Jewish World Review Jan. 11, 2002 / 27 Teves, 5762

Lewis A. Fein

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Hollywood's stupidest and meanest actor -- In the February issue of Talk magazine, actor Sean Penn describes Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly and radio shock jock Howard Stern as two cultural figures worse than Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler. And, for purposes of not restating the obvious -- that Penn is a moron that even Hollywood insiders, themselves no better than recently lobotomized chimps, hopefully consider idiotic -- read instead Penn's comments about former President Ronald Reagan, excerpted from a recent interview with London's Guardian newspaper: "I am not disturbed by Ronald Reagan's Alzheimer's. You know, there's not a lot of cleaner pictures of karma in the world. I mean, it's not a very Christian way of thinking - I do stray sometimes. But I go right from him mocking the farm worker and eating grapes on television during the boycott to him dribbling today. And I feel a sense of justice."

So, if I understand Penn's politics correctly, and by extension the predominant view among rank-and-file liberals, terminal illness is an appropriate punishment for having opposed . . . unionized labor?! Which further suggests that voters, the very people responsible for Reagan's political power, are either pitiful dupes or silent coconspirators. Or, to apply Penn's illogic further, voters are nothing more than pliant masses: people easily swayed by imagery, the kind of carefully calibrated stuff that - when powerfully expressed by a conservative actor - has lethal consequences. Which, if Penn's argument had more rationality than half the films he's recently made (including one where he plays a retarded adult; alas, art imitating life), simply means any actor can convince the public about a political issue's importance. (An important postscript: I still drive a gas-powered car; enjoy an occasional cigar; believe attention deficit disorder is a hoax; and thoroughly relish the warmth provided by a dead animal's fur and the succulent taste of a slaughtered cow's meat -- so much for public service announcements from liberal actors.)

I know, there is an equally passionate number of conservatives that loathe Bill Clinton. But conservative disdain for Clinton transcends public policy, where many Republicans disproportionately share the former president's support for free trade, capital punishment and smaller government. Instead, conservatives dislike the political effects of Clinton's character flaws; where, on the one hand, his political triangulation commits copyright infringement (a pirate disc jockey, 1600 on your presidential dial), and his suspected perjury embarrasses all parties involved, on the other.

Yet, Penn personalizes his political opposition, rejoicing that his enemy is terminally ill. Notice, further, the difference between a political opponent and an enemy: an opponent is an individual that, though one may disagree with his stance on a particular issue, is nonetheless a potential acquaintance or possible friend; an enemy is someone beyond conciliation (like Hitler or bin Laden), where this individual's very existence threatens an important social good like the rescue of European Jewry or the success of religious tolerance. Thus, by celebrating Reagan's Alzheimer's Penn makes his message very clear - all conservatives must die!

Again, Penn's lunacy may seem isolated or relatively amusing. But the sad truth is that, for many liberals, conservatism is another perverted ideology. And, like other illegitimate viewpoints (including support for German fascism or Islamic fundamentalism), liberals consider conservatism - and the movement's iconic figures, Reagan and George W. Bush too - simply another domestic variant of political hatred. Which means liberals do not negotiate with, socialize among or work amidst the enemy.

Thankfully, Penn is currently nothing more than another politically illiterate actor. His statements are shocking, but his knowledge about most issues is even more frighteningly limited. In fact, his greatest performance may already be behind him; where, restrained atop a gurney and delivered before selected witnesses, Penn's character in the controversial film "Dead Man Walking" does himself justice --- he dies.

JWR contributor Lewis A. Fein is a writer and Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles.Comment by clicking here.


© 2002, Lewis A. Fein