Recruiting Hollywood

The White House knows who's best at packaging words and pictures to grab an audience's attention. That's why top Bush adviser Karl Rove recently met with Hollywood filmmakers to talk over how they might contribute to the current "war" effort, encourage volunteerism, and not confuse terrorism with Islam.

Hollywood, of course, has played this role before. World War II films glorified the American soldier. The studios also produced some patriotic war documentaries. Stars have long participated in USO shows.

But a lot of history has been written since the 1940s, and today's Hollywood isn't about to serve as a propaganda machine. It's not reluctant, however, to take a hand in the counter-terror campaign - providing stars to help get across war messages and shipping off first-run movies to entertain the troops.

In fact, filmmakers' involvement with the military goes a bit deeper than that. Long before Sept. 11, some Hollywood creative types were working with the Pentagon to fashion realistic simulations of national security crises to help train officers.

There's irony in seeing Washington reach out to Hollywood for expertise. Politicians are more used to lambasting Tinseltown for its violent movie themes. Real-life violence has now brought old adversaries together.

Hollywood may have some useful ideas to offer. It wouldn't hurt, either, if this new dialogue led to some fresh thinking about what films can do to celebrate some of the things most needed in today's world, such as moral courage and service to others.

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