Few should be surprised by Hollywood’s war against Elon Musk.
The eccentric billionaire took over Twitter one day, and late-night humorists declared Musk their second-favorite target (behind Donald Trump) the next. Jimmy Kimmel compared Musk to fecal matter in one of the industry’s most notorious slams.
Hollywood stars, albeit from the B-list, followed suit. Tea Leoni, Debra Messing, Alex Winter and others decried Musk’s takeover, fleeing Twitter in protest.
Horror maestro Stephen King recoiled at Musk’s plan to charge Twitter users for their verification status.
Why would so many artists side against Musk, who vows to allow more speech on the platform? Because Musk vows to allow more speech on the platform.
The entertainment industry should be in lockstep with conservatives when it comes to the modern free speech fight. Their careers demand unfettered expression, the ability to create fresh stories based on their lives and imaginations. It’s the core of what they do. Yet for the last few years Hollywood dwellers seem either disinterested in free speech or actively against it. Much of that can be traced to President Donald Trump.
The former president’s brawling Twitter account enraged the Hollywood Left, so when Twitter banished Trump permanently in 2021 Celebrity Nation cheered. Few voices worried about the chilling effect on free speech or wondered what other political leaders Twitter might cancel next.
Nor did they question why far more incendiary souls, like the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, still have a Twitter account but Trump doesn’t.
Former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe lashed out at then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for not suspending Trump sooner.
Hollywood activists have been similarly silent as comedians and the web’s premier faux news site suffered relentless attacks on their work. Comedians like Tyler Fischer got banned from TikTok for no credible reason beyond his gags hit the “wrong” target (like Dr. Anthony Fauci). Podcaster and comedian Steven Crowder’s show is routinely punished by YouTube without the Hollywood cavalry riding to his rescue.
Fact-checking sites and the platforms that ascribe to them (like Facebook) have comically hounded The Babylon Bee over the last few years, threatening its survival.
The Bee lean on social media giants to spread their stories and provide additional revenue streams.
Hollywood similarly sat on its hands as social media titans censored inconvenient news stories, like the lab leak theory tied to COVID and the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. Stars who weigh in on virtually every hot-button issue flitting across their smart phone screens couldn’t spare any outrage over these unprincipled acts.
When Cancel Culture came for Dr. Seuss over images some deemed racially insensitive, Hollywood tastemakers collectively stood down. Some, like “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert, yukked it up over the cancellation.
Celebrities have stayed silent over chronic free speech assaults on college campuses nationwide. This critic once asked “Avengers” actor Josh Brolin about the subject in 2017 while chatting up his “Only the Brave” fire fighter feature.
Brolin said he hadn’t heard of the issue at the time.
Could that still be the case today for Brolin and his peers, given the high-profile cases of conservatives being chased off campuses, attacked or both?
Hollywood’s latest free speech cowardice hits close to home. The battle began in January at the industry’s biggest film event. A documentary examining the fate of former Guantanamo Bay prisoners, “Jihad Rehab,” earned a coveted slot at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival.
The film earned critical praise upon its debut, but soon naysayers savaged the movie on several fronts. Some claimed the film’s white female director shouldn’t be telling a story rooted in Muslim culture despite her extensive ties to the Middle East.
Others suggested the former prisoners weren’t unable to fully give their consent to be interviewed. The film, they alleged, put their lives in danger.
That chorus, while small, got amplified by Abigail Disney. The heiress, who originally served as a producer on the project, rescinded her support and joined the mob eager to silence the movie.
Those forces mostly succeeded.
Sundance suits officially apologized for showing the film, while Redford has yet to publicly speak on the subject.
The only significant Hollywood player to rally to “Jihad Rehab” director Meg Smaker’s side? Oscar-winner Alex Gibney, a staunch liberal and frequent Trump critic.
There’s still hope for the documentary, though. Smaker created a crowdfunding campaign so she could fund the film’s distribution herself. That effort for the renamed documentary, “The UnRedacted,” with a push from author Sam Harris, earned north of $700,000. That’s more than three times what the director originally hoped to raise.
It took Joe and Jane Sixpack to do what Hollywood stars should have – stand up for art.
The film industry once celebrated free speech in blockbuster movies. The 1995 film “The American President” ended with Michael Douglas’ Commander-in-Chief rallying for the right to speak one’s mind, even if the speech is ugly and raw.
The 1996 drama “The People vs. Larry Flynt” recalled the free speech implications of the famed pornographer’s work, siding with him on First Amendment grounds.
Neil Young, who tried to get podcaster Joe Rogan punished last year for sharing inconvenient views on the pandemic, once anchored the “Freedom of Speech” rock tour with his old band mates from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Would today’s Hollywood even make such a film or stage a tour like that? Chances are they’d flex their social media accounts to silence them.
Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of HollywoodInToto.com. He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.