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Hollywood Politick

April 7, 2006

It seems to be the in thing lately to criticize Hollywood leftists for politicizing their work. So it shouldn’t be off-limits to point out a counter example, right? Or maybe it is because of the subject matter of this particular film. I refer to the upcoming United 93 which was mentioned in this space the other day. The movie is to be an account of the events of 9-11 centered on the plane that went down in Pennsylvania.

I considered prefacing this with my standard MTT (Marginal Theory Time) disclaimer, because perhaps I’m just reading too much into it. But I ask, is the theme of this movie, as articulated by the director, propaganda in favor of the administration’s preemptive war policy in general, and the Iraq-war-as-part-of-the-war-on-terrorism canard specifically?

From the ‘Director’s Statement’ on the United 93 movie website:

“By a quirk of fate Flight 93 was delayed on the runway at Newark airport for 45 minutes. By the time it was airborne, the other three planes had reached their intended targets. As a result, the forty passengers and crew on board Flight 93 were the first to inhabit our new and terrifying post 9/11 world.

“The terrible dilemma those passengers faced is the same we have been struggling with ever since. Do we sit passively and hope this all turns out okay? Or do we fight back and strike at them before they strike at us? And what will be the consequences if we do?” [Emphasis added.]

Who the fuck stops to consider “what will be the consequences” anymore? Drop that part and throw in a couple of the-Oceans-no-longer-protect-us-es and you got the argument in favor of preventive war for regime change in Iraq…

But September the 11th brought home a new reality, and it’s important for all our citizens to understand that reality. See, a lot of us, when we were raised, never really worried about the homeland. We all believed that two oceans would forever separate us from harm’s way, and that if there was a threat gathering overseas, we could pick and choose whether or not we wanted to be involved in dealing with that threat. September the 11th delivered a chilling message to our country, and that is oceans no longer protect us. And therefore, it is my obligation to make sure that we address gathering threats overseas before they could do harm to the American people. [White house: Excerpts from the Remarks by the President in Louisiana Welcome, December 3, 2002]

Shorter OFFAL, provided by Scott McClellan (much more below the fold):

[Iraq] was a grave and gathering threat. And [ ] in a post-September 11th world, you must confront gathering threats before it’s too late.

Now— in Your Montag’s view —artists are notoriously bad at expressing what it is they do in words. (That’s what critics are for, right?) So even though the Director says it, it doesn’t mean that this theme will actually come through to moviegoers. The movie is being sold as an honest re-creation of what really happened on that flight, based upon the available evidence, and interviews with the passengers’ families. As such, unless there is some amount of cinematic acrobatics, I’m not so sure the leap— from: group of people acting heroically to confront an immediate threat; to: our leaders acting heroically to confront what they called a ‘gathering threat’ —will be an overtly intuitive one for the watcher. So I’m not really convinced that this is a particularly insidious bit of propaganda that should be resisted out-of-hand by the anti-war set.

I maintain, though, that— considering the specific language the Director used —this is an example of a Hollywood artist attempting to assign a political message to his work. This time, it just isn’t a leftist message.

Click “more” for more Iraq quotes, including a healthy chunk of Scotty McClellan doing whatever you’d call what it is that Scotty McClellan does…

OFFAL:

We also must never forget the most vivid events of recent history. On September the 11th, 2001, America felt its vulnerability — even to threats that gather on the other side of the earth. We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat, from any source, that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America. [White House: President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat, October 7, 2002]

National Security Council:

For America, the September 11 attacks underscored the danger of allowing threats to linger unresolved. Saddam Hussein’s continued defiance of 16 UNSC resolutions over 12 years, combined with his record of invading neighboring countries, supporting terrorists, tyrannizing his own people, and using chemical weapons, presented a threat we could no longer ignore. [White House: V. Prevent Our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction, 2002]

Scotty:

Q On the question of Iraq, two issues. First, you’ve been using the phrase, “gathering threat” and “grave danger,” which obviously are words that the President, himself, used many times before the war. You have not used the word “imminent threat.” And the essence of Dr. Kay’s comments recently would suggest that there was no way for there to be an imminent threat.

Does the President now believe that, in fact, while the threat was gathering, while the threat may have been grave, that, in fact, it was not imminent?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we’ve said all along that it was a grave and gathering threat. And that in a post-September 11th world, you must confront gathering threats before it’s too late.

I think some in the media have chosen to use the word “imminent.” Those were not words —

Q The President himself never used that word?

MR. McCLELLAN: Those were not words we used. We used “grave and gathering threat.” We made it very clear that it was a gathering threat, that it’s important to confront gathering threats in this post-September 11th world, because of the new dangers and new threats that we face.

Q So then under your interpretation, if you’re not using the word “imminent” and the President didn’t use it, this was not a preemptive attack, this was a preventative war? Is that the White House position?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, again, September 11th taught us that we must confront gathering threats before it’s too late. Saddam Hussein — Saddam Hussein had ample opportunity to come clean.

Q I hear you, Scott. But there’s a definitional difference. “Preemptive” has to do with imminent threats. “Preventative” has to do with non-imminent threats.

MR. McCLELLAN: He was a gathering threat, and it was important that we confront that threat. I don’t know that I necessarily agree with your distinctions that you’re making there. [White House: Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, January 27, 2004]

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2 Comments
  1. April 7, 2006 5:27 PM

    I see Hollywood is starting to cash in now. I’m surprised it took them so long. Of course without terrorists and drug dealers (usually the same thing), Hollywood wouldn’t have any good villains since the Krauts and the Commies both went down. I wouldn’t read too much into any director’s blurb. It’s just ticket-selling bullshit. (‘Blurb’ is a great word, isn’t it?)

  2. April 9, 2006 4:27 PM

    This film (at least the trailer) looks too slick to be anything but a transparent tear-jerker. Still, it is a blatant attempt to pander to the Toby Keith mentality of many Americans. How long before some Republican douchebag brings back “Let’s roll!” for their re-election campaign slogan?

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