Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

May 21 , 2001

Memorial Day propaganda blitz

With the release of Pearl Harbor, a cinematic reenactment of the popular myth handed down to us by Roosevelt's hagiographers, the Memorial Day weekend will culminate in an orgy of lying war propaganda. The movie, starring somebody named Ben Affleck (so I'm not into popular culture, what can I tell you?), steadfastly ignores recently unearthed evidence that FDR and his cronies knew when and where the Japanese would strike and reiterates the bald-faced lie of the alleged "sneak attack" by the Japanese. You can hear the wheels and cogs of the propaganda machine begin to turn and whir, because it isn't just Pearl Harbor – get ready for a weeks-long marathon of World War II memorabilia. As Eric Deggans put it in the St. Petersburg Times last week, "A virtual flood of TV and film projects focused on incidents from the World War II era is set for release in weeks to come." In the movie theaters it's Pearl Harbor, the $135 million blockbuster opening May 25. This past weekend featured no less than three special television movies focused on the events surrounding World War II (Conspiracy, a tale of genocidal Nazis run amok, Submerged, a story of a wartime submarine rescue, and a new rendition of the Diary of Anne Frank). At the video store it's Tora! Tora! Tora!, coming out in DVD and special VHS editions, and the list goes on. Gee, do you think they're trying to tell us something?


The intended moral of it all was summed up in Newsweek by James Wire, an 82 year-old Pearl Harbor survivor, who thinks the Pearl Harbor movie is "'great' because it's a warning: 'Americans have become complacent. They think it can't happen now. But it can." A state of advanced paranoia is the natural condition of every Empire: it is the price we pay for our imperial preeminence, "a curious and characteristic emotional weakness of Empire," as Garet Garrett put it, which amounts to "a complex of vaunting and fear."


In short, we must live in a state of perpetual terror, or else the War Party (Hollywood division) isn't doing its job. "Terrorism" lurks in every airport, a ghostly specter haunting the conscience of the nation. At any moment, foreign Furies could unleash their terrible vengeance: a cyber-attack, a "rogue nation" missile attack, yet another Pearl Harbor-style "sneak" attack that we had every reason to anticipate but somehow didn't. Fear must be our permanent state, it must infuse the very air we breathe, and to that end Hollywood is more than complicit.


A recent news story on the making of Pearl Harbor notes that "if Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle comes across as particularly heroic in the new war epic Pearl Harbor, the credit goes as much to the behind-the-scenes influence of the Pentagon as to the vision of Hollywood filmmakers." These days, when someone in some big producer's office barks "get me rewrite!" he's likely to be put through to the Pentagon: "In exchange for providing Hollywood with military advice," reports the Associated Press, "personnel and awesome equipment for movies and TV shows, the Pentagon gets an advance look at scripts and has a chance to negotiate changes." Conservatives want to get rid of the National Endowment for the Arts, but this is the kind of government-sponsored and controlled "art" that they are no doubt willing to countenance – precisely because it has much more effect on the national psyche than the artsy-fartsy nude photography of the late Robert Mapplethorpe.


Will the Pentagon open up a whole new department devoted to "advising" Hollywood on how best to whip up the American public into a frothy-mouthed war frenzy? Don't be naïve: they've already done it. It's called the Film Liaison Office, and it's headed up by Philip Strub, whose title is "Special Assistant for Audiovisual": aside from that, every branch of the military has a special Los Angeles office that does little but give its "input" into Tinseltown. As John Lovett, a consultant on military matters to filmmakers, puts it: "If you want to use the military's toys, you've got to play by their rules. That's how it's done." But what are their rules, exactly?


It seems that Lt. Col. Doolittle, the character played by Alec Baldwin, wasn't heroic enough for the Pentagon's taste: but that was easily fixed. Jack Green, of the Naval Historical Center, who was on location for eight weeks of filming – standing guard, as it were, for the Pentagon – demanded changes in the script, and got them. Instead of being portrayed as "a boorish, oafish type of fellow" (there you go, Alec – typecast again!), Doolittle says he "persuaded" the film's director, Michael Bay, to give Doolittle/Baldwin a more sympathetic portrayal. "Doolittle was rewritten and made a little bit more of the real hero he was," says Green triumphantly. In this marriage of art and militarism, there is a clear division of labor: the Pentagon comes up with the "toys" and rewrites the script as necessary, while Hollywood provides the actors, the glitz, the special effects – and, oh yes, reaps the enormous profits.


We are routinely told that the Pentagon's collaboration with Hollywood costs the US taxpayer nothing, since movie producers "reimburse" the government: but the price of having access to the facilities and equipment of the US military is really incalculable – and no doubt worth far more than any movie producer could afford. This week, the US Navy will turn over the biggest ship in its Pacific fleet, the nuclear-powered USS John C. Stennis, to Disney for the all-out, over-the-top premiere of Pearl Harbor. According to Reuters, "Disney reportedly is spending $5 million to hold the special event for 2,000 invited guests including Navy brass, Washington politicians and Hollywood studio executives." Of course, not all producers are so favored: the makers of Apocalypse Now, naturally, had no cooperation from the US government, whose imprimatur is reserved for productions that have the official seal of approval.


Director Michael Bay explicitly ruled out in advance any treatment of the "conspiracy theories" that have been swirling around the attack on Pearl Harbor for 60 years. "We're not going to get into any of that," said Bay, and his public relations team is adamant that this is "a love story," not a retelling of history, with the Japanese attack serving only as backdrop to some tiresome love triangle. It's a love story, all right, for what it underscores is the story of Hollywood's love affair with Power, its slavish devotion to the lies and cover-ups of officialdom, its whorish desire to let itself be used. For what is happening here, with Pearl Harbor, and the flood of imitators, is not so much re-writing history as creating it out of whole cloth.


In copy that could have been written by the movie's producers, Evan Thomas, writing in Newsweek, burbles that Pearl Harbor seeks to portray America's loss of innocence, a Sunday morning in paradise ripped apart by violent deception. Americans are fascinated by the grandeur and heroism of World War II in part because modern life seems relatively tame and safe today." It was a "violent deception," all right, when FDR deliberately and knowingly kept the information he had on his desk from the Pearl Harbor commanders, Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Walter Short (who were court-martialed for "dereliction of duty" but have since been exonerated by act of Congress).


Newsweek, which devoted a lot of pages to the glossy lies being put over by this movie, not only tries to lay the blame at Kimmel's doorstep, in spite of the official exoneration, but also approves of the producers' decision to steer clear of "conspiracy theories," i.e. the truth. Thomas pontificates:

"The movie wisely ignores long-held conspiracy theories that President Roosevelt provoked or allowed the Japanese attack to justify going to war. Determined to help Britain fight back against the totalitarian Axis powers, Roosevelt was eager to bestir an isolationist public. Some historians have tried to show that Roosevelt knew from broken Japanese codes and other clues that an attack was imminent, yet did nothing. But it is 'inconceivable,' writes historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, 'that Roosevelt, who loved the Navy with a passion, would have intentionally sacrificed the heart of his fleet, much less the lives of 3,500 American sailors and soldiers, without lifting a finger to reduce the risk.'"


Will God, in His mercy, please spare us the omnipresent Doris Kearns Goodwin? Whenever the official, sanitized, liberal internationalist version of history needs to be reinforced, there is the spreading rictus-grin of Goodwin, happily extolling the preternatural wisdom of our rulers, and unconditionally praising the divine beneficence of the all-powerful American state. But how does Goodwin explain FDR's comments to his own advisors regarding the series of US provocations leading up to Pearl Harbor, the "pop-up" maneuvers of the US Navy within or near Japanese territorial waters? According to war secretary Henry L. Stimson's war diary, FDR said: "I just want them to keep popping up here and there and keep the Japs guessing. I don't mind losing one or two cruisers, but do not take a chance on losing five or six." Apparently FDR's passion for the Navy was rivaled only by his passion for getting us into the war.


This diary entry is cited by Robert B. Stinnett in his blockbuster book, Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor (just out in paperback), which blows the lid off the Pearl Harbor myth, and it is, in large part, against Stinnett's book that Thomas's Waspy disdain for "conspiracy theories" is directed (though of course he would never give credit where credit is due, and mention the book: that would amount to a plug). Yet the apologists for the official "sneak attack" scenario have been pushed back to their last line of defense by Stinnett's powerful book, and are now reduced to admitting that, yes, we had intercepted messages that indicated Japan's warlike intent, but, somehow, they didn't get through to the proper authorities in time, or so Thomas absurdly expects us to believe: "In Washington," he avers,

"as the movie shows with scenes of a fictional code-breaker, the War Department was able to read Japan's diplomatic cable traffic. On the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Washington knew that Japan was readying to break off peace negotiations. But a warning telegram from Gen. George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff, was delayed by bad luck and red tape and delivered to Kimmel five hours after the attack had begun."


"Bad luck" my eye! The story of how General George C. Marshall took so long to transmit the official information – instead of picking up the scrambler phone and getting on the line with Kimmel and Short, he sent his war warning via Western Union! – is one of the more outrageous threads in this labyrinthine story of deception, but naturally Thomas doesn't deign to go into any of that. He furthermore ignores the rest of the evidence presented in Stinnett's book, and the thousands of pages of documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, which show that between November 5 and December 2, 1941, the Japanese commanders – who did not know we had broken their code – filled the airwaves with quite explicit messages indicating the date, time, and place of the Pearl Harbor attack. As Stinnett puts it in the Afterword to the paperback edition of his book:

"Based on these transmissions, President Roosevelt and General George C. Marshall predicted war with Japan would begin the first week of December. We would know even more about what FDR and his chief advisors thought, but the Japanese radio messages remain incomplete, still cloaked in American censorship. . . . Nevertheless, the major secrets of Pearl Harbor are at last out in the open. After years of denial, the truth is clear: we knew."


The Pentagon, Evan Thomas, and Doris Kearns Goodwin are certainly not interested in the truth about Pearl Harbor, and it's only natural that they should jump back in horror at the mere suggestion that we were set up for war by our own rulers. But why, with the truth already out there, is Hollywood going along with this elaborate charade? After all, on artistic grounds alone, Day of Deceit runs rings around the "official" (lying) version. I mean, here you have all the elements of drama: deception, power, commitment, betrayal, all acted out against the backdrop of looming war – a war the President knew was coming, down to the day and the hour. Lights! Camera! Action!


Gee, how is it that I just know such a movie will never be made? Of course, they could make a movie version of Gore Vidal's The Golden Age, which dramatizes FDR's deadly deception, but, again, I'm wondering if this is even a possibility in the epicenter of evil in the world, otherwise known as Hollywood. In any case, the smear campaign against Vidal is sure to accelerate. How do I know this? Well, that bellwether of the conventional wisdom, Andrew Sullivan, recently compared Vidal to David Irving: can a comparison with Hitler be far behind? Irving, hisses Sullivan, is "the English Gore Vidal": like Vidal, "[he] is a brilliant man whose mind has warped into bile. Like Vidal's hatred for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Irving's loathing for Winston Churchill is simply perverse." Irving denies the Holocaust, and Vidal denies the divinity of FDR: to the clueless Sullivan, no doubt a little groggy from taking his AIDS meds, this shows they are brothers under the skin. What it really shows, of course, is that Sullivan is a real class-A bitch: he speaks of Vidal's "bile," but his own is eating away whatever intellectual integrity he once had. Sullivan, you'll remember, is the guy who, likening himself to George Orwell, portrays himself as the scourge of politically correct cant. What a joke! He is nothing but a hypocrite, whose smug self-righteousness cloaks his true role as one of the most craven kow-towing eunuchs at the imperial court.


Okay, yes I did get a number of emails about my sudden reversal on the Andrew Sullivan Question. In my "Bookmarks" column a couple of weeks ago I recommended his site and even opined that he might be developing in a libertarian direction. I still think this is true in a sense, only now I would put quotation marks around the word "libertarian" – and add the proviso that, if you mean the kind of "libertarian" who thinks pot should be legalized, profits aren't all bad, and political correctness sometimes goes too far, but never questions the founding myths of the American Empire, then he's a "libertarian" all right. Of course, there are far all too many of these types around – as noted in my last column – and as readers of Reason magazine are all too aware. However, this is really too depressing to contemplate much longer than is necessary, and so we'll move right along to a recommendation I know I'm not going to be sorry for.


I'm talking about, the rip-roaring website started by Jeremy Sapienza, of LRC ( fame. What can I say but that is a kind of psychedelicized LRC. The mindset of this site is succinctly summed up by the editor in his description of one of the articles: "Bob Murphy tokes up and tells us why so many people seem so stupid," and just so we don't get confused about the political stance taken by, we have this description of Karen DeCoster's "I Ride With Hitler": "Karen DeCoster tells us why carpooling and mass transit are social manipulations driven by the evil State's lust for power." This is the hardcore stuff, guys and gals: Sapienza's gang of anarcho-troublemakers may be familiar to longtime fans of LRC, but here they're . . . well, a little wilder. You're going to love, I just know it. The inaugural edition features a 2,500-word excerpt from my book manuscript on the gay rights movement, The Ideology of Desire: The Tyranny and Absurdity of Gay Identity Politics – and please smile when I tell you that this is something you won't want to miss!

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