Free speech is taking a beating these days, and the punishment is coming from the one place that should be its staunchest defender: Hollywood. In an exclusive with Deadline Hollywood, George Clooney says he circulated a petition to support Sony Entertainment on the grounds that pulling “The Interview” would, for all intents and purposes, be an abdication of free speech to its enemies. The number or people in Hollywood willing to sign the petition: ZERO.
Here is an excerpt from the petition:
This is not just an attack on Sony. It involves every studio, every network, every business and every individual in this country. That is why we fully support Sony’s decision not to submit to these hackers’ demands. We know that to give in to these criminals now will open the door for any group that would threaten freedom of expression, privacy and personal liberty. We hope these hackers are brought to justice but until they are, we will not stand in fear. We will stand together.
The fact that Mr. Clooney’s friends within the industry refused to sign such a statement is pathetic. Dec. 16, 2014 marked the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, but on that very same day Hollywood studio heads couldn’t even bring themselves to sign a piece a paper in defense of free speech. Ask yourself: Would you want to go to war with anyone from Hollywood? Do you want these people and their friends running the country and shaping the culture? How much damage have they already done?
After discussing his spineless friends (without naming names, of course), Mr. Clooney then goes on to talk about the ramifications of the Sony hacking with Deadline Hollywood’s Mike Flemming Jr.
DEADLINE: What kind of constraints will this put on storytellers that want to shine a critical light on a place like Russia, for instance, with something like a movie about the polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, the KGB officer who left and became an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin?
CLOONEY: What’s going to happen is, you’re going to have trouble finding distribution. In general, when you’re doing films like that, the ones that are critical, those aren’t going to be studio films anyway. Most of the movies that got us in trouble, we started out by raising the money independently. But to distribute, you’ve got to go to a studio, because they’re the ones that distribute movies. The truth is, you’re going to have a much harder time finding distribution now. And that’s a chilling effect.
Mr. Flemming’s hypothetical scenario involving a movie about Alexander Litvinenko is impressive. It shows that he knows how dangerous of a precedent it was for Sony Entertainment to pull “The Interview.” Unfortunately, he and George Clooney appear to be in the vast minority in Hollywood. The erosion of free speech is happening before our eyes — we just can’t see it. You can’t see or hear the movies that were never written out of fear. You can’t hold the DVD of a movie that was never made because cowardly men and women in Hollywood are slaves to the desires of dictators and despots. You can’t smell and taste the popcorn for a blockbuster movie that was killed before pen was ever put to paper.
People laugh because a giant free speech debate has been generated over a Seth Rogen movie, but what happened at Sony is no laughing matter. Regardless, Americans should stand up and applaud George Clooney for shining a light on the character — or lack thereof — of the men and women running Hollywood.