September 22, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

Why are Hollywood stars silent about movie violence?

Alec Baldwin swears he absolutely didn’t say that he’ll leave the country if George Bush is elected President. Or if he did say it, he didn’t really mean it — the hyperbole was just to make a point in support of Al Gore’s Democratic candidacy. Baldwin is one of Hollywood’s most visible political activists, a performer in the public eye who uses his celebrity to support the causes and candidates in which he believes. As a famous actor — and even more effectively, as an exceptionally articulate and charming guest on talk shows and panels — he has the power to draw attention to issues by the very fact of his presence and participation.

I preface with all this because a week or so ago I was channel surfing and came across a news report about a forum that had just taken place: A bunch of entertainment folks, including Baldwin, ”actor eyeing a political career” Ron Silver (”Reversal of Fortune”), and ”Love Boat” actor turned politician Fred Grandy, talked politics in front of a paying audience. (Would YOU buy a ticket to such showbiz excitement? Not I. Not even with a compilation reel of Stallone/ Willis/ Schwarzenegger’s bloodiest battles as a warm up act.)

The discussion, not surprisingly, touched on violent content in entertainment, and the pressure coming not, as might be expected, from the Republican right, but instead — more troubling to a traditionally Democratic industry — from Gore and his Vice Presidential running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. And the clip was brief, but striking: What Baldwin said was, approximately, this: ”Does Hollywood make and market violent stuff because the marketplace demands it? Or do audiences buy it because Hollywood provides it? I don’t know.”

To which I wanted to shout, ”Well, pal, what do you THINK? Take a STAND! Put yourself on the LINE!” Because here’s the thing: Hand wringing and expressions of ”concern” from the Hollywood administration about threats of regulation and meddling by a Gore Lieberman Democratic administration doesn’t count for much. I happen to think government has no business regulating the private industry of making movies or selling CDs. I also happen to think the wonderfully creative private citizens who make and market entertainment CAN change public appetites and tastes — that audiences buy what Hollywood sells. What does Alec Baldwin think? Or Steven Spielberg, or Hillary Clinton supporter Harvey Weinstein, or Republican booster Bruce Willis? The floor is theirs, whenever they want it. Now, more than ever, is the time to speak up.

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