Operation Clambake

The Irish Times
OPINION Wednesday, January 15, 1997

An Irishman's Diary

Kevin Myers

Ah! So Goldie Hawn and Dustin Hoffmann and other great luminaries of Hollywood have deployed their mighty intellects around the notion that the attitude of the German government to the scientology movement - which is hostile, to say the least - is reminiscent of the behaviour of the Nazis towards the Jews.

Long pause. Breathe deeply. Think even more deeply. And don't get cross. Keep things in proportion - and the first thing to keep in proportion is this. It comes down to what an actress friend of mine once told me - you can never over-estimate the stupidity of most actors (which, needless to say, does not include any actors who are my friends, or any actors reading this, but does include any friends of theirs who are not).

And the reason such people with personalities marked "To Let" become actors is obvious to anyone who knows them well - they have nothing of value to say about anything, at any time. Nothing. That vast hangar that is the mind is empty, ready to be filled with other people's words and other people's passions and other people's characters. And so such people embark upon what is usually a financially ill-rewarded career, willing enough to perform on any stage, in any soap, in any drivel, in order to appear in public pretending to be somebody else. Of course, there are exceptions, and we know who they are: they're the actors reading this - and they'll be the first to tell you. Most actors are as stupid as decapitated ostriches.

Witless Vapidity

And that especially includes successful actors, who are often enough the most personally vacant ones of all. Their very brainlessness makes them good actors, and successful ones, and therefore ones whose opinions should be ignored, both by their film studio bosses, for whom the witless vapidity of the actor's mind is one of the occupational hazards of the trade, and by the general public.

But the reverse happens. Big actors are big box-office, and they have to be humoured by their bosses - "Gee, Tom, you're a goddam genius" - while journalists interviewing them tend to buckle at the knees at the thrill of it all and then begin by saying to this creature - who thinks that Descartes is French for menus and that Newton is what you get between Olivia and John - "Tell me all about The Meaning Of Life, Fay".

The glamour of the screen and the intellects of the writer and the director are subsumed by the personal inadequates, the dummies, who do their bidding; and they are not merely cerebrally low-wattage. They often enough are deeply impressionable, too - why else would they spend their lives pretending to be what they are not? Fads pass through the acting profession like measles through a Montessori. The Indian cove who brings you inner peace by getting you to hum while he makes off with your life's savings in March will be replaced in April by a veganism in which eating a poached egg is the moral equivalent of The Third Battle Of Ypres.

Not surprisingly, such people - whose low self-esteem is probably the only sound judgment they are capable of - are suckers for sects which involve personality worship, self-denigration, financial sacrifice and brainwashing. The Workers' Revolutionary Party in England was a perfect example of a cult for the vulnerable. What would make it revolting to the rest of us - its monetary exactions on its members, its omniscient authoritarian dialectical materialism and its brainwashing programmes masquerading as political consciousness-raising - made it almost irresistible to so many actors. It gave them what they lacked within their own lives - an environment of total certainty in which their own inadequacies became at once explicable but magically irrelevant.

Attraction to Cults

The curious deformations of actors can mean that what makes them good as actors renders them hopeless at resisting cultism. Vanessa Redgrave, a WRP stalwart, is probably the best English-speaking actress in the world; but her real wisdom is such that she should not be consulted on the mulching of a flower bed, never mind the running of country. The same goes for the many Hollywood actors - such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta - who have embraced that organised oddness called scientology - formed by its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, after returning from a trip to Venus. Well, naturally. One can only urge them - "Listen, lads, you're great on the screen; but please, please, spare us your views on the cosmos. And, excuse me, but could I look at your pupils a little more closely, please?"

They cannot even manage that small service of silence, for they are too stupid to know how stupid they are - which, to judge from the latest effusions from Hollywood, is very stupid indeed. For it is their power - and their influence - which almost certainly caused a large number of Hollywood luminaries, including Hawn and Hoffman, to pen their names to a petition condemning the German government for its opposition to scientology and its restrictions on employment of scientologists.

Odd Blend

The Germans have examined L. Ron's cult closely, and they find that it is an odd blend of racism, totalitarianism and pyramid selling; in other words, precisely what you'd expect from a chap who's been to Venus and back. The Germans do not consider it a religion and restrict government employment of its followers in much the same way that an avowed Sinn Féiner is unlikely - well, one hopes - to get a job with the Special Branch.

Of course the Germans, being Germans, tend to be enthusiasts, and maybe there was something a little too enthusiastic and unnecessary about the Christian Democrats' Youth Wing organising a boycott of the Tom Cruise film Mission Impossible. But it was not a prelude to a Holocaust. It might be tempting to become angry at such grotesque historical distortions and to refute them with cold clear fact; but anger and cold clear fact would be wasted on such infantile vapourings. Children sent to bed early say equally stupid things. The best thing to do is to ignore them; the cornflakes will bring another day, another film, another fad.

Life, after all, is too short to dwell at length upon the tiny mental events that pass for thought among the most deeply uninteresting people in all of God's great creation - Hollywood stars.

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