The New McCarthyism

Thus, when we see people like Willie Nelson, Sean Penn, and Marion Cotillard speak out and survive, or when people like Tom Shadyac (or myself) voluntarily walk away from Hollywood because speaking the truth matters more to them, it sends a message that it is now permissible, indeed imperative to speak out. This is not to say that there are not risks. Rosie O'Donnell lost her spot on "The View", but the majority of Americans understand exactly why, and understand that Rosie sacrificed a great deal trying to get the truth out. Rosie is and will be remembered as a hero for truth long after her co-hosts on "The View" are properly forgotten.

In contrast, of course, we look back at those who aided the "Commie" witch-hunts of the 1940s with deserved contempt. No doubt many aided Hoover purely to rid themselves of competition, and then tried to lull themselves to sleep with the idea that in some way they had actually done something good for the nation by wrecking their neighbors' careers. I have no doubt strong liquor played a role in this grossest of self-deception. But if the informants and smear artists of the 1940s are remembered in a poor light, that should serve as a reminder to the informants and smear artists of today. It does not matter what you do with the rest of your life, aiding the new version of McCarthyism is how history will remember you. While people like Charlie Sheen, Willie Nelson, Sean Penn, and Marion Cotillard (and to step out of entertainment, former President Jimmy Carter) will be remembered and honored for their courage, history will lump the smear artists together with Stalin's "Useful idiots", little more than no-talent opportunists for whom ratting out someone was the fastest path to advancement.

They say that history repeats itself, and indeed that is the major thing wrong with history. We are seeing history repeat itself again. We have been down this path before, in the 1940s. Whether the word is "Communist" or "Anti-Semite", Hollywood is making the same mistake all over again. And Hollywood will have to live with that image in the coming decades.

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