Will Smith: Symbolism over Sustenance

  Bob DeMoss | ChristianHeadlines.com Columnist | Friday, April 16, 2021
Will Smith, Will Smith's decision to leave Georgia is an example of symbolism over sustenance

I like Will Smith as an actor—except when he plays the role of an activist.

Smith, who has been nominated for a number of Oscars, and who won both Emmys and Grammy Awards, announced earlier this week that his upcoming movie "Emancipation" would no longer be made in Georgia as originally planned. Why the sudden change of heart? 

After all, for decades, thanks to favorable tax incentives and favorable year-round weather patterns, filmmakers and TV producers have turned to the Peach State to shoot their productions. We're talking Marvel blockbusters such as Black Panther, Ant-Man, Avengers: Endgame, Captain America: Civil War, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, as well as CREED, Jumanji: The Next Level, and the faith-based feature films Fireproof and 90 Minutes in Heaven. And that's the shortlist. In 2017, as one film critic noted, Georgia became the "Film Capital of the World", outpacing Hollywood-based cinema production. 

What, then, is so bad about Georgia that prompted Will Smith to exit the state? 

As it turns out, he's unhappy with Georgia's "regressive voting laws", and he's willing to move the whole production elsewhere at a projected cost of $15 million. Here's his statement:

"At this moment in time, the Nation is coming to terms with its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism to achieve true racial justice. We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access."

Whether or not Smith took time to read the bill and actually write his own statement is unknown. More likely, his comments were scripted by young, woke scriptwriters. Regardless, I'd be surprised if his decision was nothing more than an emotional response to incomplete information—or, more likely, to the false information popularized by President Joe Biden regarding the provisions of the Georgia voting bill. 

The liberal Washington Post blasted Biden with Four Pinocchios for spreading falsehoods and misinformation about the provisions of the newly passed bill. For instance, Biden claimed, "Among the outrageous parts of this new state law, it ends voting hours early so working people can't cast their vote after their shift is over." That's completely false. Georgia polls have previously opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 7 p.m.—the new law doesn't change that.

The Post's fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, was puzzled by Biden's outright falsehood. He said, "One could understand a flub in a news conference. But then this same claim popped up in an official presidential statement. Not a single expert we consulted who has studied the law understood why Biden made this claim, as this was the section of the law that expanded early voting for many Georgians."

What, then, did the law change? The Atlantic reports that "An ID rule requires absentee voters to provide the number of their driver's license or an equivalent state-issued ID. Formerly, they could just sign their name on the application." In other words, as President Reagan said, "Trust but verify." That's the responsible thing to do when voting for the leader of the free world.

Think about it. You must provide a legal ID to cash a check at the bank, board an airplane, drive a vehicle, buy cigarettes, or rent a car. At the liquor store, you cannot say, "Trust me. I'm of legal age to buy beer." Ironically, you cannot walk onto Will Smith's movie set without proper ID, too. So, what's the big deal about requiring a legal ID to vote? Wouldn't that minimize voter fraud? Doesn't that prevent dead people from voting? 

Will Smith, as well as the big brand company executives at Coke, Home Depot, Delta, United and Apple, would do well to get their facts straight and then ponder the implications before launching their pompous virtue signaling. Smith believes his bold move will deprive "economic support" to the evil, repressive, throwback, Jim Crow-embracing Georgia government. 

More likely, his knee-jerk, ill-informed decision will hurt the 8,900 Black-owned Georgia-based businesses, which employ upwards of 83,800 people. These local, often family-owned shops will no longer benefit from the revenue generated in the local economy whenever a movie is made.

Rush Limbaugh was fond of saying liberalism prefers "Symbolism over Substance." Put another way, it's more important that you look like you care about the latest cause de jour, whether or not you actually help anyone. In this case, considering the loss of earnings these business owners will suffer, it's "Symbolism over Sustenance." The trendy bashing of Georgia's law makes sizzling headlines—not to mention it is a great way to get free media coverage for his movie, but ultimately hurts the ones who need the economic help the most.

Will Smith's statement went on to say, "The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting. Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state."

Ironically, he moved to Louisiana, where voter ID is required.

James, the brother of Jesus, said, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (1:19 NIV). There's a lesson here for us. Rather than jump on the latest political, social or economic bandwagon, pause. Listen. Reflect. Weight the impact of our words. And, by all means, be slow to act in anger. That's how society can move toward the emancipation of our fractured, corporate soul.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Jason Merritt/TERM/Staff

Bob DeMoss is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 40 books including collaborations with Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty, Jim Daly/Focus on the Family, Andy Stanley, and Tim LaHaye/Left Behind. His latest short story is "Hazel: The Outlaw Mummy". Visit BobDeMoss.com.