A conversation with film historian Max Alvarez: How the #MeToo campaign echoes the McCarthyite witch hunt of the 1940s and 1950s “The climate is chillingly similar in terms of the massive capitulation and conformity”


Oprah Winfrey, recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award, gave a rousing Golden Globes speech that spurred talk of a 2020 presidential run. PHOTO/Kevork Djansezian/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images/National Public Radio

It is “Scoundrel Time” again in Hollywood, complete with denunciations, anonymous informants, humiliating “confessions,” trial by media and the banning of prominent performers.

The ongoing sexual misconduct campaign, spearheaded by the New York Times, Time magazine, the Washington Post and leading sections of the Democratic Party, has “cleansed” the film and television industry of dozens of figures and threatens a great many more. It goes hand in hand with the anti-Russia and “fake news” hysteria and attempts by Google and Facebook to clamp down on the Internet.

The charges against producer Harvey Weinstein, launched by the Times and former Obama administration official Ronan Farrow, were merely a pretext, the thin end of the wedge. The effort that began in October has turned into a full-blown witch hunt, in which careers and reputations have been destroyed overnight, democratic rights and due process trampled on, the sexually unorthodox denounced and excluded, attention diverted from the social crisis in America and the drive to war, and sections of the upper-middle class whipped into a frenzy.

Like every other “human rights” and “women’s rights” campaign, foreign and domestic, staged by the American ruling elite during the past two decades or more, the supposed drive to root out “sexual predators” in Hollywood, the media and elsewhere is a cynical fraud. By now such slogans ought to arouse a great deal of skepticism.

This drive will not advance the position of working class women or the overwhelming majority of female performers one inch, although there is an already affluent layer that hopes to improve its lot. On the contrary, the current witch hunt is directed at imposing conformity and repression in line with reactionary identity politics.

It has already resulted in unprecedented acts of censorship, including the elimination of Kevin Spacey from a film and James Franco from a national magazine cover, and the cancellation of a major exhibition by painter Chuck Close. If the initiators of this effort have their way, all this is merely the beginning.

The Golden Globes awards ceremony on January 8 was an appalling display of self-centeredness and self-pity. A succession of extremely privileged individuals, led by billionaire Oprah Winfrey, bemoaned their sad fate and, as we noted, “expected viewers to believe that the ‘MeToo’ movement constituted an epic chapter in the struggle for human liberation.”

The Academy Awards broadcast on March 4 will presumably offer more of the same. It already takes place under the shadow of intimidation. Actor Casey Affleck has announced that he will not attend the event. Traditionally, the winner of the previous year’s Best Actor award—won in 2017 by Affleck for Manchester by the Sea—hands out the Best Actress prize. Affleck has come under fire because of a settlement he reached with two women over their claims of inappropriate behavior, claims he denies.

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