As NewsBuster Mark Finkelstein pointed out this morning, Hollywood’s liberal streak is now so obvious even the news media are taking notice. But it isn’t just that celebrities are liberal activists in their spare time — liberal talking points are also finding their way onto TV and movie screens.
Case in point: Last night’s ER, NBC’s long-running medical drama. The March 2 episode saw the much-promoted return of “Dr. John Carter,” played by Noah Wyle, who left the show at the end of last season. Last night’s episode had John volunteering at a refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan, where hundreds of thousands have died in a real-life humanitarian catastrophe. Even as they portrayed the Janjaweed militia as the chief villains, the ER writers couldn’t resist taking a potshot at inaction by a supposedly racist U.S. Congress. Windows Media or Real Player
What got into Good Morning America? Each of the network shows ran its compulsory pre-Oscar segment this morning. But while Today was airing a bland piece on the freebies that celebrities in attendance get in gift bags, GMA's segment had a most unexpected angle, asking whether Hollywood has become too political - read 'liberal.' As Tim Graham has noted, Jon Stewart and George Clooney have denied that Hollywood suffers from any such bias, but GMA host Charlie Gibson acknowledged the slant frankly.
He framed it this way:
"Now we turn to the politics of the Oscars. We've talked a lot about the culture wars in America, the blue state/red state divide, the clash between more traditional moral values and more liberal points of view.
Rap and hip-hop make up a multi-billion-dollar industry and represent the most powerful pop-cultural influence in the nation.
The sound can be loud and boorish, but it can also be quite unique and interesting. What’s not debatable is that it has an ugly past and a present that – lyrically – continues to escape much mainstream scrutiny. And, with no discussion or debate, it’s being given a home in the Smithsonian Institution alongside the flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” and other national artifacts.
The announcement this week of the new exhibit received universally uncritical coverage by mainstream media outlets, such as The New York Times. The Washington Post’s David Segal came closest to straying from the PC line, opening his piece this way:
According to a poll commissioned by the McCormick Tribune Foundation (details here) reveals that Americans know more about the long-running Fox cartoon family the Simpsons than they do about the First Amendment.
Only one-tenth of one percent (1 in 1000 people) of those surveyed were able to name all five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment--speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition--while 22 percent could identify the five members of the Simpson family--Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie.
Awareness of freedom of speech was pretty high in the survey at least. Well over half of respondents (69 percent) named it as a freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment. Knowledge of the other four, however, was low with the next most-cited freedom being religion with just 24 percent. That's 1 percent less than those who were able to name all three of the "American Idol" judges, Randy, Paula, and Simon.
When asked if Hollywood is liberal (culturally or politically), whether it's outside the American mainstream, or attempting to drag it to the left, two big stars told CNN's Larry King no. On Monday night, MRC's Megan McCormack noticed that Jon Stewart, preparing to emcee the Oscars, said the idea that Hollywood is liberal and getting in the face of conservatives is not a real issue:
Male caller: "Hello. I was wondering, regarding the, the cultural war we have between Republicans and Hollywood, how Jon feels this year’s crop of nominees and the films that Hollywood chooses to celebrate, is that Hollywood thumbing it’s nose at Republicans, or does it give a kind of vindication to the Republican party, and possibly allow some backlash? Could Hollywood find, in a time when censorship’s becoming a real issue again, could it hurt ‘em?"
You never know what wacky line you're going to find leafing through the back pages of Time magazine, and in placing their bets in this week's elapsing issue, Time film critics Richard Corliss and Richard Schickel predict "Brokeback Mountain" will win the Best Picture Oscar. When they try to guess a reason why it might confound the betting line and not win, they suggest: "The Academy remains a somewhat conservative body, and although this is a handsome and superbly acted film, it may not yet wish to endorse that 'gay cowboy' movie."
That avoids the question: if the Academy is so moderately conservative, then what explains the rash of nominations for "Brokeback," and "Capote," and "TransAmerica"? In fact, they contradict themselves a bit in their note on Felicity Huffman's Best Actress nod for playing a guy who wants to be girl: "Terrific performance in a picture that has not found an audience.Its transgressiveness doesn't even set it apart in the year of Brokeback Mountain and Capote." If the Oscars are a field of "transgressive" films, how can the Academy nominating them be even remotely conservative?
Not to be outdone by their liberal brethren in the printed press and TV mediums, AOL has once again loaded the web site's home page with another "We hate Bush, too!" headline, followed by those ever-present yet predictable AOL poll questions.
Centering around the recent political upheaval of the impending sale (6.8 billion dollars) and takeover of the operation of 6 American ports by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Dubai Ports World specifically, today's AOL Home page hopefully asks : "Is His PowerFading Away?" placed alongside a head-drooping and cryptic silhouette of what can only be President Bush. The sentence below then reads: “Bush Faces More Challenges," whereupon clicking on it brings one to a battery of poll questions in a section that AOL calls "The Daily Pulse"
The hard-left Pacifica Radio network is a network of five public radio stations in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Berkeley, and Houston. Together, these stations have regularly drawn about a combined $1 million a year in federal money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (For a while, conservative Rep. Joel Hefley would push an amendment every year to reduce the federal CPB budget by $1 million in protest.) Perhaps their signature program is "Democracy Now!" with Amy Goodman, which boasts of public TV and radio stations far beyond the Pacifica-owned affiliates. On Monday, they went on one of their pledge drives with a new premium: a DVD of celebrities reading from leftist historian Howard Zinn's "Voices of a People's History of the United States."
Celebrities included Danny Glover, Sandra Oh (of "Grey's Anatomy"), Viggo "Aragorn" Mortensen, and the one reader that really surprised me: Marisa Tomei doing a dramatic reading of Cindy Sheehan.
First there was Bryant Gumbel. But has one of our own Olympic athletes also politicized this installment of the Winter Games? In an NBC profile of U.S. champion figure skater Johnny Weir this past week, the flamboyant athlete is shown lying on a couch wearing a red sweatjacket with the decoration of CCCP, the Cyrillic Russian initials of the old USSR [link to video at gawker.com, see note below]. Yes, we have now seen the day when an Olympic athlete, representing the United States, is seen casually wearing a sweatjacket symbolizing the old Soviet Union.
"Finally, tonight, the Winter Games. Count me among those who don’t like them and won’t watch them ... Because they’re so trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too. Like, try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention. Try not to point out that something’s not really a sport if a pseudo-athlete waits in what’s called a kiss-and-cry area, while some panel of subjective judges decides who won ... So if only to hasten the arrival of the day they’re done, when we can move on to March Madness — for God’s sake, let the games begin."
This weekend’s vice presidential quail hunting trip is fast becoming a comedian’s dream. Channel and Internet surfing is suddenly a virtual “Open Mike” night at the Comedy Store.
Next on stage was the host of the demised Comedy Central program (remember when it was a decent show before Bill sold out to ABC!) “Politically Incorrect.” Bill Maher decided to write a mock script, posted at the Huffington Post, of how things progressed after Harry Whittington was accidentally shot:
"Um. Sir. Mr. Vice President, he's kinda just laying there."
"Shhhhhh!!!! He's a lawyer. You want him to sue?...Harry? You OK? Harry? See? He's fine. This is just part of the administration's new tort reform package."
Nice gratuitous shot at lawyers and tort reform in the same punchline, Bill. From there, Maher went after the medical profession adding a dash of stereotypical anti-Semitism:
Robert C.J. Parry, a first lieutenant in the California Army National Guard's 1st battalion of the 184 Infantry, has published a must-see op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times (Sunday, February 12, 2006), entitled, "The war you didn't see." In the piece, he reports something that is rarely reported but has been known by many all along: The mainstream media has been giving our troops a raw deal by harping on negative news and ignoring positive accomplishments.
"We served with honor. We served with valor. We earned distinction," writes Lt. Parry, as he recounts a number of brave actions in battle from men with whom he served. (Emphasis mine:)
"So far, 14 of our soldiers have been decorated for valor and another 48 have earned the Bronze Star for service. But that cannot be found in print.
No more than a couple years ago, headlines invoking Britney Spears in a "lap" controversy might have brought to mind images of graphic goings-on in the Champagne Room.
But time marches on, and Britney-the-new-mother is now caught in a lap-gate of an altogether different sort after photos were snapped of Britney driving her car with her four-month old son in her lap rather than secured in a car seat. In the latest development, according to this LA Times article, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy went to her Malibu home on Tuesday "to collect information for child welfare investigators" in connection with the matter. For the record, Spears says she was feeling hounded by paparazzi and drove off with the baby in her lap to escape them.
Thanks to my Yahoo-loving wife, I've learned that NBC is backtracking big-time on the Britney Spears "Cruci-fixins" plot we noted last week. E! Online News reports:
Earlier this week, NBC issued a press release touting Spears' guest appearance on the sitcom. Per the Peacock's PR department, Spears, in her first television outing since having a baby, would appear on the Apr. 13 episode playing a religious conservative TV personality who winds up cohosting a talk show with Jack (Sean Hayes). Spears' character, the release said, would emcee a cooking segment called "Cruci-fixin's."
Faster than you could say, "Oops, they did it again," NBC was facing another beef from the American Family Association.
The conservative Tupelo,Mississippi-based group, whose protests helped lead to the cancellation of the network's The Book of Daniel, was ready to call for a boycott of NBC, saying the Spears-fronted episode "mocks the crucifixion of Christ" and "further denigrates Christianity" because the show airs the night before Good Friday. The AFA is urging its supporters to contact NBC affiliates and demand they not broadcast it.
American soldiers in Iraq crash a wedding and pump a little boy full of lead in front of his mother.
They kill dozens of innocent people with random machine gun fire, shoot the groom in the head, and drag those left alive to Abu Ghraib prison where a Jewish doctor cuts out their organs, which he sells to rich people in New York, London and Tel Aviv.
In the wake of riotous protests in Europe over anti-Muhammad cartoons, rest assured NBC is still devoting to mocking everything sacred to Christians, even though they just cancelled "Book of Daniel." The American Family Association, which led an anti-"Daniel" campaign, is going to campaign against the gay sitcom "Will and Grace," which will feature Britney Spears playing a conservative Christian. Associated Press briefly describes the "humor" within:
Jack's fictional network, Out TV, is bought by a Christian TV network, leading to Spears contributing a cooking segment called "Cruci-fixin's."
Susan Jones has more from CNSNews.com here. Let's see how the media treat this outbreak of religious "humor" in the news. They ought to love this story with the complete congruence of Britney Spears and Christian-right mockery. Brent Bozell has described the entertainment media's odd treatment of organized religion (through Caroline Eichenberg's one-year study of TV religion plots) here.
In a country where freedom of the press is nearly absolute, it's always funny to see media figures act as if their speech is under threat by the mere fact that a Republican occupies the White House, as if by sheer force of his presence in a position of power, George W. Bush by thought alone (amazing considering his tremendous alleged stupidity), can see to it that all contrary speech is snuffed out of existence.
One media figure has enough of a tendency to do this alone but get a room full of them together and the paranoia and political naivete are thick enough to cut with a knife. Newsweek obtained such a result a few days ago when it got several Oscar nominated directors together for a chat. George Clooney and Steven Spielberg provided the bilge to go along with the coffee:
There are now three possible conclusions on how James Frey's lies in "A Million Little Pieces" got past Oprah (the first two are from this post, the third is Oprah's creation yesterday):
Number 1 -- She runs an operation that's so intimidating that people within her company who knew better felt they couldn't speak out.
Number 2 -- She knew about Frey's Lies and has been an active though conceivably unwitting(words added today--Ed.) participant in a monumental literary hoax.
Number 3 -- (The one used by Oprah -- see Update 3 at this post and this New York Times article from earlier today) Despite the fact that her producers knew and informed her that counselors at Hazelden in Minnesota cast significant doubt on Frey's story of his time there a full month before his first Oprah TV appearance, Oprah went ahead because Frey's publisher "reassured" her that the book was accurate.
Gawker.com reports Rolling Stone is printing a magazine with Kanye West as a black Jesus on the cover: "The Passion of Kanye West." First impression: typical counter-cultural aging-hippie mag. Second impression: hey, so why are they also plugging a mock-the-religious-right story on "God's Senator?" Will they get a clue about the cognitive dissonance?
Here's your media bias test: will "Today" give outraged Christians a chance to fuss at the idea that a rapper whose "persecution" has only led to gold er, "records" should feel crucified like Christ? On March 21, 1997, Matt Lauer devoted a segment to outrage at National Review. As we reported at the time:
In a piggyback of a previous NewsBusters report concerning Hollywood producing less films in the near future, The Times Online is reporting (hat tip to the Drudge Report) that movie stars are going to take less money for their services to assist studios in becoming more profitable:
“Facing declining cinema audiences, Hollywood is trying to persuade its top actors to set an example by cutting back a lucrative arrangement known as ‘first dollar’, under which the director, producer and stars receive a share of a film’s box office take regardless of whether the studio has covered its filming costs.”
Apparently, this is going to impact some of Hollywood’s top stars:
Harry Belafonte is at it again. The Associated Press reported last evening (hat tip to the Drudge Report) that the entertainer, in a speech to the Arts Presenters Members Conference, “compared the Homeland Security Department to the Nazi Gestapo on Saturday and attacked the president as a liar.”
The article quoted Belafonte as having said, “‘We've come to this dark time in which the new Gestapo of Homeland Security lurks here, where citizens are having their rights suspended.’” Belafonte once again had nothing but disdain for America’s current president: “Bush, he said, rose to power ‘somewhat dubiously and ... then lies to the people of this nation, misleads them, misinstructs, and then sends off hundreds of thousands of our own boys and girls to a foreign land that has not aggressed against us.’"
It’s become a cliche to note that the Golden Globe Awards voter pool is an extremely small clique for such a big-buzz awards show. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) boasts “about 90" members, many of them Europeans. But their influence over the Oscars, and then the culture, is enormous. And what they are asking us to celebrate, with increasing regularity, are standards that echo the decadent culture of Old Europe, in love with illicit sex, drugs, dysfunctionality – and even anti-Western political weirdness.
In addition to George Clooney’s supporting actor award for his conspiracy-theorizing, anti-war-for-oil flick “Syriana,” the Best Foreign Movie award went to “Paradise Now,” a lyrical German-funded film about “heroic,” yet conflicted....Palestinian terrorists blowing up buses. The HFPA even officially claimed the film was from “Palestine,” as if Israel had already been wiped off the map.
Wishy washy mayor Ray Nagin said hurricanes are messages that God is mad at us for being in Iraq, and that New Orleans will be "chocolate" again (is that what you call it?) Don't worry, the media will only portray Pat Robertson as crazy for purporting to know what God is thinking.
Al Gore is on a rampage claiming that George Bush is a criminal for
The death of “West Wing” star John Spencer did not spark new interest in the long-fading show when it returned last night from a nearly month-long hiatus.
In it first new episode since Spencer’s death in December, “West Wing” tied a season-low with a 1.9 overnight rating among viewers 18-49 last night, 17 percent lower than the 2.3 overnight rating the show had averaged through its first nine episodes of the season.
Six years after a Democratic president was around to make the show meaningful, NBC has kept the show on life support, unwilling to pull the plug.
Over at the Tapped blog, Matthew Yglesias is delighted that "Shrill Bush bashing has crossed over to the section of the media where it really counts: the sports pages. Here's [ESPN football reporter and online columnist] Sal Paolantonio on the Philadelphia Eagles management structure":
More important, no one is fighting for the players on the field. There is a fine line between building a consensus and creating a cabal -- an echo chamber where the tough questions don't get asked because the answers are all the same. (See: Bush White House.)
M.Y. gets a little too excited about the electoral potential with less informed voters based on offhand comments like these, since most of the column fusses about bad Eagles roster decisions:
On CNN Headline News's "Showbiz Tonight" last night, Tom O'Neil, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and its Oscar website TheEnvelope.com, couldn't seem to make up his mind on Jon Stewart hosting the Oscars. He started out suggesting Stewart could be a disaster as a political "assassin comedian."
It`s a huge gamble, Brooke, because you know, Jon Stewart, the reason we love him as a comedian is that he's one of those assassin comedians and often that doesn`t [end up] working at the Oscars. Remember what happened just last year when Chris Rock went offline. He was insulting Jude Law at one point and then Sean Penn came out and protested. Well, that`s the kind of thing that Jon does all the time.
Twice before he`s hosted awards shows, not successfully. The last time he did the Grammys, "The Hollywood Reporter" said he was, quote unquote, "hopelessly awkward and uncomfortable."
Today's Washington Post Style section offers a pile of articles worthy of comment. First, Post fashion critic Robin Givhan saddled up for another politicized fashion critique, trashing the fashions of slimy GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Less predictable than Givhan trashing Abramoff (in betting terms, that article was a drop-dead lock) is Tom Shales going postal on NBC's desperate-Episcopal drama "Book of Daniel." His headline calls it "A Mean-Spirited, Unholy Mess."
In short, he concluded: "I cannot recall a series in which a greater number of characters seemed so desperately detestable -- a series with a larger population of loathsome dolts. There ought to be a worse punishment than cancellation for a show that tries this hard to be offensive and, even at that crass task, manages to fail."
Hollywood Reporter says that two NBC affiliates have announced they will not run the controversial new show, "The Book of Daniel."
The series depicts an Episcopalian minister, played by Aidan Quinn, struggling with an addiction to Vicodin, among other problems in his diocese. Jesus is actually a character on the series, depicted in imagined conversations with the minister.
Last month, the conservative American Family Assn. began calling on affiliates and advertisers to bail out of "Daniel." Many stations have been flooded with e-mails and calls from viewers objecting to the series.
KARK-TV in Little Rock, Ark., and WTWO-TV in Terre Haute, Ind., announced Wednesday they would pre-empt "Daniel," when it premieres Friday at 9 p.m. Both are owned by Nexstar Broadcasting Group,