Love Me, I’m a Hollywood Liberal

RGBStock.com Film FrameDuring the 87th Academy Awards ceremony on February 22, films about Martin Luther King, Jr. and whistleblower Edward Snowden, Selma and Citizenfour, received statuettes for, respectively, Best Original Song and Best Documentary Feature.  But the shutting-out of Selma from other Oscars due to industry backlash against its less than fully idealized portrayal of former US president Lyndon B. Johnson, and host Neil Patrick Harris’s quip that “Edward Snowden couldn’t be here for some treason,” made clear the limits of Hollywood liberal tolerance for dissent.

To update Phil Ochs’s classic indictment: “I cried when they shot Martin Luther King Jr.  But Edward Snowden got what was coming. So love me, I’m a liberal.”

Harris might have been tongue-in-cheek, but imagine if he’d made the same remark about a surviving but jailed 86-year-old King. And if he didn’t intend it as political, that merely shows what sort of political assumptions Hollywood takes for granted.  For instance, that the very existence of the National Security Agency is not infinitely more a betrayal of American ideals than Snowden’s exposure of its secrets.  In fact, the NSA helped implement the federal government’s surveillance of King as portrayed in Selma.

Another dissident subject of an Oscar-winning film (Karl Hess: Toward Liberty, Best Documentary Short Subject) observed in his autobiography Mostly on the Edge that “the support of big business flowed naturally to Lyndon Johnson, who knew how to wheel and deal with corporations that felt they had the right to be treated as virtually a fourth branch of government.”  As exemplified by Hollywood’s ties to mostly-Democratic administrations, e.g. Jack Valenti’s move from LBJ’s personal aide to head of the Motion Picture Association of America.

In his acceptance speech at the 53rd Oscars, Karl Hess: Toward Liberty co-director Roland Halle contended that “[Hess’s] ideas on how [to] take control of one’s life I think can map our route toward liberty, and liberty is all this country’s about.”  With his statement “that the really American revolution would be to destroy power,” Hess’s notion of what “this country’s about” clearly differed from identifying it with the covert functioning of the NSA.  Its documentation of Hess’s journey, from his expulsion from the top ranks of the Republican Party to his pioneering of solar power and other decentralized ecological technologies — all without ever being a liberal, Hollywood or otherwise — offers prescient lessons for bringing liberty to a post-NSA America.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a contributing editor at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).

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A Suicide in Brooklyn

RGBStock.com Police RaidMaraschino cherry mogul Arthur Mondella put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger on February 24. He was 57. New York City’s medical examiners will no doubt rule his death a suicide. But Mondella was really the latest victim of a multi-billion dollar industry: Drug prohibition.

Why did Mondella lock himself in the bathroom at Dell’s Maraschino Cherries — a company his grandfather founded in 1948, and which annually produces more than a billion of the sweet, syrupy little treats that top America’s desserts — ask his sister to take care of his children, and kill himself?

Because police, posing as “environmental inspectors,” discovered (as they suspected) that in addition to producing cherries, Mondella was using the factory to run a marijuana business. After five hours of tearing the place apart, they found a false wall hiding 80 pounds of cannabis and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.

Mondella ran a second business behind the scenes. As with his cherry business, he provided a desired product to willing customers, leaving both parties better off than before the exchange. Unfortunately for him, that second business ran afoul of a set of evil laws maintained well past their “okay, that didn’t work” dates for the purpose of keeping government bureaucrats and “non-profit” executives employed.

In 2015 alone, one federal bureaucracy — the Office of National Drug Control Policy — will spend more than $25 billion taxpayer dollars hunting down and caging or killing entrepreneurs like Mondella. That’s not counting the expenditures of state and local law enforcement agencies, or the tens of millions raised and spent by “non-profit” propaganda shops like DARE and the Partnership for Drug Free Kids.

Drug prohibition is big business. Not the kind of business Arthur Mondella ran, though. It isn’t the  win-win proposition that defines legitimate enterprise.  Drug prohibition’s “products” are people jailed, people killed, property seized. Its “transactions” harm  everyone except the fat cats who run its various divisions and subsidiaries.

In 1971,  a young Vietnam veteran testifying before Congress against the war, John Kerry (now US Secretary of State), wondered “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

America’s tragic history of marijuana prohibition seems to be slowly drawing to an end as more and more states legalize it for medical and, lately, recreational use.  Unfortunately Arthur Mondella probably won’t be its last casualty.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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