by none other than St. Harvey himself. He wrote it just nine months away from the slaughter, but LONG after all the long-overdue 1977 exposes had finally told him, his fellow Temple boosters such as George Moscone, Willie Brown, and the rest of their degenerate San Francisco political cronies about Jim Jones's reign of terror, his extortion, fraud, torture of children, and all the rest.

And did Milk, or any of them--except for one courageous man named Leo Ryan--do ONE DAMN THING TO HELP THOSE POOR PEOPLE TRAPPED IN JONESTOWN?

More importantly: how much does the film "Milk," nominated for multiple Academy Awards tonight, have of this in the script?

25 minutes? No.

15? Guess again, people.

5 minutes?? You're gettin' warm.....think "Nelsonesque Film School" now.


A "biopic" about a man that, while achieving greatness in fighting for his minority's rights, doesn't want you to know that before his own tragic murder, he aggressively aided in condemning over 900 Americans to death?

Incredible. Utterly incredible.

While Jones was busy in his Guyana Gulag dunking little children at the bottom of dark wells, confining others for weeks in a box, and doping up dissidents with heavy narcotics, Milk insisted on describing him as a "loving protective parent" and "a man of the highest character."

Gay activist and historian Michael Bellefountaine, who passed away in 2007 had been working on the final stages of his book "A Lavender Look At The People's Temple." A couple of years earlier, in the midst of all his research, the real picture of a far less saintly Harvey Milk appeared to emerge, as Bellefountaine explained in an article he wrote on the 25th Anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre.

"Harvey Milk’s name appears throughout San Francisco," wrote Bellefountaine, "A municipal railway station and plaza, a park and recreation building and one of the city’s most influential political clubs are all named in his memory. A local elementary school is known as the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, and the Eureka Valley Library is now called the Harvey Milk Branch.

"The theme for this year’s gay pride parade was 'give them hope,' Milk’s inspirational rallying cry from gays and lesbians in San Francisco to their brothers and sisters living in rural America. The International Gay and Lesbian Historical Society is producing an extensive exhibit of Milk memorabilia which includes the blood-stained suit he was wearing when he and Mayor George Moscone were gunned down in San Francisco City Hall on November 27, 1978. Twenty-five years after his murder, Harvey Milk has been catapulted to the level of gay martyr. Without question, he has left his mark on San Francisco.

"Despite all the exhibits and memorials of Harvey Milk throughout San Francisco, though, none of them acknowledges Milk’s relationship with Jim Jones and Peoples Temple....

"When Milk and Moscone were killed, San Franciscans were still reeling from the murder of Representative Leo Ryan and the news that hundreds of Jonestown residents, previously thought to have saved themselves by running into the jungle, were apparently willing participants in a suicide ritual. In the aftermath of their murders all mention of connections between Milk, Moscone and Jones were intentionally obscured.

"Out of respect for the politicians, their followers took all necessary steps to sever Milk and Moscone from the pariah Jones. It was not the only mass exodus of political support in the wake of the Jonestown tragedy. Politicians who once enjoyed volunteers, donations and votes from Peoples Temple, could not distance themselves from Jim Jones fast enough.

"Many of these people are still in politics today.

"....One story has it that Milk asked Peoples Temple to remove his name from the church’s list of supporters when reports of violence and theft first came to light, and that he was outraged when the Temple failed to comply with his demand. Eventually, history settled on an official story: Jim Jones was a master manipulator who used unwitting local politicians to gain power for himself.

"The politicians, including Milk and Moscone, used Jones for volunteers and votes, while remaining personally distant and blissfully unaware of rumors of Temple violence, abuse, theft, and even murder. The timing of Dan White’s murderous rampage was deemed coincidental.

"However, upon closer inspection, it is clear that Harvey Milk was a strong advocate for Peoples Temple and Jim Jones during his political career, including the tumultuous year leading up to the Jonestown tragedy.

"Milk spoke at the Temple often, wrote personal letters to Jim Jones contacted other elected officials on the Temple’s behalf, and used space in his weekly column to support the works of the Temple, even after the negative New West article went to press. Milk appeared in the pages of the Peoples Forum, the Temple newspaper, and received over fifty letters of sympathy from the residents of Jonestown when his lover, Jack Lira, killed himself in September 1978.

"It is readily apparent from the letters and historical memorabilia that Milk and the Temple enjoyed a mutually supportive relationship until their concurrent deaths. Why then is the relationship such a secret, even taboo to discuss?

"The only biography of Milk to date, 'The Mayor of Castro Street,' by Randy Shilts, downplays the Milk/Temple relationship, even going so far as to paint Milk as one of the countless people who cruelly ridiculed and ostracized the surviving Temple members and their supporters. Like most historians, Shilts opted for an image of an expedient politician, instead of truthfully portraying how Milk worked with Peoples Temple until the end of his life."

Congratulations, Randy Shilts, you have have definitely earned your honorary membership in the People's Temple History Hall Of Shame.

Of course, your portrait will most certainly be in one of the lower tiers, Randy. There are too many others--sleazy politicos, scribes, academics, and wolves in clerical garb--whose depraved notion of ethics will forever ensure them top billing.

As for tonight's Academy Awards spectacle, should for some godawful reason the heavily whitewashed "Milk" take home even one golden statue, let's hope that someone includes in their insufferable acceptance speech a recognition of just how St. Harvey traveled on Beatification Highway.


Rose said...

Actually, I would like to know more about how that all worked and how Dan White fit into the picture. You hear all kinds of rumors, and whisperings.

One thing's for sure, something inconvenient like the association with Jones doesn't fit with the new meme.

Down the Memory Hole it goes.

Tom Kinsolving said...

Well, Rose, the "official story" is simply the story of the conservative, Irish-American, Dan White, a one-time policeman and firefighter, who had been elected from a "traditional" district, which he had vowed to protect from the "changing demographics" of pot smokers, hippies, and Milk's gay constituents. White had much trouble with the other board members, in particular the liberals Moscone and Milk--two of our more prominent Temple Protectors (try to find that factoid in the film and you may just win the lottery.) White had quit his job on the city's BOS on Nov 10, 1978, decrying loudly all the corruption in San Francisco (fancy that!) and tried to make it on his own with a little restaurant.
His supporters, however, lobbied him to withdraw his resignation but Moscone and Milk wouldn't budge. So he killed them, on November 27, just nine days following the Jonestown Massacre.
I was living across the Bay, in Berkeley at the time, and remember that day so well. I was still reeling with the shock of the massacre when a friend called and muttered, just as shocked, "The mayor's been shot and killed."
It was like the world had gone mad. Of course, San Francisco for years couldn't shake the stigma of such macabre, horrendous stories happening so close together.
Sure, there were the rumors; Dan White was some Temple assassin, which was evident in his "diminished capacity" state (the so-called "Twinkie Defense" that got him off the double murder one charges.) But all evidence suggests he fit into the mold of those "gone postal" killers that we've heard about over the past 30 years, the ones that "snap" after losing everything.
You are correct about how these "inconvenient" associations, e.g., Milk & Jim Jones, just are quickly tossed into an incinerator as the script is drafted.
That, after all, would put on great big festering boil of ill repute on The Sainted Supervisor's nose.
It might even have jeopardized getting that Oscar for "Best Original Screenplay," so let's all raise a big toast to the award-winning marriage of creative writing and bio-pics.....

Anonymous said...

Just to stir the pot, Milk opens with the inter titles: November 18, 1978. The film even starts on that fateful day, and no mention. No mention at all ...

AlcoveOne said...

I cannot watch Gerry Brown and Wille Brown today without mentioning their involvement with Jim Jones and their complete lack of responsibilty for the tragedy. A decent man would have resigned from politics after that despite knowing that there are thousands of fools in the Bay Area who would still vote for them.

Anonymous said...

How Ironic that the sign over jones throne in jonestown used to say"Those that do not learn from history are destined to repeat it" of corse that quote didnt originate with him.
I have to say,I somtimes worry mankind wants to just forget but sure as God made little green apples,plain and simple people,its gonna happen agian if we dont stop it.The hard truth is,as a great man once said"evil can only prosper when good men do nothing".These kind of guys are popping up all over agian it seems to me.Thank goodness most of them are not as adept at buying buses and traveling the country,decieving and gathering lost souls as jones was but how much longer before another evil genius comes around ? I dont think were ready.Sorry,dont mean to be a downer but so many dont even know who jones was now(thanx mr nelson and penn)We should have made it a"National Lesson"the story,the lesson should be in evry schoolbook IMHO,but its not,instead we have $cientology creeping into the classroom.Until we make it a national lesson I dont see how we will stop it happening agian.
Alan Havlick

Anonymous said...

This was an error in the screenplay. Milk actually recorded his oral autobiography on November 18, 1977, not on November 18th, 1978.

Pareidolius said...

Interesting reporting as always. Nobody is ever as saintly as Hollywood portrays them. However, you left out that Michael Bellefountaine's big claim to fame was that he was an HIV Denialist. Just imagine the lack of critical thinking skills that led to Bellefountaine's sad demise from a disease he bet his life didn't exist.

Anonymous said...

When this article was published in May 2009, and 4 out of 5 Californians opposed it, the previously vetoed down state memorial day for such a nasty piece of work, Harvey Milk, didn't seem like it would rear its ridiculous head again.

"Drinking Harvey Milk’s Kool-Aid"
Lionized by Hollywood and California state legislators, the real Milk was a demagogue and pal of Jim Jones.

That is, except for the eponymous film blanking out Milk's association and active condoning of the Jim Jones sect, the omission of which may have helped railroad up to the governor's desk who finally signed this abomination. (Sean Penn surely was a good choice here after his role of the sleazy lawyer in 'Carlito's Way'.)

The road to sainthood comes with the clink of the Presidential Medal of Honor. Anyone who doesn't know the facts, and maybe this is true all the way up to the White House, cannot exactly be blamed for ignorance.

That is why it is imperative to keep blogs like this active.

Of special interest is the 6 year boy that the Joneses abducted to Guyana aided and abetted by Milk and who eventually died there.

Tom Kinsolving said...

Very good points, Anonymous.....and I'm glad you already had the good conscience to delve into the Milk Saga, to find that superb Flynn expose (that was the major focus of my Oct. 17 post.)
"Railroading" this Harvey Milk Day "abomination" is precisely what transpired as a direct result of the insidious Hollywood makeover that gave us a genteel and wondrous Saint Harvey, rather than the calculating, ruthless demogogue he really was.
There are lots of other gay activists, past and present, that are far more worthy to get recognition than Milk.
But such is fallout that comes when someone like this is killed and turns beloved martyr. It's happened before and will surely happen again.
And, yeah, it would interesting to see what Tim Stoen might have to say about Milk's strident attempts to discredit him and seal his little boy's fate. But, alas, it's likely Stoen won't utter a peep because he also comes from the same school of political sleaze as did the Milk Man.

NotThabo said...

I am just interested as to why you didn't include this little bit from the Michael Bellefountaine story:

"What we cannot do is let our animosity toward Jim Jones and our horror of Jonestown taint our understanding of the individuals who made up Peoples Temple, including their incredible community based work as well as their relationships with prominent people like Harvey Milk. We should challenge the image of Temple members as mindless, uneducated zombies, and instead, portray them as the passionate, loyal and committed people who inspired Harvey Milk."

Tom Kinsolving said...

"NotThabo" (some message behind your pen name??), people sometimes possess a wide variation of points & perspectives, which may range from the very correct to the egregiously false. Bellefountaine was no exception.

I'll concede that this especially ridiculous Bellefountaine statement attesting to the so-called sterling acts of this cult should have been included in my report. I also would have shared that he was good pals with Top Gun Jonestown Apologist, "Mac" McGehee, who wrote the following testimonial:

"The truth is," says Becky Moore's right-hand propagandist, "I had plans for Michael Bellefountaine. The guy whose first draft of Lavender Look was covered in red correction marks, I was grooming for co-editorship of the Jonestown Report, with the idea he might take it over completely someday. But the other truth is, we all had plans for Michael, in large part because he was so willing to adopt them as his own. And so Michael himself was adopted into the larger Peoples Temple community. We loved him, we embraced him, but we also remember, he was always the one to initiate the embrace."

Bellefountaine, right about the rancid Milk, horribly wrong about the appallingly putrid cult that lied, tortured, and murdered its way into history.