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HAROLD PINTER Printer Friendly Page

The Nobel Savage
By Jacob Laksin and Patrick Devenny
October 19, 2005

Unpleasant Thoughts about Harold Pinter
By Roger Kimball
December 27, 2008

Playwright Takes a Prize and a Jab at U.S.
By Sarah Lyall
December 8, 2005

 


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  • British playwright, theater director, and poet
  • Passionate hater of America and its foreign policies
  • Condemns what he calls Israel’s policy of “might, force and beatings” against the Palestinian Arabs
  • Won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2005
  • Died in December 2008


Born to Jewish parents in London on October 10, 1930, Harold Pinter was a British playwright, theater director, and poet. Pinter launched his theatrical career as an actor, under the stage name David Baron. The year 1957 saw the production of his first play, The Room, which was performed by students at Bristol University. His second play, The Birthday Party, was produced that same year and remains among his best-known works. All told, Pinter wrote more than thirty plays. For a comprehensive listing of his works, click here.

In the later decades of his life, Pinter became an outspoken social commentator and a passionate hater of America. His political activism can be traced to the early 1970s, when the playwright, then a rising star in London's literary firmament, emerged as a prominent backer of Chile's socialist President Salvador Allende. After Allende was overthrown by General Augusto Pinochet in 1973, Pinter read an account of the coup that convinced him the United States was to blame. Pinter "knew" the coup was engineered by the CIA, and that conviction, though false, set him on his lifelong course of anti-American politics.

In the ensuing decades, Pinter's enthusiasm for leftist dictatorships continued undiminished. The late Seventies and early Eighties saw him take up the cause of Central America's Communist Sandinistas. In 1979 the playwright traveled to Nicaragua, meeting with President Daniel Ortega on several occasions and acting as a propaganda tool for that regime. Pinter's propaganda efforts in the 1980s, including dozens of salutatory articles on Communist activities, were designed to counter American policy in Central America. To the end of his life, Pinter resisted acknowledging the totalitarian nature of the Sandinista regime and the numerous atrocities it carried out. Parroting Marxist spin doctors, he contended that the Sandinistas were "a democratically elected government which originally led a popular revolution to overthrow a dictatorship based on slavery."

Much of Pinter's political energy over the years was expended on behalf of Marxist Cuba. An unswerving believer in the Cuban revolution, Pinter praised its "respect for human dignity," claiming that "[i]ts achievements are remarkable."

Firmly in the Castro camp, Pinter was also an active member of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC), a radical organization committed to portraying Cuba, against all evidence, as a democratic country. Proclaiming itself a champion of the "defense of Cuba and its peoples' right to self-determination and national sovereignty," the group campaigns for the repeal of the U.S. embargo. In this, CSC fully represents Pinter's view. In 1996, for instance, Pinter sought to excuse the brutality of the Cuban government and its persecution of political dissidents as the ineluctable coefficient of an American-made "siege situation." Later, in March of 2005, Pinter joined the Marxist fraud and Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu in signing an appeal on behalf of the Castro regime. Among the document's more remarkable evasions was the following endorsement of the Cuban police state: "There has not been a single case of disappearance, torture or extra judicial execution [in Cuba] since 1959."

Still another dictator who enjoyed Pinter's favor was the late Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia. Even as Pinter voiced his support for “international justice,” he stated his confidence that the arrest of Milosevic "by the international criminal tribunal is unconstitutional, and goes against Yugoslav and international law. They have no right to try him." In Pinter's estimation, Milosevic was wholly blameless for the violence that tore apart the Balkans during the 1990s. As for the ethnic cleansing campaigns carried out by Serbian paramilitaries, they were, in Pinter's rendition, ordered by errant subordinates. To publicize this dubious defense of the deposed dictator, Pinter teamed up with a disparate coalition of radical leftists and Serbian sympathizers known as the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic.

If the defining feature of Pinter's literary writings was menacingly dark atmospherics, the hallmark of his political commentary was seething anti-Americanism. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that Pinter blamed America for nearly every act of mass murder that occurred from the mid-1970s onward. Cataloguing the list of America's alleged crimes, Pinter blamed the U.S. for "the 200,000 deaths in East Timor in 1975 brought about by the Indonesian government but inspired and supported by America … the 500,000 deaths in Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Argentina, and Haiti, in actions supported and subsidized by America … the millions of deaths in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia."

When U.S. troops liberated Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's invading armies in 1991, Pinter's response was to pen a scatological and rabidly anti-American poem. (A brief excerpt: "Hallelullah!/It works./We blew the s--t out of them./We blew the s--t right back up their own ass/And out their f---ing ears./It works./We blew the s--t out of them….")

To appreciate the source of Pinter's anti-American animus, one need only consider his 1993 declaration: ''I believe the United States is a truly monstrous force in the world." The following year, Pinter alleged in the New York Review of Books that America was the moral equivalent of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. It would not be the last time that Pinter would invoke the analogy of Nazi Germany. Any review of Pinter's political writings reveals his belief that the United States is the modern incarnation of the Third Reich. "The U.S. is really beyond reason now," he said. "… There is only one comparison: Nazi Germany." Elaborating, Pinter added, "Nazi Germany wanted total domination of Europe and they nearly did it. The U.S. wants total domination of the world and is about to consolidate that."

Pinter regarded the Guantanamo Bay detention center as a modern-day concentration camp, and America's prison system as "a vast gulag."

A notorious conspiracy theorist, in 1988 Pinter wrote in the British Independent that "There are emergency plans for America to take over this country." He meant it: "I am not talking wildly," Pinter insisted.

In Pinter’s calculus, America's allies shared in the supposed "crimes" of the United States. Topping the list was Israel. In 1988 Pinter joined other English Jews in signing a letter of condemnation against Israel's alleged policy of "might, force and beatings" against the Palestinian Arabs. Pinter also claimed, falsely, that Israel had used nuclear weapons against the Palestinians: "Israel has these weapons and has used them," he assured. In November 2002 Pinter charged that Israel's supposed injustice toward the Palestinians was "the central factor in world unrest."

But it was usually the United States that occupied center stage in Pinter's conspiratorial worldview. As he said in 2002: "[President] Bush [whom Pinter often called a "mass murderer"] and company are determined, quite simply, to control the world and the world's resources. And they don't give a damn how many people they murder on the way."

In opposing the imminent invasion of Iraq in early 2003, Pinter wrote: "It is obvious … that the United States is bursting at the seams to attack Iraq. I believe that it will do this -- not just to take control of Iraqi oil -- but because the U.S. administration is now a bloodthirsty wild animal." As during the first Gulf War, Pinter put the sentiment in verse, in a January 2003 poem facetiously entitled "God Bless America." (Sample stanza: "Here they go again/The Yanks in their armoured parade/Chanting their ballads of joy/As they gallop across the big world/Praising America's God.")

Pinter could muster no sympathy for the U.S. in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While receiving an honorary doctorate from Turn University in 2002, he unburdened himself of his view that "[t]he atrocity in New York was predictable and inevitable. It was an act of retaliation against constant and systematic manifestations of state terrorism on the part of the United States over many years, in all parts of the world." In the same speech, Pinter gave sanction to any future terrorist attacks on Britain, claiming that they could justifiably be charged to Tony Blair. Terrorist attacks, Pinter explained, "are quite likely, the inevitable result of our Prime Minister's contemptible and shameful subservience to the United States."

In 2005 Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Unable, due to illness, to deliver his Nobel Lecture in person, he recorded it on videotape and it was shown at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm on December 7, 2005. With some three-fourths of its content devoted to excoriating American foreign policy, the lecture included such passages as:

"I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever.... The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favor. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant.... We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East.' How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal?"

Pinter died of cancer on December 24, 2008.


Much of this profile is adapted from the article titled "
The Nobel Savage," written by Jacob Laksin and Patrick Devenny, and published by FrontPageMagazine.com on October 19, 2005.

 

 

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