The NewsBusters Interview: 'Indoctrinate U' Filmmaker Evan Maloney

Today I'm pleased to announce a new feature: The NewsBusters Interview. These will be a series of lengthy, candid conversations we'll be conducting with prominent individuals in the media and political worlds.

Recently I had the privilege of attending the premier of the "Indoctrinate U," a documentary that exposes the widespread suppression of conservative and libertarian opinions on America's college campuses. Turns out, the same 60s and 70s radicals who marched for free speech back then aren't so interested in the concept now that they're running academia.

This is a great film and a very necessary one as well. I was so impressed by it that I wanted to interview its creator, Evan Coyne Maloney. We had an in-depth and candid discussion about a variety of things including how he got interested in film, getting funding for it, the background behind campus speech codes, how the media covers academic censorship and much more.

The most interesting aspect of the interview was his discussion of why there are so few conservatives and libertarians in the entertainment media. Read past the fold for excerpts and the full transcript.

Maloney on why so few conservatives get into film:

I think that part of the problem is that because people are not used to, on the right side of the aisle, are not used to engaging in the battle of ideas in the realm of film, they simply never think about it. And if they don't think about it, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They're not going to go out and try to give money to people who can do it, they're not going going to go out and solicit projects for describing this or that idea.

It's not happening because it's not happening. It's kind of a "Catch 22" way of saying it but it's exactly true. Until somebody breaks through and demonstrates at a hugely successful film that this is a medium that is not the domain of just one point on the ideological spectrum, until that happens, people aren't going to get it. And after that happens, all sorts of money will come flooding into the industry and people will begin to understand why it's important to get your ideas out there in the medium of film.

On the difficulty of finding financing of films:

I think that finding financing is probably hard to find for people on both sides of the aisle but for different reasons. I think it's harder for people on the left side of the aisle because there's so many people trying to do film on that side so there are a lot of people chasing the same pile of money.

However, I also think that the pile of money on that side is also a lot bigger. I mean there's no right-wing George Soros handing out millions upon millions of dollars to groups like a conservative MoveOn.org so I think that part of the thing is that people on the right-of-center side I don't think a lot of the guys who have the money don't really understand film. I don't think-I think they probably don't watch a lot of movies, they are probably generally repulsed by pop culture and even when they're not, I don't think they see pop culture or film or any visual medium like television as a realm in which they can compete. And I understand why they feel that way.

They feel that way because every time someone from Hollywood opens their mouth we know that they're not necessarily sympathetic to our views. And we see the kinds of films that Hollywood puts out about the war and about terrorism and things about that and it's always coming from one perspective. But I think because of all that, people who are on the right side of the aisle they don't even understand that they can compete in film.

On the prevelance of campus censorship:

[T]here is a quote from a guy in the film from a guy who describes himself as a liberal Democrat he is now the president of the organization called FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and they actually defend people whose rights have been trampled on campus. And they are very successful and primarily their task is just to get the stories out. So they're an example of how shedding light on the problem can be effective.

Now they, the gentleman who is the president of it now his name is Greg Luganov [ph], I interviewed him for the film when he was their head litigant and I asked him that very question. And he said, I didn't really believe it was happening myself until I became the guy who got the FIRE cases.

So here's the guy who was a First Amendment specialist, who joined this organization believing there is a problem--I mean obviously he wouldn't have joined the organization if he didn't--but he really had no idea how vast the situation was until he became, as he put it, became the guy who got the FIRE cases. You basically phrased it exactly as he did in the film and I think it's an interesting coincidence because a lot of people don't believe it until they see the cases. And the cases that we hear about, that's the tip of the iceberg. We never hear about the cases where people don't fight back. We never hear about the cases where people go away quietly. I don't know what percentage of overall cases this represents, the cases that we do hear about, but either way, it means there's a lot more happening that never hit the media.

Full Transcript:

NewsBusters: You are not a filmaker by trade. What's your actual day job?

MALONEY: My day job is writing software. It's difficult as a documentary filmmaker to make money especially when Hollywood hasn't yet taken notice that there's a market for a film like ours. But luckily for me, I love writing software so I can't complain.

NewsBusters: So how did you even get into filmmaking? You were a computer science major or something else?

MALONEY: No, I was a management major but I'd taught myself to write software as a teenager and had done it a number of times career-wise.

I got into film quite by accident-I got into film because I had noticed a lot of what the media was not covering about the anti-war protests in the run-up to the Gulf War-you know into the recent Gulf war. And basically what I noticed was that I had gone to a few protests that had been covered on TV and I noticed that they were never quite described as the way that I would see them, and I didn't understand why.

There was, it seemed to me, a pretty strong radical element behind a lot of the protests, in fact. They were organized by the World Workers Party, the international socialist organization, a number of other groups, international answer that actually are pretty extreme in their politics. And it did seem odd to me that they would be organizing these protests and no one would cover them. And I just decided to take it upon myself one day and take a video camera and go out and interview some of these folks and basically show a lot of the statements that the rest of the media were covering up.

So that's how I got into film. I was lucky at the time when I put that first video online I had a pretty small web site, nobody really knew about it, and within the day it had ended up being picked up on Fox News and talk radio was talking about it, it just became a phenomenon unto itself. So I kept at it and did a number of others as well. So I really got into documentary quite by mistake.

NewsBusters: So when did you come up with the idea that eventually became "Indoctrinate U?"

MALONEY: Well that's funny-I actually had the idea for "Indoctrinate U" before I ever shot any of my peace protest videos. I just got it into my head that a film needed to be done about that topic. This was in the fall of 2002, I think, I decided that someone needed to do a film on this and I thought I could do a film even though at that point I had never picked up a video camera--a digital video video camera and popped it into my computer. And I had no idea where I got the notion that I had the business even attempting it, but I got it in my head that someone needs to do a film on that. So I actually had made a few calls to try to find money for that but I realized-and I should have known this going in-but I realized that people don't just hand over money to a guy who's never made a film before and who says he's going to make a documentary about something. And understandably so but I still tried at the time for some reason.

NewsBusters: So this was 2002--

MALONEY: --That's when I got the idea for it.

NewsBusters: Was there any sort of inspiration for that at all?

MALONEY: No, it was more like a constant drip. I mean academia is kind of the gift that keeps on giving for someone who wants to cover the topic that I cover in "Indoctrinate U". It's every few weeks where it seems like there's yet another scandal coming out of higher ed kind of the rest of the country asks ‘Do these guys live in the same country that we do?' Because a lot of times I think the actions that occur on campus are so foreign to the rest of society that it at times it feels like two different cultures trying to get along in the same nation.

NewsBusters: And so this was based on your experience in part?

MALONEY: Well, I had noticed it-my history with recognizing political correctness went back to my years at Bucknell but it was also seeing in the years following that these kinds of reports were coming out at schools all over the country. So for me, it was just year in and year out a topic that always fascinated me. I mean part of it just seemed so odd that such things can happen on campuses, being told to see a university psychiatrist because you hung a flier announcing an author was coming to campus to speak which is something that actually happened in the film. So, yeah, it was just the constant drip-drip-drip of these stories coming out periodically that made me think why didn't anyone tell this story in film in a systematic way. A lot of people had written books on the topic but there's nothing that can match the emotional impact of actually hearing the stories directly from the people who lived through them, the people whose academic careers who were nearly destroyed or in some cases destroyed simply because they had viewpoints that were not in the majority on campus.

NewsBusters: Do you think that these types of things go on because most people simply don't know about it?

MALONEY: Well, I think it's been going on-evidence points to the fact that a lot of this stuff started in the mid- to late-1980s where you had the first battles of political correctness where things like newspapers were being burned, students were getting punished for saying or writing things. But I think what changed isn't necessarily the volume of occurrences but the media landscape and so what you saw over the years from the mid- to late-eighties to today is that there are thousands more outlets out there that can report occurrences, you know you've got talk radio which basically didn't exist in its current form until the mid- to late-eighties. You have blogs writing about things, people in the schools writing about things and posting videos of things that happen on their campus. Instantaneously the rest of the world knows about it.

I think what happened, even though it feels a lot of these cases are happening more and more frequently, I think part of it is that they're just getting reported a lot more frequently. And that actually this has been going on a really long time and I think the volume of incidents has been very large over the years but we're just starting to see the true nature of it today?

NewsBusters: So has it continued in large part because of a lack of exposure?

MALONEY: I think that ultimately exposure is the sort of thing that's going to end up changing the environment because I think schools realize they are in a perilous position now. You have these massive institutions that, by any measure, are increasing the price of their service far beyond virtually any other industry, faster than the rate of inflation, faster than a lot of industries that have threats of investigation launched against them by politicians because it's easy to beat up on an industry that's raising its prices.

What's funny is that people don't seem to look at the cost of education and question it. They don't seem to look at the amount of money that we as taxpayers are giving to education both in grants and programs but also in tax breaks. If institutions of higher learning are going to act like political institutions, then they should be taxed like political institutions. So I think that people are starting to recognize that institutions that punish people based on their ideas should not be also be expecting to get a free handout from the government.

NewsBusters: Have you run into any people of any ideology who say that I just don't believe these kinds of things are happening?

MALONEY: Yeah, oh yeah. And actually, your choice of words is fortuitous because there is a quote from a guy in the film from a guy who describes himself as a liberal Democrat he is now the president of the organization called FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and they actually defend people whose rights have been trampled on campus. And they are very successful and primarily their task is just to get the stories out. So they're an example of how shedding light on the problem can be effective.

Now they, the gentleman who is the president of it now his name is Greg Luganov [ph], I interviewed him for the film when he was their head litigant and I asked him that very question. And he said, I didn't really believe it was happening myself until I became the guy who got the FIRE cases.

So here's the guy who was a First Amendment specialist, who joined this organization believing there is a problem--I mean obviously he wouldn't have joined the organization if he didn't--but he really had no idea how vast the situation was until he became, as he put it, became the guy who got the FIRE cases. You basically phrased it exactly as he did in the film and I think it's an interesting coincidence because a lot of people don't believe it until they see the cases. And the cases that we hear about, that's the tip of the iceberg. We never hear about the cases where people don't fight back. We never hear about the cases where people go away quietly. I don't know what percentage of overall cases this represents, the cases that we do hear about, but either way, it means there's a lot more happening that never hit the media.

NewsBusters: You think, speaking of the media, do you think that part of the reasons that there hasn't been a lot of coverage is that the media are liberal?

MALONEY: Well, I think people's point of view definitely colors how they perceive some of these cases and I'll give you an example.

A gentleman from the New York Times wrote an article about our film and ostensibly, the article is to talk about the film and the cases in the film and the issues that we raised, he actually spent 75 percent of his article or something around there talking about one case that was not in the film. And the case that he selected seemed to be an odd choice because he chose to talk about a case up at Cornell where a student newspaper was unable to publish for an entire year, I believe because they had violated someone's sense of decorum. And if I remember it right, what this writer said in the New York Times was that this proves there is not a problem of free speech on campus because the paper was allowed to publish again after a year.

And I couldn't believe that. What if the National Security Agency had shut down the NYT for an entire year after they exposed how we were tracking terrorist financing because if that had happened, if they were shut down for a year, I certainly don't think they would be citing that as an example of they're being no problem if they were once again allowed to publish after a year. So I think that is an example of why the media doesn't see that as being a problem. Because with a guy, they don't care if his paper is shut down for a year, they just say, well as long as it's able to publish again eventually, it doesn't matter. But let's be honest with ourselves. I know that their viewpoint would be different had it been their paper that got shut down.

So yeah, I think that the media's perspective on things definitely leads to a lot less coverage of these problems; because they don't see them as being problems.

NewsBusters: Yeah, I think that's right. As far as some of these problems go, in the film you talk about that you think that if conservatives had control of academia that we would see similar instances, almost as common of liberals being, having their speech trampled on. Expand on that.

MALONEY: Yeah I think that's probably true, I mean I don't have any way of testing the theory but my theory is basically this: that it's not necessarily just ideology that causes people to do some of the things that the campus left is doing to suppress dissent today. I think that part of the problem, unfortunately is a natural human tendency towards group-think. We've seen plenty of examples throughout history of group-think and I think we've seen enough examples that you can't say that group-think is limited to one point in the ideological spectrum.

So I think yeah, I don't know what the exact numbers would have to be for the same problem to exist in reverse, but I'm sure that if there were the number of conservatives on campus equal to the amount of liberals that there are today-so in other words, if the roles were exactly mirror of what they are now-if conservatives were in the vast majority, I don't have particularly good faith that things would be much better. I think the problem is group-think that the size of the group, as it becomes more and more ideologically uniform, I think that's what ultimately results in the problem.

So yeah, I think that's why it's important to respect free speech in the abstract because, just because you might be calling the shots on campus today doesn't mean that you will be tomorrow. And if you create an environment that doesn't respect speech, well it's not going to be very good for you if that environment exists when other people are running the campus. So I think it's important purely for selfish reasons to support free speech and free thought on campus in the abstract and not have it be an ideological battle. There is nothing inherently ideological about free thought. Everybody should be actively engaged in it.

NewsBusters: Speaking of sort of establishing free speech atmosphere, wasn't what happened during the 70s we had lots of so-called free speech movements and yet how are we suddenly not having free speech?

MALONEY: Well, I mean that's the problem. If you believe in free speech only as a means to your own ends, if you believe that the only purpose of free speech is so that you can use it for, only for your own and if you fail to recognize that other people's free speech is equally valuable because sometimes you'll discover that you're wrong. And you won't know you're wrong until someone tells you. And if someone tells you you're wrong and you recognize the error, your life tends to improve and it's a net benefit to you. So I think we should stop fearing free speech on campus. I think that's one of the problems that's happening now.

There was another part of your question that I didn't address and I forgot the specific wording that you used.

NewsBusters: It was in in terms of there were free-speech movements so-called.

MALONEY: Ah yeah, the historical angle. Yeah, I think you raise an interesting point pointing to the historical aspect of it and this ties into what I was saying before that if you consider free speech only as a means to your own end, then once you've achieved power and you've got the speech you want, you're not necessarily going to respect the free speech rights of others. We have to recognize that there is an inherent value in speech in and of itself that has nothing to do with what our particular worldview is. If we don't have the ability or even the right to think freely, then I mean that's the point at while all of human civilization collapses because the only way society has ever improved is because somebody has thought differently than what is currently happening. And so it strikes me as odd that what I think happened with the free speech movement on campus was that a lot of the folks involved in that free speech movement ended up becoming the people who a couple of decades later were running the campuses. And all of a sudden, they didn't want free speech any more because they had it, they had their free speech and they wanted to have a monopoly in the ideological environment of campus. And so they don't support the free speech rights of others which is why you see speech codes, it's why you see people getting charged with harassment for making editorial cartoons or writing op-ed pieces-it's quite sad what's going on campus and it's a real betrayal of the legacy of the 60s and 70s that the people who were arguing most vociferously for free speech back then don't seem to want it any more.

NewsBusters: I think a similar situation is sort of prevalent in the media as far as campaign finance "reform" in many ways, it's about taking away the speech of one set of people and leaving the media with all of their speech.

MALONEY: Right, exactly. You don't see the Fairness Doctrine applied to the op-ed page of the NYT.

NewsBusters: That's right. But back to the film. You came up with the idea back in 2002. I presume you started shooting stuff soon afterwards. And yet it's 2007. There must've been a lot of obstacles to this film.

MALONEY: I'll take you through the whole chronology here. I had the idea in 2002 but as I said I hadn't done any film work at all at that point. The last time I think I picked up a video camera and shot anything had been in college and I didn't really have any experience and I hadn't used these new-fangled digital cameras at this point so there was actually quiet a bit of time between getting the idea and even being able to begin working on it.

So I had gotten the idea in 2002 but because it was before I had ever shot my first video I couldn't really get any people interested in helping me out with it. And luckily at that point, I was able to start doing some of the short videos for my web site Brain-Terminal.com and it was in the process of doing those videos that I had someone contact me-a guy named Stuart Browning who had been a software entrepreneur, he started a company called Embarcedero [ph] Technologies and the day they went public was the day that Crispy Creme did and they were the only IPO bigger than Crispy Creme.

So here's a guy who retired at an insanely young age with an insane amount of money and he was interested in getting into film himself so he got in touch with me and this was right after I interviewed Michael Moore so this was, I think late September of 2003, he got in touch with me, said do you have an idea for a feature-length film and I told him that I wanted to do something on political correctness, on intolerance to free though on campus, that sort of thing. And he said he loved the idea and just wanted to run it by his attorney first. And I was thinking, all right he's just going to tell his attorney and his attorney that nobody makes money doing documentary films, you're insane to want to put your money towards this. But instead of talking him out of it, the attorney said I love the idea too. And the three of us formed a production company called On the Fence Films and this was in the late fall/early winter of 2003.

And it was really in January of 2004 when I was really able to begin working on the film full-time. I'd done some research prior to that but really we got moving in earnest in January of '04. We had a couple major periods of time where we shot a lot on the road, that spring of '04 and the spring of '05 we did most of our shooting. And so the rest of the time since then has been editing and trying to get people to see our film by contacting the distributors by setting up our web site and trying to get people to sign up, and it wasn't until about a week and a half ago that we got our first public premier so yeah, it's been a very long, strange trip.

NewsBusters: So how many cameras did you use for the shooting?

MALONEY: We mainly shot on two cameras. We had video sources from other cameras that we had licensed from other people. But most of the film was shot on two cameras and actually, a lot of the time, we ended up just shooting on one. We really needed to keep our costs down and we really needed to have a small, mobile crew. And if you're shooting professionally, having an additional camera can cost a couple of thousand dollars more a day. For us, it wasn't quite that costly because we were doing a lot of it ourselves but it's still a lot more complicated. So a lot of the film just ended up being shot on one camera.

NewsBusters: What was the budget?

MALONEY: I believe, if I remember the figures right, the initial budget for it was about $200,000 and I think another 50 or 100 was put in since then to help with finishing with editing and post-production promoting the film as well.

NewsBusters: So finding financing was not a huge undertaking then?

MALONEY: Well, once you have a product to show people, it's a lot easier to find financing. And that's why we were able to get the money to finish the film. We could always use more money but we did have enough money to finish the film. But ultimately what made the film happen to begin with was that Stuart Browning-and I'm obviously very appreciative that he did this-took a chance on essentially an unknown filmmaker who had at the time, I think done maybe five short films on his web site. So most filmmakers would have a really really hard time finding that initial money. And in fact, even though I have Indoctrinate U under my belt now, it's still hard to come up with money for future projects. So yeah, I was essentially the luckiest filmmaker on the planet to have this money fall into my lap this way because it usually doesn't happen that way and I doubt it'll happen like that again.

NewsBusters: Do you think that financing is harder to find for people producing conservative or libertarian-oriented films?

MALONEY: I think that finding financing is probably hard to find for people on both sides of the aisle but for different reasons. I think it's harder for people on the left side of the aisle because there's so many people trying to do film on that side so there are a lot of people chasing the same pile of money.

However, I also think that the pile of money on that side is also a lot bigger. I mean there's no right-wing George Soros handing out millions upon millions of dollars to groups like a conservative MoveOn.org so I think that part of the thing is that people on the right-of-center side I don't think a lot of the guys who have the money don't really understand film. I don't think-I think they probably don't watch a lot of movies, they are probably generally repulsed by pop culture and even when they're not, I don't think they see pop culture or film or any visual medium like television as a realm in which they can compete. And I understand why they feel that way.

They feel that way because every time someone from Hollywood opens their mouth we know that they're not necessarily sympathetic to our views. And we see the kinds of films that Hollywood puts out about the war and about terrorism and things about that and it's always coming from one perspective. But I think because of all that, people who are on the right side of the aisle they don't even understand that they can compete in film.

I don't think they get the medium of film, I think they only understand books and magazines and that's why, if I wanted to start another think tank or another magazine or something or put out a book on the topic, I'd probably have people beating down the door to give me money to do it. But as a filmmaker, as someone who can actually reach a different audience and a new audience and convert minds, I really don't understand why it's so difficult to find people who understand the power of film. If there is such a thing as a vast, right-wing conspiracy, I don't think it's nearly as vast as people claim it is.

NewsBusters: Yeah, I've noticed kind of a similar thing. We just launched a comedy show on our web site but some of the audience doesn't quite get it. It's hard for them to understand anyone can be funny, and on film, and be conservative.

MALONEY: Yeah, I think maybe they view it as not an intellectually rigorous enough medium perhaps. But what you need to do in order to introduce someone to a new idea, you've got to get them while they're paying attention.

If they're not already reading your books and magazines, they're not going to start reading your books and magazines if they haven't been introduced to why the idea matters to them to begin with. And I've noticed this from my web site that I can reach a whole different group of people who would not spend five minutes reading an article that I've written but they will spend the exact same five minutes watching a video that I put together. Now, those people, if they're not in the mood to read stuff online or they're not inclined to read stuff about ideas or politics or business online, they're just not going to read it. So if you want to communicate with them, you're wasting your time if you're communicating with them in the wrong medium. You've gotta get them in the medium that they want to use. And you can talk to people in film in a much more emotionally direct way, it has a lot more impact on people, people remember it better because they're not just remembering words, they're remembering the expressions on the faces of the people who are talking. And that's very important if you want to relate to them directly.

So I hope people begin to get it because you really can change minds and change different minds that you wouldn't have reached in other ways if you hadn't embraced the medium of film.

NewsBusters: I think it goes back-way back to the idea of the popular front. We on the right had to build up an intellectual structure to carry out our views--

MALONEY: They had to create an alternative infrastructure to advance their own ideas

NewsBusters: --And then you're supposed to go on to the mainstream.

MALONEY: Right. We're refusing to do that today. And that's the shame. You cannot cede any medium to the opposition as far as having the battle of ideas. You've gotta engage in the battle of ideas in every medium possible.

NewsBusters: So would you say the same issue applies as far as conservative films go as well?

MALONEY: I think there will be once people break through. The internet was around for quite a while before blogging came into being. It really was about five to ten years before when it went from the internet becoming popular in larger society to blogs becoming the prime way that political dialogue happens online. And I think that part of the problem is that because people are not used to, on the right side of the aisle, are not used to engaging in the battle of ideas in the realm of film, they simply never think about it. And if they don't think about it, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They're not going to go out and try to give money to people who can do it, they're not going going to go out and solicit projects for describing this or that idea.

It's not happening because it's not happening. It's kind of a "Catch 22" way of saying it but it's exactly true. Until somebody breaks through and demonstrates at a hugely successful film that this is a medium that is not the domain of just one point on the ideological spectrum, until that happens, people aren't going to get it. And after that happens, all sorts of money will come flooding into the industry and people will begin to understand why it's important to get your ideas out there in the medium of film.

NewsBusters: And the fact is, as far as documentaries, as far as most people are concerned, that wasn't something that people thought of until Michael Moore came along-

MALONEY: Yeah, I think that's true. I'm sorry, go ahead.

NewsBusters: Even on the left I think that's true.

MALONEY: Yeah that's right. That is an innovation that is relatively recent. It was, I think the late 80s when "Roger and Me" came out. So he was ahead of his time in two regards: one is he packaged documentaries in a different way. Documentaries tended to be viewed as more PBS Channel 13 kind of affairs rather than more speaking directly to the people. Here you had a guy who was pretty ruffled, looked like the everyman and attempted to speak to the audience in that way. And it was something that was new.

And he was also new in that he wasn't, he didn't hide his opinions. He definitely used his opinions to steer the course of his films and some could argue with the way in which he has done some of that but I think he really did innovate by making them mass-market items, documentary film that is, and by saying ‘here's what my take on the subject is' because prior to that documentaries tended to follow the old-school media model of we have to be totally objective and we can't let on what our opinions are well I think that in and of itself is a dishonest way of portraying yourself because, I'm sorry, I don't care what network I work for or what film I'm working on, if I spend years of my life chasing a story, I'm going to form some opinions about who the good and bad actors are in that story. And this happens to everyone. And sometimes, it leads people to their own destructions like it did to Mary Mapes and Dan Rather, they had been chasing a story for five years and had got so caught up in believing that it was true that they got duped by phoney documents.

And I think that it's actually better now that we have filmmakers out there who are opening up to us and saying ‘this is my point of view by the way, take this for what it is before you watch the film' because ultimately, I think that's being more honest with your audience and I think that leads to the audience being better consumers of the media that they encounter. Because they know more about who made it, they know more about their point of view and they can evaluate what they're told in light of all those things.

NewsBusters: Yeah, it's truth in advertising basically.

MALONEY: Exactly.

NewsBusters: Yeah, I think that similar type of thing is beginning to happen in the television sphere as well.

MALONEY: Yeah, something that you guys had on your site recently the whole Howard Kurtz discussion.

NewsBusters: Yeah. And I think the other thing is that this type of movement toward honesty and introspection and revealing your opinion I think that makes people who are liberals be more aware that ‘hey, we actually are liberals. We're not centrists, we're not common-sense moderates'

MALONEY: Well the media is kind of an interesting case for that because I'm not necessarily sure they would notice that because I have this-my own theory about politics, call it the accent theory of politics. And I'll describe it like this: If you're like me, if you're from New York, everybody around you kind of sounds within a certain range of speaking . You hear different accents that you recognize as a New York accent or, to you something that sounds like a guy who sounds exactly like you. You take a guy from Texas right here and all of a sudden, he's the guy with the accent. He's the other. He's the one with the accent. But you take one of these New Yorkers and put them in Texas, then all of a sudden, it's the New Yorker who's got the accent.

The media is the same way in politics. There are so many people who are left of center in the media and there have been so many surveys that bear this out, something like 9-to-1 voted for Clinton in 1996 of all the people who are in the major media who cover politics and Washington and the news. They get so ideologically one-sided in the media that they forget that they're actually liberal because you are surrounded by everybody who agrees with you. Well, if you're surrounded by everybody agreeing with you, you've got to be a moderate. Because, after all, what is moderation, it's having the most common opinion. Well in the media, being left of center is the most common opinion. So they don't view themselves as liberal. It's not until the rest of the country looks at the media that that perception becomes tenable.

And that's why when you ask the country what is the media? Does the media lean to the left? Does the media lean to the right? Whenever you take a poll like that, it's the media leans to the left. That's what the rest of the country says. But the media doesn't see it themselves because to them, it's the rest of the country that thinks like the other. They don't know too many people who-look at the red-blue divide in the country-the red states are becoming more different than the blue states and vice versa. And most of the media is controlled by a handful of people in New York, DC, and Los Angeles. Well that's a pretty a pretty ideologically closed and one-sided community I would say.

NewsBusters: Now that same situation exists in academia. And yet, in both institutions, we have, they're always talking about going on about how great diversity is and how wonderful it is and yet ideological diversity doesn't seem important to these guys. Why is that?

MALONEY: That's the other hypocrisy of the generation that once wanted free speech and now doesn't--talking about diversity. I kind of feel like I've been lied to by the 60s generation because I grew up believing we actually should judge people on the content of their character and not the color of their skin. I mean that's a concept that the protest ors in the 60s fought for. They convinced my generation that being color-blind was the best way to treat other people as equals. And then we get to college and then we see these very same people who marched in the civil rights movement upholding policies that sort you into categories by race and gender and class and this and that. And we realized, hey wait a minute, the same people who told us that we should treat people as equals and the we should be color-blind they're doing the exact opposite in their admissions policies. And they're doing it with diversity policies in such a way that it becomes obvious that they're only interested in diversity of appearance but they want uniformity of thought.

And that's-I can't think of a better way of describing what's wrong with academia today. That it really appears that if you look at the programs at virtually every university and college in the country now, you look at the programs they have for increasing diversity of appearance and there is not one that I am aware of-not one school anywhere that has even one person whose job it is to try to make sure that multiple points of view are represented in the university. Why is that? What does that tell you about academia? I'll leave that for other people to decide.

NewsBusters: Well what about people, Republican politicians, conservative politicians, why are they not doing anything about this?

MALONEY: Well, I think part of the thing is that-certainly as one who considers himself a libertarian, I get very anxious when I think about the government intervening in any aspect of society. So I think there's a natural reluctance to sic the government on academia for whatever the transgressions might be.

NewsBusters: But for the one's they're paying for already-

MALONEY: That's exactly what the problem is. You cannot expect the taxpayers to continuously fund something that they have no right to oversee. And that's basically what universities have become. They've become these islands of society that are very, very different from society and that act very differently, and a lot of times, they're actually hostile to large swaths of our society. They rely tax breaks, they rely on government grants, they rely on various programs that fund different departments and in the case of public universities, they're obviously, essentially mostly paid for by the state, and partially by tuition as well. And if you're wanting to ask the taxpayer to finance the institutions that are actually, actively punishing people who share your point of view, that's that's a lot to ask of somebody.

You're going to take my money away and tell me that if I don't give you this money, I'm going to end up in jail for tax evasion, and by the way, now that I've got this money, I'm going to politically persecute people who think like you. That's not a very smart position to be in as an institution. Especially when you're an institution that keeps jacking up tuition as rapidly as higher-ed does.

So I hope it never comes to the point of needing political intervention in academia, I hope that academics will look at the situation and realize that they should probably treat larger portions of society's viewpoints with more respect and maybe we won't need to come to a political solution. I just think that ultimately what's needed, we don't need political affirmative action, where this percent has to be conservative and this percent has to be liberal, ultimately we just need fairness back. We just need free speech and free thought back. Once those are respected on campus again, everything will even out in another generation or so. It's not going to be overnight but I don't think we need massive changes. We just need basic decency and common respect in terms of people who don't think like us on campus.

NewsBusters: Do you think that maybe part of this problem is that a lot of people who are conservative and libertarian seem to treat politics strictly as a governmental affair.

MALONEY: Right. Because they have a small-government approach. They don't think of government as something that should be larger and have a larger hand in society. I think there is a fundamental philosophical difference that we've set.

NewsBusters: Yeah, but here's the problem: If government is not the solution, why are we focusing all of our efforts on the government for-

MALONEY: For effecting change on academia?

NewsBusters: No, no, I'm saying-say you're a young libertarian kid who wants to make a difference on society. Chances are if you want to do something politically minded, you're going to think, well why not get involved in campaigns whereas if you're a young liberal you're going to say, well I'm going to start making short films making fun of Bush on the internet. Or I'm going to start, I'm going to become a journalist. Why not approach it that way too?

MALONEY: Well, I think there's a natural gravity towards like-minded people that tends to pull them together, towards each other and it's part of what creates group-think and leads to ideologically uniform communities. I think the ultimate reason that that happens is because if you're a guy that's left-of-center and you say, I'm interested in politics, I'm interested in ideas, I'm interested in sharing my ideas with other people, or simply I'm just interested in effecting change, the way you're going to decide, the way you're going to perceive what's available to you is by looking at role models and saying, what are people who are interested in similar things to me, what are they doing? Let me emulate them because they have a successful model so let me learn from them.

So because there aren't filmmakers on the right that much-that many of them, because there aren't that many of them, relatively few people look at that as even a possible option for them. So I think it's just a reflection of the current reality that people don't see it. Until someone is successful and becomes noticed who's a right-of-center filmmaker, a lot of people are never going to have that role model or have that path illuminated for them because they won't view it as a possibility. No one they want to emulate does it themselves.

NewsBusters: Yeah, I think that's a good point. I think it's also maybe that conservatives in general, going back to the popular front concept, I think for the left, they had a conscious decision that they had built this network of ideas through the communist and socialist intellectuals, they then had to turn toward making the case to the people. We haven't really seen that on the right.

MALONEY: Well yeah, however it came into existence, there's a sustained momentum now.

NewsBusters: Yeah, exactly. What we need is someone on the right to say, hey that was a good idea that they had on the left to create a popular front so let's do the same thing, spend the money to train people to reach out to the average person.

MALONEY: Well, if you're interested in ideas and interested in getting ideas out there and exposing other people to them, there are only a few different ways you can do that. People need to look at all media options available to them and try to use the unique properties of each medium to reach an audience that otherwise would not have been exposed to your message. And I think that's pretty much true for any point of view. I think that we as a society could only benefit more through more speech and through more arguments and through more people advocating their own ideas.

NewsBusters: Yeah. So what's the reception been so far from people who've seen your film on campus?

MALONEY: It's been a uniformly positive response. We've had three media screenings and some of those screenings we had student reporters write about the film or just came and shared their experiences with us.

At the recent world premier at the Kennedy Center in DC, we had a packed house, we had about 500 people, they had to turn people away at the doors. It was a really raucous, boisterous crowd, it was great. They really got the film, they reacted at all the great moments. It was really heartening to see a crowd after all this time and all this work put into this film by so many people. To see a crowd react to it and to react as strongly as they did and to get their-just to hear the standing ovation at the end of it was phenomenal. I can't tell you how nice that felt.

And how happy I was to all the people who not only gave their time to speak with us to share their stories with the world, but all the people who worked on the film obviously, the people who just might email us with nice things to say, who'd say I saw this same thing at my school, I'm glad you guys are helping this thing get out because the only way things are going to change is for people to hear the excesses and to say this can't keep going on like that so this film seems to do that and the response has been phenomenonally positive so far.

NewsBusters: That's great. "Indoctrinate U" definitely deserves a wider audience. Thanks for joining us today.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013