In 2017, Stephen Galloway described the possibility of a new era of McCarthyism in Hollywood. Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, where he then served as executive editor, Galloway compared the treatment of conservatives in the film industry to the Hollywood Ten — the ten blacklisted professionals, mostly screenwriters, who served prison time and suffered professional and personal alienation for refusing to name names before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
“Back then it was fear of Communism; now it’s fear of an amorphous enemy that’s all the more potent to some for being unseen. Call it the fear of fear itself.” Galloway continues, “In an astonishing reversal of Hollywood history, just as liberals here once considered themselves an endangered species, so do conservatives today.”
Galloway, belonging to Hollywood’s upper echelon, delicately phrased his argument back in 2017 so as not to estrange his colleagues. In keeping with progressive politics, he made sure to sprinkle in just the right amount of crumbs by mentioning the possibility of Muslims being targeted in Hollywood for their religious views and the elimination of DACA (two wrong predictions, as it turns out).
But Galloway correctly predicted that McCarthyism would return. Indeed, the “astonishing reversal of Hollywood history” is on full display in 2020. The new era of McCarthyism does not target Muslims, illegal immigrants, a nebulous ‘other,’ or the abstracted away “fear of fear itself.” Nor does it target Antifa sympathizers and CEOs who gladly conduct business with arguably the worst violator of humans rights on the planet, the Chinese Communist Party.
The ‘other’ in this case is the working professional who deviates in his politics, skepticism, or principles from Hollywood’s progressive culture. This culture, unsurprisingly, aligns with radical ‘woke’ ideology, as championed by an organization such as Black Lives Matter. From the outside, this shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially conservatives. Inside the industry, though, the blind hostility and dogmatism stupefy executives, producers, and other creatives whose careers had previously seemed secure.
On July 11, the Daily Mail published a piece describing this very phenomenon, citing anonymous observations and anecdotes from industry insiders. One studio executive said, “We’re only hiring people of color, women or LGBT to write, star, produce, operate the cameras, work in craft services. If you are white, you can’t speak out because you will instantly be branded ‘racist’ or condemned for ‘white privilege.’
“The pendulum has swung so far, everyone is paralyzed with fear by the idea anything you say could be misinterpreted and your career ended instantly,” the piece continued. “There are a lot of hushed conversations going on, but publicly everyone is desperate to be seen to be promoting diversity and too terrified to speak out. It’s imploding: a total meltdown.”
Another insider, who was nominated for an Academy Award, said, “Everyone wants to be able to check all the boxes for each new hire.” (BIPOC has become the trendy acronym: Black, Indigenous, Person of Color.) “Directors normally have a say about who is in their project. Not any more. It’s all about ‘BIPOC hiring.’ And it’s coming directly from the heads of the studios who know their jobs are on the line. White middle-aged men are collateral damage.”
Meanwhile, distinguished filmmakers preach hiring practices that discriminate — but in the ‘right’ way. Selma director Ava DuVernay wrote on Twitter, “Everyone has a right to their opinion. And we — black producers with hiring power — have the right not to hire those who diminish us.” She goes on to say: “So, to the white men in this thread . . . if you don’t get that job you were up for, kindly remember . . . bias can go both ways. This is 2020 speaking.”
Jordan Peele, the Oscar-winning director and screenwriter, articulated the sentiment as bluntly as DuVernay. “I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes. But I’ve seen that movie before.” Responding to Peele’s statement anonymously in the Daily Mail, one executive quipped, “If a white director said that about hiring a black actor, their career would be over in a heartbeat.”
As someone who has spent time in Hollywood offices, I can attest to the environment. Almost everyone assumes you are woke. If you aren’t: Good luck. To have a career one must fake it — and fake it well. Or else buy into the ideology, wholeheartedly. Dropping a hint, however harmless, that you stray from the progressive culture is like dipping your leg into a bathtub full of sharks. You cannot escape unscathed. When some of my ‘friends’ and peers discovered I held conservative views, they soon after ignored me. One friend said I had committed “social suicide.”
In addition to this more straightforward hostility, there are also many in Hollywood who simply embrace woke ideology to get ahead. They will do or say whatever they can to rub elbows with producers, talent agents, C-list stars, single-parent SAG members — anyone who can help their careers.
A few years ago, my classmate interned at The Weinstein Company when Harvey was still in charge. An executive told her that she should never go up to his office alone. That was just the way things worked; that was just the ‘business.’ Everyone knew what Harvey did to women. Yet no one did anything about it, not for the longest time, because Harvey was a power broker and made good movies. It seemed like the arrangement could even last until Harvey’s death. But along came the “Me Too” Movement, and Tinseltown’s culture flipped almost immediately.
So, perhaps a similar reversal could occur in this new era of McCarthyism. Perhaps there are enough professionals who think that in a creative industry, de facto affirmative action and reverse racism might lead to toxic work environments, poor filmmaking, and lower-quality art. Maybe some in power will speak up. The Hollywood Ten — though I detest their politics — at least had spine, refusing to name names, sacrificing their careers for a cause greater than themselves. Others could be like them.
But color me skeptical. It’s still the ‘business’ after all, where principles have been sacrificed not only for paychecks but for red-carpet photographs with a man as loathsome as Harvey Weinstein.