Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

180 Degrees Off

It is no secret that the Hollywood establishment - those who are in a position to employ others at all levels - tilts on the whole strongly to the left and opposes war with Iraq. Moreover, there is a less well-known but very real, justified, ongoing fear among conservatives in Hollywood that many on the left vindictively discriminate against them. It is therefore curious that the Screen Actors Guild's otherwise commendable defense of free speech rights seems almost exclusively concerned about the rights of those who oppose the Administration:

As our country again considers the possibility of war, it is the fundamental right of citizens to express their support or their fears and concerns. While passionate disagreement is to be expected in such a debate, a disturbing trend has arisen in the dialogue. Some have recently suggested that well-known individuals who express 'unacceptable' views should be punished by losing their right to work. This shocking development suggests that the lessons of history have, for some, fallen on deaf ears.

Over 50 years ago, this nation was faced with a monumental challenge: whether the world's greatest democracy was strong enough to truly allow its citizens the exercise of their rights of free speech and assembly during a time of international tension known as the "Cold War." Most of America failed that test, averting its eyes as the House Committee on Un-American Activities persecuted citizens, destroyed careers, ruined lives and gave rise to the notorious "blacklist".

During this shameful period, our own industry prostrated itself before smear campaigns and witch hunters rather than standing on the principles articulated in the nation's fundamental documents.

Today, having come to grips with its past, having repudiated the insult of loyalty oaths and examined its own failings, our industry, perhaps more than any other, understands the necessity of guarding and cherishing those rights for which Americans have fought and died.

In that spirit, the Screen Actors Guild Board of Directors, appreciating the value of full and open debate and devoted to the belief that the free flow of information, opinions and ideas contributes to the health of our nation, supports the right of all citizens, celebrated and unknown, to speak their minds freely, on any side of any issue, as is their Constitutional right. In the same vein - and with a painfully clear appreciation of history - we deplore the idea that those in the public eye should suffer professionally for having the courage to give voice to their views. Even a hint of the blacklist must never again be tolerated in this nation.

The Guild's statement is not expressly limited to concern for anti-war activists, although from its references to the McCarthy period, loyalty oaths and the like and its general tone, that seems to be its major - almost exclusive - concern. But given the strong leftward Hollywood tilt, those who agree with Bruce Willis are much more at risk of retaliation from within Hollywood than those who agree with Martin Sheen.

So why doesn't the Guild statement make clear that it supports the rights of those who support the government as well as those who support the official Hollywood Establishment anti-war position?

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