Though it was just launched a year ago, Bari Weiss’s Substack op-ed page Common Sense has already become one of the best in the country because as an editor Weiss looks for the kinds of pieces (once united by the somewhat spy-movie-ish handle the “Intellectual Dark Web”) that simply scare off the bienpensant left-of-center media. When the highest-ranking editors (even left-of-center ones) can be Twittered and feathered into oblivion, there is a strong disincentive to publish anything that might result in instantaneous unemployment. Weiss, though, answers to no one, not even advertisers, except the subscribers who pay her to be interesting. We are all the richer for it.
Weiss’s latest humdinger and barnburner is this piece by Los Angeles writers Peter Kiefer and Peter Savodnik, who spoke to a number of Hollywood players (many of whom spoke only in exchange for anonymity) who are dismayed by the new post-George Floyd mega-affirmative-action-hiring policies that are in place virtually everywhere in the entertainment industry. As always, the response from those who were hired after the installation of explicit quotas and set-asides is: How dare you suggest I was hired for any reason other than merit? CBS is demanding that 40 percent of writers be BIPOC (black/indigenous/people of color), rising to 50 percent next season. The country is still 58 percent non-Hispanic white, and of course the percentage is much higher among college graduates.
Experienced white Hollywood creative types are saying they can’t get hired because so many spots are being reserved for BIPOC colleagues. Moreover, showrunners who have operated forever under the unwritten rule that what is said in the writers’ room stays in the writers’ room can no longer hire people they know/like/trust/respect and say they are bringing on easily ruffled minorities who are gaining a reputation for approaching the HR department to complain. One showrunner says he has ceased to give notes to women or people of color. Another shared a long list of emails in which he was told why he was being turned down for jobs: “This one a dead end — they are going to limit search to women and bipoc candidates” and so on.
“This is all going to end in a giant class-action lawsuit,” says a showrunner. That’d be something to see: what class is that? White people? A class of Hollywood white people launching a race-based lawsuit complaining of institutional discrimination is not something I ever expect to see; even if the suit had merit, and even if the plaintiffs prevailed, they’d never work again. Of course, many white creative types in Hollywood are starting to feel like they’ll never work again anyway, so they may be thinking: What have I got to lose?