On George Clooney's Sony Petition, The Satanic Verses And Tough-Talking Right Wingers
December 20, 2014

Deadline reports that George Clooney tried to get Hollywood to rally around Sony Pictures, to no avail:

... The most powerful people in Hollywood were so fearful to place themselves in the cross hairs of hackers that they all refused to sign a simple petition of support that Clooney and his agent, CAA's Bryan Lourd, circulated to the top people in film, TV, records and other areas. Not a single person would sign....

DEADLINE: You said you won't name names, but how many people were asked and refused to sign?

CLOONEY: It was a fairly large number. Having put together telethons where you have to get all the networks on board to do the telethon at the same time, the truth is once you get one or two, then everybody gets on board. It is a natural progression. So here, you get the first couple of people to sign it and ... well, nobody wanted to be the first to sign on. Now, this isn't finger-pointing on that. This is just where we are right now, how scared this industry has been made....

Clooney's instincts were right, because a big part of the problem is that Sony is isolated on this. Things could have been different if others in the industry had been willing to stand up and say, in effect, "I am Spartacus." But that didn't happen.

All this made me think about what happened when violence and threats of violence arose in the early 1990s in response to the publication of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses. Viking Penguin published the American hardcover edition and kept it in print, but the publisher balked at putting out the paperback. It was proposed that the paperback should be published jointly by a number of publishers and other groups, but, as The New York Times reported at the time, that didn't happen, and the paperback was published essentially anonymously:

An anonymous group calling itself the Consortium is publishing a paperback edition of Salman Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses," with the book scheduled to be in stores before the end of the month.

A spokesman for the group, who spoke on condition of remaining unidentified, would not say who was financing the publication, who was part of the group or who would receive any profits the book earned....

There had been much debate about organizing a conglomerate of publishers and human rights groups to bring out a paperback "Satanic Verses." Supporters said that the threat would be defused under such an arrangement and that publishers had an obligation to be defiant in the face of threats against freedom of speech. But some people in the industry disagreed, saying that the hard-cover "Satanic Verses" was widely available and that they could not afford to jeopardize the safety of their employees for the sake of a paperback edition.

In that situation, of course, the threats of violent retaliation were not idle:

The Japanese translator of the book was murdered last year and the Italian translator was severely wounded in attacks that are believed to have been carried out by people fulfilling the Iranian decree.

And in America, there were bomb attacks on two bookstores.

As Rushdie has noted in his memoir, Joseph Anton, he got backup from one publishing executive, George Craig, then the head of HarperCollins. Craig provided money for a first printing and other assistance, albeit anonymously -- but the Consortium was just Rushdie himself along with his American and British agents.

(A paperback of The Satanic Verses is now widely available from Rushdie's current publisher, Random House.)


I see that wingnut blogger Moe Lane is saying that what's happening now is a vast liberal conspiracy of cowardice -- Hollywood, the Obama administration, trial lawyers who are advising theater owners that they could be held legally liable if anyone were to be injured or killed at a screening of The Interview (yes, trial lawyers are to blame for making that simple statement of fact). Reading Lane's pot that makes me want to ask: So where are all the brave right-wingers in all this?

Take Rick Santorum. He's a foreign policy hard-liner who now runs a Christian film studio. Why doesn't he offer to take The Interview off Sony's hands so he can release it? Where's his patriotic courage?

For that matter, why doesn't the most prominent conservative in Hollywood -- Rupert Murdoch -- show us his intestinal fortitude and grit? He has the Hollywood connections, and he has enough money to indemnify every theater in America that's willing to show the movie. He's an octogenarian who's lived a full, excellent life -- why doesn't he just offer to take the movie on and dare the North Koreans to hurt him?

And if he doesn't want to put employees of Fox in the crosshairs, why doesn't he put together a consortium of right-wingers to release the movie? Murdoch, Santorum ... who else? Breitbart Media? The Sarah Palin Channel? The Glenn Beck media empire? Maybe Ted Nugent wants to host some screenings? Or Nick Searcy? Or the Duck Dynasty guys?

You right-wingers are all really brave, right? That's what you keep telling us. Well, so far you've got a loss less backbone than George Clooney, a liberal you despise. So what are you waiting for? Show us what you're made of.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog


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