WEINSTEIN: Hollywood’s Hotel Hypocrisy

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Hollywood’s hypocrites are at it again.

This time Hollywood is mobilizing to protest an ostensibly supportable cause. The glitzy Beverly Hills Hotel is partly owned by the Sultan of Brunei, one of the richest men in the world. His small oil-rich country in Southeast Asia recently adopted Sharia law, which among other things, provides for the stoning of homosexuals and adulterers.

As a result, Hollywood is boycotting the iconic institution, including its much beloved restaurant The Polo Lounge, until the sultan sells it.

“The City of Beverly Hills urges the government of Brunei to divest itself of the Beverly Hills Hotel and any other properties it may own in Beverly Hills,” a resolution passed last week by the Beverly Hills City Council reads.

In the abstract, this doesn’t sound like such a horrible campaign. After all, stoning to death homosexuals and adulterers isn’t a particularly humane policy. But upon closer inspection, it is hard to see what good the boycott could actually accomplish.

There are several issues to parse here. First, there’s an element of hypocrisy. Since when did Hollywood have a problem with the world’s worst regimes? There are countless stories of celebrities accepting large sums of money to give private performances to dictators with abominable human rights records, like the late Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi and Turkmenistan’s totalitarian ruler Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov.

Sean Penn and Oliver Stone, among many others in Hollywood, have expressed their undying affection for Fidel Castro, whose inhumane communist Cuban regime has enslaved a population for over 50 years. You can bet no one in Hollywood has received even a mild rebuke from their brethren for embracing Castro. Quite the opposite.

And what about all the celebrities and film studio executives in Hollywood who have embraced the United Arab Emirates? Breitbart pointed out last week how Hollywood film studios have partnered with the ruling families of the emirates on various projects and how countless celebrities flock to the beaches of Dubai every year. Matt Damon’s movie “Promised Land,” for instance, was partly funded by government money from Abu Dhabi. The UAE may not quite mandate the stoning of homosexuals and adulterers, but it does impose jail time and deportation for engaging in adulterous and homosexual behavior.

Some might say, “so what? If Hollywood is inconsistent in standing up to despicable regimes, at least they are getting it right this time. If they don’t stand for decency everywhere, at least they are standing for it somewhere.” Perhaps. But what will this boycott actually achieve?

The Sultan of Brunei is reportedly worth in excess of $20 billion dollars. You could burn the Beverly Hills Hotel to the ground and the sultan wouldn’t even come close to noticing the financial loss.

And even if the protest achieved its stated purpose and got the sultan to sell his share of the hotel, what good would that actually do for those suffering under Brunei’s Sharia oppression? It might make ordering the Polo Lounge’s $39 Maine Lobster Salad at lunch a little more palatable, but the stoning would go on.

So if this protest barely affects the insanely rich sultan, whom does it hurt? That’s an easy one. It hurts all the ordinary, low-wage workers at the hotel who bus tables, clean hotel rooms and trim the luxury hotel’s magnificent hedges. The longer the protest goes on, the more money the hotel will lose, the more people the hotel will likely be forced to lay off.

Look, I hope this protest forces the sultan to sell. I hope it makes him a pariah in the United States. I hope it spreads the word about the inhumanity of Sharia law. But don’t fool yourself: none of this will actually help people suffering under Sharia law in Brunei.

On Sunday, George Will mocked the hashtag campaign launched to spread the word about the hundreds of teenage girls kidnapped by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria as an “exercise in self-esteem.” The Beverly Hills Hotel protest is another such exercise, which will do little more than superficially cleanse the conscience Hollywood’s liberal glitterati.

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Jamie Weinstein