McCarthyism fashionable again in Hollywood?
Hollywood stars have cosplayed the McCarthy Era for the past four decades. Movies like “The Front,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “The Majestic,” “Guilty by Suspicion,” “Trumbo” (the documentary) and “Trumbo” (the Bryan Cranston film) explored the period’s anti-Communist hysteria and the Hollywood Blacklist.
Can you blame them?
Take away the scandalous hearings and imprisonments and you’re left with one indisputable truth: The era dispatched with the all-American right to think and speak as you see fit.
Goodbye, and good riddance to all things McCarthy … until now.
The same industry forever reliving that disgraceful period has little to say as Big Tech giants compete to see who can silence conservative thought first.
Except when the stars are actively cheering it on.
Twitter deplatformed Donald Trump days before he left the Oval Office. Other tech behemoths like Facebook and Instagram quickly followed suit — and Hollywood Inc. couldn’t clap its hands any faster. Stars like Chrissy Teigen, Mark Ruffalo, Whoopi Goldberg, Mark Hamill and Sacha Baron Cohen, whose original, “problematic” “Borat” film might be canceled if it hit theaters today, hailed the move without reservation. Julia Louis-Dreyfus of “Veep” and “Seinfeld” fame wondered aloud what took Twitter so long.
Yes, even before some accused Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, Hollywood’s elites wanted him banned.
Think about that. Artists who rely on free expression for their livelihoods wanted to silence a president because they don’t align with his world view.
It’s hardly about Trump, though, and the clampdown on free speech started before the current, frightening Big Tech purge.
The rise of cancel culture should have caused a tidal wave of dismay around Tinsel Town; suddenly, stars couldn’t say what they wanted or write stories that inspired them without fear of reprisals. Instead, most stars bowed before the cultural trend, apologizing for every real or perceived micro aggression.
Scarlett Johansson, arguably the most talented and bankable actress of the modern era, backpedaled after agreeing to play a notorious trans figure from Pittsburgh lore. She’s far from alone: Star after star bent the knee for cancel culture rather than speak up for their creative rights.
And while a tiny cabal of personalities — Adam Carolla, Ricky Gervais, Judy Gold, John Cleese, Nick Searcy and Rob Schneider — railed against curbs on free speech, most stars stayed on the sidelines, perhaps too frightened to respond.
This is the same celebrity class that weighs in on, well, everything — immigration, voting rights, diversity, gun laws, Black Lives Matter. You name the issue, and stars have plenty to say about it. Heck, they can’t stop talking … except when the subject turns to free speech, apparently.
How ironic, since it’s the one issue they’re the most qualified to explore.
That Hollywood silence extends from cancel culture to conservative speakers being chased off college campuses. The 2019 documentary “No Safe Spaces” should have had cameos from every A-lister in the country in its plea for more voices, not less. Instead, brave comic veteran Tim Allen joined iconoclasts like Carolla and Dennis Prager to defend our essential rights.
Now, as Twitter crushes conservative influencers and Instagram memory-holes jokes that mock our woke age, Hollywood again is stone silent.
Even scarier — where are the late-night hosts, the self-appointed truth-tellers of our age? Shouldn’t they be defending fellow stand-ups who find their yuks suddenly unworthy of digital shares? Aren’t they alarmed at the potential fallout from Trump’s deplatforming?
A few other stars arrived late to the free-speech party, in part because cancel culture turned on them. Author J.K. Rowling, a full-blown progressive who dared to critique elements of the trans movement, learned the hard way how quickly even liberals can be canceled for speaking their minds. Far-left comic Sarah Silverman, who once declared we all should follow woke millennials’ social justice lead, now questions the cancel culture ethos as unforgiving.
Even the rare stars who slam cancel culture sans provocation, as “Breaking Bad” alum Bryan Cranston and Matthew McConaughey recently did, rarely use their clout and platforms to defend those under cancel culture attacks. And let’s not get started on how Hollywood actively discriminates against conservatives in Hollywood for craving less government and more freedom.
Think that’s hyperbole? The most famous gathering of right-leaning stars, a group dubbed Friends of Abe, met in secret for fear of career reprisals. And I have interviewed a number of right-leaning artists who asked me not to reveal their political leanings for fear of professional blowback.
Today’s stars have never been more active, more willing to leverage their clout for dozens of pet causes. Their silence on free expression, and their giddiness to silence their political rivals, is beyond chilling.
Perhaps a future generation of stars will make movies about this cultural moment. Chances are they’ll be aghast at how their predecessors behaved.
Christian Toto is the editor of the conservative entertainment site “HollywoodInToto.com, the Right Take on Entertainment,” and host of the weekly “Hollywood in Toto” podcast.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.