- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

Hollywood, free speech A Web site set up to counter some of the more outrageous antiwar comments by Hollywood celebrities was forced to close down in the last 24 hours. It was called “BoycottHollywood.us,” and seemed unremarkable to me except for some of the vituperation directed at various actor-lefties, like Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. I’m sure it generated some unpleasant e-mails to some of these actors, but that’s hardly a crime, as long as no one was physically threatened. And Web sites cannot be held responsible for e-mails their readers write independently. So, why is it being shut down? Because the William Morris agency, which represents some of these celebrities, threatened legal action. They argued that “the claims on the site are potentially libelous.” Potentially libelous? What does that mean? They went on to say that the site “may potentially be liable, both criminally and civilly, for a variety of offenses,” according to a facsimile reproduced on the site before it was forced to shut down by a worried domain registrar. This is simply a reminder of the fantastic hypocrisy of many in Hollywood. They conflate robust criticism with censorship; they equate popular boycotts with government blacklists; they claim to be persecuted, while actually they have an amazing capacity to reach audiences other political activists can only dream of. And yet, when the slightest criticism directly affects them, they do all they can to shut dissent down. Instructive, isn’t it? Industry honchoes who wouldn’t have jobs without the right to free expression are only too eager to squash it when that speech dares to criticize them.A final tallyWe were told by many, many people that war in Iraq could lead to untold suffering, the deaths of thousands, if not millions, of innocents, and therefore couldn’t be considered a just war. Here’s what Mr. Boris Johnson just reported in this respect the London Spectator: “Since it is time to put the good news into our utilitarian scales, here is a statistic that you should be aware of, all you Fisks and Pilgers and Robin Cooks, who prophesied thousands and thousands of deaths. I went to see Qusay Ali Al-Mafraji, the head of the International Red Crescent in Baghdad. Though some name-tags have been lost, and though some districts have yet to deliver their final tally, guess how many confirmed Iraqi dead he has listed, both civilian and military, for the Baghdad area? He told me that it was 150, and he has no reason to lie.” Now it may be the final number is higher. And, of course, every innocent death is an awful event. But the reality is that, given the usual killing machine standards of Saddam’s terror-state, this war actually saved civilian lives. It may turn out, in retrospect, to have been the most humanitarian war in human history. It turns out it was the pro-war people who were minimizing the costs to human life, not the anti-war people. So where are the “just war” theologians’ arguments now? They’ve gone oddly silent, haven’t they?Jerry Springer, The OperaOnly in London, I suppose. At the Royal National Theatre, there’s a new production called, yes, “Jerry Springer — The Opera.” It just opened to rave notices. Here’s how the Daily Telegraph reviewed it yesterday: “I never thought I would find a man who wants to poo in his pants touching, but somehow, in this gaudy context, it is. And the first act finale, featuring a chorus of tap-dancing Ku Klux Klansmen is a riot of bad taste worthy of Mel Brooks. The level of energy and invention dips in the second half, when Jerry finds himself in hell and is required to settle the differences between God and the Devil under pain of punishment too horrible to describe in a family newspaper. The jokes aren’t as funny, and I found myself coming over a touch prudish about the blasphemy. But this is a show designed to provoke as well as entertain, and the climactic deus ex machina appearance of God is a real coup de theatre, as is the grand finale, in which the whole cast reappear as Jerry Springer clones.” Jerry Springer? Tap dancing KKKers?Book me a flight.Thought for the week“What rankles Frenchmen is the decline of France relative to other European countries. France wants to be not a world power but the foremost European nation. If the present fuel debacle brings about a decline ofWesternEurope, France wants to make sure that it ends up sitting on top of the heap.To solve the fuel problem by force would result in a situation in which France could not play a paramount role.Hence, France will urge submission to Arab dictates.It will also be for the abandonment ofIsrael and the cold-shouldering of the UnitedStates.” — Eric Hoffer, “Before the Sabbath,” written in 1975. Prescient, no?

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