A few weeks after her moral preening and posturing at the Golden Globes, when she portrayed herself and her fellow jet-setting Hollywood millionaires as the most vilified section of American society, Meryl Streep’s new “poor me” violin concerto has tugged at the left’s heartstrings once again – this time at Waldorf Astoria in New York, during her acceptance of the National Ally for Equality Award from the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
“It’s terrifying to put the target on your forehead, and it sets you up for all sorts of attacks and armies of brownshirts and bots and worse, and the only way you can do it is to feel you have to. You have to. You don’t have an option. You have to.”
As she insistently told the appreciative audience.
Who and where are these brownshirts, you might wonder, as I do too. Has Trump set up some sort of a new paramilitary force of thug-supporters to harass and beat up his political opponents, shut down public events he disagrees with, and set fires and smash things in orgies of senseless violence? So far, all this and more is being done by the self-described anti-Trump “anti-fascists”. So quite possibly when Ms Streep complains about brownshirts she really just means people who disagree with her political and cultural views.
I’m starting to feel like the large sections of the left are actually secretly enjoying and getting off on all this “Hitler” and “fascism” stuff, because it gives their pampered, #FirstWorldProblem (and in case of celebrities, their 1% of the 1%) lives some frisson and meaning. Forget protesting against terrible characters like Mitt Romney or in favour of transgender bathroom; in the Trump era, all the happy cultural and political warriors of the left can pretend that what they do actually matters and their lives aren’t wasted away on an endless meaningless and symbolic ideological pantomime. If you are fighting to defend the democracy and freedom from an evil akin to Nazism (but funnily enough never communism) then maybe Gen Y and Millennials can be the new “Greatest Generation” instead of a bunch of spoiled, entitled and hysterical brats. You rally like it’s 1932 and suddenly you’re no longer a largely passive beneficiary of living in one of the freest and most prosperous societies in human history but a descendant and a legatee of French revolutionaries and World War Two partisans. You are a really important person, doing really important things, at a really important time, fighting to save the very civilisation itself from a new Dark Age. What’s there not to love about it?
Meanwhile, Meryl Streep continues to be a famous, wealthy and much-feted actress, who uses every opportunity of a prominent cultural event as a megaphone to air her views – which she is entirely entitled to do and God bless her – to the adulation of half the country and virtually all the entertainment industry, the media, the academia and the intelligencia.
To compare the criticism she subjects itself by entering the public political discussion to the treatment meted out to Hitler’s domestic opponents in the 1920s and 30s is an insult to their memory and trivialises history. For much of the human past – and particularly so in totalitarian societies – to criticise those holding power carried real risks and involved real consequences, sometimes deadly, always serious. If only the (real) underground anti-fascist Social Democrat activists in Berlin in 1936 had to face the horror of an angry Twitstorm! Who needs to end up in Dachau when you have to face angry criticism from Bill O’Reilly.
I might have more sympathy for Meryl Streep if her Waldorf Astoria appearance was shut down by hundreds of black-clad masked protesters who beat up and pepper sprayed the unfortunate attendees and set fire to the venue. But that stuff only seems to happen to Milo. Perhaps he should check his fascist privilege.