Opinions: everyone has them, and in a free society people are allowed, even encouraged, to speak theirs. But a big problem arises when individuals choose to use executive positions within organizations to forward their own views, coloring entire organizations with an individual’s view.
That is the problem with the Tim Robbins-baseball Hall of Fame flap: the president of the HOF, Dale Petroskey, canceled an anniversary celebration of the film Bull Durham at the Hall as a gesture against the politcal opinions of fim co-star Tim Robbins, thereby simultaneously politicizing a non-political event and a non-political organization. Other than being generally proclaimed a fool, Petroskey has not yet suffered any employment action.
The same cannot be said for Ed Gernon, head of the movie and miniseries division of Canadian production company Alliance Atlantis, who was fired for an interview he gave to TV Guide regarding CBS’s May sweeps miniseries Hitler: The Rise of Evil. The Washington Post reports:
- In the April 12 TV Guide, the publication says that “Gernon stated his belief that fear fueled both the Bush administration’s adoption of a preemptive-strike policy and the public’s acceptance of it.” According to the article, “Gernon said a similar fearfulness in a devastated post-World War I Germany was ‘absolutely’ behind that nation’s acceptance of Hitler’s extremism.”
Gernon is quoted as saying of the miniseries, which tracks Hitler’s rise to power in 1930s Germany: “It basically boils down to an entire nation gripped by fear, who ultimately chose to give up their civil rights and plunged the whole world into war.
“I can’t think of a better time to examine this history than now,” he added.
The article further quotes him as saying that “when an entire country becomes afraid for their sovereignty, for their safety, they will embrace ideas and strategies and positions that they might not embrace otherwise.”
Again we have a spokesperson tarring an organization with his own viewpoint, but this time he was fired:
- “With respect to the comments attributed to Ed Gernon in the most recent issue of TV Guide, the comments do not represent the views of Alliance Atlantis, nor do they reflect in any way the purpose of the miniseries ‘Hitler: The Rise of Evil.’ We have no further comment to offer on this.”
….CBS, which was said to be pleased to see Gernon booted, also went into full disassociation throttle: “We found Mr. Gernon’s comments to TV Guide to be insensitive and outright wrong,” the network said in its e-mail. “His personal opinions are not shared by CBS and misrepresent the Network’s motivation for broadcasting this film.
“It is very important that viewers understand that these views are not reflected in the tone or the content of the mini-series, which recounts the rise of Hitler to power and portrays him as the ruthless, maniacal force he was.
“We have done everything we can to make this an important historical film that will help people to never forget how the Nazis came to power and the barbaric atrocities they committed.”
CBS also wanted to make sure that we knew the miniseries would air on Sunday, May 18, and Tuesday, May 20.
Duly noted. Though both are in the entertainment biz, baseball would appear to be less PR conscious than TV, or perhaps it is the actual CONTENT of the opinion expressed that makes the difference: the fact that I believe strongly in the War on Terror in its various manifestations doesn’t make me any happier that our country appears to have an “acceptable” and “unacceptable” set of opinions that happens to coincide with that of our government.