Maybe The Reason Tarantino Shut KGM's Butt Down Was Because He's Been Asked The Same Question For 20 Years

Watch Tarantino say no again and again and again when asked about the relationship between film and real life violence.

"It's like asking Judd Apatow 'why do you like making comedies?'", Tarantino said yesterday when Channel 4's Krishnan Guru-Murthy asked him why he likes making violent movies.

In the clip, which has been widely tweeted, Guru-Murthy then pushes Tarantino to say why he is so sure there is no link between screen and real-life violence. 

Tarantino refuses to answer, saying: "I'm not going to bite, I'm not going to take your bait. I refuse your question." KGM pushes him further, and Tarantino responds by pointing out that he's been asked that question for twenty years, and he is tired of it.

You can see why he might be getting a bit fed up with rehashing the same questions over and over again.

When Jay Leno asked him about movie violence and gun violence, Tarantino argued it was "disrespectful" to the victims to equate the two:

CNN named Django Unchained as one of eleven violent movies released in the run-up to Christmas – "the day we celebrate Christ's birth" – and pushed Tarantino to quote Shakespeare:

When he was asked by NPR's Terry Gross whether Sandy Hook had caused Tarantino to "lose his taste" for cinematic violence, the director lost his patience again:

GROSS: You sound annoyed that I'm...

TARANTINO: Yeah, I am.

GROSS: I know you've been asked this a lot.

TARANTINO: Yeah, I'm really annoyed. I think it's disrespectful. I think it's disrespectful to their memory, actually.

GROSS: With whose memory?

TARANTINO: The memory of the people who died to talk about movies. I think it's totally disrespectful to their memory. Obviously, the issue

is gun control and mental health.

And at a press junket last year, the BBC reports:

"I just think you know there's violence in the world, tragedies happen, blame the playmakers," he said, adding: "It's a western. Give me a break."

In 2003, on Kill Bill:

The director defended the film against accusations of graphic violence, saying it was so outlandish and bloody that it was obviously set in "fantasy land".

"This is definitely not taking place on planet Earth," he said.

And way back in 1992:

"I love violence in movies," he told the 1992 Montreal World Film Festival, "and if you don't, it's like you don't like tap-dancing, or slapstick, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be shown."

…"I can't worry about [real life violence]," said Tarantino - honestly, if callously. "As an artist, violence is part of my talent. If I start thinking about society, or what one person is doing to someone else, then I have on handcuffs."

Of course, being asked the same question a lot isn't really a reason to be sympathetic with Tarantino – he certainly isn't as upset with being asked softball questions repeatedly – but when it's one as inane as "does cinematic violence cause real violence", I can see why he gets annoyed.

Incidentally, in the short- and medium-run, violent movies reduce violent crime. The reason, according to a 2009 paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, is that individuals with a prior propensity to violence tend to disproportionately enjoy violent movies. As a result, when a violent movie is released, they go and see it, instead of going out and doing violent things. That has the effect of reducing violent crime by 1000 assaults US-wide over the opening weekend.

So actually, Tarantino might have saved someone's life by making Django Unchained.

Quentin Tarantino. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Inside Syria's unending siege, civilians, not soldiers, are the victims

In Aleppo, civilian strife is just another tool of war.

Maria is a young mother who lives in Aleppo. She missed her opportunity to flee when the Syrian-Turkish border was closed to all but the seriously injured in early 2015. With her two children – Fadi, aged five, and Sama, aged nine – she stayed in the city.

Maria’s husband was killed by a barrel bomb that fell on their neighbourhood in 2014. After that, she took the children and moved in with her husband’s family. Her married brother-in-law asked her to be his second wife. She accepted the offer for the sake of security. This year he, too, was killed when a bomb fell on his shop.

Speaking to her on Skype, I referred to Aleppo as a city under siege and she quickly corrected me. “The city is not under siege,” she said. “We are human beings under siege.” Maria clearly felt offended by my words. She moved the conversation on to the images of a young Syrian boy, sitting in an ambulance, which have appeared on newspaper front pages around the world – a symbol of the human suffering in Aleppo. “What can I say? His silence and shock reflected all the pain of Syrians.”

Tearfully, she described her living conditions. “There are two widows, with three children, who live all together with our old mother-in-law. The good people around us try to give us food and clothing.”

She added: “Before, I used to cook a big meal for me and my family-in-law every day. My late husband was well off.” The children don’t go to school but they get some lessons at home – Maria used to work as an Arabic language teacher at a high school in the city.

The household’s other widow, Safaa, joined our conversation. “Since the first day of Eid ul-Fitr [the festival that marks the end of Ramadan, this year on 6 July], the siege began in Aleppo. There was no food or water. Children cried and could not sleep because of hunger.”

Safaa made food from pulses that she had managed to save, particularly lentils. As the area around the city is rich in olives and well known for producing za’atar herbs, the extended family depended on reserves of these for nutrition. “Al-za’atar al-akhdar [a dish of the herb, olive oil and a few other basic ingredients] has saved the reputation of Aleppo and its people,” Safaa joked, and both women laughed.

Then, suddenly, the Skype connection was lost and they both disappeared.

Another Aleppo native to whom I spoke, Ayham, described his desperation as he finished his engineering degree before fleeing Syria. “I am my mother’s only son, so I didn’t want to do military service, and I left, as I felt so insecure,” he told me. He had been living in Shahbaa, a neighbourhood controlled by Bashar al-Assad’s regime, while completing one application after another to study abroad. Eventually he was successful and he has now made it to a university in Europe.

Ayham’s parents were pushing him to leave because they knew that he was part of an underground anti-Assad protest movement. “There are two Aleppos,” he explained. “One is free and the other is controlled by Assad’s regime. Both are very unsafe . . . Living hungry was easier than living under threat.”

There are roughly two million people in the city, most of them women and children. Since the second day of the siege, there have been no fruit or vegetables available and only a few bakeries are producing bread. Compounding the starvation, the bombing has been intense, hitting hospitals, ambulances, blood banks and the Syrian Civil Defence base. Assad’s regime is targeting vital resources for civilians.
Even after rebel forces, in co-operation with the Islamist faction Jaish al-Fateh, managed partly to break the siege and open a new road into the south of the city through the Ramoussa area, they could not bring in enough food. The little that made it inside immediately sent prices soaring. Civilians could not use this road to escape – jets were targeting the routes in and out.

The eastern areas of Aleppo, which are still under the opposition’s control, are also still without aid, because of how risky it is to get there. All the talk coming out of the city today is about decisive battles between Assad’s forces and the rebels in the southern quarters. Civilians put the recent air strikes down to these conflicts – it has long been believed that when the regime loses ground, it intensifies its bombing as revenge, and to send a message to those who continue to resist.

People in Aleppo and the north-eastern territories of Syria are suffering and dying. They have no other choice. It seems that both Isis and the Assad regime are trying as hard as they can to destroy Syrian civilians, whether through direct attacks or by gradual starvation.

There is little information available, as both sides attempt to prevent the media from documenting life under siege. Isis accuses journalists of being agents of Assad, while the regime portrays reporters as terrorists. Pro-Assad social media accounts have alleged that Mahmoud Raslan, who took the footage of the boy in the ambulance, has links with terrorism. The same channels have yet to say much about Raslan’s subject – Omran Daqneesh, the five-year-old whom he showed, bloodied and stunned, after the boy was pulled from the rubble caused by multiple air strikes. Omran’s ten-year-old brother, Ali, has since died from injuries sustained in another attack.

After four hours, I heard back from Maria. She apologised for losing the connection and asked me not to worry about her. “All of us are fine. We did not die yet,” she said. Her daughter, Sama, has not been to school since last year, she told me, and now studies only Arabic poetry. They have no books, so she depends on the verses that Maria knows by heart. Sama misses her school and her friends, and though she remembers their faces she has forgotten their names.

Maria has made a doll for her out of scraps of fabric and they call it Salwa. Together, they sing Syrian folk songs for the doll, in particular one that goes: “Hey Salwa, why are you crying? I need a friend.” Maria is resigned. As she says, “We are back in the Stone Age.” 

K S is a Syrian journalist, based in Sweden since 2014

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser