Debra Messing: Saving the world, one red carpet at a time

This year’s red carpet

It goes without saying that sexual abuse is a despicable crime. But how many of the men who walked the Golden Globes red carpet this year had their own dark secrets? How many of the women owed their success, at least in part, to decisions to yield to sexual aggression by powerful producers or directors or stars – and to keep quiet about it? As the scale of the sex abuse scandal ballooned over the last few months, many people wondered how Hollywood, once awards season came, would deal with its shame.

Debra Messing before the big show

After all, they’ve been posing for decades as pillars of virtue, lecturing to the American public in their projects and in their talk-show appearances. Surely the scandal would embarrass them, mortify them. How, under such circumstances, could they go through with their annual self-celebration? What’s clear now is that Hollywood doesn’t have any shame – these people’s egos are so massive, their sense of superiority to the hoi polloi so unshakable, that even now they still feel perfectly comfortable preaching into the cameras.

Which brings us back to Will and Grace star Debra Messing, whose recent turn to outspoken political activism we began discussing on Tuesday. Listening to her red-carpet rant, you’d have thought, for a second, that you were witnessing some revolutionary gathering of the downtrodden rather than a glamorous black-tie event for some of the most privileged people on earth. You’d have thought that Messing was standing not on a red carpet but on some barricade out of Les Miz. As we noted on Tuesday, she called for “intersectional gender equality.” How many viewers who’d tuned in seeking diversion from their real-life problems knew what on earth Messing was talking about? “Intersectional gender parity”? It was not only obnoxious and inappropriate, but also wildly pretentious.

Harvey Weinstein

Plainly, Messing, like so many of her showbiz colleagues, wants to be seen as a spokesperson for ordinary women and people of color and poor folks generally; she wants the world to see her as a great big heart overflowing with sensitivity and sympathy for those less fortunate than herself. But how many of the real-life people for whom she pretends to speak have any idea what “intersectional” means? Has the question ever crossed Messing’s mind? This, folks, is precisely the essence of Hollywood radicalism these days: it’s not remotely about the limousine set identifying with the rabble or wanting to help improve their lot; it’s about showbiz luminaries virtue signaling to one another.

Ronan Farrow

Naturally, the mainstream media loved it. For example, NBC News called Messing’s comments “fearless” and “powerful.” Now, NBC News, it will be remembered, is the news organization for which Ronan Farrow prepared his exposé on Harvey Weinstein – the sensational story that kicked off the whole Hollywood sex scandal. It will also be remembered that NBC News, which is now so eager to praise people like Messing as “fearless” and “powerful,” was itself too timid to run Farrow’s story itself – which was why it ended up being published in the New Yorker. Ah, the courage!

Don’t mess with Debra Messing!

Born in 1968, Debra Messing has had a stellar acting career. Her breakthrough role on the NBC sitcom Will and Grace (1998-2006) led, via a series of supporting roles in obscure movies and one-shot performances on various TV series, to her triumphant current gig in, um, the retread of the NBC sitcom Will and Grace (2017-).

Debra Messing

Okay, we won’t knock her career. Let’s face it, she’s been lucky. However horrible Will and Grace was (and is), the residuals certainly can’t be anything to sneeze at. Still, to those who aren’t Will and Grace fans, Messing is probably best known for her recent forays into political commentary. In a relatively brief time, she’s become quite the nag. In the spring of 2016, when actress Susan Sarandon, a longtime feminist and leftist radical, expressed her lack of enthusiasm for the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton and suggested that the country might be better off under Donald Trump, Messing was outraged, writing on Twitter: “Wonder if she’d say that if she were poor, gay, Muslim or imm[i]gr[a]nt.”

Blake Shelton

That was just the beginning. In July, after country singer Blake Shelton told an interviewer that “Whether you love [Trump] or hate him, he says what he thinks, and he has proven that you don’t always have to be so afraid,” Messing was – again – outraged, accusing him of supporting an enemy of women’s rights. (Shelton explained that he wasn’t supporting either Trump or Hillary.)

Susan Sarandon

Following Trump’s election, it was back to Sarandon again, who opined on Twitter that progressives needed to “reach out in dialogue to those who voted 4 [Trump]. We can’t afford a blanket judgement [sic] of them. We need allies in that camp. Possible.” Once again, Messing went berserk: “JESUS CHRIST. NOW she wants to give racist, islamophobic, homophobic, sexist, mysogynists a chance! ‘Pure’ 4 Bernie. F*** everyone else.”

For years, Messing pretty much kept her mouth shut except when reading lines penned for her by screenwriters. Now – well, we suppose that thanks to Will and Grace she has pockets full of “F*** you” money and is now taking advantage of this financial independence to try to out-Lena Dunham Lena Dunham. Earlier this month, while being interviewed by a reporter for the E! network on the red carpet at the Golden Globe Awards, Messing served up a shrill demand: “Time is up. We want diversity and we want intersectional gender parity!” She proceeded, according to NBC News, “to demand more diversity among workplaces, emphasizing women of color, and a gender balance of ’50/50 by 2020.’”

Lena Dunham at a Golden Globes afterparty

Messing wasn’t the only political activist on the red carpet. Far from it. The Golden Globes ceremony, after all, was the first major Hollywood awards show of the season since the industry’s biggest scandal of all time kicked into high gear a few months ago, with one powerful industry figure after another being brought down by accusations of sexual harassment and abuse. The result has been a hashtag campaign – #metoo – on behalf of the victims and, at the Golden Globes, a purported display of solidarity in the form of black gowns (for the women) and stylish “Time’s Up!” buttons (for the men), meaning that the era of male sexual predation in Hollywood was supposedly over.

Almost all of those attending the ceremony, in short, were – at least in their own minds – bold heroes, tireless activists. But none of them outdid Messing. More on Thursday.

Keith Ellison, Antifa fan

Keith Ellison

On Tuesday, we met Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in the U.S. Congress – who, among much else, has defended Louis Farrakhan, likened George W. Bush to Hitler, and compared Trump unfavorably with Kim Jong-un. As we’ve seen, Ellison, who represents Minneapolis and environs, has been quite chummy with the terrorist-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations: he’s spoken at CAIR events, and CAIR leaders have spoken at Ellison fundraisers.

Ellison addressing the US Council of Muslim Organizations

But CAIR isn’t the only dicey Muslim group with which he has cozy connections. He’s addressed at least three conventions of the Hamas-linked Islamic Society of North America. In 2007 and again in 2008, he was the keynote speaker at conventions of the Muslim American Society (MAS), appearing on the second occasion with an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. MAS, which has been linked to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al-Qaeda, and which the United Arab Emirates has designated as a terrorist group, has called for jihadist violence and the murder of Jews, and, in its official magazine, routinely refers to suicide bombers as martyrs and to terrorists as freedom fighters. In 2016, under pressure, Ellison withdrew as speaker from a MAS event.

Ellison with jihad enthusiast and faux feminist Linda Sarsour

As we made clear on Tuesday, Ellison’s radical record was no mystery when Minneapolis voters sent him to Congress in 2006. It is hard to know what to make of the fact that they’ve sent him back five times since then, during a decade when his ties to pro-jihad groups and his hostility to Israel have been repeatedly on display. Less difficult to explain is why his fellows Democrats chose him – by unanimous acclamation – as the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee: he represents the party’s “progressive” wing, and these days, in that party, “progressive” includes everything from socialists-bordering-on-Communists to Muslims (and friends of Islam) whose public criticisms of jihadist terrorism sound painfully tame and pro forma.

Ellison with Mark Bray’s book

The latest cause for widespread concern about Ellison was a tweet he sent out on January 3. It read: “@MoonPalaceBooks and I just found the book that strike [sic] fear in the heart of @realDonaldTrump.” Accompanying the text was a photo of Ellison holding a volume entitled Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook by Mark Bray. Antifa, of course, is the umbrella term for a number of groups that, during the last couple of years, have joined together in violent protests against conservative, libertarian, and other non-leftist speakers at various U.S. college campuses. As the Daily Caller noted, “While the group [Antifa] claims to be anti-Fascist, they routinely shut down the speech of people they disagree with.”The Washington Times described Bray’s book as “a history of anti-fascism movements and guide to aspiring radicals.” Some reports have maintained that the book is nothing more than an objective account of its topic (Newsweek called it “politically neutral”), but this claim is nonsense: as an Associated Press report indicated, Bray “calls violence during counter-protests ‘a small though vital sliver of anti-fascist activity.’” Bray also maintains that certain ideas are undeserving of First Amendment protection.

Ben Shapiro

In response to Ellison’s tweet, Alex Griswold of the Washington Free Beacon tweeted: “Um, the deputy chair of the DNC is endorsing a book that advocates for violence in the streets.” The Young America’s Foundation (YAF) chastised Ellison for his tweet, calling it an “inexplicable embrace of violent Antifa tactics.” YAF, which has been involved in arranging many of the campus speaking events that Antifa has sought to disrupt, commented: “No one knows the dangers posed by Antifa better than the conservative college students YAF works with around the country who have been threatened, stalked, and at times attacked by the radical leftists who make up its ranks. Most notably, Antifa thugs attempted to shut down YAF’s campus lecture with Ben Shapiro at the University of California, Berkeley.” 

Nancy Pelosi

Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has vilified Antifa, saying last August: “You’re not talking about the far left of the Democratic Party – they’re not even Democrats. A lot of them are socialists or anarchists or whatever.” But Ellison isn’t the only high-profile establishment figure to signal his fondness for Antifa, and after his tweet went public – and garnered criticism – some mainstream publications dismissed the furor as a far-right tempest in a teapot. “The anger toward Ellison is increasingly a fringe movement,” Newsweek insisted, the implication being that any hostility directed at him is by definition racist and Islamophobic.

Keith Ellison, Congressional radical

Keith Ellison

Forget Bernie Sanders (who, after all, isn’t really a Democrat anyway). Keith Ellison is the face of today’s far-left, identity politics-obsessed Democrat Party. He was the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, in 2006. (But he’s already not the last: two years after his election, Hoosiers sent André Carson to Washington.) 

Louis Farrakhan

Raised Catholic, Ellison became a Muslim at 19. In law school, he wrote a series of articles in which he sought to defend Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and his flunky Khalid Abdul Muhammed (a Holocaust denier who had called Jews “hook-nosed, bagel-eatin’, lox-eatin’ impostors”) against frankly indisputable charges of being anti-white and anti-Semitic.

Ellison speaking at an anti-Israeli event

Ellison, who originally ran for office under the name Keith Ellison-Muhammed, spent four years in the Minnesota legislature before running in 2006 for the U.S. Congress. During the 2006 campaign, his opponents brought up his failure to pay income taxes for several years in the 1990s. (As a result, the IRS had put liens on his home.) He’d also failed to pay parking tickets and fines, causing his driver’s license to be suspended repeatedly. You might consider these actions to be a sign of – at the very least – a lack of civic responsibility, and you might think that civic responsibility would be the first requirement for a member of Congress. But never mind.

Opponents also brought up his longtime association with Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. In response, Ellison readily denounced both the organization and its leader. You might wonder how sincere his denunciation was. You also might wonder how principled a man is when he’s willing to kick to the curb, prontissimo, a man who, however execrable, was apparently one of his heroes. But never mind.

Nihad Awad

Curiously, even as he distanced himself from the Nation of Islam, Ellison accepted support from the equally reprehensible, terrorist-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose then executive director, Nihad Awad, spoke at one of his fundraisers. Ellison also spoke numerous times at CAIR events, while Awad and at least one other CAIR official also personally contributed to the Ellison campaign. Ellison’s Republican challenger criticized him for taking terrorist-tainted money. (Awad, a former official of the Islamic Association of Palestine, a group drenched in the blood of terrorist victims, had also donated to Hamas.) You might think all of this would have given voters pause. But never mind. In the end, none of it mattered. Ellison was elected to Congress, where he has since represented all of Minneapolis and parts of two adjacent counties.

Ellison speaking at a CAIR event

He was the first member of Congress to take his oath on a Koran. But the controversies didn’t end there. In a 2007 speech, he suggested that the U.S. was a “totalitarian” power, compared George W. Bush to Hitler, and implied that 9/11 had been engineered by the Bush White House. Ellison later walked back those statements, acknowledging that Osama bin Laden, not Bush, was in fact behind 9/11.

Sami al-Arian

In 2007, in violation of administration policy, Ellison and other members of Congress visited Syria, a designated state sponsor of terrorism. In Saudi Arabia, Ellison waxed poetic over the experience of being in the same country as Mecca and Medina. In 2008, he expressed support for Sami al-Arian, who had been dismissed from the faculty of the University of South Florida for aiding the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In 2010, Ellison decried supposed Israeli influence over U.S. foreign policy, finally sparking criticism by the Anti-Defamation League, which had previously bent over backwards to avoid chiding him.

Kim Jong-un and friends

While frequently excoriating Israel for defending itself against terrorist attacks, Ellison has had good things to say about Iran – and even North Korea. Speaking on a panel last August, he said that while “the world always thought” Kim Jong-un “was not a responsible leader,” the dictator was in fact “acting more responsible [sic] than this guy is” – “this guy” being the President of the United States, Donald Trump. Ellison had to walk back that statement, too.

In November 2016, Ellison was the “progressive” choice for chair of the Democratic National Committee. When Tom Perez beat him, Perez asked that Ellison be chosen to serve as his Deputy Chair; Ellison won by a unanimous voice vote. His ascent to this party position clinched his role as the most powerful and prominent Muslim in the U.S. But, as we’ll see on Thursday, it certainly didn’t persuade him to take a less radical line in his politics.

Top three stooges of 2017

It’s not clear what, if anything will happen to Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding now that its founder, benefactor, and namesake is under arrest in his Saudi homeland for bribery, extortion, and money-laundering, but chances are good that the current director, Jonathan A.C. Brown, will land on his feet. Allah knows there are plenty of other magnificent job opportunities in the Western world for top-flight apologists for radical Islam, and Brown is at the very tip of the top. Since converting to the Religion of Peace in 1997, as we wrote in March, he’s been an ardent apologist for Islamic slavery (which, he’s explained, is “kinder and gentler” than other kinds of slavery, because it’s not “racialized”), a defender of Koranically sanctioned child marriage, and a whitewasher of the sharia-imposed death penalty for gays.

Which brings us to Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, an assistant editor at Foreign Policy who, after Brown came under legitimate attack for his disgusting views, dismissed the criticism as Islamophobia. This, it turned out, was not a one-off: Allen, who’s married to a Muslim, had previously written an article in the Washington Post suggesting that her family was Islamophobic for serving non-halal food on Thanksgiving, and has since painted U.S. government terror probes as acts of bigotry. Yes, as we noted in May, Allen skirted the fact that these probes have uncovered widespread terrorist links, but never mind: in her world, Muslims are always innocent and concern about terror always a front for hate.

Then there’s Jordan-born Columbia University professor Joseph Massad, who consistently paints Israeli Jews as racist oppressors who’ve never felt a benign impulse and Palestinians as innocent victims who’ve never known a bigoted thought. In this regard, of course, he’s barely distinguishable from Brown and any number of other contemporary academics. What singles Massad out is that he’s a gay man who, on the grounds that gay identity is a Western construct, considers campaigners for gay rights in Muslim countries tools of colonialism and takes the side of their oppressors. When Egyptian cops arrested and brutalized 52 gay men in 2011, then, Massad approved, responding to U.S. congressmen who sought to help the victims by serving up this heartless comment: “It is not the same-sex sexual practices that are being repressed by the Egyptian police but rather the sociopolitical identification of these practices with the Western identity of gayness and the publicness that these gay-identified men seek.”

Happy New Year.

Catching up with Stalin apologist Ben Norton

In July of last year, we spent a week covering the oeuvre of Ben Norton, who after only three years as a professional scribe had already compiled an extensive body of work – and made a name for himself as a high-profile fan of socialism and Islam and enemy of the U.S. and Israel.

Ben Norton

To say he’s a fan of socialism, to be sure, is to soft-pedal his ideological allegiances. In fact he’s a full-throated defender of Communism, as witnessed by a piece he published at AlterNet on November 22. In it, he accused the Trump administration and others, including the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, of marking the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution by “demoniz[ing] communism.”

Singling out a Post article in which Marc Thiessen pointed out that “Communist regimes killed some 100 million people — roughly four times the number killed by the Nazis — making communism the most murderous ideology in human history,” Norton called the piece a “diatribe” and denounced Thiessen for “whitewashing the Nazi regime’s uniquely murderous crimes.” Because, you see, if you dare to tell the whole truth about the destructive evil of Communism, and acknowledge that Communism, in its century-long history, has indeed claimed more lives than Nazism did during its decade or so in power, you must be a Nazi sympathizer.

Marc Thiessen

In his screed, Norton played the same kind of numbers game in which Holocaust deniers like to indulge. Rejecting the claim that Communist regimes had killed 100 million people, he complained that that figure included Russians killed during the Nazi invasion of the USSR. He also criticized Thiessen and others for relying on statistics from The Black Book of Communism, a solid reference work that Norton dismissed as a “propagandistic tract” – “a collection of right-wing essays published in France in 1997” – and charged with “trivializing the Holocaust.”

Josef Stalin

Of course, it’s possible to tell the whole truth about Communism without being a fan of Nazism. Evil is evil. Totalitarianism is totalitarianism. Surely the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal don’t think Hitler was peachy keen. Norton’s whole line of argument here is disingenuous – in fact, he’s the one who greatly prefers one kind of totalitarianism to the other, and who is determined not to see them placed anywhere near on the same level. He claims that The Black Book of Communism had been used “to diminish the crimes of fascism and portray it as a lesser evil compared to communism.” That admirers of one brand of tyranny can use the facts about another brand of tyranny to suit their own purposes does not mean that those facts aren’t facts.

Noam Chomsky

Norton goes further: borrowing from Noam Chomsky, he serves up the suggestion that the logic of The Black Book of Communism could be used to blame capitalism for the death of tens of millions of people in India alone. He also tries to sell the notion that, because “the Soviet Union’s meticulously kept archives” show that “799,455 people were executed under the rule of Joseph Stalin between 1921 and 1953,” this number should be accepted as the sum total of lives lost as a result of Communism during the Stalin era. Forget, then, the Gulag and the Holodomor.

Mao Zedong

Norton also tries to drastically slash the number of people who died as a consequence of Mao’s tyranny, arguing that millions of them were, rather, victims of famine, and pointing out that deadly famines have been a regular part of Chinese history for centuries. In short, in addition to dropping the Gulag and Holodomor down the memory hole, Norton also deep-sixes the depredations of the so-called Cultural Revolution.

But that’s not all. Norton implies that instead of demonizing Communism, we should celebrate it – after all, it was the Soviets who experienced most of the battlefront casualties in “the fight against fascism.” Fine – the problem is that, again, they were fighting one form of totalitarianism in the name of another form of totalitarianism. He describes the USSR as having “liberated Auschwitz and Berlin.” But how can you speak of “liberation” when the people “liberated” ended up living under a fiercely illiberal dictatorship?

Catching up with Mlle. Knowles & Mr. Kaepernick

Superstar

Beyoncé! Her life has been an American Dream. In addition to every other glorious accomplishment in her career – her 22 Grammys, her two-time listing as one of the “100 most influential people” by Time Magazine, her serenading of Barack Obama at one of his 2009 inaugural balls, her lip-synching of the national anthem at his second inauguration, her #1 ranking in Forbes’ Celebrity 100 List, and her naming by Forbes this year as the most powerful woman in entertainment – she was the star of halftime at the Super Bowl in February 2016. At that event, America’s biggest TV event of the year, she repaid America’s bounteous gift to her by paying tribute. To whom? The Black Panthers.

Enough Black Power salutes for you?

As we wrote here a few days later, the show, which featured her new song “Formation,” was “an exercise in what one critic called ‘Black Panther chic.’” With its Black Power salutes and its slap at the police, the Guardian suggested it might be “the most radical political statement from the superstar in her 20-year career.” The audience held up “rainbow-colored placards” that read Believe in Love. “Does Beyoncé sincerely believe that the Black Panther movement has, or ever had, anything whatsoever to do with love?” we asked. “If she does, then she can only be described as a thoroughgoing historical ignoramus, and thus a useful stooge of the first order. For the fact is that the Black Panthers were, quite simply, hate set in system. They were racists, terrorists, homophobes, anti-Semites, proud disciples of the cruelest and most remorseless totalitarian despots of the twentieth century. Nothing could be more Orwellian than the notion that they were ever driven, in any sense of the word, by love.”

Setting the Super Bowl on fire

Perhaps Beyoncé was simply ignorant – perhaps she just didn’t know better. Born in 1981, she’s too young to have experience the evil heyday of the Black Panthers firsthand. But someone with so much power owes it to her public to educate herself. That wouldn’t have been too hard or time-consuming. All the information is out there, at her fingertips. One of her innumerable handlers and hangers-on could’ve done the research for her and handed her a file.

That, at least, is what we told ourselves after her Super Bowl fiasco. We were prepared to give Beyoncé the benefit of the doubt. But how can there be much doubt after what she did this past December 5?

Magic Johnson

The setting: the annual Sportsperson of the Year Award Show in New York. One of the awards presented that evening was Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. It is supposed to go to “individuals whose dedication to the ideals of sportsmanship has spanned decades and whose career in athletics has directly or indirectly impacted the world.” The 2014 winner was longtime L.A. Laker Magic Johnson, one of the great basketball players ever – a three-time NBA MVP, a 12-time NBA All-Star, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and of the gold-winning 1992 U.S. Olympics team. He has also proven to be a terrific businessman, with an eponymous conglomerate worth $700 million, and has been a devoted AIDS activist.

Kaepernick (center) doing what he does best – not playing football

In 2015, the winner was golfer Jack Nicklaus, of whom we could supply an equally impressive résumé. In 2016, the honor was shared by a trio of glittering names from athletic history: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, and Bill Russell. This year, the prize went to Colin Kaepernick, who spent five years as a middling player for the San Francisco 49ers. Most Americans had not heard of him until August 26 of last year, when he took a knee during the pre-game playing of National Anthem. This became a habit. And it grew infectious. It spread to other football teams, and other professional sports, and even to college and youth games.

In his stupid t-shirt

Kaepernick’s explanation for the action, as we noted a year ago, was that Kaepernick, “whose biological father was black and biological mother white,” and who “was raised in Wisconsin by adoptive white parents,” was protesting the supposedly systematic mistreatment of blacks in America. We pointed out that Kaepernick, this self-styled victim of racial oppression, lives in a mansion, and that at the press conference at which he explained his knee-taking, he wore a t-shirt featuring pictures of Malcolm X with Fidel Castro.

Fidel with Muhammad Ali

Now, maybe in some sense Kaepernick is a perfect winner for an award named for Muhammad Ali, because the legendary heavyweight was also a fan – indeed, a friend – of Fidel Castro and Malcolm X. But his selection was a slap in the face to athletes who are real role models, and Beyoncé’s involvement in the awards ceremony was yet more proof of her ignorance about the world and ingratitude for American freedom. Presenting the prize to Kaepernick, she said: “Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion, only hope to change the world for the better. To change the way we treat each other – especially people of color. We’re still waiting for the world to catch up. It’s been said that racism is so American that when we protest racism, some assume we’re protesting America.”

The award presentation

On the contrary, study after study has shown that America is among the least racist of all countries. Young Americans nowadays are so ill-educated that many of them think America was the only nation ever to have slavery; in fact, its distinction is that it was the one major country that fought a civil war to free slaves. In any event, a question: in exactly which way has Kaepernick changed the world for the better? What has he done except to take the U.S. flag, a symbol of unity amid diversity – e pluribus unum – and turned it into an occasion for destructive dissension and unfounded accusation.

It is good to report that this handing over of a presumably important award by one fool to another did not go uncriticized. “They just turned Muhammad Ali’s Legacy Award into toilet paper,” said Kevin Jackson on Fox News. And another Fox News contributor, Tomi Lahren, tweeted: “Police-hating Beyoncé presents police and America-hating Kappy with a ‘legacy’ award. This is how far we’ve fallen.”