Disney fired Gina Carano.
The internets have exploded. Cries to cancel the culture and comparisons to Hollywood’s blacklist has emerged in abundance.
I have no opinion on his dismissal. I have a strong opinion, however, on comparing his dismissal to the Hollywood blacklist. This is wrong, for many reasons. So stop doing it.
Let’s explore this comparison with five key points:
- Carano was fired, not boycotted. The Hollywood blacklist was a group boycott. Anyone on this list was believed to be a member of the American Communist Party (CPUSA) or a leftist group with the intention of overthrowing the government. The House Non-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the precursor to McCarthyism, called witnesses to find out how deeply rooted Hollywood, universities and other industries were in the Communists. Refusing to testify for any reason puts you on the blacklist. If someone appoints you, you are put on the blacklist. Any hint of sympathy for CPUSA puts you on the blacklist.
What made it a boycott was that it was a concerted action by all studios. They agreed not to hire communists. The studios have released a joint statement: We will not knowingly employ any Communist or any member of any party or group that advocates the overthrow of the United States government by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional method. History shows that the Communist etiquette included people who only advocated for things like raising wages.
- Carano was fired by an employer, she was not avoided. It wasn’t a day later that she was announced to have a movie deal. She has received support from the public on social media, from experts and politicians. It’s different from the fact that people are afraid to eat lunch with you for fear of being blacklisted as well.
- Disney fired Carano for tweeting controversial and weird things, not for being a curator. Apparently the last straw for Disney was an awkward comparison between current political tensions and Nazi Germany. While I am convinced that Nazi Germany is not compared to anything other than (checks notes) Nazi Germany, others are very keen to do so. Either way, Disney was outraged, and this wasn’t Disney’s first scandal about Carano. Meanwhile, we could end up on the blacklist even for doing absolutely nothing.
- When Carano was fired, members of Congress backed her up. Members of the blacklist have been dragged to congressional committees, often without lawyers, where they have been forced to cooperate, advocate the First Amendment, or advocate the Fifth Amendment. The comparison between Carano and the blacklist fails to recognize the interplay between the Hollywood boycott and the activities of the federal government. Claim your rights before HUAC puts you on the Hollywood blacklist.
- Carano was fired, not under FBI watch. The interaction between the Black List and the government did not stop during the hearings. Some members of the blacklist were under constant surveillance.
In other words, it wasn’t a one-off shot for a string of bad takes on Twitter. It was a systematic program to silence the leftists. The kind the Conservatives claim is happening to them now, loudly in their books, on TV, on social media and in both houses of Congress.
Being on the Hollywood blacklist meant never working in Hollywood again. No film offers the next day. Ruined careers. Exile. Even the defense of the so-called communists puts lawyers in danger. Read this heartbreaking tale by the daughter of a lawyer. Her father died by suicide.
In short, the Hollywood boycott was an extension of the hunt for American governments for people who disagreed with it. And the Supreme Court at the time was only too happy to support the cause. SCOTUS has rejected the challenges of the First Amendment to HUAC in cases like Barenblatt v. we, Watkins v. United States, and Wilkinson v. United States A Fifth Amendment assertion of the right not to self-incriminate could save a coerced witness from the pain of incarceration, while ensuring the inclusion of those on Hollywood’s blacklist.
But blacklists weren’t used just to stifle political discourse. Red Fear has also been used as a way to denounce all kinds of labor activity, not only in Hollywood, but everywhere. The effects of the witch hunt have spread beyond Hollywood. Academics were also targets. Many were hiding in quiet universities where they might not get much attention. If one wanted to examine the purpose of tenure – currently killed in Kansas and other states by conservative movements – it was to protect the expression of ideas and knowledge.
Unlimited employment has always been a conservative ideology, so I’m a little surprised to see support for it wane (but only for actors who hold privileges). Most employees are prone to their employer’s wrath if they tweet the wrong thing. Law firms usually browse the social networks of job applicants. In fact, most of the country lives in fear of being fired for saying the wrong thing. Given this economy, this has dire consequences. And many of those who cry out about the cancellation of culture are also speaking out against the protections in the workplace.
She was fired for a series of colorless tweets. She was fired, not boycotted. She’s been fired and unlike most layoffs for similar things, this one will cause backlash against Disney. Being a conservative is not as bad as being called a communist. If you don’t believe me go to a bunch of bars and test it out by shouting Im a Tory or Im a Communist. No, really, don’t do that. The latter can very well get you killed in some areas.
LawProfBlawgis an anonymous professor in one of the top 100 law schools. You can see more of his reflectionshere. He’s a lot funnier on social media, he says. Please follow him on Twitter (@lawprofblawg). Send him an email at[email protected].
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