Hollywood’s War on America
This isn’t the first time the news-entertainment complex has manufactured its own fake atrocity porn with ugly results. In 2005, Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff ran a fake report about Gitmo personnel flushing a Koran down the toilet. Muslims reacted with their usual violent restraint, rioting, burning and generally running amok. One of the perpetrators of the 2005 London bombing was reportedly influenced by that story. That would make it the first news article to have killed over 50 people.
In 2004, the Boston Globe was so desperate for anti-war porn in the wake of Abu Ghraib, that it published photos of US soldiers raping Iraqi women that they got from the Nation of Islam. In reality the photos were pornographic fakes, but the Globe went ahead and ran them even though they had already been exposed as fakes.
And before Piers Morgan was picked by CNN as Larry King’s replacement, he was working as the editor of the Daily Mirror, and in that capacity he published more fake photos of UK soldiers torturing Iraqis. That got him fired from the Daily Mirror, but made him amply qualified for a high profile hosting gig at CNN, which suffers from even lower standards than the UK’s trashiest tabloid.
The rash of fake abuse photos in 2004-2005, in the wake of Abu Ghraib, showed the media’s greed for defamatory materials aimed at Coalition soldiers. While the media was busy reproducing enemy propaganda, the men they were targeting were dying in record numbers. While the Globe, Newsweek and the Mirror were fishing for smears, in those two years alone over 1,600 soldiers died in attacks. And while there is no way to measure the impact that the media’s fake news stories had on casualties, there is no serious doubt that terrorist recruiters found such stories useful. While the media made a great show of outrage over Terry Jones’ plan to burn a Koran, charging him with having the blood of soldiers on his hands, the media has always been eager to sell true or fake atrocity porn, without regard for how much blood they have on their hands.
But when fake news stories wouldn’t do, there were always movies. More anti-war movies have been made by Hollywood during the War on Terror, than were made throughout the entire Vietnam War. As it stands now, there has not been a single movie made about the War in Iraq that positively depicts American soldiers and their mission. Instead movie after movie has portrayed US troops as monsters (The Valley of Elah), rapists and butchers (Redacted) working for a secret military-industrial complex (Body of Lies, The Green Zone) or violent headcases (Stop Loss, Harsh Times, American Dreamz, Hurt Locker). Hollywood has been less willing to attack the War in Afghanistan, instead it ignores it.
There is no precedent for such a campaign of defamation by a country’s entertainment industry against its fighting men and women. No precedent for a movie industry that consistently makes movies in which Americans are the bad guys and its enemies are the good guys.
It took Hollywood five years to begin making a few obligatory TV shows and movies about 9/11, e.g. (World Trade Center, United 93 and Path to 9/11), but only 2 years later, HBO had already thrown together Strip Search, a TV movie in which a devout Muslim is abused by a female American interrogator. As always Hollywood had its priorities in order, and the media-entertainment complex’s first priority was to bash America.
Redacted was distributed by Magnolia Pictures which had gone into the business of distributing movies that attacked or undermined America’s war against terror. From Control Room (2004), a piece of shameless Al Jazeera propaganda to Only Human (2004), Voices of Iraq (2004), The War Within (2005) and No End in Sight (2007) (not to mention Jesus Camp). It’s an impressive record. Almost as impressive as Warner Independent Pictures which distributed Paradise Now (2005), an ugly work of terrorist moral equivocation, Good Night and Good Luck (2005), In the Valley of Elah (2005) and Towelhead (2007).
Warner Independent Pictures is a subsidiary of Warner Bros, which is a subsidiary of Time Warner, a company that includes both news and entertainment divisions. While one arm of the behemoth distributes fictional movies that take shots at America, its other arms distribute news magazines like Time Magazine and a global news network like CNN. And both its fiction and non-fiction arms share the same perspective.
The merger of news companies with film and television media has created a news-entertainment complex, giant entities like Time Warner, Newscorp or Comcast’s NBC Universal, which have a common viewpoint that runs across all its properties. Much of the media’s bias can be attributed to a corporate culture whose political orientation spills into the content side of the business. That mandatory liberalism, with its breathy radicalism, has made patriotism into an extinct species within the news-entertainment complex. It also means that the same agenda moves across hundreds of magazines, books, newspapers, cable channels, movies and news programs. An agenda that does not distinguish between fact and fiction.
Hollywood is only one leg of a global empire. And even though Americans have rejected the long line of anti-war movies cranked out by its studios, they have made plenty of money overseas. As the foreign box office grows, the studios orient themselves toward a new environment becoming American in name only. American actors lend their talents to Anti-American movies made in the Muslim world, as Billy Zane, Spencer Garrett and Gary Busey (playing an evil eye stealing Jewish doctor) did in Valley of the Wolves. American exceptionalism is stripped out of even such iconically American products as GI Joe and Superman, with Truth, Justice and the American Way, becoming just Truth and Justice, a telling commentary on Hollywood’s view of America.
Americans get their news and entertainment from multinational corporations which just happen to be headquartered in the United States. But they won’t always be. Until recently two of the big six movie studios were actually foreign owned without any noticeable change in the product. Not that there would be. All the major media conglomerates have worldwide interests and television networks and movie releases around the world. America is just another market to them. The Hollywood movie studios created by entrepreneurs have long ago become development farms for recognizable brands. They dabble in anti-war movies in between turning everything from the Smurfs to Battleship into movies.
The television networks which were born out of electronics companies like GE, Westinghouse and the DuMont Network, are now in the hands of many of the same media conglomerates. As cable providers buy up cable and television networks, they turn into amorphous corporate monsters wielding a portfolio of familiar brands. Those monsters will sooner or later be bought up by Chinese or Middle Eastern companies which have the capital and need someplace to put it. The mass mergers are economically unsustainable. Time Warner nearly destroyed itself with its AOL merger. But the Comcast purchase of NBC Universal is more of the same. Content companies are tying themselves to cable’s business model. And when the implosion comes, the only ones with enough money to clean up the mess will be China and Russia’s post-Communist tycoons or the Gulf royal families, if they’re still around by then.
But the media culture of the news-entertainment complex will hardly need to change at all. The hostility toward America and the sympathy toward terrorists that is openly practiced by the complex’s personnel is only a shadow of the real thing. It is their public mask. Underneath that mask, it gets even uglier. Call it the Al-Jazeeration of American news and entertainment. Even a propaganda film from a Muslim country like Valley of the Wolves is not significantly more anti-American than the offerings from the domestic movie industry. And Al-Jazeera has not become any more moderate, but it looks more mainstream because its American and UK counterparts have gotten to be just as bad.
The Globe, Newsweek and Mirror incidents show that even if Abu Ghraib had never existed, they would have had to manufacture it. Just as the constant drumbeat of lies about Guantanamo Bay were manufactured and distributed over and over again. Redacted manufactured such atrocities for entertainment, and then those atrocities were repackaged by terrorist recruiters for distribution across sites such as YouTube, stripped of their attribution and treated as actual events. But you can hardly condemn them, when after all mainstream media outlets had already done the same thing.
Arid Uka would no doubt have tried to kill Americans even if Brian DePalma had never soiled paper with pen, and then tried to put it all on film. While Hollywood’s narratives have an undeniable power, the Koran has sold far more copies than Avatar. And if Mohammed still had the copyright, it would have made more money too. Scraps of footage from movies like Redacted come in handy, for when the Turkish film industry just can’t turn them out fast enough, but their most damaging impact is on Westerners who accept the worldview of the fictional narratives. A worldview in which Westerners are the villains and Muslims are the victims.
During WW2, English radio listeners could tune in to hear Lord Haw Haw spew Nazi propaganda at them. But today there would be little difference between Lord Haw Haw and the BBC. Indeed it was the BBC that spawned Al Jazeera. And during WW2, Hollywood not only took a generally patriotic line, it kept it up even during the occupation for the most part (movies like A Foreign Affair were an exception, and The Americanization of Emily could only be made in the uglier sixties.) The shift is a dramatically ugly one and underlying it is an identity shift.
The American elites see themselves as multinational, citizens of the world, who happen to be stuck in a country filled with ignorant jingoists who believe in Creationism and Nationalism, and don’t drink Fair Trade coffee. Their movies and their reporting reflect their mindset. They don’t like America very much, or the idea of nations at all. Instead they look forward to a better world in which we all live in between borders. They resent the War on Terror for poisoning the image of Americans abroad and have rushed to be in the vanguard of denouncing and undermining their own country. Their war on America is born of equal parts detachment and self-hatred. And when that war claims American lives, as it may have in Frankfurt, they feel no guilt for it. Perhaps even a species of triumph, of the sort felt by vicarious Keffiyah wearers, when the real deal blow up a bus or a humvee, at striking a blow at the American Empire.