President Obama may be meeting with a lot of resistance as he pushes for military action against Syria, but it doesn’t appear that he will be facing any from the anti-war crowd among his moneyed friends in Hollywood.
Prior to our invasion of Iraq under George Bush, the anti-war movement in Hollywood was alive and well, with an all-star cast featuring West Wing TV President Martin Sheen, dictator Hugo Chavez’ close friend Sean Penn, rich anti-capitalists Ed Asner and Matt Damon, Democrat fundraiser extraordinaire Barbra Streisand, new MSNBC host Alec Baldwin, former M*A*S*H TV surgeon Mike Farrell, and naturally, angry unwashed hipster Janeane Garofalo (of course, if they were truly anti-war, they would be protesting both sides of a conflict, but they always seem to reserve their outrage for the American government).
But where are they now that Obama is possibly uncorking World War III? The Buzzfeed website posted a satirical piece last week called “14 Principled Anti-War Celebrities We Fear May Have Been Kidnapped,” about the absence of entertainment industry protesters against impending war in Syria. Their list includes the usual anti-war suspects like Sheryl Crow (“The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies”), Sean Penn (“I think we’re past that point in human evolution where there’s such a thing as winning wars”), Susan Sarandon (“Let us hate war in all its forms, whether the weapon used is a missile or an airplane”) and George Clooney (“You can’t beat your enemy anymore through wars; instead you create an entire generation of people revenge-seeking”). “The only explanation for their continued silence,” mocked Buzzfeed, “must be a large, organized kidnapping.”
If only. But Ed Asner, 83, best known as Mary Tyler Moore’s grumpy-but-lovable sitcom boss, and M*A*S*H’s Farrell, 74, recently gave The Hollywood Reporter some other explanations for the absence.
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BothLike the rest of the radical left, both actor/activists are disappointed in Obama, but only because he hasn’t proven to be radical enough. “I voted for him,” said Asner, “but I'm not proud. He… has proved himself to be a corporatist, and as long as he’s a corporatist, he’s not my president.” Farrell: “I’m frankly deeply disappointed in the president’s foreign policy, war-making, his reliance on military rather than diplomatic responses, his use of drones, continued allowance of the Guantanamo prison. He’s a disappointment to me and other people I know.”
Farrell is even labeling the Nobel Peace Prize winner a future war criminal. “What he is talking about in Syria is a potential war crime,” Farrell said. “It will be illegal, and if citizens are killed it certainly could be considered a war crime.”
But he doubts that the same Hollywood folk who spoke out against war in 2003 will get all that worked up about Syria. “We're talking about the difference between an invasion in Iraq and a limited action in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.” Farrell apparently is naïve enough to believe that a “limited” military strike on Syria won’t have far from limited consequences.
Asner says the Hollywood anti-war opposition is there but simply isn’t organized, which he blames on timing. The left had plenty of advance notice to gear up in 2003, he says, but today, “It will be a done deal before Hollywood is mobilized. This country will either bomb the hell out of Syria or not before Hollywood gets off its ass.”
Timing isn’t a convincing explanation. Celebrities don’t have to be organized to speak out, and even when they are, the logistics aren’t that complicated. Hollywood wasted no time at all organizing its “Demand a Plan” anti-gun campaign in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre, including creating a video for it that featured dozens of achingly earnest celebs. Asner and Farrell are speaking out on their own – what’s stopping other celebrities? Where is the “Demand a Plan to End War” video?
As if sensing that that explanation wasn’t sufficient, Asner also placed blame on complacency brought on by activists’ failure to prevent war in Iraq. “We had a million people in the streets, for Christ’s sake, protesting Iraq, which was about as illegal as you could find,” says Asner. “Did it matter? Is George Bush being tried in the high courts of justice? We've been so God-damned stung in this country by false wars, repeatedly, that, how can you believe in any just war with the history we have had?”
So naturally, it’s Bush’s fault. His “false wars” have crushed the idealism of Hollywood activists and turned them into lethargic cynics who simply can’t muster the outrage or will to protest Obama. “A lot of people have lost hope – with the betrayals, the NSA spying,” Asner opined. “People aren’t getting active because ‘Who gives a shit?’ is essentially the bottom line.” This is a ridiculous rationalization.
One explanation Asner’s omitting? The fact that Hollywood leftists likely can’t bear the prospect of appearing to have been wrong about their “Hope and Change” Messiah, even though not even they are immune to the bite of his economic policies.
But Asner finally hits the nail on the head when he proposes a third reason Hollywood isn’t speaking out against war in Syria: “A lot of people don't want to feel anti-black by being opposed to Obama.”
And there you have it. The party of perpetual racism fears nothing – not even global war – more than appearing to be the thing they most often accuse others of – racist. Since Obama’s first days as President, the left’s high-capacity assault weapon against the right has been the charge that anyone who criticizes the policies of a (half-)black President is de facto racist. Now the hypocritical Hollywood leftist community won’t stand up to his plan to support al Qaeda-backed rebels in Syria, a plan that could rope America into a world war, because doing so would leave them vulnerable to that same charge.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Magazine, 9/9/13)