In his blockbuster new book, The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler, Ben Urwand documents how the film industry went out of its way in the lead-up to World War II to help Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. Scripts dealing with the German military, including All Quiet on the Western Front, were run by the German government for approval. Full scenes dealing with German treatment of Jews were cut from several movies. Entire projects were quashed because of actual or presumed Nazi disapproval.
After All Quiet on the Western Front, “every studio started making deep concessions to the German government, and when Hitler came to power in January 1933, they dealt with his representatives directly,” Urwand writes. The German government utilized what it called “Article 15,” which allowed the government to ban a company’s entire slate of films if even one of the films was considered anti-German.
In 1933, the German government went even further: they threatened to ban all American films in the country if Herman Mankiewicz and Sam Jaffe went ahead with an anti-Nazi film called The Mad Dog of Europe. The Hays Office, which ran the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association of America, tried to shut down the film. The picture eventually ended up being killed thanks to objections from Hollywood funders. “The episode,” writes Urwand, “turned out to be the most important moment in all of Hollywood’s dealings with Nazi Germany. It occurred in the first year of Hitler’s rise to power, and it defined the limits of American movies for the remainder of the decade.”
Nothing has changed.
Since September 11, 2001, the film and television industry has consistently refused to portray Islamists as enemies of the United States. As early as 2002, Hollywood was already cutting Islamic villains from mainstream films – The Sum of All Fears, based on the Tom Clancy book in which Palestinian terrorists gain access to a nuclear device, was altered so that the villains were now, ironically enough, neo-Nazis. That’s not atypical.
Even when Hollywood attempts to portray Islamist villains, it has to apologize for it. In 2005, Fox backed off the Islamic villains in its hit series 24 after pressure from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and forced star Kiefer Sutherland to read CAIR-approved text: “Now while terrorism is obviously one of the most critical challenges facing our nation and the world, it is important to recognize that the American Muslim community stands firmly beside their fellow Americans in denouncing and resisting all forms of terrorism. So in watching 24, please, bear that in mind.”
Americans are typically portrayed as the moral equivalents of jihadists in film. In The Kingdom (2007), Muslim terrorists bomb a US military installation; the end of the film features the Muslim terrorists and US trackers mirroring each other in their xenophobic rhetoric, pledging to “kill them all.” Rendition (2007) portrayed American anti-terror techniques as the cause of terrorism across the globe. The Green Zone (2010) suggested that Americans invaded Iraq for oil.
As in the 1930s, the question for Hollywood isn’t merely principle, but money. Middle Eastern money now funds a solid share of filmmaking around the globe. Alnoor Holdings, based in Doha, began a $200 million film fund in 2010; Imagenation Abu Dhabi launched a $1 billion film fund in 2008. And regional potentates have invested a fortune in oil money in various US media entities.
The same holds true with China, which is the fastest-growing movie market on the planet. The communist regime pours hundreds of millions of dollars into filmmaking, and just as the Nazis did during the 1930s, pledges to cut off distribution for any films that are considered too anti-Chinese. That’s how the army which invades America in the remake of Red Dawn which was initially Chinese became North Korean after a re-do.
In some ways, Hollywood’s self-censorship today is significantly worse than self-censorship during the 1930s. During that period, at least, there were concerns about the rise of the Nazis; Carl Laemmle, who produced All Quiet on the Western Front, said, “”I am almost certain that [Adolf] Hitler’s rise to power … would be the signal for a general physical onslaught on many thousands of defenseless Jewish men, women and children.” He was right. But today’s Hollywood honchos don’t see the threat of Islamism; they see instead the threat of the United States. They don’t see the threat of China; they see the threat of US imperialism. Unlike their predecessors, they are ideologically aligned, in too many cases, with America’s enemies. And when finances and ideological interests are aligned on behalf of America’s enemies, American viewers are in serious trouble.
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