Gordon Campbell on Meryl Streep’s speech

Primarily, Meryl Streep’s critical speech last night at the Golden Globes – which is the award ceremony hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – was a defence of journalism and of journalists. Notably, she cited the journalist Serge Kovaleski who was mocked for his disabilities by Donald Trump on the campaign trail last year. Kovaleski had committed the sin of querying the fake news that candidate Trump was disseminating at the time, about US Muslims allegedly celebrating 9/11.

The foreign-born, as Streep eloquently pointed out, have always made essential contributions to American life and culture. Here’s a key part of what she said :

You and all of us in this room, really, belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it. Hollywood, foreigners, and the press. But who are we? And, you know, what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places.
I was born and raised and created in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola [Davis] was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, and grew up in Central Falls, Long Island. Sarah Paulson was raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids from Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Italy. Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Ethiopia, raised in — no, in Ireland, I do believe. And she’s here nominated for playing a small town girl from Virginia. Ryan Gosling, like all the nicest people, is Canadian. And Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, is here for playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. If you kick ’em all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.

And here was her defence of Kovaleski:

There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modelled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

And finally, she touched on the role of the media :

This brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage.That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in our constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the committee to protect journalists. Because we’re going to need them going forward. And they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.

Streep was receiving a life-time achievement award, and she chose to focus on what she felt her craft has always been about. In the process, she did everyone a service by using this platform to resist what Trump continues to represent. In recent weeks, he has been fashioning an administration of extremists intent on dismantling the safety nets in health, education and welfare erected since the 1930s, along with the legal provisions on race and gender built to protect the vulnerable. On the economy, Trumponomics looks very much like George W. Bush Revisited: ie, tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations, more intrusions by Big Government on ordinary citizens, and the stripping of business/banking regulations. The same approach that culminated in the GFC of 2008.

It is an agenda that has no valid mandate. To repeat the obvious : only a minority of American voters voted for Trump, who was elected via a campaign pandering to the country’s worst instincts and resentments. The man refused to release his taxes, threatened to jail his opponents and curtail free speech, expressed admiration for murderous tyrants abroad, bragged about his sexual predation, and he and his family continue to have major unresolved business conflicts of interests. Oh, and as a microcosm of Trump’s managerial incompetence… here’s how he is going about the business of managing the maintenance of the US nuclear arsenal.

Back to sanity… by contrast, as Juan Cole has pointed out about the Streep speech:

She was making two points against the xenophobia, the irrational hatred of foreigners, at the centre of the Trump campaign and at the centre of his neo-Nazi fringe, such as the Breitbart thugs. One is that key American industries, including the entertainment industry, often attain their excellence through openness to talent from abroad. The second is a far more subtle and powerful point, which is that no human experience is really foreign to us as human beings if only we can find the tools to understand it, emotionally and intellectually. She was standing up for her craft, acting, as xenophilic, as involving a love of the foreign, insofar as the falling away of strangeness is the goal of great acting.

Election meddling

The public version of the US intelligence agencies report on alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election was, to put it mildly, a disappointing damp squib. Seven of the 13 pages were devoted to a dated attack on the Russian government-sponsored RT television network.

Understandably, Trump and the Republican Party  continue to dismiss the claims of Russian intervention in the US election. Meanwhile claims of Russian intervention in the political process in Sweden, are now emerging.

Ultimately, we are never going to know (a) the extent of such interventions, or (b) if they did occur, the extent of their effect. IMO, it is hard to believe that the Russian hackers who penetrated the website of the International Olympic Committee and extracted embarrassing information on therapeutic drug use exemptions (as revenge for actions taken against Russia by the IOC) wouldn’t also deploy their talents to help the presidential candidate that Russia clearly preferred. Even so, my guess would be that any such Russian hack/phishing attack on the Democratic National Committee would have had less electoral impact than the intervention by FBI director James Comey during the last fortnight of the campaign.

Which raises an interesting counterfactual. Imagine the reaction of Trump and the Republican Party if the heads of US intelligence agencies were now alleging – on similar grounds – that Russia had intervened in the electoral process on behalf of a victorious Hillary Clinton. We would never be hearing the end of it. Clintons’ entire mandate would be being called into question, and she would be facing stern calls to step down, in favour of Tim Kaine. The right is able to do this stuff differently, and to get away with it.

A similar double standard exists here, too. Remember how a centre-left PM was demonised for signing a painting to benefit a charity, and for trying to regulate the size of shower heads ? And then saw her successor get away scot free with far more serious excesses, far bigger screw-ups and far more intrusive invasions of privacy by the state?

Meryl, Unedited :

And here for your consideration is the Streep speech, in its entirety:

12 Comments on Gordon Campbell on Meryl Streep’s speech

  1. This hacking scam with its risible report has arisen solely because Trump refuses to back the bipartisan anti Russia campaign. Had he fallen into line on this, this sordid bit of BS would never have seen the light of day. Now we have the very revealing behaviour of US “progressives” defending the very intel agencies they have been rightly bagging for decades and their lightning fast descent into a revived McCarthyism. Shows how shallow their convictions are. We knew this anyway by the way they sabotaged a genuine albeit mild progressive in Bernie Sanders. I detest the US intel agencies for their decades of media whitwashed lies. I am appalled that Trump got elected and equally relieved Clinton wasnt. We live in seriously dangerous times.

  2. In the above, I accidentally omitted the link to a discussion of (a) prior US intelligence agency intrusions into the political affairs of other countries, and (b) of the counterfactual I cited about the far different response if those same flimsy US intelligence agency allegations had been about a Russian campaign in support of Hillary Clinton. The link is here :

  3. The political contributions of Hollywood.
    The Media “election meddles” all the time.
    The opinion of the public is formed by the media as there is no relationship of the public with the wealthy bankster candidates. So the whole dysfunctional election process is all based on media hearsay, a show.

    Hollywood is all about programming, some of our worst ideas and beliefs have come from Hollywood.

    A Clinton supporter saying these people are “foreigners” (hollywoods bunch of zionist are examples of good ) vs “non foreigners”( non zionist Americans).
    Its a us vs them separatist speech.Hollywood have never said (outside the election’s Us v them snail trail ) that to be a human being there can be no us vs them.

    Journalists who work for the media conglomerate in Hollywood obviously do not need protection, so excuse me while I call shenanigans. The media conglomerate is a monopoly, what you get in media is the thoughts and opinions that the media moguls( banksters).
    Ironically Hollywood’s latest political speech is feeding a race specific xenophobia .

  4. Gordon, Since the intelligence agencies have been globalized, there is no US intelligence agency that works on its own anymore .

    The whole Russia vote hacking story is just a cold war meme.
    Even the Trump vs Clinton is laughable, both are corrupt evil oligarchy puppets.
    Voting and the elections is now one of the most ridiculous media processes.

  5. Gordon, Meryl Streep may be a talented actress. However, her politics leaves much to be desired. She’s a Hillary Clinton sycophant and unrepentant Democrat Party supporter; silent about Obama and Clinton’s warmongering, the abysmal human rights record of the last eight years of Democratic Party rule, it’s contempt for democratic values and Rule of Law, and the increasing Corporatism and police state. Streep conveniently ignores Obama’s anti-immigrant record, deporting greater number’s than any of his predecessors. Nicknamed America’s deporter-in-chief.

    Trump hardly “mocked” disabled NYT reporter Serge Kovaleski. Trump is justifiably critical of all reporters for America’s fourth estate for outrageously bashing him relentlessly. Trumps hand gestures are part of his way of communicating. He pokes fun at lots of people,as do many others in Washington – even Obama and Hillary Clinton.

    Streep supported war goddess, racketeer, perjurer Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions. Shamefully, at the Democrat Party Convention, she said…“Nearly 100-years after women got the vote, you people have made history. And you’re going to make history again in November because Hillary Clinton will be our first woman President, and she will be a great President.”

    “And she will be the first in a long line of women, and men, who serve with grit and grace. She’ll be the first, but she won’t be the last.”

    Streep was dead wrong on all counts. Indeed, one day a woman will maybe serve as the US President – hopefully not a woman like Hillary Clinton.

    Last June, during a New York Public Theater benefit, Streep mocked Trump. Her performance was terrible, acting at its worst. A transparent Hillary Clinton supporting stunt. Freely expressing views are a First Amendment right in America, politicized entertainment – another matter entirely.

  6. @ Andrew, its no more dangerous a time than with the warmongers Bush,Reagan, Obama & Clinton. Ask the Syrian civilians .
    As the Empire runs the corporation of the US it matters not if the president of that corporation has mammary glands or not.

    Dividing the people into Clinton and Trump supporters is all part of the ongoing divide and conquer strategy.
    When people believe the media and look up to Hollywood for opinions and information on which foreigners( not people) are good and contributing it is more of a peak ignorance time.

  7. Peak ignorance. Absolutely true as we are buying into all the false media “news” that is not news with its hearsay, opinions, actors and charlatans.
    If people did not identify with the genders, opinions, ideology, and beliefs of sociopaths like Trump, Clinton and Streep the world would be a less ignorant place.

  8. @Dennis Merwood
    For the record, Trump certainly did mock disabled NYT reporter Serge Kovaleski – who suffers from arthrogryposis, a condition that bends out his right arm and hand at a stiff angle. At the time, Kovaleski was pressing Trump to verify his claim that US Muslims had publicly celebrated 9/11. Instead of answering the question Trump said to the crowd :“You ought to see this guy,” and flapped his own arms and hand in the air in mockery of Kovaleski’s medical condition. Meryl Streep was right to call Trump out on it : it was despicable behaviour. As she added, it was also a very effective political performance. The crowd laughed at the cripple. If you prefer that kind of America, you’re welcome to it.

  9. I’m sorry Gordon but your usual eagerness to bash Trump is clouding your judgement here again

    Donald Trump cruelly ridiculed a reporter’s disability.

    From 2005 until 2016, Trump occasionally mocked some individuals by bending his elbows, flailing his limp wrists, and shaking, while gaping his mouth. Consider ten examples: he has done this to make fun of himself, a bank president, Marco Rubio, Serge Kovaleski, The Washington Post, a U.S. Army General, George Stephanopoulos, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, and Donna Brazile. Reporters and pundits did not know (or care) that this was a common way in which Trump mocks some individuals, so in the Steve Kovaleski case they shamelessly focused on a freeze-frame in which Trump’s right elbow and wrist were momentarily bent, to make it seem that he was ridiculing Kovaleski’s disability.

    To read an extensive unbiased article on this whole sorry piece of “fake news” you might want to read this link:

  10. Bush, Trump and Clinton are all evil F$*ks the majority of disenfranchised non voting Americans coin them as “sons of b*tches” . None of the banktwats are fit for their stated purpose of president of the corporation of the usa .
    As the people of America did not select them to run ( money and the media did ) I cannot see why some Kiwis are still so emotionally addicted to this slimy political snail trail.
    The Streep speech was a purely political performance .
    At the end of the media drama Trump and Clinton are both repugnant and despised characters. Propagandists may try to make you believe otherwise.

  11. @Dennis That newstandardpress has the look and feel of a Trump apologist site. Do you have any other, credible, reference to your claim the Trump wasn’t really mocking that reporter?

  12. Dennis Merwood, I don’t understand why you still live in New Zealand. Surely, as the USA goes into a new political era, in which the likes of Donald J. Trump is top dog and can do no wrong, that is the country that seems to suit your outlook on political life.

    Personally, I think the Democrats have a lot of soul-searching to do, to establish what it is they really believe in. The same could be said of the Republicans, who seem to be split in half. As well, the entire electoral system in their country needs an overhaul, so that citizens can be validly registered to vote, and then have automatic access to vote, which is not happening now, especially in some states.

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