Tuesday, June 21, 2005

CULTURE CLOWNS: A PROGRESS REPORT. Roger L. Simon -- perhaps dreaming of the day when Victor Davis Hanson and his troops will march boldly into the Ministry of Culture, kick Michael Eisner off his throne, and install Simon as Commissar -- is trying to pump up a new book about how the Hollywood Ten had it coming. Movie attendance is down, gloats Simon; the beast is weak, der Tag is at hand! His readers agree that the "Hwood Communist Party" is headed for the ash-heap of history except for Team Incredibles of the Christ, Batman Begins (with reservations: "Since it's contemporary Hollywood, though, there's nary a kaffiyah, an 'Allah Akbar' nor a fifth-column media figure to be had"), and, oddly, the Coen Brothers -- though this last seems a case of some softhearted comrade trying to sneak personal favorites out of the camps, despite the Coens' lack of Party bona-fides. Is exceptionalism, Comrade!

In idle moments I like to imagine Simon attending a barbecue with his readership. "Waaaaiitt a minute... yew done wrote a movie fer Woody Allen and Bette Midler???" (Grill-tipping, fire-spreading, rebel yells as the Boys light out for Warren Bell's place.)

The McCarthy book itself gets a fuller treatment at "libertarian" (excuse me, I can't say that word without laughing anymore) magazine Reason, where Cathy Young explains that while McCarthyism was a bad thing -- though, perhaps to protect herself from Durbinization, she adds that "it's absurd to treat the blacklist as somehow equivalent to the Soviet purges" -- blacklisting was kinda sorta not so bad because the Communists that got blacklisted (along with a lot of other guys, too, but let's not nitpick) were worse: though they committed no crimes but thought crimes, they said good things about bad people, and their tragic legacy is "today's celebrity radicals" who "blast American policies while ignoring the evil of a Saddam Hussein."

I have addressed this imbecilic point of view back in the old Alicubi days, when Jonah Goldberg and, sadly, Kevin Drum fell (well, Kevin fell, Goldberg just grabbed his knees and cannonballed) into the same fallacy:
Goldberg says that McCarthy was a "lout" but essentially justified because Communist agents were afoot in America. He brushes off the prosecutions, official or otherwise, that disemployed many citizens who had committed no crimes. "When they denounce McCarythism," he writes, "they are working on the clear assumption that McCarthyism victimized only innocent people. That is a lie. And it also a lie that the USA Patriot Act is being used solely to punish innocent people."

This is a breathtaking switcheroo: a complaint against the prosecution of innocents is answered by the fact that some people are not innocent...

...it is interesting that no one much questions another large, unspoken idea here --that being a Communist made one fair game even if no espionage or other crime had taken place. McCarthy's whole schtick was enabled by the notion that there could be such a thing as a thought crime -- that if you thought Marx was right, you could be taken down, whether you collaborated in espionage or merely believed in the widespread redistribution of wealth. Even [Drum], in his generally thoughtful consideration of Goldberg, says, "It is not McCarthyism to accuse a communist of being a communist." It's actually something much worse, because our freedoms aren't worth much if we do not have the right to be wrong.
Hey, that wasn't bad. Maybe I should take a month off and just recycle my greatest hits. But that's hardly a testimony to my own skills; American Constitutional values age very well -- though their enemies, as we have seen, work very hard to sell us on an alternative philosophy.

UPDATE. Comments are, as usual, very interesting (Simon may have the numbers, but alicublog has the guns!), but FMGuru drops some especially sharp science: "[The decline in opening grosses] has everything to do with plasma screens and dumbasses talking on cell phones, and nothing to do with The People rising up against the corrupt Quisling coastal elites... H'wood is one of the most brutally capitalist places in America..." The correct response to this home truth would be "D'uh!" if so many flattery-driven numbskulls were not impervious to common sense. Well, we few remaining thinking people (yes, but I need a majority!) can enjoy it, at least.

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