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May 28th, 2017

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Ars Gratia Politics

Laura Hollis

By Laura Hollis

Published Jan. 13, 2017

Ars Gratia Politics

Meryl Streep made headlines last Sunday when she lambasted President-elect Donald Trump in her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globes.

Contrary to Trump's petulant tweet in response, Meryl Streep is legitimately one of the finest American actresses ever to grace the stage and screen. Furthermore, she has as much right as anyone else to voice her opinion. That said, once you've put your opinion out there, it's fair game for comment. And a number of her observations merit a serious response.

Streep began by describing "Hollywood, foreigners and the press" as "the most vilified segments in American society right now." Sorry, but not even close. Those of us who live in flyover country have been ignored, mocked and derided by the left for years. Social media has turned the tables on Hollywood and the media, and they don't like it. Welcome to our world.

She heralded the "principled press," and proclaimed the need to hold powerful people to account and "call them on the carpet for every outrage." Please. We haven't had that for years. The WikiLeaks revelations of press bias in favor of Democrats seriously damaged their credibility. And it's only gotten worse. Just this week, BuzzFeed News has become the object of derision for publishing unverified (and false) "intelligence" that purports to reveal salacious information about Donald Trump. National Review writer David French (no Trump fan) said of BuzzFeed's conduct, "[It] isn't 'transparency.' It's not 'reporting.' It's malice."

Streep went on to say that Hollywood was "crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick 'em all out, you'll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts."

That's a classic straw man argument. Donald Trump has never suggested kicking all foreigners out of the country. And the "football and MMA" remark is the kind of gratuitous insult that has prompted Americans to give Hollywood the Jersey salute. (Plenty of MMA fans have let Streep know just how misinformed she is about the sport.)



Streep's harshest criticism was of Trump's apparent mockery (some have challenged this story) of a disabled reporter, who, Streep argued, was "outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back." Trump's performance, she said, "made the audience laugh and show their teeth."

"[T]his instinct to humiliate," she continued, "when it's modeled by someone in the public platform ... filters down into everybody's life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. ... When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose."

Without realizing it, Meryl Streep summarized how Hollywood and other elites in this country treat millions of Americans. There are more examples than can be counted, but here are two: On election night, Ana Kasparian on the TV show "The Young Turks," said of women who voted for Trump: "I don't think you're a one-issue voter ... I think you're f—-ing dumb." Melinda Byerley, San Francisco-based CEO of TimeShareCMO recently described Middle American towns in a Facebook post as "s—-holes" filled with "stupid people" who are "violent, racist and misogynist."

Here's the thing: Meryl Streep used the Golden Globes as a pulpit, because she thinks her views are important. As she made clear in her speech, Hollywood, in her view, has responsibilities.

Fair enough, but you can't have it both ways. Streep is distressed by the decline in political culture. But who do we have to thank for that? It was Democratic voters who excused John F. Kennedy's dalliances, and then Ted Kennedy's even more egregious behavior, and then Bill Clinton's Oval Office shenanigans. (Remember, "It's just sex"?) The left has rejected political leaders whose personal morals were upstanding. When squeaky-clean Mitt Romney ran for president in 2012, his Mormon choirboy image was the butt of countless Hollywood jokes. Now they suddenly care about politicians' character?

As is frequently noted, politics is downriver of culture. So who bears the most responsibility for the coarsening of our culture? Not our politicians, and certainly not Donald Trump. It's Hollywood. If you look back over 50 years of entertainment media, you can see a steady and persistent decline toward more violent, more vulgar and more sexually explicit material. (Hollywood likes to call it "edgy.") When Nicki Minaj simulates masturbation or Miley Cyrus acts out "doggy style" sex on national television, is Meryl Streep going to seriously defend that as "art"? When we hicks out here in S—-holeland complain, we're told, "Turn off your TV." If we dare to notice that actors' or musicians' personal lives are less than virtuous, we're told, "They're not role models; they're entertainers"

The problem with Meryl Streep's remarks is not that she dared give voice to them. It is that they betray the hypocrisy for which Hollywood has become so infamous, and which the rest of the country is so thoroughly sick of.

If you want to be seen as moral arbiters, then act like it, and hold the politicians you support to the same standard. But if you want to act like vulgarians utterly lacking in propriety or self-control - and to make money doing it — then you have no standing to complain when everyone else follows suit.

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Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in business law and entrepreneurship. She has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education.

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