Another Perspective

Riefenstahl Madness

The view from Hollywood Boulevard.

By 3.1.04

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BEVERLY HILLS -- You really get a great idea of just how sickening Hollywood can be at its worst at The Oscars. The combination of decadence and immoral pretension would make Goering blush.

My favorite this year was recognizing Gregory Peck as a righteous fighter against racial injustice -- when he actually just played one in front of a camera in Hollywood, where there was no risk to him at all (although he was a great actor and a fine man). There is a lot of confusion there. But the real stunner came right afterwards when the Motion Picture Academy had a brief memorial to Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's favorite film maker, maker of the most vicious racist propaganda for Der Führer, including Triumph of the Will, the ultimate Nazi apologia, an ardent Nazi, and an unrepentant fan of Hitler until the end.

How can this recognition of Leni Riefenstahl be squared with the Academy's supposed attachment to racial justice, à la Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird?

(1) Pure stupidity, which cannot be overestimated here at any time.

(2) A wicked desire to épater les bourgeois -- who are thoroughly hated by the $20-million-a-picture artistes here in Hollywood.

(3) A similar desire just to spit in the face of normal sentiments of moral decency.

The confusion is compounded by the fact that many, if not most, of the personalities on display at the Oscars are Jewish, at least by birth if not by practice. How could the Academy have possibly thought that they could memorialize Leni Riefenstahl in front of such a group? Again, the need to épater les hands that feed them is insatiable.

It is very much of a piece: the evening's bitter criticism of Bush, who liberated an entire nation from a mass murderer, and then an apologist for another mass murderer getting applauded by men and women dripping with diamonds and pearls. A similar perverse longing for evil touches both parts of the evening.

With enemies like this, Bush hardly needs friends -- and what a crew to represent America to the world.

Ben Stein, author of Ben Stein's Diary each month in The American Spectator, is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.