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Departing the Popular Front: Oliver Stone's comments

By Ron Capshaw
web posted November 5, 2001

Oliver Stone has deservedly drawn fire for his characterizations-elevations would be a better word-of the September 11th attacks. Christopher Hitchens has suggested that the director has lost his mind. I agree, but Stone's comments also signal an abandonment of a tried and true tactic--a tactic that is a throwback to the 1930s left.

In the 1930s, American Communists declared that "Communism is 100 per cent Americanism" and now adorned the usual stage portraits of Marx with those of Washington and Lincoln. This flag-wrapping tactic for Staliniod purposes carried over into film. Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (a hero of Stone's) used the figure of Andrew Jackson to tout the current Party line in the novel The Remarkable Andrew. At a time when Communists were arguing against American involvement in World War II because of Moscow's Non-Agression Pact with Berlin, Trumbo's Jackson, upon hearing a British broadcast imploring America for aid, denounced the British and praised the Germans. By the time the novel was filmed in 1942, Trumbo amended the statement to meet the demands of the new Party line: now the Germans were denounced by Jackson.

Oliver StoneStone has been a charter member of the Popular Front by his use of this tactic fifty years after the fact. Stone has always been careful to wrap his criticisms of America in the flag. In the film JFK, Stone removed the blemishes of Jim Garrison (such as his membership in a group that denies the Holocaust happened) and recast him as a Capraesque figure: family man, war veteran and patriot who cites the Declaration and Constitution. This remoulding was in the service of a radical purpose: to pronounce America fascist. In Garrison, Stone built a patriotic platform by which to denounce America's role in the Cold War as some kind of Wehrmacht crusade. Stone has gone beyond cinema to voice these views: "We have been living in a fascist security state for years"--all the while wrapping these criticisms carefully in the flag when he introduced Colonel Fletcher Prouty, X in the film JFK, as "a patriot for his country."

But recent comments by Stone reveal an abandonment of this tactic. At a film seminar, Stone shocked even leftists by euphemizing the September 11th attacks into a revolt against a "new world order" of corporate control. Declaring the "Arabs have a point," Stone saw the attack as part of an international effort defying this corporate conspiracy. The September 11th attack would be joined by "the people who objected in Seattle, and the usual ten per cent who are against everything, and it's going to be, like, twenty-five per cent of this country that's against the new world order." Stone has revealed a love of anarchy: "This attack was pure chaos, and chaos is energy. All great changes have come from people or events that were initially misunderstood, and seemed frightening, like madmen. Einstein, Nikola Tesla, Gates."

Without a flag to wrap around these comments, Stone's utterances stand naked in their love of violence, particularly violence against America. These sentiments, like Woody Allen's misygony, were perhaps always there. In an interview during a promotional tour for The Doors, Stone praised Jim Morrison's anarchism: "Morrison had it right. Anarchy and chaos are the answer. Blood in the streets. Kill, destroy." Critics up to now have ignored Stone's homicidal interests and focused their energies instead on his paranoia.

Well, now we have both with the addition of a hatred of America. Not even the Popular Front in America went this far. To construct a scenario where the CPUSA would praise an attack on America, one would have to have Earl Browder celebrating Pearl Harbor as the truimph of the working class. But to do have that happen, one would have to delay the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union by nearly a year. Nothing such as this has prompted Stone. Unlike the American Communist Party, he has no allegiance to any country. Instead his allegiance is to mindless violence, particularly mindless violence against America.

Stone has a lot to answer for. Americans worked in the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon. The attackers were the very fascists Stone accuses America of being. Hollywood should disassociate themselves from Stone and his evil remarks. But it probably won't--at least until his movies stop making money. But isn't Hollywood also the very corporation Stone wants destroyed? Since he has defined the corporation as evil, Stone should be loathe to take their money. In his lexicon, his Hollywood salary is tantamount to accepting money from the Nazis. He should return all moneys to the beast, leave the country, and join his "anti-corporate" brethren overseas.

We await him putting his money where his mouth is.

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