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March 24, 2011

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Gulen’s Missionaries Trying to Gain Hollywood and Media Industries in the USA 

Kurdishaspect.com - By Dr. Aland Mizell 

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, some of the media executives and heads of studios met with White House officials, including former President Bush former  advisor Karl Rove, to discuss the way the media and entertainment industry could play a part in improving the image of the USA internationally. The main idea was  to use soft power to spread American television and movies to international  audiences to help change public opinion about the negative image of Americans. While some argue that American’s ability to attract good will through its values  and policies is declining, the American screen still wields global soft power.  The television nightly shows, such as CSI, often are more popular overseas than  in the United States. Hollywood’s movies sell more tickets overseas than in the  USA. American television shows attract a record number of international program  buyers, despite the increase in license fees. Through these industries the  American culture has spread all over the world. 

If today America’s cultural popularity has been because of Hollywood, music, and fast foods, and if today’s cultural popularity has not been very friendly in  some countries also because of Hollywood, music, and its unlimited freedom of  choice, then these exports have great import.  Hollywood is a symbol of USA  hegemony because Hollywood is exporting the American dream. In their post 9-11 visit, Mr. Rove and other White House officials were looking for the kind of  support Hollywood gave the United States during World War II. They wanted the  film, movie, and TV industries to produce propaganda.  Moreover, Hollywood is  not just about exporting culture and ideology but also about economic power.  According to the Motion Picture Association of America, in 2007, domestic sales  were 9.9 billion while the international receipts rose to more than $17 billion.  Domestic box offices brought $9.2 billion for American studios, and foreign  countries generated $10.9 billion.

Besides being a propagator of American values, the film industry brings in huge  profits at home and abroad. American movies such as Spider Man were bigger  openers, grossing up to 375 million dollars. The Simpson movie, featuring  American’s first family, profited with more than $333 million. Thus, while being  an industry money-maker, Hollywood helps people abroad to learn about the  American society, pop culture, influences, fashion, and democratic values of  freedom, tolerance, and rule of law. According to Edward Said, a Palestinian-American cultural theorist, “All cultures tend to make some representation of foreign cultures the better to master or in some way control them.” Perhaps using the American media to show itself as the bad guy allows the nations abroad to continue to proselytize by depicting Americans who have excesses. 

Why is Hollywood so important for Gulenists? Since the movies do not just  entertain people but also educate and propagandize people, Gulenists are trying to infiltrate Hollywood and gain access to the American media to promote their  Islamic values, Turkish way of life, and Ottoman model of a good life to the  world.  By gaining access to Hollywood, Gulenists can showcase more of Gulen’s brand of Islamic culture by exposing the viewers to Islamic products, Turkish  cultural centers, institutes, cooking classes, trips to Turkey, Turkish language  classes, Ottoman studies, TV programs, media coverage, student exchanges,  faculty exchanges, and lobbying. Gulenists’ goal is to restore the Ottoman  Empire in the new era by using the media and gaining Hollywood’s power to mold and shape American and world public opinion. To do so, they inject Turkism and Gulenism as a version of Islamic propaganda and bias in movies, television shows, news program, and even children’s cartoons and entertainment.  

For example, “New York’ta Bes Minare“ (Five Minarets in New York), which was  controversial both with its subject matter and the ensuing debate set off in the  media, had impressive opening box office sales. The Gulenists hope to hit the  right target with the subjects of global Islamophobia and their messages of  peace and tolerance.  The Five Minarets in Bitlis featured, in addition to New  York City and Istanbul, Bitlis, a small city in eastern Turkey, where Said Kurdi  (Said Nursi) was born in the province of Bitlis. Two actors play Turkish police  officers who are part of an anti-terrorist unit from the opposite ends of the  social spectrum. The two Turkish cops fly to New York to bring back the supposed leader of a Muslim Terrorist organization with the code name of Anti Christ. Turkish police and FBI agents, who are led by an Islamaphobic officer Becker, follow their own ways to bring about justice. Robert Patrick plays agent Becker, Gina Gershon acts as Hadji’s devoted Christian wife, and Danny Glover takes on the role of the American Muslim leader, Marcus.  The action scenes, editing, and sound are on par with a Hollywood production. Generally viewers like what they see. However, some film reviewers have seen parallels between the film’s Haci Gümü?, a religious leader who lives in the USA, and Fethullah Gülen, Said Kurdi’s student, who also lives in America.  

A second example of Gulenists co-opting the American media industry is the movie entitled Valley of the Wolves, the latest in a popular Rambo style movie that is very popular for its violent content. The Turkish actor Necati Sasmaz plays the fictional character Polat Alemdar as he enters Israel on a revenge mission to kill the sinister commander who ordered the flotilla raid. Billed by many viewers as strong anti-Israel propaganda, it portrays Israelis, according to the film’s Israeli villain, Moshe ben Eliezer, as “merciless tyrants who kill Palestinian women and children and long to take over Muslim lands to create a ‘Greater Israel’ spanning from ‘the river Euphrates to the Nile.’” The directorZubeyr Sasmaz claims the film shows what the Palestinians are experiencing. Whatever the alleged intent of the Valley of the Wolves, films like this never serve peace and tolerance but rather stir up hatred in an area of the world where there is too much animosity already. In one scene, an Israeli soldier asks Alemdar why he came to Israel, to which the hero Alemdar answers back, “I did not come to Israel; I came to Palestine.” 

Besides its pointed anti-Israeli party line, the movie is one of the worst  anti-American propaganda films ever made.  Even though two big named Hollywood stars, Billy Zane and Gary Busey, act in the movie, America is shown as sinister. During the plot of the movie USA, soldiers attack a wedding party in  Iraq. They drag prisoners off to Abu Ghraib, and then the soldiers conspire with  the Jewish doctor to harvest and sell the internal organs of the Arab prisoners.  The film is laden with hate and prejudice against Jewish and American people. Power, influence, and money matter the most for Gulenists It is not a surprise  to see how Gulen’s missionaries and actors, singers, directors, business people,  screenwriters and others are gaining much needed success in Hollywood.  Joseph S. Nye, Jr., the Harvard professor who came up with phrase “soft power,” refers to the ways America influences the world, not just through military muscle (hard power). Wins but also whose story soft power wins.(2004) and then in The Powers that Lead (2009), when one country gets other countries to want what it wants through its resources such as culture, ideology, institutions, and foreign  policy, it is using “soft power” rather than the “hard power” of force.  At the  most general level, power is the ability to influence the behavior of others to  get the outcomes one wants. According to Professor Nye, there are several ways to affect the behavior of others: You can coerce them with threats, you can  induce them with payments, or you can attract or co-opt them.  Gulenists do not  have military might yet, so thus far they cannot  use the first two methods of  coercion; later they will use these tactics when they have hard power, like the  way the Ottomans taxed non-Muslims; however, Gulenists are co- opting soft power to shape the preferences of others. 

The most important tools of soft power for America are Hollywood and the giant  media industrial complex because Hollywood has been the largest machine of  dream-making and storytelling in human history.  Americans’ image is not only  what they do or who they are, but also how Americans present themselves to the  world through their global window. Hollywood has been the image of America as  the promise land of infinite possibility and opportunity where individual life,  liberty, and pursuit of happiness, middle class norms, rule of law, prosperity,  social mobility, and the most important thing--the appeal of the American  dream--for the world too were pictured by Hollywood. For centuries the world has  seen America through Hollywood’s window because it has been selling and telling the American version of stories since its inception. There is only one Hollywood in the world. Hollywood is a unique American phenomenon with immeasurable symbolism. The United States has remained the dominant influence on the world’s culture throughout the century. It has been the largest exporter of cultural commodities. 

The view of American culture may not correlate, however, with the market value.  According to a Pew Research Center poll, 60 percentage of Lebanese view  Americans as greedy and immoral, but at the same time Lebanon is one of  Hollywood’s biggest clients in the Middle East. Despite the anti-Americanism  triggered by Hollywood, the system is needed, not just for ideological tools but  also for Americanism overseas. Recognizing this weight, the American government used Hollywood as a tool to fight against Fascism and Communism. Washington eagerly sought to employ the Hollywood influence and soft power at home to curry favor for its far-reaching policies. Now the government is even using it to struggle against Islamic Fundamentalism. Yet, after 9/11 America indulged its curiosity about Islam and about who Muslims are while simultaneously reacting to a lot of fear that Muslims’ stories come from seeing only one side or from constantly hearing negative stories. 

Gulenists believe Muslims are portrayed as terrorists in mainstream television  and movies. They are trying to change the image by grooming a crop of aspiring  Turkish screenwriters who can bring their stories and perspective to Hollywood.  Gulenists believe that the reason the American culture has spread is tentacles  into every corner of the world is because Hollywood has dominated the majority  of the film market. Gulenists want to use this weapon mass soft power of cinema  to change worldview about Ottoman Empire Gulenist editor and chief of the Zaman newspaper, Ekrem Dumanli, wrote an article in the Zaman newspaper asking, “Should Hollywood apologize to Muslims? “ He expressed his views on Hollywood and the media. Gulenists in the USA are trying to appeal to the minorities in America. Dumanli says Hollywood is portraying Muslims as terrorists, so he is arguing that Hollywood should apologize to the Muslims and also encouraging more Muslims to be behind the cameras. The question is why does Ekrem Dumanli not suggest apologizing to all the Christians and Jews for the way they were portrayed in The Valley of Wolves, the Turkish-made movie?  The movie is about hate and prejudices and has no redeeming educational benefit; it is just produced to propagate hatred toward Jews and Americans. 

Under the Ottoman Empire Muslims’ power reached its zenith, and the Caliph was moved from Mecca to Istanbul. Gulenists are trying to make Istanbul the center  of power again by opening more universities, sending the more intelligent USA  students on free trips to Turkey, and even opening a kind of UN building.  In  the USA, Gülen operates the largest charter schools network in America and  enjoys the cooperation and protection of the USA government. His schools, NGOs, cultural centers, cooking classes, and conversation groups that teach Islam are all financed by the American tax payers; however, some of his schools have increasingly come under scrutiny because of the lack of accountability and their secret agenda to include curriculum that teaches the greatness of Ottoman Empire or Golden generation while denying the Holocaust. Tax payers finance classes on the Turkish language, dance, and culture, as well as lobbyists, political donations, and paid trips to Turkey for members of Congress and their staffs. USA readers should be challenged to ask their own state and national  Representatives and Senators if they have been offered or accepted such “tours” of Turkey.  In addition, the Gulenists bring many missionaries under H1-B visas  to staff Gulen’s schools with his Turkish followers.  Gulenists have considerable power in American politics and actively lobby Congress to promote his interests in Washington. Fethullah Gulen recently was honored under a Texas State Resolution, which praised him for his Harmony charter schools. This continues Turkey‘s soft power, which in 2005, allowed Turkey to become the General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Conference OIC, whose mission is to safeguard the interests of the Muslim world and to strengthen the Gulenists’ Islamic agenda as well as the Justice and Development Party (AKP’s)  stature. Gulenists’ missionary lobbyists are the main influence in Washington,  D.C. and around the world. It is true that to a large degree Jews have in the  past controlled the American media and Hollywood entertainment industry, but  today Jewish lobbyists are no longer the main actors in American foreign policy.  Hollywood conflates celebrities and politics, such as President Obama’s $2300 a plate gala fundraiser, and affective phenomenon that has not gone unnoticed by  the Gulnesist. The too now want to use the silver screen to mobilize both the  USA and its worldwide audience for their own political agenda. The glitter of  Hollywood and the Media indsitruies could advance the Gulenists cause,  Mesmerizing global audiences and propagating their message of Ottomanism.  

Other articles by Dr Aland Mizell  

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