Movies

Breitbart on Hollywood Censorship

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Andrew Breitbart, long associated with The Drudge Report, prop. of the excellent newsfeed site Breitbart.com, author of The Washington Times col "Big Hollywood," and maker of lists for reason, finds it larfable that Matt Damon is worried about GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin banning books. Breitbart writes:

The sad fact is that actual artistic oppression—book banning in its many modern forms—is a matter of course in the entertainment industry, especially when the underlying product is declared politically incorrect or runs contrary to the interests of Hollywood's political altar, the Democratic Party.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations runs rings around Hollywood's pious First Amendment absolutists.

"I hope you will be reassured that I have no intention of promoting negative images of Muslims or Arabs," director Phil Alden Robinson wrote after changing the script from Muslim terrorists to Austrian neo-Nazis in the Tom Clancy thriller, "The Sum of all Fears." "And I wish you the best in your continuing efforts to combat discrimination."

While Mr. Clancy put up an admirable fight, actor Ben Affleck acquiesced, cashed his multimillion-dollar check and fought the dreaded Austrians, whose flagging Teutonic self-confidence again took a hit. Thanks to Hollywood artistic appeasement, Arab youth in totalitarian Muslim countries indoctrinated in anti-Western thought dodged another esteem bullet….

The silence of the celebrity political class was heartbreaking when Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered by an Islamic radical in retaliation for making "Submission," a critically acclaimed film that portrayed horrific female oppression within the practice of Islam.

Yet Hollywood—quick to find martyrs near to its heart (Valerie Plame, et al)—ignored its fallen Dutch comrade and refused to celebrate the film and its maker, fulfilling his murderer's greatest desire.

More here.

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  1. And here I was thinking that the only thing that could be called “censorship” was government action.

    How silly I was. Here we are taught that editorial changes by private entities that want to sell a product is also, apparently, “censorship”. Now I feel better informed.

    (I think he’s got an actually reasonable beef with people throwing Theo Van Gogh’s corpse under the bus, but seriously you can’t say insufficient tears shed is equivalent to censorship.)

  2. Nick also calls it “artistic oppression”. Does that make you feel better, first poster?

  3. Ohnoes, a director decided not to make the bad guys Muslim!

    Let me know when we get to the censorship part, ok?

  4. This reminds me of one of those complaints you hear from people who got fired from work for being offensive assholes to their coworkers and then complain about how we’re supposed to have free speech in this county. Aren’t you libertarians supposed to be all about free speech!?

  5. While Mr. Clancy put up an admirable fight, actor Ben Affleck acquiesced, cashed his multimillion-dollar check and fought the dreaded Austrians, whose flagging Teutonic self-confidence again took a hit

    Maybe Tom should have been fighting putting Ben in the lead role instead; it probably would have helped the bottom line much more.

  6. Ah, wait a minute, there’s a formatting error.

    The paragraph beginning with “The sad fact is…” is from Breitbart, and is supposed to be in the blockquotes.

    I thought it was strange that Nick Gillespie would write something so hackish.

  7. Seconded. This is douchebaggery, not censorship.

  8. it’s just fear. neo-nazis don’t pin notes to your chest with knives.

  9. Silly author and creator. He made the bad guys Muslim for a reason, as the plot, you know, sort of depended on it. But you sell your soul when you sell your script, and unless you’re also the director and producer of the project, you can kiss your creation goodbye. Clancy knew that going in. Not that Hollywood is not a gang of unprincipled, money-grubbing, shallow, historically ignorant narcissists who would sell their own mothers for the right cut.

  10. Changing the antagonist in The Sum of All Fears may not be “real” or “hard” censorship, no, but free expression isn’t just a right, it’s also a treasured social value. Moreover, once you’ve got violent groups killing people over the matter, as in the case of Theo Van Gogh, you’ve been forced into the political realm. Define it as “douchebaggery” if you like (in fact, I agree!) so long as you do your part to ridicule and deride the enemy.

    Violence and politics against violence and politics; social opprobrium and speech against social opprobrium and speech.

  11. Changing the antagonist in The Sum of All Fears may not be “real” or “hard” censorship, no, but free expression isn’t just a right, it’s also a treasured social value.

    Apparently you don’t treasure it so much when the thought being expressed is, “If you make a movie with me as the evil protagonist, I won’t go see that movie – and I won’t go see any of your other movies, and I’ll tell everyone I know not to go see your movies, too.”

    The Hollywood studios have no right to the money in my pocket unless I make my own choice to go see their film. I am most emphatically NOT oppressing them artistically if I stay home, or if I tell them why I’m staying home. It’s not censorship and it’s not even douchebaggery. I have an absolutely and unqualified right to my own preferences and to use my own discretion in making purchases.

  12. I think joe’s right about the formatting error.

    The blockquote starts late and it makes it look like Nick is the one making Breitbart’s statement, if you scan it quickly.

  13. Apparently you don’t treasure it so much when the thought being expressed is

    Fluffy, come on. Right here you’re making an argument that exactly parallels the “it’s cool if corporations drug test”. Yes, it should be legal and allowed, but yes, it should also be mocked.

  14. Is there anything more boring than conservatives whining about Hollywood liberal bias? Isn’t Hollywood a free market? Aren’t free markets supposed to be good?

  15. If the argument is that using social pressure to suppress certain ideas in medica is not censorship, then what Sarah Palin has been accused of doing is also not censorship. (I note that none of these allegations have been proved or even shown to be likely). By seeking to remove books from a library, Palin wasn’t criminalizing the ownership of the booksor the sale of the books, and she wasn’t censoring the publication of the books. If the worst allegations can be proved, then all she did was attempt to stop the local government from owning the books and sharing them with library patrons.

    Even though it’s not censorship, I think we’d still find it disturbing due to the alleged reasoning behind the Palin’s pressure to discard certain books. If Palin was asking the libary to discard obsolete science books, few would have a problem with it. Similarly, if she wanted to remove books that might not have been offensive when published, but have become so (eg. “Little Black Sambo,” or Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little N*ggers”) there’d be little problem with it because those decisions are consistent with majority community standards.

    The problem is the implication that Palin may have been asking the library to discard books based on their appeal to a political minority’s viewpoint. Isn’t Breibart saying the same thing? That letting a minority viewpoint determine our access to certain ideas is somehow wrong, even if it is not censorship as defined legally?

  16. Also, for the pedants in the crowd, “corporate censorship” as an idea and term that is older than most of us. So quit that shit.

  17. Doesn’t Michael Moore cry about the same kind of censorship when a studio drops his picture?

  18. By seeking to remove books from a library, Palin wasn’t criminalizing the ownership of the booksor the sale of the books, and she wasn’t censoring the publication of the books. If the worst allegations can be proved, then all she did was attempt to stop the local government from owning the books and sharing them with library patrons.

    That would be a good-enough answer if we were talking about a private book store or library, but when the government runs things, it has an affirmative duty towards free expression that private parties do not have.

    For example, why do you think there are no lawsuits about hanging the ten commandments in private schools?

  19. Does anyone know what the acquisition policies are of the typical public library? Certainly it isn’t to acquire every book published or even books requested by one or more of the public. How does, say, one of Ron Paul’s books not make it into the library while one of Sen. Obama’s does? Surely, some one in authority is making a decision to acquire based on……what?

  20. Apparently you don’t treasure it so much when the thought being expressed is, “If you make a movie with me as the evil protagonist, I won’t go see that movie – and I won’t go see any of your other movies, and I’ll tell everyone I know not to go see your movies, too.”

    Actually, no, I’m cool, go for it. I recognize a difference between “I avoid things that offend me” (bravo! More people should do this) and “because this offends someone it’s bad and should be stopped”. Sometimes it’s good to offend certain people. I might make make fun of you if your reasoning about the relationship between you and the movie is specious, but I don’t mean to imply that you’re obligated to go see it anyway.

  21. Why isn’t this article marinating in a tank of mockery? I can’t see how a libertarian can fail to make a distinction between governments banning books and private companies choosing not to sell them.

    Also, I’m very skeptical of these guys who complain the U.S. isn’t doing enough to offend Muslims — do they realize that there are over a billion Muslims in the world, and that they like to watch action movies just like we do?

    I think Hollywood’s “cowardice” has much more to do with their interest in selling DVD’s in Egypt and Lebanon than in voluntary dhimmitude.

  22. Is there anything more boring than conservatives whining about Hollywood liberal bias?

    Probably, but this is sure up there. It’s so hackish it doesn’t even register to me. I can’t make it past the first paragraph.

  23. That would be a good-enough answer if we were talking about a private book store or library, but when the government runs things, it has an affirmative duty towards free expression that private parties do not have.

    For example, why do you think there are no lawsuits about hanging the ten commandments in private schools?

    Joe, you’re confusing two issues. The problem with displaying religious texts on public grounds is because many believe that this amounts to the goverment’s establishment of a state church. This is one issue where the Constitution forbids free expression (e.g., a public school teacher cannot freely express her religious views to students at school).

    A public library has no legal affirmative duty to free expression. Content is routinely declined in public libraries. Some public libraries won’t stock comic books, virtually none stock Penthouse, etc. These decisions aren’t censorship. You can still buy, sell, own or publish comic books and Penthouse.

  24. “I want to know if she thinks dinosaurs were here 4,000 years ago or if she banned books or tried to ban books,” Mr. Damon raged to the Associated Press. “I mean – you know, we can’t – we can’t have that.”
    (from the Washington Times Article)

    Can’t he just check the Wasilla City website like any web-literate citizen would? It addresses the banned book rumor here:

    http://www.cityofwasilla.com/index.aspx?page=136

    Why is Mr. Damon barking orders at the AP when it takes two minutes to do it himself. That’s like calling up Barbara Walters and asking why your yard isn’t raked yet.

  25. I agree the conflation of gov’t censorship and private editorial control is a non-sequitur, but aside from the political argument I do have to insist that The Sum of All Fears film mutilated beyond recognition what was an excellent, extremely intelligent book.

  26. That “Submission” movie is horribly boring, dumb and tedious. Nobody seems to mention that.

    (I think maybe Hitchens did once?)

  27. Why isn’t this article marinating in a tank of mockery? I can’t see how a libertarian can fail to make a distinction between governments banning books and private companies choosing not to sell them.

    I made just that distinction, and so have most others. When the former happens you feed people to the Tree, when the later happens you make fun of them on the internet and maybe take your business elsewhere. The responses are different but they are both motivated by principles shared by most libertarians, even if they aren’t absolutely essential to libertarianism per se.

  28. A public library has no legal affirmative duty to free expression. Content is routinely declined in public libraries. Some public libraries won’t stock comic books, virtually none stock Penthouse, etc. These decisions aren’t censorship. You can still buy, sell, own or publish comic books and Penthouse.

    I can definitely see your point. Since no library can stock infinite content, someone’s content won’t be stocked at any moment in time.

    Perhaps we need a new word for what Palin did, then.

    When a state actor, motivated by a political purpose, reviews content that has already made it into public libraries through some organic content selection process, and demands that objectionable content be removed, what should we call that?

    I nominate “book burning”.

    After all, the act of banning a book’s publication, and the act of seizing and destroying or removing from public view existing copies of that book, are separate and discrete acts that probably merit separate words.

    Not all book burners are censors and vice versa.

  29. Fluffy, come on. Right here you’re making an argument that exactly parallels the “it’s cool if corporations drug test”. Yes, it should be legal and allowed, but yes, it should also be mocked.

    Fine. Mock it in some other way than by calling it “artistic oppression” because it ain’t that.

  30. Abdul,

    A public library has no legal affirmative duty to free expression. Content is routinely declined in public libraries. Some public libraries won’t stock comic books, virtually none stock Penthouse, etc. These decisions aren’t censorship. You can still buy, sell, own or publish comic books and Penthouse.

    Right, but my point is this: the decision about what to stock and what not to stock is a legitimate topic for public discussion, and the stances taken on what to stock or remove by politicians is a legitimate basis on which to judge them.

    Does she think that books about families with gay parents are the equivalent of Penthouse? She seems to.

    More important for this goo-goo: does she think that the decision should be left up to the librarians and library board, or does she think the mayor and city council should be involved in order to promote a specific political agenda?

    When I say that a library has an affirmative duty, I don’t mean that the act of selecting or refusing books violates the Constitution. I mean that the decisions and the process SHOULD demonstrate a commitment to a plurality of viewpoints, and not be used to silence viewpoints based on a political agenda.

    I think libraries should be a place where people can find writings from all sorts of viewpoints. Heck, I once checked Mein Kampf out of a public library, and that’s as it should be.

  31. Ultimately what ever a public library stocks has to be justified to the people who pay the bills. For the most part, librarians do a good job in not kowtowing to politcal correctness of the left and right. Still, decisions must be made and the folks who pay the bills should have their say. In most U.S. communities the citizens will, if anything, err on the side of tolerance and deference to the librarian’s judgement.

    I’m bold enough to claim that the US has the least censored public and school libraries in the world.

    I’m cynical enough to not give a good goddam about Hollywood PC decisions. They’ve never gotten it right before and I expect no change in my lifetime.

  32. joe, were you masochistic enough to wade through the entirety of Mein Kampf? One wonderful thing about libraries is you don’t feel cheated when you reach the point of “Fuck this crap”.

    It’s easier to change the channel when it’s not a pay-per view event.

  33. Does she think that books about families with gay parents are the equivalent of Penthouse? She seems to.

    Umm, I’m gonna a link on this one, joe. Is there a story out there that she tried to get a gay-friendly book banned? Last I heard, and I haven’t been obsessing over this, she never identified any books she wanted out of the Wasilla library.

  34. Good thing the government is in the book-rental business, or else the book-rental market would have dried up like the video-rental market.

  35. I mean that the decisions and the process SHOULD demonstrate a commitment to a plurality of viewpoints, and not be used to silence viewpoints based on a political agenda.

    Right, and isn’t that what Breibart is saying? Only, he extends the principle to private actors like Hollywood producers.

  36. Yet Hollywood-quick to find martyrs near to its heart (Valerie Plame, et al)-ignored its fallen Dutch comrade and refused to celebrate the film and its maker, fulfilling his murderer’s greatest desire.

    Steve Buscemi was involved in doing remakes of 3 Van Gogh films, “Interview” being the most well-known. Of course, he’s not exactly “celebrity political class.”

  37. Heck, I once checked Mein Kampf out of a public library, and that’s as it should be.

    But did you return it?

  38. That’s like calling up Barbara Walters and asking why your yard isn’t raked yet.

    Do you think Hugh Downs can tell me why my yard waste wasnt picked up yesterday?

    Is Hugh Downs still alive?

  39. Does she think that books about families with gay parents are the equivalent of Penthouse?

    I wish they were!

  40. Russ 2000, The Sum of All Fears would have been at least 911,000 times better if Buscemi had gotten the lead role instead of Affleck.

  41. J sub D,

    I got about 2/3 of the way through. Good lord, what a boring book. It’s like listening to an anti-semitic insurance adjustor tell you about his childhood and dream life. For seven hours. On an airplane.

    Abdul,

    Right, and isn’t that what Breibart is saying? Only, he extends the principle to private actors like Hollywood producers. And that’s where he goes wrong. A private party is under no obligation to do so, while the government should not be in the business of actively suppressing speech based on political viewpoint.

  42. Does anyone know what the acquisition policies are of the typical public library? i>

    One input are magazines like Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist, which I think is run by the American Library Association and gives both capsule reviews on how significant a book is and where it might go in a library. Amazon.com often includes both entries for books — I often read them when I trying to decide if a book would be appropriate for my kid.

    Here’s part of the Booklist entry for “While Europe Slept” by Bruce Bawer:
    “*Starred Review* When cultural journalist Bawer moved to the Netherlands and then Norway, he found societies in which tolerance and civility were ubiquitous and social services provided from cradle to grave. But he soon discovered smug, ill-informed anti-Americanism, especially among politicians, academics, and the media, and a stifling political correctness that allowed biting the hand that feeds as long as the fed could claim minority status. (…) A book of the utmost importance, full of deep concern for Europe and almost unbelievable revelations for most Americans.”

    The “Starred Review” part means it’s a book of particular importance.

  43. Perhaps we need a new word for what Palin did, then.

    When a state actor, motivated by a political purpose, reviews content that has already made it into public libraries through some organic content selection process, and demands that objectionable content be removed, what should we call that?

    Did Palin ever review existing library content and demand that anything be removed? If so, I haven’t heard about it. All I’ve heard about is she asked the librarian what library policy would be, or somesuch.

  44. whatever happened to the first amendment???

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