Hollywood's Take on Terrorism

Some terrorists are more equal than others.

Picture-12In Robert Redford’s new film, The Company You Keep, not yet nationally released, a group of former leftist terrorists are apparently portrayed as heroes who were just trying to make their country a better place. Reviewer Rex Reed of the New York Observer says that the film presents “earnest insight into the validity of the noble but misdirected romantic idealism of the ‘70s radicals.” The Hollywood Reporter review similarly fetes 1970s terrorists: the movie, says the Reporter, “provides an absorbing reflection on the courage and cost of dissent.” But as Christian Toto of Big Hollywood writes, “Movie goers may not be so forgiving, what with the fresh images of bloodshed in Boston still on their minds.”

But Hollywood has always been forgiving of leftist terrorists. In the 1988 film Running on Empty, starring Judd Hirsch and River Phoenix and directed by Sidney Lumet, parents Annie and Arthur Pope are on the run for years after bombing a napalm laboratory and accidentally paralyzing a janitor. They are separated from their son, who wants to go to Julliard; they don’t want to let him go. Finally they realize that since they are freedom fighters, they need to let their son follow his dream. “Now,” says Arthur to his son, “go out there and make a difference. Your mother and I tried. Don’t let anyone tell you different.”

The reviewers loved that film, too. Janet Maslin of The New York Times criticized the film mainly because she found the notion of leftist terrorism grown old and gray unacceptable. Hal Hinson of the Washington Post, who didn’t love the film, soft-pedaled 1960s terrorism: “What it touches on is the costs of political commitment, specifically the fervent activism of young college kids in the '60s who, swept up in the revolutionary moment, took actions they pay for for the rest of their lives.”

Hollywood leftists aren’t too averse to Islamic terrorism, either. Whether it’s The Siege, in which tyrannical US government counterterrorism operatives are the bad guys rather than Islamic terrorists, or The Sum of All Fears, where Islamic terrorism is written out entirely in favor of the dastardly scourge of neo-Nazi nuclear terrorism, Hollywood treats Islamic terrorism with a surprising amount of respect. Even in The Kingdom, a searching look at jihadists, in the ending Hollywood attempts to equate Islamic terrorism with American military response.

Then there’s another sort of terrorism. This is the kind of terrorism leftists actually do hate: non-left-wing domestic anti-government terrorism, which according to the left is a massive threat to America’s very existence. While Islamist violence is rarely a subject for Hollywood, right wing violence is something it takes very seriously. In Arlington Road, Jeff Bridges tracks down anti-government bomber Tim Robbins. Robbins’s character babbles: “I’m a messenger, Michael, I’m a messenger! There’s millions of us, waiting to take up arms, ready to spread the word … millions of us!” Robbins’ character, naturally, is supremely evil. Hollywood has yet to create a movie with a sympathetic anti-government terrorist. That’s a good thing. Sadly, they’re not averse to their left-wing bomber friends, and they spend an awful lot of time justifying Islamic terrorism.

That’s because the left craves what it perceives as right-wing violence. Whenever something evil happens, the left jumps to the conclusion that it was “right-wing extremists” – by which they mean crazy people inspired by Rush Limbaugh. Whether it’s Jared Lee Loughner, who shot Gabby Giffords and was quickly labeled a Sarah Palin follower without evidence, or James Holmes, who shot up an Aurora theater and was labeled a Tea Partier without evidence, or Lee Harvey Oswald, a communist who shot JFK and was quickly and falsely labeled a representative of the anti-JFK conservative movement, the left craves legitimation for its worldview that the right is the source of terrorism in the United States.

Meanwhile, the left sees its own terrorists as fighting for something larger-- or freedom fighters like Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who are still held in high regard at the universities. Anti-government kooks, however, are portrayed as results of talk radio and Fox News.

That’s just how Hollywood likes it. So even as we await word on who perpetrated the bombings at the Boston Marathon, Hollywood releases a Redford film upholding the moral worth of folks who bombed government installations in the 1960s and 1970s. After all, they’re groovy. We’re just supposed to be the dunderheads who create Timothy McVeighs on a daily basis.

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