Special Report

Blown Away: Did Movie Inspire Boston Attack?

Jeff Bridges, Tommy Lee Jones film featured Boston bombings, attack on Boston Pops.

By 4.18.13

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The movie: 1994’s Blown Away.

The plot.

 An Irish terrorist -- played by A-List Oscar nominee and Al Gore’s Harvard roommate (and frequent contributor to Democrats) Tommy Lee Jones -- is intent on a revenge-driven bombing attack on a member of the Boston Pops Orchestra.

The movie hero -- played by Jeff Bridges -- seeks to stop Jones.

 In the lead up, Jones’s character sets off bombs in various parts of Boston -- bombs that contain ball bearings designed to explode as shrapnel -- just as the real bombs in Boston did this past Monday. The film contains this very graphic attack (as seen here), which the film’s hero -- actor Bridges -- frantically and unsuccessfully seeks to prevent. Here is the scene with the Boston Pops, the climax of the film. (Spoiler alert, Jeff Bridges saves the day.)

Here too is the film’s trailer with Jones, in an Irish accent, telling Bridges in a phone call that “I’ve come here to create a new country for you called chaos, and a new government called anarchy. All for you.” As bomb-driven violence explodes on the screen, there is a quick image of Bridges’ love interest, actress Suzy Amis, playing her violin with the Boston Pops -- and all of this spectacular violence is accompanied by a chorus singing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy as one bomb after another explodes all over Boston.

It is, to say the least, a film that bears considerable similarity to the real-life events in Boston this past Monday. With one very unhappy exception: in real-life there was no Jeff Bridges to save the day for the Boston Marathon. The Marathon, like performances of the Boston Pops, that plays such a major role in the cultural life of Boston.

This is the second time in less than a year that real life murderous events patterned after Hollywood blockbusters and starring Hollywood A-list stars have been in the news.

The first entry of course, was the July 20, 2012 mass murder in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater. A theater that was playing the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, starring Christian Bale. Here’s the trailer for that film, specifically mentioning the opening July 20 date and showcasing scenes of a mass shooting.

On that night of July 20, as the audience at a Century movie theater was thirty minutes into the film, James Holmes entered the theater dressed in black, wearing a helmet and gas mask. Underneath the helmet his hair had been died orange and, according to some accounts, although not confirmed by the police, called himself “The Joker.” Seventy people were shot or wounded in some fashion, with ten murdered outright.

Later, a shocked actor Bale personally visited with the survivors and their families.

In theaters right now is Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep (trailer here) that glamorizes the violent ’60s radicals who ran around America bombing and murdering in the name of social justice. One can only wonder if the Boston Marathon bomber saw Redford’s film and decided that, hey, he could set off bombs and kill for his or her own cause too. Maybe there’s a good movie in it down the road, when years from now people will look back and realize that all this mayhem in Boston was really for a worthy cause after all.

The University of Illinois at Chicago long ago hired the now-retired radical Weatherman bomber Bill Ayers, who would later host a political gathering for a young State Senate candidate named Barack Obama in the Ayers living room. Perhaps Columbia University, which recently hired the Weather Underground’s Kathy Boudin after her release from serving 22 years in prison for killing two police officers and a security guard for her leftist revolutionary cause, could hire the Boston Marathon bomber. Like Boudin, he or she -- still unidentified as this is written -- has also killed three people.

After all, goes the message of Redford, Columbia, and the University of Illinois -- what’s the big deal? There’s nothing like the Hollywood-academia complex for glorifying and employing those who bomb and kill for a great leftist cause.

In fact, although recent and still fresh in memory, Blown Away, The Dark Knight Rises and The Company You Keep are not the first films that have been linked to real-life and decidedly violent events.

The 1976 film Taxi Driver (trailer here) starred a young Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle, a lonely, depressed cabbie who is contemplating shooting a presidential candidate, among other acts of violence. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film was enormously popular on its release and wound up winning four Oscar nominations and accolades as one of the greatest films of all time.

Among its fans was a young man named John Hinckley, who became so obsessed with the film he was said to not only have seen the movie some fifteen times, but to have absorbed the identity of De Niro’s character, Travis Bickle. Hinckley was also obsessed with one of the film’s stars, actress Jodie Foster.

On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley mixed in with a crowd of reporters waiting outside the Washington Hilton hotel for the exit of President Ronald Reagan, who was inside giving a speech to a labor group. As Reagan exited, smiling and waving (seen here in this Discovery documentary), Hinckley pulled a gun and fired, wounding the President, presidential press secretary James Brady, Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy and Washington policeman Thomas Delahanty. All survived, although Brady received a brain injury that ended his career and the President came perilously close to death.

Hinckley, it would emerge, had fired his shots not just to imitate Travis Bickle but to impress Jodie Foster. Years later, in an appearance at the Hamptons Film festival, actress Isabella Rossellini -- director Scorsese’s wife for several years -- remarked that her former husband regretted making Taxi Driver and launching Hinckley’s obsession.

So? Why bring up Blown Away and the others?

As it happens, we are in the middle of a gun control debate, with demands for increased restrictions on the Second Amendment. Yesterday, failing to get the necessary filibuster-proof 60 votes, the latest attempt in the Senate to chip away at the Second Amendment failed -- with 54 voting in favor, the nays drawing 46 on a vote on the Pat Toomey-Joe Manchin amendment.

Regardless, the close nature of the vote -- failing by only six votes -- raises the obvious question: Is it time to restrict the First Amendment?

If gun ownership is to be restricted in the name of safety, why not Hollywood movies?

If the push is on to restrict gun ownership through the creation of a federal bureaucracy that serves as an office for universal gun registration -- isn’t it time to do the same with films?

Which, in this case, means matching a Second Amendment restriction such as background checks for guns -- with, say, a U.S. Office of Film Review. To which Hollywood must submit scripts for a background check on the violence to be portrayed on the screen. Giving government the right to green light -- or not -- any film made or shown in America.

When, by the way, is the inevitable White House event with the families and victims of what we might call the Blown Away Boston attack -- with President Obama calling for script control of movies as he is calling for background control of guns?

If you’re skeptical that such a thing would ever happen, you’re right.

Just for starters, the director of Blown Away, Stephen Hopkins, appears to be the same Stephen Hopkins listed by the FEC as a contributor to… President Obama. The star of the film, actor Jeff Bridges, is a prolific contributor to Democrats in Congress, including California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. So too is Tommy Lee Jones a consistent contributor to the Democrats over the years. While Feinstein in particular is determined to restrict the Second Amendment, the notion that a movie made by her constituent Mr. Bridges might have been the inspiration for the Boston Marathon bombing would surely be indignantly rejected. Neither Feinstein nor Boxer, both of whom regularly tap into the Hollywood piggy bank, are going to risk alienating their wealthy buddies no matter how many people are killed as real life imitates art.

One can be sure that Robert Redford, he too a contributor to Democrats, would presumably hotly deny that anything about The Company You Keep might have inspired the Boston bomber. Most assuredly there are no Democrats who are of a mind to antagonize Redford by suggesting such heresy, let alone proposing that Redford or Hollywood’s film-making abilities be somehow restricted so as not to inspire such horrific events as the Boston bombing, the Aurora shootings, or the attempted assassination of a president.

And don’t forget that $15 million fundraiser held at George Clooney’s house for the President.

It has escaped no one’s attention that Adam Lanza, the Newtown murderer, is reported to have spent a good bit of his time in the family basement playing violent video games. But the administration has no intention of dealing with that issue either.

In other words, what’s sauce for the Second Amendment’s goose will not be sauce for the First Amendment’s gander. For now, the Left will content itself with campus speech codes -- where conservative free speech can be regulated.

Over at the Wall Street Journal the other week, former NBC and CNN anchor Campbell Brown wrote a piece tartly noting the Obama administration’s flat refusal to turn the national spotlight on violence in film and video games. But as a writer these days, and a former journalist, Brown is no fan of attacks on the First Amendment.

Nor am I.

She did, however, have some constructive suggestions, noting: 

“….there is a consensus among doctors and mental-health professionals about the danger to children from exposure to the violence depicted by movies, television and videogames.

The American Academy of Pediatrics' 2009 policy statement said: "The evidence is now clear and convincing: media violence is one of the causal factors of real-life violence and aggression. Therefore, pediatricians and parents need to take action." The American Medical Association's guide for physicians says studies show "a clear link between brief exposure to violence on TV or movies and increases in aggressive and even physically violent behavior in young persons."

In 2011, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry concluded that "hundreds of studies of the effects of TV violence on children and teenagers have found that children may become 'immune' or numb to the horror of violence, gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems" and "imitate the violence they observe on television.”

Added Brown, and I will boil her suggestions down to essence:

  • “One obvious action would be to restrict violence on television that can be seen by young people. Right now the Federal Communications Commission has no rules regulating TV violence—the agency's content regulations apply only to language and sexual content. The FCC itself has recognized that its inability to oversee violent content is a problem and in a 2007 report to Congress called for changing the rules.”
  • Put an “… end to channel ‘bundling’ by cable and satellite companies, the practice of forcing subscribers to pay for channels they don't watch. Parents should be allowed to choose which cable or satellite channels—sources of the most extreme content—come into their homes. Parents shouldn't be obliged to act as the sole filters for the torrent of material, as they are today, blocking channels and password-protecting against the ever-shifting programming.”
  • “Another helpful proposal would be to institute a real movie ratings system. As anyone who has recently seen PG-13 movies knows, the level of violence in them has increased to the point of making the Motion Picture Association of America's voluntary rating system meaningless.”

All of these are constructive suggestions. Doubtless there are others. None need impose any restrictions whatever on the First Amendment.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but that’s a very good thing.

Plainly put, the Bill of Rights is not to be cherry-picked for un-favorites.

The fact that the Obama administration is so obviously playing favorites -- and in such a considerable fashion at that -- with the Bill of Rights no less, is in fact proving to be a real problem in getting its gun control agenda passed. The administration is more than happy to go after gun owners, but is so deeply tied to the deep-pocketed special interests that compose Hollywood that even if they were of a mind to do something constructive along the lines that Campbell Brown suggests they simply don’t have the political guts.

It’s OK to take on Wayne LaPierre, but God forbid offending Tommy Lee Jones or Robert Redford.

The fear? If in fact the Boston Marathon bomber does in fact turn out to be a fan of yet another violent Hollywood -- there is a fate worse than mass murder.

Politically speaking, Democrats dependent on Hollywood movie violence to line their pockets don’t want to be Blown Away.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.