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Home/Rod Dreher/Hollywood’s Woke McCarthyism

Hollywood’s Woke McCarthyism

'Holywood' indeed: Progressive sanctimony is turning Hollywood into a woke version of Calvin's Geneva (Source)

Under a totalitarian system, everything that exists must be seen through the lens of the reigning ideology. From Live Not By Lies:

Infusing every aspect of life with ideology was a standard aspect of Soviet totalitarianism. Early in the Stalin era, N. V. Krylenko, a Soviet commissar (political officer), steamrolled over chess players who wanted to keep politics out of the game.

“We must finish once and for all with the neutrality of chess,” he said. “We must condemn once and for all the formula ‘chess for the sake of chess,’ like the formula ‘art for art’s sake.’ We must organize shockbrigades of chess-players, and begin immediate realization of a Five-Year Plan for chess.”

Well, here’s news from the woke Scientific American:

A new organization called the Association for Mathematical Research (AMR) has ignited fierce debates in the math research and education communities since it was launched last October. Its stated mission is “to support mathematical research and scholarship”—a goal similar to that proclaimed by two long-standing groups: the American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). In recent years the latter two have initiated projects to address racial, gender and other inequities within the field. The AMR claims to have no position on social justice issues, and critics see its silence on those topics as part of a backlash against inclusivity efforts. Some of the new group’s leaders have also spoken out in the past against certain endeavors to diversify mathematics. The controversy reflects a growing division between researchers who want to keep scientific and mathematical pursuits separate from social issues that they see as irrelevant to research and those who say even pure mathematics cannot be considered separately from the racism and sexism in its culture.

One mathematician quoted in the piece who is critical of the AMR says that its existence causes him harm, and hurt. This is how these villains depoliticize everything: you can’t argue with them about the merits of this or that proposal, because they claim to be personally hurt by it, thereby taking it out of the realm of rational discourse. Anyway, good for the mathematicians behind AMR. They are fighting for a good cause: to keep mathematics scholarship free from ideological garbage.

Meanwhile, here’s a terrific piece from Bari Weiss’s Substack, written by Peter Kiefer and Peter Savodnik. The pair explores the chilling effect wokeness has had on creative work in Hollywood. Excerpts:

A few years ago, the editor-in-chief of The Hollywood Reporter pitched a story to the newsroom. He had just come back from lunch with a well-known agent, who had suggested the paper take a look at the unintended consequences of Hollywood’s efforts to diversify. Those white men who had spent decades writing scripts—which had been turned into blockbuster movies and hit television shows—were no longer getting hired.

The newsroom blew up. The reporters, especially the younger ones, mocked the idea that white men were on the outs. The editor-in-chief, normally self-assured, immediately backtracked. He looked rattled.

It was a missed opportunity. The story wasn’t just about white guys not getting jobs. Nor was it really about the economics of Hollywood. It was about the stories Hollywood told and distributed and streamed on screens around the globe every day. It was about this massively lucrative industry that had been birthed by outsiders and emerged, out of lemon groves, into a glamorous, glitzy mosh pit teeming with chutzpah and broken hearts and unbelievable success stories that had made the American Dream a real, pulsating thing—for Americans and billions of other people who thought that if you could imagine something, anything, you could will it into being. It was a story about who we aspired to be.

After the meeting, a reporter approached another editor about pursuing it. The editor told the reporter to drop it. No one, he said, at The Hollywood Reporter—one of a handful of trade publications that covers the ins and outs of the entertainment industry—was going to risk blowing up their career over this.

Makes sense to me. I mean, it’s horrible, but this is what it means to have an ideology capture an industry and a community, and to maintain its death grip by rendering everybody afraid to question it. There are no gulags in Hollywood, but this is most definitely soft totalitarianism. They talk about how all the studios now mandate racial quotas, and how nobody dares to question this. More:

To help producers meet the new standards, the filmmaker Ava DuVernay—who was recently added to Forbes’ list of “The Most Powerful Women in Entertainment” along with Oprah Winfrey and Taylor Swift—last year created ARRAY Crew, a database of women, people of color, and others from underrepresented groups who work on day-to-day production: line producers, camera operators, art directors, sound mixers and so on. The Hollywood Reporter declared that ARRAY Crew has “fundamentally changed how Hollywood productions will be staffed going forward.”

More than 900 productions, including “Yellowstone” and “Mare of Easttown,” have used ARRAY Crew, said Jeffrey Tobler, the chief marketing officer of ARRAY, DuVernay’s production company. Privately, directors and writers voiced irritation with DuVernay, who, they said, had exploited the “post-George Floyd moment.” But no one dared to criticize her openly. “I’m not crazy,” one screenwriter said.

Of course, Hollywood, like many industries, does have a clubiness about it. And pretty much everyone on the inside insists it should open up to those who had, for decades, been kept out. But the heavy-handed mandates, the databases, the shifting culture—in which pretty much all white men were assumed to have gotten their jobs because they had the right tennis buddies or ZIP code or skin color—raised the possibility of a new kind of clubiness. When asked whether ARRAY Crew was just replacing one kind of exclusion with another, Tobler sidestepped the question, saying the organization had sought to “amplify underrepresented professionals.”

But the result has not just been a demographic change. It has been an ideological and cultural transformation. We spoke to more than 25 writers, directors, and producers—all of whom identify as liberal, and all of whom described a pervasive fear of running afoul of the new dogma. This was the case not just among the high command at companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, but at every level of production.

How to survive the revolution? By becoming its most ardent supporter. “Best way to defend yourself against the woke is to out-woke everyone, including the woke,” one writer said. Suddenly, every conversation with every agent or head of content started with: Is anyone BIPOC attached to this? 

And:

“Everyone has gone so underground with their true feelings about things,” said Mike White, the writer and director behind the hit HBO comedy-drama “The White Lotus.” “If you voice things in a certain way it can really have negative repercussions for you, and people can presume that you could be racist, or you could be seen as misogynist.”

Howard Koch, who has been involved in the production of more than 60 movies, including such classics as “Chinatown” and “Marathon Man,” and is the former president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, said: “I’m all for LGBT and Native Americans, blacks, females, whatever minorities that have not been served correctly in the making of content, whether it’s television or movies or whatever, but I think it’s gone too far. I know a lot of very talented people that can’t get work because they’re not black, Native American, female or LGBTQ.”

Another writer, who, like most of the writers we interviewed, was afraid to speak openly for fear of never working again, said: “I get so paranoid about even phone calls. It’s so scary. My close friends and my family are just like, ‘Don’t say anything.’ It is one of those things, ‘Will I be able to sleep at night if I say anything?’ Getting jobs in this town is so hard, and I’m very grateful to have a great job. If there’s any so-called ding on my record, that would just be an argument against hiring me.”

Kiefer and Savodnik muse about the great movies and TV shows of the past that could never get made now because everyone is so terrified of crossing an unseen line and blowing up their careers.

The writers’ room is supposed to be smart, funny, nasty, a little bawdy, the kind of place where people can make jokes and riff and wonder aloud and vomit out ideas that might become an unforgettable scene. Another showrunner in his mid-fifties (white, male, unfortunately) said: “You’re not allowed to pick your staff anymore, and studios won’t let you interview anybody who isn’t a person of color.”

He added that the culture of documenting even the slightest of slights makes him anxious. “I’m sitting in a room trying to run a show with a collection of people I don’t totally trust.”

Read it all.  It’s such a good piece. You are reading about the creative death of an industry. The rigid political standards, the pervasive lack of trust, the fear — no creative person can do good work in that kind of environment. And wait till you read in the piece what this new anti-white climate has done to the Jews who founded Hollywood!

For as long as I’ve been writing about racialized progressivism, I’ve pointed out that those on the Left who abandon the classical liberal standard of judging individuals by the quality of their work and the content of their character, and who take up the cause of group rights as “social justice,” are unavoidably calling up white racial consciousness, and anger. The nice white liberals who run Hollywood and various industries can be pushed around with left-wing racialist rhetoric, but there are a few white people who are not ashamed of themselves for the color of their skin (rightly so: nobody should be ashamed of their race or ethnicity), and who resent the hell out of losing out on job prospects because of their race, and being preached at by woke Hollywood and woke Media. We don’t see Republican office holders speaking out against this stuff, in defense of America’s classical liberal principles, no doubt because they are afraid to be called racist. At some point, some very bad men are going to arise to give voice to those white people who hate this racism directed at them and their children, and who don’t care what the bien pensants think of them. When that happens, we will tear ourselves apart.

Read this Substack piece by the UK journalist Ed West, about whites moving into the minority in America. West talks about how “demographic instability” — the majority population fearing it will be turned into a minority — as major factors in several bloody civil conflicts. Bosnia in the 1990s, Lebanon in the 1970s, Northern Ireland in the 1960s — all are examples, he says. Excerpt:

Things can change very quickly. Northern Ireland in the 1960s may have been the most peaceful society in human history; in 1963 and 1964 its homicide rate was 0.07 per 100,000, about a quarter of that of today’s Japan or Singapore, the two least violent (non-micro) countries. By the end of that decade, it was in a state of near-civil war, showing how it only takes a small number of dedicated partisans to turn life into hell for everyone.

West goes on to express surprise that we know from history what can happen when a country undergoes demographic replacement of the majority by a former minority, but US elites don’t seem to take it seriously at all. Excerpt:

The New York Times quoted two academics, Maureen Craig at N.Y.U. and Jennifer Richeson at Yale, whose paper Majority No More? found that ‘White Americans considering a future in which the white population has declined to less than 50 percent of the national population are more likely to perceive that the societal status of their racial group — in terms of resources or as the “prototypical” American — is under threat, which in turn leads to stronger identification as white, the expression of more negative racial attitudes and emotions, greater opposition to diversity, and greater endorsement of conservative political ideology, political parties, and candidates.’

Similar papers have been quoted showing that, when presented with a future where they become a minority, white Americans become more nationalist, conservative and tribal – but what is surprising is that anyone finds this surprising.

… In multicultural democracies people tend to vote along ethnic and confessional lines, and as America has become more multicultural so have its voting patterns followed a similar trajectory, with the Democratic Party an alliance of minorities and the rich (who are, as Amy Chua put it, a sort of minority in themselves). In contrast, Republicans now enjoy a 40-point lead among white men without a college degree. Diversity is only one of 10 drivers of polarization cited by Jonathan Haidt, yet it is also the only one which is an article of faith among one party, and the country’s elite.

There is, of course, a strong counter argument to the ‘emerging Demographic majority’ theory in which demography is destiny. Hispanics in particular are moving to the Republican Party in large numbers, in part at least repulsed by the pro-crime, race-hysteria of the opposition. Donald Trump was, paradoxically, one of the least racially polarizing of modern US presidents, improving his vote share among all minorities in 2020.

The Republicans may evolve into a sort of multi-ethnic working-class alliance, as many American Catholic commentators hope; the downside of this would be a populism pushed towards self-conscious coarseness and stupidity of the ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ variety; as one sceptical conservative put it, soon Republican commentary will just be people making farting noises to own the libs. This new type of party may happen, but working-class solidarity is generally a feeble force in history, far less powerful than ethnicity and religion.

Read it all. If we had leaders in both the public and private sector who had the slightest bit of foresight, they would be working to make this transition go well, and would be suppressing racial triumphalism of the sort that Kiefer and Savodnik document in their piece. But we don’t. Most Republicans by and large avoid talking about it, and most Democrats embrace at some level anti-white racism (or at least stay silent in the face of it out of fear for their livelihoods). It’s hard to see a hopeful future for America, given that the ruling class has committed itself to a totalitarian ideology that teaches Americans to hate other Americans, especially along racial lines — and that makes people of good will afraid to speak out against it, for fear that their livelihoods will be destroyed.

If we are to avert this coming disaster for our country, we are going to need a lot more people with courage inside those industries and communities to start speaking out.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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