Hol­ly­wood’s war on Mid­dle Amer­ica

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

Hol­ly­wood is de­ter­mined to transform Amer­ica. This is the cen­tral theme of Ben Shapiro’s lat­est book. Mr. Shapiro is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist and ra­dio talk-show host. Un­like many on the right, he is a rare breed: a staunch so­cial con­ser­va­tive who un­der­stands the im­por­tance of fight­ing — and win­ning — the cul­ture war.

Mr. Shapiro con­vinc­ingly shows that, for decades, tele­vi­sion has been used by Hol­ly­wood left­ists as a pro­pa­ganda ve­hi­cle. Writers, ex­ec­u­tives and pro­duc­ers are not sim­ply in­ter­ested in mak­ing money and climb­ing the fame-ob­sessed lad­der. They also are lib­eral ide­o­logues push­ing a rad­i­cal agenda — abor­tion, ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, higher taxes, big gov­ern­ment, out-of-wed­lock preg­nancy, promis­cu­ity, racial quo­tas, fem­i­nism, paci­fism and sec­u­lar­ism. In short, Tin­sel­town’s world­view can be dis­tilled into one sem­i­nal idea: ha­tred of Mid­dle Amer­ica.

So­cial crit­ics re­peat­edly have ex­co­ri­ated TV as “garbage” — mean­ing­less en­ter­tain­ment con­sumed by the stupid masses. Mr. Shapiro dis­agrees. He points out that many pro­grams are well-pro­duced, well-writ­ten and ob­vi­ously en­ter­tain­ing. And this is the real dan­ger posed by tele­vi­sion lib­er­al­ism. Amer­i­cans are ad­dicted to watch­ing TV. They are mes­mer­ized and in­tox­i­cated by it. Nielsen sta­tis­tics re­veal that view­ers spend an av­er­age of more than four hours a day in front of the tube. Hence, they are be­ing bom­barded reg­u­larly by pow­er­ful left­ist mes­sages.

In­dus­try in­sid­ers con­sciously seek to at­tack bour­geois moral­ity and pa­tri­o­tism. How? By con­stantly de­vel­op­ing plot lines and in­sert­ing sub­texts in shows that ad­vance chic lib­eral causes. One of the wa­ter­shed pro­grams was “All in the Fam­ily.” The char­ac­ter of Archie Bunker sym­bol­ized the pro­gres­sive car­i­ca­ture of con­ser­va­tives — ig­no­rant, racist and xeno­pho­bic. The show fre­quently de­nounced the Viet­nam War and even cel­e­brated draft dodgers as heroes. It also broke new ground in por- tray­ing the fa­ther fig­ure, Archie, as a work­ing-class bigot who was less en­light­ened than his an­ti­war, so­cially per­mis­sive son-in­law, Meat­head (played by the odi­ous left­ist Rob Reiner). Other later shows, such as “The Simp­sons,” in­ten­si­fied Hol­ly­wood’s as­sault on parental au­thor­ity. The mes­sage is of­ten the same: Ado­les­cents know more than their fathers and moth­ers.

Mr. Shapiro ex­am­ines nu­mer­ous pop­u­lar sit­coms. “Friends” cham­pi­oned post­mod­ern lib­eral- ism. It cel­e­brated les­bians, di­vorce, con­dom use and ca­sual sex. Its an­i­mat­ing theme was that friend­ship should re­place fam­ily. The show’s char­ac­ters em­bod­ied the bo­hemian re­bel­lion against tra­di­tional Amer­ica. “Se­in­feld” — per­haps the most suc­cess­ful show in tele­vi­sion — ex­pressed a form of ur­ban ni­hilism. The uni­verse in­hab­ited by the char­ac­ters was one marked by a lack of moral ab­so­lutes. They were all self-ab­sorbed nar­cis­sists fo­cused on one thing: them­selves.

Over the past decade, how­ever, tele­vi­sion has be­come more vul­gar, per­verse and coarse. “Sex and the City” is a case in point. The show glo­ri­fied women ob­sessed with or­gasms and oral sex. It pre­sented mas­tur­ba­tion and ram­pant promis­cu­ity as not only nor­mal, but healthy. It de­hu­man­ized women, re­duc­ing them to sex ob­jects. The fact that the char­ac­ters have be­come cul­tural icons re­veals how far the women’s move­ment has de­gen­er­ated. Fem­i­nism is no longer about equal pay for equal work; rather, it has em­braced the de­struc­tive sex­ual revo­lu­tion of the 1960s. Hugh Hefner trumps Glo­ria Steinem.

Other pro­grams, such as “Skins” on MTV, are noth­ing more than child pornog­ra­phy mas­querad­ing as re­al­ity TV. The show de­picts un­der­age teens drink­ing, do­ing drugs and hav­ing sex. That this passes for en­ter­tain­ment is an omi­nous sign: Amer­ica is in moral de­cline. We re­sem­ble the later stages of the Ro­man Em­pire — deca­dent, he­do­nis­tic and spir­i­tu­ally lethar­gic.

What are tra­di­tion­al­ists to do? Mr. Shapiro seeks to gal­va­nize the right by ring­ing the alarm bells. One strat­egy is for con­ser­va­tives to pen­e­trate the belly of the beast and al­ter its pro­gram­ming con­tent. There is, how­ever, one prob­lem. Hol­ly­wood sys­tem­at­i­cally dis­crim­i­nates against con­ser­va­tives. Mr. Shapiro writes about his own ex­pe­ri­ences try­ing to be­come a screen­writer. At first, his tal­ents are rec­og­nized. But when it be­comes known that he is on the right, pro­duc­ers tell him openly: You’re not wel­come any­more. This is com­mon across the in­dus­try. Con­ser­va­tives are black­listed. The few who man­age to find work must keep their views se­cret. McCarthy­ism lives on. Mr. Shapiro is one of the ris­ing Young Turks of the con­ser­va­tive move­ment. What he shows — be­yond a doubt — is that tra­di­tion­al­ists have ceded the cul­ture to their sworn lib­eral en­e­mies.

Jef­frey T. Kuh­ner is a colum­nist at The Wash­ing­ton Times and pres­i­dent of the Ed­mund Burke In­sti­tute.

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