Hollywood can still mount a soapbox and recall the dark days when people lost their jobs in show business for daring to take an unpopular political position that was outside the mainstream. Whenever they're criticized, they proclaim, "McCarthyism," accuse their critics of "blacklisting," and condemn the deplorable "intolerance."
Hollywood has yet to accept, perhaps even to understand, that it is the entertainment industry that excels at this slanderous behavior. After California voters narrowly approved Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, it was revealed that Scott Eckern, the artistic director of the California Musical Theater in Sacramento, the state's largest nonprofit musical theater company, had donated $1,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign.
Eckern's freedom of speech be damned: The man needed to be punished. Producer Marc Shaiman's musical "Hairspray" had played at the theater, and he announced he would never allow anything he wrote to play there because of Eckern's donation. Shaiman's declaration triggered a blistering e-mail pressure campaign, forcing Eckern to resign.
Shaiman claimed to the Associated Press that he regretted that it came to Eckern losing his job and said: "It's a tragedy for everyone involved. You'll certainly see that no one called for him to resign."
Shaiman said he would never allow anything he wrote to play there, but he doesn't think that was creating pressure to dismiss Eckern? That confounds common sense. So great was the pressure that Eckern, a Mormon, also felt he had to donate a repentant $1,000 to a gay-rights group. Meanwhile, the theater bizarrely claimed it would not "impinge on the rights of its employees to engage in political activities."
This wasn't the only blacklisting. Los Angeles Film Festival Director Richard Raddon, also a Mormon, was pressed into resignation after his $1,500 donation to the Yes on 8 campaign was disclosed. Film Independent, the festival's organizer, put out its own Orwellian statement that "Our organization does not police the personal, religious or political choices of any employee, member or filmmaker." But one Film Independent board member told the Los Angeles Times that the "progressives" also berated Raddon personally with phone calls and e-mails.
Gay activists are correct that they have every right to boycott theaters or businesses that offend them. But that's exactly the right that anti-communists claimed in the middle of the last century, and Hollywood has spent more than 50 years condemning this as an attack on hallowed free speech. The hypocrisy speaks for itself.