By Daniel Greenfield
McCarthyism is is one of the favorite words in the dictionary of the left. "McCarthyites" are awful people who get "brilliant and talented artists" who happen to sympathize with mass murderers fired from lucrative positions. The 'victims' of McCarthyism sympathized with Communist regimes where dissenting artists were tortured, imprisoned and executed. The victims of these victims went to the gulags. And the 'victims' lost out on a few movie deals.
Tony Kushner is the latest victim of McCarthyism, suffering the awful indignity of being briefly denied an honorary CUNY degree, after being caught supporting a terrorist regime whose victims, men, women and children lie in the hospitals and the cold dead ground. A moral reckoning that would seem petty to men, women and children murdered by the terrorist regime he supports..A brief delay for the reward of a lifetime of writing plays in which actors shriek at each other about Capitalism, AIDS and McCarthyism in between chardonnay breaks.
Poor Tony, with all his Tony awards, his Pulitzer, and his marriage to an Entertainment Weekly editor, forced to wait a few extra days to add a sixteenth honorary degree to his shelf. He may be the man that Steven Spielberg chose to rewrite the Munich Massacre into a morality play about the futility of fighting terrorism, he may be dubbed a "brilliant and talented artist" and the moral voice of Fire Island, but he almost lost out on an honorary degree from an institution known in New York to be just like home, because when you go there, they have to take you in
What is so remarkably pathetic about Kushner and his comrades on the whiny left is that they have the moral sense of a child who cries when he's called a name, yet draws no conclusions about the wrongness of his own namecalling.
To hear Kushner and his supporters tell it, when he endorsed a boycott of people who happen to live in the town of Ariel, that was a courageous act, but when CUNY trustees boycotted him, that was McCarthyism. It's one thing to punish people for where they happen to live, but another to punish him for punishing people for where they happen to live. That's just wrong.
Artists shouldn't be boycotted for boycotting others. They shouldn't be criticized for slandering others. Respecting their artistic vision means giving them a monopoly on the persecution of others. And recognizing their genius for how brilliantly talented their persecution of people who happen to live in the wrong place is. That's the difference between McCarthyism and Kushnerism. McCarthyites persecute the artists. Kushnerites persecute the people, until someone cries foul, and then they cry McCarthyism.
It's not enough to be a "brilliant and talented artist", attend events like the Communist Mannifestivity celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto, in the company of other "brilliant and talented artists" like Amiri Baraka, who too fell victim to a Hebraic McCarthyism when he was evicted from the post of Poet Laureate of New Jersey after writing a poem that claimed the Jews were behind 9/11 and serve the devil. It's not enough to push the edge, when you are denied the trophies from such renowned institutions of higher learning as Brandeis or CUNY. It's not really about the degree, it's about the degree of the drama. What's life for a playwright without a little drama. A chance to climb up on the cross of McCarthyism and belt out your victimhood to the back rows.
With all his awards and trophies, Tony Kushner has become mainstream. A terrible fate for a man whose only talent was a gift for wrapping his radicalism in pretentious clothing, biblical metaphors, discourses on civilization and the occasional Hershey bar. The creativity of radicalism is validated by how many people you shock and offend. But Épater la bourgeoisie is harder to manage when the bourgeoisie cheer and applaud all your plays. And then before you know it, you are the bourgeoisie, managing your stock portfolio, buying instant coffee and wearing brand name workout clothes, and then the bourgeoisie have to find someone else to shock them.
Kushner's work isn't as shocking in the eleventh year of the new millennium, as it was during the Reagan Administration. And critics are allowing themselves to admit that they begin to nod off a little during the fourth hour of one of his productions. Or during the fourth sentence of the title of one of his productions which read like they were badly translated from the Welsh.
AIDS and gay rights stopped being cutting edge around the time Kushner and his life partner got their wedding to appear in the Vows section of the New York Times. Blasphemy is as shocking to Manhattan theater goers as Seinfeld reruns. And attacks on capitalism and Western civilization are casual after dinner conversation among the type of people who actually patronize Broadway when the Rockettes aren't in town. It's hard to shock and offend audiences who have no more values left. Short of joining the Republican party, there isn't much he could do that would summon more than a yawn from a crowd that goes to his plays because they're important in some indefinable way.
McCarthyism is the best tonic to revive the flagging career of a playwright. It is testimony that the bourgeoisie have been shocked. The 'artiste' is being persecuted by the ignorant mob for telling the truth. And that just goes to show his greatness. To be a victim of McCarthyism is a far greater tribute than a CUNY honorary degree. It is the highest honor on the left, rendered as it is by those to the right of them.
The left manufactures its own persecution because it validates its own radicalism. The Kushnerites pick an unfair fight and then climb up on the cross of McCarthyism when the blowback comes. And the flurry of letters flying in from Park Slope, the Upper East Side and Berkeley sung to the tune of labor anthems and marching songs from the Spanish civil war give them the rush of fighting the establishment long enough to block out the awareness that they are the establishment. That they are not being persecuted, but that they are the persecutors. And to prove it, they find more fights to pick.
The truly cutting edge have already marched past J Street and Peace Now for being insufficiently committed to jumping all over the Jewish state until it is just little bits and pieces, and gone right to Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization known for its boycotts and wink-wink nudge-nudge support for destroying Israel. Kushner sits on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace, alongside such luminaries as Noam Chomsky, Ed Asner, Wallace Shawn and Robert Meeropol, the younger son of the Rosenberg Atom Bomb traitors. (The Rosenberg's spawn was the also the one who nominated Kushner for his honorary degree.) If there were a Jewish version of the abominable jury convened in The Devil and Daniel Webster, the JVP board would fit the role nicely.
L'affaire Kushner has given the pro-terrorist left another stage to trot out its victimhood fantasies. But that stage is a narrow place. It has no room for the victims of terrorism or the people who were censored and suppressed for their opposition to terrorism. Like Thomas Klocek or Lennart Eriksson, men who lost out on a lot more than an honorary degree for their courageous and principled opposition to Terrorism and Kushnerism. And what does one make of the postmodern Kristalnachts of broken glass in Ahava stores. The boycotts of Israeli professors for the crime of being born.
The left makes war in the name of peace. Progressive boycotts, liberal doses of censorship and democratic socialist bricks hurled through Jewish windows. But the moment the shoe is on the other foot, they gasp in outrage that someone would dare stand up to them. The Kushnerites are not meant to be under fire for their views. Only their targets are. Like most bullies, they can dish it out, but they can't take it.
The left wants to have it both ways. They want to storm the barricades and then break off for a meal at a five star restaurant. They want to be radicals, but they don't want to be inconvenienced.
If Kushner wants people to suffer for the place they happen to live, shouldn't he be willing to suffer for his views? But the Kushnerites confuse suffering with whining. Their entitlement leads them to act like the Wicked Son at the Seder, but then demand to be treated like the Good Son anyway. Punch them in the teeth and they cry for a lollipop and a signed statement that from now on they will have a monopoly on the punching. They channel their inner Cain and then wonder why they must wander the earth to and fro instead of receiving their honorary degrees.
Tony Kushner could concede that this is a political disagreement, but instead he cries that he's been slandered. Which is easy enough to do when Kushner's own views on Israel are nearly as convoluted and disingenuous as one of his own plays. He sits on Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization best known for its program of boycotting Israel, but claims that he doesn't endorse their program. He's only there because he has the ability "to tolerate and even value disagreement". An impressive superpower certainly, but then he could just as easily sit on the board of AFSI or Z Street, his ability to tolerate and value disagreement would find plenty of use there. But no one sits on the board of an organization that they disagree with. Sometimes they sit on the boards of organizations they're afraid to fully agree with.
Kushner gratuitously bashes an entire country and then when called on it cries that it was taken out of context. His screed claims that he is against Israel because he opposes ethnic and religious involvement in government. But for some reason he isn't on the warpath against England and eagerly supports the creation of a Palestinian state whose law is Islam. Every time the anti-Israel left reaches for principles, they discover they aren't there. Their positions lack consistent principles. Their rage is selective. As is their logic. The roots of the problem are not in the Middle East, but in their own minds.
Tony Kushner accuses Jeffrey Wiesenfeld of being a bully, but then what do you call a celebrity who gathers together his friends for an assault on the board member of a publicly funded college in order to extract an honorary degree for himself. It's behavior that would make most bullies hang their heads in shame.
Marxist heroine Barbara Ehrenreich and Communist apologist Ellen Schrecker have announced that they will be returning their degrees. This left CUNY's Honorary Degrees for Commies program in a jam. the wheels quickly spun into motion to get Kushner his degree, alongside such notables as a disgraced governor's father, a former schools chancellor, a former mayor and a former chief state judge. It's not hard to see why. Without Kushner's red card, the CUNY honorary degrees begin to look like a sop to former city and state officials, with a successful radical or two in the deck.
Kushner boasts that he has 15 honorary degrees. Now he will have 16. Eventually he may have so many that he can dive into them and swim around in them like some bohemian Scrooge McDuck.And the man who believes that Israel's existence is a mistake, but the creation of a terrorist state on top of it isn't, will receive an honorary degree in time for Israel's Independence Day. A shot in the name for the career of a fading radical waiting around for someone to denounce him, so he can climb up on his three legged stool of moral superiority. Another victory for Kushnerism.