'West Wing' creator warns of blacklist

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The Independent US

The creator of The West Wing claims the surge in American patriotism since 11 September is threatening to create an anti-dissent "blacklist" similar to that which split Hollywood during the McCarthy era.

Aaron Sorkin, whose award-winning television drama chronicles the tribulations and challenges of a fictional US President and his staff, said dissent was being silenced as people were being forced to take an "American stance" on issues.

He referred to satirist Bill Maher, host of the late night television show Politically Incorrect who was forced to issue an apology after remarking that 11 September terrorists might be braver than the US military, which launches cruise missiles from a safe distance.

He was reprimanded twice by the White House and the show was dropped by some affiliates of the ABC network.

"What is important is dissent ... Bill Maher has been getting a pounding because on his television program he said something that some found controversial," said Mr Sorkin.

"We've heard this before, right? In the Fifties, there was a blacklist, and it ruined lives ... If I could only transport myself back to this period and knock a couple of heads together and say, are you out of your mind?"

Mr Sorkin drew some raised eyebrows himself, when shortly after the attacks in New York and Washington, he produced a special, overly-syrupy episode of The West Wing, which examined the threat of terrorism and racial tolerance.

At least one critic thought that "attempt at catharsis-by-television was misjudged and poorly executed".

Speaking at a seminar entitled "Post Terror America: Hollywood Reacts", in Los Angeles, Mr Sorkin said last week: "It is important right now that there be dissent ... let's remember the values that we are protecting in the first place."