In some ways, this new, less overt list is worse, because there is nothing concrete to rebel against, no hearings, no committees, no protest groups pro or con, no secret databases. There don’t need to be. There is no there there, in Gertrude Stein’s immortal words–only the grey haze of this mindless received liberalism, the world as last week’s New York Times editorials, half-digested and regurgitated, never questioned, going forth forever with little perceived chance of reform, as if it were the permanent religious text of some strange new orthodoxy.
You see this new faith in practice at the average Hollywood story meeting. These are ritualized events and have been for the decades that I have participated in them. You wait an inordinately long time for your appointment, often longer than at a doctor’s office, but with nowhere near the legitimate excuse on the part of the executive keeping you waiting. They are definitely not in surgery. The intention is merely to confirm your lower place in the pecking order. (I have personal knowledge of an instance when John Huston and Jack Nicholson were kept cooling their heels in a tiny room by the now-forgotten head of ABC Motion Pictures for nearly two hours–I assume he didn’t realize they’d come to pitch him Prizzi’s Honor. Or maybe he did and this was a form of envy or vengeance.)
Once inside the executive’s office, the pecking order of talent and management thus confirmed, it’s instantly waved off in a burst of small talk and a call for the requisite mineral water–originally Perrier, now something more exotic like an obscure Welsh brand in a blue bottle whose unpronounceable name you can barely remember. But the small talk is what’s important. It usually revolves around the freeway traffic (a perpetual subject), the Lakers (depending on the year), and, over the last half-decade or more, a ritualized Bush bash. (What will they do without him?) Fucking Bush did this or that … Did you hear the stupid thing Chimpy the Idiot said? You didn’t even have to hear Bush referred to specifically– the word “idiot” sufficed. You knew. The subtext was that we were all together, part of the secret society, the world of those who know as opposed to those who don’t.
If you didn’t agree with this particular Weltanschauung, if you dissented from its orthodoxy just a tiny bit, you had but three choices: One, you could argue, in which case you would be almost certain to be dismissed as a fool, a warmonger, or a right-wing nut (all three, probably) and therefore have had little or no chance at the writing or directing job that brought you there. Two, you could shut up and ignore it (stay in the closet), in which case you felt like a coward and experienced (as I have) a dose of nausea straight out of Sartre. Three, you could stop going to the meetings altogether–you could, in effect, blacklist yourself.
While this is (to the best of my knowledge) Roger’s first non-fiction book, he’s long been an exceptional fiction and comedy writer, and as we’ve long been documenting here, reality is always far stranger than satire. And as Hollywood’s politically correct purges (see post below) continue and the level of dissent even less acceptable in a town that prides itself as being full of “free thinkers”, many more people may well be blacklisting themselves as well in the years to come.