***ADDED: An Open Offer to Ben Howe’s Defenders
In a piece titled “Another Terrible Conservative Movie” published at BuzzFeed Politics Tuesday, RedState editor Ben Howe used over 1500 words to brutalize a film trailer and music video that are part of a Tea Party Patriots’ production called “A Movement on Fire.” Through Twitter I asked Howe why he would do such a thing. He responded in part with, “[I]f we want to be artists we have to take and give criticism.”
While that sounds lofty and noble, there is a certain amount of responsibility that goes with giving criticism. And in that arena Howe wildly missed the mark.
First off, he got his facts wrong. Rather than call Jenny Beth Martin at Tea Party Patriots, someone he knows [ADDED: via Twitter Howe told me he doesn’t know Martin], he chose instead to blindside her with his criticism and to pass along a false rumor that the trailer and music video were being used to raise a million dollars for “A Movement on Fire” feature film.
Howe has since corrected his error, but the subtext of the original piece made it sound to me as though Tea Party Patriots had decided to enrich themselves off the conservative suckers who enjoyed what they saw at CPAC where the two short films repeatedly played to enthusiastic crowds. The truth is that the trailer and music video are the finished product.
But why BuzzFeed Politics? Why publish there instead of within the conservative family at RedState? Why single out and ridicule your own at a left-wing site that considers the exploiting of conservative infighting (especially the Tea Party) as its mother’s milk? That was something else I asked Howe about. He replied that “he doesn’t think of BuzzFeed the way” I do, and that he “wanted to reach beyond conservatives.”
Well, Howe certainly accomplished that. Because BuzzFeed Politics took his critique of a single project, made it the lead on their home page, and used a wildly dishonest headline to ask the following question to who knows how many people who are “beyond conservatives”:
Why Can’t Conservatives Make Good Movies?
See what BuzzFeed did there? Using Howe’s piece, BuzzFeed is now telling its world of young, hip and cool readers that a RedState editor believes conservatives are incapable of making good movies. (Howe is a conservative who makes short films. You think he’s figured out yet that that headline includes him?)
Whether driven by arrogance or naiveté, this is what always happens when conservatives do business with the devil to trash other conservatives. Imagine the excitement over at BuzzFeed headquarters (which is probably in a hollowed-out volcano) as they were handed the imprimatur of a RedState editor to trash the conservative film movement as a whole.
Howe said he doesn’t think of BuzzFeed in the same way I do. Well, I happen to think BuzzFeed is the kind of site that would gleefully exploit Howe’s material for maximum effect to marginalize and ridicule a fledgling conservative movement in whatever creatively dishonest way they can — which is exactly what they did.
What troubles me more than anything, though, is that in his original piece (before the correction), it was obvious Howe believed he was attacking a fellow conservative filmmaker’s work in progress — an unfinished project that Howe could only speculate as to how it would ultimately turn out. The editorial introduction to Howe’s piece starts with, “The latest Tea Party-inspired project isn’t even finished…”
What motivated this? If Howe’s idea was to make a bigger point about how “artists must take criticism,” why not pick a finished project to make an example of? As a filmmaker himself, Howe must know that early drafts rarely look nothing like the finished product.
This was more than unfair on Howe’s part, it was cruel.
I asked Howe why he singled out this particular project. He responded with, “[I]t was on rotation at CPAC and kept popping up in between speeches. When it got big applause I was confused.”
So, I guess because people liked what they saw, Howe felt some artistic sense of duty to strangle an allies project in the crib.
There are ways to make the general points Howe claims he wanted to make without isolating and holding up for public ridicule a conservative project you believe is a work-in-progress (a completed project is fair game). Over the three-plus years I ran Big Hollywood, many of our contributors managed to make these same points to right-of-center artists, but did so without using their superiority as a weapon against some poor unsuspecting ally.
UPDATE: The update about Howe disputing knowing Martin has been moved into the actual text of the piece.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC