Oliver Stone: Crackpot Conspiracist

Having crackpot political views doesn't prevent someone from making good movies. Pioneer director D.W. Griffith demeaned blacks and glorified the Ku Klux Klan. In Hollywood in the 1930s, there were a substantial number of Communists who tried (with very little success) to sneak anti-capitalist content past staunchly pro-capitalist studio heads. Also in the 30s Leni Riefenstahl shot "Triumph of the Will," a brillant paean to Nazism. So the fact that Oliver Stone (right, above) holds some extreme and bizarre political opinions doesn't mean that films like "Wall Street" and "JFK" are bad movies.

But if one can admire the artistry of crackpot filmmakers, one can also be careful not to confuse their personal vision with social reality.

This caution is particularly relevant with Stone. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he revealed a rather disturbing worldview. While most Americans were appalled by the attacks, Oliver Stone apologized for the terrorists by blaming large U.S. media companies.

At an HBO Films panel on "Making Movies That Matter," Oliver Stone opined that huge corporations that make mediocre movies are part of what made Osama bin Laden plan the Sept. 11 attack. "They control culture," he said of the corporations, in comments quoted in the New Yorker. "They control ideas. And I think the revolt of Sept. 11th was about 'F-- you! F-- your order.' "

The outrage of fellow panelist Christopher Hitchens is often directed at corporations, too, but he had a different view this time. "Excuse me?" he said.

"Revolt? It was state-sponsored mass murder, using civilians as missiles." Hitchens said later he thought Stone was "a moral idiot as well as an intellectual idiot." Stone said later, "This attack was pure chaos, and chaos is energy."  (Source: Leah Garchik, "The Stars Weigh In," San Francisco Chronicle, October 16, 2001.)

As the "war on terrorism" continued with U.S. attempts to find Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice, Stone spoke at Brown University. According to the Brown Alumni Magazine (January/February 2002). Stone derided the entire enterprise as well as the movie industry and the history profession.
“Don’t believe most of the stuff you see in the movies,” Oliver Stone told a Brown audience on December 1. Hollywood, said the director of Platoon and JFK, is controlled by “chickens” and “concentration camp guards.” History books are no better, Stone warned, in a speech that was part of the Ivy Film Festival. “Most historians are ass-kissers and tenure seekers,” he said.

What to believe then? “Believe my stuff,” a paunchy and puffy-eyed Stone said.

Drawing comparisons to Vietnam, Stone accused the U.S. government of withholding the truth about the war in Afghanistan: “Bin Laden was completely protected by the oil companies in this country who told [President] Bush not to go after him because it would piss off the Saudis.” Then, Stone claimed, there’s the cover-up involving ground zero: limbs getting cut off bodies for jewelry, a man walking off with $132 million.

Stone's paranoia and his contempt of history as it is written by professional historians certainly shows in the movie "JFK" which turns the historical record on its head. The shrewd viewer may enjoy the film for its technique, but should remember that Stone sees U.S. politics through a very different lens.

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