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Paranoia, Hollywood Style

Once upon a time political conspiracy theories were the province of extremist conservatives. No more. From the Christic Institute's flaky Secret Team lawsuit in the mid-'80s to the hysterical San Jose Mercury News CIA/crack series last year, cockeyed hypotheses involving shadowy, nefarious, ultrapowerful, right-wing figures are consistently afforded a hearing on the left - though, to be sure, not always acceptance. Even the Clinton administration, with its "Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce" report that alleges an international right-wing media plot, is in they're-out-to-get-us mode.

The most common ideology in Hollywood is the Barbra Streisand/Warren Beatty/Norman Lear variety of liberalism, but a more extreme leftist strain that's more virulent and just plain wacky is found there as well. It is represented by the likes of Tim Robbins, Ed Asner, Richard Belzer, and Oliver Stone. The wisdom of the latter two men claims our attention today.

Belzer is a longtime standup comic who for the past few years has played the sardonic Det. John Munch in the excellent NBC dramatic series "Homicide: Life on the Street." He's not a household name, so you may not be aware that in 1990, he blamed the popularity of crass comedian Andrew Dice Clay on the Reagan administration's "contempt" for blacks, "derision" towards women, and "total hostility" toward gays. Speaking of hostility, in 1992 he called George Bush "a murderer" for sending our troops to fight in the Gulf War.

Late last month, Belzer gave an interview to the Washington Post pummeling Bill Clinton for moving toward the center. According to Belzer, Clinton has "sold out the liberal movement and he's sold out the progressive movement. He's a contemptible piece of [expletive]." Clinton may be contemptible, and he has sold out his allies on the left from time to time, but most understand these moves to be tactical adjustments meant for short-term political gain, and not definitive sea changes in id not attempt to invent a story. Stone did, under the auspices of truth. And when exposed, Stone denies it all.

After receiving numerous well-deserved skewerings for straying from the facts, Stone is now whining about being criticized for something of which he's been blatantly, repeatedly guilty. "It's very tough for me to do another contemporary political movie," he said to Andersen. "Whatever I do is held up to ridicule going in... That's a form of censorship, isn't it?"

Well, no, it isn't, Mr. Stone. It's something you know painfully little about. It's called accountability. You got away with your mendacity for a long time, but your truth-bending finally caught up with you, and you're a laughingstock even to some of your fellow leftists. It's a story Richard Belzer should ponder, even if he never writes and directs a movie about the conspiracy that rules the world.