Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It might help get more work for Colin Farrell

A writer in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd; free link) wants to be clear about one of the grave cultural flaws revealed by the attribution of the London bombs to Islamist suicide bombers -- that the IRA gets a bad rap in the movies:

This fall will mark the fourth anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, and not one European neo-Nazi is to be found on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list. Another convenient movie villain, the Irish Republican Army, has not been deemed responsible for the deadly 7/7 London bombings. Islamo-fascism though is a real, deadly threat. So is censorship by special-interest groups [who criticise depictions of Muslim villains in films] a threat to all that the creative community stands for.

This complaint comes from Bridget Johnson, whose first name may reveal some ethnic sensitivity to the frequent reliance on IRA types as bad guys in films. But Bridget's tirade is part of a broader pattern in which the American Right has been desperate for any change of subject from the lessons of the London bombings, so Hollywood is the best available red herring.

Consider: the bombings involved no WMDs, no state sponsorship, and no residents of repressive regimes, so every pillar of the theory of Global War on Terror is irrelevant. And so far, the British approach to the investigation has been plain old law enforcement work, which normally draws sneers from Dubya and his boosters*. Much easier to bash Hollywood for not having enough Muslim bad guys in films, or for putting Oliver Stone in charge of a 9/11 film.

And what is the cost to society from too many Sean Bean and Jonathan Pryce Oirish accents, and the corresponding lack of Koran-quoting bombers? It's not like people aren't seeing enough of the latter on the news. And even Bridget is forced to acknowledge the list of films that do have such bad guys, albeit with the observation that there have been fewer of them since 9/11:

After all, "True Lies" (1994), "Executive Decision" (1996), "The Siege" (1998) and "Rules of Engagement" (2000) all came under sharp criticism from CAIR [Council on American Islamic Relations] well before 9/11

Let's take another tack. If even big pop films are supposed to teach us all something, then consider the superb Executive Decision. Condi Rice has claimed that before 9/11, no one had conceived of a hijacked plane as a weapon. As we noted before, this is contradicted by the Italian security precautions for the Genoa Summit in the summer of 2001. But back in 1996, Hollywood brought us a film in which Arab terrorists, one of whom is a pilot, get WMDs on board a passenger jet which they then plan to fly into the ground in Washington. It's got bits of both 9/11 and the Bush-Cheney paranoid fantasising thereafter. And yet right up to September 10, 2001, Dubya's team never foresaw, they say, such threats. So if something as glaringly obvious as that can't be picked up from a blockbuster, what's the point in arguing about whether Hollywood has a lopsided Irish/Islamic ratio for terrorists?

*UPDATE: Example of sneer from today's WSJ editorial (subs. req'd; free link), defending their loony Gitmo-complainers-caused-London-bombings editorial of last week --

The specifics of Guantanamo and the Patriot Act aside, the campaigns against them show that we've been creeping back toward the law-enforcement mindset about terrorism that prevailed before September 11 and which contributed so much to letting that day's attacks succeed.

UPDATE 14 JULY: Mickey Kaus in particular is making a fool of himself over the GWOT/Hollywood obsession of the Right. We already linked to one James Wolcott slam of the Kaus War on Stone, but here's another, and Andrew Sullivan gets in a long awaited dig: "I can't believe I beat Mickey to this [Rove-Wilson angle]. I guess he's been too busy covering the London massacres [sarcasm]."

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