30 August 2006

The Hollywood anti-terrorism declaration

This story caused something of a flurry of interest on the net a couple of weeks ago. A long list of top-rank celebrities from the largely left-leaning movie industry signed a public statement condemning terrorism.

I didn't find this the slightest bit surprising myself. Militant Islam is the apotheosis of everything a typical Hollywood liberal opposes. It's the world's most vigorous opponent of secularism, women's equality, sexual liberation, freedom of expression, reproductive choice, freedom of religion -- ideologically it's the Christian Right on steroids, with the added threat of being willing and eager to use violence and murder to enforce its prejudices (see the cartoon riots, Theo van Gogh, Salman Rushdie, etc.). There is no rational reason on Earth why any self-proclaimed liberal would hesitate for a moment to condemn this. Most of the people I know personally are quite a ways out toward the leftist end of the political spectrum, and I've never heard any of them defend militant Islam or try to excuse terrorism. (Some extreme leftists do do those things, but pretty much all extremists are nuts -- and are not typical of anything.)

No, the startling thing about the story was the reaction of the right-wing side of the blogosphere to it. The anti-terrorism declaration was hailed as a "shocker", as if the default assumption is that most movie stars are burqa-wearing, Osama-adoring Islamic fundamentalists. The hard-core right has spent so much time and energy building up their alternate reality in which the most vile, irrational left-wing extremists are representative of everyone even slightly to the left of center (and yes, I know the hard-core left does the same thing toward the right), that this parallel world has actually become real to them, so that intrusions from the real world the rest of us live in, if they can't just be ignored, seem "shocking".

It's probably due in part to this context that the Hollywood stars involved felt it appropriate to issue such a declaration. I don't question their sincerity at all -- in the absence of any public statement I would simply assume that movie actors, like most people, are against terrorism. But when your whole industry is routinely smeared in a certain segment of the media as anti-American and perhaps even supportive of America's enemies, it makes sense to remind everyone clearly of where you stand.

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