The idea that Hollywood is the only place where co-workers feel uncomfortable talking politics at work -- adorable.
Seriously? I get back after 14 hours on location with no internet, and apparently people are unclear what I meant on the last post? Let me go into the comments ...
... okay, that's pretty hilarious. I have Josh Olson not only swearing that in his experience working with many conservatives he's never seen or heard of any of these problems, but he's using his own infamous reputation as an asshole as his cred. That, my friends, is self-awareness.
I also like how he calls out the bullshit Kelsey Grammer peddles about US veterans hiding their service. He's right -- that doesn't pass the smell test if you've spent five seconds on an actual set. That set is full of TEAMSTERS, sparky, and these days probably includes several ex-servicemen (we had some Iraqi vets on our first episode crew). Anyone dissing US soldiers on a set in Hollywood ain't gonna make it away from the craft services table in one piece. The claim is equally ridiculous if set in the executive suite.
Right, let me do two versions of this post.
1.) If you are a Hollywood conservative who feels uncomfortable talking about politics because most of your co-workers are aggressively, vocally liberal --you are a person with whom I sympathize.
To be honest, I don't sympathize to any great degree, because frankly you should grow a pair. But I get it. I would urge you, however, to go ahead and bring it up in conversation if you feel so inclined. It'll be fine. It's been fine for the last 15 years I've been having arguments in writers' rooms. It'll make an interesting lunch. Just don't mistake argument for oppression, because that's punk shit.
If you think I can't empathize with your plight, you have not been at the shabbat dinners where I suggested that Israel clusterbombing Lebanon was a war crime. To be fair, the time I asked how much longer Jews could "legitimately play the Holocaust card" was probably a wee more awkward ...
2.) If you are a Hollywood conservative who feels you may lose work because liberals will torpedo your career -- you are a person with whom I sympathize ...
... but doubt that it will be a problem in 99.9995% of situations, based on my 15 year career of hiring, and being hired by, and working with conservatives in Hollywood. Counter-examples of career damages are anecdotal (I mean that in the statistical, not disparitive sense), and no system can correct for individual intolerant douchebags.
I understand your unease, even if I think it's generally unjustified. A bit like liquid explosives on planes, if you get my drift. Oh, and you kind of have to pretend that post 9/11 Hollywood never happened. But cool.
3.) If you are a Hollywood conservative who believes that conservatives in Hollywood currently suffer widespread, organized and systemic career damage at the hands of liberal Hollywood to an extent which is in any way comparable to a blacklist, never mind The Blacklist -- which as noted involved Congressional hearings, public disgrace, federal jail time and the utter termination of your working careers -- you are the self-pitying self-indulgent narcissist with your head super-far up your ass to whom I was referring.
You may also be a manipulative hack who enjoys the publicity that comes with being a contrarian. Either/or. Possibly one spiced with the other. Or you may not actually understand the meaning of the word "blacklist." I'm down with any of these.
I would note there seems to be a non-negligible difference in how these things are handled in the TV and film worlds -- film seems to be more extreme. Also, there's definitely a generational issue. Where Baby Boomers seem to hold their beliefs quite passionately, Gen X was the Reagan Generation. The majority of us are conservatives, we grew up in a pretty conservative context as far as politics and culture go, and so even liberal Gen X'ers tend to have a bit more of a get-along vibe.
Most of you can move on. If I seemed like I was being glib, before, it was because I assumed everyone would understand the last post was addressed to that third category of humans. For those of you who want me to "engage", fine -- but this is time I'm not getting back on my deathbed, and you owe me. Some of my conservative readers raise some good points -- and seem to be getting spooked unnecessarily -- so let me see if I can hack this out.
We have to do a couple things, here when looking at articles like the one in The Hollywood Reporter: "Republicans in biz feel stifled, bullied", or the various arguments about the plight of conservatives in Hollywood. We have to parse out the claims, by severity and intent. Now, this is sometimes tricky, because perfectly justifiable claims -- discomfort, anecdotal evidence of discrimination, etc. -- are often in these articles lumped in with arguments of a larger scope. Not only that, these larger arguments are often put forth by people who seem to have ulterior motives, or are linking smaller examples in an attempt to imply patters of behavior unsupported by statistics or common sense.
For example, the article somehow moves from a general discussion of the social plight of conservatives in Hollwyood to Andrew Klavan's argument that liberals (apparently all of us) think all conservatives are "evil", persecute them as if they were indeed evil, and then neatly moves on to Klavan's claim of how movies made by "people who sit around at Skybar discussing their pacifist world view" have seeped into culture excessively and been subsequently rejected.
I mean, seriously, step back -- what the hell does that section about Iraq movies have to do with the rest of the article? Nada. But it is some goddam tasty message discipline. The whole "there isn't conservative entertainment because we are actively being foiled" argument has neatly hijacked, for a few lines, what might otherwise be a pretty interesting piece on Hollywood culture.
(NOTE: I have been to Skybar, and there's very little political discourse going on. However, big bonus points for the "effete dissolute Hollyweird elitism" card being played by an actual Hollywood screenwriter. That is some populist jujitsu there.)
In a a cumulative, ascending ladder of severity:
Social discomfort -- you feel uncomfortable bringing up your political views in mixed company, and when you do you feel "bullied."
Well, okay, sorry. Like I've said, most of my encounters of this kind are nothing more than heated lunch conversations. Then you get back to work , because you are making television and there is no goddam time for anything else occupying the brain pan. If you feel the argument is crossing into actual hostility, it's fair to call"foul" -- but hey, that's common sense you'd use in any other argument in any other setting.
However, please remember -- you belong to a group which so demonizes your career and co-workers that the mere mention of your city of employment is a one-word shorthand for "life-destroying sodomites and traitors". Hollywood Conservatives are like Log Cabin Republicans: "Oh, yeah, they hate us and everything we stand for -- but not us specifically. So that's cool." It can seem a bit inexplicable, and things may get a bit spiky.
Career Damage -- as noted in the comments, there seem to be a few incidental anecdotes of people losing jobs once they become high-profile Republicans/conservatives. Yet I and multiple other commenter have years of experience countering those few stories. You want to know when I met Mel Gibson? In the office of Dean Devlin, the dude who produced Who Killed the Electric Car? When I met Stephen Baldwin? When he started working with Ross Richie, owner of BOOM! comics, who is politically so far left I could argue he's Molly Ivins' brain transplanted into a Texas halfback's body. Working with or hiring a conservative is so common, there's even a shorthand for it I've heard countless times: "Great guy. Just don't talk politics with him." At which point you nod knowingly and hire the person, becaue they are the best person for the job, and the job is everything. If you become very good friends you argue over wrap party drinks.
Now, if it seems like I'm arguing from anecdote, I am. Because that's what the opposing argument is. And as we here at Kung Fu Monkey know: the plural of anecdote is not data, so if the argument is based on trading anecdotes, it is no argument at all. So you can either listen to some people (oddly the same five people who show up in all these articles) who always seem bend the discussion around to their own specific agenda, and you can be freaked out -- or assume it's chill and just put your head down and work.
However, I will put this out there, publicly: if this happens to you, if you lose a gig because you are a conservative, you e-mail me at email@example.com. If it seems real, I will dedicate a separate blog post to every single incident that crosses my desk.
On a side note, there was one commenter who noted that in some jobs, as a low-level dude, you need to keep your mouth shut, or you'd be fired. You are Category Two, and I sympathize. However, I will point out -- I once saw somebody fire a five year old. I've seen people fired because they didn't go get their boss's blow fast enough. Welcome to Hollywood. It's awful. Politics will be the least of your worries in your hopefully long career.
Collusion on top of discrimination in order to further a specific entertainment agenda: The industry infrastructure -- either social or professional -- needed to support this sort of widespread collusion frankly just doesn't exist. I'm going to revisit the flaws in the latest versions of this argument (apparently, the entire Hollywood entertainment industry was bent to the singular mission of making In the Valley of Elah, only to be foiled) in a later post, but for now just review here and here where I use actual data to make my point -- something you will see sadly but consistently lacking in all counterarguments. And I mean all.
But right now it's 1:30 in the goddam morning. Work on your spec, and we'll be back soon with some media and writing discussions.
In the Comments: your favorite "fired in Hollywood" story.