You may have heard about actor Robert De Niro’s standing O performance at last night’s Tony awards. It was bleeped from the broadcast but is readily available:

And so, to the question in the subtitle of this post, you may answer in kind “who gives a f*** what De Niro was thinking?” Or: “nothing at all.”

My own answer is that I care because it’s symptomatic of the breakdown of civility on the left and in the acting profession as a result of Trump Derangement Syndrome, which is completely rampant. The most interesting thing is not really De Niro so much as the overwhelmingly positive reaction of the crowd.

We already know that the vast majority of people in the arts are on the left. We know they hate Trump; that’s no surprise. But the relish with which so many of them (not all, but many) applauded De Niro’s essentially mindless, contentless display of expletive-laced hatred had no point except as mob virtue-signaling. But what is the “virtue” in yelling the f-word at someone? Wouldn’t a sentence or two as to what’s wrong with Trump, why one might oppose him or his policies, have been better?

The problem is that an approach like that wouldn’t have gotten much press. But what De Niro did went viral.

That had to have been his goal. De Niro was a great actor in his prime, but his prime is long past. That happens to the best of us, and it’s not always easy to take. In this case he had a bully pulpit and chose to use it to get attention for an exceptionally juvenile show.

It also reminded me of this:

Early in the life of my blog (January 2005, practically ancient history), I wrote a post entitled “The fine art of insulting half your audience.” Here’s a portion of what I wrote (I was talking about authors, but it could have been people in any of the arts):

The Bush-dissing will be thrown in when you least expect it, just to let the reader know—well, to let the reader know what, exactly? To let the reader know that the author is hip, kindly, intelligent, moral—oh, just about everything a person ought to be. And that the reader must of course be a member of the club, too—not one of those Others, the warmongers, the selfish and stupid and demonized people who happen to have voted for Bush…

Authors, do you really want to do this? Because, with a single sentence, you’ve managed to alienate and offend (not to mention insult) up to half your audience.

I don’t think this even occurs to you. I think you just assume that anyone perceptive and intelligent and downright nuanced enough to be reading your fabulous work couldn’t possibly—no, say it isn’t so, Joe!!—support that disgusting, repulsive, lying POS Bush. Or maybe you just don’t care. Maybe you don’t want people like that for your audience…

And this from people who consider themselves culturally and morally superior, although this sense of superiority doesn’t seem to reside in their needing to prove themselves to be well-informed or logical or knowledgeable about the issues—just in letting the world know that they’re on the right side of them (which would be the left side, naturalment).

Nothing has changed except that it’s gotten far worse in every way, and of course, it’s no longer about Bush, although if he were to somehow re-enter public life, that would start up again, too.

Quite a few people have pointed out that the footage of De Niro and that audience standing up could make for very good campaign ads in 2018 or 2020. The hatred that our cultural betters (in their humble opinion) have for the people who attend their plays is strikingly apparent, and it doesn’t sit well with middle America. And yes, middle America is a big big part of the audience for Broadway shows. People come to New York on vacation and plan ahead, getting tickets that put them back quite a pretty penny. They don’t like to think they’re being entertained by people who have contempt and even hatred for them.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]