Contrary to the Andrew Gumbel’s recent article “Hollywood Goes to War,” Hollywood essentially plays one side of the political fence, that of the status quo, as John Pilger makes clear in “Hollywood Hurrah” excerpted below. Are the coming films likely to break the mold? Probably not; we’ll see.
Following the Vietnam war, in which around five million Vietnamese were killed during the American invasion, and their land was destroyed and poisoned by American weapons of mass destruction, Hollywood came to the rescue with a string of Rambo-and-angst films that invited the audience to pity the invader. These films provided a cultural purgative that helped clear the way for America to mount other Vietnams – in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Somalia and elsewhere. The current “war on terrorism” is underpinned by the same Hollywood caricatures. Films like Black Hawk Down, which promotes a mendacious version of America’s killing spree in Somalia, act as cultural “softeners” before the bombing starts again for real.
Even in finely crafted films like The Deer Hunter and Platoon that look as if they might break ranks, there is an implicit oath of loyalty to imperial culture. This was true of Three Kings, a movie that seemed to take issue with the Gulf war, but instead produced a familiar “bad apple” tale, exonerating the militarism that is now rampant. So dominant is Hollywood in our lives, and so collusive are its camp-following critics, that the films that ought to have been made are unmentionable. Name the mainstream movies that have shone light on to the vast shadow thrown by the American secret state, and the mayhem for which it is responsible. I can think of only a few: Costa-Gavras’s Missing, which was about the destruction of the elected government in Chile by General Pinochet’s puppet masters in Washington, and Oliver Stone’s Salvador, which made the connection between Reagan’s Washington and El Salvador’s death squads. Both these films were quirks of the system, funded with great difficulty and, in the case of Missing, dogged by vengeful court actions.
The slaughter of up to 8,000 urban poor in George Bush Sr’s attack on Panama in 1990 would make a fine action movie. And why not a sequel to Black Hawk Down, this time with the 8,000-10,000 Somali dead (a CIA estimate) who were airbrushed from the original? Or how about a David and Goliath epic set in modern Palestine, with young Palestinians facing down American tanks and warplanes operated by Israelis?