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ABC’s The View kicked off its 23rd season with a standout performance from Whoopi Goldberg, who called out Debra Messing’s and Eric McCormack’s idiotic attempts to doxx Trump campaign donors. Goldberg spoke truth to the power of blacklisting.
“Debra Messing and Eric McCormack are calling on The Hollywood Reporter to print a list of all the attendees to a Beverly Hills fundraiser for you know who, so they know who they don’t want to work with,” she said. “They say that the public has a right to know. Is that true?”
Joy Behar joked that “instead of a blacklist it should be called a whitelist.” While she supports the public’s right to boycott corporations, she takes issue with boycotting individuals personally.
Sonny Hoskins asked why donors to the Trump campaign wouldn’t be proud enough of their political financial speech to be public about it. This is also Messing and McCormack’s view, and it’s a totally disingenuous perspective. It completely ignores the fact that the Hollywood entertainment industry is prevailingly progressive, and shuns and insults those entertainers who diverge from that.
Whoopi wanted to make sure her point was known. “The last time people did this, people ended up killing themselves, okay? Your idea of who you don’t want to work with is your personal business. Do not encourage people to print out lists because the next list that comes out your name will be on and then people will be coming after you… We had something called a blacklist. And a lot of really good people were accused of stuff. Nobody cared whether it was true or not, they were accused. And they lost their right to work. You don’t have the right, in this country, people can vote for who they want to that is one of the great rights of this country. You don’t have to like it, but we don’t go after people because we don’t like who they voted for … We don’t print out lists.”
Way back in the 1940s and 50s, the US was really afraid of communists. So much so that there was a phenomenon called the Red Scare, where citizens worried that—gasp—there were card-carrying communists in their midst. No citizen was more freaked out than Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy. He led the charge against communism, forming the House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), with interrogations, congressional hearings, and yes, blacklists.
In 1950, a pamphlet came out called Red Channels (for millennials: a pamphlet is like Twitter but before the internet), listing 151 Hollywood and entertainment industry folks who were communists or communist sympathizers. These people could no longer get work in the industry. Being suspected of being a communist, or having leanings in that direction, was enough for a person to lose their livelihood. Sound familiar?
Given that reality, it might make sense for those who are accused to try to get out of the snare by placing the blame on someone else. This also turned out to be a way to lose face, income, and standing. McCarthy dragged notable filmmaker Elia Kazan before HUAC. Kazan named names, and would never work in Hollywood again. One could neither be a communist, nor disavow. There was no way out. This is how blacklists work. They feed on fear, accusation, and blame. The only way out is to treat each person as innocent until proven guilty, in every single case, and to not allow the mob to decide what infractions are deserving of punishment, but the law.
You see, while Sonny Hoskins may have been unaware of the tragic history of blacklisting and unpersoning in America, Goldberg has a deep understanding of it. When she spoke and gestured to the audience and her colleagues to “read about it,” it resonated. Whether you were a pro-Trump coal miner or a never-Trump adjunct, the basic American principle of freedom of association rang loud and clear from Goldberg’s words.
Goldberg has her own history with cancel culture. Or perhaps we should call it pre-cancel culture. She has had numerous encounters with mobs trying to end her career from the blackface scandal with then-husband Ted Danson, to her comments in defence of Roman Polanski. She is acutely aware of how the mob works. The mob has come for her and her loved ones too. This is, at least, partially why she spoke so eloquently on the topic of call-outs.
Since Whoopi’s spot-on soliloquy, McCormack and Messing attempted to do damage control on Twitter:
The only problem with their clarification was that it made no sense. Messing signal boosted McCormack’s message—basically a double down attempt that said they simply wanted to know who the major donors were. As has been pointed out many times over the last few days, these donors are a matter of public record. It’s a shame. In terms of both who donated to Trump, and the tragic history of blacklists, all McCormack and Messing had to do was bother to read and educate themselves.