Among the Intellectualoids

Mistaken Identity

In depicting terrorists, Hollywood is a gang that can't see straight.

By 4.7.06

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While Sun Tsu counseled, "know thy enemy," Hollywood's motto appears to be, "look the other way."

In the popular television series about terrorism 24, those trying to kill hundreds of thousands in Los Angeles are Russian secessionists named Anton, James Nathanson (who's extremely Nordic looking), Ivan Erwich, Sergei, Polokov, Jacob Rossley, Victor Gregorin, Mikhail and Vladimir Bierko (played by British actor Julian Sands, of A Room With a View) -- most of them, blond.

Yup -- that's who we have to watch out for, those damn Scandinavians and Slavs.

What's more, a mole in counter-terrorism, a hit man sent to kill our hero, and the men who helped the terrorists acquire nerve gas (Christopher Henderson and National Security Adviser Walt Cummings) are all European Caucasians.

As Yogi Berra said, "It's too coincidental to be a coincidence."

It reminds me of actor Ben Affleck's explanation for why The Sum of All Fears replaced novelist Tom Clancy's Arab terrorists with neo-Nazis: "The Arab terrorist thing has been done a million times in the movies." (The actor's namesake, Michel Afleq, was a founder of Arab fascism.)

Actually, the makers of 24 might be on to something. In December, a Swedish terror suspect was picked up in Prague. So said all the headlines and the contents of the main stories. It took a bit of digging to find out that the man's name was Oussama, that he was Lebanese, and that our government accused him of being "bin Ladin's man in Sweden" and of setting up terrorist training in Oregon.

I'll grant you, it is a little hard to tell who the terrorists are. In the past few months, news reports have informed us that it was just "youths" who set off holocausts in 900 towns in France, and undefined "rioters" rampaging on the beaches of Sydney.

Better yet, the terrorists could be a race of invisible men -- superheroes -- like the unmentioned gang-rapists targeting improperly appareled women across Europe and Australia, and the mystery man who drove a rented SUV into a crowd on the University of North Carolina campus. Actually, credit must be given, where it's due. The Associated Press got very specific, about one man's identity, calling him "an exiled Saudi dissident." That's Osama bin Laden, in case you didn't recognize him.

WHEN IT'S NOT SLAVS AND Scandinavians, the bad guys are...us. In George Clooney's Syriana, American oilmen are determined to corrupt a benign Arab despot (read, Saddam), while his son, intent on democratizing the country, is killed -- along with his lovely family -- by a missile sent from CIA headquarters.

24 seems to be thinking along the same lines. The president's national security adviser helps terrorists acquire nerve gas for purely patriotic purposes -- part of a larger plan to ensure greater military spending and the freer flow of oil.

When it's not Big Oil, it's some other large company, the archvillains of quite a few recent films being multinational corporations. In fact, last year's much-praised Constant Gardener applies the phrase "axis of evil" to pharmaceutical companies.

Why, 24's most loathsome and bungling characters aren't any of the terrorists, but counter-terrorism head Lynn McGill and U.S. President Charles Logan, who asks his closest adviser to pray with him and is in cahoots with the terrorists.

Next thing you know, we'll have a terrorist named Judah or Christian.

In fact -- been there, done that. In Ridley Scott's movie about the Crusades, Kingdom of Heaven, a Christian beheads a Muslim hostage, the Christians execute Salahudine's sister (in reality, they released her), and Salahudine himself, picks up a crucifix from the ground and fondles it admiringly. Why, the Russian gang in 24 carries out staged executions for the TV cameras. I wonder where we've seen that!

Steven Spielberg does 'em one better. He avoids the terrorists altogether, and not-so-subtly blames Israel for 9/11 -- and, by extension, our soldiers for terrorism.

The closing shot of his Munich is a longing one of the newly built Twin Towers. "Had to show them," Spielberg told Time magazine, explaining that the Middle East's "cycle of violence" had reached our shores. He conveys his message that responding to terrorism is futile, by having his terrorists conduct a bombing campaign in response to their peers being put out of commission.

Indeed, the movie's Israeli protagonist, Avner, comes to realize "we have to do this not as a war, but within the legal system." To top it off, Avner fulfills the dream of Iran's president and other anti-Semites by abandoning Israel to find his home in Brooklyn.

To add insult to injury, we are barely shown the slaughter of the Israeli Olympians -- only at the end, glancingly, and interspersed with shots of Avner having rough sex -- and it's the movie's Jews who viciously gun down a kind Palestinian poetry translator, a doting father, a philosopher, and a beautiful Dutch prostitute. I told you we'd get a Judah. Actually, methinks we have a Judas, in our midst.

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. The winner of this year's Golden Globe for best foreign film, Paradise Now, portrays Palestinian suicide bombers as Jesus-like and sanitizes their bombings. So, you see -- the Arab terrorists aren't our enemies, they're our saviors. In Syriana, too, the man who becomes a suicide bomber is the movie's most noble character. The newest entrant, V for Vendetta, puts it all together. The terrorists, called freedom fighters, blow up buildings to topple a fascist Christian tyranny that suppresses -- are you ready for this -- Islam.

Hold onto your hats, though. The first big movie in the works about 9/11 -- purportedly hailing that day's heroes -- is being directed by Oliver Stone, who called the 9/11 attacks a justified "revolt" against the established order and the six companies that control the world, compared Palestinians cheering 9/11 to celebrants of the French and Russian revolutions, and said 9/11 may have unleashed as much creative energy as the birth of Einstein.

"Hooray for Hollywood!"

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