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McCarthyism 101: Actors demand ‘blacklist’ of Trump supporters in Hollywood

McCarthyism 101: Actors demand ‘blacklist’ of Trump supporters in Hollywood
Entertainment industry figures could soon find themselves on a “blacklist” of Donald Trump supporters if Will & Grace co-stars Debra Messing and Eric McCormack have their way. Have we reached peak neo-McCarthyism?

The pair are demanding that the Hollywood Reporter prints a full list of attendees for an upcoming Trump fundraiser in Beverly Hills – an appeal which has drawn natural comparisons to the late Sen. Joe McCarthy’s efforts in the 1950s to rid Hollywood of “Communist sympathizers.”

The difference is, this time the calls for a political blacklist are coming from the Hollywood left itself.

McCormack was the first to request a list of “everyone attending” the upcoming Beverly Hills fundraiser, “so the rest of us can be clear about who we don’t wanna (sic) work with.” Messing soon joined in, tweeting that the “public has a right to know” who is supporting Trump.

The public does indeed have a “right to know” who a political candidate’s donors are – particularly when those donors are rich and powerful. This is exactly why campaign finance information is made publicly available online. Few would argue against this kind of transparency in a democracy, because voters are entitled to know how their elected officials are being influenced on policy matters.

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The motivation behind Messing and McCormack’s blacklist, however, is entirely different and even sinister. They are not concerned that Hollywood celebrities might be influencing Trump on policy. It’s far simpler than that: They want those who disagree with their politics to be publicly shamed and punished for it.

Responding to criticism, Messing tweeted that she would be“happy to be listed”when she attends a political fundraiser. Why wouldn’t Trump supporters feel the same? she asked. 

Perhaps because of people like you, Debra, who advocate for those people to be targeted for public harassment, intimidation and shaming while demanding professional repercussions for their political views.

If voters aren’t happy with their favorite celebrity’s political leanings, they are absolutely free to abstain from viewing their movies, listening to their music or reading their books etc. That’s the risk public figures take when they make their political views public.

The difference is, when Messing and McCormack contribute to the candidates of their choosing, no one demands that they are placed on a list to make it easier for their industry colleagues to avoid working with them.

The Trump blacklist is reminiscent of ‘Red Channels’ – a 1950s pamphlet on “communist influence in radio and television” that listed 150 industry figures whose loyalties to the US were questioned because of their leftist political beliefs. Red Channels was published in the right-wing Counterattack journal, the purpose of which was to “expose” the alleged communists to the wider public.

Messing and McCormack’s crusade is empty activism emblematic of the ‘Resistance’ celebrities. It requires no courage or effort to “expose” Trump supporters in Hollywood on Twitter. It does not help to produce political change – and serves purely as an egoic exercise for those who crave public approval and pats on the back from their colleagues.

Messing has become known for lobbing ad hominem Twitter attacks at those who fall foul of her own political agenda in a craven effort to fit in with the Hollywood crowd.

She has been one of those leading the attacks against fellow actress Susan Sarandon since 2016, delusionally attempting to pin blame on the vocal Bernie Sanders supporter for Hillary Clinton’s defeat. Messing’s disturbing obsession with Sarandon indicates she is more interested in grandstanding and condemning others for wrongthink than she is in engaging in substantial, impactful activism. 

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If ‘Resistance’ Hollywood was really interested in fighting Trump on the issues, they wouldn’t waste their time on vindictive witch hunts and personal vendettas, designed to plump up their own profiles. 

There is a big difference between political donors having their names publicly available online in the appropriate context and actually demanding an industry blacklist with the express purpose of damaging careers and reputations. 

That is the very definition of McCarthyism.

By Danielle Ryan, an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. 

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