Is Hollywood Too Timid on Terrorism?

That’s a question you would take away from an event last week by Steve Emerson, a former CNN investigative journalist turned counter-terrorism expert.

He screened parts of his unfinished doc “Grand Deception” at a CAA auditorium on Thursday where he questioned the media’s depiction of the threat of Islamic radicalism.

“I’m on a PR battle,” admitted the filmmaker. “I’m getting people angry.”

Hosted by Gary Sinise and Matt DelPiano, and organized by the American Cinema Foundation, the event drew Jon Voight, Larry Elder, Tom Selleck, Rob Long, Roger L. Simon and Lionel Chetwynd, among others. Although the event had a center/right tilt to it, marked in a left-leaning town, since 9/11 some industry figures have switched their political stripes, citing concerns over security and terrorism.

The doc focuses on the influence that Islamist extremist groups hold over the U.S. government and the media. In Emerson’s view, recent film releases and news reports often are pro-terrorist or white-washed, because execs fear being targeted by extremist groups.

During a Q&A afterward, Emerson was very vocal about what he characterized as the hypocrisy of journalists and the “political cowardess” of Hollywood studios toward extremists.

“The media has fallen down in a sinister way,” he said.

He made his case in a clip from the documentary. In it, it shows how pics like “Sum of All Fears” and “Rules of Engagement” were attacked by groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations for depicting Arabs in a negative light and perpetuating racist stereotypes. Since 9/11, the doc explains, the pressures from Islamic groups have intensified, coercing studios into self censorship when the subject matter is too “politically sensitive,” Emerson explained.

Emerson said that he hopes to get funding to wrap up the film in time for the next presidential election — which, by the way, he describes as a “tragedy in the making.”

—Elsa Bertet

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