BREAKING: Lionel Chetwynd's Open Letter of Resignation to Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors

Specifically, I refer to remarks attributed to Vin in the recent publication “Prime Time Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV” by Ben Shapiro. I do not defend the book, having yet to read it; I address only the matters raised by its research content.

June 2, 2011
(AN OPEN LETTER)
Dennis Doty, Chair The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors

Dear Dennis,

Herewith, I tender my resignation as both Co-Chair of the Steering Committee of The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors, and also my general membership. The proximate cause are comments by our friend and Caucus leader Vin Di Bona; but the true reason lies in how those comments make clear that views held dearly and passionately by me, and my sense of the American story, render me unsuitable for continued membership.So while this is not about our friend, the talented and decent Vin Di Bona, it does begin at his side.

Specifically, I refer to remarks attributed to Vin in the recent publication “Prime Time Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV” by Ben Shapiro. I do not defend the book, having yet to read it; I address only the matters raised by its research content.

In preparing his book, Mr. Shapiro interviewed a large number of our Hollywood notables on the subject of diversity – not the sacrosanct mélange of race, religion, gender orientation and the like, but a more challenging diversity: that of opinion and policy. The vast majority felt quite comfortable endorsing discrimination against those whose political philosophy was not rooted in the reflexive Leftism of Hollywood. Vin’s contribution, when asked to address this alleged anti-conservative bias, was that it “ … (is) probably accurate and I’m happy about it, actually. … If the accusation is there, I’m okay with it”. In a subsequent statement, he endorsed the content of the quote, saying he “stood by it”. He was not alone; indeed many of those interviewed held the opinion that discriminating against conservatives was a simple virtue - i.e., one all could/should accept. Vin’s comment was mild compared to some. Many called for wider efforts at shutting out voices with which they happen to disagree. But, what if we substitute for “conservative”, words like African-American, or Gay, or Jew, or Muslim, -- or, God forbid, Leftists, Communists, or Liberals?

While Mr. Shapiro’s revelations are appalling, and cause enough for any person such as myself to choose to sever ties, it becomes mandatory when the comments made are later affirmed rather than mitigated. (Vin and I have now spoken, and I reference that conversation below.)



In my years as a member of the Caucus, I worked tirelessly to promote fidelity to our First Amendment rights. You well know, for example, the Bipartisan Political Panels I organized, my pieces for the Caucus Journal, and – now to my embarrassment – my involvement in bringing to the Caucus such speakers as Eric Cantor, Tom Ridge, John Thune and others. I knew most of my fellow members looked upon the political positions of these people as distasteful; what I now understand is the disgust was not for their views, but for their very person. Such people, Mr. Shapiro’s sources make clear, must be silenced and it is therefore proper to make them suffer discrimination. Shame on all of them. Their sickness is an infection that belongs in Europe of the 1930s. It does not belong in America. It is especially evil that it be found in our community, where America’s popular culture is born, where we create the images explaining who and what America is to our fellow countrymen, and more, to the world. Next Monday will mark 67 years since young Americans from across our country – and that includes Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, all the “fly-overs” – willingly gave their lives on Norman beaches to bring freedom to the subjugated peoples of Europe, people about whom those brave young heroes knew little or nothing.

And is this how today’s beneficiaries use the freedom won by the blood and sacrifice of men and women surely better than we?

Lest I seem like Claude Raines, I am not protesting, “shocked, shocked!” for I always knew the truth; indeed, as I believe you’re aware, I experienced overt Blacklisting for my views as a conservative – at the very hands of those who piously deplore the Blacklisting of Communists in a former day. As 1950s Blacklist victim Carl Foreman warned me when I told him I was moving to Hollywood: “Beware the fearless defenders of the safely contentious.” He was right: Rhetoric is easy, principle is hard. Certainly, then, I have always known and understood the Leftward prejudice of Hollywood. Yet, until now, I have remained relatively passive and simply rolled with the blows. So what has changed?

Three things:

- The first is personal: I realize, now, the enormous special obstacles put in my path by my supposed colleagues, obstacles that over the years made earning a living or a quiet pursuit of my trade so unusually onerous, were not a matter of political difference; they were a declaration of my unworthiness to be one of them. The rejection was not of my ideas, but of my person.

- The next is my immediate community: Until now, the Hollywood culture kept mean-spirited and odious persecution carefully discussed out-of-earshot of we lepers; now, however, there appears to be no problem in openly admitting to cheap and easy prejudice. Few cancers are more lethal to a civil society than ideological bigotry. And no one can spread disease better than our industry. - The last, and by far, far, the most important, is our beloved America: This is a time of inflamed political confrontation, evoking Bleeding Kansas of the 1850’s or even the Civil War itself. And as Dante taught, “there is a special place reserved in hell for he, who in the face of moral crisis, does nothing.” So if the Hollywood Left has no compunction in publicly proclaiming its creed, then for the sake of those Americans who have a different vision for our country, someone must shout, “Stop! This is not what America’s about! The American people deserve better!” In my own awkward way, I am trying to meet that challenge. We, privileged to work in the entertainment industry and enjoy the bounty our chosen career bestows on success, should never imagine ourselves the arbiters of what is permissible in the public square. We do not own the dream factory, but are merely its custodians, stewards at best. Rome won its empire at the edge of the sword. The British built theirs with commerce, sending out grocers. But America? We dispatched Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis and Elvis Presley, Writers, Producers, Directors, DPs, all our talent. The jewel of our national patrimony – our popular culture – has been a beacon to the world in spreading the message of freedom and tolerance. The success of this enterprise when in the hands of prior generations makes the miserable failure of our current crop to even listen to voices other than their own all the more painful.

Since beginning this letter, I have had the opportunity to speak to Vin, and I assure you both, I believe his distress at what has been said, his explanation of how the words came to be spoken, and accepted his personal apology. But this issue now goes beyond my personal trust, having migrated to the very nature of our community and its mainstream organizations – amongst which The Caucus holds a particular pride-of-place. It is for that very reason I no longer belong in your midst. I shall miss you all.

I wish you and all my former fellow members the rewards freedom, hard work, and talent, enable.

With best wishes and great sincerity,
Lionel Chetwynd

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