Hollywood Jahilliya

Democracy, whiskey, sexy.

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I'm an old-school liberal, like FDR or, heck, even Trotsky if I'm feeling generous. That is, I recognize a fascist enemy when I see one, and I treat it like an enemy. It's my mission (self-appointed, of course) to convince other Hollywood liberals to do the same.

04 March 2006

What's In A Name?

They used to call this place Babylon. And yeah, it’s a town full of plastic people with superficial smiles, with a reputation for decadence and hedonism, where “alternative lifestyles” of every stripe flout their wares before the easily-tempted eyes of visiting naifs. But it’s also my new home, and gosh-darn it, I love the place.

I moved to Los Angeles from a deeply conservative part of the U.S., because it’s where my heart called me to go. I’m a liberal – pro-gay rights, pro-feminist, proudly godless, a borderline socialist – and a creative writer by aspiration if not yet by trade; these are my people. I belong in Hollywood Babylon.

But now that I'm here, I find myself in a curious conundrum. I’m a misfit because I'm pro-war. As in “war on terror”… and that includes the Iraq war in my book. I didn’t start that way; once I was a loyal Chomskian evangelical. But my physical journey out of the Bible Belt became a mental journey, too, and I realized that my left-wing heart knew a real fascist when it saw one, and it’s name wasn’t George W. Bush.

For one thing, he’s too lazy. Practically every monstrosity of his reign – including the torture scandal – can be boiled down to that. He and his buddies only wanted the White House so they could pad their resumes, it seems, and they resent having to actually be responsible for a nation’s security.

For another thing, Bush is part of the Christian Right, which for all its ugliness and arrogance, has been pretty much tamed by liberal democracy. Only the most extreme minority of them question the fundamentals of liberal society, and even they have begun adopting many of its rhetorical tropes (they seem suddenly quite keen on women’s rights, sans abortion that is, across the globe). And at any rate, few if any of them are calling for, let alone practicing, mass murder of unbelievers.

The same can’t be said, unfortunately, for the Muslim Right. Its death-squads are out there untamed, stalking every corner of the Old World – from Nigeria to Denmark to Indonesia and all points in between – using classically fascist tactics (like, for real) to intimidate its enemies and hoping to putsch its way into real power somewhere (preferably Iraq with its vast oil and water resources, or Pakistan with its nukes; a few are already in power in Iran, and working to get nukes). This new fascism brought its violence to our shores on 9/11, and will continue trying to do so in the future. And for the most part, it’s been met by appeasement and denial all around, just as its Nazi forebears were. Well, fellow liberals, we know where that path leads, don’t we? Don’t we?

In short, the Muslim Religious Right is a bigger threat to liberal culture and values than the Christian Religious Right can ever again be. And how does Hollywood – my adopted home, the Mecca of my artsy-liberal soul – respond to this new wave of political darkness? With movies like Kingdom of Heaven and Syriana, premised on “truths” that are the reverse of what’s actually going on. And even with fare like the upcoming V For Vendetta, which appears, from its trailers, to be openly pro-terrorist while exploiting Orwellian imagery in a way that completely reverses Orwell’s meaning.

This grand old town seems to be going out of its way to avoid offending the Muslim Religious Right. And I can sort of understand why. They’re scary folks, these clerical fascists. They’ve proven that they will, in fact, kill anyone who makes art that offends them, and most filmmakers don’t want to risk their lives.

But the thing about fascism is that it can’t be appeased, and it will seek to kill you no matter what you do if it deems you deserving of death. In the end, we have no choice but to stand up to it. Hollywood used to understand that, back when the Third Reich ruled the Continent, National Shinto stalked the Pacific, and Tinseltown made proudly anti-fascist flicks. And I, for one, have faith that it can and will understand it again. The only worry I have is whether it will come too late to make a difference against the armies of the Master Faith.

So, that’s why I chose the name. Jahilliya, in Islamic thought, is the state of pagan godlessness that ruled the Arabian peninsula before the deliverance of the Qur’an. Because I am proudly godless and live in Tinseltown – and as a nod to the power of the Muslim Religious Right, which has surpassed the threat its Christian counterpart can ever be to us – I propose that Hollywood Babylon wear the jahil label with pride.

With all these movies coming out and more on the way, it seems a perfect time to start a blog that keeps eyes on the intersection of pop culture and politics in the age of Islamofascism, and does it from a pro-war liberal perspective. I don’t think I’m alone in this point of view, but even if I am, it won’t stop me.


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