The central political topic of the fourth episode of HBO’s “The Newsroom” by Aaron Sorkin? Gun control.
“I’ll Try to Fix You” begins in Jeff Daniels’ anchorman character Will McAvoy’s office with Wade, an Assistant US Attorney, informing McAvoy (who by the way is a Republican) – and all of us – that the DOJ’s complete failure to prosecute even a single individual or corporation for financial crimes is entirely the fault of the GOP, in spite of the Democrats’ control of every branch of government in 2009 and 2010.
McAvoy joins a New Year’s Eve party in progress across the hall where he meets the first woman he tries to “fix.” In the course of hitting on a gossip columnist working on a “takedown piece,” he explains to her that people’s lives should not be used for entertainment. He goes on to express the complete moral superiority of his work to hers, accuses her “with all possible respect” of “polluting” society and “destroying civilization,” and says he would “have more respect for “her if she were a heroin dealer.”
McAvoy then resumes hitting on the columnist only to discover in spite of his “respect,” she took his comments personally and gets a drink to the face. Is it any wonder no one believes Sorkin’s claim that McAvoy isn’t based on Keith Olbermann?
McAvoy (who by the way is a Republican), you see, is on a quixotic “mission to civilize.” Though the phrase is new, his self righteousness and self absorption are hardly unique to this episode. In fact, those traits define every character in “Newsroom.” It is clear that part of McAvoy’s journey of journalistic self discovery includes embracing his duty to impose his beliefs and morals on the nation as well as everyone around him.
Moreover, in this episode McAvoy’s transformation from anchor to Media Matters for America on TV is accelerated dramatically, and it’s not just the off-the-deep-end leftism. We hardly see McAvoy reporting any news anymore. He instead spends all of his on air time correcting the “misinformation” of conservative media. He is fully embracing his role as the President’s palace guard (trademark John Nolte), or exactly what Sorkin defines as the “idealistic” aspirations of journalists before they are buffeted by corrupting market forces.
After muddling through the frivolous romantic affairs of the younger staffers that undoubtedly bored viewers over the age of 15 to tears (the youth romance sub narrative is truly painful, so I’m simply ignoring it from now on, just like one staffer’s obsession with Bigfoot), “Newsroom” finally takes on the gun control issue.
Apparently conservative fear mongers like Limbaugh, Beck and Palin have been claiming – nay, lying – about President Obama’s attitudes about guns. McAvoy, who they keep reminding us is a Republican, must ride in on his white steed to fight the fear mongers and inform us all that it is an objective matter of fact that Obama is actually more pro-gun than George W. Bush and “the best friend the NRA has ever had in the oval office.”
This is the kind of objective truth that apparently gets obscured by the media’s “bias in favor of balance,” in which newsmen must pretend that facts are in doubt simply because one side (conservatives) is too stupid to believe them. You won’t be surprised to learn that Sorkin’s gun control episode did not feature a single mention of Fast and Furious. Why are all these monsters “so colossally lying to you [sic]?” McAvoy asks rhetorically, on air. It’s all about the ratings, the fundraising, the politics, and of course the Benjamins, baby.
It gets better.
Later in the show, discussing the famous but inaccurate $200 million a day figure for Obama’s trip to India, McAvoy compares Michelle Bachmann, “who herself has a difficult relationshipwith reality,” Beck, and Limbaugh to “registered sex offenders” who should be “required by law to come with [a] warning label.”
Economics correspondent Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) sets McAvoy up on a date with a girl, but when he brings her home and finds a gun in her purse (while looking for a joint so they could both get high), he is shocked and horrified. We learn that even though he refuses to “take a position on guns,” he can’t date someone who has a gun. But Sloan informs McAvoy that he can’t break it off because he “hasn’t seen the crazy side of her,” and later “she has a gun and she’s going to shoot you.”
McAvoy has a third romantic encounter which, like the first one, ended with McAvoy getting a drink thrown in his face. This time it occurred after he said his date was a “mean and insensitive” “bitch”for watching the “human cockfighting” that is reality TV.
All three of these unfortunate incidents end up in the tabloids. As we later find out, these stories are being aided by the corporate executives that own McAvoy’s network (surely you remember corporate head Jane Fonda from the 3rd episode) in order to lay down a pretext for firing him because his valiant truth telling about the Tea Party is interfering with the company’s business with congress.
The episode concludes, unsurprisingly, with the breaking news of the Gabby Giffords shooting, during which we relive the erroneous reports that Giffords had died. Very much to my surprise, however, Sorkin demonstrates that he does have a degree of shame by not only opting against blaming Sarah Palin for the Giffords shooting as much of the press did at the time but declining even to mention her.
Perhaps there will be time for that in future episodes.
Two things have yet to happen in Sorkin’s portrayal of what an idealist’s pursuit of journalism would be via his new HBO series. Number one, over the course of the season McAvoy (who by the way is a Republican) has yet to express a single sentiment that even approaches the thinking of a moderate liberal, let alone a conservative or a Republican. Number two, there hasn’t been a single substantive criticism of the President or the left whatsoever.
The left’s only fault is that they fail to win against conservatives. No wonder media critic Howard Kurtz is warming up to it!