Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hollywood's new McCarthyism

HUAC was the House Un-American Activities Committee. It preceded Joe McCarthy but had similar aims and procedures

There are indications [that McCarthyism] could be happening again. Not in committee hearings, but in the way that people’s politics and origins are being examined. We are seeing a new kind of fear — that unless a producer has a product that fulfils certain criteria, it won’t get made. It could be political, it could be old-fashioned political correctness but the film has to pass a test that, basically, is a matter of genre. The mere suggestion that the subject does not fit someone else’s idea is enough for it not even to get to a story conference. As Larry Gelbart, who wrote the M*A*S*H TV series, put it to me: “HUAC was a bad dream — but one we are dreaming again.”

The mood is no longer anti-communist, although it could easily be, and is not confined to America. In fact, those two factors came into play a couple of months ago in the shape of Ken Loach, the left-wing British director, who, had he been working in Tinseltown 60 years ago, would surely have been blacklisted, and cast into oblivion.

Loach, that believer in freedom of speech and thought, persuaded the organisers of this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival to refuse £300 from the Israeli Embassy to bring over an Israeli writer so she could see her work on the screen. If the money were accepted, he said, the festival should be boycotted. Even worse, the festival organiser, not only agreed, but said Loach spoke “on behalf of the film community”. Which film community? It was true HUAC stuff, reminiscent of the time when puppet organisations were set up in Hollywood virtually to pledge allegiance to the committee.

Sir Jeremy Isaacs sought to put the festival right. “The idea that he (Loach) should lend himself to this denial of a film-maker’s right to show her own work is absolutely appalling.” But that was exactly what HUAC did. The terrible thing is that the thought was there in Edinburgh. Eventually the festival met the expenses.

In Hollywood, the signs are perhaps less obvious. Studios don’t exist as they did when the moguls (with the exception of Sam Goldwyn) capitulated to HUAC, rather than be branded as communists themselves. But the operations are now run by multinational corporations, which do not take kindly to big business being attacked on screen. Meanwhile, film-makers are scared of being dubbed non-PC. The arrival of Barack Obama has no doubt strengthened that feeling, as has the presence of black senior military figures. There is a perception that to get movies made, it is necessary to exploit that situation — out of fear, perhaps, that minorities will resent the idea of a white male presuming to have one of those jobs.

Ever since the Harrison Ford movie Patriot Games, it has become virtually the norm for the senior admiral (general/air force commander/ judge) in a film to be black. In the brilliant TV series, The West Wing, which would never have got past the HUAC censors, the defence chief was also black. The incoming president was Hispanic.

Women have never had as many opportunities. For every harridan in The Devil Wears Prada, there is a Desperate Housewife, and actresses such as Dame Helen Mirren who played an editor in State of Play.

In isolation, these are honourable developments, but what lies behind them is worrying. Shortly before his death two years ago, my friend, the screen writer and director Melville Shavelson, who produced a documentary about the HUAC days, told me: “I couldn’t get a movie made today because I would have to please too many people. I wouldn’t be allowed to say that someone from a racial minority in high office was bad. I wouldn’t be able to upset the makers of my breakfast cereal. I couldn’t give the idea that I support Israel.” And that from a man who made a film starring Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, Angie Dickinson and John Wayne about the foundation of the state of Israel (Cast a Giant Shadow).

Gregory Peck was one of America’s most attractive actors. Long after I wrote his biography, he told me: “Nobody wants to give me work, even old man parts — because I like to add lines which they think could be dangerous for 21st-century audiences.” Peck had been featured on Richard Nixon’s famous “enemies list”. “Now,” he said, “they think I am too establishment.” He died in 2003.

The traffic is not all one way. Ed Asner, who was well known as the editor in the television series Lou Grant, and is a former president of the Screen Actors Guild, said that there was still a bias against those perceived as left-wing. Asner believes that the series was cancelled, despite getting top ratings, because of pressure from the network, which thought he was involved in the “wrong” kind of politics.

Looking back, Larry Gelbart recalled, as a young man, sitting in a producer’s office and seeing the executive offering an agent work for a client — and then watching him check a sheet of paper. “ ‘Oh no,’ he said, ‘We can’t use him’. The paper was his blacklist.” As he now says: “Being on the blacklist was a badge of honour.” But it is one that any surviving blacklistee could do without. And, for people in the film business today, one with a health warning attached.


New tolerance movement needed?

In much of what is considered the period of enlightenment up to today, people and governments have been slowly realizing that intolerance is an evil that cannot be allowed if one is maintain a person's basic human rights without aggression. Religious intolerance was responsible for untold deaths and for people being forced by the state to only worship as the state allowed or risk being executed, imprisoned, mutilated and robbed. Racial intolerance has likewise caused millions of deaths, family separations, thefts, mutilations and imprisonment.

There has been a great deal of talk of tolerance in America throughout our years as nation, yet tolerance has had a hard time being accepted. Various races, cultures, genders and religions have been unacceptable to many and the outcome usually has made prejudice manifest itself in laws of aggression against the intolerable minority.

As people have become more enlightened about the equality, or at least the peaceful toleration, of the races, genders, cultures, sexual preferences and religious preferences America has learned to deal far more fairly towards all people.

Unfortunately people today in too many ways are far less tolerant then they were at the founding of our nation. Most people used to have the mindset that as long as you minded your own business and didn’t steal, defraud or harm another human that you should be left alone. They may not have agreed with you about what charities you supported, or failed to support, but they would never use force to make you support their preferred charity.

Many of our earlier countrymen and women rightly were intolerant with the horrific institution of slavery (unfortunately not enough), still even while their government had laws in place supporting the crime of slavery, very few would ever have thought to use force to keep a person from medicating themselves as they saw fit. When they knew the person was using drugs or alcohol recreationally they wouldn’t consider it a crime, even though much of this type of drug use was seen as a vice. In this respect they were far more tolerant of their neighbor’s freedoms then we are today.

People were tolerant of the right to defend oneself and their family by not using the aggression of government to keep anyone from being armed. They knew that if they were to remain secure then it was an obligation to train in the skills required for responsible firearm ownership. Certainly they recognized that to be armed and skilled in the use of firearms was not just what got them dinner. They knew firearms were for self-defense and as a last resort a defense against tyrannical government. We should all keep in mind that keeping and bearing arms is not an act of aggression. In fact it is an act of defense.

Before airlines stopped armed passengers from boarding aircraft in the name of safety, hijackings of American aircraft were all but unheard of. September 11th, 2001 shows just how much safer America has become from this policy. We fear guns in the hands of our neighbors more than we fear our government. Yet which should we be more intolerant of? Citizens boarded aircraft with guns and virtually no hijackings occurred. Citizens were disarmed and not only did hijackings occur, but also this failed policy ended with over 3000 dead. I vote we trust citizens with guns. Let’s stop the intolerance against citizen gun owners.

It really is a timely question, “What should we tolerate.” The answer, as individuals, is whatever we prefer to tolerate and what we cannot tolerate we can work to change through example and persuasion. But if what we are intolerant of doesn’t harm anyone or steal from them, but is what we consider an immoral act then using the force of government to enforce our morality is an immoral intolerant act of aggression.

A recent example of this is our own President Bush calling to have Congress pass legislation to outlaw same-sex marriages. Thomas Jefferson said “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” He was referring to the things that government should have authority over and what it, under no circumstances, should seek to control. Marriage in general and same-sex marriages as well should not be within the purview of government regulation, recognition or control. Marriages neither pick our pockets nor break our legs and according to the First Amendment should never come under the control of government.

Marriages are spiritual acts between people and their higher power not acts to be aggressively regulated against non-violent individuals. To marry, a person must have to have permission from the state and pay the state money for a license. Few acts by our government are so openly intolerant of people’s rights. If for some reason we believe we are protecting people from disease, or lord knows what, then how come we don’t license everyone who has sex and charge them with criminal penalties for those who have sex without a license. Is the licensing and regulation of marriages and who can or cannot marry beginning to seem like an intolerant act of aggression against peaceful people? It should.

As I suggested in the title of this essay we need a new tolerance movement. Either we are a country of free responsible adults or we are a nation of intolerant wimps and busybodies who must have government force peaceful people to adhere to our version of morality.

Let’s keep in mind one thing though as we consider using the force of government to impose our morality upon all. Someone else may consider your peaceful lifestyle to be immoral and worthy of forceful government intervention to prevent you from doing what neither picks someone’s pocket nor breaks someone’s leg. Maybe then we will all recognize the need for a New Tolerance Movement!


Another crime-fighting bright idea flops in Britain

There's nothing nearly as effective as locking them up for a LONG time -- as they do in many parts of the USA. Bright new ideas for penal reform never stop coming but they never work -- as I have noted previously

A radical US-style court initiative in which judges monitor each criminal’s progress after sentencing has failed to cut reoffending rates. The results are a blow to supporters of specialist community justice courts who had hoped for better results in preventing criminals returning to a life of crime.

Community courts involve a hands-on approach by judges who monitor offenders once they have left the dock and on-site agencies to help to deal with the underlying problems behind criminal behaviour such as drugs or housing. But reconviction rates for offenders dealt with by the North Liverpol and Salford community courts were marginally worse than those who went through an ordinary court in Manchester.

Of offenders who went through the North Liverpool court, 38.7 per cent were convicted of a further crime within a year and 38.3 per cent of those dealt with at Salford, compared with a reoffending rate of 37 cent in the Manchester court.

The position was even worse on breaking the terms of punishment. “Those in North Liverpool and Salford combined were significantly more likely to breach sentence conditions than those in Manchester,” said a report.

One reason for the higher breach rate in North Liverpool may be linked to tougher monitoring of offenders by probation officers, who adopt a more rigorous approach than those in Manchester, it suggested. However, the official study said there was an indication that the initiative might reduce slightly the number of crimes committed when a criminal reoffends.

The North Liverpool Community Justice Centre opened in September 2005, and cost £5.4 million to establish and costs £1.8 million a year to run. The smaller project in Salford cost £150,000 to set up and cost £100,000 a year to run.

Based on the Red Hook Community Justice Centre in New York, the courts use a multi-agency approach, referring offenders on-the-spot to professionals who deal with their specific problems, from housing to addiction. They also seek local residents’ views on particular problems and appropriate punishment.

The idea was supported enthusiastically by Lord Woolf when he was Lord Chief Justice and by David Blunkett, when Home Secretary, who both visited the Red Hook centre, were impressed with its work and decided to create a similar community justice court in England. The Ministry of Justice said: “This report looked at reoffending in the first year of the initiative when community justice was in a very early stage of development — the initiative will need more time for the effects to bed in to give a true picture of reoffending rates.” Ministers have already abandoned plans for a network of the community courts, saying there was no money to fund them.


British regulators don't know how to regulate social workers

Now tell us something we didn't know already

The competence of Ofsted to inspect children’s services and help to protect young people from abuse and neglect has been challenged by the Government’s child protection chief. Sir Roger Singleton used his first interview in the post to warn ministers that too many Ofsted staff lacked the skill and experience to hold social workers to account and drive up standards. If matters did not improve and inspectors failed to win the respect of social workers it would be “all too easy” for their judgments and recommendations to be ignored, he warned.

Ofsted took responsibility for inspecting children’s services in April 2007. Concerns over its performance were raised a year later when it emerged that inspectors had given Haringey a clean bill of health months after the death of Baby P, who was on the child protection register and under the watch of its social workers. He died of horrific injuries in August 2007. Ministers refused to accept that the death meant Ofsted was not up to the job of inspecting children’s services, although a new system of regulation was swiftly adopted.

Sir Roger, who was made the Government’s first chief adviser on the safety of children in March, welcomed the changes but said that problems remained. “Obviously, it makes it all too easy for those who are inspected to ignore the results if they don’t have respect for the inspectors. It is important Ofsted works to build its regard and respect in this area. It is not in any of our interests to have a view that they are not competent,” he said.

He said that he had heard “quite a lot of dissatisfaction from the field” about the work of inspectors that could no longer be ignored. The main complaint was the “high rate of variability” in what they knew about vulnerable children and safeguarding in particular. “It is difficult to think there is not some substance to it,” he said.

Sir Roger, a former chief executive of Barnardo’s, noted that Ofsted had recently announced plans to hire 20 or more inspectors with direct experience of children’s social care as a sign that it recognised its problems. Ofsted also announced that it has appointed John Goldup, a former senior social worker from Tower Hamlets, as a director. He is the only person with experience of child protection to reach board level. “It will be necessary to improve the range of skills and experience that Ofsted inspectors have in relation to children’s social care,” Sir Roger said.

Fears over Ofsted have also been sounded by MPs including Barry Sheerman, the Labour chairman of the Commons Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families, who has twice asked Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector, to give evidence on the performance of children’s services.

The Conservatives are reviewing Ofsted’s future and do not rule out taking away its role to inspect children’s services. “Ofsted is basically a schools’ inspectorate that is conducting a paper exercise when it goes to children’s services departments,” said Tim Loughton, the Tory children’s spokesman. “They don’t go out on the beat. They stay in the office and look at files. They simply don’t have the right people.”

Ofsted rejected any suggestion that it needed to improve its performance. Roger Shippam, its director for children, said: “We do not recognise the criticism that Ofsted lacks social care expertise. It is understandable that there is much anxiety surrounding the inspection of social care at the moment, especially following the death of Baby Peter.”

SOURCE. More details of how hopeless and corrupt the system is here


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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