By Michael McCaffrey, commentary in RT.com‘s ‘Op Edge’ feature, July 23, 2017
Is Hollywood cowering from their most frightening bogeyman, Vladimir Putin, or is the business of anti-Russian propaganda stronger than ever?
Los Angeles is a very strange place to live. The weather is almost always sunny, comfortable, and clear, leaving the city in a state of perpetual summer. On the rare occasion it does rain, the local media cover it as though the apocalypse were underway.
This glorious weather may sound heavenly to those who suffer with brutally humid summers or bitterly cold winters, or both, but it has a downside to it – namely, it can be terribly disorienting. The longer you live here, the more disorienting it becomes as you are rendered incapable of remembering if something in your past occurred on the Fourth of July or Christmas Eve, as those days, and nearly every other day, look exactly the same.
This disorientation is heightened by the constant influx of beautiful young people who come to the land of milk and honey to find their fame and fortune. This yearly harvest of fresh blood combined with the interminable glorious weather leads many Angelenos to live in a state of surreality, where imagination and the real world morph into one.
An example of this bewildering condition where fantasy and reality blur occurred this past Wednesday, July 19, when The Hollywood Reporter published an article provocatively titled ‘Vladimir Putin cut from two upcoming Hollywood movies’. Upon reading the headline, I wondered if the Russian president was moonlighting as an actor and had felt the bitter sting of being left on the cutting room floor. Sadly, as entertaining as that premise may be, upon reading the article it was revealed that that was not the case.
What the article did claim was that Hollywood studios are so petrified of retaliatory hacking by Vladimir Putin, they will not even mention his name in two upcoming Russian-themed films, The Red Sparrow and Kursk, for fear of angering him.
Apparently, Putin has become a kind of ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’, or in this case from the Black Sea, who, if provoked, will rise from the depths to terrorize the innocent folk of Tinseltown. And like the citizens of Tokyo in a Godzilla movie, the studio big wigs are doing all they can not to agitate the great beast Putin in order to save their hides.
Studio executives are not exactly known for their profiles in courage, but the level of Putin-phobia described in this article is bizarre to say the least. That said, it would be understandable for Hollywood to cower in fear of Putin considering the steady diet of anti-Russian hysteria that they are continually fed by the mainstream media. The establishment press has turned Putin into a combination of Darth Vader, Sauron, Lord Voldemort, and Hannibal Lecter, an omnipotent purveyor of evil who not only controls Trump, but aches for global domination and eats America’s elections with some fava beans and a nice chianti.
A case in point of the media’s voracious appetite for anti-Russian stories is that the aforementioned Hollywood Reporter article with its Putin headline, which was printed in an industry periodical and geared toward entertainment professionals, quickly spread and was reported on by standard news outlets across the globe, with similarly misleading headlines.
If Hollywood is afraid of hacking, it is not entirely unfounded, as Sony was the victim of a devastating hack. That hack occurred in 2014 and was blamed on North Korea, which was allegedly trying to stop the release of The Interview, a comedy about trying to assassinate leader Kim Jong-un.
One illuminating piece of information to come out of the 2014 Sony hack was that senior U.S. State Department official Richard Stengel was actively trying to get Hollywood studios to create anti-Russian propaganda. This is an intriguing piece of information to keep in mind when digging through The Hollywood Reporter Putin story in question.
The Hollywood Reporter article says that, despite their apparent fear of hacking reprisals, “the film industry is finding the Russia theme too irresistible to ignore” right now. The article mentions no fewer than eight Russia-themed films that are either in production or in the pipeline. The list of films includes the previously mentioned Jennifer Lawrence vehicle Red Sparrow and the true story of a Russian submarine disaster, Kursk, along with a Wonder Woman sequel where Wonder Woman goes back in time to fight the Soviets, a Rocky spin-off with a Russian villain, a potential Mikhail Gorbachev bio-pic, and films with titles such as The Tracking of a Russian Spy, How to Catch a Russian Spy and The Girl in the Spider’s Web.
Combined with Russian portrayals in recent feature films such as the dreadful Child 44 and the abysmal Bitter Harvest and in television shows like House of Cards, which featured a Pussy Riot cameo and a recurring evil Russian leader meant to be Putin, and it seems as though the State Department were successful in their quest for assistance from Hollywood in the propaganda department.
No doubt the greatest propaganda comes from the news media though, and I have to include The Hollywood Reporter in that category. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that this ‘fear of Putin hacking’ story is little more than ‘fake news’.
The only person quoted in the article who makes any mention of Putin and hacking concerns is Ajay Arora, who does not work in the film business, but rather runs a computer security firm. Mr. Arora being the only source for the Putin claim is absurd, since his company stands to gain mightily by stoking the fears of studio executives over hacking.
The article also states, “Insiders describe the moves (to excise Putin) as ‘creative choices’, but by avoiding Putin, Fox is also steering clear of any Russian hackers who might protest.” This is quite a remarkable sentence, as the writer quotes people who are speaking anonymously and are therefore free to speak their mind, but who say it is a “creative choice” to remove Putin, and yet she sticks to her premise, despite a lack of any evidence that hacking is the real reason for Putin being removed from the pictures.
The writer makes the rather illogical case that Russia-themed stories are blossoming everywhere in Hollywood, but the film industry is so scared of Vladimir Putin hacking them they won’t even mention his name in a movie. I guess Putin is so narcissistically evil that he will only retaliate against those that speak ill of him but not his nation, and Hollywood executives know this and are confident in this knowledge. This is obviously, absolutely, and completely preposterous.
The Hollywood Reporter article ends by claiming, “But while Hollywood is willing to feed the public’s hunger for all things Russia, studios will likely continue to play it safe when it comes to depicting the current leadership. After all, even Oliver Stone, who directed the pro-Russia documentary series The Putin Interviews, left the president out of last year’s Snowden.”
Yes, even that America-hating, pro-Russian shill Oliver Stone cut any mention of Putin from his film Snowden! In fact, Oliver Stone was so afraid of Putin he went to Russia and interviewed him for a four-hour documentary. Wait… what? The article’s final paragraph is a perfect synopsis of the incoherence of the entire story.
The writer of this Hollywood Reporter article is guilty of not writing an article around the provable facts of the story but rather manufacturing a story to suit her preconceived narrative. No doubt she had to search far and wide to scrounge up the agreeable quote from Mr. Arora that quenched the thirst of her hypothesis.
Does that approach to journalism sound familiar? A great number of mainstream journalists have done the same thing over the last three years in regards to most any Russian story. Open the New York Times or the Washington Post and you will read lots and lots of assumptions, innuendo, and self-serving opinions regarding Russia, but very few facts.
This sort of rancid propaganda and lazy journalism serves no purpose but to feed the fever of Russian hysteria, and foster a Dr. Strangelovian paranoia over fear of Putin contaminating our precious bodily fluids, namely our “sacred” elections.
When powerful institutions that shape our culture, like Hollywood and the media, set out to incite hatred against Russia and its people, it can only end badly. The spate of shamelessly one-sided news reporting and the villainous portrayals of Russians in entertainment have ignited an anti-Russian frenzy and panic that borders on delirium. The dehumanization of Russians is now at a fever pitch and will grow into madness, and from that madness will come war.
The Hollywood Reporter fantasy of Putin hacking movie studios is but a symptom of a wider disease that will inevitability lead to catastrophe. Cue Slim Pickens and his nuclear bronco ride to our oblivion.
Michael McCaffrey is a freelance writer, film critic and cultural commentator. He currently resides in Los Angeles where he runs an acting coaching and media consulting business. mpmacting.com/blog/
Oliver Stone’s The Putin Interviews offends a U.S. establishment drunk on its own exceptionalism, by John Wight, RT.com, June 16, 2017