DONALD Trump, censorship and the recent scandal of sexual harassment in the film industry are likely to make this year’s Oscars a controversial affair.

Speculation is growing over whether the March ceremony will refer to the recent revelations of sexual harassment while the shadow of the US president is already looming over the awards.

Last year, Trump smirked that the botched announcement of best picture was a result of the focus on politics so it will be interesting to see his reaction to this year’s contenders as many are even more overtly political than last year.

Top of the list is Steven Spielberg’s The Post, with the director completely open about the importance of the freedom of the press under the Trump presidency.

The film tells the story of the leaking of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War which revealed that successive US governments had misled the public about the chances of winning. On learning about the leak, the White House, under the presidency of Richard Nixon, made concerted efforts to stop newspapers publishing the information. This resulted in an historic Supreme Court ruling on the freedom of the press while the government’s bungled attempts to discredit the leaker, Daniel Ellsberg, were exposed. The leak destroyed any remaining case for continuing with the war.


ON receiving the script last February from relatively unknown writer Liz Hannah, Spielberg dropped everything to make the movie, which stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep.

For Spielberg, who supported Hillary Clinton, there are clear parallels with Nixon and Trump’s war on the press.

“I realised this was the only year to make the film,” he said. “This was an idea that felt more like 2017 than 1971 — I could not believe the similarities between today and what happened with the Nixon administration against its avowed enemies The New York Times and the Washington Post.”

Other films with a political slant that are in the running for the awards include Detroit, Get Out and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which all deal with racism while romcom The Big Sick tackles Islamophobia.

Then there is Coco, an animation, described by Vogue magazine as possibly “the most important film of the year” because it celebrates Mexican culture in the face of the anti-Mexican onslaught from Trump.


HOWEVER, The Post is particularly interesting as legendary whistle-blower Ellsberg is still going strong at the age of 86 and has just published an eyewitness exposé of the dangers of America’s top secret, 70-year-long nuclear policy that chillingly continues to this day.

In the Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, he shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilisation — and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration — threatens our very survival.

While Ellsberg is celebrated for leaking the Pentagon Papers, it is less commonly known that he was one of America’s most senior nuclear planners during the Cold War and helped construct the nuclear plans that the US still adheres to today. His work at the Pentagon, then the Rand Corporation, turned him from a brilliant hawk to an activist for nuclear disarmament.

His book is a shocking first-hand account which covers the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate the use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity.

No other insider with high level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and, worryingly, nothing has fundamentally changed since that era.


TRUMP, says Ellsberg, is more unbalanced than most presidents and has largely created the current North Korea crisis, which he fears will escalate.

“The chances that we can get off the Titanic are vanishing,” he says.

Ellsberg points out that the US is now, for the first time since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, talking about attacking a country with nuclear weapons.

“We are talking openly about assassination teams, about full-scale invasion exercises, about the decapitation of North Korea’s leadership. This is insanity.

“HR McMaster [Trump’s national security adviser] says we’re moving closer to nuclear war every day. It’s crazy.”

His main theme is that humans are fallible and the world is simply not safe as long as nuclear weapons are on the scene.

“The US alone has the capacity to destroy the world many times over.

“It is kind of astonishing,” says Ellsberg, “that people will put up with a non-zero chance of this happening. It’s like living on Vesuvius — that’s what humans do. That’s why I think we’re likely to go.”

That we have survived so far is a miracle, he says.


AMERICANS, according to Ellsberg, are again being misled about their chances of crushing their perceived enemies.

“I’m pretty convinced - this is speculation, but it’s based on history and experience - that Kim has, in fact, made provisions for massive retaliation if he is killed.

“The American people are being led to believe that they have to fear a surprise attack from Kim, which is crazy.

“It would be an act of self- annihilation if he did that. What he wants is a deterrent.”

Trump’s threats to take out the North Korean leader are plain daft, according to Ellsberg.

“Both sides are cultivating an image of impulsivity and backing it up with a readiness to use massive force. It really does have a chance of blowing up, and that’s the theme of my book.

“We should not be talking about or threatening or preparing to go to war against Kim Jong Un any more than he should be preparing to go to war against us. What does that leave? Negotiation.”

He is gloomy about the chances of that happening but adds that the human race would survive if there is a nuclear conflagration.

“The human race would not go extinct from a nuclear winter,” he says. One or two per cent of us would survive, living on molluscs in places like Australia and New Zealand. Civilisation would certainly disappear.

“But we would survive as a species.”