portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article

corporate dominance | human & civil rights | imperialism & war

YES!!! Tim Robbins speech to the National Press Club

A chill wind is blowing in this nation. A message is being sent through the
White House and its allies in talk radio and Clear Channel and Cooperstown.
If you oppose this administration, there can and will be ramifications. Every day, the air waves are filled with warnings, veiled and unveiled threats, spewed invective and hatred directed at any voice of dissent. And the public, like so many relatives and friends that I saw this weekend, sit in mute opposition and fear.
Text of Tim Robbins speech
Transcript of actor's address to National Press Club

Posted: April 16, 2003
6:33 a.m. Eastern

Editor's note: The following is the text of the luncheon speech given by
actor Tim Robbins to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on April
15, 2003.

2003 WorldNetDaily.com

TIM ROBBINS: Thank you. And thanks for the invitation. I had originally been
asked here to talk about the war and our current political situation, but I
have instead chosen to hijack this opportunity and talk about baseball and
show business. (Laughter.) Just kidding. Sort of.

I can't tell you how moved I have been at the overwhelming support I have
received from newspapers throughout the country in these past few days. I
hold no illusions that all of these journalists agree with me on my views
against the war. While the journalists' outrage at the cancellation of our
appearance in Cooperstown is not about my views, it is about my right to
express these views. I am extremely grateful that there are those of you out
there still with a fierce belief in constitutionally guaranteed rights. We
need you, the press, now more than ever. This is a crucial moment for all of

For all of the ugliness and tragedy of 9-11, there was a brief period
afterward where I held a great hope, in the midst of the tears and shocked
faces of New Yorkers, in the midst of the lethal air we breathed as we
worked at Ground Zero, in the midst of my children's terror at being so
close to this crime against humanity, in the midst of all this, I held on to
a glimmer of hope in the naive assumption that something good could come out
of it.

I imagined our leaders seizing upon this moment of unity in America, this
moment when no one wanted to talk about Democrat versus Republican, white
versus black, or any of the other ridiculous divisions that dominate our
public discourse. I imagined our leaders going on television telling the
citizens that although we all want to be at Ground Zero, we can't, but there
is work that is needed to be done all over America. Our help is needed at
community centers to tutor children, to teach them to read. Our work is
needed at old-age homes to visit the lonely and infirmed; in gutted
neighborhoods to rebuild housing and clean up parks, and convert abandoned
lots to baseball fields. I imagined leadership that would take this
incredible energy, this generosity of spirit and create a new unity in
America born out of the chaos and tragedy of 9/11, a new unity that would
send a message to terrorists everywhere: If you attack us, we will become
stronger, cleaner, better educated, and more unified. You will strengthen
our commitment to justice and democracy by your inhumane attacks on us. Like
a Phoenix out of the fire, we will be reborn.

And then came the speech: You are either with us or against us. And the
bombing began. And the old paradigm was restored as our leader encouraged us
to show our patriotism by shopping and by volunteering to join groups that
would turn in their neighbor for any suspicious behavior.

In the 19 months since 9-11, we have seen our democracy compromised by fear
and hatred. Basic inalienable rights, due process, the sanctity of the home
have been quickly compromised in a climate of fear. A unified American
public has grown bitterly divided, and a world population that had profound
sympathy and support for us has grown contemptuous and distrustful, viewing
us as we once viewed the Soviet Union, as a rogue state.

This past weekend, Susan and I and the three kids went to Florida for a
family reunion of sorts. Amidst the alcohol and the dancing, sugar-rushing
children, there was, of course, talk of the war. And the most frightening
thing about the weekend was the amount of times we were thanked for speaking
out against the war because that individual speaking thought it unsafe to do
so in their own community, in their own life. Keep talking, they said; I
haven't been able to open my mouth.

A relative tells me that a history teacher tells his 11-year-old son, my
nephew, that Susan Sarandon is endangering the troops by her opposition to
the war. Another teacher in a different school asks our niece if we are
coming to the school play. They're not welcome here, said the molder of
young minds.

Another relative tells me of a school board decision to cancel a civics
event that was proposing to have a moment of silence for those who have died
in the war because the students were including dead Iraqi civilians in their
silent prayer.

A teacher in another nephew's school is fired for wearing a T- shirt with a
peace sign on it. And a friend of the family tells of listening to the radio
down South as the talk radio host calls for the murder of a prominent
anti-war activist. Death threats have appeared on other prominent anti-war
activists' doorsteps for their views. Relatives of ours have received
threatening e-mails and phone calls. And my 13-year-old boy, who has done
nothing to anybody, has recently been embarrassed and humiliated by a
sadistic creep who writes -- or, rather, scratches his column with his
fingernails in dirt.

Susan and I have been listed as traitors, as supporters of Saddam, and
various other epithets by the Aussie gossip rags masquerading as newspapers,
and by their fair and balanced electronic media cousins, 19th Century Fox.
(Laughter.) Apologies to Gore Vidal. (Applause.)

Two weeks ago, the United Way canceled Susan's appearance at a conference on
women's leadership. And both of us last week were told that both we and the
First Amendment were not welcome at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

A famous middle-aged rock-and-roller called me last week to thank me for
speaking out against the war, only to go on to tell me that he could not
speak himself because he fears repercussions from Clear Channel. "They
promote our concert appearances," he said. "They own most of the stations
that play our music. I can't come out against this war."

And here in Washington, Helen Thomas finds herself banished to the back of
the room and uncalled on after asking Ari Fleischer whether our showing
prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay on television violated the Geneva

A chill wind is blowing in this nation. A message is being sent through the
White House and its allies in talk radio and Clear Channel and Cooperstown.
If you oppose this administration, there can and will be ramifications.

Every day, the air waves are filled with warnings, veiled and unveiled
threats, spewed invective and hatred directed at any voice of dissent. And
the public, like so many relatives and friends that I saw this weekend, sit
in mute opposition and fear.

I am sick of hearing about Hollywood being against this war. Hollywood's
heavy hitters, the real power brokers and cover-of-the- magazine stars, have
been largely silent on this issue. But Hollywood, the concept, has always
been a popular target.

I remember when the Columbine High School shootings happened. President
Clinton criticized Hollywood for contributing to this terrible tragedy --
this, as we were dropping bombs over Kosovo. Could the violent actions of
our leaders contribute somewhat to the violent fantasies of our teenagers?
Or is it all just Hollywood and rock and roll?

I remember reading at the time that one of the shooters had tried to enlist
to fight the real war a week before he acted out his war in real life at
Columbine. I talked about this in the press at the time. And curiously, no
one accused me of being unpatriotic for criticizing Clinton. In fact, the
same radio patriots that call us traitors today engaged in daily personal
attacks on their president during the war in Kosovo.

Today, prominent politicians who have decried violence in movies -- the
"Blame Hollywooders," if you will -- recently voted to give our current
president the power to unleash real violence in our current war. They want
us to stop the fictional violence but are okay with the real kind.

And these same people that tolerate the real violence of war don't want to
see the result of it on the nightly news. Unlike the rest of the world, our
news coverage of this war remains sanitized, without a glimpse of the blood
and gore inflicted upon our soldiers or the women and children in Iraq.
Violence as a concept, an abstraction -- it's very strange.

As we applaud the hard-edged realism of the opening battle scene of "Saving
Private Ryan," we cringe at the thought of seeing the same on the nightly
news. We are told it would be pornographic. We want no part of reality in
real life. We demand that war be painstakingly realized on the screen, but
that war remain imagined and conceptualized in real life.

And in the midst of all this madness, where is the political opposition?
Where have all the Democrats gone? Long time passing, long time ago.
(Applause.) With apologies to Robert Byrd, I have to say it is pretty
embarrassing to live in a country where a five-foot- one comedian has more
guts than most politicians. (Applause.) We need leaders, not pragmatists
that cower before the spin zones of former entertainment journalists. We
need leaders who can understand the Constitution, congressman who don't in a
moment of fear abdicate their most important power, the right to declare war
to the executive branch. And, please, can we please stop the congressional
sing-a- longs? (Laughter.)

In this time when a citizenry applauds the liberation of a country as it
lives in fear of its own freedom, when an administration official releases
an attack ad questioning the patriotism of a legless Vietnam veteran running
for Congress, when people all over the country fear reprisal if they use
their right to free speech, it is time to get angry. It is time to get
fierce. And it doesn't take much to shift the tide. My 11-year-old nephew,
mentioned earlier, a shy kid who never talks in class, stood up to his
history teacher who was questioning Susan's patriotism. "That's my aunt
you're talking about. Stop it." And the stunned teacher backtracks and began
stammering compliments in embarrassment.

Sportswriters across the country reacted with such overwhelming fury at the
Hall of Fame that the president of the Hall admitted he made a mistake and
Major League Baseball disavowed any connection to the actions of the Hall's
president. A bully can be stopped, and so can a mob. It takes one person
with the courage and a resolute voice.

The journalists in this country can battle back at those who would rewrite
our Constitution in Patriot Act II, or "Patriot, The Sequel," as we would
call it in Hollywood. We are counting on you to star in that movie.
Journalists can insist that they not be used as publicists by this
administration. (Applause.) The next White House correspondent to be called
on by Ari Fleischer should defer their question to the back of the room, to
the banished journalist du jour. (Applause.) And any instance of
intimidation to free speech should be battled against. Any acquiescence or
intimidation at this point will only lead to more intimidation. You have,
whether you like it or not, an awesome responsibility and an awesome power:
the fate of discourse, the health of this republic is in your hands, whether
you write on the left or the right. This is your time, and the destiny you
have chosen.

We lay the continuance of our democracy on your desks, and count on your
pens to be mightier. Millions are watching and waiting in mute frustration
and hope - hoping for someone to defend the spirit and letter of our
Constitution, and to defy the intimidation that is visited upon us daily in
the name of national security and warped notions of patriotism.

Our ability to disagree, and our inherent right to question our leaders and
criticize their actions define who we are. To allow those rights to be taken
away out of fear, to punish people for their beliefs, to limit access in the
news media to differing opinions is to acknowledge our democracy's defeat.
These are challenging times. There is a wave of hate that seeks to divide
us -- right and left, pro-war and anti-war. In the name of my 11-year-old
nephew, and all the other unreported victims of this hostile and
unproductive environment of fear, let us try to find our common ground as a
nation. Let us celebrate this grand and glorious experiment that has
survived for 227 years. To do so we must honor and fight vigilantly for the
things that unite us -- like freedom, the First Amendment and, yes,
baseball. (Applause.)
Way to go Tim! 16.Apr.2003 11:56


This guy (and his wife) are courageous ... I'd include Bill Moyers in this category as well. We need MORE voices like this! It's just a shame that the whimpy democrats (other than Sen Byrd) don't have the balls to stand up the Fascist Bush tyranny.

A few more who don't totally suck 16.Apr.2003 13:13


I'd add Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, Barbara Lee and Jim McDermott (sp?) to the got-balls list. Maybe they don't all have them all the time, but when the list is this short ...

From another Tim.... 16.Apr.2003 16:26


Out-fucking-standing. Bravo.

You know it's effective when ... 16.Apr.2003 16:59


... Bu$h right-wing puppet propagandists like Michael Savage (real name Michael Weiner), spend 45 minutes on their hate-radio programs trying to demonize people like Tim Robbins. That's exactly what happened yesterday. Tim struck a nerve and exposed the idiots.

Keep it up Tim, Susan, Bill, Dennis, Ron, Barbara, Jim and Sen Byrd. Everyone else, listen, learn and DO!!!!!

Nice 16.Apr.2003 21:16


a good summary of the crap that has taken over this country.

Tim Robbins on Democracy Now 16.Apr.2003 22:05