There is a procedure in law called summary judgment where you can win your case without even going to trial because the basic facts are simply undisputed. Ben Shapiro’s new book, Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV is one of the best motions for summary judgment I’ve ever read. There can be no dispute over the facts because Ben presents them through the words of the leading lights of Hollywood liberaldom themselves – how he got the interviews he recounts here is simply beyond me (I count over 20 pages of footnotes). But what is clear is that the television industry is liberal-left through and through, and that it pushes its dogma upon its audience while closing ranks to ensure conservatives never get a chance to enter what Ben demonstrates is an insular, incestuous community of like-minded Democrats cocooned away from reality in an echo chamber of Obama-worshipping limo-libhood.
The half-hearted denials of some in the industry are belied by their own actions and their own words – and, surprisingly, by the refreshingly candid admissions of some liberals in television who not only admit its intolerance and stridency but even claim to regret it. Case closed.
Full disclosure – Ben’s a friend and my frequent “Hour of Hate” partner on Larry O’Conner’s legendary Stage Right Show. He’s also the rarest of things – a proud Harvard Law School graduate who is fiercely conservative and who loves television (By the way, Ben’s much-mocked predilection for wearing Harvard Law hats and other apparel makes a hilarious appearance in the book). But Ben’s no snob – he not only freely admits how much he likes television but insists that much of it is well-acted, well-directed and well-produced, its insidious pinko undercurrents notwithstanding. Moreover, Ben is a creature of Hollywood – he has family in the industry, friends in the industry, and he even flirted with entering into it himself, until he ran smack into the seemingly impenetrable wall that is the conservative blacklist.
As Ben documents in exquisite detail, the conservative blacklist operates both directly and indirectly. In some cases, television industry bigwigs simply refuse to hire conservatives because they hate conservatives – the late Bruce Paltrow comes off here as a particularly obnoxious jerk, which goes a long way toward explaining his half-wit daughter Gwyneth. But much of the reason is simply affinity. As Ben documents, the industry has always been a very small community of like-minded individuals who dwell not only within the physical confines of the same LA/NYC world but, equally importantly, share the same world view. If you are not one of them inside the bubble, they will never see you to hire you. Naturally, this leads to the kind of nepotism that explains the rise of overrated no-talents like Gwyneth Paltrow – many of the people who hired her had known her since she was a weird-looking little kid and besides, it couldn’t hurt to do a favor for a guy with the pull of her father Bruce.
Ben shows how this direct and indirect phenomenon also applies to the content of the shows themselves. Some industry players make no bones about it – they seek to directly influence the audience with outright propaganda. What’s interesting is that this is rarely successful – audiences hate being hit over the head with unadulterated lefty agit-prop and quickly turn away when it gets too heavy-handed. A good example is Ellen, an innocuous little comedy series that did okay until the star and her on-screen doppelganger came out and made the show all lesbian, all the time – and not hot lipstick lesbian but whiny, crunchy, let’s-do-macramé-and-other-crafts lesbian. No one wants that.
But the indirect approach is the most effective, and Ben presents an airtight case that much of the liberal normalization promoted by television is the result not of a conscious desire to change the world but simply by a desire to reflect “reality.” Of course, the “reality” of liberal Hollywood types is not the reality of some nuclear family with 2.5 kids and a minivan in a suburb of Kansas City. Hollywood’s “reality” reflects its own freaky, dysfunctional lifestyle; this bizarre anomaly is the image broadcast to America as “normal.” Sadly, too many Americans accept that image and internalize it – a quick examination of statistics on any social pathology is going to show a correlation with the liberal long-march through the television industry that Ben so thoroughly documents.
And document it he does. How did he get these interviews? Don’t these people have minions to Google the guys who want to talk to them? Ben speaks to dozens of Hollywood players, from out conservatives like Big Hollywood contributor Adam Baldwin to hugely successful (and therefore largely liberal) TV executives, writers and producers like Brandon Stoddard, Fred Silverman, Leonard Goldberg, Abby Singer, Larry Gelbart , David Shore, Marcy Carsey, Tom Fontana and Marc Cherry (the Desperate Housewives creator who is a rare Hollywood Republican).
Ben’s not one to just shrug his shoulders and sit there – every time we meet for lunch at a kosher restaurant (Ben takes his faith as well as his politics seriously; he also tolerates my unsuccessful efforts to score a cheeseburger) he is working on about a dozen ideas. Primetime Propaganda not only makes the case but offers solutions. The answer is neither confrontation nor retreat, but engagement. In fact, it’s almost a Gramscian “long march” infiltration strategy.
One more thing – Primetime Propaganda is not only an essential and irrefutable argument about the state of Hollywood and a battle plan for addressing the problem but a great read. Sadly, I had to wait to peruse my advance copy because my Hot Wife kept taking it for herself. Fans of The Stage Right Show are already familiar with how Ben’s mind works faster than his mouth – he has so many ideas he literally cannot talk fast enough to get them all out, though he tries mightily. On paper, Ben’s insights have a chance to come out slowly and in detail, but the same lacerating wit still shines through. There are zingers galore. You get the best of Ben – smart and smartass.
But a thousand-word review cannot capture either the full depth of Ben’s argument or the wealth of interesting facts behind many of our favorite shows, like how The Dick Van Dyke Show broke through racial barriers. He goes through dozens of shows in detail – it’s fascinating and alarming all at once. Best of all, while this is an important book for conservatives who want to know why TV is what it is, reading it is not a painful duty – it’s a pleasure.
Primetime Propaganda presents an open and shut case – the charge is that television is a liberal enterprise that acts directly and indirectly to impose its worldview on its dwindling audience while simultaneously acting to exclude conservative voices and views. And there can be only one verdict after reading this damning indictment: Guilty as charged.