Lights! Camera! No Action

After the LA riots last year, actress Barbara Streisand donated $100,000 to rebuilding the city. That sounds like a lot of money . . . until you realize that during the presidential campaign Streisand helped raise $1.3 million in a single evening for Bill Clinton and other Democratic candidates-more than ten times as much money. The truth is that Hollywood plunges eagerly into causes that seem glamorous and politically correct, while ignoring the needy in its own back yard. A recent Washington Post article gives several examples. Film producer David Geffen has been dubbed the richest man in Hollywood. He's enamored with national politics, and reportedly chats regularly with President Clinton's chief of staff. His own Geffen Foundation gives several million dollars every year to causes such as AIDS and pro-abortion activism. Yet the foundation has given hardly a penny to rebuilding the shattered streets of LA. Turning from actors to corporations the hypocrisy is even worse. Most major studios-Fox, Columbia Pictures, Paramount Pictures-make tens of millions of dollars every year. Yet their efforts on behalf of their own neighbors in South Central LA have been little but token gestures. A top executive at a major studio told the Washington Post, "Look, this industry has never shown any real commitment to the inner city. It's been far too busy giving money to Liz Taylor," and her American Foundation for AIDS Research. The fact is that Hollywood bigshots and their studios have raised millions of dollars for politically correct causes, from AIDS to abortion to the Sandinistas. By contrast, their efforts to help their own neighbors have been a drop in the bucket. As one Hollywood agent put it, the attitude seems to be "Nicaragua? Okay. El Salvador? Okay. Watts? Forget about it." Hollywood is putting its money where its heart is: into trendy political causes. The stars are trying to crack their image as mere entertainers; they're hoping to construct a new image as serious thinkers. It's become chic for celebrities to have their own political consultants. Lately they've even been chummy with the White House-Barbara Streisand and Michael Douglas chatting with politicians on everything from Bosnia to health care. But they show much less interest in helping unskilled, undereducated minorities who live right around the corner. Obviously, there's more egotism here than altruism. When it came to healing the scarred city of Los Angeles the real altruists weren't Hollywood's beautiful people. They were the churches. An article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy says, "Churches were among the first institutions to respond to the crisis." And "they were able to do so quickly and effectively," the article says, "because of a long-standing position of trust in the community. Why hasn't the media picked up this story? What's really galling is the hypocrisy of Hollywood, whose films always seem to portray Christians as money-hungry preachers or tight-fisted hypocrites. But when it comes to meeting human needs, it is Christians who are on the front lines. We may never be in the Hollywood spotlight, but we are in the dark corners where real people are in real need.


Chuck Colson



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