Why Hollywood’s Silence on Free Speech Matters
Bill Maher is all alone. Again.
The avowed liberal chastised his fellow progressives Aug. 17 during the latest “Real Time with Bill Maher” show. Most left-leaning voices either applauded conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ removal from major platforms like Facebook and YouTube or stayed silent.
How many stars held their nose and said the Alex Jones of the world deserve to have a voice, too? Chelsea Handler, Billy Eichner, George Takei and Debra Messing did just the opposite, cheering on Jones’ dismissal via their Twitter accounts.
That, Maher said, is simply wrong.
“If you’re a liberal, you’re supposed to be for free speech. That’s free speech for the speech you hate. That’s what free speech means. We’re losing the thread of the concepts that are important to this country. If you care about the real American s*** or you don’t. And if you do, it goes for every side. I don’t like Alex Jones, but Alex Jones gets to speak. Everybody gets to speak.”
He’s right, of course.
It’s not the first time Maher has taken his own side to task. This time, it mattered. It’s one reason why Maher’s First Amendment defense ricocheted around the media. The “man bites dog” angle is undeniable.
Maher’s on the right side of history. American history, that is.
The debate hearkens back to the 1981 television film “Skokie.” The fact-based feature, starring Danny Kaye as a Holocaust survivor fighting a Nazi rally in his hometown, debated the limits of free speech in America. The movie showed how the American Civil Liberties Union stood on the front lines fighting for more speech, no matter how toxic.
Would the ACLU take the same stand today? It’s debatable. Consider how it rushed to condemn a garden variety catcall on its official Twitter account recently. Free speech limitations once were restricted to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Now, mansplaining is on the not-so-short list, apparently.
The group has taken a hard-left turn in the Age of Trump, pushing history aside. If silencing some conservative voices helps “The Resistance,” it’s hard to see the ACLU rising up in protest.
It’s unfortunate that the president needs a reminder of why the founders put freedom of the press in the First Amendment, but his dangerous attacks on the media prove that he does.https://t.co/J6sSiUftJ6
— ACLU (@ACLU) August 18, 2018
Andrew Breitbart once said, “more voices, not less.” That’s the American way.
Or, at least it was until the Left hijacked it for political purposes. Today, “hate speech” too often means silencing voices with which some lliberals disagree. Think about actresses like Debra Messing and Alyssa Milano fighting to get NRA TV kicked off of major media platforms like Amazon, Google and Apple TV.
NRA TV, which occasionally allows this reporter to opine on Hollywood issues, hasn’t broken any law. The channel simply holds views the aforementioned stars find repugnant.
Which brings us back to Hollywood, Inc. The community has never been more political, more hyper vigilant about the modern news cycle. Consider the following topics and the standard celebrity position:
- Securing the border? They’re against it
- ICE? Should be abolished
- The electoral college? Begone.
- Gun control? More, please
- Taxes? Higher and higher.
- Democratic Socialism? It’s long past time to try it.
These are generalizations formed by the majority of outspoken celebrities. Some stars, particularly right-leaning souls like Kevin Sorbo, James Woods and Adam Baldwin, vigorously disagree. They stand as exceptions to the celebrity rule.
Now, where’s Hollywood’s robust defense of the First Amendment? Have the hashtag brigades gone missing? What about the awards season speeches shouting down those who would silence voices in our culture?
Did anyone at this week’s MTV VMAs name check freedom of speech? Did Antifa get shredded for its fascist attempts at stifling debate?
Of course not. Time and time again free speech issues rise to the surface … and the Hollywood community takes a knee.
Need more examples?
Only a few voices rose to HBO’s defense when social critics demanded it end the proposed show “Confederate” before it even began. Comic maestro Judd Apatow led that brief and lonely charge on Twitter, before quickly backpedaling.
Scarlett Johansson essentially fired herself from a major film role. Politically correct pressure demanded a trans performer play the leading role in “Rub and Tug,” the story of a woman who transitioned into a man while running a massage parlor.
Actress Glenn Close offered a mild rebuttal to the imbroglio, but only because she was directly asked about it by a journalist. For what it’s worth, Johansson’s removal from the role cast the entire project in jeopardy.
When Social Justice Warriors savaged the Amy Schumer comedy “I Feel Pretty” for its “problematic” humor Maher found himself alone, again, defending the film. Even Schumer buckled under the pressure, arguing she didn’t deserve to star in her own movie.
RELATED: How I Stumped Josh Brolin on Free Speech Attacks
Conservative speakers like Ben Shapiro, Christina Hoff Sommers and Charles Murray have been shouted down and threatened on university campuses. Few if any stars rose up to defend their right to be heard. This reporter asked “Avengers: Infinity War” star Josh Brolin his thoughts on the matter. Brolin had no idea what I was talking about.
We’ve been seeing serial, albeit anecdotal evidence that major social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube discriminate against conservatives. That isn’t just the unhinged Jones types, mind you, but smart, respectable voices.
Consider Prager U, the online extension of conservative talk show host Dennis Prager.
That site, which reflects its founder’s genteel approach, is constantly getting flagged by YouTube. The university even lawyered up, unsuccessflly, to fight the unequal treatment. Just last week Facebook struck again. Only when Team Prager U fought back did Facebook apologize for its actions.
Does anyone think it won’t happen again? More importantly, if it does, will anyone in Hollywood rush to Prager’s defense?
They haven’t up until now. What would have to change in order for them to rise up?
What about celebrity backed efforts to kick Fox News’ Laura Ingraham off the air? Director James Gunn, Patton Oswalt, Messing, John Leguizamo and others have rallied boycott measures intended to remove her from the TV lineup.
Learn a fact or true racist xenophobic @IngrahamAngle hope sponsors know we will not stop the boycott till she is off the air! @mitsucars @flonase @bugasalt @JewelryExchange @SpectrumEntUS @EmpireToday @AgelessMaleMax @RelaxiumSleep @nationalcares @PacificPremiere @SandalsResorts https://t.co/tnyqLSdWLU
— John Leguizamo (@JohnLeguizamo) August 17, 2018
Why? They disagree with her point of view and used selectively edited quotes from her show to paint her as racist. [Editor’s Note: This reporter briefly worked for Ingraham’s LifeZette.com publication]
A sprinkling of Hollywood denizens have stood up for free speech. Comedians like Chris Rock, John Cleese, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Carolla and Gilbert Gottfried have blasted politically correct speech codes impacting their work. Only Carolla has done so consistently, however. The podcast king’s upcoming “No Safe Spaces” documentary with Prager plans to dig deeper into the free speech assaults on the collegiate level.
Left-leaning media outlets have their knives out for the project, site unseen.
Some of the aforementioned examples are … complicated.
Facebook is a private company, and therefore can do what they want with content posted on its pages. The same holds true for Twitter and Google which owns YouTube. In today’s age, these companies have power beyond measure, which may require new thinking.
Then again, if these social media giants treated Planned Parenthood or progressive stars like Prager and friends the Hollywood response would be deafening. We’d get march after march demanding justice.
RELATED: Watch: Alyssa Milano’s Disastrous NRA Video
It’s often unfair to blast a group or individual for not personally condemning a heinous act. If a New York City police officer is gunned down, for example, we don’t demand every Hollywood star condemn it. We routinely pick and choose where to funnel our sympathy and rage. In some cases we internalize our sorrow over harrowing headlines.
The same holds true for stars. They’re just like us, remember?
Yet Hollywood’s wall of silence on critical free speech issues cannot be ignored. Today’s stars can’t stop speaking out on every issue imaginable. The one area where they should be the most concerned, the need for the free and open expression of ideas, renders them speechless.
History will not be kind to their silence.