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Sunday, 24 March, 2002, 21:02 GMT
Your comments on the programme
Your comments on September 11th - a warning from Hollywood
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Madeleine from Sale writes: "Wasn't A Clockwork Orange banned for this very reason?" A Clockwork Orange was voluntarily pulled by director Stanley Kubrick because he was a) sick of people falsely blaming his film for real-life violence, and b) because he received death threats. It had nothing to do with any fear of copycat violence. "Wasn't the Jamie Bulger killing blamed on the killers watching violent films?" It was blamed, yes, but only by scare mongering tabloids. The police went on record to state that they found no such evidence. The head of the investigation went so far as to state: "You might as well blame the Railway Children". "This is the best example I have seen of banning violence in films." Why would terrorists who hate the West and all its works like to watch Hollywood blockbusters, viewed by many to be a perfect example of the West's moral corruption?! And, where is your evidence?!
Your programme was very informative, and raised some interesting ideas. Although you couldn't say so in so many words, it floated the idea that the link from congress to Hollywood - as much as serving the film industry - could conceivably be used by the government to desensitise the public as to what is to come. I personally believe that it was more than coincidence that the film Fatal Excursion was shown on UK terrestrial TV about a month before September 11th. I remember when the disaster unfolded, there was almost a sense of deja vu.
If Hollywood seems more in touch with the real world and people's thoughts, what about its portrayal of space and our contact with extraterrestrials, as shown in many of their films eg Independence Day, Close Encounters of the third kind. Could they be another prophetic glimpse? Surely this theme is worth pursuing.
I think the programme makers got it the wrong way round. Hollywood did not prophesise the attacks. Whoever planned them was consciously or unconsciously influenced by the films and books discussed. There is a series (shown in the US but not here) called The Lone Gunmen, a spin-off from the X-Files. In the pilot episode the government uses a microchip to crash a plane into the World Trade Center by remote control. Perhaps it was similar to the Global Hawk technology used to fly an unmanned 737 jet from California to Australia early last year. Also, according to press reports the book Todd Beamer was reading when he made his last call from the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania was written by... Tom Clancy. Spooky.
Have the producers of the show not heard the words "self-fulfilling prophecy"? These movies fuel anger. Just like racial profiling and stop and search methods. All these add up to a sense of persecution on the part of the people Hollywood likes to portray one-dimensionally. Like during the Cold War when Hollywood - instead of predicting anything - became an arm of the US war machine. What better propaganda method is there in the world? I think that these movies were wanted by the Pentagon and others. They needed a scapegoat for the US's New World Order. It's a shame that they believed what they foretold would never happen in "real life".
I don't believe that the movies drive the tactics of terrorist organisations - such groups have creative strategists within them, quite capable of matching screenwriters for the deviousness of their plots. What is surprising is that no one in the CIA or NSA seems to have considered the plots feasible, and attempted to work out strategies to counteract the threats (until 9/11 that is).
Having watched the programme, one wonders why the Pentagon had not thought of a possible attack on the USA in this way. With moviemakers making movies on this subject quite frequently, I am surprised this sort of attack was not considered. The use of civilian airliners for such attacks was unexpected by the Pentagon. Military aircraft were the biggest threat, and this, I feel, is what they were preparing for. We are all far wiser with hindsight, and in future everything that brings suspicion needs to be investigated. No blame should be looked for, for the attacks on September 11, just lessons learnt so that this never happens again.
The Panorama programme did not seem to ask the obvious question: did the idea for a delayed second attack on the World Trade Center - so the TV cameras would be there - come FROM the film "The Siege"?
If this wasn't so serious it would be laughable. So Hollywood now believes its own hype? Far from predicting terrorist attacks Hollywood planted the idea in the minds of terrorists. Any psychologist will tell you that humans learn by copying. Wasn't A Clockwork Orange banned for this very reason? Wasn't the Jamie Bulger killing blamed on the killers watching violent films? Shame on Panorama for believing this storyline. This is the best example I have seen of banning violence in films.
Was Panorama really the best venue for this programme? If only the Late Show still aired. Anyhow, Hollywood was the wrong target: Tinsel town is pretty devoid of ideas compared to pulpy thriller novels. If you want some off-the-wall terror ideas go to WHSmith in Heathrow.
I loved the programme as I thought it provoked debate. I disagree that violence on film/TV influences crime as before these mediums were around the human race carried out some pretty savage acts: hangings, beheadings etc. Where did these acts originate from? I was amazed as I watched Independence Day how it mirrored Sept 11th... synchronised attacks on capital cities, the use of the technology we created was used against us etc. It didn't take long for me to realise the aliens were the "terrorists". Very spooky.
"The Siege" from Hollywood? Yes, close to that important American date (remember greater numbers of natives have died in foreign soil). But Hollywood also foresees "Godzilla", "Attack of the killer tomatoes" and "Crash". Panorama - you finally disappoint me with the lack of intelligence used on this programme.
I sat and watched with great interest last night's Panorama as Hollywood's screenwriters and directors came on one after the other claiming that they had predicted September 11th. But what none of them seemed to have considered is that it might be the other way around. Might it not be the portrayal of Arabs and Muslims as "Islamic Fundamentalists" in Hollywood blockbusters that is partly responsible for the hatred of America in many parts of the world? After all, Hollywood blockbusters are part of cultural globalisation that many people (not just in the Islamic world) feel threatened by. But of course America has yet to even begin to ask such difficult questions as this.
The programme last night was very interesting, particularly as I am doing a dissertation based on the representation of terrorism, the hero and the tradition of the enemy to the US in Hollywood. The argument about the films actually giving the perpetrators of these acts ideas is one that I have posited already, but what are people's thoughts on the tradition of the enemy in film? Have we now reached a stage where we have a set idea of who poses the biggest threat, and will future portrayals of terrorists be based solely around these ideas?
The concept of a civil airliner being deliberately crashed into a populated building is hardly new. In February 1973, when a Libyan civil airliner was shot down over occupied Sinai, one excuse given by the Israelis was that an airliner loaded with explosives was expected to crash into a densely-populated area of Israel. Hollywood is neither original nor timely.
To blame films for inspiring copycat terrorist attacks is pointless - a terrorist is not going to suddenly decide to commit an atrocity purely because of a movie. The movie may affect the means but the end will be the same - murder of as many people as the terrorists think is acceptable. Since anyone with an imagination and who experiences thrillers (movies or books) could easily conceive of similar premises in a single afternoon (converting a premise into something someone would watch and read is the difficult step), terrorists could do likewise - they don't need Hollywood. Secondly, Hollywood is not racist in its depiction of terrorism. Yes, "The Siege", "Executive Decision" and "True Lies" depicted Arabs as terrorists, but "Patriot Games" depicted the Northern Irish as terrorists, "Die Hard 2" right-wing American soldiers, and "The Taking of Pelham 123" middle-aged white Americans. In other words, every race gets a look in on villainy!
I (being a free and unconventional creative thinker) am very interested in how governments are proposing to recruit people like myself in order to brainstorm what the various oppositions are up to. Creative thinking is a product of learned and controlled subjectivity - something not taught in our schools, creating something of a skills gap.
How will this be addressed ?
I do not buy the suggestion that mentioning Islamic terrorists is intrinsically racist. The point is that there seems to be a new breed of terrorists, who do not seem to be able to be negotiated with, and who have not only the motivation, but the support network and methods to pursue their cause. One of the (currently) most active and effective happens to be the al-Qaeda organisation. This does not mean, however, that all Muslims fall into the same category, any more that all Irishmen belong to the "real IRA". However, unless the West and the Arab nations work together to educate their populations about each others' cultures, and to denounce (and attempt to pre-empt) mindless barbarism on both sides, the situation will never improve. The Qu'ran, just like the Bible, can be deliberately misinterpreted to justify horrific acts - this does not mean that such acts are necessarily "religious" at their core.
If terrorism seeks to be theatre, it is not surprising that it should use techniques and narratives familiar from Hollywood movies when it wants to perform for the Western World.
Perhaps Hollywood should not be congratulated for its prophetic powers so much as questioned for its influence in suggesting shapes for terrorist scenarios. Did it not occur to the programme-makers that the audience for Hollywood movies might well include religious and political fundamentalists?
Isn't it obvious that the terrorists behind September 11th were emulating the type of violent fantasy that film-makers have surrounded us with for years? The link between 'video nasties' and violent behaviour in children has been well documented in recent years. Surely the same principle applies between films depicting mass destruction and those who wish to see it in reality.
In my view, Hollywood has been unfair in representing Arabs and Muslims and has contributed indirectly to encouraging and putting ideas into the heads of the extremists, who are found in every religion and country on earth. How about other terrorist groups, belonging to other religions and countries? Where is their representation in the film industry?
When you use the same story time and again, it's hardly surprising that you'll be able to find some parallel with an event in the real world from time to time. It doesn't mean that Hollywood is able to pre-empt anything. In this case, Hollywood demonises certain groups such as Arabs and Muslims, who are always portrayed as terrorists and fanatics. This leads to an automatic reaction from the public every time there is an incident. When Muslims are involved their religion is always considered to be a factor. When the attack on the World Trade Centre happened, all Muslims were tarred with the same brush. Isn't it time that Hollywood stopped demonising Arabs and Muslims?
Hollywood foresaw the problem but the question is, can Hollywood foresee a more creative solution than retaliation (which is only to further escalate the situation)? Washington needs to grasp that there is no effective defence against suicidal terrorists. If Hollywood cannot imagine solutions, who can? (Hollywood could try talking with Thich Nhay Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist activist, among others...)
I agree with Gabe Milland, a previous commenter, and I was astonished that the question wasn't put. I was amazed at how such an obvious question was skirted around and avoided. To me it is far more plausible to suggest that the indicated motion pictures themselves, enjoying global circulation and distribution, could have planted a great many thoughts, ideas and illuminating insights. What an irony to play the paranoid fictions of a nation like the USA back to itself, only reworked as a reality. Far more plausible to me is this than the idea that these largely stupid action pantomimes have in some way been "prophetic". As your interviewee said, Hollywood needed a new enemy. The Islamic Fundamentalist was easy. No explanations needed, "just get on with the story". When I first saw the September 11th catastrophe on TV I didn't think "Gee, it looks like a motion picture", I thought "Gee they GOT the idea FROM a motion picture", and I was amazed that no-one in the media said so at the time. However, you the media have long argued that you deserve absolute freedom to say whatever you want in the interests of civil liberties. Gabe Milland's question points the finger back at even you, the BBC, for your crucial role in a terrorist act - namely an organisation guaranteed to report it, fan it, stamp your logo on it, and spread it as far and wide as you possibly can helping to fulfil the needs of the terrorist. No power on earth can stop you doing this save the power of a D Notice as well you know, so why not do something really daring and analyse the media's own role in terrorism?
Why doesn't Panorama make a programme asking Hollywood why no films have been created about why these "terrorists" really hate the USA? What is the reason these people do what they do? I'm sure the USA military and government could counsel on that as well.
Interesting programme. Nicky Campbell (5 Live) had an ex CIA guy on about two months before 9/11. He had written a book about the CIA. He talked of the rumour of a terrorist group flying a plane into an American building. He said it had been a threat by a particular group. No-one seems to have mentioned the interview in the media.
WOW, programme was good, but I have read some of the comments and I cannot believe the stupidity! To even suggest that the terrorists got their ideas from Hollywood is madness. These fanatics are not stupid, they are not children ready to copy Hollywood. Also that comment about 911 being the day and month chosen, it could just as easily be 119!
The Hollywood story on the BBC was a good insight, but I feel that Hollywood movies give the extremists the ideas to carry out their views. One of the attacks was based on What If's attack on Washington before the World Trade Center attack happened. What bothers me is the reference to Arab states as the possible source of any future attacks.
The trouble with the US Government consulting Hollywood is that Hollywood itself has been short on ideas for many years now. "Too much money chasing too few scripts" is the common complaint. And an even more common complaint is that Hollywood dumbs down all ideas. Even now the US Government is suffering from tunnel vision. We have the technology now to enable people from all over the world to communicate their ideas to national governments anywhere.
I was disappointed by this shallow American view of Muslims and Arabs. It seems terrorism equals Arab or Muslims in their vocabulary. This isn't fair at all as terrorism has no religion or ethnic group. Timothy McVeigh was American and the real IRA are not Arab or Muslims. This is a racist view of Arabs and I hope it changes.
As Robert Altman and several others have commented, Hollywood was probably the inspiration for the events of September 11th rather than the prophet who predicted it. Remember the name of the town in Florida in which five or six of the terrorists decided to set up their base? It was called Hollywood. Most significantly, the leaders of the terrorists, Atta and Al-Shehhi, lived there. They bought plane tickets there, they spent their last night out there. I think they were sending us a message which could only be understood after 9/11: not only had they been trained by America, used America's own planes, exploited America's freedoms and trust and America's open information in order to attack the economic heart of America, they had also been inspired by America's movies!
The programme succinctly raised the point that Hollywood was often more successful than the Pentagon in recognising threats to US Security. However, what it failed to address was the possibility that rather than predicting inevitable acts of terrorism, Hollywood may even have contributed to September 11th by giving the terrorists ideas on how to best attack the US. Why, therefore, was such a possibility not raised as part of the programme?
The programme and Hollywood show a clear bias in depicting terrorism as a one-way route, as though only America and the West have anything to fear. Why do no films give any consideration to the possibility of terrorist strikes against the Muslim world? Why is it never assumed, say, that a desperate and beleaguered Israeli who's just had his family butchered might not feel he's nothing left to lose by flying a plane into the most holy site in Islam during the Hajj? If history teaches us anything, it is that it is a mistake to assume bullets can only fly in one direction.
Watched this evening's Panorama - there seemed to be a lot of talk about prophetic film making - so much so that I was beginning to think that I'd tuned into Panorama meets Mystic Meg - ever heard of life imitating art?
Panorama is right to highlight the danger of terrorism to us all. General Lebid has indicated that a significant number of Russian suitcase nuclear devices are unaccounted for. Saddam is still developing agents of mass destruction, both biological and chemical. Therefore we should be under no illusion that sooner rather than later we will be subjected to another attack from those fanatics who are intent on pursuing their cause of hatred against humanity. To think that Hollywood, that merely putting the subject on the stage so to speak, gives ideas to these fanatics is to misunderstand them totally.
It is interesting to note that the latest Panorama programme seeks to portray Hollywood as a prophetic medium rather than investigate its culpability in creating increased resentment of the USA in the Arab world through its carefully orchestrated, unrelenting campaign to demonise the Arabs which in my opinion is a contributing factor to the inexcusable, horrible crimes on September 11th. To give them the benefit of doubt, it is probable that they may have unwittingly suggested the use of jumbo jets for suicide bombings. However, I for one would not yet recommend the beautification of the Hollywood film- makers and most certainly would not suggest that governments should seek their advice, as insinuated.
Oh what a silly programme! I said when I saw one of those films that it should never have been made because someone would, no doubt, copy. I was right. Why are you making these Hollywood writers into gurus. The Arabs did what they told them to.
Brainstorming possible scenarios with any useful people seems a good idea. I wait to hear Hollywood coming up with the air burst nuclear weapon that disrupts electronics and sends hundreds of the fly-by-wire Civil Aviation airplanes plunging to bomb their own cities. But as to whether Hollywood should become a key player in US foreign policy via propaganda against a religion or culture, I would be concerned about this.
The programme completely ignored the idea that, rather than forewarning the events of September 11th, Hollywood may actually have provided Bin Laden with the idea of how to strike at America. Furthermore the programme failed to recognise that films which stereotype Arabs as terrorists only help to fuel anti-American feelings within the Arab community, and that this in turn plays right into the hands of Islamic extremists.
I think that the Pentagon and British Intelligence must begin to "think outside the box" now that the Cold War is finished. There is little doubt that radical Islam IS a threat to us. People like Miss Baker are in denial, as were the fools picketing "The Siege" when it opened in the USA. I just hope our government begins to take the threat of the Islamic fifth column in this country seriously - but in their usual PC dictated way, I doubt they will.
On September 11th three airliners were hijacked and flown into the pentagon and the twin towers. People seem to have forgotten that there was a fourth airliner which crashed in Pennsylvania, I believe. I am sure that when these attacks were planned the planners decided to attack American symbols of power: economic, military and political. It seems to me to be quite obvious that the fourth plane was intended for the House of Representatives, the Senate, or the White House; my guess is that it was meant for the White House. Perhaps there is some unfinished business? On the other hand perhaps the point has been made?
Having just watched the programme on the September 11th tragedy and the prophetic nature of the Hollywood film writers and directors, I am curious to find out to what extent the BBC film some weeks ago on the danger of the terrorist use of smallpox has affected governmental policy on possible vaccination. I understand that to go in for nationwide vaccination could be seen to be bowing in the face of such potential terrorist threat, thereby giving the terrorist organisation a sensation of victory, yet simultaneously protecting the populous from such a deadly disease. Is there any information available to the public as issued by governmental departments as to how such an incident would be treated?
Hollywood has reflected stories or trends that anyone with half an ear to the floor would know what has to happen ahead of time. The "what if" scenario coupled with information not being used by government is a well known way of striking a balance of future short-term happenings.
What I fail to understand is that there are men out there who have been predicting the present scenario since 1930. Before Germany went to war they were being laughed at for predicting it was going to war. After the war when they said that Germany would lead Europe they were laughed at. For years they have predicted that the Arabs were going to take on the West. Furthermore when every one else was saying that the Soviets were going to attack the West they said in highly published magazines that they would not. When they said that the whole of Eastern Europe would break away from the Soviets they were either ignored or reviled.
Today they are still ignored yet these people continue to confirm their prediction from an infallible source. So much so that many of us are now just waiting for the next thing to happen that we know is going to happen. Yes Hollywood has got one major trend correct but these people have, over seventy years, got it right on the nail time after time.
Why don't we listen to these people? Maybe we will avert a disaster that they predict is about to happen yet no one is listening.
The Panorama programme was quite informative. Perhaps the BBC could do a programme on the issue of media ownership in the US. It amazes me that no one seems to ask this question in a country that claims to have freedom of speech. Most pressing is the question, "can news be presented in an unbiased manner if the media is owned and produced by a group reflecting only a small percentage of the whole multi-ethnicity of the society as a whole?" We are in the process of defining Afghanistan in terms that its media control must reflect the multi-ethnicity of that society. Should we not examine our own systems to determine if there is an imbalance in respect to media ownership in the US?
September 11th made me a little more wary that reality can be more terrifying than fiction. I am writing a spy/terrorist novel called "Guardian Angel: Turning Point". It's set in December 2001 in Afghanistan. Agent Guardian Angel is sent to track down Bin Laden and stop him from using a new deadly secret weapon called turning point. I am attempting to foresee if such a weapon ever did exist, in what nature and would Bin Laden use it as a last resort?
Of all the films discussed, I think "The Siege" comes closest to understanding the minds of Arabs and Muslims and their hostility towards the US. It seems that Hollywood has been quicker off the mark than the Pentagon, which must be immensely embarrassing for the security forces of the United States. Also, I wonder if Hollywood, in the current climate of fear and uncertainty, has the will to produce a film that is unbiased and which portrays an event of shocking magnitude much bigger than 9/11 (i.e. a nuclear or biological attack on a US city/cities).
Would you not agree that due to the media, terrorism has a new meaning? It is more or less just a term used to defame one's enemy. Why don't they ever use the word terrorism when America kills innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan? Muslims are indeed a scapegoat. They were the first to be blamed for the Oklahoma bombing. Why did the word terrorism disappear from the headlines when they found out Muslims were not responsible?
Staggering failure to pose a very interesting question: Did the people behind 9/11 see these films and think - "Now there's a good idea." Hollywood is often lazily called America's dream factory. Did it provide the script for those wishing to inflict America's nightmare?
Why did they pick September 11th for the attacks? Is it a coincidence that in America's date form September 11th = 911?
Does it not seem apparent to most that the next attack upon any individual will come from an individual from that state (e.g. similar to Timothy McVeigh)? Present focus is upon fundamentalists who are from "outside" the state in question. Surely all this talk of radical terrorism provides a perfect cover story to cloud an attack that stems from internal problems?
So now the powers that be are going to open their eyes and attempt to see exactly what it is that creative people have to offer. As a creative person myself I can tell you that we don't simply make pretty graphics and sounds for people to enjoy. Since the moment a person realises that they are creative, they also realise they have a gift and the weeks, months and years to follow are a journey into exploring this gift. How would you define a gift? It doesn't come wrapped in paper ties with a ribbon, so it must be a different kind of gift. What the creative people in Hollywood (and other places) have done is part of the "exploration" of that gift. It's not prophetic in the biblical sense, but because it is a gift, the prophetic aspect cannot be overlooked. Talk to a creative person in depth, over espresso and a smoke and you'd be surprised at the sheer depth and colour of that person's mind and soul. Creative people will talk about what they do, it's not a taboo, so go on... start making some creative friends. A lot more smiles will be generated naturally :)
I think that Panorama should have asked the filmmakers whether they felt responsible for giving the terrorists ideas, instead of whether they were heroes for predicting the future. Terrorists watch Hollywood films the same as everyone else.
Is it not more plausible that Hollywood gave the terrorists ideas rather than prophesised their actions? Hollywood and investigative journalism show breaches in security, and what happens? It gets breached.
It is very worrying to see the BBC provide encouragement to those Hollywood directors who are clearly racist. They were racists before Sept 11th; now they are able to use 9/11 as a tool to express their racist imagination.
As well as looking to Hollywood are there not lessons to be learned from ancient History? At times I am reminded of the Fall of Rome. Is the present American Empire headed for the same fate?
Whilst reading Blackout by John J Nance, a story about unexplained airplane crashes, I read the line "So who's next? Are we going to get a 747 impacting the World Trade Center in New York because the two pilots were neutralized on takeoff from Newark or Kennedy?"
The truest movie about terrorism in the continental US was "The Siege" with Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington. It basically predicted the 9/11 incident and also gave an insight to government, military and terrorist motives.
I have not seen this show, but it reminds me eerily of a conversation I had with friends just a few days after the attacks, where we noted how closely Hollywood had predicted a lot of what happened. Personally, I thought the most frightening one of all was the premiere of Chris Carter's show, The Lone Gunmen, which predicted a plane being crashed into the Twin Towers.
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