The Role of Movies
in a Democratic Society

What's Really Going on in Hollywood: a speech delivered by John W. Cones to the Greater Los Angeles Mensa Society's 1998 Regional Gathering on
February 15th, 1998.


Our next speaker (originally from Texas), has been following the machinations of the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry fairly closely now for about 10 years. During that period, he has maintained a very narrowly focused securities/entertainment law practice based in Los Angeles through which he counsels independent feature film producers in relation to investor financing of their independent film projects. He is a member of the California, Texas and Beverly Hills Bar Associations, the Independent Feature Project, the Cultural Environment Movement and the Museum of Tolerance.

He has lectured to an aggregate of more than 4,500 film industry professionals about film finance (and its critical relationship to creative control), in some 175 seminar venues sponsored by the USC School of Cinema/Television, UCLA's graduate level Producer's Program, the American Film Institute, American University in Washington, D.C., California Lawyers for the Arts, the Caribbean Film Institute in Puerto Rico and other film industry organizations. In preparation for those lectures, he has conducted original research, studied business, legal and human aspects of the industry and created hundreds of pages of seminar handouts, based on that research. Those handouts have subsequently evolved into a dozen books. He also hosts a question and answer site on the Internet regarding investor financing of entertainment projects.

He readily concedes, however, that he's not a major player in the film industry, and wouldn't pretend to be. He merely holds himself out as a highly specialized attorney, making a small contribution to an important segment of the industry -- the independent film community. On the other hand, his position has provided him with an excellent perspective from which to observe and study this fascinating business, and based on the results of his studies, the truth about Hollywood as he has found it, compels him to be an outspoken film industry critic. Please help me welcome, attorney/author/lecturer John W. Cones, speaking on the Role of Movies in a Democratic Society (or What's Really Going on in Hollywood).


Historical Timeline

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, in the days ahead, this speech may be characterized by those who hear it and those who don't in a variety of ways, so I want to take this earliest opportunity to provide my perspective on what this speech is really all about. It may be fairly characterized as an overview of what's really going on in Hollywood, or as the first shot in a new phase in America's ongoing culture war, or even as the first step in a long needed film industry reform movement.

Set Stage

In any case, in order to create of a bit of context for what follows, I'd like to briefly take you back in time to review the order of occurrence of a certain number of historic events associated with our democracy. As you recall our U.S. Constitution was approved in 1787, and the Bill of Rights, including the free speech guarantee became law four years later in 1791. Of course, the motion picture wasn't even invented at the time and didn't come along until about a hundred years later in the 1890's, so obviously this form of communication wasn't considered as the free speech amendment was being drafted and debated. Feature-length films weren't exhibited in the U.S. until even later, in 1907, and Hollywood didn't assume its dominate role in the U.S. film industry until about 1915.

Burstyn v. Wilson

It then took our legal system another 37 years to fully appreciate the true nature of motion pictures, and the First Amendment right of free speech was finally applied to feature films in the 1952 U.S. Supreme Court case of Burstyn v. Wilson. The film industry, as you might expect welcomed the freedom, and has taken great advantage of it ever since.

Significant Medium

In making its decision, the Supreme Court accurately observed that the motion picture is a "significant medium for the communication of ideas". Of course, our democracy and this concept of free speech are based on the principle that a vigorous and free marketplace of ideas will eventually result in the emergence of the most worthy of those ideas as they relate to all kinds of important issues that confront and confound our society. In order for the citizens of our democracy to make informed judgments on debatable questions, they must be exposed to a fair representation of the ideas on all sides of such issues. That's why we place such a high value on freedom of speech. That's why free speech is such an essential part of our democracy. And, the reason the constitutional right to free speech applies to film is precisely because the motion picture is a significant medium for the communication of ideas.

No Free Market

Unfortunately, the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry, (which, by the way, dominates this communications medium in the U.S. and around the world) is neither a free market, nor a level playing field, nor is it even based on merit. As you will see, it severely limits freedom of speech in this country by arbitrarily restricting who gets to express their ideas through this important communications medium. Thus, not all ideas that could be promoted through film have had an equal opportunity to be expressed. Therefore, our democracy's overall free marketplace of ideas is flawed because a single important communications medium is significantly biased.

Movies Promote

Of course, some of you may question the very notion that movies promote ideas at all. But, if that's the case, it's likely that your thinking has been influenced by some of the people who control the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry, who falsely maintain to this day that movies are "merely entertainment", and that as far as Hollywood goes, it's "all about money."

Myth Mongers

In making such false claims about the true nature of motion pictures however, these Hollywood "myth-mongers", as I sometimes affectionately refer to them, are choosing to ignore another part of the Supreme Court's Burstyn v. Wilson decision in which the Court declared that the importance of movies as an "organ of public opinion is not lessened by the fact that they are designed to entertain as well as to inform . . . " In support of the Supreme Court's correct view on this issue (which, incidently, was the same position put forth by the film industry in the Burstyn v. Wilson case), I will demonstrate today that there's much more going on with movies than mere entertainment, and because of that, what we have come to think of as the institution of Hollywood is clearly about much more than just money.

More than Entertainment

First, the motion picture is and always has been more than mere entertainment, it is (as the Supreme Court states) a significant medium for the communication of ideas. In my view, the motion picture is one of the most effective forms of communication yet devised by human kind. When you consider how much money, resources and talent go into creating the compressed 2 to 3 hours of the experience we call a feature film, there can be no doubt that a motion picture is an extremely effective form of communication. Just imagine how effective you could be in communicating something that was important to you if you were given $30 to $40 million dollars, had a couple of years to devote to the project and could hire some of the world's best writers, directors, actors, actresses, cinematographers and composers, along with all the other talented individuals whose services are routinely used in creating the magic in motion pictures.

Increase Sales

The manufacturers of hundreds of commercial products have not overlooked these realities and they routinely pay thousands of dollars just to have their products seen and sometimes used in movies. Why? Because this film exposure has repeatedly proven to increase sales; the mere appearance of such products on the big screen clearly influences peoples' decisions with respect to how they spend their money.

Products Promoted

Over the years, this form of "mere entertainment" called movies has been effectively used to promote sun glasses, toys, cellular phones, automobiles, motorcycles, sports utility vehicles, car rental agencies, guns, watches, hair styles, cosmetics, clothes, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, VISA cards, fast food, hard liquor, cigarettes and beer. The most recent James Bond movie is reported to have earned nearly $100 million dollars (an amount just about equal to the estimated production cost of the film), even before the movie was released, solely from merchandising tie-ins and product placements. I submit that the many business leaders around the world who make such decisions, are not so imperceptive that they would invest $100 million dollars in motion picture-related promotion for a single film without a solid basis for knowing that movies influence human behavior, at least some of the subsequent lifestyle and commercial choices of those moviegoers.

Social Change

In addition to influencing a significant variety of commercial decisions and associated conduct, the idea that movies can be a powerful agent for positive social change is so widely accepted that members of the so-called "entertainment community" itself have created an organization referred to as the Entertainment Industries Council dedicated to the purpose of serving as a bridge between the entertainment community and the public interest in addressing health and social issues through films.

Campaign Success

One of this group's successful campaigns has been to encourage the use of auto seat belts through more positive portrayals of their use in movies. Another of their efforts focuses on the portrayals of drug use in films. There have also been other organized efforts over the years to insert blatant, mostly liberal-oriented, political and environmental messages into Hollywood films, along with another little known but effective organized movement to eliminate or reduce the negative portrayals of one certain specific population in our society from Hollywood movies, all activities based on the accurate premise that movies can make a difference.

Changed Lives

Not only do movies influence human thinking and behavior, they sometimes actually bring about pivotal changes in people's lives. David Rosenberg collected some of the evidence in support of that assertion in the form of 23 essays from prominent people all over the world and he published them in his book entitled: The Movie That Changed My Life.


Those essayists were authors, poets, university professors, novelists and literary critics who reported various life-changing reactions to films including developing moral notions, influencing one's ability to write, patterning an adult life after a character in a movie, producing the realization of entitlement to a career in a woman, providing a new consciousness about sexist stereotypes, changing attitudes towards war, altering a person's thinking about the world and himself, encouraging people to depart from society's norms, and creating a realization that a troubled person hovering at the edge of violence could be sent over the brink to commit it by scenes in a movie.

Theater Door

This last observation reminds us that no one stands at the theater door making judgments about the intelligence or mental stability of any of the millions of moviegoers who proceed into that darkened and ritualistic environment, so it is entirely possible, that violence on the screen, for example, mixed with an unstable personality in the audience, could result in disaster. Powerful visual images and impressionable minds is not a combination with which we should be careless.

Negative Influence

We'd actually have to be suffering from a rather severe form of mental disconnect not to recognize that if movies can help bring about positive changes in beliefs, lifestyles and behavior (and they do), movies can also help bring about a full range of less-desirable negative changes. As you know all too well, Hollywood films convey many powerful images and ideas that are clearly not positive. In addition to the excessive and graphic violence, gratuitous and sometimes bizarre sex, foul language, pro-drug, counter-religious, partial to smoking and anti-authority motion picture themes that many have complained about for so long, Hollywood continues to engage in what I consider to be one of its most socially irresponsible vices, the consistent portrayal through movies of certain populations of our diverse society in a negative or stereotypical manner.

Specific Groups

Specific groups victimized by these powerful, prejudicial, all too consistent, but wholly unnecessary movie portrayals throughout the years have included Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Asian-Americans, Arabs and Arab-Americans, Italian-Americans, the elderly, women, gays/lesbians, Christians, Muslims and another "eccentric" little group of which I'm quite fond, White Folks from the American South. You tell me the last time and how often you've seen a fully positive portrayal of a White Southerner, a Christian or an Arab in a Hollywood major studio release. You must know these observations about negative patterns of Hollywood movie bias are true when the most common answer to the question regarding the last positive portrayal of a White Southerner in a Hollywood movie is Rhett Butler. And, he was a blockade running, gambling opportunist and war profiteer, for heaven's sake!

Movie Messages

Film industry pioneer Samuel Goldwyn is frequently credited with saying: "If you want to send a message, go to Western Union . . . " suggesting that movies should not be used to communicate messages. Assuming he made a statement to that effect, Goldwyn was wrong! The truth is that all movies send messages of one sort or another; all movies communicate ideas. In addition to the many other reasons set forth here today, movies are more than mere entertainment, precisely because all movies communicate ideas.

Influence of Ideas

Further, we have to acknowledge that throughout the history of Civilization, of ideas have always and will always be a significant source of motivation for human conduct. Just think with me here for a moment about how much influence a limited number of important ideas have had on the course of human history and individual behavior: life after death, one God, prophecy, evolution, free will, equality, self-government, manifest destiny, pacifism, free enterprise, monogamy, civil rights and women's rights. This simple exercise makes it clear that ideas motivate a great deal of human conduct.

Logical Proof

Thus, we can prove by pure logic alone (and nothing more is required to justify acting on that logic), that movies influence people's conduct. Simply stated as a valid proposition, movies communicate ideas, ideas influence human behavior, therefore movies must also influence some human behavior. Surely, no one would take the position that ideas communicated through books (such as children's books, novels, the Torah, Koran or Bible), or ideas communicated through magazines, newspapers, radio, television or the Internet cannot influence human behavior. Thus, it would be disingenuous indeed for anyone to pretend that ideas communicated through film would have any less potential for influence on human conduct.

Influencing Children

Certainly we can also agree that movies influence the thinking and behavior of some of our less educated or sophisticated moviegoers, including some of our not so well-adjusted teenagers, and of course our younger children. As you know, some of these particularly vulnerable individuals in this latter group have traditionally been taught by their parents not to talk strangers, and often with good reason. Ironically, the Hollywood movie-makers have become one of the modern-day equivalents to the "strangers" parents have so persistently urged their children to avoid.

Hollywood Strangers

The sight of one of these Hollywood filmmakers that you don't know, actually talking to your child in real life might justifiably terrify you. But even worse, this technologically advanced form of communication taking place fairly regularly with many of our children through film is presumably occurring with your permission and it's essentially one-way. We have very little influence over the messages these often-times rather arrogant "strangers" are communicating through this powerful medium. You may rightfully fear the physical harm that a stranger can inflict on your child, but you must also guard against the harmful ideas strangers can implant in your child's mind.

Parent's Job

At this point, some of you may be thinking: "Well it's the parents' responsibility to preview movies before their kids see them, and isn't it true that moviegoers vote with their pocketbooks . . . "? These are two more of the myths that the major studio/distributors have worked hard to get you to believe, as they continue their effort to both deny the influence of movies and to shift blame.

Physically Impossible

On the other hand, in addition to being physically impossible for parents to preview all of such movies, we have to remember that the major studio/distributors spend nearly $20 million dollars per film on average in creating some of the most expertly designed, sophisticated and all-pervasive movie promotion, publicity and advertising dedicated solely to the purpose of seducing a mass audience into paying good money to see their limited choice of films, some of which are of questionable value. And, notwithstanding the brilliance of this audience, the truth is that the vast majority of the target audiences for these movie-promotion messages in this country and elsewhere do not have sufficient critical thinking skills to resist these powerful, repetitive and often misleading mass media messages.

Pre-Judging Movies

So, it really doesn't make much difference if a Hollywood movie is any good or not, or good or bad for its intended audience, most people do not have to enough timely, adequate and objective information to effectively pre-judge the suitability of a motion picture for any audience. Thus, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to prevent our children from being exposed to some form of this movie promotion, and their inevitable resulting and often hysterical compulsion to see such movies. It is equally difficult to know in advance which movies are right for your kids. The MPAA ratings system, given to us by an organization controlled by the same people who produce and release the movies, has never provided adequate information for this purpose, and it ought to be replaced, possibly with a system of Congressionally-mandated, privately-owned, commercially operated independent movie rating and review services.

Portray Prejudice

In any case, it should be obvious to the most casual observer that during a significant segment of any lifetime, repeatedly watching hundreds of powerful motion picture images consistently portraying whole populations of our diverse society in a negative or stereotypical manner can contribute to prejudicial thinking, which in turn, is often the basis of real-life discriminatory behavior, directed toward those same falsely portrayed populations. At minimum (with regard to this issue), we must concede: movies that consistently portray certain people in a negative or stereotypical manner are clearly not helping us solve our society's problems of misunderstanding and mistrust, but more likely, making them worse.

Biased Biopics

Further, the studies of Professor George Custen, extended by my own, show that Hollywood's motion picture biographies, (the 443 movies about the lives of real people), exhibit similar unacceptable patterns of bias. Certain groups such as European royalty and entertainers have been overwhelmingly favored by the makers of Hollywood biopics. Blacks and Latinos have (as a general rule), been irresponsibly overlooked. Most of the mere 16 Blacks featured in Hollywood biopics have been limited to just two occupations: athletes or entertainers. The even smaller number of biopics focusing on the lives of Latinos have only portrayed two entertainers, one outlaw and a Mexican revolutionary. Hollywood producers of biopics have collectively made the shameful choice of producing more film biographies of criminals, gangsters and outlaws than for all Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans considered together.

Other Biased

People from just two continents (Europe and North America) have been preferred in Hollywood biopics over all others. Men have been favored over Biopics women by far, and the bulk of female motion picture biographies are limited to portrayals of only two types of women: entertainers and paramours. Biopics of political liberals have been much more common than those of conservatives. A disproportionately large number of biopics presented Jewish subjects. These were generally favorable and included diverse occupations. Only 5% of Hollywood biopics featured White Southerners, and those that did usually presented gangsters, outlaws or the relatively harmless but stereotypical country-western singer. Also, Hollywood's biopics have consistently been historically inaccurate, and that's extremely unfortunate since it appears likely (as others have observed) that even well-educated Americans are learning much of what they think is history through film presentations.

Legacy Results

In addition to these patterns of negative portrayals and biased biopics, one of my books, Legacy of the Hollywood Empire, reminds us that the unique circumstances of the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry have also, otherwise resulted in an emphasis on so-called 'commercial films', lowest common denominator movies, homogeneous films, exploitation fare, movies that can be easily marketed (so-called high concept movies), packaged films, sequels, remakes and, quite often, just plain mediocre to bad movies (in other words, lesser quality films and certainly less diversity in movies than we might otherwise expect and be able to view in a truly free market/merit system).

Unique Movies

Why is this happening? More specifically, why do movies portray these incredibly misleading stereotypes and such limited views of the world? Well, partly because, movies are different from most other products produced in this country. Movies, to a large extent, mirror the values, interests, cultural perspectives and prejudices of their makers. Let's consider that statement again, because this concept regarding another aspect of the true nature of feature films plays an important role in helping us to understand the overall problem with Hollywood. Movies, to a large extent, mirror the values, interests, cultural perspectives and prejudices of their makers.

Control Relevant

Ladies and gentlemen, this means, it is absolutely relevant, entirely appropriate and essential for all of us concerned about the impact of movies on society to know exactly who in Hollywood has the power to make the key decisions with respect to which movies are produced and released, to determine who gets to work in the top positions on those movies and to approve the screenplays that serve as the basis for such motion pictures. These are the people who create, encourage or tolerate these patterns of bias, and we cannot fully understand the nature of the problem without knowing who these people are. This is particularly important with respect to the major studios and their releases because those are the films seen by about 92% of all theatrical moviegoers in the domestic marketplace, and these same movies represent a significant percentage of the films seen in most other countries.

Objective Discussion

As opposed to the many others in the past who have merely expressed a rather crude and subjective opinion about this issue of who controls Hollywood, I've actually conducted a study. And, I think it is time for us (as a nation) to get past our inability to discuss this issue objectively.

Who Controls Hollywood

First, my studies demonstrate that the people who still determine which movies the vast majority of American audiences see on the screen (that is, the real Hollywood movie "makers") are the three top studio executives at the so-called major studio/distributors (that is, the top executives at Paramount, Universal, Disney, Sony [including Columbia/TriStar], Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and MGM). Despite what you may be told about influence on a small number of important films from other sources, like certain powerful actors, agents and directors, these top studio executives are the people who directly control the important level of Hollywood decision-making I've described, and they have exercised that control for the nearly 90-year history of the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry.

Specific Group

My studies demonstrate further that the most honest, accurate and fair description of the relevant characteristics and backgrounds of the members of this Hollywood control group is that a clear majority of it's members are politically liberal, not very religious, Jewish males of European heritage. My own experience suggests, by the way, that the members of this narrowly-defined Hollywood control group do not behave the way they do because they are Jewish, nor is their behavior typical of the much broader so-called Jewish community. Thus, we are only talking here about the well-documented behavior of a small group of unrepresentative individuals. But, once again, since movies tend to mirror the values, interests, cultural perspectives and prejudices of their makers (and motion pictures are a significant medium for the communication of ideas) it is essential in a democracy that we know as much about the backgrounds of these individuals as possible.

Study Data

On the other hand, some of you may wonder how one goes about developing the supporting data for this rather precise, and never before articulated definition, of the Hollywood control group. It's not that difficult and my study of this topic can be reproduced by anyone so inclined. In fact, I encourage, even challenge others to conduct and report their own research on this important issue, and I'm disappointed that the academic community here in the U.S. has been so incredibly timid about pursuing any kind of studies that might turn out to be critical of the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry.

Create List

In any event, once you have determined that the top three major studio executives are the individuals who have the power to make the important decisions noted earlier, it's only necessary to next create a list of who has filled those executive positions throughout the existence of these companies. My list included 226 studio executives. With that list of names, segregated by company in one vertical column on the left, I created a 2nd column indicating male or female, a 3rd column denoting race (for lack of a better term), and a final column for religious/cultural background. Then you go to the books and articles, the available biographical collections, the autobiographies of each of these individuals and the press clipping files maintained on these studio executives at the Academy Library. From those sources, all noted in my study, you can easily see that the backgrounds of an overwhelming majority of these studio executives are exactly as I have described them.

Best Study

I'm sure that some may eventually contend they've found flaws in my study or its methodology, but thus far, if I may so humbly state, it's the best study of its kind ever conducted. No other study, or description of who controls Hollywood, including those offered in the earlier writings of Hortense Powdermaker, Neal Gabler, Michael Medved, David Prindle, Joel Kotkin, Dan Moldea, Paul Rosenfield or Pierce O'Donnell, are as accurate. And, all of these distinguished authors, each of whom have made valuable contributions to our understanding of this industry, have addressed this same important question of who controls Hollywood, in one limited form or another, although some really went out of their way to tap dance around the truth on this particular issue.

Revising History

Now, earlier we talked about how many people learn a great deal of their history through film. I want to give you just one specific example from my books of how Hollywood has effectively engaged in a subtle but sophisticated form of historical revisionism. At one point in my studies, I listed all of the films I could find that primarily dealt with slavery. I identified 23 of those in the set of reviews used for this study and noted in my bibliographies. This was also pre-Amistad (a film that does not change the results of the study).

Slave Portrayals

Then, I sought to determine, merely by reading the available reviews, what kind of people were portrayed as slaves in those films. One of the films depicted Asian slaves, people specifically identified as Jewish slaves appeared in three, persons otherwise described as white slaves were in five and Black slaves were portrayed in fourteen.

Slave Owners

On the other side of slavery, the slave owner portrayals in these same films included one each of Arab, Babylonian and Chinese, two Roman and 15 slave owners who could only be described as white, eleven of whom were specifically identified as white Southerners in the U.S.

Jewish-backed Hollywood

Recognizing, based on the previously cited study, that in most instances, the key decision-makers who decided to approve of the production and/or release of these film depictions of slavery had a Jewish background, and noting that none of these films in the study portrayed Jews as slave owners (although some did portray Jews as slaves), I then went to the history books to determine whether this particular body of films offered a fair and honest sampling of who the slave owners were in real life.

Historical Sources

Using such reputable sources as Dr. Geoffrey Wigoder's New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia and Judah Gribetz's Timetables of Jewish History, among others, I was able to confirm Jewish ownership of slaves in Judea two hundred years before the Common Era, in Rome in 315 A.D., in Spain about 506 A.D., a Jewish slave trade in pagan slaves being sold to Muslims in Africa and Asia in 825 A.D., a Jewish loss of slave trade to enterprising Italian Christians in 900 A.D., a record of Jewish ownership of Muslim slaves in 1115 A.D. . . .

More Owners

. . . Christian slaves owned by Jews in 1233, Jewish merchants engaging in a slave trade involving non-Jewish slaves in the Middle Ages and Jewish slave-owners of Black slaves in the West Indies, here in the Americas. As it turns out, there were also Jewish slave-owners in the southern states of the U.S. Howard Sachar reports in his book A History of the Jews in America, there is no record of any Southern rabbi expressing criticism of slavery and several of them owned slaves. Some Jewish men were also involved in the white slave trade here in the U.S. in the early 1900s and there were other confirmed reports of Jewish involvement in white slave trafficking in Los Angeles as recent as the 1930s.

No Jewish Slave-Owner Films

Now, without criticizing anyone for the supposed transgressions of today's standards by some of our cultural or other ancestors (and that principle should apply across the board for all of our ancestors) my analysis simply demonstrates In that Hollywood filmmakers, with all of this history and its associated stories available for use in films, have seemed much too eager to send up movies depicting slave owners who were Roman, Egyptian, Libyan, Middle Eastern, Chinese and primarily White Southerners here in the U.S., but not nearly as eager to produce and distribute films telling stories based on the historical facts that some Jewish men were involved in white slave trafficking, owned slaves in the South, the West Indies, and various other parts of the world, and were actually involved in some of the slave running and/or dealing that brought slavery to the American South. My guess is there just never have been any good screenplays based on these particular historical facts.

Spin on Slavery

The truth is that this Hollywood spin on slavery actually rises to a level of historical revisionism through selective omission (or suppression) of historical facts, by a very intelligent and well informed group of people who control Hollywood, who can easily foresee the results of their choices and who seem to have an interest in using the power of feature films to cleanse their history of limited involvement in such matters, while calling attention to the involvement of others. Now, if you multiply this one instance of fact manipulation in movies by the thousands of important issues that have been and can be dramatically portrayed in Hollywood films, you can see what enormous power resides in the hands of any narrowly-defined group that happens to control the Hollywood filmmaking apparatus.

Favored Portrayals

Interestingly enough, in addition to the historical revisionism, the negative portrayals and the biased biopics already reported, Hollywood films considered in general, have also tended to provide a disproportionate number of and more favorable portrayals of members of the Hollywood insiders' own specific, but broader religious/cultural group. The one organized effort mentioned earlier that has been provided direct access to Hollywood insiders, and has been allowed to successfully engage in censoring or influencing Hollywood filmmakers to omit or change many of the proposed negative portrayals of their group members in films was the Jewish Film Advisory Committee.

Community Relations

It was an offshoot of the Los Angeles Jewish Community Relations Council and was referred to by Neal Gabler, in his book An Empire of Their Own--How the Jews Invented Hollywood, as a "Jewish clearance board", more specifically, a Jewish community group organized solely for the purpose of making certain that Hollywood screenplays and films did not present Jews in such a way as to arouse prejudice. Not only does this activity add an enormous amount of credibility to the assertion that movies influence people's beliefs and behavior, the really troubling thing about it is that no other group in our society has ever been allowed such access to the Hollywood filmmaking community, and many of those groups previously mentioned as having been consistently portrayed in a negative or stereotypical manner have tried repeatedly.

Potential Prejudice

If there is any potential for arousing prejudice against one group in our society through occasional negative portrayals in films, it must also be true that the consistent negative or stereotypical portrayals of others in films would do the same. It is not acceptable in our society to allow one group to have special privileges, while arbitrarily denying those privileges to all others.

Hypocrisy Height

This appears to be very near the height of hypocrisy for members of a single religious/cultural group, some of whom have publicly characterized movies as "mere entertainment" to privately allow members of that same religious/cultural group to censor negative portrayals of their group members in films, for the express purpose of preventing prejudice in moviegoers, because that conduct obviously means the Hollywood control group itself knows that movies are more than mere entertainment, that movies, in fact, influence the thinking and behavior of individuals. The only acceptable solution is to do everything necessary and proper to make certain that all have the same fair access to this powerful communications medium.

Movie Propaganda

Viewed in conjunction with the just mentioned overall patterns of bias, fact-manipulation and negative Hollywood film stereotypes of those who do not control Hollywood, this added element of favoritism for a single group (some of whose members do control Hollywood) makes it apparent (whether consciously intended or not) that movies are effectively being used as a deceptive but powerful form of propaganda, disseminated by a private sub-group within our society, and supported ironically, by the action or, more often, the inaction of our own federal government, along with all the rest of us who pay to see such movies (partly because that's what's available to be seen),or those of us who buy any of the products these movies promote.

Best of Propaganda

Of course, as all good propagandists know, the systematic dissemination of advocated information, designed and passed off as mere entertainment is generally one of the most effective forms of propaganda. Further, we must all recognize that one of the important differences between a democracy and a fascist totalitarian state is that in a democracy, we don't try to control the masses with military force, rather we use information. Thus, control of any important form of communication in a democratic society is a critical factor in determining the thinking and behavior of members of that society because such a communications medium helps to determine the nature of the information to which our citizens are exposed. It does seem that Hollywood is very much into what Noam Chomsky referred to as "manufacturing consent".

Unfair Practices

Now, to make matters much worse and even more intolerable with respect to Hollywood, my studies demonstrate that this small narrowly-defined Hollywood control group (also sometimes referred to in the extensive industry literature as the Hollywood establishment, traditional Hollywood management, the Hollywood insiders or as just The Club) has gained and has maintained its control over the U.S. film industry through the consistent use of several hundred specifically identifiable unfair, unethical, unconscionable, anti-competitive, predatory and illegal business practices. I specifically identify, describe and discuss these business practices in varying degrees of detail in three of my published books.

Outsider Exclusion

In addition to all of the patterns of bias in Hollywood films noted earlier, this narrow control of Hollywood has generally resulted in the systematic and arbitrary exclusion of those who may be considered "outsiders" from positions of control at the major studio/distributors, the top entertainment law firms, the most powerful talent agencies, profit participation audit firms and other film industry-related service providers. An insidious network of social and cultural relationships based on reciprocal preferences for Hollywood insiders and those closely associated with them has long enveloped this industry. In Hollywood, that is the most accurate interpretation of the commonly offered and deceptive rationalization: "It's a relationship business."

Job Bias

Specifically, the executives of the Hollywood major studio/distributors have engaged in wholesale employment discrimination from corporate top to bottom for nearly 90 years. Not only has that discrimination destroyed the career opportunities and livelihoods of thousands of Blacks, Latinos, women, Arab-Americans, Asian-Americans, Whites from the American South, among others, but these Hollywood employers have also historically shown several distinct hiring preferences, including a strong preference for employing specific immigrants from just 4 or 5 European countries, as opposed to hiring equally talented persons already in the U.S. (or from other parts of the world), and even when no demonstrated need for the employment of immigrants was apparent. If you steal a car in this country, you might very well go to prison. If, on the other hand, you arbitrarily destroy someone else's career by hiring your less-deserving cultural cousin for a high-paid Hollywood studio job, our government generally looks the other way.

Antitrust Violations

My studies further reveal that the Hollywood control group has also consistently violated U.S. antitrust laws and continues to do so today. The rampant vertical integration in this industry is clearly anti-competitive. Prohibited block booking has never gone away (it's simply been transformed into the so-called "blockbuster" or "tentpole" strategy). Arbitrary reciprocal preferences among businesses that are supposed to be competing is an illegal trade practice. Movies have never been sold to exhibitors on a movie-by-movie, theater-by-theatre basis as required by law. Talent agency packaging is a prohibited tie-in and the revenue sharing scheme for video sales rises to the level of impermissible conscious parallelism. Most of the major studios, in fact, generally have long-operated as a shared monopoly, which in antitrust terms is an illegal oligopoly.

Nation of Laws

Some of you may be shocked by these allegations, because you've been of Laws convinced that ours is a nation of laws, and you're confident that lawbreakers can't get away with illegal conduct for long. I too once believed that very thing, but unfortunately, I can no longer agree with that assessment, particularly as applied to the film industry. Among other reasons, the Federal Election Commission records show that the arbitrarily selected and excessively overpaid Hollywood studio executives, their spouses and multiple political action committees gave some $23.5 million dollars in so-called "political contributions" during a recent five year reporting period to candidates for the U.S. Presidency (from both major political parties) and in key Congressional races.

Justice Department

Consequently, it is absolutely absurd for us to expect, or even hope, that any U.S. President who accepts such "generosity" would turn around and direct the head of the Justice Department to vigorously enforce existing federal antitrust laws in the film industry. Of course, a similar phenomenon occurs at the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, in Congress and at the local level with District Attorneys. We have to face up to the fact that our system of justice is vulnerable to the indirect political bribe, particularly in this area of white-collar crime. And, that is one of the important reasons why the antitrust law violations in the film industry are occurring and will continue to occur until the U.S. public becomes sufficiently informed and outraged to force an end to the practices.

Adhesive Contracts

Further, most, if not all of the major studio film distribution agreements are contracts of adhesion filled with multiple unconscionable provisions. They have been specifically drafted to give these vertically-integrated, distributor-dominated major studios whatever discretion is necessary to prevent revenue generated by the exploitation of any motion picture they distribute from flowing past the distributor to net and gross profit participants, including directors, actors, actresses, screenwriters, authors and most closely associated with my law practice and livelihood, the independent producers and their "outsider" investors in independently produced films.

Creative Control

This illegal control of the revenue streams generated by the exploitation of feature films in all markets and media, is routinely converted, in turn, into creative control over future motion pictures. In Hollywood, he who has the gold, rules.

Circle of Control

Thus, we come full circle back to the reasons why the previously cited blatant patterns of bias exist in Hollywood films. Illegal business practices have been used to gain and maintain control of the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry. That control has been used to hire generation after generation of individuals with similar backgrounds and interests for the key executive positions at the major studios. Additional unscrupulous business practices have been used to extract unconscionable profits from the studio movies and to retain most of those profits within the Hollywood insider community.

Uses of Money

Some of that money is used to keep the government at bay. Other illicit revenues are used to employ the services of some of the best hired guns for legal and legislative protection. Some is used to buy the loyalty and silence of high-profile members of the creative community. Other portions of these funds are used for outrageous producer deals on the studio lots for outgoing studio executives or "super golden parachutes" for these same individuals. Still other such monies are used for giving insider development deals to the girl friends, wives, other friends and family members of studio executives. Additional funds are used for philanthropic purposes to help gloss over what's really going on in Hollywood and to soften potential sources of criticism. Still other profits are used to attract other people's money to cover the costs associated with the production and release of the movies the Hollywood insiders choose. Most of the rest of us are irrelevant.

Perfect Crime

With all of the admiration one might muster for such a thing, some may reasonably choose to describe the Hollywood game as the "perfect crime". Its victims go far beyond the small production, distribution and exhibition companies in this country and around the world that are unfairly squeezed out of the marketplace each year by the predatory business practices of the majors, far beyond the many screenwriters whose ideas and screenplays are stolen annually without sufficient remedy . . .

More Victims

. . . far beyond the diverse community of "outsider" filmmakers whose many stories cannot be told through film because they've been shut out of Hollywood, far beyond the thousands of struggling members of the creative community who don't even realize the playing field is titled in favor of the Hollywood insiders (or if they do, they're so fearful of being blacklisted they won't speak out), far beyond the hundreds of attractive young men and women who are lured to Hollywood every year by prospects of fame and fortune, only to end up having to sell their bodies to survive, or even worse, literally never being heard from again . . .

Even More Victims

. . . far beyond all those persons who are cheated out of their fair share of the economic upside of their own films, far beyond the millions of moviegoers who are regularly deceived about the subject, suitability or quality of the films they pay money to see, far beyond the thousands of college level film students who have been misled into thinking there are reasonable opportunities waiting for them in the U.S. film industry, far beyond segments of the U.S. academic community whose intellectual honesty has been compromised by Hollywood intimidation -- to all citizens who have to cope with the powerful negative impact of irresponsible visual images and biased motion pictures on all of the world's societies. Wrongful Conduct The behavior of this Hollywood control group has been so reprehensible that over a period of some 50 years, three different informed and sophisticated individuals who were specifically knowledgeable about the operation of the film industry (a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, the federal judge who supervised 30 years of film industry compliance [or non-compliance] with the Paramount Consent decrees and the Los Angeles-based litigating attorney who sued Paramount on behalf of Art Buchwald), all proclaimed in writing that the Hollywood control group has a "proclivity for wrongful conduct."

Insider Defense

In their own defense, the Hollywood insiders have historically used a series of myths, smokescreens and straw-man arguments disseminated through the world's most powerful and highly-paid PR machine (aided by a partisan trade press), to cloud public discussion and understanding of these important issues. Hollywood has discovered there's more than one way to distort the marketplace of ideas, and make democracy serve its special interests and needs. With its enormous money and power Hollywood has been able to effectively confuse the issues, distract people's attention or just talk longer and louder than all the rest.

The Anti-Semitic Sword

I refer to one of these smokescreens as the anti-Semitic sword -- that is the affirmative use of a false and unsupported accusation of anti-Semitism made for the specific purpose of intimidating some potential critics (in other words, creating a chilling effect on their speech), or distracting attention from the truth of the statements made by the film industry critics who have the courage to speak out.

Fair Chance

That false accusation has been directed toward a number of Hollywood out-siders over the years, and has already been directed toward me once, (which is For All quite enough, thank you). On the other hand, all I'm trying to do is present the truth about Hollywood. The most accurate characterization of my position is that I simply favor fair opportunities for all in the film industry, and only offer honest, well-researched criticism of the behavior of that small group of Hollywood insiders who chose to gain and maintain control over Hollywood, and who happen to be Jewish males of European heritage, two factual circumstances, over which I have no control. In addition, I think people should not be allowed to succeed in hiding behind emotionally-charged false accusations designed to mask continued wrongdoing.

No Anti-Semitism

So just briefly, since the accusation has already been made (and in an attempt to preempt repetition of this historical and inaccurate argument), why are my statements directed toward the Hollywood establishment not anti-Semitic? Because, as you know, anti-Semitism requires hostility directed toward Jews generally, or toward a single individual because he or she is Jewish. First, my remarks only rise to the level of honest criticism of someone's business-related behavior, and mere criticism can never be equated to hostility. Even more important, I'm not making any broad statements about Jews generally, nor am I being critical of anyone because they are Jewish. There is simply no evidence of that in my lectures, my writings or my life. Anyone who suggests otherwise is uninformed, confused or dishonest.

Narrow Control

In the broadest sense, it's my view, that it is inappropriate in our multi-cultural society for any readily identifiable interest group (whether the group identity is based on ethnicity, culture, religion, race, class, region of origin, sex or sexual preference, or otherwise) to be allowed to dominate or control any important communications medium, including film.

Federal Help

Now, you may be surprised to know that our federal government has a long and well-documented history of being highly involved in helping the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry achieve its dominance over both the domestic and international film markets. Although, from time to time, our government has ineptly and unsuccessfully attempted to limit Hollywood's excesses in this regard.

Proper Role

On the other hand, our federal government has a legitimate interest and role to play (indeed, a duty and obligation) to stop, or at least fully investigate and consider all appropriate remedies, for any of the employment discrimination and antitrust law violations, along with the hundreds of other questionable business practices routinely utilized by the Hollywood major studio/distributors.

General Welfare

In addition to any available private remedies that I might encourage, such as class action lawsuits based on antitrust and racketeering statutes, or more broad-based economic boycotts than ever before instigated, our federal government, through all legitimate means necessary, has the right and the obligation to protect the constitutionally ordained general welfare of all our citizens from what George Gerbner called the "pollution of our cultural environment". Furthermore, our government has the right and a duty to ensure that all U.S. citizens, no matter what race, culture, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual preference or region of origin, have an equal and fair opportunity to participate at all levels of the U.S. film industry, with the appropriate long-term objectives of ensuring that our feature films more accurately reflect the diversity of our multi-cultural society, and communicate greater diversity in the marketplace of ideas. The search for truth deserves no less.

Cultural Stories

In other words, none of our cultural groups should be arbitrarily denied the opportunity to tell their important cultural stories (the way they want to tell them), through this significant medium for the communication of ideas. No one should be allowed to force members of other cultures to filter their important stories through the cultural sensibilities of a small, rather homogeneous group of film industry gate-keepers, which is exactly what is happening in Hollywood today, and that is exactly what has been occurring for the nearly 90-year history of the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry. After all, as noted earlier, movies are somewhat unique -- to a large extent, they mirror the values, interests, cultural perspectives and prejudices of their makers. On the other hand, the Hollywood control group is much too narrow in scope, and its members are prejudiced indeed.

Weaken Democracy

Ultimately, as already pointed out by the Supreme Court, the motion picture is a significant medium for the communication of ideas. And, in a democratic society, we cannot afford to stand by and allow any single narrowly-defined interest group to control or even dominate any of our important communications media, because that inaction will inevitably weaken, if not destroy, our cherished democracy.

Injustice Everywhere

As the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. once so accurately observed: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere", thus Hollywood where must not be allowed to perpetuate its long-standing and continuing series of injustices upon our supposedly democratic society. Among the many other injustices pointed out here today, the Hollywood control group has been hiding behind the protection of the First Amendment right of free speech, while using a remarkable variety of strategies and techniques to arbitrarily deny others the opportunity to communicate through film. If we want to preserve our democracy and make the world a better place, we need to start with what we communicate to each other, and who gets to communicate.


For substantiating documentation on the above speech as well as insights into what is really going on in the Hollywood feature film industry, read the following books by John Cones:

The Feature Film Distribution Deal; A Critical Analysis of the Single Most Important Film Industry Agreement

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