Princess Isabel and her father: they’re no saints

Isabel dos Santos

You remember the name Isabel dos Santos, don’t you? If not, here’s a reminder. In 2014, songstress Mariah Carey took a million dollars to sing in Angola. The next year, fellow chanteuse Nicki Minaj was paid twice that much to perform in the same country. Both of these big paydays – these big, dirty paydays – were courtesy of a conglomerate called Unitel, which was controlled by one Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the country’s then dictator, José Eduardo dos Santos, one of the most corrupt leaders on earth.

Paris Hilton

Unitel, headquartered in the Netherlands, was only a small part of Isabel’s empire, which, after the Angolan parliament passed a law prohibiting the president himself from having business interests, grew even larger because the prez responded to the law by transferring his own extensive holdings – which he had acquired mostly through good, old-fashioned embezzlement – to Isabel. As we have noted, Isabel, thanks to her father’s love of money and of family, became the wealthiest woman in all of Africa, with a fortune of over $2 billion, a “superyacht” worth just under $50 million, luxurious residences in London, Monaco, and Portugal, and a social circle that includes Paris Hilton, Harvey Weinstein, and Lindsay Lohan. In her home country, she’s known as “the princess.”

Nicki Minaj

Anyway, Isabel’s readiness to hand out big bucks to big-name American pop artists resulted in big news headlines around the world. Carey got so much heat in the press for taking cash from the dos Santos clan that she ended up issuing an ardent apology and claiming that she had acted out of ignorance. Minaj was also criticized by the media, but she replied by lashing out at her critics and taking a cozy Instagram photo with Isabel, whom Minaj described as follows: “she’s just the 8th richest woman in the world….GIRL POWER!!!!! This motivates me soooooooooo much!!!!”

Jose Eduardo dos Santos

Ah, those were the days. In 2017, after 38 years in power, dos Santos retired from the presidency, although he stayed on as head of the ruling party, while Isabel and her brother José Filomeno retained the high-ranking government positions to which he had appointed them, reflecting the fact that the family had no plans of actually relinquishing power or giving up large-scale corruption. Alas for them, things didn’t work out quite the way they had planned. Once papa was out of office, his successor, President João Lourenço, fired the dos Santos children and spearheaded a serious government effort to trace and recover some of the former ruling clan’s ill-gotten gains. The Angolan government’s corruption probe targeted not only the ex-president himself but also Isabel, her husband, and her brother José Filomeno.

João Lourenço

The case is proceeding apace. On January 4, the Daily Mail reported that an Angolan court had frozen £750 million of Isabel’s assets “in an attempt to recover state funds.” Also, Portuguese police “intercepted £8.5million that Isabel tried to transfer to Russia to protect her assets.” Isabel, now in exile in Portugal, isn’t happy about the court’s action, accusing it of carrying out what she called a “witch hunt” – “a politically motivated attack which is part of a wider strategy to discredit the legacy of President dos Santos.” Of course, one part of her father’s “legacy” is Angola’s rating as 165th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s corruption perception index. Is it possible that Angolan authorities, with international cooperation of the sort Portugal is providing, will turn that legacy around? If dos Santos ends up broke, will Paris Hilton and her other showbiz pals keep taking her calls?

The stripper was a Stalinist

Ludwig von Mises

An article that was recently posted at the website mises.org, named for and dedicated to the intellectual legacy of Ludwig von Mises, the Austrian School economist (1881-1973) pointed out that people in showbiz – actors, producers, screenwriters, playwrights – who make a great living and whom you might therefore expect to have some appreciation for capitalism turn out, all too often, to have bought into the lies of socialism – or worse: “Hollywood and Broadway, the world-famous centers of the entertainment industry, are hotbeds of communism. Authors and performers are to be found among the most bigoted supporters of Sovietism.

Sovietism? When was this written? And who wrote it? In fact, although the author’s observations are perfectly valid today, this article was written by Mises himself – it’s an excerpt from his 1956 book The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, published at the height of the Hollywood blacklist.

Joe McCarthy

Today it’s the received opinion that the interrogation of famous movie people by House and Senate committees was a disgrace; the name of Joe McCarthy, the Democrat from Wisconsin who chaired the Senate committee, has become a byword for fascist tyranny. Yes, it was decidedly unfair that a few Tinseltown innocents who thought they were standing up for the First Amendment got dragged onto the blacklist and had their careers damaged. But the fact is that there were Communists in Hollywood; every last one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of screenwriters who were cited for contempt of Congress, was in fact a card-carrying Communist.

Mr and Mrs Dalton Trumbo

They are now viewed as heroes – witness (among many other cinematic tributes to them) the movie Trumbo, about which we wrote some time back. But as members of the Communist Party, which took its orders directly from the Kremlin, they were agents of a totalitarian enemy and tools of a mass-murdering dictator, Stalin, who was very consciously using them to influence American opinion about the USSR and thereby undermine American freedom.

Why were – and are – so many showbiz people Communists? Mises’s theory was that those who toil in the entertainment industry are “always agitated by anxiety,” fearing the fickleness of the audience and worrying that they will soon be dislodged from their thrones by vigorous young competitors; hence they turn to Communism, which, they think, “will bring their deliverance” because it “makes all people happy.” Mises added that “ a future historian…should not neglect to mention the role which the world’s most famous strip-tease artist played in the American radical movement.”

Gypsy Rose Lee

The world’s most famous strip-tease artist? In 1956, Mises could only have meant one person: Gypsy Rose Lee. Was she a Communist too? That was a new one on us: like most people nowadays, our knowledge of Lee is pretty much limited to the biographical information communicated in Gypsy, the first-rate Broadway musical that follows her from girlhood – when she was overshadowed by her sister, June, a child star in vaudeville, and largely ignored by their mother, Rose, the quintessential stage mother from hell – to the threshold of burlesque stardom. There was no hint of Communist ties in Gypsy.

Elaine Stritch performing “Zip”

But sure enough, it turns out that Gypsy Rose Lee was indeed a Red. In interview with Publishers Weekly, Karen Abbott, whose biography of the stripper came out in 2011, said that “Gypsy soon learned that every stripper needed a gimmick and decided to incorporate her exceptional intelligence into her act, to become the ‘intellectual stripper.’ To that end. she read the latest books, magazines, and newspapers voraciously.” Well, we happen to know that because of the lyrics of the Rodgers and Hart song “Zip” (from the 1940 musical Pal Joey), which parodies Rose’s intellectual pretensions. Anyway, Abbott continues: “She became politically active, and supported Spanish Loyalists during Spain’s Civil War. She also became a fixture at Communist United Front meetings, and was investigated by the House Committee on un-American activities.”

Josef Stalin

Curiously, a previous biographer of Lee, Noralee Frankel, seems to deny that Lee was a Communist; a review of Frankel’s book, which came out in 2009, refers to Lee as having “convinced the McCarthyites that her having supported Spanish loyalists against Franco in the 1930s and entertained at the New York Council of the Arts, Sciences and Professions did not make her a communist.” There is no mention in the review, or presumably in the book, of her being a regular attendee of Communist meetings, which, of course, does seem to make her a Communist. Which shouldn’t have surprised us, aware as we are of how many showbiz folk in the 1950s were puppets of Stalin, but somehow it never occurred to us that the highbrow ecdysiast, whom Larry Hart’s lyric depicts as a reader of Saroyan and Schopenhauer, was also a fan of Stalin.

A Romanian rediscovers Communism – at Columbia University

Columbia University

If the name of Columbia University has cropped up so often on this website, it’s because few American institutions of higher education are so crammed with tyranny-loving ideologues. It was Columbia, let’s remember, that invited then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to address its students. Columbia economist Joseph Stiglitz has enriched himself by serving as a “consultant” to corrupt regimes such as the Kirchner thugocracy in Argentina – regimes that, in turn, he has then publicly praised as being on the up-and-up. (Can you say “quid pro quo”?) Hamid Dabashi, who teaches Middle East and Asian Languages, equates Gaza to Auschwitz, downplays the Holocaust, and calls Zionists “hyenas.” Sociologist Saskia Sassen, an outspoken enemy of capitalism and Israel, commutes weekly between her luxurious homes in New York and London while also flying constantly all over the glove to scold audiences for the size of their carbon footprints. As we noted the other day, Kathy Boudin, the cop-killing mother of San Francisco’s newly elected DA, teaches at Columbia. So does Jamal Joseph, who was sentenced to over a decade for his role in the same crime. Joseph Mossad is a gay man who serves as an apologist for the brutal treatment of gay man in the Muslim world. And Gil Anidjar teaches a course in which, ignoring Arabic autocracy throughout the centuries, and dropping down the memory hole the monstrously aggressive Muslim wars of conquest against Europe and other Christian lands, he presents Arabs as having consistently, throughout history, been Europe’s victims – period.

Andrei Serban

It’s gotten so bad that Andrei Serban, a film, theater, and opera director who in 1969 fled communism in Romania – where he was director of the Romanian National Theater – and who is a longtime tenured professor in Columbia’s theater department, has now decided that it’s time to flee Columbia, too, which he describes as being “on its way to full-blown communism.” One example: he had felt pressured to cast a male-to-female transgender student in the female lead of Romeo and Juliet, even though he felt the individual in question wasn’t up to the job. One example: during a departmental search for a new faculty member, a dean insisted that the vacancy couldn’t be filled by the person Serban considered most qualified, because the candidate in question was a white male heterosexual. “I felt like I was living under communism again,” Serban commented.

Meryl Streep in The Cherry Orchard

Serban is hardly an old fogy. In Paris he studied under Peter Brook, whose radical, experimental stagings of new and classic works of theater revolutionized the art of modern theater directing. Serban brought his innovative approach to the U.S., where he directed Meryl Streep in a Lincoln Center production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and Liev Schreiber in a Public Theater staging of Hamlet. Serban has also directed numerous classics, ranging from The Merchant of Venice to Lysistrata, at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, directed operas at the Met in New York and the Opéra Bastille in Paris, and plied his trade at other prestigious venues around the Western world. Throughout his career, his name has been a byword for cutting-edge theater, making him a darling of the high-cultural establishment. All the more ironic, therefore, that such a figure should feel compelled to quit a plum job at an American academic institution because he felt that the guiding political ideology of that institution had shifted too far away from classical liberalism in the direction of the lockstep collectivist groupthink that he thought he had escaped half a century ago in totalitarian Romania.

A further irony: Serban he explained his decision to quit Columbia in an October 26 interview with a TV station in his formerly Communist homeland, which is now a free country.

Thumbs up for Tarantino; thumbs down for Chan

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.

Quentin Tarantino

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.

Michael Chan

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.”

At 81, Fonda’s still a filthy rich radical

Jane in Barbarella

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.

On that anti-aircraft gun in 1972

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.

Jane Fonda in Klute

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?

With then hubby Ted Turner

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.

Jane under arrest in October

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?

China’s stooges

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.

Mike Parker

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.

Tim Cook

Then there’s Apple. In an October 17 piece, 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.”

Richard Gere with the Dalai lama

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.

Ill will and bad grace

The cast of Will and Grace

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.

Eric McCormack

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.

Debra Messing

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.

Whoopi Goldberg

Instead, they 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.”

Tammy Bruce

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.

Paul Robeson, Stalinist

Paul Robeson

In a splendid article 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:

Robeson with Hattie McDaniel in Showboat

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 as Othello

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 Kremlin propaganda.

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.

John Cusack, antisemite

John Cusack

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 Butler.

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.

Philip Berrigan

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.

Elad Nehorai

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?”

Judy Bolton-Fasman at the Wailing Wall

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.

Another grubby payday for Nicki Minaj?

Nicki Minaj

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.

Mariah Carey

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!!!!”

Jose Eduardo dos Santos

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.

Mohammed bin Salman

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 people.

Will Minaj listen this time? Stay tuned.