Boycott Mel Gibson?

Over at the Huffington Post, Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel writes:"People in the entertainment community, whether Jew or gentile, need to demonstrate that they understand how much is at stake in this by professionally shunning Mel Gibson and refusing to work with him, even if it means a sacrifice to their bottom line." Even before Gibson's recent anti-Jewish tirade, according to a couple of articles in the New York Times (that I cite here) various Hollywood figures refused to work with Mel Gibson because of controversy over The Passion of the Christ and Gibson's views on the Holocaust.

All this "boycotting Gibson" talk raises the question of why, if it's okay to boycott Gibson because his of his views on Jews, it wasn't okay for the Hollywood studios to boycott Stalinists because they were supporters of one of the great mass murderers in world history, who also happened to be America's greatest enemy at the time. The Hollywood Ten, for example, were all members of the Stalinist, and Stalin-controlled, Communist Party. Former Hollywood screenwriter Ayn Rand wrote at the time: "Should the Hollywood 10 suffer unpopularity or loss of jobs as a result of being Communists? They most certainly should — so long as the rest of us, who give them jobs or box office support, would not want to aid Communists or be accessories to the spread of communism."

As I discuss in my review essay on free speech and the "McCarthy era" (which goes into subtleties that are too lengthy and complex for a blog post, but read the whole thing if you are interested), Ronald Radosh, co-author of Red Star Over Hollywood: Th Film Colony's Long Romance With The Left (2005), and an expert on American Communism, tells me that not only were all of the Hollywood Ten members of the CPUSA at the time they were blacklisted, so were approximately 98 per cent of all of the Hollywood blacklist's targets. According to Larry Ceplair & Steven Englund, The Inquisition in Hollywood 239, 241 (2003), Communist screenwriters, in particular, "defended the Stalinist regime, accepted the Comintern's policies and about-faces and criticized enemies and allies alike with infuriating self-righteousness .... screen artist reds became apologists for crimes of monstrous dimensions. ... film Reds in particular never displayed any independence of mind or organization vis-a-vis the Comintern and the Soviet Union." Moreover, as I wrote, "nor was the screenwriters' Communist activism irrelevant to their jobs, as they actively sought to maximize Communist and pro-Soviet sentiment in films, and minimize the opposite."

Yet, the "blacklist" remains one of Hollywood's deepest shames. I'm not going to shed any tears over Mel Gibson's self-destruction, but I haven't shed any over those poor unfortunate Stalinists who temporarily lost their jobs in the 1950s, either.

UPDATE: Beyond not shedding tears, do I support a boycott of Gibson? That's a difficult question. Supposedly, he has been very nice and fair to many Jews he has worked with, and I tend think that actions speak louder than words, especially words not uttered for public consumption (H.L. Mencken, who was prejudiced against Jews, but not only was extremely fair to them as an editor, but was one of a very few public figures who advocated allowing Jews from Germany to immigrate to the U.S. in the 1930s, comes to mind). I still haven't seen his controversial movie, so I have no informed opinion on that. To make the Communist analogy fairer, IF it turns out that Gibson belongs to an anti-Semitic organization, and IF it turns out that he intended to convey hostility to Jews in his movie, a boycott would be as justified as boycotting the Hollywood Ten for being active Stalinists. But I certainly wouldn't begrudge anyone who doesn't want to work with someone who launches into anti-Jewish tirades as soon as he gets a little (.12 blood alcohol) liquor in him.