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The Hearst lemonade stand

By Michael Moriarty
web posted July 16, 2001

"Play the role well.
Therein all the honor lies."

William Randolph Hearst

In less than a week, I'll be off to portray the ghost of William Randolph Hearst in a television series for young people called Mentors. Since the first public viewing of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, Hearst has been right up there with Joe McCarthy on the list of people the liberals have told you is obligatory food for hatred, contempt, ridicule, vengeance, caricature and, after you've finished dining on that full plate, the dessert of ultimate rebuke -- a patronizing pity pastry.

"Oh, poor man, Citizen Hearst's incredibly capitalist soul made him so miserable!"

Well, after reading a National Post front-page article about how thoughts of suicide have been sweeping over Ted Turner -- an avowed socialist, a major contributor to the United Nations, an admirer of socialist heroes such as Fidel Castro, and the former husband of Hanoi Jane Fonda - I wonder if, in all fairness, there shouldn't be a film made entitled: Comrade Kane. Then I, a conservative Libertarian - there are a few, like William Safire of The New York Times -- can go all gooey with pity over Turner's plight.

The truth is, the Left went to school on Hearst's dubious achievements. With Charles Foster Kane's clear display of journalistic power before them, his ability to swing elections and control minds, the heads of socialist federations around the world realized that one Ted Turner is worth two Conrad Blacks or Rupert Murdochs. No single press emperor has so "wagged the dog" of popular opinion than has Turner and his ideological imitators. The legion of CNN spin-offs, three of which are now the major American networks, makes the Hearst Empire, in its heyday, look like a child's lemonade stand.

So, as I ponder the prospect of three days in Edmonton playing William Randolph Hearst, I will not enter the sound stage with my head bowed. It is my privilege to play an egomaniac so redolent of American individuality and competitiveness. My only hope is that the writers will allow me to hand on another lesson to their young audience. The people who worked for Hearst, many of them closet leftists, had the God-given freedom and right, when asked by "Citizen Kane" to compromise their integrity, to muster up courage and resign in protest. It can be done, you know.

My TV network employers asked me to look the other way when an Attorney General abused her office by using her judicial powers to enforce legislative amendments that only existed in her head. Separation of powers?

Checks and balances? I think we all learned that in primary school. Perhaps, in a parting shot, my Hearst can tell the "compromised" in his purview that they did and do still have an individual free will. It's a lesson the children of today need to be told as certainly as African-Americans were warned by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. that they will be judged not by the color of their skin or their politics but by "the content of their character." Integrity is often a synonym for "loneliness." No labor union or political lobby group will erase the solitude required to make individual acts of conscience.

'Rosebud' had thorns. It makes the beauty of each separate blossom not only attractive but also dangerous. Hearst was undeniably "thorny." He held one of the few honors left in this individuality-hating environment. He not only played the role of William Randolph Hearst well. He played it best. Orson Welles couldn't even come close to the real truth, in my estimation.

Welles did his job as a leftist-artist: the 'enfant terrible' indelibly assassinated the character of a famous capitalist. Of what worth was Welles to his fairweather friends after that? He was more of a "careerist" than Hearst was. His pleasing the young socialist cadres of that epoch turned him into a one-film genius. His subsequent fall from success was far more painful to watch than Hearst's gradual decline and dimming out. That was because Welles ultimately danced to a tune conducted by Karl Marx, whereas Hearst's "different drummer" was his own.

Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe winning actor who has appeared in the landmark television series Law and Order, the mini-series Holocaust, and the recent movie Along Came a Spider.

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