What Is “Hollywoodism” and Why Is Iran Freaked out about it?

Participants at Iran’s “Hollywoodism” conference (Screen shot from Press TV)

Iran hosted a conference last week on what it calls “Hollywoodism,” which aimed to take to task the American film industry’s alleged contribution to negative stereotypes of Iran and to “expanding Islamophobia…across the world.”

In reality, however, the conference showcased stereotypes of its own, specifically of the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic variety. Though the speakers reportedly did not state outright that “the Jews control Hollywood,” one senior Iranian official said “Zionist philosophy” guides the making of films which are “serving the devil.”

It prompted this criticism from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Director Abraham Foxman:

Not surprisingly, Iran is once again at the forefront of promoting classical anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jews and Israel while giving legitimacy to a rogue’s gallery of conspiratorial anti-Semites and anti-Zionists.

Make no mistake, while conference organizers might claim this was meant to be an open-ended inquiry into the influence of Hollywood, the event had a deep undercurrent of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism consistent with Iran’s long-held anti-U.S. and anti-Israel posture.

The ADL reports that 9/11 “truthers” were among the participants in the third annual “International Conference on Hollywoodism and Cinema” timed to coincide with the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran’s Deputy Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Javad Shamaghdari used his opening address to suggest “Zionist philosophy” influences Hollywood films which are “serving the devil.”

Mohammad Hosseini, Iranian Minister of Culture and Guidance, suggested there is a surreptitious and coordinated conspiracy behind American filmmaking. “Hollywood is not an independent phenomenon and has no uniform nature but surely there is a hidden management that is leading the economic, business, researching and theorizing centers,” Hosseini said.

“There are few people to say the truth that today’s human knowledge shouldn’t be just available for the oppressors and powerful countries who are under domination of the Zionists,” he added.

To this, the ADL’s Foxman said: “One need only look at the statements of this conference to see that they are promoting the classical anti-Semitic stereotype of Jewish domination and control of the film industry…The Iranian leadership has become expert at repurposing age-old anti-Semitic canards to legitimize and promote their hateful and conspiratorial worldview.”

The conference is particularly noteworthy this year in light of the accolades Ben Affleck’s film Argo has been racking up, including seven Academy Award nominations and Golden Globe Best Picture. According to the Wall Street Journal, the film which depicts the rescue of six Americans from Tehran during the American embassy takeover is a runaway success in Iran, with several hundred thousand Persian-subtitled bootleg DVDs sold.

Conference organizer Nader Talebzade told reporters that Argo’s success shows that “promoting phobias of Islam and Iran is part of Hollywood’s plan.”

“Why can Hollywood get away with assaulting Iran and Islam?” he asked

“Hollywood is the epicenter of entertainment, but it has a dark side [from which] we have been getting the aggression of Hollywood,” Talebzade said.

Los Angeles Times correspondent Ramin Mostaghim covered the conference and described the scene:

In the hotel auditorium, attendees watched Ben Affleck playing a CIA specialist trying to trick Iranian officials into letting Americans out of Tehran, Sacha Baron Cohen as a farcical “Dictator,” even the fantastical battles between Spartans and Persians in the action film “300.”

Outside the screenings, panelists weighed in on “Hollywood and Depiction of Moral Values,” “Portrayals of Jews in Hollywood,” and “September 11 from Hollywood’s Angle: Psychological Elements, Public Deception,” as a crew of interpreters simultaneously translated their words into Farsi, French and Arabic.

Foreigners peppered the crowd at the Tehran hotel, including the maverick former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska, who defended the disputed Iranian nuclear energy program at the opening ceremony, and the French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who wed the convicted killer known as Carlos the Jackal.

Former Senator Gravel echoed the Iranians in this quote provided by Press TV: “Hollywood is just a tool of the American government, and European governments to prosecute their imperialistic views whether it is in economy, whether it’s in culture, whether it’s in religion.”

Gravel is the founder of the “Citizens’ 9/11 Commission Campaign” which hopes via state ballot initiatives to set up a new commission to investigate 9/11 which it calls “an unsolved crime.” In the past, he has also said 9/11 had the hallmarks of “an inside job.”