Only a few cities throughout history have had the impact of Hollywood: Washington is the locus of political power, and Mecca, Rome and Jerusalem are famed for their sacral status. However, as we move into the new Millennium, Hollywood projects an influence and force that transcends borders and nationalities —— a power that is vastly disproportionate to its actual physical size*.
Hollywood wields a power which defines America(ns) abroad and influences our own self—image: a power that can create desires, influence opinions, distort history and "create facts." The diplomatic corps does not hold a candle to the hypnotic control that Hollywood can have over billions of people overseas, as it imposes its culture and mores on them. The vast amount of wealth generated in these colonies by this imperium flows into American politics and promises to continue to play a role as kingmaker in American elections. As is true of many other imperial powers throughout history, Hollywood also displays a greed, arrogance, blindness and hubris that imperil our future.
Hollywood is an insular company town that toils and traffics in myth and fantasy. Saul Steinberg's famous cartoon of a New Yorker's view of the world is the mirror image of the myopic view that entertainers have of the world. They remain blithely unaware of the harm their products can cause as they are consumed. The images many around the world have of America are derived from watching and listening to the movies, shows and music that Hollywood exports around the world (one of our leading exports, by the way). Overwhelmingly, America is depicted as a materialistic, self—indulgent, irreligious, licentious nation concerned only with the modern day equivalents of bread and circuses —— sex, drugs, luxuries, and violence.
A Los Angeles op—ed shortly after 9/11 pointed out how this imagery harms America. The op—ed reported that public opinion surveys around the world characterize Americans as overbearing, sexually immoral, materialistic and prone to violence. Since many of these people have never been to America and do not come across many Americans, they develop their impressions largely from Hollywood.
Terrorism experts agree: licentious imagery tempts and enrages Muslims around the world. Satan is associated with temptation in Islamic theology. Muslims are assaulted by imagery which offends them and while they live in poverty, Americans live in apathetic opulence.
The billions which Hollywood earns have been tapped by political parties, and the Democratic Party in particular has found a congenial environment in Hollywood. Since this wealth is concentrated in the hands of callow youth unburdened by higher education, or the wisdom which comes from a lifetime of work and the raising of families, it can find its way into some curious causes (extreme environmentalism, the Church of Scientology, Kabbalah).
As social scientists have discovered over the last 50 years, the younger you are the more likely you are to hold views often characterized as being stridently liberal. Further, because this money may have come so easily and at such a young age, many in Hollywood may have a residual guilt about their wealth and seek to "do good" by giving to a variety of causes and Democratic politicians. The Democrats have been able to tap this mindset. Given the celebrity culture we live in, this power can be magnified by celebrities putting on shows to raise funds for Democrats or merely opening their homes for events. The New York Times even saw fit to give Bruce Springsteen precious space on its editorial page to pen a banal anti—Bush screed.
Thus we have a toxic dynamic at work in this ecosystem of Hollywood and Washington. Hollywood blithely creates a revulsion towards America and Americans overseas, helping to create an environment that leads to terror. The billions they reap from these "efforts" find their way into the coffers of a Democratic Party, which has a weak and flaccid posture towards the threat of terror. Thus, Hollywood engenders terror that will beset us and helps to leave us defenseless to confront this danger.
How is that for a starring role on the stage of world affairs?
*The actual physical place called Hollywood is a district within the city of Los Angeles. The film studios comprising what we call Hollywood sprawl over Burbank, Universal City, Studio City, Culver City, and a few other municipalities in greater Los Angeles.