"If they'll protect a scumbag like me, then they'll protect all of you."
Larry Flynt's infamous quote summarizes Hollywood's self-congratulatory celebration of free speech in its Academy Award-nominated film "The People vs. Larry Flynt." Critic Roger Ebert said the film argued that freedom of speech must apply to unpopular speech or it is meaningless.
However, an eerie silence now envelops Hollywood as we watch the United States Government and the world persecute a California filmmaker needlessly targeted by the press, the perceived scumbag responsible for the unpopular speech in his indie film "The Innocence of Muslims." Such persecution is testing Hollywood’s self-image as champion of artistic expression and free speech, no matter how foul.
Let's all acknowledge that "Innocence of Muslims" has rapidly become the most reviled movie that virtually no one has ever seen in recent memory. Let's also acknowledge that radical Islamists have exploited the film as a pretense to launch 9/11 anniversary violence against the Great Satan, America. To pretend otherwise dignifies the film above the artistic trash heap on which it rests.
Should enlightened Hollywood be alarmed at the persecution of this man? Should it be shocked to find that censorship is going on? At the DOJ investigating the filmmaker? At the White House pressuring YouTube to “review” (read: censor) the movie trailer? At the unprecedented action of the nation’s highest ranking military officer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, personally telephoning an American citizen, Terry Jones, to question his support of the film?
Is this episode a sign of Sharia-zation in Hollywood? In 2005, even the mighty Steven Spielberg self-censored marketing for "Munich," not remotely an anti-Mohammed film, in apparent obeisance to the new reality that LA Weekly noted: “Hollywood has long been loath to portray any Arabs as villains, much less Muslim extremists.”
If Spielberg bows to Islamic blasphemy sensitivities, what chance does "Innocence"'s small-time producer stand? If allowed to metastasize, a Sharia-zation of the First Amendment could embolden the government to employ similarly heavy-handed persecution of filmmakers deemed offensive to The Prophet and launch investigations, or even prosecutions, to intimidate or financially bleed writers, actors, producers and silent investors contributing, say, via Kickstarter. These are not hypothetical fears; to an extent they are occurring today for the "Innocence" producer and Terry Jones. And, of course, Government’s pretext is that its actions are not personal, just business – the need to preserve public safety against violent radical Islamists.
Our government's action should suggest to the liberal Hollywood elites that a return to an anti-blasphemy standard endangers their freedom to make "offensive" films such as "The Da Vinci Code," "The Last Temptation of Christ," or even "Schindler's List." Steven Spielberg and the rest of the Hollywood elitists should be standing in solidarity on this reviled filmmaker's front lawn, speaking out to protect his constitutional right to be a cinematic miscreant if they ever wish to touch on religion at all.
Let's hope Hollywood finds its voice and tells the would-be destroyers of Free Speech to lay off the scumbags.