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Posted in: Film & Propaganda, Arts, Film & Culture

Published on Jun 29, 2007 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for FrontPageMagazine.com

A Mighty Big Lie


Hollywood has spawned a series of propaganda films all packaged as entertaining adventure stories replete with big budgets, big stars, bright colors and amazing technical effects.

For example, George Clooney's 2005 film, "Syriana," features a CIA plot to blow up a soft-spoken, highly sympathetic Saudi Prince who, doggone it!, was just about to free all the women in his country and usher in a modern era. Obviously, only dirty American oil politics is holding progress at bay in the otherwise peace-loving and tyrant-free Arab Middle East.

In 2006, Brad Pitt (Angelina Jolie's real life partner) and Cate Blanchett starred in "Babel," a pretentious but "high concept" adventure story set in four geographical locations, including Morocco, where the Muslim terrorists are depicted as soulful and sympathetic--surely the equals of Syriana's murdered Saudi Prince.

Liberal, eternally guilty Hollywood has found its new Indians: Muslims, mainly Muslim terrorists, but also the great, silent majority of Muslims, who are very photogenic, and who merely hate infidels. If the Muslim terrorists are brutal--well, by God, we drove them to it. We exterminated our own native Indians of color and then put the survivors on reservations where, dishonored and demoralized, they beat their women and drink themselves to death. The fact that Muslims are not native American Indians does not change the boilerplate mind-set: People of color are the victims, Caucasians are their victimizers. Hollywood rides to the rescue!

"A Mighty Heart," starring Angelina Jolie, is yet another propaganda film masquerading as an action drama. The film is presumably about Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter whom al-Qaeda, led by British-born Ahmed Omar Sheikh, kidnapped, tortured, and gruesomely be-headed on video, a copy of which they subsequently provided to the media. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has confessed to the be-heading.

I remember that heart-stopping video in which Pearl admits that he is a Jew (as if that is a crime) and that his parents are Jews-- in fact, he tells us, perhaps gratuitously, unexpectedly, that the Israelis named a street in Israel after his grand-father. And then, horror of horrors, Daniel Pearl is decapitated by masked gunmen. This video was seen around the world, over and over again. The video itself functioned as a form of psychological terror. Many westerners got the message. They have behaved in appeasing, dhimmi-like ways ever since.

We only see a snippet of this video in "A Mighty Heart." The video is missing--as is Daniel Pearl himself. What we see, instead, are Hollywood's "good Indians." This time they are Pakistani Muslim policemen who only want to help find Pearl's kidnappers. (The chief of police is played by beloved Indian actor Irfan Khan, who played the father in the movie version of Jhumpa Lahiri's "Namesake").

In Cannes, the film was given a standing ovation. Variety's reporter, Justin Chang, congratulated the British director, Michael Winterbottom ("The Road to Guantanamo") for finding a way to interest people in what is, after all, a rather "harrowing" story. Thus, the film wisely focuses on Angelina Jolie the star--not on Daniel Pearl, who was also cut up into ten pieces after being butchered. He commends the "pic (which) negotiates its way around another potential landmine" (the video of Daniel Pearl). Chang praises the film's "utmost restraint"--which in my view, is itself the ultimate in dhimmi behavior. Indeed, the film does not condemn Islamic terrorism at all and only once whispers the name "Al-Qaeda."

Predictably, the New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis praises the film. She damns the pro-American or pro-civilian films "United 93" and "World Trade Center" because they were "without context, history, without purpose" and commends "A Mighty Heart" precisely for its (politically correct) political vision.

While she does note that "Mr. Pearl was a casualty of Islamist hatred of Western civilization," she also writes: "What distinguishes "A Mighty Heart" is its assertion that politics and ideology play a part in poverty and terrorism, in the way some men exploit human misery in the name of God and righteousness." Thus, terrorists are merely religious people who are trying to resist "poverty" the best way they can. Dargis is careful to protest the briefly shown scenes of torture--not Danny Pearl's torture--but that of those Muslims who were part of the plot to kidnap and be-head him. She writes that: "Mr. Pearl would probably have been appalled that this outrage was committed on his behalf; the point is, we should be too."

Therefore, it is not surprising that the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) hosted the premiere of the film in Los Angeles. The political story line is quite to their liking. The film also suggests that Pearl worked for the Wall Street Journal which, some Pakistanis, perhaps mistakenly believed, worked hand-in-glove with the CIA which, everyone knows, has caused so much "misery" and poverty. And, wherever "misery" exists--so does terrorism. Thus, ipso facto: Muslim fanatics and tyrants do not cause terrorism. The "misery" that America causes does that all on its own.

As film critic Debbie Schussel reminds me: the film also repeats "the oft-told Muslim myth that 4,000 Jews didn't show up for work at the World Trade Center on 9/11, because the Jews planned the attacks. The movie provides no refutation of this myth or any indication that it is invalid." In Schussel's view, this might be due to "Jolie's own anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian activities."

Worse: according to the film, Pearl himself is somehow to blame for his own be-heading. He was warned several times not to meet with one Sheikh Giladi except in public, yet instead of pausing and deciding not to meet him at all, Pearl still pursued the "story." Pearl, the film suggests, was obviously naive or filled with hubris. He did not want to understand that Jewish-Americans in Pakistan were endangered prey. Heedlessly, he followed his story as if al-Qaeda had not declared jihad against infidels, as if he were immune to the consequences of such a declaration. Dargis, in her review, suggests that both Pearls were "a little reckless. But they were fired up by a shared belief that journalism could help make the world better, a chokingly poignant idea in these shockingly cynical times."

Salman Rushdie knew that he had to go into hiding. Ayaan Hirsi Ali travels with many bodyguards. Taslima Nasrin lived in hiding for many years and now lives in exile. Many Muslim and ex-Muslim intellectuals publish only under pseudonyms. Did Daniel Pearl (and Jewish-American businessman Nicholas Berg after him, who was also decapitated on video) really think that the rules of jihadic war did not apply to them? Are dhimmi Jews daring to claim a privilege that Muslim and ex-Muslim intellectuals dare not claim?

How "special" do Americans and Jews really think they are? If Sunnis and Shia Muslims kill each other, honor murder their own women with impunity, and blow up each other's mosques, do Americans and Jews think that special treatment is reserved for them because they value life more or hold their own lives dear?

I remember when people protested Vanessa Redgrave's playing the part of Fania Fenelon, a Holocaust victim and survivor, in the film "Playing for Time." Of course, Redgrave was brilliant in the role but what people feared was that her virulently pro-Palestinian views would somehow gain moral credibility in the real world given that people might confuse her with the Holocaust victim whose character she portrayed so well.

I also remember Cynthia Ozick's powerful and poignant argument about the anti-Semitic nature of William Styron's novel since he chose a Polish Catholic to represent the Holocaust in his novel "Sophie's Choice" which was also made into a film. Of course, as a novelist, Styron absolutely has the right to do this. And yet, his failure to be true to the truth of the matter, in effect, ends up de-Judaizing the Holocaust. Millions of film-goers have been persuaded that the Holocaust did not happen mainly to Jews and did not decimate the world's Jewish population by nearly a half. Other people suffer too--goddamm it, the Jews complain too much. (I wrote about this in these pages in an article titled "The Rights of History.")

Similarly, like Redgrave's Fania and Styron's Sophie, the star power of Angelina Jolie literally, before our eyes, diminishes the political reality of al-Qaeda and the tragedy of Daniel Pearl.

This film gave me a mighty headache. But more serious is the fact that big money in Hollywood and in film studios all across Europe and the Middle East continue to funding so many visual Big Lies which serve to confuse and weaken Westerners who should be learning the truth about jihad before it is too late.


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