The last major Hollywood film that dealt with a terrorist threat was "The Sum of All Fears," the 2002 film that started Ben Affleck's career on a downward glide-path to the center square on "Hollywood Squares." In the book, the bad guys were Islamic fundamentalists. But, thanks in large part to a campaign by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the villains were changed to a secret cabal of ultra-sophisticated, super-wealthy neo-Nazis. Whereas in real life most neo-Nazis smash cans of beer against their heads while dancing in the woods, in Hollywood's vision they wear perfectly tailored suits and plot world domination from the highest corridors of power.
Capitulating to CAIR's campaign, the director of the film wrote to the organization, "I hope you will be reassured that I have no intention of promoting negative images of Muslims or Arabs, and I wish you the best in your continuing efforts to combat discrimination."
No doubt CAIR is working tirelessly to obtain similar letters from Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaida and other groups dedicated to promoting negative images of Muslims and Arabs by actually murdering people, not merely pretending to do so on the big screen.
The weirdest irony is that in the 1990s, before the war on terror, several depictions of Arab and Muslim terrorism made it to the big screen. The only realistic depiction of suicide-bombing I can recall was in the 1996 film, "Executive Decision." Other 1990s films that apparently couldn't get made today include "The Siege," "The Peacemaker" and "True Lies."
Political correctness about ethnic sensibilities only explains part of Hollywood's silence. Other ideological factors no doubt play a role, too. The notion that big corporations are the root of all evil - even ones committed to curing disease, prolonging lives and eradicating male pattern baldness - has a pedigree that predates the current obsession with identity politics. The post-Vietnam conviction of the Oliver Stone crowd that America is most often the problem, not the solution, probably explains some of it as well.
And there are practical explanations, too. A realistic, pro-American flick on the war on terror is a risky proposition for studios that make much of their money from foreign markets. One of the downsides of globalization is that pro-American movies don't sell well when much of the global movie audience doesn't like America.
But none of this excuses the fact that Hollywood's silence is deafening. It's hard not to conclude that the entertainment industry really just thinks the war on terror is no big deal, at least not compared to the war on drug companies.
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