Friday, February 20, 2009

Kristallnacht at noon

Recently I attended a meeting led by a prominent executive at one of the major studios. Though we had gathered to discuss potential film projects, the executive quickly turned our talk into a political screed. For a good twenty minutes, she dissertated on the ignorance and incompetence of the American people, specifically, those who did not live in either New York or Los Angeles. Such people were, in her words, ‘zombies with children,’ who had no authentic lives, no ideas, and who ought not be allowed to vote, since their judgment could not be trusted. These numb denizens of fly-over country were, in her view, too stupid, too unsophisticated, too brainwashed by conservative talk shows to be entrusted with the franchise.

As the other five of us sat in silence, she dismissed anyone who lived in a small town and had children as ‘robots’ who, politically, did as they were told and did not ask questions. She stated that such people did not know what it meant to live, and she offered the observation that people in inner city ghettos were better off than the inmates of middle America since 'at least in a ghetto you know you’re alive.' When I inquired whether she was from the part of the country of which she spoke with such fervor, she blandly admitted that her experience of such people was limited to her trips to film locations, where she encountered them in local restaurants and chain stores.

What I found even more galling than having to listen to such elitist tripe was the fact that no one else in the room took exception to it, and, indeed, they actually appeared to agree with her. When I gently suggested that I must therefore be a ‘zombie with children’ since I spent much of my life in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania and had two sons, she blustered out that of course she was not including me.

I was furious leaving that meeting for two reasons: first, that such a person was entrusted with the responsibility of making films for the American people, and second, that I was not free to tell her, frankly and in detail, what I thought of her performance.

On the first point: This executive hates and disdains her audience. She is perfectly content to take their money at the box office, but, in fact, she has nothing but contempt for the very people who make her and her company a success. This would not be so bad if it were confined to her alone, but there is a distinct undercurrent of scorn among left-wing Hollywood studio types for average Americans who, ironically, form the bulk of their customers. I have sat in many meetings where politically correct executives have engaged in mocking discourse about Americans in general, and those who disagree with the executives' politics in particular. What is stultifying, however, is that none of these people expresses the slightest doubt that everyone else in the room agrees with them. It simply never occurs to them that anyone might hold a divergent point of view. This is true because, on the one hand, they never knowingly associate with anyone who thinks differently, and, on the other, because those few who do think differently dare not speak up for fear of retribution.

This brings me to my second point: I did not feel that I could contradict the executive because I was quite sure that she would retaliate against me if I did so. I would no longer be welcome at that studio, projects which might be sent my way would go to someone else – I would, in effect, be blacklisted. And here we come to the most poignant irony of all. In the Fifties, it was the anti-communist right-wing that blacklisted people in Hollywood; now it is the politically correct leftists who do so. The left has become the right in this town in a stunning inversion of fear, disdain and arrogance to which they are blithely blind. They assume that only they, and people who think as they do, have the right to govern, only they know what is best for the American people, only they can arbitrate morality, only they should be allowed to control the media.

The executive stated quite clearly and with real passion that most Americans should be denied the right to vote since their judgment could not be trusted. I so badly wanted to point out to her that it would be but a small step from that position to deciding that they should be denied their freedom altogether and be put into camps, and from there it would be an equally small step to decide that they should simply be gassed. But I did not, and perhaps I was wrong to say nothing. For the first small step down that road is to deny someone the opportunity to work because he dares to disagree, and that is something she would surely have done. To avoid it, I kept silent.

Now, in the aftermath of that meeting, I think I understand the frightened hopefulness of the German Jews. And in that understanding, I begin to hear the midnight shattering of glass.