Hollywood’s lockstep leftist filmmakers have long busied themselves with a range of shameful enterprises. They have peddled and celebrated a wholly distorted and negative vision of American manners in dishonest films epitomized by American Beauty (1999). They have sold the self-contradicting nonsense of moral relativism in films such as The Reader (2008). They have routinely depicted the U.S. government and U.S. corporations as bad actors in world events, as in The Bourne Ultimatum. And—in what some observers consider a conscious scheme by a likeminded filmland clique—they have maintained a small but steady effort to normalize the sexual abuse of children in films like Little Children, The Woodsman, Towelhead, and more.
But when it comes to sheer shamefulness, the conformist “radicals” of Hollywood outdid themselves in the years after the Islamofascist attacks on 9/11. When the United States responded to these atrocities by attempting to destroy the terrorist staging grounds in Afghanistan and establish a beachhead of Middle Eastern democracy in Iraq, Hollywood reacted by churning out propaganda movies that could only demoralize our allies and bolster our low and savage enemies: Syriana, In the Valley of Elah, Rendition, Redacted, Lions for Lambs, Green Zone, Body of Lies, Stop Loss, and on and on. Many of these films portrayed our soldiers and intelligence officers as rapists, murderers, torturers, or noble fools manipulated by conniving Republicans. Not one of them (including the excellent HBO film Taking Chance and the flawed but powerful Hurt Locker, which at least showed our troops in a positive light) depicted the wars themselves as good or noble endeavors. Besides Chance and Locker, these films were bad and they were bombs, showing that ideology, not art or commerce, dictated their content. It was the dark mirror image of Hollywood’s patriotic response to Pearl Harbor in the 1940s, a living diagram of what the Left has wrought in our cultural lives since then.
Now there is talk of a film memorializing the killing of bin Laden, and soldiers and veterans are beginning to show up as heroes in pictures like Source Code. But the fact that film depictions of the military may change somewhat now that a Democratic president has taken over and expanded on the war policies put in place by his Republican predecessor provides no excuse for what happened. When America really needed them, our filmmakers betrayed her. And because their unpatriotic products were made while our troops were under fire in the field, they constitute, when considered together, an unprecedentedly wicked action by an industry that rose to success and power through celebrating the nation and values that it now mindlessly attacks.
But while wealthy, coddled, and arrogant movie-world fat cats are easy targets for rebuke—and while everyone involved in this moral debacle deserves a thrashing—they are, as it were, only the bubbles at the surface of the boiling cauldron of America’s intellectual dysfunction. The majority of artists are not deep or original thinkers. They are merely people gifted with the ability to give “a local habitation and a name” to the ideas their intellectual guides and mentors find fashionable. The Left is still ascendant in our academies and media. More than that, it is committed to strangling, through blacklists and unfounded charges of racism and bigotry, the intellectual diversity that might challenge their primacy. As a result, many of our artists’ minds have become straitjacketed by “progressive” and relativist notions that had their heyday among honest thinkers 50 years ago and have been crashing and burning in the real world ever since.
It’s no surprise, then, that most of our creative types have failed to formulate a forthright response to the ongoing Islamist threat—the dual threat of open violence and Sharia imperialism. That response requires the death of nonsensical relativism and the rebirth of foundational values. Post-postmodern intellectuals need to understand that, just as the grand and reasoned structure of mathematics stands on the rock of unshakeable axioms, so the cathedral of human morality is built on certain truths. These truths that we hold to be self-evident—that people are endowed not by governments but by their Creator with equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—are not good for some people sometimes but for all people eternally. As such, they are not only a humane basis for opposition to Islamism, but the very stuff and soul of art—the beginning of a reclamation from its current degeneracy and shame.