- Hollywood actor
- Great admirer of the late Marxist historan Howard Zinn
- Co-founder of Artists United to Win Without War
- Strong supporter of Democratic political candidates and causes
See also: Ben Affleck Howard Zinn Artists United to Win Without War
Matthew Paige Damon was born October 8, 1970 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His parents divorced when the boy was two. At age ten, Damon met his eight-year-old neighbor Ben Affleck, and the two went on to become lifelong friends. Damon also grew up next-door to the Marxist historan Howard Zinn and formed a close bond with him that lasted until Zinn's death in 2010. One of Damon's favorite books is Zinn's famous A People's History of the United States, which excoriates America as a racist, oppressive, miltaristic nation. The boy first began reading it in 1980.
Damon studied English at Harvard University but dropped out to pursue a career in acting. He achieved great fame in 1997 when Good Will Hunting, a film that he and Ben Affleck co-wrote and co-starred in, won critical acclaim. In this movie, the genius character portrayed by Damon sneers at his psychiatrist for “surrounding yourself with all the wrong f**kin’ books. You wanna read a real history book, read Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. That book’ll f**kin’ knock you on your ass.” Further, Damon's character invokes the America-hating professor Noam Chomsky as a man of keen political insight.
The sudden financial success that Good Will Hunting brought to Damon did not please his mother, a leftist devotee of The Nation. Appalled when she saw her son featured in a glossy magazine ad, she lamented: “My beautiful boy is being used to sell products. He is just a cog in the capitalist system.”
Damon subsequently went on to appear in such movies as Saving Private Ryan (1998), The Bourne Identity (2002) and its two sequels (2004 and 2007), Promised Land (2012), Behind the Candelabra (2013), and Elysium (2013). For additional information about Damon's career in the entertainment industry, click here.
As was the case with Good Will Hunting, a number of Damon's other films likewise promote political messages consistent with the actor's left-wing orientation:
- In Promised Land, Damon's character works for a corrupt fracking corporation that seeks to conceal, from unsuspecting homeowners, the dire environmental impact of its work. This film was financed, in part, by the royal family of the United Arab Emirates, whose status as one of the world's leading exporters of gas and oil would surely be affected by increased U.S. energy-independence via fracking.
- Elysium is a science-fiction epic with a class-warfare message. One synopsis of the film reads: “In the year , two classes of people exist: the very wealthy who live on a pristine manmade space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth…. A hardline government official will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium.” As journalist Mark Tapson has observed, Elysium features “anti-immigration politicians, environmental devastation, One Percenters … all the left’s current favorite targets.”
- In the Bourne Identity trilogy, observes the author/screenwriter Andrew Klavan, the American flag is used repeatedly “to foreshadow evil.”
- In 2009 Damon co-produced and bankrolled “The People Speak,” a History Channel documentary based on Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
In December 2002, Damon and nearly 100 fellow actors organized Artists United to Win Without War, to oppose any pre-emptive military strike by the U.S. against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.
In the 2008 election season, Damon was highly supportive of Barack Obama's presidential bid. He attended a number of Obama fundraisers and campaign rallies, and promoted the senator's candidacy through a MoveOn.org video contest.
By 2011, however, Damon lamented that Obama had “squandered” his opportunity to enact truly transformative legislation. The actor complained, for instance, that Obama had: “doubled down on a lot of things” like “tying teachers' salaries to how kids are performing on tests”; “rolled over to Wall Street completely” in his handling of the economic crisis; and created an environment where banks were “bigger and making more money than ever.” “You know, a one-term president with some balls who actually got stuff done would have been, in the long run of the country, much better,” said Damon.
But in the 2012 election, Damon again supported Obama at the ballot box. Following Obama's victory, the actor said he was optimistic that the president's second term would be a “great one” and declared: “I voted for him. Absolutely, I voted for him.”
Perhaps Damon's favorite political figure by this time was Elizabeth Warren, on whose behalf the actor had co-hosted a May 2012 fundraiser along with Ben Affleck and John Krasinski.
In a 2015 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Damon spoke about his resurgent admiration for President Obama. Descibing Obama as “somebody who thinks so deeply about everything he does,” Damon said: “I don't ever question that it's coming from the right place with him [Obama]. He's a remarkable human being and shockingly easy to be around. He's incredibly approachable and doesn't beat you up with his station, though he could.”
Over the years, Damon has been very outspoken on a number of political issues. In 2011, for example, he called for tax hikes on high earners: “The wealthy are paying less than they paid at any time else, certainly in my lifetime, and probably in the last century.... It’s criminal that so little is asked of people who are getting so much. I don’t mind paying more. I'd rather pay for taxes than cut 'Reading is Fundamental' or Head Start or some of these programs that are really helping kids.... [I]s it really that much worse if you pay 6% more in taxes?” As of June 2015, Damon's net worth was approximately $75 million.
While Damon has earned many millions of dollars portraying the gun-wielding assassin Jason Bourne in his violence-filled Bourne movie series, the actor opposes private citizens' right to carry a concealed weapon:
- “I actually hate guns,” he said in a 2003 interview. “They freak me out.... If you were ever in a situation in which you wished you had a gun, that means you’re in a situation where you wanted to kill somebody and I’ve never been in that situation.”
- In 2013, Damon stated: “We can't have a world where people are putting guns in their pockets and walking around thinking that they're the neighborhood watch. We have a police force for that. We should leave the novices at home.”
- In 2016, while in Australia promoting the fifth installment of his Jason Bourne series, Damon made a plea for America to follow in the footsteps of the gun ban that Australia had imposed on its own people in the 1990s. He addressed his moviegoing audience: “You guys did it here in one fell swoop and I wish that could happen in my country, but it’s such a personal issue for people that we cannot talk about it sensibly. We just can’t.” “Obviously mass shootings aren’t going to do it,” Damon added. “There have been so many of them at this point. Sandy Hook, when those children were murdered, if that didn’t do it, you know, I just don’t know. Maybe we just need to evolve further before we can have that conversation, I don’t know.”
Regarding education, Damon is a vocal supporter of teacher's unions and taxpayer-funded public schools. Moreover, he contends that student performance on standardized tests should not affect teacher evaluations, tenure status, or pay. But when the actor was asked in a 2013 interview why he was sending his own children to a private school rather than to the Los Angeles public schools, he explained that he really did not “have a choice” vis-a-vis this “major moral dilemma” because the public schools simply were not “progressive” enough for his taste.
For additional information on Matt Damon, click here.
 “The idea that we’re testing kids and we’re tying teachers’ salaries to how kids are performing on tests,” Damon says, “that kind of mechanized thinking has nothing to do with higher order. We’re training them, not teaching them.” By Damon's reckoning, people who favor instead a results-oriented, free-market approach are “simple-minded.”
When Reason TV’s Michelle Fields in 2011 asked Damon whether it was possible that union-negotiated teacher contracts make it very difficult to fire ineffective teachers who might lose their incentive to work hard once they have attained tenure, Damon derided Fields's “MBA-style thinking” and its “intrinsically paternalistic view” that “a teacher is going to get lazy when they have tenure.” “A teacher wants to teach,” he explained. “I mean why else would you take a shi**y salary and really long hours and do that job unless you really love to do it?”