Trapped Inside 'The Architecture of Fear:' Blacklisting Myself, Silicon Valley-Style
11 years ago, I wrote an article titled "Hollywood Stasists vs. Valley Dynamists" for Tech Central Station, on the cold technological war between northern and southern California. But rather than using the dynamists and stasists terminology from Virginia Postrel's 1999 book The Future and Its Enemies, perhaps I should have referred to both sides as the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks, as all of the battles were being led by various factions of the left.
The left-leaning (sometimes very left-leaning and occasionally more than a little racialist) National Journal spots Marlon Perkins-style, "The Secret Republicans of Silicon Valley." Longtime readers of PJM should find this passage quite familiar:
Rather than ruffle feathers—or worse—Republicans who work there often just keep quiet. Rich Tafel, who coaches tech companies in politics and policy, understands the dynamic. The founder of the gay group Log Cabin Republicans, he's had many Republicans in Silicon Valley confide to him their true political views.
"You just learn how to operate, if you will, in the closet as a Republican," Tafel told National Journal. "You keep your viewpoints to yourself."
One startup CEO who has worked in Silicon Valley for more than a decade says that while it's popular to talk politics in the workplace, the underlying assumption is that everyone has similar views.
The CEO, who generally votes Republican and donates to GOP candidates—he spoke on background to conceal his right-leaning views—said that in 2012, "you wouldn't want to say you're voting for Romney in the election." At the same time, openly expressing one's support for Obama was "incredibly common."
His opposition to raising the minimum wage is just one area where he diverges with most of his colleagues. "If you say something like, 'We need a higher minimum wage,' you don't get critiqued," he said. But he would never reveal his more conservative outlook on the matter.
"They can't fathom that somebody disagrees with them," he said. "And I disagree with them. So I'm not going to open up that box."
Which our own Roger L. Simon described in the original title of his 2009 autobiography as "Blacklisting Myself:"
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.
I don’t know the size of that self-selected blacklist, but I suspect it’s substantial, though certainly not as large as the number of those in the closet. People have to make a living, after all, as in the days of the old blacklist. Only there are no “fronts,” as in the Woody Allen movie of the same name.
This happens with actors as well; Morgan Brittany, one of the former stars of Dallas who's openly Republican, tells this story of appearing onstage with Ed Asner, who's openly Stalinist:
Brittany told of building a friendship with actor Ed Asner, a sometimes activist for progressive causes, when the two starred in a stage-play together during the infamous Florida recount that put Republican George W. Bush in the White House over Democrat Al Gore. And she told how she lost Asner’s friendship due to politics.
“Every night he just loved me and came in and gave me a big hug,” she said. “Then one night he was going crazy about Gore and Bush and stealing the election. I’m backstage and I said, ‘Ed, chill, not everybody thinks the way you do’.”
“Well, where do I begin?” I swear. It was like a light switch,” she said. “He turned to me and said, ‘you’re not a Republican?’ I said, ‘yep.’ And he said, ‘I can’t even look at you. I can’t even talk to you’.”
“From that moment on, he never spoke to me again, except on stage,” she said. “This is what we’re dealing with. The intolerance of the left.”
Goodbye to all of that, says science fiction/fantasy novelist and frequent PJM contributor Sarah Hoyt in response to the socialist justice warriors overrunning that industry's Hugo Awards, which we mentioned last week, creating what she calls, quite accurately, "The Architecture of Fear:"
Do consider how it would feel to come out of the closet and kick the mouse up and down main street, making him eat his Stalinist “guilt by association” cries.
I’m not going to force you. I’m not going to out you.
But this Stalinist “I know everything you do and it’s all analyzed for deviationism” always leads to purges. In SF/F those purges might mean not publishing traditional. Or they might mean not winning awards. Or getting kicked out of an organization.
But this type of mind-set is a cancer in the culture and sooner or later leads to gulags and graves.
I can’t push you and I won’t. If you want to keep your opinions — left, right, moderate, libertarian, anarchist — hidden, it’s your job. I am not the keeper of your soul.
However, I want you to think of the dark and dank place that fear and that suspicion and the constant spying lead.
And then I want you to think of how good it would feel to get off your knees, stand on two, look your tormentors in the face and say “No more. I’m free. My thoughts and my opinions, my beliefs, my tastes, my friends are my own. You have no power over me. Not now, and not ever again.”
That’s all. I just want you to think.
Now that the left are threatening to burn down Midwestern pizza parlors, and getting Silicon Valley CEOs fired for doubleplus ungood oldthink, you don't see many commercials from them these days like this 1981 Amnesty International ad toasting freedom and celebrating speaking your conscience, huh?
Related: "How free speech became right wing:"
Essentially, the left needs to rediscover and reclaim its liberalism. Otherwise, the basic liberties of free thought and free expression will become the exclusive purview of the right.
But at least in America, the left declaring itself "liberal" was simultaneously a stolen base and a rebranding tactic in the early 1920s, after the Wilson administration demonstrated -- the hard way -- that free speech and "Progressivism" were mutually incompatible terms.
God only knows what they have against pizza, though -- it's Mussolini-approved!