After a conference in London was canceled due to the emergent yet mild Omicron strain of the once-novel coronavirus, Laurence Fox, actor, former mayoral candidate, and outspoken artist and I sat down for a virtual meeting to replace the one we would have had if governments had not interfered.
Fox, who plays Hunter Biden in an upcoming film "My Son Hunter," has been an outspoken advocate for individual rights in the face of continuing encroachments on personal freedom. It began before COVID-19, but intensified with the emergence of the pandemic. Fox has paid a high price for speaking up, has lost work because of it, and if anything that's made him more determined to not be cowed by either the dogmatic entertainment infrastructure or the political ones.
Because we were supposed to meet in person, and had been prevented from doing so by government shut downs, we spoke first of the COVID-19 restrictions, which have been rather draconian in both London, where he's based, and in New York.
Of the latest coronavirus restrictions in the UK, Fox said: "So instead of apologizing, they're doubling down on the fact that they've been laughing at us for the last year. It's just absolutely beyond."
And as to pediatric vaccine mandates, such as the kind we're dealing with in New York, where all children ages five and up must show proof of vaccination to eat out, go to museums, or anything else, Fox said: "I dread to think what the repercussions of this are going to be when people push back."
"At least you can vote with your feet in America," he said. "I would be out of this country to somewhere like Florida or Tennessee or somewhere like that in a minute, if I could. But my dear children have to come first."
Polarization in the US is playing out both geographically, in what Ben Shapiro calls the "big sort," and in online spaces. When we spoke in mid-December, the social media platform GETTR, launched in July, was starting to really compete with Twitter. It's now made an even bigger splash, getting podcasting icon Joe Rogan on board, as well as seeing many conservatives and dissidents migrate to the platform in the wake of some prominent Twitter bans, such as that of Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.
GETTR emerged in reaction to a need for a social media platform where free speech was paramount, and it's controversial because it's being embraced by conservatives who realize they need to make their own online spaces before they are purged from existing social media platforms.
When asked about the emerging parallel conservative cultural ecosystem, Fox said that "on one level, I'm really happy about it, and on another level, I'm sad about it. It's sad that culture has become so divided that we have to have separate cultures."
"I think that's a sign that society is in decay," he said, "But I'm pleased that there are people who are standing up and saying 'I need to have my voice heard.' And we don't have to live in this enormous, monochromatic, mono-narrative, echo-chamber that is every single other social media company. I don't know how they've managed to get so much power."
"The Facebooks of this world, the Googles," he specified. "I was trying to do some research the other day and I typed the search terms into Google, and I couldn't for the life of me, even when I typed in exactly what I was looking for, Google would throw anything at me other than that."
In fact, Google has implemented the "Redirect Method," meaning that when a person tries to search for something that Google has identified as unpalatable, the search engine will redirect that search to something Google deems more appropriate. The company Moonshot, based in London, has developed the program for the US.
Originally deployed to try to divert users away from Islamic extremism, it has been repurposed to divert people away from other kinds of "extremism" as well. This means that even attempts to do research into extremism, or anything that Google and Moonshot have defined as extremist, which is now such a broad, overreaching term that it encompasses concerned parents at school board meetings speaking out against the forced masking of their children, it is hard to get any information.
"So it's sort of mad, right?" Fox said. "It's wrong, and they are incentivized to make it more and more addictive and engaging."
The creation of platforms that are more welcoming to conservatives, such as GETTR, or the short-lived Parler, which ended up being called essentially "racist" platforms, with their users being called racists, or extremists, all because they do not bend to the social justice designations prevalent on Twitter, Facebook, and Google, or simply prefer to not be censored, or see others censored.
Fox joked about "multiracial white supremacists," a concept that has been used by outlets like NPR, CNN, and others to try to explain why it's not only white cis heternormative types who are questioning authority and government narratives.
"Those are my favorite kind of people," Fox quipped, "the multiracial, white supremacists."
When asked how a person can react or engage after being called a racist, which is essentially one of the worst things you can call someone in our society, Fox said that he's actually in the "middle of a legal battle over being called racist by several people."
"There's the lawfare approach," he said, "which I think is possible, but it's outside of the financial capabilities of 99 percent of people. I think that what's happened is it's not so much it's that freedom of expression that is now called a bigoted, and racist conspiracy theory, you know, and that it's, again, just a sign of a very weak and dying society."
"So ultimately, it's a question of time," he continued, "and the weight of the lying narrative that's being thrown at us from the 'insurrection' to the different conspiracy theories about the election, where the 'most voted for President in the history of American politics' is suddenly the least popular man in America, within such a short period of time."
President Joe Biden routinely touts the numbers of people who voted for him in 2020, while his poll numbers and approval ratings continue to tank.
"I think the weight of the narrative is breaking," Fox said. This is part of why he said: "I think it's important to use things like GETTR, and I think it's important when someone calls somebody a racist to go, 'do you know what that word means?' But they know how powerful it is because it can end someone's career."
"It ended my career very, very quickly, just with the slur, with no evidence whatsoever. They just said, 'You're racist.' And I went, 'Oh, right.' And then your work dries up and only those that have been properly canceled are the ones that are able to fight back," Fox said, referencing the 2020 incident when colleagues and others went after Fox for his posts countering the Black Lives Matter movement, and comments he'd made on popular UK show Question Time.
He was dropped by his representation as a result. "It was very difficult to do it within the confines of the mainstream media structure now, which essentially is just the propaganda arm of whichever government is in control," he said.
"Because they are the main advertisers," Fox continued, "certainly in England, they're the main advertisers on mainstream media. I think the mainstream media are dying. And I think you just have to take a look at poor old CNN ratings, to see that they are dying, and people like Tucker Carlson are taking off and you know, the Joe Rogan's of this world and the new media, and the Tim Pools, and various others are expanding. And I know who I'd buy shares in, and it wouldn't be the mainstream media," Fox said.
It was nearly a year after Fox was vilified online and lambasted for being "racist" that he was able to stage a comeback when he was offered the lead role in a biopic about Hunter Biden, the president's notoriously womanizing, inebriated, influence-peddling son.
As to playing the president's beleaguered and clearly tortured son, Fox said that it was "fascinating. The most important job for an actor is not to judge their character. When you're playing a bad guy in a movie, you should never think of him as a 'bad guy.' You should think of him as a human being who is doing whatever he's doing for a reason."
"I just took the script as it was, and played it as truthfully as I could," Fox went on "And I think the spookiest part of it was listening to him read his book, Beautiful Things, and how very smart he is. Because after listening to it, I was sort of buying into it. You have to pinch yourself a bit and go 'hang on a minute, let's be empirical about some of this stuff.' He's a perfect representation of a feelings-over-facts type guy, he can spin a yarn so beautifully."
Fox said that he took the role, in part as an important pushback against creeping, censorious, monochromatic filmmaking, which he witnessed in the industry prior to the 2020 canceling.
For Fox, the wokeness in the industry came as "more of a shock," because he only really started to see it after the popular show Lewis, where Fox played detective James Hathaway, came to an end in 2015.
"I was working with the same people a lot," he said. "And therefore, we developed a sort of a harmony, where differing political opinions were totally tolerated. People would have robust arguments. It was like things used to be before the wokesters decided that they were going to unleash their hell on the world."
Fox described an experience that still haunts him. He auditioned for a film and was "offered the part in the room" because he'd done a good audition, and had worked with the director before. After the offer was made in person, however, he didn't hear anything, "everything went quiet for a couple of weeks."
"And then I spoke to my former agent, and said, 'What's going on?' He said, 'Well, there's a diversity problem. They want to hire at least one black person, if they're going to hire you. So they're deciding whether they're going to hire you or a black guy, or make the girl a white-skinned person or, or a black-skinned person. You know, it was all about skin color, it had nothing to do with talent, and I thought, 'that's insane.'
"And the person I was working with came up to me on the first day of filming, and said, 'I only got this job because I'm black.' And I thought, What a horrible way to start a job, you know. It's so racist, these people are so racist anyway. They are the exact thing they accuse you of.
"I noticed that," he went on. "And then I also noticed a sense of very strong entitlement from the young actors of all skin colors and hues with this sort of so-called 'social justice approach to life,' where everything was about immutability, stuff that you can't change, like your background, your skin color, your sexual orientation.
"Everything became about that; nothing was about talent. And after a while, I just got fed up with them. And I said, 'You are hyper-privileged, all of you, it doesn't matter what skin color you are, sexual orientation, your age, you're all sat in a really nice hotel being paid huge amounts of money by Netflix. So why don't you ditch the conversations about your own privilege and start thinking about those that have no privilege? And how you can best use your voices to represent them, rather than rather than sit there and cry oppression all day?'
"I got very bored with it. So I got to the point now, where I was thinking, would I want to go back on a film set, and spend time with people like that? No, at the moment, no. It's boring. Films aren't films anymore. Art is not challenging culture. Art is reflecting culture. And it's making films for itself. It's a moral lecture. And I'm just not interested," Fox said.
He noted that "it doesn't work both ways. Have you noticed that you can have a black Anne Boleyn, no problem, in a British TV drama?" But it would be very odd to see an historical figure who was black portrayed by an actor who was not black.
"So essentially, what we're witnessing," Fox said delicately, "which I hate to say because I don't like them identitarianism, but we're watching a massive purge of anti-white skin racism, and it's just being accepted. And God forbid when they push, certainly the middle-America, your average American, too far. Certainly here, we haven't we haven't even got there. The madness is coming from you lot in terms of, you know, multiracial white supremacism and the blackface, the white supremacism, and disparate impact and all this stuff. It hasn't yet arrived here, but it's definitely on its way."
"Why do you think our culture hates itself so much?" I asked.
For Fox, it comes back to education. "Because our education system is built around teaching our children to hate themselves from the very beginning. I was taught it at school, you know, the world's going to end climate, we're gonna run out of oil, fossil fuels are bad, the ozone layer is going.
"Children are taught, and they have it as a sort of passive part of the background of their mind, that they're a virus on this planet and that their mere existence is causing more damage to it than good. What a horrible way to raise young people, and it is counterintuitive to them succeeding in life," Fox said.
"Beyond that, it's just because of the suppression of free speech we haven't had, we don't have balance discussions about things like the slave trade. So we'll just go, you know, 'Britain colonized the earth and destroyed it.' But we won't have a conversation to say, 'but also Britain paid its huge fine ending slavery.' So people are taking the values of 400 years ago, judging them today and thinking that we've reached the apotheosis of understanding which we haven't."
"These little fragile people, who our universities keep spewing out to come and lecture us and be offended about everything, they can't see it, because to them it's a religion. So it's like turning around to a Christian and saying 'God doesn't exist.' A Christian would just say, 'that's not true.' We're in a spiritual war is what it feels like to me," he said.
"When they talk about indigenous peoples, and stuff like that, of course, there is a conversation to be had. But you can't turn around and say, land is indigenous to anybody," he said, because land has been populated and repopulated since the beginning of time.
"Am I an indigenous person in Britain, or not?" Fox mused. "I'm sure my cultural heritage and goes back to different countries all over the earth. So this idea that there is the oppressor and the oppressed, and basically anything with white skin, came has come has wreaked havoc and mayhem in the world is true on some level. So it is a conversation that one should have, but it just needs to be a balanced conversation.
"One thing you can't do is change the past. You can learn from it, but you don't learn from it by trying to do what they want to do, which is wipe it out. Remove statues of Jefferson—remove all the statues. I mean, half these kids are so stupid. They don't even know which statues they're removing, at this point. It's just mob mentality and anarchism. And it's an it's dreadful to to watch, certainly to watch it going on in America," he said.