As we’ve observed over and over again
in recent weeks at this site, the current conflicts over the
pro-liberty protesters in Hong Kong – and over the growing
arrogance of China generally in its relations with the free world –
have separated the sheep from the goats. Here are a couple of stories
we haven’t covered yet.
To begin with, there’s Quentin
Tarantino. We’ve criticized the brilliant, eccentric
writer-director on this site, but it’s important to give credit
where credit is due. His new Brad Pitt-Leonardo di Caprio vehicle,
Once upon a Time in Hollywood, has been generating
even more buzz than his pictures usually do, and looks like it has a
fair chance to pick up a few statuettes at Oscar time. But there’s
been one problem: the bigwigs in China, a top market for Hollywood
films these days, insisted that he make certain cuts before they
would allow the movie to be released there. To be sure, when Beijing
objected to scenes of violence and nudity in one of his previous
works, Django Unchained, he did agree to clip out a few of the
scenes that bothered them. But this time Tarantino – who has rights
to final cut – responded to their demands with a firm no.
Then there’s Canadian politician
Michael Chan, a former minister of immigration and international
trade in the government of Ontario who now sits on the board of
governors of Seneca College. He’s come out firmly against the Hong
Kong protest, echoing
Beijing’s spurious claims that they’re the work of dark “foreign
forces” that are interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and out to
make trouble for China. “I have been thinking, why are these young
people so radical, so passionate [and] committed to do these things?
And why so many people?” Chan said. “If there is no deeply hidden
organization in this, or deeply hidden push from the outside, there
is no way that such large-scale turmoil would happen in Hong Kong in
a few months.”
Chan’s career history is far from
irrelevant here. When he was in government, according to the Globe
and Mail, Canadian intelligence was seriously concerned about the
closeness of his relationship with Chinese consular officials in
Toronto and privately warned higher-ups about Chan’s “conduct and
the risk of foreign influence.” The Globe and Mail quoted
Gloria Fung, president of a group called Canada-Hong Kong Link, as
saying that Chan is clearly “not using Canadian values nor the
universal values of Western democracies in making all these comments.
Rather, he abides by the values of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Henry Fonda was a movie star, and a highly gifted one. His daughter Jane, a person of considerably lesser gifts (although in her youth, starring in trash such as Barbarella, she certainly could fill out a tight outfit), also became a movie star. It didn’t hurt that her daddy was already in the same business. We bring up the topic of nepotism not to be petty or snippy but to underscore that this is a woman who didn’t necessarily have to work hard and long to get to the top. She was born a Hollywood princess, and when she ascended quite swiftly and smoothly to the role of Hollywood queen, it doubtless felt quite natural to her. And like many persons who are born into royalty, and who cannot remember a time when they were not treated with near-reverence by a sizable number of the hoi polloi, she plainly had, from an early age, the vague notion that she knew more than she actually knew, and, moreover, that she certainly must know a good deal more than those slavering mobs who were so eager to glimpse her and snap pictures of her in the street, and that she consequently had not just a right but an obligation, a noblesse oblige-type obligation, to share her wisdom with the lesser beings, the common folk, who surrounded her.
Hence, as a young woman, who, of course, enjoyed all the wealth and privilege that America had to offer, she went off to Vietnam, where her country was at war, and socialized with the enemy, delivered broadcasts on their behalf, and even posed for pictures with them, including a now-iconic photograph of herself perched on an anti-aircraft gun the purpose of which was to shoot down planes being piloted by her own countrymen, although those countrymen, unlike her, were likely to be young men whose parents nobody had ever heard of and who perhaps even came from towns that nobody could find on a map. Jane’s chief objective on that day was to put a human face on Communism. She plainly felt that Communism was a good thing, and that America, which had given her everything, was worth nothing. She later apologized for the photo on the anti-aircraft gun, but then again she pretty much was forced to do so by the outrage of the masses, and if she ever delivered a broader mea culpa for her role in whitewashing a movement that, after the U.S. withdrawal from Indochina, ended up committing genocide in Cambodia, we’re unaware of it.
Many remarkable developments have occurred in the decades since Jane’s Vietnam escapade. For one thing, she was widely forgiven for her obscene collaboration with the enemy. Although to this day, indeed, she is known in some circles as Hanoi Jane, she went on to have a successful movie career and to win not one but two Academy Awards for Best Actress. Some might consider those awards undeserved. When she won for playing a hooker in Klute in 1971, she beat out Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson; when she won for Coming Home in 1978, she beat out Geraldine Page and Ingrid Bergman. All those other actresses are brilliant. Is Jane? Some of us would say no. Some would say she had nowhere near the range of those other screen and stage artists. Both of the parts she won Oscars for, moreover, are one-dimensional, forgettable. Who watches either of those movies nowadays? Who discusses them? Pretty much nobody. Then, one might ask, why did she win? Why was she nominated, over the years, for no fewer than seven Oscars? Almost no other actor has ever been nominated for so many Oscars. Hence the thought crosses one mind: has Jane, in fact, been rewarded for having been, to put it bluntly, a traitor? Hollywood is left-wing, but is it that left-wing?
Another remarkable development. Despite her fondness for the Communist enemy during the Vietnam War, she later proved to be a first-rate capitalist. Whether or not you think she’s an acting genius, she sure is a genius at business. In addition to her film career, she made millions off of workout videos. And she managed to snag, as one of her husbands, no less a tycoon than Ted Turner, who founded CNN and, at one point, owned more land in the U.S. than anyone else except the federal government. It was, in at least one sense, a marriage made in heaven, since Ted, too, despite his massive fortune, was a fan of Communism – and, moreover, as we’ve recounted at length on this website, a chum of Fidel Castro and other totalitarians.
One last remarkable thing about Jane. You might think that after her Hanoi Jane humiliation, she’d have spent the rest of her life acting – i.e. reading aloud lines written by others – and keeping her mouth shut about world events. Au contraire. She may have apologized frequently for her Vietnam debacle, but it’s hard to believe she ever really meant it. Because her basic attitudes seem not to have changed much, and she just keeps behaving as if the world needs to know what she thinks – as if, indeed, the fate of the world depends on letting everyone know what she thinks. She seems, you might even say, to be hard-wired to speak out, and, invariably, to parrot passionately, as if she had come up with the ideas herself, whatever the PC clichés of the day might be. Now 81, she was arrested twice alone in October during climate-change protests in Washington, D.C. She actually described herself at the time as a “climate scientist.” This is a new one on us: as far as we know, the nearest she’s come to being a scientist is starring in the 1979 nuke power plant drama The China Syndrome. As ever, however, the mockery of her latest self-description, which is well-deserved, has been drowned out by the hosannas: a recent Los Angeles Times article about Fonda’s lifetime of arrests, of which there have been many, was a veritable love letter; and when she appeared in 2016 on the Jimmy Fallon Show her whole history of lawbreaking was treated as nothing less than adorable, an occasion for amusement of the sort that is trotted out on such programs. But then again, how else do you expect Hollywood media to treat Hollywood royalty?
Our last few postings here at Useful Stooges may have led some readers to think we’re under the impression that only athletes, teams, sports leagues, and sports-related firms have been doing a yeoman’s job of defending the Communist Chinese regime. Let us reassure our readers that we labor under no such illusion. In fact it is no secret that some of the largest U.S. companies manufacture many of their products in Chinese sweatshops and/or make handsome profits on the Chinese market, and thus feel a strong compulsion to maintain friendly relations with the Chinese government – and consequently are not about to risk their income by standing up for the freedom fighters of Hong Kong.
In connection with the bowing and
scraping of sports figures to the Beijing regime, we’ve already
mentioned Nike, the sneaker company, which pays millions in
endorsement deals to some of the biggest names in the hoops game. In
September, as Fox Business reported,
Nike’s CEO, Mark Parker, made a pretty straightforward declaration:
“Nike is a brand of China, for China.” As Fox noted, Nike’s
revenue in China during the third quarter of this year was no less
than $1.7 billion. No wonder, noted Fox Business, that “Nike has
gone silent on the controversy surrounding the NBA and China.” In
fact it did more than go silent: after Daryl Morey, GM of the Houston
Rockets, sent out a tweet supporting the pro-democracy movement in
Hong Kong, Nike “pulled its Houston Rockets merchandise from five
stores in Beijing and Shanghai.” Mustn’t offend the sensitive
feelings of Chairman Xi and his cohorts.
Then there’s Apple. In an October 17
Wired noted Apple CEO Tim Cook’s efforts to position his
firm as “the Patron Saint of Privacy, the company willing to
protect user data while others profit from it.” Yet whereas “Apple
refused to help the FBI break into an iPhone that belonged to one of
the alleged perpetrators of the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist
attack,” it has been considerably more cooperative with Beijing,
eliminating an app that was used by pro-democracy activists in Hong
Kong and that came under criticism by People’s Daily, the
official Chinese Communist Party newspaper. As we’ve previously
noted, Apple obligingly made it impossible for Apple users in Hong
Kong and Macao to access a Taiwan flag emoji. Also, in 2018, bigwigs
at Apple ordered TV program developers in its employ “to avoid
portraying China in a poor light.”
Of course Apple is not alone in the
last-named regard. China has become a lucrative market for American
films. It finances a good many of them. It owns U.S. theater chains.
Hollywood studios and producers are therefore exceedingly careful not
only to scrub scripts clean of anything that might be offensive to
the Chinese government, but to include pro-China propaganda. A recent
article at the Heritage Foundation website quoted an observation by
Stephen Colbert that in the disaster movie 2012, “humanity
is saved because the Chinese government had the foresight to build
life-saving arcs,” and that in Gravity, “Sandra Bullock
survives by getting herself to the Chinese Space Station.” As
Heritage’s Tim Doescher put it – chillingly – “Hollywood is
relying more and more on the Chinese markets to make profits on
movies. That means our films are being written with China in mind.”
As a result, noted Heritage’s Mike Gonzalez, “we get shown a very
benign view of China, in which China is a normal country, no
different from Paris, or Britain, or Germany.” We also get a view
of the world that omits what Gonzalez called “the three Ts”:
“Tiananmen, Tibet, and Taiwan.” Also omitted is Richard Gere –
who was a top Hollywood star until his outspoken support for Tibet
got in the way. In short, when it comes to China, there’s a lot of
useful stoogery going around – and as China’s financial,
military, and cultural power increases, and as it buys up more and
more shares of more and more Western firms, we can fully expect that
stoogery to increase massively.
The NBC sitcom Will and Grace, which
ran from 1998 to 2006, and returned to TV in 2017, profited from its
timing. It centers on the friendship between Will, a gay man, and
Grace, his straight best friend. Coming along at a time when gay
rights was making immense strides, Will and Grace was widely
viewed as helping to mainstream gay people in the minds of ordinary
Americans and was thus described as “groundbreaking” and
“revolutionary.” Its supposedly pivotal role in a major social
movement helped overshadow the fact that it was, in fact, a
third-rate, highly formulaic piece of work awash in gay stereotypes.
None of which, of course, mattered. Like Ellen Degeneres, whose own mediocre sitcom had made history when her character came out as a lesbian at the same time as Degeneres herself did so, the stars of Will and Grace, Eric McCormack (who is actually straight) and Debra Messing, came to be regarded in Hollywood circles – and by showbiz-obsessed gay-establishment groups such as GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign – as heroes of the gay-rights movement. And McCormack and Messing themselves, both middling actors whose lucky success on Will and Grace failed to translate into major careers in film or TV for either one of them, took in all the praise and eventually came to see themselves as heroes, too. Heroes – for playing roles on a sitcom! They also apparently became convinced that they are far more important – and far more intelligent – than they actually are.
Predictably, both McCormack and Messing
slavishly adhere to Tinseltown political orthodoxy – which is to
say that they’re reliable Democratic partisans and reflexive Trump
haters. So it is that on August 30, after news came of a Beverly
Hills fundraiser for President Trump that was scheduled for September
17, McCormack took to Twitter to ask that the Hollywood Reporter
“kindly report on everyone attending this event, so the rest of us
can be clear about who we don’t wanna work with.” Messing echoed
his call. Doubtless both of them expected their showbiz friends and
colleagues to rally round them and do the cyber-equivalent of patting
them on the back – a response to which they are both surely
accustomed, living as they do in the echo chamber that is LaLaLand.
actually got backlash. Not only did the right react. People on the
left – including members of the showbiz elite – expressed their
disagreement with McCormack and Messing. Now, as it happens, the
powers that be in today’s TV and movie business do have something
of an informal blacklist; actors, writers, directors, and others who
have publicly identified as Republicans or conservatives do find it
tougher to find work than it was before they outed themselves
politically. But for showbiz leftists who have repeatedly denied the
existence of this informal blacklist, McCormack and Messing were
letting the cat out of the bag – openly calling, in effect, for the
freezing out of Trump supporters in Hollywood. Even actress Whoopi
Goldberg, who is famous for her consistently left-wing politics,
served up a genuinely stirring speech on The View explaining
just why McCormack and Messing were so off-base: “The last time
people did this, it did not end well.…We had something called a
blacklist, and a lot of really good people were accused of stuff.
Nobody cared whether it was true or not. They were accused. And they
lost their right to work.…In this country, people can vote for who
they want to. That is one of the great rights of this country. You
don’t have to like it, but we don’t go after people because we
don’t like who they voted for. We don’t go after them that way.
We can talk about issues and stuff, but we don’t print out lists.”
So strong was the reaction that
McCormack backed down – sort of. No, he didn’t withdraw his
demand; he just insisted that he had been misunderstood. “I want to
be clear about my social media post from last week, which has been
misinterpreted in a very upsetting way,” he wrote in a statement.
“I absolutely do not support blacklists or discrimination of any
kind, as anyone who knows me would attest.” Messing concurred. In
an op-ed for the Washington Times, Tammy Bruce thanked the two
actors, “best known for a television sitcom that aired more than a
decade ago,” for having “expos[ed] for all of us of the
totalitarian instincts of liberals.” We don’t agree that all
liberals are totalitarians, deep down, but it is definitely the case
– as we’ve noted over and over again on this website – that
many self-identified American “progressives,” including a number
of big-name Hollywood types, are totalitarians in their hearts,
knocking American liberties while praising and socializing with
people like Fidel Castro and Nicolas Maduro. By revealing their
totalitarian instincts, both McCormack and Messing did indeed do
American a favor.
In a splendid
that was posted recently at the American Interest, historian
Ronald Radosh provided a useful reminder of the career of one of the
most prominent and hard-core Stalinists of yore: Paul Robeson, the
great black American singer and actor who starred in the 1936 film
version of the Kern/Hammerstein musical Show Boat and the 1933
film version of Eugene O’Neill’s play The Emperor Jones.
Radosh began his article with a question: “Can a man endowed with
genius squander it through extreme political blindness?” Radosh is
not exaggerating when he describes Robeson as a genius; nor is he
exaggerating when he goes on to state that “Stalin had few more
loyal devotees in America than Robeson.”
The reason why Radosh’s article is so important is that Robeson, since his death in 1976, has frequently been memorialized as one of the major black American artistic figures of the last century. For example, since this year “marks the 100th anniversary of Robeson’s graduation from Rutgers University,” that institution “is pulling out all the stops to celebrate.” Now, there is no question but that Robeson was indeed one of the great American artists. Radosh sums up his rapid career rise:
As an undergraduate, Robeson was class valedictorian and a ranked All-American football player. After graduation, he went on to Columbia University Law School, where he earned his law degree while playing football in the NFL. He then became an actor, appearing in Emperor Jones and All God’s Chillun Got Wings, and used his remarkable bass-baritone to establish himself as a popular singer. After moving to Britain in 1928, he appeared in Jerome Kern’s Showboat, stopping the show with his famous rendition of “Ol’ Man River”; later, he played the titular role in Shakespeare’s Othello on Broadway. And he did all this while both suffering from and actively fighting the scourge of American racism.
Robeson, then, assuredly deserves his
tributes. But what is almost always ignored by those who celebrate
his legacy – or, sometimes, mentioned in passing or even
represented as some kind of virtue – is his reprehensible,
undeviating devotion to Stalin. It was a devotion that persisted even
though, as a frequent visitor to the USSR, he saw things that made it
clear to him that it far from a paradise – that it was, indeed, a
nightmare on earth. One American acquaintance of his who had
relocated to Russia was executed by Stalin on trumped-up charges, but
Robeson remained stalwart in his Stalinism. Other Americans who,
seduced by Communist rhetoric, had foolishly moved to Russia but
later realized their mistake, begged Robeson in vain to help them get
out. Asked about Stalin’s show trials, Robeson said that “anyone
who lifts his hand against” the Soviet government “ought to be
shot!” He called Stalin “wise and good.” When his 11-year-old
son asked him why he had not stood up for an innocent friend
convicted in one of Stalin’s trials, Robeson explained that
“sometimes great injustices may be inflicted on the minority when
the majority is in the pursuit of a great and just cause.” Or, as
Stalin put it, you’ve got to break eggs to make an omelet. And
every time he returned from the USSR to the US, he dutifully parroted
There’s more, much more. Read
Radosh’s entire piece. It’s devastating. And it’s important,
because almost invariably, when Paul Robeson’s artistry is
remembered, his chilling reverence for a totalitarian monster is
dropped down the memory hole.
Now 53, John Cusack has been a well-known film actor since he was
a teenager. He’s starred in dozens of big pictures, including
Grosse Point Blank, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,
Pushing Tin, High Fidelity, Runaway Jury, 1408, and The
But like many of the other actors we’ve discussed on this site,
he’s also politically active. A member of the Democratic Socialists
of America, he supported the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders
in 2016 and backs him in the current presidential contest as well.
He didn’t pick up the activist stuff in Hollywood; he was raised on it. His parents were political activists too; he has described himself as having grown up with Philip and Daniel Berrigan, the radical Roman Catholic clerics the latter of whom had the distinction of being the first priest on the FBI’s “most wanted” list and ended up behind bars. Cusack has spoken of them in such a way as to suggest that they were role models for him.
Cusack shares his views regularly on Twitter. He is not known, shall we say, for his subtlety of thought and expression. In 2017 he tweeted a photo of President Trump alongside the quote “YER DEAD – GET YERSELF BURIED.” When it caused something of a controversy, he took it down.
Then, a couple of months ago, he retweeted an image of a giant hand crushing a bunch of people; on the shirtsleeve from which the giant hand protruded was a Star of David. Accompanying this Der Stürmer-type image was the following quotation, which was attributed to Voltaire: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Cusack supplemented the quotation with his own comment: “Follow the money.”
The point was clear: Jews run the world. Jews are all about money. Jews are crushing the rest of us. The tweet could hardly have been more stunningly antisemitic. Add to that the fact that the line he quoted about “find[ing] out who you are not allowed to criticize” was a statement not by Voltaire but by an American neo-Nazi named Kevin Alfred Strom.
When he was widely denounced for this breathtakingly obscene tweet, Cusack doubled down. “You think Israel isn’t commuting [sic] atrocities against Palestinians?” he wrote. “What planet are you on?” Eventually, however, the criticism got to be too much. At first, bizarrely, and pusillanimously, Cusack blamed his retweet on a bot. “How,” wondered Jewish writer Elad Nehorai, “does a bot get you to write ‘follow the money’ after sharing an overtly anti-Semitic image?” Eventually Cusack owned up to having posted the retweet and issued a wimpy sort-of-apology that only served to prove that he really isn’t terribly sharp. That apology was so lame that he then issued another apology, which also was lame. The response from David Baddiel, a Jewish comedian in the UK, was succinct and right on the mark: “John Cusack says he didn’t at first realise that the image was anti-Semitic. My, it’s a troublesome old blind spot for progressives, isn’t it?”
Meanwhile, in a Boston Jewish publication, a woman named Judy Bolton-Fasman posted an open letter to Cusack. Confessing to having had a crush on him in the 1990s, she said that while she too was a critic of some Israeli actions, “it must be said that Israeli citizens have died in Palestinian suicide bombings on buses, in malls and cafes just because they were Jews. There are frequent rocket attacks out of Gaza.” She asked him: “Have you been to Israel?….I’m not happy about walling off the West Bank where it divides neighborhoods and families. However, Israelis call it a security barrier with good reason. Even the most dovish Israeli will tell you the barrier has drastically reduced the number of terror attacks in Israel proper.” She added that she had “met incredible Israelis and Palestinians who are dedicated to achieving peace” and encouraged him to travel to Israel and meet them instead of just demonizing Jews. Good advice. But since the politics of a man like Cusack have less to do with the real world than with blind, stubborn ideological devotion, Ms. Bolton-Fasman is likely whistling in the wind.
UPDATE: Not long after we posted this story, the New York Times reported that Minaj had cancelled her Saudi Arabia gig.
We last wrote about at length about Trinidad-born songstress Nicki Minaj in 2015, when she was paid $2 million for a single concert in the dictatorship of Angola. As we noted at the time, half of the people of Angola earn so little money that they’d have to work two million days – about 5500 years, which would take you back to the Bronze Age, the very beginning of writing systems, and the introduction of the wheel beyond Mesopotamia and environs – to bank $2 million. Although the Angolan government rakes in a great deal of money from selling oil, munch of that money ends up in the pockets of the ruling family and its cronies; meanwhile, one of the country’s dubious claims to fame is that it has the world’s highest mortality rate for children under the age of five.
To be sure, these grim facts didn’t
keep Mariah Carey, who’s notorious for taking this kind of dirty
money, for accepting a million-dollar fee in 2014 from Angolan
strongman Jose Eduardo dos Santos. And although Carey got such bad
press for that ethically tinged payday that she ended up apologizing
profusely, it didn’t keep Minaj, two years later, from taking an
even better deal. Even when human-rights groups challenged her
beforehand about having agreed to do the concert in Angola, she went
Biblical: “Every tongue that rises up against me in judgment,”
Minaj tweeted, “shall be condemned.”
In fact she doubled down: after she reached Angola, she took an Instagram photo with the president’s daughter, Isabel, who, like other relatives of other dictators, has accumulated a fortune by, well, doing not much of anything except being related to the guy at the top. The illicit source of Isabella’s wealth was either lost on Nicki or a matter of indifference to her, because her take on the subject, as expressed in her distinctive manner on Instagram, was as follows: “she’s just the 8th richest woman in the world….GIRL POWER!!!!! This motivates me soooooooooo much!!!!”
Motivates her to do what? Become a head
of state and fleece her subjects? This is, let it be noted, a woman
who, given her sales figures – she’s had seven singles
simultaneously on Billboard’s US Hot 100 – must be swimming in so
much dough that $2 million can’t possibly be anything more to her
than pocket change. Yet, for all the criticism, and despite her
efforts to burnish her image by identifying with AIDS and children’
charities, Minaj took dos Santos’s cash.
Afterwards, the criticism continued.
But the raunchy rapper didn’t learn her lesson. A few weeks ago it
was announced that Minaj, at the invitation of Saudi Arabian Crown
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, planned to perform on July 18 at the
Jeddah World Fest alongside Steve Aoki, an American DJ, and Liam
Payne, a former member of the British boyband One Direction. In a
five-page open letter written in response to this news, the New
York-based Human Rights Foundation explained to Minaj in some detail
the human-rights violations committed by the Saudi regime and urged
her to withdraw from the event as an act of solidarity with the Saudi
The case of Roger Waters,
the former front man for the rock group Pink Floyd and outspoken
hater of Israel, illustrates a couple of important points. First,
it’s possible to be a very gifted artist and a clueless fool at the
same time. Second, some human beings are put together in such a way
as to render them completely impervious to the plain facts, however
often and however effectively they are presented with those facts.
Of course, we’ve written
about Waters before. A lot. In November 2015 we wrote
about the “pig-shaped balloon adorned with Jewish symbols,
including a Star of David,” that was a feature of his concerts. In
response to Waters’s comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany, Rabbi
Schmuley Boteach penned
an article reminding him that German Jews “did nothing to invite
the aggression against them. Indeed, they were loyal citizens of a
country that many of them had fought for courageously just 20 years
earlier in the First World War. They did not blow up buses for
political purposes. They did not send terrorists into schools to
murder children. They did not preach that killing German children
would get them virgins in heaven. They lived lives of humanity and
decency and were murdered for no other reason than the fact that they
Did Waters listen? Of
course not. So along came Israeli author Lilac Sigan, who in her own
to Waters wondered how it was that at a time when other countries and
terrorist groups across the Middle East were carrying out “senseless
and brutal” slaughter, Waters remained obsessed with Israel.
Did Waters listen to her?
Nope. Instead, he wrote an open letter begging Robbie Williams to
cancel a planned gig in Israel – where, he insisted, the government
views Palestinian children merely “as grass to be mowed.”
Williams went ahead with the concert. Soon afterward, Waters tried
the same thing with Dionne Warwick, whom he accused of being
“profoundly ignorant of what has happened in Palestine since 1947.”
She didn’t listen either.
Now it was film director
Mark Blacknell’s turn to try to knock some sense into Waters’s
head. In an open letter, he reminded
Waters that Israel’s neighbors included Hezbollah, “Assad the
Butcher,” ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the “Houthi
Shiite rebels in Yemen,” the “jihad-plagued, complete insanity of
Sudan,” the “ultra-religious, feudalistic Mecca of Islam, Saudi
Arabia,” and the “’end of days’ cult of the Ayatollah in
Iran.” Many of these fun folks treated Palestinians terribly. Why,
Blacknell asked, didn’t Waters ever get exercised about them?
No reply. No change.
Instead Waters went after Bon Jovi, writing
an open letter that was even more accusatory than his earlier ones.
In response, Bon Jovi said, quite simply: “I’m coming to Israel
and I’m excited to come.” Only moments before Bon
Jovi’s Tel Aviv concert, a terrorist attack hit Jerusalem.
Last year we caught up
with Waters, noting
that at the Jumbotrons at one of his recent performances had featured
the slogan “Resist Israeli anti-Semitism” and that Waters, it now
turned out, was one of the rich people who’d invested
heavily in some shyster’s sleazy effort to shake down Chevron. In
March of this year, we reported
that during a concert in Brazil, he’d called Jair Bolsonaro (who
was then a presidential candidate, and is now president) a fascist,
and that, in response to the recognition by the U.S. and other
countries of Juan Guaidó as
Venezuela’s president, called Venezuela under Maduro a “REAL
Waters hasn’t backed off. In May, along with hijab-wearing “feminist” Linda Sarsour (whom we’ve also covered here at length), he appeared on a panel about Israel at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he told a story about remarks he’d made at a 2006 concert in Tel Aviv, before he’d started boycotting Israel. According to him, 60,000 of his Israeli fans had responded negatively when he called for peace with Palestinians. When David Seidenberg of the Times of Israel examined an audio of the event, it turned out that Waters was lying through his teeth – the audience, in fact, had cheered. “Since at least 2017,” wrote Seidenberg, “Waters has been repeating this lie. He told it to an interviewer from the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of Germany’s largest dailies. He told it to Liberation News, a socialist newspaper. He told it at a Vancouver event in October 2017 to promote Canada’s participation in BDS.” Plainly, Waters is not to be trusted: he will say anything, true or not, to demonize Israel and idealize Hamas.
As for Venezuela, even as conditions in that country have gone from bad to worse, Waters has stuck by his pal, the dictator. On June 15, he announced in a Facebook post that Maduro had sent him a cuatro, a four-string guitar, a gift for which, he wrote, he was “deeply moved.” Good to know that even as his people are starving, Maduro has the time to keep his top-seeded foreign propagandist happy. “Thank you President Maduro for your kind gift and message,” the old rocker wrote. “I shall continue to support the people of Venezuela, and continue to oppose U.S. interference in your country, particularly the illegal and inhumane monetary sanctions that seek to make life intolerable for your people.” Appalling.
Every year, the Eurovision Song Contest, that annual marathon of mostly horrible songs from countries all over Europe, plus Israel and Australia, is held in the homeland of the previous year’s winner. Last year, the winner was Netta, a spunky, offbeat chanteuse from Israel who came out on top with an absolutely abominable tune called “Toy.” So this year the show is being broadcast from Tel Aviv. The first semifinal was on Tuesday; the second is tonight; the finals are on Saturday.
Cue the protests! As we noted
in February, the BDS crowd was quick to protest the plans to hold
Eurovision in Israel. In Britain, fifty-odd people who described
themselves as laboring in the “creative industries” wrote a
letter to the Guardian urging Eurovision officials to relocate
the show to some other country and expressing concern about Israel’s
“crimes against…freedom.” Among these people who cherish
freedom so deeply were directors Ken Loach and Roy Battersby, both
former members of the Workers Revolutionary Party; actress Maxine
Peake, a former Communist Party member and winner of a 2014 award for
an Outstanding Contribution to Socialism; stand-up comedian Alexei
Sayle, also a former Communist Party member; actresses Julie Christie
and Miriam Margolyes, both of whom are pro-Palestinian activists;
playwright Caryl Churchill, whose play Seven Jewish Children has
been described as “anti-Jewish agitprop” that seeks “to
demonize the Jewish people”; and musician Roger Waters, whose
deeply sick obsession with Jews we’ve written about a number of
times on this site.
Fortunately, the protests were unsuccessful. On Tuesday, the first semifinal went off without incident, but not without controversy. Among the performers was Hatari, a self-described BDSM band from Iceland whose entry is a hideous three-minute stretch of noise entitled “Hate Will Prevail” that expresses the band’s disapproval of the rise of populism in Europe. Note, by the way, that BDSM stands for bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism, and should not be confused with BDS, the anti-Israeli movement that calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions; in this case, however, BDSM and BDS went hand in hand. For Hatari is not only into sexual kinks but also into the delegitimization of the Jewish state, the overthrow of capitalism, and the introduction of Communism. For we all know how tolerant Communism is of sexual deviance.
Anyway, before going to Tel Aviv, the members of Hatari felt compelled to make a statement about the idea of holding Eurovision in Israel. They called it a whitewash. “Eurovision is, of course, a beautiful thing in that it is based on ideas of peace and unity,” band member Tryggvi Haraldsson told the Guardian, “and this year it’s held in a country that’s marred by conflict and disunity….Letting the narrative of the fluffy, peace-loving pop contest go on unchallenged in this context in our view is extremely political. Everyone who takes part in this is taking part in a political statement whether they are aware of it or not.” As a show of solidarity with the Palestinians, the members of Hatari went to Hebron, on the West Bank, and spoke out against what they called “apartheid in action.”
All of which raises one big question: if Hatari hates Israel so much, why didn’t it boycott Eurovision? Why is it in Tel Aviv now? It’s a question Palestinians and BDS campaigners have asked. Haraldsson’s answer: if Hatari hadn’t traveled to Israel, it would have missed out on “an opportunity for a critical discussion.” But has Hatari actually sought to engage anyone in Israel in critical discussion? Not that we know of. Besides, Haraldsson added, if Hatari had refused to go to Israel, Iceland would’ve sent somebody else. It’s not exactly the world’s most principled-sounding position, but, hey, it’s a mistake to look to Israel-haters for principle. Finally, asked by the Guardian what’s next for the group, Haraldsson said they wanted to perform “in countries where there currently is not an illegal occupation taking place.” Why not try one of Israel’s neighbors, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, or the United Arab Emirates? Or why not set something up in Hebron or Gaza? Since you care so much about them, we’re sure their response to your act will be, um, explosive.
Oh, by the way:
on Tuesday, international voters sent Hatari on to the final. So
it’ll be performing again and may actually go home with the gold.
Tune in on Saturday, if you have a high threshold of tolerance for
Okay, so she’s not a full-fledged, 100%, dyed-in-the-wool stooge. As we noted in a posting in December 2016, Barbara Walters was one of perhaps two of the upscale Manhattan guests at Leonard Bernstein’s 1970 Black Panthers fundraiser – the one that Tom Wolfe made famous in Radical Chic – who didn’t drool all over the thugs in a repulsive display of limousine liberalism and nostalgie de la boue. While glamorous folks like high-society bandleader Peter Duchin and New York Review of Books editor Robert Silvers oohed and aahed over the Panthers’ plans for an armed revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, Walters actually asked a sensible question: “I’m talking as a white woman who has a white husband, who is a capitalist, or an agent of capitalists, and I am, too, and I want to know if you are to have your freedom, does that mean we have to go?” No, she didn’t give them a dressing-down and then storm out of the party, but at least she stood apart from fellow guests who looked at the gun-toting gangsters and, somehow, saw angels about to usher in a golden utopia.
Similarly, when she interviewed Fidel Castro in 1977, she at least – to her credit – said on the record that she disagreed with him on “the meaning of freedom.” But that statement came at the end of a nauseating puff piece in which Walters did a marvelous job of presenting the murderous dictator as a world-class charmer. She interviewed him again in 2002. And over the years she spoke frequently about her encounters with the Caribbean tyrant, her main point invariably being that he was, as she toldHarpers Bazaar in 2014, “very charismatic – very charming and funny.” (Following his death, she said the same thing:“The word ‘charismatic’ was made for him.) Once her 1977 interview with Fidel was in the can, she recalled, “Castro took us into his kitchen and made us grilled cheese sandwiches.” Walters laughed. “That’s an experience you don’t have anymore.” Adorable! During the same Cuba trip, Walters and Castro “dined outdoors on roast pig and Algerian wine at Castro’s mountain retreat.” It’s good to be the dictator. That night, at least two people in Cuba ate well.
As the Harpers Bazaar writer observed, “One thing that seemed clear to everyone was the chemistry between Walters and Castro.” Walters herself said: “People did tease me after that, asking if this was a romance.” When he dropped her at the Havana airport, “I reached up to kiss him on both cheeks, and he all but pushed me away. It was a friendly European goodbye, but I was in Cuba, not France.” We checked with a couple of friends who’ve been interviewed by major newspapers and TV networks. They say that the reporters who interviewed them didn’t lean in for a smooch at the end of the interchange – not once! Interesting that Castro seemed to understand, as Walters didn’t, that, under such circumstances, osculation (European or not) was unprofessional.
“Cuba is a very different country because of Fidel Castro,” Walters told Harpers Bazaar, “and I don’t know what he is proudest of or what he wishes he could have accomplished.” Proudest of? Accomplished? What planet has this woman been living on for the past half century? Even to think along such lines is to buy into this despot’s propaganda. Looking back on her meetings with Fidel, we’d have loved to see her lean over with a smile, put a hand on his knee, and coo confidentially: “What’s your favorite prison?” or “Whose execution made you happiest?” We certainly wouldn’t expect this fatuous talking head – this purported feminist media pioneer who long ago gave up any pretense of being a real journalist and has spent the last few decades lobbing softballs at airheaded celebrities and chatting about the latest gossip on morning TV – to actually interrogate somebody like Fidel, confronting him boldly about his monstrous crimes, his outrageous hypocrisy, and his blatant propaganda. Instead, Walters parroted his propaganda, echoing the oft-repeated claim that he’d given his people first-rate health care and education. Lies, lies, lies. And although she did, yes, admit that he was an autocrat who’d robbed his people of their freedom, nobody has given Fidel and his regime better press in the U.S. than this silly, overrated woman.