Last Monday on these pages, my article “Blacklist Then and Now” coincidentally appeared the same day as an op-ed penned by screen legend Jon Voight.
Since his Oscar-winning turn in the 1978 antiwar film “Coming Home,” the venerable actor has come to the conclusion that he and many in the “so-called peace movement” were manipulated by Marxist propaganda.
“The radicals of that era were successful in giving the communists power to bring forth the killing fields and slaughter 2.5 million people in Cambodia and South Vietnam. Did they stop the war, or did they bring the war to those innocent people? In the end, they turned their backs on all the horror and suffering they helped create and walked away,” he wrote in an article titled “My Concerns for America.”
Mr. Voight is not the first to connect these dots. But he is certainly the biggest Hollywood star associated with the anti-Vietnam War movement to do so.
In his newfound voice, Mr. Voight also boldly warns of the consequences of electing the current antiwar candidate: “If, God forbid, we live to see [Barack] Obama president, we will live through a socialist era that America has not seen before, and our country will be weakened in every way.”
It was the type of commentary that escapes scrutiny when submitted on the hour by left-wing celebrities at the exclusionary and often vitriolic Huffington Post (a site that I - gulp! - co-created). But since these ideas came from the rarest of pontificators - an open Hollywood conservative and an apostate liberal - Mr. Voight was swiftly attacked by establishment entertainment journalists expertly wielding the tools of the new McCarthyism.
The Los Angeles Times, the Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Weekly and People magazine alum Jeffrey Wells led the charge. At his influential Web site Hollywood-Elsewhere.com, Mr. Wells wrote, “If I were a producer and I had to make a casting decision about hiring Voight or some older actor who hadn’t [ticked] me off with an idiotic Washington Times op-ed piece, I might very well say to myself, ‘Voight? Let him eat cake.’ ”
In the hopes of exacting blood, Mr. Wells went well below the belt by attacking Mr. Voight’s parenting skills. And for what? Because one citizen expressed his contrarian political opinion in a town that doesn’t embrace free speech anymore.
“I finally get what Angelina Jolie has been on about all these years. (I think.) Most people reading the Voight piece will say, ‘[OK], the Times gave him the rope, and he hung himself.’ But you’d think an archconservative working in an overwhelmingly liberal town would think about restraining himself for expediency’s sake, if nothing else,” Mr. Wells wrote.
Talk about giving one’s self the rope.
Peter Bart, the powerful 76-year-old editor-in-chief of Variety, the industry’s daily bible, and co-host of AMC’s “Shootout,” didn’t challenge Mr. Voight on the facts, but classlessly recounted in his slightly trafficked blog a private conversation that allegedly occurred nearly 40 years ago:
“As a young production executive at the studio, I was trying to push ‘Love Story’ forward and joined colleagues in trying to interest Voight in the part. However, the more we prodded, the more reluctant he became. He finally blurted: ‘The character in this movie is a Harvard student. He’s bright. He reads books. I could never be believable as that smart young guy.’
Mr. Bart - desperately attempting to be as cruel as possible - wrote, “Reading Voight’s op-ed piece these many years later, I realize how right he was.”
His message to Mr. Voight: You’re dead. Hollywood never forgets.
Nor does Google: Seven years ago, Mr. Bart was suspended for 21 days and underwent diversity training for making racist, sexist and homophobic comments.
“I was quoted making several statements to a Los Angeles Magazine reporter that do not reflect my personal beliefs and values or the way that I run the newsroom. Nevertheless, I am deeply sorry and regret that they offended anyone. It will not happen again,” Mr. Bart said in a written statement.
He returned to work Sept. 10, 2001, a reason many forget this insider dish.
A funny thing happened on the way to the forming of a media consensus. The new media - quick to spot a partisan-based old media railroading - struck back and defended Mr. Voight.
Dominant center-right blogs like Instapundit, Slate’s Kaus Files (fine, Mickey, “neo-liberal”) and Powerline, removed from the corrupting junkets, premieres and swag-heavy lifestyle of Hollywood journalists, pointed to Mr. Wells and Mr. Bart’s “Deliverance”-inspired journalistic behavior.
Mr. Wells - whose unsolicited anti-GOP mass e-mailings have reached my inbox in previous election cycles - responded by doubling down:
“It’s been said in this town many times that the right has a debt to pay for the blacklisting of lefties in the ‘50s, and that in all fairness it’s probably going to take a long time to make amends. The fact is that the philosophical grandfathers and great-grandfathers of today’s right-wingers ruined the lives of many Hollywood screenwriters in the ‘50s, and so their descendants now have to suffer and make up for that,” Mr. Wells wrote in his Hollywood-Elsewhere blog.
Jeffrey, are you aware that Bobby Kennedy was McCarthy’s right-hand guy? Or that many Democrats and Republicans were concerned about the verifiable infiltration of Soviet spies into our government and cultural organs? Or that, as Mr. Voight points out, commies were actually mass murderers greatly deserving of our vigilance?
And while I’m at it, will my great-grandchildren point to this incident in 50 years when they attempt to thwart the livelihoods of your progeny? In your mind, do two wrongs make a right?
Those who argue that Mr. Wells’ point of view is not representative of a larger mind-set among the Hollywood elite should think back to 2005, when Barbra Streisand publicly canceled her subscription to the Los Angeles Times for the crime of hiring a conservative to pen editorials a few times a week. That writer, Jonah Goldberg, went on to write the book “Liberal Fascism,” which hit No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. Perhaps the title resonated with the masses.
Is it any wonder Jon Voight didn’t have his opinions published in a hometown rag?
c Andrew Breitbart is the founder of the news Web site breitbart.com and is co-author of “Hollywood Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon - the Case Against Celebrity.”