Not too many commentators seem to have noticed that George Soros is slowly but surely becoming the mainstream media that is the focus of the analysis we do at NewsBusters. The liberal billionaire-turned-philanthropist has been buying up media properties for years in order to drive home his message to the American public that they are too materialistic, too wasteful, too selfish, and too stupid to decide for themselves how to run their own lives.
As Capital Research Center (my employer) reported in a recent paper, three years ago Soros acquired 2.6 million shares of the huge diversified media company Time Warner. In 2006 his companies, Soros Strategic Partners and Dune Capital Management, paid $900 million to buy the DreamWorks SKG film library from Viacom, a move that gave Soros the DVD and rebroadcasting rights to films such as Saving Private Ryan (1998), Gladiator (2000), and American Beauty (1999). As James Hirsen noted, the transaction gives Soros “some highly desirable film rights at a time when the marketing and distribution model is changing to video on demand, video iPods and other forms of digital distribution.” But more importantly, it gives Soros “a presence in Hollywood where likeminded libs are ready, willing and able to collaborate in cinematic social engineering.” Soros is also a funder, whether directly or indirectly, of Media Matters for America, the reflexively liberal noise machine and pretended media watchdog whose modus operandi is to mau-mau the media into mouthing the politically correct platitudes that pass for profound insights on the far left.
Soros is also venturing into media overseas. Earlier this year Soros Fund Management plunked down $100 million for 3% of India’s Reliance Entertainment, a $3 billion conglomerate that aims to provide Internet-based TV programs in India. Reliance also churns out movies and owns movie houses, radio stations and social networking websites in the country with one of the fastest growing economies in the world. When in the 1980s Soros set up offices in Eastern Europe for his philanthropy, the Open Society Institute (OSI), he helped to finance publishers, independent TV and radio outlets, and political parties.
Soros has long been a player in Hollywood. As Rondi Adamson reported in “George Soros, Movie Mogul: ‘Social Justice’ Cinema and the Sundance Institute,” (Foundation Watch, March 2008), OSI has been underwriting “social justice” documentaries since 1996, and in 2001 Soros let actor-director Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute take over his Soros Documentary Fund (since rechristened the Soros/Sundance Documentary Fund).
Why is Soros so interested in film? “Documentary films raise awareness and inspire action,” he said. “The Open Society Institute gave vital support to filmmakers working to expose human rights abuses and helped the films find the widest possible audience.” Adamson writes:
Soros, who has given away an estimated $5 billion to various causes since 1991, started his documentary fund as a form of political activism. Gara LaMarche, former vice president and director of U.S. programs for OSI, explained his boss’s motives: “Nonfiction film can spur awareness and action, sometimes touching audiences beyond the reach of other methods.” Movies “teach us about the world, what is happening to our fellow travelers on the globe—what is happening to us—and what we might do about it.” Using the well-worn language of political correctness, LaMarche, who left OSI in April 2007 to head the Atlantic Philanthropies (2006 assets $3.2 billion, grants $748 million), notes that a decade of work by Soros and the Sundance Documentary Fund has helped highlight “marginalized groups and their quest for rights and recognition from one end of the globe to the other.”
Soros’s lieutenant praises the political impact of films like Al Gore’s 2006 global warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and Edward R. Murrow’s Harvest of Shame, a 1960 TV documentary on the plight of farmworkers. He observes that only film images can adequately reveal the meaning of Rodney King’s police beating, of tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square, and the extent of “Joseph McCarthy’s deficit of decency”—a characterization of the late senator hotly disputed by scholar M. Stanton Evans in his book, Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies (Crown Forum, 2007).
What’s great about Sundance documentaries, LaMarche writes, is that they can contradict the false image of Iran that George W. Bush projects when he places it in “the so-called Axis of Evil.” And they can overcome the fear created by “nativist vigilante groups like the Minutemen patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border and demanding Draconian treatment of undocumented workers.”
Adamson observes that “most of the documentaries that receive Sundance funding are highly critical of some aspect of American life, capitalism or Western culture. The projects generally share George Soros’s worldview that America is a troubling if not sinister influence in the world, that the War on Terror is a fraud and terrorists are misunderstood freedom fighters, and that markets are fundamentally unjust.”
Films such as An American Soldier and Persons of Interest (a film about Justice Department detention of Arab and Muslim immigrants after 9/11) and Why We Fight, the much-publicized 2005 Sundance Festival winner (“an anatomy of the American war machine”) underline Soros’s views on the U.S.-led War on Terror. Soros derides the War as “a false metaphor that has led to counterproductive and self-defeating policies.”
In his view, the phrase War on Terror is a conversation-ender that strikes terror in the hearts of those hearing it. The expression “has inhibited the critical process that is at the heart of an open society,” he says. The application of this “misleading figure of speech” has “unleashed a real war fought on several fronts –Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Somalia– a war that has killed thousands of innocent civilians and enraged millions around the world,” he wrote at the Huffington Post blog (September 29, 2006). It is true that some who support the War on Terror may question the semantic limitations of the “War on Terror” phrase (after all, how does one fight “terror,” a tactic?). But when Soros blames the strife in Gaza, Lebanon, and Somalia –violence-prone regions long before September 11, 2001— on the U.S.-led War on Terror, he betrays his ‘blame America first’ mentality.
From Adamson’s article, here are some examples of films that have been funded by Soros directly or indirectly or that have been screened by the Sundance Institute or shown on the Sundance Channel:
Soldiers of Conscience (2007): “Their country asked them to kill. Their hearts asked them to stop. From West Point grads to drill sergeants, from Abu Ghraib interrogators to low-ranking reservist mechanics; soldiers in the U.S. Army today reveal their deepest moral concerns about what they are asked to do in war.” (film website)
An American Soldier (2008): “A disproportionate number of people serving and dying in Iraq come from small-town southern America. How they get there, rather than why, is the point of ‘An American Soldier.’ It’s a film about process: the seduction process.” (Washington Post film critic John Anderson)
Semper Fi: Always Faithful (in production): “Two retired marines lead the fight for justice for U.S. soldiers exposed to dangerous toxic chemicals while stationed at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base in North Carolina.” (film critic Agnes Varnum)
Our Oil (in production): a documentary about Nigerians and Americans “amid the poverty, corruption and violence of oil production in Nigeria, one of America’s top oil suppliers.” (Sundance Institute press release)
My Baghdad Family (in production), in which a “family in Baghdad grapples with massive changes in their lives after the end of Saddam’s rule. Will their dreams of a new life gradually turn into a nightmare?” (Sundance press release)
Control Room (2004), a documentary about Arabic-language network Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Iraq war, which critics have said amounts to pro-Islamist propaganda.
Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism (2004), which argues that Fox TV news is a hotbed of conservative misinformation.
The Corporation (2003), a Canadian film that puts modern corporations on the couch and depicts them as sociopathic institutions.
My Terrorist (2002)…about Yulie Gerstel, an Israeli flight attendant who begins to suffer a delayed onset of Stockholm Syndrome after her airplane is hijacked on a flight to London. According to the film’s promotional blurb, “In a remarkable twist of faith, twenty-three years later Gerstel began questioning the causes of violence between Israelis and Palestinians and started to consider helping release the man who almost killed her.”
The Women of Hezbollah…focuses on what its promotional blurb calls two Hezbollah “activists,” Zeinab and Khadjie, examining their “commitment” to the cause. According to one review, the film offers a “complex picture of Islamism, gender relations, feminism and nationalism.”
Meanwhile, Hollywood seems more than content to keep throwing money at box office bombs. Four non-documentary movies that put America in a bad light sank like stones last year:
-The Valley of Elah, starring Tommy Lee Jones, was about Iraq war combat trauma and its tragic consequences
-Rendition, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon and Meryl Streep was about an Egyptian being removed from the U.S. and shipped to Egypt by the CIA
-Redacted, directed by Brian De Palma, was about U.S. soldiers tormenting an Iraqi family
-Lions for Lambs, was about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. It starred Redford, Tom Cruise and Glenn Close. In an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer about the film, Redford scolded the U.S. media for not being hard enough on the Bush administration: “At the point we found out that the cause behind the war was a lie, that’s when I think everybody should have stood up, wakened up, and moved forward.”
People who want to make inspirational movies about good things Americans have done routinely get the cold shoulder from Hollywood financiers. Action star Bruce Willis is reportedly having trouble getting movie studios interested in his proposed movie about the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry, (known as the “Deuce Four”) that heroically battled Islamist fighters in Mosul, Iraq. Willis wants to spotlight “these guys who do what they are asked for very little money to defend and fight for what they consider to be freedom.”
“Sounds like blockbuster material –but where are the Hollywood heavies who will help him make it and make a buck?” asks Adamson.
And don’t hold your breath waiting for Soros or Sundance to help out conservative movie makers any time soon, because when you love America and American values you’re just not considered hip in Hollywood: Conservatives have to blaze their own path. Govindini Murty and Jason Apuzzo are doing just that with the Liberty Film Festival, and so is Thor Halvorssen’s Moving Picture Institute (MPI).
The Liberty Film Festival has screened Border (2007), about the public response to illegal immigration; Suicide Killers (2006), about Islamists’ terror tactics; and The Road to Jenin (2003), about Israel’s military reply to the Palestinian “Passover bombing.” MPI boosts movies such as Indoctrinate U (2007), an expose of political correctness on college campuses, and Mine Your Own Business (2006), a critical look at environmental elitists fighting gold mining operations in desperately poor Romania – against the wishes of local residents who want the mine and the jobs and economic development that would come with it.