Silence In Hollywood As
Anti-War Stars Vanish

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Where has the Hollywood anti-war lobby gone?
In the weeks leading up to war in Iraq actors Martin Sheen, Mike Farrell, Sean Penn and Janeane Garofalo joined a cast of thousands in a fierce Hollywood resistance played out in protest marches and from the sofas of television talk shows.
But with the war in its waning hours, all is quiet on the western coast -- leading conservatives to suggest that Garofalo and her fellow travelers are in full retreat from a public backlash and feeling chastened by a swift American victory.
Liberals fear Hollywood's left-wing stars are being muzzled and their careers placed in jeopardy from what actor Tim Robbins, called in a recent speech a "climate of fear."
But Mike Farrell, star of television's "MASH" and organizer of "Artists United to Win Without War," told Reuters that those who joined the loyal opposition in Hollywood had not been silenced and certainly were not backing down.
Instead, he said, the "huge coalition" of those opposed to the war were gathering strength and preparing to fight another day -- over post-war Iraq, domestic issues and future "preemptive strikes" by the Bush administration.
"What's the point of me saying anything right now, while they're in the end zone doing the dance and spiking the football?" Farrell said. "They are going to do the thing they are going to do, but we'll be heard from when it's appropriate and in the manner that is appropriate."
Garofalo, working hard on her upcoming ABC sitcom, did not respond to interview requests for this story. But she told the Washington Post last week that her anti-war stance had been a "positive" experience that had helped her career.
"Before this I was a moderately well-known character actress," she told the paper. "Now, I'm almost famous."
A spokeswoman for Penn, who infuriated many Americans by visiting Iraq in December on his own fact-finding mission, said the actor was not granting interviews. Sheen's publicist said the man who plays president on "The West Wing" was "not talking to anybody right now."
Farrell lamented the backlash to celebrities who spoke out -- notably in the case of the Dixie Chicks, who saw radio stations yank their music off the air and fans smash their CDs after Texas-born lead singer Natalie Maines told a London audience she was "ashamed" that Bush hailed from her state.
Maines has since apologized and the band said during a tearful ABC-TV interview that they feared for their lives after getting death threats. But Farrell said the backlash came from a small number of Americans galvanized by the Bush administration and conservative radio talk show hosts.
"There was a well-orchestrated campaign to do that through hate radio and Web sites and voices that sprang from the (Bush) administration and said 'take your choice, you're with us or with the terrorists,"' he said.
"But the Dixie Chicks are back on the air and their record is number one again," he said. "Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon are not going to stop making movies for a long time. Janeane Garofalo has a (TV) pilot going forward. These ugly-mouthed people like to think they are more powerful than they are."
Farrell said that the ability of U.S. troops to topple Saddam Hussein's regime in relatively short order has not softened his opposition to the war.
"An illegal war is an illegal war no matter what the result. We'll never know now what could have been achieved through peaceful means."
Prof. Howard Suber, founding director of UCLA's film and television producer's program, said the eerie silence from Hollywood was to be expected once American troops were on the ground in Iraq.
"It's one thing to oppose the war and it's another thing entirely to appear that you are supporting the enemy," Suber said. "That's the trap Jane Fonda fell into when she went to North Vietnam (during the Vietnam War) and was a labeled traitor. I know of no public figure who supported Saddam, so once the troops are in the field you've got to shut up."
But, he added: "To suggest they've been muzzled I think is bull. They've just got nothing to say. Once the deed is done there's nothing to say until the next time."
Allan Mayer, a top Hollywood crisis public relations manager, said a few performers not used to dabbling in politics had been given a wake-up call by the blistering public response to their remarks.
"Clearly Natalie Maines didn't have an inkling of the kind of reaction she was going to provoke," Mayer said, adding, "There's a level of vitriol in the air that I haven't seen since the Vietnam War."
Copyright © 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
Copyright © 2003 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.



This Site Served by TheHostPros