September 9, 2013


Carlos is a cold but propulsive 2010 French miniseries about the 1970s Communist terrorist known in the English-speaking world as Carlos the Jackal. He was born Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, the son of a wealthy Venezuelan Marxist-Leninist (Ilich had brothers named Vladimir and Lenin), who adopted the Palestinian cause as the vanguard of the international proletarian revolution. 

Carlos wasn't, personally, a prole. His own lifestyle was somewhere between sub-jetset and super-grad student. The terrorism of that era was focused on creating TV spectaculars by hostage-takings and striking at international travel connections, such as skyjackings, so the multilingual Carlos's familiarity with the capitals of Europe was an asset for the Palestinians and the weird array of terrorists (with the Japanese Red Army the weirdest of the weird) who flocked to their cause. 

Carlos's most famous undertaking was kidnapping all the OPEC oil ministers from their conference in Vienna in 1975 and flying them to Algeria, where he released them for a $20 million donation to the Palestinian cause, which he may (or may not) have pocketed. He was apparently expelled from his anti-Arafat Palestinian splinter group for not murdering Saudi Arabia' Sheik Yamani (although he killed other people who fell into his clutches). The TV shows says he was working for Saddam Hussein, but the terrorist (currently in a French prison) claims Libya's Colonel G/K/C was behind it.

After Vienna, Carlos worked more directly with the Soviet bloc. The miniseries contains a stunning scene in which Carlos is visiting Saddam Hussein in Iraq and KGB boss Yuri Andropov (later Soviet supremo form 1982-84) arrives to deliver a bloodthirsty speech promising that the Soviet Union will pay lavishly for the assassination of Anwar Sadat for betraying their aid. 

It's great TV, but I can't find much online about whether or not it really happened. (I must say, the scene rather resembles the opening one in The Naked Gun, in which Lt. Frank Drebin goes undercover at the secret terrorist planning meeting of Ayatollah Khomeini, Mikhail Gorbachev, Yasser Arafat, Muammar Gaddafi, Fidel Castro, and Idi Amin.) Whether or not that meeting took place, the energetic Andropov, who became KGB top man in 1967, was an influential figure backing 1970s terrorism.

Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez plays the terrorist. There's not all that much he can do with this humorless egotist. Some of the renown of his performance is like that of Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds: he speaks a wide variety of languages, all very quickly. 

About half the movie is in English (it's apparently the lingua franca of terrorists), but the main character speaks English in the mode of a classy Spaniard: i.e., with a distracting lisp. 

Unfortunately, the Netflix version doesn't come with Closed Captions during the English-language scenes, and the theatrical captions during the French, Spanish, Arabic, German, and Russian scenes are too tiny and too white-on-white to be easily readable by old tired eyes on a cheap TV. So, I can only say I more or less got the gist of the movie. 

Shot on an $18 million dollar budget, or about $3.5 million per hour, the miniseries seems pretty accurate about the mid-1970s (except for the soundtrack of songs by Wire, a British punk band that I thought sounded pretty cool in 1978, but was different from anything anybody was listening to in 1975). The show, for example, features an amazing array of 1970s automobiles. Having owned a 1970s automobile, I was impressed by how many the filmmakers could round up that still run. 

A few things that were different about the 1970s:

- Cops weren't militarized back then. A large fraction of recent mass-market movies (e.g., We're the MillersThe Heat, Now You See Me, etc. etc.) feature scenes of cops donning body armor and mounting complex raids using commando-style hand-gestures, rappelling through skylights, etc. People love that kind of stuff these days.

- Police amateurishness and befuddlement in the 1970s wasn't necessarily a good thing. Carlos wasn't exactly a terrorist mastermind, but he wasn't dealing with Seal Team Six, either. The terrorist modus operandi of the era was to carry a duffel bag full of weapons into a hotel or airport, shoot people, grab hostages, and demand a jetliner. This seemed like a foolproof plan back then (although Carlos managed to foul it up sometimes). What are the cops gonna do?

- Nobody had tattoos.


Anonymous said...

Certainly wouldn't miss the tattoos. They used to be a much better indicator of psychopaths, criminals and the mentally ill.

Ex Submarine Officer said...

"Nobody had tattoos"

No kidding, except convicts, bikers, and certain military (mostly Navy/Marines).

I got a fairly standard USMC tattoo in 1976 and for years after I got out and returned to polite society, this was a huge conversation piece. Through the Eighties, there were all sorts of people who had never really ever seen a tattoo up close. Tattoos were very disreputable (convicts, bikers, marines...) too, so I was glad mine was on my upper arm where I could hide it and I could get pretty self-conscious about it at times.

I thought about getting it removed various times, but whoever was my squeeze at the time always was against the idea for some reason, I think it seemed macho ("I feel so safe w/you....").

I wish we were back in those days, all these people covered with tattoos are hideous enough now, think what this is going to look like 30 years from now, again, I'm just glad mine was small and easily hidden on upper arm.

I had some of those 70's cars as well. Hard to imagine that the same folks who built a-bombs, man on the moon, etc, could come up with the Vega.

Anonymous said...

A few things that were different about the 1970s:

- We still kept a lot of things unlocked

- If you had a ticket, you could almost walk straight from the parking lot onto an airplane

- Crime was a new big thing

David M said...

Gaddafi got off much lighter in the movie version than he did in reality.

slumber_j said...

"Nobody had tattoos." Yeah, and until five or ten years ago this New Yorker cartoon was shockingly accurate about the tattoo revival:

Since then, they've become nearly universal among people of less than a certain age, as far as I can tell.

A minor factual quibble with the post: the Spanish-Spanish lisping of soft C and Z isn't a function of class but of region. Only in some areas of the South is it not done, which is why it's not done in Latin America: most of the Conquistadors were from such difficult southern places as the aptly-named Extremadura.

Weirdly, once you get all the way down to Cádiz, the polarity flips completely, and they lisp not only C and Z, but also S. They also omit just about all their other consonants, so things start sounding pretty Chinese. This is considered hilarious by everyone else in the country.

Anononymous said...

- Nobody was fat.

Anononymous said...

"Ramírez Sánchez married his lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, in a Muslim ceremony, although he was still married to his second wife."

Marlowe said...

I liked it quite a bit when I watched the whole thing a year ago. I never had a problem following the lead character's English.

Interesting factoid: Makarov pistols lack penetration even at point blank range. Soviet engineering!

The film sort of lost power after the Vienna raid as Ramirez ceased actively participating in operations and became more of an organizer behind the scenes. Someone comments to him that being famous is a bit of a disadvantage for a criminal terrorist. His celebrity impedes his freedom of action. He ends up a liability for his handlers who keep trying to palm him off onto some other country. He mostly sits around, gets drunk, yells at people (especially girlfriends) and bemoans his passivity. It deals with the thorny problem of terrorist retirement.

I had the same problem with Ramirez as the depiction of Andreas Baader in the Baader-Meinhof Complex movie: why should anyone follow this kind of asshole? Although I feel that the actor in the Carlos mini-series brought a soupcon of Latin charm which made it a little more believable.453 isomeu

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Rutger Hauer played an international terrorist (turned into a West German codenamed Wolfgar) obviously based on Carlos the Jackal in the 1981 Sylvester Stallone flick Nighthawks. It has the police shooting at the start when a fellow terrorist betrays Rutger to the authorities and Hauer kills him in revenge (except it places the incident in London rather than Paris) and the end of the movie has the whole hostage on a bus to the airport sequence taken from Vienna. The Stallone film stressed the mythic aspect of Carlos at the time: no one really knew who he was and the mystery enlarged the fear surrounding his reputation.

FredR said...

I thought The Baader Meinhof Complex was a much better story about '70s terrorism, although Carlos was still pretty good.

I get the feeling terrorists don't have as much fun these days as Carlos did.

Anonymous said...

When the Soviet Union was around there was somewhere to escape to, so the Carlos the Jackal lifestyle was possible. Sort of like Al Capone could exist under the rules of the 1920s but not the 1930s.

Another 70s terrorist flick made in '08:

I once ate at this guy's restaurant (brought to my attention by a front page Wall Street Journal article), that was a long time ago but the food was excellent.

Note how his escape root threw Libya has recently been closed to Europeans, but expanded for Jihadis. More evidence that NATO conceived to fight the Soviet Union, is still fighting the Soviet Union.

Polichinello said...

The clownish attack at the Amsterdam airport is both funny and horrifying.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the tracks used was by New Order. "Dreams Never End" - as an advert for the international terrorist lifestyle Carlos was pretty good.

Anonymous said...


Who, pray tell who, could be creating the mountains of litter in Manhattan's parks?

Anonymous said...

Those were simpler times, Steve.

The proliferation of CCTV cameras, security guards, ID checks, general surveillance, militarized cops, DNA fingerprinting etc etc only arose as a reaction against the terrorist outrages that pockmarked the '70s and also as counter measure against the crime surge that took hold as that decade progressed - basically the cops were still run by hard men from the 1930s, tough, working class ex-army types who could cope with the villains of that day with a few judicious beatings in dark corners, and were able to keep a lid on things with a good bit of NCO-style barrack room bullying and intimidation. That decade, the 70s, just befuddled the old trilby hat, pipe and cardigan, good ol' boy brigade. Paramilitaries with nail bombs just weren't their shtick. And neither was the general 'Revolt of the Scrotes*' mass criminality engendered by Friedmanite anti-human policies in the UK.
As an aside, I well remember as a schoolboy in 1970s London making day-trips to Heathrow Airport to watch the planes come and go out from the vantage point of the multi-story car-park upper levels. Everyone did at the time. The airport authorities gladly turned a blind eye. It's the little things like that that have been lost since the 1970s.

*scrote - English prison and police slang for a contemptible individual. Derived from 'scrotum'.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

- President Enrique Pena Nieto proposed sweeping changes to Mexico's social programs Sunday, laying out a plan for the country's first nationwide pensions and unemployment insurance to be financed in part by cutting tax loopholes for big business.
A beginning of a welfare state in Mexico, hopefully this will be eventaully pushed in Central America. If this happens, being poor means the state will take care of them more, the poor and they don't have to come to the good ole USA as much, think if this happen back when Reagan was President millions less Mexicans.

Anonymous said...

Public talk = lies.

“Nothing in that diary was ever meant for publication. I have nothing but respect for Governor Cuomo, Rev. Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, all of whom have distinguished themselves as extraordinary national leaders over the past decade.”


Lampshelf said...

What's the percent of the genome that is identical to all now living humans?

Is the number 99.9% outdated?
This article quotes suggestions of 99% or 99-99,5%.

I've heard that discoveries regarding copy number variation also has lowered the shared percentage of the genome.

Marc B said...

Esia Morales character in the movie Gotcha! seemed aware of this image of the Hispanic leftist terrorist and played it up to in a bid to help him score with European women. Abba's song "Fernando" may have been the inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Too bad about the no closed-captioning. I won't be able to watch it.

Anyway, I don't think you will ever be able to convince the Left that the Soviet Union had anything to do with terrorism. They will insist that it was all a spontaneous movement of the "oppressed".

MalcolmY said...

The strange thing about the Japanese Red Army was that they initiated the Suicide Bombing craze in the Middle East, with the Lod Airport massacre.

The Japanese Red Army even carried dolls into their actions, just like Kamikaze pilots before them. The dolls originally were a Samurai traditions.

Strange to think that 9/11, and the extremists blowing themselves up in a Baghdad markets - would probably not have happened without Samurai-influenced traditions. Mishima and Osama are not too far apart.

Anonymous said...

Narrative trumps news.

Christian narrative reminded countless generations of the killing of Jesus, so the killing of that one Man counted for more than the killing of millions of innocents by Christians. As long as Christians felt justified in their Faith in Christ, the Fact of their destruction of countless lives didn't matter.

News is about here today, gone tomorrow.
Narrative sticks and carries on forever regardless of the news.

It's like there's so much news of black robbery, rape, mayhem, and murder in America, South Africa, and even Europe, but as long as the narrative focuses on slavery, Selma, Apartheid, holiness of MLK and Mandela, all those news don't matter except on the day it's reported.

Human psychology is essentially 'religious-like', gospelish, and iconic. It prefers 'sacred images' , good v bad storytelling, and'holy' righteous emotions' over hard cold facts.

So, Anne Frank and MLK, as holy-fied icons, have more power than the statistics about communist mass murder(as no Ukraine girl was Anne Frankized) or black brutality.

Indeed, so much of the Liberal news is more about propping up holy-fied iconic images of magic negroes and homos and Jews. Just check the TIME story about MLK as THE Founding Father.

Libs esp hated the Willie Horton story cuz it was conservatism using icon-ism and demonization in a manner that libs feel they have monopoly claim on. When libs iconize Jews, homos, and negroes and demonize white cons, that is called progress. But the reverse is called fear/hate mongering.
If the Bush campaign had only mentioned crime stats, libs would have been ok with that.
But cons used iconization to give sacred status to the victims and to demonize a black rapist-thug.
Conservatives may deal with the news but mustn't mess with the narrative. Jews really hated Gibson's PASSION for reviving the power of the narrative for the Christian Right.
Sainthood trumps statistics.

Even so, a narrative, however old or sacred, can be toppled overnight with the change of elites.
Russians had worshiped Jesus for centuries, but almost overnight communist rule made millions of Russians smash churches and revere Stalin as the new god. But then, the communist narrative, which seemed invincible, vanished overnight in the early 90s.

So, the power isn't so much with the narrative itself as with the CONTROL of the narrative. If the control changes, any narrative, no matter how powerful, can be toppled and replaced with something else.
Just look at the sudden rise of homo narrative. Jews now have the power to impose any narrative.

Anonymous said...

Zimmy really nuts?

agnostic said...

Police weren't militarized during the mid-century either, but they enjoyed a sustained falling crime rate after it had been rising from c. 1900 to 1933. Just like our 20-year run of falling crime rates, after the '60s-early '90s wave.

So changes in training, technology, tactics, etc., are not responsible for changes in crime rates.

Neither is incarceration. I just took another look at incarceration rates (earliest data are from 1925), and they don't track the crime rate, either in a leading or lagging fashion. I'd already seen that before.

But now after reading a lot more (mostly from Peter Turchin) about the history of economic inequality and related aspects of the social-political mood, it just leaps out at you -- rising incarceration rates track rising inequality, and falling incarceration tracks falling inequality.

Compare, say, a time series graph of incarceration rates per capita (google images), and the share of the national income going to the top 10% of earners. Both are kind of going up or plateau-ing into the late '30s, then both decline through the late '60s, then both start picking up around the early-mid 1970s, and both still remain pretty high or plateau-ing -- neither clearly in decline just yet.

So, a greater inclination toward incarceration reflects the mood during rising-inequality times -- every man for himself, don't worry if it makes the poor poorer. Like not earning income while in prison, not to mention the income penalty even when he gets out because of the stigma of having been locked up.

In periods of falling inequality, there's a taboo against policies that would make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Like having labor and management negotiate with each other rather than a militarized solution like you saw during the Robber Baron era up through the Battle of Blair Mountain.

So when people break the law, try not to treat them in a way that worsen their prospects. Prison is seen as too heavy-handed for garden-variety criminals, though still reserved for the most dangerous. But you're not going to lock some guy up for small possession of drugs. Just have Andy Griffith give him a stern lecture, and trust that he'll be rehabilitated.

Falling inequality goes with an attitude of rehabilitation. Rising inequality goes with an attitude of punishment.

Anonymous said...

For anyone interested in cinematic treatments of 70's leftist terror, I recommend the biopic Chico, starring Eduardo Rozsa-Flores as a younger version of himself.

The film wasn't great, but Rosza-Flores, knew Carlos during his stay in Hungary, was one of the more interesting figures to emerge from that milieu.

After a stint in the Hungarian KGB, he worked as journalist, joined Opus Dei, fought as a volunteer in the Croatian War of Independence, and eventually died in a shoot out with Bolivian security forces in 2009.ózsa-Flores

The wikipedia entry fails to mention it, but he died as a Sufi Muslim who appears to have been sympathetic to pan-nationalism and the European New Right. He was likely either an adherent Guenonian Perennial Philosophy or an Evolian traditionalist.

-The Judean People's Front

Glossy said...

"I had the same problem with Ramirez as the depiction of Andreas Baader in the Baader-Meinhof Complex movie:
why should anyone follow this kind of asshole?"

I recently finished Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, and I had the same question throughout. The depressing answer is that guys dig jerks too.

Canadian Observer said...

Ever since the mainstream anti-Israeli apartheid cause went primarily Islamic among the Palestinians themselves some 10-15 years ago, the natural alliance between the fashionable/cosmopolitan left and the downtrodden Palestinians disintegrated.

Was nice when it lasted though.

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

"nobody had tatoos".

I watched the remake of Cape Fear(1991) recently. I distinctly remember that the scene with Di Nero revealing his tatoos was really effective at the time. Now, it's just meh.

While, I'm on the subject, I moved out to California from the East Coast 10 years ago. My earliest memories of noting cultural differences were 1) Lewd Carl's Jr and Jack in the Box commercials, 2) no smoking in bars and 3) a girl with "doggy style" written in cursive jut above her ass (which of course I now know to be the location, if not the typical verbiage, of a tramp-stamp).

Kibernetika said...

Haven't yet seen this French production, and am in no way anxious to see it. Jeez, I've met actual Maoists(!) in France; I can easily imagine Ol' Careless finding many havens and lovers there. Not a fan of those folks ;)

I've always felt that The Japanese Red Army, the Baader Meinhoff gangbangers and the Italians messing with Aldo M. were essentially a bunch of acid fatalities who, through loose logic, had embraced nihilism. In other words, college-capable kids with no purpose, no sense of self who were easily taken in by "cool" and "shocking," "disruptive" ideas. The wimpier ones afraid of fighting merely became academics or mainstream journalists ;)

One of the JRA lunatics, when asked about the Lod massacre said, "Our intention was to kill as many as possible," or something very close to that, as I recall.

There's no easy cure for that pathology. They gotta be put down.

Anonymous said...

The 96th street rule was valid for a long time, and still is to some extent, but less so.

On the east side it remains more valid than on the west. The key reason is that 96th is where the metro north (formerly the New York Central Rail Road) tracks come up above ground at Park Avenue. So, it’s not desirable to live along the elevated tracks. Park literally changes from hedge fund apartments to tenements in one block.

Along 5th Ave, which faces the park (until 110th), it is different. First, above 96th you still have some very nice co-op buildings. The price will be dramatically lower than it would be in a comparable building lower down the avenue, but still in the millions. Second, you have some very fine cultural institutions on upper 5th, such as the Museum of the City of New York. Third, and perhaps most important, there is Mt. Sinai Hospital, which has gobs of money, owns much of the land, and rules the area with an iron fist. So, the UES above 96th is OK more or less from 5th to Madison (sketchier the farther north you go, but still OK).

On the west side, it is the reverse. There is an atrocious housing project, for one thing. For years there was an insane asylum, which was eventually closed. But there are still a lot of crummy SRO hotels and “halfway houses” and treatment centers. The city is somewhat cynical about siting them there because the bureaucrats know that the hopelessly lib residents lack any kind of intellectual immune system to say “Wait, we really don’t need any more damned degenerates.” Instead, they tend to say, uneasily, “Um, yes, these are good people down on their luck and we are obligated to help, yeah, uh …”

So, generally the UWS along the park above 96th is bad, and very nonwhite and druggy and crime ridden but away from the park, quite nice and expensive. So, West End is good as is Riverside. Broadway is fine for shopping, it starts to get sketchy around Amsterdam.

Columbia is a huge help in that “good blocks” continue on the west west side until 123rd. Venturing east of Morningside Ave however can be suicidal. Broadway up there is lovely and very SWPL.

Morningside Park is black. I assume that what the author of the NYT piece means by “upper Manhattan” is really the truly latin part above Columbia. She keeps it vague so that, you know …

Once you get above Columbia the area is heavily Dominican, with some other Latin flavors mixed in. ’Twas not always so. Henry the K grew up up there. And, there is one rich area—Sugar Hill, or “Hamilton Terrace—with bougie blacks and gentrifying whites.

My own story on this, was that in 2011, I was in Long Beach, came in on a boat, docked at that harbor by the aquarium, got off to walk around. There was a large family of Mexicans having a birthday party for a kid. He opened all this presents. Then they left, with all the ribbons and wrapping paper—plus all their food trash—on the lovely well kept grass. It was just like that scene from season 1 of Mad Men. Except no SWPL alive today would even think about doing that.

Whiskey said...

Crime rates in the US (and the European countries now) are a function of how effective the police and prison system are in arresting and convicting and imprisoning Black, and in Europe Muslim, offenders.

You can't disentangle crime from race, given that Black and Muslims (in Europe, not America it seems for now) offend at rates far higher than Whites. Let alone Asians (who have the lowest offending rates).

America in the 1970s was significantly Whiter than today. With a far smaller illegal alien population. LA for example was mainly White at that time, something unthinkable now.

Anonymous said...

But people *did* have tattoos in the 1970s.

As I remember they were mainly rather crudely done, blotchy and spready in green ink and found on a certain breed of middle aged man of a rather 'dodgy' predisposition ie the bearer had a 'shady' past of which, (out of politeness), you would not enquire about, and you usually met them whilst engaging a building contractor to do some work in your house.
The meme that used to go around in those days was that 'respectable' people did not have tattoos.

Mr. Anon said...

"Carlos is a cold but propulsive 2010 French miniseries..."

Cold? What was it supposed to be? The feel-good hit of the year?

Otis McWrong said...

Anonymous said: "But people *did* have tattoos in the 1970s.

...found on a certain breed of middle aged man of a rather 'dodgy' predisposition ie the bearer had a 'shady' past of which, (out of politeness), you would not enquire about..."

I wouldn't say dodgy, just working class. Or had been enlisted in the military. When I joined the Navy (mid 80's), we officer candidates were not allowed to have tattoos. Tattoos were a TED (typical enlisted dude) thing. I'd be surprised if that's still the case.

Anthony said...

Andropov may have started his foray into terrorism with ordering the assassination of Kennedy.

Anonymous said...

"Jews now have the power to impose any narrative."

Ever read the Bible?

Corn said...

On Steve's comment about the militarization of the police:
I was watching Argo a few days ago and was reading about the subject later. Supposedly one of the embassy employees smuggled out of Iran by the Canadian/CIA operation said he encountered more security flying into Toronto for the film's 2012 premiere than he did flying out of Tehran in 1980.

Anonymous said...

Certainly wouldn't miss the tattoos. They used to be a much better indicator of psychopaths, criminals and the mentally ill.

And witches.

Anonymous said...

Is "Carlos Danger" a linkage to all this?

Anonymous said...

Why Jews want him.

Anonymous said...

As a kid in the 1970s it seemed like terrorists were an unstoppable force, the media played this up of course.

From my pov it seemed like the tide turned in '76 with the Israeli raid on Entebbe and then in 1980 with the British breaking the Iranian embassy siege. After those defeats, the terrorist hijacking, hostage taking thing seemed to be in retreat. Then it was all down to bombing and little else.