Last week, a group of prominent actors and movie executives from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences visited Iran.
Fresh from the Academy’s triumphant Oscar-night celebration of homosexuality and religion-bashing, Sid Ganis, president of the Academy, Oscar-nominated actresses Annette Bening and Alfre Woodard, former president Frank Pierson, and producers William Horberg and Tom Pollack made the journey to Tehran.
There they met with the Iranian House of Cinema, the film organization operating under the auspices of the Islamic, homosexuality-banning Iranian government. Bening and Woodard donned the hijab. Ganis proclaimed the trip a success, explaining, “As soon as we received the invitation from the Iranian Alliance of Motion Pictures we applied (for visas) and now we are happy to be in Iran since we got acquainted with the Iranian people and cinema.”
The last time a large group of prominent non-Persian Americans visited Iran, they were held captive for 444 days. This time, however, the U.S. State Department, which has issued a blanket travel warning about Iran, rubber-stamped the trip.
It is no surprise that the State Department under President Obama approved such a trip. Obama intends to open negotiations with the Iranian government over their nuclear weapons program, despite their intransigent militarism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism.
The broader question is why Obama is using Hollywood power brokers rather than actual officials when it comes to the world’s hottest spots. In the last month, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with George Clooney, who briefed them on the situation in Darfur; Nancy Pelosi did a press conference with Brad Pitt to draw attention to the continuing situation in New Orleans.
Since when have Hollywood stars become proxies for actual policymakers?
Since America elected its first Hollywood-created president.
Barack Obama is both the product of Hollywood and its benefactor. Obama’s sloganeering and slickly crafted citizen image won him the White House. Hollywood helped him develop that image, from producing the anti-Iraq war propaganda that propelled him to prominence to packaging his Democratic National Convention -- contributors included Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and “An Inconvenient Truth” director David Guggenheim. Hollywood contributed tens of millions of dollars to Obama.
And Hollywood has benefited from Obama’s largesse. Although Obama has proved himself a feckless economist, he is an excellent strategist, which means he pays back his friends. And so he tried to shoehorn a $246 million tax break for Hollywood into the stimulus package. And so he appoints Pitt the unofficial domestic ambassador to New Orleans and Clooney the unofficial ambassador to Sudan. And he appoints the Academy his unofficial ambassador to Iran.
This latest move, using Hollywood to reach out to Tehran, is pure FDR. During World War II, FDR requested that Hollywood begin producing pro-Soviet films. One of those films, “Mission to Moscow” (1943), was based on Ambassador Joseph Davies’ experiences in the United Soviet Socialist Republics. It reflected Davies’ pro-communist leanings and included a famous sequence whitewashing the Stalinist purge trials of the 1930s.
The film also rationalized the Nazi-Soviet Pact and the Soviet attack on Finland. Stalin loved the film, and actually released it for general Soviet consumption. FDR’s Office of War Information stated that the film perfectly suited FDR’s propaganda purposes: “The leaders of both countries desire peace and both possess a blunt honesty of address and purpose. Both peoples have great respect for education and achievement. One of the best services performed by this picture is the presentation of Russian leaders, not as wild-eyed madmen, but as far-seeing, earnest, responsible statesmen.”
Change “Russian” to “Iranian,” and we have the Obama view of Tehran -- a view he will no doubt ask Hollywood to mirror. In all likelihood, Hollywood will accede to his request. After all, it is one thing to provide a balanced view of Bu$hitler’s war -- that would be selling out.
It is quite another matter to support an “elegant” president by smoothing Americans’ perceptions of the terrorist regime in Iran.
“I've learned that a filmmaker is a filmmaker is a filmmaker, is a filmmaker, with similar needs, similar problems, the same artistic intention, the same difficulty getting the ball rolling,” Ganis said during his Iran trip. This is the Obama message writ small: Underneath, we’re all world citizens, once we get past the brutal repression and genocidal tendencies. FDR thought the same thing about the Soviets. He was wrong. So is Obama. And in their bullheaded attempt to forge the film medium with the political medium, Hollywood has become a propaganda tool in Obama’s benighted quest for global interest imperialism.